The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged mysteryparanormal

Unshelved comic strip for 8/10/2012
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged eroticahorrorparanormal

Werewolves reproduce by infection. Survive the bite and become one. The rewards are health, long life, enhanced senses, and rapid healing. The downsides include an aversion to silver, a distaste for books, and the need to gorge on human flesh when the moon is full.

200-year-old Jake Marlowe is the last of his kind. There hasn’t been a new werewolf in more than a century (no one survives the bite anymore). And the World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena hunted them down, one by one.

Marlowe is tired. He’s ready to die, and he’s not going to run or hide or try to evade his pursuers any longer. But Grainer, the head of the Hunt, has a personal score to settle. He doesn’t want to kill a defeated Marlowe, he wants revenge because Marlowe ate his father forty years ago. So he uses every bit of leverage he can to make Marlowe fight back.

Why I picked it up: Last spring, everyone insisted it was the book for me: my friend Jon in Wyoming, David and Erika at Random House (both of whom have a great track record because they said I’d love Ready Player One), and some lady named Nancy who I see at a lot of library conferences.

Why I finished it: It’s worth reading for the smells. The werewolf’s vocabulary and his keen nose both get a workout trying to describe the stench of vampires. Also, after Marlowe figures out, suddenly, that he’s not alone in the world, the pungent descriptions of werewolf-on-werewolf sex make these scenes unique, at least in my reading experience.

I'd give it to: Snow, who reads a lot of erotica, because another aspect of the werewolf curse is a near-permanent state of arousal.

The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

For Queen, for country, for staying alive…

“Saintcrow scores a hit with this terrific steampunk series that rockets through a Britain-that-wasn’t with magic and industrial mayhem with a firm nod to Holmes. Genius and a rocking good time.” — New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs

“Innovative world building, powerful steampunk, master storyteller at her best. Don’t miss this one….She’s fabulous.” — Christine Feehan

Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. Unfortunately they can barely tolerate each other…

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Dark River by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Link to this review by darcy tagged coming of agemystery

Veronica was cut off from her old life when her parents moved away from Portland, Oregon, to run a small town inn. Veronica copes by going for long runs along the Santiam River. There she discovers her neighbor’s body. She’s sure it was not an accident. When she runs deeper into the woods, Veronica discovers something that makes her the next target.

Why I picked it up: I took writing classes from Beaufrand, and I really liked her first novel, Primavera, but it was historical and I wanted to see what she’d do with a modern setting.

Why I finished it: The first line hooked me. “I suppose there are worse things than being soggy and dateless and shoveling bunny carcasses into a garbage bin on Valentine’s Day, but if there are, I can’t think of any.” And I like girl narrators that are real, not perfect princesses. Veronica isn’t pretty or perfect; she’s a sweaty runner who makes mistakes. She likes the wrong boy simply because he rocks a fauxhawk and picks pretty flowers, which leads to trouble.

And even though I love gritty novels, I'm a sucker for well-written descriptions. The scenery around the Santiam was a treat.

I'd give it to: Monica, a teen who has trouble identifying with skinny girls who dress in designer jeans and have everything in life handed to them. She’s like Veronica because she never gives up. And she’s the kind of girl who would look for the murderer if a friend went missing.

The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt by Greg Hildebrandt, Jr.

The million-selling Lord of the Rings calendars created during the '70s by renowned fantasy artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt are now considered artistic masterpieces. The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt tells the untold story behind the creation of those cherished illustrations. Written by Greg Hildebrandt, Jr., Greg Hildebrandt's son, this fascinating book tells the story through the eyes of young Gregory when, at ages five, six, and seven he posed for the various "little people" characters known as the Hobbits. Gregory reminisces about his key role in the development of these calendar paintings and the unique creative ingenuity of his father and uncle.

Updated and expanded with all-new pages, commentary, and exclusive material, this book offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the work of two renowned fantasy artists, written through the eyes of their closest family member, providing Tolkien-lovers with a fantastic treasury of Lord of the Rings art.

"The vivid color pictures illustrate their fantastic imagination and their concepts in bringing to life the characters and locations of Tolkien's Middle-earth. It is fascinating to see the characters and settings come to life through the work of the Hildebrandts." — Library Journal

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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agegraphic novel

Callie had an unrequited crush on Greg, her schoolmate and friend.  When she found out that he and his girlfriend Bonnie called it quits, she boldly jumped in with a kiss that was returned enthusiastically. Then Greg and Bonnie got back together that night over the phone.

Callie throws herself into set design for the middle school musical. Her boldest goal is to create a cannon for the battle scenes.  She becomes close friends with twins Justin and Jesse -- both are new to the school and help her keep her mind off Greg.

