Friday, January 6, 2012

Unison Spark (fiction)

A perfect world made just for you,
optimized to provide everything that you want,
more realistic than real life.
What could go wrong with that?

Future Friday takes us to sprawling Eastern Seaboard City, where the Haves can access the ultimate social network - Unison - and the Have-Nots are relegated to the below-street slums, with its rampant crime among the scabbed-together shacks and cast-off technology bits.

Mistletoe can engineer and coax her hunk-of-junk scooter into maneuvers just beyond the maximum recommended for that old model - good thing, as gun-wielding topsider goons pursue her and lost Ambrose through Little Saigon's alleys and hidden passageways. Why would any sensible topsider come down here?

All good things do have their price
, and some revolutionaries think that the price of Unison will far exceed its subscription costs. Can the teens trust the revolutionaries or UniCorp or anyone?

How far is UniCorp willing to go in its search for maximum profits? Can they truly predict every individual Unison user's ultimate needs through process-flow? When does the will of an individual become merely a consumable piece in a worldwide business plan?

This page-turning potential future is available now at libraries and bookstores - grab it!

Book info: Unison Spark / Andy Marino. Henry Holt, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: When Mistletoe saves a young topsider from uniformed non-police thugs, she wonders why this wealthy teen is in the grotty lower city. She certainly can’t go up into his world of real sunshine and Unison – the social network that knows you better than you know yourself.

Ah, Unison! Just shimmer in (for an appropriate fee) and enjoy limitless data flow, countless friends, your own custom-structured world for work and play. Everything is clearer, brighter, happier in Unison – as long as you keep paying your subscription. And UniCorp provides all the little things in the real world that make it less painful to be part of the “fleshbound parade” of humans during those so-long moments of being out of Unison.

No one can predict process-flow as well as teenaged Ambrose, who is chair of UniCorp’s profits division well ahead of his older brother Len. Ambrose will today move into Unison permanently, when surgery to his hypothalamus will eliminate his body’s need for sleep and give him 24 hours a day in Unison to maximize profits for their father’s corporation.

A rogue data-transfer message as he enters the UniCorp building tells Ambrose to go down into Little Saigon now, before the surgery, or his brain and dreams will be siphoned away by… who? Len? Their father? Revolutionaries? Contrary to best process-flow data, Ambrose flees for the subcanopy’s depths.

As Mistletoe and Ambrose escape through Little Saigon’s grimy alleys and tunnels on a puttering old roboscooter, they discover that both received the same rogue message “Carpe somnium” and wonder why they’ve been told to “seize the dream.”

Bombs in a world where explosives are illegal, closed off from the data of Unison and allies in the subcanopy, the teens must stay alive and free as they try to discover who’s trying to keep Ambrose out of Unison and why the data message brought them together.

Clever and suspenseful, Unison Spark is an adventure story of the future which threads questions of self and community through its action-filled pages. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reading beyond the box (reflective)

A new year and a new challenge: Read and thoughtfully comment on 5 blog posts a day for 21 days...

Since it takes about 3 weeks to solidly acquire a new habit, MotherReader and Lee Wind have once again teamed up to help book bloggers get into the good habit of reading what other book bloggers are reading and writing about and (most importantly) joining in the conversation about the kidlit that makes us all so happy with their Comment Challenge 2012.

And there will be prizes for folks who register their 100 comments in 21 days (with 1 day off, just in case), too! We'll be checking in with Lee on Wednesdays to update our totals and get a bit of encouragement along the way.

So, a new year, new blogs to read, new books to discover - onward...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Payback (fiction)

There are laws against forced marriage in England.
But if Halima returns to Pakistan with the family for her brother's wedding...

On this World Wednesday, we see today's England through the eyes of a young teen girl who emigrates to London from rural Pakistan with her family.

There, dusty roads and the rules of village elders. Here, motorcars and subways, small enclaves of immigrants clustered together against the big city, speaking their native languages in neighborhood shops.

