Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: Madame X by Jasinda Wilder

My name is Madame X.
I’m the best at what I do.
And you’d do well to follow my rules...

Recently I picked up Madame X, the first in a new trilogy of erotic romance novels by Jasinda Wilder. This was my first experience reading Wilder, but the cover, with its crimson X, and the publisher's copy, pulled at me irresistibly. In a market saturated with CEO alpha males with pedestrian red rooms of pain, any book with a femme domme catches my attention. 

As it turns out, Madame X is a far cry from the BDSM erotica that I was expecting, but the more I read the less disappointed I was to not get what I thought I wanted from this book.

The novel comes to us through the voice of X. Beautiful and in control, she trains the sons of New York's super-wealthy elite how to comport themselves with gentlemanly grace and power. But when her clients leave her elegantly appointed apartment, things change. At night, Caleb Indigo visits her, and she is no longer in control.

X has lived this dual life for the past six years, and it's the only life she can remember. After she suffered a brutal attack, Caleb saved her from death and gave her a life, a purpose, and a name. In return, X belongs to him. She never leaves her apartment, and she never says no to him. Because she cannot.

But when Caleb uncharacteristically relinquishes some of his ironclad control, X has an encounter with a stranger that makes her reconsider her existence and awakens a longing in her for something different, for something more. For choice.

One of the most interesting things about Madame X is the way Wilder subverts--to the point of outright ignoring--the conventions of the erotic romance genre. With this novel, she's writing something much darker and less formulaic. There's nothing fuzzy or heartwarming about X and Caleb's relationship, but it is fraught and unhealthy and pretty fascinating, enough so to make me ignore the potential pitfalls of the amnesia plot. It also provides an interesting and emotional counterpoint to the relationship that X finds herself involved in later in the book.

X herself is one of the more memorable erotic romance heroines I've read recently. I was intrigued by her unique situation and by the limits of her experience. Her spheres of knowledge are so unbalanced: She can teach someone how to command a boardroom, but she doesn't know how to use a cell phone. At some points she reminded me of an android because all that she knows comes either from her training at Caleb's hands or from books that she has read. I'm excited to see how she will develop over the two subsequent novels that are in the works. (If you're curious, the sequel currently is scheduled for a March 2016 release.)

My one complaint about Madame X is the uneven pacing. The speed picks up considerably about halfway through the book, and ratchets up even farther after a twist that is revealed about three quarters of the way through. The first half reads at a much more leisurely pace, as Wilder painstakingly builds the reader's understanding of X and her life. I get Wilder's decision to do this, but at the same time, I was hungry for something more exciting to happen and kept wondering which of the characters introduced was going to be the catalyst for the plot. I wish someone had told me to relax and hang in there... So this is me telling you to relax and hang in there!

While it won't be to everyone's taste, Madame X is ideal for regular erotic romance readers who are looking for something a bit more literary, a bit darker, and a bit more experimental than the current genre standard. It is currently on order for LPLS, and you can place a hold on it online or by asking library staff for help.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Scary Book Lady Does Halloween

Maybe it's the head-to-toe black clothes or the skull earrings, but one of the more common reader's advisory questions I get is the request for scary books. For some of us, Halloween is more of a mindset than a holiday, so I'm always happy to guide patrons looking for eerie reads. But as the days draw inexorably closer to the best night of the year, more and more people begin to clamor for something chilling. With that in mind, I have assembled a list of some personal favorites that are perfect for this time of year.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Retired rock star Judas Coyne collects oddities, so when he finds a listing online for a ghost for sale, of course he buys it. And of course things go horribly wrong. Heart-Shaped Box makes this list because it contains one of my favorite physical descriptions of a ghost, and because with all of my late-night online shopping, I can almost see myself impulse buying something cursed and suffering terrible consequences.

The Shining by Stephen King
Yeah, King is the easy answer for "I need a scary book," but I adore him so I don't care. There's just so much to love in The Shining: a big, creepy, haunted hotel; the maddening effects of isolation; the plight of a child with a power he can barely control. Despite the controversy about King's intentions in writing Jack Torrance and Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of the character, I have so much affection for both the book and the film it inspired. If you haven't read or watched The Shining, make this the year that you do.

