Unshelved A comic about a library 2014-04-18T13:24:00.0000000Z Gene Ambaum Bill Barnes (c) Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes Unshelved on Friday, April 18, 2014 2014-04-18T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-18T07:00:00.0000000Z
Jack of Spies
Unshelved strip for 4/18/2014
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This week's book recommendations from the creators of Unshelved and their friends. Learn who we are, how we pick books, and other books we've featured.

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A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
Tor, 1993. 9780812515282.

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged science fiction

Unshelved strip for 4/18/2014

@bookblrb: When a long-dormant evil is accidentally released, a family hides on a mediæval planet ruled by telepathic dogs.

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Leviathan Wakes: (Expanse Book 1) by James S.A. Corey
Orbit, 2011. 9780316129084.

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fiction

When XO James Holden and a few crew members went to investigate a derelict spaceship, their ship, the ice miner The Canterbury, was destroyed. Evidence indicates it may have been Martians. Holden releases a video of what was found, then he and his crew try to figure out how to get some payback.

Miller was born and raised in the asteroid belt. He’s a cop in Ceres who doesn’t know that he’s become a sad joke, and that working with him has become a punishment. He’s given the job of finding and kidnapping an inner-planet heiress who has gone native so that he can send her home. As news of Holden’s broadcast reverberates within Ceres, tensions between belters and Mars escalate, rioting starts, and Miller’s life falls apart even further.

Why I picked it up: Recommended to me at Comic-Con by Zack Weinersmith. (He’s two for two. He was totally right about Allison Bechdel, too.)

Why I finished it: Toward the middle of the book, the stories of Miller and Holden converge. The way this happens is brilliant, unexpected, and beautiful. I really felt something for the characters, too, particularly Miller. He’s useless and drunk most of the time, but after investigating the young heiress for a while, reading her email and paging through her life, he falls for her.

It's perfect for: Kevin, who always liked David Cronenberg’s films. When it becomes clear there’s an unexpected alien menace, it reminded me both the weird medical instruments in Dead Ringers and the meat-and-bone weapons in eXistenZ.

And for Dave Kellet, coffee lover, because, on the run and with no where to go, Holden takes a few moments to admire the coffee pot on the ship he’s taken. It can brew forty cups of coffee in five minutes at anything from 0g to 5g burn. “He had to restrain himself from stroking the stainless steel cover while it made gentle percolating noises.”

@bookblrb: After an ice mining spaceship is destroyed, tensions between Mars and those who live in the asteroid belt escalate.

Half A King by Joe Abercrombie
Del Rey, 2014. 9780804178327.

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.” Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red Country comes Half a King, the first book in a stirring new epic fantasy trilogy that will appeal to fans of George R. R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and Scott Lynch.

“Another page-turner from Britain's hottest young fantasist, a fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page one and refused to let go.”—George R. R. Martin

"[Filled with] eye-popping plot twists and rollicking good action." —Rick Riordan

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Blood Song: (Raven's Shadow Book 1) by Anthony Ryan
Ace, 2013. 9780425267691.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agefantasy

Ten-year-old Vaelin Al Sorna is shocked when, immediately after the death of his mother, his father gives him to the Sixth Order of the Faith. His trainers waste no time in telling him that he has no family outside the Order, which will train him to be a weapon second to none. Because Vaelin’s father is Battle Lord, and because he excels at learning the brutal lessons and facing the deadly challenges, Vaelin begins to make a name for himself. But he has a secret, even from his brothers: a “song” in his blood helps him, directs him, and occasionally even speaks to him. 

Later, while he uses his talents to lead a company of men, eliminate political threats, and capture a city, his brothers are always with him. He also secretly learns to listen to his blood song, which will help him earn worldwide renown and hatred, and begin to lead him to the Faith’s hidden Seventh Order.

Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me by a friend who knows my tastes shockingly well. After I read a review he forwarded to me, I immediately ordered it from the library. It is both gratifying and a little embarrassing for someone to know you that well.

Why I finished it: Vaelin Al Sorna is not an average, sword-wielding hero. He is deliberate, insightful, introspective, and willing to risk his life to accomplish what he feels is right, even bucking the direct orders of the King (and paying the price) when he feels they are wrong. And if, like me, you’re not averse to a little romance, you will be rooting for Sister Sherin (a healer) and Vaelin to quit beating around the bush.

Readalikes: I particularly thought this was reminiscent of the excellent four-book series Inda by Sherwood Smith. Indevan-Dal makes fast friends at a military boarding school and becomes a polarizing figure to his classmates, and then later to the world, because of his independent thinking. There is something about shared pain and suffering that brings kids together, and Vaelin and his brothers certainly have that, too.

@bookblrb: After his mother’s death, Vaelin’s father gives him to the Sixth Order to make him into a weapon of the Faith.

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The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, Ben McSweeney
Tor Teen, 2013. 9780765320322.

