Hot Off Our Review Press!
Check out what we (MG staff and friends) have recently read and enjoyed, and other recommended reads. You can also check out our first newsletter dedicated to Reviews. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the pdf file there.
HOT OFF THE PRESS!
Check out the older not-so-hot-off-the-press reviews on the Newsletter menu.
You can also check out what each staff member is reading.
From our September 2015 Newsletter:
Sometimes you come across a book and as you glance at its cover and start reading the first page you get the feeling that this is a book that you could simply fall in love with. I got that feeling with Circus Mirandus almost immediately and I was not wrong-- this is a special and magical book that pulls you in the way only a magical circus could. Here is a story about a magical, wondrous circus, of flying girls, miracles, and impossible things. But here is also a story of young Micah and his beloved dying grandfather. Written poignantly and imaginatively, this is a touching and beautiful novel for readers of all ages. – Kelly
What if the little voice in our heads, the one that could tell a lie to get you out of any situation or go off on a rampage destroying all your friends, could speak for itself? That’d be kind of a terrible superpower. It’s also the set-up for Zeroes, the new YA book about a loose team of superpowered teens who have powers based on interpersonal relationships. Mixing superhero genre tropes with classic teen struggles with change, romance, and wanting to both stand out and fit in with the crowd, Westerfeld, Lanagan, and Biancotti develop a rich world. The alternating points of view between the six main characters keeps the prose engaging, though some characters are easier to identify with than others. Ultimately, a thrilling new take on the superhero genre. – David M.
Jillian Cade’s father is a charlatan – but one with an international following, so when he goes largely MIA after her mother’s death, leaving the high schooler more or less independent under the loving care of her aunt, uncle, and younger cousin, Jillian decides to capitalize on his reputation and generate an income stream via “Umbra Investigations,” looking into supernatural occurrences for the gullible. The beginning of her junior year of high school is immediately complicated by two issues – a gorgeous new guy who may only be interested in her because of her dad, and a case that may not be as fake as she anticipates. Jillian’s narration is a great combination of sarcastic and pop culture young person, balanced with some real vulnerability. Comparisons to “Veronica Mars” are inevitable, and deserved. – Maryelizabeth
Debut author Hester Young has taken Southern gothic to a whole new level with her complex heroine, whose heartache is genuine and palpable. Charlotte (Charlie) Cates is a broken-hearted divorcee who has suffered unimaginable loss in her life; her mother left when she was a baby, her father died in a car accident, and her 4-year-old son died of a brain aneurysm. Her saving grace has been her friendship with fellow mother, Rae, and her love for her grandmother, with whom she has lived since she was 14 years old. It turns out that Charlie and her grandmother have more in common that she knew. They both have visions which enable them to see the future. When one such vision coincides with a job offer to research a cold case of a missing child, Charlie travels to Chicory, Louisiana to reside in an old southern mansion called Evangeline. Once there, she meets the Deveau family, complete with evil sisters, a brother with secrets, thier dying mother, and a fellow visitor who is working to restore the grounds of their estate to their former beauty. As Charlie learns more about the inhabitants of this house, she finds herself immersed in the history and mystery of this family. In the end, she will find the answers she seeks, both about the Deveau family … and about herself. –Terry
Okay, so it’s the obvious metaphor, but it’s true, none-the-less: the new thriller from the best-selling urban fantasy author isn’t so much a departure from her previous story-telling, as a swerve onto a parallel path, just one without supernatural elements. Physician’s assistant Kristine Rush and her fiancé, ER surgeon Daniel Hawthorne, make a routine roadside stop to deal with a spilled beverage en route to his family home. While Kris is in the bathroom stall, she is menaced by an unseen foe – when she emerges, Daniel is gone, taken hostage, and soon Kris starts receiving directions to commit difficult and morally questionable tasks to try to rescue him, with no recourse for outside assistance. This is a breathless, one-sitting, “what would / could I do in this situation?” novel, recommended for readers who aren’t averse to “real world” darkness and violence. – Maryelizabeth
I loved In the Shadow of Blackbirds, so I was excited to dive into The Uninvited, a psychological thriller set in the panic of the influenza pandemic of 1918. The world has been turned upside down by the war and the deadly flu and Americans are paranoid to the point of violence against German blooded citizens. Ivy Rowan, who has a lifelong gift for seeing ghosts, rises from her sick bed seemingly a survivor of the flu, only to discover her angry drunken father and brother have murdered a German furniture maker from town. In disgust, she leaves the farm and heads to town where she is horrified by the breakdown of governing society that the panic has caused. She is drawn to the jazz music played at the Masonic Lodge and to Daniel Schendel, the now sole owner of Liberty Furniture and has no inkling of the otherworldly revelations that are about to unfold. A hauntingly great ghost story. – Bunny
Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy is one of the most talked about science fiction trilogies for a reason. Technically set in a vaguely dystopian future, it is anything but Hunger Games for grown-ups. The first book in the trilogy is Annihilation (which won the Nebula Award – a first for FSG). Written in journal format, it tells of the twelfth expedition to venture into Area X – a stretch of land mysteriously taken over by pristine wilderness from which few have returned. Known only by their function, the expedition is made up of the psychologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor, and the biologist (who is also the narrator). As they focus their mission on an enigmatic underground cylindrical tower, the anonymity and pressure turns to distrust and betrayal. Lauren Beukes called it a “tense and chilling psychological thriller” with “a little Kubrick, a lot of Lovecraft.” Pick it up. Read it. You won’t be disappointed. – Anne C.
