Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen is by Lucy Knisley. A charming graphic memoir about Knisley's childhood and the way her parents instilled in her a love of food and cooking. The art is charming and colorful, and the added recipes are fun and easy to make and relate well to each chapter. This is a charming memoir about family and the role food can play in making family memories. This would be a great way to introduce reluctant readers to nonfiction and memoir.

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (brief mature thematic content).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is by Alison Bechdel. This a memoir in graphic novel form describing Bechdel's childhood and the death of her father, in what the work hints might be a suicide. After his death, Alison, who has recently told her parents she is a lesbian, discovers her father was a closeted homosexual. This memoir is bitingly funny and tragic at the same time. The complexity of Bechdel's feelings for her family, especially her father, are told with brutal honesty. The art is also stellar. This is a memoir worth reading, but it is definitely not for everyone.

Ratings: Adult - 7 of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

The Key

The Key is by Pauline Baird Jones. The first novel in the Project Enterprise series is a rollicking science fiction adventure. The United States is venturing out into a new galaxy "to boldly go where no man has gone before" (sorry couldn't resist the Star Trek reference). As luck would have it, first contact finds us in the middle of an intergalactic civil war. When Sara Donovan, an elite pilot, is shot down she finds herself alone on an inhospitable planet with Fyn, a member of the Ojemba (a resistance group aiding the Gadi against the evil Dusan). All three groups are looking for a mysterious "key" that will give them the power to win the war, and when Sarah appears to be linked to the key she finds herself being fought over by all three groups. While this book is listed as a romance, there are none of the expected steamy sex scenes. This is truly just a fun science fiction adventure, the romance is almost a side effect of the story. This would be a good way to get girls interested in science fiction. The addition of a strong female fighter pilot heroine is also a plus.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - V (violence).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pobby and Dingan

Pobby and Dingan is by Ben Rice. This charming little novella is set in an opal mining town in Australia. Ashmol Williamson and his sister live with their parents; their dad has a claim where he mines for opals - not very successfully. Ashmol's sister Kellyanne has two invisible friends named Pobby and Dingan. No except Kellyanne believes they exist. One day, to humor her, her father takes Pobby and Dingan to his mine and comes home without them. Kellyanne insists they are lost and that everyone search for them, as her health steadily declines, Ashmol decides to search for the two himself. A touching story of the ability of human beings to believe in things they cannot see, and the love of a brother for his sister. This novella is rated 10th grade only because of the language used in parts of the book. This would be a wonderful little book for parents to read to their children, skipping over the few bad words.

Ratings: 10th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity).

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Bestiary

The Bestiary is edited by Ann VanderMeer. A bestiary is a collection of descriptions of animals, usually fantastical ones. Bestiaries trace their origins to Ancient Greece, but rose to popularity in the Middle Ages. VanderMeer has drawn together quite a collection of authors to create entries for this little volume. The beasts are indeed fantastical, some hilariously so, and the illustrations are beautifully drawn. A wonderful way to fill a couple of hours of your time.

Ratings: 9th grade - 7 out of 10.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake

A House at the Bottom of a Lake is by Josh Malerman. A creepy little novella about two teenagers on their first date who discover a house at the bottom of a lake. There are many creepy things about the house and it does not end the way you would think. I'm still contemplating the ending and what might happen next, and what the ending might mean for the characters. If you like creepy mysteries that aren't filled with gore, this little book might be for you.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Carmen

Carmen is by Prosper Merimee. The wonderful little novella upon which the opera "Carmen" is based. This is the story of a solider who descends into banditry due to the influence of the beautiful gypsy Carmen. Carmen loves Don Jose in the way only a gypsy can, and his jealously leads him into a great deal of trouble. If you loved the opera or the ballet, read the original classic.

Ratings: 10th grade - V (violence) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is by Isabel Greenberg. A charming graphic novel relating the supposed-mythology of Early Earth. Many of these tales will sound eerily familiar, although the names have been amusingly changed. The tales are all linked by the plight of a storyteller who is traveling from the North Pole to the South Pole to find the missing piece of his soul, while being both aided and impeded by the gods. The stories are entertaining and the artwork is lovely.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Girl on Legare Street

The Girl on Legare Street is by Karen White. The second book in the Tradd House series. Melanie's long estranged mother has decided to move back to Charleston and buy the old family house she sold thirty years ago when she deserted Melanie and her father for a career in the opera. Of course, the family house is haunted and Melanie, Jack, and her friends must uncover an ancient family secret to pacify the family ghosts. Melanie's problems with Jack and an old flame, and her issues with her parents make things even more problematic. This series is a nice blend of Southern mystery and ghost story.

