Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
@bookblrb: A beautiful American works her charms on a succession of wealthy men from both sides of the Atlantic.
From behind the wheel of his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with NOS4A2 vanity plates, Charles Manx III smiles at the children with his mouthful of pointy brown teeth as he takes them to Christmasland. Accessible by roads that only exist in Manx’s mind, Christmasland is a place where it is Christmas every day, unhappiness is forbidden, and children stay forever.
Victoria McQueen has her own special set of wheels. Her favorite birthday gift was the Raleigh Tuff Burner she got when she turned eight. Day-Glo blue with yellow rims, it is one sweet bike. Vic rides it to wherever and whatever she’s looking for -- a lost bracelet, a missing cat, answers to impossible questions. Then one day, hurt and angry, Vic hops on her bike and goes looking for trouble, not knowing it will lead her to Charlie Manx.
Their encounter sets off a chain of terrifying events spanning more than a decade. After Manx abducts Vic’s son, she must ride into the most dangerous parts of Manx’s world in order to save him.
Why I picked it up: Unfair as it may seem, I wanted to compare Hill to his father to see how he measured up. For 30 years, Stephen King has affected my reading and writing, so I wondered: how good would a writer be who had grown up in King’s house?
Why I finished it: Pretty damn good, it turns out.
And I’d find it impossible to resist any story featuring a fedora-wearing, purple-haired librarian with an extraordinary bag of prophetic Scrabble tiles.
It's perfect for: My friend, J.T., who understands and appreciates the difference between horror novels that are in-your-face disturbing and gory, and those (like this one) that quietly crawl under your skin before beginning to fester. By the time you even realize that you’ve let them in, half of these characters have lodged themselves in your subconscious and are poking at your squeamish bits. While you frantically try to throw up defenses, the other half sneak in and break your heart.
@bookblrb: Charles Manx III takes children to Christmasland, where unhappiness is forbidden.
A Snicker of Magic
Introducing an extraordinary new voice — a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten, and your heart sing.
Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.
But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere — shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears — but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.
Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town...and her mother's broken heart.
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Snow White Must Die
Nele Neuhaus, Steven T. Murray
Tobias Sartorius, released from prison after serving a decade for murdering two teenaged girls, returns to his home town of Altenhain where the inhabitants make it very clear that he is no longer welcome. Even though Tobias was convicted on circumstantial evidence, the bodies were never found and everyone is certain of his guilt. Now his parents are divorced, his father is in financial ruins, and only one childhood friend and a new neighbor will speak to Tobias, who just wants to move on with his life.
Soon after his return, Tobias' mother is attacked and left for dead. As police detectives Oliver von Bodenstein and Pia Kirchhoff investigate the crime, they begin to unearth inconsistencies in Tobias' original case and are met with stony silence when they try to question the townspeople. The village is veiled in secrecy and someone is determined to see Tobias pay for his crimes all over again.
This is the fourth book in the German author's von Bodenstein and Kirchhoff series but the first to be published in English.
Why I picked it up: I subscribe to Read-it-First, a free email service that allows you to test-read books. Each weekday, you receive an email with a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. After reading five mini-installments of this one, I had to buy my own copy.
Why I finished it: There were so many skeletons in the closets in this creepy village! It was difficult at first to keep the characters and their possible motives straight, but the web of conspiracies, illicit affairs, and misguided loyalties were worth the effort. The pub was my favorite place -- where secrets were leaked, plans concocted, and clues dropped.
It's perfect for: Amanda, who is currently devouring the Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny. The detectives' personal lives affect their working relationship, which reminds me of Gamache and his second in command, Beauvoir.
@bookblrb: After a convicted murderer returns home, his mother is attacked.
Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages
Novelist Edgerton offers his experiences and advice as a New Old Father, or possibly an Old New Father. Having raised one child to adulthood, he now finds himself in a second marriage as a sixty-something father of three small children. Part parenting manual, part humor column, and part love letter to his kids, the book comprises short chapters on topics such as birth, sleep problems, excretory functions, and noise-making toys sent by the devil. Interspersed are brief letters to his children at various ages, capturing day-to-day details and memories of life with children.
