Thornmallow was the 113th and final student to enter Wizard’s Hall. He was tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune or chant a spell. He was supposed to be the one to help stop the wizard Nettle and his Beast. He had no talent for enchantment, but he tried.
Why I picked it up: I got to meet Jane Yolen and see her speak in Indiana in November. (She’s awesome!) I decided to read a few of her fantasy novels, and I’d always wondered about the strange creature on the cover of this one.
Why I finished it: There is so much story packed into this small novel: leaving home, enrolling in wizarding school, the bewilderment of a student’s first days there, and facing down the villain who threatens the school. I loved it as much for what it told me about the school and its characters as I did for what it left to my imagination.
I'd give it to: My daughter’s friends, Max and Maya, in hopes that they’ll bring the fanged, blanket-like Quilted Beast to life next Halloween (or in a homemade video).
This graphic novel takes a deep, in-depth look at a Great White, detailing its lifecycle, its features, and just how ferocious it is. Chronicling the Great White's growth and eating habits will help better explain how the species has survived for so long. See this monster of the ocean in a whole new way!
Order now and be ready for Shark Week 2012, starting July 30th!
Alex Boese wrote this book as a follow-up to his 2002 The Museum of Hoaxes. Stories are organized into themed chapters (romance, photography, the world wide web, advertising, politics, etc.) then either confirmed or debunked with proof. Boese has an easy, non-scholarly style with humorous asides and personal commentary, and focuses on popular stories that originated on the Internet and also in newspapers and tabloids. He posts “reality rules” to help readers determine whether a story is true, and defines jargon like “sock puppet” -- a fake online friend created for the purpose of supporting one’s own argument. Boese includes footnotes and references so that the veracity of his claims can be backed up.
Why I picked it up: I saw it while cruising for books at the local thrift store and the title got me. I have tons of young readers that want debunking books.
Why I finished it: Some examples are hard to believe, like the one about penis-zapping electronic combs given to Sudanese men by foreign agents in order to emasculate them, but this story was run by many African papers and editorial pages. There are true stories about college professors who sent their life savings to Nigeria to help a prince transfer his money out of that country. This sure made me feel better to have fallen for some of the other legends, like the false one about a woman who has a tryst, drugs her partner, removes a kidney and leaves him on ice in the bathtub.
I’d give it to: James, who loves the Darwin Awards books. This would make a great bathroom reader for him.
A sweeping, threaded narrative of the global phenomenon known as the Vampire Wars! Mankind is silently infected by a millennia-old bacteria unknowingly exhumed by a scientific expedition in Antarctica. Now, in some rare cases, a person's so-called "junk DNA" becomes activated, and depending on their racial and ethnic heritage they begin to manifest one of the many diverse forms of the ""others"" that are the true basis for the legends of supernatural creatures. These aren't your usual vampires and werewolves — it goes much deeper than that.
Conceived by Jonathan Maberry, V Wars features stories from various "frontlines" as reported by such contributors as Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R.A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson (as well as Maberry himself, of course). The result is a compelling series of tales that create a unique chronicle of mankind's response to this sudden, hidden threat to humanity.
Davy is an only child. His parents paid a lot of attention to him. Then he had one brother, Petey, and they paid less attention to him. Then he gets eleven more brothers!
Why I picked it up: I like the sheep on the front cover, particularly the one (on the far left) that’s tied up in its balloon’s string.
Why I finished it: There’s an awesome two-page picture in the middle of the book where Davy’s brothers do whatever he does: hang on the monkey bars, practice Karate kicks, scream “No,” and burp. The burping is my favorite.
I'd give it to: Sophie because she would like the part when Davy’s brothers try to copy him. If he eats a certain cereal for breakfast, all of his brothers (there are a lot) want the same cereal. If he walks a certain way, all of his brothers do, too. He wants them to quit copying him, just like I sometimes want Sophie to quit copying me.
A how-to guide for becoming a successful Roman gladiator, full of history, photographs, illustrations, and helpful tips.
Why I picked it up: I like gladiators. I was interested in how they fight, the weapons they use, and how they were trained. (There was an amphitheater in every major city, and most had their own ludi (fighting schools).)
