11. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Dystopia, Fiction, Kira, Romance, Science Fiction · Tags:

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, read by Kira, on 12/06/2013

This title unlike the previous 2, is narrated by both Tris and Tobias. I’m Not sure this adds that much (unlike hearing Beans narrative in contrast to Ender’s version of the same story). I’m always suspicious that the author is trying to pad their work to add more pages.  Maybe Roth is pulling a Hobbit Movie extension trick, trying to get as much out of the story as she can.  Overall, I liked this book, no it wasn’t as fast-paced as the other two, but you gained a lot of explanation.  I wonder if Roth knew where the series was headed when she published the first book.

 

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If a song was playing during the opening scenes, it could be the Who’s “Don’t Get Fooled Again” new boss, same as the old boss…

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, read by Courtney, on 11/03/2013

Calling all remixers, hackers, activists, freedom fighters and rebels! Your book has arrived. Cory Doctorow hits it out of the park again with another scathing indictment of government surveillance and corruption. Our protagonist, Trent (aka Cecil B. DeVil), is your average teenaged bloke. His main distinguishing characteristic involves his obsession with remixing the films of his favorite movie star. When his hobby gets his entire family kicked off the internet for copyright violations, Trent/Cecil decides to leave home and head for London. In London, he meets a colorful array of characters, including the unflappable Jem, who teaches Cecil all he needs to know about Squatter’s Rights and dumpster-diving (i.e. how to be homeless with class). Eventually, Cecil gets a new laptop and begins to remix again. He’s getting increasingly popular online and is developing something of a fanbase. He joins up with a couple of other remix artists and become part of a network of “pirate cinemas” (film screenings in random locations like graveyards and abandoned sewers) across London. As his popularity increases, so too does his rap sheet. The British government is in the process of passing even more draconian copyright laws and they (or, rather, the large media corporations who hold the rights to Cecil’s downloads and have massive influence at the governmental level) are not happy with Cecil’s work. Cecil and co. find themselves drawn into the fight against criminalizing artists who use previously copywritten material as their artistic medium. Is Cecil a criminal? It certainly doesn’t appear as such. He merely views his art as putting things together that no one ever thought to combine before. And honestly, is that really so different from any other modern art form? Isn’t everything a remix at this point?
This book is every bit as much a call to action as it is a fun, well-written coming-of-age/speculative narrative. Cecil grows as a person, meets other fascinating and well-written characters, and learns a lot. Readers will learn something new, guaranteed. The book may be set in the not-too-distant future, but it’s certainly not a future that would require binoculars or any other corrective lens. This is exactly where we (not just Britain, but every copyright-obsessed nation) are headed. And it isn’t pretty.

03. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Bryan, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, read by Bryan, on 11/20/2013

allegiantThe final part of the trilogy, Tris and Tobias’s lives continue to be jumbled as they are selected to leave Chicago and visit the outside world.  Once there, they find that their entire world-view is false and they have to decide to live in this reality or face that all they know will be erased.  This book is a good conclusion to the trilogy, although the wrap-up chapters take way too long, in my opinion.  The book is also written differently than the others — it alternates between Tris and Tobias as first-person POV.  It becomes clear why Roth did this as the story unfolds, but I found it a bit distracting.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Bryan, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Insurgent by Veronica Roth, read by Bryan, on 11/07/2013

36zxyqpbInsurgentTris Prior continues on her adventures in factioned Chicago.  This book is the typical second act of a three-act play — darker and basically a “how much worse can it get” plot.  Tris’s life continues to unravel with losses of family and friends.  Politically things erode to a point that she is faced with joining the Factionless.  However, there are agendas at play there as well…

This book continues the pace of the previous and does a good job building to the climax.  Not a bad read.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Bryan, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Bryan, on 11/03/2013

divergentTris Prior lives in a future Chicago that is recovering from war.  Society is broken into groups of like people, and at the age of 16, each person gets to choose their group.  Tris makes a difficult decision to choose against her family’s group and the adventure begins.  Plots are uncovered and all of society (as they know it) is at stake.  Much like the Hunger Games, this book is a good read and would be appealing to teens who do not feel in control of their lives.  It is fast paced but still has some substance.

27. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery, Science Fiction

The Lambkins by Eve Bunting, read by Lisa, on 11/01/2013

Kyle Wilson was the size of a regular ninth grader until crazy Mrs. Shepherd injected him with a shrinking formula. Now he’s a prisoner in her dollhouse, the fourth Lambkin in Mrs. Shepherd’s collection! She loves them and would never harm them, she says . . . as long as they don’t make her angry.

One thing is certain. Kyle and the others must figure out how to escape, and fast.

22. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Insignia by S. J. Kincaid, read by Courtney, on 11/11/2013

Tom and his father have been traveling from place to place, grifting along the way to keep themselves fed. When Tom’s talent for virtual reality simulation games gets noticed, he is tapped by the those in the highest echelons of the US military to join their elite group of combatants who are currently fighting World War III. Tom agrees and is quickly shuttled off to the Pentagonal Spire, where these new types of soldiers are trained. He’s in for a bit of a shock when he gets there though. While the military aims to get the best and brightest, natural traits just aren’t enough in this brave new world. Each plebe (combatant-in-training) must receive a neural transplant. The brain is altered in such a way as to enhance memory and processing, while also allowing plebes and combatants to directly connect to the space ships that are doing the actual fighting in the war. Tom isn’t crazy about the transplant and realizes that he’s been manipulated, but eventually agrees to it on his own terms.
At first, Tom kind of loves his new transplant; he’s faster, smarter, better looking – everything that he wasn’t before arriving at the Pentagon. It isn’t long, however, before the drawbacks of the technology become glaring apparent. For instance, Tom learns rather quickly that the brain can be easily accessed and hacked by others, including curmudgeonly teachers, bullies, enemy combatants and the corporations that finance a plebe’s promotion to combat. Naturally, in a school full of teenagers with the same type of implant, hijinks ensue.
For me, this book had a kind of Ender’s-Game-meets-Harry-Potter (or Percy Jackson, if you prefer)vibe. Tom and his friends were, to me, strongly reminiscent of the Harry-Ron-Hermione trio. His programming professor reminded me of Snape. The bully? Total Draco potential. The virtual training and manipulation of children comes across as an updated rendition of Ender’s battle school. It’s both fun and thought-provoking. I read this with my middle school book group; everyone in the group loved it. Interestingly enough, roughly half the group said they’d love to have similar implants while the rest shuddered at the thought.

21. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano, Sophie Blackall (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 11/20/2013

Alexander Baddenfield is the last of the Baddenfields. Each member of the family has died in some very unpleasant way at a young age. At age 12, Alexander is sure he is going to end up the same way despite the fact that he has been protected and coddled by his man Winterbottom (a Winterbottom has always taken care of the Baddenfields). So he concocts a plan to implant the nine lives of his cat into himself. He finds a mad scientist to do the operation and it is successful. Alexander now feels invincible and quickly wastes his lives by touching the third rail, being thrown head first into a wall during a car crash (he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt), being swallowed by his python, being gored by a bull repeatedly and drowning. When he is down to his last life he finally starts to take precautions, or goes completely off the deep end depending on your point of view. However, a simple allergic reaction finally gets him in the end.

This book had the feel of Lemony Snicket or Roald Dahl, but didn’t quite live up to its ancestors. Alexander really has no redeeming qualities, not even in the end, that would make you want to cheer for him. The true hero of the book is Winterbottom, but he seems so one note that you don’t want to cheer for him either. The book is a quick read, but not necessarily a fun one. The first half is a family history of the Baddenfields and how they died. The second half is all about how Alexander keeps dying. Some of the deaths are fully fleshed out and described and others are not. I found it a little uneven and repetitive.

12. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Insurgent by Veronica Roth, read by Kira, on 11/12/2013

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I enjoyed parts of this book immensely – however, the romance aspect of “oh, I couldn’t possibly be honest with him” drove me nuts.  But the action was uptempo like Divergent, and the ending was good.  I was told it was a cliffhanger, but I thought it was a good ending – everybody wound up where they should be, but new things were going to happen next!  Can’t wait to read the next one.

12. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

Mickey Price: Journey to Oblivion by John P. Stanley, read by Angie, on 11/07/2013

Mickey Price is an inventive, smart orphan living in Florida. Trace Daniels is a go-kart champion who just happens to be a girl. Jonah Jones is a brilliant scientist. They are all kids who are going to be someone someday. They just didn’t think it would be so soon. Our three heroes plus a few others are all recruited by NASA to attend a space camp. They are trained just like the astronauts. While at camp they learn that there is a secret space program on the moon; one that is not going to be in the history books. Between Apollo and the shuttle, Pleurinium, a super powerful magnet, has been discovered on the moon and NASA is trying to mine it before the Russians get there. The only problem is that it makes adults sick, so they need kids under 12 to shut off the nuclear reactor before the moon is toast.

If you think this is outrageous you would be correct. The whole book is filled with mysterious men in gold sunglasses, daring adventures and danger. Mickey and his friends must work together once they get to the moon to make sure they all make it back. The story is interrupted by scenes of Mickey telling his children the story while on a campout. In some ways it interrupts the flow, but in others it enhances the believability of the tale. It is brilliant and funny and a truly wild ride. The cover is horrible, but hopefully that won’t turn kids away from this fun book.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

07. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Rachel, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, read by Rachel, on 11/05/2013

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

I loved the first and second books. The final, however, left me a little confused and disappointed. The plot took off and left character development in the dust. I frequently went back to re-read and thus, found it difficult to get lost in the story.

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Courtney, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, read by Courtney, on 10/15/2013

After the first four waves of the alien invasion, there’s not a whole lot of humanity left on earth. Cassie has been on her own, struggling to survive. The only thing keeping her going is a promise she made to her little brother. Of course, she’s not sure that her brother is even still alive. But if she doesn’t try, then what’s the point? Cassie isn’t even sure she knows who she is anymore; she is so far from the girl she remembers herself being before her life became focused on survival. When she meets Evan, she isn’t sure about him, but is willing to give him a chance. After all, saving her brother will be easier with help, assuming that Evan really is human.
This book had a lot of hype leading up to its publication and I approached it with some trepidation, in spite of the fact that I’ve been a fan of Yancey’s Monstrumologist series. Fortunately, I found it to be quite entertaining, even it wasn’t the mind-blowing experience the early press made it out to be. Starting the story during the fifth wave of the alien invasion is an interesting place to begin. Cassie doesn’t have all that much information about what’s going on. All she can do is speculate based on what she has witnessed, but appearances can be deceiving. Fortunately for the reader, there are other narrators whose perspectives aid in the world building. I cannot say that any of the revelations came as a surprise, nor are any of the themes particularly ground-breaking. Readers will likely be more interested in the characters themselves. There are strong survival and military elements which balance out the hints of romance rather nicely. Adept plotting adds to the tension and makes for a fast-paced read. There’s plenty to like here if you’re not going into it expecting miracles.

06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Rachel, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, read by Rachel, on 10/24/2013

In the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss and Peeta have secured their lives in Victors Village. Katniss spends the year dreading two things; trying to figure out her true feelings regarding Peeta and Gale, and the victors tour throughout the districts.

Katniss’ problems intensify as President Snow travels to District 12 to issue a personal warning about her behavior inspiring rebellion.

Now, Katniss has to gamble the safety of the people she loves with her own life.

01. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, read by Angie, on 11/01/2013

In the future Earth has twice been attacked by the Buggers. Humanity has managed to defeat the invading forces, but they want to be prepared for the next round. To that end, all children are given electronic monitors when they are toddlers to determine if they are right for Battle School. Ender Wiggin is the third in his family to be monitored. His parents were allowed to have a third child because the first two were so promising. Peter and Valentine were both deemed unacceptable for Battle School, but they are both extremely intelligent and driven children. Six year old Ender is deemed the hope for humanities future and sent into space to learn all he can. Things are no better for him in Battle School then they were on Earth. His teachers isolate him so they can bring out the brilliant military mind they know he has. Ender is brilliant and thinks outside the box. He excels in Battle School despite everything his teachers do to him, but he never really makes friends. At age eleven he is sent to Command School to learn to control the fleets that will attack the Buggers. His old mates from Battle School are there with him. Together they go through simulates they believe are preparing them for the war, but in reality they are fighting the war.

I wanted to reread this book before the movie came out. I am interested to see how they recreate some of the more important moments in this saga. I am also wondering what they are going to do with all the nudity, since the kids spend half the book naked. Will the movie do this book justice? We will have to see.

I think Ender’s Game is definitely Card’s best work. The rest of the series gets a bit bogged down, but this one is brilliant. I love books about smart kids who buck the system. Ender may be younger than most but he is clearly the best there is and truly the hope for humanity. This is a brutal novel that really doesn’t pull any punches. The set up of Battle School causes rivalries and hatred and without adult supervision these can lead to violence. I really enjoyed Ender’s creativity and imagination when he is faced with everything they throw at him. I think the one off point of this book was the Valentine/Peter storyline. It does set up things for the rest of the series, but it pulls you out of Ender’s story when you really want to be focusing on it. For as brilliant as he is militarily, Ender is a very sensitive kid and it will break your heart to see how he is broken down.

29. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Drama, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristin, Science Fiction

Risked: Book 6 in The Missing Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, read by Kristin, on 10/25/2013

As soon as I saw this on the new book shelf, I snatched it up.  I read books 1-5 in a couple weeks around Easter and was excited to see that Book 6 was out.

General premise of the series: Famous children from history have been kidnapped during their own time and taken to the future to be adopted. Guardians of time are trying to return those kids to the time they belong and “fix” the wrinkles in time.

Jonah, along with his sister, Katherine, and best friend, Chip, and two other children get taken back to 1918 where they discover that the two kids with them are really Alexei and Anastasia Romanov and they have arrived hours before the entire Romanov family is going to be executed.

Will they be able to repair the time rift and still save the two Romanovs so they can continue their lives in the 21st century?

I was sort of hoping that this book would wrap up the series, but unfortunately Jonah still does not know his true identity from history.  I have enjoyed the series, but I thought this book lacked some of the period detail that the previous books contained.  Still, Risked is a good book and if you are a fan of futuristic books, then The Missing series is a must read.

22. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Dystopia, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Gordon Murphy, read by Angie, on 10/21/2013

Punk Rock Jesus is about the second coming of Christ. In the not so distant future, Jesus is cloned from the Shroud of Turin. His birth and life are all part of a new reality tv show called J2. Chris and his mom Gwen are basically prisoners on the J2 island. Gwen becomes more and more unhappy with the J2 life and repeatedly tries to escape. Finally, evil Dr. Slate, the head of the project, has her fired from the show and subsequently killed. Chris rebels, escapes the island, becomes lead singer of a punk band, and becomes an atheist. His life polarizes the population pitting atheist scientists against right-wing Christians.

