Brave New World by Aldous Huxley gets a major update with The Block by Ben Oliver. In Oliver’s second book in The Loop Trilogy targeted for young adults, readers will experience a video game vibe, like that achieved in The Matrix. Along with the characters, they will wonder what is real and what is simulated. In this new dystopian world, everybody’s happy because Happy—an artificial intelligence—rules the world.  Galen Rye is in charge, and he decides who suffers as a battery—without hopes, dreams, and ambitions as they power the world with their energy harvested from pain, fear, and anger.  He decides who should be brainwashed intoRead More →

Seventeen-year-old Ambrose Cusk and another spacefarer, Kodiak Celius, are aboard the Coordinated Endeavor, a spaceship bound for Saturn’s moon Titan to rescue Ambrose’s sister, Minerva Cusk. Earth’s two remaining countries, Fédération and Dimokratía have combined their forces to accomplish this mission. Brought together by a crisis, each young man brings his expertise and biases to the mission. Ambrose’s skills include playing the violin, programming AIs, translating computer code, and having a high awareness of his feelings.  Kodiak’s gifts are piloting, mechanical engineering, survivalism, and hand-to-hand combat. The Dimokratía space program selects its spacefarers by testing millions of children in its orphanages and determining those whichRead More →

Set on Wilneff Island in Nova Scotia, Molly Knox Ostertag’s graphic novel The Girl from the Sea revolves around the life of fifteen-year-old Morgan Kwon.  Morgan likes to keep her life tucked neatly into boxes, but she finds that plan unraveling when she meets Keltie. Keltie brings a sort of wild, chaotic, fairy-tale magic to Morgan’s otherwise grounded life. Keltie is a selkie, a seal who transforms into a human to walk on land for a period of time.  It is Morgan’s kiss that provides the magic for the transformation. But Morgan wants to keep that part of her life hidden from her friends Serena, Lizzie,Read More →

Readers who followed the paranormal romances in Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series, Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy, or Alisa Valdes’ The Temptation will likely find Sangu Mandanna’s debut novel, The Lost Girl, thrilling.  Besides the interesting love triangle to fuel the plot, however, Mandanna adds adventure, mystery, and a twist on New Zealand folklore.  With a science fiction “what if” style, the novel also poses some provocative questions about creating life through processes that parallel cell regeneration or even cloning.  Given these features, the book transcends the typical romance novel to become deeply philosophical. Despite her name, which means immortal one, Amarra knows life’s limitations.  Created withoutRead More →

Dragonfly Girl by Marti Leimbach is a fast-paced thriller.  Although the plot is somewhat disjointed and ends rather abruptly, Leimbach’s novel kept me intrigued with its science fiction elements, espionage-like features, and shady criminal types. I’m guessing a sequel will follow. Set in California, Sweden, and Russia, the novel features seventeen-year-old Kira Adams whose mother is sick and requires constant medical care that draws down the household’s monetary resources. Given that Kira’s preternaturally gifted father turned to alcohol to cope in a world that didn’t understand him and eventually “catches a stray bullet,” Cyril Adams is not in the picture. Therefore, Kira enters science contestsRead More →

Given the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world, Katharyn Blair‘s novel Unchosen is eerily relevant. Fans of Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Mercedes Lackey, and Brandon Sanderson will also cheer for the strong female characters and appreciate the engaging and action-packed story. In Blair’s dystopia, someone has knowingly or inadvertently unleashed the Crimson, a virus-like curse that causes the end of the world as we know it. Rather than wearing face masks, people wear blindfolds because looking into the wrong eyes is a death sentence. When infected, a person’s irises turn from their natural color to purple and then to red. That individual has only oneRead More →

Wrenched from her childhood home in Memphis and from a father she loves, sixteen-year-old Skye Rogers has been transplanted to New York City’s Upper West Side to reside with the ultra-wealthy—the American Royalty.  Calling The Monmouth School, which she attends with her twin brother Red, her personal hell, Skye lives with her mother, Deidre Allen, whom she despises, and a detached stepfather who tolerates her. While Red makes friends effortlessly, Skye (aka Blue) struggles to make tentative connections. However, she does befriend Jenny Johnson, with whom she bonds over a mutual wrist-slitting suicide attempt.   Both girls are also ambitious, with Jenny hoping to be aRead More →

Clever, quick on her feet, and possessing a commanding but cheerful demeanor, Faith Herbert from Glenwood, Minnesota, is destined for superhero status.  Every superhero and character that she loves has endured “some awful thing to achieve greatness” (5), and she wonders whether her parents’ dying in the same car accident when she was quite young wasn’t her “awful thing.” Now, Faith lives with her Grandma Lou, works at the All Paws on Deck Shelter and Clinic for veterinarian Dr. Bryner tending to people’s pets, and spends a lot of time with her best friends, Matt Delgado and Francesca Palmer (Ches). Matt has Puerto Rican rootsRead More →

Readers of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will likely find Crown of Oblivion by Julie Eshbaugh a lively read, rich with action and adventure but frightening with its plot line and themes about the abuses of power and the disparity in the treatment of human beings in their fight for both justice and survival. Like Katniss Everdeen, Astrid Jael is a strong and feisty female character who has chosen to risk her life in a cutthroat competition in order to win her freedom and to gain citizenship for herself and her family.  With its choreographed cruelty, the Race of Oblivion grants citizenship with allRead More →