Sarah changes her college plans so she can follow a handsome high school student teacher, Mr. Haddings, to the University of Washington. She has been revealing her feelings to him through a poetry journal in the shape of poems that she writes. He tries to let her know, through poems they read in class, that there is no way a relationship will work between them. She writes him a letter to tell him how she feels, but as she crosses a street, she drops it. When she turns to retrieve it she is hit by a car driven by a very distracted Mr. Haddings. Once the word is out that Mr. Haddings hit her, students are angry and he desperately wants to know that Sarah is ok, but also to make sure nobody knows about the poetry exchanges.
Why I picked it up: I was intrigued by a book told in multiple viewpoints that addresses texting while driving.
Why I finished it: Grover is a poet, but this book is written in prose. Her poetic language comes through on every page, down to the smallest of details. When Sarah is being wheeled through the hospital on a gurney, Grover paints a picture of Sarah's view of the ceiling as she moves to her new room: tile, tile, light, tile, tile, light.
The most beautifully written scenes were when Haddings was sitting in a large waiting room opposite, with only a fish tank between him and Sarah’s family. He knew they would not want to see him, but he remained close enough to overhear their conversations. The clash of the family's turmoil against the calm and serenity of the fish tank was beautifully written as Haddings eavesdropped and watched them through the water. For every angry word spoken by Sarah's mother, the angelfish in the tank glided past, oblivious to the scene outside.
It's perfect for: Mrs. Garofano, my seventh grade language arts teacher, who struggled to get a class of surly kids to appreciate poetry. A book like this would have helped her tremendously. Readers are exposed to Raymond Carver, Emily Dickinson, e e cummings, Dante and others throughout the pages of Sarah's journal. Poems are presented in an organic way so they seem like a natural part of the text, unlike middle school poetry text books which give poem after poem to students without context.
Simon remembers every act of sin ever confessed to him. Pavel forgets what he has just played and rehearses the same melody over and over. Unable to recall faces, Veronika uses different perfumes to remember the ones she loves. The Book of Memory Gaps is a collection of darkly humorous mini-stories that examine our curious and capricious unconscious. With concise, lyrical prose and a discerning command of color, Cecilia Ruiz captures the delicate and fleeting nature of memory, as well as its immense power–after all, who would we be without it?
“Read[s] like Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies if it were written by Dr. Oliver Sacks….a quaint, beautifully designed little book with wonderful art.”—MentalFloss.com
Angel works for Catherine Case as her Water Knife, a fixer and enforcer with the ability to cut off water sources. When Catherine needs more water for her luxurious developments in the desert, Angel will get it for her by procuring precious water rights from the Colorado River one way or another, legal or not. Because he is her best and most ruthless man, he is sent to Phoenix to chase down rumors of a game-changing water rights secret. The city, already on the brink of collapse due to low water supplies, is rocked by murders, intrigue, and big money power moves, just the kind of thing journalist Lucy Monroe is there to cover. When Angel and Lucy are thrown together, the choices they make will decide the survival of entire cities.
Why I picked it up: Bacigalupi wrote Ship Breaker, possibly the best of the 11,000 books in my middle school library. (Students often come in and ask me the unfair question, "What's the very best book in the whole library?" It never fails to captivate students when I recommend it to them.)
Why I finished it: Bacigalupi has created a future that feels very possible. The citizens of Phoenix have metered water -- it’s like paying for gasoline at the pump, except people can speculate by purchasing water because the prices go up and down instantaneously as the market changes. Angel is a bad guy that we end up rooting for, risking himself for Lucy even as he dooms whole cities and kills assassins. He is surprisingly sweet, in a gruff way, trying to keep innocents out of the hail of bullets that he knows will be his end. But he never lets personal relationships get in the way of water business.
It's perfect for: My father-in-law, Dick. He reads tons of spy thrillers and police procedurals, but has resisted the appeal of science fiction novels. This is action-packed enough to pull him in and show him it’s not all spaceships and aliens.
When her dissolute husband dies after being shot in another woman’s bed, Catherine Corvedale, Countess of Bewleton, discovers that the family’s once formidable fortune has been utterly depleted and she stands to lose everything that matters to her, including her young son. She throws herself on the mercy of the one man who can save her—her late husband’s cousin, the Marquess of Huntley.
Not only is James Cavanaugh enormously wealthy, but he holds the liens against the Corvedale family estates. Yet, as he believes that Catherine betrayed him years ago, he will help her...but only for a price. He will cancel her debts entirely if she will spend seven days and nights with him, willingly doing as he asks of her.
No choice but to concede, Catherine agrees. For one week, he will be her master and own her, body and soul. Then her debts will be forgiven, and, James hopes, his needs for her expunged. At the end of the week, both will go their separate ways. But first they'll have to make it through seven sensuous days...
