HUZZAH! NEW BOOKS!

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GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS!

Our November book order has arrived, and we have TWENTY AWESOME NEW TITLES on the shelves! Check out the reviews below and swing by the library to pick up your next favorite book.

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Man, dontcha just LOVE a good book..??

Fiction

Awkward, prickly teens find deep first love in 1980s Omaha. Eleanor and Park don’t meet cute; they meet vexed on the school bus, trapped into sitting together by a dearth of seats and their low social status. Park, the only half-Korean fan of punk and New Wave at their high school, is by no means popular, but he benefits from his family’s deep roots in their lower-middle-class neighborhood. Meanwhile, Eleanor’s wildly curly red mane and plus-sized frame would make her stand out even if she weren’t a new student, having just returned to her family after a year of couch-surfing following being thrown out by her odious drunkard of a stepfather, Richie. Although both teens want only to fade into the background, both stand out physically and sartorially, arming themselves with band T-shirts (Park) and menswear from thrift stores (Eleanor). Despite Eleanor’s resolve not to grow attached to anything, and despite their shared hatred for clichés, they fall, by degrees, in love. Through Eleanor and Park’s alternating voices, readers glimpse the swoon-inducing, often hilarious aspects of first love, as well as the contrast between Eleanor’s survival of grim, abuse-plagued poverty and Park’s own imperfect but loving family life. Funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.

Two prominent high school basketballers navigate college decisions amid a throng of unscrupulous coaches, agents, shoe-company representatives and other hangers-on vying for their attention. The third-person narrator switches—sometimes unexpectedly—between two boys’ points of view: Terrell Jamerson, one of the most aggressively recruited high school seniors in the country, and his friend and teammate Danny Wilcox. At a summer camp ironically called “School Comes First,” the boys get their first taste of what will become a yearlong ordeal. Despite NCAA rules about what kinds of incentives high school and college basketball players can accept, sleazy men in suits keep showing up to court Terrell and anyone they think can influence him. There is a large cast of characters to keep track of, and the story unfolds over most of a year, but sophisticated readers will be rewarded. The on-court scenes excellently pair discussions of plays and strategy with nail-biting, second-by-second action. The off-court intrigue is similarly tense. Danny’s quick temper, Terrell’s occasional naïveté and their coach’s firm levelheadedness clash dramatically with the slick maneuvers of exploitative adults. The factors surrounding Terrell’s choices are presented thoughtfully and without didacticism. Thorough and suspenseful; a must-read for those interested in basketball and the dealings surrounding the sport.

Of course Zoe isn’t anything like Texas death row inmate Stuart Harris. She got away with her murder. Plagued by guilt and using the alias “Zoe,” the British teen writes a series of confessional letters to Harris. These episodic letters reveal a string of fateful decisions, including her role in a young man’s death. Seizing on her parents’ marital problems, Zoe escapes to a party and finds instant attraction with “The Boy with the Brown Eyes.” But when he disappears, she takes solace—with clothing removed—with popular Max Morgan. While periodically running into the mysterious guy, who she learns is named Aaron, Zoe continues her mostly physical relationship with Max. When she also discovers that Aaron and Max are brothers, readers clearly understand that one of them will die because of her. It’s not just suspense that drives this epistolary page-turner, but Zoe’s authentic emotional responses and unyielding wit (“who knew that vomit could be flirtatious?”). Zoe’s not a monster here but a typical adolescent who does like Max but is in love with Aaron. An engaging subplot involving Zoe’s younger, deaf sister and her mother’s culpability in her disability mirror Zoe’s mounting tension. After many red herrings, a bittersweet ending brings compassion and answers to Zoe’s dilemma and shows just how easy it is to make mistakes and how hard love can be.

