[Jack and the Geniuses #1]
In the series opener, Jack and the Geniuses: At The Bottom of The World, readers meet Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans. But they’re not your typical kind of orphans—they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are, which sometimes makes life difficult for twelve-year-old Jack. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is into astronomy and a whiz at math. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when he’s surrounded by geniuses all the time.
When the kids try to spy on Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists, they end up working for him in his incredible laboratory. Soon, Hank and the kids travel to Antarctica for a prestigious science competition, but they find that all is not as it seems: A fellow scientist has gone missing, and so has any trace of her research. Could someone be trying to use her findings to win the contest? It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find the missing scientist and discover who’s behind it all—before it’s too late.
Janet: I wasn’t caught by the cover (kinda dull) or the synopsis — how many books about geniuses can a body read? — until I saw the names of the authors. Bill Nye. Bill Nye the science guy. If, like me, you grew up in Canada, you probably saw at least two of his videos in science class, can sing the theme song, and have an unabashed affection for the scientist whose enthusiasm and presence made science videos, usually embarrassingly dated, a highlight of any unit. I’m in.
Yash: I didn’t grow up with Bill Nye’s show, but I know of him? And I am very, very curious to see what his fiction is going to be like. Also, it seems to be a co-written book, so I’m also curious to see interviews with both authors, their experiences writing this together, and how their respective expertise came in handy.
Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?
Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.
Janet: I like forests. I like lanterns. I like flowers, the colours blue and green and every shade between, and I definitely like snakes. I’m not sure I’ll like this, though, despite a most promising set-up. It’s a little too dramatic, with details thrown in for effect rather than to reveal character. Also, cannibalism is not a sustainable form/source of magic and rarely corresponds with longevity. I’ll pass unless and until Yash and Nafiza can convince me otherwise.
Yash: Janet! I have cannibalism in my WIP! Though, I admit, it isn’t meant to be sustainable. *ahem* Anyway, I agree with Janet–this is a pretty sloppily constructed synopsis. But! It’s definitely something I feel like reading right now, so I am 100% in. Also, that cover! So great!
Four-hundred years ago, sorcery began to fade from the world. As the scientific method prevailed, combustion engines and computers gradually replaced enchanted plows and spell books. The secrets of spell-casting were forgotten, and sorcery–real, physics-defying manipulation of the natural world–was replaced by trickery and hack YouTube magicians. That is … until now.
Sorcery for Beginners is no fantasy or fairy tale. Written by arcane arts preservationist and elite mage Euphemia Whitmore (along with her ordinary civilian aide Matt Harry), Sorcery for Beginners is the true how-to manual for returning magic to an uninspired world. It’s also the story of Owen Macready, a seemingly average 13-year-old who finds himself drawn into a centuries-long war when he uses this book to take on a school bully. Owen’s use of sorcery attracts the attention of a ruthless millionaire and a secret society of anti-magic mercenaries, possibly changing the course of world history forever.
Janet: I’m reluctantly drawn in. The cover is deliberately reminiscent of old-timey books (Wilderness Survival Skills for Young People et al.), and the mention of YouTube is pretty hard to resist. Millionaires and secret societies are enh, but I’d glance at the first few pages to decide.
Yash: Ooh, okay, another cover that I love! Everything from the font to the author’s pseudonym is perfect! The colours especially make it look like something from another century that you find in a second-hand store. I just love it. And the title too is just perfect: simple, but memorable. As for the synopsis, it’s pretty interesting? Or, at least, it isn’t boring. If Janet reads past page 15, I’d make time for this one.
Welcome to Soulless.
We are the generation that laughs at death.
Reincarnation; what was once considered a gift of immortality has become an eternity of nightmares.
Nadia Richards lives in a world plagued by reincarnation, a system of recycling souls where all past memories, personalities and traumatic events are relived daily in disjointed sequences. Trapped within their own warped realities, not even the richest and most powerful are saved from their own minds unraveling. Madness is the new human nature, and civilizations are crumpling beneath themselves trying to outrun it.
Within a society that ignores death, Nadia appears to be the one exception to the reincarnation trap. Born without any reincarnated memories and with printless eyes, the hot tempered 19 year old quickly becomes the ultimate prize to all those wishing to end the vicious cycle, or for some, to ensure they could evade death forever.
Janet: A girl posited as a prize: I’ll pass. (*sigh* The set-up is strongly similar to Half World. Which was a good book. As was Darkest Light. Still. I’ll pass.)
Yash: I do love the art style and the colours. I can’t stop myself from gazing at the hair and yellow (fire?) in the background. And the floating globs of blood. Which sounds gross, but I mean, look at how pretty? (There may be something wrong with me. Sorry.) Anyway, I am always a little iffy about people writing about reincarnation because it is a religious concept and other people’s religions are not your swimming pool. It’s also a little concerning that it’s called reincarnation, but you carry over memories–not what reincarnation is–which means I am also concerned with how race and sexuality is addressed in this novel. I may wait for reviews before I decide whether or not I wanna pick this one up.
The house on Arrow Island is full of mystery.
Yet when Mei arrives, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.
What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household.
Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.
Mei is a sensible girl. She isn’t superstitious; she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Yet she can’t shake her fear that there is danger lurking in the shadows of this beautiful house, a darkness that could destroy the family inside and out…and Mei along with them.
Janet: Half-faces aren’t my favourite, but at least this time we get a vertically-cut half-face, instead of a girl missing her eyes or her mouth, and at least this time she’s Asian and drawn instead of the ubiquitous white girl photographed. The story set-up seems straightforward and to the point: level-headed young woman enters household as tutor to child; human complications ensue and supernatural menaces… menace. The back copy’s low-key approach is highly appealing. This looks like a fun read, and perfect for October’s theme. .
Yash: I WANT THIS BOOK SO BAD, OMG WHO DO I TALK TO TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN?! *___* Guys, it’s a gothic story with an Asian protagonist! I AM SO IN!
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.
But this year, everything is about to change. . . .
Janet: The delicate border, tidy & intricate fonts, minimalist approach to colour, and use of white (uh, black) space are highly effective. The back copy leaves me as cold but serious kudos to whoever designed the cover.
Yash: I LOVE THIS COVER. But I was put off by the tagline. Still. Brilliant, brilliant cover, though. The delicate typography, the black background that manages to bring in Christmas-y colours successfully–just, everything is beautiful. I see a lot of people picking this one off the shelves. The synopsis kinda reminds me of Wishlist by Eoin Colfer, which I loved as a kid, but I’m just not into now.