Tag Archive | environment

Ancient One, by T.A. Barron (book review) – forest & livelihood both in peril

book cover of The Ancient One by T.A. Barron published by Puffin | recommended on BooksYALove.comA vanished people,
towering trees of mystery,
a chance to save the world…

Now out in paperback for its 25th anniversary, Merlin Saga author T.A. Barron’s tale of a young teen striving to complete a perilous quest even as she mourns her parents’ deaths is an adventure and a celebration of the interconnectedness of life, as it weaves together old secrets, ancient peoples, time travel, and an evil bent upon conquering the world.

When have you stood strong against wrong?

Book info: The Ancient One / T.A. Barron. Puffin Books, 2016 (paperback); Philomel Books, 1992. [author site]  [publisher site]  [author video about book] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: At her aunt’s Oregon home, grieving teen Kate helps Aunt Melanie try to stop out-of-work loggers from destroying a newly discovered redwood grove and is hurtled back in time to meet nature beings and Native peoples who are struggling to prevent an evil force from overtaking their world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Pills and Starships, by Lydia Millet (book review) – climate change, drugs, and lies

book cover of Pills and Starships by Lydia Millet published by Akashic BooksToo sad to keep on living in a climate chaotic world,
her parents have chosen their time to die…
or is it the pharma talking?

Nat’s mom and dad – former environmental activists – could have waited just a few more years to invoke the Service Contract ending their lives, till the teen and her younger brother moved out as workers – why now?

In this too-possible dystopia, global warming has changed weather patterns, babies are now illegal, and new diseases mutating weekly make face-to-face contact rare.

Ask for Nat’s story at your local library or independent bookstore to see if she can find a way to keep her family together once she discovers the truths that pharma-corps are trying to hide. (I loved the book, but its title… not so much)


Book info: Pills and Starships / Lydia Millet. Black Sheep/Akashic Books, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [author interview on NPR]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Preparing to honor her parents’ final week of life, Nat learns that big money uses pharma to trick the few remaining Americans into thinking that global warming has eliminated the entire natural world.

At a tropical resort devoted to final Contracts, the teen and her hackerkid brother discover real plants and animals and people who think for themselves.  Are pharma-corporations really lying to the public about imminent doomsday?

Her decision about joining the rebels must come soon, as her parents’ date with a lethal farewell drink in mere days will leave Nat and Sam in a group survivors’ home in Oregon – are her parents really sad enough about the state of the world to leave it forever?

When a mega-hurricane hurtles toward Hawai’i, will it be too late to rescue her not-old parents and not-old-enough brother?

Addressed to an imagined friend safely orbiting this climate-chaos world, Nat reflects in the Contract-provided mourning journal about Starships and Pills  and her unexpected opportunity to escape pharma-managed life… if she can. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Sunrise, by Mike Mullin (book review) – bandits outside the walls, challenges within

book cover of Sunrise by Mike Mullin published by TanglewoodLeadership is needed,
Hope is required,
Young people must prevail or die.

The final volume in the Ashfall Trilogy is a blockbuster! Alex and Darla have survived cannibals, bandits, the US government, and near-starvation in Ashfall  (my review here) and Ashen Winter (my review here).

Now they must organize citizens against an oncoming threat or decide to leave the townspeople to their own fate… what a burden for kids just old enough to drive.

Full disclosure: I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book since I won the right to name a character in it through the Authors for Henryville auction which raised money to rebuild school libraries after the 2012 tornado there. The character who shares my husband’s name in Sunrise is somewhat like him (not always the case where naming rights are involved – thank you, Mike); no spoiler to tell you that he dies, because many, many people die in the perpetual winter brought on by the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption, so I’m tangentially in the book as his widow.

I just discovered Darla’s Story eBook,  told from her point of view,  paralleling Alex’s narrative in Ashfall  from the supervolcano eruption to their meeting on her Iowa farm under perilous circumstances (makes this a trilogy with 3.5 books).

How well would you survive a frozen future?

Book info: Sunrise (Ashfall Trilogy, book 3) / Mike Mullin. Tanglewood Press, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  After a year of perpetual winter, Alex and Darla face tough choices when his uncle’s farm suddenly fills with townspeople who think the armed bandit attack is a one-time problem.

Everyone is tired of subsisting on kale and frozen pork, but when refugees flood Uncle Paul’s Illinois farm after renegades attack the nearby town, it’s up to young people like Alex and Darla to find medical supplies and more food (and maybe retaliate against the aggressors).

