A well-researched narrative told with true grit.

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SAMURAI RISING

THE EPIC LIFE OF MINAMOTO YOSHITSUNE

The life of 12th-century samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune unfolds in this compelling and often shocking nonfiction account. The opening warning doesn’t lie: very few people die of natural causes.

Even as a baby, Yoshitsune’s life is tied to war and honor. After Yoshitsune’s father, the leader of the Minamoto samurai, kidnaps the Retired Emperor as payback for favoring rival samurai leader Taira Kiyomori, Yoshitsune is taken from his family to live at the Kurama Temple. (His father is later beheaded.) Although he grows up among monks, his warrior heart leads him to escape and seek out samurai training. Soon, he learns that his half brother Yoritomo is rebelling against the Taira. How can Yoshitsune refuse an opportunity to reunite with his kin, avenge his father’s murder, and conquer Japan? Turner describes how, with skill, brilliance, and mental toughness that borders on insanity, Yoshitsune attacks the Taira in infamous battles, including an audacious over-the-cliff attack on the fortress Ichi-No-Tani. He becomes a war hero to some, a loathsome figure to others, entering the lore with unforgettable consequences, including institutionalizing the ritual suicide known as seppuku and figuring in art from contemporary medieval songs all the way to modern manga. Samurai life isn’t pretty. References to beheadings and seppuku are plentiful and may make some wince. The cast of characters listed becomes a handy guide in keeping up with the Minamotos and Tairas.

A well-researched narrative told with true grit. (author’s notes, timeline, glossary, chapter notes, bibliography) (Biography. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58089-584-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing.

THE AMAZING BOOK IS NOT ON FIRE

THE WORLD OF DAN AND PHIL

A couple more YouTube stars write a book.

Howell, who goes by "danisnotonfire," and "AmazingPhil" Lester are the latest YouTube stars hoping to cross over to the world of books. Instead of crafting a memoir or adapting their videos into a fictional series, the duo have filled these 225 pages with bold graphics, scatological humor, and quirky how tos that may entice their fan base but will leave everyone else out in the cold. It contains a wide variety of nonsense, ranging from Phil's chat logs to information on breeding hamsters. There's an emoji-only interview and some Dan/Phil fanfiction (by Howell rather than a fan) and even a full double-page spread of the pair's unsuccessful selfies. All this miscellany is shoveled in without much rhyme or reason following introductory pages that clearly introduce the pair as children, leaving readers who aren't in on the joke completely out of the loop. The authors make no attempt to bring in those on the outside, but in all honesty, why should they? The only people buying this book are kids who already love everything Dan and Phil do or clueless relatives in desperate search of a gift for the awkward teens in their lives. The book's biggest fault is its apparent laziness. It feels like something slapped together over a weekend, with no heart or soul.   

A loud, cynical cash grab—far from amazing. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-93984-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

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