Something evil has come to Burden Hill. A group of dogs (and their friend Orphan, a stray cat) show courage in the face of the supernatural. They howl to the Wise Dog for help, and battle evil to keep their friends and their people safe.
(Collects Beasts of Burden 1-4 plus other shorts from anthologies.)
Why I picked it up: I love Jill Thompson’s art. I drift by her booth at Comic Con every year just to watch her draw.
Why I finished it: Pugsley’s attitude. “Ha-ha to you, butt breath. Go hump yourself.”
I'd give it to: My sister, Traci, who has a snorting, beastly pug plus a real dog. She’d like the pictures, gross out at the blood and body parts, and entirely fail to keep the book from her kids. And when they start endlessly repeating the foul, funny bits of doggy dialogue, I’d have a laugh.
The Elf King sends an assassin after the young stonekeeper Emily and his son, Prince Trellis, who failed his mission to kill Emily (in book two).
Years ago, when the elves conquered Alledia, the city of Cielis was reduced to a crater. But some believe the city was lifted into the air, and that even now it floats hidden among the clouds. Emily, her mom, and her brother Navin, Miskit (a rabbit), Cogsley (a robot), and Leon (a fox) are trying to find the lost city. But first Emily needs to save Prince Trellis.
Why I picked it up: It’s the best epic fantasy graphic novel series being published. Wouldn’t miss it.
Why I finished it: When the kids go into The Drinking Hole to hire an airship pilot, it reminded me, in the best way, of a certain wretched hive of scum and villainy. I love that Emily’s mom is along for the adventure, and protests when her kids are about to go into a bar.
I'd give it to: Bill, because the marvelous colors would remind him of the seminar he attended, taught by Planetary colorist Laura Martin, at our first Comic Con. Karla, who can’t enjoy words and pictures together, so that she’d take it home for her her kids, who would find it irresistible.
In 1851 the Devil walks the streets of London. This is a world of dark alleys full of desperate and dangerous men, poor families packed into single rooms, and dollymops working the streets. Out of this world looms Captain Daniel O’Thunder, Irish street preacher and former pugilist. This burly man has sworn to beat the Devil down by seeking the salvation of men one soul at a time. Then he is called back to the ring to vanquish the Devil in a bare-fisted match with an unbeliever.
Why I picked it up: This review described it as a “thumping serving of early Victoriana.” Who could say no to that?
Why I finished it: Weir gives a vivid picture of London street life in 1851. And I especially liked the descriptions of theater at the time. Young Nell describes melodrama as “a highwayman and a lass, and a toff who was really the villain, and a first-rate murder and a duel, and everything going horribly wrong before turning out right in the end.”
I'd give it to: Gene, who is obsessed with the UFC and would like the detailed descriptions of how illegal fights were conducted in Victorian England.
Ollie is just weeks from his sixteenth birthday when he receives the deathday letter that informs him and his family that he has just twenty-four hours to live. Everyone is distraught, obviously, but he decides to push through and live a normal day. Then his best friend Shane makes him skip school and live it up. They bring along Ronnie, Ollie’s ex-girlfriend, for whom he still carries a torch. Ollie jumps from a bridge, smokes pot, tries to get horizontal with a girl, shoplifts, and drives (illegally). He also pisses off Ronnie and has to figure out how to get back together with her.
Why I picked it up: Like everyone else (I think), I’ve thought about what I’d do if I only had twenty-four hours left.
Why I finished it: Completely juvenile yet funny synonyms for sex, like “panty spelunking” made me giggle uncontrollably while reading. Then I hit the scene where Ollie described his shame at pleasuring himself while watching fuzzy pornography that turned out to be two men. I knew that even while I couldn’t bring the book within fifty miles of my middle school library, I’d be giving it to adults and high schoolers to read.
I'd give it to: Jolene, who, like this book, is crass but has a warm heart. Burt, who’s favorite part of Hot Tub Time Machine was waiting to see how Crispin Glover’s character would inevitably to lose his arm, because we know that Ollie will die, just not how it will go down.
Jimmy writes in his journal about the constant harassment he gets for being overweight.
Why I picked it up: A teen library volunteer saw it on my desk. She told me it was really good and opened her eyes about school bullying.
Why I finished it: Jimmy ends up seeing the pain and difficulties in his classmates' lives. He makes some life-changing connections and changes himself, too, supported by his family and church youth group. I believed every moment and ended up making myself dizzy when I got lost in the story in the hot reading room at the Korean spa.
I'd give it to: Carol, because Jimmy gets a lot out of the assigned books in English class and secretly enjoys the discussions.
Diana Jones, a pregnant teenager, showed up on the doorstep of her biological father, Joe Montana. He was surprised but not as much as his wife, Allison, who didn't know Diana existed. Then there are the neighbors: 1950s-esque Dick and Dorothy Werner and their druggie son, Kevin; lesbians Sam and Gloria; the quiet Asian family whose names nobody can remember; and Jessalyn, the reality TV star. Everyone has an opinion about the drama unfolding in the Montana household. When Diana gives birth to Zoe, they become further enmeshed in each others' secrets. Then Diana disappears, and those secrets unravel.
Why I picked it up: Flipped open the book and the first pages were compelling. It starts with excerpts from a neighborhood blog warning residents to evacuate because of wildfires. Then it asks everyone to be on the lookout for a missing girl.
Why I finished it: I felt like a voyeur watching the neighbors' private lives fall apart. Over time I suspected who may have been involved in Diana's disappearance but everyone’s private miseries were equally gripping.
I'd give it to: Katy, who couldn’t avoid neighborhood drama if she lived alone in a cave. And to Jason, Dallas native and Desperate Housewives devotee, because the ladies of Wisteria Lane have nothing on Jessalyn's dating habits or Dorothy's hostess charms.
Bangkok has managed to survive the end of fossil fuels, global warming, and worldwide food shortages. Genetic crop modifications by giant agribusinesses have unleashed new diseases that infect crops and people, killing untold numbers. But Thailand may be able to provide genetic material useful in creating genes resistant to blight.
Anderson Lake and others are there to nudge things the right way, politically, even if they must resort to bribes and arrange for the removal of human obstacles. Environmental Ministry employee Jaidee, the Tiger of Bangkok, along with his morally-compromised lieutenant, is trying to protect their beloved home country from corruption. Yet their actions may spark a war between government ministries. At the center of it all is Emiko, a windup girl made to serve a rich Japanese businessman. Abandoned in Bangkok, she’s sexually exploited and abused while working as a bar girl. But when she finally manages to overcome her programming, she sets off a revolution.
Why I picked it up: Loved Bacigalupi’s YA book Ship Breaker, a National Book Award finalist and Printz winner. (The Windup Girl won a Nebula in 2010.)
Why I finished it: Bacigalupi is extremely skilled at showing the effects of genetic plagues and energy poverty without resorting to exposition. For example, a powerful man has an elevator in his building, but because of energy issues, the elevator works off of ballast instead of electricity. As passengers get on the elevator they must state their weight. aA large group of servants can ride down in another car, lifting the primary elevator. When the ride is over, the ballast men run back up the stairs to be of use again.
I'd give it to: Mitch, who likes bleak, futuristic movies like Blade Runner where humanity’s darker traits appear to have trumped morals. Justin, who likes dense reads that require and provoke deep thoughts about the world’s problems. (What should I call the opposite of a beach read? A mountain read? A peak read?)