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.

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Classics, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Tracy

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Tracy, on 01/10/2014

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever.

01. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Revived by Cat Patrick, read by Sarah, on 01/30/2014

  What if there was a drug that could be administered when you die that would revive you?  Daisy has been revived five times in her short life and is a part of a secret government case study.  Each death means a move to conceal the secret, so putting down roots has been a problem until she moves to Omaha.  Here she makes good friends with a brother and sister who make her realize that she wants more of a normal teenage life.  This experiment is more sinister than Daisy realizes and a thriller ensues that will keep you turning the pages until the very end.  This was a very enjoyable book!  I had read Cat Patrick’s The Originals last year and loved it, too.  I highly recommend it!

31. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Dark Life by Kat Falls, read by Eric, on 01/31/2014

Rising oceans put much of the Earth’s coastline under water, and the land-based world survives in overpopulated towers. Meanwhile, humanity spreads to the sea, creating a homesteading society on the seafloor. When Ty, a homesteader teen, stumbles across Gemma, an orphan teen from topside, he soon is embroiled in a search for her brother, and mixed up with the Seablite Gang.

I’ve always enjoy underwater sci-fi, and so appreciate the society Falls has created here. The homes and lifestyle of the families on the ocean floor are interesting and believable, and a great backdrop for the adventure/mystery plot the teens are tossed into. The Seablite Gang may seem straight out of an anime series, but considering the setting, this isn’t a bad thing. A great start to a series, and one I’m looking forward to following. Recommended.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Science Fiction, Teen Books

A Stranger Thing (Ever-Expanding Universe #2) by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal, read by Courtney, on 01/17/2014

When we last saw Elvie, she was just giving birth to a baby girl. An Almiri baby girl. Because being a teen mother isn’t hard enough without your baby turning out to be an alien race. Turns out that that the alien-baby business is far less of a concern than the fact that the baby is a girl. The whole thing about the Almiri race is that they’re all male and incapable of reproducing on their own. So they go to other words and secretly impregnate their females, who, in turn, give birth to little baby Almiri boys. Except in Elvie’s case. The Almiri panic and send Elvie, her father, her bestie Ducky and her baby-daddy, Cole off to the secure facility they keep as a sort of prison for Almiri who broken the strict reproduction codes. Elvie isn’t thrilled that she’s going to essentially be a prisoner at the hands of the Almiri. She’s even less thrilled that the facility they’re being sent to is in Antarctica. Elvie and co. don’t really have a choice though, so off to Antarctica they go. Things are tense, but palatable until some unexpected visitors show up and let Elvie in on the real reason the Almiri are so upset about a baby girl.
This book is essentially the polar opposite of the first book (see what I did there?). All the action takes place on ice, but Elvie maintains her characteristic snark to keep things light. There’s something quite entertaining about the idea of a teen attempting motherhood while surrounded by alien men (and a few human men) in the subarctic conditions. I mean, sure, it’s all a little preposterous, but it’s a fun ride. Not quite as thought-provoking as the first installment, so there’s every chance that some of the themes that made the first book so clever will be further explored later on.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Courtney, on 01/06/2014