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agefantasy

Joel’s dream of becoming a Rithmatist -- a wizard who is able to draw, animate, and empower two dimensional beings called chalklings -- is endangered by low grades and the fact that he missed his initiation ceremony at age eight. Failing his classes isn’t helping him either, but he manages to get a summer internship with his favorite Rithmatic professor, Fitch, who has just lost a tenure-ending chalk duel to a new professor, Nalizar. Fitch is tutoring Joel and Melody (a student who can’t draw a simple freehand circle) in the basics of Rithmatics when a series of kidnappings occurs on campus. It is up to the three of them to figure out what has happened to the missing students before another disappears.

Why I picked it up: Brandon Sanderson finished Robert Jordan’s amazing Wheel of Time series, and Ben McSweeney’s chalk illustrations of the mechanics of Rithmatics promised to make this a unique fantasy novel.

Why I finished it: The idea of two-dimensional creatures -- some natural and wild, some created and animated by humans -- really intrigued me. And the developing friendship between Joel and Melody, two lonely kids who initially see each other as annoyances, kept me going, especially as they learned to work together to solve the mystery.

It's perfect for: Miles, who has complained that most fantasy novels don’t really explain how magic works. He would love Ben McSweeney’s chalk illustrations of the mechanics of Rithmatics, as well as the defensive chalk drawings, which make the magic seem real.

@bookblrb: In a world where wizards bring drawings to life, three friends must find out what’s happening to missing students.

Robogenesis: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson
Doubleday, 2014. 9780385537094.

“The machine is still out there. Still alive."

Humankind had triumphed over the machines. At the end of Robopocalypse, the modern world was largely devastated, humankind was pressed to the point of annihilation, and the earth was left in tatters . . . but the master artificial intelligence presence known as Archos had been killed.

In Robogenesis, we see that Archos has survived. Spread across the far reaches of the world, the machine code has fragmented into millions of pieces, hiding and regrouping. In a series of riveting narratives, Robogenesis explores the fates of characters new and old, robotic and human, as they fight to build a new world in the wake of a devastating war. Readers will bear witness as survivors find one another, form into groups, and react to a drastically different (and deadly) technological landscape. All the while, the remnants of Archos's shattered intelligence are seeping deeper into new breeds of machines, mounting a war that will not allow for humans to win again.

Daniel H. Wilson makes a triumphant return to the apocalyptic world he created, for an action-filled, raucous, very smart thrill ride about humanity and technology pushed to the tipping point. Robopocalypse was a 2012 Alex Award Winner.

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Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea
Disney-Hyperion Books, 2013. 9781423159520.

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged picture book

Goat is totally disgusted by the new guy in town, who can't stop showing off just how great he is. Stupid Unicorn.

Why I picked it up: I was never much of a horse girl or unicorn fan as a kid (except for The Last Unicorn, but Peter S. Beagle is kinda magic in his own right). I preferred dragons like Smaug. And I'm super sick of My Little Pony and all that cutesy horse nonsense. Any picture book dissing on unicorns was clearly written for me.

Why I finished it: Goat reminds me of myself as a kid. I felt awesome about my bike riding skills and marshmallow square cooking attempts, though my dance moves were more a secret thing.  So I really felt for him when Unicorn starts flying around and making happy little cupcakes rain out of the sky. Goat feels pretty lame by comparison. And when Unicorn starts to envy Goat, that is pretty darn satisfying. 

It's perfect for: Any kid jealous of a new kid at school who is the center of attention, or whose parents have gone overboard empowering them. In a society where everyone is supposed to be special and talented and awesomely magical unicorns, I really believe most of us would be happier just being goats.

@bookblrb: Goat is totally disgusted by Unicorn, who can't stop showing off just how great he is.

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The Screaming Staircase: (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud
Disney-Hyperion Books, 2013. 9781423164913.

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of ageparanormal

In Great Britain, a steep rise in hauntings over the last forty years has caused major changes. Most adults don’t go out at night (they can’t see ghosts), so supernaturally sensitive youths are employed to investigate and dispatch these dangerous spirits.

Lucy’s first job ended in the deaths of all her coworkers when their adult supervisor refused to listen to her. She moves to London where she finds work with an unusual agency, Lockwood & Co.  It is headed by a young orphan, Lockwood, and his trusted friend George.  Together the three work together to fight ghosts, save the agency from financial ruin, and bring a murderer to justice.

Why I picked it up: Stroud's Bartimaeus series is one of my favorites, and I hoped this would have the same wit and terrific characters.

Why I finished it: I really enjoyed how Stroud took the plucky orphan thing one step further than your typical fantasy. Not only are the main characters free of pesky parents, all the adults seem to want them to fail, as though they resent depending on children to rid the world of threats. Lockwood & Co. really do struggle to make it, and they make plenty of mistakes along the way -- burning down client's houses, giving away too much information about the firm, and holding on to dangerous souvenirs from cases.

