Friday, April 29, 2016

Let's See the World Book List

Do you like reading about other peoples' travels? Want to read one now? Check out this book list...

1) "City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi" by William Dalrymple

A charming portrait of the ancient Indian capital of Delhi by a talented young British travel writer. Dalrymple, whose debut book of travel writing, In Xanadu (not reviewed), received much praise, spent a year wandering around the dilapidated city of Delhi uncovering the layers of history found in its architectural and human ruins. With his wife, Olivia Fraser (whose pen-and-ink illustrations help the book along), Dalrymple finds a Delhi that is still trying to overcome the traumas of British colonialism and the partition of 1947, in which most Muslims migrated from India to the newly created Pakistan and many Hindus, expelled from the Punjab, fled to Delhi, creating a new, less sophisticated class of resident. The title refers to the spirits that according to legend have, throughout the ages, watched over the inhabitants of Delhi. At first, Dalrymple finds that much of the old life, including the belief in djinns, seems to have faded; but after some digging, he learns that these old customs are simply hidden and very much alive. Judiciously parceling out strands of Indian history, Dalrymple shows that the unique Delhi ways have always been able to withstand the worst of wars and other calamities. He takes us, in an affable style, through the sprawling city and introduces us to the frugal Punjabi people who now make up the majority of the population, as well as to the remnants of the old colonialists, and then to the fascinating ways of people of the underbelly -- the sad, regimented lives of contemporary eunuchs, the tenacity of the squatters, and the timeless world of the many religions that have quietly coexisted for centuries in the chaotic warrens of the indestructible city. Not a heavyweight experience, but this warm look at Delhi is a pleasant starting point for anyone interested in this mysterious city.

2) "Shadow of the Silk Road" by Colin Thubron

Thubron (In Siberia, 2000, etc.) takes an arduous 7,000-mile journey following the ancient silk trade route from inland China to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

At the very least, his marathon expedition through desert, mountains and war-scarred landscapes testifies to the author’s fortitude and resourcefulness. He’s quarantined by Chinese authorities during the SARS epidemic, nearly killed by a drunk driver in a head-on collision and forced to endure treatment of an abscessed tooth by a team of Iranian village dentists who don’t use anesthetic. Thubron attends a rock concert staged in a Tehran military hospital, dodges suspicious guards at several remote border crossings and searches out the tombs of Genghis Khan, Omar Khayyam and Ayatollah Khomeini. He augments his trenchant narrative with impressive historical background and evocative lyrical prose: “In late autumn the road traversed a near-desert plain. From time to time a faint, brown wash overhung the horizon, as if a watercolorist had started painting mountains there, then forgotten them.” Even the most erudite readers, however, may find themselves daunted and disoriented by this lengthy sojourn in such consonant-laden regions as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, complete with their obscure attendant cultural histories. Until 1498, when the Portuguese sailed around Africa and found a safer route to China’s riches, the Silk Road across central Asia was traveled by successions of invaders. East-bound from Rome, Greece and Arabia came poetry, metals and conquering armies. From China, traders carried westward such wonders as silk, paper, gunpowder and the mechanical clock. Thubron carefully picks through the cultural and archeological remains of a half-dozen societies with a discerning eye and a scholar’s discipline, pausing to note the fallout from such relatively recent arrivals as China’s murderous Red Guards, the Taliban and ruthless Afghan warlords. He also pauses long enough to meet and introduce a host of memorable characters, including a Chinese college dean and some Afghan truck drivers.

An impressive, rewarding and occasionally exhausting trek, most suitable for the hardcore travel reader.

3) "Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris" by Sarah Turnbull

Love and adjustment in a foreign climate.

Though Australian journalist Turnbull came to Paris—and stayed—because of love, she is remarkably reticent about her relationship with Frédéric, the French lawyer she first met in Bucharest in the early 1990s. This is not an overly significant defect, because she delivers so much, and so intelligently, on the rest of her life there. The Australian TV reporter had taken off a year to travel around Europe when Frédéric asked her to visit him in Paris. She arrived somewhat apprehensive and speaking little French, but after a while found herself beginning to understand a society so different from direct, easygoing Australia. Soon she was in love not only with Frédéric but with Paris. Turnbull describes their two apartments, the first in a leafy suburb, the next in Sentier, the Parisian garment district, noisy but close to the city center. She observes the natives’ pride in their heritage and their differences, especially from Anglo Saxons, and notes the media’s deference to politicians. French business letters are written in flowery prose, Turnbull tells us, and it is considered selfish to dress like a slob. Even dinner parties are different: unfriendly and impersonal, the author found. (After fleeing from several tables to weep, she was cheered by a guidebook that advised her to think of herself as a chair to which no one was expected to talk.) As Turnbull adjusts to her new life, she begins working as a freelance writer and interviews such French cultural stars as restaurateur Alain Ducasse and clothing designer Christian Lacroix. At first the author cannot understand why Frédéric loves his family home on the chilly northern coast, but as she gets to know his relatives and the locals, that changes along with her other attitudes to the French.

An engaging story of a sometimes rocky but ultimately affectionate relationship with another culture.

4) "Last Chance to See" by Douglas Adams

Despite the joint authorship, this is Adams's (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, etc.) book, written in the first-person and marked by his singular nose for absurdities, as he and zoologist Cawardine--who contributes an epilogue--tour the world on the track of rare or endangered species.

The journey begins in 1985, as the two men tramp through Madagascar in search of the aye-aye, a rare nocturnal lemur ("like virtually everything that lives on Madagascar, it does not exist anywhere else on earth"). Three years later, still flush from their first success, the team reunites to hunt the Komodo dragon. This proves a sickening enterprise, involving passage through honky-tonk Bali ("Bali Theme Park," Adams dubs it) to a bedraggled island where the giant lizards gulp carrion before delighted polyestered Americans. On to Zaire, where a tangle of red-tape and greed ("every official you encounter will make life as unpleasant as he possibly can until you pay him to stop it") doesn't prevent a glimpse of white rhino and mountain gorilla. In New Zealand, the duo spots the kakapo (a fat, flightless parrot); in China, the Yangtze River dolphin; in Mauritius, a rare fruit bat--all allowing for hilarious travel writing (as in Peking, where Adams visits Mao's tomb while the theme from Hawaii Five-O blares over giant loudspeakers) as well as a noble plea for ecological sanity.

