In the Manor of Shirley Jackson

by Emily Z.

A few weeks ago, I suddenly felt the urge to look up the release date for the film adaptation of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The short answer is, it is unclear. However, the very next day, the nominees for the Shirley Jackson Award were announced. It was all a little spooky and made me glance over guiltily at the stack of books curled next to my bed. Some were nominees for said award, some not. All were creepy, Gothic, thrilling, and dark books I’d been putting off simply because it’s nearly summer and, really, shouldn’t I be reading something light and carefree? A beach read? Something fun?

Well. Anything can be a beach read if you go to the right beach and creepy is my fun so, here we are.

Jackson’s books do not fit into one genre, which is part of their appeal. They are about problematic characters with hidden, shadowy depths and settings that are much the same. As you read you may wonder, “Who am I supposed to root for in this story?” or “Which character is the ‘good’ one?” or even “Which of these characters is at least sane?” There is a cobwebby coating of the sinister and sometimes overtly supernatural in her works. There are unreliable narrators and outright liars. There might be ghosts or it might all be in someone’s head. You never quite know what the rules of the game are until you’ve run all the way through the hedge maze. These tales exist on an ever-shifting spectrum that includes everything from psychological-leaning domestic fiction (themes of familial conflict and solidarity often appeared in Jackson’s books) to suspense to horror to the darkly fabulist. Because of this, the titles nominated for her award are also admirably diverse.

There is a whole host of titles up for the award each year–too many to cover here–and so I am selecting a few standout favorites and adding some selections of my own, many of them too recently published to be nominees quite yet. Think of this as a sample platter, celebrating Jackson’s influence. Continue reading »

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Pride 2018: These Characters Have Been Out

By Kaley C.

​Happy Pride to those who are celebrating this month! In the growing sea of LGBTQ+ literature, I’m a huge fan of stories with characters that go beyond coming out. While those narratives need to be told, I have found myself drawn to characters who identify as unapologetically LGBTQ+. In this post you’ll find intrigue, suspense, love, and even a mermaid.

The Lamb Will Slaughter the LionOne of my favorite contemporary fantasy series out there right now is penned by Margaret Killjoy. She has created such a suspenseful novella starring Danielle Cain, who is investigating the suicide of her best friend. To do this, she relocates to an anarchist punk town that relies on a guardian spirit, a three horned deer named Uliksi, to protect them. Only now, it’s gone rogue. Initially interested in her friend’s death, she is now roped in to helping newfound friends. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is also steeped in punk culture. You just may fly through this fast-paced novella, so here’s the link to the next part of this series: The Barrow Will Send What it May.

If you’re a fan of the graphic novel or movie adaptation of Blue is the Warmest Color, you are in luck. Body Music by the same author, Julie Maroh, is a really interesting exploration of love in its many forms and at different stages. The characters are quite diverse, and it was a real joy to take in something that embraced different identities and relationships.

The Mermaid’s Daughter is a fun spin on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Kathleen’s mother drowned in the sea when Kathleen was a baby yet despite this, the sea is still the only thing that comforts her. Her girlfriend, Harry (Harriet), wants to take her to Ireland to learn more about her family and her Kathleen’s suffering.

I’ve got a few more right below, but please let me know if you like reading books like this and know of any that I’ve missed! Especially if you’ve got a good graphic novel to throw in.

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Portraits of the Artist

by Kimberly P. 

“Somebody famous had a birthday today. . .”

–Prince, “June”

After two years, it still feels as if I’ve only just learned of his passing.

Prince: an enigma, a mystery, but most of all, a musical artist with few equals.

One of the comforting things to emerge after his death are the many tributes to his artistry, work, and life. Last April, I paid tribute to Prince by reading memoirs and biographies written about him. While this year I’ve undergone my annual musical pilgrimage (listening to all his music from his first album, For You until his last album HITnRUN Phase Two ), I wanted to shake things up today.

It’s his birthday, after all (6/7/1958).

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Beach Flicks

by Grant P.

It is the season for the beach, the ocean, the sand, and the sunburn. Instead of providing a list of great summer beach reads, I am more of a realist. Sadly, many of us are stuck at work, so the few glimpses of the surf and sand we will be seeing is on the celluloid. With that in mind I have compiled a list for your viewing pleasure that gets you out on the water even if you can’t yourself.

When I think of the beach, I think of surfing. Endless Summer from 1966(!) follows a pair of friends traveling the globe in search of the perfect wave. If you want some silliness mixed in with your surfing fun, why not try Beach Blanket Bingo. Maybe you prefer some crime with your surfing, Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves have your back in Point Break (we will not speak of the unnecessary remake). Or you could just go full girl power with the coming of age surfing tale Blue Crush.

