Bookshelf by Alex Johnson

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coffee table booknonfiction

Unshelved comic strip for 7/26/2013

@bookblrb: Amazing bookshelves that are cow-shaped, invisible, round, tree-like, steps, straps, sticks, and squishy.

Nothin' to Lose The Making of KISS (1972-1975) by Ken Sharp

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Ken Sharp has put together a very detailed look at the first three years of the glam, heavy metal band KISS. While each member of KISS is quoted at length, Sharp also drew quite a bit from roadies, other musicians and bands (including Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, Rush, Journey, the Ramones), and even the group that was KISS’s greatest influence, Slade.

While the challenges of mounting a road show that required pig blood, pyrotechnics, levitating drum sets and full makeup are described at length, the book also includes funny anecdotes. (My favorite is about KISS’s ongoing prank war with Rush, and the time KISS members rolled marbles onto the stage as Rush attempted to move around and play, though they all managed to stay on their feet for the rest of the set.)

The record company in charge of promotion stuck with the band even when it seemed financially unviable due to high road show costs and tepid album sales. Many in the industry viewed KISS as mere costumed creations. But the eventual radio success of “Rock and Roll All Nite” saved the band and made them the enduring act they have proven to be.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to see how KISS came up with their iconic makeup, and how a band that couldn’t get into Rolling Stone for years used their live show’s energy to build a fan base. And who doesn’t like a band that has a song called “Let’s Put the X in Sex.”

Why I finished it: The members were very forthright and personal about their experiences as a young band. Gene gives little tidbits, like that his Kabuki-style topknot was not meant to make him look like a Samurai, but only to keep his hair out of his makeup! KISS would do anything for publicity. Once, after they heard a football coach in a small town in Michigan was using their music to pump up his team, they traveled there, participated in a parade, and put on a concert in full costume for an audience that included little kids and grandparents. Instead of being killed as satan-worshippers, they were universally adored and fêted by the town!

Also, I have always gotten Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley mixed up but now, finally, I have it down for all time -- Ace has the double-star design around his eyes while Paul has a single star.

I'd give it to: Shawn Middleton, my middle school friend who introduced me to KISS in the early 80s. He had posters of these seemingly devil-worshipping rock stars on his walls. And he’d laugh at the fact that many of their early outfits came directly from the S&M stores they frequented.

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense by Sarah Weinman

One of today’s preeminent authorities on crime fiction, Sarah Weinman brings together fourteen hair-raising tales by women who—from the 1940s through the mid-1970s—took a scalpel to contemporary society and sliced away to reveal its dark essence. Lovers of crime fiction from any era will welcome this deliciously dark tribute to a largely forgotten generation of women writers.

“A veritable goldmine of spellbinding, psychologically rich tales. Masterfully curated by crime fiction expert Sarah Weinman, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives not only brings much-deserved attention to fourteen unjustly neglected, pioneering writers—it also changes the way we think about the history, and the future, of the suspense genre.”—Edgar Award-winning author Megan Abbott

“Troubled, twisted, and terrific. Where have these women been? Sarah Weinman's Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives serves up stellar short stories, forgotten gems by some of the finest authors of their era.”—Hallie Ephron, author of the bestselling There Was an Old Woman

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Starring Jules (As Herself) by Beth Ain

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged chapter book

Jules wants to be a star. And after an opportune encounter with a casting agent at her favorite diner, she just might get her chance. But auditioning for a TV commercial is equal parts exciting and terrifying: exciting because it would give her something to brag about to her ex-best friend, Charlotte, and terrifying because she might have to taste the horrible, orange-flavored mouthwash, which will surely make her barf. With good advice from her grandma, encouragement from possible-new-best-friend Elinor, and audition help from a most unlikely source, Jules is ready for stardom.

Why I picked it up: I’m friends with the editor of this book, and it’s gotten a fair bit of attention and good reviews (including a starred review from Publishers Weekly).

Why I finished it: First off, it was a quick read. Second, I needed to know whether Jules would actually barf or not, because throwing up is always an excellent plot point. And third, the interactions between Jules and her friends were so painfully true to the seven-year-old girl experience that I wanted to know if and how they would work out their hurt feelings.

