Recent Reviews

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The Flying Man: The Life of Otto Lilienthal, the World's First Pilot Cover Image
The Flying Man

The Flying Man tells the story of Gustav and Otto Lilienthal, who struggled to create flying machines decades before the Wright Brothers whom they inspired. This charming book by Mike Downs with illustrations by David Hohn celebrates ingenuity, persistence, and bravery as we follow the lifelong pursuit of the brothers into the air until Otto becomes “The Flying Man.” Recommended by Sarah

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Back to the Garden: A Novel Cover Image
Back to the Garden

Laurie R. King’s new novel Back to the Garden is a stunning book. It is part allegory, part thriller, part historical cultural meditation. King introduces a new leading character in Inspector Raquel Laing, who is called in to investigate the discovery of a body under a statue at a grand estate outside San Francisco because the circumstances link it to a serial killer of the 1970s named The Highwayman. The caretakers of the Gardener estate with its Hearst Castle-like house and acres of carefully sculpted gardens are shaken by the discovery under one of prized pieces of contemporary statuary—Midsummer Eves— that dates back to the 1970s when the Gardener heir decided to turn the estate into a commune. Laing finds herself mired in the the strange history of the place and its head spinning transformations from Robber Baron palace to commune to museum. The subsequent juxtapositions of the past and the present expose a tangle of good and evil that echoes the Book of Genesis. This absorbing mystery is about corruption: the corruption of ideals, art, love, and the soul by power, money, lust and jealousy. Recommended by Sarah

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Now Is Not the Time to Panic: A Novel Cover Image
Now Is Not the Time to Panic

Kevin Wilson has written several very good and very funny novels, but I think Now is Not the Time to Panic might be his best and funniest. A madcap cross between a coming-of-age novel and a crime story, this hilarious novel follows bored teenage misfits Frankie and Zeke as their art project spirals out of control. Actually, “out of control” is an understatement. It’s a story only Kevin Wilson can tell, and in his capable hands, this brilliant novel soars through laughs, heartbreak, and well-earned poignancy. If you haven’t read Kevin Wilson, what are you waiting for? Start here! Recommended by Danny

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Face Cover Image
Face

Facevalue is everything. Those not born at the top of the ladder maneuver to climb. Many spend more time In than Out, plugged in through their internal chips. Skin-to-skin contact is abhorrent, and children are born via studs and dams, their characteristics carefully chosen by the prospective parents, for they too must contribute to face. And menials are created in beakers, subhumans trained to serve the top-tiers. A chilling look at a possible future, Face interweaves the stories of several individuals through their own voices, and raises questions about our obsession with technology, our humanity, our freedom. Recommended by Nancy

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A Venom Dark and Sweet (The Book of Tea #2) Cover Image
A Venom Dark and Sweet

In Judy I. Lin’s follow-up to her gorgeous debut, A Magic Steeped in Poison, Ning is on the run with her newly-saved sister, alongside the princess and her beloved bodyguard. Even as they run for their lives, Ning can’t help but think of the boy she left behind, the son of the general behind the coup, behind the still-lurking poison. When at last they meet again, Ning must surrender to trust in order to survive the trials that many more seasoned than she have failed, all in order to save their people from a vengeful, power-hungry god who haunts her at every turn. With atmospheric scenes of magical connection sprinkled throughout, this sequel satisfies like the perfect cup of tea. Recommended by Mary

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Shutter Cover Image
Shutter

Ramona Emerson's debut mystery, Shutter, repeatedly gave me chills. Every time Dine forensic photographer Rita Todacheene turns up to shoot a crime scene, the ghosts of the victims quickly understand that she can "see" them and beseech her to turn in their killer. One particularly persistent woman goads Rita further and further into danger in her search for justice. I couldn't put this one down. Recommended by Kelly

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Maybe An Artist, A Graphic Memoir Cover Image
Maybe an Artist

Celebrated young cartoonist Liz Montague’s graphic memoir, Maybe An Artist, is a charming, funny, and intimately relatable story about a passionate kid with a dream that eventually comes true.  Chronicling her time in primary and secondary school, Liz touches on living in the shadow of older siblings, coping with expectations that don’t align with what brings you joy, and coming of age in an environment with almost no diversity.  When she wasn’t participating in athletics, Liz was constantly drawing, something that helped her navigate severe dyslexia and develop a fulfilling career.  Presented in accessible mixed-case text, this book will inspire young readers to make art about things they care about. Recommended by Mary

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The Book Eaters Cover Image
The Book Eaters

I devour books, I describe them as delicious if I love them, but I’ve never eaten one. The characters in The Book Eaters however do. Books are their sustenance and from them they gain the knowledge from which they build their lives. The boys and men dine on history and politics whilst little girls are fed fairy tales. Alongside the book eaters though are the problems, the mind eaters, who crave something more than a book to eat. When a valuable supply of medicine that can control them disappears, we see the lengths a mother will go to in order to save her son, as she breaks from the traditions and restrictions placed on her, to find who she is, and the happiness and love she has always longed for. The Book Eaters is a dark and creepy modern fairy tale that explores love and power, traditions and what it takes to escape from them. This book is impossible to put down, it is scrumptious, and while you can’t actually eat it, it will leave you feeling happily full like only the best meals can. Recommended by Hannah

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The Rabbit Hutch: A novel Cover Image
The Rabbit Hutch

Tess Gunty’s debut novel is set in a small town in the Midwest, one in decline following the loss of its main industry. At its core is Blandine a young girl fresh out of fostercare and desperate to experience more than what life has so far shown her. During the week that the book takes place across we meet a mix of characters who form the world around her – a music teacher who oversteps his bounds, the son of a famous actress, new parents learning to love their child, and Blandine’s three roommates who will go to any length to demonstrate their lust for her. At times heartbreaking with pain, at others absolutely hilarious, The Rabbit Hutch is an exploration of love and relationships, and of knowledge and intimacy, and what we will do to find those things. Recommended Hannah

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Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution Cover Image
Babel

Take Imperial British history, mix it with magic, and add a dollop of language and linguistics, and what you have is one of the best books of the year. Babel is the Royal Institute of Translation, at the heart of both Oxford University and of the British Empire. By combining language and silver, a magic has been created that powers everything from trains and carriages to the warships of the British military, about to descend on China in a war over Opium. At the heart of the story are four young people taken from their homes for their language abilities, caught between the lure of Oxford and its wealth and comforts, and the brutality of Imperial expansion. Kuang has rewritten history in a way that feels so real, bringing to life the cruelty and consequences of imperialism, the trials and challenges of friendship, and the joys, beauty and danger of language. Recommended by Hannah