BEST OF 2014: Adult Fiction & Nonfiction

Once again, the entire BCPL staff was asked to submit their picks for the best books of the year for adults. From ambitious literary triumphs to crowd-pleasing bestsellers, here are our collective picks for 2014’s best:

Adult Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This beautiful, sprawling story told from multiple viewpoints centers mostly on Mare-Laure, a 16-year-old blind girl, and Warner, a young German soldier, whose paths are destined to cross.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Mystery, humor, and family drama collide in this brilliantly paced page-turner involving a suspicious death during a parent-night fundraiser at a small-town public school and the months leading up to the tragedy. Readers are left guessing until the very end who was was killed and why, but the authentic personalities and situations are what truly make this book shine.

Blood Magick by Nora Roberts
In this final installment of the Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, Roberts delivers another supernatural-spiced romance with a vivid Irish setting and likable characters.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
As a fifteen-year-old runaway, Holly Sykes has no idea of the integral role she will play in a secret war between two groups of near-immortals. Spanning decades and continents, this novel tells the intricate story of that war, weaving in and out of Holly’s life even as she remains mostly oblivious—until the day that the pieces finally come together in time for a final epic battle.

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
The epic multigenerational saga of five families whose live intersect through the 20th century comes to a head in this final episode full of family drama, political intrigue, and societal upheaval.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
A multi-layered story told through many voices, Leaving Time is at its heart a story about motherhood. The novel centers on a precocious 13-year-old girl determined to unravel the mystery of her mother’s disappearance ten years ago, with the help of a disgraced former police detective and an infamous psychic.

The Martian by Any Weir
Originally an underground self-published hit and now destined for the big screen, this novel is a quiet but captivating thriller about an astronaut stranded on Mars with limited supplies and no rescue on the horizon.

Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts
Full of Irish lore and compelling characters, this second installment of the Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy features an impending battle against a magical sorcerer and a romance between childhood friends enmeshed in the struggle,

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
On the eve of a pandemic that will wipe out 99% of the global population, a celebrated actor dies on stage during a performance of King Lear. Twenty years later, a group of traveling musicians and actors and a few others struggle to keep art, culture, and history relevant in a world where the struggle for survival has wiped out hope for many. An elegiac and thought-provoking dystopian novel with substance.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A cantankerous young widower finds new purpose when he finds an abandoned two-year-old in his bookstore.

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott
When a young teen lays hands on her injured friend, it is discovered that she has the power of healing. Unfortunately, with each attempt to heal someone else, Ava finds she herself grows weaker.

Adult Nonfiction

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
In this witty graphic memoir about the last years of her elderly parents’ lives, Chast honestly and often humorously depicts the mental and physical struggles of both the dying and their caregivers. 

Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar
Through an empathetic and vivid account, an award-winning journalist brings to life the unfathomable experience of the 33 men who were trapped 2,000 feet underground at a Chilean mine for 10 weeks in 2010. A riveting account of disaster, survival, and coming to terms with the experience in the midst of a media frenzy.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow
This funny, whimsical guide to like is sure to appeal to nostalgic bibliophiles.
The Mockingbird Next Door by Harper Lee
In this intimate biography of Harper Lee, a journalist offers insights into the reclusive author’s life and thoughts based on their conversations in the latter part of Lee’s life.
UnPHILtered by Phil Robertson
The Duck Dynasty star offers his opinions on life and faith as well as other controversial topics.

BEST OF 2014: Favorite Teen/YA Books

From dark, twisty fairy tales to stunning realistic fiction with an otherwordly quality, 2014 was a great year for YA literature. Andrew Smith had not one but two top-notch books (although I must admit that I’ve only read one so far) and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series came to a worthy end (though the final book hints at further Shadowhunter adventures to come). There were excellent titles that just missed making this year’s list including the Smith book I have read (100 Sideways Miles), the latest installment of Maggie Stiefvater’s mind-blowing Raven Cycle (Blue Lily, Lily Blue), and the 2015 Morris Award finalist The Story of Owen. And then there are the promising titles I haven’t read just yet such as Timothée de Fombelle’s Vango, Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar, and that other Andrew Smith book (Grasshopper Jungle).

My absolute favorite so far? It’s a really, really tough contest between I’ll Give You the Sun and We Were Liars. The writing in each simply stunned me. I also found the artwork and text combination of Through the Woods to be both magically creepy and breathtaking. Anyway, of those titles I have read, these are my picks for the best YA books of 2014:

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
This final installment of the Mortal Instruments series includes plenty of twists and turns and doesn’t overdo the happy ending. When a group of rebellious teens take on evil, consequences are to be expected. Here, though, Clare manages an excellent compromise: a fantastic journey with plenty of action and romance, heartbreaking moments of despair, a satisfactory wrap up for favorite characters, and hints of what is to come in her upcoming series, The Last Hours and The Dark Artifices.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King 
So Glory and her sort-of best friend got drunk and ingested the remains of a petrified bat. As weird as that sounds, things get even more bizarre when they begin to see glimpses of the pasts and futures of strangers, family members, and acquaintances. While Glory has lived in a sort of limbo ever since her mother’s suicide, now she is forced to face both the past and the idea of a future, even if the apocalypse may be coming. Trippy, powerful, and full of insights into society and coping with grief, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is yet another gloriously unique novel from the fantabulous A.S. King.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Stunning and full of passages readers will want to revisit again and again, I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of fraternal twins Noah and Jude. Three years ago, Noah and Jude were so connected that they communicated without words. Now sixteen, they are practically strangers—to each other and even to themselves. Their closeness has been shattered by secrets and lies and tragedy, but perhaps there is a chance to regain what was lost if first each can face what went wrong before. The novel is narrated jointly between the two siblings, weaving in an out of time seamlessly, Noah in the past and Jude in the present. This is an unforgettable novel, kooky and heartbreaking, full of art and love and even a ghost or two. 
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Sixteen-year-old Travis Coates was dying of cancer when he did something drastic. Although his entire body was riddled with cancer cells and beyond saving, a doctor suggested an experimental procedure. So his (cancer-free) head was cryogenically frozen until the day medical science would be able to bring him back. Travis didn’t think it would work, but suddenly he finds himself awakening—no longer sick—to discover that it is five years later and the world has moved on without him. For Travis, it has only been moments, but his friends are college-aged now, and his girlfriend has moved on. Wryly honest, pitch-perfect narration, likable characters, and a surprisingly realistic oddball plot make this a surefire winner.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Tamaki
Bittersweet and brilliantly paced, this coming-of-age graphic novel centers on a young teen’s summer vacation, during which she finds herself drawn to an older boy and depressed by the strain in her parents’marriage. Mariko Tamaki’s illustrations wonderfully convey Rose’s frustrations, anxiety, and heartbreaks, and the images are full of life and movement.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Vivid, glossy illustrations and text along with creepily evocative prose tell psychological horror stories with a decided fairy-tale inspiration. This is a uniquely beautiful and terrifying graphic novel, where the text and images truly become inseparable.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
A story of love, lies, secrets, and deep family dysfunction, We Were Liars is a gorgeously written psychological thriller full of drama and mystery. The tale centers on Cady, a young woman with no memory of the summer that changed her life forever but determined to uncover the secrets her wealthy, Kennedy-like family try to keep hidden. 

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Rich yet seemingly effortless world-building and compelling characters make for a dynamic introduction to a promising new trilogy. Kestrel is the daughter of a celebrated, powerful general in a society based on slavery. Soon, according to custom and the expectation of her father, she will have to choose between joining the army and marrying. Although she is an expert strategist, Kestral has no desire to do either. Arin is a slave, far brighter and more cunning and that he appears. Despite their many differences, Kestrel and Arin form a tenuous friendship that promises to become more, but betrayal, conflicting loyalties, and potential war may make peace between them impossible.

Nonfiction & Poetry

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Through candid interviews and before, during, and after photos, Kuklin presents the stories of six very different young adults who are transgender, intersex, or gender neutral. The stories are eye-opening and honest, portraying each teen as a complex, real person rather than an idealized “example.” Extensive back matter provide further information,

Eyes Wide Open by Paul Fleischman
Sidebars, graphs, images, and lively prose combine perfectly to provide teens a comprehensive yet appealing overview of modern environmental issues. Best of all, the text does not tell readers what to think or believe; instead, Fleischman focus on the underlying principles and provides the tools teens need to evaluate information and come to their own conclusions. For example, although Fleischman’s views on certain topics are pretty clear, he provides references for locating divergent opinions.

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
This accessible, well-researched history explores the lives, personalities, and relationships of the family Romanov in contrast with the lives of the ordinary workers and peasants of early 20th century Imperial Russia. Fleming does a fantastic job of putting the Romanov story in global context in a way that will not overwhelm teen readers. Glossy photo interests of the family and other personalities enhance the text.
The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell
History readers and true crime aficionados will both find much to appreciate in this extensively researched yet accessible work about the murders of three men in 1964 Mississippi. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—two of them white, the other black—were civil rights workers encouraging African Americans to vote before they mysteriously disappeared and later found murdered. In his depiction of the events during “Freedom Summer” and the lengthy search for justice for the murdered workers, Mitchell provides a clear-eyed, thought-provoking look at social justice, then and now,  It will also make an excellent pairing for the older fans of Deborah Wiles’s Revolution.

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson
Through short, free-verse sonnets, the author paints a portrait of coming of age in the Civil Rights era, from the age of five until about 14. The poems reflect the Speaker’s increasing understanding and awareness of the world around her. Though Nelson is reluctant to claim the work as autobiographical, she also describes the work as “personal memoir, a ‘portrait of the artist as a young American Negro Girl'”. Regardless, it is an intimate, nuanced portrait or growing up in 1950s America.

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann 
Beautiful, haunting poems turn fairy tale tropes inside out to explore the expectation of society and self-doubts of young women.

BEST OF 2014: Favorite Middle-Grade/Tween Books

Five stunning works in verse and two unforgettable graphic memoirs are just the beginning of 2014’s wonderful offerings from middle-grade authors. My
personal favorite so far? I don’t think I can choose, although I might just love Hello, I’m Johnny Cash a tiny bit more than the others. I personally read and adored each of the books on the list except for one, which I haven’t yet read and was submitted by another staff member (thanks, Kirsten!).

So, without further ado, our favorite middle-grade titles of 2014 are:


The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Far more than “a basketball novel in verse,” The Crossover is an emotionally rich tale of  two twin brothers—middle school basketball stars—facing the first real challenge to their close relationship. As they struggle with their diverging interests and jealousy over a new girl, Josh also begins to worry about the secrets his parents may be keeping. The novel is told from the point of view of Josh, who is funny, talented, slightly immature, and wholly believable.  The Crossover is a kinetic tour de force that will leave readers cheering and probably a little teary eyed.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
In this ninth installment in the ever-popular Wimpy Kid series, Gregg Heffley and family hit the road for a trip that promises to be wild, crazy, and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Mo LoBeau and the crazy, loveable residents of Tupelo Landing are back, and I couldn’t be happier. The Newbery Honor–winning Three Times Lucky was one of my absolute  favorite books of 2012, and this book is a worthy follow up. Mo still has the same irrepressible charm as ever, and she and Dale have a new mystery to solve. The question is… Can the inn impulsively bought by Miss Lana really be haunted? And if so… Whose ghost is it and how can the new paranormal division of Desperado Detective Agency prove it?

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
A sixth-grader who appears to be male but who identifies with “girl” behaviors and , Grayson Sender believes it is safest to remain a friendless loner.  Grayson secretly pretends that basketball pants are a lovely flowing skirt and quietly doodles castles and princesses in class, disguising his drawings as abstract shapes only he can decode. Grayson doesn’t really know what all this means but just wants to be comfortable and quit repressing the inner feelings that are becoming increasingly persistent. Finally, with the help of a teacher and a few older classmates, Grayson finds the courage to finally be Grayson. This is an important, triumphant novel told respectfully and gracefully from Grayson’s point of view.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford
When a troop of unexpected visitors descend on the family inn, 12-year-old Milo is not pleased with the interruption to his winter holiday plans. But soon Milo and his new friend Meddy discover that the guests have secrets worth uncovering and launch a secret investigation. Woven throughout is the rich history of the inn—a haven for smugglers—and bits of folklore that may reveal more than anyone suspects. This is a rich, layered story with a bit of the fantastic. It’s a near- perfect  winter read.

