<< prior recommendations

Recommendations for Friday, August 15, 2014

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him by David Henry, Joe Henry

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged biography

Unshelved strip for 8/15/2014

@bookblrb: Richard Pryor became a breakthrough comedian when he stopped telling jokes and started telling the truth.

The Lost Code: (The Atlanteans Book One) by Kevin Emerson

Link to this review by rose tagged coming of agescience fiction

Earth is in tatters. The seas have risen, the ozone layer is shredded, and just being out in the sun is dangerous. Humans live in underground habitats or massive bio domes modeled to look like the earth’s surface once did. Owen Parker’s life is not ideal; his father is often sick and his mom left when he was young. So when he gets invited to Camp Eden for the summer, he accepts. Everything is normal there until, when he nearly drowns, he grows gills. He meets a few more people like him one night when he goes swimming. He is accepted into their group and they show him the ropes, though none of them know why they have gills.

He begins to learn about a plan that the camp director is involved in, Project Elysium, that could potentially destroy the earth. The bio domes were actually created to save a handful of select humans, and the summer camp is a way to find kids like Owen and his friends.

Why I picked it up: It was given to me as a gift for Christmas. I love dystopian books! Plus, I’ve always thought the idea of Atlantis is pretty awesome, so I was intrigued by how that fit in.

Why I finished it: Owen changed throughout the book. He came to Camp Eden a quiet boy who just accepted his life, even if he didn't like it. He slowly gained a voice and found his backbone. He stood up to the people who bullied him, and became more daring about disobeying rules and sneaking around. By the end he was dodging bullets and saving people.

Readalikes: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, since Owen and the hero of that book, Katniss, are both rebellious teenagers screwing with adults’ big plans for the world.

@bookblrb: The earth is an environmental disaster so Owen lives underground. One day, when he nearly drowns, he grows gills.

Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard

"Maddy Kettle... looks fantastic: every panel exudes quirky, gorgeous atmosphere. ” -- Glen Weldon, NPR

"Quirky, beautifully illustrated, and frankly looks like it's going to be an instant classic. Don't miss it." -- Rob Bricken, io9

Eleven-year-old Maddy loved working in her parents' bookstore... especially when joined by her pet flying toad Ralph. But that was before the mysterious Thimblewitch turned her mom & dad into kangaroo rats!

Now Maddy's on the adventure of a lifetime. To save her parents, she'll need to sneak past an army of spider-goblins, scarecrow warriors, and much more... Fortunately, an assortment of new friends await, including the cloud cartographers Harry and Silvio, a bear and raccoon who explore the world in their moon-balloon. They'll help her along the way, but in the end, the fate of everyone will depend on Maddy's courage, compassion, and creativity.

Full of surprises and stunning artwork, Maddy Kettle is a truly magical debut for Spectrum-Award-winning cartoonist Eric Orchard. Climb aboard and let your imagination soar!

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

This explosive expose reveals how the New York Stock Exchange and forty other exchanges are systematically rigged against smaller traders, taking money from the people they are supposed to serve. High Frequency Traders (HFT's) are computer-driven firms that make trades involving billions of stocks per day, their “flash” trades measured in milliseconds. By physically placing their equipment close to the markets' servers (at great cost), they are able to intercept orders, buy stock at lower prices, and resell it to the original customer at a slightly higher price. It might be a penny per stock, but with hundreds of millions of transactions a day, it adds up to billions of dollars per year. One company dug a secret route from Chicago to New York, as straight as possible to avoid slowing the fiber optic lines, to cut milliseconds off the speed of existing networks. Pipeline space was sold to trading firms for millions so that they could exploit minute differences in prices between markets in Chicago and New York. Dark pools maintained by large Wall Street banks are supposed to only be used for trade between a bank’s customers, and don't require reporting the trades' details. But dark pools are being used nearly half the time, even if there is a better price on the free market. Brad Katsuyama of the Royal Bank of Canada was the first to notice that firms were exploiting the slowness of his connection to the markets and spread the word on how the scam worked. Brad's company wrote a program to slow down their orders so they arrived at the same time at all forty exchanges, hamstringing the HFT's. He risked his career to create a new dark pool and HFT-free exchange (now active and trading as the IEX exchange) with a small team of believers who wanted to work with him to bring the markets back into alignment.

Why I picked it up: I have read several other books by Lewis, The Blind Side, Moneyball and Liar's Poker. They were complex, well-explained, highly dramatic, and real.

