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Recommendations for Friday, October 21, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billbarnes tagged coming of agemysteryromance

Unshelved strip for 10/21/2011

@bookblrb: Rory was thrilled to attend school in London. Until the murders started, and she talked to a man no one else can see.

Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words by John Bemelmans Marciano

Link to this review by sharonlevin tagged literarynonfiction

The cover features the Earl of Sandwich, “...famous for being the man behind a word that most people never thought was named after anyone, a man both anonymous and eponymous or, to coin a term, anonyponymous.”

This book is filled with stories of those who gave their names to what are now common words like sideburns (General Ambrose Burnside), jumbo (an elephant), leotard (Jules Léotard) and chauvinism (although there is actually no proof that Nicolas Chauvin ever existed).

Why I picked it up: I love etymology.

Why I finished it: Words that I use every day now have a bit more meaning. And words that I don't use every day, like “hooker,” are more interesting because now I know that the origin is a military officer who made sure ALL of his soldiers' needs were met.

I'd give it to: My friend Angie, a Scrabble geek and word lover, so she can entertain her opponents, make regular people yawn, and make teens roll their eyes. (At least those are the reactions I get, but maybe she’ll do better.)

@bookblrb: The stories of those who gave their names to common words like sandwich, sideburns, jumbo, and leotard.

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

The first book in a new young adult series packed with adventure, danger, zombies, humor, and a little romance, is an addictive page-turner that will thrill readers — for fans of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. Nora, our very human and very healthy protagonist, falls in love with Bram, a handsome and polite eighteen-yearold lieutenant who happens to be suffering from “the Laz,” a degenerative disease that will eventually turn him into the walking dead!

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Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman

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

Hakata Soy is heading for Astronaut Academy, a boarding school in outer space. He’s private about his origin story, but one student (a bunny) tells how Hakata saved her planet, Hoppiton, with his friends and their giant transforming robot, Metador.

But the story isn’t just about Hakata. Tak Offsky, his tough roommate and Fireball MVP, thinks of sissy stuff whenever he looks at Thalia Thistle. The quiet Doug Hiro loves spacewalking. The ultra-kind Miyumi San loves the new elf boy teacher, Mr. Namagucci. Maribelle Mellonbelly, the richest and prettiest and most self-absorbed girl at school, loves Hakata. Billy Lee loves his hair (until Miyumi burns it off).

Then there’s Cybert, a robot version of Hakata Soy. He’s programmed for destruction.

Why I picked it up: Shiny silver cover. Apparently I’m a magpie. And I really liked his Teen Boat.

Why I finished it: Roman’s art combines the complex simplicity of Hello Kitty design, the surreal quality of Calvin and Hobbes dream sequences, and the over-the-top joy expressed by Yotsuba&!. Plus: dinosaur driving lessons.

I'd give it to: My friend Dan whose current custom action figure projects involve transforming old G.I. Joes, because the school counselor looks like Cobra Commander. Plus he’ll be able to share it with his kids, unlike other graphic novels we both like.

@bookblrb: Hakata Soy heads for boarding school in outer space and saves a bunny planet.

Celluloid: An Erotic Graphic Novel by Dave McKean

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged eroticagraphic novel

In this wordless graphic novel, a woman takes off her clothes and, after a quick bath, turns on a movie projector. She starts watching a pornographic film, then steps through a door projected onto the wall and into the world of the movie.

Why I picked it up: Dave McKean’s art never fails to amaze me: The Collected Sandman Covers, The Wolves in the Walls, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Varjak Paw, and Mirrormask.

Why I finished it: At one point, as she goes deeper and deeper into the film, the woman encounters a fourteen-breasted being, and they have sex. McKean mixes images of real fruit with his drawings and color to create sexual images that are as fresh as they are startling. I’ll never look at a fig, a pear, or a red tomatillo the same way again.

I'd give it to: Colin and his lovely wife, Ting. For their wedding I gave them a first printing of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s erotic and literary Lost Girls, and I think this would make a good paper anniversary gift.

@bookblrb: A woman turns on a movie projector and steps into the world of a pornographic movie.

