Pierce was a normal fifteen-year-old with a very rich dad and an environmentalist mom. Her life changed irrevocably when she drowned and miraculously was revived twenty minutes later. The psychiatrists called it a near-death experience. For Pierce it was a trip into a dark, chaotic world where she met John, a death deity who wanted her to stay. She escaped John’s mansion and awoke in a hospital wearing the diamond necklace he gave her. Pierce’s parents divorce, she gets expelled, and then she and her mother move to Isla Huesos. But John, a strange cemetery caretaker, the island’s history, and a dark family secret all turn her chance for a fresh start into a nightmare.
Why I picked it up: I have always been interested in explanations of death and the afterlife. This looked like it would be a new take on the subject, and Meg Cabot ranks as one of my favorite writers.
Why I finished it: The history of the cemetery (based on the real Island of Bones cemetery in Key West, Florida) is woven into the plot. Its caretaker, Richard Smith, is also a near-death survivor, as well as John’s confidant, and he helps Pierce understand the gravity of her plight.
I'd give it to: Erika and her friends who worship Rick Riordan’s Lightning Thief series, and have read most of our mythology books.
This graphic novel breaks down SEAL Team Six’s May 2011 raid on the Al Qaeda compound in Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was hiding. It includes details about the preparation, the politics of moving in without notifying Pakistan, the satellite imagery that informed the planning, and even the weighing of each team member in full gear to be sure the helicopters were within parameters.
Why I picked it up: Captain Dale Dye and Julia Dye, two of the authors, work as consultants for Hollywood to make movies more realistic, so I knew I’d be getting the real deal. Also, part of the proceeds from the book will go to the American Veterans Center.
Why I finished it: It gives a real-time order of operations, including how the team learned about the compound’s layout and the destruction of the downed, high-tech helicopter.
I'd give it to: Stan, who would be interested in the operational timeline and would enjoy the book’s non-jingoistic, matter-of-fact tone. Basil, my student and an aspiring Navy SEAL, who would appreciate the pages at the end about the creation of SEAL Team Six and its goals.
Marya Morevna is the last of four sisters. She watched her sisters marry magical suitors and leave the house, and she’s envious. Then her turn comes. She chooses to marry Koschei the Deathless, despite a bad feeling. He takes her back to the Country of Life, where he alternately adores and mistreats her. Koschei, the Tsar of Life, is heavily involved in the non-stop war against his brother Viy, the Tsar of Death, who appears to be winning. (Their struggle is playing out in the siege of Leningrad.) When a young man named Ivan tries to convince her to leave Koschei, Marya must decide whether to stay with Koschei or return to the real world.
Why I picked it up: Great title, plus I know very little about the Russian folklore the book draws on.
Why I finished it: Koschei the Deathless is a trickster much like Norse mythology’s Loki. Marya Morevna lives in a house that is attended by unintentionally hilarious Russian house elves who have formed a Soviet-like committee on how to run the house behind the scenes. And finally, there are a few Baba Yaga cameos.
I'd give it to: Shona, who would enjoy the way the story echoes folklore in its repetition, rhythms, and patterns.
In “Heartbreaker,” Alexandra, a sexy assassin, recounts how she became a killer for hire. Thrown into prison, she endures harsh captivity while waiting for any chance to escape.
Also in Volume 3, “The Depths” (which takes place mostly underwater) features a young (squid-like) girl. After her family is mistakenly slaughtered by soldiers of the Grand Khan, she joins them in disguise.
In “Night of the Ladykiller” Alcibiades studies to become a necromancer. He has to help a dim-witted (and ogre-like) classmate, Tristan, pass his exams. If he fails, he’ll be kicked out of school. Meanwhile his classmate, Horus, accused of impregnating several ladies, uses the situation to marry above his station. (Hilarity and weirdness ensues.)
Also in Volume 4, “Ruckus at the Brewers” stars the innocent and monstrous Grogro, who likes to keep adventurers in his mouth a while before eating them. He is sent on an important mission -- to get some beer from the rabbits in Zedotamaxim. He’s off to a good start until he needs a snack and eats one of the wings of the giant bird he’s riding.
Publishers’ rating: For mature readers.
