Tag Archive | gaming

How is videogame rehab a Cure for the Common Universe? by Christian McKay Heidicker (book review)

book cover of Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com Plays videogames more hours than any full-time job,
Sees sunlight on alternate Thursdays (maybe),
Why would they send him to game-addiction rehab?

And just minutes after Jaxon meets a real, breathing teen girl who agrees to go out with him! Quick – how can he level up and prove that he’s cured and get to that date?!

Read an excerpt here, courtesy of the publisher, then go find your own Cure for the Common Universe at a local library or independent bookstore – just out in paperback this month!

What’ll they throw you into rehab for??
**kmm

Book info: Cure for the Common Universe / Christian McKay Heidicker. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017. [author site] [publisher site] [author video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Banished to a rehab center for videogame addicts, 16 year old Jaxon is desperate to escape in time for his first-ever date with a girl in the real world, but earning his way out could involve actually talking about being abandoned by Mom – no other way to level up?!

Not his fault that his parents divorced when he was just 8 or that his mom’s addictions always make her forget he’s coming to visit or that he is escaping from his stepmother’s perfectionism by living in the videogames that he so loved playing with Mom…

Hustled away to the desert rehab center, Jaxon meets teens who truly are videogame addicts (he isn’t, just likes playing them 60 hours a week in summer) and tries to figure out how he can get back to Salt Lake City in just four days so he can meet Serena (no cellphone, no FaceBook) for their date (first date, first girl who laughed with him instead of at him).

Doing chores earns points, doing dumb stuff loses points for you and your guild (yep, using different names and being in guilds is not like gaming at all – ha!).

Earn enough points, and you can go home from v-hab (again, not at all like gaming – ha!)

But no one in the whole two-month history of Horizons has earned their way out in just 4 days – and that’s what Jaxon has to do, if he wants to see Serena… (was any gaming reward worth this much??)

Soup, Aurora, Meeki, Zxzord, and Fezzik want to help their guildmate get to that golden date with Serena, but he’ll have to see beyond his own limitations first.

Arena, by Holly Jennings (book review) – virtual reality, too-real pain

book cover of Arena by Holly Jennings published by Ace Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comVirtual reality is safe combat, right?
Not in this future professional gaming league!

Oh sure, VGL gamers only die digital deaths in this near-future tournament, but every kick and sword strike causes true bodily pain. And when the lines between reality and the Arena start to blur… watch out!

Go to the publisher’s site here to read an excerpt as you port into the Arena with Kali, facing pain and death from more than just game opponents!

Would you fight in virtual reality if you could feel the pain?
**kmm

Book info: Arena / Holly Jennings. Ace Books, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As first-ever female captain, Kali wants to lead her virtual gaming team to the top, but when Nathan’s death in real life erases him from VGL record books and she starts to flip uncontrollably between reality and game-world, the teen begins to question this system that entertains the masses with make-believe sword duels that leave marks on the gamers.

New teammate Rooke challenges Kali to lead using The Art of War and other books that she studied with her Chinese family as a child – but is a tournament win all that he wants from her?

Keep the viewers happy – put on a great show as you win!

Keep the sponsors happy – party hard in public after you win!

Keep the team owner happy – train even harder so that you win more!

This near-future world celebrates the illusion of winning as camouflage for its too-real problems of addiction, rage, and control.

Lois Lane: Fallout, by Gwenda Bond (book review) – Metropolis, new reporter, online dangers

book cover of Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond published by Switch PressStay out of trouble,
don’t get involved…
when a friend is being bullied?
Yeah, right.

Lois Lane is a born investigator, and her Army dad’s latest move puts her into a virtual reality mystery at her newest school – yes, that Lois Lane and the Daily Planet  and an online-only friend who calls himself SmallvilleGuy.

Read the free prequel short stories here (look below the book cover on left), then head to your local library or independent bookstore to get Lois Lane: Fallout.

When have you stood up against bullying?
**kmm

Book info: Lois Lane: Fallout (Lois Lane, book 1) / Gwenda Bond. Switch Press/Capstone, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Unnerved by the tech gang at her newest school, fledgling reporter Lois investigates its hush-hush ‘field trips’ and uncovers dangers that her online pal SmallvilleGuy and her Army general father can’t ignore.