Gerald's Game by Stephen King
This isn't King's most popular novel, but it is the one that has scared me the most. It's a vivid example of horror that arises from everyday situations gone wrong, as the protagonist finds herself handcuffed to a bed and unable to escape, alone in a cabin, with no one coming to her rescue. It's scary enough when she's lying there, listening to the screen door bang open and shut in the wind. But then there's a twist, and the one short sentence that moment hinges on made me groan in dread, close the book, and develop an abiding fear of the corners of dark rooms.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
You see Shirley Jackson a lot in two places: middle school reading lists (thanks to "The Lottery") and lists of scary books (thanks to The Haunting of Hill House). But I prefer We Have Always Lived in the Castle, with its unreliable narration, accusations of poisoning, and evocative title. Why are Merricat and Constance so isolated from society? And what would happen if someone broke through that isolation? Read this short novel and find out.

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
Maren, the protagonist of Bones & All, is a murderer. She can't help it: whenever anyone shows her
affection, she is overwhelmed by the instinct to eat them. Abandoned by her mother at sixteen and burdened with her secret hunger, Maren embarks on a roadtrip in search of family. But she doesn't find quite what she expects. The coming-of-age/horror combination irresistibly reminded me of Jennifer's Body, which won't be to everyone's taste (pun intended), but if that's your thing, you will not want to miss this book.

The Croning by Laird Barron
This novel subverted my expectations in really fun ways. Operating on both supernatural and psychological playing fields, it follows its aging protagonist as the gaps in his memory get bigger and obscure ever more harrowing truths about nearly everyone he knows, most notably his wife. Barron frequently garners comparisons to H. P. Lovecraft, and while these are apt, The Croning toys with themes characteristic of Lovecraft without ripping them off. 

"The Dunwich Horror" by H. P. Lovecraft
Speaking of Lovecraft... R.E.A.D.S. has wonderful audio versions of many of his stories available for download in the Dark Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft series. Audio books can be hit or miss, depending on the narrator, but Wayne June does an excellent job. He brings much gravitas to the readings, and it's just really fun to hear all the eldritch language come to life. My favorite is "The Dunwich Horror," which features amazing build-up of tension as the narrator relates one creepy thing after another, only to tell you that no, that's not the titular horror, you haven't even gotten there yet. My only complaint about the Dark Worlds versions is that they occasionally censor Lovecraft's, ahem, less than socially conscious language, notably in "The Rats in the Walls." If you want the real thing, along with photos and background information and other goodies, check out The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft (complete with tentacled cover art!).

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
I reread this novella over the summer in preparation for The Scarlet Gospels. In the years since I had first read it, I had forgotten just how good it feels to read Barker. The craft of his writing and his linguistic choices stroke your brain, right before sinking a sharpened hook into your cerebrum. This story of pleasure-seeking and obsession is smart, fun, only takes an evening to savor, and features some of the most unforgettable characters in horror: the Cenobites.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Welcome to Night Vale

"A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and
mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."
Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast that takes the form of community radio news broadcasts detailing the strange events that take place in a unique little town where time doesn't work, the dog park is forbidden, and angels definitely do not exist (but spend a lot of time hanging out with Old Woman Josie anyway). Several of us on staff are fans, so when we learned about the Welcome to Night Vale novel to be published later this month, we just had to read it. And we did!

Read on for our group review of the novel. Then be sure to put it on hold in print or audio format (the latter narrated by Cecil Baldwin, Voice of Night Vale, himself).

I fell for Welcome to Night Vale late, but I fell really, really hard. I started listening early this year, cramming three years of podcast episodes into a few months, buying a ticket for the live show, and generally losing my mind and having a lot of fun in the process. So of course, when I discovered that a Welcome to Night Vale novel was in the works, I wasted no time begging the publisher for an advance copy. 

Did it live up to my expectations? Actually, it didn’t… But that’s sort of why I liked it so much. While I certainly would have enjoyed a book that explored more of Cecil’s backstory (for instance, how freaking old is he?!) and featured plenty of fluffy romance with Carlos, I love the way Fink and Cranor instead use the novel to tell the stories of minor characters, to answer questions that listeners have been asking since the early episodes, and to expand on the Night Vale mythos.

Don’t worry, though: Familiar references and cameos from fan favorites abound, punctuated by Night Vale Community Radio broadcasts. The novel takes us to new territory, but it does so without sacrificing the signature eerie sense of place that makes the podcast so appealing. I think fans will enjoy getting to explore more of our beloved, friendly desert community, while for others the novel will be an intriguing first contact with a rich and unique fandom.

