Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Back, Back in Time We Go

Here is part two of the favorite books of the year by the Boswellians; the topic this week is: Back, back in Time We Go. No, it is not a time travel post, but it is about  books that look back at different  historical periods, be it in novel form or other. Without further ado, here is the first listing brought to you by Boswellian, Sharon.  She was excited about the Sue Monk Kidd novel, The Inventtion of Wings that came out much earlier in the year(we had a great author event with Sue!). It has captured many reader’s imaginations and it will continue to capture more:  

"This is the story of Sarah Grimke, a child of privilege born into a slave owning Charleston family. On her 11tth birthday, her parents give her a handmaid, a slave of her own, 10 year old Hetty. Horrified, Sarah tries to free her that very night. Her parents let her know that this is not an option. Sarah Grimke was an actual person who became a well-known abolitionist and suffragette. Sue Monk Kidd has woven a fictional story around the facts of Sarah’s life, casting light on a fascinating woman that I had never read about. The story moves back and forth, with events being described from Sarah’s and then Hetty’s point of view. These two girls essentially grew up together, although they were separated by the wide gulf of race, privilege, and opportunity. A masterful story, told in the vein of one of my favorite authors, Geraldine Brooks. If you haven’t checked in with Sue Monk Kidd since The Secret Life of Bees, it’s time to change that." --Sharon Nagel

The next book, The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters, was a huge staff favorite, as I had three fantastic reviews to choose from.  Sharon, Carly, and Jen were able to conduct an interview with Sarah about her new book. You can access that here. The novel starts off in 1922, it is post-war and work is scarce for all the returning servicemen. One family in South London has lodgers come to stay with them. Here is Jen’s review of the Paying Guest: 

"In the aftermath of World War I, Frances Wray and her mother must rent out rooms in their house, due to their accumulated losses and mounting debts. Newlyweds Leonard & Lillian Barber are the Wray’s first tenants in their home up on Champion Hill. It's a big adjustment for the Wrays, who come to terms with having "paying guests." Along the way, Frances & Lillian get to know each other, and what begins as a friendship blossoms into something more. Then one day a catastrophe strikes that upends their existence and that of everyone they know. Sexy, gripping, and suspenseful, Sarah Waters is in top form." --Jen Steele

One of Josh’s favorite books of the year was Mad as Hell by Dave Itzkoff. Without an actual review to reference, I think I can gleam why Josh picked this behind-the-scenes look at the movie Network. First off, Josh loves popular culture, especially if it is in movie or music format. Mad as Hell tells the story of how an improbable movie was able to make it to the screen in the first place. Starting with the story of the screenwriter, who would not change his vision and was able to change the way people would forever look at the news and television. Dave Itzkoff interviewed current broadcasters to see what influence the 1976 movie Network had them, and you will be amazed to see the line-up of broadcasters he was able to get, some of the greats that everybody knows today.  The next reason that Josh probably loved this book is for one of the greatest movie lines uttered by the character Howard Beale: "I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" And, if neither of those are the reason Josh Davis loved this book, I’m sure his opinion on it can be learned on any given Wednesday.  
Keeping with true stuff, well mostly, is the historical biography of Stonewall Jackson. Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne was tremendous. I have read a lot of history in my day, I have a degree in it that I use quite often (insert nervous laugh), but I have never been one to read about the Civil War. Not sure why, it has never interested me highly. That is until now. S.C. Gwynne writing is welcoming like a stream that quickly becomes a raging river, and I was sucked into it all the way up to my neck. It was amazing to think that Stonewall Jackson needed the Civil War. He was doomed to just be another teacher in a military academy without the it. He had an uncanny ability to see to the heart of situations, he understood that the war was going to have to bloody and merciless years before any other general came to that conclusion. He thought that the Confedrates should have an all-out march on Washington and leave no prisoner behind. In his thinking, this would actually save lives in the long run. This was a one-of-kind historical biography, and my favorite book I have read all year!—Jason Kennedy

The Novel by Michael Schmidt, is an exhausted look at the English novel. It covers large areas, geographically and culturally. The book clocks in over 1100 pages, though Jane tells me that you can dip into the book and read a bit from time to time.  She is very enthusiastic about this book, and here is her blurb:  
“Insightful journey through 700 years of literature’s most celebrated writing accomplished, in partnership with authors commenting on authors and authors reaching out to readers! Engaging! Enlightening! Enjoyable!”—Jane Glaser
Carly Lenz loved One Summer by Bill Bryson that came out late last year, but she is a new Boswellian and was taken by this tale and the hordes of readers who read the book.  It is the story of the summer of 1927 and all the amazing accomplishments that happened to America during that time. From Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic and Babe Ruth setting the home run record to talking pictures, jazz and gangsters, Bill Bryson weaves a tableau of American fabric into a spellbinding tale of our past.

