Tag Archives: science fiction

Action-packed Fantasy (with a bit of history and mythology, too)

The Dragon’s Tooth by N. D. Wilson

In the middle of America (Wisconsin, to be precise), twelve-year-old Cyrus Smith and his older siblings Antigone and Daniel are living their everyday hum-drum lives. Of course, their version of “hum drum” involves living parent-less, managing a run-down motel, and eating pancakes for just about every meal while pretending to the outside world that all is well. But when a strange tattooed man claiming to know their deceased father shows up, a strange turn of events (and one wild taxi ride) takes them to Ashtown and the steps of the Order of Brendan, the secret society of famous explorers throughout history. Thrown headfirst into a world of conspiracy, secrets, and adventure, they fight to prove themselves and stay alive in what is a sometimes crazy, sometimes scary, and always entertaining journey.

N. D. Wilson, author of the 100 Cupboards series, has created an adventurous and magical world that could almost exist in your own backyard. Think Harry Potter but in America and with real historical people as characters. Continue reading Action-packed Fantasy (with a bit of history and mythology, too)

What If Your Mind & Body Were No Longer Your Own?

Starters by Lissa Price (book one in Starters series)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC)

In a dystopian world in which only the very old and very young have survived, sixteen-year-old Callie is trying to make it on the streets while taking care of her sick younger brother. After the Spore Wars tore the country apart–only the weakest members of society, old and young, received the limited vaccine and survived–there was a strong division between rich and poor. Starters (the young) have virtually no rights, while Enders (adults age sixty through their hundreds) control all. Callie is an unclaimed Starter, legally unable to take a job and with no surviving parents or grandparents as guardian, giving her and her brother little choice but to squat in abandoned buildings to avoid being rounded up and sent to a terrible institutions.

When Callie hears of a company willing to pay Starters under the table, she ends up at Prime Destinations where, with the technology of a neurochip, Elders can “rent” the bodies of Starters for recreation and be young again. Creepy? Yes. Easy money? So it seems. But when Callie’s neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the middle of a rental–in her own body but with the belongings and credentials of a wealthy Ender–she discovers that she has been rented for a malicious, illegal purpose, and the high-suspense race to the truth begins. Continue reading What If Your Mind & Body Were No Longer Your Own?

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part II)

PART II of our interview with James Dashner, bestselling author of The Maze Runner trilogy and the 13th Reality books, as well as the upcoming Maze Runner prequel and a new series in progress!

Check out PART I of the interview here.


PART II – Interview with James Dashner

Jenny: Okay, sorry—back on topic! The Flare: did you base that on any historically known disease or academics, outbreaks, or was it just the worst thing you could think of?

In the end they made me do some research to make sure it fit, but really my initial idea […] I just have this fascination with insanity. Humans are powerful beings; we can do incredible, amazing, terrifying things, and if you take away your sanity and your conscience and your ability to choose right and wrong, I can’t think of anything more terrifying. So really, I wanted a disease that didn’t turn people into zombies back from the dead or anything like that, just made people utterly insane. I think that elicits some zombie-like behavior, but anything else that happens to them like sores, injuries, or ravenous hunger to eat other people, anything like that is an after effect. The only thing the Flare does to them is drive them completely insane, and I just thought it was a cool concept.

Ruby: Okay, on to my favorite subject: every teen series has a love triangle. With the introduction of Brenda in the second book, had you intended to start a love triangle between Thomas, Brenda, and Theresa?

I can honestly say no. I still don’t think there’s a true love triangle in the series. I wanted another main female character, and Brenda was one of the characters that grew more important than I originally thought. It kind of ties in to what I said earlier about how Thomas and Theresa can never be the same again. In most love triangles, it seems like you meet both of them—both of the girls or both of the guys—from the beginning or relatively soon, and I’m not a big romance guy, but it sure seems like usually they end up with the first one. It seems like they fall in love with someone and then someone else comes in the picture but then they go back to the first one. Is that true?

Ruby: I think 95% of the time it’s true, but when I was reading your books what was rare for me is the fact that it’s a guy and two girls, ‘cause in all teen books it’s a girl and two guys. It’s like, oh for cryin’ out loud! [Laughter]

[Laughs] And I thought this story was so dark and so quickly paced that are you really going to pause and go watch the sunset with someone you love? I mean, there really is no room for romance in this.

