Becoming Unbecoming by Una

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Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: The author uses the graphic novel format to recount her experiences growing up during the terror caused by the Yorkshire Ripper and reflect on her personal experiences of sexual assault.

What made me pick it up: I saw a colleague with it and was instantly fascinated.

My favorite things: Each aspect of this graphic memoir comes together in a powerful condemnation of rape culture and victim blaming. The art is incredible and occasionally so arresting that I had to put down the book. For me, the strongest part of the book was also the most difficult to get through- a series of illustrations imagining what the victims of the ripper would be doing today.

Who it’s great for: Don’t pick this up if you’re looking for a quick or light read – this is for readers looking for something very raw and real. A great choice for those interested in dissecting rape culture and understanding the experiences of survivors.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells


Intrigued? Find a copy at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.


 

Flying High by Julian Edelman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A football loving squirrel learns how much hard work it takes to play the game.

What made me pick it up: I have a coworker who is obsessed with the Patriots and Edelman (the Patriots wide receiver) and when he started publicizing this book she contacted everyone she knew in the Boston area to acquire a copy. Then, thankfully, she shared it with me.

My favorite things: This a fun book with cute illustrations all involving animals. It throws a lot of shade at other NFL teams, and has plenty of in-jokes for Patriots fans. But it also has a great work hard to achieve your goals theme.

Who it’s great for: Kids who love football. Patriots fans. Anyone who has ever been told they can’t, especially if they later proved the haters wrong.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A badass librarian has to stop her evil nemesis before he destroys the library.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of this fantasy series. It is extremely entertaining and has a great set of characters. I’ve read every book in the series and I look forward to more in the future.

My favorite things: This is was as fun as the first two! I enjoy the author’s imagination within the world she has built. I also am endlessly entertained by the characters as well as engaged by the relationships unfolding between them. And let’s be honest, I am jazzed about a book with an empowered female librarian for a main character.

Who it’s great for: Fantasy fans. Librarians. Steampunk enthusiasts. Library lovers. Admirers of strong female leads.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Lohman identifies eight flavors that she believes are integral to and representative of American cuisine and explains the history behind each.

What made me pick it up: I was browsing new books just before lunch and something about food sounded appealing.

My favorite things: I found it interesting to read the reasons behind each flavor’s inclusion. Lohman does a good job of providing historical context for each and discussing the impact of immigration on cuisine. She also visits a variety of production facilities and it’s kind of cool to get a peek into how the different flavors are cultivated. Plus, there are recipes included for each flavor if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Who it’s great for: Fans and readers of culinary history. Cooks and food lovers interested in the story behind the flavors they enjoy.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A blind teen boy gets the opportunity to gain sight thanks to a new medical procedure and how it changes his life for better and worse.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Josh’s. His memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime was such a heartfelt, engaging read (or listen, I guess, since I listened to it). And he does these awesome videos on the interwebs. Plus he’s from Virginia, where I now live, so heyyyy! Also, this cover is so engaging. I’d heard about this book ages ago and when I saw a reminder about it at the end of one of his videos I went online and checked it right out. Thanks, OverDrive!

My favorite things: This is Sundquist’s debut novel which makes it all the more impressive. It is top notch YA and I really enjoyed the John Green-ness of everything about this book. It’s got lovable misfits that find each other in the abyss of high school, an impromptu road trip, a truly lovely confusing crush/friend situation, and a health related element that is strongly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (although not as sad, I promise!). I appreciated the supportive but still annoying parent relationship and the tough but supportive teacher relationships the main character has. It is such an interesting take on what makes us different makes us beautiful.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who feels other or invisible, especially in high school. Readers who want to be uplifted by a great story. Fans of John Green because I can’t say enough that this is an excellent read alike for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines or that other one I already mentioned. Really, just read them all. All of the books.

What else it reminded me of: Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and the movie Shallow Hal.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A socially inept, recently single woman in her sixties tries to find purpose something to do where people are so she won’t die alone and not be discovered for a week.

What made me pick it up: I loved loved loved Backman’s debut so I placed a hold on all his recent and upcoming releases. As I listened to that, and highly enjoyed it, I sought the audio for this as well (and I again recommend it).

My favorite things: I’m consistently amazed at this author’s ability to write curmudgeonly characters with grace and humor. The humanity he imparts makes it feel like someone in your community or family for that matter. Britt-Marie is marvelous but so is the supporting cast in this small town novel. While not as funny as A Man Called Ove, this certainly has its moments. I also enjoyed the running thread of soccer as metaphor. As a lifelong soccer player this spoke to me as much as any character. The ending is a bit more ambiguous than Ove but if you liked how that played out, with the character coming to a realization, then you will like this as well.

