07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Courtney, on 03/02/2014

Finally, a novel that lives up to its hype. I’d been hearing tons about this book and just got ahold of it last week. And then finished it in less than two days. Blazing fast narrative and a great protagonist make for a wonderful, um, diversion from everyday life.
This is definitely a dystopia, but there’s clearly much more to it than is presented in this book. Beatrice is born into the Abnegation faction where members are more or less ascetic. When citizens turn 16, however, they must make a decision to either stay with their faction or join a new one. Beatrice finds that she cannot choose her old faction; she doesn’t feel the selflessness required to fit in and thrive in the community. Her test results are inconclusive which makes deciding even tougher. Thing is, she’s not really able to be categorized as easily as the rest of the population and that makes her dangerous. She winds up joining the Dauntless faction, one that thrives on danger and bravery. She’s already ruled out the other choices of Erudite (the clever ones), Candor (where honesty is the best quality) and Amity (the nice, friendly, peaceful folks). Joining Dauntless isn’t as easy as it sounds though and even is Beatrice does make it through initiation, will she be able to keep herself safe from those who would be threatened by her divergence?
Ends on a cliff-hanger. I expect the world to become more fleshed out as the series develops. Good stuff.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Elemental by Antony John, read by Courtney, on 03/09/2014

Thomas lives in an extremely small community on Hatteras Island (adjacent to historically mysterious Roanoke Island). A plague has wiped out the majority of the world’s population. The few survivors now live in remote communities or on board ships. Thomas is unique in an unusual community. He is the only one who was born without a power over the elements. Everyone else has a power, some weaker than others. When a hurricane blows into the region, Thomas and the other four younger residents are sent to Roanoke for shelter from the storm. When the bad weather passes, the kids realize that all the adults (Guardians) have been taken captive by pirates. Worse yet, their tiny settlement has been burned to the ground. It’s now up to Thomas and the others to rescue the Guardians, but Thomas realizes that the Guardians have been keeping secrets from Thomas. Secrets that change everything and drive Thomas to question everything he’s ever known.
I really wanted to like this book. I honestly did. I like Antony John a lot, both as an author and as a person. Or, at least I like his work when it’s grounded in reality rather than a speculative setting. The world building in Elemental is shaky at best. There’s no hint of why these “elemental” powers exist or how they connect to Roanoke/Hatteras (a far too specific choice of locales to be random). Thomas and company fall flat as protagonists. Thomas comes across as both exceedingly naive and remarkably obtuse. The two primary female characters don’t have much more going for them, though they do show signs of personal growth in the absence of Guardians. The only standout character is Griffin, Thomas’s deaf younger brother who also appears to have the power to see the future, a power that no one else in the colony possesses. I personally had problems with a few details that weren’t really integral to the plot, but bugged me endlessly anyway. For instance, do the Guardians really believe they can sustain/grow this colony with only 14 people?
Predictably, by the end, there are more questions than answers, which sets the reader up for the next installment. I probably won’t be along for the ride.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Black Orchid by Neil Gamain, read by Tammy, on 03/30/2014

black orchidNeil Gaiman writes a unique, dark and moving super hero story of a crime fighter trying to discover who she really is. I would recommend reading the introduction after reading the graphic novel. I think the intro gives to much away. The illustrations of Dave McKean make this a hauntingly beautiful story while the unique lettering technique of Todd Klein helps the reader follow the multiple story lines.

 

17. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, read by Sarah, on 03/04/2014

Ok, so I read Divergent and Insurgent…wonderful…then I read Allegiant.  First, the idea behind it was great.  It starts off right where Insurgent left off and leads into Tris and Four joining a group to find out what is on the other side of the fence surrounding their city.  They discover they are part of an experimental group with genetic implications.  New allies and enemies are made in the compound where they are staying.  I have mixed feelings on this one.  The other two were told from the exclusive point of view of Tris while this one bounced back and forth between Tris and Four.  Sometimes, the continuity was not there to keep up with the story.  Although it was helpful to hear Four’s view, I enjoyed Tris’s storyline better.  Their relationship was tested, and they alternate between loving and fighting.  Overall, it did not live up to my expectations, but it was still pretty good.

05. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction

Rip Tide by Kat Falls, read by Eric, on 02/28/2014

The continuing adventures of Ty and Gemma, introduced in Dark Life. Someone has dragged under and chained a huge floating township, trapping the inhabitants inside to die. Ty and Gemma are swept into the mystery of the deaths, which soon involves Ty’s family, the infamous Seablite Gang, and those forced into a harsh existence on the ocean’s surface.

Nearly the entire book takes place above water this time, which partially is to blame for my lessened enthusiasm. Ty and Gemma face an array of characters and places straight from the set of Waterworld, or any other number of post-apocalyptic movies. There are to-the-death boxing matches, dirty dealings (and people), and a race against time which didn’t seem very hurried. A second novel can’t possibly capture the enjoyment of being introduced to a fantasy world, but even so, I can’t wait for these two to leave the surface behind, and swim down to where things are far more interesting.

14. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, read by Angie, on 02/12/2014

Roan Novachez has always dreamed of going to Pilot Academy, but when he doesn’t get in he thinks he is doomed to the Tantooine Agricultural Academy. Then he is offered a spot at the Jedi Academy. Roan is way behind his classmates who have been learning the ways of the Jedi for years, but he slowly catches up. He makes friends and learns about the force from Master Yoda and his other teachers. Soon Roan realizes he doesn’t need to be a pilot anymore because he is destined to be a Jedi. This is a book I am sure kids are really going to like. It is about Star Wars, it has graphic elements and an entertaining story. I appreciated the fact that the book had several different elements: graphic, doodles, illustrations and straight text.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

Two generations after destruction rained down upon America’s cities, the population is scattered into small towns. Cities are forbidden by law, as is scientific research.

Rumors abound of a secret place known as “Bartorstown”, where science is untrammelled by interference or hatred. A youth named Len Colter, developing an unhealthy thirst for knowledge exacerbated by the discovery of a forbidden radio, sets out on a long road. During this journey, he will change his mind many times before determining the correct direction for himself, and the benighted America in which he lives.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

Irish athletic reporter Malone narrates tale of bold squat quarrelsome Professor Challenger seeking remote Amazonian plateau where “the ordinary laws of Nature are suspended” with prehistoric creatures and ape-men. Other armed British whites are spare skeptic Professor Summerlee, and ginger dead-shot Lord John, supported by colored bearers.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

Zone One by Colson Whitehead, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.

Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.

Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.

And then things start to go wrong.

Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Helen, Science Fiction

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, read by Helen, on 01/31/2012

I am red now. It was her first thought of the day, every day, surfacing after a few seconds of fogged, blessed ignorance and sweeping through her like a wave, breaking in her breast with a soundless roar. Hard on its heels came the second wave, crashing into the wreckage left by the first: he is gone.

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.

A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet LetterWhen She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Science Fiction, Tammy

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor, read by Tammy, on 10/24/2012

The first lesson Lister learned about space travel was you should never try it. But Lister didn’t have a choice. All he remembered was going on a birthday celebration pub crawl through London. When he came to his senses again, with nothing in his pockets but a passport in the name of Emily Berkenstein.

So he did the only thing he could. Amazed to discover they would actually hire him, he joined the space corps—-and found himself aboardRed Dwarf, a spaceship as big as a small city that, six or seven years from now, would get him back to Earth. What Lister couldn’t forsee was that he’d inadvertently signed up for a one–way jaunt three miillion years into the future—a future which would see him the last living member of the human race, with only a hologram crew mate and a highly evolved cat for company. Of course, that was before the ship broke the light barrier anf things began to get really weird.

Book that created the characters for the science fiction tv show Red Dwarf. It was fun to find out how they ended up on the space ship together but without any other people on this huge ship lightyears away from Earth.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman, Darren Rawlings (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 02/10/2014

In the year 52,740, the earth has become a series of bubble cities. Oil has been replaced by hydro-2 which is destroying the landscape and eating up all available space. Craven Industries and its evil CEO is the richest man on earth because he controls hydro-2. Phoebe is an orphan living on her own for the past year since her parents were killed in a shuttle explosion. All she has left of them is her robot Max and her moon certificate. When she is picked up by Child Protective Services and sent to the orphanage she meets five other orphans whose parents were also killed in the shuttle accident and who also have moon certificates. They escape from earth and travel to their moon which they discover is paradise. They are brought back to earth when Craven tracks them down. They must inform the world of their parents’ discovery which could lead to a new fuel source for earth.

