I Read YA! Do You?

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 Next by 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 where Little 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.


Nicole’s Top Ten of 2019

It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley

Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Institute by Stephen King

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Winter Book BINGO: Spotlight on LGBTQIA

The Merry Spinster

by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Confessions of the Fox

by Jordy Rosenberg
RubyFruit Jungle

by Rita Mae Brown

by Garth Nix
Less: a novel

by Andrew Sean Greer
So Lucky

by Nicola Griffith

by C.L. Polk

Lists of books with an LGBTQIA authors or character:

Winter Book BINGO: Spotlight on Graphic Novels

So you need to read a graphic novel in order to complete a BINGO, but you don’t know where to start. Let me help you. My own introduction to graphic novels was Bill Willingham’s Fables series. This epic series is a very grown-up retelling of classic fables and fairy tales. It’s still one of my favorite series. But you aren’t ready to jump into a 22-volume, Eisner Award winning series? No problem!

Try something cute, light, and funny:

Or maybe a graphic biography or memoir? We have books about familiar figures as well as ordinary people. Here are some of my favorites:

Ready to jump into a series? Let’s do it!

Maybe you’d like to try a classic:

Finally, let’s not forget the superheroes:

If none of these strike your fancy, come on in and browse our collection. Graphic novels are visual, you might just have to see them to find the one that’s right for you.


Megan’s Favorites of 2018

Greg’s Top Reads of 2018

The Elements of Spellcrafting : 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery
by Jason Miller

A great read for any practitioner or follower of any path. Gives some very practical tips for spellwork and working with spirits.

The Chaos Protocols:Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality
by Gordon White

A practical guide that is based in chaos magic but has some great tips for all. Looking about how one can use your individual spiritual/occult practice to deal with the practical concerns of life.

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The Invisibles
by Grant Morrison

Though this comic has been out for decades, it was only this year that I got to it. An absorbing graphic novel that explores themes of oppression, control, and the various prices of bucking the status quo.

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The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor D. LaValle

A great example of not only building on top of but expanding the source material. This book starts with the framework of Lovecraft and addresses historical and contemporary issues.

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Sheila Hicks : Lifelines
edited by Michel Gauthier

A wonderful visual retrospective of the artist’s work, this volume explores every stage of the artist’s career. Hick’s is a master of color and form and her work is carefully reproduced here.

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by Alan Moore

Again another graphic novel that had been on my radar but I hadn’t gotten to. Promethea is a story that not only explores mythology and the the last 100 years of occultism but seem to reflect many of the author’s own beliefs.

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The Power
by Naomi Alderman

Alderman’s work explores the dynamics of power and gender and how old patterns can reemerge when the world is made new again.

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

A collection of stories about stories, archetypes, and culturally created gender. These tales are filled with horror or uncanniness as Ortberg picks apart the very idea of a fairy tale and our own “norms”.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Read the graphic novel that the Netflix show is based on. There are many differences from the show and this source material and it guaranteed to help tide fans over as they wait for season two.

Clive Barker’s next testament. Volume On
by Clive Barker

A truly terrifying look at what it would be like if our creator came back. An engrossing story, but Barker definitely maintains his horror aesthetic throughout.

Happy Birthday George!

Today is author George R. R. Martin’s birthday! Commonly known for his (still in progress) book series Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin has a long list of books including the Dreamsongs series, Hedge Knight series, Game of Thrones comic books and graphic novels, and the contribution to the Wild Cards series.

Grab one of his books in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section at the library and celebrate what amazing talent was born on this day, 68 years ago!


One more fantasy title to add…

Our last Genre Book Discussion was about fantasy and Stacey has already posted the book titles that were shared to this blog. It certainly was a varied selection. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn my blurb in so that the book I read wasn’t included. I love fantasy (probably because I live in my own little world of fairy tales with happy endings) and I love books. I thought the book that I read was so fantastically wonderful that I just have to share it with all of you. The book I read was Among Others by Jo Walton and I loved it!

