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Judge a Book by Its Cover: This Book is Full of Spiders

[Find previous installments of JABBIC here. You can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]


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It’s been a while since we did a JABBIC! We got some of our contributors to take a look at the cover of This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong and write us a summary of what it might be about. I’ve mixed the real book’s blurb in with them below. See if you can guess which is real, or just pick the one you think should be the book’s plot.
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1. This is not a book. It’s a box of spiders.* If you open it looking for words on pages and get pissed off when a spider bites your hand, you’re an idiot. I mean, it says it right on the cover. Seriously, what did you expect? Two sequels “This Book Holds a Coiled Up Snake” and “This Book Squirts Soapy Water Into Your Eyes,” sold at auction to Simon and Schuster this fall.

*Ebook version locks your reading device into a full-screen version of spider solitaire, remaining frozen until you beat the game.

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2. Do not let the title deceive you - This Book IS Full Of Spiders is not, in fact, full of spiders. On the contrary, it is full of 200 blank pages, with a short sentences (or half sentence) at the top describing a kind of spider. It’s up to the reader to interpret the writing and create the spider. Lest you think this is just an art book, however, Wong manages to weave a narrative in his short sentences, with fully realized characters (realized with your help, of course) and a twist you’ll never see coming.

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3. As This Book is Full of Spiders opens, we find our heroes, David and John, embroiled in a series of horrifying yet mind-bogglingly ridiculous events caused primarily by their own gross incompetence. The guys find that books and movies about zombies may have triggered a zombie apocalypse, despite a complete lack of zombies in the world. As they race against the clock to protect humanity from its own paranoia, they must ask themselves, who are the real monsters? Actually, that would be the shape-shifting horrors secretly taking over the world behind the scenes that, in the end, make John and Dave kind of wish it had been zombies after all.

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4. Ever wish you knew magic? Well little Johnny Thompson is finding out just how much mischief you can get into when you have a little magic at your finger tips. From turning a bully’s clothes into newspaper to making a teacher’s book suddenly burst with paper spiders, Johnny exacts all sorts of revenge on his enemies. But when things start happening around town, bad things, unnatural things, Johnny realizes he isn’t the only magician in town. In fact, he suspects his principal is a dark wizard…

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Judge a Book by Its Cover: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller

[Find previous installments of JABBIC here. You can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is back! I know we said it’d be back for the summer …but we sort of forgot. To make up for it, we’re doing a special extravaganza edition. We got eleven of our contributors to take a look at the cover of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and write us a summary of what it might be about. We’ve mixed the real book’s blurb in with them below. See if you can guess which is real, or just pick the one you think should be the book’s plot.

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1. When Samantha’s ailing mother is forced to move in with her daughter, she comes with some unusual baggage: her long-time helper monkey and Samantha’s old childhood friend, Alonzo. For Samantha, it’s a strange reunion, one that calls into question her memories of her mother, her one-time friend, and her unbelievable early years. It’s a situation that will test Samantha’s ability to help anyone at all–especially herself. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a sad, funny look at family (and a monkey) through time.

2. When six-year old Hannah’s father went away on a business trip, she didn’t expect him to return with “monkey business.” A 1960′s free-spirited animal exchange program filled her San Francisco neighborhood with lions, tigers, and yes–monkeys. Her new brother Alphonse might be the feature of every playground but Hannah is going to show this damn dirty ape that America is no zoo. Or is it?

3. Alexandra Fuller imagines the impossible with delightful fancy in her new novel, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. Rebecca had a childhood most would kill for, growing up in the lush rolling hills of a wealthy North Carolina family, attending all the right schools, and meeting all the right people. When her father, an importer of exotic animals, introduces her to the chimpanzee Allison, Rebecca knows she has found a best friend for life…or so it seems. Years later, as a socialite living in Manhattan’s upper east side, Rebecca spies a very familiar-looking primate in the Bronx zoo while taking her daughter for a play date, and suddenly a rush of repressed memories come flooding back, but none answer the question, whatever happened to Allison? Fuller’s masterpiece takes the reader on a boozy journey through half-remembered meadows of regret, exploring the topical themes of paternity, bestiality, genetic engineering, and neo-Darwinism as they have never been probed before.

