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Recommendations for Friday, August 02, 2013

Nickel Plated by Aric Davis

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

Unshelved strip for 8/2/2013

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters by Suzanne Weyn

Link to this review by danritchie tagged fantasyhistorical fiction

Dr. Victor Frankenstein is on the run from the human monster he created. The monster demands a mate and threatens to kill anyone close to the doctor if he’s denied. Frankenstein returns to his mother's family castle on a small island. As he works at creating a female, he realizes his new creation is in the image of his dead wife. In horror and despair he destroys his creation and disappears. Mysterious deaths follow, all of them people close to the doctor. 

Seventeen years later, Isabel and Giselle Frankenstein are told of an inheritance from the father they never knew. (To keep them safe, Frankenstein had abandoned his newborn twin daughters after their mother died in childbirth.) Against their grandfather's wishes, the girls move to the castle and restore it to its former glory. 

Giselle busies herself with the castle while Isabel delves into her father's journals. When Isabel falls in love with a retired soldier and begins to plot continuing her father's legacy, people close to the family begin disappearing again. 

Why I picked it up: I have twin granddaughters, and I have been searching out stories involving twins. Finding one based on Mary Shelley's classic was exciting.

Why I finished it: Giselle and Isabel are very different. While very much the socialite, Giselle has a mysterious, dark side which causes her to sleepwalk and imagine constant, lurking danger. Isabel becomes more reclusive as she obsesses about her father's work and the reason he abandoned the girls. Giselle has planned a huge social gathering at the castle, inviting many socially prominent Europeans, but as the day approaches the girls find themselves caught up in a twisted, macabre adventure.

I'd give it to: Ryan, who has a fascination with anatomy and the history of medicine. He will enjoy Dr. Frankenstein's techniques as well as the latest in medical theories used by Isabel, from mesmerizing patients to the use of batteries to cure nervous disorders.

Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl

From the New York Times bestselling author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics comes a brilliant and haunting literary thriller.

“An inventive . . . adventure in literary terror. Think Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King meet Guillermo del Toro as channeled by Klaus Kinski.”—Kirkus Reviews

Click to request an eGalley.

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Ball by Mary Sullivan

Link to this review by snow tagged graphic novelpicture book

Dog LOVES her ball, but sadly she has to play with it by herself during the day. Hopefully her human friend will be home from school soon!

Why I picked it up: My dog, Cleo, is obsessed with one thing and one thing alone, though in her case it’s squeaky toys.

Why I finished it: I was surprised to find out that Ball is a graphic novel. I knew before I checked it out that Sullivan was extremely minimal in her use of text, but I didn't realize that she incorporated comic book elements into her picture book, such as panels and word balloons. As a lover of wordless and mostly wordless comics, I really enjoyed following the dog's day as she got up to all the usual dog things -- sleeping, exploring, trying to play with the cat. Sullivan's scratchy cartoon art, combined with her subtle color palette and over-the-top facial expressions, left me smiling.

I'd give it to: Ryan, my best friend. He gave Cleo one of her favorite toys, a stuffed pink pig that she used to make me carry on walks. Sadly, while I was writing this review, Cleo passed away at age fourteen. Ryan will enjoy reading this with his daughter and remembering their old pal.

Winger by Andrew Smith

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

Ryan Dean (that’s his first name) is a scrawny, 142-lb winger on the school’s rugby team. Because of his speed, he makes varsity, and avoids teasing for being a fourteen-year-old sophomore. All he can think about is girls, even though his friendship with Annie is being jeopardized by his fascination with Megan. Plus Megan’s boyfriend is his delinquent roommate, and will kill him if he finds out Ryan Dean is thinking about her.

Why I picked it up: I met Andrew Smith at a publisher event in Chicago five years ago. He made a very positive impression on me as a thoughtful person trying to write for a very specific type of reader (boys who grew up with the same urges and emotions that he had).

Why I finished it: Smith includes tons of hilarious little situations, like when Ryan Dean lies his way into a dance by sweet-talking the faculty monitor about a paper he’s writing on the underlying sexual tension in Hemingway’s “The Three-Day Blow.” It means Ryan Dean will have to write an extra paper for the teacher (who sees sexual tension underlying everything), but it is worth it to get into the dance. There’s also a funny scene where his mom FedExes him condoms and a book about first sexual experiences after she hears he is dating a girl at school, then wants to have the talk with him on the phone, making him squirm. And embarrassingly Ryan Dean has to wear both tight Pokemon underwear and a band-aid on his ball sack.

I'd give it to: It’s a bit raw, so I think my friend Derek would like it. I bet he was a complete horndog at fourteen, like Ryan Dean.

The Wolves of Midwinter: The Wolf Gift Chronicles by Anne Rice

In her follow up to The Wolf Gift, as lush and romantic in detail and atmosphere as it is sleek and steely in storytelling, Anne Rice brings us once again to the rugged coastline of Northern California, to the grand mansion at Nideck Point—to further explore the unearthly education of her transformed Man Wolf.

Click to request an eGalley.

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Again! by Emily Gravett

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged picture book

A little dragon is getting ready for bed. It wants to hear a story again and again.

Why I picked it up: Picture books often put up with a lot of abuse, but this one comes pre-damaged -- there’s a hole burned in the back cover (and the dust jacket, and the last few pages) with a dragon looking out.

Why I finished it: The dragon parent, reading about Cedric the dragon over and over, changes the story every time to make it shorter and shorter as it gets more and more tired.

I also loved that the book itself is a work of art. When the dust jacket is removed, it’s the same red book being read in the book. After the little dragon loses its temper and burns a hole in the back of the book, the characters escape on the last page and inside of the charred back cover. Even the rear flap of the dust jacket is damaged by his fire. It’s beautiful.

