30 January 2012

The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson


Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries. Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead. Everyone except Jenna Fox.
This is a very interesting choice in a sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I like how it chose to follow Kara and Locke instead of Jenna again because I’m not sure I could handle more strife and conflict in Jenna’s life. I really felt at the end of The Adoration of Jenna Fox that she was getting the peace she deserved, and I like to go on thinking that. I like even more how Locke and Kara are such different people, both from each other and from the people they were before the accident and the download storage. Both of them have been stuck inside the data cubes for centuries, but it affected them in different ways. Locke comes out hungry for life, wanting to experience everything that he can now that he can feel and sense again. Kara, on the other hand, was changed by her cube experience by becoming angry and bitter, and she wants nothing more than revenge. The two characters are good as foils for each other and written in such a way that they are both believable; even when Kara has her most crazy moments you can understand and sympathize with her. The plot follows the world Pearson built in the previous book, and the plot twists and issues that Locke and Kara face are different from what Jenna experienced but still feel realistic and not contrived. Although Kara is the driving force in the book she’s not always present, which allows Locke to develop a voice all his own. In fact, this voice develops so far that it is hard to figure out some of the other characters because we see them through the lens of Locke and his perceptions, and this filter sometimes stilts the development of other characters in a way that Jenna didn’t have in the first book. Locke’s voice, however, is worth listening to, and you should stick it out for the surprise action-filled ending.

25 January 2012

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum


His past. Her future. Can love bring them together in time?Abby's senior year of high school is textbook perfect: She has a handsome and attentive boyfriend, good friends, good grades, and plans to attend college next year. But when she meets Dante Alexander, a foreign-exchange student from Italy, her life suddenly takes a different turn. He's mysterious, and interesting, and unlike anyone she's ever met before. Abby can't deny the growing attraction she feels for him. Nor can she deny the unusual things that seem to happen when Dante is around. Time behaves differently when they are together - traveling too fast or too slow or sometimes seeming to stop altogether. When the band Zero Hour performs at the local hangout, Abby realizes that there's something dangerous about the lead singer, Zo, and his band mates, Tony and V. Oddly, the three of them are also from Italy and have a strange relationship to Dante. They also hold a bizarre influence over their audience when performing. And Abby's best friend, Valerie, is caught in their snare. Dante tells Abby the truth of his past: he once worked for Leonardo Da Vinci, helping to design and build a time machine. When Dante was falsely implicated as a traitor to his country, he was sent through the machine more than five hundred years into the future as punishment. As the past and the present collide, Abby learns that she holds a special power over the flow of time itself. She and Dante must stop Zo from opening the time machine's door and endangering everyone's future. More than one life is at stake and Abby's choice could change everything.
This book is one that I’m really regretting putting off. I’ve had it on my shelf for quite a while, but I never got around to picking it up. I’m glad I finally did, though, because it’s a great book and seems to be the launch of a great series. I think the best of it is the realism in Abby’s life. Abby is a typical teenager with a typical steady boyfriend and two typical parents who set typical rules and limitations for Abby’s life. I know I make it sound boring but it really is refreshing to find a teenager in a YA book who has to work around parents and rules as plot points instead of just staying out fighting bad guys or romancing cute guys until the sun comes up without any consequences. Abby also deals with the situations that face her in a very realistic way. She develops a friendship with Dante that develops into more because of their attraction. This means she has to deal with her steady boyfriend, and Abby accomplishes this with a maturity that is mature but still teenaged. It is these regular, typical situations that really characterize Abby, however, Mangum does an excellent job of using them to make Abby and Dante’s relationship seem exciting and exotic which really serves to enhance the characterization of Abby as she works through how to deal with the emotional situations she is put in. Although we see less of Dante I liked him as a character as well. He seemed to have solid motivations behind his actions even when Abby wasn’t aware of them herself. I’d also like to think that he truly tries to stay away from and protect Abby, which makes the “love of destiny” issues a little less creepy (although I think they are still rather problematic no matter how healthy the relationship is that results from it). The plot moves faster than in most romance stories, and the tension between Dante and the people out to get him make the story more than just infatuation turning to love. The time-travelling plot twists are a long time coming, but they do push this book over the edge into a fantasy-like science fiction, even though the science in the book is flimsy, and although there is a rational-but-tenuous explanation for the time travel the resulting method it happens in seems more like fantasy than science to me. I can take a little fantasy in my science fiction, however, and in all I think this book is worth a look by fans of a good time-travelling romance/mystery, and I’ll be rushing out to get the rest of the books to complete the series. This book was a free ARC provided to me through LibraryThing. I received no compensation for this review. Unfortunately I did not receive the sequels, so I will be going out to get them posthaste!

