Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's Time Once Again...

...for the Year in Review!

It's not as exciting as it should be.

My statistics this year were abysmal, and for no good reason other than that I succumbed to the siren song of the Internet far too often. (OK, there were also numerous adventures, and parties, and trips that kept me away from the keyboard.) Less web surfing is definitely in the plan for 2013. If I can't review 100 books a year, that's pretty sad. Of course, I also wrote a few dozen reviews over at Steve Barancik's Best Children's Books. I did not sell or publish any fiction except for what appears online at Raincoat Flashers (6 total, also my worse stats ever over there), and this should be addressed in 2013 as well.

The Internet has not defeated me! I shall master it yet!

Picture Books: 28
YA/mid-grade novels: 23
Adult novels: 9
Short story collections: 1
Fairy tale collections: 3
Poetry: 1
Graphic novels: 6
Nonfiction: 5
Memoir/biography: 1
Reference: 1
Unclassifiable: 1

Total books: 84

See you all next year :)

Goblin Secrets

Written by: William Alexander

First line: Rownie woke when Graba knocked on the ceiling from the other side.

Why you should read this book: The level of invention in this National Book Award winning fantasy novel for young readers is truly mind-boggling, to the point that a single read only provides a very general understanding of the rules of this world, with its magic-users, clockwork soldiers, and thespian goblins. Rownie lives in thrall to Graba, a dangerously cranky witch, mourning his older brother's disappearance, until the day he participates in a very illegal theatrical performance and begins to see new possibilities for his life. With the help of an illicit fox mask, along with a troupe of friendly Changed actors, Rownie begins to find a strength and courage he never imagined within himself, enough to stand up to Graba, her minions, the mayor, and even the unstoppable power of nature.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Some questions seem to remain unanswered; it almost feels like a segment of a much longer work.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Written by: Stephen Chbosky

First line: I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn't try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

Why you should read this book: This wildly popular epistolary novel charts the course of outcast Charlie's freshman year of high school, during which he makes friends with a group of seniors; learns about girls, drugs, and participating; and begins to confront reality. Although Charlie is deeply sensitive, intelligent, and thoughtful, the reader is aware that there is also something intensely wrong with him; he's profoundly affected by the death of his aunt and one of his friends but has difficulty expressing his loss, and is no stranger to psychiatric hospitalization. Charlie's journey is one that must draw him out of his shell and into the truths he has hidden from himself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Trigger warning for sexual abuse, drug abuse, domestic violence, incest...the stuff that YA novels are made of, basically.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Written by: Anne Ursu

First line: It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric patterns.

Why you should read this book: It's a true modern fairy tale, drawing equally from Narnia and Hans Christian Andersen, referencing the Brothers Grimm and JK Rowling, bringing together many familiar themes and tropes, and turning them upside down. Hazel, adopted from India by white parents and still reeling from her father's abandonment of the family, can't seem to fit in, except through the graces of her best friend and next door neighbor Jack, a boy whose imagination matches hers and helps her embrace the magic in the world. After a bad encounter with a little speck of bad magic, Jack disappears in a most unusual fashion, and unless Hazel can go into the woods, solve its mysteries, and bring him back, he'll be lost forever.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your first instinct upon seeing a wolf would be to shoot it, and you'd rather forget your problems than confront them.

Maggie Forevermore

Written by: Joan Lowery Nixon

First line: Maggie Ledoux sat cross-legged below the Christmas tree and cradled a shimmering, hand-painted glass ornament.

Why you should read this book: Maggie's all set for to spend the best Christmas ever with her grandmother and her best friend, when her father, a Hollywood filmmaker, whisks her off to Malibu, very much against her will, to get to know her new stepmother, Kiki, a young starlet who's closer to Maggie's age than to her dad's. Now she's all set for the worst Christmas ever, except Kiki is actually pretty cool, and Maggie makes fast friends with a few child actors, and she's even got a new project: catching the horrible scam artist who's stolen her new friend's money pretending to be an agent. This book seems to be the third in a series about Maggie, but I've never seen the first two books.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Sort of a frothy, lightweight, 80s-style kids' pulp; probably not the author's best work.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Written by: Neal Stephenson

First line: Two tires fly.

