Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 12:33de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Just Listen

… the rise and fall of popular high school student Annabel Greene? Sarah Dessen’s extremely popular novel, Just Listen, follows Annabel, who is a high school student, a local model, and a pariah at school because of an incident that happened at a party earlier that summer. When she meets Owen, a fellow outcast with a love of experimental music and a surprisingly honest personality, she is forced to confront the situations that she’s been avoiding for the last several months - her apathy towards modeling, her sister’s eating disorder, and the truth about what actually happened last summer.

In my quest to become more familiar with YA fiction, I turned to my coworkers who suggested that I read Sarah Dessen, specifically this novel. Contemporary YA can be hit-or-miss for me, but this book surprised me. I really, really enjoyed it. In fact, I read it over the course of two days and at times had to physically pull myself away from the book because, oh, you know…I had to eat. Or sleep. Or whatever.

There are a ton of appeal factors that make Just Listen a great suggestion for a wide range of readers: writing that does not feel dated, a significant subplot revolving around eating disorders, an honest portrayal of friendship during the high school years, romance, a positive ending, and a universal message about conflict and honesty. In fact, this book has the makings of a classic, one that teen readers will continue to check out years in the future. If you liked Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I definitely suggest giving this refreshingly honest book a try.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Etiquetas: book, fiction, review, young adult
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 12:46de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Humans of New York

… the people who live, work and play in one of the biggest cities on earth? Brandon Stanton took pictures from his popular blog, Humans of New York, to make a book of the same name. At its heart, it is just that — photographs of people somewhere in New York — but it is also much more.

These are people from all walks of life — old and young, male and female (and some where it’s hard to tell), every race and ethnicity you can imagine, long-time residents and new immigrants and tourists, crowds and small groups and individuals and close-up shots that only show part of the person. Many of the pictures are simply captioned by location, “Seen in Crown Heights, Brooklyn,” or “Seen in the Meatpacking District.” Others have simple comments by the photographer or his subject, “Two ages, same beauty,” and “I’m a time traveler.” A few have longer explanations or discussions with the people being photographed. One picture is accompanied by the caption, “Some days I worry that I won’t find anyone to photograph. Then I turn the corner and see a giant tree man.”

This is a fascinating book. Some parts are wonderfully funny or moving, and others are very sad or distressing. Above all, though, it is a book about people and everything that makes us human.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Etiquetas: art, book, non-fiction, review
Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 12:46de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Dark Places

… the Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas? This horrific event forms the basis for Gillian Flynn’s aptly named second novel, Dark Places.

In the nineteen eighties, Libby Day survived what was eventually dubbed “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas,” when her older brother was convicted for murdering his mother and two of his sisters. Over twenty years later, Libby is broke, mean-spirited, and struggling with the scars left over from the murder. She still firmly believes that her brother is guilty, but there are many followers of the case who believe otherwise. In order to make some extra money, Libby agrees to talk to some of her old acquaintances and try to determine exactly what happened that awful night.

I’ve noticed in all three of her books, Gillian Flynn focuses a lot on how a single event can be interpreted in multiple ways, and how these misunderstandings can have devastating consequences. I loved how as I learned more about what actually happened that night, and as I learned more about the characters, light bulbs suddenly started going off in my head and everything started to make sense.

I have now read each of Gillian Flynn’s novels twice, and I am still in awe of her writing and her ability to craft some of the darkest, nastiest stories I’ve ever read. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered an author who was able to provoke such a strong, visceral reaction in me. And as bleak as these novels are, I can’t stop reading them. They’re awe-inspiring in a slightly frightening way. Ultimately, this is a very satisfying and realistic story, despite the gruesome overtones, and I will once again mention how incredibly anxious I am for her to release a new novel. This book is just spectacular!

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Etiquetas: book, fiction, mystery, review
Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 12:39de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Over the Wall

… the demons who will eat your name and your memory? They live in the city, Over the Wall, in Peter Wartman’s graphic novel. Years ago, demons and humans worked together to build the beautiful city. What happened to change that depends on which side you ask. However, the end result is the demons trapped in the city, with the humans living outside. Once a year, the boys who came of age that year must go into the city for a day. If they return by nightfall, they are safe. If a boy does not return, a demon has eaten his name, and he will quickly fade from everyone’s memory.

However, this year, a girl goes in search of her missing brother. She can’t remember his name. She can’t even remember what he looks like, but she is determined to find him and bring him home. Inside the city, she must confront (and befriend) demons as she tries to rescue her brother and get them both out safely. If she fails, they will both die, fading away as their parents forget that they even existed. If she succeeds, it may be the first step in healing the rift between demons and humans.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - 12:02de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Flour Water Salt Yeast

… the amazing bread you can make with simple ingredients? For the person who has a passion for baking bread, enjoys hands-on methods, and loves eating crusty and chewy artisan bread, this book is for you. In Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza, Ken Forkish, a well-known baker from New York, takes us through the step-by-step process of creating breads that are worthy of the best bakeries, using only your hands, a bowl, some bread forms, and a Dutch oven. His directions are clear and the ingredients simple (as stated in the title). His recipes also include focaccia and pizza.

This book is not for the beginning bread baker, although I believe by following his instructions a serious baker will succeed. Give it try! Your taste buds will be happy.

