31 December 2018

Gamer Army; Trent Reedy

Gamer ArmyGamer Army by Trent Reedy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

WarCross meets Phantom Wheel (or Ender's Game). Nothing special.

Mega Robo Bros; Neill Cameron

Mega Robo Bros (The Phoenix Presents)Mega Robo Bros by Neill Cameron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It seemed fine - but every time I try to read a graphic novel my eyes just glaze over.

OtherEarth; Jason Segel

Otherearth (Last Reality, #2)Otherearth by Jason Segel
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you haven't read OtherWorld you might have problems getting into this book. As it is, too many twists that ended up being obvious and telegraphed set pieces for me.

Copy provided by publisher.

The Jamie Drake Equation; Christopher Edge

The Jamie Drake EquationThe Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jamie's dad is an astronaut, his mother is a sculptor and his grandfather was a rock star. And Jamie? He's semi-normal, trying to adjust to living with mom and grandpa while Dad is on the ISS. Then one day he finds himself at the old local observatory, and manages to download something from the Hubble Space Telescope. It gets weirder from there. It's the depiction of Jamie that elevates this, turning what could be a so-so book into something better.

Imposters; Scott Westerfeld

Impostors (Impostors, #1)Impostors by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in the same world as the Uglies series, but nothing really special. Readers who want a comfort SF read will enjoy.

This is War; Margaret Stohl

This is War (Cats vs. Robots #1)This is War by Margaret Stohl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know I'm Team Cat all the way! A cute MG series start, with a thought-provoking ending: how intrusive are the devices we install in our houses (like Alexa and Nest). Min and Max have real feeling sibling relationship, adding to the charm of the book.

Waste of Space; Stuart Gibbs

Waste of Space (Moon Base Alpha, #3)Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stuart Gibbs is always a favorite author with my MG students and this book fits right in to their sense of humor and adventure. I'm not sure that there will be any further Moon Base Alpha books, which is a pity. The mystery of who poisoned Lars is technically the focus but really it's about the relationships and Dash's life on the base. Even though this is set in a moon base the descriptions of the spaces and food will resonate with any reader who has eaten institutional food or stayed in a lower-end motel/hotel.

30 December 2018

Where She Fell; Kaitlin Ward

Where She FellWhere She Fell by Kaitlin Ward
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So many questions at the end of this, like: what happened to Eliza's "mean girl" friends? why did the cave system act the way it did? what happened at the end? The depiction of the cave, Eliza's social anxiety, the people in the cave all just missed.

CatStronauts; Drew Brockington

CatStronauts: Robot RescueCatStronauts: Robot Rescue by Drew Brockington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So cute! The isn't the usual cat book, with cats being preternaturally intelligent or cute but it's cats acting like humans (but with catnip!).

The Future Will be BS-Free; Will McIntosh

The Future Will Be BS-FreeThe Future Will Be BS-Free by Will McIntosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While the science here is pretty vague, the philosophical questions about whether or not a truth app is a good idea resonate today. The entire idea is due to the rise of a dictator-like President and the teens creating it think that this could bring America back to its senses; that it could also create social havoc as people find out that their parents don't love them or that their neighbor is an adulterer doesn't cross their minds. By the time it does, it's too late. Bonus points for being set in an area I know pretty well (New City/Clarkstown/Pearl River NY).

Light Years; Kass Morgan

Light YearsLight Years by Kass Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a year when I hadn't also read Skyward and Ignite the Stars this might have gotten a higher rating but... as it is, the plot and the world are in many ways retreads of other books (not just the two mentioned earlier, but also Red Rising and others). The ending, on a cliffhanger that is not only obvious but abrupt, also loses points.

Copy provided by publisher.

The City of Broken Magic; Mirah Bolender

City of Broken Magic (Chronicles of Amicae  #1)City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world feels very familiar: literally stratified cities, magic that works to kill monsters, etc.. That doesn't mean that this isn't the start of an engaging book, just that there's a little weakness in the world building that my mind was easily able to fill in based on other books.

The big plus here was Clae and his complicated relationship with the police, the population and his family. Laura's desire to be a Sweeper doesn't diminish even when faced with Clae's reluctance to explain a lot of their work to her (the city having decided that the history of Sweepers isn't important enough to teach) and the danger they find themselves in almost daily. Adding Okemo to the mix was just wonderful. Of course, that lack of history and knowledge lend themselves to future books, where I suppose we'll learn more about the Magi and those caves, not to mention other cities.

eARC provided by publisher.

