American History Revised
Seymour Morris
Leader:Mark Busacco

In 1995’s Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Leowen surveyed several popular American history textbooks and exposed their errors and falsehoods. Consider Morris’ book its sequel, or perhaps its progeny. Morris discusses topics that were left out of the history books: the way Amerigo Vespucci wound up being credited as the discoverer of America, for example (he was a tireless self-promoter), or the revolutionary anti-jamming communications system invented during WWII by Hedy Lamarr, the famous Hollywood actress. This is a deeply fascinating book, and one that should appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, from students to history buffs to trivia addicts. Some of Morris’ facts seem more like personal opinions, as when he calls General MacArthur’s failure to get court-martialed after Pearl Harbor (for ignoring orders to get his planes in the air) “the greatest government cover-up of all.” But whether he’s trading in documented facts or unsupported opinions, Morris tells a compelling story.

Angelology
Danielle Trussoni
Leader: Abby McMonagle

A covert age-old war between angels and humans serves as the backdrop for Trussoni’s gripping tale of supernatural thrills and divine destinies. Sister Evangeline, the secretary who handles all inquiries concerning the archives of angel arcana at an upstate New York convent, receives a letter from researcher V.A. Verlaine inquiring about an unknown link between the convent and philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller dating to 1943. It turns out that the Rockefellers were interested in a legendary artifact associated with an order of fallen angels. That priceless artifact is coveted by Verlaine’s employer, Percival Grigori, a Nephilim—offspring of the union between mortal and angel parents—who will stop at nothing to retrieve it for the awesome power it will give his race over humanity.

BADASSES
Peter Richmond
Leaders: Scott Smith & John Lockhart

The black-and-silver uniforms hinted at lawlessness or, at minimum, football noir. The roster was populated by renegades overlooked or passed on by other teams. They had more attitude on one team than today’s sanitized NFL has in total. They were the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. Under head coach John Madden, they won seven division titles, one conference title, and one Super Bowl. It was an amazing, successful, and stylish run. The Raiders’ legacy is excellence enhanced by personality. When Stickum was allowed on receivers’ hands, Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff used so much he had to have his mates pry his fingers apart in the huddle and hold his cigarettes to his lips at halftime. Quarterback Ken Stabler felt there was nothing wrong with studying the playbook by the light of the jukebox. Through interviews with primary and secondary sources, sports journalist Richmond captures the attitude and, more importantly, the love of the physical nature of football that drove the Raiders. The book is a celebration of the freewheeling NFL that created the multibillion dollar industry it is today.

Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
Leader: Kylie Anderson

Samantha Kingston has worked her way up the popularity ladder; now a senior, she and her three best friends rule their school. On Cupid Day, Sam expects to receive Valentine roses, to party with her friends, and to finally (maybe) have sex with her equally popular boyfriend. The last thing she expects is that she will die, but in the final moments of her life, as she hears “a horrible, screeching sound—metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two,” everything turns to nothing. Only, it is not the end for Sam. She wakes up to start the same day over again, and again; in fact, she relives it seven times. At first, being dead has its advantages, as she realizes that nothing worse can happen to her. She first conducts herself with reckless abandon, seducing her math teacher and smoking marijuana. It is difficult to feel pity for Sam; she is snobbish, obnoxious, a cheater, and just plain mean. However, her gradual and complete transformation is so convincing that when she finally puts others before herself in order to save another life, it is moving and cathartic. The deepening relationship between Sam and Kent, her childhood friend, is sensitively described and the most complex and compelling relationship in the story.

Before you suffocate your own fool self
Danielle Evans
Leader: Abby McMonagle

The territory Evans covers in her debut collection may be small, but she owns it. Her main characters are almost all teen girls and young women who struggle with disorder, and the reader is given close access to each one’s interior, from which the muted plots originate. “Jellyfish,” one of the better stories, starts out with the plight of middle-aged William, whose roof has just collapsed, before settling on his adult daughter, Eva, and examining her life. The two friends in “Virgins,” the opening and best story, maneuver unsteadily through the minefield of casually predatory men and boys. “Snakes” looks back on a consequential summer in the lives of two little girls. “The King of a Vast Empire” is the biggest departure from form and is narrated by good son Terrence, who frustratedly tells the story of his free-spirited sister, Liddie.

