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Recommendations for Friday, September 09, 2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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

Unshelved strip for 9/9/2011

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High by Rick Detorie

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agehumor

Because his father is a film professor at a local college, Larkin watches movies all the time. He spouts classic movie lines at a moment’s notice. His crush started to date the jerk that picks on Larkin at school, his sister is bizarrely selfish, he has an after school job helping an old lady with household chores, and his best friend’s father is being held for ransom in a foreign country. Larkin is saving to buy his own video camera so he can make films like the ones he and his father watch continuously.

Why I picked it up: Every publisher has been trying to put out the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and this book looks credible because of its excellent black and white art interspersed with blocks of text.

Why I finished it: Funny scenes. Larkin is called to his sister’s room because the cat door she insisted he install has been used by raccoons that now have her cornered.  At school, students conspire to move their desks incrementally forward every time the goofy French teacher turns his back, until finally the teacher is pinned to the front of the room.

I'd give it to: A.K., who operates on the fringes of high school like Larkin does. He would appreciate Larkin’s friend Freddie, who doesn’t realize his Fedora is a fashion statement.

Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger

New from the author of So Easy!

In Comfort Food Fix, New York Times bestselling author Ellie Krieger presents a healthier take on classic American comfort food—without sacrificing the comfort part. These 150 soul-satisfying recipes include such hearty favorites as meatloaf, lasagna, chicken potpie, crab cakes, and mashed potatoes, but without all the calories and saturated fat. With simple tricks and tips, Ellie serves up healthy delights like delicious sweet potato casserole with just a third of the calories and amazing buttermilk waffles with just a fraction of the fat. With full nutrition information for every recipe and gorgeous full-color photos that are sure to whet any appetite, Comfort Food Fix takes the guilt out of guilty pleasures.

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Batman and the Monster Men: Dark Moon Rising by Matt Wagner, Dave Stewart

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged superhero

To finance his genetic experiments, Professor Hugo Strange needs men no one will miss and loans from mobster Sal Maroni. When the vig comes due, Strange sends his Monster Men to massacre those at a high-stakes card game so he can grab the cash.

Contains Batman and the Monster Men #1 through #6.

Why I picked it up: Story and art by Matt Wagner.

Why I finished it: It’s set in Batman’s early years, like Year One and The Long Halloween. Batman as a mistrusted, frightening figure working in the shadows makes for a better read than later, campier crime fighting stories. Plus the art is fantastic -- I knew I couldn’t put it down after the three page sequence where Batman and Gordon examine a murder victim in the rain. It’s so well done it reminded me of some original Will Eisner art I saw at the Miami Book Fair years ago.

I'd give it to: Richard, a fan of old-time horror like Nosferatu, because the giant creatures, the early-era feel, and the noir sensibility throughout the book would appeal to him.

The Greatest Music Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Music History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy by Rick Beyer

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged historynonfiction

Historical factoids about music, including the true story of Mary's little lamb, the origin of Billboard magazine (it was originally devoted to outdoor advertising), and how a song saved President John Tyler's life.

Why I picked it up: I've been teaching myself ukulele and guitar, and I love a good factoid. They are very helpful for when I run out of clever patter at a cocktail party (i.e. about two minutes in).

Why I finished it: "Over the Rainbow," voted the greatest movie song of all time, was originally cut from "The Wizard Of Oz" because it was so painfully slow that it stopped the movie cold.

I'd give it to: My son Theo. He's already better at playing music than I am, but only because we've made him practice every day. Now he needs to come up with his own reasons for playing music, and a little backstory won't hurt.

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

In the tradition of Rebecca and the Thirteenth Tale, The Lantern is a lush, modern gothic story of love, secrets and murder. When Eve meets Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to his estate in Provence. Soon enough however, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house. Set against the sensuously evoked backdrop of Southern France’s scented hills of lavender, sun-baked stones, and ancient walled villages, The Lantern is a gripping tale of jealousy, lies, appearances and disappearances—and the age-old terror of the dark.

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Isle of 100,000 Graves by Jason, Fabien Vehlmann

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelmystery

Five years ago, Gwenny’s father found a bottle on the beach containing a treasure map. He went looking for the treasure and hasn’t been seen since. Gwenny just found another bottle with a similar map in it, which she plans to use to track down her father. The ship’s crew that’s helping her find the Isle of 100,000 Graves plan to do away with her and keep the treasure. Unbeknownst to all, the map was sent out by the Hangman’s Academy to attract the victims needed for its classes.

Why I picked it up: Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.

Why I finished it: Gwenny is excited about the idea of finding her father. She tells her mother about the map. The mother, hanging laundry, says, “You’re the reason he left. He never could abide you.” I also enjoyed Tobias, the worst student at the Hangman’s Academy, who botches a beheading and gets artistic in his pyre-building course.

I'd give it to: My daughter, Gigi, and my wife, Silver, in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween.

Momento Nora by Angie Smibert

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coming of agemysteryscience fiction

The solution to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been found: a pill that can erase the stressful memories that haunt you. But in a city with terrorist bombings every few weeks, that can mean a lot of memories are erased. Nora spits her pill into the trash and begins to see the part of the world being covered up by the pharmaceutical corporation.

Why I picked it up: I know a lot of people dealing with trauma who might not mind taking that pill.

Why I finished it: The heart of the story is the moment when Nora begins to realize that the world is not as it seems. She connects with Mica and Winter, people outside her social circle who have important reasons not to forget: Mica's fading memories of his absent father make him desperate to keep every memory he can, while Winter refuses to let the government take the memory of when they put her parents into permanent detention. (I love to see the teens I work with have the growing realization that the world is much more than what their parents and teachers tell them, even if it isn't as dramatic as this.)

I'd give it to: (Another) Nora, who works with ‘zines, will love that an anonymous comic is how the three begin to spread the seeds of doubt in their high school, and that the book includes practical tips on publishing without getting caught.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Vera Brosgol’s first graphic novel has already garnered five starred reviews!

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a friend who’s been dead for a century. Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs. Or so she thinks.

Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut.

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The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf

Link to this review by saracole tagged cookbookscience

Written by a former avid vegetarian, this book explains the whys and hows of following a paleo diet -- a diet based on that of our paleolithic ancestors -- while explaining how to create and maintain overall health via nutrition, sleep and crossfit training. (According to Wolf, our hunter-gatherer forebearers lived the healthiest, most disease-free lives in history.)  

Chapter titles reflect Wolf’s humor, which lightens the science: “My Story, Your Story, Our Story (Cheezy, but true)” and “Why This Book Should be Titled: Sleep You Big Dummy” are two of my favorites. Final chapters include cross-training exercises, a thirty day meal plan, and related recipes.

Why I picked it up: I can't remember. (I waited almost a year for fifty-one other library patrons to finish the book so I could have my shot at it.) I probably read about The Paleo Solution while researching the low-carb lifestyle (I’m a big fan). 

Why I finished it: I'm desperate. After two-and-a-half years on a hormone cocktail formulated to induce lactation, I weigh fifty pounds more than I ever have, I can barely walk around the block without getting winded and my seasonal allergies are driving me crazy. I've read and understood all the information in this book before, but it’s Wolf’s directness and upbeat attitude that’s going to provide the bootstrap I need to return to a healthy, active lifestyle. (Ironically, I stayed up way too late, eating sugared cereal, to read it.)

I'd give it to: I'm restraining myself from a frenzied, evangelical mailing of copies to friends and family with autoimmune disease, Parkinson's, irritable bowel syndrome and diabetes. I'm convinced this is the solution they're searching for (but I'd likely scare them off forever in this state of mind). I'd also like to give it to my mother, who was traumatized by the convoluted science in the 1152 page reading assignment I gave her -- Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories plus Dement's Promise of Sleep.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageromancescience fiction

The annual Scorpio Races are dangerous, attracting thrill-seekers and horse traders from around the globe who want to watch local men race water horses. These are bloodthirsty, aquatic creatures. Their only relation to horses is their shape -- they are strong, violent, and uncontrollable.

Puck Connolly is a native of the island of Thisby, where she lives with her brothers. Desperate, she puts up her house to cover the entry fee for the races. Puck would be the first girl ever to enter. When her right to compete is challenged, a quiet, deep nineteen-year-old (Sean Kendrick) stands up for her, earning her gratitude and a bit of a crush. 

Sean is a horse whisperer and four-time champion in the Scorpio Races. He also captures water horses in the surf.  If he wins this year, his boss promised to sell Sean his favorite horse.

Puck and Sean train together for the race, falling for each other as they prepare for a race that both may not survive.

Why I picked it up: I read and greatly enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s werewolf trilogy, Shiver, Linger, and Forever, as well as her faerie novels Lament and Ballad. All of them have been very popular with girls at my school.

Why I finished it: Stiefvater is great at creating tension. During the heinous storm when the water horses had free rein on the island, Puck was trapped in a decrepit horse stall with the bloodthirsty stallion stalking around, whickering, and snorting. 

I'd give it to: Malia, who grew up in a small community, because this book had a lot to do with the insular islanders and their relationships.  Anna, who would dig it once she read about a water horse tearing open someone’s carotid artery -- this is NOT Black Beauty.

Slightly Invisible: (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child

Link to this review by gigi tagged picture book

Lola is Charlie’s little sister and always sticks to Charlie. But sometimes Charlie just wants to be with his best friend Marv. Charlie and Marv look for strange creatures and have amazing adventures, but sometimes Lola ruins them. Charlie and Marv invent an invisibility potion -- Lola drinks a sip but her friend Soren Lorenson drinks most of it. (That’s why he’s much more invisible than Lola.)

Why I picked it up: It’s about the same characters in I Am Too Absolutely Small for School and I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed, which I liked when I was younger.

Why I finished it: I wanted to see the most strange and terrifying tricky creature in the universe. (Charlie, Lola, Marv, and Soren Lorenson set off to capture it together.)

I'd give it to: Anna, my friend Noah’s little sister, because she’d like that Lola’s bunny doll scares the monster.

latter recommendations >>