The Passengers by John Marrs

The Passengers
by
John Marrs

Rating:

When eight self-driving cars suddenly change course, counter to their pre-programmed destinations, their passengers don’t know what to think. Soon, they are told that “it is highly likely” they will be dead in two and a half hours: their cars are set to meet in a fiery crash.

What to do? They have no control. No steering wheels, no brakes. They can’t open the windows or doors and their Internet has been hacked. Cell service is out and their only communication is with the hacker.

Meanwhile, Claire Arden has been called for jury duty, of sorts. She’s the only civilian member of the Vehicle Inquest Jury, formed to decide who’s at fault in a fatal crash involving driverless cars. “Either man or machine is to blame, and you will decide,” she is told. As the debate unfolds, the jury is suddenly alerted to the situation on the roads, which has gone wild, first on social media and quickly picked up by all news organizations. Camera feeds from each car reveal the hostages inside, and their images are plastered for the world to see, and comment on, of course. And it isn’t long until the jury is charged with a new task, an impossible decision.

Set in London, sometime in the near future, citizens are living in the time of a Road Revolution, in which there will be a ban on non-autonomous vehicles within ten years. But there is something more sinister going on, slowly revealed as the story develops.

In addition to his commentary on social media and the overreaching role of government (for this is a dystopian story), Marrs covers many themes, including religion, racism, mental health, sexuality, marriage and parenthood.

Although far-fetched and a little preachy, I enjoyed the original and modern premise of The Passengers. Marrs writes a fast-paced story, matching the frantic efforts to avert disaster. There are many shocks and several interesting sub-plots, including a possible romance, which kept me interested in the story’s outcome. Characters are slightly one-dimensional and stereotypical, however, and Marrs seems to include one from every category. The finish is wild and implausible, but maybe that’s part of the genre. All-in-all, I enjoyed reading The Passengers, which is an easy read and escape when the rest of your life is busy.

While I thought it was a pretty good read, lots of book bloggers loved The Passengers, so be sure to also check out these selected reviews.

The BiblioSanctum
Book Reviews | Jack’s Bedtime Reading
Dee’s Rad Reads and Reviews
Diary of a Book Fiend
Stephen Writes

Have you read The Passengers? Leave a comment and tell me what you thought.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Kristin Ward

Author name:  Kristin Ward

Genre:  YA SciFi/Dystopian

Books:  After the Green Withered and the sequel, Burden of Truth

When did you begin your writing career?  When my 7th grade English teacher likened my writing to Saki, the author of The Interlopers, I was hooked. That defining moment began my foray into mad scribblings of terrible poetry and story starters galore. From that point onward, writing has been a passion though not a profession. Three sons, a career, and many, many years later, the closest I had come to that pinnacle of achievement was writing a published curriculum piece for a zoo and a graduate course in science.

 My first book, a dystopian fiction titled After the Green Withered, was officially published in May 2018 and won the 2018 Best Indie Book Award in young adult fiction. This novel was truly a labor of love and a long time coming! Of course, they say that good things come to those who wait, so I suppose this was one of those things that needed more time. Following the release of my award-winning novel was the sequel, Burden of Truth, published in November of 2018. There are so many more stories swirling through my mind, aching to be put on a page and enjoyed (hopefully) by others.

As I make personal goals for 2019, I plan to publish two or three more books and hope to broaden my readership by connecting with readers from all walks of life!

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I’m a procrastinator. In fact, I’d wager that most authors are. Having that particular character trait, I find myself diving into a piece of writing with a skeletal plan and letting the story take me where it wills. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t have an overarching vision. I do. I know exactly where and how the story will end, but I find that my characters take little side trips along the way that I didn’t originally anticipate. This is what makes me a classic pantser!

What’s your working style – morning or late-night writer?  I would love to have a set time to write. The truth is, I write when I can. Being a mother of three sons and having a full-time career leaves little time to plant myself in my writing chair and craft my masterpiece (I’m trying that whole positive-self-fulfilling-prophecy-thing by talking myself up *wink, wink*). The truth is that I write when I can which is often at night or on the weekends when my crew is busy running amok.

Do you work at a computer or write long-hand?  I cannot imagine having to write by hand. The very thought is rather horrifying considering my hand cramps after having to write multiple checks for scout dues, fieldtrips, and school fundraisers. If I didn’t have my wonderful, little laptop, there would be piles of balled up paper all over the house and the air would literally be clouded in profanity-laced thought bubbles.