24 January 2012

Liar’s Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce


Prisons, poisons, and passions combine in a gorgeously written fantasy noir. As a pickpocket, Digger expects to spend a night in jail every now and then. But she doesn't expect to find Lord Durrel Decath there as well--or to hear he's soon to be executed for killing his wife. Durrel once saved Digger's life, and when she goes free, she decides to use her skills as a thief, forger, and spy to return the favor. But each new clue only opens up new mysteries. Durrel's late wife had an illegal business on the wrong side of the civil war raging just outside the city gates. Digger keeps finding forbidden magic in places it has no reason to be. And for a thief in a town full of liars, sometimes it doesn't pay to know the truth.
Once again we are back with Digger, and her life keeps getting more and more interesting. Having left the Decath family she’s back in the capitol city surviving, stealing, and watching. As she spies on the city more and more bad things happen to her, and she once again entangles herself with the Decaths as Durrell is arrested for killing his wife and he asks Digger to prove his innocence. Thus begins a tale of adventure and intrigue that Digger has to unveil and put together. Although this book has a classic who-done-it plot, it doesn’t read as much like a mystery as Starcrossed did. Instead, Liar’s Moon seems a lot more like traditional medieval fantasy, with its Kings and Queens and plots against the throne and sorcerers and magic users who are fought by a populace afraid of magic and what it can do to them. Although she became a pretty solid figure in Starcrossed Digger develops more in this book, from a household maid figuring things out for her family to a full-on spy working alone to help her friend and her country. The sub-plot of magic users being reviled, condemned, and even murdered gives the non-magic users a little more power, and Digger exploits all of them to find out who the real murderer is. I can’t tell you much more of the plot without spoiling it, but suffice it to say that it will keep you reading the book long after you meant to stop for the day. I love how engrossing Bunce’s work can be, and I look forward to another Digger story soon because there are still many things left unexplained in Digger’s world, and plenty more trouble for Digger to get thrust into :D

23 January 2012

Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix


Still reeling from their experiences in Roanoke in 1600, Jonah and Katherine arrive in 1611 only moments before a mutiny on Henry Hudson’s ship in the icy waters of James Bay. But things are messed up: they’ve lost the real John Hudson, and they find what seems to be the fabled Northwest Passage—even though they are pretty sure that that route doesn’t actually exist. Will this new version of history replace the real past? Is this the end of time as we know it? With more at stake than ever before, Jonah and Katherine struggle to unravel the mysteries of 1611 and the Hudson Passage...before everything they know is lost.
I love Haddix’s The Missing series. It’s awesome time travel with a liberal dash of historical biography. Add in characters that are written to be children but still connect with the reader and you have a great series. This latest book in the series doesn’t disappoint either. I like how it tells the tale of something more obscure than the first two travel stories. I had heard of the princes in the tower and Roanoke colony, but I had never known a boy was lost with Hudson. Jonah has a starring role in this story as he takes the place of John, and he develops as a character much as Katherine did in Missing. The plot is intriguing, and the fact that most of the story happens on one close boat makes it even more exciting because there’s not far for any of the characters to go or for Jonah and Katherine to maneuver around problems. The result is a tight, logical progression that has good character development and a great voice. Although the ending made it seem that the series could be over there are plans for more books, so I’ll let Jonah and Katherine enjoy their short rest before we have more educational history adventures.

22 January 2012

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter / Forsaken by Jana Oliver


