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Catherine T.

The Night Tiger

Set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, The Night Tiger follows the adventures of several local children amidst a spate of mysterious deaths, which some people are attributing to the mythical weretiger.

Ren, an 11-year-old house boy, is on a mission to find the severed finger of his recently deceased master, an old British doctor. He needs to bury the finger with the doctor's body before the 49th day after death to ensure the doctor's soul will be at peace.

His story merges with that of Ji Lin, a young girl working at a dance hall to earn extra money to pay off her mother's debts. One night while dancing with a salesman, she ends up with a mysterious item from his pocket, a preserved human finger. Her subsequent search for the owner of the finger leads her and her brother, Shin, into intrigue and danger.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019) interweaves the supernatural and Malaysian folklore with themes of colonialism and class and gender divides, all mixed together in an intriguing murder mystery.



Ashe

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (2017)

Lazlo Strange is earnest in his quest for knowledge. He's someone who could be your best friend. Even his enemies can't completely hate him; they just don't understand him.

The story begins when he's young, when suddenly the name of a city he's read about disappears forever. Books, spoken tales, even memories weren't safe. It no longer has a name. It's just...gone. Lazlo is convinced something happened and is determined to learn everything about this city, and somehow, travel to it. Cooped up in the library, assisting researchers going to-and-fro, it seems that day may never come—but he believes. He never stops dreaming, until a day he may finally have a chance to see this nameless city for himself.

And what he finds there is unbelievable.

Filled with adventure, exciting new locations and love, Strange the Dreamer will entrance you with its beauty and otherworldly feel. In Laini Taylor's epic fantasy, Lazlo's strange journey will not disappoint.


Emily

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

Kvothe is a legend, a man whose tales have grown bigger than himself. He's Kvothe the bloodless, slayer of kings, master swordsman, caller of the wind, and most recently, Kote the innkeeper. Hiding in a small town, he's given up his life for reasons unknown. When the Chronicler finds him and realizes his true identity, he manages to convince Kvothe to let him collect his story to separate fact from myth. Kvothe agrees and begins his three-day retelling of his life.

Told through his perspective, The Name of the Wind is a tale of a small nomadic boy who becomes the most powerful Arcanist the world has ever known. We follow him from his childhood with the nomadic Edema Ruh to his eventual arrival at the university for Arcanists. His tale is full of struggle, triumph, and personal folly that will have you rooting for him while simultaneously cursing his stupidity.

Patrick Rothfuss' writing is poetic and descriptive, allowing for elaborate world building and thought provoking passages. Some may find his writing to be slow, but if you can get through the first few chapters, the payoff is worth it. This is the first book of a trilogy. The second title is The Wise Man's Fear and the third still forthcoming.


Jez

Good Omens (2019) TV-MA

Ever since humans were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the demon Crowley (David Tennant) and the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) have been ordered by their head offices to occasionally nudge humanity towards one side or the other.  Over the last six thousand years, they have made an agreement to handle the other's duties from time to time, realizing their efforts were canceling each other out.  Over time, they have grown quite fond of humanity and Earth and when the antichrist shows up (in the form of an 11-year-old boy), they try to save the world and put off the impending war between Heaven and Hell.

Meanwhile, there are parallel narratives with the antichrist Adam (Sam Taylor Buck) and his friends, a new recruit to the witchfinder army, and a woman whose family has been led by entirely accurate prophesies from an ancestor.

The stories of Good Omens cross paths multiple times to form a well-woven narrative web that is emotional and dramatic, but most of all, amusing. Bolstered by a phenomenal cast and written by literary genius Neil Gaiman, based on his book of the same title co-written with the late Terry Pratchett, this unusual love story is one you will immediately want to rewatch.

Don't have access to Amazon Prime?  Check out one of our roku devices for a week.

Already a fan of Good Omens?  Discover your next great book with these readalikes.


Megan

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos (2016)

In this story, we follow a free spirit who can't help but want to tame all of the beautiful colors she sees. We join her wild and wonderful world and hunt for colors along with her. Swatch soon encounters an ethical challenge and we see how our heroine resolves her dilemma.

