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Recommendations for Friday, December 09, 2011

Overwinter: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington

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

Unshelved strip for 12/9/2011

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fictionwestern

Waxillium Landrian was one of the most famous lawmen in the Roughs. But after a tragic gunfight he returned to Elendel City to take up his duties as High Lord of the House Landrian.

Mysterious thieves have been stealing metals with the help of a ghostly train, as well as robbing upper-class gatherings in the city. Wax does his best to stay clear of trouble and stay on the path to an upper-class marriage in order to save House Landrian from bankruptcy. Then his fiancée is taken hostage during a robbery, and he and his friend from the Roughs, Miles, set out to get her back.

Why I picked it up: It’s a steampunk western set in the world of the Mistborn fantasy series. I couldn’t resist.

Why I finished it: Magic western gunfights! The world of the Mistborn books has a unique system of magic, where natural born allomancers and ferochemists use metals to give them specific abilities. Wax has two -- he can push and pull against metals from a distance and alter his weight -- and he uses them to deflect bullets, make his shots more lethal, and even fly.

Miles is incredibly entertaining. Lacking social grace and possessed by a unique vision of the world, he steals his way around the city in pursuit of the Vanishers, using talents for disguise and accents to help (and to provide laughs).

I'd give it to: Dave, who read Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker when we traveled to Iceland a few years ago. He doesn’t usually read fantasy, but the guns and fight scenes will keep him interested.

Apocalypse How: Turn the End-Times into the Best of Times! by Rob Kutner

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged humornonfiction

A hilarious approach to surviving and enjoying yourself after the apocalypse, whether it is after The Rapture, nuclear war, or rule by human-hating robots. It's full of helpful tips on what to wear, what to eat, and how to stay optimistic scavenging in a blasted wasteland.

Why I picked it up: My husband suggested it while I was reading yet another guide on how to prepare for disasters.

Why I finished it: Helpful, laugh-out-loud tips like a recipe for Steve Tartare (his name isn't Steve? Well it is now!), how to distinguish useful information from annoying nostalgia in the stories of seniors (do their memories of the Model-T contain useful tips on the workings of a combustion engine?), and the fitness benefits of fleeing from our ape overlords.

I'd give it to: Dave, who jokes about stockpiling gold for the future economic collapse. He could use the tips on looking at the bright side of the Apocalypse: the chance to reinvent himself and finally do all of those things he's been putting off!

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen, Rebecca Guay

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

Hundreds of years after the last dragon was killed, a hidden dragon egg hatched. It grew and came to the town of Meddlesome, where it developed a taste for human flesh.

Tansy’s father was a healer, a gifted herbalist. She had knowledge and imagination and took an interest in her father’s work. Out gathering herbs, they discover Dragon’s Bane growing near the river. It is said to grow only where a great dragon lives.

Soon after, Tansy’s father disappears. Some livestock vanish, and then a child. The townspeople fear an evil creature. No one but Tansy suspects it’s a dragon.

Why I picked it up: I loved Jane Yolen’s first graphic novel, Foiled.

Why I finished it: After the dragon is finally sighted by a fisherman, three boys are sent out to find a hero. After a lot of searching, they finally find someone who looks the part, but doesn’t have much to offer in the way of help.

I'd give it to: Phyllis, who loved Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. She’d love seeing Tansy rise to the challenge of confronting the dragon, just as Keladry of Mindelan does in Pierce’s books. (And she’d also like that the “hero” plays his part bravely, too.)

The Natural: How to Effortlessly Attract The Women You Want by Richard La Ruina

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged nonfiction

A how-to manual for prospective pick-up artists.

Why I picked it up: I'm fascinated by evolutionary biology and psychology, and this extends to anything involving male-female differences when it comes to sex. Plus its subtitle features a split infinitive, which is rare in a book from a major publisher.

Why I finished it: I think there are significant parallels between dating and sales, and this book confirmed it. I probably won't be grabbing the necks of potential customers and confidently pulling them close for a kiss (though I wouldn't rule it out completely), but there are very useful lessons about body language (with photos). And even the stuff that is specifically about seduction (like that confident neck pull) has applications for married people like me.

I'd give it to: Rob, whose silent smirking thing isn't really working for him. The lesson in opening lines alone would be worth the price of the book. (Turns out it's hard to beat, "Hey.")

