Book Bomb! Superlative Summer-End Selects

Summer is officially over! Adieu l'été, bonjour l'automne! The smell of school is in the air, daylight yawns sleepily as the shadows stretch in waking, and the rush to the holidays, mad as birds, looms! Here’s a list of some of my very favorite season’s-end reads to stave off the inevitable decline of your hard-won summer zen:

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of my absolute favorites this year, by fantastic fantasist Neil Gaiman (award-winning author of The Graveyard Book).  Mentioned previously (here), I loved it so much I thought it deserved another recommendation.   A short story that grew into a brilliant novel that I wanted never to end, it’s a modern fairy tale of sorts if one of Gaiman’s own imagining, composed of the waking memories of a man who comes home after a long time away. Things he thought the daydreams of a lonely boy might actually be real, such as the strange, powerful trio he befriends in the house at the end of the lane; a girl who claims that her little pond is actually an ocean (but only when it wants to be); her mother who plucks secrets seemingly from the air; and the old woman who remembers the world before the moon was made (and may have had a hand in its making). Bittersweet, fanciful, and more than a little frightening (like the best of fairy tales) it’s definitely worth reading more than once.

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, I discovered as a crazy random happenstance; it was delightfully serendipitous. This contemporary fantasy wasn’t even on my radar but should’ve been; it has all the elements that remind me of the top British writers in the genre, such as the aforementioned Neal Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and J.K. Rowling (with a little bit of Dr. Who thrown in). It’s clever, humorous (in a clever way), suspenseful (without being overly clever), and a fresh new take on the secret government agency theme. A girl wakes up to find herself surrounded by a circle of dead people who are all wearing latex gloves. She has no memory of who she is, or how she got into the mess she is in, but in her pocket she discovers a letter that begins: “Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine. The scar on the inner left thigh is there because I fell out of a tree and impaled my leg at the age of nine… But you probably care little about this body’s past… the name of the body you are in? It’s Myffanwy… I would say that it’s my name, but you’ve got the body now, so I suppose you’ll be using it.” Hooked? I sure was. I highly recommend you find out the rest…

Me Before YouMe Before You, by Jojo Moyes, seems misleading because it gives the impression of being a love story, promising a grand heartstring-plucking romance, and it delivers that, but it’s also a deeply emotional exploration of what life means to different people, and how they deal with the heavier aspects that can make living a struggle. Lou Clark is perfectly happy in her little town, working in a little tea shop, living her little comfortable life. Until she loses her job and finds herself working as an in-home caretaker for the wealthy Will Traynor who feels as though he’s lost so much more than he can bear after a terrible motorcycle accident limits what was once a fabulous, jet-setting lifestyle. He’s definitely not prepared for this girl who seems to have so much more depth than expected of someone not as experienced as he in the worldly sense. And she wasn’t expecting this bitter, jaded shadow of a man to show her how to really live. Also, I wept at the end. Hard as.

Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns Revenge Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger, is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel The Devil Wears Prada (which was adapted into a wonderful film starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway and is still one of my favorite not-so-guilty pleasures). I had a difficult time deciding whether to include this title because I’m torn between deciding whether I enjoyed it, or really disliked it.  My personification of the characters has been greatly influenced by their cinematic counterparts and, for me personally, revisiting them even if only across the pages of a book is like seeing what happens after the movie’s end credits.  It’s been ten years since Andy quit as assistant/whipping-boy to Miranda Priestly and her life is better than she could have dreamed. Now running her own successful magazine (with none other than Emily Number One) and engaged to a handsome and well-born entrepreneur, everything is finally falling into place. Until the so-named Prada-wearing Devil incarnate herself somehow manages to throw her fashionably evil shadow over Andy’s life once again. I wasn’t happy with the character development, or the ending, but then again, literary life can’t be like the movies.

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo’s Calling, by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, isn’t Harry Potter. It isn’t The Casual Vacancy either.  It is, however, a well-written, involving mystery that could’ve been penned by a man named Robert Galbraith; the only thing it has in common with the other books written by Rowling is that they were written by Rowling.   There’s tongue-in-cheek humor, great character development, and a mystery that is actually mysterious, but the style is (I feel) a sparkly new writerly facet from one of the most successful writers ever. Cormoran Strike is a private investigator down on his luck. His beautiful fiancée has only just officially become his ex-fiancée, his clients are mostly of the non-paying kind, and life in general seems to like kicking him even though he’s about as low as you could get. Fate hands him a chance to turn things around when a case falls right into his lap, investigating the police-ruled suicide of media darling supermodel Lula Landry which her brother vehemently refutes. Lula wasn’t known for being the most stable celebrity, but there may be more to her wild nature than a privileged upbringing.

