Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Saturday Short: Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Both kids and adults will love today’s illustrated book that’s got a twist on the most famous science fiction movie series: Star Wars.

darth-vader-and-sonTitleDarth Vader and Son
AuthorJeffrey Brown
SeriesStar Wars: Darth Vader and Kids
Publish Date: Jan 1, 2012
Genre: Humor
Source: Purchased/Received as gift

Publisher’s DescriptionWhat if Darth Vader took an active role in raising his son? What if “Luke, I am your father” was just a stern admonishment from an annoyed dad? In this hilarious and sweet comic reimagining, Darth Vader is a dad like any other except with all the baggage of being the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Celebrated artist Jeffrey Brown’s delightful illustrations give classic Star Wars moments a fresh twist, presenting the trials and joys of parenting through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. Life lessons include lightsaber batting practice, using the Force to raid the cookie jar, Take Your Child to Work Day on the Death Star (“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”), and the special bond shared between any father and son.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Kat_Mandu_100Kat Mandu says…

Though I’m not a crazy fan about Star Wars (shock and awe, I know, but p.s. it’s not that I dislike it, I’m just not a super fan!) I adored this book. It takes a cute spin on what it’s like to be a parent by giving common dad vs kid moments a Star Wars theme. Like for example, “are we there yet?” and “where do babies come from?”

badge4v5Each page is full of sweet illustrations that will appeal to both the child reader and the adult one. Cheers Star Wars parents, this book is for you!

Rating: four stars.

Percy_Procrastinator_100Percy Procrastinator says…

This is a fun book! It takes many of the iconic scenes from the six movies and asks, what would have happened if Luke was a kid being raised by Darth Vader? For Star Wars fans, there are then fun scenes using the Catina, sarlacc, Cloud City, and many others. For parents, it’s a look at how kids can ask the really tough questions without realizing it. Or how they don’t understand your job and just want to spend time with you.

badge4v5All in all very humorous and a quick little read.

Four stars.

Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs

The adventure continues, reluctantly, for Elena and Adam as they go back to the future—several futures, in fact—to save their friends and themselves.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

future-threatTitleFuture Threat
Author: Elizabeth Briggs
SeriesFuture Shock, Book 02
Publish Date: March 1, 2017 by Albert Whitman & Co.
Genre: YA Sci-Fi (time travel suspense)
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Cover: Paul Stinson

Publisher’s DescriptionSix months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information–but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether’s not done with her–or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether’s latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost–or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything–including their relationship–to save their friends.

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Future Shock trilogy.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

Future Threat is intense, and I love it. More than any other time travel I’ve read, Future Threat demonstrates the potential danger of both knowing your future and changing the future. It gave me quite a lot to think about.

Elena, Adam, and Chris—collectively called Team Delta—get pulled back to Aether’s time-travel scheme to save the latest team to go rogue, Team Echo. While there, they try to save the life of one of the Echo team members and end up losing one of their own. So they go back again, and again, to try and fix the past. Each time they go back, the future is different. The effects of the team’s actions create a worse and worse future each time they visit. Adam and Elana have to figure out why the future is getting worse and fix it before all is lost.

Adam and Elana go to the same future several times. So two or three of them are in the future at the same time. Oddly enough, though I’m not a math person, I kept thinking about the rules for parentheses in Excel formulas as I read this book. Weird, right? But Adam and Elana go back to the future three times. Each time, their trip is shorter. It’s like they have to go and return before the last time they went and returned, like nesting parenthesis. I don’t know if that’s true, but the thought kept popping into my head. 😉

In the one future where Chris, Elena, and Adam are happy and successful, Future-Elena is terrified that Now-Elena is going to mess things up. I can understand that. When you’re happy, you don’t want anything to change.  But at the same time, someone somewhere is NOT happy. If they change things to suit themselves, how will that change your future? This is one of the questions posed in Future Threat.

Another is how knowledge of the future would affect the decisions you made to get there. So, if you knew you were already destined to be an awesome piano player, for example, would you be compelled to practice as much? And if you didn’t practice as much, would that future come about? Not new questions in time travel fiction, but certainly good ones.

I was chatting with Kat recently about what made this a young adult book rather than a straight sci-fi book. Ah, the nature of genres, right? 15 years ago, this same book would have been listed as sci-fi, no question. The protagonists being college freshman age wouldn’t have made a difference. Today, however, YA as a category is popular and lucrative, especially in print as opposed to ebook form; so, it makes sense to market this as YA now. Honestly, I think that is the only difference I can think of. What do you think, readers? Chime in and tell me what sets a YA apart from adult novels, and specifically this one, if you’ve read it.

badge5v5I haven’t listened to this book yet, but I know Erin Spencer did an awesome job as always. I’ll be downloading it and listening soon. This book is just as awesome as the first, so another five stars!

