Rampant – Diana Peterfreund

Two words: Killer Unicorns.

If you’re
a)      tired of vampires, werewolves, and zombies, and
b)      a fan of kick-ass heroines like Buffy

Then, this is the book for you.

Astrid has never really believed her mother’s crazy tales about the bloodthirstiness (or existence!) of unicorns. But one night, her date is gored by a creature with a single horn. When Astrid saves him, she discovers that her mother has been telling the truth. Not only are unicorns real and out for blood, but Astrid is a descendant of one of the greatest unicorn slayers of all time. Now Astrid must travel to a crumbling cloister in Rome to learn the finer points of unicorn hunting. (submitted by GH)

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Just Listen: discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone

I bought this book.  I have given it as a high-school graduation gift.  I cannot recommend more highly.  Mark Goulston dissects his natural gifts to share with the rest of us.  Simple and powerful techniques for better and effective communication, especially with difficult people, or with people who are having a difficult time.  Very practical and enjoyable to read.

Some of the things I liked:

  • Stop trying to be interesting, be interested instead
  • Let a person in crisis exhale: they vent, be quiet, they stop, say “tell me more”, don’t engage or debate or offer solutions, just listen and let them exhale
  • Make everyone feel valuable
  • Share your own vulnerabilities (bare your neck)
  • Steer clear of toxic people: the needy, bullies, takers, narcissists, and psychopaths
  • Ask: What is impossible but desirable?  Then ask: What would make that possible?
  • Ask: “Do you really believe that?” when they make a hyperbolic statement
  • The power of “Hmmmm….” (and “Really” and “And so…” and “Tell me more” and “Then what happened?”) to de-escalate
  • Cause people to look up (with their eyes) and reflect on your question – you’ll make a better connection with them than if your question is transactional (yes/no) (submitted by Jen)

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

There are people who are deeply offended by this concept: a mash-up of a beloved classic with monsters.  I am not one of those people.  Quite the contrary, I have never read Pride and Prejudice and never intend to.  The movies are about as close as I get to classic literature.

Jane Austen?  Boring.  Jane Austen plus zombies?  Hilarious and action-packed!   Also, very commercially successful – a new genre has been spawned.

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Everlost – Neal Shusterman

So, what happens to you if you die before you turn 17, perhaps in a head-on car crash, and something interrupts on your journey toward the light?  You might end up in Everlost.  Quite the afterlife universe.  First book in a trilogy, the sequel is called Everwild – and it is a lot darker than this first book.  Everfound is set for release in May 2011.

Fresh vision, wonderful story-telling, and an increasingly dark and unpredictable tale.

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The Last Dragon – Silvana De Mari

If you like well-written fantasy and humour, this is the book for you.  Recommended to me by a children’s librarian,  I laughed out loud several times, and yet it was also very sad too.  A familiar set-up – an elf, a dragon, an orphan, and a prophecy to save the world, but an original execution of this plot – which I thought was wonderful.  As an adult science fiction/ fantasy fan, it was great to be surprised by children’s fantasy fiction.  Delightful! 

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Medium Raw

It starts out with a wonderful story about the most illegal meal he’s ever had. 

 A very angry cook wrote the iconoclastic Kitchen Confidential about the underbelly of the New York restaurant scene in the 1980s and 1990s, published in 2000.  It made Anthony Bourdain  a star.  I loved that book.  This is the follow-up.  He’s older and wiser and less angry, or at least he’s more self-aware and philosophical about it.  He writes the way he talks – which will be familiar if you’ve watched his TV show, No Reservations.  This book is about how Kitchen Confidential utterly changed his life, opening up the world to him.  He tells great stories, in a wry and humourous tone, and I was only sorry that the book ended – I would’ve been happy to keep reading.

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Debt-Free Forever: take control of your money and your life

I love her TV show on Slice – Til Debt Do Us  Part – and her other books have been great too.  Here is a practical book on getting out of debt that is fun to read – it feels like she’s speaking to you from the pages, in the same tone as her show.  Things that I learned:  
Cancelling a credit card isn’t always enough – you need to check your credit score to be totally sure.  Ask for written confirmation from the bank that the account has been closed.
*Written requests for your credit score cost nothing.  It is free once per year.
* You can save a lot of money on your mortgage by switching from a monthly payment to an accelerated weekly payment.
*I was not convinced by her arguments in favour of life insurance – I think that life insurance is only for people with dependents – and I don’t have any of those.  But I’ll be looking into critical illness insurance.
*I need a will.  I know it.  And I should probably have a lawyer do it. 
You can probably find things in this book that you didn’t know about money, budgeting, insurance, and getting yourself out of debt.  Very useful.