As the fourteen weeks of the preparation for the musical come to an end, Callie is responsible for the set design, costumes, and making sure her cannon works. She’s also navigating a romantic minefield of boys that she likes and the others that like her.

Why I picked it up: With the success that I have had in passing out Telgemeier’s last book Smile to my students, I am up for reading any graphic novels she produces.

Why I finished it: Telgemeier always has a novel way to present Callie’s excitement about the theater.  She puts Callie and Jesse inside a large coffee-table book of theater sets from the 1930’s and 40’s that Callie is showing Jesse at a bookstore.  During this "dream sequence" they actually crawl around on the book’s pages. It is trippy and it really expresses Callie's interest.

The uncertainty and longing in Callie’s romantic life will be recognizable to a lot of middle schoolers who know they feel strongly about their crush, but are uncertain in how to proceed. She hangs out in the school’s costume vault where she can be alone or crazy with her friends while trying on outfits.

I'd give it to: My daughter, Grace. She’ll love the art, particularly the facial expressions, and will be drawn into the book by the background details like the realistic messages on the school readerboard.

A Field Guide to Radiation by Wayne Biddle

Nuclear energy, X-rays, radon, cell phones...radiation is part of the way we live on a daily basis, and yet the sources and repercussions of our exposure to it remain mysterious. Now Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wayne Biddle offers a first-of-its-kind guide to understanding this fundamental aspect of the universe. From fallout to radiation poisoning, alpha particles to cosmic rays, Biddle illuminates the history, meaning, and health implications of one hundred scientific terms in succinct, witty essays. A Field Guide to Radiation is an essential, engaging handbook that offers wisdom and common sense for today's increasingly nuclear world.

“Witty, succinct and handily organized in an A–Z format.” — Nature

“An indispensable volume for every library....A very readable mini-encyclopedia.” — Booklist

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The Obsidian Blade (The Klaatu Diskos Book One) by Pete Hautman

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of agescience fiction

Tucker’s dad, the town minister, is up on the roof of the family home when Tucker hears him shout. When he looks up, his dad is gone and a shimmery, nearly invislble disk is hovering above the roof. Thinking he fell, Tucker and his mom check around the house, but he is nowhere to be found. Later that afternoon his dad walks up the road to their house with a strange young girl, Lahlia. He has no explanation for his absence or the girl. That evening at dinner he renounces God.

Tucker continues to see the disk above his house and suspects it has something to do with his dad’s increasingly odd behavior and his mother’s degenerating mental health.  Then Tucker comes home late one night. His house is unusually quiet, and his parents are gone.

Why I picked it up: Easy, Pete Hautman. I love everything he’s written.

Why I finished it: The story unfolds like pieces in a fascinating puzzle. Tucker’s first trip into a Disko takes him to the top of one of the Twin Towers on 9-11, where he unexpectedly meets someone who he knows. Cause and effect become completely nonlinear after Tucker enters the Disko above his house and finds himself on a sacrificial altar. Paradoxes abound, but my favorite was Lahlia’s cat, Bounce, who has no beginning and no end; he just is.

I'd give it to: Brooke, because she loved Crichton’s time travel novel, Timeline.  I think she will relish Hautman’s take on religion, the time continuum, and the characters from the future trying to change the present.  She’ll especially enjoy Tucker’s father, whose religious devotion comes full circle as a result of his travels, which include more than one visit to the crucifixion.

Paper Made! 101 Exceptional Projects to Make Out of Everyday Paper by Kayte Terry

The biggest, best, most innovative book ever on paper craft. Turn a sheaf of any white or graph paper into an amazing Scrap Happy Globe Lantern for the dining room. Fashion colored tissue paper into Songbird Votives, leftover raffle tickets into a Prizewinning Bowl, that out-dated pile of holiday catalogs into a picture frame. There’s a necklace made of playing cards, a gum wrapper bracelet, and barrettes made by quilling—a paper technique that goes back to the Renaissance. Every project is photographed in full color, and includes step-by-step illustrations and instructions. Truly a book that shows how to think outside the (cardboard) box.

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All The Lives He Led by Frederick Pohl

Link to this review by billba tagged romancescience fiction

After the Yellowstone supervolcano explodes, much of the U.S. is drenched in ash. No longer citizens of the most powerful nation on Earth, many Americans take jobs as indentured employees around the world.

Brad Sheridan works in Pompeii, serving watered-down wine to tourists celebrating the 2000th anniversary of another volcanic explosion. It's a far cry from his wealthy upbringing. Then he meets Gerda and falls head over heels in love.

