Jack Pool is a teenage cellist in Massena, NY. He’s looking forward to his music school tryout where he might earn the right to study music in Syracuse. In the meantime he dreams of Emaline, a Christian girl who likes him back. But neither of them believe it could work out because Jack is Jewish.
When Emaline’s four-year-old sister disappears, a cafe owner starts rumors about Jewish blood sacrifices to deflect the search away from his whiskey smuggling operation. The townspeople are riled up, and Jack’s family, along with all the other Jews in the town, worries for their safety as the ugly mood builds.
Why I picked it up: Nominated for ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list. (I’m on the committee.)
Why I finished it: It was frustrating to see the townspeople were so easily manipulated by a man with his own agenda, which was even more compelling because the author’s family was victimized by this rumor. (For a college assignment, Vernick was supposed to find a community disagreement and analyze how groups made their decisions. She asked her father, a native of Massena, and he opened up to her about this incident, which happened when he was a senior in high school. And, lest we think this is a dusty piece of history, Vernick gives examples from the 2000’s about blood libels being repeated and believed.)
I'd give it to: My son Stephen, who just finished To Kill a Mockingbird, because he would recognize the same mob mentality in the townspeople of this book.
On his drive to work, Alex Kalienka becomes stuck in a traffic jam. Between swearing at idiots and avoiding trash in the road he thinks about his life. He came to Los Angeles from a small town in Canada. He got his dream job and became an animator at Babbit Jones. But it’s not the life he thought it would be. He works in a run-down former factory, his employer values competence over brilliance, merchandising is the main goal, and the best advice he ever received was not to draw too well.
But he also conjures visions of an idealized version of his life, where he moved to LA in the golden days of Babbit Jones, was valued for his creativity, and his romantic relationship worked out as it should have.
Why I picked it up: I loved Kalesniko’s Mail Order Bride.
Why I finished it: It captures the frustration of being stuck in traffic, particularly the array of images (violent and otherwise) that traffic brings to my mind (even better than Falling Down). Like me, Alex also relieves his frustrations with a lot of swearing.
I'd give it to: Fred. He’s one of the nicest guys on the planet, but traffic turns him into a screaming, uncensored Sam Kinison.
Atticus O’Sullivan, 2100-year-old last of the druids, is living peacefully, hiding out in Arizona. He looks twenty-one, runs a used bookstore, and mostly avoids the supernatural community (though his lawyer really is a bloodsucker).
Then the Celtic god, Aenghus Óg, tracks him down. He sends three of the Fae to attack Atticus in front of his shop. He wants the magical sword Atticus possesses. Atticus will need the aid of several of his gods and the local werewolf pack to survive.
Why I picked it up: I was talking books with Brilliance Audio’s John Grace at Comic Con. I told him I was heading out on a long road-trip. He recommended this series.
Why I finished it: Atticus O’Sullivan is an entertaining potty mouth. I was hooked as soon as he referred to Thor as “a major asshat.”
I'd give it to: Darlene. She reads (and listens to) historical romance set in the Scottish highlands. The hot surfer druid on the cover will get her to try it, Luke Daniels’ array of accents and voices (including an Irish Wolfhound’s) will keep her listening, and Atticus’ geek culture references will help prepare her for what I believe is her inevitable first trip to a comic convention.
Charlie Tracker and Fielding Withers –- better known as the characters Jenna and Jonah on TV’s How to Be a Rock Star -– are the perfect Hollywood teen power couple, always snuggling and being sweet to each other. But it is all fake, a publicity stunt cooked up by their handlers to keep ratings up. When word gets out, Charlie and Fielding hide out and wait for the publicity storm to pass. They are not prepared to deal with the ends of their careers, especially when their time together makes them wonder if their romance isn’t real after all.
Why I picked it up: I’m appalled at the thought of being famous, having paparazzi follow you around and airing your darkest secrets and worst moments for the world to see. I especially can’t imagine putting up with that as a teenager.
Why I finished it: Charlie and Fielding are great kids. I loved hearing them each tell their side of the story because both have a maturity that fits perfectly with their lives. They’ve been on their own since they were young, forced to fend for themselves without truly supportive adults who care about them rather than money.
