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Recommendations for Friday, February 17, 2012

Rust: Visitor in the Field by Royden Lepp

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

Unshelved strip for 2/17/2012

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton, Sølve Sundsbø

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged biographycoffee table booknonfiction

A posthumous exploration of radical post-modernist fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen's work and life featuring photographs of pieces collected for a 2011 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Why I picked it up: While I will never be able to afford high fashion designs, I'm fascinated by clothing this impractical and amazing. Plus the cover features a hologram much like one of my favorite photography collections, The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein.

Why I finished it: McQueen's first collection was inspired by Jack the Ripper, and things only got weirder from there. It’s hard to imagine any woman wearing most of the clothes in this book, but I enjoyed fantasizing about strutting in silken bubble-wrap, a gown made of mussel shells, or a dress sprouting thousands of feathers. Every piece was made with such attention to detail it’s hard to agree with McQueen's claims that he was a mere designer -- these clothes are art.

I'd give it to: Mars, who loves to dabble in design, and would be inspired by McQueen's path from tailor apprentice to rock star of the fashion world.

The Coincidence Engine by Sam Leith

Link to this review by billba tagged mysteryscience fiction

Weird stuff is happening. A hurricane has assembled an entire 737 out of garbage and dressed a male stripper as the pilot. The Directorate of the Extremely Improbable springs into action, sending two agents to investigate. So does their archenemy, weapons manufacturer MIC, who sends two ex-army thugs. They're all hot on the trail of Alex, a British mathematician driving across the country on a mission of love, who seems to be at the center of it all.

Why I picked it up: The back cover mentions that one of the Directorate's agents has no imagination. My interest was piqued.

Why I finished it: The guy-without-imagination really was fascinating, one of many great characters who get tangled up in increasingly improbable ways. Even in a book that promises coincidences, I continued to be surprised at how things came together.

I'd give it to: Rob, who like me will laugh out loud at the best sudden violent death of a bad guy ever.

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged mysterynonfiction

In 1897, the discovery of a bundle of human remains in New York's East River starts the police's pursuit of the killer(s) and the New York press's pursuit of bloody scandal to boost their circulation. Each new discovery brings more gruesome clues to light, through the victim's head is never found!

Why I picked it up: I love Collins's nonfiction and good murder mysteries.

Why I finished it: Collins uses the continuous coverage of the case in sixteen New York newspapers, plus historic maps, autobiographies, and professional journals to piece together a cinematic, day-to-day account of the case through the eyes of journalists, police detectives, jurors, and murder suspects. I gasped when new evidence was discovered and felt like I could picture the rooms where the crimes took place.

Even if you're not the research nerd I am, take a peek at the citations at the end of the book. Not only is every scene supported by contemporary sources, but Collins managed to make new discoveries about historic figures and the newspaper business.

I'd give it to: Dorothy, for the details: a summer newspaper headline (“OH! YES, IT IS HOT ENOUGH!”), Hearst's "Wrecking Crew" reporters zooming though the city streets on bicycles with blazing, kerosene-fueled headlights, a drugstore stocking Dr. Worme's Gesundheit Bitters as cover for its more profitable sideline in medicinal alcohol, and the rock-star outfits and jewelry of William Howe, hotshot lawyer for the defense.

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Elly is sixteen, pregnant, and recently married to her stoner boyfriend, Liam. The latter seemed like the best option because her disappointed parents are about to head back to Africa as missionaries and she needed a place to live. 

Liam’s parents run a fat camp in the woods, so Elly finds herself living in a cramped cabin in close proximity to her critical in-laws. Because of an emergency, Elly unexpectedly becomes a camp counselor running dance and craft classes. She enjoys herself against her will while trying to decide what to do with her irresponsible husband and her baby.

Why I picked it up: I liked Han Nolan’s book Crazy quite a bit. Plus lots of young girls at my middle school like to read about characters in Elly’s situation because of the drama, and and I prefer they get a more realistic view of pregnant teens than what they see on MTV’s Teen Mom.

Why I finished it: Classic scenes like Elly moving into the camp -- she was overcome with the fact she was only sixteen, married, and now stuffed in a tiny cabin with fake wood panels on the walls. When she had to take over for a dance instructor with no preparation, she improvised hilarious warm-up dances while trying to plan the rest of class, all while the head of the camp was watching.

