Matilda by Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged chapter bookclassicfantasyhumor

Unshelved comic strip for 3/4/2011
Far From Wonder Hatter M Volume One by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, Ben Templesmith

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

Alyss Heart, princess of Wonderland, is lost in our world. Hatter Madigan, royal bodyguard, must locate her. As soon as he finds his hat (which can become a bladed weapon of impressive efficacy), he’ll start searching for the glow of Alyss’ imagination.

Updated edition of the companion graphic novel to Beddor’s The Looking Glass War series. Contains 1-4 of the first Hatter M limited series plus shorts “Dublin” by Stephen Jarrett and “Siberia” by Shaun Manning and other extras.

Publisher’s Rating: Grade 7 and up.

Why I picked it up: Art by Ben Templesmith.

Why I finished it: Hatter M has lots of knives. ! Fshk! Shkt. Chok!  And the book has much better violence and more blood than I was expecting from Wonderland.  

I'd give it to: The ladies who attended the hatmaking workshop with me back in the early 1990s. We all learned a bit about blocking, felts, linings, and ribbons, but I think it’s time we thought about how to incorporate weapons into our designs, too. And to everyone who fetishizes manga-related hats, for much the same reason.

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders Book One) by Brandon Mull

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

Jason falls through a hippo’s throat and is transported to a world called Lyrian. His companion, Rachel, came the more conventional way, via a rock arch at a state park. They are beyonders, trusted by no one and ignorant of the perils that wait around every corner.  Maldor, the world’s wizard emperor, has banned travel and communication between lands. After Jason learns the first syllable of the word of power from a book made of living flesh, Maldor turns his malevolent attention on Jason. If he can learn all six syllables of the word and speak it in the wizard’s presence, he may defeat him and find a way home. But creatures, traitors, and several evil men stand between Jason and his goal.

Why I picked it up: I’m a huge Brandon Mull fan after reading his Fablehaven series.

Why I finished it: The Titan Crab, a truck-sized crustacean, neatly scissors enemies in half. The evil Maldor revels in dissecting rebellious subjects’ psyches and crushing them utterly.  And there are also displacers, men who can graft a body part onto an animal, another person, or an inanimate object and continue to control and use the body part.

I'd give it to: LOTR lovers like Eric whose middle-school age kids are ready for a book with more than just action, but not quite ready for the moral complexities or flowery language of adult epic fantasy. 

Lost States True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged history

States that were proposed but never made it off the drawing board finally get their time in the spotlight: how they came about and why they failed, plus “vintage,” full-color maps (created by the author) of where they would have been.

Why I picked it up: I liked the sound of Texlahoma and have a soft spot for the histories of doomed projects.

Why I finished it: I got sucked in by the reasons some attempted to create states (anger about too much taxation with too little representation and the desire for more highway funding) and why they failed (too little political clout or too many non-white people). States were even proposed for strategic military reasons and others for their ample supplies of guano!

I'd give it to: Colin, so he can be even more of a smartass in his 8th grade Social Studies class with new stories of badly-behaved historical figures.

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged literarymystery

David Pepin is found in his apartment with his wife’s dead body. Did she commit suicide by eating peanuts? Or did Pepin shove them down her throat? It could be a suicide, but homicide detectives Sheppard and Hastroll are suspicious. 

Both detectives have estranged wives. Both have desperate lives that could drive a man to murder. (For example, Detective Sheppard is a former doctor who was famously convicted of his own wife’s murder. The conviction was later overturned.) Looking at the marriages of all three men helps solve the mystery of Pepin’s wife’s death.

Why I picked it up: My co-workers have a mystery book club and this was February’s book.

Why I finished it: Both detectives are full of cynical observations. Detective Sheppard ruminates that only married men should be detectives because “they’d been to places in their hearts that single men hadn’t.”

I'd give it to: A book group that has both women and married men in it. (If such a group exists near Boulder, CO, I don’t know about it.) The book has many layers that would spur discussion and argument, from how the book really ends to the nature of marriage.

zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

Link to this review by gigi tagged chapter bookmysterypoetry

Katrina Katrell lives with Ms. Krabone, who’s very mean. One day Katrina sees a creature when she was in the subway. Later she finds out his name is Morty and he’s a reporter for the Underwood Telegraph Rumor Review. He’s trying to find out why the zorgles of Zorgamazoo disappeared. (Lots of other creatures are missing, too.)