Why you should read this book: An epic roller coaster ride, which bounces the reader back and forth between World War II and the early days of the Internet, North America and Asia, commerce and morality, it's a modern classic skirting the edges of speculative fiction: war story, jungle adventure, geek lore, and thriller, sewn together with the threads of cryptography and passion. With a vast cast of characters including geniuses, madmen, soldiers, and the strong, beautiful, intelligent women who draw them onward into achievement, this is the story of bricks of gold that have been hidden for decades, codes that have been encrypted and decrypted by experts, and the desires of humans for wealth, power, love, knowledge, and, sometimes, even higher callings. The writing is sharp and witty, humorous and esoteric, punctuated by language sophisticated to stimulate the mind of the most dedicated sesquipedalian while simultaneously being blue enough to shock your grandmother, a veritable treat for readers who love reading.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Incapable of comprehending complexity.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flowers for Mariko

Written by: Rick Noguchi and Deneen Jenks

First line: Mariko had been waiting almost three years for this day, when she and her family were finally allowed to leave Camp.

Why you should read this book: The war is over and Japanese-American families are free to leave the internment camps where they have been imprisoned during the war, but most of them have nothing to go back to. Mariko's father, a gardener, finds that his truck has been stolen, and while he planted flowers and dreamed of the future in the Camp, now he does not even notice the work that Mariko has been doing, using the knowledge of plants the he imparted to her. Finally, her father is able to collect and repair enough broken tools to restart his gardening business, and recognizes how his daughter has inherited his legacy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're out of work and don't have any skills to fall back on.

Inside Out and Back Again

Written by: Thanhha Lai

First line: Today is Tết, the first day of the lunar calendar.

Why you should read this book: With words selected for maximum impact, this novel in verse describes the journey of ten-year-old Hà: her life in Vietnam as war escalates, her last-minute escape from Saigon, and the new life she builds with her family in America. Chronicling a year, from early 1975 to 1976, this book shows desire, loss, fear, hope, and triumph through the eyes of a child struggling to understand the world around her. Based on the author's on experience and woven throughout with themes of loss, the story demonstrates how a new life can be built from what remains when it seems that there is nothing left.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You like really long paragraphs.

One Crazy Summer

Written by: Rita Williams-Garcia

First line: Good thing the plane had seat belts and we'd been strapped in tight before takeoff.

Why you should read this book: It deserves all the awards and accolades that have been heaped upon it.      It's 1968 and eleven-year-old narrator, Delphine, along with her sisters, nine-year-old Vonetta and seven-year-old Fern, are being shipped from the protective arms of their father and grandmother in New York, to meet their crazy mother, Cecile who abandoned them to be a poet in Oakland, California. Cecile is far from their ideal of motherly love, and packs them off to a free day camp run by the Black Panthers, where they are about to learn all manner of things they never expected, and teach those around them a thing or two in the process.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Not a fan of intelligent, thought-provoking prose.

What to Do about Alice?

Written by: Barbara Kerley

Why you should read this book: A rollicking biography of Teddy Roosevelt's spitfire oldest daughter, the child of his first marriage, who is determined to eat up the world, sampling all its delights, and scandalizing proper society in the process. A tomboy, proto-feminist, free spirit, Alice serves as a successful ambassador, drives a car (fast) and travels the world. Eventually she marries and congressman and proves that she's not such a problem child after all.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want your kids jumping on your head and riding you like a pig.

Ruth and the Green Book

Written by: Calvin Alexander with Gwen Strauss

First line: It was a big day at our house when Daddy drove up in our very own automobile—a 1952 Buick.

Why you should read this book: A picture book for young children that illustrates the reality of Jim Crow laws and discrimination in the American south, with a little twist. Ruth's family has lived in Chicago for so long they've forgotten how racism might affect their mobility when they drive to Grandma's house in Alabama. For a while it seems like they'll have to make the whole trip without bathrooms or hotels, until a friendly Esso employee introduces them to the Green Book, a directory of services that don't discriminate against black people. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: Not a fan of civil rights. 

Summer Jackson: Grown Up

Written by: Teresa E. Harris

First line: My name is Summer Jackson and I'm tired of being seven.