I'd give it to: Dan, who would empathize with Elly's feelings of abandonment as her parents leave her, pregnant and newly married, to go help others overseas. He also suffered under strict parents who made their disillusionment about his failures abundantly clear.

She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems by Caroline Kennedy

Link to this review by snow tagged anthologypoetry

Kennedy started putting this collection together when she turned fifty and was given poems by friends to mark the occasion. To celebrate the stages of women’s lives, she walks readers through poems that she loves, categorized according to topic. In the introduction to each of these sections Kennedy shares a little about how the poems speak to her.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to try to read more poetry this year. This collection had some poems I recognized, but what sealed the deal was a poem by David Lehman, “May 2.” That’s my birthday, so I took it as a sign.

Why I finished it: I found out that, though I’ve never read one of Margaret Atwood’s novels, I like her poems. A new favorite is Natasha Tretheway’s epistolary poem “Letters from Storyville.” The narrator’s matter-of-fact retelling about work in a brothel reminded me of a woman in Studs Terkel’s Working. The poems covered the centuries, from ancient -- poems by Sappho and the Book of Ruth -- to modern -- Sharon Olds’ “Socks” is a poem about playing video games with her son.

I'd give it to: The waitress at the burger joint where I ate the other day. We started talking books, and she said it was sad that the only poetry she reads is on greeting cards.

The Sign of the Black Rock: (Three Thieves Book Two) by Scott Chantler

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agefantasygraphic novel

Topper, Dessa, and Fisk are on the run from the Queen’s soldiers, trying to find Dessa’s brother. They seek refuge from a storm in the Black Rock Inn. Unfortunately, so do a number of the Queen’s men, including Captain Drake of the Queen’s Dragons.

Why I picked it up: The first book in the series was one of my favorite graphic novels of 2010.

Why I finished it: The innkeeper’s greed complicates the story wonderfully. The smugglers he has yet to pay for his untaxed wine are nervous because of the soldiers. After he finds the thieves in his barn, instead of turning them in right away he tries to make sure he gets a reward.

I'd give it to: My daughter’s friend Colette because she liked Bone. The level of action, the well-developed characters, and the story’s craftsmanship all brought it to mind.

Teenage Revolution: (Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 1) by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelsuperhero

At the dawn of the 31st century, a group of young people form an interstellar organization to imitate the era of comic book heroes (think Superman). They’re sick of the utopian society that provides security, stability and order. The core members have super powers, wear costumes, and use code names. They fight crime as vigilantes and irritate the science police and their parents. Their rallying cry: “Eat it, grandpa.”

Contains Teen Titans / Legion Special #1, Legion of Super Heroes #1-6.

Why I picked it up: I was weeding my old comics recently and remembered how fun this book was.

Why I finished it: This is a fresh, witty take on a book I grew up reading. Dream Girl (power: precognition) gets distracted while fighting an assassin because she “thought we already beat this guy.” Brainiac 5 (power: genius) doesn’t like Dream Girl's powers because they render his analysis useless and violate the law of cause and effect. When she tells him, “You’ll feel better when we’re married,” he’s not sure if she’s joking.

I'd give it to: Sarah, who’d like the dating attempt by Triplicate Girl (power: become three people). She goes on three dates simultaneously, which leads to an awkward situation at the end of the evening.

Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageromance

Carmen is a disciplined violin prodigy preparing for the prestigious Guarneri competition. She’s favored to win, and if she does it will set her on a successful path for years to come. 

When she is caught spying on fellow competitor Jeremy King outside a performance hall, she notices he is good at the violin and very cute!  They begin to mix socially a little, just as the preparations for the Guarneri pick up. Her trollish instructor Yuri berates her for a lack of focus, her mother is driven to distraction with worry, and Carmen wonders if Jeremy has motives other than liking her. 

Why I picked it up: It has a promising cover blurb by Lauren Myracle, a popular author at my middle school, plus a captivating picture of a young girl with gorgeous hair.

Why I finished it: Carmen has grown up in performances halls. She plays a Stradivarius and won a Grammy. She is also fighting a need for an anti-anxiety drug she takes that helps her stage fright but also removes her ability to feel. When the real world breaks into her bubble, she realizes that she is not satisfied with her extremely regimented life. Watching her navigate establishing herself as an adult was entertaining and inspiring.

I'd give it to: J.D., who would recognize the controlling behavior of Carmen’s stage mom and the fact that she’s living through her child, from his own life.

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