"5 sci-fi or fantasy books that non-sci-fi or fantasy fans will enjoy," over the covers of those books.

Five Science Fiction/Fantasy Books for Non-Science Fiction/Fantasy Fans to Enjoy

Since I founded a blog that focuses on science fiction/fantasy books, you might think I’m biased towards them. From that, you might conclude that I don’t understand non-science fiction/fantasy fans (let’s call them NSFFFs). You might even think that I couldn’t–or even shouldn’t–recommend books to them. I have, however, been a member of multiple NSFFF book clubs, and reviewed a long list of NSFF books. I unite with book fans everywhere who love good writing and want to support the unique medium of books. In that spirit, might I recommend five books that even the staunchest NSFFF will like, for those universal reasons.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

an old man staring into the distance, with a Newbery medal under the titleThe Giver is the kind of book you read when you need something quick but thought-provoking. It’s the original dystopian novel, the book that came way before The Hunger Games and Matched.  Because it’s told from a twelve-year-old’s perspective, it’s refreshing while still illuminating the darker corners of human nature. It’s now available on ThriftBooks.com for $3.79.

 

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal

A woman in a regency ball gown cloaked with lights, behind the words "Shades of Milk and Honey"This is a beautiful historical fantasy romance, kind of like Jane Austen or Josi Kilpack meets Harry Potter. And you can get it on BetterWorldBooks.com for $3.98 with free shipping.

 

 

The Cost of All Things, by Maggie Lehrman

Four people walking along a beach, silhouetted by a setting sun, under the words "the cost of all things"Goodreads says it’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets We Were Liars.”  It’s  $3.95 in BetterWorldBooks.com with free shipping.

 

 

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein: The painting of a naked man, twisted so that only his back, right knee, and anguished face show.Most of my NSFFF friends who read contemporary or historical say they do so to immerse themselves in the here-and-now or the past, to learn, to understand people better. In that sense, Frankenstein is an excellent read, one that provokes plenty of ruminations on human nature. And it’s free on Kindle.

A Thousand Pieces of You, by Claudia Gray

A black-and-white city skyline, then a different city skyline upside down beneath it, in front of a swath of color. On top of it all, the words: "A Thousand Pieces of You"Romance, lest you think that all science fiction/fantasy books are without it. Good romance, and, as I said here, a compelling, fast-paced plot. Like The Cost of All Things, it’s $3.95 on BetterWorldBooks.com with free shipping.

 

 

 

 

A small glass crown, upside down, with blood dripping from it, dripping over the words "Red Queen"

Book Review & Deal: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, a Powerful Read

I went to St. Louis, Missouri over the weekend to visit my brother and his wife and their two kids, and I had long layovers going to and coming from, so guess what I did? I read. Three books. One of them was Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I’d heard how good this book was for years, but it had honestly sat on my bookshelf for a good while. I’m super glad I finally took the time to read it, and that I was able to find you a deal on it so that you can read it too!

What is Red Queen About?

From Goodreads:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Who Would Like Red Queen And Why?

Because it deals with monarchical power structures and has magic in it, it’s similar to Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson, Traitorborn by Amy A. Bartol, and its sequel Secondborn. Anyone who liked those books would like Red Queen. I’m definitely seeing a motif in all of these books, one that seems to extend into reality a little bit these days: it’s not good to bestow too much power on one person or group of people, because it’s hard for anyone to handle too much power without becoming greedy or hungry for more, and because that always makes everyone else feel disenfranchised. What do you think?

The writing is crystalline, meaning that it’s clear and multi-faceted and sharp. The emotion is tense throughout without being overwrought. The plot is big and far-reaching but still personal. Trust me, it’s a good read. Also, you’ll probably have the buy the sequel, Glass Sword.

What’s the Deal?

Get Red Queen for $4.66 on ThriftBooks.com.

Visual?

via GIPHY

A quote from Red Queen: "The sun begins to rise behind Cal's head, framing him against the dawn. It's too bright, too sharp, and too soon; I have to shut my eyes."

 

"The Fifth Wave" in big letters, with a human figure silhouetted against a setting sun, walking toward that sun through a grove of trees.