Why you should read this book: A sassy second grader is tired of waiting for adult privileges and determines that she will become a grownup right now. In her mind it's easily accomplished by wearing high heels and sunglasses, carrying a briefcase and cell phone, and charging classmates for her consulting services. In order to save Summer from a life of boredom and ice cream-induces stomachaches (adults can eat as much ice cream as they want, right?) her parents had to remind her what's fun about being a kid.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Can't wait for the kids to grow up.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Swine Lake

Written by: James Marshall

First line: One wintry afternoon a lean and mangy wolf found himself in an unfamiliar part of town.

Why you should read this book: A tongue-in-cheek children's story that takes the archetype of the big, bad wolf, huff and puff, and blows the whole thing down, this will entertain younger children and delight those with an ear for the absurd. As illustrated by the unmistakeable talent of Maurice Sendak, the down-on-his-luck wolf chances upon free box seats to an all-pig ballet and intends to devour the entire cast, but instead becomes caught up in the story and so enraptured that he sees it through to the end and floats home in a trance. The next day, he returns to the theater and leaps onto stage, as was his original intention, but rather than eating pigs, joins the ballet, dances the part of the monster, and then, the next day, finds a review of his stage debut in the paper and  keeps it in his pocket.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A traditionalist, you despise revisionist histories.


Saturday, November 17, 2012


Written by: Warren Ellis

First line: My first memory is of being held up in front of a tiny black-and-white TV set by my mother and being told, "Remember this."

Why you should read this book: In a seemingly catastrophic but eventually beautiful vision, Colleen Doran illustrates Ellis's tale of a future in which the manned space program has been scrapped in the wake of the incredible disappearance of an entire space shuttle, which reappears under equally mysterious circumstances a decade later, covered in a biological matrix and piloted by an insane astronaut. To determine where the Venture been, how it got there, how it got back, and what happened to the ship and its crew in the interim, the government assembles a team of passionate individuals, all of whom have had their dreams ripped away from them with the dismantling of the space program. If they can crack the ship's secrets and break through the mental blocks of the apparently catatonic pilot, they may be poised to usher the human race into the new age of space exploration.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You prefer not to look up at the night sky.

The Pig-Out Blues

Written by: Jan Greenberg

First line: "Jodie Firestone, your arms are thick as tree trunks," my mother said on her way to the icebox.

Why you should read this book: It's a sort of problematic YA novel in which a five-foot, one hundred twenty pound teenager labeled as fat, verbally abused and emotionally neglected by her mother, and seeks solace in her love of theater and her best friend's family. In a bid to please her mother, satisfy her peers, and win the role of Juliet in the school play, Jodie goes on a starvation diet, losing twenty pounds in one month, only to pass out from exhaustion at her audition. When she honestly examines her mother's psychology and her relationship with her mother, her desire to binge disappears and she becomes incredibly insightful.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The writing is strained, the story is dated, and there's something sort of artificial about the narrative's arc.

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear

Written by: Lensey Namioka

First line: Yang the Eldest drew his bow across his violin strings, and a shower of sparkling notes fell over the room.

Why you should read this book: Yang the Eldest, like his parents before him, is a talented musician, a violin virtuoso; Yang the Second Eldest plays the viola; Yang the Third Eldest, the cello; and so it falls to Yang the Youngest to complete their string quartet by playing second violin, which he would do happily, were he not completely tone deaf and literally unable to differentiate one note from the next. Recently immigrated from China, Yang the Youngest's family loves him, but cannot accept his utter musical ineptitude, until the boy makes his first American friend, Matthew, whose own parents disdain his love of violin and don't understand why he doesn't spend more time improving his baseball skills. As it turns out, Yang the Youngest has a great talent for the Great American past time, and maybe, just maybe, he and Matthew can teach their parents a thing or two about direction a child's talents.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're supposed to be practicing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Outspoken Princess and the Gentle Knight

Edited by: Jack Zipes

First line: Once every two weeks Polly went over to the other side of town to see her grandmother.

Why you should read this book: Zipes collections of fairy tales, common and unknown, are unsurpassed in their depth and perspective, and this work, suitable for young readers, is no exception, showcasing "modern" stories (here defined as those published after World War II) that tend to turn basic assumptions about the form on their heads. Without being overtly political, these tales show how fairy tale motifs unravel in a modern world where modern girls take the crosstown bus, drive fork lifts, and, sometimes, use men's desires to get what they need in order to save their people. There's not a bad story in this book, and the rich line drawings, rendered with both whimsy and gravity, add to the magic.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe every girl has to marry, the sooner the better, and her husband needs to be stronger and taller than she is.

