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San Diego ~ 5943 Balboa Avenue, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92111 ~ 858-268-4747
Redondo Beach Satellite ~ 2850 Artesia Blvd., Suite #101 Redondo Beach, CA 90278 - 310-542-6000
Check out what we (MG staff and friends) have recently read and enjoyed, and other recommended reads.
HOT OFF THE PRESS!
Check out the older not-so-hot-off-the-press reviews from each staff member.
From our April 2017 Newsletter:
Zachary Mason’s Void Star dazzles with its intricate tale of mentally-boosted people fighting a clandestine war with secret AIs across the battle-space of memory, perception, and cyberspace, in a world gone noir with political collapse, climate change, corporate warlords, and universal surveillance. Giving the story an almost hallucinatory intensity is Mason’s marvelous, superb language, at once endlessly allusive, lush, and incantatory. Reading the book, you suddenly realize he is writing science fiction of the heart, where science and technology make possible new sensations, new feelings, new dreams. During reading you feel awe; afterwards, gratefulness. The best book I’ve read in six years of bookselling at MG. Void Star is one of the great science fiction novels of our time. – David
The second novel in The Themis Files is set nine years after the discovery of an extraterrestrial-created giant robot on Earth. Part of the joy of reading this contemporary quasiepostilary series is the pace at which Significant Things Happen! So I don’t want to discuss much of the plot and the further developments with pilots Kara and Vincent, or back-from-the-dead/alternate-timeline Dr. Rose Franklin. I will note it’s a heck of a ride, and readers who discovered The Themis Files when Sleeping Giants was a Fantastic Firsts Pick will not be disappointed by the sequel. – Maryelizabeth
In the publishing world where so many new books are compared to existing bestsellers to explain their merits, it is refreshing to read something that is new and different. In the not-too-distant future, private enterprise has seriously moved into the space exploration. The Wanderers of this title have been selected for their experience and their personality profiles to be the first astronauts to visit Mars. Before leaving for Mars, they are hired to live in a simulation that mirrors their future trip. It is somewhat shorter than the actual expedition, but contains the same time frame for traveling to, and returning from, Mars. The only difference is that that they will stay on Mars for one month during this simulation when the actual trip will consist of a one and a half year stay.
What is unique about this book is that it is less about the expedition itself and more about the personalities and personal lives of Helen Kane, Sergei Kuznetsov, and Yoshihiro Tanaka … and some of their family members. In this way, it is more of an SF psychological thriller than a space adventure, and in the end, it is about their personal journey and transformation. – Terry
Reading a Windermere and Stevens book is like returning to old friends. This sixth entry in Laukkanen’s series featuring the team from the FBI-Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Violent Crimes Task Force doesn’t disappoint and could be read as a standalone too. When Stevens and Windermere find photos on a cell phone that suggest the work of a serial killer, they uncover the story of a “ghost rider” who haunts the High Line train line in the Rocky Mountains. The victims are runaways, prostitutes, and drug addicts so few take notice. The investigation takes the team to the bleak landscape of northern Montana and the Pacific Northwest in the dead of winter. The POV shifts from the two agents to the killer as well as my favorite, Mila Scott, a train hopper who wants to avenge her friend’s death. The savagery of the harsh winter setting really heightens the tension in this action-packed thriller. – Sarah
This literary thriller is a stunner … both for its unique format and plot and for the two unforgettable characters whose lives are both heartbreaking and violent. Samuel Hawley has a turbulent and disturbing past and is the sole parent to his daughter, Loo, following the death of his wife. The circumstances surrounding the twelve bullets lodged in Hawley’s body and the story of his life is one narrative. Alternating chapters follow Loo from the age of 11 to the present day. She is precocious, brilliant, and resilient, and has inherited some of her father’s violent tendencies. After moving erratically around the country throughout their lives together, they move back to Olympus, Massachusetts, the town where her mother was raised and where her grandmother still lives. Their integration into that town is a rocky path for both of them, but ultimately brings them together in unexpected ways.