This graphic novel was surprisingly complicated and detailed. The story could have easily translated to a novel format, but was completely enhanced by the graphic format. I thought the kids were all well thought out and each had their own personalities. I did think Craven was a little one dimensional, but a lot of bad guys are just drawn that way. I think kids will really enjoy this action-packed adventure.

10. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Cress by Marissa Meyer, read by Angie, on 02/08/2014

Cress is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder and Scarlet) and might just be my favorite so far. I loved how all of the characters from the previous books came together and how the final book (Winter) is set up. This is such a creative and fun series that it really sucks to have to wait a year between books.

Cress, our title character, is a young Lunar null who has been exiled to a satellite between Lunar and Earth. She is tasked with spying on Earth and reporting back to her mistress. However, Cress has become fascinated with everything Earthen and instead of turning Cinder and her band over to the Lunars she has decided to help them. Her rescue attempt goes awry however leaving Wolf injured, Scarlet kidnapped and Cress and Thorne falling out of the sky in a disabled satellite. Cinder is still determined to stop the wedding of Kai and Levana and take her place as Princess Selena.

I devoured this book in a day despite its size. Once I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. I love how Meyer wove the traditional Rapunzel tale into Cress’s story. I really enjoyed her introduction to Earth and her infatuation with Captain Thorne. This book progresses the story of this series really well. Everyone moved forward and things are lined up perfectly for Winter, which I can’t wait to come out. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this series!

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon, read by Courtney, on 09/21/2013

OK, here’s the deal. I loved the premise of this book: 3 teens, from very different walks of life, appear in an abandoned hospital shortly after they seem to die in their real lives. Sophie, from California, is dying of terminal cancer. Declan, from Ireland, is about to get shot in the head. Anat, from Israel, is in the process of navigating a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt. All three of them, plus a few more from other points around the globe, wake up with no clue as to how or why they got to the abandoned hospital. Eventually, they collectively realize that they need to get out, since, apart from their small group, there are no signs of life anywhere. When one of the kids disappears, everyone begins to suspect the worst and the story takes a turn from creepy mystery to horror/thriller.
The premise is intriguing, but the execution isn’t really all that satisfying. The first half of the book is certainly enough to get readers hooked and the twists will keep them going. The ending however, is unmemorable and has the potential to disappoint. The three main characters are relatively well-developed, although the rest of the characters are a bit flat and come across as potentially expendable. It becomes readily apparent that one of the other kids knows more than the main characters do, but it takes the main characters a frustratingly long time to figure it all out. Still, even with its flaws, this is a fun and eerie read.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

MIND MGMT, Vol. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt, read by Courtney, on 09/15/2013

Matt Kindt, the most original voice in genre comics, outdoes himself in this bold new espionage series! Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story – the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was MIND MGMT’s greatest success – and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?

PER DARK HORSE WEBSITE:
Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight’s missing passenger, the man who was MIND MGMT’s greatest success—and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees? Collects MIND MGMT #1-#6.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction

A Hero for WandLa by Tony DiTerlizzi, read by Eric, on 02/07/2014

A Hero for WandLa continues the adventures of Eva Nine, introduced in A Search for WandLa. Eva and her alien traveling companion, Rovender, journey to New Attica, the idyllic modern human city founded by Cadmus Pryde, the mind behind the Sanctuaries and test-tube breeding program of which Eva is a product. All is not what it seems, however, and soon Eva is on the run.

DiTerlizzi is both a wonderful author and illustrator, and this book is a great example of that talent. Even though the plot covers several science fiction tropes (paradise with a rotten core? Shocking!), the story is more satisfying than the first novel. The relationship between Eva and Rovender is genuinely touching, and the addition of a certain familiar face adds a nice twist. Unfortunately, this book also ends like the first- smack dab in the middle of great things, as if the author simply decided it was as good a point as any to break for the next installment. I know I will be reading it. Recommended.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Feed by M.T. Anderson, read by Kristy, on 01/25/2014

Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains.

