Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thin Space - Jody Casella

Three months ago Marshall and Austin, identical twin brothers, were in a really bad car accident.  Marshall survived while Austin did not.  Two months ago their elderly neighbor Mrs. Hansel passed away.  Whenever Marshall and Austin helped Mrs. Hansel she would talk about thin spaces.  Thin spaces are barriers between our world and the other side.  They are created where a person first came into the world and passed on to the next.  Marshall walks around barefoot everywhere trying to find a thin space so he can see his brother one last time.  He knows there is one in Mrs. Hansel's old house, but with a new family moving in it will be hard to get in.  He befriends Maddie, the new girl, so he can get into her house.  Maddie doesn't know what to think as she's heard how strange he is from her brother Sam and his friends.  Once he gains entry he walks over to where Mrs. Hansel died.  He is disappointed to find no thin space there.  When Maddie sees him trying to find the thin space he explains to her what he trying to find.  Maddie understands what he trying to find, but is still trying to wrap her head around everything.  The next day at school Logan, Marshall's girlfriend, tells him they need to talk.  They head to a coffee shop where they talk about everything that has gone on since the accident.  On the way home they see Maddie walking barefoot trying to find thin spaces where people died.  They take her home, and he's worried about her since he's been going around barefoot for the last few months trying to find thin spaces.  The next day Kate, Austin's girlfriend, tries to talk to Marshall and he blows her off.  Brad, a jock, then comes over and starts a fight with Marshall.  Marshall receives a four day suspension for fighting.  He does a lot of thinking over the first three days.  On the fourth day he patches things up with Maddie.  She has been researching the history of thin spaces, and wants to help Marshall see his brother one last time. 

This was a very good story about the loss of one person affects everyone around them.  I really liked the whole idea behind the thin spaces.  Most of us have those people who have passed away that we would like to see one last time.  

T.B. 12/26/13

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentray Canal

This is a journey of a different kind. Yes, much of the book was about gross stuff, but it was seriously interesting. Roach truly is the funniest, best science writer I've ever had the pleasure to read. Roach has a way of taking you along this field trip asking all the questions that you know you wouldn't have the guts to ask, of the professionals who are passionate about your gastrointestinal tract.  
 We're basically an evolved digestive system. The alimentary canal is the core of the man-beast. It creates our energy & all the rest of the body is simply a way to spread the wealth & get a return investment to feed it more efficiently. She also explores the similarities & differences between our digestive system & that of herbivores a bit.
  If you've ever had a colonoscopy, constipation, heartburn, or were interested in medicine or history, this book is for you. Mary Roach did an excellent job of presenting the alimentary canal to the non-medically educated reader. As always her eye and ear for the interesting, bizarre, and absurd make wonderful reading.

RPA 12/21/2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shifter - Kim Curran

Scott is hanging out with his friends at an abandoned church.  To prove he is cool Scott decides to climb to the Pylon.  The Pylon used to supply electricity to the church and is supposedly turned off.  As Scott climbs it looks like he will make it and then his world goes black.  He is lying face up on the concrete outside the Pylon.  Aubrey is standing over him asking if he is a shifter.  He doesn't know what she's talking about.  Aubrey then takes him to a casino and explains he has the power to undo choices and create a new reality around him.  She tells Scott about the government agency in charge of the shifters called ARES.  She also tells him about the SLF, who thinks shifters should be allowed to do what they want and not be governed by rules.  When ARES shows up unannounced they head back to Aubrey's place.  As Scott falls asleep on her couch he thinks about choices he's made and wakes up on concrete.  He has shifted to a reality where his sister Katie was killed in a car accident.  He finds Aubrey in this reality and then ARES shows up looking for him.  They agree to help him undo the shift he's done as long as he agrees to join ARES.  Scott shifts again and everything goes back to the way it should be.  He explains to his parents that a special government program wants him in it.  He calls ARES and says he'll join.  He tells Aubrey he's joining ARES, and then tells his parents it is a fast track IT program.  The next day he heads to ARES headquarters to begin his training.  After the first day he is told he's one of the most powerful shifters to come through ARES.  Over the next few months his training continues.  One day on the way to the Tube he picks up a penny.  This decision leads him to be on the Tube when a bomb goes off.  He shifts to where he is on  the platform and not on the Tube when it explodes.  As Scott is recovering in the hospital the news is saying it was a suicide bomber.  ARES thinks the SLF are involved somehow.  As ARES tries to piece together what happened, Scott thinks there is more behind this than ARES is letting on. 

I enjoyed this book.  It was a fun read and reminded me of Fair Coin by E.C. Myers, which is also about different realities and choices that shape those realities.  This book is a really good story to start this series.  The second book in the series is called Control which came out in August of 2013.  There will be a third book called Delete, and the only information on the author's website says it is coming soon.  I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Pluto by Urasaw Tezuka

Much in the later future, robots walk among humans. Some as military, others as civilians with jobs, even androids fitting into human society. Everyone is treated equal, or so everyone thought. A killing spread, the assassin targeting big robot figures had happen and it's up to a robot officer to figure out what and why is this occurring. With only a few clues at his disposal and "Pluto" the only thing being related to this atrocity, Gesicht will find out the things he had been suppressing all his life.

