Category Archives: Reviews

Stealing Candy by Allison Hobbs

stealing candy

Allison Hobbs has written a book that is gritty, raw and brutally honest about the dark underworld of sex trafficking.  Fifteen year old Gianna “Lollipop” Strand goes to the boardwalk to meet a friend and befriends Bullet.  Unbeknownst to her, he is an ex-con who abducts her so that he can be her pimp.

Not intended to be a book with a happy ending, Stealing Candy warns about the dangers of living on the streets.  It reminds you to keep a close eye on your children so that they know about the hidden dangers of talking to strangers.  It also reminds you to focus on what is important in life.

I wish this book was more kid friendly.  I would definitely have recommended it to some of my younger readers but Hobbs has created a very graphic tale that can, at times, be utterly disgusting.  I’m not saying that she isn’t a fabulous writer but even I had to skip lines because they were too strong for me to take.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Something for Everyone in Five Comics Books

Whether you have always loved comics or you never picked one up in your life, if you want to read about cape-and-tights heroes or curl up with something trendy and artsy, then this list has something for you.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is proof that a good story doesn’t even need words. A stunning narrative of an immigrant’s experience in a new and alien land, it’s like having someone play solos about hope and isolation on your heartstrings.

Barbarian Lord – Matt Smith

This is the comic book that Vikings would have written if Vikings wrote comic books. Sure, there are other comic books that try to capture the age, or even just borrow the aesthetic, but Barbarian Lord reads like a deadly-serious re-telling of one of the Icelandic Sagas.

Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde; Roy Thomas; Sebastian Fiumara.

It’s a hard task to adapt a longer book to graphic format, but Marvel does a fantastic job with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Taking a dark, psychological, Gothic novel and adapting it successfully to graphic format – that’s nothing short of a miracle.


Astro City: Confession– Kurt Busiek; Alex Ross; Brent Anderson.

If you never read comics because you felt superheroes were flat characters and the world they are set in simplistic, Confession will change your mind. Smart, sensitive, and nuanced.  The storytelling will keep you glued to the page.

Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others – Mike Mignola

Although the third in the Hellboy series, this volume of short stories speaks to the soul of the series: respect for the source material. If you like gritty, pitch-perfect renditions of folklore and mythology, and a bit of dry humor on the side, this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Originally posted on LFPL’s Teen Blog at http://blogs.lfpl.org/teen/2015/01/07/something-for-everyone-in-5-comic-books/

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith

First off I must tell you that I’ve been an avid fan ofdownload Jane Austen since I was a young teenager. I have read most of the reimagined books including ones that had zombies and vampires. I was very interested about the Austen Project when I heard that they were going to be taking many of Austen’s classics and reimagining them for modern times. Emma was the third of this new series to be released and Alexander McCall Smith was chosen to pen this one.

McCall Smith has taken the basic pieces of the classic story and reinvented them into a modern retelling of the classic. It is written for the modern reader, leaving out much of Austen’s original speech that can be daunting for today’s readers. Emma’s father now becomes an intense hypochondriac worrying about vaccines and antibacterial soap. Emma also gets a modern upgrade with a new mini Cooper that she drives around town. There are also many quips about McCall Smith’s town of Edinburgh, Scotland that you may not catch unless you have actually traveled there.

While Emma was not my favorite of Austen’s books, I do believe this book does honor the original character’s personalities. While Emma was not a favorite of mine in the original book, I really formed a dislike for her in McCall Smith’s book. I think that it’s because he took a lot more time to develop the main characters (Mr. Woodhouse, Emma, Harriett) then Austen did in the original. In doing this, he however leaves little time for Mr. Knightly and others in the story. This was the only disheartening part of the novel for myself because the reader misses out of Emma’s blooming relationship and it seems like an afterthought at the end of the book. The author does leave some of the original formality in the book, including mention of the room Mr. Woodhouse entertains his guests in and also some very formal speech.

The story is delightful overall and a fun beach read. I would recommend it to readers, but would recommend that they possibly read the original after or before reading McCall Smith’s re-imagination.  Many die hard Austen fans may view this is a heresy, but I think McCall Smith does a wonderful job both paying respect to the original, but also putting a new spin on the classic story. The book would also be a good primer for readers that are slightly frightened to begin reading Austen’s originals. Overall this has been one of the best re-imaginations of Austen’s classics yet.

Formats available: Book, E-book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

Our Kids: the American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam

“When I was growing up in Port Clinton 50 years ago, my parents talked about, ‘We’ve got to do things for our kids. We’ve got to pay higher taxes so our kids can have a better swimming pool, or we’ve got to pay higher taxes so we can have a new French department in school,’ or whatever. When they said that, they did not just mean my sister and me — it was all the kids here in town, of all sorts. But what’s happened…is that over this last 30, 40, 50 years, the meaning of ‘our kids’ has narrowed and narrowed and narrowed so that now when people say, ‘We’ve got to do something for our kids,’ they mean MY biological kids.”  – Robert D. Putnam

In his latest work, Robert D. Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, puts forth an issue that he fervently believes should today be one of the primary topics of domestic public policy at the government level and household discussion among the citizenry: the drastic and growing divide in the United States between affluent and non-affluent children.