4. Dr. Samantha Calloway is a scientist who studies memory loss in the elderly and patients with certain brain injuries. Samantha also has some memories of her own she’d like to forget, starting with her parents and the farm she was raised on and a pet chimpanzee named Charney. Somehow she cannot remember what happened to Charney, and what she does remember bothers her, and Samantha is driven to drink. The more she drinks, the more vivid her memories of Charney become, rich, fantastical snippets showcasing his intelligence, creativity, and human-ness. After awhile she’s torn between the scientific quest to find a way to prevent memory loss and losing herself completely to a recollection built on questionable truths.

5. In Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Alexandra Fuller braids a multilayered narrative around the perfectly lit, Happy Valley-era Africa of her mother’s childhood; the boiled cabbage grimness of her father’s English childhood; and the darker, civil war- torn Africa of her own childhood. At its heart, this is the story of Fuller’s mother, Nicola. Born on the Scottish Isle of Skye and raised in Kenya, Nicola holds dear the kinds of values most likely to get you hurt or killed in Africa: loyalty to blood, passion for land, and a holy belief in the restorative power of all animals. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is as funny, terrifying, exotic, and unselfconscious as Nicola herself.

6. It’s summer 1963, and the zookeeper’s daughter, Audrey, is turning three. An elaborate celebration, the biggest birthday party ever, has been in the works for months. The big day arrives, but is soon marred by a tragedy that forever changes the town of Midborrow. Now nearing 40, Audrey is haunted by vague memories of that day – what happened, and what does it have to do with the faded photograph of a baby chimp she found concealed in the family Bible?

7. From the New York Times best-selling author of Death Spares Not the TigerGown Syndrome: One Woman’s Struggle, Alexandra Fuller’s latest historical thriller is set to take the literary world by storm.  Set upon William Randolph Hearst’s palatial pleasure barge, The Oneida, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness is a classic locked-room mystery of the highest order.  Featuring a glittering cast with far less glamorous motives, the novel examines the lifestyle of 1920’s Hollywood high society and, in the process, exposes one of its darkest secrets.  Who killed Thomas Ince?

8. How much can one girl learn from an ape? Olivia’s best friend since childhood was Kumba, a chimpanzee at the wildlife reserve in Zaire run by Olivia’s parents. Now, years later, Olivia returns to her parents former employ from London. She reconnects with her old friend, now an elderly chimp. Fuller’s poignant story or compassion and loyalty tugs at the heartstrings, and shows us there’s a deeper communication than language.

9. After an undercover assignment gets her hooked on a designer drug called Mneme, vice cop Melanie Starks finds herself haunted by vivid hallucinatory memories. Most disturbing is the giggling 6-year-old version of herself that keeps showing up—herself as she was before her childhood was ruined by a horrible crime that she has no memory of. When she gets assigned to a bizarre new case involving a carefree young girl who’s the spitting image of herself as a child, Melanie gets the feeling that the whole thing might be an elaborate Mneme trip, but that only makes it more important to get some answers.

10. What would happen if you bought your amnesiac daughter a drunken monkey? Alexandra Fuller explores themes of memory, nostalgia, and loss in her new memoir, a sequel to the wildly-popular Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. While grappling with issues of non-remembrance, Fuller fondly reflects on what she can recall about her South African childhood and her pet chimpanzee, Buster—a companion who helped her become the writer, and person, she is today.

11. Suzanne Robbins has spent her entire life – all 34 years of it – in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her five sisters have grown up, gone to college, married, and moved away.  Meanwhile, Suzanne dreams away her days, spending most of her time in the garden behind her house. One night Suzanne looks out her window and is amazed to see a young girl and a lively chimp dancing together under the moonlight. Too timid to investigate, Suzanne stays hidden in her home. But night after night she sees the pair enjoying the garden she works hard to create during the day. Finally, Suzanne can’t take it anymore. She tiptoes her way out of the house and is swept up into a world that she can barely believe exists.

