Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gin Tama, Volume 6: Some Things You Can't Cut With a Sword
by Hideaki Sorachi (unpaged)
First off, the Odd Jobs Trio run into a bear while mushroom hunting and the bear just happens to have a mushroom growing out of its head. Then, Okita of the Shinsengami tricks the trio into getting involved with an illegal fighting death match arena. Chief Kondo gets in trouble for the Shinsengami's involvement with the death matches, and has a hair-raising, death-defying trip on the way to be lectured by his bosses. Next, Gin and the gang get sick off of rotten crabs and have to go to the hospital. While there, they help a nurse hook-up with the guy of her dreams (only it's a giant duck-thing). Then, they help ward off an infestation of giant alien cockroaches. Finally, they help a girl expose a hairy-mole dream catcher cult.

Gin Tama, Volume 5: Watch Out for Conveyor Belts!

by Hideaki Sorachi (unpaged)

On a hot summer day, the Odd Jobs trio go after a sea monster and find out it's quite friendly. Then they go on an exorcism job at Shinsengami headquarters to get rid of a ghost, only to find out it's an alien that looks like a human mosquito. Kagura almost gives away Gin's wooden sword to a sword collector, only to learn that Gin bought a new one and was going to throw it away anyway. Shinpachi reunites with a former classmate who has joined a gang of hairstyle enthusiasts and attempts to get him out through a bizarre death race. Gin and Katsura get dragged into a drag queen caberet. And finally, Gin meets a lady assassin who can't see anything without her glasses.

The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers
by Nick Roche, James Roberts, and Trevor Hutchinson (unpaged)
Who are the Wreckers? They are an elite Autobot force who will do what other Autobots won't, even if it's borderline illegal. Got some Decepticons wrecking havoc? Call the Wreckers. In this story, the extremely powerful and rogue Decepticon named Overlord has taken over a prison run by Autobots and turned it upside down. Being too dangerous for regular Autobots, the wreckers are called in to rescue the Autobot guards. But are new recruits Pyro, Guzzle, Ironfist, and Rotorstorm prepared for the carnage that awaits them?

Friday, March 18, 2011

"A Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration" edited by Paul E. Parker

154 pages

Seeing photographs always makes things come alive for me. This collection from the Farm Security Administration does a great job of capturing different aspects of the Great Depression in Missouri. There is plenty of text in each section to explain what is in the photographs and why it matters, but the corresponding images make the people and places seem real. Real struggle, frustration, fear, and ultimately hope show through the photos. There are shots from several different photographers and each has his or her own unique style, resulting in an interesting, diverse book.On the downside, some individual photographers took photos of many similar things, which made certain sections seem redundant. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn a little more about this time period but gets bored reading a lot about it.

"The Confession" by John Grisham

432 pages

In 1998, a popular white high school cheerleader named Nicole disappeared from Slone, Texas. One of her black classmates, Dante, confessed to raping and murdering her, though he and his lawyer maintain that he is innocent and was forced into confessing after hours of interrogation and threats from the police. Even though Nicole's body was never found and there was no evidence linking Dante to the crime except for his disputed confession and an uncertain witness, Dante was convicted and sentenced to death.

Fast forward nine years. Only a week remains between Dante and execution. In Kansas, young Lutheran minister Keith Schroeder receives a visitor who claims to be the actual killer of Nicole. His name is Travis Boyette, and he's just finished serving time for a different rape. He has a brain tumor that is expected to kill him within a year, so when he saw the news about Dante's upcoming execution, he decided to do something right at the end of his life by confessing to the murder and saving Dante from lethal injection. Keith vows to help Travis take responsibility and stop the execution, but he soon discovers that it won't be as simple as he initially thought. Travis keeps changing his mind about coming clean, and officials would rather believe that Travis is a nutcase than admit their mistakes. As the execution time gets closer, the fight to clear Dante's name comes down to the wire.

This book is INTENSE. My nerves were going crazy as I read. I cared deeply for the characters and what happened to them, though I think this was due more to emotions about the situation than connections with the characters themselves. Grisham is obviously very much against the death penalty, and even I, who agree with him, think he beats readers over the head with his message. Although in my opinion he went a little overboard and oversimplified the issue, he makes some good points that will stick with me. The situation he presents is outrageous and overdramatic, but it demonstrates things that have actually gone wrong in capital punishment cases in the past. "The Confession" is bound to create plenty of thought and discussion.


by Connie Willis, 491 pgs

It had been a long time since I'd read any of Connie Willis's time travel novels. I read her rather dark Doomsday Book, the whimsical To Say Nothing of the Dog, and her funny contemp, Bellwether. I'd enjoyed all of them, but she had dropped off my radar in recent years.

