Tag Archives: genre: science fiction

Whales on Stilts! Review

whales_on_stiltsWhales on Stilts!: A Pals in Peril Tale by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2010. 978-1442407015

Synopsis: Lily Gefelty thinks it’s more than a little weird that her father works for a company that makes prosthetics for cetaceans. I mean, what do whales need stilts for anyway? But when she realizes her dad’s boss, Larry, is outfitting the whales with laser eyes as well, she knows there’s something even more dastardly going on. Luckily, she has her friends Katie Mulligan and Jasper Dash to help her save the day!

Why I picked it up: I wanted a short read for a weekend trip.

Why I finished it: What I like about this series is that it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Our heroes find themselves in improbable situations, but for them these (for the most part) are everyday occurrences. The ridiculousness gives it the feel of a pulp novel while taking the reader on a highly imaginative trip through an alternative version of our own world. I really identified with Lily because I often wanted to hide behind my bangs and pretend I was invisible when I was younger. I know the feeling of not being up to par with my friends, of believing that I’m too ordinary to do the fantastic. But despite Lily’s shyness, she uses her cleverness and wit to be able to come up with a plan to stop Larry and his mind-controlled whale army from taking over the world. She might not have Jasper’s knack for inventing or Katie’s ability to fight off a zombie attack, but her ability to think and act quickly truly makes her a hero. I’d give this book to people who like fast-paced adventure and edge-of-their-seat action – it’s a pretty fast read and keeps up a good pace throughout.

Other related materials: The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Zombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man Review

forever_manW.A.R.P., Book 3: The Forever Man by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484726037

Synopsis: Riley, an orphan boy living in Victorian London, has achieved his dream of becoming a renowned magician, the Great Savano. He owes much of his success to Chevie, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent who traveled from the future in a time pod and helped him defeat his murderous master, Albert Garrick. But it is difficult for Riley to enjoy his new life, for he has always believed that Garrick will someday, somehow, return to seek vengeance. Chevie has assured Riley that Garrick was sucked into a temporal wormhole, never to emerge. The full nature of the wormhole has never been understood, however, and just as a human body will reject an unsuitable transplant, the wormhole eventually spat him out. By the time Garrick makes it back to Victorian London, he has been planning his revenge on Riley for centuries. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when the three are tossed once more into the wormhole, they end up in a highly paranoid Puritan village where everything is turned upside down. Chevie is accused of being a witch, Garrick is lauded as the town’s protector, and . . . is that a talking dog? Riley will need to rely on his reserve of magic tricks to save Chevie and destroy his former master once and for all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This series is filling the hole that Artemis Fowl left. Plus, I like the sci-fi/historical fiction mashup.

Why I finished it: This book starts off a little bit slower than the previous novel and seems to keep up the meandering pace throughout without ever really picking up speed. We’re getting much more into the science bit now that Garrick has been reintroduced and much like the characters, the reader is playing a guessing game about his powers and how the mutations created by the wormhole will affect Chevie, Riley, and the rest of the Puritan village in which they have been deposited. The plot centers around an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between Riley and Garrick, which it should be noted started many years before while Riley was still under Garrick’s apprenticeship. It’s a cunning element to the plot, but unfortunately I wasn’t feeling much of the suspense I felt like I should be feeling. Riley has to get very creative knowing that his target is basically immortal and considers himself to have the upper hand. Yet, our heroes seem to have lost a little bit of their spark (along with a few other things) coming into this book and it doesn’t seem to get shaken off as the story moves along. I was anxious to see Riley succeed in killing Garrick once and for all, and I was hopeful that he and Chevie could make it out in one piece, but there wasn’t a hook for me to really drawn me in. The ending did manage to pick up a bit, but it was just a little bit too late.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Hangman’s Revolution (W.A.R.P., Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis; Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger; The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer; Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs;  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle;  A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle;  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; The CHRONOS Files books by Rysa Walker

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W.A.R.P.: The Hangman’s Revolution Review

hangmans_revolutionW.A.R.P., Book 2: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-1423161639

Synopsis: Chevron Savano thinks she’s going home to a familiar twentieth century, but when she arrives she finds that the world is a much different place from than what she remembers. In this reality, she is a cadet in a fascist training academy that prepares soldiers to fight in the war against France. Split between two minds and literally at war with herself, Chevie must find a way back to the nineteenth century in order to stop the revolution that creates her current world.

Why I picked it up: It was an impulse borrow at the library – I remembered having read and enjoyed the first book in the series, but had forgotten there was more.