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Twelve-year-old Rose is besieged by storms. There’s a literal hurricane headed her way and even with her difficulty gauging emotions, she can sense her father’s growing tension. Diagnosed with Asperger’s, Rose finds joy in prime numbers and homonyms and can talk about them endlessly. While her uncle Weldon and her dog Rain don’t seem to mind, her father and classmates easily grow tired of her obsession. But when Rain is lost in storm, Rose must step out of her comfort zone of rules and routines in order to locate her beloved dog. This is a nuanced story of devotion and bravery made memorable by a earnest, unique narrative voice.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
In this powerful and moving novel told through poems and pictures, a young Sudanese girl has her hopes shattered by armed militants who attack her village. Heartbroken after the attack, Amira loses her ability to speak until a simple gift helps her find joy and purpose.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
In small-town Mississippi during the summer of 1964, 12-year-old Sunny’s life is turned upside down by “agitators” and “invaders” who are encouraging African Americans to register for the vote. Her peaceful community is suddenly full of fear and violence, and Sunny becomes a witness to events she can barely understand. Revolution is a powerful novel that gives young readers an intimate glimpse into important history, but it is personalized by the everyday struggles of Sunny as navigates relationships with her new stepfamily and copes with feelings about the mother who abandoned her. The book appears thick an intimidating, but a number of the pages offer up a series of photographs, quotes, song lyrics, and news stories which provide context and enrich the story.
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
When Felicity Juniper Pickle arrives in her mother’s hometown of Midnight Gulch, she hopes that their small family can finally stay put in one place. Her secret hope is that a trace of the magic that once made Midnight Gulch famous will finally cure her mother’s need to travel. What Felicity finds is far more than she ever hoped—her first true friend, a family larger than she knew, and the secrets that just might lead to a renewal of magic in the town  if only she can find the key. Overflowing with lovable, eccentric characters and a folksy tone reminiscent of Ingrid Law’s Savvy, A Snicker of Magic is an exuberant, heartwarming novel that is magical indeed.
The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White
In a closed off community where magic is forbidden, 12-year-old Kara toils to care for her sickly brother and depressed father. Her mother was killed as a witch, and now that she has discovered that she has magic as well, Kara is terrified. And intrigued. With the discovery a magic book in the dangerous, forbidden forest, Kara turns her life—and then the village—upside down. Creepy and thrilling and a little bit scary, this is a truly engaging read about good and evil and belief in oneself. I already can’t wait for the promised sequel!
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Gripping storytelling weaves elements of folklore and fairy tales in with the tale of two sisters in 19th century Norway who are determined to find a better life together. When 13-year-old Astri is sold by her aunt to a villainous goat farmer, she vows to escape and reunite with her younger sister Greta. Astri is a compelling, resourceful heroine willing to do anything for her sister, and she refuses to regret the morally questionable choices she is forces to make.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Through her own recollections and the scattered memories of family members, a celebrated author shares her own childhood and her path to becoming a storyteller (or liar, as her mother called her as a child) and author. This is a lucid and eloquent memoir in poems that speaks to experiences both universal and personal.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
In this funny and heartwarming memoir, the author shares her personal experiences of growing up deaf. The artwork is expressive and engaging, brilliant in concept. As a character, CeCe is irrepressible and someone readers will root for all the way. 

Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis
Brief, anecdotal poems introduce readers to the story of the Harlem Hellfighters, two thousand black New Yorkers who served as musicians and legendarily brave soldiers in World War I France. While the text is engaging and frequently poignant, it is the haunting illustrations that truly make this work shine.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G, Neri
In this stirring biography, Neri (Ghetto Cowboy) presents the life story of Johnny Cash as Johnny himself might tell it. That is, if Johnny Cash were to speak in vivid, powerful free verse. Gorgeously rendered illustrations and explanatory back matter round out a truly special work.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Christian Robinson
Free-spirited verse, dynamic typography, and stunning acrylic illustrations celebrate a truly fascinating woman in this beautifully designed picture book biography.

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
An important piece of World War II history is related in a very personal way in this story of 50 men—mostly African Americans—who refused to load more ammunition onto ships after over 200 were killed in an explosion. It’s a powerful story of injustice, told accessibly and compellingly by the author of Bomb, one of our Best of 2012 picks.

Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow
In this fascinating tale of scientific discovery, Jarrow uses engaging text and striking archival photographs to tell the story of how a fatal illness that became disconcertingly prevalent in the South during the first half of the 19th century was identified and eventually eradicated. The the black, white, and deep red layout of text and images adds visual appeal to help sustain interest.
Sisters by Raine Telgemeier
In her follow-up to Smile, Telgemeier focuses on the ups and downs of her childhood relationship with her younger sister. The two are wildly different and have frequent battles, and yet they have one very important thing in common. Though there are frequent flashbacks to key moments, the narrative centers on a family road trip to attend a family reunion. The pacing, text, and expressive art are top-notch.

The Story of Buildings by Patrick Dillon
David Maccauley fans and aspiring architects will rejoice to discover this comprehensive, gorgeously illustrated history of buildings. The text is informative yet conversational, engaging readers from the first line and addressing everything from historical building practices across the world to notable buildings, past and present.

Strike! by Larry Dane Brimner
Compelling text, presented along with striking images and colorful sidebars, tells story of the American labor movement and creation of the United Farm Workers (UFW). It’s a tale of bravery and determination that begins not with Cesar Chávez but with the little-known story of  Filipino-American farm workers who jumpstarted the movement.

BEST OF 2014: Favorite Books for Young Readers

Over the course of the last few months, I read (and reread) over 200 titles in my
attempt to narrow down our picks for the best children’s books of 2014. Children’s
Programmer Allison and Beth, a wonderfully helpful member of our Circulation team, also helped narrow down the final choices. It was a tough decision, hence the Honorable Mention listed below. Anyway, without further ado, BCPL’s favorite 2014 books for young children are:

Picture Books (Fiction)

Any Questions? by Mary-Louise Gay
Through a series of questions, answers, and anecdotes, Gay provides a glimpse into her own writing process and encourages children to explore their creative instincts. This is a fun, interactive read featuring a story within a story and humorous interjections. Illustrations—including diverse children asking questions through speech bubbles and childlike drawings of the inner story developed throughout the book—wonderfully highlight the writing process and encourage children to ask their own questions.

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
This delightful picture book provides a wonderful way to explain to young children where babies come from while acknowledging the many conflicting stories they may have already heard or may hear later. In the book, a young boy is told by his parents that “a new baby is coming,” and after waiting patiently for a few days without a new arrival, he begins to question various family members and acquaintances. Sweetly gentle yet practical and modern, the text and illustrations combine to make a potentially confusing explanation both age-appropriate and accurate. An addendum at the end provides suggestions for dealing with common follow-up questions or to address special circumstances such as adoption.

Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors by Mark Newgarden & Megan Montague Cash
In Bow-Wow’s latest misadventure, he finds himself in a haunted house facing off with mischievous, ghostly cats that have taken off with his favorite doggy bed. The story is told through a series of graphic-novel style panels, but the bold splashes of color amidst a mostly gray background and a wonderful sense of movement provide an energy that belies the need for words. The ending is comfortably peaceful but leaves readers wondering—was the entire encounter a dream, or have the army of ghost cats simply descended on Bow-Wow’s home?

Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky
Moose—who first appeared in the delightfully silly alphabet book Z Is for Moose—is now taking on shapes! “Moose” may not have the same recognizable status in the shape world at stars or squares, but he will have a starring role before the end of the book if he has anything to say about it. More silly humor abounds in this fun follow-up, plus kids get to learn a bit about shapes, friendship, and compromise. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Draw! by Raúl Colón
In one of the most beautifully illustrated books of the year, Colón rewards readers with a wordless adventure through Africa and a celebration of the transporting power of art and imagination.

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
In this sweetly touching wordless tale, a grumpy, lonely farmer befriends a child clown who is accidentally left behind by a passing circus. The pencil and goache artwork, featuring stark landscapes and interiors, perfectly conveys the two unlikely companions’ emotions and growing bond as they spend time together.

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Christian Robinson
Gaston is an eager pup who tries very, very hard to fit in with his elegant poodle sisters and his sophisticated poodle mother. But on a trip to the park, he discovers another family of pups that looks much more like him and another puppy who looks a lot like his sisters. The mothers, too, notice the resemblances and both canine families must decide what makes a family. Energetic text and earth-tone paintings with a contemporary feel create a subtle, heartwarming, and funny story full of life, heart, and humor.
Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai
Last year, Hatsue Nakawaki’s Wait! Wait! was easily one of my favorite picture books of the year. In Hannah’s Night, that book’s illustrator lends the same sense of gentle intimacy and breathless exploration to her own story of a toddler’s late night adventure. I particularly love the spread where Hannah squats down by her cat, Shiro, after pouring him a dish of milk and pilfering cherries from the fridge for a midnight snack of her own.

Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan
In yet another fabulous wordless picture book, seven tiny, funny gnomes leave their village on an expedition. Along the way they must overcome obstacles of terrain and potential predators. Illustrations play with light and shadow to fantastical and comical effect, and children will be delighted when the purpose of the creatures’ dangerous journey is revealed. Through  the playful use of size and perspective, Nolan creates a world that will spark children’s imaginations.

The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc
When a wounded bird becomes stranded in the late autumn, a gentle, solitary lion decides to nurture the young bird. Throughout the course of the winter, the two become close friends, but separation is imminent as spring approaches. This is a sweet intimate story told with just a few carefully chosen words and softly colored illustrations. Thoughtful and lovely, the illustrations make ample use of white space to stunning effect. 

Naptime by Iris de Moüy
This naptime/bedtime story with a difference features a cadre of jungle animals who grouchily resist a young girl’s insistence that it is time for a nap. The animals’ refusals and excuses will be familiar, and the text and color-splotched sketches are full of emotion and humor despite their simplicity. It may not actually work as a bedtime story, but it is sure to mirror children’s own experiences in a fun and intriguing way.

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Short, sometimes overlapping stories combine to create this unique children’s alphabet book. Over-sized pages and interweaving stories and characters lend an expansive feel to the spare, four-page stories while equally spare drawings provide comical additions to the playfully absurd tales.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems
Pigeon is still in fine form in this tale. By now, fans can probably guess how the story will go, and yet the rapid-fire arguments, pleas, and excuses and the comical illustrations still feel fresh and all-too true.

Quest by Aaron Becker
In this magical, wordless follow-up to Journey, two children enter the door to a mystical realm on a mission to rescue a kidnapped king. Along the way, they encounter fabulous ruins and dodge evil soldiers, armed only with colored markers, quick thinking, and the power of their imaginations.
Read Tracy’s Review

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen
A simple story and quiet yet nuanced illustrations provide a wonderful exploration of teamwork and the magic of possibility. Observant children and parents will notice small differences in the before and after scenes which hint at a fantastical discovery, while Sam and Dave remain oblivious. Children will delight in the details and will likely want to provide their own advice on how Sam and Dave should continue their adventure. Children who love exploring or the joys of digging “just because” are sure to demand rereads.

Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
Big, blocky shapes, deep blues and violets, and jewel-tone accents are used to illustrate this comical caper of plans gone awry. A small band of night-time hunters are trying to net birds and other creatures but can never seem to succeed. The circular narrative will appeal to young readers and the oft-repeated catchphrase will inspire giggles at the next anticipated failure and perhaps start a new family saying.

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
After accidentally shattering their momma’s prize seashell, three young cubs—too terrified to fess up—decide to find a replacement instead. Their journey takes them across the ocean in a small sailboat, asking directions from (sort of) helpful strangers along the way. The illustrations are lush, vibrant, and simply gorgeous, and the bears’ personalities—delightfully conveyed through expression and subtle, human-like body language—shine. Both child and adult readers will hope to see many more adventures starring Dash, Charlie, and Theo.

Weasels by Elys Dolan
This off-the-wall picture book imagines a place in which weasels are secretly plotting to take over the world. Of course, first they must have a nice cup of coffee (they drink A LOT of coffee) and solve their technical difficulties. This is a fun and imaginative tale with lots of visual cues to help kids learn to pick up on important details and practice creative problem solving. Plus, these weasels are pretty darn funny in a harried, mad-scientist sort of way.

Honorable Mentions
The Animals’ Santa by Jan Brett
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, illus. by Johnathan Bean
Blizzard by John Rocco
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Brave Little Chicken, retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd
Breathe by Scott Magoon
Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Druthers by Matt Phelan
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
Flashlight by Liz Boyd
Give and Take by Chris Raschka
Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood 
How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob She, illus. by Lane Smith
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino, illus. by Isabelle Malenfant
My Teacher Is a Monster (No, I Am Not) by Peter Brown
Nancy Knows by Cybèle Young
Ninja! by Arree Chung
Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
Rupert Can Dance by Jules Feiffer
Sparky by Jenny Offill & Chris Appelhans
This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris & Tom Lichtenheld
What If…? by Anthony Browne

Picture Books (Nonfiction)

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash by Barb Rosenstock, illus. by S.D. Schindler
With alliterative text and varied typography, this “mostly true” story introduces youngsters to a young Benjamin Franklin, the scientific method, and the benefits of believing in oneself and one’s ideas despite naysayers. The watercolor and ink illustrations are joyful, and the back matter provides further inspiring details on Franklin’s accomplishments.

