Unshelved A comic about a library 2014-11-23T07:00:00.0000000Z Gene Ambaum Bill Barnes (c) Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes Unshelved on Sunday, November 23, 2014 2014-11-23T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-23T07:00:00.0000000Z
GBH by Ted Lewis
Unshelved strip for 11/23/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 4/13/2004 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Saturday, November 22, 2014 2014-11-22T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-22T07:00:00.0000000Z
GBH by Ted Lewis
Unshelved strip for 11/22/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 4/12/2004 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Friday, November 21, 2014 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z
GBH by Ted Lewis
Unshelved strip for 11/21/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved Book Club on Friday, November 21, 2014 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z

This week's book recommendations from the creators of Unshelved and their friends. Learn who we are, how we pick books, and other books we've featured.

Amazon | Powell's

Shoplifter by Michael Cho
Pantheon, 2014. 9780307911735.

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged coming of agegraphic novel

Unshelved strip for 11/21/2014

@bookblrb: Corrina wanted to be a writer, but for five years she’s written only ad copy. She shoplifts to feel alive.

Amazon | Powell's

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Little, Brown and Co., 2014. 9780316199988.

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged picture book

Beekle is feeling pretty down. All of the other amazing creatures he has known in his brief life have been taken from their fantastic island to our world to become imaginary friends for little boys and girls. But poor Beekle seems to be stuck long after his peers have moved on. Tired of waiting, he sneaks off on his own to see if he can't find his special friend.

Why I picked it up: I was was a bit disappointed with my childhood imaginary friend. I never had one that evolved naturally, and only tried to have one after I heard of the idea, but by then I think I was far too old for one. A little bit of me was hoping this book might help me find out where I went wrong. Plus, I loved Santat's Sidekicks and  Crankenstein.

Why I finished it: As always Santat's illustrations are amazing. The imaginary friends are varied and wonderful, from an origami panda bear holding a paper heart, to a bold, blue octopus covered in what looks like swirling henna tattoos. Each is crafted with a very different child in mind, and brightens the world around them. When Beekle explores the big city by himself, dodging the feet of oblivious grown-ups, things are cold, dull and grey until he sees another creature like himself. When Beekle finally finds his friend, she is an artist and meets his seemingly blank page of a personality (he is a white rectangle with limbs, face, and a paper crown) with crayon drawings illustrating their adventures together.  For this, Santat uses crayons and color pencils, making pictures within his pictures that are distinctly and delightfully childlike. But most of all, I especially loved the end papers where kids pose with their imaginary buddies, and it’s completely obvious why they belong together.

It's perfect for: my friend Suzanne, who has been waiting for her perfect match, and no doubt will find a parallel between the island of imaginary friends and the online dating site OKCupid, where all kinds of strange characters can be found. I hope she, like Beekle, will soon find someone who is "friendly and familiar...and [feels] just right".

@bookblrb: Tired of waiting, Beekle leaves his fantastic island to find the kid whose imaginary friend he’s supposed to be.

GBH by Ted Lewis
Soho Crime, 2015. 9781616955502.

British crime icon Ted Lewis’s lost masterwork, an unnerving tale of paranoia and madness in the heart of the 1970s London criminal underworld, published in the US for the first time

Two intertwining narratives—past and present—chronicle a man’s tragic fall from power. In London, George Fowler resides at the head of a lucrative criminal syndicate that specializes in the production and distribution of “blue films”—nasty illegal pornography. Fowler is king, with a beautiful girl at his side and a swanky penthouse office atop a high-rise, but his entire world is in jeopardy. Someone is undermining his empire from within, and Fowler becomes increasingly ruthless in his pursuit of the unknown traitor. As his paranoia envelops him, Fowler loses trust in just about everyone, including his closest friends and associates, and begins to rely on the opinions of an increasingly smaller set of advisors.

Juxtaposed with the terror and violence of Fowler’s last days in London is the flash-forward narrative of his hideout bunker in a tiny English beach town, where Fowler skulks during the off-season amongst the locals, trying to put together the pieces of his fallen empire. Just as it seems possible for Fowler to reclaim his throne, another trigger threatens to cause his total, irreparable unraveling.

British crime icon Ted Lewis’s second novel, Get Carter, became the 1970s hit film of the same name starring Michael Cain. GBH is Lewis’s final work, now available for the first time in the US, and its momentous rediscovery will delight fans of the genre and introduce readers to a gritty, terrifying side of London’s streets.

Enter to win a copy!

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury
Wendy Lamb Books, 2014. 9780375842665.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agehistorical fiction

On the eve of World War II, Japanese-American teenager Zenji Watanabe is hired as a spy for the U.S. military. He leaves his life and girlfriend behind when he’s sent to the Philippines. His job: to pose as a translator for a U.S. military intelligence unit and learn about potential threats by listening in on the casual conversations of Japanese businessmen at local hotels. After the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, they invade Manila and Zenji is stuck there. If they discover that he was gathering intelligence for the U.S., he will be executed. 

