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Maria's 2021 Picks for Young Adults:
If you liked Divergent, Legend and Infernal Devices Series, you’ll like Scarlet Book by Marissa Meyer – the Gregory Maguire of Teen Fiction! If you liked Under the Never Sky, you’ll enjoy Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger.
Maria's 2021 Recommendations for Juvenile Fiction:
If you liked Liar & Spy, and Moon Over Manifest, then you’ll enjoy The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
If you liked Percy Jackson & the Olympians, and I am #4, you’ll enjoy The Colossus Rises: Seven Wonders Book #1 by Peter Lerangis.
You might try Curses! Foiled again: Foiled Book #2 by Jane Yolen, if you liked The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Anya’s Ghost and The Last Dragon.
If you enjoyed reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Calvin & Hobbes and Vordax series, then you’ll like Timmy Failure by Stephen Pastis.
Ken's 2021 Recommendations:
This is a beautifully written book with strong characters and sense of place. The main character is a literary lion very much like J.D. Salinger who has written an iconic novel a la “Catcher in the Rye”, however this is not based on Salinger because both he and his work exist in this book. Schools assign one or the other, people read both. The author is a recluse, but, he is an Upper East Side townhouse recluse with three sons, a teenager born out of wedlock and two older sons, one of whom is the father of teenagers himself.
The book perfectly captures a unique family dynamic, the New York literary scene, old New York money, boarding school, adolescence, and a very poignant portrait of three suns finding their place in the shadow of the Great Man. And if all that is not enough, this non-Salinger, non-Catcher in the Rye can not help but add another perspective to Salinger at a time of heightened interest due to the forthcoming documentary and biographies.
I’ve always liked Kate Atkinson and this, in my opinion, is her best book ever. First of all, the setting taking place in World War I-WW II England will be familiar to fans of Downton Abbey and Ken Follett’s recent two novels in his planned trilogy. I find this era fascinating and compelling because it defined the modern era and yet differs so greatly from it. Atkinson brings us fresh perspective on these times both in new details of day-to-day life and in terms of context for the big picture.
Her characters are much more fully limned than those of Follett and the writing transcends the saga genre of Follett and other lesser accomplished authors who’ve mined this vein while remaining a page turner. And there are a lot of pages to turn here, but, when you come to the end, you’ll wish there had been more.
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This is a slim volume that, like Ian McEwen’s Chesil Beach, is complete and fully satisfying. There’s a lot to be said for authors who know how to tell a story and know when it is time to stop. (Take note Steven King) I’d heard so much from Neil Gaiman’s many fans and decided that this little book would be the perfect way for me to wade in and test the waters. It was. Not being a huge fan of what I imagine to be his genre had kept me away, but this charming little story won me over. The story is told by still another in this year’s overwhelmingly prevalent youthful narrators. Just an observation, not a criticism: this works. The fully drawn characters, and the complete down-to-earthiness of the narrator, made me willingly and enthusiastically suspend my disbelief at the supernatural, phantasmagoric story—as charming as a fairy tale, yet worthy of the best of the fantasy genre.
Help For the Haunted by John Searles
This was a great read. A fresh plot with fully-limned characters. I was torn between dying to know the truth and not wanting the book to end. Reminiscent of “Age of Wonders”, “The Leftovers” and “Arcadia” in using a narrator who is “coming of age” to describe family life under strange conditions while not being a coming of age story. Loved it. The young girl and her older sister have lived a very strange life being raised by parents who are a cross between the ghost hunting Warrens and the exorcist , who help people deal with haunting and possessed loved ones and travel the country lecturing on the existence of evil and the supernatural. Things get stranger, but not necessarily supernaturally so. You’ll have to read this to the end and decide yourself.
Nancy's 2021 Recommendations:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine’s deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the “Delicious Guarantee”-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn’t know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.