Forty-two of the stupidest products, events, and deals in American life, and quite a few more runners-up, explained in enough detail to clue you in if you missed them the first time around.
Why I picked it up: The magical combination of products on the cover includes an XFL football, a Jar Jar Binks action figure, and an Apple Newton.
Why I finished it: Nothing's more enthralling than a disaster, and it was fun to reminisce about New Coke, the Yugo, and the Coleco Adam. But it was downright gripping to read the authors’ take on sports, a field I know virtually nothing about. I can finally talk knowledgeably with guys at parties about the steroid-fueled Marc McGuire/Sammy Sosa home run derby, NFL coach Jimmy Johnson endorsing the ExtenZe penis-enhancement pill, and the Minnesota Vikings trading everything for Herschel Walker. (Yesterday I didn’t even known who that guy was!)
I'd give it to: Unshelved's store manager, Jana. She's a full decade younger than Gene and I, and she needs to know about The Noid, Cop Rock, and Chrysler's in-car phonograph.
From the beloved author of When I Was Puerto Rican, here is a sensual, riveting piece of fiction—history told through the story of an indomitable, unforgettable woman.
After reading the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de León, Ana Cubillas, a young girl in 19th-century Spain, is drawn to the exotic island of Puerto Rico.
But Ana’s fantasies didn’t include this unrelenting heat, this wild countryside, and the slave labor on which life there depends. Despite tragedy and hardship, she remains enthralled by the island’s romance, and will sacrifice everything to keep it.
Emily knew her marriage with Sandy had hit a rough patch but she was certain that they could -- and would -- work it out. On the evening she thought they were about to rekindle their love, Sandy was prepared to tell her he wanted a divorce. But he was killed in a car accident and never got the chance.
Numb with grief, Emily adopts a mutt named Einstein. After she discovers that Sandy was cheating on her, her whole life begins to fall apart: she's facing eviction, a new boss at work, the sudden arrival of her sister, and an impossible mother-in-law. Through it all Emily feels like Sandy is with her for better or worse, and he really is. He's been given a chance at redemption, and he’s alive and well in Einstein’s body.
Why I picked it up: When I saw the ad on Shelf Awareness, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to read a book about a dog that had my name in the title.
Why I finished it: I was expecting a dog like Garth Stein's Enzo in The Art of Racing in the Rain or a feel good tale like Marley & Me, but this isn't about the canine-human experience. It's about second chances. I began to care about Emily and her relationship with her sister, and I kept my fingers crossed that in the end we'd get to know the real Einstein, too.
I'd give it to: Amanda, a dog trainer, who will be entertained by the ways Sandy the human tries to cope with the urges and behaviors of Sandy the dog.
The decidedly eccentric staff of Tripping Magazine, a low-budget periodical of the paranormal, go to Manitou Springs, Colorado, to investigate a ghostly Chihuahua spotted by the rich founder of a clothing catalog for small dogs. Is the glowing apparition really the deceased namesake of Petey’s Closet, “Where Dapper Dogs Shop”? Or is someone trying to teach a dead dog new tricks? With memorable and wacky characters, fans of Blaize Clement and all cozy lovers will be clamoring to get a copy of this unique new series.
London’s memory is messed up. She can't remember what happened at school yesterday, what homework to finish, or what she is supposed to do this weekend. Every night her memory resets.
But somehow she can remember the future. She knows her best friend will be her friend for years, even if they are fighting now. And she already knows everything she needs to know to finish high school, without studying, so her problem isn't completely without perks. But the new cute boy at school? She doesn’t know anything about him at all.
Why I picked it up: I was intrigued by the premise of the book which reminded me of two of my favorite movies: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where a man chooses to have his memory wiped to forget heartbreak, and 50 First Dates where a man tries to figure out how to woo a woman who wakes up every day having totally forgotten about him.
Why I finished it: The author did a wonderful job of using omissions to carry the plot forward. London writes herself increasingly complex notes every night before going to sleep. At first they just mention what to wear, homework that needs to be done, and little things she needs to know to get through the day without looking like an idiot. She begins to realize both she (and her mother) have been leaving things out. How can she get a grasp on the big picture without a memory of why it all went wrong in the first place? I was left guessing until the end.
Making the odd ordinary and the ordinary odd…In the autumn of 1840, PT Barnum purchased an outdated museum on the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in Manhattan. Among the Wonderful is a fictional account of this museum’s short, extraordinary reign as America’s most popular attraction. From conjoined twins in the midst of an abusive relationship with each other- to the world’s only giantess Ana Swift, recording the history of her life as she comes to terms with it herself.
Clara is staying in a small town on the ocean with her father, an author. She’s trying for a job at the lighthouse while surreptitiously watching the cute sailor who keeps waving at her from his boat. She’s trying to get her life back to normal after her break up with Christian.
In the beginning, Christian was perfect -- blond hair, a sexy accent, gorgeous. Because of his insecurities, Clara felt like she had to work desperately to keep their relationship on an even keel. When she finally broke things off, Christian didn’t take it well. The police officer who helped her secure a restraining order against Christian advised Clara and her father to move away for a few months to a small town.