Book Review and Deal: The Fifth Wave, a Beyond-Intense Read

I’ve called books “intense” before, like Genesis by Brendan Reichs and Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis, but The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey takes the cake.  It is about the end of the world, so…how could it not be really intense? If you saw the movie, you’d know what I mean. The book is more intense than the movie, if that’s possible, despite its picture-less medium, because of the world-building, character, style, and plot construction. Basically, it’s a really well written book, and definitely one for an adrenaline-junkie reader like me. And I found it for $3.98 with free shipping!

What is The Fifth Wave About?

 

From Amazon:

After the 1st wave [of alien invasion], 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. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

What’s The Deal?

On BetterWorldBooks.com, you can get a used paperback copy in very good condition for $3.98 with free shipping!

Who Would Like The Fifth Wave, And Why?

As I said, the “world building,” or Yancey’s ability to make such a wild, destitute state seem real, is thorough and vivid. Cassie is a fully flawed but vibrant character, so it’s not hard to follow her through her really rough journey. The story is told with style, and every scene contributes tightly and succinctly to the advancement of the plot. It takes real skill for a writer to be able to do all of those things AND make a book as intense as The Fifth Wave, so my hat goes off to Yancey. Anyone who likes nail-biting, heart-pounding reads will like The Fifth Wave.

That being said, there is a fair amount of the depiction of death, as you can imagine, so the faint of heart should not read this book.  I can’t provide you with exact “nutrition fact” numbers of that or the swearing, positive themes, or negative themes because I only have a physical copy of this book and didn’t underline all of those things when I read it. I’d have to go back and read it again, underlining as I go, which I’m willing to do…when I get more time.

 

Writerly Advice: Save the Cat…No Seriously: Save It!

If you’ve been writing  fiction for any length of time, you’ve probably heard about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series of books. They’re books that were originally written to help screenwriters improve their craft, but became quite popular among writers of many creative disciplines because they provide a very accurate, concise, and some would even say easy plot model. As you know, constructing a plot from nothing can be difficult. These books, especially the first one, provide a way to do so without inducing paralyzing anxiety. I dare say that they’re a necessity for every writer who wants to get published.

What’s In Save the Cat?

A tabby cat dangling from a rope, with the words "Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need" above it.In Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need, Snyder describes 15 “beats” or benchmarks that every plot needs to have, no matter the medium it’s displayed in. Whether words or moving pictures are used to tell a story, it should always start with an opening image and progress through

  • Theme Stated
  • Set-up
  • Catalyst
  • Debate
  • Break Into Two
  • B Story
  • Fun and Games
  • Midpoint
  • Bad Guys Close In
  • All is Lost
  • Dark Night of the Soul
  • Break Into Three
  • Finale
  • Final Image

All of these benchmarks—aptly described in the book—should lend themselves towards showing the main character doing something, being proactive. This could mean saving a cat, going with Hagrid to Hogwarts and leaving a known life behind, or undergoing a makeover to become an undercover beauty queen. It’s the essence that defines who the hero is and makes the reader like him or her.

What’s the Deal?

On Amazon, a paperback copy is $16.05. If you go through Thriftbooks however, you can get it for $8.97! You have to get the paperback version so that you can mark it up and make notes. Mine has notes in most the margins and lines connecting paragraphs with other ones.

For that, you get not only wonderfully practical descriptions of each of those beats, but also:

  • the four elements of every winning logline
  • why your hero must serve your idea
  • how to use a plot board
  • how to get back on track with proven rules for plot repair
  • a checklist to see if your main character needs more “oomph.”

Who Would Like Save the Cat, And Why?

As mentioned, anyone who’s serious about writing The Greatest Book of All Time. It’s designed, Snyder says, primarily for writers who intend to pitch/query agents in  mainstream movie-making and publishing. I think that’s because it’s based on the premise that you’ll use one- to two-sentence descriptions of each of those beats to pitch to agents. Although there are many, many plot models out there—three-act structure, hero’s journey, dramatica, etc.—this is the one I’ve found to be the easiest and smoothest. It’s a compromise between totally outlining and just “pantsing” it: enough structure (and the right kind of it) to get your story started, but not so much that it overwhelms your creativity before you even start writing a book. It’s also very helpful in showing the main character proactively progressing through the book’s plot, not just reacting to various crises.