Why I finished it: Having shifted over briefly from reading Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, this book is much darker and more mysterious than the previous series. While there are parallels that can be drawn between Artemis and Holly and Riley and Chevie, W.A.R.P. is a series that grounds itself in a somewhat grimier waters and our heroes often find themselves in much more tenuous situations than their counterparts. Colfer takes care to remind the reader that London at the turn of the century is not wholly the thriving metropolis that it is made out to be: it has shady, unfriendly, disease-ridden parts that make the reader glad for modern medicine and indoor plumbing. This aside, Colfer blends the past with the present in such a way that the reader can be fully immersed in both worlds simultaneously. Chevie and Riley rely on their natural talents to get them out of tight situations – and they seem to get into quite a few of them. While the main premise of the book is laid out in the first few pages and we’re basically privy to the entire plot, Colfer still surprises the reader with his trademark twists that make us realize that perhaps we don’t know how the story will end. The book moves at a fast clip and there’s a lot of good action happening in every chapter that fuels the motivations of our protagonists and antagonists. It’s definitely more mature than Artemis Fowl and perhaps not for the faint of heart, but readers who dare are in for a fun but dangerous adventure through nineteenth century London and even beyond.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Forever Man (W.A.R.P., Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis; Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger; The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer; Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs;  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle;  A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle;  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; The CHRONOS Files books by Rysa Walker

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Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox Review

artemis_fowl_6Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2009. 978-1423108375

Synopsis: When Artemis Fowl’s mother contracts a life-threatening illness, his world is turned upside down. The only hope for a cure lies in the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the animal is extinct due to a heartless bargain Artemis himself made as a younger boy. Though the odds are stacked against him, Artemis is not willing to give up. With the help of his fairy friends, the young genius travels back in time to save the lemur and bring it back to the present. But to do so, Artemis will have to defeat a maniacal poacher, who has set his sights on new prey: Holly Short. The rules of time travel are far from simple, but to save his mother, Artemis will have to break them all and outsmart his most cunning adversary yet: Artemis Fowl, age ten. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I love reading about Artemis’s adventures.

Why I finished it: Time travel is tricky, something most of us are familiar with after many years of watching TV and reading other books that may have featured a time travel element. But in the world of Artemis Fowl, time travel seems almost more complicated than we were lead to believe. Sure, we knew that in the present it might only seem that we were gone a few seconds or even a few hours despite the fact that we could have been gone for days or years. We know we’re not supposed to interact with our past selves or really even manipulate anything lest we change the future to which we are returning. These are rules that Artemis is perfectly aware of, but since when has our anti-hero ever played by the rules? I appreciated that there were several nods back to the first book in the series throughout this installment and if you remember enough about the events of that first book, you can notice Colfer elegantly knotting some threads that we’d skipped over before. Things for the most part seem to come full circle for our protagonists – in this case, literally – but there were still a good number of twists and turns to keep me interested and guessing about what sort of set up was being created for the next book. Though, if the ending is any indication, things have been so completely skewed sideways that our heroes are going to need a lot more cunning in order to flip things around to the way they were. Artemis continues to become a softer person than when we are first introduced to him, a fact that does not go unnoticed by Artemis when he is confronted by his younger self. It’s almost become strange to ‘watch’ Artemis grow up – we understand the need of the character to grow both physically and emotionally, but we also still long for that largely unfeeling criminal mastermind that did what he had to do to get things done. Artemis still does what needs to be done, but there’s more emotion creeping in as we move forward, an element that could very well have a major impact. It’s a fast and engaging read that will leave you hanging and eager for more.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer; The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; W.A.R.P.  books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

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The Wells Bequest Review

wells_bequestThe Wells Bequest: A Companion to The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013. 978-0399256462

Synopsis: When Leo witnesses the appearance of himself and a beautiful girl in his bedroom via a time machine, all of his perceptions of reality suddenly begin to change. Then, his teacher tells him about the New York Circulating Material Repository – a place that houses objects rather than books – and he becomes convinced that this is the place he will find both the time machine and the girl. And what Leo finds there surpasses even his wildest expectations.

Why I picked it up: I loved Grimm Legacy, so when I noticed it on the shelf browsing through the library I nabbed it.

Why I finished it: And so, we find ourselves back at one of the most fascinating libraries in modern literature. It’s a place known only to a few and whose secrets go even beyond the walls of the library itself. Leo wasn’t keen to believe science fiction was real until he saw some of the objects housed in the repository while researching his history of science report on robots. The things we read about in books couldn’t possibly be real…then again, he spends most of the book in a sort of state of disbelief at his own luck. First, he finds the perfect science project topic that plays to his strengths. Then, he finds a great place to do his research…at which works the amazing girl who appeared with him in the time machine! What I like about both Bequest and Legacy is that although the story itself draws on the fantastic, Schulman manages to keep the reader grounded in the real world. This time, she explores elements of science and the notion of scientific progress. It made me step back and think about just how much science goes into our daily routines, nevermind what sort of journey an object has come on to become what has become familiar to us. It questions reality while making us think about how much more there is for us to discover. So whether it be time travel, girls, libraries, or robots, Leo and the reader will have changed in numerous ways by the time we have reached the final pages.

