Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel (graphic novel) - living cardboard people, good and evil

book cover of Cardboard by Doug TenNapel published by Graphix
We've all played with cardboard boxes,
made forts and racecars and castles,
but we didn't use magic cardboard like Cam has!

Hopefully, we don't have evil neighbors like Marcus either... (stealing a guy's only birthday present, when it's just made with a cardboard box...sheesh!)

The creator of Earthworm Jim of video-game fame and the recent graphic novel hit Ghostopolis  (my review here) brings another fantasy world to life in full-color,  so find it now at your local library or independent bookstore.  

Cardboard  has already been optioned to become an animated feature film, but you'll have time to read it first... and keep an eye out for that Marcus.

Book info: Cardboard / Doug TenNapel. Graphix (Scholastic), 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [video author interview]  [inside TenNapel's sketchbooks]

My Recommendation: Worst birthday gift ever: a cardboard box… but Cam’s widower dad took their last few cents to buy it from a strange fellow who gave them rules about how to use it. So the teen and his dad bend and cut the box into the shape of a man, a boxer who magically comes to life!

Bill the boxer-guy talks to them, will mow the lawn, wants to be a real friend to Cam – but his cardboard can’t withstand the water-cannons of neighborhood bully Marcus. Taking the leftover cardboard bits (despite the seller’s warnings), Cam creates a cardboard-making-machine that allows him to repair Bill… and tempts the very evil Marcus into wicked plans and plots that might destroy everything. 

TenNapel’s detailed drawings underscore the barely-hanging-on desperation of Cam and his depressed dad, the manic gleam in Marcus’s conniving eyes, and the contempt that the rampaging Cardboard  bad guys have for good-fellow Bill and the “fleshies” he tries to protect in this outstanding graphic novel from the creator of Ghostopolis.   (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette, by Bianca Turetsky (fiction) - glorious gowns in guillotine's shadow

book cover of Time Traveling Fashionista in the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky published by Poppy
It's a mysterious Monday, and fashion-lover Louise Lambert has received another invitation from the most exclusive vintage dress shop ever.

When Louise tries on an delicate blue gown for Brooke's fancy dress birthday party, she is suddenly sent back to young Marie Antoinette's court!

Weren't they just talking about the French Revolution in history class this morning? If Louise could just remember those important dates from her homework... but can she change what happens to the princess?

While you're getting this September 2012 release at your local library or independent bookstore, ask about book one, The Time-Traveling Fashionista  (my review here) so you can start Louise's adventures at the beginning and join her aboard the Titanic!

Hmmm... what other fantastic history-imbued frocks do mysterious shopkeepers Marla and Glenda have in their Traveling Fashionista Shop inventory?

Book info: The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette (Time Traveling Fashionista, book 2) / Bianca Turetsky. Poppy, 2012  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Oh, no! Louise’s trip to Paris with her French class is cancelled when her dad loses his job, and history homework is building up. What she needs is some time with vintage fashion to take her mind off things. But trying on an antique gown sweeps her away from the tiny shop to the court of a French princess!

It’s a bit odd to speak old French with no effort and have courtiers calling her Mademoiselle Gabrielle, but Louise does pretty well at playing along. Soon she realizes that she’s part of the entourage of young Marie Antoinette – and that she might not be the only person at Versailles with a false identity…

The princess is never seen in the same ensemble twice and demands that her ladies-in-waiting follow that fashion as well. Somehow, Louise must keep her original gown hidden so that she can wear it and return to modern Connecticut safely.

So many different experiences - beautiful palace gardens and boring waits for royal arrivals, splendid gilded ballrooms and bitterly critical letters from Marie’s mother, stunning Paris-designed dresses and the stench of Parisian streets. As time passes, Louise remembers more details from history class and wonders if she should warn the princess about the perils ahead.

Who is spying for Marie’s mother, sending detailed reports back to the Empress? Can Louise make the princess understand the suffering outside the palace walls, before it’s too late? Most importantly, can she get back to her own time before France’s nobility start losing their heads in the Revolution?

The second book of the series puts this Time-Traveling Fashionista in as much danger as she faced on board the Titanic in book one. Where will Louise’s passion for vintage fashion take her next? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats (fiction) - English overlords, Welsh rebels, dark times

book cover of The Wicked and the Just by J Anderson Coats published by Harcourt
In a conquered land, starvation fells the youngest and oldest,
memories and hunger gnaw at those who can still work,
who suffer under heavy taxes, hating their English overlords.

