Archive | October, 2013

Halloween Reads: Urban Fantasy Werewolves, Wizards, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Monsters

28 Oct

October is my favorite time of the year with its crisp autumn air filled with the scent of mulled cider and smoky fires and the crunch of vibrant red and orange leaves beneath my feet.  As I put away summer pastels in favor of darker jeweled tones, summer reads also often get shelved for some more serious classic works to linger over during my daily commute.  But Halloween is also the perfect time to catch up with the spookier denizens of the Urban Fantasy realm.  Here is a list of series that will put you in the Halloween spirit!  You can borrow the books from BCCLS libraries and some are even available in ebook format from eBCCLS or eLibraryNJ.

Wonderful Wizards: Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files

Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files is a great read for fans of Urban Fantasy.  There are currently one short story collection and fourteen novels in the series.  Harry Dresden is a Wizard PI in Chicago assisted by “Bob”, a spirit trapped in a human skull, and a human police detective Karrin Murphy.  The novels also involve other creatures of myth including fairies, ghosts, and vampires.  The series has been adapted to many formats including a television series, graphic novels, and even a role playing game.  One of my favorite ways to enjoy the series is the audiobooks, which are masterfully read by James Marsters.  The books are best read in order so start with the Storm Front (the first book) and make your way to Cold Days (the latest).

Find your Inner Beast with Werewolves: Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Series

Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville Series centers around a werewolf ironically nicknamed Kitty.  Kitty works as a DJ and her show The Midnight Hour slowly transforms from a late night music show to a talk radio show where she discusses the supernatural.  Witches, gods, vampires, and other werecreatures populate Vaughn’s World.  There are twelve novels and one short story collection in the series.  Each book often feels to me as if Vaughn is asking a what-if question, such as what if there was a supernatural convention, what if the military used supernatural creatures for war, what if there was a reality show with vampires and werecreature participants, and weaves the concept in to her story.  The first few books in the series are mostly self-contained, but later books build on one another as Kitty explores the long game, a plan for world domination by a mysterious master vampire.  My favorite in the series is Kitty’s Big Trouble.

Spellbinding Witches: Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery Series

Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mysteries involve Lily Ivory, a witch who owns Aunt Cora’s Closet, a vintage clothing store in San Francisco.  She is able to pick up information about the past from the clothes and other items in her store.  Her sidekick in her adventures is her familiar Oscar who often takes the form of an adorable small pig.  This series is much lighter in tone than many on this list and will appeal to chick lit fans.  Secondhand Spirits is the first in this five book series.  For those who are fans of ghosts, Blackwell is also the author of the Haunted Home Renovations Series.

Bloody Good Reads with Vampires: Cherie Priest’s Cheshire Red Reports

Cherie Priest is perhaps best known for her Clockwork Century Steampunk series. I am a huge fan, however, of her vampire series Cheshire Red Reports which includes two books, Hellbent and Bloodshot.  Raylene is a vampire from the flapper days of the 1920s who makes her living acquiring unusual and hard to find items in a way that might be slightly aside from the law.  Her sidekicks include Adrian de Jesus, a former Navy Seal Drag Queen; Ian Stott, a blind vampire; and two feisty orphans Pepper and Domino.  While Priest has not ruled out additional books, the publisher has no current plans for more “reports”, which is a shame since it is a great action packed series with a strong heroine.  Priest has a link on her site for fans to submit a request to Random House to publish more “reports”.

Quick Reads with Zombies: Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.

Kevin J. Anderson has written 50 national bestsellers and has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the SFX Readers’ Choice Award.  At the 2012 San Diego Comic Con he was honored with the Faust Grand Master Award for Lifetime Achievement.  His Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. Series currently includes three books Death Warmed Over, Unnatural Acts, and Hair Raising.  P.I. Dan Chambeaux (aka Shamble) is joined by his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne in New Orleans where the “Big Uneasy” has unleashed all manners of creatures on the world.  This series will be enjoyable for those who like a little zany humor with their mystery and horror.  I would recommend that you read the books in order, unlike me, since otherwise you will encounter spoilers which will ruin some of the twists in the previous books.

