1 Jun
2012

Hot Potatoes

We aren’t the only people writing book lists for summer reading, we just happen to be the best at it. The only reason these books didn’t make it onto one of our many lists is that they are already on everybody else’s lists. So the authors must be doing something right. These books are the hot girl in your high school. The one who you mumbled your invitation to prom to and then ran away. Don’t be shy! They won’t bite!

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long--at least, up until last November, when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook . . . but Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. Josh and Emma are looking at themselves fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates--it’s all there. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right, and wrong, in the present.

Jay Asher’s first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why spent over a year on the NYTimes bestseller list.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Green’s legions of fans — self-proclaimed geeks who’ve adopted the tag ‘’nerdfighters’’ — will be pleased to know that the author’s unique brand of brainy, youthful humor shines in The Fault in Our Stars despite tackling illness and death. Sixteen-year-old Hazel ­Lancaster is no saintly terminal cancer patient. She relies on sarcasm to get her through mind-numbing support-group meetings until she meets Augustus Waters, who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma yet remains ‘’dead sexy.’’ Hazel and Augustus realize they don’t just have cancer in common; they also share a love for violent ­videogames and a nihilistic Dutch author. Their ensuing love story is as real as it is doomed, and the gut-busting laughs that come early in the novel make the luminous final pages all the more heartbreaking.

Daughter or Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

In a literary landscape teeming with all things supernatural, it’s quite a feat for a YA fantasy book to come along that feels thrillingly fresh and new. But that’s just what Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone does. The smartly plotted, surprising, and fiercely compelling read will hook you from its opening pages. (Cancel all plans once you begin; you won’t want to put it down.) Our heroine, Karou, an azure-haired 17-year-old art student in Prague, speaks dozens of languages and can fight, talents that come in handy when she’s running errands for her guardian, Brimstone (a chimera with a ram’s head, a human’s torso, leonine legs, and talons). In Taylor’s richly imagined universe, angels are not always good and wishes come from pain, but teenagers are reassuringly the same.

The second book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight is coming out October 6th.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

The first in a series, Card’s latest title has much in common with his Ender Wiggins books: teens with special talents, manipulative government authorities, endlessly creative worlds, and a refusal to dumb down a plot for a young audience. Thirteen-year-old Rigg is a Pathfinder, one who sees the paths of others’ pasts. Rigorously trained and thoroughly educated by his demanding father, Rigg is horrified when Father dies unexpectedly after a final order to find the sister he never knew he had. He is accompanied on this journey by friends who have powers of manipulating the flow of time. As in L’Engle’s Time Quartet, science is secondary to the human need to connect with others, but Card does not shy away from full and fascinating discussions of the paradoxical worlds he has created.

The second book in the series, Ruins is coming out October 30th.

Nothing by Janne Teller

Indelible, elusive, and timeless, this uncompromising novel has all the marks of a classic. A group of Danish seventh-graders have their insulated suburban world jolted when classmate Pierre Anthon stands up and announces, “Nothing matters.” He promptly takes up residence in a plum tree and creates an existential crisis among the group with his daily reports on the pointlessness of life. Feeling a need to refute the alarming notion, the kids decide to assemble a pile of objects that will prove Pierre Anthon wrong. It starts simply: Agnes gives up her favorite shoes; Dennis, his beloved books. But as each sacrifice grows in intensity, each kid enacts revenge by demanding an ever-greater sacrifice from the next. With chilling rapidity, the “heap of meaning,” which they keep stored in an abandoned sawmill, is towering with gut-wrenching artifacts of their loss of innocence, if innocence is something that ever existed. Teller offers just enough character detail to make the suffering and cruelty palpable. Already a multiple award winner overseas, this is an unforgettable treatise on the fleeting and mutable nature of meaning.