She promised herself to fly under the radar at Metropolis High, but Lois can’t stand bullies. The Warheads move in unison, finish each other’s sentences, and work on a special virtual reality project off-campus. Now, they want to ‘assimilate’ computer whiz Anavi who feels them pressing on her mind.

Recruited by editor Perry White for the Daily Planet’s new teen reporting team, Lois investigates the Warheads, finding weird connections between the principal and a local research lab.

While new friends on the Scoop team back her up during her research, her online friend SmallvilleGuy (who is he, really?) warns Lois about ARL and its virtual reality plans.

Can Lois keep Anavi safe from The Warheads?
Are their minds truly connected?
Will she ever meet SmallvilleGuy outside the virtual reality game worlds?

A smart and subtle prequel to the Superman saga that we all know so well, Lois Lane: Fallout  balances high-tech gone wrong with friendship done right.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, by Brian Katcher (book review) – comics, quizzes, and captures

book cover of Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher published by Katherine Tegen BooksAt a comic-con, he’ll be happy.
Finally away at college, she’ll be overjoyed.
Trouble… who wants that?

When 13-year-old Clayton slips out of the QuizBowl team hotel for his first comic-con, Ana is terrified – if she loses track of him, their hyper-protective parents will disown her like they did when big sister stepped out of line.

And when things go sour during their search for Clayton at WashingCon, Zak boggles at constants that could end and possibilities that arise- without cons in his life, what else would a certified geek do?

Happy book birthday to The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak,  your invitation to explore the world of comic-conventions, gaming, and love among geeks. For some how-to from the female perspective, try The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended here last week.

So, be honest – Star Wars or Star Trek?
**kmm

Book info: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak / Brian Katcher. Katherine Tegen Books, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Chasing her little brother through a comic-con wasn’t on Ana’s list of ways to stay perfect, but with the help of cute slacker Zak, she may get the QuizBowl team back together before curfew… or maybe not.

If no-effort Zak wants to graduate, he must serve as QuizBowl alternate during weekend of Seattle’s biggest comic convention, even though he’d already planned out every moment in geek paradise.

If super-achiever Ana wants to please her parents and not get thrown out of the house like her big sister, she’s got to win this QuizBowl tournament, even though it’s no fun anymore.

If her whiz-kid little brother Clayton wants to check out WashingCon because Zak said it was cool, he’s gonna go, because why not?

The search for Clayton jumps from Ana’s world of well-rounded student activities to Zak’s universes of cosplay and card games to the death, as t-shirt slogans, a backpack mixup with deadly consequences, and the clock ticking down to QuizBowl curfew send them all racing through the night.

Zak’s old friends, Ana’s new enemies, and a cross-cultural wedding (Trek or Wars, the eternal con question) punctuate the pair’s growing appreciation for one another’s strengths and charms, as they chart their progress (or lack thereof) in alternating chapters.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dirt Bike, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly, by Conrad Wesselhoeft (book review) – grief, honor & gaming

book cover of Dirt Bikes Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft published by Houghton MifflinPlaying chicken with big trucks on the highway,
joysticking into the Drone Zone,
adrenaline removes Arlo’s grief…for a while.

Trying to cope with Mom’s murder, Siouxsie’s progressive neurological disease, Dad’s retreat into the bottle – Arlo keeps his dirt bike running, scrounges change to play Drone Fighter at his tiny town’s online cafe, but then what? One early morning phone call changes things (but not everything).

Traveling recently through bone-dry northern New Mexico where the author strands this small town, I can see why anyone there would want to find a way to get away, even if it means trading the make-believe of gaming for real drone piloting and its violent consequences.

Read this April 2014 book now – right now!
**kmm

Book info: Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly / Conrad Wesselhoeft. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Arlo’s gaming skills could pay his sister’s huge medical bills, his dirt bike prowess could salvage his reputation in their small New Mexico town, but it’ll take something more to rescue his family from their endless grieving for Mom.

When the US Air Force wants Arlo to fly real reconnaissance drones over Pakistan from their base at White Sands, based solely on his Drone Fighter video game world ranking, the 17-year-old’s journalist dad is skeptical – until the Colonel erases their debts for Siouxsie’s treatments.

