So you read The Martian by Andy Weir (or maybe just saw the movie) and thought that was pretty cool, I should read more science fiction. Or maybe you have never once thought that you should read more science fiction. Who cares about all that outer space and robot nonsense? It wasn’t long ago that I fell into the latter camp, but then I realized I really liked time travel and that eventually lead me down a science fiction rabbit hole and I discovered that there really is something for everyone in this genre.
This annual post combines two of my favorite things: making lists and talking about amazing books. Of course, it is always a challenge to winnow the list down. A quick look at my first draft of my list (yes, there are multiple drafts), tells me that I read and enjoyed a lot of mysteries and memoirs and a TON of YA. That being said, my final draft has more variety. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite reads of 2014:
1. The Secret Place by Tana French. I think this is the third year in a row that Tana French has made it onto my end of the year Top Reads list. She is amazing.
2. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Last year my list included The Husband’s Secret, which was full of family drama, hidden secrets, suspense, with a touch of romance and humor. That pretty much describes this latest offering. The audio is fantastic.
3. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. Are you looking to feel better about your own quirky family? Check out the hilariously dysfunctional Foxmans!
4. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. If someone forced me to pick only one favorite of 2014, I think this would the one.
5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Nonfiction always surprises me. Who knew a book about rowing would be a favorite?!
6. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. Quirky characters and an unlikely friendship!
7. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. This French import is a book about a book…and a murder. Plenty of twists and turns. Read the book before it hits the big screen!
8. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Humor and heart! This is another one that is fabulous on audio.
9. Vicious by V.E. Schwab. Superpowers and moral ambiguity abound in this dark and dangerous read.
10. Out of the Easy by Ruta Septys. New Orleans in the 1950. A murder threatens to derail a young girls dreams of a better life. Heartbreaking and lovely.
11. The Storied Life of A.J. Fickery by Gabrielle Zevin. A love letter to book lovers.
12. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. The prolific Mr. King takes a stab at a cat-and-mouse police procedural.
13. 10% Happier by Dan Harris. A non-intimidating, practical look at meditation.
14. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. A new-to-me series full of wizards and magic and good vs evil. And a skeleton detective. LOVE.
I can’t wait to see what all of my coworkers put on their lists. Be sure to check back all week for more fun lists!
Bonus: Memorable Memoirs of 2014
In a bold and adventurous move, we took our book discussion into the uncharted territory of the science fiction section! It could have gone either way -into a black hole of despair or into the sparkly twirl of a nebula, and in the end I think we hit a pretty happy place somewhere near Middle Earth -oh wait, that’s from more of the fantasy genre… How about I get my head out of the clouds and you take a look at what everyone has to say about what they’re reading?
Carol: In Jo Walton’s Hugo-winning novel, Among Others, Morwenna is a 15-year-old Welsh girl and Science Fiction fanatic, who speaks to fairies and practices magic. In this, her fictional diary, Morwenna’s twin Morganna has been killed, and Morwenna has run away from her insane mother and been sent to a private girls’ school in England by her estranged father. There, she attempts to come to terms with her recent loss. This magical coming of age novel is a quick and thoughtful read, that also provides readers with lists of Science Fiction must-reads along the way.
Lauren: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier takes us to The City—a place inhabited by those who have recently died. People remain in the City as long as they are remembered by the living. Once there is no one left on Earth to remember them, they disappear. We discover that a deadly virus has swept the world, killing off the majority of the population. One day nearly all of the existing City residents suddenly disappear and an influx of new residents arrives, but the population of the City has been drastically reduced. Meanwhile back on Earth we follow the adventures and struggles of Laura Byrd, the lone surviving scientist of an imperiled mission to Antarctica. As the residents of the City convene and get to know one another they discover their tie that binds—Laura Byrd, who may very well be the last living human on the planet.
Emma: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is the story of a young woman captured while attempting to escape from the Republic of Gilead, the former United States, to Canada with her husband and daughter. Her freedom is severely limited when she is forced to become a handmaid and is called Offred. Her job is to bear a healthy child for the Commander, Fred, and his wife Serena Joy. When Offred doesn’t become pregnant quickly, Serena suggests that she have sex with Nick, the chauffeur, and pass their child off as the commander’s child. The reader is left not knowing what happens to Offred – prison or freedom.
Dori: In California, by Edan Lepucki, Cal and Frida have left a chaotic and broken down Los Angeles and are living on their own in the wilderness when they discover a mysterious settlement close by. Frida’s pregnant and the couple decide to join the settlement, though they are not fully welcomed and their presence eventually must be voted upon. Gradually, they realize that something is not quite right: in the settlement, decisions are made from the top down, roles are strictly defined and…where are the children? Lepucki raises important issues about social class and the choice of security vs. freedom, but the ending seems rushed and jars with the character development.
