Roger realizes he’s an old man. He feels compelled to go fly a kite, but his wife thinks he’s crazy. His friends try to talk him out of it. After getting the kite aloft, he’s pulled into the clouds. Later, after dreaming of wrestling a bear, he chases a sock-stealing rabbit into the forest.
Why I picked it up: This comic called to me -- I feel like an old man.
Why I finished it: After his adventures, the old man feels invigorated. And when he really does come face to face with a bear, it growls in his face. The old man tells the bear it “could use a breath mint.”
I'd give it to: Lei Mei, who pretends to be an old man when she and my daughter are playing, because i’d like to hear her read it in her patented old man voice (and because it’s short enough to appeal to her).
Charles Neumann loses a leg in an industrial accident. It's a relief, really, because now he can design a better one. But two would be better, so he arranges to lose the other one as well. His employer takes notice of his proactivity and funds a whole team devoted to improving various body parts.
Why I picked it up: Big fan of Jack Kirby's Machine Man.
Why I finished it: The awesomely named Cassandra Cautery, crisis specialist for Charles' company. I was completely taken in by her primary motivation: a tiny physical imperfection that technology hasn't been able to cure.
I'd give it to: Barry, who works with prosthetics patients. But I'm afraid to ask if he's got a prosthetics fetish like Lola, with whom Charlie falls in love.
Jill is still dealing with the loss of her father. So is her mother, although her way of dealing with his death is to bring a new life into the house. She has arranged a handshake deal to adopt the coming baby of a teenage girl she met online, Mandy. Jill is shocked by her mother’s decision. When Mandy comes to live with them for the last few weeks of her pregnancy, Jill mistrusts her. While her mother frets over nutrition and pre-natal vitamins, Jill worries her mother is being taken for a ride.
At the same time, Jill is falling for a coworker. They went to the same high school, but she doesn’t remember him (though he had his eye on her). He is two years older and has turned out kind of hot -- he really knows how to rock a sweater vest.
Why I picked it up: I shared a small table with Sara Zarr during ALA Annual 2011 in New Orleans. After the meal (shrimp!) she sang the plot of this book to the tune of Barry Manilow’s Mandy, and even had the rest of the room singing along on the chorus. After witnessing that performance, I knew her book was worth reading.
Why I finished it: The two plots both had me on tenterhooks. Since they involved a romance and an adoption -- and I am a dude who normally isn’t interested in either -- I really respected her as a writer. And the backstory of each of the characters was measured out slowly over the course of the book, just often enough to keep me wondering and hoping for more.
I'd give it to: Maddie, because her dream job is to work at a bookstore, and that’s the setting for much of the book.
Rose wakes up in her stasis tube. There’s a boy she has never seen before, and her parents are nowhere to be seen. She discovers she has been in stasis for decades. Her parents are dead, a plague wiped out much of the world's population, and she is the heir to the wealthiest and most powerful corporation on the planet.
Why I picked it up: I love science fiction fairytale retellings. When this reinvention of Sleeping Beauty was nominated for my library's Mock Printz award, I couldn't wait to read it.
Why I finished it: Rose finds herself adrift in a world she has trouble getting her mind around, especially when she realizes that many of its problems (and hers) were caused by her parents’ greed and selfishness. The author did a wonderful job of clearing up the mysteries around her through a combination of teen angst, crushes, corporate intrigue, lost love, and an especially creepy plasticine robot assassin.
I'd give it to: Barnaby, who loves teen books almost as much as I do, sci-fi even more, and can appreciate that a slow-brewing romance is no good without friendship and honesty.
Doug became a vampire in the midst of the most awkward years of high school. Because he'll never age or die, he'll be like that forever, and he has trouble charming women into giving him an opportunity to lean in for a bite, even at ComicCon.
Why I finished it: Not only is it chock full of geek cred (like Jonathan Coulton, Rocky Horror, Meat Cake, and Nick Hornby!), the scary parts scared me because I felt like I personally knew all of the characters.
