Plain Kate by Erin Bow

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

Unshelved comic strip for 11/19/2010

@bookblrb: Kate exchanges her shadow for the secret wish of her heart so that she and her cat can flee rumors of witchcraft.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Link to this review by vanessaborden tagged literarymystery

On a cold winter night, at the age of seven, Libby Day witnessed the brutal murder of her mother and two sisters. Her testimony led to the conviction of her brother Ben.

Now she is just past thirty, bitter, and broke. To make money, she speaks to a group that looks into crimes. When she realizes that the whole group believes her brother to be innocent, Libby is forced to re-examine her family’s tragic end. She begins to get a clearer view of her family and discovers information that may point to a different killer.

Why I picked it up: The intriguing padlock graphic on the cover.

Why I finished it: The narrative moves between the past and the present, which not only adds to the suspense but also makes the gruesome passages bearable. The more I learned about the present, the more I was intrigued by the past. I was also fascinated by Libby Day. On the surface she is not very likable - she’s rude, a kleptomaniac, and a loner. But her ultimate willingness to learn the truth rather than cling to the past makes her a great protagonist.

I'd give it to: my mom, who enjoys Elizabeth George’s dark, psychological mysteries and likes supporting female writers.

@bookblrb: Libby’s testimony helped convict her brother of murdering their mother and sisters. But he may be innocent.

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fiction

Daiyu lives in St. Louis with her family who adopted her from China. A ring she feels compelled to purchase brings her to an alternate world where China is the dominant culture. There a ruthless matron trains her to fit into high society so that she can get close to and then rid the Capitol of an evil man named Shenglei. She falls in love with Kalen, who searches for rocks in the bed of the dammed river that runs through town. Daiyu begins to doubt whether she has been told the truth about this world when a life or death incident at the river lets her know who is telling the truth, but it may not matter if everything she cares about is lost.

Why I picked it up: Nominated for my ALA committee.

Why I finished it: Daiyu knows that if, at the end of her adventure, she stays, she’ll never see her family or friends again. But if she chooses to return home, she will lose all memory of the other world, including her relationship with Kalen.

I'd give it to: Alex, who would appreciate this fantasy that is light on details of how the alternate universe formed and the rules by which it operates (these take a backseat to the relationship between Kalen and Daiyu). Amy, who is tired of trilogies, and would like this standalone featuring an heroic young woman.

@bookblrb: Daiyu, an adoptee from China, travels to an alternate world where China is the dominant culture.

Haunted House Unknown Soldier Volume 1 by Joshua Dysart, Alberto Ponticelli

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelthriller

Uganda, 2002. Dr. Lwanga Moses fled to the U.S. with his parents when he was a child. He attended Harvard Medical School and now works in Uganda with his wife, who is also a doctor. They hope to help rebuild their country. Moses is a pacifist, but he’s haunted by unexplained and violent nightmares.

At an Internally Displaced Persons camp, Moses hears about a young girl abducted by rebels. He rushes into the bush to find her, but ends up with a machine gun pointed at his head by a young boy. A voice tells him how to fight. He kills the boy and then makes the other take the girl back to the clinic. The voice tries to convince him he can change things through violence.

Why I picked it up: I read the original Unknown Soldier comics when I was a kid.

Why I Finished It: It felt like the book was going to be an internal debate in Moses’ head about pacifism versus violence. Moses quickly embraced the latter, but as he continued killing child soldiers to save kids, questions about his choice linger.

I'd give it to: My friend Dave, who enjoyed both the award-winning Hotel Rwanda, the action-packed Tears of the Sun, and who has laughed at the the entertaining bloodbath that is a Punisher graphic novel at its best.

@bookblrb: A mysterious voice teaches a pacifist Ugandan doctor to use violence to save a young girl kidnapped by rebels.

