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Recommendations for Friday, November 12, 2010

Tower of Treasure #1: Three Thieves by Scott Chantler

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelmysterythriller

Unshelved strip for 11/12/2010

Black Bizzard by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged classicgraphic novelthriller

A drunken pianist confronted the father of the girl he wants to write songs for. They fought. When the pianist came to, the girl’s father was dead.

Police arrest the pianist for murder. He is handcuffed to another murder suspect and put on a train with a policeman. Rocks derail the train, causing a horrendous accident. Attached at the wrist, the two escape into a winter storm together. Soon the authorities are hot on their trail. The pianist wants to turn himself in. But the other man, a career criminal, will go away for life if caught. He’ll cut off the pianist’s hands if he slows them down.

Why I picked it up: I was excited to read this book because Tatsumi wrote about writing it in A Drifting Life.

Why I finished it: I’ve never read a manga from this period before (1956) that wasn’t by Osamu Tezuka. Tatsumi’s storytelling technique is great, though it looks primitive at first glance (probably because of the limitations in printing technology at the time). I particularly loved the effective way he drew snowstorms, with lots of parallel motion lines and a few white bits of snow.

I'd give it to: Sean at Zanadu, who once geeked out with me over Steve Leiber’s techniques for illustrating snow in Whiteout. Robin Brenner who recommended Emma to me but who, I sense, may not have rushed out to buy this dark tale.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged literaryscience

For all that sex dominates our lives, it receives very little respect (and even less funding) in the scientific community. Mary Roach takes us on an entertaining tour through research old and new about the world's oldest preoccupation, answers questions important and unimportant, and pursues primary sources to great comedic effect.

Why I picked it up: Norton library marketer Dosier Hammond told me Roach was so committed to her story that she volunteered herself and her husband to be subjects for a study involving coital imaging. It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Why I finished it: The footnotes. I firmly believe that a well-edited book will often keep the narrative clear by moving the best material to the footnotes, and this one is no exception. One test for night-time tumescence involves postage stamps, and the footnote actually contains a quote from a USPS representative endorsing this practice.

I'd give it to: My friend Becca, a librarian turned porn star, because it's work-related.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

Siblings Kendra and Seth are pawned off on their grandparents for two weeks while their parents go on a cruise. They worry it will be boring, but things change when they discover their grandfather runs Fablehaven, a sanctuary for magical creatures. Because Seth cannot follow the strictures, he looses magical forces that endanger the preserve and his family.

Why I picked it up: Legions of middle schoolers kept clamoring for the book at my school library.

Why I finished it: Seth and Kendra do their best to survive fairies and magic. The denizens of Fablehaven take the shape of a baby to trick the kids and get into the house. To save their Grandpa, they must make a deal with a trapped witch, wrapped in ropes that bind her to a rickety shack in the woods, gnaws repeatedly and futilely at the knots, trying to free herself. But when the witch gets loose, she makes the situation far, far worse.

I'd give it to: Ryan, who has been looking for a perfect read-aloud to share with his kids at night because this has the right amount of triumph and fright.  Jules, who would love the innocent butterfly fairies, since she doesn’t like the cruel, vindictive, iron-fearing faeries in other books.

It's A Book by Lane Smith

Link to this review by sharonlevin tagged picture book

This is a simple looking picture book that has a lot to say about technology and how some things can never be replaced. It opens on the title page (I love picture books that take advantage of this space) with all the characters: a mouse, a jackass and a monkey.  The jackass is very confused by the thing the monkey is holding. “How do you scroll down?” “I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.”  

Why I picked it up: I’m a huge fan of Smith’s very warped The Happy Hocky Family.

Why I finished it: When the jackass is looking for a computer mouse, a real mouse pops up from under the monkey’s hat.

I'd give it to: Most of my customers at the bookstore where I work. I hand it to them and say, “I’ll leave you with it now. I guarantee I’ll hear you giggling in thirty seconds.” And I always do.

Saturn Apartments Volume 1 by Hisae Iwaoka

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Humanity has designated the Earth as a nature preserve and moved into a ring-shaped space station encircling the planet. Inside are three levels: the wealthy upper level of luxury homes, the middle level where schools and government services are, and a dark lower level crammed with high-rise apartment buildings. Mitsu lives in the lowest level, but gets to see it all because he's one of the brave few willing to risk death in the thin atmosphere and low gravity outside the ring to clean the windows.

Why I picked it up: It had a good review in Publisher's Weekly and I was intrigued by the premise.

Why I finished it: The story let me slowly get insight into the complexity and flaws of this contained society while drawing me into the lives of each character. Iwaoka uses perspective, different panel sizes, and background details to evoke a feeling of almost ridiculous spaciousness in the homes of the wealthy, which Mitsu sees through the windows he cleans. The same techniques made me feel the darkness and claustrophobia of the cramped living spaces of the workers in the lower levels. In the thin atmosphere outside of the ring, I could feel the dizzying drop below the workers and the howling, freezing wind. In my hurry to read about the growing connections between Mitsu and his coworkers, I felt guilty for not stopping to savor the masterful art and storytelling on each page.

I'd give it to: John, who will appreciate Mitsu’s changing idea of who his dad was, and who will like the society is well thought-out but remains in the background to support the story. Heather, who would pick it up for the adventures of a plucky orphan, but would love it for the way that Mitsu begins to appreciate how his neighbors and friends take care of him while keeping a respectful distance.

Tyger Tyger: Goblin Wars Book 1 by Kersten Hamilton

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

Teagan had a dream where goblins chased her. Her mother’s drawings of creatures from Irish mythology may be to blame. After Finn Mac Cumhaill, a ward of the state and Tea’s cousin, comes to live with her family, the situation quickly gets out of hand. He has the second sight and magical creatures (mostly evil) follow in his wake. Tea begins to see strange things at the edge of her peripheral vision. Mangy cat-creatures menace her on the bus. Then her father is kidnapped and taken to a faerie land ruled by an evil goblin king. She must journey with Finn and her autistic little brother to save him. Along the way she finds out more than she wanted to know about her family’s origins.

Why I picked it up: Got a free Advance Reader Copy for my Kindle via NetGalley and the subtitle reeled me in.

Why I finished it: It gave me a taste of Irish lore. And the fight scenes offered cruel details of suffering and torture, like Thomas, a man trapped in crow form who bleeds slowly from a thorn embedded in his wing. 

I'd give it to: Carinna, who is ready to move on from reading about vampires and fairies, but not from reading about doomed romantic relationships.  Colin, who confessed his love for Patrick Swayze’s character in Roadhouse, would like the tragic and noble Finn.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami, Ray Porter, Philip Gabriel

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged biographynonfiction

Japanese author Murakami talks about the place of running in his life, particularly how it relates to his writing and what he’s learned about writing by running long distances. Much of the book focuses on preparing to run the New York City Marathon in 2005.

Why I picked it up: My wife runs. She says it’s so she can eat any dessert she wants to, whenever she wants to. I don’t believe her.

Why I finished it: By the time he was running the original course from Marathon to Athens as part of an article he was writing, I was hooked. He helped me understand the step-by-step struggle to keep going, and provided some insight into how completing that run (and others like it) affected his character. I’m not ready to go out and start jogging, but I might if I want to get serious about any of the ideas for novels I have.

I'd give it to: The other husbands, most holding kids, waiting for our wives at the Seattle Marathon’s finish line every year. We should form a club -- why not a book club?

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