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Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

Don’t let the title fool you; this tale is anything but ordinary. In fact, the titular character in Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence winds up on an adventure that’s wild even by fiction standards. It all starts reasonably enough, with the eleven-year-old going to stay with her grandfather following her parents’ separation. But Hannah soon finds out her grandfather has been involved in a plot with the actual Devil for more than 100 years. All three, plus a talking mushroom, set out on an adventure taking them anywhere from Siberia to an amusement park in Santa Cruz.

Michael Marshall Smith weaves a story that is impossible to predict. I had no idea where it was going, and enjoyed the surprise that awaited me each time I cracked open the pages. Smith’s writing exudes creativity as he jumps from perspective to perspective throughout the tale. Some may find this format too confusing and unorganized, but I personally enjoyed the variety of stories and seeing how they all wove together. Humor is another outstanding characteristic of Smith’s novel. Nearly every page, it seemed, had a funny line or two. In a story that involves some rather hellish scenes, these gags may be necessary.

Despite the comedy, the novel has some serious messages to express. For example, Smith doesn’t try to portray his characters as perfect but instead has them discover the importance of continuing with their lives even if they’re stuck in a rut. And of course the Devil is a character of questionable moral-standing, but Smith uses him to show a necessary balance of good and evil that rests in the hands of humanity.

Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence is a novel for those searching for creativity, fantasy, and humor, along with sentient mushrooms and squirrels.  

Books: 
Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780008300159
Availability: Backordered
Published: Voyager - November 6th, 2018

The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds

Claire L reviewed The Opposite of Always by Jason A Reynolds - Pre-order your copy today! Due out March, 2019

Jack and Kate’s story starts on the staircase at your typical college party. Immediately, they connect over their mutual love for cereal. Jack gives Kate his number, but doesn’t hear from her for a few days. When he finds a message from her on his phone, he invites her to the first of many outings—and finally to prom. She doesn’t show up, and Jack is worried and confused. He learns Kate has an illness from which she eventually dies. Jack is absolutely devastated.

In his devastation, Jack finds himself experiencing deja vu. Suddenly, he’s back at the staircase where he and Kate first met. Just like the first time, she says “Excuse me, man, but you’re sort of damming up the steps.”


Justin A. Reynolds writes with humor and thoughtfulness as he explores the finality of death in Opposite of Always. While this was not always an easy book to read with its inevitable ending, there were so many laugh-out-loud moments. Jack had so much hope, and his hope was contagious. I actually enjoyed Jack’s re-experiencing the day he and Kate first met as it brought a familiarity to the story. I also liked how Jack re-evaluates his decisions each time he’s sent back. In addition, I loved Jack’s friends and relationship with Kate because it reminded me of how important good friendships are. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is an optimistic and humorous take on a more serious topic.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
Opposite of Always Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062748379
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Katherine Tegen Books - March 5th, 2019

Strange Days by Constantine Singer

If one thing can be said about Constantine Singer’s Strange Days, it is definitely sci-fi. From time travel to aliens and mind control, this novel has it all. Plus, Singer throws in a healthy dose of music. In fact, that’s how we first find our protagonist, Alex. From the beginning, he’s hearing the sound of guitars coming from within his own head, and from there everything just gets more, well, strange. After receiving several messages from his future self, Alex ends up as part of a group of teenagers trying to save the world.

The most remarkable part of Strange Days, I think, is the way Singer weaves music into the story. He artfully depicts abstract concepts, like the embodiment of a person’s lifespan, in a way that incorporates music and makes visualization easy. And like a rapid song, the novel progresses at a brisk pace. Although I found it to drag a bit near the middle, Strange Days is generally filled with twists that keep the story exciting.

Even while Strange Days makes use of such out-of-this-world aspects, the setting seems plausible. The technology, such as self-driving cars and phones that attach to the ear, is easy to imagine becoming a reality in coming decades. Readers are also introduced to a diverse and interesting cast of characters representing different races, sexualities, and occasionally periods of time.

Really, Strange Days is a very original sci-fi story despite its incorporation of so many tropes of the genre. It keeps readers guessing as to the direction of the plot as they learn more about the characters they meet. And to balance out all the science, Singer creates brilliant musical imagery. So you’ll enjoy Stray Days if you have a soft spot for aliens, time travel, or mind control. And also electric guitars.

Books: 
Strange Days Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781524740245
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - December 4th, 2018

If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemun-Broka

Claire L reviewed If I'm Being Honest by Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Pre-order your copy today! Out  4/23/19

Popular girl Cameron Bright has a reputation for not being the nicest person in school. Cameron has never worried too much about her reputation—that is until her crush Andrew agrees with everyone else about Cameron’s personality. In an effort to get back in Andrew’s good graces, Cameron decides to make an ‘Amends’ list of all the people she needs to make amends with. It starts with Paige—the girl who ruined her chances with Andrew. At first her efforts are purely for Andrew, but Paige sees right through that. So, Cameron finds herself hanging out with Paige and her friends, and Paige’s brother Brendan. As time goes on, Cameron realizes that maybe she isn’t just completing the list for Andrew anymore.

First of all, I love that both of Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s books relate back to Shakespeare and his works because I'm always a fan of book references within books. And, the reference to The Taming of the Shrew allowed for a neat parallel in the story. Going along with that connection, I really liked Cameron's character development because I think it shares a good message about being yourself and the importance of doing just that. In the beginning Cameron was a strong character by always being honest and saying what she thought, but in the end she was stronger in a different, real way. All together If I’m Being Honest has a lot of positive elements that I really appreciated seeing represented in a story.

 

-Claire L

Books: 
If I'm Being Honest Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780451481092
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - April 23rd, 2019

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Mirage by Somaiya Daud

In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated home. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty―and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

 

Basically, this book is everything I've ever wanted in a sci-fi book and more. I don't know about you but I'm a fan of fantasy and sci-fi books that adapt cultures that aren't my own into the world that they've created and that's exactly what Somaiya Daud does in this magnificent book. 

It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once I did I couldn't stop. The beginning two or three chapters were a little dull, not necessarily in a bad way, but they weren't riveting, instead, they were filled with exposition. That exposition-filling (or whatever that's called) made it hard for me to keep track of things since I got a bit of an information overload. By the fourth chapter, though, I got into the rhythm of the book and the story really flowed. 

Other than the few roadblocks in the beginning, the rest of the book was paced incredibly well and the storyline matched with character arks with a precision I'm not used to in stories, especially not from debut novelists. 

Perhaps the biggest triumph of the book is the fact that the story manages to be both plot and character driven- the characters drive the plot and the plot drives the characters in a way that leaves you feeling like you're very much in the middle of the action. 

I wish I'd gotten a bit of a better explanation of different cultural aspects because by the time I'd gotten a hold of them, the scenes involving them had more or less resolved themselves. That being said the world building is fantastic and, as someone who just adores well built worlds, I fell head over heels for this world. Like I would actually marry it. 

 

All in all, I give this book 5/5 stars.

 

-Alexina L

Books: 
Mirage: A Novel (Mirage Series #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250126429
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - August 28th, 2018

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First Kiss by Kasie West

Maggie S Review Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West! Pre-order your copy today! Due out February 2019

Kasie West has done it again with her new novel Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss. She has created an intriguing and heartwarming world staring Lacey Barnes, an aspiring actress who has finally landed her first real job alongside the famous Grant James in Dancing Graves. And although this is her lifelong dream it is muddled by the addition of a tutor who fit's the exact definition of a choir boy. But as time goes on Donavon Lake, the detested "choir boy," slowly starts to grow on Lacey as he comforts her through the hardships of an overprotective father, someone trying to sabotage her, and her chemistry funk with her co-stars. And while this may seem like your everyday love story, you will soon learn that that is far from the truth when you take into account the zombie makeup and script additions throughout this artful story.

-Maggie S

Books: 
Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062675798
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - February 5th, 2019

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Claire L has reviewed A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Shirin—a high schooler who practices Islam and wears a hijab—has moved schools once again. Her parents both had difficult lives growing up in Iran, so they have worked hard in America to give Shirin and her brother Navid a better childhood than they had. Shirin never had problems with other people until 9/11. But, Shirin learned to ignore everyone in order to protect herself. And, she plans on doing the same at this new school. To keep her school life interesting and more positive, Navid decides to start a breakdancing crew—a dream Shirin has shared with her brother forever.


I absolutely loved A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I am so impressed with Tahereh Mafi's writing because I would go from laughing out loud to crying in the matter of a few sentences. There was great dialogue; both charming, thoughtful, and difficult to read. But, the book felt balanced. Just when you would be getting really emotional over a hateful action that occurred, it would switch to something lighter (like a breakdancing moment). This book is powerful. It deals with prejudice and stereotypes towards religion and some of the impacts they can have on people. I have read books that made me sad, but this book really made me think and feel something. I felt empowered reading this book because Shirin is such a strong character (even though she had her worries). Because I enjoy Tahereh Mafi’s writing style, I suspected I would love this book. While A Very Large Expanse of Sea is a different genre from her Shatter Me series, it still features a strong female lead and Tahereh’s signature writing voice. I can definitely say that A Very Large Expanse of Sea is one of my new favorite books.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
A Very Large Expanse of Sea Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780062866561
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: HarperCollins - October 16th, 2018

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Firstlife by Gena Showalter

Zoe J review Firstlife by Gena Showalter.

Most YA heroes and heroines in adventure stories need only focus on keeping their one and only life. But in Tenley Lockwood’s world, everyone is guaranteed two chances. Before their first death, inhabitants of Earth, or “The Land of the Harvest,” must choose between two realms to spend their everlives. As a person can’t even decide on a future college or career, I can appreciate the amount of pressure such a decision would entail. This stress follows Ten throughout her story. And, if she dies without choosing a realm, she will end up in the terrifying “Many Ends.”

For Firstlife, Gena Showalter created a great concept that could have had better execution. At the beginning, we find Ten stuck in an asylum where families can send their children as punishment. While the goal of escape is clear here, the story’s purpose becomes more muddled as the novel progresses. Showalter also misses the opportunity to really develop her world; readers barely get any history of the realms. Furthermore, important plot points seem to be brought up and never elaborated on, and some events seem unrealistic even for a fantasy novel.

As a character, I found Tenley to have a definite personality. She did, however, have a somewhat-annoying obsession with numbers; for example, she uses the word “zero” instead of swearing. For a love interest, we get the cliche “dark and brooding” Killian. His enemy Archer, who might also be in love with Ten, seems kinder and a bit more realistic. And throughout the story, these characters often suffer from awkward dialogue. Still, the plot remains the biggest issue with the novel.

Firstlife does have potential, and maybe some of its problems are resolved in the rest of the series. But personally, I would recommend searching for something else.

 

-Zoe J

Books: 
Firstlife (Everlife Novel) Cover Image
Email or call for price & availability
ISBN: 9780373212217
Availability: Not Currently Available to Order
Published: Harlequin Teen - January 3rd, 2017

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The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo

Maurene Goo incorporates humor, love, and sadness into her books and does it in a way that makes you fall in love with her characters and story. She does this again with Clara in The Way You Make Me Feel. I was even more excited when I found out the book revolved around a food truck, because that seemed like such a cool concept. And, it was.

Clara, who has never been interested in working on her father's food truck (the KoBra), is subject to working on it for the whole summer when she gets into some trouble at school. To make matters worse, she has to work with someone she can't stand, and her original summer plans are changed. But, as the summer goes on Clara's feelings towards the truck and her co-worker begin to change, and she even develops a crush towards a boy she met at one of the KoBra's stops.

Just like Maurene's last book, I found myself having so much fun reading it (I laughed out loud countless times). But, I like that the book is realistic and has some tougher moments, too. I also like how Clara changes and starts to realize things about herself and her family that she didn't really know before. This is definitely a great summer read.

 

- Claire L

Books: 
The Way You Make Me Feel Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780374304089
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - May 8th, 2018

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The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

When Penny returns to her small Michigan hometown, she expects to spend the summer focusing on her journalistic aspirations. Instead, she finds herself trying to rescue her missing father from what might just be aliens. With The Truth Lies Here author Lindsey Klingele creates a sci-fi story that is at times humorous and surprisingly touching. Throughout the story, Penny is forced to re-evaluate her black-and-white defination of the truth as she finds the simplest explanation to not always be the correct one. Similarly, she quickly begins to examine her complicated relationship with her father when she learns that there's more to him than the conspiracy-theorist she’d always known. Fans of The X-Files will enjoy Penny’s interactions with an old friend, where she plays Scully to his Mulder. And even while inexplicable events occur, Klingele is able to depict an accurate and relatable image of teenage life, from Penny’s tense relationship with an ex-best friend to her growing feelings toward the town's star quarterback. Klingele’s work demonstrates the dangers of summarizing events and people with a simple viewpoint without examining their complexities. She also provides comforts to those who may feel as if they don’t belong, as Penny has similar doubts while reacquainting herself with her hometown. But the story doesn’t get too caught up in these ideas; the plot remains fast-paced and the characters are interesting and realistic. Overall, The Truth Lies Here makes a great read for anyone looking for a little extraterrestrial action in their summer.

 

- Zoe J

Books: 
The Truth Lies Here Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062380395
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperTeen - August 21st, 2018

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