Book Review and Deal: The Knife of Never Letting Go, a Powerful Read

Oh, so much to say about The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness! Anyone who loves really intense reads with lots of voice will love this book.  Let’s start with first things first:

What Is The Knife of Never Letting Go About?

From Goodreads:

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

Who Would Like The Knife, And Why

As mentioned, anyone who likes really intense books with lots of style and strong characters. This book has some tremendous strengths. The characterization of Todd Hewitt, the main character, is so skillfully accomplished, for one thing. We’re are able to understand a lot about him and his world simply by the way he speaks, his flashbacks, and his reactions to the few other characters that make up his existence during this book. There are so few books with good characterization these days that to find this was a treat.

And the plot is nail-bitingly intense, kind of like Glimmer, yet well-paced,  like Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall. It can be really tricky to portray a realistic, relatable main character without slowing down the plot. It can also be really tempting to construct the plot entirely out of life-and-death situations to keep up the breakneck speed. But there are calmer, more philosophical moments that balance the intensity.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of things that I really didn’t like about The Knife that kept me from giving it a resounding 10 out of 10 stars. There was one point in the book that felt a little unrealistic to me, but I won’t specify which for spoilers’ sake. Most of all, though, the ending did not work for me. Though it did resolve the central conflict, it was completely unexpected and unsatisfactory. It was a total cliffhanger. Of course, I did fall for it, and immediately went out and bought the second book. Thankfully, I really enjoyed both the second and third books in this trilogy.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a used copy in very good condition for $3.99 in Thriftbooks.com.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*, h*): 9 + 1 + 1 + 10

Sex: none

Violence (from CommonSenseMedia.org): “Lots, and quite grim and gruesome, including a man who has part of his face torn off, a man who beats and stabs a boy, a dog killed by breaking its back, children killing, and a girl shot in the belly. There are many injuries with realistic consequences, and many deaths. One especially gruesome climactic fight involves breaking of bones, snapping of gristle, crushing of eyeballs, and lots of blood.”

Positive themes: 0

Negative themes (sexism, violence is the way to solve everything): 2

Visual:

via GIPHY

"A knife is...a choice."

 

A woman's face, with part of it blurred, staring. Over her lips is the word "Whisper"

Book Review: Whisper is a Crisp Read for $3.99

Have you ever heard a book described as “crisp?” For some reason, that’s the adjective that first comes to mind when I think of Whisper by Lynette Noni. It’s suspenseful and a little bit scary, not fast-paced enough to be called “brisk,” but nail-biting and tense, with a narrative style that moves you quickly through the story. I recommend it for fans of suspense, fantasy, and science fiction books, as it has elements that will definitely satisfy all of those groups.

What Is Whisper About?

From Goodreads:

“Lengard is a secret government facility for extraordinary people,” they told me.

I believed them. That was my mistake.

There isn’t anyone else in the world like me.

I’m different…an anomaly…a monster.

For two years, six months, fourteen days, eleven hours and sixteen minutes, Subject Six-Eight-Four — ‘Jane Doe’ — has been locked away and experimented on, without uttering a single word.

As Jane’s resolve begins to crack under the influence of her new — and unexpectedly kind — evaluator, she uncovers the truth about Lengard’s mysterious ‘program’, discovering that her own secret is at the heart of a sinister plot … and one wrong move, one wrong word, could change the world.

What’s The Deal?

You can get it on Kindle for $3.99. Very much worth it.

Who Would Like Whisper?

As mentioned, anyone who likes suspense or sci-fi. It reminded me strongly of Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi, since it starts off almost exactly the same way.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Profanity (sh*, d*, f*, g*d*): 7

Sex: none

Violence: some

positive themes (helping others, familial love, etc.): 2-3

negative themes (vindictiveness, revenge, selfishness): 4-5

The white words: "There are no whitewashed walls here, no silence of forgotten dreams, no nightmares of unending futures. Instead, here there is life."

 

 

Frankenstein: The painting of a naked man, twisted so that only his back, right knee, and anguished face show.

Book Review: Frankenstein is Fascinating and Free

Reading a classic book is not the same as reading something published relatively recently. You go in with different expectations, and sometimes maybe even with a  sense of obligation: “I’ve got to read this book so I can sound like I’m well-read” or “I’ve got to read it for a class.” I challenge you to read a classic book of your own free will and choice at least once a year. It’ll be like looking back through time, a way of gaining a “multi-generational awareness.” It can be quite fascinating. Case in point? Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s a fascinating story, not just because it’s 200 years old.

What Is Frankenstein About?

From Goodreads:

 At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but, upon bringing it to life, recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature he created turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. [It was] an instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only [because it] tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life and the place of humankind within the cosmos: What does it mean to be human? What responsibilities do we have to each other? How far can we go in tampering with Nature? In our age, filled with news of organ donation genetic engineering, and bio-terrorism, these questions are more relevant than ever

The styles of storytelling have definitely changed in the almost 200 years since this book’s original publication; it was almost 100% narrative, which got tedious. But there is definitely more to the tale of Frankenstein that I’d originally thought.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version is FREE.

Who Would Like Frankenstein, And Why?

Anyone who wants to read a good book. I’m not a particular fan of the horror genre, but this was pretty tame.

a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

Book Review: Survival

It’s been an interesting week, with school shopping, some family drama, friends having drastic problems, and a bunch of job interviews. And it seems that the closer we get to the school year starting, the more time speeds up! I’m not quite ready! I mean, I’m excited, but not ready yet! In the meantime, I just finished a novella called Survival by Rachel Watts. It’s a post-apocalyptic Blade Runner-ish kind of book, and a compelling read.

a puff of smoke against a white backdrop, with "Survival" in green script below that

What Is Survival About?

From Goodreads:

The world has suffered economic collapse and multiple environmental crises. In a flooded city, Ava Murasaki is searching for her activist sister Sophia. Meanwhile, Valerie Newlin lives in the secure complex of the Scylla Corporation, the world’s only remaining multinational. There, she finds evidence of something horrifying in the Corporation medical research data. Set in a searingly real near-future, Survival is a story of what people will face for those they love. This is a devastating vision of a post-climate change world in which governments have collapsed and corporations rule with an iron fist.

It takes place in a flooded city where a dam failed five years ago and there wasn’t enough left of the government to clean up the mess. So some people moved to higher ground, but most just built shanties and docks on the water and took over the office towers that had once housed businesses but whose lower floors were now permanently submerged. And in the middle of the squalor sits a giant corporate complex on dry land, walled off and impenetrable, a city unto itself.

Although it’s this dichotomy that should drive the conflict of the book, it’s more about the dynamic between Valerie, a corporate scientist who discovers an awful secret about the corporation and wants to reveal it to everyone, and Ava, a young woman from the outside trying to find her sister. Their paths cross, their goals align somehow, and they have to work together to infiltrate and bring down the corporation.

Who Would Like Survival, And Why?

If you like dystopian books, you might like this book, but it’s not the dystopia of books like Matched by Ally Condie or Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. There is no romance or heavy-handed government. Thankfully, there’s no killing competition either, even though the title would suggest that there is. The characters are older and deal with darker things. There is some death.

If you like books written with style, such as Maggie Steifvater’s Dream Thieves, you’ll definitely like Survival. These lines are very representative of the narrative’s flow and imagery:

Ava stepped out...and walked through the floating suburb, feeling hundreds of invisible eyes on her. They settled on her, carved into her, made her brittle.

Keep in mind that it’s basically a short story, and comes with four other shorter stories by the author, which is part of what you pay for.

What’s The Deal?

The Kindle version of Survival is just $2.99!

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Profanity (d*, f*, sh*): 6

sex: none

violence: some

negative themes (greed, selfishness): throughout

positive themes (familial love): throughout

 

 

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.