Surprisingly mature reflections on the environment--with Adams's trademark comedy humming along at high pitch: eco-humor comes of age.

5) "The Pillars of Hercules" by Paul Theroux

With his effortless writing style, observant eye, and take-no- prisoners approach, Theroux (The Happy Isles of Oceania, 1992, etc.) is in top form chronicling this 18-month circuit of the Mediterranean. Only 15 miles separate the Pillars of Hercules at the mouth of the Mediterranean, but as is his wont, Theroux took the long way. It's the old Grand Tour route, charted by many seeking wisdom and experience. And if it was now haunted and decayed, so much the better: ``Half a lifetime of traveling had given me a taste for the macabre.'' Theroux has a gift for the quick landscape sketch: hoofing it about the paths of Corsica, the lunarscapes of Italy's toe, the streets of a Tunisian town; but everywhere he finds people. His misanthropy is given a rest on this journey; yes, fools populate the pages, but so too do a host of dignified characters, from the ordinary joes he shares cabin space with to Naguib Mahfouz and Paul Bowles. They all make for a very immediate experience: ``These sudden strange encounters . . . were much more interesting than the Roman amphitheaters and the ruins.'' Theroux has never been one to let pass any abrupt or truculent or stupid behavior (``several aspects of this reeking vulgarity interested me''), and it is always a pleasure when he calls a miscreant on his thuggish conduct. This contributes a snappy edge to the proceedings (Do you torture political prisoners here in Turkey? How do you feel about the Fascists coming to power in your Italian village?) and it keeps the journey fast on its feet. Theroux bestows perhaps his greatest compliment of all to the journey itself: ``I knew I would go back, the way you went back to a museum, to look . . . and think.'' Never has he said that before. As satisfying as a glass of cool wine on a dusty Calabrian afternoon.

6) "River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze" by Peter Hessler

A two-year sojourn in a small city in central China yields this youthful, gracefully impressionistic portrait of a time and place from newcomer Hessler.

In 1996, Hessler reported for his Peace Corps duty to Fuling, a city of some 200,000 souls astride the murky Yangtze River, which cuts through the green and terraced mountains of Sichuan Province. This account is a chronicle of the author’s days in Fuling and of a brief summer interlude of travel farther afield. Hessler’s writing is unselfconsciously mellow, a lazy pace that works admirably in conjuring up Fuling as a place. There is the gentle knock of the croquet ball in the morning when the court below his window comes to life. There is this river city of steps pressed against hills; there are ridgelines cut with ancient calligraphy and pictographs that disappear under water during the rainy season. There are his students—a poignant, watershed generation who delight him to no end. Big things happen while he is in China (the Three Gorges Project is in full swing and Deng Xiaoping dies), but it is the everyday stuff that is so affecting. The surprise and unpredictability of the townsfolk catch him unawares more than once, he feels the sensitivity of being a foreigner, with all eyes upon him and little cultural abrasions everywhere: “Those were our Opium Wars—quiet and meaningless battles over Chinese and American history, fueled by indirect remarks and careful innuendo.” And he loves it, despite the dislocations and frustrations: even the creepy drinking bouts at banquets (“Every banquet has a leader, a sort of alcoholic alpha male”) and the relentless mocking of his foreignness by strangers (for, although the Peace Corps is no longer considered a running-dog outfit, foreigners are nonetheless seen as freaks) become sources of nostalgia after a while.

A vivid and touching tribute to a place and its people.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Popular Native American Author Book List

Want something to read? Check out this book list...

1) "Shadows Cast By Stars" by Catherine Knutsson

A post-apocalyptic debut breathes new life into a quickly flagging genre with its setting among the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

Even though they live in the Corridor, Cassandra Mercredi and her family have kept to the Old Way. When a new strain of the Plague that killed their mother emerges, she, her twin brother, Paul, and her father flee to the Island, where the Band clings to treaty lands. Métis, they are apart from the specific culture of the Island, but they are nevertheless Other, and their blood contains the only known cure for the Plague. Cass finds herself apprenticed to healer Madda and increasingly drawn to Bran, the son of the Island's vanished leader. She also experiences a terrifying connection to the Sisiutl, the serpent-spirit that dwells in the lake by her house. Knutsson's narrative is ambitious, twining together Pacific Northwest mythology, standard post-apocalyptic tropes and a coming-of-age story inflected with romance. Readers of Sherman Alexie'sThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will recognize the harsh realities portrayed, albeit within the science-fictional framework. Knutsson’s language is often atmospherically beautiful, but the story flounders at times, introducing unfulfilled subplots that may be foreshadowing for events in future volumes or simply red herrings.

Nevertheless, it's an absorbing read populated by characters hardly ever found in teen novels.(Science fiction. 12 & up)

2) "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heave" by Sherman Alexie

With wrenching pain and wry humor, the talented Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian--and previously a small-press author (The Business of Fancydancing, a collection of poetry and prose-- not reviewed--etc.)--presents contemporary life on the Spokane Indian Reservation through 22 linked stories. Here, people treat each other (and life) with amused tolerance--although anger can easily erupt in this environment of endemic alcoholism and despair. The history of defeat is ever- present; every attempt to hold onto cultural tradition aches with poignancy: Thomas-Builds-the-Fire is the storyteller everyone mocks and no one listens to; Aunt Nezzy, who sews a traditional full- length beaded dress that turns out to be too heavy to wear, believes that the woman ``who can carry the weight of this dress on her back...will save us all.'' Meanwhile, young men dream of escape--going to college, being a basketball star--but failure seems preordained. These tales, though sad and at times plain- spokenly didactic, are often lyrically beautiful and almost always very funny. Chapters focus on and are narrated by several different characters, but voices and perspectives often become somewhat indistinguishable--confusing until you stop worrying about who is speaking and choose to listen to the voice of the book itself and enter into its particular sensibility. Irony, grim humor, and forgiveness help characters transcend pain, anger and loss while the same qualities make it possible to read Alexie's fiction without succumbing to hopelessness. Forgiveness seems to be the last moral/ethical value left standing: the ability both to judge and to love gives the book its searing yet affectionate honesty.