12. In 1974, Emily Brewster is forced to move to Tanzania to live with her paternal grandfather, Bruce, after both her parents are killed in a car accident. Her grandfather owns a coffee plantation at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. The first weeks are tense between Emily and her grandfather; he has only seen her in pictures and has never enjoyed the company of children. Emily is afraid of his rough hands and the wild look of his beard. One day he takes her on into town to buy clothes and food when they come upon some children playing with a baby chimp. Emily begs and pleads for her grandfather to buy the baby animal, and seeing a smile on her face for the first time since her arrival he relents. So begins a friendship between Emily, her grandfather and Mr. Nickels the chimp that brings them all together, as the world around them changes. As Emily grows up on the edge of a jungle so far away from Ohio, as Bruce grows old and loses his land and wealth to revolution and Mr. Nichols yearns for the jungle that is all around him.

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Judge a Book by Its Cover: Ginberbread Cookie Murder, by Joanne Fluke and friends

[JABBIC is back for the summer. Look for the next one in July. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

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Been a while, friends. In case you forgot, JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, three of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s festive contestant, Gingerbread Cookie Murder, by Joanne Fluke–coming out in October 2011. Can you pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

1. The idea for this cheery holiday whodunnit reportedly arose from a particularly salacious incident involving … well, we’re not at liberty to say, but you can be sure that he won’t be hearing the end of it! Gingerbread Cookie Murder, in classic Miss Marple style, features a spritely lady detective who stumbles into a kitchen caper at a Christmas party. Hijinks abound! Kidnapped carolers, battles over fiercely guarded family recipes, and an oven fire due to an untended Goose all provide for a veritable feast of holiday entertainment with a side of clever investigating. A final word of warning: the recipe for Bourbon Balls provided by the three leading ladies of mystery is quite tasty, but a tad heavy-handed.

2. Dylan Schafer is the only fifth grader at Beech Hill Elementary who still believes in Santa Claus. Around the holidays, Dylan is the subject of constant ridicule. But this year, he has a plan to stop the taunting once and for all: He’s going to catch Santa… by poisoning his cookies. Dylan’s devious plot and its consequences will have you laughing, crying, and shaking your head.

3. A woman is found dead in her kitchen, naked except for the apron she was strangled with. All the police have to go on is a single bite mark left behind by the killer on a Christmas cookie. Heading the case is rookie detective and young mother Christina Jessop. As the evidence eludes her, the holidays bear down fast. Christina must provide for the Yuletide delights (and needs) of her family, while across town a mourning family rests their hopes on her detective work. Full of mystery, suspense and heartwarming moments (and a few yummy recipes from food.com’s Levine and Meier), Fluke’s third novel is a holiday caper treat.

4. Fluke, Levine, and Meier each offer a yuletide whodunit treat in this entertaining follow-up to 2007′s Candy Cane Murder. In Fluke’s wry “Gingerbread Cookie Murder,” Hannah Swensen of the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn., wants her neighbor Ernie Kusak to simply lower the volume on his too loud Christmas outdoor display, but she soon discovers Ernie with his head bashed in. In Levine’s hilarious “The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies,” Jaine Austen’s holiday stay at her parents’ home in the Tampa Vistas retirement community is enlivened by the murder of elderly lothario Dr. Preston McCay, whose neck gets broken during his star turn in an amateur play called The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas. Rounding out the volume is Meier’s less cheery but poignant “Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots,” about Maine reporter Lucy Stone’s investigation of a four-year-old boy’s disappearance. Recipes enhance two of the selections.

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Judge a Book by Its Cover: One of Our Thursdays is Missing

[JABBIC is now on a monthly schedule. Look for the next one in January. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

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JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, three of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde–coming out in March. Can you pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

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1. With the real Thursday Next missing, the “written” Thursday Next leaves her book to undertake an assignment for the Jurisfiction Accident Investigation Department, in Fforde’s wild and wacky sixth BookWorld novel (after Thursday Next: First Among Sequels). As written Thursday Next finds herself playing roles intended for her real counterpart, BookWorld’s elite try to deal with a border dispute between Racy Novel and Women’s Fiction. It’s not always possible to know where one is in BookWorld, which has been drastically remade, or in Fforde’s book, which shares the madcap makeup of Alice in Wonderland, even borrowing Alice’s dodo. Outrageous puns and clever observations relating to the real book world abound. Fforde’s diabolical meshing of insight and humor makes a “mimefield” both frightening and funny, while the reader must traverse a volume that’s a minefield of unexpected and amusing twists.