This novel is based on a true story.

Why I picked it up: I was seated next to Graham Salisbury at an author event in Las Vegas this summer, and to my librarian shame, was not aware that he was a Scott O'Dell award recipient and the author of a historical fiction series about Japanese-Americans in Hawaii. (His most famous book is Under the Blood Red Sun.) I needed to rectify my lack of knowledge about his work.

Why I finished it: Spy novels are always thrilling when things get hairy, but since the book is based on real events it is even more meaningful and suspenseful. As a nisei, Zenji always felt like he had to prove he was a real American. He survived torture, starvation, and, after escaping into the jungle, even had to fight off rats for the live crayfish he caught.

It's perfect for: My son's friend Robert, who is soon going off to college at Oklahoma State, thousands of miles from Seattle, and would appreciate the story of another teen who travels far from his home and family. I think Robert will admire Zenji’s sacrifice when he leaves his mother and his burgeoning romance with his girlfriend when his country calls.  Zenji had to learn to depend primarily on himself and keep his goals in mind even when things got very difficult. That’s good advice for a college student, too!

@bookblrb: A Japanese-American teen sent to the Philippines as a spy is trapped there after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Amazon | Powell's

The Living by Matt de la Peña
Delacorte, 2013. 9780385741200.

Link to this review by wally tagged coming of agethriller

After his grandmother’s death from a mysterious illness, Shy and his mother need money. He takes a job on a cruise ship to help pay her medical bills.

One night Shy sees a man climbing over the ship’s railing. He tries to stop him from jumping, but after after a short conversation the man apologizes for betraying Shy and throws himself overboard. Then things get weird: someone on board is determined to find out what the man revealed in the last moments of his life, and the old shoeshine man seems to be protecting Shy. (The mystery is only revealed after a massive earthquake and a series of tsunamis.)

Why I picked it up: I’ve been meaning to read something by de la Peña since he visited one of my local schools last year to talk about his work. The students loved hearing about his career as a Latino writer, and when he read some passages from his books, the entire assembly was quiet. 

Why I finished it: From Shy’s girl troubles (his friend Carmen and he have a lot in common, except for her fiancé) to the mystery of the suicidal man’s knowledge of Shy’s grandmother, I could not put this book down. Shy gets help from unexpected quarters, and the natural disaster seems just a little too convenient to be true. Is something deeper going on? I finished it quickly, and now I’m waiting for the sequel.

It's perfect for: Jennifer, who loves a good survival adventure and also appreciates teen fiction that brings up issues of race and class -- where better to do the latter than on a doomed cruise ship where all the rich passengers are white and all the crew members are young, non-white, and relatively poor?

@bookblrb: Shy fails to stop a man from throwing himself off the cruise ship where he works. Things get weird.

Burning Down George Orwell's House: a Novel by Andrew Ervin
Soho Press, 2015. 9781616954949.

A darkly comic debut novel about advertising, truth, single malt, Scottish hospitality—or lack thereof—and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Ray Welter, who was until recently a high-flying advertising executive in Chicago, has left the world of newspeak behind. He decamps to the isolated Scottish Isle of Jura in order to spend a few months in the cottage where George Orwell wrote most of his seminal novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ray is miserable, and quite prepared to make his troubles go away with the help of copious quantities of excellent scotch.

But a few of the local islanders take a decidedly shallow view of a foreigner coming to visit in order to sort himself out, and Ray quickly finds himself having to deal with not only his own issues but also a community whose eccentricities are at times amusing and at others downright dangerous. Also, the locals believe—or claim to believe—that there’s a werewolf about, and against his better judgment, Ray’s misadventures build to the night of a traditional, boozy werewolf hunt on the Isle of Jura on the summer solstice.

Enter to win a copy!

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver
Viking, 2013. 9780525426868.

Link to this review by diane tagged mystery

Private investigator David Raker is recovering from a near fatal stabbing by laying low. He’s hoping to spend some quiet time in his sleepy little hometown, a small fishing village on the English coast in Devon, far away from the pressures of London. Things are going well until an old flame stops by and asks him to look for her sister, Carrie, who disappeared suddenly along with her husband and young daughters, leaving breakfast on the table and the television on.  Raker finds himself involved in a mystery that spans almost five years and takes him back to London and on to Las Vegas. When people start dying, Raker realizes he may be in over his head. But every time he thinks of those two missing girls, he just can’t give up.

Why I picked it up: Although Weaver is a best-seller in Great Britain, this is the first of his titles to be released in the U.S. I love a good mystery, and the setting was a bonus since I'm a big fan of British books and movies set in the countryside.  

Why I finished it: This is a fast-paced, well-crafted mystery filled with surprises. The snappy dialogue, Raker’s tenacious personality, and plot twists kept me glued to every page, and now I’m dying to read the first three books in the series. (Even though this is officially the fourth book, it stood on its own quite well.)