Runtime Error: Not Invented Here Book 1 by Bill Barnes and Paul Southworth

Behind each great piece of software is a talented, concientious team of hardworking individuals dedicated to producing the highest quality product using internationally accepted best practices and industry standards. And then there are these guys.

Runtime Error collects the first eighteen months of Not Invented Here, the new comic strip by Unshelved co-creator Bill Barnes. 168 full-color pages, with bonus feature: the evolution of the designs for each major character, through three artists across two years.

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Deliriously Happy by Larry Doyle

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged essayshumor

Short humor from the author of I Love You, Beth Cooper.

Why I picked it up: In The New Yorker a few years back I came across "Life Without Leann: A Newsletter," one of the most uncomfortably familiar illustrations of obsessive post-relationship behavior I've ever read. It's one of the stories in this book.

Why I finished it: It was the only paper book I brought on my recent trip to Anaheim. The Howard Johnson's there has a great little mini water park, and while I was happy to watch my daughter play for hours, I didn't want to risk reading an ebook on my iPad with those water jets. These little tidbits of irony helped speed the afternoon along, while maintaining a respectable parenting facade by giving me frequent breaks between stories to look up and make sure she hadn't drowned.

I'd give it to: Michelle, recently single, who could benefit from the structure of "My Heart: My Rules", a helpful outline for prospective romantic partners. Rule #4 under the "My Apartment" heading is: "I have achieved a satisfying equilibrium between my desire for order and the seductive lure of chaos. Please do not upset it."

@bookblrb: Hilarious and sometimes uncomfortable short stories about relationships.

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfictionparanormal

Pastor Todd Burpo was visiting a church in Colorado with his family when his four-year-old son, Colton, had to go to the hospital in critical condition. He had been misdiagnosed days earlier, and his burst appendix spewed toxins into his little body. He was in critical condition and the doctors did not hold out much hope for his survival. But Colton did live (though he technically died for a few minutes at one point).

Over the next year Colton told his family stories about heaven, including relatives he saw, what angels look like, and what Jesus said to him.

Why I picked it up: Four members of my family read this book. I was reluctant because I’m not sure I believe people visit Heaven while technically dead on the table.  After all four swore that I must read it because it would change my mind with all of its proof of life after death. (I still read it only because, after I finished all the other books I brought to a cabin on vacation, this was sitting on the coffee table.)

Why I finished it: Colton was so matter-of-fact about his experiences in heaven that it was difficult to discount his story. His father, Todd, the author of the book, was skeptical. One of the details that convinced him was that hundreds of images of Jesus were showed to Colton, but he rejected them as unrealistic. But Colton said one was exactly right -- it was painted by another young girl who had undergone a near-death experience in Heaven herself.  Colton also identified photos of his grandfather as a teen, pictures he had never seen, based on his meeting his grandfather in Heaven.

I'd give it to: My good friend Jim, a Christian who is doubtful that Jesus is spreading the word by appearing to people on their burned toast.

@bookblrb: After four-year-old Colton nearly died because of a burst appendix, he started talking about his visit to heaven.

Coffee: It's What's For Dinner by Dave Kellett

Coffee addicts: Here is the book for you! A comic strip collection that takes on your daily routine of caffeine headaches, constant sweating, and midnight coffee cravings! Coffee: It's What's For Dinner collects all your favorite Sheldon coffee strips, and serves 'em up like a perfect shot of espresso. It's the ultimate laugh for a latte love like you!

Includes the classic Unshelved-Sheldon Coffee Cup Lid Competition, where the two popular webcomics vied to see who could create the best strips about that most banal of subjects: coffee cup lids.

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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged biographycookbook

The life of a foodie shared through vignettes and delicious recipes.

Why I picked it up: Someone from my Foodie Book Group suggested we read it. I found it even more intriguing when I heard it was written by the owner of the hot new pizza place my friends have been talking about.

Why I finished it: I'm not a huge fan of blogs turned into books, but reading this book (taken in large part from Molly's blog Orangette) was like sitting in the kitchen of a new friend while she tells you stories of her life and cooks you her favorite recipes. It is both cozy and appetizing, encouraging readers to stretch their cooking limits by giving gentle tips that will make otherwise challenging dishes work beautifully.  Plus, my Foodies made an amazing potluck from it including Bouchons au Thon, pickled grapesGâteau au Citron, or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon, and, best of all, Gâteau au Chocolat Fondant de Nathalie, also known as the “Winning-Hearts-and-Minds Cake.”  YUM!