With Three Moments of an Explosion, Miéville has earned his place in the pantheon of short fiction fantastical writers, joining such dark luminaries as Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clive Barker. The twenty-eight windows into the weird you’ll find in this collection offer bizarre, wondrous, and terrifying vistas, some as vast in scope as the space between the stars; others claustrophobic as a padded cell. In “Polynia,” airborne icebergs overshadow London and coral reefs sprout from buildings in Brussels as man-besieged Nature returns the favor. In “After the Festival,” participants in a modern shamanistic ritual don the heads of severed animals, and to their horror lose control of their inner beasts. “Säcken” pits two women’s love against a hungry sack that devours souls as a chilling punishment. There’s more, so much more, in this mind-expanding brood of dangerous visions, but be warned, they strike with fangs of philosophy. Miéville’s revelations made me gape in awe. – Robert
From Our August Newsletter:
Who doesn’t enjoy a sneak peek into the lives of others? A goldfish named Ian certainly falls into the category of interested onlooker, even as he plunges 27 stories from his fishbowl on the balcony of “Villain Connor Radley’s” apartment. Ian’s astute observations of his own situation as well as those he passes on his way will leave a smile on your face. As he will tell you, this story actually starts 30 minutes before his plunge and involves multiple glimpses into the lives of the inhabitants of Seville on Roxy, an apartment building in a nameless city that feels a lot like New York City. Ian’s trip is breathtaking, as are the big reveals in the lives of Connor, his girlfriend Katie, building superintendent Jemenez, the very pregnant Petunia Delilah, and a handful of others. Filled with insight and humor, (and a creative page layout!) this is a debut novel from an author to watch! – Terry
This intense thriller from the Mary Higgins Clark Award–winner pits two escaped convicts on the run against a nuclear family in their wintery Adirondacks cabin. Sociopath Nick Muncey and his giant companion, Harlan, menace Sandy Tremont and her husband, wilderness guide Ben, and teenage daughter, Ivy, in the claustrophobic environs of their isolated home. Emotions run high as Jenny crafts insights not just into the Sandy and her family’s fears, and Nick and Harlan’s desperation, but also into family dynamics, spousal relationships, and more. A great chilling read for a hot summer’s night. – Maryelizabeth
Leonora – known as Lee in a life that she is straining to forget, and as Nora in her new life as a successful crime writer – is safe in her quiet apartment when she receives an invitation to a long past friend’s hen party (as they call them in England.) Curiosity wins over better judgement and 48 hours later she finds herself waking in a hospital bed with a police guard at the door. “What have I done?” her mind is demanding; however, memory is non-existent. What happened in that glass house in the dark woods of Northumberland with old friends and strangers? It begins to come back to her slowly and it involves her beloved James and the life she had hoped to stifle forever. She must get back to the wood before she is arrested. The story offers non-stop action, pushing at the edges until the very end. Ware is a new author from a new literary imprint. – Bunny
When Lady Drummond dies of apoplexy during a portrait painting session with Lady Kiera Darby, the artist immediately suspects Lady Drummond’s husband of murdering her. After enduring three years of abuse, Kiera recognized her subject’s body language and knows she was an abused woman. In spite of the doctor’s listed cause of death, it is not difficult for Kiera to convince inquiry agent Sebastian Gage, her fiancé, to help her investigate. Society’s rules and regulations, other crimes, and complications in the pregnancy of Kiera’s sister combine to increase the strain placed on the engaged couple’s relationship. Because this well-written book – fourth in the series -- is set in 1831 Scotland, it is a history lesson as well as a mystery. – Guest Reviewer Sandra Hale
From its atmospheric setting in the Georgia Appalachian Highlands, to a multi-generational dynasty of dysfunctional men who have made their living off Bull Mountain (in mostly illegal ways), to a current-day national investigation into the family business … this debut will engross you. Clayton Burroughs is the McFalls County Sheriff and brother to Hal, the head of the “family business.” Hal is a violent and unpredictable man who rules Bull Mountain with a tight rein. When Agent Simon Holly visits Clayton with a proposal to solve some of the problems he faces with the criminal elements of his community, a series of events is triggered with devastating consequences. As the vast network of co-mingled activities involving guns, drugs, and violence is revealed, so are multiple generations of Burroughs which form the core of this mountain community. This is the story of family and the far reaching consequences of generations of dysfunctional relationships. Prepare to be skillfully drawn into the dark side of Bull Mountain as we welcome debut author Panowich, who will surely become a household name in no time. – Terry
