Sunday, July 31, 2011

YA Sci-Fi: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Series: Razorland #1
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Date: April 2011
Format: ARC
Acquired: won in a Holt InGroup giveaway
Read: for my own enjoyment; I love dystopias
Pages: 260
Reading time: two days

Deuce has just been initiated as one of her underground enclave's Huntresses. Paired off with the enigmatic outsider Fade, she's responsible for helping to both hunt for meat and protect the enclave from the zombie-like Freaks that infest the tunnels. But Deuce and Fade manage to get on the Hunters' leader's bad side, and they get stuck with poor missions that end up showing them that the enclave is not always right in its rules, teachings, and actions. When the duo is eventually thrust out from their community, will they be able to survive in the abandoned, post-apocalyptic world up above?

Enclave is a great action/adventure dystopia the like of Blood Red Road and The Hunger Games. The plot moves fast, there's a lot of exciting fight scenes, and the main character is a strong warrior girl who, of course, gets entangled in some sort of romance with the ubiquitous male companion. Nice read, yes. Will it really stick with me past my initial reading of it? Not much. I love dystopias and post-apocalyptic novels for the societal commentary they often carry, but this one has little past a "rules are not always right" message in the first part. (Is anyone else reminded of the individualistic Anthem by Ayn Rand?) A great read in terms of exciting action, but without much substance. Enjoyable, but not that memorable.

Not a dis on Enclave, which has zombies, but I do not understand why authors put zombies in dystopian novels. Who came up with that? What would turn people into zombies after some kind of apocalypse? (Aguirre does not explain this in Enclave, at least not in the first book.) Maybe I like hard sci-fi too much, preferring scenarios more realistic than (usually) mindless, humanoid, flesh-eating monsters.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In My Mailbox #4

Another week come and gone, which means only seven days left in my summer vacation before school and band camp start up at the same time. Here's this week's books:

Abandon by Meg Cabot (thanks, Irish Banana Review!)
Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (from Oxford World's Classics' Twitter)

From Random Buzzers:
The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper
And I've already reviewed it here!

Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper by Paul E. Johnson

Friday, July 29, 2011

YA Historical Fiction: The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

Series: Montmaray Journals #2
Publisher: Knopf
Date: April 5, 2011
Format: hardback
Acquired: from Random Buzzers
Read: for my own enjoyment, and because I liked A Brief History of Montmaray so much
Pages: 450
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: Michelle Cooper combines the drama of pre-War Europe with the romance of debutante balls and gives us another compelling historical page turner. Sophia FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Germans attacked, and now find themselves in the lap of luxury. Sophie's journal fills us in on the social whirl of London's 1937 season, but even a princess in lovely new gowns finds it hard to fit in. Is there no other debutante who reads?! And while the balls and house parties go on, newspaper headlines scream of war in Spain and threats from Germany. No one wants a second world war. Especially not the Montmaravians—with all Europe under attack, who will care about the fate of their tiny island kingdom? Will the FitzOsbornes ever be able to go home again? Could Montmaray be lost forever?

My review: The FitzOsbornes in Exile has the same positive aspects as the first book, A Brief History of Montmaray, primarily in that it is a lighter look at World War Two that still incorporates a lot of historical  details. The characters' voices continue in much of their naiveté, though obviously they have changed since the Germans invaded Montmaray and forced the young royal family into exile. But all the characters remain delightful despite their trials, and readers will continue to laugh at Sophie's ramblings, Henry's hijinks, Toby's shirking of duties, and Veronica and Simon's verbal duels. Cooper unobtrusively works a great deal of pre-WWII politics and international affairs into the novel, and these details can be as noticeable as readers want them to be. Younger readers unfamiliar with European history may miss these in lieu of the main story, while others may choose to take notice and appreciate the subtle inclusions.

Complaints? The FitzOsbornes in Exile covers the years 1937-1939, and during that time the FitzOsbornes spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen. This means readers spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen, and it's easy to start getting a bit bored by about the middle of the book. Fortunately, the plot picks up at the end, and it becomes evident that Cooper made this book so long in order for it to end at the point in history when it does. But the delightful characters help hold interest for the slower-moving parts, and the author's unique blend of historical fact with a princess tale results in a novel great for either younger readers wanting a gentler introduction to World War Two fiction or fans of WWII fiction wanting a relief from more dark and depressing novels.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

YA Historical Fiction: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

Note: I actually read this back in June (hence the old format for reviews) but didn't want to post my review until I had the second book in the series read. I'd actually forgotten most of my complaints about the first book, remembering only its positives, until I re-read this. Anyway, I really recommend it.

From GoodReads: Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

My review: A Brief History starts out rather enchanting; Sophie is a naive sixteen-year-old living the dream life of many young girls - she's a princess, albeit a poor one, who inhabits an old castle (technically a "fortified home") on a secluded island where the royal children are largely autonomous. Sophie's descriptions of her life only remain enchanting for a certain period, though, after which they become a bit boring as readers wait for the historical fiction, Nazi/WWII part of the story to kick in. But kick in it eventually does, a little over halfway through the novel, and the change in plot makes A Brief History a very worthwhile read. While the whole Montmaray-island kingdom aspect is not historical, Cooper's strong point is the depiction of a girl's emergence from innocence and naiveté  that arises from the beginning of WWII hostilities. Like others of similar age during the time period, Sophie's world view is quickly forced to change when the Nazis arrive with soldiers, bombs, and death. What makes A Brief History unique from other WWII novels, however, is its fictional setting and characters, which lend a near-magical feel to the book that will hopefully attract readers who are not normally drawn to historical fiction. This reader, at least, is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next book in the series, The FitzOsbornes in Exile.

My copy of A Brief History of Montmaray was purchased with Buzz Bucks from Random House's Random  Buzzers program. The novel was first published in October 2009.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Historical Fiction: Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice

Publisher: Booklocker
Date: 2009
Format: paperback
Acquired: from the author
Read: for review (I received my copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review; how I acquired it did not affect the outcome of my review)
Pages: 334
Reading time: six days

Teen-aged Selene lives in the Christian city of Alexandria. In A.D. 412, it is unusual for upper-class girls to enter professions, but Selene wishes to become a physician rather than marry a man of her father's choice. She succeeds in gaining the tutelage of Lady Philosopher Hypatia and other Alexandrian scholars, but the city is descending into a struggle between the Christians under the new, young bishop and all other religious sects, pagan and Jewish. In a city separating into sides in the midst of political intrigue, religious fanaticism, and personal ambitions, can Selene manage to make her dream come true?

Setting and characters: The setting and characters themselves are some of the most interesting aspects to this novel. It's set in the Roman Empire, but the Empire is the Christian one of several centuries after the gladiatorial, Caesar-run, pantheon-worshiping one of most other ancient Roman historical novels. It's a time period that I've never run into before in historical fiction, the one when classical civilization was fading into the "Dark Ages." Selene is a fascinating character, being a female physician-in-training (unusual but not unheard of), and the story of Orestes, Prefect of Alexandria, is told as well.

Writing: Selene of Alexandria is both well-researched and well-written. Faith Justice makes clear which characters are fictional and which were actual people, and she also includes a historical note at the end to further explain what is factual and what is creative license. She incorporates a wealth of historical details into the story, and these are worked in well enough that they seem natural, not just random research forced into the storyline. My biggest plaudit for this novel is that its story is completely believable. Selene, though an unusual character, is not so modernized in her opinions and actions as to be implausible. Her role in the larger story of Alexandria is not some fantastical place reached by an entirely improbable series of events, instead coming across as small yet still important, organized by chance in the manipulations of the city's leaders. Another situation and person could have been substituted in her spot; it just happened to be Selene.

