19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 179 pages, read by Angie, on 03/18/2015

It seems that utopian societies always have a dark side. The community in The Giver is no different; the perfect society is balanced by an absence of so many things – colors, feelings, choice. Jonas discovers this absence when he becomes the new Receiver of Memories. In this capacity he learns what really happens in his community and he finds that he can’t live with it. He has to make changes to his circumstances.

This is a really interesting book and a great book for discussions. There is the sameness of the community, the regimented lives of the citizens, the lack of choice in everything they do and the release of people from the community. I thought Jonas’s story was one many could relate to; he really grew up and into himself in the book. He learned to think and act for himself and as an adult.

I did find that when I finished the book I wanted to know more though. I wanted to know how they created the sameness — do they genetically engineer all the people to be color blind? The colors are still there obviously but the people just don’t see them. How did they get rid of the weather, the sun, the hills, the animals? I assume they have climate control, but they aren’t under a dome or anything so how does it work? How did the Receiver of Memories gather all the memories in the first place? They seem to be from many different people and places and times and at least one seemed to come from an animal (the elephant). How are they gathered and stored and tied to the community? Jonas looses them so they are obviously tied to a place. Lots of unanswered questions!

The ending is also very ambiguous and left a lot of questions. Was it real? Did he live or die? How will the community deal with the memories? Will the Giver be able to help them? Will the community change? And should the community change? Even with all the sameness and lack of choice was the community bad? Is release bad?

09. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Mariah, Science Fiction, Steam-punk

The White City by John Claude Bemis, 400 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/08/2015

This is the third book in a steampunk trilogy. The White City wraps up a fable that is loosely based on the tall tale of John Henry and the nine pound hammer. In this world, though, the railroad now cutting through America, is part of an evil take-over by mechanics and technology. A black-coated, top-hatted, evil industrialist is using a machine called the Magog to control humanity. Anyone who is too close to where it is in operation begins to fade. At that point, if the infected person tries to leave the vicinity, they begin to cough up black oil and die. The only hope to fight this mechanized evil is the natural magick of Ramblers. They use spell components from nature to work an earth friendly magic. The White City finishes a battle that began in the first book of the trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer.

I read this together with my eight year old son. I thought it was alright. I have not come across a lot of steampunk that I thought was appropriate for younger children. That seems like a serious lack! The mix of magic and robots hooked my son immediately and he loved the entire trilogy.

06. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Mariah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Program by Suzanne Young, 405 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/05/2015

The Program is set in yet another dystopian future, but this time the plague racking the Earth is suicide. A type of death that once was a choice, has become a sickness that affects a large percentage of the teenage population. Worse still, it appears to be a communicable disease. In order to deal with this, governments are turning to The Program. Teens who are flagged with depression are involuntarily admitted to a center which attempts to cure their illness by wiping away any memories that might make the teens sad. The hero and heroine of this book both suffer through the trauma of The Program, but once they are released as having been cured, they fight to regain their memories. No one has ever accomplished this before and they must try while forced to run away from parents, watchers, and government officials who would lock them back up. Sloane and James, lovers prior to the program, not only find each other, but slowly piece together some memories of their past together because “[she] may not remember him, but [her] heart does.” The story ends as they break ties with their family and start running.

I was not impressed with this book. The plot was thin and, as a reader, I really had to put in a lot of effort to suspend disbelief. Important parts, that do not flow smoothly in any kind of arranged sense, are left up to the reader to find some excuse for. Many parts seemed added solely to add a shock value to the narrative. It is a decent book, but if you have a limited amount of time to read, I would not bother with this one.

02. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, 307 pages, read by Angie, on 02/28/2015

Glory O’Brien has just graduated from high school and doesn’t really see a future for herself. She and her dad have been stuck ever since her mom DArla committed suicide when Glory was 4 years old. The only thing Glory has is her photography, which Darla also had. She starts learning more about her mom after taking over the dark room in the basement. She finds her mom’s album entitled “Why People Take Pictures” filled with disturbing images and starts answering her mom in her own album.

Glory lives across the road from her best friend Ellie. Only she is not sure she wants Ellie to be her best friend anymore. Ellie lives on a commune run by her mother Jasmine Blue and totally takes advantage of Glory. The girls find a petrified bat and decide to drink it when it turns to dust. The bat gives the girls the ability to see the past and future when they look in someone’s eyes. They see people’s ancestors doing all kinds of things and they see people’s descendants in the future. Glory’s visions of the future all revolve around war. There is going to be a second civil war in America. This time it will not be slavery that divides the country but women’s rights. The passage of an equal pay bill will splinter the country and some states will end up taking away the rights of women completely. This will divide the country and cause a war as women basically become fugitives or breeding machines.

