Flint 1: Choosing Sides by Treasure Hernandez

flint1$5.99, 304 pages, Urban Fiction

Halleigh and Malek are teens amidst a world of gangs, drugs and crime in Flint, Michigan. 

Author Profile

Reviews:

Reviews on Google Books

Welcome to the streets of Flint, Michigan.  The beginning of this 7-part series is told through the eyes of young Halleigh and Malek.  Boyfriend and girlfriend with big plans for their future…including the NBA for Malek.  After Malek gets in trouble with the law when defending Halleigh after she is raped, the plans change.  Suddenly Halleigh must find a way to earn money to free Malek.  She naively turns to others for help and winds up working as a prostitute for a cunning pimp.  Malek is released from jail and is injured by gunfire during a street ball tournament.  His NBA career is over as scouts are no longer interested in the injured young man.  Their lives spin out of control and the stories continues in books 2-7.

This book was very easy to read and fast-paced.  The author uses street jargon and presents a gritty view of a life enveloped in drugs, sex, gangs and crime.  I do not feel compelled to read the other books in the series.  However, I am thankful I read this book as I am better able to relate to my inmate patrons who are looking for an urban or street fiction selection.

Appeal Factors: Action-Packed, Jargon-filled, Steamy, Gritty

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this author include: K’wan, Sister Souljah,  Deja King and Donald Goines (accessed May 4, 2013).

Working in a jail library, urban/street fiction is perhaps our most popular genre.  Having read only 2 previous selections in this genre, I wanted to know more about the Flint series.

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Juvenile in Justice by Richard Ross

juvenile$29.95, 192 pages, Photography

A visual display of captioned photos showing young people incarcerated throughout America.

Author’sWebsite

Reviews:

NY Times

Write to Read Books Blog

This book features over 150 pictures of young people incarcerated in America.  For a variety of reasons and in cities across the country, these youth find themselves locked up.  Ross’ book of photography involved over 5 years of visiting youth facilities.  While there, he captured the images, interviewed the youth depicted and wrote a small bit about what led them to their present circumstances.

What a sad and sobering look at young people imprisoned and incarcerated.  For many, they have simply been abandoned and given up for the system to deal with.  For others, they are accused of serious crimes at such a young age.  As I turned the pages, looked through the pictures and read the captions, I could not help but wonder what horror these young people may have already experienced in their young lives.

Appeal Factors: Thought-Provoking, Disturbing, Moving, Visual

Read-alikes for this book include:  Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor Rios and Born, Not Raised: Voices from Juvenile Hall by Susan Madden Lankford

Recipient of American Library Association’s 2013 Alex Awards
Winner of the 2012 Best News and Documentary Photography Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors

CBS News Coverage

I selected this book after seeing it featured in a discussion board post in this class.  The post listed the 2013 Alex Award Winners selected by the American Library Association.  Working with medium and maximum security offenders in a correctional facility, I was especially interested in the book.

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Shadow Game by Christine Feehan

imagesCAXSCWV1 $7.99, 352 pages, Paranormal Romance

Lily and Ryland meet through a science experiment, share psychic abilities and fall in love.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Red Hot Books Blog

Romantic Times Book Review

Ryland is a GhostWalker and possesses special abilities that make his participation in an ongoing scientific experiment heightened.  Lily’s father began the scientific research on Ryland and other men in various branches of the military.  And when Lily’s father is murdered, she is tasked with taking over his research while determining and finding her father’s killer.  All the while, the passionate energy and attraction between Lily and Ryland cannot be overlooked.  This book is the first of 10 in the GhostWalkers series by Christine Feehan.

Depending on your “heat level” for romances, Feehan’s GhostWalker series is a must-try for any romance reader.  The paranormal elements, including psychic abilities, only add to the allure as Lily and Ryland can read each other’s thoughts.  Working together, their relationship allows them to discover answers while experiencing mind blowing passion.

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Romance, Paranormal

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Copper Beach by Jayne Ann Krentz, Pandora’s Daughter by Iris Johansen and Raintree by Linda Jones (accessed May 4, 2013).

Awards: Nominated for the 2003 Romantic Times Award for Best Contemporary Paranormal, NY Times Bestseller List, USA Today Bestseller List

Discussion Questions:

1. Are you a fan of paranormal romance?

2. Would you read this author/genre again?

3.  Did you find Shadow Game to be too sexually explicit ? Do you think it was an important to the plot/story?

4. Is Lily and Ryland’s relationship based on love and mutual attraction or is it based on sexual attraction?

5. Do you think Lily’s character was indicative of her upbringing?

6. Did Lily’s father love her?  Did he know how to show/express love? If yes, how?

7. As he is dying, Dr. Peter Whitney reaches out to his daughter Lily and implores her to destroy his secret laboratory and his research. Do you think he was unaware how dangerous his research was? Did he maintain his laboratory and records as a source of pride or do you believe he truly wanted his daughter to learn about her history?

8. Do you think the Ghostwalker experiment is plausible?

9. Do you think psychic abilities are a reality?

10. Which paranormal/psychic ability would you choose and why?  A few examples to get you started: levitation, telepathy, dreamwalking and psychic abilities.

11. Where do you think the series goes from here (this is the first of ten books in the series)?

I selected this book due to the popularity of the paranormal romance genre.  I became familiar with Christine Feehan through the owner of a small bookstore.