Everything else: For some reason, it took me a surprisingly long time to get into the story. The author takes a while to set up the characters and story, but then there's several central characters and a complex plot. The novel got better after this, though. And better and better and better. By the end, I couldn't put it down. What started off as a slow plot kept getting faster and faster as tensions in Alexandria wound tighter and Selene and her family, along with everyone else, became more entangled in them. I'm hoping that Faith Justice will write another book about the characters of Selene of Alexandria, because even though the novel may have been written as a stand-alone, I want to see what happens to Selene, her family, and her friends as they move on after the conclusion.

One final praise: Selene of Alexandria is historical fiction written for historical instruction, not for romance, Christian inspiration, or any other reason. I really hate it when authors take wonderful-sounding historical settings and characters and don't use them to teach history. Really, that's the purpose of historical fiction, to spread historical knowledge in a fun, accessible way. This novel does an excellent job with that, as I learned a lot about this part of history.

Maturity Factor: A sex scene and an attempted rape.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In My Mailbox #3: Or Vacation Edition Part Two

I'm back from my Virginia/Pennsylvania vacation a day early, and  here's all the books that arrived while I was gone:

For review:*
My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody
The Midnight Gate by Helen Stringer
*I think these are for review; I had requested a book from Holt InGroup, and these two are from Macmillan, but not the one I requested, but hey, I'll take free books!

Miss Timmins' School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy (thanks Words by Webb!)
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (thanks I Read Banned Books!)
A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd (thanks Book Club Girl!)
The Psychology of Twilight ed. by E. David Klonsky and Alexis Black (thanks Smart Pop!)

From BookMooch:
People of the River by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
I'm into North American prehistory, so I'm hoping this series will turn out to be good.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In My Mailbox #2: Vacation Edition

I'm up in Virginia on vacation this week, so I have no idea what's actually arrived in my mailbox (if it goes like the last two vacations, I'll come home to at least five packages). I started out in the Cumberland Gap, went up to Harrisonburg for college touring (James Madison Univ. is now my first choice for college next year), and am now in Pennsylvania. Harrisonburg has a nice used bookstore and two antique stores with good book selections. Just saying.

The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley
That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana by Carlo Emilio Gadda
NYRB edition!!! The used bookstore had five new-looking ones for only $3.
The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey
Got this one for free. :)
Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Unabridged, one-volume edition with 1650s woodcuts for $6 (book was originally $30).

An 1860s fantasy novel, a translated Italian mystery, a fairytale retelling, a 1960s dystopia, and an 11th century novel. Eclectic enough?

Also, being a teenager who loves to read + being small for your age pays off. Sometimes store owners randomly offer you a free book or two or knock a couple dollars off the price just because they're surprised to find a kid who wants the books.
What did you get this week? And if you're another teen blogger, what colleges are you looking at?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Historical Fiction: Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Series: sequel to Velva Jean Learns to Drive
Publisher: Plume
Date: August 30, 2011
Format: ARC
Acquired: from LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (I received my copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review, etc.)
Pages: 400
Reading time: three days

Nineteen-year-old Velva Jean Hart has had enough of her life in the North Carolina mountains with her husband, Harley Bright. So, like every good 1940s housewife, she sets off on her own - in the truck she learned to drive in the previous book - for Nashville, where she hopes to start her singing career with the Grand Ole Opry. Once in Tennessee, however, she finds that it's full of people wanting record deals and contracts. Losing hope in finding musical opportunities, Velva Jean turns her dreams from singing to flying and heads off to Texas to join the group that will become the Women's Airforce Service Pilots as the second World War catches hold of the country.

Though this is the sequel to another novel, Velva Jean Learns to Fly can be read without having read the first book. I faced some confusion as to minor characters from Velva Jean's hometown and family but for the most part had no problem jumping in on Velva Jean's story in the middle. The first half of the book is rather unexciting, but it's rarely boring. After all, not all of history was a thrilling adventure. The second half of the novel picks up more as Velva Jean begins her training and eventually goes to Camp Davis in North Carolina. For me, seeing the prejudices and trials that the first female pilots faced there was the most interesting part of the book. I also found it surprising that, after completing months of training and courses, the WASPs were relegated to such tasks as flying fabric targets for soldiers to practice shooting at. With live bullets. That would hit the actual airplanes.

Niven has also done her research on the female pilot programs of World War Two. Her writing contains descriptions of the planes flown during the time and how to control them, as well as details on military life down to what the women were given as uniforms. I did a little research on my own and found that some of the incidents Velva Jean hears of or experiences happened in real life and were recorded by the real WASPs at Camp Davis. Knowing that historical fiction is drawn from actual experiences lends even more credence to authors as they draw readers into the lives of fictional characters such as Velva Jean. The end result: Niven has written a convincing portrait of a not-so-ordinary young woman as she tries to find her place in the world as it's in the midst of near-chaos.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In My Mailbox #1...and a potential giveaway

I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon and posting IMMs (rather than trying to come up with titles for posts that achieve the same thing without being called IMM). In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

I'm hoping that, when school starts back, I'll be able to do vlogs (this will allow me to ramble more about the books I get *evil laugh*). My school provides students with laptops, and we're switching from our lovely Lenovos that have styluses to Macbooks with video cams.

This week's books...

For review:
Following Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci (from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill (from Free Press blog tours)

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters (thanks vvb32 Reads!)
Wonder Girl by Don van Natta, Jr. (thanks Minding Spot!)
Fire Island by John J. Stevens (thanks Literary R&R!)
Grendel by John Gardner (thanks again, Literary R&R!)
Those That Wake by Jesse Karp (thanks Fire and Ice!)

From BookMooch:
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome de las Casas
The Birth of the Gods: The Origin of Primitive Beliefs by Guy E. Swanson

Yay, lovely stack of books!

If anyone was observant of my participation in the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon, you may have noticed that I already have a copy of Grendel. Yeah, I had forgotten about that when I entered the giveaway at Literary R&R and so I'm stuck with a duplicate copy now. Is anyone interested in a giveaway for my second copy (the nicer, newer one)? It could be a 200 followers giveaway, since I've just recently passed that milestone...

MG Dystopia: Fearless by Tim Lott

Publisher: Candlewick
Date: 2007
Format: paperback
Acquired: from BookMooch
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 263
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: In the not-too-distant future, the world is safe from terrorists, the streets are clean, and girls labeled "juvies" or "mindcrips" have been hidden away behind the smartly painted exterior of the City Community Faith School. Their birth names are forgotten and replaced with a letter and number, but they give each other nicknames like Tattle or Stench or Little Fearless. As they slave away at chores, Little Fearless, who is actually the bravest girl in the school, tells the other girls stories, stories about the day their families will return for them. Little Fearless’s own hope and conviction spur her on a dangerous adventure — a bold and unthinkable plan that will either save the imprisoned girls or mean the end of Little Fearless herself, or both.

My review: Fearless is a book that you either hate or love. I came out on the "love" side. It's definitely the best children's (as opposed to YA) dystopia that I've read, reminding me  of a kid-oriented version of 1984 and Brave New World. The writing style, which is distant (like good floating-on-a-cloud distant, not bad disconnected-from-readers distant), reminds me of the "magical" books I've read this year, Noah Barleywater Runs Away, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and An Atlas of Impossible Longing - those "odd," genre-bending books whose tales and storytelling are like nothing you've ever read and remain imprinted in your mind as unique reads.

Plot-wise, Fearless isn't exciting. Fans of The Hunger Games and similar dystopias will be disappointed by the lack of action. But aren't dystopias meant to have deeper commentary, anyway? Fearless carries a lot of good messages, messages about identity, community, truth, bravery, and inner strength. (It also has some things to say about politics and religion, but these are more submerged.) The novel isn't perfect - at times the pointed explanations and stilted dialogue can be annoying - but it goes down in my mind as one of those rare reads that's different from any other and that I will highly recommend to fellow readers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm Featured on Another Blog!

