Books to read on Leap Day

I know what “science” says, but I choose to believe that Leap Day is a gift given to me as a chance to read an extra book every four years. I put together a list of short and sweet books that you can absolutely get through in a day, leaving you with a warm glow going into March.

Heartstopper Vol. 5 by Alice Oseman

I assume you’ve all read Vols. 1-4, correct? If not, you should catch up and then read the newest installment (honestly since they’re graphic novels, you could probably tackle them all in a day), in which Charlie and Nick have to deal with a lot of changes in their lives and their relationship.

How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Do you like sci-fi? Enemies-to-lovers romance stories? Action and adventure?! Epistolary relationship building? Then this is the book for you, all wrapped up in a tiny, tight little package.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

A lovely, heartwarming, and at times lonely little story about fitting in, and the societal rules we conform to in order to be seen as “normal,” for better or for worse.

A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

What if you wandered a post-apocalyptic utopia, searching for meaning in your life, and ran into a robot with some of the same musings? You’d get the first Monk and Robot book in the Monk. Hopeful, humorous and thought-provoking.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

A deeply intimate examination of motherhood — what it takes from us, how it sheds light on our families and how it affects our place in our communities.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I’m a lot more likely to read a classic if I know it’s short, and this one, set as a man facing a great fish foe (it works really well as a metaphor) is worth your time. 

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Whew, you might want to prepare yourself for this one, as it does get grisly, but the story of KKK members turning into demons set to end the world is as gripping as it is imaginative.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

It was assigned reading in school for a reason! A beautifully told coming-of-age story that will teach you something and give you memories to relate to at the same time.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

A tiny book that boils down all of the trials and intimacies of a marriage, and yet never feels lacking. Anyone who has been in a long-term romantic relationship will relate to this gorgeously written reflection.

10 books to read with your besties to celebrate Galentine’s Day

As a female-founded and female-owned company, of course we love Galentine’s Day, and the idea behind it. Female friendships keep us going through the good times and the bad, and these books do a great job celebrating that special bond!

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein

The first novel in the four-book series covers the meeting of fiery and unforgettable Lila and the bookish narrator, Elena, at the start of their complex friendship. 

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two girls dream of being dancers and share a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early 20s, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

For 30 years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship — jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

Frances is a cool headed and darkly observant young woman studying in Dublin. Her best friend is the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi. When the girls are gradually drawn into the world of a well-known photographer and her handsome husband, it will alter the course of their relationship.

Wahala by Nikki May

When a lethally glamorous woman infiltrates a group of three Anglo-Nigerian best friends, she sows chaos, and the friendships begin to crack.

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

Best friends despite their differences, Mia is reckless and proudly hard-hearted and Lorrie Ann is kind, serenely beautiful, and seemingly immune to teenage mistakes. But when Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia must question how well she ever really knew her in the first place.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka is afraid. She knows that the Dragon protecting her village will take her best friend Kasia as a sacrifice, and there is no way to save her. But when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Fiona Lin and Jane Shen explore Los Angeles together through their teenage years, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters, and carrying with them the scars of their families’ tumultuous pasts. But even when the women later float in and out of each other’s lives, their friendship is both a beacon of home and a reminder of all they’ve lost.

Sula by Toni Morrison

Nel and Sula’s devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret. It endures even after Nel has grown up to be a pillar of the Black community and Sula has become a pariah. But their friendship ends in an unforgivable betrayal — or does it?   

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans 20 years. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined, and what happens when one is left behind.

For our 2024 blog series, we’re highlighting industry professionals to find out more about their time in the book world. Follow along for insight on what catches a reviewer’s interest, things to avoid when pitching a media outlet, what librarians are searching for and more. 

Today, we’re chatting with BigAl (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna). He spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for his website BigAl’s Books and Pals as well as running The IndieView, a website intended as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

As someone who hears about A LOT of books, what makes one stand out to you?

In some ways I’m lucky in that I don’t have to consider the same things that a book publicist or a publisher or many in the book business do. The IndieView and my review blog, BigAl’s Books and Pals, are both things I do as a hobby to help out my fellow readers as well as authors.

Being in a different position than a publicist, agent, or publisher, all I have to look for in a book is whether it appeals to me personally. I don’t need to take into account whether it is likely to appeal to a broad audience, only whether it has an audience. In the case of choosing a book to read for review, the only audience it has to appeal to is me. I think the evolution of publishing over the last dozen years or so has made it possible for some of those stories with appeal that isn’t broad to get out there and find their audience.