2. Alive and hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying project—the creation of the Fourth Reich. Barry Fowler, a young investigative journalist, gets wind of the project and informs famed Interpol detective Martin Thursday, but before he can relay the evidence, Fowler is killed. Thus Jasper Fforde opens one of the strangest and most masterful novels of his career. Why has Mengele marked a number of harmless aging men for murder? What interest can they possibly hold for their killers: six former SS men dispatched from South America by the most wanted Nazi still alive, the notorious “Angel of Death“? One man alone must answer these questions and stop the killings—Thursday, himself on the run from Interpol agents and the very people he is trying to protect. At the heart of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing lies a frightening contemporary nightmare, chilling and all too possible.

3. In this, his third book in the Thursday series, Fforde puts the idea of the sequel on its head. He writes part 4 before part 3.  Aware that they’re inspiration for a book series, a small cell of criminals stole the manuscript for the third Thursday book from Fforde’s office. Now he’ll need to tap into the skill set of his famous Detective LaCroix character in order to hunt them down. The search for the missing novel blurs the lines borders between real and fiction. One of our Thursdays is Missing follows the wild creativity of Thursday Next: First Among Sequels like only Jasper Fforde is able. The fourth LaCroix mystery is Fforde’s third, and his best yet.

4. Literature has officially jumped on the vintage bandwagon: Jasper Fforde’s series of thrillers featuring a cadre of female double agents strongly emulates the style of Ian Fleming’s classic Bond novels. In the latest installment, one of Peony Blumfeld’s girls – Thursday III – disappears while posing as a librarian to investigate a murder. The ladies put their heads together to unravel a cleverly woven web of suspects and motives. But as they delve deeper into their quest, some may find themselves falling into the snare of a killer before they can lay their own traps.

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Judge a Book by Its Cover: The Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly

[JABBIC is now on a monthly schedule. Look for the next one in January. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

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1.) When they were twelve, Jan and Max swore they would never tell. But secrets can’t last forever. Especially when your secret is a ghost that can kill. The story of a friendship that endures an unbearable secret, Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree explores just how venomous seemingly inconsequential childhood decisions can be to our future selves.

2.) It is the sweltering summer of 1997, and Karen is a strait-laced, straight-A university student. When she meets an impossibly glamorous bohemian orphan who lives in a crumbling old mansion, she is soon drawn into that world–but something terrible is about to happen, and someone’s going to end up dead.

3.) The Poison Tree, a blend of Prophecy and Christian allegory, is a modern version of the Garden of Eden story that young readers can relate to. The story tells of the Jones family, an upright couple with two innocent children who are faced with temptation. They learn in a vision that the fruit of one of their apple trees will bring harm to their neighbors, but great rewards to their own family. The Jones family struggles to walk the path of righteousness and resist falling into the trap of materialism and greed. Erin Kelly is a messenger of faith to young Christians finding their place in the community of believers amidst the wordly seduction of sin.

4.) The fall is the most beautiful time of year in New England – crisp air, warm cider, and fresh pumpkin pie. For the Garlands it’s particularly special: it is when they tap the maple tree out back for sap for their small family-run syrup stand. But this season will turn out to be their autumn of discontent. When this year’s batch ends up causing deaths all over town, things get very sticky and the Garlands find themselves on the run. Was it sabotage or a plot by the Garlands themselves? In the end, The Poison Tree is anything but saccharine.

5.) Frank murdered his wife and buried her under the oak in their backyard. Soon the lawn is littered with dead squirrels and birds. Next his dog lay dead beneath the great tree’s shade. When he hears the tree calling him in the night, Frank must decide if a chainsaw can save him, or if his mind is already lost.

