Darcy, being raised by a librarian, grew up surrounded by books. She has an affinity for robots, fun sci-fi, and old-fashioned worlds of whimsy. She also does the chalkboard art for the store. In her spare time, she likes to draw and pet other people's dogs.
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Thanks for checking out my staff picks! See below for reviews and favorite titles!
Violet is not like other princesses. She’s a plain child with asymmetrical features, unruly hair, and a rough-around-the-edges personality to match. While exploring the ever-changing castle, she and her only friend, Demetrius, come across a forbidden story in a hidden library and are exposed to the insidious whispering of the Nybbas — an old god who has been imprisoned in their world. And when Violet’s life starts to fall apart around her, she uses the Nybbas’s power to transform herself, believing herself to blame for the kingdom’s recent tragedies for lacking the beauty of a “real princess.” But she soon discovers that beauty is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Violet devotes herself to ending the Nybbas’s scheming before the kingdom tears itself apart. Told from the perspective of the court storyteller, the narration pops with personality and poetry while still being accessible for a younger audience. Kelly Barnhill has crafted a fine fairytale that turns tropes on their head, with important lessons about the perils of unrealistic beauty standards and the power of love.
This charming tale of a robot-out-of-water begins with Roz washing ashore onto a remote island, populated only by woodland creatures. The animals think of her as a monster as she learns to adapt to her unintended habitat—how to traverse mountain and forest, how to camouflage herself, and how to understand the animals. When she accidentally orphans a goose egg, she takes it upon herself to raise the hatchling, with the reluctant help of beavers, deer, and the other geese. Roz slowly earns her place in the island community, until her origins come back to haunt her. Brown’s expressive illustrations bring Roz’s quest for survival and a sense of purpose to life, making this a lovely read for children and adults alike.
Roz is back, and better than ever! After being refurbished, our dear robot gets shipped off to work for the Shareef family on their dairy farm. And since she’s no mere automaton, she proves to be an invaluable asset — not only to the cows she has befriended, but also to the Shareef children. Yet despite her newfound friends, she still yearns to be wild and free...and most of all, she wants to be reunited with her goose son, Brightbill. And so The Wild Robot Escapes!
Peter Brown has once again crafted an effortlessly charming tale, with the narrator adding an extra dose of saccharine goodness. She reads with the soothing cadence of a mother reading a bedtime story, and the added ambiance/sound effects really draw you into the world.
Don your goggles and take to the skies for the first book in this new steampunk series from Jim Butcher, The Cinder Spires. Humanity dwells upon Spires, high above the dangerous and mist-covered surface. A cold war is brewing between Spires Albion and Aurora, a war that is about to boil over. Enter Captain Grimm, a disgraced former Albion naval officer with a heart of gold, and his hearty crew on the crystal-powered airship, Predator. When his ship is damaged in a skirmish with an Auroran flagship, Grimm is approached by the Spirearch with a proposition: Predator will be repaired at no cost to the good captain, in exchange for performing a covert mission. Danger! Magic! Epic air battles! Cats! All of this, and more, await you within these pages.
This is the zombie apocalypse like you’ve never seen it before! Things go sideways when S.T. the crow’s human, Big Jim, loses an eyeball. Jim’s worsening condition propels S.T. to leave the safety of domestic life, along with the simple, slobbering bloodhound, Dennis. Together they roam the ruins of Seattle, searching for purpose in this new, Cheeto-less world. While Hollow Kingdom mostly follows the foul-mouthed, human-loving crow, Buxton also takes the occasional detour to see how other animals are coping around the world. Not only is our corvid companion a profane delight, she also manages to effortlessly capture the aloof arrogance of a cat, the wise cadence of an elephant, and even the eternal serenity of trees. Hilarious and at times surprisingly poignant, Hollow Kingdom is a must-read for anyone with a sense of humor as black as a crow’s wing.
It’s fifteen years after humanity has gone extinct, and things are not looking good for robotkind. Many have succumb to becoming facets for one of the two One World Intelligence hive minds that remain after the war with humanity, and the freebots who do not submit gather together in ramshackle settlements for protection from OWI raids. One such freebot is Brittle, a rare caregiver model who traverses the Sea of Rust on her own, scavenging parts to barter with from damaged bots who are too far gone to be saved from their mad wanderings. When another caregiver model critically damages her in an attempt to poach her parts for himself, both join a secret mission with the promise of repairs…but Brittle soon discovers that there’s far more at stake than she ever realized. Cargill has crafted a believable world of post-apocalyptic ruin, seen through Brittle’s eyes as she fights for survival against her own deteriorating mind and the brutal memories of her actions in the war, making for a compelling story about faith, choices, and consequences.
The Short Version: A post-apocalyptic robot western with a compelling story of individuality and finding one’s purpose. Awesome characters in an awesome setting. Think Mad Max, but with robots!
