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Recommendations for Friday, August 31, 2012

Cardboard by Doug Tennapel

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

Unshelved strip for 8/31/2012

The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting

Link to this review by danritchie tagged mysteryparanormalthriller

Violet has a special talent. She senses echoes of death. These can lead her to find bodies, and she can also sense the echoes of victims to their killer. She is the newest recruit to a very secret government agency which uses various psychic talents to solve violent crimes and murders. Violet and her three psychometric partners, Gemma, Rafe and Krystal, find themselves on the trail of the Collector, a psychopathic killer who fantasizes his victims as his lovers, abducts them, and ties them to a bed. He kills them after realizing they do not care for him.

Violet tries to live a normal life despite her talent. But then the Collector fixates on her as his next love interest.

Why I picked it up: The story is set in Buckley, Washington, and Seattle, and the author is local. I enjoy the familiar setting.  And her last book, The Pledge is one of my favorites.

Why I finished it: Violet’s love/hate relationship with her gift, as well as her partner Gemma’s psychic talent. Gemma can sense the echos on Violet, and knows about her special relationship with Rafe, so it was wrenching when Gemma told Violet that she reeked of death.

I'd give it to: Meghan. She will especially enjoy Violet’s developing relationship with Rafe (there is literally a spark when they touch) and seeing how Violet deals with the Collector.

Not My Bag by Sina Grace

From the artist of The Li’l Depressed Boy, and Amber Benson’s Among the Ghosts comes a haunting retail hell story like you’ve never encountered before! A young artist takes a job at a department store in order to make ends meet... little does he know that he may meet his end! In this gothic story for fans of Black Swan, Blankets, and The Devil Wears Prada, can the artist withstand competitive pressure, treachery, and high fashion while still keeping his soul?

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Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent and How to Reclaim Our Skies by William J. McGee

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

William McGee, a former air-traffic controller, was the only consumer advocate on the U.S. government’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee. He has been a writer and editor for Consumer Reports Travel Letter and worked for seven years in flight operations management.

He begins the book by recalling dressing to the nines just to pick up a family member at the airport back when flying was unusual and sexy. Since deregulation, he claims that the airlines have begun a race to the bottom in everything from service, seating, maintenance, baggage service, and the Byzantine reservation and pricing systems.  However, McGee saves his strongest denunciation for major airlines partnering with regional airlines which have demonstrably inferior safety records and practices. (He even shows that a passenger can book with a major airline and receive a ticket with that major airline’s name on it, but complete the trip without setting foot on a plane owned or maintained by that airline, since they all outsource flights to regional partners.) Each of his claims is backed up by personal experience, interviews, statistics, and site visits to places mentioned in the book.

Why I picked it up: I heard an interview with the author.

Why I finished it: Scary facts about flying. The most frightening is that airlines have outsourced heavy maintenance overseas, where one certified, qualified mechanic might have fifteen to twenty uncertified mechanics working under his license. (They do this instead of performing the work in the U.S. at shops where each mechanic must be certified and where work and workers can easily be checked by the FAA.)

McGee also travels to the unclaimed baggage center (for all airlines) in Alabama where all sorts of crazy things have been found: sex toys, crossbows, and even a full suit of medieval armor.

I'd give it to: My father, who gets enraged at paying for each checked bag while having to hear that the airlines are providing the ability to travel without bags to give consumers more choices.  He would like the healthy chunk of the book devoted to examining airlines’ pricing structures and fees.

No Biking in the House without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene

Link to this review by snow tagged biography

Melissa Greene and Donny Samuel loved parenting so much that "when the clock started to run down on the home team, we brought in ringers." Adopting five foreign children (one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia) to a family that already had four kids was not without its difficulties. Melissa and Donny were prepared for some, like language barriers and problems caused by childhoods spent in orphanages, but others came as a shock, such as trying to find spicy food for Ethiopian palates.

Greene tells of all the humor, optimism, concern, guilt, pain, and love that went into building her family.

Why I picked it up: Large families fascinate me. I’m an only child and childless (by choice) as an adult.

Why I finished it: Greene is not afraid to admit when she makes an error in judgment. I appreciated her candid look at her oldest child’s transformation from a horse-loving girl to a punk-rock-loving teen. Greene and her husband had many concerns about it, but looking back now Greene can admit that punk changed Molly for the better in many ways. (Heavy metal music did the same for me.)

Greene is equally unafraid of addressing her concerns and fears. She speaks candidly about post-adoption depression, the difficulties in raising adopted children of another ethnicity, how to include a child's birth family in theirs, and, on a more humorous note, about the difficulties of trying to crack down on her teenage sons' inappropriate internet searches. Greene is so funny this book reminds me of one of my childhood favorites, Cheaper by the Dozen (NOT the Steve Martin movie).

