Book Review: When We Wake is a Refreshing YA Sci-Fi Read for $3.47

Sometimes, you need a fresh perspective on old subject matter, whether it be in life or in books. When We Wake provides a new perspective on what many would consider a very tired genre: dystopian. But this is a refreshing, unique perspective on life after governmental collapse. Why should you read it? Well…

What Is When We Wake About?

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027. She’s happiest when playing the guitar. She’s falling in love for the first time. And she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should be the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. The future isn’t all she had hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better world?

Who Should Read When We Wake, And Why?

It’s only loosely “dystopian” because it straddles two time periods and focuses more on the personal side of things than the political. Maybe because I write in this genre (sci-fi, pre-apocalyptic), I was fascinated by Karen Healey’s take on our future. I thought it particularly interesting that she set the book in Australia. She ties the setting in really well with the plot, using both the country’s actual history and its imagined future to provide impetus for the conflict the main character strives unknowingly against. Tegan is a well-drawn character, and I love the diversity and scope of characters Karen includes. I loved the sequel too. Both were refreshing, compelling reads!

So, if you like dystopian books like Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Glimmer by Phoebe Katanadis, or Whisper by Lynette Noni, you’ll like When We Wake.

What’s The Deal?

You can get When We Wake for $3.46 on BetterWorldBooks, with free shipping!

 

 

"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.

 

 

 

 

"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.

 

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."

 

 

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.

 

A Book That Is More Than It Seems: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This, by Patrick Ness, is an interesting book. Indeed, by its title, you would think that there was more to the book than what it appears to be about. Or you might think that the main character would be seeking something more than the life he or she has been given. You might even think that the theme—the underlying story, if you will—is that we all need to recognize that there’s more to this life than what we think there is. If you read this book and thought any one of those things, you would be right…in a way. It’s a book that some would say is slow-moving and simplistic, the story of a teenage boy who wakes up in a place he’s not supposed to be who strives to make sense of his environment.  But you don’t have to think about it much to realize that its message is more than that, a deep message about life.

What Is More Than This About?

From Amazon:

Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Who Would Like More Than This, And Why?

Anyone who likes good writing, the kind that sweeps you along like a gust of summer wind, the kind found in books like The Giver by Lois Lowry or If I Stay by Gayle Forman, will like More Than This.  If you’ve read The Knife of Never Letting Go, also by Patrick Ness, you’ll probably like More Than This too, although it’s a different kind of book. Know that there are sci-fi-ish elements like those in Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, and dystopian elements like in Nemesis by Brendan Reichs. I can’t tell you what they are because that would give away a good portion of the plot.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a used copy of More Than This through Thriftbooks.com for $4.89.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Serving size: 480 pages (print), 5430 locations (ebook)

Swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*): 70

Incidences of violence (suicide, murder, death): ~15

positive themes (familial effort & love, charity): ~7

negative themes (selfishness, criminality, meanness): 3-5 big ones

gay characters/mentions: 1 (m.c.)

other (mention of masturbation): 1

Visual

via GIPHY

Favorite Quote

 

A mysterious eye, set in a dark-skinned, painted face, over the title "Truth Seer"

Book Review & Deal: Truth Seer – an Adventure Read

How was your 4th of July? What did you do? We went to two family gatherings, one for my side of the family and one for my husband’s, and ate a ton at both. I feel like it was a mini-Thanksgiving. Of course, I spent a little bit of time reading and looking for deals, and I wanted to tell you about a book that just came out that’s only 99¢! It’s Truth Seer by Kay L. Moody, kind of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with superpowers.

What’s Truth Seer About?

From Amazon:

Egypt, 2121. Imara Kalu knows how she wants her future to go: become a police interrogator in Kenya and then graduate as a truth seer in her last semester of the summer training program. But her plans fall apart when a group of terrorists take over the school and carry out a desperate kidnapping. Devastated that her sister is among the victims, Imara leads a rescue team and descends into the dangerous catacombs where the hostages are rumored to be hidden. Although suspicious of others because of the truth she sees, Imara knows the rescue team will need her help as a truth seer to bypass the lethal illusions laid by the abductors. But as the terrorist traps escalate, Imara realizes how much truth she’s been ignoring and that holding back could get her sister killed. Throughout the journey, Imara confronts her past and amplifies her abilities as a truth seer only to discover that her sister’s kidnapping is just one piece of a much darker secret.

Who Would Like Truth Seer, And Why?

Aside from the Lara Croft movie, like I said, Truth Seer reminded me of two books: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, which I reviewed here, and The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, which I’m reading right now. All three are about people trying to work their way through a series of very obtuse clues to discover a mysterious but great boon in some kind of ancient structure or structures. In Unearthed, it’s a temple on an alien planet. In Conspiracy, which is sort of a YA Davinci Code, it’s places like the Cathedral of Notre Dame. In Truth Seer, it’s a catacomb in future Egypt.  Imara, the main character, can see people’s emotions, an ability that she hopes will help her find and rescue her sister from kidnappers but which also affects the dynamics between her and the other people who help her explore the catacombs. This book is adventure, emotion, and intrigue. I had a little bit of a hard time connecting with Imara, but can’t put my finger on why.

What’s The Deal?

If you buy Truth Seer on Amazon, where it was published, in the next 24 hours, you’ll only pay 99¢. After that, the ebook will go up to $4.99 (which is still a good deal) and the print book will be $12.95.  I’ve got a free physical copy to giveaway to a random winner selected by Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’ve got an exclusive interview with Kay Moody, the author, coming out tomorrow to all my subscribers. If you haven’t subscribed to be sent newsletters and notification of new posts, you should do so now, on the right sidebar of my main page!

Nutrition Facts?

Profanity (D*, S*, H*, F*): 0

Sex scenes: 0

Good stuff: lots

Visual?

via GIPHY