3) "Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko

The central character of this haunting first novel by a Native American is a young World War II veteran, Tayo, born of a promiscuous Navajo mother and a nameless white father. He has retreated into mental illness from the horrors of the war against the Japanese in the Philippine jungles and is kept for a while in a Veterans hospital where his identity becomes as insubstantial as smoke. Released to his mother's family on a reservation in New Mexico, he is confronted once again with rejection for being part white and for the shame his now dead mother had brought to her kin. The novel traces his efforts to become whole again among a dispossessed people in an arid land where the ex-GIs drink up their disability checks to forget what the whites have taken from them. There are naturalistic scenes of skid row squalor in contrast to scenes of human dignity deriving from the folk traditions of the Navajo, with their deep respect for nature. As the story weaves back and forth between Tayo's past and present, it sometimes blurs a little, and readers may lose their bearings for a moment. But they will be rewarded, if they keep reading, with an emotionally convincing picture of a culture unfamiliar to most.

4) "Winter in the Blood" by James Welch

The narrator lives on a Montana reservation with his outspoken mother Teresa, her new husband Lame Bull, and memories of his father and brother Mose -- the latter killed at fourteen in an automobile accident so meaningless it permeates his life with its own kind of symbolism. He dreams about the woman people thought his wife -- a worthless Cree who stole his gun and an electric razor he couldn't use anyway because there's no electricity in his house. He helps his stepfather with the harvest. When he finally does get to town, a long car and bus ride away, it is to get drunk, walk in and out of strange bedrooms with women whose faces he doesn't remember, get beaten up for no good reason, and to accept drinks from white men whose lies are no more real than his own life. It is a world in which time passes in odd jerks -- the world of a drunk in which minutes stand out with stunning clarity but the days disappear -- all of which he accepts as naturally as the lack of money, discrimination, and the copped-out Indians who accept the governance of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the rigged tribal elections. A laconic, extremely naturalistic dialogue fits oddly well with a prose so spare it emerges on the far side of poetry. A very fine first novel.

5) "Love Medicine" by Louise Erdich

Called a novel, Erdrich's book of powerful stories interlocks the lives of two Chippewa families in North Dakota, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines (though some are Morrisseys too, and Nanapushes)--a tribal chronicle of defeat that ranges from 1934 to the present, Illegitimacy, alcoholism, prison, and aborted dreams of something better mark both clans; and the fluidity of exchange between them is echoed by poet Erdrich's loose, time-shifting approach--an oblique sort of narration that sometimes makes it difficult to remember who's who among the characters. Even when hard to follow, however, this web of stories keeps its theme vividly in focus: the magical haunting that reminds the various generations of the families of their basic identity. And, whether the haunting comes in the form of nightmares or supernatural powers, Erdrich convinces us that these people, sunk as low as imaginable, retain powers, the "love medicine" of the title. (When, astoundingly drunk, Gordie Kashpaw hits a deer on the road with his car, he drags it into the car, onto the backseat; the deer, merely stunned, awakens--and Gordie soon knows that the deer is also his dead ex-wife June, whom he must kill again. "Ears pricked, gravely alert, she gazed into the rearview and met Gordie's eyes. Her look was black and endless and melting pure. She looked through him. She saw into the troubled thrashing woods of him, a rattling thicket of bones. She saw how he'd woven his own crown of thorns. She saw how although he was not worthy he'd jammed this relief on his brow. Her eyes stared into some hidden place but blocked him out. Flat black.") Erdrich fuses mystery and violence, exaltation and deepest despair--so poetically that the rich prose sometimes clots. But, despite flaws and excesses, this is a notable, impressive book of first fiction: the unique evocation of a culture in severe social ruin, yet still aglow with the privilege and power of access to the spirit-world.

County Cat Link

6) "House Made of Dawn" by N. Scott Momaday

To call this first novel ""strongly lyrical"" and ""evocative,"" as the publishers do, though the description is an accurate one, may be to give it the kiss of death. We are probably more willing to admire this kind of ""fine"" naturalist writing (by a young American Indian, a poet and a scholar) than to really enjoy it. It is doubtless this part of the novel, however, including a section on eagle trapping and bear hunting, which drew praise from Yvor Winters as ""one of the great short pieces of prose in English."" The general theme of the book is the disintegration of a young ""longhair"" Indian named Abel who is unwilling and unable to adapt himself to the white man's 'notions of ""civilization."" Momaday's writing, when dealing not only with natural phenomena but with characters, is detailed and explicit (this includes the young man's sexual encounters) and one's sympathies are aroused in a general way but we remain, finally, uninvolved in his tragedy.

7) "Reservation Blues" by Sherman Alexie

With the same brilliant mix of dark humor, sorrow, and cultural awareness that distinguished The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), Alexie's first novel tells the bittersweet story of an all-Indian blues and rock-and-roll band. Thomas Builds-the-Fire is the Spokane Reservation's resident storyteller, but everyone there ignores him. Driving around one day, he happens upon legendary blues singer Robert Johnson, who says he's been drawn to the reservation by recurring dreams of Big Mom, an ancient, mysterious woman who lives in the clouds. Johnson, now claiming that he faked his death in 1938, believes that Big Mom alone can relieve the burden he acquired some 60 years ago when he made his famous deal ``at the crossroads'' with the devil. After Thomas leads Johnson to Big Mom, he inherits the singer's guitar. Touched by its power, he decides to form a blues band, recruiting a guitarist, a drummer, and two backup singers from Spokane and another nearby reservation. Their band, Coyote Springs, soon attracts attention from whites, including New Age groupies Betty and Veronica and Cavalry Records A&R men Sheridan and Wright, who appear to be the reincarnations (or did they ever die?) of notoriously ruthless 19th-century US Cavalry officers. Careening nearly out of control, Alexie's text playfully mixes past and present, fanciful dreams with the harsh reality of a tribe whose traditional livelihood is fishing and who are now stuck on land with dammed-up rivers. His razor wit is at its most poignant when dealing with Indian tradition, hope, and despair as his characters confront white religion and duplicity. All the while, Alexie successfully dances around culture-clash clichÇs in this fresh, vibrant modern fairy tale. Blues as biting, sharp and timeless as any by Robert Johnson or Bessie Smith.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Young Adult Novels To Look Out For Book List

Want a book that is new? Need something to look forward to? Check out this book list...

