Back to School Fiction

It’s that time of year, when the kiddos are off to school, though this year may look very different than any year past. Some schools are offering hybrid class models, while others are strictly remote for the first 9 weeks, and others might be back in the classroom most of the school week. Whether you are sending a child off to college, a little one is starting kindergarten online, or your high school student is going to their school twice a week, now is a great time to pick up a book about school life!

Below you will find some great titles filled with humor, drama, mystery, thrills, tragedy, and romance- all with teachers, students, parents, and school settings of all sorts. There is really something for everyone in this selection. Check one out today!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy start to their 2020-2021 school year! Happy reading!

New and Upcoming Romance Reads

Sometimes, we all just need to read something light, fun, with a happy ending, and maybe a little spice for good measure, especially during times of turmoil and stress. Enter- the romance genre! Whether you want your literary escape to be sexy and scandalous or wholesome and heartwarming (or something in-between!) romance has got your back.

Check out some new and upcoming romance titles that are sure to give you some much deserved reprieve or serve as your next beach read.

What are some of your favorite romance novels or beach reads of the summer? Share in the comments! Happy reading!

Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far)

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).

One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.

Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.

The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.

Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!

Imagine Your Story -Variety Pack

You know how sometimes (or fairly often) it can be hard to settle down and read? I’ve found a variety pack of options to entertain myself, and maybe some of these ideas will appeal to you as well…

Magazines! From HGTV to Gourmet to bite sized articles in How it Works that help me learn something new, I’ve been enjoying flicking those pages until something catches my eye.

I’ve also been reading from the Diverse Voices for Younger Readers collection. I 100% think books for teens and younger readers can be as good -or better!- than adult books as they tell stories that are compelling but tend to be shorter (aka don’t get bogged down in wordy, unnecessary extras). Why not give it a try?

Sometimes I just listen to music while I clean or do some crafting…

But if you want to be ambitious? You could join me in the Great Courses Myth in Human History and -so far, so good!! And then I have an eye on How to Make Stress Work for You….

I hope one of these choices sounds appealing and gives you something new to try!

—Stacey

Imagine Your Story -Books (also available in audio!)

I’m doing more reading and listening to fiction books right now, it’s feels like less pressure than trying to absorb more facts that I may (or may not) remember later and it’s a little odd because I *love* me some good nonfiction. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And I’ve been reading all sorts of books: dark and gritty stories, and then families who have complex but loving relationships, and then a Gothic sci-fi story, and then a fancy literary fiction book, and next I hope to read something a little funny. It’s a good thing there are so many books out there in the World because I’m bouncing around from genre to genre! *boing!* Watch out epic fantasy, you’re up after humor!

Do you mind if I give a shout out to one of my recent, two-thumbs up reads? The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz: Such engaging characters you fall right into the story. (And having lived in Ashtabula for a while -bonus moments were had!)

Hmm, maybe epic fantasy will have to wait. I just checked out Black Panther graphic novel, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates… Gotta go read now!

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself!

-Stacey

Your Library Staff at Home -hunh?

Ooo! What happened? Somewhere over the past few weeks, I’ve realized my attention span has gotten very short. I’m guessing you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? It’s a good thing I’m already a fan of making lists -and checking items off the list. Now I need to figure out how to remember where I put my most current list… heh heh. (I also need to remember to recycle that finished list-geez,)

So maybe you’re on the same page as I am (book humor on purpose!) and you’d like to listen to an entertaining book or podcast right now? Great! May I suggest the following podcasts: Stuff You Should Know-covering a wide variety of topics, the length varies by episode, Flash Forward -possible futures based on current ideas, Imaginary Worlds-mostly SF topics but also plenty of general appeal, or NPR’s Life Kit -nicely compact discussions of truly helpful tips for navigating everyday life. May I suggest an older nonfiction book: Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt -I learned so much about European Starlings and Mozart (of course?) plus musical moments were included in the audio book! And how about an older mystery/dark comedy series: Izzy Spellman Series starting with The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz -you too might fall a little in love with this seriously loving and dysfunctional family like so many of us have!

Or if you want to fall down a rabbit hole of what? who knew? I need to try that! nope. Yes! May I suggest checking out #recipes on TikTok? (If you can figure out a good way to limit your time on this one -please send that good tip my way?!)

And please, don’t forget to be kind to yourself, okay?
—Stacey

Your Library Staff at Home -Sunshiny Sunday Edition!

We’re firmly into Spring now and the sun is coming out so much more often -it’s fabulous! Although Fall will always be my favorite season (warm days/crisp evening air, s’mores, the leaves as they turn beautiful colors), but also very happy to have the sunshine and open windows we can enjoy now. (Downside? Pollen. so. much. pollen. sigh…)

So this week maybe we’ll have the chance to be outside a little more -maybe listening to an audiobook like Crazy Rich Asians or podcast like Flash Forward while taking a walk, or calling a friend while we sit in the sun. Doesn’t that sound nice? (I might add a scoop of ice cream in there -cone or bowl- but that’s me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

Once you’re in for the evening and  you’re looking for something to watch, I can say Victorian Slum House, the 1900s on hoopla is a series worth spending some quality time with! I’ve really enjoyed the previous series PBS has created, from Frontier House to The 1940s House, sending everyday modern people back in time to experience the daily life of that time period. As these volunteers get caught up in their new world so do viewers and soon it feels like we’re all in it together… (and reminds me how lucky I am to live in a time and place where indoor plumbing is the norm)!

Today, while I continue some serious Spring cleaning, I’m going to start listening to Wisdom From a Humble Jellyfish by Rani Shah and update you my progress next week!

Be kind to yourself and enjoy that extra Vitamin D shining down!

—Stacey

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

Stacey’s Top Ten Fiction (and Nine Nonfiction) of 2019!

If you check out some of my previous Top Ten lists -you might notice I like to go for bonus titles.. heh! This year I split my list into ten fiction and a bonus nine nonfiction… double heh! I’ll also mention, this year I was part of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction Committee -and the entire list is worth a look! You’ll also notice some of the titles on that list are also on mine, so maybe that counts as a double Top Ten suggestion?

This list is *not* in order of preference but does follow the Librarian Tradition of Alphabetical Order:

Fiction
 Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
No one in this story is perfect, and that’s what makes it such a fun book to read!

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Time travel is a key feature, but it’s really about family and finding a place you belong.

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
A magical, emotional, thoroughly engaging story!

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
You don’t have to love Jane Austen to love this book.

The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
A mystery set in a boarding school with plenty of surprises.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Like The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin -for adults.

Normal People by Salley Rooney
Teens growing into young adults -set in Ireland.

Save Me From Dangerous Men by Eli Saslow
Gritty and graphic, and all kinds of grrl power.

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
If you’re a word nerd -this one’s for you!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Ah -all the feels.

Nonfiction
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson
We should all rethink how we think about aging.

Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
Fascinating and well-researched look at decades of misconduct by men in power.

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
Theodore Geissel was more than the creator of children’s books, and this book will tell you that story.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
While telling the story of one woman’s disappearance (and likely murder), readers will also get a clear background on The Troubles in Ireland.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
A beautifully written look at the natural world and how it’s changed, and continues to change.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Not just a book about libraries, but also a great “true crime” mystery!

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Ladies, be ready to be annoyed and then -let’s change the world!

An Elegant Defense by Matt Ritchel
Do you know how your immune system works (or doesn’t work)? You will after you read this!

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
How do we not talk more about some of the topics in this book?!

I hope you find something you enjoy -and- that you have a happy, wonderful Holiday Season!

-Stacey