Back for one more title? Good, this one has been a huge success for us and for many other booksellers this year, from loving the book to selling the book we love. This book popped up on three different booksellers top 5 books of the year, namely Conrad, Sharon, and Todd's lists. It is Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. It could very easily be our best selling #1 hardcover fiction title published in 2014 that does not include having an event with the author, which could be different next year when the paperback will be released (stay tuned to our monthly newsletters and e-mail newsletters for more possible information).  It is the tale of two people, from different parts of life, attempting to survive the hand they have been dealt in the midst of a world war.  Here are two blurbs for the book: 
"Anthony Doerr crafts hundreds of trim scenes of 1) a french girl who is blind fleeing World War II and 2) a boy with technical prowess becoming a nazi. What is the light neither sees?"--Todd Wellman
"Doerr spent almost a decade writing this beautiful novel, and it shows! In the hands of a lesser writer, this could easily have devolved into mawkish tripe."--Conrad Silverberg 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Heading into the end of 2014, all of the Bookswellians have been compiling a list of their favorite books of the year. It's one of the easiest ways for me to find out what to really highlight in our Holiday Newsletter, which you should see coming around the beginning of December. So, I figured I would give everybody snippets of what they will see featured at Boswell this season. It is a rather large list, so I have attempted to break it up into subtopics--this week's subtopic, Other Worlds Rather Than Our Own. I am a little loosey-goosey with the strict definitions, but this should be fun, so here we go:

First up, brought to you by one of our newer Boswellians, Todd, is a big pharma novel, Does Not Love by James Tadd Adcox. It takes place in a alternative version of Indianapolis:

"This novel explores how and why we name and treat conditions. When once someone was just brokenhearted, perhaps she now has relationship adverse trauma syndrome and could use a prescription to help her recover. Set in an Indianapolis similar to the Indianapolis you may know and love, the book follows Robert and Viola, husband and wife, through disappoints, diagnoses, and treatments on a polluted journey in search of the fulfillment promised by money, modern pharmaceuticals, and romance. Taunting FBI agents, underground drug safety trials, and odd ailments frequent the characters until they, at least for a moment, accept that what they have will never be what myths of marriage promise." --Todd Wellman

An author that defies being pigeon-holed in a genre, David Mitchell’s novels hold a special place in the hearts and minds of his many fans. And with this new novel, he has given everybody the threads that interconnect his entire oeuvre of novels. Here Conrad shares his love for reading The Bone Clocks:
 "Why do I love David Mitchell? Because he teaches me words like "insufflation" (think cocaine). Because he fearlessly uses compound contractions like "I'd've" or "can't've". Because he opens with: "Welsh rain gods piss onto the roofs, festival tents and umbrellas of Hay-on-Wye and also on Crispin Hershey, as he strides along a gutter-noisy lane, into the Old Cinema Bookshop and makes his way down to its deepest bowel where he rips this week’s Piccadilly Review into confetti." (And that's his opening for the fourth section! A little ditty most authors would kill for as an opening sentence for their entire book.) Because Mitchell can capture the self-absorbed, tatty slang of a British teenager yearning to break free from parental constraints and dash heedlessly into the world; the alcohol fueled banter of fourth year Cambridge students one-upping each other's studied insults with their buddies in a cozy bar in the dead of night; the world weary self-deprecating musings of a washed up novelist who has failed to live up to the promise of his first book. In short, Mitchell is one of the finest English novelists at work today and is to be greedily anticipated. This delivers the goods." --Conrad Silverberg

This world is hidden behind doors, and in cold places. Places we do not normally want to know about, but Caitlin Doughty brings us into her world brilliantly. Here is Mel’s review:

"Thanks to Caitlin Doughty’s well-written debut, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, death is the new sex! Similar to the arguments of sex and body positivists in the past, Doughty calls for a revolution in our death-denying, consumption-obsessed country, demanding honesty from medical and death industry professionals while detailing the boons of having the spaces and conversations that would allow people in the US to embrace the "good death" by taking back their power during death rituals and practices. Her personal experiences in the death industry are interspersed with historical and cultural anecdotes both educational and entertaining. This is one of the most important books I've read this year--I hope it helps incite the revolution in the death industry that Doughty feels is warranted and long overdue in this country." --Mel Morrow