Oh, and although Future Threat really felt like the end of the series, I see there is another one due out in 2018. Its title, Future Lost, make me really apprehensive!!! I want Chris and Elena to have their happy ending.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out these books for some more time travel romance or suspense: A Girl In Time by John Birmingham, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs

Regular readers will be shocked to hear this, but I read a YA and I liked it. Yeah, I know, hard to believe. But this time-travel suspense is well done and there are no whiny high-schoolers to be seen. Yay!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Future ShockTitleFuture Shock
AuthorElizabeth Briggs
SeriesFuture Shock, Book 01
Publish Date: April 5, 2016, Albert Whitman & Co
Genre: YA Sci-Fi (time travel suspense)
Cover: Paul Stinson
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Source: ARC from publisher/purchased audio

Publisher’s DescriptionElena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life—or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she’ll be set for life. Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there.

But when the time travelers arrive thirty years in the future, something goes wrong, and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates. Now they have twenty-four hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding. With time running out and deadly secrets uncovered, Elena must use her eidetic memory, street smarts, and a growing trust in Adam to save her new friends and herself.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

When I was at BEA last Spring, I saw a poster of the cover of Future Shock on one of the booth walls. Thinking it was a new urban fantasy (because … tattooed chick with a city backdrop … kind of indicative of the urban fantasy genre), I asked after the book. Turns out I was at the Albert Whitman & Co. booth. Albert Whitman is a publisher of children’s books. Yes, I was eyeballing a YA book! It felt kind of dirty, like I, at 40-something, was admiring the backside of a high-school boy. But I just couldn’t get over that cover. So, I brought the book home, but put off reading it for almost a year.

Much later, I heard from several people that the book was getting quite a lot of praise, the cover was still calling to me, and the sequel became available on NetGalley (with another awesome cover). So, I requested the sequel from NetGalley and put Future Shock on the review schedule.

I’ve been in a listening mood rather than a reading one, so I looked up the audiobook. The audio happens to be read by Erin Spencer, whose voice I know and love from the Halfway Witchy books by Terry Maggert. That made me happy.

I give YA a hard time on this blog, but what I really don’t like about some YA is whiny teenagers, stupid decisions, and raging hormones. That might be an accurate reflection of real life, but I don’t want to read about it. I also don’t want to read stories set in high school. I had enough of that horror when I was in high school. However, I have no problem with good stories that just happen to have young characters. I’d classify Future Shock as one of those.

I feel this is really a suspense story. It does involve time travel a short way into the future, which is integral to the mystery; so there is a slight sci-fi aspect to it.  It’s not hard sci-fi, by any means, but there is some fun speculation about what our world might look like in the near future, which I would guess isn’t too far off the mark. I’m rooting for the self-drive cars at the very least.

The kids in this story are seventeen or eighteen. All of them have had difficult lives, and so have both the pros and cons that come along with that. They are pretty self-sufficient, decent problem solvers, and capable of handling themselves. Their skills aren’t too exaggerated for their ages and situations, which is nice to see. There are some romantic feelings between two characters, but it isn’t the focus of the story, and the one intimate moment is handled very well, actually.  The kids seem to make appropriate decisions, have appropriate values and priorities, and behave appropriately for their situation. I wouldn’t have any qualms about allowing a young person to read this book.

I did have one question, though: where does a foster kid get the money for extensive tattoos? Those things are expensive. Cool, but expensive! Would Human Services have a problem with a foster parent giving a foster kid money for tattoos? Inquiring minds want to know.

The mystery and suspense is well done.  I was one step ahead of the characters at the first big reveal, but I didn’t have anything figured out after that. I was invested in the characters enough to feel nervous for them; I really wanted to see them succeed.

badge5v5I have to say I like this book. More than like, actually. I’m impressed, and I am looking forward to reviewing the next book, Future Threat, for next week.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Weregirl by C.D. Bell and Heartborn by Terry Maggert are two other YA books I’ve read that have good characters and good story without the whining. 🙂

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

In this story of vengeance, war, and the continued struggle of power versus morality, former slave Darrow will risk everything to cut down his enemies, even if it means he has to become everything he hates to bring them to their knees…

red-risingTitleRed Rising
AuthorPierce Brown
Series: Red Rising, Book 01
Publish Date: January 28, 2014 by Del Rey
Genre: YA sci-fi dystopian
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labor, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Agent_Annie_100Agent Annie says…

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is perfect for the avid teen reader in your life. It is similar to the Hunger Games and the Divergent series. It’s still young people being pitted against each other and is more bloody and graphic than others I’ve read, but I enjoyed the idea that humans had “evolved” artificially and that caste systems were created to perpetuate a society that had to flee a dying earth.

