Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 12:46am

Have You Heard About... The Sculptor

… the guy who makes a deal with Death? He is given a choice — a long, full, normal life, or 200 days with the ability to make the art of his dreams. David chooses his art.

In Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor, David is at the end of his rope. His parents and sister are dead. He is about to be evicted. His abrasive personality has driven away his patron and almost all of his friends. All he ever wanted was to be a great sculptor, but he doesn’t have money for supplies to make new pieces and attract a new patron. The lack of supplies doesn’t matter anyway, since nothing he makes can live up to the ideas in his head.

With nothing to live for except his art, David takes the 200 days. However, he quickly learns that even the art of his dreams can’t make his life perfect. Can he turn it around in a few short months? What will he do if he finds something to live for, when his time still has a limit?

The Sculptor is one of those books that I finished and immediately handed off to someone else. It’s beautifully written and stunningly illustrated. Don’t let the thickness intimidate you – this is a fast read and well worth it!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - 12:44am

Have You Heard About... The Surgeon

… the book that made police investigators Rizzoli and Isles* famous? Tess Gerritsen’s first entry in the series, The Surgeon, is a pulse-pounding suspense novel that focuses on Catherine Cordell, a Boston medic who was raped and tortured two years previously before finally killing her captor. But now, more women are being murdered in the Boston area, and all of the crimes bear a striking resemblance to the man Catherine believes to be dead. Although Catherine wants to forget about her ordeal and rebuild her life, it becomes very clear that this new killer has her in his sights…and he knows exactly where to find her.  

Breakneck pacing, unbearable suspense, intense violence, and a truly terrifying villain make for a disturbing thriller, and that’s coming from someone who seeks out disturbing novels like they’re going out of style. My understanding is that the series eventually morphs into romantic suspense, but for this first novel, the suspense and terror are palpable. Great for fans of serial-killer driven horror or medical/police thrillers.  

* Other books in the series include The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, Vanish, The Mephisto Club, The Keepsake, Ice Cold, The Silent Girl, Last to Die, and Die Again.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 - 12:34am

Have You Heard About... Prudence

… the woman who could become a vampire or werewolf with a touch of her hand? Gail Carriger starts the new Custard Protocol series* with Prudence. After growing up under the watchful eyes of a werewolf pack, a vampire hive, and all of London’s Society, Prudence and her best friend Primrose are more than ready to get away and start having their own adventures. They get off to a rousing start with a dirigible trip to India at the request of Rue’s adoptive father, Lord Akeldama. Of course, they find far more happening there than he (or at least they) expected.

This is a lovely, frothy steampunk adventure, filled with excitement, exquisite manners, daring deeds, and colonial imperialism. (Not to mention gentle mockery of all of the above.) If you haven’t read the Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, I highly recommend starting there. It isn’t necessary for understanding and enjoying Prudence’s story, but it will help explain the details about her parents, and Primrose’s as well. If you are already familiar with the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti, get ready to meet (and love) her daughter.

* This series is a sequel to the Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless).


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 12:44am

Have You Heard About... Broken Monsters

… the evil forces lurking in the urban ruins of modern-day Detroit? Lauren Beukes (who wrote 2012’s genre-bending serial killer novel, The Shining Girls) is back with Broken Monsters, a genre-bending horror novel that opens with the discovery of a twelve year old boy’s torso fused together with the body of a deer. The Detroit Police soon learn that these bizarre creations are the work of a human being, but the forces that control him are a different matter entirely.

While The Shining Girls felt more like an eclectic blend of different genres and storytelling devices, Broken Monsters felt more focused: part crime thriller, part mind-warping horror. And the two blend so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell where the real world ends and the fantastical begins. Beukes also includes lots of disturbing imagery and nuanced social commentary set against the derelict and haunted backdrop of modern Detroit. A bizarre and freakish addition to the horror canon…. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - 12:17am

Have You Heard About... Last of the Sandwalkers

… the grand city of New Coleopolis? In Jay Hosler’s Last of the Sandwalkers, five great beetles set out to explore the deadly desert surrounding their home. (Well, ok, four great beetles and one great big jerk.) They are scientists and adventurers, out to discover what they can about the world outside their city’s walls. What they find is more than they could ever have dreamed.

The basis of this story is a fun adventure filled with excitement, danger, and discovery. The author is a professor of biology, and he works in fascinating details about beetles and the incredible (and sometimes gross) abilities of different types of beetles, plus all of the various animals that they encounter. The incredibly detailed artwork and quirky humor further enhance the story, taking it from very good to excellent. If that isn’t enough for you, check out the annotations for more information, recommended reading, and explanations of some of the jokes.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 12:09am

Have You Heard About... Horns

… the guy who went to bed drunk and woke up with horns growing out of his head? Joe Hill’s aptly titled horror novel, Horns, begins just like this when Ig Parrish wakes up with a fresh set of horns and the supernatural power to control other people’s actions. And soon after he discovers these powers, Ig goes out to solve the mystery of his girlfriend’s death one year previously and wreak vengeance on anyone who may have been involved.

