Roaming the back roads of the town he grew up in, a man finds himself drawn to the farmhouse at the end of the lane. His friend, Lettie Hempstock, lived there long ago. Sitting by the duck pond that Lettie had insisted was an ocean, he is overcome with the memories of the year he was seven.
Told with the concise understanding of fear and desperate wishing that comes with being a child, this story is a recollection of the grim events that led to the unleashing of a malignant darkness intent on claiming the boy’s world as its own. It follows Lettie and the boy as they traverse an otherworldly landscape to set things right.
Why I picked it up: There was never a chance that I wasn’t going to pick this up. A decade ago, Gaiman’s American Gods rearranged the furniture in my headspace, and things have never been the same. I eventually read everything he publishes. However, I picked this up immediately, because I love Gaiman’s female characters, and I knew this book would be full of them.
Why I finished it: I was not disappointed. The women in this book are feisty, stubborn, powerful, sexy, wise, and loving... except for when they are busy being manipulative, bratty, fragile, and downright terrifying. The Hempstock women, in particular, will break your heart and then stitch it back together stronger than it was to begin with.
This is the kind of story that you burrow inside of and don’t come out from until you’re done. I read it in one sitting. There are elements so fantastic and improbable that you cannot believe for a moment that they are not entirely true.
In the book, the boy talks about the allure of myths. “They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” This isn't a fairy tale, or a horror story, or a cleverly disguised memoir. It simply is, for everyone. It unfolded, pointing me in directions with just enough detail to keep me from getting lost, but with descriptors left out so that I rounded out the images with my own experiences to make this tale personal.
It's perfect for: Dave, as a thank you for having a kitchen like the Hempstock’s -- a sanctuary offering consolation, escape, and warmth. Both are filled with vibrant conversation, comfort food, and at least one cat. Lettie makes the boy pancakes in a scene that I have not been able to stop thinking about, and it reminds me of the countless times Dave has rescued me with a homemade meal.
@bookblrb: Visiting his home town, a man rememembers when he and a childhood friend unleashed a malignant darkness on the world.
Readers who fondly recall James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small will applaud the second coming of this beloved author in Denis O'Connor, who charmed cat lovers everywhere with Paw Prints in the Moonlight. Now, in Paw Prints at Owl Cottage, O'Connor returns with another heartwarming and timeless tale of the power of pets.
When Denis and his wife Catherine return to Owl Cottage, their former home, only to find it in a dilapidated state, they decide to restore this charming house. But the memory of Denis's beloved cat, Toby Jug, still lingers on. On impulse he buys a Maine Coon Kitten, Pablo, who proves to be such a wonderful companion that he decides to buy three more and names them Carlos, Luis, and Max. Set against the wilds of the Northumbrian coast, Denis tenderly and humorously charts the ups and downs of life with his mischievous cats in this warm and touching tale.
It has been years since anyone has traveled to the moon. NASA plans to change that. They set up a worldwide lottery for teenagers. The three winners, Mia, Midori, and Antoine will be going to the moon with a team of five astronauts. Mia didn’t really want to go -- her parents signed her up for the lottery without telling her. Midori just wanted to escape Japan, and she will finally be able to see the place she always wanted to go to, New York City. Antoine is sad and frustrated because he just broke up with his girlfriend. The trip to the moon will get him away from his ex and her new boyfriend.
But when the team gets to the moon, it’s not safe. The power at the base goes down. A few of them are trapped outside without a lot of air. And there are mysterious tire tracks on the lunar surface.
Why I picked it up: My dad told me he heard it was good, and I liked the eye on the cover (there’s a reflection of a hand in the pupil).
Why I finished it: I wanted to find out why everyone was dying, and who or what was killing them.
It's perfect for: My friend Maisy. We’re going to form a band, and she’d like that Mia decides to go on the trip because members of her punk band convinced her it would bring them fame.
@bookblrb: Three teens win a lottery and go to the moon with five astronauts. On the surface, something starts killing them.
The sci-fi tour de force series set in an alien-invaded post-apocalyptic world returns as the children forge deeper into the most dangerous lands in search of The Severed Tower.
Holt, Mira, and Max have fled Midnight City with Zoey after watching her repel an entire Assembly army. Zoey's powers are unlocked, but who and what she is remains a mystery. All she knows is that she must reach the Severed Tower, an infamous location in the middle of the world's most dangerous landscape: The Strange Lands, a place where the laws of physics have completely broken down. But the closer they get to the Tower, the more precarious things become. The Assembly has pursued Zoey into the Strange Lands. Among them is a new group, their walkers and machines strangely bereft of any color, stripped to bare metal, and whose agenda seems to differ from the rest. To make matters worse, the group hunting Holt are here, too, led by a dangerous and beautiful pirate named Ravan. So is Mira's first love, Benjamin Aubertine, whose singular ambition to reach the Tower threatens to get them all killed.
