Like most young teachers, Laura Freedman wanted to make a difference. She teased her students’ creativity with assignments such as “write a one-page story in which your favorite mystical creature resolves the greatest sociopolitical problem of our time.” Alas, she had her own demons to battle, and after a dramatic breakdown is committed to a mental health facility. Winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, When Mystical Creatures Attack! is a sparkling debut from Kathleen Founds. Each of the twenty-five linked mini-stories contains a magic of its own, and the sum total burns bright and true. Presented in letters, journal entries, assignments, and e-mails, the commentary may be humorous — even absurd — but the struggles are achingly real.
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Felix Callahan is a Hollywood heartthrob and married to a French model. Becky Jack is a Mormon housewife from Utah, pregnant with her fourth child and married to the love of her life. What do they have in common? On the surface nothing, but after a chance encounter, they instantly connect and are drawn together, quickly becoming best friends. Boundaries are tested, however, as Shannon Hale leads her readers into an exploration of the levels of faithfulness to your spouse and the capabilities, or incapability, of men and women being best friends. Weaving together thoughtful questions with witty banter, The Actor and the Housewife is perfect for anyone looking for a romantic comedy that gives its readers pause to think.
If Guardians of the Galaxy has increased your appetite for fun with heroes, villains, and sharp images, Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe is just the companion you need. Tim Leong has combined imagination and analytics in a wild collection of graphs, charts, and tables that explores in glorious geeky detail the trivia that thrills true fans. Vibrantly colored infographics decipher the many affiliations of the Marvel universe or even the convergences of the big three superhero tropes. The diagrams aren’t limited to cape-wearers, so you’ll find data on stories as different as Persepolis, Tintin, and The Walking Dead. Rich with clever design and bold geometric definition, Super Graphic allows you to bask in the small details that add up to larger-than-life adventures.
Prior to making one of the best films of the 1990s (Rushmore), Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson introduced their blend of sweet-tempered humanism and low-key comedy with Bottle Rocket. Ostensibly a heist flick, Bottle Rocket is in actuality an exceptionally laid-back tale of adolescent camaraderie and small ambitions. Fresh from a stay in a mental hospital, Anthony is recruited by his reality-challenged friend Dignan in an absurd plan to become master criminals. However, after another friend becomes involved, the trio’s schemes begin to disintegrate into aimlessness. Affable performances from the Wilson brothers turn Bottle Rocket’s gently ambling pace and charming comedic quirks into a picture one can’t help but like.
The 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced at the recent Comic-Con International in San Diego. Try some of these outstanding graphic novels among this year’s winners:
The Property by Rutu Modan – Best Graphic Album (New)
RASL by Jeff Smith – Best Graphic Album (Reprint)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples – Best Continuing Series, Best Writer, Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke – Best Adaptation from Another Medium, Best Lettering
Love and Rockets New Stories, vol. 6 by Jaime Hernandez & Gilbert Hernandez – Best Short Story, Best Writer/Artist
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky – Best New Series
Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown – Best Humor Publication
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja – Best Single Issue, Best Cover Artist
Battling Boy by Paul Pope – Best Publication for Teens
Miss Felicity Prim, an old-fashioned girl in contemporary Manhattan, decides after having her arm broken during a mugging that she needs to make some changes. “This will never happen again,” she vows. She enrolls in a self-defense class, buys a taser gun, and moves to Connecticut. One of her favorite pastimes is losing herself in crime novels, and she decides that a lifetime of reading mysteries has given her all the skills she needs to become an amateur sleuth. In The Outsmarting of Criminals, the first of a new series by Steven Rigolosi, Miss Prim’s resolve is quickly put to the test, because while moving into her quiet cottage, she discovers a secret passage leading to a secret basement, and in the center of the floor…a secret dead body.
Listen up! This year’s winners of the Audie Awards have been announced, celebrating the best audiobooks to bring giggles, sighs, knowledge, and excitement. Treat yourself to one of the top titles pictured below, and make the most of the fun by adding it to your Summer Reading Program log.
Audiobook of the Year: Still Foolin’ ‘Em, written and read by Billy Crystal
** also winner for Humor and for Narration by the Author
Biography/Memoir: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, read by Simon Vance
Literary Fiction: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by David Pittu
** also winner for Solo Narration (Male)
Science Fiction: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold, read by Grover Gardner
Romance: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks, read by Ron McLarty and January LaVoy
Thriller/Suspense: The Hit by David Baldacci, read by Ron McLarty with Orlagh Cassidy
When times are tough, it can be easy to wish for a little more awesome in our lives, but perhaps the awesome is already there, and we just need to take notice! Celebrate finding the amazing in the ordinary in The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha, founder of the website 1000 Awesome Things. With bright spots ranging from “eating the French fries at the bottom of the bag” and “the smell of rain on a hot sidewalk” to “the sound of ice cubes cracking in a drink” or “when you hear someone’s smile over the phone,” you can’t help but feel your spirits lift. Open your eyes to simple pleasures and a happier outlook.
“Once upon a time…” Are there four more thrilling words? No matter our age, we love a story! If it’s been too long since you’ve visited a faraway land, set sail for Happily Ever After, a collection of retold fairy tales by masters of fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction. Gregory Maguire riffs on Snow White with “The Seven Stage a Comeback,” Cinderella takes a disturbing turn in Peter Straub’s “Ashputtle,” and “The Troll Bridge” has never been as fun as when Neil Gaiman is telling it. Edited by John Kilma and with an introduction by Fables creator Bill Willingham, Happily Ever After is an ideal choice for enchantment during this year’s Discover the Magic summer reading program.
Michael Cera plays one of those insufferable hangers-on, the type of guy who’s always the last to leave the party (long after the hosts have expressed their desire for sleep) in Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus, a surprisingly poignant indie road-trip flick. On a single-minded quest to find, prepare, and consume the titular “magic cactus,” he hooks up with three sweet-natured Chilean brothers. Also on board is a free-spirited American girl named Crystal Fairy (a magnetic Gaby Hoffmann), who frustrates him with a goodness that he sees as an obstacle to his desired hallucinogenic journey. It’s an offbeat ride, for sure, but the dynamic that develops between these disparate characters is fascinating and leads to a heartbreaking revelation.