The Scorpion, bastard son of a witch and the former Pope, publicly denounces Cardinal Trebaldi, who murdered his father and seeks the papacy. Warrior monks hunt him through the streets. A beautiful assassin is assigned to kill him. But he still has time for the ladies.
Why I picked it up: I needed a swashbuckler, and Hollywood hasn't been coming through for me.
Why I finished it: The sword fights. The colors are vivid, and the digital editing of the images to keep the book PG rated wasn't annoyingly obvious.
I'd give it to: Older fans of the Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, and historical
bodice rippers romance novels.
Update: bowing to extreme peer pressure, changed "bodice rippers" to "romance novels".
For Hannah Albury, life is anything but easy. She's an orphan, and when she turns fourteen she is sent to live in the middle of the country. The farther she goes from the ocean, the sicker she gets. Her body is covered with itchy red bumps. Wherever she goes, she leaves a trail of salt crystals behind her. After she is sent back to Boston, she feels better immediately. But she finds she now has faint scales around her feet. A renowned artist is the only person who knows what's wrong with her, and the two grow close despite the difference in their social statuses.
Why I picked it up: Now that I live close to the Puget Sound, I would break out in red bumps if someone sent me away from the water.
Why I finished it: Lila. She's crazy and wild. She and her cat, Jade, wreak havoc on the household in Boston where Hannah works as a scullery maid. On Hannah's first day at work, she comes in clutching a bloody liver and drops it into Jade's milk pan. After she wipes her hands on Hannah's apron, she coos to Jade about how lovely he is.
I'd give it to: Lucy, who loves historical fiction with a fantasy twist, and Jessica, who loves forbidden romances.
Haly is a clerk at the Libyrinth, a library so large that people get lost and die in its nether regions. The Librarians there must protect the books from the Eradicants, who want to keep books from being misused by burning them. It looks as if the Eradicants might succeed. Then Haly finds The Book of Night. According to legend, it will allow whoever uses it to triumph. Because it's written in a lost language, Haly's magical ability to hear books makes her the most important person in the world.
Why I picked it up: A librarian as a hero? Don't we all see ourselves that way?
Why I finished it: Subtle themes about censorship and access to information, and the book's well-spoken and morally complex villains. Clever clips from famous books populate the text in an unusual way as Haly's talent asserts itself.
I'd give it to: ACLU members and Ryan, who loves stories filled with moral ambiguity.
It's been years since world-famous poet Robert Gu lost his mind to Alzheimer's. Then a medical breakthrough brought his mind - and his body - back. Now he's a stranger in the strange land of San Diego 2025. He needs to learn the technologies that have made the world a very different, if not necessarily better or safer, world.
Why I picked it up: Vinge himself handed me a copy at ALA a few years ago, a big fanboy moment for me.
Why I finished it: I almost didn't, because the main character is initially very unsympathetic. But this view of the near future, with wearable computing enabling augmented reality, is completely believable and fascinating.
I'd give it to: My old friend John, also a Vinge fan and a lover of hard sci-fi, if he hasn't read it already.
Cody, Josh, and Gordon are stuck at home while their fathers are off at war. They wait for phone calls or emails and send messages that may go nowhere. Everything reminds them of their fathers, but they're surrounded by people who don't ever think about the war. They fight each to get tougher and make their fathers proud. They hunt, drink, try to get girls. They quietly fear a knock on the door from the military.
A graphic novel adapted from the screenplay by James Ponsoldt based on a short story by Benjamin Percy.
Why I picked it up: I loved Novgorodoff's Slow Storm
Why I finished it: At the beginning, when Cody loses a fight, he says, "I'm going to Disney World...Then I'm going to burn the place down."
I'd give it to: You, if, like me, you'd never thought about what life is like for the teenage sons of parents who have been sent overseas.
In an English train station Josh struggles struggling against nausea and a throbbing headache. It is not the ideal place to have a supernatural sense of smell and hearing. Sophie and Josh are fleeing Dr. Dee, a magician who will stop at nothing to gain control of their newly awakened magical talents. All appears to be in order, but Dee's flesh eating creatures are close on their trail.
Why I picked it up: Initially, I recognized the name Nicholas Flamel from the Harry Potter series, and that drew me to these books. (Flamel was a real French Alchemist who lived during the 14th century and may have created the Philosopher's Stone.) Also, it's the third book in this series, and I need to read them all!
Why I finished it: Nicholas's goal is to take Sophie and Josh to meet Gilgamesh the King, the oldest immortal human, so they can learn more elemental magic. What he fails to tell them is that Gilgamesh is quite mad.
I'd give it to: Emma, who would enjoy Shakespeare's inclusion in this book, and Josh, who would love the castle made from a junkyard.
Calder has worked as a Fetch for 300 years. The Captain summons him and, with his key, he opens a door to the death of a mortal and escorts the soul to the afterlife. When he sees the Empress of Russia on her deathbed, he falls in love with her. He interferes with the cosmic order by saving her life. Afraid of the consequences, Calder stays on Earth. Rasputin takes advantage of him, he loses his key, and he's unable to prevent the slaughter of the Romanovs.
Why I picked it up: Whitcomb's last book, A Certain Slant of Light, was an ethereal pleasure.
Why I finished it: There is a twist which makes the history of the Romanov family come alive by using Calder's presence to explain certain details. While this is billed as a love story, it really isn't, but it works because Calder's actions have ramifications that keep the story moving. Rasputin is terrifying. Whitcomb's path to the afterworld is complex and tangled, but interesting to visualize.
I'd give it to: Harlequin readers who want more heft and Anne, who is always looking for a clean supernatural romance.