Gambling is illegal in Florida, so every day thousands board floating casinos where they can lose money outside the three-mile limit. Your vessel this evening is the notably unseaworthy Extravaganza of the Seas, recently purchased by local fraudulent airbag entrepreneur Bobby Kemp, who is intent on making sure the mob doesn't get its cut. Entertainment will be provided by Johnny and the Contusions featuring guitarist Wally Hartley, who recently moved back in with his mom. Your cocktail waitress is single mother Fay Benton, who has a secret. Your fellow passengers include two AWOL residents from a senior home and a variety of nasty looking characters who frankly don't seem to be in the gambling business at all.
Why I picked it up: I didn't think Dave Barry had a novel in him. Then I read Big Trouble, and laughed out loud.
Why I finished it: The visit where local mobster Lou Tarant explains to Bobby exactly how much control he now doesn't have over his own life. On the way out, as an afterthought, Lou takes Bobby's stacked secretary, too.
I'd give it to: Fans of Carl Hiaassen's novels, to which this book is an almost slavish homage (but in a good way).
Two months after his debut as Superman in Metropolis, Clark Kent is wondering just how invulnerable he is. He’s about to find the answer. When he escaped the exploding planet Krypton as a baby, an alien observer, encased in a meteor, also made the trip to Earth. The alien knows Superman’s origins, and the rocky shell encasing it is deadly to Superman.
(This book reprints Superman Confidential 1-5 and 11.)
Why I finished it: Page 20-22. Superman and Lois Lane are on a date. He thinks she’s perfect, but that he’s not able to spend enough time with her. As the point-of-view pulls back more and more, we see how much of a romantic he is. It’s a perfect scene.
I'd give it to: My friend Ben, who recently read and enjoyed Loeb and Sale’s Superman for All Seasons. The art is a bit darker, but the coloring is just as amazing.
Cassel comes from a family of curseworkers, looked down on by a society that requires everyone to wear gloves because working someone requires physical contact. Some can cause pain or alter memories, but the most powerful can kill or transform with a touch. Cassel is the only member of his family without such a talent. His mother is in jail, his brother Phillip is involved with a crime family, and his brother Barron has memory gaps from the blowback of his working. Both brothers are taking an unusual interest in him, leaving Cassel to wonder about their motives. Cassel is also punishing himself for a memory that he relives nightly in his dreams -- he’s standing over the body of a missing friend he killed. Suspended from school, his life in tatters, Cassel is willing to do whatever it takes to find out what his brothers are up to, and why a white cat is always hanging around him.
Why I picked it up: Holly Black is popular at my library among the faerie fans.
Why I finished it: The world seemed real when I found out the mafia took advantage of curseworkers, creating a black market for their special services. Cassel's grandfather is a treasure trove of fascinating curseworker history as he helps Cassel. When the bombshell dropped and I understood how all the weird things in Cassel’s life were related, I smacked myself on the head and thought, “Why didn’t I see this coming?”
Jeff Deck went to his five year college reunion feeling like he needed to find his place in the world. His classmates had already figured out their lives and their higher purposes. The world needed help but he wasn’t sure what his contribution could be. Then, a few blocks from home, he saw a “No Tresspassing” sign, and had an epiphany about typos. “Each one on its own amounted to naught but a needle of irritations thrusting into my tender hide. But together they constituted a larger problem, a social ill that cried out for justice For a champion, even.”
He and his friend Ben form the Typos Eradication League and set out to change the world, one misspelling at a time.
Why I picked it up: I saw the word ‘correction’ corrected on the cover and thought the authors were kindred spirits.
Why I finished it: Their mission statement says, in part, “...slowly the once-unassailable foundations of spelling are crumbling, and the time has come for the crisis to be addressed. We believe that only through working together with vigilance and a love of correctness can we achieve the beauty of a typo-free society.” The varied reactions to their mission reveal a lot about the U.S.
I'd give it to: Fans of Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris who could relate to the chapter where her family tries to spot the errors in a restaurant menu. Author Jasper Fforde, who I’ve heard tortures his offspring the way I torture mine (“Quick! Look at that sign! What wrong with it?”). And, of course, Gene, who edts these book reviews.