It's perfect for: Fans of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake who prefer that ghost hunters are smart-ass teenagers and that ghosts are occasionally sympathetic (but mostly menacing). If they are anything like me, they will be dying to read the next book in the series to find out what happens with George’s spectral skull in a jar, which has been luring Lucy into secret conversations.

@bookblrb: Lucy works with George and her boss, Lockwood, to dispatch deadly ghosts that adults can’t see.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow
Tor Teen, 2014. 9780765333704.

The New York Times bestselling sequel to Little Brother.

Just a few years after Little Brother, Marcus's problems are back: California's economy has collapsed, taking his parents and his university tuition with it. M1k3y's political past saves him and lands him a job as webmaster for a muckraking politician who promises reform.

Things are rarely this simple—as Marcus discovers when his onetime girlfriend Masha resurfaces. She has emerged from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump, full of hard evidence of conscious corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff—and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world.

If Marcus personally leaks it, he’ll cost his employers the election, though he’s surrounded by friends and acquaintances who regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. Nobody—his current girlfriend, his weary parents, his progressive-minded employer, his hacker admirers—knows just how unsure of himself he really is.

Meanwhile, hard people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’ve got plenty of experience inflicting pain until they get the answers they want. Inflicting it on Marcus…or, worse, on people he loves.

Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother—a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

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Remission: (Prophet Volume 1) by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis
Image, 2012. 9781607066118.

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

10,000 years in the future, John Prophet emerges from a pod long buried in the Earth. He has a mission to complete, but our planet has changed. Life is harsher and more violent. It’s much stranger than it used to be, thanks in large part to the aliens that now live here.

Contains Prophet #21 - #26.

(This is the first book in a relaunch based on a character created by Rob Liefeld that appeared in two comic series back in the 1990s. No knowledge of the old comics is necessary, but confusingly it does continue the old series’ numbering.)

Why I picked it up: I love Brandon Graham’s comics. I’m a fanboy.

Why I finished it: There was creative weirdness at every turn: Jell City’s smell-based society, the slimy Dolmantle Prophet carries for protection, and the spider-like Xiux-Guin Blade that chooses him as its prey. Then he mates with an obscene-looking alien to find out his mission -- to reactivate the G.O.D. satellite and awaken the Earth Empire.

It's perfect for: Allen, who likes space opera on a galactic scale. This one starts small, but after the satellite is reactivated and the signal goes out, thousands of other John Prophets awaken across the vastness of space. Their different forms and tasks, as well as the complexity of the art, give this graphic novel a distinctly European feel, which won’t hurt it’s appeal to Allen. (He’s a bit of a francophile.)

@bookblrb: Across the galaxy, John Prophets emerge from 10,000 years of slumber to reawaken the Earth Empire.

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Helheim: Book 1: The Witch War by Cullen Bunn, Joelle Jones, Nick Filardi
Oni Press, 2014. 9781620100141.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasygraphic novelhorror

Rikard is a young Viking warrior who excels at fighting and protecting his woman, Bera, from the wildmen and undead draugr that plague their village. Early in the story he is beheaded, and the whole village grieves his death. Bera, a known witch, reanimates Rikard to complete the task he was trying to achieve while alive -- to kill Bera’s rival, the witch Groa. (Rikard is unusual for a draugr; he retains a bit of his personality and enough of his will to resist some of Bera’s commands.) Rikard not only has to cut through the enemies sent against him by Groa, his father also wants to kill the undead Rikard to free him.

Contains material originally published in Helheim #1 - #6.

Publisher’s Content Rating: T+ (Teen Plus)

Why I picked it up: The cover features a beast of a man with impossibly huge muscles that looks like those internet ads on the side of your browser. He’s holding a massive, blood-stained battle axe and looks to have a bad attitude.

Why I finished it: In the midst of gore, darkness, and death, there is a human touch to this story when we learn of Rikard’s family and the plight of the villagers. They are all being used as pawns by both witches; their logic dictates that if the villagers die, they can continue to serve as reanimated corpses.

There is also an ever-varying horde of undead warriors, undead dogs, and magical creatures that are arrayed against Rikard. I enjoyed watching him wade through the sea of their blood.

It's perfect for: Richie, a middle school student who comes into my library frequently to ask me for stories with “tons of violence.” This is a book that would meet his requirements. (I hope his parents consider Rickard losing half of his head age-appropriate. Bera simply sews him back up and sends him out to fight again.)

@bookblrb: After Rikard is beheaded, his woman, Bera, reanimates him as a draugr and sends him to kill a rival witch.

Eostre's Baskets: A New Dawn by Allie Berg
Loose Id, 2014. 9781623008079.

