That Inevitable Victorian Thing

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That Inevitable Victorian Thing

By:  E.K. Johnston
Published:  2017
# of pages:  330

3stargreen

Goodreads description:

Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

My review:  I’ll be honest, I decided to read this book solely based on the cover.  The description also sounds good, but it was mainly the pretty cover!  I didn’t have super high expectations so thankfully I wasn’t too disappointed, because as great as the cover is, the book isn’t so great.

The story is about a handful of teenagers living in a future British Empire.  In Canada, the debutante season is in full swing.  The crown princess, Margaret, is undercover in Toronto so that she can have a last few months to herself before assuming the responsibilities that come with ruling a worldwide empire.  She stays with Elizabeth and meets Helena and August at the various upper class functions they all attend throughout the season.

The future British Empire is peacefully ruled thanks to society being built around “genetic matchmaking.” Supposedly, decisions such as who has money, who rules, who marries who, who is influential, etc, are based purely on the decisions of a computer.  The entire world is doing really well with this except for the United States because they were rebellious and didn’t embrace the Empire’s peaceful reign (can I insert a laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emoji here?).  Except the Southern U.S. because the slaves revolted and, of course, made the reasonable choice to join the empire.

Sounds like a cool concept for a book, right?  And it is.  It just wasn’t well written.  And honestly, with such an advanced society that trusts the computer above all, why would you need to hide your sexuality and choice for a mate?  Perhaps that was supposed to be the point of the book, that things weren’t as perfect as they seemed, but it didn’t come across that way.  The ending was a let down and didn’t make sense, but overall the book had some cute moments and it is cool to think of a future society similar to the one presented in this novel.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  The setting was a cool concept and the characters were okay, but the book wasn’t as seamless as it could have been, the end left me wondering what was the point.

The Girl with All the Gifts

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The Girl with All the Gifts

By:  M.R. Carey
Published:  2014
# of pages:  412 (Kindle edition)
Challenges:  What’s in a Name
Quote:  “And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”

4Stars

Goodreads description:  

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

My review:  I’m glad I stumbled onto this book.  It’s about Melanie, a young girl growing up in a strange institution.  She’s incredibly smart and observant and absolutely loves her teacher, Miss Justineau.  Suddenly her world falls apart and she clings to Miss Justineau, trying to make sense of what’s happening.  But Miss Justineau finds the situation just as confusing as Melanie.  They struggle to survive in the midst of danger that affects more than just the two of them, it affects the entire human race.

I enjoyed the relationships between the characters and also the observations each of them throughout the book.  After reading this, I feel that the author must be similar to the character Melanie.  Observant and thoughtful.

Apparently this is the first in a series, but I was fine with quitting after this book.  The novel isn’t anything super mind blowing or even terribly original, but it’s an easy read that isn’t mindless.  I recommend it to all sci-fi fans.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Thoughtful writing, interesting characters, neat plot.

Unwind

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Unwind

By:  Neal Shusterman
Published:  2009
# of pages:  353
Series:  Unwind (#1)
Challenges:  A to Z

Quote:  “Please what? the teacher thinks. Please break the law? Please put myself and the school at risk? But, no, that’s not it at all. What he’s really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it’s so easy to forget that’s what they are. She knows—she sees—how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.”

Goodreads description: 

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.
Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My opinion:  I don’t even know where to begin with this book review.  Let me start by saying bear with me and also, while your opinion is probably fine to leave in comments, no arguments or rudeness will be allowed.

I didn’t know this book was going to be so thought provoking.  The story follows three teenagers as they runaway from their homes, family, and friends in order to stay alive.  Connor’s parents decided to unwind (his body taken apart and given to people in need of a donor part without dying) him because of the problems and embarrassment he causes them.  The decision was made to unwind Risa because the government doesn’t have enough money to help all of the orphans in state care.  Lev’s parents made the choice to unwind him before they even conceived him because their religion smiles upon “tithing.”

At first I was incredulous about a system like this ever being a reality.  But the more I read the more I saw a connection between unwinding and abortion.  And maybe there was a time people would have been horrified to think of abortion clinics and the fact that abortion has become something fairly commonplace, not just something done in extreme situations.

My political leanings are fairly liberal when it comes to abortion, but it’s never a choice I’d personally make after having been pregnant.  I don’t feel overly strong about the issue, but honestly I don’t think about it too much.  This book made me think of it though.  And I just wonder……… the kids in the book were so adamant that their bodies belonged to themselves and that they deserved to live.  Their parents shouldn’t make that choice for them, the government shouldn’t make that choice, religion shouldn’t make that choice.  And while of course in our present time we can say that women should have a choice with their bodies and their lives….. but there are lives inside them that would eventually be walking, talking, thinking humans…..  Do they (the living matter/cells/embryo/baby inside the women) have the right to live and be who they can be no matter what other people do or think or say?