There, all marriages are arranged by family. Here, young men and women meet people outside their clan, outside their region, outside their religion.

Halima is not trying to rebel for the sake of rebellion, but she does want the opportunity to choose a Muslim husband on her own, not be promised to someone far away as mere repayment of a debt.

Rosemary Wells' excels at putting real-life situations at the heart of her books - grab Payback today at your local library or independent bookstore and read another story behind the headlines.

Book info: Payback / Rosemary Hayes. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: When Halima’s father whisks their family from rural Pakistan to London, she worries – will he truly allow her to finish school there before arranging a marriage? In the village, he’s an important landowner who has worked overseas for years to send money back home; in London, he’s just another immigrant laborer who speaks English poorly and clings to old customs.

It’s difficult, going to middle school understanding so little English - if only Ammi had allowed Halima and her older sister to watch the village leader’s satellite television to hear the language! Their brothers had moved to London earlier with Baba, so they know the language and the subway and everything.

Thankfully, there are other Pakistani girls at her school and teachers who patiently help all the immigrating students learn English. Meeting boisterous red-headed Kate at high school helps Halima bloom, as the friends join the debate society and try to understand each other’s world.

But things aren’t smooth at home, as Baba continues to control his sons’ lives, as Ammi counts on her daughters as translators, as the parents begin to arrange marriages as if the family was still in Pakistan.

When Halima finds out that she was promised in marriage years ago by Baba to settle a debt, she decides that her future belongs to her. Can she really leave her family? Can she run far enough away to escape their control? How far will her Baba’s sense of family honor push him to find her?

Halima’s struggle to honor her Muslim heritage while continuing her education is based on a true story of forced marriage and kidnapping in England today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Once a Witch (fiction)

Getting away from a bad situation always seems like a good idea... except when a bigger problem roars down from an unexpected quarter.

There's always someone, somewhere, who is taller or has a better free throw average or solves the crossword puzzle faster than you - usually we find something else to focus on and things seem better.

But Tam's birth prophecy said she would be "most powerful" and "a beacon to us all" - she's not imagining her family's disappointment as she grows up with no Talent at all. Her mom's arguments about Tam leaving home made the weather storm and moan; her grandmother's future-sight never shows whole pictures.

At least Gabriel is here now - his Talent for finding things might help Tam as she searches for the professor's long-lost family heirloom. And a little time-Traveling with a cute guy...

Followed by Always a Witch which extends and completes the story of Tamsin and the Greenes as they struggle to keep the Knight family from gaining control over humankind.

Book info: Once a Witch / Carolyn MacCullough. Graphia HMH, 2009. [author's website] [book website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Boarding school is a better place for Tamsin, unTalented among her family of powerful witches. There, she can almost forget the words of her seer grandmother – that Tamsin will be most powerful of them all. Ha!

At least her childhood pal Gabriel and his mother have moved back to Hedgerow, where the extended Greene family has lived quietly for many decades, more than content to stay out of public notice. He doesn’t yet know that Tam’s Talent never manifested, but someone will surely tell him soon.

When a professor visits the family bookstore and asks her help in tracing an heirloom, mistaking Tam for her very Talented sister, she agrees. A bit odd that McCallum finds them both in New York City soon after, as Rowena shops for her wedding dress…

Tam’s search for the missing clock takes her and Gabriel much further than she had imagined – back to 1899, in fact, thanks to Gabriel’s time-traveling Talent. But finding the clock triggers a new quest as Tam learns more about her family’s history and their past battles with another group of witches who’d rather rule over unTalented humans than avoid their notice.

Can Tam keep the clock away from the professor long enough to discover its secrets? Have she and Gabriel altered the path of time? How can she do anything to help her family when she has no Talent?

Tam tries to balance her personal world with the larger questions of good versus evil in this first book of a duet which is followed by Always a Witch. Surely Rowena will decide on a wedding dress before it’s all over… (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.