The Welsh nobles and working folk have been thrown out of their town, forced into damp stone huts, forbidden to gather in groups or carry weapons,  and the spark of rebellion still burns.

Caernarvon Castle in the late 13th century is a mighty stone structure overlooking the river and town, garrisoned by the King of England's soldiers for the past decade.

Torn away from the land where she was born, where people speak good English, not this "tongue-pull" sing-song Welsh, a young lady is aware of only what she wants to see in her new home, oblivious to the dangerous currents of local politics that may pull her under forever.

Jillian Anderson Coats' debut novel illuminates a small slice of history through two unforgettable voices, as Cecily and Gwenhwyfar wish their paths had never crossed, but must carry their own burdens through to the end. You'll find this May 2012 release now at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: The Wicked and the Just / J. Anderson Coats. Harcourt, 2012. [author's website]   [publisher site]  [book overview video]  

My Recommendation:   Cecily isn’t happy about moving from the family estates to Wales. Nor are the Welsh happy to have their homes taken over by Englishmen sent by the King to subdue them. So many tensions and such oppression… a tinderbox just waiting for a spark of rebellion.

If only her uncle hadn’t returned from the Crusades, then Cecily would have inherited Edgeley Hall from her father, ever staying near the grave of her loving mother. But as the younger brother, her father has no land now and jumps at the chance to rise in the King’s service. As a burgess in Caernarvon, he’ll be free from forced military service and heavy taxes imposed on the conquered Welsh. Better yet, Cecily will become lady of the house and perhaps find a suitable husband someday among its English nobles.

Gwenhwyfar is Cecily’s age, working dawn to night for the Edgeleys to earn enough to keep her younger brother and crippled mother alive. Agonizing as Gruffydd falls in with men who whisper plans of rebellion, the Welsh girl despises Cecily’s snooty manners as much as she longs to take the crusts that the English girl casts aside.

How bitter to be a servant in the house which truly belongs to Daffydd, a Welsh nobleman reduced to hauling quarrystones, to see that brat Cecily sewing in the parlour where she should be as Daffydd’s wife, to know that Welsh children are dying daily from starvation as the English burgesses hoard grain in the King’s castle above Caernarvon city…

Ten years is a long time to be conquered and spat upon, long enough to make bitter plans for revenge, desperate enough to rebel despite overwhelming odds – 1293 may be the worst of times to be English in Wales.

Told from two very different points of view, The Wicked and the Just  takes readers to a little-noted historical era as the age-old struggle for power roars through town and castle. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In High Places, by Harry Turtledove (fiction) - alternative history, time travel, danger

book cover of In High Places by Harry Turtledove published by Tom Doherty Tor
What if the Black Death had lasted decades and decades?
What if scientific knowledge was scourged from Arabic thought?
What if you could visit timelines where history had changed?

Welcome back to the world of Crosstime Traders, where technology makes it possible - and profitable - to travel to the many timelines where historical events large and small caused different time-streams to branch off from the Home Timeline.

Crosstime Traffic isn't some science experiment, but a vital business enterprise that brings in food and energy resources from low-population alternates to support the high-technology Home Timeline.

So in this alternate, educated Annette from California must disguise herself as a quiet, modest Muslim daughter of olive oil merchants from southern France and make sure that she never says or does anything that would make locals question that identity.

Of course, profit is the slave traders' motive, too, but there's something truly strange here. Could this particular group of slavers be in cahoots with someone from the Home Timeline?

Other Turtledove adventures in the Crosstime Traffic series include The Valley-Westside War, set in an alternate where The Bomb fell worldwide in the 1960s, and The Disunited States of America, where the US Constitution was never ratified. Alternative history brings intriguing answers to "What if?"

Book info: In High Places (Crosstime Traffic, book 3) / Harry Turtledove. Tom Doherty Associates/ Tor Science Fiction, 2007. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  Almost time to leave muddy Paris and go back to school – on an alternate timeline. Annette’s family is returning to their Crosstime transfer station when slavers attack their caravan and take the teen far from her destination, far from her parents, far from her only way to get Home.

In this 21st century, the “City of Light” is a filthy small town in the rough Kingdom of Versailles. The Black Death killed 80% of Europe in this timeline, allowing the Muslim Kingdoms to spread far beyond the Middle East – no voyages of exploration, no Scientific Revolution, no Industrial Revolution. Here, a second son of God is credited with finally stopping the plague, basic sanitation is unknown, and bad water kills more people than marauders’ arrows.

