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Recommendations for Friday, June 01, 2012

The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus by Fred Hembeck

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billbarnes tagged comic stripshumor

Unshelved strip for 6/1/2012

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Link to this review by danritchie tagged science fiction

On a future Earth, two worlds exist. A race of genetically engineered humans live in the Pods, a controlled environment where they live without fears or concerns and want for nothing. Each resident has a Smarteye, a device used to communicate and provide access to the Realms, artificial virtual realities where they spend most of their time.

In the outside world, known as the Death Shop, descendants of the human race and groups of crazed primitives struggle to survive against each other, hunting wolves, and the horrific storms that scorch the earth each winter.

Aria lives in the Pod called Reverie. After a prank goes horribly wrong, she loses her Smarteye and is banished to the Death Shop by one of Reverie’s leaders.

Perry, the brother of his tribe’s Blood Lord, is hunting when they’re attacked by the hovers dropping Aria in the wasteland. He captures Aria, hoping she can help him rescue Perry’s nephew.

Why I picked it up: The title intrigued me, along with the description of Earth on the inside flap of the dust cover -- the sky is never without clouds or streams of the Aether, so the sky can’t be seen.

Why I finished it: The evolution of the relationship between Perry and Aria, who are initially repulsed by what each believes the other to be. It is tenuous and sometimes volatile. Aria is learning as much about herself and who she is as she is about Perry and the Outsiders.  And she also has to (quickly) learn how to survive, in ways she could have never imagined in the Pod.

I'd give it to: Melissa will enjoy Aria’s physical and emotional changes as she adapts to being an Outsider. She’ll love how Aria grows and deals with real-world problems, as well as those found only in dystopian SF.

Blackout by Mira Grant

“The zombie novel Robert A. Heinlein might have written.” — Sci Fi Magazine on Feed

“A masterpiece of suspense.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Feed

New York Times bestselling author MIRA GRANT delivers the chilling conclusion to her Hugo Award-nominated Newsflesh trilogy. (spoilers for the first two books ahead!)

The year is 2041, and Shaun Mason is in a rotten mood. He must face mad scientists, zombie bears, rogue government agencies, and worse, before the conspiracy that killed his sister Georgia manages to kill the only thing he has left of her—the truth.

Georgia Mason is having a bad day. For one thing, she’s not dead; a team of CDC researchers is holding her. She needs to find her way back to Shaun, before things manage to get even worse. And if there’s one thing she knows is true in her post-zombie, post-resurrection America, it’s this: Things can always get worse.

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Fifty Shades of Grey: (Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy) by E.L. James

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged eroticaromance

A young woman about to graduate from college meets a billionaire and finds her life turned upside down, mostly in bed.

Why I picked it up: When I was at the Public Library Association Conference in Philadelphia last month, I had lunch with a group of small town librarians who said their patrons were buzzing about this book. I was intrigued to find out what sort of S&M erotica little old ladies wanted to discuss in their book groups.

Why I finished it: I was on some fairly strong painkillers to help me deal with a dislocated shoulder, and they helped me enjoy this for what it is: totally explicit, cheesy smut for gals who can relate to an innocent narrator, whose "golly gee" reactions make it feel safe to explore every sexual kink. Plus it has a classic romance where the good girl tries to save the bad boy from his childhood demons. 

I'd give it to: Sylvie, a hard-core feminist who would still be able to appreciate the appeal of the fantasy of having a filthy rich, kinky sugar daddy give you lots of expensive presents and nearly continual orgasms.

Flutter by Gina Linko

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageparanormalromance

Emery’s seizures are getting worse. She is close to death, and the doctors, led by her scientist father, are no closer to finding the cause. During her seizures Emery leaves her body and witnesses scenes elsewhere -- she calls these “loops” and believes she is time traveling. 

She takes off for Esperanza, a town she has seen only in her loops. There she meets Ash, a mysterious cowboy beloved by the townspeople for being a good Samaritan. She keeps her loops a secret, but he is also carrying a heavy burden he will not share with Emery. It becomes clear that their fates are tied together, and they are soon on the run together.

