It’s a Hackers World!

silence of sixThe Silence of Six by E.C. Myers

My First Read from my Shelf Control pile!

I can’t believe I’ve actually completed one of my TBR’s.  Yes, I know my list has around 200 on it but every journey begins with that first step.  So I choose to celebrate.

See my Shelf Control post for the summary.

Why I recommend it:

This book was so much fun.  It’s my first read for 2018, and I have already completed Book 2 and the book of novellas set in the same universe.   Max, our main protagonist is a strong narrator and the author has developed his voice so well I feel I know him.  Penny and Risse, the sisters who aid Max in his quest to take down social media giant, Panea, are equally brilliant, and I loved how often it was their hacker skills that saved the day.

In addition to the characters, I also liked delving into the world of hackers. Whether the hacking was realistic or not, I’ve no idea and I don’t really care, but I found it equally fascinating and disturbing.  The Silence of Six raises the question of privacy and the increasing resemblance of our world to 1984.  Our reliance and obsession with technology is increasing exponentially, and I wonder if we may one day encounter a Terminator scenario.  And our dependence on technology has also opened us up to cyberterrorism.  Both popular trends right now for books and movies, but the question is “how close are these scenarios to our future reality?”

Suitable for ages 12 and above.

In Other Lands – (Shelf Control #2)

in other landsTitle: In Other Lands
By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: 2017
Target:  10+

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

How I got it:   As I started compiling my To Be Read list last month, I realized that I had several books by Sarah Rees Brennan still to read.  I’ve been reading Brennan’s work since she was sixteen and am a huge fan but I’ve fallen behind and out of touch.  So I went to find out what she’s been up to lately.  I was shocked to learn of her recent health issues but relieved and delighted to find she still has her rapier wit and a new book out.  I had to buy it immediately.  Books by Sarah Rees Brennan are exempt from the Book Buying Moratorium.

When I got it:   December 2017

Why I want to read it:  Sarah Rees Brennan is the only writer who has ever made me spontaneously laugh out loud when I was reading her work.  She creates original characters with personalities that just leap off the page.  While I have yet to read her last series (maybe it’s the female lead that’s putting me off?), I am excited to start this one.

Are Clones Human?

TheHouseoftheScorpionA fascinating question really.  With the advancements in genetics it’s only a matter of time I imagine.  Clone stories seem to be everywhere over the past couple of years (Orphan Black anyone?but it’s a haunting story I read a few years ago that really made me think about the evolving definition of humanity.

Like some of my favourite stories recently (Curious Incident, Wonder, Out of Sight) House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer sets out to make you question perception and uses first person point of view to maximum impact.  The novel is set in the dystopian world of Opium where we meet Matt, a young clone of the local drug lord who was bred for parts.  Matt is treated like an animal with no more rights or feelings than a cow bred for meat.  Farmer’s writing is so vivid and we are right there with Matt as he battles for identity and questions who he really is.  An unusual take on the traditional Coming of Age story but very effective.

Several of my grade 10 students have read The House of the Scorpian since I added it to their Independent Study List, and it has prompted some great debate and deep thinking in their writing.  A good story that gets kids talking is always a good thing in my book 🙂

I have yet to read the sequel, The Lord of Opium, but it’s definitely on the To Be Read list for this year.

Ages: 12 and up         Rating:  4.5 stars

Down in Sweet Valley

sweet valleyA little while ago I posted about my Romance phase, a time when I was reading a book every two days, Harlequin, Silouette, everything I could get my hands on. It was during this time I latched onto Jessica and Elizabeth, the Wakefield Twins of Sweet Valley fame. Jessica and Liz are the sixteen year old, blond, blue-eyed Californians at the centre of Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series, a teen soap opera in the basest of terms. Now that I think back on that time, it’s not surprising that I became hooked on the twin’s story, as I was also hooked on the daytime TV soaps (Guiding Light, As the World Turns, Another World).

In typical twin fashion, Liz is the studious good girl and Jessica is the good times- bad girl. Liz is always getting Jess out of trouble as she flits from boy to boy determined to maintain her popularity. Of course I related to Liz, studious good girl who lives vicariously through her sister (in my case it was my social butterfly brother). There was the hot older brother (tall, dark and handsome of course), the mousy best friend (Enid), the rich bitch (Lila) and the sporty faithful boyfriend (Todd) going through teen angst together. So much fun.

When I started the series, I had no idea what I was in for. I bought every one that came out and devoured them the same day, but it wasn’t long before the pace of release entered what I like to call The James Patterson realm; every time I turned around there was another one. They were breeding at an alarming rate and establishing new species (aka series) as they went.