As the first in the trilogy, the author did a great job of world building, sucking the reader into the plight of the “Reds”, and creating characters that I cared about. The action certainly never stopped and I appreciated the complexity of the relationship between Darrow and Cassius and that Darrow had to learn how to be and to think differently than what society had taught him.

badge4v5The author has set the stage for the next book in the series, Golden Son, and I will be interested to see if the author brings in more of the other planets in the galaxy that are part of the world he created. I give it a 4 for creating a unique dystopian world and that it is well written.

Other recommendations…

Check out books by Mindee Arnett, Jack Campbell, and Veronica Roth.

Crimson Sky by Amy Braun

2016-standout-award-badge-smallVampiric aliens, post-apocalyptic steampunk, airship pirates… what’s not to love about Amy Braun’s new Dark Sky series!

Crimson Sky smallTitle:  Crimson Sky
Author:  Amy Braun
Series: Dark Sky Book 01
Publish Date:  February 2, 2016
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionThey’re always watching. They’re always waiting. They’re always starving…

Ten years ago, the sky shattered and the Hellions emerged. No one was able to keep them from destroying the city of Westraven. Now that the bloodthirsty monsters rule the skies and have forced the few remaining humans underground, Claire Abernathy lives in a nightmare. She survives by using her skills as an engineer for a ruthless tyrant connected to her mother and father’s past failure.

Then Claire’s world is torn apart when her sister Abby is kidnapped by the Hellions, and Claire herself is taken by dangerous sky pirates known as marauders. But Claire will not be intimidated by them while her sister’s life hangs by a thread, and so she strikes a deal with them: If they help rescue Abby, she will fix their ship and give them the chance to take the revenge they desperately seek.

As Claire fights for her sister’s life, she begins to realize that the Hellions are not the only dangers she’ll face. Burdensome secrets and devastating betrayals threaten her at every turn, and if she loses herself to them, it won’t just be her life that is destroyed…

Possible spoilers beyond this point.

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

“Combining vampires and pirates into a cohesive story is something I’ve wanted to do since childhood.”  –author’s acknowledgements

Crimson Sky has more than just vampires and pirates.  Braun combines these with aliens, steampunk, post-apocalypse, family secrets, and advanced tech in a way that makes sense, is entertaining, and is quite genre-bending.

I think my favorite part of this book is the relationship between Claire and pirate Sawyer.  Both are struggling to keep themselves and those they care about alive.  Both are haunted by their families’ pasts.  They both want to open up, but have learned that doing so makes them too vulnerable and jeopardizes the lives of others.  And both are so afraid of what is to come.

badge5v4If you’ve read Braun’s Cursed series (a One Book Two Standout Award winner), you will feel some similarities between the protagonists.  Both are trying desperately to save a sister, and more, they are trying desperately to stay focused on saving the sister, despite the other things happening to them and around them.  I think Claire is a little more open than Connie; not quite as damaged.  She hasn’t really trusted enough people in her life to feel betrayed by them.

Crimson Sky certainly has elements that should appeal to everyone. As with Braun’s other books, I’m really looking forward to seeing where she goes next in the series.


Nervous Nellie says…

One word to describe this book: “In-freaking-credible”!!  I admit I don’t give out many 5 stars, but this one is it.  It is a “one-sit” wonder.  I started reading after work and didn’t put it down until the very end.

Claire’s world is harsh.  When you think of electricians and engineers, I’m sure you don’t think of wicked evil warlords.  Electricians and Engineers is the primo occupation during this time.  If you control the electricity or can fix any complicated machine, you are fairly safe.  Not entirely, though. Everyone has an agenda and everyone wants to be the king of the mountain.

Claire lives within a colony of humans who lives below ground in very poor accommodations.  Think of peasants in the medieval times with access to small steampunk like tools and generators powering big airships.  The creatures that are the most savage are the Hellions – vampire-like demons that suck dry any human they can find above ground. Claire is vulnerable because she wants to protect her 8-year-old sister (a sister who has never known a world without monsters) so she has to work for the warlord.  The warlord beats her within an inch of her life more often than not, but she can’t run away. Where would she go? The warlord controls food, shelter, electricity – everything. It’s a vicious circle.

The adventure starts when 8-year-old Abby is stolen by the Hellions.  Claire is “captured” by pirates and has to convince this crew of marauders to help her save her sister.  She makes a deal with them and commences the fight of her life.   Her side of the deal isn’t impossible, but what she wants in exchange….wowzer…that in all reality has very slim chances of success.

badge5v4When you start this book, be sure you have time to finish.  It is fast paced and sometimes I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next. Once Abby is taken, the adventure is ON.  I couldn’t look away, I couldn’t get anything to eat.  It was THAT good.  OH, and there is no cliffhanger, but there is an indication there will be more books.  I sincerely hope so, because I have got to know more about…..well……I probably shouldn’t tell you. Get the book.  Let me know what you think – I’d love to discuss this further…

Our reviews in this series…

If you like this book…

…you might try Braun’s other works: The Path of the Horseman, the Cursed series, Needfire, and Call From The Grave.