<< prior recommendations

Recommendations for Friday, May 16, 2014

Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz by Juan Ortiz

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged artcoffee table bookscience fiction

Unshelved strip for 5/16/2014

@bookblrb: Every episode of the original Star Trek gets a period-appropriate movie poster.

David and Goliath: Underdog, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged essaysnonfiction

Pop social scientist Gladwell turns his attention to people, teams, and organizations who succeeded against impossible odds. Or at least, they seemed impossible by conventional standards. Gladwell argues that hardships, disadvantages, and oversized opponents can be overcome if one has the right combination of guts, disagreeability, and nothing to lose.

Why I picked it up: I’ve read Gladwell’s other bestsellers like everybody else, but what really gets me are the amazing covers: simple, iconic, effective. They're so recognizable that they've spawned their own meme.

Why I finished it: Gladwell’s mix of familiar and unfamiliar examples kept me going -- I was always wondering if this was a story I’d end up recognizing. I knew David Boies's name, for example, but not the story of his dyslexia. Others, like leukemia-treatment pioneer Dr. Jay Freireich, felt so recognizable that I found myself imagining the voice of Paul Harvey narrating them in my head: ”And that little boy, who never knew love as a child, grew up to be . . . a doctor who saved thousands of children.”

It's perfect for: Your Secret Santa or Yankee Swap gift at the office Christmas party. Gladwell has a broad following for a reason: his prose is breezy enough for a casual reader yet highbrow enough for a book snob, and his anecdotes make for good cocktail-party conversation starters.

@bookblrb: Malcolm Gladwell explains how some people and organizations succeed against impossible odds.

The Giver by Lois Lowry, Read by Ron Rifkin

*The Giver movie arrives August 15th* starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep! What better way to revisit this classic before you see it in theaters than by listening to the acclaimed audiobook read by Ron Rifkin? Click through to our blog to hear a clip of this beloved, dystopian, Newbery award-winning book; plus, watch the exciting movie featurette with author Lois Lowry, and enter Walden Media’s Giver Sweepstakes! Teachers and librarians can enter for a chance to win a trip to the movie premiere in New York City. Listen to the audio, read the book, see the movie.

4 CDs: 9780807286098, audio download: 9780739344569

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

Herbert: The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog by Robyn Belton

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged nonfictionpicture book

This is the true story of a dog lost at sea. Herbert is a three-year-old border terrier who falls overboard during rough waters in the French Pass, a treacherous span of water off the coast of New Zealand. Tim, the little boy who loves him, searches for Herbert with the help of family and friends.

Why I picked it up: Next year we are moving to New Zealand for six months, and I am on the lookout for stories set there.

Why I finished it: Even though I knew it had a happy ending, my heart still ached when I read the lines, "Nobody noticed what happened to Herbert. Nobody saw him lose his balance and fall into the sea." And when I saw the way the soft watercolor illustrations show how worried and determined Herbert is as he swims alone throughout the night, I was hooked. Includes a reproduced newspaper article about Herbert and Tim, as well as photos and letters from fans who read about Herbert’s adventure.

Readalikes: Two Bobbies, about the adversity a cat and dog faced during Hurricane Katrina, and Akiak: A Tale From the Iditarod by Robert Blake. Akiak is part of the sledding team but she hurts her paw and is taken out of the race. Once a dog is out it has to stay out, but she escapes from the camp where she's left behind and travels on her own to catch up with her team.

@bookblrb: The true story of a three-year-old border terrier who fell overboard off the coast of New Zealand.

Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of agefantasy

Once upon a time, when Lilly was a small child, she rescued a baby kraken from some seagulls, and they became best friends. As they grew older, Lilly gave him the name Octavius, and convinced him not to eat humans or attack ships. Octavius showed her many of the ocean’s beautiful mysteries. Lilly's parents were not happy with their relationship.

One day the kraken went off on a journey but never returned. Lilly embarked on a quest to find him.

Why I picked it up: My science fiction book group, The Octavians (named after Octavia E. Butler), picked this as one of our selections.  The nominator had me at "a girl and her kraken" --  I love all things giant squid. But also, this has one of the best covers I have seen on a fantasy novel in ages, totally fresh, but full of items significant to the story spelling out the title, including a tentacle, carrots (beloved by a mule turned into a boy), rosemary (which the witch reeks of), and a set of elaborate, antique keys.

Why I finished it: Rather than a simple, three-part fairytale quest, hers is layered with dubious deals, hard work, and tremendous sacrifice. (Any journey that starts with a troll cutting out your lady bits in exchange for the location of a friend is not going to be easy.) I especially admire how the author goes into great detail about the suffering Lilly endures in order to accomplish her goals like blisters, backbreaking labor, and hunger. This brings her to life as a true hero instead of making her some gifted chosen one, especially as she takes on a series of increasingly crazy tasks.

It's perfect for: Fans of Margo Lanagan's reinvented fairy tales (The Brides of Rollrock Island and Tender Morsels) which embrace the magical elements that draw young readers to fantasy, but mix them with a level of brutality not seen since the Brothers Grimm.