It's perfect for: Muriel, who enjoys reading about hard-nosed detectives with a heart, like Robert Parker’s Spenser and Steig Larsson’s Mikael Blomkvist. Weaver’s David Raker tends to bend the rules (and the law), and to get a bit too emotionally involved with his cases, but his intelligence, determination, and dedication will make Muriel root for him to the very end.

@bookblrb: An injured private detective trying to take it easy is pulled into a mystery involving a family that disappeared.

Amazon | Powell's

Open Mic: Riffs on Life between Cultures in Ten Voices by Mitali Perkins, Cherry Cheva, Varian Johnson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, G. Neri, Debbie Rigaud, Francisco X. Stork, Gene Luen Yang, David Yoo
Candlewick Press, 2013. 9780763658663.

Link to this review by darcy tagged anthologycoming of agepoetry

Ten authors share poems, stories, essays, and comics on growing up between cultures.

Why I picked it up: I was excited to see Mitali Perkins’s name on a new book, plus I love short stories and I wanted to see what she'd done as an editor.

Why I finished it: The list of authors and styles kept me going. In Perkins' "Three-Pointer" she talks about a system she devised with her sisters. They earned points by getting compliments from boys, being asked for dates, or kissed. Plus I really loved her description of being the only family of Indian descent in her California neighborhood. She wrote about how authors have often used food products to describe brown skin, like chocolate or coffee, but how her white classmates couldn't be described in a similar manner. She wrote, "They certainly weren't milky white, but ‘skin like deli-sliced turkey’ didn't sound too appealing."  

G. Neri’s poem "Under Berlin" was about being black and Puerto Rican and living in Germany. I loved the part where Neri’s dad squirms his way into a subway seat so the German women around him get uncomfortable and leave, making room for the rest of the family to sit.

It's perfect for: Josef, a student at my local alternative school. Once a year everyone is dragged to the library to pick out a thick, dusty old tome (they’re mostly classics) to read to fulfill an assignment. Josef is smart, but he isn’t likely to make it through a Jane Austen novel. He won't learn a thing reading a book about white, English ladies, but he might just connect with this book because he’ll read about kids like himself. In particular I think he’d identify with the protagonist in "Becoming Henry Lee," who fights against the Asian stereotype of being a good student. And I know he'd laugh out loud at Henry pretending to be an expert in math and martial arts.

@bookblrb: An anthology of work by ten well-known young adult authors about growing up between cultures.

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
Soho Teen, 2015. 9781616955441.

In the vein of The Diviners and The Petal and the White, Razorhurst reimagines the notorious history of a mob-controlled Sydney—with a paranormal twist.

Sydney’s deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by “razor men.” Kelpie, orphaned and living on the street, is blessed and cursed with the ability to see Razorhurst’s many ghosts, and she sees the cracks already forming in their truce. Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell.

Dymphna is a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She’s earned the nickname “Angel of Death” for the trail of beaus who have died trying to protect her from Mr. Davidson’s assassins. Unbeknownst to Kelpie, Dymphna can see ghosts, too, and as Gloriana’s hold crumbles one burly henchman at a time, the girls will need one another more than ever.

As loyalties shift and betrayal threatens at every turn, Dymphna is determined to not only survive, but to rise to the top with Kelpie at her side.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Amazon | Powell's

The Secret Origin of Tony Stark Book 1: (Iron Man Volume 2) by Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham
Marvel, 2013. 9780785168348.

The Secret Origin of Tony Stark Book 2: (Iron Man Volume 3) by Kieron Gillen, Greg Land, Dale Eaglesham
Marvel, 2013. 9780785168355.

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelscience fictionsuperhero

Tony Stark is adventuring in deep space when he’s imprisoned for deicide. A rogue robot offers its help, and Stark ends up fighting, unarmored, in a series of trials by combat that end with him facing Death’s Head, a thirty foot tall robot bounty hunter. After escaping from custody, Stark gets a look at his own origin from an unexpected source.

Originally published in Iron Man #6 - #11 and #12 - #17, respectively.

Publisher’s rating: T+

Why I picked them up: My daughter and I are enjoying Gillen’s Young Avengers. Plus each book comes with a code I can redeem in Marvel’s iPad app for a digital copy.

Why I finished them: It’s infused with Gillen’s sense of humor. In the first volume, after a space battle, an armored Tony Stark is charming a hot, purple-skinned alien princess over cocktails. He even makes a classic Star Trek reference. After they arrive in her chambers, he pops the mask off his armor. Let’s just say she reacts very badly to his facial hair.

They’re perfect for: Colin, a fan of heist movies who will enjoy the 1960s Ocean’s Eleven-ish storyline (starring Tony Stark’s dad) centered around freeing a robot from aliens in Las Vegas.

@bookblrb: Tony Stark (a.k.a Iron Man) faces a series of trials by combat and then unexpectedly finds out about his own origins.

Amazon | Powell's

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes
Simon & Schuster, 2014. 9781476724027.