I came across a new novel of hers, All Clear, when I was shelving new titles. The blurb said it was a sequel to Blackout, another time travel set during World War II. I found the audiobook for Blackout on the shelf and dove in.

The beginning might be a bit confusing if you haven't read her earlier time travel novels. Let's just say in the 21st century it becomes rather commonplace for historians to time travel to a particular time and place to do research. The 3 main characters, Meriope, Polly and Mike are all sent back to England in 1940. Dunkirk, the air war known as The Battle of Britain, and the London Blitz all occurred in that critical year. Each historian arrives well-prepared for their "drops": they have important information implanted in their brains and are dressed in appropriate clothing for the time. The detailed information is to prevent them from being caught up in the truly dangerous events of that year.

Yet, somehow, it all goes awry. Each of the main characters encounters small shifts in the supposedly fixed time stream, even though historians can't change the future. Or can they? Will the simple act of saving one soldier's life somehow change the outcome of the entire war?

Connie Willis skillfully interweaves the stories of the 3 main characters and brings them to a real cliffhanger of an ending. Her writing is rich with period detail, and even though it involves time travel, her novel seems realistic. You can feel the crump of bombs, hear the fear-raising drone of the Luftwaffe, smell the soot of a great city being firebombed into ash and dust. Despite having read up on World War II history, and having seen the newsreels of the period, I hadn't really understood how isolated the British were, and how incredibly brave. This indeed was their finest hour.

Word After Word After Word

(Newberry Award-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall)

By: Patricia MacLachlan, 128 pp

Lucy and her friends are all in the fourth grade together. A female author comes to visit their class room to talk about writing. She gets the class all excited about writing and at the end of the school year they get to share their words with their friends and family.

I enjoy how this author, Ms. Mirabel, explains how we all have words in us no matter real or unreal; truth or lies. We can all turn nonfiction into fiction anytime we set our hearts out to do. Also poetry is expressed in this little book for the kids in the story to try and find themselves and/or put into words how they feel.

There are a few of sad stories among these kids, but there is one little guy who just knows how to make all the others smile through their sad life - turn a sad into a funny. These fourth graders really like this author and can figure out how they too can be authors.

Word After Word After Word is an awesome read for those with writer's block......

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Cow Loves Cookies

by Karma Wilson, ill. by Marcellus Hall, 44 pages

Chickens like feed, geese like corn and horses like hay - and Farmer's cow LOVES cookies. Now just how does a cow get cookies?

With rhythmic patterns and rhyming words, this was a fun read. This book talks about what farm animals generally eat with a whimsical twist at the end. Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, this will definitely be going on my bookshelf soon!

Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

2011/288 pgs
About the Book: Payton Gritas has just found out that her father has MS. On top of that, she discovers that her parents have been keeping this news from her for months! Payton is furious and her parents make her attend counseling sessions at school. When her guidance counselor suggests that Payton make a focus journal, Payton decides her focus object will be Sean Griswold's head. He sits right in front of her in Biology and she's seen that head in alphabetical order for years.
But as her focus project continues, Payton realizes there may be more to Sean Griswold than just his head. He's smart, funny and he shares her love for Seinfeld. Can your focus object become your crush? And is any of this going to help Payton with her dad?
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Sean Griswold's Head is a contemporary novel that manages to weave together tough issues, romance, and humor making it heartfelt and hilarious at the same time.
Payton is dealing with her dad's diagnosis, a fight with her best friend, and navigating the strange world of your first love. She has a great voice and I liked her immediately. Even throughout everything, Payton keeps her sarcastic sense of humor. Her focus journal entries on Sean are hilarious.
Author Lindsey Leavitt keeps the tone of the book lighter without going into fluffy-chick lit this is not. And while there's a romance storyline, this isn't strictly a romance. This is Payton's story about how even when life might seem at it's worst, there are good spots too-and how exactly do you navigate the good with the bad.
I really loved this book. It was funny and sweet but also heartwrenching. You understand why Payton's upset and scared about her dad. While her actions are frustrating at times (she shuts her parents off and refuses to talk to them for months-realistic for teens, but hey, I'm an adult and wanted to tell her to talk to her dad!), they are realistic and I think teens will relate. I loved that there was humor mixed in-it helped keep the book from getting too dark. I also really liked that the story never got sappy-it stayed real and while Payton figures things out, it's not done in an over the top way.
I've already passed Sean Griswold's Head to the teens at my library and had them gushing over how great it was. So pass this along to your teens who want a contemporary read or maybe a lighter issue story-they'll love it just like I did!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