Why I finished it: I learned so much. One type of gladiator was called a provocateur who wore thirty pounds of armor, including a helmet with tiny eyeholes. Blind spots were a big problem for provocateurs, and having even slightly better visibility would give others a huge advantage over them.
I'd give it to: Jacob, a student of war and weapons. There are real fighting techniques here that we can practice together with our wooden swords.
The history of civilization as told through the history of six man-made beverages. The book begins in ancient times with beer and wine, then proceeds chronologically with spirits, coffee, and tea before ending in the twentieth century with Coca-Cola.
Why I picked it up: I enjoy histories that interpret events from a non-traditional angle. And I've long suspected that alcoholic beverages were more influential than my high school history teachers ever said.
Why I finished it: These beverages aren't just products of their ages, but shaped them. New England's rum exports funded the American Revolutionary War, and also helped trigger it when England passed the Molasses Act to force colonists to buy rum’s main ingredient from them instead of the French. England's enormous appetite for tea led first to the Opium Wars with China, and later to English rule in India. Coca-Cola became a worldwide drink by piggybacking its distribution on the deployment of American forces during and after World War II. I was fascinated by the parallels between the drinks. Most started as luxuries but eventually became a cheap and safe alternative to the local water. Many were also thought to be cure-alls at one time, and have been banned for religious and political reasons.
I'd give it to: My British relatives, who might be surprised to learn how popular coffee was in England before tea took over. The London Stock Exchange, Lloyd's of London, and even the tea company Twinings started out as coffee houses.
Little Baa Baa the sheep is bored. Quirky Turkey comes by and asks about a pile of brown pebbles. The sheep says they’re tablets that make you smarter, and tries to convince the turkey to eat them.
Why I picked it up: I emailed Unshelved reader Manja Pieters (who lives in New Zealand) to ask her if she’d read Poo Bum. She hadn’t, but she recommended this to me. (I ordered them both.)
Why I finished it: The turkey knows the pebbles look and smell a bit like poo. But that doesn’t stop the story.
For each President, the book has a biography, timeline, fact sheet, election results, facts about the first lady and cabinet, with additional photographs, maps, quotes, excerpts from documents, and more.
Why I picked it up: I enjoy a comprehensive Presidential biography as much as the next history nerd, but once in a while it's nice to just get the main points. These go much farther than even very interesting Wikipedia entries.
Why I finished it: The magic of this book is its willingness to go as deep and broad as necessary to tell a President’s story. Ulysses S. Grant's section includes a Civil War timeline, the terms of Confederate surrender (including Grant's recollections), and pages on Robert E. Lee and secretary of state Hamilton Fish. That means some Presidents get more pages than others, but then some Presidencies are more interesting than others.
I'd give it to: Theo, who will soak up the many sidebars that paint a larger picture. Buchanan's tenure included the Dred Scott decision and the Utah war, both great examples of the rapidly expanding country's growing pains.
Eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has been trained since childhood by a cruel master. Caught by the King, she was sent to the prison work camp Endovier, where hardy men rarely last a year before dying. Prince Dorian offers her a chance to earn her freedom by winning a competition, the winner of which will become the King's personal assassin for four years. All she needs to do is defeat the other fifteen candidates. But someone is killing off the contestants, and people that have been dead for hundreds of years are roaming the castle. Celaena must also shake off the distraction of her good-looking minder, the young Captain Westfall, and the attentions of the prince.
Why I picked it up: I saw a promo that claimed this was A Game of Thrones for teen girls. Since I consider each George R. R. Martin book to be almost as important as the second-coming, I had to try this!
Why I finished it: Celaena is a great character. She always uses her first seconds in a room to assess how best to escape, and often figures out which household items she could use to brain her enemies if the need arises. Yet, she still has deep feelings about being used as an assassin by the ruthless King that conquered her people. Also, Cain, a massively muscled man who recognizes Celaena’s gifts and knows her background, is always taunting her and preparing for an eventual showdown. He makes a great, creepy villain.
I'd give it to: Amber, because she would love the matter-of-fact descriptions of the ways Celaena could defeat a room full of men with only her bare hands and a stalk of celery. (This may be a slight exaggeration.) Krissy, who would like the magic portals that draw in otherworldly creatures to thin the number of contestants.