James the computer guy will now take a shot at blog post…
I seem to have an odd taste in reading, and don’t get very much reading done. I was told that perhaps my tastes could give some insight into some of our more eclectic readers. I'm only writing on books I have actually finished, because if it was good enough for me to spend my very limited time on, then it must have been good... maybe.
The first I would like to tell about is one that I have finished a while ago, but haven’t found anything quite like in a long time.
Mogworld by Yhatzee Croshaw
This is the book that got me back to reading. It is written by a comedy video game reviewer and I would say he has done quite well.
A young mage named Jim is disappointed by his lack of progress in Mage School, but when his college is destroyed by its neighbor, Jim comes back with a new lease on life. Or so he thought now Jim and his zombie compatriots are complaining to their necromancer about pension plans and dental insurance. Morale for zombies is something that was never considered until a certain undead lord had considered they might be sentient.
Follow Jim in his adventure to figure out what is wrong with this new world, and hopefully, he can die in peace.
Content warning: some profanity, used with class (mostly). Mention of rotting corpses but no descriptions of viscera. No sexual content
Having not read since Mogworld, I was beginning to give up hope until I found this little gem. It is independently published, so it has a few errors, but I thought it was worth the read still. A bit odd, and a foray into a new genre calling itself LITrpg (for literary role play game).
These are books where leveling up as a person and fighting monsters to do so is very much a thing. This book is self-published by the author and it shows. I forgive it because it is so full of humor, I haven’t laughed this hard since reading fool (Christopher Moore).
Dungeon born by Dakota Krout
Our protagonist is CAL, as in calcium. He is a crystal, but he is sentient and can manipulate the world around him. That makes him a dungeon core. When Cal almost dies, he decides to take matters into his own metaphorical hands and become the strongest dungeon there ever was. This means Cal kills adventurers for fun. Oh and he eats them, definitely eats them.
Content warning: very little if any profanity, no sexual content, geek humor
Exploring further into this newfound LITrpg genre, I found this neat little story about a goblin and revenge. If you like video games you may just like this next one. It is a trilogy but comes together really well in the end.
Life Reset (New Era Online Book 1) by Shemer Kuznits
Our protagonist starts out like any other high level character in a video game, bored and apathetic. That is until his entire guild turns on him and transforms him into a level 1 goblin. This is a story of revenge and leveling up. May not be for everyone but I enjoyed it so much I read through all three of them before picking up anything else.
Content Warning: low profanity throughout, anything sexual is ‘fade to black’, ritual sacrifice and dismemberment amongst various battles.
This is not available at the library currently, but can be read on Kindle Unlimited.
The next one started out very interesting with a d list super person that finally found a use for his dumb power, but then something happened. The same tale seemed to be told over and over through the trilogy. I would definitely suggest the first as just the premise alone is worth a look. However, the author seems to retell the rise of power and the sudden attack of Felix more times than there are books in this series. I felt compelled to finish after I had realized this in the second book. If you do make it to the end of the trilogy there is a bit of a lackluster conclusion.
Perhaps I'll just suggest reading the first one then.
Super sales on super heroes by William D. Argand
(The blurb does it best so I’ll just leave that here)
In a world full of super powers, Felix has a pretty crappy one.
He has the ability to modify any item he owns. To upgrade anything.
Sounds great on paper. Almost like a video game.
Except that the amount of power it takes to actually change, modify, or upgrade anything worthwhile is beyond his abilities.
With that in mind, Felix settled into a normal life. A normal job.
His entire world changes when the city he lives in is taken over by a Super Villain. Becoming a country of one city. A city state.
Surprisingly, not a whole lot changed. Politicians were still corrupt. Banks still held onto your money. And criminals still committed crime.
Though the black market has become more readily available.
And in that not so black market, Felix discovers he has a way to make his power useful after all, and grasps a hold of his chance with both hands.
Content warning: This novel contains graphic violence, undefined relationships/partial harem (fade to black), unconventional opinions/beliefs, and a hero who is as tactful as a dog at a cat show. Read at your own risk.
The last one for me is a book that I wasn’t sure of after seeing the movie. I was assured and was not disappointed the audiobook of ready player one. If you have seen the movie (or even if you haven't) this is quite a ride. Many artistic liberties were taken with the movie, but the real meat of the whole story seemed to be taken out. I highly suggest going back and listening or reading this book. Especially if you like dungeons and dragons, board games, video games, the 1980s or anything my parents aren’t particularly fond of.