Amnesiac Essie Sundae has no idea that her psychically-inspired Easter baskets have antagonized treacherous supernatural entities. Or that her new lover is anything other than the identity-challenged shape-shifter he claims to be. To Essie, he’s the answer to her loneliness and, if she dares to trust him, possible help in filling in her blanks in her memory.

Xavier Cassidy, aka Rule 34, the soon-to-be god of internet porn, made an ill-advised deal to get help with his little identity problem. Now, he has no choice but to ‘recover’ a priceless treasure from Essie, even though he’s gone and fallen head over fins, heels or claws for the supernatural beauty who seems to have no idea who she is.

When new threats arise, imperiling Essie’s entire existence, Xav’s true nature is revealed. She needs his help more than ever, and he’ll risk his more-or-less immortal life to give it to her -- if she’ll let him.

But Xav’s not the only one who’ll have to sacrifice for Essie to make their sexily ever after.

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Scenes from a Multiverse by Jonathan Rosenberg
Topatoco, 2011. 9781936561940.

Scenes from a Multiverse Book Two: Business Animals by Jonathan Rosenberg
Topatoco, 2013. 9781936561063.

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged comic stripshumorscience fiction

The first two collections of the webcomic of the same name, featuring vignettes that take place in a variety of alternate universes, some more familiar than others.

(Many of the strips, including several linked to in this review, contain strong language.)

Why I picked it up: Jon is a pioneering webcartoonist whose work and career I have long admired and tried to emulate. Talking him into drawing us this guest book club strip about Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a personal triumph. I had to read his new comic strip.

Why I finished it: He's a genius. Each episode takes place in one of infinitely many alternate universes. This brilliant setup allows him to satirize pop culture, politics and/or religion, and his personal experiences at will. Some could just as well take place in our dimension, but giving them their own named universe somehow makes them funnier. Over time certain characters (such as the adorable bunnies and Cornelius Snarlington, Business Deer) have begun to recur, making for a particularly scattered continuity perfect for my short attention span.

It's perfect for: Larry, a lapsed lawyer. He will admire the technique of Horace Greenstein, Scary Owl Lawyer, who wins every case by staring down the opposition.

@bookblrb: Comic vignettes that take place in a variety of alternate universes, some more familiar than others. Unshelved on Thursday, April 17, 2014 2014-04-17T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-17T07:00:00.0000000Z
Jack of Spies
Unshelved strip for 4/17/2014
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Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2014-04-16T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-16T07:00:00.0000000Z
Jack of Spies
Unshelved strip for 4/16/2014
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Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Jack of Spies ARC and Poster giveaway 2014-04-16T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-16T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Bill ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Jack of Spies

These days I get very excited when something new comes out from Soho Press. I have yet to be anything less than thrilled with their books. Next up is Jack of Spies by David Downing. If you think you know what spy novels are like, think again. This one takes place before WWI, before there was an intelligence community. There are no safe houses, there are no dead drops, there is no tradecraft. There's just a guy named Jack McColl with a talent for languages, improvising his way around a rapidly changing world, trying to learn anything he can to help the Royal Navy.

Sign up today for a chance to win an ARC and/or poster! Unshelved on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2014-04-15T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-15T07:00:00.0000000Z
Jack of Spies
Unshelved strip for 4/15/2014
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Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Monday, April 14, 2014 2014-04-14T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-14T07:00:00.0000000Z
Jack of Spies
Unshelved strip for 4/14/2014
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Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Bill's USA Roadtrip (and new talk) 2014-04-13T23:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-13T23:00:00.0000000Z
by Bill ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Bill's USA Roadtrip

Sixteen years ago my wife and I bought a pickup truck and a trailer, packed up our belongings and our dog, and embarked on a nine month tour around the USA (and a little bit of Canada). It had high points and low points but all in all it was a blast, and remains one of our greatest memories. (For a taste, here's the four-day diary I wrote for Slate)

Now that we are parents of a teen and a preteen, it's time to do it again! We will leave Seattle on August 1 and circumnavigate the country clockwise, returning home about a year after we started. We have lots of ideas about where we'll go, but so far only a few milestones (including a few talks I'm already committed to). We'll fill in the rest as we go.

While on the road I will continue to draw Unshelved, and write Not Invented Here, and my wife Sara will continue to homeschool our two kids Theo and Rosie, with a strong emphasis on American history. We will all be blogging our adventures, starting with the preparations in which we are currently knee-deep. Of course you may feel free to ask questions.

While I'm in your neighborhood, perhaps you'd like to hire me to talk about this crazy thing I do for a living. I have created a new workshop aimed at the public called Cartooning in the Digital Age that I am offering to libraries around the country. It's a fun two-hour workshop that will attempt to cover everything I know about creating comic strips, publishing them to the Web, and making money.

If we'll be in your area anyway the cost is just $500, otherwise there might be some extra expenses. Email me if you're interested, and tell us why your town will make a great stop on our family's homeschool adventure.

