Two female scientists started marine preserves near a rare coral reef in the Philippines. They cooperated with local fishermen to help seahorses and other reef animals to thrive so that the fishermen didn’t have to give up their livelihood.
Why I picked it up: The Scientists in the Field series continues to inspire me by showing the impact working scientists have on the world.
Why I finished it: The project took a realistic look at what was endangering the seahorse population-- blast fishing and overfishing in response to the demand for dried seahorses for souvenirs and traditional Chinese medicine-- and worked directly with local people and industry groups to set voluntary limits on fishing.
I'd give it to: Claudia, who will love that the scientists brought their preschool daughters with them during the project. Diana, who will be fascinated by the families who live near the reef without electricity or running water, who take a powerful role in their economic and environmental future.
This book explores the history, traditions and the pride of the Secret Service, which was created to fight counterfeiting (this is still part of its mission). It provides many details about the business of protecting the president. Teams go to areas on the president’s itinerary well before he arrives to create security perimeters and set up magnetometers to screen audiences. Armored SWAT-type teams armed with submachine guns stay within ten seconds of the president while he’s in public. Bulletproof limos have doors that can handle a bazooka blast. Each attempt on the president’s life is discussed, sometimes with interviews with the agents involved. Because the Secret Service is part of the Department of Homeland Security, training, morale, staffing and equipment have suffered. Both the author and former agents agree an assassination is very likely.
Why I picked it up: I always stop by the quick picks section at my local library whenever I go in to pick up a book. This is the one that caught my eye because it promised dirt on past presidents from the agents assigned to protect them.
Why I finished it: The juicy nuggets of information about presidents, first ladies, and family members, provided by the agents who protected them. Jimmy Carter took a lot of pride in being a regular person, even carrying his own luggage. But he often carried an empty dummy bag while agents toted the real luggage. (He was considered by many agents to be the biggest jerk among the last ten presidents.) Agents nicknamed Lyndon Johnson “Bullnuts,” because of both the size of his testicles and his appetite for extramarital sexual relations.
I'd give it to: Political independents like my friend Matt, because both parties contributed jerks, philanderers, and penny-pinchers to the Oval Office. (The only president that comes off unscathed is Ronald Reagan, who greeted agents by name and had food delivered to agents on holidays.) And my gossip-hungry wife, Trish, who reads US and People, because this author names names!
Now living in retirement, Cheeta the Chimp writes his own memoir of Hollywood’s Golden Age. A shameless namedropper, Cheeta dishes dirt on all of the big stars, from Marlene Dietrich to Errol Flynn. But he has nothing but reverence for Johnny Weissmuller, his co-star in eleven Tarzan movies. Cheeta struggled hard at his art, giving real emotional depth to his screen persona. For this reason, he has mixed feelings about the campaign of “the attractive Dr. Goodall” to banish all real primates from cinema.
Why I picked it up: The promise of seeing 1930’s Hollywood culture through a completely new set of eyes. I love that the Broomfield Public Library has this gem shelved with the other celebrity biographies.
Why I finished it: Cheeta describes his abduction from Africa as a “deliverance for which I owe every human being on this planet a drink.” He is cynical of human behavior while often playing naive about human intentions.
I'd give it to: Patte, who recommended I read David Niven’s celebrity autobiography The Moon’s A Balloon a long, long time ago. Cheeta may lack Niven’s dry wit, but then Niv never could walk on his hands.
Scientist Ted Knight was the legendary golden age hero Starman, protector of Opal City, inventor of the powerful Cosmic Rod. When he retired he pass the mantle on to his son David, leaving his other son, Jack, to waste his life selling antiques and getting tattoos. Then an assassin kills David. Jack must decide if he is hero material.
Why I picked it up: Last week my entire family bicycled to the library together, guaranteeing us a place in heaven. While the kids picked out their books I looked for new arrivals in the Graphic Novel section, found this, and remembered Gene sharing a few Starman trades with me when we first started working together. I decided to see if it still held up.
Why I finished it: The Shade, who at first appears to be a conventional villain, turns out to be something much more interesting. Right from the start Robinson throws a bunch of balls in the air, setting up characters and plot points for the future. By the end of this collection only a few had landed. I'll have to keep going to see if he actually pulls it all off.
