String Theory Wayward vol. 1 by Jim Zubkavich, Steve Cummings, John Rauch, Tamra Bonvillain

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged coming of agegraphic novelparanormal

Unshelved comic strip for 3/13/2015
The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of age

Heaven’s Dream, or Heam, is a strawberry-flavored illegal drug that many users claim lets them see Heaven. Over the past decade its use has become an epidemic, and addiction is almost guaranteed. Rumors of the euphoria from the high it provides lead to many overdoses, and thousands of young people die each year.  

Six years ago, Faye became a Heam addict at eleven when she was forced to take an overdose of the drug, along with her best friend Christian, to punish her father, a dealer who was in debt to the wrong people. Christian died. The overdose gave Faye web-like purple veins on her upper chest. Marked addicts become non-citizens and cannot hold jobs or live normally.  Glazer, the ex-cop who saved Faye, adopts her. He teaches her to hold her craving for Heam at bay with a combat training regimen. Faye knows the four men responsible for her condition. Believing she has no future, she is consumed by a desire to get revenge before giving in to her addiction.

Why I picked it up: When her first book, Dark Inside was published, I was fortunate to have Roberts visit my school library and speak to our students. It was a joy to meet and talk with her, and I look forward to each of her new books.

Why I finished it: Faye and Glazer live in an abandoned church in the sleaziest part of town. She spends most evenings tracking her tormentors. When she meets a young man, Chael, he knows what she is doing and why, and he offers to help her. She refuses, but he continues to appear everywhere she goes. He wants her to give up her plans for murder and to believe that there a better life is possible. The tension between the two is palpable, especially after Chael reveals who he really is.

It's perfect for: Marni, who enjoys reading about different versions of the afterlife, because there are many woven throughout this story. Faye believes she saw Hell when she had the Heam forced on her, and she is convinced that she is condemned to it. Many of the stoned street rats she encounters tell of different visions they’ve had while on the drug. Some churches embrace Heam as evidence of Heaven, others reject those claims.

Sinners & Saints 2: Branded Irish by Sara Brookes

She’s a genius with biotechnology. He’s a sadist in tailored suits. Their business arrangement is about to get personal…in more ways than one.

For workaholic Arden, the vacation to a tropical paradise was supposed to be relaxing. But when a past lover unexpectedly crosses her path, every desire she has been smothering roars to life. When Garvey offers her a lucrative business proposition handling technology that will revolutionize the industry—and change the world—like a moth driven to flame, she can’t resist.

One year as president of Riding Irish, and Garvey is struggling to balance the burdens of the motorcycle club, his personal life, and his security firm. Weighed down with responsibilities he is convinced he can’t manage, he is near the breaking point. But Arden’s reappearance is a perfect distraction. And his second chance with the only woman he ever loved.

When Garvey teaches Arden to turn the pain he gives her into the pleasure she craves, dark desires are awakened. Limits are tested. And the line between play and love starts to blur. Just as they discover how far they’re willing to go, a heart-breaking deception is revealed that threatens to extinguish their rekindled passion.

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Law and Disorder Absurdly Funny Moments from the Courts by Charles M. Sevilla, Lee Lorenz

Link to this review by robert tagged humornonfiction

We've all seen them: the emailed or Facebook anecdotes about people in court behaving hilariously. I've often wondered if they were true. Law and Disorder: Absurdly Funny Moments from the Courts gives at least some assurance they are. A judge adds a score of life sentences atop a millennium; a defense attorney is late filing a motion because he was arrested; FBI agents who've raided a mental hospital try to get pizza delivered there; a fed-up federal judge orders the opposing attorneys to play rock, paper, scissors on the courthouse steps to make a decision on where to take a deposition. And those are just the clean stories.

Each chapter begins with an illustration by Lee Lorenz and a selection of epigrams (the chapter on “The Experts” features quotes from Albert Einstein and Rodney Dangerfield). Then the fun begins with short transcripts, report excerpts, and quotes from judicial rulings that prove Sevilla is not making this stuff up.

Why I picked it up: My local public radio station had an interview with Sevilla, a lawyer who lives in San Diego, about his new compilation of found legal humor. So I made a special trip to my favorite independent bookstore and picked up an autographed copy.