As picture books go, I think Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color is a perfect example of the power of illustrations and how beautifully and creatively they help tell a lovely story. Additionally, the overall layout and design of the book is great and helps capture the energy of it all.

This is the first book both written and illustrated by Julia Denos. She also wrote and illustrated Windows.


Kathy

Elevation by Stephen King (2018)

Stephen King takes us back to the fictional town of Castle Rock in his latest novella, Elevation, where we are introduced to Scott Carey, a good-hearted, hard-working man, who, as is the case in all of King's works, discovers something rather unusual is happening.

What's most disturbing to Scott is that the unusual thing is happening to him. He's losing weight at a rapidly increasing rate, yet his size doesn't change, ever. No matter how Scott tries to weigh himself down, the number on the scale continues to decrease. As Scott's journey toward weightlessness progresses, the lightness he feels helps him see things more clearly, which inspires the town to go through a kind of lightening as well.

This odd little tale lacks the usual Stephen King horror, so makes for a pretty, quick, dare I say, fun read.


Katie

A Wrinkle in Time (2018) PG

This 2018 movie adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's 1963 Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time was highly anticipated by many book fans.  I was not one of those book fans. I distinctly remember reading the first chapter of the book during a thunderstorm and getting too frightened to read any further.  I was probably in third grade.

When the movie was announced, I was excited to finally go back to the story that I had paused on so long ago.  The movie met every one of my expectations: a little bit strange, a lot of CGI, and a huge heart -- driven mostly by actress Storm Reid.  I would recommend this to families who want a gentler fantasy adaptation for younger children.  As for fans of the books, I have heard that the movie was less than perfect, but isn't that always the case with movie adaptations? (Don't get me started on Remus never telling Harry who the Marauders were in Prisoner of Azkaban...)  Check out A Wrinkle in Time and decide for yourself.

Catherine T.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (2019)

I loved this epic high fantasy from Samantha Shannon. Yes, it is a big book, but it is a standalone novel, so no waiting for a sequel and the nonstop adventure will make the reading quick.

Taking inspiration from old legends, Shannon has created a world with hints of our own and includes a wonderful collection of mythological creatures. This world is currently facing the imminent return of  'the nameless one,' 1000 years after he was trapped in the abyss. Will Sabran, Queen of Inys, produce an heir to protect her country from this threat? Ead Duryen has been sent from the South to infiltrate the court to protect the Queen, but can she maintain her anonymity whilst attacking cutthroats and wyrms? Across the abyss in the East, Tane is preparing for her trials in the hope of becoming a dragon rider, but will the appearance of a stranger put her future in danger?

The Priory of the Orange Tree is an incredible tale full of assassins, religious differences, legends, ancient magic, political intrigue, dragons and pirates. And it has a fantastic cover too!

Katie

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz (2016)

inqThe Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (on the Rebecca Caudill 2019 nominees list) was thoroughly surprising and delightful. I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened this book, complete with the drawings of an illuminated manuscript, but I was completed unprepared to fall in love with it.

The three children (William, Jacob, and Jeanne) absolutely won me over and I cheered for them and their friendship. I found myself looking forward to the twists and turns of the story, especially when different travelers took over as the narrator.

I think this would make a fantastic family read, although there are small bits of violence (a village is burned, a dog is killed -- but comes back, and capture) to be aware of.

I can't imagine how Adam Gidwitz could possibly write a sequel, but I would love to follow another adventure in this same style!
Judy

Series Spotlight: Adventures of Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green

friend2Sophie Mouse, her family and friends live in Pine Needles Grove. Her mom owns a bakery, her dad is an architect, Mrs. Owl is her teacher – families gather for parties, children play together, everyone knows each other. In each book, along with her friends Hattie Frog and Owen Snake, Sophie has an adventure and a problem to solve. She gets lost in the forest, has to figure out what to do about a ruined dessert, and tries to find her lost scarf. With good thinking and the help of others, Sophie always figures out what to do.

