Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Hello Kittens! I hope that wherever you are, the weather is not awful. We have continued the trend of basically skipping Winter here in the South and going straight into Spring. My primary complaint about that is that without snow days, I don’t get bonus days to read where I’m still being paid unless I actually start using my PTO for these things. I’m not that desperate. Yet. In any case, I did manage to finish a stellar novel last month that is starting to get some buzz, but that I still want to recommend to all of you. It’s called Oona Out of Order and it came on my radar a few months back. I was fortunate enough to win an advance copy in a giveaway from the publisher, and I flew through it once it arrived. This novel would be a great selection for book groups because it deals with the practical complications of time travel as well as the emotional complications of growing up. It deals with all sorts of relationships and is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. I think y’all will like this one if you give it a read.

Title: Oona Out of OrderOona Out of Order

Author: Margarita Montimore

Author website: https://www.montimore.com/

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publish date: February 25th, 2020

ISBN: 9781250236609

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The book opens with Oona Lockhart getting ready to celebrate her 19th birthday, which also happens to fall on January 1st. She is excited, but also anxious, because she is on the cusp of making some very important decisions about her life, her future, her relationship with her boyfriend, her place in her band, and her acceptance to a prestigious university. She is faced with a series of choices, because she can’t have everything that is available to her.

As the party really gets started at midnight, Oona is suddenly transported. She wakes up in a different time, and in a different body…or at least a different-aged body. She comes to with the mind of a now 19-year-old, in a body that is significantly older. There is a young man in the room, who tries to help her understand what has just happened. She comes to find out that this is a part of her life in the future. Every year on her birthday she will be transported to a different year of her life. The leaps will be random and very few people will ever be able to know about them. Every year, Oona starts over. In theory, her future self leaves her a letter each year, trying to prepare her for what the next year holds without letting her know too much.

In theory, it all sounds great, but in practice, it’s a bit like making a wish with a genie…it rarely turns out the way that you expect it to. Even when her future self warns her, Oona often finds herself in difficult situations. The story revolves around how she lives her life with the next year’s leap constantly overshadowing the current year’s life. Oona falls in love, loses important relationships, is betrayed by the people closest to her, and she constantly has to worry about doing or saying the wrong thing.

This book was a phenomenal read for me. Time travel can be a very tricky subject to tackle, and Montimore does it in a way that is seamless, while not bogging the reader down with the “whys” of it all. Oona reacts the same way that I think anyone would if they suddenly found themselves transported into the future. I particularly like when she adjusts to having certain modern comforts, like cell phones and the internet, but then the following year is transported back in time and has to re-learn what life is like before they were invented. Oona is the centerpiece of the book, of course, but it is her relationships with her mother and her trusted assistant that really make this story something special. Her relationships understandably morph throughout her time, but since Oona is unable to tell most of the people in her life about what is going on, these two relationships become so important to her development as a character.

If I had to come up with a negative comment about this book, I would say that it ended too soon. If you’re the kind of reader who likes to have all of the loose threads tied up by the end of the story, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s not to say that the ending was bad. I personally thought it was beautiful, but I wasn’t done with the character of Oona. We end up getting a few snapshots of her life, but we don’t get the full story, and I would love for Montimore to write a follow-up.

Disclaimer: I won an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in a giveaway from the publisher, but there was no expectation of a review in exchange.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

I would have loved to have given this one 5 glasses of lemonade, but it does have a few scenes that some readers might object to. Oona gets involved briefly with drug and alcohol abuse. She also has friends with differing sexual preferences and she engages in a drug-infused sexual escapade at a club. All in all, it’s not extremely graphic, but I still might hesitate to recommend it to everyone who comes in to the library.

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling

Greetings Kittens! I wanted to challenge myself this year after falling short of my reading goals in 2019. I wanted to try to read from genres that I often overlook, while also giving myself permission to do a little more guilty-pleasure reading from my favorite genre: mystery. While Qualityland is not the first book that I read this year, it is the first book that meets challenge #1: read from overlooked genres. The entire book is a satire, and while it is written by a German author, it is very clearly satirizing American culture and politics. I would have been more offended, but the book is clever and funny and hits pretty close to the truth. It’s not going to be everyone’s favorite read, but I can see this gaining some cult classic status pretty quick, especially since HBO has reportedly picked up the rights for an adaptation. Welcome to Qualityland, my dear readers.

