Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Academie by Amy Joy

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The Academie – Amy Joy

Remember that dream you had about suddenly finding yourself back in high school? All the tests you have to take that you didn’t get a chance to study for, not knowing where any of your classes are or any of your classmates? Welcome to The Academie, your nightmare has become your reality. In a near-future world, all people under the age of 23 are required by law to enter The Academie – A prison-like facility that claims to educate the nation’s youth and turn them into responsible, compliant, upstanding citizens. This change makes high schools (and their teachers) obsolete. Universities and their professors are quickly following, their students forced into The Academie. Allie Thompson was a happy sophomore in college when she found herself back in her old high school, living in a dorm room with a girl she didn’t know (and who apparently didn’t like her), in classes far below her level and knowing that she was stuck there for the next three years. She had seen the change her younger brother had gone through a year before when he entered, going from a normal high school student to an unfeeling, seemingly brainwashed model Academie student.

Slowly, she begins to see the cracks in The Academie walls and tries to share her bizarre experiences with her new circle of friends, her brother and her boyfriend, who all slowly admit similar observations. Suddenly, her life turned upside down as the horrifying truth revealed. The truth of what The Academie really is and what its plans for their future.

Learn more about the Academie Series and author Amy Joy at: The Academie Series

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The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos

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The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos.  Published by Grove/Atlantic and The Mysterious Press.

Imagine a group of best friends planning a yearly get-together to play golf, hang-out, no wives, no kids.  Just old friends from college, each going their own way after graduation but finding their way back to each other once a year to reconnect.

Evan is a successful lawyer.  Will a struggling music producer.  Jeffrey is a dot.com millionaire and Nolan is an up and coming state Senator.  Things are looking up for all four:  Will and Jeffrey are married and expecting their first children, Evan is on the verge of a huge promotion and Nolan is working his way from state Senator to Washington D.C.  Good, stable men with degrees from an Ivy League school, making their dent in the world.

Now imagine stopping at a convenience store to grab a quick snack.  Jeffrey goes inside while two wait in the car.  A few minutes later, he comes out pulling a girl by the arm and pushing her into the car.  They’ve all just unwittingly become involved in a kidnapping and robbery.  Suddenly that dent has become a crater and no-one knows why.  Not even the Jeffrey who seemingly has no reason to rob a convenience store, let alone kidnap someone.

As this suspenseful story unfolds, secrets revealed, past betrayals come to surface and lives are irrevocably changed.  This much-anticipated, fun, casual “guys weekend” has turned into a nightmare than none of them could have ever imagined.

Or, could they?  Jeffrey seems confused, dazed and completely unclear on what made him commit such a horrible crime.  As each hour passes, the group knows they are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole they may never climb out of.  They see their futures crumbling in front of their eyes and feel helpless to stop it.

As the story winds its way through fond memories of their Princeton days to the casual drifting apart that comes with growing up to horror at what their friend has done, both to them and to the girl he kidnapped, the reader slowly realizes that nothing is as it seems.  Does the girl escape and turn them into the police?  Do they kill her to hide the crime?  Or does something happen that is so unexpected that takes the story from a good crime/thriller to one that will leave you shocked and strangely satisfied at the end?

I really enjoy thrillers and this one didn’t disappoint.  The characters were all believable, the plot solid and the ending definitely unexpected.  I’m always delighted to find new authors (or new-to-me) to read and Michael Kardos is definitely being added to my list.

This Perfect Day by Ira Levin

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This Perfect Day – Ira Levin

   Christ, Marx, Wood and Wei

Led us to this perfect day.

      Marx, Wei, Wood and Christ,

   All but Wei were sacrificed.

       Wood, Wei, Christ and Marx,

              Gave us lovely schools and parks.

      Wei, Christ, Marx and Wood,

                                                          Made us humble, made us good.

This amazing book starts off with this eerie chant, which is taught to very young children in school.  The story is set in a seemingly perfect global society whose genesis is fuzzy.  The story is a strong character-driven one, a glimpse into the future of what could be if the government could “create” Utopia.  Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called “The Family”

The world is run by a super computer called UniComp, or Uni.  Uni is a metaphor for God (or a god-like being) and controls everything, perfectly.  Uni is the one who knows you best.  Uni knows what job you will be good at, if you’ll be married, if you’ll have children, how long you will live, where you will live, what you’ll eat, drink, do, think.  Uni takes care of everyone and everything.  Since Uni is father, the Members are all brothers and sisters and refer to one another in that way.  No decision is left up to you, no worries, no concerns.  And if you do question anything, you’ll soon forget your concerns as you will be given an extra “treatment” (which, unknown to the Members is some sort of transdermal injection that is a mix of tranquilizers, birth control, hormones, etc) and you will become satisfied and compliant immediately.  Every member on the planet is controlled by a combination of “treatments”, advisors, self-reporting or reporting of other Members and a silver bracelet every Member must wear and scan periodically throughout the day, so that Uni knows where you are at all times.  You eat at scheduled times (totalcakes and cokes, everyday, every meal).  You sleep when you’re told, watch TV when you’re told – in short, not a second of your day is left up to you.  If you display any deviant behavior, like going for a walk, another Member will report you, not out of malice, but concern and you will be drugged back into compliance.

Except ….. there are some Members who are immune to the “treatments”.  Their minds are not deadened.  These people are called “The Incurables” and are a source of mystery and fear by Members.  They live somewhere “over there” and are thought to be miserable creatures, animals almost.  It is told that they murder, steal, get sick, die, starve, etc.  They are portrayed in such a horrible way so that no-one will become too curious about them or their lifestyle (I feel a little North Korea vs The Rest of The World here).  But sometimes, these incurables live among The Family and slowly plot against Uni as is evidenced by the “Fight Uni” graffiti found sprinkled throughout the public places.