Link to this review by danritchie tagged mystery

Chief Inspector Richard Jury of New Scotland Yard meets with Tom Williamson at Vertigo 42, a bar on the forty-second floor of an office building in London’s financial district. Tom is convinced his wife, Tess, was murdered seventeen years ago even though the evidence was inconclusive and her death, caused by a fall down the garden steps of their country estate, was ruled accidental. Jury agrees to re-examine the case. He learns that a nine-year-old girl fell (or was pushed) to her death five years before Tess died, and at the same country house. The girl had been a guest at a party Tess was giving for six children. Tess was implicated, but exonerated. Jury seeks out the five surviving party guests, who are now adults, to see if the deaths are related.

Why I picked it up: I have been a rabid fan of Grimes for nearly three decades and have been waiting for her next book for the last four years.

Why I finished it: The ongoing, clever repartee between Jury and his aristocratic friend, Melrose Plant, who provides vital insight as he and Jury discuss the aspects of the case. Tess had a special fondness for each of the kids, but one in particular was her favorite. He (and all of the children) have kept details of the events of that day secret, and Jury has to find a way to bring each to light.

It's perfect for: Donny, a mystery junkie whose favorite film happens to be Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The aspects of this case that parallel events and recall characters in the film are compelling. Were there two identical women in the country village that night? Are how does Tess’s vertigo play into it all?

@bookblrb: C.I. Richard Jury agrees to investigate a woman’s death from seventeen years ago, which was ruled an accident.

Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan
Soho Crime, 2015. 9781616953980.

This harrowing murder mystery, winner of the Philippine National Book Award, follows two Catholic priests on the hunt for a serial killer in the notorious Payatas dump city of northern Manila.

In northeast Manila’s Quezon City is a district called Payatas—a 50-acre dump that is home to thousands of people who live off of what they can scavenge there. It is one of the poorest neighborhoods in a city whose law enforcement is already stretched thin, devoid of forensic resources and rife with corruption. So when the eviscerated bodies of teenage boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf.

In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz has been a priest for three decades, but he is also a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the Director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys.

Cited as the first Filipino crime novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles is a poetic masterpiece of literary noir, a sensitive depiction of a time and place, and fascinating story about the Catholic Church and its place in its devotees’ lives and communities.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley Dodd
Tricycle Press, 2001. 9781582460598.

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged picture book

Hairy Maclary goes for a walk and various canine friends join him along the way. They venture through town, sniffing and snooping along, until a surprise encounter with Scarface Claw abruptly ends their journey. With tails tucked under their bellies, each of Hairy's friends scramble away until they are once again safe at home. 

Why I picked it up: I heard the author speak at the Auckland Writers Festival and immediately understood why she is such a legend among Kiwis. Generations of New Zealanders know her books, and the entire audience could recite the first line of this one by heart, either from reading it as a child themselves or from reading it to their own children. Her genuine personality and congeniality won me over, and I had to buy her books for myself.

Why I finished it: I was so pleased that the animals behave like real animals. From Schnitzel von Krumm "with a very low tum" to Hercules Morse who is "as big as a horse," the illustrations and text provide plenty of character for Hairy and his friends.

It's perfect for: Our neighbors, whose three- and five-year-old boys are obsessed with dogs. Both will feel like they are "reading" the book because of the infectious rhymes and repetition of descriptive phrases. I also think the three-year-old will especially enjoy finding the smaller details in the pictures, like Bitzer Maloney sniffing a spider.

@bookblrb: A bunch of dogs go for a walk, sniffing and snooping, and then scramble home after an unexpected encounter. Book Reviews 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-21T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Gene ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Unshelved Book Club

This week's Unshelved Book Club features books about an imaginary friend, a teenage spy, an adventurous cruise, a detective in a sleepy town, growing up between cultures, Tony Stark's origin, a murder that took place seventeen years ago, and a group of dogs out for a walk. Unshelved on Thursday, November 20, 2014 2014-11-20T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-20T07:00:00.0000000Z
GBH by Ted Lewis
Unshelved strip for 11/20/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 2014-11-19T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-19T07:00:00.0000000Z
Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin
Unshelved strip for 11/19/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Soho Press 2014-11-19T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-19T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Bill ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Burning Down George Orwell's House GBH

Unshelved is sponsored this week by our besties at Soho Press, publishers of two new novels, Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin and GBH by Ted Lewis. They are doing giveaways of both books! Unshelved on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 2014-11-18T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-18T07:00:00.0000000Z
Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin
Unshelved strip for 11/18/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Monday, November 17, 2014 2014-11-17T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-17T07:00:00.0000000Z
Burning Down George Orwell's House by Andrew Ervin
Unshelved strip for 11/17/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Sunday, November 16, 2014 2014-11-16T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-16T07:00:00.0000000Z
The new Unshelved collection Reads Well With Others
Unshelved strip for 11/16/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 4/11/2004 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Saturday, November 15, 2014 2014-11-15T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-15T07:00:00.0000000Z
The new Unshelved collection Reads Well With Others
Unshelved strip for 11/15/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

This classic Unshelved strip originally appeared on 4/10/2004 .