River of Blue Fire (Otherland: 2)

by Tad Williams
(1998 | 675 p)

Otherland, a massive virtual reality network, is composed of an unknown number of worlds. It's funded by a mysterious group of the wealthy and powerful who call themselves Grail Brotherhood; and, though nothing is clear, the primary purpose of the Brotherhood seems to be the maintenance of their own long lives... even at the expense of countless other. Across the globe children are going into medically inexplicable comas, including Renie Sulaweyo's little brother Stephen. Renie suspects that Stephen's strange illness is somehow connected to Otherland. Renie and her friend, a South African bushman named !Xabbu, sneak into the Otherland network in hopes of saving Stephen. Once in they find they are not alone in their search, nor is the Otherland network all that it appears to be.

Tad Williams has created an elaborate virtual reality landscape in this, his second installment of the Otherland series. I'm enjoying these stories as a delightful mix of fantasy and science fiction, two of my favorite genres. Most of the story occurs on a virtual reality network, yet each of the "worlds" (or VR servers) are as whimsical and imaginative as any fantasy novel.

Warning: This book is not for the easily distracted. At one point I counted as many as nine (yes, NINE) separate storylines. I enjoy an overly complex plot as much as the next sci-fi/fantasy nerd, but even I found myself unsettled by all the jumping around.

Still, with that caveat, I'm really looking forward to book three.

If I Grow Up

by Todd Strasser, 222 pages

DeShawn is a 12 year old African-American male growing up in the Frederick Douglass project of New York City. Everywhere he is surrounded by gunshots, gangs, drugs and violence. Death is an accepted part of daily life in this neighborhood. DeShawn is smart enough to know that staying in school and avoiding gang life is a righteous path - but when his family is starving while his gang-member peers have money for fancy shoes and electronics, will DeShawn's sense of right and wrong prevail or will he fall victim to the standard practices of life in the projects?

This story first appealed to me because it is told from DeShawn's point of view and is about growing up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. However, what immediately stuck out to me was the glaring linguistic differences between DeShawn's internal and external dialogues. This left me feeling off-kilter throughout the entire book.

I might have have been a bit more absorbed into the story if the internal dialogue was consistent and authentic to someone of DeShawn's admitted socioeconomic level. However, it is possible that the discrepancy was intentional - that it intended to show that DeShawn was smarter than the lifestyle he was destined to succumb to. Somehow the whole thing still fell short for me and felt unbalanced.

I wouldn't call the book "preachy" but I do feel that Strasser's message of racial inequity is a bit overbearing and misguided for a YA audience. If he took out all the space he spends with DeShawn spouting facts and statistics that in reality DeShawn would have little awareness of, then Strasser might have had a little more space for a story with a deeper plot line that doesn't rely so heavily on ghetto stereotypes. Granted, stereotypes are always based somewhere in reality, but this isn't a reality that is remotely close to Strasser's and it shows.

All that being said, I do think that this title could be an incredibly useful tool for fueling discussion within a young audience that simply isn't aware that this culture exists. I just felt the facts and statistics should have been saved for the epilogue.

Ducks in a Row

Story By: Lori Haskins Houran, Pictures by: Joe Mathieu

Based on the bestselling books by Jackie Urbanovic, 32 pp

A little duck named Max needs to be needed. He tries to get all of his friends who all have something to do but him, give him something to do to help them. None of them are paying any attention to him.
Then one day Max's three aunts come to visit before the first snow fall and they help him feel needed; until one day it is just too much for Max. He is tired and wants to rest very badly.
Finally, while outside in the garden, he saw the first snowflake! Yay! The aunts could leave now and give Max a break.
As soon as Max said his goodbyes to his aunts, he goes to his chair and hears, "Max!" Oh boy, what now? But it was only his friend, Irene, with a blanket for him to take a nap.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Spoken Word Revolution Redux" edited by Mark Eleveld

