In 2002 a legal clerk from Philadelphia filed an unusual petition with the Supreme Court called a coram nobis. It stated that the court had been defrauded fifty years earlier when it had heard United States v. Reynolds, a case concerning negligence in the domestic crash of an Air Force B-29 that killed most of the people on board, including three civilian engineers.
From there, the book moves back to the time of the crash itself at the beginning of the Cold War. In the wake of the accident, the Air Force claimed that a crucial report contained state secrets and therefore could not be made available to plaintiff's attorneys or even the judge. After years of litigation, the Supreme Court agreed with them, setting a precedent that rears its ugly head anytime the U.S. government wants to say to its citizens, "We have to keep what we do secret in order to keep you safe. Trust us.”
Why I picked it up: I've been wanting to read Siegel's Manifest Injustice, about a man who was imprisoned for thirty-eight years for a crime he likely didn't commit. But while I was looking it up in the library catalog, I found Claim of Privilege and decided I wanted to read about legal wrongdoing that affects the whole country instead of just one person.
Why I finished it: Shortly after I'd started it, my husband picked the book up, opened it to the middle, and remarked, "Wow, this guy really does write in fourteen different styles, doesn't he?" It's true. The book starts off with military history, describes the B-29 crash itself in prose that would make Clive Cussler proud, and then turns in a detailed-yet-accessible explanation of the legal reasoning behind the arguments and rulings in a landmark Supreme Court decision. It also contains no less than a dozen mini-biographies of the main players in the case. I had to stick with it to the end to see if the plaintiffs received the justice they deserved.
It's perfect for: Junius, at my church. As a former and possibly future member of the armed forces, he has a clear-eyed and cogent view of the military. I'd love to know what he thinks of the Air Force's actions here, both in terms of the procedures leading up to the crash and the legal wrangling afterward.
@bookblrb: The crash of an Air Force B-29 and the U.S. v. Reynolds decision, which allows the government to keep its secrets.
NEW HORROR SERIES FROM THE WALKING DEAD CREATOR ROBERT KIRKMAN! Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it. Collects OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA #1-6.
Mark Stroman, self-declared Texas redneck and racist, went hunting for “Arabs” following 9/11. Despite the drugs and alcohol in his system, he was able to kill two men, and he wounded a third with a shotgun, a former Bangladeshi Air Force officer working a mini-mart. That man, Raisuddin (Rais) Bhuiyan, survived with facial injuries. Stroman was arrested immediately, and eventually sentenced to death. Rais forgave him and spent the last year of Stroman's life begging the courts to overturn the death sentence. Stroman was executed after his appeals ran out.
Why I picked it up: President Obama held a press conference the week before I read this about how, in the aftermath of 9/11, America was looking for someone to punish and something to do, so "we tortured some folks.” Stroman apparently felt compelled to respond to 9/11, too. I wanted to hear his reasons for the senseless crimes he carried out.
Why I finished it: For me, the most compelling part was the change in Stroman as he sat in prison, ruminating on his actions and writing extensively to people. While definitely a con-man who told people what they wanted to hear, he was also undeniably different in the run-up to his execution. He expressed remorse, he and his family met with and developed a relationship with Rais, and he had grown out of his racist views to some degree.
It's perfect for: My son Stephen, who is just heading off to his freshman year of college. He is interested in psychology and this book discusses that in spades. There is a lot of evidence that we are creatures of our upbringing and environs in here. Stroman had a rough childhood that shaped his personality and views. His courtship of his pregnant, teenage wife and subsequent abandonment of her and his daughters could be considered evidence of inability to bond with anyone. When older, Stroman worked, lived, and partied with others who shared his viewpoint -- his choices made sense to him until he was able to evaluate his life in the cold light of death row, minus his former friends.
@bookblrb: After 9/11 Mark Stroman got the death sentence for hunting “Arabs." One of his victims begged the courts for mercy.
After years of alcohol and promiscuous sex, Detective Eleanor Silver is not the cop or the person she wanted to be. New doors and new worlds open up when the murders of sexually dominant women, involved in the world of BDSM, lead her to Dr. Anderson Wells. A psychologist and sexual submissive, Anderson offers to be her guide. They soon find themselves exploring on more intimate levels. He sees in her, the strong and forceful woman he craves. She sees in him, a man strong enough to surrender control.
As he escorts her into the world of kink parties, leather corsets and safe words she flourishes, becoming the kind of woman she never dreamed. Even as they become closer, both as lovers and as Dominant and submissive, new murders and his own lie make Anderson a suspect and then the target of a cop looking to clear his own name.
