Corporal Peter Crogan, former boxer, served as a member of the French Foreign Legion in North Africa in the early 1900s. He and his fellow soldiers dig themselves out after a two-day sandstorm. One of Crogan’s friends didn’t survive. The men talk of the desert madness that afflicts some. A young boy, who joined up for adventure, complains that all they do is sit around and steal from each other. Crogan offers the boy advice on how to fit in, but his eye is on the impending end of his five-year stint in the Legion. Unfortunately their new commander enjoys battle, values bravery, and will spend his men’s lives easily for glory.
Why I picked it up: Enjoyed the artwork and pace of the previous volume, Crogan’s Vengeance.
Why I finished it: Schweizer uses cartoony art but achieves a serious tone in battle. When the machine guns are going off and the men are falling in a besieged fort, I was reminded of the fights in Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. Also, there was some seriously funny itching after the men sold their underwear for money to buy drinks.
I'd give it to: Rick, whose favorite Jean-Claude Van Damme movie is Legionnaire. I consider this inconceivable given that he’s seen the utterly satisfying 2009’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration. (Apparently he loves Frenchmen in white kepis fighting in the dessert, so he’ll like this.)
Grace (16) volunteers at a nursing home where she meets a kindred spirit, Mr. Sands (70+). Because of him, the candy-striper outfit and People-magazine deliveries aren’t so bad. He’s not the typical old guy. He never talks about his infirmities, at least until the day he tells Grace he has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He asks for her help ending his life.
Why I picked it up: Nominated for my book committee.
Why I finished it: The funny lines! Grace urges her mother to make the first move to date a man she likes. When her mother says that it is not done, Grace looks at her watch and says, “7:53, official time of death of Feminism.”
I'd give it to: Bren, who reads everything by Meg Cabot because there’s a nice romance between the inexperienced Grace and her longtime friend, Eric. Jenn, who liked Janette Rallison’s books like Just One Wish because it featured light banter but dealt with important issues.
Pilot Ken Harding reports for duty in the 444th Squadron. The Australian crew only has three missions left to complete their tour, and they’re not excited about having a pilot fresh from training, no matter how talented he is. But after the way he loses an enemy fighter that's on their tail, they accept him as a member of the squad.
Why I picked it up: Craved historical accuracy in a WW II graphic novel, up to and including swearing.
Why I finished it: The way Masher expresses himself: “I’ve gotta drain the potatoes!” He’s a co-pilot -- he can’t be pilot himself because he farted in front of the King.
I'd give it to: My brother-in-law Ray, a big fan of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, who would be a bit mystified (as I was) by some of the Australian slang but would be pulled in by the realistic violence and the constant stream of four-letter words.
A zombie plague starts in Oakland, spreading not just via bites but also through kisses from the lust-crazed undead. A group of young Trader Joe's employees flee, ahead of the game with knowledge gained from their favorite movies.
Why I picked it up: It promised sexy zombies. I didn't believe it could be done.
Why I finished it: The zombie-turning was really hot. Then the terror of escaping the zombie hordes kept me turning pages. (I nearly missed my bus stop and noticed that I was holding my breath.) Beamer draws from the best of the canon and builds a solid new mythology.
I'd give it to: Wim, for the zombie battle in a zeppelin above the city.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read any of the other *Hunger Games books, but plan to, stop reading now.
Because Katniss survived two rounds of the Hunger Games, she has become a symbol of independence and freedom. By refusing to fight Peeta, who she fought beside, according to the rules imposed by the Capital, she planted the seeds of rebellion.
A little more than a year later, Katniss’s home District has been destroyed. But another district is leading a revolution. If it is to succeed, Katniss must become the Mockingjay, a symbol needed to gather the followers needed to overcome the Capitol.
Why I picked it up: It’s the third book in the series!
Why I finished it: Katniss struggles to find a middle road between her independence and completely giving herself over to the rebel leaders. She distrusts all of her old friends because it seems each had a hand in the beginnings of the rebellion, but kept her in the dark. Even her faith that anything would be better than the Capitol’s tyranny is shaken.
I'd give it to: Mary because she would like how even District 13, which aims to micromanage residents so that they live like gears in a machine, fails to tame Katniss. And Peter who would enjoy the fragility of the elites who depend on the commoners’ continued docility.
A collection of anecdotes from medium-tech pranksters who inspired one another on a BBS:
Why I picked it up: The pay phone on the cover unleashed a wave of nostalgia for the good old days.
Why I finished it: One contributor was so dedicated to overhearing phone conversations that, when he moved into a neighborhood where no one used cordless phones, he decided to equip everyone. He bought piles of them at WalMart (after gluing on barcodes from cheaper products) and gave them out as "prizes" for mythical radio contests. When that didn't work he wrote pro-cordless-phone editorials for the local paper, called up old ladies and threatened them with federal incarceration for using obsolete corded phones, and broke into people's homes to install new phones. That's commitment.
I'd give it to: The guys (it was always guys) from the computer lab my freshman year in high school. When they weren't teaching me to rewrite my grades in our school's minicomputer they were doing stuff like this.
Before her death, Evy, an elite bounty hunter, protected the oblivious civilians of Metro City from the supernatural. Then her team was ambushed. Accused of murdering her teammates, she tried to run. But she was found and tortured to death.
Then Evy wakes up in the morgue. She’s in the body of a recently deceased suicide victim. To sort out why she was killed, she meets up with her team's handler, Wyatt. In three days she dies for good.
Why I picked it up: My mom bought it at the airport. It has vampires, so she knew I’d love it.
Why I finished it: When Evy returns to life, her task seems straightforward. Clear her name, find her killer. Yet each piece of the puzzle she and Wyatt discover distorts the big picture.
I'd give it to: My dad, who is also my kickboxing partner, because he would appreciate the fast pace and especially the butt-kicking heroine