Everybody else is creating Best of 2017 book lists, so we decided to give it a shot as well! Each staff person picked 2 or 3 books. The only rules were that it had to be published in 2017 and it had to be one of our favorites. I’ve included either a review or staff comments. Hope you find something you like!

Cyd | Gene | Janet | Karen | Kari | Kate | Megan (Picture books, middle grade books and YA books) | Randy |

Cyd
Picture of book cover for Beyond the Bright SeaBeyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* Crow was a mere baby when she drifted to the shore of one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She has since grown up with the painter Osh as her stand-in father; their only other friend is Maggie, who teaches Crow. Nearby Penikese Island was home to a leper colony at the time of Crow’s birth, and most of the island folk assume her birth parents were lepers and shun her. Now a 12-year-old and uncertain of her parentage, Crow becomes increasingly curious following a fire on the now supposedly vacant Penikese. Where did she really come from? What happened to her parents, and is there a chance she has any surviving blood relatives? Crow’s quest for answers as she grapples with her uncertain identity shapes the 2017 Newbery Honor Book author’s sophomore novel. While this quiet, affecting story lacks the palpable sense of dread and superb pacing that made Wolf Hollow (2016) so impossible to put down, there’s still plenty to admire in this more classic-feeling historical novel, which calls to mind Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis (1977). Wolk has a keen sense for the seaside landscape, skillfully mining the terror the ocean can unleash as a furious nor’easter heightens tension in the novel’s climax. Historical fiction fans awaiting her follow-up will be pleased.”
Picture of book cover for The War I Finally WonThe War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Booklist Review: “In this sequel to Bradley’s Newbery Honor Book The War That Saved My Life (2015), Ada finally gets the surgery she needs to repair the clubfoot that limited her mobility and made her believe she was unworthy of love. Now she can walk even run! ­better than ever, though she has other wounds to heal; namely, the trauma wrought by her neglectful, abusive mother. Meanwhile, a German Jewish refugee, Ruth, is living with Ada, Susan, and Jamie; Lady Thornton is pricklier than ever; and Ada finds herself struggling to fully comprehend the complex emotions of the adults around her. In an episodic structure, Bradley movingly narrates Ada’s gradual emotional growth against the backdrop of WWII, as she comes to trust her friends and family and relinquish some of her need to be in control. Bradley is perhaps at her best when describing Ada’s love of horses and the therapeutic effect the animals have on her and Ruth, who’s facing prejudice in England and fearing for her family back in Germany. A bittersweet story with a triumphant conclusion.”
Picture of book cover for A Piece of the WorldA Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
Publisher’s Weekly Review: “The world of the woman immortalized in Andrew Wyeth’s haunting painting Christina’s World is imagined in Kline’s (Orphan Train) intriguing novel. The artist meets Christina Olson in 1939 when he summers near her home in Cushing, Maine, introduced by Betsy James, the young woman who knew the Olsons and would become Wyeth’s wife. The story is told from Christina’s point of view, from the moment she reflects on the painting; it then goes back and forth through her history, from her childhood through the time that Wyeth painted at her family farm, using its environs and Christina and her brother as subjects. First encountering Christina as a middle-aged woman, Wyeth saw something in her that others did not. Their shared bond of physical infirmity (she had undiagnosed polio; he had a damaged right foot and bad hip) enables her to open up about her family and her difficult life, primarily as a shut-in, caring for her family, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and doing laundry-all without electricity and despite her debilitating disease. Hope of escape, when her teacher offers her the chance to take her place, was summarily quashed by her father. Her first and only romance with a summer visitor from Boston has an ignoble end when he marries someone in his social class. Through it all, the author’s insightful, evocative prose brings Christina’s singular perspective and indomitable spirit to life.”