Based on the hit podcast, this book takes place in a small desert town like any other. It’s the sort of friendly small town where neighbors always say hello, the local radio host keeps listeners updated on town events and his boyfriend’s perfect, perfect hair, and everyone is under constant surveillance by the Sheriff’s Secret Police. Fans of the podcast should enjoy the book (try the audiobook if you just can’t live without Cecil’s dulcet tones), and newcomers should enjoy it as well, since it is a self contained story.

The book follows the story of two women: Jackie Fiero, who runs the pawnshop and just hasn’t gotten around to turning twenty yet (so stop getting on her case about it), and Diane Crayton, PTA member and mother to the ever shape-shifting high schooler Josh. Papers bearing the cryptic message ‘KING CITY’ are appearing, Josh is asking uncomfortable questions about his father, and someone should really do something about all those plastic lawn flamingos. Jackie suspects the man in the tan jacket has something to do with it all, but no one can quite remember what he looks like.

Only the bravest citizens of Night Vale ever venture into the library - because they all know what horrible and gruesome creatures the librarians are. But how else will you get a copy of this book? Sure, bookstores and online stores exist, but you live on the edge, don’t you? Like Summer Reading Survivor and teenage warrior Tamika Flynn, you’re just the sort of brave soul who goes to libraries and lives to tell the tale. So put your copy on hold and visit us - if you dare.

I will admit to being a bad Night Vale fan.  I got distracted by life and stopped listening to the podcast.  I know, I’m terrible.  But I started back up!  And I listened from the beginning.  But then I got distracted again.  I left off in the middle of year 2 (both times).  So even though I love Night Vale, I’m way behind.  Having said that, I didn’t feel lost.  The book did an excellent job of explaining things and it fleshed out these minor characters well enough that it made me care about them. 

My favorite parts of the book were the library (because how can you not love hearing about the Night Vale Public Library?) and Cecil’s broadcasts between chapters.  The broadcasts were a great way to find out what else was going on in Night Vale while the book’s main characters were doing their thing.  I felt bad for the intern though.

I only got interested in Night Vale in the first place because cool people I work with - all of you in this post, pretty much - would reference and talk about it. And wear shirts. I saw some Night Vale shirts around, too. It was one of those things I kept putting off right up until the point that the ARC started floating around Linebaugh courtesy of one of our favorite patrons. Since it was something I was already ramping up to being interested in, I decided to do it right, and listen to it before I read it.

Once I had dipped my toes, I verified that I would have relatively spoiler-free existence (again, courtesy of all of you), I started in on the book. I found it slow going at first, but perfectly replicating the dreamlike quality of the show, at least as I had experienced it up to that point. Once I throttled down into the alpha wave state created by the narrative, I was locked in. I liked that the main characters of the show were tangents to the book, and vice versa, and that the level of plot ambiguity in the face of a mountain (not verified to exist) of other details, was astounding. To give that much detail about a thing while not defining it outright is really an achievement. Night Vale becomes a deeper, richer, more interesting place when you read this, like looking at a map after imagining spatial relationships, or meeting someone you’ve only heard about.

I recommend the book, but I also recommend a set of circumstances to go around it. It should ideally be read in a quiet place that will make you feel comfortable but isolated. Your beverage should be bracing, and your hours unfilled and untroubled with anything other than reading.

A few months ago I began working with the lovely people you see in this post. It became apparent that Welcome to Night Vale was a fandom I needed to be a part of. So I listened. After one episode two things happened: 1) I realized this weird twisted sense of humor was exactly what I needed. 2) Why are librarians always villainous (shrug)? I obviously dove into this podcast head first! Within 5 quick months I listened up to episode 41, booked a trip to Svitz, AND picked up our library's advance copy of the book. 

The story has been slow moving for me. I have enjoyed it but it is something I have to process and digest bit by bit. It is much like the show in its other-worldly/dreamlike nature. There are new characters and cameo appearances from regulars of the show. I am of the opinion that the book is quite an impressive piece. Why? Well, it takes great skill to write something that can function as two separate things. This story does just that. It provides back story on existing characters providing more of an addition for fans of the podcast. It also functions as a great stand alone book, which will (most definitely) lead to more listeners in the near future. I recommend this to anyone with a passion for science fiction, a dark sense of humor, dog parks, and deerskin suitcases! Happy reading Nigh Vale!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


ALA (American Library Association) Banned Books Week is here!! What is Banned Books Week? 

