Thursday, March 30, 2017

Spring Reading 2017 Speed of Life


I can't imagine losing my mom when I was only 14. Imagine just being ready for high school and dating and all those teenage things, and having no mother to help you through them. Sofia is dealing with that. She and her father are trying to keep going, keep climbing. As Sofia explains in the introduction, "sometimes, if you just keep climbing, you get an amazing view. You see what's behind you and what's in front of you and - the big surprise - what's inside you." Of course, at the beginning of the book, she doesn't see any of that. Most days she is trying to recapture her old self, the one not weighed down with sadness. And after several months, her father begins dating someone. Sofia turns to Dear Kate, the advice columnist from Fifteen magazine for advice. Imagine her horror when she meets her dad's new girlfriend - Dear Kate, herself!

There are parts that made me cry and then parts that made me laugh out loud. All the ups and downs of moving to a new town, new house, and new school are there. The drama of your father starting to date, and being serious about his new companion. The awkwardness of getting to know that new woman, and her daughter. The thrill of meeting a boy you like and who likes you back. The sadness of having to tell your grandfather that your mom has died. There are so many life events packed into this one book and Sofia will win you over as she makes her way through each one.

Definitely for middle school and up. Mentions of sex, contraception, STDs, and other topics are a bit mature for readers younger than that. The topics are handled with a care you would expect from someone who can create a character like Dear Kate and make her believable. Perfect for fans of stories like Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gym Shorts who are now reading YA.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Spring Reading 2017 Defy the Stars


Imagine a younger, untried Honor Harrington and you will come close to Noemi's character. Her planet is a former Earth colony world that has fought the Liberty War and declared its independence. Now they must continually fight off waves of "mechs" (androids), sent through the Gate (wormhole travel) to reacquire their planet of Genesis for the overpopulated home world. While on a training run, Noemi boards an abandoned Earth ship and discovers an android unlike any she has ever seen or heard of in her training. Together, they set off across the known worlds to find a way to seal the Gate and protect Genesis on a permanent basis.

That tells you the basic plot, but it doesn't capture all the ways in which both of the main characters, Noemi and Abel, change during their journey. Noemi begins the story so sure that her world is right and Earth is wrong, so convinced that she is part of a holy crusade of sorts. Abel desperately wants to return to Earth and his creator, the famous scientist Mansfield. He has been told that the people of Genesis are selfish for not wanting to share their world. Then the two of them spend time together and see the other worlds and the conditions on each of them. Slowly, they come to appreciate other points of view and respect one another's abilities. Can a Genesis soldier and an Earth mech become friends?

You'll have to read to find out. And let me tell you that the story will satisfy those who like character centered fiction and still have plenty of good parts for readers who like lots of tech in their sci-fi. There are androids specifically programmed to fight which are eerily similar to Terminators at times. The devices that stabilize the wormholes for travel between the planets remind me of StarGate. And Abel may touch on a few memories from movies or books where AI becomes truly sentient. 

Whether you are a techie or a fan of personal growth stories, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Spring Book Festival

Welcome spring 2017 by attending:
MARCH 27-29
Find your new favorite books and authors. Fiction of every genre, from Children's Literature to Fantasy, Romance to Horror will be represented by a diverse list of Indie authors at discount prices; many are free. You say you like Non-fiction, too? Don't worry, we've got that.
Enter the $150 giveaway in prizes!
Come join us and tell your book-loving friends!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 The Flintstones, Volume 1


Forget the Saturday morning cartoons. The Flintstones is social commentary that is relevant and funny. Take the Neanderthals that Mr. Slate hires to work at the quarry. After just a few days in town they are able to figure out that "it seems like the whole point of civilization is to get someone else to do your killing for you." (Simple enough even a caveman could figure it out?) Everything from people buying things they don't need, like a Trilobite Cooker, to arguments over whether marriage is a good idea and who should be allowed to get married are mixed into the stories. There are plenty of spoofs on pop culture: stores like Starbrick's and Tarpit, shoes like Pradzoa and Mammotho Blahnik, and even Professor Sargon at the Science Institute talking about when the galaxy was formed "billions of days ago" and performing calculations on his new Applecus computer. But there are also serious issues like veterans dealing with the return to civilian life, men who had been talked into attacking others and then finding out there was never any threat, and people protesting new things just because "it wasn't around when I was a kid."

