In 1949 Lucy Kahn reluctantly attends a house party at her parents' country estate, Farthing, with her husband David. Lucy's father was among the architects of the peace treaty England signed with Hitler in 1941, and since then the English have gotten progressively colder towards Jews like David. Then one of the other guests, the respected politician who negotiated the treaty, is murdered.
Why I picked it up: Nancy Pearl tweeted the magic words "alt-hist (post-war Britain sliding into fascism)".
Why I finished it: The second sentence: "We were down at Farthing for one of Mummy's ghastly political squeezes." Alternate history has become a popular genre, but it's usually heavy on thought experiment and exposition and light on plot and characterization. Making this book a murder mystery gave it a built-in plot, and narrators Lucy and Scotland Yard inspector Peter Carmichael are both delightful.
I'd give it to: Mark, my old friend from summer camp, who introduced me to the joys of dystopic fiction. He'd like how this increasingly scary world is teased out through bits and pieces we hear in passing, like the haunting words "President Lindbergh" in a news report about American politics.
@bookblrb: The politician who negotiated the 1941 peace treaty between Germany and the U.K. has been murdered.
Devon’s mother got pregnant as a teen and has not been able to provide well for her daughter. A gifted soccer player and a 4.0 student, she is determined to be different. But then she gets pregnant. She’s able to hide her condition from everyone, including herself, at least until the police pick her up in her apartment, nearly catatonic on a blood-soaked couch. She must end her denial and come to grips with having stuffed her baby in a nearby dumpster as she prepares to face criminal charges.
Why I picked it up: Much of the book takes place in juvenile detention center in Tacoma, Washington, where a few of my former students have also spent some time.
Why I finished it: I always wonder about the motivations of parents who hurt their children, and I was desperate to get more details about how Devon could deny a pregnancy to herself. Devon’s lawyer won’t put up with any attitude from Devon and slowly peels back the layers of denial and guilt in her to find out the truth.
I'd give it to: My friend Jake, who shared his family history with me after he read A Child Called It, because I wonder what this book would help him remember.
@bookblrb: Devon’s mother had her as a teen. They struggled. Now Devon is a gifted athlete and student. Then she gets pregnant.
A collection of comics from Nedroid Picture Diary featuring the adventures of Beartato (half bear, half potato) and his friend Reginald (a large blue bird-guy).
Why I finished it: The collection has added cool exclusive stuff like full color strips and an awesome mini-comic adventure where the friends all get assigned new nicknames!
I'd give it to: Dawn, who would be charmed by the innocent fun and laughs.
@bookblrb: The adventures of Beartato (half bear, half potato) and his friend Reginald (a large blue bird-guy).
Kee Malesky is a librarian for National Public Radio and has been busy verifying and disproving facts for over twenty years. She tells a story about Alex Chadwick who really liked an unspecified fact for a story and asked the librarian to chase it down. “She persisted over the course of about 45 minutes...She finally concluded that we could not establish this fact, despite my affection for it, so I left it out of the script.”
Malesky includes a wide variety of facts under various headings, some of which, like lunar lagomorph, sent me running to the dictionary. (It’s a rabbit that lives on the moon, as opposed to a man in the moon.) Others cracked me up -- the “put that in our pipe and smoke it” section is about cannabis use. She throws in great quotes, like this one from Dorothy Sayers: “...facts are like cows. If you look them in the face hard enough they generally run away.”
Why I picked it up: I am an NPR junkie and have often heard Kee Malesky thanked at the end of a story.
Why I finished it: Because I am better at remembering trivia than the names of my children or my friends. I may as well play to my strengths and gather more knowledge. Even if I can’t remember a person I can still start a conversation with, “Did you know that Thousand Island dressing takes its name from the 1000+ islands in the St. Lawrence River? And to be defined as an island ‘it must be above water 365 days a year and must support two living trees.” Thank goodness I’m already married because I would not be a hit at speed dating.
I'd give it to: My librarian geek bosses, Bill and Gene, because I think Dewey should distract someone with questions like, “Did you know that Heloise’s family took revenge on Abelard by having him castrated?”
