Aaron O'Faolain has a lot of problems right now. He just got expelled and his parents are divorced and inattentive, which is how he managed to scam them all by dropping out of his new school and going to live on the streets of San Francisco. Only that didn't work as well as he was expecting. This is The End of FUN by Sean McGinty.
To make some quick cash, Aaron signs up to test out the latest product from FUN®! — Tickle, Tickle, Boom!, an anticipated virtual reality platform that integrates social media, gaming and online marketing. After spending a month doing nothing but playing, he owes $10,000 and a virus in the software is giving him tiny seizures. To get out of his contract he has to pay back the money he owes and collect enough YAY!s to meet his user agreement. Luckily for him, his grandfather just died and left him as the sole beneficiary — if he can solve the treasure hunt his grandfather stipulated in his will. Debut author McGinty breathes new life into the cyperpunk genre with this sardonic spin on Young Adult archetypes, setting his narrative in the midst of multiple concurrent global catastrophes, rather than in a post-apocalyptic world. Aaron begrudgingly (and sometimes unwittingly) embarks on a multi-tiered quest that has him searching for material wealth, spiritual fulfillment and rectified relationships, although not actually saving the world. Fans of Holes, Ready Player One and The Westing Game will appreciate this nuanced and realistic story that is completely fun.
Penny has the worst luck. She lost her job and her apartment on the same day and now her best friend Helen is moving to Long Island. But she'll be okay! She is resourceful and obtusely optimistic. Plus, Helen got her a job interview at her family's laundromat, which is where Penny bides her time, fighting off the neighborhood delinquents and trying to figure out how to move forward under the watchful glower of her new petty dictator of a boss. To stay clean, she scams showers from the cute nerd working at the gym next door. Despite the fact that their dates are disastrous and their interests are wildly divergent, Penny develops a real infatuation for Walter. But can their relationship survive Penny's contretemps? What about the villains waiting in the shadows, plotting Penny's downfall?
Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota is a book that revels in the absurdity of everyday life and in absurdly dramatic climaxes. Fans of Scott Pilgrim and 500 Days of Summer will find this a romantic-comedy of errors that is sweet without being saccharine, funny without being trivial. Originally serialized as a webcomic, you can find Easter eggs detailing the hilarious romance novels adorning Penny's shelves, Penny's bad advice blog, as well as more comics by Ota and Hirsh (a couple in real life) at their website Johnny Wander.
Looking forward to meeting her fellow book lover and American pen-pal Amy for the first time, Swede Sara Lindqvist arrives in Amy’s hometown of Broken Wheel, Iowa — just in time to meet the mourners leaving Amy’s funeral. Sara had planned for a two-month vacation of reading and talking about her favorite books with Amy; now she has no friend, no real plans and no one to talk books with.
Broken Wheel isn’t what she expected from Amy’s letters, and the people who still live in the dying Midwestern town definitely don’t know what to expect from its first tourist. They don’t expect her to stay for the two months, and they certainly don’t expect her to open a book shop stocked with Amy’s vast collection. But in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, that is exactly what Sara does when she decides that what the townspeople need most is books.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a love song to books and booklovers everywhere, with no judgments passed on what is read. Sara’s plan focuses more on engendering a similar level of affection that she feels towards books in the townspeople. In addition to celebrating books, readers will fall for the quirky characters themselves, from Sara to the members of the town. The book is lighthearted and genuine without ever becoming saccharine, and Bivald slips some funny moments as the townspeople come to accept Sara and she starts to take charge of her life.
Part chick lit, part book review and all heart, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend lets us remember not only how books change and stay with us but also how they can connect us to each other, even across oceans or differences in experience. Fans of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop may enjoy the time they spend in Broken Wheel.
Can a person con their way out of a "lawyer-tight" contract that promises his or her soul to the Devil upon death? K. J. Parker, a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, will elegantly feed you this delicious information in his science fiction and fantasy novella The Devil You Know.
“...Why exactly do you want to sell your soul to us?” This is a question that a demon case officer, who is in the soul buying business, asks his new client, Saloninus, the world’s greatest philosopher, liar, cheat and trickster. Time flew by rather quickly for Saloninus, a 77-year-old man who believes he wasted his talent on scheming others. Unhappy with the fact that he has no self-respecting achievements, he decides to sign a contract to sell his soul to the Devil in order to acquire 20 more years of life on Earth and a youthful transformation to age 25 for the opportunity to make a mark on history. Once Saloninus signs the contract, the demon case officer becomes his servant, who uses his own supernatural abilities to grant Saloninus outlandish requests. When the demon questions Saloninus about what he plans to do with his additional years on Earth, the philosopher behaves suspiciously. This behavior gives the demon a reason to believe that the old trickster is up to his old tricks again and that his target is… the Devil. Saloninus is supposed to be the cleverest man on Earth. Will Saloninus successfully swindle the Devil? The demon case officer is supposed to be the best in the business. Will he halt Saloninus’ plan? To swindle or not to swindle, that is the question.
Readers who relish stories that involve the supernatural, mortality and good and evil, will find K. J. Parker’s novella The Devil You Know delightful and possibly frightful. Add this entertaining treat to your summer reading list — if you dare.
Evie Boyd is that lady — the one who was a member of the hippie cult that committed those horrific murders. Acquired as part of a three book deal for a rumored two million dollars, Emma Cline’s hotly anticipated debut, The Girls, focuses on a 14-year-old drawn into a charismatic cult. It’s no secret that the fictional leader of the group, Russell, is a stand-in for the notorious Charles Manson.