Title: QualitylandQualityland

Author: Marc-Uwe Kling

Author website: https://marcuwekling.de/en/

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publish date: January 7, 2020 (originally published in Germany in 2017)

ISBN: 9781538732960

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

The tagline for the cover of Qualityland is: “The Biggest Company. The Perfect Algorithm. What could possibly go wrong?” I think most readers can guess the answer to that question, but nonetheless, let’s meet our cast of characters. The story is mostly the narrative of a man named Peter Jobless (in this new world order, your surname is chosen based on the career of your gender equivalent parent at the time of your conception). Peter Jobless runs a machine crushing business that is mostly unsuccessful. In Qualityland, their machines are the best!

In this dystopian future, people do not need to go online and click through purchase decisions on their computers, instead they have devices embedded into their brains through their ear canals (appropriately called earworms) that communicate directly with the various technological aspects of their society and e-commerce. The user doesn’t need to physically order an item from TheShop (the largest internet retailer), because once the user thinks about wanting the item, provided there is enough currency in their account, the item is delivered by flying drone almost instantly to their door. All of this is an accepted part of Peter’s daily routine, up until the day that he receives an item from TheShop that he didn’t think about and doesn’t want. His efforts to return this item with the help of his sort-of girlfriend Kiki, a wise but paranoid old man, and his band of machines-that-he-was-supposed-to-destroy-but-didn’t drive the novel forward with farcical consequences.

There are so many clever allusions in this plot that it’s tough to pick just a few plot points to share here. First of all, Peter has a personal assistant robot that he has named Nobody, so he frequently has an inner monologue going that revolves around Nobody doing things. As a reader, it can be a little confusing to follow at first, but once you catch on, the humor of that situation is endless. This book came out shortly after the 2016 elections here in America, and one of the plots in the story is a new presidential election. The two candidates are a logical and earnest android named John of Us and a bombastic and nonsensical human named Conrad Cook. Cook frequently contradicts himself and shouts out that every idea he disagrees with is a “lie”. Read into that what you will…

Obviously, this book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a satire, taking the worst aspects of capitalism and American politics and culture to their extremes. It is also a little scary to think how close to some of the scenarios presented in the book we have already come. This is Kling’s first novel. He has an international following already, but I believe this title will certainly earn him some American fans. The biggest turn offs for readers are going to be the political scenes that are only thinly veiled references to existing figures as well as the sexual scenes that always lack appeal for certain audiences. From a Librarian’s perspective, this title is well-written, but as a Southern Librarian, this one might be a tough sell for the majority of my patrons (which will not stop me from strategically placing it in displays for the next few months).

Disclaimer: No disclaimer on this one. I heard about it on the All the Books Podcast and requested it from my local library.

My rating:

1 glass of lemonade= a book that can only be recommended to someone whose reading taste you know well, like a best friend.  There may be a fair amount of curse words, spicy sex scenes, or potentially morally repugnant behavior.  This does not mean that the book is bad, just that the audience might be a little more limited.

Sadly, despite the fact that I loved this book and rated it highly on Goodreads, the frequent references to masturbation and the political satire are going to make me hesitant to recommend it to random patrons. I am definitely intrigued to see how far HBO is going to do with their adaptation.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Hello Kittens! This is my first Sci-Fi recommendation for the site. Part of my goal with this site was to motivate myself to read genres that I don’t normally engage with, and Sci-Fi is one of those genres that I didn’t think I liked. I heard about this book on the All the Books podcast from Book Riot and requested it from my library. It’s been out for a while, but the rest of the series is upcoming.  As I was reading it during my lunch break, I found out that not one, but two, of my co-workers had recently finished the book and also loved it. If there is someone in your life who doesn’t think they like Sci-Fi, then this is the novella for them. Best of all, the entire series will be published by the end of the year. The second book, Artifical Condition, is already out, with Rogue Protocol (#3) expected in August, and Exit Strategy (#4) expected in October.

