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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

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

Detroit Disassembled

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged nonfictioncoffee table book

A stunning collection of photographs taken in post-industrial Detroit that explore abandoned buildings and their decay.

Why I picked it up: I spotted this on the shelf at the library, and was reminded of one of my favorite Detroit photo collections 100 Abandoned Houses. It’s hard not to imagine the lives of those who once occupied these homes.

Why I finished it: These photos are beautiful and heartbreaking. It boggles my mind that a library branch could be abandoned with books left to rot on the new books shelf. Many of these faded and crumbling structures were once magnificent, so I wondered why they couldn’t be put to new uses or recycled for their building materials, at least.

I’d give it to: Chantrelle, who will see hope in some of the images, like the photo of young saplings growing from swollen books in the abandoned school district book depository.

The Drowned Cities

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged science fictioncoming of age

Mahlia and Mouse are two war maggots, human refuse from the never-ending wars that ravage the drowned cities. They team up to survive. On the run from a vengeful militia, they head into the swamps. There they find Tool, a massive, bio-engineered war machine who is apparently dead after killing soldiers and fighting off a giant crocodile. When they attempt to scavenge his body, though, Tool takes them prisoner. 

For the militias, a fighter like Tool would be a game changer, and they set out to capture him, but end up with Mouse instead. The militia make Mouse do unspeakable things to prove his loyalty as a child soldier and join the group. Mahlia, with Tool’s reluctant help, sets out to rescue Mouse physically and mentally, though neither may be possible.

Why I picked it up: Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker was my favorite book of the 375 I read in 2010!  I was ecstatic to get a preview copy of this at the ALA conference in Dallas.

Why I finished it: Tool, one of the dog men mentioned in Ship Breaker, moves to center stage in this book. He heals quickly, has augmented hearing and tactical skills, and the programming that is supposed to make him beholden to a human owner is broken. His voice and actions are the best parts of the book.

I’d give it to: Alex and other teens who will enjoy the scenic brutality of the drowned cities, as well as the non-stop fighting, futuristic and heavy caliber weapons, and how terrible a machete can be. 

A Flight of Angels

Link to this review by snow tagged anthologyfantasyshort stories

When a group of fairy creatures finds a fallen angel lying on the ground, deep in a snowy wood, they aren’t sure what to do. Should they kill him? Heal him? Ignore him? They decide to form a fairy tribunal and each tell the story of why the angel fell to earth. The judge will be a young fairy slave.

Publisher’s Rating: Suggested For Mature Readers

Why I picked it up: I have always enjoyed Holly Black’s dark fantasy fiction, and I love Bill Willingham’s Fables graphic novel series. Since I also enjoy comic anthologies, I was interested to see how the authors would weave their stories together.

Why I finished it: Rebecca Guay’s art was simply too beautiful to walk away from. Her watercolor paintings changed subtly from story to story, just enough to make each tale clearly different from the others. My favorite sections were the monochromatic scenes of the fairy tribunal and the lush, soft-edges of Todd Mitchell’s “The Guardian” which breathed life into the Regency England setting.

I’d give it to: Gretchen usually shies away from fantasy, but the twists and turns in this collection will appeal to her melancholy side.

I Am Maru

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged coffee table bookbiographyhumor

A photographic introduction to the Internet’s most famous cat, Maru, and a behind-the-scenes look at how his human housemate, mugumogu, captures his delightful personality.

Why I picked it up: I’m a big fan of Maru and I waited impatiently for his book to be released in the U.S.

Why I finished it: I learned the sorts of things I love in celebrity biographies: his childhood (he wasn’t as unrelentingly round then), his loves and hates (he loves sitting in the sink and bathtub because they are so cool), and how his greatest love (getting inside boxes) made him a star.

I’d give it to: Edward, because the imagined dialogues between Maru and mugumogu that accompany the photos will remind Edward of the quirks of the odd cats he’s lived with over the years.

The Killer Volume Two

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged thrillergraphic novel

Columbia businessmen hold the killer responsible for business problems one of his hits caused. They insist he do a few jobs for them, at his regular rate. But there are also a few conditions.

Publisher’s Rating: MR (GV N SSC) “This series contains adult content, graphic violence, nudity, and strong sexual content. It is intended for mature readers.”

Why I picked it up: Volume one was great, but it’s really only half a story.

Why I finished it: Jacamon’s use of colors really stood out for me in this book: the water almost glows in the bright beach scenes, inside at night he shifts to blues that emphasize the darkness but still show details, and at the night club the go-go dancers’ iridescent boots make me wish he would draw an issue of Dazzler.

I’d give it to: Marin, because she and her husband both like thrillers, and she’s still mad at me because she didn’t enjoy Killer Elite. I’m hoping she’ll like these two volumes enough that she’ll be willing to see another crappy action movie someday.

The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book Two Stories

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged mysterygraphic novelhumor

Dave has to re-draw bricks for a client’s catalog, but the strange noises from the apartment upstairs won’t let him get any work done. Then Mrs. Woo attends to an emergency at her restaurant and asks Dave to watch her son, Chu. (Dave gives him a box of comics to read.) After Dave heads upstairs for answers and confronts his neighbor, Dave’s only hope for salvation is his stoner friend Paul and his didgeridoo.

In the second adventure, Dave helps Paul find a capybara named John Wesley Harding that escaped from the animal sanctuary where Paul works. After they see mysterious, glowing eyes and dry patches in the wetlands, Dave comes up with a conspiracy theory about the use of black market military micro-wave technology and begins following a prominent real estate developer.

Why I picked it up: I loved Daly’s Dungeon Quest Book One, plus my friend Dan said it was great and loaned me his copy.

Why I finished it: Paul introduces Dave to private eye Joe De Marco for advice on breaking into a real estate developer’s mansion. De Marco shows Dave something very personal. Then he claims it was a test. The whole scene had me laughing out loud.

I’d give it to: Wally, who would love Daly’s stream-of-consciousness style and the funny way the mystery resolves at the end. I think he’d laugh at all of the swearing, too, because he puts up with my potty mouth.


Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelbiography

GB was born in the U.S. after his parents fled Vietnam. On trips to Vietnam with them he meets distant relatives and comes to understand its culture and history. More importantly, he finds out about his family history, including the hardships his parents suffered (and avoided) by emigrating.

Why I picked it up: I saw GB promoting and selling this at every comics show I went to in 2011. Anyone working that hard deserves to have his book read.

Why I finished it: Toward the beginning, there’s a scene in Vietnam where GB and his father go to a chaotic roadside market full of tourist crap. Everyone’s staring at GB because of his shaved head (they think he’s either a monk or a soccer player), and he’s overcome by the noise, the heat, the sounds, and his inability to communicate. The pages reminded me of trips I’ve taken to southeast Asia, and I immediately felt connected to the rest of the book.

I’d give it to: Tom, one of the instructors in my Judo class. He grew up in Vietnam, and I hope this sparks a conversation or two about his childhood. I figure GB’s story will be somewhere between his story and his son’s (who was born here). Plus Tom needs to read some comics, especially since he works for a company known for its animation.

Winged Obsession The Pursuit of the World’s Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfictionmystery

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Ed Newcomer, in his first assignment, investigated a Japanese man, Yoshi Kojima, who was suspected of trafficking in illegal butterflies. At a Los Angeles bug fair, he discovered the man was paranoid and extremely successful. He was quite brazen about selling butterflies and made tens of thousands of dollars a day. Newcomer gained Kojima’s trust and became his U.S. agent to gather evidence. The three-year investigation had its ups and downs. Newcomer was sure he had blown his cover by being too eager, or pushing for specifics about monetary amounts and butterflies offered for sale. There are several bizarre twists, including Kojima offering to send naked pictures of himself and his son and then encouraging Newcomer to do the same.

Why I picked it up: The subtitle caught my eye. It seemed funny and overblown, but I knew there was probably serious ecological damage being done and wanted to know more.

Why I finished it: The unbelievable details just kept coming. “Vacuum cleaner” is a term used to describe a few unsavory characters known for taking thousands of butterflies from endangered areas like the Grand Canyon and Papua New Guinea. The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, one of the butterflies sold by Kojima, has a wingspan of over a foot. (Good specimens can sell for over $8,000!) Some collectors are not satisfied with owning the only known examples of endangered butterflies, and go into their habitats to destroy the vegetation the butterflies feed on, so that the butterflies will die and make their collections more valuable.

I’d give it to: Dusty, who shares my fondness for police procedural shows, and would love watching lawyer-turned-agent Newcomer patiently put together his case. 

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