Ready player one by Ernest Cline
Living in a fractured home in a dystopian future isn’t that tough, especially if you have a super awesome virtual reality to lose yourself in every day. Wade was one of the last holdouts of Gunters, one of the Easter egg hunters. Many promises were made to the person that could find all the eggs upon the creator’s death, but it has been five years and no person has even had an idea of how to find any of the eggs. Follow wade as he uses useless 1980s trivia knowledge and l33t nerd skills to find the eggs and leave his sorry life behind. Love and conflict will both be found. By the way, way more licensed properties were used in the book than the movie, making it by far the better media for obscure references.
Content warning: violence and language throughout. Twitterpated relationships only, nerd refrences for the most advanced geeks possible.
Bonus points, if you want to see any of the games mentioned in ready player one, come ask me on game day, I can pull most of them up for you to play :D
I have been trying to learn more of the genres in the adult reading section of the library and something that I did not realize was how many movies actually came from books. I knew of quite a few books to movies that had existed but there are many more like the Circle by Dave Eggers and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell which I will discuss in this post. I always love to read the book because there are always parts of the books that cannot be added to the movie. The following are books that you may want to read, and then check out the movie!
The Circle By David Eggers
David Eggers is very good at getting you hooked with a storyline which flows really well, considering that there are no chapters in this book. This book details a dystopian world where Mae Holland lands a job at the Circle, a major internet company. Mae thinks that she has landed her dream job but then quickly finds out that the Circle wants nothing to be secret and that everything about everyone should be known. With cameras virtually everywhere in the world and the Circle wanting to complete "the circle" Mae must decide whether or not she wants to be a part of their work.
This book does have sexual content in it and swearing.
The movie has none of the sexual content in it but it kept the swearing.
The Help By Kathryn Stockett
This hilarious yet serious telling of what life was like as an African American Maid in the 1960s also discusses maid life before the 1960s. Skeeter has just graduated from college with the dream of becoming a writer. She embarks on this journey by enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who just lost her son and is upset at the world for letting it happen, and Minny who is the best cook in all of Mississippi but has a knack for getting herself in trouble by speaking when she shouldn’t. With Aibileen and Minny’s help Skeeter is able to start writing her book about the help in Mississippi while also enlisting the help of other maids to tell their stories even though it could mean risking their lives. It is pretty funny to read about what happens after the book is published and the town of Jackson, Mississippi starts to talk about who might be who in the stories.
The movie moves right along with the storyline of the book. I saw the movie first and then read the book and they are pretty close to each other.
Ready Player One By Ernest Cline
Set in the year 2045 Wade Watts finds refuge in the virtual game world of the OASIS. Wade studies all of the puzzles within the game to try and find the creators hidden easter eggs within the game. These hidden clues will lead the player to a prize that will change someone’s life. When Wade finds the first clue he also finds himself in trouble with other players who try to kill him in real life so that they can beat him to the next clues and win the prize for themselves. If he wins the prize his life will change forever and he will have control over the OASIS.
This movie is just as action packed as the book as Wade and his friends try to beat the professionals to the keys of the OASIS.
World War Z: An Oral History By Max Brooks
If you like Zombies you need to read this book! The book of World War Z is so different from the movie and I am so glad that I read the book first. The book is about agent Max Brooks, from what I gathered, traveling throughout the world gathering as many accounts as he could of how people survived and what they are doing now to survive the Zombie Apocalypse and report it to the postwar commission. People went to the coldest of regions and to the southern regions to escape the zombie war. This book is listed under scary and gives details as to how the events happened.
The movie is completely different with a storyline being put into place that is easier to follow.
Cloud Atlas By David Mitchell
This book can get a little confusing while reading so it’s difficult trying to explain it. It’s multiple stories, within one story, that are all interconnected in someway. This story starts out in 1850 with Adam Ewing traveling the world, he befriends a doctor who treats him for a rare brain parasite. The story then flashes forward to 1931 Belgium where Robert Frobisher is a disinherited bisexual composer who creates a plan to get into the home of a maestro with a beautiful and wife and daughter. It then jumps to the West Coast in the 1970s to Lewisa Rey as she finds a corporate web of greed and murder and gets herself into so much trouble that her life is on the line. We finally end up in the present day in England. Korea is the super power with neocapitalism creating a mess. Things then flash forward to the future with a post apocalyptic Iron Age in Hawaii where history will end. Things then start flowing backward through history to the beginning of the story with Adam Ewing. It’s during this return back through history that we find out how all these characters are connected.
There is swearing and violence in this book as well as sexual content.
The movie is Rated R for the same content as the book.
For this blog I am focusing on books with more of a science fiction element.
First up is Remake by Ilima Todd
Remake is a quick and interesting read about futuristic society where children are raised in batches, ten boys and ten girls, until they reach 17. Then they are sent to the remake facility where they pick everything from their hair color and name, to their gender and occupation before they join society. The story follows nine (the ninth female to be born into the batch) while she struggles with indecision heading into her remake.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Scythe is set in a world with no hunger, disease, or war. People don’t die anymore. The revival centers take care of that. The problem is, as everyone agrees, the population still needs to be kept under control. The solution are Scythes. Scythes are the only ones that can take human life. The story follows two scythe apprentices as they are taught how to take lives and fill quotas.
The One by John Marrs
The One is about what happens after a genetic connection is discovered and able to match a person with their soul mate. The story follows five different people as they received the news of their match and are about to meet their one true love. Unfortunately a guaranteed true love does not guarantee and happily ever after.
,The Year’s Best Science Fiction 29th annual Collection
Ok I know picking a year’s best is a bit on the nose for a science fiction pick but some of my all-time favorite reads have come from the short stories collections. There is nothing quite like it when ten pages worth of words stick with you for years after you read it. Whether reading a select few, or the whole book, the Science Fiction Collection is always a worthwhile check out.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is the first book in a series of science fiction fairytale retellings. Cinder follows the cyborg, mechanic, that the book was named after, as she runs a repair booth for her stepmother. She has built a name for herself with her repair skills and those skills are what bring Price Kai to her booth. After meeting Prince Kai, Cinder finds herself wrapped up in secrets and problems she didn’t know she had, as well as a whole host of new ones.
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai B.L. 4.8
Newbery Award and honor books are regarded as high quality writing for a reason. They often address issues that adults and, maybe especially children, face. This book discusses what it is like to be a refugee, however it is formatted differently than what would be considered normal. It is from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl whose family has to flee Vietnam during wartime. It is not only from her perspective, but is written in verse, which is different and attention getting. This does not have to be read at a certain pace or rhythm like other types of poetry. The format of the writing is mean to communicate a feeling and perhaps some underlying message, but this can be read exactly like any other book!
This novel discusses really difficult issues such as living in a war zone, escaping, and trying to make a new home in a place where not everyone is accepting. This is a great read for all ages, though the issues may be more difficult to grasp for younger readers. This can also be a good way to broach subjects such as empathy and acceptance.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage B.L. 3.9
Three Times Lucky is a really interesting novel from the perspective of 11-year-old Moses LoBeau. Mo (as everyone calls her) is a very intelligent little girl who washed up in a stream in North Carolina as a newborn after a hurricane upstream--no doubt prompting the name “Moses.” Mo is taken in by the Colonel and Miss Lana who raise and love her.
The summer before Mo goes to 6th grade a new man comes to the tiny town of Tupelo Landing-- detective Starr-- as well as a murderer. Mo and her friend Dale start on the journey of finding the killer, while Mo continues to search for her Upstream Mother. Mo and Dale are caught up in a murder and kidnapping with some great twists and reveals in the novel. There is also some internal growth for Mo as she learns what her family in Tupelo means to her.
While this book is a 3.9 level, I would recommend it to slightly older readers. It may be difficult to grasp some language and terminology that is colloquial in North Carolina, but relatively foreign in this part of the country. It may also be difficult for younger readers to grasp the relationship dynamics between Mo, Colonel, and Miss Lana, as well as the abusive relationships in the Johnson family. Having said all of that, it was a really enjoyable book and will keep young and old readers entertained!
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm B.L. 4.8
There is a lack of punctuation such as parenthesis during conversation, as well as commas. There is also an increase in capitalization that should normally only exist at the beginning of sentences and with proper nouns. This lack of adherence to common English rules and punctuations exists in order to emphasize that the story is being told by a 12-year-old pioneer with limited education. In her storytelling, things such as parentheses and commas don’t matter as much, and she capitalizes for emphasis rather than in adherence to any rules. This is a great facet of this book! The storytelling is not just through the words, but through the appearance and organization of the book as well, making it feel more genuine.
As for content, this book is really about May Amelia finding her place as the only girl among so many men. She-- like most children-- feels restricted in what she can do, mainly because she is told that she is not allowed to do the same things as her brothers. She is constantly testing her boundaries in order to find out who she is and what is going to be best for her. These issues are similar to those faced by many children and therefore I feel the book level is mostly appropriate. I say “mostly” because the book also addresses the topic of loss very poignantly. There is a lot of grief that May Amelia comes to terms with-- even though she may not fully understand it. This topic may be sensitive for some readers, but it is also important that it be addressed. Overall, this was a wonderful book for fifth grade readers and older.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate B.L. 3.6
This is a novel about a silverback gorilla, Ivan, who for decades is kept in a small cage in a roadside mall. Ivan begins the novel as a calm and patient gorilla surrounded by other animals who are attractions in the roadside mall. Ivan is not at peace with his situation, but has blocked out memories about where he came from and his former life in the wild. However, as he talks with Stella-- an elephant in a nearby cage-- and connects with a new addition to the mall, Ivan uses his love for art to fulfill a promise and save his friends.
This novel is based on a real-life gorilla who was kept in isolation for decades, and while it is a 3.6 reading level, and can be understood at that level, it is an emotionally mature story. There is some violence and a lot of heartache and sadness. However, this book does bring up good points about not settling for what you have always known, but aspiring to something more. It can also teach about using your talents and work to benefit others and improve yourself. This novel has great content and is a quick read. It may be best for readers who are a little older and able to understand and deal with the emotional turmoil in the book.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham B.L. 4.1
Jean Lee Latham put an extensive amount of research into this historical fiction novel. It is about Nathaniel Bowditch, the man who wrote “The American Practical Navigator” which greatly improved the safety and accuracy of sailing. Mr. Bowditch is portrayed as an extremely intelligent man who has a passion for learning and sailing. There is some information that may be difficult for younger readers to fully grasp, but it is not overly technical. While there is mention of family members and spouses, these details fade into the background of the story. The main focus of the story is sailing and the study and learning of Nathaniel Bowditch which allow him to improve sailing for everyone. There is also a strong focus on Mr. Bowditch’s teaching efforts. He endeavors to teach those on the ship who are not well learned. Through this he learns how to explain sailing concepts and the mathematics involved in different and simpler ways in order to allow many people to learn and understand.
One overarching lesson that can be taken from this book is: Anyone can learn and improve themselves and their lives through hard work and dedication. This book might be a little difficult for younger readers to understand specifics, but it is a historical adventure that can be appreciated in some way or another by readers of any age.
Check out this post for some great murder and mayhem reading suggestions if you are not one for warm and fuzzy holiday reads!
“H” is for Homicide By Sue Grafton
As a part of Grafton’s Alphabet series Kinsey Millhone is at it again, but this time she has taken on a false identity to uncover insurance fraud for the California Fidelity insurance company. Everything changes when one of Kinsey’s close friends is murdered and she is taken in for questioning. She is arrested with Bibianna Diaz who is connected to the gang suspected of killing Kinsey’s friend. Things spiral downward quickly as more and more information gets out and people are getting hurt and even killed. Will Kinsey be able to keep Bibianna Diaz alive and keep things sane in her own life? You’ll just have to read the mystery to find out.
Hour of the Hunter by J.A. Jance
Diana Ladd is trying to piece her life back together 6 years after her husband took his own life to escape the trial for the death of a young Papago Indian girl. The other suspected killer in the case, a once professor, Carlisle, is convicted of the murder and sentenced to serve jail time after Diana and the dead girl’s grandmother, Rita Antone, push for Carlisle’s conviction for the murder. Now 6 years later Carlisle is being released from prison and he has a hunger for killing. Diana and her son’s lives are all at stake as they try to stay hidden from Carlisle as the police search for him. Can Diana stay alive long enough for the authorities to catch him?
The General’s Daughter by Nelson Demille
Captain Ann Campbell is the daughter of General Joe Campbell. She is found dead on the firing range at Fort Hadley and Paul Brenner is brought in to investigate her murder. As a member of the Army’s elite undercover detective unit, Brenner finds out that the general’s daughter isn’t as innocent as first believed when he finds out how many people she had been seeing on the base. The honor code has kept all the different types of relations she was having a secret up until now and Brenner has to put everything together to find out just who killed Ann Campbell and why.
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly
Ranee Ballard was just returning from working the night shift as a police officer when she returns to her office and finds a man rummaging through her old files. The man identifies himself as Harry Bosch, a retired detective. There was a cold case that he could not get out of his head and he had to search into the matter. Ballard kicks him out of her office and later researches the case files that Bosch was looking at. He was looking at the murder of a 15 year old runaway named Daisy Clayton. Ballard also find outs that what sparked Bosch’s interests in the murder is that he has taken in the girl’s father who is a recovering addict. Ballard teams up with Bosch on the case and they end up within the area of the Varrio San Fer 13 gang, the most dangerous gang in California. Are they able to survive the gang and find Daisy’s murderer?
Voodoo River By Robert Crais
Elvis Cole is hired by a hollywood starlet and her agent to find out who her birth parents really are. When Cole arrives in Louisiana and starts investigating he quickly finds out that this in not a simple case. Blackmail, murder, and love is the mess that he has to put together and find out the facts of what really happened and why. After putting all the pieces together it’s time for Cole and the blackmailed victims to go after their blackmailer. Things get even deeper though as Cole finds out that it’s more than just blackmailing they are facing. He calls in his partner to help him when they find out that they are dealing with forces that shouldn’t be dealt with.
Long Road to Mercy By David Baldacci
13 years ago Atlee was spared by a kidnapper when he chose between taking her or her twin sister Mercy. After he chose Mercy, Atlee never saw her again. Daniel James Tor was convicted of other murders but Atlee believes that he was also the one who took Mercy. Atlee is now an adult working for the FBI in Arizona keeping watch over the Grand Canyon. She has a need to help find those that are missing as she's living with survivor's guilt. A mule is found stabbed multiple times at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the rider is missing. Atlee will have to put all of her skills to the test for this case and will perhaps have to face the demon of her past.
Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson
Goldy is running her own catering business with her assistant Julian who is dating Claire Satterfield a sales associate with the Mignon Cosmetics Company. Mignon asks Goldy to cater an event for them with one of the most difficult menus that she has ever had. Everything that she is to prepare has to be low calorie.
Things are going great until Claire Satterfield gets hit and killed by a car before the event starts. Goldy thinks that it is just an accident but the police think that there are other motives. Goldy and her detective husband then go on the search for Claire's killer, finding out along the way that the corporate cosmetic world is a cutthroat industry.
This book also has recipe’s that are a part of the story and are also included for you to give them a try.
To Die But Once By Jacqueline Winspear
This book is set in the 1940s with European advance during World War II. Maisie Dobbs investigates as to why a local pub owner’s son, Joe Coombes, has not checked in with them in a while. He is working on a government contract as an apprentice to a painting and decorating company but he was acting strange and complaining of headaches before they lost contact with him. She finds out during her investigation that a very well known London family is involved in organized crime and may be involved in the disappearance of Joe. Maisie is also dealing with her own problems as she is taking in an orphaned child and the person she loves makes a life changing choice for the both of them.
Death of a Village by M.C. Beaton
As a part of the Hamish MacBeth series, Hamish returns to visit the fishing town of Stoyre, Scotland. The residents are acting a little strange. He heads to the pub where everyone should be to only find it empty but he then finds everyone at the church. He can tell things are not right just by the feelings in the air, and he knows that everyone is scared. A well known cottage was leveled by an explosion and Hamish thinks that it was foul play and so he starts looking in the matter. He enlists the help of a journalist to help him investigate the situation when his good old friend unexpectedly dies. It is not all just coincidence and if he isn't careful Hamish may lose the loved ones around him.
Christmas Cake Murder By Joanne Fluke
It’s a very merry murder Christmas story with Hannah Swensen’s dreams of opening up her own bakery in Lake Eden. She’s asked to recreate a Christmas Ball from days of old in honor of Essie Granger; a woman who lives in Lake Eden but now resides in an assisted living. Hannah asks Essie for notes about how to make the Christmas Ball and is given permission to look at all of her notes. Hannah soon finds that Essie has written a very exceptional crime novel, but Hannah but Hannah starts to think maybe it isn't all just fiction as things in her life start to match the story line of Essie’s unpublished book. Is Essie’s book just a story, or is it something that is real that went unreported all these years?
As librarians at the Portneuf Library, we love the holidays (just check out our awesome holiday events and decorations if you don’t believe us!) but we know it can begin to feel like you’re reading the same Christmas book over and over every year. That’s why this year Crystal and I have teamed up to give you our picks for books that have a fresh take on holiday themes and that just might leave you feeling a little jollier.
Children and Teen Picks:
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
This warm holiday read is Tomie dePaola’s retelling of the classic Mexican folktale; the flower of the Holy Night. dePaola’s familiar style illuminates this beautiful holiday story which makes for a great opportunity to learn together as a family about how another culture celebrates Christmas.
Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss with illustrations by David Catrow
Basically every kid has wished that every day could be Christmas, presents, candy, and time off from school included. But through the alternate universe of Merry Un-Christmas where only one day a year isn’t Christmas, kids and adults alike can be reminded about just what makes that day so special and why we might even be a little grateful that it’s only a once a year occurrence.
The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman with illustrations by Dan Santat
In this book, the author of the My Weird School series asks the question “What would you do if you could guarantee that you’d get your Christmas wish?” and of course holiday hoopla ensues as one elementary school class struggles to find the answer. Besides being hilarious, this book is also a good discussion starter for families to share what their wishes would be and what would happen if they suddenly came true.
Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise
This adorable and wintery read is a much needed reminder that while some gifts might not be as wish list worthy as others, it is truly the thought behind each present and the loved ones who give them to us who matter the most.
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This adorable book is a cute candy cane style twist on a cliché Christmas courtship that’s like You’ve Got Mail with more sass. The back and forth scavenger hunt style of the book leads the characters (and the reader) all around New York City during the happiest and busiest time of the year. This book is a great read whether you’re not as into to Christmas like Dash (guilty as charged!) or are like Lily who is festive enough for the rest of us combined. The holiday hijinks also continue in the sequel, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, which takes place on Christmas the following year.
Other festively fun titles:
-The Worst Person’s Christmas by James Stevenson
-Who is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? by Martha Freeman
-The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements.
-Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season by James Finn Garner
-Matchless by Gregory Maguire
-Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Yuletide Yahoos
-Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges by Jen Mann
And for a dose of Christmas nostalgia we have a list of quick reads. Most of the books are 200 pages or less, making them perfect for the busy holiday seasons.
First off we have Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.
Luther and Nora Krank are facing their first Christmas in twenty years without their daughter. She is out of the country and Nora and Luther know Christmas just won’t be the same, so they decide to skip it. They are skipping the crowds, the corny office parties, the fruitcakes, and the presents. They have decided to go on a cruise instead. This decision soon proves to be more difficult than it sounds. The story of the Kranks is a funny and entertaining read that is quick and fun.
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid
A Dog Named Christmas is a feel good story about a boy named Todd McCray and a special dog changing a family and a town. It all starts when Todd hears about the Adopt a Dog for Christmas Program. He convinces his parents to let him participate and after that he convinces the town to join in. The book is only 149 pages but it’s full of funny, sweet and happy feelings. It’s a great book for getting into a Christmas mood.
The Gift by Nora Roberts
The Gift is actually a set of two Christmas romances, starting with Home for Christmas. Jason is a traveling reporter heading back home after ten years, determined to win back his old flame Faith. The Second Story is All I Want for Christmas where twins Zack and Zeke have one wish for Christmas. They want a mom, and when they meet their new music teacher Miss. Davis They are convinced she is sent for them. Now they just have to convince her and their dad. Both stories are cute reads with fun holiday themes and show it’s never too late for second chances.
Christmas Out West is a collection of western Christmas stories
Christmas out West is a great collection of western Christmas stories, with both classic and contemporary. There are 16 short stories to choose from, making it great for a quick short story here and there, or an afternoon or two of reading them all.
Secret Santa by Robert Miller
It’s Christmas and Rebecca Chandler is in no mood. She has been dumped by her boyfriend and her work as a reporter has her covering seasonal fluff she has no interest in. When she is sent to the small town of Hamden to cover a story on a mysterious secret santa who shows up every Christmas Eve to give a generous gift to someone less fortunate, Rebecca decides not to write a fluffy, holiday piece, she is going to do an investigative piece on the identity on the secret santa. The story is a quick easy read that has the feel of a Hallmark movie. It’s great for mixing a little Christmas spirit into the pressure of the holiday.
Classic literature does not have to be limited to adult fiction or a classroom. Here are ten great classic works for young readers.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women follows the four March sisters in a coming of age tale about growing up, love, and individuality. The sisters have unique personalities that make them easy to identify with, even centuries later. It is an interesting insight into life for young women in the 19th century, but also a moving story about family and budding identities.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty is the life story of a horse with the same name. The story follows his life from a colt to retirement as he learns important moral lessons. It is a great story to teach young readers about empathy and care for animals. It is also one of the biggest selling books of all time!
