Thursday, November 1, 2012

After-Halloween Reviews

In case you didn't get enough scare on Halloween (or courtesy of Sandy), we have a few titles for you to check out while you still have electricity:

With a few books I have read lately, I have been hopeful that there would be a sequel. Sometimes, however, it is just nice to have a complete story from beginning to end. I'm beginning to feel like publishers just won't print anything of the sort, as evidenced by these first two. I enjoyed both quite thoroughly, until I came to the last chapter or two, and it became clear things were not going to be wrapped up any time soon. Having said that, I do wholeheartedly recommend all three of these:

Don't Turn Around

review copy from publisher

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.
Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa's talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms.
But what Noa and Peter don't realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who'd stop at nothing to silence her for good.

Not knowing what is going on with your own body/life, discovering the everyone-is-out-to-get you feeling isn't paranoia after all: definitely scary. Good, solid writing, fast-moving plot, enough predictability to make you feel smart, enough surprises to keep you riveted, and the tech-speak was just enough to make everything plausible to my non-techie brain. A good one to hand to teens who want something that isn't fantasy or future, or to adults who don't yet realize YA fiction is so much better than the pulp that is published for them.

Ordinary Magic

borrowed from library

I was so looking forward to this one, and was very happy with the way it met my expectations. In Abby's world, those with magical abilities are the normal ones, and those without - 'Ords' - are shunned. The youngest of a family that includes some pretty gifted members, the discovery that she is an 'ord' is shattering. Unlike many ords, whose families dispose of them as quickly as possible, Abby's parents and siblings are fiercely protective and supportive of her. This does not change the way the rest of society sees her, however, or the fact that she needs to learn how to cope in a world where everything is stacked against her. Scary? You betcha.

The basic premise, and many comments throughout, reminded me of the way people with mental and physical disabilities are treated throughout the world. Rubino-Bradway does an excellent job, however, of expressing the unfairness and hurt without losing the book's comfortable, middle-grade appeal. Any images of Nazi social policies came into my mind strictly from other parts of that same organism! Abby is both charming and real, as are the other characters - human and other. I would have liked to see this wrap up at the end, yes, but I am also looking forward to getting to know everyone - even the 'bad guys' - better.

Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead

review copy from publisher

Are zombies big in your house? Because, they are HUGE in mine. When S. turned 2, she told our physician that her favorite food was brains. We own several zombie survival guides, and didn't bat an eye when L. started gbawing on people the second he got teeth. M. has a bumper sticker that says, "The hardest part about the zombie apocalypse will be pretending I'm not excited." As you can see, we are a little confused as to which side we are on.

I am constantly referring people to Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, which intersperses its vampires-could-be-real storyline with examples from nature. You can imagine my excitement, then, when this gem came in the mail!

Each chapter of this - yes, nonfiction - book starts with a zombie trait: "Stares vacantly ahead. Moves slowly and mechanically. Behaves oddly." It then proceeds to outline how a particular fungus or parasite can create this trait in its host.

Warning: THIS BOOK IS REALLY GROSS. It's not sensationalized, it's good, straightforward science: but, boy, is it straightforward! Two pages into Chapter One, I was done eating for the day. A few more pages, and I was looking for the hand sanitizer, and I hate that stuff! I could barely bring myself to touch the pages of the book as I read. Why didn't I stop reading, you ask? Hello!!! Zombies! Real ones! Utterly fascinating, just...really, really gross!

I'll leave you with that. Be happy I didn't leave you with an image of a zombified carpenter ant with a spore stalk slowly growing out of its head.


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