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Ironskin by Tina Connelly

ironskin$24.99, 304 pages, Steampunk

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

This book is the first in a trilogy and also the debut novel for author Tina Connolly.  Jane wears an iron mask to cover the scar on her cheek.  This scar that was inflicted upon her by the Fey during the Great War…nearly 5 years ago.  When Jane becomes a governess to care for Edward’s child, Dorie, the mysteries begin to unfold.  And while the young Jane fills her days caring for Dorie, she begins to discover that she has developed feelings for Edwards.  And yet….so many questions remain in this tale dubbed a mix between Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast.  What exactly does Edward do with the women who visit him and leave so much more beautiful?  How had the fey substance inflicted Dorie and Jane?  Will Jane choose to be with Edward no matter the cost?

An interesting and intriguing tale, this book was my first sample from the ever-popular steampunk genre.  I had high expectations after reading some of the reviews and I find this book applicable for even young adults.  The story is one of sadness, romance and risk.  Just how far will Jane go to remove the scar inflicted upon her?

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Nostalgic, Dramatic

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott, Shade by Richard Knaak and The Gates of Sleep by Mercedes Lackey (accessed May 10, 2013).

Book Trailer

This book joined my reading list after it was selected as one of our five required reading selections for the semester.  This was my first foray into the steampunk genre.

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Blankets by Craig Thompson

blankets$29.95, 592 pages, Non-Fiction Graphic Novel/ Biographies & Memoirs

The story of two brothers growing up in a conservative home discovering life and love.

Author’s Blog

Reviews:

Grovel Graphic Novel Blog

NY Times

This book is an autobiographical story from author Craig Thompson.  Growing up in rural and snowy Wisconsin, Craig and his brother Phil are raised with in a Christian home.  When Craig meets Raina at a church camp, they develop a relationship and begin to question their beliefs and a future life together.  Eventually, Craig begins to question his Christian beliefs and challenges many of the truths he was taught growing up.  This graphic novel ultimately serves as a means for Craig to express to his family his truth beliefs and choices.

This graphic novel was well illustrated and rather enjoyable.  Somewhat overwhelmed by its size and length, I was skeptical when I first began reading it.  I thought the story and characters were very well developed.  I would be curious to learn about Craig’s relationship with his parents today…after he made his choices and turned away from the faith in which he was raised.

Appeal Factors: Character-Driven, Spiritual, Homespun

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include:  Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, I Never Liked You by Chester Brown and Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man by John Porcellino (accessed May 4, 2013).

Awards: Named #1 on Time Magazine’s 2003 Best Comics List and #8 to list of Best Comics of the Decade list and Three
Harvey Awards for Best Artist, Best Graphic Album of Original Work, and Best Cartoonist; and Two Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album and Best Writer/Artist

Discussion Questions

After visiting several of the graphic novel websites recommended through readers’ advisory websites, I saw this book featured multiple times.

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My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

images$17.95, 224 pages, Non-Fiction Graphic Novel

Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school classmate recalls shared experiences with the infamous serial killer.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

The Comic Journal Review

Do you ever wonder about someone’s everyday life before they decide to commit unthinkable murders?  Derf Backderf was a high-school classmate of Jeffrey Dahmer and created a graphic novel depicting their life during high school.  From classes shared to car rides given and a few odd exchanges, the story reveals glimpses into what may have contributed to Dahmer’s choices.

This graphic novel turned out to be quite a fascinating read.  While I will never understand the motives behind Dahmer’s gruesome actions, the book did shed some light on his family situation and the role of his parents played (or more aptly, did not play) in his rearing.

Appeal Factors: Fast-Paced, Gruesome, Thought-Provoking

Read-alikes for this book include:  Black Hole by Charles Burns and Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen

Selected as a 2013 Alex Award winner by American Library Association

School Library Journal Blog

I saw this book featured on the 2013 Alex Award Winners list and was interested.  When Dr. Bodart mentioned she was reading it during one of our online class sessions, I decided to read it, as well.

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The Dinner by Herman Koch

dinner $24.00, 304 pages, Mystery-Thriller-Suspense

A suspenseful mystery unfolds over the course of two couples sharing dinner.

Author’s Website

Reviews:

NY Times

Two couples sit down to an elegant and expensive dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam.  The men are brothers and throughout the many courses of dinner, a mystery unfolds.  The story involves the sons of these couples and choices they made.  A shameful crime has occurred and the atrocity was videotaped on a cellular phone.  It becomes evident the each set of parents are devoted to their own sons.  And yet….how will they deal with the pressing matter at hand?

I enjoyed the suspense behind this book.  I read and continued to guess at what the parents were avoiding.  I found it incredible that the entire book is set throughout the course of a single dinner.  Without spoiling the ending, I found the crime that was revealed tragic and incredibly sad.  Overall, the book was interesting….not great.  It makes a reader question the lengths they would go to help a child in desperate need of parenting and help.

Appeal Factors: Suspenseful, Sobering, Dramatic

According to Novelist, read-alikes for this book include: Engleby by Sebastian Faulks, Next by James Hynes and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (accessed May 4, 2013).

Amazon Best Book of the Month, February 2013
11 Weeks on NPR Bestseller List

Discussion Questions

After finishing Gone Girl for this class, I read several book reviews that touted The Dinner as the “European Gone Girl.”  A friend also posted a review of this book on Goodreads and I was intrigued.  During my site evaluation assignment for this course, the title was recommended to me at as a readalike for Gone Girl.

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