Why I finished it: In his introduction, Sevilla says, “the reader will find the humor sophomoric, scatological, very profane and overtly sexual in content.” When I read the selection of inappropriate and disrespectful jokes by a judge undergoing a disciplinary hearing, I knew he wasn't kidding. The combination of absurdity and authenticity, like the use of federal law report citations (e.g. U.S. vs. Filipiak, 466 F.3d 582, 584 [7th Cir. 2006]) in three of the anecdotes in the“Sentencing” chapter, carried me through to the end.

Readalikes: A.P Herbert's Uncommon Law: Being 66 Misleading Cases features authorities and the courts taking on the most extreme controversies to humorous effect. Herbert's legal humor was originally a long-running series of fictional trial and appeals court cases written for Punch. They were unabashedly absurd as they warped the centuries-long development of English Common Law and legislative acts into Gordian knots beyond the reach of common sense.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, a heartwarming graphic novel about friendship and surviving junior high through the power of roller derby. For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

In her graphic novel debut, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverence, and girl power!

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Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agethriller

Perry’s band’s big gig is preempted by his parents’ insistence that he take Gobi, the geeky, quiet, frumpy Lithuanian exchange student who’s been living with them all year, to his senior prom. He’s not happy, but his dad’s red Jaguar sweetens the deal and off they go. After she decks a couple school bullies, she reveals that she’s really a trained assassin on a mission to take out five targets. Perry serves as her chauffeur, gets to his gig, and learns that underneath Gobi’s gray, lumpy prom dress is a beautiful and mysterious young woman. 

Why I picked it up: I couldn’t resist the idea of this nerdy exchange student turning out to be a deadly assassin, especially since I’m half Lithuanian myself.

Why I finished it: The action got going within just a couple chapters, and as Gobi reveals more of her plan and her reason for killing these five particular people. It gets even weightier when Gobi’s mission takes her to Perry’s father’s law firm.

It's perfect for: Fans of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series or James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books will love another high-octane novel that ends in justice for the dead and a new path for its protagonist.

"Is This Thing On?" A Friendly Guide to Everything Digital for Newbies, Technophobes, and the Kicking & Screaming by Abby Stokes

ISBN: (0761183809) Published by Workman Publishing $17.95(US) Add to Cart ABOUT "IS THIS THING ON?"

Like a personal trainer for the digital age, Abby Stokes is the hand-holding, motivating expert that newbies—specifically older newbies—turn to when they want to become digitally literate. And her book, Is This Thing On?, is as smart, comprehensive, reassuring, and jargon-free as she is: the epitome of user-friendly. And it is now completely revised and updated to keep pace with the fast-changing digital landscape, covering tablets, apps, video streaming, social media, and much more.

With the skill and assurance of a teacher who for over 20 years has personally taught computer skills to thousands of seniors and technophobes, Stokes covers it all: How to choose, buy, and start using the computer or tablet that’s just right for you, plus how to set everything up for maximum comfort and safety. How to connect to the Internet, sign up for email, understand and use search engines, and get started with essential skills like word processing and text messaging. How to choose, buy, and start using a smartphone. How to take and share digital photographs and videos. How to discover online communities and participate in social media like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. How to explore the world of apps, online music, streaming movies, and ebooks. And, importantly, online security— including what to do when things go wrong. Appendices include both Apple and PC keyboard shortcuts and 200 recommended websites and 100 apps; there are FAQs at the end of each chapter and tips and tricks throughout. An all-new companion website—AskAbbyStokes.com—will include video tutorials explaining the latest technologies.

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The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak

Link to this review by ang tagged humorpicture book

This read-aloud charmer is true to its title. It has NO pictures. It doesn’t need any.

Here is how books work:

Everything the words
say, the person reading
the book has to say.

No matter what.

Whether the words are complete nonsense, a song, robot voices, flagrant lies, or disbelief at being suckered into reading such a silly book, there is no getting out of reading every hilarious page. 

Why I picked it up: I liked its honest approach. The bold, front cover tells it like it is. The back warns that a kid is probably playing a trick on you and you are about to say and do some very preposterous things.

Why I finished it: It was as much fun to beg the kids to never make me read this book again as it was to proclaim that, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named BooBooButt.” 

What really surprised me was what happened after I finished it. I have never seen my students laugh so hard. They begged me to read it again! Word spread through the school, and teachers started staying for story time to hear the book, too. Classes that hadn’t heard it demanded to know when it would be their turn. Weeks after its debut, it is still the most requested book in my library.

Readalikes: Double Trouble in Walla Walla and Fox in Socks, which will also keep kids laughing with their onslaught of improbable word combinations.