The Book of Sea Monsters

Written by: Nigel Suckling

First line: There are literally hundreds of plausible monster sightings on record; but some stand out in particular, because of the glaring honesty of the witnesses, the strangeness of the tale or simply the impact of that tale on the public imagination.

Why you should read this book: While it's basically an excuse for the fantasy artist Bob Eggleton to showcase a bunch of rich and detailed oil paintings of dragons in the water, the text does a lovely job not only of summarizing the myths and legends about sea monsters that have been passed down through centuries, but also of producing modern documentation that will leave the reader halfway to believing in modern monsters, hiding in the unexplored places of the modern world. The pictures in this coffee-table-sized book are insanely beautiful, even as they bring to life all sorts of horrors, and the evidence of real life water beasts is sort of compelling, in a cryptozoological way. A fun gift for any lovers of fantasy art, ancient myths, of the real life study of things that probably don't exist.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Already scared to swim in the ocean.

Meeting the Dog Girls

Written by: Gay Terry

First line: There is no beginning, no end to the line, just women waiting.

Why you should read this book: The magical realism in this collection of speculative fiction turns its nose up at the merely implausible and flirts with surrealism each times it turns the corner: babies float from the sky, marshmallow fail to plug the hole in a man's heart, time loses all meaning. The worlds summoned here are full of the underprivileged —the offspring of coal country, the children of war, the poor of the inner city—wondering how to overcome their circumstances, and the borders between life and death, which are tangible, but permeable. Besides the eponymous Dog Girls, there are ghosts, aliens, thieves, spell casters, birds, statues, and fabric, all with surprising qualities, woven into tales that, if not always perfectly satisfying in the end, are all provocative.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Painfully bad editing. Rife with spelling mistakes. The writer apparently doesn't know the difference between "lose" and "loose" or "its" and "it's" or else doesn't care, and the editor, if such a person had anything to do with this book's publication, was apparently too afraid of witches to suggest any changes.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business*

Written by: Barbara Park

First line: My name is Junie B. Jones.

Why you should read this book: Junie B. does not understand figures of speech, and when her grandmother tells her that her new baby brother is a real little monkey, Junie B. takes it literally, resulting in her particular brand of mayhem. Before the day is out, she will shake down her two best friends and end up in the principal's office. Could anything be better than a real monkey brother?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're afraid your rambunctious five-year-old might have problems being dethroned.

*I'm not going to review this whole series. I'm just not. I'll probably read the whole thing to my stepdaughter, but I can't write 36 reviews of this ridiculousness. These are great books for early readers and they are humorous enough to not make adult want to vomit, but seriously: this kid is a menace.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus

Written by: Barbara Park

First line: My name is Junie B. Jones.

Why you should read this book: An exuberant and unrestrained kindergarten kid with absolutely no filter navigates the first day of school, taking an instant dislike to the experience of riding the school bus. At the end of the day, she determines to use all of her five-year-old's skills to avoid the return trip home, enjoying herself immensely while driving all the adults involved to distraction. This is a perfect book for reluctant readers, who will identify with Junie B.s' constant sense of entitlement and betrayal.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't find shenanigans funny.

The Heart of Cool

Written by: Jamie McEwan

First line: When Bobby North came to his new school, he found that he was the smallest guy in his class.

Why you should read this book: For a leveled easy reader, this is one of the deepest, and yes, coolest stories I've ever seen. A polar bear named Bobby seeks to emulate a moose named Harry, the coolest kid in school, and manages to actually master the art of being cool so well that he no longer needs to try, until his utter coolness leads him to make an uncool mistake. The distinctively humorous illustrations of Sandra Boynton add a little tongue-in-cheek flair to a thoughtful story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're too cool to care.

The Taking Tree

Written by: Shrill Travesty

First line: Once there was a kid who spent every day under a tree.

Why you should read this book: This is a "selfish parody" of the beloved children's classic by Shel Silverstein, but in this version, the kid is a horrible brat who lives to make life painful for everyone around him, including the long-suffering tree. He's sent to jail a few times, but keeps getting out; he becomes a successful businessman, because that's something that "often happens when little jerks grow up." This is a story with no moral, except that some people are awful for no reason and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The ending is pretty ambivalent.

