Chickenhare by Chris Grine

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novelmysteryparanormal

Unshelved comic strip for 9/20/2013
Unlucky Charms (Cold Cereal Saga #2) by Adam Rex

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged fantasyhumor

SPOILER ALERT: You may want to read the first book in this series, Cold Cereal, before spoiling your “breakfast” by reading what’s below.

A wizard, a leprechaun, a giant lisping rabbit, a movie star, a mechanical owl, a bigfoot, a pixie, and four mostly normal children are on the run from the fairy Nimue, who -- under the friendly guise of the Goodco Cereal Company -- has kidnapped the Queen of England and plans to turn children across the world into a brainwashed army to do her bidding. The fugitives are searching for the real location of the mythical Avalon, where they believe the key to defeating Nimue -- and returning Scott and Polly’s mother to safety -- lies. It’s a magical, slapstick, absurdist race to save the world that Scott, Polly, the wizard Merle Lynn, and their compatriots can’t afford to lose.

Why I picked it up: The True Meaning of Smekday is a work of genius, so I’m always willing to pick up anything Adam Rex writes.

Why I finished it: Clearly this is the second in a trilogy (or perhaps even a Hitchhiker’s-esque quintilogy), so I needed to keep up with all the shifting plot points. Also, Rex’s wit is fast-paced and snort-worthy. Here’s what Scott said to Merle after he explained the truth behind the sword in the stone:

“‘You could have made anyone King of England. You could have made yourself.”

“Yeah, but I don’t like hats.’”

I'd give it to: High school freshman Chris, a guy with a flair for the dramatic and a soft spot for the underdog. He’d get a kick out of the recording-studio hijinks of the goblins who impersonate Scott and Polly’s dad, a George Clooney-esque movie star.

Masterminds and Wingmen Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman, narrated by Kathe Mazur

What you’ll hear in MASTERMINDS AND WINGMEN is critically important for parents & educators– or anyone who cares about boys – to know. Collaborating with a large team of middle- and high-school-age editors, Rosalind Wiseman has created an unprecedented guide to the life your boy is actually experiencing – his on-the-ground reality. Not only does Wiseman challenge you to examine your assumptions, she offers innovative coping strategies aimed at helping your boy develop a positive, authentic, and strong sense of self.

Find this title and more important resources about bullying, including a FREE CD sampler, Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation, at

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Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Link to this review by ang tagged coming of agefantasyparanormal

In the village of Never Better, Jeremy Johnson Johnson hears voices. Caught in the Zwischenraum -- the space between -- the ghost of Jacob Grimm speaks to the boy. He keeps watch over Jeremy, hoping to protect him from the Finder of Occasions, a figure of dark depravity who brings misfortune to the villagers.

Abandoned by his mother and living with his reclusive father in their Two-Book Bookstore, Jeremy is shy and isolated until the infectious Ginger Boultinghouse coaxes him out of seclusion. Then a harmless prank goes awry, and a series of events unfolds with the makings of a Grimms’ fairy tale. Pursued by a menacing dwarf, championed by a jolly baker, with a feisty heroine at his side, Jeremy tries to navigate the ill-fated twists of his circumstances as the Finder of Occasions closes in.

Why I picked it up: From the very first lines, the voice of Jacob Grimm is delightful. It combines the old-fashioned charm of a nineteenth century fuddy-duddy and the ominous voice of a morbid storyteller, giving this modern adventure the texture and rhythm of a classic.

Why I finished it: In the lightest moments, the tension humming in the background became almost inaudible. The world was a hopeful place. Then, just when I let my guard down, things got DARK, and I remembered just what kind of story I was dealing with.

I'd give it to: Julie, who will be drawn in by the way a handful of well-crafted lines will make her care deeply about the most peripheral characters -- mothers who’ve lost their children, a young man with a small mind and a big heart, a sickly nephew, and a heartbroken sheriff.

Night Film A Novel by Marisha Pessl, narrated by Jake Weber

Get ready to become entrenched in suspense like never before—just be warned, listen with the lights on! Experience this “film noir” nail biter on audio to dive deeper into the memorable mystery, told as it unfolds by investigative journalist Scott McGrath (read by Ghostman narrator Jake Weber). Patrons will hold onto their headphones as McGrath probes the strange circumstances surrounding cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova and his beautiful young daughter’s death. From gritty corners of New York City, to a reclusive cinema legend’s eerie estate, NIGHT FILM flickers by in a fast-paced rollercoaster ride towards the truth. Just try pressing pause.