Every year bookworms, librarians, and schools join together to celebrate the freedom to read. By setting up displays and participating in community activities, people are educated on the threat of censorship and its effects it has on our nation's intellectual freedom. At the heart of this celebration lies the love to read books. A passion for not just the books but the ideas they express. We want to protect the right to think, read, express, and form opinions freely. 

Banned Books Week's focus, this year, is the censorship attacks on the young adult (YA) genre. The majority of books challenged in libraries have been titles in this genre. In 2014 it was discovered that 6 titles, from YA, were on the list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of that year. These books are attacked under the guise of protecting these younger audiences. But the cut goes deeper than that. These books are the ones that speak personally to teens as they bring to light many difficult issues they face in our world today. It allows teens to openly discuss concerns they have about friends or even themselves. Most importantly they know they are not alone and can take solace in feeling their emotions are valid. Censoring this genre censors our teens' right to think. Join us as we celebrate our freedom to read this year with a call to action. Remind everyone that our intellectual freedom is important, especially for our teens. Let their voices be heard, not silenced. 

What makes your lovely librarians want to read a banned book, you might ask? 
We  have the answers!

JESSICA: I begin my answer with a preface. Books are not just words on paper to me. They are a best friend who will not leave or judge me, a voice I may not have discovered within myself, and a way for me to explore the world around me. Obviously, books are more than a favorite pastime. They are an emotional experience. As for banned books...There is something oddly satisfying about reading and falling in love with a book considered "controversial." If anything, banning a book makes me want to read it even more. I am determined to love it. After reading it, I assign myself a mission: a mission to get as many people as I can to read it. So, when I see or read about a book being banned it breaks my heart. It doesn't just take away someones right to read. It takes the writer's freedom of expression away, it takes my ability to make a choice away, but most importantly it silences the ideas that book expresses. Favorite Banned Books: Looking For Alaska by John Green, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

BRITTNEY: Back in my early teens, nothing made me want to read a book more than someone telling me that I shouldn’t. I devoured books that made many adults cock an eyebrow and ask if my mom knew what I was reading. (She did, having either bought it for me or driven me to the library to check it out.) Early on, I knew that the both the juiciest stuff and the truest resided in the pages of books that scared people. After all, if they weren’t powerful, why did they need to be banned?

It only makes sense that the defiant kid staring down her seventh grade teacher over a dogeared copy of Interview with the Vampire grew into a librarian. I love banned books now just as much as I did then, and I relish being part of a profession that celebrates and defends intellectual freedom, that fights to ensure that everyone gets to read with curiosity and courage.
Favorite banned books: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell , The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and 1984 by George Orwell

LISA: The idea of banning particular written works is nearly as old as the practice of writing itself, but the whole concept of any book being banned seems, to me, un-American if not unconstitutional. Until I began working at the library, I was only remotely aware that such a concept even existed in this country. I imagined book banning or burning was something talked about in history class. Unfortunately, the idea is alive and well in America even today. I became acquainted with the ALA’s banned book list in 2007 when I volunteered to assemble a Gay History Month book display. During my search for appropriate books, I read that the children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, had been banned in many places virtually since its publication. I was astounded. It’s a wonderful book about two male penguins, Roy and Silo, raising a chick together. It spent several years as the #1 book on the list. Last year it was #3. Incidentally, the book is based on true events and has won numerous awards. I think I’ll read the story of Roy and Silo again. Favorite Banned Book: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

I have just finished reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novel that is frequently challenged and banned in some schools.  This beautiful and heartbreaking true story of a young woman growing up during the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970s does not need a filter. The idea of banning a book seems to go strongly against the very liberty that we hold dear in this country.  We cannot suggest other nations/countries change to more free societies when we ourselves are doing ridiculous things like banning books. Favorite Banned Books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The first thing that I realized when I sat down to write this is that I’m not often aware of the status of books I have read, banned or not. I am, however, a long-time member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which protects retailers of comics who get sued due to what some people dub “objectionable” content among their wares. I was an album-buying youth when Tipper Gore got her way and put stickers on everything.  I was also educated, in large part, in a somewhat restrictive environment, so my sympathy is strong. I know what it’s like to want to read something and be deliberately denied access, and also to want to read it because access has been denied.