Maureen: Don’t ask me how, but Ready Player One by Ernest Cline combines the bleak, dystopian, energy-crisis future world of 2044 with hilarious flashbacks to video games and pop culture of the 1980s. Teenager Wade Watts is living with his insensitive, selfish aunt in a poor housing development in Oklahoma City called the “stacks” (trailers stacked vertically). To escape his less-than-stellar living conditions, Wade has a hideout in an old antique car buried within the stacks where he logs in for hours with his school-issued equipment to the online immersion of the OASIS, a virtual world created by the famous video game creator James Halliday. After his death, Halliday challenged the world to solve his puzzle called “Anorak’s Invitation” using his love of everything 1980s to find three hidden keys embedded within vintage video games (so-called “Easter eggs”) Whoever finds the keys and solves the riddle inherits Halliday’s fortune. Against all odds, Wade discovers the first key, but then becomes embroiled in a life or death race to finish the contest. Along the way, he meets fellow competitors, faces an evil, greedy corporation and learns that not all is as it seems in the OASIS. A quick read full of fun 1980 tidbits!
Steve: Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry, is the second in the loosely connected The Giver Quartet. Kira, a crippled child in a future society, is left an orphan after the death of her mother. She is accused of being worthless to the society and faces banishment, until the Council of the Guardians defends her and she is soon given a valued position as the caretaker of the Singer’s robe, on account of her immense sewing and weaving skills. The robe illustrates the society’s past, present and soon to-be-filled in future, and is worn at the annual Gathering celebration. Kira’s excitement turns to shock as she discovers dark secrets about the Guardians and her society.
Megan: Ashfall by Mike Mullin is the thrilling first book in a trilogy. When fifteen-year old Alex is left home alone while his parents and sister visit family, he is expecting a weekend full of video games and hanging out with friends. All of his plans are ruined with the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park erupts hundreds of miles away, plunging Alex’s Iowa town into chaos, darkness, and ash. Alex begins the long and dangerous journey east, in the hopes of reuniting with his family. Along the way he encounters violence and depravity as well as kindness and help. His new travel partner, Darla, is a mechanical genius and could be the key to his survival. Ashfall is terrifyingly realistic. It is an action-packed and riveting series opener that will leave readers desperate (and maybe just a little bit nervous) for more.
Ann: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper is set in the distant future on a planet named Zarathustra. Jack Holloway is a gem prospector on Zarathustra. One day at his home he encounters a little creature that “yeeks.” He has never seen anything like him before. A passage from the book describes his initial contact. “He turned quickly, to see two wide eyes staring up at him out of a ball of golden fur. Whatever it was, it had a round head and big ears and a vaguely humanoid face with a little snub nose.” Jack calls him a Fuzzy and names this one “Little Fuzzy.” Soon more Fuzzies show up and they all exhibit a sweet, intelligent nature. In fact, it’s quickly believed that Fuzzies are indeed intelligent, sapient beings. But when officers of The Company, which owns the charter for the planet, hear about the Fuzzies, they are distraught because the charter specifies Zarathustra as an uninhabited planet. If the Fuzzies are sapient beings, the Company’s charter will be reversed- and no more profits will be made. This book was written in 1962 and nominated for a Hugo Award in 1963. It’s interesting reading to see a view of the future from over fifty years ago.
Julie: Midnight Riot is the first in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The quote from Diana Gabaldon on the cover is what caught my eye, “Midnight Riot is what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.” Awesome! It follows detective Peter Grant, who can not only see but speak with ghosts, as he investigates murders involving supernatural elements in modern London.
Stacey: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee is set in the not too distant future set in the cities of B-Mor (Baltimore) and D-Troy (Detriot) where most of the residents are of Asian descent. The story really starts though when sixteen-year-old Fan, a diver in a fish farm, leaves B-Mor in search of her boyfriend Reg, who disappeared one day without leaving a trace. As Fan travels the path on which hopes to find traces of the missing teen, she must overcome a series of life threatening challenges that reflect the challenges surviving in this harsh, unforgiving world.
Next time we’ll be getting ready for the spookiest genre of all… Horror! If you’re feeling afraid that you won’t find anything to read in this section, don’t worry so much! You just need to find something that includes supernatural or occult ideas that are meant to frighten the reader, including books about the natural world gone awry. It’s time to brew up some coffee and keep the nightlights burning bright -it’s time to read some scary stuff!
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
September 24, 2014
Hardcover, 364 pgs.
