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.

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.

Anne of Green Gables comes to Netflix

Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set - L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables Novels #1 - L M Montgomery

A NYTimes article about a new Anne of Green Gables series

Hugo Awards 2016

Boing Boing's summary of the 2016 Hugo Awards

 

No One’s Gettin’ Fat, ‘Cept Mama Cass

California Dreamin' - Pénélope Bagieu, Pénélope Bagieu

California Dreamin’ is a graphic novel biography of Cass from the Mamas and the Papas. It portrays Cass as a bon vivant whose exuberance and incredible voice opens doors just as fast as her size and struggles with her body image shuts them. Starting with Cass’ childhood, the book follows her as she becomes a pot smoking, LSD dropping, reluctant folkie, and ends as the Mamas and Papas begin to have real trouble as the guys fight over the beautiful, but far less talented, Michelle. The expressive illustrations work well as do shifts in the style of the written letters. A fun book for anyone interested in the 60’s music scene.

Through the Fog

Valley of the Moon - Melanie Gideon

Valley of the Moon tells the story of a single mother whose heart straddles two worlds. Lux lives in San Francisco with her son, Benno. When Benno goes back east to visit Lux’s mother and estranged father, she goes camping and happens on Greengage, a utopian society that is stuck in the early 1900s, with no escape for its members. Lux is intrigued by the equality, the hard, fulfilling work, and the society’s leader, Joseph Bell. Lux visits Greengage again and again, always returning to the present to take care of her son. But on one tragic night, Lux misses the return window back to her world, wreaking havoc on her son’s life, enraging her parents, and causing her to re-evaluate the importance of Greengage in her own heart.

 

The strength of this book lies in its interesting people and plot. The writing, however, is not terribly elegant, and lacks the ability to find different voices for Lux and Joseph, who tell the story in alternate chapters. This book is a good escapist pick, or a beach or plane book.

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