Gene
Picture of book cover for Huế 1968Huế 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* Huê was Vietnam’s capital from 1802 to 1945, giving it great symbolic value. By January of 1968, it had been spared some of the worst violence that plagued other cities in South Vietnam. American intelligence agents anticipated stepped-up Vietcong attacks but viewed American military bases as the likeliest targets. Instead, Huê endured one of the most prolonged, vicious, and politically decisive battles of the Vietnam War. On January 31 (the first day of Tet, the lunar new year), thousands of North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops attacked multiple points and quickly seized most of the lightly defended city. Over the next 24 days, U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese troops retook the city in savage urban warfare that left much of Huê in ruin. Best-selling Bowden (The Three Battles of Wanat, 2016) views this struggle through the experiences and recollections of combatants from both sides. The perspectives of North Vietnamese and Vietcong fighters are especially revealing, confirming that they regarded their struggle as a fight for national independence rather than for communism. After Huê and the wider Tet Offensive, the U.S. looked for a way out of the quagmire, rather than victory. Bowden has created an epic masterpiece of heroism and sacrifice, and a testament to the tragic futility of the American experience in Vietnam.”
Picture of book cover for The Unwomanly Face of WarThe Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich
Booklist Review: “Unlike other Allied powers in WWII, the Soviet Union utilized many women in combat roles. Most served away from the front on farms and in factories and hospitals, but thousands fought as partisans or with regular combat units. Nobel laureate Alexievich (Secondhand Time, 2016) created this riveting oral history in 1985, and it retains its eloquence and often-shocking power in its first English translation. Alexievich gathered these memories, emotions, and hopes shattered and fulfilled from a variety of former female soldiers. She acknowledges that she and her generation face an unbridgeable gulf between themselves and those who directly endured the daily savagery of the war. Indeed, a few of these women seethe with resentment at chroniclers who ignore their heroism. Others attempt to honestly convey their experiences, and their tales are moving and disturbing. Some recall, shamefully, the joy they felt as captured Germans were mistreated. A partisan calmly recalls the necessary drowning of her infant after giving birth. This is painful but worthwhile reading, especially as the number of living veterans of the war dwindles.”
Picture of book cover for Understanding TrumpUnderstanding Trump by Newt Gingrich
From the publisher: “Understanding Trump requires a willingness to study and learn from him. His principles grow out of five decades of business and celebrity success. Trump behaves differently than traditional politicians because his entire life experience has been different than most traditional politicians. This book will explain the Trump phenomenon and help people understand the emerging movement and administration. Newt Gingrich says President Trump should begin every day by reviewing his campaign promises. Trump owes his presidency to the people who believed in him, not to the courtiers and schmoozers who had contempt for him as candidate but adore him now that he is president.”
Janet
Picture of book cover for See You in the CosmosSee You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Booklist Review: “Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski is from Rockview, Colorado, U.S.A., Planet Earth. He is recording sounds on his iPod to send into space, just like astronomer Carl Sagan did on his Voyager Golden Records (Alex admires Mr. Sagan so much that he named his dog after him). As he gets ready to attend a rocket festival in Albuquerque, Alex also records an audio journal of his life. Since his mom is not functional and his dad is dead, Alex travels by train solo with his dog. When Ancestry.com alerts him to a man with a name and birth date that match his father’s, Alex determines to go to Las Vegas to search for him and ends up losing canine Carl Sagan. This book’s strength is its exuberant and utterly believable first-person narrator: Alex is portrayed as intelligent and naive, irritating and endearing. But it’s his earnestness that attracts a motley collection of adults who help when his mom goes missing. Good for both budding astronomers and fans of road trip books.”
