Oh, but first I have to say: I absolutely love that there are so many authors reading this blog. I have a standard policy of accepting pretty much any book offered to me, but I make it clear that I won't necessarily read and/or review it, just to keep the pressure and expectations off. Even so, I get a little thrill every time someone tells me, "I love Epbot, and I wrote a book! Want one?"
So anyway, that was the case with Beth and her book, Across the Universe:
This book grabbed me by the gut by the third sentence, and it refused to let go. When John asked me how I liked it after the first few pages, the best word I could find was "gripping."
It's not that there's immediate action or nonstop suspense; the story just sucks you in with this unbelievably vivid description of undergoing cryogenic freezing, and the first person narrative makes you practically FEEL the sterile room, the needles, and the painful cold.
The story is equally fantastic, and everything you could want from great science fiction. A ship is sent out to colonize a distant planet, with a society onboard that hasn't seen Earth in more generations than anyone can remember. Then people start dying. The heroine, Amy, teams up with a boy named Elder to find out what dark secrets the ship's leadership is hiding. (Dun dun DUNNNNN.)
I loved just about everything with this book, from the characters to the mystery to the chilling commentary on power, control, and human nature. The ending was a perfect mix of resolution with some lingering mysteries left for the two sequels, which I look forward to reading.
I will say this is definitely a more adult Young Adult book due to sexual content - although not in a romantic sense - so I'd advise parents read it first before handing it over to their teens. Specifically, there's an attempted gang rape that gets a little graphic, and which spoiled what would have otherwise been the perfect sci-fi mystery/adventure for me. But then, you guys already know I'm pretty sensitive to that kind of thing, so unless you have similar or stronger qualms, don't let that keep you from reading Across the Universe.
(By the by, I was surprised at how much controversy/conflict my last review stirred up on that count, when I mentioned not being about to stomach certain things in my entertainment. I really didn't intend for it to be that big of a deal, which is why it's kind of funny how many book recommendations since then have included an enthusiastic, "... and there's no rape!" Ha! Anyway, here's hoping you guys know I *do* judge a book by more than just that - and also to take my own "sensitivities" into account whenever you're reading my reviews.)
Ok, next up is a book I'm super DUPER excited to tell you guys about, for three very important reasons:
1) My friend Scott wrote it.
2) I had the honor of being the final proofreader/copy editor for it. Yep, you can pin any misspellings or grammar errors ON ME. [gulp!]
3) It's freaking awesome.
Off to Be the Wizard, by Scott Meyer
Here's the official blurb:
"It's a simple story. Boy finds proof that reality is a computer program. Boy uses program to manipulate time and space. Boy gets in trouble. Boy flees back in time to Medieval England to live as a wizard while he tries to think of a way to fix things. Boy gets in more trouble.
"Oh, and boy meets girl at some point."
This is a light, fun read reminiscent of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and/or some of Terry Pratchett's work. It's not nonstop zaniness, though; the story stays grounded just enough to make the funny bits really sneak up on you. Those unexpected, laugh-out-loud moments were my favorite, simply because it's so rare for me to laugh out loud while reading. (That's one of the perils of writing humor for a living; you get pretty jaded to other people's attempts at humor.) Happily Scott was able to catch me off guard several times, though, and his use of the occasional geeky homage is the metaphorical cherry on top. (Btw, Scott didn't implicitly say that he included the one Ghostbusters reference just for me, but I'm going to go ahead and believe that's the case anyway. Cool? Cool.)
While Scott doesn't bill it as a YA title, Off To Be The Wizard is perfect for pre-teens on up. Anyone who's a little bit geeky and/or old enough to remember Commodore 64s will probably appreciate the tech and pop-culture humor the most, though.
You may already know Scott from his web comic, Basic Instructions, which also blends smart humor with the occasional dollop of geekery. If so, then I can tell you firsthand that Scott and Missy are pretty much exactly how he depicts them in the comic - and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. ;)
Off to Be the Wizard is $3.99 for the Kindle version, or you can grab the paperback for $9.99 here. Best of all, you can also read the first 35 pages here, for free!
As always, I welcome your book suggestions in the comments! And if you're looking for more of my reviews and recommendations, be sure to check my book review page, where I've listed them all by author and title.