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"Spring" into a great book!

Dear Reader,

This month's featured selections cover a diverse range of genres. From mythology to more timely topics inspired by current affairs, these works of fiction offer a varied selection to appeal to a range of tastes. 

Historical fiction meets Greek mythology in Lovely War when stories of young mortals in love during early 20th-century wartime are shared by Greek gods trying to redeem themselves as penance for their own scandalous cavortings. If you prefer something more political and relevant, Internment is not a too far stretch from reality. Imagine all Muslims in the United States are banned and sent to internment camps where brave teens rally together, in an all too familiar phrase these days, to Resist. Like a good mystery with a contemporary twist? If You're Out There will keep you on the edge of your seat when good friends, separated by the relocation of one has the other wondering if she is being ghosted or if something terrible has happened to her friend when communication ceases to exist.

What to choose, they all sound so good!  Why not read them all!

See you soon!
Cheryl & All DIESELfolk

New Books We Love This Month
Lovely War
by Julie Berry

It’s December 1942. In one of the swankiest hotels in New York City, Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge, has just caught his wife, Aphrodite, cheating on him with Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus plans to turn in the pair to Olympus but, in exchange for her release, love goddess Aphrodite tells him a tale of mortal romance during the end of the first World War. 

Hazel Windicott, aged eighteen, is a talented pianist living in London. When, by chance (as well as a smidge of meddling on Aphrodite’s part), she meets James Aldridge, and they instantly know that they’re soulmates. There’s only one catch- James will leave for the front in France in a matter of days. As the last year of the War rages on, James and Hazel will have to fight not only for the British but for the freedom to love each other. 

Conversely, Aubrey Edwards is a young, African-American musician living in Harlem. His piano playing is legendary; even Apollo, the god of music, has his eyes on Aubrey’s talent. Under the supervision of his band leader and Lieutenant James Reese Europe, Aubrey’s all-black jazz group goes to France’s front, not only to fight but to raise spirits with their music. When the members of his regiment play for the all-white military camp at Saint-Nazaire, he begins to fall in love with Colette Fournier, a beautiful yet heartbroken Belgian volunteer. Soon, Colette begins to return Aubrey’s feelings. However, with harsh punishment for black soldiers caught in the company of white women, Aubrey and Colette must hide their relationship or fear being torn apart amidst the racism founded in the Allies themselves.
Though I’m usually not a fan of historical fiction, the element of Greek gods playing narrator, as well as the romantic twist of the tale, intrigued me. Lovely War truly went above and beyond– with an impossible-to-put-down plot and four fantastic mortal leads, it was a truly enjoyable read. However, there are two key factors of the novel. The first is the gods themselves; though many original elements of Greek mythology remain, the personalities and fashion senses of the five gods that appear in this book are written in a glamorous manner that reflects the changing of the 20th century. The second detail that made Lovely War so incredible was its prodigious description. Within each section, the auras of 1910’s Europe and 1940’s New York City are reflected thoughtfully. Even minor details, such as popular songs and food rations, make the world of a century ago seem less foreign than we’d imagine. Because of this, Lovely War is a book that fans of any genre will root for and adore. 
– Paisley Kandler

by Samira Ahmed

Have you ever felt truly scared while reading a book? Whether you have or not, Internment will make you feel just that. Set in a fictional, yet realistic America, where the president has just ordered a complete ban of all Muslims, we hear the story through the first person point of view of Layla Amin, a 17-year-old Muslim girl. When the government starts shipping all Muslims (citizens and not) to internment camps, she and her parents are among the families sent off. Layla is also forced to leave behind her boyfriend David, a Jewish boy who is very close with her and her family.

They arrive at “Mobius”, a camp in the middle of the California desert, where it is hot, dusty, and the food is cafeteria quality at best. Even though “The Director” and his private guards pretend that this camp is peaceful and pleasant with no hard manual labor, no beatings, and no torture, Layla doesn’t buy it and she feels how prison must be like this. She refuses to accept the conditions and give up hope or freedom and continuously finds a way to express her feelings about the unfairness of their plight. Unfortunately, as time passes, the camp begins to destroy her parents’ attitudes and they begin to feel defeated which upsets Layla very much. “When you’re a kid, you think your parents are invincible and all-knowing, and then you start to grow up and realize that they’re simply flawed human beings trying to make their way in the world the best they can.” Layla bands together with a group of young teens, and together they vow to fight for what is right, and for their freedom, “We are Americans. We make America great. This is our country. And we’re taking it back.”. Multiple times, because of her defiant attitude, she is confronted by Exclusion Guards that are responsible for maintaining control.

Ahmed’s use of the present tense in her writing gives the reader the feeling of anxiety and stress that Layla feels and allows for complete immersion into the fast pace, intense and tiresome environment of the story.  Ahmed keeps the reader hooked by incorporating new characters, new twists, and heart-pounding scenes with practically every flip of the page. Filled with real-world problems and metaphors for today's society, she does a fantastic job of addressing these problems through the perfectly crafted character of Layla Amin, a girl who will stop at nothing to get what she believes is right, (a trait Ahmed makes clear is important in all young teens).

Ahmed leaves us with some final words to close her novel, “The people united will never be defeated. Resist.”
Those words aptly sum up the book. Ahmed wants the younger generations to resist and not stand idly by.
I strongly suggest reading this book for any young adult, you won’t regret it. -Eli Susman  

If You're Out There
by Katy Loutzenhiser

High-school senior Alexandra “Zan” Martini is devastated when her best friend, Priya, moves from their suburban Chicago neighborhood to Los Angeles. She’s only further angered when Priya refuses to answer her calls, texts, or social media comments. Zan can’t fathom why Priya would ghost her, but she tries to move on as best she can. As the school year begins, tiny inaccuracies begin to pop up in Priya’s posts. When she starts finding concrete evidence that Priya may not be in the California paradise where she claims she is, Zan has to wonder: Is Priya trying to avoid her? Or… is something preventing Priya from responding?

The mystery genre is appearing more and more on the YA market, and I’m always impressed by how many different storylines can be created within that theme. One of the key elements that sets If You’re Out There apart from other mystery/thriller reads is that the investigation of Priya’s disappearance is the B-Plot to following Zan’s grief over losing her best friend. Long-term friendships tend to be the hardest to let go of, and Zan’s insistence that Priya is in danger is overlooked throughout the book. Her parents, co-workers, and a mysterious new friend try to help her see her irrationality, until the point that Zan herself starts to doubt whether she’s inventing excuses for Priya’s coldness. As Zan struggles to accept that Priya has supposedly moved on, we see her lose a little part of her blithe naïveté along with that sentiment. A true rollercoaster of both suspense and raw adolescent emotion, If You’re Out There is sure to be a favorite of YA and mystery readers alike.-- Paisley Kandler

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