Picture of book cover for Astrophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Booklist Review: “With several best-selling books under his belt, along with multiple service awards and honorary doctorates, Tyson has become one of the most popular science spokesmen since Carl Sagan, whose famous Cosmos miniseries Tyson rebooted for 13 episodes in 2014. In his latest work, Tyson offers a breezy but scientifically grounded overview of his primary field of expertise, astrophysics, skillfully tailored to increase lay readers’ understanding of topics such as the big bang and relativity in time to better appreciate the next astronomical discovery or blockbuster science-fiction movie. Twelve bite-size, lucidly written chapters cover the fundamentals of inflation theory, gravity, dark matter, black holes, and the surprising reasons planets and suns are round. Tyson also gives star billing to some of science’s most famous innovators, such as Newton and Einstein, dissecting how they developed their signature theories. A final, elegiac chapter extols the virtues of having a cosmic perspective to lighten the burdens of living. Even readers normally averse to anything to do with physics or chemistry will find Tyson’s wittily delivered explanations compelling and disarmingly entertaining.”
Karen
Picture of book cover for Before We Were YoursBefore We Were Yours by Wingate
Booklist Review: “Newly engaged Avery Stafford leaves her job as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., to go back home to South Carolina, where she is being groomed to succeed her ailing father, a U.S. senator. At a meet-and-greet at a nursing home, she encounters May, a woman who seems to have some link with Avery’s Grandma Judy, now suffering from dementia. The reader learns early on that May was once Rill Foss, one of five siblings snatched from their shanty home on the Mississippi and taken to the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The society seems too Dickensian to be true, except that it was, and its black-market adoption practices caused a stir in the mid-twentieth century. Rill’s harrowing account of what befell the Foss children and Avery’s piecing together (with the help of a possible new love interest) of how Rill and Grandma Judy’s stories converge are skillfully blended. Wingate writes with flair, and her distinctly drawn characters and adept use of the adoption scandal will keep readers turning the pages.”
Picture of book cover for Love and Other Consolation PrizesLove and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Booklist Review: “Seattle’s two world’s fairs frame Ford’s (Songs of Willow Frost, 2013) new novel. Twelve-year-old Ernest Young, who at age five was sold by his desperately poor Chinese mother and put on a freighter headed for Seattle, is the prize in a raffle at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The highest bidder turns out to be Madame Flora, proprietor of a high-class brothel called the Tenderloin. There Ernest finds a home, works his way up from houseboy to chauffeur, and falls in love with two girls, Maisie, Madame Flora’s daughter, and Fahn, a Japanese girl who works at the Tenderloin as a kitchen maid. More than 50 years later, Ernest’s daughter Juju, a journalist, decides to write a then-and-now piece to coincide with the opening of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, and this triggers a flood of memories, all the more poignant because Ernest’s wife is suffering from memory loss. Ford is a romantic rather than a realist, keeping the novel buoyant despite some difficult subject matter human trafficking, for example. A vibrantly rendered setting adds to the appeal.”
Picture of book cover for Killers of the Flower MoonKillers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Booklist Review: “**Starred Review* During the early 1920s, many members of the Osage Indian Nation were murdered, one by one. After being forced from several homelands, the Osage had settled in the late nineteenth century in an unoccupied area of Oklahoma, chosen precisely because it was rocky, sterile, and utterly unfit for cultivation. No white man would covet this land; Osage people would be happy. Then oil was soon discovered below the Osage territory, speedily attracting prospectors wielding staggering sums and turning many Osage into some of the richest people in the world. Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, 2010) centers this true-crime mystery on Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who lost several family members as the death tally grew, and Tom White, the former Texas Ranger whom J. Edgar Hoover sent to solve the slippery, attention-grabbing case once and for all. A secondary tale of Hoover’s single-minded rise to power as the director of what would become the FBI, his reshaping of the bureau’s practices, and his goal to gain prestige for federal investigators provides invaluable historical context. Grann employs you-are-there narrative effects to set readers right in the action, and he relays the humanity, evil, and heroism of the people involved. His riveting reckoning of a devastating episode in American history deservedly captivates.”
Kari
Picture of book cover for This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Publisher’s Weekly Review: “Frankel’s third novel is about the large, rambunctious Walsh-Adams family. While Penn writes his “DN” (damn novel) and spins fractured fairy tales from the family’s ramshackle farmhouse in Madison, Wis., Rosie works as an emergency physician. Four sons have made the happily married couple exhausted and wanting a daughter; alas, their fifth is another boy. Extraordinarily verbal little Claude is quirky and clever, traits that run in the family, and at age three says, “I want to be a girl.” Claude is the focus, but Frankel captures the older brothers’ boyish grossness. She also fleshes out his two eldest brothers, who worry about Claude’s safety when Rosie and Penn agree that Claude can be Poppy at school. But coming out further isolates this unique child. Encouragement from a therapist and an accepting grandma can go just so far; Poppy only blossoms after the Walsh-Adamses move to progressive Seattle and keep her trans status private, although what is good for Poppy is increasingly difficult on her brothers. The story takes a darker turn when she is outed; Rosie and her youngest must find their footing while Penn stays at home with the other kids. Frankel’s slightly askew voice, exemplified by Rosie and Penn’s nontraditional gender roles, keeps the narrative sharp and surprising. This is a wonderfully contradictory story-heartwarming and generous, yet written with a wry sensibility.”
Picture of book cover for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* “Move over, Ove (in Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, 2014) there’s a new curmudgeon to love. Thirty-year-old Eleanor Oliphant leads a highly predictable life, working at an office, eating the same meals alone in her apartment, and spending her weekends regularly administering vodka (she usually goes without speaking to another human from the time she bids farewell to the bus driver on Friday until she greets another one on Monday). She is, as she regularly tells herself, fine. But when a chance encounter with a local musician sends her reeling into the throes of a full-fledged crush, her carefully constructed world breaks open. Soon she is embarking on a self-improvement program from the outside in, complete with shopping trips, manicure, makeup, and attempts at hairstyling. The real changes, however, are slowly taking place within, as she develops a friendship with a man from work and eventually learns the wonderful rewards that come to those who open their hearts. Walking in Eleanor’s practical black Velcro shoes is delightfully amusing, her prudish observations leavened with a privately puckish humor. But readers will also be drawn in by her tragic backstory, which slowly reveals how she came to be so entirely Eleanor. Witty, charming, and heartwarming, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a remarkable debut about a singular woman. Readers will cheer Eleanor as she confronts her dark past and turns to a brighter future. Feel good without feeling smarmy.”
Picture of book cover for Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* It’s here: the eagerly awaited new novel by John Green, and not to milk the suspense it’s superb. High-school junior Aza has an obsessive fear of being infected with the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which can be fatal. Her fear has become obsession, plaguing her with intrusives, thoughts that take over her mind, making her feel that she is not the author of her own life. She does, however, have a life: her father is dead; her mother is a teacher; her best friends are Mychal, a gifted artist, and Daisy, a well-known Star Wars fan-fiction author. To their trio is added Davis, whom Aza had known when they were 11. Davis’ billionaire father has decamped, pursued by the police, leaving Davis and his younger brother parentless (their mother is dead) and very much on their own. How will the friends cope with all this? And how will Aza cope with her own problems? Green, a master of deeply felt material, handles all of this with aplomb. With its attention to ideas and trademark introspection, it’s a challenging but richly rewarding read. It is also the most mature of Green’s work to date and deserving of all the accolades that are sure to come its way.”