Demon Trapper Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself—and that’s exactly what Lucifer is counting on… It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Atlanta is no exception. Fortunately, humans are protected by Demon Trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night. Seventeen-year-old Riley, only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing attraction to fellow Trapper apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving citizens from Grade One Hellspawn. Business as usual, really, for a demon-trapping teen. When a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood, she realizes that she’s caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell.
I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people when I say that what I found in The Demon Trapper’s Daughter was a great love story. It’s not apparent on the surface. The story is about Riley Blackthorne and her adventures (and problems) fighting demons and trying to become the first female demon trapper. Riley is a typical sarcastic teenager, but Oliver writes the sarcasm and teen angst very well and it seems to be natural in both the dialogue and in the narration. Riley’s romantic interest in the book is Beck, her father’s apprentice demon hunter, but there is little room for romance because they are busy fighting demons and Beck is twice as sarcastic and guarded as Riley is. No, this is not the great love story I found. The love story is between Riley and her father, Paul. The touching relationship between the two is a well developed pairing of the parental relationship of independent older teenagers and their authority figures, and you can really tell that loyalty and love are the foundation of Riley and Paul’s lives. Riley’s drive to be a demon trapper like her father is a result of this “daddy’s girl” relationship is the impetus behind the entire plot, but it never seems stilted or flimsy because Oliver set up the parental relationship so well. Riley herself is a great character and it is through her eyes that we see the future of Atlanta. I really liked how the plot was very specific about the places Riley lived, worked, and existed in. I could pinpoint on a map where the battle with the level-five or the old hotel sat in the city. Of course you can skip over these fun details and still find an action-packed read full of demon fights and strife, so there really is a little bit of something for everyone in this book.

20 January 2012

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld


Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.

This was an excellent end to Westerfeld’s World War I alt-history steampun k trilogy. Based on the premise “what if Darwin had continued his studies and discovered genetics and genetic engineering?”, the series is set in a world where genetically mutated monsters fight battles with huge mechanical devices. In the midst of it all Deryn serves on a war-blimp whale, all the time hiding the fact that she’s a girl because only boys can serve in the war. Alek is the prince of a key mechanical nation, but he fled Austria after his parents were assassinated and he has now found asylum with the ship and Darwin’s granddaughter, a geneticist named Dr. Barlowe. This book is a great way to end a trilogy.


I like how Deryn’s gender secret is revealed to Alek towards the beginning of the book so that we can see the repercussions and reactions of Alek instead of at the end where we’re left to guess. The two characters develop a better relationship despite the plot twists of trying to stop the war before it destroys all of Europe. A really good part of these books are how both Deryn and Alek have strengths and weaknesses and the plot utilizes both of them to use their strengths to get out of hairy plot twists and to progress the story. Although the romantic relationship is a little immature, the characters are also immature so I thought it was rather realistic. The book’s only weak point is that Tesla is a rather odd choice for a villain, and I never thought his motivations for world domination were adequate to what he was doing. The book does include a lot of these early 19th century historical figures, and I found it fun and educational to see who popped up next. In all, a good book and a great end, and I’m very sad that there won’t be any more of these books, but I look forward to following Westerfeld on to an entirely new world.

19 January 2012

Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill


Durango is playing the cards he was dealt. And it’s not a good hand.

He’s lost his family.

He’s lost his crew.

And he’s got the scars to prove it.

You don’t want to mess with Durango.

This classic sci-fi western book was a delight to find. Although it has some of the issues that are ingrained in its genre Black Hole Sun was still a breath of fresh air in the current sci-fi/romances and fantasy/romances. Durango is a great character, and I was surprised to find that I really identified with him even though I almost always identify with the female lead. Perhaps Mimi, Durango’s iPhone-in-his-head-voice has a lot to do with that. Mimi is delightfully sarcastic and has a distinct personality of her own, but it connects with Durango’s very well in a great friendly, motherly, mischievous way. The alien bad guys in the story, the Drau, are a mix of zombie and alien and seem to be something I have seen before until a plot twist at the very end of the book changes my mind. Speaking of plot, although this book falls into the trap that many of the classics of its genre have in that it is a very slow starter and the plot can drag until it gets to its main storyline. It does give us time to get to know his davos, including Vienne, a tough-as-nails second in command mercenary that nonetheless had a personality that made her a very rounded character that plays well off the humor of Fuse. I did find some things confusing, like the slang (a friend said it was Australian maybe?) and the charting of time and calculation of ages. Although I understand why the author did this I wished there was a little primer or exposition that would explain it better early in the book. In all, though, if you like sci-fi western/military like Firefly or Zoe’s Tale you would be delighted with this book. I will be picking up the sequel soon, and since the plot picks up where this book left off I have high hopes that it will be even better than this book.

18 January 2012

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty comes a strikingly original look at friendship, love, and sisterhood—in a future that is eerily believable.