How about a nice beach vacation? If you have never seen Weekend at Bernie’s I feel like telling you anything about what is possibly the second stupidest plot of all time would be ruining the experience. Ah the 80’s, a time when apparently any idea for a movie could get made. If comedies that are actually funny are more your route, there is the great John Candy in Summer Rental or if you like Abba songs mixed in with your vacation stories, Mamma Mia. For the more serious side, The Way Way Back is a criminally overlooked summer vacation coming of age story. And while we are at it, you can always hit up some Nicholas Sparks (melo)drama in Safe Haven, and the Notebook.

Want to feel better about not being able to go to the beach, why not watch Jaws? A movie that features a shark terrorizing a small beach-side community. Of if you feel like truly being awed. why not watch Jaws: The Revenge (AKA Jaws 4) a movie in which, I am not joking here, a shark hunts the widow of the main character from the first Jaws movie, all the way to the Bahamas. You will never be so happy to be landlocked (or to have a fast-forward button). If you still are looking for reasons to avoid the beach and the water at all costs, The Shallows does an excellent job of making you never want to go in the deep end. I don’t know why someone would get in a shark cage, but 47 meters down confirmed my fears.

Do you have any favorite beach flicks?

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LibraryReads List June 2018

by Lindsey A.

Can you believe summer is already upon us? I’ve been trapped in a fugue state of summer program planning, but now I’m ready to breathe and read. LibraryReads has kicked off the summer with a new list of books recommended by librarians across the nation.

Psychological suspense is perennially popular, and the number one pick for this month’s list is B. A. ParisBring Me Back. In addition, a number of popular authors have new titles out this month, including Fredrik Backman, Emily Giffin, Anthony Horowitz, and Karen White.

By far the book that interests me the most is There There by Tommy Orange. It’s all too rare to find a book about Native Americans by a Native America, not only published by a major publishing house but also well-marketed. According to a starred review in Kirkus, it is a vivid and moving “kaleidoscopic” look at Native American life through the experiences of twelve characters living in Oakland, California. It sounds like a promising debut!

I’m also intrigued by Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient. A heroine with Asperger’s, a male escort, mathematics… it doesn’t sound like a conventional contemporary romance!

Do any of these June LibraryReads titles pique your interest? Let us know in the comments!

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Beyond Bestsellers: Humorous SFF: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

by Emily Z.

It’s the end of the month and time to check in and pack up Beyond Bestsellers: Humorous Science Fiction and Fantasy, or as I like to say to myself (very loudly) “HSFF!”

After all I read and learned leading up to this month I can now confidently state that I am a stolid fan of absurd and madcap vein of science fiction and fantasy, especially if it playfully parodies its own genre, examples being the works of Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett.

What about you? Any insights on your preferred type of humor?

Find anything new (or at least new to you) that you liked? Loved? Loathed?

 At present, I am digging into The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet. The trilogy, which is actually only one book, is tale of dark humor about a once widely lauded author now struggling to stay relevant (and solvent) in the rapidly changing publishing game by penning the next classic fantasy novel. Not having any great fondness for the genre himself, he stops off in a pub to …research the issue. On his stumble home he has a strange encounter and, not much later, finds himself typing up the fantasy epic of his editor’s dreams. Kind of. Someone is feeding him the words for his masterpiece, pulling the strings of his yarn–tighter and tighter—and when Mr. Murdstone is a bestseller once more, they will want something in return.

Mal Peet’s humor is charmingly dry and his words curiously and effortlessly lovely, despite his characters often miserable predicaments. I know I’ll be sniffing out more titles from him, no matter what they’re about.

After that, I’m looking forward to Kill the Farm Boy with great interest. It is meant to mock the Chosen One trope so popular in the realms of high fantasy and appears to be part of a planned trilogy. Penned by both Kevin Hearne (of the Iron Druid Chronicles and A Plague of Giants) and Delilah S. Dawson, it has quite the pedigree. It is out in July but already in our catalog so you can put your name on the list for a copy. In the meantime, you can play around with the character name-generator (you may now call me Pippi Skivviis).

 

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Now it’s time for the lists you folks made this month!

jocelyn_victoria has crafted a list of funny paranormal romance books, which I greatly appreciate. I was hoping someone with the necessary expertise would help highlight this increasingly popular genre.

 

Chromatick has put together a veritable who’s who of funny fantasy
I am loving each and every one of these! The book Sourcery is actually where Sir Pratchett himself thinks people should start the Rincewind/wizard storyline within the Discworld universe of books.

 

lindseyanderson created a fabulous middle-grade list of funny genre fiction!  I can personally attest that the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series is both excellent and sparkly.

 

I’m also going to roll out each of the lists from the intensely silly quiz featured in our opening post this month, just in case you wanted to see all the other possible results.

Fantasy Humor

Science Fiction Funnies

Gentler Genre Fiction Humor

Horrific Humor

Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Fun

So what about next month?

The Beyond Bestsellers crew is taking a break for June, but we will be back after that with a little twist.