Best of the Best
Tim Green
Leader: Leslie Flick

Josh is still flying high from his team’s tournament win at Coopers¬town when his parents start talking about a divorce. Now his dad is challenging him to play the best of the best at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. But does he just want to get Josh out of the way? Two things are sure: His father’s new girlfriend, Diane, is looking to change things, and Josh is determined to get her and her terrible son out of his life. With the help of Benji and Jaden, Josh races to get the facts that can keep his family together—but it’s ever harder to concentrate on the game and make the winning plays that will lead his team to victory.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Aron Ralston
Leader: Deb Arieno

In a moving account of strength in the face of adversity, Ralston presents the full story behind the 2003 event that became worldwide news: his self-amputation of his right arm after it was caught between a boulder and a canyon wall during what began as a routine day hike in the Utah Canyons. An experienced climber, Ralston, 28, effectively shows he wasn’t a risk-taker, and alternates between describing how his jaunt turned into a nightmare when a huge stone suddenly came unstuck as he used it to climb down a ledge, and recalling early experiences that changed his novice attitudes toward hiking, which he admits “were not intrinsically safe.” Ralston candidly renders the details of six days of entrapment, using transcribed monologues from videotapes he made while trapped, including his increasingly exhausted thoughts as well as poignant farewells to his family. But his best writing details his self-amputation and his subsequent march to safety, in which he rappelled one-armed down a hill and then hiked six miles before someone found him.

Between Shades of Gray
Rita Sepetys
Leader:

Sepetys’ first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939. In the case of 16-year-old Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, this means deportation to a forced-labor camp in Siberia, where conditions are all too painfully similar to those of Nazi concentration camps. Lina’s great hope is that somehow her father, who has already been arrested by the Soviet secret police, might find and rescue them. A gifted artist, she begins secretly creating pictures that can–she hopes–be surreptitiously sent to him in his own prison camp. Whether or not this will be possible, it is her art that will be her salvation, helping her to retain her identity, her dignity, and her increasingly tenuous hold on hope for the future. Many others are not so fortunate. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, estimates that the Baltic States lost more than one-third of their populations during the Russian genocide. Though many continue to deny this happened, Sepetys’ beautifully written and deeply felt novel proves the reality is otherwise.

Bicycle Diaries
David Bryne
Leader: Cheryl Lewis

Byrne is fascinated by cities, especially as visited on a trusty fold-up bicycle, and in these random musings over many years while cycling through such places as Sydney, Australia; Manila, Philippines; San Francisco; or his home of New York, the former Talking Head, artist and author (True Stories) offers his frank views on urban planning, art and postmodern civilization in general. For each city, he focuses on its germane issues, such as the still troublingly clear-cut class system in London, notions of justice and human migration that spring to mind while visiting the Stasi Museum in Berlin, religious iconography in Istanbul, gentrification in Buenos Aires and Imelda Marcos’s legacy in Manila. In low-key prose, he describes his meetings with other artists and musicians where he played and set up installations, such as an ironic PowerPoint presentation to an IT audience in Berkeley, Calif. He notes that the condition of the roads reveals much about a city, like the impossibly civilized, pleasant pathways designed just for bikes in Berlin versus the fractured car-mad system of highways in some American cities, giving way to an eerie post apocalyptic landscape (e.g., Detroit). While stupid planning decisions have destroyed much that is good about cities, he is confident there is hope, in terms of mixed-use, diverse neighborhoods; riding a bike can aid in the survival of cities by easing congestion.

The Black Swan
N. N. Taleb
Leader: Ed Patt

In business and government, major money is spent on prediction. Uselessly, according to Taleb, who administers a severe thrashing to MBA- and Nobel Prize-credentialed experts who make their living from economic forecasting. A financial trader and current rebel with a cause, Taleb is mathematically oriented and alludes to statistical concepts that underlie models of prediction, while his expressive energy is expended on roller-coaster passages, bordering on gleeful diatribes, on why experts are wrong. They neglect Taleb’s metaphor of “the black swan,” whose discovery invalidated the theory that all swans are white. Taleb rides this manifestation of the unpredicted event into a range of phenomena, such as why a book becomes a best-seller or how an entrepreneur becomes a billionaire, taking pit stops with philosophers who have addressed the meaning of the unexpected and confounding.