What it’s about:
From YA author Victoria Schwab (Near Witch, 2011, The Archived, 2013), comes a new adult science fiction novel. When Victor and Eli first meet in college they are both ambitious and arrogant and slightly socially awkward. During their senior year a shared interest in near-death experiences and super human powers lead them to pose an interesting hypothesis. They believed that under the right circumstances it was possible for certain people to gain extraordinary powers. This was interesting as a theory, but deadly during the experimental phase. Ten years after that fateful semester Victor has escaped from prison and is hunting down his former friend. Fortunately for Victor, Eli is also on the look out for Victor as part of his crusade to eliminate ExtraOrdinaries (EOs) from the world. Both men are fueled by rage, armed with terrible powers, and dead-set on revenge.
Why you might like it:
Though marketed as an adult novel, I think high school readers would probably enjoy this book, so if you are a fan of Victoria Schwab, you might want to check out Vicious. If you like enjoy stories where the lines between good and evil are blurred, you will probably like the moral ambiguity in this book. If you are intrigued by the idea of having superpowers, you should probably read this book. It might change your mind! Are you a fan of revenge tales? That’s Vicious! Looking for complex friendships, unlikely heroes, and strange friendships? Look no further! If you like your reading deep, dark, and dangerous you will find all of that here. Bottom line: this book is fabulous! I found the cover off-putting, so this is a perfect opportunity to NOT judge a book by its cover!
Want more like this?
The first book that comes to mind is Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Both tell the story of extraordinary powers corrupting people. I’ll have to think about more readalike!
If you are a reader of graphic novels you don’t need me to tell you how wonderful they can be. There is something refreshing (and maybe just a bit nostalgic?) about reading a story told in both words and pictures. But don’t dismiss graphic novels as fluff or kids stuff just because they are illustrated. I have found many graphic novels that are entertaining, powerful, and moving. I personally love a series, but I have also found a number of enjoyable standalones. My introduction to graphic novels was Bill Willingham’s Fables series, and it not only remains a favorite, but it is also a series I love to recommend. Here are some more of my favorites:
1. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a charming memoir that is sure to delight all you foodies out there.
2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is a hilarious and heartbreaking glimpse into the world of depression. The book is a compilation of new material as well as material previously published on the author’s blog.
3. Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer is a coming of age story about a girl moving away from her small town and finding herself in a big city. This is the perfect gift for the high school graduate in your life.
4. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming is a biography of her great-grandfather, China’s greatest magician. This is a fascinating look at Chinese culture and the early world of vaudeville. Definitely worth picking up.
5. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston is a novel told in pictures and tells the story of a young girl coming of age in the 1920s. Her dream is to be a writer, but life seems to have other plans for her, until she is swept off her feet by a handsome young man. Loaded with vintage postcards, magazine ads, letters, and fashion spread, this book pairs perfectly with The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
6. 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You, My Dog: The Paradox, and Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants by Michael Inman are all ridiculous, irreverent, and absolutely hilarious. Inman is the creator of The Oatmeal.com, the internet home of his comics. His humor isn’t for everyone, but if it IS your style, these books will leave you in tears!
7. Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami will make a cat lover out of even the staunchest nay-sayer (I should know, I was one of them!). These tiny, darling books chronicle the author’s adventures in adopting a street kitten.
8. Locke & Key by Joe Hill follows the Locke family as they move into their family’s ancestral home, a Victorian mansion called Lovecraft. Bad things happen. The story is dark, disturbing and utterly addictive. Joe is certainly giving his father, Stephen King, a run for the title of King of the Macabre!
9. Y: the Last Man and Saga by Brian Vaughan are two offerings from a Cleveland native. Y: the Last Man follows Yorick, the lone survivor of a plague that kills all the men. Saga is his newest offering and it is just plain bizarre, in an awesome way! Interplanetary wars and star-crossed lovers!
10. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman…do I really need to explain this one? Actually, I gave up in the show after the first season, but the books are fantastic. They are so much more horrifying than the tv series and after the first book, they books and television show are two entirely different things. I think it’s safe to read and watch simultaneously.
And just so that I am not ending on that horrific zombie note, here’s a nice bonus:
Eric Shanower’s Oz series is a must-read! This graphic adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz series is one of my favorite discoveries. The story is fresh and illustrations are amazing. Every time I look at them I want to take them apart and frame the pages. I encourage you to venture to the Children’s Department and rediscover Dorothy and her band of misfits as they have adventures in the land of Oz.
This year I made an effort to expand my reading horizons and in the process I discovered some amazing books! I read or listened to 200 books in 2013 and picking 13 favorites was nearly impossible, but after much fretting, I am finally satisfied with my 2013 “Best Of” list.
1. Favorite Nonfiction:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I found this book fascinating. The case studies and anecdotes are compelling (and in some cases a little creepy). I found the suggestions and techniques for changing habits to be useful in my own ongoing quest to make healthier choices.
