Friday, February 10, 2012

The Fox Inheritance (fiction)

Human memory bound into computer memory,
Forgotten for decades and centuries,
Merged into a new human body - for what?

In the hospital, after the accident, Locke's and Kara's families did not agree to have their dying teens' memories copied into computer data cubes... but someone did anyway. Now, 260 years after three best friends were crushed together in a car crash, two of them have been revived from their digital mausoleums, put into new, self-healing bodies. Why?

Imagine waking up to a world you cannot understand, venturing into a landscape of bioengineered insects and robot-driven cars, realizing that no one you knew then is alive now, except perhaps the third person in that car crash...

The story begun in The Adoration of Jenna Fox follows best friends Locke and Kara after their long sleep, those endless decades of only being able to speak with their minds to one another.

Look for Mary E. Pearson's short story from another character's perspective on the Tor website after you've read The Fox Inheritance at your local library or independent bookstore - and wonder what will happen next in The Jenna Fox Chronicles.

Book info: The Fox Inheritance (The Jenna Fox Chronicles, vol. 2) / Mary E. Pearson. Henry Holt, 2011. [author's website] [series Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Locke isn’t sure he likes having a body again. His mind often goes back to the darkness, when he and Jenna and Kara were the only things in the whole universe, wholly memory and thought and emotion. Then Jenna disappeared. Being able to communicate with Kara kept him sane, gave him the strength to keep on existing.

Capturing the mind in a computer memory cube when the flesh could no longer survive – that was indeed possible when the three friends were in that auto crash. But the ability to return the whole mind and memory to a living body had to wait for scientific breakthroughs, had to wait 260 years.

When Kara and Locke realize that Dr. Gatsbro has only rescued their minds to show off their replacement 80% human bodies as a demonstration for wealthy buyers who want to live forever, they decide to escape. But this new technological world of robotic firefighters and autofit shoes holds even more surprises than they could have imagined during their year of learning centuries’ worth of information by vgrams.

With the help of a robot cabdriver who dreams beyond her city streets, they find their old neighborhood – all changed, of course – and Jenna’s house, now a museum honoring their friend. Since she had 10% of her brain intact after the crash, her scientist father was able to reinsert her mind and memories into a new body quite soon. Why had he left their minds in the memory blocks all that time?

Discovering that Jenna is still alive turns their escape into a cross-country quest to find her, to close old hurts, to find a way to live now in this future where none of their own blood relatives have survived.

Past and present collide over and over in Locke’s mind as they race across this strange new America, trying to stay away from the authorities and ahead of Dr. Gatsbro’s hired thugs.

Could Jenna truly be alive so many, many decades after their accident? Will she want to see Locke and Kara in the here and now? What do Locke’s increasingly frequent lapses into his cold-storage memories mean?

The long-awaited sequel to The Adoration of Jenna Fox answers vital questions about the three friends while it raises others about self, society, destiny, and love. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy (fiction) - magic potions, Cold War spies

Moving is often difficult,
but having to leave your home because your own government is spying on you?

After World War II, the US government did not take the threat of Communism lightly, as the Cold War kept American and Soviet nuclear missiles always at the ready. So people with influence who might be liberals or Communist sympathizers were watched, regardless of their fame. People in the entertainment industry with humanitarian ideals could find themselves on the Hollywood Blacklist and never allowed to work in movies again.

It's no wonder that Janie's parents decided they'd rather be in England than be forced to testify against their friends before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities.

Against the threat of open nuclear warfare, what good is an old book of spells and potions?
It's the only hope that Benjamin and Janie have as they race to save the world.

Book info: The Apothecary / Maile Meloy; illustrated by Ian Schoenherr. G.P.Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2011. [author's website] [illustrator's blog] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Janie wasn’t happy about moving from Hollywood to England in the middle of 9th grade, but her family was being spied on – by US agents! Her parents were just movie script writers, believing that more people should have a chance at a better life, now that they all survived World War II.

As the Cold War deepened in 1952, anyone thought to have Communist ideas was suspect and could be “blacklisted” and kept from working, especially in the entertainment industry. So it’s off to London to work on a BBC television series under assumed names, away from orange trees and sunny beaches to gloomy skies and war-scarred city buildings.

Her new school is awful – uniforms and Latin and medieval history. Everyone huddles up with their friends except Benjamin, who lives with his father at the apothecary shop near her apartment and Sergei, whose father works at the Soviet Embassy.

When Benjamin’s father receives a note that a Chinese chemist has been captured, he scarcely has time to hide Benjamin and Janie and an old book in a secret room before the shop is invaded and he is kidnapped! Notes in the Pharmacopoeia lead them to a special herbal garden, to an old man who can read its Latin and Greek instructions for strange elixirs and warnings about risky transformations, like the tincture that allows a human to change into a bird and back again.

But the teens can’t stay in the garden - whoever took Benjamin’s father wants the Pharmacopoeia and won’t rest until they have it. On the run, arrested and questioned, Janie and Benjamin must escape again and again. Who can they trust? Their rich schoolmate Sarah? Mr. Danby, their Latin teacher and former prisoner-of-war? Sergei and his father?

Is it a foreign government that wants the Pharmacopoeia’s secrets? Someone wanting wealth or immortality or power? It will take all of Janie and Benjamin’s bravery and cleverness to keep this special knowledge out of the wrong hands. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Personal Demons (fiction)

Expelled from Catholic school,
missing her late brother Matt so much,
wondering why she just doesn't feel comfortable as the middle sister...

Frannie could never dream that her soul was special enough to bring Luc and Gabe to Haden High, that Heaven and Hell would be locked in battle over it. Senior year is going to be a lot harder than she thought, if she has to choose between a demon's kisses and an angel's caresses, instead of just concentrating on her writing.

First volume in Desrochers' Personal Demons Trilogy, followed by Original Sin (July 2011) and Last Rite (May 2012). And happy Mysterious Monday to you...

Book info: Personal Demons / Lisa Desrochers. Tor Teen, 2010. [author's website] [author's blog] [publisher site] [book trailers: Frannie - Luc - Gabe]

My Recommendation: Frannie’s new partner in English class is definitely easy on the eyes. So why does Luc make her so uneasy, like he’s looking into her soul? So sure of himself, but not cocky and arrogant like the other guys in her small New England town.

Still, it’s good to have someone new at Haden High, to make her senior year at bit less like being at Hades High. Frannie even lets Kate choose her outfit and do her makeup for the party – Luc could be there, right? When an ex-boyfriend gets too pushy, suddenly another new guy steps up to keep him in line. And somehow this Gabe and Luc seem to know each other…

Good versus evil isn’t just a philosophical discussion here – Hell and Heaven have both sent their best agents to tag Frannie’s unique and untainted soul. Lucifer and Gabriel renew their ages-old competition, battling for her affections so they can get close enough for her to promise her immortal soul to one side or the other.

If Luc can just get Frannie to sin… If Gabe can help her stay true to her own faith… Even when Frannie finds out that Luc is a demon, she can’t help swooning over him. But what about her feelings for Gabe?

As time ticks on with Frannie’s soul unclaimed, both dominions pick up the pace, sending other agents to Haden. Is this too big for Gabe and Luc to settle between themselves? Will the small town become a battlefield if their bosses have decided to end it now? And what’s so unique about Frannie’s soul that Heaven and Hell are willing to risk their best agents in the mortal world to get it?

First book in the Personal Demons trilogy. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.