The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged chapter bookcoming of age

Unshelved comic strip for 11/26/2010
The Dust Bowl Through the Lens How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster by Martin W. Sandler

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coffee table bookhistory

An in-depth look, illustrated with photographs, that bring the people in the midst of the Dust Bowl to life. The economic, social, and cultural impact on the United States spread beyond the agricultural area where crops failed. For example, soil was swept across the country and even out to sea in huge black clouds.

Why I picked it up: I love the gorgeous documentary photographs of the Dust Bowl from the FSA/OWI collections at the Library of Congress and wanted to find out more about their context.

Why I finished it: I have never read a more complete account of how the Dust Bowl started. I was really amazed at the way the New Deal's creation of work for artists, as well as the potential of photography to be artistic while documenting real problems, actually made a difference in how people all over the country reacted to the crisis.

I'd give it to: Marilyn, who can give it to students to show them that The Grapes of Wrath isn't just a book about the Dust Bowl, it's a part of how the world learned about and reacted to a human and environmental tragedy. John, who will love the part about how the economics of wheat changed American agriculture before the disaster. Jason, who will appreciate the way a compassionate government made a difference in people's lives at a crucial time.

Freewheel Volume One by Liz Baillie

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

Jamie’s brother Jack is gone. The foster mother who takes care of them won’t tell her what happened. Jamie finds clues in the trash and then hits the road to find him in Ithaca. On the way she meets a man named Fingerfoot, a scout and resident of a hidden forest camp. A series of undetectable nests like his exist all over the country, including in cities He tells Jamie that the Contessa, a mysterious and possibly mystical being few residents have seen, might be able to help. But to find the Contessa, Jamie first has to face the darkness which took Old George’s leg.

Why I picked it up: When I visit my favorite comic shop in New York, Jim Hanley’s Universe, I shop for small press titles and mini comics that I’ve never seen. This caught my eye last May, during BEA.

Why I finished it: After reading a bit, I realized I knew Baillie’s work. I bought My Brain Hurts from her at Stumptown a few years ago and enjoyed it enough to read this book to the end. But my favorite pages, like the one where Jamie is packing and the Gang Mills’ kids talk about the mysterious Contessa also kept me going.

I'd give it to: My wife’s friend Ellery who likes graphic novels and who hit the road when she was a young woman. She also gave me my favorite bumper sticker.

The Hero of the Ages Mistborn Book Three by Brandon Sanderson

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasy

SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to read The Well of Ascension (Mistborn Book 2), skip this review. (And I highly recommend starting with the second book.)

Ruin, the godlike force that opposes Preservation, wants to end the world. Ash falls from the sky, blackening the landscape and smothering crops. The mists now come in the daytime, blocking the sun and killing some who they touch. Elend Venture has declared himself Emperor to help humanity survive. With the help of his wife, Vin, and his army, he sets about conquering cities to bring people together to resist Ruin.

Why I picked it up: Had to find out how the series ended.

Why I finished it: The metal-based magic in Sanderson’s world is incredibly inventive, and understanding of it builds throughout the series. Some individuals inherit the ability to burn one or all allomantic metals inside their bodies. Each metal grants a unique power (strength, pushing metal, farseeing, etc), while the person’s supply of metal lasts.

I'd give it to: Flemtastic because he seems to prefer well-written fantasy that has more typical elements (dragons, spells, mythological creatures) than this -- I’d love to talk with him about 1) the less traditional elements that make up this novel and 2) one character’s quest for religious faith.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Link to this review by silver tagged biographynonfiction

In 1951, Henrietta was not feeling well. She went into Johns Hopkins, one of the few hospitals that treated blacks. Her doctor found that her cervix had a large, fast-growing tumor.

A cell sample was sent off for diagnosis, and they reproduced easily in the right nutrients. (Before this time, scientists couldn’t grow cells in the lab like this). The only limit to reproducing Henrietta’s cancer cells was the size of the container.

Henrietta died soon after, but her tumor became the source for HeLa cells (from her name, HEnrietta LAcks). They were key in developing the polio vaccine, and continue to be sold for use in medial research.

Why I picked it up: I heard the author talk on NPR. The story was compelling, particularly because I work in the medical profession. I was really impressed with the writer’s persistence -- she first became interested in HeLa cells when she was in the eighth grade.  

Why I finished it: Only very recently did patients get the right to know what is done to them. A virologist theorized that people get cancer from a virus or immunodeficiencies. Without explanation he injected Henrietta’s cells into patients with cancer and observed the results. Then he tried it on healthy prisoners. He did all of this legally, without the consent of any of the people involved, including Henrietta.   Henrietta’s family was uneducated and very poor, and they never received financial compensation, despite the fact that companies continue to profit from her legacy. 

I'd give it to: Genevieve, a physical therapist where I work, who continually works to improve the service she provides to her patients. 

Jane by April Lindner

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageromance

Jane lost her parents to an accident. She strikes out on her own immediately gets a job as a nanny because of her serious demeanor.  She is placed with five-year-old (Abby), the daughter of a rock star (Nico Rathburn) piecing his life back together after years of supermodels, drugs, and tabloid-worthy behavior. Jane and Abby hit it off and, more surprisingly, she becomes friends with Nico, who is much more than his portrayal in the media suggests. Their relationship grows organically, but just when things get serious, Jane feels betrayed by a secret Nico kept from her.

Why I picked it up: My wife and I watch the six hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice every year, and I love smooth retellings like Beastly or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. It was a no-brainer to try this modernization of Jane Eyre.

Why I finished it: Lindner respects the original. My need to nitpick her decisions to protect the classic melted away immediately.  She captures the illogical nature of the romance yet makes it believable with a thousand little details as Nico and Jane get to know each other. Even though I knew where the book was headed, I felt suspense as it approached.

I'd give it to: Jillian, who has started to move beyond Harlequin novels to other books that contain a steamy romance. 

Lost Girls by Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie

Link to this review by billba tagged eroticagraphic novel

Erotica in Graphic Novel form. At an exclusive European resort three women named Wendy, Alice, and Dorothy share the stories of their sexual awakenings, all of which sound increasingly familiar. That's because we have heard these stories before... sort of.

Why I picked it up: Alan Moore is the greatest comics writer of our time. And it was on sale.

Why I finished it: Moore masterfully re-imagines Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Oz, and every time it got too dirty even for me he would pull another piece of literary brilliance out of his hat and pull me back in. The progressive reveal of Dorothy's adventures in Oz, in particular, may make it impossible for me to read those books the same way ever again.

I'd give it to: Rachel for her expert opinion.

The Lost Hero The Heroes of Olympus Book One by Rick Riordan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agefantasy

Jason wakes up on a field trip with his classmates from a school for troubled students. When they are attacked by wind spirits, his belligerent teacher’s pants fall off, revealing goat hooves. Jason discovers that he, his girlfriend Piper, and the handy Leo are demigods with a part in a prophecy unfurling across the world. They must rescue the goddess Hera before her life energy is used to wake an ancient evil that will destroy the world. But Jason has amnesia, Piper is being blackmailed, Leo is cursed, and Zeus has closed off Olympus from outside contact.

Why I picked it up: This book takes place in the world of Percy Jackson and my library is full of middle-schoolers clamoring for this book.

Why I finished it: Riordan’s Aoleus, god of the winds, is a television weathercaster who has gone crazy trying to appease the gods’ requests to have the winds labor for them.  Also Jason, Piper and Leo get into progressively worse and worse situations that grow exponentially in terms of entertainment. I loved the image of them fighting Porphyrion, a 30-foot tall giant who has dragon scales from the legs down.

I'd give it to: Parents looking for a perfectly paced read-aloud because there is a cliff-hanger about every twenty pages.  And Ryan, who would appreciate the focus on the Roman aspects of the Greek gods.

Vordak the Incomprehensible ow to Grow Up and Rule the World by Scott Seegert, John Martin

Link to this review by gigi tagged chapter bookhumorsuperhero

This book is about how to be evil, defeat heroes, and take over the world. about different kinds of secret lairs. (My favorite is the ominously orbiting space station.) It has an evil aptitude exam and instructions on how to pick an evil nickname. Vordak’s Commandments of Incomprehensibility give useful advice all through the book.

Why I picked it up: The subtitle.

Why I finished it: It lists three ways to make a girl scout cry. One of them is to tell her that her uniform makes her butt look big.

I'd give it to: Jonas, who likes to build things sometimes, because he’d like the section on how to design diabolically clever yet extremely slow-acting death traps.

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