Jane, Unlimited
Young Adult / December 11, 2017

Author: Kristine Cashore. Summary: If you could change your story, would you? Jane has lived a mostly ordinary life, raised by her recently deceased aunt Magnolia, whom she counted on to turn life into an adventure. Without Aunt Magnolia, Jane is directionless. Then an old acquaintance, the glamorous and capricious Kiran Thrash, blows back into Jane’s life and invites her to a gala at the Thrashes’ extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” What Jane doesn’t know is that at Tu Reviens her story will change; the house will offer her five choices that could ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But every choice comes with a price. She might fall in love, she might lose her life, she might come face-to-face with herself. At Tu Reviens, anything is possible. My Thoughts: I think it’s fairly common knowledge, going into the book, that Jane, Unlimited takes an unconventional plot route, seemingly more akin to choose-your-own-adventure than most novels. (Somehow I was unaware of this, and it was quite confusing for a bit.) The whole story hinges around a single quote:…

Guardian Angels and Other Monsters
Adult / December 7, 2017

Author: Daniel H. Wilson. This ARC was provided, in return for an unbiased review, by Netgalley. Summary: In “All Kinds of Proof,” a down-and-out drunk makes the unlikeliest of friends when he is hired to train a mail-carrying robot; in “Blood Memory,” a mother confronts the dangerous reality that her daughter will never assimilate in this world after she was the first child born through a teleportation device; in “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever,” a physicist rushes home to be with his daughter after he hears reports of an atmospheric anomaly which he knows to be a sign of the end of the earth; in “Miss Gloria,” a robot comes back to life in many different forms in a quest to save a young girl. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters displays the depth and breadth of Daniel H. Wilson’s vision and examines how artificial intelligence both saves and destroys humanity. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: You know how it is with any short-story collection – there are ups, downs, the “what the heck even??” stories. The over all tone of this futuristic sci-fi collection was fairly AI-themed and dark. Not surprising, given the title, but it started off with the…

Warcross
Young Adult / November 2, 2017

Warcross #1. Author: Marie Lu. Summary: For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only…

Ready Player One
Adult / October 24, 2017

Author: Ernest Cline. Summary: It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS…

The Sioux Spaceman
Young Adult / September 22, 2017

Author: Andre Norton. Summary: Kade Whitehawk had two strikes against him in the Space Service. First, he had bungled his assignment on the planet Lodi. Second, he believed all creatures had a right to freedom and dignity – and having such opinions was strictly against the rules. But when he was assigned to Klor, he found the Ikkinni there – tortured yet defiant slaves of a vicious tyrant race. Right then Kade swung at the last pitch. For rules or no rules, THE SIOUX SPACEMAN knew that he had to help these strange creatures gain their freedom… and that he alone, because of his Indian blood, had the key to win it for them. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I like Andre Norton, but this was definitely one of her meh stories. Ye normal humanoid aliens + fairly earthen-type planet, and a straight forward simplistic plot – maybe she felt like she had to spice it up a bit by playing around with the racial issues she did? I don’t know, but it seemed like an odd choice.

Waking Gods
Adult / September 20, 2017

Themis Files #2. Author: Sylvain Neuvel. Summary: As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force. Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Um… wow. That was quite the blood-drenched roller-coaster ride. And basically anything I could say about it is highly spoilerrific, given that the entire plot is one of tension and uncertainty and waiting…

The White Mountains
Young Adult / September 9, 2017

Tripods #1. Author: John Christopher. Summary: Long Ago, The Tripods — huge, three-legged machines — descended upon Earth and took control. People no longer understand automation nor machines, and unquestioningly accept the Tripods’ power.But for a time in each person’s life — in childhood — he is not a slave. Will still has time to escape. My Thoughts: The White Mountains is an older sci-fi that I’ve been meaning to get my hands on for a while now, and… well, I’m not sure what I was expecting, so it couldn’t disappoint expectations. No, that’s not quite true. It’s a simpler story than I expected. Simpler in a couple of ways. First: the first book is a very straight-forward dystopian journey. ​All revelations on the tripods are saved for the next book (which I haven’t read yet), and there’s minimum but satisfactory world-building and development of the mind-control theme. I think one recent trend I’ve grown unconsciously used to is the “save the world” dystopian story, and The White Mountains is far too practical for that. Three boys, trying to survive. That’s it. Not a bad thing at all, mind you; I rather like it, it just took me by surprise…

Sleeping Giants
Adult / September 5, 2017

Themis Files #1. Author: Sylvain Neuvel. Summary: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected. But some can never stop searching for answers. Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a…

Passage
Adult / August 3, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it … the unimaginable. Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can. A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna’s first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar. But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid. Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she’s in for the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Connie Willis’s characters are, as in Bellwether, neatly characterized and sharply amusing. I do think the drawn-out suspense of not-knowing basically anything for much of the…

All Clear
Adult / July 3, 2017

All Clear #2. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler’s bombers attempt to pummel London into submission. Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong. Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the…