Looking for your next read? Look no further . . .
Ms. Bartels Recommends
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
I'm not normally drawn to mysteries, but I am drawn to books set in bookstores and libraries; I've worked in and managed both so that makes sense. This novel was unexpectedly good, with twists and turns that kept me guessing all the way to the end, just the way a good mystery should. Lydia's own memories of what happened to her on one fateful night in her childhood are especially haunting. This is the perfect weekend read for a chilly day in front of a fireplace.
"When a bookshop patron commits suicide, his favorite store clerk must unravel the puzzle he left behind. Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs – the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store's overwhelmed shelves.
But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore's upper room, Lydia's life comes unglued. Always Joey's favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely, uncared for man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?
As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey's suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia's life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
The best one yet! The thing everyone loves about Raina Telgemeier's graphic novel memoirs is how honest they are. You can't help but cringe, and then laugh, then cringe some more as she authentically portrays the joys and the indignities of being a middle school student. My favorite scene in this memoir is when, at a sleepover, everyone confesses their deepest secrets. Raina finally yells, "I'm in therapy" and all of her friends confess that they are in therapy, too. Raina's struggles with stress and fear feel universal and will reassure her readers.
The illustrations in Guts are top notch, as the author expertly crafts a story about something very difficult to illustrate: stomach pain and intense anxiety. There's a real cinematic quality to the story. For example, the reader follows young Raina as she looks into her lunch bag – the reader sees her food from above, from Raina's perspective. Panels throughout the book reminded me what a skilled illustrator and storyteller Raina Telgemeier is.
"Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she's dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away . . . and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What's going on?" ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 6+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris
This book caught my attention when it appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. The book's title also intrigued me, as did its cover. While I liked this book, I didn't love it. The plot is unique and captivating, but the writing is simplistic. McMorris tries to create multidimensional characters, but they come off as clichéd. There are also some plot contrivances that are distracting and other plot directions that are not fully developed and go nowhere. Despite its shortcomings, historical fiction fans who enjoy books like Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale and The Great Alone will enjoy this diverting read.
"Struggling reporter Ellis Reed gets reminded of his own family's dark past as he sees a sign saying '2 children for sale.' When he snaps a picture of the sign he never thought it would be his big break, or that it would bring dangerous consequences. Ellis, along with sympathetic co-worker Lillian Palmer, must ask themselves what they are willing to risk to save a broken family." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Ms. Matlin Recommends
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
I've been a fan of Leigh Bardugo since I read Wonder Woman: Warbringer, but I never got around to reading her eternally popular YA fantasy Grishaverse books. However, since I've just recently finished The Ninth House and absolutely adored it, I'm going to have to go back to those earlier works, to keep myself busy until the next book in this series of four comes out. The premise of "What if the secret societies at Yale were actually enclaves of magic?" is right up my alley. If nothing else had worked, I probably would have liked this novel. But I was absolutely blown away by Bardugo's world building. Not only does she manage to craft a fascinating version of how magic and ghosts work, but she also plausibly intertwines it with real life mundane details of Yale and New Haven. I was also impressed with the character development and plotting; nothing ended up being exactly as I expected. The novel is definitely on the grittier side of fantasy: drug dealing, sexual assault, and violence are depicted in detail, but they aren't gratuitous. Overall, a dark and wholly engrossing read.
"Galaxy 'Alex' Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale's freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she's thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world's most prestigious universities on a full ride. What's the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale's secret societies. Their eight windowless 'tombs' are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street's biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+