Written in Red (The Others, #1)Written In Red, by Anne Bishop, is a bright new spin on contemporary tales of blood-drinkers and shapeshifters, and the first in an exciting series. Anne Bishop, author of my favorite dark fantasy series The Black Jewels Trilogy, has a way of picking apart tired story-threads and weaving them into something unexpected, dark, and entrancing, but grounded in realities that, while definitely fantastic, are character-driven and fully-formed. In a world where the dominant species are decidedly not human, Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, able to see into the future when her skin is cut, and a rare commodity sequestered with others of her kind to be bled for those with wealth enough to pay for the privilege. Escaping her stifling, cloistered life takes her into the dangerous world of the Others, the powerful races who once stalked the darkness in non-human shapes but took on (somewhat) more human form, if only to better keep mankind from ruining the world. Hired on as a Human Liaison (basically someone who keeps ignorant humans from being killed and eaten by aggravated members of these fierce, predatory races), Meg must contend with beings who know as much about interacting with regular humans as she does (which isn't much) , the people hunting her as lost property, and Simon Wolfgard who seems just as likely to eat her as he is to give her a pat on the head. Except Meg doesn’t act or smell like human prey…

Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy today!


READING for Early Literacy

Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write.  Literacy is like growing; it happens slowly over time.

READING with your child is the best way to help your child get ready to read! Children who think reading is fun are more likely to want to read themselves.  Here are some tips to make reading fun:

Interact with your child as you read. Ask questions and try to predict together what will happen next. Listen to what your child says.

When you come to an unfamiliar word, stop and talk about what it means.  Reading books introduces children to words that they may not hear in everyday conversation.  Knowing more words helps children become better readers.

When you are sharing books with your child, don’t overlook the pleasures of reading nonfiction (information books).  Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them and by reading nonfiction they can find out more about whatever interests them.

Here are a few nonfiction books that would be fun to share with children preschool to second grade:

Did you ever wonder where fluorescent paint colors came from?  I confess I never did until I read Day-Glo Brothers: the True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-new Colors by Chris Barton.  Beginning as magicians in the 1930’s who used a black light in their act, the Switzer brothers did not stop experimenting until they developed paint that glowed even in daytime.  This book demonstrates how patient and persistent inventors need to be.  Better yet, it is illustrated in eye-popping hues.

Children could be inspired to be naturalists in their own back yards by reading What Bluebirds Do by Pamela Kirby. A noted wildlife photographer, she set up a nest box in her garden and documented the activities of a pair of eastern bluebirds and their offspring. 

High-quality natural history illustrations distinguish Ape, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White.  The finely detailed and subtly colored drawings of orangutans, chimps, bonobos and gorillas, set against white backgrounds, invite the viewer to contemplate the expressions on the animals’ faces.  Jenkins contributes just enough text to define each species.

For more books about science and math, click here.

This is the second in a series of Book Talk articles about books that help parents get their children ready to read by engaging in interactive everyday activities. These recommendations are based on “Every Child Ready to Read®@Your Library®,”which is a program of the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association, divisions of the American Library Association. For more information about early literacy, go to 


Eleanor & Park

We are in the middle of Banned Books Week, the library world’s celebration of the freedom to read. Each year, libraries and bookstores all over the country highlight the books that are most commonly challenged in our schools and libraries (see 2012’s most frequently challenged books here).  As librarians, we absolutely support parents’ rights to be involved with what their children are reading, and we encourage it, but the idea that one parent or group of people can decide what other people’s children CAN’T read is exactly what Banned Books Week is all about disputing.

