The Hit by Melvin Burgess

Oh God, I hope my mom doesn’t read this. Usually she’s busy being retired and teaching our dog tricks. Don’t read this, Mom. I’ll give you $5 not to read this. I think the dog pooped in the hallway. You better go check that situation out. I don’t think you want to hear that the only reason your kid doesn’t do drugs is because she’s too lazy to go find them.

I don’t do drugs. I don’t avoid them because they’re bad for me and will lead my life down a path of ruin and eventual death. I don’t do drugs because I have no idea where I would get them and I’m too lazy to seek them out. The hardest drug I do is Benadryl. And caffeine.

thehitMelvin Burgess’s The Hit is about a drug unlike any other. It’s called Death and it’s in high demand. You swallow it and have 7 days to live, but those 7 days are the best days you could ever hope for. You wake up euphoric, a burst of energy unlike any high you’ve ever felt. Any dream you’ve had, whatever you wanted to become in life, you pursue it with passion (instead of what I do which is ‘I think I want to write a book except my favorite episode of American Dad is on and I’ve only seen it 17 times.’)

Adam comes from a poor family. His dad is disabled and unable to work and his mom works so many shifts that all she can do when she gets home is sleep. His brother Jess, a chemist, hasn’t been heard from in days. England is on the edge of anarchy, goaded on by a terrorist group known as the Zealots who want to bring down the capitalist regime. Adam’s girlfriend Lizzie comes from money and it’s the same old story: boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the rich girl falling in love. Adam doesn’t think his life is going to get any better. He’s going to have to drop out of school and find a job.

He takes Lizzie on a date to see their favorite rock star Jimmy Earle who caps his performance by saying he’d taken Death 7 days before. At the end of the concert, Jimmy Earle drops dead on stage. A near riot ensues on the streets of Manchester. Crowds of people caught up in the fervor of bringing down the government clog the streets. Someone is handing out Death. Adam and Lizzie watch people pop the drug into their mouths. Someone hands Adam Death. He pockets it. It had been the perfect night.

The next day Adam and his parents receive a letter from the Zealots saying his brother Jess has been killed. Jess was working for the Zealots as a chemist, manufacturing Death. His parents are horrified and Adam sinks into a depression. What does his life mean now? He’ll have to quit school and take some crap job and live a crap life. There will be no university. In his despair he swallows the Death he’d pocketed the night before and begins his own countdown. He makes a bucket list for the next 7 days:

1. Loads of sex with loads of girls. Several of them at once.
2. Get rich. Leave my parents and Lizzie with enough money so they’ll never have to work again.
3. Drink champagne till I can’t stand.
4. Do cocaine.
5. Do something so that humanity will remember me forever.

Yeah, that first to-do is definitely a teenage boy’s top priority.

Mixed in with the Zealots is a gangster. Isn’t there always a bad dude in the midst of everything: one hand out for cash in exchange for a bad deed, the other hand holding a machete? This gangster (sorry, entrepreneur ) is named Florence Ballantine and he has a psychotic 46-year-old son Christian who thinks he’s fourteen. Christian wears a baseball cap with the bill flipped to the side, baggy jeans, expensive t-shirts and has a bodyguard named Vince who likes to put his anti-psychotic medicine in a glass of milk. This father and son team manufacture Death. Who cares that it causes people to expire in 7 days? There’s money to be made.

Adam and Lizzie trip through the criminal underworld and get caught up in a race to accomplish everything on Adam’s bucket list all the while counting down the days and hours. While Adam is trying to make the first to-do on his bucket list happen, Christian sees Lizzie at a party and demands that she be his new girlfriend. Nobody wants to be his girlfriend because the dude’s brain is fried. And he’s terrifying.

Is Adam brave enough (or dumb enough) to take on the Zealots, Florence the gangster and his cuckoo for cocoa puffs son? Does Lizzie love him enough to survive a week of knowing he’s going to die? Why was Jess so secretive about what he was working on for the Zealots? Wait until you read the ending. I did not see it coming.