2. Favorite Picture Book:
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. My nephews, ages 7, 8, and 9, think that they are getting too old for picture books, but I say you’re never too old for a charming and hilarious story! The letters from Yellow and Orange are my favorite!
3. Favorite Audio:
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you, this is not fluff. This story has it all: family drama, hidden secrets, suspense, and even a touch of romance and humor. It was this book, more than anything else, that motivated me to walk the dogs in the recent blizzard-y weather.
4. Favorite YA:
Reality Boy by A.S. King. Considering that the majority of my reading is YA, picking just one book for this list was a little painful. I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with A.S. King’s books. Her books are full of heart-breakingly dysfunctional characters and the their struggles to have better lives. Her stories are powerful and empowering, and not just for teens.
5. Favorite Middle Grade:
The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. This is the hilarious sequel to The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The League of Princes is off on another (mis)adventure and once again their leading ladies are there to save the day. Fans of fairy tales, fractured or otherwise, won’t want to miss this series.
6. Favorite Debut:
In the Shadow of the Blackbird by Cat Winters. I had to sneak another YA book on the list, but I think it will appeal to a wide range of readers. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the old photographs and vivid descriptions of life during the great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Readers looking for fright will find a devilishly delightful ghost story!
7. Favorite Historical Fiction:
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book covers the life of one woman, Dorothy, from her youth in pre-WWII England, through the war and into the present day. As she lay dying her daughter makes a startling discovery about her mother’s past. Full of twists and turns, I was guessing right up until the surprising end!
8. Favorite Graphic Novel:
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Not sure about the whole graphic novel thing? Ease into them with the delicious memoir! Give this to your favorite foodie (but be sure to read it before you wrap it)!
9. Favorite Science Fiction:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 80’s pop culture collides with future dystopian America. Virtual reality is the new reality and gamers are battling out for chance to win billions. This book was so much fun and the audio was narrated by Wil Weaton!
10. Favorite Book Recommended by Fellow Librarians at RRPL:
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. This is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a futuristic science fiction twist. Fascinating!
11. Favorite Mystery:
Broken Harbor by Tana French. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I love everything about French’s police procedural novels. The setting is vivid, the characters are well-developed and perfectly flawed, and the mysteries are suspenseful without being gruesome.
12. Favorite Funny Book:
The Last Word by Lisa Lutz. This is the last book in the Spellman Files series and I suggest you start at the beginning. The series stars a highly dysfunctional family of private investigators. Hilarity ensues.
13. Favorite Fiction:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is my current favorite book. It is a charming coming-of-age story with lots of family drama, humor, and a sweet romance. This book is like a cozy blanket on a chilly day: you want to dive in and not come out. I realize that sounds cheesy, but I found this book to be so comforting. I have lots of love for Rainbow Rowell.
….and a last minute addition for luck! I promise, no more.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. This is superhero science fiction. With a twist. Imagine living in a world with only super villains. In Steelheart, ordinary humans develop superhuman talents and use them to enslave and terrorize ordinary people. All but a small handful of people submit. The resistors call themselves The Reckoners and their only goal is to rid the world of Epics. This series opener is amazing!
Winter is coming…but book six in A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is not. At least not any time soon. I know I am not alone out here, wondering what to do with myself while I wait. On the one hand it’s actually a relief to not have most of my time and brain cells being monopolized by a complicated epic fantasy. On the other hand, I got used to lugging an enormous book around with me at all times. I kind of want that feeling back. So I took another look at my Goodreads “to read” shelf and found some titles that should keep me busy while I impatiently wait for G. Martin to get busy and give me a new book.
1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This may be the perfect choice for me. Historical fiction+time travel+some steamy romance=Win! Another thing that it has going for it is the fact that there are already seven books published. It looks like an eighth book will be published in 2013. There will be no hand-wringing or teeth gnashing as I anxiously anticipate the publication of a new title. There really is something to be said for starting a series once it is complete (or almost complete).
2. The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma. Ok, it looks like I have an overwhelming desire to get lost in a time travel series. Who knew? This one has the bonus element of Steampunk, which is trè chic. Look at those gorgeous covers! I am sold.
3. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. This supernatural thriller series comes recommended by a coworker. Quirky characters, suspense, and horror. Works for me. There are currently five books in the series and book six is due out in 2013.
These are my top three contenders for my next epic series. Of course, if I was practical I would hold off on starting a new series until I finished or got caught up on my current series. *Cough* Stephanie Plum *Cough* I am not sure I will ever catch up with this woman!
I am also open to recommendations! What do you think I should read while I am waiting on The Winds of Winter?