 

Reviewed by Claudia (staff)

Etiquetas: book, cooking, non-fiction, review
Post date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 12:53de la mañana

Have You Heard About... The Good Nurse

… the real-life serial killer who spent over 15 years of his life killing patients at local hospitals? The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber follows the story of Charlie Cullen, who worked as a nurse at multiple hospitals across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He had a good work ethic, was well-liked amongst his colleagues, and did his job well, if you overlook the fact that he has been implicated in the deaths of over 300 patients. Charlie liked to poison IV bags in the supply closets and watch as the IVs were given to random patients across the hospital. Administrators at many of these hospitals suspected him, but none ever went so far as to prosecute him. Charlie was simply relieved of his duties and eventually found work elsewhere.

The second half of the book details the investigation into a mysterious patient death which was eventually linked back to Charlie. But even more frightening than the murders were the lengths that the hospitals went to in order to avoid a potentially disastrous scandal. The detectives enlisted the help of a former coworker and friend of Charlie’s to convict him, and her taped conversations are included at the end of the book.

The story itself is frightening, but the author’s journalistic writing kept it believable without straying into melodrama. Charlie is not portrayed as a victim, nor is he portrayed as a soulless monster. He is a complicated criminal with motivations that go far beyond having a rough childhood or becoming too attached to his mother.

But the author doesn’t try to give an explanation for Charlie’s behavior. He presents the facts and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. And in this case, very little embellishment is needed. The book concludes with Charlie and his friend eating at a restaurant as his friend tries to provoke him into confessing. The dialogue, which is taken word-for-word from the official transcript, is one of the most chilling parts of the story.

The murders are not particularly bloody but this still makes for an extremely disturbing read. Definitely suggested for fans of true crime, and its lack of gore might entice other readers as well, but it’s a book that will likely keep you awake at night.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 12:29de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Carniepunk

… the darker side of carnivals? If you’ve ever wondered whether they actually have a lighter side, Carniepunk is the anthology for you. It has fourteen great stories by authors who specialize in dark fantasy and horror, including Rachel Caine, Seanan McGuire, and Kevin Hearne. They look into the shadows behind the midway lights to find what is lurking and what is looking back.

As you read through this book, it’s hard to decide which is worse — the demons, vampires, and other supernatural monsters, or the psychopaths and serial killers who are completely human. While some of these stories are relatively light and many have humorous elements, others are not for the faint of heart (or stomach). Running away to join the carnival may doom you forever or save your soul. Pay your money and take your chances. (Or play it safe and check out this book for free!)

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 12:33de la mañana

Have You Heard About... The Martian

… the debut novel that’s part science fiction, part survival thriller, and 100% amazing? In Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after his crew mistakenly believes him to be dead. When he comes to, he is faced with the nearly insurmountable task of trying to survive in an alien and hostile environment with limited supplies and technological capabilities…for a period of up to four years.

It’s an intriguing concept, but it doesn’t even come close to explaining why this book has been so successful. The actual science behind the story is rock solid and insanely detailed, but it never feels overwhelming. The suspense about Mark’s survival situation is unrelenting until the very last pages. The humor is, well, hilarious. (I literally laughed out loud while reading this book, at home, by myself.) It’s like reading a Michael Crichton novel with a sarcastic streak. And without giving away any spoilers, the ending is pitch-perfect.

When I finished this book, I had an urge to a) turn right to the front of the book and start reading again, b) run around and start smacking people upside the head until they agreed to read it, or c) throw the book in the air in a fit of uncontrollable joy and excitement. This may end up being my favorite book of 2014, and we’re not even halfway through the year! I haven’t been this thrilled about a book in a very, very long time.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 12:13de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Dream Dog

… the boy who wanted a dog more than anything? Harry’s father wants him to be happy, but his nose can’t handle dog hair on top of the irritation from his job at the pepper factory. Finally, with a little help from his X-36 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet, Harry makes his own Dream Dog, Waffle. They’re inseparable, despite everyone’s claims that Waffle doesn’t really exist. What will happen when Harry has a chance to get a real, live dog though?

This is a great story about imagination by Lou Berger, with exuberant illustrations by David Catrow. Dream Dog does a wonderful job of exploring the point where imagination and reality come together, without sacrificing either one.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 12:13de la mañana

Have You Heard About... Mrs. Poe

… the love affair between Frances Osgood, a struggling female poet, and the mysterious, brooding Edgar Allen Poe? Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen may be a work of historical fiction, but the love affair and other period details make for an astoundingly realistic novel.

The story revolves around the dark love triangle between Poe, his young bride (and cousin!), and Frances Osgood, a struggling poet who meets Poe at the height of his success and finds him just as intriguing as his poetry. Frances is still legally married, even though her husband left months ago and has been seen in the company of several women. And in 1840’s New York, the idea of a woman carrying on an adulterous affair has severe and far-reaching consequences. And then there is Virginia Poe, Edgar’s young, manipulative bride who attempts to cultivate a relationship with Frances, although Frances is quite sure there is an ulterior motive behind the friendship.

Edgar Allan Poe is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of romantic leads, but the author does a magnificent job of portraying Poe not as the brooding and macabre legend of pop culture, but as a conflicted, flawed, and intelligent man. I found myself swooning over Mr. Poe just as much as Frances was!

And although the novel is told from Frances’ point of view, the eponymous Mrs. Poe is the source of the novel’s most suspenseful moments. Her off-putting nature creates a sense of instability, and I found myself feeling just as unbalanced as Frances whenever Mrs. Poe was around.

This is a novel that I could theoretically suggest to anyone, with its minimal explicit content and superb storytelling. And despite the novel’s pervasive chill, there is something quite magical about seeing these historical characters brought back to life. This book haunted me long after I finished it.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)