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In order to support his supposition, Mr. Putnam narrates many stories of both rich and poor children that he learned of through the personal interviews that he and his team of ethnographers and statisticians had with these young people. While these interviews originate in towns and cities across the country, he has an especially narrow focus on his hometown of Port Clinton, Ohio in which he compares and contrasts the picture these current narratives paint with that of his own personal past in which he believes the phrase “our kids” would be taken to refer to all the children of a particular community, as opposed to one’s own biological offspring; in other words, people in the United States today tend to not care about an issue if it does not directly affect their own children, even if the overall society suffers, and Mr. Putnam warns that this is a dangerous trend, as everyone and society as a whole benefits from the success of “our kids.”

“The evidence suggests that when in American history we’ve invested more in the education of less well-off kids, it’s been good for everybody,” Mr. Putnam states. “My grandchildren are going to pay a huge price in their adult life because there’s a bunch of other kids, in principle just as productive as them, who didn’t get investments from their family and community, and therefore are not productive citizens. The best economic estimates are that the costs to everybody, including my own grandchildren, of not investing in those ‘other people’s kids’ are going to be very high.”

Our Kids is highly engaging and balances the personal narratives with much data and many graphs that do not overwhelm, but rather compliment his point. Mr. Putnam does a fine job of defining and describing an issue of great import to the country today, which he hopes, and others I am sure hope, will not become partisan; rather, the focus should be on solutions.

“This investment is not yet seen as a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The notion that all of us have a shared interest in investing in our shared future, which is these kids, is not and has not historically been a partisan issue.”  – Robert D. Putnam

Source of quotes:
Putnam, Robert D. (2015, March 19). Why you should care about other people’s kids. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/care-peoples-kids

Road Trip Essentials: Audiobooks

Summer is the season of family vacations and this means often long road trips accompanied by restless travelers of all ages. Regardless of your reading preference or road trip companions, the absolute best way to pass the time on a long road trip is by listening to an audiobook. Sharing an engaging story with your vacation companions can stave off the repetition of, “are we there yet?” and turn even the most reluctant reader into backseat book critic.

Below you’ll find a few of my favorites from a variety of genres and talented narrators. In most cases I have a personal preference for authors as narrators, but some very talented voice actors are noted below. Most genres listed feature children’s (C), teen (T), and adult (A) titles. Although the adult titles may not be appropriate for children/teens, adults should not restrict themselves to only adult titles. A well-executed audiobook, although geared toward a younger audience, can easily be enjoyed by all ages. No matter the variety of personal tastes filling your vehicle there is an audiobook (or two, or three) that will meet your needs.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The graveyard book

Realistic/Historical Fiction

Code name Verity

Mystery

The Secret of the Old Clock

Memoir/Biography/Non-Fiction

The ultimate David Sedaris box set

Format: Audiobook

Reviewed by Magen, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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Sophie Kinsella, best known for her Shopaholic series for adults, takes a stab at teen fiction with Finding Audrey, the story of a 14 year old who suffers from a severe social anxiety disorder.  Throughout the book the reader is aware that Audrey wasn’t always the socially avoidant person she has become, something happened at school the previous year that has made her unable to even look another person in the eyes.  She wears dark glasses, doesn’t leave the house, and the very thought of many social situations leaves her in bed for days.

The reader joins Audrey at an important moment in her life; she is stuck with what is left of her after ‘”an incident” involving several other classmates.  Audrey is slowly progressing towards feeling better with the help of her chaotic and hilarious family and Dr. Sarah.  Then Linus enters Audrey’s life.  A friend of her brother’s, Linus is able to help Audrey talk through her feels and offers support in a way she felt safe and comfortable.  As her personal health improves a sweet romance blooms between Linus and Audrey that makes you feel all warm inside.

This is a great summer read, newly published, and sure to make you feel great.  It’s warm and gooey with hilarious family moments.  Laptops of chucked from windows, video game tournaments are lost, and at the heart of it all a serious message of teenage bullying and learning to overcome fears.  We never learn exactly what happened to Audrey – though we get small glimpses.  I think the not knowing makes the title more accessible to readers who might come to the book with a variety of issues in their own life.

There have been many teen books on the market that specifically detail the type of trauma their character has endured and while I find those helpful I think the flexibility of ambiguity.  It also ensures the book remains overall upbeat and light – we get the PSA without feeling low at the end.  I laughed so many times with this book, I hope you will too.  Enjoy!

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

neptuneprojectGlobal warming has ravaged the planet in this dystopian tale of dwindling land and water needed to grow food and a government with little care for its people.  Nere is a young teen whose world is falling apart around her, even faster.  The supply of a rare medicine needed to help her breathe on land, is running out. Two years ago she lost her father in an accident, or so she thought. Then her beloved brother left after an argument with Gillian, their mother. Cam, her best friend, is involved with smugglers that could cost him his freedom, if not his life.  Her only escape from all the chaos around her is the time she spends in the water training and communicating, telepathically, with a family of dolphins.

