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Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science (Atomic Robo Volume 5)

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged superheroscience fictiongraphic novel

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@bookblurb Atomic Robo helps his creator, Nikola Tesla, battle Thomas Edison in 1930’s New York.


Link to this review by danritchie tagged horrorcoming of age

While attending a summer camp for gifted students at New Hampshire State College, Dan makes two new friends, Abby and Jordan. Because the dorms are being renovated, they are housed in Brookline, a creepy former asylum for the criminally insane that closed forty years ago. Dan feels a strange connection with the asylum and begins exploring the off-limits offices and treatment rooms. He and his friends discover that it was closed after the last warden’s cruel experiments on patients came to light. They find a secret operating amphitheater stocked with gurneys with straps and surgical tools, and files which explain the warden’s obsession to become famous by finding a cure for insanity. He learns about the Sculptor, Dennis Hemline, a serial killer who posed his victims like marionettes, and who was used in the warden’s torturous treatments. Then a coed is murdered and posed like one of the Sculptor’s victims.

Why I picked it up: I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the way it used historic photographs as part of the novel. When I saw this title used old photos, too, I wanted to see how it compared.

Why I finished it: It is compelling to watch these three desperately try to help each other while struggling to keep their secrets. Someone is leaving Dan notes about his sanity, during blackouts he dreams of performing lobotomies, and he may have a family connection to the warden. When Abby finds a photo of a little girl who might be her aunt, she becomes obsessed with it and begins to think her father’s lost sister may have been at the asylum. Jordan is freaked out by the way homosexuals were “cured” with shock treatments because he’s gay and hiding it from his parents. And all the while the old, black-and-white photos illustrate the story and amp up the creepiness.

It’s perfect for: Miles, who has counseled patients with violent mental issues. I think he will love the descriptions of the treatments by a demented doctor on those he deemed insane — a frontal lobotomy on a seven-year-old, electric shock treatments, isolation wards, and more. He will also enjoy trying to figure out Felix, Dan’s roommate, who never seems to be around when the notes show up and who suddenly becomes a fitness fanatic.

@bookblurb At summer camp three gifted kids try to keep their secrets while finding a copycat murderer.

Chimera A Jim Chapel Mission

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged thrillerscience fiction

Jim Chapel, a retired army ranger and intelligence operative, is not allowed to talk about how he lost his left arm in Afghanistan. These days he works desk jobs. Then he’s ordered to report to the Directorate for Defense Intelligence for a new assignment. A secret facility in upstate New York has been attacked, releasing six detainees. These violent men are carrying a dangerous, human-engineered virus, and they have a kill list. Chapel is to track down the men and quietly “remove them from play.”

Why I picked it up: Wellington is my favorite horror writer. I wanted to see what he’d do with an action thriller.

Why I finished it: It maintains the same breakneck pace of 13 Bullets throughout. Information on the men Chapel is hunting is on a need-to-know basis (he’s not told much), but it quickly becomes clear that they are fast, strong, and something more than human, adding to the tension. And then there’s Laughing Boy, the brain-damaged, always-laughing CIA operative who is following Chapel. He’s creepier than The Joker because he and Chapel are on the same side (or at least they’re supposed to be).

It’s perfect for: Robin, because Chapel’s information needs are taken care of by Angel, a mysterious voice on the phone. It will remind her of Oracle, her favorite character from DC’s Birds of Prey series.

@bookblurb A retired intelligence operative tries to track down six escaped detainees carrying a deadly virus.

'Til Faith Do Us Part How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged nonfiction

Journalist Riley uses her experience as part of an interfaith couple as a jumping-off point to explore the ways Americans are blending, shifting, rejecting, and transforming religion when spouses come from different faith traditions. Using existing research and her own extensive survey, Riley posits that 45% of all marriages in America are now between people of different faiths. She is interested not only in the delicate negotiations around the wedding ceremony (Will there be a chuppah? Who will perform the ceremony?) and also in the myriad decisions, big and small, that arise over the course of a marriage, especially when children are involved. It’s a clear-eyed look at how couples successfully and unsuccessfully navigate the intersection of belief and love.