Masquerading as olive oil traders from Marseilles, Annette’s parents observe local politics in Paris as they gather fine fruits and olives to be sold on the Home timeline, which requires food and energy from many alternate timelines to support its technologically advanced population.

Duke Raoul of Paris feels that something is too-different about these oil merchants, but is more worried about reports of slave traders attacking closer and closer to his realm. By sending young Arabic-speaking Jacques as a caravan guard on the long journey over the mountains, perhaps he can learn more about both problems.

The attack on their caravan was expected; being captured for sale as slaves in far-off Madrid was not! Far from the safety of Marseilles, Annette and Jacques are sold to a large household with some mysterious buildings where large groups of slave disappear for a whole day before returning.

How will Annette’s parents know where she’s been taken? How can she escape to Marseilles and the only transfer station to Home? Why does Jacques’ description of a metal room sound so much like that advanced technology?

Take a trip through time to a country that might exist somewhere, some-time, with another exciting adventure of the Crosstime Traders from the master of alternative history, Harry Turtledove.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, by Keren David (fiction) - teens, money, fiscal mayhem

book cover of Lias Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David published by Frances Lincoln
Oooh... winning 8 million pounds in the lottery at age 16!
That's over 12 million US dollars - in a lump sum!
Lia has so many plans for that money...
too bad that everyone else seems to have plans for it, too.

Yes, in the U.K., 16-year-olds can buy lottery tickets (it's 18 to 21 in US states which hold a lottery).
Yes, the winner's proceeds are deposited in the bank all at once.
Yes, Lia is sure that everything will be wonderful now...

If you won a big lottery prize, would you hold a press conference as Lia did, or keep it quiet? Could you handle sudden wealth on your own, or would you hire impartial financial advisors?

On this Fun Friday, join Lia on a wild romp from her dreary London suburb to the top shops, as she learns some life-lessons about finance and friendship in this funny novel from Keren David, who brought us the more-serious story of Ty in When I Was Joe (my review) and Almost True (my review); book 3 in that series, Another Life, arrives in the USA in October 2012.

Book info: Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery / Keren David. Frances Lincoln Books, 2012. [author's website]   [book website]     [publisher site]

My Recommendation:   If her mum would just shut up, Lia could hear the lottery numbers announced. At the internet café, the teen learns that she did indeed win a huge jackpot! Now all her troubles are over…until the new problems begin.

And just who should revive her from her fainting spell at the internet café but the mysterious and handsome Raf, whom she’s been eyeing at school since he arrived at mid-term. Her best friend Shaz was in the middle of family dinner or Lia would have gone to her house to check that last lottery number. Eight million pounds! She dreams about what she’ll do with all that lovely money… move to her own apartment, travel away from their boring London suburb, start living life right away instead of wasting time in high school and university.

The lottery people assign her a financial adviser and a personal banker as her winnings are paid all at once, there’s a big press conference, and suddenly Lia is super-popular at school. Her parents keep saying “we won the lottery” – why don’t they understand that Lia won, not them? Of course some money would help bolster the family bakery business, competing with the new superstores, but it is Lia’s money, thankyouverymuch.

Her pal Jack bought her the lottery ticket as a birthday gift, so his mum thinks he’s entitled to half the money – Jack just wants a motorcycle, never mind that he can’t get a license until he’s 17. Lia spreads around the wealth a bit more, treating a limo full of school chums to a clothes shopping spree, funding vocal lessons for 14-year-old sister Natasha. More time with Raf would be nice, instead of him working two jobs after school.

When Shaz says that she can’t accept anything from Lia because her faith states that gambling is immoral, Lia is a bit shocked – can money change friendship so much?
Why is Raf trying to keep that suave gentleman from talking to Lia?
Can Jack’s mum really sue Lia for a share of the winnings?
Why isn’t Natasha home from that party yet and who’s the threatening voice on the phone?

Chapter headings of keen advice for lottery winners contrast vividly with Lia’s comical rush to make the most of her lottery experience, despite everyone’s efforts to help her. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Girls Don't Fly, by Kristen Chandler (fiction) - dreams, family, blue-footed boobies

book cover of Girls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler published by Viking A chance to study far away instead of babysitting all summer...
Maybe go to the university instead of dental hygienist school....
Prove to ex-boyfriend Erik that she's better off without him.

