Thea, a Hevetz intern, and a small crew are hurtling through space responding to a distress call.  After two months of space travel and they land at a research site, they thought was long abandoned until now.  Once they arrive, the crew isn’t sure what they’ve stumbled upon, with blood smears and the dead bodies of the research crew around each corner.  Now the small team, with no easy way back to safety, realizes they’ve uncovered a terrible a deadly secret they must escape before it devours them too.

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

Peter Brown has created a sequel to his bestselling The Wild Robot which is absolutely terrific and brings the Wild Robot’s story to a well-earned conclusion while entrusting its young readers with very big ideas.

This is a story that envisions the future of our whole planet as seen by a robot whose life experience is a lot like our early human ancestors — but with fantastic artificial intelligence. However, Roz is eventually collected and returned to her factory of origin. Then she is sent to a small family dairy farm as the sole robot to run the farm, with the help of some amazing machinery. She befriends not only the cows but also the children, Jaya and Jed. Will she ever see her duck son again? Will she ever be able to return to the Island? How will she deal with predators when she is programmed not to use violence?

The Wild Robot Escapes is definitely meant to be read after reading the first book. If you haven’t yet read The Wild Robot and spent time wondering about all the questions it raises, do that first!

What I love most about Peter Brown’s two works is that he trusts young readers (this book could be read by 2nd graders) with the most sophisticated ideas coming out of adult science and speculative fiction. The two books together constitute a masterpiece of fiction and one that all ages should read and think about. We need every one of us to be engaged in our perilous journey on this small blue planet.





Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This book swept the major science fiction awards when it came out, winning the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, BSFA Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award – and all of them well-deserved.  It’s a terrific concept, and executed to perfection. The world-building is comprehensive and engaging, and the author’s ability to convey the experience of Breq, a character who used to be a sentient spaceship that saw through the eyes of thousands of bodies (her “ancillaries”), and is now confined to the body of one survivor, is impressive. This was the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Discussion Group selection for April 2015.

Also available as an audiobook and an eBook.

Among Others by Jo Walton

This book is a love letter to anyone who grew up immersed in sci-fi & fantasy, who dreamed of Impressing their own dragon and finding their karass and going on their own quest, who felt completely out of sync with the “real” world, but ultimately wanted to find their own place in it. The framework for all of this is the story of a young woman, who may or may not have magical powers, escaping from a troubled childhood.  She has trouble fitting in at a new boarding school, but finds acceptance with a local science fiction book club.  The winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, and a really excellent read! (Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Discussion Group selection, May 2015)

The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey

This is the expanded version of a short story called “Iphigenia in Aulis” that Mike Carey wrote for a collection of horror stories set in schools (An Apple For The Creature). To describe the premise beyond that would spoil the story for you, so I will just say that it is beautifully written and has stayed with me ever since I read it.  It is deeply creepy, and yet heartwarming and, ultimately, hopeful.

(Well, OK, just a taste:  “Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be taken to class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.”)

This book is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, and a recent movie adaptation, if that’s more your thing!  Don’t miss the sequel, The Boy On The Bridge.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

First in a series about Peter Grant, a mixed-race London constable who seems doomed to a life of low-stakes departmental paperwork…until he interviews a murder witness who just happens to be a ghost.  Before he knows it, he finds himself apprenticed to Scotland Yard’s resident wizard, learning magic, and mediating disputes between the city’s gods.  Think Harry Potter, but multiply the wit and grit by a factor of 10.

In addition to the novels in the series, check out the graphic novels based on the characters, starting with Rivers of London:  Body Work.

Kendra Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016

December 29, 2016

kendra robinsonMy name is Kendra Robinson. My family moved to Evanston five years ago from Chicago because our daughter attends Baker Demonstration School. My husband and I work in the private aviation industry and spend much of our time working on our fixer-upper house.

1) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)

This is a wonderful twist on a time travel story, with shocking twists and a wonderful main character. Beautifully written and structured.

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Wendy Fink’s Best Reads of 2016

December 20, 2016

wendy fink photoMy name is Wendy Fink. My husband Matt and I have raised our three children in Evanston (where we have resided for almost 30 years). I like to read, knit, cook, scrapbook and exercise. I volunteer at EPL and ETHS regularly.

1) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014)

I relished the delightful character development of Ove from a depressed bitter man seeking to check out of life into a warm giving grandfather figure in his Swedish community. The simple narrative style and sparse dialogue work well to mimic Ove himself. Continue reading “Wendy Fink’s Best Reads of 2016”

Chris Skoglund’s Best Reads of 2016

December 19, 2016

Skoglund photo
Photo by Katie Barthelemy

My name is Chris Skoglund, and I am the librarian at Willard Elementary School in Evanston, where I have worked for almost thirteen years. I am an avid reader of books for both children and adults (which made picking only five books really difficult), so I consider myself to have the best job in the world!

1) Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)

An extraordinary mix of historical fiction and science fiction, this novel drew me in and would not let me go. Full of elegant imagery and characters that will linger in your mind long after the story is finished, each element worked seamlessly together.

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Jay Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016

December 12, 2016

Jay Robinson photo
Wiseman (2011)

My name is Jay Robinson. I am an industrial designer for Robinson Design – my own consultancy firm that creates interiors for private aircraft. Five years ago I moved with my family from Andersonville to Evanston, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of this amazing community. In my spare time I enjoy reading, cooking, listening to podcasts, and obsessing over home improvement projects.

1) Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (2015)

This is a sprawling, old-school hard-science-fiction novel packed to the gunwales with ideas. Set before and after a freak event creates a cataclysm on Earth, it subjects its characters to a gantlet of perils which they must overcome with wit, determination, and limited resources. A good one for fans of The Martian.

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