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Move over Buck Rogers, there’s a new girl in town

30 May

In case the title baffled you, Buck Rogers is a fictional character who first appeared in 1928. He lived in the the 20th century, but in most iterations of his story, he has an accident and is “preserved”, reviving in the 25th century. He began as a novella, then became a series of comic strips, movies serials, and radio & TV shows. He is early 20th century sci-fi, all ray guns and disintegrator beams.

But this is the 21st century and we need new heroes, weapons, and saviors of the galaxy. By Galaxy, I mean the Milky Way and by heroes, I mean Aurora, the eponymous hero of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman.

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From the Author’s website: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch . . .

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from the beginning. As a fan of various sci-fi television series, most notably Star Trek, I recognized homage to some characters. Kaufman has created a new landscape and the characters feel fresh. The story is narrated by the six members of the squad and Aurora, each of home is voiced by a different narrator. This adds to the audiobook experience because it helps keep characters straight and you develop a different relationship with each in a different way that you might if you were reading the book. The book is set in space, but it is really all about the relationships – and the need to save the galaxy.

Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give Aurora Rising  a try.

R.I.P. Ursula K. LeGuin

24 Jan

I think Neil sums up nicely why fans are mourning.

Warcross

16 Nov

You’ve probably seen or heard about this one

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Publisher’s Summary:For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I liked Lu’s Legend series but couldn’t get into the Young Elites  series. I figured I had a 50/50 chance with Warcross. 

Although I have almost no interest in online gaming, I got into Warcross quickly and was carried along by the fast-paced writing.  I figured out who the bad guy was early on, but Lu planted enough red-herrings to doubt my theory, though I never really abandoned it. I like the strong, but flawed, female protagonist, and the diverse cast of characters.

Warcross  isn’t the best book I’ve read this year, but it was rather enjoyable.

Look Alikes

5 Jun

Frequently, I notice books that look alike.

I am reading two right now and I will be honest, before I checked them out, I mixed them up because even the titles echo each other.

I am listening to New York 2140 in the car. It has multiple narrators and is a complex, futuristic tale for adults.

Publisher’s Summary:As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.
There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.
Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.
At school, I am reading Laura Ruby’s York: The Shadow Cipher, an engaging read for middle grade and YA readers.

Publisher’s Summary: From National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner Laura Ruby comes an epic alternate history series about three kids who try to solve the greatest mystery of the modern world: a puzzle and treasure hunt laid into the very streets and buildings of New York City.It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.

Even though these both of these books involve mysteries in New York City,  the stories are really very different, so I am able to keep the two stories straight in my head.

The hottest book in my classroom library

13 Apr

A few weeks ago, after I’d finished reading it, I booktalked Fonda Lee’s Exo  and added it to my classroom library.

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It hasn’t been back on the shelf since. Kids are passing it, hand to hand and urging the person reading it to read faster.

Author Summary: It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son.  Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another galactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

I don’t read every book before I add it to my library. I do like to read books that lean more YA than middle grade, though. Sixth grade advanced readers are funny creatures. They have the cognitive abilities to tackle complex text, but lack the life experience to understand mature content. Exo is the perfect sort of book for my students: action-packed sci-fi to challenge their reading and an age-appropriate moral dilemma.

If you like science fiction, or know someone who does, pick up a copy of Exo.

A New Series for Old Fans

3 Apr

In Allegiant,  the final novel in her Divergent series, Veronica Roth used dual narrators to bring the story to its conclusion. She returns to this format in the first book in her new series, which is more sci-fi than dystopian.

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Publisher’s Summary: On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power – something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Her world-building is excellent and I found it more interesting that the problem in the story that Cyra and Akos are trying to solve. This is the sort of book the my 6th graders who have read the Divergent series will read and enjoy. They won’t worry about the accusations of racism that have been leveled at the books. They just want a fast-paced story that makes them think and feel smart.

Will I read the second one? I don’t know. The untitled second book is not due out until sometime in 2018. I’ll see how I feel then.

Sequel? Companion? Excellent!

22 Dec

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So, Gemina picks up about 5 minutes after ILLUMINAE ends. The book continues the story of the invasion of Kerenza IV, and clears up many things that seemed unanswered in the first book. This was as good, if not better than the first book, and I don’t say that often. Second books so often feel like a place holder, but this one really added to the bigger story. I am sad to say that, although the third book is due out in 2017, I fear it won’t be released until October, which is when the first two came out.

Publisher’s Summary:Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

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