I am torn about this book. I really enjoyed the contemporary story of Glory trying to figure out her life. In the beginning, she only sees herself through Darla and doesn’t believe there is a future for her. Through the visions and the people she meets she starts to see herself as a different person, as someone with a future to look forward to even if it involves war. She also helps draw her dad back into the land of the living. Finally, she comes to terms with her relationship with Ellie and the commune. It was a compelling story and one I really wanted to read. However, the visions of the future just threw me off. I found it so unbelievable that I couldn’t buy into the visions or the future they represented. It was an interesting future and made for good storytelling, but it was just too far-fetched for me.

27. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction, Steam-punk

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon by S.S. Taylor, 320 pages, read by Angie, on 02/26/2015

Siblings Zander, Kit and M.K. West have been on their own ever since their dad died while on an expedition. Their father was the famous explorer Alexander West with the Expedition Society. He was a map maker who helped map many of the New Lands when they were discovered. The New Lands opened up new resources for a world that had run out. People are no longer dependent on technology but have reverted to steam machines again. The Bureau of Newly Discovered Lands controls all the expeditions to and the wealth from the New Lands. They cleaned out the West house when the dad died and have been watching the kids. One day in the market Kit is handed a book from another explorer from his dad. He is told to keep it secret and it is a good thing because BNDL is at the house when he returns looking for it. The map is half a map to Drowned Man’s Canyon and a hidden treasure in gold. The kids head to Arizona to discover why their dad left them the map. They are helped along the way by another child of an explorer. They are followed by BNDL who wants to get their hands on the treasure. What they discover will change how they think of the world and their father.

This was a fun steampunk adventure story. I enjoyed the fact that it was all about maps and figuring out how to read them. Kit is the map expert in the group. Zander as the oldest likes to think he is the leader, but it is more Kit’s show than anything. M.K. was a delight; a tough girl who loves machines and tinkering with them. Their friend Sukey is a pilot and helps them escape the BNDL. I like the thought of undiscovered lands in our world but am not really sure how that would work. In the book it is because the Mueller Machines controlled the maps and they just didn’t show these lands, but you do wander how no one really noticed them. There is a lot of mystery about the dad and what he was really up to and whether he was part of a secret society of mapmakers. There is a lot of adventure as the kids make their way across the country pursued by BNDL and as they follow the map to the treasure. This is the beginning of a series so the ending leaves the story open for further adventures.

09. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, 195 pages, read by Angie, on 02/08/2015

A team of women set off on the twelfth expedition to Area X. They are an anthropologist, a biologist, a psychologist and a surveyor. They do not go by names, but by titles. Expeditions into Area X are dangerous and most people don’t return or return different. The biologist narrates this tale. The expedition discovers a tower or a tunnel with strange biological writing on the walls. The biologist feels she is being changed by something. Soon the anthropologist and the psychologist disappear. We learn that the biologist’s husband was on the previous expedition and she believes a bit of him may still be in Area X. This is her story; how she came to be here and why and what happens to her as a result.

I have no idea what to think about this book. I don’t really know what happened even after reading it. Is Area X the southeastern part of the U.S.? How far in the future does this take place? What is the Southern Reach organization? This is the beginning of a trilogy and I suppose I will have to read the other two books to have my questions answered. The biologist is an unreliable narrator and the reader can’t know how much of the story is fact and how much comes from the mind of the biologist. It is a strange and horrible book that left me confused, but interested.

06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Saga, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/27/2015

This comic continues to blow me away with its magnificence. If you’re a fan of comics, sci-fi, or even just well-written/plotted stories, do yourself a favor and start reading Saga, post-haste! It’s sooo good.
06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/24/2015