The Fold

Written by: An Na

First line: Joyce stared at herself in the mirror, twisting her head from side to side, finger combing more or her long black hair over the unsightly bulge that used to be her temple.

Why you should read this book: Joyce, a fully assimilated Korean-American girl, pines for the cutest guy in school and feels constantly inferior to her prettier, smarter older sister. When her aunt wins some money in the lottery, she decides to spend it all on improvements for Joyce's family, and informs Joyce that she will be receiving some plastic surgery, which Joyce is not at all sure she needs or wants. Joyce must determine how much she wants to change externally, and how much she is willing to fight to be herself.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The ending is predictable, the characters seem sort of flat, and the writing never hits that high, poetic notes that makes the author's first novel glow.

The Rabbi's Cat 2

Written by: Joann Sfar

First line: I'm the rabbi's cat.

Why you should read this book: The rabbit and his cat spend more time with Malka and his lion, confronting the age of both along with loud anti-Semitism and the possibility of armed resistance. The rabbi's daughter suffers through marital discord, while the cat finds he can speak with a Russian Jew who has snuck himself into the country in a box of religious texts, and a mixed group travels to Africa to find a city of black Jews. Identity, and religion, are revealed to be subjective.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Never hits the same level of introspection and cohesion as the first volume.


Written by: M. T. Anderson

First line: We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Why you should read this book: In a brutally frightening future, most well-off people receive an unstoppable virtual feed directly to their brain, with helpful advice about fashion, clothes, recreation, and anything else people want to know. In this world, education is corporately sponsored, the sky is just a projection on a dome overhead, animals are almost non-existant, and humanity is afflicted with incurable lesions. A group of kids have their feeds hijacked over spring break, and one of them finds his worldview disrupted when he falls for a girl who's decided to rebel against the tyranny of the feed.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Probably the most depressing dystopian novel I've ever read. Brilliant but nightmare-inducing.

Daughters of Copper Woman

Written by: Anne Cameron

First line: In the 85 years between Captain Cook's visit in 1778 and the Royal Fellowship census in 1863, the Nootka nation was decimated.

Why you should read this book: A true modern classic, this flawless melange of oral history, ancient folklore, and current perspective brings to the fore the experience of indigenous women, written in such a way as to raise the power and consciousness of all women. The author was given permission by the Native women of Vancouver Island to share their stories, many of which have been considered closely guarded secrets for many generations, some of which run counter to the official histories written after the fact by the white invaders. This book is a sort of living document, one which transmits its light to the world and suggests action toward positive change is within the reach of everyone who loves peace and fairness.

Why you should read this book: Trigger warning for child sexual abuse and rampant destruction of culture by colonialist invasion.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My Friend Dahmer

Written by: Derf Backderf

First line: It's the next path on the left.

Why you should read this book: You've never read anything like this detailed, visual, honest, and often humorous account of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's adolescent years, as recalled by one of the boys he considered his closest friends in school. Dahmer's early obsession with death, his horrible home life, his full-blown alcoholism, and the terrifying pull of his frightening sexuality are all here, but so are the elements that, according to the author, make Dahmer a sympathetic character and his storyto a pointa tragedy. Here is the portrait of young man desperate to belong but destined to remain separate from the world, quashing his own myriad demons just as long as he can before the world caves in around him.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Depressing moments, gruesome moments, and the inevitable awful outcome.

Estrella's Quinceañera

Written by: Malin Alegria

First line: According to my mom, a girl's fifteenth birthday is supposed to be the biggest day of her life.

Why you should read this book: Estrella really loves her family and her culture, but ever since she started attending a fancy private school on scholarship, she finds them both a little embarrassing, compared to those of her rich white friends. The more her mother's plans spiral out of control, the more Estrella pulls away from the people who love her, until she realizes that she's alienated everyone who cares. It takes all her social know-how to appease her parents, make amends with her friends, and host a quinceañera that's traditional enough to make everyone happy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: This story has been done in different cultures or different age groups, to much better effect.

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

Written by: Dr. Seuss (writing as Theo LeSieg)

First line: I wish that I had duck feet.

