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Recommendations for Friday, July 12, 2013

The Well of Ascension: (Mistborn Book Two) by Brandon Sanderson

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged fantasy

Unshelved strip for 7/12/2013

Blackout by Robison Wells

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agesuperhero

Teenagers infected with a virus get various superpowers. Many of these Lambdas use their abilities to terrorize society.

Aubrey has been using her invisibility to shoplift clothes. But when the government tests all teens for infection, her abilities are discovered. She and her friend Jack, who is also infected, are given a choice: join the army to fight the others or go to prison.

Why I picked it up: It looked like a good, fast-paced teen novel.

Why I finished it: Teens are necessary to save the world! Aubrey and Jack join the army and are thrown into battle without much training, which causes tension within their unit. Their first assignment: they must help protect a school where they will be the only defense for a Green Beret unit against a Lambda who can cause crippling fear.

And there is a terrific twist on the last page, which was hinted at throughout the book, which sets up a sequel. This will definitely be a popular series in my library.

I'd give it to: Nate, my teacher's assistant. He would like the teens’ diverse talents: one can manipulate earth and minerals (think landslides and earthquakes) and another can heat up to 2600 degrees, incinerating everything nearby.

The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman & Darren Rawlings

A group of orphans on the run search for a new home among the stars. When a group of orphans discover they have a common connection, plucky heroine Phoebe leads them in a daring escape from their orphanage to an uninhabited moon. But their idyllic paradise is shattered when the powerful corporate boss who caused the deaths of their parents sends a relentless henchman to track them down. Now, with nowhere left to turn and tired of being on the run, these resourceful kids decide there's only one thing left to do: Fight back!

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The Patrón Way by Ilana Edelstein

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

In 1989, while on a trip through Mexico’s agave-growing region to scout handcrafted furnishings for his import business, Martin Crowley decided to detour to the highlands above the Rio Grande where the blue agave plant is grown to find the best tequila. What began as a pleasant side trip ended in Crowley, his girlfriend Ilana Edelstein, and founding partner (and hair-care magnate) J.P. DeJoria forming Patrón to create and market what they called an "ultrapremium tequila."

At fifty dollars a bottle, everyone thought they were crazy. Tequila, up to that point, was just a quick way to get drunk known for its harsh burn. But Patrón’s 100% blue agave tequila had a clean, smooth taste suited for sipping. Their goal was to make consumers see drinking Patrón as an occasion. Parties, bar promotions, and unsolicited movie product placement gave the product a buzz, and meteoric growth followed, as well as an entire line of new and expensive tequilas.

This success in business contrasted with Edelstein's relationship with Crowley. A fallout after thirteen years together left Edelstein on the outside after a bitter legal battle.

Why I picked it up:  Disclaimer: I have never had a drop of alcohol of any sort. But I was very interested to read about how Patrón tequila became so iconic in such a short time and how it was promoted as a lifestyle choice.

Why I finished it: The author and her business partners were flying by the seat of their pants, making decisions which would make or break their fledgling company. They hired a hooker from Las Vegas to staff their booth at a trade show (they made sure she was “classy”), they handed out cases full of Patrón to Hollywood trendsetters (Clint Eastwood is a fan), they mocked up hundreds of bottles (using a perfume bottle as inspiration) before finding just the right bottle -- the empties even sell on Ebay because they are so beautiful. There are complications in any business, and one that hindered Patrón was when Jose Cuervo bought all the blue agave plants and forced out of business many of the new boutique tequila producers that had copied Patrón's idea.

I'd give it to: My friend Doug, a jewelry store owner who does much of the same type of lifestyle marketing as Patrón. He would understand that purchases of pricey tequila and jewelry are both emotional decisions and in how getting the trendsetters and glitterati on your side is important, but how you can never be seen to be courting or buying their opinions.

Cemetery Girl by David Bell, Fred Lehne

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged audiobookcoming of agemystery

Tom and Abby Stuart are the quintessential couple: they have great careers, a good marriage, and a happy home they share with their daughter, twelve-year-old Caitlin. One day Caitlin takes the dog out for a walk and only the dog comes back.

Four years later, the Stuarts' marriage and jobs have suffered, and their home is just a place where they merely share space. And then Caitlin reappears: thin, dirty, but oddly composed. When the police arrest her abductor, Caitlin refuses to tell what happened in the four years she was with him. Despite Tom's protests, she won't testify against him. Tom is driven to the edge because he cannot understand how this happened and if his daughter was abducted or chose to leave.

Why I picked it up: I'm always looking for a new book on a missing child, and after reading a review of the book implying that Caitlin may have been complicit in her abduction, I was compelled to see how the author could develop a thriller where a minor was a suspect in her own disappearance.

Why I finished it: The solid, unforgiving narration held my attention as the Stuarts, who had symbolically put Caitlin to rest by holding a funeral, had to deal with her reappearance. And as Tom was driven to find out why Caitlin wouldn’t speak against her captor, to the point of destroying what little life he had left, I had to know if the truth was worth it.

I'd give it to: Monica, who repeatedly freaked her parents out when we were teens by making foolish choices that seemed so inconsequential to us. Now that she's a mother of two daughters, I wonder what she would think about Caitlin's behavior.

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of age

Eighteen-year-old Sadie lives in a small island community. Most of the locals work at a big resort, including Sadie and her mom. Sadie can't wait to get away from the tiny trailer where she was raised, and has been earning extra money to pay for college by pulling small cons she learned from her dad. A month before her first tuition payment is due, her mom takes all of Sadie's money to pay a lawyer to arrange an early release for her dad from jail.