I'd give it to: Gretchen, my modern dance teacher, because I think she’ll enjoy the second half of the book where Charlie and Fielding attend an intensive summer drama program. They are both concerned with improving their acting skills, and the tips they get from the other actors could easily be translated from acting to dance. (I learned several things about letting go and giving yourself to your audience that I am going to put into practice the next time I dance.)
Ten two-page spreads provide the opportunity to count to 100. Related groups of cute, colorful mice, cats, moles, birds, and more are arranged in groups of ten.
Why I picked it up: The 100 colorful, expressive animals, insects, fish, and people on the front and back cover.
Why I finished it: The fun and clever way each picture leads to the next. Mice are biting cat tails, a cat discovers a mole in a hole, and a mole is asking an ant to move. (The ant leads to sheep, which lead to birds, which lead to…)
I'd give it to: Layton, who likes his grandma’s dried piranha, and would laugh at the toothy yellow fish who say “Ready, set, eat!” and “Bon appétit!”
In Ludania, the social classes are strictly divided. Each has its language, status, and social customs. Breaches are punished by death.
A revolution is brewing, the borders are closed, and the capitol is being overrun by servants and outcasts. Queen Sabara’s body is aging, and she has no female heir. (Men cannot ascend the throne.) She desperately tries to hold onto power until she can find a girl of the ancient royal blood to accept her essence, allowing her to continue her centuries-long rule.
Charlie and her family are vendors, but they harbor dangerous secrets. Charlie understands all languages, even Royal. Her mute sister is a healer. Charlie struggles to understand how low class children can have such gifts. At an underground club where kids from different classes mix and party, she meets two young men, the dashing Max (a soldier who is smitten with her) and the more sinister Xander. She discovers Max is the queen’s grandson and Xander the leader of the rebels.
Why I picked it up: I enjoyed Derting’s The Body Finder and wanted to see if her newest was as good. (It was better!)
Why I finished it: Initially it was to understand the motive behind Max’s pledge to keep Charlie safe when he barely knows her. Then the forces vying for Charlie to champion their cause made the story crackle with energy, deception, and conspiracy.
I'd give it to: Indie, because she’ll love the “who can I trust” intrigue Charlie struggles with, as well as her overwhelming loyalty and need to protect her sister.
Gwyneth has played second fiddle to her cousin Charlotte for their entire childhood. Charlotte has been trained from birth to be a polyglot, has been focused on learning British history, and can dance well. All this is because Charlotte possesses the time travel gene that runs in their family. The Society of the Guardians is waiting for Charlotte to manifest her abilities, but is shocked when Gwyneth instead gets dizzy, is ripped out of time, and finds herself over one hundred years in the past.
Gwyneth must control her time travel and be brought up to speed by Gideon, a dashing fellow who looks on her naivete about history with disdain. Together they attempt to collect blood samples from ten other time travelers to unlock a secret.
Why I picked it up: Nominated for my ALA book list committee.
Why I finished it: Despite the fact that the Guardians have been standing watch over time travelers for hundreds of years, Gwyneth is repeatedly warned not to trust anyone in the organization. The layers of deceit and intrigue grow as the novel progresses.
I'd give it to: Lani, who liked the historical feel to Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. This has the same Merchant and Ivory film feel, with Gwyneth getting all gussied-up by a professional seamstress in authentic period piece clothing before traveling.
Fictionalized retelling of the Watergate break-in and its consequences through the eyes of many of the principals, including President Nixon.
Why I picked it up: I grew up with Watergate, hearing about it at home as a small child then reading about it in Doonesbury (some of Trudeau’s best work). I've read All The President's Men six times and seen it twice.
Why I finished it: It's hard to see where facts stop and Mallon's fabrications begin. Did Pat Nixon really have a lover? Did Richard Nixon's secretary erase the famous eighteen minutes in the Watergate tapes? Was Alice Roosevelt Longworth (one of my favorite characters from history) really Nixon’s close advisor? At some point I stopped looking it all up and just enjoyed the ride.
I'd give it to: My mom, who was and remains intensely political. I want to discuss the rise and fall of former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who went from inevitable future President to historical footnote in a flash.