Bossypants
Tina Fey
Leader: Danielle Watters & Jen Schmitt

Tina Fey’s new book Bossypants is short, messy, and impossibly funny (an apt description of the comedian herself). From her humble roots growing up in Pennsylvania to her days doing amateur improv in Chicago to her early sketches on Saturday Night Live, Fey gives us a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of modern comedy with equal doses of wit, candor, and self-deprecation. Some of the funniest chapters feature the differences between male and female comedy writers (“men urinate in cups”), her cruise ship honeymoon (“it’s very Poseidon Adventure”), and advice about breastfeeding (“I had an obligation to my child to pretend to try”). But the chaos of Fey’s life is best detailed when she’s dividing her efforts equally between rehearsing her Sarah Palin impression, trying to get Oprah to appear on 30 Rock, and planning her daughter’s Peter Pan-themed birthday. Bossypants gets to the heart of why Tina Fey remains universally adored: she embodies the hectic, too-many-things-to-juggle lifestyle we all have, but instead of complaining about it, she can just laugh it off.

By the time you read this I will be dead
Julie Ann Peters
Leader: Scott Mikulski & Jennifer Schmitt

Daelyn Rice has been bullied her entire life, whether it was for her past weight problem or because she currently does not talk and wears a neck brace. She has attempted suicide several times in several different ways and is now more determined than ever to end her life. Daelyn discovers a Web site called Through-the-Light, which is for suicide “completers.” There she communicates with others who share the same goal. The members share stories of bullying, molestation, etc., and encourage each other’s ultimate goal. Meanwhile, Daelyn meets a boy named Santana. She wants nothing to do with him; his presence and determination to draw her out of her shell only annoy her. Over time and as new information surfaces (he has cancer), however, she finds herself drawn to him. Will their connection be enough to make Daelyn realize that her life is worth living? Readers are left not knowing what she will do.

Delirium
Lauren Oliver
Leader: Erin Carey

Lena Haloway is content in her safe, government-managed society. She feels (mostly) relaxed about the future in which her husband and career will be decided, and looks forward to turning 18, when she’ll be cured of deliria, a.k.a. love. She tries not to think about her mother’s suicide (her last words to Lena were a forbidden “I love you”) or the supposed “Invalid” community made up of the uncured just beyond her Portland, Maine, border. There’s no real point—she believes her government knows how to best protect its people, and should do so at any cost. But 95 days before her cure, Lena meets Alex, a confident and mysterious young man who makes her heart flutter and her skin turn red-hot. As their romance blossoms, Lena begins to doubt the intentions of those in power, and fears that her world will turn gray should she submit to the procedure. In this powerful and beautifully written novel, Lauren Oliver, the bestselling author of Before I Fall, throws readers into a tightly controlled society where options don’t exist, and shows not only the lengths one will go for a chance at freedom, but also the true meaning of sacrifice.

Earth a visitors guide
Jon Stewart
Leader: Mary Callahan & Sarah Rodgers

Eight-time Emmy-winner Stewart (America: The Book) seeks to expand his audience to aliens who might land on earth after the extinction of the human race and be puzzled over the artifacts we’ve left behind. “Greetings… on behalf of not only ourselves, but the entire Viacom family,” he writes in this laugh-out-loud, rollicking social satire. In place of skits there are elaborate, color illustrations accompanied by captions written with his trademark deadpan humor; for instance, a photo of a mother and baby-elephant holds the caption, “advances in contraception and industrialized food production allowed modern couples to have fewer offspring, while leaving the total weight of families constant.” Nothing is off-limits here, not even Benjamin Franklin, whose pithy saying “Nothing is certain but death and taxes” Stewart expands upon. The book ends with a plea to the aliens to reconstruct the human race from DNA in the hope that, with guidance from the visitors, “we could overcome the baser aspects of our nature… and give this planet the kind of caretakers it deserves,” revealing the tears behind Stewart’s clown.

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Joseph Ellis
Leader: Mason Moore

Ellis focuses on six crucial moments in the life of the new nation, including a secret dinner at which the seat of the nation’s capital was determined–in exchange for support of Hamilton’s financial plan; Washington’s precedent-setting Farewell Address; and the Hamilton and Burr duel. Most interesting, perhaps, is the debate (still dividing scholars today) over the meaning of the Revolution. In a fascinating chapter on the renewed friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at the end of their lives, Ellis points out the fundamental differences between the Republicans, who saw the Revolution as a liberating act and hold the Declaration of Independence most sacred, and the Federalists, who saw the revolution as a step in the building of American nationhood and hold the Constitution most dear. Throughout the text, Ellis explains the personal, face-to-face nature of early American politics–and notes that the members of the revolutionary generation were conscious of the fact that they were establishing precedents on which future generations would rely.

