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Other Press, 09/24/2013
Jenn says: "Through the lens of his own family's lives as citizens of
Pakistan and the United States as well as through his extensive
ancestry, Mufti examines the evolution of Pakistan from its formation to
its current status. It's a huge project to undertake but he balances
the personal with the political well, finding the human moments in
history and the sweeping themes in everyday life. As a memoir and a
biography of a nation both, it's well worth a read."
Molly says: "If I had my way, there would be a new Aimee Bender book
every year (if not even more often). The details of her gorgeously
written stories are often surreal -- in one, a girl travels with her
sister to learn how to mend a wounded tiger; in the title story, an
apprentice works to dye cloth the precise color of the moon -- but the
feelings they evoke are bittersweet and familiar."
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Two Dollar Radio, 11/18/2013
Emily says: The narrative flows with both a breathy intensity and a cool hollowness in Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon's debut novel,
The rise and fall of a toxic friendship, the pulsing house parties that
stop after a girl dies, the wildfires and mountains, the middle class
kid who hops trains to Missoula to find the truth about his father --
they swirl and converge and blur together like smoke in your eyes, but
the light, it's sharpened and heightened somehow too. She captures
perfectly that early adulthood wasteland where you're friends with
people and you do things, but you're not really sure why anymore, and
either the momentum carries you through or it doesn't, either you emerge
at the other end of the tunnel or the walls come crashing down, and
there's something about the dialog, the rhythm. I don't know, it's just
that the ambivalence and hesitation and put-on confidence are exactly as
they should be.
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New Directions, 11/18/2013
Chad says: "Filiberto Garcia is a foul-mouthed Mexican revolutionary turned gun-for-hire. He is, in his own cold estimation, nothing but a "stiff factory": the rough-around-the-edges killer in his faceless employers' games. A rumor drifts into Mexico City, downwind of Soviet Russia, and it joins the opium-filled air of the city's small Chinatown, an area Garcia is known to frequent: The Mexican and American presidents are to be assassinated in three days. Next thing Garcia knows, he's eating Cantonese with agents from both the KGB and the CIA. Their meetings are more Three Stooges than Three Musketeers, and Garcia is exhausted, in love, annoyed by the ludicrous antics of international intrigue, and increasingly aware that he's the only player that can actually figure anything out. Irreverent and unapologetic, The Mongolian Conspiracy is '60s noir to the core. It's dead serious and dead funny; it's fast-paced and wise. It's totally great."
Jenn says: "I never thought there would be another Bridget book -- what could possibly come after the triumphant reunion with Mark Darcy? Turns out: A WHOLE LOT. There are some serious sniffle-moments in Mad About the Boy, as well as the usual hilarity and hijinks. Watching Bridget tackle parenthood, texting, middle age, and many other trials and tribulations is like finally getting back in touch with a college roommate and getting tipsy (or squiffy, as Jonesy would say) as you hash out the last decade. Welcome back, Bridget. I missed you!"
Katie says: "Caitlin Moran is a leader both in how women should be writing and what they should be writing about. She comes with her guns blazing but offers thoughtful debates for the choices women have to make."
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Chad says: "It's 2145 on Earth and as a result of solar radiation and
global warming, civilization is underwater and overrun with vegetation,
malarial insects, large reptiles, and oppressive heat. Men and women
boat or fly here and there, gathering data and looking for relics of the
past, but more often they are asleep and dreaming: of an even more
distant past, of the deep, primordial South. This is a science-fiction
Heart of Darkness, complete with a Kurtz-like mad man. Haunting, sticky, and frighteningly prescient."
Katie says: "From
About a Boy to How to Be Good, I've
always found that the mastery of Nick Hornby lies in his knack for
creating characters with whom readers can find camaraderie. Those found
in High Fidelity (the story surrounding the owner of a small,
London-based record shop) are no exception. While our leading man, Rob,
knows what works in the world of music and has no qualms asserting his
firm opinions on the subject, he's much less certain on how to feel
about his girlfriend Laura getting together with the neighbor from
upstairs. I often find myself re-reading the beginning of this book when
I'm in need of a good laugh. The story unfolds with Rob listing off his
top-five most memorable (and equally traumatizing) breakups and the
lists only get better from there."
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Viking Adult, 10/01/2013
Emily says: "I was surprised to be so taken in by this book. It just
reminded me that I shouldn't make assumptions about my own reading
tastes, let alone anyone else's. In Alma Whittaker, we get to see
firsthand the frustrations built in to being born privileged and
brilliant -- and a woman -- in the early days of the American republic.
And Gilbert has also crafted one of those rare novels that presents the
reader with a life, a full life, and keeps your interest the whole time.
