Science Fiction

It’s been a while since I did a book review and it occurred to me that I’ve been reading a lot of amazing science fiction books in the past year or two. I want to share some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve been reading science fiction off and on over the years and enjoy it but a lot of it seems to focus on the science and technology and not so much on the character development. I think this has changed at least in the books I’ve been reading.

Many of these books show a view of the future which I never imagined which makes reading them a fun adventure. They are so different and sometimes weird, that I can never guess what is going to happen which keeps me turning the pages. These two books are examples of this. The Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang Stories of Your Life and Othersis a book of short stories that I’m still thinking about. The movie, Arrival, was based on one of the stories in this book. The other book is Sleeping Giants by Silvain Neuvel. Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)The premise of the book is very strange but I couldn’t stop reading it and look forward to reading the sequel.

Many are cautionary tales like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Station ElevenI think Sleeping Giants could fit into this category. Probably a few others as well. These are stories that make you wonder what you would do in the situations the characters are in. 

There are retellings of old stories with amazingly imaginative new twists and visions like Unclaimed (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan, Book 1) by Erin McCole Cupp which is a unique retelling story of Jane Eyre, science fiction style and is full of  neat ideas that I never would have thought of but make for a fun read.  Also the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)This is a fun series that retell the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White but the main characters are strong, kick-butt young women and the stories are full of cyborgs, robots and space travel. 

Some are written in an amazing physically graphic way; meaning the format of the story is a big part of the story itself like the Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)If you haven’t seen these books they tell the story using a variety of emails, confidential files and amazing pages of words that fly across the page or look like they are exploding making you feel like you are in space with them. They are books you experience as well as read.

But the ones I enjoy most have a little bit of everything. And the story is told through the perspectives of fully developed characters that I can relate to. The ones I like most usually have a positive outcome. Books that say, sure there are problems but we can overcome them. Some of the worlds they take place in I would love to visit. Others, not so much.

These last two authors are ones that I am telling everyone about because their writing is amazing! First there is the Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie who wrote Ancillary Justice,Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1) which is the first one. These books are what I would consider more hard-core science fiction but the way they are written is mind-blowing. The main character was once a starship with the ability to be able to ‘be’ in many places at once but is now trapped in one body. The way the author manages to give us the various views this character has had is amazing.

And my final recommendation is theThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. I just finished the first two and need to wait for the next one this summer. These books were so much fun I couldn’t put them down. The characters are so real that I wondered what they were doing when I wasn’t reading the books. These are lighter than the other ones which makes a good break from heavy reading.

I hope you will check some of these out and let me know if you do. I would love to hear what you think. And if you have any suggestions for me to read, please share.

Happy reading!

 

More Than One Book at a Time

Do you read more than one book at a time? Apparently this is a shocking concept to some people.

I’m always reading more than one book at a time. Plus magazines. I don’t give it much thought or think this is unusual but when it comes up in conversation a lot of people are surprised. Most people say they could never read more than one book at a time and that they would never be able to keep the stories straight.

I like to have options depending on my mood or the time of the day.

Reading nonfiction is very different for me than reading fiction. It’s easier pick up a nonfiction book and put it down because I don’t get as caught up in it like I do fiction. I can read a paragraph or a page or two, put the book down and do something else while I absorb what I just read. I read nonfiction out of curiosity and the desire to learn.

With fiction my goal is to escape. I tend to lose track of time and motivation to get things done so I try not to read it when I need to pay attention to what is going on around me or if I only have short amount of time to read. I get lost in the story and sometimes find it jolting when I have to put the book down and deal with real life.

Variety is important depending on my mood. If a day is going badly it’s wonderful to be able to lose myself in a made up world for a little while. It’s a mini vacation. And that comes in very handy when waiting for something like a doctor’s appointment. It makes the wait easier and keeps me from getting as nervous.

I don’t like to waste time so I always have something handy to read; like during commercials while watching TV. There are so many commercials now that I can get a lot of reading done! I don’t watch a lot of TV but the few shows I do watch are loaded with commercials. I used to be able to watch shows on demand and fast forward through the commercials but can’t seem to do that much anymore. Keeping a book ready passes that time in a good way.

Often I’m reading something for a book group. I don’t want to stop reading any other books so I just add another one. This reading involves taking notes for discussion or making up trivia questions for fun at the group.

Book pile

I like to have something lighter to read before going to sleep at night. I avoid anything really scary or full of graphic violence before drifting off. Those are not the kinds of thoughts I want to have dreams about!

Usually I have at least three books going at a time. Often more.

I know I’m a bit book crazy but wonder if other people do this as much as I do. I’m more surprised when people tell me they never have time to read. I find that amazing!

How about you? Do you read more than one book at a time?

Book Vlog

I’m going to start by saying that this is a shameless plugging of my daughter’s video blog, or vlog. She reviews books and since I know a lot of you love books I thought you might be interested in taking a look.

I also need to explain that I am not one of those moms who automatically thinks everything my kids do is wonderful. In fact, I am very skeptical until proven otherwise. (Sorry kids!) So when Chelsea told me that she was doing book review videos online I watched the first one not expecting much. Much to my delight, it was good! She’s really good!

So if you are looking for something good to read, head over to see what books she talks about. I know my to-read list has grown since I started watching. Sigh. So many books and so little time! It’s a great problem to have.

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Chelsea Palmer Book Reviews, Recommendations & Hauls

I hope you enjoy!

Unclaimed by Erin McCole Cupp

If you like Jane Eyre and science fiction/dystopian stories you need to read Unclaimed!

Who is Erin McCole Cupp? Well she’s one of my favorite visitors to the library I work in and a few years ago I learned that she’s a writer. After we talked writing and books for a while I couldn’t wait to read her books. First I read Don’t You Forget About Me which is a mystery and it was good! After reading that she told me that she had written a book called Jane_E, Friendless Orphan: A Memoir. When she told me it was a science fiction take on Jane Eyre I was in! I read that and really liked it.

Now Erin is re-releasing Jane_E’s story as a three part e book series. She has updated and revised it and part one is now available. Erin has sprinkled Unclaimed with so many wonderful details like perks rings, woven codes, interesting cultural mannerisms and people being re-keyed to fix any flaws they may have. The world of Jane E goes from sleek futuristic technology to gritty real world issues. The book is written in the first person so the reader is immediately pulled into Jane’s world. Jane is a strong and feisty ten-year-old at the beginning of the book and I found myself rooting for her right from the start.

So here is a summary of  part one which is called Unclaimed (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan Book 1).

Born not in a past of corsets and bonnets but into a future of cloning and bioterror, could Jane Eyre survive? This Jane is an “unclaimed embryo,” the living mistake of a reproductive rights center–or so her foster family tells her. At age ten she is sold into slavery as a data mule, and she must fight for freedom and identity in a world mired between bioscientific progress and the religions that fear it. What will happen to a girl without even a name of her own?

This is a fun book to read which I want to share with you and help Erin spread the word about its release.

10 Interesting Facts about Libraries and Librarians

I’m feeling a bit guilty about not blogging as regularly as I should be. I am so caught up in work, new house, new yard, work, making time for family and friends, work… well, you get the picture. I look forward to getting back to a writing routine but until that happens I will sneak in a bit here and there.

In the meantime I am enjoying other blogs so I’ll share the posts that I find inspiring, funny educational, and interesting. I hope you enjoy them too and will discover some great writers.

I’ll start with this one since I have a weakness for libraries.

Great facts about famous libraries and librarians around the world

We thought it was about time we saluted that noble institution, the library, with some of our favourite interesting bits of trivia about libraries and librarians.

Jacob Grimm, Philip Larkin, Casanova, David Hume, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lewis Carroll all worked as librarians.

Another word for a librarian is ‘bibliothecar’.

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The Librarian Who Writes

Guess what? I got to write a guest post for published author Erin McCole Cupp. She is finishing the sequel to her book Don’t You Forget About Me (which is a really good book!) and needed some guest posts for her blog so she could work. I’ve never done this before but figured I would give it a try. So please visit her blog to read what I had to say about how being a librarian informs my writing:  http://erinmccolecupp.com/?p=1563.

And while you are there, please check out Erin’s blog and her books. I’ve read her books and she is a terrific writer.

And Erin, if you read this, hurry up and finish that sequel! I can’t wait to read it!

 

Picture Book Meditation

I work in a library and patrons ask for recommendations all of the time. I try to read the new picture books as they come in. That made me think about how much I loved picture books as a child. Which led me to wonder why I didn’t seem to enjoy them as much as an adult.

The most obvious answer about why I loved them as a child is the memory of my mother reading to my sister and me. We belonged to a Dr. Seuss book club and I vividly remember whenever a new book arrived in the mail we stopped everything to sit on the couch while Mom read us the story. As she read, I devoured the illustrations. It was wonderful. When the story was over, I sat with that book practically memorizing every illustration. Then the next time the story was read to me I followed along more fully engaged.

Today, when I read a picture book I’m at work and busy. So I read it as quickly as I can and move on. It was making me a little sad that I didn’t seem to enjoy them as much and I wondered if it was one of those childhood things that we lose as adults. It eventually occurred to me that I wasn’t reading them the way they are meant to be read!

I checked out a few of the books that appealed to me and brought them home. Picking the books depended on the illustrations, the title and what the story seemed to be about. I’m a sucker for watercolor drawings but have since learned that when done right the style of the illustration should compliment the written words.  And now I’m more open to many different styles of illustration. There is greatness when the pictures enhance and deepen the story. It’s art.

Recently I sat on the couch and tried to put myself in the same frame of mind I had as a child. Reading silently didn’t work because I read too fast. I discovered that the words needed to be read out loud so I could savor each word and each page of illustrations. Slowing down to enjoy a book is something most adults forget how to do but doing this adds a depth and dimension to the story you don’t get with a quick read. The great thing about a picture book is that it’s short so it doesn’t involve a big time commitment.

Then a wonderful thing happened. I lost myself in the story. Despite the fact that picture books are only 32 pages on average, the combination of the right words with the right illustration becomes magical.

As adults we all need to slow down and be in the moment. Savoring picture books can be a form of meditation. Of losing yourself in the story. Who could have guessed that picture books are a wonderful way of doing that and we can still enjoy them as adults.

I can’t wait for the new books to arrive!

Here are just 3 of my favorite summertime picture books today:

The Raft by Jim La Marche

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Water is Water by Miranda Paul 

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayer

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A Gift From Harry Potter

The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling have been a part of my life from the beginning. I started reading them with my daughter when she was about the same age as Harry.

I remember reading that first book and being pulled in from the first page. The writing was fantastic and the world of Harry Potter was magical.

I started working at a book store and got to be a part of the Midnight Release Parties for the last three books. I became Professor Trivia and was in charge of the trivia games. I also started book discussion groups while there where we would meet and talk about all of the books in anticipation of the next one coming out.

These books are loved by people of all ages. There were kids from about the age of five all the way up to grandparents in these groups. The excitement about the new books, the bonds that people had made with the characters, the amazing memorizing of details and the fun of guessing or hoping what would happen next was so much fun. By the last book, everyone was curious to see how it would all end but felt sadness in it being over. I think everyone knew that we were a part of a historical event and nobody was taking it for granted.

Now I work in a tiny library and the love of the Harry Potter books and movies is going strong. Last year I decided to split the series in two and hold two discussion/trivia groups. I had a great turnout and the excitement is still there. It is wonderful to see that people are still discovering these books. I’m a little jealous of them getting to experience it all for the first time.

Did I mention the creative snacks we enjoy?

Did I mention the creative snacks we enjoy?

What I learned is that people still want to talk about the books in detail and those two groups weren’t nearly enough time. So after a few requests, I am now doing one book a month.

We just met to discuss Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second in the series. Most of the same people were there but there were some new faces too.

What was surprising was how creative these kids are! Not only did they know their stuff about Harry and the gang, they brought their own surprises. One young man showed us his magic card trick which I thought was amazing! Another played the theme music on his tablet. A girl introduced me to Potter Puppet Pals by playing one of these videos on her smart phone for the group. I realized that not only were the kids having fun but I was too!

My favorite thing that happened was that two of the kids admitted that they aren’t big readers but are having so much fun and enjoying these books so much that they are going to continue reading them and attending these groups. I don’t think I can fully express how excited I was to hear this!

These groups started out to be fun but have turned into so much more. Seeing young people getting excited about reading is just the best. It makes me feel like I am doing the right thing and that is a feeling we all could use more of. If you follow this blog you know that reading and writing are my passions in life. It is so fulfilling to be able to share with others and see them get it too.