Kate
Picture of book cover for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This book does not fit into any of the categories I usually enjoy. Kari recommended that I read it and while I’m generally, shall we say, reluctant to read the type of books she favors, I did take the plunge on this one. It’s not only one of my favorite books of 2017, but of the last several years (Thank you, Kari!). Made me laugh, made me think and made me cry. For those of you who need more convincing, here’s the Booklist review (starred, of course!): “Move over, Ove (in Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, 2014) there’s a new curmudgeon to love. Thirty-year-old Eleanor Oliphant leads a highly predictable life, working at an office, eating the same meals alone in her apartment, and spending her weekends regularly administering vodka (she usually goes without speaking to another human from the time she bids farewell to the bus driver on Friday until she greets another one on Monday). She is, as she regularly tells herself, fine. But when a chance encounter with a local musician sends her reeling into the throes of a full-fledged crush, her carefully constructed world breaks open. Soon she is embarking on a self-improvement program from the outside in, complete with shopping trips, manicure, makeup, and attempts at hairstyling. The real changes, however, are slowly taking place within, as she develops a friendship with a man from work and eventually learns the wonderful rewards that come to those who open their hearts. Walking in Eleanor’s practical black Velcro shoes is delightfully amusing, her prudish observations leavened with a privately puckish humor. But readers will also be drawn in by her tragic backstory, which slowly reveals how she came to be so entirely Eleanor. Witty, charming, and heartwarming, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a remarkable debut about a singular woman. Readers will cheer Eleanor as she confronts her dark past and turns to a brighter future. Feel good without feeling smarmy.”
Picture of book cover for Theft by FindingTheft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* Sedaris’ diaries are the wellspring for his cuttingly funny autobiographical essays, and he now presents a mesmerizing volume of deftly edited passages documenting 35 years of weird, disturbing, and hilarious experiences. Theft by Finding, Sedaris’ latest riddling title, following Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013), is a sly allusion to his artistic method: he is a champion eavesdropper and omnivorous observer, and this selective diary is basically a set of meticulous field notes cataloging atrocious human behavior. In 1977, college-dropout Sedaris is hitchhiking out West, picking fruit for pitiful wages, and getting high. He returns to Raleigh, his hometown, where he works odd jobs, makes art, and matter-of-factly records a litany of alarming encounters with enraged strangers, a theme that continues after he moves to Chicago, attends art school, and begins writing in earnest, and then in New York, where he ascends. People throw rocks and bottles at him, insult and threaten him, demand money and cigarettes. He records a constant barrage of racist, sexist, and anti-gay outbursts, and portrays an array of hustlers, eccentrics, bullies, and misfits. Sedaris is caustically witty about his bad habits and artistic floundering. Even when he cleans up his act, falls in love, and achieves raving success, Sedaris remains self-deprecating and focused on the bizarre and the disquieting. A candid, socially incisive, and sharply amusing chronicle of the evolution of an arresting comedic artist.”
Picture of book cover for The Secret Diary of Hendrik GroenThe Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* For one year, 83-year-old Hendrik Groen keeps a diary of life as an inmate in an Amsterdam nursing home with both hilarious and deeply moving results. Hendrik (an alias for a famous writer, leading to much speculation) chafes at the countless, seemingly meaningless regulations and decides to form a group with five like-minded friends: the Old but Not Dead Club. Every three weeks or so, one member plans a club outing a trip to the bird park; a night at a cooking school; a 3-D movie excursion. Along the way, Groen touches on local and worldwide politics and addresses the sorry state of senior care in his home country. One of the group faces serious diabetes complications; one the onset of dementia; and Hendrik’s closest female friend, Eefje, suffers a massive stroke. Groen details how the other members pitch in to help during these hard times, movingly portraying the strong bonds they’ve developed over this one year. Even difficult moments are interspersed with Groen’s biting wit and comic take on aging and all it entails, from memory loss to adult diapers. A best-seller in Europe, Groen’s diary is a page-turning delight for adult readers of any age and locale.”
