Johnson & Johnson started in the late 1880s to make plasters and bandages. The product line expanded, making the three brothers who owned it very rich. After providing supplies to the government during WWI and WWII, the company went public in 1944. It cost $3,750 for 100 shares then, but as of 1999 those same 100 shares are worth twelve million dollars. Along with the great wealth for the founders’ heirs, there has also been drug addiction, murder plots, kidnappings, molestation, divorces, suicides, mental illness and much more. It’s arguable that wealth has been a net negative for the Johnson & Johnson clan.
Why I picked it up: Dysfunction and unbelievable wealth? Sounds like every current reality TV show I watch, and I thought it would be an entertaining read.
Why I finished it: There were hilarious details, especially about the heirs’ outrageous spending. When Woody Johnson, current owner of the New York Jets (the most dysfunctional team in the NFL over the past few seasons), took a motorcycle road trip with a few buddies, he had a truck following with parts, spare bikes, and on-call mechanics. But the craziest might have been Keith Johnson’s trench coat lined with the skins of 150 hamsters!
It's perfect for: Edith, because she would love the details about Evangeline Johnson. Despite her great wealth, she lived with a man described as her Svengali in absolute squalor with horses, cats, and free-range chickens running wild everywhere.
@bookblrb: Johnson & Johnson’s success brought wealth to its founders, but a lot of trouble to their heirs.
The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light.
Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life . . . or even longer. and now, at long last, it has found him.
"The mysteries of love and time haunt the beautifully wrought pages of Michael Rowe's superb ghost story Wild Fell. This is a novel for lovers of fine storytelling; a book that evokes terrors both ancient and modern and delivers us to a place of profound fear where the past and present intersect, conjuring a dark world where the dead have our faces. Or none at all. In short, Wild Fell is supernatural fiction of the highest order."—Clive Barker
David Sedaris’s latest book is a compilation of personal essays and short stories, covering everything from his newfound position as an unofficial garbage man in the U.K. to his father’s preoccupation with colonoscopies. Sedaris is by turns deadpan and histrionic as he mines his family history, his globe-trotting book tour experiences, and his twisted imagination into bite-sized chunks of absurdity.
Why I picked it up: Every Christmas I read “Six to Eight Black Men,” which highlights different traditions of Santa Claus around the world. (“For starters, Santa didn’t used to do anything. He’s not retired, and, more important, he has nothing to do with Turkey. It’s too dangerous there and the people wouldn’t appreciate him.”). Every Easter I read “Jesus Shaves,” an account of French-immersion students trying to explain the central mystery of the Christian faith. (“’He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber.’”). I will always read a new Sedaris collection.
Why I finished it: Bits like this, from “Easy, Tiger.”
“In the beginning, I was put off by the harshness of German. Someone would order a piece of cake, and it sounded as if it were an actual order, like, ‘Cut the cake and lie facedown in that ditch between the cobbler and the little girl.’”
It's perfect for: Fans of Monty Python, South Park, and Tom Lehrer, who like their humor smart, skewed, and occasionally filthy. I’ll be giving it to my friend Chris, who is a priest.
@bookblrb: Humorous essays and short stories on David Sedaris’ family history, book tour experiences, and other absurdities.
The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided the Beatles—from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of "The Man Who Made The Beatles," The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian Epstein was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town. He helped spread the Beatles’ message of love to the entire world, yet died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, consumed by staggering ambition and the endless struggles that came with it.
Both heartbreaking and uplifting, The Fifth Beatle not only reveals an important, unsung chapter in the history of the Beatles—but it will inspire anyone who’s ever dared to believe in a dream.
The meanest girl in the world has moved in down the street. Her name is Astrid, and it's best to stay out of her way.
Why I picked it up: The title felt like it was almost a swear word. In fact, I may start calling people Bad Astrids just for fun.
Why I finished it: Every page showed something mean and nasty Astrid did. She picked on cats and crashed through lemonade stands. She was horrible. She was described as a cranky, crabby troll.
It's perfect for: Jonathan, who was so angry when his little brother stomped in his new vegetable patch that he pushed him over. He immediately felt terrible and learned that his brother, like Astrid, has a human side.
@bookblrb: The meanest girl in the world just moved in down the street. Stay out of her way.
Sheila Keenan's captivating stories paired with Nathan Fox's stunning art bring the heroic military actions of man's best friend to life!
Some war heroes heard wind whistling over a hidden trip wire.
Some war heroes sniffed out a sniper 1,000 yards away.
Some war heroes stood tall...on four legs!
Dogs of War is a graphic novel that tells the stories of the canine military heroes of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. This collection of three fictional stories was inspired by historic battles and real military practice. Each story tells the remarkable adventures of a soldier and his service dog and is rendered with fascinating and beautiful detail, bringing to life the faithful dogs who braved bombs, barrages, and battles to save the lives of countless soldiers.
Based on the real-life roles of military dogs that served as Red Cross rescuers, messengers, scouts, search-and-rescue teams, sentries, and mascots, Dogs of War captures both the adventure and the devastation brought on by war, as well as the celebrations of life and friendship between boys and their dogs.
Enter to win a free copy!
Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Richard Jury is in hospital recovering from three gunshot wounds. His friend and assistant, Melrose Plant, a rich British aristocrat who gave up his titles, tells him a story overheard in The Grave Maurice, a pub across from the hospital: a teenage girl vanished from a stud farm in Cambridgeshire eighteen months earlier. She is Nelly, the daughter of Jury's surgeon, Richard Ryder. She disappeared along with one of her grandfather's prize thoroughbreds. Both are believed to have been kidnappings. Though most believe Nelly must surely be dead, Vernon, her father’s stepbrother, is convinced she is still alive.
