Armada was easily my most anticipated read this year and when I saw that Ernest Cline was coming to Anderson’s Bookshop for a signing, I couldn’t resiArmada was easily my most anticipated read this year and when I saw that Ernest Cline was coming to Anderson’s Bookshop for a signing, I couldn’t resist pre-ordering a copy and reading it before I met him. Since Ready Player One has been one of my top favorite books, I dove into this one without hesitation. Zack is a troubled teenager who loses himself in a game called Armada, an MMO flight simulator that has you pitted against an alien race. When Zack sees one of the alien aircrafts near his school, he knows that he must be losing his mind. What he doesn’t know is that he’s about to become of the many people that will fight to save Earth and Armada has been preparing him for this day.
Zack is a character who feels real. His father passed away when he was just a small child, leaving him alone with his mother who works long shifts. He has a temper that gets him into trouble at school and he has an obsession with learning more about his father. In fact, he obsesses a bit over every bit of information he has about him and even goes as far as watching his father’s old movies and even wearing a jacket that his father wore as a teenager. I really liked Zack who was just enough nerd but with more edge and a more realistic feel of how teenagers act these days. I’m glad there weren’t a lot of cliche moments and he was a bit more of a badass than most geeks are.
I love that Ernest features strong female characters. Zack’s mother is described as “the kind of single mom who would strap on heavy artillery and mow down killer cyborgs, if that was what it took to protect her offspring.” I loved that part and it shows how much Zack respects and loves his mom. The love interest that Zack meets later is named Lex and she’s a cool girl who ends up haranguing him into dates and not vice versa. She’s pretty badass and saves his ass once or twice during the book as well.
And the plot, I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say I loved the twists and turns and the somewhat conspiratorial nature of Armada. I felt like I was along for the ride of a lifetime and loved every second of this book. I think Cline has spoiled me and I need him to write me more books.. now!!
The Thief and the Sword is the second book in the graphic novel series Cleopatra in Space. Cleo has time traveled into a strange space atmosphere andThe Thief and the Sword is the second book in the graphic novel series Cleopatra in Space. Cleo has time traveled into a strange space atmosphere and basically saved the day in the first book. She’s become somewhat of a celebrity as she is the center of a prophecy that she will basically save the world from destruction. Or worlds? I like the mix of student life with the actual overlying plot. Cleo has a friend named Akila who is a bit jealous of her popularity, especially when the dance she coordinated is ruined by a thief. Cleo runs off after him and it causes quite a bit of chaos.
There’s a lot of scenes featuring our thief Anthony, who I think will play a larger role in the next graphic novel. He was swift and evaded our heroine with some witty one-liners. He even managed to swoon a girl in the process. It was all very charming and debonair. Cleopatra has a lot on her shoulders and is still adjusting to how everyone views her, so it’s nice to see such a cocky character in comparison.
The best thing about these graphic novels are the illustrations. The colors are so vibrant and vivid, I love soaking in every page of glorious illustrations. The plot goes by so quick that I always go back and relook at some of my favorite pages. I really have been enjoying this series and cannot wait for the next volume.
A great graphic novel series that will have readers get a glimp into mythology and science fiction all at once....more
Ready Player One is honestly a book I hadn’t heard of, until I was gifted it in a swap. I randomly picked it up when going downtown Chicago – I didn’tReady Player One is honestly a book I hadn’t heard of, until I was gifted it in a swap. I randomly picked it up when going downtown Chicago – I didn’t want to bring a library book – and was on my way to the Beercade ironically enough. Wade is the protagonist of the book, he’s a high school student who has a rough home life, his parents are both dead and his aunt and her multitude of boyfriends share part of a trailer. In order to login to OASIS, where he attends school, he hides in an abandoned van in a junkyard where he has everything he needs to hook into the virtual world.