One teen book that has been getting a lot of buzz lately is Rainbow Rowell’s recent misfit love story Eleanor & Park; Banned Books Week seemed like the perfect time to finally read the book that has been sitting on my nightstand for weeks. This year in Minnesota, parents who objected to language in the book and to it being used as a summer reading selection lobbied to remove the book from the list and to cancel scheduled visits from the author- for all students, not just their own children. 
In Eleanor & Park, we meet Park on the school bus, turning up his Walkman (it is 1986, after all) to try to drown out the crass language and harassing remarks of the kids at the back of the bus. When the new girl climbs on board, a chubby redhead – fiery, bright red, wild curls – with weird clothes, Park can spot a target, even before those kids in the back catch a glimpse of her. With no other seats on the bus, without thinking about it and what it might mean, Park hisses at her to sit in the seat next to him. What starts as a study in separation (no eye contact, no interaction), eases into a kind of friendship, which blossoms into love.
You know that advice about giving a book 50 pages to decide if you like it? Rowell didn’t even use all 50 – she had me in tears at page 46, when Park makes Eleanor the first of many mix tapes. Their individual stories build chapter by chapter, in alternating points of view. Park, half-Korean in Omaha, is a bit unusual, but manages to walk the line between the cool kids and the complete losers, while Eleanor faces a much harder time at home and at school. As ugly as the world around them can be, these are two people that you want to invite into your heart, that you’ll root for and want to visit again. And, while I understand that an individual, as a parent, may not feel that this is the book for their teen at this time, I think that this is one that so many teens can find comfort and kinship in, and it deserves a space on our shelves for all of those kids (and the lucky adults who find it as well!). 

Also available as an audiobook (channel Park and listen on headphones!).


TALKING for Early Literacy!

Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write. Literacy is like growing, it happens slowly over time.

TALKING with your child is one of the five early literacy practices that help him or her get ready to read. It’s natural to talk to your child throughout the day. So here are a few tips to encourage conversation with your little one.

If English is your second language, speak in the language most fluent for you. You can always repeat words again in English. Your ease of expression in your home language will encourage better literacy in any language!

Narrate your day. Name objects, places and people. Describe what you and your child are doing or seeing. It’s important, after you’ve made a comment, to wait for your child to respond. Allow some time for her to think and put thoughts into words. Use complete sentences when responding to her comments. Repeat key words for emphasis and clarity. Did you know a child needs to hear a word 9-14 times before she really knows it?

Ask open ended questions —who, what, where, why, when or how. Then respond by adding a little more information. For example, your child sees something of interest, say a large stuffed gorilla at the library (we happen to have one here at the San Clemente Branch). You say, "What's that?" He points and says, “Gorilla!” You say, “Yes, big gorilla.” Elaborating on what your child says is the way he learns new vocabulary. It also expands his general knowledge.

According to the National Academy of Education, "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading aloud to children." Sharing a book together encourages conversation, and picture books are perfect for this. As you read stop and prompt your child to talk by asking a question, “Who’s driving the bus in the picture?” or “What kind of animal is that?” Expand on what’s going on in the book. “Yes, remember when we saw the zebra at the zoo?”

Wordless picture books allow the child to become the storyteller. Visual cues provided by the illustrations allow her to interpret what is happening. She can make up her own story about the characters, settings, and actions in the illustrations. With your help your child can make sense of the sequence of pictures. Wordless picture books work well for 'reading' together with children of different ages. Each one interprets the pictures in their own way, and the younger child learns from the older.

Remember, you are your child’s first teacher, and he or she loves learning from you! Here are a few recommendations for books that encourage talking. Ask at your local library for more recommendations, or find additional titles under Booklists here on OC Public Libraries Book Talk Blog.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Bill Martin
Young readers learn about colors and animals in this fun book illustrated by Eric Carle. The repetitive text invites response from the reader.

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas
Humorous dust bunny characters love to rhyme. As the plot develops, they find that the right word, even if it doesn't rhyme, can keep them all out of danger from the vacuum cleaner!

Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
When a zookeeper’s keys are stolen by a gorilla who unlocks all the animal cages, the zookeeper has a surprise sleepover! This book is a wonderful vocabulary builder with a repetitive theme that encourages participation.

A Ball for Daisy by Christopher Raschka (wordless)
How much fun can a dog have with a ball?  Let your child tell you as you ‘read’ this Caldecott Medal award winning book.

Wave by Suzy Lee (wordless)
A little girl’s first time at the beach encourages children to talk about their own experiences with new places.

Where’s Walrus by Stephen Savage (wordless)
Children will love to find Walrus on each page as he hides and
changes hats to avoid being caught by the zookeeper.

For more books that encourage  talking and participation click here.

