Thursday, April 23, 2015

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Inherit the Stars begins in the middle of the action which creates a bit of confusion amid the chaos. Once I got engaged with the main character, Asa, I was hooked. I was a bit confused in the beginning about Asa, as I have only heard of males with that name but she is indeed an intrepid young woman, one of three sisters of the House of Fane who are integral to the story. Elwood does a decent job of world building without burdening the plot with the details of scientific elements. This is more fantasy than sci-fi and scientific elements are important but this is essentially a story about relationships: between sisters, between parents and children, and between a man and woman. Sustainable fuel and fuel shortages are at the root of the plot but it is character that drives this story. The beginning of the novel is a bit slow as we get to know the players, but stay with this one. There is much potential here. Of the three planet systems involved, the readers learn the least about Galton which becomes significant at the end of the novel leading one to expect a series. Inherit the Stars does finish with a satisfying ending but all is not resolved. My biggest reservations about the novel I hope will be improved before going to publication. The e-book I read was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review. There were numerous formatting issues in the book; broken paragraphs, lack of clarity about the speaker since there are not new paragraphs for dialogue, and dangling first letters on the chapters that may be a design element that still needs tweaking. These were quite annoying at the beginning of the book and continued throughout but I am giving 4 stars since the story and Asa are worth reading in spite of these errors. The title I fear may cause some confusion among readers as there are so many “stars” books out there but I think fans of Anne McCaffrey and Tamora Pierce, who are both known for their strong female characters, would enjoy Inherit the Stars.

Secret Coders - a new series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

This new series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes is a great introductory mash-up of mystery and math. I could see this book being a hit in a gifted and talented math class or for any aspiring math geek. The book seems designed to appeal to both boys and girls. The main character is Hopper, a girl reluctantly entering a new school. Her new found friend is Eni, a whiz at mathematics, computer coding, and basketball. What a team! Secret Coders ends on a cliffhanger and lets the reader know that the mystery continues in the soon to come Secret Coders: Paths & Portals. So it seems there will be more mystery and decoding in store for this series. Hopper and Eni solve some of the mystery only to uncover deeper secrets. The book even begins with a mystery in the chapter numbers which are signified by very odd birds with multiple eyes, some open and some closed; a binary intrigue. Robots, strange birds, along with crabby and secretive school personnel abound at Hopper’s new school Stately Academy. The book pauses several times to give the reader an opportunity to solve the puzzles while Hopper and Eni are working too. This is a very different style from Yang’s previous graphic novels, but once again there is an almost magical mysterious element, although for a younger reader. This series looks like a fun read for any child who loves math puzzles and secret codes, or who is curious about how a computer really works. I could see it being a great way to liven up a math class beyond problem drills. The main characters, Hopper and Eni, are in seventh grade but I think math whizzes from fourth grade up through possibly middle school or junior high would enjoy the new Secret Coders series. It actually seems like it would appeal more to the younger end of that range. One element I enjoyed at the end was Gene Luen Yang’s short explanation of his introduction to computers and coding as a fifth grader. This personal note on the inspiration and idea for the book added authenticity and interest for an adult reader. The e-book I read was provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.