Ruined by Reading

I am the sort who roots for the underdog, uses Apple computers, knows that playing music is better than listening to it, believes chocolate is a food group, loves animals, swims like a fish, and stands up for people and things I believe in.

Christmas Cheer

Merry and Bright: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber’s new book, Merry and Bright, is exactly that. The story follows Merry, a young woman with a loving family and a lot of responsibilities. One night, after a long day ruined by her rotten boss, her family announces they’ve signed her up for online dating. The story that follows is pleasant and undemanding. Unlike some of Macomber’s books, this one is not particularly church oriented. This book might make a good gift for an older female relative you’re visiting but don’t know well.

A Loony Adventure

The Martian - Andy Weir

Anyone who enjoyed The Martian’s wisecracking hero will be drawn in by Jazz Bashara, the heroine of Andy Weir’s new novel, Artemis. Like her predecessor, Jazz is flippant, wildly intelligent, and tends to constantly skate on the edge of disaster. Her loony tale unfolds at breakneck speed, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dragging your Kindle into the bathtub because you can’t stop reading.

Carrots!

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel - Mariah Marsden, Kendra Phipps, Erika Kuster, Brenna Thummler

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel, is a generally faithful adaptation of the book of the same name. For the most part, I liked the illustrations, however the pupil-less eyes gave me pause. As so many TV adaptations have recently appeared, this book is sure to be sought after for kids who are fascinated by Anne, but can't yet read the originals. This graphic novel version would be perfect to introduce the series to a reader who was a little behind in skills, or a little young for the reading level. 

Any Dream Will Do

Any Dream Will Do: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

Any Dream Will Do is a pleasant, undemanding escape. The book revolves around Shay, who has just been released from prison, and details her path back into society and into a positive life. Any Dream Will Do would make a good gift for an older, church-going relative.

Absolutely Fabulous!

The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker is a modern fairy tale in which the magic stems not from a royal marriage but from acceptance. Prince Sebastian is a teenaged prince who is constantly being set up by his parents who are searching for his bride. Prince Sebastian, however, is more enamored by the fashions of the day, and so, with the help of his butler, Emile, he hires Frances, whose theatrical dresses (yup, dresses) send him out on the town in glorious disguise. Sebastian’s alter ego makes quite a splash, and so he has to learn how to juggle his newfound celebrity, his friendships, and his parents’ demands.

 

The story set forth in The Prince and the Dressmaker is unlike anything available in any other graphic novel I know. It will be vitally important to many teens, and I hope both middle school and high school libraries will stock it.

A Doggone Good Book

Science Comics: Dogs: From Predator to Protector - Andy Hirsch

Just so you know, this review was not written by the human who normally posts stuff here. This review was written by her dog.

 

Some of you may have enjoyed my previous review of _The Dog Master_, which made my tail wag. That’s right, humans, I’m back. I figured out the code to unlock the iPad and it has changed my life. This time I read a comic called Science Comics: Dogs. Man, I knew that was going to be a great book right when I saw the title. Because what topic could be more important than DOGS? (Global warming, maybe, but you humans don’t seem interested enough in that, now do you?)

 

Just in case you’re thinking this is “fake news,” let me remind you I’m a Border Collie, the most intelligent of dogs, and not only do I read, write, and post reviews, I also watch your Netflix when you’re at work. I mean, you don’t expect me to watch the dandelions grow all day while you’re gone, do you?

 

So on to the book. Science Comics: Dogs is full of interesting details on everything about a dog’s life. From the way a dog smells (Did you know we have two smellers? I bet you didn’t!) to the way humans affect dog genetics and evolution, this book has it all. Rudy, the dog who is your guide, loves ball, just like I do, and he’ll help you travel back in time to witness early dog-human collaboration, take you to Russia to observe Silver Fox breeding experiments, and even show you dog DNA. My human is a science teacher and she would do well to buy this book for her classes because everything a middle school life science student needs to know is in here. Heck, if I had a credit card, I’d buy her a class set. Then maybe she’d get home a little earlier and play more ball. If your human is smart, they’ll fetch this book from the bookstore before you can say WOOF.