Chloe over at the YA Booklover Blog hosts a weekly feature called Booklover Discovers where she highlights one fellow book blogger each week. This week, SusieBookworm was the spotlighted blog! Head over there to check it out!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Classic Lit: Sundiata by D.T. Niane

Series: Longman African Writers
Publisher: Longman
Translator: G.D. Pickett
Date: c. thirteenth century (1965)
Format: paperback
Acquired: from BookMooch
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 84
Reading time: two and a half hours

From the back cover: The son of Sogolon, the hunchback princess, and Maghan, known as "the handsome," Sundiata grew up to fulfill the prophesies of the soothsayers that he would unite the twelve kingdoms of Mali into one of the most powerful empires ever known in Africa, which at its peak stretched right across the savanna belt from the shores of the Atlantic to the dusty walls of Timbuktu. Retold by generations of griots - the guardians of African culture - this oral tradition has been handed down from the thirteenth century and captures all the mystery and majesty of medieval African kingship. It is an epic tale - part history, part legend - which should rank alongside the Iliad and the Odyssey as one of the world's great adventure stories.

My review: This edition of the Sundiata epic is a prose translation, and as such it reads more like a novel than an epic (personally, I'm not a big fan of poetry and find that quite helpful). A prose version also, I find, allows for the inclusion of more details, and so the characterizations and smaller details of the story come out more. Reading this after The Mabinogion, I was surprised at the often prominent role that women played in the story. While Sundiata is, of course, the central character, his mother and the other women have more complex personalities and take more active parts in the epic than the one-dimensional, damsel-in-distress women of many European tales. Sundiata is not only an epic story about a legendary king, however; it also includes details of the history, geography, and culture of the area. The entire time I was reading it, I found Sundiata to be enjoyable rather than the often tedious, slow, and difficult read that I generally expect from epics.

I also own the Penguin Epics edition of the Sundiata tale (here called Sunjata), which is a verse translation. Has anyone read this one, and if so, how does it compare to the Longman edition?

Join the Classic Bribe over at Quirky Girls Read!

Classic Lit: The Mabinogion

Publisher: Penguin
Translator: Jeffrey Gantz
Date: medieval (1984)
Format: paperback
Acquired: purchased from Wall Street Book Exchange
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 297
Reading time: three days

The Mabinogion is a group of eleven Welsh stories dating from medieval times and recorded during the thirteenth century. Drawing on Celtic mythology, folklore, and pseudo-history, the stories tell of past magical times, including the reign of King Arthur, and have been one of the influences of the fantasy genre. I found that I enjoyed reading the first five or six stories more than the others. These are the most enchanting, telling the tales of Wales and Ireland that existed before Arthur. After these, the stories become Arthurian, and the many short tales contained in each larger story and the profusion of Welsh names odd to modern readers can become confusing at times. The importance of some events and phrases are baffling without an understanding of medieval Welsh culture and manners. By the conclusion of the book, however, the stories have re-assumed their coherence and enjoyability. Many can also be read with a bit of humor, though I couldn't tell whether that was the intention of the original writers or the effect of a modern-day reader's interpretation.

Some notes:
"Pwyll Lord of Dyved" - This, the first story of the book, bears resemblance to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in its plot.
"Manawydan Son of Llyr" - Part of the plot of this one reminded me of Abraham and Isaac's issues with wells in hostile foreign nations in the Old Testament. It's kind of fun to draw comparisons between various world beliefs and stories.
"How Culhwch Won Olwen" - Most of the time, Gantz prevents the translated stories from getting too tedious for modern readers. There's not much you can do for eight pages of Welsh names and a seven-page list of quests, though.
"Peredur Son of Evrawg" - Peredur is also known as Percival, and knowing the backstory to Percival's Angel really did increase my understanding of the latter's plot.
"Gereint and Enid" - This is the final story of The Mabinogion, and the best written of the Arthurian tales. If I ever wrote a retelling of a Mabinogion story, I'd choose this. There's a lot that you can do with the character of Enid.

Join the Classic Bribe over at Quirky Girls Read!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Ends

It's been a good and productive three days! My original goal was to read five of the ten books, all folklore and mythology related, on my list, and by tonight I will have read seven (!!!) and started an eighth. I didn't know I could read that many books in three days! Here's the list (titles link to my reviews):

Beastly by Alex Flinn
Grendel by John Gardner
Golden by Cameron Dokey

Percival's Angel by Anne Eliot Crompton
The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

The Mabinogion
Sundiata by D.T. Niane
Reviews of these last two will be posted in the next day or two.

I also started The Jack Tales by Richard Chase.

Did you like the folklore and mythology theme? There's several other books I've reviewed over the past six months that fit into this category as well:
Millennial Mythmaking
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight trans. by Marie Borroff
Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne
Beowulf trans. by Seamus Heaney
Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

YA Fantasy: The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

Publisher: Walker Books
Date: 2007
Format: paperback
Acquired: won from Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 263
Reading time: three hours

Alexandra lives a peaceful life with her mother, three older brothers, and father, the ruler of the Kingdom. As descendants of wise women, both she and her mother can work magic, using their powers for healing. But their powers are unable to prevent Alexandra's mother from dying when she is attacked by a mysterious creature, and Alexandra and her brothers are baffled when their father soon announces his remarriage to a strange young woman, Zella, who seems to have enchanted both ruler and people. When the siblings attempt to protest, the brothers disappear and Alexandra is sent off to an aunt in another land. It will fall to Alexandra to find her brothers and defeat Zella's insidious power.

The Swan Kingdom is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Wild Swans" (also known as the "Six Swans" or the "Seven Swans"). There's not much action to the plot, but it stays moving and interesting. My only familiarity with the story coming from Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest, I had problems with expecting Marriott to get to the "quest" part of the story long before she did; Marillier spends 2/3 of her novel on the quest, while Marriott takes 2/3 to work up to it. Compared to my earlier read this year by Marriott, Shadows on the Moon, I thought that The Swan Kingdom had a tighter storyline but Shadows was more exciting. I really like how Marriott incorporates more of her settings into her stories than just place names - The Swan Kingdom has Stonehenge-ish connections, while Shadows on the Moon includes many details about Japanese culture. The main twist in Marriott's retelling of "The Wild Swans" comes at the end and wasn't done up enough to be a major jaw-dropper, but her interesting characters and great writing make The Swan Kingdom a worthwhile read.

I rather like this cover from Candlewick's edition, though I'm not sure which one captures the story better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

YA Fantasy: Percival's Angel by Anne Eliot Crompton

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Date: 1999 (2011)
Format: paperback
Acquired: from Red House Books
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 227
Reading time: two and a half hours

From GoodReads: Lili, an apprentice of the Lady of the Lake, is the childhood friend of Percy, the boy who will become one of Arthur's greatest knights. But as they grow older, Lili begins to see their differences. She has otherworldly magic while he has the magic that lives within the Human Heart. Lili dreams of knowing human love while Percy dreams of finding the Holy Grail. Neither can succeed without the other.Once again Crompton weaves together nature, feminist perspective, and Arthurian legend for a tale that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

My review: Eh. This book has a lot going for it: an Arthurian retelling that's not centered around King Arthur, a fantasy plot that appeals to more than just King Arthur fans, and a perspective on the Arthurian legend other than a knight's. There's not much action to the plot, but it's not boring. What makes this novel "eh" is that it can be confusing. Maybe I should have read another version of the legend first (Wolfram von Eschenbach's 400+ page Parzival is sitting on my shelf), but there were places in the book that just didn't make much sense. They weren't really random, it was just that their importance in the story, as well as how the story had led up to them, was left unexplained. It became frustrating after a while, especially since Crompton's otherwise a good author and writes an interesting retelling. It's left me with mixed opinions on Percival's Angel.

Maturity Factor: Some profanity and non-graphic sex.