256 pages

These poems were written for poetry slams and are meant to be read aloud. A CD comes with the book so readers can hear many of the poems as they're intended to be heard. Spoken word poetry is supposed to be inclusive (rather than exclusive as academic and literary forms tend to be), so this collection includes poets from all kinds of backgrounds, from American and British poet laureates to national slam champions to high school kids who submitted their work. I had to read the original "Spoken Word Revolution" for a literature class in college and enjoyed it, so I grabbed this from the shelves when I saw it at my library. I was sort of disappointed, though. There are too many essays and not enough poetry, in my opinion. It seems like there are more pages devoted to discussion of what postmodern poetry is than actual poetry. Also, I would have liked to have more poems included on the CD (I'd say that audio is included for about a third of them) because most of these translate much better in sound than on paper. There were many poems that I didn't like much until I heard them on the CD. That said, there is plenty of good stuff in this book. As with any collection of poetry that I read, there were plenty of times that I had no idea what the poet was trying to say, but I usually liked how it sounded. There are several pieces that make you think and many are laugh-out-loud funny, especially in the satire section. "T.S. Eliot's Lost Hip-Hop Poem" and "Sylvia Plath's Gangsta Rap Legacy" are two of my favorites. This is great poetry for people who think traditional poems are dull.

I Won't Comb My Hair!

By: Annette Langen & Illustrated by: Frauke Bahr, 24 pp

First published in Switzerland under the title Carlotta.
Ever had or seen a troublesome child that does not want to do something they are told? Well, Tanya doesn't want to do something all the time, but especially comb her hair!
Her hair is all tangled and full of knots, yet she still refuses to comb her hair. Then one day, Tanya's hair has a couple of birds come into her hair and builds a nest. She enjoys this for along time especially after there are five chicks that hatch in the nest. She does all she can to help them out until one day when she bends over to pick up a worm for the birds, they almost tumble out. So for awhile she doesn't do anything.
One night she begins to hear other noises other than just the birds in her hair. All of a sudden she decides there is only one way to get the rest of the noises out of her hair & that is by combing her hair!
From then on, she wants to comb her hair twice a day and even fix her hair differently all the time.

Dying for Chocolate - A Culinary Mystery

By: Dianne Mott Davidson, 352 pp

Goldy Bear owns a catering business, she has a son named Arch, and has an ex-husband that is a danger to her; this is why she must get a new security system and replace her windows and doors in her home. While all of this change is taking place, Goldy and Arch stay in Aspen Meadow Country Club with an older couple and Goldy gets paid to cater to them.
Goldy has a couple of boyfriends on the side, one a police officer and one a psychiatrist. Well, that is until the psychiatrist dies in an automobile accident. However, Goldy believes that this was no accident! She snoops around, asking questions with all the acquaintances of the psychiatrist, but is very surprised how things really turn out in the end...And you will be too!
Book on CD - 3 CD's Only 3 Hours!!

The Runaway Dinner

by Allan Ahlberg, 40 pages

Every day, rain or shine, Banjo Cannon has a sausage for dinner. But one day, the sausage decides he doesn't want to be eaten - so off he goes, over the edge of the table, taking the rest of dinner with him. As Banjo follows his dinner across the town, they all end up in a variety of wacky situations.

Some younger children might find the idea of food growing legs, having names and being eaten a very disturbing cycle but for most the whole ridiculous storyline is a lot of fun. Although for me it was almost too bizarre at times.

This book's strongest trait is it's whimsical illustrations. They are what pulls the story along. Although I can't imagine reading this book more than a few times. Definitely not a classic in my collection.

Flavor of the week

By: Tucker Shaw, 220 pp

Flavor of the week is a cute story of love among teenagers, recipes after every chapter, fun throughout the whole book, and yet a bit of excitement too!
Cyril is a 16 year old chef who longs for a girl named Rose, but she does not see Cyril as the type of guy to date. He is her friend and she tells him everything about what is wrong with "all boys" but Cyril is "not just any of the other boys."
Rose meets Cyril's friend, Nick, who has come back home again from New York. Rose and Nick get together over kitchen-sink cookies that Cyril baked, but Nick takes the credit for it. After a few dates of Nick (actually Cyril) making delicious and savory meals for Rose, things begin to change...
Rose's friend, Jamie, finds out who the real chef is and tells Rose, but does Rose believe her? Find out when you read this story for yourself! It is a delicious story! Oh and try making the kitchen-sink cookies for yourself too and let us know how you like them. I am trying them this weekend! Enjoy!