This is the first in a series of Book Talk articles about books that help parents get their children ready to read by engaging in interactive everyday activities. These recommendations are based on “Every Child Ready to Read®@Your Library®,”which is a program of the Association for Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association, divisions of the American Library Association. For more information about early literacy, go to


Wave by Sonali Deraniyagola

Sonali Deraniyagola writes about the tsunami of Dec 26, 2004, off the coast of Sri Lanka, and its devastating effects on her family.   She, on the morning of Dec 26, while vacationing in a national park on the coast, lost her two sons, aged five and eight, her husband, and both her parents.  She writes, seven years later, of her reactions and experiences chronologically in the subsequent years.

Her large extended family in Colombo, Sri Lanka, served as her combination therapy and suicide watch for her first three and a half years.  Gradually she revisits her hotel site with her in-laws.  She finds a costume belonging to her younger son (who loved to dress up), a sports shirt from her older son (who loved sport of all kinds),  and a page of research from her husband who was writing an academic article.  Her children’s school in London donated money in the name of her sons for the refurbishment of a small wild life museum in the National Park next to the tsunami site.   All these actions were comforting to her in the healing process.

Gradually Sonali returned to her life in London as an economist and researcher.  She finally reunites with her sons’ best friends and their mothers in London.  In her works “I see my children’s friends often now.  They are bubbling over when we meet, I enjoy their sparkle.  And they make my boys real, so they are not beyond my field of vision, as they were in those first years”.

What will my sister and I talk about when we discuss this book?  Like Sonali, we have memories that are special to us and that  we want to keep forever.  Sonali comes to the conclusion that, in her words about her sons, “…I can only recover myself when I keep them near.  If I distance myself from them . . . I am fractured”. 

I think this book gives us all permission to hold on to our happiest and most significant memories even in the midst of our busy everyday lives.  These are the memories that make our journey in life unique and worth it.



Ribbit  by Rodrigo Folgueira is a very clever, warm, and sweet picture book. It is beautifully illustrated, and brilliantly written with humor, and a solid moral to the story. This tale is about a pink pig who just wants to make friends with a family of frogs living in a pond, and one day, much to the frogs’ surprise, they find an unusual visitor in their midst. A pig! But not just any pig, but one who will only say, "ribbit!" The frogs, confused at first, become annoyed, thinking the little pink pig is making fun of them! But as it turns out, the little pig only wants the frogs to like and understand him, and he continues his antics!
Soon the little pig's “ribbits” draw the attention of all the nearby animals. Everyone is curious about the uproar, and they begin thinking of a solution. After much wondering, discussing, and shouting about why a pig would sit in a pond and say "ribbit," the animals visit the wise old beetle, and they realize that maybe the little pig only wants to make friends, and is trying to fit in!  Now the animals wonder if it is too late to make friends. More fun confusion ensues, especially when the animals can't find the frog, and have to guess where he will turn up next. All is resolved when the animals decide to put their differences aside, and join the pig on a mutual journey of friendship.
The illustrations and font give the book an overall sweet feel and the story has a great message.  The pig’s oversized head, his silly smile, his pink floppy ears, and his snout, which is heart-shaped on many of the book’s pages, only add to his charm and help make him a beloved character. The illustrations seamlessly support the story. The font increases along with the sound of the little pig's "ribbits”, inviting the readers to join in.This is a great story about thinking outside the box, friendship, taking chances, and giving someone different a chance.  A great book for storytime!


Three Children, Humor, and Malcolm X

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia introduced me to a new author and added new insight into the era of Civil rights.  The setting is 1968 in Oakland and three children are being sent to see and get to know a mother who left them behind years ago shortly after the youngest was born. A mother who suddenly abandons her children is a wicked mother indeed, right?  And a mother who shows no interest when they arrive is worse yet. And if this mother turns out to have turned her back to be a poet allied with Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, then she can never ever be forgiven.

Such were my preconceptions until this author rolled out her story with belly laughs. The first page has eleven-year-old Delphine, the oldest of the three, trying keep her two younger sisters in line despite all the sisters being frightened to death by the plane ride and the visit to come. She has grave responsibilities indeed because she has counted only twelve "colored people" aboard the plane and she bears the responsibility for the sisters not disgracing the whole "Negro" race. But they are children whose antics soon become as funny as any episode of I Love Lucy. And so are the stereotypes that they observe, from the black Jackie Kennedy passenger who Big Ma assigned to watch after them who never looks their way, to the fat white lady who thinks they are such well behaved little black dolls and gives the youngest a nickel for each.