Why I finished it: I found it fascinating that Wall Street had gone from a bunch of hysterical traders yelling out orders on the floor of the exchange to impersonal machines. The trading companies are dependent on having the fastest connections to make money, so they are always purchasing new equipment, software, and pipeline space to keep up with the each other. It was sobering to see how average traders get fleeced. I am now eager to follow the growth of the most transparent and fair exchange: IEX.

It's perfect for: Will, my friend who always talks about his stock portfolio. Because he sometimes day-trades, he would recognize the examples that Lewis uses as he exposes each type of high-speed scam. Part of the problem on Wall Street is that some of the trading strategies are so complex that even the traders don't know the mechanics of how they actually work. Several traders quoted in the book said that making money on Wall Street was all about the algorithms (programmed mathematical formulas for computers to follow), not knowledge of firms and strategies.

@bookblrb: How the NYSE and other exchanges are rigged against smaller traders.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, Julian Crouch

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agescience fiction

Standish Treadwell is different from the other kids in school. He can’t read or write or spell his own name. In the totalitarian Motherland, it’s not good to be different. Impure kids like Standish are usually sent away. He needs to keep his head down and not run afoul of the informers. When the bullies beat him up, no one cares. The teachers are expected to be cruel. He’s just a kid who lives in a bombed out neighborhood in the wretched Zone Seven.

Standish briefly had a friend. Hector and his parents moved in next door to Standish and his grandfather, who took them in and helped them survive. But now Hector and his parents have disappeared, which is as good as dying.

A rocket from the Motherland is on its way to the moon. This is a demonstration of the Motherland’s superiority and purity. Standish also knows it's a lie because one of the astronauts is hiding in his basement.

Why I picked it up: My daughter and I were reading another book aloud, and it really wasn’t going well. The sentence structures were just too weird to speak. So we looked through the books on our shelf and read the first pages of a few of them aloud. This sounded like it was the transcript of a kid talking.

Why I finished it: The only way to get ahead in the Motherland is through absolute loyalty, which includes informing on others. It’s clear at the beginning that Standish and his grandfather aren’t merely being watched, they’re under intense, round-the-clock surveillance. If they’re caught doing anything wrong, that’s it. The tension increases as the importance of the secret they’re keeping is revealed.

It's perfect for: Dave. He studied entomology, so Crouch’s illustrations that show the life cycle of a fly (maggots and all) in great detail will be a good hook. (These reinforce Standish’s tale, in which everyone who is different is “maggot meat,” and they would probably seem allegorical to people smarter and more poetic than me.)

@bookblrb: Standish is different -- he can’t read or write. In the Motherland, that will get him sent away.

Untamed Hearts: The Viper by Kele Moon

Marcos Rivera is a fighter. A gang member. Someone who has seen the dark side of humankind and survived. He has lost family and gained enemies. He has stolen cars and destroyed hearts, stripping one for money and the other for pleasure. His past is haunted and his future is bleak.

Until her.

Katie Foster is a high school history teacher. Smart, strong, and sexy. She is a woman Marcos shouldn’t want. Shouldn’t touch. Shouldn’t love. He met her in Garnet, a backwards, hick town that’s the last place in the world he wants to be, but he finds himself going back, all for a taste of the forbidden.

Katie represents all that is good in the world, and Marcos knows he’s nothing but trouble for her perfect life. He fights and he screws. He commits crimes and he breaks the rules. He will never change and he will never escape his gang lifestyle.

Or can he?

What happens when two different people from two very different walks of life risk it all by giving into the passion that threatens to consume both of them? Can a woman who only knows how to play it safe give her heart to a man who lives hard and loves harder?

Can she survive The Viper?

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

The Body in the Woods by April Henry

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of agemystery

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby are loners in their Portland, Oregon, high school. They are also cadets on the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team. An alert takes them out of school for an afternoon to look for a mentally ill man lost in Forest Park. As uncertified members of the team, they are given the least likely trail to search. Ruby takes the lead, and soon Nick and Alexis fall behind. As Nick hurries to catch up, Alexis sees a body in the underbrush. Thinking it must be the young man they’re looking for, she calls his name. When there is no response, she looks closer and sees the body is that of a young woman, and it is very still. Nick radios for help, and the three become prime witnesses to a murder. After the three identify a man they passed on the trail, he is arrested and charged with the murder. This is the third homeless girl killed in Portland in a month. The police see no pattern, but Ruby enlists the help of her new friends to discover if the suspect is guilty, and who else might be murdering homeless girls.