Gin Tama, Volume 4: Exaggerate the Tales of Your Exploits by a Third, so Everyone Has a Good Time
by Hideaki Sorachi
192 p.
Kagura befriends a princess who just wants to have fun. Catherine, the lady who stole from Gin's landlady and now works for her, gets a visit from her former associates in crime. Gin and the gang attempt to save the boyfriend of Kimiko, who was previously kidnapped and rescued, only to find out he's a jerk. They also take a trip into space only to have their space flight hijacked and crashed on a desert planet. Shinpachi's sister, Otae, has her underwear stolen and the gang declares war on the elusive thief. Finally, Gin and the gang get involved with an old man who invents robots. This man is persuaded to use his robots to avenge the death of his sons, leading Gin to convince him that revenge is not the answer.

Classic Transformers Volume 6

by Simon Thurman, Bob Budiansky, and Ralph Macchio
314 p.

This is a collection of three stories. In the first story, Unicron is about to destroy Cybertron and the Autobots and Decepticons work together to defeat him. But their victory comes at a price, as Optimus Prime dies and the Decepticons leave the Autobots stranded on a dying Cybertron. Yet Grimlock, the new Autobot leader, was ready for this and helps the Autobots escape. Also, an Autobot called "the Last Autobot" appears and turns the tide in the Autobot/Decepticon war.
The second story is about the origin of the Headmaster and Targetmaster Transformers. The third story is an adaptation of the Transformers movie that came out in 1986.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"City of Thieves" by David Benioff

258 pages

In the introduction of "City of Thieves," a young screenwriter named David is visiting his Russian-born grandparents to hear their account of the Nazis' blockade of Leningrad during World War II. At first, I thought maybe this was the author and that, therefore, the story was based on actual events, but I've since seen reviews online indicating that Benioff made the entire thing up and all of his grandparents were born in the United States. Anyway, as David's grandfather, Lev, begins to tell his story, the perspective shifts from David to Lev and goes back to 1941, when Lev was a 17-year-old private in the Red Army. He's caught taking items from a dead German paratrooper--aka "looting"--and arrested by his own leaders. Then he's given a strange opportunity by a powerful Russian colonel: find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. If he completes the task within a week, he'll go free; if not, he will be given the standard sentence for looting during war time: execution. Finding some eggs should be no problem, right? Not in Leningrad in 1941, as the Germans had cut off supplies and blockaded the area. Lev has a partner in his quest, a young deserter named Kolya, who is also facing death if they don't complete their mission. The two are sort of an odd couple, as Lev is scrawny, shy, and quiet while Koyla is big, handsome, and loud. They squabble at first, but soon they learn to put their differences aside and even become friends as their quest takes them behind enemy lines.

"City of Thieves" blew me away, for several reasons. The story grabbed me immediately. It jumps into the action right away--the introduction is only a few pages long, and Lev is caught looting and arrested in the first few pages. The main premise--a pair of complete opposites wandering around in search of eggs--seems silly in contrast to the horrific environment the boys are in, and there is a lot of contrast in the tone as well. On one page I would be laughing at Kolya's antics and his interaction with Lev, and then on the next page they would witness a violent, sickening act of war that would make me cringe. At parts, the suspense had me at the edge of my seat, heart pounding. Despite the lack of background info on the characters, I completely connected with them as I learned little bits about their lives throughout the story. Though part of the ending broke my heart, I thought it was a satisfying conclusion. There's torture, cannibalism, and many other unpleasant things in this story, so I don't recommend it for those who are squeamish. But anyone who wants an exciting story that also makes you laugh AND feel something will probably love "City of Thieves."


by Scott Westerfeld, 440 pages

As World War I begins, all the greatest European powers start to divide. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their clanker machines and the British have their Darwinist, fabricated beasties. Prince Aleksanders parents have been murdered by the Germans and now he must flee his home with Count Volger and his master of mechaniks teacher or risk being killed himself. Shortly after arriving at their hideout in the mountains of Switzerland they are joined by a badly wounded Darwinist air ship, the Leviathan. Alek goes against Count Volgers advice and tries to help the ship, but they soon find out that he is Austro-Hungarian. To save Alek they make a deal with the Leviathan, they will replace the ships engines with their clanker engines as well as help run them if they ship will fly them to safety. While on the ship they must keep their true identities a secret, but Alek's new friend Dylan Sharp discovers their secret. Their Secret is safe with Mr. Sharp, who has a very big secret of his own. Will their secrets be discovered? Will the Leviathan captains keep their word and fly them to safety?

