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Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving TimeI’m a big fan of Jodi Picoult so when the advanced reader’s edition of her new title showed up I was quick to grab it.  I don’t know how she does it but her books always seem to have a surprise twist that leaves me thinking about the characters and what happened long after I’m done reading.  This title is no exception but it’s also unlike any of her other work.

The story centers on 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, who is a bit obsessed with finding her mother Alice.  Alice disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident when Jenna was only 3-years-old.  Jenna refuses to believe that her mother would abandon her.  She searches relentlessly for any trace of her online and studies her mother’s old journals.

Jenna decides to go on a quest to find her mother, with the aid of a psychic named Serenity Jones, and a private detective named Virgil Stanhope.  They are quite the interesting trio and it keeps you on the edge of your seat as they try to piece together the past and find out what happened the day that Jenna’s mother disappeared.

For me, I think the most intriguing part of this book was reading about Jenna’s mother, Alice, who is a scientist that studied elephant behavior, mainly grief.  You learn so many facts about the fascinating animals.

Jodi Picoult does not disappoint with this title.  It’s a thought-provoking and moving story that I couldn’t put down.

- Janell

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Atlantia by Ally Condie

AtlantiaClose your eyes after reading this story and you might see Atlantia’s citizens listening for voices in mysterious seashells or clambering at the chance to touch a most sacred ring that once belonged to Rio’s late mother, Oceana the Minister. That is how real this enclosed underwater society feels in Atlantia, Ally Condie’s first novel since her Matched trilogy.

In a future where the Divide separates those Above from those Below, Rio vows to find a way to the surface to find the sister she never thought would abandon Rio in the Below. The world was well fleshed out and quite breathtaking, but it felt a little claustrophobic. More characters would have benefited the tale.

That being said, Rio and Maire were well developed, and there were a few satisfying twists, but I did not get the same epic feeling that I felt while reading Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy. Rio seemed to spend a bit too much time in her own head; more secondary characters and a close friend or two would have helped.

The pacing felt acceptable, though the ending was a bit too clean and tidy for my liking. Still, there is an artistic resonance that makes this fantastical tale well worth the read.

- Travis

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent SisterRiley MacPherson’s beloved father has just died and she is devastated. Her mother died when she was younger, her older sister committed suicide when Riley was two, and all she has left is her emotionally damaged brother who barely wants anything to do with her. Riley is lonely and longs to have a family again.

As she begins going through her father’s estate, she discovers a curious postcard that leads her to a PO Box that is supposedly her father’s, although it’s not his name on the box. As she digs deeper into her family’s past she starts to wonder about her sister’s suicide.

The more people she speaks to about her father’s life, the more she discovers how little she really knows. When she finds evidence that her sister may actually be alive she is more determined than ever to piece what’s left of her family back together.

In the end, she must decide if the consequences of her actions are worth destroying the lives of the people she loves the most.

This is the second novel by Diane Chamberlain that I have read and she has become one of my favorite authors.

- Tina

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Spark by John Twelve Hawks

SparkIn a near future where ‘nubots’ are steadily replacing human workers and surveillance is ever more pervasive, being dead has its advantages. 

So discovers Jacob Underwood, who has recovered from a critical motorcycle accident able to function physically, but who believes he is nonetheless internally dead, with no sensations, no emotions, and no attachments – the Spark of Jacob’s soul disconnected from the Shell of his body.  

This predicament turns out to be ideal for a man employed as a contract killer for a large multinational corporation, a job which leads Jacob on a series of globe-hopping travels, and progressively draws him into a complex web of intrigue and conspiracy.

The novel combines many of the familiar features of mysteries and speculative fiction with an unusual metaphysical twist.  A bit darker and more reflective than the average summer read, but clever and absorbing, and fans of science fiction and crime thrillers alike will find something to enjoy.

- Stacey

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Skink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

SkinkCome along for a ride with Richard and a crazy eyed stranger turned friend and collaborator – Skink. Richard’s world goes sideways when his best friend and wild cousin, Malley, never shows up at her new school. 

Malley has always been the adventurous one but this time something was different. It wasn’t like her to run off with a stranger she met online but that appears to be what happened.  Richard is worried about the fate of his cousin as he tries to figure out where Malley has gone and who she’s with.

He has to work fast and try to sneak away before his parents catch on to what’s happening. Not to mention he has a secret of his own that he doesn’t want to get out.

Things get interesting when Richard meets an imposing figure named Skink on a beach who turns out to be much more than just an old homeless guy in fatigues. After some revealing insights and internet searches they team up, and hit the road.  It’s not long before Richard learns enough about this beach going stranger to begin to trust him.

With the help of Skink, Richard finds out Malley’s online hook up is not who he says he is, and that Malley may be in more trouble then even she realizes. Adventure awaits…

This is my first reading of the author’s work. I enjoyed the quick pace and wit. The characters are very well developed and the storyline follows through. I would highly recommend this book to young adult readers.  Adult readers would also find it enjoyable.

- Angel

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Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Black IceBrit Pheiffer, a high school senior in Idaho, and her best friend Korbie are going camping and hopefully hiking in the Grand Tetons National Park during spring break. Korbie’s brother Calvin will be back from his freshman year at college and he is to chaperone the girls. This will be difficult for Britt as they dated the year before Calvin left for school and he broke off their relationship.

