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Recommendations for Friday, May 04, 2012

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

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

Unshelved strip for 5/4/2012

Final Victory: FDR's Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign by Stanley Weintraub

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged historynonfiction

Satisfyingly gossipy history of Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign for an unprecedented fourth term.

Why I picked it up: I've been on a World War II tear since visiting the National Museum of the Pacific War, and this transitional period from FDR to Truman has always fascinated me. I especially wanted to know more about the stiff and humorless Thomas E. Dewey, who could easily have become the President responsible for ending the war.

Why I finished it: The book begins with FDR having a heart attack that was kept secret from everyone, including his doctors. Hardly anyone, including FDR himself, had any idea how poor his health was. Republicans continually said that Truman was the real Democratic candidate for President, and they were absolutely right.

I'd give it to: My dad, who inspired my love of history. He can't read anymore, and his short term memory is pretty poor, but this book has already spawned several interesting conversations with him. He enjoyed hearing the details of how FDR distracted Eleanor so that he could share an sunny afternoon with his recently widowed (and thus newly available) ex-girlfriend.

Artifacts: Volume 1 by Ron Marz, Michaael Broussard, Marc Silvestri, Bart Sears, Dale Keown

Catch up on the Event of the Year! Separately, thirteen mystical Artifacts will guide the fate of the Universe. Together, thirteen Artifacts will end the Universe. Starring virtually every character in the Top Cow Universe, this is a series for diehard fans and new readers alike.

"It's loud, widescreen comic book mayhem that sticks to the roof of your brain (4 out 5 stars)" -- Comic Book Resources

" ... dramatic and heavy... visually striking..." -- Newsarama

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The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coffee table bookhistory

Ossuaries and charnel houses are rooms, buildings or even massive complexes of tunnels filled with human bones. The bones are arranged into towers, stacked in shelves, or made into huge works of art, even chandeliers. These creepy and beautiful places all over Europe were built starting in the 1200s but new ones have been created as recently as the 1850s. The book is packed with gorgeous photographs of the strangest resting places you'll ever see.

Why I picked it up: I saw a picture from the book online and needed to know more about the skeleton in jeweled armor!

Why I finished it: A coat of arms made from assorted human bones, including a wrist and hand fused together after a lifetime of arthritis that was the perfect shape for a heraldic raven's wing. Stacks of skulls that tower to the arched vaults in a church. European mummies that were traditionally given new clothes and anointed with perfume every year on All Souls Day. Skulls painted with beautiful flowers. Saints reassembled from holy relics and clothed in gold. A tower of Serbian skulls left by invaders as a warning against uprisings. Skulls adopted by locals that repay dedication with winning lottery numbers. A chapel made up of the bones of people who died in an explosion and massive fire after lightning ignited 6000 barrels of gunpowder and 5000 rounds of ammunition in a Portuguese castle in 1732.

I'd give it to: Raven, who will swoon at the 19th century ossuaries that were created just for the gothic romance of combining art and death.

The Great Sheep Shenanigans by Peter Bently, Mei Matsuoka

Link to this review by gigi tagged picture book

Lou Pine the Wolf wants a lamb to eat for dinner. But when Lou Pine sneaks up on the sheep he meets Rambo the Ram. Rambo chases Lou away. Then Lou has the idea to disguise himself as a sheep.

Why I picked it up: The sheep on the cover look goofy. They’re hugely fat and round, like giant cotton balls, and one has a bow tie and the other is wearing glasses.

Why I finished it: Lou tries to steal a fluffy white gown for his disguise. But when that doesn’t work he asks Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma to knit him a sweater.

I'd give it to: Anna, because right before Lou goes to grandma’s house, he jumps into a cotton candy machine and spins around. When he gets up he’s all sticky and pink. (Anna loves pink.)

Courtney Crumrin: Volume 1 Special Edition by Ted Naifeh

Fan-favorite and critical darling Courtney Crurmin is back in a series of newly remastered, full color hardcover editions! Courtney's parents have dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She's not only the new kid in school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed.