We hope to see you on the road! Unshelved on Sunday, April 13, 2014 2014-04-13T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-13T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/13/2014
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This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 12/13/2003 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Saturday, April 12, 2014 2014-04-12T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-12T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/12/2014
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This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 12/7/2003 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Friday, April 11, 2014 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/11/2014
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Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved Book Club on Friday, April 11, 2014 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z

This week's book recommendations from the creators of Unshelved and their friends. Learn who we are, how we pick books, and other books we've featured.

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The Elements of Typographic Style, Fourth Edition by Robert Bringhurst
Hartley and Marks Publishers, 2013. 9780881792126.

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged nonfiction

Unshelved strip for 4/11/2014

@bookblrb: Best practices for making your text come alive on the page. Choosing a font is just the beginning!

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Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom by Cameron Stracher
Houghon Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 9780547773964.

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged nonfiction

Writer and former competitive miler Cameron Stracher chronicles the early days of running as a competitive sport in the U.S. through the lens of the seven-mile Falmouth Road Race. (It was originally promoted as a moveable party from one bar to another.) From the early 1970s to the early 1980s, running grew into a national and international obsession, as world records fell, thousands of amateurs picked up the habit, and races changed from weekend larks to big money-makers. Stracher focuses on three runners: Frank Shorter, the no-nonsense Olympic champion; Bill Rodgers, the laissez-faire Boston Marathon champ; and Alberto Salazar, the Young Turk driven to exorcise his mental demons by pushing his physical limits. These three men were at the forefront of that growth, as “jogging” became “running” and a boom was born.

Why I picked it up: I’m a reluctant, recent convert to running, and last year I ran my hometown’s biggest race, the Bix 7, which Bill Rodgers helped make famous. I was interested to learn more about the early days of running as both sport and hobby.

Why I finished it: Although the narrative isn’t chronologically seamless (Stracher jumps around from year to year, race to race, venue to venue), each chapter has momentum as the torch passes from one running pioneer to the next.

It's perfect for: Running fiends, obviously, along with fans of Frank Deford, Stefan Fatsis, and other NPR-style sports journalists. Stracher captures the personalities and quirks of each character vividly, from the good-ol’-boy race promoter Tommy Leonard to the psychologically tortured Salazar.

@bookblrb: The story of how running became a national obsession in the U.S.

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Tor Teen, 2014. 9780765338280.

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until Tania enters high school that she realizes that many of her peers and friends might not be what they seem.

Driven by the need to understand what makes teknoids different from humans, Tania goes looking for answers. But time is running out. On their eighteenth "birthdays" teknoids must be returned to the Oxted factory—never to be heard from again.

“A remarkable and heart-filled look at what it means to be human. If you’re not in tears by the last chapter, you’ve a hard heart indeed.” —Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother

"The chatty 11-year-old who begins this diary-style novel is very different from the determined 17-year-old who ends it, but the transition is natural, and the essence of Tania's voice stays true." —Publishers Weekly

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Ex-Purgatory: A Novel by Peter Clines
Broadway Books, 2014. 9780804136617.

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged horrorsuperhero

In George’s dreams, he’s super strong and fighting monsters. Sometimes these dreams seem to be invading his waking life. At random moments, students on campus where he works suddenly look like undead creatures, and Los Angeles looks like it’s in ruin. Then he meets Madelyn, who tries to convince him that he’s really St. George, the superhero known as the Mighty Dragon, and that the world they’re living in isn’t real.

Why I picked it up: It’s one of the sequels to Ex-Heroes, and I was in the mood for another superheroes vs. zombies novel.

Why I finished it: It’s clear from the beginning, because of the book’s place in the series (it’s the fourth book), that this has to be the same post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. The heroes slowly come together and try to figure a way out of their delusion and what’s going on. Why haven’t they all been killed and devoured if what they’re seeing is a lie, and in reality they’re surrounded by the shambling, hungry dead? It’s tense. But the mood is lightened by Barry, also known as Zzzap, who makes Star Trek references throughout, comparing their experience to both the mirror universe and the holodeck.

Readalikes: For superhero fans and fanboys, there are other superheroes vs. zombies books out there. Marvel Zombies features the likes of Spider-Man and the Avengers becoming undead and then making snacks of one another and their neighbors. In DC’s Blackest Night dead heroes and villains rise from the grave with the help of black power-rings (think Green Lantern’s ring) and try to kill everyone. Or if you’re in the mood for a funny (but still gross) look at the zombie apocalypse, my daughter and I highly recommend Zombieland.

@bookblrb: George’s dreams of having superpowers and fighting undead monsters start invading his waking life.

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America's National Parks: A Pop-Up Book by Don Compton, Dave Ember, Bruce Foster
W.W. West, Inc., 2013. 9780975896037.