When gorgeous Lee slides into dusty Orphan County to stay with her aunt until her dad returns from his Afghanistan deployment, Arlo thinks she’ll scorn scruffy dirt bikes after leaving her smooth Harley in Seattle – until she helps his Evel Kneivel-style jump go higher and farther.

Zooming down I-25 from the New Mexico-Colorado borderlands whenever the Colonel phones, Arlo has too much time to think on his way to White Sands. Even if he can discover the most-wanted terrorist’s whereabouts with his drone, how can he recover what his family lost when Mom was murdered?

Mountain vistas, Mom’s ashes spread atop the mesa, small-town football as seen from the snack bar, and a moto-stunt for the ages fill this don’t-miss novel about love, grief, and honor.

Guy in Real Life, by Steve Brezenoff (book review) – guy, girl, gaming

book cover of Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff published by Balzer + BrayOnline MMOs,
tabletop RPGs,
never the twain shall meet?

His best friend says that every online game female character is a GIRL – guy in real life – but is it wrong for Lesh to spend time online as Svvetlana if he truly wants to be with the real Svetlana?

And why shouldn’t Svetlana prefer creating fantasy game scenarios to attending boring pro soccer games with her clueless parents?

After school, Lesh hangs out with the wrong crowd by habit, Svetlana only hangs out with her dungeon friends, yet somehow their worlds overlap in this fun read.

**kmm

Book info: Guy in Real Life / Steve Brezenoff. Balzer + Bray, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A late-night sidewalk collision brings together 2 teens from very different circles as their roleplaying and online game lives somehow intersect.

Getting grounded finally gave Lesh time to play the MMO that Greg is hooked on. But he hates being a blundering orc and instead chooses to be an elf, whom he molds into the image of quirky Svetlana at school, the girl he met when her bike ran into him that rainy night.

Svetlana’s detailed roleplaying scenarios intrigue the Central High Gaming Club, but when one guy quits, the club could lose its official status. Maybe Lesh of the black trenchcoat would join? Decidedly better than being with her crazy Minneapolis soccer fan parents.

Game life connects this guy named after the Grateful Dead’s drummer and that dungeonmaster girl in skull-embroidered skirt, but real life is more than energy levels and 20-sided dice in this quirky maybe-romance told from their alternating points of view.   (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Deadly Pink, by Vivian Van Velde (fiction) – escape into virtual reality game, forever?

book cover of Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde published by Harcourt

Sights, sounds, smells…
How close to your video game action do you want to be?
What if the game can plug directly into your brain?

The Rasmussem Corporation wants players to be totally immersed in their role-playing games for hours at a time – for the proper fee.

But there is a time limit for staying in a virtual reality world, so unbreakable fail-safes pull players out of game before their brains get too detached from physical reality.

Unless a computer whiz like Emily entirely disables the fail-safes on purpose to trap herself in the pink and sparkly pre-teen gameworld she was helping design… and younger sister Grace must battle through to rescue her, before it’s too late.

You’ll find Deadly Pink in hardback now at your local library or independent bookstore, with author Vivian Vande Velde’s earlier books featuring Rasmussem games (User Unfriendly  and Heir Apparent) available in paperback.
So, how long would you want to stay in a virtual world? (dragons optional)
**kmm

Book info: Deadly Pink (Rasmussem, book 3) / Vivian Van Velde. Harcourt, 2012 [author’s website]   [Deadly Pink Facebook page]   [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Grace is just slogging through high school, while her brilliant older sister Emily is at college with full scholarships for computer science. So why does Rasmussem Corporation need Grace’s help to get Emily out of a virtual reality game?