Ruby: Well maybe love triangle is the wrong phrase, but there’s some kind of tension between the three of them.

It’s definitely a triangle of some sort. And I don’t think Brenda and Theresa ever like each other, they never get to know each other. Thomas, I think, doesn’t have time to think of romance, but he is number one devastated and hurt by what Theresa does to him. He thinks about it a lot, and he does just naturally form a bond with Brenda. I think when you go through something terrifying with someone you probably do have a bond, and I think Brenda slowly gains his trust and loyalty throughout book three. It was never really intended as a Team Brenda or Team Theresa type thing.

Ruby: Yeah, that’s not how I read it either. I had an intense dislike for Brenda when she was first introduced. I was like, “Who is this person who’s all over the place? I want Theresa back!” And then the betrayal happened, and that was really shocking to me because I’m a romantic at heart, and I thought there would be no happy ending for them!

The way it all ends is really the only way I feel like it could end. This won’t spoil anything, but I feel like there was only one way for Theresa to feel redeemed. She is a tormented soul from even before the Maze Runner. She believed in what WICKED was doing much more than Thomas did. […] It’s like I said, the line between good and evil in this series…  that doesn’t make her worse than Thomas. If you could save billions of people by doing [the trials], can you really fault someone for thinking that it’s right? I don’t know. I wanted it to be complicated. Continue reading Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part II)

Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part I)

Drum roll, please… The long-awaited interview with The Maze Runner‘s bestselling author, James Dashner, is here! We talked about Dashner back in October about his Maze Runner trilogy, including the final book The Death Cure and the upcoming prequel, as well as movies, favorite kids’ books, Dashner’s take on Harry Potter, and a handful of nerdy stuff. In fact, since our interview with him lasted over an hour, it’s so long we’ve broken it into two big posts. We’re huge fans of The Maze Runner trilogy, so this was pretty exciting (we’ll post a review at some point too). Ruby and I had a ball chatting with him, and we’re grateful that we were given the opportunity to pick his brain!

(Please forgive the posting delay: life got busy, but a big reason was that we were sworn to secrecy about The Maze Runner prequel, The Kill Order, that’s being released August 14, 2012!)

One word of warning: while there are no big spoilers involving book three in this interview, readers who haven’t read The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials yet might want to step carefully. Check it out and ENJOY!

If you’ve already finished Part I, read Part II here.


Jenny: First off, congratulations on completing the trilogy! How does it feel to be done?

It feels bittersweet. There’s some sadness for it to be over, but I’m also just so thrilled that people finally get to read some of these scenes that have been in my head for so long and to see how it ends. The fact that we’re probably going to do a prequel now [The Kill Order] has got me really even more excited, because to me the prequel becomes the most exciting [book] once you know how it all ends, and I just think it’ll be very interesting to go back and see firsthand the stuff that happened before The Maze Runner. So it’s sort of a mixed bag of feelings, I guess, but mostly excitement.

Jenny: As far as these books go, did you plan a three-book series?

I envisioned it as a trilogy.

Ruby: In your books there’s a trend throughout the whole series in which Thomas always gets singled out and separated from the rest of the group. Is there a reason behind that for his development as a character or for the story as a whole?

I’ll say this: I think even from The Maze Runner we know that Thomas and Theresa are special. They were singled out to be more involved than everyone else in the stuff that happened before the maze and leading up to the maze. Throughout the process they are looking for what is called a “final candidate”. To me the whole concept of the “final candidate” shows that there is a side of WICKED [that doesn’t] want to be completely cruel and evil; they’re at least trying to narrow [the candidates] down to one person for what [WICKED] wants to do in the end. But in my mind, WICKED had always thought that Thomas and Theresa—and then in group B, their two counterparts—would probably [be the final candidate], and so they did plan some of the trials and variables to single them out, to capture some of their patterns, to try to finalize what they’re doing. I just thought Thomas was special and predicted to be what they would need. Probably one of my favorite things in The Scorch Trials is when [Thomas] gets shot with the gun. That was not something WICKED foresaw, and they were not willing to let Thomas die, so they broke against their normal protocol and swooped in to try to save him. Continue reading Author Spotlight: Interview with James Dashner (Part I)

Summer Vacation with Aliens & a Hippy Grandma

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith (The Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast series, Book One)

My name is Jenny, and I have a problem: I read too many books.

