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Camilla, when not riding her bike, hiking, or missing snow, is a bookseller/used book buyer at Changing Hands. She likes to read classic and contemporary fiction, YA and gender studies books, science fiction, fantasy, travel lit and graphic novels. She would love to discuss the finer points of Australia, vegan food, the White Sox, or zombies with you.
Evie Wyld has crafted a breathtaking debut novel about two generations of Australian men who are irrevocably changed by foreign wars. One man grows up in a bakery until his experience in Vietnam leaves him as damaged as his absent father—the other retreats to a beach shack he hasn’t visited since he was a teenager. Wyld's Australia is almost magically creepy, a place where children go missing and strange creatures lurch outside at night. While I’m not usually a fan of stories with little to no female characters, here the absence of women plays a crucial role in Wyld's storytelling. With these characters, what goes unsaid is the most important. Wyld is a talented, precise writer who shows sparks of Marilynn Robinson-like greatness. A wonderfully haunting read. —Camilla
Reapers Are the Angels is absolutely the best zombie novel I have ever read. Twenty five years after the collapse of civilization under waves of the walking dead (or “meatskins” as our protagonist calls them), 15 year-old Temple roams the country, killing to stay alive. Just when she thinks she’s found a home, she accidentally kills a would-be rapist and must flee from his ruthless brother, now hell-bent on revenge. An amazing literary zombie novel, Reapers Are the Angels is a chilling, shocking tale of a world without laws. Temple is like no other narrator I’ve ever encountered. Orphaned, illiterate, and yet mature way beyond her years, she attempts to escape not only the killer on her trail, but also the monster inside her. Her ability to see beauty in a decimated world along with the eerie respect her stalker affords her made Bell’s novel a book I won't be able to forget for a long, long time. —Camilla
A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is a great debut in the vein of Adam Haslett and Jess Walters, introducing a talented new voice in Mountford's morally ambiguous protagonist Gabriel. The son of a headstrong single mother who fled Pinochet and eventually became a liberal professor in California, Gabriel thrillingly takes a job with a predatory hedge fund to go undercover in La Paz, Bolivia at the end of 2005. After spinning a web of lies and deceit, he must decide where his ultimate loyalties lie when he starts to fall for the new president-elect's beautiful press secretary--a woman who conveniently holds the key to information that could make Gabriel financially set for life. Can Gabriel profit behind the scenes while Bolivia struggles to move forward, knowing that by doing so he'll betray his mother and the women he loves? This is a stunning first novel from a sharp new talent. Highly recommended. -Camilla
Jennifer Egan's genre-bending novel is a truly unique creation. In a series of short stories revolving around the same cast, the author expertly weaves a surprisingly clear web of characters while switching narrators each chapter and jumping back and forth through time. The story revolves around kleptomaniac Sasha and her music producer boss Bennie, as well as their childhood friends, one-night stands, and future partners. Egan's rich prose crafts a seemingly light story about growing up, while under the surface illuminating how dreams fall short and time changes everyone.
The “Unspeakable Days” saw the royal family of Lumatere slaughtered and the kingdom cursed and sealed off from the outside world, leaving the thousands that fled now exiled. A decade later, nineteen-year-old Finnikin, son of the former head of the royal guard, is determined to find a new home for his people. Then he meets the mysterious Evanjalin, who claims the heir to the throne survived and can lift the curse, if only they can find him. Thus begins an unforgettable adventure full of suspense, magic, romance, and a rich realism rarely seen in the fantasy genre. Fans of Robin McKinley and Graceling will love Finnikin’s world.
If you’ve seen the new Walking Dead TV show on AMC and think you know the whole story of Rick and his band of survivors, think again. Robert Kirkman's zombie graphic novel is drastically different than the TV version. As in any good zombie story, it's gory, brutal, and intense. I kept getting attached to characters only to have them killed without any foreshadowing or preparation. The most interesting thing about Kirkman’s story is that the zombies become almost a side plot. The rag-tag survivors turn on each other and deal out death just as freely as the undead. Be warned though, this is not before bed reading. Kirkman’s zombie thriller gave me plenty of nightmares.
Hugo Award nominated author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a chilling dystopian adventure about humans struggling in a world nearly destroyed by greed. Fifteen year old Nailer strips old tanker ships while hoping to strike black gold and leave behind his life of violence and hunger. When he discovers a scavenge that could catapult him and his friends out of poverty he must decide between loyalty to the only family he knows or to the mysterious beautiful girl found among the wreckage. Does honor still exist in a world where blood ties mean little and the only goal is to survive at any cost?
Sixteen year old Gemma is flattered when tan, rugged Ty buys her a coffee at the Bangkok airport. The next thing she knows she's been drugged and stolen away from family, friends, and home. She wakes up in a scorching red land where Ty, a young man who has been obsessed with Gemma for 6 years, has constructed a home in the middle of the desert. Gemma discovers two sides of her captor during her many escape attempts. One side of Ty won't let any harm come to her while the other side has no intention of letting her get away. Christopher's novel is disquieting and captivating as the psychology of the captor/prisoner relationship evolves. Soon Gemma beings identifying with Ty and his love of the barren Australian land, and maybe even caring for him. I found myself thinking about the book days after finishing. Like Ty's presence in Gemma's life, I just couldn't get it out of my head.