Here the author, Amanda Petrusich, reports on a world that she gets sucked into and away from ours. Josh would love to go there:

"DoNot Sell at Any Price is a great look into the world of the most collectible records on Earth (pre-war 78s of country blues artists like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson) as well as record collecting overall. Petrusich clearly illustrates the effect of the collecting bug by catching it herself, and her quest leads her from North Carolina flea markets to the bottom of the Milwaukee River. She even delves into such unexpected issues as gender and psychology with ease. It’s a slim volume that won’t trouble you, but if you match it with the list of suggested listening in the back pages, you may find yourself lusting after some very expensive records!" --Josh Davis

Back to fictional worlds, and none-to-soon, as Emily St. John Mandel’s world is a post-apocalyptic version of our own. We have many fans on staff of this gorgeous novel, but I am going to provide you with Daniel’s review:

"In this powerful new novel, the end of civilization might not come via nuclear war or environmental catastrophe, but by a flu virus so lethal that there is simply nobody around to keep civilization going. By the time we’re in shape to recover, it’s too late to stop out-of-control fires, or contain lawlessness, let alone turn back on electricity, the internet, or gas pumps. In this post-apocalyptic world, small outposts remain, congregated around abandoned fast food restaurants and airplane terminals with little to bring joy and beauty to their lives aside from a periodic visit from the Traveling Symphony, a group of Shakespeare-performing classical musicians. One day, the Symphony comes to St. Deborah by the Water, only to find that the village has been taken over by a cult, and things turn particularly dangerous when one of the villagers becomes a stowaway. And then one of the performers, Kirsten, slowly learns that she and the ruthless cult leader might have more in common than she imagined. And in fact almost all the characters in this story are connected by an unlikely source—an actor named Arthur Leander, whose on-stage death opened the story. Station Eleven is an entrancing thriller/fantasy epic/comic satire/domestic drama, and while the setup might have reminded you of The Hunger Games, the result is more A Visit from the Goon Squad." --Daniel Goldin

A long continuing story about a woman who ends up being cast back in time and the people she meets. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon takes readers to a world, where they can’t possible go; unless you invent the time machine next week:

"This is the 8th book in the Outlander series, the epic love story between Claire, a 20th century nurse, and Jamie, a Scottish laird from the 1700's. Claire is known as an outlander, one who travels outside of her own time. She passed through Druid stones, and ended up 200 years before her own time. This book takes place during the American Revolution, and Claire is in a unique position, as she knows how things will turn out. I have been a fan of this series since the mid-1990's, and I would recommend that you start with the first book. There is way too much going on to start in the middle."--Sharon Nagel

One of the most unique and favorite books that I have read this year would have to be Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy. Jeff VanderMeer has written a maddening masterpiece of a creepy part of the world cut off from humanity. The three parts that make up Area X were published in quick succession of each other, and now, capitalizing on the success of the series, FSG has published them all in one volume. The first two books introduce the weirdness that surrounds the event that cut separates them from a large piece of land that is now more other world. They send in expeditions to see how the environment has changed. Some of those expeditions never come back, some of them come back, only mad or not as themselves at all. Like peeling an onion, Jeff VanderMeer slowly reveals the strangeness, wonder and deadliness of this new world. Without writing any spoilers, I will stop here and say this is one book not to miss.--Jason Kennedy
How do you make it when you are shut off from the only world you have ever known? What do you reach for, if not Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates, to discover how one woman used the great bard to reach inmates in prison. Here Anne reviews one of her favorite, if not her absolute favorite book of the last couple of years:
"If anyone needs proof that literature can change lives, here it is. This is an amazing story, beautifully told, of the impact Shakespeare's work had on one remarkable man, imprisoned for life, and his teacher. This must read is one of the most important books I have read in a long time; I'm still reeling from the power of the ending." --Anne McMahon



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 Holiday Shopping Guide: Top Fifteen Kids' Picture Book Staff Picks