Link to this review by ang tagged coffee table booknonfictionpicture book

These six double-page pop-ups about National Parks are fashioned after the bold, stylized posters created by the WPA (Work Projects Administration) in the 1930s and ‘40s. Images of vintage WPA posters are included along with highlights of the parks of each region.

Why I picked it up: This caught my eye because my father worked for the National Park Service, and I grew up moving from park to park. But I was compelled to purchase it because I’m a huge fan of the work that came out of the WPA’s Federal Art Project. I’ve spent hours combing through the Library of Congress archives. They have beautiful posters about books as well as the most entertaining collection of syphilis awareness posters on the internet.

Why I finished it: The primary pop-ups are impressive -- the red walls of the Grand Canyon rise up from the pages, a mountain goat balances atop a cliff at Glacier National Park -- but the heart of this book lies in the quotes, photos, maps and other bonuses nestled alongside the larger pop-ups. An inset booklet featuring wildflowers of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has fire pink blossoms that spin. You can peer into the top of an old red touring bus as it emerges from a tunnel, and a section of the floor of the Grand Canyon slides out to reveal the park's geologic history. 

It's perfect for: My father. He and I buy the National Parks Poster Art of the WPA every year, and he also loves pop-ups for grown-ups, like Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-Up. And he'll appreciate that a portion of each sale goes to the National Parks Conservation Association.

@bookblrb: A pop-up book about National Parks styled after the WPA posters of the 1930s and ‘40s.

The Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon
Starscape, 2014. 9780765375902.

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme—known as Ven—is the youngest son of a long line of famous shipwrights. He dreams not of building ships, but of sailing them to far-off lands where magic thrives. Ven gets his chance when he is chosen to direct the Inspection of his family’s latest ship—and sets sail on the journey of a lifetime.

Attacked by fire pirates, lost at sea and near death, Ven is rescued by a passing ship on its way to the Island of Serendair. Thankful to be alive, little does Ven know that the pirate attack—and his subsequent rescue—may not have been an accident. Shadowy figures are hunting for the famed Floating Island, the only source of the mystical Water of Life. They think Ven can lead them to this treasure and will stop at nothing to get it—even murder….

“A delightful epic fantasy that will attract a readership both older and younger than the target audience.” —Booklist, starred review

“Haydon’s fantastical universe... is filled with fun details, interesting characters, fast-paced adventure, snappy dialogue, and plenty of humor and heart.” —School Library Journal

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Early Bird by Toni Yuly
Feiwel and Friends, 2014. 9781250043276.

Link to this review by darcy tagged picture book

Early Bird wakes up before the sun rises and begins to look for breakfast. She has many steps to take before she reaches the Early Worm.

Why I picked it up: I work with Toni. She's an excellent artist, and she started out selling greeting cards and bookmarks around Seattle. She has also created Kokoro, a character that my daughter adores. I was delighted when she told me her book had been accepted by an agent and sold to a publisher.

Why I finished it: This charming story follows a bird in the morning on a journey across the grass, through a flowerbed, under a spiderweb, up the path and around the corner. Not only are the illustrations colorful and fun, Toni provides a fun lesson on prepositions for the younger set.

It's perfect for: My high school art teacher, Mrs. Grady. She was always talking about the "emotion of color." Toni’s illustrations favor shades of blue I haven't seen in picture books. She captures the bluish color of pre-dawn light, and there are deep hues in the smoky, blue-grey cat that Early Bird encounters.

@bookblrb: Early Bird wakes up and looks for the Early Worm.

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Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years (Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies) by Richard A. Stevick
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 9781421413716.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agenonfiction

The Amish, for all the attention they receive in movies and, recently, reality TV, are still a poorly understood religious group. They seem like a novelty in our fast-paced world because of their conservative, anachronistic ways. But there is much more to the Amish, including quite a bit of diversity among Amish sects in terms of how they live and their beliefs. Smart-phones and social media are making inroads into some of these previously hermetically-sealed communities. Farming is declining as more and more men work at factories in outer society. As difficult as it is to isolate themselves from the outside world, it is even harder when teenagers’ Rumspringa begins. The Amish have found that pressuring the Amish youngie (as the youth are called) to be pure drives them from the church, so they are left alone to make their own choices. For a few years, Amish teens are turned loose to experience the outside world. They must decide for themselves whether they want to commit to the church as adults.

Stevick is very thorough in examining all aspects of Amish society. In particular he focuses on the things the Amish do to strengthen community and family ties, and how different Amish sects choose to deal with the outside world.

Why I picked it up: My knowledge of the Amish extended only to the point of seeing men in carriages wearing wide-brimmed hats.