I’m not tying the situation in the book with abortion solely on my own.  The backstory of the book discusses a war that took place that revolved around abortion.  Unwinding takes the place of abortion and is justified because it technically isn’t killing the person’s body, they stay alive even while being dismembered.  However, they don’t feel pain, so once again, it’s justified.

Which also made me think a lot about war.  Before reading this book, I was thinking about the traditional patriarchal societies throughout history and how perhaps that’s why we’ve had as much war as we’ve experience throughout history.  I wondered how a matriarchal society would have handled conflict throughout the ages.  And I wondered if having more compromising leaders would have changed conflicts and perhaps led to other outcomes other than physical violence.  But this book explores the idea that there was a compromise that ended a war, but perhaps it was still just as violent.  I just thought it was interesting to read about a nationwide conflict resolution after thinking so much about it.

Overall, the book was an interesting read with unique characters and situations.  It was a little disturbing at times as you can imagine, but it’s not terribly graphic.  I’d recommend this to older teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction/sci-fi.  There’s more books in the series, but I think I’m happy with leaving it off with the first book.  It was a satisfying ending and I don’t feel overly curious to know what happens next.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Good pacing, interesting characters, unique story, a little disturbing at times, skipped over some development later in the novel.

Strain of Resistance

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Strain of Resistance

By:  Michelle Bryan
Published:  2016
# of pages:  314
Series:  Strain of Resistance (#1)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

My name is Bixby. I was 12 years old when the world ended. A mysterious mist had blanketed our world, turning most of the population into blood-sucking predators. The few of us left uninfected…well, we were the prey. Vanquished to the bottom of the food chain.

For eight years we’ve fought this alien war. Barely surviving. Not knowing which day would be our last. But now we face a new threat. The parasite that took us down is evolving. Becoming smarter. Stronger. Deadlier.

The infected took everything from me. My home. My family. The man that I loved. No more.

This is the story of our resistance.

My opinion:  I love a good “zombie” apocalypse novel.  This one has been on my TBR list for a couple of years.  I saw that it was 99 cents on the Kindle so I went ahead and bought it to read.  I don’t think the series is complete.  There are two books  so far and a 0.5 book, which I’m guessing is a prequel to Strain of Resistance.

The story follows Bixby, a young woman whose life has been shaped by the arrival of an alien species that takes over the bodies of millions of people on Earth.  Those bodies turn into predators that prey on the uninfected for eight years until things suddenly change…for the worse.  Bixby and her fellow survivors set out to discover just what has caused this change and encounter countless horrors along the way.  Bixby is also forced to confront her own emotions and learn to mesh her past, present, and future feelings.

I feel like this book borders on being young adult and adult.  There’s some almost graphic sex scenes, nothing too detailed, but it may be too much for some young adult readers.  There’s also some violence, but also nothing that solidly makes this inappropriate for young adults.  Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Strain of Defiance.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Quick and easy read, cool apocalyptic concept, Bixby is immaturely annoying at times.

Sleeping Giants

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Sleeping Giants

By:  Sylvain Neuvel
Published:  2016
# of pages: 
320
Series: 
Themis Files (#1)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

My opinion:  Sleeping Giants is a sci-fi novel told in the form of interviews and journal entries.  The plot is a neat concept and while I can see that the format may bother some people, I enjoyed it and thought it worked well with the story.

The interviews and journal entries center around a few main people, including Dr. Rose Franklin, who is heading a government department in charge of finding out more about the mysterious structure she inadvertently discovered when she was a child.  The structure is in the shape of a hand and was found in a pit lined by panels lit up by strange glowing symbols.

Years later Dr. Franklin works with military recruits Kara and Ryan, as well as a linguist named Vincent to discover exactly what the hand is and what it does.  We get to know the characters on a fairly personal level, but not as much as we would if this were written in a traditional novel format.  We do slowly discover what the discovery of the hand means for the world.  “Slow” is a pretty good description of the book.  I liked the format and the concept just fine, but I wish more had happened.  There were a few times the story seemed to jump around too much, but I think it was supposed to feel that way since it was written in pieces of interview transcripts and journal entries.

I am eager to check out the next book, Waking Gods!  I wish the series was already finished, but hopefully I won’t have to wait too long for the third book to be published.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Neat concept and unique format, but a little too slow at times.

The Shell Collector

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The Shell Collector

By:  Hugh Howey
Published:  2014
# of pages:  282

4Stars

Goodreads description:

The ocean is dying. The sea is growing warmer and is gradually rising. Seashells have become so rare that collecting them is now a national obsession. Flawless specimens sell like priceless works of art. Families hunt the tideline in the dark of night with flashlights. Crowds gather on beaches at the lowest of tides, hoping to get lucky.

Supreme among these collectors is Ness Wilde, CEO of Ocean Oil. Ness owns many of the best beaches, and he keeps them to himself. It’s his fault the world turned out this way. And I aim to destroy him.