When folks move back to town but refuse to post guards against the bloodthirsty psychopath’s brigands, Alex and Darla lead another group to establish a safer settlement, complete with greenhouses and electricity from a repurposed wind turbine.

Why is Mom staying in town instead of with Alex?
Why won’t the Mayor post guards against the next attack?
Will Alex and Darla stay alive long enough to make their love a true commitment?

This final volume in the Ashfall Trilogy pits short-sighted leaders against vicious villains, the need for community against the will to go your own way, and the unforgiving brutality of volcanic winter against the hope of love and the possibility of springtime. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Aquifer, by Jonathan Friesen (book review) – water is life, light is life, control is power

book cover of Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen published by ZondervanLight – the Rats forgo it so they can control the water,
one of the most basic human needs;
The Prime Minister controls everything – and everyone – else.

Underground for so many generations, the humans guarding Earth’s last freshwater source have mutated into Rat-like darkness dwellers… that’s what the Council tells the Toppers in 2250, when rain on the Earth’s surface is only a memory and emotions are deemed unnecessary.

Imagine having to memorize each step and turn of the long, perilous journey to the Aquifer! If Luca’s father, the Deliverer, is brave enough to face the Rats at the Aquifer every year to renew the water agreement, why is he so sad and distant the rest of the year?

Be sure to have a big drink of cool, clear, fresh water at hand when you read this intriguing tale of a future Australia and a young man whose emotions refuse to stay sedated – just published this month.


Book info: Aquifer / Jonathan Friesen.  Zondervan, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Luca knows someday he will be Deliverer, making the dangerous journey underground to ensure New Pert’s freshwater supply, but all the Toppers believe about the Rats controlling the Aquifer in 2250 may be a lie.

Only needful work is allowed, no wasteful emotions or art or writing, say the Prime Minister and the Council, so the precious water lasts all year, until the Deliverer renews the agreement with the dreadful Rats by taking them lightsticks that only the Toppers can make.

At 15, Luca is nearly done with school, trying to train his mind to remain calm, practicing the memorized steps and turns of the journey to the Aquifer that his father teaches him, the dreadful journey that someday will be his to make as Deliverer.

Trying to stay unnoticed by the Watchful Amongus is essential, else the Council’s enforcers will cast offenders in chains and dump them into the sea – “undone” from this life. When Luca hides a classmate who’s declared undone in the Deliverer’s shack, he starts a chain of events that could undo the cautious agreement between the Rats and the Toppers, breaking off the water supply or opening it forever.

Why does the museum-keeper show Luca the things she calls “books” and teach him to write?
What broke the spirit of the Deliverer – his many journeys to the Aquifer or something else?
When the time comes, will Luca be brave enough to travel underground as Deliverer?

Forbidden friendships, shared secrets, widespread lies, and even bigger truths fill this tale of a future Australia where spirits are parched for affection as much as their bodies are longing for water from the Aquifer. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles De Lint (fiction) – saved and condemned, quest to make things right again

book cover of Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint published by Little BrownThe forest cats did what they could.
Is it so wrong to wish death away?
Lillian so wants to be a human girl again, but the consequences…

Trying to follow the instructions of Old Mother Possum, meeting up with the Bear People, Lillian only wants to make things right, even if she cannot undo everything that the cats’ magic set in motion.

An excerpt posted by Tor here gives you the flavor of Lillian’s story in this lyrical tale, much expanded from De Lint’s 2003 “Circle of Cats” 44-page novella also featuring illustrations by Vess.

This most-magical book is being released tomorrow (March 5, 2013), so ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore.

Indeed, is it so wrong to wish death away?

Book info: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest / Charles De Lint; illustrated by Charles Vess. Little Brown, 2013.  [author’s website]   [publisher site[illustrator’s website] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: It was the cats who decided to save Lillian. She just wanted to say hello to the fairies, but here she lies, dying of snakebite. Changed by their magic from a dying girl into a live kitten, Lillian can’t comfort her aunt or the neighbors who search the old woods. She must find out how to turn back into herself… and then how to make right the consequences of her choice.

These forest cats know that their magic might anger the Father of All Cats, that great black puma who stalks these ancient woods, who prowls in dark dreams. But they just couldn’t let the girl die, not after she’s been so generous with milk for them and respectful of the Apple Tree Man.

Lillian-kitten sets out to find Old Mother Possum, who might help her turn back into girl-Lillian. Accompanied by T.H. Fox (his mother named him Truthful and Handsome), she makes the long journey, despite his warnings that the part-witch-part-someone may not choose a solution that’s easy or simple.