Who it’s great for: Those who want to read about simple, sweet characters and relationships as they go through real life situations. Readers who enjoy everyday warmth in their stories. Fans of Fredrik Backman.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find either of Backman’s books using our Amazon affiliate links: A Man Called Ove; Britt Marie Was Here or check your local library.


 

YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalists

Toward the end of every year, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) releases a shortlist of titles for the Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. The winner is announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards in January. This year’s winner was John Lewis’ March:Book Three. Here’s a quick rundown of the other titles that made the list of finalists.

What made me pick them up: Each year I try to read all of the finalists before the winner is announced, but this year I’m running a little behind.

Hillary Rodham Clinton:  A Woman Living History by Karen Blumenthal

What it’s about: This book follows Hillary Clinton’s life and political career through the beginning of her 2016 Presidential campaign.

My favorite things: I appreciated that the author didn’t shy away from the controversies that have popped up throughout her life and career. Blumenthal effectively explains many of the difficulties and criticisms Clinton has faced throughout her career and how she has worked to overcome them.

Who it’s great for: Teens and adults who want to know more about Clinton’s life and career leading up to her history making campagin as the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.

Abby’s rating:  four-shells

In the Shadow of Liberty:  The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis

What it’s about: Davis presents the lives of five enslaved people and the four presidents who counted them as property.

My favorite things: There’s a very powerful section at the beginning where Davis names several beloved founding fathers and their contributions to the nation, and then lists how many enslaved people they owned. He does an incredible job throughout the book of highlighting the complexities of slavery in early American history and pointing out the inconsistencies in the words and actions of the men who designed the nation.

Who it’s good for:  Teens interested in concrete examples of the contradictions between the rhetoric of liberty and the reality of slavery during the early days of the United States.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Samurai Rising:  The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune  by Pamela S. Turner.  

What it’s about: This traces the early years of samurai rule in Japan by following the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune.

My favorite things: This is a really fun, and often funny, look into the history of samurai rule in Japan. Turner blends storytelling and historical accounts for an exciting peek into the life of a Japanese legend: Minamoto Yoshitsune, the “ultimate samurai”.

Who it’s good for: Teens interested in learning about Japanese history and samurai culture. Reluctant nonfiction readers who need an action packed story to maintain interest.

Abby’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

This Land is Our Land:  A History of American Immigration  by Linda Barrett Osborne

What it’s about: A concise history of immigration into the United States.

My favorite things: Osborne looks at more than immigration statistics. She considers the lived experience of immigrating to the United States by examining the restrictions and hostile attitudes that have targeted various immigrant groups throughout the nation’s history.

Who it’s good for: Teens and adults who want to understand the history of immigration policies and why it is such a divisive issue.

Abby’s rating: four-shells

What Erica Has on Hold

To Download

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer by Fredrik Backman because I love everything he writes.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor because John Green recommended its sequel on Twitter.
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney because it is well reviewed.
Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. I don’t even remember why, but the cover is engaging.
The Nowhere Man by Greg Hurwitz which was recommended on Twitter.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison because Junot Diaz said it was required reading.
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski because I enjoyed Seven Brief Lessons on Physics but on audio because it turns out it’s long and this might be the only way I get through it.
Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver because it’s lovely and I didn’t finish it before my first check out expired.
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson because I’m on a racism reading tear.

In Print

Am I Alone Here: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live by Peter Orner because reading.
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe because I enjoyed The End of Your Life Book Club immensely.
Go Figure: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know from The Economist because I enjoy economics-explains-the-world books like Freakonomics.
The Private Life of Mrs Sharma by Ratika Kapur because it’s short.
Super Sushi Ramen Express by Michael Booth because I enjoyed a similar book about China.
Teacup by Rebecca Young because it was on a list of books for children about refugees.

Snow White by Matt Phelan

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: The traditional fairy tale set in Depression-era New York City.

What made me pick it up: I was working the children’s desk in the library and it was there so I paged through it. I didn’t get to finish it so I placed a hold on it.

My favorite parts: I really liked how this was modernized. It fit so well into the time period. The illustrations are mostly black and white and quite engaging. Like the other graphic novels I enjoy most, this had few words and panels so it was easy to follow. I also enjoyed the author’s interpretation of the dwarfs.

Who it’s great for: Struggling readers who want a fairly thick book to complete. Fairy tale fans of all ages. Those interested in but intimidated by graphic novels .

Erica’s rating: four-shells