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illus, by Catia Chien
A successful conservationist relates his own story as a child stutterer who found comfort, purpose, and the inspiration to speak out through his love of animals. The artwork perfectly captures the boy’s loving spirit and combines with the text to deliver a resonant, sweet story that brought tears of empathy and joy to my eyes as the boy finds strength and solace in his beloved animals. The final scene, in which Alan as a young man encounters a jaguar in the wild, is simply breathtaking.

Creature Features by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
From cute to ugly to the truly bizarre, the authors explore some of the most unusual features of animals and in simple, light-hearted text explain the purpose of each.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illus. by Frank Morrison
With vibrant acrylic oil painting and mellifluous text, this is a captivating biography of a little known musician who dared to follow her dream despite gender expectations and racial discrimination. The words and illustrations wonderfully convey movement, music, and inspiration, and back matter provides further details on one of the lesser-known pioneering women of jazz.

The Right Word by Jen Bryant and illus. by Melissa Sweet
Brought to life with Sweet’s stunning mixed-media collages and a clear love of words themselves, this picture book biography of Peter Mark Roget celebrates the power of words and the joy found in pursuing your interests.

The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert
The author of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Color Zoo gives young readers a peek into her creative inspirations and book-making process using examples from her own works. Parents and educators will want to have plenty of scraps and found objects on hand so that the kids can create their own mixed media art after reading.

Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
An important story of desegregation and fighting for what is right is told through one family’s struggle to end the “Mexican schools” in California. Folk-inspired artwork celebrates Mexican and Latino heritage while the text clearly explains why segregation is wrong. 

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
This informational picture book maintains an impressive balance between Jefferson’s great achievements and some of the darker parts of his history. Though not recommended for very young children, it offers a great opportunity to begin a discussion of flawed “heroes” for slightly more mature picture book readers.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Biography meets tribute in this unusual, bilingual offering. Spare, evocative text and digitally enhanced images of three-dimensional art create a sense of mystery and revelation that gives insight to Frida Kahlo’s artistic vision and motivations rather that providing traditional biographical details.

Picture Book (Poetry)

Firefly July by Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Melissa Sweet
Through brief poems from the likes of William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Emily Dickinson, and others, this picture book takes readers through the seasons of a year. Some poems have more of an impact than others, but Sweet’s artful illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to give clues for any needed interpretation. Some of my favorites include the elephant-inspired island for “The Island,” the vibrant, mud-splatterd galoshes in “A Happy Meeting,” and the two-page spread of benevolent moon smiling down of the sparking sea of “Sea Trade” and an untitled poem by Emily Dickinson.

 Easy Chapter Books

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Dory has quite the imagination, and sometimes it drives her parents and older siblings mad. But she’s also irrepressible and completely lovable despite her crazy antics. Early chapter books usually leave me fairly indifferent, but this one is truly something special. It’s the first in a new series, and I already can’t wait for the next installment. Kids will love it.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo
In this new series tied to her popular Mercy Watson tales, Leroy Ninker decides that as a cowboy he needs a horse. Gleefully silly situations—such as a horse that gobbles up three pots of spaghetti—and gentle lessons in listening and consideration for others combine for a fun and amusing tale.

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst
Early chapter book readers up for a bit more of a challenge will enjoy this latest addition to the Lulu series. In this third title, the spoiled, tantrum throwing Lulu is faced with her biggest challenge yet: a no-nonsense babysitter. But, Lulu has a plan! Short chapters, abundant white space, appealing typography, clever foreshadowing, and a cumulative recitation will encourage readers to take on the challenge of more pages and some slightly more advanced vocabulary.
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
In this princess tale with a twist, the perfect, pink-wearing Princess Magnolia disguises herself as the Princess in Black—otherwise known as the PIB—to save innocent goats and fight off monsters who invade her kingdom. The only trouble is she has to make it back to the castle before a snooping duchess can uncover her secrets.The text is simple and presented in a large font for the very earliest chapter-book readers, and the illustrations are brightly colored and a bit tongue-in-cheek to compliment the text.

BEST OF 2014: Favorite Book Trailers

Happy New Year! As is our tradition here at Book News & Reviews, we are kicking off the new year with a look back on our favorite books of 2014. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting about our picks for the best books of the past year. First, though, we are sharing some of the great book trailers that have sparked our interest.

So without further ado, here are our favorite book trailers of 2014:

Honorable Mentions

Quest by Aaron Becker
I like the restrained animation, which allows the illustrations themselves to shine. Like the previous year’s trailer for Journey, this one gives just enough of a glimpse into the book to convey the magic and wonder to be found in Becker’s work. I also think that the music selection is spot on and wonderfully effective.

The Right Word by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Excellent narration, a short summary, and close-ups of Sweet’s artwork provide the perfect introduction to this nonfiction picture book.

Us by David Nichols
Short and sweet, but intriguing. I love the sense of movement and design.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
This trailer does a wonderful job of setting the scene and leaving us wondering what comes next, and I love the animation frames. Plus, the hazy green used throughout is a nice touch.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Creepy and intriguing.

by Kean Soo
A new trailer for an older release, this is a sweet and gentle animation of the graphic novel. The brief quotes and piano music provide the perfect accompaniment to the graphic novel panels and light animation.

Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Evoking the feel of classic film trailers, this one  certainly conveys the novel’s sense of adventure. Plus there’s the Sasquatch.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
The voice over is compelling, with just enough going on visually to add interest. Also, the shoes at the end are a nice touch and may have observant viewers wondering why they aren’t red.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
I love the silent-film style intro, the twisty sense of humor, and the wonderfully delivered narration.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Hakuri Murakami
The narration and animation work together seamlessly here, and the transitions between the changing geometric backgrounds are flawless.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
It’s intriguing enough—but then the kicker tagline at the end brings it to a whole new level and begs for a rewatch.

One More Thing by B.J. Novak
A high-concept book trailer centered on elitist French intellectuals may or may not work for some viewers, but when the snobby act crumbles, it’s hard not to crack a smile. Plus: fun guest star!

Now I See You by Nicole C. Kear
Dark comedy gets stylized animation treatment here and really makes me want to read Kear’s memoir. And the elevator music in the background? Nice touch.

Going Over Beth Kephart
This trailer is visually compelling from start to finish, and I love how the wall is used to display quotes at the end. The text provides just enough information to describe the plot and create interest.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Burnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
I love that Mac and Jon are following in their characters’ footsteps to dig a hole “because who doesn’t love digging a good hole every now and then.” Their antics—from digging to resting to playful bickering—are fun to watch in juxtaposition with key illustrations from the book. Like the book, the trailer shows teamwork, fun, and the joys of a job well done (even if no giant diamonds are discovered). Plus, the music is sort of stuck in my head now. In a good way.

The Magician’s Land by Neil Gaiman
I adore the concept behind this trailer. (See also: Poison Apples trailer.) Most of the readers are flawless in their delivery, and there is charm to be found in the less polished segments as well. And I love that the author “special guest stars” are interspersed with “regular,” anonymous readers, some of whom provide the most compelling deliveries of all.

The Top 5


The Thickety by J.H. White
Intense, dramatic, and ultimately intriguing. It sets the stage without giving anything away. Shortly after viewing the trailer, I went to search the library shelves for the book to check it out.


The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
This comical treatment of history adds interest to the more “serious” subject matter. I also enjoy the news-bulletin presentation, which makes historical events seem more relevant and interesting to potential teen readers.


Jesus Jackson by James Ryan Daley
The music, text, and video all work together perfectly. The pacing creates drama and tension, and the end leaves me wanting more and wondering why I haven’t yet read this book.


The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Talk about tension. This trailer does an amazing job of building a feeling of eerie paranoia which eager viewers will hope will translate into their reading experience.


Noggin by John Corey Whaley
This trailer seems almost like a movie trailer for a cool indie flick and perfectly communicates the offbeat tone of the novel. From the gushing office lady to the battered, camera-phone-wielding classmate, the quirky characterizations are intriguing. And the Matthew Quick quote gets me every time.

So, those are our favorites from 2014. If you want more great Book Trailers, please check out our Book Trailers and Other Videos board on Pinterest!

REVIEW: Quest by Aaron Becker

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Series: Journey Trilogy #2
Genre: Picture Book/Fantasy

Audience: Preschool–Grade 3

Summary: A king from a magical realm escapes into the ordinary world just long enough to meet two children in a seemingly ordinary city park. He gives them a map and the tools they need to rescue him just before several soldiers seize him and take him back through the door. After the king is recaptured, the intrepid kids find their way into the magical place and embark on a quest to free the king and lift darkness from the kingdom.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
Last year I raved about Aaron Becker’s Journey. It was one of my frontrunners for the 2014 Caldecott Medal, and I was thrilled when Becker nabbed an Honor for his majestic artwork. In Quest, our heroine and her new friend return for yet another journey into the wonderful kingdom of imagination and must face new challenges and dangers. But it is through quick thinking and teamwork that the kids overcome obstacles rather than confrontation or violence. Like Journey, Quest is a wonderful foray into creative problem solving and an ode to the twin powers of art and imagination.

The artwork here is more muted than the vivid landscapes of Journey, featuring a rain-drenched park, a dark kingdom under siege, and foreboding mountains. And yet the children are able to bring color into the world of gray. The scenes are rich and layered; the details of several scenes evoke the ancient temples and the ruins of different civilizations. There are also intriguing parallels between the the statuary of the real-world park and the children’s magical adventures. Observant or history-minded children will delight in examining the various scenes and are sure to tease out new details with each encounter. Tiny details are carried over from the first book while others hint at adventures still to come. The publisher blurb promises that fans will have one more addition to the series, and I am eager to experience the magical adventure that awaits!

Fall 2014 Giveaway Winners + Last-Chance Giveaway

And the winners are… *Drumroll, please*

  Holly-  Wild Rover No More, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Goat Woman of Largo Bay

  Kaci K- The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Book of Strange New Things, The Madman of Piney Woods, The Aviator’s Wife, Blowing on Dandelions

  Rebecca- The Cove, How to Be a Good Wife, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

  Jeannie- Frida & Diego, I Stand Corrected

  Sarah J.- The Saint, Saving Grace, Girl in the Garden

  Donna K.- The Greenglass House, The Aviator’s Wife

  Christin- The Beekeeper’s Ball, Love by the Morning Star, Blowing on Dandelions

  Beth- Buzz Kill

  Becky H.- The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends

….But wait! We still have several unclaimed books! Maybe you missed out on the giveaway the first
time around or simply didn’t list it as one of your selections in the
last round, but now’s your second chance to win!  Here are the titles up for grabs:

Glorious by Jeff Gunn
“Rising to a life of influence and wealth after a hard-luck youth
in late 19th-century Arizona Territory, Cash McLendon flees in the wake
of a tragedy and tries to win back the heart from a woman from his past
only to be targeted by his former father-in-law.” –NoveList

Silver People by Margarita Engle
“Fourteen-year-old Mateo and other Caribbean islanders face
discrimination, segregation, and harsh working conditions when American
recruiters lure them to the Panamanian rain forest in 1906 to build the
great canal.” –NoveList

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
“The Mighty Shandar returns to the Ununited Kingdoms and vows to eliminate the dragons once and for all — unless sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange and her sidekicks from the Kazam house of enchantment can bring him a legendary jewel: The Eye of Zoltar.” –NoveList


One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
“When Alek’s high-achieving, Armenian-American parents send him to
summer school, he thinks his summer is ruined. But then he meets Ethan,
who opens his world in a series of truly unexpected ways” –Publisher

Each book goes to the
first person to claim it with a comment below (be
sure to leave your e-mail address so I can arrange pickup!). Please only
choose one book per day, but if a title remains unclaimed the following
day, you may choose another title. Ready…

Fall Giveaway Update + New Giveaway Title!

Guess what I found on my doorstep yesterday? St. Martin’s Press sent me an Advance Reader’s Copy of Jane Green’s newest novel, Saving Grace, due for release on December 30, 2014!

Saving Grace seems to be a slight departure for this bestselling author of chicklit or women’s and domestic fiction. This one veers into the territory of psychological suspense. Check out the back-cover copy:

Literary power couple Ted and Grace Chapman are the envy of all who know them. But beneath the surface lies Ted’s temper and the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When they hire a new assistant, things begin to crumble, sending Grace on a dark journey that could cost her her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.

From the New York times bestselling author of Tempting Fate, comes a searing and emotionally charged novel about one woman’s search to find herself, and another woman’s obsession to make her disappear.

