Why I picked it up: A gift from J.T., a Hapa friend with two Hapa kids.
Why I finished it: It’s almost impossible not to play “what race are they?” with the photos. But after a while I started to just see them as individuals, and what they had to say became more interesting than how they looked.
It’s perfect for: Christina, who is regularly addressed in Spanish because she looks Latina, but is actually Pakistani/European. I think she’ll love the attitude of the “1/2 hapa 1/2 oakland” woman who describes herself as “ONE BAD ASS SISTA! WHO ARE YOU?"
@bookblrb: Hundreds of multiracial and Hapa (part Asian) kids and adults share their images and experiences.
In thirteenth century Sicily, young Laura escapes from a brigand and comes under the protection of a local healer, Crescia. She raises Laura to become a healer, and provides her with the opportunity to learn letters and then the sciences. But Laura’s heart leads her astray; after becoming pregnant and inducing a life-threatening miscarriage, she and Crescia have a falling out. Laura completes medical school on her own and settles into life as a wealthy physician.
Twenty years later, she befriends a pregnant neighbor whose husband steals greens from Laura’s garden. The penalty for theft is the loss of a hand, so Laura makes him a deal -- if their child is a girl, she will be given to Laura as payment for the stolen greens.
Why I picked it up: I've long had an interest in the Middle Ages, and the story of a young woman attending the famous Salerno Medical School captured my imagination.
Why I finished it: At first I loved reading about all the different uses for plants and herbs, and how Crescia slowly taught Laura the ways of a healer. Then their break sets the second half of the book into motion, and everything seems fated to end tragically (though it doesn’t, quite).
It's perfect for: Julie, who would love the fierce independence of Crescia, Laura, and Bieta (the young neighbor’s daughter, whom Laura raises and teaches) as each woman grows and makes her way in the world on her own terms, especially given that it’s a time when knowledgeable women were often suspected of witchcraft.
@bookblrb: In 13th century Sicily, Laura attends medical school and drives a hard bargain with the person who stole her greens.
For Amy Sturgess, life in the big city comes with even bigger problems. Her marketing career is being derailed by a conniving coworker stealing her accounts. Her family crises range from her down-and-out brother running afoul of the law to her mother’s growing affections for the house cats. And Amy’s love life just flatlined thanks to an unexpected reunion with the one that got away—who’s now engaged.
When Xanax and therapy fail to relieve her stress, Amy does what any young woman in her position would do: She uses her super strength, speed, flight, and ability to generate 750 volts from her hands to fight crime as the mysterious masked vigilante Starling. But while Starling is hailed as a superhero, will Amy remain a super-zero?
Despite Pete and the gang’s efforts to keep the fish-boy Mermin from making waves in their small town, he can’t help but stick out! An amateur team of paranormal investigators has their sights on Mermin, and they think he’s their chance to make it big! Meanwhile, Benni, Mermin’s round aquatic companion, is ready to spill the beans about their lives in the underwater kingdom of Mer, but perhaps things aren’t as simple as he says…
Duff McKagan, a founding member of the band Guns N' Roses and later Velvet Revolver, begins this book with his early life in Seattle and his move to California to break into the music scene before moving on to his first meeting with Slash, the height of GNR fame, and then its slow demise. Later he meets his wife and settles down to begin again. Throughout he is transparent about his crushing drug addictions and struggles to maintain sobriety until he completely transforms his life.
Why I picked it up: I love rock biographies. They are my guilty pleasure. I had already read and enjoyed Slash's autobiography and wanted to hear about Guns N' Roses from a different perspective.
Why I finished it: McKagan's book is honest and full of hope without being self pitying. He could have succumbed to alcoholism, but made the tough choice to clean himself up. What kept me reading was his path to sobriety, from a training regimen in martial arts to going back to college and finishing his degree. He didn't have to do any of those things, but I loved to read about his journey and occasional slip ups.
It's perfect for: Cheryl, who tried everything when we were kids. She's now raising a teenager who is testing her patience and limits. Cheryl will be hooked from the opening scene in the book when Duff catches some kids kissing at his daughter's birthday party. He starts to say something, then runs through a mental checklist about what kinds of mischief he would have been up to at the same age, from drinking to illegal drugs, before realizing that maybe an innocent kiss isn't so bad.