I haven't read one done so well since John Williams'
Reagan Arthur Books, 05/21/2013
Jenn says: "NoViolet Bulawayo’s
We Need New Names is a
must-read, whether or not you find yourself drawn to international
fiction. It follows a young girl who starts out as a child in Zimbabwe,
first in a middle-class enclave and then a ramshackle village, and then
goes to Michigan to live with relatives. It’s about alienation and
suffering and being a kid and growing up too fast and what it’s like to
try to find a home, and it’s affecting and wonderful."
Chad says: "With the rest of Colombia suffocating in his fist, drug
kingpin Pablo Escobar opened a zoo. Many years later, two hippos escape.
They are tracked and shot. This is the haunted madeleine gathering
saliva in narrator Antonio Yammara's mouth. He remembers a
sort-of-friend who was shot in the street following a game of billiards:
The Sound of Things Falling is Yammara's search for
answers, and the ensuing pages are tragic: a sad, soft-spoken meditation
on Colombia, memory, trauma, and flights in and out of each."
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The Penguin Press, 09/17/2013
Jenn says: "This book is a moving target through and through, and trying
to sum it all up feels impossible. Instead, here is a list of things
you can expect: ‘90s and ‘00s references; mafioso and hackers and dotcom
billionaires; unscrupulous government agents of uncertain affiliation;
terrorism (this is, after all, a novel about 9/11); finances both legit
and shadowy; conspiracy theories galore; underground videotapes and the
Deep Web; murders; karaoke nights, parties, school playgrounds; and New
York City, the most important character in the whole book, blazing and
shady all at the same time."
Mulholland Books, 06/04/2013
Jenn says: "I don’t read a lot of horror. But when Lauren Beukes writes
something (have you read her yet? READ HER), I read it. She’s smart,
she’s political, and she’s one of those writers who manages to turn the
world on its ear while making it look easy. Her newest novel,
The Shining Girls,
just came out and wow. It’s a serial killer story, with time travel,
set in Chicago between the 1930s and the 1990s. It’s complicated and
dark and gory and almost gave me nightmares, and I feel like if you have
a beach visit or a plane ride coming up, you need it."
Jenn says: "We've recommended this book before, but it's worth
recommending again. It's been my go-to book for people in any and every
transition moment you can think of -- graduating, moving, breaking up,
getting together, losing their cool, taking advantage of new
opportunities -- as well as my own personal back-up for those days when I
need a little kick."
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Unbridled Books, 05/01/2012
Emily says: "In her latest (now in paperback!), Emily St. John Mandel
shows how relationships formed in high school, so often fraught with
drama, can ebb and flow and fade and come back to haunt. Among her
characters, the perception of what's important and the potential impact
of actions varies widely, and something as seemingly insignificant as a
photograph can become riddled with layers of meaning, differing for each
person who sees it. The writing is taut and Mandel's characteristic
infusions of moral ambiguity and complexity remind us, as good novels
should, of what it means to be human."
St. Martin's Griffin, 09/10/2013
Molly says: "Rainbow Rowell's second YA novel this year is just as wonderful as her first (
Eleanor and Park). The most striking thing about Fangirl,
which follows fanfic junkie Cather as she goes off to college, is the
perfect way Rowell captures a time of endless, tumultuous change. New
people, new situations, new friendships, maybe new relationships -- all
crowd Cath's time at the computer, where she writes popular Simon Snow
fanfic (think Harry Potter, but, well, not). Rowell's
enthusiasm for fandom is as boundless as her sense of humor -- and this
book, like her last, has a really, really big heart."
Del Rey, 09/29/2010
Jenn says: "
I decided on a summer reread of Adams' five-book
trilogy since it has probably been a decade since I last spent time with
Arthur, Trillian, Ford, and Zaphod (if you don't count the recent movie
version, which I almost do because it was such a great adaptation). My
recommendation is, do not try to eat or drink while reading, because no
matter how many times you've read them before, these books are still
hilarious enough to induce spluttering."
Emily says: "Like David Simon's The Wire and Dave Cullen's Columbine,
this book is about all of the moral dilemmas that surround massive
tragedy, and about the ways that interconnected systems succeed and fail
and undermine each other when infrastructure breaks down. Fink does a
remarkable job of remaining, for the most part, neutral -- and yet there
are heroes and villains (often in the same person) and no shortage of
drama. Natural disaster, medicine, corporate hierarchies, crime, law,
media -- they feed and play off of each other. You ask yourself, "What
would I do in such dire circumstances? Was what happened right or
wrong?" and as is often the result of the best investigative journalism,
I couldn't always answer those questions with certainty. It was hard to
read sometimes, but utterly riveting."
