Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Sweetness at the bottom of the pie

written by Alan Brady

 reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday Mystery and Book Club

There are many varieties of detectives in mystery fiction, but none are quite like Flavia de Luce.  She is a bold, precocious eleven-year-old sleuth who loves chemistry, especially the study of poison.  Life is full of learning experiences, such as an especially interesting one when she finds a dying man in the garden of her home.  He provides her with a clue to his murder.  To protect her loved ones, she attempts to solve the mystery of his death.

Life at Buckshaw, the old English estate of the de Luce family, is filled with solitude for Flavia.  Her sisters do not like her, and her father, the Colonel, is absorbed in his stamp collection.  The people that are closest to her and that show love to Flavia are the “hired help,” Mrs. Mullet, the cook who produces inedible food, and Dogger, the sometimes disturbed but loyal servant to her father.  Harriet, her mother, had died when Flavia was very young.  The eleven-year-old genius focuses all of her time on her chemistry lab in one of the tall towers of the estate, plotting revenge on her sisters or heating up tea.

Her adventure begins after she overhears her father arguing in his study with a strange man.  She hears the Colonel admit that the two had killed someone.  This worries Flavia and keeps her awake that night.  She goes to the garden and discovers the stranger dying, breathing his last word, “Vale.”  This leads our young detective on an adventure to understand a decade old suicide and the mysterious relationship of her father with the dead man.  The story involves magic, secrets, and many twists and turns.  Before the mystery is solved, Flavia’s life is threatened, and she must escape from an evil murderer.

The author of the book, Alan Bradley, is a first time novelist at the age of 70.  It is a shame he waited this long to provide us with such a treasure.  The best news is that he is in the process of producing a series of Flavia de Luce mysteries.  We highly recommend the eleven-year-old “Sherlock” and her adventures.  We think you will enjoy her as much as we did.

Key Ideas from different club members:

What a great book!  Enjoyed the characters; Characters described well; Fun to read about an eleven year old detective; Flavia was a witty, charming character; Interesting little girl; She reminds me of a young Nancy Drew; Dogger is a great character; Cute, easy read; Lots of twists and turns to the story; Well written, easy to follow; Loved the book; Will read the next books in series.

The Club Members rating of this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Bill Simmons, Helen Skalski, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, and Linda Troll

Club’s Average Rating:  4.4 of 5       Rating Range:  3 to 5

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Mystery

The Missing Book 3: Sabotage

By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Published by Simon & Schuster

Copyright © 2010

Another Dare-ing adventure through time with JB, Katherine, and Jonah. Our time traveling trio will try to solve the history mystery of the Roanoke Colony.

Jonah and Katherine are set to take Andrea back in time to merge with her tracer and do what needs to be done to repair the timeline. Their destination is coastal North Carolina around the end of the 16th century where, and when, the Roanoke colony suddenly disappeared. There seems to be a change in the travel plans though when an unknown stranger causes a problem with the elucidator and they don’t get dropped where they should on the timeline. Not only that, but they lose the elucidator and they have no contact with JB. Does he even know where they are? Jonah, Katherine, and Andrea are going to have to figure out how to fix time on their own if they are to have any hope of escape.

Haddix has found a way to mix science fiction and social studies education together in a neat package with “The Missing” series. Many kids aren’t that interested in history itself, but what happens if you time travel and get dropped into the middle of history? Now that is interesting! I commend Haddix because she researches her history well and feeds the story pertinent information about it as needed to move story along. Nowhere does she add a history lesson for the sake of a history lesson. Kids would sniff this out in a heartbeat. Social Studies education is sorely lacking in American primary education today, and I applaud anyone who can include it in the creation of entertainment.

From a pure enjoyment stand point, children 8 years old and up will enjoy this series. They will love the time travel plot where it takes a couple of kids to save time. They will also enjoy its main characters. Haddix does a good job of writing the sibling interaction between Jonah and Katherine so children with brothers or sisters will really feel it. The author also helps the tone of her plot by not making the book too humorous. Part of the fun of time travel sci-fi is the childlike belief that it is just within reach of the realm of possibility, even though we know it isn’t. Too many laughs would probably keep pushing the story out of that realm.

For me personally, I loved the first book but I couldn’t latch on to the second and third wholeheartedly. This third book at 360 pages just moves too slowly for me with all the questions of what the characters should and shouldn’t do and explanations of time and tracer movement.  What keeps me going in this series is the history. I was interested in knowing how the author explained the Roanoke Colony’s disappearance, and I was quite pleased with that. I understand, however, how all the explanations help young readers to wrap their mind around the story and take it seriously. I would definitely recommend using this book in conjunction with language arts to bring more attention to history in our classrooms. Stories like this just might grab a child’s attention and make them want to learn on their own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Action, Adventure, Families, Fantasy, Historical, Junior Fiction, Love/Romance, Mystery, Native American, Science Fiction

The Moon Moth

By Jack Vance

Adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim

Published by First Second

Copyright © 2012

What can I say about Jack Vance? Not a thing. The forward to this graphic novel by Carlo Rotella entitled “The Genre Artist” (originally published in Time magazine in 2009) extols the virtues of a Jack Vance story because of his way of creating an occasion and opulent speech in what some might consider just lowly genre fiction. I could not attest to any of this having never read a Jack Vance novel. Then out of the blue comes “The Moon Moth” a graphic novel adaptation “Based on the Classic Short Story,” and I begin to believe that their might be something to the praise heaped upon him.

In this story, Edwer Thissell has been assigned to be the new consular representative to the planet Sirene. Sirene is a place where everyone wears masks and everyone converses by singing with the accompaniment of various instruments. Every mask and every instrument used signify something about the user’s status in relation to others and it is with status, also known as Strakh that one gets what they need. Thissell threw himself into studying and preparation for his new post, but such endeavors did not truly prepare him for the odd customs and quick, harsh justice for missteps in custom. In addition to having to awkwardly stumble through the customs of this new planet he has received orders to apprehend an assassin who has made his way back to Sirene. This man is an Out-Worlder like Thissell, but in a world of masks he is going to be hard to find.

Based on the story premise and the dialogue I certainly now believe that Jack Vance is an unheralded master of words that transcend the sci-fi and mystery genre in which he writes. Just the idea of such a planet with such customs and the dialogue he creates for it speaks to a very imaginative and exacting mind.

What I still cannot speak to is Vance’s ability to set a scene. In this adaptation I am only getting Ibrahim’s take on Vance’s world. In that I am quite disappointed. What this story really requires in a graphic novel is greater detail and a more refined color palette. Just one example of why I say that is found on page 19 and 20. Thissell is preparing for life on Sirene and the computer is telling him about the planets ways; it educates him of their occupation with intricacy; their intricate craftsmanship, symbolism, language, and interpersonal relationships. On page 19 it refers to the intricately carved panels of the houseboats and the intricate symbolism of the masks they wear. These two items are visual in nature and therefore, visually, should be intricately rendered; however I did not find this to be the case. I appreciate simplicity in some graphic novels, but this story begged for more detail.

If nothing else, this graphic novel adaptation has moved me to want to read the original short story. And, maybe I missed it, but why hasn’t anyone made this into a movie?

Leave a comment

Filed under Adaptations, Fantasy, Graphic Novels/Comic Strips, Science Fiction, Strong Sense of Place

I AM NUMBER FOUR

By Pittacus Lore

Published by Harper

Copyright © 2010

Lorien was a peaceful and progressive planet. Hundreds of years ago the Loriens were faced with the choice of changing the way they treated their environment or face eventual extinction. They decided to change, and their planet healed. Lorien decided to bless some of its people with special powers which would enable them to continue protecting their planet, and so they did. They protected it right down to the day that the Mogadorians invaded in large number with soldiers and giant beasts.

The Mogadorians faced the same decision of saving their planet and decided to use it up and then take over another thriving planet. The Loriens fought valiantly but they were caught by surprised and were outnumbered. However, they did have a contingency plan. They rounded up nine children of the Guarde and put them on a ship bound for earth to await the day that they could return and restore Lorien to its former beauty. The Lorien elders knew that the Mogadorians would try to track down these children and kill them before they developed their powers, so they were given charms that would protect them. The elders could not make them invincible but they could slow down the Mogadorian trackers; they made it so that the children each had a number and they could only be killed in numerical order.

John Smith (a.k.a. Daniel Jones, a.k.a. …) has been on the run for the last 10 years. He and his guardian try to keep a low profile so they don’t have to move so often, but they have been moving nearly every 6 months. The Mogadorians have caught up with numbers one, two, and three. They are now coming after him; he is number four. The Mogadorians are getting more frantic now though, because John is now 15 and he is starting to get his powers. The time to stand up and fight is close.

