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Recommendations for Friday, March 08, 2013

Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged fantasyhumor

Unshelved strip for 3/8/2013

@bookblrb: Evil robots, poetic dinosaurs, dwarves, a shark grub, and a singing demon sword.

Game by Barry Lyga

Link to this review by snow tagged thriller

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is back on the job. The story of him catching The Impressionist -- a copycat inspired by the exploits of Jasper's father, Billy Dent, the twenty-first century's most notorious serial killer -- has made it all the way to New York City. Now the NYPD hope Jazz can help catch the Hat-Dog Killer, who has been raping, mutilating, and killing his way across the city. But Jazz's help draws attention and soon Jazz, his friends, and the police are pieces in a desperate game which some will not survive.

Why I picked it up: I was blown away by the breathless pace and unrelenting tension of I Hunt Killers, the first book in the Jasper Dent series, and couldn't wait to see what happened next.

Why I finished it: Lyga takes what should be a throwaway Hollywood premise -- a teenager and his friends help the NYPD catch a serial killer -- and turns it into a believable and terrifying thriller. It’s the characters! I couldn't help being drawn in by Jazz. It’s unclear whether or not he inherited his father's deadly tendencies, but it’s clear he has Billy Dent's magnetic personality. The people who care for Jazz clearly care for him deeply, and it was impossible for me not to feel the same. I wanted to shelter him from the horrors that surround him even as I desperately needed him to catch the bad guy.

The other characters are no less realistic, from police and FBI agents to Howie, Jazz's awkward best friend, often the one person interjecting humor into a situation. And Jazz's girlfriend Connie is caught between wanting to help Jazz and the normal hormones that any girlfriend feels for the boy she loves.

I'd give it to: Keith, who won't read most YA books because he thinks they are "too tame." He'll probably be able to read this one at night and while eating, though I sure couldn't.

@bookblrb: The son of the 21st century’s most notorious serial killer helps the NYPD track down the Hat-Dog Killer.

Tokyo Babylon by CLAMP

It's 1991, the last days of Japan's bubble economy, and money and elegance run through the streets. So do the currents of darkness beneath them, nourishing evil spirits that only the arts of the onmyoji—Japan's legendary occultists—can combat. The two most powerful onmyoji are in the unlikely guises of a handsome young veterinarian, Seishiro, and the teenage heir to the ancient Sumeragi clan, Subaru.

A prequel to the events of CLAMP's X.

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Dead Girl Moon by Charlie Price

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of agemystery

Grace is placed in a foster home in Portage, Montana, with a drunk, a dope-dealing electrician, and their uncontrollable son. Their thirteen-year-old niece, J.J., is a dreamer with one ambition: to somehow get out of Portage. Mick is the new kid in town, on the run with his dad, a petty thief and mechanic. Mick just wants a home and a girl like Grace.

The three of them become friends because they’re poor outcasts living in a closed-minded community. They discover a dead body in the Salish river. Afraid they might be blamed, they resolve to keep it quiet. But after word gets out, they find themselves at odds with the powerful men who run the town. They run away together, hoping to find a way to exonerate themselves.

Why I picked it up: I loved Price's Desert Angel which is also a gritty tale about a teen on the run.

Why I finished it: This is YA noir at its best. Grace is clever and determined, and needs money to start a new life. J.J. just tries to cope with her family life, and helps Grace adjust to her new life and the disdain of the locals. J.J. spends hours at the river, and it is there she first meets Mick. He and J.J. bond because of the loneliness and despair they both endure. Mick lusts after Grace, who seems unattainable. Each of the three desperately needs the others’ support, but their friendships felt tentative and charged with emotion.

I'd give it to: Chelsea, who loves dark teen adventures like Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  She will find this a compelling read because of how these kids cope with the wretched conditions they live in -- being ignored, suffering verbal abuse, living on junk food and in filthy homes.

@bookblrb: Three poor, outcast teens find a dead body. After word gets out they run away, hoping to exonerate themselves.

