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Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I just saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1997) on Overdrive's ebook list. Well if you are looking for one great book to read, go no further. You found it. The best page-turning adventure that you can't put down, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in this epic story of the eleven-year-old wizard who becomes every reader's favorite hero.

Even if you saw the movie, you'll want to read Harry's entire story. It has no boring parts and will grip your attention from page one. You will feel you've been transported into the story itself. And it does not matter how old you are. Even as I'm writing this, I can feel myself aboard the Hogwarts Express on my way to live Harry's journey with him and his pals Hermione and Ron. This is a ride you will not want to miss.

Check out J. K. Rowling's debut novel (and the one that started it all). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the first book... then check out the rest of the series.



Listen to Neil Gaiman's Coraline, live from NYPL.

What is better than having someone read you a story? Having the author and famous actors read it to you!

The New York Public Library is hosting a live reading of Neil Gaiman's spooky book Coraline this week, from Tuesday, May 12 through Monday, May 18. Click here to see more details and this link to sign up for a reminder notice. Remember the time difference means it will be at 5pm Chicago time or just go here to watch later or catch up on missed chapters.

Borrow the eBook from Hoopla if you want to read along.



Penelope

Penelope Wilhern is living a fairy tale. She is an heiress, living in a beautiful mansion, being pursued by a charming aristocrat…and she's tasked with breaking the curse she was born with that left her with a pig snout instead of a nose. Such a task seems hopeless when suitor after suitor run away in terror after seeing her, but when one of those suitors helps Penelope learn to take risks, she begins to see there is more to life than breaking the curse.

Penelope (2006, rated PG) is feel good, modern day fairy tale peppered with comedy, fantasy, romance, and charming performances by Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, and Reese Witherspoon. Watch it on Hoopla today.


Good Omens

Good Omens (2011) is the brainchild of two legendary authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, who created a fun, humorous story of an unlikely duo. An angel from heaven and a demon from hell must work together to stop the apocalypse. Going against orders, they are trying to maintain the status quo so they can maintain their current lives and friendship. The unlikely duo bounce off each other with their dialogue, making it a joy to see on page how the story will unfold.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.

The book has been turned into a TV show on Amazon Prime. Sign up for a free trial or place a hold on the dvd or our Roku with Amazon Prime to see the adaptation.



Carry On

You've read and re-read all the Harry Potter books, watched all the movies, maybe even tried to find some magic in Narnia or Middle Earth, but you're still looking for more… Rainbow Rowell is here for you. Carry On (2015) tells the story of Simon Snow, the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen. Somehow, even as things are falling apart around him (sometimes even catching on fire), things always work out, much to the dismay of his roommate and mortal enemy, Baz (who happens to be a vampire and maybe also the love of his life?).

Come and visit the Watford School of Magicks for a very Harry Potter-esque story with maybe just a bit more sarcastic humor. Enjoy the audiobook on Hoopla or the ebook on Overdrive, and then look for book two:Wayward Son.



Series Spotlight: Winternight

If you grew up on fairy tales and want to rediscover that magic as an adult, then the Winternight trilogy (start with The Bear and the Nightingale, 2017) is for you. Katherine Arden brings to life Russian folklore and spirits you away to the forests of medieval Russia in this lyrical tale.

Vasya is born into a time when the old beliefs are being threatened by the introduction of modern religion, but she is one of the few who can still see and talk to the household and forest spirits. Struggling to keep the old traditions alive to protect her family, Vasya is drawn into an age-old battle between the frost-king and his brother. The action continues from the frozen forests to the capital, Moscow, and through the fantastical Midnight Lands, home to the mythical witch Baba Yaga.

Beautifully written with a strong female lead and a captivating portrayal of 14th century Russia, the Winternight trilogy (book 2: The Girl in the Tower, 2018 and book 3: The Winter of the Witch, 2019) interweaves historical moments with old world fantasy to create a wonderful epic fairy tale. This trilogy would appeal to readers of Neil Gaiman and Kiersten White.


So Weird. The Complete Series (1999-2001)

I have been finding that Disney+ is a great way to relive favorite shows of your childhood.  My latest binge was So Weird (TV-Y7), about Fiona, a teenager, on the road with a band for which her mom (Mackenzie Phillips) is the lead singer.  Fiona is drawn to everything strange and unusual, which she constantly stumbles upon, revealing more and more about her father's unexplained car accident when she was a baby.

While revolving around many supernatural occurrences, older kids and their families can enjoy this family adventure/mystery series together.  So Weird originally aired on The Disney Channel in the late 90s, but you can now stream the entire series on Disney+ via the library's Family Roku devices.

Series Spotlight: The Last Firehawk

Owls are determined to save their home – the island of Perodia – from the evil Thorn, a vulture who is destroying the island with the help of his army of tiger bats and prickle ants. Rivers are dry, trees are being destroyed, and no flowers are blooming. Heroes of this animal fantasy early chapter book are Tag, an owl who uses a magic map; Skyla, a squirrel who uses a slingshot; and Blaze, the last surviving firehawk who uses his wings. When Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are successful in the quest to find all the pieces of the ember stone, their home might be saved.

The first page of each book explains where Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are in their search for the ember stone so the books do not have to be read in order…but in order would be best. Start with The Ember Stone (2017).