Their mother is frantic with worry, Dad is away on business, and the note Emily left behind sounds very, very final. Her body is there, hooked up to the virtual reality game panel, but she’s disabled every fail-safe that would allow the company to bring her back to the real world.
So away Grace goes, into the cotton-candy and unicorns world that Emily’s team was developing for preteen girls. Butterflies that give gold coins, quests to collect flower bouquets and tiaras, tea parties and fancy dress balls – Emily wants to stay in little-princess land forever?
When Em ignores Grace during her first venture into the game, it might be a fluke. But when big sister has her thrown out of the manor house, Grace knows something is truly wrong. Wish-granting sprites with a grudge, close calls with disaster – every time Grace reboots and re-enters the game, something else goes haywire (and this is a game for kids?).
And the clock keeps ticking down, edging ever-closer to the known-safe time limits for Emily’s brain to stay in virtual reality without a break.
What’s so wrong in the real world that Em has to escape to the virtual world that she helped create? What will happen to Emily’s brain if they can’t get her out of the game in time? Can Grace convince her to come home?  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Books in Space for Star Wars Day (reflective)

photo of Darth Vader, woman in pink shirt, Storm Trooper

“May the fourth be with you” – it’s Star Wars Day*!

Outer space is a great setting for young adult books. Sometimes it’s the distance from home and safety that’s the major plot factor. Other times it’s the way that young people overcome obstacles which are magnified by limitations on oxygen, gravity, and other resources. And often enough, it’s other people who are the challenge to the heroes and heroines we meet in space-related stories, with results ranging from comic to tragic.

Check out these space faves on BooksYALove (my recommendation links open in a new window/tab) at your local library or independent bookstore:

book cover of The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes published by Tor BooksThe Moon Maze Game, by long-time sci fi authors Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, takes live-action role playing games to new heights as teams of veteran high-tech LARP simulation players are pitted against each other in a self-contained habitat on the Moon. Its puzzles, tricks, and traps may become the players’ allies when terrorists hijack the game habitat.

While today’s LARPers are limited to Earth, you can learn more about classic live action games at www.larp.com which has gathered info, strategies, and locations for 15 years.
cover image of Astronaut Academy Zero Gravity by Dave Roman Published by First Second BooksSchool in space sounds like the most fun thing ever, but Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity seems perilous to Hakata Soy, who missed the first weeks of school due to his crime-fighting assignment. Learning Spanish (and spying) with Senor Panda, dinosaur racing, – this graphic novel by Dave Roman brings stories from students and teachers in space.

While many elements of Astronaut Academy are over-the-top funny, Roman stays true to the science of space – human Doug must wear his spacesuit to stay out on the spacewalk all day and oxygen gum helps players stay in the game during fireball tournaments.

cover image of Across the Universe by Beth Revis published by RazorbillMeanwhile, a spaceship continues on its 300-year voyage to a new planetary system with settlers in cryosleep and a rigid hierarchy of crew members tending to the ship’s needs. But as they hurtle Across the Universe, someone starts unfreezing settlers and disarming the cryo-alarms. Some die from their botched reawakening, but teenage Amy is saved.

Still many decades from their destination planet, Amy knows that her scientist-expert parents are still Frozen, and Elder of the crew knows that Amy doesn’t fit into their society. First in a trilogy, followed by A Million Suns, with book 3 scheduled for January 2013 publication.

Of course, there will be great space-based YA books ahead, so keep watching BooksYALove to find your new favorites.
**kmm

*thanks to ABDO Books for providing the Star Wars photo-op during the 2012 Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston.

Moon Maze Game (fiction)

Living on the Moon,
working on the Moon,
playing on the Moon?

The most complex and challenging live-action role-playing game of all time will take place on Luna in 2085. Physical agility, weapon skills, and innovative puzzle-solving experience will help players win big money and admiration throughout the Solar System.

New team alliances, old grudges, baffling riddles – what else has game master Xavier planned for the Moon Maze Game? Not the Luna-separatist terrorists who hijack the Game domes, that’s for sure!

Niven and Barnes return to their fascinating Dream Park worlds in this intriguing novel – plenty of subplots to go along with the action, from old romances to new technology hiccups.
**kmm

Book info: The Moon Maze Game / Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. Tor, 2011. [Larry Niven’s website] [Steven Barnes’ website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: A live-action role-playing game on the Moon! Broadcast in real-time to Earth, this 2085 contest pits clever players against one another. But they’ll have to work together to outwit and outlast the terrorists who try to kidnap them.