Day Dreamers, by Emily Martin
“In this charming follow up to 2013’s Dream Animals, children find their imagination taking flight. A boy lies in the grass watching the clouds form into a dragon, only to find himself taking a ride on that very dragon on the next double-page spread. Two friends walk through the halls of a museum past a medieval tapestry of a unicorn, then chase each other on black and white unicorns through the forest. Day Dreamers is a richly illustrated children’s book, and a wonderful ode to the power of children's fantasies and dreams.” —Jannis Mindel

“This picture book has it all. A boy and his dragon! Beautiful splashes of color among black and white pages! Hidden pictures! Counting different items on each page! Follow along and help find the lost dragon. Great fun for everyone! A book to be shared!” —Jen Steele

“This fabulous sequel to last year’s Journey, is sure to spark imaginations.  A wonderful rainy day book, the friends made at the end of Journey embark on a quest to save a kingdom. Their mission takes them under the ocean and through Mayan ruins, all the while using quick thinking and imagination to draw their way through the adventure.” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“From early September through late November, when the snow finally settles on her secret world, a young girl quietly observes and sketches from a special perch in a tree the changing seasons and animals as they prepare for winter. I love this wonderful celebration of the natural world as autumn turns to winter, and the beautiful illustrations by Jim LaMarche that accompany the lyrical text. This book would make a wonderful introduction to the natural world for children, and encourage them to observe and create a record of their own.” —Pam Stilp

“In this wondrous wordless picture book a young child sets out from a tent with just a flashlight for a little nighttime exploring, while the flashlight illuminates something new on each page, the fun also lies in the many things happening in the dark as well. A gentle nighttime book with a fun twist there is something new to be seen with each viewing.” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“I love this romp of a fairy tale with rhyming text and a refreshing, modern-day twist. The Rapunzel in this picture book pines away in an inner-city high rise where she ignores all visitors including the mailman, baker, and even her aunt who brings her food. Nothing seems to interest her--not even the Prince who shows up bearing flowers and chocolates. But then a letter arrives that brings a smile to her face because it offers her a job at the Library. She is transformed by the stimulating ideas and exciting opportunities she discovers in the books she finds there. The illustrations by Rebecca Ashdown include amusing details to pore over and picture this: Rapunzel with an appealing abundance of unruly auburn locks. I hope you will share this celebration of books and libraries, which includes the portrayal of a smart independent Princess, with all the young ones you know.” —Pam Stilp

“Nothing captures joyous noise like this new picture book about a little girl in the park with her mom. Every one of her senses speaks to the rhythm that she hears from the neighborhood drummers and a nearby boom box. Her infectious happiness leads to a diverse group of neighborhood kids, and even the adults, breaking out in dance. This is a great book for read aloud, both because of its song-like cadence, and because kids can chime along with our young heroine as she blinks, sniffs, claps, and shakes to the music. Oh, and the illustrations are just as happy!” —Daniel Goldin

“This book presents an ideal world run by kids and contains important lessons for all of us. It discusses kindness, caring for others, bullying and a hope for a peaceful world. Written and illustrated by the award winning team of Leo and Diane Dillon and is, in fact, the last book by them before Leo passed away. I love the multicultural aspect presented here and although some will find it a bit saccharine, it makes an ideal introduction to volunteerism for parents and teachers. The Afterward discusses many ideas for activities where children can work together to improve their world. it also includes ‘The four essential freedoms’ and other ideas from FDR’s Second Bill of Rights.” —Pam Stilp

“As a farmer works in his field he watches a circus train going by. Just as the train hits a bump he sees someone fly off the back. When the farmer goes to investigate he finds a small child dressed as a clown sitting in the field. In this beautifully illustrated wordless picture book, Frazee tells the touching story of friendship and kindness as the farmer welcomes the boy into his home to feed and bathe him. All ends well as the boy rejoins his clown family, but not before someone else from the circus is left behind to follow the farmer home!” —Jannis Mindel

“From the author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) comes Roller Derby Rivals, a classic roller derby story starring babyface Gerry Murray and heel Toughie Brasuhn. It’s 1948 and the New York 69th Regiment Armory is packed with people excited to see how the feud between Murray and Toughie will pan out before them in the banked track’s circular confines. It’s all textbook until Toughie goes for her final point pass against Murray, who sends Toughie sailing over the rail. This upbeat historic picture book is great for kids of all ages and will make you want to lace up your skates and hit the track with your favorite rival!” —Mel Morrow

