Posts Tagged ‘Dystopias’

Best ‘New to Us” Books in 2014: Farida B’s Picks

December 24, 2014

I love a variety of books in adult and children’s collection. I love reading Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Humor, Romance and gentle clean reads. Here are “New to Me” books that inspired me most this year. I hope you can include some of these books in your 2015 reading list.

Death of a Travelling ManDeath of a Travelling Man by M. C. Beaton
This is Beaton‘s eighth mystery featuring Scottish police constable Hamish MacBeth. Hamish has been promoted against his will and as Sergeant, he makes more money, but must suffer more work as well, as well as the enthusiasm of his new helper, Police Constable Willie Lamont. Willie Lamont has less talent for police work and more talent for cleaning, polishing, and scrubbing. His insistence on keeping the police station spotless and super clean is driving MacBeth crazy. It all starts when a suspicious drifter Sean and his girlfriend Cheryl park their van behind the minister’s manse. This “devastatingly handsome” drifter Sean charms four women out of their money and harasses Hamish’s ladylove, Priscilla. If you like to read light mysteries filled with humor and action then this is definitely going to be your choice!  See my full review.

Murphy's LawMurphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen
Murphy’s Law is the first book in the Molly Murphy mystery series. Molly Murphy, the main character in this story, is a spunky, 19th-century Irish heroine. Molly always ends up in trouble no matter where she goes. She is outspoken, strong independent lady. She commits a murder in self-defense, so she has to leave her cherished Ireland and her identity for the unknown shores of America. In London she meets Kathleen O’Connor. Kathleen has two small children and tickets for a ship to America, where she plans to join her husband. But she has tuberculosis, so she knows that she will not be allowed on the ship to America, so she persuades the desperate Molly to take her children to America instead of herself and use her identity on the ship. Molly agrees to this plan since she wants to be in a new place and start a new life. After the landing at Ellis Island, O’Malley is found stabbed to death. Police detective Daniel Sullivan questions Molly about it since lots of people had seen Molly slap O’Malley on the ship. Molly becomes the prime suspect along with a young man whom she had befriended. See my full review.

Running Out of TimeRunning out of Time by Margaret P. Haddix
Jessie lives in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana in 1840. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie discovers that Clifton is actually a 1996 tourist site under secret observation by heartless scientists. Jessie’s mother sends her on a dangerous mission to bring back help. But outside the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and scary, and soon she finds her own life in danger. Can she get help before the children of Clifton and Jessie herself run out of time? This is a young adult book which is appealing to adults as well. It is one of my favorite books, written by a good author.  It has won multiple awards, including the YALSA Best Book for Young Adults.

Miss Julia Speaks Her MindMiss Julia Speaks her Mind by Ann Ross
This book is the first in the series. Miss Julia is a strong willed, independent, proper church-going lady. Recently widowed, she is trying to settle down with her new life, including the substantial estate left by her late husband, Wesley Lloyd Springer. Everything is peaceful until Hazel Marie Puckett arrives at her doorstep with her 9 year old son Little Lloyd. Guess what? Little Lloyd is Wesley’s son. Miss Julia receives a shock of her life! After 44 years of marriage to pillar of the church and community Wesley Lloyd Springer, she discovers that he was having an affair with Hazel Marie Puckett. She had assumed he was working late at the family bank, but instead he was engaged in more carnal pursuits. The worst thing was that the whole town knew about this affair. Read my full review.

UnwindUnwind By Neal Shusterman
In America after the Second Civil War the “Bill of Life” permits the parents to get rid of a child between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t really end by transplanting all the organs from the child’s body to different important recipients who quote the highest bid. This is a story about three teens – Connor, Risa and Lev – who become runaway Unwinds. Their escape and survival stories interweave as they struggle to avoid harvest camps. All the characters live and breathe in the story. Neal Shusterman’s Unwind has won many awards and honors, including being included on ALA’s Top Ten Picks for Reluctant Readers and Best Books for Young Adults lists. It is a book written for young adults, but I really enjoyed it and I am sure lots of adults will like reading it too! It has breathtaking suspense and is a sure page turner to find out if the three teens avoid their untimely ends.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Dan B’s Picks

December 18, 2014

Some of my favorite books that were new to me this year include a space adventure with hostile aliens, the memoir of a comedy legend, a dystopian teen novel, a fantasy with a magic-wielding librarian, and a story of super heroes in the big city.

DreadnaughtDreadnaught by Jack Campbell
Admiral Jack Geary was rescued from cryogenic sleep several years ago to lead the Alliance Fleet to victory over the Syndicate. Now, however, humanity is also up against an unknown and hostile race of aliens on the far side of human colonized space. Geary also has to deal with a government that fears and resents him, as well as the remnants of the Syndic forces. This is the first in the Beyond the Frontier series, which is a continuation of Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, which starts with Dauntless.

