Memory Lanes, Thriller Terrains, and Labor Pains | What We’re Reading

It’s a short and semisweet “What We’re Reading” column this week, as LJ/School Library Journal staffers prepare for the annual BookExpo America (BEA) and our own Day of Dialog in the next few days.

Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, Reviews, SLJ
This week, I caught up on the Rosemary’s Baby miniseries on NBC—and did some fun Internet reading as a result. I enjoyed a great analysis of the original (and far superior) 1968 film, as well as some reviews of the remake, including the beautifully headlined “A New Rosemary’s Baby Fails To Deliver” at the A.V. Club and Bitch Flicks’ “’Post-Feminist’ Rosemary’s Baby Is a Difficult Labor.”

IamPilgrim Liz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
Over the long holiday weekend, I went to Turkey. And Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Bahrain, even New York City. I was traveling with the multinamed superspy protagonist of Terry Hayes’s debut novel, I Am Pilgrim (Emily Bestler: Atria) as he races to prevent a wily opponent from toppling the Western world. While it’s a debut novel, this is not the work of a novice. Hayes has been in the storytelling biz for a long time—he has worked in movies, writing and producing such nuggets as Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, Dead Calm, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. This experience shows in I Am Pilgrim: I could picture a lot of the action scenes and adventures. It’s a long book (705 pages!) and Hayes does a few things that first-time novelists often do: there’s some head-hopping, a few clichéd characters, a couple of plot holes, and more false endings than a lightning round of musical chairs. Even so, this is a very promising first novel and the author is skilled at keeping you involved—that’s really saying something given the page count. Reviewers and publicists have been comparing this author to John le Carré and Ludlam, and I can see that, but I detected traces of Trevanian, whose espionage/psychological thrillers delighted me as a youngster.

SammyKeyesdeadgiveawayAmanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I’m reading Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway (Knopf) by Wendelin Van Draanen. It’s the tenth book in the series about the high-top-wearing, skateboard-riding middle-school sleuth who solves mysteries and crimes in the California town where she lives with her Grams (her mother left to try and make it big in Hollywood). I read the first book, the Edgar Award–winning Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, as an elementary school kid in the late 1990s, and when I heard the series was ending soon (the final title—the 18th—will be released this fall), I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered. It was. Then I started placing holds at the library. In this one, Sammy is drawn into a mystery surrounding plans to build a town recreation center while also facing her own conscience when her enemy, the school bully Heather, is blamed for something she did. I’m enjoying it!

Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench