Monday, July 30, 2012


by Dan Wells
(The Partials series #1)

Dan Wells is the author of the John Wayne Cleaver trilogy consisting of I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want to Kill You. If there's a series of books with more intriguing titles, I'm unaware of it. I enjoyed those books a lot and so I was looking forward to whatever he wrote next. When I found out it was a sci-fi book for young adults, it didn't dampen my enthusiasm. I've read a lot of really good books that were written for younger readers. But when I saw the cover of the book, I hesitated. It looked like a lot of the books my 13-year-old daughter reads and I didn't want to appear too creepy reading on the train to and from work each day. So I took the book cover off while reading it.

The book takes place 60 or so years into the future. In a time when there are less than 100,000 people left on earth. During a war with the Partials--genetically engineered beings almost indistinguishable from humans but stronger and with heightened senses, a weaponized virus known as RM was released that killed over 99% of the population and has continued to kill every baby born since then. The youngest people on earth are now teenagers and everyone lives under the constant threat of another attack by the Partials.

Kira is a teenage medic-in-training who works in the maternity ward of the hospital. Every day she sees babies being born knowing full well that they won't live long. She believes that if the humans are going to have any chance of surviving, the research being done on the virus has to change. RM has been analyzed and tested in every possible experiment in order to find a cure, but without success. Kira realizes that the only hope still out there are those who released it--the Partials. 

After the war, the Partials retreated and haven't been seen since, but it's understood that they were immune to the virus. If a Partial could be found, captured, and analyzed, maybe a cure could be found. 

I enjoyed the book. It was darker and more mature than most books written for young adults are. In fact, if it didn't mention the fact that it was for younger readers on the back of the cover, I never would have picked up on that from reading it. There's some minor profanity here and there, and the subject matter is pretty mature in nature. I won't be letting my daughter read it for another couple of years. But there's a follow-up book coming out soon, so maybe it'll be another trilogy. If so, maybe I'll let her read them all once it's done.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Several years ago I started reading Doyle's books featuring the iconic detective from Baker Street. But for reasons I can't explain, I read the first four stories and then never went back to find out what happened to Holmes after plummeting over the waterfall with Moriarty. (Sorry, but I'm not going to include spoiler alert warnings for a book written in the 1890s.)

I was recently introduced to the BBC's series Sherlock featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, and having enjoyed it as much as I did, and recognizing that there will probably be an extended waiting period until the third season arrives, I decided it was time to go back and read them all this time around.

 A Study in Scarlet is the story that introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes. In it he takes up residence with Dr. John Watson, who is quickly pulled into Holmes's world of deductive reasoning and crime solving. Holmes has established himself to Scotland Yard and every other police agency in London, as the man to go to when the solution to a mystery is beyond their abilities.

This mystery involves a murder. The body was found surrounded by blood. But the blood didn't come from the victim, as there were no wounds on the body. Written in blood on the wall was the word RACHE and a small gold ring, too small for the victim's hands, was found nearby. How did the man die? Who's blood was at the scene? What's the meaning of the word in blood? And what does it all have to do with those peculiar Mormons thousands of miles away?

Interesting to me is the fact that A Study in Scarlet has been the source of debate because of its not-so-flattering portrayal of Mormons. As recently as August 2011 it's been banned from public libraries (and not in Utah) because of it. As a Mormon myself, I'm baffled at how anyone today could take offense to it. If anything, it added to my enjoyment of the story.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Seven Wonders

The Seven Wonders by Steven Saylor

Many years ago I read A Twist at the End by Saylor where he featured the writer O'Henry as a the protagonist of a fictional story. I enjoyed it a lot, but since most of his other books were mysteries set in ancient Rome, which didn't interest me at the time, I didn't consider reading anything else by him until now.

Saylor's new book The Seven Wonders is a prequel to his Roma Sub Rosa series which features Gordianus, a Sherlock Holmes-type character with an uncanny ability to solve mysteries and riddles. As I mentioned, I haven't read any of that series, but since this is a story that takes place chronologically before that series began, and since I enjoyed his the other book so much, I figured it was time to read another book by him and this was an obvious book with which to start.

In the year 92 B.C. Gordianus has just turned 18 and is embarking on the trip of a lifetime. His teacher Antipater has made plans to take him through Greece, Asia Minor, Babylon, and Egypt to see the seven man-made structures that have been given the distinction of being called the Seven Wonders of the World. During each of the stops along his journey, Gordianus finds himself exposed to some sort of mystery which reveals in him an uncanny ability to deduce and solve riddles. These characteristics will eventually earn him the title of "the Finder" as he's known in the Roma Sub Rose series.

The book was very good. It was both entertaining and educational. Each of the chapters contains its own mystery for Gordianus to solve which kept the pace of the story moving very quickly. But equally enjoyable to me was all of the information Saylor provided about those ancient wonders--which with the exception of the Great Pyramids are no longer around for us see and experience. I plan to read more of Gordianus's adventures soon.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Sunday, July 15, 2012


by James Rollins
(Sigma series #8)

In Bloodline Rollins finally unveils the forces behind the Guild, the mysterious agency that Sigma has been up against ever since Rollins began his series.

Off the Horn of Africa Somali pirates hijack a yacht and take a pregnant woman hostage. But it's not merely a random act of piracy taking place. The pirates are being used by the Guild in order to acquire the the unborn child, the grandson of the President of the United States. The child represents the culmination of hundreds of years of research and experimentation that the Guild has undergone in order to achieve something ancient artifacts have promised was possible: immortality.

All of the the usual cast of characters are back for this one, along with a couple of very notable additions, former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his military war dog Kane. These two are welcome additions to the series and I'm looking forward to more books featuring them going forward. The insight that Rollins provided into the training and the capabilities of military war dogs was fascinating and was one of my favorite aspects of the book. The story is exactly what you can expect from Rollins. It's quick moving and highly entertaining. As always, there's always an element of the far-fetched. But that's part of the appeal of the books to me. Rollins writes each of his Sigma books so that they could be enjoyed even if you've never read any of the others. But I'd really recommend starting at the beginning of the series in order understand the backstory behind each of the characters and to get the most enjoyment from each of the books.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

With The Song of the Quarkbeast, Jasper Fforde continues his young adult series that he began with The Last Dragonslayer. Having fulfilled the prophecy that she was unwillingly a part of in that book, Jennifer Strange, the teenage acting manager of Kazam, an employment agency for sorcerers, now finds herself once again at the center of events that could change the Ununited Kingdom forever.

Ever since the events of Dragonslayer, the level of magic that exists in the world has been on the rise. The sorcerers who work for Kazam can tell that the source of their powers is increasing, but they're not the only ones to have taken notice. King Snodd IV has realized what's happening as well, and he knows that if he can control magic, he can control everything. Only Jennifer Strange stands between Snodd and his plans.

The Song of the Quarkbeast and the Dragonslayer series as a whole are great, and both young adults and their parents will enjoy reading them. I think too often when writers, who normally write for an adult readership, make the transition to writing for a younger audience, they tend to inadvertently insult younger readers by "dumbing it down." Fforde doesn't do that. These books are just as intelligent as his "Thursday Next" and his "Nursery Crimes" books.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