I am J
Cris Beam
Leader: Sally Brothers

Growing up, J (born as Jennifer) always thought of himself as a boy stuck in the body of a girl. In elementary school J shunned his mom’s attempts to stick him in dresses
and preferred the rough-and-tumble play of boys on the playground. Now, as a teenager, J’s Puerto Rican mother and Jewish father want him to think about his future and one day start a family, a possibility that makes J feel misunderstood and anxious about what lies ahead. So after an argument with his best friend, J strikes out on his own. He starts classes at a school for transgender and gay teens, but the complications resulting from who he is and who he wants to be prevent J from truly connecting with anyone. Fed up hiding inside layers of oversized t-shirts, J decides to explore testosterone treatments and embarks on a path that will test his patience, maturity, and commitment.

I am number four
Pittacus Lore
Leader: Anne Ellis

John Smith has just arrived in Paradise, Ohio, just another stop in a string of small towns where the 15-year-old has been hiding out from the Mogadorians. Those terrifying aliens are hellbent on destroying him and the other nine Loric children who have sought refuge on Earth. The Mogadorians are picking off the surviving kids in numerical order. The first three are dead and John’s number is up. Will his Legacies, his defining super powers, develop in time for him to fight against the enemy? I Am Number Four is a breathless page-turner of a sci-fi novel that will have readers rooting for the teen alien who must unleash his fire power to save himself, his human friends, and the planet.

Inner Circle
Brad Meltzer
Leader: Tracy Page

In this political thriller with historical-conspiracy overtones (or perhaps it’s the other way around), Meltzer creates his most engaging protagonist in years. Beecher White is an archivist with the National Archives, who stumbles upon an old book hidden away in a room used exclusively by the president. But did the president know that the book (a spelling dictionary that once belonged to George Washington) was there? And—almost impossible for Beecher to imagine—could it be that the president or someone close to him is willing to kill to regain possession of the book? Meltzer teams Beecher with an equally strong character, Clementine Kaye, a woman from the archivist’s past whose estranged father is, perhaps not coincidentally, the man who tried to kill the current president’s predecessor.

It Gets Better
Dan Savage
Leader: Todd Wallace

Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, making them feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens that often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted – even tortured – simply for being themselves. After a number of tragic suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for LGBT youth facing harassment. Speaking openly about the bullying they suffered as teenagers, and how they both went on to lead rewarding adult lives, their video launched the It Gets Better Project YouTube channel and initiated a worldwide phenomenon. With over 6,000 videos posted and over 20 million views in the first three months alone, the world has embraced the opportunity to provide personal, honest and heartfelt support for LGBT youth everywhere.
It Gets Better is a collection of expanded essays and new material from celebrities, everyday people and teens who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as new contributors who have yet to post videos to the site. While many of these teens couldn’t see a positive future for themselves, we can. We can show LGBT youth the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach if they can just get through their teen years. By sharing these stories, It Gets Better reminds teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone – and it WILL get better.

Meet you in Hell
Les Standiford
Leader: Rob Stalter

The relationship between industrialists Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick is an illuminating window on American capitalism as well as a fascinating study of how a strong partnership can give way to vicious acrimony. Les Standiford tells the story of the two men in Meet You in Hell, a book that draws its title from Frick’s angry rejoinder to Carnegie’s late-in-life attempt at reconciliation. Carnegie and Frick, in Standiford’s estimation, represented all that was good and bad in American capitalism. They were self-made men, rising from blue-collar backgrounds to become titans in the burgeoning American steel industry, some of the wealthiest men in the world, and loyal partners, even if they were always somewhat short of being actual friends. But they were also pivotal figures in the infamous Homestead Steel strike, where Frick, acting on implicit orders from Carnegie, dispatched hundreds of private security guards into a testy labor situation, resulting in mayhem and death on all sides and forever casting a pall over the history of American labor relations. While Carnegie and Frick’s acumen in getting rich is given due credit, Standiford also tells of the workers who were exploited or killed in that same effort. Standiford presents Carnegie and Frick without prejudice, demonstrating their fierce competitiveness, short tempers, business savvy, and troublesome character flaws.