Okay, so there’s no such thing as “too many books”, but I certainly read more than I’m able to review regularly. Aliens on Vacation became one of my many victims–a book I loved but did not write about, a book I read prior to its publication back in May. My apologies to Mr. Smith! With that said…

Aliens on Vacation by Clete Smith is a fun romp with science fiction, summer vacation, the Pacific Northwest, and a thirteen-year-old boy named Scrub who can’t believe he’ll be spending the summer with his grandmother. When Scrub arrives at his grandma’s Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, an old house covered in brightly painted stars, spaceships, and planets, he thinks that his summer is doomed for boredom and geekiness. Meeting his hippy grandmother for the first time doesn’t help the feeling, and when he realizes there’s no internet, he knows it’s going to be a long vacation. Little does Scrub know, the B&B isn’t for Trekkies and science-fiction fanatics: it’s actually a vacation spot for alien visitors from across the galaxy! Soon Scrub finds himself helping Grandma costume aliens of every shape, size, and attitude (some are very cranky customers indeed!) so the aliens can enjoy their “primitive” surroundings in the local town and forests without being discovered. Continue reading Summer Vacation with Aliens & a Hippy Grandma

So Little Time in a Dystopian World

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Book One in the Chemical Garden Trilogy)

Several generations ago, the human race was genetically perfected: genes were cleared of tendencies to cancer, viruses, disease. But something went horribly wrong, and all subsequent generations have stunted lifelines, girls living until age twenty and boys living until age twenty-five. The short lifelines of all those who aren’t “first generation” means a stagnation of humanity, and the divide between rich and poor grows ever deeper as the remaining dystopian world is filled with orphans, crime, and fear. Some search for a cure to this terrible genetic curse. Others despair that one cannot be found.

Sixteen-year-old Rhine and her twin brother, Rowan, are children of first generation parents who died in a terrorist attack at the genetics lab where they worked to find a cure. Left alone, Rhine and her brother maintain their home and find what work they can. And then, one day, Rhine is stolen away by Gatherers, men who make a living kidnapping and selling young women as wives to wealthy men, a means of forced procreation.

Scared and bitter, Rhine is sold to Linden, her twenty-one-year-old husband, along with two new sister wives, Cecily–age thirteen–and Jenna–age eighteen. (They are the lucky ones: the rejected girls were shot and left on the side of the road.) While Cecily, who grew up in an orphanage, is giddy to love her new husband and plush, comfortable lifestyle, Jenna and Rhine are miserable and seething, though only Rhine is determined to escape. Her only solace, besides the library, is a servant of the house, Gabriel, and a friendship between them blossoms into something unnamed and forbidden. Continue reading So Little Time in a Dystopian World

A World Above and Below the Ice

First Light by Rebecca Stead

Thea lives in Gracehope, a world cut deep into the ice sheet below Greenland. She is the last in a long line of daughters who created Gracehope, a peaceful haven of safe living where hunters from the past cannot track down her people for supposed witchcraft. Thea knows, though, that Gracehope must expand if her people are to continue successfully, and she yearns to see the forbidden surface of the Earth and experience the sun and stars for herself.

Peter lives in New York City but is on vacation in Greenland with his parents as they conduct research in the barren ice-lands. Peter’s dad, an expert on glaciers and the effects of global warming, and his mom, a microbiologist, claim to be taking data for a study and writing a book, respectively, but Peter can tell they’re looking for something more. Only when he discovers Thea and her life below the surface does he realize what that something is…

Together, two kids from completely separate–yet surprisingly connected–worlds join together in a struggle for survival and the truth. Stead writes a compelling story that will draw readers in as they root for the underdogs and experience the fantastic worlds and abilities of both Thea and Peter. In Peter’s world science is king, and Stead includes it readily and skillfully in her narrative. In Thea’s world it is history that reigns supreme, though she is quick to learn that history can be re-written by anyone with enough power and reserve. Continue reading A World Above and Below the Ice

A Wacky Adventure with Aliens

boom! by Mark Haddon

This 208-page novel is the story of two boys, Jim and his best friend Charlie, as they discover that two of their teachers speak an alien-sounding language, have glowing eyeballs, and wear telekinetic wristbands. One thing leads to another, and Charlie is kidnapped for his growing knowledge of their origins, while Jim escapes his would-be captors and, alongside his punk-rock older sister, makes his way out to the alien home-base in Scotland to rescue his friend. Eventually Jim is inadvertently beamed to an alien planet seventy thousand light-years away where he finds Charlie amidst a cultivated population of abducted science-fiction fans.