I'd give it to: My friend Jonathan who likes Ex Machina. This immediately reminded me of that series for more reasons than that they’re both drawn by Tony Harris. They share a willingness to go off-topic to explore minor characters and events from the past that may or may not prove meaningful to the overall story.
The search is on for children to train from an early age to fight the Formics, an insect-like alien species that nearly wiped out humanity.
Bean is tiny but uses his superior intelligence to survive on the streets of Rotterdam. He organizes a group of homeless kids to band together ensure they get fed. After noting this change in the kids’ behavior, a nun realizes what a miracle Bean’s intelligence is. He’s sent to the orbiting battle school where he faces new challenges.
Contains Ender’s Shadow: Battle School #1-5. Publisher’s Rating: Parental Advisory.
Why I picked it up: Enjoyed Ender’s Shadow, a novel that parallels Ender’s Game, and decided to read this graphic novel adaptation (which covers about half the novel) when I saw the no-nonsense look in Bean’s eyes on the cover.
Why I finished it: Bean knows what’s going on, from when he’s being tested to when he’s in danger. He refuses to take tests until he understands what’s at stake, spies on and evaluates those who are observing his every action, and pretty much sees through everyone.
I'd give it to: Maya, when she hits 5th grade or so, assuming she’s still really small for her age. Kozimo, in my daughter’s Judo class, to prepare him for the day when his little brother can beat him every match (because everyone who watches them can see it coming).
Corelings rise out of the ground every night at sunset and kill those not safe behind wards. Arlen’s mother dies during one of the nightly coreling attacks on their warded village. His father’s cowardly resignation to his wife’s fate enrages Arlen. He sets out for the free cities through the dangerous countryside. Eventually he becomes a messenger, one of the few people able to journey long distances with the protection of portable wards. Arlen also learns that men were not always subject to the predations of corelings. And that there are wards that can be used to fight them as well.
Why I picked it up: My librarian friend Mike thought I’d enjoy it. (I am a little weirded out that he knows me that well.)
Why I finished it: I could see the wards carved and painted into the village doorposts, lintels and walls. Coreling attacks that result in mangled limbs and lumps of ichor are very detailed and create a real sense of danger during attacks. Then the Warded Man boxes the ears of a sand demon, touching its head on both sides with his tattooed palms, causing the demon’s head to finally explode like a ripe pumpkin, I knew I was going to finish the whole planned trilogy.
I'd give it to: My buddy Jeff, who swore off reading and fantasy series that isn’t completed, because he can’t stand waiting years for each volume, because he’ll pick it up as soon as I booktalk it. Brian, because he likes fantasies where the magic has clearly defined rules and where the author has spent time considering their long-term ramifications, as in Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings.
Bombs start falling in Iraq. Drilling is about to start in the Alaska wilderness. In a small town in northern California, eighteen-year-old Sun starts having visions starring her dead sister and her Aunt Sea, who disappeared years ago. She visits the forest to try to understand what her aunt is telling her. As she begins to understand how special she and her family are, she has to figure out how to fight the evil dude in the red jacket.
Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers.
Why I picked it up: The mix of physical textures works nicely on the cover.
Why I finished it: Sun is kinda super-powered when she’s leaping around the redwoods, and the mysterious, mystical tone reminded me of the best volumes of DC's The Books of Magic series.
I'd give it to: This is not a book for the politically conservative, but it’s tailor-made for tree huggers like Joanna and for Jenn, who appreciates well-designed books.
Zita and Joseph were playing when they discovered a pit. In the pit was some sort of capsule with a red button in it. Zita pressed the button and a portal opened in the air. Tentacles came out of it and grabbed Joseph and took him through the portal. It closed. Joseph was gone. Zita felt bad and pushed the button again and jumped through the portal. She found herself on another planet with aliens. She saw Joseph being carried away by a creature. And she found out the planet was about to be destroyed.
Why I picked it up: The giant mouse (and other creatures) on the cover!
Why I finished it: Dancing chickens! Piper was trying to sell a machine to some chickens to give them big muscles. The machine didn’t work for long and then they attacked Piper. He made the chickens dance to get them to stop.
I'd give it to: Owen, because he’d like the part where Zita and her friends fight the spider robots, even though he likes bugs.