Fantasy

Not even a million of God’s animal-shaped Ministers can save people this time around. The end of the world is here, and 12-year-old Merciful Truth and her older brother, Gospel, are among the last left standing. In this vivid horror novel set in a cabin in the woods, Merciful and her wild brother, who is “halfway to the Devil,” are not quite home alone. Their mother’s corpse is decomposing under the kitchen table as there’s too much snow outside to bury her, and the Minister, a shape-shifting, God-appointed “made thing,” pads about the house murmuring its daily gospel. Worse still, Mama isn’t staying dead. Is that milky-eyed corpse singing “Hush, little baby” in their late papa’s rocking chair their once-crazy mama, or is it a “ghost angel” from a faraway world of cities and science? This is full-on horror, complete with putrid undead, a world-devouring fog and creepy ballerina music boxes. Merciful’s frank, down-home, first-person voice is steady and true as she navigates not only the challenges of pioneer-style survival and the impending apocalypse, but also tricky relationships with God, the newly undead, the enigmatic Minister and her embittered brother. Faith and hopelessness swirl like snow in a winter storm in this scary but terrific debut novel with a fresh, engaging voice.

In this thought-provoking debut, reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale with a touch of Big Love, a generation of “perfectly engineered” embryos, known as the First Generation, has been watching its children die off from a virus that claims females at age 20 and males at age 25. Since her geneticist parents’ death, 16-year-old narrator Rhine and her twin brother spend endless nights warding off homeless orphans from their Manhattan basement until she is kidnapped by Gatherers, who make a living collecting potential brides and selling them off to wealthy families to breed new children. Rhine arrives at a Florida compound, where she is locked away with two other “sister wives,” and the three teens are forced to marry (and presumably procreate with) 21-year-old Linden. Through her similar appearance to Linden’s first (and now dead) love, intriguing heterochromia (two different colored eyes) and acting abilities, Rhine achieves “First Wife” status as she plots an escape. Her situation becomes more urgent when she discovers an underground laboratory where her diabolical father-in-law performs gruesome experiments in the name of finding a cure. A taut present-tense narration ratchets up the suspense. Despite some holes in the plot, particularly in the rushed ending, Rhine’s fight for freedom against the clock—and the dissecting table—will leave readers eager for the sequel. Give this one to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy or Ally Condie’s Matched

Widdershins is back, facing romance, supernatural foes and some serious soul searching. After the dramatic events of the first volume (Thief’s Covenant, 2012), street-rat–turned-noble-turned-thief—and now turned bar owner—Widdershins and her deity Olgun (still secret in a city with 147 recognized deities and a very strong church) are trying their hand at honest living, but it’s not working out. When they go back to the criminal life, they stumble into another big conspiracy of crime and dark magic, find themselves allied with the surprisingly appealing Major Bouniard of the city Guard and, more reluctantly, with a disgraced nobleman out to destroy Widdershins in revenge. Marmell’s occasionally florid writing and hackneyed dialogue can’t detract from the gory adventures (including a wonderfully macabre bad guy), but beneath the action lies a deeper, if unsubtle, tale of loss and love. Secondary characters may be types and primary characters tropes, but genuinely adolescent (including occasional idiotic and immature behavior) high fantasy is rare enough that this stands out. A romp with an edge and a feisty female lead: Fans will rejoice at the indication that this series has even more to come.

This retelling of “The 12 Dancing Princesses” includes all the familiar elements of the Grimms’ fairy tale while adding detail and exciting events—with consummate panache. Azalea is the oldest child and has acted as second mother to her 11 younger sisters since the Queen died giving birth to little Ivy. The grieving king insists on deep mourning for all the court, forbidding the princesses to dance. Since the girls cannot give up dancing—it was their mother’s gift to them—they find a path to an enchanted place under the castle, where the slightly sinister Keeper allows them to dance their slippers into shreds. His initial kindness—“[Y]ou are welcome to dance here, among the magic. Please. Come and mend your broken hearts here,” he invites—changes to cruelty as he becomes ever more controlling. All 11 sisters are very real characters, adding considerable dimension to the story. The unfortunately gauche and clumsy king slowly shows his truly loving heart, especially as he arranges for the older girls to meet appropriate young men as suitors, also well-developed and rewarding characters. The plot zips along, becoming more and more suspenseful as the story progresses until it becomes almost too tense. Dixon balances the suspense with generous helpings of humor and sparkling dialogue. This charming, romantic story, told with a light touch, will appeal to older preteens on up.