The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
Leaders: Karen Kline

“Silence does not equal consent. . . . The only thing that means yes is yes.” When Alex, a junior at Themis, a New England boarding school, wakes up naked in a boy’s bed, she doesn’t immediately realize what has happened during the previous drunken night. As fragmented memories return, though, she begins to understand that what happened was date rape. With the encouragement of her friends and older sister, Alex submits her case to the Mockingbirds, an underground justice system inspired by Harper Lee’s classic novel, in which Themis students investigate and try crimes committed against other students. Whitney, whose author’s note discusses her own teenage experience of date rape and its aftermath, is a seasoned journalist, and she writes with smooth assurance and a propulsive rhythm as she follows Alex through the Mockingbird’s trial process and its accompanying emotional storm of confusion, shame, fear, and finally, empowerment.

Numbers
Rachel Ward
Leaders: Paul Lippa, Gina Biondolillo, Steve Clements, Tom Menke Erin Morrison -Fortunato

10102001. That’s Jem’s mother’s number. Jem saw it whenever she looked into her mother’s eyes, but it wasn’t until four years after the woman’s fatal heroin overdose when Jem was 11 that she realized that the number was the date her mother would die. And it’s not just that number that the teen sees—she knows when everyone will die by looking into their eyes. Isolating herself from the rest of humanity seems to be the only solution until Spider, a freakishly tall, twitchy mess of a boy, refuses to leave her alone. In spite of the fact that she knows his death date is only months away, she can’t resist his overtures of friendship. One afternoon, while ditching school, they head for the London Eye tourist attraction. When Jem realizes that several people standing in line are fated to die that very day, she panics and takes off. Newspapers and television pick up the story, and Jem and Spider, targeted as the terrorists responsible for destroying the Eye, or at least witnesses, are on the run in a stolen car.

Pathfinders
Orson Scott Card
Leader: Claudine Dixon

Card’s latest work of speculative fiction twists together tropes of fantasy and science fiction into something fine indeed. Rigg and his father are trappers by trade, but Rigg has been instructed throughout his 13 years in languages, sciences, history, and politics. The teen is therefore somewhat mentally prepared for the quest that his father thrusts upon him with his dying breath–to go to the capital city and find his sister. Both Rigg and his friend, Umbo, have a special ability that aids them–Rigg can see the paths of all living things, regardless of intervening obstructions or even time, and Umbo can seemingly change the movement of time itself. Needless to say, the two meet various friends and foes and can’t always tell which is which as they journey onward. Juxtaposed with this main story is an entirely different narrative, told in a page or two at the beginning of each chapter. This is the tale of Ram Odin, human pilot of a colony ship from Earth, traveling to a new world with the use of space-folding technology. The combination of science fiction and fantasy as well as a surprising revelation at the end harken back to genre classics like Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (HarperCollins, 1980) and Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber (Doubleday, 1970).

The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bender
Leader: Jean Marie McLaughlin

Taking her very personal brand of pessimistic magical realism to new heights (or depths), Bender’s second novel (following An Invisible Sign of My Own) careens splendidly through an obstacle course of pathological, fantastical neuroses. Bender’s narrator is young, needy Rose Edelstein, who can literally taste the emotions of whoever prepares her food, giving her unwanted insight into other people’s secret emotional lives—including her mother’s, whose lemon cake betrays a deep dissatisfaction. Rose’s father and brother also possess odd gifts, the implications of which Bender explores with a loving and detailed eye while following Rose from third grade through adulthood.

Safe Haven
Nicholas Sparks
Leader: Sandy Tydings

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family. But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Sarah’s Key
Tatiana de Rosnay
Leaders: Chris Franklin

Debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand’s family, about France and, finally, herself.

Sing You Home
Jodi Picoult
Leader: Kristen Foery

Every life has a soundtrack. All you have to do is listen. Music has set the tone for most of Zoe Baxter’s life. There’s the melody that reminds her of the summer she spent rubbing baby oil on her stomach in pursuit of the perfect tan. A dance beat that makes her think of using a fake ID to slip into a nightclub. A dirge that marked the years she spent trying to get pregnant. For better or for worse, music is the language of memory. It is also the language of love. In the aftermath of a series of personal tragedies, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When an unexpected friendship slowly blossoms into love, she makes plans for a new life, but to her shock and inevitable rage, some people—even those she loves and trusts most—don’t want that to happen. Sing You Home is about identity, love, marriage, and parenthood. It’s about people wanting to do the right thing for the greater good, even as they work to fulfill their own personal desires and dreams. And it’s about what happens when the outside world brutally calls into question the very thing closest to our hearts: family.