Why you should read this book: A classic easy reader, this book follows an imaginative boy's flights of fancy as he considers how various mutations would make him more popular around town, particularly with local girls, while creating problems with his parents and the school bully. Hearkens back to its origins in the 60s, when the debate over conformity really began to heat up, but concludes that being a freak is dangerous and unfulfilling. Seuss used this pseudonym for books he wrote but did not illustrate; both the text and the pictures are darling.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You constantly assure your precious little snowflake that they can be anything they want to be. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Rabbi's Cat

Written by: Joann Sfar

First line: Jewish people aren’t crazy about dogs.

Why you should read this book: As best as I can tell, the thesis of this book is that God exists, but this fact doesn’t really matter. The rabbi’s cat is an irreverent philosopher who briefly gains the power of speech by eating a parrot and immediately uses that power to tell lies and, occasionally, very upsetting and uncomfortable truths. Against a backdrop of Algeria in the 1930s, with a brief stop in Paris, this story examines love, theology, faith, and family in provocative and humorous arcs.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Blasphemy.

Mother, Come Home

Written by: Paul Hornschemeir

First line: Do you remember that summer—I think you were sixteen—when you went horseback riding?

Why you should read this book: A young boy’s inability to come to terms with the death of his mother is exacerbated by his father’s even greater difficulty dealing with the loss. As the boy struggles to take control of his world, the father drifts farther and farther away, until he is lost completely. The child sets off to bring him back, only to learn how deeply the complications and pains of adult knowledge can go.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Haunting examination of death and its effect on the living.

The Tale of One Bad Rat

Written by: Bryan Talbot

First line: Once upon a time, there was a very bad rat…

Why you should read this book: Helen Potter, a homeless runaway whose pet rat is her only companion, is deeply wounded on the inside as a result of long term childhood trauma. She doesn’t know how to trust humans and can’t stand to be touched, until she finally chooses to confront her demons by following the path suggested by her idol, Beatrix Potter, to England’s Lake district. There, she begins to heal herself and chooses to rise above her troubled past.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Trigger warning for incest and sexual assault.

The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened to All the Ghosts, Found Out, and Went There

Written by: Daniel Pinkwater

First line: When I got home from school, my room was full of ghosts…again!

Why you should read this book: Generally, Iggy doesn’t have a problem with ghosts, seeing that her best friend is one, until she notices that some of the city’s most prominent ghosts are missing. Iggy isn’t the only one to notice the absence of ghosts in Hollywood, and she is determined to solve the mystery, even though everyone who knows the truth can’t talk about it. Along with her friend Neddie and Seamus, Iggy must travel to a parallel world to battle witches, hide from werewolves, and resist extremely persuasive television ads.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t approve of children having too much freedom.

Little Boy Blue: A Puppy's Rescue from Death Row and His Owner's Search for the Truth

Written by: Kim Kavin

First line: I’m the oldest child in my family, but I wasn’t the first to be cradled and loved.

Why you should read this book: When she adopted an adorable puppy she found on the Internet, the author thought nothing of how that puppy ended up on that website. As she falls in love with her brindle-coated Blue, she begins to question the circumstances of his earliest days and uses her journalistic skills to uncover the seamy world of animal rescue. What she learns is, in turn, eye-opening, horrifying, and hopeful, and this book turns the spotlight on the efforts—good, bad, and ugly—to deal with the problem of seemingly unwanted cats and dogs.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Dead puppies.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Dance with Dragons

Written by: George RR Martin

First line: The night was rank with the smell of man.

Why you should read this book:  The epic shifts to the north and the east: in the north, everyone is cold and hungry, if not snowed under and actively consuming their own dead; in the east, dragons, slavers, and killer diarrhea threaten everyone’s lives; in the waters between two continents, deadly storms chew through armadas. Everyone who sees Daenerys wants to woo her, everyone who sees Tyrion wants to capture him, everyone who sees Jon Snow wants him to know he’s doing it wrong, and everyone who sees dragons learns that dragons burn things. There's also some good bits with magic, giants, Cersei naked, and Arya getting an education like no septa ever offered a highborn maid. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're some kind of cowardly killjoy who doesn't like dragons.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Feast for Crows

Written by: George RR Martin

First line: "Dragons," said Mollander.

