Being CEO of Heaven, Inc., was great for a while, but now God has His eye on other challenges -- specifically, opening a kick-ass Asian-fusion restaurant. So He issues a memo: in thirty days, Earth will be destroyed, and all angel employees who deal with mankind -- including Craig and Eliza, hardworking minions in the Department of Miracles -- will be out of a job.
Panicked, Craig makes a deal with God: if he and Eliza can answer one human prayer before doomsday, Earth will be spared. Now the fate of the human race rests on Sam, a twentysomething loser with a penchant for Indian food, and Laura, a sweet but aimless PR flack. Can Craig and Eliza help Sam and Laura get their act together and fall in love? Or will God sacrifice Earth in favor of a nice fish-sauce spaghetti dish?
Why I finished it: I couldn’t get enough of Raj, the Indian restaurateur-cum-life-coach who forces Sam to confront the lameness of his existence. And I wanted to know if the world was going to end.
I'd give it to: My friend Justin -- spiritual seeker, corporate drone, and dirty old man. The mix of sideways faith (miracles are justified through cost-benefit analysis), revolting sight gags (Regis Philbin projectile vomiting on camera, not once, not twice, but THRICE), and painful dating encounters (in response to Sam’s dancing, Craig announces, “I’m going to start a fire. I don’t care who dies. This needs to stop right now”) would be right up Justin’s alley.
@bookblrb: In 30 days God will destroy the world to open an Asian-fusion restaurant unless Angels can answer one prayer.
The Brothers Grime is Jack Masterson's way of helping people in crisis after disability ends his career as a firefighter. Jack's people get to a scene long after the physical trauma ends. They don't solve crime or rescue the victims. They help people move on. The new job is all Jack wants or needs, until he gets the call about old flame Nick Foasberg's suicide.
Ryan Halloran's cousin Nick has been on a downhill slide for a long time. Despite that, Ryan does everything he knows to help. Ryan only understands part of what happened between Nick and Jack in high school, but after Nick's suicide, Ryan agrees both he and Jack need closure. They work together to clean the scene and despite the situation, heat flares between them.
Jack is keeping a painful secret and fighting his attraction to Nick's lookalike cousin, Ryan. Ryan calls himself a magnet for lost causes and worries Jack might be the next in a long line of losers. Despite his misgivings, despite the past and the mistakes they've both made, Jack gives Ryan something to look forward to, and Ryan gives Jack a reason to stop looking back, in Grime And Punishment.
Laszlo is afraid of the dark that lurks in his house and surrounds it at night. This is the story of how he overcomes his fear.
Why I picked it up: While I'm always curious to see what Lemony Snicket is up to, I was even more excited to see Jon Klassen had illustrated a picture book for him. His I Want My Hat Back was hilarious and original. And its sequel, This is Not My Hat, was one of the darkest picture books I've read in some time.
Why I finished it: I felt confident that I could see where this story was going from the start, but the dramatic tension and chilling personification of the dark really sucked me in. Klassen's art captures the creepiness of shadows, while Snicket supplies plot twists that are both humorous and unsettling.
I'd give it to: Heather, whose overactive imagination freaked her out more than mine did when she was a kid. (I used to imagine that people were looking at me out of dark windows. She imagined she had died and been given new parents.) I only hope this won't make her afraid of the dark again.
The complete story of how fallen lawman John Reid was transformed into The Lone Ranger! Alongside his partner Tonto, the West's quintEssential masked man sets a new standard of justice in this character-defining origin story, a collection of twenty-five epic issues by the all-star creative team Brett Matthews, Sergio Cariello, Paul Pope, and John Cassaday! With over 600 pages (including the bonus story "Creed"), this must-have omnibus showcases The Lone Ranger's entire struggle against the unrivaled evil of outlaw Butch Cavendish.
