Book List, Staff Picks

Our Favorites for Fall

It’s that time again – time to share the books that are staff our reading and loving! Click on the cover to be directed to the book and each is followed by our staff member’s review and the description from the publisher.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

With Empire of the Vampire, Jay Kristoff has once again shown why he is a master storyteller. Gabriel de Leon is a complex and complicated new hero for Jay’s legion of fans, and soon-to-be fans, to follow over what promises to be an amazing new series. Jay’s vampires are not the sparkly YA vamps, nor the Dracula inspired vampires of the late 1990s/early 2000s. They are delectably French-flavored and with the introduction of Gabriel as a half-vampire, Jay has allowed himself a great deal of creative freedom to bend the old rules of vampire lore to his world. I absolutely cannot wait to share this book with my friends and fellow book lovers who loved Mia of the Nevernight Chronicles as I’m sure they will fall head over heels for Empire of the Vampire while simultaneously continuing to curse Jay for wreaking havoc on beloved fictional characters.

From New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff comes Empire of the Vampire, the first illustrated volume of an astonishing new dark fantasy saga.

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.


It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

This story is just awesome! Zee is my favorite type of protagonist: sassy, sarcastic, awkward, and she can talk to ghosts. Full of lore, urban legend, and horror, GHOST GIRL is a ghost story wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a thrilling adventure. But at its core this is a story of family, friendship, and coming-of-age in your own way to find exactly who you are, who you want to be, and where you belong.

Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story——with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend Elijah believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

A wonderful and scary love letter to the slasher genre My Heart Is A Chainsaw is the incredible deconstruction of slashers that we all seem to crave and look for! If Randy Meeks from the Scream movies was a final girl this book would be about her. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone that loves horror films or just loves to see some good revenge.

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Timesbestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

In the form of a letter to his mother, Vuong’s autobiography contains the most breathtaking, poetic, and heartbreaking words ever put to page. He discusses hard topics: his mother’s trauma as a Vietnam War survivor, what family means, his own tumultuous upbringing, and feeling like an outcast: in his body, his sexuality, and in his country. Every word on every page is intentional and packs a punch, you won’t regret giving this a try!

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

The Green Mile by Stephen King

The classic and utterly haunting Stephen King serial novel. Things are not right in Cold Mountain Penitentiary and death row prison guard Paul Edgecombe is about to experience the strangest and most terrifying events yet. When John Coffey– a man accused of horrible crimes–arrives on the mile, things get very strange very quickly! A thrilling and terrifying read!

Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk “the Green Mile,” the lime-colored linoleum corridor leading to a final meeting with Old Sparky, Cold Mountain’s electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities over the years working the Mile, but he’s never seen anything like John Coffey—a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. And in this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about John Coffey—a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs….

Looking for Alaska by John Green

A perfect back to school read and coming of age novel. Miles Halter goes in search of his “Great Perhaps” when he transfers to a boarding school and meets 3 friends that will change his life forever. John Green weaves a beautiful story of friendship, heartbreak, and self-discovery that will make you ask yourself what it is to find the meaning of life and love. This book will always hold a special place in my heart!

First drink. First prank. First friend. First love.

Last words.
 
Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet François Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A modern classic, this stunning debut marked #1 bestselling author John Green’s arrival as a groundbreaking new voice in contemporary fiction.

Newly updated edition includes a brand-new Readers’ Guide featuring a Q&A with author John Green

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

A beautiful coming of age story that has prose that sound like poetry, Aristotle and Dante is a book that you are sure to remember. Set in 1980s Texas, this book follows the mundane life of Ari as he tries to discover not only who he is but who he wants to be, and is sure to resonate with its readers. Pick this book up in preparation for the sequel, coming out on October 12th!

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn was my favorite book of 2021! After her mother’s death, 16-year-old Bree attends a high school program at UNC Chapel Hill’s campus to help deal with her grief. During her first week, Bree stumbles upon some students slaying demons with magic. One of these students attempts to remove her memories of their demon fight, but the magic doesn’t work on her. Bree realizes that these students and their magic is somehow connected to her mother’s death. She infiltrates The Order, a secret society who are descended from King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. Tracy Deonn layers so many important themes into Legendborn: sexism, racism, trauma, and grief. But don’t worry! The witty and smart Bree kicks ass! I couldn’t put it down.

Filled with mystery and an intriguingly rich magic system, Tracy Deonn’s YA contemporary fantasy Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend and a lot of Southern Black Girl Magic.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.

She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.

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