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Recommendations for Friday, February 04, 2011

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch

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

Unshelved strip for 2/4/2011

@bookblrb: Mirka is a little different from the other girls in her Orthodox Jewish community: she wants to be a dragonslayer.

Cat Paradise Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara, Amy Forsyth

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasyparanormal

It’s Yumi Hayakawa’s first day at the Matabi Private Academy. She chose it because each student is allowed to keep a cat in the dorm. Hers is Kansuke, a 4-year-old male mixed breed. He’s a tough cat with a scar on his forehead who vows to never lose a fight. But she constantly humiliates him by making him wear clothes she knits.

Yumi and a friend are out walking when a demon attacks them. They’re saved by the student council (including the secretary, on whom both girls have a crush). The council members are all Paired Ones, guardians who, along with their cats, are given magic powers to defend the school and the world.

Kansuke wants to be strong, too. His request is heard, and he and Yumi become Paired Ones. She’s able to understand him and he’s able to transform and defeat the demon. But now they must help fight the King of the Spirit Beasts and his minions.

Publisher’s Rating: OT Older Teen

Why I picked it up: I liked the logo, with a cat’s silhouette inside the space in the middle of the C.

Why I finished it: Kansuke’s power comes from Yumi’s knitting. She makes him crazy by dressing him in a cat sweater. What kind of cat needs a cat costume?

I'd give it to: Aging Warriors fans ready for a little human romance with their cat books, and aging comic book guys too interested in Tigra for their own good.

@bookblrb: At a very exclusive private school, students learn to pair with their cats to defend the world from demons.

Cities in Dust: (Wasteland Book 01) by Antony Johnston, Christopher Mitten

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fictionthriller

“One hundred years after the Big Wet. Somewhere in America…”

Michael, a scavenger, uses telekinesis to survive a fight. He heads to Providens, a small town, to trade for goods. But he’s wounded and doesn’t make it far.

Abi, Providens’ sheriff, is special like Michael. She uses her power to heal him. But when a pack of sand-eaters attack her town, she asks for his help.

Many residents live through the fight, but their town burns. The survivors head for the safety of the city of Newbegin. But to make it, they’ll need to survive the creatures that dwell in the desiccated wastelands.

Contains Issues 1-6 of Wasteland. Publisher’s Rating: O Older Age 16+.

Why I picked it up: I’ve been reading the ongoing comics series since it started, and I wanted to reread the first story arc.

Why I finished it: All great B-grade science fiction movies take place in the dessert. This is a fairly straightforward survival story (though some of the series’ ongoing conflicts are introduced, too). With comics’ limitless special effects budget, there are some spectacular fights and even bigger post-apocalyptical sets. The black-and-white (and very gray) art makes everything feel suitably bleak.

I'd give it to: Liz and Fred, who both feel my love for Patrick Swayze’s most entertaining movie, the post-apocalyptic Steel Dawn, as well as the beautiful Joan Chen / Vincent Denofrio / Rutger Hauer / Delroy Lindo desert fightfest that is The Blood of Heroes.

@bookblrb: Survivors of a sandeater attack must cross dangerous, dessicated wastelands to get to the city of Newbegin.

The Doll People by Ann M. Martin, Laura Godwin, Brian Selznik

Link to this review by gigi tagged chapter bookfantasy

Annabelle Doll is eight years old. (She has been eight for a long time.) After she was made she took a vow to not endanger her kind by walking and talking in front of people. She is one of Kate’s dolls and lives in a dollhouse with her brother Bobby and their family. One day Annabelle, Bobby and their uncle look for Auntie Sarah. (She has been missing for forty-five years.)

Why I picked it up: The tooth fairy gave it to me. (My tooth fairy always gives me books.)

Why I finished it: It’s dangerous to leave the dollhouse because of the Captain (a cat). If he sees them, he might catch them. The people might see them, too. They have to come back to the dollhouse to get into in the positions Kate left them in so that she’s not suspicious. 

I'd give it to: My cousin Vanessa, who likes playing with my Calico Critters and Pokemon.

@bookblrb: Walking, talking dolls try to stay safe from a cat and hidden from humans while searching for a lost family member.

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged science fiction

The East is ancient, established. There are large cities with institutions of great repute, and from one of these comes Liv, a doctor of psychology, called West to help at a frontier mental hospital. Such a journey is not undertaken lightly. The farther West she goes, the newer things are and the less settled the borders between machines and magic. Eventually she reaches the edge of creation itself. Getting there requires the services of the Line, an industrial soul-crushing civilization intent on turning the world into a series of oil-powered factories. Fighting the Line tooth and nail is the Gun, a confederation of supernaturally-powered Agents.