Spot-Lit for April 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this month. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction    

American Romantic    Frog Music    Storied Life    Lovers at the Chameleon Club    Plover

American Romantic  by Ward Just
Frog Music  by Emma Donoghue
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932  by Francine Prose
The Plover  by Brian Doyle

First Novels / Fiction

Whiskey Barons    Past the Shalllows    Sedition    Steal the Summer    Skookum

The Whiskey Baron  by Jon Sealy
Past the Shallows  by Favel Parrett
Sedition  by Katharine Grant
Steal the North  by Heather Bergstrom
Skookum Summer  by Jack Hart

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Until You're Mine    Destroyer Angel    Waiting for Wednesday    Cold Nowhere    By Its Cover

Until You’re Mine  by Samantha Hayes
Destroyer Angel  by Nevada Barr
Waiting for Wednesday  by Nicci French
The Cold Nowhere  by Brian Freeman
By Its Cover  by Donna Leon

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Goblin Emperor    Bird Eater    Days of the Deer    Afterparty    Battle Royale

The Goblin Emperor  by Katherine Addison
The Bird Eater  by Ania Ahlborn
The Days of the Deer  by Liliana Bodoc
Afterparty  by Daryl Gregory
Battle Royale – Remastered  by Koushun Takami  

Romance

                            Bet    Hotelles    Far Gone

The Bet  by Rachel Van Dyken
Hotelles  by Emma Mars
Far Gone  by Laura Griffin

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for March 2014

Spot-Lit

Here’s our hand-picked list of fiction titles coming out in March. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Bark    Orchard of Lost Souls    Curse on Dost    Blazing World    Boy, Snow, Bird

Bark: stories  by Lorrie Moore
The Orchard of Lost Souls  by Nadifa Mohamed
A Curse on Dostoevsky  by Atiq Rahimi
The Blazing World  by Siri Hustvedt
Boy, Snow, Bird  by Helen Oyeyemi

First Fiction

Redeployment    Burnable Book    Wives of Los Alamos    Precious Thing    Weight of Blood

Redeployment  by Phil Klay
A Burnable Book  by Bruce Holsinger
The Wives of Los Alamos  by Tarashea Nesbit
Precious Thing  by Colette McBeth
The Weight of Blood  by Laura McHugh

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Accident    Disappeared    Why Kings Confess    Black-Eyed Blonde    Watching You

The Accident  by Chris Pavone
The Disappeared  by Kristina Ohlsson
Why Kings Confess  by C.S. Harris
The Black-Eyed Blonde  by Benjamin Black
Watching You  by Michael Robotham

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Man Came Out    Undead Pool    Murder of Crows    Trpoic of Serpents    Code Zero

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain  by Adrianne Harun
The Undead Pool  by Kim Harrison
A Murder of Crows  by Anne Bishop
The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan
Code Zero  by Jonathan Maberry

Romance

                    Evening Stars          Replacement Wife          Love Comes Calling

Evening Stars  by Susan Mallery
The Replacement Wife  by Tiffany Warren
Love Comes Calling  by Siri Mitchell

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Nostalgia, or, Whatever Happened to Beany and Cecil?

I don’t know if it’s a common progression in the first-world aging process, but I seem to have hit the part of life where I crave things from my youth, perhaps to reconnect, perhaps for comfort. In the world of books this translates into re-reading favorites, something I’ve seldom done in the past as I’m always seeking out new treasures. Perchance I’m searching for old friends to see if our relationships have changed. Whatever the reason, I’m firmly entrenched in a tour of previously-read books.

So here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to.

Old FoxThe Old Fox Deceiv’d by Martha Grimes
I think the first mysteries I read were by Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, but the first series I really connected with was the Richard Jury mysteries by Martha Grimes. I discovered these books about 25 years ago, and since then I’ve read every Jury title (with a new one due out this June!). The Old Fox Deceiv’d is the second in the series and contains the many elements that I so enjoyed when first encountering Grimes’ writing. Early Jury books often focus on the characters from a small town that Jury’s sometime amateur assistant, Melrose Plant, calls home. These people and their goings-on are at least as interesting as the mysteries themselves. As the series has progressed, the bit players have appeared less and the focus of the mysteries has turned much darker. I still love the books, but I do miss my “friends” from the earlier stories. Anyone who enjoys British cozy mysteries (even though Grimes is from Baltimore) should check out Richard Jury.

Dirk Gently bookDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
On the heels of the fabulous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Adams introduced a strange detective, Dirk Gently, who appeared in two books. Not as uproariously funny as Hitchhiker’s Guide, these books are still quirky, dry and hilarious.