Then there's the Strange Lands themselves. They have inexplicably begun to grow, spreading outwards, becoming more powerful. Somehow, it all seems tied to Zoey herself, and the closer she gets to the Tower, the weaker she becomes.
When Tana wakes up in a bathtub after a wild all-night party, things are a little too quiet. Someone left a window open, and vampires got in and killed almost every single person at the party. The only ones moving are her jerk of an ex-boyfriend Aidan, who is tied to a bed, and a starving vampire who isn't going to last long unless he eats Aidan.
Rescuing both of them may be the stupidest thing she has ever done. It leads them all down the one-way road to Coldtown, a quarantine camp for vampires and those they have infected. It is overrun by teens with romantic notions of eternal life and vampire worshipping bloggers who want to get famous by telling shocking tales from inside its walls.
Why I finished it: I love the idea that vampires have always existed and were just too smart to get caught. It makes them more believable that somebody eventually messed up. And once the cat was out of the bag, it becomes a whole new terrifying game, where the human authorities only think they are in control.
It's perfect for: My sister-in-law Kelly, who loved the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and would totally not roll her eyes at the February-November, human-vampire romance, and would really love the reality TV show Hemlock: Vampire Bounty Hunter.
@bookblrb: Tana rescues her ex and a starving vampire from a deadly party, then head to a quarantine camp for vamps & wannabes.
Kinslayer is Book Two in Jay Kristoff's critically acclaimed Lotus War series that began with Stormdancer, featuring an unforgettable heroine and a stunningly original Japanese dystopian steampunk world
A SHATTERED EMPIRE The mad Shogun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium. The toxic blood lotus flower continues to ravage the land, the deadlands splitting wider by the day. The machine-worshippers of the Lotus Guild conspire to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously - by endorsing a new Shogun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.
A DARK LEGACY Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion. But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control. Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches. But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.
A GATHERING STORM Kagé assassins lurk within the Shogun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins. A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire. A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive. And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.
The ghosts of a blood-stained past.
When seventeen-year-old Kiandra's mother committed suicide ten years ago by drowning herself in the Delaware River next to their family home, Kiandra stopped having visions of those who had died in the river. Her father immediately moved her to Maine. He never fully explained what had happened to her mother, and he never allowed her near any body of water.
After making up a story about a camping trip to fool her dad, she is about to take her first white water rafting trip down the Dead River with her cousin Angela, her friend Hugo, and her boyfriend, Justin. Kiandra would much rather have gone to prom, but goes along with Angela and Justin to show that she can overcome her apprehensiveness about being on a river. After slipping from the raft, Ki is saved by Trey, the spirit of a young man who died in the river. Trey is Ki's spirit guide, there to keep her safe from the darker spirits who desperately want something from her. She soon discovers she has an immense power that she must learn to harness while caught up in a supernatural power play for the souls of the river.
Why I picked it up: I almost drowned rafting on the Deschutes River in Oregon about twenty years ago (my oldest daughter saved me), and I had a morbid urge to see how this story compared with my experience.
Why I finished it: Across the river from the rafting outfitters is a kingdom of souls. Trey, Jack (his killer), and two sisters from Ki's earliest visions are each trying to get to Ki using their own spiritual influence. If Jack or the sisters can get Ki to die in the river, her Mother, who is the Mistress of the Kingdom of Souls, will be deposed. Trey must find a way to keep Ki safe. If he fails and Ki dies, the sisters will steal all the souls in the river and misuse their power.
It's perfect for: Lauren, who loves telling ghost stories around a campfire. She will enjoy the stories told by the teens the night before the rafting trip, and how they seem to come to life for Ki after she survives the accident. She will also find the story behind Ki's mother's death compelling.
@bookblrb: 17-year-old Ki is saved from drowning by a spirit, and is caught up in a supernatural power play.
A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild
In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying. Hild is the king’s youngest niece, and she has a glimmering mind and a natural, noble authority. She will become a fascinating woman and one of the pivotal figures of the Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby.
But now she has only the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
Her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—unless she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.
Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early Middle Ages—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Working from what little historical record is extant, Griffith has brought a beautiful, brutal world to vivid, absorbing life.
Ry Burke lives with his mother and sister on their old family farm. It was once a fertile piece of land but hard times have come, and now it's just dust. Ry's dad is in prison, and the family has struggled to keep it going.
A meteorite lands nearby, and with it comes an unexpected visitor, a man who accepts a meal and new clothes before revealing that he broke out prison when the meteorite struck. Then he delivers a message: Ry's father is free, and he is coming back to seek revenge on his son for getting him locked up.
The family tries to flee, but Ry’s dad arrives too quickly. In order to defend himself, his mother, and his sister against his father, Ry needs help from three of his childhood “friends.”
