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Recommendations for Friday, December 21, 2012

Let's Draw Cute Animals: (Illustration School) by Sachiko Umoto
Let's Draw Happy People: (Illustration School) by Sachiko Umoto

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

Unshelved strip for 12/21/2012

every day by David Levithan

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of ageparanormal

Every morning A wakes up in another body somewhere near the person he was the day before. (The people whose consciousness he replaces suffer no ill effects and remember the days A was there, like any other.) Every night A’s consciousness transfers to a new body. A’s life has always been like this. A has learned to forget the lives that A has been a part of.

But then, one day, A falls in love with Rhiannon while occupying her boyfriend’s body, and then tries to have a romantic relationship.

Why I picked it up: Kerry Milliron, Random House’s Senior Director of Brand Management, told me it was awesome when I met him at Comic-Con. Then we geeked out about Levithan’s other books.

Why I finished it: I read character-driven novels to get a sense of what the world looks like through someone else’s eyes. This book turns that on its head by focusing specifically on the body, and how A’s life changes (just for a day) when obese, mentally ill, strong, transgendered, white or black, male or female, hot or not. And Levithan also explores how important the body is (and isn’t) to romance when one loves the person inside.

I'd give it to: Beatrice, who has a taste for you’ve-got-to-believe me scenes, whether they’re sappy (Ghost or smart-ass (Ghost Busters), because she’d love the chapter where A tries to make Rhiannon understand that the girl in front of her was the boy she met the previous Saturday and the girl who visited her school last Thursday.

The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World by by Sean Carroll

Scientists have just announced an historic discovery on a par with the splitting of the atom: the Higgs boson, the key to understanding why mass exists, has been found. In The Particle at the End of the Universe, Caltech physicist and acclaimed writer Sean Carroll takes readers behind the scenes of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to meet the scientists and explain this landmark event.

"Carroll keeps it real, getting at the complex guts of cutting-edge cosmology in discussions that will challenge fans of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.” — The Washington Post

“In this superb book, Sean Carroll provides a fascinating and lucid look at the most mysterious and important particle in nature, and the experiment that revealed it. Anyone with an interest in physics should read this, and join him in examining the new worlds of physics to which this discovery may lead.” — Leonard Mlodinow, New York Times bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk

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Bewitching Season: (Leland Sisters) by Marissa Doyle

Link to this review by rose tagged historical fictionparanormal

In 1837, two twins, Persephone and Penelope, will soon be old enough to find husbands and join the society of London as adults. Penelope is looking forward to all the parties and lovely dresses, and of course, the handsome young men! Persephone, on the other hand, would rather just stay home and continue studying magic in secret. Then, their beloved governess gets kidnapped, and the twins get caught up in the tangled web of lies, magic, and treachery in the courts of London.

Why I picked it up: I recently enjoyed another historical novel, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, which is also set in Europe. So when I saw this at the library I decided to give it a try.

Why I finished it: There were a few twists and turns in the plot that I didn't expect, and they kept me engaged all the way through. I loved the part when Persephone is very emotional and casts a love spell. It seems to work but then she feels that the relationship isn’t real and pushes the young man away.

I'd give it to: My friend Olivia, who likes mishaps with magic. She’ll love when the girls are practicing magic and accidentally freeze their brother in place!

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged thriller

Fourteen-year-old Sophie has come to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to visit her mother, a scientist who runs a bonobo reserve. When Sophie sees a baby bonobo being sold on the street, she buys it to bring to the reserve. (Her mother is upset; she believes buying the bonobo will cause more to be taken from the wild because of the financial reward.) Sophie names it Otto and nurses it back to health.

Just after her mother leaves the reserve to reintroduce several bonobos back into the wild, civil war erupts in the DRC. Sophie hides in the reserve with the bonobos. But when rebel fighters take over the reserve building, she decides to flee cross-country to try to find her mother while keeping Otto safe.

Why I picked it up: It was named as a finalist for the National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category. Plus, the cute ape on the cover makes it appealing to middle-schoolers.

Why I finished it: Sophie’s story has plenty of adventure and suspense as she travels across a war-torn country, but I was even more intrigued by the bonobos. Though they have a well-known penchant for masturbation and other sexual behavior, this is chastely mentioned in the book. Their bond to their mother (or a replacement, as Sophie becomes for Otto) for their first five years was incredibly compelling. The reserve hires locals to serve as “mothers” to the orphaned young bonobos, to feed, groom and fuss over the them.  (Without this close contact, the bonobos don’t thrive). This bond drives the plot of the book. Sophie can barely get ten feet away from Otto without him screeching and running to her.

Schrefer’s knowledge of bonobo behavior comes from first-person experience at a bonobo sanctuary in Congo.  His time in the DRC gave him intimate knowledge of the way bonobos relate to one another. They have a matriarchal society, and have found a way to solve their problems without violence. When they find a new food source or sleeping grounds, the heightened level of excitement often causes them to engage in group sexual activity. Scientists note that this a s stress release for the troop.