I’m starting the third paragraph and I still haven’t given an answer to the question. Maybe I need a better editor. For me personally, I have always enjoyed thrillers and suspense and mysteries, whether detective mysteries or a normal person trying to figure out what is going on. Throw in a little humor, and you’re even more likely to pull me in. Those who are old enough to have read Donald Westlake’s John Dortmunder series or Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series in the prior century will know what I was reading many years ago. I also find that I like books, fiction or nonfiction, that help me experience something vicariously, whether a travel book or a book with characters who live a life very much unlike mine. At a high level there are only so many stories and they’ve already been told many times. The specifics are what makes a story unique, so it has to be something in the specifics – whether it is the characters or a unique twist of some kind to make a book stand out. If a book seems to have that, it will draw me in.

What’s the worst thing an author (or publicist!) can do in telling you about a book they’d like you to consider for coverage?

I’ve got a couple things. 

First, familiarize yourself with the venue and possibly tweak your boilerplate email to reflect what you find. The IndieView does two things an author or publicist looking for coverage might benefit from. One of these is providing a list of book review sites that meet certain requirements, and doesn’t require anything other than to check out the list to use it. (Then follow the link to the independent sites in the list that appeal and follow their directions.) The other is interviews (or IndieViews, since that is the name of the site). If you ask for a review, don’t contact the site. You haven’t done your homework and I won’t bother to respond.

The second thing is to follow instructions. At Books and Pals I have a page that explains what to do to be considered for review and instructions to submit a book for consideration. One of those things is to send an ebook in one of a few eBook formats as part of your submission email. It’s amazing how many authors and publicists manage to find the email to send their request, but don’t follow the instructions on the same page and prior to the only place the email is listed. When I receive those I have a “nope, not bothering with this one” file that those emails go to.

Neither of these things are really what I think your question is aimed at, but the reality is that what I get “told” in the email telling me about the book isn’t going to matter if you get excluded before I reach the point of considering the book. 

What makes your job easier?

I could answer that for me this isn’t a job, it’s a hobby. I’d be right, in that if I was doing it for financial reasons I never would have started and certainly would have quit long ago. But it is a job in that it involves work keeping things going. What makes it easier is publicists and authors who do (or don’t do for some of them) the things I talk about in the last question. Plus, reading or helping publicize that good book is a reward in itself that makes it all easier. 

Did you always know you wanted to be involved in the book world?

Yes and no. I’ve always been an avid reader beginning in second grade (many, many decades ago) when I won a class contest for reading the most books that year. I suspect if we’d been keeping track that I’ve beaten all of my classmates by that metric every year since. But in other ways, running these websites, writing a bit myself as a reviewer or for a while writing for yet another website aimed at authors, was something I kind of fell into and found I enjoyed. I’m a bit surprised it happened.

What is your favorite part about working in the book community?

I enjoy helping connect my fellow readers with books and authors they might not find otherwise. I’ve also made a lot of friends among avid readers as well as authors from around the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

January industry interview

For our 2024 blog series, we’re highlighting industry professionals to find out more about their time in the book world. Follow along for insight on what catches a reviewer’s interest, things to avoid when pitching a media outlet, what librarians are searching for and more. 

Today, we’re chatting with Amanda MacGregor, who currently works in an elementary library. You can find her blogging at the School Library Journal-networked blog Teen Librarian Toolbox, writing reviews and the occasional feature article for SLJ, and on Twitter @CiteSomething. She lives outside of St. Paul, Minnesota with her husband, their high school senior, and two quirky rescue chiweenies.

As someone who hears about A LOT of books, what makes one stand out to you?

I love when I see a plot or characters unlike others I’ve read. I read more than 250 middle grade and YA books in 2023 and reading at that clip makes many of the stories kind of become a blur, but I just love it when something sticks with me because it was so unusual or powerful.

What makes your job easier?

As far as reviewing books, getting things as far in advance as possible really helps. Some months I get 30-40 books to consider for Teen Librarian Toolbox. I read in order of publication date (it just keeps my life more organized) and often if something shows up well past its publication date, I’ve long moved on to even newer books. The same goes for scheduling guest posts–hit us up EARLY. We love to share authors’ voices and stories on TLT, but already have more than 100 guest posts scheduled for 2024. Life moves quickly! 

