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Recommendations for Friday, April 05, 2013

My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

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

Unshelved strip for 4/5/2013

@bookblrb: Derf Backderf went to school with Jeffery Dahmer. Their lives seemed similar, but Dahmer’s was a lonely nightmare.

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter

Link to this review by darcy tagged historical fiction

In 1962, Pasquale, a young innkeeper in a coastal Italian town is surprised when a beautiful American actress, Dee Moray, who is playing a small part in Cleopatra, shows up at his inn convinced that she is dying. She isn’t, but learns that she has been duped by a movie doctor and film assistant trying to get her away from the production because of her unplanned pregnancy.  

Many years later, after his wife passed away, the innkeeper shows up on a Hollywood studio’s back lot to find Dee.

Why I picked it up: I really loved Walter’s Citizen Vince. Walter and I are both from Spokane, and his descriptions of the town were exactly right. I knew he would describe Italy with the same level of detail.

Why I finished it: Every woman wants to believe that she will never be forgotten by a man, no matter how many years have passed. I loved how Pasquale is torn between acting on his romantic feelings toward the American actress and staying behind to care for his dying mother, and how the story was presented from multiple viewpoints in different time periods. I don't normally enjoy literary romances, but I felt like I knew the characters, both those in the film industry (including Dee’s love child by a famous actor) and others linked by marriage or the small inn.

I'd give it to: Carrie, in my book group. The last book we read was also set in Italy, but the setting was not very well realized. That book also had a Romeo archetype, but I believe Pasquale is a much better Romeo and that this tale of star-crossed love that spans decades has a much better ending. Carrie would particularly enjoy the sweet scene when Pasquale shows Dee paintings on the wall of an old World War II-era bunker. 

@bookblrb: In 1962, a young Italian innkeeper meets a beautiful American actress. Years later, he goes to Hollywood to find her.

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the lush tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of its heat, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold, new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June's best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than dark chocolate eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will create art that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government's strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this is a novel that will leave you hot and shaken and eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Enter to win a free copy here.

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Stupid Perfect World: a Novella by Scott Westerfeld

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged science fiction

Sometime in the not terribly distant (but not too close) future, a group of high school students are required to take on hardships from the past as a final project for a class. For teens who have never been sick, can teleport to Antarctica for after-school activities, and are awake twenty-four hours a day, suffering is eye opening.

This story also appeared in the Love is Hell anthology.

Why I picked it up: I'm a fan of Scott Westerfeld's books, and when exploring my library system's new online book system, was surprised to see this title by him that I hadn’t heard of.  

Why I finished it: I love novellas, and this was clever, pointed, and amusing. The teens took on diseases such as the common cold and degenerative eye issues, but the unpredictable side effects were the high point, like when the boy who tried sleeping discovered dreams.

I'd give it to: Rachel, who would appreciate the turmoil of the teen who lets her hormones go wild, and the bit of romance that evolves from that mess.

@bookblrb: Future high school students take on historical hardships for class. The suffering is eye opening.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

Link to this review by billbarnes tagged audiobookchapter bookhumormystery

A rabbit husband and wife who help a human girl retrieve her parents, who have been kidnapped by foxes. (This audiobook is read by the author.)

Why I picked it up: Jodie at Listening Library is always on the lookout for great audiobooks for my family to listen to as they minivan from one place to another (homeschooling is poorly named). She gave me this just after I read Gene's review of the print version.

Why I finished it: Not every author is cut out for audio performance, but I can't possibly imagine hearing this in anything other than Polly's adorable (slight) lisp. She obviously loves all of her characters, and each of their personalities comes through clearly, from the deadhead rasp of Madeline's hippy parents Flo and Mildred, to The Marmot's dazed confusion, to the alternately silly and menacing tones of the fox's Grand Poobah.

I'd give it to: I'm not always with my kids, so I only heard bits and pieces of the book. But they filled me in on the rest, which means they are always giving me impromptu book reports. This is homeschooling gold for a mom like Kaja. And I'm sure her kids Victor and Alex are used to hearing their folks affectionately disagree while they work, just like Mr. and Mrs. Bunny.

@bookblrb: A rabbit couple help a human girl retrieve her parents, who were kidnapped by foxes.

Avatar The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and Gurihiru

For years, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra have burned with one question—what happened to Fire Lord Zuko’s mother? Finding a clue at last, Zuko enlists the aid of Team Avatar—and the most unlikely ally of all—to help uncover the biggest secret of his life.

