The Haunted Book Shop

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

I watched the Netflix Series Behind Her Eyes and loved the suspense and supernatural themes. So, when I saw that Sarah Pinborough wrote Insomnia I knew that I had to read it! The story itself reminded me of Behind Her Eyes and the movie Hereditary. You have a mother as the main character who is doing everything she can to find out about her estranged mother’s life as she tries to uncover family secrets to protect her family. But, is she protecting her family from the impending danger, or is she the danger her family needs protecting from? The whole story you are in just as much disbelief as the main character…she doesn’t know if she is awake or asleep, if she is sane or going mad like her mother, and as things twist and turn deeper into the story a mind-bending and time-bending twist is added!

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough, (List Price: $27.99, William Morrow, 9780062856845,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Kait Layton, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. Cooney

I snagged the book because of the necromancy, but the tagline of “fun, froofy, and glorious: a coming-of-age story” is absolutely correct. The comparisons to Gideon the Ninth will be inevitable, but the tone of this book tends more towards the cheerful morbidity of the Addams family than the grimness I felt at the core of Gideon.The story follows Miscellaneous Stones, a necromancer born with an allergy to violence into a house of assassins and murderers as she grows into her power. As important to the book as her growing necromancy is the way she comes to terms with her family’s legacy and the burden of their sins. Despite the solemnity of the topic, Lanie herself has such a joyous attitude that infects the book and makes me smile even now. I really enjoyed the entire book and look forward to reading her continued adventures. In particular, I can usually predict story beats long before they happen but the author managed to surprise me with the depth and complexity of the characters, especially the antagonists.

Saint Death’s Daughter by C. S. Cooney, (List Price: $27.99, Henry Holt and Co., 9781786184702,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Kelly McLeod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

A wonderfully bent fairy tale from T. Kingfisher, the princess is not out to marry the prince, instead she’s out to kill him for his sins.This is a darker-than-usual Kingfisher title–the wit and sharp writing is there, but usual laughs she provides aren’t nor should they be. This is not a story where laughter would be right. It’s a story about endurance and necessity in a situation where there’s precious little to laugh about. Highly recommended dark fantasy for the genre-savvy who want their fairy tale with blood and bite to it.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, (List Price: $25.99, Tor Books, 9781250244048,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

I picked up this book because 1. it has a full moon on the cover. I’m a complete sucker for a moon and as I have yet to be steered wrong by this, it will continue to be an indicator of a great story to me. And 2. I am adoring this retelling trend YA is on right now. Romeo and Juliet meets Chinese mythology had me swiftly plucking this from the arc box. Other favorite motifs include: unearthly fireflies, a mysterious and magical book, & unexplainable “natural” happenings. The romance between Luna and Hunter is so sweet and swoon-worthy and doesn’t veer outside the plot (which is a pet peeve of mine).The story takes place in the early 90s which I forget until someone mentions a windbreaker, lol. I learned SO MUCH about Chinese versus Taiwanese culture–I never knew there was/is an identity issue and found it fascinating as Pan expertly weaves it into the Romeo & Juliet narrative. And speaking of R&J, the closer I got to the ending, the more anxious I was about how close to the play Pan would go. No spoilers here, but the ending is chef’s kiss.

An Arrow to the Moon by Emily X.R. Pan, (List Price: $18.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316464055,  April 2022)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

This book was exactly what it needed to be. It’s fun, it takes familiar ideas about kaiju and puts a fresh spin on them, and adds in entertaining characters who care about what they do. It’s so very much an antidote and relief from things taking themselves too seriously, but landed the narrative beats when it needed them. Here, Scalzi show the artistry of solid craftsmanship, and I want more.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi, (List Price: $26.99, Tor Books, 9780765389121,  March 2022)

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod from The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A Fall Read This Next! Selection

Well. That was nuts. Khaw threw together a fast-paced ghost story, the bitter lyricism of her writing conveying the complexity of feelings when you have History with someone, as well as the surreal when an offended ghost decides it’s making an example out of you.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw, (List Price: $19.99, Tor Nightfire, 9781250759412, October 2021)

Reviewed by Alex Mcleod, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs

I read this Fourth of July weekend which was the perfect book to give me a different perspective on what America means to a family fleeing a war-torn country in search of a better life. Dobbs’ great-grandmother inspired this heart-wrenching, incredible story of 12 yo Petra Luna’s “barefoot dreams” of learning to read and write and protecting her family. I loved the earnest determination and bravery of Petra, her closeness with her 2 younger siblings, and how her abuelita taught her to listen to the natural world to survive the harsh desert conditions to make their way to the U.S. border. It was such a beautiful mix of mythology and holding tight to dreams. The war brutality was presented realistically–the danger wasn’t glossed over, but instead presented in a child-thoughtful way. I learned so much about a time in history that I didn’t know much about. My 10-year-old daughter and I highly recommend!