I found the premise of this book fascinating and not all that unbelievable. This is the perfect combination of our adoration of reality tv and the rise of the Christian right. I thought it was drawn really well and I rather liked the message of the book. I just wish the story was a little stronger. The characters all seem very one-dimensional and caricatures of who they are supposed to be. The only one with a little bit of personality and backstory was Thomas, the IRA henchman turned security guard. I thought it was a little sad that all the scientists were shown as brilliant atheists and all the religious were militant crackpots. I kind of felt like Murphy was trying to make this story as controversial as possible, not that controversy is bad or wrong; however, the strongest controversial messages are those that make you question and think. This story is so in your face that it doesn’t leave any room for anything else.

19. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Aliens in Disguise by Clete Barrett Smith, read by Angie, on 10/18/2013

David and Amy are enjoying their summer working at the Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast. David’s Grandma runs the place and really enjoys hosting alien tourists in small town Washington. She is so good at her job that she wins an award from the Hoteliers Association and gets to finally travel to the stars. Head of Security Tate follows her which leaves David and Amy in charge. Things are fine except for the couple that keeps snooping around and trying to pose as aliens. David and Amy have to take care of the B&B, make sure the tourists are happy and keep the snoopers from discovering their secret.

This was a fun book to read. I didn’t realize it was part of a series until they kept alluding to previous adventures. I think kids will really enjoy the humor of this one and the kids in charge aspect. David and Amy are smart and innovative. They are able to think their way out of all the situations they find themselves in.

15. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark, read by Angie, on 10/13/2013

Freak, Fiona and River live in Cheshire. Cheshire is just your normal small town except for the fact that there is a giant wasteland eating up the middle of it. Years ago the Rodmore Chemical plant ignited the coal under the ground and it has been burning ever since. It has created the Hellsboro area and the kids are the only people living on one side of town because all the houses were destroyed. One day while waiting for the bus they find a sofa sitting at the bus stop. The sofa leads them to the Underhill House across the road where they discover Alf. Turns out Alf is an alien from Indorsia, their is a AI computer named Guernica, Alf’s dead sister Miranda’s consciousness lives in the computer and the sofa can tesser. Alf’s father is trying to take over Earth through mind control and flash mobs and they must stop him with the help of a rare zucchini crayon.

If you think this sounds ridiculous you would be right, but it is also a lot of fun. There are tons of fun details in this book and they are what makes it so special. I loved the references to books like Lord of the Rings and A Wrinkle in Time. I loved strange things like the zucchini crayon and Jackson Pollock’s coloring book. I especially loved the intelligent sofa and the ax-weilding crazy ghost. There is a ton of things going on in this book and you really have to pay attention to appreciate them all.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Gordon Murphy, read by Courtney, on 08/06/2013

In the not-too-distant future, a geneticist and a TV producer will join forces to create the most polarizing reality TV show ever created. In this show, the DNA of Jesus will be used to create a clone whose life will then be broadcast the world over. A young woman is plucked from thousands of applicants to be the new “virgin” mother and an island fortress is built to house the newly fabricated family. A former IRA operative is hired to act as babysitter and bodyguard to the new Jesus.
When “J2″ airs, reactions range from outraged to adoring. Jesus as a child is charming and sweet, but when the ratings start to dip as he grows older, his mother is “cut” from the show. In retaliation, Jesus escapes the island stronghold and joins a punk band. Because that’s what you do when you’re the angst-y, overexposed, clone of the Christian world’s savior. Teens do love to rebel, right? Even if they might be regarded as the second coming of Jesus by some factions.
I must say, it’s a premise that I wasn’t sure about, but came to love. It’s darkly humorous and extremely satirical. There’s tons of action and plenty to think about, thematically. I really can’t ask for much more in a graphic novel.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan, read by Courtney, on 08/13/2013

In Volume One, we met the parents of our narrator Hazel who have forged a beautiful relationship in spite of the ultra violent war that has torn their respective cultures apart. In Volume Two, we get to know more about their pasts and why everyone is so upset about their union and offspring. We also get to meet Marko’s parents (and we all know how well meeting a significant other’s parents can go, especially if they would far rather have you and your entire race be violently executed). In other words, get ready for some seriously messed up family drama…in space!