Lucy's journal of the trip she took to Paris with her mom.
Why I picked it up: I pulled it off the shelf and flipped to the page on Leviathan Thot, an art installation by Ernesto Neto in Paris.
Why I finished it: Its blend of prose, comics, and photographs makes it feel more immediate than traditional travel writing. I read it before I went to Paris in December.
I'd give it to: twenty-somethings thinking of traveling artoad, anyone who enjoys journals or books about travel but (mistakenly) believes comics aren't for them, and my grandmother.
As a child Sparky Valentine was the biggest star in the solar system. His hit TV show broke every record. Now he travels between the outer planets on freighters doing dumbed-down Shakespeare for asteroid miners and penal colonies. This is the story of how he got there, and his journey back home for the greatest performance of his life.
Why I finished it: Varley writes satisfyingly hard sci-fi (his description of how to get around a partially-built space station is fascinating) but the tragedy of Sparky's relationship with his monomaniacal father drew me in. He's also got a great dog and an even better steamer trunk.
I'd give it to: Anyone who enjoyed Heinlein's Double Star in their youth and is ready for something more challenging and mature. Folks turned off (as I was) by Varley's Gaia trilogy but curious about what else he can do.
Mishna was the only white girl in her neighborhood and school. She had to learn to do her step-sister and step-brother's nappy hair, and balanced going to a snobby school with living in a poor neighborhood. Her father did not have a job, tore up the house for a remodel he never finished, and sponged off the different ladies he lived with. There are pictures of her father, sister and Mishna sprinkled throughout the book that show outfits so stereotypically disco they seem like they entered a perpetual Sly and the Family Stone lookalike contest.
Why I picked it up: Mishna Wolff rocks a sweet white girl afro on the cover. She also grew up in the Rainier Valley in Seattle, close to where I live.
Why I finished it: Wolff has a very sarcastic and dry of wit. She was given strange advice and parenting of a sort by her father. At one point, her father sat her down for a chat and musters up the gem, "Mishna, you've got to remember to keep it real!" It reminded me a bit of The Glass Castle in terms of being a close look into a damaged childhood where the reader can feel good about it because at least the kid turned out okay.
I'd give it to: 30-something city dwellers who enjoy sarcasm, anyone who ever wore a feather boa in public and people who like memoirs with happy endings.
Things are easy for Billy. Life is normal, except for his principal, who collects broadswords and thumbscrews, and the fact that his breath is hot enough to toast pop tarts. After a bad day at school, Billy comes home early and overhears a conversation between his parents. He discovers his family is part of a secret from the time of King Arthur, and that descendants of the original dragon slayers still hunt for their prey.
Why I picked it up: The dragon behind the two teens on the cover grabbed my attention, the name of the series pulled me closer, then the bookstore cashier nodded toward the book and said, "That's excellent."
Why I finished it: Simply put, things just go from bad to worse, and I was hooked all the way through.
I'd give it to: All middle school-aged teens and anyone looking for a light read to curl up on the couch with.
Grace, a high-school student, realizes that the pack of wolves in the forest near her house aren't ordinary wolves. In the winter, they are just wolves, but in the warmth of the summer, the younger memberstake human form. Sam looks forward to the summer days because he enjoys being human. But when he gets shot during a wolf hunt, he ends up on Grace's back porch and, as you may have guessed, their lives will never be same again. As the seasons turn, Sam fights the cold because he knows that, after this transformation, he will be a wolf forever.
Why I picked it up: Who can resist a cover with vining trees and the shadow of a wolf in the background?
Why I finished it: I felt how hard it must be for Sam to know he has only a month with Grace before returning to his wolf form.
I'd give it to: Young adults who like fantasy set in today's world and are okay with books that are slightly sad.