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon – a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Science Fiction

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher, read by Brian, on 02/06/2014

bardIan Doescher takes one of the all time great movies, Star Wars, and retells the story in the language of the famous Bard of Avalon, William Shakespeare. What you get is a creative and entertaining tale the Dark Lord and the Jedi Knights.  This is not Much ado about nothing.

 

05. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman, read by Angie, on 02/04/2014

The Wells Bequest is a companion novel to The Grimm Legacy. The action takes place in the New York Circulating Materials Repository. In this book Leo sees himself and a beautiful girl appear in his room. They tell him to read The Time Machine and to stop Simon. Leo is the youngest in a family of scientist. He doesn’t fit in with everyone else because he is into machines and technology. His science fair project on robots takes him to the Repository where he meets Jaya Rao the girl from his vision. Soon Leo is himself a page at the Repository and learns all about the wondrous things there. Simon FitzHenry is also a page at the museum and he is obsessed with Jaya. When his obsession is thwarted he turns into a sociopath with evil plans. He is going to use Nikola Tesla’s death ray to destroy major metropolitan cities if Jaya doesn’t agree to love him. Leo and Jaya then have to use the Well’s Time Machine to travel back to 1895 and stop Simon’s ancestor from stealing the death ray from Tesla. It is all very complicated.

First off I will just say that I really like the idea of the Repository. I think it is really interesting to see things from books come to life. I thought the explanation of how some of these things could be real was a little clunky, but I went with it. Where I think this book falls apart is with the characters. My major issue was with Simon the evil villain. Simon is 16 years old yet so obsessed with the love of his life Jaya (who has never expressed an interest in him or dated him) that he is willing to blow up cities to have her. Not sure where the logic went on that plotline but it ended up no where near the actual book. My second issue was Jaya herself. I am not sure why Leo and Simon are so in love with her because she is just not a likeable character. She is mean and impatient and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of common sense. She is also very reckless with the artifacts and everything associated with the Repository. You would think the head page would have a little more respect for the institution she has worked at for so long. My final issue was the ending…everything is solved because of True Love. Seriously, there is a machine from a book that will point you to your True Love. Sociopath Simon is fine after finding his True Love in someone other than Jaya. It is also implied that Leo and Jaya are True Love as well. It is all just rather silly and washes away any of the good feelings I had about the book. I really did like the time travel aspect and meeting Tesla and Mark Twain. However, the flaws in the book were many and the good stuff just seemed to fall into the background.

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore, read by Angie, on 02/01/2014

Ephraim’s father has had a stroke and his mom decides to move the family to Maine to help in his recovery. They move into the old family house,
The Water Castle. The house isn’t like a normal house, it is full of strange rooms that seem impossible and secret tunnels. The Appledore family has lived in the Water Castle for generations. They came to Crystal Springs, ME to find the Fountain of Youth and built a hotel and spa and water bottling operation on the spot.

Ephraim meets two kids at school who seem to know more about his family history than he does. Will Wylie’s family has always hated the Appledores. They were hunting for the Fountain of Youth too and planned on selling the water. The Appledores beat them too it and they have been bitter ever since. Mallory is a member of the Darling family. The Darlings have worked for the Appledore’s forever and her father is the current caretaker. Ephraim, Will and Mallory start out as enemies, but soon come together to work on a school project and to find the truth about the water of Crystal Springs.

Interspersed throughout the book are journal entries of Nora Darling. She worked for Dr. Appledore in 1909 and the journal details their quest to find the water and her hopes of becoming an explorer someday. Of course there are Appledores and Wylies at that time as well and the entries show that things haven’t changed all that much in 100 years.

This book is a little hard to classify. The Fountain of Youth storyline makes it a little more science fiction, but those elements are not treated in a fantastical way. Blakemore really tries to make this more realistic than anything else with historical elements thrown in. I like the ambiguity of the genre. I thought the kids quest for the truth about the water was a really good mystery. I do wish there weren’t quite so many threads left hanging at the end though. We don’t know who really set the fire that burned down the bottling plant and hotel in 1909. We don’t know if the water actually gives the drinker immortality. We don’t know if Ephraim’s dad is really going to recover. We also are left wondering about Mallory’s mom and if she is who it is implied she is.