Tag Archives: humor

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen

Squirm by Carl Hiaasen. September 25, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780385752985.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 740.

Snakes, grizzlies, a missing dad, a menacing drone… Carl Hiaasen delivers a wickledly funny, slightly subversive tale in his latest New York Times bestseller. 

Some facts about Billy Dickens:
*  He once saw a biker swerve across the road in order to run over a snake.
*  Later, that motorcycle somehow ended up at the bottom of a canal.
*  Billy isn’t the type to let things go.

Some facts about Billy’s family:
*  They’ve lived in six different Florida towns because Billy’s mom insists on getting a house near a bald eagle nest.
*  Billy’s dad left when he was four and is a total mystery.
*  Billy has just found his dad’s address–in Montana.

This summer, Billy will fly across the country, hike a mountain, float a river, dodge a grizzly bear, shoot down a spy drone, save a neighbor’s cat, save an endangered panther, and then try to save his own father.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Cruelty to animals, Mild language, Reference to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 5-8. Billy Dickens isn’t your typical tween—unless your typical tween has a thing for rattlesnakes. His dad’s been out of the picture for as long as he can remember, but when Billy gets ahold of his address—Montana, not far from Yellowstone—the savvy, brave oddball flies out there solo to track him down. What he finds instead is his stepsister, Summer Chasing-Hawks, and his dad’s new wife, Little Thunder Sky, aka Lil, both Crow Indians. Unfortunately, his dad’s not so easy to track down. As the story spans from Montana to Florida and back, Billy continues to find and lose his father, who’s in a bit of a wild goose chase himself, hunting down rich-boy poacher Lincoln Chumley Baxter. As always, Hiaasen’s latest is richly steeped in the natural world and all the peril it contains, from rattlers to grizzlies. Still, what may be most satisfying for readers are the personal connections Billy makes, whether it’s getting to know his new stepsister or making peace with his dad. Hiaasen’s fan base will relish his latest tale.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Billy Dickens is not the kind of kid who suffers bullies or poachers or absent parents. Billy’s dad left when Billy was 3. Checks arrive on the 10th of every month, but Billy’s mom destroys the envelopes to keep the return address from Billy. Shortly before summer vacation, Billy pieces one together and discovers his father’s in Montana, so he leaves Florida to find him. Billy’s tired of his mother’s evasiveness about his father—all he knows is that he’s got a new wife and family—and Billy’s ready for answers. In Montana, Billy meets Lil, his stepmother, and Summer, his stepsister, both members of the Crow Nation. But not his dad. Lil and Summer profess to know as little as his mother about his dad’s actual job, but they don’t mind having Billy wait with them for him to return (they even give him a little primer on U.S.–Native Nations relations). When his father’s truck is found abandoned with slashed tires, they get a message via drone: “See you in Florida.” Billy’s had enough. He tracks his dad down, but that turns out to be just the beginning of his adventure. Hiaasen’s newest wildlife-centered caper for middle graders is characteristically entertaining—and, just as characteristically, genially improbable. Narrator Billy’s white, a sarcastic outsider with a strong sense of justice and a deep affection for snakes. Humorous, self-deprecating narration and convoluted exploits will keep pages turning till the satisfying close. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Carl Hiaasen was born and raised in Florida. After graduating from the University of Florida, he joined the Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the newspaper’s weekly magazine and prize-winning investigations team. As a journalist and author, Carl has spent most of his life advocating for the protection of the Florida Everglades. He and his family live in southern Florida.

Her website is www.carlhiaasen.com

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Whatshisface by Gordon Korman

Whatshisface by Gordon Korman. May 8, 2018. Scholastic Press, 240 p. ISBN: 9781338200164.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 770.

Gordon Korman’s newest standalone novel, is a fun, funny ghost story about a nobody kid who becomes a somebody while helping a ghost right a wrong from the past.

