Elan Mastai: All Our Wrong Todays

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

Writing science fiction always seems like the hardest genre to me–there is always a problem to solve. When done right, the reader is transported directly into an alternate universe; when done wrong, all of the focus goes on the lack of research and the awkwardness or lack of world-building. The author has to be able to explain the problems and solutions well enough for a person like me to at least grasp the concept to make it believable–and also hold up to those smart enough to pick apart the numbers and equations in their heads.

All Our Wrong Todays is science fiction done WELL. I was immediately immersed into Tom’s whorling world of time travel between 2016 and 1965–and I had previously put down two books as DNF because I could not focus on anything. I was in serious danger of a book slump when I picked up Elan Mastai’s first novel. But instead, Tom’s fictional memoir saved both me and his world from total destruction.

This book does have some problems. Everybody in the book is straight, and while there are POC, they are mostly background characters.  Also, the relationships are a little sketchy, although the narrator does acknowledge that fact. He knows he’s an awkward guy going about everything the wrong way. Still–they are a bit problematic.

I am conflicted, because I hate “mental illness as a twist”–but I don’t think that is what is being done here. The book is a legit time travel story, but it does unpack some heavy mental illness and domestic abuse issues as a part of the plot. The narrator challenges and discusses them in the text. I can’t explain further without spoiling the book, but I think the author does a really good job of writing these issues in without using them as a plot device.

At first, I thought this was going to be a really great escape book for Inauguration Weekend. And it IS a good one to dive into, for sure. But this one will hit you deep. Can a book be fun, challenging, and heart wrenching all at the same time? Because All Our Wrong Todays certainly makes the effort.

NetGalley and Dutton provided an ARC for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Rachel Sharp: The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun

Mab is an unemployed feminist blogger with a philosophy degree, a deathly allergy to bee stings, and the real-world experience of a domestic rabbit. When Portland, Oregon is evacuated, no one thinks to look for her in her unlabeled apartment. She can still get news from the outside world for days. All the news is bad. The planetary Tarantella dance has started, and the world is shaking itself apart. Volcanoes and earthquakes abound. Taking stock of her supplies, she finds that her best survival gear includes a 49cc moped and clothing that wouldn’t keep a chihuahua warm in a Florida winter.
Left alone in the city, Mab fumbles along and documents her post-apocalypse adventures through the lens of mankind’s greatest coping mechanism: Inappropriate humor. She learns from experience as she misinterprets survival tips, battles wild geese, steals cars, befriends a buffoon of a dog, and discovers the difference between instinct and cultural training.
When Mab learns of a geologically stable place in Canada, she leaves Portland behind. Vet, the world’s dumbest remaining dog, goes with her, and while they try to navigate the wilderness, mountains become volcanoes. Strangers become bandits. Mab wasn’t prepared for this, but she writes the book on how to improvise in case of apocalypse.

My husband and his friend have zombie-preparedness plans. In fact, he’s so serious about them that we had zombie plans IN OUR WEDDING VOWS. Not even kidding.

But ya’ll, when it comes to fight or flight…I HIDE. So I completely related to Mab when she hid and hid and hid some more until she finally could nit hide anymore. When she came out of that third story apartment to realize “Um, hey, where’s everybody at? OH SHIT!” I almost died. Of course…so did Mab.

The Big Book of Post-Collapse Fun is written like a travel memoir–think Wild if Cheryl Strayed were walking the PCT while it was exploding. It’s also SUPER campy, thanks to Sharp’s incredible sense of humor. It’s equal parts serious, as in, OMG THE SUPER VOLCANO IS HAPPENING, but also HEY LET’S STEAL A HOT AIR BALLOON.

By the way, I would be dead, in this scenario because the Midwest just falls into a cavernous lake. All those dreams of Florida falling off into the sea? Nope. Rachel Sharp killed the Midwest. Thanks Rachel Sharp. Love you too.

I do though. This book is the very last book of 2016, and what a way to end the year. Actual fire and brimstone. Sounds about right.