Beyond that, Wade is a gunter, one of the many hunting for the creator’s – Jim Halliday – idea of the ultimate lottery, a key to everything he owns. The only problem is that ever since he died and the quest unlocked, no one has gotten even close to figuring out the first clue. This scavenger hunt includes a lot of pop culture, including old gaming references and even old arcade games that Jim loved growing up. Wade has always been obsessed with the hunt, there’s only one problem – he’s too poor to leave the world his school is on to go anywhere to investigate. Yet he manages to be the first one to unlock the first gate, only he manages to also meet the girl he has had a cybercrush on for a while now and he can’t help but give her a hint to help her out.
Thus begins the real adventure. Wade has to deal with the instant news that his avatar has unlocked the first Gate and cleared it. Now everyone wants to know who he really is. He finds sponsors willing to give him money and now he can really start to hunt. The only problem is there is a corporate group out there trying to spoil everything and they are after Wade.
I fell in love with Ready Player One, which had references to some things from my childhood and others a bit older. I love the budding romance, the mystery behind Jim Halliday himself and the action, even though most of it technically is in a virtual world. I even cried at the end of the book, I really loved how it ended and what message it sends to readers. Cline creates a world within a world that is so creative and imaginative I loved seeing the different places and games that Wade would have to play through to get further in the quest.
An amazing story, with science fiction elements but a human element that overrides everything. ...more
Kate: What do you want to discuss first when it comes to The Vault of Dreamers? Do you want to start with the world and the school?
Kristen: Yes, I lovKate: What do you want to discuss first when it comes to The Vault of Dreamers? Do you want to start with the world and the school?
Kristen: Yes, I loved the setup; let’s go with that to start off.
Kate: I did once I knew what was going on; the beginning was a little weird for me because they kept talking about their ‘blip rank’, but it took a couple chapters for the book to really go into detail with what was going on.
Kristen: It reminded me a bit of anime/manga which throws you right into the plot without any context. I enjoyed the concept of a school mixed in with reality TV, although I thought it was strange Rosie wasn’t trying all that hard to improve her blip rank until the last day.
Kate: And with a lot of added help from not only our love interest Linus.
Kristen: Yes, it played out a little strange because she literally took all of his advice – on the spot – without too much overthinking from her point of view. It was like she hadn’t even considered how to improve her rank until that very second.
Kate: Rosie was quite dense at times.
Kristen: I like that Burnham called her out on what she did to gain popularity after she made the cut – feeling used for her popularity.
Kate: Didn’t you feel like his involvement with Rosie was a set up for a love triangle?
Kristen: Yes, but it obviously didn’t work out for a variety of reasons and plot points.
Kate: Right, but I liked that it dangled the idea and then pulled it back, like the author was saying “Just kidding!”.
Kristen: I agree – it was nice the book didn’t go down that road for once. Speaking of characters, what did you think of Rosie?
Kate: She had her ups and downs as a character. I felt like that once I was starting to like her, she had a really dense and naïve moment that threw me off. What did you think about Linus, her boy toy?
Kristen: I could feel the attraction between the two of them from the beginning. I liked that Linus was fairly genuine and almost asked her to abuse him romantically to get ratings even though he did not know her that well in person – just from the show.
Kate: I liked that I never really knew what to think about him – you knew who he worked for, but could you trust him or not was always a question up in the air.
Kristen: I think Linus played a big role in the mystery and it was nice to see he had a purpose behind handsome love interest.
Kate: The only thing that threw me off about the book was the ending, I’m not really sure what happened and even reread it a couple times.
Kristen: I think it will be interesting to see where it takes off in the next book. I guess we will have to read the next one when it comes out.
Coming directly from having read Dualed in audiobook format, I had to realign my brain to read Divided in book format. Thinking about the first book,Coming directly from having read Dualed in audiobook format, I had to realign my brain to read Divided in book format. Thinking about the first book, I felt there was no a lot of background information and was hoping that Divided would fill in the gaps of the first book. I felt like there was some questions answered, but I’m not fully satisfied with the brief glimpse into the history of how the Board was formed, what the different levels mean and some of the history as well as more information on why the program of killing your clone was first brought on.
If you really loved Dualed, you will like Divided. It has the same type of premise. West goes off on her own to fulfill an assignment given to her by the Board, only she finds out the hard way that she no longer can kill, but she’s determined a back up plan after her boyfriend Chord shares with her something he found while on patrol. The promise of not having to put any of her future children through this game of killing your other self has her committed to the task, but she finds a surprise when she meets her last target.
I don’t want to reveal too much for those who haven’t read either books, so I’ll stop there. What I like about the story is that West’s relationship with Chord feels good to me as a reader. She still is dealing with some post trauma from the first book and I like that they address that by her visiting a counselor to talk about her nightmare and problems. Chord has accepted West for who she is and she knows that he will be there for her. I like the action, the hunt and the complications that this sequel has to offer.
On the flip side, I still wish there was more. I feel so confined in the story to West’s personal problems and I want to know so much more about the background of the world she lives in that I don’t feel satisfied. I cannot think of this story as dystopian because it’s not her against the government. When it’s the Board that asks her to kill, it is really to satisfy one man’s desires and wants. West is not completely going against the system and I sort of wanted her to be more of a rebel, or at least want to escape the world she lives in.
Lots of great action but lacking some dystopian elements that would have taken the book further....more
Cleopatra just wants to get out of learning algebra, and ends up on her own time travel adventure in the first volume of Cleopatra in Space. I’d likenCleopatra just wants to get out of learning algebra, and ends up on her own time travel adventure in the first volume of Cleopatra in Space. I’d liken this series to a more mature Zita the Spacegirl. Cleopatra still isn’t enthusiastic about school, even when she travels ahead in the future. In fact, the only classes she really enjoys are combat and target practice with awesome ray guns. She’s told when she arrives that she is the one who will save the universe from the evil Xerx.
As this is the first volume, we only get a glimpse into her first adventure as she is asked to relocate a key. This ends up being a more dangerous mission than most students her age receive, but it looks as though they are running out of time to train Cleopatra to lead them into victory.
I really loved that Cleopatra wasn’t instantly good at everything and took the whole “you’re here to save the world” as they were crazy instead of embracing it and flaunting it. I can tell the friends she makes in the future will be there to aide her in the future in their own ways. Also, the cats are in charge of this whole program and I love that the importance of cats in Egyptian culture ties over into their role as mentors/leaders of this future.
Beautifully drawn and with an action packed plot, this space adventure is just the beginning of what hopes to be a great graphic novel series. ...more
The Young World is a post apocalyptic novel about a sickness that wipes out everyone that is not a teenager. When people turn 18 years old. JeffersonThe Young World is a post apocalyptic novel about a sickness that wipes out everyone that is not a teenager. When people turn 18 years old. Jefferson is not looking forward to his brother Wash turning 18, meaning that Jefferson will have to take over looking over his group of survivors. Told from two different points of view, Jefferson and Donna, both are in love with each other at some point during the novel. Both of them have their own scruples, strengths, and weaknesses and make for an interesting set of narratives.
Set in New York City, there’s different factions of survivors all over the place, each with some unique group names and ways they act. One of my favorite scenes was when they set off in order to find a cure for the the virus and they went to the library. The group of survivors there were so scary and the moments quite epic as the group tries to stay alive and move on. They end up on the way to a possible cure, with some serious obstacles in the way.
I definitely loved the characters, from the mole people to Brainbox, the super geek in the group, and Peter the seriously gay guy with a homemade Facebook wall. I really fell in love with the characters and cannot wait to see what happens next.
Verdict: A great start to the first in a series, filled with action, romance and awesome characters....more
Kristen: What do you want to talk about first? Plot, characters…
Kristen: First off, I know Stitching Snow will get compared to Cinder a lot,Kristen: What do you want to talk about first? Plot, characters…
Kristen: First off, I know Stitching Snow will get compared to Cinder a lot, but I felt like it was way different.