“Sam and Dave decide to dig a hole with their dog alongside them. They won't stop digging until they find ‘something spectacular.’ Needless to say they tire themselves out and run out of food before they find anything. But their trusty dog doesn't stop digging and therein lies the adventure. Caldecott award winners Barnett and Klassen have created a deceptively simple book filled with clever clues that children will enjoy discovering as they read this unique adventure story.” —Jannis Mindel

“Little Elliot—a little polka-dot elephant—will win readers hearts! Being small and overlooked is no fun, and by helping a tiny mouse, Elliot’s life changes. Spectacular illustrations and a heart-warming story make this a book that will be read again and again!” —Barb

“The story opens with a beautiful sunny sky over a house by a lake. But soon a thunderstorm rolls in that doesn’t seem as if it's ever going to stop until just as suddenly it does, and the sun come beaming out from the clouds. Beth Krommes’ rich, woodcut-like illustrations are a perfect match for the simple rhyming text. This gorgeous book is a great addition for storytime or the classroom.” —Jannis Mindel

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath, is filled to the rim with Mac Barnett's comical characters whose suggestions of dairy, diets, and dynamite for removal, are ignored for a more sensible (giggle producing) solution. Presidential modesty is maintained with Chris Van Dusen's clever illustrations and some very well placed bubbles. A fabulously funny read for all and a few facts to boot!” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

Rhoda's Rock Hunt, by Molly Beth Griffin
“This is the charming tale of Rhoda—amateur geologist and avid rock hound—on her first field camp! Rhoda finds SO many lovely rocks—and quickly learns that difficult lesson that rocks jocks pay a heavy price when they insist on bringing EVERY rock home with them!” —Mel Morrow

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Holiday Shopping Guide: Top Twenty Intermediate, Young Adult, and Teen Book Staff Picks

Intermediate Books

“It all starts when Kara is woken up in the night and taken to the village square where she witnesses her mother being sentenced for the worse crime of all...witchcraft! Seven years later, the villagers are still wary and cruel to Kara and her family. They fear Kara is a witch just like her mother. On the outskirts of the village is The Thickety, a magical forest that is home to strange and ferocious beasts and full of secrets, like the book Kara finds there, which may or may not be her mother’s grimoire. This book had me in its grips from the very beginning. I can’t wait for the sequel!” —Jen Steele
“Julian Twerski opts for writing a journal of his sixth grade year instead of a report on Shakespeare but, avoids mention of the incident that got him and his friends suspended for a week from school. That’s the story his teacher most wants him to recount and so do we. Julian isn’t proud of the incident that resulted in a ‘slow’ kid on their block getting injured but, he doesn’t consider himself a bully either. What we get, in his journal, is a series stories that contain a lots of humor along with a good measure of heart that reminded me somewhat of Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Finally, we learn about that incident that got him in trouble. This book, based on the author’s experiences growing up in a 1960’s neighborhood of Queens, sparkles with crisp true to life dialogue that perfectly captures the awkward antics of adolescent boys.” —Pam Stilp

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd
Snicker of Magic is about Felicity Pickle, who collects words she sees floating in the air. It’s up to Felicity and her friend Jonah to solve the mystery of why magic has left her new hometown, Midnight Gulch. With the help of her family, friends, and the townspeople, Felicity will bring back that Snicker of Magic to Midnight Gulch. Full of memorable characters and a town you’ll want to visit! Perfect for fans of Shelia Turnage’s Three Times Lucky.” —Jen Steele

“In Legacy of the Claw, the first book of the new Animas series by C. R. Grey, twelve-year-old Bailey Walker is afraid he’ll become the fourth person in Aldermere's history to die of the raving madness associated with an ‘absence.’ Populated by people who have special bonds with ‘kin’ animals, Aldermere is slipping into the hands of the Dominae, a political party whose members seek to use their bonding power to control all animals, and—eventually—people. Bailey has waited years to train with Professor Tremelo Loren, the only person in Aldermere skilled enough to teach latecomers how to awaken to their animas. Bailey wants desperately to fit in at his new school, Fairmount Academy: it’s tough to be the only person on campus without a kinship, despite the help of new friends Hal (Animas Bat), Tori (Animas Snake) and Phi (Animas Falcon), and his coveted position on the school’s elite Scavenge team. But Tremelo is too busy working on secret projects to help Bailey, whose curiosity leads him across the path of the dangerous Dominae, who are determined to stop at nothing for complete control of Aldermere. How far will the Dominae go in demonstrating their beliefs and how can Bailey possibly fight back without kin to help him? Legacy of the Claw by C. R. Grey is perfect for fans of Harry Potter, Brandon Mull’s Spirit Animals series, and Erin Hunter’s Warrior series. Legacy of the Claw is the beginning of a grand adventure that kids age 8 to 108 will love!” —Mel Morrow

