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The Family Fang

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


Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of ageparanormalhorror

Alex has a brain tumor. The treatments have been unsuccessful. She decides to forego more treatment and spend a few weeks backpacking alone in the woods while she still can. After a few days in the national park, she is stunned and bloodied by an explosion in the atmosphere. All electronics have been fried and no longer function. The explosion also changed most kids under eighteen into crazed zombies that attempt to kill everyone else.  Alex joins up with an abandoned eight-year-old, Ellie, and Tom, an army veteran with PTSD. But when they find out what now passes for civilization, it might have better if they’d stayed in the forest.

Why I picked it up: It was nominated for my ALA book committee, and I hoped it might be similar to another recent zombie book, Rot and Ruin.

Why I finished it: Alex is a strong character. Dealing with her mortality even before the zombie apocalypse made her wise beyond her years, and the care Alex exhibits for Ellie, despite her brattiness, and Tom (there’s a dash of romance), made it a good read.

I’d give it to: Morgan, who would revel in the gory details that permeate this book, like when Alex stumbles across a violated campground and catches zombies snacking on campers in their sleeping bags.

Bond Girl

Link to this review by billba tagged literary

When Alex Garrett was a little girl she spent a day at work with her daddy on Wall Street, and ever since then she has wanted to work there. She gets her chance when she’s hired to work in the bonds department at Cromwell Pierce. At first there’s money and romance, but then reality hits in the form of creepy guys and the financial meltdown of 2008.

Why I picked it up: My dad worked in finance for many years, and I was interested in the female perspective on this testosterone-fueled workplace. It’s a novel written by a former bond trader, so I assume everything in the book happened in some form or another.

Why I finished it: Alex’s group has a hilarious traditions of pranks. When she makes a bad trade she is punished by being forced to pick up a giant (and I mean giant) wheel of cheese.

I’d give it to: Mary, who owns an investment company in Seattle. I met her on a flight while I happened to be reading this book. I’d love to hear her stories — she is not only a woman but is also black, and Wall Street isn’t known for its diversity.

Dead Mann Walking A Hessius Mann Novel

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged paranormalmystery

Hessius Mann was a police officer before he was convicted of murdering his wife. After his execution, DNA evidence exonerated him, so he was revived. Now he’s a chak, one of the many undead. He can’t be a cop anymore (his kind are barely tolerated), but he can use what brain power he has left as a private detective.

He’s hired to find a chak who inherited a fortune, and then some things about his employer stop adding up.

Why I picked it up: The promise of an undead noir piqued my interest, and Petrucha’s writing in Teen Inc made me think he could pull it off.

Why I finished it: Mann is the best kind of flawed hero. He’s not just dealing with the dark parts of his past, but also with the threat of going feral. (When a chak loses all hope in himself and the world, he becomes a howling inhuman thing that destroys everything in his path.) Keeping his secretary from relapsing into her drug habit keeps him connected to living, and he finds more connections to the world as he investigates an increasingly horrifying series of crimes.

I’d give it to: Craig, a science fiction reader with high standards, because the “what if” aspect of being able to bring back the dead is perfectly integrated into the story, with all of the details thought out.

The Last Run A Queen and Country novel

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged thrillergraphic novel

Tara Chase has been in the Special Operations Section of the British Secret Intelligence Service for a record ten years. She hands in her resignation and requests a transfer. But as the most experienced agent available, she must go on one last mission and bring a high-level defector out of Iran.

Why I picked it up: Queen and Country is an excellent series comprised of eleven graphic novels and three prose novels (of which this is the third).

Why I finished it: Chase is a mother and has to leave her sick daughter at home. The mission is risky, so she’s not certain if she’ll make it home. This ramped up the tension I felt, especially later when the mission goes to hell and the bullets start flying.

I’d give it to: Sameer. He recently asked me to recommend a few well-written thrillers, so I’m going to loan him the whole series. (He already likes The Sandbaggers, which inspired Rucka, so I know he’ll like these.)


Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of age

South African Nick van der Swart is heading off to his mandatory two-year term as a soldier during the decades-long Angolan border war. He has a huge secret: he’s gay. If anyone finds out, it could cost him everything he holds dear, including his life. The drill sergeants’ number one insult is to call a trainee a “Moffie” (a homosexual, in South African slang).  As he prepares for war via a brutal training regimen he makes close friends, and must decide whether to reveal his orientation or continue hiding it. The death of a fellow trainee who was also struggling with his personal life helps Nick decide to live with integrity.