The description certainly caught my attention, and I thought that several of you might want the chance to read this before the late December release. So I decided to add it to our 2014 Fall Giveaway! As a result,  I have also extended the contest entry deadline until 12:00 AM on Wednesday, October 29th. For those who have already entered but would like a chance to add Saving Grace to their prize wish list, please just add a new comment to the original  Fall Giveaway Event blog post using the same post name and relisting your choices. Good luck!

Enter the 2014 Fall Giveaway Event! »

Fall 2014 Giveaway!

It’s time for another giveaway! This time around, I have Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of highly anticipated new releases, a few older ARCs, and several new,  finished copies of best-selling fiction titles.

As always, the rules of entry are at the end of the post. Please note that all prizes must be picked up at a BCPL location within two months of notification. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2014.   Update 10/15/14: Due to the addition of a new giveaway title, the contest has been extended until Wednesday, October 29, 2014!

So without further a do, here are our giveaways for Fall 2014:

Final Copies/Finished Publications:

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *

A story inspired by the marriage between Charles and Anne Morrow
Lindbergh traces the romance between a handsome young aviator and a shy
ambassador’s daughter whose relationship is marked by wild international
acclaim. –NoveList

Blowing on Dandelions by Miralee Ferrell
Love Blossoms in Oregon #2
* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *
Widow and single mother Katherine struggles to run her Oregon
boarding house by herself, but she learns to find the faith, wisdom, and
courage to transform her life and relationships when she meets widower
Micah Jacobs. –NoveList

The Cove by Ron Rash
* Trade Paperback *

Living deep within a cove in the Appalachians of North Carolina during
World War I, Laurel Shelton finally finds the happiness she deserves in
Walter, a mysterious stranger who’s mute, but their love can’t protect
them from a devastating secret. –NoveList

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Cormoran Strike #1
* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *

Private investigator Cormoran Strike has a day he’ll not soon forget.
The 35-year-old, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, spends the night in his
bare-bones London office after a relationship-ending fight with his
girlfriend. That morning, he sports a cut on his face (she threw an
ashtray) as he rushes out the door, barreling into a new temp secretary
he can’t afford, almost sending her down a staircase. The forgiving
temp, Robin, quickly proves useful when they get a case: a famous young
model supposedly jumped from the top of her penthouse apartment, but her
brother believes she was murdered. Entering the realm of the mega-rich,
Strike and Robin question celebrities and fashionistas, trying to
uncover the truth in a beautifully written book that was pseudonymously
written by none other than J.K. Rowling.  –NoveList

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
* Hardcover *
A conflicted young woman seeks clarity about her impending marriage by
remembering a childhood summer when she discovered a long-hidden secret
while visiting her mother’s ancestral home in an Indian village outside a
mysterious jungle. –NoveList

The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes
Shad Mysteries #1
* Trade Paperback *

Working at the side of an American employer who would rebuild a
Caribbean hotel, Shadrack, a bartender and amateur detective, encounters
a woman on
the run who is being targeted by a group of election riggers. By the
author of Business Is Good.  –NoveList
How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
* Hardcover *

In the tradition of Emma Donoghue’s Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go
to Sleep
, a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having
visions that make her question everything she knows. Marta and Hector
have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through
raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in
fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector.
He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she
can to be a good wife–as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by
Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day. But now, something is
changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of
her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of ablonde girl
in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to
remember–or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s
visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if
the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl
is growing more real every day, and she wants something.  –Publisher’s Description

Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), in order of publication:

Saving Grace by Jane Green
ARC – Book Release Date: December 2014

A literary power couple hides behind a carefree public face the
painful realities of the husband’s raging mood swings and the wife’s
past secrets until a too-good-to-be-true new assistant enters their
lives, with dangerous consequences.

Wild Rover No More by L.A. Meyer
Bloody Jack Adventures #12
* ARC – Book Release Date: November 2014 *

In 1809, just when it looks like Jacky Faber and her beloved Jaimy will
finally find their romance, Jacky is accused of treason and must flee
Boston while her friends attempt to clear her name. Of course that means
wild adventures for our fun-loving heroine, who manages to secure a job
as a governess–and run away with the circus. –Publisher’s Description

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
 *ARC –
Book Release Date: October 2014 *
Called to perform missionary work on a world light years away where the
natives are fascinated by the concepts he introduces, man of faith Peter
Leigh finds his beliefs tested when he learns of natural disasters that
are tearing Earth apart.  –NoveList

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
Chronicles of Kazan #3
* ARC – Book Release Date: October 2014 *

The Mighty Shandar returns to the Ununited Kingdoms and vows to eliminate the dragons once and for all — unless sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange and her sidekicks from the Kazam house of enchantment can bring him a legendary jewel: The Eye of Zoltar.  –NoveList

I Stand Corrected by Eden Collingsworth
* ARC –
Book Release Date: October 2014 *
A fascinating fusion of memoir, manners, and cultural history from a successful businesswoman well-versed in the unique challenges of working in contemporary China. During the course of her long and successful business career, no country has fascinated Eden Collinsworth more than China. After numerous business experiences that might best be called “unusual” by Western standards, she had a crucial insight: despite the growing status of China as a world economy and the unprecedented range of Chinese investments overseas, businessmen in mainland China–well-educated and speaking English–were fundamentally uncomfortable in the company of their Western counterparts. This realization spawned a Western etiquette guide for Chinese businessmen, which went on to be a huge best seller in China and formed the basis for new curriculum supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education. In I Stand Corrected, Collinsworth tells the story of the year she spent writing that book, creating a counterpart that both explains Chinese practices and reveals much about our own Western culture. She explores topics including the non-negotiable issue of personal hygiene; the rules of the handshake; making sense of foreigners; and that which is considered universally rude. She also scrutinizes some of the Western etiquette that has guided her own business career, one which has unfolded in predominately male company. At the same time, I Stand Corrected is a retrospective journey, a wry but self-effacing reflection on the peripatetic career she led while single-handedly raising her son. Like all parents, she didn’t always have answers, and here she details the many, often ludicrous, attempts to strike a balance that was right for both of them.  –NoveList

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
Companion to Elijah of Buxton

* ARC –
Book Release Date: September 2014 *
Even though it is now 1901, the people of Buxton, Canada
(originally a settlement of runaway slaves) and Chatham, Canada are
still haunted by two events of half a century before–the American Civil
War, and the Irish potato famine, and the lasting damage those events
caused to the survivors. 

The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling’s It List #2
* ARC –
Book Release Date: September 2014 *
Twelve-year-old Jessica Darling receives another cryptic list from her older sister, Bethany. While hosting a slumber party and planning a Halloween costume, Jessica tries to navigate the seventh grade social scene, with mixed results.  –Publisher’s Description

Greenglass House by Kate Milford
* ARC –
Book Release Date: August 2014 *
At Greenglass House,
a smuggler’s inn, twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son,
plans to spend his winter holidays relaxing but soon guests are arriving
with strange stories about the house sending Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, on an adventure.  –NoveList

Frida & Diego by Catherine Reef
* ARC –
Book Release Date: August 2014 *
A biography exploring the tumultuous lives, marriage, and work of the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is illustrated with archival photos and full-color reproductions.  –NoveList

The Saint by Tiffany Reisz
The Original Sinners #5
* ARC –
Book Release Date: July 2014 *
Eleanor is determined to break from her Catholic upbringing, but
when her life is saved by a priest she offers him complete obedience and
enters into a world of desire as he reveals his deepest secrets to her.  –NoveList

The Beekeeper’s Ball by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista #2
* ARC –
Book Release Date: June 2014 *
While transforming Bella Vista, her childhood home, into a
destination cooking school, chef Isabel Johansen finds her plans
interrupted by war-torn journalist Cormac O’Neill who has arrived to dig
up old history.  –NoveList
Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan
* ARC –
Book Release Date: June 2014 *
Mistaken for one another when they are sent to the grand English country
estate of Starkers on the brink of World War II, Hannah, a distant
relative hoping to be welcomed by the family, and Anna, sent to spy for
the Nazis, both unexpectedly fall in love.  –NoveList

Glorious: A Novel of the American West by Jeff Gunn
* ARC –
Book Release Date: May 2014 *
Rising to a life of influence and wealth after a hard-luck youth in late
19th-century Arizona Territory, Cash McLendon flees in the wake of a
tragedy and tries to win back the heart from a woman from his past only
to be targeted by his former father-in-law.  –NoveList

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
* ARC –
Book Release Date: May 2014 *
When Alek’s high-achieving, Armenian-American parents send him to
summer school, he thinks his summer is ruined. But then he meets Ethan,
who opens his world in a series of truly unexpected ways.  –NoveList

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey
* ARC – Book Release Date: May 2014 *
Seventeen-year-old Millie joins forces with her classmate,
gorgeous but mysterious Chase Colton, to try to uncover who murdered
head football coach “Hollerin’ Hank” Killdare–and why.  –NoveList

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft
* ARC – Book Release Date: April 2014 *
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family.  –Publisher’s Description

Silver People by Margarita Engle
* ARC – Book Release Date: March 2014 *
Fourteen-year-old Mateo and other Caribbean islanders face
discrimination, segregation, and harsh working conditions when American
recruiters lure them to the Panamanian rain forest in 1906 to build the
great canal.  –NoveList

Crossover by Kwame Alexander
* ARC – Book Release Date: March 2014 *
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with
highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his
declining health.  –NoveList

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
* ARC – Book Release Date: January 2014 *
Ophelia, a timid eleven-year-old girl grieving her mother, suspends her disbelief in things non-scientific when a boy locked in the museum where her father is working asks her to help him complete an age-old mission.  –NoveList

Rules of Entry

1. To enter the drawing, you must complete two tasks
First, you must leave a comment at the bottom of this post
stating which ARCs you would like to receive. If you do not leave a
comment at the bottom of the post, I will not know which prize(s) to
give you if you win the drawing. You may choose up to ten titles; you
are not guaranteed to win your top choices, but I do my best. Second, you must log in to the Rafflecopter Widget with your e-mail address or Facebook account and Click
“+1” and
“Enter” on the widget only after you have posted your comment below. After
completing the first task, you can also earn bonus entries by following
the directions in the widget

2.  All ARCs must be picked up at a Bullitt County Public Library location. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Updated 10/15/14: October 29, 2014. Winners will be notified via e-mail and will be posted on this blog. Winners will have up to two months from the time of notification to colllect their prizes.

Rafflecopter Widget: Enter the Giveaway Drawing Here
(Don’t forget to leave your comment in the Comments section below!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

GUEST REVIEW: The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls

Tonight we have a special guest review from a new library employee! But Donna isn’t new to Book News & Reviews; in 2012, when we Donna was simply a library patron, she contributed reviews of Home at Last by Bonnie Leon and Siobhan Fallon’s linked short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone. Glad to have you back, Donna!

Donna’s Rating:4/5 Stars
Genre: Mainstream Fiction/Love Story
Audience: Adult

Summary: Thirty-something Bess Gray despairs of ever finding “the one.” Then she meets a charming Irish musician and becomes instantly smitten. After a couple of months of dating he proposes. The problem? Rory has already been married EIGHT times before. Before deciding whether to follow her heart and leap all in, Bess embarks on a journey to meet each of the past wives and learn where Rory’s past marriages went wrong.

Donna’s Review:
It took a little bit to get used to the jumping back and forth from the his and her viewpoints during the reading of this book. Once I got past that, the story did stick its fangs into me. It kept me coming back for more. I wanted to know all about the hows and whys of Rory’s eight wives. How in the world did he end up being married that many times? More than one is not that uncommon in modern times, but eight?

I liked getting to see Rory mature with each of his wives, what could have been just relationships if not for his very giving and romantic nature. I also liked seeing how Bess came to terms with each of them, as she definitely wanted to know about each of them. As we women all do, she wanted to see if each one was prettier than her, smarter than her, etc. Bess’s grandparents and gay friend, Cricket, liven up the main story line.They show the  reader there are always different shades of gray in relationships.

I think the end could have gone either way, or any way, and I don’t want to spoil it for you! The whole story, and for me, Bess’s thoughts, were something that any woman would want to think about. Every woman wants to know about her predecessors and sometimes ends up finding out too much about them. This book might change the way some women think about finding out too much information. In my opinion, this book is a 4-star read. It is funny, sad, and has much romance to offer while showing the loneliness and vulnerability of people, whether single or in a relationship.

Are you interested in contributing a guest review to Book News & Reviews?

  • We encourage BCPL patrons and members of the community to share thoughts on what they are reading and welcome guest reviews. Find details here.  
  • Or, if you would like to share your favorite recent reads but think writing a full review is too much trouble, join our What Do You Recommend? collaborative board on Pinterest!