“A family prepares to move from Oman to the United States, and son Aref struggles with the impending transition. Nye avoids fantastical plot elements to allow a welcomed balance of a close, third-person narrative and first-person lists to reveal Aref’s worries. Playful similes and verbs abound, often appearing in scenes with Aref’s grandfather, Sidi, and they allow for characterization and sentences that lift the book beyond a voice-over of what Aref thinks. The balance of narrative choices also allows the reader to mimic the relief Aref catches when he smells sunshine in his pillow case: the reader greets the many facts and figures about culture and the animal kingdom because the thoughts arise at the appropriate times either from Aref, who is genuinely interested in the world, or from the narrator, who shows us Aref acting out his passions.” —Todd Wellmann

“Laugh out loud as the young science wiz, Frank Einstein, helps to invent one brainy robot and one not so brainy (but loveable) robot. Trouble comes when rival T. Edison moves in to destroy Frank’s success. The first in a series—watch for more hilarity and science fun!” —Barb Katz

“From the author of the award-winning novel The Skin I’m In, this intermediate mystery set in 1953 stars 10-year-old detective Octobia May. When odd things start happening at her aunt’s boarding house, Octobia May investigates! Is the man living upstairs really a vampire? Is the sheriff working with the murderer? Why did Octobia May’s new best friend Bessie stop talking? Perfect for fans of Nancy Drew and Shelia Turnage’s Three Times Lucky!” —Mel Morrow

“Naomi, AKA Chirp, lives with her family on Cape Cod in 1972. Her once vibrant mother suffers from depression after her MS diagnosis. Chirp finds solace with her friend Joey as well as watching birds. Beautifully narrated story of loss, friendship, and family.” —Jannis Mindel

“This book has it all—magic, adventure, talking stones, moving trees, bandits, a witch, a wolf, and a kind and wise queen, a mean and petulant king, a girl with a bow and a purpose, a boy who lived…this book is a treat for ages 10 and up!” —Jen Steele

“The Wren Family are word nerds! Ava loves to write and is far from shy. Her older sister loves to draw and is very quiet and shy. Read along in Ava’s diary and find out how Ava plans to help her sister make new friends and learn some palindromes while you’re at it!” —Jen Steele

Young Adult Books

“Nope, not Trondheim, Norway, but fictitious Trondheim, Canada: land of the bland. Here is the modern world, as it is, but with one glaring exception: dragons are real and always have been. And, there have always been heroes and heroines, in equal measure, to fight them. The dragons are not smart. They do not speak. They have no preference for maidens (virginal or otherwise). They have no love of gold (well, not most). Owen is a dragon-slayer in training. He is a high school student who has recently transferred to the prosaic Trondeim. His family is famous and slaying dragons is what they have always done. Kara is a nerdish classmate who loves music, and is chosen to be his bard. And, no, they do not fall in love; and, no, the popular girl is not a mean girl (at least, not really). Johnston has no use for stereotypical characters or settings, and that makes this book special.” —Conrad Silverberg

“The whole world has gone through the Great Disruption, with different geographical areas shifted into varying time periods, prehistoric to the far future. Almost one hundred years after the Great Disruption we meet Sophia, who is living with her Uncle Shadrack, a master cartologer. When her Uncle is kidnapped, seemingly for his knowledge, she and her friend Theo set off on a dangerous and amazing adventure to rescue him and find out secrets of the time rift. A bit of magic, mystery, adventure, through a wonderfully crafted world-this is one of my favorite books this year.” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“In the blustery first month of 1892, Abigail Rook disembarks a German freighter to face the bustling New England city of New Fiddleham. A young lady of means, she is also the daughter of an archeologist who refuses to allow her to accompany him to dig sites. And so it is with stars in her eyes and wanderlust in her heart that she absconds with her college tuition money to travel the world in search of adventure—before finally ending up in desperate need of employment in New Fiddleham. A call for an investigative services assistant leads her to Mr. R. F. Jackaby, a private detective who specializes in unexplained phenomena. Like Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, Jackaby is a strange fellow with strange methods. As she blunders her way through the most thorough and bewildering interview process of her life involving a ghost, a frog, a duck, a banshee, several bloody crime scenes, and innumerable beasties, Ms. Rook may have found the adventure of a lifetime...but will she survive long enough to help Jackaby solve the case? Jackaby is a surprising, delightful read perfect for lovers of horror, mystery, and history. I can't wait for the sequel!” —Mel Morrow

