Travis Chase, a former cop, is trying to decide where to start his life again after being released from prison. Camping in the Alaskan wilderness he witnesses the crash of a 747. In it is the First Lady (dead), a note from her (alarming), and a steel container (empty). The crash wasn't an accident, and the bad guys are nearby. He rescues the sole survivor and is drawn into a decades-long conspiracy involving a dangerously powerful artifact that may or may not have been made by human hands.
Why I picked it up: My mom handed it to me and said she thought I'd like it. I was reluctant, because the back cover couldn't have made it sound blander. But, you know, it was my mom.
Why I finished it: The moment the enemy assassin got into an invisibility suit. Suddenly it was a whole new ball game.
I'd give it to: Gary, who chews through international espionage thrillers. He'll be surprised to find a little science fiction in his soup.
@bookblrb: A former cop watches a 747 crash. The first lady is dead. It wasn’t an accident. The bad guys are nearby.
Rebecca never met her grandfather, but at his funeral she makes three friends: Noah, Theo, and Max. Exploring his empty house, they find more books than at the library. There’s also a talking bird, a cat, a shadow creature, and an old movie projector that opens up doors to a magical world. When a tentacle pulls Rebecca through, Max follows to save her. Soon all four friends are stuck on the other side.
Why I picked it up: They looked French graphic albums, and I love French comics.
Why I finished it: (It was originally published in France!) In Book One, the sequence where Max jumps through the door to save Rebecca is fantastic. The beaked creature trying to eat her almost succeeds and feels very threatening, despite the innocent tone created by the easy friendships earlier in the book. Max is nearly killed by the shadow creatures that attack as he tries to get Rebecca to safety.
I'd give it to: Beatrice, who enjoys Jeff Smith’s Bone and Kibuishi’s Amulet series because of the fantasy setting and the friendships. Since the rat creatures didn’t give her nightmares, I think she’ll be able to sleep at night after reading about the shadows.
Levi’s older brother, Bo, is back from the Iraq war. He has PTSD, even if the family won’t acknowledge it. The family’s expectations of Bo are not being met, but no one knows how to handle it. Bo borrows Levi’s computer to make plans for a trip. When pressed,he claims to be preparing for the Appalachian Trail, yet Levi knows that’s a lie. Bo refuses to drive or be driven anywhere, so he walks on his trip. Levi follows Bo until his brother allows Levi come along. Levi begins to see some of Bo’s issues, like his nightmares, and slowly Bo opens up about IED’s and stressful situations he experienced. Bo’s goal for the trip is not clear until the very last surprising moment.
Why I picked it up: I never had a brother. Plus he timeliness of a story about an Iraqi War veteran’s return also made me decided to read it.
Why I finished it: This was one of the most emotionally powerful books I have read this year (out of 190+ titles and counting). It lays bare the difficulties of PTSD and how the families of the soldiers suffer alongside their loved ones. The brother relationship between Bo and Levi was also a real strength. They’re testy at times, but clearly love each other.
I'd give it to: Theresa, who likes Anne Tyler’s books because the plots hinge on family dynamics. The gung ho ROTC students at my school who might benefit from this nuanced view of military service.
@bookblrb: Levi’s brother, Bo, has PTSD. He says he’s planning a trip on the Appalachian Trail, but Levi knows that’s a lie.
The third collection of comics that originally appeared on Chainsawsuit.com, parodying movies, TV shows, time travel, guys with popped collars, and more.
Why I picked it up: I'm a fan of the podcast that Straub does with David Malki, Tweet Me Harder so I grabbed the first collection at the Emerald City Comic Con. I liked it so much, I have bought every collection since.
Why I finished it: Straub is an accomplished artist, but the drawings in this book are really simple. I am fascinated at how they show his mastery of the structure of a three-panel strip, plus he's a great gag writer, with lots of parodies and meta humor on pop culture and current trends.
I'd give it to: Anime readers who are annoyed by the relentless fanservice parodied in the Boobs-Look-At High School strips. Drew, who watches Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word, for the strips making fun of Gordon Ramsay.
@bookblrb: A collection of comics parodying movies, TV shows, time travel, guys with popped collars, and more.
An illustrated reprint of Anthony’s 1976 novel laid out pulp-style in two columns per page. Alp, a 9th century Uigar chief seeking revenge on the Kirghiz who killed his family, falls from a cliff. At the moment of his death he is transported to the future. Game players there want to interrogate him about the history of his time, which forms the basis for an interstellar competition. But Alp escapes and enters the Game himself, where his skills and knowledge give him an edge over other players.
Why I picked it up: I remember reading this when I was a kid, and I was swept up in nostalgia.
Why I finished it: The fight scenes are great, even if I couldn’t absorb all of the Asian history Anthony included in the book. My favorite moments, though, are the details Alp notes about the future. When he discovers that Galactics drop their dung in running water, he can’t believe they’d do anything so filthy. He continues sneaking off and digging holes in the sand to do his business.
I'd give it to: Boys who like both Hatchet and The Game of Sunken Places -- Steppe combines playing a game with survival skills in a way that they’d enjoy. And Bill’s daughter, Rosie, because, as he pointed out, she could kick my butt.
@bookblrb: A 9th century Uigar chief seeking revenge falls off a cliff and finds himself in the future.
Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox is about four kids and their parents. Before they meet Mrs. Fox and her daughter, Ginger’s, burrow gets smashed by humans. After that they open Mr. Badger’s door, they’re looking for a fox burrow. Mr. Badger and his kids Berry ,Grub and Bristle hide. Ginger is about to eat Grub’s carrots and worms. Grub jumps out and tells her not to eat it. That’s how they meet. Mrs. Fox and Ginger stay the night. The next day Mrs. Fox goes to check their burrow. It was destroyed. Mrs. Fox and Ginger move in with Mr. Badger.
Why I picked it up: Because it had foxes and badgers on the cover. And a ladybug.
Why I finished it: I wanted to see how they ended up living together. They kind of liked each other and kind of didn’t like each other.
I'd give it to: Megan, because she likes comics about animals.
@bookblrb: After their burrow is destroyed, Mrs. Fox and her daughter move in with Mr. Badger and his three kids.
Amber Appleton lives in a school bus with her mother. Her mom has been unable to keep her promise that things will get better, mostly because of her alcoholism. Despite a hard life, Amber is relentlessly upbeat and cheers up everyone around her, even a group of non-English speaking ladies. She argues philosophy to entertain old folks, dotes on the tiny dog she found in a shoe box, and hangs out with a group of misfits that plays Halo 3 in Mr. Franks’ classroom. Then something horrible happens, and she questions her approach to life.
Why I picked it up: The cover got me started thinking I should read it, then it was nominated for my ALA committee.
Why I finished it: The frenetic pace of the book took my breath away. Before I knew it, I was submerged in Amber’s life and relationships. The book talked quite a bit about the importance of one’s attitude and approach to life in a non-preachy way. It reminded me of the Chuck Swindoll quote: “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.“
I'd give it to: My wife, who underwent her own dark night of the soul when her mother passed. Michelle, who volunteers her time and will cry at the end. Joshua, a special ed student of mine who probably wishes he had a place to fit in like Mr. Franks' classroom.
@bookblrb: Despite her alcoholic mother’s broken promises, and having to live in a bus, Amber is relentlessly upbeat.