Yes, there are a few of us who really do enjoy this genre but for the most part the majority of our group doesn’t care so much for Science Fiction. Why? I’m not sure. If you really think about it, these books are written by extraordinarily creative people, who also have some degree of scientific knowledge on which they build their premise, and they offer some of the thought-provoking story lines. Where else would you be able to find a discussion of Darwinism as a means of alien lifeform destruction? Or future worlds where human experimentation has left us without free air, genetic mutations preventing reproduction, and even vampirism? How do you work in the science, the character creation, and action scenes, all in one plausible plot? I think that’s amazing! So, good job Sci-Fi authors! (Now aren’t you curious to see what everyone had to say about their books?!)
Chris: Farthing by Jo Walton is the traditional English country mystery with the addition of alternate history. It opens with the British upper class coming to spend a weekend at Farthing’s country house. One of the daughter’s, Lucy, is bringing her new husband David Kahn. David, being Jewish, is not really welcome and the couple even wonders why they were invited. Odder still, the first evening one of the house guests, Sir James Thirkie, is murdered and left with a Star of David pinned to his chest. Did the family just want to pin the murder on Kahn? Or did he actually do it? Or maybe it was a political enemy of Thirkie since he was instrumental in bringing about the 1941 peace with Hitler and Germany? Or maybe it was Thirkie’s wife? Follow Inspector Carmichael’s search for the murderer and discover much, much more.
Steve: A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick, is a bit of a mindbender. Written in 1977, it takes place in the near future, 1994. Undercover agent Fred infiltrates a group of druggies, with his eye on the leader Bob Arctor. While under cover, Fred develops a huge drug addiction to the drug of choice, Substance D. Fred, as an undercover agent, returns daily to the police station to watch undercover footage, via holographic cameras, of the drug house. In the future, all undercover agents wear a scramble suit, which blurs the wearer’s physical identity so other cops in the station can’t identify Fred as a narc. Soon though psychologists in the police department notice Fred exhibiting signs of Substance D abuse and begin to piece together coincidences between Fred and Bob. This story can be hard to wrap your mind around, and wanders at a slow rate, but in the end is worth it if you are looking for something different.
Carol: Told in snippets of gathered intelligence found by Cormac Wallace, a leader of the human resistance, Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson is a science fiction thriller, set in the near future, that tells the history of a war between robots and humans. From the time just before the robot uprising, to “Zero Hour,” when all robots attack, and to almost 3 years afterwards, this book follows the struggles of a small group of heroes all over the world who rise against the machines. As scary as early Stephen King, this book contains truly horrifying moments as a virus, spread by the powerful Artificial Intelligence that calls itself Archos, systematically takes over robotics all over the world. Archos, who uses a little boy’s voice to communicate with humans pits other robots against humankind because he thinks that humans evolved in order to create something better—him, and since now that they’ve done this, their time is up. First, machines begin to act up, like the little girl’s doll that comes life and threatens the welfare of her family, but soon it’s bad enough that personal assistant robots are straight up murdering their human owners. Soon machines start herding people into work camps in order to build stronger, better, smarter killing machines. Lucky for us, humans don’t give up so easily in this action and suspense packed read! Steven Spielberg is making this into a movie next year and I, for one, will be seeing it! Word of warning: Robopocalypse might just make you question your reliance on electronics. I highly recommend this bloody sci-fi read to fans of the genre, and in particular, fans of the Terminator films.
Emma: Sometime in the future it is illegal to own books according to Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag, a fireman whose job is to burn books, is secretly hoarding a few in his house. Montag is greatly disturbed when a lady refuses to leave her books and her house and burns to death after igniting the fire herself. Mildred, Montag’s wife, is only interested in her television “family” who occupy three walls of their living room. After Montag reads poetry to Mildred and her friends, Mildred turns her husband in to authorities and he is forced to burn his own books and home. Montag then turns the flamethrower on Captain Beatty killing him. A runaway murderer, Montag ends up with professors, authors, and clergymen considered dangerous to society living along deserted train tracks. Each has memorized books hoping to be allowed to write them down one day. Written in nine days by Ray Bradbury, the book originally appeared in the second, third, and fourth issues of Playboy magazine after being paid $400 for the story.
Dori: I read The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers, an Arthur C. Clarke award-winner set in the not-so-distant future when a virus strikes, killing women who become pregnant and thus ensuring the end of humanity. 16-year-old Jessie is, at first, not concerned about the virus, but as life becomes more uncertain, and friends and relatives affected, she begins to look for purpose and meaning in the chaos. When her father, a scientist, tells her about a research program enlisting young woman as volunteers to become incubators for frozen embryos, Jessie feels like she’s found something within her power to do, the ultimate sacrifice for the future of humanity. This bleak and harrowing novel addresses a variety of social themes within a coming of age story.
