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Recommendations for Friday, March 30, 2012

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged biographynonfiction

Unshelved strip for 3/30/2012

The Anime Club by KC Green

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coming of agegraphic novelhumor

A five-part comic (with lots of extras) on the origins, rise, fall, and impossible rebirth of a high school anime club. Witness arrogance, betrayal, cursing and an ill-advised screening of a hentai (pornographic) anime.

Why I picked it up: I'm a fan of KC Green's webcomic Gunshow, but I had missed most of the Anime Club episodes. The book has all of the episodes from the Anime Club page plus an extra short, covers from previous collections, and a great series of paper art photographic reproductions of a scene from Grave of the Fanboys. (I got an artist edition with a sketch by Green on the title page!)

Why I finished it: The story brought back all of my college Anime Club, complete with splinter factions and constant arguing over where to meet and what to watch. I think I knew at least two people like the uber-jerk character Mort, and we had our own horrible anime store filled with bootlegs.

I'd give it to: My brother, who will like the stylistic nods to John Kricfalusi, Tex Avery, Archie Comics, and other classics of American comic art.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographynonfiction

In 1959 John Howard Griffin, a published writer of some renown, temporarily changed his skin color so that he appeared African-American in order to truly find out what it was like to be a black man in the South. He darkened his skin using sun-lamp treatments, injections of a drug used to treat Vitiligo, and dye. The story of his experiences made some whites mad because it made them face the systematic discrimination they had perpetrated. Griffin told of the religious men and women who were often behind the persecution of blacks and of the white women -- the flowers of the South -- who looked at him with hatred. In addition, some African-Americans were angry with the book both because it broke the delicate balance that some thought existed, and it exposed "secrets" about the humiliating things they had to do to get through their days.

After publication of the book, Griffin and his family moved to Mexico to avoid death threats and harassment. 

Why I picked it up: I’d heard of this book many times and admired the chutzpah of the writer.  When I found a copy in a box of donated books recently, I read it that day.

Why I finished it: Griffin relates a number of unexpected experiences. Many of the white men who picked him up to give him a ride wanted to ask risqué questions about black sexual practices. White men also struck up conversations about race and casually (but explicitly and threateningly) told him what they themselves were willing to do to keep blacks down. (Those men were the scariest.) He learned to plan his bathroom breaks, especially when traveling, by asking local blacks for the locations of bathrooms he could use (which were few and far between).

I'd give it to: J.J., who would like that Griffin’s experiment pissed off people of both races, especially since it was published a few years before the beginning of the Civil Rights movement when social tension was extremely high.

The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament by Brendan Powell Smith

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

God creates the heavens and the earth. Good (and bad) times follow.

Why I picked it up: It’s a graphic novel made of 1400 pictures of custom Lego dioramas.

Why I finished it: I particularly liked the way Smith showed blood (see God removing one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve and Abram’s sacrifices, and Ishmael’s circumcision) and the fire shooting out of God’s hands.

I'd give it to: Flemtastic, because he’d love the depiction of the parting of the red sea, but I’m not sure what he’d make of my favorite image from the story of the flood.

The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged horrorthriller

The lives of the hopeless, poverty-stricken, God-fearing, and homicidal are carefully woven together and violently pulled apart. A husband-and-wife team take road trips in order to kill and photograph hitchhikers. A father is driven to blood sacrifice to try to save his cancer-stricken wife. A depraved spider-handling preacher and his paraplegic sidekick are on the run for murder. And Arvin Russell, witness to his father's despair- and alcohol-fueled violence, tries to find escape from the hell he's been raised in. Their worlds collide amid blood soaked logs, rotting corpses, and tent revivals.

Why I picked it up: I'm drawn to stories set in familiar places. This novel takes place in Ohio, where I grew up. As a kid I had heard all the jokes and rumors about rural Ohio and West Virginia, so I was curious to see how the author would develop those stereotypes.

Why I finished it: These deeply flawed characters will haunt you. They're a mix of Twin Peaks, Bonnie and Clyde, and a freak show circus in a preacher's tent. That description still doesn't really do them justice. I needed just one good thing to happen in this graphic, gory, terror-filled book -- I kept hoping that Arvin could make right out of all that had wronged him in his life.

I'd give it to: Larry, who really liked the movie Winter's Bone but probably wouldn't have read the book. The gruesome and haunting imagery of this novel will make him glad he read it first instead of waiting for someone else's interpretation on the big screen.