 

Soon there was Sweet Valley Senior Year, Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Junior Year not to mention Thrillers and Special Editions. I couldn’t understand how Pascal managed to churn out so many books so quickly. Little did I know she was another Caroline Keene. Just as the Nancy Drew “author” was really a series of ghostwriters, so was Francine Pascal. I think she conceived the original ideas then turned them over to an army of writers. I couldn’t keep up and at around book 50 threw in the towel. I did keep buying the thrillers and special editions but even those got to be too much. For a while I followed Sweet Valley University because I wanted to see what they were up to as adults but lost interest around the same time I lost interest in the main series

confidentialApparently there are a couple of books that are set when the twins are out of school (Sweet Valley Confidential and The Sweet Life) but I haven’t read them. Oh, and manga versions of course! I had no idea that the series kept going for 20 years, finally ending with a total of 603 books. (I’m not going near the four season TV show!)

Unlike most of my childhood book loves, I have never reread any of the Sweet Valley books. Might be interesting to see how well the series has held up over time. Even more interesting to see how my cynical self would find them now. Seems others had the same thought. There are many blogs out there recapping/rereading/reviewing the series. You really must check out the fantastically funny Snark Valley, and MentalFloss’ list of the most crazy plotlines, all of which happened after I stopped reading and prove that I made a good decision.

Still a big chunk of my teen years and very representative, in my humble opinion, of the American 80’s “ideal”.

So, any favourite memories of the Sweet Valley books? Favourite characters or plotlines? Who did you identify with? Leave a comment and tell me who was your guilty crush and I may just tell you mine J

The Silence of Six (Shelf Control #1)

In keeping with the goal of this blog, I’ll only be looking at the YA and children’s books on my list, still, I’m confident there’s little chance of running out of material to write about.

I begin with a Sci-Fi thriller which is next up after my current read.silence of six

Title: The Silence of Six
By: E.C. Myers
Published: 2014
Target:  14+

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  

WHAT IS THE SILENCE OF SIX, AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
These are the last words uttered by 17-year-old Max Stein s best friend Evan just moments before he kills himself after hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at their high school.
Haunted by the unforgettable image of Evan s death, Max s entire world is upended as he suddenly finds himself the target of a corporate-government witch-hunt. Fearing for his life and fighting for his own innocence, Max goes on the run with no one to trust and too many unanswered questions.
Max must dust off his own hacking skills and maneuver through the dangerous labyrinth of underground hacktivist networks, ever-shifting alliances and virtual identities all the while hoping to find the truth behind the Silence of Six before it s too late.

How I got it:   This book was part of my recent $200 buying spree during a rare bookstore visit to see a student of my promoting and signing her new book.  I merrily roamed Chapters tugging the wheely cart behind me and tossing into it any books that struck my fancy.  This is how I met Ross, your friendly neighbourhood Chapters employee, who much to my surprise, really new his stuff.  His enthusiasm for particular titles was infectious and I tossed several of them into my cart.  This particular book still bears the sticker with “Staff Pick by Ross” on it.

When I got it:   October 2017

Why I want to read it:  The premise is very “Ready Player One”; young adult sci-fi intrigue with a male lead.  Eager to finish my current read to get to this one.

Kinsey and Me

GraftonSweeps3I had a different post planned for today but the death of Sue Grafton has left me feeling sad and nostalgic. For decades I have loved her stories, eagerly anticipating the next chapter in Kinsey’s story. Z is for Zero was set to be published within the next two years, and I was already wondering what Grafton would write next. Now the alphabet ends with Y and Kinsey’s story will remain unfinished.

In a previous post I talked about my love of mystery stories and Nancy a is for alibiDrew. In my teen years I quickly progressed to more “adult” books with Agatha Christie and Sue Grafton (I’ve always hated the age-labelling of books but that’s another post). I finished Grafton’s A is for Alibi and was forever after enamoured with her detective, Kinsey Millhone. Kinsey is flawed, independent and resourceful; and I wanted to be her. I even went through a spell of wanting to go to detective school; train to be a PI like Kinsey and Nancy Drew before her. That never happened but still I lived vicariously through Kinsey with B is for Burgler, C is for Corpse and, most recently, Y is for Yesterday.

There are certain people we may never know or meet but who have an everlasting impact on us. For me Sue Grafton was one of those people. Thank you, Ms. Grafton, for years of wonderful stories. You live on in Kinsey, and I look forward to my reread.

An Admission and a Resolution

new-year-2018-100745093-large I have an addiction. One I’ve had most of my life. Like most addictions, I wasn’t born with it; it developed over time, influenced by external experiences and factors. Although unrecognized at the time, my addiction took hold at the age of eleven. Almost every penny of my modest allowance was being spent on books. I wasn’t at the point where I was borrowing to feed my addiction; but only because they don’t issue credit cards to eleven year olds. Now many might say they also buy a lot of books, it doesn’t mean they have an addiction. Completely possible, but that’s not me. Just like a compulsion to drink, or gamble or play video games, I can’t stop buying books. It wasn’t really too much of a problem until the advent of the internet. Now my addiction can be fed with the click of a button. I finish a book, click a button and am reading the next book within seconds.

need-booksConvenient yes? Read a book, buy your next one. Sure, but for compulsive book buyers it poses quite a problem. I don’t just buy one book, I buy eight. I download cheapies and specials and those that look interesting. I spend time on Amazon and Goodreads checking out all their recommendations and adding to both my Kobo and my Kindle. And I still indulge occasionally in an afternoon at Indigo, adding to my physical library, which is housed on my main floor. I have tried getting books only from the library but I’m not good at waiting for what I want. I’ve tried going cold turkey, telling myself “you may not buy a book until you’ve read what you have” but really that’s just not feasible as long as Dan Brown and Joy Fielding are still writing.