Writer and comedian Julie Klausner marks her debut book by poking fun at, among other things, vegans, Midwesterners, and fans of Sleater-Kinney. I should have hated this tale of romantic disappointments but instead I couldn’t stop laughing. Self-deprecating, smart, and hilarious, Klausner writes about all the losers she’s dated in her quest to find love. Like Chelsea Handler but dirtier, Klausner is the intelligent lusty lady for a new generation of single girls.
Published with an essay from the translator, the author of Bonjour Tristesse spins a love story set in 1960's Paris. Carefree Lucile is content in her rootless life until she meets someone who makes her question the worth of material comfort. Sagan's translated prose is silky smooth, tossing readers into the dreamy thoughts of young lovers in the early days of an affair, as well as the emotional turmoil.
Frankie goes from geeky to gorgeous before sophomore year and suddenly the senior she likes, Matthew, is asking her out. But soon Frankie realizes Matthew has a secret he's not telling her. Instead of getting jealous, Frankie gets even by not only discovering Matthew’s male-only secret society, but also infiltrating, and maybe even taking it over. Frankie’s struggle to be loved for who she is and not how she looks (as well as her evolution into a feminist criminal-mastermind) makes her an endearing character in this witty teen novel full of pranks, witty word play, and astute commentary on gender roles.
Cute comics from a cheese obsessed, bicycle riding, beer loving, 20-something girl in San Francisco as she navigates a relationship, job, family, and independent living. Julia Wertz is the friend whose potty humor embarrasses you only after you’ve stopped laughing. Yet beyond the crass jokes there are bits that are genuinely moving and insightful. Whether she’s fantasizing about stabbing herself in the eye or tracing the roots of her potty-mouth, Wertz’s brazen antics are recognizable and laugh out loud hilarious.
Not only does this cookbook have recipes for sweet treats galore, but it will also help you stock your pantry full of dairy replacements so you can whip up the best vegan cookies, brownies, cobblers, pastries, and puddings possible. The most comprehensive vegan guide to baking I’ve ever seen, I recommend the chocolate chip cookie and apple cobbler recipes. My non-vegan friends couldn’t tell the difference and asked for seconds.
I always turn to Ariel Gore’s unpretentious and hilarious voice when lacking writing motivation. Divided into sections like “Give Yourself a Lit Star Makeover” and “Publish Before You’re Ready,” Gore divulges tips and publishing advice (like finding a rad agent) between interviews with novelists like Dave Eggers and Susie Bright, who also provide inspiring non-traditional writing exercises. How to Become A Famous Writer is a delightful yet practical guide that will help get your name in lights.
In the last years of the Ottoman Empire, Anatolia is a melting pot of religions and cultures. Ataturk’s rise to power is interweaved between passages about life in a small village where the breakdown of the country gives birth to modern day Turkey. Those who wanted more out of Jeffery Eugenides’s description of the Turkish-Greek population exchange in Middlesex will find Birds Without Wings hard to put down.
At sixteen Gore fled California to cold-war China. She made her way through Asia and Europe, sleeping in squats, befriending shoe thieves, and camping out in rural Italy. The story is haunting and while the adventure is captivating. Gore does not shy away from describing the bad, as well as the good, episodes. This book will make you want to pack a bag and hit the road.
Heroic journeys abound in this epic-of-Gilgamesh framed story about a young woman leaving her home in Australia with her son in search of his father. Place also features largely as the barren Australian landscape and gritty streets of Soviet Armenia on the brink of WWI come to life through London’s meticulous prose. Ultimately melancholy yet beautiful, Gilgamesh is a subtle story about companionship and home that will linger in your thoughts long after the final page.
Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs are arguably the main characters of the beat movement, but what about the women involved, the so-called minor characters? Joyce Johnson was a student in NYC when she met Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Alan Ginsberg. Her memoir is more than the engaging story of one of Kerouac’s lovers, it’s the story of a female writer trying to break into an all boy’s club, of a young woman trying to find love and her place in the world, and of one of the most revolutionary movements to rock American literature, from someone who was there.
Vera and Charlie have been best friends since they were little, but in high school everything changes. Just months after Charlie betrays Vera and spills her secret he’s dead. Now she must deal with the ghosts (yes, plural) of her former best friend while holding down a pizza delivery technician job, dating an older man, helping her father get over her mother, and getting into college. Vera is a brilliant character who I wish I could be friends with. A smart, funny, and heartbreaking novel about growing up and moving on that teens and adults alike will devour.
I have adored Vanessa Davis’ comics since Spaniel Rage, and her new collection does not disappoint. A mish-mash of autobiographical stories and shorter diary-like entries, Make Me a Woman delves into the life of a young Jewish artist for whom nothing is too personal (check out the story about loving fat camp). Vibrant watercolor entries sit next to pencil sketches about everything from subway crushes and mustache bleaching to love/hate family relationships. I laughed out loud so much my sister grabbed the book as soon as I was done so she could see what was so funny.