Review: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

A review by Brit.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a very special little boy. At the age of six years old, he is selected to attend “battle school,” an academy for children and pre-teens believed to have innate gifts for strategy and warfare. The planet Earth is at war with a race of aliens nicknamed the “Buggers.” Ender’s the third child in his family, only allowed to be born because his brother Peter was too cruel for battle school and his sister Valentine was too passive. The high-ranking adults of the world think Ender may have the gifts necessary to save the world. In fact, it seems like they’re betting on it.

Once in the battle school, Ender is quickly isolated and pitted against the other students (mostly boys) in the school. The leaders at hand are seeking to make him a leader. He’s a tactical genius who tries to be civil but is ultimately suspicious of anyone who tries to be friendly. Against all odds, Ender gains friends among those the school leaders would deem his subordinates. He grows and develops skills. But he’s soon promoted to higher ranks, reinforcing just how much he is ruled by the adults around him. On the outside, Peter and Valentine are hatching their own plans to help the world… which may or may not involve Ender.

I did my very best to enjoy this book (which I consumed in audiobook format), but all in all the exposition blended in too much with the dialogue. Characters blended together, their speech often sounding the same. The book fell into the unfortunate science fiction stereotype of having too much action and not enough character development for the action to feel meaningful. There were few instances where Ender, his classmates, and siblings actually spoke as if they were the ages they were prescribed. Even genius children still sound like children. I would only recommend this book to those seeking to know more about a science fiction classic. But for someone looking to learn more about science fiction, I would advise them to stay away from Ender’s Game. It will leave you apathetic to Ender and the plight of his world.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Cubeball” by Michael Leon

Review -

A review by Domoni.

In a far off future, sports are just as competitive as they are now. Though through technology and synthetic enhancements, competition is much different. Michael is a cubeball champion. The future version of snooker is taken very seriously. After spending time as a world champion and becoming a well known celebrity, Michael has had enough of the life. He takes his wealth and moves to the outpost on Mars. Ten years later, his money dwindling, he has decided to return home to Earth.

This is an interesting sci-fi sports story. The book tends to jump back and forth through time. You get to see how Michael grew up and became a champion cubeball player, while also staying with him in real time as he makes his way through the world.  The author has created an interesting world. It is a believable future that is not hard to imagine. The characters are interesting and plausible.

This book does at times fall prey to one of the pitfalls of science fiction writing. There is much time spent on the description of technologies, yet they never fully make sense or capture the attention as much as they could if the specifics were a bit more glossed over so the reader can focus more on the story.  Though this was not as bad as it is in many other novels, I was able to get into the story.

Ludwig was the character that actually captured my interest the most in this story. The way the savant was written intrigued me and I enjoyed his interactions with Michael. He was an easier to like character than the often brash Michael. Overall, the story was good and I would consider reading more in this series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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Review: “Argonauts” by Kevin Kneupper

Review-"Argonauts” by Kevin Kneupper

A review by Vanessa.

Medea and Jason have never met before.  Of course they haven’t met; she is merely a stakeholder in the major corporation turned ecosystem/city that is Argos, while Jason is a shareholder.  The corporation runs everything.  In a world where nearly all of the jobs are run by artificially intelligent robots Madea just happens to have a unique and valuable talent for being able to manipulate genes, known as genomancy, in order to give people special traits.  She works for the corporation’s warriors, known as the Argonauts, giving them whatever attributes they wish.  She can give them a bear’s strength, fur, and claws, or even a fish’s gills and ability to swim.  Where her heart truly lies though, is with the work she is allowed to do for the poor stakeholders of Argos.  She can fix a little girl’s stutter, or remove the genes prone to cancer.  But despite her talent, and her enviable possession of one of the few remaining jobs still done by people, she gets no respect. Especially not from the warriors, who refuse to acknowledge her importance to their accomplishments, and not from Jason when they meet for the first time.

Jason, unlike Medea, is a shareholder; rich, powerful, and most importantly he has a voice in the management vote for the CEO of Argos.  This is of particular significance to Pelias, the current CEO.  When Jason’s father Aeson dies of the overindulgences that are often thrown at shareholders to keep them happy, Jason finds an unexpected opportunity.  He has always wanted to join the Argonauts, but with an unsupportive father his dream never came true.  Now, with a CEO who is salivating over the opportunity to get his hands on Jason’s shares, and most importantly his votes, he is going to get his dream.  Jason though, wants nothing to do with Medea.  He has spent his entire life honing himself into the perfect warrior, and he believes that what she does is nothing more than a way to cheat.  Medea is none too happy about being forced along on Jason’s first mission, either.  But the two of them realize quickly that they have to find a common ground, as one thing after another goes wrong on their mission to Colchis. They have been sent to the competing corporation’s city in search of the golden fleece; a data bank of genetic information that just may change the rules of genomancy forever.