Why I picked it up: I loved Kraus' Rotters, and was excited to see he had written a new standalone book. He has a true gift for describing ugly, awful things. The creepy cover was a plus.
Why I finished it: I liked the tension created by every chapter beginning with a countdown to the impact, and then, afterwards, a timer telling how much time has passed since the meteor strike. Every second brought the return of Ry's violent father closer, along with the truth about the horrifying thing he did to Ry's mother. I couldn't wait to see how Ry’s toys would save Ry and his family from his father. Jesus (a plastic Jesus figurine), Mr. Furringto (a Teddy Ruxpin-type bear with a British accent) and Scowler (a creepy toy handmade from metal and cloth that communicates through "tk-tk" sounds) all return and convince Ry to fight back against his father. I will never look at stuffed bears the same way again.
It's perfect for: Fans of old school Stephen King novels because of the blend of psychological horror and physical violence. The drama and tension is perfectly balanced ,and my heart raced the whole time I read it.
@bookblrb: Ry helped send his father to prison. Now he's free and bent on revenge. Ry's only hope: 3 childhood toys.
The dead walk the earth, and they’re hungry. For survivors Chase and Typewriter, getting through another day means finding more meth. They raid a sporting goods store, a pharmacy, and find refuge of a kind at their cook’s house.
Through it all Chase worries about KK, the love of his life, the woman who left him when he couldn’t stay clean. Is there still a chance to save her?
Why I picked it up: Erica Melnichok at Random House sent me a copy with a note saying the book is Breaking Bad meets The Walking Dead.
Why I finished it: It had me right from the beginning. Chase and Typewriter have been smoking meth for three days. He looks out the window and sees a sweet little girl crawling toward a rottweiler. The dog is shaking. When she finally gets to it, she lunges for its throat and rips it open. Chase isn’t sure what’s going on, even after the girl tries to kill him and his friend.
After they figure out that they’re in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, their frantic need to get high drives them to take major risks and makes for a fast, riveting read.
It's perfect for: KC, who would have the same ewwwww! and awwwww! reactions to descriptions of the utterly un-hygienic, meth-addled, post-apocalyptic love scenes that I did.
@bookblrb: Breaking Bad meets The Walking Dead.
Salem Hyde is a witch. She’s not supposed to do spells at school, but when she gets confused about the difference between spelling and spell casting, she accidentally turns a fossil into a dinosaur. Her aunt thinks she needs an animal companion to help her learn to use her powers. Whammy, a cat with a lot of experience, agrees to give it a shot, but Salem is upset -- she really wanted a unicorn.
Why I finished it: I really enjoyed Mr. Fink. He’s a mix of Bewitched’s Gladys Kravitz and Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off -- he knows Salem is a witch, but no one will believe him, and he suffers a bit because of her magic, too.
It's perfect for: Brad Guigar, because he’d enjoy Salem’s homonym-based puns at the spelling bee as her magic leads to chaos.
@bookblrb: A young witch is confused about the difference between spells and spelling. A cat tries to help her out.
Declan survived a nursing home fire years ago and has been catatonic ever since. His body temperature is also getting steadily colder. Reece, a nurse, takes Declan home to care for him there. She’s shocked when he wakes up and speaks to her. He tells her of a hidden world that he and others with mental illness can see, “the Hungry World.” In doing so he attracts the attention of an interdimensional creature, Nimble Jack, who feeds on the insanity of the mentally ill.
Reece becomes a target and ends up in the Hungry World. Declan must venture there to challenge Nimble Jack and save Reece from becoming the creature’s next meal.
Why I picked it up: The cover art shows Declan pushing his fingers under his upper lip and skin until his bloodstained fingers are visible inside his eye-socket. Yuck.
Why I finished it: The author and illustrator do not feel constrained by reality or convention, and the world they create is littered with images of madness. When Declan is under attack from Nimble Jack, he is thrown out a window to the waiting, slavering three little pigs of fairy tale fame. When Reece is captive in the Hungry World, instead of being chained up or caged, she is shown sitting in a throne growing out of the back of a creature that is all teeth and snarling mouth with legs that are human fingers. It really is a picture you must see, and it’s sure to make you squirm when you remember it at night. And Nimble Jack is a terrifying delight. He is a slim, creepy showboat who behaves like a circus ring master. He crawls through doorways upside down and one time even emerges from inside another person after unzipping his torso like it’s a full body suit.
It's perfect for: Dan, who has shown a liking for dark graphic novels like My Friend Dahmer. The scene where a mental hospital patient’s tongue is removed with forceps would give him the nastiness he seems to crave. Also, the inventiveness of the artist’s drawings would captivate him, like when a suicidal patient’s slit wrists stream ropes of color up into the sky.
@bookblrb: Nimble Jack feeds on the insanity of the mentally ill who can see the hidden Hungry World.