I Haiku You by Betsy Snyder

Link to this review by darcy tagged picture bookpoetry

A picture book full of haiku that shows love throughout the four seasons.

Why I picked it up: I love haiku and was excited for a love themed collection just in time for Valentine's Day. I'm always looking for opportunities to introduce poetry to my kids before school sucks the joy out of it for them.

Why I finished it: The haiku and illustrations are sweet but not nauseating. Some are romantic in a G-rated way, others cover friendship, and one is about the love a dog has for his people.

Next to my favorite haiku is a picture of a boy and a girl eating lunch together:

you be my jelly,
I'll be your peanut butter-
let's stick together!

I'd give it to: Aarene. She loves dogs, and will be over the moon for the poem about a sad dog watching a school bus drive away.

@bookblrb: A picture book full of haiku showing love throughout the four seasons.

Half a Million Dead Cannibals by Kari Gregg

All that's keeping Riley from the man he's falling in love with is the ruins of a city filled with half a million dead cannibals.

Strangers, Riley and Graham sheltered together in a basement storage unit when the zombie outbreak slammed into the world three months ago. They lived through the first blast of the plague, but they may not last much longer among survivors scrambling for dwindling resources. They agree to hike from the city and to the safety of the mountains.

They don't count on the storm they hoped would cover their exit developing into a Nor'easter, though, and they sure don't think their visibility will shrink so badly that they'll have to hike into the leading edge of a zombie swarm, either. In the chaos of escaping the ravenous horde, they are separated, with Graham racing toward feral dog packs to the east and Riley sprinting to hostile survivors hunting them to the west.

Nobody said finding and keeping a quality guy (alive) during the apocalypse would be easy.

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Family Guide New York City

Link to this review by billba tagged nonfiction

An illustrated travel guide to the Big Apple, brilliantly organized around the real needs of families.

Why I picked it up: I was born in New York City and still go there on business two or three times a year. But when my wife and I decided to take our kids there this summer after BEA, I realized I had no idea what to do with them. I sat down in a book store and carefully perused two dozen different guidebooks. This was the clear winner.

Why I finished it: The team that put this book together obviously have children of their own. The city’s many attractions are presented in a way that highlights their historical and entertainment value, logistical details (including how much time to allow), fun factoids for kids, and, most importantly of all, places near each where kids can just play.

I'd give it to: I've already recommended it to Tera, who is heading out on a family trip a couple of months before us. I'll treat her as a scouting party and let her debug my proposed travel plan. She was excited to find out about the High Line, an elevated railroad trestle that has been turned into a green pedestrian walkway.

@bookblrb: An illustrated travel guide to the Big Apple, brilliantly organized around the real needs of families.

Guns and Gotham: (All Star Western Volume 1) by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelwestern

Former Confederate soldier turned bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to late 1800s Gotham City. He and Dr. Amadeus Arkham (founder of Arkham Asylum) set out to apprehend a serial killer (the Gotham Butcher), find themselves facing a powerful criminal cartel, and then scour the sewers to find a bunch of missing children.

Contains All Star Western #1 - #6.

Why I picked it up: Rob Salkowitz, the author of Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture, recommended it to me during an interview.

Why I finished it: I’ve liked Moritat’s art ever since his run on Elephantman, and it just keeps getting better. I like the way he uses thicker inks to make the foreground stand out, and the quick way he does his pencils adds energy to the already chaotic gunfights and fistfights. (He pencils fast, in part, because his pencils are smaller than the images most comic book artists draw for their books. He’s also a super nice guy you should go out of your way to meet, if you’re at a comic con together.)

I'd give it to: Frank, my former writing teacher. This is one of the few New 52 titles from DC that hasn’t disappointed me. Plus this will help him get over this disappointment, too.

@bookblrb: Jonah Hex and Dr. Amadeus Arkham hunt a serial killer in 19th century Gotham City.

Planting: A New Perspective by Noel Kingsbury and Piet Oudolf

Piet Oudolf’s gardens are breathtaking to observe and hard to define. They are calm, yet full of surprises, apparently effortless but complex to achieve. Oudolf’s skill in combining plants is legendary.