The series should interest children who are ready for more complex, longer stories that relate to their lives. Fans of the Adventures of Sophie Mouse series are going to know exactly what books in the series they have read, what book they want to read, and probably will read many books in the series until they move on…to another series.

Do talk with readers about Sophie’s adventures. Sometimes things happen in Pine Needles Grove that probably a child living in the real world should not do – such as going into the home of a stranger to get help.

A New Friend is the first book in the series by Poppy Green. Each series title has 117 pages, 10 chapters, and black/white illustrations on most pages. Lexile varies between 430 and 600.
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Katie

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (2018)

bellesCamellia is a Belle. Belles are the most important people in the kingdom, other than the royal family, because they control beauty. In the world of Orléans, everyone is born a "gris": gray skin, red eyes, straw colored hair. Only the Belles can grant a person a new look, using their magic to change appearance, manner, and control age.

Camellia wants to become the Favorite Belle—to work in the palace and work for the royal family. But is that life really what it seems? When dark mysteries arise, like crying girls in the middle of the night and former Belles being veiled, Camellia must decide to find her own truth in beauty.

I've listened to The Belles on audio twice. Rosie Jones, the narrator, does a wonderful job with voices and accents. She makes the city of Orléans come to life, and her take on Princess Sophia's voice still sends shivers up my spine.

I love Dhonielle Clayton's descriptions of the world of Orléans – the post balloons and petit cakes and teletropes – the world building is fantastic.

The last few pages of this book will keep readers on the edge of their seat. And when they read the last line, they'll be clamoring for the sequel The Everlasting Rose, out March 5, 2019. [Beware! There are spoilers on the linked page for The Belles.]

In the meantime, you can join me as I start my third re-listen.
Emily

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (1999)

daughterforestWeaving Celtic mythology and classic fantasy together, Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest is an enchanting book that you won’t want to put down. The story follows Sorcha, a young Irish girl living with her warlord father and six older brothers who love their sister fiercely. Their lands house fair folk and ancient magic that help keep them safe from the Britons trying to invade.

Though safe from humans, her father soon remarries a sorceress that curses her and her brothers, turning the six boys into swans and forcing her into silence until she can break the spell. Over the next few years, Sorcha must try to fulfil the curses requirements while not uttering a single sound, writing anything down, or conveying any part of her story. After being taken in by a Red, a British lord, she must try to save her brothers and her one true love.

This story reads like a classic fairy tale bolstered with captivating details and great character development. While Daughter of the Forest stands on its own, you can check out the rest of the series to revisit the magical world.

 
 
 
 
Emily

Your Name (2017) PG

Your NameIn this beautifully animated movie, city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha embark on a life-changing journey after waking up one day in each other’s bodies. Both teenagers learn what is important to them as they attempt to deal with swapping back and forth in this vaguely familiar yet completely original coming of age story.

I would recommend Your Name to anyone who appreciates animation, as it is expertly done, blending traditional animation with beautiful hand-painted scenery. It will draw in those who are looking for a bit more in their teen romance stories.
IPPL Staff

The Shape of Water (2017) R

shapeofwaterGuillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s masterpiece is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. The cinematography is matched only by Alexandre Desplat’s score that captures and enhances the emotions in each scene. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who has been mute since she was a baby, works as a janitor at a top-secret government research facility; there, she encounters something that changes the course of her life. At its core, The Shape of Water is a story that questions just what is it that makes us human.

The Shape of Water won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Original Score, and Production Design) and was nominated in nine other categories.
IPPL Staff

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (2017)

scribeofsienaIn the present day, neurosurgeon Beatrice travels to Siena after her brother, a medieval historian, dies. Somehow, Beatrice travels in time to medieval Siena during the plague (around 1350). As you read The Scribe of Siena, you’ll feel that you were there too—the writing and descriptions are so vivid. Check out Melodie Winawer’s captivating debut novel today. For fans of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.