I think it is beneficial that I was not aware of the specific details of Jason and Medea’s story before reading this book.  I knew enough of the basics so that I could understand when the author was pulling in recognizable places and characters from the original story.  But the distinctive twists on those elements made it like a whole new story for me.  Kneupper weaves the classic Greek elements into a fascinating new world in which many of the current world’s fears, and dreams, about the future are essentially realized.  All the jobs have been taken over by robots, nobody works so the government has to give out a basic minimum to each person, while the corporations that run everything constantly compete to convince people to invest their basic minimum with them.  Gene therapy has leapt forwarded to the ability to change people’s genes almost however they want, and extend lives.  This makes for a really interesting setting in which the story takes place. The characters, while recognizable, do lack in growth and tend towards the one dimensional.  The romance between the two characters was bit hurried, and the secondary characters were underutilized.  Overall, though, I liked this book.  Despite my choice to rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars I would recommend it for an interesting and entertaining read.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1)” by Audrey Grey

Shadow Fall (Shadow Fall #1) by Audrey Grey

A review by Amanda.

Maia Graystone lives in a world held hostage by catastrophe. An asteroid is poised to pass so closely to Earth that utter destruction is unavoidable. The Emperor has seized this opportunity to solidify the elitist segregation that keeps him in power. Those of Gold and Silver status have a secure place in the space station that was built when the danger first became clear. Those of Bronze status will have to earn one of the limited remaining spots by competing in the Shadow Trials; a series of challenges designed to weed out the weak and unworthy.

Maia is the child of a Gold mother and a Bronze father. She was Chosen, matched with a Prince to be married at eighteen, and elevate her from a life of comfortable means to one of luxury. However, when her mother abandons the family and her father is executed for treason, young Maia and Max are forced to beg and steal to live. Maia is caught stealing and thrown into the Pit to be forgotten. After six years of fighting for survival, she escapes with assistance from an enigmatic group of rebels. In exchange for her help in a dangerous mission, they will help her find her brother. For the mission to succeed, she must ally with a brooding and murderous boy from the Pit. She must also become someone else entirely to compete in the Shadow Trials. Can she fool those who knew her as Maia into believing the lie?

This book has the bones of an excellent apocalyptic story. The characters are complex and interesting and the plot is fascinating at its core. The first half of the story sets up the world, the danger, and introduces the heroes and villains, but it moves too slowly to keep the reader’s attention for long. There are also too many elements introduced too soon, making the plot feel over-complicated and convoluted. The second half moves at a faster pace and has a simplified feel to it. In contrast to the first part, readers will be glued to the pages, waiting to find out the fates of Maia and her cohorts. There are similarities to The Hunger Games franchise, but nothing that screams “rip-off” in an obvious manner. The romantic allusions are somewhat cliché but it doesn’t detract from the story once the over-arcing plot gains traction. I will be interested to see where the story goes from here, and will pick up the next book.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Autonomy” by Jude Houghton

BOOK TOUR Review: "Autonomy" by Jude Houghton

A review by Domoni.

In a not too distant future, the world has been ravaged. Facing extinction after a global collapse, a corporation swoops in to save the day. Now if you want to live, you work for the company. If you cannot perform your duties, you have nothing. They control all, they see all, they hear all. The Autonomy is a collective of business people who have saved the world and enslaved the planet. Creating a further divide between the rich and the poor, the elites live a life pampered and oblivious, preparing to continue the lifestyle. The other 90% of the world live in horrid conditions, those who can work often work double or triple shifts. Families live in one room hovels, if they are lucky. Those who aren’t as lucky may live in a one room hovel with 4 other families.  The corporations run everything, they even name the children. The air is dirty and the food is Skaatch, made up of jellyfish and insects. Life is hard and many people spend any free time forgetting about what is around them by entering the sims through their mandated iNet glasses.  Many depend on the Faith to get them through the day. They log in and rack up their a points, telling themselves today’s hardships will earn them rewards in the afterlife.  

Not everyone can accept this life forced onto them. Slaving for the Autonomy and ignoring through the Faith and other sims, cannot blind them from the unfairness and the horrors of the world. You cannot have dictatorship without rebellion, and this rebellion has arrived. The Dish will fight to free the world; it will bring war to The Autonomy.