Pitch Dark; Courtney Alameda

Pitch DarkPitch Dark by Courtney Alameda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having read Shutter I was expecting more horror from this book (plus, look at that cover). Instead this is sci-fi, set in a world 400+ years in the future where a teen (Laura) who lives on a space ship commanded by her parents that scavenges/locates historic Earth relics meets a boy (Tuck) who was in stasis for 400 years, actually from the Earth Laura's family raids. The ship Tuck is on appears to be huge - it actually contains Yosemite National Park (????) - and it's unclear how large Laura's is, but a terrorist group that has managed to survive over 400 years (again, ????) manages to crash Laura's ship into Tuck's. That's only one of the things that made me go "huh". The big one was how the humans on Tuck's ship mutated into the various alien creatures that hunt those who remain human.

I did round this up from 3.5 because readers who can suspend disbelief on those questions will enjoy it.

Attack of the 50 Foot Wallflower; Christian McKay Heidicker

Attack of the 50 Foot WallflowerAttack of the 50 Foot Wallflower by Christian McKay Heidicker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Totally a nostalgia fest, with all the 50s/60s science-fiction references. And in some ways, this reminded me of Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, one of my favorite non-Discworld books. Phoebe was a great character, but Beth? Her insertion into things made no sense when she started talking about modern times. Yes, there are problematic stereotypes but given the source materials they make sense. Points off for Beth and the ease of figuring out who Dad was.

Voyage of the Dogs; Greg Van Eekhout

Voyage of the DogsVoyage of the Dogs by Greg Van Eekhout
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's an implicit assumption that a MG book about dogs won't be a huge tear-jerker, but that the voyage takes place on a ship called Laika didn't inspire confidence. The plucky nature of the dog crew, the Barkonauts, and their ability to work together to solve their dilemma was great and readers will enjoy how different each dog is from each other. There are some moments when I wasn't sure I would finish because, well, I have rules about animal books and crying.

We're Out of Here; Elise Gravel

We're Out of Here! (Olga, #2)We're Out of Here! by Elise Gravel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So cute. Definitely lower MG, and reading Book One would help. Olga's curiosity and sense of humor are going to appeal to the Wimpy Kid fans.

Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful; Arwen Elys Dayton

Stronger, Faster, and More BeautifulStronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Anthologies are so difficult to sell to students, even one like this with interlocking stories (well, vaguely interlocking stories). The strength of each story varies and some, like the third about Tad Tadd, are pretty weak.

Copy provided by publisher.

Bunny vs. Monkey; Jamie Smart

Bunny vs. Monkey: Book ThreeBunny vs. Monkey: Book Three by Jamie Smart
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Meh. I didn't quite see the point, but perhaps younger readers (or those who have read the earlier books) might.

29 December 2018

Strange New World; Rachel Vincent

Strange New World (Brave New Girl, #2)Strange New World by Rachel Vincent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decent clone fiction, but not the best one I've read this year. Rounding up from 3.5 because I liked the relationships between Dahlia and Waverly, and Waverly and Hennessy.

Copy provided by publisher.

Sven Carter and the Android Army; Rob Vlock

Sven Carter  the Android ArmySven Carter and the Android Army by Rob Vlock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another MG SF series with a good sense of humor. The plot was a little over the place, and I had problems with some of the travel (where on I-90 is 2 hours from Buffalo and Schenectady? and how do you park an RV near Madison Square Garden?).

25 December 2018

Wildcard; Marie Lu

Wildcard (Warcross, #2)Wildcard by Marie Lu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a sequel to Warcross this is quite good, but it really helps to have read that book before this. There are so many crosses and doublecrosses in the plot that it was difficult to keep track, and at times I got frustrated trying to remember what was going on. And the Big Twist? Somewhat disappointing, although it was surprising.

Copy provided by publisher.

A Problematic Paradox; Eliot Sappingfield

A Problematic ParadoxA Problematic Paradox by Eliot Sappingfield
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I got the whole "my dad is a Very Different kind of genius" thing, and how that has affected Nikola. And that those types of genius aren't expected to live by our rules and that explanations are just, well, beneath them. But the idea that Nikola has supposed to just figure things out, like her school or what's going on there (or with her father)? That was a little too much.

