Millennium by John Varley

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

Unshelved comic strip for 6/29/2012
LIE by Caroline Bock

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agemystery

Every Saturday night for months, Jimmy, varsity sports star and natural born leader, has taken a rotating crew of buddies out beaner-hopping (chasing “Mexicans” out of their section of Long Island).

Last Saturday night he took his best friend Sean with him. They assaulted two brothers from El Salvador. Jimmy put one in the ICU with a baseball bat. Jimmy’s girlfriend, Skylar, and her friend, Lisa, followed them and witnessed the crime.

As the police investigate, no one will tell them about what Jimmy’s been up to or what really happened that night. “Everybody knows. Nobody’s talking.”

Why I picked it up: Caroline wrote to tell me about this book, her debut YA novel, and offered to send me a copy.

Why I finished it: It’s told in short, compelling chapters through various characters who relate what they know and don’t want to admit they know. I wanted to scream at all of the teens, particularly at Skylar for covering for Jimmy. But she was a very realistic character -- she met Jimmy, who was new to her high school, shortly after her mom died, and he became her protector.

I'd give it to: My wife, Silver, when she needs a good cry. She’d be moved by the parts about the victims’ mother trying to get an emergency visa to the U.S. to get to the hospital to see her sick son. And for Tracy, who would recognize herself a bit in Lisa, who values her friends over the truth and makes it her mission to make sure no one talks to the police.

Rasputin's Bastards by David Nickle

An old woman known as Babushka foresees her ending through the harbour ice, in the giant eye of a dying kraken. Ex-KGB agent Alexei Kilodovich is dragged onto a ship full of criminals, and with them embarks on a journey that changes everything he knows about himself. And an old warrior named Kolyokov gathers the youngest members of his talented family. They are more beautiful and terrible than any who came before them. They are Rasputin’s bastards. And they will remake the world.

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The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Link to this review by danritchie tagged coming of ageparanormal

New Covington is a city with lots of old buildings, poor people, and vampires. High walls keep out the diseased, mutated rabids, and another wall surrounds the Inner City where the vampires live. In between are the humans who give blood twice a month for the civilized vampires.

Allie is an unregistered human with a special talent for scrounging food and a hatred for the vampires that caused her bloodcow mother’s death. When she discovers a wealth of old canned goods outside the city walls, she and her three companions decide it is worth risking the rabids and marauding gangs to retrieve the stash. But as they return to the city they are attacked and her companions all killed. Allie lies mortally wounded when a stranger appears and offers her a choice: she can die or be reborn as a vampire.

Why I picked it up: On the cover a young woman is crying tears of blood.

Why I finished it: After Allie becomes a vampire, she is sent out of the city by her mentor and joins a group of humans searching for a haven called Eden. She needs to hide what she is as she struggles to cling to her mortal memories and feelings, especially for the idealistic leader of the group, Zeke.

I'd give it to: Tessa, who will relish its Twilight meets dystopia feel, and Allie’s perspective and constant torment at trying to control her fangs.

Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2012 Edition by Paula Guran

Take a journey into darkness. Visit places where one might expect to find the dark—in a house where love was shared and lost, a milky-white pool in an Australian cave, the trenches of World War I, the deep woods. You would not be surprised to find the dark in a cheap apartment on the wrong side of town, down mean streets, under a gallows-tree, along dank passageways, trapped underground, in the neat future, or among the mysteries of old New Orleans. Dunes, lakes, isolated cabins, old books, and Old West saloons—well, the darkness might easily be there. But we’ve also found locales you thought were safe from shadows—at rib joint with good blues playing, inside an old wardrobe, on a baseball diamond, in an overly warm house, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel...

Travel into the best dark fantasy and horror from 2011: more than 500 pages of tales from some of today's best-known writers of the fantastique as well new talents—stories that will take you to a diverse assortment of dark places.

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The Final Leap Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge by John Bateson

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

There is something about the Golden Gate Bridge that attracts suicidal people. They clamber over the four-foot tall barrier, stand on the spurs of iron that jut from the bridge’s side, and jump to their deaths. When they hit the water 250 feet below, they are going so fast the surface may as well be pavement.

Bateson delicately handles the stories of families who had a jumper, survivors (thirty-two and counting), those who work to rescue or talk down people who are trying to end their lives, and those who recover the bodies. He also discusses the research about whether a suicide barrier would decrease the number of deaths by suicide, or if suicidal individuals would simply choose another method.  Bateson’s major contention is that the 1500 deaths that have occurred since the opening of the bridge in 1937 would not be tolerated if they happened anywhere else.

Why I picked it up: In Seattle, the Aurora Bridge, also a suspension bridge, has been the site of 250 recorded suicides. What is it that draws suicidal people to bridges?

Why I finished it: The stories are troubling and really express the pain of the surviving friends and family members of those who commit suicide. There are anecdotes, like the story of a girl scout troop that was having a ceremony on the bridge when they saw someone jump, necessitating the end of the ceremony and counseling services for many of the girls.

I'd give it to: Petra, who would like that, at the end of the book, the names of all 1500 suicides are printed as a tribute.

Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

"The most spectacular episode of The Twilight Zone that was never produced. I really, really care about the people in this story... And I can pretty much guarantee you will too." -- From the introduction by Damon Lindelof (LOST, Star Trek, Prometheus)


As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work. Nothing, however, could prepare him for the pressures of impending fatherhood. As Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife and their unborn son. Then one night, deep in the icy solitude of the ocean floor, something unexplainable happens. Jack has a mysterious and supernatural encounter that will change the course of his life forever.

Equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending mystery, The Underwater Welder is a graphic novel about fathers and sons, birth and death, memory and reality, and the treasures we all bury deep below the surface. "

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Science Ink Tattoos of the Science Obsessed by Carl Zimmer

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged artcoffee table bookscience

Science writer Carl Zimmer started collecting photographs of science-related tattoos and the stories behind them. The book contains the best, and tells the significance of the science illustrated in an accessible way.

Why I picked it up: The tattoos looked super cool!

Why I finished it: Grouped in chapters by their scientific field, I got a great rundown of major concepts of each through gorgeous illustrations. I also got to know people with deep connections to science and the topics they've immersed themselves in. I loved the tributes to a nearly-extinct species of moth and fallen U.S. astronauts, the navigator's acknowledgement of the generations that came before him, the heartbreaking and inspiring story of a woman's love of science, her death, and the woman she saved through organ donation.

I'd give it to: Lisa, who loves big brains, for the sizzling hot stories of passion for science, complete with luscious pictures of body parts of science lovers.

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agehumor

Carter is a high school freshman. He’s a member of a hyena-like pack of hormonally-challenged boys who smack each other, call each other derogatory nicknames, and try to score with the ladies.  His older sister doesn’t want him to destroy her carefully constructed façade of coolness, so she gives him tips (which he mostly ignores). Things aren’t going well for Carter, but then he hears that Chubby Abby, a formerly pleasantly plump girl with a nice rack, is interested in him. Carter starts dating, which leads to some real problems: he has two dates to Prom, every girl in the entire school considers him a douchebag, and he causes a vomit-fest at a theater because of a pre-date trip to Taco Bell and a poorly timed fart.

Having nothing to lose and thinking he might redeem his rep, Carter takes the long walk down the drama hallway and tries out for a role in the spring musical. (Also, he saw a hot girl signing up for the audition, and figured if they both won starring roles he might end up kissing her on stage.)

Why I picked it up: This book was on a list of humorous books that I received from another middle school librarian. I needed a break from some heavy reading.

