Love at First Site? Sigh…

warcross (1)Continuing to chip away at my Shelf Control pile.  Read this one in a day.

See my Shelf Control post for the summary.

Why I (sort of) recommend it:

So I was quite eager to read this book as it sounded like it was along the same lines as Ready Player One and Silence of the Six, both books I enjoyed immensely. I should have approached with caution though, as Warcross features a female lead and experience has taught me that a female lead in a YA book (regardless of genre) means romance of some sort. I don’t dislike all romantic elements but they have to be well done and not gratuitous as so often happens. I find authors tend to rush any elements of romance and thus it feels forced and thrown together. That’s what happened with Warcross. I liked Emika and Hideo and given time and attention their relationship might have worked for me, but I never understood how an international Japanese billionaire would fall instantly for a street rat nobody from the US. It was never explained. Hideo was known as a very private man and one of the first rules of meeting him was not to ask about his family. Yet in no time at all he’s introducing Emika to his parents and talking about his brother. Lu also did not take the time to establish and build Emika’s connection with her teammates either. They too took instantly to Emika.

The world of the Warcross game was vivid and very enjoyable, and the imminent threat to Hideo kept me reading. I was especially curious about Zero and was sure I knew who he was. Turned out I was wrong but somehow I still think my guy is involved in the conspiracy.

This book should have been told in two or even three novels. There’s enough material there and I would love to have seen the relationships and characters more drawn out and developed. There’s nothing like a slow burn to make the out come far more satisfying.

My final beef with this book is that it ended at 89% on my Kobo. There I am, thinking I still have 10% to read and expecting a wrap up when boom, no ending at all. The final 10% of the “book” is an excerpt from Legend. Why that is needed I don’t know? I felt cheated.

Not sure if I’m going to seek out the second book or not. Seems to be a trend for me with Marie Lu books. I loved Legend but never finished the trilogy and Young Elites has been awaiting me for ages. The sequel to Warcross (Wildcard) comes out soon though, so I may give it a go.

Rating: Three stars

Suitable for teens. I would advise caution as there’s quite a bit of violence and some fade to black sex.

Would Chaos Reign?

rule of threeI’m on a roll! This is the Third Read from my Shelf Control pile!

Now I’m wondering how long it’s going to take me to read Warcross. Well I do have the other two books in this series to finish first, so we’ll see.

See my Shelf Control post for the summary.

Why I recommend it:

There were so many things I loved about this book, but most of all I loved Adam, our protagonist and narrator. He’s 17, talented, a bit of a geek, good to his family and totally lovable – not to mention an incredibly bad-ass pilot. When everything run by computers stops working, Adam finds his old clunker of a car to be an invaluable commodity, that and the ultralight aircraft he’d just finished building with his dad. As his community starts to come together to survive, he finds that his skills are in high demand and that he has a knack for observation.

I found the way the situation plays out to be totally believable also. The author talks about rioting and looting, and fighting for resources. Killing becomes inevitable as the animalistic nature of humans takes over and surviva

fight

l of the fittest reigns supreme. I even enjoyed the action sequences and got a very vivid picture of how the scene was playing out. I’ve also learned a lot about The Art of War from, of all places, the old neighbour next door. Herb is Adam’s mysterious neighbour. A dithering old man who becomes the next best thing to Jason Bourne once the computers go down. I’m dying to know his story. And after finishing the book I still don’t know his story, but my curiosity and connection to the characters certainly sent me scurrying for books 2 and 3.

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One thing I did find a bit confusing was the locations. I was delighted to find out that Eric Walters was a local boy (local to Southern Ontario), and even more delighted to recognize neighbourhoods and streets from the Greater Toronto area. I could picture Adam landing on the 403 and glimpsing the abandoned buildings of Toronto in the distance. Yet Walters never fully committed to the Toronto location, and I’d love to know why. At one point Adam remarks that his father is half way across the country (in Chicago) so that threw me. I would love to have seen a Canadian setting, if only to see something new; and who knows, maybe non-Canadians would learn something about Canada?

Rating: Four stars

Suitable for teens. I would advise caution as there’s quite a bit of violence and killing, but not gratuitous.

A Futuristic Puzzler

york

My Second Read from my Shelf Control pile!