Fifty years ago, two Freedom Summer volunteers from New York and one local volunteer disappeared on the back roads of Mississippi. They were found days later, brutally murdered. For the first time, the murder of civil rights activists became a national news story.
Why I picked it up: Ferguson reminded me that I know almost nothing about African-American history and the injustices that created the situations we have today. I decided it was time to learn more.
Why I finished it: This isn't just a recounting of a newsworthy killing. It's significant original research into the lives and motivations of the people who died, and the effect, over decades, on the city where the murderers lived and were protected until recently.
It's perfect for: Anyone involved in activism today. The book paints a vivid picture of the young people willing to face personal danger, social ostracism, the loss of their livelihoods, and the destruction of their communities to create a better life for themselves or others. This was not the first or last time someone "disappeared" in Mississippi for breaking the unspoken rules, and the Freedom Summer volunteers knew it.
Carolyn and the others weren’t born librarians. Father took them in and raised them when his enemies moved against him. They grew up surrounded by the ancient, handwritten books he had penned, which he organized into twelve separate catalogs. Each child was assigned one of these areas of knowledge, and was directed to master its wonders. (Some might call these magic.) Carolyn mastered all languages past and present, real and imagined. David mastered murder and war. Jennifer mastered healing, which was good because the rest of them needed her skills often; Father was unforgiving when the kids disappointed him or broke the rules.
Everyone has been locked out of the library. Father is missing, and may be dead. And if this is part of some power play, if one of the other supernatural beings takes over, life as we know it is about to end.
Why I picked it up: Penguin / Random House’s Erica Melnichok recommended it to me, and she knows my tastes pretty well. (The last book she handed me was a home run, the fantastic zombie apocalypse novel Fiend.)
Why I finished it: I had to figure out what was going on, after reading the opening: “Carolyn, blood-drenched and barefoot, walked alone down the two-lane stretch of blacktop that the Americans called Highway 78. Most of the librarians, Carolyn included, had come to think of this road as The Path of Tacos, so-called in honor of a Mexican joint they snuck out to sometimes.” She’s carrying an obsidian knife. She just killed a detective. And she’s wearing an incredibly weird outfit that includes leg warmers, bicycle shorts, and a hideous Christmas sweater. She is an incredibly smart and powerful woman who has no idea how people behave trying to figure out the world, and perhaps to recapture just a bit of her lost childhood.
It's perfect for: My friends Colin and Dave Toe, who I used to drag to B-grade action movies. This book has a lot of elements I’d associate with those films: lions vs. dogs, zombified (not the brain eating kind) suburbanites, a deadpan war hero going up against forces he doesn’t understand, air strikes, a beautifully gory ballet of torture and violence, the President of the United States, and the worst cab fare in history.
Erica is giving away 25 galleys of this fabulous book. If you want one, use this entry form.
It’s time for artist and adjunct professor Lydia’s annual dinner party, an intimate affair she throws every January for a clutch of women who, at various times, have been her friends, coworkers, and rivals. This year is different, though. This year Lydia has to tell them that she has cancer and is dying. She needs to tie up loose ends and find peace within herself and with Norris, her former student who quickly surpassed Lydia in ability, fame, and success.
Why I finished it: Though on the surface the novel feels like a Lifetime Original Movie, the characters have depth, from the willing martyr Celia to the conscious philanderer Maura. Also, the undercurrent of capital-A Art -- its meaning, its futility, and its necessity -- give this more meat to chew on than most “women’s fiction.”
It's perfect for: Your book club, if only so each member can take a turn guessing which character is most like herself.
Natasha Romanov AKA Black Widow -- Avenger, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and spy -- takes side jobs as atonement for her former life as a KGB assassin. She’s different from most superheroes; she uses guns, has no powers, and kills when necessary, with little remorse.
After the Ukrainian embassy is blown up and its ambassador is gunned down, the trail leads Black Widow to an indestructible foe from her past. Between overseas trips, during brief stays at her apartment, a stray cat tries to worm its way into her life.
Contains Black Widow #1 - #6 and All-New Marvel Now! Point One #1.
Publisher’s Rating: T+
Why I picked it up: I haven’t seen many good, espionage-related comics recently, but I was hoping for one.
Why I finished it: The writing is smart and the action sequences are amazing. Noto’s art really puts the book over the top -- he has a light touch with his inking that just seems to let the story (and Black Widow’s moves) flow. His use of colored inks really adds to the subtlety of the images, and helps focus the reader’s eye on important details, while those that are less important fade a bit. Masterful.
Readalikes: Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country, a series of graphic novels and prose novels about Tara Chace, an agent for the Special Section of the British Intelligence Ministry, that asks hard questions about the human cost of the spy game while delivering riveting, action-packed sequences.