Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 1:50am

Have You Heard About... Dial H

… the incredible power of some rotary phones? Instead of 9-1-1, Dial H-E-R-O to become a superhero! The power has a few quirks, however. The dialer becomes a random hero — anyone from Boy Chimney to Captain Lachrymose to Baroness Resin — all of his or her powers and weaknesses, down to the costume, but only for a limited time. Also, someone else is after the dial, someone who might not want to use the powers for good.

China Mieville, Mateus Santolouco, and the other artists do an incredible job on this remake of a DC comic from the 1960s (and the 1980s and 2000s). The basic concept is the same, but they bring their own dark, gritty, oddly funny feel. Even the main characters are, frankly, not very nice people, although they try their best to become the heroes that their world needs.

This compilation of Dial H collects the first six issues of the 2012 series, plus its issue 0. In addition to the main story arc, it has a nice follow-up where the characters discuss their responsibilities and which heroes they are not willing to be. (Would you want to be “saved” by Kid Torture?) There is also a short story explaining where the powers come from.

Not just a fun read, this one will make you think.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 1:33am

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)

Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 1:46am

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)

Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 1:46am

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)

Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 1:39am

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 - 1:02am

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)

Post date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 1:53am

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 - 1:29am

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 - 1:33am

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 - 1:13am

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)