Anne Crompton has two other Arthurian novels for YA readers, also published by Sourcebooks. Despite my disappointment with Percival's Angel, I would like to try Gawain and Lady Green because I enjoyed the original earlier this year and it's not one of the legends that gets retold a lot. The covers are lovely, too.

YA Fantasy: Golden by Cameron Dokey (and a Read-a-Thon challenge)

Series: Once Upon a Time
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date: 2006
Format: paperback
Acquired: purchased from the Wall Street Book Exchange
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 179
Reading time: two hours

From GoodReads: Before Rapunzel's birth, her mother made a dangerous deal with the sorceress Melisande: If she could not love newborn Rapunzel just as she appeared, she would surrender the child to Melisande. When Rapunzel was born completely bald and without hope of ever growing hair, her horrified mother sent her away with the sorceress to an uncertain future. After sixteen years of raising Rapunzel as her own child, Melisande reveals that she has another daughter, Rue, who was cursed by a wizard years ago and needs Rapunzel's help. Rue and Rapunzel have precisely "two nights and the day that falls between" to break the enchantment. But bitterness and envy come between the girls, and if they fail to work together, Rue will remain cursed...forever.

My review: Whatever you expect out of a Rapunzel retelling, you probably won't get it here. I was wondering when I started reading this how Dokey was going to make the story interesting - I mean, how much can you do with Rapunzel, a pretty straightforward fairytale? Hmmm...make Rapunzel bald and NOT the princess stuck in the tower! The story of what "really" happened, not how the tale went down in the books! It works quite nicely. As usual, this addition to the Once Upon a Time series is enchanting and a lovely twist on the classic tale. Dokey's introduction  of twenty-first century sarcasm into the characters' dialogue was amusing, and she also threw in some other incidents to make readers laugh. The only problem with Golden is its length - too short! I wish everything past page 100 had been more fleshed-out, because it came across as rushed instead. But, despite this issue, Golden is a short, delightful, sweet read.

My second challenge for Once Upon a Read-a-Thon; this one is hosted by The Bookish Type:
Pick any book from your readathon pile and write a fake synopsis based solely on the cover. The synopsis does not have to be related to the actual book at all, just the pretty, pretty cover.

Golden by Cameron Dokey:
Raised by the witch Melisande, Rapunzel has been brought up as a bookish herbalist - an identity with which she is quite content. But then her father, the king, shows up, wanting his daughter back so he can marry her off to the nearest prince. Rapunzel refuses, and the king has her shut up in a tower as punishment. It's not really punishment for the princess, though, because now she has all the time in the world to read! Too bad some bumbling prince appears at the base, claiming that he must rescue her to prove his there any way Rapunzel can help the prince without forfeiting the control of her life back to her father?

Fantasy: Grendel by John Gardner

Publisher: Ballantine
Date: 1971
Format: paperback
Acquired: purchased from Sweeten Creek Antiques
Read: for the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 152
Reading time: three hours

From GoodReads: Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic. This book benefits from both of Gardner's careers: in addition to his work as a novelist, Gardner was a noted professor of medieval literature and a scholar of ancient languages. (Sorry for the scant description, but there's really not much to describe beyond the fact that the novel is a retelling.)

My review: By the end of Gardner's novel, he has readers empathizing with the monster. I actually didn't want the great hero Beowulf to kill the awful monster Grendel. But there's much more to the retelling than making readers see another side of the story: Gardner's writing is awesome, and he weaves philosophy, religion, and messages on the power of literature into the novel as well. Though I missed some (probably a lot, actually) of the philosophical parts due to my lack of knowledge on that subject, the book was still an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forward to coming back to it in a few years when, hopefully, my understanding of philosophy has increased. Familiarity with the Beowulf story is essential for reading Grendel or else readers might be stuck wondering "wtf?" in some places. At times Gardner's substitution of 1970s language for Anglo-Saxon vocabulary and grammar can be humorous, but it's not so out-of-place as to be irritating and, as with Gardner's novel Freddy's Book, Grendel is one of those rare books that makes it onto my list of books to re-read because the writing and stories are so great. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Challenge #1

For this mini-challenge, hosted by IB Book Blogging, I have to answer two questions:

1. What is your favorite type of myth (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc.)?
My favorite myths are Native American, because there's a wide range of stories (every tribe has their own), yet it's fun to compare similar characters and motifs. Also, it's not a mythology that people hear much about or write retellings of, despite the oral tradition that's passed the tales down for centuries and centuries.

2. What is your favorite book with some type of mythology in it?
It's a toss-up between the Once Upon a Time series and Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters books. I love the diversity of the Once Upon a Time books; they're everything from traditional retellings to Disney knock-offs to historical fiction, so it's always interesting to see which direction the author takes. Marillier's just an awesome writer.

YA Fantasy: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: 2007
Format: paperback
Acquired: borrowed from a friend
Read: for a teen book club/Once Upon a Read-a-Thon
Pages: 300
Reading time: three hours

From GoodReads: I am a beast. A beast! Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster. You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll, stay this way forever ruined unless I can break the spell. Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly...beastly.

My review: I was expecting a lot from Beastly, but it turned out to be meh. It's a decent read, but the plot, characters, and writing combination didn't "wow" me. It seemed so predictable: take the typical snotty prep-school, self-absorbed hot guy, throw him into a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and you end up with the stereotypical boy-finds-out-that-looks-don't-matter story, helped along by his falling in love with the resident bookish girl. The plot was straight out of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The contemporary setting with high school kids and New York City increases the interest factor, but it doesn't hold up for all 300 pages once the storyline becomes more standard. A good read insofar as it's not poorly written and boring, but I've read better retellings of fairy tales.

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Begins!

This is my first read-a-thon, so we'll see how this turns out! (BTW, this post is auto-set to be published at midnight; I won't actually begin reading until 9 AM after leisurely sleeping in, checking e-mail and blog updates, etc.). I'll be updating periodically, crossing off books and posting reviews on the blog and rambling on Twitter, as I finish books as well as participating in challenges (not sure what to expect in that department, either). Anyway, my list of books. There's ten on it, and I'm hoping to finish five (I intentionally chose relatively thin books). Going with the title of the read-a-thon, I opted to have a folklore and retelling theme to the list, especially since I have a lot of these books that I, erm, haven't gotten around to reading yet...

Golden by Cameron Dokey
Grendel by John Gardner
The Legend of the Wandering Jew by Joseph Gaer
The Mabinogion
The Jack Tales by Richard Chase
The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Myths and Legends of the Sioux by Marie McLaughlin
Percival's Angel by Anne Crompton

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fiction: In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda

Publisher: Doubleday
Date: August 9, 2011
Format: ARC
Acquired: from publisher
Read: for review (I received this book in return for a fair and honest review, etc.)
Pages: 211
Reading time: six days (due to reading one section a day in between other books)

From GoodReads: One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, and don't steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn't there. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. In a book that takes a true story and shapes it into a beautiful piece of fiction, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah's remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum aged fifteen. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of dangerous border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, find help from an Italian family and meet Fabio Geda, with whom he became friends. The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah's engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda's subtly simple storytelling. In Geda's hands, Enaiatollah's journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.

My review: The strength of In the Sea There are Crocodiles comes from readers' unfamiliarity with the story it tells. The novel is an eye-opener to conditions in Afghanistan in 2000 as well as the lifestyles of illegal immigrants in the Middle East and the systems that they use to travel to other countries in search of better lives. It's quite amazing to trace how Enaiatollah, between the ages of ten and fifteen, managed to successfully navigate these systems and make it to Italy largely on his own. Yes, he runs into friends and other kind people who help him on his way, but none of these are there for a majority of his journey. Unfortunately, I missed an emotional connection with his story that many other readers have felt. The narration seems distant from the events of the novel. The innocence of Enaiatollah's childhood is preserved, but it often seems like his feelings are not, and this distance is what makes me view this book as rather average despite its amazing story. 