Oh, turning back one death puts it onto another! Now Lillian has a bigger problem to solve and consults the wise woman at the Kickaha reservation nearby. Aunt Nancy sees only one path and not an easy one, as this problem is so big that Lillian must ask a difficult favor of the fearsome Bear People, no matter what the personal cost.

Does young Lillian have the courage to walk alone into the Bears’ den?
Why do the cats of the forest keep watching her?
Is love enough to turn away death?

Originally a very short picture book, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest brings even more depth to Lillian’s journey as she searches for a way to make things right again in her world, despite the danger to herself. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

A Girl Named Digit, by Annabel Monaghan (fiction) – FBI takes teen math genius undercover

book cover of A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan published by Houghton Mifflin

A brain for numbers that never, ever stops.
A hunger to have a normal senior year.
A set of digits on television that shouldn’t be there…

And now Farrah goes from understated jeans to completely undercover as the FBI realizes that her OCD about numbers and patterns is their best bet for catching an ecoterrorist whose been sending others out to do his dirty work for years.

Grab Digit’s first adventure now in hardcover or eBook at your local library or independent bookstore (it won’t be out in paperback with the much-better cover until late May 2013) then hang on for Digit’s first year at college when Double Digit  is published in January 2014!

Which of life’s codes would you be most anxious to crack?

Book info: A Girl Named Digit / Annabel Monaghan. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [fan-created book trailer]  

My Recommendation: To get away from the kids who nicknamed her “Digit” for her math abilities, Farrah transfers to another high school for her senior year. But it’ll take the FBI to keep her safe from the terrorist group that she accidentally exposes. Faking her own kidnapping wasn’t quite the way she’d planned to stay unnoticed at her new school…
Farrah wishes that she didn’t see patterns in everything and has had to learn extreme coping strategies to blunt her obsessive-compulsive tendencies when real life is uneven and disorganized. Her math professor dad says she can put her “gift” to work later in life and urges her to enjoy being a teen for now. Wish it were that easy…
Numbers pop up on television when they shouldn’t be there, but the station says she’s imagining them. Her genius skills crack the code, pointing to a terror attack at JFK Airport, but her report to the FBI is ignored…until it happens.
Now a ruthless band of ecoterrorists is gunning for Digit, so she has to fake being kidnapped and go undercover to help the FBI break the rest of the code to prevent more attacks and catch the terrorists. Nice to really be appreciated for her skills, even nicer to be undercover with cute young FBI agent John as they race to interpret more clues.
But somehow, the bad guys find one of the safe houses, John and Digit have to go into deep cover without contacting anyone, and the stakes in this math puzzle get deadly in a hurry.
How fast can they unravel the last parts of this puzzle?
What will the ecoterrorists’ next move be?
Will Digit’s “kidnapping” have an unhappy ending?

(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent (fiction) – steampunk, witch-fairy mutiny?

book cover of The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent published by Simon SchusterScience is good, magic is bad.
Technology is better than nature.
The powers-that-be hold all the power in this city…
or do they?

Steampunk plus pixies, manticores, and sphinxes – all in an alternate London swept out of its own world and time by a Tesla coil in the wrong hands! Vespa is in great peril as she awakens to her powers as a witch in this so-rational City.

If you’ve ever wondered about how book covers are created, go behind the scenes at the photo shoot for The Unnaturalists.  You’ll find it in hardback now at your local library or independent bookstore; don’t wait for the August 2013 paperback edition!

So, just how steampunk do you like your alternate history books?

Book info: The Unnaturalists / Tiffany Trent. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Vespa loves working with her father, preparing captured magical creatures for display in the museum. But now she must make a good match, ignoring the signs that she’s as Unnatural as anything in the museum – and in terrible danger.

The Church of Science and Technology controls New London after a temporal quirk landed that city in an alternate England generations ago; it allows no magic or witchery within its bounds. The Tinker folk who respect nature and its Elementals endure a hardscrabble existence outside the City Wall, adopting City children born with magical traits and abandoned there, exposed to the Creeping Waste.

Syrus listens to Granny’s stories in the Tinker camp, knows that the City soldiers will soon take more Tinkers to slave in the Refinery which produces the substance to power the City, senses that Vespa is not like other City folk, knows that the land will rupture and perish when the last Elementals are gone.

