The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an "accident," he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.
Mercedes: I loved this book from the moment I picked it up, because Maia is everything you could ever want in a protagonist—kind-hearted and wholly good, despite the fact that the entire country seems slanted against him at times. The world building is gorgeous, the characters utterly charming, and, if you’re anything like me, you might walk away from this book wanting to wrap Maia up in a blanket.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback.
Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet.
In an isolated belt of Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another's nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun.
Nathan, Bub and Nathan's son return to Cameron's ranch and to those left behind by his passing: his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers.
While they grieve Cameron's loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.
Mercedes: All of Harper’s books are richly atmospheric, with the Australian bush country becoming almost its own character, but The Lost Man takes that to the next level. It’s full of all of the intrigue and trials of small town life, heightened by the fact that even the tiniest mistake can be the difference between life and death. This book left me breathless as I followed alongside Nathan, trying to figure out what could’ve happened to end up with his charismatic, easy-going brother alone in the desert to die.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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.
Jessie: It’s an excellent, moving YA book about family, adolescence, healing, and love. As an added bonus, the audiobook, which we have in E-format, is read by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who does a great job of adding emotion to the story.
Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's a total pro at other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.
The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because love is girly, and it's not her thing. And don't forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...and it means risking it all—the only job she's ever loved, and the hero she's worked like hell to become.
Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt and healing tour-de-force about the strength of vulnerability, the nourishing magic of forgiveness, and the life-changing power of defining courage, at last, for yourself.
Linda: After firefighter Cassie Hanwell moves from Texas to Boston to help her estranged mother, she has a lot to cope with. Learning to live with the mother who moved out when Cassie was sixteen is every bit as challenging as she thought. A new job in an all-male fire station has Cassie trying to show her coworkers that she can handle herself in the line of duty. Cassie faces each new obstacle with fierce determination and gives readers a likeable heroine to cheer on in this story of love, family and forgiveness.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Edinburgh Haunting by David Wilson
In March 1882, when John Watson is invited to Edinburgh to visit his cousin, the eminent Dr. Patrick Watson, he convinces Holmes to accompany him on what he believes will be a relaxing holiday. But where Sherlock Holmes tends to go, then surely a crime must be detected.
What begins as a chance encounter of a seemingly simple mystery at an Edinburgh home, soon takes Holmes and Watson in to conflict with the Edinburgh Police, an investigation involving murder and corruption, and crossing paths with the local populace including Dr. Joseph Bell. As Holmes works more closely with a young Edinburgh constable on the case, it causes Watson to question not only his own position, but his very relationship with Sherlock Holmes.
Sid: "Holmes is stressed out and Watson talks him in to going to Scotland for a relaxing holiday. Of course soon Holmes is eyeball deep in a new mystery and loving every minute of it. The library has a good collection of Sherlockian materials and I can recommend most of it."
The Ultimate Guide to Paper Airplanes by Christopher L. Harbo
Step-by-step instructions and easy-to-follow photos of every crease, tuck and fold make these paper airplane books like no other. The clever organization starts with straightforward designs for beginning paper pilots as they enter flight school and progresses through the ranks to the advanced creations of a paper airplane captain!
Sid: In case someone is in the mood for crafts I found this book very interesting. The Ultimate Guide to Paper Airplanes: 35 amazing step-by-step designs! By Christopher Harbo. I only tried a couple, but I bought the book. Not being a great crafter I found some of the designs challenging maybe because I didn’t use the right paper.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who's in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who's telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.
Rachelle: If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book. There are even recipes in the back you can try out!
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather's pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.
When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine--essential for the treatment of malaria--from deep within Peru, he knows it's a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who's made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.
Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick's grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.
Rachael: This book has a fantastic sense of place and a compelling mystery. Anyone interested in magical realism or post-colonial literature will enjoy this book.
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Welcome to a Victorian England unlike any other you have experienced before. Here, wicked thoughts (both harmless and hate-filled) appear in the air as telltale wisps of Smoke.