Ig is a disturbing, yet sympathetic, character motivated by childhood experiences and driven mad by the loss of his girlfriend. But even though demonic forces are clearly at work here, don’t expect a traditional story of good versus evil or demonic possession. This is a surreally, darkly comic and quite touching horror novel that focuses more on the human evils of lust, desire, and greed, which are often scarier than supernatural monsters. A good choice for seasoned horror fans who are looking for something a little out of the ordinary.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - 12:05am

Have You Heard About... Zen Pencils

… motivational posters with “inspiring” quotations and pictures? Zen Pencils, by Gavin Aung Than, is what they want to be when they grow up. Mr. Than takes wonderful quotations by a wide variety of people and draws cartoons to accompany them. The resulting artwork is truly inspirational. He has been sharing his work online for several years and recently collected more than thirty pieces in an amazing physical book.

One of the wonderful things about this collection is the diversity. The quotations come from a wide range of people, including Marie Curie, Vincent van Gogh, Bruce Lee, Neil Gaiman, and Brené Brown. The people depicted in the cartoons are even more varied — men and women, boys and girls and aliens, white and black and Asian and latino and Native American — people like you and me. The other wonderful thing about this collection is what unites every piece. They’re all about being true to yourself, being creative, not just accepting who you are but reveling in it. Don’t let others force you into the mold of being average. Fight for who you are inside, whether that’s an artist or a scientist, a teacher or an activist, whether you want to travel the world or reach for the stars, wrestle other people or your own fears.

Zen Pencils doesn’t lie and tell you that it will be easy. But it does remind you that it’s worth it.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 - 12:48am

Have You Heard About... The Age of Miracles

…what happens if the earth’s rotation starts to slow?  Karen Thompson Walker gives us a thoughtful and bittersweet answer in her literary apocalyptic debut novel, The Age of Miracles

The novel asks us an unusual yet profound question: What happens when our concepts of “day” and “night” no longer exist? In the story, scientists have discovered that the Earth’s rotation is slowing, to the point where society no longer operates on a 24 hour schedule. Crops start dying. Sickness and disease start spreading. Some people abandon clocks all together and attempt to function using their circadian rhythms. The Earth’s gravitational force starts to shift. No one knows what’s causing it, and no one knows how to stop it.

The plot occurs during the first year of the slowing and centers around eleven-year-old Julia. Julia is the story’s only narrator, but she is recalling the events of that first year from a point many years in the future. 

The emphasis is on complex, unanswerable questions, lyrical writing, nostalgia, and a bittersweet remembrance of how life used to be before the earth slowed.  I imagine it as a reading journey - the story captures you at the very beginning and leaves you with an ache in your heart and more questions than answers. 


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - 12:35am

Have You Heard About... Jurassic Park

… why genetically engineering dinosaurs is a bad idea? (Of course you have - who isn’t familiar with Jurassic Park by this point?)

I got hooked on Michael Crichton’s novels in middle school, so it’s really strange to review a book I’ve read as often as Jurassic Park.

The plot is fairly well known by this point: genetically engineered dinosaurs are created and placed in a nature reserve/park in Costa Rica. Chaos ensues. But it’s not the plot that will determine whether or not you enjoy this book - it’s whether or not you enjoy Michael Crichton’s writing style.

He masterfully fuses science and science fiction with high-adrenaline thrillers, and does a great job of explaining the science and technology to the average reader, who probably doesn’t know much about genetics or supercomputers or paleontology. In fact, I always feel smarter after reading a Crichton novel because of how he never dumbs down his material. And even though the technology he describes is quite antiquated, his novels still manage to feel current.

The book, like the movie, has aged remarkably well. If you’ve seen the movie but not yet read the book, now is the time to pick it up. Crichton is a master and Jurassic Park is a novel that everyone needs to read at some point in their lives.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, April 8, 2015 - 12:17am

Have You Heard About... What If?

… what would happen if we all pointed lasers at the moon, or everyone on the earth went to the same place and jumped at the same time, or how to make a jetpack out of machine guns? Randall Munroe explains the results of all of those situations and many more in What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. Real-world scientific principles are used to explain the (probable) outcomes of a wide variety of questions related to physics, chemistry, meteorology, and more. They’re livened up by Mr. Munroe’s wicked sense of humor and deceptively-simplistic cartoons.

In fact, “serious scientific answers” may be overstating the case just a bit. For example, in the question about everyone jumping in the same place at the same time, the basic answer is that it has very little effect on the Earth. However, Mr. Munroe goes on to examine the issues that would be caused by having the entire population of the planet gathered in one location, including the quick collapse of civilization as we know it. Ok, that does sound pretty serious, but the way he describes it is incredibly funny.  You really need to read this one to understand it!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)