Category Archives: Book Reviews

SciFi Book Review: Replica

Replica by Lauren Oliver

Synopsis:
Lyra’s story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers her father’s mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

Review:
Lyra and a fellow clone escape their facility only to learn horrifying truths about their pasts. Gemma helps Lyra and 24 escape, and finds herself in the middle of more danger than she could imagine.

Replica is a unique and fascinating story told from two different characters’ points of view. It’s the first in a YA scifi duology. It’s a flip book, as one side of the book is Lyra’s story, and you flip the book over to start reading Gemma’s which ends in the middle of the book. The pacing is steady and flows well – even when we switch to Gemma’s side, it doesn’t get repetitive. Full of suspense, intrigue, drama, and a bit of romance – this is an exciting thriller that I won’t soon forget.

SciFi Book Review: Pawn

Pawn by Timothy Zahn

Synopsis:
Nicole Lee’s life is going nowhere. No family, no money, and stuck in a relationship with a thug named Bungie. But, after one of Bungie’s “deals” goes south, he and Nicole are whisked away by a mysterious moth-like humanoid to a strange ship called the Fyrantha.

Once aboard, life on the ship seems too good to be true. All she has to do is work on one of the ship’s many maintenance crews. However, she learned long ago that nothing comes without a catch. When she’s told to keep quiet and stop asking questions, she knows she is on to something.

Nicole soon discovers that many different factions are vying for control of the Fyrantha, and she and her friends are merely pawns in a game beyond their control. But, she is tired of being used, and now Nicole is going to fight.

Review:
Nicole is a down and out, and pretty much given up when she’s suddenly abducted by aliens. She and other humans are used to work as laborers aboard the spaceship. And as it turns out, Nicole has a special gift that makes her especially valuable to her abductors. She is able to communicate with the ship – as it tells her specifically what the work crews need to fix. But Nicole stumbles upon another section of the ship that will push her to do more.

Pawn is the first in a new, original scifi series. The story wasn’t quite what I expected. The majority of the story takes place entirely on the ship, as Nicole uncovers a mystery. It’s well-paced, and full of drama and suspense. Fyrantha is an intriguing ship, and I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface in this first installment. Zahn has created another engaging universe of diverse aliens and complex characters. I look forward to the next in this promising series.

Fantasy Book Review: The Rat Prince

The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder

Synopsis:
Before Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters moved into Lancastyr Manor, Cinderella was known as the Lady Rose de Lancastyr. Then her stepmother forced her to become a kitchen maid and renamed her. At first the rats of the manor figure Cinderella for a lack-wit and take pity on her by bringing her food and a special family heirloom. But when Cinderella’s stepmother finds a way to prevent her from attending the ball, the rats join forces to help her. The night of the ball is filled with magic and secrets–not least of all who Lady Rose will choose to be her Prince Charming.

Review:
Char is the Rat Prince, who looks after Cinderella and the household. You may know the story of Cinderella, but this is a fun new twist, both from Cinderella and Char’s point of views. This all-ages novel is a highly-enjoyable fairy tale. This clever take puts Cinderella’s rat friends as main characters and a surprising Prince Charming. There is plenty of humor, suspense, drama, and heart. This sweet and endearing story is not one I’ll soon forget.

SciFi Book Review: Invictus

Invictus by Ryan Graudin

Synopsis:
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

Review:
Farway is a young man who’s dreams are shattered when he fails the final exam before becoming a Recorder like his mother. So when he’s presented with the job of leading a crew back in time to steal minor artifacts from the past, Farway sees it as the next best thing. And it’s also an opportunity to possibly find and rescue his mother who has been missing in time for years.

Invictus is an exciting romp through time. With engaging characters and an intriguing plot, this action-packed story was absolute fun. There were a couple twists I didn’t see coming. And a big finale that doesn’t disappoint. This is a standalone novel, but the fantastic worldbuilding left me wanting more.

Fantasy Book Review: The Princess and the Page

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

Synopsis:
A dark secret lurks in Keira’s family. She comes from a long line of Word Weavers, who bring their stories to life when they use a magical pen. But for generations Word Weavers have been hunted for their power. That’s why Keira is forbidden to write. When Keira discovers her grandma’s Word Weaver pen, and writes a story for the Girls’ World fairy-tale contest, she starts to wonder if anyone ever truly lives happily ever after. Inspired by the life and times of Gabrielle d’Estrées, a real French princess who lived during the 1500s, The Princess and the Page follows the mystical journey of a modern-day “royal” who goes from having a pen in her hand to wishing for the world at her fingertips.

