Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Future We Left Behind (Point 4 #2) by Mike A. Lancaster

Posted by Simcha 5:14 PM, under | 3 comments

Thousands of years in the future the divide between humanity and technology has become nearly unrecognizable. Each thought, each action is logged, coded, backed up. Data is as easily exchanged through the fiber-optic-like cables that extend from fingertips as it might be through ordinary conversation. It's a brave new world: A world that the Straker Tapes say is a result of many human "upgrades." But no one is sure whether the Straker Tapes are a work of fiction or an eerie peek into an unimaginable past.

Nearly sixteen-year-old Peter Vincent has been raised to believe that everything that the backward Strakerites cling to is insane--an utter waste of time and potential. Since his father is David Vincent, genius inventor of the artificial bees that saved the world's crops and prevented massive famine, how could Peter believe anything else?

But when Peter meets Alpha, a Strakerite his own age, suddenly the theories about society-upgrades don't sound quite so crazy, especially when she shows him evidence that another upgrade is imminent. And worse, there may be a conspiracy by the leaders of the establishment to cover it up. A conspiracy spearheaded by Peter's own father.

Gripping and full of unexpected twists, The Future We Left Behind takes the unsettling questions raised in Human.4, and flips them entirely. What if we knew that the very way we live was about to be changed in an instant, and we could stop it? And what if everything we are sure we know is entirely wrong?

 Warning: While I did my best to not give away any spoilers, you might want to avoid reading this book if you haven't read Human.4 (which was a good book, so really should read it).

Imagine that you are a kid living at home (unless you are a kid living at home, in which case just go with it) and your parents tell you to get in the car because they have somewhere special to take you. The last time your parents sprang a surprise trip on you, you ended up at the amusement park so you're really excited. You get in the car and your father (let's assume he's at the wheel) starts driving.

He drives and drives and you notice that you have passed-by the turnoff to the amusement park, so apparently that's not where you're headed. You have your face pressed eagerly to the car window watching as the movie theatre, the ice cream parlour and the arcade all flash by as well. Then you notice the envelopes peeking out of your father's pocket and you get the sneaking suspicion that you've been tricked into a trip to the post office. Even after you recognize the route, which confirms your suspicion,  you still can't let go of the hope that maybe your father will suddenly turn off the road and bring you somewhere fun and exciting after all, but no- it's the post office that he is headed to, just as you feared. There, he mails his letters, after which he gets back in the car and drives you home, where you sulkily skip dinner in protest and go to bed.

That's pretty much what reading The Future We Left Behind was like for me.

Human 0.4 was one of my favorite YA reads of last year. I had no idea what to expect when I went in to the book and was delightfully surprised at what I encountered there. So I had some pretty big expectations for The Future We Left Behind, which, as you have probably guessed, were not met.

Unfortunately the author seemed to assume that what worked for book 1 would work for book 2, even with all of the surprises having already been sprung. But this was not the case. What I liked about Human .4 was that I had no idea what was going on and was completely bowled over when all was revealed but replaying all of that in a future timeline, just with different, and more informed protagonists, didn't excite me.

As I continued reading I kept hoping that perhaps the story would focus on some of the interesting details that I had glimpsed as we sped by. For example, at one point Peter realizes that there are people living among  them from previous versions of humankind who no one can see, except when photographed. Now I had expected this revelation to turn into something, and I'd been really excited about that. Who exactly are these people? How do they live? How long have they been around? Can Peter find a way to communicate with them? But- no. The story did not follow that tantalizing trail and instead kept stubbornly plowing forward.

I still didn't give up hope that the ending would make up for the rest of the book by throwing in something truly unexpected, but the only thing that surprised me was how disappointing it all turned out to be.

Even the big struggle between Peter and his father fell completely flat. They get into a violent altercation about something that really didn't matter in the least, considering how the story ended. I didn't even see any reason for Peter's beliefs or actions to have been the right ones, as opposed to his “evil” father's, though I assume that was the idea.

And that was another thing that irritated me. The kids in the book are all clever, smart and sensitive while the adults are all evil, bumbling idiots with no compunctions about mowing down children (including their own) who get in the way of their nefarious plans. It was like watching an episode of one of those teen shows on the Disney Channel. It was all just too over the top to be believable in any way.

