The Golden Compass His Dark Materials Book One by Philip Pullman

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

Unshelved comic strip for 12/10/2010

@bookblrb: The mystical Alethiometer may help Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon save the world. Also: polar bears in armor.

Live To Tell A Detective D.D. Warren Novel by Lisa Gardner, Kirsten Potter, Rebecca Lowman, Ann Marie Lee

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged mystery

In the aftermath of a family murder-suicide, the lives of three women collide. Danielle, the only survivor of her father's rampage twenty-five years ago, now works as a nurse in a lock-down ward for children. Victoria struggles to get through the day with her psychotic son. Detective Warden is a tough homicide investigator with the Boston PD.

Another family is slaughtered only twenty-four hours later. Warren doubts it’s coincidence. Clues point to Danielle's ward where children from both families received treatment. It's only a matter of time before Victoria is threatened by a similar fate.

The narrators add to the suspense with unsettling Chucky-like kids’ voices, creepy singsong moments, and all-consuming fear.

Why I picked it up: Wanted a disturbing book to get me through my (new) long commute. I also needed a break from male narrators.

Why I finished it: I couldn't imagine how the crimes could possibly be related, and I really wanted to believe that children weren't involved. Gardner does a great job of obscuring motives with realistic examples of psychotic kids acting out. The narrators also added to the mystery as they alternated chapters told by different female characters, letting me think I knew who was doing what, only to leave me doubting in the next chapter. 

I'd give it to: Derek, a dad who needlessly worries about his six year old's obsession with ninjas, and his wife, Ann, whose workouts feel a lot shorter with a shocking murder. 

@bookblrb: The lives of three women (a nurse, a survivor, and a detective) collide after two families are killed.

Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool by Brian Ashcraft, Shoko Ueda

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged historynonfiction

A series of magazine-article-like chapters on Japanese schoolgirls, how they determine tech trends (including cell phone features) around the world, and how images of them end up everywhere from pop groups to packages of kimchee.

Why I picked it up: I was interested in how they could be such a powerful force in the Japanese economy and change what is considered cool everywhere.

Why I finished it: It delved into how Japanese culture feels about the schoolgirl as a symbol of optimism and innocence. This might be why so many actresses in both adult and horror films end up wearing school uniforms -- the stakes are higher when the inevitable happens.

I'd give it to: A particular American schoolgirl who leaves the library with armloads of manga for the explanation of why her Japanese counterpart would be wearing a sailor suit. Gene, for the list of seventies exploitation movies, and especially for the plot summary of the Machine Girl sequel where one character can shoot a machine gun from her butt.

@bookblrb: Japanese schoolgirls are a powerful economic force both in Japan and around the world.

Snoop What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling, David Drummond

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged audiobookliterarynonfiction

Gosling (psychology professor at UT Austin) teaches how to judge others by carefully examining their stuff (and its context) when you visit their homes or offices, tells how others may be judging you (even when they're wrong), and explains the pitfalls and strengths of relying on common assumptions about people from what you can easily see, including the accuracy of stereotypes.

Why I picked it up: Had a copy of the audio book around for more than a year, and it seemed like I'd be able to give it just the right amount of attention while I was painting my house. (I didn't fall off the ladder.)

Why I finished it: I was hooked when Gosling mentioned that one of the early subject of his research had a dorm room stuffed with Star Wars toys. I was eager to find out what my toys say about me, and though he never came back to the example, little by little I become more aware of the version of me I present to others who come to my home, via the toys, books, and art in my living room, versus what I present to myself in my well-stocked, mostly private man-cave.

I'm a visual learner and, after listening, needed to check out the print edition to have a look at the charts and tables in their original contexts. They were read to me throughout the book and I believe they're also included as PDFs on the CDs, though it wasn't convenient for me to check when I was painting.

I'd give it to: Frank and Anna, mystery fans from way back, in the hope that this book would push my two favorite librarians into becoming the amateur sleuths they were born to be.

@bookblrb: Learn how to judge others by their stuff and where they leave it.

A God Somewhere An Original Graphic Story by John Arcudi, Peter Snejbjerg

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged superhero

After his apartment building explodes, Eric finds that he has superpowers. He becomes a media sensation after flying to the site and helping save those buried in the rubble. He believes he was touched by the hand of God. After he loses touch with what’s right and wrong, the army hunts him down.

Why I picked it up: The cover blurb from Mike Mignola.

Why I finished it: Themes of race, religion, friendship and family throughout as the story follows and flashes back on Eric, his friend Sam, his brother Hugh, his wife Alma. The story is very dark and incredibly violent, too, though Snejbjerg is good at making me feel the horror while keeping most of the (vile) action off the page.

I'd give it to: Hawk, who likes Irredeemable, would probably appreciate this dark, self-contained tale of a one-”superhero” world.

@bookblrb: Eric’s belief that God gave him his superpowers leads him to lose touch with right and wrong.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged historical fictionliterary

Andi’s mother has been institutionalized following her son’s death. Andi is popping anti-depressants and flunking out of her private school. To graduate, she must complete her senior thesis on the influence about an 18th century French composer’s influence on modern rock. She visits Paris with her Nobel-prize winning father, where his friend loans her an antique guitar. In its false bottom she discovers the 200-year-old diary of Alexandrine, entertainer to Marie Antoinette’s ten-year old son, the last Dauphin. As Andi reads about (and experiences) the  last days of the French Republic and the insanity of the French Revolution, she feels as if her life and Alexandrine’s are intertwined.

Why I picked it up: I enjoyed Donnelly’s A Northern Light for its quiet scenery and sense of place.

Why I finished it: Donnelly weaves modern and revolutionary times together seamlessly via the diary. The fussy precious materials librarian who insisted on white gloves, muted cell phones, properly filled out slips, and punctuality at closing time made me laugh aloud. 

I'd give it to: Debbie, who would dig Andi's relationship with Virgil, the sexy Tunisian taxi driver who makes her laugh when she thinks she can’t. Jules, who sees everything through the lens of her addiction to her guitar. History buff J.D. who would enjoy the conspiracy theories about the Dauphin's fate and real-life characters like the devious Duke of Orleans.

@bookblrb: A young woman discovers a 200-year-old diary and relives the French Revolution while completing her senior thesis.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton

Link to this review by billba tagged paranormalscience fiction

Thousands of years after the events of Pandora's Star & Judas Unchained, a large swath of humanity is part of a cult that tunes into dreams emanating from a large, contained sector of space called the Void. The protagonists of the dream live a comparatively primitive life, but have interesting psychic powers. It would all just be good entertainment if human politics regarding the Void didn’t threaten other species. War looms.

Why I picked it up: Loved Hamilton's previous books, a gift from my wife on advice from Gene, which recall the works of E. E. "Doc" Smith in their breakneck pace.

Why I finished it: At first I was attracted to the story outside the Void, which is connected enough to its forebears to read as a distant sequel. Then I got pulled into the chapters recounting the Dreams, which read more like a fantasy novel. I had just started appreciating the balance and interconnection between the two when the book ended abruptly. Damn you, sprawling trilogies.

I'd give it to: Teenagers who are ready for a generous serving of sex with their hard science fiction.

@bookblrb: As more and more of humanity dreams about events in The Void, politics get increasingly complicated and war looms.

The Maze of Bones The 39 Clues Book One by Rick Riordan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged mystery

Dan (11) and Amy (14) are siblings who just lost their favorite grandmother.  At the reading of the will, they are offered a choice: one million dollars each or the chance to find an unnamed treasure with a series of clues. They choose the latter, putting them at odds with the other family treasure hunters, including a bumbling family of weightlifters dressed in sweat suits and a group of rich teens with a private jet who sneer at their poorer relatives. Some will stop at nothing to win. Dan and Amy must survive poison, traps, and fire. As the lawyer warns them, “Trust no one.”

Why I picked it up: I hate being the last one to the party. The middle-schoolers in my library were clamoring for this ten book series, so I borrowed this one night from the hold shelf and read it in one sitting.

Why I finished it: It’s CBS’s The Amazing Race written for tweens.

I'd give it to: Parents who remember the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? games and may be looking for an entertaining way for their kids to learn about real places and history. (Dan and Amy travel to the Catacombs under Paris, home to the bones of millions.) Beatrice, who spends an inordinate amount of time online, might read this literary hybrid which also includes online content and trading cards (unless you purchase the library edition).

@bookblrb: After their favorite grandmother dies, siblings are offered $1,000,000 or the chance to hunt for an unnamed treasure.

Cupcake Tycoon Babymouse #13 by Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm

Link to this review by gigi tagged chapter bookgraphic novelhumor

Babymouse daydreams that Wilson is a butler about to serve her cupcakes. Then she wakes up and she finds herself in the cafeteria lunch line. Then she looks for a library book in her locker.  She finally finds it and then a giant hand appears and takes the book from her hands. Then she walks into the library. Its her favorite place. Babymouse needs to get a book from a really high shelf. She grabs a pipe to stop from falling but then the pipe cracks and the whole library gets flooded.   And then there is a fundraiser. Everyone sells cupcakes to fix the library and replace the books.

Why I picked it up: My dad bought it for me. (I love Babymouse!)

Why I finished it: Babymouse tries to sell cupcakes to Grampamouse, who doesn’t hear well. “It’s Babymouse!” “We don’t have a baby in the house. This is an over-fifty-five community.”

I'd give it to: My dad, who says the cupcakes at University Village are too expensive. (But they’re really good).  I like Cupcake Royale, too.

@bookblrb: Babymouse accidentally makes a huge mess in the library. To fix things, and replace damaged books, she starts baking.

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