1) "Into the Dim" by Janet B. Taylor

Hope travels to Scotland to meet her deceased mother’s family and finds herself involved in time travel.

The remote Highlands manor house owned by her mother’s family turns out to be situated on an underground chamber that’s “something like a miniature wormhole.” Hope learns that her mother, thought killed in an earthquake, actually has been lost in 1154 London. Hope has a photographic memory and has easily memorized much of the history of the period and so needs little preparation for a trip to London in 1154 with companions Phoebe and Collum. Once there, she has little difficulty with the language but almost immediately becomes lost. She meets Rachel, a Jewish girl, severely persecuted in that time but who provides medicine to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Through Queen Eleanor, Hope finds her mother, but she also makes an immediate enemy of the powerful (and here villainous) Thomas à Becket. The group also dreams of finding the Nonius Stone, a large opal that will allow them to better control their time travels—and that a rival time-traveling group allied with Becket also wants the stone. Taylor’s adventure is fairly standard, but her depiction of 1154 is satisfyingly alien. Though she cuts linguistic and historical corners, she vividly describes the smelly, dirty, cold, and dangerous medieval period, lifting the book above the average.

Decent suspense with some painless history on the side. (Science fiction. 12-18)

2) "Lady Renegades" by Rachel Hawkins

Adolescent Alabama belles have taken on the magical powers of ancient Greek heroes and mystics, with complicated results. Now they try to resolve it all in this third installment of the Rebel Belle series.

Protagonist Harper, now a powerful Paladin fighter, begins the book by getting into a battle with another Paladin. Harper wins but is puzzled—she’s supposed to be the only one. She and her friend Bee, with help from former enemy Blythe, a powerful Mage, realize that the only force able to create new Paladins is David, Harper’s boyfriend and the powerful Oracle whom it’s Harper’s duty to protect. However, the new Paladins she continues to encounter tell her that David believes she will kill him. David is on the run, so Harper reluctantly teams up with Blythe, and the two head out into neighboring states to find him. Harper, however, has another problem: her Paladin powers seem to be fading. And why does David think she’s trying to kill him? Hawkins drives her plot forward while throwing in enough rival-girl and friendly-girl chatter to keep chick-lit fans engaged. If the ending relies heavily on deus ex machina, fans won’t mind. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the mostly paranormal-with-a-bit-of-romance tale, all done with a definitive emphasis on well-to-do white Southern culture.

Mythic adventure at the country club. (Paranormal suspense. 12-18)

Book Three of Three

3) "The Shadow Queen" by C.J. Redwine

“Snow White” forms the loose foundation for this tale of a princess who has lost her kingdom to her wicked stepmother.

Lorelai escaped when Irina killed her family and took over Ravenspire. Both Lorelai and Irina are magic-working mardushkas, but Irina is both strong and evil, using her talents to squeeze the kingdom for power and deliberately leaving her citizens to starve. Meanwhile, in nearby Eldr, populated by beings who can shift shape and become dragons, Kol suddenly becomes king when ogres invade. He turns to Irina for help, unaware that she is evil. Lorelai, who has been hiding, presumed dead, for years, meets Kol and the two form an alliance, despite Kol’s blood oath to kill her for Irina’s aid. The two sides fight back and forth as a predictable fairy-tale romance blossoms between them. Redwine includes some nicely imagined scenes, especially Irina’s use of poisoned apples and Lorelai’s telepathic pet gyrfalcon, which becomes perhaps the most interesting character in the book, with its bird’s worldview: “Kill overgrown lizard. Eat the eyes, tear out the heart,” it declares, seeing a dragon. The story drags when Redwine repeats herself, telling readers numerous times that if Lorelai uses magic, it will reveal her to Irina. For the most part, the story is a full-bore fantasy fairy tale with magic slung around with abandon and battles aplenty.

Undemanding fantasy fun. (Fantasy. 12-18)

4) "Morning Star" by Pierce Brown

Brown completes his science-fiction trilogy with another intricately plotted and densely populated tome, this one continuing the focus on a rebellion against the imperious Golds.

This last volume is incomprehensible without reference to the first two. Briefly, Darrow of Lykos, aka Reaper, has been “carved” from his status as a Red (the lowest class) into a Gold. This allows him to infiltrate the Gold political infrastructure…but a game’s afoot, and at the beginning of the third volume, Darrow finds himself isolated and imprisoned for his insurgent activities. He longs both for rescue and for revenge, and eventually he gets both. Brown is an expert at creating violent set pieces whose cartoonish aspects (“ ‘Waste ’em,’ Sevro says with a sneer” ) are undermined by the graphic intensity of the savagery, with razors being a favored instrument of combat. Brown creates an alternative universe that is multilayered and seething with characters who exist in a shadow world between history and myth, much as in Frank Herbert’s Dune. This world is vaguely Teutonic/Scandinavian (with characters such as Magnus, Ragnar, and the Valkyrie) and vaguely Roman (Octavia, Romulus, Cassius) but ultimately wholly eclectic. At the center are Darrow, his lover, Mustang, and the political and military action of the Uprising. Loyalties are conflicted, confusing, and malleable. Along the way we see Darrow become more heroic and daring and Mustang, more charismatic and unswerving, both agents of good in a battle against forces of corruption and domination. Among Darrow’s insights as he works his way to a position of ascendancy is that “as we pretend to be brave, we become so.”