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved on Friday, November 14, 2014 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z

Unshelved strip for 11/14/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last Unshelved Book Club on Friday, November 14, 2014 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z

This week's book recommendations from the creators of Unshelved and their friends. Learn who we are, how we pick books, and other books we've featured.

Amazon | Powell's

Robert A. Heinlein the authorized biography: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve by William H. Patterson Jr.
Tor Books, 2010. 9780765319609.

Link to this review by billba tagged biography

Unshelved strip for 11/14/2014

@bookblrb: Robert A. Heinlein’s science fiction is rooted deeply in his complex and fascinating life.

Amazon | Powell's

A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York by Liana Finck
Harper Collins, 2014. 9780062291615.

Link to this review by davidtomashek tagged graphic novelhistory

A hundred years ago the advice column “A Bintel Brief” ran in the Yiddish newspaper The Forward. The letters mostly came from new immigrants, and often addressed the friction between the culture of the old country and life in New York. Cartoonist Liana Finck puts these letters into pictures and gives them new life. One writer is haunted by “the betrayed shtetl ghosts that follow me around.” Another questions her love for her fiancé, a brilliant man and a recent immigrant who embarrasses her in front of her American friends.

Why I picked it up: It was a combination of the subtitle and the art of the front cover which shows a brownstone with five windows, each containing an isolated individual living in a world of private anguish.  

Why I finished it: The book brilliantly illustrates how people interact with their pasts. To show how letters from another century still touch people today, Finck presents a literal dialogue with the past. The ghost of The Forward’s editor springs from a notebook of clippings and, in interludes between letters, he converses with her as they walk the streets of present-day New York. She finds the letters as heartbreaking as he finds the modern world fascinating.   

Readalikes: Submissions from those longing to be heard made me think of They Call Me Naughty Lola, a book of personal ads from the London Review of Books. Rereading it was a light-hearted antidote to the sadness of A Bintel Brief.

@bookblrb: Comic adaptations of a Yiddish newspaper’s advice column from about 100 years ago.

Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views by Matteo Pericoli, Preface by Lorin Stein
Penguin Press, . 9781594205545.

The way of life for most of us in the twenty-first century means that we spend most of our time indoors, in an urban environment, and our awareness of the outside world comes via, and thanks to, a framed glass hole in the wall.

Architect and artist Matteo Pericoli brilliantly explores this concept alongside fifty of our most beloved writers from across the globe. By pairing drawings of window views with texts that reveal—either physically or metaphorically—what the drawings cannot, Windows on the World offers a perceptual journey through the world as seen through the windows of prominent writers: Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul, Daniel Kehlmann in Berlin, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in Lagos, John Jeremiah Sullivan in Wilmington, North Carolina, Nadine Gordimer in Johannesburg, Xi Chuan in Beijing. Taken together, the views—geography and perspective, location and voice—resonate with and play off each other.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Evel: The High Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend by Leigh Montville
Doubleday, 2011. 9780385527453.

Link to this review by darcy tagged biography

Daredevil Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel grew up in the mining town of Butte, Montana. He lived mostly with his grandmother after his mom abandoned him, and as a young man he started to work in the copper mines. He is best known for his motorcycle stunts and spectacular crashes, but on his way to becoming the world’s top daredevil he sold insurance, broke into safes, and then started a security company for businesses who had their safes broken into. He did a lot of things, mostly shady, before he settled on risky stunts to please crowds.

Why I picked it up: I've always had a sick fascination with daredevils like Knievel, and wondered what happened to him in his early life to make him attempt such outrageous stunts.

Why I finished it: There was a lot more to Knievel than jumping motorcycles over buses. He was a thief and a fraud, a drunk and a womanizer. He was notorious for his legendary bar tabs, fights, and temper tantrums. Being a daredevil takes a certain grit, a high tolerance for pain, and an over-confidence that surpasses that of average dickheads. I found myself horrified at the way he treated his wife and kids while I laughed at his scams and antics. And I was not a bit surprised to learn that early on he was once a successful insurance salesman; he talked people into buying insurance using everything from the power of positive thinking to outright lies and deceit. He later used these skills to promote himself. When he wanted to jump the fountains at Caesar's Palace, he called the owner pretending to be fans, lawyers, and newsmen seeking the scoop until he was given permission to perform the stunt.

It's perfect for: My brother, Jeff, a band teacher. Besides reading about Knievel's over-the-top antics, Jeff will appreciate the scene where the Butte High School band plays for the audience waiting for Knievel’s famous Snake River Canyon jump. The audience, fueled by alcohol and impatience, were nearing a riot when the horrified band director realized the crowd was about to surge forward and push the band kids into the canyon. It's a lot of work keeping tabs on school band kids, but I know that Jeff will understand the escape tactic the teacher used: he pushed the students together into a wedge and marched them right through the drunken crowd to their bus.

@bookblrb: Evel Knievel sold insurance, broke into safes, and worked security before becoming a daredevil.

Amazon | Powell's

Morphine by Mikhail Bulgakov, Hugh Aplin
New Directions, 2013. 9780811221689.

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged historical fiction

A young Russian doctor in 1918 gets a message from a friend working in the rural hospital: the doctor working there just left and he needs help. Before the young doctor can leave, his friend arrives with a soon-to-be-fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound and a diary that explains how he got to this desperate place: morphine.

Why I picked it up: I watched the first season of A Young Doctor's Notebook and Other Stories (starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm) on Netflix. It's a jaw-dropping combination of the hilarious and heartbreaking, all based on the writings of Bulgakov. I had to read one of his books!

Why I finished it: It’s clear how hard the television writers worked to make this succeed as a TV series by shuffling characters and events, but Bulgakov's original is amazing at showing the self-deceit of someone slipping into addiction in his own desperate thoughts and words. He starts by justifying increasing doses and ends up justifying outright theft.

It's perfect for: Anyone who enjoyed Trainspotting.Those addicts are deeply broken and they're lower-class than the doctors, but they're all caught in the same trap.

@bookblrb: A young Russian doctor’s first person account of his morphine addiction, set in the early 1900s.

Me, Myself, And Us: The Science Of Personality And The Art Of Well-Being by Brian R Little
Public Affairs, 2014. 9781586489670.

How does your personality shape your life … and what, if anything, can you do about it?

In the past few decades, new scientific research has transformed old ideas about the nature of human personality. Renowned professor and pioneering research psychologist Brian R. Little has been at the leading edge of this new science. In this wise and witty book he explains what simplistic old-fashioned personality tests miss, and shares a wealth of new data and provocative insights about who we are, why we act the way we do, what we can—and can’t—change, and how we can best thrive in light of our “nature.”

Through stories, studies, personal experiences, and entertaining interactive assessments, Me, Myself, and Us provides a lively, thought-provoking, and ultimately optimistic look at the possibilities and perils of being uniquely ourselves, while illuminating the selves of the familiar strangers we encounter, work with, and love.

A researcher who is both a scholar and an experienced motivational speaker makes the subject of personality psychology come to life… Entertaining, enlightening and refreshingly light on psychobabble.” --Kirkus Reviews

“A monumentally important book” --Susan Cain, author of Quiet

I’ve never read a book that revealed so much about my own personality, let alone the peculiar habits of my friends, coworkers, and family members. With extraordinary wit and wisdom, Little…offers startling insights about our trivial pursuits and magnificent obsessions.” --Adam Grant, author of Give and Take

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
Grand Central, 2013. 9781455503254.

Link to this review by emilyreads tagged biography

Koppel profiles the women behind the United States’ most famous flyboys, the men of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Koppel spends most of her time on the Mercury wives, married to the first seven astronauts who had to navigate a new world of technical risks and national security on a very public stage. The wives of later astronauts are introduced as well, with special attention paid to the uneasy alliances they made (or didn’t make) with the original seven. Through death, divorce, and despair, the wives kept each other grounded and asserted themselves as vital partners in the space race of the 1960s and 1970s.

Why I picked it up: The jacket is arresting: seven Betty Crocker clones blithely fondling a giant rocket in their best pastel shirtwaist dresses.

Why I finished it: Koppel’s knack for the intriguing detail kept me engaged, and some things truly surprised me -- like learning that the star treatment and financial security afforded to the astronauts and their families came not from NASA or the government but from Life magazine, which paid the wives huge chunks of cash and brand-new homes in exchange for exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage of their lives.

It's perfect for: Fans of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff who deserve to know what went on at home while the boys were busy in zero G. 

@bookblrb: The stories of the women behind the men of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs.

Amazon | Powell's

The Child Thief by Dan Smith
Pegasus, 2013. 9781605984407.

Link to this review by emilyjones tagged historical fictionmystery

Fear and cold are two constants for the poor folk living in the small starving village of Vyriv, in 1930's Ukraine. Any stranger is met with suspicion and paranoia as the military slowly but surely makes its way across the frozen countryside to claim food and supplies for the government, and arrest men, women, and children who will be sent to Siberian labor camps. When Luka Mikhailovich Sidorov finds a man near death in the wilderness, he makes an impulsive decision to bring him home. The other villagers are outraged that he would take in a potential informer. But it's the contents of the man's sled that whip them into a frenzy: two dead children. They punish the half-dead stranger, and only afterward does Luka's family realize that their eight-year-old niece is missing. Luka and his sons hunt down the man who has taken the girl into Ukraine’s unforgiving steppes.

Why I picked it up: The title in a Soviet-era font alluded to a missing child, and above it there was the silhouette of a man dragging a sled through a snowy field -- I was sold. And there’s no way I could pass up the tag line, "In the snow, death is not the coldest thing waiting for you."