The book ended in the way that I expected it to, based on what took place so far, and left me with no interest in continuing on to book 3.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My own BBAW post in honor of one particular blogger

Posted by Simcha 5:22 PM, under | 5 comments

So today is the fourth day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week and unfortunately I just haven't had the time to participate as much as I wanted to. Next week is the Jewish New Years (aka Rosh Hashana) and I've been busy shopping and  cooking like crazy (Jewish holidays involve a lot of eating) as well as working, which hasn't left much time for anything else.

But since this is Blogger Appreciation Week I want to take the opportunity to appreciate one particular blogger (though there are a whole bunch of you that are pretty darn awesome!) who decided, over the weekend, to close up shop and go off the grid. 

Misfits Salon has been one of my favorite blogs, from my early days of blogging and Stephanie, one of my favorite bloggers. Stephanie's intelligent and insightful reviews led me to discover many wonderful new books and her delicious sounding book recipes had me craving foods that I had never even heard of before. 

I also enjoyed putting together my first (and only) writing contest with Stephanie. It was definitely an interesting experience. And Stephanie and I actually spoke on the phone together, which is as personal as I've ever gotten with another blogger (especially since I hate talking on the phone), so that was pretty cool.

I don't know why Stephanie decided to delete her blog and all of her accounts but I just hope that it's because something wonderful happened that will require all of her time and concentration (perhaps a book-loving foreign prince swept her away or she was needed for a secret CIA mission) but she will definitely be missed in the book blogging community.

Goodbye Stephanie and good luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BBAW Day 2: Interview with Darren of Bart’s Bookshelf

Posted by Simcha 1:48 PM, under | 4 comments

Yesterday was the start of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, of which my favorite part is the blogger interviews. I  really enjoy getting the opportunity to learn more about my fellow bloggers and discover new blogs that I'd never visited before. I also enjoy being interviewed because, as you know, I love talking about myself ;)

So this year, my interview partner is Darren from Bart's Bookshelf

Hi Darren, welcome to SFF Chat!

Can you start off by telling me about your blog and the kind of books that you review?

Bart’s Bookshelf, developed out of my original but then just about defunct, personal blog. After a few years of really not reading as much as I would have liked, I decided it was time to do something about it and force myself to get back in to the habit of reading, and I was going to do this by setting myself some targets and reviewing what I read.

My reading is fairly eclectic, but is probably skewed to the fantasy side of things, and about 2/3 of the books I read could be classified as YA.

How long have you been blogging for?

January 20th next year will be the fifth ‘birthday’ of that Bart’s Bookshelf!

Wow, that's almost a decade in the book blogging world. That's pretty impressive!

So you must have seen a lot of changes take place in the book blogging community over the years.

Grown. Oh has it grown!

What has been your favourite blogging moment?

#TKONLG on Twitter AKA The Knife of Never Letting Go (by Patrick Ness) there was a group of us that started reading Patrick Ness’ trilogy over a period of a few months. Being convinced by, and then watching each everybody's enthusiasm for the book (and series) as they fell in love with it was pretty amazing. and knowing exactly then they hit a certain event in the book, by their tweets. ;)

What are some of the challenges of being a book blogger?

Remembering that it is meant to be fun. People often get caught up in posting/reading/reviewing schedules. Then struggling under the pressure to maintain it. I know conventional wisdom is that you should keep to a routine, once a week, twice a week of 12 times a week, it doesn’t matter, but keep to it. That’s probably important if you are running the blog as a business, but for most, book-blogging is a hobby, so if you need to take a break then do so, and definitely don’t feel guilty about it!

That is a sentiment that I very much agree with!

So what upcoming release would you recommend that we look out for?

The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison. Barry writes books for the younger-end of the YA market, but that doesn’t mean all ages can’t enjoy his books. The Book of the Doom is the second book in his Afterworlds series of standalone books.
The first book in the series, The 13th Horseman, was released earlier this year and was packed with wonderful humour and likeable characters.

If you could step into any book which book would you choose and why?

Oh, I’m going to be pretty boring and say Harry Potter (post Voldy of course!) A lot of my favourite worlds in recent years, aren’t necessarily conducive to safe and easy life ;) So, I think a nice house and a quiet life in Hogsmeade, could be just the thing!

What do you think is more important in a book, a good beginning or a good ending?

A good beginning. If it doesn’t catch your attention early on, you’re less likely to still be there to be disappointed by a poor ending.

