Staff Favorites List- Summer/Fall 2020
Each of these titles is personally recommended by one of our Brilliant Booksellers. The list features both newly published and older books and draws from a wide array of writers, styles, and genres, making for a list as eclectic and unique as our Brilliant customers.
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When popular mystery author Harriet Vane's fiance dies under circumstances that exactly match the plot of her latest book, she must team up with the famous gentlemen detective Lord Peter Wimsey to clear her name and escape execution by hanging. This classic Dorothy Sayers novel not only introduced the character of Harriet Vane, it also began one of literature's most famous romances. —Anthony
Helen Mcdonald, author of H is for Hawk, introduces her latest essay collection by describing the idea of Cabinets of Curiosities or Wunderkammer -- curated and eclectic collections of objects, often from the natural world that would represent their creators interests and fascinations. This does aptly describe her essays collected here, reflections on a lifetime of obsession with nature, animals and the human relationship to the world around us. At once sad and lovely, Mcdonald's essays are reflective but also encourage humans to look outside ourselves in our engagement with nature. —Rachel
I absolutely love this enchanting and spooky story! Zita is a 12 year old orphan who suddenly inherits a mysterious castle and finds out that she comes from a long line of witches. A curse has been placed on her family and it is up to Zita to remove the curse and find out what really happened to them. I found myself cheering for brave Zita as she gains new confidence in herself and searches for her place in the world. Perfect for fans of Greenglass House that also enjoy magic. Ages 8-12 —Sam
Two vastly different authors, one summer in close proximity, and a challenge issued to write in each other’s style, and do it better. Is that the set up for a perfect romance? Yes. The answer is absolutely, positively, 100% yes. Equal parts witty banter, real-world issues, and incredible character dynamics, this should be the go to for anyone looking for something fun, but undeniably full of heart. —Kendall
As you probably know by now, I listen to most of what I read as audiobooks, and I've got to tell you, performance makes a difference. I've listened to mediocre books made awesome by a talented narrator, but this book is a case of a fantastic story made even more engaging by phenomenal narrator Robin Miles. The story is like Neil Gaiman meets Jeff VanDerMeer as New York City's boroughs personified seek to save their city (and themselves) from an ancient interdimensional threat. A fantastic read, and an even better listen! —Caitlin M.
Ok, I know what you're thinking; "but Anthony, this is a KID'S book." Bear with me though, because this Newbery Medal Honor Book is worth your attention. Six fox kits listen to six tales of increasing terror to try to prove their bravery to themselves and each other. Illness, abusive family, and a mad (but familiar!) taxidermist are just some of the horrors in these six interconnected stories. Read it in the dark, but make sure you've got a flashlight. —Anthony
This is one of the the strangest books I’ve read in a long time and I loved every moment. I can’t deny that the prospect of a mysterious taxidermy aardvark showing up on the doorstep of a closeted, Reagan-obsessed politician was too hard to pass up, but I was blown away by how un-put-down-able this book became within the first few pages. This is certainly not a book everyone will enjoy, but if you’re in the mood for something really enjoyably satirical and laugh out loud funny, look no further. —Kendall
An older book, but a good one. Lately, as I work in the gardens and flowerbeds at my new house, I've found myself reminiscing about this book more and more. It's a sweet and sometimes sad story about a foster child who's grown up but can't leave her life before entirely behind. She uses the language of flowers that her foster mother taught her to try and express the emotions for which she—and, it turns out, many others—have no words. Despite the modern setting, there are slightly gothic tones to the story, reminiscent of Diane Setterfield. And yes, if you're wondering, this one's available as an audiobook, too. —Caitlin M.
In this collection of fictional essays, Schlansky considers loss and memory as she writes about objects, places, and animals that no longer exist. She writes that "being alive means experiencing loss" which resonates deeply in our current times, something that I think many are reflecting on as we navigate all of the things we no longer can do, and how that informs a future we don't know. Through the art of story telling, she "creates" memories, a very human need to interpret the world around us based on what we have experienced. Imaginative and beautiful, this is a book to savor. —Rachel
It combines realistic issues like redefining family with enchanting and sometimes spooky magic. A beautiful book both inside and out. —Sam
An interesting twist on a locked-room whodunnit, with the audiobook performed by a full cast! The wedding of the decade, between an outdoorsy reality TV star and the creator of a popular digital lifestyle magazine, is set to take place on a remote Irish island. The story flits back and forth between "now," with the reception in full swing, and the days leading up to the wedding as the wedding party and guests arrive. It seems everyone's got a motive for some kind of foul play, but as the story unfolds, the reader's left wondering...are any of them killers? And if so...who is the victim? —Caitlin M.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I, for one, am really excited that vampires are making a comeback. I think they’re such a fun trope in pretty much every genre, and this was no exception. True to the Grady Hendrix style, this book was the perfect campy, slightly off-kilter, and moderately gory suburban horror story I didn’t know I needed. —Kendall
10 short stories that seem simple, just following middle school kids on their walk home from school. It is packed with so much more from friendship to family dynamics to personal problems. Both reluctant and voracious readers will enjoy. —Sam
Franny Stone is a broken person and a wanderer, haunted by her past in a near future world experiencing the sixth extinction. A lover of birds, she sets out to follow some of the last arctic terns on what is likely their last migration, gaining passage on a fishing boat searching for one more harvest. The eclectic crew is weary at first but takes Franny and her mission on, following the path of the birds and learning more of her past and secrets on their journey south. An atmospheric novel on climate, this will appeal to lovers of internal struggles reflected in the natural world. —Rachel
Gideon Nav spends her time reading trashy magazines, training with her longsword, and attempting to escape not only her indentured servitude but also her childhood enemy the Reverend Daughter Harrowhark Nonagesimus, necromancer and Heir to the House of the Ninth. She finally sees her chance when the Emperor invites all eight house heirs to take part in a mysterious contest and she must act as Harrowhark's devoted bodyguard. Success means Harrowhark becomes a saint and Gideon is free. Failure means they both die in horrible, bloody ways. No problem, right? Sarcastic, fantastic, and just a bit pulpy, Tamsyn Muir is like the goth little sister of Neil Gaiman and Garth Nix. —Anthony
Separated for the first time in 5th grade, twin sisters learn to navigate the real world as a single person. It's full of middle grade drama but with a dash of magic. —Sam
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This was a weird one, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's not so much an alternate history as an alternate world with a very similar history. A king strongly reminiscent of Henry VIII, his daughters queens one after the other, and a scandal that could undo everything...but the only person who can unravel the whole thing is a lowly Sin Eater. This young woman is made a pariah by her role—consuming funeral foods meant to symbolize the deceased's sins during life so that they might enter the afterlife cleansed. Her status makes her all but invisible, and thus she sees much of the goings on of court life. But as the mystery deepens, will anyone listen to her warnings? —Caitlin M.