I was aghast (no, really) when I found out that Jeff Smith’s comic masterpiece, Bone, has been repeatedly challenged - and in one instance, banned - in libraries across the country for violence, drinking, smoking, horror, and racial sensitivity concerns. This is a comic series I read to my son when he was five and six years old, and I don’t think my parenting is that bad. The content of all of these things in Bone is nearly identical to these things as contained within The Hobbit. Let’s face it, banning things from children’s libraries is a ploy by parents who wish to avoid difficult conversations. Favorite Banned Book: 1984 by George Orwell

I’m very grateful to my parents, who put no filters on what I could read, and so I have done for my children.  Some of the more recent titles under scrutiny I learned of through my kids: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Eleanor & Park, The Hunger Games, to name a few we have enjoyed together.  This year I caught up on the Captain Underpants saga, as Dav Pilkey seems to enjoy (at this point) making the more prudish quite uncomfortable.  A teacher friend of mine used to keep CP in her classroom at a private school, hoping to entice the more reluctant readers; she eventually left the position, due, in part, to disagreements over the kids’ recreational reading choices.  It’s just potty humor folks!
This year, I’ll probably reread a favorite, Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Favorite Banned Books: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Giver by Lois Lowry

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Book for Every Crafter

Your local library is more than a place to put the latest bestsellers on hold or check your email. Thanks to our collection of craft books, it's also a place for creative folks to get inspiration for their next projects and to learn new techniques. Whether you're a seasoned crafter, a beginner, or someone looking for a boredom-busting hobby, we have resources to help you get going and get making.

Here are some of my favorite craft and DIY books available through LPLS, covering topics from paper crafts to crochet to musical instrument building and more.

Paper Blooms: 25 Extraordinary Flowers to Make for Weddings, Celebrations, and More by Jeffery
This book teaches you how to transform paper, wire, and a little bit of glue into beautiful roses, daisies, lilies, poppies, and other flowers. Think of the potential for decorating and gift-wrapping!

Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin' Good Instruments by Mike Orr
Ever wanted to make your own ukulele or guitar? This book teaches you how (plus how to make a bunch of other instruments), using cigar boxes, old cans, hubcaps, license plates, and all manner of other folksy detritus. It includes a primer on instrument anatomy, and even shows you how to  add pickups and make your creations electric.
Bewitching Bead and Wire Jewelry: Easy Techniques for 40 Irresistible Projects by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott
Even if you don't know a crimp bead from a head pin, this book will give you the know-how to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. It features plenty of quick, beginner-friendly projects, so you can go from making to wearing your handmade jewelry fast!

Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by DK Publishing
If you've ever wanted to learn to crochet but didn't know where to start, try this book. It teaches you the stitches and techniques you need to know, then gives you fun patterns to try out your new skills. It also answers your questions about all the different types of yarn, so when you go to the craft store, you'll know exactly what you need!

Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs
This adorable hand-written and -illustrated book teaches you how to make safe, eco-friendly D.I.Y. projects for health, body, garden, and home. It's a great resource for consuming less and living more cheaply, and getting your hands a little dirty in the process!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Del Toro's The Strain

As I await the return of  FX's second season of  The Strain (DVD), I have been rereading the trilogy in preparation. In case you aren't familiar with the story, here is what you've missed:

The story begins at JFK airport in New York City. A Boeing 777 is headed towards the tarmac when it suddenly stops. The lights are out, shades closed, and communication has been cut off. Crews begin investigating the status of the passengers on board, until an alert goes out to the CDC. What is believed to be biological warfare turns into something far more dangerous and sinister. Can the virus be stopped before infecting the entire city?

 The trilogy and show are full of equal amounts action, horror, and biological disaster.  After seeing Del Toro's movies (Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Devil's Backbone) it's no wonder why this trilogy is fun to read and translates well to the screen. I call books/series like this a "Popcorn Movie Book". It's fast paced and engrossing like most adventurous action films. The trilogy is a great read for the lovers of sci-fi mixed with horror. Del Toro takes the traditional vampire and spins it as a viral outbreak terrorizing America. It was a welcome break away from the love triangle, romanticized version of the vampire. Don't get me wrong; I love the Bram Stoker and Anne Rice vampire. But I have a lot of respect for writers when they take a traditional plot and make it their own original concept.