The author has created a world that could be; a dystopian 1984, that I found myself easily able to accept.  The creation of the world is clear and fully saturated. It is easy to picture the characters and their surroundings. The characters are rich and developed and I found myself heavily immersed in their well being. Balmoral captured my attention easily from her birth, to her first adventures in iNet. She intuitively understands the iNet and can do things with it as a small child, that others didn’t know could be done. A child of sector 2, she was raised with nothing and went to work young. She is smart and has a desire to know what’s happening around her.

Tristram and Pasco, twin sons whose elite father was killed by the Dish, are fascinating characters we also watch from birth. The brothers, very different from each other as children, have grown into interesting characters. Tristram is working for his uncle, who is the head of Securicom and essentially The Autonomy. Pasco is a gambler and didn’t take the harder turn his brother did after losing their father.  It was easy to understand how they became who they were and feel for each brother. Their personalities and plights were well developed and fascinating.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and think it would be enjoyed by anyone who likes dystopian sci-fi.  Due to some more adult content, I would recommend it for older readers.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Autonomy
Jude Houghton
Published by: Grimbold Books
Publication date: July 29th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult, Science Fiction

Balmoral Murraine works in a Battery, assembling devices she doesn’t understand for starvation pay. Pasco Eborgersen is the pampered son of an Elite, trying to navigate the temptations of the Pleasure Houses, the self-sacrifice of the Faith, and the high-octane excitement of Steel Ball. They are two strangers, who never should have met, and now they will rip apart the world.

What happens when ninety percent of the world lives on skaatch – a jellyfish and insect composite?

What happens when mankind spends more time in alternative life sims instead of in the “real” world?

What happens when economic interest is the sole determinant of global decision making?

What happens when a single secret is discovered that calls into question everything we have ever believed?

Welcome to the Autonomy. Welcome to your future.

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shadow portrait of two women on a rock

Author Bio:

Jude developed a love of fantasy from a relatively early age after realising an innate talent for making stuff up could result in something other than detention. Working across the globe in fields as diverse as journalism, data entry, sales, management consultancy and babysitting, Jude has partially succeeded in putting an English and History degree from Oxford University to good use. A somnambulist, insomniac, lover of letters, Jude writes late into the night, most nights, tumbling down the rabbit hole to dream of other lives. Jude currently lives in Pennsylvania with an over-enthusiastic family and absurdly entitled dog.

 

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Nika: A Seychatka Novella” by D.H. Gibbs

A review by Domoni.

Nika has been kidnapped, grabbed off the streets by a man. She wakes in a lavish room fit for a princess. Though she was brought and held against her will, she stays when she finds out they can explain all the things about her that she needs to know. Nika has lived her life in hiding, constantly moving around and never making friends. The only relationship she ever had ended when her husband noticed Nika was different. She healed insanely fast and never looked older than 21. He turned her in to be experimented on, so she never trusted again until she met Demyan, the leader of her people. He tells Nika about her family that she never knew. When war between the Immortals and the Totem clan of shifters broke out, the twins were separated from their family. Sent into hiding at the age of 5, Nika has no real memories of her parents or siblings, or even her twin.  But as she quickly learns, Nika is an immortal and she and her twin are the last living heirs to the rulers of their people. Born from parents who united the Immortal and Totem clans, Nika and her twin can choose which race to be. As their 121st birthday approaches, Nika is told of how her brother has been raised by the Totems to hate the Immortals and blames them for their families deaths. Now Nika must choose her path and take up arms against the only family she has.

This is a short read that is the beginning of a series. The writing is rather perfunctory in my opinion. Though the story takes place over many months, it lacks much development or activity.  Nika goes from being angry at being captured, to acceptance at light speed. She immediately accepts her new life and role and questions little. The only portion of the story where she seems to be upset in a lasting manner is when, after a passionate kiss with Demyan, she is ignored for 6 months. Her reaction to the man she is so strongly drawn to, ignoring her, then kissing her again, then explaining why it’s so wrong, was just basic. There was no inner dialogue to explain her feelings, no time paid into why Nika just floated along with everything. What should have been a strong character, had no depth.

The story ends quite abruptly with a cliffhanger of course, as this is just the start of a series. Though I am not as enthusiastic about this story, it did contain enough to interest me in where it could go so that I was disappointed in the sudden ending and would consider continuing on with the series.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Nika by D.H. Gibbs
Nika: A Seychatka Novella by D.H. Gibbs
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 96
Release Date: March 1st 2016
Summary from Goodreads:
Taken off the streets Nika is thrown into an unknown world where she’s held captive. As an orphan, she has been on the run and must find her way out before they discover her secret. But these people held the knowledge of her family and who she is. Will she be able to find out before her secret is revealed? After hundreds
of years, Demyan has finally found the rightful ruler of his race. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know who she is and is doing everything in her power to escape him. Time is running out and Demyan has to convince Nika to take her rightful place otherwise the battle will be lost and his race extinguished.

D.H. GibbsAbout the Author

With an active imagination and a love of art, D.H. Gibbs has chosen to combine her talents by writing and illustrating books. She writes for both the children and young adult genre, where both of her debut books has been published and is available on Amazon. Her new children’s book will be coming out in 2016. D.H. Gibbs hails from the Caribbean where in her free time she reads, paint and travel when she can.

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BOOK TOUR Review: “Brainwalker” by Robyn Mundell and Stephan Lacast

A review by Domoni.

Bernard is a 14-year-old boy who loves science. Both of his parents are scientists, so he comes by it naturally. Bernard takes after his mother, who is more creative than his father who is more rigid and literal. After his mother dies in an accident in her lab, life is strained for Bernard and his father.  Add in being an outcast at school with impulse control issues and things are rocky all around for Bernard. When he comes up with the idea to do a report on wormholes for his science class, he thinks it will be a good opportunity to bond with his father, who works at a particle accelerator. His father isn’t very encouraging and when he tells his teacher his plan, she and the whole class ridicule Bernard. His reaction is to moon the entire class. This choice has him in the principal’s office with his father.

When he ends up suspended, his father has to take him to work with him as he is late for an important meeting. Swearing to be on his best behavior, Bernard is determined to stay in his father’s office, but when he accidentally overhears his father’s conference call and knows his father is close to losing his job, Bernard blames himself. He flees through the office with a swipe card he found in his father’s desk, determined to get out of the office. Instead he ends up deeper underground and in the tube of the particle accelerator as it is turned on.  Unable to stop his curiosity, he decides to see if he can witness a wormhole.

Bernard’s father chases him into the accelerator and finds him just as his body falls to the floor. Bernard’s mind is floating away from his body and is about to be caught up in some sort of tornado. Next thing he knows, Bernard wakes to find a strange boy over him. He is traveling in some sort of living submarine to a place called Intuit. The strange boy, Basilides, tells Bernard he is a Holon from Intuit out searching for the nearly extinct Energeia which fuels all of life and creation in the brainiverse. Bernard travels with Basilides and soon discovers he is actually inside of his father’s brain, and his father’s brain is dying. Now he must travel with the Intuit Holons, Basilides and Adhista, to the other side of the Brainiverse to free the Energeia from those trapping it in Reezon so that both sides can live.

This was an interesting book. Despite the characters being about 14 years old, this would be a great book for science-minded kids from the ages of 8-15. It has a fascinating story and view on how the brain works and the authors did an excellent job of capturing the mindset of an impulsive 14 year old boy who is curious about everything around him.

The authors did an awesome job creating the strange world of the brain and bringing their creation to life. From the living creations of Intuit to the ordered construction of Reezon, it was easy to imagine and bring to the mind’s eye. The story had a great concept and though there was a minute flirtation, there was no romantic aspect to the storyline.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Brainwalker by Robyn Mundell & Stephan Lacast

Fourteen year-old Bernard is full of out of the box ideas—ideas that nobody appreciates. Not his ultra-rational father, not his classmates, and definitely not his teacher, who’s fed up waiting for Bernard’s overdue science project. You’d think with a hotshot quantum physicist for a dad, the assignment would be easy as ͞pi͟, but with his relationship with his father on rocky ground, Bernard is under more pressure than a helium atom.

And Bernard’s impulse control flies out the window when he’s stressed. So instead of turning in his project, he moons the class and gets suspended. Now his dad’s got no choice but to bring him to his work. At the Atom Smasher. It’s the chance of a lifetime for Bernard, who knows smashing atoms at the speed of light can—theoretically—make wormholes. How about that for the most mind-bending science project ever? But when he sneaks into the particle accelerator and someone hits the power button, Bernard ends up in the last place he’d ever want to be.

Inside his father’s brain.

And it’s nothing like the spongy grey mass Bernard studied at school. It’s a galaxy, infinite and alive. Like, people live there. A mysterious civilization on the brink of extinction, as unaware of their host as he is of them. But there’s zero time to process this. Bernard’s about to be caught up in an epic war between the two sides of his dad’s brain over their most precious resource:

Mental Energy.

With his father’s life at stake, Bernard must go up against the tyrannical left side of his father’s brain to save the dying, creative right side. But how the heck is he supposed to do that when he’s just a hopelessly right-brained kid himself?

 
Check out a Q&A with the authors, HERE!
Advance Praise:
 

“Excellent story with well developed characters and an awesome setting. My students are currently participating in a Growth Mindsets. Can’t wait for publication. It would totally coincide with our brainology studies… I couldn’t put it down.” — Pam B, librarian, Wyola SD, MT

“In the novel Brainwalker, Mundell and Lacast have devised an ingenious plot using the tesseract concept found in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ with the setting being the brain of the protagonist’s father.” — Douglas B. Educator

͞This story is full of high-stakes adventure, and it often excels in its imaginative and allegorical exploration of real-world issues͟— Kirkus Reviews

͞The descriptions of the various locations, creatures, and residents of the Brainiverse are both fun and intelligent. Bernard is an engaging protagonist.͟— Kirkus Reviews

͞An imaginative adventure, … one that clearly benefits from the great amount of thought that its authors put into it.͟— Kirkus Reviews

͞A fun way for kids/preteens to learn about science and the brain. The pictures are also really great and add a lot to the story͟— Olivia Farr, Reviewer at Harvard Medical School

“The characters and the setting of this book are truly unique and very diverse, the plot is filled with fiction mixed with real brain concepts and puts everything into perspective from both fiction and reality” — Gabrielle Messier

“Definitely an approach to teenage urban fantasy that I’ve never seen before. I found myself quite enamored with Bernard and all his geeky questions and theories … Underneath all the neurology, it’s really a story about connection and love and fighting for what’s important.” — Kristen Canady

“‘Brainwalker’ is a great scientific fiction and that offers the readers a fantastic experience of the scientific adventure with the beautifully written words, the well laid out plots, and lifelike characters in the story.” — Yichen Tu

“Not unlike experiencing Avatar in a 3D IMAX theater, this exciting and provocative novel includes characters and images of such dimension, the reader cannot help but feel fully invited into this fantastical storyline.” — Lolly Howe

“Story starts and ends with the MOON! All will have to take a read to find out what I am talking about. This is a great Teen read revolving around young minds faced with the challenges of life.” — Linda Babbs

“The world-building was pretty sublime: it was so cool to contextualize the brain in this way, and learn about it at the same time… The illustrations were all so refreshing to see – it’s been too long since I’ve read a book that isn’t afraid to support the plot line with pictures! I’m looking forward to what Mundell and Lacast have to offer in the future!” — TT turner

5 stars – “The authors have found a creative way to introduce the functions of the brain in a creative way that’s full of action, adventure, and suspense. This will be a popular book in middle grades and middle school boys will enjoy this one!” — Susan Grigsby, ALA Librarian

͞Teachers are always looking for ways to enhance scientific literacy and Brainwalker is the perfect vehicle to bridge the gap between exciting adventure and scientific inquiry.͟— Jennifer C., Educator

“This brilliant new novel grapples with the most exciting topic possible, and invites middle school, young adults and also adult readers into the inexhaustible mystery of the universe. Take the walk.” — Maureen G., Educator

 
About the Authors

Robyn Mundell is an award winning playwright. A graduate of New York University, she performed in dozens of plays in New York and was part of David Mamet’s Atlantic Theater Company. She studied with such theater legends as Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, and Stella Adler.

Robyn wrote and performed in several of her own plays including Pieces of O and Traveling Bowls of Soup, produced by Pulitzer-prize winner Beth Henley. Traveling Bowls of Soup opened at the Met theater to rave reviews and received several Drama-Logue awards. Robyn has since been selling original screenplays and TV pilots to major film companies and networks. She is the daughter of Canadian Nobel laureate Robert A. Mundell, and is married to actor-playwright Raymond J. Barry. Together, they have four children.

French-Born Stephan Lacast likes to think of himself as a geek, which depending on your dictionary means either ͞knowledgeable about computers͟, or ͞boring social misfit.͟ At the age of twelve his idea of fun was building computers and programming, and by fifteen he was a contributor to a computer magazine. A graduate of Paris-Dauphine University, he holds a Bachelor in Economics, a Master in Business Administration, and a Master of Advanced Studies in Information Systems.

After teaching at Dauphine University, Stephan went on to work as a consultant and engineer for one of the top ten Information Technology services companies in Europe, before deciding to leave Paris and move to the United States.

 
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