There are plenty of laughs about aliens entering the Earth into Galactapedia and alien kids using their Death Ray app "Disintegr8." Betty Rubble asks Pebbles what she has been learning in school and Pebbles replies, "How to sit still and shut up." But my favorite allusion would have to be the Space Oddity scene at the Science Institute. Professor Sargon shoes them a monkey about to be sent into space. He reassure the kids that the monkey's "spaceship knows which way to go." We see the monkey saying, "Tell my wife I love her very much." and a dinosaur replying, "She knows." References like that and some of the language that is used makes this a title for readers 12+.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life


You had me at Kwame Alexander. I admire his writing, so I had to try this book, even though I am not a big sports fan. Reading about Kwame's struggles to find the sport he could excel in and the lessons he learned from those experiences adds personal depth to the book. His appreciation of that hard-won knowledge and love of sports comes through clearly in his words. 

But beyond the fact that he wrote this, it is a wonderful book based on its own merits. The rules are actually free verse that can apply to sports or life, words like, "A loss is inevitable, like rain in spring. True champions learn to dance through the storm." These rules are paired with quotes from famous personalities, mostly from sports, but also from other occupations. Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and Nelson Mandela are mixed in along with other famous players, coaches, and historical figures. The illustrations are a mix of photos and graphics - silhouettes of figures dunking a basketball or diagrams of moves across a court give visual interest to the pages and add to the sports theme of the rules. 

Highly recommended for fans of Kwame or sports. This would make a great graduation gift!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Diadem of Death


You would think that once a girl has survived the efforts of a cult to turn her into the reincarnation of Cleopatra, had her leg amputated, and managed to finish her junior year of high school, then she would deserve a nice summer vacation relaxing with her friends and snuggling with her boyfriend. Nope. Nefertari "Terry" Hughes has her plans for the summer suddenly upended by her father's announcement that they are returning to Egypt to resume the search for Cleopatra's tomb, the search that killed Terry's mother and left Terry with a crippled leg (before the amputation). Now she's had to trade in the beach for the sands of the archaeological dig, and deal with rumors of curses and possible Illuminati plots.

With the powers that were bestowed on Terry in the first book (Asp of Ascension), readers may expect her to make short work of any threats to the dig, but things are never simple. Even if there were no curses, mystical powers, or possible plots - there are still the quest for fame and power, government corruption, and unethical grave robbers to contend with. Luckily, Terry has her friends and her father to depend on and maybe something a little bit extra.

If you enjoy mystery, suspense, a bit of romance, and the thrill of looking for antiquities - try the Nefertari Hughes mysteries.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter Reading 2017 Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope


The Women's March of January 21, 2017 has been called "a groundswell of resistance, love, and hope." Across the United States and around the world, people marched, carried signs, sang songs, decorated their faces and t-shirts, and listened to speakers about topics important to them. This book captures all those activities as well as a sense of the emotions felt and portrayed that day. Images from Prague to Paradise Bay, Orlando to Fairbanks, Toronto to Kosovo, and everywhere in between show moments of humor, frustration, and solidarity. Interspersed throughout the book are pages of text which highlight quotes from some of the day's speakers. Those pages are a vibrant pink with white lettering that pops off the page at the reader. The quotes are representative soundbites of the day's events, like this one from Senator Elizabeth Warren, "We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back."

Some of the images that made the greatest impressions on me are:
- the two little girls in pink, holding a sign together that reads "GRL PWR"
- another sign stating "I am German and I've seen this before!!"
- the woman whose poster reads, "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."
- and for a bit of humor, "I've seen better cabinets at IKEA."

The crowds in the photos capture the breadth of the demographics involved in the march at all the locations. At one end of the age spectrum are babies in Snugli packs being carried by their parents, and at the other end are senior citizens with assistive devices like canes. Men and women are both present, as are members of too many ethnic groups to name them all here.

Even without a narrative to accompany the images, the book makes a powerful statement. It is sure to provoke strong reactions in readers/viewers and spark discussions. Due to some of the language and images on the signs, this is best for more mature audiences, ages 13+.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.