When 12-year-old Cooper Vega moves for the third time in five years, he receives a state-of-the-art smartphone to help him stay in touch with old friends. He’s had phones before, but this one is buggy and unpredictable. When a boy named Roderick Northrop communicates with him through the phone, Cooper realizes that his phone isn’t buggy at all: the thing is haunted!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. After moving five times in three years, Cooper’s not surprised when the kids at Stratford Middle School call him Whatshisface, but two new acquaintances stun him. First Jolie, a petite, self-assured classmate who loves theater and extreme sports, befriends him. Then he meets Roddy, the ghost of a 13-year-old Elizabethan apprentice, who inhabits his new cell phone and claims to have written the original version of Romeo and Juliet. The plot thickens when both Jolie’s and Cooper’s brutish nemeses take the leading roles in the seventh-grade production of the play. Meanwhile, Cooper and Roddy attempt to retrieve his original manuscript from a billionaire’s secret vault. The novel has a bit of everything: history, crime, suspense, romance, and plenty of humor. While becoming more familiar with sixteenth-century English customs and language, readers will have the fun of hearing Roddy react to twentieth-century American culture and technology. The question “Who wrote Shakespeare’s plays?” arises, but pales in comparison with “What would you do to help a friend?” Korman’s latest is an enjoyable romp from start to finish.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-Army brat Cooper Vega is used to starting over in new places and being practically invisible. As he starts seventh grade at yet another school, his parents have given him a state-of-the-art cell phone. Unfortunately, the phone proves to be haunted by the ghost of an Elizabethan printer’s apprentice who claims to be the original author of Romeo and Juliet, which is being performed at his new school. Funny scenarios abound, especially when Cooper starts taking the ghost’s advice on how to impress the girl he likes. This humorous and well-paced read touches on bullying, crushes, and popularity, with a side of the Bard. VERDICT Korman fans will not be disappointed.-Misti Tidman, -Mansfield/Richland County Public Library, OH

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 323 p. ISBN: 9780374304089.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Clara Shin loves her untethered L.A. life, where she lives with her young Korean Brazilian dad. But when a prom prank turns into a brawl, her punishment is the worst she can imagine: working all summer on her dad’s hot, cramped food truck, KoBra, instead of vacationing in Mexico with her mom. As if that weren’t bad enough, overachiever and perennial enemy Rose Carver must also work on the truck as punishment for her part in the scuffle. Clever strategies by Dad lead Clara and Rose to see each other less as adversaries and more as friends. Meanwhile, a Chinese boy named Hamlet expresses interest in Clara and helps her realize that perhaps her old self isn’t the one she wants to embrace going forward. Flip, hip narrator Clara may seem a tad unlikable at first, but readers can’t help but get caught up in her bumpy coming-of-age journey, applauding her increasing attachment to KoBra and her drive to help facilitate her dad’s dream of opening a restaurant. With massive amounts of humor, heart, and soul, this love letter to L.A. and its diversity is a celebration of friends, family, and food trucks.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A spirited teenager learns about the meaning of love, friendship, and family. When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer. Clara’s insouciant and rebellious demeanor hides profound feelings of rejection over her glamorous mother’s decision to leave the family when Clara was 4 to jaunt around the world as a social media influencer. Clara is most comfortable hanging out with a crowd of kids who are similarly rebellious and disengaged, but a budding romance with earnest Chinese heartthrob Hamlet Wong, who works in a neighboring food truck, and a developing friendship with Rose, who has never had a BFF, teach Clara that there’s an upside to taking risks and letting people get close. When Clara feels hurt by her father’s negative reaction to a well-intentioned surprise, she takes off on an adventure that ultimately opens her eyes to all the good things that await her back home. Clara’s personal growth during this summer of change is realistic and convincing. Snappy dialogue and an endearing cast of characters bring to life this richly-drawn portrait of multicultural LA. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Her website is www.maurenegoo.com

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How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand

How You Ruined My Life by Jeff Strand. April 3, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 304 p. ISBN: 9781492662020.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

A new hilarious novel from the author of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever and Stranger Things Have Happened.

Rod’s life doesn’t suck. If you ask him, it’s pretty awesome. He may not be popular, but he and his best friends play in a band that has a standing gig. Yeah, it’s Monday night and they don’t get paid, but they can turn the volume up as loud as they want. And Rod’s girlfriend is hot, smart, and believes in their band―believes in Rod. Aside from a winning lottery ticket, what more could he ask for?