What’s the most memorable (or maybe funniest) pitch that’s ever come your way?

Right now I’m paying closest attention to books that address climate change, mental health issues, and diverse, intersectional identities. As I sift through the daily emails, I’m most interested in books that are reflecting teens’ current experiences and concerns. Those stand out to me.

Did you always know you wanted to be involved in the book world?

I was a huge reader from little on up. I was an English and Women’s Studies major in college and always studied in the YA/kids section of the college library. I’d pick those books up for my “fun reading” between assignments. Then, after graduate school in Boston at Simmons University’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, it solidified that I’d spend the next 20 years (and counting) working in bookstores and libraries and writing about books.

What is your most recommended book and why?

That’s a big question. If I go back to my childhood, I’d say anything Ramona Quimby-related is still a favorite and I’m delighted whenever any modern children pick them up at school. As a pretty quiet kid afraid of making mistakes or getting in trouble, I admired Ramona’s intensity and her ability to get through mishaps. 

I’m always telling people to read Patrick Ness’s 2015 book The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which has a great premise and excellent messages about mental health. A 2023 standout is The Labors of Hercules Beal by Gary D. Schmidt. Intense emotions, amazing characters, and a great hook (a grieving kid has to recreate the labors of Hercules as part of a school project).

What is a book that surprised you recently?

I absolutely loved Byron Graves’s Rez Ball. Set on the Red Lake Nation Reservation, in Minnesota, it follows a teenage boy and his basketball team as they work toward state tournament dreams. The characters were phenomenal, the setting is not one we see enough of in YA, and as a person with absolutely zero interest in sports, I found myself wishing I could watch the games he describes. The fact that it made me want to watch basketball (and made me a little nostalgic for high school–a nearly impossible task!) was definitely a surprise! 

What is your favorite part about working in the book community?

I am so grateful for all I get to learn from those around me and from all the books I read. And I’m happy to get to go work in a library every day and share my love of reading with kids. 

 

Happy National Cheese Lover’s Day! Here’s some book pairings for your favorite cheese

Happy National Cheese Lover’s Day! Give us some cheese and a good book and we’ll be pretty happy. We’re celebrating with some bookand cheese pairings — they may be a little unhinged, but so is our love of cheese.

If you love cheddar, try Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu. Whenever I don’t know exactly what I want to eat, I can usually be satisfied with a slice of cheddar, and when I don’t know what I want to read, I turn to graphic novels. And both of these are super wholesome and weirdly pair well with apple pie, trust me.

If you love gouda, try The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. They both have mass appeal, and both have origins in the Netherlands. Plus, you know anything by Ann Patchett will be gouda (I’m sorry).

If you love burrata, try Still Life by Sarah Winman. There are two layers to the cheese and several timelines to the story, but there’s a soft center to both. They’re also a bit indulgent and from Italy. 

If you love halloumi try Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. When you read it, it feels like you’re being grilled until your insides are gooey, but that pain produces something beautiful. Also, they’re both Greek!

If you love American cheese, try Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. What’s more American than a weird mixture of lots of kinds of “cheeses,” or burning books?

If you love blue cheese, try Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s a little gross and definitely weird, and you might wonder “what am I reading/eating and do I even like it?” But you also probably won’t be able to stop.

If you like feta, try Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes. The author is salty about how women in Greek myths were treated, so she revists them and their stories from a different point of view.

If you like brie, try The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Initially you might be unsure what it’s all about, but if you give it a little time and patience, you’ll be rewarded with something beautiful.

If you like ricotta, try From Scratch by Tembi Locke. Both are tender, indulgent, and Sicilian. Plus, it’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t like them.

If you like cream cheese, try Maame by Jessica George. The cheese and the book can be sweet or salty, and both have mass appeal for good reason.

 

Books the team wants to read in 2024

We have big bookish goals for 2024 — some of us want to read more, some of us want to read less, but all of us are excited about books!

Emily Kulkarni, publicity intern: I want to start reading the Throne of Glass series!

Jenn Vance, marketing director: I read a lot of audiobooks last year, which I’m really proud of, but I would definitely like to get back into reading more ebooks and physical books (since I have a gigantic stack on my nightstand). I would also like to get back into reading fiction, since at least two-thirds of the books I read this past year were nonfiction. I’ve already pre-ordered Good Material by Dolly Alderton, so I’ve got that to look forward to in fiction for 2024.