Why I finished it: As Amish youngsters reach their teens, they make a very important pre-Rumspringa decision about which gang to join. (Their social groups are called gangs.) These even have tame names like the Parakeets and the Hummingbirds. If a gang is progressive, or there are issues with wild Amish youngie who talk during singing, arrive late, fail to pay attention to services, or dance and drink at youth gatherings, some members may leave and opt for a “plainer” (more conservative) gang. Amish youth do many of the same things as most American teenagers, even going so far as to pimp their rides. Amish kids in several communities compete to have the most up-to-date buggies, putting in cigarette lighters, running lights, color-coordination of the interior, even dice and air-fresheners!

And there were other surprises for me, too. Some of the most conservative Amish still practice “bed courtship,” wherein a courting couple is tucked into a bed overnight to talk and get to know each other better. There are a few rules: the boy must leave before first light, bed courtship is not supposed to devolve into physical contact like petting or intercourse, and it cannot take place more than once a week.

It's perfect for: My friend Ryan, a Protestant pastor who would be pleased to understand the Amish expressions of faith. Much of their plainness in speech, clothing, and elsewhere in their lives is to avoid the appearance of pride and being corrupted by the world. Faith is not an abstract concept to them. They have examined each aspect of their lives and attempted to wrestle it under control.

@bookblrb: Amish teens are turned loose in the outside world so they can later decide if they want to commit to the church.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Tor Teen, 2014. 9780765377135.

Once, a hero rose to save the world. He failed.

For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and defeating the Lord Ruler. A new kind of uprising is being planned—one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine: a teenage street urchin named Vin.

Once, a hero rose to save the world and failed. This time, can a young heroine succeed?

“Intrigue, politics, and conspiracies mesh complexly in a world Sanderson realizes in satisfying depth and peoples with impressive characters.” —Booklist on Mistborn

“Sanderson is an evil genius.” —RT Book Reviews, Gold Medal, Top Pick, on The Hero of Ages

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We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy, Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Disney / Jump at the Sun, 2013. 9781423119548.

Link to this review by snow tagged picture bookpoetry

"We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome some day. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.” That song came to represent the Civil Rights Movement. In easy to understand, free verse poetry, Levy tells its history. He includes a timeline, a list of titles for further reading, and links to online recordings of the song.

Why I picked it up: "We Shall Overcome" was the lullaby that my mother used to sing to me when I was a baby.

Why I finished it: I loved learning more about a song I've heard my whole life. Like most folk music fans, I knew that Pete Seeger had slightly adapted "We Will Overcome" into the better known "We Shall Overcome.” But I didn't realize that "We Will Overcome" was itself an adaptation of a church hymn; black women workers at a white-owned tobacco factory in Charleston, SC, made the change during a 1940s protest against poor pay and bad working conditions. And the song they adapted, "I Will Overcome," was descended from several other songs that can be traced back to spirituals from the days of slavery.

Rather than slipping away into history, "We Shall Overcome" has moved into the rest of the world. I was intrigued to find out that people in South Africa, East Germany, Bangladesh, South Korea, and Czechoslovakia have all used the song during protests against government oppression.

Readalikes: If you'd like a slightly more in-depth look at the song, try We Shall Overcome: A Song That Changed the World by Stuart Stotts, illustrated by Terrance Cummings. Two other great picture books, both illustrated versions of Langston Hughes poems, follow African-American history from slavery through to today: Earl B. Lewis's illustrated edition of The Negro Speaks of Rivers and Bryan Collier's I, too, am America.

@bookblrb: A history in free verse poetry of the Civil Rights song “We Shall Overcome.”

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She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, 2014. 9781596438019.

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of agemystery

Her mother away visiting her aunt and armed with her mother’s debit card, sixteen-year-old Laureth takes her seven-year-old brother, Benjamin, and leaves London for New York to find their father. She is convinced he has gone missing while researching a book about psychology, physics, and coincidence. Laureth, blind from birth, has developed her senses and wits so that she looks like any other teen. Benjamin gives her signals that help her to move about in crowds and speak with strangers. She is scared, worried about her father, and ridden with guilt over tricking her brother into coming with her to be her eyes, and she is determined solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance.  With a building sense of urgency and despair, the two face the strange, unknown city and the dangers that lurk there.

Why I picked it up: I read Sedgwick’s Revolver a few years ago and was completely smitten by his skill and style. When I got the ARC for his new book, I had to read it.

Why I finished it: It did not disappoint. Laureth and Benjamin are fascinating and believable characters. Laureth’s strength comes from her determination to not let her blindness control who she is or what she can do.  She has learned to assert herself and, while not hiding the fact she is blind, she does not want it to be a reason others treat her differently. And Benjamin is quite a special little guy. Very bright and imaginative, his best friend is a stuffed raven, Stan, who goes everywhere with him. He is also plagued by an affliction called the Pauli Effect: any device he touches stops working. The very special bond he and Laureth share is all they have to keep them going and overcome the obstacles to finding their dad.