"Epic and emotional, spare yet rich, Lone Ranger is worth its weight in (hi-yo) silver. A-" -Entertainment Weekly
Detective John Rebus retired from the police force, but he continues to work as a civilian in the Cold Cases Unit. Nina Hazlitt comes to the office because she’s still looking for her daughter, who has been missing for twelve years. Nina believes she was the first of many young women who have disappeared in northern Scotland, all victims of the same killer. Though Rebus has no authorization to look into her wild theory, he examines the case files about each and finds a connection between one of the missing girls and a recent disappearance. This connection puts Rebus in the middle of an active case, and he assists the task force (and former colleague Siobhan Clarke) in its hunt for a killer.
Why I picked it up: Rebus always tenaciously pursues an investigation, often to the detriment of his own career and personal relationships. In each book I enjoy watching him scratch his way toward the truth, always scraping his own hands raw to do it.
Why I finished it: Rebus has always bent the rules a bit, but retirement seems to have unmoored him from even pretending to follow rules. He takes evidence home, sets up an investigation board in his kitchen, and openly disdains his commanding officer. How many boundaries will he cross in order to bring a serial killer to justice? As he disregards both rules and appearances, he puts himself in the sights of DI Malcolm Fox of Internal Affairs.
I'd give it to: Joanna, who loves Castle. The show has nothing on Rankin for creating long-standing sexual tension between characters; he is an expert at exploring the awkwardness between two people who are attracted to each other. The thing between Rebus and Clarke has gone on for over ten books, and where Castle and Beckett finally got together at the end of season four, Rankin has yet to concede.
@bookblrb: A retired detective looks for a girl who has been missing for 12 years, putting him in the middle of an active case.
In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo's beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, still grieving, Hugo initiated hundreds of séances from his home on the Isle of Jersey in order to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo's transcriptions of these conversations have all been published.
Or so it has been believed...
Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L'Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief. In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island's mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on the Isle of Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles, and hidden caves.
But the man who's invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she'll help him discover something quite different—transcripts of Hugo's lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find.
But what neither Jac or Theo anticipate is that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake.
Seduction is a historically evocative and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, written by one of America's most gifted and imaginative novelists. Awakening a mystery that spans centuries, this multi-layered gothic brings a time, a place, and a cast of desperate characters brilliantly to life.
"A luxurious, sensual experience for the reader. This atmospheric tale of suspense is fully engrossing." —Library Journal (starred review)
After Sadie moves, in an effort to get attention, she makes sure everyone at her new high school knows that she’s deathly allergic to peanuts. But she’s not.
Why I picked it up: Striking, title-less cover. And I thought it might be a good gift for my sister, Traci, because our dad used to call her Peanut.
Why I finished it: It was painful to see the lengths to which Sadie has to go to hide the truth, particularly with her new friends and boyfriend, Zoo. She avoids certain foods, pretends to carry an EpiPen, and can’t have anyone over to her house because her mother might serve them peanut butter sandwiches.
I'd give it to: Donovan, who will enjoy the chance to laugh at some overly serious people we knew back in high school who were always taking stands like Zoo. He doesn’t own a computer or a cell phone! He’s being an individual!
@bookblrb: To get attention at her new high school, Sadie pretends to have a deathly allergy to peanuts.
British teen Neil Lomax was a solitary young man who liked watching trains. When World War II broke out, he joined the army as a radio technician. Captured in Singapore by the Japanese, he survived several years of cruel captivity during which he and fellow prisoners were forced to help construct the Burma-Siam railway, a train route that other companies had rejected because of engineering difficulties and the number of men who would likely die building it.
Thirty years after Lomax returned home to England, he dreamed about revenge against those who held him prisoner. However, as he did research for a book about his experiences, he read the memoirs of some of the Japanese soldiers and his feelings softened. Within a few years, he travelled to Japan to meet a man who, as a soldier, had participated in torturing him.
Why I picked it up: I heard a BBC interview with Eric Lomax celebrating his life on 10/08/2012, the day he passed away.
Why I finished it: I loved the story of British prisoners who built a radio to get news while they were incarcerated. It was a real jigsaw puzzle made of materials prisoners gathered. The end result was ugly but functional. Lomax shares incredible anecdotes about his poor treatment in an evenhanded, straightforward way -- he tells about a beating that broke both his forearms and necessitated creating an eighteen-inch spoon so he could eat with his shattered arms. One incident is a strange testament to British cobblers: when one prisoner, trapped in a railcar, is forced to use his boot as a urinal, it stays watertight until they get to their destination.