Why I picked it up: As a churchy person, I like reading about religion, particularly when it’s of the “people are different and it’s interesting” variety, rather than the “people are different and THEY’RE WRONG” variety.

Why I finished it: Despite its academic pedigree, the book is a quick and accessible read, using real couples’ experiences to illustrate the challenges Riley uncovered.

It’s perfect for: My friend Nancy, a lapsed Catholic who converted to Judaism upon marriage. I’d be curious to know how the book reflects her experience.

@bookblurb An exploration of the ways 45% of Americans are transforming religion because they marry outside their faiths.

The Summer Prince

Link to this review by wally tagged science fiction

In a far-future Brazil where most people live to be 200, a beautiful young man from the verde (algae vats) named Enki is elected King. He knows full well that his one-year term will end with his public sacrifice. His friends (and later, lovers) June and Gil join him in a quest to bring technology to a society that tightly controls it, political art to people who need to vent their frustration, and some kind of change to a social system that feels ever more fragile.

Why I picked it up: I’m bored with many of the science fiction tropes out there, and the idea that the future looks like America (or Europe) has always bothered me. I was intrigued by the promised mixture of Brazilian culture, nanotechnology, and political art.

Why I finished it: The characters developed as artists and politicians. June’s relatively privileged life is challenged by Enki’s origins among the massive algae vats that power the city and help maintain social stratification in place. Watching her learn hard lessons fired my imagination.

It’s perfect for: Jared, a science fiction fan who would be surprised by the strangeness of a future where pop songs from our time are taught as classical music, and the way young artists spread graffiti like viruses. He’d also like how easily the characters (especially Enki) live in their sexual orientations.

@bookblurb King Enki tries to change his tightly controlled society before his one-year term ends with his public sacrifice.

The Storm in the Barn

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelfantasyhistorical fiction

Dust Bowl-era Kansas. Jack Clark wants to have adventures but he’s bullied and forced to take shelter from dust storms. He can’t help out on the farm because the rain stopped four years ago. His sister Dorothy is sick with dust pneumonia. Townspeople, desperate for rain, are resorting to folk magic and whatever dishonest hucksters are selling.

Jack thinks he may have found where the rain is hiding, but it may just be that he has dust dementia.

Why I picked it up: My friend Michele said it was the best graphic novel she read last year.

Why I finished it: Sketchy art in comics usually annoys me. Phelan uses it brilliantly to give the sense of dust covering everything. There are usually just one or two washed out colors per image to shade a world populated by gray people. Vivid colors are used to illustrate stories characters tell. They contrast other times and places with this gritty and hopeless setting.

It’s perfect for: My eleven-year-old daughter, because it seems to build on the Oz graphic novels by Eric Shanower that she loves (plus it takes place in Kansas). It is also perfect for overzealous parents trying to get young children to read The Grapes of Wrath because it covers the same time period in a way that’s much more entertaining for kids.

@bookblurb In Dust Bowl-era Kansas, Jack thinks he may have figured out where the rain is hiding.

Humans of New York

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged nonfictioncoffee table book

After Brandon Stanton lost his job as a bond trader, he decided to build on his growing interest in photography. He traveled the country making separate Facebook albums for each city he visited, titled after the thing that stood out most about that city. He planned only a short visit to New York City before heading to the West Coast, but once he started taking pictures of the city’s people, he was hooked. He moved there with the goal of taking a few great portraits everyday.

Why I picked it up: When some of my friends shared photos from the Humans of New York Facebook page, I liked it immediately. Stanton’s photos bring out the humanity of his subjects and present just enough of their stories to make me think I know them a little (and want to get to know them more).

Why I finished it: I am skeptical of blogs-turned-book, but Stanton’s photographs are even more beautiful on paper. I’ve never read a book with so much love in its pages. He’s determined to replace tired stereotypes with sweet images of lovely and joyful people. He celebrates national treasures and finds bright spots in the middle of disasters. He gives the requisite props to aspiring young fashionistas and also to those with creative ways to make some cash.

