This collection of US magazine stories on crime includes abduction, murder, dogfighting, Ponzi schemes, smashing a buffalo skeleton, and more.
Why I picked it up: I love the insight into the lives of people who do things I never could, and who do things I might consider and end up in terrible situations.
Why I finished it: Every story gripped me from its first sentence. "Trial By Fire" starts with a fire that destroys a home and kills two children. The investigation points to the father’s odd behavior and the distinctive burn patterns indicate arson, leading to his conviction. As the appeals continue and the father gets closer to being put to death, science dramatically alters the interpretation of those distinctive patterns. But the limited ways to have evidence re-examined means that there will still be an execution. This may be one of the first clear-cut indictments of the U.S. death penalty. The essay is a gem of careful reporting that raised questions which stuck with me for weeks.
I'd give it to: Jen, who speculates with me about the motivations of our odd library patrons. Steve, because he likes the entirely too real characters in Carl Hiaasen's novels who get swept up in a poorly thought-out schemes.
Elizabeth’s history teacher recommended her for a page position at The New-York Circulating Materials Repository. It’s a lending library that has all sorts of things: expensive chess sets, cooking implements, and decorative vases. She begins to hear rumors of strange items downstairs in Special Collections. After she proves herself, she is given a key to the Grimm Collection. Everything magical from the fairy tales is there, including seven-league boots, mermaid combs (they make your hair bounce and behave), dancing slippers, and tables that set themselves with feasts. But someone has been replacing items with powerless copies.
Why I picked it up: I cannot stock enough fantasy at my middle school’s library.
Why I finished it: It references the original, brutal, and bloodthirsty versions of the Grimm’s fairy tales. And being a librarian, I loved that the main character was a cataloguer and library page who discussed shelving techniques as part of the plot.
I'd give it to: Brandon, a mystery lover who would delight in all the red herrings. The Helvings, who could read this to their nine-year old aloud at night because it would provide an easy transition for her from fairy tales to fiction. And my daughter Grace, who might still be young enough to believe that THIS is the kind of thing I do at work.
A shy beekeeper, an Italian bookbinder, a Japanese ticket taker obsessed with trains, and a locksmith haunted by his dead sister are each infected with a sexually transmitted virus. On each, a portion of a city map appears. After sleeping with another infected person, they find themselves in the part of the magical city, Palimpsest, that appears on their partner’s map.
Why I picked it up: Gina Gagliano recommended it to me after we talked about Valente’s wonderful The Girl Who Circumvented Fairlyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Then I met John Grace of Brilliance Audio who pitched me on this weirdly wonderful book and offered me a copy.
Why I finished it: It was the perfect book to listen to while I was painting my house. Hallucinatory, bizarre, fairy-tale and nightmare images mix together with banal details in Palimpsest, before things get truly weird. There’s a lot to love about this book, but I was most drawn to the lonely beekeeper, November, particularly after learning about her favorite book. She finds love that is unconventional but perfect for her.
I'd give it to: Barb, who loves the work of fantasy illustrator and comic artist Charles Vess, because the imagery is so beautiful.
Mitch is a serious journalist, but his high school paper’s editor moved him from covering current events to sports. It’s not all bad because he gets to work with Kimi, a photographer on whom Mitch has a serious crush. He makes the best of it and discovers the overzealous football coach may be using an ineligible player, Angel, to win and land himself a college coaching position. No other explanation seems likely until Mitch’s investigation becomes deadly serious.
Why I picked it up: Libraries are starved for good novels about sports. Deuker, along with Mike Lupica (The Big Field) consistently hits home runs. Or throws touchdowns. (Dunks the ball...aces the serve...hits a hole in one…)
Why I finished it: Mitch and Kimi show moxie and courage as they investigate. Mitch even endures a beating for the sake of the story.
I'd give it to: Will, who would like that the on-field action is well-described and realistic and that this is not just a “watch this unlikely team pull together and win the championship” book. C. M. a journalism teacher that would appreciate the respect given to the difficulty and craft of putting a good article together.
At the Ristorante Casetta Dell’Orso, the waiters are all older, attractive gentlemen of a certain type. Nicoletta goes there to confront her mother and to tell her mother’s new husband that his wife is a divorcée with a twenty-one-year-old daughter. But then she starts to fall for one of the waiters. In exchange for a job in the restaurant, she agrees to keep her mother’s secret.
Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Ono’s not simple.
Why I finished it: It was easy for me to identify with someone alienated from her mother but trying to forge a relationship with her.
I'd give it to: My wife, Silver, because it involves three things she loves: Italy, food, and comics.
Moments after landing at JFK a plane goes completely black: no lights, no engines, no communication with the control tower. The CDC calls in its rapid response team, headed by epidemiologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather. It looks like all the passengers and crew are dead, but with no apparent cause. The four unlikely survivors have no memory of what happened, and are released after a brief hospital stay. Then the corpses from the plane start disappearing from morgues around New York City.
The dead have, of course, risen. As the vampire infection spreads, only Goodweather, pawnshop owner and Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian, and pest exterminator Vasiliy Fet have any hope of saving the city from a horrifying, bloodthirsty takeover.
Why I picked it up: The summary on the back cover told about the plane and hinted at hideous, nasty creatures of the night.
Why I finished it: I was sold with the chilling, detailed descriptions of how the vampiric parasite invades and then alters the human body (but I won’t ruin it for you).
I'm generally wary of actors narrating books (with a handful of exceptions), and was worried I'd have Perlman's Beast or Hellboy stuck in my head. But his baritone voice and convincing accents complement the musical interludes and creepy atmosphere.
I'd give it to: Jill, a PhD in microbiology who loves to rip apart medical inaccuracies. And Kevin, a devout fan of creepy medical mysteries who also thinks that vampires are silly, because he’ll find himself rooting for the unlikely trio of heroes no matter how ridiculous the odds against them become.
Jayne Heller is lost, a twenty-three year old college dropout disowned by her father. Her life has no direction until her uncle is murdered and she goes to Denver to claim her inheritance. Jayne is overwhelmed. She is the sole beneficiary of an estate that includes property around the world and more money than she can imagine. After exploring his second home in Denver, she becomes acquainted with his more sinister legacy: her uncle spent his life fighting evil, specifically demons who "ride" human hosts. He was killed during his attempt to assassinate their leader. Jayne bands together with her uncle's former partners in to avenge his death and finish his work.
Why I picked it up: The cover image of a young woman, dagger in hand, with spirits swirling around her.
Why I finished it: Jayne didn't know her uncle well, but he always had a knack for appearing just before she got into real trouble. In high school, after a drinking binge, Jayne woke up in a hotel room with no memory of how she got there and a strange tattoo on her back. Her uncle was there to help her recover.
I'd give it to: Holly, who will appreciate Jayne's sharp tongue as much as her self-deprecation.