Rosemary: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is one of my all-time favorite books. High school student Meg Murry‘s physicist father has been missing for a year, when, on a stormy evening, a strange woman appears at her home. Mrs. Whatsit convinces the Murry’s that their father can be rescued from the world in which he is being held captive. She will help Meg, Charles Wallace Murry, and Calvin O’Keefe, a friend of Meg’s, travel through a tesseract, or a wrinkle in time, to save Mr. Murry. There are many positive themes in this story of good vs. evil, but the most compelling one is the awesome power of love. The library has added to our collection the graphic novel of this book just published in 2012. I can hardly wait to see this version of the enduring classic.
Megan: Breathe by Sarah Crossan is the first in a new science fiction series for teens. In the future there are no trees and the earth’s atmosphere is so depleted of oxygen that the air is unbreathable. Fortunately for humanity the Breathe Corporation devised a method for manufacturing oxygen. People now live in a safe pod where they can purchase the oxygen they need. When Bea and her best friend Quinn leave the pod for a camping trip in the Outland, they make a startling discovery that will change their lives forever. This exciting series opener reads like a futuristic The Lorax for teens. Plenty of twists and turns and startling surprises will keep readers guessing until the end and eager for more.
Ann: The Twelve by Justin Cronin continues the story which began with The Passage. It is now 97 A.V. (after the virus created by a government experiment gone horribly wrong has turned many humans into vampire-like beings). A large group of survivors has created somewhat safe colonies in Texas. But there are other survivors in Iowa who are controlled by the darker side of this new “humanity.” A young woman named Amy was part of the original experiment. She survives as a woman who barely ages and who possesses super-human powers. Amy, along with her friends who fight for good, is determined to defeat both the dictator-like controller in Iowa and the Twelve (the original carriers of the virus). An exciting part two in a projected trilogy by Cronin.
Stacey: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells could arguably be one of the first Steampunk novels -ever! Mr. Wells created a world where Martian machines and high-tech weaponry arrived on Earth to fight against the cavalry and foot soldiers of late Victorian England. An unnamed narrator is on the frontlines for key moments: from seeing strange flares on the planet Mars, to the metal cylinders that landed near his home, to the epic battle between man and machine, to the final conclusion, and tells readers of his experience. After centuries of being in publication, you might think this book would be dry or dull. You’d be wrong! It’s full-on creepy, and spooky, and great! After reading this book, it’s easy to see why Orson Wells chose this for his epic October 30th radio broadcast and why it’s been the genesis of so many other books and films.
Next time? We celebrate the Winter Holidays! Find a Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve book, and you’ll be reading right along with us! Enjoy!
If I had known then, what I know now? Well then, it would have made the perfect start to a science fiction book –and that would have made it perfect for our recent genre book discussion! Science fiction books are generally based on current thinking about the world around us, from politics to the social sciences to hard science, and then the author will alter something in that known world to become –an unknown future. If you’re an inventive dreamer, this genre could be just the right fit for you! Maybe you’d like to see what everyone wrote about their selection?
Megan: White Cat by Holly Black is about Cassel Sharpe, the black sheep in his family. Not only is he not a curse worker, a person who has the supernatural ability to manipulate people’s emotions, luck, and memory, he is a murderer. He has spent three years trying to forget the night he killed his friend Lila. When nightmares and sleepwalking plague his nights he is kicked out of his boarding school and sent to live with his brother. Here he begins to uncover dangerous family secrets and unravel the mystery of Lila’s death. This supernatural thriller is full of danger, mystery and suspense.
Rosemary: The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan is the second book in the Ranger’s Apprentice fantasy series. Will is a Ranger in training for the Kingdom of Araluen. He is apprenticed to Halt, a highly respected Ranger who has become Will’s mentor. When Will and his friend Horace are sent on a mission to a nearby village, they find a ghost town, instead of the bustling village they expected. Where have all the villagers gone? Will begins to suspect that the murderous Morgarath is behind the devastation. If this is true, Will and Horace are in for the battle of their lives. The Burning Bridge is another excellent addition to the series. Readers will find Will’s courage and intelligence very appealing. The book, of course, has a cliffhanger ending, which will make readers rush for the next installment.