REVIEW: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1
Format: Audiobook/Book on CD
Genre: High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult/Adult Crossover

Summary: Exiled from his homeland after the royal family was slaughtered and a dying woman cursed the land, Finnikin is determined to find a new home for his people. He was only a child at the time of the murders of his friend Prince Balthazar and the rest of the royal family, but Finnikin struggles with feelings of guilt related to a cryptic prophecy. Then he meets a young novice who goes by the name of Evanjalin who says the prince lives and there is hope of reclaiming Lumitare from the impostor king who butchered the royal family. Finnikin is skeptical, but Evanjalin remains stubbornly committed to her course and the two set off on a mission that take them across kingdoms, collecting allies and exiles along the way back to Lumitare.

First Line: “When it finally appeared in the distance, Finnikin wondered if it was some phantom half-imagined in this soulless kingdom at the end of the world.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
This novel has been on my to-read list since its publication in 2010, and I’m kicking myself now for not reading it sooner. Of course, having waited, I have the added benefit of not having to wait a year for each of the sequels to be released. So if I look at it that way, perhaps I did myself a favor because now I can’t wait to begin Froi of the Exiles!

I listened to this book on audio, and initially I thought I would never get through it. The novel jumps straight into the action and provides key back story right away, and all of the places, characters, and relationships were a little overwhelming. Unlike with a traditional book, it wasn’t easy to flip back several pages as a reference point. I think this is a recurring issue for me with rich fantasy series like this one or Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, but at least with A Game of Thrones I had the TV show to orient myself (yes, I was late to the game there too). Here I was on my own, but within the first few chapters I was utterly hooked and gradually the pieces came together. Of course, there were still plenty of intentional plot twists and turns to keep me guessing. I usually listen to my audiobooks in the car, and more than once I sat in my driveway listening long after arriving home, absorbed in a particularly well-written passage.

In Finnikin of the Rock, Marchetta introduces a world rich with intrigue and secrets, where characters are far more than they first appear. Most of them are wonderfully complicated, both light and dark. Take the secondary character of Froi, for example. Froi is a young thief with a bad attitude and no outward compassion or loyalty toward his fellow man. He is crude and mocking, and yet he also gradually shows redeeming qualities that make readers care about him even as they are appalled by his actions. Marchetta does an excellent job showing the toll Lumatere’s terrible history (aka the Five Days of the Unspeakable) and subsequent curse has taken on its people, and no one embodies this better than Froi, although the story of Finnikin’s father Trevanion and Lady Beatrice is heartwrenching.

Though the novel is published as YA and does not have any particularly graphic scenes, it has a very adult sensibility in that it deals frankly with issues like violence, rape, and sex. The violence of war is neither glossed over nor glorified, and the characters act like real people rather than one-dimensional archetypes. Marchetta’s world-building is well done and the various kingdoms and their history have me intrigued to learn more. Like A Song of Ice and Fire, the series has a historical-style setting with hints of magic, but this is a fantasy series that will appeal even to readers who generally don’t like fantasy. The magic here is more mystical than fantastical, and the storytelling is wonderfully compelling.

For readers like me, it may take a bit of patience to become acclimated to the world of Finnikin and Evanjalin—not to mention sorting out all the different characters. But the effort is well worth it. I can’t wait to visit Lumitare and its inhabitants once again and am looking forward to discovering more about the treacherous kingdom of Charyn, which, like Marchetta’s characters, will likely be far more nuanced and surprising than we might expect.

2-for-1 REVIEW: The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden and The Redemption of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

So, lately I’ve been on a New Adult reading kick. A patron request for college-age romances prompted me to create a new board on our Pinterest site all about New Adult fiction (and a handful of memoirs), and then I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself. I had already read Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster and Tammara Webber’s Easy, all key titles in the newly popular category and all books that I enjoyed. But there were lots of other notable New Adult authors that I hadn’t read, and I felt it would be a good idea to expand my knowledge a bit. Hence the recent reading spree. Jessica Sorensen’s Coincidence series is just one of my new finds, but be assured I have more to share about New Adult fiction in another upcoming post.

Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: “Life is full of luck, like getting dealt a good hand or simply being in the right place at the right time. Some people get luck handed to them, a second chance, a save. It can happen heroically, or by a simple coincidence, but there are those who don’t get luck on a shiny platter, who end up at the wrong place at the wrong time, who don’t get saved.”

Tracy’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: “I want to breathe.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
First off, these books are in desperate need of the services of a good copyeditor. Initially, I thought the punctuation errors and unfortunate uses of “one’s” in place of what should be a simple plural construction “ones” would drive me to tear my hair out. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes. But despite the flaws, Jessica Sorensen’s saga of Callie and Kayden is compulsively readable.

Callie is a loner with a dark secret and a fear of being touched by others. When she was younger, she suddenly chopped off all her hair and started wearing baggy clothes. At least her family found the transformation sudden and inexplicable, and now, years later, they continue to be puzzled by her “difficult” behavior and social isolation. To outsiders, Kayden is the all-American boy, a football jock with decent grades, a tendency to party, and a hot cheerleader girlfriend. But, like Callie, he has secrets.

When Callie accidentally witnesses Kayden at his lowest and steps out of her self-imposed isolation to save him, Kayden realizes there is more to the high-school “freak” than he imagined. And Callie sees that Kayden apparently has his own demons, though at that point she has only the barest hint of the full truth. In the moment that Callie saves Kayden and in those that follow immediately after, they forge a a strange connection, though neither chooses to pursue it. But when they meet again on their new college campus, Kayden is determined to discover more about the girl who saved him and—perhaps—changed him forever. For her part, Callie remains skittish, although a recent friendship has given her the courage to take chances (for Callie, even small things like wearing the color red and growing out her hair are a hurdle) that would have seemed impossible before.

There is little mystery for the reader about Callie’s and Kayden’s secrets, but it was fascinating to see how these two damaged characters were able to build the trust necessary to confide in one another. That isn’t to say that everything is neatly wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. Love doesn’t suddenly make all of Callie and Kayden’s problems go away; it simply makes them more confident and thus more able to cope with their respective troubles. But even then, there are setbacks. In fact, the cliffhanger ending of the first book may mangle the expectations of more than one happily-ever-after romantic.

This is an angsty, emotional read that may veer too close to melodrama for some readers, but for those who like love stories with LOTS of baggage (even Callie and Kayden’s friends have some serious baggage of their own, though it remains in the background through both of these novels), this series may be perfect. That is, if the reader can overlook the comma splices, typos, and grammatical errors on every other page or so. I’m a bit of a grammar stickler, but the emotional intensity and occasionally striking imagery went a long way toward calming my irritation. For example, something about the description of one character’s fight-bruised face as a “lumpy blueberry” struck me as absolutely perfect.

So if you are a fan of college-age stories like A Beautiful Disaster and don’t mind iffy proofreading and heavy doses of angst, then I suggest you give Callie and Kayden’s story a try. A third book focusing on the duo, The Resolution of Callie & Kayden, is expected to be released on September 30th.

GUEST REVIEWS: Picture Book Flash Reviews

We have a couple of firsts for you today at Book News & Reviews! Today we are featuring our first reviews from BCPL’s very own Ms. Cheryl as well as our first child-submitted review. Five-year-old Tabitha Beck is a soon-to-be first grader, a HUGE Dora fan, and a patron at our Lebanon Junction Library location. She graciously chose to share her thoughts with us about one of her favorite books, which she has read many times.


Charlie Goes to School
by Ree Drummond

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl’s Rating: 5/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 4–8
I am a big fan of Ree Drummond and couldn’t wait to read her children’s book. Charlie is the main character and is a Bassett Hound. The book is written from his perspective. Charlie starts off the story at the beginning of his day with how he “helps” out all the human family members. Then he discovers school and wants to have a school for all the animals on the farm. Things do not go well, and Charlie eventually gives up and takes a much needed nap. The author writes a very fun and engaging story and the illustrator did a fantastic job of illustrating the book. I really enjoyed looking at the pages and all the little characters on each page.

The Worst Princess
by Anna Kemp

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl’s Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 3–7
This book was a quick and fun read. It has rhyming words and a funny twist to the typical “Happily Ever After” princess story. The princess is a bit more adventurous than your average princess, so she is very excited when her brave and wonderful prince finally comes along. Only this prince wants his princess at home being happy with her clothes and castle. Throw in a naughty dragon that comes to the princess’s rescue, and you have a great read.

Show Me Your Smile:
A Visit to the Dentist

by Christine Ricci

Reviewer: Tabitha Beck
Tabitha’s Rating: (Rating not provided, but we’re guessing Tabitha gives it a 5 out of 5!)
Audience: Everyone (Publisher recommends ages 3–5)
This is a Dora book and I love Dora, the Explorer. In this book Dora goes to the dentist and I learned that it’s not that scary. I would recommend this book to anyone to read. It’s good to go to the dentist because if you don’t take care of your teeth, you won’t be able to eat. The dentist helps you keep your teeth healthy and keep your smile beautiful. I love this book.

REVIEW: Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Suspense/Crime Fiction
Audience: Adult

Summary: Recently widowed and still haunted by the death of his son decades ago in Vietnam, Sheldon Horowitz is an impatient and crotchety old man. He’s a little depressed and feels alone now that all of his friends and family are dead except for his granddaughter Rhea. Believing her grandfather suffers from dementia, Rhea has convinced Sheldon to move to Oslo to live with her and her Norwegian husband. Sheldon finds the laid-back attitude of the Norwegian people incomprehensible and persists in sharing his oddball philosophical musings, thus calling his mental state into further question. Then he witnesses the murder of his Serbian neighbor and goes on the lam with her young son, believing it is the only way to protect the boy from Kosovar gangsters. Rhea and the police inspector, Sigrid Ødegård, think Sheldon has suffered a mental break, but could Sheldon’s unusual actions be more wily than anyone could guess?

First Lines:
“It is summer and luminous. Sheldon Horowitz sits on a folding director’s chair, high above the picnic and out of reach of the food, in a shaded enclave in Oslo’s Frogner Park.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
In his debut novel, Miller offers a completely different take on the Scandinavian crime fiction wave popularized by authors like Larsson, Mankell, Nesbø, Fossum, and Läckberg. Critically acclaimed but under the radar of most readers, Norwegian by Night was named by both Kirkus Reviews and The Guardian as one of the best crime novels of 2013. It’s not your typically plot-centered crime novel—though there are some definite machinations and exciting bits. Instead, its focus is on Sheldon’s inner thoughts and his path to redemption. Now that he has taken responsibility for this young boy, Sheldon is reminded more than ever of his son and sees this “final mission” as a way to do something that matters again and to atone for what he sees as his own culpability in his son’s death.

You see, Sheldon was a marine sniper in Korea and has felt useless ever since. That is, if you believe Sheldon’s latest story. On previous occasions, he always told his late wife and granddaughter a different story of his time in Korea. Sheldon, with his visions and inconsistent stories, is a bit of an unreliable narrator. Both reader and the characters in the book are left to wonder whether Sheldon is
truly senile or if he’s just crazy sharp, with a unique way of looking at the world. In a way, despite the fact that the protagonist is 82 years old, Norwegian by Night could be considered a coming of age novel—or perhaps a coming to terms with age novel.

Sheldon is a fascinating and insightful character, with plenty of foibles and flaws to add interest. And his journey is incredibly relatable despite the unusual circumstances. Though some of the other characters—Rhea and her husband Lars, for example—could do with some fleshing out, some of the secondary characters are also quite intriguing. Sigrid serves as a wonderful contrast to Sheldon, and some of her conversations also provide unexpected humor to the largely reflective narrative. Take this dryly comical phone conversation with her father:

     “Have you met a nice man yet?”
     Sigrid nods. “I’d been meaning to tell you. I got married and had three sons.”
    “That’s wonderful news.”
    “Huey, Dewey, and Louie. They’re delightful, but have speech impediments and very short legs.”

Some of the scenes with Sigrid were my absolute favorites in the novel, particularly the Psycho bit (saying anything more could prove too much of a spoiler). And although the crime plot was somewhat understated, I was fascinated (and appalled) by some of the insight into Serbian/Kosovar hostilities and the cycle of violence. The contrast of different nationalities and ethnicities—Norwegian, American, Jewish, Serbian, Kosovar—and their effects on various characters’ way of life and way of thinking elevate a simple plot into something far more.

Norwegian by Night is a a quiet thriller with literary bones. Despite a few lengthy expositions and a somewhat ambiguous ending, it offers something different and interesting to the crime fiction genre as it addresses a number of important issues—war, personal and ethnic identity, and aging—with compassion, insight, and humor.

Spring 2014 Giveaway Winners + Last Chance Giveaway

And the winners are…
# 46  Margaret
# 53  Bambi B.
# 98  Stacie Downs
# 7 Britt A.
# 81 Tara
# 2  Britt A.
# 102  Stacie Downs
# 93  Tara
# 60  KarynsPlanit
# 83  Tara
# 74  Tara
# 34  Jada Redmon
# 12  Britt A.
# 39  Jada Redmon
#79 Tara

It looks like those bonus entries really paid off for some of you this time around! 🙂

….But wait! We still have one unclaimed book. For those of you who didn’t win, Mother, Daughter, Me by Katie Hafner
is now up for grabs. Maybe you missed out on the giveaway the first time around or simply didn’t list it as one of your selections in the last round, but now’s your second chance to win! The book goes to the
first person to leave a comment below (be
sure to leave your e-mail address so I can arrange pickup!)


