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Recommendations for Friday, November 09, 2012

Every Day by David Levithan

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billbarnes tagged romance

Unshelved strip for 11/9/2012

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged paranormal

Mel is a normal high school girl growing up in a small Maine town that’s full of vampires (they love the old buildings). For the most part the vampires keep to their neighborhood (the Shade), don't eat humans, and draw a decent number of tourists. But when one enrolls in Mel's high school and her best friend Cathy swoons, Mel freaks out. Since staking vampires is illegal, Mel tries to prove to Cathy that the vampire is up to no good, is bound to break her heart and possibly end her life.

Why I picked it up: I am super sick of vampire books but I adore Justine Larbalestier. If anyone can bring on enough snark to freshen this grenre, she can.

Why I finished it: Team Human starts out feeling like a Twilight parody, but quickly becomes much more. It is funnier than all get out, especially when Mel mocks the student vampire for being ancient, out of touch, old fashioned, and too ridiculously serious to be dating a teenaged girl. As the book goes on the characters' flaws and hopes give them real depth. There’s an ease of diversity here, too, where the main character just happens to be Chinese-American without being defined by it, and bisexual characters come out without surprising or disturbing anyone.

I'd give it to: Barnaby, who will happily devour the zombie action.

Lost Things: Book One in The Order of the Air by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham

In 1929 archeologists began draining Lake Nemi in search of the mysterious ships that have been glimpsed beneath its waters since the reign of Claudius. What they awakened had been drowned for two thousand years. For a very good reason.

Veteran aviator Lewis Segura has been drifting since the Great War ended, fetched up at last at the small company run by fellow veterans and pilots Alma Gilchrist and Mitchell Sorley, assisted by their old friend Dr. Jerry Ballard, an archeologist who lost his career when he lost part of his leg. It’s a living, and if it’s not quite what any of them had dreamed of, it’s better than much that they’ve already survived. But Lewis has always dreamed true, and what he sees in his dreams will take them on a dangerous chase from Hollywood to New York to an airship over the Atlantic, and finally to the Groves of Diana Herself….

The world is full of lost treasures. Some of them are better off not found.

"Scott and Graham avoid the pitfalls of conventional occult adventure thanks to their clean, well-crafted prose and their embrace of unconventional characters in unorthodox relationships. What could have been a mundane collect-the-plot-tokens supernatural thriller becomes a pleasantly intriguing story in their talented hands." -- Publishers Weekly

"The story is equally spent between action and quiet character moments, introducing us to these people and this world while simultaneously moving the story forward. The end result is a vibrant and utterly believable world peopled by characters you can’t wait to see in action again." -- Geek Speak Magazine

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The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Emily Janice Card

Link to this review by snow tagged literary

Elizabeth Weston wrote a series of letters in the sixteenth century. They talk of a device called the Lumen Dei which allows man to communicate with God.

Before the letters, there was Nora, Chris (her best friend), Chris's girlfriend Adriane, and Max, Chris's roommate, who was Nora's first love.

After the letters, there was Nora and Chris's bloody corpse and Adriane, who was catatonic. Max, who was suspected of murdering Chris, had fled.

In order to clear Max’s name and save herself, Nora must travel to Prague to find the pieces of the Lumen Dei. She’s pursued by zealots who will do anything to ensure the device is built, as well as those who will do anything to stop it from being assembled.

Why I picked it up: When I first spotted the cover, I thought it was just another pretty teen girl book cover. Then I looked closer and saw, in her eye, the outline of Gothic towers highlighted by a blood-red sky.

Why I finished it: Card's reading was powerful. She excelled in her narration, which is impressive for a story that contains a good amount of Latin and Czech, in addition to a smattering of French. Each of those languages sounded exactly the way it should. She also gave all of the characters distinctive voices, so I was never confused about who was speaking, and everyone even sounded the age they were supposed to, whether young or old.

I also enjoyed Wasserman's vibrant use of language. Her word choices were rich and as I listened, I was transported to Massachusetts and Paris and Prague and saw the cities in all the glory and all their decay.

I'd give it to: Annaliese, for her and her mom's upcoming college tour road trip. As a mature teen more than ready to fly free, she'll enjoy dreaming of her own world travels (though hopefully they'll be less dangerous than Nora's). Her mother, a life-long student of both language and history, will appreciate the story’s focus on translation as well as the unique way Wasserman combines historical figures and fictional settings.

