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This Can't Be Happening at MacDonald Hall

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged chapter book

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@bookblurb Bruno and Boots sneak into a girls’ school, have crazy fights, and flush zucchini down the toilet.

I Hunt Killers

Link to this review by darcy tagged mysterythriller

Jazz Dent’s father is the notorious Billy Dent, a serial killer whose victims number in the triple digits. A copycat is mimicking Billy Dent’s style down to the victim’s ages, professions, and the methods of murder. Jazz understands too well how the killer thinks and tries to clear his own name by finding the murderer.

Why I picked it up: I’ll be honest. I got an advanced reader copy sealed in an evidence bag. I’m a sucker for that kind of marketing.

Why I finished it: I was drawn to the haunted memories Jazz had of his mother, who disappeared when he was young. His father never admitted to killing her, but Jazz counts her as one of the victims. And the plot’s fast pace made my heart race. My own parents taught me things like how to change a tire or load the washing machine but Jazz’s Dear Old Dad taught him how to dissolve a body in quicklime and remove knee caps. Jazz’s internal struggle between his past and his need to appear normal kept me reading well past my bedtime.

I’d give it to: Ed, a tattoo artist who would love Howie, Jazz’s best friend. Howie can’t get tattoos because he’s a hemophiliac, so Jazz happily provides his own skin as the canvas to make his friend happy. In order to convince Howie to help him find new clues, Jazz promises he will get any tattoo Howie chooses. By the end of the novel Jazz has promised to get quite a few new team and cartoon character tattoos. Ed would love that kind of return business.

@bookblurb Jazz helps hunt down the murderer copycatting his serial killer father’s methods.

The Center of Everything

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged humorcoming of age

Ruby Pepperdine is not okay. Her beloved grandmother Gigi died. Her best friend isn’t talking to her. And in just a few minutes she’s supposed to read her essay at a celebration commemorating town founder and inventor of the donut, Captain Cornelius Bunning, but her family isn’t there, and her index cards are out of order.

Ruby made a wish on her twelfth birthday — a wish to make things right — and she knows it must come true. Between color wheels and constellations, friendships old and new, circles and toruses, Ruby navigates tricky moments when everything falls apart then comes back together, though not exactly in the way she expects.

Why I picked it up: I loved the author’s other two books, A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Hound Dog True, so reading this was a no-brainer. Plus, Urban is a former bookseller and lives in Vermont. I think I have a crush on her.

Why I finished it: I loved the small-town setting and the sublimely ridiculous donut legend that gives the story its center. Urban’s gift for detail truly shines, whether it’s dropping in just the right middle-grade book title, or seeing inside the mind of a preschooler who suddenly, desperately, needs to pee. And Ruby’s new friend, Nero DeNiro, has the best character name I’ve come across in a while.

I’d give it to: My daughter’s friend Audrey, who is genuine and kind and seems able to avoid most of the mean-girl drama of elementary school. The Ruby/Lucy dynamic (Ruby is thoughtful and dependable, Lucy is bossy and self-centered without realizing it) reminds me of the interplay between Audrey and some of the other girls in her class.

@bookblurb Ruby’s grandmother died and her best friend isn’t talking to her. Her birthday wish: to make things right.

Wedding Night

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged romancehumor

Lottie thinks that her boyfriend, Richard, has been hinting that he’s about to pop the question. She’s even gone so far as to buy a manly engagement ring for him, so that he can share in the moment. In a restaurant she answers him loudly, “Yes, I will marry you.” But her boyfriend Richard was asking a different question, and Lottie had misread all of the signals. She breaks up with him and storms out of the restaurant.

Lottie is soon contacted by Ben. Fifteen years ago, when they were teenagers, Ben and Lottie had a fling in Greece. They made a deal: if they weren’t married by thirty, they would marry each other. On the rebound, she meets him for drinks. They decide to follow through on their promise.

Lottie’s older sister, Fliss, is horrified, as is Ben’s business partner, Lorcan. They follow the newlyweds to Greece to stop them from consummating their marriage.

