Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian Book 1 by Michael Rex

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

Unshelved comic strip for 5/18/2012
Replay by Ken Grimwood

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged science fiction

Jeff Winston, the forty-three-year-old news director for a New York radio station, isn’t a happy man. He and his wife don’t communicate, their romance lacks passion, and he’s failed to realize any of the grand plans he had for his life. At 1:06 PM on October 18, 1988, while talking to his wife on the phone, he has a heart attack and dies.

He wakes up and finds himself in 1963, in his old college dorm. With his knowledge of the future, he’s able to have a very different life. But when he gets to October 18, 1988, he dies again. And again. And again.

Why I picked it up: It was the book Ready Player One author Ernest Cline would like to read again for the first time (in Shelf Awareness).

Why I finished it: Jeff tries what I would do if presented with the opportunity to relive my life: change history and live life as a rich man. But neither works out as planned. The depth of the story is in his attempts to connect with the women in his lives, and how he has to allow his relationships to move along at their own pace despite knowledge of how they’re going to work out (if he lets them).

I'd give it to: Cindy, who would enjoy the lengths Jeff goes to in order to find someone he can relate to, after living several lifetimes. She’d also like the creepy man Jeff meets later in the book who may also be replaying his life.

Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! by Brian Cronin

Brian Cronin reveals the most obscure, wacky, and surprising facts about comics—from the characters and creators, to the TV shows, movies, and merch. Cronin has teamed up with some of the top comic book writers and artists of today to present 100 trivia lists, including:

  • Nine Celebrities Who Guest-Starred in Comic Books...Without Their Permission
  • Seven Bands That Got Their Names from Comics
  • Ten Crazy Items Found on Batman's Utility Belt
  • Five Comic Book Inventions That Eventually Became Real
  • Five Stupidest Superhero Origins

From Batman to Spider-Man, Aquaman to the X-Men, each list in Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? will entertain and inform whether you're a hard-core geek or a casual fan.

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Scoundrels in Law The Trials of Howe & Hummel, Lawyers to the Gangsters, Cops, Starlets, and Rakes Who Made the Gilded Age by Cait Murphy

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged history

Back in 1870s New York, when you didn't have to pass the bar or even go to law school to be a lawyer, Howe and Hummel had their law offices conveniently located across the street from the courthouse. They had no interest in whether or not you were guilty. They charged cash up front (enough for several appeals), and would do anything to get charges against their clients acquitted or dismissed, whether they were for murder, prostitution, blackmail, or obscenity. If a client had a cute kid, they'd make sure the jury saw her in the courtroom. No cute kid? They'd rent one for you. The story of their headline-making cases is the story of the criminal side of New York City's Gilded Age.

Why I picked it up: Howe was mentioned in The Murder of the Century and sounded like a larger-than-life character.

Why I finished it: New York was full of horrifying slums, corrupt politicians and cops, and millionaires building semi-legal and illegal business empires. And the court cases of that landscape were full of drama (a corpse discovered in a trunk as it was being sent to Baltimore, a fence for silk fabric operating while the police turn a blind eye). This book shows it all, including some of the huge changes in the U.S. such as legalized boxing, the prohibition of abortion and birth control.

I'd give it to: Eric, who will like the various showgirls trying to find rich husbands (or at least rich sugar daddies). The reality is a whole lot less romantic than the Gold Diggers films. Divorce and blackmail contributed a great deal to Howe and Hummel’s cash flow.

The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero

Roberto Ampuero’s novels starring the wonderfully roguish Cayetano Brulé are international sensations. In The Neruda Case, readers are introduced to Cayetano Brulé as he takes on his first case as a private eye. Set against the fraught political world of pre-Pinochet Chile, Castro’s Cuba, and perilous behind-the-wall East Berlin, this mystery spans countries, cultures, and political ideals, and features one of literature’s most beloved figures: Pablo Neruda.

The Neruda Case is a sweeping mystery set against the backdrop of the Chilean coup. This unforgettable book is brilliantly imagined, and features the poet Pablo Neruda in a remarkably intimate role. Roberto Ampuero’s writing is exhilarating; he is a delight to read.” — Isabel Allende, author of Daughter of Fortune

“It’s been a long time since a book has absorved and excited me as much as [Ampuero’s] has....A splendid book.” — Mario Vargas Llosa

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Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch by Mona Kerby, Lynne Barasch

Link to this review by billba tagged picture book

The true story of a stray dog who found his way into the Albany, New York, post office in 1888, and became the most famous postal worker in the world.

