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Recommendations for Friday, March 15, 2013

Impulse by Steven Gould

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged coming of agescience fiction

Unshelved strip for 3/15/2013

@bookblrb: Cent is desperate for a normal life. Then she inherits her father’s ability to teleport, and decides to go to school.

The Mirage by Matt Ruff

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged alternate historyscience fiction

On 11/9, airplanes took out the twin Tigris and Euphrates Towers in Baghdad. In the aftermath of the attack, a team of Arab Homeland Security agents investigates the appearance of a series of strange objects that seem to come from a world in which the United States is a superpower and their powerful country is a broken mess of nations led by criminals and madmen.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Bad Monkeys and Set This House in Order, so I was excited when my science fiction book group selected this for our next meeting.

Why I finished it: Ruff is relentlessly clever in this topsy-turvy world where Timothy McVeigh is an underground freedom fighter, Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal, and Osama Bin Laden is a respectable politician. 

As fun as it was to see the differences, what really kept me going was wanting to find out what was going to happen to the agents. Would gruff and honest Mustafa find the people responsible for his first wife's death in the towers? Could Amal live up the her dad's legacy as a good cop while protecting the life of her secret child? And how could Salim ever be happy hiding his homosexuality to avoid blackmail and violence?

I'd give it to: My dad, who would enjoy the unrelenting cleverness of Ruff’s ridiculous pop culture jokes as well as the puns about international relationships and religion.

@bookblrb: On 11/9, airplanes took out the twin Tigris and Euphrates Towers in Baghdad.

The Runaway King: Jennifer Nielsen

A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster The False Prince!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom? The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!

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The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson

Link to this review by darcy tagged science fiction

Haley and Dodger live on opposite sides of the country and are as different as night and day. Haley researches a missing girl and a mysterious sixteen minute time loss that affected a number of cities. Dodger hears a radio station in his head -- it’s from a town named Juliette, which he can't find on any map. They meet due to their shared belief that aliens exist, and the fact that they both won a fellowship for alien detection.

As Haley's discoveries get close to the truth, she’s in danger. She and Dodger head toward the town of Juliette, Arizona, to find out about missing children, time lapses and other signs of alien life.

Why I picked it up: I enjoyed Emerson’s Oliver Nocturne series about the vampire boy who goes to night school. And I was anxious to read a book with the word "fellowship" in the title that had nothing to do with Middle Earth.

Why I finished it: Even though I probably don't believe in aliens, I related to Haley. She wanted to do something special during summer vacation. Other kids had great internships with newspapers or were attending music camps, but Haley had a chance to prove the existence of extraterrestrials. Like any good journalist, she refused to back down.

I'd give it to: Rudy, a young patron who loves the movie Groundhog Day. He'd love the way time folds back on itself in Juliette, where each day is a repeat of the last.

@bookblrb: Haley researches a sixteen minute time loss. Dodger hears a radio station in his head. Both are sure aliens exist.

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fiction

The Gzilt are unique. Their holy book, the Book of Truth, actually is true and makes sense.The Gzilt are quite advanced and, at the end of their societal evolution, have made the same decision as many before them -- they’ve decided to leave the Real and enter the infinite nirvana of the Sublime.

Representatives of many civilizations gather for the Sublimation. Some come to scavenge technology while others come to say goodbye. But one comes bearing a message: the Book of Truth is a lie. Some Gzilt will go to great lengths to hide this message, which could derail Sublimation. Others are willing to do anything to verify it.

One man alone may know the truth. Thought to be over 10,000-years-old, QiRia is a citizen of the Culture who was there when his civilization was formed. The Gzilt musician Vyr Cossont is one of the few people who’s ever met him, and she represents her government’s best hope for locating him.

Why I picked it up: I love Banks’ loosely linked Culture novels. They concern an an ill-defined, high-tech, powerful interstellar civilization who just can’t help but intervene in other civilizations’ internal matters now and then. The hyper-intelligent minds that run it give their ships / themselves hilarious names. And they tend to curse a lot.

Why I finished it: Banks’ science fiction always has a grand scale that allows him to throw in unexpected details. In passing he mentions an origami-based life form. I love these touches in all of his books.

But this book is, in many ways, a meditation on how different people approach the end of life (or the real possibility of endless life). Vyr is off on this wild quest to find her friend QiRia at the very end of her life. If she dies she won’t be able to enter the infinite with the rest of her people, yet it’s clearly worth the risk. Other Gzilt have more hedonistic ways of dealing with the end of their “earthly” existence: one man hosts a five-year party and has penises implanted all over his body (along with several extra hearts to cope with the necessarily increased blood supply). Others vie for political power, hiding secrets instead of revealing them despite the fact that everyone is about to, in some empirical way, become one. QiRia has continued to live (merely out of habit) in a galaxy where most choose either to expire or to have their mind states put into long-term storage.