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdson Burnett
Frances Hogdson Burnett is responsible for a few of my favorite childhood stories. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Sarah from A Little Princess is a naturally caring and generous girl who goes from wealth, poverty, and back to wealth. Along the way, she makes friends with the underdogs and teaches others (even adults) the value of empathy. Mary in The Secret Garden, on the other hand, was an ignored child who grew up spiteful and uncaring. She eventually learns a lesson on empathy and gains what she’s always craved, love and friendship.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is another classic that teaches young readers about the importance of caring for others. Especially those who can’t speak for themselves (like animals). The story follows Wilbur the pig as he and his barnyard friends try to keep him from the slaughterhouse. With the help of Charlotte the spider and her miracle webs, Wilbur learns about the challenges of growing up (and apart) and death.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
For most of us, Where the Red Fern Grows brings up memories of the tearfilled afternoon we finished it in elementary school. The story follows Billy and his two hunting dogs as they chase down raccoons and win hunting championships. It is a timeless classic, but will probably make young readers a little weepy.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time follows siblings Meg and Charles Wallace on a quest to find their father who has been trapped by “The Black Thing.” With the help of a human boy named Calvin and the three supernatural Mrs. Ws, the children go on an adventure through space and time to save their father (and the universe) from the evil “Black Thing.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is responsible for numerous childhood classics but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might be his most famous work. The book follows Charlie’s adventure through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The characters in the story learn valuable lessons about greed. Matilda is another favorite classic of Dahl’s. It is the story of a very intelligent little girl who develops telekinesis due to the neglect and mistreatment from her family and school headmistress.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes may not have been around as long as the other books on the list but it is another personal favorite. Stanley Yelnats’s entire family was cursed with bad luck, thanks to his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” When Stanley is falsely accused to stealing an expensive pair of shoes, he’s sent off to Camp Green Lake to dig holes for the Warden. Though the holes are supposed to “build character” it seems that the Warden is actually after the infamous treasure buried in the desert by the outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
For anyone not quite ready to let go of the creepy, scary, monsters, and magic of Halloween just yet I have a few books that can help you hang on to it for a little while longer.
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
This book is a really unique read. It’s fast paced and thrilling, following first a girl named Melanie and the rest of really interesting group of characters living on a military base after a big fungal infection wipes out a lot of the population. The blurb on the back is what caught me and it did not disappoint.
“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.”
The Collection by Bentley Little
This book is a collection of short stories that will really fill the creepy and scary want. I originally read this one years ago and it was still the first one I thought of when I started looking for stories for this blog.
*Some of the short stories can be disturbing, containing violence, assault, and graphic descriptions.
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes.
They don’t all have to be scary to fit into the theme and Fred the Vampire Accountant is really not scary but it is funny and filled with the supernatural. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla and loved it. Fred was an uninteresting guy and found himself supremely disappointed when that didn’t change after he turned into a vampire. The book is written almost like a diary and goes through a series or adventures that Fred gets roped into by his growing collection of friends, starting with his high school reunion.
Hocus Pocus & the All New Sequel by A.W Jantha
I had to mention this one. Hocus Pocus is a movie I’ve watched every year for Halloween. This is a two-part novel that starts with a retelling of the original movie and continues on to a sequel twenty five years later with Max and Allison’s daughter Poppy and her own encounter with the Sanderson Sisters.
Elsewhere by William Blatty
I found a nice haunted house book to round out the list. The story follows Joan Freeboard a tough, New York, real estate agent that is set to sell a mansion for giant commission. The fact that it’s haunted is just another step in the process. She gets herself a plan and a ghost busting team. This book was a fun read with fast pace.
Thanks for the read!
The weird fiction genre is the result you get when you throw books of fantasy, science fiction, and horror into a blender. Often including intense and/or graphic scenes and language, these titles are recommended for older teens and adults.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: Sentient, steam-powered robots? Check. A love affair between a scientist and a member of a half-woman, half-insect species? Check. Trans-dimensional spiders that only speak in telepathic, stream-of-consciousness free verse? Double check. Join the throngs of New Crobuzon, an overcrowded city full of mismatched people while this book sucks you into its vortex with a great story and even better world building. While working on his latest project, Isaac, a freelance research scientist, unwittingly unleashes a horror that feeds on dreams. Meanwhile his partner, Lin, is commissioned to sculpt a life-size statue of one of New Crobuzon’s most dangerous criminals.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda: What do you do when your inner monster keeps trying to eat your friends? Blending pieces of steampunk with anthropomorphic animals and Lovecraftian creatures, Monstress is a beautifully drawn graphic novel set in an alternate version of Asia. Here, a teenage girl is desperately trying to figure out the truth behind her past and how to control the thing that lives inside of her.