@bookblrb: Lilly sets off on a quest to save her best friend, who just happens to be a sea monster.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Read by Ariadne Meyers

Hear it here first because this is THE book that EVERYONE is talking about this spring. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is an unforgettable, unlike-anything-you’ve-heard-before masterpiece. And the audiobook is sure to WOW with its first-person narrative voice. In fact, this #1 May LibraryReads pick has already won an AudioFile Earphones Award thanks to the winning combination of Lockhart’s “lyrical prose” (Booklist, starred review) and Ariadne Meyer’s haunting narration. You’ll be entranced by the nearly eighteen-year-old character, Cadence Sinclair Eastman, who unfolds her mysterious tale clue by clue, chapter by chapter, and while we can’t reveal too much…we can reveal a clip. Click to hear it and read all the rave reviews so far.

5 CDs: 9780804168410, audio download: 9780804168427

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

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agescience fiction

When Los Angeles (and the rest of the world) is destroyed by a megaquake, Pen loses everything and becomes separated from her family. Waiting for them to return to their pink house, she is driven to action by looters. One of them knew her parents, and he gives her the keys to his van. She wanders Southern California, making new friends while fighting off the hungry Giants created by a mad geneticist. Her quest finally brings her to the ruins of Las Vegas.

Why I picked it up: I’ve always loved Francesca Lia Block’s lyrical language, especially when it’s raw and angry.

Why I finished it: Block’s grounding in mythology goes deep in this novel, which plays with key elements of The Odyssey. Since I’ve always loved that story, I enjoyed seeing how it was reworked. The hero has the name of the loyal wife in the original, but instead of staying home, she goes out and becomes the hero she needs to be. And the Giants are excellent monsters.

It's perfect for: Lesley, who likes YA books where characters are saved by art. Pen is a storyteller, and her new friends Hex, Ash, and Ez all reveal their various talents (music, painting, fashion) over the course of the novel. Lesley would also appreciate the broad range of genders and sexual orientations in the story, which is still unusual in teen literature.

@bookblrb: Pen sets off to find her parents in a post-apocalyptic world full of looters and hungry Giants.

Attempting Normal by Marc Maron

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged biographyhumor

Marc Maron is angry. But then he may be overreacting, who knows? He is constantly riding the roller coaster of his own mind and taking his audience along for the ride. The first chapter explores the situation in his head, an illustration of his constant judging of the world and himself as he overreacts to a Muslim on an airplane. Part I of the book explores his past, the early days breaking into stand-up comedy, his first two marriages, and his intensely brilliant, bi-polar father.  Part II contains a lot of recent material on his cats, the times he almost died, and the joys of lobby waffles when he’s on the road.

Why I picked it up: I had never heard of Marc Maron before seeing him live at a comedy club. On the stage he was calm, almost subdued. His comedy was a hilarious, thought-provoking conversation about little more than what he had been doing for the past week. Since then I have been listening to his WTF podcast interviews with comedians and actors where his crazy introspection gets them to open up about their own lives. Of course I picked up his book.

Why I finished it: Almost every page made me laugh out loud. And Maron made many beautiful observations about writing, creating, and the struggles of living.

Readalikes: Many comedians end up writing good memoirs; they are people who observe their lives. My favorites are Last Words by George Carlin and Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.

@bookblrb: A window into the roller coaster inside comedian Marc Maron’s head.

The Here And Now by Ann Brashares, read by Emily Rankin

Let the “sisterhood,” rejoice! Beloved bestselling author Ann Brashares is back with the eagerly-awaited YA listen, The Here And Now. She may have traded in her traveling pants for some time travel, but Brashares’ trademark honesty and wit is still the perfect fit for all of her devoted listeners. Her ability to create relatable characters who truly resonate with teenage girls (and those of us who remain one at heart) is ever-present, even when she writes about the most magical of circumstances. Get ready for an unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world…if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Click through to hear what award-winning narrator, Emily Rankin, has to say about what it’s like to read Brashares latest on audio. And see a super cute studio snapshot of Emily with a very special guest.

6 CDs: 9780804121347, audio download: 9780804121354

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

Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice: (The Unwritten) by Mike Carey, Peter Gross

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

The Unwritten is a graphic novel series in which author Wilson Taylor based a famous, Harry Potteresque fantasy series on his son, Tom. In the first collections, Wilson has disappeared and Tom is kidnapped by a man who may be the villain straight out of the books his father wrote, the vampire Count Ambrosio. It’s unclear what is fictional and what is real.

This is kind of like The Unwritten Volume 0 in that it starts at the very beginning, which Volume 1 never showed. Taylor’s father is an author who is playing with story archetypes. He settles on the story of a boy wizard, which is very powerful of late. He writes the first in a series of novels about an orphan boy working in the kitchen at a school of magic. He has a powerful, ancient enemy and not even a bit of magic with which to defend himself. Taylor has a son, born purposefully on the day the book is published. He gives both the character and the boy the same name, Tommy, and he weaves connections between them to create something new.