The result. I now have more books than I could every hope to read. I have books I don’t even know I have and, more than once, I’ve purchased the same book twice. Two days ago I sat down to gather some hard stats. With an idea of what I might discover, I created a reading list of all the books in my library I have yet to read. So far I’ve only compiled the books from my electronic devices yet already the numbers are illustrating the stark reality of my addiction. I can only imagine what my list will look like once I add all the physical books from my library. And that only includes books I’m still interested in reading. I figure, at my current reading speed, it will take me five years to read the entire list.

So, a New Year’s resolution. I know I will not be able to stop buying books completely, but I can stop buying everything that looks interesting. I can stop buying a book because I like the size or cover, or because it will look good on my shelf. I can stop buying book 3 of a series if I have yet to start book 2. I can stop looking at the recommendations on Amazon and Goodreads. (Well, that last one might be pushing it, but it’s worth a try). And I can keep the prioritized list visible, working my way through it and crossing off as I go. I love crossing things off a list.

I know that new must-haves will come out, and I will buy them, but if I can redefine what “must-have” means I may stand a chance.

If only I didn’t have to work. It takes up so much reading time!!

A Boy and His Demon

novice imageThe Novice by Taran Matharu

          Fletcher has no idea how he ended up in Pelt working as a blacksmith’s apprentice but he loves his adoptive father and life is pretty good despite the war going on around them.  A chance meeting leads to the discovery that he has the rare ability to summon demons.  Forced to flee the village for a crime he didn’t commit, he travels with his demon, Ignatius to the academy for Summoners where he is taught the ancient art.

Classes are gruelling and the divide between nobles and commoners is trying but Fletcher finds he is unusually gifted and prepares to serve as a Battlemage in the war against the Orcs.  Rivalries grow and betrayal is rampant as Fletcher must decide who to trust.

I’ve always enjoyed books with a male lead and Fletcher doesn’t let me down.  He’s a well-developed character, heroic yet flawed and I really enjoyed the relationship between him and his demon, Ignatius.  Even all the minor characters came from well thought out backgrounds.  The plot is nothing new (Hero’s Journey and all that) but for some reason, I didn’t mind.  Fletcher was believable and the relationships he formed worked for me.

I have just started the third book in the series and am still enthralled with the world that Matharu has created.

Rating:  4.5 stars             Recommended for 11+.

 

What if it was you?

5-12-Esperanza-Rising1With what’s happening in the US right now in regards to immigrants and immigrant rights, I was reminded of a wonderful story I read for one of my Masters courses.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan is a story of drastic change and the necessity of adaptation.  It’s a story of extreme racism and stereotypes.  Our heroine, Esperanza is forced to flee Mexico with her family.  She has been exceeding wealthy all her life but suddenly she finds herself on the outside looking in.  She is now one of the poor she used to judge. The novel opens our eyes to the hopes and dreams of those who came to the “new world”, looking for a better life.  For some, like Esperanza, it is to escape from possible hardship and even death.  This book really makes you think and question but it is not a difficult read.  A straightforward story with a wonderful reflection on how we treat others.

I not sure what the answers are regarding immigration, but I do know that I’m an immigrant and Canada has gifted me with a wonderful life in a beautiful country.  While I understand the need to protect citizen’s rights, I sometimes think we lose sight of exactly how privileged we are.  How can we deny basic freedoms to others if we have the capacity to provide them?  Just as Esperanza discovered, we should be careful because who knows?  One day it could be us.

Ages: 10 and up            Rating:   4 stars

 

 

What If You Could Buy Immortality?

cover_replica

Replica by Jenna Black

I’m not sure how I came to read Replica, but it doesn’t seem to be one that everyone’s talking about (or was talking about) but it should be.

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake lives in a futuristic society where human replication technology is a reality; carefully controlled by its creator, Paxco. Nadia comes from a high-class family and lives a life of privilege, although she’s not too keen on the paparazzi that follows her everywhere; eager for the latest on the fiance of notorious playboy, Nathan Hayes, heir to Paxco.

They’re not in love but they are friends and everyone appears satisfied with their match. That is until Nate is killed and the wrong person was the last to see him alive. When the new Nate wakes up in the replication chambers he is missing a month of memories. Nadia and Nate set out to find the killer and prevent the world from discovering Nate’s secret, a secret that could destroy everything they know.

Replica has riveting characters and an intricate plot. I loved the friendship between Nadia and Nathan and how they looked after each other. The idea of being unable to die is not new but the twist of being born a replica intrigued me. Also, it was interesting to see how the replicas were treated by their society even if they were the elite when they were “alive”. There are two more books in the series. I highly recommend them all but put the first just that bit above the others.

Ages: Teen

Rating: 5 stars for this part of the series (4 for the others)