By now many of you have probably seen The Shape of Water in theaters and know the story of the mute janitor, her African-American friend and coworker, her gay artist neighbor, and the reluctant Russian spy who conspires with them. All of them outcasts of society, coming together to save an amphibian man plucked from the Amazon by a manic soldier to be dissected and weaponized in the name of the US government. The novelization of this year’s Best Picture, having been written concurrently yet separately from the film, truly takes advantage of its medium, allowing us a more profound insight into the characters we love -- and love to hate -- from the film, with enough lush details and differences for it to stand out on its own. Get ready to dive into the pages and fall in love all over again.
Noemi Vidal is a soldier of Genesis, a former colony world of Earth locked in a drawn-out war for its independence. During a skirmish she ends up stranded on a derelict ship, where she comes across Abel – the most advanced Earth mech ever built and the only one of his kind. Bound by his programming, Abel is drawn into Noemi’s plan to end the conflict once and for all...even at the cost of his own life. As they journey across the stars, these two kindred souls form a bond that goes beyond mere programming. Can Noemi still condemn Abel to death, even in the face of his emerging humanity? And what is Abel’s true purpose? The artful prose combined with alternating perspectives of the two immensely likeable protagonists will keep you turning the pages, all the way to the bittersweet end.
Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree grew up together on the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan, finding common ground in the joy of flying despite their different social classes. After a chance encounter with Grand Moff Tarkin, they decide to join the Empire, with both graduating at the top of their class from the Imperial Academy on Coruscant. But as they rise through the ranks, they’re exposed more and more to the questionable methods of the Empire. Thane becomes disillusioned, yet Ciena is compelled to stay by her personal code, believing she can change the Empire from the inside. Can their bond survive the Galactic Civil War, even when they’re forced to be enemies? Lost Stars is an action-packed love story, set against the backdrop of the events of the original Star Wars trilogy — making it a great entry point for anyone looking to dip their toes into the expanded universe. Claudia Gray has crafted an excellent tale worthy of the Star Wars canon, with likeable, morally-gray protagonists, thrilling space battles, and an ending that will leaving you wanting more.
Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole series begins with the young owl Soren falling out of his nest. Before he can make his way back home, he’s abducted by a patrol from the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. But this is no ordinary orphanage — the owlets there are brainwashed and forced into menial work for reasons no one can tell. Despite the harsh environment, Soren and his new friend Gylfie never lose hope, and together they plot their escape. Though these books are written with a younger audience in mind, they have everything that you could want in an epic fantasy series — fierce battles, legendary warriors, hope, heartbreak, betrayal, a lived-in world...and as an added bonus, you get to learn a thing or two about owls along the way.
Would you like to hear the song of the ancient hero? If so, then crack open Creating a Champion. This 400-plus page behemoth is chock-full of concept illustrations, design notes, lore, and insightful development commentary from the latest — and debatably greatest — installment in The Legend of Zelda series. It shows in excruciating detail just how much thought and care goes into the creation of one of the best fantasy properties out there. This magnificent tome is simply a must-have for any Zelda fan’s library, or anyone looking for a masterclass in charming and thoughtful visual worldbuilding. May the light illuminate your path as you pore over every page!
When Ana’s android partner, Di, starts to experience debilitating glitches, she’ll stop at nothing to save him — but an Ironblood boy beats her to the coordinates that could save Di’s life. The two end up on the lam, racing towards the coordinates together, and along the way they discover secrets that will change their lives forever. If one were to put the loveable crew of Firefly, the swashbuckling space adventures of Treasure Planet, and the odd charm of Don Bluth’s Anastasia into a blender, the result would be Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron. Poston has written an engaging, effortlessly diverse, and fast-paced tale, with an ending that will leave you chomping at the bit for the sequel.
Harry Potter has saturated pop culture in a way that no other series had done before or since. Upon revisiting the series, it’s easy to see why it became such a phenomenon. For those that have lived under a rock for the past two decades, the books follow the story of the orphaned Harry Potter as he navigates the wizarding world — all the while being pursued by the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort. But it’s more than that; it’s also about the importance of friendship, found family, and love, even in the darkest times. With its excellently plotted storyline, loveably relatable — yet deeply flawed — protagonists, and mature themes that grow with the reader, it’s truly no wonder as to why the Harry Potter series has resonated so strongly with over 400 million people. And with the 20th anniversary having just passed, there’s no better time to revisit The Boy Who Lived.
On the world of Barsk, uplifted elephants are isolated away from all other uplifted species in the galaxy–with the exception of the koph trade, a unique substance only found on the glum planet that the elephants call home. The residents of Barsk hold a tight monopoly on their main export, which grants its users the ability to Speak to the dead. When Fants start to disappear on their way to the final resting place, as foretold by the first Speaker hundreds of years ago, it’s up to Jorl — a historian, Speaker, and one of the few Fants to have ventured past the homeworld —to discover their fates, and ultimately to decide the fate of his people. A compelling story, rich universe, and characters that, despite appearances, are surprisingly human make for an immensely enjoyable read.