Nan A. Talese, 09/03/2013
Jenn says: "Like all truly good series books, this newest installment
will make you want to read The Flood novels over again from start to
MaddAddam follows the surviving Gods Gardeners,
revealing the history of Adam One and Zeb -- and the surprising ways
they influenced Crake in his early years. Happily for fans like yours
truly, we also get lots of the Crakers and of Toby, who is the
scrappiest scrapper that ever done scrap. And if you haven't read these
yet, I can't recommend them highly enough; it's one of the best-written, most frighteningly plausible post-apocalypse series I've ever read."
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 02/10/2004
Jacob says: "I may be fascinated by serial killers, and I may have only
picked up this book because it involved H. H. Holmes (a serial killer
responsible for creating a type of murder mansion), but there is so much
The Devil in the White City than just murder. Larson
weaves the story of H. H. Holmes with that of the 1893 Chicago World's
Fair. The combination is riveting, rich with fascinating historical
detail, and hard to put down. I'd heard about the World's Fair, but I
had no idea it was so influential -- so many prominent historical
figures were involved or in attendance and a number of iconic things
were created for it. Larson highlights the glamour and grime in ways
that will leave you in awe."
On Our Shelves Now
Quirk Books, 2/2013
Adrian and Christine say: "This lively retelling of the classic Abbott
and Costello skit has Adrian and his father in stitches every night. It
is a read aloud that seems to get better over time, and it's the perfect
gift for a baseball fan or a nostalgic parent."
Jenn says: "Against my expectations, I adored Rakoff’s
I am highly allergic to hype, and this book couldn't really have more.
It's Rakoff's first and only novel, published posthumously, and it's in
verse, AND it's got the full Chip Kidd treatment, plus illustrations by
Seth. There's a lot going on there, you know? But it was lovely. The
rhyme scheme is very Seussian, which seems weird at first but then turns
out to be a lot of fun even during the sad parts (and there are a lot
of sad parts), and Rakoff's wit has a lot of bite to it. Honestly? I
might even read it again." Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
Emily says: "I trust Europa when it comes to world noir, and they
certainly have succeeded with this one. Zane Lovitt writes like sort of
an Australian Chandler, with the quick, snappy dialogue and observations
that you'd expect from a private investigator, but also with the
stunning descriptions of beauty and squalor that have perhaps nothing to
do with his cases. It jumps around chronologically, so you have to
enjoy each chapter on its own to an extent. But the final story, and the
way it brings everything together, and the way it ends, the last few
pages, they took my breath away."
Simone says: "We begin with a woman wandering resort town beaches, the
voices in her head keeping her from succumbing to starvation. Slowly the
story behind her unfolds and we move with her between her precarious
current life and the nightmares-made-real that she fled in her home
country. This novel leaves space for you to reconsider
your definition of sanity."
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 08/06/2013
Emily says: "Many booksellers I know were big fans of Sharp Teeth, so I was excited for Barlow's sophomore effort. Babayaga
is a sort of magical realist detective novel set in the middle of the
twentieth century in Paris, with witches, ad men who are actually spies,
and the most incredible monologues from an inspector-turned-flea."
The Dial Press, 07/30/2013
Jenn says: "If you like travel, cheese, escapes to the Old World, and/or
warped family sagas, you will want to pick this up. As a freelance
editor for a foodie periodical, Paterniti learned of the ultimate
cheese, made by hand with love by a man in Spain. Many years later, as a
journalist looking for a story, he found out that the cheese was no
longer being made and decided to find out why not. The story gets bigger
and more complicated from there, and includes betrayal, revenge
fantasies, an international move -- and lots and lots of cheese."
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Coffee House Press, 05/24/2013
CJ says: "People can get pretty intense on the Internet, especially
if it is their sole means of communication with the world. Nichols'
novel is crafted as one long blog comment, in which someone we know as
Linksys181 defends his recent ban from Charli and Nico's wedding blog by
the couple's best man, Chris. It is clear from the start that he is an
outcast, intelligent but tragically socially inept. I see him as the
Ignatius J. Reilly of the Internet age. Prepare yourself for an
entertaining read that is funny, creepy, unsettling, sad, and super
Simon & Schuster, 07/02/2013
Emily says: "This was my beach read of the summer. A mathematician makes
a huge discovery, and it causes concern among distant aliens who fear
humans will rise above their station in the universe. So, of course,
they send one of their own to inhabit his body, destroy the proof and
anyone who knew about it, and dispose of his wife and teenage son. The
alien's disgust at the human race and the crazy situations that arise
while he's inhabiting the object of his revulsion are pretty hysterical,
and you won't be surprised to learn that the cold and heartless alien
gets more heart the more time he spends on Earth."