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

Link to this review by theo tagged fantasy

Ash Mistry's aunt and uncle were murdered by an evil magician named Savage, but Ash and his sister escaped. A good magician named Rishi recruits Ash, and promises to train him to fight the supernatural beings called Rakshasas employed by Savage.

Why I picked it up: The words on the back cover: "Heroes aren't made. They're reborn."

Why I finished it: I enjoyed seeing Ash transform from a typical modern kid -- he’s a little overweight and likes video games --  to being wiry, strong, and fast.

I'd give it to: My cousin Sam, who would enjoy the exciting fight where Ash, scared out of his mind, is up against an evil demon lord with no weaknesses.

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is coming.

Introducing an epic new, one-volume fantasy from Joe Abercrombie—the bestselling author of the First Law trilogy.

Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister missing, and she knows she’ll have to go back to her bad old ways if she’s ever going to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier.

Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, and into unmapped mountains for a reckoning with ancient enemies. It will force them into an alliance with infamous soldier of fortune, Nicomo Cosca, a man who should never be trusted….

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A Mutiny in Time: (Infinity Ring Book 1) by James Dashner

Link to this review by danritchie tagged science fiction

History as we know it has been altered by a series of time breaks engineered by a secret group called the SQ, allowing it to control the course of world events. The SQ operates in total secrecy, manipulating governments and controlling societies. An organization called the Hystorians is waiting for its inventors to make a breakthrough in time travel that will allow them to restore the natural course of history.

Dak and Sera are best friends. Dak is a history fanatic while Sera is a science nerd. The two stumble on a secret, a device Dak's parents have spent years developing. It is a time travel machine called the Infinity Ring. After Dak’s parents disappear, the Hystorians take Dak, Sera, and the Infinity Ring.

When SQ attacks the Hystorians to seize the Ring, Dak and Sera escape into time. They must decipher clues and avoid their pursuers. Soon their lives, as well as the fate of the Infinity Ring and all of history, hinge on the outcome of a mutiny against Christopher Columbus.

Why I picked it up: Time travel and Dashner -- I figured I couldn't go wrong.

Why I finished it: I loved how the clues the Hystorians left for the time travelers played out, and how Dak and Sera used their smarts to decode them, like the nonsensical poem which led them to the butcher in Spain who got them aboard the Santa Maria.

I'd give it to: My friend Mike, who loves both history and physics.  He’ll enjoy the well-developed idea of how the Infinity Ring works, including its programmable parameters.

Out of the Woods: (Sweet Tooth Volume 1) by Jeff Lemire
In Captivity: (Sweet Tooth Volume 2) by Jeff Lemire
Animal Armies: (Sweet Tooth Volume 3) by Jeff Lemire
Endangered Species: (Sweet Tooth Volume 4) by Jeff Lemire

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Gus’ dad told him he was special, though it was obvious from the antlers on his head. His dad said it was dangerous outside the trees around their house, that the forest protected them. He made Gus promise to never leave the woods. But then he got the plague and died like so many others had.

Men came for Gus. Jepperd came, too. He killed the men, and told Gus he was taking him to a Preserve where he’d be safe with others like him. Jepperd had more of the candy Gus had been finding in the woods.

The Preserve wasn’t what Jepperd had promised.

Contains Sweet Tooth #1 - #5 (Vol. 1), #6 - #11 (Vol. 2), #12 - #17 (Vol. 3), #18 - #25 (Vol. 4).

Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers

Why I picked it up: I loved Jeff Lemire’s Essex County and his run on Superboy. I was also intrigued by the quote on the front of the first book from USA Today that referred to it as "...Mad Max with Antlers."

Why I finished it: To see if the hardened Jepperd could pull himself together and act like a decent human being. He finds Gus and then delivers him to a militia for their experiments in exchange for something that he believes will bring him peace. But he can’t stop thinking about Gus, and he returns to the armed camp (with lots of help).

Other characters are rounded out, too, from the sad, quiet half-animal kids Gus meets in captivity to the doctor dissecting them to figure out why they don’t get sick.

I'd give it to: Roland, who is convinced the world will end with a bang, or maybe a ka-pow, and is stockpiling guns so that he’s ready. Firearms aren’t of much use after the plague in the book, but the violent bits will keep him pumped up enough to carry him through the bulk of this relatively quiet, post-apocalyptic book.

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sough. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Kaoru must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

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The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fiction

Eva Nine, a twelve-year-old human girl, grew up in the underground Sanctuary protected by the robotic Muthr and taught all the lessons she would one day need to survive in the bigger world. Eva wants to leave and explore, to try to find others like her.