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

Seth Grahame-Smith is like the world’s most deranged history teacher — you can’t trust anything you learn from him, but you’ll never forget it, either. He kicked off the mash-up genre in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and perfected it in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. His latest novel, Unholy Night, uses the birth of Jesus as the backdrop for a fantasy action-adventure akin to fusing Game of Thrones with the Gospel of Luke. Grahame-Smith takes his history seriously, using it to add texture and realism before releasing the craziness. Here his main character, Balthazar, one of the trio we now know as the three kings, is a sort of New Testament John Dillinger, a well-known murderous thief who joins with fellow scoundrels Melchyor and Gaspar to escape Herod, who wants their heads. Herod also wants to slay every newborn male in the region, which is how the fugitives align themselves with Mary and Joseph, naive new parents whose infant somehow tempers the ruthlessness of the thieves.
After establishing his turn-of-A.D. bona fides, Grahame-Smith bids history adieu, with the nativity gang pursued at various points by a black-magic sorcerer, a young Pontius Pilate’s Roman legion, and a mob of Egyptian zombies. The unhinged imagination is fun, but it’s Grahame-Smith’s depiction of sacred figures as flawed humans that makes the book feel like a secret account of events that have been sanitized by legend. It’s risky to turn a holy birth into a bloody sword-and-sandal yarn, but if you can forgive that, I bet you-know-who would.

Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

James Pryce makes a living finding people who don’t want to be found, pursuing their digital tracks around the globe, flushing out criminals, and exacting creative high-tech revenge on behalf of his clients. But this time he’s following his target, billionaire multimedia artist Billy Randall, into an exotic and treacherous world: a virtual one. This is the book we’ve been longing for. If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo began to scratch an itch to know more about the world behind our computer screens, this satisfies it. A great read on every level: captivating plot, precise and diamond-sharp proses, instantly interesting and intriguing characters, moments of subtlety and insight. Mike Olson has done something far more compelling in his debut novel than just detail a previously unknown world and yoke it to the genre of thrilling literary fiction.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

A sharp, observant, current story with really well-developed characters. It’s also a page-turner that could have been ripped from the headlines. Nick Dunne gets caught like a deer in the headlights by the media and the police when his wife, Amy, goes missing on their fifth anniversary. From inappropriate smiling to inadvertant flirting, he does pretty much everything you shouldn’t do when the national media is camped on your doorstep. The whole country is convinced Nick murdered his beautiful young wife, who happens to have left a damning diary behind. But this is as much a story of a marriage gone wrong as it is a murder mystery, and it takes some mighty big twists and turns before the truth is revealed.

Mr. g by Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman, the author of the best-selling book Einstein’s Dreams, once again showcases his training as a theoretical physicist as well as his skill as a writer. Mr. g is God, the Creator. He lives in the Void with his aunt and uncle and creates universes to fill his eternal time. In creating his latest universe, he begins by introducing basic principles of physics, including causality and relativity. First he invents time because space can’t exist without it. Then he introduces atoms that can tick and measure time and thus allow for a past and a future. Then, of course, there’s the question of what to put in the space. Should the objects be animate or inanimate? Should they have a soul? And should Mr. g interfere if things don’t go well? To heat up Mr. g’s internal debates, there’s Belhor, a Satan-like figure of equal intelligence who engages Mr. g in serious intellectual conversations, keeping Mr. g on his guard. What at first appears to be a whimsical story of the creation of the universe winds its way through thought-provoking questions with humor and sound science principles.

The Watchers by Jon Steele

Switzerland’s Lausanne cathedral serves as a fitting backdrop for Steele’s first novel, an imaginative metaphysical thriller. Slow-witted Marc Rochat, the cathedral’s “watcher,” fulfills daily routines that he believes keep the cathedral a sanctuary to lost angels. One of those angels, to his mind, is beautiful American expatriate Katherine Taylor, a highly paid escort, recently run afoul of vicious Russian criminals. Meanwhile, Jay Harper, an amnesiac operative for the International Olympic Committee who’s been investigating a former Olympian’s death, comes across the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book of the Bible concerning fallen angels who intermingled with humanity. Steele keeps his tale tantalizingly ambiguous, casting it with wild characters and skillfully concealing a surprise climax. This solidly plotted tale, the first in a trilogy, will appeal to readers who like a hint of the uncanny in their fiction.

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