July is going to be a special celebration of film adaptations of books.

After that we will dive back into books with LGBTQ+ stories.

September will be an ode to short fiction.

Beyond that, well, you’ll just have to wait and see…

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Urban Fantasy Spotlight: Supernatural

by Kimberly P. 

Big City Life with a Side of the Supernatural.

Have you ever been curious about urban fantasy? Exactly what is it? In general, urban fantasy novels are set in contemporary times, and contain supernatural elements. One Friday out of each month, I’ll highlight an urban fantasy book for the interested.

Dean Winchester’s “Baby”

Welcome back to U/F/S. Hopping in our ’67 Impala, we’re leaving the Big Apple behind in favor of the open road, seedy motels, and copious amounts of pie.

And monsters. Did I mention monsters?

The popular CW television show, Supernatural has long been one of my favorites. I’ve even dedicated a few posts to praising my boys, Sam and Dean Winchester. While I’m sad CW passed on the spinoff show, Wayward Sisters, I can drown my sorrows in Sno-Isle’s vast collection of Supernatural-based novels. Continue reading »

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Sampling Shorts for Short Story Month

by Denise D. 

Do you short story?

Imagine yourself perusing the new books shelves. A cover catches your eye. Perhaps it’s the color. Maybe it’s the art. Or an author you’ve been meaning to try. You reach out. Pick it up. And then you notice the finer print: Stories

What do you do? Murmur that you wish it had been a novel as you return it to the shelf? Or do you check it out? Continue reading »

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Bookish Podcasts

by Lindsey A.

There was a time when podcasts intimidated me. Once I realized I could easily access them through my iPhone podcast app, they had me hooked. I love history podcasts (Stuff You Missed in History Class, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, History Extra, etc.) and true crime podcasts (My Favorite Murder, Atlanta Monster, In the Dark, etc.) but being a huge book nerd, most of the podcasts I listen to are book-related. There are a vast number of them, for all tastes!


My first podcast was Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, part of the irreverent romance website, Smart B*tches, Trashy Books. (It’s important to note that the word “trashy” is used ironically. It’s a response to the criticism targeting romance novels and readers. They don’t actually believe romance is trashy.) This podcast has been running for years, and I look forward to checking in every Friday for a new episode. Sarah (the host) and her team offer book recommendations, interviews with authors and industry experts, and commentary on romance. Sometimes the topics are serious, but mostly this podcast runs on silliness and the joy of reading romance.

From there, I discovered Book Riot‘s podcasts. Book Riot offers a plethora of podcasts, and their roster continues to grow. While I no longer listen to their eponymous podcast (bookish news) or All the Books (new book releases – I learn about plenty of these from working at a library!), there are many more to enjoy. Hey YA is about young adult books, When in Romance looks at the romance genre, SFF Yeah covers science fiction and fantasy, Read or Dead discusses mystery and suspense, and Get Booked delivers weekly book recommendations based on reader requests. There are even more podcasts than this, which you can check out at Book Riot’s website.

Continue reading »

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Picture Books & Animated Movies for Grown-ups

by Michelle C.

I still remember the first time my mom handed me a chapter book–<angry scowl> where are all the pictures? Young Michelle was horrified that she would have to use her imagination while reading. Unacceptable! (Young Michelle also got in trouble in Kindergarten for copying her friend’s drawing in art class, so originality/imagination wasn’t really her thing.)

I have since become a champion imaginator and most books I read have no pictures. But I am still drawn to beautifully (or hilariously) illustrated books. There is a subset of picture books that, based on topic or language, is more suited to grown-ups than children. The close kin of the grown-up picture book is, of course, the animated movie for adults. And I don’t just mean the pockets of adult humor you find in most Pixar movies. Some animated movies were created with an adult audience in mind.

In a visual cacophony, I am pairing grown-up picture books with animated movies. While the stories are different, the themes are similar. Think of the picture book as an aperitif for the main course of the movie.

The Heart and the Bottle is the story of a young girl who experiences loss and tries to bottle up her feelings so that she never experiences pain again. In the process she loses her sense of wonder and joy. Loving Vincent delves into similar topics of loss, while looking at the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. The artwork within both book and movie help to further the story and more deeply express the wonder and surprise that comes from the world around even when things are dark.

Raven Girl, a dark fairy tale, originally created as a story that could be turned into a ballet, is full of poetry, art, and movement. Born the daughter of a human father and raven mother, the heroine feels trapped in a body that contains no wings. In The Breadwinner, the heroine, Parvana is also trapped in a female body that doesn’t allow her to provide for her family in the way that she needs. Growing up under the Taliban, Parvana must dress as a boy to survive. It is through the power of transformation that both heroines can fulfill their destiny.

What are some of your favorite grown-up picture books and animated movies? Are there any pairs that you think might go well with each other?

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