And while classes were fun, often they felt rushed in terms of explanation. Maybe fewer scenes and more time in each would have helped.

Copy provided by publisher.

Stuck in the Stone Age; Geoff Rodkey

Stuck in the Stone AgeStuck in the Stone Age by Geoff Rodkey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Could have had a higher score if there weren't some very problematic stereotypes here. I enjoyed Tom Edison's belief that he was great at science and Dr. Morice's social anxiety. But the scenes in the stone age and the "translation" parts were just wrong.

Copy provided by publisher.

The Last Girl on Earth; Alexandra Blogier

The Last Girl on EarthThe Last Girl on Earth by Alexandra Blogier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise is good: Earth has been taken over by an alien species and humans no longer exist. Li, however, was rescued by her "father" and he and his other daughter spend time training Li and protecting her from being detected. Time is running out as her schooldays end and the start of her mandatory military service starts.

What fails is the execution: the characters are uninteresting. The fact that this is an incredibly advanced race and yet no one figures out Li is human doesn't fit. And the romances don't work (one is abusive, the other unbelievable). Plus, the twist at the end? Nope nope nope.

Copy provided by publisher.

22 December 2018

Lifelik3; Jay Kristoff

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike, #1)Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you don't pick up on the parallels to the Romanovs, well... you need to read more history. In addition to that, the Big Twist made this book feel like the third (or fourth?) book with That Twist I've read this year alone.

Copy provided by publisher.

Kingdom of the Blind; Louise Penny

Kingdom of the Blind (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #14)Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The ending left me with a sense of foreboding over what will happen in the next book (if there is a next book)? Relationships are sundered, and Gamache's life feels like it's come around to almost where we met him. The denizens of Three Pines are to some extent encased in amber, with dollops of favorite moments spread throughout (Ruth and Rose being F.I.N.E., for example, or Clara being a painted mess). The mystery itself might have been better, but given what's going on in my life just now it felt like the perfect read.

One quibble: at the beginning of the series, there was more a Quebec flair to the plots. What happened to Jean-Guy saying tabarnak or calice?? For a final-feeling book, that was definitely missing.

Strange Days; Constantine J. Singer

Strange DaysStrange Days by Constantine J. Singer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A close-to-DNF. The tech guru and the "Witness" program just felt too forced - the explanations were rushed, the world-setting was weak and there was no real reason to care about Alex or anyone else.

Copy provided by publisher.

This Splintered Silence; Kayla Olson

This Splintered SilenceThis Splintered Silence by Kayla Olson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As YA SF, this was a 5 but as a "locked room" mystery, or an original plot? Somewhat less. My students who love And Then There Were None will love this, however. The characters are one-note, despite our being told numerous times that Lindley's heart is "cracking".

21 December 2018

Mayfly; Jeff Sweat

MayflyMayfly by Jeff Sweat
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Almost DNF'd this - it's so much like Gone, right down to the Kingdom part.

Seafire; Natalie C. Parker

Seafire (Seafire, #1)Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every review I've seen is so excited about the idea of female pirates - ok, that was somewhat fun, but there's more to the book than that. The author does a great job of creating places but not as great a job creating people. The minor characters were the ones that felt most interesting, while Cala, Pisces and the Bullet were less so. Also, why no map???

One Giant Leap; Heather Kaczynski

One Giant LeapOne Giant Leap by Heather Kaczynski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Predictable. And I felt like I'd read this before. As the second in a duology it was easy for me to figure out what was going on (always a good thing) but the only time I really cared or got interested was when we meet the vrog - they were something very different.

The Lake of Dead Languages; Carol Goodman

The Lake of Dead LanguagesThe Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I understand why there are so many comparisons to The Secret History, and of all the books that I've heard that about this does come remarkably close but... it's just close.

There were elements I loved, like the atmosphere of Heart Lake and the town of Corinth. This is a part of the world I know well, having spent decades in Central NY. And the school/lake are based on Mohonk! But the flashbacks? Those could have been done a little better. And the twists were predictable to anyone who has (as I have) read a lot of thriller/mystery books. Especially the Big Twist at the end.