Then the day comes, when the Western Alliance, the world’s rulers, have decided to move the people of the village away from sea. For three young teens Nere, Rory, Cam’s little brother, and Lena, an old school friend time has run out. In a final act of desperation, Gillian reveals the secrets she has been keeping. Nere and the others are part of an experiment; their genes had been altered so they could live in the world’s waterways and they must take the final steps that will make living on the land impossible.  James, her brother, had been part of the experiment too, but something had gone terribly wrong. The three teens must now set out on a journey to find the underwater settlement her father has been building for years, thousands of miles away. Gillian, Cam and Lena’s parents gather to say goodbye and give them instructions when soldiers show up to prevent them from leaving. A fight breaks out. Not everyone escapes.

The surface world is dying and humanity’s only chance for survival may be life under the sea. The journey is more than just the miles the teens will have to travel. They must face the reality that they will never be able to live on land again and while life under the sea is beautiful it is also deadly.  While, not all the danger they face comes from the marine life. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke is the first in a trilogy.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

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The University of Southern California recently released some astonishing statistics on the amount of information a person encounters every day.  Whether it comes from advertising, content on social media or bumper stickers seen on the drive home, a good deal of what we consume is riddled with faulty logic! If you’ve ever heard or read an argument that sounded wrong but you weren’t quite sure why, The Art of Thinking Clearly can help.

Dobelli’s book is a catalog of logical fallacies and everyday examples to illustrate them.  “Catalog of Logical Fallacies” is not a sexy title so Dobelli wisely chose something more accessible. A cheerleader for precision in thought and speech, he teaches his readers to identify fallacies so they can spot sloppy thinking and build sound arguments of their own.

While the web provides numerous free sites that explain fallacies, Dobelli adds value to the learning experience. A recurring theme in the book is how to overcome the human weaknesses that lead us to make bad decisions.  We struggle to understand exponential growth, which can affect our financial lives; believe that there is a balancing force in the universe, which can affect our success at the craps table; and over plan, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and a stack of unfulfilled to do lists.  For each fallacy, the author offers a next time component, advising readers how to change their response in order to achieve a better outcome.

Dobelli’s collection includes 99 brief chapters that are perfect to breeze through and contemplate one-by-one.  Even if you only read a dozen, it will change how you respond to information and ultimately make you a better decision maker.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print), eBook

Reviewed by Valerie, Iroquois Branch

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

pyongyangCover

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is Canadian animator Guy Delisle‘s cartoon diary of his stay in North Korea while working in an animation studio. While other books focus on North Korea’s history, leadership, or place in international politics, this one examines with dry humor and sharp wit the day to day experience of living as a foreign guest worker in Pyongyang, and the tension between what is there, what visitors are allowed to see, and what everyone is allowed to say. The huge fake smiles plastered on the faces of the accordion girls – the illustration chosen for the cover – mirrors the ongoing theme of this bizarre masquerade.

Delisle’s style is classic cartoon, with clean line art and caricature, and he uses it to best effect, telling his story – presented as a series of vignettes – directly, effectively, and with great clarity and force. While other presentations of the same material could come off as heavy-handed or unrelievedly grim, Delisle manages the mood with a keen eye for the absurd, and pitch-black humor.

This often-surreal travelogue benefits from the distance of the author’s outside perspective, a remove that allows for humor and wit. Despite this, Pyongyang remains good-natured and compassionate, as well as insightful and entertaining. If you’re looking for a short but incisive and genuinely funny perspective on life in North Korea (at least the parts foreigners are allowed to see) this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Redeployment by Phil Klay

redeploymentGerman philosophy Peter Sloterdijk talks about books as “thick letters to friends.”  Phil Klay mentions this in his acceptance speech for winner the recent National Book Award winning title for Redeployment.  Drawing from the front line of serving in the Marines during a 13 month deployment, Klay follows the life of one soldier on the front lines serving with his troop and the daily routine of survival in the Anbar Province where the Islamic State is attempting to takeover currently. Filled with grit, laughter, sadness, and contemplation, this work lured me in to keep on reading in attempting to understand how one individual attempts to resettle after being deployed in to another country.

Readers, who may suspect the story being filled with horrid violent scenes and moments of combat, will be disappointed as the real battle not only exists amongst the time away from the United States but in answering the question of “Who am I as a human being?”  While listening to book in my vehicle and having to keep it for a longer than the average 2-3 weeks, I contemplated on what personal challenges have I dealt with where the soldier survived to tell.

Formats Available:  Large Type, Audiobook, Regular Print, Book Discussion Kit, and Downloadable EBook.

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

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If this title pleasures your literary mind, here are some titles similar in first person point of view and military orientation that you can check out from the Library.

the things they carriedYellow Birds