Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

Steve knows that there is something wrong with the baby. The baby is sick. Really sick. Deep down sick. They don't know if he is going to make it sick. His parents don't want to talk about it with him, but he sees the trips to the hospital, hears bits and pieces from his parents conversations, and most of all - the haggard look of his parents. Steve's concern starts to grow, especially as he has dreams about the wasps building their nest outside the baby's window. The Queen claims to be able to help, but at what cost?

Oppel has written a wonderful and thoughtful book with terrific illustrations by Jon Klassen. I highly recommend for those who enjoy slightly dark and disturbing tales.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner

How would dinosaurs have affected the course of history assuming they had managed to survive and coexist with man? This is the premise of this great new YA novel by Brian Falkner set in early nineteenth century Europe.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Here by Richard McGuire

Fifteen years in the making, the graphic novel Here is unlike anything I've ever read.

After hearing tales from people who've been watching this masterpiece unfold through RAW magazine, I'm jealous that I only discovered it in its more complete form.

It's somewhat difficult to describe, and at first you might think to yourself "What is this thing?" Especially if you're like me and used to a more conventional graphic novel format.

Fixed on one viewpoint, in a corner of a room, Here depicts what has happened in that little corner throughout the ages. On one page we might see 1957, surrounding it we might see 1893, then on the next panel we might see 300,000,000 BCE.

Confused? Don't be, once you get into it, you will be hooked.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

EXQUISITE CORPSE by Pénélope Bagieu

The tagline for this one reads "Dying to be an author", and it only makes sense once you hit the ending, pretty much.

With the title of Exquisite Corpse, I had partially anticipated a collaboratively written manuscript, since the term "exquisite corpse" or "exquisite cadaver" is applied to stories that are compiled in sequence by a variety of authors, usually using some particular rule or rules that have been agreed upon. This book is really and truly not that, and yet the title makes complete sense. I would, however, have to spoil the ending for you, and I prefer not to.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

The North Water by Ian McGuire

“Flensing” refers to the stripping of blubber from a whale. The word occurs frequently in Ian McGuire’s brutal and powerful novel The North Water. Flensing is also an apt description of the experience of reading this historical work, set in the dying days of the nineteenth-century whaling boom. McGuire cleanses nothing from his description of the odors, fluids, and fetid reality of life both on and off the whaling ship Volunteer. No one—neither reader nor any of the characters—leaves this novel clean, physically or morally. If the publishers seek a blurb for the paperback edition, I offer this: “A viscous read.”

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity

Eugene Linden has written several books and articles about animal intelligence and environmental issues. This sequel to his The Parrot's Lament discusses scientific concepts and interesting puzzles related to animal intelligence. He has interesting tales of clever octopuses, orangutan escape artists, and penguins mimicking scientists in Antarctica. Observations of empathy, deception, and cooperation led Linden to focus, in The Octopus and the Orangutan, "on what intelligence does." I have not read The Parrot's Lament yet, but I probably will.

On the occasion in question, the little orangutan (named Siti) was trying to eat a coconut, an arduous process that involved chewing off the husk and then poking a finger through one of the "eyes" to get at the milk and meat. After chewing and poking through one eye, the little orang got tired and handed the coconut to an Indonesian named Nian. Russon was observing the scene and saw several split remains of coconut scattered around, suggesting that the assistant had cut open coconuts with his machete for the young orangutan on previous occasions.

This was a no-no, since the animals would not have access to room service in the wild. With Russon present, the assistant was not going to risk breaking the rules and sheepishly handed the coconut back to the young female. The young orang made another half-hearted try and then handed it back to the assistant. He handed it back to Siti.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Raven Cycle Concludes

Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series of YA fantasy books concludes with the fourth book in the series, The Raven King. The Raven Cycle opened with The Raven Boys (GLW review) and was followed by The Dream Theives (GLW review) and Blue, Lily, Lily, Blue (GLW review). Put together they represent an epic achievement in young adult fantasy literature.

A quick synopsis is difficult, not only because The Raven King comes at the end of the series, but because the whole Raven Cycle is so rich and so strange. Blue Sargent is a high school kid who lives with her mother, a psychic and several other women psychics who do readings and other supernatural services for ctizens in the town of Henrietta, VA. Blue isn't psychic herself but she tends to amplify the psychic abilities of those around her. She's been told lots of things by her mother and the other psychic women. For one: don't hang around with Raven Boys--the name given to students at Aglionby, the exclusive all boys boarding school in town. For another: Blue is told if she kisses her true love, he will die. These are good psychics and Blue is pretty convinced that they are right.

So, of course, she starts hanging out with a group of Raven boys and inevitably falls in love with one of them.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016


Character, DrivenA book written in the first person narrative style indicates that the story is being told by one of the characters in the book.  In most such stories, readers know that the author is telling the story by voicing the characters thoughts.  CHARACTER, DRIVEN by David Lubar had me feeling differently.  Cliff tells the story, and I had a definite feeling that Cliff frequently surprised author David Lubar with the direction of his thoughts.  This novel feels as if it was literally "character driven."

Maybe I'm wrong about what I wrote in the paragraph above, but having given writing assignments to my high school students encouraging them to let the character take over, and having experienced the phenomenon when working on my own writing, I have to wonder if Lubar felt pulled through this story by Cliff himself.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lock & Mori by Heather Petty

I was waiting for the next season of Sherlock to come out, and I just wanted a little something to tide me over. Petty has written an intriguing alternate version of the Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty duo. A fast paced mystery set in modern times. I particularly enjoyed the development of the characters as they work through the mystery and learn more about their skills at observation and where they lack knowledge to accurately deduce the outcome.

I look forward to the release of the second in this series (December 6, 2016) to see how she continues to develop these characters and create her own "Sherlock" world.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Killing and Dying: Stories by Adrian Tomine

Killing & Dying is a graphic novel nthology of amazingly written stories about people who live ordinary lives but end up in weird, sad or funny situations. Trust me, you'll fly through these stories and curse the story-gods that there weren't more!

There are six stories, "Hortisculputre" which is the somewhat depressing tale of a guy who becomes obsessed with a form of landscape artwork that only he truly appreciates. It's the story of a guy trying to make something of his life and nearly losing everything he has in the process.

"Amber Sweet" is about a woman who is a dead ringer for an online porn star. How their lives intertwine is touching, funny and strange. 

"Go Owls" is one of the most hard hitting in my opinion. Two people meet after an AA meeting, they seem to get a long and decide to move in together. Their story is tragic as their addictions and shortcomings bubble up to the surface over and over again. 

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