The novel begins as current day Evie looks back on that transformative summer of 1969. Cline shines at illuminating the dark, sullen corners of the adolescent experience and, in her hands, readers have no doubt as to why plain, ordinary Evie eagerly follows the enigmatic young women she first spies at the park. She wants to be noticed, to belong, to be rescued from boredom.
The girls from the park are titillating in their openness. Evie is invited to the solstice celebration at their dilapidated ranch in the hills, a party with a banquet culled from a back alley dumpster and plenty of drugs and drink. Suzanne lends her a flowing dress, reeking of rodent droppings, from a community clothing rack. And when Russell finally appears, beaming and barefoot in filthy jeans and buckskin, Evie struggles to see to see the brilliance they all assure is behind the intensity of his stare. Later that night, she’s presented to him as an offering. Russell specializes in sad girls like Evie, willing to do anything for attention.
Soon she’s a part of the group, stealing from her mother’s purse to make offerings, frequently staying the night and hanging out with the famous musician who is sure to help make Russell a household name. She flits between home and the ranch, and all the while her distracted mother thinks she’s at a girlfriend’s house. The sadder and wiser adult Evie’s observations about her younger self make the reader ache. Lucky for Evie, she never gets pulled all the way in, and when Russell’s demands become increasingly dangerous, she’s left out. The Girls is as much a coming of age story as it is a sordid, cautionary tale and a study in cult psychology. Cline’s descriptive writing propels the story, and many of her observations beg to be read aloud. As a high concept literary page turner, The Girls delivers.
One of mainstream comics’ greatest talents, Darwyn Cooke, passed away in May. His work was characterized by a nostalgia for superhero comics of the Silver Age, but with a sense of social justice and outrage that was often overlooked.
He got his foot in the door drawing storyboards for Batman: The Animated Series, still one of the most enduring interpretations of the character, and went on to do various critically acclaimed runs on Catwoman and Batman, the controversial Before Watchmen miniseries and his graphic adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker novels.
He’s best remembered for his masterwork DC: The New Frontier, which swallowed the entire DC universe in one gulp and spit it back out as a post-World War II story that didn’t shy away from the darker truths of that era. It reinvigorated the “good old days” by depicting heroes who had a harder time reconciling their ideals with the country that they fought for. He even took on the unenviable task of retelling Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and carried the torch from the master dazzlingly. Never afraid of pushing his work in new directions, his last book The Twilight Children with Gilbert Hernandez of Love & Rockets fame is a magical realist story in the tradition of Gabriel García Márquez.
The superhero genre offers an optimistic escape at the best of times but, Darwyn Cooke was a creator who never looked away from the world, instead showing us how to appreciate it with a rageful optimism. He will be remembered.
A split-second decision; a hand raised to brush away an annoyance, a little boy deciding to race his mother home, and tragedy strikes in I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh. A terrible accident that takes the life of a child is compounded by the driver’s escape from the scene. After months of grinding investigation, false leads and frustrating witness statements, the driver is never found. Despite instructions from his superiors, Inspector Ray Stevens refuses to relegate the investigation to the cold case files. Compulsively committed, Stevens continues a covert inquiry.
Consumed by grief and regret, Jenna abandons her successful career as an artist and the life she knows and seeks seclusion in a seaside town in Wales. The harshly scenic surroundings inspire her to fresh artistic expression. Gradually, the nightmares wane and Jenna begins to heal. Just as she hesitantly reaches out and makes friends, her past life reappears with unpredictable and horrifying consequences.
Mackintosh leads the reader down these parallel paths until they converge with unexpectedly shocking results. Beautifully written, this deeply emotional subject matter is handled with skill and grace. Elegantly plotted, deeply imagined characters and unpredictable revelations combine to create an enthralling story. With the twists of The Girl on the Train and the emotional resonance of The Husband’s Secret, this compulsive read will haunt you long after you close the cover.
In the world of the Six Princes, each nation is ruled by a House that is adept in a particular kind of magic. For Lily of House Shadow, descended from necromancers and dark wizards, this magic — Shadow Magic — is forbidden to her, because she’s a girl. Her brother, the heir to the throne of Gehenna, the land of the undead, could learn magic, but she couldn’t.
When her family is assassinated, she becomes queen, a role she never was expected to fill. She’s also now the only one who can fulfill the marriage arrangement between House Shadow and House Solar, rulers of the Lumina, the land of light, who were previously House Shadow’s mortal enemy. Per the agreement, she will have to leave everything she loves and knows and move to her obnoxious fiancé’s homeland if she hopes to maintain the shaky peace between their Houses.
In another nation, the peasant boy Thorn is trying to find his father when he’s captured and sold as a slave to House Shadow’s executioner Tyburn. He faces a life far from everything he knows, trapped in service to the rulers of a world of shadow and darkness, where rumor says vampires roam freely and the dead are House Shadow’s army. He’s not exactly thrilled at the thought of becoming some monster’s lunch.
Meeting at Castle Gloom, these two unlikely allies will have to rely on each other to keep Lily in Gehenna, keep Thorn out of trouble, uncover a plot to overthrow House Shadow and stop a murderous necromancer from raising an army of zombies. Their allies include a captured prince from another nation and a giant bat, but their enemies may be a lot closer than they know.
The first in a series, Joshua Khan’s debut children’s book is full of macabre fantasy, daring adventure and a dash of political intrigue. Shadow Magic is an action-packed mystery with plenty of surprises. The illustrations are delightful, the characters are complex and the cliffhangers will keep readers guessing until the end. Any fan of the Percy Jackson or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series should check out Shadow Magic. Readers also won’t have to wait long for the second book; it’s already slated to be published next year.