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Judge a Book by Its Cover: Matched, by Ally Condie

[JABBIC is now on a monthly schedule. Look for the next one in January. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, Matched, by Ally Condie. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

1. Journalist Sara Harmon should have known better.  She’d never had much faith in online dating, but meeting Mark began to change her mind. Handsome, funny, successful – he was everything she’d been looking for… Wasn’t he?  Sara has to call on all of her investigative skills to uncover whether she’s met the man of her dreams or trapped herself in a nightmare of deceit.  Romance meets thriller in Condie’s debut novel that delivers a timely, although somewhat predictable, reminder of the dangers lurking for single women looking for love on the internet.

2. In this modern-day changeling story, Samantha Ryan is trapped in the faerie realm by her deceptive twin, Ryan Samantha. Forced to reckon with otherworldly powers, Samantha will draw from the inner strength of her heritage to fight her way back into the human world. She must hone her skills in order to stand up to Ryan, ensuring that this time the battle is evenly matched.

3. For Cassia, nothing is left to chance–not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the “burden” of choice. When Cassia’s best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable–rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.

4. Last she remembered, Amelia Flent was reveling in the last dance of her Senior Prom,wrapped neatly in her boyfriend’s arms and praying for the moment never to end.Now Amelia has awoken to find herself kneeling in the center of a sterile white room, inexplicably surrounded by her entire immediate family, half the Prom, and Kev, her boyfriend, his tux torn and blood-spattered, his face drained. She is encased, trapped alone in a warm, hard sphere, and despite her pleas for help, ignored by those she loves most. Shocked, she realizes they are looking not at her, but at an identical sphere next to her in which a girlwho looks eerily like Amelia lies lifeless and bloody. In Ally Condie’s riveting new sci-fi narrative, we follow Amelia’s journey of discovery as she struggles to come to terms with who and what she really is and to carve out a place in this world for herself and others like her.

5. Nora Filigree, a daughter of privilege, whose surpassing beauty is matched only by her keen intellect and fierce sense of independence, finds herself victim of an arranged marriage. Never having been consulted by her father, or her prospective consort, she finds herself little more than a trophy wife. Despite strong feminist convictions, and  her misconceptions about arranged marriages as being barbaric and cruelly chauvinistic, Nora eventually comes to terms with her marriage and ironically finds herself immensely satisfied.

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Judge a Book By Its Cover: Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold

[JABBIC is now on a monthly schedule. Look for the next one in December. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

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1. Conservative satire at its best: Cryoburn is Animal Farm meets Futurama, yet this plot feels fresh! Barack Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, is mistakenly frozen by a cryogenics processer and nothing can be done to thaw her! After a century of bureaucratic mislabeling, Sasha wakes to a world of flying, zero-emissions cars powered by solarscrapers. Unfortunately, not all is well in this world without oil. A dictator terrorizes Libmerica and young Sasha is the only thinker among drones. After a few foibles, the girl confronts the chilling dictator who has destroyed our nation: her unaged father! Now Sasha must decide between family and freedom.

2. In discovering a flaw in their proprietary biomed systems, Ignatius Zorn almost took down Technikinetic, the largest corporation within the Confederated Nations. Before he could blow the whistle, he was found out, beaten, and for some reason tossed into a cryochamber. 500 years later, Ingatius awakens to find Earth vastly changed, and Technikinetic ruling with an iron fist. The secret frozen with him for half a millennium might be the key to saving humanity. But Technikinetic knows he’s awake, and they’re not happy about it…

3. New Rome, 2562: a smog cloud covers the earth and every natural resource has been exhausted. There’s only one fuel source left, a mysterious toxic goo called Cryoburn. A single drop can power an aerocar for 75 years. Jimmy Raynes is a nobody in New Rome, a hack driver with an estranged wife and three kids who hate him. But when he gets a fateful fare, and overhears how Cryoburn is made, he realizes he has to do whatever he can to stop it. Cryoburn is a riveting sci-fi thriller about sacrifice and courage.

4. Only five days after arriving on Kibou-daini for a cryonics conference, interplanetary diplomat Miles Vorkosigan narrowly escapes kidnapping. Drugged, dazed, and alone, he is taken in by Jin Sato, whose mother was the leader of a cryonics reform movement until being declared mentally ill and involuntarily frozen. Now Jin lives in a building full of squatters running an illegal cryonics clinic. Under imperial orders to investigate the shady dealings of the cryo cartels, Miles connects the far-flung pieces and exposes a sneaky plot.