It's perfect for: My friend Rob, a fan of edgy suspense and a psychologist. In addition to the myriad of challenges and danger the kids must negotiate, he will enjoy the passages from Laureth’s father’s Black Book, which has all the notes for his novel revolving around scientists like Jung, Einstein and others, and is full of details about their theories about coincidence and causality.

@bookblrb: Blind 16-year-old Laureth takes her 7-year-old brother from London to NY to find their father.

Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar
Starscape, 2014. 9780765332141.

A boy and his family narrowly escape a zombie apocalypse—or do they? A girl neglects her cat’s litter box and finds herself in a heap of trouble. And a group of clicking, scrolling, tapping wireless weenies find themselves on the edge of disaster.

Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies is the seventh collection of scary short stories for middle grade readers by acclaimed author David Lubar. Here are thirty-three hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or see the world in a whole new way. Find out where the author got the idea for each story at the end of the book. Don’t be a weenie. Read these stories. If you dare!

“Whoever thinks the short story is dead, or that kids don’t like short stories, hasn’t talked to any real live kids and hasn’t read the latest in this popular series.” —School Library Journal on Attack of the Vampire Weenies

“With supernatural events and creatures, the short and super-short stories are fun, fast-paced reading for Weenies fans and new readers.”—Booklist on Beware the Ninja Weenies

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The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2014. 9781619633483.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged chapter bookmystery

Hazel loves her small town, Maple Hill. She also can’t wait to leave, become famous, and use her top-notch observational and journal-keeping skills in a field of science and investigation. Her best friend just moved away, and she feels alone until Samuel, another grade-schooler, moves to town. He seems to be as smart as she is, which threatens her place in class, but she invites him to help her investigate the new gravedigger at her family’s cemetery, Mr. Jones. He seems shifty and suspicious, and given the investigation by Senator McCarthy’s men at the factory, she is sure Jones is a commie. In the course of investigating him, Hazel learns more about her new friend Samuel and some of the hurt that he carries because of his mother's scandalous past.

Why I picked it up: I was at a publisher’s dinner in January, and I asked the editors and representatives there which books they had high hopes for. They all said The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill had a special something. Plus one of them said Hazel is like a female Encyclopedia Brown.

Why I finished it: They were right! Hazel is intelligent, relentless in her investigations, and also surprisingly fragile. She has trouble with mean girls at school that tease her because she usually plays the triangle during music class. Given that she has no rhythm or ability to hit a musical cue, it makes sense, but Hazel desperately wants to play the glockenspiel like the popular girls who torment her.

It's perfect for: My niece Lily, because she, along with Hazel, is a big fan of Nancy Drew mysteries. Hazel fancies herself a Nancy-in-training. She loves stakeouts, keeping notebooks of observations, and library research.

@bookblrb: Hazel invites the new kid at school to help her investigate a suspicious new gravedigger at her family’s cemetery. Book Reviews 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-11T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Gene ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Unshelved Book Club

In this week's Unshelved Book Club you'll find books about the origins of competitive running in the U.S., superheroes in a world full of zombies, national parks, Early Bird, Rumspringa, "We Shall Overcome," a blind teen who travels to New York to find her missing father, and a small town girl detective. Unshelved on Thursday, April 10, 2014 2014-04-10T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-10T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/10/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Library Ranger Badges In Action 2014-04-10T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-10T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Bill ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

The most common question we get about our Library Ranger Badges is "what would I do with them?"

Children’s Librarian Cheryl Frances of the Alpine Public Library in Texas added a few of our badges to the "Girl Scout” sash that she wears at the library every Halloween. They’re right at home next to the “Unprepared” patch that features a woman throwing up her arms in frustration:

"Girl Scout" sash

When cataloger Kim Payne of Washington state's Everett Public Library wasn’t sure what to do with her Library Rangers badges, co-worker Kevin Duncan made this beautiful shadowbox for her:


Have you done something fun with yours? Send photos! Unshelved on Wednesday, April 09, 2014 2014-04-09T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-09T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/9/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Expiration Day 2014-04-09T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-09T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Bill ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Expiration Day

This week's sponsor Tor Teen is giving away 100 hardcover copies of the new novel Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell.

"A remarkable and heart-filled look at what it means to be human. If you're not in tears by the last chapter, you've a hard heart indeed." —Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother and Homeland

Find out more about the book, and how to win a copy for your library or classroom, here. Unshelved on Tuesday, April 08, 2014 2014-04-08T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-08T07:00:00.0000000Z
Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Unshelved strip for 4/8/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Professional Literature 2014-04-08T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-04-08T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Gene ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Circ Girls Are Easy I Had To Use The Public Restroom

A few years ago I met LisaGenius when Bill and I were doing a speaking gig. She told me she was creating some library-related humor, but she didn't tell me that she was repurposing lurid paperback covers into naughty library-related titles.

Now I'm just hoping she'll write one of these for for real.