<< prior recommendations

Recommendations for Friday, October 11, 2013

Crap Kingdom by DC Pierson

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coming of agefantasyhumor

Unshelved strip for 10/11/2013

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

Edmund, Katherine and Tom live in a small village where several children have disappeared. Legends about the Nethergrim state that all other evil beasts serve it. So when boggans, firesprites, thornbeasts, stonewights and other magical creatures begin appearing there in unusual numbers, the great John Marshal, who defeated the Nethergrim decades earlier, is worried that it will soon reawaken. He begins a quest to its lair to eliminate it. When evidence surfaces that John Marshal may have failed, Edmund, Katherine, and Tom have to find the strength to fight strange beasts, protect themselves from an evil magician, and rescue the village’s children.

Why I picked it up: The publicity that came with this book claimed it was the successor to the wildly popular Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan.  As a middle school librarian, I had to know whether or not that was true.

Why I finished it: The monsters. The thornbeasts are particularly compelling. They are living brambles, taller than a man, blessed with strength enough to rip a person in half. If you are ever attacked, make sure to remember that they cannot cross stone, although on normal ground they are much faster than a human, tearing with their tendrils of thorns.

It's perfect for: I will be buying five copies of this book to put on the shelves of my library because I will be giving it out to the droves of eleven- to fourteen-year-old boys who are my patrons. In particular, I will give it to Josh first, because he always brings fantasy books to me, trying to recommend the next big thing. I will have a big grin on my face that I beat him to this one, and I know he’s going to love the final scene where Edmund has to stop a ceremony that is draining the life from the captured children.

History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

In this masterful study, historian and cartography expert Jerry Brotton explores a dozen of history’s most influential maps, from stone tablet to vibrant computer screen. Starting with Ptolemy, “father of modern geography,” and ending with satellite cartography, A History of the World in 12 Maps brings maps from classical Greece, Renaissance Europe, and the Islamic and Buddhist worlds to life and reveals their influence on how we—literally—look at our present world.

“Starting with the Greco-Roman geographer Ptolemy and ending with – inevitably – Google Earth, it explores the ways in which some of the greatest mapping projects of the past have grown out of particular cultural and political circumstances.”—The Telegraph (UK)

“A fascinating and panoramic new history of the cartographer's art.”—The Guardian (UK)

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Adolf Eichmann was a bureaucrat in the German war effort who was uniquely involved in the Final Solution for Jews in Europe. He arranged transportation to death camps, established ghettos to house Jews, and stripped them of all their resources. The camera shy Eichmann was able to evade arrest and establish a false identity after WWII after escaping from a prisoner of war camp. He emigrated to Argentina using a network of agents set up by the Argentinian secret police. A tip from a Jewish civilian there turned into a full-scale investigation that took several years. Once Eichmann’s identity was established, the Mossad operation kicked into high gear. Not only did agents have to pick him up in Argentina illegally, they had to hold him for ten days until he could be smuggled onto a diplomatic plane for the long trip to Israel. Only then could Israel rejoice and begin preparations for his trial, which re-opened public interest in war crimes and tracking down war criminals.

Why I picked it up: I knew that Eichmann was a particularly nasty Nazi, and that Argentina had harbored a community of Nazis fleeing justice, but I had no idea of the multi-year effort it took to bring Eichmann back to Israel for trial. Anytime the Mossad and Shin Bet are involved, the story is likely to be juicy.

Why I finished it: To this day, Eichmann’s death sentence is the only one handed down in Israel’s history. Feelings ran so high in the country that they had to test his food for poison, and only guards who had not lost relatives to the Nazis were assigned to provide security for fear that someone would try to assassinate Eichmann before the trial. And I loved the way he was tracked down. The trail to find Eichmann depended on several unlikely scenarios paying off, like the undercover Jewish agent who romanced Eichmann’s mistress for months in order to get a clear photo of him.

It's perfect for: Jesse, a WWII nut, who recently read Jeff Shaara’s WWII series. He would like hearing what Eichmann was really like, including how strangely he acted in Israeli custody. He was apparently quite docile. His first comment was that he had expected this day to come for years. “I am already resigned to my fate.”

Torn by Stephanie Guerra

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of age

When Ruby makes a dramatic entrance to her new high school, complaining about the strict dress code and the power-hungry administrators, all heads turn. Most take an immediate dislike to her wild, unconventional streak, but Ruby takes a liking to Stella, a classic good girl, and the feeling is mutual. As they become friends, Stella grounds Ruby a bit, and Ruby expands Stella’s horizons. Stella even learns to exercise some independence from her tight-knit family, and finds herself drifting away from friends she’s known for years. 

Then Ruby starts dating an older man who pays her extravagantly for some office help at his home. Stella senses something is really wrong and tries to help her friend out of a dangerous situation.

Why I picked it up: Stephanie Guerra comes into my library all the time. I didn't know she was an author until the children's librarian introduced us and pointed out this book on our shelves.

