Have You Heard

Post date: Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 2:29am

Have You Heard About... Bloodsucking Fiends

… the vampires in San Francisco? Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends* is a wonderfully funny story filled with odd characters and bizarre situations. Jody Stroud didn’t believe in vampires until she woke up under a dumpster, burned by sunlight and craving blood. C. Thomas (Tommy) Flood is a would-be writer from Indiana who works nights at a Safeway. Somehow, they not only meet and bond, but manage to fall in love and save San Francisco. They’re helped (mostly) by Emperor Norton and Tommy’s crazy co-workers.

This bizarre urban fantasy is packed with slap-stick and scatological humor, as well as insane situations that somehow make sense at the time. It manages to be believable partly because it seems too strange not to be true and partly because Christopher Moore does such a wonderful job of mixing the weirdly true with the truly weird. If you can believe in stoner night-shift stock boys bowling with frozen turkeys and a homeless man who thinks he is the Emperor of San Francisco, are vampires really that much harder?

* The later books in the series are You Suck and Bite Me.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 2:29am

Have You Heard About... Oh No She Didn’t

…what you shouldn’t wear?  Oh No She Didn’t: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Learn From Them by Clinton Kelly helps you identify and avoid common fashion mistakes. You don’t have to watch TLC’s ‘What Not to Wear” to know that this book will be funny, insulting, politically incorrect, sarcastic, and very informative. No matter how you take this book, Clinton Kelly knows what he’s talking about, and he’s talking about YOU. Just because some celebrity wore her pj’s to the grocery store or Ugg boots with shorts doesn’t mean it’s the latest fashion and you need to do it too. Clinton hates ‘mommy jeans’ – (elastic at the waist jeans). Sorry Clinton, you’ll never get me to wear jeans without an elastic waist. I want comfort.

Scrunchies. If you’re 3 years old they’re great. If you’re 43 they look stupid. T-shirts with logos are dorky. Horizontal stripes make you look fat.

Face it. You’re you. Unique. One- of-a-kind. You’ll never live up to Clinton’s standard of style, and some of the tips should be common sense. Clinton makes fun of how people look to get his point across. Lots of photos in the book make this an interesting, fast read.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 2:53am

Have You Heard About... Manga Man

…the funny-looking high school student? Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran’s Manga Man is a teenager from a manga world who falls through a rip into an American comic. Ryoko Kiyama still has all of his manga characteristics – big eyes, action lines, sweat drops, a tendency to change shape when he’s overcome with cuteness, and more – in a world that doesn’t support them. Everything is different here, from cultural norms to physics. The school custodian complains about having to clean up Ryoko’s action lines, and another student is badly hurt because Ryoko doesn’t understand how permanent injuries can be.

This graphic novel is an excellent look at being an outsider. Most teens feel like aliens in a world that doesn’t understand them, and Barry Lyga vividly portrays this with Ryoko and the American students in the high school. The tension increases when a beautiful girl falls in love with the bizarre stranger. Behind the scenes, monsters from the rip are trying to break through, too. Colleen Doran does a beautiful job with the art of both American comics and manga, showing the dichotomy between the two styles and making good use of manga’s distinctive characteristics.

Teen angst, science-fiction adventure, and romance – Manga Man has it all.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 2:47am

Have You Heard About... Murder at the PTA

… the unpopular principal who was murdered? Laura Alden’s Murder at the PTA* is set in Wisconsin. Bookstore owner and divorced mom of two, Beth Kennedy gets talked into running for a slot on the PTA board when the school principal is murdered.

Beth is not one to sit on the sidelines. When asked to help clean out the deceased’s home perishables, of course Beth has to snoop around and learn all kinds of secrets about the former principal. One secret is the private funding of a new addition for a school library with computers. With quirky characters, goofy and gossipy blogging by Beth and her friends, interesting facts about the Hmong immigrants in this part of Wisconsin and even a few bits of trivia on pop culture, this is a fun cozy mystery read.

* The second book in this series is Foul Play at the PTA.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 2:49am

Have You Heard About... Welcome to Bordertown

…the hidden city on the border between our world and the Realm of the elves? Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner, brings readers back to one of the first shared worlds of urban fantasy. This new anthology includes works by some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction – Terri Windling (who created Bordertown and edited the first collections of stories about it), Cory Doctorow, Patricia McKillip, Catherynne M. Valente, Jane Yolen, Tim Pratt, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and many others. In addition to short stories, there are poems, song lyrics, and a graphic novel.

Bordertown is a difficult, confusing city caught between the World of technology and the Realm of magic. It is hard to reach under the best of circumstances, although a route can usually be found from almost any urban area. However, the way there was closed completely for thirteen years. At least, it was thirteen years in the World; only thirteen days passed in Bordertown itself, and no one knows how much time went by in the Realm. Magic and technology work only intermittently in Bordertown, so those who live there learn to rely on both and neither – strange mishmashes of spells and batteries and engines that run when you whisper a charm over them. Newcomers bring new technology, dreams, and ideas to the city, but they have to adjust to a world without the internet or cell phones or instant access to everything.

Bordertown is a world of fairy tales, but it is far more Grimm than Disney. Many of the stories feature runaways and young people looking for adventure, from both sides of the border. Frequently, they find both more and less than they expected – gangs, cheap squats in rundown buildings, strange plants and animals (and people), music, art, the chance to live their dreams, and the chance to starve to death. Life on the border is not easy, but it can be beautiful.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 2:43am

Have You Heard About... The 1940s House

…the modern British family that decided to see what life was like in World War II Britain? In 2000, a three-generation family tackles the lifestyle of The 1940s House.

