Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2015)

simon-vs-agenda-homo-sapiensSimon Spier has a crush on a guy he's never met, his friend group is undergoing major changes, and he's being blackmailed. Junior year is way more complicated than he thought it would be.

I absolutely adore this book. I listened to the audiobook version of this early last year and it remains one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Becky Albertalli balances humor, teen angst, and romance to create a fabulous first novel.

And if you like Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, there's another book in the Simonverse: The Upside of Unrequited. (A third book, Leah on the Offbeat, comes out later this year.)

And—Simon is being made into a movie! It was renamed Love, Simon and hit theaters last week. Now's your chance to read the book before you see the movie.

 

A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena (2017)

strangerinthehouseTom Krupp thought he had the perfect marriage. He is very much in love with his wife Karen. But does he really know her? Why did she speed away from a murder scene one night and drive so recklessly that she crashes her car into a utility pole? Why does she continue to say she remembers nothing about that night?

Throw in the obsessed neighbor from across the street and you have a very entertaining thriller by Shari Lapena. Check out A Stranger in the House today.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2013)

testingJoelle Charbonneau’s dystopian novel takes place in the far future and depicts the aftereffects of a nuclear fallout. It asks the question of what makes a good leader. How does a people choose leaders that will act in the best interest of everyone? Leaders who won’t abuse the power they’ve been given and instead help the country flourish under their guidance? The Test that the title refers to hopes to be a solution to this question.

There hasn’t been a candidate chosen for the Testing in Cia Vale’s small town in a very long, long time. It’s why it comes as such a surprise that after graduating, she was chosen. Why was it her and not her brothers who were just as qualified (if not more so)?

The Testing is action-packed with decent pacing that keeps you wondering what will happen next. There is also some romance without it overwhelming the main plot (and no love triangle!). Journey with Cia Vale as she proceeds through a Test of her own.

Part of a trilogy, The Testing is followed by Independent Study and Graduation Day.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)

alltheboysLara Jean Song Covey has written a love letter to every boy she's ever loved. The letters are in her room, in a hatbox, hidden. Until suddenly they are mailed out...

Lara Jean is a fantastic protagonist. She's incredibly family-oriented, with very tight bonds to her father and both of her sisters.

One of my favorite things about this book series is that while Lara Jean may have a romance, her entire story isn't a romance. She has friends, goals, aspirations, and hobbies besides dating.

Both of the romantic possibilities are fleshed-out, and I could see Lara Jean with either of them -- which made it all the more realistic.

All three books in the series are out now, so there's no waiting to find out how Lara Jean's story ends. Start with To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved by Jenny Han, then check out P.S. I Still Love You (book 2) and Always and Forever, Lara Jean (book 3).

 

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig (2015)

lastbustowisdomInspired by a cross-country trip Ivan Doig took as a young boy in the summer of 1951, Last Bus to Wisdom is about Donal, an 11-year-old boy, being raised by his grandmother on the Double W Ranch in Montana. When his grandmother requires surgery, Donal is sent to live with his bossy, rule-driven great-aunt Kate in Wisconsin. When Kate reaches her wit’s end, she sends Donal back to Montana. Her husband, Herman, joins Donal on the greyhound for the summer of a lifetime, using their wits to survive.

Along the way, Donal asks characters to sign his memory book, which opens him up to all kinds of people on the road, from hobos and villains to soldiers and kind-hearted travelers, with a few recognizable faces, such as Jack Kerouac. Doig is a great storyteller, whose character-driven novel has a strong sense of place, keeping readers anticipating where the story will go next and who they will meet along the way. In Last Bus to Wisdom, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (2017)

libraryedgeofworldHanna, a librarian in the small town of Lissbeg, on the west coast of Ireland, determines that she must renovate the cottage left to her by her Aunt Maggie, because she cannot stand to live with her mother, Mary, anymore. Hanna and her daughter, Jazz, now living in France, had moved back to the area from London three years ago after Hanna discovered her husband, Malcolm, had been cheating on her.

With limited funds, since she took no divorce settlement from wealthy Malcolm, Hanna wonders if she has enough money to get the home in shape. Builder Fury O'Shea just might come through for her, despite his unorthodox methods. Hanna also finds herself involved in local government affairs when it appears that some would like to divert money and resources from the Lissbeg area towards touristy areas like Ballyfin and Carrick. Will they succeed in their plan? Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s The Library at the Edge of the World is a cozy story that will appeal to readers of Maeve Binchy, Jenny Colgan, and Gil McNeil.

Spotlight: Calvin and Hobbes

calvinhobbesWhy do we care so much about an egotistical, obnoxious, bratty kid, and his stuffed cat?  I know that I—along with billions of other fans— love Calvin and Hobbes, but I have to ask myself why.  Calvin is certainly not admirable in any way, other than maybe the expert use of his imagination, and his undying devotion to his tiger.  Mostly he can be counted on to be more intent on mischief than on doing good, taking an almost disturbing sense of pride in this. And when he isn’t “up to no good,” he can be found doing something totally unproductive, like watching bad television.