A groundbreaking moment in horticulture, this is the only book to explicitly show how his gardens and landscapes are made. Planting makes Oudolf’s considerable understanding of plant ecology and performance accessible, explaining how plants behave in different situations, what goes on underground, and which species make good neighbors. It is an essential resource for designers and gardeners looking to create plant-rich, beautiful gardens that support biodiversity and nourish the human spirit.

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Grand Ambition by G. Bruce Knecht

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged history

Doug Van Allmen was a successful businessman. He sold his stake in Sunglass Hut for hundreds of millions and adroitly managed his other businesses. He and his second wife, Linda, had a yacht named Linda Lou that cost fifty million dollars. They lived among the other yachting couples on a circuit that included cruising Europe and tying up in Monaco every summer. In Monaco, the Van Allmens participated in a festival where owners could come aboard one another’s yachts to see how they were decorated and what amenities they had. Van Allmen came away convinced that he needed to commission the best yacht ever because the Linda Lou didn't match up. It was to be called Lady Linda after his wife. He hired Trinity shipyards in Louisiana, along with sought-after architect and designer Evan Marshall, to make his vision a reality. Knecht followed the project from its conception through each facet of the complicated, years-long build. Individuals who worked on the Lady Linda are profiled, from an arthritic sixty-two-year-old welder to an illegal-immigrant painter/sander. While finances weren’t an issue for Van Allmen at the beginning, they certainly were at the end, when he was hit hard by the 2008 market crash. (This was long after he committed to the yacht, and he couldn’t get out of the deal.)

Why I picked it up: My Bayliner was once my pride and joy.  I did not understand until later what my dad said to me upon learning of my purchase, “The second happiest day of a man’s life is when he buys his boat….the first happiest is when he sells it.” I wanted to see what the downside of owning a yacht of this size might be.

Why I finished it: This was not the only great yacht profiled in the book. Aristotle Onassis had a huge yacht named Christina that featured bar stools upholstered with leather made from the foreskin of a whale!  Did that help the yacht on the resale market? (Who knows? But it has changed hands several times since Onassis’s death.) Seattle resident Paul Allen’s 414-ft yacht The Octopus was also profiled, including its two helicopters and landing pads, its submarines and their underwater launch hatch, and the space for a a sixty-three foot boat inside it.

I also learned the truth of the boating maxim that proper maintenance and staffing of a vessel can be expected to cost ten percent of the purchase price of the boat per year. At one point Van Allmen was putting out two million a year for maintenance and staffing of one of his three yachts!

I'd give it to: Craig, who would be fascinated and disgusted with people willing to spend $50,000 on a coffee table.  He would cackle with laughter at Van Allmen’s eventual financial difficulties and the fact he eventually had to put the Lady Linda up for sale before it was finished.

@bookblrb: The story of the ultra-posh yacht Lady Linda, from conception to launch.

A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch by Stacy Perman

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged history

Henry Graves, Jr. and James Ward Packard were both rich and prominent in the early 1900s. While Rockefellers, Carnegies, Goulds and Vanderbilts toured Europe, built palatial homes, and spent their time at lavish balls, Packard and Graves each put their money into mechanical pocket watches. They not only collected them, they also commissioned and helped design unique watches with the help of prominent Swiss craftsmen. After papers began reporting this, a sort of duel started between the two men. It went on for over thirty years and each spent the equivalent of millions of today’s dollars to bolster his collection. (The crowning achievement was Graves’ Supercomplication, a watch with twenty-four complications, including the first split-second hand that could time two runners at once, and muted, bell-like tones that sounded on the hour. It was built by Swiss watchmaker Patek Phillippe after Graves specifically asked him to build a watch more complicated than anything Packard owned.)

These days any watch with Graves’ crest on the back or Packard’s tiny inscription on its internal parts, causes a frenzy of bidding.