Why I picked it up: Dungeon is a fabulous array of five inter-related graphic novel series written and occasionally drawn by French comics greats Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim. Plus each story is drawn by an artist with whose work I wasn’t familiar, giving me a chance to discover a new artist.
Why I finished it: The art was great (and so was the writing)! “Heartbreaker” features Nine’s sketchy, kinetic art, which he uses to great effect for amazing fight scenes and to evoke the mood of the dank, gloomy prison. Killoffer’s refined, cartoony art in “The Depths” features weird sea creatures doing bloody battle. The bright, plastic-looking colors, especially the blood in the water, make it eye-catching. The colors in Yoann’s painted art in “Ruckus at the Brewers” are unexpected and spectacular.
I'd give it to: Dave, who read the first two volumes of Dungeon: The Early Years the last time he was in Seattle.
These ten vignettes offer a look into the background, motivations, and interior life of G.I. Joe and Cobra soldiers.
Why I picked it up: I hadn’t read a G.I. Joe comic since 1987 and wouldn’t have tried one. But Max Brooks wrote World War Z, so I had to give it a shot.
Why I finished it: It was good! Major Bludd kills a busload of folks in South America and then returns home to his family. His motivation is to have job skills that will always be needed (unlike his father). Tripwire disables a car bomb by hand instead of sending in the bot. If he makes the wrong call, he’ll die -- and be reunited with the woman he loves.
I'd give it to: Corey, who, years ago, went to Jet City Improv’s re-enactment of an old Land of the Lost episode (complete with Sleestak!). During the commercial breaks, he laughed at the G.I. Joe cartoon PSAs, so I know he’d recognize some of these characters.
Hopeless Savages is the story of punk rockers Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage and their four kids: Rat, Arsenal, Twitch and Zero.
Why I picked it up: Punk rock mixed with family life appeals to me since it feels like such a contradiction to most people. Plus making music and having babies are the two things my life is lacking most right now.
Why I finished it: The stories thoroughly explore what it would be like to grow up in such a radical family. How do you rebel when your parents are the ultimate rebels? (Work for The Man.) If kids are raised to stand up for themselves and take no b.s., what sort of trouble will they get into? (All kinds.) Despite the smart aleck remarks, martial arts, and madcap moments, the book holds together because the family members love each other and stick together.
I'd give it to: Anne, who mixes a cozy domestic life full of gardening and incredibly cute dogs with rocking out, librarian-style. She would love how this clan is simultaneously kick-ass and sincerely sweet.
T'Rain, the world's most popular multiplayer video game, spawned a variety of cottage industries, including a virtual extortion ring organized around a computer virus called reamde. The unintended consequences of this virus spread rapidly, affecting Russian mobsters, Chinese hackers, a Welsh Islamist terrorist, a beautiful MI6 agent, the reformed dope smuggler who invented T'Rain, and his niece Zula.
Why I picked it up: Neal Stephenson is my favorite author. His life is optimized around thinking about things as deeply as possible, and every few years he pops out a novel which blows my mind with revelations about how the world works.
Why I finished it: It's three books in one: an exploration of the implications of gold farming that beautifully complements Cory Doctorow's For The Win, a sprawling international thriller ripped from the pages of today's headlines, and a moving saga of an unusually idiosyncratic family. It also convinced me to install a treadmill in my office.
I'd give it to: Beth, who works with trans-racially adopted families for a living. She will appreciate the richly-drawn Zula, adopted from war-torn Eritrea into a white Iowan farm family, who brings her many identities to bear throughout the novel.
Chase and his dad travel from city to city, chasing major storms so his dad's construction team can rebuild homes. They've rolled into St. Petersburg just ahead of a massive storm that will put both their lives in danger.
Why I picked it up: I think every sixth grader that I talk to has said that they love Smith's thrillers.
Why I finished it: It reads like the best kind of disaster movie. Chase and his dad know storms, are always aware of the hazards around them, and are prepared for anything. I am definitely going to read The Surge, the next book in the series that continues the story after a cliffhanger ending.
I'd give it to: Andy, who always travels with GPS, flashlights, emergency radios, and the sorts of supplies Chase has in his go bag, for the bravery and teamwork Chase, Nicole, and Rashawn show in the face of constantly changing dangers.