Wendy Lamb Books, 03/24/2009
Jenny says: "This is a great series for 2nd/3rd/4th grade readers,
starring Calvin who lives with his funny, diverse family and friends in
Hawaii. From dealing with bullies, to a trip around the islands, to
surviving a hurricane, Calvin's stories are entertaining and realistic.
Plus, you can take an imaginary trip to Hawaii every time you pick up
one of the books! Book 1 is
Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet, and the latest in the series is Book 9, Calvin Coconut: Extra Famous."
Gotham Books, 07/02/2013
Simone says: "If you are funny, really nailing the humorous, sarcastic, blush-inducing
tone of the extroverted confessor, I am in your target audience.
was told just as it needed to be -- with heart, with details, and just
enough personal growth. It's a raunchy coming-of-age tell-all that we
can nod at and relate to because Cardiff shares herself and gives us a
multidimensional young woman, not just a collection of wild parties and
Jenn says: "I look forward to each new installment in James's fairytale series of
romances, and the newest (a retelling of Rapunzel featuring a young
British woman and a Very Proper Scottish lord) might be my favorite
thing she's ever written.
She breaks genre rules right along with
the hearts of her characters. For example: the conflict here? The hero
and heroine have lots of emotional and physical chemistry, but are a
disaster together in bed. This flies against everything I thought I knew
about how romance novels work. But if you are a master like Eloisa
James, you can do these things, and still deliver a 'Happily ever
Spiegel & Grau, 04/06/2010
Emily says: "The book is better than the show (SHOCKING)! The show is a
worthy guilty pleasure for sure, and the book undoubtedly has its
moments of straight-up entertainment. But where it truly thrives is in
painting a human picture of those who survive in the US prison system,
and in recognizing the massive shortcomings of that system. Kerman
acknowledges that her experience is extremely atypical compared to most
inmates she encountered, due mostly to privileges bestowed on her by
race and class. But having made it through, she shows us that connection
can happen within a soulless system."
Molly says: "Do you have an immediate response to the cover of this
book? Do you associate something -- weddings, love, advertising,
conflict -- with that diamond? If so, chalk it up (at least in part) to
one of the characters in Sullivan's multi-strand novel: Frances Gerety,
the copywriter who coined the phrase "A diamond is forever." Deftly and
gently, Sullivan weaves together research and fiction, crossing decades
as she links four disparate couples with one diamond ring."
Graywolf Press, 03/13/2012
Emily says: "
The Wire + The Sisters Brothers + Alexander McQueen + Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.
At first, I wasn't sure whether I'd like it -- I couldn't quite settle
in to the swishy slang-y vernacular. And then I decided to read the
first few pages out loud, and it was like landing in Oz: the prose
became all angles and light and bursts of technicolor. Imagine a
futuristic urban Wild West with a fancy fashion sense. Barry has created
such a vivid and lurid world in the city of Bohane -- one with cultural
spats and turf wars, one where the men seem to rule but women have most
of the power, and one where love is a force that haunts."
Henry Holt and Co., 07/16/2013
Christine says: "This debut novel inspired by literary Brooklyn puts us inside Nate's
head as he finds himself stumbling through relationships, both platonic
and romantic. Nate might seem familiar to many of us living here, but
the book takes on a curious Victorian feel, well described in a review
as a 'comedy of manners.' It was strangely fascinating to get inside
this character's psyche. At times I felt like it cleared up some
confusion about male behavior, and at other times I wanted to shake him
and tell him to get a clue. Waldman's ability to convincingly present a
character like Nate from the inside out made this a really exciting
Molly says: "Take a deep breath before rattling off the subtitle of
David Wondrich's detailed, jaunty guide to the classic cocktail:
From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar.
No idea who Jerry Thomas was? No worries; Wondrich will tell you, while
packing the tale with history, curiosities, anecdotes -- and a lot of
recipes, each of which has its own story."
CJ says: "Eggers delivers an accessible, steadily paced novel that
centers around hope and expectation. Alan is a middle-aged businessman
who has been beaten down by the various shortcomings in his life.
Existing in a sort of purgatory, he travels to Saudi Arabia with a group
of younger colleagues, believing that if he can sell holographic
technology to the king, the rest of his life will fall back into place.
He develops friendships throughout his unexpectedly long stay (no one
knows when the king will actually show up) with a young man named Yousef
and Dr. Hakem, a woman who performs surgery on his neck. He constantly
struggles in his search to find some unnameable thing: happiness,
solace, success? This is a great summer read, engrossing but
undemanding. I also absolutely love the paperback cover."