This is one of those books that really doesn’t lend itself well to summarizing, but I’ll do my best. There are several groups of characters that exist in several different dimensions (realities?). We have our world, with two of the main characters. Then there’s the world of the Wrenchies, a post-apocalyptic wasteland where only the children are technically “safe” from the Shadowsmen, a terrifying entity that attacks anyone “of age” with the purpose of turning their victims into more Shadowsmen. Then there’s yet another dimension with super-heroic adult versions of the Wrenchies as portrayed in the Wrenchies comic book that appears in each of the first two dimensions (our world and the Wrenchies’). The story began a few decades ago when a pair of brothers enter a cave and encounter one of the Shadowsmen. The story picks up later when one of the brothers is an adult living next door to an adolescent boy named Hollis. Hollis doesn’t fit in well with his peers. He wears a superhero outfit everywhere he goes and would prefer to be in his fictional worlds rather than the real one. He finds a totem hovering in the air outside his window and jumps to grab it. He’s then pulled into the world of the Wrenchies, who regard him with a sense of wonder and include him in their group without question. As things get weirder, a character known as “The Scientist” pulls the heroes in through a portal similar to the one Hollis came through. Now they all need to work together to defeat the scourge of Shadowsmen who are also taking advantage of the rifts between dimensions.
There’s a lot of unusual stuff going on in this graphic novel and it’s occasionally hard to explain exactly what’s happening, which means it’s not for everyone. It’s very gritty and violent, which one might expect from roving bands of armed children wandering around a post-apocalyptic world. The treatment of the kids is simultaneously disturbing and heart-warming. In spite of the extreme violence that comprises daily life in the world of the Wrenchies, the bonds they create amongst each other are strong and true. Add in some interesting philosophical dilemmas and you have a thoroughly fascinating, if somewhat disorienting, story. The artwork is lavishly detailed and full-color, making this a graphic novel you can really sink your teeth into. In fact, repeated reads may be required to fully appreciate the experience. I have a feeling one would notice something new upon each read.

06. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Graphic Novel, Horror, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 6 by Jinsei Kataoka, 212 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/14/2015

In yet another brutal and intriguing volume, Shiro tries to learn how to cook in order to cheer up Ganta, who has sunk into a deep depression.  It doesn’t really work.  In the aftermath of the prison break, the warden moves things in a new direction.  It is decided that the public will now be shown what “monsters” the Deadmen are.  Behind the scenes, prison officials are now turning regular prisoners into brain-washed Deadmen.  Every time anything gets better in this series, something devastating is sure to follow.  Still, very imaginative, if a bit disturbing.

05. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Fairest by Marissa Meyer , 222 pages, read by Angie, on 02/04/2015

Fairest is Queen Levana’s story and what a story it is. While this doesn’t really change my opinion of the evil queen it does explain a bit about how she got to where she is. Basically Luna royalty is messed up. Levana and her sister Channery aren’t even sad when their parents are murdered. Channery becomes queen and just wants to sleep with every guy she is attracted to, doesn’t care about politics and loves tormenting her little sister. The torment began very early when Channery forced Levana into a fire that horribly disfigured her. This caused Levana to become really good at glamour so no one can see what she really looks like. Levana becomes obsessed with one of the royal guards and tricks him into sleeping with her and then marrying her basically by taking on the glamour of his dead wife. Levana is a pretty twisted character and does a lot of things that make you doubt her sanity. But crazy is often exciting to read about. This doesn’t really give a lot of info about the other books in the series but we do get glimpse of Cinder and Winter’s beginnings and of course how Levana became fixated on Earth.

04. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/02/2015

The best comic book series of this decade continues as Alana and Marco seek out their mutual literary hero while still on the run from mercenaries.

16. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Serenity #4) by Zack Whedon, 152 pages, read by brian, on 01/13/2015

serenity4This installment of Serenity takes place right after the movie, Good Storyline and great characters..Good read.

 

16. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Serenity: Better Days and Other Stories (Serenity #2) by Joss Whedon, 126 pages, read by brian, on 01/13/2015

serenity2In this story of Firefly, the crew sets out to take job the promises a huge payout but a crew member is captured and changes which changes the whole mission.

 

16. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Serenity: Those Left Behind (Serenity #1) by Joss Whedon, 96 pages, read by Brian, on 01/12/2015

serenityFor fans of the short lived Firefly tv show and the movie Serenity, this graphic novel is fun gives us a lovely memory the original show.  I love reading about the misfits on Firefly and how they travelled the galaxy looking for loot and running into adventure at every stop.

 

13. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber, Andy Rash (Illustrations), 224 pages, read by Angie, on 01/12/2015

Pete Watson has been saving up to buy the newest version of his favorite video game. One the day it goes on sale he finds an IOU from his mom and is $20 short. So he decides to have an impromptu garage sale where he sells his dad’s old gaming console to a bug guy. When he goes to buy his new game he sees his dad kidnapped and learns from his neighbor that dad was really a CIA analyst and the game console has all the CIA secrets on it. Pete enlists the help of his friend Wesley and Wesley’s sister to stop the bad guys and rescue his dad. At this point dad has been digitized and downloaded into the console. Pete goes in after him and together they have to save the world.

So this is definitely a book that will appeal to middle grade boys. It has a lot of action and humor and is about video games. As an adult reader I thought it was pretty silly. It is a mix of War Games, Scooby Doo and a spy caper. I really liked the chapter headings — they are hilarious — and the illustrations. The story takes a lot of suspension of belief to read without rolling your eyes, but I am sure the intended audience will eat it up.

12. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Twin Powers by Robert Lipsyte, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 01/11/2015

Tom and Eddie are very special twins. Tom lives on EarthOne in 2012, Eddie lives on EarthTwo in 1958. They are half-aliens and have telepathic powers. They are the Earths’ only hope for survival because the aliens want to destroy both worlds. There is no mention of the mother, but Tom/Eddie’s father and grandfather are both aliens who happen to be able to be in two places at once. Eddie comes to EarthOne and the twins and their friends embark on a tour to promote TechOff! Day. Of course the men in black are after them because they think the twins know about the aliens. People keep disappearing off the tour with no explanation. There are car chases, Guantanamo style torture of kids, alien rescues, displays of telepathic power and a spaceship chase into space. All of this adds up to one crazy story that makes little sense. It is told from multiple points of view which lead to a less than cohesive narrative. I think everyone got a chapter and was surprised when the dog didn’t. I think the book would have been stronger if told in a third person narrative that gave more cohesion to the story instead of multiple first person narratives. As it was there was a lot of tell and very little show to the book. I haven’t read the first book and maybe that would have cleared up some of the mess. But this book does claim to be a stand alone novel. The story was so implausible and senseless that it was difficult to read. The aliens created EarthTwo as a type of experiment; cloning the planet and putting it 60 years in the past. Yet they take no responsibility for it and their interest really isn’t explained. The whole men in black scenario was so ridiculous I felt like I was reading a mish-mash of bad scifi movie plots. This is definitely a story you can pass on.

05. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

Zorgoochi Intergalactic Pizza: Delivery of Doom by Dan Yaccarino, 336 pages, read by Angie, on 01/03/2015

Luno comes from a long line of Zorgoochi. They have been in the pizza business for generations, delivering pizza across the galaxy. Luno finally gets to start delivering and his first deliveries are doozies. He doesn’t make it back with many tips, but he does seem to improve his skills. Zorgoochi deliveries are dogged each step of the way by Quantum Pizza who wants to take over all the pizza business in the universe. Luno must find the golden anchovy and save his family before the evil Quantum completes its takeover. This was a silly book, but fun. I can see where fans of Captain Underpants will be comfortable moving on to this book. It was a bit too far off the believable spectrum for me to truly enjoy, but it had its moments.

02. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza, 470 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/30/2014

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Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

This is a series that I will probably read all the books as they are published.  I really liked this book, an android who has no idea she is an android, is becoming more and more human.  Mila struggles with what she believes are memories of a father who never really existed, finding out she is not who she thought she is, coming to terms with the fact that she really loved the woman she had thought of as her mom, and then determined to become who she wants to be and not a military machine.  I’ll have to wait until the other books come out to find out if she accomplishes the last one.  Highly recommended, even to boys!

31. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt, 358 pages, read by Eric, on 12/21/2014

Antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, are back for another galaxy-spanning hunt for ancient artifacts, and to help rescue the travelers stuck on an interstellar liner, the Capella. The artifacts are from Earth, several thousand years in the past, during the early days of space exploration. The Capella is caught in a space/time warp, which has the liner resurfacing into normal space every few years, but only a for a short time, before being swallowed again by the warp. To the passengers and crew, only a day or two have passed.

McDevitt returns now and again to tell another of Chase and Alex’s adventures. I’ve lined up for each, but had a tough time getting into this one. The dual plots don’t intersect enough, to the point that I wished he had just focused on one, and fleshed it out. Much time was spent jumping back and forth to Earth, yet most of what they accomplished here didn’t matter much in the end. An average mystery, combined with a reasonably-exciting rescue adventure.

31. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Becky, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction

Blood Magick by Nora Roberts, 322 pages, read by Becky, on 12/02/2014

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County Mayo is rich in the traditions of Ireland, legends that Branna O’Dwyer fully embraces in her life and in her work as the proprietor of The Dark Witch shop, which carries soaps, lotions, and candles for tourists, made with Branna’s special touch. Branna’s strength and selflessness hold together a close circle of friends and family–along with their horses and hawks and her beloved hound. But there’s a single missing link in the chain of her life: love… She had it once–for a moment–with Finbar Burke, but a shared future is forbidden by history and blood. Which is why Fin has spent his life traveling the world to fill the abyss left in him by Branna, focusing on work rather than passion. Branna and Fin’s relationship offers them both comfort and torment. And though they succumb to the heat between them, there can be no promises for tomorrow. A storm of shadows threatens everything that their circle holds dear. It will be Fin’s power, loyalty, and heart that will make all the difference in an age-old battle between the bonds that hold their friends together and the evil that has haunted their families for centuries