  • This is the perfect companion to The Legend of Korra!
  • The official continuation of Airbender from its creators!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender—The Promise soared to the top of sales charts!

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Cinderella: (Les Petits Fairytales) by Trixie Bell, Melissa Caruso-Scott, Oliver Lake
Snow White: (Les Petits Fairytales) by Trixie Bell, Melissa Caruso-Scott, Oliver Lake

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged board bookfantasy

Each fairy tale is told alphabet-book style with only a word or two per page.

Why I picked it up: Glitter on the cover! Both titles sparkle, along with Cinderella’s crown and the front of Snow White’s dress.

Why I finished it: The pictures are fun, and strike me as a colorful, happy cross between Peanuts and Tiny Titans. It’s amazing that each story can be implied with less than thirty words -- I give most of the credit to the fabulous art.

I'd give it to: My friend Erin and her daughter, Elsa. I’m sure her Elsa already knows these stories, and this will give her a chance to “read” the stories to her mom. (Elsa will also have fun adding a few words of her own to what she recognizes in these books.)

@bookblrb: Fairy tales told alphabet-book style with only a word or two per fun, colorful page.

Kobe Bryant: The Game of His Life by Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, Jennifer Stevens

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

Kobe Bryant, basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, was riding a wave of success on the court as well as multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements when he went to a luxury hotel in Eagle County, Colorado, near the hospital where he was scheduled to have knee surgery.  His concierge was a nineteen-year-old college sophomore used to dealing with celebrities in a private and discreet manner. What is not in dispute is that Bryant, a married man with a two-year old daughter, had sex with the concierge. The next day he was arrested on suspicion of rape. The accuser, shocked by the explosion of media coverage about the story, received death threats. As the defense team portrayed her as a loose woman, her picture appeared on the front of The Globe even though her identity was protected by law.

Jeffrey Shapiro parses court transcripts, newspaper articles, personal interviews and television transcripts to put together the story of exactly what happened on June 30th, 2003.

Why I picked it up: I love to root against the Lakers, not only because they always seem to hire the latest big man away from other teams, but also because I can’t cheer for Bryant because of this incident. Even though the criminal case was dropped, I wanted to find out the facts of the case instead of the half-truths in the media.

Why I finished it: Shapiro is skilled at putting together a readable narrative. He made the facts from various sources easy to follow. He tells about the treatment that Lilly Fuller received from the press, and especially the tabloids. I was outraged by Bryant’s accuser’s treatment, especially by Kobe’s lawyer, who said her name in open court no fewer than six times, despite being warned by the judge not to reveal her identity. Kobe’s defense team left no stone unturned and tried to paint her as both promiscuous and crazy.

I'd give it to: My friend Victor, because he has been critical about the big business of sports in America, from the overblown salaries to the preferential treatment of athletes in college and the courts. He would find more ammunition for his arguments about athletics and out-of-control hero worship.

@bookblrb: After basketball star Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a concierge, she was savaged in the media and at trial.

The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne

A little boy is found dead in a children’s playground…and his eleven-year-old playmate stands accused.

"Lisa Ballantyne has written a first novel that is both moving and suspenseful; richly detailed, yet with the eerie simplicity of a parable"- Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times bestselling author

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Wrecked by Anna Davies

Link to this review by danritchie tagged fantasyparanormal

Whym Island is one of hundreds that line South Carolina’s coast. Local tradition holds that the island is under the spell of the sea witch, Sephie. She does, in fact, rule an underwater kingdom; her subjects are mermaids, mermen, and betwixtmen (who have human blood and can live either in the ocean or on land). The one rule her people must obey is to never interact with humans. When Sephie isn't being catered to by her subjects, she collects human souls as ornaments.

Miranda and her friends live on the island year-round and are spending their last few days before senior year on the mainland, hanging out and having fun.  At the end of an impromptu beach party, the kids persuade Miranda to take them home on her boat.  As they leave the beach a storm materializes, the GPS fails, and the boat is hit by lightning. In the chaos that follows, Miranda is tangled in a buoy cable, losing consciousness. She awakens on a beach with a vague image of a young man carrying her to safety.

