Book Bites: From Sweet to Spooky

Was that a bit of autumn air we felt last week? It came just in time—we've taken a close look at our favorite new releases and pulled a few seasonally spooky reads for those of you who are looking for some extra thrill, mystery, and magic for your October. You can find them below, alongside a variety of other fantastic year-round options for those uneager for the unnerving. So no matter what you're looking for, you'll easily... fall... for a title or two below. Happy (haunting?) reading, friends!

Ages 4-8

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Shawn Harris

A polar bear moves through the snow, from the land to the sea. The spare text and stunning illustrations made me gasp aloud—this is one of the most stunning author/illustrator collaborations I have ever seen. It doesn't matter that it doesn't snow often in Texas. This book is gorgeous. On par with the best Eric Carle.
— Cathy

READ if you're looking for a beautiful, thought-provoking future classic.
PASS if you moved to Houston so you didn't even have to think about snow. 
Order your copy on our website. 

What a Lucky Day!  by Jashar Awan

Stork, Cat, Frog, and Raccoon all end up at the same dock to go fishing, and they all assume that the others will bring bad luck (black cat) or give them warts (frog). They resolve the miscommunication and enjoy a fish dinner together. A funny, appealing picture book that reminds the readers not to rely on stereotypes.
— Cathy

READ if you're looking for a fun way to learn about the inaccuracy of stereotypes. 
PASS if you think that first impressions are always correct. 
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 8-12

Twins by Varian Johnson; illustrated by Shannon Wright

Twins Maureen and Francine have always done everything together, but when they enter sixth grade, everything changes. They're not in the same classes any more, they have different activities and they both decide to run for class president. Johnson and Wright collaborate beautifully on this pitch perfect graphic novel about growing up and growing into who you are meant to be.
— Ann

READ because the book acts as a great reminder that even though change is difficult, it allows you to grow into the person you most want to be. 
PASS if seeing double makes you feel woozy.
Order your copy on our website. 

Ages 10 & Up

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A keen observer of her surroundings, Myrtle Hardcastle is passionately interested in all things medicine, toxicology, and especially criminal—not at all seemly subjects for a twelve-year-old Proper Young Lady of Victorian England. When elderly neighbor Miss Minerva Wodehouse mysteriously dies in her tub—she never takes evening baths—and her prize Black Tiger hybrid lilies disappear, Myrtle is immediately on the case, accompanied by her level-headed governess Miss Ada Judson. A new series not to be missed for 5th graders and above.
— Jennifer G

READ because you are looking for a fun, captiviating new mystery.
PASS because you are a genius girl detective and have already deduced the ending.
Order your copy on our website.

Ages 14-18

Eventide by Sarah Goodman

Verity and her sister, Lilah, find themselves on an orphan train to rural Arkansas, where they are put up for adoption after their father descends into madness. The sisters are separated, with Lilah being adopted by the local schoolmistress and Verity becoming an indentured servant of a kind, farming couple. They are welcomed into the town, but all is not as peaceful as it initially seems. Why is everyone afraid of the forest—and why is Verity drawn to it so much? When she discovers the eerie well at the center of the forest, the secrets begin to unravel. Who is the sweet lady who has adopted Lilah?
— Caroline

READ because this is a fantastic, page-turning thriller.
PASS if you are easily spooked.
Order your copy on our website. 

You Know I’m No Good by Jessie Ann Foley

Mia Dempsey has been going downhill since Freshman year: bad grades, drinking, sleeping around. When she is sent to Red Oak Academy she meets Vera who asks her “are you bad, or just not good?”. That question percolates through the rest of the book as Mia works through the situations that brought her to Red Oak, and the reader realizes that many of the girls would not be there if they were boys. Finally a therapist asks Mia about herself, not her dead mother, bringing to light the trigger moment for her behavior.

A heart-wrenching story of girls at a therapeutic boarding school - their bickering, their painful pasts, and their attempts to help and support each other. I particularly loved that Mia’s situation was not simplistic. There was clearly a combination of circumstances and events that made her particularly vulnerable to tumbling downhill.
— Caroline

READ if you loved reading Speak or Girl, Interrupted.
PASS if you're in the mood for a simple read right now... but put this one into your TBR pile!
Order your copy on our website.