I'd give it to: Ryan, who loves to test the limits of his endurance and strength. He would love Lomax’s stories of torture and deprivation, and how the prisoners learned to bear far more than they thought they could. At one point Lomax faked unconsciousness to get a transfer to a hospital for some “R&R” -- he had to hold perfectly still as a Japanese medic put a needle into his jaw and gums, or risk being caught.
@bookblrb: POW Neil Lomax helped construct the Burma-Siam railway. 30 years later he meets a soldier who tortured him.
Canadian playwright Anton Piatigorsky's collection of six short stories that imagine the teen years of men who became bloodthirsty dictators. Each is based around a historical anecdote expanded and imagined by Piatigorsky. Stalin is a rebellious seminary student, Idi Amin an ambitious, day-dreaming dishwasher, Pol Pot visits the King’s dancers, Trujillo plans a horse theft with his brother, Mao rebels against his parents, and Hitler attends the opera.
Why I picked it up: I had never read anything about these men’s teen years.
Why I finished it: Piatigorsky boldly flouted expectations about each of the characters. For example, Tse-Tung Mao (as he was known in China as a teen) was introduced to his bride, who his parents had chosen for him, when she arrived at his house. Mao disobeyed his father by refusing to consummate the marriage, which would have been advantageous to the family.
I'd give it to: My father Jack, because he reads every book that comes out about U.S. Presidents. While this isn’t academic, it does illustrate the kind of personalities that desire power. Plus it’s a quick read that will give him a break from dusty, 800-page history tomes.
@bookblrb: Six short stories that imagine the teen years of men who became bloodthirsty dictators.
After being ungrounded by her stepmother, Mirka summons the extremely irritated troll who keeps her sword for her. (Its bag also contains many other weird and wonderful things.)
When the troll tries to use a magical ball of yarn to fill the witch’s house with chocolate pudding, he instead summons a meteor. If it hits the witch’s house, it will destroy all of Hereville. Mirka races off to warn the witch and save her town.
Why I picked it up: Loved the first Hereville book, about how Mirka got her sword. But even if I hadn’t, the books tag line would have gotten my attention: “Boldly Going Where No 11-Year Old Orthodox Jewish Girl Has Gone Before.”
Why I finished it: The witch saves her house and the town by transforming the meteorite into Mirka’s twin. The double and Mirka agree to split her life, which sounds great to Mirka (think half the chores, half the school). But everything backfires when the meteorite is both better at some things than Mirka (shooting baskets) and worse at others (math tests) -- it’s ruining her life. Mirka decides the meteorite has to go after she can’t spend Shabbos with her family, but the meteorite loves her new life and is unwilling to leave Hereville.
I'd give it to: Bill’s son Theo and my daughter Gigi have both, at one time or another, dedicated themselves to the art of “sword fighting” with sticks. (Theo has a bigger arsenal.) To get the meteorite to leave, Mirka agrees to a series of contests, the first of which is sword fighting. Though it’s not much of a contest, they’d both enjoy it.
@bookblrb: Mirka warns the witch about a meteor hurtling toward her house. Then the witch turns it into Mirka's double.
There is an explosion on the starship carrying the President of the United Federation of Planets. A similar explosion happens on the astronomy tower at Starfleet Academy while some Varkolak are touring the campus. Starfleet cadets Kirk and Bones rush to investigate.
Why I picked it up: I liked the cover because of its heavily shadowed pictures of Kirk, Sulu, and Uhura looking out at me, and the synopsis on the inside cover made me curious about what the Assassination Game was and who was playing it.
Why I finished it: I liked Kirk, who is easygoing and brave but also does stupid, goofy things. The cadets play a game where they "kill" each other with sporks. Kirk makes a show of coming up behind someone with his spork and yelling, "Aha!" but forgets to stab the guy.
I'd give it to: Lucas, a big fan of the original Star Trek series. He’ll like that every chapter ends with a cliffhanger.
@bookblrb: Cadets Kirk and Bones investigate an explosion at Starfleet Academy.