REVIEW: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Series: Splintered #1

Alyssa grew up knowing that she is a descendant of Alice Liddell—the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s classic—and that the women in her family all eventually go crazy. Case in point: Alyssa’s mother is in a mental ward, and her grandmother killed herself by jumping out a window in a misguided attempt to fly. She’s the target of jokes at school and secretly terrified she will end up just like her mom; given her strange dreams and those pesky voices she hears, it’s no wonder. After all, teenage girls aren’t supposed to hear the constant, dire whisperings of plants and insects. At sixteen, Alyssa’s not ready to end up in a padded cell of her own, so she keeps the voices to herself and chooses to ignore them.

Then everything Alyssa ever believed about herself and her family is flipped upside down. Turns out, Alice’s adventures were (more or less) true. And now, because of the havoc Alice caused in Wonderland over a century ago, Alyssa’s family is cursed. At least, that is what she is told by Morpheus, a darkly seductive, otherworldly boy who seems eerily familiar. Prodded by the mysterious boy, Alyssa finds her way to Wonderland, where she must navigate a world far more dangerous than Carroll’s tale let on and undo the damage Alice left in her wake. Jeb, Alyssa’s childhood friend and secret crush, also comes along for the ride.

First Lines:
“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
First, I want to say that the covers for this series are gorgeous and perfectly suited to the stories. Bold and vibrant with a creepy edge, they reflect the cinematic, almost Tim Burtonesque quality that makes Howard’s Splintered novels so appealing. Here, Wonderland and its characters are familiar and yet darker, topsy-turvy in a completely new way. The reimagining of the Caterpillar, in particular, was a stroke of brilliance. Also, the faerie-like characters seem so naturally suited to Wonderland it is easy to forget they were not a part of Carroll’s original story. Howard’s Wonderland has a twisted, more mature vibe, but the surreal whimsy of the original tale remains in full effect. There is a gleeful madness here, but always the reader is aware that the madness could turn deadly.

As is expected in a YA fantasy novel, there is a love triangle between Alyssa, Morpheus, and Jeb. Morpheus, with his less-than-forthcoming instructions to Alyssa, his hidden agendas, and his constant air of flirtation, is a fascinating character. Like Wonderland, he repulses Alyssa even as she is drawn to him. Jeb, on the other hand, remains Alyssa’s tie to the love, comfort, and relative sanity of the human world. But Jeb isn’t all lightness and perfection either; frankly, his early reactions to Alyssa’s obvious feelings seemed oblivious at best and almost cruel at times. But boy oh boy, does he make up for it! The book strongly
reminds me of Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey
series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely books—and not just because of the romantic triangle.

My favorite part, though, it that the focus is not on Alyssa’s romantic tangles. Instead, Splintered is a novel about a fish-out-of-water girl who discovers her true self and must then choose what self she wishes to be in the future. It is all about choice and self-discovery—all with the awesomely vivid, creeptastic backdrop of Wonderland.

, the sequel to Splintered, was published in January 2014 (review to come soon!) and just happens to be one of the titles up for grabs in our latest giveaway event! The giveaway ends at 12:00 a.m. this coming Wednesday (May 30th), so if you’d like your own copy of Unhinged, you’ll want to enter the drawing ASAP!

GUEST REVIEW: Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries by David Levinthal and John Nickle

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book/Humor/Mystery/Fractured Fairy Tales
Audience: Ages 4–8

First lines: “There are eight million stories in the forest. This is one of them.”

Allison’s Guest Summary & Review:
With a title like this, I couldn’t help picking up this read. Officer Binky is a fun character, rife with all the characteristics of a gumshoe detective, who investigates the crimes occurring in five fairy tale classics. Kids will be familiar with these stories, retold afresh without reinvention, and complete with tongue in cheek references. But children will also be enthralled by Levinthal’s artwork–an appealing acrylic montage. All in all, this was a fun read, which should keep kids laughing!

Spring 2014 Giveaway!

Now that it looks like spring is here to stay—rain and all!—it’s time for our annual Spring Giveaway here on Book News and Reviews. Although I don’t have as many titles up for grabs as in some of our past giveaways, I do have some really, really good ones this go-around. Several are even still months away from their publication date, so this is truly an opportunity to read what could be the next big thing before it is discovered by everyone else!

As always, the rules of entry are at the end of the post. Please note that all prizes must be picked up at a BCPL location. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. 

Here are the titles I have available:

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (August 2014)
It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always
quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’
adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy
night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings
again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive
guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to
the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo
and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web
of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and
themselves. –Publisher’s Summary
Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef (August 2014)

controversial, rebellious, and politically volatile, the Mexican
artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are remembered for their
provocative paintings as well as for their deep love for each other.
Their marriage was one of the most tumultuous and infamous in
history—filled with passion, pain, betrayal, revolution, and, above all,
art that helped define the twentieth century. Catherine Reef’s inspiring and
insightful dual biography features numerous archival photos and
full-color reproductions of both artists’ work. –Publisher’s Summary
Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan (June 2014)
Upstairs, downstairs, and in which lady’s chamber?
   On the brink of World War II, two girls are sent to the grand English
country estate of Starkers. Hannah, the half-Jewish daughter of a
disgraced distant relative, has been living an artistic bohemian life in
a cabaret in pre-war Germany and now is supposed to be welcomed into
the family. Anna, the social-climbing daughter of working-class British
fascists, is supposed to be hired as a maid so that she can spy for the
Nazis. But there’s a mix-up, and nice Hannah is sent to the kitchen as a
maid while arrogant Anna is welcomed as a relative.
   And then both girls fall for the same man, the handsome heir of the estate . . . or do they?
  In this sparkling, saucy romance, nearly everything goes wrong for two
girls who are sent to a grand English estate on the brink of World War
II—until it goes so very, very right!
–Publisher’s Summary
Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau (June 2014)
Testing Trilogy #3
In a scarred and brutal future,
The United Commonwealth teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. The
rebel resistance plots against a government that rules with cruelty and
cunning. Gifted student and Testing survivor, Cia Vale, vows to fight. But she can’t do it alone.
This is the chance to lead that Cia has trained for – but who will
follow? Plunging through layers of danger and deception, Cia must risk
the lives of those she loves—and gamble on the loyalty of her lethal
classmatesThe stakes are higher than ever—lives of promise cut short or fulfilled;
a future ruled by fear or hope—in the electrifying conclusion to Joelle
Charbonneau’s epic Testing trilogy. Ready or not…it’s Graduation Day.

The Final Test is the Deadliest!  –Publisher’s Summary
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman (June 2014)
In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled
by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets
for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side
of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian
ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness.
As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own
destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named
Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly,
she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen” —
doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television
Lillian’s rise to fame and fortune
spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of
American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio
54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona
she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent,
she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an
ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.   –Publisher’s Summary
Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (May 2014)
To Bee or not to Bee? When the
widely disliked Honeywell Stingers football coach is found murdered,
17-year-old Millie is determined to investigate. She is chasing a lead
for the school newspaper – and looking to clear her father, the
assistant coach, and prime suspect.

Millie’s partner is gorgeous, smart—and keeping secrets
Millie joins forces with her mysterious classmate Chase who seems to want to help her even while covering up secrets of his own.
She’s starting to get a reputation…without any of the benefits.
Drama—and bodies—pile up around Millie and she chases clues, snuggles
Baxter the so-ugly-he’s-adorable bassett hound, and storms out of the
world’s most awkward school dance/memorial mash-up. At least she gets to
eat a lot of pie.
Best-selling author Beth Fantaskey’s funny, fast-paced blend of Clueless and Nancy Drew
is a suspenseful page-turner that is the best time a reader can have
with buried weapons, chicken clocks, and a boy who only watches gloomy
movies…but somehow makes Millie smile. Bee-lieve it.

 –Publisher’s Summary

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn (May 2014)

As the only
heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and
privilege, not living in exile—but now the time has come when she must
choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king
wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild
dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.
Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by a Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make. 
–Publisher’s Summary
Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft (April 2014)
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the
eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game
featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do
with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in
his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes
readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of
New Mexico’s outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in
the wake of unbearable loss. –Publisher’s Summary
Cold Calls by Charles Benoit (April 2014)

Three high school students—Eric, Shelly, and Fatima—have one thing in common: “I know your secret.
Each one is blackmailed into
bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who
whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over
their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this
buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the
stranger who threatens them—before time runs out and their shattering
secrets are revealed . . .
This suspenseful, pitch-perfect mystery-thriller raises timely questions about privacy, bullying, and culpability.  –Publisher’s Summary
Crossover by Kwame Alexander (March 2014)

a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is
DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,

announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother
Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in
his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in
verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and
brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).
   Josh and Jordan must come
to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the
rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax
proves a game-changer for the entire family.  –Publisher’s Summary
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle (March 2014)
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama
Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled
America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path
of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy
thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under
the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.
   From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the
Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the
story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever
undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could
tell it.  –Publisher’s Summary
Unhinged by A.G. Howard (January 2014)
Splintered #2 (Warning: Summary contains possible SPOILERS for Splintered)
Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of
the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the
boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly
appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate high school.
That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an
asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much
simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to
tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging
Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man
she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her
to do what’s right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to
Howard’s bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll’s classic. 

–Publisher’s Summary
Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner (2013)
A health and technology journalist documents
the author’s efforts to promote family bonds and healing during a
haphazard year spent sharing a home in San Francisco with her
complicated octogenarian mother and teenage daughter.   –NoveList
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver (2013)
Visited by a high-powered attorney who has initiated a clemency petition on her behalf and who is also the mother of her victim, death-row inmate Noa is slowly persuaded to share the events surrounding the murder in spite of her reluctance to reveal the whole story or have her life extended.   –NoveList
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (2012)
His Fair Assassin #1
In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Brittany, seventeen-year-old Ismae
escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of
the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that the god of Death has
blessed her with dangerous gifts–and a violent destiny.  –NoveList

Rules of Entry

1. To enter the drawing, you must complete two tasks
First, you must leave a comment at the bottom of this post
stating which ARCs you would like to receive. If you do not leave a
comment at the bottom of the post, I will not know which prize(s) to
give you if you win the drawing. You may choose up to five titles; you
are not guaranteed to win your top choices, but I do my best. Second, you must log in to the Rafflecopter Widget with your e-mail address or Facebook account and Click
“+1” and
“Enter” on the widget only after you have posted your comment below. After
completing the first task, you can also earn bonus entries by following
the directions in the widget

2.  All ARCs must be picked up at a Bullitt County Public Library location. Winners will be notified via e-mail and will be posted on this blog. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

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REVIEW: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story
Audience: Teen/Young Adult
Format: Audiobook (CD)

Summary: Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death narrates the story of Liesel, a young German girl who is eking out a meager existence for herself by thievery when she encounters something she can’t resist—books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares stories to help sustain her neighbors during bombing raids.

Tracy’s Thoughts:
I was expecting a lot from this book, and it’s possible that my lower-than-expected rating stems from my slightly disappointed reaction. As always with audiobooks, I also have to wonder whether I would have had the same reaction had I read it in print format. In this case, I don’t think so. The narration was wonderfully done. The reader—his intonations, emotions, and accent—perfectly captured the amiable yet distant voice of Death.

As to the narrative conceit in and of itself, I am somewhat conflicted. In some ways, I felt that to write a book from the (mostly) dispassionate POV of Death was quite clever. This distance and perspective add a wider scope to the narrative, allowing readers to gain a bit of context that adds to the central story of Liesel, Max, Rudy, Rosa, and Hans. For example, I liked gaining insight into what happened to thief-leader Arthur Berg after he left Molching. The conceit also allows for a first-person account of the larger atrocities and wide-scale deaths in the camps, information that would be lacking if Liesel were the narrator. But with that said, the constant foreshadowing quickly grew annoying. I really think it is unnecessary and at times even detrimental to the flow of the story. As I listened to the audio, I also I wondered at Death’s detailed knowledge of Liesel’s story. I recall a statement at one point that he wasn’t always present, cannot know everything, and saw Liesel only 3 or 4 times, but he tells the story as if he were omniscient and privy to every detail. There is a reveal at the end which shows how Death learned so much, but in his recitation of certain events (SPOILER highlight to read: e.g., when he spoke of how he felt about collecting Rudy after the bomb and his detailed memory of the others as well) it seems as if he were intimately aware of and affected by their lives before he knew the full story.