And the fun continues even though their their mother picks them up with all the warmth of Cruella de Vil, takes away all their spending money and doles out just enough for them to purchase Chinese takeout of her choice. And they eat it picnic style on a table cloth because they are not allowed in the kitchen. But Delphine is tenacious and enterprising, finding ways to change the menu, work her way into the kitchen, cook, save little bits of change for the California Hollywood tourist adventure that they have planned.  

And how can the sisters who are as different as three corners of a triangle work and grow together? And how can we watch both mother-daughter bonds and an understanding of what it was like to be these people in this place at this time emerge through one comic scene after another? That is the gift of this author. And that is why this book was a National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book, the winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, a winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and more. It is all of that. The reading for the younger or less mature children might need to be guided but it is a wonderful choice for so many reasons.

More about Rita Garcia Williams can be found here.


"Mary Coin" by Marisa Silver is Pure Gold

You’re probably familiar with the Dorothea Lange photograph Migrant Mother, the 1936 portrait of a woman gazing off into the distance flanked by her two kids.  This iconic image has come to represent the hardship and poverty of those who came to California during the Dust Bowl years. Marisa Silver’s latest book Mary Coin is a remarkable historical novel that re-imagines the lives of the famous photographer and the mysterious woman she captured on film. 

There are three main characters in this book.  Mary Coin from Oklahoma marries young then loses her husband. She endures bone-breaking migrant labor as she strives to care for her seven children.  Vera Dare, a pseudonym for Lange, is from a middle-class family yet lives as an outcast, trying to succeed in a male-dominated profession. Walker Dodge, a present-day history professor, enjoys an affluent lifestyle. Divorced, and estranged from his teenage daughter, he struggles in his attempts to solve his own family mystery.

Told through alternating chapters, we follow their separate lives leading up to the chance encounter between Mary and Vera.  The photograph that results alters their lives in different ways, yet forever links them together.  The interplay between the past and present is cleverly brought together by the chapters detailing the life of Walker Dodge. 

I really enjoyed reading Mary Coin.  Parts are heart-wrenchingly sad, but ultimately it is an uplifting and life-affirming book.  Even though the three characters each have their own personal difficulties, there’s a thread of humanity weaving its way throughout the book.  A thread that connects the reader with the characters, and connects the dissimilar characters with each other.

Marisa Silver has written a powerful and haunting book that is as captivating as the famous photograph upon which it is based.  A great pick for Book Clubs!

For those interested in learning more about Dorothea Lange's life and photography, take a look at Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer.  This over-sized book includes 260 stunning black-and-white photographs owned by the Oakland Museum.  Migrant Mother is just one of many images documenting the California Dust Bowl years. Lange also photographed Japanese-Americans interned in camps during WWII, and in later years traveled throughout Asia and Africa where she continued creating amazing photographs.


One Intersex Teen's Experience

Max Walker, the main character of Abigail Tarttelin’s recent adult novel, Golden Boy, is an intersex teen. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, intersex is “a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries).” According to the Intersex Society of North America, intersex is “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside…” For a more complete definition of intersexuality, please click on either link above.

In Golden Boy, protagonist Max was born with both male and female external genitalia, but self-identifies and is thought of by his peers as male. Smart, handsome, thoughtful and well-liked, he truly is a “golden boy”. As the novel opens, Max is unexpectedly raped by the son of his mother’s best friend, a teen whom Max and his family have considered his “cousin” since childhood.  Max only reveals the assault to Archie, an empathetic doctor at a local clinic. The trauma of the rape and its aftermath cause Max to consider his intersexuality, his self-image and what his future holds, all topics that previously hadn’t crossed his mind to any great degree. In the midst of this Max meets Sylvie, a nonconformist fellow student at his high school, falling for her more deeply than he has for any girl he’s dated previously. Max struggles with whether to tell Sylvie about his anatomy and physiology.