Janet: Life As We Knew It by young adult author Susan Beth Pfeffer is the first book of a trilogy. The book opens with the introduction of one family and their daily routines. They, along with the rest of the world are anticipating the collision of a large asteroid with the earth’s moon. The collision knocks the moon out of its normal orbit, which is an unexpected turn of events. Starting with twenty- feet- high tsunamis buffeting our eastern seacoast planet earth is changed forever. Survival becomes the name of the game. Our family of four (Mom, Matt, Miranda and Jonny) and neighbor Mrs. Nesbitt work together to help each other in the months that follow. The book is presented in a journal format that is written by Miranda. Life becomes challenging and at times harrowing. The author’s story is quite engrossing. There are many twists and turns and a day-to-day expediency which makes this book a suspenseful story.
Carol: The Clone Codes by Pat, Fred, and John McKissack is set in 2170, a future where humans are ‘firsts’ and clones and cyborgs are known as ‘seconds.’ Clones have been created (with human dna) to do jobs humans don’t want to do. Seconds have no rights and are not treated as humans. 13-year-old Leanna believes this, but things change when her mother is arrested for treason, for fighting for clone rights. When Leanna learns that she is actually a clone, even her friends now want her arrested. This slim novel is the first in a trilogy. Hand this fast-paced, suspenseful read to a young teen or reluctant reader.
Emma: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is the story of Kivrin, a time-traveling Oxford history student in 2048. She expects to travel back to 1320 but ends up in the path of the Black Plague in 1348. Kivrin lives with and nurses the members of a local family who all eventually succumb to the disease. In 21st century Oxford, the community is dealing with another epidemic which hinders the return of Kivrin to present time. Eventually her university tutor arrives from the future and takes Kivrin back home as she is burying the final victim in the small village.
Julie: You might normally skip a novel written by a leading theoretical physicist, but Icarus at the Edge of Time is worth it. Brian Greene transforms the Greek myth into an quick introduction to relativity and black holes with all the drama of the original story and pictures from the Hubble telescope as illustrations.
Ann: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Miranda’s journal starts the way any teenager’s journal might (talking about school, boys, friends), but then an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it askew and closer to Earth. Miranda’s journal becomes a chronicle of survival. Horrible things happen- tsunamis destroy the coastal areas, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions cause major climate changes. As Miranda’s family copes, little by little everything changes, and life as we knew it ceases. This is a compelling and down to earth, but often bleak story. It makes you want to get a storehouse of supplies ready in case of disaster. The Booklist review sums it up- “each page is filled with events both wearying and terrifying and infused with honest emotions.”
Dori: Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. This science fiction thriller, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award, stars Zinzi December, ex-journalist, ex-junkie, ex-prisoner. After the death of her brother, Zinzi becomes a ‘zoo’, marked for her crime by an animal companion, a magical skill and a home with the rest of the ‘zoos’ in a violent slum of Johannesburg. Zinzi’s got a sloth slung on her back, a sarcastic wit and a talent for finding lost items. Desperate for cash, she takes a job finding a lost person and ends up entangled with a reclusive record producer and a pair of ‘animalled’ con men. This is a page turning, gritty, fascinating look at a world that parallels our own.
Stacey: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld is one awesomely inventive, Steampunk book. The first of a trilogy, this title introduces the main characters, the alternate version of our world that they live in, and builds to a big action sequence at the end of the novel, making a great cliffhanger for Behemoth, the second of the trilogy. The Archduke of Austria and his wife are murdered, which forces their son Alek to run for his life. Alek comes from a Clanker, mechanically dedicated, country but finds he must hide with an English airship crew; England being a Darwinist or genetically engineered species dependent country. Can such diametrically opposed groups find a middle ground?
Our next discussion will feature literary fiction or books that are viewed as “high quality” or “prize-winning” titles that can be experimental, but should still create a thoughtful, thought-provoking interaction between book and reader. I wonder what everyone will pick?
Yep. We had our science fiction book discussion the other day and again, I was surprised at what a wide range of books and ideas were discussed. I love to see what people picked, hear how they picked it, and learn what they liked or disliked about the book and/or genre. Scifi is one of those categories people might hesitate to read (or say they read) but I hope that won’t be true anymore for our group or for the people who read this blog. Maybe there are two thing that I can share here to help get people embrace these stories; 1) science fiction is allllll about the big drama: if the world as we know it ended and some of us survived, what would happen to us a common storyline, and 2) there’s plenty of action and adventure to be had: piloting a space craft in war or for survival would be pretty exciting, don’t you think? So now that you’re looking for a scifi book to try, you could start with one of ours…
Emma: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is a timeless classic. Published in 1897, it’s the story of Griffin, a young scientist who has discovered the secret to becoming invisible and searches for the secret to become visible again. Unable to do so Griffin begins a reign of terror, stealing and killing. There are a few humorous episodes in the book when being invisible isn’t easy for the mad scientist. He cannot wear shoes, eat or deal with snow and still remain invisible. Eventually the authorities catch up with Griffin and he is killed.