An ambitious and satisfying conclusion to a monumental saga.

Book Three of Three

5) "Starflight" by Melissa Landers

A penniless girl and a wealthy boy, enemies, are stuck together on an outer-space journey.

Solara has no family, no connections, and knuckle tattoos advertising her criminal record. She wants to turn her mechanical skills into a vehicle for self-sufficient life in the outer realm, but that’s far from Earth, so she needs someone to hire her for the trip and pay her passage. Enter Doran, her high school nemesis, “heir to the galaxy’s largest fuel corporation [and] first-string varsity football star.” Glaringly visible genre tropes include the gruff, motley spaceship crew that becomes family; the pirates and purposely brain-damaged torturers in pursuit; the alternating-between-protagonists third-person narration; and the enmity between Solara and Doran that will obviously turn to lust and love. Despite a far-future time frame and outer-space setting, Landers’ worldbuilding leans on such earthly details as rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, milled cider, funnel cake, and a barn dance with fiddles (on a distant planet). There are no nonhumans or extraterrestrials, and there is little science or technology beyond the outer-space premise. The protagonists are white; their two brown-skinned shipmates (whose blond “dreadlocks” are mentioned again and again) are stereotypically angry. For multiple narrators, creativity, and suspense in outer space, see Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series and Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s Starbound series instead. (Science fiction/romance. 12-16)

6) "Riders" by Veronica Rossi

Bickering boys slouch toward something in this semi-apocalyptic action tale.

Feeling helpless after watching his father die, and longing for brotherhood and belonging, Gideon Blake joined the Army Rangers. When he falls from grace—and a plane—and temporarily dies, he returns as red-cuffed and rage-filled War, though he’s afraid of his fiery horse. Inexplicably abandoning his family and Ranger unit, he partners with hot but helpless Seeker Daryn on a road trip to collect the other horsemen: Sebastian/Famine, Marcus/Death, and Jode/Conquest. The seemingly interminable trip and Gideon’s painful flirtation with Daryn are punctuated by bloody encounters with the Kindred, seven former allies of Satan who now seek a realm and slaves of their own. Typical demonic villains, the Kindred are grotesque, ridiculously named, and prone to terrible dialogue. While God and spirituality are repeatedly mentioned, actual religion and Revelation are of little relevance here. Rossi relies on an interrogation as an intrusive framing device to explore all aspects of Gideon but leaves the fellow horsemen underdeveloped, though each boy gets to show off his weapon and steed. Gideon may not be great at flirting, leading the horsemen, controlling his temper, or horseback riding, but he will try to save the world with hooah and some hubris. (Fantasy. 14-20)

7) "The Great Hunt" by Wendy Higgins

When a vicious beast threatens the land, the royal family must make sacrifices to defeat the menace and save the people.

Something is rotten in the kingdom of Lachlanach. Tension simmers between commoners and the Lashed, who are barred by law from performing their magic. Birth rates around the kingdom are down. And, worst of all, a savage beast is making the rounds every night, killing all the men it encounters. In desperation, the king invites hunters from all neighboring lands to enter a contest—whoever slays the beast wins the hand of his eldest daughter, Princess Aerity, in marriage. But this hopeful solution grows complicated when Aerity grows fond of a specific hunter. The beast, too, is a surprise, as it turns out to be a different sort of creature than first assumed. Higgins has written a familiar yet compelling damsels-in-distress novel. A group of talented female hunters who are able to attract the respect of the men and the admiration of the women adds a welcome twist. The princess and her female relatives manage to exhibit a flare for coming through in emergencies, though they are perfectly willing to let the men do the heavy lifting when danger gets too close. As this book is the first in a duology, it fittingly ends with a cliffhanger.

An enjoyable-enough fantasy with a healthy sprinkling of romance. (Fantasy. 13-17)

8) "The Mirror King" by Jodi Meadows

Princess Wilhelmina “Wil” Korte returns to reclaim her kingdom in this sequel to The Orphan Queen (2015).

The action picks up where the last book’s ended: Crown Prince Tobiah of the Indigo Kingdom has been fatally wounded by Wil’s former ally. The intense opening sets a pace that never falters. Tobiah is saved, but his brush with death doesn’t deter him from attempting to fulfil his father’s dying wish that he marry Meredith, though his heart belongs to Wil. The many barriers between Wil and Tobiah are heartbreakingly real, making their romance that much more compelling. The most pressing concern though is the encroaching “wraith”—toxic magical residue that warps everything in its path. Wil finally makes it home to Aecor, her kingdom, but problems persist: her (well-founded) ever present fear that she won’t be a capable queen, her complex relationship with Tobiah, and how to battle the wraith, among others. Truths are revealed, sacrifices are made, nothing is easy—there are no cure-alls (magic has its price) or deus ex machina endings. This story’s the perfect length, and though it’s hard to say goodbye to lovable, flawed, strong Wil, such a well-crafted, enjoyable, and immersive story helps ease the pain. It is a crying shame that Wil—who’s self-described as brown-skinned—is whitewashed on the cover.

Here’s hoping for more tales set in this intriguing world. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

Book Two of Two

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day

Get ready to reduce, reuse and recycle, because Earth Day is here. Being environmentally conscious isn’t just for activists, and Earth Day is a great time to start thinking about ways that everyone can get involved in helping the planet.

Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.

On April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995)—the highest honor given to civilians in the United States—for his role as Earth Day founder.



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Science Fiction Books You Should Read Book List

Are you looking for a good science fiction book? Want something different? Check out this book list...

1) "Ancillary Justice" by Anne Leckie

In which a zombie imperialist space cop gets caught up in a complex plot to—well, this enjoyable sci-fi outing gets even more complicated than all that.

