Book review: Mars One, by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Mars One.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  ISBN 978-4814-6161-0.  $17.99.  448 pages.  Ages 12 and up.  Q9P8

A not-so-very futuristic novel where a group of candidates are chosen to colonize Mars.  When you pick up the book you think the novel is going to be about colonizing Mars, but it’s about the pressures faced by the people who have been chosen to go.  The training they endure and how much training they have to go through, from psychological to physical.  The book story highlights the “reality” the characters portray to their doting fans, and the moral question of whether we should colonize a planet when we cannot take care of the one we have.  The book also explores the psychological duress created by leaving loved ones behind and the pressure to be the first human to take a step on Mars.  What I like most about this book is also what I liked least: I picked up the book thinking the story would take place on Mars, when we only get to take the first step.

Google Mars One and there seems to be an actual project, or a very believable mock-up of this very idea.  I’m not sure which came first, the actual project, or the book.

Verdict:  Loved the detail behind the training, and what life would be like while traveling to another planet, that combined with the complexity of the social media world we live in and how it literally finances projects like this, makes this an eye-opening story.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

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Book review: Julia Defiant, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Defiant. (Witch’s Child series, #2) Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-553-53335-4.  $17.99.  445 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

The second in the Witch’s Child series.  This book expanded on the story line of Julia’s talents and the mystery of her apparent value to others in power.  The setting changes to an Asian feel as Julia and her friends try to find the magician who cursed the little boy Julia betrayed in book 1. A new character is introduced – Julia finds a sneak thief who seems to be as talented as she is at going unnoticed without her ability to disappear.  Together they try to find the magician and in doing so move further along toward solving Julia’s own mystery.

Verdict:  A great second novel in the series. It kept me engrossed.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Vanishes. (Witch’s Child series, #1) Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.  ISBN 978-0-553-52484-0.  $17.99.  375 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

A new spin on witches in a 19th century setting.  These witches have to write their spells for them to work.  Needless to say, all forms of writing and tools of writing have been banned.  Can you imagine?  I cannot, but thankfully Catherine Egan did.  Julia, the main character, is the child of a witch, yet isn’t a witch.  Julia has her own special ability to move between planes of existence and this ability makes her dearly sought after by the most powerful beings of all.  Julia finds herself friends and allies with her would be victims (she’s a thief) and finds herself on a journey of self-discovery to save a little boy she betrayed.

Verdict:  A great new twist on witches and their powers!  A fast-paced, fun to read book.  I look forward to the next book!

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller

Miller, Linsey.  Mask of Shadows. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Sourcebooks Fire, 2017.  ISBN 978-1-4926-4749-2.  352 pages. Ages 14 and up.  Q7P8

A very fast paced medieval-ish fantasy novel with a heroine/hero!  She/he is gender fluid and while this confused me at first, the author does an excellent job at keeping the gender neutral. The nature of gender fluidity works extremely well for the part played in the novel.  Sal is a trained assassin for the queen and can assume any character needed to be successful at the job.  We experience Sal’s training and successes as an assassin.  Included is a nongraphic romance between two people who love each other not for how they look or their gender, but for who they are.

I give a quality 7 because of the slight confusion caused by the gender fluidity (I’m not sure this could have been achieved in a more understandable manner) and because I found myself flipping back in the book to confirm facts the story was based on, but not explained sufficiently for me to understand.  Love the art work on the cover!

Verdict:  An exciting fantasy novel with a non-gendered spin to stretch our minds and help us understand and accept their differences.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: On a LARP: a Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventure, by Stefani Deoul

Deoul, Stefani. On a LARP: a Sid Rubin Silicon Alley adventure. “Advance reader copy.”  Bywater Books, publication date April 11, 2017. $11.95. ISBN 9781612940953. [164 pages.] Ages 14+. P7Q8

As Sidonie—Sid—Rubin notes, the “the teenage brain doesn’t know, understand or care what it can’t do; and while this sounds great in theory, in practice it honestly is not always a good thing.”  A brief glance at a murder scene photo on an AP honors class outing to the local police department leads Sid Rubin and her friends into a police investigation and confrontation with a high-tech serial killer involved in steampunk live-action role playing games.  Told in first person by lesbian nerd Sid, this fast paced, frenetic mystery introduces an appealing heroine.  I hope that it will be the first of a series—I would enjoy seeing more of Sid and her friends.

Verdict: This appealing mystery has a main character who is a lesbian, but the book is not an issue novel about being a lesbian.  The mystery delves into the dark net and flows from clue to clue.  Highly recommended for high school and college popular reading collections as well as public library collections.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: House of Furies, by Madeleine Roux

Roux, Madeleine. House of Furies. HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2017. ISBN 9780062498618. $17.99. 406 pages. P7 Q8

Madeleine Roux, author of the creepy Asylum series of young adult books, has written a similarly spooky novel, House of Furies. Like her Asylum series, House of Furies centers around a building and its inhabitants, though with an emphasis on mythical humanoid creatures like those found in Western European folklore—including the fae and banshee among others. The story is definitely horror themed with some more disturbing elements and characters. The House of Furies refers to a murderous boarding house run by Mr. Morningside (a play on morning star), who has an evil history all his own. One main focus of the story is the duality of human nature. None of the characters are entirely evil nor are they overwhelmingly good; however, this dichotomy is under constant scrutiny as each character makes their case to continue living. With the introduction of each new mythological creature, comes a drippy ink illustration in the style of Stephen Gammell (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark). These illustrations help to create the book’s creepy atmosphere.

Verdict: Fans of the Asylum series will enjoy the tone and imagery of House of Furies. Those who do not enjoy horror should probably not read this book. Due to the popularity of this book’s themes, I expect it to be well-liked among young readers.

September 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Merrow, by Ananda Braxton-Smith

Braxton-Smith, Ananda. Merrow. Candlewick Press, 2016. ISBN 9780763679248. $16.99. 233 pages. Grades 8+. P7 Q9

Merrow isn’t really about mermaids. It’s about Kraken, web-fingered creatures with the tails of fishes, ancient children who left their marks on cave walls, small town gossip, and a world-wise twelve-year-old girl named Neen Marrey. Ananda Braxton-Smith writes with the voice and tragedy of the hardened Irish island folk of whom she writes. To those on the Island, and Need in particular, the sea is a family member. One who is often responsible for life-giving fruits and equally devastating heartbreak. Merrow is not an easy read. It is character driven and there is plenty of quirky Irish and Nordic vocabulary—which only adds to its authenticity. Readers who enjoy Irish writing and folklore with adore this story.

Verdict: This book is highly recommended. The language is often figurative, rife with imagery and cultural references. It belongs in school and public libraries.

September 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.