Why I finished it: I love a good chick lit novel, and this one focused tightly on the joys and strains of a friendship between two opposites. Seeing Stella deal with her old friends as they turn against Ruby and yet trying to remain friends with them made for a compelling story. I wondered how Stella would deal with Kenneth, Ruby’s older man with a sketchy past and a slick story, as well as her own new boyfriend, Mike, whose inability to stand up to his parents proves the undoing of their relationship.

It's perfect for: Maria, who would understand the complexities of high school friendships as some students learn to do what’s in their own best interests instead of what’s best for their buddies. She would also love the way Ruby gets revenge on the mean girls in the end.

Alice in Tumblr-Land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation by Tim Manley

Disney meets Lena Dunham in this illustrated humor book featuring your favorite fairy-tale characters dating and finding their way in 21st-century America.

What happens when Peter Pan finally has to get a job? Or Rapunzel gets a buzz cut? When The Ugly Duckling discovers Instagram filters, can she give herself a makeover? What if Goldilocks went gluten-free? Or if Jack and Jill ran up their iPhone bill? Or Snow White had seven Facebook stalkers?

Here are more than one hundred fairy tales, illustrated and re-imagined for today. Instead of fairy godmothers, there’s Siri. And rather than big bad wolves, there are creepy dudes on OkCupid. In our brave new world of social networking, YouTube, and texting, fairy tales can once again lead us to “happily ever after”—and have us laughing all the way.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Bloodprint: A Novel of Psychological Suspense by Kitty Sewell, Katherine Kellgren

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged audiobookmystery

After her husband dies in a hurricane off the Florida coast, Madeleine Frank escapes to her father's childhood home in Bath, England. Years later, she is a psychotherapist who has never really dealt with her own personal trauma, including giving up her only child for adoption. When a new client, Rachel, begins seeing her, Madeleine suspects there is something else lurking beneath her volatile relationship with her ex-boyfriend.

Why I picked it up: I devoured Sewell's Ice Trap a couple of years ago and was thrilled to find another book by her on the library shelf. When I saw that Katherine Kellgren, narrator extraordinaire of the young adult Bloody Jack series was the vocal talent, I couldn't wait to listen to it.

Why I finished it: Kellgren's voice kept me coming back: her subtly evil and manipulative undertones for Rachel's Ukrainian's ex, the mad ravings of Madeleine's Cuban-born mother; how fluidly she moved between American and English accents. And I'm glad I stuck with it because the violent turn of events near the end took my breath away!

It's perfect for: Jason, an American psychotherapist who once considered an internship in the UK. I wonder how a private practice in Bath compares to his office in Dallas, and what Jason would think of Madeleine crossing the line between therapist and patient.

The Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged coming of age

This is a story told in letters between two teenaged girls. Nawra is in Darfur, living in a refugee camp after her family was driven from their village. K.C. lives in the United States. Through an international aid program, the girls write each other and talk about their lives. Nawra is illiterate, and dictates her letters to her friend Adeeba. K.C. has a learning disability and dictates her letters to voice recognition software.

Why I picked it up: This book was in a large stack of books handed to me by Gene Ambaum. What made this one stand out was the beautiful and direct language of Nawra’s first letter. “Peace be upon you. How are you? Are you strong? And your people? When a tree leans, it will rest on its sister, we say.” The simple wisdom of her sayings becomes a focal point of the book.

Why I finished it: I was pulled into the lives of both the characters. Nawra and her friend Adeeba struggle to survive and also strive to learn. Adeeba teaches herself English as she teaches Nawra to write and read Arabic. K.C. struggles with learning and low self-esteem, but loves her friends and the children she babysits. And of course, her heart breaks open the more she learns of Nawra’s situation -- she has lost everyone in her family except her mother, has been driven from her village by the Janjaweed, and as she writes the letters she is pregnant from rape.

It's perfect for: Greg, who was a local coordinator for Tools for Peace. He would like the concept of person-to-person aid in the book’s fictional Save the Girls program, and the way the book connects young readers to the complex, horrifying situation in Darfur without overwhelming them.

My Little Pony: Pony Tales: Volume 1 by Barbara Randall Kesel

Six spotlights focusing on everyone's favorite Ponies! Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack each get a whole issue devoted to them.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Archenemy: (Counterattack) by Paul Hoblin

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of age

Addie lives for soccer. She’d rather be practicing than studying for her high school classes. Her new friend, Eva, loves soccer, too. But then they have a falling out, and Eva starts sabotaging Addie both on and off the field.

Why I picked it up: My friend Min, a soccer nut, had to start his service in the Korean army over the summer. So when I saw the soccer-themed cover, I thought of him. Plus I rarely read sports-themed books, and this one is about a young woman, so it was a chance to expand the range of my reading a bit.

Why I finished it: The reason for the falling out is a nicely handled slow-reveal in the book. Eva wanted a romantic relationship with Addie. Addie didn’t. Eva’s emotional reaction was upsetting and realistic, from making out with boys in front of Addie to turning the coach against her.