The mystery of Hawley’s past (including the death of Loo’s mother) drives both narratives in this non-stop, beautifully paced, and elegantly written novel. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. – Terry
This laugh-out-loud debut cozy features broken-hearted wannabe obituary writer Riley Ellison. She works in the local library by day, and tries out a dating service in her off-hours in an effort to move on with her life after her long-time sweetheart leaves her in Tuttle Corner, Virginia for greener pastures in Colorado. Riley has a reputation as a bit of a troublemaker after her grandfather (an obituary writer) died under mysterious circumstances and she pressed the town to look into his “suicide.” So when her high school friend, Jordon James “commits suicide,” Riley doesn’t believe it for a moment and begins to look into her death when she agrees to write Jordon’s obituary. All of these plot lines are wrapped around some humorous moments and some great quotes about writing obituaries. For those looking for a new cozy heroine to root for, give Jill and Riley a try. – Terry
Chupeco’s created a non-western world of dark mysticism and beautiful complicated relationships that takes witchery and the paranormal to a whole other place where choices are never easy and the future has yet to be written. This is a coming of age journey not like others on offer. Chupeco’s writing choices call to mind the oral history keepers and provoke questions about not only the objectivity of her narrator but also the struggle to understand the motives of the subject of the tale and their world. The Bone Witch is a magical world beautifully steeped in culture with stunning descriptions. Chupeco’s built a nuanced landscape with hills worth climbing and valleys that invite you to linger while traveling through. The Bone Witch can capture your attention in a way that invokes a visceral reaction and piques your curiosity, but it is not a tale, however, for the impatient reader. – Guest Reviewer Ro
Lazlo Strange: Orphan. Reader. Dreamer. Ever since a book of fairy tales fell off a shelf and broke his nose, Lazlo has read and dreamed of lost cities and extraordinary heroes—especially of the land of Weep, a city once full of magic but now lost to the world. Lost, that is, until now. The plot and action of this book moves slowly—but in its beautiful, enchanting slowness, I fell in love with reading all over again. Lani Taylor is a master wordsmith and throughout her story she pulls on the threads of enchantment, weaving a tale of sorrow and beauty, love and hate, wonder and bewitchment. A story intricately written and intimately read. Undoubtedly one of the best books of 2017. – Kelly
Bill Nye and Gregory Mone teaming up to write a middle grade book about adventure and science is a dream come true! Jack, Ava, and Matt are three orphans who live on their own; but they are no ordinary orphans—they are geniuses! When they enter a science competition and travel to Antarctica, they not only come across fascinating inventions and science, but uncover a deep mystery of a missing scientist. Told through the perspective of Jack, who is not quite as scientific as his foster siblings, readers of all kinds can enjoy solving the mystery. Nye and Mone have written a story full of adventure, science and heart, complete with scientific facts, explanations, and experiments in the back of the book! – Kelly
From our March 2017 Newsletter:
The setting for the story is as much a part of the tale as the characters. The author’s research of 1940’s San Francisco has you walking the streets of Chinatown, and ferrying to the Golden Gate International Exposition. The lead characters are all women--artistic, smart, resourceful and gay. The story begins with the final days of the last surviving member of the circle and the mystery surrounding a heretofore unknown artwork. How and why the artwork comes to be is the magic and the mystery. I enjoyed the story for its interesting characters, the glimpse into the artistic world of Pulp Fiction magazine art. The ending is left for the reader to draw their own conclusion. Mine was hopeful. – Christine
Christine Feehan returns to the Bayou for another adventure with the Ghostwalker team fighting to make a safe haven for their families. It’s a rough ride that drags you further into the precarious world of the Ghostwalkers and the battle against their evil maniacal creator and his powerful allies...and enemies. Feehan’s a master at building tension, thickening the plot and kicking you over the edge with a twist just when you think you know what comes next. The intensity of her main male and female protagonists brings a believable element to relationships forged under pressure, and through fire and pain. Ezekiel and Bellisia’s story is passion-drenched definitive proof that Feehan is in no danger of losing her connection to her characters or the action-fueled world of the Ghostwalkers. Power Game doesn’t disappoint. – Guest reviewer Ro
We could call this a Japanese police procedural, but it is much more. The author was inspired by an unsolved Japanese murder case where an entire family was slaughtered in 2000, and the case is still open. Inspector Iwata, who is reinstated and reassigned to Tokyo Homicide Division, faces combative superiors and a rather stubborn partner in Sakai. Sakai and Iwata are assigned to the multiple murder case after the previous detective killed himself. At the scene, they find ritualistic details, including black smudges and a symbol of a large black sun that lead them to investigate the history of black sun worshipers and cults. Iwata also knows that his superiors want him gone (but he doesn’t know why), and he is racing against time to solve the Black Sun Killer murders, before the killer strikes again. Blue Light Yokohama will appeal to readers who enjoy a unique location for their mysteries, and a believable cop who faces challenges both within and on the job. – Linda
