(Grade 9 and up) Addie Bundren got into bed one day and never got out again, and as she passes into death, her husband, children, and neighbors all have different thoughts and feelings about the loss of the wife and mother. Addie’s husband Anse promised her that when she died, he would take her back to her family plot in Jefferson to be buried, but because of a flood, and the resulting destruction of the bridges closest to the family’s home, Anse and his children—Darl, Cash, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman—have a long and difficult journey ahead of them. Along the way to Jefferson, family secrets are concealed and contemplated, and though everyone will be there when Addie is finally buried, not everyone will escape the journey unscathed. And one family member will never go home…
- Paperback: 268 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Books / Random House (1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067973225X
- ASIN: B002CKYN8G (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
(Grade 9 and up) In 1936, Las Vegas is growing in leaps and bounds. Thanks to the construction of the Hoover Dam, the city has never been more prosperous—or more plagued by crime. Cashel McCogan, the chief of police, barely has room in his jail for all the lawbreakers that the dam project—and the Las Vegas red light district—attract. And when one of the men responsible for building the dam is murdered, Cash is less than thrilled to learn that the FBI has only sent him two agents to help manage crime in the city. More troubling still is that a man named Skinner Sweet seems to be involved in the murder—and in Arrowhead, California, someone is searching for Pearl Jones…
The second volume of “American Vampire” is as intriguing as the first. Though Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones never encounter each other in this story, they’re still connected by the vampire hunters who pursue them and the history between them, though Pearl is living a quiet life with Henry in California and Sweet is running a brothel in Vegas. Scott Snyder really knows how to pen a tale that will entertain, surprise, and haunt you, and the art by Albuquerque and Santolouco perfectly captures all the evocative elements of this bloody tale of family, loss, and what we’ll sacrifice for the people we love. I can’t wait to find out where these characters go next. (4 out of 5 stars)
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Vertigo (May 31, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401230695
- ISBN-13: 978-1401230692 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
Hi everyone! Today’s book is one that I reviewed about a year ago, and it’s since become one of my favorite books to book talk. It’s “The Name of the Star” by Maureen Johnson, and I’d recommend this novel to anyone age 13 and up, since it does contain some graphic violence (and a little bit of kissing, which, in my experience, is more likely to gross out most eighth graders than violence is).
I love telling teens about “The Name of the Star” because it’s the kind of book that I liked to read when I was in middle school…which means that it’s about murder. It also has elements of supernatural and historical fiction (the latter is one focus of the new Common Core standards). And if you read “The Name of the Star,” you’ll also learn about the first modern serial killer, Jack the Ripper. (Slight spoilers ahead…)
The novel begins with Rory, who’s going to be a senior in high school, moving to Great Britain with her parents, college professors who were offered jobs in England. Rory enrolls at a boarding school in London, and though it’s more like college than American high school, she quickly becomes friends with her roommate and several other students, and settles into her classes (except for field hockey, which she hates). The day Rory arrives, someone is murdered in another part of London, and the police soon realize that someone is copying the killings of Jack the Ripper.
On the night that a murder is predicted to take place right by Rory’s school, Rory and her roommate sneak out to watch the police catch the killer from the roof of the boys’ dormitory. Nothing happens for hours, so eventually, the girls return to their own dorm…but not before Rory sees a nondescript man lurking beside the building.
The next day, the body of a woman is discovered near the place where she saw the man, and Rory is horrified to realize that she must have seen the killer! As maybe the only person who knows what he looks like, she goes to the police. They bring in a special unit to investigate Rory’s claim…and it quickly becomes clear that what Rory saw was actually a ghost.
In the hands of a less capable author, this turn of events might seem abrupt or hard to swallow. But Maureen Johnson does a great job of setting up how Rory comes to see ghosts and how ghosts work in the novel. (For example, the killer can’t be seen on CCTV footage since he’s, you know, dead.) And in my book, if there’s one thing that’s even better than a ghost or a serial killer, it’s a serial killer who’s a ghost!
There’s a little bit of romance here, as this fanart by Cassandra Jean illustrates:
However, most of the book is about Rory adjusting to her new life, learning about her strange new talent, and how she can use it to help the police catch the killer. This is one of those books that seems to appeal equally to guys and gals, because there’s a lot of action, and Rory is an entertaining narrator caught up in a unique mystery. How might your sanity fare if a handsome British man told you that you just saw a ghost who kills people?
(Rory takes this revelation mostly in stride.)
So, if you haven’t already, check out “The Name of the Star.” I’ve been hoarding its sequel, “The Madness Underneath,” to read at Christmas, because if Charles Dickens has taught me nothing else, it’s that Christmas is a time of love, joy, and ghosts. See you next week!