And yet we do love Calvin and Hobbes, because they’re undeniably charming and childlike, with that sense of abandon that we wish we still had. Plus, Hobbes is the voice of reason, after all—a good foil to Calvin’s enthusiastic hedonism and reckless sense of adventure. Though, most of the time, we have to admit Hobbes doesn’t put up much of a fight…

Check out Bill Watterson’s work.

Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (2017)

gonetodust2Private detective Nils Shapiro is hired to assist the Edina Police Department with a murder investigation. Maggie Somerville has been found dead in her home with bags of vacuum cleaner dust surrounding her, which has ruined the chance of getting any decent evidence from the crime scene. Nils delves into Maggie's personal life--including her ex-husband, boyfriend, and a secret from her past that possibly has a connection to the crime. With a very likable main character that the reader enjoys following as he pursues the case, this is a promising new mystery series from Matt Goldman. I’d suggest Gone to Dust to readers who like Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (2010)

In this intriguing page-turner, Elly Griffiths introduces forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. A professor at the local university, she finds herself called into a murder investigation by the police when a child goes missing and bones are uncovered in the remote marshy area where Ruth lives. During the course of the investigation, Ruth grows closer to Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson.

The edition of The Crossing Places I read previewed the first two chapters of the second book in the series, The Janus Stone. Griffiths managed to hook me into that story too. I’m longing to learn more about forensic archaeology, curious to discover what lies beneath the reclusive Ruth, and of course, anxious to see how the relationship between Ruth and Harry will evolve.

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio (2015)

I. W. Gregorio’s novel chronicles the struggles teens can face growing up intersex through the eyes of character Kristin Lattimer. After homecoming, Kristin has relations with a fellow teen only to discover her worst nightmare: her body isn’t what she thought it was. None of the Above is a story of discovery, bullying, and ultimately acceptance of ourselves and others. It also serves as a reminder to always be kind: you never know what someone else is going through.

Wagging Through the Snow by Laurien Berenson (2017)

Do you love dogs? Christmas? Murder mysteries? Stop right there! Wagging Through the Snow, the latest installment of Laurien Berenson’s Melanie Travis series, is just what you’ve been looking for. Melanie is hoping for a quiet Christmas this year with her family and six dogs (five of them standard poodles, of course), but her family has other plans when her brother buys some cheap property for his joint business with Melanie’s ex-husband. Reluctantly roped into helping out, Melanie discovers more than she bargained for: a cute little Maltese dog—and his dead owner under a tree.

Find more Christmas mysteries at the library.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

Short chapters alternate among three young evacuees in East Prussia during the winter of 1945. A fourth voice also fits into the storyline. Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred are aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff when it is hit by a Russian torpedo and quickly sinks. The story leads up to this moment when life-changing decisions are made. We get to know, love, and understand the differing life circumstances that have brought these characters together from all over Eastern Europe at a crucial time in the war.

Ruta Sepetys has a talent for drawing tears from her readers and little known stories from history. Between Shades of Gray exposed the tragic story of the Lithuanian prisoners in Siberia with the same drama and sensitivity that she tells this story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The epilogue in Salt to the Sea adds another poignant note to this moment in historical fiction.

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg (2017)

I loved this charming and uplifting tale of an elderly widower, a troubled teen, and an aging spinster who are given the gift of second chances. Elizabeth Berg’s beautiful writing and heartwarming characters made The Story of Arthur Truluv a great read. I was sad to see it end!

Novelist recommends this book for fans of A Man Called Ove, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry.
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Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013)

In William Kent Krueger’s novel, narrator Frank remembers the summer of 1961 when his perspective on life changed forever. A smart aleck thirteen year old, Frank thought he knew it all. He and his younger brother Jake are faced with multiple killings in their small Minnesota town and figure out the awful truth behind the hardest death of all.

Part mystery, part poignant family drama, Ordinary Grace shows how bad things happen to good people and what you see is not always the whole story. It took the innocence of childhood to see beyond the surface. A tender epilogue set forty years later ties up loose ends and shows how the summer of 1961 truly shaped the lives of the Drum family.

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton (2011)

Private eye Kinsey Millhone accidentally uncovers a shoplifting ring with roots in organized crime as she goes on a rare shopping spree. In V is for Vengeance, author Sue Grafton presents points of view from multiple characters, allowing seemingly unrelated stories to converge and play into the crime Kinsey is obsessed with solving. The mystery and a struggle for her life almost keep her from remembering her long dreaded 38th birthday. Her gentle and wise octogenarian landlord/neighbor and his quirky brother add levity to the story and to Kinsey's perilous lifestyle.

Did you know? A new Kinsey Millhone book was released recently. Check out Y is for Yesterday today. And if you enjoy Sue Grafton’s alphabet books, browse our list of other popular mystery and suspense series.