Why I picked it up: Pohl is a national treasure who has been writing and editing sci-fi since the thirties. I have read everything he's ever written, may he never stop.

Why I finished it: This future world is even more plagued by terrorism than ours, and each chapter contains details of horrific attack after details of horrific attack, all by niche groups with highly specific issues motivating them. It's an easy card for a futurist to play (Heinlein did this stuff in the 40s), and at first I worried that Pohl was being a little lazy if not downright derivative. But gradually terrorism moves from the background of this story and takes center stage in the last act. And all of a sudden it all makes sense.

I'd give it to: The love story between Brad and Gerda takes an extremely unexpected turn that would greatly interest Teresa, currently majoring in gender studies.

That Book About Harvard by Eric Kester

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographycoming of agehumor

From the moment when Eric Kester opened his acceptance letter to Harvard, he knew that his life had changed. Not only would he be playing football in a school where high-achieving students were the big-people-on-campus, but he would be competing in the classroom with people who considered The Economist light reading. With self-deprecating humor, Kester narrates a string of embarrassing events at school. On day one he locked himself out of his room while wearing only Incredible Hulk boxer shorts. He had to walk across the quad on move-in day, through throngs of parents and students, to get a spare key. He also came up dry at a urine-testing appointment for the NCAA, debated cheating to pass a tough class, and attempted to pee on the statue of the school’s founder.

Why I picked it up: I have visited Harvard, yet it still has a snobbish mystique. I wanted to read this irreverent book to get a closer look about what it is really like day-to-day.

Why I finished it: I love those columns in the back of 17 magazine where teenage girls discuss their most embarrassing moments.  This book is one long list of those. Kester discusses being caught dry humping their mini-fridge by a roommate (he’d gone to a soap-bubble party and had an itchy rash), being made to pump iron with the football team near the main road, and having the coach show his testicles to the entire squad to explain that it takes huge balls to become a serious weightlifter.

I'd give it to: Both of my college-bound sons Caleb and Joshua, who hopefully will have equally entertaining college experiences. They would be ready for anything in their dorm life, like Kester was after he found out his new Irish roommate drank powdered breast milk to stay sharp. 

The Accident by Linwood Barclay, Peter Berkrot

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged audiobookthriller

Glen Garber is a victim of the economic downturn and is struggling to keep his construction company afloat. Even his wife, Sheila, has started taking night classes to help with the business.

Theirs is an average American family until the night Sheila doesn't come home. She has died in a drunk driving accident that she caused. But Glen knows Sheila would never drink and drive. He finds out she never even made it to class that night and starts to look more closely at his wife's final days. Then Sheila’s friend is found dead.

Why I picked it up: I first discovered Linwood Barclay when I was looking for Harlan Coben readalikes, and I have been hooked on his audiobooks since I listened to No Time for Goodbye.

Why I finished it: There are multiple twists to this fast-moving thriller. Some are far-fetched, but I found myself sitting in parking lots listening until the ends of chapters. Barclay creates rather unexpected connections between faux purse parties, faulty electrical wiring, and ruthless killers.

I'd give it to: My sister, Jill, who still remembers the cagey, neighborhood mom who sold knock-off purses and Rolex watches out of the trunk of her car. And to Brian, who doesn't think it's important to get permits and inspections for contractor work!

Legend of the Scarlet Blades by Saverio Tenuta

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

A one-eyed, one-armed samurai, Raido, saves a girl, Meiki, from the Shogunai’s men and a wolf attack.

When he was whole, Raido was a powerful samurai and Lord Fujiwara’s general. He was sent out to kill the black wolf in the ice forest. His mission succeeded, but he lost his arm, his eye, and his scarlet blades. Everyone believes he died. Raido has no memory of his past, but the voices in his head that torment him quiet down when Meiki is near.

Raido discovers that another samurai now wears his arm, eye, and swords; that his former master has been betrayed by his daughter, who gains power from human sacrifices; and that the truth in the stories Meiki learned as a child may explain both his past and the deep connection between them.

Why I picked it up: I was looking in the European comics section of The Comic Stop. The bloody snow on the cover caught my eye, and the clerk told me it was excellent.

Why I finished it: Tenuta’s painted art is absolutely stunning. In a winter setting full of snow and gigantic white wolves, blood, red leaves, and Raido’s scarlet blades stand out in stark, beautiful contrast. (His use of color reminds me of J.H. Williams III’s beautiful Batwoman: Elegy.)

I'd give it to: Emma, whose favorite Miyazaki movie is Spirited Away because in this story, too, a powerful kami has been taken for selfish purposes.

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