Why I picked it up: I’ve read a few of the graphic novels in the Unwritten series. I was hoping this book would give some clarity about the relationship between the two Tommy Taylors, and about the world they inhabit. Plus Carey is one of best writers working in comics, and I wanted an easy way to start reading the series again.

Why I finished it: I loved the fictional Tommy Taylor’s story, which is the more powerful of the two. His parents die to save the world from the evil on The Demeter, sinking the ship and casting their son adrift. He’s protected by a giant whale and then the head of the magical school. On his seventh birthday, at The Proving, when kids find out if they have the spark to be trained in magic, Tommy is devastated to find he has no trace of his parents’ power. But that doesn’t stop him from studying magic or facing his enemy. (The “real” Tommy Taylor is just an infant in this book and hardly figures -- he’s more a character being developed by his father than anything.)

Readalikes: Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen, one of the best stories about a boy wizard out there (and maybe the first). He doesn’t fit in at the school of magic where he finds himself because of a lack of talent.

@bookblrb: An author forges a connection between his son and his character of the same name, an orphan studying magic.

Run, Dog! by Cécile Boyer

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture book

A dog chases a red ball through a playground, a back yard, a park, and a zoo.

Why I picked it up: The dotted motion line on the cover, which traces the line of travel of the red ball, caught my eye.

Why I finished it: The art is arresting. It’s mostly told in silent, single-colored silhouettes that have a lot of character, from the delighted kids on the trampoline (the dog joins them and bounces after the ball) to the colorful pigeons that flee from the dog.

The coolest thing, though is that many of the two-page spreads are printed across several pages that aren’t quite as wide as the book. As these are turned, part of the image across the two page spread changes on both sides of the spine. In the first, before it’s turned, the ball is bouncing on the trampoline with the kids. After it’s turned, the ball is bouncing off one of the kids. It’s a brilliant, slow motion flip book. (This is just impossible to explain, so here’s a Vine video showing what I mean.)

Readalikes: There are a lot of great picture books out there about dogs. One of my favorites is Open Me...I’m a Dog by Art Spiegelman. The book is a dog, and it comes complete with a leash. And though Run, Dog! has a few words, it reminds me of the wordless Polo books by Régis Faller. In both a dog journeys across extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, though in Polo’s case they’re fantastical as well.

@bookblrb: A dog chases a red ball across the pages of a picture book that uses a surprising mechanism to show the chase.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, Read by Peter Altschuler

Already a New York Times bestseller, CREATIVITY, INC., by the co-founder of Pixar Animation, is the perfect listen to recommend not only to animation-adoring patrons, but also to business managers, entrepreneurs, college students, recent grads, and anyone interested in creative culture in a workplace. An inspiring listening for the commute to work, or a thought-provoking treat to take on vacation this summer, CREATIVITY, INC. is the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history (such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo) are made. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams tweeted to his 1.7 million followers, “As you might expect, the audio version of @edcatmull's new book — which I've been looking forward to for a while — has excellent narration.” Take a listen yourself by clicking here.

11 CDs: 9780804127462, audio download: 9780804127479

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

Invasion of the Overworld: a Minecraft Novel by Mark Cheverton

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agescience fiction

Gameknight999 spends all of his free time playing Minecraft. Wildly popular for its limitless possibilities for creating worlds and taking part in group quests as well as fighting hordes of monsters, Minecraft has many types of players. Gameknight999 found joy in being a “griefer” who makes the game harder for others, either killing them off for no reason, leading them into traps, or destroying the end goals of quests so that no other players can win. After an accident with his father’s latest failed invention, Gameknight999 finds himself in game. If he dies, there won’t be any way to respawn. He must fight all the usual monsters, including a group of Endermen (the most powerful enemies in Minecraft) who have designs on escaping the server and entering the real world to destroy mankind. Only Gameknight999 stands in their way, but first he has to learn to work with the other players he used to grieve.

Why I picked it up: We don’t allow students to play Minecraft on the library computers where I work, because of school district policy. But it’s the number one game kids try to hide from my prying eyes when I’m on patrol. There is something about the blocky, pixelated graphics that really sucks the kids in. When I heard about this novel set in the Minecraft world, I felt it was my duty to read it.

Why I finished it: I started to empathize with the battered villagers, who not only had to fight off attacks each night by massed monsters, but had to put up with player characters roaming the countryside and attacking villagers just because they could. It’s also a clever, series-sustaining idea that Gameknight999 has to protect his world from the monsters inside the game, who have rudimentary self-awareness and a desire to conquer us. Cheverton has clearly played the game and learned tricks for surviving the nighttime (when the monsters come out), like digging a hole in the ground and hiding inside.

It's perfect for: Joey. He’s lost his computer privileges several times because he won’t stop playing games in the library. He’ll relate to Gameknight999 because much like Joey, he spends all his time strategizing about where to mine, how to improve his armor, and how to equip his character with the best gear. Plus he needs something to read in the library right now, anyway, since I make him sit in the stacks, away from the electronics, when his class visits.

@bookblrb: Gameknight999, who likes to make Minecraft difficult for others, suddenly finds himself in the game.

latter recommendations >>