Events and passions collide with bite marks, pretty underwear and murder in a world where cops may be killers and lovers may hold whips. Eleanor Silver has to let go of her pain to claim for herself the life she wants and risk everything to save the man she loves.
Colette is looking forward to her class trip to Paris. Maybe there she can forget that her father left their family, and that she, her mother, and brother are now much poorer than the other kids at her private school. Paris is more dangerous than Colette expected. She soon finds herself haunted by the ghost of a mysterious woman in antique dress. She turns to Jules, a sweet young Frenchman, to help research her family history to find out about the ghost and its connection with a series of gruesome murders in the city. Colette needs to work fast before she becomes the killer's next target.
Why I picked it up: I just finished Alender's Bad Girls trilogy and wanted to read more of her fun horror stories. Plus I couldn’t resist the tag line on the back of the book: "Let them eat cake...and DIE!!"
Why I finished it: I loved exploring Paris along with Colette, Jules, and Audrey as they hunted down the mystery of Colette's family using the clues provided by an antique necklace. All the classic The Da Vinci Code-esque elements are there: narrow catacombs (extra traumatic for the claustrophobic Colette), symbols carved on buildings, dusty libraries, and more. I also liked the light romance between Jules and Colette. Jules is a classy guy, and his maturity helps Colette find her own.
Most importantly, I love that Alender crafted a ghost story that is spooky, creepy, and "un-put-down-able," but not so scary that I couldn't sleep after reading it.
Readalikes: School newspaper reporter Maggie Quinn, the protagonist of Rosemary Clement-Moore's Prom Dates from Hell, is the opposite of Colette: she actively rejects anything to do with the popular crowd. But then the jocks and cheerleaders start having strange accidents. Maggie’s sixth sense tells her the cause is supernatural, and she is as determined to help as Colette is to fix her family's past.
@bookblrb: On a class trip to Paris, Colette is haunted by a ghost and targeted by a murderer.
The renowned graphic-book author Joyce Brabner’s Second Avenue Caper is the true story of a tight-knit group of artists and activists living in New York City in the early 1980s who found themselves on the front lines in the fight against AIDS.
Struggling to understand the disease and how they could help, they made a deal with a bona fide goodfella, donned masterful disguises, piled into an “A-Team” van, and set off for the border, determined to save their bedridden friends by smuggling an experimental drug into the United States from Mexico. With their community in crisis and the world turned against them, this impassioned gang of misfits never gave up hope as they searched for ways to raise awareness and beat the plague. Fast-paced, poignant, and beautifully illustrated by the award-winning illustrator Mark Zingarelli, Second Avenue Caper is a heartfelt tribute to the generation that faced down AIDS.
“Neatly converting the old NRA bumper sticker to proclaim that if drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will receive proper medical attention, with Second Avenue Caper Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli expertly document a recent moment in history that already seems medieval in its ignorance. In an irresistible narrative crammed with drag queens, drug smugglers, and desperadoes, Brabner brings her considerable skills and experience as an activist and chronicler to bear upon an emblematic tale of our times, as classically heroic and moving as it is absurd, all brought to life by the beautifully honest and lucid artwork of the tremendous Zingarelli. This is a marvelous piece of work and a significant contribution to future histories of our stupefyingly complex times. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” —Alan Moore, award-winning graphic novelist and author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell
Young Raina begged for a little sister to play with. But Amara has her own ideas and doesn't want to do anything Raina does -- it’s not at all what Raina hoped for! A week-long road trip with their mom and little brother brings the teasing, fighting, clashing personalities, and love to the fore.
Why I finished it: What could have just been an account of road trip squabbles turned into a bigger story about figuring out who you are when you're a teen and when you can (and can’t) rely on your sister. There’s also a hair-raising, snake-related plot twist. It really speaks to the complicated relationship you can have with your siblings.
It's perfect for: Kaleigh, a dedicated pet-owner, who will like the flashbacks to the girls' problems keeping fish and lizards alive. Turns out it's really important not to give your chameleon twenty crickets at once!
@bookblrb: Raina wanted a little sister to play with, but Amara doesn’t want to do anything her older sister does.
Starlet Janie Jenkins, famous for being famous, has just been released from prison on a technicality for brutally murdering her socialite mother. She goes underground to try to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. Janie’s quest takes her to Ardelle, South Dakota, a former Gold Rush town that’s now little more than a handful of restored buildings and a slew of ancient grudges. Janie reinvents herself as historian Rebecca Parker and cozies up to the prominent families, desperate to figure out why her glamorous, world-traveling mother would’ve known anything about this pitiful little ghost town. Before long she’s caught up in family feuds that stretch back generations, and which may hold clues to unravelling her mother’s past.