This noir page- turner is alive with history, the intrigue of Vegas, the pain of lost love, and much more. The story brings the Vietnam War era to life, and wraps it with such beautiful prose that you ache for the characters and their convoluted existence. Suzy, originally Hong, is missing; and her cop ex-husband is blackmailed into searching for her by her current husband, a violent Vietnamese gambler and smuggler who has a curious past with Hong. Tran flashes back to the saga of Hong’s and her tiny daughter Mia’s migration from Vietnam to LA in beautiful heartbreaking letters Suzy is now writing to her abandoned daughter. The contrast of violent, crazy, and tender emotions is wonderfully woven together by this debut author. – Bunny
The Fountain of Youth. Does it exist, and if so, where and also when? More important, to what lengths would a person go to find it, keep it, and exploit the consequences of eternal youth? The Eternal World stirs up a cornucopia of times and places, including Spanish conquistadors, a Native American woman out for vengeance, a scientific prodigy specializing in biotechnology, and the conglomerate made up of very youthful men determined to keep and exploit their powerful influence, growing richer while not growing much older. When the corporation’s source of their youth begins to dry up, they call upon biotechnology expert David Robinton to try and recreate their liquid gold. He believes his research will benefit all mankind, but we know better. When Shako, the daughter of the chief whose tribe was destroyed by the conquistadors, comes calling with vengeance on her mind, David must figure out who is using him and why. Oh yeah, and how to survive this epic battle of immortals. For readers who like a fast-paced supernatural thriller mixing fantasy with history. – Linda
Peter Caswell is a programmable assassin, and a pretender of the highest rank. He can go anywhere, be anyone, and do or kill anything … and be back in time to forget the whole thing. He lives in the moment and moments are his life. His current mission has him chasing the only surviving crew member of a missing spaceship, a women who has apparently murdered the rest of her crew and then fled through a wormhole to an alternate Earth, a world eerily similar and yet wholly more dangerous than the one he left behind. Good thing he’s got skills. He’s going to need every last one of them, for all is not as it seems.
Melni Tavan is the perfect foil for Caswell, a Southern spy posing as a Northern reporter to be privy to all of the action. Like Caswell, she’s a smooth operator. Her current mission is to gather intelligence on the newly acquired technology so prevalent in the North, and on its inventor, a woman with knowledge far more advanced than any that existed before. Without this knowledge, the South is doomed. She’ll get that knowledge or eliminate the threat, for she has a few skills of her own. Highly recommended. – Patrick
From Our July Newsletter
Princess X offers readers the very best kind of “purple prose,” in its tale of BFFs May and Libby, who create the title character on a playground during a quiet moment in grade school. May continues to tell tales of the sword-wielding, sneaker-wearing princess, illustrated by Libby – until Libby’s tragic accidental death. When the lonely teenaged May sees fan art and a webcomic appear with their character, she is surprised … and as she explores the mystery behind the reemergence of her creation, she begins wondering if Libby is dead after all. The story’s prose / sequential art combination, supported by an active website for iamprincessx.com provide a fully immersive experience for true believers in female friendship. – Maryelizabeth
This is a fun and imaginative graphic novel that explores friendship, magic, and what it really means to be a hero. Nimona is a young girl who is fiercely independent, a bit impulsive, and plenty eager to create havoc around her. When she joins forces with the notorious villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart she thinks they can finally prove that the heroes at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t exactly who they say they are. But the lines between villainy and heroism aren’t so clear and Nimona and Ballister must both work through their painful pasts before they can help make the present world a better place. Full of science, magical shapeshifting, heroes, villains and plenty of laugh out loud moments, this is a graphic novel readers of all ages can enjoy. – Kelly