Myra imagines herself in the Galapagos Islands with its Darwin's finches and blue-footed boobies, famous tortoises and amazingly blue sea waters, even as her little brothers break things and mud-wrestle, her big sister drops out of college and moves back home pregnant, both parents work long hours, the family's carpool schedules look like battle plans - no wonder that Myra feels like she's holding everything together, even when Erik breaks up with her.

Visit Myra's study group site at Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake in the author's slideshow, watch for the next little brother disaster, and cross your fingers that Myra wins that scholarship!

Find Girls Don't Fly  at your local library or independent bookstore; if you order from the author's favorite  local indie bookstore, be sure to request an autographed copy!

Book info: Girls Don't Fly / Kristen Chandler. Viking, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Oh, how Myra feels trapped! Her perfect big sister is suddenly pregnant, her three little brothers are a constant noisy mess, and now Erik wants “some space” – this isn't how spring of senior year should go!

When their AP Biology teacher announces a scholarship to study birds in the Galapagos Islands, Myra decides to go for it, even if it does require early morning Saturday excursions to Great Salt Lake Marina’s bird observation area and a “high level” scientific study proposal write-up and… $1,000 toward travel costs. Maybe she can scrape together that much money in just 3 months working part-time at the ice cream shop, right?

Saturday 6 a.m. really is early, but the University of Utah graduate assistant who’s leading the bird studies is enthusiastic enough to wake everyone up. Pete is excited that two high school kids from his hometown have a shot at this scholarship, so he helps them all with their project proposals as much as the rules allow.

Erik makes yet another mistake at the ice cream shop and expects Myra to cover for him like she did while they were dating. When she doesn’t and the manager insinuates that she’s irresponsible like her big sister, Myra just quits.

Now she’s got to find another job in this little town. Mom and Dad think she’s saving money to go to dental hygienist school; Myra hasn’t exactly told them that the scholarship requires that $1,000 travel fee, and they don’t seem too optimistic about her winning it anyway, especially when future-dentist Erik is also a competitor.

When the marina secretary quits, the Lake ranger offers Myra the job, part-time till school’s out, then full-time in the busy summer. Alright! A chance to earn the money she needs, do some extra bird-watching for the seminars, and Pete is at the marina whenever he’s not in class.

But can Myra really get away from this town where her family is judged because they don’t go to church like everyone else? Can she come up with a scientific study idea that’s better than Erik’s so she can win the scholarship? Can she keep thinking of Pete as only the group’s study leader instead of something more?

Everyone knows that Girls Don’t Fly, but Myra is determined to change all that in this story of family, dreams, life, and longing. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R for Radiate, by Marley Gibson (fiction) - cheerleading, cancer, redemption

Go for your dream!
Work hard, practice hard, cheer hard!
Cancer? How can she have bone cancer?

Hayley isn't going to let surgery or radiation or chemo stop her. It's her senior year and her only chance to shine as a cheerleader. Stubborn runs in the family, it seems, and her parents' reluctance to tell her about their hardware store's dire financial situation could be their undoing.

Great that her grade-school buddy Gabe has moved back to town and is the football team trainer; he'll make sure that she does her physical therapy correctly before cheer practice every day. Not so great that her hair falls out from the chemotherapy or that her boyfriend Daniel is so squeamish about medical stuff.

The author had bone cancer in high school and used her experiences as the basis of Hayley's story. She is setting up the Radiate Foundation so that local cheerleading groups can bring goodie baskets, cheers, and smiles to pediatric cancer patients during their hospital stays, just like those visiting cheerleaders did for Hayley.

Book info: Radiate / Marley Gibson. Graphia Books/HMH, 2012. [author's website] [book website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Hayley decided to try out for cheerleader her senior year and made it! That painful lump on her leg must be just from practicing too hard, learning learning all the cheers. But it’s bone cancer…

No time to waste on worrying about it – it’s aggressive cancer and Hayley’s doctor uncle helps her find the best treatment at the University hospital, three hours away from home and her handsome football player boyfriend Daniel and her buddies and her childhood pal Gabe who just moved back to town.

Thank goodness for cellphones and computers so she can stay in touch a bit. Head cheerleader Chloe isn’t very sympathetic, more worried about having an unbalanced cheer squad for cheerleading camp than about Hayley enduring chemotherapy before school starts.

It’s tough for Hayley to miss cheer camp, to miss the first football game, to stay away from her friends for so many weeks. Thankfully, a group of cheerleaders from a high school near the university find out she was there and burst into her hospital room to invite her to come to their practice and teach them some PHS cheers.