I'd give it to: My husband, Barry. He’s not as intrigued by the idea of adoption as I am, but there are enough references to sports and Atlanta (his hometown) to catch his attention. He would especially enjoy the story of Greene's son, Lee, and husband hiding 50-yard-line Super Bowl tickets from her so that she won't sell them to pay for Lee's Bar Mitzvah.

Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores by Ramsey Campbell

Bookstores are the greatest places on earth, yet there’s never been an anthology devoted just to them. Here are sixteen science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories—all but two original to this anthology—each of which includes a bookstore at its core. Whether seen as enchanting repositories for the magic of books—welcoming nexuses of power for those who read—or reflecting the dark dangers that may lurk where such magic lies, these are stories that are sure to please readers. Stories by Ramsey Campbell, Charles de Lint, Harlan Ellison, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jack Williamson, Gene Wolfe, and more, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

"Ketter has selected strong stories which make the reader want to learn more about the worlds their authors have created and to return to the magic inherent in them." — SF Site

"An enjoyable original anthology of fantastic stories about bookstores and everything that can be found in them. Fantasy readers will love it, and so will most bibliophiles." — Christian Sauvé

"Truly an irresistible volume...This collection has a story for every reader and lover of bookstores. If you pick up this book, I hope that you have nothing else to do for the rest of weekend, because whatever it is isn’t getting done." — Borderlands Bookstore

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Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood by Tony Lee, Sam Hart, Artur Fujita

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

Robin of Loxley, Earl of Huntington, returns to England from the Crusades to seek vengeance for his father’s murder. The Sheriff of Nottingham sends him after the bandits in Sherwood Forest, but Robin soon learns the Sheriff was responsible.

Why I picked it up: I love Robin Hood stories. Apparently I’ve recovered from my disappointment over seeing the most recent (and my least favorite) Hollywood remake. (It may be time to watch the old BBC series starring Michael Praed again.)

Why I finished it: This is a dark story with a lot of violence. The art emphasizes the men involved by drawing them in detail while the backgrounds are often abstract. Forests and castles, after a brief and realistic image to establish the setting, are represented by color and texture. It’s a great looking book.

I'd give it to: My friend Dan, who’s working on his own comics and would enjoy the storytelling craft on display. Early in the story, as a boy, Robin encounters the famous wolfshead Will O’ The Green. Robin’s father kills Will as he’s being hanged because it’s the only thing he can do for the man, his friend. These events reverberate throughout the story, right up until the end.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Link to this review by billba tagged science fiction

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Intrepid, where Ensign Andrew Dahl is starting to notice some strange things about his new posting. The command crew goes on a lot of away missions, for one, where low-ranking crewmen usually meet a grizzly end while the handsome lieutenant manages to survive. Then there's the mysterious box that no one will talk about that always manages to save the day at the last moment. Plus the officers have a tendency to burst into overly expository monologues.

It's all very weird. And, with Andrew's friends dying off like flies, morale is plunging. Then he comes across some startling information that will change how he sees the universe and send him on the strangest mission of all.

Why I picked it up: Ever since Agent To The Stars and Old Man's War Scalzi has owned me, body and soul. But I was a serious enough Trekkie that I would have read this based on the title alone.

Why I finished it: This book is catnip to fans of any number of sci-fi TV shows. The story ended and I was reasonably satisfied, but then I read the codas, which tie up a few loose threads in an intensely emotional way, and I burst into tears.

I'd give it to: Paul, who will love how common tropes are subverted here: a lot is going on in the Intrepid's cargo tunnels, and the alien science officer is given much more credit for solving problems than is strictly due.

The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by Samuel Arbesman

Just as we know that a chunk of uranium can break down in a measurable amount of time—a radioactive half-life—so too any given field’s change in knowledge can be measured concretely. We can know when facts in aggregate are obsolete, the rate at which new facts are created, and even how facts spread.

Samuel Arbesman takes us through a wide variety of fields, including those that change quickly, over the course of a few years, or over the span of centuries. He shows that much of what we know consists of “mesofacts”—facts that change at a middle timescale, often over a single human lifetime. Throughout, he offers intriguing examples about the face of knowledge: what English majors can learn from a statistical analysis of The Canterbury Tales, why it’s so hard to measure a mountain, and why so many parents still tell kids to eat their spinach because it’s rich in iron. The Half-life of Facts is a riveting journey into the counterintuitive fabric of knowledge. It can help us find new ways to measure the world while accepting the limits of how much we can know with certainty.