Do you ever feel bad because you didn't enjoy a book you felt you should have enjoyed?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Books for This Week

Wow, it's already been a week?! How time flies...The mail/UPS/FedEx hasn't caught up with all the giveaways I've won yet, so only two books arrived this week, plus I borrowed a book from a friend.

For review:
Selene of Alexandria by Faith L. Justice (Thanks, Faith! Check out her blog here.)
Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven (Early Reviewers)

Beastly by Alex Flinn

I'm actually going to try to get this trio read this week, Beastly as part of the Once Upon a Readathon and the other two after that.

Historical Fiction: Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach

Publisher: Bantam (Random House)
Date: July 26, 2011
Format: paperback
Acquired: requested from publisher
Read: for review (I received this book in return for a fair and honest review, yada yada yada)
Pages: 482
Reading time: three days

From GoodReads: One year after her mother’s suicide and just one day after her father’s brokenhearted demise, twelve-year-old Berthe Bovary is sent to live on her grandmother’s impoverished farm. Amid the beauty of the French countryside, Berthe models for the painter Jean-François Millet, but fate has more in store for her than a quiet life of simple pleasures. Berthe’s determination to rise above her mother’s scandalous past will take her from the dangerous cotton mills of Lille to a convent in Rouen to the wealth and glamour of nineteenth-century Paris. There, as an apprentice to famed fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth, Berthe is ushered into the high society of which she once only dreamed. But even as the praise for her couture gowns steadily rises, she still yearns for the one thing her mother never had: the love of someone she loves in return.

My review: Whatever description of this book's plot that you read, it's probably oversimplified. Madame Bovary's Daughter consists of four parts, each spanning about two years: Berthe's stay at her grandmother's farm, her time spent working at a cotton mill, her tenure as an upstairs housemaid in a wealthy Parisian home, and her fashion career as it begins at Worth's. Covering a wide array of settings and social positions, Urbach packs a ton of information into less than 500 pages. She occasionally takes some creative license with dates and famous personages but helpfully explains all historical inaccuracies in her postscript. While the plot moves slowly, it is not uninteresting, and Urbach successfully maintains her novel's connection to Madame Bovary while simultaneously allowing Berthe to forge her own story. She also provides excellent historical details on art, fashion, and Victorian culture without making these details become overbearing and dry. I felt like the last 50 or so pages of the novel were a bit rushed, but again, Urbach has packed a lot into one novel. While Madame Bovary's Daughter can be read without prior knowledge of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, I found that this continuation of the story provided some insights into Flaubert's original characters and increased my understanding of the 1856 novel.

Maturity Factor: Some sex and other sexual situations that I would consider graphic.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Classic Lit: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Publisher: Walter J. Black
Date: 1856 (1904)
Translator: ?
Format: hardback omnibus edition
Acquired: purchased at an antique store
Read: in preparation for Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach
Pages: 218
Reading time: six days

When the young doctor Charles Bovary's older wife dies, he is happy to be freed from his first marriage so he can woo Emma Bovary, the daughter of one of his patients. Charles is thrilled when Emma accepts his proposal, and the couple traipses off to the small provincial town of Yonville. Charles adores his wife, but Emma, a reader of novels, yearns for passion, fancy possessions, and a fashionable life not to be found in Yonville (or on her husband's small salary). Seeking these things, the young wife and eventual mother engages in a series of adulterous affairs - and, at least for a while, her deceptions and expenditures manage not to backfire. But only for a little while...

I found Madame Bovary to be an enjoyable read. Flaubert's writing style is not hard to understand and flows smoothly even for modern readers. The novel was not what I expected (older, experienced adulteress, dark tone) because Emma is young and the book is surprisingly light in tone. It could have come across as feminist, decrying against the boredom faced by young, middle-class provincial wives perpetually stuck at home due to society's constraints on women, except that Emma is silly and superficial at the beginning and eventually becomes more of a scheming, selfish (and still superficial) vixen. She's not really a character with whom readers can commiserate. Writing in the decade following the 1848 revolutions in Europe that basically ended the romantic movement and began the realist, Flaubert throws in some anti-romanticism punches. Romantic novels are what most influence Emma's mind and lead her to her decisions, much as chivalrous romances impact Don Quixote and gothic novels lead to Catherine Morland's melodramatic scenarios. Emma's rather graphically-described death eliminates any romantic images, too, and warns Flaubert's more fanciful readers from thinking that death à la Romeo and Juliet is at all lovely. Reading-wise, I was forcing myself to read a (short) chapter or two a day at the beginning but by the end read the last third of the novel in two sittings.

Join the Classic Bribe over at Quirky Girls Read!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dystopias and Utopias

Running tab of all the great utopias and their evil twins, dystopias, that are out there, both old and new. This list is by no means complete, as it consists primarily of books that I've had the opportunity to read and categorize as utopias/dystopias. Organized alphabetically by author; summaries are from GoodReads, Amazon, or Wikipedia. If I've reviewed them, the link to my review is included.
This list will continue to be updated, with a link to this post included under the tab "book lists."

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (2011)
my review
In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace. As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (2010)
The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities. Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they're financially ruined and practically starving. What should've been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn't, Molly's only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there's a handsome stranger who's willing to help.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now...everything has changed.

Drought by Pam Bachorz (2011)
my review
Ruby Prosser dreams of escaping the Congregation and the early-nineteenth century lifestyle that’s been practiced since the community was first enslaved. She plots to escape the vicious Darwin West, his cruel Overseers, and the daily struggle to gather the life-prolonging Water that keeps the Congregants alive and gives Darwin his wealth and power. But if Ruby leaves, the Congregation will die without the secret ingredient that makes the Water special: her blood. So she stays. But when Ruby meets Ford, the new Overseer who seems barely older than herself, her desire for freedom is too strong. He’s sympathetic, irresistible, forbidden—and her only access to the modern world. Escape with Ford would be so simple, but can Ruby risk the terrible price, dooming the only world she’s ever known?

The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon (1624)
In this work, Bacon portrayed a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations and ideals for humankind. The novel depicts the creation of a utopian land where "generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit" are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants of "Bensalem". The plan and organization of his ideal college, "Salomon's House" (or Solomon's House) envisioned the modern research university in both applied and pure sciences.

Jennifer Government by Max Barry (2004)
In Barry's twisted, hilarious vision of the near future, the world is run by giant American corporations and employees take the last name of the companies they work for. Hot on the trail of John Nike, an executive from the land of Marketing, is agent Jennifer Government, the consumer watchdog from hell. Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for. It's a brave new corporate world, but you don't want to be caught without a platinum credit card--as lowly Merchandising Officer Hack Nike is about to find out. Trapped into building street cred for a new line of $2500 sneakers by shooting customers, Hack attracts the barcode-tattooed eye of the legendary Jennifer Government. A stressed-out single mom, corporate watchdog, and government agent who has to rustle up funding before she's allowed to fight crime, Jennifer Government is holding a closing down sale--and everything must go. A wickedly satirical and outrageous thriller about globalization and marketing hype.

Looking Backward, 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1888)
First published in 1888 and a phenomenal best-seller, Looking Backwardis Edward Bellamy's utopian novel about ninteenth-century Bostonian who awakes after a sleep for more than one hundred years to find himself in the year 2000 in a world of near-perfect cooperation, harmony, and prosperity. More than just a fanciful novel, Looking Backward was, in effect, Bellamy's blueprint for a socialist-type state, conceived in response to problems of the Gilded Age brought on in part by the pace of the late-nineteenth-century industrialization. The novel had an enormous impact at the time of its publication, setting in motion a wave of reform activity and creating a vogue for utopian novels that continued over the next three decades. 