Bumped is an interesting tale of a future society when people become infertile after their teenage years, and so teenagers are encouraged, and paid, to have children for older couples. It is told through the eyes of two teenagers, Melody and Harmony, who were separated at birth and adopted by two separate families. When they turned 16 they opened their birth records and found eachother. One is a contractual birth-mother waiting for a "male contributor" before having her first pregnancy, and the other is a spiritual girl awaiting a marriage that will allow her to have children before she is too old and becomes infertile. The two characters are very well crafted. Melody is a driven young woman who reminds me a lot of many teenagers today who are pushing to get into a great school: filling their lives with activities, creating and running school groups, hinging on grades and test scores and always being pushed by parents who want the best for them. Harmony seemed very believable as well, a religous girl who was raised by a close religious family who joined every facet of her life to religion and the missions behind it. The conflict of their intersections is a great twist, and gives very believable plot twists.

However, while I liked a lot of things about this book, I also felt there were a lot of missed opportunities and confusions. The turning points for both Melody and Harmony felt a little sudden, as if there should have been a bit more lead-up to their change of heart. While they were understandable given the backgrounds of the two girls I did feel that I wanted to see more indecision and confusion leading up to their change of heart to make it seem a little less sudden. I also felt that there were so many other angles that the author could have explored, such as the fact that girls can only have one paid pregnancy a year while boys can have hundreds, and thus have the potential to possibly get paid more due to their frequency or less due to their commonality, causing gender issues. There is also the issue of teenagers wanting to keep their baby, which is dealt with by drugging them but is only brushed slightly over in the third person as a disease rather than tackled head-on. While the issue of genetics comes up when Melody's contract is made due to her good genetics the only markers mentioned are height and beauty, leaving aside issues such as racial equality and access to income aside. Melody's large plot twist also hinges on a commodification issue that I won't spoil, but I will say I found problematic especially because it seemed to be brushed under the rug. The world created in Bumped is so rich I would have liked to see more about it and the darker sides of the issues it raised. Hopefully the author will have that chance in further books and will explore more about the problems created by having teenagers be the only fertile people in a society.

I received a copy of this book free through NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. I have since purchased a copy for my personal library.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.

It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

Poor Beth Revis. She fixed one physics problem by creating another one. In Across the Universe many science fiction fans were annoyed that Elder discovers that the ship has no engines therefore it is not moving (physics says it would be moving through intertia). Revis tries to fix that in this book but only succeeds in creating another physics problem:


The solution to the problem in A Million Suns is to put the ship in orbit around a planet. It’s considered “not moving”, but orbit is a form of moving: moving constantly around the planet in a constant freefall (a not-moving ship would fall and crash into the planet in a fiery ball of goo) as well as moving through space around a star (or stars) in its yearly orbit in order to have seasons. If the ship really is stationary then is it just lucky that the planet happened to be close by in its yearly orbit so that Elder and the people on the ship could see it and it was not on the other side of the sun where they wouldn’t have seen anything. They also would be having a problem with having no engines to counter the gravitational pull of the planet. Then there’s also the trick of having the hatch where they expel bodies into space always face the stars so that no one who opens it knows the planet is there. The only real explanation is that the ship is in a synchronous rotation orbit, like our moon, where one side always faces the planet and the other side never faces it. That’s not the same as not moving, though.

*****End Spoilers*****

Just like Across the Universe, though, if you can forgive the physics flaw in the text then you are in for a treat of a book. Amy and Elder are further developed as Elder slips into an entropy of not being willing to lead the ship’s people and Amy tries to fight her depression of being stuck on the ship for the rest of her life without ever seeing her parents. The plot, centered around the inevitable chaos resulting from the populace’s loss of both phydus and effective leadership in one harsh blow. A saboteur and rabble rouser works to enflame the doubts and fears of the people of Godspeed, further driving them from peace. This tension in the plot makes this book seem to move a little faster than Across the Universe. I was pleasantly surprised at this because most middle books in a trilogy suffer from over-exposition and weak, slow plots that serve to drive towards the climax in the third book but don’t let the second stand on its own. I think that A Million Suns, though, could stand on its own if it was read without Across the Universe. Revis also didn’t lose her relaxed tone even through the most tense sections of the book, and the book retains just enough (but not too much) romance to develop Amy and Elder without turning the book into a romance set in space just like Space Opera at its best. A Million Suns is really worth reading and I encourage everyone to try it out.

14 January 2012

Gone by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...