What's So Funny?What’s So Funny? My Hilarious Life by Tim Conway
Whether you know him from McHale’s Navy, The Carol Burnett Show, Dorf, or any of his numerous other appearances on TV and in film, Tim Conway is one of the great funny men of the last century. His touching memoir gives readers insight into his Midwestern upbringing, his Army service, and his career from the middle of the Twentieth Century through recent years. Anecdotes along the way will have you smiling, laughing, and genuinely appreciating Tim for all he’s given us. My only disappointment was that he didn’t narrate the audio book.

For the WinFor the Win by Cory Doctorow
In this dystopian future teens in countries like India and China must work for the corrupt bosses of huge corporations “gold farming” from massive online video games. The large cast of characters, each struggling to make enough money for their families, begin to learn that their plight is not unique. They start to form relationships online while also forming unions for this new kind of labor. The story is compelling as Doctorow blends a tech-heavy dystopia with real world lessons about economics. It’s also a great audio book.

LibriomancerLibriomancer by Jim C. Hines
What’s not to love in a book about magic wielding librarians versus evil vampires?! Isaac Vainio works as a librarian in Michigan, but, he also catalogues books for a magical group of libriomancers. Those are people who have the magical ability to draw forth objects from inside books. This branch of magic was founded by none other than Johannes Gutenberg. But what happens when Gutenberg goes missing and vampires start attacking libriomancers, leading to a war which could expose all magic to the rest of the world?

After the Golden AgeAfter the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
Celia West knows that her lack of super-powers has always been a disappointment to her father, billionaire industrialist Warren West, a.k.a. Captain Olympus. Celia is an accountant whose firm is working with the D.A.’s office to prosecute The Destructor, her parents’ arch-nemesis, for tax evasion. While he’s behind bars, a new crime wave breaks out, and though her parents think he’s behind it, Celia isn’t so sure. Is there a new evil at work in Commerce City, or is what’s going on now related to events from over fifty years ago?

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

November 24, 2014

In the year 2083, Anya Balanchine is unlike most of her peers. She is heiress to the Balanchine Chocolate Company. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately for Anya, it makes her a mafya Princess, a criminal. Chocolate and caffeine are illegal substances in the United States, much like alcohol was in early 20th Century America. As hard as that is, her life is complicated even more by the fact that she is the primary caregiver in the family. On paper it’s her bedridden grandmother, but in reality Anya takes care of her grandmother, her younger sister Natty, and older brother Leo who suffered a traumatic brain injury after the assassination that killed her mother. Her father was murdered later while Anya and Natty watched from under a desk.

Anya still has all the typical teenage stuff to worry about. She has a boyfriend Gable who turns out to be a frog rather than a prince, and just wants to use Anya for her connection to the illicit chocolate. Things come to a tipping point when Anya meets the new boy Win, and he also seems to like her. The catch: Win is the son of the assistant District Attorney for NYC and, well, Anya is the daughter of a crime boss. Neither Anya’s family nor Win’s parents approve of the two of them dating.
As Anya’s life takes unexpected twists and turns, she must decide who she wants to be when she becomes a legal adult. Can Anya live her life on her own terms, or will familial pressure draw her down a path she cannot foresee?

This compelling read is the first in the Anya Balanchine trilogy. Zevin writes a coming of age trilogy where there are no easy solutions.

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The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

September 29, 2014

This was one of those books I practically devoured in one sitting. The story sticks with me, particularly in light of the Ebola virus running rampant in West Africa.

Prenna is an immigrant to the USA, but it’s not where she’s from that makes her so unusual, it’s when she’s from. Prenna and her group are time travelers. They come from a future in which a blood borne illness carried by mosquitoes has wiped out large chunks of the population. Her world is a wetter, hotter, and swampier environment because of climate change. There is no government to speak of, schools are closed, and there is mass panic. For Prenna and others in her group the rules are simple. Assimilate to modern 21st Century life, don’t get too involved with time natives, and you can’t go to doctors or hospitals.

For Prenna these rules are hard. She likes a time native boy, Ethan, who is in her AP Physics class. He seems to be interested in her as well. Prenna also loves to be outside in nature, even though most 21st Century kids prefer TV and video games. How can she explain her love for an outdoor world, a pristine world in her eyes? Her mother struggles to keep Prenna from breaking the rules to much. However, her mother is grief stricken from losing two children to the plague, and a husband who chose not to come.

Things turn really weird when the homeless guy in town wants to talk to Prenna. She gets suspicious because he knows things he shouldn’t. How does he know these things? He wants her to stop something in the future that would alter the time line. Of all her group’s rules, this is the most sacred, never interfere with the timeline. However, there might be a chance of a better future if Prenna intervenes. Can she find the courage to do the right thing?

Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now was an interesting dystopia romantic suspense book. A perfect read for a sunny day by the pool, or a rainy day stuck indoors.

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Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

June 26, 2014

Lighthouse IslandIn Paulette Jiles dystopian novel Lighthouse Island, four year old Nadia Stepan is abandoned by her parents in a ravaged society and told “Look to the North Star, and we will always be there…”  With no rain for over century, stealing someone’s water is punishable by death, although the elite secretly revel in warm showers and swimming pools.

Reading gives Nadia hope for a better life and she begins a desperate trek to the fabled “Lighthouse Island,” although others of society’s lower echelons are skeptical of its existence.  Among other multiple dangers she faces, misfits such as her that are deemed attractive are sentenced to ‘public executions.’

On her journey Nadi meets wheel-chair bound mapmaker and demolition expert, James Orotov.  James tries to help Nadia in her quest remotely from his higher level job, until he himself must flee for his life and he sets off to find her.

Although the ending seemed forced and rushed and did not especially work for me, the determined character of Nadia quoting literary passages and her resourcefulness along her dangerous journey did keep me hooked!

Definitely an unsettling dystopian read shadowed with Fahrenheit 451 overtones, Lighthouse Island stays with you long after the last page, especially if you take a sip of water…

Find and reserve this book at the library.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

June 18, 2014

The Word ExchangeAfter reading Alena Graedon’s unsettling debut novel The Word Exchange, I will never think of my cell phone the same way again! In a world where libraries, book stores and printed items themselves are disappearing, handheld “memes” become indispensable, even to the point of ordering food for you when you get hungry and helping you “find the right word.”

In this eerily dystopian future, Anana searches for her anti-meme father who goes missing right before the launch of the final dictionary ever to be printed. Her sole clue is a note that says,” ALICE,” which is the code word Doug had given her if he was ever in danger — along with two vials of blue pills should she ever become unexplainably ill. But when a highly contagious pandemic “word flu” erupts, the symptoms include disorientation, garbled words and potential permanent muteness.

There are so many wonderful subplots (and a great romance!) including hidden clues relating to Alice in Wonderland, secret meetings at the Mercantile Library, evasion of dangerous stalking thugs, and overall, the addictive “Word Exchange” game that creates “new words” and so much more!

I particularly enjoyed the book being told from Anana’s perspective, alternating with her colleague and admirer Bart’s journal entries. An alphabetized word and definition begin each chapter, and while I was on a road trip, I was fully aware of the irony of when, at one point, I caved and used my cell phone to expand the definition of that chapter’s word…

A great selection for fans of dystopian societies!

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Wool by Hugh Howey

June 16, 2014

WoolI don’t often say this, but this novel is a must read for Science Fiction fans, especially those who love dystopias! Hugh Howey originally self-published it as eBook short stories, and when they started topping lists of eBook best-sellers, they were published in one volume. The story opens with Sheriff Holston slowly climbing a very long spiral staircase, and then locking himself in a jail cell in the top level. He confesses to his Deputy that he wishes to commit the greatest crime possible – he wants to “go outside.” We quickly learn that everyone in this future world lives underground in a huge silo hundreds of stories deep after some unknown apocalypse has occurred.

And that no one ever leaves. Or rather, those that do leave the silo are either sent outside never to return as the ultimate punishment, or have cracked and come to believe that life must somehow be better on the outside. When someone does go outside, they are given a protective suit and are also given the chore of cleaning the outside of the windows at the top of the silo. Shortly after Sheriff Holston goes out, he makes a startling discovery that could change life for humankind forever, if only he could communicate with those back inside the silo. Unfortunately, he can’t.

With the Sheriff gone, it falls to the Mayor to select someone new for the job. She and the Deputy soon begin the long climb down the stairs to select their new recruit. As they descend we learn that the silo is divided into different levels, which are responsible for specialized tasks: administration, manufacturing, farming, mechanical, and I.T. – where the real power is.

Juliette, the woman selected to be the new Sheriff, is not the obvious choice for the job, and those in I.T. who must approve all administrative positions, have some serious concerns about her abilities to do the job. She was raised in the medical & nursery part of the silo, where her father is a doctor, but she left when she became an adult to become an apprentice in the mechanical bowels of the silo. After some dealings with those in I.T., Juliette develops suspicions about what’s really going on in the silo.

This is a powerful story of class and freedom and one of the best dystopias I’ve ever read. The trilogy continues with Shift and Dust.