Side note: I prefer the audiobook over the physical copy. Ron Perlman narrates the first book (you may know him as Clay Morrow from Sons of Anarchy). The second and third installment to the trilogy are narrated by actor Daniel Oreskes, who is known for his roles in The Devil's Advocate and The Thomas Crown Affair. The story comes to life accompanied by some great voice acting. It made the reading more entertaining and my car rides more enjoyable. You can check it out for yourself here: The Strain (audio recording).

When you finish The Strain, make sure to check out The Fall and Night Eternal.
The fight for the human race continues!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What We're Reading - Summer 2015

Here at the library, summer is our busiest time of the year. Whether we're in Youth Services stealing the show at storytime or working behind the scenes at the desk, we're all in high gear making the Summer Reading Program happen. But that doesn't mean we don't make time to read when we're off the clock. After all... we're librarians!

Curious about which titles fill out our rather eclectic Summer Reading logs? Read on for our recommendations. (Spoiler alert: Apparently Horrorstör is really, really good. It warranted two mentions!)

Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin... Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons
Gibbons is a well-known blogger and body positivity activist, but I was completely unfamiliar with her before I heard about her memoir. Between my love of all female-powered memoirs and that eye-catching title, I knew I had to read it. Although Gibbons covers heavy topics (body image, growing up poor, mental illness), she does so with an irresistible, conversational style that keeps you reading and laughing. This is a book that leaves you feeling awesome about yourself and wishing you could hang out with the author. I highly recommend you take Brittany Gibbons with you in your beach tote (or whatever your vacation or staycation equivalent might be) this summer.

The Wicked + The Divine graphic novel series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Question: What happens when gods and goddesses from diverse pantheons take on the form of attractive young adults? Answer: Pop stardom and chaos. I really enjoyed the first volume (The Faust Act), which follows a young woman obsessed with the pantheon. Not content with fandom, she wants to be near them, befriend them, be one of them... And her desire leads her straight into the path of murder. The lush, decadent artwork alone would recommend this series, but when you combine it with compelling storytelling, you've really got a compulsive read. I've requested Volume 2 and I hope that we order it soon!

Nimona graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson
If you don't want to get involved in a series and would prefer a standalone graphic novel, try Nimona. Originally a webcomic, this tongue-in-cheek series combines supervillains, science fictional science, and a fantasy medeival/modern setting for a unique reading experience. Nimona is a young shapeshifter who teams up with villain Lord Ballister Blackheart to take down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, who are up to some nefarious deeds, themselves. Although there's plenty of humor in Stevenson's writing, it comes with an emotional core that grounds it and makes the improbable characters seem more human. Which is a smart way of saying that this one punched me right in the feels at the end. Right. In. The. FEELS.

Lessons in Taxidermy by Bee Lavender
This is another memoir that I've really enjoyed recently. Serendipity brought it to me: I saw it in passing on the shelf, and I was so intrigued by the bizarre cover that I had to check it out. This one isn't a light read--it details Lavender's harrowing experiences with illness, starting with her cancer diagnosis at age twelve--but it's a fast one. I couldn't stop reading once I started, and devoured this in just a little over a day. What I really loved is that this easily could have been a Nicholas Sparks-esque tearjerker, but Lavender completely eschews emotional manipulation to pen a stark and poetic book about illness and vulnerability.

To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene is the perfect summer book for the literary-minded adult beverage enthusiast because it gives you not only a drinking tour of Hemingway’s life and what he favored for various occasions of imbibery but also includes handy recipes at the beginning of each chapter. I drank my first Gimlet whilst standing in my kitchen, this book open on the counter top amongst the bottles of gin and Rose’s Lime. Since Hemingway’s life (or at least the parts of it most people care about) are centered around the wine bars of France and the tropical booze ports of the Keys and Cuba, most of the drinks are well suited for the summertime, and the book is filled with refreshing rum drinks, zesty gin and vodka cocktails, and variations on sangria. 