The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

For the first time in decades I’m remembering Mom, all of her--the wonderful and terrible things about her that I’ve cast out of my thoughts for so long. I’m still struggling to prevent these memories from erupting from their subterranean depths. Trying to hold back the flood. I can’t, not today. The levees break.

Thirty years after her death, Alice Eve Cohen’s mother appears to her, seemingly in the flesh, and continues to do so during the hardest year Alice has had to face: the year her youngest daughter needs a harrowing surgery, her eldest daughter decides to reunite with her birth mother, and Alice herself receives a daunting diagnosis. As it turns out, it’s entirely possible for the people we’ve lost to come back to us when we need them the most.

Although letting her mother back into her life is not an easy thing, Alice approaches it with humor, intelligence, and honesty. What she learns is that she must revisit her childhood and allow herself to be a daughter once more in order to take care of her own girls. Understanding and forgiving her mother’s parenting transgressions leads her to accept her own and to realize that she doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good mother.

“Alice Eve Cohen’s warm, witty, wise memoir is an elixir of love. It captures the struggles of every woman who ever wanted to be a better mother or daughter. Read it and weep, and laugh, and love.” —Nancy Bachrach, author of The Center of the Universe

“Funny, painful, absurd, and heartwarming . . . Alice’s struggle to accept her imperfect self is a loving message tomothers who struggle to live life with grace. A beautiful book.” —Julie Metz, New York Times bestselling author of Perfection

“Cohen navigates what was a perfect storm of a year . . . What she made of this year is a book so honest, so moving, and ultimately so wise that it is a privilege to take the journey with her.” —Abigail Thomas, bestselling author of A Three Dog Life

“I love, love, love this book. It’s so rich, so real, and so moving . . . An astonishingly wonderful book—I was enthralled.” —Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You

“Compassionate, compelling, and told in luscious prose that practically begs you to sink in and linger, Cohen’s imaginative story and its fascinating characters will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.” —Jessie Sholl, author of Dirty Secret

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Kill Chain Drones And The Rise Of The High-Tech Assassins by Andrew Cockburn

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Cockburn argues that armed forces decision makers have become too entranced by the idea of technology advancing their ability to fight wars, to the point that they are committing our forces and money to broken or imperfect strategies. Military drones, planes, and satellites collect the equivalent of 700 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica every day. This massive flow of information is hard to parse, grainy or fuzzy in resolution, and it has, on multiple occasions, led to the targeting of civilians. Both military and political leaders want to be perceived as providing the most cutting-edge weapons to support our troops, and they rush to purchase gear before testing is complete and data is convincing. Modern drones aren’t delivering what they promise -- real-time, useful information from the twenty-first century battlefield.

Why I picked it up: President Obama has doubled-down on the drone strategy for dealing with threats against the United States. I wanted to know how our drones work, where they are put to use, and how the military decides to launch a drone strike.

Why I finished it: I had thought of drones as omniscient eyes-in-the-sky that allowed the U.S. military to know what was going on everywhere, influencing our decisions during battles. Instead I learned that the promises made by contractors about data analysis, flight time, accuracy, bomb delivery, and cost are being broken. Drones, first used for their frugality, have progressed from the twenty million dollar Reaper to over $300 million for each Global Hawk. Testing to prove their battle-worthiness has been performed on a skewed field under perfect (not wartime) conditions. Our foreign policy and the acceptance of drone use by U.S. citizenry is based on the idea that our military is able to perform "surgical strikes" that only hurt the bad guys. But we make many mistakes due to the limitations of the drones. Most U.S. citizens do not realize that our commanders may attack a high-value target only if "thirty or fewer civilians will be harmed,” meaning that that level of error is acceptable. And most scary of all, military leaders are now trying to develop autonomous drones that can both identify terrorists and carry out the decision to kill them without any human input.

It's perfect for: My friend Mark, a hawk of sorts. When we talk politics, he is always pushing the idea of keeping American boots "off the ground" in favor of drone strikes. I think once he reads this, he might reconsider.

A Journey Through The Digestive System With Max Axiom Super Scientist (Graphic Library) by Emily Sohn, Cynthia Martin, Barbara Schulz

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelsciencesuperhero

While waiting for his order to arrive in a diner, Max Axiom spots a nutritionist he knows, shrinks himself down, and, unbeknownst to her, hops onto her sandwich. After she takes a bite he goes on a journey from her mouth to her rectum, giving scientific tidbits about digestion along the way.

Why I picked it up: I asked Eric Fitzgerald, Capstone’s VP of Library Sales, for a recommendation, and he told me about the Max Axiom series.

