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Fantasy League.

Lupica, Mike (author).
Sept. 2014. 304p. Philomel, hardcover, $17.99 (9780399256073). Grades 5-8.
REVIEW. First published September 1, 2014 (Booklist). Usually a football book is about whether or not the kid makes the team—and the problems that follow. So it’s refreshing that those issues are only a part of 12-year-old Charlie Gains’ story. See, Charlie is known as the Brain, because he is a football stats genius. He understands which players should be playing where and why. This makes him great at fantasy football; then reality comes center stage. His best friend, Anna, is the granddaughter of Joe Warren, the man who has brought NFL football back to Los Angeles. But the team, the Bulldogs, haven’t done much, and Joe’s son, the GM, is being blamed. Enter Charlie, who loves the team and soon comes to love Joe Warren as the father and grandfather he never had. Charlie shares his massive football knowledge with Joe, and soon players are being recruited at Charlie’s suggestion. Couple this with the fact Anna has turned Charlie into something of a podcast celebrity, and suddenly Charlie is catnip for the media. That’s great until things start to go wrong. There’s a lot of football here: pro and fantasy teams and Charlie’s own Pop Warner career. Veteran sportswriter Lupica handles it all very well. However, it’s the heart and depth he adds to the story depicting Charlie’s relationships with a sterling cast of characters that make this unique. This Moneyball story with kids is on the money.— Ilene Cooper

School Library Journal

Taking the Teen Summer Challenge to New Heights, Pierce County Style
At Pierce County Library System (WA), staff recognized that their summer reading program needed to be reimagined. The Teen Summer Challenge was created to provide a more meaningful experience for their tweens and teens.

Joey Pigza’s Last Hurrah, the Latest from Cynthia Kadohata, and More | Fiction Grades 5-8
This month, authors sensitively and perceptively portray both the bright and dark sides of family life, including award-winning author Cynthia Kadohata’s Half a World Away, a poignant look at adoption, the last installment in the “Joey Pigza” series, and Neil Gaiman’s innovative retelling of the “Hansel and Gretel” tale.

Fall Announcement Issue Picture Books, Easy Readers, and Beginning Chapter Books | Fiction Preschool to Grade 4
This issue is chock-full of new selections from classic picture-book artists, such as John Burningham, Anthony Browne, Denise Fleming, Bob Graham, and Chris Van Allsburg, as well as selections from some newcomers to the burgeoning field.

Library Journal

Cancer Gene Blues: Seven Titles for October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast cancer is all about the numbers: the infamous one in eight lifetime probability of a diagnosis, the number of lymph nodes removed, gene mutations 1 and 2, risk factor percentages, even how old one should be to start screenings.

Reading Out Summer | Wyatt’s World
Get ready for one last reading extravaganza of summer books—from why Almond is Against Football to Penny's beautifully set Long Way Home to Straub's wry and delightful Vacationers

Audiobooks from Berry, Greene, Jio, & Riley | Xpress Reviews
Cotton Malone saves the United States, one for business and political philosophy, mid-century Seattle according to Jio, a century-spanning drama from Riley

Kirkus Reviews

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The bard of blue-collar Boston crime returns with a sleight-of-hand novel tinged with sin and redemption.

The latest from Lehane (Live by Night, 2012, etc.) is a novel with an unusual genesis, and it’s shorter and less intricate than usual. It began when he was asked to adapt one of his short stories (“Animal Rescue”) for a movie. Though his novels have seen success on the big screen, this was his screenwriting debut, and it preceded the writing of this book, which might be dismissed, in lesser hands, as a “novelization” of the film. It’s richer than a mere re-creation of a movie on the page because the author gets inside the heads and thoughts of his characters in a way that a movie generally can’t. And this particular perspective is crucial when it comes to protagonist Bob, a keep-to-himself bartender who works for Cousin Marv. Both men, like pretty much every man in their neighborhood, have some sort of shady past, but the two have apparently gone comparatively straight. Yet Cousin Marv’s bar remains used by the Chechen mobsters who own it as a money drop for transferring funds. Such is the backdrop for what appears to be the main plot, in which lonesome, loveless Bob finds a beaten puppy in a trash can and is persuaded by a woman who witnesses the incident (and who has her own questionable past) to take it home. Since “all he wanted was to not be alone,” the connection with both the dog and the woman proves so transforming that he “suspected they might have been brought together by something other than chance.” But there’s another connection, a crazy thug and rumored killer who claims that both the dog and the woman are his. As the novel progresses, every character has secrets and revelations—except maybe Rocco, the dog—as the plot pivots in some surprising directions.