Equality by Edward Bellamy (1897)
Equality, first published in 1897, is the sequel to the 1888 book, Looking Backward-Bellamy's most popular work about a utopian Boston-and a response to the many criticisms of the first book. In Equality, Bellamy answers those charges. Here, Bellamy addresses more social concerns of his day and delves into the more minor details of the lives of the futuristic Bostonians, including manners of dress and dining. Readers will be entertained by Bellamy's imaginings of the future, including recycled paper clothes and self-heating paper cookware.

Kallocain by Karin Boye (1940)
"This is a novel of the future, profoundly sinister in its vision of a drab terror. Ironic and detached, the author shows us the totalitarian World-state through the eyes of a product of that state, scientist Leo Kall. Kall has invented a drug, kallocain, which denies the privacy of thought and is the final step towards the transmutation of the individual human being into a "happy, healthy cell in the state organism." For, says Leo, "from thoughts and feelings, words and actions are born. How then could these thoughts and feelings belong to the individual? Doesn't the whole fellow-soldier belong to the state? To whom should his thoughts and feelings belong then, if not to the state?"" As the first-person record of Leo Kall, scientist, fellow-soldier too late disillusioned to undo his previous actions, Kallocain achieves a chilling power and veracity that place it among the finest novels to emerge from the strife-torn Europe of the twentieth century.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family," imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbor Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.

Proud Man by Katharine Burdekin (1934)
Originally published in England in 1934, this searing, timely novel offers and incisive critique of the sexual politics and militarism of England, and the West as a whole, in the post-World War I years. The novel is told from the perspective of a "Genuine Person" who has been hurtled thousands of years back in time from a future society whose citizens are peaceful, androgynous, self-fertilizing, vegetarian, and without national government and artificial social divisions of gender and class. Taking on first female, then male form, the Genuine Person confronts the reality of England in the 1930s: a society deeply troubled by fascism, the aftermath of war, gender and class divisions, religious hypocrisy, national chauvinism, and the breakdown of families and other social institutions. The protagonist is drawn into relationships with a priest who teachers her/him the English language, a woman struggling with sexual politics and sexual identity, and a man haunted by a murder he committed, driven by his deeply ingrained hatred and fear of women. This powerful novel by a master of dystopian fiction raises disturbing questions about war and peace and the nature of human relationships in an oppressive culture.

The End of This Day's Business by Katharine Burdekin (1990)
Written in 1935 but never published until now, this novel depicts a world ruled by women some 4,000 years into the future. Men live alone and rear boys in a cheerful atmosphere of sports, physical labor, and healthy sexuality, but without the consciousness of anxiety or knowledge of history claimed by women. The plot of the novel described by Choiceas "a forgotten masterpiece", turns on the desire of one woman to teach her son about the past. Risking their lives, she tells the story of the rise of fascism and the subsequent world transformation as life-loving women took over from death-lovign men.

Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin (1937)
Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell's 1984, this novel projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. They are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. Not even the memory of culture remains. The plot centers on a "misfit" who asks, as readers must, "How could this have happenned?" 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)
A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

Erewhon by Samuel Butler (1872)
In this novel, Butler satirically describes a utopian society, using the civilization of 'Erewhon' ('nowhere,' scrambled) to satirize beliefs popular in the England of his day.
Sequel: Erewhon Revisited (1901)

Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach (1975)
Ecotopia was founded when northern California, Oregon, and Washington seceded from the Union to create a “stable-state” ecosystem: the perfect balance between human beings and the environment. Now, twenty years later, this isolated, mysterious nation is welcoming its first officially sanctioned American visitor: New York Times-Post reporter Will Weston. Skeptical yet curious about this green new world, Weston is determined to report his findings objectively. But from the start, he’s alternately impressed and unsettled by the laws governing Ecotopia’s earth-friendly agenda: energy-efficient “mini-cities” to eliminate urban sprawl, zero-tolerance pollution control, tree worship, ritual war games, and a woman-dominated government that has instituted such peaceful revolutions as the twenty-hour workweek and employee ownership of farms and businesses. His old beliefs challenged, his cynicism replaced by hope, Weston meets a sexually forthright Ecotopian woman and undertakes a relationship whose intensity will lead him to a critical choice between two worlds.

The City of the Sun by Tomasso Campanella (1623)
The City of the Sun is presented as a dialogue between "a Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller and a Genoese Sea-Captain". Inspired by Plato's Republic and the description of Atlantis Timaeus, it describes a theocratic society where goods, women and children are held in common. It also resembles the City of Adocentyn in the Picatrix, an Arabic grimoire of astrological magic. In the final part of the work, Campanella prophesies —in the veiled language of astrology— that the Spanish kings, in alliance with the Pope, are destined to be the instruments of a Divine Plan: the final victory of the True Faith and its diffusion in the whole world.

Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody (1987-2012)
In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. And for Elspeth Gordie, it is also dangerous. That's because Elspeth has a secret: she is a Misfit, born with mysterious mental abilities that she must keep hidden under threat of death. And her worries only multiply when she is exiled to the mountain compound known as Obernewtyn, where—for all her talents—Elspeth may finally and truly be out of her depth. Then she learns she’s not the only one concealing secrets at Obernewtyn.
Series: The Farseekers (1990), Ashling (1995), The Keeping Place (1999), Wavesong (2008), The Stone Key (2008), The Sending (2011), The Red Queen (2012)

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (1666)
As its full title suggests, Blazing World is a fanciful depiction of a satirical, utopian kingdom in another world (with different stars in the sky) that can be reached via the North Pole. It is "the only known work of utopian fiction by a woman in the 17th century, as well as one of the earliest examples of what we now call 'science fiction' — although it is also a romance, an adventure story, and even autobiography." A young woman from our world enters this other world, becomes the empress of a society composed of various species of talking animals, and organizes an invasion back into our world complete with submarines towed by the "fish men" and the dropping of "fire stones" by the "bird men" to confound the enemies of her homeland (apparently England).

The Hunger Games and series by Suzanne Collins (2008-2010)
my review
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Series: Catching Fire (2009), Mockingjay (2010)

Matched and series by Ally Condie (2010-2011)
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
Series: Crossed (2011)

Wither and series by Lauren DeStefano (2011-2012) 
my review
In the not-too-distant future, because of genetic engineering, every human is a ticking time bomb - males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. To keep the population from dying out, girls are kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriages. When sixteen-year-old Rhine is taken, she enters a world of wealth and privilege that both entices and terrifies her. She has everything she ever wanted - except freedom. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to escape before it is too late.
Series: Fever (2012)

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (2008)
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.

Caesar's Column by Ignatius Donnelly (1890)
Published in 1890, Caesar's Column is an account of a trip to New York City in 1988 by a visitor from the Swiss colony of Uganda. The great metropolis dazzles with its futuristic technology, but its ostentatious wealth and luxury mask the brutal repression of the laboring classes by their rich bosses. The workers, aided by international terrorists, stage a violent revolt and the narrator flees the devastated city by airship to found an agrarian utopia in Africa. 

House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)
At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón's bodyguard, "How old am I?...I know I don't have a birthday like humans, but I was born." "You were harvested," Tam Lin reminds him. "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her." To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. A room full of chicken litter with roaches for friends and old chicken bones for toys is considered good enough for him. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium -- a strip of poppy fields lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico -- Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA.