Dirk Gently DVDThe BBC recently produced a short series based on the character of Dirk Gently, and this inspired me to re-examine the books. I’m not too far into this one yet, but what I have discovered so far is a profound lack of Dirk Gently; it’s taking a while for him to find his way into the story. Whereas Hitchhiker’s Guide is a knee-slap-a-minute, Dirk Gently is a much more, well, gentle and abstract humor. One has to work a bit harder to get one’s money’s worth with Dirk.

TekWarRon Goulart, a writer not widely known, is perhaps one of the most prolific American authors of recent times. I discovered his quirky, humorous sci-fi in high school, and went on to read every title of his I could find. Recently Calling Dr. Patchwork (the first of his books I ever purchased) found its way onto my Kindle. Sadly, I’m not as taken with Goulart’s unique style as I once was, but I am enjoying analyzing his writing techniques (for example, conversations where every single sentence is interrupted by the other participant) to discover tricks I can borrow. While EPL does not have any of his entertaining pulp novels, we do carry books from the TekWar series which were credited to William Shatner but are quite obviously penned by Goulart.

My nostalgia has manifested in many other ways, leading me to watch old movies such as Rear Window, Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope and That Touch of Mink. Or to delve into finales and conclusions of TV shows such as The Office and The Mentalist. Pulp readings from young-adult years revisit me, including works of John D. MacDonald and Robert Sheckley. It’s a strange phenomenon, and I’m not enjoying everything of old as much as I once did, but overall the experience is positive.

I’m not sure what the next step or phase of life will be, but I do know that I’m not ready for pants that go halfway up my chest.

Yet.

Spot-Lit for February 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is coming out this February, including many strong debuts. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

Still Life Bread Crumbs    I Shall Be Near to You    Unnecessary Woman    Golden State    I Always Loved You

Still Life with Bread Crumbs  by Anna Quindlen
I Shall Be Near to You  by Erin McCabe
An Unnecessary Woman  by Rabih Alameddine
Golden State  by Michelle Richmond
I Always Loved You  by Robin Oliveira 

First Fiction

Spinning Heart    Archetype    Dust    While Beauty Slept    One More Thing

The Spinning Heart  by Donal Ryan
Archetype  by M.D. Waters
Dust  by Yvonne Owuor
While Beauty Slept  by Elizabeth Blackwell
One More Thing  by B.J. Novak

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Runner    Cold Storage    After I'm Gone    Officer and a Spy    Poisoned Pawn

Runner  by Patrick Lee
Cold Storage, Alaska  by John Straley
After I’m Gone  by Laura Lippman
An Officer and a Spy  by Robert Harris
The Poisoned Pawn  by Peggy Blair

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Annihilation    Darkling Sea    Martian    Influx    Red Rising

Annihilation  by Jeff Vandermeer
A Darkling Sea  by James Cambias  (debut)
The Martian  by Andy Weir  (debut)
Influx  by Daniel Suarez
Red Rising  by Pierce Brown  (debut)

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Ten Books that Impacted my Life

Lately there’s been a post bouncing around Facebook asking people to list 10 favorite books. As an avid reader I gladly offered up a list, with the caveat that if I made the list another day it might consist of entirely different entries.

And now it’s another day, I’ve another list, and it is mostly different. So, more or less in the order I read them, here are 10 books that have impacted my life.

Mixed up filesFrom the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I discovered this book in fourth grade and was immediately enchanted. A brother and sister run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My imagination was carried away as I pictured the kids exploring the museum after closing time.

Time out of jointTime Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick
It is 1959 and the world’s crossword puzzle champion lives an idyllic life. Until one day when he reaches for a light switch that is not there and begins to question all aspects of reality. This book has continued to disturb me for decades, but it also led to a love of the writing of PKD.

HogfatherHogfather by Terry Pratchett
Post-modernism, which I think of as taking something familiar and putting it in a new, unfamiliar context, is something that has long enamored me. Pratchett is a master of taking commonplace fairy tales and folk characters and throwing them into completely sideways situations. Hogfather examines some of those characters (such as the Tooth Fairy) and ponders from whence they came.

Red Mars
Red Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson
I read science fiction almost exclusively for 15 years before Red Mars was written, and even with all of the great books I consumed during that time I never suspected that writing like this could exist. Granted, this is not one of my favorite books and I frequently set it down from boredom whilst reading it, but the sheer immensity of this exhaustive history of a civilization from the future is simply astounding.