Why I finished it: The author let one small detail slip that allowed me to figure out who the child thief was, but given Luka's beaten and exhausted state of mind, he doesn't catch it. I was begging him to think back and try to remember the clue that would help him catch the killer, but as the pages start to run out, I was terrified he might be too late.

Readalikes: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, which is about solving child murders in Stalin's Russia when supposedly there was no crime. David Benioff’s City of Thieves also features a struggle to survive while traversing a harsh winter environment. And Memoirs from the House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, his semi-autobiographical novel about what it's really like to be sent to Siberia, which is a very real threat that all of the characters in The Child Thief fear.

@bookblrb: In a small Ukrainian village, a child killer is punished, then a family hunts for their niece on the frozen steppes.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
Crown, 2014. 9780307408860.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania, published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship—the fastest then in service—could outrun any threat.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

Click to Request an eGalley.

Click to Request a Print Galley (while supplies last).

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

Grey Wolves: The U-Boat War 1939-1945 by Philip Kaplan
Skyhorse Publishing, 2014. 9781628737271.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged nonfiction

As an undeclared America continued to send supplies to Great Britain during World War II, the German high command realized they had to stop the flow of materials to the war theater. To this end Germany rapidly manufactured and deployed hundreds of “grey wolves,” a.k.a. U-boats. 14.1 million tons of armaments, tanks, bullets and planes sank to the bottom of the sea after torpedo and heavy machine gun attacks. These submarines sank 2,779 ships. 

Many scholars consider the battle to keep the high seas open to shipping the most important factor in the Allies’ victory over the Axis powers. The Allied losses at the beginning of the war were untenable. New anti-submarine tactics were developed like multi-level depth charge barrages, improved sonar capabilities, sub-spotting air patrols, and new patterns for evading submarines. Slowly, despite great loss of life, the Allies gained the upper hand. 

Why I picked it up: I have ridden in an American nuclear submarine, nicknamed a “boomer.” It felt tight and claustrophobic, even though we were only underwater for three hours. The dirty, noisy, fetid air in the original wartime German U-boats must have been worse, since they were infinitely smaller and scarier.

Why I finished it: The facts of life on these crowded little vessels. When they left port, they used every nook and cranny for food storage, including one of the two bathrooms, leaving only one for usage by the forty man crew. This was okay because hygiene was unknown on board. Men wore black undies, colloquially known as “whore’s undies” because they would usually not be changed during the entire time at sea, and the fact that they didn’t show dirtiness (much).

Signing up for service in the U-boats was a de facto death sentence. Of the 39,000 men who served, almost 30,000 never returned. Many were crushed in darkness as their submarine’s hulls failed when the crafts sank to the bottom of the ocean. Faithful to the Fuhrer’s orders to the end, even as losses piled up, the Germans who served onboard U-boats called their ships “iron coffins.”

It's perfect for: Anyone who enjoyed Jeff Shaara’s series about tanks and army divisions from WWII, of which The Steel Wave was my favorite. Both books take the reader inside the heads of the commanders and servicemen on both sides. My grandfather would have loved this book. As a WWII vet, he served on a Navy medical ship off Okinawa. While he didn’t face the grey wolves of the U-boat program, he would appreciate hearing the stories of the men who did. Hardships were a constant to the soldiers. As I read about seamen who scrambled to do anything they could to deliver their goods and stay alive, I was reminded of the supply shortages and overwhelming number of wounded my grandfather dealt with. They were all men who focused on getting their jobs done. 

@bookblrb: During WWII, German U-boats sank 2,779 ships, though most of the sailors who crewed the submarines didn’t survive.

Amazon | Powell's

Rasputin: A Short Life by Frances Welch
Short Books Ltd, 2014. 9781780721538.

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged biography

At the end of Grigory Rasputin's tumultuous forty-five year life, he was killed by several politically motivated assassins. They came to his home as guests, got him quite drunk (an easy task) then poisoned and shot him. After they thought him dead, he lurched back to life and ran out of his yard; they shot him again, finally ending his life for good.

Over-the-top stories like that began early in Rasputin's life and continued throughout. Rumored to have walked when only eight-months-old, Grigory Rasputin was unusual from the beginning. As a young married man in his twenties, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary; religious leaders sent him on a walk of thousands of miles to Greece to worship at a temple there. (Thus began a contentious life of quasi-religious behavior that often irritated the Russian Orthodox Church.) After several incidents where he helped the Tsarina’s hemophiliac son, Rasputin enjoyed the lifelong patronage of Russia’s royal family. This helped him out of several political jams, but did not stop several assassination attempts by those who felt he had undue influence.

Welch runs down some of the myths about Rasputin’s death, giving a strictly factual accounting of the murder. She also fills the book with mesmerizing anecdotes about his large life as holy man, royal advisor, healer, and horndog.

