A betrayed mercenery, Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the Butcher of Caprile, survives an attempted assassination and seeks revenge on seven of the most powerful men in Styria for her brother's murder.
Why I picked it up: Another violent fantasy penned by Abercrombie? I'm there.
Why I finished it: The dialogue. The characters. The violence. After Murcatto took a hammer to the Grand Duke's bodyguard, I was hooked.
I'd give it to: Ben, who thinks he's done with fantasy but loves gritty fights. Rick, because it's time to man up.
Steampunk in Seattle! Briar's late husband built the machine that tunneled under Seattle, loosing a gas that poisons the air and turns people into zombie "rotters." Downtown Seattle is surrounded by a 200-foot tall wall to contain the Blight. Briar's son enters the toxic city, determined to prove his father's innocence. To rescue him, she hitches a ride on an airship and enters the doomed city, only to find that a man who may be her husband is among those living there.
Why I picked it up: The Scott Westerfeld blurb on the cover didn't hurt, but the airship reflected in the old fashioned goggles really caught my attention. Then I turned it over and saw that it was set in my hometown, Seattle, so I put it on the pile next to my bed.
Why I finished it: I loved the scarred survivors living in the bowels of a ruined Seattle. They run from rotters while wearing primitive gas masks that allow them to breathe despite the toxic gas emanating from the ground. Airship pilots risk crashing into buildings to skim the poisonous atmosphere so that it can be distilled it into a drug. But the Chinese community working the bellows to bring in fresh air through tubes above the city is the kind of unexpected detail that sets this book apart.
Artie King and friends need to the grand prize money from Camelot Middle School's Dragon Duel Robot Tournament to buy a replacement windshield for Principal Dagger's car window. But the bullies of the Horde will stop at nothing to win.
Why I picked it up: I bought a signed copy for my daughter, who loved the first book in the series.
Why I finished it: After reading it once herself, my daughter immediately wanted to read it together. But if I'd made the decision to read it on my own, the moment that pulled me through would have come on p.54. After a run-in with the school bully, Wayne finds Artie hanging by his underwear from a fence. Artie asks how Wayne thinks he got there. His response: "It could have been a self-inflicted wedgie."
I'd give it to: Cranky school administrators, young graphic novel fans, and anyone who likes to say "Excalibur."
Individuals known as Gracelings are unusually gifted in a certain area, whether it be running, swimming, or even the ability to eat stones. Katsa's grace gives her hand-to-hand fighting skills that allow her to hit harder and move faster than any opponent. She can also travel without sleep for days at a time across the toughest terrain. Katsa believes herself to be a born killer. For a time she tortures defiant subjects for her King, though she hates herself. She manages to break free, but she soon finds herself pursued by a villainous Gracelling with the power to control minds who wants to bend her to his will.
Why I picked it up: The image of an eye reflected in the blade of a knife dominates the cover. It blazed with determination and dared me to crack the book.
Why I finished it: The King orders Katsa to cut off the fingers of a Lord for stealing. She finds herself unable to torture the man, who has already paid, in gold, for what he stole. (This is the first moment when Katsa shows she can differentiate right and wrong.)
I'd give it to: Ben, who likes stories as straightforward and intense as a duel to the death. Emma, who likes anything by Tamora Pierce. Blake, who enjoys learning survival skill. He would love Katsa's journey through a mountain pass.
After his family is murdered, Nobody (Bod) Owen grows up in a graveyard, raised by its dead (and undead) residents.
Why I picked it up: My husband put it on my iPod when I had to ride a bus from Whistler, BC, to Seattle, WA.
Why I finished it: Gaiman's voice. As soon as I heard it, I knew I wouldn't stop listening to him. He's amazing at helping me picture and hear different characters. (The story was great, too.)
I'd give it to: My 7-year-old daughter, because Bod is quiet but knows who he is and what he wants. Children at once excited and terrified about living away from their parents. Parents who need to send their kids into the world.
Matt and his two friends, Cooper and Sean, are in danger of not achieving their summer goal. To see a real-life naked woman for the first time ever, they put themselves in all sorts of compromising positions like purchasing O'Douls for a party (party foul!) and staking out a nudist beach.
Why I picked it up: My kids are on swim team, so I figured it might be a good book for them. Plus they're buzzing with the same energy as the protagonists.
Why I finished it: The boys' best plan is to cross dress and hope for a glimpse into the girls' locker room, but, of course, there are explosive results. Every situation is cringe-worthy and Matt is a perfect everyman foil for these things. Matt's life-saving course with a sadistic German named Ulf is over the top. The interplay between the three friends as they proceed is witty and definitely shows Calame's background in screenwriting. Matt's horny grandfather was also a revelation.
I read this book cover to cover in one sitting. I laughed out loud so often that each of my family members came over to find out why I was snorting. It is juvenile, scatological, crass without going too far, and perfect for any teen boy and men who can remember their high school selves while still retaining a measure of heart.
I'd give it to: Fans of fart jokes and anyone who likes Mel Brooks movies.