Friday, December 16, 2011

Amplified (fiction)

Amazing rock guitar skills.
Determination to make great music.
Seriously paralyzing stage fright.
Two out of three, okay??

The band members are skeptical about whether anyone from ritzy Westside can really play authentic lead guitar. What would a rich girl know about true industrial rock?

Throw in the synth player's bright blue hair (his tutu doesn't clash), the lead singer's habit of chasing cute girls just before going on stage (it's her life, but gotta be on time), and Sean's hostile attitude toward Jasmine - well, stage fright might be the least of her worries... not really.

Tara Kelly effortlessly brings readers into the highs and lows of the C-Side band. On this Fun Friday, root for Jasmine to break through her fears and play what's in her soul.

Book info: Amplified / Tara Kelly. Henry Holt, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Well, that’s that. Thrown out of dad’s house because she wants to play guitar for a year before going to college, Jasmine has to find a job and somewhere to live – now.

When her old car dies in front of a repair shop, she hopes that’s a good sign; an encounter with a scowling dude who works there convinces her otherwise. So with the car in the shop till she can pay for parts, Jas is forced to carry her electric guitar everywhere as she searches for a non-crazy roommate (why is this so hard in coastal California?) and competes with every high school kid for a no-experience-required job.

An ad seeking a guitarist catches her eye – hmm, room to rent included. “Guys only” or not, it’s her best hope, so she puts on her best rock musician face and asks for an audition. The band’s singer helps her get a job in a psychic’s shop, while Jas tries to steady her nerves before the tryout. And in walks the guy from the car shop, bass player for the band and the singer’s brother, ready to toss Jasmine out without even hearing her play…

Is Jas really good enough to be in C-Side? Will Sean ever get over his attitude toward her? Can Jas get over her stage fright and actually perform on stage (or is her dad going to win the argument about musicians being losers)?

Musicians will love the swooping descriptions of the indie rock music that Jas and her new friends create, while readers less familiar with musical vocabulary will find new ways to explain what they hear in their favorite songs, thanks to the author’s lyrical ability to turn melodies, harmonies, and rhythms into evocative printed words. Come on over to the club scene of Santa Cruz and the raw world of industrial rock – Amplified. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Between Two Ends, by David Ward (fiction) - jumping into the world of 1001 Arabian Nights

Can you truly dive into the pages of a favorite book?

If you remember the stories of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, then you know about the cruel king, the murdered wives, and clever Scheherazade who kept herself alive by telling the king stories each night.

And you know about the brutal world into which the modern Shari has gone, bewitched into the pages of the "unexpurgated" Arabian Nights, where the king's wicked behavior was not sugar-coated or glossed-over.

So on this World Wednesday, it will take a pair of bronze pirate bookends, a long-dormant wishing well, and all of Yeats' courage and ingenuity to set Shari free from her enchantment and bring her back to her grandfather... will it be enough?

An exciting tale from the author of The Grassland Trilogy (reviewed here, here, and here) - are you ready to go Between Two Ends with Yeats?

Book info: Between Two Ends / David Ward. Amulet Books, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [author video]

Recommendation: Yeats wonders why his depressed father insists on returning to Gran’s house now – something dreadful happened there 20 years ago, something that is never discussed with him.

Meeting eccentric Mr. Sutcliff, stumbling upon that old wishing well in the garden, and uncovering a bronze bookend suddenly takes Yeats into the heart of his family’s mystery.

When his dad was a boy, he and adventurous Shari explored every inch of the garden and read every book in his poet-grandfather’s library, including one special copy of Arabian Nights. One terrible day, Shari was kidnapped from their garden, and William couldn’t stop the men as they escaped with her down the well. Losing his friend has kept him on the brink of madness for years and has turned her grandfather Mr. Sutcliff into a recluse, both certain that their Shari had been taken back in time, back into the oft-told story of her namesake Shaharazad, back to the realm of a king who killed his bride on their wedding night, night after night, bride after bride.

By finding the long-lost pirate bookend and sending a wish into the well, Yeats has reopened the portal into Shaharazad’s world. Does Yeats have the courage to venture into the realms of story and imagination with the pirates? Can a modern boy survive in that brutal ancient kingdom? Can he find Shari and convince her to come back to her grandfather?

This skillful combination of now and way-back-when will keep readers turning its 304 pages, traveling with Yeats to a far-off time and place where danger is the only certainty. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Line (fiction)

Does a fence keep enemies out or keep its citizens in?
Who controls the truth?
Can people truly do what's right in defiance of their own society?

Welcome to a possible future on this Metaphysical Monday, to the "Unified States" where Rachel and her mother need to be unremarkable, to not draw the attention of government agents who are looking for any reason to remove possible security risks.

Imagine - agents having the power to imprison people who can't pay a random tax on the day it's enacted, to strip a family of all its possessions and force them into the perpetual poverty of the Labor Pool, to make people just disappear ...
Her mom still has a copy of the original rights bill, even though it's treason to mention it.

The peacefulness of propagating orchids with Ms. Moore in the Property's greenhouse won't last long when the message arrives from The Others across The Line - how can the mutated former citizens talk like regular people?

A chilling look at an all-too-plausible dystopia where government boundaries and policies determine everything - except compassion. Rachel's story continues in the newly published sequel, Away.

Book info: The Line / Teri Hall. Dial Books, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Rachel wonders about The Others, the mutated creatures that exist across The Line. That invisible barrier still protects the Unified States from the results of a terrible war. No one crosses it now; no one worries about the Unified citizens who were trapped outside The Line when the experimental bombs landed.

She and her mother are safe here on The Property, working for Ms. Moore, growing orchids. After Rachel’s dad was lost in the war, they were lucky to find Gainful Employment away from the city – where joining the ranks of the Labor Pool means inescapable poverty, where government agents remove those who are “security threats”.

But when a voice recorder gets past The Line with a plea from The Others for medical assistance, Rachel must decide if she can help – and how she can get the medicines through The Line. Her mother reminds Rachel that the government-controlled news isn’t always the truth and reveals secrets about her father’s past. Ms. Moore explains her connection to The Line as they try to work out what they can do to help The Others without alerting the government agents.

Why did the government close The Line so fast that many of their own citizens were trapped outside? How did anyone survive those attacks? Why doesn’t anyone come back when the agents take them away?

Join Rachel in this dystopian future as she weighs the options – stay safe on her side of The Line or do what’s right despite the danger. First in a series, followed by Away. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.