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…

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…

Adult / July 1, 2017

All Clear #1. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Don’t go into Blackout thinking science fiction. Even though that’s technically the genre, since the time-travel short circuits out in the beginning, and the actual execution is historical novel. And…

Adult / May 30, 2017

Author: Orson Scott Card. Summary: The sphere is alien in origin, but has been controlled by man for millennia. A legend as old as the stars rules this constructed world; When the seventh seventh seventh human Heptarch is crowned, he will be the Kristos and will bring eternal salvation . . . or the destruction of the cosmos. Patience is the only daughter of the rightful Heptarch, but she, like her father before her, serves the usurper who has destroyed her family. For she has learned the true ruler’s honor. Duty to one’s race is more important than duty to one’s self. But the time for prudence has passed, and that which has slept for ages has awakened. And Patience must journey to the heartsoul of this planet to confront her destiny . . . and her world’s. (Published summary) My Thoughts: I can’t really say whether I liked it or not. I don’t think it’s a book you’re supposed to like or not. It’s definitely an adult book, possibly too adult for me yet. Had some interesting reflective thoughts, thoughts on free will and right versus wrong. Short, I found it quite fast-paced with only a few slow parts….

Young Adult / May 20, 2017

The Illuminae Files #2. Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu. Summary: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their…

Adult / May 15, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Sandra Foster studies fads – from Barbie dolls to the grunge look – how they start and what they mean. Bennet O’Reilly is a chaos theorist studying monkey group behavior. They both work for the HiTek corporation, strangers until a misdelivered package brings them together.It’s a moment of synchronicity – if not serendipity – which leads them into a chaotic system of their own, complete with a million-dollar research grant, caffe latte, tattoos, and a series of unlucky coincidences that leaves Bennett monkeyless, fundless, and nearly jobless. Sandra intercedes with a flock of sheep and an idea for a joint project. (After all, what better animal to study both chaos theory and the herd mentality that so often characterizes human behavior?) But scientific discovery is rarely straightforward and never simple and Sandra Bennett have to endure a series of setbacks, heartbreaks, dead ends, and disasters before they find their ultimate answer… (Published summary) My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this somewhat quirky, humorous scifi story. Well, I think it’s technically sci-fi (?), but it reads much more like realistic fic. Sandra practically stepped off the page, much more unique than all the “special snowflakes” that try too…

Young Adult / February 15, 2017

Arc of a Scythe #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary:  Thou shalt kill. A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Scythe was interesting, but it didn’t live up to the standards I’d been expecting. The concept was novel: a world so advanced that death has been virtually eliminated, and mankind has taken that role upon themselves. Our two main characters, a boy and a girl, provide contrasting arcs as they are sent down very different training paths, one under an abusive, unethical master and the other under one of the ‘good scythes’. However, because this is Neal Shusterman, I was expecting a heavier emphasis on the practical and ethical results of the worldbuilding, and possibly more unexpected twists. Instead, I got…

Adult / February 9, 2017

Dune #1. Author: Frank Herbert. Summary: Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family–and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. (Summary from amazon) My Thoughts: There’s a reason this is considered classic sci-fi. While it’s perhaps not as fast-paced as more recent books, Dune is a very political book – you have to enjoy the worldbuilding, the careful cycles and delicate balances of power that Frank Herbert has set up. Content Review: Sexual Content Man and wife plan together for the woman to seduce a different, younger, man and carry his child. “I will watch while you, with your own hands, kill all the women in the pleasure-wing.” Baron orders guard to drug young, male slave he bought and bring him to the baron’s sleeping chambers. One of the characters is a bound concubine, rather than wife to the man, even though he loves her and takes no other (because of social order problems). Language: 24 d*** Violence: Woman is stabbed in back, in her dying throes when found. Man…

Learning To Swear In America
Young Adult / February 8, 2017

Author: Katie Kennedy. Summary: An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth, and the fate of cities hangs on the performance of a select group of scientists at NASA. One of them is 17, Russian, and aiming for a Nobel Prize. Yuri’s on loan from Russia for this emergency, but the physicist prodigy is finding the Americans unwilling to make full use of his abilities – they don’t believe he knows what he’s talking about when he declares anti-matter is the only way to destroy the asteroid. Along the way of convincing them, he falls in with Dovie, a normal(ish) teenager who may be able to teach him what being a teen can be like. My Thoughts: I enjoyed the humor and the fairly layered characters, but the main character (Yuri) being something of an idiot didn’t endear him to me. He’s supremely self-confident; never really listens to anyone’s thoughts or opinions before changing important coding, sneaking looks at top-secret information he thinks he needs, or playing hooky to hang out with a girl instead of figuring out how to save Earth. I understand that he’s just a teenager, but the fate of cities is (apparently) swinging around him and his team,…