His curiosity piqued, Jury is determined to find Nelly. The inner workings of thoroughbred stud farms, horse breeding, shady pharmaceutical dealings, murder, and revenge all come into play as he unravels a heartbreaking family tragedy.
Why I picked it up: Grimes is my all time favorite author, and this title has been sitting atop my must read stack for a while.
Why I finished it: It was a delight. Grimes’ prose is beautiful, and her insight into human nature astonishing. I found myself immersed in each character and their despair. Nelly’s cousin, Maurice, devastated by her disappearance, seems to be bearing a heavy burden, as does Vernon, who spends a fortune on private investigators and refuses to give up on her. And it’s simply brilliant how the name of the pub where the story begins is connected to Nelly’s disappearance.
It's perfect for: My friend, Vicki, who grew up with horses in the Midwest and will enjoy the British take on racing and discovering related terms like a “walkover,” a race where a favorite runs alone because all other horses are withdrawn by trainers who know they can’t compete.
@bookblrb: Detective Jury investigates the kidnapping of a teenager girl and one of her grandfather’s prize thoroughbreds.
The confusing-yet-brilliant inventor known only as Crazy Dave helps his niece, Patrice, and young adventurer Nate Timely fend off a “fun-dead” neighborhood invasion in Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon! Winner of over thirty “Game of the Year” awards, Plants vs. Zombies is now determined to shuffle onto all-ages bookshelves to tickle funny bones and thrill . . . brains.
This, the first Plants vs. Zombies comic book, collects all Plants vs. Zombies digital comics into one nifty hardcover!
A book full of word problems dedicated to getting parents to do math with their kids at bedtime. Problems are divided into fun chapters like “Exploding Food,” “Wild Pets,” “Extreme Vehicles,” and “Sports You Shouldn’t Try At Home.” Each two page spread has illustrations, a brief and entertaining introduction to the topic (hot peppers, the 10-second rule, bull riding), and a story problem for each of three levels (wee ones, little kids, big kids).
Why I picked it up: I was talking to another parent about how I encouraged my daughter to do math this summer by bribing her with violent video games. She told me about this book.
Why I finished it: I love the bright, often funny illustrations: a boy breathes fire while a hot, flaming pepper grins at him; a girl throws spaghetti at her father to see if it sticks; kids tumble down a hill after a rolling cheese wheel.
Note: even the “advanced” problems are a little too easy for my 5th grader.
It's perfect for: Sameer and Marin. They’re in the process of adopting two awesome kids, and Sameer is the most successful math nerd I know. This will let Marin get in on the math tutoring action without too much stress.
@bookblrb: A book full of fun, illustrated word problems for kids to do at bedtime.
Funny, all-ages graphic novel adaptations of “How the Leopard Got His Spots,” “The Elephant Child,” “How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin,” and “How the Camel Got His Hump” from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
At the end of each short story are facts about the animal and a poem by Kipling.
Each was previously published as a stand-alone volume by Capstone.
Why I picked it up: I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve never read anything by Rudyard Kipling.
Why I finished it: Pedro Rodriguez’s illustrations. They’re colorful, kinetic, and reading them is like watching the best Saturday morning cartoons.
It's perfect for: Elsa. I’m not sure what she’d think was funnier, the elephants with big, bulgy noses or the flat-backed camel, but I want to read this to her to find out.
@bookblrb: Colorful, comic adaptations of four of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.
Yesteryear's symbols of the future like newfangled stereo sets, reel-to-reel tapes, UFOs, rocket ships, and robots decorate patterns for cool knit scarves, hats, gloves, pencil holders, doorstoppers, toys, and more.
Why I picked it up: I liked the idea of combining science and technology with soft and fuzzy knitting.
Why I finished it: Cute green socks with radio towers on them! A laptop cover with Sputnik on it! Graphic equalizer display scarf! A tablet cover that looks like an old-fashioned digital calculator (which I, of course, would change so the display reads 55378008 (which spells "BOOBLESS" upside down))!
It's perfect for: Dawn, because Liza Lou, her French Bulldog, would look awesome in a coat with a pattern featuring this very familiar looking robot dog.
@bookblrb: Yesteryear’s symbols of the future (think reel-to-reel tapes and rockets) decorate knits, scarves, hats, and more.
In 1951, Delores La Marr, the most beautiful woman in the world, was just hitting the big time in Hollywood. Her path to fame was clear. But one day she was photographed at a mob party in Las Vegas, and just like that her career was over.
Sixty years later an elderly (but still powerful) kingpin hires Junior Bender to find out who set her up.
Why I finished it: The third book in any series can be expected to rest on its laurels, but Hallinan raises the bar. Up to now everything has been 100% in Junior's first-person voice, but here there is an entirely unexpected flashback to the 50s where we hear Delores' story in her own words. The texture and insight this provides makes the rest of the book much more satisfying and emotionally involving, and amps up the mystery considerably.
It's perfect for: My mom, who likes mysteries, mobsters, and Hollywood dirt. And mom, who used to sell houses, will laugh at the way Junior, abetted by his daughter, manages to sabotage the relationship between his ex-wife and a realtor.
@bookblrb: Burglar/Private Eye Junior Bender is hired to find out who ruined the career of a promising starlet in the 1950s.