So, the short answer is: computer. Yeah. That’s my medium.

What gets those words flowing, coffee or tea?  Coffee and dark chocolate are my drugs of choice. I do like a good cup of tea laced with honey, but I typically enjoy that when I’m relaxing with a good book rather than writing one.

Favorite book:  I’m a classic re-reader. The true test of whether I love a book or just like it is if I will re-read it. One of my favorite books to read every couple of years is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. This epic saga is a rollercoaster of action, emotion, intrigue, corruption, and storytelling that takes me back to a world I love to visit every time I read it.

In my own young adult genre, my favorites are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Favorite movie:  I’m a bit of a movie nut and I quote movies. A lot. My favorite movie to quotes come from The Princess Bride. If you were to come to my house and utter the phrase, “No more rhyming now, I mean it!” There would be a chorus of, “Anybody want a peanut?” Yep, from The Breakfast Club to The Karate Kid, my movie favorites come out in numerous quotes and references.

Favorite musician:  I have a rather eclectic taste in music. I grew up loving 80s pop and 90s alternative music. Depeche Mode to The Cure were my constant companions as a teenager and I went to many concerts, back when you could afford to attend. The music I listen to now is heavily influenced by my current mood. I’m apt to turn on anything from Twenty-One Pilots to Air Supply!

Social media links:
Website: writingandmythreesons.com
Twitter: @YA_Author
Facebook: @KristinWardAuthor
Instagram: kristin_ward_author
Amazon Author Page: Kristin Ward

Awards/special recognition: Winner of the 2018 Best Indie Book Award in the young adult fiction category


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

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Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Dry
by
Neal Shusterman
Jarrod Shusterman

Rating:

For sixteen-year-old Alyssa and her family, the drought in southern California was nothing new. It meant conserving water, as in shorter showers and no watering the lawns. Life went on otherwise and no one was thinking disaster. No one except the McCrackens. But they were the strange, reclusive neighbors across the street who had taken their survivalist hobby to the extreme. No one to take seriously.

Now what the news channels had been calling a flow crisis is a sudden Tap-Out. No water. And in a matter of days, throughout the region, civilized communities become desperate rioting mobs, with no way to get out. When Alyssa and her younger brother, Garrett are separated from their parents, it’s up to the kids to survive on their own. But how and for how long? With a hurricane occupying the rest of the nation’s attention, does anyone outside of southern California know how bad it is?

It’s anything goes as friends and neighbors face the grim truth and Alyssa and Garrett must ask themselves how far they will go to survive, whom they will trust and just how much they will help others.

In Neal Shusterman’s brand new book (published 10/2/18), he teams with his son, Jarrod to write a fantastic Young Adult study of climate change and human behavior under extreme stress. They offer a mix of realistic characters with emerging traits of leadership and changing degrees of moral standards, selfishness and violence. Told in the present tense, in varying points of view, Dry is an intense, consuming story that will make readers ask themselves, “What would I do?”

I recommend Dry to readers who enjoy fast-paced action stories that look into how people react to threats and danger.

For another story about the effects of a drought on a town, check out:

The Dry by Jane Harper

And if you like apocalyptic/dystopian survival stories, you may also like:

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale
by
Margaret Atwood

Rating:

I hadn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale in over ten years so I was glad when my book club chose it for this month’s discussion. And it fits right in with the National Banned Books Week (September 23 -29). The Handmaid’s Tale has been challenged or banned many times since its publication in 1985. In Atwood’s dystopian story, the American government is overthrown and replaced by a theonomic military dictatorship in which fertile women are used solely to bear children and all other women are either assigned to a hierarchy that enforces this policy or sent to the Colonies to clean up toxic waste. The idea is to build up the country’s dwindling population, which has suffered due to nuclear explosions and other contamination. The men’s roles vary according to station and include Angels and Guardians, with Commanders at the top.

The story’s narrator is a handmaid, Offred, so named as belonging to her Commander. Handmaids are assigned to the Commanders and their presumably barren wives who participate every month in an orchestrated Ceremony in which the Commanders try to impregnate the handmaids. Although Offred is not at the bottom of the hierarchy, she is nonetheless trapped and by no means secure. If she doesn’t become pregnant, she could be sent to the Colonies.