In the not-too-distant future, things are looking pretty grim. Poverty is at an all-time high and the earth’s resources are nearly gone. The only good thing going, as far as most folks are concerned, is the OASIS, an immersive web application that has become synonymous with the internet. It’s how everyone interacts in the future, from going to classes to hanging out on elaborately themed planets. The OASIS is the brainchild of one James Halliday, an eccentric with a 1980’s obsession. When Halliday dies, his avatar informs the world that he has hidden an easter egg somewhere in the OASIS. To find it, one must first uncover three keys and find/pass through their respective gates. It’s the contest of a lifetime; history in the making. Then five years ago by with no one even having a clue as to the whereabouts of the first key.
All across the world, egg hunters (or “gunters” for short) dedicate their entire lives to finding the egg. A multi-national corporation has hired scores of the best hackers money can buy for their “oology” division. Exhaustive research about ’80’s pop culture is undertaken by anyone who has even thought about looking for the egg. Wade Watts is just an average guy living in a stack of trailers like so many other poor folks. He’s too poor to even buy credits to search “off-world”; all he can do is practice old video games, watch John Hughes movies and brainstorm the solitary clue Halliday gave the world. He doesn’t really think he has a chance, but, like the rest of the world, he feels he owes it to himself to give it a shot. Imagine his surprise and excitement when becomes the first person to find the first key. Suddenly, Wade’s avatar becomes the most famous name in the OASIS, which is both really cool and really dangerous. And the egg hunt? Oh, it’s on.
Ready Player One is a blast to read. It’s the ultimate geeky read with references to all sorts of retro pop culture liberally used throughout. It’s also both funny and action-packed. Readers will have just as much fun cheering Wade on throughout his quest as they will nodding knowingly at all the song/movie/game/tv references. I was slightly worried that younger audiences might not get everything in the book, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the readers in my high school book group got most, if not all of the references and loved the book all that much harder for them. Thus, Ready Player One is a book I will readily recommend to geeks of all ages. Because they will love it. And so will you. So go read it already

13. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Iggy Loomis, Superkid in Training by Jennifer Allison, read by Angie, on 01/13/2014

Dan’s little brother is moving into his room and he is not happy about it. Iggy breaks everything and he throws huge tantrums. Then Dan meets new kid Alistair who only eats broccoli, collects bugs, and makes awesome robots. Dan’s friend Chauncey is curious about Alistair and a little jealous of Dan’s new friendship. Everything is fine until Iggy eats some of the bug specimens in Alistair’s bag. Turns out Alistair is an alien and Iggy now has bug DNA. This is a crazy story that will appeal to fans of Captain Underpants. The story is no where near plausible, but that won’t stop kids from enjoying the humor and silliness.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron, read by Courtney, on 12/20/2013

Boy is the son of Frankenstein’s Monster and The Bride. He’s lived his entire life in a theater operated by magical beings who cannot pass for human in the outside world. These magical beings are the monsters we know from stories, fables, fairy tales and mythology. Boy, who already doesn’t fit in with the outside world, also has problems fitting in with his own misfit community. He tends to be regarded as more “science” than “magic” is treated with derision from many of the monsters. His main comfort is the online community and Boy is a talented hacker. When the sentient computer program he created flops and relationships at the theater become tense, Boy heads out to try his hand at living among humans. It turns out to be harder than he thought. It turns out that humans require things like photo IDs and SSNs to gain employment, which is necessary for the rest of living on one’s own. After an ill-fated first crush/breakup and the realization that the AI program Boy created worked entirely too well, Boy hits the road, this time with the granddaughters of Jeckyl and Hyde.
This wound up being quite a bit of fun. The details are clever, from the company at the theater to the nature of the program-gone-wrong that Boy creates. My only complaint is that the storyline involving the troll girlfriend feels unnecessary by the end of the book. Otherwise, a nice take on the classics-reinterpretation-genre.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Science Fiction

Global Frequency by Warren Ellis, read by Courtney, on 12/15/2013

Are you on the global frequency? If so, you’re one of 1001 agents scattered across the globe. Each one of the members has a skill set, everything from technology to Parkour, that drew the attention of the enigmatic Miranda Zero, the spokeswoman/leader of the Global Frequency. If you’ve been tapped by Miranda Zero, you may find yourself called in by her central operations operator, Aleph. Aleph will keep you connected with your new comrades and together, you will all mount incredible rescue missions of the top secret variety, the sort that’s too difficult for more conventional organizations. Being on the frequency is both an honor and a risk.
In trademark Ellis style, this comic is simultaneously original, exciting and thought-provoking. It’s a short series, so it’s all nicely collected in one volume. Each comic is a different rescue operation featuring different characters. Technically, the comics can be read in any order and still not diminish one’s understanding of the series.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark, read by Courtney, on 12/13/2013