Answer: A different cousin. When Rod’s scheming, two-faced cousin Blake moves in for the semester, Rod tries to keep calm. Blake seems to have everyone else fooled with good manners and suave smile, except Rod knows better. Blake is taking over his room, taking over his band, taking over his life! But Rod’s not about to give up without a fight. Game on. May the best prankster win…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 8-11. Rod is pretty satisfied with his life. Sure, his dad left, but he’s got a fun band and a great girlfriend. Then his mom announces that Rod’s cousin, Blake, is coming to stay for three months. Rod’s not thrilled about sharing his room for a semester, but he supposes it could be worse—and as soon as he picks up Blake from the airport, it is. Entitled, lazy Blake is a pain in the ass, but only to Rod; in front of everyone else, he’s completely charming. After a few days of this gaslighting, Rod’s starting to go a little crazy. But even if no one else believes it, he knows Blake is trying to take over his life, and Rod is about to start fighting back. Strand (Stranger Things Have Happened, 2017) imbues Rod’s downward spiral with plenty of wacky humor, and if Rod’s outbursts are a bit overly dramatic at times, readers will be too busy sympathizing with him to care. A family drama guaranteed to keep readers laughing.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2018)
Two cousins trapped under the same roof engage in psychological warfare.Rod may not be very popular or live in a big house, but he has a tight group of friends, an up-and-coming band, and a perfectly sweet girlfriend. His dad abandoned the family, but Rod is close to his mom, a waitress. All in all, plenty to be thankful for. However, when his wealthy cousin Blake’s parents go on a three-month around-the-world cruise, guess who shows up for an extended visit? Blake and Rod get off on the wrong foot, and the pair’s conflict quickly devolves into a battle of wills and mutual sabotage. As Blake, with his high-handed arrogance, systematically chips away at Rod’s sanity, readers will howl with laughter, cringing as the author twists the screws at perfectly placed intervals. The resolution is a tad disappointing, but Rod’s narration is amusing, with a playful awareness of literary convention that makes for a breezy read. The tertiary characters are thin, particularly Rod’s band mates (readers may have trouble telling them apart), but the book aims for laughs, and it earns them. All major characters are assumed white. A well-paced comedy that doesn’t quite stick the landing. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jeff Strand lives in Tampa, Florida, and doesn’t believe in voodoo. But he still thinks you should carry a doll around, go up to people you don’t like, and chuckle while you jab it with pins, just to make them squirm.

His website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

 

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How You Ruined My Life on Amazon

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American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao. February 6, 2018. Simon Pulse, 311 p. ISBN: 9781481499101.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Body humor, Graphic descriptions, Mention of child abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. For Mei, age 17 doesn’t involve prom dates. Instead, she’s a hopeful medical student at MIT, exactly as her parents planned. Mei strains against the expectations of her traditional Chinese parents, especially after they disowned her brother for choosing love over familial duty. At first, dance is the secret indulgence she must hide from them, but soon it graduates to a cute Japanese (read: unsuitable) boy and even worse—contact with her ostracized brother. She comes to understand her culture to be both a source of pride and a prison sentence, and she must find the strength to empathize with her parents, who are just as trapped by expectations. Vibrant, complex, and refreshing, this book crafts a nuanced view of growing up in a family beholden to centuries of tradition. Chao is meticulous in showing the wrinkles of a Chinese upbringing, especially in the face of an individualistic American society. Chao’s also wickedly funny; she’s not afraid of placing Mei in embarrassing situations to show readers what she’s made of. Moreover, Chao devotes a generous amount of effort to fleshing out Mei’s mother, transforming her from antagonist to someone with whom Mei learns to identify. A soulful and hilarious debut.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
A Taiwanese-American girl finally starts to experience life beyond her overbearing parents.Mei, a 17-year-old freshman at MIT, has followed her parents’ plans so far. Now all she has to do is get into a good medical school, become a doctor, and marry a nice Taiwanese boy. But with some distance from her parents (living in the Boston suburbs, they still demand to see her at weekly check-ins), Mei starts to buckle under the weight of their expectations and the truths she discovers about herself: she’s a germophobe who can’t stomach the thought of medical school. She really, really likes Darren, a Japanese-American classmate. Unfortunately, a thinly drawn cast of characters (an old friend appears in just one chapter to make a point) and heavy-handed first-person reflections (“She didn’t know anything about them, my situation, how hard it was to straddle two cultures”) sometimes read more as a book about cultural stereotypes and self-discovery than a compelling, fully fleshed novel. Awkwardly specific and quickly dated cultural references such as a Facebook check-in and an explanation of the term “hack” jar readers from the narrative. Nonetheless, Chao’s inclusions of an Asian male romantic interest, a slightly nontraditional Asian female lead (size 8 with a big nose and “man-laugh”), and casual Mandarin dialogue are welcome and will appeal to uninitiated readers. A worthy story that stumbles. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. American Panda is her debut novel and Misaligned is forthcoming fall 2019.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Her website is gloriachao.wordpress.com.

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American Panda on Amazon

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Supergifted by Gordon Korman

Supergifted by Gordon Korman. January 2, 2018. Balzer + Bray, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062563859.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.7; Lexile: 740.

The highly anticipated sequel to Ungifted from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Gordon Korman.

Donovan Curtis has never been what anyone would call “gifted.” But his genius friend Noah Youkilis is actually supergifted, with one of the highest IQs around. After years at the Academy for Scholastic Distinction, all Noah dreams of is the opportunity to fail if he wants to. And he’s landed in the perfect place to do it—Donovan’s school.

Almost immediately, Noah finds himself on the wrong side of cheerleading captain Megan Mercury and alpha jock Hash “Hashtag” Taggart. Sticking up for Noah lands Donovan in the middle of a huge feud with Hashtag. He’s told to stay away from the sports star—or else.

That should be the end of it, but when a freak incident suddenly makes Donovan a hero, he can’t tell anyone about it since Hashtag is involved. So Noah steps in and becomes “Superkid.” Now he’s gone from nerd to titan at school. And it may have gone more than a little bit to his head.

This funny and heartwarming sequel to Ungifted, which has become a word-of-mouth hit, cleverly sends up our ideas about intelligence, heroism, and popularity.

Sequel toUngifted

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 4-7. This sequel to Ungifted (2012) turns the original premise on its head when Noah, an off-the-charts genius, enrolls in an ordinary middle school. Clueless, optimistic, and determined to fit in, he fails miserably until his friend Donovan performs a heroic act and insists that Noah take the credit. Suddenly Noah rockets from superdweeb to Superkid. The amusing first-person narration rotates among several kids, from Noah and Donovan to a head cheerleader and an überjock, who all offer refreshingly different perspectives. Managing a large cast of characters with ease, Korman creates a comedy of compounded errors leading to a public disaster and, strangely enough, a happy ending.

School Library Journal (December 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-Laughs abound in Korman’s satisfying sequel to Ungifted. Donovan is the same goofy, impulse-driven kid that got put into the TaG class instead of suspension by a superintendent’s slip of the pen. His instinctive dive into a runaway truck avertsáa disaster but then precipitates a series of mishaps when his nerdy friend Noah, a downwardly mobile transfer from a magnet school, decides to take the credit for Donovan’s heroic act in order to protect him from the wrath of his ex-Marine brother-in-law. Told from the point of view of several of Donovan’s classmates in both his regular school and the magnet school that he still attends once a week for the robotics team, Korman shows the varying perceptions of heroism among Donovan’s broadly drawn community: the unsympathetic cheerleader Megan, the lacrosse-playing entitled bully, the nerds on the robotics team, the rigid authoritarian brother-in-law who is helpless when dealing with a new infant, and the plastic television host on the track of a news story. Korman expertly holds readers’ attention with a fast-paced plot culminating in a climactic denouement at the robotics meeting. Eventually, the true hero is unmasked, relationships are healed within and outside his family, and once again kindness and tolerance win the day. VERDICT Humorous, relatable, and full of heart, Korman’s gift for understanding the middle school mind is on full display.á-Jane -Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

Around the Web

Supergifted on Amazon

Supergifted on Goodreads

Supergifted Publisher Page

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway. January 9, 2018. Knopf Publishing Group, 688 p. ISBN: 9781524732080.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World andTigerman, a virtuosic new novel and his most ambitious book yet–equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle–set in a not-too-distant-future, high-tech surveillance state.