Why I picked it up: The book jacket called this a teen version of The Time Traveler’s Wife.  I loved that book, so it was worth trying.

Why I finished it: There’s enough energy in the steamy kisses to power a small town, and the mystery of what Emery’s loops were kept me involved until the very end. 

I'd give it to: Chrissy, who can’t get enough paranormal romance.  Emery and Ash have all the passion of a group of junior high girls at a One Direction concert.  Lauren, who would love the gradual way that Emery’s powers roll out over the course of the book, from strange seizures to precognition to more (I don’t want to spoil it).

Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

Linda McKinney is a myrmecologist, a scientist who studies the social structure of ants. Her academic career has left her entirely unprepared for the day her sophisticated research is conscripted by unknown forces to help run an unmanned—and thanks to her research, automated—drone army.

Odin is the secretive Special Ops soldier with a unique insight into the faceless enemy who has begun to attack the American homeland with drones programmed to seek, identify, and execute targets without human intervention.

Together, McKinney and Odin must slow this advance long enough for the world to recognize its destructive power, because for thousands of years the “kill decision” during battle has remained in the hands of humans—and off-loading that responsibility to machines will bring unintended, possibly irreversible, consequences. But as forces even McKinney and Odin don’t understand begin to gather, and death rains down from above, it may already be too late to save humankind from destruction at the hands of our own technology.

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Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biography

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in Camp 14. It is North Korea’s most brutal prison, and is primarily used for the re-education of political dissidents. (North Korea still denies the existence of such camps, despite high-resolution satellite images that prove their existence.)

Shin escaped at age twenty-three by climbing over the smoking, electrocuted body of his partner, another prisoner trying to escape who died on the electrical fence. He is the first and only known escapee who was born in one of North Korea’s camps.

His heart-rending and simple description of life in the camps switched between dysfunctional family relationships, torture at the hands of his captors, a growing awareness of the outside world from talking with imprisoned North Koreans who had traveled abroad, and his eventual desire to attempt an escape. Shin struggled with guilt over his part in his mother's execution as well, despite his brainwashing and selective education by his captors. 

His life, post-escape, was marked with depression, an inability to feel emotions, and clashes with his sponsors in the United States as he tried to acclimate to his newfound freedom.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with Blaine Harden on NPR

Why I finished it: Shin’s life was so unbearably bad and unimaginable that reading it felt like an unrealistic and utterly dystopian fantasy novel.  (He detailed watching a fellow classmate, a small girl, get beaten to death with a baton in front of his class for possessing five kernels of corn without permission.) 

It is notoriously hard to corroborate stories from North Korean defectors, but Harden gives reference to academic works and State Department diplomats that support Shin’s story.   

I'd give it to: Shona, who, like me, can get hung up in reading too much high fantasy, and requires a dose of non-fiction every now and then. The unbelievable cruelty in this book shows, unfortunately, that evil is not only present in fantasy novels. 

A House Is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, Betty Fraser

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged picture bookpoetry

A picture book illustrating an absolutely fascinating poem that ruminates on the concept of homes for people, animals, and more.

Why I picked it up: As our kids sprint towards their tweens, my wife deemed it time to purge old children's books. This set off waves of bittersweet nostalgia as we reread and said goodbye to many favorites. But a few, including this one, stayed firmly in the "keep" pile.

Why I finished it: This book blows my mind. It starts off entertaining, if basic:

A coop? That's a house for a chicken.
A sty? That's a house for a sow.
A fold? That's where sheep all gather to sleep.
A barn? That's a house for a cow.
(It is also, of course, a house for a horse)

But as it goes on, the level of philosophical complexity increases ("a stocking's a house for a knee", "a teapot's a house for some tea") until eventually it's impossible not to walk away seeing everything as a house for something else. It goes fractal.

I'd give it to: Rosie's homeschool pal Jeanette, who is drawing up a storm and ready for new challenges. The pen and ink illustrations, with watercolor wash, are an excellent inspiration, intricate and beautiful. And like the text there are hidden depths to be uncovered in repeated readings.