Megan (Megan selects all the children’s and YA books for the library and she has decided to highlight the best of those books as her choices)
Picture books
Picture of book cover for Read the Book, Lemmings!Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman
Publisher’s Weekly Review: “This latest crackpot comedy from the duo behind Wolfie the Bunny and Horrible Bear! stars three highly suggestible lemmings, a whale moonlighting as a freighter, a polar bear captain, and a fox first mate. The opening endpapers show a large sign about lemmings posted on an iceberg. “People used to think lemmings jumped off cliffs,” it says. “Now we know they don’t.” Across from the sign, a lemming jumps off a cliff. “Wonder what that says,” it muses, midair. “Me, too!” says the second. “Ditto!” says the third. The lemmings land aboard the freighter, where Foxy the mate reads from Everything About Lemmings: “Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.” Too bad the lemmings hear only “jump.” Foxy has to stage multiple rescues: “Why didn’t you read the book, lemmings?!” Though he teaches the three to read, the lemmings are always one step ahead (or behind). OHora’s scratchy, comically stiff figures and poker-faced humor beautifully embody the tale’s essential absurdity. And the lemmings’ final victory affirms that progress is possible even for the terminally silly.”
Picture of book cover for PlumePlume by Isabelle Simler
Booklist Review: “A black cat sneaks its way onto each spread of this lovely look at birds and their unique feathers. A nose here, a bit of tail there the artfully concealed cat is a clever detail that will keep kids interested in this avian study. Every double-page spread reveals a clean-lined digital rendering of a bird situated against a white backdrop, with its name printed below. They range from the exotic (peacock and flamingo) and commonplace (duck and pigeon) to songbirds (nuthatch and parrotfinch) and poultry (guinea fowl and turkey). The showstoppers, however, are the individual feathers scattered beside each bird. Delicately textured and detailed, these illustrations show the patterns, colors, and beauty present in every plume, and readers will appreciate how no two are alike. The large-scale illustrations make this book well suited for group sharing, though the feathers will warrant a closer look, and the mix of new and familiar birds will keep youngsters engaged. The book concludes with a brief word from the mysterious feline, and feathered endpapers make for a nice final touch”
Picture of book cover for A Letter to My TeacherA Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson
Publisher’s Weekly Review: “Hopkinson’s moving epistolary text and Carpenter’s emotionally incisive flashbacks chronicle the evolving relationship between an impulsive second grader and her life-changing teacher. Never doubting the girl’s potential, the unnamed teacher holds the rambunctious student’s attention with a steady, reassuring gaze and deep reserves of empathy and patience. Those same qualities are at work in the storytelling: rather than building to a single dramatic epiphany or declaration, Hopkinson and Carpenter (who previously teamed up for Fannie in the Kitchen and Apples to Oregon) allow the girl’s trust and confidence to grow little by little. There are setbacks-the girl’s misbehavior during a field trip prompts the normally even-tempered teacher to describe her as “exasperating” (“That night my mom helped me look it up in the dictionary”). But by the end of the school year, the child has become an avid student and class leader. And by the end of the story, which returns to the present day, readers will discover just how powerful a great role model can be.”
Middle grade books
Picture of book cover for The War I Finally WonThe War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Booklist Review: “In this sequel to Bradley’s Newbery Honor Book The War That Saved My Life (2015), Ada finally gets the surgery she needs to repair the clubfoot that limited her mobility and made her believe she was unworthy of love. Now she can walk even run! ­better than ever, though she has other wounds to heal; namely, the trauma wrought by her neglectful, abusive mother. Meanwhile, a German Jewish refugee, Ruth, is living with Ada, Susan, and Jamie; Lady Thornton is pricklier than ever; and Ada finds herself struggling to fully comprehend the complex emotions of the adults around her. In an episodic structure, Bradley movingly narrates Ada’s gradual emotional growth against the backdrop of WWII, as she comes to trust her friends and family and relinquish some of her need to be in control. Bradley is perhaps at her best when describing Ada’s love of horses and the therapeutic effect the animals have on her and Ruth, who’s facing prejudice in England and fearing for her family back in Germany. A bittersweet story with a triumphant conclusion.”