I'd give it to: Erin, who will appreciate the sweet relationship Molly has with her parents, who teach her to cook, and the unexpected romance she finds along the way. I think Erin will be as excited about the recipes as I am, and I love the idea of cooking together via Skype long distance in Ann Arbor (where she lives) and Seattle (where I live). 

@bookblrb: A foodie shares stories of her life, including an unexpected romance, and her favorite recipes.

SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard Wasdin, Stephen Templin

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographyhistorynonfiction

Howard Wasdin begins his book explaining why he was lying on an airport runway in a third-world country, bleeding from bullet wounds in both legs.  From there, he backtracks to talk about his childhood with an abusive parent, BUD/S training to become a Navy SEAL, and finding out about the formation of the elite and secretive SEAL Team Six. Wasdin details the training, the camaraderie, and the high tech gear SEALs use in the field, as well as his own struggle to balance serving his country and being part of his family (he was required to be gone for long periods of time without notice).

Why I picked it up: It had two key words -- Navy SEAL and Sniper!  Plus SEAL Team Six got Osama Bin Laden. I wanted a peek inside the training and missions. And I also wanted to hear about the gear they got to play with and how they learned to ”double-tap” bad guys (putting two bullets in rapid succession into a victim’s head) and blow things up.

Why I finished it: Wasdin is matter of fact as he describes the Herculean tasks performed during training -- the sleep deprivation they suffer there virtually guarantees mission success. (Many of the deaths in SEAL teams are due to training accidents. SEALs train as hard as other soldiers fight battles.) Because Wasdin was a sniper, I learned about cool things like Ghillie suits, long stranded, grassy camoflage clothing which resembles plants. (Wasdin had to make his own, and if it didn’t pass muster, he would have failed out of sniper school.)  The details about the life of a soldier were entertaining, too -- he and his partner had to pick ticks out of each other’s hindquarters with tweezers. 

I'd give it to: My friend Ahmed, who loved Black Hawk Down, the account of the botched mission in Mogadishu, Somalia. Wasdin was there and gives details about helping to rescue U.S. servicemen.

@bookblrb: A sniper member of the elite SEAL Team Six talks about the training, camaraderie, and high tech gear.

The Most Dangerous Game: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection by Zach Weiner

The newest collection of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (the first one was reviewed by Unshelved here).

SMBC is at heart a geek comic, but it nevertheless addresses a broad range of topics, such as love, relationships, economics, politics, religion, science, and philosophy. It is one of the fastest growing comics online, having sextupled in readership since 2008. SMBC appeals to many different groups, as evidenced by the fact it has been featured on a variety of important websites and blogs, including The Economist, Glamour, BoingBoing, Bad Astronomy, Blastr, Blues News, Joystiq, The Washington Post, Freakonomics, and more.

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Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! by Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged biographynonfiction

You probably know Garant & Lennon from Reno 911! and The State. They wrote some comedy blockbusters (like Night at the Museum) and others that were supposed to be blockbusters (like Herbie: Fully Loaded), and have rewritten and punched up many more scripts. They tell all that they've learned writing studio movies for money.

Why I picked it up: I heard bits and pieces of their writing adventures in interviews. These guys are funny and have some great stories.

Why I finished it: Garant & Lennon (who explain why the ampersand is significant) have no illusions about what they are doing. They are doing exactly what the studios want to help all of them make giant piles of money. There are dozens of people who work on each film project, even before it's shot, who each have input about the script. The writers have to incorporate all of it with a smile, even if it's stupid. Their stories are horrifying and epic, and you get some actual useful advice on writing studio scripts (if you still want to after reading what it's like).

I'd give it to: My fellow Unshelved Book Club reviewers. It helped me clarify the big difference between writing for myself and writing for my editor, even if my editor never asked me to write something as moronic as having a Volkswagen smile.

If you need more convincing, check out the book trailer.

@bookblrb: Two script writers tell everything they learned while writing and rewriting scripts to make studios piles of money.

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