Those who have seen the film Event Horizon will remember that a starship that got caught up in a time-space-continuum eddy got all, well, weird—or, as its creator puts it, “[w]hen she crossed over, she was just a ship. But when she came back—she was alive!” Debut novelist Leckie’s premise dips into the same well, only her spaceship has become, over thousands of years, a sort-of human that is also a sort-of borg made up of interchangeable-parts-bearing dead people. Breq, aka One Esk, aka Justice of Toren, has his/her/its work cut out for him/her/it: There’s a strange plot afoot in the far-flung Radch, and it’s about to make Breq violate the prime directive, or whatever the Radchaai call the rule that says that multisegmented, ancillary humanoids are not supposed to shoot their masters, no matter how bad their masters might be. Leckie does a very good job of setting this complex equation up in not many pages, letting detail build on detail, as when Breq finds—well, let’s say “herself” for the moment—in an increasingly tangled conspiracy that involves the baddest guy of all, the even more multifaceted head honcho of the Radch. As the action picks up, one just knows there’s going to be some battering and bruising out on the shoulder of Orion.

Leckie’s novel cast of characters serves her well-plotted story nicely. This is an altogether promising debut.

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2) "Perdido Street Station" by China Mieville

Doorstopper steampunk fantasy from the author of King Rat (1999). In the stinking, teeming, rotting city of New Crobuzon, magic, science, and alchemy all work. Humans, aliens, sentient floor-mops, and other entities even more bizarre maintain an uneasy coexistence; criminals may be sentenced to have their heads grafted on to coal-burning machines. Overweight, talented but erratic scientist Isaac—his girlfriend is a khepri, with the red-skinned body of human female and a head resembling a huge scarab—accepts the flying humanoid Yagharek as a client. Yagharek, having had his wings hacked from his body as punishment for a crime Isaac cannot comprehend, desperately yearns to fly again. Isaac considers the magical grafting of new wings, or mechanical devices to reproduce flight. To assist his research, he gathers samples of every imaginable creature capable of flight—including a mysterious giant caterpillar that feeds only on “dreamshit,” a weird new drug that’s ravaging the city. Finally, Isaac makes a scientific breakthrough in the field of crisis energy, but, meanwhile, the caterpillar matures and escapes. The creature, a slake-moth, frees others of its kind kept by the hideous gangster Motley as a source of the drug. The slake-moths are desperately hard to kill and, with their hypnotic powers, feed by consuming dreams, leaving their victims mindless drooling hulks. Soon the city quakes in terror. Somehow the slake-moths must be destroyed—but even the devil himself declines to assist. . . .

Earthy, sometimes outright disgusting—imagine finding your toilet blocked up by diamonds—but, amazingly in a book of this length, flawlessly plotted and relentlessly, stunningly inventive: a conceptual breakthrough of the highest order.

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3) "Red Rising" by Pierce Brown

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

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4) "Spin" by Robert Charles Wilson

Another character-oriented, surpassingly strange SF yarn from the ever-reliable author of , most recently, Blind Lake (2003).

As ten-year-old Tyler Dupree sits with his friends Jason and Diane Lawton in the back yard of their Big House near Washington, DC, the stars go out. The “sun” that rises the next day is but an image: a barrier now encloses the Earth, generated by huge artifacts hovering over the poles. Weirder yet, time passes one hundred million times more swiftly outside the barrier, so that the sun itself may last only another 40 subjective years. Tyler becomes a doctor; Diane, with whom Tyler is never quite able to develop a satisfactory relationship, marries apocalyptic cultist Simon Townsend; Jason, a brilliant scientist, founds the Perihelion Center in Florida to research the effects of the Spin, as it becomes known. Later, Jason develops an incurable form of multiple sclerosis and asks Tyler, now his personal physician, to conceal the illness from the public and his staff. The staggering time differential turns out to have certain advantages: the terraforming of Mars, for instance, takes only a subjective year or two, and a handful of intrepid colonists rapidly develop an advanced civilization—before another barrier appears around Mars. A visitor from Mars, Wun Ngo Wen, brings advanced knowledge and medical techniques—they may save Jason’s life—together with a plan to seed the distant, iceball-filled Kuiper Belt with slow-growing, living machines capable of investigating the activities of the so-called Hypotheticals. Others, however, suspect Wun has a hidden agenda.

A far-fetched yet fascinating time-odyssey that pushes the envelope in every direction.

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5) "Daemon" by Daniel Suarez

Computer programs left behind by a dying inventor of video games spread dark mischief around the world, pitting gamers and enabled losers against the most powerful government agencies and businesses, with the geeks holding the best hands.

How do you really mess things up after you’re dead: tricky wills? entailments? trusts? Posthumous legal meddling is so last millennium. The modern way to carry out your wishes is to use a daemon, a computer program that lies dormant until other factors set it in motion. That’s precisely what mastermind Matthew Sobol did. Before he died of brain cancer, Sobol perfected a brilliant string of programming instructions that soon begin to claim victims. The first are a couple of high-level employees at CyberStorm, the Southern California corporation that controls and distributes Sobol’s hugely popular games. Detective Sergeant Peter Sebeck of the Ventura County sheriff’s department quickly learns (without exactly understanding how) that newspaper headlines can activate the Daemon, which throws switches that electrocute and decapitate. Seback and a growing number of state and federal forces follow the forensics to the late inventor’s mansion, which is murderously booby-trapped with a robotic Hummer and gasoline-spewing sprinkler heads. It becomes evident that Sobol’s Internet games are a herd of Trojan horses. When the Daemon turns on Sebeck and sticks him with the blame for this mess, the officer’s only backers are a brilliant NSA scientist and a Russian-born gamer.

Originally self-published, Suarez’s not-just-for-gamers debut is a stunner, with an ending that promises sequels to come.

6) "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

An ambitious scientific experiment wreaks horrendous toll in the Booker-winning British author’s disturbingly eloquent sixth novel (after When We Were Orphans, 2000).