Kate: Oh, I know it will. But at least they were different fairy tales bases. Snow White vs. Cinderella (plus all the Selene mythology – aka Sailor Moon mythology). I loved that Cinder was a cyborg, and her skills. However, meeting Essie and the robots of Stitching Snow made me realize how inferior Cinder and robot connection was. Plus, how much more bad ass Essie is.
Kristen: Plus, I liked that it had a lot of the imagery from the old tales such as the apple, being the only girl in the town, being good with one type of thing (robots as opposed to animals). Then, there’s the poison and the huntsmen character.
Kate: Yes, yes! It was all so perfect.
Kristen: I agree, I loved how quickly you see the fierceness of Essie, our main character.
Kate: I loved Cinder… like to pieces… BUT I feel like it was almost too much Sailor Moon mythology, and not enough Cinderella. But then again, with Stitching Snow we are getting just one main story. I like the other characters in the Lunar Chronicles, but sometimes it just feels sooo drawn out. Cinder’s story (the first story) still has not had a resolution, and we are now three books in with more on the way. Without a solid resolution in sight.
Kristen: I agree, I think that Stitching Snow is a solid standalone, which is a nice break. I feel like every book I read is part of some new series.
Kate: Do you think Stitching Snow is going to stay a standalone?
Kristen: I hope so, it had a happily ever after ending, but there is more you could do with it.
Kate: I have a feeling it may end up a series.
Kristen: The story could be stretched further, but there would have to be a new enemy introduced.
Kate: Do you have any major gripes about the book?
Kristen: No, quite the opposite, I was so overly pleased with the Stitching Snow, I can’t find anything wrong. I loved everything from the realness of the relationship to the awesome characters – especially Cusser and Dimwit the robots. I also enjoyed the setup of Essie being a tough girl – her background and attitude suit her.
Kate: I loved the robots as well – they added so much extra humor and personality to the story.
Kristen: I especially love how Essie seemed to mistreat Dimwit at the beginning and then came to understand him better towards the end. I found it gratifying to have a protagonist who has skills beyond being just a pretty girl or princess. Or even just being badass – she has her stitching skills that get her out a lot of binds.
Kate: What I liked about Essie is that with her skills and attitude, she made sense as a character.
*Kristen then went on a rant about Throne of Glass and how horrible the main character was setup and the atrocity that is that book.*
Kate: You are never going to forgive that book are you?
Kristen: Nope, now back to talking about a much BETTER book – Stitching Snow. Let’s talk about the romance now. If anything, I felt like the love interest Dane was more of the pretty face this time. I like that Essie seemed like a more solid character and it made sense for her to act as she did.
Kate: I have to agree with your pretty boy assessment. I think Dane was strong in his own way… but he was also like pretty wallpaper.
Kristen: Wasn’t it also nice to have a character that did not go for the guy right off? She’s bothered by Dane’s sudden presence and he’s messing up her idea of life. He did also kidnap her, which made her even more determined to dislike him, until she found out more about him.
Kate: Well, we had to get her off that planet somehow.
Kristen: I like the way that she retaliated against him after being kidnapped and was weary of him.
Kate: I liked the romance and I liked Dane, but I don’t think it would have made much of difference if he didn’t exist. He had a good, supporting role that was consistent, but he wasn’t the focus of the story. It was Essie’s story and her story alone.
Kristen: Yes! Exactly, the focus was her not the romance. I do admire Dane for telling Essie that he would take everything at her pace, not forcing anything on her.
Kate: Dane was a no pressure, genuine guy but also integral to her survival at the palace but giving her enough space to do what she planned to do there.
Kristen: It’s nice to see a strong female lead that is strong enough that her counterpart trusts her. I think his background was fitting and he really was a support and didn’t encroach on the story as a whole.