Despite this premise, Golden Boy is anything but depressing. It is engrossing and connects the reader intimately with its characters. This connection is heightened by the novel’s format, in which chapters are narrated alternately by the principal characters. Apart from Max, Sylvie and Archie, the other major characters are Max’s mother, Karen, who doubts her own motherly abilities and can be overbearing in her desire to make Max’s life easier by making choices for him; Daniel, Max’s little brother, intelligent and sometimes volatile; and Steve, Max’s father, a man who has always wanted to let Max decide for himself who he is but who has often spent more time at work than with his family. I particularly loved reading Daniel’s chapters -- his precociousness, complete honesty and attempts to make sense of the adult events happening in his family brought a smile to my lips many times. Overall, it is quite impressive that a young author such as Tarttelin is able to inhabit so believably the separate consciousness of each character, when one is so distinct from the next in gender, age, occupation and/or life experience.

I highly recommend Golden Boy not just for those adults and older teens who’d like to learn more about intersexuality, but also for anyone interested in the teen emotional and social experience in general, as well as the complexities of family dynamics. To be inside Max’s head is to gain insight into the emotions that many teens feel as they come to terms with the fear of being seen as different.


The Diviners (Audiobook)

Book trailer created by Little Brown Books, posted with permission

Title: The Diviners
Narrator: January LaVoy
Format: Audiobook on CD
Author: Libba Bray

Libba Bray sets The Diviners in 1920s New York City populated with flappers, Speakeasies and catchy Jazz music. Inside this familiar seeming world of historical legend she has seamlessly woven fantastic abilities, a paranormal serial killer, prophecies and a secret government program. This is the first in a proposed series with book 2, Lair of Dreams, due to be published in April of 2014.

Evie is a small town Ohio girl who dreams of a bigger life. And, she gets her chance after a debacle at a party has her sent away from home to stay with her uncle in Manhattan. Her uncle is the Curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (that’s the Museum of Creepy Crawlies to you). About the time Evie arrives, the bodies of murder victims start popping up around town with mysterious markings. Uncle Will is asked to assistant with the investigation and Evie is not about to be left out of the adventure! Besides, she may have a trick or two up her sleeve that could help because it turns out this is not your “average” serial killer…

It can be difficult to tell one character from another when listening to an audiobook and it’s up to the narrator to help the listener differentiate between the characters’ voices. January LaVoy, the Narrator, does an amazing job of bringing each character to life. The Diviners has a large and diverse cast of characters and each have their own voice from Theta’s sultry tones to Blind Bill’s Southern drawl portrayed by LaVoy with personality and realistic emotions. Libba Bray’s unique story is wonderful and narrated by January LaVoy the end result is just fantastic.

Pick up a copy today at your local branch! [View this title in the library’s catalog]

Similar books
Click on the book image to view it in our catalog, place a hold or see if your local branch owns it.
Amber House by Kelly Moore
A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Vixen by Gillian Larkin
Hanging By A Threat by Sophie Littlefield
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga


Book Bomb! Fantastic Fummer Finds!

That should read “Fantastic SUMMER Finds” but for the sake of visual alliteration let’s just pretend that “Summer” has been spelt using the medieval long ‘S’ which bears a striking resemblance to the lowercase ‘F’. Bit of typographical trivia for you there, bonus!

I didn’t read nearly as much  as I wanted to over the fummer (ahem) summer - during the summer break we hosted a stampede of programs (no really, there was actual stampeding) built around reading, literacy, and all-around library fun.  There were live animals, some wild, some domesticated; magic shows, some with animals, some without, some with a little comedy, some that were all comedy.  A few libraries even hosted their own version of The Hunger Games! Only with less violence and tragedy, more laughter and comedy. I would hope.

If you missed out this year, well, now you know, come visit us next fummer. Summer.

Here are some of the books I did read that I thought are stellar additions to the YA genre, saturated as it is with so much dystopian-, vampire/werewolf-, and zombie-themed material. These books have something shiny new about them, whether unconventional characters, original plot-twists, non-stereotypical romantic developments, or just all-around literary freshness. Now that school is back in session and you have better things to do than read books, here’s your chance to procrastinate!