Notes from a small islandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Travelers’ Tales India, a book sadly no longer in the EPL collection, introduced me to the magic of travel writing. Notes from a Small Island introduced me to the concept of “some books should not be read in public or I will be labeled a lunatic while laughing maniacally, ending my days in a happy room with soft walls.” Bryson is a master of imparting information while being hysterically funny.
Wodehouse
Anything ever written by P. G. Wodehouse
Screwball comedies offer a literary format which I find quite intriguing. P. G. Wodehouse builds on this framework with the most original use of language I’ve encountered. Even while enjoying the stories, I learned what dialogue could be like in my own writings, and for this I am grateful. Wodehouse is perhaps the most important writing influence on my humble existence.

Eyre affairThe Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Perhaps the cleverest concept I’ve ever run across: In a slightly alternate reality characters in books are sentient, can move between books, and are part of a thriving industry that creates entertainment for those who read. Thursday Next, an actual living person, is able to enter books and influence the activity therein.  Mischief is afoot in Jane Eyre, and Thursday is called to rescue the novel before it’s too late. Fforde’s universe shows me the incredible level of creativity that can be achieved by a writer.

to say nothingTo Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How we Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis
Time travel, comedy, Victorian England, suspense – a perfect mix! One of the funniest books I’ve read mixed with a superior treatment of time travel (my hidden guilty pleasure) and appearances by historical as well as fictional characters (the men from Three Men in a Boat) all create a kaleidoscopic chaos of pure adventure and entertainment.

Madison houseMadison House by Peter Donahue
Photos of Seattle’s Denny Regrade are shocking, looking like scenes from a war-torn distant planet. This historical novel looks at how the regrade affected people living on Seattle’s hills, the corruption that shaped the decision-making process, and the bucolic geography of Seattle at a time when people were scarce. This tale has forever changed the image of Lake Union and the University district that I carry in my mind.

Doomsday bookDoomsday Book by Connie Willis
Glory was the first war movie I ever saw where I felt like I understood how the soldiers felt during battle. Doomsday Book, another Connie Willis time travel story, has a protagonist who accidentally goes to plague times. She ends up in a small village, feverish and incoherent, and is nursed back to health by a local family. Because of the error in the time travel process, she is unable to communicate with her peers and is unsure if she will be able to return to her present. So she becomes a member of the small community and watches people die at a rapid pace. And for the first time I had an inkling of what it would be like to be surrounded by bubonic plague with little hope for salvation.

There you have it, 10 books that have all stuck with me in various ways over the years.

Perhaps you would like to share your list?

What’s Overdue? or Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013, Part 2

Kathunk!
Thud swoosh thunk!
Jiminy kathunk zowie!

That is the sound of my 2014 reading list, created from books which I’ve checked out but not finished, piling higher and higher towards the planets and such. And I can’t seem to even make a dent in the list because I keep finding interesting, irresistible books such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago, How Music Works by David Byrne and Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews.

New unread books

I’m trying to change my reading habits so as to not miss out on any books that at one point seemed interesting, because once I return a book unfinished I seldom go back to it. The first portion of my 2014 list contains five titles, and of these I have so far read NONE. But am I daunted? Neigh I seigh, so I continue on compiling my list.

Universe versus Alex WoodsThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Here’s one I’ve checked out three times, read a fair bit of, thoroughly enjoyed, yet set aside for other reads. A 10-year-old boy named Alex is struck in the head by a meteorite, which scars him both physically and socially, making him a favorite target of bullies. As punishment for vandalism that he didn’t actually commit, Alex is put to work for hermit-ish Mr. Peterson, and a friendship slowly starts to grow. But the story doesn’t start here, rather it begins with Alex at age 17 detained at customs with a large amount of marijuana. How did he arrive in this situation and where will he go from there?

City of TruthCity of Truth by James Morrow
Movies featuring people who are unable to lie (Liar Liar, The Invention of Lying) have bloomed in recent years, and the premise is an interesting one. City of Truth, written in 1990, is about a city called Veritas where people have been conditioned to always tell the truth. The result is a lack of tact, total candor in advertising (beef is “murdered cow” and car models include Adequates and Functionals) and generally amusing brutally frank communication. It is in this setting that Jack Sperry learns his son has a fatal disease and realizes that it might be in the boy’s best interest for Jack to lie to him. In Veritas, lying is not a simple decision; to lie is to become a subversive. This weighty subject is surrounded by abundant humor in a story that, although based in a fantastical framework, is actually a commentary on our very own society.

