Tag Archives: Science fiction

LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

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LINK by Summer Wier – YA SciFi that will take you to the stars and back

I spent many years looking at the stars and, at one point, I wanted desperately to become an astronaut (Thanks, Space Camp).  Years of abysmal grades in math and science grounded that dream, but I can always enjoy books set in or around the stars.  LINK by Summer Wier is definitely a book steeped in starlight and wishes, but I just didn’t connect with this read.  Perhaps you will have better luck because my two star review does look a little suspect amid all the great four and five star reviews it received on Goodreads.  I will say that the author has generously donated a copy of the book and a nice stack of beautifully designed bookmarks to our classroom library, even after she saw my honest review, so I might not have loved the book, but I’m a huge fan of Summer Wier.

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This picture in no way prepares you for how beautiful this cover is in person. It is really gorgeous IRL.

Goodreads Summary

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that’s missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, Link pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world.

My Thoughts

This isn’t a terrible book.  It was creative and had a unique plot that I definitely was not able to predict.  There are a few revelations that I found really surprising and cool.  At the same time, it was a book I struggled to finish.  The pacing is far too rushed to create believable relationships, and that is a problem in a book that is focused on a love triangle.  While one romantic interest is an established person in the protagonist’s life, the second comes out of nowhere and creates an insta-love scenario that will leave most readers dissatisfied.  The dialogue is also a problem.  The conversations rang false, and the banter felt corny and flat.  Finally, no one feels like a real, nuanced character.  The good guys and the bad guys are black and white, with none of the gray areas real people have.  They just never came alive for me.

I also found the whole concept too esoteric.  I honestly have no idea where the plot is or will be going.  There are stars. There are black holes. There are some people who want to control the power of these two forces, but I don’t have a clue why.  I have no idea why there is a carnival involved. Or ponies.  (Not that those are bad things. I really like carnivals and ponies.  These just didn’t fit the context for me.  That might be the point, though.)  Overall, I just struggled, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

This book is in our classroom library because Summer Wier is an awesome person.  I sincerely hope you read it, love it, and tell me I’m a fool for not recognizing her genius!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is an innovative and wild ride that will enthrall readers of YA

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Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is an innovative and wild ride that will enthrall readers of YA

I think Illuminae is going to be a big hit for a lot of readers.  It is unique and surprising, honest and funny.  If you don’t look at any other YA science fiction book this year, give this one a preview.  I doubt you will be able to put it down.  It features action, romance,  space travel, plague, and some seriously messed up AI.

Illuminae publishes Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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Goodreads 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.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

My Thoughts

Illuminae is a pretty wild ride.  I didn’t quite understand what I was getting into with this book, so I was a little surprised by the “found” footage aspect of the narrative.  Everything is told through memos, IM messages, surveillance footage, journals, etc.  I found it a little difficult to read as an ebook, and I think a print version would be a better reading experience.  While this isn’t a format that I particularly enjoy, I do think it was an interesting and innovative presentation, and it truly told the story as well as a traditional narrative style could have.  What is the story?  Kady thought her breakup was pretty traumatic until the skies opened up on her planet and the bombing began.  Then she had to team up with her ex to escape the firestorm.  Then the AI on the spaceship leading the rescue fleet got a little too intelligent, and then, well, let’s just say Kady hasn’t seen anything yet.  I was sold on the story before I turned a page, but it was so much better than I could ever have anticipated.  The biggest draw for me is the action.  It increased steadily until it exploded with intensity as the end drew near.  I also love how the characters of Kady and her ex, Ezra, make this a book that will appeal to my high school readers of both genders.  They bicker and tease, misunderstand and comfort like genuine teenagers. I found them funny and engaging.  Their emotions and motivations are ones that will be universally recognizable, and I think anyone who gives this innovative and smart read won’t be able to put it down until they get to the end.  There were surprises and little hidden gems throughout.  One of my particular favorite things about the book is that whoever is compiling the found footage has been asked to censor mature language, so there are black bars covering all of the swear words my mind filled them in anyway. It was just a nice touch of authenticity.   I have already started talking this one up (I couldn’t help myself) to my students, and I can’t wait to get it on the shelves in my classroom library.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

R.C. Lewis’s Spinning Starlight – where science fiction meets fairy tale in such an unexpected way!

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R.C. Lewis’s Spinning Starlight – where science fiction meets fairy tale in such an unexpected way!

