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The Great Lollipop Caper

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged picture book

Thousand Words

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Egged on by a few vapid, well-meaning friends at a pool party, Ashleigh decides to follow their advice and give her boyfriend Kaleb a reason to think about her when he goes off to college. Despite her relative innocence, she sends him a full-frontal nude shot of herself by taking a “selfie” into the bathroom mirror. Kaleb is surprised and pleased by the picture, but when they break up later in the summer, he sends it to a few teammates, and it takes on a life of its own on the internet. Ashleigh is accused of being a slut and ruining Kaleb’s life for no reason when she sues him, and she takes serious abuse at school from people know both her and Kaleb well.

Why I picked it up: I read Brown’s Hate List, which gave a different view of school shooters from the perspective of a girlfriend. It was nuanced and well done, so I thought I would enjoy reading about why an innocent and intelligent young woman would choose to engage in sexting. Brown does a good job of showing how good intentions can quickly get out of control.

Why I finished it: Brown makes us feel for both Ashleigh, which is simple because she is the victim of a mean-spirited trick no matter how stupid she was in taking the picture, but also for Kaleb, whose entire life might be ruined by a lapse in judgement. (Imagine the difficulty for Kaleb in applying for grad school or employment and having to check the box for being a sex-offender if he is found guilty of distributing the picture.) I read the book in one sitting.

I’d give it to: My daughter Grace, not because I think she would do this but because she needs to understand the stakes of sexting. And then she’ll understand my threat better, that if she texts anyone even a bikini pic of herself she’ll be communicating solely with two cups and a string.

Gameboard of the Gods

Link to this review by danritchie tagged fantasyscience fiction

Mankind is recovering from the Decline, when the world was nearly destroyed by religious fanaticism and a genetic virus. Much of the population exists in the provinces, ruled by corrupt leaders or powerful gangs. The Republic of United North America (RUNA) has established itself as a world leader through a philosophy of genetic purification, the elimination of religion, and strict control of both procreation and immigration.

Mae Koskinen is one of the purest and strongest members of the Nordic caste, conceived to be the ultimate combination of brains, beauty, and athleticism. She serves as a Praetorian, part of RUNA’s elite military unit. After a rare emotional outburst she is relieved of duty and sent to Panama City, to retrieve and provide security for the exiled Dr. March. RUNA needs March because of his talent for reading people and his sixth sense about what they know to help solve a series of murders.

Why I picked it up: Mead is an exceptionally successful local (Seattle) author who is very popular with students at the school where I worked.

Why I finished it: Though polar opposites, both March and Koskinen are staunch supporters of their government and its policies to prevent another religious Armageddon. As their relationship slowly warms, they find they need each other to fight the demons more powerful than they ever could have imagined.  March must live and cope with the Ravens, two internal and very real voices working to get him to pledge his powers in the service of a higher power. Koskinen’s strength and steely resolve are being chipped away by her fear that she, too, is being stalked by some supernatural entity.

I’d give it to: My daughter, Megan, who loved the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series which also revolved around supernatural powers manipulating mortals in an otherworldly contest. She will also appreciate the fortitude and resolve in Koskinen as she deals with March’s ego and her own demons.

The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged coming of age

“I came to Hershey High for revenge.”

Celia Door begins high school determined to get even with the girls who tormented her in eighth grade. But then Drake, the new kid from New York City, chooses her as his confidante. He confesses to her that he’s gay and in love with his best friend from home. Celia supports Drake’s ill-considered efforts to force his crush to love him back. But their friendship is strained when Sandy and Mandy, the mean girls who bullied Celia, steal her poetry notebook and post a poem all over school that mentions Drake’s sexuality, outing him.

Why I picked it up: Leila Roy, YA librarian extraordinaire and blogger at Bookshelves of Doom, recommended it.

Why I finished it: I’m not generally a fan of issue books, but this one has a strong voice and touches of humor that transcend the genre. “[Love] poetry makes me want to vomit until there is nothing left in my insides. In the spirit of female liberation, I, Celia the Dark, vow that I will never write love poetry.” Amen, sister.

I’d give it to: My friend Natalie, a high-school sophomore who is equal parts snark and heart (just like Celia).

The Beach of Falesá

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged literaryclassichistorical fiction

John Wiltshire arrives on the island of Falesá to trade for copra. After several weeks, it becomes apparent that the natives will not do business with him because of the other white trader, Case. After Wiltshire confronts Case, tensions increase and a showdown becomes inevitable.

Why I picked it up: I’ve wanted to read more Stevenson for a while, but I find his books a bit intimidating. This is short, and as part of Melville House’s The Art of the Novella series it has a simple, beautiful design and great production values.

Why I finished it: The inside cover told me two things that carried me to the end: it had been censored by its original British publisher, and the ending was “astonishing in its violence.” (The end was worth the wait. I wish Sam Peckinpah had made a movie of this.)