Long Day's Journey into Night

by Eugene O'Neill, 179 pages

The Tyrones are a family ravaged by addiction.  The family is filled with denial, alienation, recriminations, and an odd camaraderie that comes from being bound by blood.  This play recounts a day that is both typical and remarkable in the course of their lives.  "Long Day's Journey into Night" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.

I was warned before reading this (as I was with another of O'Neill's plays, "Moon for the Misbegotten") that I would probably be depressed by it.  Maybe I just need to be contrary, but I didn't have that reaction at all.  Yes, the characters are dark and haunted, and there's no happy ending, but I thought this was a brilliant portrayal of the cycle of addiction in families.  The Tyrones carefully balance the line between love and hate in their family dynamics, never quite falling over the edge despite all provocation.  Each character is a picture of wasted potential and thwarted dreams, but they still spark with intelligence and poetry despite their lowered circumstances.  This is beautifully written and remains relevant in today's society.

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman, 197 pages

Mia is a 17 year old talented cellist with the prospect of Julliard in her future. The biggest choice facing her is whether to move to New York City to pursue the career of her dreams or stay in Oregon and follow her boyfriend Adam as he pursues his. Then in an instant, everything changes. In a coma after a horrific car crash kills her entire family, Mia is left with the only choice that really matters - stay and live her life with grief or join her family in death?

This novel packs quite a punch into it's 197 pages. It chronicles Mia's out-of-body experience as she relives the people and experiences that brought her to this point in her life. The characters are well-written and even though the book is ultimately about death, they breathe plenty of life into the pages. The narrative is funny and heartwarming and leaves the reader feeling just as confused as Mia about the decision she has to make.

This book is powerful, life-affirming type of material written in a very graceful, flowing way. It tackles some sophisticated issues that probably aren't on the immediate minds of most young adults. However, I think after having read this book, many young adults might shed their cloak of invincibility. Impermanence is a hard life lesson to learn but this novel helps ease the realization.

Oh No She Didn't: the Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them

by Clinton Kelly, 201 pages

Thank you to the ladies who have previously recommended this book.  It was hilarious.  The title about says it all: women wear some bizarre and unsightly things, and Clinton is here to save us from ourselves.  Almost every page had a laugh.  I couldn't keep it all in, so I ended up reading parts of this book out loud to my husband, mom, and several co-workers while on my break.  The pictures are a  riot, too.  If you need some light, fun (and surprisingly helpful) fashion advice, this is the book for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lady Sings the Blues

by Billie Holiday
(1956 | 224 p)

Eleanora Fagan was born April 7, 1915. Her mother was only 13 and her father was pretty much absent. Eleanora was raised by family while her mother worked; her childhood was painful and short. At 13 Eleanora was working as a prostitute, by 14 she was singing her unique style of jazz as Billie Holiday in Brooklyn clubs. Racism and drug addiction dogged her for most of her career but her unyielding spirit could never by broken.

In "Lady Sings the Blues" Billie Holiday tells us her story in her own, bold words. There were parts of her story that made me cringe, others that left me behind. The stories are not necessarily shared chronologically and words aren't wasted on clarifications. Either you know who and what Ms. Holiday is talking about or you don't. If you don't you'll have to go elsewhere for explanations. Her autobiography is not what I'd call well crafted, but it is still well told. Through the rough edges of her prose Ms. Holiday reveals more of herself than would be found in any professionally written biography.

I'd recommend this book to anyone, but it would be particularly well received by those interested in Women's history or African American history. It's also a must read for fans of jazz.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 21

by CLAMP, 184 pages

Still more drama, revelations, and plots and counter plots. Sacrifices and interventions abound as Fai recalls and faces his past and attempts to ensure the future of others by risking his own. Being true friends, of course, they'll have none of that.

Ack! I want to know what happens next. I'm not entirely clear on all the details of what just transpired or why, but I imagine the next installment will at least give me hints. This one relies a bit much on flashbacks (some of which we've seen a few times already from multiple perspectives) that sometimes awkwardly interrupt the present action, but if it clarifies the current goings on, then so be it. CLAMP sure do like to put their characters through the wringer. But maybe that's why their bonds are all so tight and I get so attached to them.