This companion novel to Stitching Snow is a pretty impressive combination of science fiction and fairy tale.  I enjoy this author’s work, and I think if you give her a shot, you will as well.  Stars and science, and something alien – it was a five star read for me.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans strings the heart of the classic with a stunning, imaginative world as a star-crossed family fights for survival in this companion to Stitching Snow.

My Thoughts

I honestly just can’t get enough of this author.  Her fairy tales are science fiction set in universes that are alien but universal in their conflicts.  Her female protagonists are tougher than they know, and they are always engineering savvy.  I honestly can’t say I’ve read anything exactly like them, but I do know they are the books I want to hand out by the armfull to every girl I meet!  Spinning Starlight is the second book by this author, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I might have enjoyed it more than Stitching Snow, which was one of my top picks last year.  This book is a standalone reimagining of The Wild Swans, which I haven’t read.  I think part of my enjoyment came from the fact that I didn’t know what to expect, so I’ll keep it basic.  Liddi doesn’t feel like she lives up to the family name, but when her seven older brothers are trapped in a dangerous situation by a trusted family employee, Liddi is the only one who can save them.  Voiceless and uncertain, Liddi must go on a journey that will take her to unimagined places and force her to see how much she really can trust her own instincts.  This  book is smart and strange, and I couldn’t put it down.  There is romance and there is adventure.  There are aliens and there are enemies.  I do have to say Spinning Starlight was a little more hardcore science fiction than Stitching Snow because it incorporated alien beings, weird names, and unusual customs, but the author eases readers in to it, so it shouldn’t be a deterrent.  I think my high school students will enjoy it as much as I did, and  I added it to my classroom library wishlist long ago.  I think readers who enjoyed Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress will enjoy this book as well, and of course, fans of Stitching Snow will find it engaging.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but interest level is high school and beyond.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – YA SciFi as intriguing as anything I’ve read this year

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The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – YA SciFi as intriguing as anything I’ve read this year

Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules has a big buzz going in the YA book world, and I have to say it lives up to the buzz.  It has all the things I want in a book (thus, all the things you want in a book) and it is wildly different from anything else I’ve read this year. Ultimately, I had a few problems with it so it was only a four star read, but if you want to keep your status as the hip kid at the bookstore cafe (or the biggest Geek in the SciFi Club), you are going to want in on this book early.

The Scorpion Rules is publishing September 22, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace – sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals – are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

My Thoughts

There are many reasons I quickly lost contact with the outside world when I started reading this book.  First, the premise – Artificial Intelligence decides the only way to end the wars that threaten humanity is to keep rulers in check by holding their royal offspring as hostages. One of those hostages is going to throw a wrench in that plan in a pretty horrible way.  Awesome.  Second, Greta – the narrator and protagonist is compelling and smart and pretty scared she will die very, very soon.  Yes, please!  Third, the setting – a mind melt of pastoral harmony and menacing threat – think 1984 set in an Abbey with intelligent robot spiders who like their tazers.  Brilliant!  Finally, the AI running this rodeo – awful in such a crazy good way that readers are probably going to be talking about him more than anything else in this entire book.  So we have all the hallmarks of a huge hit – kids threatened with death for the greater good, strong yet sensitive female protagonist, rebellion, evil robots.  So why doesn’t my review have a huge five star rating at the top?  Because I’m still struggling with the way this one ended.  I don’t exactly hate it, but I’m not sure what to do with it, and I think a lot of readers will struggle with that as well.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think you should scoop this book up and run to your reading hidey hole immediately, but I bet you are going to want to talk this one out as soon as you finish.  I think this is going to be a very big deal in the YA reading world, and if you want in on the conversation, you are going to want to read it.  Now.  Before someone corrupts it with a movie deal.  I have no doubt this will be a hot item with my high school readers, and I think lots of adults are going to find it just as compelling. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers who are prepared for some sensuality and bloodshed (that means all of them).