This book is more than a fantasy. It is a book about books (which I love), libraries (which I love), magic (which I love too) and a young girl struggling to find her own identity (I love these coming of age stories too). I even love the cover of the book too! Yes, I can honestly say that I truly, truly, truly loved this book!

Written in a journal form and set in 1979 and 1980, this is the story of fifteen year old Morwenna Phelps trying to move on with her life after her twin sister is killed. Morwenna and Morganna had teamed together to try to stop their crazy mother from using magic to harm others. In their battle with their mother, Morganna is killed and Morwenna is crippled. After going to live with her father, she is sent to a boarding school where she misses the magic in her life. However, if she uses magic again, will her mother be able to find her?

No matter what, Morwenna has books and as she writes in her journal, “I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.” Thanks to Morwenna, I now have more titles to add to my reading list. I don’t think I will ever run out of books to read! Thank you libraries!

Besides The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I have read some really marvelous fantasy books. Check out our Reading Room for reviews of books by my favorite fantasy authors, Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, and Neil Gaiman. As Dr. Seuss has said “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

Happy Reading!       ~Donna


After setting out on our own magical, mythical journeys, yesterday the book discussion group was reunited in the safety of the Community Room and we shared the information we had gathered from reading fantasy stories… Yes, that’s right. We read fantasy books featuring magic or myth, with plots emphasizing journeys of mind or body, and stress the virtues of courage, sacrifice and kindness. Fantasy books can be set in this world, with understandable and magical differences, or they may take place in a fully created, imaginary world, but they will always be aimed at a reader’s heart, not their head. Are you ready to take a journey of your own? Maybe you’d like to start with one of these titles:

Julie: Ysabel is a Guy Gavriel Kay novel from 2007 and the first one I’ve enjoyed as much as his Fionavar Tapestry series. Ned Marriner is on a trip with his father in France when very unusual things start happening. When things go from strange to worse, writing essays for school quickly becomes the least of his worries. The author blends coming of age, myth and history into an enjoyable read.

Chris: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak tells the story of Max, a little boy who after behaving badly is called a “wild thing” by his mother and sent to his room without dinner. Rather than continuing his naughtiness, he lets his imagination take over and fantasizes taking a boat trip to the land of wild things. When he arrives, he takes control of the wild things; they like him well enough to make him their king. After awhile he starts feeling lonely, returns home, and is welcomed by the smell of dinner. Max knows he is loved. Written in 1963, the book is a Caldecott Medal Winner and beautifully illustrated by the author. A children’s classic and ageless in appeal.

Janet: Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks is the story of the United States five- hundred-years after a devastating war. The book focuses on the people whose ancestors established a new community in a valley. The borders of the valley have been protected all these years by powerful magic. In this first of a two book set the magic mysteriously disappears which endangers the residents of the valley as well as nearby elves and mutants. Led by the Bearer of the Black Staff, leaders of the threatened communities race to prepare a defense when they learn that a large troll army wants to take the valley for themselves.

Carol: The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien is considered a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. In this story, a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, is asked/volunteered by Gandalf the Wizard to accompany a group of 12 dwarves, along with their leader Thorin, to reclaim the dwarves’ treasure. Along the way, the group is met with adventure and danger in the form of goblins (Orcs), trolls, and giant spiders. Upon finally getting to the Lonely Mountain, they must defeat the mighty dragon Smaug who guards the treasure. I (re)read an especially beautiful edition, illustrated by Michael Hague, in honor of the upcoming release of Peter Jackson’s film version of The Hobbit.

Evelyn: In Dying Bites: Book One of The Bloodhound Files, the debut fantasy-thriller by D.D. Barant, FBI profiler Jace is pulled into an alternate reality universe by a vampire working for the NSA. In this world, populated by vampires, lycanthropes (aka werewolves) and demons, Jace is part of the one percent human minority. Her skills are needed though, because there is a serial killer who is actually able to make vampires and werewolves stay dead–an he’s a human, too! I really wanted to like this book, and the story line isn’t bad. I think it was just the many abbreviations the author used, like pires for vampires, thropes for lycanthropes, and vics for victims that prevented this from being a great read for me.

