Ripley’s offers fascinating book of inconsequential facts

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not —Dare to Look.” Ripley Publishing, 2013. $28.95

Ripley and team have been finding and displaying the absurd, abnormal, supranormal and just plain out-of-the-ordinary curiosities since 1918.

The latest 256-page volume is absolutely crammed with inconsequential and utterly fascinating facts. The metallic, lime-green almost-holographic cover will make it practically levitate on any surface.

Not content with simple colored ink, excellent drawings, and documentary photographs on good paper, this edition has added a video aspect for further thrills. Download the oddscan app from the internet, and scan an image of “Puggy,” a Pekingese from Texas, and there is a dog with an abnormally long tongue lapping up ice cream. The oddscan logo throughout the book indicates further video opportunities.

There are fun facts, contemporary art, the body, sports feats, animals, food (not so appetizing, for certain), and one chapter “Beyond Belief,” which is probably true but, well, maybe. A skateboarding cat, perfectly camouflaged animals, and a drunken moose are innocent enough.

Take your pick of numerous other offerings in the chapter that make believing pretty difficult.

If that’s not enough, the publisher says very clearly, “Some of the stunts and activities in this book are undertaken by experts and should not be attempted by anyone without adequate training and supervision.”

Believe it.

Margaret Hawkins, Pontchatoula

“The Asylum” by John Harwood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. $25.

Acclaimed author John Harwood’s new gothic thriller “The Asylum” invites readers to explore a twisting tale of questionable identities, missing memories and a secret from the past that links everything together.

Georgina Ferrars wakes with no memory of the past three weeks, much less how she became a patient at Tregannon Asylum under the fictitious name of Lucy Ashton. Adding to the intrigue is the ‘real’ Georgina Ferrars, who is living in London and claiming the asylum’s patient is an imposter. Harwood effectively creates a gloomy, almost melancholy, atmosphere which permeates all aspects of the novel’s mysteries and serves to heighten the suspense.

Told from Georgina/Lucy’s perspective, the novel uses traditional narration when describing her experiences at the asylum before switching to letter/journal type storytelling when focusing on past events.

John Harwood’s book is full of secrets, mysteries and uncertainties which ensnare the reader from the very beginning and will keep them guessing until the very end.

Bryanne Schexnayder, New Orleans

“The Sweet Dead Life” by Joy Preble. SoHo Teen, 2013. $17.99.

“The Sweet Dead Life” by Joy Preble is a quirky YA mystery. Jenna’s dad disappeared when she was nine, her brother smokes too much pot and her mom has basically checked out.

But what’s even worse? Jenna is pretty sure that she is dying.

She pukes too much, has weird headaches, passes out at random, and has bright green pee.

One fateful night, as Jenna’s brother Casey rushes her to the ER after she collapses, he ends up crashing their tiny Prius.

When Jenna finally comes to in the hospital, she discovers two things: someone has been poisoning her beloved boots that she wears every single day and, two, her brother looks good.

Too good.

The stoner gut and greasy hair have miraculously been replaced by rock hard abs and perfect movie star waves.

With Jenna’s brother sent back to Earth to be her guardian angel, the sibling duo band together to solve not one, but two mysteries: who has been poisoning Jenna (and possibly her mother, too) and what happened to her dad all those years ago? Did he really leave them, or was something more sinister at play?

Full of snark and southern charm, this YA thriller is sure to entertain!

Sarah Hebert, Baton Rouge