Why I picked it up: I have probably seven watches worth collecting for their look, accuracy, or scarcity. Every morning I choose which watch to wear with my outfit. (Editor’s note: This is particularly funny given that Flemtastic wears shorts, polos, and T-shirts exclusively.) My Christmas list this year consisted of only one item: the Luminox 1883, the watch Navy Seals wear, which comes with tubes of radioactive material to make the hour marks glow even in total darkness.

Why I finished it: I knew that mechanical pocket watches used small gears and cogs, but I didn't know the half of how complicated they were. The extremely tiny screws in the interior of a watch can so small it would take 20,000 of them to fill up a thimble. Several watches took four or five years to complete, from design to the polishing, because up to seventy-five craftsmen had to take turns using their particular skills. And this was all done by hand, and fractions of a millimeter mattered.

I'd give it to: Gil, who would love the detailed discussion of why Packard and Graves became collectors. Packard admired the mechanical excellence and a design process he could be involved with, while Graves longed for the perfection the watches represented.

@bookblrb: Two prominent, rich men in the early 1900s competed to have the most complicated mechanical watch.

How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy

Paperback / softback, 272 pages ISBN: 9780761174707 (0761174702) Published by Publishing $10.95(US) $12.95(CAN) This title will be available for purchase from Workman.com on Mar 19, 2

You want to leave a mark, not a blemish. Be a hero, not a spectator. You want to be interesting. (Who doesn’t?) But sometimes it takes a nudge, a wake-up call, an intervention!—and a little help. This is where Jessica Hagy comes in. A writer and illustrator of great economy, charm, and insight, she’s created How to Be Interesting, a uniquely inspirational how-to that combines fresh and pithy lessons with deceptively simple diagrams and charts.

Ms. Hagy started on Forbes.com, where she’s a weekly blogger, by creating a “How to Be Interesting” post that went viral, attracting 1.4 million viewers so far, with tens of thousands of them liking, linking, and tweeting the article. Now she has deeply explored the ideas that resonated with so many readers to create this small and quirky book with a large and universal message. It’s a book about exploring: Talk to strangers. About taking chances: Expose yourself to ridicule, to risk, to wild ideas. About being childlike, not childish: Remember how amazing the world was before you learned to be cynical. About being open: Never take in the welcome mat. About breaking routine: Take daily vaca- tions . . . if only for a few minutes. About taking ownership: Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it, embrace it, master it as well as you can. And about growing a pair: If you’re not courageous, you’re going to be hanging around the water cooler, talking about the guy that actually is.

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Monster Dinosaur by Lewis Trondheim
Monster Turkey by Lewis Trondheim

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novelhumor

The monsters Petey and Jean draw tend to come to life. They draw Kriss (three legs, four arms, ten mouths) to eat a bad monster, and then he becomes a member of their family.

In Monster Dinosaur, dinosaurs (that people draw) will battle in a stadium to determine the super champion. Petey and Jean are excited and create a merciless dinosaur that will compete, but their dad doesn’t want them to enter. Kriss wants to enter, too, but Dad says that’s not possible. (Turns out Dad wants to enter his own dinosaur into the tournament.)

In Monster Turkey, the family is bored. Mom decides it’s time to go on a vacation. Dad points to a random spot on a map. Soon after they arrive at the farmhouse they’ve rented, they discover that the place is full of monstrous, mutated animals.

Why I picked it up: Trondheim’s autobiographical comics in the Little Nothings series are excellent. He draws his family as anthropomorphic bird people. Petey and Jean’s family looks like chibi versions of Trondheim and his family.

Why I finished it: The colors are absolutely wonderful and become especially vivid to emphasize the action and the creatures’ odd appearances by making them stand out from the background colors. Trondheim often works with self-imposed limitations. These comics have no panel borders or word balloons, but he’s figured out how to tell great stories without either.

I'd give it to: Jace would like the silliness as Kriss accidentally gets caught up in the dinosaur battles, and the way the winning dinosaurs grow stronger by eating their opponents (or other paper, since that’s what they’re made of).

@bookblrb: Petey and Jean draw monsters like their friend Kriss (three legs, four arms, ten mouths) that come to life.

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