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Staff Picks

The reviews expressed on this site are the opinions of the reviewer and do not reflect the views of the Santa Fe Springs City Library.

The Monstrumologist

by Richard Yancey

Every once in a while there is a series that stands out on its own, with nothing to compare it to. The Monstumologist is such a series. It chronicles the life of a young Will Henry and his adventures as assistant to the enigmatic Dr. Worthrop. Part Doctor Frankenstein, part Dickensian professor, Worthrop studies some of the most horrifying and dangerous monsters known to man. His lifework becomes all-consuming and poor 12 year old Will Henry finds himself dragged to the depths alongside his master. Horror with elements of humor and likeable characters, this series is so well written and really transports you to another time and place. Each book in the series is better than its predecessor. This series received the 2010 Michael L. Printz Honor Award for excellence in young adult literature. Definitely worth your while. - Review by JS

Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

I’d heard that this book was heralded as something new for Stephen King; a novel about a retired detective, Mr. Bill Hodges, instead of a novel involving the supernatural or any alien clowns.  Since I’ll read anything that King puts out there, I picked it up.  It was completely engrossing.  The anticipation I felt as Hodges was getting closer to figuring out the Mercedes Killer kept me on the edge of my seat – and up late.  Hodges’ “sidekick”, Jerome, is too hilarious to describe.  It is definitely recognizable as King’s writing, and there was a huge twist I didn’t see coming.  I was relieved to discover there are 2 more books in the series that are equally as interesting.  The show from this book is not to be missed. - Review by DG

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version

by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman goes back to the roots of the fairy tales we all know and love to present this collection of stories from Jacon and Wilhelm Grimm. The language has been modernized but not overly changed much. There are still deep dark woods and wolves, but some ideas, such as bullets, have been added, and the language has been smoothed out for easier reading and better telling. The real treasure here is the comments Pullman adds to the end of each story. He has interesting facts to add to each tale, as well as some rumors to kill off. He also describes how he has edited each story, as well as giving justification. This is a juicy retelling for those adults among us who have never outgrown fairy tales. - Review by SD


The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

 


“Here’s the story of a boy named Nobody, who was raised in a graveyard.” That premise was strange enough to get my attention.
As a fan of Neil Gaiman’s other work (Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane), The Graveyard book is similar in flavor. My first exposure to this book was in audiobook format. If you can listen to this book through Gaiman’s lovely voice, please do so. I love ghost stories and murder mysteries, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this story was a bit of both. “Bod”, short for Nobody, begins the story as a baby whose life is in danger, and we get to see him grow up and face this danger head on. Growing up in a graveyard has its perks as well as its pitfalls. Gaiman’s books always evoke an otherworldliness in his stories, despite being grounded in the real world. The mystery behind why Bod’s life is being threatened is gripping, and will keep you guessing until the bitter end. This book is an absolute pleasure to read, and a joy to listen to.  “The Graveyard Book” is also available as a graphic novel, with beautiful illustrations by Eisner award winner P. Craig Russell. - Review by JS

The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard

by Erin McGraw
Erin McGraw brings us a story of how a new Californian tries to reinvent herself—and what happens when the past comes calling. Escaping her unhappy life, Nell Plat flees hard-scrabble Kansas for California, abandoning her family. Nell uses her wits and her sewing skills to gain contacts and climb the social ladder, but her past comes knocking at her door in the form of the children she left behind. But in California, everyone reinvents themselves, and her two daughters aren’t the only newcomers who know about Nell’s past. - Review by SD

Through the Woods

by Emily Carroll

There is a lingering stigma attached to comic books and graphic novels when it comes to adult reading. The mindset that it is “not serious reading” or that it is “for children” is something that the medium has been battling for quite some time. “Through the Woods” is a shining example of just how far comic books and graphic novels have come.  It is a compilation of short horror stories, similarly to Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”. Contrary to Schwartz’s work, Carroll’s storytelling serves a purpose, effective in its ability to teach you a lesson, as well as terrify. Carroll’s Lovecraftian prose is wonderful on its own, but coupled with her evocative (and gorgeous) artwork, it becomes a tale that stays with you, something that will haunt you when you go to sleep. As an adult reader and lover of horror, I cannot recommend this book enough.  - Review by JS

The Coroner's Lunch

by Colin Cotterill
Dr. Siri Paiboun is a 72-year-old doctor who is picked to be the national coroner of Laos in 1976. Inexperienced and out of his depth, he has one asset that no one else seems to have -- curiosity. He also has a disturbing secret -- the dead come to him in his dreams. Navigating the muddy waters of a revolutionary political nightmare and the corruption of his country, Dr. Siri searches for the truth wherever it lies. An excellent first in a series -- enjoy! - Review by JR

Death Comes to Pemberley

by P.D. James
Having read a number of Jane Austen wannabes, I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. However, James won me over. Using many of Austen's original characters, James manages to be true to them and to the mystery plotline that is both taut and thoughtful. A great read! - Review by JR

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

by Caitlin Doughty

Do you have a morbid sense of humor? So do I. To many, the business of death is taboo, not much is known about what goes on “behind the scenes”. Caitlin Doughty, a licensed mortician, sheds light on the subject with candid humor. Her experience in the world of mortuaries and crematoriums is equal parts fascinating and entertaining. Although “Smoke” is written like a memoir, Caitlin’s purpose is to educate and have an open conversation about with happens the funerary process. Be forwarded, this book is not for the squeamish.
This anecdote will set the tone for you:“No matter how many heavy-metal album covers you’ve seen, how many Hieronymus Bosch prints of the tortures of Hell, or even the scene in Indiana Jones where the Nazi’s face melts off, you cannot be prepared to view a body being cremated. Seeing a flaming human skull is intense beyond your wildest flights of imagination.” - Review by JS

Wicked Autumn

by G.M. Malliett
Part parody of the English cozy murder mystery and part intriguing story, Malliett's Wicked Autumn introduces us to Max Tudor, vicar and former MI-5 operative. When a murder occurs in his small town of Nether Monkslip, Father Max works behind the scenes to catch the killer. A satisfying read. - Review by JR

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot
OK, I really don't know why I waited so long to read this book -- it is wonderful! Ms. Skloot lets everyone have their own voice and gives a face to the cells that have changed health science forever. Never preachy, always interesting, this book should be on everyone's must read list. - Review by JR

Wicked Bugs

by Amy Stewart

Just in time for summer is a book that will make you think twice about the bugs in your yard. Wicked Bugs is about those creepy crawlies that cause destruction, pain, discomfort or death. Strangely beautiful etchings accompany the darkly humorous chapter headings. Enjoy! - Review by JR

Into the Wild

by Jon Krakauer

The true story of Christopher McCandless who decided to leave the comforts of normal society, getting rid of all possessions except what he carried on his back. The author carefully reconstructed the journey that McCandless actually took and adds his voice in with that of the youthful vagabond. A cautionary tale of youthful exuberance that still leaves one wondering, “Could I survive in the same circumstances?” An inspiring read for anyone who ever wanted to escape the structure and materialism of modern society and test themselves against nature. - Review by LL