Picture of book cover for The Purloining of Prince OleomargarineThe Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip C. Stead
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* This beautiful book began as a story that Twain told his daughters Clara and Suzy in 1879. Perhaps hoping to expand it, Twain subsequently took 16 pages of notes that lay unread for more than 100 years until they were discovered in the Mark Twain Archives. They form the foundation of the yarn that Philip C. Stead helps spin. Sprightly and in the spirit of Twain slightly sardonic, it’s the tale of an impoverished young boy named Johnny who is given a handful of magic seeds by an old woman. He plants one and when it has blossomed, he eats its flower and discovers he can talk to animals! One of them, a skunk named Suzy, quickly becomes his friend. Accompanied by all the animals of the land, they go on a quest to find the missing Prince Oleomargarine. The conceit of this charming oddity is that it is being told to Stead by Twain himself, who makes a guest appearance in scattered interludes. The book is hugely enhanced by the exquisite illustrations that Caldecott-winning Erin Stead has created. Rendered in wood carving, ink, pencil, and a laser cutter, they range from little vignettes to lavish double-page spreads set off by generous amounts of white space. The result is a gift to the eye. Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself would be proud.”
Picture of book cover for Giant Pumpkin SuiteGiant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill
Booklist Review: “Rose knows how she’s going to spend her summer practicing her beloved cello, inching closer toward her goal of taking the top prize at the Bach Cello Suites Competition. Her twin, Thomas, is happy just to time her practice sessions and hang out with their neighbor Mr. Pickering. But the two siblings find themselves coming together to work on a larger project, a giant project, that starts with a single pumpkin seed. This debut novel is a creative account of one 12-year-old trying to figure out what defines her and how she can still be herself if one of her defining traits is taken away. Hill has created a rich world within the twins’ neighborhood, every neighbor distinct and important to the story in their own ways. The final act of their pumpkin adventure seems a little cartoonish, but the conclusion is sweet and satisfying. This is a must-read for music lovers, math enthusiasts, and all who extend the boundaries of their families to their whole block.”
YA books
Picture of book cover for Strange the DreamerStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* By now, fans of Laini Taylor know what to expect: beautiful prose, strange and whimsical fantasy worlds, sympathetic monsters, and wrenching, star-crossed romance. Her latest, first in a two-book set, certainly delivers on that, and there’s something quietly magical at play here. Lazlo Strange, an orphaned infant who grew up to be a librarian, has had a quiet first two decades of life. But Lazlo, reader of fairy tales, longs to learn more about a distant, nearly mythical city, called Weep after its true name was stolen. When a group of warriors from that very place come seeking help, Lazlo, never before a man of action, may actually see his dream fulfilled. Weep, though, is a city still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal war, and hidden there is a girl named Sarai and her four companions, all of whom have singular talents and devastating secrets. What follows is the careful unfolding of a plot crafted with origamilike precision. This has distinct echoes of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), though ultimately it’s a cut above even that: characters are carefully, exquisitely crafted; the writing is achingly lovely; and the world is utterly real. While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake this is a thing to be savored.”
Picture of book cover for All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher’s Weekly Review: “In this lushly written tale set in 1962 Colorado, Stiefvater explores the complex and interconnected nature of desires, fears, and miracles via a Mexican-American family known for producing saints. Pilgrims come to the desert of Bicho Raro seeking cures to their woes, but the miracles they receive from the Soria saints are seldom what they expect. One winds up covered in moss, another only able to repeat what is said to her; these miracles are a “two-step process,” and it’s up to the pilgrims to unlock the meanings behind these transformations. When Daniel, the current saint, violates the Sorias’ greatest taboo, his family, including intellectual Beatriz and pirate radio deejay Joaquin, and the pilgrims of Bicho Raro must drive off the darkness that emerges. The language of legend and magical realism suffuse this sprawling and intimate novel; while the book’s tone is all its own and Stiefvater remains a summarily confident wordsmith, the setup, which sees a volatile family wrestling with unpredictable magic and forbidden romances, echoes her Raven Cycle books fairly closely. Dense, tricky, and thought-provoking.”