Even one of the novelist’s lesser efforts has the signature style, edge and heart to delight fans.

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An upstanding British civil servant’s life is upended during the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium.               

There is an extraordinary amount of complexity and homage present in this rip-roaringly funny satire by Coe (The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, 2011, etc.), so much so that even readers with the most observant eyes for detail may miss a few marks. No matter, because in placing an obscure character in the circus that was Expo 58, the author manages to pull off the fascinating trick of portraying high comedy while being absolutely faithful to its extraordinary setting. Coe’s Everyman protagonist is Thomas Foley, who first appeared as a tangential character in the earlier novel The Rain Before It Falls (2008). Here, Foley is an upstanding civil servant and dedicated if somewhat distractible family man. His superiors at the Ministry of Information are in a tizzy over the impending World’s Fair, debating furiously whether a history of the British water closet is appropriate fodder. Foley is tasked to repair to Brussels for six months to oversee the Brittania, a modern-ish pub meant to be the jewel of England’s pavilion. Drawing its tone from the broad comedy of the 1950s and its heart from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 comic thriller The Lady Vanishes, the novel captures with lighthearted glee that extraordinary moment when Great Britain is caught between the stiff upper lip of postwar survivors and the swinging ’60s that still lie ahead. Coe lays trap after trap in front of Foley, among them a beautiful Flemish hostess and a very funny pair of bickering British spooks who fall in the tradition of Thomson and Thomson from Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin. For all the book's inherent humor (e.g. the American and Russian pavilions are parked back to back for Europe’s amusement), Coe is extraordinarily faithful to the time and place of his elegant farce, describing the Atomium with an almost poetic sense of wonder and idealism.

A decidedly British comic adventure that lovingly captures a long-lost age.

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A ripping yarn torn from the pages of many another adventure tale, this high-speed, low-quality mashup concerns an ancient female sect and the present-day seekers of its secrets.

When brainy Jeremy Grady is slain in his MIT computer lab, it’s soon clear that the murderer failed to reckon with twin brother and doughty field anthropologist Jack. He has a support team comprising a silent computer whiz and a wisecracking Asian who manage the problems Jack can’t handle with his wits, his muscle or his uncanny puzzle-solving skills. (And yet, he fails to notice that the word “seven” has “eve” between the two global “n” and “s” poles!) As he works to unravel his brother’s mind-boggling discovery about a connection between the Ancient and Modern Seven Wonders of the World, Jack acquires a partner in stoic botanical geneticist Sloane Costa. Her desire for tenure and her incredible discovery in the lower depths of the Coliseum might further Jack’s pursuit of the centuries-old Amazons and the Order of Eve and maybe the Tree of Life in Eden. But can they stay one step ahead of the beautiful DNA-business billionaire Jendari Saphra, who covets the secret of Mitochondrial Eve and has at her disposal a fantastic wardrobe (Swarovski, Herve Leger, Versace) and a centuries-old gang of trained killers with ivory javelins? What about the asps, the giant crocodile, the 40,000 severed hands and the countless spiders? Mezrich (Straight Flush, 2013, etc.) rings up a debt to, among others, James Bond, Indiana Jones, the Nicholas Cage National Treasure series and the Brendan Fraser mummy movies that is incalculable. OK, it’s a genre rife with borrowing but rarely on such a scale.

A comiclike outing rich in repetition and clichés, this typing exercise is at heart an intriguing story that deserved a writer who could rise at least to the level of a Dan Brown, yet another Mezrich creditor.

<September 2014>