Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories

Written by: KJ Kabza

First line: The first thing Jesper noticed was her parasol, twirling like a ghostly pinwheel between the branches and webs.

Why you should read this book: I'm not going to lie: KJ Kabza is my best friend and I would have read his book even if he wasn't good, but he's freaking great, so great that a publishing company inboxed him on Twitter and offered to publish a collection of his work without him even having to ask. This anthology features eleven speculative fictions, ranging in size from novella to flash, and in genre from steampunk to space opera to gothic horror to contemporary fantasy to somewhere you'd end up if you were a character in Black Mirror to places you've never ever gone as a reader. Seriously, buy this book; if you read anywhere on the speculative continuum, you won't be disappointed.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You want to make me cry.


Written by: Clive Barker

First line: Nothing ever begins.

Why you should read this book: It was probably on my list of top ten favorite non-kiddy novels when I was teenager, but I haven't read it since the '90s and I was curious if it would still hold up to my memory. Honestly, I'm not sure why it was my favorite, unless it was the scenes in which there's a monster that rapes men, has their monster-babies, and then sends the monster-babies to kill their fathers, but it's definitely a really great read, full of magic and mayhem and love and intrigue, a psychotic salesman, a psychotic cop, two innocent young people striving for something more, and a true wonderland, filled with mysticism and spectacle and threatened by a really big monster. If you want to sink into a thick book that will take you to other worlds, this is a good choice.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are dogged in your pursuit of a criminal you know is guilty even though there's no evidence.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Snow White

Written by: Matt Phelan

First line: What's the story here.

Why you should read this book: A smart graphic novel for smart kids, this book reimagines Snow White as the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who managed to hold on to his fortune during the Great Depression. The dwarves are a rowdy bunch of street kids, the wicked stepmother a gold digger with a flapper haircut, and the glass coffin a beautifully lit display in a department store window. Lovely pencil and watercolor illustrations evoke the feel the period along with a gritty, crime-noir sensibility, and the fairy tale magic of the story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're plotting against your stepchild.

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton

Written by: Matt Phelan

First line: Life in Muskegon, Michigan, was quiet.

Why you should read this book: In the summer of 1908, a large group of vaudeville performers chose a tiny neighborhood in Michigan as the perfect spot for a leisurely vacation, bringing with them elephants, zebras, and the young "knockabout" comedian, Buster Keaton. Buster was practically born on stage, and his ability to take a fall, make a deadpan joke, and engineer a prank all seem amazing and desirable to his new friend, a local named Henry who wishes he, too, could become a vaudeville star. Keaton, indifferent to his fame, prefers baseball and building things. This is both a lovely book about a boy in a small town yearning for bigger things, as well as an introduction to vaudeville and the state of American entertainment prior to the development of movie houses.

Why you shouldn't read this book: An actor stole your girlfriend.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Written by: Balli Kaur Jaswal

First line: Why did Mindi want an arranged marriage?

Why you should read this book: Nikki has always been the black sheep of her Punjabi Sikh family, but now that her sister wants to pursue this insane arranged-marriage scheme, Nikki only wants to show the world that she's a modern British girl. Still, in an effort to show her family that she is accomplishing important things in life, and in the community, she takes a job through the temple where she believes she will be teaching women about creative writing, until she realizes that most of her students are illiterate and don't speak English. Somehow, her class turns into a subversive gathering for sex-starved widows to exchange sexual fantasies, which they transcribe into Gurmukhi and pass around to their friends, creating a scandal in a community racked by scandals, but now it's out of Nikki's hands, and this one isn't going to get swept under the rug.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I found the beginning, which did a great job of showcasing all the characters' flaws, particularly an overwhelmingly judgemental mindset for the protagonist even as she condemned this characteristic in others, a little uncomfortable to read.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Strange Weather

Written by: Joe Hill

First line: Shelly Beukes stood at the bottom of the driveway, squinting up at our pink-sandstone ranch as if she had never seen it before.

Why you should read this book: Three perfect contemporary speculative novellas featuring interesting and nuanced protagonists in strange circumstances, and one brutal non-speculative novella, "Loaded," with a horror scenario so realistic it seems surprising it hasn't actually happened yet. The technology components that make "Rain" and "Aloft" work also seem just within the realm of possibility, but it's the characters—strong, scared, scarred, and real—that drag the reader into all these worlds so close to our own. Lots to love in this fast-paced collection.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Gun violence.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Good Riddance, 2017

Welcome to Dragon's Library's 10th Annual Year in Review!

As I take a moment to reflect back on my year in books, I can't help but think about how difficult 2017 was in general, and how much everyone seems to be looking forward to putting its misery behind us and harnessing the momentum of the New Year. I also can't help but notice that my reading habits are not that impressive (thank you very much, Netflix) and that I need to focus more of my overall energy on serious reading.

As always, this isn't an exhaustive list of everything I've read. I know I missed a dozen picture books, at least, and possibly some short middle grade novels, and I don't blog books that I've already blogged before, so favorite novels that I reread often aren't included in the count. Plus there's at least one book I read in ARC that won't be available until next year, so I'll blog it later. Single issue comic are not included in the count, only trade paperbacks (and one Gary Larson collection).

And now, Dragon's Library Year in Review:

Picture Books: 57
Middle Grade/YA: 21
Non-fiction: 2
Novels: 6
Graphic novels: 17
Short Story Collection: 1
Memoir: 2
Not easily categorized: 1

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Walls around Us

Written by: Nova Ren Suma

First line: We went wild that hot night.

Why you should read this book: This dark and cunning ghost story weaves a tangled thicket of murder and revenge, twisted through time and sprouting from the fertile soil of the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center in upstate New York, almost all the way to the Canadian border. Told in dual point of view, the story splits between the quiet and detailed observations of Amber, a girl long locked up in the facility for the murder of her abusive stepfather, and Violet, a talented ballerina with her sights set on Julliard, with nothing in her way except for the memory of her one-time best friend, Ori, who was sentenced to Aurora Hills for murdering two girls behind the dance studio. In the place where their worlds collide, both girls will find justice, although perhaps not in the way they hoped to find it.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've forgotten your own crimes.


Written by: Raine Telgemeier

First line: One Double-Back combo, one Cheeseback with fries, a Double Napoleon shake...

Why you should read this book: Cat loves her little sister Maya, and she knows the family's move from sunny southern California to the foggy, windswept northern part of the state is essential to keep Maya's cystic fibrosis under control, but she doesn't like the gray skies or the ubiquitous ghost stories that cast a constant shadow over her new home in Bahía de la Luna. When her new neighbor, Carlos, insists, and then proves Bahía de la Luna's ghost stories are all real, and her new friends want her to participate in the town's extensive Day of the Dead festivities, Cat feels nothing but fear of death. Maya and the others embrace the presence of the dead, but Cat will need more context to bridge the gap between the memory of her grandmother and the possibility of her sister's demise.

Why you shouldn't read this book: People who don't need to dwell on ways in which being dead might be better than being alive.

Real Friends

Written by: Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

First line: When I was little, I didn't worry about friends.

Why you should read this book: Whether you were a kid in the eighties or you're a kid right now, you can probably identify in some part with Shannon's journey from innocence to experience as she navigates the world of shifting grade-school friendships. Shannon only ever wants the friendship of her first, best friend Adrienne, but to stay close to Adrienne, she has to appease the whims of "the group," the popular girls who seem more confident, more mature, and more willing to play games with other's emotions than Shannon will ever be. When Adrienne leaves the district, Shannon feels stuck on the edges of the group, until she finds out who she really is and how to be real friends with others.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're still the mean girl.