Invincible Iron Man Omnibus Volume 1 by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca

Link to this review by billba tagged graphic novelsuperhero

Tony Stark is on top of the world as head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but his star falls rather rapidly, what with the Skrull invasion and the destruction of most of his company. Then Norman Osborn takes his old job and Stark goes on the run.

Why I picked it up: When our former book distributor Diamond returned some stock to us, they included this handsome volume in the box. Classy gift or sloppy accident? You decide.

Why I finished it: About a quarter of the way through the book Iron Man teams up (rather reluctantly) with Spider-Man. Spidey's patter is hilarious, and the framing narrative is very moving. A totally satisfying story.

I'd give it to: Fans of the Iron Man movies looking for a good jumping-on place. Fraction does a great job bringing the comic book and movie origin stories close enough to satisfy both purists and new fans.

@bookblrb: Tony Stark is head of S.H.I.E.L.D., but after his star falls rapidly he goes on the run.

Neko Ramen Volume 1 Hey! Order Up! by Kenji Sonishi, Kristy Harmon, Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged cookbookgraphic novel

Taisho runs an unsuccessful ramen shop. Tanaka-san is usually his only customer. Taisho will try almost anything to build up his business. Hilarity ensues. Did I mention he’s is a cat? (Don’t forget to read the dialogue from right to left, since this translated manga is laid out like the original.)

Why I picked it up: I heard that Taisho disappointed his family by starting a ramen shop instead of going into the family business, kitten modeling.

Why I finished it: The vertical, four-panel gag comic strips are funny even though I’m not a fan of ramen or cats. Taisho is so earnest and focused on his business he forgets that being a cat might not help it succeed. It read like a funny and humane sitcom worth telling my friends about.

Bonus: Find sample strips, a papercraft Taisho, and more at And fans who don't mind a hilarious M rated story about the adapters of a T rated manga can listen to the hilarious story of the English Adaptors wedding on Comedy Death Ray (it’s about 20 minutes from the beginning).

I'd give it to: Dan, who roots for those who struggle without awareness of their own shortcomings. And Edward will be entertained by Shige-Chan, Taisho’s horrible hippie employee (but the best one willing to be paid in tuna).

@bookblrb: A cat will do almost anything to build up his unsuccessful ramen restaurant.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageliterary

Raphael, Gardo, and Rat are three young boys who pick trash for things to sell. Raphael is thrilled to find a bag from a rich neighborhood and hopes he might earn enough for a meal. Instead he finds real trouble. It contains a key, a little money, and a note. Raphael takes it back to his shack and shares it with Gardo. They freak out when the police show up in force to search for the bag. Rat,who lives in a rat-infested hole in the garbage, helps them hide it. 

Why I picked it up: My niece went on a church mission to a garbage dump in Mexico where she worked with kids just like the protagonists of this book. (Mulligan was inspired to write the book when he traveled to a similar place.)

Why I finished it: The boys work out ciphers, escape from corrupt police, and stick together to outsmart powerful villains.

I'd give it to: Ali, a student of mine, who would appreciate the rat bites, trash, and the slime that pervades the boys’ living quarters.

@bookblrb: Three boys who live by picking through trash find real trouble and end up on the run from powerful villains.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Andrew Harrar, Richard Kohlrus

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged classicgraphic novelhistorical fiction

Treasure map. Pirates. Mutiny. Tropical island. Marooned castaway. Gold.

Why I picked it up:  I was stalled out reading another, longer graphic novel version of this novel, and decided to see if this was more appealing.

Why I finished it: It was. I’ve never read the original, but I bet this is much more abbreviated, giving more the flavor of Stevenson’s novel with less of his language. Also, Black Dog and the blind man look much creepier and larger-than-life in this version.

I'd give it to: Emma, who consumes books on her own but has to read the original for school, and who responds to required reading about as badly as I did. I doubt her teacher will be able to tell whether she read the original or not.

@bookblrb: Treasure map. Pirates. Mutiny. Tropical island. Marooned castaway. Gold.

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