I'd give it to: My friend Corey. I remember when he was trying to learn the violin as an adult. The descriptions of Vyr Cossont's music as she tries to play The Hydrogen Sonata (which everyone agrees isn’t pleasant) on a stringed instrument that requires four hands (she had elective surgery to add two more, a fact that irritates her mother) reminded me of the unpleasant sounds that Corey used to force me to listen to.

@bookblrb: As an advanced civilization prepares to leave the Real, it’s discovered that one of its core beliefs may be a lie.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is.

In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun. Airship-pilot Elle Chance must do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

Dip into this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

To request an Advance Copy, email us.

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Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged mysteryparanormal

Daisy Goodnight can talk to spirits. This makes her very useful to the FBI, who brings her in to consult on difficult cases, especially murders. But when Daisy is called in on a mob enforcer’s killing, she discovers it is much more than a hit. Alexis (a mob princess) is missing, and someone wiped soul energy from the crime scene, which shouldn’t be possible.  Alexis’ father (the boss) wants more control over the investigation, so he puts a geas on Daisy to help find his daughter. Soon Daisy is following Alexis’ trail with a would-be mobster, Carson. The ransom request for Alexis’ safe return is an Egyptian artifact called the Oosterhaus Jackal, but no one knows where it is.

After a paranormal investigation and a few stolen cars, Daisy and Carson find themselves in the Chicago Field Museum facing reanimated mummies, man-eating lions, and tyrannosaurus rexes, none of which are as dangerous as Anubis, who is trying to re-enter the human world.

Why I picked it up: I read Clement-Moore’s Highway to Hell and Texas Gothic for a committee. Both of them captivated me with snappy dialogue and quirky, unlikely romances.  Daisy Goodnight continues the story of the Goodnight family, a loosely knit family of witches and psychics from Texas Gothic.

Why I finished it: I love Daisy’s feistiness. When she is being held by the mob, she is asked by a butler if he can get her anything.  She replies, “I would really like an appetizer of ‘what’s going on’ with a heaping portion of ‘get the hell out of Dodge’.” There was a neat little romance between Daisy and Carson, but I never knew where it was going, because of all the twists, turns and conflicting motivations of the characters. There was definitely a Sam and Diane vibe -- I really wanted them to hook-up, but their relationship starts poorly when Daisy kicks him in the wedding tackle.

I'd give it to: Jeannie, who would love that, in the midst of a madcap, magical scramble book like this, there are many moments of sweetness in Daisy’s relationship with her FBI handler, Agent Taylor. Several times in the book, she is able to leave him a coded message which means she is okay or that she needs help. He’s so protective of her that he offers his help in a magical fight despite his lack of supernatural abilities.

@bookblrb: Daisy Goodnight talks to spirits to help the FBI solve a murder and a mob boss find his missing daughter.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

The Ununited Kingdoms have an uneasy peace, but the Dragonpact engineered by Grand Magician Shandar 400 years ago still holds, keeping the dragons from raiding human towns.  When the last dragon, Maltcassion, dies at the hands of the Dragonslayer next Sunday, the land rush for his hundreds of thousands of acres will be on, with citizens needing only string and a claim form to grab a nice chunk of property.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Strange, an indentured servant foundling, two weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday, is frantically trying to hold together Kazam Mystical Arts Management. It has fallen to her to hire out the scatterbrained company magicians for menial tasks, which are all that they are good for since magic has been on the decline. But Big Magic is in the air because of Maltcassion’s imminent death, and the magicians are realizing they can suddenly do spells far beyond their usual abilities. Because Jennifer is the first to know of this problem, she goes to find the current Dragonslayer to find out if it is avoidable. The slayer is a tottering, ancient man who tells Jennifer he has been waiting for her to approach him. He immediately swears her in as his apprentice. Then he dies, leaving her to deal with all the politics, power and prestige that come with being the last Dragonslayer. (She thinks it’s all been a mistake.)

Why I picked it up: I am a big, ongoing fan of Fforde’s Thursday Next series, so I thought Fforde’s first young adult book would be worth picking up.

Why I finished it: Fforde is known for snarky comments in fast-moving stories. The magicians have to earn the accolades that precede their names, like “the Remarkable Kevin Zipp” or “The Great Zambini,” both of whom are mentioned along with “the Occasionally-Right Smithson” and others.

I'd give it to: Michelle, an eighth grader at my school who would like that Jennifer, upon becoming the last Dragonslayer, is besieged by companies wanting to market Last Dragonslayer foam swords, get her endorsement for their breakfast cereal, and paint slogans on the side of her slayermobile.