Jackie Karneth, senior publicist: I’m not the fastest reader, so I’m hoping to read 2 books per month. That’s usually manageable for me, and I like to set goals that I feel confident I can actually accomplish! A few books currently on my TBR: Biography of X, The Remains of the Day, Interior Chinatown, Go Tell It on the Mountain and Invisible Cities.

Angelle Barbarzon, lead publicist: I want to put less pressure on myself in 2024. I started off strong in 2023, reading one or two books every week for the sake of keeping up with my TBR stack, but I burned out by the time summer ended. I hit pause to give my brain some rest and found myself in a major reading slump. I think it’s because I was consuming too much too fast, so in 2024, I want to give myself some grace. Quality over quantity in 2024!

Corrine Pritchett, publicist & digital marketing strategist: In the past, I’ve found myself rushing through books so I can get to all of the ones I want to read! It’s exciting to be able to read so many books, but it also makes reading feel like a chore rather than a fun, relaxing hobby. In 2024, I want to be more intentional with my book choices and take my time reading through them. My yearly round up may be less books, but maybe I’ll remember them a little bit better!

Ellen Whitfield, vice president: I want to prioritize the books that have been gifted to me by friends and family over the years, and recommendations from people I trust. 

Simone Jung, publicist & digital marketing strategist: My main goal is to read the books I already have, take my time, and enjoy each read.

Rachel Lachney, publicity and digital marketing intern: In 2024, I want to try to read 60 books since I hit my goal of 50 this year! I also want to try to read a few books that I have had on my TBR for a looooong time. Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, If We Were Villains by M.L Rio, and Normal People by Sally Rooney have all been collecting dust on my bookshelves, and I think 2024 will finally be the year I do something about it. 

Layne Mandros, publicist: One of my goals is to read five books about Palestine in 2024! I’m also trying to read 60 books and 20,000 pages — a goal I attempted and failed this year hahaha. 

Abigail McQueen, publicity intern: My reading goal in 2024 will be to read 60 books, and a book I want to read is Iron Flame!

Enemies-to-lovers books similar to the Anyone But You movie

No one is more excited than me about the re-emergence of the romcom, and the trailer for Anyone But You has me all kinds of excited. In the meantime, here are some favorite enemies-to-lovers  books I’ll be revisiting.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

A blood feud between two gangs runs Shanghai’s streets red. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang — a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Olive Torres is the unlucky twin: her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. Her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. The only thing worse than Olive’s constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

When his mother became President, Alex was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But when Lina’s offered an opportunity that could change her life, there’s just one hitch… She has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.Marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning ex-fiancée. And she loathes him. If they can nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. 

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh 

Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. Sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. 

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup, she’s out the door. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. Jay Shah has that gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. 

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. But 24 years later, her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, and Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back. While she struggles to adjust, Jonah — the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational — can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Little Thieves by Margaret Owens

Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care — Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place, leading a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him — and face the consequences.

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those who defy his autocratic father. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would be brutally punished. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. 

 

Book pairings for the 2024 Golden Globe nominations for best movie

“What is your favorite season? / Awards.” — Schitt’s Creek

The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, and we’ve paired book recommendations with some of the Golden Globe nominees to celebrate!

For Maestro, a film full of music, relationship drama, and flashbacks: The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

For Anatomy of A Fall, a film with secrets, murder, and complications between a mother and her son: The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

For Past Lives, a contemplative movie that glimpses into a man’s and woman’s lives through decades and questioning their decisions: Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey

For Air, a movie following a marketing exec chasing Michael Jordan for Nike: Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano

 

For American Fiction, a movie featuring a Black novelist using a pen name to profit off hypocritical stereotypes: Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

For Barbie, a movie examining the paradoxes of girlhood and an identity crisis that comes with being a woman: Bunny by Mona Awad

For Killers of the Flower Moon, a film based on horrifying true events featuring exploitation and murder: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (or of course you can read … Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann)

For Poor Things, a feminist flip on a classic that focuses on humanity and equality: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

For The Boy and the Heron, a Miyazaki fantasy venturing into a world between the living and the dead: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.

Books to pick up after falling in love with Percy Jackson

The new Percy Jackson adaptation seems like it’s going to be everything we ever wanted for an adaptation of the beloved series. But if you’re like me, you’re going to be hungry for more after you watch it. We’ve put together a list of more middle grade/tween fantasy adventure books that you can pick up if you can’t get enough! 

Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Tristan is dreading going to his grandparents’ farm, where he’s being sent to heal from a bus accident that cost him his best friend, Eddie. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up and steals Eddie’s notebook. In an attempt to wrestle the journal back, Tristan accidentally rips open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters. In order to get back home, Tristan and Black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

When 15-year-old Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and, gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. 

Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron

Twelve-year-old Maya witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation — but when her papa goes missing, Maya uncovers the truth. He is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark, where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. 

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing — she has latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. Then Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal, but will their training be enough to help them combat a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

One night, Meggie’s father reads aloud from a book called INKHEART — and an evil ruler escapes the boundaries of fiction and lands in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie is smack in the middle of the kind of adventure she has only read about in books. Meggie must learn to harness the magic that has conjured this nightmare. For only she can change the course of the story that has changed her life forever. 

The Spirit Glass by Roshani Chokshi

Corazon yearns to finally start training as a babaylan (a mystical healer and spirit guide) — as soon as her magic awakens, she plans to bring her parents back from the dead. But when a vengeful ghost steals Corazon’s soul key, the fragile balance between the human world and the spirit world is thrown out of whack. Corazon embarks on a quest through the spirit realms, for if the ghost gets through the spirit glass, all hope will be lost.

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Seventh grader Nizhoni Begay can detect monsters, like Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company. He’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. When Dad disappears, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Diné Holy People. The kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. 

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

Simi serves the gods as a mermaid collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi saves his life, going against an ancient decree. To protect the other mermaids, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But the boy she rescued knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. 

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow’s father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. It’s been almost three years, and Alice is determined to find him. But she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself–and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

 

Literary prequels to celebrate the release of Wonka

There you are, turning the last page of a new favorite book and being overcome with sadness that there’s no more to read. But wait! You discover that there’s a prequel, teaching you more about the world you just uncovered, and the characters you’ve fallen in love with. 

Now, was a Willy Wonka prequel necessary? Maybe not, even if Timmy C. is rocking that velvet suit. But we took this opportunity to tell you about some of our favorite literary prequels!

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th annual Hunger Games. The once-mighty house of Snow’s fate is hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will mentor the winning tribute. But he’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined. Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute…and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive.

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows that a real man takes care of his family. Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords so he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison. But then he finds out he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. It’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. 

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Antoinette Cosway is a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. The society she lives in is so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

Fractal Noise by Christopher Paolini

July 25, 2234: The crew of the Adamura discovers an anomaly. On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII is a circular pit, 50 kilometers wide. Its curve not of nature, but design. Now, a small team must land and journey on foot across the surface to learn who built the hole and why. For some, the mission is the dream of the lifetime, for others a risk not worth taking, and for one, it is a desperate attempt to find meaning in an uncaring universe. Each step they take toward the mysterious abyss is more punishing than the last. And the ghosts of their past follow.

Flow by Kennedy Ryan

In eight years, Marlon James will be one of the brightest rising stars in the music industry. Bristol Gray will be his tough, no-nonsense manager. But when they first meet, she’s a college student finding her way in the world, and he’s an artist determined to make his way in it. From completely different worlds, all the things that should separate them only draw them closer. It’s a beautiful beginning, but where will the story end?

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

Wounded during the hunt for a powerful necromancer, Viv is packed off to recuperate in the sleepy beach town of Murk — so far from the action that she worries she’ll never be able to return to it. Spending her hours at a beleaguered bookshop in the company of its foul-mouthed proprietor is the last thing Viv would have predicted, but it may be both exactly what she needs and the seed of changes she couldn’t possibly imagine.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Malcolm finds a mysterious object — inside it is a cryptic message about something called Dust; and it’s not long before Malcolm is approached by the spy for whom this message was actually intended. He begins to notice suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings for Malcolm alone; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl, just a baby, named Lyra.

Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is her kingdom’s most feared assassin. Though she works for the powerful Assassin’s Guild and its scheming master, Arobynn Hamel, she yields to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. But when Arobynn dispatches her on missions that take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, Celaena finds herself acting independently of his wishes and questioning her own allegiance.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life. But his contentment is disturbed when a wizard and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle in a small Massachusetts town, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are.