Review: Conscious Bias

46008700. sy475 ★★☆☆☆

Conscious Bias is billed as a legal thriller with f/f romance. I felt primed to read this after coming off Grace Mead’s Defense of an Other and was eager to start, but things go awry very quickly.

Calling this a thriller is just plain wrong. There is little to no tension in this story. I was propelled forward as I struggled to figure out what was going on instead of being compelled by the plot. The main character is a gifted lawyer, but she takes a backseat in the case central to the book. In the trial that is the focus of Conscious Bias, Monica Spade is not the prosecutor or even a member of the prosecutor’s team. She prepares two witnesses to testify and sits back to watch the trial. It’s interesting enough, but left Monica feeling more like a supporting character than our protagonist.

The crime that sets off the divisive trial in Apple Grove revolves around the death of Abdul Seif, an exchange student studying at the local university. There isn’t a lot of ambiguity with the crime, the reader knows that the defendant is guilty, it’s just a matter of waiting to see which side can get the system to rule in their favor. This is where Venice’s law career comes in handy, but it is hardly the saving grace of this book. The trial central to this book doesn’t start until past the halfway mark, mostly because this book is a blow-by-blow account of Monica’s every waking moment from start to finish. Silly subplots (a monkey loose in a hospital?) only add to the painful pacing.

Outside of the trial, Monica spends lots of time at the gym, where she meets Shelby. Their insta-love connection isn’t something I was in to, but that’s just a personal preference. What really killed it for me was the cringe-worthy dialogue. Shelby’s eyes were “firebombs” and her butt cheeks were “orbs.” It’s pervasive throughout the book, but peaks during the scenes in which Monica is at the gym, fantasizing about Shelby. And, that’s mostly it. For a book that’s billed as a f/f romance, there isn’t a lot going on besides fantasizing, some flirting, and getting together right at the end of the book. The sticking point for me was, again, that even though this book only spans a few weeks, they’re emphatically in love by the time they get together.

The story is further burdened by two-dimensional bad guys (sexist bosses, sleazy defense attorneys, corrupt businessmen) that fail to add and tension to the story because it is very apparent early on that the main character is always going to land on her feet because the author wants her to. I gave this book the benefit of the doubt until the very end, but there was no redemption with the rushed, senseless wrap-up. Clearly I’m in the minority here, but pick this book up at your own risk.

Continue reading “Review: Conscious Bias”

Review: Some Choose Darkness

41735371★★☆☆☆

Some Choose Darkness has stolen the title previously held by Andy Weir’s Artemis: Most Disappointing Read of 2019.

Throughout the story we follow Rory Moore, a forensic reconstructionist at the top of her field. In the midst of a personal hiatus her father suddenly passes, leaving to her all of the clients of his one-man law firm. As she sorts out his affairs Rory discovers that for years her father has been handling the assets of the notorious serial killer known as The Thief. Unable to pass his case off to anyone else, Rory is forced to see a convicted him through his parole, struggling to unpack why her father remained so close with a vicious killer as she pieces together the mysterious death of the woman who brought The Thief down.

I was incredibly excited to begin this book, but I was never hooked in. Instead, I pushed on with hopes that the story ended strong, but I was ultimately let down. 

From the beginning, this story drags. For several short prologues and a whole chapter the author plays the pronoun game before finally introducing us to the protagonist. From there, it doesn’t get much better. More than anything, this book felt like the victim of poor editing. For the first 100 pages very little happens, I assumed these little threads would eventually come together in the end, but unfortunately most only contributed to small epiphanies or twists that failed to shock. Donlea’s writing style only made this a greater burden. In these introductory chapters, he has a strange habit of breaking up action or dialogue with huge paragraphs reminding the reader how special and smart Rory Moore is. I feel like I was unable to connect with her because more often Donlea tells the reader about how incredible Rory Moore is as opposed to showing the incredible things she is capable of. So many of these writing quirks grated on my nerves throughout the entire story, but that wasn’t enough to ruin the experience. On top of it all, the resolution was rushed and Rory’s final actions felt completely out of character. Seeing other reviewers rave about this book, I’m left wondering what I missed.

Die-hard thriller fans, this book probably isn’t for you. I dip into the genre on occasion and even I could see the twists coming from a mile away. But don’t leave disappointed just yet, let me instead point you in the direction of one of my favorite books of all time: The Crow Girl. Continue reading “Review: Some Choose Darkness”

Review: Crow Flight

★★☆☆☆

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m usually one of the last people to pick up YA novels, but the premise of Crow Flight caught my attention. The story follows the hyper-logical, highly intelligent programmer Regina “Gin” Hartson. Crow Flight begins as Gin starts her senior year of high school, gunning for Harvard and unwilling to let anything get in her way. In her exclusive computer modeling class, she is partnered with the new kid at school, Felix Gartner. Gin’s logic-based approach to life begins to falter as her relationship with Felix begins to flourish, until it all comes crashing down with a dark secret hiding in their data.

I enjoyed the third act of this book, but I made it there by sheer will alone. The characters initially felt like caricatures of teen stereotypes that have been played out in this genre. Relationships and conflicts in this book flow with ease at some points and seem forced and wedged in at others (e.g. Gin’s best friend is largely left out of the latter half of Crow Flight, as a result of a spat that hardly seemed large enough to cause a schism between two long time friends). I struggled with the pacing of this book as well. Much of the book passes slowly, uneventfully, with the final act jammed full of action I wish had been expanded upon or at least kicked off earlier in the book.

The saving grace of Crow Flight, for me, was Gin and Felix’s relationship. Despite the clichés, their friendship and the relationship that bloomed from it had a depth and genuine quality that is hard to capture. Overall, a solid YA read, but not for me. Continue reading “Review: Crow Flight”