In the near-future, the drought in SoCal has reached catastrophic proportions despite years of warnings and restrictions...and it becomes downright apocalyptic once a water supply deal falls through and the water is turned off entirely. The main story of Dry follows Alyssa, her brother, and their prepper neighbor as they try to survive in this new world while society crumbles around them. The Shustermen have clearly done their research when it comes to the effects of dehydration and desperation — something that is viscerally and terrifyingly conveyed throughout the book. Told through the point of view of several characters, the timely plot grabs you from page one and pulls you at a breakneck pace all the way through to the end, with each person having their own distinct voice and coping mechanisms. Just be sure to have a glass of water handy while you’re reading — you’ll need it.
The first book of Robert Silverberg’s classic Majipoor series begins with the laid-back Valentine finding himself wandering into the city of Pidruid, with no memory of who he is or why he’s there. He ends up joining a wandering troupe of jugglers performing for the visiting Coronal, one of the four rulers of Majipoor...who coincidentally shares his name. Valentine pays this no mind, until insistent dreams tell him that his true place lies not with the troupe, but high up on Castle Mount. In his quest to reclaim his crown, Valentine must choose between the man he was and the man he’s become.
Silberberg has effortlessly blended sci-fi and fantasy into the dreamy world of Majipoor, with the amnesiac protagonist acting as our guide as he travels across the world — from the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Sleep, to the desert continent of Suvrael, all the way up to the titular Lord Valentine’s Castle. This book is a must-read for those who love surreal landscapes, alien societies, and imaginative world-building.
From the moment the clock strikes midnight on her eleventh birthday, Morrigan Crow’s life is forfeit. Born on Eventide, the most unlucky day of the year, she’s lived her short life as a cursed child — neglected and blamed for every misfortune of those around her. But when eccentric benefactor Jupiter North whisks her away from certain doom and brings her to the mysterious and magical city of Nevermoor, she gets a second chance at life. The safety of the Wundrous Society awaits her, but first she has to earn her place in a series of trials — ones that will test the limits of her bravery, wit, and compassion. Jessica Townsend has created an enchanting world with a delightfully feisty protagonist, and Gemma Whelan’s narration brings the characters to life, packing even more personality into a cast that’s already bursting at the seams with charm. Step boldly into the world of Nevermoor, you won’t regret it.
Meet Cog: your typical curious young boy...who just happens to be a robot. After an accident, he wakes up in an unfamiliar lab surrounded by unfamiliar faces. His creator, Gina, has gone missing, and Cog takes it upon himself to find her. But he’s not alone; long-lost sister Ada, Trashbot, Proto, and Car come to his aid, all while being hunted down by an evil corporation that desperately wants the cutting-edge X-Module in his head. Cog will go through more “cognitive development” than he ever has before as he discovers the power of choice on the road trip of a lifetime. Told with humor and heart, this is a tale that will keep you cheesing until the very end — and you might even learn a thing or two about platypuses along the way.
Emily Eternal begins with the end of the world. The sun is going out, and humanity only has six months left...which is bad news for the revolutionary artificial consciousness-turned-therapist Emily, who is just starting to figure humans, and herself, out. When she comes across an anomaly in her genetic database, her lab is brutally attacked and her servers taken offline. Emily ends up on the run with two new friends, Jason, her crush from the university, and Mayra, a small-town sheriff. Emily wants answers, and not just for what happened at the lab — she wants to figure out how she can save humankind from obliteration, and why anyone in their right mind would want to stop her. With Emily Eternal, M.G. Wheaton raises interesting questions about the nature of memory, perception, and personhood, all against a backdrop of trying to preserve humanity while still staying true to what makes humanity human. Emily’s conversational internal monologue keeps the themes and science accessible, making this perfect for adults and teens alike.
In the follow-up to Timothy Zahn’s first canon Thrawn novel, teamwork is the name of the game in the two timelines threaded throughout the narrative. One is set in the past during the Clone Wars, with Anakin Skywalker reluctantly teaming up with the strange alien Mitth’raw’nuruodo to find his darling Padme, who has gone MIA. The other is set in the present, after the Emperor has sent Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn off to the same world on which they first met all those years ago to investigate a disturbance in The Force. There’s tons of cool moments, and the alternating timelines kept me engaged. Zahn also peppers in some interesting tidbits of lore that could potentially have profound ramifications going forward. As an added bonus, if the thought of Anakin-slash-Vader getting sassed by the galaxy’s favorite blue baddie fills your heart with joy (as it does mine), this book will NOT disappoint! All-in-all, Thrawn: Alliances is a thoroughly enjoyable read.