Why I picked it up: My daughter Rosie is not-so-slowly making her way through every picture book about dogs in the Seattle Public Library. Most are forgettable. This one wasn't, and our whole family enjoyed it.

Why I finished it: Owney's career keeps getting more interesting. He begins with guarding the mail pouches in Albany, then goes on deliveries, and one day he hops on the mail train. He travels around the country by rail and eventually goes on a world cruise. He took his job seriously.

I'd give it to: Jacob, who will crack up at the adorable picture of Owney disembarking in Japan, carrying his suitcase in his mouth. The customs officials granted him an imperial passport, with restrictions (he could not ride a horse to a fire or rent a house).

Poopy Claws by Gene Ambaum and Sophie Goldstein

A short, sweet, gross, funny, all-ages graphic novel about a boy and his best friend, a cat named Stinky, who won't use its litter box.

Written by Gene Ambaum, librarian and co-creator of Unshelved, and Illustrated by Sophie Goldstein, co-creator of the not-always-safe-for-work comic Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell.

“Move over dogs! Cats are now officially a boy’s best (and stinkiest) friend!” - Jenni Holm, Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author of Babymouse, Squish, Turtle in Paradise, Penny from Heaven, and other awesome books

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A Shadow in Summer (Book One of the Long Price Quartet) by Daniel Abraham

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged fantasy

Saraykeht is a city of unimaginable wealth. Next door is the aggressive state of Galt, with its horde of warriors and traditions of conquering armies.  Yet Saraykeht has known nothing but prosperity for hundreds of years because of their poets, and the godlike spirits (Andats) that they control. 

Two boys, Otah and Maati, meet at a cruel school designed to identify and train poets. As one’s studies advance, the other fails and flees the school. But they meet again with a city state’s fate in their hands as an Andat schemes to break the poet who controls it.  

Why I picked it up: It was recommended by a trusted friend who knows my proclivity for thinking man’s fantasy epics. Plus, it is a four-book set that is already finished, so I don’t have to wait five years for the next book.

Why I finished it: The story’s complexity reminded me of Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. I continued to think of the setting weeks after finishing the book. The small, intricate details really brought the world alive for me. For example, the hand postures that symbolize responses in social situations (acceptance, respect, query, acknowledgement, mockery, etc). Each has several gradations depending on the relative status of the person being signed to, plus adjustments for sarcasm or anger.

I'd give it to: Will, because he would love the moral implications of the actions taken by several characters, including the tragic poet Heshai, who must decide how much his suffering is worth versus the multitude of lives he is protecting.

Freshman Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other Nonsense by Corinne Mucha

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of agegraphic novel

Two friends go through all the turmoil, heartbreak, confusion, and struggles that make up freshman year of high school.

Why I picked it up: I saw this featured on the Great Graphic Novels for Young Adults 2012 list and thought it would make a great booktalk for anxious eighth graders.

Why I finished it: Someone has come up with a perfect mash-up of realistic teen fiction and confessional comics. There’s nothing too personal or disgusting, but there are plenty of hormonal riptides and micro-dramas. I love the simple and humorous illustrations like the one on page twenty-six (you’ll have to scroll down to see it) where our heroine, who has just met her best friend's brother, decides she is in love with him. Plus it has fantastic bits about former best friends, school play tryouts, and the magic of being in a band that actually gets it together enough to perform in public.

I'd give it to: Liam, who at fourteen might have the freshman thing down by now (after all, he is growing a mustache) but might appreciate the insights into what’s happening inside girls’ heads.

First Date by Krista McGee

Link to this review by snow tagged coming of ageromance

Starring in a reality TV show was not part of Addy’s plans for the future. But her family and friends convince her that appearing on The Book of Love to compete for a date with the President’s son will be a great way to share her love for God with America.

Unfortunately, the reality of reality TV is almost too much for an ordinary girl to deal with; many of the other contestants are mean, plus the host has it in for her. Addy’s ready to leave as soon as she arrives. But Jonathan is handsome and seems like a nice guy. What does God want her to do? Give up and return to the simple life or stick it out and see if she can be a good example to others? If things go well, she may just win the heart of the First Son along the way.