“I am Number four” is a wildly exciting teen Sci-Fi/Romance novel. When you become John you feel the anxiousness that he feels. He is constantly looking over his shoulders and thinking ever so slowly about his actions. You can feel the pent up frustration when he becomes the target of the school bully. He knows he can end the harassment quickly, but not without having to move again. The romance, while it slows the book down a little, never gets too sappy and actually helps with the drama since he is interested in the ex-girlfriend of the aforementioned bully. In addition, the tension and suspense just build as you continue to wonder when and where the Mogadorians are going to catch up to John.  When they do finally catch up the action does not disappoint with glowing swords, corkscrew daggers, laser blasters, giant man eating animals, and 9 feet tall Mogadorian soldiers. It really seems like more than John can overcome by himself. Fortunately he won’t have to.

This book is awesome! It kind of reminds you of Superman except John is not unique; there are now five others like him out there. I don’t want to give too much away, but you are also going to love Bernie Kosar in this book. That’s all I’m saying.  I am definitely ready for book two in the series “The Power of Six.” (Age 13 and up)

Leave a comment

Filed under Abuse/Bullying, High School, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

MOCKINGJAY

By Suzanne Collins

Published by Scholastic Press

Copyright © 2010

Katniss Everdeen has survived, barely, her second stint in the Hunger Games thanks to a rescue operation carried out by the rebels and their Capitol spies. But all is not well. Not all of the games combatants were rescued. Among those left behind was Peeta who President Snow will now use to thwart the rebel cause and break Katniss.

Things aren’t well in District 13 either. However happy she is about being rescued, it was done with ulterior motives. Katniss finds that she has been saved so that she can be the face and voice of the rebellion, the Mockingjay. However, Katniss finds district 13 to be very strict and antiseptic and something about its leaders gives her an uneasy feeling. Will the leader of district 13, President Coin, still have a use for her when she has accomplished their goal? And will she be saving or destroying more lives? One thing is for sure; the rebellion is going to cause her grief on a level she has never known.

Mockingjay is at once different and similar the first two books in this series. In the first two books she is a captive of the Capitol and the Hunger Games. In Mockingjay she is safely inside District 13, but she is still a captive of the Games. Her life is now about taking down the Capitol the cruel creators of the Hunger Games, but she is still a captive in many ways trying to save Peeta, trying to keep District 13’s leaders happy, and trying to come to terms with all of the sorrow that has occurred since her first trip to the Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Finale is exquisite. Her ability to tale a tale that is filled with action, suspense, love, internal angst, and a philosophical and historical understanding of humans is spellbinding. I literally could not put this book, or any of the books, in this series down. The ending is so dramatic that I felt the pain and understood the necessity of Katniss’ actions. This series is just completely awesome. It has moved to the top of my YA Fiction list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventure, Community, Family, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Only You Can Save Mankind

Only You Can Save Mankind

By Terry pratchett

Published by Harper Collins

Copyright © 2005

In 2005 Harper Collins introduced Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy to America. Originally released in Britain in 1994 “Only You Can Save Mankind” is the first installment in this series. As the forward acknowledges a lot has changed in the 10 years since the original release of this story, but some things are the same. There always seems to be a war going, and kids still love video games.

In this story Johnny Maxwell is playing a pirated computer game, called “Only You Can Save Mankind,” that his friend and wannabe hacker Wobbler gave him. The game is your typical space invaders type shoot ‘em up. But when Johnny plays a strange thing happens – The aliens surrender! It seems as if the game is actually talking to him and urging him to accept their surrender and escort them to the border out of game space. Soon Johnny is caught up in a battle to save the aliens rather than shoot them. Between this alternate/virtual reality gig and his “Troubled Times” at home with his parents, Johnny’s friends begin to think he is going a little crazy.

In this allegory Pratchett juxtaposes the violent nature of video games and the Gulf War (but really any war for that matter). Though not heavy handed in my estimation, there is a clear moral to this story, that violence should only be a last resort after we have listened well and tried every other alternative. This isn’t the best science fiction I’ve ever read, but it is very good. It has a plot and conflict that youths will relate to, and a while they won’t be looking for it they should find the moral in this tale.  Recommended for children ages 9 and up.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventure, Families, Junior Fiction, Science Fiction