Janus AffairThe Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine
One of my favorite books of 2012 was Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel. This Victorian steampunk thriller features Eliza Braun, a government agent whose first move in any situation is to throw a stick of dynamite, and her de facto partner Wellington Books, an archivist with wicked mechanical skills and no desire to leave his repository. The Janus Affair is book two in the series, this time finding the gear-flinging duo trying to discover why British citizens are suddenly vanishing in brilliant flashes of lightning. Will they once again save England from naughty evildoers and make the Empire safe for its citizens?

Ready player oneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Here’s another highly-rated book that I got a ways into, enjoyed, and put aside. In the near-future the world has become an unappealing junk-filled dystopia. Many people frequent a virtual reality called OASIS, a much happier place, where one can go to learn, socialize, play, and engage in various aspects of real life. There’s a rumor that 3 keys exist within OASIS, and whoever acquires them will inherit the greatest fortune ever amassed. Scouring this virtual world for the keys is not without danger, but there are also puzzles, romance and a large chunk of 1980’s trivia. So if I understand correctly, one can escape our mundane reality by entering this fictional dystopia, which one escapes by entering a fictional virtual reality … umm … yes.

And so goes part two of my 2014 reading list. Stay tuned as I continue to amass next year’s reading choices, and agonize with me as I attempt to push aside temptations (hey, I haven’t read the last book in the Scorch series yet!) and actually finish (ooh, new Bill Bryson book!) these excellent books that I’ve (I wonder what Steve Hockensmith is up to?) set aside. Will he? Won’t he? Only time will tell!

What’s Overdue? or Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013

2013 brought a great change in my reading habits. Without any conscious choice I found myself checking out great big bunches of books, reading a little of each, and continuing with the one (or ones) that tickled my fancy. The result? I checked out a whole lotta books that I never read.

As the year came to a close, I decided to look through the books I didn’t finish in search of hidden gems. After all, I’m usually pretty excited about a book when I check it out.

So what we have today, O Brave Readers, is a list of titles that I wish I’d read in 2013, and beyond that a list of books that I pledge to read in the upcoming months. I’m actually quite excited by this prospect as I’ve never created a reading list for myself and, after all, the books are all titles that I want to read.

And with that I present:  What’s Overdue? or Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
Red HarvestPulp detective stories rank among my favorites, so it is somewhat strange that I do not enjoy the highly-regarded Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Still, I want to like the writing of this legendary ink slinger. So imagine my satisfaction when I read a gushing review of Red Harvest, a story based in Hammett’s experiences as an operative for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Butte, Montana. The main character, The Op, is called to clean up a corrupt town, Personville. But quell horreur, a woman The Op’s keen on is found murdered with an ice pick he recently handled. Now The Op must extricate himself from a murder where he is a prime suspect.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
I Hunt KillersI am fascinated with fictional serial killers. One of my favorites, Dexter, only kills really bad people… usually… and we generally like and sympathize with him even though HE KILLS A REALLY LOT OF PEOPLE AND CUTS THEM UP! But we like him. Now there’s a YA book, I Hunt Killers, about a nice teenager named Jazz whose father is an infamous serial killer. He even forces Jazz to witness (and perhaps participate in?) his killings. Jazz begins to wonder if he is destined to follow in daddy’s footsteps. As dark as this all sounds, the book is described as being consistently hilarious. Comedy and serial killing – it makes my list!

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett
Gideon SmithI consider myself a trend-bucker, but steampunk has me by the islets of Langerhans. If there’s a zeppelin, silly old-fashioned names and adventure, well sir, I want to read about it. Set it in England, all the better! In Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, Queen Victoria rules most of the world, including the east coast of America. Gideon loves penny dreadfuls penned by Lucian Trigger, and when his father disappears he commences a long journey to London to find Captain Trigger. Along the way he meets Bram Stoker (who blames vampires for the father’s disappearance), mummies, and a clockwork girl.  And upon finding Captain Trigger, a further journey to Egypt leads to encounters with sky-pirates, frog-faced hordes, and a variety of historical characters. Will Gideon be the hero that Victoria’s empire needs?

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Dog StarsIn a world where most people have been killed by influenza, Hig and his dog fly a 1956 Cessna around their abandoned airfield in a small corner of the land formerly known as Colorado. One day he receives a radio transmission and Hig decides to give up the life he’s been living in order to find the broadcast’s source. Thus begins an adventure filled with risk, shattered hopes and potential happiness.


