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Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged science fiction

Unshelved comic strip for 8/5/2011
Ask Me Why I Hurt The Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor Who Heals Them by Randy Christensen

Link to this review by silver tagged biographynonfiction

Nobody in Randy’s school believed he could be a doctor – he was a goofy-looking, half-Mexican kid with a bad stutter. But Randy finished medical school and now works at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 

He was interested in “hospitals on wheels” since he first saw a mobile medical unit. When he heard about using one to serve homeless kids in Arizona, he wanted to lead the medical team. The first day on the job, Randy and Jan (a nurse practitioner) parked the van in an empty lot and lowered the hydraulic jacks to stabilize it. One of the the jacks stopped working and started leaking hydraulic fluid. Randy crawled under the vehicle to try to stop the leak without success.  As he called to get help, soaked with sweat and covered in oil, he realized there were dozens of homeless kids lined up next to the van.

Over the last ten years, Randy and his team have treated more than 6,000 kids.

Why I picked it up: I read the title and wanted to know more about what he did for the kids.

Why I finished it: It gave an idea of the street kids’ living conditions, which were simply unimaginable to me. A girl who complained of an earache had a cockroach inside her ear.  A developmentally delayed boy with a constant headache had multiple skull fractures.

I also wanted to know about Randy’s relationship with his wife. Randy seems to be a good guy and incredibly devoted to his work. He loves his wife dearly, but he can’t always be there for her. I hoped he would figure out how to maintain a healthy balance between his work and his family.

I'd give it to: Richard and Bill, two guys I know who don’t trust doctors. I believe people become doctors because they want to help people, like Randy helps kids, and I hope that this book will help them realize that.

Sky Sailors True Stories of the Balloon Era by David L. Bristow

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged historynonfiction

True, hair-raising tales of the daring deeds of early balloonists and parachutists who risked their lives for thrills and (sometimes) science.

Why I picked it up: I liked Lincoln's Flying Spies and wanted to know more about people who indulged in hobbies this dangerous (and often expensive).

Why I finished it: Instead of the plain biography of pre-airplane fliers I was expecting, this book is full of incredible stories you might hear in a bar. -There was a guy who tested an early parachute by tossing his dog out of a balloon. The dog caught an updraft and barked in gleeful recognition when he saw his master again, above the clouds. -Two guys in a balloon flew higher than anyone had ever gone before (or since, at least not without bringing oxygen tanks). At seven miles high -- what mountaineers call "The Death Zone" -- both passed out. Luckily that was moments after one managed to pull the hydrogen release valve with his teeth (his arms had gone dead) so that they did not continue to rise.

I'd give it to: Christine, for the doomed love story in the tale of the team of balloonists who tried to make it to the North Pole, plus the other dreamy aeronauts who deserve their own romance sub-genre.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Link to this review by billba tagged humorliterary

Copywriter Tom Violet just finished his first novel. He hasn't shown it to his wife Anna, for whom he is unable to muster desire. And he definitely won't share it with his father, famed novelist Curtis Violet, who has just added the Pulitzer to his long list of prizes and accolades. But Katie, Tom's twenty-three-year-old knockout of an employee, loves it.

Why I picked it up: I've got my own midlife crisis brewing, though not as interesting or sexy as Tom's. Also, funny title.

Why I finished it: Early in the book Tom quotes a hilariously humorless complaint letter to HR from his workplace nemesis, Greg. As the book goes on, Tom imagines increasingly petty complaint letters from Greg, and, eventually, from everyone else in his life.

I'd give it to: Derek, who quit his job at Microsoft around the same time I did. He'd love all the meaningless corporate intrigue, and he’ll especially enjoy Tom's final press release.

Fuddles by Frans Vischer

Link to this review by gigi tagged picture book

Fuddles is a spoiled, pampered, and fat cat. One day Fuddles had the urge to go on an adventure outside, but his owner, mom, won’t let him. He finally manages to escape to the outdoors but soon he gets lost.

Why I picked it up: I like that he’s holding a fish like he’s going to eat it on the cover.

Why I finished it: The squirrels laughed at him because he falls into a bird bath, and then he tried to climb the tree to catch them.

I'd give it to: Eleanor because she’d like the part when the dog chases Fuddles, because Fuddles ends up riding the dog like it’s a rodeo bull.

Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelmystery

Rachel is a contestant in the Llaverac Clan Conformation Competition. If she wins, she’ll get a knighthood and enter her mother’s clan, and her family will have a better life. But one night, on the way home from the contest, she and her sister are mugged. Her ring, a clan heirloom, is stolen. She must have it on her finger if she wins. So she sets out to get it back, and to find an old family friend who can help (Jaeger, from the other Finder stories).

Why I picked it up: Carla. Speed. McNeil.

Why I finished it: McNeil’s people have such a range of expressions on their faces, it’s possible to read their emotions. And she always uses their hair as a way to express who they are and how they’re feeling. Her art is just amazing.

I'd give it to: Ellery would enjoy the gender-bending physiques of the Llaverac Clan -- they’re not hermaphrodites, but even the men have boobs.

The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler, Jay Asher

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agescience fiction

It’s 1996. Emma’s neighbor, Josh, has been her friend for years. Then he made a pass at her and nearly ruined their relationship.

Because they don’t have a computer, Josh’s mom makes him take a free AOL installation CD they received to Emma. After Emma and Josh install the program on her computer, they are able to see an unusual site called Facebook where, fifteen years in the future, they both post pictures and updates.

They speculate about their futures. As they attempt to change what they see on Facebook by altering their present, Emma finds herself becoming more and more attracted to Josh.

Why I picked it up: I got to hear Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big, Round Things) and Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why) speak for an hour about the process of writing this book together at a teen librarian event in New Orleans!  At the end, they signed copies of their book. (I finished it within two hours of hearing them talk.) 

Why I finished it: It was hilarious to see teens from fifteen years ago wondering why anyone would post information on where they drank coffee or their relationship status.  The dialogue is spot-on and moves the story quickly, and watching them fumble to engineer their futures leads them to discover what’s important.

I'd give it to: My friend Ryan, a thirty-something who is the most online friend I have.  Whenever I don’t understand something in the blogosphere or Twitter or my iPhone, I go to him -- and now I can be the first to give him this book about Facebook before Facebook. 

The Getaway Man by Andrew Vachss

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged mysterythriller

All Eddie wants is to be a driver. In and out of jail, first for stealing cars, later for more serious crimes, he practices driving constantly. He never gives up any of the men he’s working for, earning their respect and loyalty. But he inevitably becomes the victim of his own trusting nature.

Why I picked it up: The owner of my favorite used bookstore in Seattle, BLMF (in the lowest level of the Pike Place Market), recommended it to me when I bought a copy of James Sallis’s Drive for a friend. But I probably would have bought it for the woman on the cover alone.

Why I finished it: It’s hard to tell if Eddie has mental issues or if he’s just really focused on driving. He’s such a good guy, and the book is such a wonderful pulp story, that I was waiting for someone to take advantage of him.

I'd give it to: Frank, my former writing teacher and dedicated mystery fan, because if he praises it, a few other folks in my writing group will give this dark story a chance, too.

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 lawman 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 push 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.

A Distant Neighborhood Volume 1 by Jiro Taniguchi, Frederic Boilet
A Distant Neighborhood Volume 2 by Jiro Taniguchi, Frederic Boilet

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Hiroshi Nakahara, 48, drinks too much and isn’t involved in the lives of his children. He accidentally boards the train to his hometown, Kurayoshi, and begins thinking about his mother, who was 48 when she died. Was she happy? He never asked. He wanders through town to her grave and falls asleep there.

When he awakens the place looks different. He feels lighter and finds he’s wearing an old school uniform and sneakers. The town is now as he remembers it from his childhood. When he looks in a window, he sees that he’s a teenager again.

He begins living his life over again as a middle school student. He finds himself falling in love with a classmate, despite his internal age. And as the day his father suddenly left the family approaches, Hiroshi starts to play detective in an effort to understand his father’s motivations and, if possible, make his father change his mind and stay.

Why I picked it up: Last year I read Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life, much of which took place in Japan in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This series (complete in two volumes) takes place in the same time period and has a similar sense of nostalgia, but focuses on the day-to-day life of a teenage boy. Taniguchi’s art is clean and crisp, and the layouts are amazing for the amount of scenery they show while still helping to develop the characters and move the story along.

Why I finished it: Hiroshi is both delighted and horrified to find himself back in the eighth grade. He wonders about his family in the present even as he starts to change the past. He struggles with how to act within the confines of everyone’s expectations of a boy his age because in his mind he’s a married, middle-aged man. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but it is done masterfully.

I'd give it to: Gina, who liked Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth series, will enjoy the sense of place and the art in this book. And Bill, who liked Alex Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten, a similar time travel story.

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