Why I finished it: It’s weirder than it sounds. Axiom hangs from his friend’s uvula to explain how food is swallowed, and soaking in stomach acid and bile doesn’t stain his white lab coat or wipe the smile from his face. His exit from the digestive system (via teleporter) made me laugh.

Readalikes: I collect books on this subject. This most reminds me of the slightly insane The Long Journey of Mister Poop, in which a wolf accompanies an apple through a young girl’s digestive tract.

Please Stop Helping Us How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed by Jason L. Riley

Link to this review by lynn tagged nonfiction

What's holding African-American people back in this country? Is it racist policing, jobs that pay unlivable wages, the residual effects of slavery? Jason Riley doesn't think so. He believes that the liberal initiatives intended to help are causing the most harm, creating a generation of blacks that are dependent, entitled, and completely unable to contribute to society. Riley sees a topsy-turvy world where antisocial tendencies are passed off as cultural differences, public schools cater more to teachers than students, and the cry of discrimination is used to cover genuine differences in abilities to everyone's detriment. It's not always an easy book to read, but it does provide a fresh look at problems that sometimes seem intractable.

Why I picked it up: I'm a pretty old-school liberal, so I wanted to see if an African-American author could make Republican arguments without sounding deluded or self-hating.

Why I finished it: Riley appears to be neither. His central argument that African-Americans were better off before liberal social engineering starting interfering in their lives is well-reasoned and backed by clearly-cited evidence. So clearly-cited, in fact, that it made me want to read some of his sources to see if they were as rational.

Riley's biases are obvious, but so are mine, and I appreciate the fact that he doesn't demonize his opposition. For example, he posits that teachers' unions are responsible for a lot of the problems in our educational system, but he never tries to make the argument that teachers are horrible people who don't care what happens to their students. He also introduces some aspects of race relations I'd never considered, like civil rights leaders for hire and a labor movement that has never been particularly friendly to blacks.

It's perfect for: My friend Julie, a therapist with a special interest in multicultural issues. Riley lays out a number of ways he believes contemporary African-American culture is toxic and counterproductive, such as contempt for education, low marriage rates, and glorification of criminal activity. I'm wondering if Julie would have as tough a time as I did coming up with a counterargument to Riley's claims.

BUMF Volume 1 I Buggered The Kaiser by Joe Sacco

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged alternate historygraphic novelhumorscience fiction

A smoking chicken with a human head narrates the beginning of the Bible (the Garden of Eden is shown complete with unicorns). Turning the page flashes forward to years later, a two-page spread that shows a lot more of the f’ed up things going on in today’s U.S. than you’d want to see: rats, a dead cat, a puking drunk, a man who has committed suicide, a woman beating her child, a man having his brains blown out...and much worse. Something is seriously wrong with the world. Sacco’s science fictiony exploration of the political corruption that got us here is a strange, thinly-disguised metaphor with lots of full-frontal nudity that includes Richard Nixon awakening in the body of Barack Obama, brutal interrogations, and multiple trips to the Andromeda Galaxy.

Why I picked it up: I love Sacco’s nonfiction graphic novels (Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza, Safe Area Gorazde), but this looked different, with Nixon on the cover claiming to be Obama, and a hooded man holding the ten commandments (each of which is classified) in front of explodingTwin Towers. On the back, a yellow half-man, half-chicken is fishing in Wyoming with a grenade.

Why I finished it: At the beginning, a British General is dictating a story, “I Buggered the Kaiser,” to cartoonist Sacco. In a flooded trench he explains the following plan to his men. At the first whistle, they’re to remove their clothing. At the second whistle,they’re to sport massive erections. At the third, they're to advance on the Hun trenches. The men look stunned, like they’re extras who didn’t know they were in a Monty Python sketch. But the General is serious. There’s only one problem: a shortage of erotic material to distribute to the men. The General’s solution is as unique as it is insane. I hadn’t giggled this much or this unexpectedly since reading the first page of Joe Daly’s Dungeon Quest.

It's perfect for: My friend Dave, who lives off the information grid (no credit cards, no internet, no cell phone, hardly any bills). He’d enjoy the story of the young woman, which starts in the chapter titled “Milk.” She’s under surveillance by government agents because she’s not transmitting -- she’s an information gap, just like Dave. The agents lose it when she pays cash for her milk. Later she’s shown being interrogated in the Andromeda Galaxy, as Dave will one day be.

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