With this foray into secret voodoo societies and forbidden spells, Zink delivers an enjoyable, fast-paced ride perfect for lovers of the paranormal thriller. Seventeen-year-old Claire Kincaid doesn’t believe in voodoo. Not that unusual a stance, really, unless you are a direct descendant of Marie Leveau and the only daughter of one of the most powerful couples in an underground New Orleans voodoo guild. But when a mysterious stranger walks into the Kincaid store in search of panther’s blood—an ingredient used only to kill—a series of events begins to unfold that will challenge everything Claire thinks she knows about voodoo, the Guild and her own latent abilities. Exhibiting characteristically teenage frustration with their parents, who reign stolidly over Guild affairs, Claire, her boyfriend, Xander, and some other Guild firstborns take the investigation into their own hands. They find an ally in ex-member Crazy Eddie and together delve into the darker side of voodoo in order to defeat those out to destroy the Guild in retribution for past injuries. The plot is suspenseful, the characters are sympathetic if not fully rounded, and the fictional subculture comes alive through detailed descriptions of the New Orleans setting, particularly the Garden District. Fans of the paranormal, sure to be spellbound by this tale of revenge and teen rebellion, will hope Zink conjures up a sequel.

Grief beats at the heart of adolescence in this fantasy version of North America. For the free women of the forest, death is a complex, dangerous thing: The dead are bound, and some rise again as White Hands, whose touch brings madness and transformation. Bow’s lyrical writing, which beats like the storyteller’s drum Cricket and, later, Orca wield, tells a story both specific and timeless. The conflict between tradition and change, the tensions between mothers and daughters, and the journey west (itself both physical and metaphorical) all play a role. Within the grand thematic scope is a simpler story, reminiscent of the timeless hero’s journey: Otter, the binder’s daughter, untrained and called upon to face great threats, must use the tools of tradition and forbidden knowledge (a secret story echoes throughout the novel) to remake the world. Add to that epic scope two love stories, a genuine portrait of friendship, a nuanced exploration of loss and letting go, and a fine tracery of humor as well as plenty of tears, and you have a winner. A lovely gem, dark and quiet as the dead but glimmering with life as well. Not to be missed.

A lyrical, remarkably unusual retelling breeds new life into the “Beauty and the Beast” tale. Beauty is an ill-fitting name for a child whose silver-colored skin, white hair and amethyst-colored eyes elicit fearful reactions from nearly everyone who crosses her path. Raised with cruelty by her distant aunt, Beauty finds solace in her friendship with a groom named Owaine and the horses he cares for. When danger threatens their city, Owaine obtains permission to adopt Beauty and take her back to his homeland in the faraway hills, where she finds purpose helping him tame wild horses. But Beauty is plagued by dark dreams and visions, and when Owaine returns from a trip dying but bearing a rare rose, Beauty journeys into the forbidden forest to parley with the Beast who cursed her foster father. Mannering’s beautifully written, third-person prose unfolds at a nearly perfect pace, cleverly placing scenes that shed light on various mysteries at the beginning of each of the five sections of the story. The ending, which feels rushed and is plagued by incongruity and unanswered questions, does not diminish the impressiveness of this debut. A great choice for fans of high fantasy and fairy-tale retellings; they will hope for a sequel.

Despite its title, this companion to Verday’s Hollow trilogy comes across more as a thriller than a soap opera. While some knowledge of the previous series certainly would help, new readers will find enough background information to glean the basics. Cyn tries not to sin, but she can’t help it. She’s an Echo, a human who serves as a host for a series of souls that inhabit her body and sometimes take over to do murder, or so Cyn believes. Enter Avian, the 13th Revenant, shunned by both demonic and angelic Revenants. (Revenants are otherworldly figures that help the living “cross over.”) Avian spends his time dispatching supernatural baddies, the protégé of benevolent Father Montgomery. Meanwhile, Cyn, working as a waitress, tries to avoid Declan, the brother of her former boyfriend, Hunter, whom Cyn believes she murdered in one of her blackouts. Avian balances his emotions and his duty to fight supernatural evil, even as he finds himself falling for Cyn. The supernatural lore lies thick on the ground, but the author keeps the narrative flowing nicely. Cyn’s all-night waitress job in the dumpy little diner adds some welcome realism amid the paranormal elements. Complete with a hellhound, demons and a vintage motorcycle, this paranormal thriller supplies plenty of entertainment.

 

Science Fiction

Eighteen-year-old Judith Finch gradually reveals the horror of her two-year disappearance in a stunning historical murder mystery and romance. One summer four years ago, Judith Finch and her friend Lottie Pratt disappeared. After two years, only Judith returned. Lottie’s naked body was found in the river, and Judith stumbled back on her own, her appearance shocking the town—not just because she had returned, but that her tongue had been cut out, and she can’t tell anyone what happened to her. Illiterate, maimed, cursed, doomed to be an outsider but always and forever in love with Lucas Whiting, Judith finds a way to tell her story, saying, “I don’t believe in miracles, but if the need is great, a girl might make her own miracle,” and as her story unfolds, all the truth that’s in her is revealed. Set in what seems to be early-18th-century North America, the story is told through the voice inside Judith’s head—simple and poetic, full of hurt and yearning, and almost always directed toward Lucas in a haunting, mute second person. Every now and then, a novel comes along with such an original voice that readers slow down to savor the poetic prose. This is such a story. A tale of uncommon elegance, power and originality.

To save her best friend, Clair must uncover a terrible conspiracy in this futuristic thriller. A viral message offers Improvement, changing a person’s looks, intelligence or anything else by modifying their “patterns” when they use the teleportation technology called d-mat. Few believe it can work, as it circumvents d-mat safeguards. The d-mat technology solved the energy crisis, allows people to replicate material items and provides instant teleportation anywhere—it helps to maintain world peace. But Clair’s best friend, Libby, tries Improvement anyway—and claims it works. But she’s struck with terrible headaches, mood swings and erratic behavior. Worried, Clair turns to the school freak, a boy whose family abstains from technology, to see if their movement knows anything about Improvement. Before learning that the Improved end up brain damaged and committing suicide a week afterward—a fate Clair must save Libby from—Clair attempts it. Her only noticeable change is gaining a mysterious hacker/digital stalker who claims to want to help Clair, even as shady people try to kill Clair. Clair comes into her own as she strategizes to survive. A tedious love triangle resolves mercifully quickly, but the later romantic storyline is predictable and obligatory. The dangers, casualties and well-written action scenes keep tensions high. Williams marries accessibly explored moral ramifications of future technologies—a hallmark of mature science fiction—with a strong, capable teen heroine and heart-pounding action

This exhilarating finale to the dystopian Legend trilogy delivers on the promises of the genre without ever being predictable about details. June and Day are finally on the right side of the law, but nothing’s gotten any easier. June, the former soldier, is now one of three Princeps-Elect, next in line to lead the Senate. Day, “most-wanted-criminal-turned-national-hero,” is now the face of popular support for the young Elector. The future’s dazzlingly bright, right? In fact, from their high perches, June and Day can see everything about to go horrifyingly wrong. The Elector knows the Colonies are about to invade, and he thinks a plague cure will save the day—a cure he’s convinced they’ll discover by experimenting on Day’s brother, Eden. Day will never let the Republic have his brother again; he barely got Eden back alive after the first time they took him for medical experiments. On the other hand, since Day is dying, it’s not clear what he can do for Eden or the Republic. Brief international travel expands the worldbuilding of this universe: June and Day had encountered the capitalist dystopia of the Colonies in Prodigy (2012), while June here encounters the seemingly more idyllic society-as-game of Ross City, Antarctica. A civilization run as if it were “The Sims” is intriguing, and it’s disappointing that June spends little time there, but there’s plenty of betrayal and action to resolve back in the Republic. Ever respectful of the capacity of its readers, this series offers a satisfying conclusion of potential rather than a neatly wrapped denouement.

 

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