Monday, February 13, 2017

YA Science Fiction: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

28954189Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages:  448
Published:  November 22nd, 2016

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this:  Scythe won a Printz honor and I've been looking for some more YA books my child might like to read.  The premise piqued my interest:   

 " Thou shalt kill.   

 A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.   

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure
 could mean losing their own."  (From Goodreads)

Scythes have ten rules that they live by, rules that were designed to help control the population and guide them in the process of their "gleanings" (killing of others.)  The manner in which they choose to take someone's life defines what kind of Scythe they are. Scythes are supposed to be moral, just, and ethical, but not all follow the same rules.   Citra and Rowan are two teenagers who encounter Scythe Faraday as he is performing one of his gleanings, he becomes intrigued by the way they interact with him and see's potential for them to become scythes.  Enough to choose them both to be his apprentice, something that neither of them is interested in doing.   But, no one can refuse a scythe.  Faraday will train each of them, but only one of them can go on to be a scythe.  Shusterman creates this fascinating world where there is no aging or disease, and natural deaths don't occur anymore.  People have nanites which can heal you, you can wind back your age and even if you try to kill yourself (or "splat", which is a horrible image),  you get healed and are returned to your normal life.  Then there are the scythes, who are skilled in the art of killing.  They are supposed to randomly choose their targets, yet sometimes they make the choice of who and why they are going to kill someone. There's also a lot of power politics going on within the Scythedom, partial because Faraday should have never taken on two apprentices and because another scythe is scheming in the background.  Scythes also keep a daily journal, which Shusterman shares entries from between each chapter.  The entries pose some of the moral questions that scythes have about their work and give an insight to the various teachers of Rowan and Citra's thoughts about their work.  I really enjoyed Citra and Rowan's characters as they were navigating their way through their classes and training in the use of poisons, weapons etc.  Especially when the story takes a turn and the two are pitted against each other in a competition where the winner must glean the other. Way to raise the stakes. There's even this computer, algorithmic "conscious" mind called The Thunderhead that is sort of like the cloud and holds all sorts of information.  Quite an entertaining and unique read.    

Favorite Line:  "I feel bad for you,"  said Citra.  "Even when you're food shopping, death is hiding right behind the milk."  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Word of Mouse by James Patterson & Chris Grabenstein


Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Number of Pages:  254
Published:  December 12th, 2016

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this:    Chris Grabenstein wrote the Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library and together with James Patterson writes the series I Funny, House of Robots and Treasure Hunters.   I was curious about Patterson's new book imprint, Jimmy Patterson Books.  According to his website, he is investing all his proceeds from the sales of his Jimmy books back into reading initiatives.   

Opening line:  "My story starts on the day I lost my entire family."

While escaping the "horrible place" (research laboratory), Isaiah somehow manages to get separated from his ninety-six siblings.  They all get recaptured by the "long coats," but Isaiah is able to make it to the "outside."  A strange and dangerous place for a small mouse, especially when there are rats and an evil cat lurking around. If Isaiah is to survive, he will need to find some food and shelter.  After some quick maneuvering to get past Lucifer, the neighborhood cat, Isaiah manages to find Mikayla (a mouse with a beautiful singing voice).  Mikayla takes him to her family and soon Isaiah is learning how to scavenge for food and making plans to rescue his own family from the "horrible place."    At first, Isaiah is very scared being in the "outside," he's even terrified just by the word "cat" being spoken aloud. His transition to leading a charge against the laboratory happens as he gains confidence in himself.  He uses his voice to stand up to Lucifer and begins to see that words hold weight.  Isaiah also gets help from Mikayla and her family, as well as Hailey, a girl that he meets in the house next door. The two are able to communicate because Isaiah can read and write, so he uses a keyboard to type messages to her.  I think you can probably figure out that the story ends on a happy note.      

Although not expressly mentioned, the mice from the laboratory seemed to have undergone some kind of experiments.  Isaiah's fur is blue, while his siblings are different colors. The whole story kinda reminded me of a gentler version of The Secret of NIMH.  Isaiah is also pretty intelligent, which comes from him reading books,  and he has quite the vocabulary. He uses words like "dulcet," "ominous," and "crepuscular."  Each chapter begins with a quote followed by five to six pages per chapter.  Patterson also includes little tidbits of information about mice, like who knew a mischief is the name for a group of mice?  Plus the illustrations by Joe Sutphin are gorgeous.   I think Word of Mouse would make a great book to read aloud to a seven to ten-year-old so some of these more difficult words could be explained.  There was one thing that did come off as a bit odd, like why make the statement that girl mice aren't allowed to sing and then never really counter those words?  Mikayla does lead a sort of charge by singing, but her siblings also seemed to put her down too much for my taste.  They even call her "artsy-fartsy" at one point.  I  would've been perfectly fine if Word of Mouse was a stand alone, but it also might be interesting to see what Isaiah does now that he finds out there is a Lab still out there committing worse acts and this time it's the cats that are in danger.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

MG Fantasy/Adventure/Mystery: The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal

28954041The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster books for Young Readers
Number of Pages:  390
Published:  November 8th, 2016

Source:  Library

Why I wanted to read this:    The beetle on the cover intrigued me and I was curious about who was looking for lost property, what kinds of things were lost? 

Opening Line:  "A pair of rather large, blue-green beetles buzzed north over the River Thames, weaving back and forth over the water's surface in that haphazard pattern that beetles fly."

When thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles' father goes missing in London, he travels with his mother and younger sister to try to find him.  Jack's mother tells them to stay put in the hotel while she searches the local hospitals, but Jack's sister wanders off after someone who looks just like their father. Jack and Sadie then stumble into the lost property office where they hope to get directions back to their hotel.  Instead, they find a secret society of detectives who track lost people and items and maybe they can help Jack and his sister.  What they do find is that Jack's father is being held by a man known only as the Clockmaker and unless Jack can find something called "the Ember,"  he plans to kill him.  

The Lost Property Office is an interesting place, home to a secret society of trackers able to see and hear things that others can't.  A skill that Jack inherited from a long line of  Buckles before him, but not one based on magic, instead is connected to neuroscience.  Jack has this ability that allows him to touch something made of wood, metal, or stone and in return receives information from the item.  A sort of "spark" or vision of something from the present or even past.   A pretty cool concept, but does have some dangers, like glass apparently being the most dangerous because it refracts things and can be overwhelming.   Jack isn't alone in his quest, he meets up with Gwen, an apprentice clerk who is a sort of guide around London and knowledgeable in the inner workings of the Lost Property Office.  Gwen does have her own reasons for wanting to help Jack, but the two do seem to make a great team.   There was also this mystery to solve and I liked how the history of the Great Fire of London in 1666 was included. Along the way, Jack finds out interesting facts about his families history, things his father has kept hidden from him including those talents Jack never knew he had.  A really nice introduction to a new series and I really hope Hannibal continues to incorporate historical places and people in the next book.