Magic Carpet Ride

Pashmina - Nidhi Chanani

 

Pashmina is the story of an artistic high school girl, Priyanka, whose mother immigrated to America from India before she was born. Priyanka wants to know more about the Indian culture, and about her father, but her mother refuses to discuss either one. To make matters worse, Priyanka’s favorite uncle is having a child of his own and she feels left out. Then Priyanka finds a magical pashmina in an old suitcase, which transports her to the colorful, fascinating India of her dreams. Luckily, her aunt, who still lives in India, calls and invites Priyanka to visit. This visit answers Priyanka’s questions, shows her what her mother’s life was like before she left, and helps her continue her own artistic journey upon her return.

 

The strengths of this graphic novel are in the simple but endearing illustrations, the bursts of color that signal the pashmina’s magical escapades, and in the characterization of the teen lead, whose angsty behavior is just edgy enough without being off-putting. This would be a great companion to American Born Chinese or Persepolis, and could be enjoyed by students in middle or high school.

California Book Signings at Risk

An article about a ridiculous new law regarding book signings in California.

Now in paperback!
Now in paperback!

The Nebula Awards Shortlist

Here are the works listed for the Nebula awards

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Harmony - Carolyn Parkhurst
The first book I read by Carolyn Parkhurst was weird, and I liked 
it because of its weirdness. But the other books I've read by this author have been weird but also unbelievable. This one is no exception. This family's journey to be part of the founding group of what is billed as a camp but quickly seems more like a cult often doesn't make sense. What bothered me more was the portrayal of the thoughts of the autistic daughter. I've taught autistic kids, and the writing that was supposed to be the autistic daughter didn't ring true to me, to the point where I was tempted to skip over it to the next part of the book.

Ann Patchett's Bookstore Pilgrim List (NYT)

Swimming Upstream

Fish In A Tree - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This is an engaging, often heartbreaking book with well-drawn characters. That said, this book would be better for children who had trouble learning to read if if it were set in middle school rather than elementary school, and if it were in a format that had better appeal for reluctant readers. Those who need to read it most, likely won’t.

Two of a Kind

Mischling - Affinity Konar

To be a mischling carries the connotation of being a half-blood, a mongrel. And so with this epithet we are introduced to Stasha and Pearl, twin girls with blond ringlets and Jewish heritage whose best protection before the cattle cars was their fertile imaginations, their Zeyde’s intellectual games and pastimes, and their fragile mother’s drawings. When they arrive at Auschwitz, their mother quickly grasps that their duality is desirable and, in desperation, hands them over to the lunatic evil of Joseph Mengele, believing that to be their one chance at life. As the girls join his “zoo” their identities begin to separate through their different coping strategies and the horrors to which they are subjected. They must constantly fight to remain as much alike and to hold on to as much of their humanity as possible.

 

The subject matter of this book ensures that it will not be for everyone, however those who venture within will find both an important view of a horrific part of history as well as a testament to the spirits of even the smallest beings who endured and survived. The strengths of the book are in the quirky but engaging writing style, and in the carefully drawn characters of the children.

Badass Librarians

The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

I won this book in a Netgalley contest and enjoyed it more than I expected to. The book features badass librarians who travel to parallel universes to steal books, and the adventures a certain librarian has along the way. There is sort of an Indiana Jones vibe, mixed with the fantasy elements of Seraphina. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

Once Again, Oliver Sacks

On the Move: A Life - Oliver Sacks

A remembrance of Oliver Sacks, by his longtime companion.

Currently reading

Captain's Share
Nathan Lowell
Abaddon's Gate
James S.A. Corey
Among the Ten Thousand Things: A Novel
Julia Pierpont
American Gods
Neil Gaiman
I Am Radar: A Novel
Reif Larsen