Other related materials: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; The Poe Estate by Polly Schulman; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; The Books of Elsewhere books by Jacqueline West; Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick; The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler; The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler; The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison

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Feature Presentation: Mockingjay, Part I

mockingjay-1-posterThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Willow Shields, Paula Malcomson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Clafin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Julianne Moore, and Donald Sutherland

Lionsgate, 2014. Rated PG-13

Synopsis: The country is in chaos after the 75th Hunger Games. District 12 has been destroyed. The other districts have drawn battle lines, some siding with the Capital and others with the rebels of District 13, thought to have been wiped off the map. Katniss is trying to keep herself together after learning that Peeta has been captured and used by President Snow to try and draw her out. With the world falling apart around her and inside her, Katniss must find the energy to become the Mockingjay, a symbol of hope for those who fight.

I’ll spare the reader my rant about how Mockingjay didn’t need to be two movies but because of consumerism blah blah blah. That aside, this second-to-last installment in The Hunger Games trilogy had a lot going for it, but I think largely because of the decision to split the film into two parts the story lost a lot of its power (so to speak). Yes, this gave the filmmakers a little more license to show the viewer some corners of the districts we don’t get to see in the books and there’s a more extended scene involving a rescue toward the end of the film that’s exciting. Yet, I left the theater thinking about just how much fluff was inserted just for the sake of squeezing as much money out of this thing as possible. There’s books, you know, it’s not like we don’t know what happens. There’s not a whole lot you can hold back from us at this point. Lawrence is still making us believe in Katniss, but unfortunately because Katniss’s character has become so flat, we almost-kinda-sorta don’t care much about her anymore. She’s lost most of her drive with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) largely out of the picture and Gale (the always gorgeous Liam Hemsworth) doesn’t seem to be helping when he tries to console her. The viewer is almost frustrated watching the movie (or at least, I was) because we want to reach through the screen and shake Katniss until she snaps out of it even though we know that she won’t without Peeta. If that’s not some element of foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. The most redeeming scene in the film is the one in which Katniss sings ‘The Hanging Tree’, which in the following scenes becomes an anthem for the rebels still struggling under control of the Capital. The song is depressing, but it’s moving to see Lawrence singing in a rare moment of peace between battles. I’m hoping Part II has a little more of the substance we were missing from Part I.

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Graduation Day Review

graduation_dayGraduation Day (The Testing, Book 3) by Joelle Charbonneau

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014. 978-0547959214

Synopsis: Cia has vowed to fight against the corruption surrounding the Testing, but this chance for her to lead is producing more questions than answers. How will she get the information to the right people? How will she know who the right people are? Who can she trust to aid her in her mission to stop a rebellion that has been so carefully orchestrated? Will she be able to do what is asked of her without compromising her beliefs? It’s clear she’s not longer the shy girl that got off the skimmer from Five Lakes so many months ago, but will the choices she makes really make her the person she wants to be?

Why I picked it up: Say it with me, readers: I had to know how the story ends.

Why I finished it: This series had me so totally engrossed from page one and the conclusion was no exception. Cia was warned when she left her home not to trust anyone, but she didn’t heed her father’s advice and chose to trust her friend Tomas during the last phase of The Testing. Now she must again go against her father’s words and choose a team of her classmates that can help her complete the deadliest test Cia has faced so far. Cia now has to determine where her friend’s loyalties lie and whether they will follow her or their own agendas. Charbonneau’s ability to create an engaging world and likable characters has drawn the reader fully into the story, making us believe in the danger Cia is facing. She keeps up a rapid plot pacing that keeps the pages turning and the reader on the edges of their seat. And there’s a number of threads that need to be tied up before Cia’s tale can come to a close to boot, which I am happy to say get resolved in a much more satisfying manner than its sister series (as much as I loved Mockingjay, Collins rushed the ending without touching on some things that were left untouched). The reader finds themselves emotionally involved in the story, desiring to see Cia and her friends succeed, to make it out of their ordeals alive and whole. But as with any conflict, there are no winners, only survivors. The ending was well-written, even if it was a little ambiguous and open-ended, but it leaves room for us to wonder, to hope. And everyone could use a spark of hope.

Other related materials: The Testing (The Testing, Book 1) by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins; Divergent by Veronica Roth; Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Allegiant by Veronica Roth; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Maze Runner books by James Dashner; The Mortality Doctrine books by James Dashner; The Partials Sequence books by Dan Wells, Matched books by Allie Condie; Legend books by Marie Lu; The Young Elites by Marie Lu; In the After by Demitria Lunetta; In the End by Demitria Lunetta; The Razorland Trilogy by Ann Aguirre; The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

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