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Talent Is Overrated What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by guest tagged science

Amelia Rules! The Whole World’s Crazy

Link to this review by sharonlevin tagged graphic novelhumorcoming of age

Nine-year-old Amelia Louise McBride’s parents are getting divorced. She has had to move from her Manhattan apartment to a small house in “Nowhere, Pennsylvania” with her mom and aunt.

Amelia and her new friends, Reggie, Rhonda and Pajamaman form GASP (Gathering of Awesome Super Pals) to help deal with the realities of tween life like the bullies who give him wedgies. (Of course, running around in superhero costumes is like wearing a “give wedgie here” sign.)

In one story, the friends stage an operation to determine whether or not Santa is real. Pajamaman hopes he is, because Santa is the only way he’ll get a Red Captain Ninja for Christmas. Through the Amelia’s generosity, Pajamaman’s belief in Santa remains secure.

Why I picked it up: Sasha, my 13-year-old and fellow comic lover handed them to me, “These are great.”

Why I finished it: Tweens, teens, and those of us who remember those times all too well can easily relate to Amelia.  The terrors of gym class, crazy teachers with anger management issues, and Amelia’s dismay at realizing the she’s in the ‘Nerds’ group makes living through similar situations (or having lived through them) easier and amusing.

I’d give it to: Older Babymouse fans or kids who feel they’ve outgrown it (although I never will). And to Maggie, a smart kid who got turned off of reading by an evil teacher who didn’t like the books she chose to read.

The Sharing Knife Beguilement, Volume One

Link to this review by billba tagged fantasy

Fawn Bluefield left her family farm, heading towards city of Glassforge to find a new life. But life outside the farm is more dangerous than she knows. The sorcerer-soldiers called Lakewalkers are the stuff of legend, but they are also very real, and guard farmers from the threat of immortal “malices.” Fawn finds herself in the middle of a battle she never wanted, side-by-side with the strangely attractive Lakewalker Dag.

Why I picked it up: Gene and I needed to get our parking validated at Seattle’s University Book Store. I love Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series, so I picked this up even though I hate most Fantasy.

Why I finished it: The relationship between Fawn and Dag is so cute! Now I need to make room in my bookshelf for the rest of the series.

I’d give it to: The teenagers in the Seattle Homeschool Group. They’re a bunch of romantic nerds and they’ll eat it up.

The Color of Earth
The Color of Water
The Color of Heaven

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novelhistorical fiction

Ehwa and her mother live in a traditional Korean county village sometime in the past.

Her mother, a widow, runs a tavern and has to put up with gossip about her sex life and come ons from her customers. She falls for a traveling salesman, an artist, and waits for his infrequent visits to her village.

Ehwa finds out about the difference between boys and girls after seeing two boys having a peeing contest. As the story continues from book to book, she matures from a little girl with a crush on a young monk to a young woman deeply in love. Friendly, honest conversations with her mother about sex and love continue throughout.

Why I picked it up: First Second’s Mark Siegel, creator of the amazing Sailor Twain and other books, told me about these before the English editions were published. My wife, Silver, a huge Kim Dong Hwa fan from way back, immediately ordered them from a Korean bookstore online. After they arrived, she and my mother-in-law hurriedly read them. My mother-in-law said they reminded her of when she was a little girl.

Why I finished it: The series is beautiful. The art is slightly cartoony and then suddenly the characters find themselves in a dazzling, realistic yet idealized country settings that express how Koreans see their country. The parallel stories of Ehwa, her mother, and her friend Bongsoon finding love work well together.

I’d give it to: Anyone who liked Lat’s Kampung Boy, another graphic novel with a strong sense of place, and the members of my family who visited Korea when I lived there but didn’t stay long enough to get to know anything beyond the 40 story apartment buildings and the traffic.