Diverse Bingo 2017:  MC w/Anaphylactic Allergy

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Dual Review: Thelonious Legend: Sins of the Father + Childish Things

I reviewed Sins of the Father a year ago, when it was first released. I hadn’t developed my Book Dragon system yet, but I gave it a 3 on Goodreads. But it has stuck in my memory, and every time I think about it, I have wanted to go back and reread–I really did love these girls. Because he has written a sequel, Thelonious Legend contacted me and generously sent me both books, and so here is an updated review for Book 1, as well as my write up for Book 2.

Book 1:  Sins of the Father

This was going to be a special year for the Parker sisters. Eve was going to dominate in the classroom and on the basketball court. Gwen was going to make the starting five and go down in history as the greatest prankster ever. Ana was going to do as little as possible. But without warning, all three sisters gain extraordinary abilities that defy science… powers that come with a cost. Now all they want to do is make it through the school year without drawing any undue attention, while racing to find a cure before the side effects of their new abilities kill them. Eve’s temperament, Gwen’s fondness for pranks, and Ana’s predilection for money, however, are challenges they must overcome to achieve their goals. Because if they can’t, they’re dead…

My memory did not deceive me. The Parker Sisters are just as incredible the second time as they were the first. They are smart, strong, and fast–and that doesn’t just refer to their super powers, but the plot itself. I read this over Christmas weekend and kept having to put my Kindle away. I couldn’t wait to get back to the story! It is racially diverse without bringing attention to it. It simply IS diverse.

At the book’s core is a story about three black middle school girls who develop super powers and have to navigate school drama while fighting for their lives. But behind all that is also a backdrop of privilege and culture that teaches us all to look deeper than the mask people wear.

I would definitely recommend this for older middle schoolers (7th grade+) or really anyone who likes YA. There is some violence and darker themes so just be cautious with younger audiences–though I’d never discourage anyone wanting to read this.

 

Book 2:  Childish Things

Mo Powers Mo Problems! It’s a new school year for the Parker Sisters but it’s the same song and dance. Get good grades, avoid being kidnapped or killed before dinner, and don’t forget to take to out the trash. But this year there are a few new players in the game. Players who are as special as the Parker Sisters. Let the games begin.

I know I’m reading a really good book when I stop and it is way too quiet. Was I listening to music? No…the book is just THAT good.

This happened more than once while I was reading Childish Things. The action gets completely turned up in Legend’s second book. The girls are older, wiser, and more powerful. They are training harder, and are more prepared for the bad guys that are, well, badder.

Childish Things is Gwen’s story, where Sins of the Father centered more around Eve. This gives the book a very “middle child syndrome” spin, as we see her take on friends, boys, and life while constantly comparing herself to her older sister.

The social justice spin is more subtle in this second book, but it is there in the margins for those who are paying attention. I am very interested in the almost backward character development of Stacey in particular, and how Legend is using her to show white privilege and the kind of subtle unknowing prejudice we don’t realize we have.

 

Both of these books are fantastic, and ones that’ll be making my top recommendations this year. For sure add this series to your Diverse YA TBRs. I cannot wait to see what Legend does with Ana’s story next–she got quite a bit of development in Childish Things, and she’s my favorite of the three sisters. I said in my original review for Sins of the Father that Thelonious Legend would do “Legendary” things with his writing, and it may have been a pun…but I wasn’t wrong. I LOVE these books, and you will too!

Disclaimer:  The author did provide me with copies of both books for an honest review, after I had reviewed the first last year for a book tour. 

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Magen Cubed: The Crashers

At 9:17 AM, a subway train crashed in East Brighton City. That was when everything changed.

Five survivors emerge from the accident: former detective Kyle Jeong; single mother Norah Aroyan; Afghanistan veteran Adam Harlow; the genius Clara Reyes; and the dying Bridger Levi. These five strangers walk away from the crash unscathed, only to realize the event has left each of them with strange new powers. As their city falls into chaos around them, they find themselves drawn into a story far more dangerous than they ever knew – and it will change their lives forever.

Death, undeath, superpowers, and apocalyptic visions. Welcome to East Brighton City – hope you survive.

When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read, they usually end up on my TBR. When people start getting shouty on twitter about books I must read that are free today on Amazon…well…they get added to my Kindle IMMEDIATELY DO NOT PASS GO OR COLLECT $200–especially when they out of the LGBTQIA and/or POC community. Please shout at me all of the books.

The Crashers was one of such shouty books, just before my vacation. I actually intended to take my Kindle with me, but already had a couple book books going so didn’t manage to get to it while traveling. It has everything: POC leads, gay leads, bisexual leads, disabled characters, mental illness, several badass women who take no shit, and did I mention they are superheroes?

Also, the author’s bio says she lives in Texas with a little dog named Cecil, so how in the world could I pass that up?

The story itself was just a little slow to start for me, but I think that was just the anticipation because I knew it was going to build up so much. It was a case of being TOO excited to read it. I LOVED almost all of the characters. There were one or two that I didn’t quite mesh with, but Adam? Ohhh Adam. I’m so in love with him. Is there anyone in the world who isn’t in love with Adam?

If you love cop dramas, superheroes–especially dark ones (think DC, not Marvel)–you’re going to love this. The Crashers has so much grit. SO MUCH, you guys. I think there’s still some in my teeth. I need a graphic novel version with blacks and grays and reds. Sin City style.

OOCH I cannot wait until Koreatown. GIMMEE GIMMEE GIMMEE.

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Anna Kopp: Rise of the Chosen

In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

My first thought when I started this ARC was “EW, a zombie book! I hate zombie books! They are always the same thing!”

This is nothing like that zombie book. Not even close.

First of all, the zombies–Woken–aren’t running around eating people. They are certainly monsters, and they certainly kill, but no braaaaiiiiins. Secondly, these guys don’t look like maggot ridden grave vomit. Take The Others/White Walkers from Game of Thrones and replace the blue with red, and you have a Woken.

If you take it a step further and add some Captain America Super Serum and keep the human consciousness along with the Woken immortality, you have The Chosen. Basically, Super Zombies who are used to keep the city safe. They run around with swords and sever the heads of the Woken from their hearts–the only way to end them.

I told you this isn’t your normal zombie book.

Did I mention the main character is bisexual? She is–and with the exception of one awkward “he is so hot” moment with one of her work partners–I thought her sexuality was presented really well. It’s normalized in the story. She likes guys, she likes girls, all is well in the world.

Except, ya know…the whole zombie thing.

The plot is laid out in a before and after sort of way, though. I won’t tell you how. It’s interesting to see how everything is set up and then how it plays out. I think Kopp shows all her angles really well. I didn’t think I’d like this at all, but by the end I was pretty enthusiastic. I’m totally on board to read the next installment!

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NetGalley and Blue Moon Publishers provided an ARC for my unbiased review. Releases October 4. This post does contain affiliate links.

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GIVEAWAY: Criminal by KB Hoyle

Following the horrors she discovered in the basement of Sanctuary and her miraculous rescue at the end of Breeder, there is no longer any doubt in Pria’s mind that the Unified World Order and their goals for humanity are wicked. But convincing the rest of the world will be another story. When it’s revealed that the files she’d stolen from Sanctuary are worthless to the rebel cause, Pria and the other Free Patriots must scramble to come up with another way to convince the rest of the criminals to rise up in open revolution before the UWO’s monsters hunt down and destroy them all. But Pria still knows so little about liberty and self-determination, and her tenuous grasp of human nature complicates her role in the rebellion as she finds herself torn between Pax, her ever-present protector, and Henri, her good-natured friend. As she works through figuring out her feelings, she becomes increasingly anxious for Pax, who displays symptoms of a disturbing ailment, even as he withdraws from Pria.

Free Patriots from outside Asylum bring with them a new plan to infiltrate the seemingly impregnable UWO machine, and Pria is once again at the center of the plan. This time, though, she must be willing to erase her identity, just as she’s beginning to figure out who she is. It’s a sacrifice she thinks she’s ready to make to take down the UWO and save the world, but she has no idea just how difficult it will be.