Why I picked it up: There had to be a reason why Rasputin still has name recognition almost a century after his death. I wanted to know what it was.

Why I finished it: If alive today, he would out-Charlie-Sheen Charlie Sheen with his sexual peccadilloes and strange behaviors. Was it the recipe for Rasputin’s Codfish Soup (printed at the end of the book!) which, as Rasputin himself claimed, was responsible for his intense sex drive? Rasputin often invited women to the bathhouse for the honor of washing his genitals, and a holy dwarf once attempted to pull off Raputin’s penis for supposedly sleeping with the Tsarina. After his death, Rasputin's thirteen-inch member was put on display at a museum with Napoleon's penis. Rasputin clearly outshone Napoleon -- the curator called Napoleon's equipment "a small pod."

It's perfect for: My wife, who breathlessly read a huge book on the Romanovs, Nicholas and Alexandra. Rasputin had a large, if ancillary, part in that book. I think she would enjoy seeing the other side of the story. The Tsarina felt indebted to Rasputin, and she consulted him on all major decisions, familial and political. And of course there are rumors that they had an affair.

@bookblrb: Grigory Rasputin, a quasi-religious figure, enjoyed the patronage of Russia’s royal family before his assassination.

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky; Illustrated by Frank Stockton
Workman, 2014. 9780761185000.

Announcing the paperback edition of World Without Fish, the uniquely illustrated narrative nonfiction account—for kids—of what is happening to the world’s oceans and what they can do about it. Written by Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod, Salt, The Big Oyster, and many other books, World Without Fish has been praised as “urgent” (Publishers Weekly) and “a wonderfully fast-paced and engaging primer on the key questions surrounding fish and the sea” (Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish). It has also been included in the New York State Expeditionary Learning English Language Arts Curriculum.

Written by a master storyteller, World Without Fish connects all the dots—biology, economics, evolution, politics, climate, history, culture, food, and nutrition—in a way that kids can really understand. It describes how the fish we most commonly eat, including tuna, salmon, cod, swordfish—even anchovies— could disappear within fifty years, and the domino effect it would have: the oceans teeming with jellyfish and turning pinkish orange from algal blooms, the seabirds disappearing, then reptiles, then mammals. It describes the back-and-forth dynamic of fishermen, who are the original environmentalists, and scientists, who not that long ago considered fish an endless resource. It explains why fish farming is not the answer—and why sustainable fishing is, and how to help return the oceans to their natural ecological balance.

Interwoven with the book is a twelve-page full-color graphic novel. Each beautifully illustrated chapter opener links to the next to form a larger fictional story that perfectly complements the text.

Sponsored - Learn more about this book - How to sponsor Unshelved

Amazon | Powell's

The Grand Duke by Romain Hugault, Yann
Archaia, 2012. 9781936393473.

Link to this review by wally tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

Wulf, a German ace during World War II, may have met his match in Lilya, one of the Soviet Night Witches. They both despise the political leaders of their nations; Wulf fights to protect his daughter while Lilya wants to protect her country from the Nazis. After Lilya is shot down and captured, Wulf treats her humanely, and she does not forget his kindness.

Publisher’s Rating: M for mature audiences (nudity, profanity, excessive violence)

Why I picked it up: I really like Archaia’s graphic novels. The artwork in this one is almost photographic in its realism, especially the aerial battle scenes.

Why I finished it: I wouldn’t call this a love story, really. But the way Wulf and Lilya are brought together by circumstance is told with great pacing: heart-racing battle scenes interspersed with the political machinations of military life and rare moments of calm conversation between two people who understand each other better than anyone else.Their personal lives add depth, whether it’s Wulf’s only child asking him to take a lucky charm before she moves with an aunt to Dresden, or Lilya’s escalating dispute with a tyrannical commanding officer that culminates in a secret order to shoot her down.

It's perfect for: Fans of the old EC war comics would really enjoy this book for its attention to detail. The artist is an historical aviation illustrator who could probably work for Jane’s if he didn’t want to focus on telling great stories.

@bookblrb: A German WWII ace meets his match in one of the Soviet Night Witches. Historical Book Reviews 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-14T07:00:00.0000000Z
by Gene ( link to this post | email me | my twitter )

Unshelved Book Club

This week's Unshelved Book Club features books that will teach you about the past, including comics full of advice for new Jewish immigrants, a biography of Evel Knievel, a novel that shows the dangers of morphine, profiles of early U.S. astronauts' wives, a book about Germany's WWII U-boats, a biography of Rasputin, a graphic novel about a WWII ace, and an historical novel in which a family hunts for a missing girl on the frozen steppes of Ukraine. Unshelved on Thursday, November 13, 2014 2014-11-13T07:00:00.0000000Z 2014-11-13T07:00:00.0000000Z

Unshelved strip for 11/13/2014
link to this strip | tweet this | share on facebook | email us | signed print

Library Ranger Badges available from the Unshelved store while supplies last