Though character development is thin, the plot in this quirky story is fast-paced, wacky, and bizarre enough to attract even the hard-to-hold attention span. It’s a good, fun addition for a library if oddball style is what your kids are craving. Being British, Haddon includes a lot of slang that most of us Yankees won’t get, but a stronger reader should be fine guessing or skipping over the more obscure words. It’s an enjoyable, wild ride through the ridiculous world of imaginative boys. Recommended if oddball fantasy is your game!

Fun fact: boom! was originally released with a very limited print run back in 1992 under the title Gridzbi Spudvetch!. After realizing most people couldn’t pronounce, let alone spell, his title (and after receiving letters from a school class telling him it was their absolute favorite and couldn’t he re-publish?), author Haddon decided to re-title and edit his book, this time to wider circulation. Continue reading A Wacky Adventure with Aliens

Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

The Invasion by K. A. Applegate (Animorphs series)

What would you do if you knew your world was under threat? Would you fight? Or would you run?

Thirteen-year-old Jake is just hanging out with firends one night when an alien spacecraft crash lands in the construction site behind the mall. Shocked, he and his classmates Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias, witness an injured Andalite–an alien like a blue centaur with no mouth, stalks for eyes, a scorpion tale, and telepathic speech–as he makes his last stand against Visser 3, a leader in the alien invasion of Earth.

Before the Andalite dies, he warns Jake and his friends: aliens are here. Andalites and other species across the galaxies have been fighting to keep Earth free, but the evil Yeerks–slug-like aliens that slurp into a creature’s brain and take over control–have already taken many humans, people from everyday life across the world. Kids they might be, but the Andalite warns them to fight, learn, and survive, and he bestows a gift upon them: the ability to morph into any animal they touch. Besides their anonymity, it is the only chance for Jake, Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias if they choose to fight the ongoing invasion.

Mind you, this all happens in the first few chapters. As the kids explore their new ability–morphing into horses, tigers, elephants, family pets, hawks–and learn that friends and even family members may be imprisoned in their own bodies by the Yeerk invasion, they agree that they have to fight. They are the last chance Earth has. Continue reading Alien Invasion and Morphing into Animals!

A Four-Part Epic Saga Begins

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher (Book One)

In the world of Anara, members of the Order have been outcast and are hunted down daily by the Watch, a governing body that warns the people against the superstitions and trickery of the Order. Despite the dangers, Masters continue to shield the magical relics–seemingly mystic technology–left by the Makers, gods from long ago. Since the darkness came and the Order’s citadel fell to ruin, life is dangerous, and it is difficult to know who to trust.

In The Dark City, the first in Catherine Fisher’s new four-part series, relic master Galen Horn and his sixteen-year-old apprentice Raffi are interrupted one night with a message from a mysterious rider: a new relic has been found. Galen, who lost his powers in an accident, is eager to search out the center of all Maker powers with the hope of being healed; Raffi is still learning and scared, and he knows that the dangers of their journey are very real.

Soon on their travels they realize they are being followed and discover Carys–secretly a spy for the oppressive Watch–and invite her to join them, though they withhold their natures and purpose. Eventually their journey leads them into the dark city of Tasceron in search of the Crow, an ancient magical being that Galen hopes can heal him.  Constantly in danger and on the run, they learn more about each other and question beliefs on trust, loyalty, faith, and the things they value most. A twist at the end will leave the reader grabbing for more as we, the educated outsiders, start to understand things that the characters themselves do not. (Admit it: it’s always fun to figure things out and feel smarter than the main characters!) Continue reading A Four-Part Epic Saga Begins