Dear America: With The Might of Angels Hadley, Virginia, 1954 by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by rosie tagged coming of agehistorical fiction

Unshelved comic strip for 8/7/2015
Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God by Lauren F. Winner

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged biography

Winner, an Episcopal priest and author of Girl Meets God and Still, offers surprising perspectives on her encounters with God through close reading, personal reflection, and her experiences ministering to women in prison. The book requires more than a passing familiarity with the Bible and the Christian tradition. It is not an Anne Lamott-style spiritual essay collection but a more academic exegesis of God’s word as seen through commonplace objects and encounters: bread, laughter, clothing, breastfeeding, fire.

Why I picked it up: I’m always game for Episcopalian spiritual memoirs, and I’ve read and enjoyed several of Winner’s other books.

Why I finished it: I consider myself Biblically literate, but Winner consistently points out moments in the Bible that I had forgotten or glossed over: God’s failure (refusal?) to speak directly to Sarah, for example, when announcing her impending pregnancy; or the passage in Ezekiel 16 where God is shown as, for all intents and purposes, an abusive husband. Each chapter brought a new “aha!” or “huh . . .” moment for me.

It's perfect for: My deacon, Rachel, newly ordained and graduated with her M.Div. She brings a different perspective to her sermons than our (younger, male) rector, and I think she’d find a kindred spirit in Winner’s earthly, earthy metaphors for God-with-us.

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Churchill’s Secretary comes the fifth thrilling adventure in the Maggie Hope series. This is the first of Maggie’s exploits in WWII espionage to take place in America, and prominently features the ever-alluring Eleanor Roosevelt.

Maggie Hope goes home! Maggie Hope returns to her native American soil where, partnered with World War II’s most fascinating woman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maggie must use her codebreaking genius and considerable wiles to thwart the loathsome Nazi regime.

“A treat for WWII buffs and mystery lovers alike.”—Booklist

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V is for Villain by Peter Moore

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coming of agesuperhero

Brad Baron attends an academy for superpowered teens, but only because his older brother graduated and followed in their father's footsteps as a member of the Justice Force. After a gym class requires mechanical repairs to his spine and leaves him temporarily deaf and blind (superpowered games can be pretty rough), it's decided that he would be better off being reassigned to the alternative program with other under-powered siblings. He makes new friends who can control tech, make delicate weapons, and someone who just might have illegal psi powers. They don't believe superhero teams are as good and pure as people think, and are looking to show the world the truth.

Why I picked it up: When I flipped it open, I saw that the book starts with a cover sheet indicating that the contents are a part of a classified government trial released in accordance with a United Nations Freedom of Information Law. Pretty compelling.

Why I finished it: Brad's big brother is always trying to be a heroic example to "ordinary" people, but comes off as incredibly patronizing and shortsighted. The mounting evidence Brad finds about the flawed nature of the Justice Force makes me wonder how much his big brother really knows.

Readalikes: Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, which also follows the small choices that lead to super villainy. 

The Tsar of Love and Techno Stories by Anthony Marra

From the author of National Book Award longlist selection and New York Times bestseller A Constellation of Vital Phenomena come these dazzling, poignant, and lyrical interwoven stories about family, sacrifice, the legacy of war, and the redemptive power of art.

This stunning, exquisitely written collection introduces a cast of remarkable characters whose lives intersect in ways both life-affirming and heartbreaking. A 1930s Soviet censor painstakingly corrects offending photographs, deep underneath Leningrad, bewitched by the image of a disgraced prima ballerina. A chorus of women recount their stories and those of their grandmothers, former gulag prisoners who settled their Siberian mining town. Two pairs of brothers share a fierce, protective love. Young men across the former USSR face violence at home and in the military. And great sacrifices are made in the name of an oil landscape unremarkable except for the almost incomprehensibly peaceful past it depicts. In stunning prose, with rich character portraits and a sense of history reverberating into the present, The Tsar of Love and Techno is a captivating work from one of our greatest new talents.