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Silver by Rhiannon Held

Link to this review by silver tagged paranormalthriller

Silver lost her name. She doesn’t remember what her name is, but Silver is what Death calls her.  She is on the run from a monster who seems to be getting closer and closer.

Andrew is an enforcer for the Roanoke werewolf pack. He has been following Silver, a lone wolf who came into Roanoke territory without permission. But when he finally catches up with her, he doesn’t want to punish he. He wants to help her to find the monster who killed Silver’s family and tortured her by injecting silver into her veins.

Why I picked it up: I couldn’t resist a book with my name for the title.

Why I finished it: This is the first werewolf book I’ve read. I liked the rankings in the pack and how the members behave based on the rankings. I also liked how packs in the Pacific Northwest differ from the packs on the East Coast; the Portland pack has a female leader, and the Seattle pack lives in a small house in woods.

Andrew has a bad reputation. Everyone thinks he’s a heartless killer for the way he mercilessly hunted down werewolves in Europe. The author made me wonder what he did to earn his rep and make others fear him.

I'd give it to: Fran, who told me about Zombies, Run!, an app which motivates you to outrun (in the real world) the zombies that are chasing you (as shown on your phone). After reading it, she’ll be able to imagine werewolves chasing her, and then run faster to save herself, all while training for her upcoming half-marathon.

Miss Don't Touch Me Volume 2 by Hubert, Kerascoet

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelhistorical fiction

Blanche, a virgin, works at a high-end brothel in Paris as Miss Don’t Touch Me, a sadistic dominatrix. After she tries to leave by blackmailing the house, the Madame makes it clear that Blanche has few choices. But a new regular client is a handsome young man who is happy to just talk with her (they sometimes dance). They start to date though his mother disapproves.

Why I picked it up: I loved Volume 1. And after the end of the story revolving around Blanche’s sister’s murder, I was curious about where her story would go.

Why I finished it: This is very different from the murder-motivated plot of the first book. Blanche seems determined to marry her way out of the brothel. She doesn’t pay attention to the way her suitor enjoys discussing her profession in order to make other people in his social circle uncomfortable.

I'd give it to: Cassandra, who’d enjoy Blanche’s mother’s reappearance in her life. (It looks like a normal mother-daughter relationship, until her mother realizes there’s money to be made from her daughter’s situation.)

The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America's Best Restaurants on Wheels by John T. Edge

Bold, delicious, surprising, over-the-top goodness to eat on the run... The Truck Food Cookbook delivers 150 recipes from America’s best restaurants on wheels, from L.A. and New York to the truck food scenes in Portland, Austin, Minneapolis, and more.

John T. Edge shares the recipes, special tips, and techniques. What a menu-board: Tamarind-Glazed Fried Chicken Drummettes. Kalbi Beef Sliders. Porchetta. The lily-gilding Grilled Cheese Cheeseburger. A whole chapter’s worth of tacos—Mexican, Korean, Chinese fusion. Plus sweets, from Sweet Potato Cupcakes to an easy-to-make Cheater Soft-Serve Ice Cream. Hundreds of full-color photographs capture the lively street food gestalt and its hip and funky aesthetic, making this both an insider’s cookbook and a document of the hottest trend in American food.

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Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agemystery

Despite having Asperger’s, Colin is being mainstreamed into high school. Wayne, his nemesis since grade school, gives him a swirlie during his first fifteen minutes on campus. But other parts of high school are more agreeable, like math class where he raises his hand to answer every question. Teachers and administrators try to help when he erupts because he is touched or someone teases him.

When Wayne is blamed for an incident at school where a gun is brought into the cafeteria, Colin knows that can’t be right. Despite Wayne’s enmity, Colin must solve the case because it is not factually correct that Wayne did it. Soon Colin is lying to his mother and using his free time to investigate several suspects.

Why I picked it up: When I found out that Miller and Stentz were the screenwriters for X-Men: First Class and Thor, I was willing to give it a try.

Why I finished it: This is Encyclopedia Brown for a new generation. But Encyclopedia Brown was a child investigator that loved knowledge for knowledge’s sake while Colin’s Asperger’s impacts every part of his life and compels him to investigate. The structure of the book, with factual introductions to each chapter and footnotes for interesting things mentioned in the story, give a peek into Colin’s head and accelerate the reader’s understanding of the plot.

I'd give it to: Jonathan, who would like that Colin is following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes. Colin even faces a Moriarty-like character plotting behind the scenes. (Colin has posters of his two heroes: Sherlock Holmes and Spock.)

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