Finally, Hayley gets to go home, back to school – on crutches, with a huge scar on her leg, and with exacting physical therapy instructions – determined to cheer again. But even the most positive thoughts won’t stop her from losing her hair after chemo, won’t keep Daniel close to her, won’t make Chloe less snippy about Hayley missing a little practice time to do her physical therapy under Gabe’s supervision.

Can she truly overcome this cancer? Will her medical bills overwhelm her family? Will her long-absent big sister finally come home to see her?

Based on the author’s true experiences with bone cancer as a teen, Hayley’s story goes beyond mere medical facts to explore what it takes to truly Radiate as a positive force to help others overcome the odds in their lives, too. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whose Internet is this, anyway? (reflective)

If today (January 18, 2012) is "Internet Blackout Day" to protest SOPA/PIPA bills under consideration by the US Congress... then why am I still online? Why are you online, if you're reading this post on the 18th?

Is it because we cannot go a single day or hour or minute without our entertainment and news and communication? Perhaps - but there are still movies and print newspapers and telephone calls that can fill those voids.

More likely, we're online - now and any time - because we must share something. I mean that we are truly driven to share good news, bad news, cute kitten pictures, tidbits of information, and titles of books that someone else will just love; we are humans, and our culture of sharing is part of what makes us human.

To me, giving credit to the originator/creator/performer of a painting, a song, a book, a charming and witty sentence is a moral obligation, according to my upbringing and my education as a librarian. This was much easier when books and paintings were "one-off" and there was only one original with no easy way to copy it. Then along came the printing press, camera, tape recorder, photocopier and so on. Thank goodness for US copyright laws.

Yes, piracy of intellectual property is a real and growing problem. Yes, there do need to be legal ways to stop and punish intentional internet piracy. But I agree with many others that SOPA/PIPA is the wrong way to accomplish this.

This tweet today from Erin Bow (author of Plain Kate, which I recommend) puts it in perspective for me: "I'm an author; I make a living because of copyright, and piracy takes its toll. But SOPA would stop piracy by poisoning the ocean." @ErinBowBooks

Google has started a petition to protest passage of SOPA (the House of Representatives version)/ PIPA (the Senate version); you can sign it here.

The bills are scheduled for Jan. 24th vote, so you have time to read them yourself (PIPA here, SOPA here) and contact your Representative and your Senators to help them understand that censoring the Internet through SOPA/PIPA will not stop piracy of intellectual property online.

If we do not speak out, how can we help our lawmakers decide?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Valley-Westside War (fiction)

In 1967,
during "the Summer of Love,"
someone dropped the Bomb and began nuclear holocaust...

Why did it happen in one time-continuum and not the others? What made this time-stream different? If Crosstime Traffic seals off this alternate, will if prevent this blight from spreading to others where they trade undercover for resources?

Yes, it's all about the money for Crosstime Traffic; researchers are allowed to travel to alternate time-streams if there's a potential commercial advantage for the corporation.

That's why Liz is spending her gap year between high school and college with her scientist parents in this fragmented L.A. time-stream, with its hippie-talk lingo and scavenged technology. But can she hide her intellect well enough to pass for a young woman of this era during a war between neighborhoods?

You can read the six Crosstime Traffic books in any order, as there are different teens traveling the alternate time-streams in each. The Disunited States of America (review) never saw the Constitution signed - alternate history is an interesting and dangerous place!

Book info: The Valley-Westside War (Crosstime Traffic #6) / Harry Turtledove. Tor Books, 2008 (paperback, 2009). [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Nuclear bombs shattered the US in 1967, leaving pockets of survivors and halting technology development – on this parallel timeline. Sent there by Crosstime Traffic, Liz and her parents pose as traders as they try to discover why this Los Angeles is still a patchwork of neighborhood kingdoms at war with one another 100 years later.

In the nearly abandoned UCLA library lit by oil lanterns, Liz scans crumbling magazines and newspapers with her hidden data device, hunting for the war’s trigger point. She can’t visit the library too often, as women here are expected to run the household and stay quiet – women’s liberation never even got started before someone fired the first deadly missiles. Good thing she’ll be at the real UCLA in the home timeline in just a year, instead of fetching water from cisterns during the ongoing drought.

When the Westside City Council decides to charge a toll for wagons coming through Sepulveda Pass on the old highway, King Zev of the Valley declares war. So it’ll be arrows and knives in hand-to-hand combat, as usual – except someone has found an Old Time machine gun and made it work. As killing from a distance becomes possible for the first time in decades, the stakes are much higher for Dan and the other soldiers.