What has been the most surprising book that you've read during your time as a book blogger?

That’s a somewhat difficult question as a lot of the books I’ve really liked, while I’ve been blogging, have been because of other blogger’s reviews, so to be truly surprised doesn’t happen very often. But, even though I’d read a glowing review if it, by Chris (of Stuff Dreams are Made on) Green Angel by Alice Hoffman surprised me by just how much I enjoyed it. 

Here’s how I ended my review:

An incredible little book that’ll drop you in the midst to the deepest pain, and draw you right back out again, filling you with hope. Definitely one that’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished it.

Hm, well I'm definitely intrigued now. I'll have to add Green Angel to my TBR list.

Has being a book blogger affected how and what you read?

Oh my, yes. One of the reasons I started blogging about books was to get myself back into the reading habit, and that has most definitely happened. :)
I have certainly read more YA books in recent years that I would have without book blogging, and many, many new authors!

And now for the question that I can never resist asking any reader... what's your favourite book quote?

Going to cheat and pick two! ;) 

“You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“This must be Thursday,' said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Great choices! I firmly believe that you can never go wrong with a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quote. And I just started The Fault in Our Stars, so I'll have to look out for this passage.

Thanks Darren for joining us today. It's been great getting to know you!

You can check out Darren's blog, Bart's Bookshelf, here. And while you are there you can read the interview that Darren did with me.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of September 9-15

Posted by Simcha 1:29 PM, under | 6 comments


The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer, Bk 2)
Brent Weeks
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: September 11

Gavin Guile is dying.

He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancĂ©e who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies.

Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.

Young Adult

The Brides of Rollrock Island
Margo Lanagan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings--and to catch their wives.
The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.
Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.


Hanging by a Thread
Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?

Hidden (Firelight #3)
Sophie Jordan
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 11

Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

Loyalties are tested and sacrifices made in the explosive conclusion to Sophie Jordan's Firelight trilogy.


Island of Doom (The Hunchback Assignment, Bk 4)
Arthur Slade
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Release Date: September 11

After previous assignments in London, the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Australian rain forest, this final adventure in the Hunchback Assignments series finds our hero, shape-shifting, masked spy Modo, on his most personal quest. Along with fellow spy Octavia Milkweed, they search for Modo's biological parents. But when the Clockwork Guild find Modo's parents first, Octavia and Modo chase them across Europe and North America to the Island of Doom. Joined by memorable characters from the first three books--some lovable, and some who are terrifying and evil--Modo and Octavia dash towards a thrilling conclusion.

Jossie Griffin is Not a Vampire
Heather Swain
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: September 13

A hilarious take on the paranormal trend--Twilight meets The Breakfast Club!

When former good girl turned rebel Josie Griffin gets busted for what was in her mind perfectly acceptable revenge on her cheating dog of a boyfriend, she lands herself in anger management therapy. It could be worse: it could be juvvie, or she could be a zombie cheerleader like the rest of her former friends. But there's something strange about therapy--these are not normal kids. There's the wannabe ladies man with a weird accent, Johann; the blindingly gorgeous Helios; Avis with his wild dreads; and Tarren, the sprite of a girl with a wicked temper. And all of them keep talking about "powers." Josie knows that has to be impossible, but strange things start happening, and nothing weird ever happens in Indiana. After all, there're no such things as vampires, werewolves, Greek gods, or fairies . . . right?

Jeanne Ryan
Publisher: Dial
Release Date: September 13

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the game knows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating--Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they're directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they're playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?

Debut author Jeanne Ryan delivers an un-putdownable suspense thriller.


Juliet Marillier
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 11

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death—but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule.

Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.


Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: September 11 

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him? 

Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: September 11

In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Urban Fantasy 

Full Blooded
Amanda Carlson
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: September 11 

It's not easy being a girl. It's even harder when you're the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it's next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race... Meet Jessica McClain -- she just became part of the pack.

In the vein of Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs, a new urban fantasy that rewrites the werewolf myth...


Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound
Mark Leslie
Publisher: Edge
Release Date: September 15

This anthology features speculative fiction short stories with art, music, literature and culture themes. It is the latest volume of the long-running Tesseracts series and features stories for a new generation of readers. This anthology joins a 26-year legacy which features the writing and editing of more than 250 of Canada's best-known authors.


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