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Zombie Baseball Beatdown

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged humorcoming of agehorror

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@bookblurb What’s worse? A coach who won’t listen, bullies who want to beat you up, or zombie cows?

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged mystery

Professional philosopher and quasi-private detective Isabel Dalhousie is pressed to help an acquaintance recover a stolen painting. Duncan Marlowe wants her by his side during the tricky negotiations with the thieves, their attorney, and his insurance company. Isabel finds much to ponder in Duncan’s relationships with his grown children. Could one of them have stolen the painting? Amid the art-theft intrigue, Isabel deals with deli assistant Eddie’s first romantic relationship, her housekeeper’s unorthodox tutoring of Isabel’s son, and as always, the trials and burdens of single-handedly running the Journal of Applied Ethics.

Why I picked it up: I have a love-hate relationship with Isabel: sometimes I want to be her (independently wealthy! with a hot husband! living the life of the mind!), and sometimes I want to punch her in the face (good GOD, woman, STAY OUT OF IT).

Why I finished it: Despite my face-punching rages, I get lulled into the rhythms of life in Isabel’s Edinburgh and want to stay there as long as I can. Walking everywhere, a sun that doesn’t set in the summer, cucumber sandwiches at the neighborhood deli, and classical music concerts aplenty — it’s bliss.

It’s perfect for: My aunt Jean, who, like Isabel, usually has an opinion about other people and their actions, but — also like Isabel — manages to thread the needle between interested and nosy.

@bookblurb A philosopher and part-time private detective helps an acquaintance recover a stolen painting.

The Rule of Three

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fictioncoming of age

Sixteen-year-old Adam skipped playing high school sports to work on his pilot’s license with his father, an airline captain. After all electronic devices suddenly stop working and the world descends into anarchy, this proves to have been a good decision. Unable to communicate outside of their immediate area, Adam’s ultralight airplane, his mother (a cop), and their ex-CIA agent neighbor become crucial in rallying their neighbors to defend themselves against an armed gang and begin producing their own food.

Why I picked it up: Another dystopia with clusters of civilization that face overwhelming odds in a brutal environment?  I can’t get enough of it, and neither can the readers at my middle school. And given the level of attachment my students have to their electronic devices, this book where nothing electronic works should be shelved as “Horror” rather than “Dystopia.”

Why I finished it: I liked that the book made no effort to explain what happened to the electronics and just focused on Adam’s neighborhood and family. And the farthest the characters travel is thirty miles — having all of the action take place in a small area gives Walters the ability to be realistic and extra detailed in terms of what this change might look like. I also loved that the ex-CIA neighbor, Herb, has quite a few surprises up his sleeve (like grenades), but that his most useful skill is his knowledge of human nature.

Readalikes: Mike Mullin’s Ashfall (about a supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone and the resulting chaos) because they’re both very realistic.

@bookblurb After all electronics stop working, Adam, his mom, and an ex-CIA agent rally their neighbors against armed gangs.

The Hypocrisy of Disco a Memoir

Link to this review by darcy tagged coming of agebiography

Clane Hayward grew up in various hippie communes with her mother and younger siblings. She dreamed of a normal life, and always welcomed the times when she could go to school because it meant regular food and a chance to be like other kids.

Why I picked it up: I love to read about people who have different upbringings than my own.

Why I finished it: She presents her upbringing and the frustrations that accompany it, but also shows us her inner strength. Often she and her siblings were left for days in strange environments while one parent or the other was off exploring a new religion or smoking pot. She always found a way to eat, though, even if it meant stealing from the lunch boxes of other kids at school. I was amazed at how quickly she could adapt to each new communal living situation, including a primitive campground in California, her dad’s house which had no electricity or water but plenty of beer and pot, and her grandmother’s place in Las Vegas with its full refrigerator and liquor cabinet.

It’s perfect for: My friend Yasmine. She will love the scene where the kids learn how to make cinnamon toast and pizza bagels in a microwave when they move in with their grandmother. Hayward’s mother kept the kids on a lean, macrobiotic diet of brown rice, and forbade “shitfood” of any kind. Yasmine herself has an amazing knowledge of junk food, especially for someone who grew up vegan on a self-sustaining farm.

@bookblurb Clane Hayward's memoir about growing up in hippie communes, which were strange and often primitive.

Over the Wall

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelfantasycoming of age

Humans no longer live in the city beyond the wall. It’s populated by demons trapped there; the wall prevents them from escaping and eating the world. Boys risk their lives by entering the city as part of their coming-of-age.

A young girl goes over the wall to look for her older brother who went into the city the day before and didn’t come back.

Why I picked it up: I’m always looking for new books that my daughter will enjoy. I saw it in my comic store in the kids section and, in general, I’ll buy any graphic novel I see there that I’ve never heard of if the protagonist is a girl, it’s not manga, and the character isn’t wearing tights or showing off her cleavage.

Why I finished it: A real sense of mystery developed as I learned more about the setting and the reason for the girl’s quest. She meets a small demon at the wall who may or may not be trying to help by leading her to her brother. She can’t remember her brother’s name, but it’s unclear why until she tells about how demons used to eat names.

It’s perfect for: Dawn, who hosted a tiki-themed party last summer, because I know she will enjoy the tiki-like totem the girl’s brother made, which she brings with her beyond the wall. All boys make one when they turn five, and every night they tell it what they did that day to keep their memories safe.

@bookblurb A young girl goes over the wall into a city full of demons to find her missing brother.