Desperate to find a way out, Sadie notices she has a strong resemblance to an age-enhanced photo of a toddler from a wealthy family who went missing fifteen years ago. With the help of her best friend, Brendan, she formulates a plan to capitalize on her likeness.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the con in Cook’s Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and as always I’m drawn to titles set in Washington state.

Why I finished it: While researching the disappearance of little Ava McKenna and her family's efforts to find out what happened to her, Sadie begins recalling incidents that make her wonder about her past. There are no pictures of her younger than three, and she had a childhood bunny just like Ava's. When Brendan cons the McKenna's now famous nanny into meeting them, they sense a big payday.

I'd give it to: My friend Jim, who loves all games of chance and will enjoy the small tricks both Sadie and Brendan use, like palming the biggest bill when they get change from the grocer to make five or ten dollars from the clerk.

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture book

A little boy loves his red toy airplane. But after it lands on the roof, he can’t get it down.

Why I picked it up: It was drawn on natural colored, brownish paper with dark, subdued colors. (This great paper is reproduced for the book -- it’s not printed on it.) It doesn’t look like many picture books I’ve seen.

Why I finished it: It’s wordless, which I didn’t expect. It has a very hand-drawn, sketchy quality to it -- the colors don’t completely and uniformly fill in objects, and the lines aren’t uniform size or darkness. It makes the whole thing feel as if it were dashed off moments ago in a burst of creativity.

I'd give it to: My daughter’s fifth grade English teacher, Ms. Nani. The boy’s solution to the problem involves planting a tree and waiting for it to grow throughout his life. I’m sure she could work this into one of the environmental units in her class, which is full of kids who like to draw.

Taxes, the Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels: A History in Comics of the American Revolution by Stan Mack

Link to this review by billba tagged graphic novelhistory

A history of the American Revolution in comics.

Why I picked it up: I recently read a biography of Thomas Jefferson that whetted my appetite for more dirt about this time period. Plus my son has been reading Larry Gonick's excellent Cartoon History series, and I wanted to see how this compared.

Why I finished it: Mack has a refreshingly cynical view of, well, everything. All the familiar characters (Sam Adams, George Washington, King George) are presented with their personal motives front and center. (My favorite part: after Lexington & Concord we see a silhouette of Paul Revere filling out an expense voucher for his midnight ride.) Everyone was acting out of self-interest, as is always the case, but this time the result somewhat luckily ended up advancing the cause of democracy and human rights.

I'd give it to: Donna, a member of the modern day Tea Party. We disagree about almost everything, but we enjoy a good argument. I have a feeling she'll compare the hapless King George, with all his wrong-headed attempts at taxation and regulation, to our current President. I learned from this book that George's Prime Minister actually closed the Western frontier for a while so that he wouldn't lose control of his tax base.

How To Be A World Explorer: (Lonely Planet Not-For-Parents)

Link to this review by darcy tagged nonfiction

Learn tips and tricks to surviving in various climates from deserts and jungles to polar regions.

Why I picked it up: It said "not for parents." Because I’m both curious and nosy I wanted to know what was so secret that parents like me couldn't know. I also would have picked it up if it said "men only" or "not for librarians."

Why I finished it: Each section covers the dangers specific to regions of the world and gear to wear and use for survival. There are also historical bits on real world explorers or people who have survived in extreme situations like Aaron Ralston, who had to amputate part of his own arm after it was trapped between a rock and a canyon wall, and Juliane Koepcke who survived alone, in the Peruvian jungle, for nine days after her plane went down in 1971.

The illustrations are appealing, and I love the disembodied head that gives random tidbits of information like "don't drink too much coconut water or you will get terrible diarrhea" or "Watch out! Sea urchin meat looks like baby poop."

The best thing I learned is how to survive an avalanche. People who get buried in snow usually lose their bearings and can't tell which way is up, and often end up digging further down into the snow. To avoid this you can pee to see which way is down. Thanks, gravity!

I'd give it to: My brother, Jeff. He takes his family camping every summer, and I marvel at how much survival information he teaches his son, Johnny. He has taught that kid to pick out different trees and berry bushes by the shapes of their leaves, and I’m sure there are other lessons here for them to share, too. (Living in a city, I have taught my kids a completely different set of survival skills. If Lonely Planet comes out with a How To Survive In The City, I'll be sure to buy a copy for Jeff, too.)

Out of Water: (Mermin Book One) by Joey Weiser

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novel

Claire, her little brother Toby, and Pete (the boy she’s babysitting) find Mermin (green, looks like a baby sea monster) washed up on the beach. After he saves Pete from a shark, Pete’s parents let Mermin stay at their house. He’s afraid of going into the pool, and Pete’s teacher is alarmed at his appearance, but Mermin loves school and dry land. It becomes clear that the fish want him to come back to wherever he’s from, and then his father sends a few thugs to bring him home.

Why I picked it up: I’ve been waiting for it. I bought some Mermin mini-comics from Joey a few years ago at Comic-Con because I liked his book The Road Home so much.

Why I finished it: During gym, Mermin has to get into the pool with the other students. Pete reassures him it’s not connected to any other water, but he’s mistaken. After Mermin gets in the water, fish start showing up (via a pipe) and soon fill the swimming pool. The colors and drawings in the rest of the book are great, but the image of the pool full of fish was absolutely beautiful. There was no turning back.

I'd give it to: My daughter’s friend, Eleanor, who will laugh when Mermin plays tetherball -- he’s so strong he knocks the pole and the ball over the school fence.

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