Criminal-Large-Blog-Tour

There are books we like, there are books we love, AND THERE ARE BOOKS WE PUT ON OUR CALENDARS BECAUSE WE LOVE THE FIRST ONE SO MUCH AND HOLY CRAP THERE IS GOING TO BE A SEQUEL AND THE PUBLISHER JUST EMAILED ME TO PARTICIPATE IN THE BOOK TOUR AND OMG I CANNOT BREATHE.

I really cannot figure out WHY Breeder is not more popular. If you want an exciting YA dystopia with diverse characters–and not your normal “strong female lead” either–please let me throw this book at your face. This checks so many boxes. Only one of the leads is white–there are so many different POC in these two books. I wish it had more LGBTQA+ diversity, but it is pointed out that Bishop is asexual.

I absolutely loved the characters in Breeder, and they only get better in CriminalThere is a love triangle, but I don’t hate it in this series. I think it’s crucial to the development of Pria–again, she’s not your average YA lead. She’s got some unique challenges to get through, and developing her romantic side is part of that. There are a few other pairings too, but this isn’t a romance at its core–it’s suspenseful and action packed. There are so many interesting strategies to pick apart and battles to be won.

It’s a second book, so there are some of the typical plot developments that have to happen to build for the third. You can almost taste the tension for what is coming next and there was one thread that I picked up early on that all along I was just thinking yes…Yes…YESSSS. By the end I already knew what the next book was going to be.

KB Hoyle, please don’t make me wait another two years. PLEASE.

>>>>>>>Click Here to Win a copy of Breeder and Criminal!<<<<<<<

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Review: Doctor Who #FCBD2016

Jump on board the TARDIS with FOUR all-new short tales of the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors! Whether you’re a whizz with a Sonic Screwdriver or completely new to Who, this is the perfect Free Comic Book Day adventure for SF fans of all ages! Written and illustrated by the creative teams of the regular comics, this is the ideal place to start reading!

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I participated in my very first Free Comic Book Day this year, since we did a Paws in the City event at a Dallas Comic Book store. I picked up some great titles, but still haven’t had a chance to read them. I’m going to be parsing them out in the coming weeks. The reviews will be short, but I figured I’d at least do a write up on them in case you want to check out the full versions.

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of Doctor Who. I’ve only watched a few episodes from #9, and I didn’t really get into it. I like the concept, but I don’t think that was the best Doctor to start with. It was more than a little campy. That episode with Rose’s boyfriend turning to plastic? And the “moisturize me” skin…erm…lady? What even? I know the fandom has taken off since that season, and I really like David Tennant and Peter Capaldi, so I’ve thought about catching up on their versions–just haven’t had time to do so.

Still, I found the FCBD collection to be hysterical, and really exactly what I expected. Each Doctor was precisely how I came to know them through watching the fandom on Tumblr (because it is unavoidable, really). I’m sure there is a solid storyline going through these all, for the diehard fans who read the books and watch the show and know what is actually going on. But for me, it was just fun to catch the references I knew about, and giggle when the Doctor’s butt glowed.

I may have done some screen shots on my Instagram Stories feed, because I was having such a good time with it. (Which, if you’re not following my book commentary on a daily basis, WHY NOT?!) I’m so glad I picked this up when I had a chance for a free copy. If you’re a DW fan, I’d totally recommend the full book.

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Doctor Who 2015 Event: The Four Doctors #1 (Doctor Who: 2015 Event: Four Doctors) by [Cornell, Paul]

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Dark Matter

“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable–something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

You’ve probably seen this book posted everywhere–it’s been on Goodreads, NetGalley, Blogging for Books. I haven’t seen it in the Tumblrspace yet, but it’s coming, I promise. One of the Goodreads ads has a quote from Lee Childs:  ” I think Blake Crouch just invented something new.” He’s not wrong. I keep trying to come up with something to compare it to, and I really can’t. When I told Nicole at Pure Geekery to pick this up, all I could tell her was it was sciencey, and kind of a thriller about a physicist? How else do I describe it?!