Monsters of All Shapes and Sizes: Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid Series

A cryptid is a creature that is claimed to exist, but who has not officially been discovered, which includes sasquatches, chupacabras, and all manners of legendary monsters.  Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series currently includes two books Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, with the next Half-Off Ragnarok scheduled for publication on March 4.   The first two books focus on Verity Price who has descended from a family of cryptozoologists but also moonlights as a ballroom dancer.  Currently she is studying the creatures of New York, but when a member of the monster hunting Covenant of St. George, Dominic De Luca, shows up it complicates both her assignment and her love life.  I like that future books will focus on other members of the Price family so that Verity’s character development is not slowed in order to span a long book run.  You may also enjoy McGuire’s urban fantasy faerie series, October Daye, or her post-apocalyptic zombie thriller Newsflesh series written under the pen name Mira Grant.

For more Halloween Reads stop by the book display at the second floor vestibule or the Fall book display in the back of the first floor fiction area.  Wishing you all a Happy Halloween!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Love and Sweets in Paris: Paris in Love, Lunch in Paris, and Paris, My Sweet

23 Oct

Paris, like New York, is a city that conjures up strong emotions and pictures in one’s mind whether or not you have actually been there.  My grandmother grew up in Paris, but moved to New Jersey when my father was two.  I have been lucky enough to visit Paris twice—once as a tween with extended family and once as an adult with my fiancé.

Paris for me always feels both beautifully foreign and yet nostalgically like home.  I grew up with homemade croissants and petite pains au chocolate as a weekend breakfast treat. Thanksgiving included escargots floating in garlic butter before the turkey, and salad was always served at the end of the meal.  I had heard so many stories about Paris that by the time I actually got there it felt like visiting a pen pal who you have written for years; you may have never seen them before, but you already know them so well.

I was interested in these three memoir pieces since all three women left this area (New York or New Jersey) and had their own unique encounters with Paris.  All are enamored with the delicious French cuisine, but they are in different stages of their lives romantically (one single, one engaged, and one married with two kids), which gives a unique view of their experience there.  Whether you have lived in Paris or simply have daydreamed about a trip, you will enjoy these vicarious visits.

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

Eloisa James is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of historical romances and a Shakespeare professor.  In this memoir she describes the year she spent on sabbatical from her teaching job with her Italian born husband and two children in Paris.  James details both her interest in both French pastries and French fashion.  The work intersperses snippets from her Facebook posts with longer essays.  James was inspired to spend the year abroad after overcoming cancer.  I found many of the longer essays which look at both her time in Paris and invoke her childhood to be very moving, but I also highly enjoyed the moments of humor many of them detailing her son and daughter’s experiences at an Italian Language school and some bits about their ongoing efforts to get their overweight chihuahua to lose weight that made me giggle out loud.  Fans of her romance novels will enjoy an insight into James’s life, but even if you are not a regular reader of that genre, you will still find something to delight in this engaging book.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard


What makes this perspective distinctive from the other two memoirs is that Elizabeth Bard is not simply a visitor or short term resident of Paris, but marries a Parisian and becomes a French citizen.  Because of this she delves more deeply beneath the surface of what it is to be French and must accept how these changes became a permanent part of her life.  The novel begins with her first lunch date in Paris with Gwendal, a young man from Northern France and their subsequent romance.  After spending weekends together, she soon moves in with him in Paris.  The book as she notes does not end in the way of fairy tales with her marriage, but pushes onward through a serious illness of a beloved family member and her further experiences of acclimating to life in Paris.  The book includes a few recipes at the end of each chapter and concludes with her decision to write this book as a kind of cookbook.  Although the recipes are a nice addition for those who want to create a little piece of Paris to eat in their own home, they didn’t feel essential to the book, which felt very rich on its own.  I liked that the book balances her love of Gwendal and the art and charm of Paris with the shifts in expectations of what one’s future will be that come from moving permanently to another country.

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas


Thomas’s book, like Bard’s, will appeal to foodies, but in the place of recipes she includes recommendations for bakeries, cafés, and boutiques for acquiring the delicious treats she chronicles during her time working as an ad executive for Louis Vuitton in Paris.  For those not planning to hop a plane across the Atlantic in the near future there are also recommendations for places where sweets can be acquired in New York City.  Thomas’s stay in Paris does not have a definite end like James’s yearlong sabbatical, but with her struggle to master the language and periodic pining for the States it is clear that she is not putting down roots in the same way that Bard does.  However, her job does allow for some workplace drama and humor that the other two lack.  It also causes her to reevaluate decisions that she has made in her life such as with earlier relationships, which add greater depth to what at first felt a bit of a shallow lark. However, many of these issues such as infertility and which country she will choose to make her permanent home are left unresolved at the memoir’s end.  The wonderful descriptions of the sweets is what truly caries this work.

-Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

%d bloggers like this: