Friday, February 15, 2013

Return to Me, by Justina Chen (fiction) - moving away, moving on...or not

book cover of Return to Me by Justina Chen published by Little Brown
Hooray for going away to college at last!
Umm, family moving there, too?
One part breaks, everything shatters...

Reb is trying to figure out whether she and Jackson can make things work for now, not forever. But this is not just another long-distance teen romance; it's a novel with real heart and soul (and a few visions along the way).

How have long-distance, long-term relationships worked out in your life?

Book info: Return to Me / Justina Chen. Little Brown, 2013. [author's blog] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Rebecca is so ready to go far away to college. When her dad moves the whole family to her new college town across the country for his new job, then immediately abandons Mom, she’s shocked. If she can’t trust rock-steady Dad, who can she trust?

She’d already decided that she must break up with Jackson before the family leaves Seattle, convinced that a long-distance relationship won’t work out. Her best friends agree with her, but she just can’t do it.

When Reb gets an overwhelming sense of something about-to-happen, she learned long ago to keep it to herself. She will be able to use her innate sense of whether a space works or not as she studies architecture, following in the footsteps of her dad’s business-minded family.

In the too-large McMansion in suburban New Jersey, far from their cozy island home and Reb’s custom-built treehouse, she watches her mom crumble as Dad makes the separation permanent and sees her 10-year-old brother retreat ever further into himself. After Reb calls Grandpa for advice, he invites them to his Hawai’i home to restore themselves.

Perched in a tropical treehouse, Reb worries about Jackson, about whether she really wants to do commercial architecture, about whether she really wants to go to college at the end of summer.

What’s this prophecy that women of her family can never stay with the men they love?
How can she balance family expectations about her career with what she truly wants to do?
How hard must she shake her phone so that Jackson will start communicating again?

Separation and reunion, perception and reality – Justina Chen once again brings readers a story with the right ending in a complex real world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage, by Gail Carriger (fiction) - curtsies, hankies, and poisoning lessons

book cover of Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger published by Little Brown
Curiosity? Improper in a young lady of good family.
Interested in things mechanical? How uncouth.
A potential assassin? Just right for Mademoiselle Geraldine's school!!

Steampunk plus young lady spies-in-training - smashing!
I do so want a steam-powered mechanimal dachshund like Bumbersnoot, even if I would have to break his coal into tiny nibbles.

Read excerpts at io9 and at Tor to be properly introduced to Sophronia and her interesting world, browse politely inside the first pages of  the Finishing School series: Book the First at the publisher's site, then proceed in a stately manner to acquire Etiquette & Espionage  at your local library or independent bookstore - posthaste, as it was just published last week!

And do watch for flywaymen and other air pirates along the carriage roads...

Book info: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, Book the First) / Gail Carriger. Little Brown, 2013. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: She’d much rather disassemble the robot butler than learn etiquette, but well-brought-up young ladies in 1851 British society must have impeccable manners. How else to distinguish persons of quality from vampires, werewolves, and other beings of lower social class?

Tumbling out of the dumbwaiter covered with pudding was perhaps not the best way to meet the finishing school headmistress. However, Miss Geraldine accepted Sophronia to the Academy because of the 14-year-old’s curiosity and resourcefulness, despite her dreadfully subpar curtsy.

Surviving an attack by flywaymen on their carriage journey, Sophronia is somewhat startled to find that the Academy floats above the moors, that the Miss Geraldine who visited her mother is not the Miss Geraldine who heads up the exclusive school, and that dashing Captain Niall is a werewolf (with impeccable manners, it must be noted).

Aboard the triple dirigibles of the Academy, she meets the real Miss Geraldine (who seems quite unaware of the deadly classes being taught on board), teachers of non-quite-human persuasion (but excellent taste in fashion), and the sooties below decks who stoke the mighty furnaces powering this most unusual finishing school.

Classes for dance and the deadly uses of hatpins, the sudden appearance a darling mechanimal dachshund (which needs wee bits of coal to keep going) bearing threats from villains about handing over a prototype, and odd preparations for an outing at their allied school for boys keep Sophronia and the other young ladies quite busy - but not so busy that they can’t do a little sleuthing of their own.

Why does Miss Geraldine not know that her school is training spies and assassins?
What is the device whose prototype is coveted by so many?
Will Sophronia learn to curtsy properly in the few months before her sister’s debutante ball?

Book the First of the Finishing School series brings together steampunk and high manners with great success, inviting readers along on the astounding journey of clever Sophronia, her new friends, and her new enemies.
(One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Altered, by Jennifer Rush (fiction) - build-a-soldier: strength tweak here, loyalty serum there

book cover of Altered by Jennifer Rush published by Little BrownSecret laboratory.
Experimental subjects.
Super-soldiers with no memories...

Anna reads the journal that her mom left, makes the recipes just as she noted, wishes that she could be with Sam more often - but what future could she have with a memory-wiped young man who's confined like a lab rat?

What future is there for Anna anyway? She could never talk to outsiders, in case she accidentally said something about the Lab beneath their farmhouse, the Lab housing four young men that the Branch is secretly training for some sort of mission... the four young men who escape, taking Anna with them!

This 2012 title is a "don't blink" thriller; imagine what will happen to the crew next!

Book info: Altered / Jennifer Rush. Little Brown, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [audiobook excerpt]  

My Recommendation:  Anna is content in her secluded home-schooled world of the remote farmhouse with her dad and the underground lab where "the boys" live. Why the Branch wanted four young men with no memories to be part of this research was never discussed, nor were the many scars on those very physically fit bodies.

When she turned 16, Dad asked Anna to assist him with testing Sam, Nick, Trev, and Cas, little knowing that she’s been sneaking downstairs to play chess with Sam every night for months. When a routine lab inspection by the Branch brings along highly armed soldiers to remove the boys, Anna’s calm life shatters as the boys manage to escape – and Dad sends her along with them, insisting that she must stay as far away from the Branch as possible!

Suddenly, they’re on the run, trying to outguess agents of the maybe-government-related Branch and stay ahead of police when desperation forces them to steal a car and food. Every hour away from the lab unlocks more of the boys’ impressive physical skills as they seem to react before danger occurs and fight as a team without speaking.

Somehow, tendrils of memory guide Sam to a remote farmhouse where he might have lived before his memories were wiped out by the Branch. Everything is now a clue that could help them unlock the boys’ secrets and regain their pasts.

When Anna’s long-absent mother arrives at the farmhouse with surprising news, there’s little time for a tender reunion as gunfire from Branch agents zings through the walls and windows. Was this a set-up or an accident?

Fleeing again, Anna, Sam and company keep trying to figure out the meaning of the numbers within their scars and messages hidden in their tattoos. Code? Map coordinates?

Harder and harder to stay ahead of the Branch as the crew darts from hiding place to newly remembered landmark to safe house. Graveyards and memories, dead men and long-dead children… whatever happens, Anna cannot leave Sam!

Why were the four young men in the Branch lab in the first place?
Why were their memories wiped out?
How far will they all go to stay out of the Branch’s grasp forever?

Jennifer Rush’s debut novel races along faster than Anna’s feelings for Sam, diving into a dark past that could lead to an even darker future. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.