Evelyn: Storm Front by Jim Butcher is the first book in the Dresden File series featuring professional wizard Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. When a couple is murdered by someone who exploded their hearts, Harry is called upon by the Chicago police to find answers to this especially gruesome murder because it involved the use of black magic. He needs the money to pay his rent and agrees to help. Soon he is not only looking for the killer, but is also the prime suspect. And, as Harry knows better than anyone, any time the supernatural is explored, things can turn deadly in a hurry. Harry is a witty, smart-alecky character, who spices up his hard-boiled crime solving with vampires, faeries, gnomes, and even his own tutor Bob, the ghost of a wizard condemned to live in his own skull for eternity.
Megan: Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a thought provoking teen science fiction novel that deals with issues of death and mortality. In the year 2000 Anny Beth and Melly are both near 100 years old and on the verge of death until they are recruited to participate in an experimental medical program. They are given an “unaging” drug with the promise that the antidote would halt the unaging at whatever age they desired. When they learn the antidote is fatal, the two women leave the Institute and set out on their own with no trouble until 2085. Now both women are teenagers in need of parents, but that is not their biggest problem. The real problem is that someone, a reporter, is searching for them and their secret is being threatened. I liked this book because it made me ask the question-Just because we can do something, should we?
Carol: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi tells the story of John Perry, a retired writer, who joins the Colonial Defense Forces. John and his co-recruits (all the age of 75) chose to join this war to extend their lives and because, for John at least, with his wife Kathy dead, there’s no reason to stay on Earth. The recruits go to a space station where their minds are transferred to new bodies, based on their own DNA. These (green!) new bodies are enhanced in many ways, providing much excitement and pleasure. After basic training, they head out to battle intelligent alien species. On one mission, John is rescued by a mysterious team of Special Forces. Their leader looks exactly like John’s dead wife. But how is that possible? I really enjoyed this imaginative read, filled with speculation about technology, the destiny of humanity and the moral implications of war. Combine that with a fast-moving storyline and solid plot and you get a winning Sci-Fi book perfect for someone looking for a great book.
Janet: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Post-apocalyptic America, now known as Panem, is divided into twelve districts. Each year the government holds a lottery that selects one girl and one boy from each district to fight in The Hunger Games, a live, televised fight-to-the-death competition with only one winner.
Rosemary: Idlewild by Nick Sagan: The author has imagined a deadly virtual reality world in his debut novel. When Gabriel awakes he is filled with a sense of dread and knows that someone is trying to kill him. But who is it? And is there anyone he can trust? This is a great start to a new series by a promising young author.
Julie: Marionettes, Inc. by Ray Bradbury is a collection of short stories where the science of robotics is used to create “humans.” These stories offer different perspectives on the good and harm this could bring to life. The book includes one new story as well as some earlier published works, including the classic “I Sing the Body Electric.” It’s a good, quick introduction to the work of an author considered to have elevated the science fiction genre and offers plenty to ponder.
Dori: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler is the first book of a two part series about the United States in the near future, where society has run amok with crime, drug addiction, poverty and environmental degradation. The narrator, 15-year-old African American Lauren Olamina, is partially protected from the chaos by living within a walled community whose members work together to protect the whole. Lauren, who suffers from hyperempathy, which is feeling others’ pain and pleasure, is disenchanted with her father’s Christianity and is inventing a new religion she calls Earthseed. When her enclave is overrun, Lauren, who has expected this all along, decides to go north to begin a new community based on Earthseed. The author’s themes of dystopian adventure and coming of age mixed with explorations of political and social issues create a moving and fascinating novel.
Ann: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is set in the near future in San Francisco. Marcus, a 17-year-old student, and his friends are caught up in the frenzy that ensues after terrorists attack and blow up the Bay Bridge. The teens are hauled in for questioning and treated like criminals. In fact the entire city has turned into a police state, where individual liberties are diminishing every day, and the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has the upper hand. Marcus and his friends are smart though, and already have known for years how to use computers and technology to get around authority. Now they use it to fight back, fight for personal freedoms, and for the future. This teen science fiction novel has appeal for all readers and won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel, 2009.
and my book: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery is the first book in the Pern series. These books are all set in the fictional world of Pern where people live in Holds, belong in a Weyr, or are selected for a Crafthall. Everyone has something to contribute to the survival of the planet, but in this book many of the Holders have chosen to forget the importance of the dragonriders, leaving the Weyrs to suffering because of that. Can new Benden Weyr save Pern if their fellow countrymen aren’t willing to help save themselves?
Curious yet? You should be! Go ahead, try a science fiction book. They’re fun! (And if you’re thinking none of the above books are quite right, you can always ask us for a suggestion. We’re ready for it…now!)