5. Who governs the government? Anyone who suggests even the possibility of a shadow government, or some other cabal’s undue influence on our lives is marginalized, dismissed as a conspiracy nut. But what if they’re right? In Cryoburn, Lois McMaster Bujold ponders a society ruled by an elite group of future humans who use telepathy and near-mystical technology to control events in their past, hoping to avert the disaster that has doomed their ‘present’. But how does their attempt at salvation affect those living in the now? Bujold follows the stories of six different people as they gradually uncover the truth of what’s happening to them, and their world.

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Judge a Book By Its Cover: The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg

[Find previous installments of JABBIC here. You can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

1.) Rebecca never made friends easily, so on her first day at the Whitimore School, meeting Kelly is a relief. Kelly is forward and fun, brash and overflowing with strange ideas and dreams. At first, Rebecca is thrilled, but soon she begins to see that Kelly is stranger than she could have imagined. Faced with a choice between the old loneliness she knows and a new friend she doesn’t like, Rebecca must decide what role she will play in Kelly’s life, whether she’s willing to be her confidant or, ultimately, her protector.

2.) In this haunting story of memory and self-doubt, eight-year-old Lily Sellers had an imaginary friend named Mariabeth Flowersworth Buckingham. Then Lily went to camp one summer, and she never saw Mariabeth again. More than 20 years later, Lily goes on a company retreat and meets a strange woman with the unlikely name Mariabeth Flowersworth Buckingham. Is it some kind of cruel joke? Is the woman even real? What happened that fateful summer 20 years ago? What Lily discovers—or remembers—will keep you on the edge of your seat.

3.) New in town, Gillian Fitzgerald spends a lot of time exploring the woods behind her house. One day, she finds a map tacked to a tree. The next, she discovers a note describing a lost cave and hidden treasures. On the third day, Gillian is surprised by a girl sitting high up in the trees. The pixie introduces herself as Alayne, and enlists Gillian’s help searching for the cave. Each afternoon spent with Alayne drags Gillian further into a dark, mysterious world and away from reality.

4.) Melissa is a gifted student, and her only friend moved away in second grade. 5 years later she is a friendless genius in a northeast middle school. When tomboy ruffian Liz aggressively tries to cultivate a friendship, Melissa eventually concedes. Are Liz’s strange predictions of the future true, or is Melissa the butt of an elaborate and cruel adolescent joke? One of The New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40″, Goldberg surprises with crisp prose and shocking twists.

5.) 11-year-old Celia watches her best friend, Djuna, get into a stranger’s car, never to be seen again. At least that’s the story Celia gives to the police. Twenty-one years later, Celia returns to her hometown to tell her family and old friends what really happened that fateful day, but her new version of the disappearance is met with disbelief by family and old friends. Meanwhile, Celia’s image of her childhood identity is shattered as she listens to descriptions of herself as a child: she was sweet to some, cruel and bullying to others. Goldberg successfully evokes the shades of gray that constitute truth and memory.

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Judge a Book By Its Cover: Pandemonium, by Daryl Gregory

[We’re pulling JABBIC back to a monthly schedule. Look for the next one in October. Find previous installments here. And you can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, Pandemonium, by Daryl Gregory. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

1. Were early American naturalists actually members of a secret Satanic cult? When NYU art major Chelsea Robards discovers a hidden series of three sixes in a William Bliss Baker painting, she launches a personal investigation through America’s art museums. Fighting through cover ups and death threats, Chelsea uncovers long-held secrets that, if revealed, would shake America’s artistic foundation to its core. Should Chelsea share the horrors she’s discovered? Will she even live long enough to do so? In this searing portrait of an American artistic movement, Daryl Gregory has created a work that is part alternate history, part Dan Brown-like thriller … and all evil.

2. Greg Daniels has spent his life dealing with Tourrette syndrome. But when he enrolls in a painting class at the local community college Greg’s twitching subsides into smooth and careful brush strokes. While Greg excels at his newfound pastime, he is about to discover a dark truth—that the scenes in his paintings are the sites of future murders.

