Anna, a teenage cinephile, works at a theater in Atlanta where her summer has played out exactly as she had hoped. She is writing movie reviews for her website, she just smooched her co-worker, and her senior year is fast approaching. This makes it worse when her overly optimistic father packs her off to an International school in Paris because he is sure it will be a great experience. There she meets Etienne St. Clair, a debonair hottie who appears interested in her. But she soon finds out he is taken. St. Clair is sending confusing messages as he squires her around town, showing her eateries and attending movie festivals. Anna falls hard for him, despite her best intentions.
Why I picked it up: Nominated for my American Library Association book committee.
Why I finished it: It can be difficult to create a tortured love relationship that has the reader rooting for the main characters instead of getting frustrated at their constant whining and indecision. I haven’t been this involved in wanting two characters to get together since Sam and Diane on Cheers. St. Clair and Anna are on-again off-again, often signaled by something as mundane as Anna addressing St. Clair by his last name, like everyone else does, or by Etienne, as she does when they are feeling close.
I'd give it to: Margret, the high-school age sister of my son’s baseball teammate that always talks to me about books I’m reading at his baseball games because she would breathlessly mine Anna's interactions with St. Clair for their implications, just like Anna does. Brian, who also likes movies, and would love that Anna goes out of her way to attend a movie festival of classic American Horror films that begins with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
An exquisite in-depth discussion of the twenty words used most in seventy-six classics of English literature (plus a list of the next 80).
Why I picked it up: By some grotesque mistake, My wife bought this book for home schooling instead of the one she intended. I venerate words, so I looked upon her normally serene countenance and told her I would take it off her tremulous hands.
Why I finished it: I learned that manifest comes from the Latin for "struck by the hand", as obvious as a slap. I love that. This deceptively thin book represents a prodigious amount of work, a singular work that never condescends but instead provides acute insight into such sublime words as odius, languor, placid, and more.
I'd give it to: J.T. and Mike, who clamor for such word nerdity, and will be incredulous at the wisdom herein contained.
Megan Yamamura (13) just moved to Chicagoland. Her only friend is Raf Hernandez, who works in his mom’s pet supply store. Megan is a fledgling poet who hates conformity. She starts school at the Stepford Preparatory Academy where the robotic students wear uniforms. She gets in trouble for reading manga in class. The lunch lady tells her to eat the sloppy joe sandwiches even though she’s a vegetarian. After starting a food fight, she is sent to a psychiatrist who turns out to be an evil genius trying to turn students into model citizens.
Why I picked it up: There’s a young, goth Asian girl on the cover of this graphic novel. My daughter seems to be going in that direction. I figured if it was good, I’d give it to her so she’d have a role model.
Why I finished it: It was fun and fairly creepy. I know it will appeal to my daughter because of the pet supply store. Like Megan, she wants a pet tarantula, but she’ll also love the dog who joins the fledgling detective agency at the end. I really like it because of the distrust for authority it will instill, particularly school lunch ladies and counselors.
I'd give it to: My vegan friends Liz and her daughter, Jes, because young vegetarian role models are hard to come by in graphic novels, too.
Jimmy lives in Oakland with his mom. Sara, his best friend, has been living there for three years while going to school, but now she wants to live in a real city. She moves to New York. After she’s gone, he realizes he has deeper feelings for her. He sends a letter asking her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building on a certain day and then heads out on a cross-country bus trip. After Jimmy arrives in New York, things don’t go as planned.
Why I picked it up: Jimmy works at a library. Sara spells her name like Bill’s wife, “Sara-no-h”.
Why I finished it: Early in the book, Sara tells a cringe-worthy story about dating a guy she met via craigslist. A few pages later, there’s this giggle-worthy exchange as part of a conversation about books: Sara: “Oh, brother. What is it with guys and rockets? It’s such a transparent phallic symbol.” Jimmy: “ But if rockets were shaped like vaginas, all the fuel would leak out and explode.”
Plus at one point, Jimmy gives step-by-step instructions on how to put a mylar cover on a book, something I’ve always been pretty bad at.