Why I finished it: I laughed out loud about 300 times while reading this book. Carter hurries out to the lobby to break wind, yet comes back quickly so that his date won’t think he is taking a dump. These are the kinds of worries that fill Carter’s head. Since he has no filter, it fills our heads too, which leads to hilarious sentences, like when Carter, after contemplating it for ages, reaches up his date's short skirt and says to himself, "What they hell do I do now?  It's definitely warmer under here, like a denim treasure cave." At the same time that Carter is flailing around in a hormone-induced haze, trying to feel up anything with legs, he is also a caring kid confused about his place in high school.

I'd give it to: As soon as I finished this book, I gave it to Ben, an eighth grader who liked Swim the Fly, because both have raw, inappropriate humor that is balanced by a healthy dose of friendship and realistic dialogue.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1) by Ally Carter, Renée Raudman
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2) by Ally Carter, Renée Raudman

Link to this review by snow tagged audiobookcoming of agemysterythriller

Cammie Morgan has learned a lot of things at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (a.k.a spy school): how to break encryptions, how to scale a wall, and how to kill a man using only a piece of uncooked spaghetti. But the one thing she hasn't studied is probably the scariest of all: boys.

In Gallagher Girls #1 a class assignment on surveillance lands her in the middle of the Roseville, Virginia, town fair, where she meets Josh. Can this extraordinary girl find love with an ordinary boy who only knows her cover story?

In Gallagher Girls #2 (spoiler: she survives #1), what will happen to the Gallagher Academy when its headmistress (Cammie's mom) invites boy spies to visit for a semester? Especially when those boys might be double-agents?

Why I picked it up: I read book one when I was on the Spies & Intrigue committee for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. I meant to finish the series, but couldn't seem to find the time. Watching my friend Emily dance for joy when she got a copy of book five, the final book in the series, was just the motivation I needed.

Why I finished it: Raudman, the reader, does a terrific job of bringing the characters to life by giving each a distinctive voice. I often had to remind myself that there was just one narrator.

This engaging presentation is a perfect match for Carter's quick wit and strong female characters. The intrigue often kept me sitting in the car long after I'd pulled into my driveway, and the first crushes were sweet enough for this sappy romantic.

I'd give it to: Caitlin, who is a devoted Harry Potter fan, because the series has a Hogwarts-ish feel to it despite the lack of magic. I can't help but think that Hermione would make an excellent Gallagher Girl!

The Promise Part One (Avatar: the Last Airbender) by Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

After Aang (the Avatar) used his mastery of the four elements to defeat the Fire Lord and end the Hundred Year War, Zuko, Aang’s friend and ally, became Fire Lord. Zuko vowed to remove the Fire Nation’s colonies from the Earth Kingdom to help restore harmony.

But Zuko is worried he’ll one day become like his father. He makes Aang promise if that happens, Aang will kill him.

Why I picked it up: I couldn’t resist. It’s Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, Level Up, The Eternal Smile) writing a sequel to Avatar: the Last Airbender, one of the greatest animated TV series of all time.

Why I finished it: A year later, there have been numerous attempts on Zuko’s life. Many in the Fire Nation see him as a coward and a traitor. Zuko stops removing the Fire Nation’s colonies, and Aang must decide whether or not to fulfill his promise.

I'd give it to: Emily, who’d like that Aang and Katara are finally more than friends (there’s even some kissing) and the way they defeat the Fire Nation soldiers together when they go to talk to Zuko.

The Visual Dictionary of Pre-Press & Production by Gavin Ambrose, Paul Harris

Link to this review by billba tagged artreference

Compact guide to common terms used in graphic production, including books and web pages. Ends with an appendix of standard sizes and measurements, e.g. A4 is 210mm x 297mm.

Why I picked it up: I've designed ten books (sixteen if you count reprints) and I still don't know what the hell I'm doing.

Why I finished it: Every new project brings new challenges. In designing the hardcover version of Runtime Error I referred to this book no less than four times to look up terms like "case binding." The visuals make everything clear.

I'd give it to: Me, ten years ago, to save myself a painful learning curve. This book is a great primer for anyone whose life involves using a lot of Adobe products.

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