Short stories — Pikes Peak Writers Conference style 

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Marie Lu

Putnam Juvenile, $17.99/hardcover

Marie Lu's debut young adult novel Legend is one of those books you can't put down, and when you're done, you want to read all over again. Set in a futuristic United States divided by war, Legend is told through alternating chapters by the two main characters, June and Day. Both 15, and both prodigies, one is sent by her government to hunt down the other. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and the two come to an understanding about one another and the world around them — just in time to set up the second book in the trilogy. What I loved most about Legend was how Lu approached her main characters; as a reader, I connected with, and liked, them equally. Fans of dystopian/post-apocalyptic literature will begin this book because of an interest in the genre, but they'll keep reading for the well-developed characters and sharp plot. — Kirsten Akens

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Curses! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale

J.A. Kazimer

Kensington, $15/paperback

As a fan of ABC's Once Upon a Time, I picked up Denver-based author J.A. Kazimer's novel Curses! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale with an enthusiastic anticipation. The two are similar in that they offer contemporary takes on classic tales, but that's where the similarities end. Kazimer's main character RJ is a master villain who's been placed on "mandatory mental health leave" — and cursed to do nice things — by the union. As a result, when Cinderella dies after being hit by the crosstown Fairy-Second Street bus, and one of her step-sisters asks RJ to look into what she thinks was murder, he can't refuse. The rest of the book is a ridiculous romp through a fantasy kingdom, filled with places like "the Butcher's, the Baker's, and the Sex Toy Maker's." Kazimer's wit is spot-on, her humor laugh-out-loudable. I'm looking forward to the second in the effed-up series, Froggy-Style. — Kirsten Akens

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The Garden of Happy Endings

Barbara O'Neal

Bantam, $15/paperback, release date: April 17

A pilgrimage. A murder. One sister's crisis of faith — her third — and another sister's marriage crisis. Add to this list of ingredients a community garden in Pueblo and some mystical elements, and the Barbara O'Neal stamp on this recipe is complete. But just because it integrates O'Neal's standard themes of love and overcoming hardships — and, well, lots of food — that doesn't mean you should ignore the Colorado Springs author's newest book, The Garden of Happy Endings. From Page 1, O'Neal grabs the reader with another set of engaging characters (including, once again, a dog), but she also delves throughout the book into a broader discussion on spirituality, crediting much of her research to Unity Church in the Rockies' Rev. Ahriana Platten. Read it and enjoy, but keep a box of tissues at hand. The route to happy endings is often paved with tears. — Kirsten Akens


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