Plus, he takes wonderful photos of people with their animals. Mostly dogs, but sometimes other critters, too.

It’s perfect for: Anyone who really wants to know what it looks like to fearlessly be yourself, no matter how strange you might appear to others.

@bookblurb Brandon Stanton’s portraits of New York City’s people.

John Wayne The Life and Legend

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biography

John Wayne was the symbol of the American man in movies for decades. Constantly surrounded by people yet lonely, warm but thrice divorced, a paleoconservative unafraid to share his unpopular views but willing to work with people of any political stripe, he was a mass of contradictions. Wayne learned to act by being in front of the camera in low-budget westerns during the first ten years of his career. Though he ran down his acting skills when asked, he eventually won an Oscar for his performance in True Grit.  More comfortable on movie sets than at home, his kids got used to seeing their Dad’s suitcases by the door as he prepared to leave for months-long shoots. He was always very conscious of his fans and keeping up the image they expected, so he turned down movies where he would have played a person with bad character.

Why I picked it up: John Wayne was the preeminent actor of my father’s generation, but because he died when I was young, I didn’t know anything about him. I wanted to see behind his roles and get a sense of who he was.

Why I finished it: There’s no doubt that Wayne was personable and funny. He told a young Michael Caine to never wear suede shoes. Wayne said that, while standing next to him at urinals, men sometimes turned to ask if he was really the movie star and pissed on his shoes.

It’s perfect for: My father-in-law. He was a wide-eyed nine-year-old who begged his parents for a dime to go to the movies right when John Wayne was becoming famous in westerns. He believes that Wayne was whom he pretended to be in those movies. This will give his view of Wayne a little balance, though I think he’ll still admire Wayne.

@bookblurb An in-depth biography of the symbol of American manliness.

Broken Piano for President

Link to this review by ang tagged literaryhumor

A blackout drunk with no recollection of his inebriated hours, Deshler Dean thinks his life is comprised of parking cars and making astonishingly awful music. When Dean drinks, he forgets. Not just the little stuff — car keys, people’s names, why he isn’t wearing shoes — but the big stuff. He has no idea that, in his stupor, he has been masterminding the most successful innovations in the burger industry. He doesn’t recall negotiating a lucrative recording contract for his band. And he certainly doesn’t know why he’s in a luxury car with a blunted screwdriver in his pocket and a blonde with a gaping head wound beside him. It’ll take a long string of nightly benders for Dean to navigate his way out of the mess he’s made.

Why I picked it up: I have a friend who constantly leads me astray. I mean that in the nicest way. I treasure his spot-on recommendations of divine food in unholy dives, reckless adventures, B-movies, and “messed up” reading material. When he sent me a text that simply said “BROKEN PIANO FOR PRESIDENT!” I ordered it without hesitation.

Why I finished it: It’s a satire about music, hangovers, corporate espionage, and the absurd lengths fast food insiders will go to for market share. I’m taking the liberty of coining the term “whiplash literature” to describe fast-paced, relentless, stripped down stories like this. There is no excess, no fluff. The descriptions are brilliantly concise. It is one of the most starkly eloquent piece of mayhem to come hurtling at me in a long time.

I’m also a sucker for lists and asides. Tucked within the story are gems like Deshler Dean’s Hangover Hall of Fame, a list of the strangest notes Dean has woken up to find (“Sir, your leotard is back from the dry cleaner.”), several scenes summarized via montages, and a hilarious assortment of quotes from the press regarding Dean’s band (“I didn’t hear a guitarist in the mix. However that doesn’t mean Lothario Speedwagon isn’t torturing one in a dark shed somewhere.”).

Readalikes: Christopher Buckley’s Boomsday, a brilliant and hilarious satire that also walks the thin line between preposterous and plausible.

@bookblurb A drunk masterminds burger industry innovations, negotiates a lucrative contract, and tries to solve a mystery.

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