Why I picked it up: Although I will never be a new parent again, my friends and family are still reproducing rapidly. New-baby books, especially ones that promise to be funny, always get my attention.
Why I finished it: I almost didn’t, because at one point (in an otherwise charming section on games to play with your children) he suggests a great father-child singalong would be “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” (No. Just no.) But his so-simple-it's-genius tradition of watching “sky television” with his kids (Step 1: Lay blanket on lawn. Step 2: Lie on blanket and watch the sky) won me back over.
It's perfect for: Your brother-in-law, or your boss’s husband, or that new couple at church. It’s a great new-baby gift for someone you know fairly well, but not intimately: it’s neither snarky nor prescriptive, but rather a balanced portion of good advice, reassuring war stories, and genuine affection.
@bookblrb: A sixty-something novelist raising three kids offers humorous parenting advice.
Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies: And Other Warped and Creepy Tales
A boy and his family narrowly escape a zombie apocalypse—or do they? A girl neglects her cat’s litter box and finds herself in a heap of trouble. And a group of clicking, scrolling, tapping wireless weenies find themselves on the edge of disaster.
Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies is the seventh collection of scary short stories for middle grade readers by acclaimed author David Lubar. Here are thirty-three hilarious and harrowing stories that will scare you, make you laugh, or see the world in a whole new way. Find out where the author got the idea for each story at the end of the book. Don’t be a weenie. Read these stories. If you dare!
Learn more about Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies on Edelweiss.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
Leaving Wall Street to begin a startup online bookstore in his garage may not have seemed like a good idea to anyone else, but from the beginning Jeff Bezos wanted to make amazon.com a store with every product available for sale at the lowest possible price. His company has survived many challenges (years of expansion, the economic downturn, competition) to become the company that has defined online selling with features like 1-Click purchasing and free shipping. This is due to Bezos, who actively manages the departments that run his massive website. Each division must report to him on a weekly basis, but some, like Kindle, get closer scrutiny than others. One employee laughingly said, “I don’t even think you can even fart in the Kindle building without Jeff’s approval.” He also imposes his will via "Jeffisms," pithy sayings that chart how the company will operate; his 90,000+ employees disobey them at their peril.
Why I picked it up: Jeff Bezos and Amazon are everywhere here in Seattle -- billboards, delivery trucks, delivery lockers, and fulfillment centers. Several of my students have parents who work there. Given what I have heard about the difficulty of the work culture, I wanted to understand what they go through.
Why I finished it: There are so many ways to define Jeff Bezos, depending on how you feel about him. He could be accurately described as a visionary. He pioneered using the internet for commerce, streaming video, free shipping, and the dominant e-reader platform. He could also be accurately described as a pompous a**hole known for throwing tantrums, berating his employees, and captaining a cutthroat company. He has said he “abhors social cohesion” and that his business strategy when dealing with competitors can best be described as scorched-earth. When trying to out-compete Diapers.com, a very successful online diaper delivery service, Bezos slashed prices below cost to hamstring the site and force them to sell out to Amazon, a strategy he has used many times.
It's perfect for: My friend Doug, who owns a jewelry store. He needs to understand (and figure out how to counter) Amazon's business practices, since they seem to want to compete with everybody, including him. Amazon’s low prices have already driven many mom-and-pop stores out of business. I don’t want Doug to be next.
@bookblrb: How Jeff Bezos defined online shopping and manages amazon.com.
The Game: A Thriller
Anders de la Motte
Henrik (HP) Petterssen is a street smart slacker with a big ego and impulsive personality. When he finds a cell phone that repeatedly asks him if he wants to play a game, he accepts. The Game is secret, offers big rewards, and has only one rule: he can tell no one he is playing. To earn points and money he must complete a series of tasks which start out as childish pranks but quickly escalate to criminal acts. His most ambitious assignment is to drop a football-sized stone on the Presidential motorcade from an overpass. He does, nearly killing his sister, Becca, a member of an elite government security force, and he is arrested. Believing he is talking to police, he tells them everything only to find out he was set up, and he is ousted from the Game for breaking the rule.
