Halli Sveinsson is short, ugly, a second son who is in constant trouble. He loves the legends of Svein, the founder of his House, and the time of violence and monstrous Trows that Svein lived in. But Svein and the other heroes’ graves protect the valley, the swords have all been melted down, and justice is meted out by a council.
After being insulted, Halli plays a trick on men from another House at the Autumn Gathering. His family apologizes, but tensions rise between his uncle and the men. Then Halli witnesses his uncle’s murder. His parents tell him the council will provide a just settlement after hearing Halli’s eyewitness testimony. But he leaves home to seek vengeance, as Svein would have done.
Why I picked it up: It was a staff recommendation at the University Bookstore.
Why I finished it: It defied my expectations. When Halli confronts his uncle’s murderer, I expected that he would kill the man or fail to kill him, and that either way the book would become predictable. It never did.
Mia has a great family, a burgeoning music career and a sensitive boyfriend. Then her family dies in a car accident that leaves her severely injured. In the ICU, she has an extended out-of-body experience. Mia must decide whether to stay on earth, in pain and uncertainty, or to follow her family into the unknown of death.
Why I picked it up: It was nominated for the 2010 Best Books for Young Adults and I serve on the committee.
Why I finished it: This is a memoir told through flashbacks. It is told so gracefully that its genuine sweetness really stands out. It is not a morbid, torture-porn book. Mia's ability to observe her community's response to her accident is never explained, but it doesn't matter, because we are so involved with the characters. The reader is left to wonder right up until the end what decision Mia will make. Tissue Alert - this one is a tearjerker!
I'd give it to: Girls who are in band/orchestra will love the musical angle--Mia is a cellist and her boyfriend, Adam, is in a punk band. Kim, who is rebounding from a bad relationship and needs to know that good guys exist.
Major Ernest Pettigrew is a widower in a small British town. When his brother dies he expects to inherit the Churchill shotgun that, with his, will make a notable and historic set, the envy of his peers, and a fitting capstone to his life. But his sister-in-law has different ideas. Soon his life is in turmoil, the confusion made even greater by his deepening relationship with Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani widow who runs a local shop.
Why I picked it up: The description reminded me a great deal of Leslie Thomas' Adventures of Goodnight and Loving, another story about a reserved Englishman discovering a hidden capacity for adventure.
Why I finished it: There's a pivotal moment when the Major is falling back into the deadening rhythm of tradition and expectation. They way he is pulled back from the abyss is quite wonderful.
I'd give it to: My dad, stuck in a nursing home, who is from a long line of Anglophiles and could use a little adventure himself.
Terra doesn’t believe she’s beautiful. She has a large port-wine stain on her cheek. She tries heavy makeup and laser treatments with little success. Because of a car accident, she meets Jacob, who had a cleft lip and understands her self-image issues. Jacob is tall, goth, Chinese, unafraid to be himself, and unlike anyone Terra has met before.
Their mothers hit it off and head to China to find Jacob’ birth parents. Terra and Jacob become closer, despite Terra’s boyfriend at home. Terra’s mother, an impotent, dominated woman, finds her spine on the trip.
Why I picked it up: Justina Chen Headley is a local writer and this looked like strong chick-lit.
Why I finished it: The metamorphosis of several characters in terms of their self-worth, dignity, and the functioning of their families were handled very subtly, and make this an important read. There is also a cartography theme running through the whole book that really ties things together, which includes geocaching, mapmaking, and Terra’s name among other details.
I'd give it to: Trish, who would find Terra’s family’s verbal sparring familiar, and high school girls who feel.
Noir mystery graphic novel set in the 1930s. Tough guys, crooks, and sexy dames the detective can’t quite trust.
Why I picked it up: I can’t resist the smooth texture of Oni’s new hardcovers.
Why I finished it: The detective story is good, and I like Rich’s work, particularly Love The Way You Love. But Jones’ art is what wowed me, particularly her use of screen tones and focus lines. They add to the black ink on every page, adding texture and directing my eyes to exactly where they need to look.
Carol Tyler shares the story of her father’s experiences in the army during World War II (including how her parents met) as a graphic novel scrapbook. She sets it all firmly in the context of her life as a newly single mother, who her parents are in the present day, and how her father finally started talking about his past.
Why I picked it up: My grandfathers both served in World War II, one in the Pacific and one in Europe. I don’t think that, in total, we ever talked about their experiences for more than 10 minutes.
Why I finished it: The penciled colors and organic layouts made me feel how much love was put into the book. It moves from now to then, from the author’s life to her father’s to her mothers in a way that feels natural and effortless.