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are ceaselessly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody during a routine interrogation, Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector, is assigned to the case. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, she finds a panorama of characters and events that Hunter gave life to in order to forestall the investigation: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game. In the static between these mysterious visions, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself, the staggering consequences of which will reverberate throughout the world. Gnomon is a dazzling, panoramic achievement from one of the most original voices in contemporary fiction.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Kidnapping, Murder, Gore

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Beguiling, multilayered, sprawling novel that blends elements of Philip K. Dick–tinged sci-fi, mystery, politics, and literary fiction in a most satisfying brew.In surveying, a gnomon is a set square used to mark right angles on a chart. “By extension,” writes the genre-hopping British novelist Harkaway (Tigerman, 2014, etc.), “it means something perpendicular to everything else, such as the upright part of a sundial.” It is different from its surroundings, and so is everything that police investigator Mielikki Neith (as in ’neath, where hidden things are to be found) learns about the case just assigned to her: it involves a dissident, now deceased, in a near-future society where citizens patrol each other by means of social media, totalitarianism with a thin veneer of friendly hyperdemocracy, all committee work and political correctness. In this world, Diana Hunter, “a writer of obscurantist magical realist novels” read in fragmentary samizdat editions, harbored antinomian thoughts—and, given the recent news that the brain remains conscious for at least a short time after death, it makes sense that Neith should try to get inside her brain to ferret out subversion. That’s not easy, for Hunter has laid land mines throughout in the form of odd diversionary characters: ancient mathematicians, Roman legionaries, and other formidable obstacles who share Hunter’s “bad attitude.” The possibilities in the story are endless, and Harkaway looks into most of them, it seems, firing off brilliant lines (“The universe has cancer,” “Thousands and thousands of years, thousands of bodies, thousands of minds combined into one, and your best answer to pain is still revenge?”). Although he doesn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact, Harkaway is the son of John le Carré, and from his father he has inherited a feel for the world-weary tediousness of police work. Yet there’s no Smiley in the smiley-face future world where being a fascist busybody is a badge of honor—though enigmas abound, to be sure. Fans of Pynchon and William Gibson alike will devour this smart, expertly written bit of literary subversion.

Library Journal – web only (January 19, 2018)
This latest from Harkaway (Tigerman) is set in a near-future Britain managed by the Witness, a pervasive surveillance system connected to instant plebiscites that has taken the place of government. This system is perceived as the ultimate rule of the people by the people, but, disturbingly, the Witness can see into your mind. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies under interrogation, investigator Meilikki Neith mentally ingests neural recordings made by the interrogators and thus relives the experience. The book then launches into multiple narrative streams, revealed in the recordings, involving macho Greek banker Kyriakos; fifth-century alchemist Athenais, mistress of Saint Augustine; and Ethiopian expatriate artist Bekele. These narratives are woven together to create a tapestry of meaning and of mystery. The theme of katabasis, the descent and emergence from the underworld, is central. Verdict The book functions as a riposte to the dangers of the surveillance state, demonstrating the interconnectedness of consciousness and the triumph of the all, the gnomon, over totalitarian control of the few. This work goes so far as to invoke the reader’s role in creating the narrative, which is simply astonishing; to be read at all costs! -Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

About the Author

Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall, UK in 1972. He is possessed of two explosively exciting eyebrows, which exert an almost hypnotic attraction over small children, dogs, and – thankfully – one ludicrously attractive human rights lawyer, to whom he is married.

He likes: oceans, mountains, lakes, valleys, and those little pigs made of marzipan they have in Switzerland at new year.

He does not like: bivalves. You just can’t trust them.

His website is www.nickharkaway.com

Around the Web

Gnomon on Amazon

Gnomon on Goodreads

Gnomon Publisher Page

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. Pla. February 6, 2018. HarperCollins, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062445797.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.6.

This novel features comic trivia, a safety superhero, and a super-cool scavenger hunt all over downtown San Diego, as our young hero Stanley Fortinbras grapples with his anxiety—and learns what, exactly, it means to be brave.