Picture of book cover for When Dimple met RishiWhen Dimple met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Booklist Review: “It’s not always as easy as boy meets girl. In the case of Rishi Patel and Dimple Shah, it’s more like boy is arranged to marry girl, and girl attacks boy with iced coffee. In her delightful debut, Menon tells the story of two Indian American teenagers, fresh from high school and eager for adulthood. While Rishi’s version of growing up involves happily following his parents’ life plan (giving up art for engineering and accepting an arranged marriage to Dimple), Dimple sees college as her chance to escape her immigrant parents’ stifling expectations (which include little more than wearing makeup and finding a suitable Indian husband). And yet, when Dimple and Rishi finally meet, they are both shocked to realize what it is they truly want and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get it. While Menon’s portrayal of the struggles of Indian American teens is both nuanced and thoughtful, it is her ability to fuse a classic coming-of-age love story with the contemporary world of nerd culture, cons, and coding camp, that will melt the hearts of readers.”
Randy
Picture of book cover for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This book does not fit into any of the categories I usually enjoy. Kari recommended that I read it and while I’m generally, shall we say, reluctant to read the type of books she favors, I did take the plunge on this one. It’s not only one of my favorite books of 2017, but of the last several years (Thank you, Kari!). Made me laugh, made me think and made me cry. For those of you who need more convincing, here’s the Booklist review (starred, of course!): “Move over, Ove (in Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, 2014) there’s a new curmudgeon to love. Thirty-year-old Eleanor Oliphant leads a highly predictable life, working at an office, eating the same meals alone in her apartment, and spending her weekends regularly administering vodka (she usually goes without speaking to another human from the time she bids farewell to the bus driver on Friday until she greets another one on Monday). She is, as she regularly tells herself, fine. But when a chance encounter with a local musician sends her reeling into the throes of a full-fledged crush, her carefully constructed world breaks open. Soon she is embarking on a self-improvement program from the outside in, complete with shopping trips, manicure, makeup, and attempts at hairstyling. The real changes, however, are slowly taking place within, as she develops a friendship with a man from work and eventually learns the wonderful rewards that come to those who open their hearts. Walking in Eleanor’s practical black Velcro shoes is delightfully amusing, her prudish observations leavened with a privately puckish humor. But readers will also be drawn in by her tragic backstory, which slowly reveals how she came to be so entirely Eleanor. Witty, charming, and heartwarming, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a remarkable debut about a singular woman. Readers will cheer Eleanor as she confronts her dark past and turns to a brighter future. Feel good without feeling smarmy.”
Picture of book cover for The Tyrant's ThroneThe Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien De Castell
I read a lot of fantasy. I’d have said my favorite series are George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive and Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastard. All amazing – I’d be hard pressed to choose which I like best. But it’s a competition for second place, because my absolute, all time without a doubt favorite series is The Greatcoats by Sebastien de Castell. Tyrant’s Throne is the fourth and final book in the series (and they absolutely need to be read in order)
Picture of book cover for The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* Alderman’s (The Liar’s Gospel, 2013) sublime new novel posits a game-changing question: What if women suddenly manifested an electrical charge that they could control and use as a weapon? This new female power, the origins of which are attributed to a WWII chemical experiment, first becomes evident in teenage girls around the world in the present time. Roxy, the daughter of an English mobster, attacks the men who have come to kill her mother, while in America, foster-child Allie finds she has the ability to fight off her lecherous foster father. Teenage girls can somehow awaken the power in older women, as Margot, an American politician, learns when her daughter injures a boy in a fight. And in Nigeria, Tunde’s journalism career is launched when he observes a girl using her power on another boy. Alderman wrestles with some heady questions: What happens when the balance of power shifts? Would women be kinder, gentler rulers, or would they be just as ruthless as their male counterparts? That Alderman is able to explore these provocative themes in a novel that is both wildly entertaining and utterly absorbing makes for an instant classic, bound to elicit discussion and admiration in equal measure.”

Except as noted, annotations are supplied from the SELCO catalog