Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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I almost didn’t read this one because I didn’t like the cover (and yes, I know, I shouldn’t be judging books by their covers). I’m glad I picked it up, though, since I’m a sucker for the crop of young adult fantasy books with strong, interesting heroines that have been published in the past few years. If you liked The Hunger Games, Matched, Graceling, or Sabriel for the strong female main character, you’ll want to pick up Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Karou is a young woman living in Prague who is leading a double life. In one life she is an art student with a boyfriend who cheated on her, in the other, she runs errands picking up teeth for the wishmonger, Brimstone, the chimaera who raised her. She collects languages, has blue hair that grows in that way, three bullet scars on her abdomen and eye tattoos on the palms of her hands that have been there for as long as she can remember.

Karou is drawn into a centuries old conflict between angels and the chimaera when she runs into Akiva, an angel soldier trying to cut Brimstone off from the world. Karou and Akiva are drawn to one another, but there are secrets kept and hidden between them, and a startling revelation will drive them apart.

Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready

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Ciara Griffin, a con artist trying to go straight, gets a job as a publicist for a radio station. The DJs are all somewhat strange, appearing to be stuck in a particular era and tending to only appear at night. She tries to increase listeners by changing the call letters to WVMP and playing up a vampire theme, but that backfires when some listeners make it clear that they know she isn’t joking. Soon she is becoming more informed about the vampire world than anyone would wish to be, and her protector, grunge-era DJ Shane, may not be able to save her. Wicked Game contains some of the gore and suspense that one expects from an urban fantasy novel, but with a light and humorous twist.

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

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Jennifer Crusie’s new, offbeat, entertaining romance combines two orphaned children, a remote Gothic house, an ex-husband as well as a fiancee, visitors from the spirit world and lots of eccentric characters, creating a light-hearted romantic adventure. Andie Miller confronts her ex-husband, North, in order to return his alimony checks and close this chapter in her life. Instead, he convinces her to spend a month caring for two children under his guardianship, after the three previous nannies have abruptly quit the job. Her adventures begin when she arrives at the house, to find an odd housekeeper, two sullen and quiet children and more than one ghost. This book is filled with witty dialog, fun and unique characters and, of course, romance. If you enjoy romance with a ghostly twist, Maybe This Time is for you!

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

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Meena Harper is really tired of her life. The soap opera she writes for is being taken over by a vampire plot line, she can’t get her unemployed brother to move out of her apartment, and it’s so difficult to meet men when she has the ability to see how people are going to die as soon as she meets them. Then one night late when she is out walking her tempermental dog, she is rescued from a freak bat attack by a beautiful man. For the first time ever, she can look him straight in the eye and not see how he will die. Of course, the reason for this is going to be unpleasant.

Meg Cabot is at her finest with Insatiable, managing to create a paranormal romance with her typical wit.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

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Soulless by Gail Carriger is described on the cover as “A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols,” which sums it up quite well. Alexia Tabotti is a soulless spinster who faces a frustrating world filled with paranormal annoyances and two insipid half-sisters, armed with only her quick wit and her parasol. When she is attacked by a vampire at a ball, (how gauche!) she accidentally kills him and upsets the delicate balance that keeps 19th century London civilized. Fortunately, Scottish Alpha werewolf and government official Lord Maccon is on hand to help her solve the mystery and save the day. This fast-moving and incredibly funny story will have you cheering them on and wondering how long Miss Tabotti will maintain her spinster status.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

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Parasite positives, or “peeps,” are those infected with a parasite that turns them into light-avoiding cannibals with drastically increased life spans (they prefer to avoid the v-word). Cal is infected by his girlfriend, but it turns out he’s a natural carrier of the parasite and simply acquires excellent night vision, superhuman strength and a craving for rare meat. He joins a secret branch of the New York City government dedicated to tracking the infected but learns when he finds the woman who infected him that there’s more to the story. This novel is well thought out with scientifically based explanations for all the symptoms of vampirism. Not your average vampire novel, but it will appeal to a wide range of ages, from high school students up to adults.

Witch Way to Murder

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In Witch Way to Murder, by Shirley Damsgaard, you will enjoy a light touch of the paranormal. In this cozy mystery, Ophelia Jensen is a sassy, savvy librarian who just happens to be a reluctant witch, an unwanted “gift” she considers inconvenient at best and at worst downright dangerous.

Her kindly old grandmother Abby, however, has no compunctions about the paranormal, being a practicing witch with unique abilities of her own. And sometimes the otherworldly arts do come in handy — like when the arrival of a mysterious, good-looking stranger seems to trigger an epidemic of catastrophes, from the theft of bomb-making materials to a corpse dumped in Abby’s backyard. Luckily Ophelia and Abby are on the case and determined to make things right. But it’ll take more than magick to get out of this boiling cauldron of lethal trouble.

There’s No Place Like Here

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If you’ve ever wondered where those missing socks have gone, There’s No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern is the book for you.