Starlight: The Return of Duke McQueen
by Mark Millar 
Like a Summer blockbuster caught up in the pages of one of the graphic novels that spawn so much of our screen fodder these days, Starlight is filled to the brim with art that evokes Kubert & Vallejo & Tim Sale, and a story from Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass) that teases and tosses the reader but ultimately delivers in satisfying glory a story that veers close to cheese without contacting the wedge. Needs to be read and passed along to a younger person.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (Available for download from READS.)
For some reason, I find horror more palatable in the summertime. My boss suggests that this may be because of the additional daylight, and she may be right. Regardless, this book is great, creepy fun. The best horror stories always have elements of the banal in them, so that when the everyday gets turned on its ear, the reader's sense of alienation and disorientation is intensified. Why not then place your haunted house story in a big box furniture store which is definitely NOT Ikea? Banality is what they strive for, sameness, easy expectation, the lulling/buy. Horrorstör is set in an Örsk store (If you need help, just Örsk!) and while it leans heavily on tropes to get moving, one suspects that this is on purpose, since so much of this is a send-up of not only horror tales but also corporate culture, and both of these have conspired to craft our ideas of what horror stories really are. Finally, the design of the book (like looking through a furniture catalog) is completely awesome. From cover to cover, the big-box Ikea idea is skewered, roasted, reinterpreted and perverted until it fits what Hendrix needed it to be. Lots and lots of fun to read. 

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
NOT your typical horror novel.  I received an ARC of this from a friend, but have since purchased a copy--the layout and graphics add a lot to the tale.  A creepy parody of a ghost/paranormal story that takes place in an IKEA-wannabe store called ORSK.  

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I don't read much historic fiction, but had this recommended by several patrons & friends.  Excellent story lines, engaging character-building - orphans, books and the stereotypical corrupt, greedy Nazi bad guy (he really is necessary for the story though, so not obligatory).  Here's a vid of the author telling how he came up with his story: Anthony Doerr. Oh, did I mention it won the Pulitzer Prize?  

Chew graphic novel series by John Layman
Alt universe storyline, where all bird meat is outlawed due to a huge outbreak of bird flu that killed millions of people in America. Our hero, John Chu, is a cibopath--can take a bite from anything and get a psychic sense of what has happened in the object's past--and he works for the FDA.  There are plenty of directions to go
with such a start to your story, never dull.

Phryne Fisher Mystery Series by Kerry Greenwood
I have fallen in love with this Australian series based in the late 1920's--they've made a TV show that's really fun too--and have read the whole series in the past year or so. My favorite is Unnatural Habits, but I recommend starting at the beginning (Cocaine Blues). Don't take it seriously, enjoy the era and the world that Miss Fisher has built around herself.

A new President has been elected. He stops by the Oval Office before his inauguration and finds a letter from his predecessor. The pointless wars he started? We needed experienced soldiers. Why? Because something has been detected in the asteroid belt and we need to be ready in case it's hostile. A ship of
volunteers has been sent on a one-way mission to investigate, but the crew doesn't seem to know they won't be coming back.

Astro City: Shining Stars by Kurt Busiek
4 stories about 4 of Astro City's heroes.  Samaritan has dinner with the Infidel.  They have an uneasy truce and both are looking for signs of weakness in the other.  Beautie, the living doll superhero, is having difficulty interacting with people outside of battle.  Her creator might be able to help, if only Beautie knew who that was.  Astra is superhero royalty and the paparazzi won't leave her alone.  She's just graduated from college and hasn't decided what to do yet.  Maybe talking things over with her boyfriend will help.  And finally, the Silver Agent has been an inspiration throughout the ages.  Now we find out how one man was able to be in so many different time periods.

I have been rereading the Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan in preparation for season 2 hit show. But this time around I am listening to them. Ron Perlman is the narrator and is doing a fantastic job. (The first book in the series is The Strain, available in print and audio.)

My favorite book this summer, so far, is The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. It is full of suspense and action. It provides an interesting perspective on a theme that has become a cult classic in horror fiction.

Liz:I'm looking forward to reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. With the release of Jurassic World, I have caught dinosaur fever! All I can think about are Velociraptors!

I've been all about historical everything this summer!  I'm working through the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd, which starts with A Duty to the Dead.  Bess is a British army nurse in WWI and you get to see how the war affected daily life both at home and at the front in France.

I've also been continuing on with the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, which takes place a few years later.  The plots are often influenced by the aftermath of the War and makes for a richer understanding of the time period.