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest—a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt—to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with his fearless new neighbor Liberty, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, One instance of the word “hell”

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 4-8. Stanley is an expert at comics trivia. Comics give him comfort in the world when he feels overwhelmed from sensory overload and his anxiety rears its head. With Stanley’s best friend acting weird and distant, his dad overseas for a job, and his middle school’s alarming safety assemblies, Stanley has a lot to worry about. After fainting during an assembly, Stanley creates an imaginary superhero named John Lockdown to help him overcome his fears. And Stanley needs help because he’s just entered the biggest comics event, Trivia Quest. Partnering with his new neighbor Liberty, he endeavors to tackle his fears, win passes to Comic Fest, and get his best friend back. Stanley’s anxiety and sensory processing disorder are portrayed in a sensitive and relatable way, although, at times, Stanley overcomes his worry too easily, thanks to Liberty’s pushing and some quick breathing. The novel loses steam after the contest ends, but it’s nevertheless refreshing to see a middle-grader tackling SPD and anxiety in an understandable way.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2017)
Superheroes can be found in unlikely places.Middle schooler Stanley Fortinbras has a sensory-processing disorder and experiences anxiety, both of which make the principal’s many emergency preparedness drills difficult for him to handle. When he passes out at a safety assembly, he’s sent to school counselor Mrs. Ngozo, an African-American woman, who creates a Ready Room for him: a quiet place where he can go when school becomes too chaotic. It’s here that John Lockdown, hero of the underdog, is born. Stanley, son of a “dark,” Morocco-born French father and white mother, is no superhero, but he does have a superpower: comic-book trivia. When his best friend, Joon (who is Korean), suggests they enter Trivia Quest, a comics treasure hunt that takes place all over San Diego, Stanley’s mind reels with both possible and unlikely worse-case scenarios. After Stanley and Joon have a disagreement, Stanley asks his new neighbor, confident white girl Liberty, to go with him instead. To get through the stress of the day, Stanley creates his own way to manage his out-of-control thoughts and the resultant paralyzing fear: What would Lockdown do? The story never dumbs down or oversimplifies Stanley; he’s a multidimensional character of great depth who gradually learns how to calm his worried mind, and the book avoids patronizing readers with a false sense of everything’s-right-with-the-world. Add to the growing list of intelligent books about kids whose brains operate outside the norm. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Sally J. Pla is the author of The Someday Birds (her debut novel) and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine. She has traveled on family road trips to most everywhere in this story. She has English degrees from Colgate and Penn State and has worked as a business journalist and in public education. She has three sons, a husband, and an enormous, fluffy dog and lives near lots of lemon trees in Southern California.

Her website is www.sallyjpla.com.

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Stanley Will Probably Be Fine on Amazon

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine on Goodreads

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine Publisher Page

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix

Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams. October 31, 2017. Scholastic Press, 274 p. ISBN: 9780545259026.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

It is strange enough that Odo and Eleanor have stumbled upon a sword in a dried-up river outside their village. It is even stranger that Odo is able to remove it from where it’s buried. And it’s REMARKABLY strange when the sword starts to talk.

Odo and Eleanor have unearthed Biter, a famous fighter from earlier times. By finding Biter, Odo instantly becomes a knight – a role he is exquisitely unsuited for. Eleanor, however, would make a PERFECT knight – but she’s not the one with the sword.

Finding Biter is only the start – boy, girl, and sword must soon go on a quest to save their kingdom from threats in both human and dragon form, in this new fantasy triumph from Garth Nix and Sean Williams.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 1))
Grades 3-5. Eleanor: bold, sharp, filled with dreams of adventure and knighthood. Odo: a little timid, a little unsure, not particularly fond of thinking about the future. But alas, when the two tweens stumble upon an enchanted sword, it’s Odo who cuts himself on it and is granted instant knighthood by the sword itself. The sword, whose name happens to be Biter, has no problem talking and fighting, although he does seem to be having a little trouble remembering his clearly illustrious past. At any rate, domineering Biter, reluctant knight Odo, and sullen squire Eleanor have a quest to complete if they want to save their kingdom—if they can figure out who they’re fighting. This first series installment is a true-blue errant-knight tale, complete with dragons, sassy enchanted objects, and a destiny that comes before anyone is ready. In this world, knighthood is given regardless of gender; it eludes Eleanor not because she’s a girl but because of bad timing. Hand to just about any middle-grader looking for a swashbuckling adventure.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2017)
Two best friends with opposing appetites for adventure are thrust into a crucial quest by a gregarious sword. The once-hearty Silverrun River through Lenburh is steadily running ever lower. As diminutive, feisty Eleanor and her best friend, brawny, bumbling Odo, fish for eels in the muddy trickle, they unearth a sword. After Odo pricks his finger and subsequently bleeds on the blade, the heretofore-slumbering sword wakes up, proclaiming its name (in Gothic type) to be Hildebrand Shining Foebiter (Biter for short) and knighting Sir Odo. Eleanor, whose deceased mother was a knight, is at once thrilled by the enchanted sword and infuriated that she’s been designated squire. Assessing the river’s pathetic state, Biter pronounces their quest to unblock the river’s source. Eleanor is gung-ho, Odo is reluctant, Biter is persistent. The trio bid adieu to Lenburh’s bucolic boredom and head toward their fate—which could very well mean death by dragon. In this medievallike fantasy world, gender equality abounds. Like the bulk of medieval European art, however, this cast is white (with the liberal inclusion of female Sirs, it would seem that some black and brown characters could have been included, too). Written by a duo, the narrative is presented from both Eleanor’s and Odo’s perspectives, although this isn’t a he-said, she-said division by chapter; there is a more fluid back and forth. En garde for an implied sequel that is already too bloody far away. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing ‘Hail the Conquering Hero Comes’ or possibly ‘Roll Out the Barrel’. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher’s sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.  His website is www.garthnix.com.