Why I picked it up: My school librarian showed it to my class.

Why I finished it: When Katrina sees Morty for the first time (in the subway), she tells Mrs. Krabone. (He’s furry, has horns and wears a tie.) Ms. Krabone thinks she’s a nutjob.

I'd give it to: My friend Naomi for her birthday because of the part when Morty scares away the thieves. (He’s a monster and most people are scared of monsters). She’d like that the story is written in rhymes, too.

The Broadcast by Eric Hobbs, Noel Tuazon

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles broadcast H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as if it was a real event, occurring live. Listeners who tuned in late believed the Earth was being invaded by Martians. This is the story of a group of people in rural Indiana who didn’t realize it was a performance. They vie for the limited space in a shelter. Some will do anything to make sure their loved ones are safe.

Why I picked it up: I recently listened to this meeting of H.G. Wells and Orson Welles.

Why I finished it: The loose, black and white drawings give a good sense of the quick, frightening pace of the story and keep it moving right along.

I'd give it to: My friend Lisa, who knows more about everything than I do. I imagine telling her about this book and her interrupting me to fill my head with facts about Welles’ broadcast and the real-life reactions to it.

100,000 Plus Baby Names by Bruce Lansky

Link to this review by senger tagged reference

Early chapters help you decide what kinds of names you want, Irish-Indian or Aboriginal Australian; boy, girl, or boy/girl; or names inspired by your favorite people, places and things.  Popular names are listed in categories such as athletic to nerdy, hippie to comic books, and nobel prize winners. The surprising comprehensive list of what celebrities are naming their kids is quite fun even if the thought of naming your baby Destry Allyn (Kate Capshaw & Steven Speilberg) or Peaches Honeyblossum (Paula Yates & Bob Geldof) makes you break out in a cold sweat. The majority of the book is a comprehensive name dictionary separated by gender with origins, meanings and unique spellings from 100 plus countries.  

Why I picked it up: Desperation. I'm running out of time - we need baby names now! Plus, with adorable happy babies all over the cover, how could I not pick this up?

Why I finished it: We were in the middle of an all out name war which had come to a complete stalemate! The early chapter titled "How to Pick A Name You and Your Baby Will Love" contains an effective method for helping you and your significant other narrow the choices. Along with the worksheets in the book, It helped us bridge the divide and made it far fairer than you might believe possible. We have decided on a name. Hooray! (But we're still not telling what we chose).

I'd give it to: My best friend Jeannie, who plans to strategically leave the book out for her husband to find. It should be quite a shock. He'll be playing the name game much quicker than he thinks.

A Time of Miracles by Anne Laure Bondoux

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged historical fiction

Nine-year-old Koumail loves to hear the story of how his guardian, Gloria, found him in the wreckage of a burning train. He nurses dreams of one day finding his mother in France.  Now, though, Koumail and Gloria are doing their best to survive in war-torn Georgia. On the run from the militia, they move from a dilapidated shelter to a refugee camp and even spend time with a Roma group. Koumail begins to worry when Gloria’s cough worsens and she’s removed from a work detail. Finally the two of them get forged passports for France. When they are separated on the way there, Koumail must survive on his own.

Why I picked it up: Nominated for my book committee.

Why I finished it:  Many stories tell of children’s experiences in war-torn countries, but this one gets it just right. Koumail’s must follow Gloria from one dilapidated shelter another. He worries worrying about her cough that sounds “like a dog is parked on her chest.” Gloria is doggedly optimistic that they will be all right, wherever they end up.  The mixture of hard times and sweetness between Koumail and Gloria is endearing. I was completely invested in their story and read this book in one sitting.

I'd give it to: 14-year old Chase, who prefers historical fiction from a child's perspective, like in Morris Gleitzman's holocaust novel Once. Kathy, a single parent who thankfully did not experience everything Gloria did, but would empathize with her daily struggle to keep her family’s head above water.  

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