The Shattering by Karen Healey

Link to this review by danritchie tagged mystery

Summerton seems to be just another sleepy tourist town in New Zealand. It has a mesmerizing effect on visitors, its inhabitants never leave, and new people never move there. It appears to be a perfect vacation paradise with one exception: every year, near the beginning of the new year, a male resident commits suicide. After friends Keri, Janna, and Sione figure out that the suicide is always the eldest son in the family and always has siblings, they suspect foul play. They set out to prove that their dead brothers were murdered.

Why I picked it up: It’s set in New Zealand, has Maori and Samoan characters, and a supernatural twist.

Why I finished it: The story unfolds in alternating voices of the three characters, and I enjoyed their perspectives, particularly Sione, the Samoan boy. He’s very bright but socially awkward. Smitten by a kiss from Janna the year before, he finds himself cast aside for Takeshi, who could be the next victim.

I'd give it to: Misti – she is fascinated by anything involving spells, and she will enjoy this Polynesian twist on the topic. 

Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographyessayshumor

Comedian Mike Birbiglia relates true, cringe-worthy stories from his life in a wry fashion. When he rode the Scrambler, he blew chunks on the girl he took to the fair, with whom he intended to have his first kiss (it didn’t happen). The title of the book comes from his propensity to have vivid nightmares (fending off a homicidal jackal, having Brad Pitt pour acid on his hands) and then wake to find himself in dangerous situations (crashing through a second story window).

Birbiglia is realistic and matter of fact about these situations, a clear-eyed observer who is willing to share his story, even if it is embarrassing or hinges on some bumbling action on his part.

Why I picked it up: I saw Birbiglia perform his similarly-titled one-man show in Seattle a year ago, and he’s my favorite comic. (He has appeared on The Moth Radio Hourand This American Life, as well as Late Night with David Letterman.)

Why I finished it: I love that his humor is dry and subtle. The hilarious scene where he is at the proctologist’s office, looking forward to the muffin he was promised by his doctor, who downplayed the four-foot long rod and camera that were going to be inserted into Birbiglia’s urethra and instead talked up the muffin he could have in the waiting room afterward. When he exclaimed loudly after the proctologist performed a rectal exam, he was told to, “Cut the theatrics.”

I'd give it to: My mom, who was sick when the Mike Birbiglia show came to Seattle. We had bought her tickets for Mother’s Day, then she couldn’t go. This book contains some of the stories he performed that night. She would like that they range between hilarious and poignant, as when Birbiglia breaks up with his fiancé. 

Takio by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Olivia Bendis

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged superhero

Thirteen-year-old Taki is constantly driven crazy by her adoring younger sister, Olivia. Their mother works nights, so it is up to Taki to babysit. One night when she reluctantly brings her baby sister over to her best friend's house, a terrible accident takes place, giving them awesome Kung Fu telekinesis powers.

Why I picked it up: I confess, I'm enough of a comic geek that I will read anything by Bendis. His dialog in Powers is some of my all time favorite writing.

Why I finished it: It brought some new dynamics to the story of kids getting super powers that I really appreciated. They are concerned with keeping their identities secret mostly so that they won't worry their already exhausted mother. And the way the girls’ relationship and their instinct to protect one another plays out when they’re transformed from powerless to mighty.

I'd give it to: Jessie, who is still in the honeymoon phase of being a big sister, but will come to know the annoyances and absolute joys she can't dream of yet, just as Taki and Olivia do when they unite to become a crime fighting team.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasyparanormal

In the blasted barrens of Texas, the eccentric Goodnight family has carved out a 200-acre homestead to grow herbs for their line of shampoos and lotions that work extremely well (because they have magic properties, too). Locals think Amy and Phin, who are housesitting for their aunt, are stirring up trouble by investigating the Mad Monk, a ghost that, much like Little Bunny Foo-Foo, picks up people and bops them on the head. 

Why I picked it up: I was attracted to the sarcastic, quick-moving dialogue of Clement-Moore’s characters in Highway to Hell, so when I got a chance to grab this, it was a no-brainer. 

Why I finished it: There is a recurring situation where Amy unintentionally ends up around her crush, a cowboy named Ben, in a scanty outfit. (Once it was because she was chasing a cow that had been rubbing its butt on her Mini Cooper’s side mirror, and another time because she had a pitcher of beer dumped on her and had to wrap herself up in an old horse blanket.) 

I'd give it to: My friend Reilly, because Ben and Amy have a real Sam and Diane thing going on. At its heart, this is a mystery with an anthropology/archaeology kick, so my friend Will, who works at a Seattle-area museum, would enjoy it, too.

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