Eve and Roarke are back and the latest installment of the In Death series isn’t pulling any punches. In a keeping with the “Marriage Rules,” Dallas and Roarke are on their way home from an evening mingling with the glitterati only to crash into another case, saving a woman who stumbles in front of their car. Dallas’s hunt for the perpetrator not only demonstrates her skill and instincts as an investigator, it seamlessly showcases her deepening personal relationships and how that growth poignantly guides her work. Robb’s writing guarantees you’ll root for Dallas. If you’re a new to the In Death series, this isn’t a bad place to get the best of what this series offers: an action-packed mystery, a steamy relationship you’ll want for your very own, and a kick ass cop who always gets the job done. – Guest Reviewer Ro
This book took my breath away. The first volume of Letter 44 introduces us first to newly elected President Stephen Blades. Upon his first day in office, he discovers a secret that’s been hidden for nearly a decade: someone is building something in the asteroid belt, and it isn’t us. As President Blades attempts to navigate the tense political landscape he inherited, a mission is already underway. A crew of nine astronauts, made up of both scientists and military members, is stealthily approaching the alien construct. And it’s only a matter of time before they arrive. This book was compelling and evocative, and left me thinking about the implications long after I finished reading. – Gary
This is one of the most exciting graphic novels I have read in a long time. It reminds me of Firefly, Wall-E, AKIRA, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ghost in the Shell all at the same time. Descender is a multi-layered novel with concurrent storylines about cyborgs, transhumans, bounty hunters, pirates, starship captains and robots with commentary on civil war, rebellion and a broken family that is just trying to get back together again. It is fun, but also serious and heartfelt. An amazing work that is original, beautiful and sophisticated. Get this before Hollywood ruins it! – Sam
The Odyssey is a very old story, with many retellings, though I find this version by Gareth Hinds to be one of my favorites. The story follows a man named Odysseus, and his 20-year journey to return home after being cursed by the ancient Greek god Poseidon. He overcomes hardships while caught in between the fights of the gods to return to his family before they fall apart without him. It’s a story full of adventure and myth, with interesting characters and thrilling battles around every turn. The artwork in The Odyssey is detailed and does the story justice, with every character being well-drawn in an art style that fits in both serious and light moments. – Guest Reviewer Xander
The silver lining to waiting nearly two years to act on friends’ recommendations that I check out this clever, visually-stunning exploration of celebrity, fandom and faith was that I was able to binge my way through the collected story arcs. Gillen and McKelvie postulate a pantheon of a dozen international gods who manifest in mortal teens every 90 years, bestowing worship-worthy talents upon them, and a very finite lifespan – two years after ascendance. This is a story best experienced, rather than described, that makes fabulous use of the format. Four collected volumes are available. – Maryelizabeth
Wintersong is a retelling of the Goblin King in early 19th century Europe that focuses on Liesl, a female composer whose music can melt even the Lord of Mischief’s heart. But a female composer is a nonexistent thing in her time and Liesl is slowly forced away from her talent as the duties of running the family tavern fall on her shoulders. She begins to ignore the woods and the dangerous games she played with a mysterious boy that — if remembered — might just free her, if they don’t kill her first.
S. Jae-Jones has created a lush, seductive world that explores the journey of embracing oneself and the sacrifices it can require. Set in a hauntingly dark world, this book shows how nothing is gained for free and how in winning one thing another must be lost. The choice is always ours but so are the consequences. The magic, passion and danger of this book held me captive until the very end. A truly beautiful read and a phenomenal debut. – Constance
This is a charming story of love, friendship, family and fantasy. Alice adores her younger brother Theo and is terrified to learn that he needs a heart transplant in order to survive. When a perfect match becomes available, she is sent to live with her estranged and rather severe paternal grandmother, Nell, while the operation and the long recovery take place. Nell and Alice’s father have not spoken since he walked out on Alice, Theo and their mom over two years earlier. Living in her father’s childhood home nestled in the midst of a spooky forest with no heat, internet or TV, Alice discovers that things are not always explainable and that, well, fairies just might exist. A heartwarming tale of the power of believing in something unbelievable! – Guest Reviewer Bunny Hand
Leo is a young mouse raised to be a ferocious and valiant knight. When his family gets the news that there is a dragon to be defeated, it is up to Leo to save the kingdom. But there’s one thing his parents just don’t understand: Leo is not a fighter; he’s a reader! Leo sets out armed with sword and shield, but as he meets various magical creatures along the way, it may be that there is only one thing he needs to save the kingdom — a good book! This is a delightful story with full page illustrations sure to capture the imagination and heart of kids of any age. An Indies Next Pick! – Kelly
Just in time for Disney’s release of their live-action musical version of Beauty and the Beast, a tale as old as time arrives in a glorious new, unabridged edition. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the graphic artists behind the MinaLima design studio, were responsible for many of the props in the Harry Potter movies. As with their previous editions of Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, they’ve made a new edition of a classic . . . a classic in its own right. Originally published in 1740 as La Belle et la Bête, De Villenueve’s story of a young woman’s courage, and a love that sees beneath the surface to the beauty in the beast, comes to life with stunning illustrations, a map of Beauty’s French city, a 3D fold-out of the Beast’s castle, a spinning ring, pop-up windows, and lovely ornaments. A must-have for book lovers who cherish beautiful books. – Rob
Kelly's Kids Pick for March!
New York. 1941. It’s the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, and four young teenagers collide in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. When the museum’s curator shows them pages of a hidden Arthurian manuscript, they slowly discover that these pages may just hold the secrets to preventing another attack like Pearl Harbor. As they read through the history of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Guinevere, and Merlin, the past and present collide and a series of new adventures—and magic—unfolds. Goodman delivers a diverse cast of characters who, through the power of history, storytelling, and a little magic, discover a unique friendship. Arthurian motifs like loyalty, betrayal, and most importantly equality, set against the backdrop of an America in fear, make this book an important and topical story for young readers today.
From Our February 2017 Newsletter:
Near the end of the 1987 school year, 14-year-old Billy Marvin, and his two best friends, Alf and Clark, are obsessed with Vanna White. This obsession drives these three boys to concoct a scheme to obtain copies of the recent edition of Playboy with her pictures in it and make a small business out of reproducing the content. The results are hilarious and a blast to the past.
Billy lives with his single mother in an old, rundown house in Wetbridge, New Jersey, where his other passion is coding with the latest computer (a Commodore 64) to create a winning entry in a computer game contest. In the midst of trying to create the game of his dreams, where the hero rescues a damsel from an impossible fortress guarded by a mountain filled with ogres, along comes Mary Zelinsky, the smartest girl in town, who also loves coding and is very good at it.
Laugh along in a stream of nostalgia, wonder if the hero will rescue the girl, the boys will get their magazine, and what the future holds for Billy and Mary. For all ages. – Terry
The Weird Wild West of The Territory reveals new challenges as Isobel grows into her role and responsibilities as The Devil’s Left Hand. Along with her mentor, Gabriel, she rides roads filled with natural and unnatural magic, Native and settler, magicians and deeper powers of the terrain – terrain where most inhabitants, like Isobel, have made a deal with the Devil. When a new natural / supernatural disaster with earth-shaking consequences manifests, it will test all she knows about her role and abilities. The sophomore installment in Laura Anne’s tale continues to give the sense not of a new story, but of a retelling of an established mythology of the American West. – Maryelizabeth
An enchanting retelling of Norse mythology that includes all of our favorite Norse stories. Each myth is written traditionally, without any heavy reworking or modernizing, but Neil’s signature dark, compelling, and original style shines through. Gaiman has constructed a lively retelling of mythology with realistic gods and digestible material for any myth or story lover. A rewarding book for the well-seasoned and novice mythology enthusiast alike! – Kelly
How wonderful to find that one of your favorite authors (Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees, The Fox Woman) loves H P Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath as much as you do! Johnson’s pastiche brings back Lovecraft’s zugs and ghouls and moon-cats, now imagined inside-out, where dream Kadath is the real world, and the human waking world a far-away, legendary place. The quest Vellitt Boe undertakes to find the human world redeems the original work of its misogyny and racism, and reminds us of just how strange our own ordinary reality can be. Highly recommended. – David
Return of the Shadow (an abandoned title for The Lord of the Rings) contains the early drafts of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. In it you’ll find early character names (did you know Frodo was once Bingo, Bilbo’s son? That Merry was once called Marmaduke?), threads of forgotten plots (Bilbo getting married! Farmer Maggot as a Tom Bombadil-like being! Elf-wraiths!), all the while witnessing the development of ideas and plots that became a central part of The Lord of the Rings. As a whole, Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth series is a remarkable feat of scholarship and The Return of the Shadow is no different. Looking into the early drafts of The Lord of the Rings is not only fun and fascinating, but feels incredibly special. What a treat! – Kelly
Adele Martin’s entire being is focused on one goal – nurturing her marriage to her husband, therapist David. Shortly before David begins a job at a new London clinic, he flirts with a woman in a bar. Later, despite her better intentions upon discovering that David is not only married but is also her new boss at the clinic, secretary and single mother Louise is unable to resist beginning an affair with him. The affair continues, even after Adele befriends Louise, and Louise begins to question David’s behavior towards both women. Even with insights from chapters in her point of view, experienced readers will be kept guessing what Adele’s motivations and actions will lead to (hence the hashtag #WTFthatending), in Sarah’s stunningly twisty suspense novel. – Maryelizabeth
Cormac McCarthy meets Stephen King in Nick Cutter’s off-the-rails fourth horror thriller, set in the backwoods of New Mexico. In 1966, an assassin, a bounty hunter, and a hired-gun named Micah, made an unholy truce in lieu of killing each other, and went to rescue an abducted child from a religious cult. In Little Haven, the evil they faced was both human and monstrous, including a preacher like Jim Jones channeling the Old Ones, and an eldritch Big Bad stitched from carcasses. The trio of rescuers were cursed by what they found there, echoing the horrors of “The Monkey’s Paw.” Fifteen years later, Micah’s daughter goes missing, forcing him to reunite with his partners in perdition, and return to Little Haven for a final showdown. A gruesome, poetic yarn with a rip-roaring finish. – R.J. Crowther Jr.