@bookblrb: Guns ’N Roses bassist Duff McKagan discusses his early life, his bands, and his struggles with addiction.
Lives intersect in the most unexpected ways when teenagers Anne and Lewis cross paths at an estate sale in sleepy Failin, Oregon. Failin was once a thriving logging community. Now the town’s businesses are crumbling, its citizens bitter and disaffected. Anne and Lewis refuse to succumb to the fate of the older generation as they discover—together—the secrets of their hometown and their own families.
From award-winning creators Sara Ryan Carla Speed McNeil (Finder)!
"[Bad Houses] is the best graphic novel I've read all year. Superbly observed, exquisitely drawn, with a sharp bite and a real human pulse. Magnificent." -- Warren Ellis, author of Gun Machine and Transmetropolitan
When Marvel gave the go-ahead to Julie Taymor (director of the hit Disney musical The Lion King) and Glen Berger to stage a Spider-Man musical, Berger could not believe his luck. But he also had a nagging worry that it would be difficult to translate to the stage. Six years later, on opening night, most of the original creative team was gone, U2’s Bono and the Edge, who wrote the songs, had distanced themselves from the project, the main actors had left, and several others were in the hospital due to high-flying wire accidents. Then the bad reviews started coming in.
Why I picked it up: My parents were in New York when this production set a record for the most previews prior to opening night. They tried to get tickets but couldn’t, mostly because many wanted to be there if something historically FUBAR happened.
Why I finished it: Glen Berger was part of everything, from working on the music with U2’s Bono and the Edge to having secret meetings with VIP’s behind Taymor’s back when the musical was tanking and she refused to compromise. He reveals insider details, like that the actor who did a gainer during a special preview for ticket scouts/reviewers broke both wrists in a hard landing but managed to hide it it until he was off-stage. There was quite a bit of worry over the legacy of Spider-Man and whether the musical would tarnish the character’s image, but this wasn’t an issue after Stan Lee was filmed saying that Taymor was a genius.
It's perfect for: Tom, a high school business teacher who he would love all the behind-the-scenes information about how a show like this is financed, and what it must do to earn back the money. (It’s $65 million in this case, which will require a run of roughly five years to repay their backers.)
@bookblrb: An insider’s view of Broadway’s jinxed Spider-Man musical.
Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!
Jacqueline Koyanagi was born in Ohio to a Japanese-Southern-American family, eventually moved to Georgia, and earned a degree in anthropology with a minor in religion. Her stories feature queer women of color, folks with disabilities, neuroatypical characters, and diverse relationship styles, because she grew tired of not seeing enough of herself and the people she loves reflected in genre fiction. She now resides in Colorado where she weaves all manner of things, including stories, chainmaille jewelry, and a life with her partners and dog.
Tib is tired of getting teased about the birthmark on his face. Just because none of the other cave people have one, it doesn't make him a freak! His wish for a friend is answered when he meets a young dinosaur that he names Tumtum. Tib doesn't know where Tumtum came from, since all the dinosaurs are supposed to be extinct, but he enjoys having someone to play with, even if no one else believes he’s real.
Why I picked it up: The dinosaur on the front cover was so cute!
Why I finished it: The Calvin and Hobbes-esque relationship between Tib and Tumtum is charming. The two have lots of fun together, and I found myself laughing a good bit. The early parts of the book are episodic, with each page representing a single adventure, but there is a storyline that ties things together and makes the characters -- both human and dinosaur -- more realistic.
The adorable Tumtum is mute, but Bannister's illustrations of him, with wide, yellow eyes and a bobbly head, bring him fully to life. Tumtum acts like an animal but he has a terrific sense of comedic timing.
It's perfect for: Janice, who just told her dads that she's going to become a vegetarian. She'll appreciate that Tib doesn't like eating meat, either.
@bookblrb: A young cave boy befriends a dinosaur that no one else believes is real.
Flick is a teenage criminal, determined to exact revenge on his alcoholic, abusive father, who he blames for the deaths of his brother and mother. Recruited by Lucian Mandel to the Mandel Academy, a prestigious high school, Flick quickly learns that the curriculum is not for the faint of heart -- it includes coursework in embezzlement, terrorism, and cybercrime to ensure that graduates are well-prepared for a life of high-stakes, white-collar crime.
