Bellwether
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…

Scythe
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…

Dune
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,…

Illuminae
Young Adult / February 1, 2017

The Illuminae Files #1. Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff. Summary: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Illuminae was quite a breathtaking ride. With much of the interaction taking place between soldiers and…

Quest for the Future
Adult / October 29, 2016

Author: A.E. Van Vogt. Summary: Worlds of differing probabilities and the constant search for immortality are the twin themes of this mind-toppling story. Expanding the enigmas of time, van Vogt carries the reader to the furthermost edges of past and future and outwards to a place where time loses all meaning. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: A.E. Van Vogt weaves a complicated, imaginative story with his usual skill. I did not enjoy it myself because I took a strong dislike to the main character; a brash, arrogant man whom I could never get along with. Content Review: Sexual content: Brief kiss between a married man and a woman who is not his wife. Man says he “caught my parents in bed around then [age 14]. There they were pretending no such thing as sex existed, and they were going at it like veterans.” From narrative, ‘They made love in his apartment within an hour of meeting.’ (Adultery.) Character’s thoughts, ‘Maybe a female doctor […] might for strictly clinical purposes also be interested in sex with such a smelly type.” “There’s got to be sex. Without that I’ll kill myself.” Character reads a novel about a “sexually free society where every…

The Roar
Young Adult / October 23, 2016

Author: Emma Clayton. Summary: A pair of twins have been separated, one thought dead, but both still feel a link with the other. It proffers unexplainable information as strange things start happening on one side of The Wall – and on the other, the second twin is imprisoned, furious with knowledge of deceit and trickery but unable to react. My Thoughts: The Roar seems almost aimed for middlegrade rather than YA, with a simpler and more ‘tell’ style of writing and a correspondingly simple premise/explanation. No doubt its dystopian aspect is what bumped it up. Still, an enjoyable read. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: Frag/fragging Violence: Plane fight, two planes are destroyed. Virtual reality games in which airplanes are destroyed. Robot fish and seals are killed. One character is shot in the thigh. One boy nearly strangles another. Mind control via implants. Love Triangle: No.  

Parallel
Young Adult / October 18, 2016

Author: Lauren Miller. Summary: Parallel universes are a fun idea and all, but they’re not something Abby Barnes had ever really considered. She’s too busy keeping her life on track, straight to her life goals. Go to Northwestern college, major in journalism, and get a job with a national newspaper before 22 – she’s got it all figured out. But the parallel theory is forced to her attention when her life changes overnight, literally. Abby Barnes woke up in the wrong bed one morning, with a different life then yesterday, and it may all be her parallel’s fault. With her bestfriend Caitlin’s help Abby may be able to figure this out, but she’ll still have to live with a life she never chose – unless she can learn to let go of the Plan and focus on this place, this time, this universe. My Thoughts: Mixed reaction. I didn’t get along too well with the main character, which is always a problem, but the sci-fi concept was really cool, and cleverly done. Miller handled a tangled plot with lucidity and interest. She has a clear, fairly simple writing style with a strong teenage voice, which is easy to read without…

Fairest
Young Adult / October 8, 2016

(Prequel) Lunar Chronicles: Levana’s Story.  Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: This is the fairytale of a princess. She wanted beauty, she wanted true love and children of her won, she wanted to rule her kingdom with justice and wisdom. She was scarred by her sister, her love fixed on a man who could never return it, and she was raised in a court of debauchery, where monogamy was forgotten and opulence enthroned. The princess fought to do what was right, to marry the man of her dreams, to hold the throne with fairness, to become the woman her country needed. But she had no example, no way to tell what was right, and in the end – broken, twisted, and slightly mad – she still knew that she’d been wrong. She knew she’d failed with every manipulation, every kiss, every step of the way. This is the tale of Queen Levana, ruler of Luna. This is the story of the princess who stumbled into the shadows and could not find her way out to the right side of the fairytale. This is the tragedy of the tyrant who died on her throne without ever knowing what love truly is. My Thoughts:…

The Door Into Summer
Adult / August 16, 2016

Author: Robert A. Heinlein. Summary: Electronics engineer Dan Davis has finally made the invention of a lifetime: a household robot with extraordinary abilities, destined to dramatically change the landscape of everyday routine. Then, with wild success just within reach, Dan’s greedy partner and greedier fiancée trick him into taking the long sleep – suspended animation for thirty years. Content Review: Sexual content: The female villain is discovered to have been married to multiple husbands in various parts of the country. In future clothing-styles the increased exposure of skin is given a comment in passing. Male character accidentally ends up in a nude camp once. Language: 16 d***, 3 hell, various exclamations of ‘my God!’ Violence: Main character is drugged at one point, there is a vicious fight between a house-cat and a couple. Other issues: Main character is drunk when the story begins.