While nearly all werewolves live in packs, the occasional mutt (wolf with no pack) must be dealt with. That job falls to Elena Michaels: wife of Clayton Danvers (a powerful and feared enforcer), mother of twins, and the only female werewolf in her pack. Sent to Alaska to find a mutt who has fallen in with a bad crowd, Elena and Clay discover that rogue werewolves might be involved in the disappearances of local women.
A ride through fiercely beautiful Alaskan wilderness, bloody battles between supernatural creatures, and domestic squabbles -- they are all in a day's work for a working werewolf mother.
Why I picked it up: I'm always on the lookout for books set in cold climates.
Why I finished it: I immediately got caught up in the fast-paced plot and Armstrong's take on werewolf mythology. But the backstory of the complex and steamy relationship between Elena and Clay, combined with a skillful narration, really got me hooked. I was excited to find out that I'd jumped straight to the tenth title in the Otherworld series and have many more to listen to!
Four-year-old Annelex was living with her family in Indonesia when the Japanese took control. The invaders struck a deal with an Indonesian occupation government and Dutch citizens were placed in prison camps. Annelex's father, a pilot, was missing in action, and her brother was sent to the men's camp. She, her mother, and grandmother spent the next four years imprisoned with hundreds of others in crowded dorms or huts, underfed and without medical care.
Why I picked it up: I knew almost nothing about the treatment of Dutch civilians in WWII Indonesia, a part of the Pacific theater that I wanted to learn about.
Why I finished it: Annelex's memories are true to her young age at the time, and made me feel the brutality of inflicting such treatment on a young child. She doesn't understand why her mother, a prison group leader, is beaten when others in the group make mistakes. She treasures the one new piece of clothing she gets from the Red Cross after she outgrows the two dresses she was able to bring to the camp. And she vividly remembers the few games she played with the children imprisoned with her.
I'd give it to: Rosalie, for the parts where Annelex reveals that she still has nightmares about that time, but has made peace with it. She'll appreciate her resiliency and optimism in the face of what she endured.
Chelsea just wants to get a summer job at the mall, work on identifying the best ice cream, and stay busy so she doesn’t think about her ex-boyfriend, Ezra. However, her best friend wants to work at Essex Village, a Colonial theme park where Chelsea has performed in historically accurate garb for the last ten years. She agrees,only to find out that Ezra has taken a position there for the summer, too.
She is made a lieutenant in the annual war with the Civil War re-enactment place down the street. The Colonials think that those who work there don’t care about historical accuracy. This year, the conflict gets out of hand. Chelsea eventually finds herself thinking un-Colonial thoughts about a certain Civil War re-enactor, and she could be considered treasonous if it ever gets out that they are seeing each other.
Why I picked it up: I read Leila Sales’ debut novel, Mostly Good Girls, which had strong, realistic relationships between its main characters and irreverent, hilarious dialogue. Plus, I toured Colonial Williamsburg with my family a few years ago and was one of the idiotic tourists a girl like Chelsea would have had to endure.
Why I finished it: Funny stunts in the war between the Colonials and the Civil War soldiers. The soldiers planted cell phones in Essex Village and then called them, activating the “I Want to Sex You Up” ringtone while tourists were around.
I'd give it to: Connor, because there is a character that reminds me of him (sorry, dude) -- a geeky, historically accurate re-enactor who is gaga for Chelsea, despite her rejection of him.
The Doctor and his companion Donna Noble land in the middle of a muddy battlefield and are quickly separated. As Donna tries to help the soldiers who mistakenly believe she is a visiting commander, the Doctor works to figure out why soldiers are turning into hideous insect monsters. If any of them are to survive the arrival of a gigantic robot exterminator, the human fighters must make peace with their alien centaur adversaries.
Why I picked it up: Read by David Tennant!!!
Why I finished it: It was easy to picture this as another episode of Doctor Who, packed with adventure, amusement, danger, and the Doctor’s particular blend of madness.
And Tennant narrated using his native Scottish accent! He was skilled at using his voice to differentiate the characters, even when it came to imitating Donna’s strident tone.
I'd give it to: Alejandro, because the book is short enough (2.5 hours) that he could listen on the way to work instead of saving this for a longer trip, and it isn’t so scary that his fiancee will hate it.