Angry and frustrated, he vows revenge. With the help of a lifelong cybergeek friend, Mange, HP tries to find who is behind the Game. After his apartment is set on fire, and later he is nearly killed after talking to another former player, he realizes he’s in over his head.
Why I picked it up: I read a pre-publication blurb about this high-octane story and the author being an ex-cop and head of a security company. Sounded like my kind of read.
Why I finished it: There is a lot of family baggage woven through the story. While dealing with the violence and alcoholism of her parents, Becca has protected her little brother. When Becca let her abusive lover fall to his death from her balcony, HP took the blame for her and did ten months in jail. Once very close, they now see each other only when HP screws up and Becca has to make things right.
It's perfect for: Alex, who loves psychological thrillers like A Clockwork Orange, will enjoy both the reckless, obsessive HP, who radiates a dark, amoral edginess much like Burgess's Alex, and the remorseful, insecure Becca, who is plagued by self doubt that she is determined to overcome. Being a tech guy, he will also delight at the complex, secret infrastructure of the Game and how it uses its own specialized technology.
@bookblrb: A slacker plays a secret game that escalates from pranks to crimes.
The Cold Nowhere: A Jonathan Stride Novel
On the heels of winning Best Hardcover Novel for Spilled Blood at the International Thriller Awards, master of the psychological thriller and best-selling author Brian Freeman returns this spring with the sixth installment in the popular Jonathan Stride series, The Cold Nowhere. The Cold Nowhere marks the much-anticipated return of Duluth PD Lieutenant Jonathan Stride, one of Brian Freeman's signature characters.
Lieutenant Stride goes home to his cottage on the shore of Lake Superior, where he is confronted with a crime he cannot ignore. He discovers a young woman, Cat Mateo, hiding in his bedroom, scared and dripping wet from a desperate plunge into the icy lake.
The girl isn't a stranger to Stride; she is the daughter of a woman he tried and failed to protect from a violent husband years ago. When Cat asks Stride for protection from a mysterious person she claims is trying to kill her, Stride is driven by guilt and duty to help her.
Stride's police partner Maggie Bei doubts the homeless orphan, who has been supporting herself as a prostitute and living rough on the streets of Duluth. She marvels at how easily the hard-bitten young girl, who sleeps with a knife under her pillow, has won Stride's trust.
As Stride investigates Cat's case off the record, Maggie's suspicions solidify and a single question haunts the void between them: should Stride be afraid for -or of- this damaged girl?
Streets of Glory
Garth Ennis, Mike Wolfer
In 1899 Pete is on his way to Gladback, Montana, with his brother Frank. They’ve just stopped for coffee in the wilderness when a group of men approach their fire and kill Frank. Luckily for Pete, Joe Dunn was nearby. He saves Pete and then delivers him to Gladback.
Shortly after their arrival, an Apache named Red Crow kills a man by cutting off his fingers and genitals and sewing the latter into his mouth. Dunn has hunted Red Crow in the past, and decides to go after him. Pete and several of the rich Mister Morrison’s bodyguards go along.
Why I picked it up: I recently met a young woman named Caitlin, who talked about how much she loves Garth Ennis’s graphic novels. She even talked about Preacher in detail. I saw this on the shelf at the library the following day. It was fate.
Why I finished it: Ennis’s comics are almost always brutal, and this one is no exception. When Joe Dunn saves Pete, the blood flies. His first rifle shot hits a man in the mouth, tearing off his jaw but not killing him. (The man gropes around for his jaw and seems to be trying to put it back in place when Dunn puts him out of his misery.)
You don’t read a Garth Ennis book if you’re in the mood for a gentle fairy tale.
It's perfect for: My friend Dan, who likes Tarantino’s movies. He’d love the cinematic sequence when Red Crow ambushes the men on his trail and the speed with which he dispatches most of them. He’d also find sick humor in the situation of the man who is scalped but survives the experience. Back in town he’s quite a sight at the saloon where the other patrons discuss whether or not to chip in and buy him a hat.