As with all forms of oppression, ways to communicate, small freedoms, and an underground resistance give Offred hope, but their discovery is slow and unsure. A risky relationship with her Commander and even more dangerous connections with others could go either way as Offred tries to reconcile the life she lost with what may be possible. I enjoyed rereading The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a look at what could go wrong and is a good exercise of thought. I recommend it to readers who like speculative fiction and to all readers who like seeing how characters fight back in both small and large ways.


The Handmaid’s Tale is also a popular television series. Streamed on Hulu, the show has won eight Emmy awards and a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch and Season 3 is in the works. You can even see Atwood in a small cameo role.


You may also remember the 1990 movie, directed by Volker Schlondorff and starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Aidan Quinn. Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay.


I also read a great article about what influenced Atwood when she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. Click here to read Atwood’s March 10, 2017 essay in The New York Times: “Margaret Atwood on What The Handmaid’s Tale Means in the Age of Trump.” Here are some highlights:

  • Atwood began writing in the book in 1984.
  • She was living in West Berlin at the time, before the fall of the Berlin Wall where she “experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing.”
  • She wasn’t sure she was up to the task of writing a dystopian, speculative fiction.

Atwood also answers three important questions about the book

  1. Is it a feminist novel? She says no, and yes. No because the women in her story are not all angels, and neither are they so victimized that they can’t make moral decisions. But she clarifies, “If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are ‘feminist.’”
  2. Is the book antireligion? No, it’s against using religion “as a front for tyranny.”
  3. Is the book a prediction? She calls it an “antiprediction” and explains that if this kind of future can be described, maybe it won’t happen.

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The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

the leftovers picThe Leftovers
by
Tom Perrotta

Rating:

Two percent doesn’t seem like much, unless it describes the number of people who inexplicably disappear from earth one day. The official name is the Sudden Departure, but what was it?  An apocalypse? The Rapture? In The Leftovers, the stunned citizens of Mapleton, New York are left behind to float and struggle as they adjust to a new emptiness.

To restore order, citizen Kevin Garvey becomes Mapleton’s mayor. As he tries to help the town move on with their lives, others, including his wife Laurie, join a cult, the Guilty Remnant. Their vow of silence, chain-smoking and passive aggression unnerve the rest of the town. In a small town defined by normalcy, all comforts go out the window and Kevin’s college age son and teenage daughter veer wildly off course.

One of the most interesting characters is Nora Durst, whose entire family vanishes while she is in another room. She suffers to understand and to move forward, just as the others, but I think her pain is the most tangible of all the characters.

Without spoiling the story, some of you may not like the open ending. I like it because it allows me to imagine what the characters will do. I also think it ends in a hopeful and positive way.

This is a very original story, and good for a book club because it is both heavy and light with plenty of discussion points.


If you want more Leftovers, check out the HBO series of the same name created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler star in this creepy dystopian drama. I’m in the middle of a very satisfying binge watch and can’t wait to see what happens next!  Lindelof and Perrotta develop strong characters in Season 1 who fall into their own in Season 2.  The series is full of strange surprises and anything is possible at the slightest turn.  But be warned, if you watch it right before bed, prepare yourself for some strange dreams!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Joss Sheldon

Who's That Indie Author pic

joss-sheldon

Author name: Joss Sheldon

Genre:  Literary Fiction

BooksThe Little Voice (2016), Occupied (2015), Involution & Evolution (2014)  the-little-voiceoccupied      involution-and-evolution

Bio:  Joss Sheldon is a scruffy nomad, unshaven layabout, and good for nothing hobo. Born in 1982, he was brought up in one of the anonymous suburbs which wrap themselves around London’s beating heart. And then he escaped!

Four years down the road, Sheldon now has three novels to his name, including an epic-poem and a dystopian masterpiece. Buzzfeed called his latest release, The Little Voice, “A remarkable feat”. The Canary called it “Top Notch”. His books are just asking to be read…

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Writing allows me to be my own boss; it gives me the freedom to be who I want to be. To be me. And to do what I want to do.

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  Selling books, without receiving any coverage in the mainstream press, or any exposure in high street bookshops, is the biggest challenge for me. People who read my books absolutely love them, but that’s not always enough.

Pigeon-holing my books is also difficult. My books are unique, they’re avant-garde, so they can’t really be marketed to fans of one particular genre. That certainly puts me at a disadvantage.

Favorite bookMidnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Contact Information:
Website:  Joss Sheldon
Twitter:  @JossSheldon


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

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