But with my narrator-quibbles aside, The Book Thief is an enjoyable bildungsroman centered on Liesel herself, her illicit hobby, her relationships, and a child’s slow realization of the evils of Nazi Germany. The characters—not just Liesel, but also Papa, Rosa, Max, and Rudy—are all vibrantly drawn. I particularly loved Hans and Max, and I was intrigued by the sad story of Ilsa Hermann. Much of the prose of this book is incredibly striking, especially when describing the characters themselves, such as the recurring motif that describes Rudy’s lemon hair. My favorite, though, was the introduction of Rosa Hubermann, who

looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it. There was a distinct waddle to her walk. Almost cute, if it wasn’t for her face, which was like creased-up cardboard and annoyed, as if she was merely tolerating all of it.

I loved this description and many others. The imagery is sophisticated and often complex. However, I also think it becomes a bit overdone and pretentious at times

Thus, I liked The Book Thief and found quite a lot to admire about it. I agree that its Printz Honor is well deserved. However, I also find myself rather dispassionate about the story overall, much like Death’s narrative itself.

GUEST REVIEW: The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Anderson

Allison, our Outreach/Programs Supervisor here at BCPL is back with another guest review! This time, she’s got me hooked. I think I’m going to have to read this book (and its prequel) for myself!  –Tracy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Genre: Alternatie History/Speculative Fiction
Audience: Adult/Young Adult Crossover
Series: Boleyn Trilogy #2

Summary: What if Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII had a son who’d grown up to be king? With his regency period over, King Henry IX is sitting the throne of England trying to maneuver palace intrigue, war on the horizon, passion, and secrecy. His legitimacy still doubted, tensions are at a heightened state with the Catholics, and he is betrothed to the young princess of France. But he is still enchanted with his childhood love, Minuette, and the court is beginning to take note. Even more scandalous is the fact that Minuette is in love with another—Henry IX’s best friend. Will the secrets of the court change the course of an empire?

First Line: “You will not tell me what I can and cannot do with my own son!”

Allison’s Review:
Rarely do I find a book that I read cover to cover in basically one sitting. Rarely do I find a book that while completely fiction, mirrors actual historical events in a way to keep me interested. Rarely do a find a quick-paced storyline that is also detailed. And rarely do I find a book in which the author has been able to take such artistic license with history in order to write their fiction yet stay so true to many aspects of real-world historical events. This book—and in fact both books in this series published thus far—have managed to accomplish all of this!

If we were to imagine a living male heir of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, William Tudor (King Henry IX) is that heir. Watching him come of age, with a mixture of the personalities and characteristics of both his parents, is mesmerizing. And the political intrigue (of which I am not usually a fan) is captivating. The love triangle surrounding Minuette is thought-provoking. Sinister plots abound. Henry IX’s sister Elizabeth is a beloved royal princess who’s to be married off in a diplomatic bargain, yet the character we know as Elizabeth I is evident.

Most enjoyable for me in this storyline is the constant mystery and intrigue that sends you catapulting between one imagined outcome and another. And, the teaser chapter from the next installment in the trilogy, The Boleyn Reckoning, leaves me asking the question: Can the release date of July 15th get here already?

2014 Hub Reading Challenge: Are You In?

So the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge officially began a week ago today. Last year, my pledge to read twenty-five of the eligible titles went unfulfilled. It was, in fact, a dismal failure as I only managed to complete nine eligible titles within the given time frame.

But that’s not going to stop me from giving it another try. Of course, the challenge may be even more challenging this year, as I have lots of distractions right now between work, school, family, and my never-ending house search. But I go into this year’s challenge determined. At the very least, I have to do better than last year, right?

So now I have to vowed read (or listen to) at least 25 of the 77
challenge-eligible titles before 11:59 pm on Sunday, June 22nd. Eligible
titles include 2014 winners and honor books of the six YALSA awards, Top Ten titles from YALSA’s 2014 selected lists, the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award teen honoree, and
2013 Stonewall Book Award honorees. A complete list of eligible titles can be found here.

I’ve already read 15 of the eligible titles, so that leaves me with 62 to choose from (unless I wish to reread a title). First up is a book I’ve been intending to read for ages anyway: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.

So, YALSA Hub, challenge accepted! Who’s willing to join me? Let the reading begin!

NEWS: 2014 Youth Media Awards—Tracy Weighs In

The 2014 Youth Media Awards were announced this morning! Last year I had so much fun posting about by reaction to the Youth Media Awards announcement that I can’t resist a repeat this year. But if you prefer to skip my (mostly) approving commentary, feel free to skip directly to the official Press Release.

John Newbery Medal

Medal Winner: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by ate DiCamillo
A new book by Kate DiCamillo automatically goes on my Newbery contender list, and Flora & Ulysses lived up to expectations. It’s a smart and sensitive tale about friendship with plenty of laughter and adventures along the way. Ulysses’s poetic compositions add a literary element to the romp, and the integration of graphic novel-style panels is both innovative and unexpected. Although overall I was much more enthused by 2012’s MG offerings than those I read in 2013, Flora & Ulysses is a Newbery winner I can get behind.

Newbery Honor: Doll Bones by Holly Black
With Doll Bones released for middle-grade readers and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown for the YA market, Holly Black had a pretty busy year. Both titles generated a fair amount of awards buzz, but Doll Bones is the title I expected to see honored. I’m happy to see it make the list.

Newbery Honor: The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Last year’s winner skewed a bit young in the Newbery reading age, as does The Year of Billy Miller, a simple yet engaging book about a year in the life of a second grader. It’s rich in character development and offers up four vivid demonstrations of important childhood relationships in bite-size, accessible pieces for newly independent readers. I didn’t expect to see it on this list, but like last year, I am glad to see that younger chapter-book readers aren’t being ignored. Bravo!

Newbery Honor: One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
This is a book that only recently appeared on my radar thanks to its inclusion on NPR’s Best Books list. It sounds like a very intriguing mystery indeed.

Newbery Honor: Paperboy by Vince Vawtor
So… I took this one home ages ago and still haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I guess I should get on that.

**What’s Missing:
Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool

I fully expected Claire Vanderpool to take home a second Newbery. Instead, Navigating Early earned her a Printz Honor. Given the recent inclusion of “younger” MG novels among Newbery winners and honorees, I wonder whether there is a concerted effort among the committees to shift tween books (for the 10–14 audience) more toward the YA end of the awards spectrum?

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I adored Counting by 7s, a heartwarming, surprisingly funny book about a twelve-year-old girl coping with losing her parents and the various connections she makes in the process. Because some reviewers felt the ending was a bit too perfect, I wasn’t really expecting a nod… but I hoped for one nonetheless.

Randolph Caldecott Medal

Medal Winner: Locomotive, illustrated and written by Brian Floca
I am soooo happy about this one. The text, images, and typography of Locomotive work together seamlessly to convey movement and wonder, skillfully evoking the sounds, sights, and even feel of 1869 train travel. (Also a Sibert Honor Book)

Caldecott Honor: Journey, illustrated and written by Aaron Becker
This was my favorite fiction picture book of the year and the title I expected would receive the medal. The magisterial artwork of this wordless picture book is wonderfully expressive and creates a strong narrative without any need of words—plus, it plays fantastic homage to Harold and the Purple Crayon. Read my review.

Caldecott Honor: Flora & the Flamingo, by Molly Idle
This wordless, lift-the-flap gem is yet another impressive example of visual storytelling. For me, it created the feeling of live animation—perhaps no surprise, given Idle’s background in animation. Read my review and/or check out the fabulous book trailer to see what I mean.

Caldecott Honor: Mr. Wuffles!, illustrated and written by David Weisner
Silent picture book guru David Weisner was a frontrunner on pretty much everyone’s Caldecott list. Mr. Wuffles! is an imaginative, comical tale that makes wonderful use of composition and color. Anyone else find it interesting that all three Caldecott honor books are wordless? Clearly wordless picture books were all the rage in 2013, and it’s no wonder with such fabulous examples.

**What’s Missing:
The Mightly Lalouche
, illustrated by Sophie Blackwell and written by Matthew Olshan
I knew this one was definitely an underdog, receiving little attention in the myriad Mock Caldecott races, but I loved this quietly captivating story of the little man who could. The pen-and-ink illustrations featuring three-dimensional cut outs create a
bold, colorful, collage-like style that is both charming and reminiscent
of a silent film after color is added in.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award
(Aka, the category where I am always shamefully underinformed…)

Medal Winner: P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
This one is also sitting at home in my out-of-control TBR pile. However, given that I haven’t yet read its prequel (One Crazy Summer) either, I haven’t been very motivated to pick it up. So I guess now I have a bit more incentive!

King (Author) Honor: March: Book One, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
Also sitting at home. At least this year I’ve heard of the books on the list! I have heard glowing reviews of this graphic-format work, and I am planning to read it ASAP.

King (Author) Honor: Darius & Twig by Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers is consistently awesome, but I haven’t read this one either. Or his other 2013 release (Invasion), though I have been on the library hold list for a while now.

King (Author) Honor: Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
I generally enjoy Grimes’s poetry and fiction… so how did I miss hearing about this title? This is why I love awards lists—I discover so many wonderful books that I might’ve otherwise overlooked.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award

King (Illustrator) Medal: I, Too, Am America, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Langston Hughes
The imaginative use of collage and watercolor illuminates the text perfectly. I approve.

King (Illustrator) Honor: Nelson Mandela., illustrated and written by Kadir Nelson
Yay! I have yet to encounter a Kadir Nelson illustration I didn’t adore. His paintings in Nelson Mandela do a fabulous job of conveying tension, emotions, and subtext.

Michael L. Printz Award

Medal Winner: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Sedgwick uses recurring motifs and characters to build a novel of linked vignettes, creating an eerie novel of impressive style and structure. Unfortunately, the shifting of characters and timelines does not allow for much in the way of character development, so at the end I was pretty disinterested in the fate of Eric and Merle. Still, the literary merit is undeniable, so despite my personal ambivalence about the book, I’m not surprised (or even unhappy) to see it recognized by this year’s committee.

Printz Honor: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
With lovely prose meditations and vibrantly realized characters, Rowell captures the pureness of first love without glossing over the ugly, awkward parts of life. I thought Eleanor & Park might be overlooked due to its extreme popularity, but I am glad to be proven wrong. Read my review.

Printz Honor: Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
I haven’t yet read this layered, historical fiction novel, but it sounds so our-of-the-ordinary that I am very much looking forward to it.

Printz Honor: Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool
As I have already noted, I expected this title to fall in the younger age category. In fact, I thought it would win the Newbery. An Odyssey-like adventure punctuated by intricate plotting and rich details, I am happy to see it honored regardless of the category.

**What’s Missing:
I thought Patrick Ness’s More Than This might get an honors nod, but I was wrong. Still, although I love Ness and appreciated the symbolism of his novel, it wasn’t one of my favorites of the year. Far, Far Away had a lot of buzz too. Personally, my favorite unrecognized title was All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry. (I’m not naming Charm & Strange only because it nabbed the Morris Medal!)

Other ALA Award winners announced this morning include:

Charm & Strange by Stepahnie Kuehn,  William C. Morris Award winner
I was completely mesmerized by this emotionally intense story about isolation and madness that weaves together two separate narratives. A fantastic combination of voice, character, and pacing kept me on edge from start to finish. In my opinion, this win was SO well deserved! Read my review.

Better Nate Than Never
by Tim Federle, Stonewall Honor Book
Nate’s inner monologue and offbeat personality are laugh-out-loud funny,
but the story also managed to dexterously address deeper issues, such as
bullying, disappointment, family, religion, and sexuality. However, all
of this is handled with a light touch, so that Nate is allowed to shine
all on his own, without judgment or labels. I didn’t think about this book when considering possible Stonewall recipients (probably because it is geared toward the MG market rather than YA), but I am so happy to see it recognized. I am eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel 🙂

Niño Wrestles the World, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award
This child’s picture book in which a young boy imitates the melodramatic world of Mexican wrestling is hilarious and wonderfully illustrated.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina, Pura Belpré (Author) Award
I quite enjoyed this book and appreciated the authentic cultural details.

For a complete list of awards, winners, and honorees (if you’re not sick of awards lists by now), you can read the ALA Press Release.