I found this book incredibly fascinating.  I know a few people to whom the idea of the government taking care of EVERYTHING sounds wonderful.  No worries!  No need for money because everything is given to you!  No issue of having to make a decision or choose, it’s already been done!  While that may sound nice, most haven’t thought of the consequences of such a world.  Everything must be balanced, where there is good, there must be bad, otherwise the good loses its meaning.  When all decisions are made for someone, without their input, that someone has lost all freedom.  Freedom to think, choose, plan.  And in the case of Uni and The Family, you have no choice at all.  When/where you’ll sleep, when/where you’ll play, when/what you’ll eat, when you’ll watch TV, when and if you will be allowed take part in any creative activities (art, music, writing, photography, etc), when you’ll have sex (once a week according to Uni).  If you’re permitted to have children, you’ll only be able to choose on of four names for a girl (Anna, Mary, Peace and Yin) or from four boys names (Bob, Jesus, Karl or Li).  Instead of a surname, Members are distinguished by a “nameber”, a neologism from “name” and “number”.

This book left me feeling a bit unnerved but well entertained.  This Perfect Day will definitely be one of those books I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, techno-thrillers, adventure, post-apocalyptic worlds and suspense.  Don’t let the sci-fi definition scare you off, this is not about aliens and intergalactic wars.  The characters are people living in a future society, an alternative history that might result from a combination of Marxism and a single World Government and possibly serving as a warning to anyone who would push for this type of society.  While promoting equality, plenty for all, peace and well-being, all socialistic/communistic societies have a nearly invisible, sometimes secret group who practice meritocracy.  This secret group enjoys luxuries far beyond what most of the common people could ever imagine.  In This Perfect Day, that group is called the programmers and you’ll have to read the book to find out where they fit in!

This Perfect Day is a heroic science fiction novel of a technocratic false-utopia.  Written by author Ira Levin and published by Open Road Media partnered with Pegasus Books.

Review for “The Last Free Cat” by Jon Blake

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The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake.  Published by    Albert Whitman   & Company

The Last Free cat is one of those books that once you start, you can’t put it down.  The story begins with a mother and  her teen daughter, Jade, arguing over a cat that Jade found in their back yard.  Seems innocent enough, right?  After all, how many parents around the world have at one time argued with their child over adding a pet to the family?  But this is where the “normal” part of the story ends and the book dives head-first into a bizarre world where cats are no longer a cute & cuddly house pet, but instead are desired by many but only owned by the very wealthy or are feared as vectors of the deadly cat-flu.  Because Jade and her mom are not wealthy, they are suddenly targets of everyone:  the government who regulates cat ownership and their neighbors and friends who are terrified of contracting cat-flu.  Suddenly, mom and daughter find themselves in hiding in their own home.  They know that one wrong move and their house will be invaded by Comprot, short for “Community Protection”.  Because, you see, in Jades world, owning a cat is very, very expensive.  And illegal, you can count on 10 years in prison for owning a non-registered cat.  And no-one questions this, it’s just the way it is.  The government has convinced its people that an unregistered cat will be diseased and give anyone who is near one the deadly cat-flu.   And if you, like Jade,  come across a cat with no collar and decide to keep it, your life suddenly becomes very, very difficult.

Your story might go something like this:  First, you meet a new friend, a homeless  kid named Kris that you don’t particularly like, but your mom seems to like him, so the next thing you know, he has a key to your house.  “For emergencies” you mom tells you.  You also have a a new cat, whom you name Feela and you have to trust that Kris is not going to turn you in.  And even more annoying, Feela seems to be totally at ease with Kris when it took you weeks of hard work just to get her to sit on your lap.  Then an unexpected tragedy hit and the next place you find yourself is on the run.  With a cat….and Kris.

There are tons of unexpected situations in this book, which made me enjoy it even more.   The ending was good, it tied things up without being too neat and perfect, maybe even leaving room for a sequel.  The characters in the book all have their own distinct personalities without sounding fake or “too much”.  And as you start on the journey with this little group, you’ll start to notice that while it seems like everything is normal, something feels a little “off”.  First the strange cat law.  Then the odd types of transportation, some of it familiar, some of it definitely not.  And gadgets that are far from what we’re used to but can imagine being commonplace in the future.

The author makes it work.  He really works hard at creating believable dialogue between Jane and Kris and then, later, Amelie and Raff.  He writes  in plenty of breathless adventurous, that aren’t too far-fetched to believe, these kids are pretty resourceful.  And they are determined to do what they feel is right, even if it means they work outside of the law enforcement who are on their tail for the second half of the book.

I think this is a story about a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future, one I hope I never have to live in.  It’s about breaking rules when someone (or something) needs help, no matter what sacrifice you have to make,  It’s about being rebellious to get what you think is right.  It’s about discovering the truth for yourself, rather than having the government tell you what you should be doing/thinking/living, etc.  About how, if you have enough people who are strong in their beliefs and willing to carry them out, that good things can happen.

This book falls into the Young Adult category.  As a discerning parent, I would be comfortable recommending it to children ages 11 and up.  I have two sons who are young teens and they liked it very much and asked me to find more books by this author.

To find more of this outstanding author’s work, check out Jon Blake on Goodreads.  To find more exciting books published by Albert Whitman & Company, follow this link.

Welcome!

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Welcome to Confirmed Bookworm, a blog of good books and my honest opinion of them.  If you’re looking for something new to read, want to discover a new author or want to know if a book is something you’d be interested in, you’ve come to the right place.  If you’re an author looking for a willing reader & reviewer, feel free to send me a message.  I write reviews on just about every genre and read several books a week.

Happy Reading!