See what it’s like as they endure without the “modern” conveniences of the 21st century. The Brits had it a lot harder than the Americans during the war years and for a long time afterwards. Making your own bomb shelter and having to use a chamber pot, women working in factories for the first time, food rationing, and the difficulties of cooking. Air raids and the lack of sleep. Learn how America raised their morale during this period of time. No cell phones or video games. You had to use your imagination and make your own fun. Could you cope? See how this experience changed their lives.

This is a fascinating look into the past.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 2:55am

Have You Heard About... No Such Thing as Ghosts

… the young dragon who has had adventures with ninja frogs and giant bats? Danny Dragonbreath investigates a haunted house on Halloween night in his latest adventure – Ursula Vernon’s No Such Thing as Ghosts*. Danny, his best friend Wendell, and their classmate Christiana are out trick-or-treating when a bully challenges them to check out a spooky abandoned house. Christiana doesn’t believe in ghosts (or dragons, for that matter), so she comes up with rational explanations for most of the things they encounter. However, logic and skepticism are no match for the weirdness that happens around Danny, and the three friends must make a great sacrifice to escape the house and return to their families.

The entire Dragonbreath series is filled with Ursula Vernon’s quirky writing and wonderfully fun artwork, with a great mix of silliness and creepiness. Much of the book is text, but the art is cleverly integrated through frequent comic-style pieces in green, black, and white. Danny’s enthusiasm, wild imagination and love of the bizarre are tempered by his friend Wendell’s nerdiness and fear of, well, everything. Although No Such Thing as Ghosts is the fifth book in the series, it can be enjoyed without reading the others. They are all quick, fun reads, though, and well worth the time.

One of my favorite quotes (from p. 85):

[Danny] ran the flashlight over the boxes. Most of them had things written on the side like “Summer clothes” and “Kitchen stuff,” but then again, if you were a cannibal, you probably didn’t put labels like “Yummy dead bodies” and “Fresh corpses” on your boxes, did you?

* The earlier books in this series are Dragonbreath, Attack of the Ninja Frogs, Curse of the Were-Wiener, and Lair of the Bat Monster.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 2:55am

Have You Heard About... Lobsters Scream when You Boil Them

…the screaming lobsters? This food myth is debunked in Lobsters Scream when You Boil Them: And 100 Other Myths about Food and Cooking by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. Lobsters don’t have vocal cords. If you hear a whine, it’s their joints whistling. Food prepared at home is safer then food prepared at a restaurant. Not necessarily so. Restaurants have health inspectors. Eating candy causes acne. Think about this. Eating carrots helps your eyesight. Maybe. A gas stove is better than electric. This argument will go on forever.

Just because you’ve heard these things forever from your Mom, Grandma or the foodie guru on TV, doesn’t necessarily make them correct. With insightful info on the why’s and why not’s of 100 food myths, this book is presented in a funny and easy-to-read way. It has short headings so you can skim through the book fast or pick a favorite topic. Several recipes are also included.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 2:30am

Have You Heard About... Old Man’s War

… the military retirement plan?  At age seventy-five, you can join the army and go to war in outer space.  That’s the basic premise of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War*.  Despite the vast reaches of space, habitable planets are few and far between, so competition for them is fierce, and mankind must fight to defend Earth and find our own space to colonize.

The wars are brutal and never-ending, military training is harsh, and the new recruits will never see their homes again.  This book could easily have become cold and depressing, but Scalzi’s deft writing saves it.  He beautifully juggles gritty realism with wry humor, alien technology, and realistic characterization.  He also encourages the reader to think about what it means to be human and the purposes of war.  If you enjoy military or science fiction, give this book a try.

* The later books in this series are The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, and Zoe’s Tale.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 2:22am

Have You Heard About... A Decadent Way to Die

… the Georgia gal whose sassy southernisms and love of good chocolate and food make some great mysteries? Savannah Reid stars in A Decadent Way to Die*, the sixteenth book in the series by G. A. McKevett.

Granny Reid raised Savannah and all of her many siblings, who turn up in a lot of the books. Savannah was a cop in San Carmelita, a southern California town, and when she was fired, she decided to open her own detective agency. Her former cop partner, Dirk, assistant-in-training Tammy, and two dear friends now help her with her cases. Savannah is hired to look into the “suspicious accidents” of eighty-year-old world famous doll maker Helene Strauss. Helene’s granddaughter doesn’t think these so called “accidents” are really that but an attempt to kill her feisty, “tell it like is” grandmother instead.

Savannah has her hands full with all of Helene’s family members. With all of this new case going on, Tammy is in serious trouble as well. Savannah has a big heart and does her best to bring justice to those who deserve it.

All of these books have a slight message, and this one deals with abuse. You’ll need a Kleenex for the heart stopping ending.

Each of these sixteen books stands alone, but I strongly recommend that you read all of the books in this fantastic series so as not to miss any of action.

*The previous books in the series are Just Desserts, Bitter Sweets, Killer Calories, Cooked Goose, Sugar and Spite, Sour Grapes, Peaches and Screams, Death by Chocolate, Cereal Killer, Murder a la Mode, Corpse Suzette, Fat Free and Fatal, Poisoned Tarts, A Body to Die For, and Wicked Craving.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)