Three of Miranda’s friends are dead. Everyone on the island blames her.  Hours of mindless swimming on a deserted beach is the only thing that helps her keep it together. There she meets Christian, the betwixtman who saved her. Sephie has demanded he bring her Miranda's soul.

Why I picked it up: I recently enjoyed another great book, Die for Me, about a young man obsessed with protecting a young woman he doesn't know, regardless of the consequences. Christian's plight seemed similar enough to make me want to give this a try.

Why I finished it: Christian has been watching over Miranda since long before the accident.  Though he knows it could cost his soul, he befriends her and is determined to keep her safe. Is there a way to kill a sea witch? And if so, how?

I'd give it to: My friend's daughter, Abby. She likes books about teens breaking the bonds of tradition. The Barrier Islands are still part of the Old South, and Miranda desperately wants to be free from her grandmother’s ideas about proper behavior. Abby will enjoy Miranda’s awkward attraction to Christian, too.

@bookblrb: After Miranda is saved from a boating accident by a betwixtman, the sea witch demands her soul.

I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford by Richard Snow

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biography

Henry Ford, the creator of the first mass-produced automobile, was a man of contradictions. Entranced as a boy by seeing a steam-powered tractor, he was a mechanical whiz from day one and continued tinkering with machines throughout his life. While he was known for being creative, energetic and kind, he was also cruel, paternalistic and bigoted. The same man who populated his factory with a diverse workforce also owned and produced a newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, known for publishing anti-Semitic vitriol.

Despite the runaway success of the Model T, Snow makes the case that Ford’s company would have gone out of business several times in the early years without the intervention of investors and managers who had business savvy that complemented Ford’s mechanical genius.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to know more about Ford and the Model T.

Why I finished it: On the one hand, Ford was an early adopter of technology who had an amazing vision. Ford and his staff hit on the idea of bringing work to the men, rather than men to the work. This was the first assembly line, with car bodies pulled by ropes from group to group that reduced production time and helped cut costs. Ford’s relentless improvement of the manufacturing process made his cars affordable to the average workingman. In fact, the production of the Model T was such an art form that production peaked in the mid-twenties, with a record 9,109 Model T’s produced in one day at one factory.

On the other hand, he was a bit of a lunatic. Some criticized Ford for his “suffocating paternalism.” He went so far as to create a department to help employees by checking up on them at their homes, to watch out for bad behavior like drinking or gambling. If husbands wasted their pay, their checks would be given to the wives instead, and in some cases spendthrifts and wastrels were fired.

I'd give it to: Bob, who would laugh at Ford’s practical jokes and they way they got out of hand at times. Ford once put wooden croutons in someone’s soup at a formal dinner, and another time he rigged up electricity to a urinal at work.

@bookblrb: Henry Ford, a mechanical whiz who invented the assembly line, was also strange, cruel, bigoted, and poor at business.

Rough Men by Aric Davis

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged mystery

Will Daniels is a bartender turned semi-successful writer. He’s having a hard time getting started on his next book when there’s a knock on the door. It’s a police detective who’s come to let Will and his wife, Alison, know that their son, Alex, is dead. Alex was involved in a bloody robbery at a local credit union where he and two other men killed four innocent people and wounded two more, including a little girl who was shot in the head. Alex was killed after the robbery by one of his partners.

Will Daniels wasn’t always a writer or a bartender. And he was never a great father. But long ago he was a criminal with a hard streak who ran with a very tough crowd. He decides to reconnect with his past to help him get justice for his son.

Why I picked it up: I like short mysteries. And then I realized Davis also wrote the excellent Nickel Plated.

Why I finished it: Will and his wife have a lot of guilt and mixed feelings over the death of their son. (Alex was Will’s son by a girlfriend who’s long gone, but Alison raised him.) There are dark moments when they discuss what to do with Alex’s body and come to terms with their love for him despite the fact that he was a murderer. And then Will seems to lose himself to his darker impulses, almost like he can’t have an emotional response to the loss of his son other than embracing the violence in himself that he can’t control.

I'd give it to: My brother-in-law, Jeff. He’s never finished a book that wasn’t an auto repair manual, and I’ve been threatening to find a novel he’ll enjoy all the way through. His son turned two this year and, if I booktalk this right, putting the emphasis on violence and fatherhood, I’ll put the hooks into him, and he’ll have to read it.

@bookblrb: After his son is killed helping commit a bloody bank robbery, a writer uses criminal connections to get justice.

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