Why I picked it up: I’m always looking for a good murder mystery. This one appealed to me because of the search and rescue aspect, which I know little about, and because it takes place in nearby Portland, one of my favorite places.

Why I finished it:  While helping Ruby try to piece together proof that there is a serial killer loose, the three are also dealing with powerful issues of self-esteem. Ruby, logical and outspoken, is trying to curb the bluntness that turns people away from her. Nick, fatherless since his dad died in Iraq, needs to prove that he is as brave as his father was. Alexis is trying to cope with a mentally ill mom off her meds. She is ashamed of where and how she lives, and hides her personal life from everyone. It’s compelling to follow these three as they grow individually and as a team.

It's perfect for: Kurt, a hiker, who will enjoy the bird watching throughout the story, and the surprising impact it has on what happens.

@bookblrb: Three Search and Rescue cadets discover the body of a homeless girl, the third such killing in a month.

Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographynonfiction

Eddie Rickenbacker was part of the birth of automobiles as racing vehicles, not only as a mechanic but also later as a very successful driver. Then, wanting to serve the U.S. in World War I, he volunteered for the fledgling air corps. Hurriedly sent over to Europe, American air crews in second-rate French biplanes flew over the front on observation missions. As soon as they were able to mount guns on their planes, they began taking part in dog fights, and even faced German Ace Manfred von Richthofen's infamous Flying Circus. Rickenbacker distinguished himself as a pilot and as a leader; his squadron made the most verified kills among American fliers. He ended the war as a bonafide hero, the American Ace of Aces, which meant he had the most verified kills of any American pilot. Encouraged on his return to the States to cash in on his wartime celebrity, Rickenbacker refused. He wanted to get to work.  He even started an eponymous car company that produced luxurious, high-powered cars. His car company failed, but he went to work for Eastern Airlines as a manager. Later Rickenbacker led a group that bought the airline and established him as company president.  He immediately spent heavily to modernize the planes, making Eastern a major player in the burgeoning airline industry.

Why I picked it up: I vaguely knew the name Eddie Rickenbacker, and when I saw the subtitle, I was hooked.

Why I finished it: Rickenbacker had serious drive. He refused to give up in any situation, including during two near-fatal plane crashes. In one, pilots had to ditch their plane in the South Pacific. Eight men survived in two rafts for over twenty days. Rickenbacker helped by cheering them on and chewing them out when they wanted to give up. And when a seagull landed on his head while he was sleeping, he grabbed it, divided it up evenly between the men, and used the guts for fishing bait. In the other crash, he was seriously injured and spent the night hanging upside-down in his seat, trapped in the wreckage, soaked in gasoline, one eye out of its socket, his skull crushed, an elbow and a hip shattered. After he was finally taken to a hospital, doctors put him in the hallway and operated on other, less-injured patients first, thinking he was going to die at any moment.

It's perfect for: My friend Chris, who works for Boeing. While his planes are much different today, he would appreciate the level of detail that Ross brings to describing the under-powered, cloth-winged biplanes that Rickenbacker and all Allied pilots flew at the beginning World War I, as well as the Spads that came later and allowed the Allies to control the skies. He would also admire the courage the fliers exhibited, knowing that when they left the base, there was a good chance they wouldn't make it back to home -- in one three-month stretch, Rickenbacker's eighty-man unit lost forty-one pilots.

@bookblrb: Eddie Rickenbacker was a mechanic, race driver, WWI ace, automobile manufacturer, and president of Eastern Airlines.

Will It Waffle?: 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron by Daniel Shumski

How many great ideas begin with a nagging thought in the middle of the night that should disappear by morning, but doesn’t? For Daniel Shumski, it was: Will it waffle? Hundreds of hours, countless messes, and 53 perfected recipes later, that answer is a resounding: Yes, it will! Steak? Yes! Pizza? Yes! Apple pie? Emphatically yes.

And that’s the beauty of being a waffle iron chef—waffling food other than waffles is not just a novelty but an innovation that leads to a great end product, all while giving the cook the bonus pleasure of doing something cool, fun, and vaguely nerdy (or giving a reluctant eater—your child, say—a great reason to dig in). Waffled bacon reaches perfect crispness without burned edges, cooks super fast in the two-sided heat source, and leaves behind just the right amount of fat to waffle some eggs. Waffled Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Pressed Potato and Cheese Pierogi, and Waffled Meatballs all end up with dimples just right for trapping their delicious sauces. A waffle iron turns leftover mac ’n’ cheese into Revitalized Macaroni and Cheese, which is like a decadent version of a grilled cheese sandwich with its golden, buttery, slightly crisp exterior and soft, melty, cheesy interior.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged literary

Rebecca Winter was the darling of art photography thirty years ago. Now, divorced, professionally adrift, and in financial stress due to her aging parents’ care, she sublets her fancy Manhattan apartment and escapes to a run-down cabin in upstate New York. Slowly and carefully, she adjusts to rural living, forging a tentative friendship with chatty café owner Sarah and a possible romance with taciturn roofer Jim. Rebecca finds a series of small wooden crosses scattered mysteriously throughout the woods and begins taking photographs -- photographs that will both draw her closer to and push her away from Jim.

Why I picked it up: I’ve read every Quindlen novel since her first, Object Lessons, and never been disappointed. Her insights into the human condition, with all our clumsiness and strivings toward grace, are keen and tender. Yes, it’s a novel about a woman in late middle age finding self-worth and purpose. But it’s Anna Quindlen, so you know you’re in good hands.

Why I finished it: I loved the stifling friendliness of Rebecca’s new hometown, the gobsmacking indifference of her dementia-suffering mother, and the Sam Shepard hunkiness of Jim. But mostly I loved reading about her dog, a not-quite stray who adopts Rebecca when she most needs companionship.

It's perfect for: My running buddy Joe and my church friend Judy, both of whom are hardcore hikers. In Rebecca’s fumbling treks behind her cabin, Quindlen beautifully captures the silence and complexity of the woods: how the light shifts, how the landscape changes subtly over time, and how the noises are both startling and comforting.

@bookblrb: After her life falls apart, art photographer Rebecca Winter tries to adjust to life in upstate New York.

Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged cookbooknonfiction

Amster-Burton, his wife, and his eight-year-old daughter, Iris, spend a month in Tokyo eating their way through the best, worst, and most Japanese foods they can.

Why I picked it up: Both my mom and dad laughed their way through this book-- they ate their way through England and France with my brother and me, and recognized our enthusiasm in Iris.

Why I finished it: It was the best kind of foodie writing because it had a Dave Barry-ish sense of humor. Amster-Burton thrills to the amazingly good food at every 7-11 and eats the tastiest vegetables, grilled skewers of every part of the chicken (even the tail), and succulent broiled eel while his daughter devours a fried and salted eel spine.

I didn't pick up on the fact that this is a self-published Kickstarter project until the acknowledgments at the end. Amster-Burton did an amazing job, and chose a great copy editor and cover designer.

It's perfect for: Members of my tour group for my upcoming trip to Japan should mark the best foods and restaurants with Post-Its. Every chapter had something in it I wanted to eat, and Amster-Burton insists there is nothing in this world like real Japanese negi. (They should also read some of the books he recommends in the bibliography.)

@bookblrb: An American family spends a month in Tokyo eating the best, worst, and most Japanese foods they can find.

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novel

When Deshi and his older brother, Wei, have a fight, Wei is accidentally hit by a car and killed. Deshi leaves his post on a military base to go tell their parents. His mother insists that he go find the dead body of a woman to become a corpse bride for Wei, so that he won’t be alone in the other world.

After trying a matchmaker and a bit of grave robbing, Deshi is considering whether or not he’ll have to kill a girl to get a bride for his brother. He sees Lily, who is outside her farmhouse to get water for tea. She wants to flee her father and his problems -- when she asks him to take her to Beijing, they hit the road together. But Deshi secretly continues to try to find a female corpse, and he also continues to consider whether or not he’ll have to kill Lily, for his brother’s sake, despite his attraction to her.

Why I picked it up: Novgorodoff’s art knocked me out in in Refresh, Refresh and Slow Storm. The cover (and especially the amazing back cover) promised more of the same.

Why I finished it: The watercolor backgrounds and fill colors of some details really create a sense of place and draw my eye to their irregularity. The contrast between them and the flatter, more regular colors and inks used to illustrate the characters and other features give Novgorodoff complete control of where my eye roams across the page.

It's perfect for: Fans of foreign horror films, like The Host, a Korean monster movie. I like films from other countries because they seem to defy the rules and have a very different narrative structure than American films. Early in The Host, a young kid is killed, which is usually a big no-no in mainstream American horror films. It showed me that the film was going to be unpredictable, and gave a sense that anything could happen (it did) in the rest of the film. This narrative has that same sense. I had no idea at all where it was going but, like the best of stories, the end was entirely satisfying.

@bookblrb: Deshi has to find the corpse of a woman so that his dead brother won’t be alone in the other world.

latter recommendations >>