The Steal

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Shteir takes a close, well-considered look at shoplifting, kleptomania and “boosting” (stealing for resale and profit) through the ages, as well as the ways retailers and police departments are fighting back.  Shoplifting and kleptomania cost American retailers over eleven billion dollars in 2009. (Shoppers, on average, paid an additional $400 in increased prices to cover the losses.) Poverty doesn’t play a large role in who shoplifts and who doesn’t. Brain research shows that shoplifting provides dopamine that gives thieves a high. Scientists posit that the compulsion to steal may be tied to self-image and “female appetite diseases” like bulimia and anorexia, which could explain why the majority of shoplifters are women. Many experts agree on the so-called “80-10-10 rule” — ten percent of the general public will always steal, ten percent will never steal, and eighty percent will steal if given the chance.  

Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me in the Book Lover’s Page a Day 2013 calendar, which had a little blurb about how shoplifting affects all levels of society.

Why I finished it: The crazy facts about people who steal. Men are more likely to steal books, leading the author to assume the most stolen subjects would be porn and business, but the most stolen subject is theology.  Counterintuitively, studies suggest that households with a median income of $70,000 are thirty percent more likely to contain a shoplifter than a household earning $20,000! Thieves are infinitely creative; some even make hi-tech “booster bags” with tinfoil-lined false bottoms that block sensors. Then there’s my favorite, a shoplifter who couldn’t bend his legs to get into a cop car because he had seventy-five bottles of hand lotion stuffed in his pants.

It’s perfect for: My friend Doug, who owns Fabri Fine Jewelry. He would enjoy reading about how shoplifters try to distract salespeople and overcome anti-theft technology, but he would roll his eyes at shoplifters who claim they are striking a blow against corporate malfeasance and believe shoplifting is a victimless crime.

@bookblurb A look at shoplifting, kleptomania, and boosting, including who steals what and why.

I Wish I Were A...

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged picture book

A vigilant meerkat spends his days on guard duty, warning his clan of potential dangers (such as children’s shadows). As he watches, he observes his neighbors and envies their strengths, never realizing his own.

Why I picked it up: I was really taken in by Stefanie Jeschke’s cover illustration, which makes the meerkat look kind of goofy and neurotic.

Why I finished it: I learn a lot about American culture by reading European children’s books. If this were an American book, the meerkat would learn a valuable lesson. But no, it’s German. He is trapped in a life of repetitive tasks and wishful thinking, never the wiser that those he admires are in turn admiring him. No one boosts his self esteem.  There’s no pat on the back for mister meerkat.

It’s perfect for: All of my friends who are parents of toddlers who get stuck going to the zoo way more than is reasonable for any adult, and who want a book that their kids can figure out for themselves instead of a blatant moral lesson.

@bookblurb A meerkat on guard duty admires his neighbors' strengths but doesn’t realize his own.

The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged horrorcoming of age

Eleven-year-old Martin and his mother love horror movies, the grosser the better. She works on makeup and special effects for the movies, and Martin often helps her come up with ideas.

When his mother gets a job in Toronto working on Blood Socket 2, Martin can’t stay home alone. He decides to go to Bible camp near his grandparents house.

Camp is okay, at least until Martin and his friends figure out that Father Tony has started killing campers and counselors.

Why I picked it up: My review copy came with a barf bag.

Why I finished it: The violence against kids is truly cringe-worthy and horrifying, though I was cheering a bit when a few of the counselors met their ends. What really kept me reading were his mother’s letters to Martin at summer camp. They’re full of weird, paranormal imagery, and they describe Toronto as if it’s a cross between a spooky Twilight Zone episode and horror manga. It’s great stuff, from the ghosts who call her room to the details about how she’s building an exploding eyeball for the film she’s working on, and it’s an odd, loving, and emotionally affecting counterpoint to the horrible reality of camp.

It’s perfect for: My niece, Kyli, for Christmas. She loves horror, the gorier the better. The wet-looking blood splatter on the cover will get her to open it, and I’m sure my over-the-top, blood-and-guts booktalk will get her reading it. And maybe she’ll even get into Comeau’s A Softer World after she finishes.

@bookblurb Bible camp turns into real-life horror movie when Father Tony starts killing campers and counselors.

Handmade Glamping

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged nonfiction

Glamping (glamor + camping) usually refers to vacationing in tents, yurts, and cabins with insides that look more like a four-star resort. But because this book is British, it’s about adding cute, handmade touches to the classic British vacation: taking a camper van to a freezing cold and windy, pebble-strewn beach where you’ll appreciate a cushy, embroidered beach towel with a pillow sewn at the top, and where you’ll need a patterned windbreak and an adorable, crocheted blanket for your chair covered in vintage postcard images.

Why I picked it up: The lady at the fabric store showed some of the projects she made from the book as part of her presentation on summer sewing and WOW! Outdoor projects that would actually fit into my life, like a rainbow tea cosy!

Why I finished it: The projects are pretty and not too cutesy, ranging from I-could-do-that-right-now to requiring a few long afternoons and brushing up on my sewing skills. Plus British camping seems to always involve bunting, which I would use to decorate for parties or even just around the house.

It’s perfect for: Women with husbands who spend endless hours fixing up their boats or their campers, for the beautiful cushion covers, storage ideas, shelf edging, and other feminine touches that will make these activities fun for her, too.

@bookblurb Glamor + camping with handmade, British touches.

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