Ratings: Adult - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

Yvain: The Knight of the Lion is by M.T. Anderson. This is a beautifully worked graphic novel retelling one of the more obscure of the Arthurian legends. Yvain goes off to seek adventure, kills a knight in a battle, marries his wife, and then leaves her to go on more adventures. This is one of the few legends in which strong women are main characters. The illustrations are exquisite. Boys and girls will enjoy this story.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mooncop

Mooncop is by Tom Gauld. This is a charming science fiction graphic novel about the last policeman on the moon. The moon has been colonized, but everyone is leaving. The last police officer continues his patrols even though there is nothing really to do. The beautifully drawn graphics in the book really make you feel the extent of his aloneness and wonder about how we would deal with similar feelings. A quick, but thoughtful, little book.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fup

Fup is by Jim Dodge. This short little novella is fantastic! This is the story of Grandaddy Jake, who believes the whiskey he brews keeps him immortal; Tiny, his grandson who comes to live with him after his mother's death; Lockjaw, a nasty old wild board; and Fup a mallard chick Tiny saves from Lockjaw and raises as part of the family. This story is laugh-out-loud funny, touching, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. I can't recommend this novella strongly enough. It is definitely a Reader's Corner Highly Recommended read. READ THIS BOOK! Share it with all your friends.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - (P) profanity - AC (some mature thematic content).

The House on Tradd Street

The House on Tradd Street is by Karen White. The first book in the Tradd Street series. The story is set in Charleston, South Carolina, where family and status is all important. Melanie Middleton, is from an old Charleston family, but she is now working as a successful realtor. She also sees dead people. She unexpectedly inherits a run down mansion on historic Tradd street, complete with all its secrets and ghosts. Jack is a writer from another wealthy old Charleston family; he convinces Melanie he can help her solve the mystery surrounding her new home, but does he have ulterior motives. A quick and fun mystery with ghosts thrown in. If you like mysteries and ghosts this series will work for you.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Monday, April 24, 2017

So You've Been Publically Shamed

So You've Been Publically Shamed is by Jon Ronson. Wow, what a timely book. Ronson looks at individuals whose careers and lives have been devastated by social media. Some people lost their jobs and families, others committed suicide, and others managed to come out relatively unscathed. Ronson asks the very legitimate question, should we engage in public shaming on social media without having all the facts and with no concern for the ramifications of what we are doing once we hit send? Ronson also looks at the revenge wrought on those who "shamed" someone, as well as the person against whom the original post was directed. While a little dry at times, the book asks questions that need to be addressed. I will certainly think three or four times before posting anything online - and I'm not all that active on social media. This book does not encourage me to change that practice.

Ratings: Adult - 8 out of 10 - P (Profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

The Bear Went Over the Mountain is by William Kotzwinkle. Arthur Bramhall is a professor at the University of Maine, and he's just written a novel called Destiny and Desire which he hopes will be a bestseller. Because his first copy of the novel was destroyed in a fire, he hides it under a tree near his cabin while he goes to town to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Hal Jam is a bear; he steals Arthur's novel and heads to New York where the book does indeed become a best-seller and Hal is vaulted to super stardom. This book is a hilarious farce about a bear who becomes a man and a man who becomes a bear. If you enjoyed Forrest Gump, Hal Jam will delight you. A thoroughly entertaining read.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Lesser Blessed

The Lesser Blessed is by Richard Van Camp. Larry is a Dogrib teenager living on a reservation in Canada. He was in a terrible accident and lost much of his memory. This book follows his experiences with his mother, her boyfriend, and other teenagers in his community. The novel is full of the horrors of drugs, abuse, and violence that seem to be found on many reservations. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful, but painful ,story of coming of age. As we glimpse Larry's past in snippets throughout the story, we can't help but hurt with and for him. An excellent book!

Ratings: 8 out of 10 - Adult - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Indian Killer

Indian Killer is by Sherman Alexie. A creepy, yet mesmerizing, tale of murder, prejudice, and hatred. John Smith is an Indian who was adopted by white parents as an infant. As he grows up he can't seem to find his place in the white world; his mental illness doesn't help. John, and a variety of beautifully written characters, become involved in the hunt for a serial killer in Seattle who is killing and scalping white people. Dubbed the "Indian Killer" by the police, he/she has created a firestorm of violence that sweeps through the city and engulfs every character in a unique way. A masterfully written book, Alexie does a great job of making you step inside a dark and brooding world.

Ratings: 9 out of 10 - Adult - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Friday, April 7, 2017

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores is by Jen Campbell. An incredibly amusing recitation of just how dumb and inane people can be. Many of these vignettes are alternately laugh-out-loud funny and bury-your-head-in-your-hands embarrassing. Book lovers will thoroughly enjoy this book; it is a fun quick read. It will also make you look around more closely at other people on your next trip to the bookstore.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World is by Michal Pollan. This fantastic little nonfiction book is about four different plants and how they relate to four of man’s greatest desires: sweetness – the apple; beauty – the tulip; intoxication – marijuana; and control – the potato. Pollan discusses the history of each of these plants and how they have affected human history. He wonders in the book if plants “use” humans to spread their own species and evolve in a way that will assure their own existence. This book is easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. Pollan makes you stop and think about nature in a completely new and different way.

Ratings: 10th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (Some mature thematic content).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sáanii Dahataał: The Women Are Singing: Poems and Stories

Sáanii Dahataał: The Women Are Singing: Poems and Stories is by Luci Tapahonso. A wonderful book of poems and stories about Tapahonso's life and family in Shiprock, New Mexico. She beautifully intertwines life and death, and aspects of Navajo family, culture, and beliefs. The writings are about simple everyday subjects: raising children, death, family pets, or family interactions; yet they are all beautifully written using both English and the Navajo language. A wonderful book!