@bookblrb: NPR librarian Kee Malesky shares facts she’s verified for news stories over the last twenty-plus years.
In an attempt to fulfill a prophecy in the Crime Bible, the Religion of Crime abducted Batwoman and stabbed her in the heart. She survived. But now that the Dark Faith’s new leader is coming to Gotham, Batwoman goes on the offensive to stop them.
With her father, an army Colonel, providing support and weapons, Batwoman finds herself caught between two religious factions. Trying to stop a plot to murder thousands forces her to revisit the painful incidents in her past that drove her to become a costumed hero.
Collects Detective Comics #854-860.
Why I picked it up: I love Rucka’s tough intelligence operative Tara Chase in Queen & Country. Also reached for it because, poor speller that I am, I’m always surprised to see “deluxe” spelled with an “e”.
Why I finished it: Stewart’s startling use of reds to reinforce the writing and direct my eye absolutely made the book for me.
I'd give it to: Michele, so she’d chastise me. “Come on! Are you seriously giving this to me ‘cause she’s gay, dude?” in her cute accent.
@bookblrb: Batwoman is caught between two criminal, religious factions trying to stop a plot to murder thousands.
Bea’s family is falling apart. She has moved several times during high school and is now a senior at a school where she doesn’t know anyone. Then Jonah, nicknamed Ghost Boy, who rarely speaks at school, gives her a cryptic note. It instructs her to listen to a late night radio show where people call in to speak about anything from gossip to alien abductions and Elvis sightings. Jonah slowly lets Bea into his life. They even go to a party advertised on the radio show to meet the crazies who call in. Then Jonah finds his father has lied to him about his twin brother, who supposedly died in the accident that took his mother’s life. He become even more morose and withdrawn. Bea wonders if she’ll be able to keep her friend from his goal of disappearing entirely.
Why I picked it up: Nominated for my book committee.
Why I finished it: The quirkiest, lovable characters that call in to the radio show: one gentleman is gently tolerated until his nightly rants get personal and foul-mouthed, another claims to be visiting from the future and shows up at the radio party in a silvery space suit. This book also features one of the sweetest platonic boy-girl relationships in YA fiction.
I'd give it to: Quentin, who loves the characters on WKRP, because he’ll dig the callers, too. Keegan, who brought a ukelele to school every day last year. He persuaded his English teacher to let him play a song he wrote every week on what became known as Ukelele Thursdays. I have a feeling he would completely understand the protagonists of this story.
@bookblrb: Bea doesn't know anyone at her new school. Then Jonah (aka Ghost Boy) introduces her to a quirky call-in radio show.
East walks from Manchester to Liverpool over a period of years, sketching buildings, graffiti, animals, stations, footpaths, people, and textures, recording his trip and his thoughts along the way.
Why I finished it: The cat stretching on the bottom half of page 14, but especially the brilliant way East draws flocks of birds.
I'd give it to: Joel, who would appreciate the way East combines abstract-seeming watercolors and ink to form cityscapes.
@bookblrb: Oliver East walks from Manchester to Liverpool, sketching, recording his trip and his thoughts along the way.
Detective Erlendur returns in the sixth Reykjavik Thriller translated into English. The woman hanging in her vacation home looks like a suicide. She has a history of depression and recently lost her mother to cancer. It seems like and open and shut case, but Erlendur needs to understand what happened. He also revisits two unsolved disappearances thirty years ago.
Why I picked it up: One-word title, set in the country I'm visiting soon, featuring severe cold weather. I seriously couldn't ask for more.
Why I finished it: I felt invested in understanding the suicide and two cold cases (pun totally intended). Erlendur’s tragic past and dysfunctional relationship with his children have both been driving me bonkers since the first book in the series. I wanted answers! (But I still don’t have them.)
I'd give it to: Marin, who didn't care for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and needs to read an awesomely talented Nordic writer, ASAP.
@bookblrb: Reykjavik. Detective Erlendur investigates a suicide and two, thirty-year-old unsolved disappearances.