Why I picked it up: Recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust, and who knows I like fiction about military life.  And ever since reading The Power of One, I’ve had a special place in my heart for books from South Africa.

Why I finished it: The author has said this story is a thin fictionalization of his life as a gay man in South Africa’s armed forces, giving moments in the story extra poignancy. Nick struggles because of a sadistic drill instructor who makes him train until he passes out. When two men are caught kissing, they are railroaded out of the army because, as the other soldiers are told, it would be a waste of a bullet to execute them.

I’d give it to: Clint, because Nick’s description of guard duty and bed-making drills would remind him of his own boot camp experiences. Caroline, because she would love the peek at South African life just before apartheid was abolished. 

Nipper 1963 - 1964

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged humorcomic strips

Two years worth of Sunday funnies from Canadian cartoonist Wright’s family comic strip featuring the antics of two young sons.

Why I picked it up: I’ve been slowly working my way through the first oversized volume of The Collected Doug Wright, a look at his life and career. Couldn’t pass up a chance to look at some of his best work.

Why I finished it: Wordless comics are difficult to write, and these are simply wonderful. They also combine two things I love in comics: they use only one color (red) in addition to black and, to great effect, do not use black borders around the panels.

I’d give it to: Todd. He hasn’t enjoyed Family Circus for years. These comics look different enough that they won’t set off any alarm bells, but their tone might re-ignite a love for innocent comics (that feel like, and in this case are) from a bygone decade.

Rules of Civility

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged romancehistorical fiction

Born and raised in Prohibition era Brooklyn, Katey Kontent is both bookish and beautiful. In 1938, at the age of twenty-five, Katey and her friend Eve room together in New York, working as secretaries. Though they watch every nickel closely, they have the intelligence and brio to go anywhere, and the city is their playground. Soon they are rivals for the attentions of the handsome and wealthy Theodore “Tinker” Grey.  However, a car accident with Tinker at the wheel leaves Eve scarred and crippled. Feeling responsible, Tinker takes her in and helps her recuperate, and soon they become lovers. Katey wonders about Eve’s motives and Tinker’s true affections, but she remains their friend and is soon rubbing elbows with Manhattan’s upper classes. In the spirit of the times, Katey takes risks and finds her way in the world with few regrets. 

Why I picked it up: I reserved this book months ago at the library and can’t remember why. Sometimes I just have to trust that my earlier self knew what he was doing.

Why I finished it: Katey has quick insights about people, and can size up a person in a paragraph. Because of these and the book’s crisp dialogue, every character has a distinct personality and seems real, even a saleswoman or the guy running a newsstand who only appear on a single page.

I’d give it to: Mel, who loved the depictions of nineteenth century New York life (and food) in The Alienist, would love the Manhattan streets, food, and cocktails in this book. 

The White Devil

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged paranormalcoming of age

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Taylor, recently kicked out of boarding school in Connecticut under a cloud of shame, is sent off to an all boys school near London. The prestigious Harrow School is famous for its alumni, including Winston Churchill and Lord Byron. He is given the role of Byron in the school play due to his uncanny resemblance to the poet. Andrew soon suffers from frighteningly real visions of a sickly ghost, and then discovers the body of a fellow student. The ghost is John Harness, Byron’s spurned lover, who attended Harrow 200 years earlier. John’s spirit is convinced that Andrew is his Byron and wants nothing more than to get him back.

Why I picked it up: Evan’s first novel, A Good and Happy Child, was about a seriously disturbed child possessed by a demon. I knew his second book would be just as awesome.

Why I finished it: John’s method for killing off Byron’s/Andrew’s presumed lovers is fascinating and gross (hint: it involves his TB-infected bloody phlegm). And I would love to have a hardcore librarian like Dr. Kahn on my side when fighting off the affections of a jealous spirit.

I’d give it to: Amy, who spent her childhood at the same boarding school/summer camp that I did for seven years, and grew up on dorm room ghost stories. She’ll appreciate the “school on the hill” setting as well as the stereotypes synonymous with single-sex institutions.

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