The Moon Maze Game includes not only physical challenges, but also mental riddles, countless puzzles, and psychological twists tailored to trip up each player. With the largest viewing audience in entertainment history, every slip or success will be seen by billions of people throughout the Solar System.

Xavier is a supreme Game Master. His decision to construct the first off-world fantasy game complex draws many IFGS league competitors to the trials, but only the very best will get to Luna. Wayne and Angelique know that their former gaming partner has spent years planning this event and would be happy to see them fail.

The high-ranking IFGS pro players are expected; the Crown Prince of the Republic of Kikaya is a surprise qualifier. His father, President for Life of the small African nation, is not pleased that his son will enter the Game, but must allow Ali to go to keep Kikaya’s advisors happy.

The lunar colony where the enormous Game domes have been built is a bit tense as some Moon residents want independence from Earth now, while others remain convinced that support from their homeworld will always be needed.

When the Game takes a turn that Xavier did not script, the command center grows hectic. When Xavier’s main controls to the Game are cut, his team gets worried. When real bullets start flying in the Game’s pressurized domes, the players realize that they’re on their own and must solve Xavier’s complex puzzles before the terrorists crack open Game’s walls to the vacuum of space.

Lots of action and excitement – readers will wish for a chance at The Moon Maze Game for themselves. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Unison Spark, by Andy Marino (book review) – social network or mind control?

book cover of Unison Spark by Andy Marino published by Henry HoltA perfect world made just for you,
optimized to provide everything that you want,
more realistic than real life.
What could go wrong with that?

Future Friday takes us to sprawling Eastern Seaboard City, where the Haves can access the ultimate social network – Unison – and the Have-Nots are relegated to the below-street slums, with its rampant crime among the scabbed-together shacks and cast-off technology bits.

Mistletoe can engineer and coax her hunk-of-junk scooter into maneuvers just beyond the maximum recommended for that old model – good thing, as gun-wielding topsider goons pursue her and lost Ambrose through Little Saigon’s alleys and hidden passageways. Why would any sensible topsider come down here?

All good things do have their price
, and some revolutionaries think that the price of Unison will far exceed its subscription costs. Can the teens trust the revolutionaries or UniCorp or anyone?

How far is UniCorp willing to go in its search for maximum profits? Can they truly predict every individual Unison user’s ultimate needs through process-flow? When does the will of an individual become merely a consumable piece in a worldwide business plan?

This page-turning potential future is available now at libraries and bookstores – grab it!
**kmm

Book info: Unison Spark / Andy Marino. Henry Holt, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: When Mistletoe saves a young topsider from uniformed non-police thugs, she wonders why this wealthy teen is in the grotty lower city. She certainly can’t go up into his world of real sunshine and Unison – the social network that knows you better than you know yourself.

Ah, Unison! Just shimmer in (for an appropriate fee) and enjoy limitless data flow, countless friends, your own custom-structured world for work and play. Everything is clearer, brighter, happier in Unison – as long as you keep paying your subscription. And UniCorp provides all the little things in the real world that make it less painful to be part of the “fleshbound parade” of humans during those so-long moments of being out of Unison.

No one can predict process-flow as well as teenaged Ambrose, who is chair of UniCorp’s profits division well ahead of his older brother Len. Ambrose will today move into Unison permanently, when surgery to his hypothalamus will eliminate his body’s need for sleep and give him 24 hours a day in Unison to maximize profits for their father’s corporation.

A rogue data-transfer message as he enters the UniCorp building tells Ambrose to go down into Little Saigon now, before the surgery, or his brain and dreams will be siphoned away by… who? Len? Their father? Revolutionaries? Contrary to best process-flow data, Ambrose flees for the subcanopy’s depths.

As Mistletoe and Ambrose escape through Little Saigon’s grimy alleys and tunnels on a puttering old roboscooter, they discover that both received the same rogue message “Carpe somnium” and wonder why they’ve been told to “seize the dream.”

Bombs in a world where explosives are illegal, closed off from the data of Unison and allies in the subcanopy, the teens must stay alive and free as they try to discover who’s trying to keep Ambrose out of Unison and why the data message brought them together.

Clever and suspenseful, Unison Spark is an adventure story of the future which threads questions of self and community through its action-filled pages. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)