I'd give it to: My son’s friend Tess, a six-year-old with moxie and fashion sense who would see Jules’s pizzazz as something to which she should aspire.



Law of the Desert Born A Graphic Novel by Louis L'Amour; Adapted by Charles Santino; Written by Beau L'Amour and Kathy Nolan; Illustrated by Thomas Yeates

The first graphic novel adaptation of the work of master storyteller Louis L’Amour is a dynamic tale of the Old West that explores the borderlands of loyalty and betrayal with the emotional grittiness of a noir thriller.

LAW OF THE DESERT BORN captures the dust and blood of Louis L’Amour’s West—a world where the difference between a hero and a villain can be as wide as the gap between an act of kindness or brutality or as narrow as a misspoken word.

Click to Request an Advance Sampler of this Graphic Novel. (Quantities Limited).

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45 Pounds (More Or Less) by Kelly Barson

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Barson’s book begins with the main character Ann, in a department store wishing the roof would cave in before her controlling mom makes her try on a bikini. It seems like everything her mom says to her is about her weight and how to control it. Instead of helping, though, these comments make Ann resent her mother and drown her sorrows in lasagna. Motivated by a desire to be in her aunt’s wedding, Ann decides to try to lose forty-five pounds via a fad diet she saw on TV. She cannot afford the pre-packaged food for long, so she takes a job at a pretzel place at the mall. As her weight decreases, her understanding of her mother and why she is so controlling increases.

Why I picked it up: Good books about girls in real-world situations, like dealing with health and body image issues, are exactly what I need more copies of for my school library.

Why I finished it: It entertains without getting preachy about weight loss. Ann is a nuanced girl who has believable problems and struggles. I cringed right along with her when she was falsely accused of stealing pretzels (her skinny co-workers weren’t). I liked that Ann’s motivations for losing weight were not to be hotter or to get bullies off her case, but instead to fit into a bridesmaid dress. Ann also addresses the unhealthy attitudes her family has toward food after she sees the younger sister take a few bites of something and then refuse to eat anymore.

I'd give it to: My daughter, because it doesn't center around attracting a boy, but on finding healthy habits and ways of thinking.

Bink and Gollie Two for One by Kate DiCamillo, Alison McGhee

Link to this review by ang tagged chapter book

Best friends Bink and Gollie (think Frog and Toad or George and Martha) are an odd couple who bring out the best in each other. Gollie is precocious, adventurous, and articulate. Bink is tousled, eager, and whimsical. Together they run headlong into the simple delights of childhood -- shopping, getting a fish, visiting the fair -- knowing that friendship, compromise, and peanut butter sandwiches will get them through any situation.

Why I picked it up: Flipping through the pages, I saw Bink hugging a pair of offensively obnoxious socks and knew that I’d found a kindred spirit. She even recognized that putting on really long socks is hard work, which makes one hungry for pancakes. This disheveled, spunky kid understood me! What else did we have in common?

Why I finished it: Bink and I both love roller skating, stink at throwing baseballs, and deeply value our closest friends.

The illustrations and dialogue are inseparable and flawless. In the story “Whack a Duck," Tony Fucile’s frenetic art is just as important as the text. The enthusiasm on Bink’s face when she throws her third baseball into the whack-a-duck man’s head and asks, “Did I win?” is perfectly counterbalanced by Gollie’s look of absolute horror.

I'd give it to: Jordan, who like Gollie was once a prim and wise child who wasn’t content using single-syllable words. Gollie’s retorts (“Some socks are more lovable than others.” “Fish know nothing of longing.” “I fear this can only end in tragedy.”) will connect with her extremely dry sense of humor and work their way into her repertoire of one-liners.

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

Link to this review by darcy tagged coffee table bookpicture book

Lucy Cooke takes us inside the Aviarios del Caribe sanctuary in Costa Rica where cute sloths hang out, recuperate, and learn to survive on their own. The sanctuary started with one baby sloth named Buttercup who needed a mother. It has grown over the years to include many more that are raised or treated in the "slothpital" until they are able to return to the wild.

Why I picked it up: The baby sloth hugging a stuffed bunny on the cover made me squeal. Thankfully, I was in the children's department at my library, where that sort of behavior is normal.