This was another very difficult book for me. I’m not really good with books that seem to have a bleak ending where things can only get worse. This book totally starts out like that. There are children killing children with bats and guns, babies starving and dying, and a lack of resources and the knowledgeable people required to make more that doesn’t look good for the kids stuck in the FAYZ. I felt somewhat for Sam, and more for Astrid, but I don’t think I could let myself feel totally connected to them because I was afraid for them. The addition of a school full of psychotic teenagers was overkill in my opinion. I think enough of the trapped children would do horrible things after they lose authority and the people who love them that the Coates kids appeared as a contrivance to have an easy villain that Orc couldn’t be. I did like the initial results of the *poof*. The addition of a nuclear reactor was strange, it didn’t play much into the plot other than as a location just like any other. On one hand I like that (because the science behind the reactor not going nuclear as soon as there are no people to watch it is sound, at least for the short time), but I’m not sure I’m going to like having it around in the future as it decays and causes problems. The creation of the FAYZ is explained late in the book, and I’m not sure I am convinced with how it happened or what happens when people *poof*, and the explanation of how to avoid *poof* is very confusing to me, as is the closet light and the darkness force. I guess some of these things had to be left for the future books, but I’m not sure I believe that the society will go on far enough tobe worth 3 more books. I guess I will have to try the next one to find out, but I do it with trepidation.

13 January 2012

Nightspell by Leah Cypess

Here be ghosts, the maps said, and that was all.

In this haunted kingdom, ghosts linger—not just in the deepest forests or the darkest caverns, but alongside the living, as part of a twisted palace court that revels all night and sleeps through the daylight hours.

Darri's sister was trapped in this place of fear and shadows as a child. And now Darri has a chance to save her sister... if she agrees to a betrothal with the prince of the dead. But nothing is simple in this eerie kingdom—not her sister, who has changed beyond recognition; not her plan, which will be thrown off track almost at once; and not the undead prince, who seems more alive than anyone else.

In a court seething with the desire for vengeance, Darri holds the key to the balance between life and death. Can her warrior heart withstand the most wrenching choice of all?

Nightspell is a book about ghosts. Sorcerers in a country where everyone wanted the throne and assassination was a matter of course created a spell that allowed murdered people to come back as semi-corporeal beings in order to avenge their deaths. Although the idea was that they would avenge their deaths and thus move on, eliminating the rash of murders, instead people quickly exploited the spell in order to live forever and murder became not such a big deal since murdered people lived on. Cypess has fully fleshed out this world and spent a lot of time thinking about the consequences and unintended effects of her choices. The result is an eerie, rather uncomfortable place that made me want to move on and yet I had to keep reading in order to find out how Darri would save Callie and get out. And, speaking of, Darri is a strong character. She has a sense of self and loyalty but her regrets have turned her into an avenger herself, interested only in righting the wrong she committed when she let her father send Callie away to marry Prince Kestin. Callie starts out a little confusing, but I grew to really like and sympathize with her. Varis was a jerk, but he was a well written jerk, and much more understandable and sympathetic than Viserys Targaryen from A Game of Thrones (which, for some reason, my mind wouldn’t let me stop thinking of whenever he was in the picture). The plot is so full of twists that I feel I can’t talk much about it, other than saying that I really liked the ending and although I feel it should have turned out the other way I can really see why it turned out why it did and I agree that it’s much more in character, I am just wistful for the ‘what if’ that’s left unsaid. In fact, my only disappointment with this book is that it wasn’t a sequel to Cypess’ excellent first book. I’ll be sure to pick up anything she writes in the future and give it a try.

10 January 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

***Spoiler Review***

Such high hopes for this book, and I don’t feel they were met. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a bad book by any means. I just feel that it’s not worth its hype, and definitely not the next Hunger Games like it was marketed. This sequel to Matched turns Cassia from a potentially strong female lead with agency and a tendency to act for herself into a passive woman following the instructions of her love interest and the authorities around her. This is a huge character change for Cassia. Instead of manipulating the people and technologies around her to find out information like Matched, Cassia drifts around in work camps until she happens upon someone who knows of Ky. Instead of preparing food and water for her escape like Ky Cassia relies wholly on the unnamed boy and her stock of useless blue pills. When she finds Ky Cassia follows him and his goals, having made no plan for survival or her future further than “I will find my boyfriend”. Even when they get to the Rising Cassia goes along with what the Others tell her to do, and when they decide to send her back as a spy there is little emotional reaction. Combine this with a snail-like pace of plot as the group travels through a barren wasteland and you get a book that suffers from middle-trilogy syndrome as well as the character issues. I am so sad that the promise of Matched wasn’t met, and I will probably sadly pass on the third book in this series.