Hi! My name is Emily, and I’m the Young Adult Librarian at the Rock Island Public Library. Starting today, every week, I’m going to tell you about a book that I’ve read recently and why you might like to read it too. “Graphic Picks” are going to be a bit more informal than my usual reviews, and they’re going to include graphic novels as well as Young Adult books. (Given the fact that many of the books I read and book talk seem to involve serial killers in some way, there may be some graphic content involved here too…thus the title.)
This week’s pick: “Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong” by Prudence Shen, with art by Faith Erin Hicks. I recommend this one for anyone age 12 and up.
I read this book earlier this week, since it takes place around Thanksgiving. (I personally am very thankful for robot battles.) The story focuses on Nate, president of the Robotics Club, and Charlie, captain of the basketball team. They’ve been neighbors and friends for years, but then the principal announces that there’s only enough money in the student group budget for new cheerleading uniforms OR a trip to the National Robotics Competition. In Nate’s mind, the solution is obvious: whoever wins student body president decides where that money goes.
Nate and Holly, the head cheerleader, are both determined to secure funding for their groups. Charlie is named the cheerleader’s candidate, since they’re too busy training for nationals to run themselves, and as you might imagine, the campaign that ensues is full of dirty tricks and the airing of embarrassing childhood photos. Then the principal pulls the plug on both campaigns, declaring that thanks to an incident involving weed killer and the football field, neither group gets the money.
Both groups still need funding though, which is why Gary and Jake, resident evil twins of the Robotics Club, suggest the Robot Rumble. If the Beast, pride and joy of the Robotics Club, can win the Robot Rumble in Atlanta, then Nate and Charlie’s respective groups will walk away with $10,000. All these newfound allies have to do to get to the competition is run away from home…on Thanksgiving.
I loved this book. Prudence Shen’s story is both hilarious and relatable, assuming you went to high school with the kind of people who might build a battle robot. (I did. However, the robot I built as a young person out of an RC car never tried to attack me, except for that one time.)
And I can’t say enough good things about Faith Erin Hicks: her art is incredible, and the fantastically detailed worlds she creates are almost enough to convince me that being a teenager wasn’t so bad. (Almost.) Thanksgiving may be over, but you can still be thankful for this book, because ROBOT BATTLES!!!
I’ll end this impromptu book talk by stressing that reading does not have to be terrible. Obviously, I’m biased. I’m a librarian, so maybe it goes without saying that I love to read. But not everyone enjoys the same kinds of books—obviously, you aren’t going to like every book that I talk about here, but my hope is that some of them will at least sound interesting enough to try. Reading is important, not just because it can be educational or entertaining, but because I genuinely believe that it can make life better. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week!
(Grade 4 and up) Finn and Jake were having a pretty awesome time training in battle burns after helping Princess Bubblegum show BMO how to fight, but then the Lich showed up to suck the Land of Ooo into his evil magic bag. Finn and Jake tried to fight him, but they ended up trapped in the bag too, along with their new friend, Desert Princess. With the help of Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, and even Ice King (who was just trying to write fanfiction when he got trapped!), Finn, Jake, and Desert Princess hatch a plan to escape the Lich’s evil and almost bottomless bag. But even if they can defeat their super powerful foe, what’s going to happen to the Land of Ooo?!
This, the first collection of the “Adventure Time” comics series, is just thoroughly excellent. I love the writing, by Ryan North, because it’s hilarious, and the art is just as wonderful—Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb fill every unique page with amazing layouts and gorgeous panels. The story here was great, and the little asides at the bottom of pages are delightful too, so basically, you should read this if you want to be filled with joy. “Adventure Time” is one of, if not the best all-ages comic out there, and it never fails to bring a smile to my face. (4.5 out of 5 stars)
- Publisher: KaBOOM!; Original edition (November 6, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781608862801
- ISBN-13: 978-1608862801
- ASIN: 1608862801 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
(Grade 4 and up) Nick and Tesla are twins, and much to their dismay, their parents have sent them to spend the summer with an uncle they know little about (except that he might be crazy) on the other side of the county. So, while their parents are in Uzbekistan watching soybeans grow, Nick and Tesla expect to have a boring summer far from their home and their friends. Except, it turns out that their uncle, in addition to being crazy, is basically a mad scientist, and he’ll let Nick and Tesla build whatever they want from the supplies in his basement lab, provided they don’t use anything that’s too poisonous or explosive.
Nick and Tesla decide to build a rocket first, but then their rocket (along with Tesla’s necklace, a gift from her parents) lands in the yard of some very strange neighbors with a mysterious home improvement project going on. How will Nick and Tesla get their stuff back from the unfriendly construction guys who picked it up? And what’s going on in the neighbors’ house anyway?
