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Recommendations for Friday, October 22, 2010

Cat Getting Out of a Bag And Other Observations by Jeffrey Brown

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged comic stripshumornonfiction

Unshelved strip for 10/22/2010

Fragile by Lisa Unger

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged coming of agemystery

Life in The Hollows, a small town in upstate New York, is all about family and familiarity. Maggie left because she couldn't handle the small town mentality but returned after falling in love with the local policeman. Then a young girl goes missing and their son becomes the prime suspect. The circumstances surrounding her disappearance bring back memories of another missing girl murdered twenty years earlier. Maggie begins to doubt the people she knows and loves, exposing long-buried secrets.

Why I picked it up: I was hooked on the author's foreboding and atmospheric style after reading her first novel, Beautiful Lies. I also love books with one word titles.

Why I finished it: Right from the start the suspense and uncertainties escalate. The missing girl is only a fraction of this intricate tale. It's all about The Hollows, a town where everyone knows everyone else's business; where family, friends, and enemies are fatally intertwined; and where Maggie can’t escape her past. 

I'd give it to: My sister, Julie, who will appreciate that her son’s girlfriend’s mom isn’t a former high school cheerleader with a drinking problem.

The Half-Life of Planets by Emily Franklin, Brendan Halpin

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Liana’s father is on another bogus trip to the hospital. There she meets Hank, who has an encyclopedic  knowledge of music but some interesting social manners. For Hank, their relationship his first with a girl who is not a relative -- he’s considered a nerd and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrom. For Liana, who has sworn off kissing after being called a slut, it is her first based on friendship and shared interests instead of the hotness of the boy in question.

Why I picked it up: Read the first page, which begins, “I am not a slut. Evidence exists that is contrary to this statement, but…”  (What does that say about me??)

Why I finished it: The scene where Hank is shredding at a show in full KISS regalia with several overage, overweight fans is worth the cost of the book by itself. 

Also, the realism of the difficulties that Asperger’s brings to a friendship and dating is refreshing.  I cringed whenever Hank trampled social norms because he failed to understand social cues, despite his intelligence.

I'd give it to: Mick, who has classes with a student who has Asperger’s but doesn’t understand what makes him tick. I’d also give it to Lisa, who loved the way Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was written, because this is also told in the alternating voices of the two main characters.

Koko Be Good by Jen Wang

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novel

Jon’s older, long-distance girlfriend Emily is moving to Peru to follow her dream. Jon just finished college and decided to follow. Neither is 100% sure this is the best thing, but he already quit his job and is packing. Then he runs into the wild and irresponsible Koko at a bar, and they become unlikely friends.

Why I picked it up: Great cover! I also really enjoyed Wang’s comic short story “paper & string” which she published in the first Flight anthology.

Why I finished it: Fresh out of school at twenty-three, I headed for Korea to cement my understanding of the language and my place in my then-girlfriend’s family. There I met the older (don’t tell her I told you) woman I married. Not an exact parallel, but this graphic novel felt familiar and personal.

I'd give it to: C., a friend’s college-age daughter, who wants to live “I don’t know, somewhere in South America maybe?” for a while but doesn’t want to talk about why.

Matched by Allyson Condie

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged romancescience fiction

Cassia has always let the Society decide everything for her. After all, that is their role. They decide where one works, when one eats and even who one loves. When the time comes for her to be matched in marriage, she is thrilled that the face that shows up on her reader is a childhood friend. But then her reader flashes a picture of another boy right before it goes black. Cassia begins to second-guess whether the Society officials have her best interests in mind. She soon faces a choice between her “perfect” match and the boy she’s passionate about.

Why I picked it up: At a publisher’s dinner in Washington DC, I got to speak to Ally Condie for over an hour. She was gracious and humble, despite her book’s fantastic reviews.

Why I finished it: Dystopian fiction is hot right now, but many of the available books are filled with violence. This isn’t. Instead, it focuses on choices and independence in a society where people have traded freedom for safety and security.

I'd give it to: tefan, who once told me he wouldn’t mind an arranged marriage, because I think it would make him reconsider what he’d be giving up. Also Shona, who has to be up on the books generating the most YA hype, because this debut novel reportedly earned Condie a HUGE advance.

Ôoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged alternate historygraphic novel

Set in a Japan where the Red Face Pox killed most of the male population, the second volume explores its early history.

Arikoto, a new abbott, arrives in Edo to present himself to the shogun. Young and handsome, Arikoto catches the eye of Reverend Kasuga, a powerful woman within the shogun’s inner circle. Arikoto is pressured to renounce his vows as a monk and become one of the men who serve for the shogun’s pleasure. He is drawn deeper into the mysterious world of the inner chambers, becoming part of the secrets that maintain the shogunate and keep Japan from falling into chaos.   

Why I picked it up: After being blown away by Ôoku Volume 1, I really didn’t have any choice.  

Why I finished it: Arikoto is a strong character of quiet dedication. Even as he finds himself forced out of his monastic life and its altruistic ideals and gives in to the worst type of coercion, he never deserts his own deep sense of honor. His strong will in the face of adversity is shared by many of the characters, both Arikoto’s friends and his opponents.

(Like the first book, Volume 2’s story that stands on its own. You could read the two volumes in reverse order.)

I'd give it to: My friend Sienna, who loves the heroines of Jane Austen’s novels and how they persevere by remaining true to themselves, though sometimes they need to discover their true selves along the way. She would love the heroes of Ôoku for the same reason.

The Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Agency that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged historymystery

In 1956, the Mississippi state government funded an agency to secretly undermine efforts by individuals, groups like the NAACP, and the Federal government to desegregate Mississippi. The work was done by paid informants, spies, local law enforcement, and White Citizens' Councils through tactics ranging from propaganda and blackmail to removing books mentioning Civil Rights from schools and libraries.

Why I picked it up: Never heard of a spy network in the Civil Rights era.

Why I finished it: Each chapter is more jaw-dropping than the last. Each tale of flagrant illegal activity to stop desegregation is drawn from the files of the agency itself, with supporting information from contemporary news accounts and memoirs of the participants, leaving no room for denial or downplaying the significance of what happened.

I'd give it to: Tracey, who will appreciate the bravery of the ordinary people who stood up to violence with nonviolence. John, who will like the parts where the realities of money and re-election change the minds of ardent segregationists.

Twin Spica Volume One by Kou Yaginuma, Maya Rosewood

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelscience fiction

  1. Asumi (14) the smallest girl in her class, wants to be an astronaut. She passed the first part of her exam for the Tokyo Space School. Next she faces a practical skills test. She is sealed into a small module with two other girls for seven days. They must first figure out how to unlock a box, then complete the assignment in it. They will succeed or fail together, but one girl isn’t easy to work with.

Asumi’s friend, a former astronaut, told her the things she would need most are perseverance and a cooperative personality. This advice, together with thoughts of Spica, her favorite binary stars, help her throughout the exam.

Why I picked it up: I thought my daughter would enjoy reading it with me because of the girl on the cover. She’s interested in science and learning Japanese, and I hoped this manga would encourage her interest in both.

Why I finished it: Asumi’s dad kept the coupon she gave him in the first grade. When he showed it to her, by way of apology, it made up for his violent outburst at finding out she had take the first exam.

I'd give it to: Dads with little girls, like me, who enjoy reading Yotsuba&! because of the relationship between Yotsuba and her father. Grant, a patron at the library where I used to work, who read the excellent, astronaut-oriented five-volume manga Planetes and was hungry for more.

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