Departing from her usual science fiction and fantasy offerings, Marissa Meyer has released her first YA contemporary romance with a hint of magical realism and it is delightful.
Prudence Barnett is the stereotypical overachiever. She’s judgmental and difficult to like at times, especially when she’s lashing out at her horrible lab partner, Quint Erickson, the well-liked slacker who is dragging her and her final grade down. After an accidental head injury, Pru discovers she has the ability to bestow instant karma on those around her. The only problem is that Quint seems immune to her new power, much to her dismay. She and Quint have been given a second chance to improve their grade, but he continues to frustrate her.
Things aren’t all fluff, teen angst, and typical romance tropes. The story has real meat to it as both teens deal with family issues. Pru is also forced to confront her own assumptions about her friends and classmates and make some tough decisions regarding how to use her unusual gift. Throw in some environmentalism, an aquatic animal rescue, and some karaoke, and you have fun, refreshing, and thoughtful cautionary tale. The queen of retellings has struck gold with this one.
As the weather grows colder and the days get shorter, treat yourself to this sunny beach read. You won’t regret it.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia, a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion. It is also the subject of the December 17th meeting of our horror book discussion group, Novel Scares. Register now to join us, via Zoom.
Our Little Library is located near the front entrance, right next to the bench. I’m sure many of you have heard of “Little Free Libraries” and may have seen one in your own neighborhood. The philosophy of the “Little Free Library” is simple: take a book, leave a book. Here at RRPL we encourage our community to simply take a book, no need to contribute books, we’ve got that covered. This is a small collection of books ranging from adult book selections to books for children. We refresh our selections weekly, along with a bottle of hand sanitizer to keep you safe. If you would like to browse a larger collection, come into our lobby and peruse our ongoing Book Sale. Donations for your choices are always appreciated and can be left at the Greeters Desk. I love tending to the books housed in this little gem, and I can’t help but smile when I discover these books have found a new home. So, if you find yourself taking a stroll near the library, take a peek inside our Little Library, who knows, maybe you will stumble upon that next great read!
Regular readers will remember that I have already shared all of my 5-star YA reads of 2020. It’s now time to start sharing some of my 4-star recommendations.
American Panda by Gloria Chao. Seventeen year old Mei is a pre-med at MIT. Her whole life is already mapped out-become a doctor, marry a parents-approved, successful, Taiwanese guy with an Ivy League degree, and have babies. It’s the least she can do for her parents who have sacrificed everything for her and who have already been betrayed by her older brother. There are a couple of problems with this plan. She is a germaphobe. She loves to dance. Darren is not Taiwanese. This is a funny and heartfelt coming of age story about a young woman stuck between two cultures. It’s also about first love and family secrets and following your passions, all things teens of any ethnicity can relate to. A solid 4-star read.
All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. What happens when the scholarship dinner you’ve been invited to turns out to be a trap? This debut thriller reads like an Agatha Christie novel. The class valedictorian, the popular girl, the music geek, the stoner, the loner, and the star athlete all think they are being honored with a scholarship. Instead, they are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe of poison, and a note that tells them to pick a person to die or they all die. The clock is ticking. This is an edge of your seat read that literally takes place over the course of an hour. Will they panic? Escape? Kill someone? This is a wild ride from a new voice in YA thrillers.
One of Us is Nextby Karen McManus. Speaking of thrillers…If you aren’t reading Karen McManus, go do it now. This is the sequel to her hit One of Us is Lying. It’s been a year since the incidents at Bayview High and there is a new game circulating- Truth or Dare and this version is dark and dangerous. This is another strong addition to the YA thriller genre. I am definitely a fan of the author and look forward to more great reads by her.
Deadly Little Secrets by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Here’s another thriller and a sequel. I am a huge fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes and will read anything she writes. This one picks up whereLittle White Lies leaves off. If you like southern charm and wicked family secrets and secret societies, you really need to read the Debutantes series. What I love about all of Barnes’ books is that there is plenty of humor to cut through the tension of her rather dark tales.
The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black. This one is actually the final book in the Folk of the Air trilogy. You’ll want to start with The Cruel Prince, followed by The Wicked King. I always think I do not enjoy stories about the fae, and yet, any time I decide to read one, I like it, so I guess I am wrong about myself! Holly Black knows her stuff. She is the queen of the fairy tale and she returns to her fairy roots with this brutal and twisty trilogy. It’s full of magic and betrayal and the ending is fantastic. Highly recommend.
So it appears that I have been pretty stingy with the 5 star ratings so far this year. Here are the final titles that have been outstanding reads for me so far this year.
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis: This brutal survival story is not for the squeamish! Ashley always felt right at home in the deep woods of the Smoky Mountains, so she was looking forward to what was supposed to be a fun night of camping and drinking. But, after finding her boyfriend with another girl, she storms off in a drunken rage. She takes a hard fall, but she’s too mad to worry. It’s not until she wakes up the next morning that she realizes she is alone, far from the trail, and injured. It’s a race against time, and the infection creeping up her leg, to get herself to safety. I am huge Mindy McGinnis fan and can’t wait to read what she offers next.
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert: Marva Sheridan has been waiting to be old enough to vote for as long as she could remember. One election day she was the first in line at her polling spot. As she’s heading out to go to school she overhears a guy her age insisting he was registered, despite his name not being on the rolls. Marva steps in to intervene, and sets off a chain of events she never anticipated. She and Duke, the guy from the voting spot, set off to set the record straight and enable Duke to cast his first vote. The more time they spend together the more they learn about each and the more they learn the more they like each other. The Voting Booth hits many hot button topics in the news-voter suppression, gun violence, police brutality-in one delightful, whirlwind tale. I have read everything Brandy Colbert has written and she never disappoints. This is a must read!