@bookblrb: Famed gunfighter Joe Dunn takes on outlaws and an Apache named Red Crow.
LEGO Space: Building the Future
Peter Reid, Tim Goddard
Space exploration has come a long way since the first Sputnik satellite was launched in the 1957. Now that we have the ability to travel to other worlds and have established a colony in another galaxy, it is important to learn the history of how we got to this point. Here is the story of man's exploration of space, complete with details about the ships and robots that helped get us to other worlds.
Why I picked it up: I have loved LEGOs, especially the space-related sets, since I was a kid. I thought this would be a book about how to make lots of different models and that it would have neat pictures to admire.
Why I finished it: It was so much more than that. Reid and Goddard start out telling the history of the Space Race from Sputnik to the Moon Landing. And then they continue, moving through the mid-21st century, the establishment of the first Moon base, the colonization of Mars, and onward to the discovery of how to travel intergalactically. Along the way they teach readers about the real history of space exploration and its ties to the development of robots and scientific breakthroughs. Just at the point where readers might be bored with the faux nonfiction format, the creators add in alien space worms with mind-control powers. And they do so without completely giving up the "history of the future" tone. To top it all off, everything is illustrated with lavish color photographs -- with captions -- of spaceships and settings made completely from LEGOs. Interspersed throughout are instructions on how to build spaceships, robots, and more. The familiar wordless LEGO building instructions fit in perfectly here, as they look even more blueprint-ish than usual. And I was pleased, as a female science fiction fan, that the characters were a nice mix of male and female, including one character in a wheelchair whose disability is simply a feature of her character, not a plot point.
Readalikes: Readers wanting more space adventures should look no further than two top-notch graphic novel series. Missile Mouse by Jake Parker is part-Star Trek, part-Star Wars. Its hero is not the most well-behaved member of the Galactic Security Agency, but he does manage to get into the most trouble! If you want a human character, then pick up Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl books, the third of which comes out in 2014. Zita has beautifully illustrated adventures as she travels across the galaxy trying to get back to Earth. And those who'd like a middle-grade prose series that is more steampunk, but still has a lot of space action, should pick up Philip Reeve's Larklight, the first in a trilogy featuring pirates, space spiders, and the Victorian Empire.
@bookblrb: The history of space exploration from Sputnik to intergalactic travel told in LEGOs.
To Nathan Hunt, honesty is anything but the best policy. Telling the truth has gotten him nothing but heartache and pain; so lying about who he is and what he wants seems to be the only path to job security and friends. Hell, it even brings him a hollow kind of happiness.
Except, that's not much of a life for any man. Especially one with Nathan's passions. Desperate to cure his self-made misery, Nathan agrees to go along with a con that will score cash for Nathan to start over. There's just one problem: lying is getting harder by the day. And a con who can't lie, is a con who gets caught.
Nathan's attempts to distract himself from his moral quandary lead him to a mysterious, intoxicating man named Fury. The Mixed Martial Arts fighter knows a thing or two about lies and pasts better left buried. He and Nathan have something else in common – they both want to be with someone who lets them be themselves.
Together, they undertake a journey that proves honesty is more dangerous and more difficult than either of them could have imagined. And as they combat addiction, thugs, guns, and their own inner demons, Nathan and Fury can only hope that their battle to be together will be worth the bitter fight.
black is the color
During a troubled voyage in the age of sail, supplies are running low. The newest hands, Xavier and Warren, are set adrift in a dinghy so that the rest of the crew can survive. Xavier doesn’t last long. But after sharks start circling, Warren is visited by a mermaid.
Why I picked it up: High on my impending purchase of the massive and beautiful L’art de la bande dessinée at the Fantagraphics Store, I asked Larry to recommend a few new books and bought them, too. This was the best of the bunch.
Why I finished it: During the solemn moment when Warren and Xavier climb down into the dinghy, one of the crew waves. Warren gives him the finger. It’s hilarious because it’s totally unexpected, particularly with the beautiful yet somber-seeming old school inking. It’s a beautiful joke and a beautiful comic.