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
Bethany Hamilton
Leader: Kendra Damann

Readers may not recall the name Bethany Hamilton, but after a glance at the cover photo, they’ll recognize her as the girl who lost her arm to a shark while surfing. Hamilton tells her own story, though in many places the narrative sounds more like it’s from an adult’s perspective–perhaps from an adult coauthor. It begins with the moment a giant white shark chomps off her arm. She then goes back to discuss the events leading up to the attack and to describe what her life was like before the tragedy–home-schooling in a strong Christian household and lots of competitive surfing. Hamilton’s account is suffused with her feelings for God and His impact in her life. Perhaps because of this relationship, she never seems depressed about her situation; in fact, she is surfing again.

Super Memory, Super Student: How to raise your grades in 30 days
Harry Lorayne
Leader: Brian Claus

Memory is the stepping-stone to thinking, because without remembering facts, you cannot think, conceptualize reason, make decisions, and create, or contribute. There is no learning without memory.

Trapped
Michael Northrop
Leaders: Kathryn Shuknecht & Barb Caulkin

High school sophomore Scotty Weem’s narration reveals immediately that he survives southern New England’s worst nor’easter ever recorded, but also that others in his group will die. The chilling story begins innocently enough as the snow starts to fall early in the day. When an early dismissal is announced, Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason finagle their way into the shop to work on Jason’s project, a go-kart, until their rides come. But they soon find themselves stranded in their rural high school building with five others: pretty Krista and her friend, Julie; thuggish Les; weird Elijah; and one gruff teacher. Their cell phones don’t work. Their rides don’t show up. The teacher goes for help and never returns. The power goes off. As hours, then days, pass, the water stops, the heat goes off, and they get increasingly hungry, cold, and scared.

Virals
Kathy Reichs
Leader: Caroline Preston

Kathy Reichs, creator of the hit television show and mystery series, Bones, brings her bestselling blend of science and suspense to teens with the first in a new series, Virals. Tory is the science-obsessed niece of a famous forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan (star of the Bones program and novels), living on a remote island off the coast of South Carolina. An old military ID tag leads Tory and her best friends, Ben, Hi, and Shelton–all self proclaimed “sci-philes”–to an illegal research lab, where they are exposed to a mutant strain of canine parvovirus. When the teens begin experiencing preternatural physical changes, their search for answers brings them in contact with cold-blooded killers.

Vixen
Jillian Larkin
Leader: Robin MacBride

It’s the Jazz Age, and 17-year-old Gloria Carmody wants to live it up. But that’s not easy, as she is already engaged to the stuffy Sebastian Grey. Her inner flapper wins out, though, and Gloria is soon hanging out at a boozy Chicago club, attracted to the piano player, Jerome, who just happens to be black. But she is not the only vixen. Cousin Clara has come to keep Gloria company, but no one knows the farm girl has been around the block. Then there’s best friend Lorraine, who envies all that Gloria has and is determined to get some of it for herself. Debut author Larkin crams plenty of delish details of the era into this opening title in the Flappers series and does a good job of switching from one character to another, all the while lacing the stories together.

War
Sebastian Junger
Leader: Brad Fiege

War is hell, as the saying goes–but it isn’t only that. It’s a lot of other things, too–most of them delivered in forms that are way more pure and intense than what is available back home. The undeniable hellishness of war forces men to bond in ways that aren’t necessary–or even possible– in civilian society. The closest thing to it might be the parent-child bond, but that is not reciprocal. Children are generally not prepared to die for their parents, whereas the men in a platoon of combat infantry for the most part are prepared to do that for each other. For a lot of men, the security of being enclosed by a group like that apparently outweighs the terrors of being in combat. During World War II, wounded soldiers kept going AWOL from the rear-base hospitals in order to rejoin their units on the front line. Clearly, for those men, rejoining their comrades was more important than the risk of death.

Water For Elephants
Sara Gruen
Leader: Sharon Wolsky

Jacob Jankowski says: “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn’t always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn’t a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed in an auto accident one week before he was to sit for his veterinary medicine exams at Cornell. He buried his parents, learned that they left him nothing because they had mortgaged everything to pay his tuition, returned to school, went to the exams, and didn’t write a single word. He walked out without completing the test and wound up on a circus train. The circus he joins, in Depression-era America, is second-rate at best. With Ringling Brothers as the standard, Benzini Brothers is far down the scale and pale by comparison. Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob’s life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the “menagerie” and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and… he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August’s wife. Not his best idea.

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