"It seemed that [Roald] Dahl's mixture of mirth and menace died with the man. That is, until Courtney Crumrin came along." -- Ninth Art

"[Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things] has a magnificent depth of character and setting thanks to the immaculate pencils and script done by Ted Naifeh." -- Fantasy Book Spot

"Like the creature under your bed, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things waits until you're complacent before grabbing your ankle." - iComics

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Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasymystery

Max the Wolf is a Boy Scout with a history of solving mysteries, though many of the ordinary details of his life are vague. He finds himself in a strange forest and assumes it’s the beginning of another adventure, though he also wonders if it’s the afterlife. Things get stranger when he meets (impossible) talking animals: a soldier badger, a bear who’s a sheriff, and a tough, feral cat. They’re being hunted by the Blue Cutters, warriors with glowing blue swords. They band together to try to make it to a wizard’s sanctuary before they’re caught.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed this team’s work on the Fables graphic novels.

Why I finished it: The archetypal children’s book characters left me feeling like this was going to be very good natured and that little was at stake. But after the Blue Cutters catch up with the group, the tone shifts and it quickly becomes clear that the violence and its consequences are very real. And the Cutters swords have a special, horrific ability -- they can cut out parts of one’s life, editing that person or animal into someone else.

I'd give it to: Karla, who believes fictional characters are real and live in their own universes somewhere. This book would support her point of view, but then I’d point out it’s just another novel.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Greg and Earl are very different, but they share a love of old films. They also try to recreate the movies they love, with very mixed results. Greg assiduously avoids getting pigeonholed into any particular social group at school and has no friends except for Earl. But then his mother forces him to spend time with Rachel, a girl he once knew who is dying of leukemia. This turns his carefully cultivated world upside down, especially when Rachel becomes the first person to see his films. Soon, although it is uncomfortable, Greg is spending quite a bit of time with Rachel, getting a birds-eye view of her decline, and becoming closer to her than he otherwise would.

Why I picked it up: Even from the book jacket, a reader can tell that Greg’s voice is going to be snarky, humorous, and worth reading. There has been a spate of good grief books lately, and I was thinking this might be another sensitive tear-jerker. (Boy, was I wrong on the latter count!)

Why I finished it: Greg really is a bonehead when it comes to girls. In one particularly embarrassing conversation about the number of pillows in her bedroom, he tells Rachel that his parents wouldn’t let him have that many because they’d be worried he would masturbate all over them. Ten seconds of uncomfortable silence follow. Greg also has a hilarious habit of arguing with people who are trying to compliment him, to the point he begins denigrating himself whenever he is told something positive. Like other characters, Earl has a great backstory -- he lives in a dilapidated house, with a bevy of step-brothers (one of whom is thirteen, has a neck tattoo and is randomly violent).

I'd give it to: Joey, who would love Greg’s ongoing internal monologue. “But it’s just never a good idea to compliment a girl’s boobs. I had to learn that the hard way.”

Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombie by James Marshall

In a world where ZOMBIES control banks and governments, only one young man sees the way things are and emerges from the CHAOS and destruction: GUY BOY MAN. While he tries to end human suffering worldwide and in his high school, Guy Boy Man meets a cute PINK-HAIRED girl named BABYDOLL15 who has a UNICORN that follows her everywhere.

An EPIC ROMANCE begins, but forces BEYOND THEIR CONTROL are intent on keeping the young couple apart. One of those FORCES may--or may not be!--Guy Boy Man's closest friend, a handsome African-American NINJA named SWEETIE HONEY; another could be four EXOTICALLY BEAUTIFUL, genetically engineered and behaviorally modified EASTERN EUROPEAN GIRLS; yet another, the principal of their HIGH SCHOOL . . . not to mention an impending standardized test known as the ZOMBIE ACCEPTANCE TEST!

Will Guy Boy Man find a way to be with Baby Doll15 in a WORLD WHERE EVERYONE IS DOOMED to become either zombies or zombie food??!!

