Mary-Catherine Recommends

Vanishing Girls By Lauren Oliver Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062224101
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: HarperCollins - March 10th, 2015

If you're looking for a fast-paced read this summer, but don't want to sacrifice great characterizations and emotional depth, check out Lauren Oliver's newest novel VANISHING GIRLS. Told in the dual perspectives of sisters Nick and Dara, the book takes place in the months leading up to and immediately following a car accident that left one of them heavily scarred and the other wracked with guilt for being the driver. Exploring family, lifelong friendships, physical rehabilitation, summer jobs, love, sisterhood, and crime, this novel hits a ton of high points and kept me up way past bedtime.

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) By Claudia Gray Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062278968
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: HarperTeen - November 4th, 2014

When I opened this book, my simple hope was that it lived up to its beautiful cover. I’m happy to report that this book is not just a pretty face! The first in an exciting new trilogy, A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU explores family, love, and what makes us us in ways that you’ve never seen before. Plus, with a plot that revolves around inter-dimensional travel, the potential for creative world building and unexpected twists is literally infinite. In many ways, it shares common themes with A WRINKLE IN TIME, one of my all-time favorites, so you know I’m not messing around with this recommendation. Make this the dimension in which you pick up A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU. Otherwise, it is surely your darkest timeline.

The Book of Strange New Things By Michel Faber Cover Image
ISBN: 9780553418842
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Hogarth - October 28th, 2014

I didn’t expect to put THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS on my list of favorites for the year, but oh man, I adored it. I took it on vacation and read all 500 pages in a matter of days. In this book, Peter is chosen as a Christian missionary to the distant planet Oasis, but must leave behind his wife, Bea. As he gets to know the alien community on Oasis, his limited communication with Bea reflects his increasing distance from the world he left. In turn, she is his--and our--only link to what’s happening on Earth. Faber crafts the text to expertly convey Peter’s alienation (pun intended) from Bea, his fellow settlers on Oasis, and humanity itself. I read this book and went on the journey with him. This book might have had the most raw and emotional writing I encountered this year. 

Station Eleven: A novel By Emily St. John Mandel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385353304
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Knopf - September 9th, 2014

I closed this book after reading the final page, sighed, and said to my boyfriend, “This book is what books are supposed to be.” I was reading passages out loud, evaluating how I look at the world, and always desperate for one more page, one more chapter before I go to sleep. 


Every summary you read of this book will be woefully incomplete, including mine, because the plot here is a subtle and complex staging area for this character and prose-driven story. This book is about Arthur Leander, a famous actor with a small town past and a string of ex-wives, who dies onstage during a performance of King Lear in Toronto. True. This book is about Jeevan, a former paparazzo/journalist and one of the first to be warned of the global pandemic Georgian Flu on the night Leander dies. Also true. This book is about the Traveling Symphony, a Shakespeare troupe that travels around the former Lake Michigan twenty years after the Georgia Flu wipes out 99.9% of humanity and sends the world into rural, lawless chaos. True again. Jumping through time and from character to character, Mandel shows the connections--some three-strand, others tenuous--between each of these stories and experiences. Just when you think she’s expanded the novel’s world, you realize that she has, in fact, doubled back and returned to center. This novel is a spirograph drawing, in which a number of arcs intersect in a central point, forming a tight, dynamic whole.


So what’s at the center of this novel that makes it so special? STATION ELEVEN celebrates the humanity of the technological age and finds wonder in the minutiae of everyday, First World experiences; the accessibility of news, a phone’s ability to connect people across continents, the light inside a refrigerator. It leads you to marvel at the complexity of the world around us and all the moving parts that keep it running (relatively) smoothly. What’s more, Mandel grounds these explorations in realistic depictions of human crisis reactions, and avoids stereotypes of the most extreme heroes-and-villains identities that are so common to post-apocalyptic narratives. Everyone is traumatized. Everyone. That trauma takes on different shapes, and expresses itself in memories, movements, violence, and friendship. Lyrical reverie rubs against fear, intersects with families, travels alongside loss, to inspire feelings you won’t soon shake.


Staff Pick Badge
How to Build a Girl: A Novel By Caitlin Moran Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062335975
Availability: UNAVAILABLE
Published: Harper - September 23rd, 2014

Moran’s first foray into fiction is everything you’d expect; unapologetic, honest, and really, really funny. It’s 1990 in Wolverhampton, England, and Johanna Morgan’s family barely survives on government assistance which, according to her wannabe-rocker dad, is all Margaret Thatcher’s fault. Johanna is fourteen and so thoroughly disgruntled with her boring life, poverty-stricken family, and fully-intact virginity that she decides the only answer is to reinvent herself as a music journalist named Dolly Wilde. By sixteen, she has found success as a music writer and perhaps more success as the cigarette-smoking, sex-having, Doc Marten-wearing, Gothic life of the London party scene. As you might imagine, this plan has its flaws, but is really fun--and at times really painful--to watch along the way. HOW TO BUILD A GIRL has a lot of interesting things to say about girlhood, the development of identity, the characters and fantasies we create for ourselves, and the difficult realities of working-class poverty. What really sets it apart is Johanna’s voice; she’s confident and so recognizably teen in all of her insecure, horny, big-plan-making, consequence-oblivious glory. There’s a lot of humor here, but also so much depth and feminism and youthful passion and longing and--I just loved it!

Staff Pick Badge
Landline: A Novel By Rainbow Rowell Cover Image
Unavailable from Brazos Bookstore
ISBN: 9781250049377
Availability: OUT OF PRINT - Not Available for Order
Published: St. Martin's Press - July 8th, 2014

There are few things better than cuddling up with the newest from Rainbow Rowell, and LANDLINE does not disappoint! Georgie's job as a sitcom writer is a huge part of her life, and until now, her husband Neal has been willing to sacrifice a lot to support these dreams. But when the opportunity of a lifetime comes along, at the expense of Christmas with Neal and her children, Georgie takes the job...and Neal takes the kids home to Nebraska anyway. Faced with a monster deadline and the consequences of her choice, Georgie camps out at her (bedazzled velvet track suit-wearing) mom's house and tries to call Neal from her old yellow landline phone. However, the Neal who answers the phone isn't the one she expects: it's Neal in 1998, home for Christmas after he and Georgie--then his girlfriend--had a big fight.


What follows, in conversations and flashbacks, is a story of rediscovered love and the power of being reminded why you fell in love in the first place. It's about family and priorities and nostalgia, but it also has plenty of wit. I especially loved the vintage sitcom references and snappy dialogue. LANDLINE isn't high literary fiction, but it isn't trying to be. What makes Rowell's writing so special is the authenticity of her characters' interactions and, of course, her (pop) cultural savvy. A perfect summer, beach, porch, rocking chair, easy chair, airplane, road trip read!