Review: “Briar Girls” by Rebecca Kim Wells

Release Date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


Lena has a secret: the touch of her skin can kill. Cursed by a witch before she was born, Lena has always lived in fear and isolation. But after a devastating mistake, she and her father are forced to flee to a village near the Silence, a mysterious forest with a reputation for luring people into the trees, never to be seen again…​

Until the night an enigmatic girl stumbles out of the Silence and into Lena’s sheltered world. Miranda comes from the Gather, a city in the forest brimming with magic. She is on a quest to wake a sleeping princess believed to hold the key to liberating the Gather from its tyrannical ruler—and she offers Lena a bargain. If Lena assists her on her journey, Miranda will help her break the curse.

Mesmerized by Miranda and her promise of a new life, Lena jumps at the chance. But the deeper into the Silence she goes, the more she suspects she’s been lied to—about her family’s history, her curse, and her future. As the shadows close in, Lena must choose who to trust and decide whether it’s more important to have freedom…or power.

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Feature: “Perceiver” by E. C. Fuller

Release Date: August 31, 2021
Series: The Perceiver Trilogy
Publisher: self-published
Genre: Young adult, Fantasy


Moving to a new town was not on Hattie’s to-do list for the summer.

Her arrival in Applewood brings nothing but strange things to her doorstep. A bendable boy guards an abandoned orchard. A cactus gives her a bullet. A monster made of oil stalks those around her.

And nobody can see them but her.

When traveling consultants show up on her doorstep, a chance encounter with the boy named Jack forces them to confront the monsters and their intertwined fates. Worse yet, the lives of the people she loves now hang by a thread.

When her world collides with another, Hattie must make a choice: save herself or save her parents.

Tsava awaits.

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Readalikes: You Are Good

Time for another podcast readalike! This one is inspired by You Are Good (formerly known as Why Are Dads), a great podcast about movies, feelings, and everything in between. The show is hosted by journalist Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed. It’s part of the You’re Wrong About cinematic universe, so to speak, as Sarah is also on You’re Wrong About.

If you like You Are Good, these recommended books will probably appeal to you as well.

And here’s a list of other readalikes.

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Readalikes: Maintenance Phase

Besides the excellent You’re Wrong About, the other podcast I got super into over the summer was Maintenance Phase. The two hosts, Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon, “debunk the junk science behind health & wellness fads, and decode their cultural meaning.” They’ve taken on the body mass index, Rachel Hollis, the presidential fitness test, Weight Watchers, snake oil, even Angela Lansbury’s fitness book.

I love doing book recommendations, so I decided to put together a little readalikes list for my high school students. If you like Maintenance Phase, you’ll probably like these books, too. They talk about fatness and the sham that is diet culture. Thanks to all who replied to my twitter thread with suggestions.

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Readalikes: You’re Wrong About

I’m a high school librarian with an obsession with the podcast You’re Wrong About. For the uninitiated, You’re Wrong About is a podcast where journalists “reconsider an event, person or phenomenon that’s been miscast in the public imagination.” Originally it was hosted by Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, and they’ve covered everything from the Satanic Panic to Princess Diana to Newsies to disco, and everything in between. 

I love doing book recommendations, so I decided to put together a little readalikes list for my students. If you like You’re Wrong About, you’ll probably like these books, too. They debunk historical and cultural myths in engaging ways. Thanks to all who replied to my twitter thread with suggestions.

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Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction for October 2021

Normally I like my October to be full of dark and stormy stories. This year I went humorous yet thoughtful, with a splash of the apocalypse for good measure. Many of these authors were new to me, and I got a kick out of getting to know them and their work. Here are my ten—no, scratch that, eleven!—favorite short science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories I read in October…

Read the rest of this spotlight at

“Bacchanal” by Veronica Henry

Release Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: 47North
Genre: Historical Fantasy


Evil lives in a traveling carnival roaming the Depression-era South. But the carnival’s newest act, a peculiar young woman with latent magical powers, may hold the key to defeating it. Her time has come.

Abandoned by her family, alone on the wrong side of the color line with little to call her own, Eliza Meeks is coming to terms with what she does have. It’s a gift for communicating with animals. To some, she’s a magical tender. To others, a she-devil. To a talent prospector, she’s a crowd-drawing oddity. And the Bacchanal Carnival is Eliza’s ticket out of the swamp trap of Baton Rouge.

Among fortune-tellers, carnies, barkers, and folks even stranger than herself, Eliza finds a new home. But the Bacchanal is no ordinary carnival. An ancient demon has a home there too. She hides behind an iridescent disguise. She feeds on innocent souls. And she’s met her match in Eliza, who’s only beginning to understand the purpose of her own burgeoning powers.

Only then can Eliza save her friends, find her family, and fight the sway of a primordial demon preying upon the human world. Rolling across a consuming dust bowl landscape, Eliza may have found her destiny.

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