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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

February 13, 2014

Winner of multiple awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula awards, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi tells the story of a future in Thailand where global warming, pollution and depletion of fuel sources have impacted life to such an extent that energy is now acquired through manually wound springs, driven by massive genetically engineered animals.   Food production is controlled by giant global corporations such as AgriGen and PurCal who “”own”” seeds and the rights to distribute them; using bioterrorism and private armies to maintain their dominance in the food market. The world is frequently beset by problems such as plagues and pests caused by genetically modified foods and seed sterilization. Finding sources of energy is a constant strife and political problems in Thailand cause frequent civil unrest.
This is the world the “”windup girl”” inhabits. A product of it, Emiko is an artificially produced creature resembling a human girl, designed for physical attractiveness and subservience. Considered a vile non-human creature to human beings, she has no rights and can never legally be truly free. Her story is just one of a set of interweaving plots in this fascinating depiction of a grim future on earth.
Bacigalupi renders a rich, immensely detailed world, replete with complex, multi-faceted characters. More than just a fantastical science fiction novel, The Windup Girl is a powerful imagining of many social issues such as  bio-technology, politics, and capitalism.

Well deserving of its many awards, The Windup Girl is also a great read for those who might never usually consider a science fiction novel on their reading list.  I would recommend it to any open minded fiction reader.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

Best New Books of 2013: Keith H’s Picks

December 16, 2013

Hi! My name is Keith and I’m a children’s librarian who enjoys scifi and fantasy books that straddle the line between adult and teen fiction. Some of my favorites of 2013 were:

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
I was initially standoffish because Sanderson is most famous for his Mistborn fantasy novels and finishing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.  My high fantasy days are mostly over. But, the synopsis drew me in since it reads like a comic book plot. Steelheart is set in a world where an event has given some humans super-powers. Unfortunately, everyone who gains these powers becomes criminal sociopaths, known as Epics. The story focuses on a young man named David whose father was killed by an Epic named Steelheart. Steelheart is impervious to physical attacks and has declared himself Emperor of Chicago. David joins a resistance organization working to free the city from Steelheart’s tyranny. This book reads like a blockbuster  movie, deftly moving from one action packed scene to another. I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it in a day.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
I love the teen novels of Bacigalupi – gritty dystopias with strong characters and no romance! When he released his new book, Zombie Baseball Beatdown, it was marketed towards middle-grade readers from 5th to 8th grade. This threw me for a loop.  Judging it by its cover, it appears to be a book about members of a sports team who must destroy some zombies with their baseball bats. And it is…but it is so much more. You get an inkling of this when the main character declares his hero as Spider Jerusalem from Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, a very adult graphic novel.  The protagonist is an Indian-American  middle-schooler named Rabindranath Chatterjee-Jones, called Rabi by his friends. Rabi and his friends fight against the havoc wreaked by industrialized corporate meat, immigration law, and racists. Oh yeah, and in the process they seriously beat down some zombies.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
“After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.” The story begins with a teen named Cassie trying to survive an earth that has already been devastated by alien invasion. Most of the planet’s population has been eliminated, and the few humans that are left are hunted by strange beings which appear in human form. So Cassie has trust issues… The only person she trusts is her little brother, who she will protect at any cost. Be warned, there is a goofy love triangle. Fortunately, there are enough firefights, explosions and plot twists to forgive that.

Saga: Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan
(I’m kind of cheating here because you wouldn’t want to read Volume Two before reading Volume One, which was actually published in 2012.) Saga is the award winning science fiction graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughn (Y the Last man, Pride of Baghdad). It has been described as “Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars meets Game of Thrones”. This is one of those comics that is a good entry point for readers who are curious about comics, but don’t feel compelled to read super-hero stories. Saga is the story of mixed-species couple who meet as a guard and prisoner in a P.O.W. camp. Alana and Marco fall in love, have a baby, and go on the run…but not necessarily in that order.  They are chased by a multi-limbed female humanoid/arachnid assassin and a bounty hunter with a cat partner that says, “Lying” when someone is not telling the truth. It all sounds insane, but has a very cool storyline and some pretty innovative storytelling. The artwork by Fiona Staples is beautiful. If you enjoy science fiction and/or quirky romance, give it a try – just be prepared for some adult content.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Set at the turn of the century during the Boxer Rebellion, these two graphic novels offer different perspectives on a tumultuous time in China’s history.  Boxers follows Little Bao, whose village has been invaded by a brutal priest and his enforcers. Bao tries to stand up against the oppression of the Christian missionaries by gathering an army of peasants. They learn to use kung-fu to channel the power of Chinese deities to defend their culture and religious traditions. The companion volume, Saints, tells the story of Four-Girl, an unnamed fourth daughter in a family that doesn’t want her. She is baptized by the same priest from Little Bao’s story. Four-Girl embraces Christianity and finds acceptance from fellow worshippers, who give her the name Vibiana. Visions of Joan of Arc and Jesus give Vibiana the strength to stand up for her right to practice the faith of her choice. One of the interesting things about these two books is that both main characters, Little Bao and Vbiana, are compelling and sympathetic. Each one has a very direct connection with their respective faiths. Put together, the stories of this National Book Award finalist offer a well-rounded take on a historical period I knew little about.

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