A map of Perodia, which is a copy of the magic map used by Tag, is on the next page after the introduction. The reader will want to refer back to the map while reading the adventure. On the last page of each book are questions and activities suggestions, which will add to the enjoyment of the reader and extend their learning. Each of the 10 books (so far) in The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman are 90 pages. There are black and white illustrations on each page. Lexile range is 550-640.



The Witcher. Season 1

​Are you looking for something to fill the void after the disappointing final season of Game of Thrones?  The Witcher, a friend of humanity, is here to slay monsters, collect coin, and reignite our excitement in fantasy TV shows.

In The Witcher (2019, TV-MA), Geralt of Rivea is no ordinary man. Subjected to a deadly trial as a child, he became a Witcher, a mutant hunter used to rid the world of scum.  After accidentally invoking an ancient custom at a wedding, he finds his destiny tied with Cirilla, the young princess of Cintra.  After her kingdom is attacked, she must find Geralt to understand her future and her power. Follow Geralt as he tries to slay monsters, navigate relationships, play politics, and find Cirilla.

Henry Cavill is phenomenal as Geralt.  It was the role he was born to play.  The fighting choreography is stellar and will have you wanting to watch it over and over.  The monsters are unique and disgusting and don't hold back.  Be prepared to have the song, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" stuck in your head for an eternity.

I have a few small complaints: the writing can be cheesy at times but the actors do their best with what they are given.  In addition, because two of the main characters live extended lives, the timeline skips around and can be confusing.  Despite these flaws, I recommend this to any fantasy lover looking for a show that doesn't pull its punches.

To watch The Witcher. Season 1 check out one of the Rokus for access to Netflix.

 If you enjoy the TV series, check out the books by Andrzej Sapkowski.  And if you enjoy playing video games, look for Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and Xbox One.

Yesterday

If you love The Beatles, you need to watch this movie.  In Yesterday, a mysterious worldwide 12-second power outage triggers an alternate reality.  Struggling British musician Jack Malik is debating whether to give up on a music career.  Then, when playing a Beatles classic for his friends, he discovers that in this new universe, the Beatles never existed.  Jack becomes an international sensation with his alleged songwriting prowess.  But is it too good to be true?  Jack discovers what's truly important on his unbelievable journey.

This feel-good film (2019, PG-13) stars Himesh Patel and Lily James, with Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran in supporting roles.  Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis.  Listen to the soundtrack on Hoopla or check out the cd for a delightful assortment of Beatles covers.



Noelle

Disney+ has finally arrived!  Based on cast alone, my first viewing selection was Noelle (2019, G) which was originally intended for theatrical release, but was later reserved for the launch of Disney+.  It stars Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader as Kris Kringle's kids, Noelle and Nick.  Also in the cast are long-time actors Shirley MacLaine and Julie Hagerty, with comedians, Billy Eichner and Ron Funches.

Nick has trained his whole life to take over for his father as Santa, but as the pressure builds, he takes a vacation on his sister's recommendation.  Unfortunately, Nick took that to mean a one-way trip to the southwest.  Noelle has to venture out from the North Pole to find him, all while learning that Christmas is more meaningful when you focus on giving instead of getting.

Overall, this light-hearted film, albeit slightly predictable, will bring laughter and maybe even some tears to you and your family.  Find other Christmas movies to watch with the family on our website.

View Noelle and everything else Disney you can imagine with a Roku featuring Disney+.


The Ten Thousand Doors of January

I was feeling the need for a good book to escape into and Alix E. Harrow really delivered with whimsical prose and a fantastical story in The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019).

Set at the turn of the 20th century in Vermont, we follow the story of January, a young mixed race child in the care of a wealthy collector, Mr. Locke. Her guardian employs her father to travel the world searching for and obtaining rare treasures and curiosities, which are then added to Mr. Locke's extensive collection or sold at secretive auctions.

At the age of seven, while on a trip to rural Kentucky with Mr. Locke, January opens a dilapidated blue door amongst some ruins in a field and is briefly transported to another world, a world that smells of salt and stone, a world that feels strangely welcoming. Her few short moments there leave her wondering if it was a real memory or just her imagination. Then, at the age of 17, her father disappears while on one of his trips and a book mysteriously appears in a treasure chest in Mr. Locke's collection—a book that carries the scent of adventure and other worlds and tells of ten thousand 'doors'. And so begins an upheaval of January's life and the opening of new doors.

Lovers of Narnia and The Time Traveler's Wife will enjoy this beautifully written book, full of the power of the written word, love, and strong female characters.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Kell possesses the rare ability to jump dimensions, one of the last of his kind. Using blood magic to travel from Red London to White London to Grey London, he is tasked with being a diplomat between the cities. As a member of the Red London royal family, he wants for nothing. In his free time, he likes to smuggle items from one London to another, an act that is highly illegal and incredibly dangerous.

Before Kell's gift was so rare, there was a Black London. When corrupt magic overtook Black London, the doors were sealed to prevent it from spreading. Only those like Kell were left to travel the remaining cities. When a piece of the corrupt magic threatens the remaining worlds, Kell and Delilah Bard, a surprisingly talented pickpocket from Grey London, must work together to save their realities.

This book had everything I was looking for: a well-written female lead, an interesting magic system, and crossdressing thieves. The audiobook did not do the characters justice, and I recommend reading the book. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab (2015) is the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy followed by A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light.

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.