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Chanda Stafford’s First is a YA science fiction dystopian that explores the idea that one person’s life is worth valuing over another’s

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Chanda Stafford’s First is a YA science fiction dystopian that explores the idea that one person’s life is worth valuing over another’s

Under this rather innocuous sounding summary is a rather horrifying premise.  I won’t ruin all the fun, but let’s just say that advances in science don’t sound so appealing once you really think about the ramifications.  This book reminded me of Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison.  They had similar concepts, so if you enjoyed one, chances are good you will enjoy the other.  I thought this book was the weaker of the two, but they both put a spin on the idea of immortality and privilege that I found engaging.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Mira works on a farm in the ruins of Texas, along with all of the other descendants of the defeated rebels. Though she’s given her heart to Tanner, their lives are not their own.

When Socrates, a powerful First, chooses Mira as his Second, she is thrust into the bewildering world of the rich and influential. Will, a servant assigned to assist her, whispers of rebellion, love, and of a darker fate than she’s ever imagined.
With time running out, Mira must decide whether to run to the boy she left behind, the boy who wants her to live, or the man who wants her dead.
My Thoughts

I liked the concept of this story, and I thought the world that the author created is pretty intriguing.  Mira is a well developed character with a lot of internal conflict and external pressure shaping her choices.  The moral dilemma she faces comes across as troubling and real, and I honestly waffled on which way I would go if I had her decision in front of me.  Socrates is a less engaging character initially.  He has a view about his decision to take a second, and it is only over time that he begins to grow and change as a character that readers will care about.  I think this story creates a lot of room for discussion and debate, so it would be perfect for a small reading group.  I did think the story had a few flaws.  First, I quickly guessed what the big mystery was, and I think most readers will as well.  I think the book is designed to allow readers to make the leap of logic that Mira can’t on purpose.  I see exactly why the author chose to delay the reveal, but as a reader, I just felt that the mystery dragged on for too long.  I also had problems with the lack of action.  This is a thinking book, so that is to be expected, but I wanted more than the farm and a room at the Smith.  Neither of these were deal breakers for me – I still enjoyed the read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren’t You and I 

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Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren’t You and I 

This book is one I hesitated to blog about simply because I’m not sure there is much of an audience for it in the American readership.  Certainly if you are looking for something experimental or if you just like giving something unique a try, this is a book to consider.  I personally only gave it a three star rating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this mix of science fiction and magical realism.

 

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Goodreads Summary

Can you imagine a future where everyone has given up sleeping?

From the creator of the television series Red Band Society and author of the international bestseller The Yellow World comes this uniquely special novel.
What if I could reveal your secrets with just a glance? And what if I could feel with your heart just by looking at you? And what if –in a single moment– I could know that we were made for each other? Marcos has just lost his mother, a famous dancer who taught him everything, and he decides that his world can never be the same without her. Just as he is about to make a radical change, a phone call turns his world upside down.

My Thoughts

This is a strange little work of science fiction that reads like a dream – literally, it reads like a strange dream.  That is rather fitting as the book opens with the main character contemplating taking an injection designed to take away the need for sleep.  His mother has died and the idea of dreaming in a world without his mother is too much.  Then a couple of things stop him from pushing the plunger on his dream life.  He sees a girl in the plaza outside his window and his boss calls him to work because a suspected alien life form has been discovered.  These two events will change his perceptions about life and death forever.  Reading this book is quite a lot like watching a foreign film.   The ideas and plot are going to be different from a traditional American novel.  It has the magical realism that is almost entirely absent in American literature, and it takes a more open minded American reader to suspend their disbelief long enough to enjoy it.  It also might make you feel dumb when you don’t “get it” or when you are afraid you didn’t “get it.”  I certainly felt there were parts of the story that eluded me, but overall, I enjoyed it for its strange, dream-like situations and prose. However, I was disturbed by what I inferred about the mother/son relationship in this story, but I wasn’t really sure if I was inferring too much.  I do think that some readers will be annoyed by this story and feel like it was a waste of time.  If you can’t enjoy a strange foreign film, or even an American remake of one like Vanilla Sky, I think you should just skip this.  If, however, you can loosen up your ideas of what a story should be or do and let the words take you to somewhere new and unexpected, you might enjoy this.  While this book was listed as YA on NetGalley, I don’t think this is a YA read.  The experimental feel of the style paired with the leisurely pace don’t really lend themselves to the average YA reader’s expectations.  There is also a lot of thought and philosophy about sex which I didn’t really feel was appropriate for Just any teen reader.  It isn’t graphic, but it is just a casual attitude towards sex that I think some parents would object to.  It would certainly prompt a lot of discussion as a book club selection, though, and I think it is an interesting and thought provoking read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.