Why I picked it up: I often try to read outside my normal genre-choices. All I knew about Sophie Kinsella is that her books are popular and make for good beach reads. (At this point in the winter in Seattle, I need to at least pretend I’m on the beach.) And the book jacket blurb promised a hilarious farce.

Why I finished it: I snorted and giggled all the way through. There is a hilarious scene where the anxious newlyweds are trying to do it in an airport bathroom, but they’re interrupted by an overanxious stewardess. Things get funnier after Fliss calls ahead to the resort and enlists the help of the concierge in keeping the couple from “putting the sausage in the cupcake.” (The phrase is repeated in the book.) Fliss may seem like a meddling family member, but the way she questioned Lottie’s rush marriage made her a believable sibling. And besides, Lottie is known to make “unfortunate decisions” after her breakups, like the time she had an intimate piercing that turned septic.

I’d give it to: My friend Jenna, because she watches Gossip Girl, a TV show as inane as the one Lottie and Ben both watch religiously. Their knowledge of the show allows them to win a newlywed “how well do you know your partner” contest, despite the fact they barely know each other, by answering questions as if they were the show’s main characters.

@bookblurb Lottie thought her boyfriend was going to pop the question. She even bought him a ring. She was wrong.

Hot Chicks with Douchebags

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged humornonfictioncoffee table book

Jay Louis was dumped unceremoniously by his once-in-a-lifetime hot girlfriend, who had met someone else, a dude that Louis saw with her at a party soon after. And the guy was a total douchebag. Louis wondered what it was about these obvious jerks — some of whom were trying too hard to appear hip and sensitive, while looking ‘roided out, chemically tanned, blinged-out and/or living in a cloud of Tag body spray — that was attractive to hot (and often surgically enhanced) women. So he undertook a study of douchebags and the women who love them, categorizing the levels and types that can be spotted at trendy clubs and spring break destinations everywhere. Each study is accompanied by a large color photo to aid the reader in identification of douchebags in the wild.

Why I picked it up: I have spent time on Louis’s website, laughing at the pictures of men who take themselves and their appearances way too seriously. I really enjoy the labels that Louis gives to them (one guy had such over-developed abs he’s referred to as “The Crustacean,” and there’s a gentleman with an aggressive Mohawk called “The Rooster Wank”). Why are women attracted to such vain, vacuous blowhards?

Why I finished it: I couldn’t miss Chapter Five, “Am I Dating A Douche?” or Chapter Nine, “The Twelve Steps of De-Douchification.” Without these steps, I could be enabling a Sir Pecsalot or a Cro’ Bagnon. As funny as the name-calling is, I loved the explanation of how I might unwittingly turn into a douche by overusing hair gel, wearing unearned dog tags, and “spontaneously” showing my abs (if I had them) in every photo.

I’d give it to: Rick, a devotee of 21 Jump Street back in the day. There is a fairly detailed case study of the handsome, sensitive Richard Grieco, who replaced Johnny Depp on the series, that tells of how Grieco corralled and corrupted Yasmine Bleeth.

@bookblurb What is it about ‘roided out, chemically tanned jerks wearing bling that attracts hot women?

Yakitate!! Japan Volume 1

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novel

A local baker taught Kazuma how to make bread when he was six. That man’s dream was to create Ja-Pan, a bread that Japanese people like more than rice, of which Japan could boast to the entire world.

Kazuma now shares that dream. Fresh from middle school, he heads to Tokyo to get a job at a famous bakery. He has a secret weapon: The Hands Of The Sun, warm hands that are perfect for making bread. And he’ll need them because, in order to get a job, he’ll have to defeat the other applicants during a highly competitive employment examination.

Publisher’s Rating: T+ for Older Teen.

Why I picked it up: This is another title Viz’s Mark de Vera recommended when we were talking about The Drifting Classroom.