Title: All Systems RedAll Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

Author: Martha Wells

Author website: http://www.marthawells.com/

Publisher: Tor.com

Publish date: 05/02/17

ISBN: 9780765397539

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

All Systems Red is the first book in the 4-book Murderbot Diaries series. It chronicles the adventure of a security robot who has renamed itself Murderbot, who has hacked its protocols after a traumatic event and is acting in secret as a free agent. Set on a distant planet and featuring an expeditionary crew of scientists, this story starts with a bang and the pacing doesn’t let up throughout the story. There is intrigue, secrecy, corruption, and sabotage.

Wells doesn’t spend a ton of time on world-building in such a slim book, and that makes for an incredibly exciting story where the reader’s imagination is free to fill in the gaps. Murderbot breaks free from the system that controls its every move but has to hide in plain sight, never revealing its liberated abilities to the humans it is providing security for in an effort to avoid the scrap heap. When things on their mission begin to go dangerously awry, Murderbot is left with no choice but to open up a little in order to keep these humans alive. There are forces on this planet that mean them harm, and no one’s entirely sure who to trust. Murderbot knows its only choice is to keep these humans safe until they can all get off this planet ASAP.

You experience the entire story within the mind of Murderbot which can come across cerebral at times. While the reader is unlikely to forget at any time during this short plot that they are dealing with a non-human protagonist, the character’s development endears Murderbot to the reader. The pacing is so quick that there is no chance to anticipate any of what is going to happen next, so readers who always think they’ve got the plot figured out will enjoy the challenge of this storyline.

Bottom line: This was short, sweet, and unexpected. I will definitely be using this one as a recommendation for my Sci-Fi enthusiast patrons from now on. I will be picking up the rest of this series throughout the year, and I will be trying some additional Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors over the next few months. I love a book that changes my mind. Well done, Murderbot.

Disclaimer: Not really needed this time. I got this book from my library.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners.  (This kind of book is a Librarian’s dream.  As much as we love good literature, suggesting a book for someone can be nerve-wracking work that can backfire BIG TIME.)

The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

The Oracle Year

Author: Charles Soule

Photo of the cover of The Oracle Year by Charles Soule. Cover features a black and white eye with a red iris.
The Oracle Year by Charles Soule

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 9780062686657

Get the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble (note: these are NOT affiliate links, just regular ones.)

The Oracle Year tells the story of one year in the life of New Yorker Will Dando after he awakens from a dream with 108 predictions about the future. His average life takes a rapid turn when those predictions start coming true. He begins asking himself questions: Who sent the predictions? Why were they sent to Will? Can he change anything about the predictions? How much of what comes next is his fault? Will and his friend Hamza set up a website to begin monetizing the predictions as they release them to the world. Will and Hamza become very wealthy while Will struggles to deal with the implications of his newfound fortunes, people around the world become desperate to learn more about this person known only as The Oracle. Is he an abomination? A sign of the end of days? A threat to national security? A spy? A fraud? The quest to learn the truth consumes some of the most powerful people in the free world and Will finds himself on the run from operatives with guns and a destiny that he still cannot understand.

This book is fast-paced and loaded with adventure, and is divided into the seasons of the year portrayed. I appreciated the modern touches to this story, including the use of Tor browsers and the creation of (almost) untraceable websites elevated this story of the Everyman Prophet. It will also have readers pondering the greater questions in life about what we were each put on this Earth to do. What is our purpose?

Rating: lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon

4 glasses of lemonade. This one would be great for book clubs. I can certainly see it being made into a movie, and I sense that a lot more people are going to be talking about this title in the next few weeks. The only reason it falls a glass of lemonade short is a little cursing and some hefty religious questions. The story poses the theory that major religious beliefs would not respond well to a prophet suddenly appearing on the scene. Some people might be offended to see religion portrayed in a short-sighted fashion, and others might completely agree with the way religion is portrayed in the book and be offended by the idea that the prophecies did not come from God (although that question is not specifically answered in the book).

I chose this book as part of my Book of the Month Club subscription. I’m really enjoying this service and you might too. Check it out here. (Disclaimer: This is a referral link and I will get a free book credit from BOTM for every person who signs up for the service using my link.) The service costs 14.99/ month and you can add extra books for 9.99. The cool thing that some of the books are pre-publication, so you will literally be getting your hands on them before they even hit stores, and you can skip months anytime you want if there are not titles that appeal to you.