Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist


Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A blind teen boy gets the opportunity to gain sight thanks to a new medical procedure and how it changes his life for better and worse.

What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Josh’s. His memoir We Should Hang Out Sometime was such a heartfelt, engaging read (or listen, I guess, since I listened to it). And he does these awesome videos on the interwebs. Plus he’s from Virginia, where I now live, so heyyyy! Also, this cover is so engaging. I’d heard about this book ages ago and when I saw a reminder about it at the end of one of his videos I went online and checked it right out. Thanks, OverDrive!

My favorite things: This is Sundquist’s debut novel which makes it all the more impressive. It is top notch YA and I really enjoyed the John Green-ness of everything about this book. It’s got lovable misfits that find each other in the abyss of high school, an impromptu road trip, a truly lovely confusing crush/friend situation, and a health related element that is strongly reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars (although not as sad, I promise!). I appreciated the supportive but still annoying parent relationship and the tough but supportive teacher relationships the main character has. It is such an interesting take on what makes us different makes us beautiful.

Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone who feels other or invisible, especially in high school. Readers who want to be uplifted by a great story. Fans of John Green because I can’t say enough that this is an excellent read alike for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines or that other one I already mentioned. Really, just read them all. All of the books.

What else it reminded me of: Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and the movie Shallow Hal.

Erica’s rating: four-and-a-half-shells

Night School by Lee Child


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Jack Reacher, in this book still a decorated Army Major, and his pursuit of bad guys before time runs out.

What made me pick it up: I devour this series so I’m on the holds list for each new book the second I hear about it. It may take a few months to come in, but it’s always worth the wait.

My favorite things: This character is so classic it is always entertaining to follow along as he puzzles it out with the help of his new coworkers and old friends including my favorite character in these books – Frances Neagley. Child never fails to provide plenty of action. I recommend these books to everyone.

Who it’s great for: Adults who are looking for an action movie in a book. Jack Reacher fans who can’t wait to read the next in the series. People who have seen either movie and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple


Originally published in: 2012

What it’s about: Bee Fox, daughter of the titular Bernadette, looking for her mother after a string of dramatic incidents occur and she disappears.

What made me pick it up: I’ve had this book recommended to me repeatedly in the past few years. It’s been touted as “fun”. I’ve also participated in recommending it to people for our library’s reader’s advisory service, and I was finally curious to see what it’s all about. And I had it on audio, which makes reading that much more enticing.

My favorite things: The narrator of this audiobook is excellent. I highly recommend listening to it. I also really liked the characters of Bee and Bernadette. I thought the author incorporated that snide, upper crust, private school stereotype well. I also enjoyed the bit of unreliable narration and the mostly-plausible missed connections and misunderstandings that drove everything haywire.

Who it’s great for: Adults. Older teens. Anyone looking to suspend disbelief. Those who like things too neatly tied up at the end. Readers in pursuit of a short, entertaining read.

Erica’s rating: three-shells

Zone One by Colson Whitehead


Originally published in: 2011

What it’s about: Perfectly mediocre Mark Spitz is part of a small civilian zombie hunting unit tasked with clearing the dead from Long Island. (No, not the Mark Spitz. Although the reference is intentional.)

What made me pick it up: I got impatient waiting for my hold on Whitehead’s National Book Award-winning latest novel, The Underground Railroad, so I grabbed one of his earlier books. I had actually forgotten this one was about zombies.

My favorite things: Whitehead somehow wrote literary fiction about zombies. He asks a lot of interesting questions about what it really means to live in the post-apocalypse having experienced what came before. The characters are plagued by PASD (post-apocalyptic stress disorder), and Whitehead uses his dark humor to consider the emotional and mental toll taken on the zombie hunting survivors. Despite the fact that this is a book about killing zombies, it feels like its about something much more human.

Who it’s great for: Zombie aficionados looking for something a little bit different. Horror fans. Literary readers who want to ease into genre reading.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

The Nix by Nathan Hill


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: The Nix is ultimately a story about family relationships and the power of blood ties to overcome trauma and betrayal. But it’s kind of lighthearted and fun.

What made me pick it up: I kept seeing it pop up on bestseller lists so I figured I’d take the plunge. Plus, I knew those 600+ pages would do great things for my annual page count.