The art it's beautiful and has great story telling. A story that will make you stick to it to the very end.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Torn by Erica O'Rourke

So, this is a supernatural romance/adventure.  Its hard not to compare, just a little, to Twilight.  A twit of a girl with two love interests, but Mo turns out not to be as light weight as Bella.  I would never have made it through this book otherwise.  Mo's best friend is killed by really scary other world beings and Mo was witness.  She has vowed to avenge her friend's death even before she really knows what is going on.  Luc eventually fills her in reluctantly as she gets in the way of  supernatural activity that is spilling over into the flat world.  Flat meaning without magic.  There is a powerful ring involved and a destiny to be a vessel to stop a torrent of evil.  It had been thought that Verity would be the vessel to stop the evil torrent.  With her gone it must be stopped some other way and that turns out to involve Mo and nearly cost her her life.  She is a very determined, self sacrificing person which makes her likeable for me.  Luc is similarly likeable and they both mature considerably on the way to the final pages.  Collin, the other guy is never as strong a character as Luc and Mo.  There is room for a sequel here.There is a discussion guide at the end of this book that bring out some issues to think about.  Its a good idea to read these issues even if you don't discuss with anyone.  JDW 12/13

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This novel creates what could best be described as a young adult version of the hit show Criminal Minds. As the first book in what will hopefully be a series, it not only sets the stage for all of the characters, but throws them into a captivating murder mystery that tests all of their talents.

Cassie has the ability to profile people - she can spend a few minutes with a person and figure out their inner workings. While she doesn't advertize her abilities, it catches the attention of people that can benefit from what she does - the FBI. Special Agent Briggs runs a special group of "agents" who are teens with special abilities like Cassie known as the "Naturals." Michael and Lia are good at reading emotions with Lia specializing in lies. Sloane knows numbers and statistics while Dean is a profiler like Cassie. Together they go through cold cases, hoping to pick up things the FBI missed. While Cassie brought into the group and learning her way, Briggs and another agent, Locke, pick up an active serial killer case. It's a tough one that has them stumped, which peaks the interest of the teens who think they can help. As Cassie looks over the current case, she is eerily reminded of her mother's murder, which she is convinced is connected to this murderer. The killer then starts targeting Cassie. Can she help solve this mystery or will she become the killer's next victim?

Since this is what I assume to be the beginning of a series, a good portion of the book sets up the backgrounds of the characters and gets Cassie acquainted with the program. In no way does this slow the story down because everyone is interesting. Of course there is also the love triangle between Cassie, Michael, and Dean - all of whom have complicated histories that make them complex characters. In terms of the mystery, it is intriguing how the characters get into the mind of the UNSUB to figure out who did it. A nice twist at the end heightens the drama, creating a captivating story. This book, though, is as much about the characters as it is the mystery. It's a quick read that pulls you in and makes you not want to put it down.

This is an enjoyable book that is very character driven, but still a great mystery. I look forward to the next case.

Counting By 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Characters are Willow, genius with a very positive attitude, Dell inept school counselor, Mai and Quang-Ha real friends of Willow though older, their mother Pattie, Jairo the Mexicano Taxi driver, Saduh and Cheddar the Cat. Setting is somewhere in southern California.  Willow is a misfit in school, she is way to smart and serious for the average middle schooler. But, she has her garden which is spectacular, understanding parents, a lot of determination. When she takes a standardized test and gets a perfect score she ends up in counseling for cheating. Dell is largely inept as a counselor but he recognizes genius when he sees it and winds up a friend of sorts for Willow. Quang-Ha is also being unsuccessfully counseled by Dell. Willow and Quang-Ha and Mai his sister aren't supposed to meet but they do. Willow recognizes a fellow genius and quickly makes friends of Mai, her first friend actually. Quang-Ha finds a way to use Willow's genius to his advantage and slowly becomes less of a trouble maker. Tragically both Willow's parents are killed in a car accident. Family services wants to place Willow in a locked residency for troubled teens till a permanent placement (adoption) can be found. Willow knows she cannot survive this. She calls on Mai to help keep her out of there. Mai enlists her mom Pattie. This family's living situation is unusual to say the least, not something family services would approve of. So, with the help of Dell and Jairo an acceptable living environment is created using Dell's apartment and sending him to live with Saduh. They do succeed in getting temporary placement of Willow and eventually even better. There are a lot of near disasters along the way but this odd group of people become true family and everyone is thriving in the end, at least for now... I was happy to see some good capable adults (Pattie, Jairo) in this story, even though Dell is a bit of a stereotypical adult in teen novel. I have a hard time thinking of a teen or tween who would be attracted to this quirky story. Maybe readers of Holes or Hoot or Walk Two Moons would enjoy this. Certainly it will take a reader who understands and appreciates intelligence. By the way, counting by 7's isn't some freaky obsession, its just something Willow happens to enjoy! And when she cannot enjoy this the reader knows how deeply sad she is. This story is worth reading. JDW 12/4/13