Rebecca's Picks

Rebecca is a math and literacy teacher who has recently left the classroom to tutor kids by night and sell books by day.  Her favorite things are learning, music, and delight; her favorite books are non-fiction science and nature, memoir, and kids' fiction.  Her pets are a cat named Tigger, and (of late) a mud-dauber wasp and two cribellate orb-weaver spiders.

Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Red Sister Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781101988855
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ace Books - April 4th, 2017

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men. 

Wow!  Have you heard of Mark Lawrence?  If not, let this be your introduction.  Awesome world-building, really cool new magic, insane fight scenes, fantastic writing, and girls who stick up for each other.  I could not put this book down.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Goodbye Stranger Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9780307980861
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Yearling Books - May 2nd, 2017

It is difficult these days to find well-written books about regular kids.  This one, by a Newbury Medal author, is really special.  On the surface, it's a simple story about a group of friends in 7th grade, making mistakes and learning from them, making wise choices and sticking to them.  This elegantly crafted novel goes deep, asking many questions of interest to middle-schoolers (and all of us!) and inviting the reader to answer them.  Reminiscent of Judy Blume, perhaps even better, this is a many-layered tale about all kinds of love. 


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Train I Ride Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062455734
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - January 24th, 2017

Rydr, 12, knows that "lots of things that are worth seeing aren't happy things." With her mother and grandmother dead and her father unknown, she has tremendous pain in her life, yet she knows how to appreciate people and moments, whether they are sweet or ugly.  This is a soulful, wise, and often quite funny book. Its brevity and simplicity are deceptive, though; there is a whole lot to this novel, a lot to appreciate and discuss. I enthusiastically recommend it to adults and to kids age 8-13 (or older if they like shorter books and simpler language). A truly impressive debut.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
News of the World Cover Image
$22.99
ISBN: 9780062409201
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: William Morrow & Company - October 4th, 2016

This is the best book I’ve read in 20 years, and a favorite of everyone who reads it.  Set in post-Civil War Texas, it is the tale of how the lives of an old captain and a young captive intersect, then interlace.  The story and setting are as full of possibilities as danger, as much courtesy as lawlessness.  Paulette Jiles's writing is just plain astounding, as graceful, effortless, and focused as a hovering kestrel.  Read this short book slowly; you will be rewarded with a many-layered poem of a novel that's about time, about compassion, about the stories that we write for ourselves or that are written for us.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Commonwealth Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062491794
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - September 13th, 2016

This book is so good, I become tongue-tied trying to explain why...but I'll try.  Ann Patchett writes about the most everyday moments in the most riveting way, writes about the most fraught moments as if it's happening to you, and peppers all with wickedly funny observations about things you thought only you had noticed.  Commonwealth is decades-spanning fiction that reads like a memoir, about family, childhood, and our relationships with the past, ourselves, and each other. If you used to be a kid, if you have siblings, if you like books with characters you care about -- and who care about each other -- this is the book for you.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
The Little Grumpy Cat That Wouldn't Cover Image
By Golden Books, Steph Laberis (Illustrator)
$4.99
ISBN: 9780399553547
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Golden Books - July 26th, 2016

This new Little Golden Book is an instant classic that belongs right up there with The Tawny Scrawny Lion.  First, the illustrations are tops -- arty, expressive, vintage-looking.  And the story!  Pure delight.  Read it and buy it for all the grumps in your life.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Jane Steele Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780399169496
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - March 22nd, 2016

Jane Steele is a nineteenth-century heroine whose life mirrors that of Jane Eyre—orphaned as a baby, sent to a horrifyingly wretched boarding school, making it on her own—but with a twist: Miss Steele is a murderer. In a sea of “Jane” knock-offs, Jane Steele stands out with its original, compelling voice; it's an homage to Jane Eyre, not a retelling. The author’s pitch-perfect Victorian prose, at times horrifying and gut-wrenching situations, believable motivations, and wicked satisfactions, make this book a brilliant, delicious read.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
The Thief Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780060824976
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Greenwillow Books - December 27th, 2005

Here is an exquisitely crafted tale by a master storyteller.  Turner’s command of language is unparalleled in young adult fiction. At first, the story is driven by the characters and their slowly developing relationships; stunning landscape imagery; and interwoven Greek-style myths of Turner’s own devising.  Little do you suspect just how subtle and tricky Turner is, nor what delights are in store.  If you need nonstop action, this isn’t the book for you; if you are patient and want to get to know Gen (a subtle, tricky person indeed), you will be rewarded with one long stunner of a climax.  And then you will immediately turn back to page one and reread the whole book.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
Railhead Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781630790486
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Switch Press - April 1st, 2016

Zen Starling is a railhead, someone who rides the rails from world to world, someone who loves the fierce, proud, sentient trains that carry people all over the galaxy (via hyperspace "gates").  He's also a petty thief, sent on a mysterious mission by a morally ambiguous person called Raven. On the way, Zen gets to know some of the most remarkable creatures ever dreamed up in literature. Zen's mission is straightforward, but his choices are not: Why is he stealing this object? What is its importance to the galaxy? Who - what - is Raven? Reeve's writing is highly visual, the pacing is perfect (not frenzied, not predictable, never slow), the world-building phenomenal, and the inventiveness off-the-charts. This hard sci-fi story has a couple of quite violent moments (visceral, not graphic); what stuck with me were the characters, even the most minor of whom are beautifully developed, and the amazing galaxy Reeve has created. By far it's the best book I've read in 2016.


Reviewed by: 
Rebecca
The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781476724232
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - March 15th, 2016

What happens when real food – “healthy” food – gets ever more bland while processed foods become more flavorful?  The result is, according to Schatzker, “a large-scale flavor disorder.”  The brains and bodies of animals have a fine-tuned system that guides us to eat the foods we need; this system gets hijacked when we eat food that tastes like something it is not.  This thoroughly researched, fascinating book will give you great insight into the food industry, from hybridization to processing, all seen through the lens of flavor science.  The Dorito Effect could change your life – it sure changed mine.


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