Then Sanctuary is attacked. Eva flees into the wilderness, but it’s not the Earth forest she was trained for. She must learn to avoid the dangers of an alien planet while trying to find other humans. And she must flee the skilled huntsman who is out to collect her and other unusual specimens.

Why I picked it up: My daughter had read 3/4 of it and was enjoying the book. I started reading it to catch up so we could finish it together, aloud.

Why I finished it: DiTerlizzi’s illustrations made the alien setting and characters easy to visualize by showing me a snapshot from each chapter. But they also allowed my imagination to run free; because I already had a feel of what the flora and fauna looked like he didn’t have to bog down the story with tons of description, making it much faster and more enjoyable, too.

I'd give it to: Eva Nine’s overprotective robot Muthr made me reflect on how much I try to keep my daughter safe from the world, and how I’m ultimately going to fail. I think my friend David tries to do the same for his daughter and could take comfort in the fact that Eva finds friends in the wider world, too (just like our daughters will).

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia by Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling

Link to this review by snow tagged anthologyscience fictionshort stories

Longtime collaborators Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling compile a dark collection of stories about teens struggling to survive in worlds ravaged by disaster and countries ruled by cruel governments. Some stories are stand-alones, but others tie-in with established teen titles, like Garth Nix's "You Won't Feel a Thing" which takes place in the world of  Shade's Children. The anthology includes stories (and one poem) by Nalo Hopkinson, Katherine Langrish, Jeffrey Ford, Gregory Maguire, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jane Yolen, Cecil Castellucci, and more.

Why I picked it up: I would read an anthology of phonebooks if it were edited by Datlow and Windling. Plus I've enjoyed post-apocalyptic stories since I was a teen and wanted to see what the new generation of YA authors could do.

Why I finished it: Because of the heart-breaking beauty of lives lived during desperate times. Carrie Ryan told the tale of a former monster who has been unwillingly changed back to human and left to struggle with survivor's guilt in the subtle "After the Cure." Matthew Kressel showed the love of a brother for his sister in "The Great Game at the End of the World." Some of the stories were set in far-distant futures, such as Beth Revis's "The Other Elder," a companion story to her Across the Universe series. Others, such as Susan Beth Pfeffer's "Reunion," seemed current -- the struggles of a girl and her mother out to find a lost family member could be happening now. But near or far, all of the stories focused on teens fighting to survive and maintain a sense of self.

If I had to pick a favorite story, it would be Sarah Rees Brennan's "Faint Heart." Brennan took the familiar "teens forced to fight each other" theme and made it her own by adding a fantastic twist.

I'd give it to: Rakeem. He loves insects. He'll get a kick out of the voracious, metal-eating bugs of Steven Gould's "Rust with Wings." And then I hope he’ll be eager to read Gould's novel 7th Sigma, in which these bugs have dramatically changed life in part of the U.S.

Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski

In this story set in East Texas, a local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold and now foretold.

“This first American edition of Danielewski’s novella, published in a different form in the Netherlands in 2005, has the theatrical quality of a children’s ghost story, complete with stitched-art illustrations (designed by the author), sweeping themes, and fairy-tale tropes . . . This would be well-suited to an oral reading and may be best thought of as an objet d’art that chillingly holds us accountable for our worst thoughts.” — Publishers Weekly

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The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fiction

Taggert has the power to read and manipulate bodies. He was a healer until he pledged his loyalty to a crime lord, Nordeen. He learned to use his abilities to hurt. Now he’s an integral part of Nordeen’s empire.

The woman Taggert loved, Yasmine, calls for help. He leaves his boss and his gang behind to go to her. Yasmine’s daughter is missing. It may be a political ploy by her husband’s rivals, or the daughter’s own powers may have attracted unwanted attention.

Why I picked it up: I love short science fiction novels, and someone (I can’t remember who) recommended this one to me.

Why I finished it: The power and evil that emanate from Nordeen are almost palpable, though his powers, actions, and motivations are left ambiguous, making him more threatening. There are others with abilities in the world that make Nordeen afraid, and, by the time Taggert discovers he may be going up against one of them to save Yasmine’s daughter, I couldn’t put the book down.

I'd give it to: Bill, because this is the best X-Men readalike I’ve enjoyed in a while. It’s understated, dark, and reminds me of the first graphic novel I ever read, God Loves, Man Kills.

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