Jackaby by William Ritter

jackabyWhen Miss Abigail Rook first arrives in New Fiddleham on a cold New England January day, it is after a spectacularly failed attempt at independence and adventure abroad.  Still, when the archaeological excavation she defied her parents’ wishes to join turned into a useless, poorly organized effort, she was not ready to admit defeat – or face her parents at home in England.  Instead, she set sail from the Ukraine to America.  Which is where, still wearing her stained and tired travelling clothes and on the hunt for work, Miss Rook meets Mr. R.F. Jackaby, investigative detective who specializes in, erm, unexplained phenomena.

After an odd encounter in the local pub and an unfortunate incident with Jackaby’s rather malodorous frog, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation as Jackaby’s assistant-in-training.  Jackaby’s special talents at discerning the presence of the supernatural, paranormal, magical, or spectral, however, are of no interest to the very straight-laced and forward-thinking Chief Inspector Marlowe.  But when a deeper conspiracy is uncovered, revealing a serial killer on the loose, Jackaby feels he has no choice but to uncover the murderer, police permission or no, and Abigail is along for the ride, supernatural powers or no.

With banshees, an erstwhile assistant-turned-waterfowl, werewolves, trolls, one odd and most unfashionable hat, ghosts both friendly and not, plenty of murder most foul, and a delightfully eccentric and socially awkward detective at its heart, this is definitely one to add to your fall lineup!  Jackaby has been described as Sherlock meets Dr. Who, and it’s fabulously true.  Although there is no sonic screwdriver, Tardis, or violin at all hours, everything that makes us love foggy London and odd detectives is here.  Anyone who is jonesing for more Sherlock or always has Dr. Who queued up on the telly needs to grab this great read at the library.  And, even better, when you’ve devoured this first in a series, you can look for the sequel, Beastly Bones, out now!

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

dream a little dreamWith a travelling professor mom, moving is old hat for Liv and her little sister Mia.  London is just the last stop in a long series of international adventures.  Which sounds awesome to everyone who hasn’t lived a life of being constantly uprooted, but all Liv wants is to put down some roots and have a real home somewhere.

Which is why a cottage in Oxford sounds lovely – until Liv and Mia’s mom sheepishly announces that the cottage was a disaster and instead, they’ll be living in London – with her new (surprise!) fiance and his two children, Grayson and Florence, fraternal twins who will be in Liv’s class at her new school and aren’t any more enthusiastic about having a new roommate than she is.  Fabulous.

So when Liv has an incredibly lucid, and incredibly, well, weird, dream featuring Grayson and his best mates, Jasper, Henry and Arthur (who she hasn’t even properly met yet, so that’s odd), along with talking statues, endless hallways lined with doors, and a decidedly unsavory ritual in Highgate Cemetery with some crazy talk about her being the Chosen One, she just kind of rolls with it.  Because really, everything is pretty strange lately, so why not her dreams?  Until the next day at school, when she meets Grayson’s friends and it seems like they’ve already met her.  Except they haven’t.  Not awake, anyway.

When Arthur invites her over to his house for a little party, Liv figures it’ll be fun – she can meet some people, and maybe figure out what’s going on with the dreams and the rituals and the doors and the Chosen Ones.  If any of that even really happened.  And when Grayson gets pretty adamant that she not go, Liv decides that she definitely needs to go.  After all, what could go wrong at a party?

What a marvelously surprising, super fun book!  With a smart, snarky main character, modern London (I mean really, how can you go wrong there?), just a touch of swoon, a supernatural mystery, hilarious and heartwarming family dynamics (Mia definitely gets a gold star for irritating yet awesome little sister of the year), and a motley crew of boys that reminded me a little of my most favorite Raven Boys from Maggie Stiefvater’s books (which, if you know me at all, you know is high, high praise!), this book has everything you need for an atmospheric fall read that’ll have you reaching for more apple cider, a warm sweater, and a salt shaker – to keep the dream beasties away.  Make sure you add it to your to-read pile this season!

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

On a ship called The Kraken in the middle of the sea, a girl is tied to the mast.  A monster from the deep appears from dark fathoms below, while an angel with a sword and a lantern hovers above.  All around, lightning flashes and waves threaten to overcome the ship.  When the storm is over, there is only one survivor, left shipwrecked and alone on an island.  And what happens next is the stuff of miracles.

Joseph Jervis has run away from boarding school and his indifferent parents, and finds himself alone in London on a cold, snowy December night looking for his estranged uncle’s house.  When a chance encounter with a boy and his dog leads him to his uncle Albert’s home, what he finds inside is a strange, confusing house of marvels and mysteries.

THIS BOOK.  Oh this book.  My heart is so full!  A marvel itself, this story of art and theater and mystery and magic and the power of love and family and kindness is one of the most beautiful things made of paper I have held in my hands this year.  Two stories, one in pictures and one in prose, that come together in such unexpected ways you’ll be laughing through your tears.  To tell you any more would spoil the magic of unlocking the mysteries of this marvelous, marvelous book for yourself, but I will leave you with author and illustrator Brian Selznick’s trailer for this incredible book that deserves a biollionty stars and awards and hugs.  If you read only one children’s book this year, this should be the one.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

walls around usViolet.  Eighteen, recently accepted into Julliard, and the most promising ballerina at her dance school.  The most promising ballerina since her best friend Ori was sent away, locked up with all those other girls, for what happened behind the school three Augusts ago.

Amber.  Quiet, reserved, resourceful, always lingering and listening to the other girls, gathering bits of information about their new lives on the inside and their old ones on the outside.  Days from release after the system decides maybe she was too young to know what she did to her stepfather.

Orianna.  Beautiful, graceful, kind Ori, a ballerina from the wrong side of the tracks, so grateful for her best friend Violet.  The pair of them inseparable since they were eight, so much so that Ori waited 6 months for Vee’s ankles to catch up to hers so they could learn pointe together.  Inseparable until the thing that happened behind the dance studio left two girls dead.

They’re all dead now, except Violet.  Three Augusts ago, on a hot night, Ori and Amber and the rest of the girls were all found slumped over their dinner.  Forty-two bodies, forty-two lives cut short, forty-two dead girls.  An accident?  Justice?  Retribution?  Or something else?

Described as Orange is the New Black meets Black SwanThe Walls Around Us is a tense, frightening, slow build of a horror story about the ways guilt and love and ambition bind us together and tear us apart.  About how we build our own walls of hate and love and blame and revenge.  As the thick August heat rises and the Nova Ren Suma slowly ratchets the tension up, you won’t be able to stop frantically flipping pages even as you squirm uncomfortably.  Make sure you read this one with all your windows open (or better yet, outside, in a wide open space) as the girls’ fate closes in on them in this eerie, haunting, gorgeously written novel.  This one’s sure to be on more than one awards list this fall, so don’t miss it!