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H.I.V.E. Dreadnaught by Mark Walden

Link to this review by theo tagged coming of agethriller

Otto attends the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, a high school for up-and-coming bad guys. There is a Stealth & Invasion class led by a woman whose consciousness was transferred into her cat, a Science & Technology class where future hackers learn their trade, and a fighting class taught by Raven, the headmaster's assassin bodyguard.

In this volume, a man named Jason Drake has made the Dreadnaught, a heavily armed airship capable of turning completely invisible and generating a giant storm around it. Otto and his friends are invited for a tour, but something goes wrong and the ship gets captured by Raven's former teacher.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the previous book in the series, Escape Velocity. I like seeing behind the scenes of a villain's life.

Why I finished it: There are a lot of cliffhangers! At one point Drake orders his men to kill everyone on the Dreadnaught. To escape, Otto and his friends hijack a top-secret dropship by cutting off its landing clamps with Raven's energy swords.

I'd give it to: Eli, who would like Otto's best friend, Wing. He is a ninja-in-training and a student of Raven. Wing has a natural poker face, so it's hard to predict his next move.

Grandpa Won't Wake Up by Simon Max Hill, Shannon Wheeler

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhumorpicture book

Grandpa has died sitting in his chair, but his grandkids don’t realize it. They do everything they can imagine to get him to wake up.

Why I picked it up: It looked like a Little Golden Book, but on the back cover there’s a toilet, a bottle of booze, and a kid missing his finger.

Why I finished it: By the time the kids had dragged grandpa onto the lawn and dressed him up as a Nazi, I was hooked. This is the funniest, sickest book that only looks like it’s for kids that I’ve ever read.

I'd give it to: My friend Bill (the other one), who has a fear of clowns, so I could see the look of fear on his face when he discovers the image of the pants-less, crying clown near the end.

Westlake Soul by Rio Youers

Meet Westlake Soul, a twenty-three-year-old former surfing champion. A loving son and brother. But if you think he’s just a regular dude, think again; Westlake is in a permanent vegetative state. He can’t move, has no response to stimuli, and can only communicate with Hub, the faithful family dog. And like all superheroes, Westlake has an archenemy: Dr. Quietus—a nightmarish embodiment of Death itself.

"Youers deftly captures the voice and raw emotion of a young man struggling to delay the inevitable." -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"Rio Youers is one of the most vital, most exciting young talents to come along in this decade..." –- Peter Straub

"Westlake Soul is a novel of astonishing beauty and skill." -- Michawl Rowe, author of Enter, Night

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Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographynonfiction

Growing up on the Isle of Wight, young Edward Michael (Bear) Grylls survived many outdoor adventures with his adrenaline-addicted buddies. (He once got stuck up to his hips in mud in a rapidly closing tide channel.) At the age of eight, he was sent away to a boarding school where he was eventually kicked out (as a teen) for snogging the headmaster’s daughter (he claims it was her initiative). However bumpy his academic career, he did make lifelong friends, with whom he travelled the world, climbed Everest (a major topic of the book), and endured the grueling Special Air Service (SAS) selection process. 

Readers who are looking for a major dissection of his time on Man vs. Wild will be disappointed, but his family life, courting his wife Shara, and his determination and discipline easily fill up the autobiography.

Why I picked it up: My family loves to watch Bear Grylls eat seal eyes, host celebrity guests (a favorite was Will Ferrell), and give himself dirty water enemas to avoid dysentery. (I must say that maybe “love” is the wrong word for the latter, but none of us could look away.) Reading this was a no-brainer.

Why I finished it: I knew nothing about Bear’s childhood. His stories about being stopped by a policeman while jogging the last mile home naked because of serious chafing brought a smile to my face (I’ve experienced the chafing, but not being arrested for public nudity). And Bear’s account of the selection process made my feet hurt. 

I'd give it to: Ed, who would love that Bear is frank about his failures as well as his successes. Bear blames himself for the parachuting accident that broke his back in three places. My son Stephen, who will enjoy Bear as a role model even more once he knows that Bear is a strong Christian who briefly shares his faith in the book.  

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