3. When he discovers an idyllic countryside, failed artist Adolf Swinesburg believes he has found the subject that will finally allow his work to grace the walls of the local coffee-shop-slash-independent-gallery.  His paintings don’t improve, but one day he realizes his beloved calligraphy brush from Japan has gone missing. A search of a seemingly innocuous farm house reveals a family of nymphs who love to play harmless tricks on their human neighbors– or so it seems, until Adolf stumbles upon the body of a long-missing poet.

4. A long time ago, artists had powers. Sculptors could create life, musicians could cast spells, and painters could shape—or destroy—the very fabric of the world. Young Lorence Polike is thrown out of his house at age ten, when he accidentally crafts a minor demon out of mud. Now, alone and forced to sculpt more demons just to survive, he’ll set out to find the most legendary magic artist of all: Leonardo da Vinci. The epic quest might save his life—if it doesn’t kill him first.

5. In this fascinating alternative time line, thousands of demon possessions have been carefully recorded by scientists each year since the 1950s. Each case is always the same: a recognizable, named strain of the disorder possesses a person, wreaks havoc and then jumps on to its next victim. Del Pierce’s case is unique: when the Hellion possessed him at the age of five, it never left. Now an unhappy 20-something, Del undertakes a dangerous quest to exorcise the Hellion as it fights him for control. Readers will delve deeply into Gregory’s highly original demon-infested reality and hope for a sequel.

Which is the real premise of "Pandemonium"?

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Judge a Book By Its Cover: The Interrogative Mood, by Padgett Powell

[Find previous installments of JABBIC here. You can suggest covers we should use, or volunteer to write a blurb, by emailing us here.]

JABBIC is kind of like Balderdash with book covers. Based only on the cover at right, four of our contributors made up a one-paragraph premise for this week’s contestant, The Interrogative Mood, by Padget Powell. Can you reverse-engineer their fabrications and pick out the book’s real plot? (The answer will be posted in the comments later today.)

1.) Peter Grey had a back like a question mark. No one ever thought he would amount to anything. But one day Gray decided if you can’t beat it, embrace it–or rather de-brace it. Upon throwing away his back brace and any attempt at improving his physical condition, Grey does what would have never occurred to anyone who ever saw him: works manual labor in the tight spaces of a Pennsylvania coal mine. Knowing his fellow workers are not built for the narrow mines like he is, he spends the little off time he has not building a family, but fighting for the rights of his fellow miners. Peter Gray becomes the greatest labor advocate of the Twentieth Century that no one ever heard of. In the end, there is no question about the upright nature of Gray.

2.) All Sam can remember is that she has a family, somewhere. But who then is she living with now? She knows she has lived and worked where she has for years; she has memories.  Yet each morning she awakes beside a husband-stranger  with an ineffable feeling that the life she lives is not her own. How can one even begin to search for the impossible?

3.) Are your emotions pure? Are you leaving now? Would you? Would you mind? Thoughtful, cajoling and absurdist, Powell’s book of random non sequiturs are not without their method, sounding some tenderly recurring themes, such as a middle-aged ruefulness for simpler times, a longing for more elegant forms in clothes, tools, cars and looks and a tenderness for elephants, dogs and children. Are you bothered by your cowardice? Hilarity, irony, and sheer perverseness vie to question essentially what we know and how what we know makes us what we are.

4.) It’s a matter of inflection; with the right emphasis, facts become questions. Jasper Carl owns an art gallery in Greenwich Village, a proven testing ground for young up-and-coming abstract painters. Now, pressured by divorce, financial ruin, and a mysterious art dealer pushing his unheard of client with soft threats, Jasper must wrestle with some hard questions he has tried to ignore for years, questions about how he rose to his present place in life, and how he staid there.

5.) Is there a book by Padget Powell written entirely in hypothetical questions? Will it chronicle the intellectual and emotional awakening of one New York City Town Clerk as she begins to question her world? What will she discover as she interrogates her friends, family, former lovers, and even her own memories? Where will these questions, and their answers, lead her? And just who is leaving the notes underneath her door each night, prompting her interrogation with the riddles posed in each? Why are the questions taking on a terrifying menace as they become more personal, and threatening? Can she survive The Interrogative Mood?

Which is the true premise of "The Interrogative Mood"?

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