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Weekly Reviews: Speculative Fiction

The Office of Mercy

Today we review three thrillingly original works of speculative fiction. Let’s start with a post-apocalyptic, dystopian debut novel. The Office of Mercy is being marketed as a Hunger Games readalike. (I’ve also seen comparisons to recent Alex Award winner, Pure). However, debut author Djanikian is more concerned with ethical questions than fast-paced action. The Alphas had good intentions […]

Weekly Reviews: Tough Times

Me Before You

Whether memoir or realistic fiction, many teens respond to stories of struggle that are told from the heart. Here are three to recommend. Let’s begin with a love story. We haven’t featured many love stories here. At least, not weepy, traditional ones that earn a starred review! Many are couched in historical fiction or the […]

Fairy Tales

Adaptations of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers are among my great pleasures in life. They account for one of my favorite picture books, Trina Schart Hyman outrageously gorgeous (and even more outrageously out-of-print) version of “Snow White” (Little, Brown, 1974); one of my favorite YA novels, Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels (Knopf, 2008), […]

Why a Classic Is a Classic

The Rime of the Modern Mariner

A starred review today, from our graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith: Sequential art has been the go-to format for creators and adaptors, bowdlerizers and clever clogs who rework, or try to rework, classics. Disney-sponsored Scrooge McDuck, Posy Simmonds’ Gemma Bovery, published-for-classroom Manga Shakespeare, and Will Eisner’s repurposing of Moby Dick give only the beginning […]

Runaway Girl

Runaway Girl

Watching her book trailer, it’s easy to see why Carissa Phelps is a successful motivational speaker and youth advocate. She has an incredible story and a caring, charismatic determination to help others. Phelps also created a documentary short about her life, Carissa (2008), which was produced by Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth. PHELPS, […]

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea

Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea

Morgan Callan Rogers has written a coming-of-age novel with a sympathetic yet tough young protagonist, enticing small-town coastal Maine setting, and a mystery. What happened to Florine’s mother?  Even more to the point, will Florine do alright without her? To tell the truth, we almost missed this one. This January title has flown under the radar […]



Jessica Maria Tuccelli’s family saga incorporates both Native American and African American history and lore, and even some hints of the supernatural. The southern Appalachia setting is an important element of the book, so it is interesting to read the author’s description of how she found the setting for her story. You might also enjoy […]

Escape from Camp 14

Escape from Camp 14

Before Shin Dong-hyuk, no one born in a North Korean political prison camp had ever escaped. As far as can be determined, Shin is still the only one to do so. He was 23 years old, knew no one, and had never before seen the outside world. Author Blaine Harden’s homepage features a quote from Canada’s National […]

The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen

The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen

Thomas Caplan’s romp has one thing that I’m not sure any other spy novel can claim — an introduction by Bill Clinton. Turns out they met as freshmen at Georgetown, were later roommates, and Clinton advised Caplan on this novel early in the editing process, since they have always been fellow devotees of the spy […]

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

From the Memoirs of a non-enemy combatant

Alex Gilvarry’s first novel is darkly funny, yet deadly serious. It reflects both his experience living in New York City post-911, his obsession with Guantanamo Bay, and a deep interest in celebrity. A brief yet telling interview with the author is available on NPR, and Penguin offers discussion questions. GILVARRY, Alex. From the Memoirs of […]