Sandy Shortt is obsessed with missing things. She has arranged her home so that things rarely disappear because it is so distressing to her when they do. Her career is searching for missing persons. This obsession has gotten in the way of her relationships and her happiness. She recognizes that this is a problem, but isn’t sure how to deal with it. Then one day she goes missing herself, which clarifies many of her questions, but isn’t much comfort unless she can get back to her old life. This is an imaginative story that will help you to feel much better about those missing socks.

Her Fearful Symmetry

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Historic Highgate Cemetery in London would be a fascinating place to visit this time of year with it’s gothic tombs and occult past, including the Highgate Vampire. Audrey Niffenegger takes you there in her newest book, Her Fearful Symmetry. Twins Julia and Valentina inherit a flat in London on the edge of Highgate Cemetery from their Aunt Elspeth. Their mother and Elspeth were estranged twins so Julia and Valentina had never been to London or met their aunt. The beautiful old apartment is home to the ghost of Elspeth and other interesting characters, including Robert, Elspeth’s former lover and Martin who suffers from agoraphobia/ocd. The unusual story of love after death, twin-sister estrangement, and life with mental disorders is complicated but wonderfully twisted. Enjoy a ghost tale this season.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

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There have been several theories on the cause of the Salem witch trials of 1692, ranging from the oppression of women to moldy bread. In The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe dares to ask the question “What if there were women guilty of practicing witchcraft?”

Connie Goodwin, a Ph.D. student, is spending the summer cleaning out her grandmother’s house in Marblehead, Mass. when she discovers a mysterious key with the name “Deliverance Dane” curled up inside it. Armed with her love of research, she sets out to discover what this means, uncovering centuries of secrets about an ancestor she didn’t know existed.

Interspersed with Connie’s story, Howe gives us glimpses of the lives of Deliverance Dane and her daughter and grandaughter, exploring what it may have been like to live through the trials and how the following generations would have continued to face judgement long after 1692 was over.

This book is a fascinating mix of magic and mystery. It contains enough creepiness for an October read, but that is balanced by the life details of Deliverance and Connie. It calls to question the line between healing and witchcraft, the possibility of things we don’t understand, and if good and evil are always what they seem to be.

Books of the Undead

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If the movies or the upcoming holiday have gotten you in the mood for zombies, check out the latest in action-filled zombie fiction.

In Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Zeke Wilkes braves the underworld of 1880s Seattle in an attempt to save his father’s name. The underworld contains a vein of toxic gas that turns people into zombies. Zeke’s mother is his only hope for survival.

Manhattan N.Y. becomes Monster Island in the novel by David Wellington. A plague has turned most of the world into zombies. Only one couple has managed to stay alive in New York. They are joined by a group of well armed teenage girls from the Free Women’s Republic of Somaliland, searching desperately for medicine.

In Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry, Baltimore detective Joe Ledger discovers terrorists that have created a bio-weapon that can make zombies. He must lead a team of elite fighters against them in order to save the world.

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The Unseen: “A creepy haunted house, reports of a 40-year-old poltergeist investigation and a young researcher trying to rebuild her life take the “publish or perish” initiative for college professors to a terrifying new level in this spine-tingling story that has every indication of becoming a horror classic. Based on the famous Rhine ESP experiments at the Duke University parapsychology department that collapsed in the 1960s, this is a chillingly dark look into the unknown.” Romantic Times

Knockout by Catherine Coulter

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If you like plenty of action combined with the paranormal—you’ll like Knockout! “Coulter’s riveting 13th FBI thriller (after TailSpin) opens with a bang as psychic FBI agent Dillon Savich thwarts a gang of gun-totting robbers attempting to hold up the First Union Bank of Washington, D.C. Three days later, seven-year-old Autumn Backman, who sees Dillon on TV, sends him a telepathic message that she’s in danger. Though eager to help Autumn, Dillon is busy tracking a bank robber who escaped, a teenage girl now leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. Meanwhile, in Titusville, Va., Autumn’s mother reports her daughter missing to Sheriff Ethan Merriweather. After finding Autumn, Ethan discovers her sinister uncle, Blessed, has evil designs on his psychic niece. Before Dillon and his fellow FBI agent and wife, Lacey Sherlock, can get to Titusville, Autumn and her mother flee.” Publisher’s Weekly

Time for Suspension of Disbelief

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I’ll acknowledge up front that this book wins the “Cheesiest Title” award, but I have to ask you to look beyond the cover to find a gem of a book. A Ghost in Love by Jonathan Carroll begins with a ghost cooking a gourmet meal for a half-dead man’s ex-girlfriend. The interaction between the after-life, the living, those stuck in between, and dogs makes for a sometimes spooky and often hilarious story. Without becoming overly sentimental, Carroll uses his imagination of what is to come to explore the life, loves, and regrets of one man. This is a delightful read.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

> Like vampires? I have series for you: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

The Twilight Saga, a vampire-themed series, is not only a huge success, but something more—People dress up like her characters, and write their own stories about the books and post them on the Internet. There are Twilight themed rock bands—The four books in the saga, Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn, 2008 have, collectively, sold a reportedly 10 million copies. Her books have been praised for their exclusion of violence, drugs and sex. A fan club has been organized at Twilighters.org. A film is scheduled for release in December 2008.