I received a review copy of this, the first book in the “Nick and Tesla” series, and since it comes out tomorrow, I’m happy to say that this book is an entertaining blend of middle grade mystery and hands-on science. I enjoy book talking this with seventh graders, because the story itself stands well on its own, but the science projects here are an excellent bonus. Every project described here is relatively simple—I’d try them all myself if I had access to a power drill—and though they’re often a bit messy, they’re safe and fun for future mad scientists. (4 out of 5 stars)
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Quirk Books (November 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594746486
- ISBN-13: 978-1594746482
(Grade 7 and up) The Avengers have disbanded, so who are the mysterious teens who fight crime while dressed in costumes modeled after Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor? Dubbed “Young Avengers” by the newspapers, former Avenger Jessica Jones goes looking for answers at the request of Jonah Jameson, and almost immediately encounters Iron Man and Captain America, who also want to know who the teens are and where their powers come from. Patriot, Iron Lad, Hulkling, and Asgardian all have their reasons for wanting to be superheroes, but does this quartet really have what it takes?
I’m really enjoying the new “Young Avengers” series by Kieron Gillen, so reading this was a fun way to get to know the characters a bit better and to find out how they got their start as heroes. (Also, it features Hawkeye, not the Hawkguy, but Kate Bishop, who I love—at least she’s on the cover of volume 2.) Heinberg does a great job of making you care about every character here—even as you root for the Young Avengers, you can understand why Cap and Iron Man want to stop them—and Jim Cheung’s art is just fantastic. This book is a great read for graphic novel fans new and old. (4.5 out of 5 stars)
- Publisher: Marvel (2006)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B006ZMI1VM (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
(Grade 7 and up) Clark Kent, now living in Metropolis and working at the Daily Planet, still has a lot of growing up to do as he accepts his new role as Superman. After spending a lifetime trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, in some ways, being Superman is liberating: Clark can finally use his abilities to make the world a better place. But having incredible powers proves to be a challenge too, because not everyone trusts that the man of steel is really as altruistic as he seems. And even when he’s busy saving lives, there are people trying to figure out how to kill Superman…
The second chapter in the “Superman: Earth One” series is as fascinating as the first. The art, by Shane Davis, is fantastic, and the story, by J. Michael Straczynski, is a unique and satisfying take on Superman’s origin story. Many characters we know, like Lois and Jimmy, but apparently even the villain, the Parasite, is someone that Superman’s faced before. (He was redesigned for this book though, apparently to be extra gross and creepy.)
Clark Kent’s neighbors, Lisa and Eddie, are original characters however, and they add depth and rather chilling realism to a story that’s designed to question how a superhero would actually fare in the real world. Though at times highlighting the violence and cynicism that even Superman would struggle to combat in contemporary society, this book ultimately demonstrates how one person can change the world. Superpowers help, but the person they belong to is what really makes the difference. (4 out of 5 stars)
- Series: Superman
- Hardcover: 136 pages
- Publisher: DC Comics; 1ST edition (November 6, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401231969
- ISBN-13: 978-1401231965 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)
(Grade 7 and up) Georgia (George) Mason and her brother Shaun are bloggers, but in the year 2040, that means something different than it does today. In 2014, both cancer and the common cold were cured, but the interaction between these two miraculous treatments (which spread virus-like, paralleling the diseases they were created to fight) caused the dead to rise. Now, infection is a constant threat, and the world has changed dramatically, because any animal over forty pounds can contract and spread KA (Kellis-Amberlee virus). No one is immune, and there is no cure.
Most people are too frightened of becoming zombies to even leave their gated communities, because outbreaks are still common, in spite of innumerable safety regulations and frequent tests for anyone who does venture outside safe zones. George and Shaun, like their parents, are journalists dedicated to reporting the news and telling the truth, no matter how risky that might be. (It’s especially risky for Shaun, whose idea of a good time involves poking zombies with sticks. Luckily, George is around to curb his more suicidal tendencies.) But when George, Shaun, and their teammate Buffy are selected as the first modern bloggers to travel with a presidential candidate, the story they have to report to their rapidly growing audience quickly becomes more important, and more dangerous, than they ever could have imagined…
First thing’s first: don’t make the same mistake I did and order the second book in this series before finishing the first—YOU WILL ENCOUNTER SPOILERS!!! That said, even though I knew how it ended, “Feed” is an excellent novel, and Georgia is a fantastic narrator who does whatever it takes to uncover the truth. Yes, this is a long book—I worried that I wouldn’t finish it before the Rocky Book Club met to discuss it—but, like me, you will most likely devour it once you get a taste for Grant’s captivating world. Fans of dystopian fiction, zombies, and/or blogging, read this! (4.5 out of 5 stars)
- Mass Market Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316081051
- ISBN-13: 978-0316081054