09 January 2012

Speculative Fiction

Really, when we talk about Sci-Fi and Fantasy we're talking about Speculative Fiction. Speculative fiction is the broad category of fiction books that are not set in a realistic world. Unlike contemporary fiction, which is set in the factual present, or historical fiction that is set in the factual past, Speculative Fiction (or spec-fic) deals with book settings that are not realistic in some manner. To relate to this blog, it covers both sci-fi and fantasy books.

So if spec-fic covers both sci-fi and fantasy how do we tell them apart? The difference is in how the non-realistic things are dealt with. In sci-fi all of that is dealt with by science. Ships fly at the speed of light because there are light-speed engines, strange-looking beings are aliens who look different because they evolved on a different planet, or people have greater-than-natural abilities due to genetic manipulation. Fantasy, on the other hand, doesn't have a scientific explanation for things. Things fly because someone wills them to, strange-looking beings are magical incarnations such as faeries or goblins, and people have greater-than-natural abilities because they're under a spell or gifted by a god.


So what are the types of sci-fi? Here's a list of the categories I'll be using in my tags, shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia:

Hard SF - this is what people usually think all of sci-fi is. It's books that have plots that concentrate on physics and other "hard sciences" and meticulous worldbuilding with plot twists that generally rely on scientific things or phenomenon.

Soft SF - books that concentrate on the "soft sciences" such as sociology and politics. Dystopians are Soft SF books that take sociology or psychology to the extremes.

Cyberpunk - plots that rotate around technological advances of cybernetics - where people and technology merge into one being.

Biopunk - focuses on sciences that manipulate the human body through genetic technology instead of technological implantation.

Steampunk - imagines that the past (usually Victorian Europe or US) had advanced technologies. Called "steam"punk because the technical innovations often run by steam power instead of batteries or the like. There are variations, like decopunk, arcanepunk, and enginepunk, but I'm not going to separate them out.

Time Travel - plots where people travel through time.

Alternate History - plots that imagine the past was different than it really was. Steampunk is a sub-set of Alt History.

Military Sci-Fi - concentrates on wars and soldiers in big battles with advanced technologies.

Superhuman - plots that have human characters that have unusual powers due to some scientific reason. Closely related (and often intertwined) to Cyberpunk and Biopunk.

Apocalyptic - deals with the end of the world, either right before and how humans deal with it or right after and how humanity tries to recover. Usually split into pre- (before the end of the world) and post- (after the end of the world). Differs from Dystopian in that nature caused the end of a society and a rise of a new (sometimes oppressive) one, not people or their actions.

Dystopian - deals with a society that exists based on the deprivation, oppression, or terror of the people in the society. The plot usually searches to overthrow this society.

Space Opera - tales that deal with life on other planets or space travel. Often has a heroic tale slant to the plot.

Space Western - A plot that takes the tropes of westerns (cowboys, shoot-em-ups, frontiers) and combines it with science-fiction tropes (space ships, interplanetary travel, space exploration).

Generation Ship - not often an entirely different sub-genre, but it's become a popular slice of space opera crossed with dystopian so I'm separating it out.


There are even more types of Fantasy than there are Science Fiction, but I'm not going to use all the variations on this blog. I don't feel there's a lot of need to show people the varieties of fantasy since it's readily embraced by YA readers. Here are the few I'll be using:

Urban Fantasy - modern people in modern settings encounter magic or the fantastic. Contains the Paranormal Romances so popular right now.

Hard Fantasy - where magic exists, but everything emulates worlds we know and is as realistic as possible (magic obeys laws of physics, etc.). This is a very difficult thing to describe, so I'll apply it sparingly.

High Fantasy - Heroes, sorcerers, intrigue, and a quest to resolve it all just like Tolkien.

Historical Fantasy - a historical setting, only with magic.

Mythic - retelling of myths, fairytales and/or folklore.

Mythical Creatures - technically a section of mythic, but there are so many of these today that I'm separating them out.

Superhero - people have magic powers for some reason.

I'll be working in the next few weeks to backdate all my old posts with these tags.