It's perfect for: Joel, who would appreciate Addie’s supportive, understanding parents. (She’s out to them, but Eva has to hide her sexuality from her conservative mother and father.)

The Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah

Link to this review by ang tagged literary

Anna’s meticulously laid plans included a perfect child, exchanging her flat in London’s West End for a cottage in Provence, and having a successful career. Instead, she finds herself living in an overgrown and infested farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with a severely disabled baby and a complete inability to cope with her current situation. Anna and her partner, Tobias, resent being tethered to a child who will never speak, walk, or develop normally, and their frustration weighs on them. As their daughter’s condition worsens, each moment becomes a struggle to hold on to each other and their baby as nature does its best to reclaim the property and return it (and everyone living on it) to a wild state.

Anna is a chef, so she chooses the kitchen as her battleground. She cans, preserves, scours, and mouse-proofs, but the vermin keep coming and the vegetation will not be tamed. The house also attracts a colorful array of family, friends, and quirky villagers. Soon her life is filled with people and circumstances she cannot control, and she is running out of ways to protect her home and heart from things intent on finding a way in.

Why I picked it up: It isn't my usual sort of book. I don’t really like the cover. I don't even know how I stumbled across it. I guess it just wanted be to read and snuck itself onto my Nook.

Why I finished it: I was fascinated by the way Shah didn't shy away from the ugly side of finding oneself the parent of a disabled baby. She allows Anna and Tobias to be angry, petulant, and overwhelmed. Freya isn't the child they wanted. When she thinks the baby might be dead, Anna isn't sure if she’s afraid or hopeful. When pushed to the breaking point she states, “Bring it on, I think grimly: make it as bad as you can, because then I can feel furious and powerless, which I’m addicted to.”

And something magical happens with the characters in this book. You know these people within a few lines and are deeply invested in their lives within paragraphs. Summarizing them -- aging veteran, spiritual loon, self-absorbed mother, mysterious handyman -- makes them sound like caricatures, but they are fully-realized and vibrant.

It's perfect for: Linda, an amazing cook, who came to mind often as I read the descriptions of sweet onion jam, dandelion cordials, smoky eggplant dip, and the other delicacies Anna prepared. The abundance of fruits and vegetables cultivated on her land reminded me of Linda’s sprawling property and the wonderful foods that come out of her (completely rodent-proof) kitchen.

Deadtime Stories: Little Magic Shop of Horrors by Annette Cascone and Gina Cascone

Soon to be seen on Nickelodeon as an episode of the live-action TV series based on The Deadtime Stories!

Peter Newman really wants a twenty-one-speed mountain bike. That’s the grand prize for his school’s talent competition. All he needs is a talent. So when Peter sees an ad for the Little Magic Shop of Horrors, he and his best friend Bo rush right over. For only $9.95, Peter buys a magic kit and becomes “Peter the Great.” Now he can do tricks even Houdini couldn’t perform!

The only problem is Peter can't undo the tricks. But that doesn’t bother him too much. Until he wins the talent contest—by taking off Bo’s head! Will Peter be able to save his headless best friend?

“Move over Goosebumps... These titles are shivery but fun.” —School Library Journal

Enter before November 18th, 2013 for a chance to win a copy of Deadtime Stories: Little Magic Shop of Horrors for your classroom or library and a Deadtime Stories poster signed by Jennifer Stone, the star of Nickelodeon's Deadtime Stories TV series adaptation!

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Star Trek Volume 4 by Mike Johnson, Stephen Molnar, Erfan Fajar, Hendri Prasetyo, Miralti Firmansyah

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

New Star Trek comics featuring the crew from the J.J. Abrams movies in their versions of episodes from the original series.

In “Hendorff,” a security officer writes a letter home to tell his parents about life on the Enterprise, his new captain, and what it’s like to wear the red shirt.

“Keenser’s Story” is the internal monologue and backstory of the short green alien who works in engineering with Scotty.

“Mirrored” is the mirror universe version of the Star Trek reboot, complete with the Terran Empire, a deviously evil Kirk, and goatee sporting Spock.

Contains Star Trek #13 - #16.

Why I picked it up: I’ve really been enjoying the series.

Why I finished it: “Hendorff” is almost like a letter to John Scalzi, telling him that he got it wrong in Redshirts, that the red shirted security officers in Star Trek aren’t just cannon fodder and that, while wearing the red may put one at risk, it’s worth it. (Or maybe Hendorff has just been hit in the face too many times.) And as a kid the mirror universe Star Trek episodes were my favorites, so “Mirrored” was a must-read.

It's perfect for: Ali, who would love the more-badass-than-ever evil version of Sulu. His armor makes him look good, he carries his sword everywhere, and he uses it to decapitate Klingons -- I’m sure this would inspire her during fencing practice.

latter recommendations >>