Friday, May 22, 2015

Infinity (Chronicles of Nick #1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon

You're a 14-year-old boy with a cruel felon for an absentee father and an overly protective stripper for a mother. You live in a one-room home and feel badly outclassed and ostracized at the prestigious school you only get to attend because of an academic scholarship. You're bullied at school, henpecked at home, and even your friends turn out to just be using you until they can betray you.

Nick Gauthier just can't win. That is, until the demons and shapeshifters and vampires and zombies come to town...

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gandhi: My Life is My Message by Jason Quinn


Mahatma Gandhi died more than sixty years ago but his life story is still relevant today. This simple man's story resonates even more today because many of the ills against which he fought are still with us and also because violence is now prevalent worldwide both by the oppressor and the oppressed. I read this graphic biography and was pleased to learn many things about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (his birth name). Mahatma was a name that his followers proffered on him (the word means "great soul") but he was not fond of it and was very embarrassed when he heard it used). 


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Tinder by Sally Gardner

The cover says it all: A snarling, snow-white werewolf with razor sharp teeth leaps over the frosty rooftops of a medieval town. This sums up the novel in my opinion - startling, dark and intense.

I'll start by saying that the artwork by David Roberts, which is sprinkled throughout Tinder, is very effective. Every drawing seems to emerge from the mist. They sneak up on you and before you realise what is happening, they've got their bony fingers around your throat.
 
The story begins with 18 year-old Otto Hundebiss, he's a deserter of the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648). His decision to flee comes after seeing a vision of Death cross his path. Lost in a dense forest, wounded and wrestling with a series of fever-dreams, Otto is rescued and nursed back to health by a mysterious shaman.
 
Before releasing him, the shaman gives Otto a set of dice. As you'd assume, the dice aren't for the occasional game of Yahtzee, they are magic, and Otto relies on them to guide him through the entire novel.
 
Traveling through Mitteleuropa, he stumbles upon Safire, a beautiful redhead who's also on the run from a group of dastardly soldiers. They meet and fall in love, but, as good stories go, Safire is taken away and Otto finds himself on a quest of madness and self-destruction in order to get her back.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

500 Great Books for Teens

There are a lot of good guy books here.

Checking the index, I see six entries for author Walter Dean Myers and three for Gary Paulsen. The one listed for Daniel Pinkwater is the anthology Five Novels, so I'll cut editor Anita Silvey a break for that. She actually doesn't limit herself to 500 books -- many more are listed in the section "Beyond the 500: Additional Titles of Interest." Many of the recommendations are books aimed at a more general readership, not just teens. That pleases me -- I think it's too limiting to say a book is for this age group, not that one. And "guy books?" Well, I see she recommends Toni Morrison's Beloved.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Wild Piano: A Philemon Book

There was this one summer when I discovered where they hid the bound comics in the library. This was back in the prehistoric days before the phrase Graphic Novel existed, when comics were considered "kid stuff." Ironically, these books were in the adult section of the library, historical artifacts from another era. Two in particular I went back to again and again: The collected Little Nemo in Slumberland and The Adventures of Tintin. Both of these comics shared a strong sense of line and color, in addition to being wild adventures of protagonists in outrageous settings.

In a similar vein comes Toon Graphics' reprinting of the Philemon Adventures from French comic artist Frederic Aristides, who went by the pen name Fred. Phil, the son of a country farmer, discovers a message in a bottle in his well. This leads him into a watery passage that lands him on the letter A in the word Atlantic stretched across the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a globe. As goofy as that sounds, Fred makes it work in a through-the-looking-glass sort of way. There he meets Bartholemew, the well-digger who vanished one day and and been trying to find his way home. And that's from the first book in this series, Cast Away on the Letter A that came out last year.

This second book, The Wild Piano, sends Phil back to rescue Bartholemew only to find himself on the letter N this time where he is dragged into court for walking on the surface where he is sentenced to fight a piano in a bull ring to earn his freedom. Why, yes, it is all absurd, told with breezy lines and a color palate to rival Peter Max

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Oddest of All: Nine Odd Stories by Bruce Coville

Perhaps when you were young, you read some of Bruce Coville's books. Maybe Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher or My Teacher is an Alien or one of the hundreds of other books he wrote. Perhaps you didn't know that he writes novels for teens, or retellings of Shakespeare plays. Or collections of short stories, like the ones in Oddly Enough,Odder Than Ever, or today's selection, Oddest of All.

The book contains nine short stories, some that are decidedly science-fiction (as is the case with the first story, "In Our Own Hands", in which aliens arrive and make an offer to the inhabitants of a struggling Earth: They will give Earth the superior science it needs to fix all its ills - including curing illnesses and more - if Earth will vote to let the aliens have complete control until such a time as the people of Earth are ready to handle all the new ideas and technology they will receive. What would you do? Would you give up your autonomy if the entire planet could be cured? With a nod to prior stories like Frank Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger", the story leaves the reader to ponder the question without knowing the precise outcome.