#1 New York Times bestselling Sean Williams lives with his family in Adelaide, South Australia. He’s written some books–forty-two at last count–including the Philip K. Dick-nominated Saturn Returns, several Star Wars novels and the Troubletwister series with Garth Nix. Twinmaker is a YA SF series that takes his love affair with the matter transmitter to a whole new level. You can find some related short stories over at Lightspeed Magazine and elsewhere. Thanks for reading.

His website is www.twinmakerbooks.com/

Around the Web

Have Sword, Will Travel on Amazon

Have Sword, Will Travel on Goodreads

Have Sword, Will Travel on JLG

Have Sword, Will Travel Publisher Page

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck. September 26, 2017.  Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781524716080.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900

Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different? You see that goofy grin a thousand times and just laugh. But goofy grin #1,001 nearly stops your heart? 

Right. That sounds like a bad movie already.

Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. Matt and Tabby have been neighbors and best friends since they were babies. Now they are freshmen in high school, and Matt has fallen in love with Tabby. To his dismay, handsome, highly likeable senior, Branson, is falling for Tabby as well. It’s exquisitely painful for Matt to witness Tabby’s delight, but he tries to ignore his feelings and channels his frustrations into basketball. Then Matt loses Tabby forever. In this debut novel, Reck creates a realistic and moving portrait of a 14-year-old guy clobbered by a grief he cannot express. Matt is a funny, good-natured teen until the tragedy, and in the days and weeks that follow, he copes by maintaining surface-level denial while a roiling mass of anger builds within. Sympathetic adults intervene to help get Matt on track without providing pat solutions, much like the adult characters in Chris Crutcher novels.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
A young man loses the love of his life. Matt Wainwright has pined for his best friend, Tabby Laughlin, for years but has never struck up the nerve to tell her how he feels. Instead he seethes with jealousy when Tabby begins to date the big man on campus, Liam Branson. There’s friction between the two best friends for a bit, but just when things are starting to look up, tragedy strikes. The novel is startlingly similar to John Green’s Looking for Alaska, with lost loves, car crashes, and wise teachers. Even more startling is the novels’ mirrored structures: both take place over a school year and end with an essay written by the young man for a class taught by an inspiring teacher. The cherry on top of this comparable sundae is the fact that both books feature paragraphs in which the protagonist contemplates how long an instant death feels. Reck’s debut is competently written, but the ruminations don’t run as deep as Green’s. The tertiary characters don’t sparkle, spouting serviceable but unremarkable dialogue, and there’s little attempt to introduce diversity to the largely white cast. In the end, readers will have the feeling they’ve read this story before, and it was much better the first time around. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jared Reck lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters. He teaches 8th grade Language Arts, where he has been reading awesome books and writing alongside his students for the past twelve years. A Short History of the Girl Next Door is his first novel.

His website is www.jaredreckbooks.com/

Around the Web

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on Amazon

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on Goodreads

A Short History of the Girl Next Door on JLG

A Short History of the Girl Next Door Publisher Page