Roughneck by Jeff Lemire

roughneck
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Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A former hockey player struggling to keep it together find his life interrupted when his younger sister comes home years after disappearing. The siblings wrestle with violence and addiction, family and identity, and a constant sense of alienation.

What made me pick it up: I love Jeff Lemire.

My favorite things: I can’t remember where I read it, but someone described this as Fargo but in Canada and I can’t think of a better way to describe the cold, bleak tone. As always, Lemire’s art is stunning and perfectly fits the mood of the dark story and complex characters.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of Lemire’s other work, particularly Essex County. Graphic novel readers looking for a family drama.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon.


 

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

today is the last day

Originally published in: 2013- English translation, the original German version was published in 2009.

What’s it about: A graphic memoir tracing one woman’s adventures traveling Italy illegally in the summer of 1984 with a friend as a 17-year-old Austrian punk with no money, no papers, and no plan.

What made me pick it up: This was new to our library and, as always, I couldn’t turn down a graphic memoir.

My favorite things: The author mixes in a few excerpts from her journals and letters that she wrote during the summer she was traveling, which makes her story feel more authentic. I appreciated how frank and honest she was about all of her experiences – no matter how painful or how many laws she happened to be breaking at the time.

Who it’s great for:  Fans of gritty travel memoirs; graphic memoirs.

Abby’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

shadowshaper

Originally published in: 2015

What’s it about: Brooklyn teen Sierra Santiago’s summer vacation is interrupted by weeping street murals, family secrets, and a kind of magic that links the world of the living with that of the dead.

What made me pick it up: I remember seeing good buzz about this when it came out a couple of years ago, so I checked it out when I saw that the audiobook was available.

My favorite things: Once I started this book I didn’t want to stop. The story is engaging and moves quickly with a sense of urgency that will make it hard to put down after “one more chapter.” Woven throughout the story are critiques of a sort of neocolonialist anthropology, gentrification, and erasure of cultural traditions – all of which come together to create a complex portrait of a changing Brooklyn.

Who it’s great for:  Teens interested in urban fantasy.

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


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

animators

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: The story of two friends, partners in art and life, creating animated works that bring them a sort of fame while also forcing them to confront difficult truths and traumas in their lives that other people would like to leave in the past.

What made me pick it up: I needed an audiobook to listen to and this one was available, has gotten a lot of good press, and has a cover that makes me want to read it.

My favorite things: Whitaker treats characters suffering addictions almost without judgment in a way that is refreshingly humane. She takes the time to develop every character’s layers and the complexity of their relationships.

Who it’s great for:  Readers looking for complex relationships between characters or an exploration of identity.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Light the Dark edited by Joe Fassler

light the dark

Originally published in: 2017

What’s it about: A variety of writers reflect on specific lines or verses that they find to be particularly profound or informative and discuss how those lines impact their writing processes or the way they approach writing.

What made me pick it up: Much like Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers, I found this while browsing a curated list of downloadable audiobooks and ebooks collected to inspire writers during NaNoWriMo.

My favorite things: This is such an interesting insight into the minds and processes of so many favorite contemporary authors. I would never have connected some of these writers to the pieces that inspire them. There are more than forty contributing authors and each essay is relatively short, which makes this an easy book to dip in and out of as you need inspiration or have the time to pick it up.

Who it’s great for:  WriMos in need of a little inspiration through the second half of NaNoWriMo. Anyone interested in reading about the writing that highly regarded contemporary writers find inspirational and formative.

Abby’s rating: four-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers by James Gulliver Hancock

artists writers

Originally published in: 2014

What’s it about: A visual biographical encyclopedia of innovative individuals throughout history.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued when I stumbled across it while browsing an ebook and downloadable audiobook collection curated to inspire writers during NaNoWriMo.

My favorite things: Hancock believes that the objects and people that individuals surround themselves with can be very revealing. He enhances the understanding of notable historical figures by focusing on these aspects of their lives, rather than simply on their achievements. Hancock’s cartoonish drawings are an engaging jumble of small images that help to paint a picture of each subject’s life.

Who it’s great for:  Readers intrigued by the daily lives of famous artists and thinkers. Fans of graphic biographies.

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


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

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Originally published in: 2007

What it’s about: An orphaned boy living in a train station in Paris where he steals food to survive and takes care of the clocks.

What made me pick it up: Abby said it contained a lot illustrations so it was practically a graphic novel.

My favorite things: This book is like reading through a silent film. The illustrations are breathtaking, and rightly so, since this was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008 for illustrated work. I don’t think I’ve felt so strongly for a character since Harry Potter. Now this is no HP but there are a lot of similarities. It follows a boy on his own as he makes friends and works to solve a mystery before time runs out all while trying to protect his secrets. Magic might be involved. This was heartfelt and also very fun. Plus it flies by so the 533 pages are done in a blink. Seriously, I started this after work and was so drawn in I finished it in one sitting.

Who it’s great for: Readers of all ages. HP fans. Film buffs, especially from the early days of movies. Those looking for adventure.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon(affiliate link).


 

Patina by Jason Reynolds


Originally published: 2017

What it’s about: A young teen girl dealing with a new school and a new family situation while finding her place on a new track team.

What made me pick it up: I’ve been wanting to read something by this author for a while. When I saw this audio was available I placed a hold.

My favorite parts: As a former track runner I enjoyed the depictions of how important running is for a runner, as well as how much it is a team sport even though it seems so individualistic. Made me want to run a relay again. I also enjoyed how much this was a just a plain every day story about a regular girl and her situation and how she is dealing with it. It was incredibly authentic both in relationships and experiences.

Who it’s great for: Older chapter book readers looking for a good, but realistic, story. Those looking for proof that you can come through any situation. Runners and wannabe runners.

Erica’s rating:


Find this book on Amazon(affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

optimistsdiefirst
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Originally published: 2017

What it’s about: A teen girl who is working through the grief and guilt of losing her baby sister.

What made me pick it up: I was reading The Kite Runner when I just got really sick of what a fucking bummer it was so I went looking for a lighter book and stumbled upon this YA novel in audio on OverDrive. On double speed you’ll get through it in just a couple hours.

My favorite parts: I enjoyed the authentic depictions of various types of grieving and the discussion of and character arrivals at forgiveness. The relationships between all the teen characters were great, and very realistic. I appreciated the way it dealt with heavy themes in a hopeful way and didn’t feel like it was including horrific incidents just for show (looking at you, Kite Runner). It reminded me of Sarah Dessen novels mixed with just a smidgen of John Green.

Who it’s great for: Anyone struggling through something heavy who wants a break. Those looking for a quick, engaging read.

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


Find this book on Amazon or in your local library.


 

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Originally published: 2017

What it’s about: Prolific author Brown tackles how to find true belonging by being your authentic self.

What made me pick it up: I love love love Brown and her works. She is a personal hero of mine and I always feel empowered and slightly shaken by her books. I recommend them to everyone so when I found out about this I grabbed it asap.

My favorite parts: This book was very powerful in a quiet, personal way. If you have ever tried to speak out and stand your truth and been ridiculed or worse, then you have an inkling of what she’s talking about in this book. Yet, she encourages you to do even more of just that. And if you haven’t experienced it, she makes the strong case for beginning. Being kind but fierce and living our truth are points she really hammers home but she has such a inviting way of phrasing that you’ll be thoroughly convinced and ready to give it a go. I may have teared up at the line “No one belongs here more than you.”

Who it’s great for: Anyone who needs a pick me up or a reminder that you are great the way you are. People who feel we’re too divided and want to find our way back together.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).