Book List, Staff Picks

New Year, New Staff Picks!

We’re so happy to say goodbye to 2020! We hope 2021 will be a better year for everyone.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A great start to a new series! I love Naomi’s writing and greatly enjoyed seeing her write in a different style than she did for Uprooted and Spinning Silver. This new series promises to be a world full of adventure and spectacular characters!

I decided that Orion Lake needed to die after the second time he saved my life.
Everyone loves Orion Lake. Everyone else, that is. Far as I’m concerned, he can keep his flashy combat magic to himself. I’m not joining his pack of adoring fans.
I don’t need help surviving the Scholomance, even if they do. Forget the hordes of monsters and cursed artifacts, I’m probably the most dangerous thing in the place. Just give me a chance and I’ll level mountains and kill untold millions, make myself the dark queen of the world.
At least, that’s what the world expects. Most of the other students in here would be delighted if Orion killed me like one more evil thing that’s crawled out of the drains. Sometimes I think they want me to turn into the evil witch they assume I am. The school certainly does.
But the Scholomance isn’t getting what it wants from me. And neither is Orion Lake. I may not be anyone’s idea of the shining hero, but I’m going to make it out of this place alive, and I’m not going to slaughter thousands to do it, either.
Although I’m giving serious consideration to just one.
With flawless mastery, Naomi Novik creates a school bursting with magic like you’ve never seen before, and a heroine for the ages—a character so sharply realized and so richly nuanced that she will live on in hearts and minds for generations to come.

The Secret Life of Sam by Kim Ventrella

THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM pulls at your heartstrings and makes you feel warm and safe at the same time. A beautiful story full of family, love, and a dash of magical realism where the hollow of a tree transports you to a place where you can see those you’ve lost, even if it is only to say goodbye. Sam’s story is wonderful and heartbreaking, and will have you laughing and cheering through your tears. Such a warm, good read.

The timelessness of Bridge to Terabithia meets the wonder of Big Fish in this bittersweet, magical story, perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, Lisa Graff, and Dan Gemeinhart.
When Sam’s dad dies in a car accident, Sam is shuttled off to the dusty town of Holler, Oklahoma, to live with a long-lost aunt. There he encounters a mysterious mangy cat who leads him to an unassuming tree that turns out to be a portal—a passage through which Sam can revisit his old life for a few minutes at a time.
Sam’s visits to the bayou become stranger and stranger. Pa’s old stories unfold around him in beautiful but sinister detail, and Pa is not quite himself. Still, Sam is desperate to find a way for them to stay together—no matter what it takes.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

As a new Maas fan and having just finished another series of hers, I needed to pick this up immediately. This book has a creative world where all mythical creatures live together in semi-harmony. This is an urban fantasy, and definitely a departure from her previous works, but still has the tropes that Maas is the best at doing. There is a swoony love interest, and a strong female lead. I am devouring this book given its massive size.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

There are very few poets that share my love for poems that are both fun and meaningful at the same time – usually it’s one or the other. However, Whale Day may be one of the best examples of such interplay that I have ever read. Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins highlights some of the greatest truths about our lives, while also reminding us to not take things too seriously. I love love love this collection!

Billy Collins’s new collection brings together more than fifty poems and showcases his deft mixing of the playful and the serious that has made him one of our country’s most celebrated and widely read poets. Here are poems that leap with whimsy and imagination, yet stay grounded in the familiar, common things of everyday experience. Collins takes us for a walk with an impossibly ancient dog, discovers the original way to eat a banana, meets an Irish spider, and even invites us to his own funeral. Sensitive to the wonders of being alive as well as the thrill of mortality, Whale Day builds on and amplifies Collins’s reputation as one of America’s most interesting and durable poets.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

The themes of Ghost Wall are ones we’ve all seen, but they come in the form of a unique plot expressed through compelling language. We explore female oppression, abuse, class, (among other themes) through a 2-week excursion in which Sylvie, her family, and a few other volunteers must live as humans lived in the Iron Age. It’s a short read that will occupy your brain space even after you finish.

A taut, gripping tale of a young woman and an Iron Age reenactment trip that unearths frightening behavior.
The light blinds you; there’s a lot you miss by gathering at the fireside.

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.
For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.
The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?
A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Jessie moves to California with her dad to live with her new step-mother while still grieving the loss of her own mother. She feels like she doesn’t fit in, and all she wants to do is go back home. But when Jessie receives an anonymous email from someone at her high school, she finally feels real connection. But who exactly is she talking to? This book is adorable and full of witty banter, but it touches on deeper subjects as well.

With the perfect mix of comedy and tragedy, love and loss, and pain and elation, the characters in Julie Buxbaum’s Tell Me Three Things come to feel like old friends who make any day better. This YA novel is sure to appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Niven, and E. Lockhart. 
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.
Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?
In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

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