For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the story was Wiltshire’s marriage to his native bride. Initially it was a bit of a trick, a short-term contract so that he can take her to his trading post and have her serve him. It quickly became apparent that he loved her, though, and he soon had a passing clergyman marry them properly. But all of this was in the context of his racism and sense of cultural superiority over the natives.

I’d give it to: My grandparents used to go to Tahiti and Fiji for vacations. They were greedy seashell collectors, and basically brought back anything pretty that they could lift. My family has a magnificent collection, but no one ever thinks about these in terms of stolen wealth. I think the book would give my family food for thought.

A Killing in the HIlls

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged mystery

Three old men are gunned down in a diner in Acker’s Gap, West Virginia. It happened in broad daylight with multiple witnesses, including Carla, the daughter of Bell Elkins, the county prosecutor. Bell tries to comfort her daughter, but she’s preoccupied with solving the case. Was it a random shooting? If not, who would target three senior citizens? 

As Carla begins to recover from the incident, she begins to remember details that might help her mom solve the case. But Bell has a lot on her plate — she’s struggling to maintain her credibility while trying to stay one step ahead of the drug epidemic and violence that are decimating her community. Carla and Bell both act with the best of intentions, unknowingly making themselves targets.

Why I picked it up: I received an early reader’s copy of this book and was impressed that the author had won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Keller also grew up in West Virginia, and I wanted to see how her own perception of the place and its people influenced her writing.

Why I finished it: From the opening scene in the diner, it was nearly impossible to put down. The characters are perfectly imperfect, with good traits and bad. Bell tries to be a good mother and prosecutor but inevitably fails at both, and Carla’s choices are so poorly thought out I wanted to shake some sense into her. And the secondary, seemingly less important characters ultimately blew me away.

I’d give it to: My niece, Maddy, who is studying to work with developmentally disabled children. One of Bell’s outstanding cases involves a mentally impaired young man accused of killing another child. The way this case is handled highlights how overworked and underfunded the justice system is, and is probably not far off from what Maddy will encounter in her field. Plus, I just know she would want to berate Carla for her foolish, teenage decisions.

Crochet with Color 25 Contemporary Projects for the Yarn Lover

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged nonfiction

Gorgeous crochet patterns for cute little things like floral scarves, pot holders, coasters, fruit, and hats. They’re zakka, the Japanese style that adds class and vintage charm to your home.

Why I picked it up: My friend Terina showed it to me, knowing I would love the sturdy market tote bag with adorable red cherries at the base of the handles.

Why I finished it: I wanted to make almost everything in the book, and the patterns are in international schematic notation, so they’re easy to follow.

One thing to note: some of the photos of the patterns are clearly partly knitted, but the instructions are all for crochet. The final product will look a little different, and probably just as cute, but I’d want to know about this if I didn’t knit.

I’d give it to: Amber, who would love the fruit and floral lapel pins that add elegance to any outfit.

Yes, Let's

Link to this review by snow tagged picture book

“Let’s hike the trail, hop the stream, and duck the fallen logs. Let’s go this way, we’ve got all day — someone call the dog.”

A family of six and their dog go on a day hike and have lots of fun exploring, swimming in the lake, and enjoying the outdoors.

Why I picked it up: I saw it on Maris Wicks’ table at HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC and I enjoy camping and hiking, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Why I finished it: The playful art. Like another of my favorite cartoonists, Eleanor Davis (Stinky, Secret Science Alliance), Wicks uses thick, black outlines and fills them with rich colors, shifting between tones as needed to set the mood. Her character are cartoonish but realistic enough to stand on their own, which is important for a picture book featuring a large family whose members resemble one another. I found myself lingering on each page, making sure I’d found every small bug or hidden bird and that I’d seen what each member of the family was doing at that moment. But even with these elements the pages never feel crowded. Longstreth’s simple poetry has a terrific immediacy to it, kept me focused on the joys of the moments and made me feel like I was outdoors.

I’d give it to: Michael, because he’ll love the sock-stealing squirrel.

Rust: Secrets of the Cell

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

The book opens with Jet Jones’ narrow escape from the military, including the first harrowing time he has to swap his power pack alone. (He’s a boy-shaped, rocket pack wearing robot created for a war that ended fifty years ago.)

Now Jet is working on Roman’s farm, pretending to be human. But when Roman tries to repair and reprogram a damaged military robot, it goes after Jet.

Publisher’s Rating: E (Everyone) “This book contains content suitable for readers of all ages. It may contain minimal violence.”

Why I picked it up: It’s a sequel to Rust: Visitor in the Field, and I want to finish the story.

Why I finished it: The sepia-toned scenes of Jet blasting across the sky (or just above the farm’s fields) look amazing. The dull, old fashioned colors of the rest of the art make the glare from the fire of his rocket pack seem blinding.

I’d give it to: When Oswald figures out that Jet isn’t human, he runs off to tell his grandfather. But instead of demonizing Jet, his grandfather tells him about war. It feels like this book belongs in Flemtastic’s middle school library (along with the first volume).

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