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (New York Times Bestselling author of the Shiver Trilogy) goes against the typical teen novel mold and weaves the most engrossing mystery without all the angst-choked hormonal clichés typical in so much of teen fiction today. When Blue, the only girl in a family of psychics without a drop of ESP, sees the spirit of a boy who is definitely still breathing, her mother, a powerful clairvoyant (and powerful pain in the butt) explains: “Either you’re his true love… or you killed him.” I know it sounds cliché, but Gansey, her possible love (or victim), and his group of friends aren’t your typical wealthy, private school students, these so-called Raven Boys. Nope, they’re up to something, something dark… dangerous… something with dirt. When there are boys, there’s always a good chance that dirt is involved.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1) Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan is a supernatural teen novel that has some of the most entertaining dialogue and characterizations I’ve read in a good long while. Utterly hilarious and unexpected, it follows Kami Glass who has had an imaginary friend for as long as she can remember, a boy named Jared, who only she can hear. At least she thought he was imaginary, until he shows up as her school, just as non-fictional and freaked out as she is that the comforting delusions they both thought were the mental equivalent of childhood blankets are real, and so not comforting. What would you do if the person who knows everything about you, absolutely everything, is standing in front of you? And (you’d ask after all the hysterics) how is it even possible?

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, the first in a series (what book isn’t, these days), takes a staple of the fantasy genre and builds a fully-fledged world that’s exciting and engrossing. No, it’s not hobbits, or fairies. Or buxom barmaids. It’s dragons! After a draconian-human treaty ended a terrible war between the two species, the great scaled beasts re-shaped themselves into less-threatening (and less dignified, in their opinion) human shapes to assimilate, offering up their advanced mathematical and logical abilities to humans as scholars and instructors. Seraphina, a gifted musician in the royal court, is drawn into the restless undercurrents rising up as the treaty’s fortieth anniversary approaches, tides that will unveil dark scaled secrets, including the ones Seraphina is trying so hard to hide, not the least of which is her strange and dangerous ability to understand the language of dragons.

Enchanted (Woodcutter Sisters #1) Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis, is an amazing composite of an assortment of fairtytales you might find familiar BUT Kontis’ re-imagining of these elements is utterly enchanting (okay, no more puns, pinky promise). It just feels like new ground. In the woodcutter’s family, Sunday is the youngest of seven sisters all named after the days of the week and who have all been blessed (or cursed, or both) with characteristics attributed to being born on those days. Her sister Monday is almost flawlessly beautiful, their sibling Tuesday is a dancer of unusual grace, Wednesday keeps to her lonely tower and descends only to spout less-than-cheerful (and obscure) pronouncements, and so on until Sunday, who is all the things a Sunday’s child is said to be except… terrible things happen around her (especially when she writes about them first). And then there’s the frog who wasn’t always a frog, but who could turn out to be the single most-hated person in all the world to her family, only, he loves Sunday. The simple Woodcutter household isn’t quite what it seems at first glance…

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas, is not my favorite on the list but I would still place it at the top of the formidable parade of YA books that have marched in front of these bespectacled eyes within the past few months. Celaena, at only eighteen, is notoriously renown as her country’s most lethal assassin, and has been incarcerated in a grueling salt mine from which the only escape is death. Until Prince Dorian offers her a deal; compete with assassins, thieves, and swordsmen from all over the country for the right to be the King’s official Champion (a.k.a. personal killer), and win her freedom in a few short years. Failing that, she would be returned to the mine. Or stay in the mine, indefinitely, and either die escaping, die insane, or die by her own hand (because she is only just toeing the line keeping her desperation in check). Reminiscent of The Hunger Games, all these fights to the death, it’s a common trope, but there’s just enough originality and suspense to keep you engaged until the end. Spoiler: there is a love triangle (I know, I know – at least it’s not between a wolf and a vampire).

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1) The Diviners, by Libba Bray, is a wonderful contemporary jaunt back in time to the 1920’s during the Prohibition, when the happy juice flowed freely (behind gilded doors and crystal-beaded curtains), and occultists went hand in hand with flappers, speakeasies, and opulent Tiffany-décor. Bray captures with stunning vitality the daring exploits of sparkling nonconformist and closeted psychic Evie, who has been shipped off to New York City after a mortifying episode involving her psychometry (ability to knows things by touching people and objects). Sent to her uncle who is, coincidentally, obsessed with the occult, Evie is reluctantly drawn into an investigation that has its roots in the paranormal, with ties to a growing movement of others like her, people with otherworldly gifts. The Diviners is deliciously creepy, engaging, and bright with language and detail that bring that era to life.

And check out a more detailed review (as well as a nifty ol' book trailer) for The Diviners here.  It is the cat's pajamas!  Not quite sure what that means. but I'm assuming "good'!

Click on any of these titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy today!