It’s kind of hard to begin to describe what all happens here in Bad Unicorn. Middle school student Max Spencer has been in possession of a book called the “Codex of Infinite Knowability” for as long as he can remember. Little does he know that the mere fact that he can hold the book without getting shocked proves that he is, in fact, the descendent of a very powerful wizard from another universe. As it turns out, there are other universes, and in one of those universes, a carnivorous unicorn named Princess has developed an insatiable hunger for non-magical flesh (human, in particular) and conspires with her wizard to find a way to the Techrus (our world). A very powerful and evil wizard makes a deal with Princess: find they boy with the book and, in exchange, Princess is free to turn Texas into an all-you-can-eat human buffet. Things go pretty awry though. An ill-timed spell lands Max and his friends in the distant future, a time when all machines have become sentient (and Princess has converted to an immortal robot body, because why not?) and both humans and magic are extinct. Princess is on the hunt. Max is mostly clueless and lost. Someone had better figure something out before the squirrels take over.
Some books start out funny and lose steam after a few chapters. There are very few books that can remain consistently funny through and through. This, however, is one of them. It’s extremely clever and occasionally a bit dark. It’s a brilliant skewering of the entire middle-grade fantasy genre while exemplifying everything that’s great about that genre. Bad Unicorn reads a bit Douglas Adams for a younger crowd. Older audiences won’t be disappointed either. A ton of fun and a refreshing change of pace.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories

The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Courtney, on 12/02/2013

The Melancholy of Mechagirl is a compilation of short stories and poems with Japanese-themed undertones. Each story is completely unique and highly literate. Some are more sci-fi, some are more fantasy. Some don’t even have humans as the main subjects. Many are deeply rooted in folklore.
My personal favorites from the collection were “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time”, which retells various creation stories from a hard science fiction perspective, and Killswitch, a story about a game that deletes itself upon the player’s completion of the game. It cannot be duplicated or replayed. In a sense, it only exists for the person playing the game at the moment.
As it turns out, Valente (author the Fairyland series), spent several years living in Japan and was clearly changed by the experience. She acknowledges that her perspective is not that of one who is native Japan; rather she uses her experience as an outsider to focus her approach. It never feels like she’s appropriating Japanese culture. It feels more like a combination of respect, curiosity and love for the country Valente found herself in when she married a man in the Navy who was stationed in Japan.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kristy, Romance, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, read by Kristy, on 12/08/2013

Feisty Scarlet is young the star of the second book in the Lunar Chronicles series. When her grandmother, a former military pilot, goes missing, Scarlet does everything she can to find her. This quest to find her grandmother leads Scarlet on a dangerous journey with the street fighter, Wolf. Her quest also leads her to cross paths and develop and unexpected friendship with Cinder.

This book subtly deviates away from the retelling of Cinderella and instead displays innovative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Fans of the first book will be sure to enjoy the second book in this series. My only complaint is that Cinder’s storyline fades too far into the background of Scarlet.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kristy, Romance, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, read by Kristy, on 12/05/2013

Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, is a must-read for teens or adults who enjoy retellings of classic fairy tales. This book features a teen named Cinder: a talented cyborg mechanic who has a miserable home life and a mysterious past. Despite her second class status and occupation, Cinder manages to catch the eye of the local prince. But with a plague destroying the earth’s population, a war being threatened by a ruthless lunar queen, and Cinder concealing the fact that she’s a cyborg, will the romance between these two blossom or burn?

This retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale is fresh and original. But be warned: once you pick this book up, it will be hard to put down!

03. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Time Riders: The Doomsday Code by Alex Scarrow, read by Leslie, on 12/31/2013

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The TimeRiders travel back to Robin Hood’s Middle Ages to search for the mythical Holy Grail and to stop the future from changing.