It's perfect for: Leann, who has hated Disney’s The Little Mermaid ever since she was a little kid. The merfolk in this book are cruel. The one visiting Warren is somewhat nasty but also comforting, and a group of them gossip as they impatiently watch the larger ship begin to sink in a storm.
@bookblrb: Warren, put adrift in a dinghy during a troubled sea voyage, is visited by a mermaid.
In this week's Unshelved Book Club you'll find books about Christmasland (where unhappiness is forbidden), a convicted murderer trying to return home, advice for fathers, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, a secret game, an aging gunfighter, space exploration, and two men set adrift to save the rest of a ship's crew.
We made it ten minutes in. Some of it was the bad writing (seriously awful infodumping that sounded nothing like people do), some of it was the idiot plotting (Someone at a research base is infected, so the CDC sends up their brother, _and_ the brother's ex-wife. Stupid enough - but then you discover that the reason that they divorced is that she had an affair with his brother. Yup, the one who is now infected.), some of it was the basic lack of understanding of any science, what the arctic is like (you try building a research station with a basement in the arctic circle), or anything else that might have helped with suspension of disbelief.
All of which would be fine, in a show that wasn't taking itself seriously. Give me a _silly_ show that makes no sense, but is endlessly fun, and I'm right there. But don't throw a bunch of badly written nonsense at me and ask me to take it seriously.
So we gave up after ten minutes and started on True Detective instead. Which I'd heard great things about, all of which turned out to be true. It's got flaws, but the dialogue is fantastic, the acting is amazing, the long sweeping shots of the scenery are gorgeously cinematic, and I'm unable to take my eyes off of it. One episode to go, and we're seriously tempted to wake up early on Monday to watch the finale before the internet spoils it for us.
Other good TV: Rick and Morty. Animation, you know, not for kids. Imagine that Doc and Marty from Back to The Future had many other adventures, all of them unpleasant, but hilarious. Morty is a 14-year-old kid, Rick is his genius grandfather who has clearly Seen Too Much, and now copes by drinking too much while building Things That Should Not Be. The pilot was a bit wobbly, but the show hits its stride with episode two and then just keeps getting better. It regularly riffs off of popular sci-fi, and does a really good job of it (crossing Inception with Nightmare on Elm Street was a genius idea). Smartly written and foul-mouthed, it keeps the characters just likeable enough to keep watching, and just dislikeable enough to have you laugh at the awful things that happen to them.
Uh, content warning for mild auto accidents; if that is bothersome don't read this
--where I was driving on ... I guess "like the less scary parts of coastal Hwy 1" doesn't help most of you. Coastal highway, one lane each way, limited visibility because of left-right wiggliness and also mild hill-like fluctuations, but without scary cliff drop-offs on the side. And I realized suddenly that while I was explicitly the driver, and alone in the car, I was sitting in the front passenger seat instead of the driver seat. I could lean over to grab the steering wheel, but I couldn't reach the gas or brake. (As is common in dreams, I have significantly more mobility than in RL.)
So I had a choice: try to shift myself over into the drivers seat, which would probably take somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds, during which time I would have to let go of the wheel and not be able to look ahead or correct anything; or steer off road and do friction slowing. There were cars coming in the opposing lane, a risk to the plan A. There was a gravel turnout, the sort of thing meant for slow traffic to pull aside to let faster vehicles past, coming up. I could do a plan C of steering in the pretense of being in normal control, and hope that I didn't end up slowing to a stop blocking the road, but there was no guarantee of anything beyond what I could see.
I chose plan B. Steered off the road, into the gravel. I wasn't slowing quickly enough to be able to stop before the gravel turnout ended, so I made a split second choice to steer into what was basically a guard rail; the front fender crumpled a little, and the car (well, minivan, really) spun around, but stopped.
...at which point my mom showed up and started snarking about how I should have stopped sooner blah blah all my choices are wrong nyah.
I sort of want to blather about how this whole thing applies to my non-dream life -- control, and feelings of same, and then being judged (by myself as much as by others) for the fact that the best possible decision in the moment was not the most perfect of all possible actions -- but eh.