Snapper
 by Brian Kimberling
SnapperI’ve always loved stories set in the cozy small towns that probably never really existed. Add quirky characters to the mix and I’m sold. In Snapper we find Nathan, a bird researcher, arriving in a small Indiana town filled with peculiar citizens and animals. Here, in one place, he finds both love and “Thong Thursdays”. But mostly he finds birds and an ever-unfolding life heading down unexpected paths.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013!

Spot-Lit for November 2013

Spot-Lit

Some of the new releases we’re especially looking forward to this month include Sebastian Faulks revival of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster; a powerful family drama centered around the practice of fracking (Fractures); a penetrating look at our consumer culture and the world of “stuff” – wanted or not (Want Not); and the return of popular Amy Tan. Among first novels, we have a laid-off war correspondent tracking down her friend’s killer in Big Sky country (Montana); two highly-praised historical novels; and the Danish Crime Novel of the Decade (The Dinosaur Feather). Speaking of crime, Paretsky, Bruen, Smith and Spencer-Fleming are always known to deliver. As is Gene Wolfe, in the Fantasy genre, and his new book sounds particularly fine. Elsewhere in SF/Fantasy, Cherie Priest wraps up her Clockwork Century steampunk series, and an alternative history of the 20th century featuring an alien-engineered peace is guaranteed to shake you up (Burning Paradise). Finally, if the spirit of Halloween is still haunting you, check out the gothic Victorian thriller Rustication.

Click the titles below to read more or to place them on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Jeeves     Fractures     Want Not     Valley of Amazement

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells  by Sebastian Faulks
Fractures  by Lamar Herrin
Want Not  by Jonathan Miles
The Valley of Amazement  by Amy Tan

First Novels

Montana     Dinosaur Feather     Red Sky in Morning     Cartographer

Montana  by Gwen Florio
The Dinosaur Feather  by S.J. Gazan
Red Sky in Morning  by Paul Lynch
The Cartographer of No Man’s Land  by P.S. Duffy

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Tatiana     Critical Mass     Purgatory     Through the Evil Days

Tatiana  by Martin Cruz Smith
Critical Mass  by Sara Paretsky
Purgatory  by Ken Bruen
Through the Evil Days  by Julia Spencer-Fleming

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Land Across     Fiddlehead     Burning Paradise     Rustication

The Land Across  by Gene Wolfe
Fiddlehead  by Cherie Priest
Burning Paradise  by Robert Charles Wilson
Rustication  by Charles Palliser

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Vampires and Ghosts and Dystopias—Oh, My!

Welcome to Teen Read Week! What is TRW? Here’s a direct quote from the American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Administration (ALA’S YALSA):

Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.

When I was a teen in the 90s, Young Adult (YA) fiction was virtually nonexistent. Judy Blume, Lurlene McDaniel, Joan Lowery Nixon, Christopher Pike, and Cynthia Voigt were pretty much the only options. After trying a few of those I decided to skip YA fiction altogether and progressed immediately to adult paperbacks. Today, options for teens are seemingly infinite. With the popularity of Harry Potter and the Twilight series, it became readily apparent that YA fiction had something to offer adults, too.

For years I resisted the lure of YA fiction, thinking there was no way I could ever identify or even remotely care about these teen protagonists. Turns out I was so very wrong. And series are really where YA fiction shines. Readers get “the feels” for characters, truly caring what happens to them in the story. This is how I got sucked in. To prove it, I’ve prepared a sampling of some of my most favorite YA series. And despite my catchy title, I’m really not into vampires or dystopias, but that doesn’t mean that YA fiction isn’t packed with them.

CroakCroak by Gina Damico
I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series for the blog, so I suggest you check out that post for a full write-up. Please don’t read the comment, though, as someone posted a spoiler! Basically it’s the story of a teen Grim Reaper named Lex who struggles to not only learn to use her powers but also fit in with her new Reaper community.

So far the series is up to three books (the library is in the process of ordering the third book). I have been patiently–okay, impatiently!–reading each book as it is published. I’ve found that I always remember where the previous book left off and have discovered that I am deeply invested emotionally in everything that happens to our Reapers and their families.

level 2The Memory Chronicles by Lenore Appelhans
Seventeen-year-old Felicia Ward is dead and spending her time in the hive reliving her happy memories. But when Julian, a dark memory from her past, breaks into the hive and demands that she come with him, she discovers that even the afterlife is more complicated and dangerous than she dreamed.