It’s great knowing what’s next to be read. You know when you finish a book and you think “now what do I read”? And then you troll through all the books on your Kobo and Kindle trying to remember what each title is about, and more often than not having to look up the summaries again. Having a list makes things so much easier. Who knew?

See my Shelf Control post for the summary.

Why I recommend it:

This book is presented as a Middle Grades read (ie. 9-12). I’ve starting searching through this section of the bookstore more and more as I find the teen reads have been taken over by the must-have romance. Even with a good premise, there always got to be a romance. Granted, I loved romance in a book when I was a teen but now I find it more than annoying, especially if it takes over the plot or makes the main character act like an idiot. But I digress.

With York Laura Ruby creates wonderful characters in Tess, Theo and Jaime. I found them very relatable and was never jarred from the story with a stilted or out-of-character comment. I was surprised by how much I liked Tess. I don’t usually like female leads but she was age appropriate and sufficiently “feisty”. I’m wondering if the fact that she was part of a brother/sister team made her more likable. That sibling dynamic often keeps the characters real. I found Land of Stories to be similar in that respect.

The plot moved quickly and it was fascinating to see this new version of New York. I loved the idea of having to solve a puzzle. I’m a sucker for a good puzzle. I also liked the idea of the puzzle being passed down through the years, going unsolved, much like Ready Player One. Yes, definitely some parallels to other novels but effective and without being blatant.

York is the first in the The Shadow Cipher series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!

Suitable for ages 8 and above. This is firmly a 9-12 novel, written to that level, but as I said, I’ve been finding recently that many great stories (without the annoying romance) can be found here. You may want to read it with your kids, but I guarantee you’ll be reading ahead when they’re not looking

The Raven Boys

raven boysSummary (from Goodreads): Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Why I recommend it:

This book was recommended by one of my students, and as I tend to enjoy the same things she does, I dove in.  Well, I finished the first three books in a week and took my time with book four because I didn’t want the series to be over.

Why do I recommend it? Character, character, character! I rarely like female leads but I really liked Blue. And the boys were individual and well-drawn. I couldn’t decide from one page to the next who I liked more. It’s fast paced and beautifully written. The first book starts slowly but stick with it; its definitely worth it.

Suitable for ages 14 and above. Ask your parents if you’re younger.

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.

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

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)

The Wonders of Auggie

Wonder_Cover_Art Wonder was recommended to me by a young friend who really enjoyed it and thought I might too. Being the highly intuitive young man that he is, I knew better than to doubt him and downloaded it immediately. Wonder is the story of August, a ten-year-old boy who has been home-schooled his whole life. It’s not like he doesn’t have friends, or is behind intellectually, but still his parents have decided it’s time to go to school. Begin with all the other new kids entering middle school in grade 5. August is adamant about not going. You see, August has what he calls mandibulofacial dysostosis, which, as I read the description, sounded a lot like Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare condition characterized by severe facial deformity. Really he’s just an ordinary ten-year-old but few tend to work their way past the surface to find that out. Auggie’s used to the glances, the second looks, the looking away when people don’t know what to say. Middle school is hard enough as it is without looking different. After meeting the principal and touring the school, Auggie decides to go, beginning a journey that is both touching and inspiring.

What I loved most about this book is that it’s told from a variety of viewpoints. The first section is from Auggie’s point of view, then the same incidents are reviewed and the story is continued from his sister’s point of view. We then hear the story of Auggie’s journey through the first year of middle school from a continuing succession of his classmates and even his sister’s boyfriend, before returning to Auggie. The reader views the same incident from two or three view points, an invaluable lesson for many children as they learn to think outside of themselves.  Also, the author never loses sight of the characters’ voice. I could see and hear these children telling their story; the slang was right, the vocabulary was right, and the actions and uncertainties rang true.

Wonder is a exceptional story from start to finish. One of the most valuable lessons we can pass on to the next generation is to see through another’s eyes; feel what another is feeling and try to understand the reasons for another’s actions and reactions.

Not only does Wonder make us think, and hopefully make our children think, it’s also an enjoyable read. Never did I feel as if I was being preached at, which is what put it over the top for me because, trust me, kids know when they are being preached at.

Ages: 8-12              Rating: 5 stars