Monday, June 24, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: OXYGEN

Ever feel like you're jumping on the bandwagon so late, you almost missed and ended up face-down in the dust?

People have been talking about OXYGEN by John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson on various Christian writing loops for what seems like YEARS. When the book was re-packaged and re-released by Marcher Lord  some time ago (don't ask me how long, but it was near the bottom of the list on my iPad Kindle reader, meaning it was one of the first books I got) I decided to get it.

Wish I had read it sooner! Yeah, I sometimes had a hard time with all the astronaut lingo and acronyms (occupational hazard when dealing with the government/military/sciences) and wondered when the promised romance would gain speed (the tagline proclaims it a science fiction romantic suspense), but the book kept me reading. Even when I should have been doing something else, like meeting deadlines for my own publishers!

The story: A manned mission to Mars (say that ten times fast!), all the prep work, personalities involved, politics, paranoia, and all the soul-searching and struggle for survival that takes place when things go very, very wrong with life support, when there's no chance of turning back or help reaching them in time.

What can I say? Wow. Thoroughly thought through, grabbing at your emotions, and threatening to give you a sore throat from holding back vocal arguments with or warnings to the main characters while reading in public. I'm just not into the space program -- I prefer my stories where we're already "out there" -- but this held my attention and interest. Good job, guys.

Interesting side note: At the back of the book is lots of bonus material, talking about how the book was written and sold, the collaboration between the two authors, and how they came up with the sequel. I haven't read all that material, but from everything I've heard about Ingermanson and Olson, definitely something a serious writer should read, just to learn from them.

Should you read OXYGEN? You better believe it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: THE LOST CODE

THE LOST CODE: Book One of the Atlanteans, by  Kevin Emerson, was a Nook Free Book Friday book I picked up only a few weeks ago. YA SF/Fantasy, it intrigued me enough to start reading right away.

The setting: A future world where climate change has gone so wrong that people live underground or in domes to protect them from killing UV, the poles have melted and the world seems to be either desert or flooded. Owen, our hero, is a skinny teen from an underground community who gets the "golden ticket" opportunity -- summer camp in one of the Eden domes. During the swim test he drowns ... sort of.

And that triggers a whole ton of changes in his life -- as in plans created by an ancient race that was facing a similar situation -- the lives of some CITs, and sets in motion a chain of events that could change the world. If you read the next book -- and I recommend it.

I'm not ashamed of reading and enjoying YA, especially all the great adventure and discovery and the fantasy or SF elements that are showing up in so many nowadays. When I was a kid, the closest I could get to this kind of adventure was in the Edward Eager books -- remember HALF MAGIC or the TIME GARDEN? -- or Star Trek, or similar bits and pieces. Luckily, when I hit high school there was a huge surge of fantasy in movies and books. I remember people talking about the Lord of the Rings books like they were NEW ... no, I'm not THAT old, but close. Still, the SF and fantasy section at the bookstore was maybe five feet wide. Lean pickings in those days. Before online bookstores and e-books.

But anyway, I like this series, I like the hero -- he doesn't suddenly have all the answers, but he's willing to take risks and he has enough doubts to put a lot of tension in what happens to him and the people around him. I'll be sure to check back (when my reading pile is a little smaller) and see what else the author has to tell us next!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: THREE BRIDES, NO GROOM

I like series. And not just because I write series.
This is kinda-sorta a series, because it's three interconnected stories.
The frame: Three women meet at the day of their college reunion at the big old fountain in the middle of campus where it seemed like everything happened. They didn't plan to meet there -- they barely knew each other in college -- but each came to reminisce about the huge change that occurred in their lives there on campus, near that fountain, on their last days of college.

And since this is a Debbie Macomber book, of course there's romance and humor and some tears and growth and humor and ... *sigh* good story all around. Or in this case, three.

What ties these stories together? Young women, planning their weddings in the very new future, who learn their grooms are ... to put it delicately ... scumsucking jerks. Do they let it destroy them? Well, if they did, this wouldn't be a Debbie Macomber book. It'd be literary fiction, which is always depressing -- why do people read it, anyway? No, these wounded women lick their wounds and mourn the deaths of their dreams, and then they gather up their strength and dignity and move on to make new lives for themselves. Better lives. And fall in love along the way. But Debbie plays a trick on us -- it doesn't seem like they'll get happily ever after with the new, better guy. At first. Each woman tells her story and leaves it at the, "And then he walked away," point. Then they promise they'll get back together for dinner that evening at the college reunion, to tell the rest of their stories. Before they do, the readers get the "rest of the story."

Always satisfying -- Debbie Macomber.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: ABANDON

Don't you hate it when you pick up a book to read, and you realize it's the middle or last book in a series? Ever have that moment when you're torn between reading it anyway, putting it aside until you can find the first book/s, or immediately giving up and putting it on the stack to go to the used bookstore to trade in for credit, because you told yourself you were NOT buying any more new books for the rest of the year -- or at least until you reduced the to-be-read stack by a few feet?

This happened to me last year, when I got UNDERWORLD, the second book in the Abandon Trilogy, by Meg Cabot, as a freebie at RT in Chicago. But see, I like Meg Cabot, even if she does write YA and I'm ... well ... not in that category. But hey, it's a state of mind, right? Besides, I write YA once in a while, so I should see what other authors are doing. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it!)

Anyway .... I read UNDERWORLD, so when I saw ABANDON in a raffle basket at the recent NEORWA conference and realized it was the first book in the series, I had to have it. Just to see what happened before.

What's it about? Honey, this ain't the Princess Diaries! Thumbnail sketch: Pierce is a rich girl. Wouldn't say she's spoiled, but she has problems. Like, when she was 15, she hit her head, fell into a pool in the winter, and drowned herself dead. And came back. Of course. This isn't a zombie or vampire book. The thing is, she went somewhere between dying and reviving. And it changed her. People think she's nuts sometimes. "Disturbed." Now she's in a "special" program at her new school. Someone (yes, hunkalicious, but dangerous!) is following her around. And he's in love with her. And he has some really nasty, Greek-mythology-type enemies who want to use her to destroy him.

Ever read the Persephone myth? That should give you a clue what Pierce is up against.

I love Meg Cabot's voice. I think I'd be willing to read almost anything she wrote. I found some of her older books -- The Mediator series and the 1-800-Where-R-You? books. Keepers. Try her. You'll find something you'll like.