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Staff Reviews by Rachel Hitt

Cover: 'The Shadow Queen'

"The Shadow Queen" by C. J. Redwine

★★★★ For nine years, Lorelai, Crown Princess of Ravenspire, and her younger brother Leo have been living as fugitives presumed dead. With former servant Gabril as their mentor and advisor, they have quietly been planning their challenge to the evil queen’s throne. Queen Irina, their aunt and step-mother, uses dark magic to keep control of the kingdom, draining...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Vivian Apple at the End of the World'

"Vivian Apple at the End of the World" by Katie Coyle

★★★★★ Unlike her parents, who are devoted followers of the Church of America and the teachings of Beaton Frick, sixteen-year-old Vivian Apple does not believe the prophesized Rapture event will occur, and she attends a Rapture’s Eve party at the home of her friend Harp. However, Vivian returns home the next morning to discover two holes in the roof and no sign of...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Wilde Lake'

"Wilde Lake" by Laura Lippman

★★★★★ Luisa “Lu” Brandt, a middle-aged widow and mother of eight-year-old twins, is the new state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a position her highly-esteemed father once held. Homicide is relatively rare in Howard County, so Lu is eager to prove herself as she tries the case of a homeless man being tried for strangling a woman to death in her apartment...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Emmy and Oliver'

"Emmy and Oliver" by Robin Benway

★★★★★ On a Friday before a three day weekend in second grade, Emmy, Drew, and Caro saw their friend Oliver get into his father’s car for a regular weekend visit. Oliver’s father abducted him, and it would be ten years before Oliver re-entered their lives. The book, which is told from Emmy’s point-of-view, starts with news that Oliver has been found and explores...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Be Frank With Me'

"Be Frank With Me" by Julia Claiborne Johnson

★★★★★ Mid-twenty-something Alice Whitley’s job at a Manhattan publishing house dispatches her to Bel Air to provide assistance to reclusive author M.M. (Mimi) Banning. Having fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme, Banning has no choice but to write a second novel decades after her wildly acclaimed and successful first. Alice’s primary task is to care for Frank, the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lady Renegades'

"Lady Renegades" by Rachel Hawkins

★★★★ This final installment of the Rebel Belle trilogy finds Harper trying to adjust to normal life months after David, fearing his growing powers, fled Pine Grove. Then a teen girl with paladin powers appears out of the blue and attacks Harper as a threat to David. Concerned that David is creating additional paladins intent on destroying her, Harper sets off on...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, paranormal, series

Cover: 'The Rook'

"The Rook" by Daniel O'Malley

★★★★★ To say that Myfanwy Thomas is in a bit of a fix is a huge understatement. She woke up in a park with no memory of her identity, surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. The letter she finds in her pocket tells her that she is the new inhabitant of Myfanwy’s body and that she has a choice to make—run as far as possible from London and start a new life...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Trouble Is a Friend of Mine'

"Trouble Is a Friend of Mine" by Stephanie Tromly

★★★★★ Sixteen-year-old Zoe Webster still can’t quite believe how her life has changed. After her parents divorced, she and her mom moved from Manhattan to a small town in upstate New York where she does not fit in. She can’t wait to get out and sees mid-year admission to an exclusive private high school in Manhattan as her ticket out. Then she meets Digby, who is...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Falling into Place'

"Falling into Place" by Amy Zhang

★★★★★ Liz Emerson planned her car “accident” carefully. She was determined not to be found by a loved one or provide any indication that her accident was actually suicide—she did not want the people she cared about to carry the burden of wondering what they could have done. Despite the fact Liz executed her plan, Newton’s laws of motion had escaped her and she...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Fates and Furies'

"Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff

★★★★★ "Fates and Furies" is the story of the marriage of outgoing charmer Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwhite and the reserved, supportive Mathilde. Infused with Greek mythology, the story is told first from Lotto’s point-of-view before switching to Mathilde’s. As compelling as each perspective is, it’s the gaps between the two and the secrets kept that provide...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Nothing Bad Is Going to Happen'

"Nothing Bad Is Going to Happen" by Kathleen Hale

★★★★ Kippy Bushman is still recovering from the physical and psychological damage caused by her investigation into her best friend Ruth’s death. She and her father have a rocky relationship, her former tormenter Libby is the closest thing she has to a friend, and the sociopath who killed her friend Ruth continues to contact her. At least things are going well...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: '$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America'

"$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America" by Kathryn Edin, H. Luke Shaefer

★★★★★ When conducting research in 2010, Edin, who had been researching poverty for 20 years noticed a fundamental change in many families she interviewed—they were living without any visible cash income. In the summer of 2012, Edin joined forces with Shaefer, a leading expert on the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and they started in-depth...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Circle'

