Chew Volume 1: Taster's Choice by John Layman, Rob Guillory

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

Unshelved comic strip for 11/5/2010
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Link to this review by billba tagged literary

An unhappily married midwestern wife's angst ripples throughout her family and beyond.

Why I picked it up: I really liked The Corrections but I probably wouldn't have picked this up so quickly if Ron Hogan hadn't been tweeting about various Franzen-related controversies.

Why I finished it: I realized I had enjoyed an excerpt in The New Yorker in which I grew attached to Joey, the son of protagonist Patty Berglund. I skimmed through the second half of the book to find out how it all turned out, then went back and savored the language I had skipped.

I'd give it to: Sadly I read the Kindle version, so I am unable to give it to anyone. But if ebook publishers weren't so restrictive about their licensing I'd give it to my old friend Pam, who would identify with a marriage gone sour.

Genius and Heroin The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages by Michael Largo

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged essayshistorynonfiction

Encyclopedia-style book that ruminates on the link between addictive personality and genius through short entries on famous people with a dependence and an interesting method of death. Entries vary in length, but are filled with anecdotes like the fact that Michelangelo did not believe in washing or changing clothes more than once every six months.  Exhaustively researched, it contains extensive notes for those who want to follow up.   

Why I picked it up: At a local thrift store I found this book whose cover featured Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Edgar Allan Poe and Sigmund Freud.

Why I finished it: Dante Rosetti, a painter and writer in London, died in 1882 because of his addiction to Chloral, a drug often mixed with alcohol to give a pleasant, dreamy high. When trying to wean himself off the drug, he choked on massive amounts of bile and eventually asphyxiated.

I'd give it to: Rich, who has a bathroom well stocked with magazines and crocheted doilies, but  could use a more morbid bathroom reader.  Gene and Bill, who often spout nonsensical facts of the sort they could gather from this book

Mooch by Dan Fante

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged literary

Bruno Dante is trying to stay sober and employed. He was having a tough time with both even before he became obsessed with Jimmi. She’s a sales trainee, sexy as hell, and a recovering drug addict. Bruno’s employer makes every effort to help him succeed after he hits bottom, even giving him another chance at work and setting him up in an apartment. But Bruno needs Jimmi, and Jimmi needs to get high.

Why I picked it up: I was touched by Dan Fante’s recent Fresh Air interview, particularly when he talked about the time his father, the writer John Fante, first complimented his writing.

Why I finished it: On page 6, Bruno has just been fired. He’s at the halfway house where he lives, looking at a short story he wrote. “I picked the story up and looked at the wrinkled title page, then back down at the typewriter’s bared black keys. They stared up at me like the eyes of frightened boat people.” Amazing sentence.

I'd give it to: My friend Liz, who shares my love of James Sallis’ Lew Griffith novels, which are also poetic books about an alcoholic trying (and sometimes failing) to lock away his demons.

RASL The Drift by Jeff Smith

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Rasl was a scientist working at The Compound alongside the woman he loved. Now she’s dead and he’s a thief who steals from parallel universes. While after a Picasso, he’s attacked by an odd-looking man who can also travel to other worlds. He is an assassin sent by The Compound sent an assassin to retrieve what Rasl took.

Why I picked it up: Jeff Smith wrote Bone, an all-ages graphic novel my family has ready several times, twice together, out loud. I had to find out why this comic needed a mature content warning.

Why I finished it: The way Rasl hops to parallel universes is way cooler than what Quinn Mallory did in every week in Sliders.

I'd give it to: Ben, who enjoyed the universe jumping in Transition by Iain M. Banks.

The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged historical fiction

In 1400s England, Johanna goes on pilgrimage to Rome with her mistress, Margery. This should be a wonderful adventure, especially since most people never left their hometowns, but Johanna's boss puts her in danger over and over again by annoying the people she travels with, praying loudly, and crying while they are trying to sneak past bandits. Eventually she abandons Johanna with no money or food.

Why I picked it up: The story is based on the first autobiography in the English language, The Book of Margery Kempe, but tells the story of the servant she castigates and casts aside.

Why I finished it: Barnhouse did an amazing job putting me into the time with the protagonist's voice. Johanna doesn't explain things to a modern audience, she experiences them as someone living in her time would. There are no action-movie perils to escape, but I was afraid for her throughout the book because she had absolutely no one to protect her and no resources of her own. Because of the slightest misstep, she might die alone. I rooted for her like crazy.

I'd give it to: Ann, who will like the details of a holy pilgrimage and the way religion was a part of everyday life. Dawn, who will be amused by the opportunities to buy souvenirs at every pilgrimage stop. Anyone with an annoying or possibly crazy boss -- not that I know anyone like that, I'm sure.

The Good, The Bad and the Barbie A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged historynonfiction

An unauthorized look at the creation of the famous doll from an admitted fan. It covers changes in Barbie’s appearance, her clothes and careers through the decades, and our changing responses to her. Stone states the case against Barbie and her unattainable measurements. She paraphrases arguments from feminists on both sides of the debate over Barbie’s impact on the self-image of young girls. 

Why I picked it up: The “Unauthorized” tag on the front made me hope that there was something juicy inside.  It also looked well-researched, and I was interested because I my daughter loved Barbie a few years ago.

Why I finished it: The weird pictures like those of the lady who makes jewelry from Barbie parts. She’s surrounded by bins of naked Barbies which she tears apart for her works. Also, I enjoyed learning about the young immigrant girl, Ruth Handler, whose persistent vision eventually made Barbie a success.

I'd give it to: My mother, who would like to read about how Barbie mirrored and sometimes predicted social changes in the United States.  Gene, who I predict would be weirdly interested in the picture of jewelry made from symmetrically arrayed Barbie bosoms covered with twinkling fake diamonds.

Whip It by Shauna Cross

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged coming of age

Blue-haired, 17-year-old Bliss lives in Bodeen, TX, where she puts up with the locals and tries to live out her mother’s beauty pageant fantasies. After graduation she plans to go live with the cool people, in Austen. But she makes it through roller derby tryouts and is soon a star, thriving in the wild, tough, and tattooed life (at least when she can sneak away from her parents’ house). Can she maintain her double life without her parents finding out or alienating her best friend? And what should she do when the derby championship falls on the same night as the Miss Bluebonnet pageant? 

Why I picked it up: The movie was amazing and the screenwriter also wrote the book.  My love of the Devo song is merely a coincidence.

Why I finished it: Bliss is wonderfully independent with the shy boldness of a curious and rebellious teenager. She speaks in a breezy, witty style that is great fun to read.

I'd give it to: Silver, because she was a nerd girl who became a badass triathlete, and she would enjoy Bliss’s journey through roller derby almost as much as she enjoyed Alton’s journey through bridge in The Cardturner.

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