Ishiguro’s narrator, identified only as Kath(y) H., speaks to us as a 31-year-old social worker of sorts, who’s completing her tenure as a “carer,” prior to becoming herself one of the “donors” whom she visits at various “recovery centers.” The setting is “England, late 1990s”—more than two decades after Kath was raised at a rural private school (Hailsham) whose students, all children of unspecified parentage, were sheltered, encouraged to develop their intellectual and especially artistic capabilities, and groomed to become donors. Visions of Brave New World and 1984 arise as Kath recalls in gradually and increasingly harrowing detail her friendships with fellow students Ruth and Tommy (the latter a sweet, though distractible boy prone to irrational temper tantrums), their “graduation” from Hailsham and years of comparative independence at a remote halfway house (the Cottages), the painful outcome of Ruth’s breakup with Tommy (whom Kath also loves), and the discovery the adult Kath and Tommy make when (while seeking a “deferral” from carer or donor status) they seek out Hailsham’s chastened “guardians” and receive confirmation of the limits long since placed on them. With perfect pacing and infinite subtlety, Ishiguro reveals exactly as much as we need to know about how efforts to regulate the future through genetic engineering create, control, then emotionlessly destroy very real, very human lives—without ever showing us the faces of the culpable, who have “tried to convince themselves. . . . That you were less than human, so it didn’t matter.” That this stunningly brilliant fiction echoes Caryl Churchill’s superb play A Number and Margaret Atwood’s celebrated dystopian novels in no way diminishes its originality and power.

A masterpiece of craftsmanship that offers an unparalleled emotional experience. Send a copy to the Swedish Academy.

7) "Reamde" by Neal Stephenson

Who lives by the joystick dies by the joystick: Noir futurist Stephenson (Anathem, 2008, etc.) returns to cyberia with this fast-moving though sprawling techno-thriller.

Richard Forthrast is a middle-aged videogame tycoon with a problem on his hands: Bad guys have figured out a way to hack his new shooter splatfest with a virus that “took advantage of a buffer overflow bug in Outlook to inject malicious code into the host operating system and establish root-level control of the computer.” Richard has other problems, some big enough to pose a threat to the world currency market. Eek! Fortunately, nepotism be damned, he’s hired his adopted niece to do a little consulting, and she turns out to have the wherewithal to give Geena Davis and Uma Thurman a run for the money in the hot-chicks-with-mad-ninja-skills department. Young Zula has solid possibilities. For one thing, she’s babelicious, “black/Arab with an unmistakable hint of Italian.” For another, she’s got dual degrees in geology and computer science, which come in very handy when she has to scale impenetrable mountains on the hunt for renegade computer jocks. A bonus: She’s quick to learn her way around a shotgun, and her boyfriend isn’t too shabby, either, even though they have a habit of getting into bad predicaments: “As minutes went by and the novelty of being on a private jet wore off, Zula began to understand the same thing that Peter did, which was that they were not meant to get out of this alive.” There are bad guys aplenty, and they’re more diverse than an IHOP menu: There are Russians and Chinese, mutually distrustful, and a small army of very bad jihadists, the kind who give good Muslims a bad name. There are hackers and counterhackers, spies versus spies. And then there are Richard’s kinfolk, the Brothers Karamazov with heavy weapons.

Who’ll prevail? We don’t know till the very end, thanks to Stephenson’s knife-sharp skills as a storyteller. An intriguing yarn—most geeky, and full of satisfying mayhem.

8) "Blindsight" by Peter Watts

Alien-contact tale in which humans are at least as weird as the aliens.

Eighty years from now, denizens of Earth become aware of an alien presence when the sky fills with bursts of light from dying Fireflies, tiny machines that signal to a supergiant planet far beyond the edge of the solar system. With orders to investigate, the vessel Theseus carries an artificial intelligence as its captain, along with expedition leader Jukka Sarasti, a brooding, sociopathic and downright scary vampire; Isaac Szpindel, a biologist so mechanized he can barely feel his own skin; the Gang of Four, a schizophrenic linguist; curiously passive warrior Major Amanda Bates; and observer-narrator Siri Keeton, a synthesist with half a brain (the remainder destroyed by a virus) enhanced by add-ons and advanced algorithms. They meet a huge alien vessel that calls itselfRorschach and talks eagerly but says nothing of consequence. Indeed, the Gang of Four suspects that the alien voice isn’t truly sentient at all. As Keeton begins to hallucinate, Sarasti orders a team to break into the alien vessel despite its lethal radiation levels. Still unable to decide whether the aliens are hostile, Sarasti devises a plan to capture one of the creatures that apparently thrive within Rorschach’s peculiar environment. They succeed in grabbing two specimens. These scramblers, dubbed Stretch and Clench, resemble huge, bony, multi-limbed starfish. They have no brains but show evidence of massive information-processing capability, which brings Theseus’ crew to the crucial question: Can intelligence exist without self-awareness?

Watts (ßehemoth: Seppuku, 2005, etc.) carries several complications too many, but presents nonetheless a searching, disconcerting, challenging, sometimes piercing inquisition.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Books that Should Be Made Into Movies Book List

Want to read some books good enough that they should be on the silver screen? Check out this book list...

1) "City of Ashes" by Cassandra Clare

In City of Bones (2007), normal teenager Clary discovered she was a Shadowhunter, long-lost daughter of murdering megalomaniac Valentine—and therefore the sister of her new boyfriend Jace. Now she’s caught up in the dangerous politics of the Downworld, where Jace is suspected of treason, non-human kids are being ritually murdered and best friend Simon is transforming into a werewolf. Clary must protect Simon, save Jace from a vindictive Downworlder Inquisitor, prevent Valentine from building an unstoppable demon army and fight her undiminished passion for Jace. The prose is exceedingly purple: Eyes are always paint chips, black pits or jewels in a spider’s web; ichor-leaking demons have voices like shattering glass; fairies have hair like autumn leaves or poison green skin. But this action-packed tale uses melodrama and florid descriptions to good effect, crafting emotional tension and heart-wrenching romantic dramas. Readers of urban fantasy will devour this deliciously overwrought adventure. Despite hints that Jace’s parentage is in question, the incestuous overtones might be too disturbing for some. (Fantasy. YA)

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2) "Evermore" by Alyson Noel

