A garden of beasts, origin stories and more in our new-release picks for May 10, 2011

Categories: Lists

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Now that summer is nearly here, it means we need to prep ourselves for hot days, big blockbusters and vacations. That means the best picks for this week come in the form of comic book origin stories to prep you for all the big movies, and two -- yes, two -- big-time mystery-thriller novels that are nearly always described as "page-turners," or, as we'd call them, the perfect accoutrement to a day on the beach. Sure, people will tell you that you shouldn't be reading books on the beach, that you should be relaxing, but they just don't understand how important it is to find out what happened to the serial killer and the detective chasing him.

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5. Origins of Marvel Comics
With all of the superhero movies coming out recently, chances are your interest has been piqued at least slightly. That said, Marvel is well known for its ludicrously complicated storylines, multiple timelines, universes and abundance of heroes. If the whole thing is a bit overwhelming, but you're still determined to get into the thick of it all, a good place to start is the origins. Plain and simple, this is a collection of several histories of some of Marvel's biggest names, and it should give you a good understanding of the worlds these characters are all living in.

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4. MDK 2 (Wii)
If you're one of the few people out there who still own a Wii and still have it plugged into something, then you can't go wrong with MDK 2. Okay, that's not entirely true -- but if you're looking for a very gamey game, and one that happened to be a PC classic, then MDK 2 fits the bill. It's filled with clever writing, weird weapons and a robotic, six-legged dog.

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3. Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine is a very serious movie. It's also a very grown-up movie, so if you're prefer to spend your waking hours watching Thor, then you should probably steer clear of Blue Valentine. If, however, you're a bit masochistic and enjoy watching people's lives fall apart, then this is a remarkably honest look at two people on the verge of happiness, breakups, romance and everything else. Did we mention it's very serious?

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2. The Snowman, by Jo Nesbø
A few years ago, Stieg Larsson proved to American that Sweden existed and people lived there who were capable of writing thrillers. Now The Snowman is hoping to do the same thing with Norway by offering up a twisted, complicated thriller involving a serial killer who leaves a snowman as a calling card, and a hard-boiled detective who is hot on his trail. Yes, it's very typical of a mystery-thriller-detective story, but honestly, when was the last time you read a really well-crafted dimestore book like this from an American?

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1. In the Garden of Beasts: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larsen
Erik Larsen is a bit of an anomaly within the literary world, because he's somehow managed to toe the line between high-class non-fiction and garbage-pail paperback trash. As with his previous books, Thuderstruck, The Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm, Larsen gives us a historical world popularized by seedy individuals looking to do something nasty to someone in a way that forces the book critics to use stupid cliches like "glued to the pages." This time around, it's all about Nazis, but as is usually the case, things aren't exactly as you'd suspect. It's billed as historical fiction, but don't let that fool you: The plot is key here.

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