My favorite things: If I’m being completely honest, a lot of literary fiction misses the mark for me because I feel like it takes itself too seriously. The Nix doesn’t. From the moment we meet the Andresen-Andersons it’s clear that Hill is just as concerned with making his readers chuckle every once in a while as he is with exploring complicated relationships. I love the way he spends a chapter here and there following secondary characters, because the change in voice kept things fresh for me across the several hundred pages. I also really enjoyed getting to read excerpts of Samuel’s writing, instead of just reading about his (in)ability to create great work. This book is looong but I never wanted the end to come sooner.

Who it’s great for: Readers who love family drama but want a story that reaches beyond that. Those who think we’re prioritizing our digital lives a bit too much. Anyone seeking to pad their page count without losing interest.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

Get a copy of The Nix at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.

Moo by Sharon Creech


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A young teen girl and her family move from NYC to Maine and get used to a more rural side of life by befriending an elderly neighbor and her ornery cow.

What made me pick it up: I’ve been a Sharon Creech fan since she blew my middle school mind with Walk Two Moons and broke my little heart enough to have me sobbing at the end. It was on audio, and it was not that long (2.5 hours).

My favorite things: This book is just the right balance of happy and sad. The protagonist is a strong personality and the family relationships are positive and supportive. I’m amazed how much emotional heft Creech packed into such a brief book.

Who it’s great for: Upper elementary readers or adults who read to one. Those who can handle a strong dose of upsetting reality in their chapter book. Families about to undertake a big move or who have kids that need to learn openness to new opportunities. Anyone looking for a good read.

Erica’s rating: four-shells

To pick up a copy of Moo head to Amazon (affiliate link) or check your local library.


Girls Like Me by Lola StVil


Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: Shay Summers is struggling through being fifteen. She’s trying to cope with her father’s death, her best friend’s terminal illness, a school bully, being overweight, and the ache of an unrequited crush. But then she finds love in a chat room.

What made me pick it up: This one was recommended to me by a colleague.

My favorite things: StVil tells this story in verse and in instant/text message – and she does it very effectively and intentionally. The characters make a lot of use of the medium, reveling in the anonymity and using fonts to flirt and fight. The teen angst and heartache is too real and perfectly captured, and the excitement over blossoming romance is palpable and infectious. I love that StVil wrote an overweight character without hinting at weight-loss, it’s definitely something I’d like to see more often.

Who it’s great for: Teens who feel like they’ll never fit in and never find love. Those dealing with the death or terminal illness of a loved one. Reluctant readers. Fan’s of Isabel Quintero’s 2014 young adult debut, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.

Abby’s rating: four-shells

Armada by Ernest Cline


Originally published in: 2015

What it’s about: As it turns out, Zack Lightman’s love of video games isn’t a waste of time. It’s going to help him save the world from an alien invasion.

What made me pick it up: I loved the audiobook for Cline’s 2011 Ready Player One and was excited to see that Wil Wheaton would be the reader for this one as well.

My favorite things: Cline strikes a great balance between poking fun at sci-fi tropes and embracing them. He gives equal importance to the everyday angst-producing experiences of teenage life and the terrifying thrills of trying to save the world. Wil Wheaton is an incredible reader and brings a lot to the audiobook – he’s a perfect fit for the story and I hope he comes back for Cline’s next book!

Who it’s great for: Anyone looking for a funny, adventurous, high-stakes coming of age story. People looking for a lighthearted answer to Ender’s Game. Fans of sci-fi, video games, and teenage drama.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells

The Fireman by Joe Hill


What it’s about: It’s the near future and the apocalypse is nigh. A quickly spreading disease, known as Dragonscale, threatens the future of the human race by causing the infected to spontaneously combust.

What made me pick it up: After reading The Sunlight Pilgrims I was in the mood for a much warmer vision of the apocalypse. Actually, I put the ebook on hold a while ago and it was finally available to me.

My favorite things: The spontaneous combustion was nice spin on the pandemic story. The beginning of this book is really well done, and I was immediately hooked. The story follows Nurse Harper, an infected woman who is determined to deliver her baby healthy and free of Dragonscale. Harper is a compelling character who brings meaning and a sense of urgency to the story. Hill includes references to current public figures and pop culture that are fun to read, but make me glad that I didn’t wait to read this one. Bonus:fans of Hill’s father (Stephen King) will appreciate the subtle references to his work.

Who it’s great for: Readers looking for an apocalyptic story that doesn’t feel imminent. Fans of dark fantasy and horror.

Abby’s rating: three-shells