Mystery & Suspense
Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell, best friends, roommates, and business partners, are hosting a special exhibit of Mayan antiquities for the town museum. Professor Addison Moody, former mentor to Erica, has requested their business, Chocolates and Chapters, host the event. In spite of a couple of incidents and Erica’s increased stress level, the evening seems to go well. Until the antiquities go missing and Erica, because of her degree and background, becomes the prime suspect in the theft. When Dr. Moody is found dead, his assistant Lavender Rawlings accuses Erica of murder. Once again the business partners and friends find themselves racing the police for a solution. With the help of Michelle’s brother, Leo, and Erica’s brother, Bean, the ladies hunt both a murderer and international art thief. Throw in kittens and match-making and readers will enjoy the company of the two best friends. – Guest Reviewer Sandra Hale
Mystery & Suspense
Hostile Takeover, the sequel to the darkly amusing The Intern’s Handbook might also be called The War of the Roses, because assassin John Lago faces his most deadly target yet-his wife Alice! Filled with murder, mayhem and more than a dash of sarcasm, Hostile Takeover begins with just that: their workplace, Human Resources, Inc. coming under the control of John and Alice. Husband and wife assassins working together, training new employees to infiltrate corporations under the guise of interns and kill high profile targets can put a real strain on a marriage. Can John and Alice survive (literally) the inter-office conflicts and find true love again? If they manage to avoid killing each other, can they also survive outside sources who want them dead? For fans who like their thrillers on the dark side, with a splash of twisted humor – Linda
Sixteen-year-old Lia Johansen arrives on New Sol Space Station a refuge and war orphan, but she is not exactly what she seems. She remembers little of her past, nor if she is entirely human. All she knows is her mission. Lia Johansen is bomb, engineered to go Nova in 36 hours, and the clock is ticking. Then it is not. Malfunction. Now she needs some answers, and a reason to go on … before she goes off. Even a dud can be dangerous if it’s rattled too much.
Exploring what it means to be human through the unlikely eyes of a piece of unexploded ordnance, Nova is the truly remarkable first volume in a series of five interconnected novels of interstellar war that will appeal to adults young and old … a novel quite worthy of Heinlein and PKD … and your time. Trust me, don’t miss this one. Glorious.
Though he may have done a few good things with his presidency, most people remember Richard Nixon as a crook, not a hero. In Crooked, Grossman reimagines Nixon as an unlikeable, but ultimately compelling, antihero trying to save the U.S. (and the world) from a secret war of unknowable horrors. Though clearly researched, the novel glosses over much of the real world Nixon’s actions, making it much more accessible to anyone interested in supernatural spy thrillers, not just Nixonian scholars. The action is sometimes slow, but the nature of the mysteries and the authentic cast will keep readers going to the end. – David
All you really need to know, right? But wait, there’s more. Seems aliens are on the way, and our world’s governments have known about it for over forty years. Conspiracy! All of the science fiction movies, TV shows, and video games we’ve enjoyed over the years have been preparing us to fight this Menace from Outer Space! There have been massive hints too: just play Space Invaders, read Ender’s Game, or watch The Last Starfighter! Obvious! How could we all have been so blind?!
“Greetings, Starfighter! You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada!”
It all comes to a head when Zack Lightman sees the alien scout ship from his classroom window. He thinks he’s switched his flip. But no! Seems Armada, the awesome video game he’s been playing so awesomely, is actually a simulator … and he’s about to be recruited to save the Earth!
“Wanna go for a ride?”
This book was written by a die-hard science fiction fan for die-hard science fiction fans. Like Ready Player One, Armada is chock full of every reference you could shake a stick at and, more than likely, a few you’ll miss in your desire to turn the page to see what new adventure awaits you. It reads like a movie script, and what a movie it would be. Beam me up, Scotty! That said, Armada is not another Ready Player One, but it is just as much fun, written in our very science-fiction-loving DNA. Who among us hasn’t dreamt of being recruited to save a galaxy far far away? So say we all! And who knows, perhaps Armada is just another level in Earth’s invasion preparation. Time to level up and take names.
“The Force will be with you. Always.”