RASL: Pocket Book One

by Jeff Smith, 228 pages

RASL is an art thief. Only he doesn't go about stealing paintings in the normal fashion. He travels to parallel universes and snatches theirs. The physically taxing drift technology he uses to do this, he also stole. But then he helped to create it, back when he was still known as Robert and still trusted his friend and fellow electromagnetism scientist Miles to do the right thing and cancel the St. George Array program when Robert discovered Tesla's secret journals fearing its dangers. But that's all in the past. Now somebody in a suit has killed RASL's hooker girlfriend in his own world, followed him through the drift and across parallel universes, and threatened to kill off everyone he knows in every universe if he doesn't hand over the journals soon. But if RASL gives them what they want, they'll misuse the knowledge and everyone will suffer.

Quantum physics and gritty modern noir come together in this graphic novel series from the creator of BONE. It isn't pretty, but it has my attention. And, hey, bonus history lesson on the war between Tesla and Edison!

Shaman Warrior: Volume 7

by Joong-Ki Park, 199 pages

The Manutu assassination plot against the Kugai does not fare well, though Yaki, Batu, and the others don't let the enemy off lightly. But sadly, not all of their small group walk away, either. In retaliation, the Kugai start beefing up their recruitment efforts, and one of their new faces is not so new to the reader, though he's changed much since last we saw him. What's next for the beaten rebels and the long-suffering people for whom they fight?

Owy, owy, owy. This volume hurts. Not just for those we lose, but for those we meet again who are lost in an all together different way. Communication needs to happen soon, or an already tragic story will only get worse. If it makes me care this much, I must like it; but that doesn't mean I'll be happy if all goes as badly as it could. Great fighting action and powerful, sometimes painful, images. This is one series where I wish they had the time and money to color it, because the full-color covers and occasionally colored intro pages are just kewl.

X/1999: Volume 3: Sonata

by CLAMP, 182 pages

The Princess and Miss Kanoe, seers for the opposing forces (the Seven Seals and the Seven Harbingers) in the battle to come, both have dire visions of the future in which the fate of the world hinges not on Kamui choosing between two paths, but on two Kamuis battling it out for good or for ill. The Princess hopes the right Kamui will win. Miss Kanoe intends to make sure there's only one left before it even gets to that. Will her lies influence those closest to Kamui?

Ooh, I don't like it when baddies trick goodies into doing bad things they believe to be good! It always ends with everybody miserable. Don't listen to the evil lady, Fuma! And who are some of these other characters bumping into each other on Tokyo's darkened streets? Friends? Foes? Knowing the wily ways of CLAMP, the distinction may not be that easy.

With current events what they are, the seers' future visions of a leveled Tokyo make for some sobering reading. If only the news were just fiction, too....

Switch: Volume 11

by Naked Ape (Saki Otoh and Nakamura Tomomi), 174 pages

Kai Eto, a rookie investigator for the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division, is normally a sweet kid, but when situations go south, he slips into a darker part of his personality that springs from his shadowy, unpleasant past. With his cool-tempered, serious partner Hal Kurabayashi, Kai tracks down and takes down those who would make a profit off of society's addictions.

In this volume, a snitch turns out to be playing the system in order to help out a new drug ring by conveniently squealing on the competition. There are also some flashback stories involving a few of the other investigators from when they, too, were rookies.

Please ignore the gosh awful cover art on this volume. Gah! I swear it doesn't look like that on the inside. That said, however, I must admit that while I keep reading this series because I generally like the stories, my eyes and brain go a bit fuzzy by the time I get to the end of one because it's nearly impossible to keep the many, too-similar, too-inconsistently depicted characters straight. Even the flashbacks are not clearly marked as such, so it takes a few pages to figure out a.) who the people are and b.) that it's old news to them. There's not enough variation in the thickness of the line work and there's too much black overall, making everything really high-contrast and stark, which limits helpful details and makes my eyes tired. The creators also don't give any kind of help with names and roles to put with faces at the beginning of volumes or storylines (although they do toss in an occasional label box in the flash backs). When you have months in between books, you might need a refresher now and then! Despite my whinging, the plots are interesting and the characters' back stories are relevant to the present goings-on in appropriately sinister ways, so I'm sure I'll still pick up the next one and see if Kai and Hal and the gang get any closer to the true source of their biggest problems.

Your & My Secret: Volume 6

by Ai Morinaga, 162 pages

Akira is a very quiet, well-behaved, thoughtful young man with an unrequited crush on his loud, rule-breaking, selfish classmate Momoi, but neither of them has much luck in love, since everyone just ignores unmanly Akira and runs away from unladylike Momoi. Until, that is, Momoi's irresponsible inventor grandfather "accidentally" causes them to switch bodies. Suddenly, "Momoi" is a perfect lady and "Akira" is a man's man! Momoi, ecstatic at no longer having her brash behavior censured, breaks her grandfather's machine and pretty much takes over Akira's life. When she starts dating her own best friend Shiina, Akira turns to his best friend Senbongi for help and confesses the embarrassing truth to him. But with "Momoi" no longer the unapproachable hellion, Senbongi's not exactly adverse to the new status quo, either. What's a confused boy trapped in a girl's body to do?