A chance meeting between Liz and Dan may put both their missions in jeopardy, as Dan invents reasons to visit the Mendoza hacienda in enemy territory so he can talk to her again. It’s hard to transmit data reports to the home timeline when Liz doesn’t know when Dan might show up. He is nice to talk to and look at, of course.

As long as the Mendozas act like regular traders and the locals don’t suspect there’s a time station hidden in their hacienda’s basement, everything will be fine… right?

Turtledove brings readers into another alternate strand of history with this exciting episode of the Crosstime Traffic series, asking “what if?” a single event could change everything we know. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy purchased because it looked interesting.

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.

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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

On the Grid (nonfiction)

Look around your house, apartment, or dorm on this Fun Friday.
Do you know the exact route that water takes to get to your faucet?
Where does it all go when you flush?
How do phone signals follow your cellphone as you travel?
What are all those lines up on your utility poles?

Scott Huler, the 2011 Piedmont Laureate for Creative Non-Fiction, wondered about all that, too. His curiosity about the many infrastructure systems that keep our towns and cities running became this interesting and easy-reading book.

Travel around Huler's hometown as you educate yourself about the grids and services that keep our level of civilization...civilized. (and watch what you flush!)

Book info: On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work / Scott Huler. Rodale Books, 2010 (paperback 2011). [author's website] [publisher site] [author interview]

Recommendation: What's under those manhole covers? Why are there so many different wires on the utility poles? How do cities get drinking water to every faucet?

Looking around his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Scott Huler decided to trace all the service grids that bring safe drinking water and reliable electricity, take away unwanted stormwater and wastes, provide communication and entertainment and transportation.

Investigating one system at a time, Huler discusses land surveying, the water cycle (raincloud to river to raincloud), drinking water delivery and wastewater treatment, roads for vehicles and pedestrians, electricity generation and transmission, landline and cellular telephone services, cable and internet, garbage and recycling, and mass transit.

It takes lots of engineers, planning, technicians, and maintenance to keep these essential infrastructure services going. This raises questions about supply and demand, capacity and upgrades, and how everything gets paid for.

An interesting book that will have readers looking appreciatively at the services and utilities they use every day - and being more careful about what goes into their wastewater and stormwater systems!
(Looked intriguing, so I bought it - I was right!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For the Win (fiction)

Quick! Which of these is fictional (not real):
a) Online game playing as prison punishment?
b) online gamers forming a trade union?
c) Gold farming?

If you said (b), then you win! Cory Doctorow's newest book delves into the world of gold farming, where some teens play online games to make a tiny bit of money to survive, not for fun. When they try to form a union so they can keep part of the "gold" that they win online instead of turning it all over to their bosses, both big business and their governments get angrily and mightily involved to protect their economic interests.

Make no mistake - in places where labor is cheaper than technology, real people are being forced into gold farming yet earning hardly anything, right this minute (like the Chinese prisoners noted above). And now scripted 'bots can be set loose to play a low-level character on auto-pilot, earning a little gold, then repeating - lots of bots can equal a fair amount of pocket change, along with the risk of being discovered and banned from the game.

If you want to read the WHOLE book online, go here with Cory's blessing. Yes, the author wants you to read his book online for FREE. That's because Cory knows you'll want to buy a copy so you can reread it, share it, and even remix it - yep, Creative Commons License. The guy is a genius! (seriously! I've read all his short stories and books online, then gone on to get the print books)

On World Wednesday, this fast-moving story takes you to China, India, Singapore, and the United States - who will really win?

Book info: For the Win / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2010. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Playing games online all day, every day sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But for young people packed into smoky internet cafes in Singapore, Shenzen, and Mumbai, it’s a matter of survival.

People have discovered how to turn online “gold coins” and “magic gems” into real money, so the biggest online game worlds have larger economies than many nations, and youngsters in less-developed countries are recruited as “gold farmers,” playing online in teams and turning over their winnings to the bosses who hold their return-home tickets.

But what if the gold farmers organized, banded together for better working conditions? How does a kid from LA wind up in China to help the gold farmers unionize? And what happens when the big businesses who own the big online worlds strike back?

Meet young teens in China, India, and Malaysia who work as gold farmers to feed their families, who face violence from police and rival bosses when they’d rather go to school, who risk their lives to make a difference. This page-turner looks big, but reads fast, a techno-thriller that could happen tomorrow or might be happening today! 480 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.