I am sure that comparisons will be made between The Lonely Hearts Hotel and The Night Circus. Both have a sense of magic hovering in the background and introduce fascinating protagonists with unique talents and personalities. In The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Pierrot and Rose are raised in an orphanage in Montreal in the middle of the Great Depression. Both suffered early childhood trauma at the hands of the nuns who ruled the orphanage with iron fists. But in the midst of dire despair, they find each other, discover their (almost magical) gifts, and make plans for their future. None of this plays out smoothly and their lives take discouraging turns and twists away from each other and into the depths of the Montreal criminal underworld. Ultimately, they will reunite and move toward their dream of creating entertainment that will wow their world. This book is captivating and joyful and romance rules much of the plot despite some of the dark subject matter. – Terry
High school is hard for some kids. We all know that, but it is especially difficult for Erin Blake. When Erin was three her mother was brutally murdered, but Erin was spared. Fourteen years later and the murder is still unsolved. Erin’s biology teacher, Miss Peters, is helping Erin with a project to see if she can discover the identity of her father. When Miss Peters is murdered, Erin discovers her body. Erin believes the two murders are connected. Along with her BFFs Spam and Lysa she sets about to see if they can discover the identity of the murderer. Erin is intelligent, persistent, and not always likable. She keeps secrets from her friends and her guardian, Rachel, her mother’s best friend who took her in – secrets that put her and her friends in harm’s way. The mystery has a satisfactory ending, but also leaves the door open for further adventures. – Christine
Roshani Chokshi writes in poetry, building a world that envelops you in its beauty. She paints breathtaking details and breathes life into a band of characters that guide you down a mystic world of love, betrayal, life, death, happiness, and despair, but above all, hope. It’s a hope that we can overcome our mistakes and misunderstandings to one day find happiness. Our hardships and trials do not define us but open doors to paths that can simply make us stronger and while we cannot rewrite the past, we can grab the threads of our fate and weave the future we want.
I highly recommend you join Maya, the princess born under cursed stars and shunned by all, on her journey of self-discovery as she becomes the queen of a powerful kingdom and rewrites her stars. I wanted to highlight all the dialogue between Maya and Kamala as quotes and it was one of the most unique and special relationship between characters I’ve read in a really long time. This book is a must read. – Constance
The Rithmatist is a fantasy story following a student named Joel, and takes place in a world ravaged by wild and magical beasts. Joel aspires to become a rithmatist, someone who has powers to control and fight with chalk. While he studies, rithmatists start to mysteriously disappear, leaving everyone concerned and confused. Joel, along with friends and teachers, starts to uncover the oddities of rithmatics and defeat evil. This book is filled with discovery and intense fight scenes near the end that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. – Xander
Kelley's Kd Pick for February!
Welcome to the world of Lundinor, a strange and wonderful marketplace hidden beneath London where uncommon items hold extraordinary magic. Here there are candles that make you invisible, yo-yos that turn into weapons, belts that enable you to fly…the more uncommon, the more magical! When young Ivy and her brother Seb find themselves in this mysterious world, they must use uncommon objects of the everyday world to fight off those who are after them. Along the way they must navigate their own relationship and a slew of long held family secrets. Jennifer Bell, a children’s bookseller in London herself, has written a charming and imaginative book, perfect for early fans of Neil Gaiman and lovers of magic!