This is one of those series where I didn't quite realize what I'd gotten myself into until I was too sucked into Akira's plight and the edgy slapstick to turn back. At first, I was all "put them back! let them be themselves!" but now I'm not so sure. I just want everyone to be happy! Mean Momoi's putting someone else's feelings before her own for the first time in her life and both she and Akira are finally finding acceptance for being themselves (only not). It's sad that the only way that can happen is for them to physically cave to gender stereotypes, so I'm conflicted. But the story's not over yet and who knows what will happen next. Besides, this is a bawdy comedy and probably isn't meant to be critiqued too deeply. Hmmmm.... Might be a good fit for older teens and others who like to laugh while pushing boundaries.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

I started reading this book because my 12 year old is reading it for school but I quickly fell under its spell.  Jenna wakes from a coma and doesn't remember anything about her accident, her parents, or anything else. As time passes she begins to remember but there are big gaps and some really strange stuff.  The mystery of Jenna's life unfolds in this fast-paced, interesting, sad and strange story with a slight hint of science fiction.  I highly recommend it.  It's a Truman Award Nominee for 2010-2011.
Kim F
265 pp

Love*Com: Volume 15

by Aya Nakahara, 180 pages

Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Ôtani are an odd couple--she's the tallest girl in class, he's the shortest guy, and just seeing them standing next to one another sends their otherwise-encouraging classmates into fits of laughter--but they've long since come to terms with their many contrasts and instead focus on enjoying what remains of their high school life while looking toward the future. This usually entails a lot of giggling.

In this volume, the kids travel to a tropical island for their outgoing teacher Mighty's wedding, but--as seems to happen every time Koizumi and Ôtani go on a trip together--plans do not go off without a hitch. Add to that their friend Seiko-chan's identity crisis, Ôtani's former basketball team's dire straits, and their graduation committee responsibilities, and the duo's going to have one very busy final year.

Love*Com (short for Lovely Complex) is a great romantic comedy. Koizumi and Ôtani pick on each other constantly, but without hurtfulness and with an understanding that they're far more alike than they are different, though it takes them a while to figure that out. Watching them get past that seven-inch hurdle over the course of the series has been much fun and I will be sad when it's over. The art is as much a plus as the characters and story. Nakahara does wonders with expressing her characters' wide range of emotions, whether subtle or exaggerated, and gives them individual wardrobes and hairstyles that change from day to day (and occasionally resurface, just like your own closet's contents) rather than the more usual and easier tack of keeping them in school uniforms and the same dos all the time.

For fun, snickers, sweetness, and some more snickers, you really can't go wrong with this one. :)

No Ghost Under My Bed by Guido van Genechten

2010/30 pgs

About the Book: Jake is a young penguin who keeps hearing noises in his room. He's convinced there's a ghost hiding in there and he calls to Dad to come save the day.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I liked the story in this book but overall it just was sort of an OK read. I did enjoy the illustrations. In addition to Jake, there are various stuffed animals that react to the noises, so it's fun to watch them change with each page. But the text of the book fell a bit flat for me and made it just OK.

The Best Pet Ever by Victoria Roberts, illustrated by Deborah Allwright

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: A little girl begs her mother for a pet, but all her mother says is"we'll see." So she uses her imagination to come up with the best pet ever.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I remember as a young child taking my invisible dog for a walk or pretending my stuffed animals were real pets. I'm sure this book will resonate with any child who has longed for a pet, but been told "no" or "we'll see" (which in my house still meant no!)

The little girl has a great imagination and comes up with ways to play with her creative new pets. This book could be a great opening for creative play with young kids.

Chick 'N' Pug by Jennifer Sattler

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: Chick has read The Adventures of Wonder Pug 127 times. So chick sets off to find himself adventure with his own wonder pug. But when finds a pug, there's no adventure or excitement.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a cute book, but I wasn't all that impressed with it. Chick wants Pug to be like his hero, but Pug turns out to be lazy and boring. But Chick motivates him and becomes his sidekick. There's some humor and the illustrations are great, but it didn't really stand out to me at all.