BEST OF 2013: Adult Fiction & Nonfiction

There are a lot of potentially great 2013 books that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and  Charles Graeber’s The Good Nurse are next up in my towering to-read pile!), but
after surveying our entire library staff, here are our picks for 2013’s
Best Books for Adults:


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Weaving back and forth through time and across characters, this compelling first novel begins with an eight-year-old girl who watched as her father was “disappeared” by Russian soldiers in the middle of the night.  Akhmed, the not-so-good physician of the local Chechen village and a family friend, is determined to rescue Haava from a similar fate and seeks the assistance of a cynical, tough-minded surgeon at a nearby hospital. The story centers on just five days of the lives of Haava, Akhmed, and Sonja, and yet it provides an almost magical look at the myriad connections—both discovered and never realized—that shape peoples lives, especially in a time of war.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Even before it was discovered that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for author J.K. Rowling, this compelling mystery  about a P.I. and his new office temp teaming up to investigate the suspicious death of a young model had the attention of critics. Describes by one reviewer for Library Journal as “a mash-up of Charles Dickens and Penny Vincenzi.”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
In this mesmerizing story of love, loss, obsession, and the haunting power of art, a young man who lost his mother in an tragic accident grows to adulthood, only to become entangled in the art underworld of New York City

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
In this stunning, thought-provoking novel, Ursula Todd goes through a series of  lives and deaths, experiencing wars and epidemics in ever-changing circumstances. Every time she hits a bad end—done in by Spanish flu, murdered by an abusive husband, killed in a bombing raid—it all begins again. Often, she has a nagging sense of déjà vu, but she can never put her finger on why. Reading Life After Life is like reading a sophisticated Choose Your Own novel for grown-ups, one that resets itself. Atkinson weaves an intricate web of parallel paths, detours, and intersections which is utterly fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, and frequently startling with  unanticipated moments of sharp humor.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

This emotionally powerful story of two brothers born in a quiet village outside Calcutta spans decades and continents. In an era of political turmoil, the brothers choose divergent paths—Subhash retreating to a quiet university in New England while Udayan becomes increasingly involved in a Mao-inspired rebellion against India’s social iniquities—and yet their lives remain almost fatalistically entwined despite their estrangement. Perceptive and universal in theme, the story explores the myriad nuances of guilt, marriage, parenthood, moral conviction, loyalty, and betrayal through day-to-day events against the more expansive backdrop of world affairs. The Lowland unfolds slowly, but Lahiri’s elegant prose and full characterizations make for a riveting tale.


From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Interpreter of Maladies.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
A woman stuck in a loveless marriage and an obituary writer looking for her lost love discover a surprising connection. Part literary mystery and part love story, this novel is full of grief, shame, and hope.

The Returned by Jason Mott
The world is turned upside down in this emotional novel in which people inexplicably begin returning from the dead. At the heart of the story is an elderly couple whose 8-year-old son suddenly reappears nearly 50 years after his death.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
Six years after the love of his life left him to marry another man, Professor Jake Sanders learns that this rival is dead and that the woman of his dreams is not who she claimed to be. Betrayals and secrets are unearthed as Jake then races against the clock to track down the real woman he once loved and lost.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham
Reader favorite Jack Brigance, the attorney from A Time to Kill, makes a reappearance in Ford County, Mississippi, in this surprisingly suspenseful courtroom drama about wills, racial tension, and family secrets.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The author of The Jane Austen Book Club creates another unforgettable work in this heartbreaking work about family dysfunction. This is a book best read “blind”; spoilers contained in some reviews and blurbs may ruin the experience otherwise.

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
Eli Landon is suffering from the public and police scrutiny after being wrongly impli- cated in the murder of his soon-to-be wife. He then takes refuge in a old family home and falls in love with resident housekeeper Abra Walsh, with whom he is entangled in an old, life-threatening mystery.


Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a distant family member reconstruct the life of a reclusive copper heiress in this fascinating tale of family scandal, privilege, and a surprising path to happiness.

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson
The Duck Dynasty star chronicles his unusual life from childhood through the founding of the family business.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
Through clear, gorgeous prose and raw honesty, Lindhout recounts the year she spent as a hostage in Somalia for over a year. The harrowing story is balanced by Lindhout’s descriptions of her childhood, her youthful interest in world travel inspired by National Geographic, and her almost-accidental introduction into the world of combat-zone reporting.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO and and top-ranked
businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg shares though-provoking advice for women, urging them to seek professional challenges and take more risks to find work that they can feel passionate about.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Through the deaths of five young men in her Mississippi community over the course of four years, the National Book Award–winning author explores the realities of poverty and blackness in America. This candid, beautifully wrought account maintains a light, humanistic touch but does not gloss over the gritty details.

BEST OF 2013: Teen Books

Okay, so there are still TONS of probably awesome 2013 YA books that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet, though over the last several weeks I sure have done my best to read EVERYTHING I can get my hands on. Some of the promising titles I still have yet to read include Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal, Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax. It sounds like I haven’t been doing much reading, doesn’t it? But really, for every book that made our list there are several more professional  reviewer favorites that just missed out. These include high profile titles by Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, Andrew Smith, and Maggie Stiefvater (my reviews are soon to come though!).

As for those titles I haven’t yet gotten around to reading… Well, they’re still on my ever-growing TBR and any title I feel should have been on this list will be added in later updates. So with that said, these are the best teen books of 2013 that we’ve read  (so far).

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry*
In an alternate world that evokes the New England Puritan settlements of the 17th century, 18-year-old Judith is an outcast in her community and even in her own family. She disappeared without a trace at the age of 14 only to mysteriously reappear at 16 physically mutilated and unable to share what happened to her. Only now that her community is under attack, Judith must find the courage to face the past and make her silenced voice heard in a desperate bid to save them all. Poetic and gorgeously written, this is a stunning mystery, told entirely through Judith’s imagined conversations with the boy she has loved since childhood.
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Both intimate and epic in scale, these companion novels tell the story of China’s Boxer Rebellion from opposing viewpoints.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Strange, beautiful, and unsettling, this is a story is told from two directions. In the present, Win is a weird, bitter loner at a Vermont boarding school who believes there is a wolf inside him, struggling to break free. When a dead body is found in the woods, he believes he is responsible. In the past, Win is ten years old and goes by a different name—Drew. Drew looks up to his older brother and loves his little sister, but it’s clear there is something wrong in Drew’s world. Slowly, the two separate narratives merge; along the way, the reader becomes completely immersed in piecing together the mystery of Win and his past.
Read Tracy’s Review

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Tana woke up surrounded by carnage. While she was passed out in the bathroom, vampires savaged and killed her fellow partiers—all except her ex-boyfriend, now infected, and a mysterious, chained vampire boy who’s sanity is in question. With nowhere else to go, the three uneasy allies travel to the nearest Coldtown, where vampires, the infected, and desperate wannabes are segregated from the outside world. Tana is determined to hang on to her humanity and protect her loved ones, but Coldtown is even more dangerous than she expects. A fascinating world and wonderfully flawed, intriguing characters highlight this layered story of guilt and vengeance, with a bit of love and redemption thrown in for balance. Still, this is not your average teen vampire romance, where black and white are clear and everything is wrapped up neatly. Chilling and wholly original, this is a vampire novel with a difference.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Park thinks the crazy-haired, oddly dressed new girl on his bus looks like a victim waiting to happen. Meanwhile, Eleanor is too concerned with her problems at home to think much about the “stupid Asian kid” who reluctantly scoots over to share his seat, cursing under his breath all the while. For days they share the seat in awkward, sometimes hostile silence. But then… Something changes. Soon, Eleanor is surreptitiously reading Watchmen comics over his shoulder and Park is making Eleanor mix tapes of his favorite bands. Slowly, tentatively a friendship develops and then friendship becomes something more. But love doesn’t solve everything. Together they must face disapproving parents, mean-spirited classmates, and the dark truths about her family that Eleanor never wants Park to discover.
Read Tracy’s Review

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
A quiet introvert whose passion is writing fan fiction faces her first year of college in this captivating novel about growing up without letting go of the things you love.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Blending a contemporary mindset with the heart of classic fairy tales, this is the atmospheric tale of a young man who can speak to ghosts—specifically, Jacob Grimm himself—and finds himself in a dark, sort-of fairy tale of his own.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman
After falling for a mysterious Dutch boy after a whirlwind day in Paris, a young American woman wakes up alone and retreats home, never knowing what truly happened. But over the course of her freshman year of college—with a little help from Shakespeare and some unexpected friendships—she finds the courage to take risks and follow her heart, in love and life.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
Mila has a special ability to observe beneath the surface; she reads people and her surroundings to solve real-life puzzles. So when her father’s best friend turns up missing, Mila is determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance. The result is a secret-revealing journey through upstate New York with her father, where she is presented with clues that don’t quite add up and learns complicated truths about mistakes, compromise, and consequence. Mila is a fascinating, vibrantly realized character, and this novel presents an intriguing, cerebral mystery full of realistic suspense.
Reality Boy by A.S. King
Gerald is very, very angry. It seems like he has always been angry, and there are three seasons worth of reality TV to prove it. Of course, the nanny show that made Gerald infamous when he was five years old showed very little of what actually went on in his house. Now seventeen, Gerald’s just trying to keep it together so he doesn’t end up dead or in jail. Then he meets Hannah, who has a screwed up homelife herself. Gerald’s is a unflinchingly honest voice, full of anger, insight, and pain, and his story is as riveting as any reality show. With her trademark combination of magical realism and gritty drama, King’s latest offering is another winner.
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
In this wildly inventive fantasy set in an alternate version of America, a special cadre of “Rithmatists” train from the age of eight to protect the American Isles from an infestation of Wild  Chalkings, drawings which have the ability to interact in the three-dimensional world and even kill. Sixteen-year-old Joel, a student at an elite school with a special program for Rithmatists, longs to be part of that privileged group, but he already missed his chance. First of a new series.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
In this gripping companion novel to Code Name Verity, a young American pilot becomes a prisoner at Ravensbrück, a German concentration camp. Although beloved and controversial characters from Verity are revisited, this novel belongs entirely to Rose and her fellow prisoners. It’s a different story entirely—we know early on Rose survives to tell her story—but the journey is equally tense and dramatic.

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf
As if romantic tangles, school pressure, and family drama weren’t enough to deal with, Izzy also has to cope with panic attacks and hypochondria. With self-deprecating humor and wry observations, Izzy offers up a realistic coming of age tale with depth. One reviewer dubbed it “Woody Allen for the teenage set.” This is the only title on our list I haven’t read myself, but one of our circulation clerks highly recommends it!

So, that’s our list so far. What titles would you add to your own best-of-the-year list?

REVIEW: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Audience: Teen/Young Adult

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Win is an outsider at his exclusive Vermont boarding school, and that’s
the way he wants it. It’s safer for him, and, perhaps more importantly,
safer for his classmates. Something wild and dangerous lives inside him ready to emerge at any moment, and he can’t wait. When a dead body is found in the woods near his school, Win believes he’s responsible, that his inner wolf has finally found a way to come out. But will Win ever truly be able to break free, or will the tragedies of his childhood trap him forever? 

First Line: “I don’t feel the presence of God here.”

Tracy’s Thoughts:
This book pulled me in from the first moment and never let me go. I picked it up early on a Saturday morning, and I didn’t want to leave the tormented mind of Drew/Win for even a minute. Three hours later, I was hungry (no breakfast yet) and needed to use the bathroom, but I was completely full of awe at Kuehn’s writing, particularly the perfect interweaving of voice, character, and pacing. I needed several moments to process what I had just read. What I had experienced, thanks the amazing voice of its troubled narrator(s).

Readers are presented with a character study and mystery from two directions. In the present, Win is a bitter loner, angry and undeniably weird. His thoughts are strange and philosophical and his mind is clearly (or at least probably) confused. No one understands him, and he does not understand himself either. A dead body was found in the woods and Win suspects he’s responsible, though he has no memory of killing anyone. As a reader, I was aware something terrible had happened—leaving Win alone and abandoned—and I wanted desperately to understand his past and what was happening to him in the present. Is he crazy? Is he a werewolf, as he seems to believe? Is he both?

In the past, Drew (Win’s name before the Something Terrible happened) is ten years old and—like the present Win—suffers from severe motion sickness and has strange thoughts and impulses. There is a pervasive sense of doom, though the source of Drew’s troubles is merely hinted at. Through both alternating narratives, Kuehn reveals bits and pieces of the past and their consequences in the present, so that readers are kept constantly on edge, always adjusting and readjusting theories about Win.

Win’s not a particular likeable guy, but it is impossible to read his
confused and caustic words in juxtaposition with his past without feeling sympathy and fascination. I was
determined to unravel the mystery of Win’s past and present. And even
when I thought I understood what was going on in Win’s mind, there was
always a niggle of doubt where I wondered if Win’s strange, confused
thoughts were true after all.The uncertainty and fascination created through voice and structure are the heart of Kuehn’s amazing storytelling in this novel. And the writing itself is beautiful, unsettling, and—even though I suspected the big reveal at the end—completely gutwrenching.

Charm & Strange isn’t a perfect book, but it is powerful and emotionally intense from start to finish. Although a handful of recent YA books have held me in their spell (e.g., this one, this one, and this one), not since first reading Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl have I been so completely absorbed and unwilling to put a book down.