A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

Thea is an alchemist's apprentice in France, working on the mythical Philosopher's Stone as revolution is brewing. When her mother, the alchemist, goes insane and destroys their work, Thea is sent to England to meet a father who has no idea of her existence. Thea is pulled into a web of greed and power struggles as she reveals just how close they got, despite her warnings of a curse. She has to learn whom to trust, and who has betrayed her, as she races to re-make the Stone and heal those around her.

Set in the late Eighteenth century, as revolution is brewing, this novel evokes the inequity and violence of the era as well as the myth and mystique surrounding the study of alchemy.

READ because this is the fantastic fantasy you've been looking for this season!
PASS if you don't want to believe that the Philosopher's Stone doesn't exist. 
Order your copy on our website.

Adult Fiction

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Galadriel is a Junior at the Scholomance, a school where monsters (mals) that feed off wizards are around every corner. Barely a quarter of pupils survive to graduate in a world where magic has a price and survival requires power and privilege. Anyone not affiliated with a wizard’s enclave spends their entire school career trying to get themselves a guaranteed spot. Wizards in enclaves are safer from the mals, and their children are more likely to survive thanks to the guaranteed support and privilege they receive.

Can Galadriel, the child of an independent, hippy witch, who repels others because she “feels like rain”, make it to Senior year and form the alliances she needs to survive graduation? A task only made harder when Orion Lake, the class hero, saves her from a soul-eater, to his glory and her embarrassment, not to mention the stink it leaves in her room. And what happens when someone with immense power and an affinity for spells of mass destruction, makes choices that can only be described as “good”? 

A Deadly Education is about friendship, the unfairness of privilege, and how our choices define us. This book is not just dark but also slyly humorous. The cost of magic and the way in which evil lies within us and in our choices reminds me more of Ged than Harry Potter. This is the first book in a trilogy and I am already impatient for the next to be published!

READ because who doesn't want to read about dark magic?
PASS if you'll just drive yourself nuts unless you wait until the whole trilogy is out.
Order your copy on our website.

The End of the Day by Bill Clegg

Bill Clegg has written another beautiful novel filled with flawed characters who reach out to the reader in their oh so human ways of trying to connect with each other. Two childhood friends who have not spoken since a fateful day when they were teenagers. A broken-down summer home. A grown man trying to figure out who his father is. The stories interweave and will break your heart—but not without Clegg's signature note of redemptive grace.
— Valerie

READ because this is an absolutely stunning novel.
PASS if you don't feel like reading a book that makes you want to give it a hug once you've finished. 
Order your copy on our website. 

Adult Nonfiction

Keep Moving by Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith is your wise sister. Her short essays and thoughtful quotes will be a great way to start or end your day. Parenting, marriage (and divorce), and life are all a part of what we feel, desire, and struggle with in our lives.
— Valerie

READ because this book acts like an encouraging friend and reminds you that can constantly make yourself new. 
PASS if, whenever you are given advice, you do the opposite.
Order your copy on our website.

The Zealot & the Emancipator by H.W. Brands

We all recognize the words "Harper's Ferry" and "The Emancipation Proclamation," but how many of us understand fully the complex social issues and political machinations that led to both events? In this fascinating work of narrative non-fiction, Brands examines the involvement of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln in their campaigns to do away with the evils of slavery. Brown was the zealot, an idealist who sacrificed his own life as well as the lives of several sons in the fight against pro-slavery politicians and settlers in the federal territories and, ultimately, at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Lincoln was a pragmatic (and ambitious) politician whose primary goal was to keep the country united and who only gradually became convinced that the way to hold the Union together was to free all the slaves and persuade as many as possible to join the Union Army. In quoting extensively from both men's writings and speeches as well as newspaper articles and court proceedings, Brands brings to  life the fraught political and social atmosphere of the 1850s and early 1860s and paints vivid pictures of the two men who did the most to end slavery. Highly recommended.

READ because this is a highly interesting read that masterfully balances the art of storytelling in a historical context.
PASS if you need a break from politics at the moment.
Order your copy on our website.