I'd give it to: Ellie. She will love the relationship Sophie has with Otto, and she’ll be devastated when they’re separated by rebel fighters, especially when Sophie can see the fear in Otto’s eyes. (Then the moment when Sophie gets Otto back will put her over the top.)

Clan McKinloch 1: Stars, Stripes, and Xmas Bells by Kaitlin Maitland

Everything has gone downhill for Ashton since the hot summer night she spent with a military man she hardly knew. Her career is in a shambles, her dreams of traveling abroad are impossible, and her love life is in the toilet. Worse, one of her coworkers has decided she’s the perfect girl for him. Too bad her heart is fixed on the guy she kissed beneath the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Trip McKinloch has never been the favorite son. McKinlochs are supposed to settle down close to home, marry, and help run the family pub. Instead, Trip joined the Air Force, has lived overseas for years, and is in love with a woman he shared one night with during his Fourth of July leave.

When Trip goes home for the holidays he is shocked to discover that the woman he cannot forget is now working as a bartender in his family’s Pub. Worse still, Trip’s brother Gavin has a hefty crush on Ashton and a grudge against Trip that could spell yuletide disaster. Now Trip has to find a way to convince everyone that the footloose McKinloch has finally found the one woman who feels just like home.

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Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasyscience

Glennora lives with her father in a world of science and technology, the Colloquium. (Her mother abandoned them years ago.) Glenn would love to leave for the stars on the next interstellar pioneer ship, but she must care for her father, who is wasting away. He is obsessed with the idea of making a device that will allow him to cross the Rift, a blackened, desolate area that is supposed to be completely bereft of life and go on forever. Her father has conspiracy theories about the Rift and believes his missing wife might be on the other side.

Her father is finally able to use his genius to create a bracelet that he believes will allow him to cross the Rift. But before he can go, the authorities take him into custody. Glenn then uses the bracelet with her determined but frustrated suitor, Kevin. On they far side they discover an unknown civilization, the Magesterium. There they have a form of magic called the Affinity, and people live under the despotic rule of an all-powerful ruler, the Magistra.

Why I picked it up: I liked Hirsch’s last dystopian book The Eleventh Plague which read like a copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for children -- It has some of the bleakness but it’s not soul crushing.

Why I finished it: There have been many books about the clash between technology and magic, but this book finesses those clichés by having two well-developed worlds. The Magisterium has a whole backstory that is revealed gradually and naturally, while we learn, along with Glenn, about the avarice of the Authority on the Colloquium side. Glenn’s ability to tap into the Affinity makes an interesting subplot as each time she uses the Affinity, it threatens to sweep her away; she may lose her reason in the flow of power that fills her completely.

I'd give it to: Asia, my student who likes Erin Hunter's Warriors series because one of the stars of this book is Glenn’s cat. On the Colloquium side of the Rift, he’s ordinary, but in the Magisterium he’s a seven-foot-tall beast.

The Breaking of the Seal: (Code Name: Hunter Volume 0) by Darc Sowers, Matt Sowers
A Political Spell: (Code Name: Hunter Volume 1) by Darc Sowers, Matt Sowers
Internal Affairs: (Code Name: Hunter Volume 2) by Darc Sowers, Matt Sowers

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

Breaking the Seal
In an alternate, anthropomorphic world, William the Conqueror had holy men seal magic away from the world. Science ruled. But in 1940 the container was broken and magic started to seep back into the mortal realm. Reported sightings of ogres and unicorns centered around Westminster Abbey. An MI-5 agent was finally able to convince his boss of the veracity of the sightings (despite the giggles of his colleagues). A department was formed to investigate and deal with these supernatural problems.

This volume also includes a short adventure in which Hunter (the main character in the rest of the series) saves a young lady from a hunting Fey, setting him on the road to becoming a government agent.

Contains Code Name: Hunter issues .1 - .3 plus other material. (Color.)

A Political Spell
Agent Hunter and his assistant, Gypsy, are sent abroad to escort a mage, Gadel, to the U.K. Gadel isn’t happy about leaving her home country, Astoria, but she agrees to abide by her Queen’s decision to send her abroad. Others aren’t willing to go along with the Queen and attack Hunter and Gypsy.

Contains Code Name: Hunter issues 1-7. (Black and white.)

Internal Affairs
After their mission to Astoria, Hunter and Gypsy are both on leave and have to deal with their families. Hunter’s parents don’t know the true nature of their son’s job (they think he’s a clerk), and his father sees him as being unworthy of inheriting the family business and hereditary title. Gypsy is ordered to call her mother, who then explains the story of how she and Gypsy’s father escaped from Astoria before Gypsy was born. Gadel has some trouble settling in, and the Queen, irritated at being kept out of the loop, orders Hunter and Gypsy to keep her informed about goings-on in their department.