Atlantia by Ally Condie: Well-Crafted and Inexpensive

Can you believe it’s time to start getting kids ready to go back to school? On the one hand, I’m looking forward to watching my oldest start high school and my youngest go into fourth grade. On the other, though, I’ve enjoyed the good times we’ve had this summer, playing at Lagoon, going to the movies, and taking “road trips” (i.e., fishing expeditions where I didn’t catch anything but everyone else did). I’m thankful for the relative peace we’ve had, and our health! I also love that I found Atlantia by Ally Condie, and that I can share a great deal on it with you! It’s such a well-crafted book.

What Is Atlantia About?

The words "Atlantia" in large white script above a seashell just touching water and sending out a small ripple. "Ally Condie" below that.From Amazon:

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Who Would Like Atlantia, And Why?

I love when a well-crafted plot draws you in as it unfolds to reveal many pleats and twists, and then closes in around you as all those twists fold back in on themselves to make a nice little braid of detail. The fact that this plot takes place primarily in an underground city that is vivid and clear adds to the charm of this book. The only thing that keeps me from giving this book 10 stars is that, in the end, I couldn’t quite identify with the main character, Rio. I’m not sure that I could put my finger on the reason why, but it has something to do with a slight lack of emotion, or lack of the whole spectrum of emotions in her. Other than that, this was a great read. So, anyone who likes a well-written book will like Atlantia.

Also, if you like fantasy books like The Selection by Kiera Cass or the Matched trilogy, also by Condie, you’ll like Atlantia.

What’s The Deal?

You can get the hardcover version of Atlantia, which sells for $18.73 on Amazon, for $4.59 on Thriftbooks. Dude. Hardcover. You can get a used paperback copy in decent condition for $3.79.

The words "To Ride Pegasus" above the image of three women gathered around a man in wizard's clothes, and behind all of them, a horse.

Book Review and Deal: To Ride Pegasus, An Informing Read

Can I tell you why I’m fascinated by science fiction, as both a reader and a writer?

  1. it allows so many opportunities to explore the possibilities of our scientific knowledge, technology, ability to space travel, etc.
  2. In a way, it provides me with hope that we as a species will be able to overcome the problems and contentions we’re currently experiencing and emerge even stronger.
  3. It’s a relatively new genre, having only begun in the 1930’s and hit its stride in the 1960s and ’70s. Soft science fiction, which is the subgenre some of my manuscripts belong in, only emerged in the 1980s. This means there are so many story ideas that haven’t yet been explored!
  4. Women who have had successful science fiction writing careers are particular examples of perseverance and talent.

 

A picture of Ann McCaffrey in her later years, seated, with white hair, a multi-color jacket, and a cane.
credit: Wikipedia

Ann McCaffrey is one of those women. Before she passed away in 2011, she had a 46-year career as a science fiction writer, publishing 120 books, short stories, and novellas. She was the first woman to win a Hugo Award for fiction and the first to win a Nebula Award. Her 1978 novel The White Dragon became one of the first science-fiction books to appear on the New York Times Best Seller list. I totally want to be her.

One of her many books, called To Ride Pegasus, is somewhat characteristic of the New Age of science fiction, during which writers in that genre placed a greater emphasis on style and storytelling than previous writers who had focused more on premise. To Ride Pegasus, as a representative of that age of science fiction writing, is a fascinating read.

What Is To Ride Pegasus About?

From GoodReads:

They were four extraordinary women who read minds, healed bodies, diverted disasters, foretold the future–and became pariahs in their own land. A talented, elite cadre, they stepped out of the everyday human race…to enter their own!

What Is The Deal?

You can get To Ride Pegasus for $3.79 on ThriftBooks, which is more than $4 less than the $7.99 you can get it for everywhere else.

Who Would Like To Ride Pegasus, And Why?

I would argue that anyone who considers themselves any kind of a science fiction has to have read at least one Ann McAffrey book, and this is a good one to start with. This isn’t my favorite of Mrs. McCaffrey’s because the conflict wasn’t particularly focused, the main point-of-view character switched to someone else a third of the way through the book, and the climax and denoeument took place in all of about five pages. This is a book you read to become a more knowledgeable fan of the superhero sub-sub-genre of science fiction, of which books like Steelheart are more recent, typical examples.