Why I picked it up: Ornithopter? Check. Blurb by Ursula K. Le Guin? Check.

Why I finished it: It's a great piece of world-building that could have been ruined by over-explanation, but is instead brought vividly to life through the opposition of two characters: Lowry, a fast-rising subordinate of the Line, and Creedmoor, a colorful and unreliable Agent of the Gun.

I'd give it to: Fans of Firefly, another piece of genre-busting action-adventure.

@bookblrb: The farther west you go, the newer things are, and the less settled the borders between machines and magic.

Hetalia: Axis Powers Volume 1 by Hidekaz Himaruya, Monica Seya Chin, Clint Bickham

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged graphic novelhistory

In Hetalia, each of our world’s nations is personified. The story starts with stolid Germany meeting the flighty Italia on the eve of World War II. Soon we meet Japan, Austria, England, France, and others in a waltz through European history that is funny, informative, and highly exaggerated. The action unfolds like any manga, though vertical, four-panel comic strips occasionally break up the narrative. Many scenes are supplemented with footnotes explaining the historical context.

Hetalia was originally written and published on the internet when Himaruya lived in New York City.

Publisher’s Rating: OT Older Teen 16+

Why I picked it up: Two members of my NaNoWriMo group giggled while reading passages to each other.

Why I finished it: After signing the Tripartite Pact in 1940, Germany gives Japan U-boat schematics. Japan returns with really awesome U-boat miniatures that convert into a giant robot.

I'd give it to: My friend Judy, who loved the historical and ahistorical parody in The Pirates!  In an Adventure with Scientists.

@bookblrb: Personifications of the world’s nations act out funny, exaggerated version of events at the eve of WWII.

Journey Into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures by Rebecca L. Johnson

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coffee table bookscience

A photo-rich overview of the ten-year Census of Marine Life that documented plant and animal life in the world's oceans and on coastlines, from the shallows to the deepest trenches, using everything from direct observation to submersible craft to deep-sea robots.

Why I picked it up: I loved the coffee-table deep sea book, The Deep and wanted more information on the weird sea creatures that have been popping up in the news because of the ongoing census project.

Why I finished it: Not only are there pictures of bizarre (and previously unknown) critters, but also information on different underwater ecosystems (Lightless depths! Crushing pressure! Frozen methane! Volcanic vents!) and how scientists (and their grad students) worked throughout the project gathering and preserving organisms to be analyzed.

I'd give it to: Ted, who just started Junior High and would be thrilled to get a sense of how many new species there are to be found. (The project reportedly found 12,000 new species, with 5,000 more still waiting to be classified!) Michele, for the gross-sounding, bone-boring zombie worms that consume the marrow from whale carcasses on the bottom of the sea.

@bookblrb: A photo-filled overview of the 10 year Census of Marine Life that documented the oceans’ plants and animals.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographyhistorynonfiction

Louie Zamperini won fame as a college and Olympian distance runner, including a seventh place finish at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Many athletes thought he would be the first person to break the four-minute mile. Instead, he was drafted and served a B-24 bombardier in the Pacific during WWII.  When Louie’s plane went down in the shark-infested waters, only three men survived the crash. They lived in rafts on the open sea for forty-seven days, breaking a record, before landing on a Japanese-controlled island. The skeletal men were put into a POW camp, one of several where they would spend the next thirty months. The conditions were brutal, and the men endured torture. One cruel guard took pleasure in trying to break Louie, who later said, “If I had known how bad it would be, I would have killed myself.” 

Yet Louie survived. When he returned home after the war, despite being treated as a hero, he struggled to return to civilian life.

Why I picked it up: NPR ran a story about the book, by the author of Seabiscuit – An American Legend, and I knew I had to read it. 

Why I finished it: I wish it was 300 pages longer because the anecdotes were amazing. On the raft after the crash, Louie and his raft mate played dead to trick an albatross into landing on them. They caught and strangled it, drank its blood and ate it raw. After Japan was defeated, the guards left the prison camp. Later, when U.S. planes dropped supplies from bombers to the emaciated men, a pallet of cocoa burst through the roof of a building, nearly killing the man inside and coating him in chocolate from head to foot.

I'd give it to: Steve who loved Herman Wouk's The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, both of which are about the war in the Pacific. Ryan, who likes to challenge himself mentally and physically by running ultramarathons, would appreciate Louie's fighting spirit.

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