"The Circle" by Dave Eggers

★★★★★ Twenty-four-year old Mae Holland is elated to be starting her new job at the Circle, an internet company of the not-too-distant future that is a combination of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social media platforms. At first Mae is taken aback by the virtual networking required within the company and the negative attention she draws by staying the...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Stars Above'

"Stars Above" by Marissa Meyer

★★★★ This collection of nine stories takes place in the world of the popular Lunar Chronicles. Most of the stories serve as prequels to the series and provide additional backstories for a number of characters, including Michelle Benoit, a high-school age con-artist Carswell Thorne, and a young Cress. As charming and endearing as these stories are, the biggest...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, science fiction

Cover: 'A Mad, Wicked Folly'

"A Mad, Wicked Folly" by Sharon Biggs Waller

★★★★★ Seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling longs to be an artist; however, when her love of art leads to expulsion from her French finishing school, her high society London parents bring her home and lay out a plan for her rehabilitation, which includes an arranged marriage to a young man from a proper family. Her alternative: to be banished to a life of near-...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, ya fiction with adult appeal

Cover: 'Girl at War'

"Girl at War" by Sara Nović

★★★★★ Ana passes as a typical college student in New York City, where her friends do not know that her American parents are adoptive parents or that English is not her native tongue. In reality, she is a survivor of the Yugoslav civil war of the early 1990s who fled the country at the age of ten. After she testifies before a UN committee on children in combat,...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, alex award winner

Cover: 'Dumplin''

"Dumplin'" by Julie Murphy

★★★★★ Sixteen-year-old Willowdean Dickson (“Dumplin’” to her mother) is not afraid to describe herself as a “fat girl,” and she is comfortable in her own skin until her attractive and athletic workplace crush (Bo) shows an interest in her. She is horrified to realize that she is more self-conscious about her body now that she is the object of someone’s attraction...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Welcome to Night Vale'

"Welcome to Night Vale" by Joseph Fink

★★★★ Nineteen-year-old Jackie Fierro, owner of the pawn shop in Night Vale, has remained nineteen-years-old for more years than she can remember and has grown accustomed to her unvarying routine. Then a man wearing a tan jacket and carrying a briefcase comes into her shop and gives her a piece of paper with the words, “KING CITY” on it. In that instant, her...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, mystery

Cover: 'Between the World and Me'

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

★★★★★ In this letter to his adolescent son, Coates reflects upon what it means to grow up and live in the United States while inhabiting a black body. It is a combination of history, social commentary, and memoir as Coates explains to his son the complexities of his own journey to adulthood and explores the larger context of the history of race in the United...

Audience: teens | Genre: nonfiction, award-winning, alex award winner

Cover: 'The Jesus Cow'

"The Jesus Cow" by Michael Perry

★★★★★ When Harley Jackson sees the unmistakable image of Jesus Christ on a newborn calf’s flank on Christmas Eve, he recognizes it for what it is: trouble. As a single fellow accustomed to a quiet life in his small, rural Wisconsin community, Harley wants nothing to do with the attention the calf will draw. He’s reluctant to capitalize on the calf despite his...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, holiday

Cover: 'The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism'

"The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism" by Naoki Higashida, K. A. Yoshida

★★★★★ There are books written by adults with autism and from the perspective of family members, educators, and others who work with children with autism, but this book is unique because it is written by a thirteen-year-old boy with autism. Higashida retains the perspective of a child but has the introspection of an early teen. It’s a rare look into the thoughts...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, differing abilities

Cover: 'Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption'

"Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" by Bryan Stevenson

★★★★★ As a twenty-three-year-old Harvard law student, Stevenson had his first encounter with an inmate on death row. That meaningful encounter led him to commit his law career to representing the legally underrepresented: death row inmates, children sentenced to life without parole, and others marginalized by the system. He founded and currently serves as the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Illuminae'

"Illuminae" by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff

★★★★★ It’s a good thing that seventeen-year-old Kady broke up with her boyfriend that morning. If she hadn’t broken up with Ezra, she wouldn’t have driven to school that day. She and Ezra survived the attack on their tiny plant of Kerenza by BeiTech Industries because they were able to make it to the port and escape with others on three different vessels. Kady is...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, science fiction

Cover: 'A Window Opens'

"A Window Opens" by Elisabeth Egan

★★★★ Alice Pearse is relatively content—she’s happily married mother of three kids who are school-age but not yet teens, and she has a fulfilling part-time job as the books editor for a glossy women’s magazine. All of that changes when her husband’s career path takes an unexpected turn, and she has to find full-time employment. She’s elated when she lands a job...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Modern Romance'

"Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg

★★★★★ For those of you who aren’t familiar with Aziz Ansari, he is an actor (perhaps best known from Parks & Recreation) and a stand-up comedian, but this isn’t a typical book by a comic. The book was inspired in part by a segment of his stand-up routine and is filled with humor throughout, but it’s actually a carefully researched book that examines the state...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction