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January 29, 2015

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Alex Award Predictions

Alex Award Predictions

MARK: The 2015 Alex Awards–recognizing “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults”–will be named during the Youth Media Awards on February 2. In our annual quest to pretend we know what we’re talking about, today Angela and I are going to make some guesses about what we think might have […]

The Heart Does Not Grow Back

The Heart Does Not Grow Back

The tagline plastered on the back of Fred Venturini’s debut novel–”Every superhero needs to start somewhere”–may draw in readers, but it may mislead them as well. It is true that the novel’s protagonist, Dale Sampson, has a superheroic ability to regenerate his limbs, but the novel is much less of an origin story than it […]

The Rosie Effect: A Sequel That Delivers the Goods

The Rosie Effect: A Sequel That Delivers the Goods

When I read Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, I loved it (and reviewed positively)–funny, charming, sweet, with something real to say about humanity. But I had some doubts about it’s teen appeal, which was the only reason I didn’t give it a starred review. So I was pleasantly surprised when one of our other reviewers […]

The World of Ice and Fire

The World of Ice and Fire

As this blog’s resident Game of Thrones reviewer (again, despite having never read the novels), I took it upon myself to read the newest entry into the world of The Song of Ice and Fire, a “nonfiction” companion to George R.R. Martin’s epic world. The book has Martin’s name above the title, but the smaller […]

First Frost

First Frost

Happy New Year! Given the frost on the ground in my usually balmy California home, I thought we would ring in the New Year here with the appropriately titled First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen–our first 2015 title, to boot. This book is an example of one of my favorite parts of this blog: when […]

Lists!

Lists!

It’s mid-December and that means there are lots of lists coming out. Last year, I made an exhaustive spreadsheet of all of the major journals’ best-of lists to show you what made multiple lists and which ones we’d reviewed. This year, I’m . . . not going to do that. Instead, just a few thoughts. […]

Three Debuts

Three Debuts

One of my favorite reader’s advisory tools is Amazon’s “Customer’s Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. I know, I know, Amazon’s a big evil company engaged in a fight against the absolutely tiny publishing firm of Hatchette (note: Hatchette is not tiny), but what can I say? The algorithm they use is great. You […]

A Debut Novel for Lovers of (or Newbies to) the Greek Classics

A Debut Novel for Lovers of (or Newbies to) the Greek Classics

Natalie Haynes’s debut novel is a fascinating mix of Haynes’s diverse interests and talents. A stand-up comedian, television panelist, journalist, and author of a nonfiction book on the Greek classics, Haynes brings all these sources to bear in creating a complex and satisfying narrative. As our reviewer notes, the novel is structured, as a traditional […]

A Debut Novel by Indie Rock Darling John Darnielle

A Debut Novel by Indie Rock Darling John Darnielle

As a (and often the only) member of the indie rock band The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle is responsible for some of the most literate music of the 2000s and early 2010s. This year he turned to the in-no-way-guaranteed-to-succeed extension of that literate nature: a novel. But succeed it does, and I’m not the only […]

North of Normal and What is Visible

North of Normal and What is Visible

On Monday, Angela mentioned that we haven’t had as many nonfiction titles as we’d like this year, and offered up Dr. Mutter’s Marvels for consideration. Today, we’ve got another nonfiction title, this time a memoir, and a novel based on a real person. The memoir is Cea Sunrise Person’s North of Normal, and Person’s first […]

Historical Fiction Round-Up

Historical Fiction Round-Up

I have to say I expected more World War I books this year, considering it is the Centennial of that war. We did have the fabulous poetry collection/graphic novel Above the Dreamless Dead. But other than that we haven’t seen a huge push for books about the Great War. One book under review today takes […]

Displaced Persons

Displaced Persons

Derek McCulloch’s Gone to Amerikay was one of our favorite books of 2012. In fact, I even (incorrectly) predicted an Alex Award for it. So I was very excited to see that he was out with a new graphic novel, this time illustrated by Anthony Peruzzo. Like Gone to Amerikay, Displaced Persons has an epic […]

The Final Book in the Southern Reach Trilogy

The Final Book in the Southern Reach Trilogy

You can’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ve been raving about Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy all year, and promising a review of the final volume. So here it is. VanderMeer once again takes readers into the heart of his mysterious Area X (after merely skirting around it through the middle volume in the trilogy), […]

Poetry from the Streets

Poetry from the Streets

For teen in my community, in Vallejo, CA, mentioning Tupac Shakur is pretty much guaranteed to give you some credibility, and his book of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete is one of our most read (and lost) poetry collections. So when I saw that David Tomas Martinez’s debut collection, Hustle, not only name-checks […]

Malala Yousafzai Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai Wins Nobel Peace Prize

I thought readers here might be interested to know, if they hadn’t heard already, that Malala Yousafzai has just been named a co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is, of course, the author of I Am Malala–reviewed here back in December–which chronicles her struggle for education for girls in Pakistan, and eventual shooting […]

A Little Lumpen Novelita from Roberto Bolano

A Little Lumpen Novelita from Roberto Bolano

One of the greatest Latin American writers of the turn of the 21st Century, Roberto Bolaño has unfortunately only been known to English readers since his premature death, at the age of 50, to liver disease. His two most famous works here in America, 2666 and The Savage Detectives, are massive, complex novels filled with […]

The Spark and the Drive

The Spark and the Drive

Wayne Harrison’s The Spark and the Drive is one of my favorite debut novels of the year, and like so many debut novels it appears to have been based on the author’s life. Like his young narrator, Harrison worked as an auto mechanic in Waterbury, CT and he uses that background for all it’s worth, […]

Unreviewed but not Forgotten

Unreviewed but not Forgotten

“Hey Mark” (a hypothetical reader asks) “how do you choose what you review around here?” Unfortunately, chance and timing play a big role. There are of course hundreds of books every year that could be reviewed on this blog that we simply never hear about or never get a copy of. But what about books […]

Court Intrigue

Court Intrigue

Whence our fascination with royalty? Back in my high school American History classes, I used to joke that ever since winning the Revolution, Americans have been trying their hardest to make the President into a king–a joke I find less and less funny as we are treated to ever-expanding executive power and a seemingly inevitable […]

Honoring Librarian Henrietta Smith, Long-Term Diversity Advocate

Henrietta_Smith_small

Henrietta Mays Smith, 92, an inaugural member of the Coretta Scott King Awards Task Force, will be the first librarian to receive a Carle Mentor Honor on September 18.