Dark Life

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fiction

Ty and his family were among the first settlers to choose the dark life 400 feet underwater. Caught between the government and a group of outlaws, they farm fish in the desolate ocean. As the Seablite gang’s raids become more brazen and violent, the government expects the settlers to catch the gang or the settlement will be dissolved. When Gemma, a topsider girl, comes down to the main station to find her brother, she meets Ty the two get in real trouble with both the gang and the government.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to read about how an entire community would function underwater, especially the sacrifices and new daily routines that would be needed to survive.

Why I finished it: The details I wanted were there. Also, Ty and Gemma’s motivations for getting involved in dangerous situations are believable and compelling. The leader of the Seablite gang is truly scary. I wanted to know how Ty and Gemma were going to get away from him without losing everything and revealing Ty’s dark skill.

I’d give it to: Dzuy, who likes frontier survival stories where characters continuously face death. Hi-Lo readers like Mike who need constant action to keep them reading. Grandkids in the Cousteau family.

Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E. Volume 1 - This is What They Want

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged graphic novelsuperherohumor

A superhero team gathered to fight terrorists finds out that the corporate parent of the super-secret crime fighting organization that recruited them is actually an evil corporation intent on world domination. They do the only thing a team of heroes can do in that situation: go rogue and kick some serious butt.

Why I picked it up: Warren Ellis is a perverted genius who wants to corrupt us all. He’s great.

Why I finished it: The heroes are each fairly flawed, especially Captain ******, who was given his amazing powers while staggering drunk in Brooklyn, an event that was quickly followed by vomiting and accidentally killing the superbeings who just wanted him to save the world. They really enjoy that their jobs involve violence and explosions. Plus the bad guys are outlandishly bad (they weaponize koalas) and the dialogue made me snort.

I’d give it to: This is one of the first books I thought of for the Books Teen Boys Would Read (If They Knew They Existed), but I think any teen ready to be brought into the army of strangeness would like it. I would also give it to anyone who has to be nice to little old ladies while knowing in their hearts that they were made to Kill All Humans.

Pugs God’s Little Weirdos

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged humorcomic strips

A collection of strips from Kellett’s webcomic Sheldon featuring Oso, Sheldon’s insane, jelly-filled pug.

Why I picked it up: My sister Traci has a new pug, Petunia, that she insists is a member of her family. My former boss had one, too, she didn’t talk about it as much as my sister does. (When I see pictures of them, all I think about is that scene in the remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers where the pug has a human head.)

Why I finished it: It convinced me my perceptions of pugs are reality. See a pug take on a snail, a pug with gas, how to measure a pug’s interest, and pug training.

I’d give it to: Traci, as part of an intervention I’m planning. Charlene, because it would look good next to the Catbert doll in her office.

Where Men Win Glory The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biographyhistory

While most of us ran to Wal-Mart to get American flag stickers for our cars after 9/11, All-Pro safety Pat Tillman left the NFL to join the Army with his brother. Sent to Iraq and then Afghanistan, the outspoken, idiosyncratic Tillman was not shy about sharing his opinions about the war effort. After an ambush, his superior officer made a decision which led to Tillman’s death by friendly fire. The Bush Administration and the Army leadership made his death into public relations gold by talking about how Tillman died in a firefight trying to protect his unit and his country. Weeks later, though, the facts coming out did not fit the picture that had been drawn for the American public. His family joined the fight to find out exactly what happened.

Why I picked it up: I remember Pat Tillman from the NFL, and how he left millions on the table to join the military. I wanted details on how the Bush administration and the Army brass obfuscated the details of his death to maximize his PR value.

Why I finished it: Pat Tillman was one of a kind, not just because of his decision to leave the NFL to serve his country, but in everything he did leading up to that decision. I enjoyed reading of his childhood, especially about a violent incident which landed him in juvenile hall and changed the course of his life. He was plain spoken and ornery at times. He was his own man, and his death was co-opted in a way that would have disgusted him.

I’d give it to: Rick, who struggled within the military’s bureaucracy during his service. News watchers like Mary who don’t question what they see on TV. Tom Clancy fans who want the real the intensity and details of battle.

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