Shallow stock characters barely mar the breathless allure of this formulaic supernatural romance, the first in the Immortals series, though feeble explanations wreck the ending. Ever (her very name a clue to immortality) lives the life of the wealthy in Orange County. Sister Riley visits daily in ghost form, having died with their parents in an accident that Ever perplexingly survived. Deluged by everyone’s thoughts and auras, Ever wears hoodies and iPod earbuds as shelter from psychic clamor, until mysterious hottie Damen silences it. This genre’s core ingredients are all present: a new school, paranormal events the heroine doesn’t understand and a deadly enemy fought by an irresistible, possibly-dangerous boy. Ever’s vernacular voice (description via negation: “it’s not like I haven’t had my hand touched before”) and amorous fixation will gratify romance fans. However, Noël’s metaphysics makes no sense. Manifestations are “simple quantum physics,” Ever is murdered lifetime after lifetime but escapes this time due to the serial murderer’s “lack of love” and the narrative never explains the prime ontological poser of how Ever reincarnates with a new body and consciousness yet remains herself. (aura color chart) (Fantasy. YA)

3) "The Summoning" by Kelley Armstrong

After seeing a ghost in her school, Chloe Saunders arrives at the Lyle House, a home for troubled teens, but specters keep surfacing, causing her to question both her sanity and supposedly safe surroundings. Readers of Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series for adults will recognize a familiar landscape, occupied by a strong female narrator and tightly drawn supernaturals. Revelations come at a wonderfully measured pace, pulling readers deep into Chloe’s psyche and a world where necromancers, werewolves and sorcerers struggle with humanity. All the Lyle House teens grapple with emerging supernatural powers, but the narrative discloses little, keeping readers guessing at their conditions until the heart of the novel. Difficult supernatural transformations align perfectly with teen experiences; after all, uncontrollable bodily changes and a fearful recognition of one’s own power both comprise the scary journey to adulthood. Terrifying ghosts, smatterings of gore and diverse teen voices will prompt young adults to pick up the next in this series. Armstrong’s nail-biter ending will, too: A failed escape attempt leaves Chloe imprisoned and attracted to two supernatural brothers. Teen readers might scream loud enough to raise the dead.(Fiction. 14 & up)

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4) "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray

Had Gemma but known what occult horrors would await her, would she still have wanted to leave India? Sixteen-year-old Gemma is sent to her long-desired London when her mother commits suicide. In a terrifying vision, she sees her mother attacked by a vile supernatural force. Would revelation of her own strange mental powers cause more scandal than her mother’s outré death? A sexy but suspicious young man has followed Gemma from India, and cryptically warns her to muffle her visions. Such constraint seems the goal of Gemma’s proper finishing school as well. With corsets, deportment lessons, and rules, Spence Academy shapes prim young ladies. But the seemingly proper girls of Spence reveal various sexualities, passions, and hopes that strain the seams of their strict Victorian education. Mysterious continued visions, dark family secrets, and a long-lost diary thrust Gemma and her classmates back into the horrors that followed her from India. A Gothic touched by modern conceptions of adolescence, shivery with both passion and terror. (Fiction. YA)

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5) "The Iron King" by Julie Kagawa

Paranormal romance in the style of Melissa Marr and Cassandra Clare. Meghan Chase loves her family, but she doesn’t love living on a pig farm in the Louisiana swamps. At least she’s got one friend—spindly prankster Robbie Goodfell. On Meghan’s 16th birthday, everything changes: Her four-year-old brother is replaced by a changeling, and Robbie admits he is a faery (Puck, of course). Robbie escorts Meghan into the Nevernever on a dangerous rescue mission, where she unsurprisingly discovers she is more than your everyday bayou schoolgirl. Good thing she’s got a crew of helpers: Puck, who seems awfully affectionate; Grimalkin, a vanishing cat with motives of his own; and Ash, an Unseelie prince of cold, unearthly beauty. Though Kagawa’s faeryland initially appears decorated with the stock set dressing of the genre, the novel’s eponymous villain adds a clever, unexpected twist. Genre fans won’t be disappointed, and surely the rest of the series will reveal the truly important answer: Team Ash or Team Robbie? (Paranormal romance. 12-14)

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6) "Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr

This steamy faery story reads like a torrid girl’s fantasy and will produce some swoons. Aislinn’s spent her life terrified of the faeries (“fey”) all around her, invisible to other humans. They smack and trip each other, leer and wound; to remain safe, she can’t let them know she sees. Her only safe space is inside the funky train-car home of sexy friend Seth. Fey can’t enter because steel hurts them—or does it? The old rules are changing. Two faeries stalk Aislinn, paying unprecedented and disturbing personal attention. Readers know early that Aislinn’s destined to become a faerie monarch and rule as Summer Queen beside Keenan, the Summer King, whom readers may find obnoxious or dreamy. Marr’s consistent labeling of the situation as a “game” doesn’t match the dire possibilities: The earth will freeze if Aislinn isn’t Summer Queen, but she wants to live a regular life, including college, cell phones and tattoos. Meanwhile, it’s Keenan’s job to woo Aislinn, but his old love (currently the lonely holder of winter’s chill) may die if he’s successful. Overlong wish-fulfillment, but enjoyably sultry. (Fantasy. YA)

7) "Blue Bloods" by Melissa de la Cruz

A juicy, voyeuristic peek into the lives of rich Manhattanites—who happen to be vampires. As shown by a diary in a handwritten font, vampires came to this country on the Mayflower. In contemporary Manhattan, the ensemble of protagonists attends an elite prep school. They’re old souls, because vampires return in new shells (bodies) indefinitely; however, until mid-adolescence, they don’t know it. Fifteen-year-old Schuyler, intelligent and vaguely Goth, has no idea she’s a vampire. Neither does Bliss, newly arrived from Texas. Mimi and Jack, glamorously haughty twins with a suspicious bond, already know the scoop; the adults know too. The others are meant to learn slowly and keep strictly to the Code (for example, never suck so much blood that a human dies). Name-brand clothing and luxuries abound, but a mysterious danger lurks: Someone is killing the supposedly immortal. Schuyler’s destiny is to bring the vampires—cast out of heaven with Lucifer—back into a state of grace, but her immediate goal for the next installment is to find the murderer. Delightfully trashy. (Fantasy. YA)

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