Dinosaur Comics: Feelings Are Boring, Kissing Is Awesome by Ryan North

The famed online comic strip is now encapsulated in flammable book form! T-Rex, Utahraptor, and Dromiceiomimus discuss relationships, ethical relativism, and the nature of the scientific method - all within the same six panels every day. Full-colour, and with all the secrets found online included. Also includes three indices that cross-reference the different types of kisses AND linguistics mentioned in the comic, which can pretty great in a pinch.

I don't want to oversell it, but this may well be the only book you ever need to read.

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Raising Cain: (Bouncer) by Alexandro Jodorowsky, Francois Boucq, Justin Kelly

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelwestern

A group of brutal Confederate soldiers refuses to accept that the war is over. They split up and disappear until their time comes again. Captain Van Dorman leads several of his men west to find a gunfighter turned priest, and the treasure Dorman believes he’s hiding. They murder the priest and his wife, but his fifteen-year-old son, Seth, escapes and seeks revenge with the help of a one-armed bouncer in a nearby saloon.

Publisher’s Rating: “Suggested for Mature Readers”

Why I picked it up: Found a copy in the half price bin at a comic store in Fort Wayne, IN, on a recent trip. It was the only western I could find.

Why I finished it: The great training sequences where Seth learns to use his father’s guns. The lessons involve a lynx, a cliff, and peyote.

I'd give it to: Goren, a dog guy who’d like that a famed gunfighter’s final request is that his body be fed to the dogs he loved.

The Plague Widow: (Northlanders Book Four) by Brian Wood, Leandro Fernandez

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

A.D. 1020. Plague comes to a small, fortified trading settlement on the Volga River. Hilda’s husband dies. A foreign priest convinces the leaders to expel the sick from the settlement and seal the walls. Winters are normally difficult, but Hilda, alone, must deal with unjust tithes, thieves, and violence to keep her daughter safe.

Contains Northlanders #21-28.

Publisher’s Rating: “Suggested for Mature Readers”

Why I picked it up: The first three books in the series were excellent.

Why I finished it: It’s a Viking version of McCarthy’s The Road (and it’s as grim and good as that implies).

I'd give it to: Dave, who would like the inevitable, bare-handed fight between the cruel warrior Gunborg and the priest who isn’t as gentle as his profession might make him seem.

Joining the United States Air Force: a handbook by Snow Wildsmith

This book is for the teenager or young adult who is interested in enlisting in the Air Force. It will walk him or her through the enlistment and recruit training process: making the decision to join the military, talking to recruiters, getting qualified, and preparing for basic training.

The goal of the Joining the Military series is to help those who might be curious about serving in the military decide whether military service is right for them, which branch is the best fit, and whether they are qualified for and prepared for military service. Features include lists of books, web links, and videos; a glossary; and an index. The other books in the series are:

  • Joining the United States Army: a handbook
  • Joining the United States Coast Guard: a handbook
  • Joining the United States Marine Corps: a handbook
  • Joining the United States Navy: a handbook

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Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse by various

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged anthologyhorror

After a pandemic flu mutated into a zombie infection that swept across the U.S., a woman finds a backpack filled with letters, notes, warnings, confessions, threats, and advice on dealing with flesh-eaters. This is a reproduction of the backpack’s contents (created by different writers from the Lost Zombies online community). Each page has a found item, an expression of a character’s terror and desperation.

As the introduction says, "This stuff is poisonous. No one in their right mind should read it. Reading this is like looking into the sun."

Why I picked it up: I opened the book to this page.

Why I finished it: All of the images in the book are this powerful. I got shivers from the stories told with so little. It’s not just what they say (like the heartbroken woman apologizing for leaving her baby in the car where it was attacked) but what they force your brain to fill in (the moment she saw the undead swarming her car).

I'd give it to: Darcy, because she needs to see this awesome collection of stories told in different ways by different people set in the same world. She could use this to inspire a kick-ass library writing group, even if she doesn't use the zombie world.

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