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs, (List Price: 17.99, Sourcebooks Young Readers, 9781728234656, September 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko

Ghost Girl is another 2021 debut on my Much Anticipation list and did not disappoint! I loved how Zee was a storyteller even if she got teased for it, and her and Elijah’s friendship was awesome. I REALLY disliked Nellie and couldn’t see how they’d ever get to a point where they could work together, so Malinenko did an amazing job with her characters. And plot and pacing. I did think the scene when the ghost first appeared to Zee was a little scary (even to late 30s me, lol) so I personally would recommend it more for 10 and up but every child reader is different! (And once Zee figured out who the ghost was, it wasn’t as scary anymore, but you had to read through to get to that part, of course.)My absolute favorite part of this book (besides the library-love which I am always here for) was that CONSENT is the secret weapon. (I don’t think that’s spoilery because I’m keeping it out of context for this review.) I was cheering as I read and think it’s such a great message to make consent so powerful. Love, love, love.

Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko, (List Price: 16.99, Katherine Tegen Books, 9780063044609, August 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert

I loved the world-building in this fantasy debut! Rueckert created two different religious systems and blended them expertly into the cultures of the different countries. Newly-queened Jiara must understand both if she’s to lead in peace, AND find out who murdered her sister Scilla, who is quickly becoming a pretty scary earthwalker, a ghost consumed by revenge to find her killer. There’s a lot going on with high stakes but the pacing flows well so it is never overwhelming. Jiara is an awesome protagonist you want to follow to the ends of worlds. She’s brave and kind and is constantly on herself for not living up to her older sister’s legacy due to her undiagnosed dyslexia. But she always looks for the Next Best Thing and by opening her heart to her new people, their Watcher religion (while still embracing her own) she learns so much about her own capabilities. Her relationship with King Raffar is awesome and sweet and so refreshing.

A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert, (List Price: 9.99, Flux, 9781635830651, 2021-08-03)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

A Summer Read This Next! Selection!

If, like me, your catnip is the taciturn, brainy, hot hero who is secretly a big squishy marshmallow at heart, you can look nor further than this awesome debut! It’s also sexy, witty, and features a well-rounded cast of characters in a STEM environment.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, (List Price: 16, Berkley, 9780593336823, September 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Trigg, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim

Korean American witches! Bulgogi tacos and boba tea portals! This RRP grabbed my attention with the clans of Korean witches and kept it with the strong sister bond and Riley choosing kindness as her strength. There was lots of betrayal and twists and action that made this a fast and exciting read–but it never got overwhelming. The whole cast is great, the world-building is awesome, complex-but-understandable, and the food sounds delicious (I’m REALLY wanting to try bulgogi tacos.) I totally guessed wrong on what the last fallen star was so it was fun that the ending wasn’t predictable. There is a sequel so it ends in a way that makes you want to read the next one, but for the most part, everything is resolved in a way you don’t want to throw the book across the room after the last page.

The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel) by Graci Kim, (List Price: 16.99, Rick Riordan Presents, 9781368059633, May, 2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li

Benji is a comic-book-loving artist whose dad abruptly left his family. Ro is a list-making rocket scientist whose father tragically died in a car accident. When they team up to build a rocket for Science Fair and Ro becomes determined to track down Benji’s father, the two become friends. I love how one main character is artistic and the other scientific. Lots of fun space science facts in Ro’s chapters. It’s a good blend of personalities and disciplines. The two deal with grief left by their fathers, bullying, and what it means to be a friend to others as well as yourself. I also really enjoyed the plot/character thread of the kids developing a deeper understanding and friendship with a neighbor, Mr. Voltz, who suffers from PTSD as a veteran from WWII & Korean War.Lots of good stuff in this heart-warming story, including Ro embracing her Chinese heritage as a half Chinese, quarter Scottish, quarter Irish, as she describes herself.

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li (List Price: $17.99, Quill Tree Books, 9780063008885, 1/12/2021)

Reviewed by Candice Conner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal

A Spring 2021 Read This Next! Title

Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses by Kristen O’Neal
Quirk, April

Oof, ouch, this debut YA yanked me in and I could NOT put it down. Poignant and hilarious, it delves into the mental landscape of chronic illnesses, and brings werewolfism (this should be a word, fyi) into the storyline. I LOVE Brigid’s sense of humor and her and Priya’s friendship is one we ALL need in our lives. Great recommendation for readers who are looking for a solid friendship-themed book. There is a fun hint of romance but it doesn’t shift the story’s focus.

– Candice Corner, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, AL

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