In 2008, the 200 foot boat Alaska Ranger was fishing in the Bering Sea when disaster struck. The rudder tore off, opening a huge hole. Water overwhelmed the pumps. All forty-seven crew members were immediately told to don their survival suits and prepare to man the lifeboats. Evacuation was chaotic, and half the crew did not make it into the rafts. The Coast Guard responded with two helicopters, a cutter, and a search plane. Rescuers struggled against 20-foot seas, snow flurries, and absolute darkness to find men spread out over a mile, the strobe lights on their suits blinking. Yet this is one of the most successful cold water ocean rescues ever. Thompson closely examines the people involved (fishermen and Coasties) and the industry’s safety regulations, including changes that resulted from the sinking.
Why I picked it up: I enjoy living vicariously through blow-by-blow accounts of tragedies like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. Also, I remember reading about the inquiry held in Seattle (my hometown, where the boat was registered) a few years ago and wanted more detail.
Why I finished it: Once I knew the people involved in the story from the detailed reporting of Thompson, I was involved on a personal level. One man came up to Alaska to make money for his family and had his first placement on this doomed boat. He talked his cousin into signing on, too. During the rescue, his cousin's survival suit was waterlogged from rips and tear. Rescuers managed to get him to the helicopter’s doorway with a winch, but because of the water he weighed over 500 pounds and they could not bring him inside. He died when he fell sixty feet back into the sea.
I'd give it to: David H. and other Tom Clancy readers who demand Clancy’s level of technical detail in their nonfiction. My brother-in-law Ben, who never misses The Deadliest Catch, because this takes place in the same waters. And my wife, Trish, who liked the Kevin Costner movie about Coast Guard rescue swimmers, The Guardian because of her deep interest in Coast Guard procedures and history and not, I’m sure, because of co-star Ashton Kutcher.
For the past half-year, Beka Cooper has been a Dog (cop) but has been unable to keep a partner. The latest ditches her saying she gives him the fidgets with all of her energy, wanting to run after every Rat (crook) she sees. Partnerless again, Becka is back with her old mentors, Goodwin and Tunstall, two of the best Dogs in her police force. Then reports of counterfeiting begin coming in. The diminished reliability of silver, combined with a poor harvest, will mean a very harsh winter for many. Becka starts sniffing around for clues.
Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention. In Terrier, Beka earns the nickname Terrier because of her exploits. How would she earn the new nickname?
Why I finished it: After Beka and Goodwin follow the trail of fake silver coins back to its source, they still have to prove the counterfeiter’s identity and discover who else was involved.
I'd give it to: Elizabeth, who would enjoy reading about Beka's first romance. Jone, because she enjoyed Pierce's Song of the Lioness series, and would love reading about another strong and courageous young woman.
Why I picked it up: Wondermark’s David Malki said it was great and mentioned that Bill Watterson (!!!!) wrote the foreword.
Why I finished it: The art is loose and expressive, full of energy and texture, and the first part of the book features strips painted in watercolor (gorgeous!). The kids have recognizable kid behaviors and motivations unlike many other comic strips that will never die. The body language and facial expressions add immensely to the consistent characterization. I also greatly identify with Petey's love of abstract Halloween costumes.
Sven, a jewel thief, dresses up as werewolf so that people will freak out if they catch him during a break in. But real werewolves don’t want their existence to go public, and decide to punish Sven.
Why I picked it up: I’ll read anything by Jason. But I would have bought it for the cover’s rough texture if I didn’t know his work.
Why I finished it: Jason’s deadpan anthropomorphic animal characters always make me very happy, and this story is no exception. The opening scenes are entertaining, with the werewolf stiffly leaping from building to building. (There’s almost no difference between the wolf and the way the undisguised character looks, except for the ragged pants, insignificant fangs, sharp ears.) To tell this story, Jason consistently used eight evenly sized panels per page, and I love the way he’s able to work within this limitation. It’s like a comics haiku, and it makes the page where Sven and Audrey return to their homes after tying one on particularly funny.
I'd give it to: My friend Dave (no, the other one) who went to Iceland and Paris with me last year, because the exteriors would remind him of our trip, despite the fact that we never leapt from roof to roof.