Really the only thing I can think to tell you is that it’s like a choose your own adventure in real life. Only Jason didn’t really get to pick his adventures.They just happened. And they certainly weren’t super cool and awesome–mostly just terrifying, like every anxiety-ridden stress dream I’ve ever had.

I can’t go into any further detail than that without spoiling the book for you. And I really don’t want to do that because it’s awesome. Remember back when I said I didn’t like Sci-Fi? Who was that person? I think I just wasn’t reading the right Sci-Fi. Clearly.

Fans of Peter Clines and Ernest Cline are going to love this. (Which, by the way, are they related? Probably not, but same name, similar genre…something fishy there.) Anyone who loves TRUE sci-fi, like the kind where you actually take a deep dive into scientific principles, like physics–you are going to love this. If you love mind twisters–you’re going to love this. Can I stress any more that YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS?! It comes out today. Click any of the links in this post and go buy it immediately.

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NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases July 26. All links are affiliate links.

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Injection

A few years ago, a public/private partnership between the British Government and a multinational company saw five clever people placed in university-owned offices and allowed to do whatever they liked. It was called the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit, and the idea was that it would hothouse new thinking and new patents. Five actual geniuses, all probably crazy, very eccentric, put in one place and given carte blanche to think about ways to approach and change the future. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

They did A Crazy Thing, which was referred to as The Injection. A mysterious Thing that they did in order to make the 21st Century better and stranger. It got out. It got loose into the fabric of the 21st Century, whatever it was, and now things are getting weird and ugly, faster and faster.

So a few years have passed. They’ve all gone their separate ways, into separate “jobs” that allow them to follow and sometimes deal with the repercussions of The Injection. We are in the period where the toxic load of The Injection is at such a level that events that are essentially paranormal in nature are coming faster and faster, headed towards a point where humanity won’t easily be able to live on the planet any more. Not a Singularity of glory, but an irretrievable constant blare of horror coming too thick and fast for anything to deal with.

It’s been awhile since I have read any comics, and I still have a few left from that Humble Bundle. I figured it was time to work through them. I’ve been flying through books lately, so it was nice to take a short break and check out some awesome art.

And the art IS awesome in InjectionDark cool colors mix with flashes of yellow and red lights, heavy ink and light ink alternate to depict real time versus flashback.

I wasn’t sure about the story at first–you know how I feel about sci-fi. I’m always slow to pick up on it. But I couldn’t pull myself away, and as the plot began to lay down, I was drawn more and more into it. So much that I am adding Injection to my list of books to keep up with…if I ever keep up with comics. (I still need to finish W+D.) It’s a mix of sci-fi and old British folklore. Like if Peter Cline and Neil Gaiman had a baby. Oh man. Wouldn’t that be something?

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The Hatching

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.

I need a good name for what happens to books when I travel. It never fails, I will start one right before I leave thinking “Trips are great for reading! I’ll read in the car, I’ll read on the patio, I’m going to relax so much!” And then I never ever relax long enough to even touch my book. By the time I get home, I have absolutely no interest in the story anymore.

I should know better than to start an ARC right before I go somewhere, especially home. And unfortunately, I never know whether it is actually the fault of the trip, or the book itself. Either way, The Hatching fell pray to The Roadtrip Effect (The Vacation Effect? The Travel Effect? eh?). I’m about 20% in and just not that interested.

The concept isn’t bad, but I feel like it’s been done already. I should like it–I’m a huge Michael Crichton fan. But maybe that’s why I’m underwhelmed. Can anyone live up to Michael Crichton? That’s a big NOPE. The writing isn’t bad either, there’s just a lot of moving pieces, and probably if I were able to get into it enough they’d all come together…I just can’t keep attention long enough to stay.

So on to the next. I’ll be looking for other reviewers’ reactions to this, though. It’s almost a “written for a book-based movie” sort of thing. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see it on the big screen in a few years. *shrug*

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NetGalley and Atria provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases July 5.

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