James the Dancing Dog by Linda Maybarduk, Gillian Johnson

Link to this review by snow tagged picture book

James has been going to the dance studio with his owners since he was a puppy, and he loves everything about ballet: teaching class, practicing lifts, eating lunch. In his heart he dreams of joining the dancers on stage. When James learns that the company will be performing Giselle, which has a hunting dog role, he’s sure he’ll be picked. But what will James do when the company decides to use another dog, one who looks more regal?

Why I picked it up: I heard good things about former ballet dancer Maybarduk’s biography of Rudolf Nureyev, The Dancer Who Flew, and I wanted to see how she’d do writing a picture book about ballet.

Why I finished it: Johnson’s delightful art reminded me of Jules Feiffer’s loose-lined and very appealing drawings. I loved that she was able to capture the joy of dance without sacrificing the technical details of ballet.

Also, I didn’t realize until I read on the book jacket’s flap that the character of James is based on a real dog who belonged to two employees of The National Ballet of Canada between 1961 and 1972. I love that Maybarduk took the time to immortalize a dog who clearly meant a lot to the dancers.

I'd give it to: My friend James doesn’t care much for ballet, but he loves dogs. He would be thrilled that a dog who shares his name finds a way to show that even short, stubby-legged beagles should get the spotlight from time-to-time.

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agemystery

Mount Washington High School has an underground tradition. For years an anonymous list of the prettiest and ugliest girls in each grade has rocked the school during Homecoming week.

This year, each of the eight girls must come to grips with the notoriety and their perceptions of their bodies. On the ugliest side, Danielle, a swimmer, sees the title as an indictment of her athletic body. Candace feels she is listed as ugliest for her acerbic personality. Sarah is an outsider. And Jennifer has just pulled off the first four-peat in school history. On the prettiest side, Margo feels the pressure of being the prettiest senior while Bridget sees the title as a comment on her weight the year before. There’s also Lauren, who was previously home-schooled, and Abby, who could not be any more different from her nerdy sister, which causes problems at home. 

Above all, the new principal is shocked at the list and is gunning to find out the author.

Why I picked it up: I actually was eavesdropping at ALA midwinter in Dallas and heard a woman ask a publisher’s rep if she was listed in the credits of a different book, as she had been told she would be. She found her name on the last page. That’s when I looked at her badge and noticed her name was Siobhan Vivian. I told her I’d enjoyed her previous books, and as we talked she took me around the corner to her publisher and signed a preview copy of The List for me!

Why I finished it: I was very interested in the format of this book. It is written from eight different perspectives -- each of the girls on the list -- and takes place over the course of only one week at school. Each girl had a completely different voice, and each story captivated me as things inexorably moved toward finality and the Homecoming Dance. And I kept hoping to find out who had published the list in the first place!

I'd give it to: Alina, who will love not being able to guess the outcome. There are several surprising turns that don't feel manipulative, and not every girl gets the boy!

Power Lunch Volume 1 by J. Torres, Dean Trippe

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelsuperhero

Joey has a secret: when he eats food that’s not white he gets temporary super powers. Most of the time he sticks to white foods to stay out of trouble. But he broadens his diet to help his new friend, Jerome, avoid the school bully.

Why I picked it up: J. Torres wrote Teen Titans Go! comics as well as a personal favorite of mine, Love as a Foreign Language.

Why I finished it: I knew I was going to like it when Jerome introduced himself to Joey in the school cafeteria: “Hey, you’re the new weird kid. I’m the old weird kid.”

I'd give it to: Bill’s son Theo. He’d love it when Joey finally decides to put on a cape, and it might get him to eat some bok choy, too.

Troop 142: A Graphic Novel by Mike Dawson

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agehumor

The boys of Boy Scout Troop 142 spend a week at a camp in the Pinewood Forest. The camp’s director, Big Bear, wants to instill character in the boys. But they spend most of their time talking about girls, cursing, and worrying that other scouts are going to think they’re gay. Some do drugs while others focus on merit badges. At the end of the week someone will win the Golden Dildo Award (for whoever does the most boneheaded thing) and the Grunge Sponge Award (for whoever showers the least).

Why I picked it up: My friend Gina said my new book Poopy Claws squicked her out a bit, and told me this one had, too.

Why I finished it: I was hooked at the beginning, when the boys’ discussion about how they wipe their butts resulted in one kid being called “poopy balls” for a few pages.

I'd give it to: Rick, who laughed at the beginning of Melvin Burgess’ overly realistic look into the sex-obsessed minds of teens, Doing It, where three boys discuss who they would rather have sex with: the ugliest girl in school, a filthy homeless woman, an old teacher, or the Queen.

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