The secret society of Architects also knows that the Church cannot keep capturing Elementals /Unnaturals without endangering their world, and they foil the Refiners at every turn. When Syrus gets caught up in their conflict, he rushes to rescue his clan members from the Refinery.

Vespa’s time as Companion to high-born Lucy is filled with dressmaker’s appointments and matchmaker consultations, when her mistress suddenly demands that she use magic to craft a love charm! But lurking secrets in Lord Virulen’s manor house may upset the young ladies’ scheme before it begins.

Does so-ordinary Vespa possess enough untapped magic to help Lucy capture a nobleman’s heart before the Empress discovers their crime?
Who is the secretive Architect risking exposure as he shields Syrus from the Refiners’ wrath?
Why didn’t Vespa ever suspect that she was a witch in the first place?

Steampunk and fantasy collide in this alternate world created by Tiffany Trent, as the creatures seen as Elementals by the Tinkers and as Unnaturals by the Citizens hold the key to everything.(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin (fiction) – survival, danger, love amid peril

book cover of Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin published by TanglewoodEnormous snow drifts where green summer cornfields should be thriving…

How long will the volcanic ash in the atmosphere keep the sun from shining through?

Can teens armed with determination, taekwondo skills, and dwindling supplies rescue their family members in peril?

Grab Ashfall (book 1, reviewed here) at your local library or independent bookstore so you know the whole story, then bundle up warmly to continue Alex and Darla’s chilling journey through Ashen Winter on its October 8th publication date.

Gotta admit that I was a trifle nervous traveling through Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago, seeing the steam from its thousands of “thermal features” rising up into the blue sky on a freezing morning. Glad that it’s all being monitored – but will we truly have enough warning if the supervolcano threatens to blow sky-high?

Book info: Ashen Winter (Ashfall Trilogy, book 2) / Mike Mullin. Tanglewood, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: The world now is all snow and questions for Alex, trying to locate his parents after all communication was wiped out by the supervolcano eruption, trying to keep himself and his girlfriend Darla safe and alive in the unending winter.

A scrap of news now stirs the teens into action: his parents were accosted by bandits while hiking across the state to find Alex and are alive – for the moment. Desperate times and dwindling food supplies are turning some people into savages of the worst sort.

The government is keeping ashfall refugees within the affected area, in camps that lose more people to starvation and cold than to escape. Avoiding their patrols, staying clear of bandits (and worse), holding onto all their supplies – it’ll be a tough journey, but Alex must find his parents.

As Alex and Darla leave his little sister at their aunt and uncle’s farm, they hope for the best and prepare for emergencies – possible injuries, bandits, sinkholes in the snowpack. But a sudden encounter and an ambush separate them early in their journey, leaving Alex to seek help from the townspeople they met on their earlier travels in order to rescue her.

Can Darla stay alive and unharmed in the hands of the gang?
Can Alex convince anyone to go along on the rescue mission?
If his parents did make it to the next refugee camp, can the teen help them escape?

This second book in the post-apocalyptic trilogy answers key queries for Alex and Darla (and readers) following the initial Ashfall (book one) while leaving the survivors to wonder what happens next. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture, by Laura Barcella (nonfiction)

book cover of The End 50 Apocalyptic Visions by Laura Barcella published by Zest Books

Global warming.
Mutant diseases.
Alien attacks.

Seems like humans have been trying to figure out how the world will end almost since its beginning. Fifty apocalyptic visions from pop culture are analyzed in this new book (published today) which has many of the usual (Welles’s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast and Dr. Strangelove) and several lesser-known exemplars.

I’m intrigued by Steve McGhee’s painting “The Big Swallow” which portrays an enormous storm and whirlpool consuming Sydney harbour (I climbed that bridge, so I don’t want it to disappear!) and a 1912 novella “The Scarlet Plague” by Jack London (read here free).

Ask for The End at your local library or independent bookstore and decide which movie, book, song, or artwork has it right. How do you think the world will end?