After Hunter returns to active duty, he’s assigned to babysit the Prince during a treaty ceremony with the Fey. They’re supposed to stay out of trouble in the Prince’s room, but then the Fey who Hunter stopped years before (in Volume 0) comes looking for payback.

Contains Code Name: Hunter issues 8 - 14. (Black and white.)

Why I picked it up: I met Darc and Matt (and started reading their comic) at the first NEWW.

Why I finished it: The hand-colored drawings in Volume 0 drew me in. By the time I finished it, I really liked Agent Hunter’s attitude. In the second book, when he’s being chewed out by a high level official in Astoria for his tardiness and appearance, he explains that his boat exploded and that he and others had to trek two days overland to reach their destination. Astoria’s Queen’s representative, Lord Cedric, doesn’t accept his excuse or apology and says Hunter should have known technology doesn’t function well around magic. Hunter’s response, delivered deadpan, shows that he’s clearly had enough: “Oops.”

I'd give it to: My friend Lisa, from my writer’s group, who would enjoy the politics, the Sowers’ world building skills, and above all the period clothing of the characters in Astoria.

All issues of Code Name: Hunter are available in the online archive.

Three Wolves Mountain by Bohra Naono

Link to this review by snow tagged eroticagraphic novelparanormalromance

Café owner and graveyard guard Kaya stumbles upon a surprise one night: two starving werewolf brothers. He lets the brothers move into his house, work in his café, and help him patrol the graveyard. But the love of Jiro, the human-looking younger brother, and the teeth of Tarou, his wolf-like elder brother, may not be enough to protect Kaya from ghosts -- or worse, their family.

Publisher's Age Rating: M/Mature

Why I picked it up: Naono is a very popular creator of yaoi manga (male/male romance comics created by women for women -- these are also sometimes referred to as “boys love” manga). This is only the second of her books to be released in the United States. Even though I read the scanlation a few years ago, I wanted to buy the official English translation.

Why I finished it: Naono is adept at blending humor and seriousness with sex, lots of sex. She tackles topics like body-image, sexual abuse, loneliness, and jealousy, but also adds plenty of slapstick comedy and silliness. And sex, don't forget the sex. To top it all off, her hard-bodied men are drawn in a gorgeous, masculine way, rather than in the more effeminate style common to many boys love titles. Naono's got a special way with paranormal elements, and her werewolves alternate between realistically lupine, terrifyingly fierce, and adorably fuzzy.

I'd give it to: Jessica, who will instantly adore the werewolves' ears, tails, and sharp teeth, along with the healthy dose of smut.

Slacks and Calluses: Our Summer In a Bomber Factory by Constance Bowman Reid, Clara Marie Allen

Link to this review by darcy tagged history

"There are two kinds of women: those who go to work in slacks and those who go to work in skirts."

During the summer of 1943, two high school teachers helped the war effort by working in a bomber factory in San Diego. They learned how to use blow torches and wrenches, and also how to work in a male-dominated field.

Why I picked it up: I found the title in the library catalog while I was helping a patron research women ordnance workers. I became so interested in the subject I decided to dress as Rosie the Riveter for Halloween.

Why I finished it: I loved it for the dusty, dirty details I never got from the Rosie poster, like how the authors cleaned the grime and metal shavings out of their hair. In every chapter they dealt with sexual harassment; they were either the "damn women" who couldn't hold a wrench or were whistled at and chatted up because they were wearing pants in public. (When they wore their school teacher dresses on the same bus, servicemen and civilians would give up their seats for them; their work slacks made them both objects of lust and "equals" unworthy of such chivalry.)

I'd give it to: My grandma, Helen. Even though she was in Montana during the war, I think she could have whipped out a few B-14 Liberators with the quick flick of her wrist and a riveting gun. She's still tough and beautiful and can do anything once her hair's done up.

Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker: (The Boys Volume 10) by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged graphic novelsuperhero

The Boys is one of the crudest, most shocking, and horrific graphic novel series I read. It follows the lives of a team of anti-superheroes brought together to keep corporate-created superheroes in line when they abuse their powers. This volume gives the backstory of the violent and mysterious team leader, Billy Butcher.

Why I picked it up: No matter how many times this series completely disgusts me, I'm always drawn back in by the character of Wee Hughie. He’s a normal guy recruited into a life he never asked for after his girlfriend was accidentally killed during a fight between a “superhero” and a super-powered villain.

Why I finished it: Earlier volumes only hint at Butcher's background, which Hughie has been trying to figure out so he can better understand the true mission and goals of the team. I was completely sucked in, and then devastated, by Butcher’s story of romance, redemption, and loss.

I'd give it to: Paul, who would appreciate this both as a great comic, and as one of the most ballsy critiques of the government corruption by corporations being written.

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