My name is Maya Walsh. You might be familiar with my shelling column in the Times. I was working on a series of pieces about Mr. Wilde, when out of the blue, he called. He says he wants to talk. But I don’t think he’s going to like what I have to say.

My opinion:  This is my second Hugh Howey book to read this month.  Last week I reviewed Beacon 23, which I loved.  I’ve also read the Wool series and Dust.  However, I just discovered that Howey grew up in the town right next to mine.  When I read the author’s note (while I’m thinking of it, there’s more to the story after the note so make sure to keep reading) for The Shell Collector he mentioned visiting Figure Eight Island in NC when he was a kid, which is the island my husband went to every summer as a child and that I’ve visited several times myself after my husband and I started dating.  I got excited and we looked him up and found out he’s from just down the road.  Pretty cool!

All of that said, I didn’t enjoy The Shell Collector as much as the others I’ve read, but it was still a very interesting concept for a story and a good read.  The story is about Maya, a reporter in a future where the sea levels have drastically risen due to environmental pollution.  Maya has spent years writing a story about the Wilde family, who for generations have controlled the oil drilling industry.  The Wildes have grown rich by polluting the planet and causing the temperature of the oceans to rise, which has killed off many species as well as causing flooding throughout the world.  Maya’s family collected shells to sell when she was a kid because the animals who live in the shells were going extinct and prices for the shells rose.  Maya still loves shelling, a passion shared by Ness Wilde, the current owner of the company he inherited from his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

When Maya has the opportunity to personally interview Ness, she jumps at the chance to confront the man she blames for the destruction of all the oceans.  When she meets Ness face to face, she’s surprised by his seeming to be genuine.  But Maya knows he’s hiding something and she’s determined to find out what.  Her determination leads her on a journey of a lifetime where nothing goes the way she expects.

My main issues with the book are Maya’s all-about-me attitude and the fact that not much really happens in spite of all the adventures.  The future world and society are fascinating and I wish we could have learned more of the science behind it all.  Also, I would have liked to have learned more about Ness’s thoughts and experiences instead of just Maya’s.

Overall, it’s a book worth reading, but nothing super amazing.  I’d also not recommend it as the first book of Howey’s to try.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Cool story concept and world building, but the main character was kind of annoying and the story didn’t go as in depth as I would have liked.

Beacon 23

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Beacon 23

By:  Hugh Howey
Published:  2015
# of pages:  245
Challenges:  A to Z, Full House (# in title)
Quote:  “Crying isn’t simply about opening the floodgates to some private trauma and letting it out – crying is just as much about letting those around you know you’re hurting.  Our tears are trying to serve a purpose, but we rarely let them.  I don’t know how we got started with subverting that purpose . . . I just know that it takes a bit of courage to unlearn that shame. . .”  -p. 201

5Stars

Goodreads description:

For centuries, men and women have manned lighthouses to ensure the safe passage of ships. It is a lonely job, and a thankless one for the most part. Until something goes wrong. Until a ship is in distress.

In the 23rd century, this job has moved into outer space. A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at many times the speed of light. These beacons are built to be robust. They never break down. They never fail.

At least, they aren’t supposed to.

My opinion:  Here’s another book I read on the Kindle.  It’s weird to say this, but the Kindle is growing on me!  I’m trying to use my free one month Kindle Unlimited subscription before it runs out, but after that I’ll be back to my old fashioned library books…or checking out Kindle books from the library.  Sometimes it’s nice having the Kindle…I can read in the dark and I can prop it up easier and not have to hold it open.  Just weird because I’ve never been into the idea of tablet books before.

I very much enjoyed this book by Hugh Howey.  I loved the Silo series and enjoyed Sand.  I’ve been meaning to read this for years, but it wasn’t available at my library.  I’m glad I finally read it, because it was amazing.  It was beautifully written and had a beautiful message.

The story is about a war hero who retired from the military and the endless war with an alien species called the Ryph.  He now runs a beacon (lighthouse) on the edge of the galaxy, which gives him plenty of time to wallow in grief and regret since he is completely alone with little contact with the rest of the galaxy.  He wants to be left in “peace,” but that’s not how his plan works out.

After a long series of bad luck turns his solitary life upside down, he realizes that he still has a purpose.  All of the months of thinking and remembering and the new encounters he’s had have changed him and his point of view.  What seems like a simple sci-fi at the beginning turns into a story of peace and forgiveness.  That sounds cliche, but as you will find out, the cost of peace is anything but easy and thoughtless.

I found myself highlighting several passages throughout the novel thanks to the highlight feature on Kindle.  I often related to the protagonist’s feelings.  Extreme depression has been a part of my life for years and I ached while reading about the main character’s similar feelings.  I also felt hope at the end of the book just as the character experiences the same thing, so I’d call this a successful story.

Why I gave this book 5/5 stars:  Beautifully written, a serious message delivered in both serious and humorous ways, interesting characters that are easy to relate to.