Flick begins his training with the goal of destroying his father. Mandel promises to help. But as Flick delves deeper into the Academy and its history, he grows suspicious about Mandel’s intentions and disenchanted with the school’s cutthroat culture. Then Mandel recruits Joi -- den mother of a street colony of orphans and Flick’s erstwhile girlfriend -- to join the student body, and Flick switches gears, determined to do anything he can to keep Joi safe among his fellow Wolves.
As tensions rise, the body count grows, and secrets threaten to come to light, Flick and Joi embark on a dangerous plan to bring down Mandel and his Academy for good.
Why I picked it up: Leila Roy said I should read it.
Why I finished it: I got sucked into the double- and triple-crossing of the main characters -- all accomplished con artists and damaged people -- and found myself holding my breath at every page turn, wondering just how depraved conditions would get. (Answer: VERY. Think pharma-industrial-complex and secret-autopsy room depraved.)
It's perfect for: My sister, Gretchen, who loves a good psychological/grisly-crime thriller and has an affinity for kick-ass female characters. The interplay between Joi, former Queen Bee Gwendolyn, and the underestimated Ella is not to be missed.
@bookblrb: A teenage criminal is recruited to a school where classes include embezzlement, terrorism, and cybercrime.
The author mixed vintage crochet styles from the 70s and 80s with the trendy looks she spotted in the Brick Lane neighborhood of London, and created cute, colorful clothing patterns for anyone from beginner to expert in crochet.
Why I picked it up: I expected something geekier. Crochet pocket-protectors, maybe?
Why I finished it: I almost never see crocheted clothing I would want to wear, but I instantly found the cutest little lace collar and a way-easier-than-knitted multi-color sweater vest.
It's perfect for: Delia, who will demand that her mom make the quick and easy clip-on hair-bows in every available color.
@bookblrb: Vintage crochet meets trendy London looks.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ORIGINAL 30 Days of Night.
After Sheriff Eben Olemaun’s sacrifice to end the vampire attack on Barrow in 30 Days of Night, his wife, Stella, wrote a book about what happened there. She’s doing a bunch of public speaking to promote the book, and to get people to believe in the vampire menace. She thinks she’s ready for an attack.
Miss Judith’s son died trying to get pictures of the vampire attack on Barrow. She wants to help Stella expose the vampires and wipe them out.
But the vampires also want their revenge.
Contains Dark Days #1 - 6.
Why I picked it up: The first volume is my favorite all-out horror comic ever.
Why I finished it: I loved the strange relationship Stella developed with the vampire who came to kill her. After convincing him of the truth about how his friend died in Barrow (at the hands of an elder vampire), he starts to help Stella, and even tells her there may be a way to bring back her dead husband.
It's perfect for: Joel, an artist, who will love the way Templesmith uses multi-toned grey backgrounds, optic whites, and muted colors to make blood pop off the page, particularly during all of the decapitations in the book.
@bookblrb: After her husband was killed when the vampires attacked Barrow, Stelle is out to expose and destroy them.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ORIGINAL 30 Days of Night.
Three years ago, the undead attacked Barrow. Only nineteen of the 462 residents survived. Brian Kitka’s brother wasn’t one of them. But he’s moved to Barrow with his son, to take a job as sheriff. He knows his brother didn’t kill his wife, even if that’s how the evidence looked -- he’s there to find out what happened to his family and the town.
It’s the dead of winter, and the residents of Barrow don’t have time to coddle their new sheriff. It’s less than four days until the city will have to endure its yearly month of darkness. They give him his brother’s journal to convince him of the truth of what happens when the sun is gone, and then they get ready for the annual vampire attack.
Contains Return to Barrow #1 - 6.
Why I picked it up: How could I not?
Why I finished it: The folks in Barrow now know what they’re in for. They have a grim sense of humor, a truckload of guns, and towers sporting UV lights. To hell with horror genre cliches where folks don’t believe in monsters until it’s too late; these folks are ready for a fight.
It's perfect for: Tina, who cosplays Delirium, because she’d love the weird, somewhat off-kilter vamp who gets into town ahead of the main attack. I know she’d love the smart-ass deputy as well.
@bookblrb: Every year the vampires attack Barrow, Alaska. The residents are ready. The new sheriff isn’t.