Young Thomas Argyle, a son of aristocracy, has been sent to an elite boarding school. Here he will be purged of Wickedness, for the wealthy do not Smoke. When he resists a sadistic headboy's temptations to Smoke, a much larger struggle beyond the school walls is revealed. Shortly thereafter, on a trip to London, Thomas and his best friend witness events that make them begin to question everything they have been taught about Smoke.
And thus the adventure begins... You will travel by coach to a grand estate where secrets lurk in attic rooms and hidden laboratories; where young love blossoms; and where a tumultuous relationship between a mother and her children is the crucible in which powerful passions are kindled, and dangerous deeds must be snuffed out in a desperate race against time.
Rachael: Truly one of my favorite books of all time. Smoke isn't a book for everyone, but anyone who is a fan of magical realism or speculative fiction will appreciate Dan Vyleta's remarkable way with words.
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
Deb: "Adventure, history, mystery and a bit of romance: this series has everything. Each book completely absorbed me. I often found myself checking the historical accuracy of the events in the story and found them to be mostly, vaguely true, with just enough spin to make the story flow. The length of the novels is potentially intimidating, though. I can attest that Davina Porter’s narration of the series is wonderful if patrons prefer an audio book."
The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.
This unforgettable novel by Suzanne Collins, the international bestselling author of the Hunger Games series, is rich in suspense and brimming with adventure.
Deb: Gregor finds himself under New York City which is populated by humans that fell through long ago and have adapted and civilizations of bugs. It was a charming adventure, despite the bug creep factor (talking cockroaches, etc.).
Sabriel by Garth Nix
Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny. . . .
Cindy: “This fantasy series will remind readers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Studio Ghibli’s films, and even World War I period dramas. If you’re looking for a genuinely unique fantasy world that straddles YA and adult, don’t hesitate to dive in.”
The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber
In the inhospitable lands of the Utah Territory, during the winter of 1888, thirty-seven-year-old Deborah Tyler waits for her husband, Samuel, to return home from his travels as a wheelwright. It is now the depths of winter, Samuel is weeks overdue, and Deborah is getting worried.
Deborah lives in Junction, a tiny town of seven Mormon families scattered along the floor of a canyon, and she earns her living by tending orchards and making work gloves. Isolated by the red-rock cliffs that surround the town, she and her neighbors live apart from the outside world, even regarded with suspicion by the Mormon faithful who question the depth of their belief.
When a desperate stranger who is pursued by a Federal Marshal shows up on her doorstep seeking refuge, it sets in motion a chain of events that will turn her life upside down. The man, a devout Mormon, is on the run from the US government, which has ruled the practice of polygamy to be a felony. Although Deborah is not devout and doesn't subscribe to polygamy, she is distrustful of non-Mormons with their long tradition of persecuting believers of her wider faith.
But all is not what it seems, and when the Marshal is critically injured, Deborah and her husband's best friend, Nels Anderson, are faced with life and death decisions that question their faith, humanity, and both of their futures.
Diana: I enjoyed The Glovemaker, as historical fiction is usually my favorite genre, the woman protagonist has fortitude and it was unexpectedly suspenseful.
The Promise by Ann Weisgarber
Young pianist Catherine Wainwright flees the fashionable town of Dayton, Ohio in the wake of a terrible scandal. Heartbroken and facing destitution, she finds herself striking up correspondence with a childhood admirer, the recently widowed Oscar Williams. In desperation she agrees to marry him. But when Catherine travels to Oscar's farm on Galveston Island, Texas - a thousand miles from home - she finds she is little prepared for the life that awaits her.
Diana: I became so fond of the characters in The Promise, I wept over them! I do not remember shedding tears over a book since Charlotte’s Web. The Promise is historical fiction too, set in the gritty days of early 1900’s when people worked like mules from sun up to sundown but they still made time to gossip, have affairs and pass judgment on each other. The Disaster strikes, not equally, but each is pained in some way.