So how about you? Do you have a passion for something and share it with others?

Harry Potter, Again?

 

Harry Potter Books

Harry Potter Books

 

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling holds a special place in my heart.

I first met Harry when my daughter introduced me to the first book when it came out. She and I read the book together and fell in love with the new wizarding world of modern day Harry Potter. She was enchanted because she was the same age as the character of Harry Potter and grew up with him. I was enchanted with the detailed original world and characters I was reading about.

Later, when I worked at a bookstore, I got to experience being a part of the midnight release parties. I was in charge of the trivia contests we had. Being a part of the excitement was amazing. I would buy two copies of each new book so that my daughter and I could stay up all night reading them together. We couldn’t wait to see what happened next!

By the time the last book was being released, I held discussion groups in the months leading up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The anticipation of how the series would end filled every fan with mixed feelings. We couldn’t wait to see how it ended but we dreaded that it would all be over. During these groups, we poured over every detail, tried to outdo each other in the trivia games and guess what would happen in the last book. I was amazed at the range of ages at these groups. Yes, it was mostly kids that but these books were enjoyed by people of all ages. Looking around and watching parents and grandparents discussing these books with their children, teens and grandchildren was awesome. How often does this kind of thing happen these days?

Why am I bringing this up now? Because recently I have enjoyed rediscovering the fun, wonder and good writing of these books. I work in a library now and am hosting two discussion groups about the Harry Potter books as part of the Summer Reading program. Last week was the first of the two groups and we discussed books 1-4.

Once again, I was sitting with a group of people ranging in age from a six-year-old to a couple of grandparents! The magic is still happening! It was wonderful hearing what parts of the story were their favorites, what parts made them laugh and what parts made them cry. Once again I am amazed at how much fun everyone has in trying to answer trivia questions or talking about what they would do if they had an Invisibility Cloak or the Marauder’s Map. How much they dislike Dolores Umbridge or how much they love Hagrid, Dobby and Luna Lovegood.

I was afraid it would be old and I would have to force myself to get through it all. I’ve had that happen with other books when I’ve reread them after time has passed. What a wonderful, and yes, magical surprise to find out that these books are just as good, ten years or so later!

From time to time I have reviewed books and written about authors in this blog and since I am fully immersed in the world of Hogwarts and all things Harry Potter once again, I felt it was time to share the fun with you.

I know it’s easy to let all the media hype steer you away from the massive icon Harry Potter has become but maybe you should give the books a try? If you do, I would love to hear what you think.

In the meantime, I am brushing up on my trivia knowledge from books 5-7!

Proxy by Alex London

Book cover image

 

I highly recommend the book Proxy written by Alex London. This is a YA science fiction story that is a well-written page-turner. There are enough futuristic details to make it a good science fiction story with strong characters the reader cares about.

The story takes place in the future. Society is set up with everyone having credit or debt. If you are rich, then you can afford to be a patron. Patrons have everything they need; comfortable homes, food, and lives of luxury. If you do something wrong then you can afford to have a proxy. Proxies take any punishment for their patron. This lasts as long as the proxy has a debt. Unfortunately for the proxy, it isn’t their choice.

Knox is the son of a wealthy businessman. If Knox does anything wrong, then he has to watch as his proxy is punished. Knox’s proxy is Syd. Knox grows up as a spoiled rich kid and has no feelings about his proxy. In his world, this is just the way it is.

Syd is an orphan and he becomes a proxy through no choice of his own. He lives in poverty, but is smart and tries to stay out of trouble and pay down his debt as soon as he can. He makes a meager living, goes to school and counts the days until he earns his freedom.

Until Knox kills a girl in a reckless car accident. Then Syd is sentenced to death for Knox.

One of my favorite lines in the books is “Fragments of rusted metal signs lay by the side of the road, back from the days before augmented reality, when information was planted in the dirt.”

The future in this book is dark but by the end of it, there is hope for changes to come. But no guarantees.

If you are looking for a fast-paced science fiction story, then read Proxy.

This book is a complete story in itself but the sequel to it is Guardian and comes out May 29th, 2014. I plan on reading it.