Three books that I almost missed the boat on.

The great thing about being a publishers' sales rep is that as each season of frontlist selling ends, there's a quiet reflective period before the next season begins.  There's always email, and the customer service side of working with my bookstores but I do spend a lot of that time puttering around the office with chores and projects, going through the next season's sales kits, and catching up on my reading.  

I usually like to focus on extracurricular reading (I spend the whole season collecting books that I hope to have time to get into during this less frantic period) but sometimes, as samples of the books that I just spent three months selling are published and show up on my doorstep, I will spot one or two that I somehow missed.

Luckily enough, I've found three books recently that I spent the entire summer representing but somehow, until I saw the actual finished books and started to read them, I missed out on their magic.  So here we go.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763645762 | $9.99 | July 2009

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2)
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press | 9780763644901 | $18.99 | Sept 2009

If you loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and are ready for a new YA SF series that is just as compelling and thrilling; if you read Ender's Game and the sequels and hoped for another book with the same kind of emotional complexity and SF detail; if you like to be surprised and delighted when the novel you're reading takes a sudden turn and becomes So. Much. More. Awesome. because of the twist, you owe it to yourself to read The Knife of Never Letting Go.  And be prepared to dive into the sequel, The Ask And The Answer, immediately upon finishing Knife."

Without giving anything away, here's a little to get you started.  Todd Hewitt is a 12 (going on 13) year old boy in a settlement on a new planet - a settlement that has seen its share of disaster and disappointment since the settlers first arrived.  Todd is the last boy in the settlement - all the other boys have become men upon their 13th birthday and no longer have time to spend with mere boys.  A war with the native species of bipeds has left all the women dead, thanks to a strange virus unleashed by their enemies.  This same virus has caused all the thoughts of the men in the village to be heard by all around them - they call it The Noise. And the settlers are also able to hear the thoughts of the animals around them, as well. 

Todd and his dog Manchee discover a secret outside their settlement that sends them fleeing for their lives, and as his knowledge of the world they live upon expands, he discovers that much has been kept secret from him by the men in his village.

To describe anything at all about what lies ahead for Todd and Manchee in both The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequel, The Ask and the Answer, would be to give away secrets that should be discovered by the reader alongside Todd.

Let me just say that I've found my new favorite books to handsell.

***

The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book   
by Joe Daly
Fantagraphics Books (Norton) | 9781606991633 | $22.99 | Aug 2009

Where has Joe Daly been hiding?  I'm pretty sure that if someone had told me about a young comics creator who was working on a series of eco-mystery comics set in Cape Town, South Africa starring a red-headed, monkey-footed comics creator with a deadpan sense of humor, wildly ethnic neighbors (who work hard to avoid being mere ethnic stereotypes), and a heavily stoned, moochy best friend, I would have jumped at the chance to read it.

Despite the over-the-top collision of elements I listed up there, what The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book really brings us is a tasty blend of cleanly detailed art straight out of Herge, hipster stoner humor and a couple of mysteries that work just as well in Cape Town as they would in the Los Angeles of Robert Towne's Chinatown or Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer stories.

Red Monkey is his second collection from Fantagraphics, the first being a 2007 book called Scrublands.

Fantagraphics is offering an exclusive 10-page excerpt from the first mystery in Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, The Leaky Cello Case.  You can download it here.