There are contemporary stories of real life, as with the unfortunate events that befall Murphy Murphy when he reaches the age of 13 and Murphy's Law really kicks in for him in "What's the Worst That Could Happen?", and horror in "The Thing in Auntie Alma's Pond." (It's way worse than a creature. Or is it?) And one of my favorite of Coville's short stories ever, "The Hardest, Kindest Gift", a retelling of the story of Melusine, a woman under a spell, or alternately, a fairy under a spell, who is the perfect wife and mother as long as she gets to spend her bath time uninterrupted. Too bad her husband doesn't honor his promise, cursing her to an unhappy half-life . . .

Then there's "The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado", something like an unfunny version of the movie, The Mask, or like a more thoughtful version of R.L. Stine's The Haunted Mask from the Goosebumps series aimed at an older audience, in which a boy trying to escape his own existence becomes trapped in a hideous world where his wish to look different is granted, but it comes at a terrible cost: he's got on the mask of an attractive young boy, but he cannot take it off, and there are "Faceless Ones" after him.

  "The Faceless Ones were my husband's victims. They were--had been--people born with great beauty but weak character. Or perhaps their character was weak because of their beauty, because it made life too easy for them. In any event, they were my husband's natural prey, and he was able to bring them under his power and steal their faces."
  Harley shivered. Against his will, his fingers crept to the handsome face now covering his own plain, pudgy features.
  "He stole their faces then sold them as living masks to men and women who were rich and royal but hardly fair of feature. The customer would go off on a journey ugly and months later return home with not only a new face but a new name, telling some story about being the favored first cousin--and heir--of the rich and royal man or woman who had died tragically while traveling abroad."
Does the story end well? I leave it to you to read and find out.

Sadly, the hardcover appears to be out of print, though you may luck into a copy at a library near you, but the book was recently released by the publisher as an e-book in all the various formats, and can be found at the usual online retailers.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Surviving Santiago by Lyn Miller-Lachmann




Surviving Santiago tells the story of Tina, a teenage girl who returns to Santiago, Chile, from America for a summer to live with her estranged and newly divorced father. Tina’s father was a revolutionary during the dictatorship of Pinochet, and his fight for his people’s freedom has left him broken, physically due to his injuries from beatings by the police, and mentally due to the tortures he has both witnessed and endured. Even though the Chilean people have ostensibly voted Pinochet out, the political situation in the country remains murky, and Papa continues to try and shed light on the activities of the government and military, drowning his anger in continued political agitation and alcohol, leaving little time to rebuild a relationship with Tina.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith


GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE is a history. 

This is all true.

All roads converge at the point of Austin Szerba's pen poised at the top of a blank page in a leather-bound log-book from the 70s, courtesy of McKeon Industries. 

Austin Szerba, a cigarette-smoking Lutheran boy, narrates this post-apocalyptic journey of self-discovery and disaster. He is accompanied by his best friend, Robby Brees, and occasionally his girlfriend, Shan Collins, tags along for the ride. Austin thinks he might be in love with Robby Brees. Austin knows he loves Shan. It's all very confusing for Austin.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Attention Race Fans: 1000 Miles of Passion


Something special for you today - a peek at 1000 Miles of Passion. We are big European race fans around my house so when I saw this coffee table book was coming out, I had to share it.

Originally, the Mille Miglia was an open road endurance race from Brescia to Rome and back. The route changed a bit over the years but since it's revival in 1977 it is now that first route. In a salute to its past, the modern race is limited to cars produced no later than 1957 who attended (or were registered) for the original race.

I probably do not have to tell you how cool this race is.

You can see the list of all the winners at Wikipedia - lots of Alfa Romeos and Ferrari (no surprise). There was also a documentary made about the Mille Miglia in 2007 that you can watch entirely on YouTube.

Here's a bit from the press release for 1000 Miles of Passion:

If you want to experience Italy’s passion for fast, elegant cars, there is no more thrilling place than the Mille Miglia. With hundreds of thousands of spectators cheering drivers on, the long-distance race from Brescia to Rome and back was held from 1927 to 1957. Racers like Tazio Nuvolari, Rudolf Caracciola, and Stirling Moss—along with the Mille Miglia itself—became legends. The Mille Miglia was revived in 1977 and once again cheering fans line the roads. This exclusive book shows the spectacular 2014 race, which was photographed by René Staud and his team, and offers insights into the exciting history of this renowned competition. The result is an enthralling documentation of this unique event and its fascinating cars, picturesque landscapes, and celebrity drivers like Jay Leno and Adrien Brody



1000 Miles of Passion is 272 pages with 150 color photos (and another 60 black and white). It's spendy, but that's because you don't skimp on something this beautiful. Add it to your wishlist, beg your family for a birthday gift, save your dollars. Watch the short video below to see the kind of cars in this race and dream about one day attending this wonderful event.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

GAME SEVEN by Paul Volponi

Game Seven
I was so glad to stumble across this new book by Paul Volponi.  I know several readers who read and reread anything he writes.  GAME SEVEN won't disappoint them.

Julio is sixteen and dreams of playing shortstop for the Cuban Nacionales.  He was raised with baseball in his blood.  He has memories of playing catch with his father and still plays with the glove Julio Sr. gave him.  Unfortunately, the man who taught Julio to play may become the reason Julio isn't chosen to represent Cuba. 

His father was a star pitcher for the Cuban team until he defected to the United States.  Julio Sr. made the decision to leave his wife and two children behind on the fateful day six years ago when his name was erased from the Cuban baseball record books.  

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