Why I finished it: I loved Kazuma’s grandfather’s exaggerated facial expressions. He’s a rice farmer, and his toothless, wide-mouthed disbelief that his grandkids might want to eat bread for breakfast is only outdone by the blank-faced disbelief after Kazuma gives him bread that goes well with his natto and miso soup. (Grandpa’s expressions are even funnier in contrast to his wife’s unreadable expressions.)

I’d give it to: My daughter, Gigi. She’s had enough contact with insufferably officious adults (mostly at her school) that she’d laugh at the man conducting the employment examination — he takes great pleasure in deducting points from those applying for work, no matter how small their infraction.

@bookblurb Kazuma’s dream is to create Ja-Pan, bread that Japanese people will like more than rice.


Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of age

Connor and Izzy became very close friends while working at a summer camp, and continue their relationship through emails during the school year. Connor knows Izzy will probably never feel as deeply for him as he does for her, but he is always there for her, even as her emails begin to show an increasingly dark and disturbing change in her personality. Always a little crazy and exhilarating, she shares her self-loathing and tells about dangerous behavior.

Why I picked it up: I always enjoy local fiction; Amy Reed was born and raised in Seattle, and the story is based there and on Bainbridge Island.

Why I finished it: I read the first couple of email exchanges and was intrigued by Connor and Izzy. Both are deeply introspective and completely open with each other. Connor is frustrated and hurt by the bizarre things Izzy begins sharing — withdrawing from friends and family, letting her boyfriend abuse and use her, random acts of self abuse. A sense of hopelessness drives him to try to get her help.

I’d give it to: A former student of mine, Jennifer, who works with bipolar teens, and will enjoy the intimate, often philosophical exchanges, such as the one about Connor’s first boy kiss which assures him he is not gay.

@bookblurb Izzy begins to show dark and disturbing personality changes to Conner, who she met at camp.

The English American

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged coming of ageaudiobook

While Pippa Dunn has always known that she was adopted, she has never questioned that her family loves her, and she them, with all their hearts. But when the exuberant, British, twenty-eight-year-old begins to doubt that she really fits in with her proper, undemonstrative family, she resolves to find her birth mother.

Pippa is beyond thrilled to learn that her biological mother is an American artist living in Georgia. She decides to travel to the U.S. in hopes of making sense of her place in the world, and perhaps meeting the perfect man along the way.

Why I picked it up: As you probably already know, I love British accents and was excited to hear a story read by the author. When I discovered that the novel is loosely based on Larkin’s life (which she has also performed as a one-woman show), I knew that she would put real heart into the narration.

Why I finished it: Besides the laugh out loud moments, Pippa is an earnest character full of both unbridled optimism and anxiousness. I wanted to join her on her adventure to discover her “true” identity and to figure out whether nature or nurture mattered more, especially to someone surrounded by people who love her.

I’d give it to: Kate, an online friend I finally got to meet last year. She will be as impressed with Larkin’s ability to move easily between British and American accents as I was, and she’ll especially get a kick out of the southern twangs that I failed miserably to imitate for her.

@bookblurb Pippa travels to the U.S. to find her biological mother and, maybe, the perfect man.

Stop Thief!

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture bookgraphic novel

Randall McCoy tells his parents that he’s a big boy. He no longer needs his booster seat, bedtime kisses, or Mr. Pigglesworth, his stuffed pig. But he can’t sleep without him. When he goes to find him in the middle of the night, he catches a thief in the act of stealing him and chases him all over town to recover him.

Why I picked it up: There’s a huge word balloon on the cover of this picture book which promised one thing: comics.

Why I finished it: The beautiful, two-page spreads that show Randall giving chase through the zoo, a chocolate factory, a museum, and other locales. They give a sense of the chase by showing both characters several times in a single picture, with Randall screaming, “Stop thief!” every chance he gets.

I’d give it to: Ava, who has always liked heights, because the chase ends atop a skyscraper. When she was smaller, Ava’s mom once found her hanging out of a second story window, calmly calling for help to climb back in.

@bookblurb A little boy chases the thief he caught stealing his favorite stuffed pig.

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