Clark Gifford's Body by Kenneth Fearing (1942)
Fearing's title echoes that great anthem of the dispossessed, John Brown's Body. But Clark Gifford is no John Brown. He is a disaffected politician in a nameless but thoroughly familiar media-driven modern state where representative politics has dwindled to the corrupt transaction of business as usual and a foreign war is always breaking out on the horizon. One night Gifford and some of his followers seize radio stations to broadcast a call for freedom. Nobody pays attention except the government. The troops quickly suppress the uprising and capture its leader-yet the rebellion will lead to twenty years of war. Fearing's novel skips freely through those years, interspersing newspaper clippings and court transcripts with the reactions and reminiscences of the politicians, generals, businessmen, journalists, waiters, and soldiers who double as the actors and the chorus in a drama over which, finally, they have no control. Who here is leading? Who is being led? Fearing creates a pseudo-documentary of a world given over to pseudo-politics and pseudo-events, and all the more deadly for that. In such a world, a world far closer to the one we live in now than that of Orwell's 1984, what counts is not the truth but the story that's on record. Because in the end, as Fearing says, "the story alone is the true thing." 

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915)
What I'm trying to show here is that with these women the whole relationship of life counted in a glad, eager growing-up to join the ranks of workers in the line best loved; a deep, tender reverence for one's own mother--too deep for them to speak of freely--and beyond that, the whole, free, wide range of sisterhood, the splendid service of the country, and friendships.
Prequel: Moving the Mountain (1911)
Sequel: With Her in Ourland (1916)

Lost Horizon by James Hilton (1933)
Two Englishmen, a woman missionary, and an American fleeing the consequences of shady financial deals are traveling companions.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
Huxley s vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World -- a world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where the people are genetically designed to be passive, consistently useful to the ruling class.

Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley (1948)
In this savage novel Huxley transports us to Los Angeles in the year 2108, where we learn to our dismay about the 22nd-century way of life.

Island by Aldous Huxley (1962)
For over a hundred years, the inhabitants of the Pacific island of Pala have been part of a social experiment whereby western science has been brought together with eastern philosophy and humanism to create a paradise on earth. In Island, Huxley gives us his vision of Utopia.

Possession by Elana Johnson (2011)
Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even thinkabout kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself. But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn. This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

Mizora by Mary E. Bradley Lane (1881)
What would happen to our culture if men ceased to exist? Mary E. Bradley Lane explores this question in Mizora, the first known feminist utopian novel written by a woman. Vera Zarovitch is a Russian noblewoman—heroic, outspoken, and determined. A political exile in Siberia, she escapes and flees north, eventually finding herself, adrift and exhausted, on a strange sea at the North Pole. Crossing a barrier of mist and brilliant light, Zarovitch is swept into the enchanted, inner world of Mizora. A haven of music, peace, universal education, and beneficial, advanced technology, Mizora is a world of women.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1936)
It is 1936. America has just elected Berzelius Windrip to the presidency-and his fascist policies turn the U.S. into a totalitarian state.

The Iron Heel by Jack London (1907)
In a harrowing tale of class warfare that merges science fiction and fantasy, the powerful state organization known as the "Iron Heel" is determined to crush the working class — at any cost. Praised by such luminaries as George Orwell, London's prophetic political adventure continues to resonate with today's readers.

Fearless by Tim Lott (2007)
my review
In the not-too-distant future, the world is safe from terrorists, the streets are clean, and girls labeled "juvies" or "mindcrips" have been hidden away behind the smartly painted exterior of the City Community Faith School. Their birth names are forgotten and replaced with a letter and number, but they give each other nicknames like Tattle or Stench or Little Fearless. As they slave away at chores, Little Fearless, who is actually the bravest girl in the school, tells the other girls stories, stories about the day their families will return for them. Little Fearless’s own hope and conviction spur her on a dangerous adventure — a bold and unthinkable plan that will either save the imprisoned girls or mean the end of Little Fearless herself, or both.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (2000)
In her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.

Messenger by Lois Lowry (2004)
Newbery medalist Lois Lowry once again ushers readers into the hypnotic, disconcerting fantasy world she made familiar in her award-winning The Giver and its sequel, Gathering Blue, introducing us to young Matty, a boy whose role for Village is more profound than he thinks. Fraught with the same tension and subtle complexities of the previous novels, Lowry's third episode follows Matty -- who lives with Seer and doesn't yet have his true name -- as he keeps busy running errands through Forest and otherwise lives a youthful, carefree life. But Matty also has a power he can't explain, and when he understands that local attitudes are becoming intolerant and aggressive due to mysterious happenings at Trade Mart, the boy sets out to bring back Kira (Seer's daughter and the main character in Gathering Blue) before Village barricades itself entirely against outsiders. The novel crescendos as Matty and Kira make a heart-stopping, dangerous journey through Forest, and it packs a final punch when the hero summons his power and we learn his true name. 

The Year 3000 by Paolo Mantegazza (1897)
First published in 1897, The Year 3000 is the most daring and original work of fiction by the prominent Italian anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza. A futuristic utopian novel, the book follows two young lovers who, as they travel from Rome to the capital of the United Planetary States to celebrate their “mating union,” encounter the marvels of cultural and scientific advances along the way. Intriguing in itself, The Year 3000 is also remarkable for both its vision of the future (predicting an astonishing array of phenomena from airplanes, artificial intelligence, CAT scans, and credit cards to controversies surrounding divorce, abortion, and euthanasia) and the window it opens on fin de siècle Europe.

Daylight Runner by Oisin McGann (2008)
Sol Wheat is asking a lot of questions . . . especially after his father vanishes and is accused of murder. Outside the huge domed city, an Ice Age has transformed Earth into an Arctic desert. But inside, the Machine, protected by the Clockworkers a fearsome police organization has become the source of the city's energy and a way for industrial leaders to wield enormous power. When a rogue organization begins posting messages warning of the Machine's impending failure, civil unrest grows. As Sol begins to uncover the city's deepest secrets, the Clockworkers start targeting him. Now he's on the run in Ash Harbor's underground, where gangs rule and danger lurks in every corner. His life and the survival of Ash Harbor are both at risk.

Utopia by Thomas More (1516)
16th-century classic by English ecclesiastic and scholar envisioned a tolerant, patriarchal island kingdom free of private property, violence, bloodshed and vice. Forerunner of many later attempts.

News from Nowhere by William Morris (1890)
The novel describes the encounter between a visitor from the nineteenth century, William Guest, and a decentralized and humane socialist future. Set over a century after a revolutionary upheaval in 1952, these 'Chapters from a Utopian Romance' recount his journey across London and up the Thames to Kelmscott Manor, Morris's own country house in Oxfordshire. Drawing on the work of John Ruskin and Karl Marx, Morris's book is not only an evocative statement of his egalitarian convictions but also a distinctive contribution to the utopian tradition. Morris's rejection of state socialism and his ambition to transform the relationship between humankind and the natural world, give News from Nowhere a particular resonance for modern readers.

Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov (1962)
The first novel Nabokov wrote while living in America and the most overtly political novel he ever wrote, Bend Sinister is a modern classic.  While it is filled with veiled puns and characteristically delightful wordplay, it is, first and foremost, a haunting and compelling narrative about a civilized man caught in the tyranny of a police state. It is first and foremost a compelling narrative about a civilized man and his child caught up in the tyranny of a police state.  Professor Adam Krug, the country's foremost philosopher, offers the only hope of resistance to Paduk, dictator and leader of the Party of the Average Man.  In a folly of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude, the government attempts to co-opt Krug's support in order to validate the new regime.

Shade's Children by Garth Nix (1997)
In a brutal city of the future, the evil Overlords have decreed that no child may live a day past his 14th birthday. The children's only hope is the mysterious Shade--who recruits and houses the few children lucky enough to escape. 

Delirium and series by Lauren Oliver (2011-2012)
my review
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.
Series: Pandemonium (2012)

1984 by George Orwell (1948)
Portrays a terrifying vision of life in the future when a totalitarian government, considered a "Negative Utopia," watches over all citizens and directs all activities, becoming more powerful as time goes by.

Starters by Lissa Price (2012)
my review 
Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .

Anthem by Ayn Rand (1937)
Ayn Rand's classic tale of a future dark age of the great “We”—a world that deprives individuals of name, independence, and values—anticipates her later masterpieces, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (2011)
my review
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

A Description of Millenium Hall by Sarah Scott (1762)
In 1750 at the age of twenty-seven Sarah Scott published her first novel, a conventional romance. A year later she left her husband after only a few months of marriage and devoted herself thereafter to writing and to promoting female communities. This revolutionary concept was given flesh in Millenium Hall, first published in 1762 and generally thought to be the finest of her six novels. The text may seem as the manifesto of the 'bluestocking' movement--the protean feminism that arose under eighteenth-century gentry capitalism (originating in 1750, largely under the impetus of Scott's sister Elizabeth Montagu), and that rejected a world with early feminists saw symbolized in the black silk stockings demanded by formal society. It is a comment on Western society as well as on the strengths of Scott's novel that the message of Millenium Hall continues to resonate strongly more than two centuries later.

Walden Two by B.F. Skinner (1948)
This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.

Memento Nora and series by Angie Smibert (2011-2012)
my review
A teen struggles to hold onto her memories-and her identity-in a world that wants everyone to forget-and keep on shopping. Three dynamic teens come together to create a comic book of their memories. 
Series: The Forgetting Curve (2012)

The Great Romance by The Inhabitant (1881)
The Great Romance, a two-volume novella published under the pseudonym “The Inhabitant,” was one of the outstanding late nineteenth-century works of utopian science fiction. Volume 1 was a possible model for Edward Bellamy’s phenomenally successful Looking Backward, while volume 2 was assumed lost for over a century until uncovered in the Hocken Library in Dunedin, New Zealand. Together these volumes represent a remarkable piece of science fiction writing as they proffer one of the first serious considerations of the colonization of other planets and the impact of human beings on an alien culture. Here, for the first time, readers encounter descriptions of spacesuits and airlocks, space shuttles and planetary rovers, interplanetary colonization and cross-species miscegenation. Behind these genre-defining elements is the story of John Hope, who, by means of a sleeping elixir, awakes to a utopian community in a distant future—a “kingdom of thought” where the struggle for existence has been eliminated and humanity operates under an unwritten law of civility and harmony, aided by telekinesis that inerrantly reveals all wrong-doers. Since only two of the probably three volumes are extant, the tale ends with a chilling cliffhanger.

The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (2000)
Two hundred years after the "Blast," Moscow has become a primitive and brutal post–nuclear holocaust society, inhabited by citizens with conspicuous physical "Consequences": rooster's crests, missing limbs, claws where feet or hands should be. In this world of everyday horrors, the ultimate terror is the legendary, nightmarish Slynx, an invisible monster rumored to live in the forest who hunts humans for its own inexplicable purposes. Enter Benedikt, a typically impoverished working-class bachelor with a healthy fear of books. Healthy, you may ask? Well, in this futuristic society, possessors of such items are promptly whisked away for "treatment" by the dreaded Saniturions, never to be seen again. Benedikt also resists any "Freethinking," another practice that's strictly verboten. Instead, he behaves as he is told, working as a scribe, copying the prose of classical writers, and attributing authorship of each book, play, or poem to the resident tyrant, Fyodor Kuzmich (Glorybe). In search of companionship, Benedikt decides against befriending the eagerly intelligent but physically repellent Varvara Lukinishna in favor of pursuing the affections of the more beautiful Olenka. But as he vies for Olenka's attentions and the approbation of her repugnant but powerful family, he accepts, by degrees, greater moral and ethical compromises. Now securely behind the gated walls of his father-in-law's mansion, Benedikt is living a life of luxury formerly unimaginable, and he should feel safe from the ghastly Slynx.unless, of course, the Slynx comes not from the forest but from somewhere closer to home. 

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1952)
Vonnegut's first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a super computer and run completely by machines. His rebellion is a wildly funny, darkly satirical look at modern society.

The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells (1901)
When penniless businessman Mr. Bedford retreats to the Kent coast to write a play, he meets by chance the brilliant Dr. Cavor, an absentminded scientist on the brink of developing a material that blocks gravity. Cavor soon succeeds in his experiments, only to tell a stunned Bedford that the invention makes possible one of the oldest dreams of humanity: a journey to the moon. With Bedford motivated by money, and Cavor by the desire for knowledge, the two embark on the expedition. But neither are prepared for what they find—a world of freezing nights, boiling days, and sinister alien life, in which they may be trapped forever.

A Modern Utopia by H.G. Wells (1905)
In A Modern Utopia, two travelers fall into a space-warp and suddenly find themselves upon a Utopian Earth controlled by a single World Government.

In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells (1906)
"A comet rushes toward the earth, a deadly, glowing orb that soon fills the sky and promises doom. But mankind is too busy hating, stealing, scheming, and killing to care. As luminous green trails of cosmic dust and vapor stream across the heavens, blood flows beneath: nations wage all-out war, bitter strikes erupt, and jealous lovers plot revenge and murder. The earth slips past the comet by the narrowest of margins, but all succumb to the gases in its tail. When mankind wakes up, everyone is completely and profoundly different." In the Days of the Comet is H. G. Wells's classic tale of the last days of the old earth and the extraterrestial Change that becomes the salvation of the human race. An ill-fated romance between Willie Leadford and Nettie Stuart unfolds in a world buried in misery and bent on its own destruction. After the earth passes through the comet's tail, suffering, pettiness, and injustice melt away. Willie, Nettie, and everyone around them are reborn. They now see themselves and their world in a dramatically new and wonderful way.

The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells (1910)
Graham, an 1890s radical pamphleteer who is eagerly awaiting the twentieth century and all the advances it will bring, is stricken with insomnia. Finally resorting to medication, he instantly falls into a deep sleep that lasts two hundred years. Upon waking in the twenty-second century to a strange and nightmarish place, he slowly discovers he is master of the world, revered by an adoring populace who consider him their leader. Terrified, he escapes from his chamber seeking solace—only to realize that not everyone adores him, some even wish to harm him.

Uglies and series by Scott Westerfeld (2005-2007)
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.
Series: Pretties (2005), Specials (2006), Extras (2008)

Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright (1942)
On his death, Austin Tappan Wright left the world a wholly unsuspected legacy. Among this distinguished legal scholar's papers were thousands of pages devoted to a staggering feat of literary creation - a detailed history of an imagined country complete with geography, genealogy, representations from its literature, language and culture. In a monumental labor of love Wright's wife and daughter culled from this material a thousand page novel, as detailed as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Islandia has similarly become a classic touchstone for those concerned with the creation of imaginary worlds. Islandia occupies the southern portion of the Karain Continent, which lies in the Southern Hemisphere. Its civilization is an ancient one, protected from outside intervention by a natural fortress of towering mountains. To this isolated country - this alien, compelling and totally fascinating world - comes John Lang, the American consul. As the reader lives with Lang in Islandia, as he comes to know this magnetic land, its unique people, its strange customs, he may find himself experiencing a feeling of envy, a wish that he, like Lang, be permitted, at the book's end, to return once more and spend the rest of his days in Islandia.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (2011)
my review
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921)
In the One State of the great Benefactor, there are no individuals, only numbers. Life is an ongoing process of mathematical precision, a perfectly balanced equation. Primitive passions and instincts have been subdued. Even nature has been defeated, banished behind the Green Wall. But one frontier remains: outer space. Now, with the creation of the spaceship Integral, that frontier -- and whatever alien species are to be found there -- will be subjugated to the beneficent yoke of reason. One number, D-503, chief architect of the Integral, decides to record his thoughts in the final days before the launch for the benefit of less advanced societies. But a chance meeting with the beautiful 1-330 results in an unexpected discovery that threatens everything D-503 believes about himself and the One State. The discovery -- or rediscovery -- of inner space...and that disease the ancients called the soul.