So run, don’t walk to Mysterious Galaxy. Be the first kid on your block to get a shiny new copy of this most awesome book of awesomeness. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. It’ll change your life! And …
“You’re Welcome.” – Patrick
From Our June Newsletter:
This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read — in a good way. The entire story is a series of letters written by Ollie and Moritz, two teenage boys who are both isolated from society yet different in every other regard. Ollie, a carefree boy who wears his heart on his sleeve, is allergic to electricity and must live out in the boondocks of rural Michigan. Moritz, a blunt German who doesn’t mince words, has no eyes and a weak heart. He has a pacemaker which means that he and Ollie will never meet because remember, Ollie is allergic to electricity. Moritz can “see” by clicking his tongue, a practice called echolocation. What’s so beautiful about this borderline science fiction story is how these two journey from total strangers to lifelong friends. Thomas’s YA debut of friendship and destiny is stunning and unforgettable. – Sarah
With Lutz’s trademark humor, quippy dialogue, and quirky characters, she introduces readers to three college friends who met in Santa Cruz where they all began attending college in 1993. Anna is a take-charge, wild, adventurous soul raised in an affluent family in Boston. Her desire to escape her background, her family, and her emotions at every opportunity, even as a child, continues to define her as an adult. Kate was raised by her grandfather after both of her parents died when she was eight years old. She was raised in Santa Cruz and never wanted to leave, her only ambition to manage her grandfather’s restaurant. Life has other plans for her. George is a tall, beautiful basketball player who hails from the midwest and had a less catastrophic upbringing than the other two, but who has a penchant for men who are bad for her. Told from multiple viewpoints, points in time, and locations, the story leads readers to learn about all three girls from college to graduate school … through failed marriages, career decisions, and life cycles … and about the men that revolve around their worlds. Fans of Lutz will fall in love all over again. Readers who are new to her will race to their bookstores to begin reading about the Spellmans. – Terry
Mystery & Suspense
I’d been wishing for a sequel to Black Water Rising and when I finally got my hands on Pleasantville, I was giddy with excitement. The story takes place in 1996, fifteen years later, and attorney Jay Porter is back, but he’s not doing as well as I’d hoped. He’s struggling to raise his two children alone after the death of his wife, and he has yet to see any money after winning a big case. When Neal Hathorne, the nephew of a prominent mayoral candidate, is arrested for the murder of a local girl, Jay begrudgingly agrees to represent him as a favor to the powerful family. As a result, he becomes entangled in a web of political corruption and dark family secrets that puts a target on his back. Locke knows how to tell a story with incisive thoughtful prose while keeping the reader guessing until the very last page. – Sarah
Mystery & Suspense
I enjoy reading Lisa Gardner because she writes the best psychological thrillers ever and you can always count on being immensely entertained. Her latest novel is no different. Sergeant Wyatt Foster begins his day with a routine inspection of a car accident which then escalates to a search for a missing child and intensifies to a full blown investigation of bizarre circumstances. The driver of the car, Nicole Frank, has suffered numerous brain injuries lately and the child she has them searching for does not even exist. Her husband seems overprotective yet she has been “falling” a lot lately. It seems impossible to get through the jumble of Nicole’s (if that is even her name) ravings and brief, if outlandish, recollections of a peculiar past. Wyatt is determined to get to the bottom of it and thus a fantastic story is born. – Bunny
Mystery & Suspense
A First Date with Death is an entertaining look behind the scenes of a reality dating show, featuring ex-cop Georgia Thornton as a woman looking for love. Talked into doing the show by her BFF, show assistant producer Becca, Georgia immediately regrets her decision, and not just because the first date is a disaster with dire consequences. Additionally, her exfiancé enters the show, she spots a crew member that may just be someone she sent to prison, and one of her dates commits suicide. She is convinced that there is a homicide (or two) that needs investigating as she struggles her way through the show, where the guys are keeping her guessing. She also has to figure out who is on the show to find love, since half the guys are only there playing for money. It’s a fast-paced romp with an enduring female lead we look forward to seeing again in the next installment. A March Fantastic First Pick. – Terry
The Emperor is dead. The empire he built on blood and fire is crumbling. Many vie for control of what remains. From this maelstrom, two legendary figures emerge: one a giant warlord, the other a schemer of the highest rank. Once they were like brothers, but now jealousy, ambition, and differing views on what constitutes a leader have divided them. The Grace of Kings is a fantastic retelling of the rebellions and wars that led to the founding of the Han Dynasty in ancient China, a fantastic world where gods walk amongst mortals, and where those very mortals fight for power, or to simply live their lives in peace. Liu has a very visual style, using prose to paint vivid characters and action. Moreover, he’s an excellent storyteller. I could well imagine a grandfather telling this story over a campfire over many successive nights. Can’t wait for the next volume! – Patrick
The Water Knife takes readers on a grim look at an all too likely future of the American Southwest, concentrated in what remains of Phoenix, AZ, examining water management responsibilities in an effective thriller that will have readers thinking twice before casually refilling their next glass from the faucet. While Paolo clearly feels passionately about the facts of the arid overpopulated landscape and the consequences of a society that is largely disconnected from the infrastructures that support it, his story of running out of water in the West, and the extremes individuals will go to to control the flow of water and power, has enough action and emotional quandaries to satisfy the most demanding reader. – Maryelizabeth