Kate: I agree. Everything with him, added to her story.. her goal.. it was about him, but also about her and making everything move forward. Stitching Snow has to be the most fluid story I have come across in a long time. All the elements worked together, each piece added to the next in way that made sense and added to the overall picture.
Kristen: Stitching Snow also had enough excitement and build up to keep you turning the page. Even the downtime was about building relationships or learning backstory and didn’t feel like it was so long.
The Book Monster Verdict:
We both absolutely adored this one. Fantastic retelling with a kick ass heroine who doesn’t need a guy to make her “better.” Highly recommend....more
The Rule of Three is a book I read on a whim. It had been sitting on my shelves for a while and I literally asked my husband to pick out my next bookThe Rule of Three is a book I read on a whim. It had been sitting on my shelves for a while and I literally asked my husband to pick out my next book and this one caught his attention. I finished it in a weekend, not wanting to put it down for long. The Rule of Three is a title that fits the book, it’s a survival story of what happens when all the electricity and electronic devices stop working for no known reason. Even cars that have computers in them will no longer work.
Lucky for Adam and his family, their neighbor Herb seems to have been prepared for some things and helps them and their neighborhood to find ways to keep surviving without violence. The only problem is, there are already other large groups forming and they are not as friendly. It’s only an amount of time before they have to deal with a real fight, one they don’t want to but HAVE to prepare for.
Beyond the engaging story are the interesting characters. Adam loves flying and ends up finishing his small plane and getting it off ground to help find out more of what is going on in different areas. There’s Herb, the neighbor who can’t say what his past has led him to be so well prepared for this situation. Even Adam’s mother is a police officer and steps up to take charge of the situation.
There’s some romance as well, as Adam saves the girl he has liked for ages (Lori) from her farm being overrun and their relationship develops as the book goes on. I like Lori, she gives him crap for not having the guts to ask him out before and is sensible and down to earth. Truly though, it was the action and the characters that really pulled me into the story. My only disappointment is there’s really no word to what happened to cause the blackout and why, so I’m looking forward to the sequel when it comes out.
An engaging survival story with plenty of action and romance to keep the story moving. ...more
The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is an interesting graphic novel from the point of view of an alien who gets a call to deliver a pizza. Instead oThe Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is an interesting graphic novel from the point of view of an alien who gets a call to deliver a pizza. Instead of telling the person that he's not a pizza place, he embarks on a journey to deliver said pizza. This graphic novel was a nutty adventure full of random encounters and an ending that had me laughing.
I love the design of the characters and world and especially the talking backpack, which seems much more intelligent than the hero of the story. The comedy of the story is very slapstick and a book that will have many young, eager readers. The colors in the book are very bright and create a unique world for readers to explore. While it wasn't a favorite of mine or gave a lot of depth in a story, I'm sure my students will love every aspect of this book.
I'm hoping we will see future adventures of The Glorkian Warrior as it's a character that really came to life and sparked some hilarious moments....more
Pi in the Sky is science fiction story about Joss, the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. When a human girl gets a glimpse of where Pi in the Sky is science fiction story about Joss, the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. When a human girl gets a glimpse of where they live, his father decides to take Earth out of the timeline. Joss's only friend Kal disappears because his parents were on Earth and therefore he cannot exist anymore. Instead, the human girl Annika shows up in his place and thinks she is in a dream. It becomes Joss' job to make sure that she remains thinking she is in a dream so that she won't become nonexistant.
Joss' job is to bring pies around the universe, a job that he thinks as unimportant. By the end of the story, the importance of these pies is revealed and how much Joss really does matter. I love the banter and relationship that builds between him and Annika. Together, they must figure out a way to rebuild Earth so that all can return to normal, all without alerting his own father to what they are planning.
The intricate details that Mass puts into her books really pulls them into the reader's heart and although it was a science fiction book with aliens, I felt the real plot shine through. What matters is self-importance, finding oneself and loving others. I really think readers of all genres will enjoy this book. The only thing that would hold them back is some of the heavier science that comes into play later on in the book.
Final Verdict: Pi in the Sky was a wonderful book about what it is to be human and to be yourself. I loved the science aspects as well as well as the otherworldly setting....more
Short & Sweet: The first in a series, Crash Landing starts with John, a human boy who gets on the wrong bus and is sent to Hyperspace High. Findi Short & Sweet: The first in a series, Crash Landing starts with John, a human boy who gets on the wrong bus and is sent to Hyperspace High. Finding himself the only human in the intergalactic school, he finds some allies and friends right away, but also makes some enemies. The problem at hand is how he will get back home, something that cannot happen for a time due to the way the spaceship is traveling. What he finds is that he likes how he fits into the school and by the time it is time to go back to Earth, he finds himself wanting to stay, but will they let him?
Final Verdict: Crash Landing is a fun new space adventure series that many readers will enjoy....more
Tin Star is the story of Tula, a girl who is headed to another planet with her family. When she questions Brother Blue about not loading barrels of foTin Star is the story of Tula, a girl who is headed to another planet with her family. When she questions Brother Blue about not loading barrels of food onto the ship, she is beaten and left for dead. She is saved by an alien by the name of Heckleck, who teaches her how to survive as the only human on the space station. Everything is going well until three other humans show up on the space station, and show no signs of leaving any time soon.
Tula has not had contact with her kind in some time and she'd rather not deal with them. The three insist on searching her out for help and she starts to find herself wanting to spend more and more time with them, especially one. Everything spirals out of control as new leadership arrives on the space station and she loses another friend that has helped her through tough times, Tournour, who was the head of the space station and tended to look out for her.
I have always enjoyed Castellucci's stories and this one is no different. Not being a fan of traditional science fiction, I found myself enjoying Tula's character, her struggles and the conflicts that arose as being human is the lowest of the low according to all other aliens. Tin Star is a book I truly enjoyed. I loved Tula's strength as she settles in to her new life and I cannot wait to read more of her adventures in the next book. I also love that romance took second place to Tula's want for revenge against Brother Blue. I like when characters don't let romance sidetrack them.
Overall, Tin Star was a solid science fiction novel that introduces characters that I want to learn more about and although it mainly takes place on a space station I cannot wait to see the rest of the universe....more
The Lost Planet is about Chase, a boy who literally appeared from nowhere inside the shield of a home that only contains a boy named Parker and his a The Lost Planet is about Chase, a boy who literally appeared from nowhere inside the shield of a home that only contains a boy named Parker and his android Mina. When Chase wakes up, he has no memories and the only reason they know his name is from a chip that was found at the back of his head. Parker is an orphan who is taken care of by a man named Asa, who mysteriously is never around. The boys decide to take off in search of Chase's memories and visit the planet's moon. While they are there, the planet is destroyed, leaving them homeless and no closer to any answers.
The boys end up on the run, picking up a stranger who is almost dead only to find out he may be the terrorist responsible for the planet's untimely demise. There were so many questions to be answered by the middle of this book, that I could not wait for the dots to connect. I loved seeing how the three characters ended up being connected by the end of the book. By any means, it was not the best science fiction I've read, but it was a fun adventure with a space theme that kept me reading.
As the story unfolds, we find that there is more to Chase than he first knows and that he may be more vital than just some random boy. Parker's own story is still unclear by the end of the book, being unsure why he really was taken under the wing of the mysteriously not present Asa. Maurus' story is up and down as he is one of the few of his race that was in the Fleet and now supposedly a terrorist, although he claims otherwise. I'm assuming this is going to be the first in a series because I did not feel like everything was fleshed out fully, but I could be wrong. Personally, I'd love to read more of their adventures and see what happens after this book, especially with some new characters that also have strange abilities.
Final Verdict: The Lost Planet is a fun science fiction adventure, with memorable characters, some cool abilities and lots of plot twists. I think middle grade readers will enjoy this one because it moves fast and has a lot of interesting elements of the science fiction genre. ...more