I'd give it to: PJ, who hung with the drama kids in high school like Doug's friends do. She met some people who changed for the better, some who never grew out of their high school lives, and discovered a few who turned out to be monsters. I think she needs to read this before her reunion.
Casey Marshall has it all: her own lucrative business, a tight-knit circle of friends, a handsome and loving husband, and the looks to match. Life is great for Casey until a van hits her going nearly fifty miles an hour and leaves her for dead. Bones broken and suffering from severe brain trauma, Casey is left in a coma, fighting for her life. When she wakes up, Casey can't move or speak, but she can hear what everyone says. She learns her family's and friends' secrets, including who attempted (and will try again) to kill her.
Why I picked it up: I wanted to know if a book with a comatose protagonist could hold my attention for eleven hours.
Why I finished it: Despite my initial annoyance at the use of an echoing sound effect to distinguish Casey's thoughts from the narrative, I got caught up in the anxiety and stress Casey feels when she learns who's trying to murder her. And how can someone in a coma possibly escape from her attacker?
I'd give it to: Ed, who thinks that a three hour flight is the longest he can go without texting and emailing, because Casey’s inability to communicate with those around her would have him climbing the walls.
Bears go to war with man to reclaim their freedom -- they want the forests and fields to be theirs again. A one-eyed bear meets a three-year-old girl who isn’t afraid of it, and declares that she will lead the bears to victory. She grows older and becomes the bears’ King, and the other forest animals, inspired by the bears, rise up against people.
Why I picked it up: I was at Jim Hanley’s Universe looking for books I’d never seen, and the cover looked great.
Why I finished it: This comic is short and much more kind and quiet than the summary would imply, though there are moments of violence. There’s an amazing few pages where the bears sleep in a field and the girl looks in the sky and sees animals in the stars.
I'd give it to: Emily, who likes to make animal noises during story time, because she’d love my favorite moment in the book -- when the girl, at age fifteen, meets a boy for the first time and tries to speak to him, but she knows only the bear language.
Geoffrey Gray, a writer for New York Magazine, thought he was sitting on a potential Pulitzer Prize when a tip on the D.B. Cooper skyjacking fell in his lap. (Cooper hijacked a plane in 1971, demanded a ransom, and then made off with $200,000 by jumping out the back of a Boeing 727 somewhere over Washington state. He was never caught.)
Once Gray entered the world of D.B. Cooper sleuths out to solve the forty-year-old hijacking, he realized how deep some of the investigations had gone. One suspect Gray investigated made a deathbed confession, looked similar to the famous composite drawing and had an airline/military background that might have given him the skills to carry off the crime. Another was a military man with parachuting and flying experience who chose to become a woman later in life, after being rejected for a flight career. Gray examined multiple suspects and tromped through Washington forests with a Cooper hunter. He also examined money recovered from the hijacking with a team of electron-microscope wielding scientists and followed conspiracy theories to the point where he became apprehensive about his safety.
Why I picked it up: The cover promised exciting information because Gray was the first reporter to be granted access to the FBI’s D.B. Cooper files! I grew up in Washington and have seen the police sketch of D.B. Cooper all my life. With the 40th anniversary of the hijacking coming up, and a woman coming forward to claim her uncle was Cooper, I felt like it was time to brush up on this true crime story.
Why I finished it: It felt like Gray was always about to reveal a bombshell, but instead, he tells it like it is. He summarizes one of the main suspects as a “Gold-obsessed transgender librarian pilot who had a grudge against the airlines.” Another suspect had high-level government connections and might have been a “war hero turned porn star” who faked his own death as part of a government conspiracy.
I'd give it to: My friend Jonathan, who, being just under thirty, cannot fully appreciate (without reading this book) why this skyjacker is still celebrated, feted by the media, and compared to Robin Hood.