Why I picked it up: Trashy magazines like Us Weekly are my guilty pleasure, so I was intrigued by a murder mystery featuring a tabloid fixture.
Why I finished it: The suffocating friendliness of the South Dakota locals and the encroaching reporters bent on snagging their mark put Janie in an ever-tightening noose. There’s no way out and nowhere to go until she finds out the truth about her mother. It’s an up-all-night read.
It's perfect for: My friend Nancy, who’s a TMZ junkie who swears like a sailor (like Janie/Rebecca). She’ll also like that Janie’s voice is unexpectedly, delightfully funny, which keeps the novel from feeling overwrought.
@bookblrb: Released from prison on a technicality, a starlet tries to discover who killed her mother.
Snorri Sturluson was a wealthy, hot-tubbing poet, an ambitious and conniving politician, and “the lawspeaker” in resource-poor ,thirteenth century Iceland. His ambitions and artistic prowess came together during his time as a courtier in Norway, where he created literary projects to preserve the past and win the favor of a boy king. Sturluson's Edda is the greatest collection of Norse myths, and his Heimskringla (“The Round World”) combines a massive amount of mythic and semi-mythic Norwegian history. As biographer Nancy Marie Brown shows, Sturluson’s tales of petty, bickering gods and violent, squabbling families mirrored Snorri Sturluson's own feuds and family fights over inheritances, farms, and chieftanships. It’s no surprise that such stories would be passed down to us by someone who claimed descent from a berserker werewolf named Ulf.
Why I picked it up: I'd heard of Snorri Sturluson as an author of Nordic sagas. As I was passing by the “New Books” section at my local library, the title and subtitle on the paperback edition caught my attention.
Why I finished it: I was expecting a literary biography, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself caught up in a book that was also a political biography and a popular history of Iceland and Norway. As far as I know, Sir Winston Churchill is the only other figure who so excelled in both literary and political circles, though I don't think Churchill ever had to run from angry groups of armed men led by his brothers and nephews!
It's perfect for: Modern fantasy fans, because Sturluson is the guy who gave J.R.R. Tolkien the idea of a wandering, knowledge-questing character wearing a broad-brimmed hat. In fact, Brown presents Snorri Sturluson’s books as the principle source of our knowledge of Norse mythology and Vikings.
@bookblrb: Poet Snorri Sturluson lived it up in 13th century Iceland, creating the greatest collection of Norse myths.
Emily loves to paint and draw, but she refuses to do an art project at school. The class is using charcoal, and she can’t because she’s in her blue period. (She’s sad, like Picasso was during his blue period.
Why I picked it up: I totally misinterpreted the title -- I thought it might be an edgy picture book about menstruation. (I must have Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret on my mind.)
Why I finished it: This book does three different things at the same time, and it does them all well. It promotes making art. It provides an introductory art history lesson to Picasso’s work, including cubism. And it shows a family dealing with divorce. (Emily is sad because her dad isn’t living with the rest of her family.)
It's perfect for: My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Harper. When I was in her class, I had to make a name tag for my mother, and I remember being upset that I couldn’t decide if she was a Ms. or a Mrs. because my parents were in the process of getting a divorce. My strongest memory from that class is that I was very upset and Mrs. Harper comforted me. (The name tag was a blue butterfly, too, so this book really reminds me of that moment.)
@bookblrb: Emily loves to paint and draw, but she won’t do art at school with charcoal. She’s in a blue period.
A superhero-themed book that will get kids drawing as they add to the existing pictures right in the book. There are also bits to get them writing (one page is a postcard to send to a favorite hero), crafting (there’s a mask to cut out and wear), and thinking (they’re asked which of four characters is the hero).
Why I picked it up: The big nosed, potato-shaped hero on the cover looked simple enough to draw and pretty silly because he’s carrying a purse and a flower and seems to be farting.
Why I finished it: I’ve seen lot of books like this, but this is the first that had me excited (and feeling like I want to draw). The first thing that made me giggle was the Ball O’ Fun, which is a page that needs to be cut out from the book. There’s a small mask with goggly eyes to cut out. Then you’re to scrunch the rest of the page into a ball, glue on the mask and, voila, you have a Bandit Ball that you can make fly. I’ve finally found a book with crafts in it that I can make.
It's perfect for: Tristan, who likes both animals and pasta, and who will enjoy drawing outfits for Super-Zebra and Super-Skunk and a villain made of lasagna.
@bookblrb: A fun, superhero-themed sketchbook that will inspire kids to draw, write, and craft.