Why I picked it up: Deb Caletti is a bestselling, local (Seattle), young adult author, and her kids attended the school where I work. I have enjoyed every one of her books and have been able to speak to her about many of them in person!
Why I finished it: Clara’s father is dealing with the loss of his wife years earlier. The presence of an adult with a good relationship with his child and issues of his own added to the emotional heft of this book. As always, Caletti has quirky characters that feel right because they speak like real people. The details, like the fact Clara and her father spend the entire book trying to guess the occupation of the owner of the house they are renting from photographs, rather than Googling the man's name, add verisimilitude to the book.
I'd give it to: Alli, who would love that this is both a relationship book with elements of a thriller, with truly creepy moments where it feels like horror and ruin are right around the corner.
In Rick Gavin's rollicking series debut set squarely in the Mississippi Delta, Nick Reid has a simple job to do: repossess a flat screen TV from Percy Dwayne Dubois. But Percy Dwayne wouldn't give in, no; he saw fit to go, the way his sort will and decided the world was stacked against him anyway. He hit Nick over the head with a fireplace shovel, tied him up with a length of lamp cord, and stole the mint-condition calypso coral-colored 1969 Ranchero that Nick had borrowed from his landlady. And he took the TV with him.
Nick and his best friend Desmond, fellow repo man in Indianola, Mississippi, have no choice but to go after him.
A un-putdown-able road-trip of a crime novel, Ranchero is a fantastic series debut for fans of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, and Carl Hiaasen.
Mohawks have been doing the hard work, hundreds of feet in the air, to put up bridges and skyscrapers around North America since they were first made of steel. Skywalkers starts at the first bridge with a Mohawk crew and profiles ironworkers through to the present day.
Why I picked it up: I had heard about Mohawk ironworkers walking on stories-high steel beams like they walk on solid ground.
Why I finished it: Weitzman follows men from Kahnawà:ke. They were involved in construction of the Victoria Bridge (which is near their town), the Empire State Building, and a major construction disaster, the collapse of the Quebec Bridge. It killed thirty-one Kahnawà:ke men and led the women to demand that the men not all work on the same project, so that whole families would not be killed at once. Weitzman interviewed ironworkers from old timers to young punks. He heard great stories and gained insight into why so many of them walk the high steel despite it being one of the deadliest jobs in the U.S.
I'd give it to: Bill and Virginia, for the stories of the Kahnawà:ke families who moved to Brooklyn (Bill and Virginia’s hometown), called it "Downtown Kahnawà:ke," and talked about ironwork legends at The Wigwam Bar.
Evan is working for the family business. The company is experiencing tough economic times and laying off employees worldwide, but his boss, Conrad, has him translating ancient documents (spells, prayers, and invocations) that have little to do with its bottom line.
Suddenly Evan is taken to the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe. Conrad has uncovered the site of Scholomance, the legendary college of dark sorcery, and the source of the power of Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Dracula. He’s also found Dracula’s body, and wants Evan to resurrect the vampire.
Why I finished it: After Dracula is resurrected, Evan constructs a special garment for him loaded with stakes, crucifixes, and holy water. If Dracula steps out of line, all he has to do is trigger the remote control.
Graphic novel adaptation of Bruchac’s novel, set in stone age New England.
Weasel Tail is marked by the stone giants when they kill and eat his family. He manages to save his little brother-cousin, Young Hunter, but there’s a darkness growing in Weasel Tail.
Young Hunter grows to become a gifted tracker. After he proves himself, a village elder gives him the Long Thrower. He must go forth with this weapon and face the threat that is coming toward his village. To save his people, he will need to fight the giants who killed his parents. But Weasel Tail is helping them.
Why I picked it up: The cover. The scale of the Thunder Being looking down on a young warrior on the cover is stunning, as is the color.
Why I finished it: The beautiful, wordless sequence of Young Hunter’s true hunt (without weapons). The soft blacks, whites, and grays of the art (unlike most comics, it’s not inked with dark black lines) give a great sense of his challenges and the natural landscape.
I'd give it to: Brett, who enjoyed I Kill Giants, because the terrifying Stone Giants in this book provide an epic test of Young Hunter's courage.
Masanosuke is a masterless samurai who is having a hard time earning money to eat, let alone enough to cover his family’s debts. He’s tall, awkward, and timid, so he’s usually fired within a few days of being hired as a bodyguard, but he’s too proud to take work as a laborer.
But then he meets Yaichi, who feeds him and hires him to provide protection. Yaichi and his friends are the Five Leaves. They make their living by kidnapping and then holding people for ransom. Some might think they’re noble thieves dealing with members of houses that are causing problems, but Yaichi doesn’t believe they’re doing anything good. After Masanosuke becomes their unwitting accomplice, he has a hard time turning down the money.
Publisher’s Rating: T+ for Older Teen
Why I finished it: The lack of long, drawn out action sequences that are typical in other samurai manga. When Masanosuke first displays his skills with a sword, a lot is left up to the reader’s imagination, and the fight is over as quickly as it began.
I'd give it to: My friend Gina. She usually prefers the humor of yaoi, but there’s enough affection in the friendships developing between Masanosuke and the other members of the Five Leaves that she’ll be drawn in by this, too.