Review:
Keira’s mother forbids her from writing – she dislikes all fiction. But Keira and her friend write a fairy tale anyway to enter a contest. But Keira’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Little does she know that when she uses her grandmother’s magical pen, what Keira writes has an effect on the reality.

The Princess and the Page is an enchanting children’s fantasy. Farley’s take on a historical princess makes for a captivating tale. This fast-paced adventure contains plenty of mystery and suspense and colorful characters. The Young fantasy fans will enjoy this fun and story with an exciting finale.

SciFi Book Review: Dragon and Thief

Dragon and Thief: A Dragonback Novel by Timothy Zahn

Synopsis:
Jack Morgan has been framed for theft. He’s hiding on a distant planet with the virtual presence of his deceased Uncle Virge, a con man who has been his only family since Jack’s parents died. Jack knows he must clear his name before the cops catch up with him. A firefight among ships in the skies above leaves a downed ship near Jack’s hiding place, with a single unlikely survivor. It looks like a dragon, and it must join with a human host within six hours or die. The only available host is Jack.

Draycos, Jack’s new “companion,” is a K’da, a dragon-like species that lives symbiotically with the humanoid Shontine. The attackers, determined to exterminate Draycos’s people, will find them if they don’t flee; so the pair works together to escape the planet and begin a search for the truth behind Jack’s frame-up and the identity of the attackers.

With Jack’s future hanging in the balance, as well as the future of billions of Draycos’s people, the pair must track down the people who framed Jack, and prevent the destruction of the remaining K’da and Shontine. They’ll also discover whether their union was mere coincidence, or a friendship written in the stars.

Review:
Draycos is a two-dimensional being who needs a host in order to survive. When his ship is attacked, he vows to seek justice. Jack is a reformed thief on the run, after being framed. The two maintain their separate personalities and entities, Draycos simply needs to return to Jack as a tattoo to recharge. When Jack is forced to take a job for those who framed him, Draycos may be just the ally he needs.

Dragon and Thief is a reprint and first in a series. I read Zahn’s Star Wars novels years ago and loved them. The universe is creative and exciting. And the characters are fantastic. Full of mystery, action, and humor – this fun, space romp was over too soon. And I will now be picking up the rest in this Dragonback series.

SciFi Book Review: Exo

Exo by Fonda Lee

Synopsis:
It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose their rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience.

When Sapience realizes who Donovan’s father is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip. But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son. Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one.

Review:
Donovan is a young soldier, whose body has been fused with alien technology. While investigating a lead on a possible terrorist, he is captured by the enemy. The Sapience want an Earth free from the alien presence that invaded years ago. But both sides have a lot to learn from each other.

Exo is a standalone, science fiction novel with the feel of V. The story and future Earth is captivating and fascinating. The aliens are mysterious with cool technology. Yet readers can sympathize with both sides. The aliens have brought a kind of peace and superior technology, yet the humans-only club don’t believe humanity needs them lording over Earth. Full of suspense and drama, this exciting novel also deals with morality issues. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced, surprising read.

Book Review: The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry

The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek by Lance Parkin

Synopsis:
This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce ‘Hornblower in space’ and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity’s future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Along the way Lance will examine some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise’s history, and Roddenberry’s particular contribution to them. He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during it’s wilderness years in the 1970s, explore Roddenberry’s initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colourful personal life, self-mythologising and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.

Review:
I didn’t know much about Gene Roddenberry other than the basics, so I was interested in learning more about the man and the history of my favorite futuristic universe. While Parkin didn’t have a relationship with Roddenberry, he obviously did extensive research and cited all of his information thoroughly. I was impressed with the amount of detail, all backed by other published works or recordings. This is not a book that idolizes Roddenberry or makes him a villain, but seems to be an honest look at a human man. And this is a detailed journey of the early years of Star Trek to The Next Generation. There was some jumping around, but for the most part the timeline flowed well. I appreciated this candid biography and enjoyed learning more about Roddenberry and the others who worked so hard on both the Original series and Next Gen.