Slay by Brittney Morris: You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate the fact that 17-year old programmer Kiera is a genius. Kiera Johnson is one of just a few black kids at her school, but after school she joins thousands of black gamers in the multi-player online role playing game called SLAY. What no one knows is that she is creator. She goes to great lengths to protect her identity, but when a murder IRL is connected to the game and a troll infiltrates the world of SLAY, Kiera’s safe and beloved world is in danger. Can she protect her creation and her identity? This is not my go-to type of book as I have not interest in online games, but I am so glad I picked this one up. Great characters and a thoughtful look at the need for black people to have safe spaces just for themselves.
They Called Us Enemyby George Takei: Pair this nonfiction autobiography of the author’s childhood experience in Japanese internment camps with the Kiku Hughes’s fictionalized account of her grandparents’ experiences. Takei’s story is a harsh reminder that internment camps were part of our country’s RECENT past. There are people living today who were imprisoned for being Japanese and Japanese-American.
My last three 5 star reviews are parts of series.
The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland: This sequel to Dread Nation picks up the story of Jane McKeene, a badass restless dead hunter, as she ventures West towards California. This alternate history duology takes place after the Civil War, when soldiers because rising from the dead and government decided that form slaves and black girls were the perfect people to battle the undead. It’s a wild ride!
The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson: This is the third and final book in the Truly Devious series. It is a completely satisfying end to the story of Ellingham Academy. Fans of true crime and My Favorite Murder will recognize the cases of hiding people Stevie mentions. Fans of Agatha Christie will appreciate the many nods to the queen of mystery stories. I can’t to see what Maureen Johnson has in store for us next!
The King of Crows by Libba Bray: This is the final book in the super creepy Diviners series. I was not expecting the tears at the end of this one. This final book in the series is a scathing commentary on our past wrongs and evils, a cautionary tale as our current political environment has shockingly repeating some of these wrongs, and also a hopeful and stirring love letter to true American patriotism. As I was having these thoughts I kept wondering if I was reading too much in to it, but the author’s note, which I recommend NOT skipping, confirmed that I was not. Oh, and there was a really awesome story about ghosts and monsters and people with powers and love and romance and running away to join the circus. Truly a masterpiece.
That’s all for my 5 star reads of 2020, but I have plenty of amazing 4 star titles to share in future posts. Stay tuned.
Throughout the past few weeks I slowed down on my reading a bit to dive into some tv shows and films, but now that I’ve nearly finished all three seasons of Hannibal (an amazing show and noteworthy if for nothing other than truly disturbing and beautiful cinematography) I’m getting back to my lengthy to-read list.
Hoopla has gotten some really great new graphic novels that I am so excited to read! Here are my top recently released graphic novels you can read right now on Hoopla- some were new just in the past month and some are releases from earlier this spring that I missed during the chaos that was April and May. Better to read late than never is a mantra I often tell myself.
From sci-fi adventures to superheroes (sometimes hero-ish? looking at you Catwoman) to stories about adorable cats, there is something for everyone in the titles above.
I also just snagged the first five single issues of The Low, Low Woods, a newer comic series put out as part of the Joe Hill presents Hill House Comics of DC. I am quite delighted to crack open issue #1- the series is by the author of one of my favorite short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado! If you haven’t read Her Body and Other Parties and you like weird feminist fiction- check it out now here on OverDrive! You won’t be disappointed. And since I generally love anything Joe Hill puts out or helps to publish, this should be a stellar series. Volume one is slated to be released this fall if you are more of a “wait for the collected volume” sort of reader *wink wink*.
I have been reading (and by reading, I mean listening to) a lot of true crime and thrillers lately, but I also read a good amount of YA books. I am the Teen Librarian, after all. Early in the Covid shut down I mostly revisited old favorites, but as I become accustomed to my new normal I am getting back into my old reading habits. So, here’s a quick review of some of my favorite YA reads of the year so far.
These are the first of my 5-Star reads of 2020.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks: I loved this charming graphic novel so much! Two high school seniors, “work” best friends, face the end of their time at the pumpkin patch they both love. The pair decide to brush off work and hunt down a long time crush. Hilarity ensues. This slim volume perfectly captures the excitement, sorrow, and uncertainty of leaving high school and embarking on the next adventure.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer: This is fun Beauty and the Beast retelling. Harper, the story’s Belle, is tough and determined, and constantly underestimated due to her cerebal palsy. Definitely an interesting addition to the fantasy genre and the world of retellings.
Loveboat, Taipeiby Abigail Hing Wen: Ever Wong’s summer plans are cancelled when her parents inform her she is going to Taiwan to study Mandarin. It’s just the kind of thing they would do in their never-ending quest for the perfect daughter. What they don’t know is that this program is a notorious “meet-market”, nicknamed the Loveboat. Surrounded by teen prodigies and experience freedom for the first time, Ever sets out to break all the rules. You don’t have to be Chinese to relate to this nearly perfect coming of age story.
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed: A teen book about political canvassing?!? Yes, please! Jewish and Muslim representation, political activism, and romance blend into the perfect book for me. I love anything that inspires young people to get involved in politics!
Displacement by Kiku Hughes: Displacement is an exploration of the Japanese-American and Japanese immigrant experience in interment camps during WWII. Teenaged Kiku Hughes calls her brief trips back in time to experience what her grandmother and great-grandparents experienced displacements. Little is known about their time in the camps because they rarely spoke of it, but Kiku was able to live the confusion and fear, the hunger and grief, the impossible choices people made. This memoir-based book is gorgeous. The art is simple and beautiful and panels are open, sometimes sprawling, like the inhospitable landscapes surrounding the camps. While the main focus is the past, the author pulls no punches when it comes to comparing Japanese internment camps and the political climate that allowed them to occur to our current political environmental. This is a powerful must-read.