AUDIOBOOK BONUS FEATURE ALERT: Listeners won’t miss a beat and will have fun poring over articles and documents found in the print edition in an interactive PDF on the final disc of this powerful production.

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The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

If you’re having bad dreams, write a letter and put it under your pillow. The Sleepwalkers will travel to your dream and help.

As the book progresses, the older team members (two sheep, and is that an oryx?) use magic to create their replacements from different objects. A bear, a monkey, and a bird join the friendly dog in helping kids sort out their nightmares as the older members return to the waking world.

Why I picked it up: The bear in a wrestling mask on the cover was leaping right at me. Plus there’s a cheering monkey on his back.

Why I finished it: It’s a very good-natured graphic novel, but there’s a bit of an edge. At one point the team goes into a truly nightmarish darkness. After they begin to glow because of dream energy (they look very spooky), they grab the dreaming child and rush him back to the light as a tentacled beast tries to attack.

I'd give it to: Dee, from my writing group, who would like the last member of the group, Sophia, a bird made from an old quill. Her transformation is somewhat incomplete (her head is still a nib), so when she wants to talk she writes words on whatever surface is handy. Brilliant.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caulfield

FANGIRL is the #1 Library Reads September pick, voted on by librarians across the country! Patrons of all ages are already fangirls and fanguys of bestselling author, Rainbow Rowell, thanks to Eleanor & Park, praised for its “observational precision and richness” by John Green in The New York Times, and for its “superb performances” in Publishers Weekly‘s starred audio review. Now Rowell returns (and narrator Rebecca Lowman is back, too!) to introduce listeners to the ultimate fangirl, Cath. Being a fan of Simon Snow is Cath’s whole life as she reads and rereads the Simon Snow series, writes fan fiction, and dresses up like characters. But as Cath grows up, she struggles with letting her obsession go. How long can she go on living inside someone else’s fiction? YA listeners and adults alike will fall in love with FANGIRL while finding out.

FUN FANGIRL FACT: Cover art is by Noelle Stevenson who also designed our new audiobook art for The Time Machine read by Sir Derek Jacobi, available as a free poster here.

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The Pet Project Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses by Lisa Wheeler, Zachariah OHora

Link to this review by darcy tagged picture bookpoetry

This is a research project in the form of short poems that examine the cuddly, stinky, messy, and drooling aspects of animals the nameless girl narrator considers for a pet.

Why I picked it up: At the library kids always want books about a single kind of pet like a hamster or rabbit, but those books don't usually tell the downside of pet ownership. This book seemed honest. 

Why I finished it: The poems are witty and to the point, especially the one about the possibility of a hippopotamus as a pet. ("The chances of getting a hippo: zippo.") I also liked how the illustrations clearly showed the narrator writing a query, using test subjects, and taking field notes. There just aren't enough picture books that teach the scientific method.

I'd give it to: Karen. While I'm sure her kids won't be getting a pony or a tiger, I know she'll enjoy the list of the narrator’s disappointing discoveries: there is no chocolate in a chocolate lab, boxers don't wear gloves, and golden retrievers do not bring you gold.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by LeVar Burton

Fifty years after the height of the civil rights movement, sharing literature that tackles issues of prejudice allows teachers, librarians, parents, and children to continue the necessary dialogue about the past, and its impact on our society today.

Winner of the Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor awards, Christopher Paul Curtis’ THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM—1963 is the perfect classroom or family listen, read by beloved Reading Rainbow host, LeVar Burton. Enter the world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the “weird” Watsons and go along for a ride that brings listeners all the way from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama on September 15th, 1963. What happens that day will forever change not only the Watsons but the entire country at a pivotal point in our nation’s history.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS & FREE CD SAMPLER: Listen as Curtis and Burton each discuss how storytelling can impart history’s lessons to a new generation, and how hearing a story read aloud can help foster a love of reading.

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The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agescience fiction

Kaelyn’s quiet life on an island in British Columbia is turned upside down when a virus spreads through the small community, making people act drunk, giving them hallucinations, and then killing them. As she turns to her family and small circle of friends for help and support, they die, sometimes from the virus, sometimes at the hands of the gang searching the island for food and gas.

Why I picked it up: I love a good survival story, like Ashfall by Mike Mullin, or Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, where the characters face a global event and must find the strength to face the worst possible situations.

Why I finished it: I admit to not liking Kaelyn at first, but she grew on me as she matured in the story, going from a self-pitying, lonely young woman to someone strong enough to reach out and try to help the people she’s with.