Ratings: 10th grade - 9 out of 10.

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness is by Edward Abbey. Abbey, a naturalist and conservationist, spent some time as a park ranger in Arches National Monument in southeastern Utah. This book is a series of vignettes about his time in the park. His love for the desert is clear, as are his sometimes harsh attitudes regarding other aspects of humanity and American culture. I think describing this book as a Southwestern Walden is a fair comparison. It wonderfully describes the harsh and unforgiving beauty of the desert Southwest.

Ratings: 11th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).

Romancing the Stone


Romancing the Stone is by Catherine Lanigan. This is the book version of the movie. If you enjoyed the movie, the book will be a fun read as well. The story revolves around recluse romance writer Joan Wilder who must fly to Columbia to deliver a treasure map forwarded to her by her brother-in-law, pieces of whose body have been found. She must turn the map over to her sister's kidnappers or her sister will be next. Once in Columbia, a series of humorous mishaps occur.

Ratings: 10th grade - 4 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content) - P (profanity).

TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks

TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks is by Akash Karia. This short little book gives you all the hints you will need to put together an effective TED talk or any other kind of presentation. A very helpful book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Grass Dancer

The Grass Dancer is by Susan Power. The wonderful classic of Native American storytelling. Power, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, tells the story of various people living on a North Dakota reservation. The story moves back and forth in time weaving the stories of all the characters, past and present, together. It also contrasts the western view of reality against the more fluid view many Native Americans have of reality and the spiritual side of life. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read. A great introduction to truly multi-cultural writing.

Ratings: 11th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is by John Steinbeck. Definitely a book you must read before you die. A true classic this is the tale of George and Lennie set during the Great Depression. George and Lennie make the perfect traveling companions; George is smart but slight of build and Lennie is huge but with the mind of a child - a very large child who doesn't know it's own strength. They have a dream to own their own piece of land and raise rabbits, but they need money to purchase the land. When they arrive at a ranch in Salinas Valley it seems their dream might be in sight, then tragedy strikes. A stunning tale of trial, friendship, and love. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Tracks

Tracks is by Louis Erdrich. This story is set on a North Dakota reservation at a time when Native Americans were fighting to hold onto their land. The story is told by two narrators, Nanapush and Pauline. Nanapush is older and provides a window into the wisdom, patience, and love of a man for his family and others in his tribe. He has knowledge of the white world, while still maintaining a strong link to the history and culture of his people. Pauline is a young girl who wants to break with her people and their history and embrace totally the white world. This is a powerful story with a powerful point to make. Fans of Erdrich will enjoy this small book as well.

Ratings: 12th grade - 8 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

By Gaslight

By Gaslight is by Steven Price. This is a magnificent piece of historical fiction spanning decades and continents. William Pinkerton is the son of the famous Allan Pinkerton who started what became the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in Chicago in 1850. The agency is still in existence today as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations.  This story begins after Allan’s death as his oldest son, William, travels to England in search of the one criminal his father had never been able to catch, a failure which haunted him until his death, the mysterious thief known as Edward Shade. Things get nasty when the woman he is tailing jumps off a bridge into the Thames, William assumes she drowned, but her head is found several days later (along with various other body parts). Did Shade kill her? Does Shade even exist? When the woman’s old lover, Adam Foole, enlists William’s aid in finding her killer, William begins to discover the truth about Shade and his own father’s secret past. The fictional parts of the story are equally compelling. This is ultimately the story of two men who loved the same father/father-figure and where that love, betrayal, and misunderstanding led them. The book shifts back and forth in time (sometimes even giving glimpses of the future), as well as narrator, and this can be confusing at times if you are not paying attention. However, the story is haunting and beautifully told. You feel for both men and what they have endured. This is a powerful story and doesn’t seem long when you are reading it. I really enjoyed this book and hope I can convince you to give it a try.

Ratings: 12th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (violence) - AC (some mature thematic content) - P (profanity).
 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

from Sand Creek

from Sand Creek is by Simon J. Ortiz. A masterful work of Native American poetry written as a tribute to the tragedy at Sand Creek where many Cheyennes and Arapahoes were massacred in 1864. Poignant and thought-provoking, this is a great introduction to Native American poetry.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reading Changed My Life: Three True Stories

Reading Changed My Life: Three True Stories is by Beth Johnson. A very short book that can be read in one sitting. The true stories of three women: one black, one Hispanic, and one white, who tell the story of how reading changed their loves. The stories are short, yet poignant. They focus on the importance of reading and hard work in being able to find success in life. A great little book to read to a class, or an individual child, or an adult in need of inspiration.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively & Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively & Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines is by Thomas C. Foster. This is NOT a book for English teachers! This is a book for all readers. Every reader will benefit from Foster's expert, and humorous, take on how to get more out of your reading. You will want to keep this book and refer to it again and again as you read.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10.