“Ambitious and intellectually restless…[Marra is] a prose writer who resembles the Joseph Heller of Catch-22 and the Jonathan Safran Foer of Everything Is Illuminated.”—Dwight Garner, New York Times

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Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis

Link to this review by robert tagged history

President Theodore Roosevelt (whose initials “TR” are used throughout Davis' book), like presidents before and since, met with all sorts of people. But when he invited pioneering African-American educator Booker T. Washington over for dinner in October of 1901, a political furor erupted. Social historian Deborah Davis uses that incident, and the reaction to it, as the centerpiece for a book that mingles biography, political history, social history, and the struggle for civil rights.

Why I picked it up: At the last stamp show I attended, an exhibit mentioned TR had the president’s return address changed from “Executive Mansion” to “The White House” in response to the media storm and political fuss over this dinner. I thought someone must have written a book about it, and went looking for one.

Why I finished it: Davis starts off with a parallel biography of both Washington, born a slave, and TR, scion of a prominent New York society family. There are surprising parallels: they were about the same age, admired Abraham Lincoln, suffered the deaths of their beloved first wives, and were tormented by the antics of rebellious daughters. They were also both used to travel and public speaking. Washington made many fund-raising trips on behalf of his Tuskegee Institute. TR traveled extensively for his many jobs: Federal Civil Service Commissioner, Commissioner of the New York Police Department, cattle rancher, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, soldier, Governor of New York, Vice President, and President. Davis covers why TR wanted to meet with Washington -- to check on the reputation of potential appointees to government jobs. She also discusses the significance of TR inviting the educator to dinner instead of just an office meeting; it was a concession to both their busy schedules, and also a sign of social equality.

The writing is engaging, and there's an element of shock. Davis quotes from journalists of the time, verbatim, to show reaction to the meeting. Many passages use degrading and demeaning terms that would be unacceptable today.

Readalikes: For more White House history, try Margaret Truman's The President's House: 1800 to the Present The Secrets and History of the World's Most Famous Home. Paul Laurence Dunbar, a poet who's mentioned in Guest of Honor, captures some of the pressures and tensions African-American intellectuals of that era faced, and his most popular works explore the human condition through the sometimes difficult-to-read dialect of impoverished rural southern blacks. His Selected Poems would be a good companion read.

Golden Age A novel by Jane Smiley

From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: the much-anticipated final volume, following Some Luck and Early Warning, of her acclaimed American trilogy—a richly absorbing new novel that brings the remarkable Langdon family into our present times and beyond

A lot can happen in one hundred years, as Jane Smiley shows to dazzling effect in her Last Hundred Years trilogy. But as Golden Age, its final installment, opens in 1987, the next generation of Langdons face economic, social, political—and personal—challenges unlike anything their ancestors have encountered before.

Michael and Richie, the rivalrous twin sons of World War II hero Frank, work in the high-stakes world of government and finance in Washington and New York, but they soon realize that one’s fiercest enemies can be closest to home; Charlie, the charming, recently found scion, struggles with whether he wishes to make a mark on the world; and Guthrie, once poised to take over the Langdons’ Iowa farm, is instead deployed to Iraq, leaving the land—ever the heart of this compelling saga—in the capable hands of his younger sister.

Determined to evade disaster, for the planet and her family, Felicity worries that the farm’s once-bountiful soil may be permanently imperiled, by more than the extremes of climate change. And as they enter deeper into the twenty-first century, all the Langdon women—wives, mothers, daughters—find themselves charged with carrying their storied past into an uncertain future.

Combining intimate drama, emotional suspense, and a full command of history, Golden Age brings to a magnificent conclusion the century-spanning portrait of this unforgettable family—and the dynamic times in which they’ve loved, lived, and died: a crowning literary achievement from a beloved master of American storytelling.