@bookblrb: Magic is returning to the world. A teenage girl is going to kill the last dragon next Sunday.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson: his debut novel for the young adult audience.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

“The Rithmatist, while it’s definitely as clear and exciting as a YA novel should be, is every bit as deep and richly invented as the best of Sanderson’s adult novels…. Sanderson at his best, for adults and young readers alike.”—Orson Scott Card, New York Times bestselling author of Ender’s Game

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Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde

Link to this review by snow tagged coming of agescience fiction

Grace's older sister, Emily, is perfect. She has tons of friends, a long-time boyfriend, a happy college life, and a wonderful internship at Rasmussem Corporation where she works on virtual reality games. But when Emily hides inside a game and won't come back out, Grace may be the only one who can go into the game and and figure out what has gone wrong. She'll have to do it fast, though, because the longer Emily spends in the game, the more likely she is to die in real life.

Why I picked it up: I'm a big fan of Vande Velde's light but thoughtful fantasy and science fiction.

Why I finished it: Grace’s hero worship of her seemingly perfect older sister becomes a deeper understanding of her as a flawed, real person. And the story is told through Grace's sarcastic voice, which matched well with my personality.

I'd give it to: Destiny, eleven, who has a lot of gamer friends even though she doesn't play. She'll enjoy sharing the novel with her friends and, I hope, will talk them into reading Vande Velde's other Rasmussem Corporation books, User Unfriendly and Heir Apparent.

@bookblrb: Grace’s perfect sister, Emily, is hiding inside a VR game and could die (for real) there.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Link to this review by snow tagged fantasyhistorical fiction

Jane Ellsworth is acknowledged by all in Dorchester society to be a most talented glamourist, a worthy accomplishment for a young woman of reasonable means. Unfortunately her skill with magic does not make up for the fact that she, unlike her sister Melody, is very plain and, at twenty-eight, a spinster. Lately it seems as if the Ellsworth's neighbor, Mr. Dunkirk, might be inclined to overlook Jane's face in favor of her intelligence and skills, but the arrival of two other men -- young Captain Livingston and glamour artist Mr. Vincent -- as well as Mr. Dunkirk's sister, Beth, complicates Jane's quiet life in Dorchester and threatens the honor of her family.

Why I picked it up: The cover of the sequel, Glamour in Glass, caught my eye one day when I was browsing TOR's Winter 2013 catalog. I went looking for the first book after I saw the series referred to as "Jane Austen with magic."

Why I finished it: As in Austen's works, the characters deal with what seem like inconsequential issues: relationships, self-esteem, family. But Kowal's strong, intelligent women -- who, like Austen's, are trapped by the conventions of society -- remain true to themselves. I came away from the story feeling as if Jane were a friend I wanted to visit again soon.

I'd give it to: Kate, a crafter who will appreciate that the magic in Kowal's universe is quiet and understated, and that the terms she uses to describe the way it is worked are borrowed from the domestic arts genteel women were once expected to master: embroidery, sewing, painting, music, and maintaining an attractive home.

@bookblrb: Jane is a talented glamourist. Mr. Dunkirk admires her skills and intelligence, but others threaten her family honor.

The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card

In this sequel to The Lost Gate, bestselling author Orson Scott Card continues his fantastic tale of the Mages of Westil who live in exile on Earth.

Here on Earth, Danny North is still in high school, yet he holds in his heart and mind all the stolen outselves of thirteen centuries of gatemages. The Families still want to kill him if they can't control him…and they can't control him. He is far too powerful.

And on Westil, Wad is now nearly powerless—he lost everything to Danny in their struggle. Even if he can survive the revenge of his enemies, he still must somehow make peace with the Gatemage Daniel North.

For when Danny took that power from Loki, he also took the responsibility for the Great Gates. And when he comes face-to-face with the mages who call themselves Bel and Ishtoreth, he will come to understand just why Loki closed the gates all those centuries ago.

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Would You Lie to Someone You Love?: Ralph Azham Volume 1 by Lewis Trondheim

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

When Ralph was a kid, the moons turned him blue. He was taken by an Envoy to see the Oracle in order to find out if he was the Chosen One. He hoped to be granted great and terrible powers. Instead he was sent home.

He does have one power, though his gift for telling how many kids people have (including whether or not a woman is pregnant, and by whom) has not made him many friends. After consulting Ralph to make sure she’s not already pregnant, Claire offers to run away with him. But when her father and brother see her kissing Ralph (against his will), Ralph is sentenced to sleep in the pig sty.

Why I picked it up: Trondheim is my favorite cartoonist. I bought the original French edition of all three books in the series last year but I’m still struggling to understand them. (I am taking French lessons now, though.)

Why I finished it: Ralph is brought out of the pig sty to break a tie vote on whether or not to set a trap for the barbarous Horde who are nearby. Ralph throws up his filthy arms and offers the deciding vote to whichever side will lick him first. It’s sick and funny and brilliant: classic Trondheim.

I'd give it to: Ben. He’s young enough that all of the adulterous dialogue would go right over his head, but he’d love it when young Raoul (a little boy who also turns blue) uses his power to help stop the Horde.

@bookblrb: Ralph is not the Chosen One, though he knows if a woman is pregnant, and by whom. This doesn’t make him any friends.

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