Once again, the Agency team finds themselves trying to figure out how to change time back to it’s proper line. I enjoyed this one, with it’s reference to the Middle Ages, Robin Hood, the Templars, etc. This time, however, the team members all have moments where they are tempted to leave the altered time line as it is.  I guess when you come from a future that isn’t so great, changes can seem to be better.

03. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Time Riders: The Eternal War by Alex Scarrow, read by Leslie, on 12/20/2013

The Eternal War (TimeRiders, #4)

A time wave has altered the entire history of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln followed Liam into the present from 1831 and now the world is in a dangerous state of limbo. If the TimeRiders can’t return Lincoln to the past, the Civil War will never end.

I like this series, I seem to find myself reading them, even though the characters seem to follow the same plot line in each book.  I read 4 before 3, something I admonish my students not to do, but it was all good.  What I really find fascinating is how the author takes a story, changes what happens to any historical figure and imagines how the future would turn out without that character.  In this particular book, however, I cannot imagine that the Civil War would continue for as long as it does in altered time, as well as certain technologies never being invented, all because Lincoln isn’t President.  I guess that’s makes me a reader and not a writer.

31. December 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey, read by Angie, on 12/31/2013

Dorrie and Marcus accidently open a portal to Petrarch’s Library. The Library connects to many other libraries in many other times. Their portal is the first in the 21st century and they are greeted with suspicion by some. They are still able to start apprenticeships though. Marcus follows his true love into the world of plants and Dorrie learns swordcraft from Cyrano de Bergerac. Petrarch’s Library is filled with librarians whose mission is to save those throughout history who are persecuted for speaking out. The head of the library is Hypatia of Alexandria and many other historical characters inhabit this world. Dorrie and Marcus learn that there is also a secret society called the Foundation who works against Petrarch’s. They must decide if they want to go home to their world or learn how to become Ninja Librarians themselves!

What could be better than ninja librarians? I can’t think of a thing. This story is filled with adventure, sword fights, espionage and all kinds of craziness. But it also tells the story of some of history’s persecuted. Characters like Socrates and Hypatia and Saul of Tarsus (Paul of the Bible). There is a message throughout the book about speaking the truth and being persecuted for it. I loved Dorrie’s spunk and Marcus’s humor and fascination with Star Wars (he even gets Cassanova to do a play based on the movie). I think it would be amazing to travel to a place connected to so many other times and places and where you get your meals by reading them from a book. So very imaginative. Now I must go and practice my ninja skills. Never know when you might be called upon to be a ninja librarian.

I received a copy of this ARC from Netgalley.

30. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, read by Eric, on 12/27/2013

When late returning home from a trip to the market for milk, a father explains to his children why he was delayed. A simple setup for an inventive (and hilarious) science fiction adventure story, told as only Neil Gaiman can. Or, possibly, as Douglas Adams would have, because Gaiman seems to be channeling his spirit. The adventures take the father through familiar time-travelling tropes, but the fun is in how Gaiman ties it all together with a neat bow at the end. I especially like his various descriptions for gelatinous aliens. The illustrations are by Skottie Young, and are as funny as the text.

27. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, Skottie Young (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 12/26/2013

Mom has gone away to a conference leaving dad in charge. She left instructions, but those don’t seem to be working out very well. It is breakfast time and there is no milk for the kids’ cereal and no milk for dad’s tea. So it is off to the store for dad. It takes ages and ages and when he finally gets back he has a story to tell. It involves aliens, dinosaurs, pirates, time travel, hot air balloons, pretty ponies, vampires and so much more. But the milk takes center stage in every aspect of the story and fortunately makes it home for the cereal and tea.

This is Neil Gaiman at his most irreverent and creative. It is a story that just gets more and more preposterous as it goes along. Dad is clearly making stuff up to make his prolonged trip seem more reasonable and he does a great job of it. I loved the rambling nature of the story and the pure silliness of it. The illustrations were wonderful and really helped bring the story to life. I can just imagine the kids listening to dad tell his story and rolling their eyes or breathlessly waiting for the next big thing to happen.