The first book in the series is called Level 2 and I devoured it in a day. Unfortunately the next book, Chasing Before, isn’t set to be published until August 2014. You may want to wait to read Level 2 until you can get your hands on Chasing Before.

ghost and the gothThe Ghost & the Goth by Stacey Kade
It’s the timeless tale of opposites attract. The popular (and snobbish) high school cheerleader/homecoming queen gets hit by a bus and her ghost is stuck in the land of the living. The only person who can see her is a loner Goth kid whom she always thought was a total loser. What happens when the dead and living join forces? Heartwarming humor, of course.

This trilogy has been completed and all books are owned by the library, though I have to admit to feeling a tad unsatisfied at the end of the series. I really want to read more, but alas that’s not meant to be. However, I feel the series is worth reading, especially if you’re as into ghosts and the possibilities of the afterlife as I am.

diviners The Diviners by Libba Bray
Am I obsessed with ghosts and death? Maybe. But The Diviners is a little different. The main character, Evie, is basically shunned from her small Ohio hometown and is sent to live with her uncle in New York City. The year is 1926 and anything is possible for a seventeen year old girl with stars in her eyes and dreams of living the high life in the big city. The author is very faithful to the time period, bringing out elements of the jazz age including the clubs, racism, sexism, muckraking reporting, and most of all, Prohibition that influenced both young and old.

But don’t be confused: this is actually a book that introduces teens with extraordinary supernatural gifts and a great evil that is threatening to take over the world. Remember Voldemort from Harry Potter? It’s like that—only more gruesome, ruthless, and immortal. Unfortunately the next book in the series, Lair of Dreams, won’t be published until—you guessed it—August 2014. That gives us enough time to read and re-read, right?

great and terrible beautyThe Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Speaking of Harry Potter, have you met Gemma Doyle? Yes, Libba Bray gets two mentions in this post. A Great and Terrible Beauty, book one in the trilogy, was Libba Bray’s first published book and one I only recently discovered. The trilogy is set in Victorian times at Spence Academy, an all-girls boarding school. Here we meet Gemma, her roommate Ann, as well as fellow students Pippa and Felicity. The girls don’t all get along or fit in—especially Gemma, who was raised in India, where she lived until recently when her mother was killed. Haunted with visions she cannot control, Gemma finds the diary of one of Spence’s former students and consequently stumbles upon a secret world filled with great wonders—and horrors beyond belief. Gemma finds a way to bring herself and her quasi-friends into the world and thus begins a tumultuous journey into the realm of the fairy. Yes—fairy! With such forces at work, what could possibly go wrong?

I quickly read the first two books in the series, but have been waiting until “the right time” to consume the third and final book in the series. Hopefully I’m not leading you astray, since I have no idea how the series ends or what becomes of our protagonists. But based on how much I enjoyed the first two books, I feel confident that you will want to meet Gemma, too.

obsidianThe Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
I’ve gone on at length about ghosts, the afterlife, and the great beyond. But what about aliens? Turns out I have a fantastic series for you alien-lovers out there. Beginning with Obsidian, we’re introduced to bookaholic Katy, who reviews books on her on book review blog. Gee, can you tell why I liked her from the start? Katy moved with her mom to rural West Virginia to start over after her dad died. Katy’s not impressed with the thick accents and lack of a decent internet connection. But all that changes when she meets her friendly neighbor Dee and her standoffish but totally hot brother Daemon. At first Daemon is antagonistic towards Katy and keeps her at arm’s length. But soon neither can deny their attraction, which leads to—attacking aliens? Yep, Daemon and Dee are aliens and Daemon has inadvertently marked Katy, who becomes a walking beacon for a rival alien race.

Four Lux books have been written and published so far. Jennifer Armentrout is working on writing the fifth book, which will conclude the series when it’s published—you guessed it!—August 2014. I quickly read the first three books in the series but decided to delay reading the rest until the fifth book is published.

So there you have it.  Six stellar series written for teens that adults can love, too. But trust me–I haven’t even scratched the surface. For more recommended teen reads, check out the other YA reviews on this blog. Celebrate Teen Read Week with me, both here and over at the library’s Facebook page. What will you discover? For me, I’ve discovered the need to take some time off to read in August 2014!

Carol