I'd give it to: Judy, who could use a chance to laugh at a kid who can explode and literally shoot fire out of its mouth (her kids can’t quite pull that off).

Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst, Arjen Noordeman, Christie Wright, Jelmer Noordeman

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged science

Short and funny facts, drawings, a few lies (clearly marked), and some quizzes on the most delightfully odd animals.

Why I picked it up: The diagram of the Axolotl on the cover is labeled with the notes "Peculiar pink color," "Feathery external gills," "Dog paddle champion," and "Goofy-looking."

Why I finished it: The selection of animals is perfect, from the Jesus Christ Lizard, so called because it can run along the top of water, to the super-odd Glass Frog -- you can see its insides through its skin!

I'd give it to: Gene, for the diagram of square wombat poop. And Darcy, for the occasional poem that describes an animal. This is my favorite:

Solenodon, solenodon--
since dinosaurs, you've carried on.
But now it seems you're almost gone,
solenodon solenodon.

Solenodon, solenodon--
your venomous bite will keep you strong.
We praise your courage and your brawn,
solenodon, solenodon.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall, but her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within the walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past.

“A wonderfully creepy novel… This magnificently eerie novel takes us on a skilful journey through fear, showing not only how fear is created, but how it might be overcome.”-The Observer

For more information, visit the author’s website.

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William and the Lost Spirit by Gwen De Bonneval, Matthieu Bonhomme, Walter, Anna & Owen Smith

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

Since William’s father died, William’s sister Helise has been nothing but trouble. When her mother is about to remarry, Helise sets off to find her and William’s father; she doesn’t believe he’s dead because his soul sends her messages.

With the aid of the Knight of Brabant, a bard named Counterpane, his Aunt Ysane, and a stone from his father’s grave, William journeys across the Land of Truth, meets Prestor John, and crosses the Sea of Sand to discover what happened to his father and his sister.

Why I picked it up: The cover: a boy on the back of a flying griffin trying to avoid being eaten by a giant sea creature erupting from the sand. Why is the boy holding a goat?

Why I finished it: The colors in this book are spectacular. The yellows and golds capture autumn perfectly, strange greens let me know when William is dreaming, and I absolutely love the use of graphite to provide texture and shadows in every scene (particularly in caves and underground). It’s a beautiful book.

I'd give it to: Mike, because I know that William’s companion Boldface, a creature with no head or neck whose face is on his chest and abdomen, would remind him of the fearsome creature in The Monstrumologist (though Boldface is far, far nicer).

Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan

Link to this review by billba tagged humormystery

Junior Bender is an expert burglar (he's never been convicted of a crime) with an unwanted side job as private eye for his fellow Los Angeles criminals. This time around a slightly crooked patrolman wants his seemingly guilty uncle proven innocent of a murder, and to guarantee Junior's help Junior is being framed for a robbery he didn't commit.

Why I picked it up: For decades I've been looking to scratch my Fletch itch, and Crashed gave me hope -- it’s a well-written mystery with a smart, funny protagonist. I cracked open this sequel both hopeful that it would be as good and scared that I'd be let down.

Why I finished it: It didn't let me down. The uncle in question is Vinnie DiGaudio a former record producer from Philly. Back in the day, seeing all the fuss about Elvis, he made good money by discovering a stream of young, attractive Italian singers such as Giorgio and Bobby Angel. None of them were very talented, and one of them ended up dead. Now a man who was blackmailing Vinnie is dead, and Vinnie even admits planning to kill him (though someone else got there first).

I'd give it to: Ang, who read a chapter of Crashed over my shoulder on a New York subway last Fall when we were both there for NYCC. She marveled at Hallinan's incredible writing. That chapter was no fluke. Throw out everything you think you know about genre writing. Every word in this book belongs exactly where you find it.

Pandemic by Scott Sigler

The explosive conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Infected and Contagious. The alien intelligence that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload-a tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and impotent…until now.

"Gutsy, ambitious, and completely seductive…a definite must-read."-Booklist

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Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fiction

The Northeast has split from the rest of the U.S. to keep its citizens healthy. All sorts of fried foods and alcohol, including bacon and eggs, are banned. Anyone caught with an illegal food faces jail time because King Mike has decreed it.

That’s where part-time reporter, part-time smuggler Wes Montgomery comes in. He supplements his income by providing meats and treats to citizens in the know who can afford a little something on the side. He plans on sticking with the business until he can retire to the South. But when Wes is caught by the cops and forced to rat on his suppliers or spend a long stretch in the cooler, his life gets a little more complex.

Why I picked it up: This whole book is a clear reference to Michael Bloomberg and the so-called “Nanny State” that is currently in the news because of Bloomberg’s attempted banning of large sodas in New York City. I wanted to see if this satire could hold together.

Why I finished it: It was clever! Information about why the Northeast broke away from the South was dribbled out as part of the plot, without expository lumps. Wes and his girlfriend Hillary have a tortured relationship that centers around sex, bacon, and eggs, sometimes, in reverse order.

There are lots of jabs at media and society delivered via this possible future (Congress is worried about the epidemic of global freezing, so they are debating blowing up the carbon-trapping stations and reinstituting gas-powered vehicles to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere).

I'd give it to: Mike, for his demented, crude, and sarcastic sense of humor. This book is written by his literary brother-from-another-mother. And he’ll like that Wes is forever trying to time his breakfast so that the crisp bacon is ready at the same time as the eggs but that he can never wait because “the bacon was just sitting there, slutty little strips just asking for it.”

latter recommendations >>