Why I picked it up: Christian fiction is very popular with teens in my area. I decided it was high time to get over my knee-jerk bias against reading it. First Date sounded like the sort of romantic comedy I would pick up if it were a non-Christian title.

Why I finished it: Addy was such a realistically flawed character that I couldn’t help identifying with her. She knows that she believes in and loves God, but that doesn’t make her perfect. She still struggles to do the right thing, and her difficulty maintaining her temper was particularly familiar to me. Her ministering to the people she meets comes across as a friendly and sincere attempt to share something she truly loves, rather than holier-than-thou proselytizing. And the other lead characters -– Jonathan, the President’s son, Lexi (Addy’s sporty childhood friend), and Kara, the bubbly New Yorker Addy befriends on the show -– kept the story grounded and realistic, which was especially important when dealing with the crazier aspects of the reality show.

I'd give it to: Anna, who loved Meg Cabot’s All-American Girl, in part because her mother would be less-than-comfortable with her reading that book’s more mature sequel, Ready or Not. McGee’s book fits with her family’s deeply held religious beliefs, but would also meet Anna’s desire for fluffy romances featuring cute, famous boys.

Leaving Mundania Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Game by Lizzie Stark

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

While many previous authors have reported on the immersive world of Live Action Role Playing (LARP) by poking fun at the adults dressed up like medieval knights or wizards from fantasy novels, Stark spent three years of her life investigating and playing in the LARP world.  Anecdotes from ongoing games and the preparation taken to stage them are fascinating, as are the descriptions of the people that run them and take part. Historical tie-ins, like the lavish parties thrown by the English nobility for the Queen that involved role-playing, scripts and hundreds of actors, show the power of these games on the human psyche.  Variants like the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), The Rising (a zombie LARP using boffers (harmless, foam-covered weapons designed for realistic fighting), and Nordic LARP, a much more psychologically intense game designed for maximum effect on one’s emotions, are discussed in non-judgmental terms.  Stark even designs and hosts a LARP at her house to experience the business side of LARPing, using her real-world friends as newbie players.

Why I picked it up: As a former Dungeons and Dragons player, I was aware of LARPs, even though I have never tried one.  I thought it would be nice to get past the nerd stereotype and find out why people spend so much time and energy to play these immersive games.

Why I finished it: I learned about the motivations of people who both put on and play these LARPs.  For many, it seems to be a like-seeks-like thing, but others want to experience a different time-period or personality, even if just for a night.  It was interesting that some LARPs aim for verisimilitude while others depend on hand motions and phrases that can be used to indicate in-game or out-of-game actions, because they take place in hotels, restaurants and other public places.

I'd give it to: Derek, because he needs to judge for himself if LARP can bring him the same type of exploration and joy of discovery that a good Dungeon Master could. And Sarah, a church friend with a conservative view about role playing games in general, because the opinion that LARPs can be satanic or harmful to children is addressed.

House of the Living Dead (Hellboy) by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhorrorparanormal

After the events in the first story in The Bride of Hell and Others, Hellboy wrestles in Mexico for a time as a masked luchador, haunted by the death of his friends.

After a match, a man makes Hellboy an offer he can’t refuse. He has to wrestle the champion of the man’s employer; if he doesn't, a woman will be killed.

Hellboy is taken to a mad scientist’s lair. In the ring he sees the monster he’s supposed to wrestle, a familiar creature brought to life by electricity, complete with bolts in its neck. If Hellboy wins, the woman goes free. If he loses, she belongs to the monster.

Why I picked it up: It’s dedicated to the actors who played the monsters in all the monster movies I grew up watching on Saturday afternoons (on TV, alas): Boris Karloff, Glenn Strange, John Carradine, and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Why I finished it: I was waiting for the doctor’s monster to stop obeying the mad scientist, because that’s what monsters do. And for other horror movie creatures to show up. (They did.)

I'd give it to: My grandfather, who thinks the WWE is more real than the UFC, because he’d enjoy the knock-down, drag-out fight. And for Bill, because he’d enjoy the witty, Whedonesque way the vampire is dispatched after he shows up.

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