The Southern Reach Trilogy--Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer: In an undisclosed region on the southeast coast, behind a barrier that defies scientific explanation, lies Area X. The first expedition into Area X found ruins of the towns and houses of the people who once lived there, but no signs of the people themselves. Members of the third expedition died at each other’s hands in a free-for-all firefight. Members of the eleventh expedition suddenly returned home unseen with no memory of where they had been only to die months later from a particularly malignant form of cancer. Annihilation is the story of the 12th expedition, a group of 4 female scientists: a psychologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a biologist. Unable to communicate with the outside world, these four women must try to find the secrets behind Area X and make it back alive. Area X, however, has other plans…
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: Think all librarians are quiet and mousey? Try this novel where they are all homicidal psychopaths. In the beginning was the head librarian, Adam Black, and his twelve student librarians—Father and his twelve children. Now Father has gone missing. Many of the librarians suspect David, librarian over the catalogue of war and Father’s once favorite son. Or was is Father’s right-hand general, the ancient tiger Nobununga? Regardless, Carolyn, librarian over the catalogue of languages, has a plan. If only her plan cared more about humans and less about countering attacks from immortal beings made of pure thought or girls that walk the lands of the dead.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: Welcome to a town where time doesn’t exist and summoning the secret police is as simple as speaking into the microphone that’s (poorly) hidden above your fridge. Here, the mother of a shape changing boy first glimpses the boy’s father for the first time in years. Then she sees another one of him. Then another. Meanwhile, a girl who doesn’t age and can’t remember where her mother keeps the silverware (a trapdoor under the scalded milk drawer) is handed a slip of paper that she literally cannot put down. Welcome to Night Vale is a humorous addition to your reading list, managing to be both dark- and light-hearted at the same time.
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others: No list of the weird can be complete without including one of the genre’s greatest and original author’s: H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu, the dreaded tentacled horror, has gone from little-known character to pop culture icon. This anthology of short tales includes Lovecraft’s original legend, The Call of Cthulhu, as well as new stories written by many different authors.
For our final back to school blog, Crystal and I wanted to feature books that deal with the dreaded topic of high school.
Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reluctantly Alice is about a girl named Alice starting junior high. She has one goal starting the seventh grade: She wants everyone to like her. She doesn’t need to be popular, but she want everyone to think well of her. Unfortunately that is going to be harder than she thought with Dennis Whitlock hating her. This book is filled with all the dramas of staring middle school. Reluctantly Alice is told in a realistic way that makes it relatable and entertaining.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters is a great read about a girl named Eliza, who in school doesn’t fit in, doesn’t talk to anyone, and is dreaming of the day she gets to go off to college and never look back. Eliza online however is LadyConstellation, the anonymous maker of the comic Monstrous Sea. Her friends are online. Her story is online, and her life is online. She doesn’t see what the big draw of the real world is until she meets Wallace Warland. He is the new kid in school and an avid writer of Monstrous Sea fanfiction.
This book definitely has strong language and touches on some serious issues such as depression and suicide. It also has the parents in the book talking casually about sex.
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
Evil Genius is a book about Cadel Piggott, a genius, who at seven already knew how to hack into computers and through some devious tutoring he learns all sorts of mischief and how to not getting caught. When he is fourteen he is invited to study at Axis Institute to earn his world domination degree. He studies classes for embezzlement, forgery, misinformation, and infiltration, but when he meets a girl online, a girl outside of his evil genius life, he starts to question what he is doing. Evil Genius is a really great read with humor, a few twists, and a bit of a dark side.
While it doesn’t go into a lot of detail, the book does have violence to look out for, and strong language.
Alive by Chandler Baker
Alive, when you read the back seems like just another teen romance, but it end up taking a bit of a twist that made it a really surprising read. The main character Stella has been waiting of the list for a heart transplant for years. She is running out of time and starting to think she won’t reach 18, when it finally happens. She gets a new heart and throws herself into her new life. She meets a new boy named Levi and has never been so drawn to anyone as she is him. She literally aches when he is away. Her recovery is complicated however by hallucinations and recurring pain and soon leads to some unsettling complications.
This book, while sounding mild and cute, has thrilling moments and darkness to watch out for.
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Anything but Typical is a wonderful story about a twelve year old boy named Jason Blake. Jason has autism and the story is a first person narration of his struggles to understand and fit in a neurotypical world, and of him finding his first friend through on online site where he posts his writing. Throughout the story you see the world through Jason's experiences, and his difficulty with interacting with people, his family, and at school, and it really endears you to the character. It is really a worthwhile read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky is a love letter to teens who feel like they don’t quite fit in (who among us hasn’t at one point, especially in high school?). Throughout the schoolyear, former shy kid Charlie is taken under the wing of an eccentric group of older friends who help him to be less afraid of being himself and all the good and trickier parts that come with that. (This book deals with abuse and suicide, but with an ultimately positive outcome).
Scrawl by Mark Shulman goes beyond the typical behind the bully narrative to delve into what life is truly like Todd “pops” Munn. With humor, wit, and laugh out loud vivid description, this unique book is perfect for anyone who wishes that others would take more time to get to know their real story.
Other High School Reads:
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Yearbook by Ally Condie
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Monster High by Lisi Harrison
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!