“Can Camy (with cerebral palsy and talking through a voice box) and Matthew (with his own problems) ever become friends? Readers will care for these characters and cheer for their determination to open themselves up to life.” —Barb Katz

“Devorah and Jax both live in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn but come from entirely different worlds. Devorah is a Hasidic Jew who lives within the strict confines of her religion. Jax is an outgoing and funny African-American who lives with his sisters and West Indian immigrant parents. The two meet accidentally one night in an elevator when the power goes out during a storm. At first Devorah is terrified, as she’s not supposed to speak to boys or men without adults around. But a spark is set off between the two of them and they can't stop thinking about one another. Jax and Devorah try everything possible to see each other but eventually the odds are stacked against them. Devorah is a strong-willed and smart young woman chaffing against the confines of her strict community. She loves her family and her religion but not the path that is set out for her. The story is told in alternating chapters over the course of a few weeks. This is a satisfying young adult romance.” —Jannis Mindel

Teen Books

“A beautiful, heartfelt, engaging, creative, MAGNIFICENT book that tells one story through two individual voices. The way everything comes together will blow you away and the structure conveys a brilliant story in a totally imaginative way!” —Phoebe Dyer

“It takes a lot of talent to write a novel featuring an, initially, immensely unlikable character, an unusual narrator, multiple points of view and a totally non-linear timeline and pull it off as well as Amy Zhang does in her debut novel, Falling into Place. We meet the main character, Liz Emerson, a popular and pretty Queen Bee High School junior, after she has decided to commit suicide. Unlikable, because she is manipulative and mean and destroys the reputation and lives of anyone who stands in her path or that of her two best friends. The prose is beautifully written but, the real genius here is that, by the end of the book, Liz has become a more sympathetic character as glimpses of her life are revealed through flashbacks and multiple points of view. The reader comes to understand how immensely unhappy she is and why. Although it is difficult to forgive her for the things she does, you understand more about her need to bring others down to her level of sadness and shame and that, ultimately, she cannot forgive herself. Through the problems of different characters this novel deals with many difficult subjects—bullying, suicide, loneliness, bulimia, alcoholism, and addiction—in a very realistic way that should appeal to older teens. I look forward to this young authors future work.” —Pam Stilp

“Paige Rawl spent the early years of her childhood unaware of her HIV positive status. Her daily doses of medicine were as much a part of life as cheerleading and playing on the soccer team. After her mother finally tells her about her disease, Paige reveals her status to her best friend. Her life thereafter would never be the same. The bullying started almost immediately and with ferocity. The school did nothing to help Paige or her mother but rather told her she was causing too much drama. The stress became so severe she suffered from frequent seizures and eventually found herself attempting suicide. But with the help of her mother, close friends, and a camp for HIV/AIDS children, she was able to move forward and forgive. This is a moving, personal, and very powerful story of the effects of bullying.” —Jannis Mindel

“The Sinclairs are a family who have much; wealth, beauty, and dysfunction. Cadence, granddaughter and heir of the patriarch, is trying to piece together her memory after an accident in her fifteenth summer that took place on her families private island. A well told tale that will keep you guessing until the end. A great summer read!” —Amie Mechler-Hickson

“Shane Burcaw’s body has been failing him since the day he was born. Once considered by his parents to be the laziest baby on the planet, his doctors’ diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy at the age of two was his lifetime sentence for long-term physical decline and the confines of a motorized wheelchair. Now comes the odd twist: in spite of this, Laughing at My Nightmare is the funniest book I’ve read this year! Shane knows it’s only going to get worse for him. He’s realistic about his future. And he doesn’t let it get him down. Instead, his stance is that life should be enjoyed as long as we're here—regardless of our situation (everyone has something)—laughing off as much of the bad stuff as possible. This is a quick, excellent read you'll want to share with your friends and family. I dare you not to join Shane in laughing at his nightmare: seriously, it’s what he’d want!!” —Mel Morrow

BONUS!!: Sara Farizan's Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel--here's a longer review from Boswellian Mel in Lambda Literary Review about this thrilling new teen novel from award-winning author (and bookseller!) Sara Farizan!!