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Recommendations for Friday, November 30, 2012

Mudman Volume 1 by Paul Grist

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

Unshelved strip for 11/30/2012

The Round House: a novel by Louise Erdrich

Link to this review by darcy tagged literarymystery

Thirteen-year-old Joe is weeding the yard with his father when his mother returns home, bleeding and incoherent. As details are slowly revealed, Joe learns his mother was brutally attacked. His father, a tribal judge on the North Dakota reservation where they live, stays within legal boundaries to find the attacker. But Joe and his friends conduct a series of late night searches to find him.

Why I picked it up: I love Louise Erdrich. I was first introduced to her work in a literature class in college, and I remain a fan. She creates likable yet deeply flawed characters who are easy to relate to. I still talk about scenes from other books of hers that I’ve read.

Why I finished it: The details of Geraldine's attack are enough to keep the pages turning -- she was beaten and soaked in gasoline but managed to escape when her attacker couldn't light the matches. But the real story is Joe's anger and sadness at his mother's inability to talk about the attack.

I'd give it to: Christie, my writing group buddy. Like Erdrich, she has a powerful talent to bring landscapes to life. I hope that during a few early morning feedings with her new baby, she’ll be able to sink into this novel. I know she will love Joe and his heartbreaking and humorous escapades.

Faith, Love and Devotion: Duty and Devotion by Tere Michaels

Several years after the end of Duty & Devotion, Matt and Evan are living quietly in their Brooklyn home with the twins, Danny and Elizabeth. The older girls - Katie and Miranda - are off at college, Evan is about to be promoted to captain and things are calm.

Briefly.

Evan accidently learns that Miranda has a new boyfriend and is talking marriage after just three months of dating. After peeling himself off the ceiling, he demands a conversation with his eldest daughter, which erupts into, as Matt calls it, “a steel cage match”.

Miranda indeed has a boyfriend (Kent), a business major (from Connecticut) and they are most definitely serious. In fact, Miranda wants to bring him to Thanksgiving dinner - along with his parents, Blake and Cornelia.

There is much debate but Evan agrees - mostly because Miranda's part of the bargain is that she won't get engaged or elope until the parents have met.

Thanksgiving descends into madness before the turkey is cut.

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What's Left of Me: (The Hybrid Chronicles) by Kat Zhang

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged paranormal

Addie and Eva are two souls who live in the same body. They didn’t settle around age seven like they were supposed to. One was supposed to take charge and the other was supposed to fade to nothingness. Both their souls are still living in the same body. The government says hybrids like them are the cause of violence in their troubled society. They are able to stay out of trouble, keep their secret, and pass.

Hally, another hybrid at school, notices Addie spacing out while talking to Eva in her head.  Soon, they are trying to get Eva to take more of a role in speaking and moving their body, which is usually Addie’s job. Then the government finds out about their deception. A sinister agent takes them away. The cure for hybridism is dangerous, and they must escape before they’re put under the scalpel.

Why I picked it up: You know those visual puzzles where you see a young lady’s face in profile, and only after looking for a while do you see the old hag’s face in the negative space?  The cover of this book works the same way.

Why I finished it: Each soul can take over its body at any time and speak with his or her own personality. At first it was hard to follow the dialogue in scenes with two or three hybrids all talking, using plural pronouns to refer to themselves and switching between personalities constantly. But I’m a parent of twins, and I’ve learned to look for clues as to which of my sons is speaking to me, so it was cool to watch the characters in the book discover mannerisms and colloquialisms to identify which soul is in control.

I'd give it to: Greg. He would like the scenes in the hospital where groups of hybrid children await their “therapy” with a sense of doom. As they are taken away one by one, no child really believes she will ever go home. It all makes the scene where Addie/Eva attacks the man in charge even more satisfying.

Dead Mann Running: A Hessius Mann Novel by Stefan Petrucha

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged mysteryparanormal

Undead detective Hessius Mann is trying to keep himself from decaying or being put into the camps for the undead who have lost their ability to reason. Then a mystery presents itself in the form of a heavily-padded carrying case containing two vials of glowing, blue liquid. It’s brought to him by an arm -- only an arm -- that finds its way to him without the rest of its body. His secretary, Misty, convinces him that this must be important enough to investigate after people start killing each other to try to get it back.

Why I picked it up: Dead Mann Walking was my favorite novel last year.

Why I finished it: This one plunged me right back into the exciting chases, presented a mind-boggling mystery, and made me fall for the most sympathetic, undead hero ever written. Mann has no reason to care about any of the problems around him, but his compassion for the hopeless keeps putting him in danger. He's the best kind of noir hero, and I miss him when I finish every book in the series.

I'd give it to: Summer, who I would grab with the creepy premise of "chakking up." Humans with a fetish for the undead who meet up in sleazy hotels to satisfy their twisted desires with zombies (who are just in it for the money).

Millar & McNiven's Nemesis by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelsuperhero

Nemesis, the world’s only super criminal, has murdered cops around the globe. He’s chosen his next target: Washington D.C.’s upstanding Police Chief, Blake Morrow. A calling card arrives announcing the date and time of Morrow’s death.

Contains Nemesis #1 - #4.

Publisher Rating: Mature Content.

Why I picked it up: Millar (Wanted, Kick Ass, and Old Man Logan) writes superhero comics that are worth reading.

Why I finished it: Nemesis is Batman with no morals. He wears white, so the blood stands out when he’s covered with it.

I'd give it to: Sameer, a spy thriller fan who would like that Nemesis is always one step ahead of Morrow, as well as the wordless pages where Nemesis takes out ninety-seven men with his bare hands (and the odd police baton).

The Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (The Schocken Bible, Volume 1)  by Everett Fox

Link to this review by billba tagged poetry

An English translation of the first part of the Bible that attempts to convey the poetry and power of the original Hebrew.

Why I picked it up: I had always been curious about the Bible as an important source of our culture's stories and mythology, but my every attempt to read it has been stymied by the turgid prose. After I shared with my then-fiancée Sara (who was raised Christian) a review of this then-new translation, she gave it to me for Valentine's Day. We have taken turns reading it since.

Why I finished it: Let us not say that I have finished it, let us instead say that I pick it up from time to time and make a little more headway. And I do keep picking it up. There is immense beauty here, words picked so carefully and put together so evocatively that it's often like watching a movie. (Actually I have seen the movie, and the Book was better):

Moshe stretched out his hand over the sea,
and YHWH caused the sea to go back
with a fierce east wind all night,
and made the sea into firm-ground;
thus the waters split.
The Children of Israel came through the midst of the sea upon the dry-land,
the waters a wall for them on their right and their left.

I'd give it to: Cindy, who is pursuing her own spiritual path and who loves language as much as I do. She'll geek out big time at the extensive footnotes which explain some fascinating things about life in ancient times and Hebrew ("Adam" = “human" and  "Adama" = “the soil, from which humans were created”).

Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic by David Blaine

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographynonfiction

David Blaine knows how to put on a show. His feats of endurance, dangerous stunts, and magic acts are often grandiose media events. Each of Blaine’s death-defying stunts is carefully orchestrated; most are planned for at least a year before they are attempted, and a safety officer signs off on each one. Buried Alive, Frozen in Time, and Vertigo, three of his most well-known feats, are each given a chapter so that we can see how he prepared for each and what went wrong. Buried Alive was a seven day stint in a plexiglass coffin. During Frozen in Time Blaine spent three days entombed between two slabs of ice. For Vertigo he stood on a small post eighty feet in the air for thirty five hours.

Much of what Blaine does is based on historic magic tricks. Blaine discusses the abilities and showmanship of magicians who performed these tricks, and he also shares unusual facts about them. He even recounts how competitive Harry Houdini was by telling the story of when Houdini burned down a rival escape artist’s building because the man had claimed to be greater than him.

Blaine also provides instructions for performing math-based card tricks that will stump your friends.

Why I picked it up: Several years ago I saw news coverage of Frozen in Time on the Today show. I remember him being dramatically cut out of the ice with chainsaws.

Why I finished it: Blaine’s stunts test the limits of human endurance. They’re not tricks, though he is a noted magician and student of the history of magic. For Buried Alive, he built up the endurance necessary to control is breathing and body during his week-long stay in the coffin. (During the stunt he didn’t eat and lost twenty-four pounds.) He often fasts and goes without food to prepare for such feats because attending to bathroom needs can be tricky. In fact, during Frozen in Time, his catheter literally caused him a lot of pain when an assistant snagged the line while vacuuming up melted water on the floor.

I'd give it to: Ryan, a workout fiend who is all about pushing his body to its limits. He would find a kindred spirit in Blaine who punishes his body when preparing for stunts. (To get ready to be encased in ice, Blaine took ice baths for months to get used to the lower temperatures.)  

One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing by Katherine Dunn

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged essaysnonfiction

A collection of essays on boxing by a writer who is unabashedly excited by violence in the ring and in awe of the dedication it requires.

Why I picked it up: I’ve never appreciated boxing much, but I’m a huge MMA fan and I loved Dunn’s novel Geek Love.

Why I finished it: Mark Siegel’s To Dance taught me to enjoy ballet a bit, and Dunn does the same for me with boxing. I love the time Dunn spends on things that previously mystified me, from the art (and necessity) of handwraps to what a good cut man does for a fighter. She discusses some fights I remember, like Hagler vs. Hearns, which I watched with my dad, and her account of Tyson biting Holyfeld made me sympathetic for how Tyson was treated.

I'd give it to: Ellery, who would enjoy the bits about women’s boxing, and how, through hard work and dedication, they’re changing the minds of promoters and trainers who initially thought they had no business in the ring. She’d particularly love the long profile of Lucia Rijker, who was at one point seen by many as the most dangerous woman on the planet.

Marine One by James W. Huston, Joe Barrett

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged mysterythriller

In one of the worst storms of the decade, the President's helicopter (Marine One) crashes. Everyone on board is killed. The First Lady, along with the wives of the other men who died in the crash, files a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer of the helicopter. Attorney Mike Nolan is hired to defend them.

Nolan, a former helicopter pilot, must figure out what happened that night. As the investigation goes deeper, the evidence seems to point to faulty parts and the negligence of the manufacturer. Nolan isn't convinced that is the real explanation, but without another viable theory, he could be defending the company that killed the President of the United States.

Why I picked it up: With election season here, I was looking for a political thriller to lighten my mood.

Why I finished it: It sounds cheesy, but when I heard the narrator's gravelly voice read the first line, "If my radio alarm had gone off, I would have known the President was dead," I got a chill down my spine. The way Huston deftly combines military knowledge, a fast paced legal setting, and conspiracy theories left me breathless. I wasn't satisfied with the answers Nolan was finding, either, and when one of his investigators is killed in a brutally horrifying manner, I knew he was onto something far more dangerous than I was led to believe.

I'd give it to: Carrie. Although her specialty is airplanes, she will appreciate how well the author explains helicopter parts and technology for the layperson, but I know she’ll definitely argue with the science behind the crash.

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