“Warmly affecting…Smiley is a skilled storyteller. The story progresses year by year from 1987 through an imagined 2019…Newly introduced characters are welcome additions to Smiley’s vibrant gallery of fully fleshed characters, with Henry and Claire remaining the most ruefully appealing of the siblings we first met in Some Luck …Despite dire events, the narrative energy of masterfully interwoven plotlines always conveys a sense of life as an adventure worth pursuing.” —Kirkus

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Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan by Justine Gubar

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

A serious, scholarly look at what happens when being a sports fan goes too far. Justine Gubar is a producer for Outside the Lines, an ESPN show that analyzes important issues in the sports world. Topics explored include selfie culture, the Lucifer effect, BIRG (Basking In Reflected Glow) and CORF (Cut Off Reflected Failure), and the explosion of social media and their effects on fandom. Gubar went to sporting shrines around the world to speak with former soccer hooligans, security experts, and self-identified, over-intense fans to find out the causes of rioting, internet trolling, parents’ little-league fights, and more.

Why I picked it up: If my satellite package ever gives the option for a "sports-only bundle", I would save a ton of money. I watch ESPN every morning during breakfast to see if I missed anything the previous night, and then again every evening to see what just went down during the day. I am a committed fan, but I like to think I’m safe to be around. (Editor’s note: He is. Mostly.) I have done my share of letting the referee know about my displeasure, but I can honestly say I have never sworn aloud in public. (Editor’s note: I believe him.)

Why I finished it: The examples of extreme fandom through the book. One of the weirder incidents involved a Welsh rugby fan who hacked off his own testicles to celebrate when Wales beat England in 2005. This kind of behavior is nothing new, though -- there were curse tablets buried under the Circus Maximus starting line in Rome, one of which was in the hope of causing the amputation of a chariot driver’s foot.

It's perfect for: Todd, a friend of mine who considers himself a true Oakland Raiders fan. He would love how the author visits the Raiders' stadium on an NFL gameday to see the 135 security cameras, as well as how the 450 people directly involved in crowd security work the game! 

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelhumorparanormalscience fiction

The students at the SuperMutant Magic Academy have the same problems and potential other high school students have. Plus superpowers. And magic.

Why I picked it up: Tamaki’s art in This One Summer was so good I’ll read everything she writes or draws forever.

Why I finished it: This was originally serialized online. Most vignettes are complete in a page, and the focus switches from character to character frequently. The result is a lovely, compelling, very broad view of the school and what its teen students (as well as a few teachers) are going through there. I loved the random moments, from Marsha and Wendy discussing how homoerotic sports are while watching some weird mashup of Quiddich and American football that involves flying with the help of bats to the D&D players who work both sex and lawyering into their games. And my heart broke for Marsha throughout -- would she ever be able to admit her love for Wendy? And what would happen when she did?

It's perfect for: My cousin Warren, who hates putting together puzzles. He’ll love the moment when Trevor uses his telekinetic powers to overcome the irritation of pieces that don’t fit together. Wally would like it, too, particularly this hilarious (slightly NSFW) moment where, when one student finds an issue of the new PowerWoman comic, another schools her about how sexist they are and why she should be reading GRAPHIC NOVELS.

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture book

Clara is taking the bus to her grandmother’s house by herself for the first time. Along the way she gets a flower, shares her cookies, and even stops a pickpocket.

Why I picked it up: I like picture books that are wider than they are tall.

Why I finished it: Most of the other passengers on the bus are friendly anthropomorphic animals, including a napping sloth (who gets a little too friendly with an older owl), a knitting cat, a mouse making a phone call, a friendly wolf, and a turtle who retreats into his shell. Each two-page spread is a single picture that captures the entire interior of the bus, using the wide format to perfect effect, and Dubuc’s soft pencil drawings make even the hulking bear affable.

Readalikes: Other books full of lovable animals, including A Little Book of Sloth. It also reminded me of Lost in NYC, another book about taking public transportation that’s filled with beautiful drawings.

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