Why I finished it: I never cared about sloths. I always thought of them as strange animals that I would sometimes see at the zoo. These photos of shiny-nosed sloths smiling and hugging each other completely changed that. They have distinct personalities, too, from the street smart Mateo to Honey, the sloth with impeccable table manners. They all love to eat hibiscus and rest for seventy percent of their day. They are so relaxed they don't even react to loud noises!

I'd give it to: Emily. She loves cats and dogs, and I hope she will now add sloths to her list. And her sense of humor is as tasteless as mine, so I know she will appreciate the page about potty training a sloth. Apparently you need something called a poo pole.

The Show Must Go On! (Three-Ring Rascals Book 1) by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise

Link to this review by snow tagged chapter book

Sir Sidney is ready to retire. He's run a circus for years, but now he'd like to turn the reigns over to a new ringmaster. But who is up to taking care of Elsa the elephant, Leo the lion, The Famous Flying Banana Brothers, Old Coal the crow, and, of course, Gert and Bert, the circus' mice. Certified Lion Tamer Barnabas Brambles swears he'll take good care of all of them, but all he's really interested in is money. Will Sir Sidney's troupe survive a week with Mr. Brambles, or is Sir Sidney's circus done for at last?

Why I picked it up: I've always loved the Klise sisters' books with their unique mix of pictures, text, and amusing puns.

Why I finished it: Though this book is written in prose, rather than told through letters like the Regarding the Fountain books and the 43 Old Cemetery Road series, it has the same gentle humor and light silliness. Accompanying the text were lots of sound effects, images, posters, notes, word balloons, and more, all of which helped flesh out the story and make it seem as though I were there watching the action. I particularly enjoyed the wordplay, which was subtle and moved the plot along in a fun way.

M. Sarah Klise's art was as delightful as always. Her soft pencil drawings use a wide variety of perspectives, and rather than just illustrating the action her images are integral to the story.

I'd give it to: Alexis, who is always worried that circus animals aren't well-treated. She'll like the happy ending, especially because it was mostly brought about by the smallest animals, Gert and Bert.

Maximilian & The Mystery Of The Guardian Angel A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller by Xavier Garza

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged chapter bookcoming of age

Max is almost eleven. He loves luchadores, and his favorite, the heroic Guardian Angel, is coming to San Antonio to wrestle.

At the event, the Guardian Angel recognizes Max's tío, Lalo. Max and Lalo head backstage afterwards. Max sees his hero unmask, his family is reunited with his long-lost great uncle, and Max’s dreams of becoming a luchador himself seem more possible than ever.

Why I picked it up: Lee Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press recommended it to me at ALA Midwinter. (She’d previously told me about Little Zizi and The Long Journey of Mister Poop, so I always stop by her booth to see what’s new.)

Why I finished it: Even when Max gets a look behind the scenes, it’s clear that the villainous wrestlers and the heroes are actually friends. This never diminishes his passion for the matches or his belief in the reality of the show they put on, which seemed believable to me because my grandfather always thought WWE matches were real, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I'd give it to: Rett, my wife’s friend whose son Roberto will soon be studying Spanish in an immersion school near us. I’m sure he’ll enjoy the story in Spanish or English (or maybe both, since the text is in both languages throughout), but either way he’ll get a lot of Spanish vocabulary out of it -- I know I haven’t learned this much since I watched on Sesame Street.

Iron Or, The War After by S.M. Vidaurri

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelliterary

Hardin stole a top secret document containing information about a prison. He was then hunted down and killed on a tip from his children’s nanny.

Now his former colleagues are plotting to destroy a bridge using a bomb on a train.

Publisher’s Rating: T (Teen) “This book may contain mild violence or mild profanity. This book is intended for teen readers 12 and up.”

Why I picked it up: I can’t resist a nicely textured cloth cover with a gold foil cover, not to mention a gold foil rabbit.

Why I finished it: It’s hard to pull off a tale this dark and serious when it’s filled with anthropomorphic animals. (Hardin and his family are rabbits, the rest of the characters are other animals.) But Vidaurri’s dark gray and bluish backgrounds, punctuated by snow and watercolor (or ink wash?) shadows, really create a serious tone that makes everything work.

I'd give it to: Craig. I think he’d like the pressure Hardin’s children are placed under by corrupt authorities, and the way they handle their choice to lie about their father or face imprisonment.

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