On the way to the cabin the girls run into a snowstorm and end up stranded on the mountainous road. They decide to hike to the first cabin that they can find.

When they find a cabin, they are taken captive by two guys, Shaun and Mason, who have robbed a subway and shot a policeman. Britt convinces them just to take her along to get them off the mountain.          

Calvin knows something is wrong when the girls don’t show up at a reasonable time and decides to track them down.

In the meantime, Britt leads them to a park ranger cabin. It is here that Britt tries to escape only to have Mason follow her. Calvin makes it to the cabin.  Is Korbie there?  Have the kidnappers killed her?  Does Britt make it out alive?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

If you like twists and turns in a story and to see a character make a transformation, than this is just the book for you.      

- Ellen

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Malice by Keigo Higashino

MaliceWeighing in at just 276 pages in the advanced reader edition, Malice doesn’t feel like much of a challenge, but once I began reading it I began to understand that I was very wrong.

Set in modern Japan in an unspecified city, the plot tells you what it is from the very beginning, with chapters that have titles like “Murder,” “Suspicion,” and “Confession.” First the accused murderer, Nonoguchi, tells his story, and then the detective on the case, Kaga, tells his version of things.

Nonoguchi’s friend, successful novelist Kunihiko Hidaka, has been found slain in his office just days before he was set to move to Vancouver with his new wife. Nonoguchi is a prime suspect from the very beginning, as he was the next to last person to see Hidaka alive. He tells his side of the story, but Detective Kaga does not believe that anything adds up, which he repeats a few times in the course of the narrative. It’s not until the last third of the novel that Kaga’s misgivings will begin to make sense.

As so often happens in mysteries, the crime itself is ordinary, but the lead-up and the details of what makes the criminal who he is make all the difference. This book is more psychological, less thriller.  The acts of violence have all happened in the past. But the calm and collected pace of the novel is more disturbing as we begin to see into Nonoguchi’s past and learn that nothing is what it seems. A gripping read and one that makes me wish translators would get more of this author into English!

- Stacey

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Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury

Hunt for the Bamboo RatHunt for the Bamboo Rat is a gripping narrative of a young Japanese American boy named Zenji Watanabe. Zenji was recruited into the U.S. Army as a spy during the early tensions between Japan and America.

Captured by the Japanese, he is accused of being a traitor for working for the U.S. He endures years of torture and abuse and suffers through unimaginable hardships while they attempt to force a confession out of him. Never once does he give in and admit he was anything except a U.S. civilian.

This story is well written and easy to read. It has a fantastic flow and is very hard to put down. Graham Salisbury’s writing is so detailed. He paints you a picture so clear you can actually see the story come to life.

- Renee

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Thomas Jefferson: President and Philosopher by Jon Meacham

91kBUxNIxKL._SL1500_The author’s intended audience is young adult and offers all the facts in a readable comprehensive way. He follows Jefferson from childhood, as he watched his father care for their Virginia home, and was taught the importance of manners and of living well.

Losing his father at the age of 14, Jefferson had to mind the estate, and became interested in learning politics and meeting the various authority figures in Virginia. It’s interesting to see the early years, because by the time he shows up in most history books, he’s already in the Continental Congress.

We get to see how he interacted with the other members of the Continental Congress. Jefferson didn’t like confrontation, nor did he care for being criticized or ridiculed. He preferred to bide his time and wait for the opportune moment, putting his argument on the table, or in writing, and persuading others to his way of thinking. He had great skill for eloquence, conveying his point without being crass or rude.

As the book progresses, it describes how he lived during the Revolutionary War. This, the author tells us, inspires Jefferson’s decision to run for President. He became fearful of the direction the nation was taking as a whole, and felt that if he could be President, he would have a better chance at keeping the newly formed United States free of British rule.

He ran again at the end of Adams’ term, and succeeded. He did his best to rectify what he saw as any overtly Federalist notions, and bring the nation ‘back on track’. After his Presidency ended, Jefferson retired to Monticello, where he died on July 4th, 1826.

Overall, the book was enjoyable, and gave me a better grasp of the history of Jefferson’s life and the events around him.

- Lana

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Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

download (1)Four years ago, Mara, a successful lawyer and devoted wife and mother, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. She made a promise to herself that when she started displaying symptoms that meant the disease was progressing she would take her own life to spare her family the pain of watching her degenerate and having to take care of her.

Four years later, Mara has been forced to retire from her job and she can no longer drive due to her disease. She has decided on the date when she will take her life and it’s now five days away.

Scott, an online friend she met on a forum, has been fostering a young boy for the past year while his drug addicted mother is in jail. He has bonded and become extremely close to the boy, but now he only has five days left to say goodbye before the boy is returned to his mother.  He has never meet Mara, but they often chat at night about their lives. He does not know that Mara has a fatal disease.

In the 5 days leading up to her planned death Mara goes through a million different emotions and changes her mind over and over again about her plan. Will she decide to wait and see how much longer she can last before becoming totally dependent on others and thus have more time with her family? Or, will she go through with her plan?

I will admit that this book made me cry more than once. I can’t imagine going through this type of pain especially when you have young children. Make sure you have lots of tissues nearby when you read this one.

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