The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2010 by Bob Sehlinger

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged reference

Unshelved comic strip for 1/15/2010
Adventures in Cartooning How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged artgraphic novelnonfiction

A princess feels like she can't draw well enough to make a comic. A bubblegum chewing dragon kidnaps her. A magic elf helps the knight trying to rescue her, and explains cartooning basics along the way. It's a fairy tale with a nice reversal at the end designed to inspire young readers to make their own comics.

Why I picked it up: The colors caught my eye, and then I saw James Sturm's name on the cover.

Why I finished it: This book is just fun. Every time I look at it, I want to draw.

I'd give it to: Elementary school libraries, teachers who still don't get comics, and the younger version of me (I'm looking for a hole in space-time to send it to him).

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking by Stephanie O'Dea

Link to this review by silver tagged cookbook

A book of quick recipes that use a crock pot.

Why I picked it up: My husband "Gene" handed me a stack of books and the title of this one got my attention. I wasn't sure what it meant, so I flipped through the pages.

Why I finished it: The recipes are simple, easy to follow, and the ones I've tried so far were delicious. My favorites are basic chili, Indian curry, honey and orange tofu, and split pea soup.

I'd give it to: Those who'd like to prepare home-cooked food for their families but feel like they don't have time. Anyone who wants to find out what they can do with a crock pot.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageliterary

Marcelo, an autistic kid, has his summer wired. He's going to work with ponies at a summer camp and attend his special school. This dramatically changes after his high-powered father blackmails him into joining the "real world" as an intern at his father's law practice. Literal, idiosyncratic, and completely ignorant of office politics, Marcelo is a lightning rod in the office. How people respond to him reveals who they are as moral human beings.

Why I picked it up: This story of a high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome teen was a chance to peek into my wife's professional life.

Why I finished it: Marcelo's differences are easily apparent, but also endearing. The book is clinical in dealing with Asperger's, without reading like a textbook. Marcelo functions much like an older computer - he processes much more information than a "normal" person, but slowly. His voice remains charming, emotionless and consistent, even as his life is turned upside down.

I'd give it to: Social workers, patient teens, and Gene, because it's the best book I read last year.

Road Dogs A Novel by Elmore Leonard

Link to this review by billba tagged mystery

Jack Foley gets out of jail early thanks to LaBrava's Cundo Rey. Now Jack owes him - but Cundo's wife, Riding the Rap's Dawn Navarro, has other plans. Don't recognize any of these characters? Reading (or watching) Out of Sight is a good place to start.

Why I picked it up: I've slowly become a big Leonard fan, and watching familiar characters come together sounded like fun.

Why I finished it: Not the plot, that's for sure. I'm not even sure there was one. Betrayal? Murder? It's all about the dialog. Who needs a plot when these guys start talking?

I'd give it to: My mom, who enjoys crime fiction, on the condition that we don't discuss the sex scenes.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei 1 The Power of Negative Thinking by Koji Kumeta

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novel

Nozomu Itoshiki, a high school teacher, looks at everything negatively. He's hopeless, finds things to worry about in every situation, and wants to die. He tries to hang himself before school one morning, but is saved by a girl, Kafuka Fura, who looks at everything positively (she believes he only wanted to be taller). They soon find out Kafuka is in his class, and that she's not his only peculiar student.

Why I picked it up: The cover design is elegant and its colors subtle. When I opened the book I found manga-stye art that made me think of Solanin and Love Roma.

Why I finished it: Early on, students are asked to fill out a survey about their post graduation career hopes. Nozomu goes negative and has them write down things they can never hope to be. Ever hopeful Kafuka has a hard time fulfilling his assignment, but ultimately writes down God, a person from the future, and an alien. I was laughing out loud at whole chapter, especially the school administrator's reaction.

I'd give it to: Grown up fans of dark and ridiculous stories like Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and manga readers who don't mind student-teacher innuendo and upskirt images.

The Big Burn Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged history

Ever thought you screwed up big? So big that things would never be the same? The National Forest Service was created by a sportsman who wrestled half-naked with Teddy Roosevelt in the White House. First Forester Gifford Pinchot promised to keep fires in the West under control, which looked doable until The Big Burn. It is still the biggest fire in American history (it was the size of Connecticut), and it nearly immolated this fledgling agency.

It is almost two separate books. One covers the birth of the national park system and Forest Service, and the fight against robber barons and corrupt politicians. The other is the tale of the fire that killed dozens of men and has ramifications for politics and natural resources today.

Why I picked it up: After Egan's dust bowl epic The Worst Hard Time, I will read anything he writes.

Why I finished it: The accounts of personal heroism, or lack thereof, of men surrounded by 100MPH walls of flame. Knowing how close we came to losing a civic treasure like our national parks to developers and dirty congressmen.

I'd give it to: Granola-eating hair farmers, political junkies, and wilderness types.

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