Book info:The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions from Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late / Laura Barcella. Zest Books, 2012.   [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Climate catastrophe or zombies? Alien invasion or the Four Horsemen on earth? People have long pondered how the world might end. Go behind the scenes of fifty apocalyptic endings from the past five centuries of art, film, theater, books, and music in this fascinating book.
Michaelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” and Durer’s 1498 “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” translate Biblical “end time” words into stirring pictures. Sandow Bok’s 1995 painting “Course of Empire” shows Los Angeles fractured by ultimate destruction of unknown origin. 
“It’s The End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. is a spotlighted song, as is Barry McGuire’s performance of “The Eve of Destruction”. The peppy tune of “99 Luftballons (99 Red Balloons)” by Nena might hide this Cold War protest song’s strong lyrics from casual listeners.
Barcella highlights important early books The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (1909) and Earth Abides by George R. Stewart, which Stephen King acknowledges as a huge influence on his work, like The Stand, discussed here as a television miniseries. Alan Moore’s dystopian graphic novel series V for Vendetta and Watchmen are analyzed, as is Brian K. Vaughn’s 60-issue comic book saga of Y: The Last Man.
Almost a third of the book covers movies from “12 Monkeys” to “Waterworld,” with aliens, asteroids, melting ice caps, zombies, atomic war, and other disasters leading to the end of life on earth. Quotes and Unforgettable Moments from every play, book, and movie give the flavor of each one’s style.
The author consulted experts about “the Reality Factor” of The End proposed by each movie, song, or book (almost all are quite improbable) and also lists the impact of each creative work on subsequent popular culture.

Thought-provoking and entertaining, this book gives readers much to think about as its alphabetical list of titles covers the many and varied ways that The End might emerge slowly or drop suddenly from above. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Lost Code (Atlanteans 1), by Kevin Emerson (book review) – ozone layer gone, Atlantis calls

book cover of The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson published by Katherine Tegen BooksArchery, crafts, swimming in the lake,
bright-colored “bug juice” that all tastes the same,
it’s summer camp, just like every other summer camp…
A future Earth unshielded by the ozone layer

Camp Eden is trying to make campers feel like everything is just fine, but their 22nd century world ravaged by global warming lurks just beyond the BioDome with its radiation-blocking panels and artificial sky.

So how does average guy Owen find himself drowned on the first day of camp, yet alive and a super-swimmer soon after? Why does any visit to the camp infirmary – from sprained ankle to skin rash – involve a blood test? And that voice beckoning him toward the light deep in the lake…an ancient prophecy? Can the legend of Atlantis be real? Is Lilly part of the prophecy, too?

I met author Kevin Emerson at KidLitCon in Seattle last September, shortly after this book was headed to his publisher, so I was pleased to see its “book birthday” scheduled for May 22 and truly enjoyed reading Owen’s adventures in a solar-scorched future with a mystery that ties him to the distant past.

Be sure to request The Lost Code at your local library or independent bookstore soon so you can help Owen puzzle out this mystery of the Atlanteans.

Book info: The Lost Code (The Atlanteans book 1) / Kevin Emerson. Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site]  Review copy courtesy of the author; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Drowning on the first day of summer camp was not on Owen’s agenda. He hadn’t planned on being underwater for ten minutes and getting cuts on his neck, either. Or being bullied by his bunkmates or hearing voices call him underwater or kissing a girl or being chased by terrorists…

Owen felt strange at Camp Eden, being outside under the huge BioDome with a real lake and trees instead of safely inside the caves of Yellowstone Hub with his dad. Could those TruSky panels really protect campers from the massive solar radiation blasting Earth since the ozone layer had vanished? Better safe than sorry, they slather on NoRad lotion for all daylight activities.

Failing the swim test was bad, but the itchy wounds on his neck are even worse. Dr. Maria said not to get them wet, but a shower makes the pain stop. Cute lifeguard Lilly told Owen to go with any strange urges he has near the lake, so a night swim with the counselors-in-training sounds great – and he’s suddenly in his element, swimming and diving deep using his new gills. During the daytime, the thick NoRad lotion disguises their necks, and every night the CITs and Owen explore the lake’s depths – and sometimes the voice calls him toward an azure light.

Long-time camper Leech bullies everyone in their cabin, goes fishing with the camp director, and generally is obnoxious. He knows the secret trails in the camp forest and cheats during team challenges. Does he suspect that Owen isn’t just a skinny kid from the Hub anymore?

Touring the Eagle Eye Observatory which watches over the 200,000 inhabitants of EdenWest Dome, wondering if Dr. Maria knows more than she’s telling him about why he survived so long underwater, trying to stay away from Leech while he listens for the lake voice – Owen’s summer is turning out to be no picnic.

Why does the voice tell him of a prophecy?
Can there really be people who live and survive outside the Dome?
Is the camp director friend or enemy?
Can Owen trust the visions about the future of his world and the Atlantis of its past?

First in a series, finding The Lost Code could be the secret that rescues humanity from itself or the final step in sealing their fate. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)