I'd give it to: Mary, who would appreciate both the thoughtful approach to the science of biology and viruses, and the way members of the community act in the face of danger -- some help care for the infected, others seek a cure, and a few turning to violence.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agehistorical fiction

American female pilot Rose Justice is forced down over enemy territory during WWII. After being captured she is transported to a concentration camp, Ravensbruck. She must learn to live in horrifying conditions, but the ladies she is interned with have it even worse. They are colloquially known as “rabbits” and are subjected to medical tests by German doctors trying to improve treatments for wounded German soldiers. Some are burned, others have limbs amputated, and a few are shot in the stomach. They are then treated (or not) to see what happens and which treatments are most effective.

Rose bonds with the women she suffers and starves with. She memorizes their names and histories because it is unlikely they will survive the war, and Rose is determined that if she does their stories will be told.

Why I picked it up: I read Wein’s Code Name Verity and found it to be well researched and well written. Once I understood this is a parallel novel with a few shared characters, I had to read it.

Why I finished it: Not only did it bring the plight of the female rabbits to the fore in a historically accurate fashion, but it showed the psychological toll of surviving the ordeal and then having to relive it at the Nuremberg Trials. Also, I liked that Wein rolled out the plot through various literary devices, like letters, first person narrative, newspaper articles, files, and the like, which enhanced my reading experience.

I'd give it to: Trina, because she read Night by Elie Wiesel for class and found it very moving, and she would like a fictional but historically accurate look into the horrors of WWII.

Cousin Irv From Mars by Bruce Eric Kaplan

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture bookscience fiction

When Cousin Irv arrives on Earth for a visit, he’s a bit of a jerk: he complains, breathes loudly, and eats everything in the kitchen. But Teddy’s mom tells him that he needs to get along with their distant cousin.

Why I picked it up: The odd, eye-catching purple and white cover told me this picture book was going to be a little different.

Why I finished it: Things turn around when Teddy is forced to take Cousin Irv to school. Everyone really wants to meet him. The teacher gets mad when he starts using his electromagnetic ray to vaporize things in the classroom, so Cousin Irv vaporizes her. It wins the award for most unexpected moment in a kids book, and I bought that afterwards Teddy started to like his cousin.

I'd give it to: Kate, because the drawings are simple and the colors are never all the way in the lines, just like hers.

The Mountain My Time On Everest by Ed Viesturs, David Roberts

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographynonfiction

Ed Viesturs, the first American climber to summit all fourteen of the world’s 8,000 meter peaks, discusses the history of mountaineering on Everest. The first, poorly-equipped climbers attempted the mountain with gear that was laughable by today’s standards. George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s famous 1924 “did-they-or-didn’t-they” summit attempt is described in detail (their gear was found 800 feet from the top), and Viesturs explains why he believes they did not summit. He also shares his personal experiences on Everest. Viesturs is a very strong, well respected climber in tune with the popular ethos of not using supplemental oxygen, and working with the mountain instead of trying to overpower it with brute force. He has spent over two years of his life on Everest, summiting on seven of his eleven attempts.

Why I picked it up: I had read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, as well as Anatoli Boukreev’s The Climb to try to figure out who was to blame for the 1996 Everest disaster when eight climbers and guides died during a storm. Krakauer and Boukreev both talked about the super-strong Viesturs who climbed up into the kill-zone again and again to search for climbers to rescue.

Why I finished it: The success of large groups of weak climbers summiting Everest in the 1990’s led to lines of people waiting at the base of the Hillary Step, a rock formation requiring a particularly difficult climbing maneuver just below the summit. Because of this “highway to the summit,” Viesturs grew concerned about climbers’ treatment of the mountain, both in terms of littering and respecting the history of alpine climbing. Nevertheless, it is not all pure climbing for Viesturs. He has also had to scrabble for sponsorship money to finance his climbs as it can cost $60,000 for an individual to make the trip, and much more to pay for an expedition.

I also found his description of packing the thousands of pounds of gear and food necessary to climb Everest fascinating, as well as the process of building camps at different heights to acclimatize the body to altitude. An assault on Everest takes at least two months, with five different camps on the trail to the summit, some of which the climbers must stay in for days to acclimate to the altitude.

I'd give it to: My friend Pen because he once worked as a guide for RMI (Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.) on Mt. Rainier in Washington State, where Viesturs also worked. He is still a dedicated climber, and he just blogged about summiting Rainier for the twenty-seventh time. He would love to read the wisdom of a man who shares his dedication to the outdoors.

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