Book Bites: A Robot, a Spy, a School Bus, a King, a Wall, and Freefall

Talk about kicking off 2019 with a bang! We’re just a week into January, and already we’ve read a handful of new releases that would be strong contenders for any year-end list. Readers of all ages are represented below—we’ve got everything from a gentle picture book about the meaning of love to a high-strung thriller stuffed with intrigue. Actually, we’ve got two of that last kind, if you count the new Mac Barnett. Read on!


Ages 4-8

Love, Z by Jessie Sima

Z, a young robot, finds a letter with the words smudged out except for the signature "Love Beatrice." Z is determined to find out what love means and sets out to find Beatrice. Along the way, Z meets animals and people, all of whom have different definitions of love. At the end, Z learns that love has been right there all along. Charming! 
—Cathy

READ this uplifting picture book as a family and use it to start a great discussion.
PASS if your heart actually shrunk three sizes on Christmas.
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 7-10

The Impossible Crime (Mac B., Kid Spy #2) by Mac Barnett; Illustrated by Mike Lowery

A young Mac Barnett returns to solve another whodunit for the Queen of England. After receiving an unsigned letter claiming the Crown Jewels will be stolen, the Queen summons Mac to prevent the theft and warns him that descendants of Colonel Blood, who tried to steal the jewels in 1671, are behind the letter. Integrating humor, history, and Mike Lowery's signature illustrations, this is another great entry into what we hope will be a very long-running series! Best for grades 3 and up.
—Cathy

READ for a dazzling dose of dashing deeds and derring-do.
PASS if you’re not comfortable reading material that certain government agencies are still fighting to classify.
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 9-12

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Twelve-year-old Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, live in a tricked-out old school bus, criss-crossing the country to follow whims and chase dreams. Sounds great, but there’s a catch: Coyote can’t go home, can’t call her dad “dad,” and can’t ever mention the car crash that killed her mom and two sisters five years ago. When Coyote is unexpectedly reminded of a relic from her previous life, she realizes that she’s tired of running. She tricks her dad into driving her home, picking up a diverse and quirky ensemble of fellow travelers along the way. As the father-daughter duo draws nearer to their destination, they’re reminded of how it feels to be part of a family. The instantly-lovable narrator and tender treatment of tough topics make this a great choice for grades three and up.
—Noah

READ for a happy-cry / ugly-cry experience in the vein of Katherine Applegate or Kate DiCamillo.
PASS if you’re an old coot.
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 14-17

The Wicked King by Holly Black

After the dust has settled from a coronation gone horribly wrong, Jude has managed to capture Cardan—the prince she once hated, now the High King—with a vow to obey her every command for a year and one day. Five months into the bargain, however, she is no closer to preparing her brother to ascend the throne in his stead. As Jude and Cardan, along with the rest of the court, enter into a relentless struggle for power, other enemies of the court are gaining strength as well. Falling further and further into a web of promises and lies, Jude begins to see that, despite her newfound talent for strategy, she is far from the only player on the board. I am starstruck by this book. The descriptions, the plot, the dynamics of the characters—Holly Black is a spellweaver in her own right!
—Madeline

READ because duh.
PASS if and only if you haven’t already read The Cruel Prince.
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Fiction

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

In the opening scene, a young girl is stripped, bound, cut with knives and led to the edge of a peat bog —a ritual sacrifice practiced by Ice Age Northumbrian tribes. But wait, it's just a reenactment, part of a summer college course on experimental archaeology. Teenage Silvie and her parents are volunteers at the camp along with some semi-serious college students and an amiable professor. But a darkness intrudes into the camp as Silvie's father's abusive behavior and his obsession with Iron Age culture take an ugly turn. Told in Silvie's teenage voice, the gothic thriller overtones of this family drama should appeal equally to teens and adults.
—Alice

READ because Sarah Moss does in 149 pages what most authors can’t do in 400.
PASS if you’re not into things that are spooky, or things that are fierce. Or if you were expecting Sarah *Maas*.
Order your copy on our website. 

Freefall by Jessica Barry

This book is told from the perspective of a mother, Maggie, and her daughter, Allison—both harboring shameful secrets which have kept them apart. When Allison Carpenter miraculously survives her fiancé’s plane crashing in the Colorado Rockies, the real fight for her life begins. She has to make it home before men who will stop at nothing find her to kill her and her powerful secrets. Meanwhile, Maggie Carpenter learns her only child is presumed dead. Maggie hasn’t spoken to her daughter in two years, and did not know that she was engaged. But when Allison's body is not found at the crash site, it gives Maggie hope. As Allison tries to make it out of the Rockies alive, Maggie discovers her daughter has dark secrets and races to figure out who Allison was running from and why. 
—Joy

READ because this could be the big, buzzy thriller of the season.
PASS if the fact that Publishers Weekly compared this book to the work of Clare Mackintosh (!) and Liane Moriarty (!!!) doesn’t do anything for you.
Order your copy on our website.