Emma: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray begins in India on Gemma’s 16th birthday in 1895 when she witnesses her mother’s death. Gemma is sent to the Spence School, a finishing school in London, where she begins to understand the joys and dangers in her visions and in her ability to go back and forth to another realm. Gemma and three classmates share an old diary where they learn of an Order of sorceresses and join in the adventures back and forth. The first entry in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy is full of action with hints of things to come.

Megan: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is the first of eleven books in the Rangers Apprentice series. Orphaned as an infant, Will is a ward on the Baron’s estate. At the age of fifteen he and the other wards are presented to the fief’s crafts masters to be selected as apprentices. It has been Will’s dream to be selected for the Battleschool where he can train to be a knight like his father. Unfortunately he is not chosen by the battle master because of his small stature. Instead, the mysterious and elusive Halt of the Rangers chooses Will to be his apprentice. Will’s months of training comes in handy when the king’s sworn enemy unleashes two deadly creatures sent to destroy the Rangers and start a war. This first book sets the stage for what is sure to be a fantasy adventure of epic proportion.

Ann: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman is an inventive and light-hearted follow up to American Gods. Fat Charlie Nancy leads a hum-drum life in London, but when he travels to Florida for his father’s funeral he learns that he has a brother he’s never known about. After he returns to London and meets his brother Spider, Charlie’s life changes in a big way. A comical fantasy about brothers, relationships, and finding your way.

Rosemary: Stork is a compelling and very entertaining teen fantasy by first-time novelist Wendy Delsol. Katla moves from LA to Norse Falls, Minnesota after her parents’ divorce. She encounters mean girls and not so nice boys at her new high school. There is one young man, Jack, to whom she is unusually attracted. Katla finds out that she is a member of the Stork Society, an ancient order of women who determine which woman will give birth to a certain baby. Once she is part of the Storks, many uncanny events begin to occur, some are exciting and some are dangerous. Through it all, Katla comes across as a very real sixteen year old, which makes her all the more appealing to readers.

Dori: The Act of Will by A.J. Hartley is a historical fantasy set in a world resembling Elizabethan England. Growing up in the theater, feisty and funny 18-year-old orphan Will Hawthorne prides himself on surviving by his wits and storytelling skills. When authorities raid the theater, he narrowly escapes and falls in with a band of heroic rebels who take him on a quest to a distant city. With the aid of magical weapons, they must fight a mysterious group of red cloaked men who have been on a pillaging and murdering spree. Will Will decide that honor and loyalty trump survival? Fast-paced and with a sequel to boot, this is a clever, page-turning adventure.

Stacey: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is the start of a new series -and also a sequel to the Percy Jackson adventures with cross-over characters and settings. This time around the stories are focused on Jason, a boy who wakes up on a school bus with no memory of who he is but what his friends are telling him about his past doesn’t sound quite right. When it’s discovered that Jason is actually from the Roman version of Camp Half-Blood, all the dangerous situations are raised to epic-level proportions. If readers are ready for more adventure, plus a chance to learn about Roman mythology, this is a book for you!

Our next journey will not have one mythical beast or an epic quest full of magic! How do I know that? Well, we’ll be reading narrative nonfiction, or books about real people, places, and events in an easy to read prose style.


Get your Daily Prophet here!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has opened in Universal Studios Orlando!! It looks like it an amazing experience for fans of the books (which would seem to include a great proportion of the world’s population). An interesting note is that althougth there are no doubt numerous opportunities to shop in the park, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods is the only place to buy Rowling’s books. Fun, no?

I need to start planning my trip to Florida – do you think the Floo Network operates between Cleveland and Orlando?

— Julie