Why you should read this book: In this aptly named fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, the bodies begin to pile up in seriously inconvenient ways, while religious mania and cannibalism are added to the atrocities being committed as winter draws nigh and the short-sighted game of thrones apparently requires that large quantities of resources be destroyed immediately prior to a prolonged period of privation and terror. More plots, some stupider than others, are conceived, hatched, brought to fruition, and proved to be either just foolhardy enough or far too foolhardy; many journeys are taken, drawing characters far from their comfort zones, into realms of great danger and even greater knowledge. Nothing whatsoever is resolved in this book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: When you get to the end, there's a note from Martin explaining that, due to the scope of the story, he realized he had to cut the book in two, and rather than giving his readers half the story for all the characters, he chose to give all the story for half the characters, so a lot of important protagonists don't even appear in this book, except when other people gossip about them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Storm of Swords

Written by: George RR Martin

First line: The day was gray and bitter cold, and the dogs would not take the scent.

Why you should read this book: The bodies are hitting the floor, and the deck, and the water, and the rocks, and the ice, and pretty much every surface available as the war rages on in earnest, with alliances formed and shattered, heroes made and lost, monsters and magic raised. No one is safe anywhere, and autumn is hard upon Westeros, with river-swelling rains and mistrust sown more often than any other crop. Some mysteries are answered and some reunions are enjoyed, just enough to keep the reading hungry for the next addictive hit.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are particularly attached to a number of main characters or some particular outcome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Clash of Kings

Written by: George RR Martin

First line:

Why you should read this book: The old king is dead and his wife's young and sadistic secret bastard son, Joffrey, sits on the Iron Throne, while Robb Stark has been declared King in the North, the Baratheon brothers battle out their own succession, and other would-be kings bide their time in the shadows. Across the ocean, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen mothers her fledgling dragons, while the Lannisters play through their own intrigues, the entire continent of Westeros falls over itself to jump into a war with no exit plan, and everyone knows that winter is coming. Includes long descriptions of banquets eaten, crowns worn, people stabbed, cities sacked, maidens raped, lies told, betrayals enacted, and sorceries cast, along with all the other good stuff the Song of Ice and Fire series is known for.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You expect books to end neatly with the plots all tied up in a bow.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hop on Pop

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: UP PUP Pup is up.

Why you should read this book: You should read this book if you are are just starting to learn how to read. Each page begins with rhyming pairs or triplets, which are then made into simple sentences illustrating some of Seuss's trademark nonsense. Fun for young people who are ready to delight themselves with the contents of books.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Little plot to speak of. Conflict is easily resolved.

The Magic Pillow

Written by: Demi

First line: Once upon a time in China there was a boy named Ping.

Why you should read this book: Power, fame, and wealth are passing illusions, Ping learns in this kind hearted parable for young people based on an ancient Chinese story, and illustrated with gorgeous gold and textured accents. When Ping starts to yearn for more than he has, a magician's magic pillow shows him what life would be like were his dreams to come true. Ping is granted a vision of success that proves to him the impermanence of material success and teaches him to be content with what he has.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're already content.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Game of Thrones

Written by: George RR Martin

First line: "We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grown dark around them.

Why you should read this book: The land of Westeros is troubled: winter is coming, a long winter that could last many, many years, and bring on the threat of forgotten monsters from the north, but, aside from the men of the Night's Watch who guard the Wall, few worry about the wildlings and the white walkers. Instead, great families toy with life, death, and love, jockeying for position with riches and royalty, killing and dying over secrets and powers. Only one person can rule from the Iron Throne, and only with the support of many loyal bannermen, so the king, and those who do the king's bidding, are always in the most precarious position.

Why you shouldn't read this book: One of the rare cases where the TV show is probably better, although the book provides a lot of back story and detail the show must omit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Written by: Dr. Seuss

First line: One fish two fish red fish blue fish.

Why you should read this book: "Funny things are everywhere," and in this classic beginning beginner book, Dr. Seuss attempts to catalog a vast number of them, including made-up animals, real animals engaging in unusual behaviors, and Seussian characters with Seussian problems. Good introduction to discovering rhyming words, finding contextual meaning in pictures, and cloaking learning with humor and a sense of the ridiculous. Can be read aloud all at once or broken down, page by page, for an examination of related series of words.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Find no humor in learning to read.