Category Archives: Book Reviews
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
“For the odd girls, the nerdy girls, and the murderinos. This one is yours.”
― Simone St. James, The Sun Down Motel
We all know sketchy small-town motels like The Sun Down. It’s not the kind of place you want to be after dark unless you’re a person passing through or a person with a secret, but this is a spot you will enjoy reading about. The Sun Down Motel is a horror/crime novel written from two different perspectives on two different timelines, but the motel is the connective tissue between the two stories and certainly is a character of its own.
Viv Delaney 1982
On her way to New York City, Viv takes the night clerk position at The Sun Down Motel in Fell, NY, but things aren’t quite right. Women in the area are turning up missing and murdered and Viv is hearing and seeing things at the hotel that can’t be real. As Viv delves deep into the mystery of the murdered women in the area, she mysteriously goes missing herself.
Carly Kirk 2017
Carly’s Aunt Viv went missing back in 1982 and it seems to her that no one cared. A true crime aficionado, Carly takes it upon herself to move to Fell, NY and find out what happened to her aunt. When she arrives, strange twists of fate allow her to move into the apartment her aunt had and even pick up the night clerk positon at the place her aunt used to work- The Sun Down Motel. The motel isn’t all it seems though. Was her aunt murdered or was something darker and paranormal at play?
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Rice weaves a truly realistic post-apocalyptic tale in Moon of the Crusted Snow. It leaves plenty to the imagination, but I thoroughly enjoyed Rice’s straightforward writing style, use of the Anishinaabe language, and it’s a fairly quick read- which can be a bonus if you’re absorbed in a story. If you don’t enjoy ambiguous books though, this one may not be for you.
A quick summary: A small Anishinaabe community in northern Canada notices their power is out, this is inconvenient, but not unusual. What is unusual is that the power does not come back, and winter is closing in. It’s not just their community- the electricity is gone. There’s no power, no phones, nothing. We follow Evan Whitesky, a young man with a young family to protect. The tribe knows of their old ways, but can they go back to them well enough to survive the winter on the supplies they have? When a mysterious stranger shows up from the south, and bad things begin to happen, can the community stay unified long enough to survive?
The Return by Rachel Harrison
“You can’t erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.” Rachel Harrison, The Return
Julie is missing and all her friends believe she’s probably dead. Well, everyone except Elise. Elise just knows Julie is still out there. It turns out that Elise is right. Julie turns up two years after she goes missing from a secluded park. After Julie resurfaces, the friends decide to meet up at a remote inn. Apparently, Julie doesn’t remember anything that happened to her. When Elise is reunited with Julie, she knows something isn’t quite right with her friend. She looks terrible, smells terrible, her skin is dull, she’s emaciated, and seems off. Who- or what- is this new Julie?
This one really had me hooked the entire time. There’s a looming sense of dread that you just can’t shake and you just long to know more. It may walk you in circles a little bit, but it’s worth sticking with and has a great climax. The whole time you’ll be asking “What’s wrong with Julie?” and though you may or may not be surprised, you’ll be thoroughly creeped along the way to discovering the mystery.
I love a good mystery, true crime story, ghost story, or horror novel. All the books in this review reflect that. I thoroughly enjoyed each of these and would recommend them to anyone with tastes similar to my own. My favorite part of the horror genre is constantly wondering what’s going to happen next and the satisfaction of trying to put together what’s going on in a novel. I hope you pick one of these up, you can find them on READS or Audible. I enjoy trying to find the allegory in the creepy and disturbing that you usually find in a good horror story. I enjoy seeing an author hold society up to a carnival fun-house mirror- that’s what horror is to me. But beyond that, I just love a good scary story for the sake of a scary story as well.
I have always enjoyed cooking, and since we are all staying home a little more these days, it’s given us an opportunity to explore that hobby a little more. You’ve probably seen the increase in cooking on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter- all the socials. People are baking bread for the first time or showing off meals that they’ve made with ingredients in their pantry. Cooking is fun and I’m glad we’re all starting to do it more.
I decided to check out some cookbooks on READS and try some new recipes out. My first choice in cookbook was Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey’s Elegant Meals by Larry Edwards.
This cookbook was much better than I expected it to be. Usually I am not a fan of themed cookbooks, because the recipes are typically lacking in number and quality. That is not the case here. There are a plethora of (80!) very good recipes with simple ingredients that truly sound delicious.
The recipe that I decided to try was Abbey Country Wheat Bread. “The Protocol of the abbeys was: If you serve a soup, you must serve a bread. Because all dinners at the abbeys consisted of three courses, with one being soup, bread was a paramount dish” – Larry Edwards. I love bread. I love kneading bread. I love smelling bread. Even more than that, I love eating bread (with butter). This bread was good bread, but it is important to knead the bread for an extended period of time due to the wheat flour- it needs more kneads. It’s worth the extra effort, because this bread is tasty!
The next cookbook I decided to virtually crack open was Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin.
I don’t know about you, but I never feel like I have enough to time to all the things I need to do. So when I see the words “quick” and “recipe” together in the same title, my attention is sparked. I really thought this cookbook was great and I’m honestly considering buying it for myself after I return it to the library. The things I liked most about it were that the recipes had real, whole food ingredients, the ingredient lists were all short and easy to find, most of the recipes really were quick, and the one I made was tasty!
The recipe I chose was Penne with Spinach and Chickpeas in Garlic Sauce. It was simple and tasty, and I felt like it was pretty healthy. I used wheat pasta instead of regular penne pasta and it didn’t affect the flavor for me. I love garlic and the garlic is strong in this one! It’s also filling and sticks with you, which satisfies a complaint most people have about vegetarian recipes. If you don’t want to make it a whole meal, it would also be good as a side dish in a small amount.
My final choice in cookbook was One-Dish Vegetarian Meals by Robin Robertson.
To be completely honest, this cookbook wasn’t my favorite, but the recipe I made was yummy, which is really what counts. My complaint is that many of its recipes suffer from what many vegetarian recipes do: long ingredient lists, hard to find ingredients, and unnecessary substitutes. But, like I said, the recipe was tasty and that’s really what counts.
The recipe I chose to go with was Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce. It had 14 ingredients (and if you want to include the salt and pepper, then 16 ingredients), which is more than I usually use to be honest, but they all worked really well together. The dish was flavorful and satisfying. It took me about 25 minutes of prep time and about 40 minutes to cook everything.
I feel the title of this book might be a little unintentionally deceptive. I thought based on the title of the book, there would be a lot more one-pot meals that you just throw the ingredients in one pot and cook, but they are more involved than that. That can be nice for developing dynamic flavors and falls in line with traditional cooking, but I just thought I would let you know because it may require you to dirty up quite a few dishes in the cooking process. You will be cooking in the skillet and on the oven and using a food processor for many recipes. There’s more than one pan involved in the production of these meals, but the flavor and end result definitely is worth the time you put into them.
I hope you’ll consider checking on an eCookbook in quarantine and giving it a shot! Many of them are surprisingly easy to navigate. I know it’s easy to just Google a recipe, but it’s nice to just browse a cookbook when you don’t know what you’re in the mood for and you may stumble across a new gem that is likely to become a staple in your house.
The Women’s March
The March against Gun Violence
The MeToo Movement
The Climate Change Movement
Corona Virus Pandemic
Black Lives Matter
All of this has been brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness in the last three and a half years. And always, betwixt and between, acts of racism, the images of brutality by both police and civilians interspersed with all these other subjects of community concern. But this racism, by far, is the ugliest; the violence we see against Black and Brown people on our news casts and news feeds is the result of systemic, inherent racism that has been a part of the American experiment for over 400 years.
On the American Public Health Association’s website, racism is defined as such: “ (r)acism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks (which is what we call “race”), that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.” — APHA Past-President Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, MPH, PhD
‘Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, like we do!’
Admonishments that imply laziness and idleness – what if you have no bootstraps? What if your bootstraps were removed long before your birth? Your parents have none, and they are rare in your community. Equal opportunity becomes a myth.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, we must recognize that children raised in African American, Hispanic, and American Indian homes face higher risks of parental unemployment and to reside in families with significantly lower household net income relative to white children in the United States, which create barriers to equal opportunities and services designed for health and vocational results . “The social environment in which children are raised shapes child and adolescent development, and pediatricians are poised to prevent and respond to environmental circumstances that undermine child health.”
“Racism is a public health issue. The AAP condemns violence, especially when perpetrated by authorities, and calls for a deep examination of how to improve the role of policing. Systemic violence requires systemic response.”
From Timothy Peoples at Baptist News:
“I had a flashback to first grade, to the first time my mother gave me The Talk. Every black mother has given this talk to her son; it’s pretty much universal in black households in the United States. It begins – at least in my experience and in that of others in my family – with the mother discerning whether her son is ready for this news because she knows this just might shatter his world.
“My mother got down on my level, kissed me on the cheek and with tears in her eyes said, “Baby, you are a black boy in a white man’s world.” She was very intentional about her choice of words: boy versus man.”
There is a stressor inherent in living with Black or Brown skin that is unique; just living with the stressor causes health inequities – no matter if the exposure to police violence was personal or not. Just waiting for that hammer to drop, anywhere, anytime.
From the American Medical Association:
“Research demonstrates that racially marginalized communities are disproportionally subject to police force, and there is a correlation between policing and adverse health outcomes.”
The higher frequency of police encounters is linked to elevated stress and anxiety levels, along with increased rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma—and their fatal complications.
It is widely understood in medicine and public health that structural racism manifests in unequal access to opportunities, resources, conditions, and power within their respective systems.
“AMA policy recognizes that physical or verbal violence between law enforcement officers and the public, particularly among Black and Brown communities where these incidents are more prevalent and pervasive, is a critical determinant of health and supports research into the public health consequences of these violent interactions.”
In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes, in part:
“Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.”
How do we all care, support, and work with each other and our community to disrupt the racism in our culture eliminating health and wealth disparities, institutional racism, and inherent racial bias? What role can our libraries play to help our communities heal, grow, and develop? We ensure information and enhance learning, for all. We stand with the members of our communities that face prejudice, violence, and death, based on their race/ethnicity or gender. These acts degrade our institutions and destroys our communities.
The American Library Association unequivocally condemns racism and endorses recent statements by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (PDF).
President Barack Obama writes on Medium and published on his own website:
How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change
“Let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves,” former President Barack Obama wrote.
“The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”
New Era of Public Safety: An Advocacy Toolkit for Fair, Safe, and Effective Community Policing
An initiative of the Policing Campaign at the Leadership Conference Education Fund, the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
In Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (a very appropriate read at this time, on so many levels), he borrows the phrase Tipping Point from epidemiology (the study of epidemics) to describe the moment an idea or a social movement has reached critical mass – the right number of people, with the right message, in the right context. He writes that we intuitively think that the transactions going into relationships or systems are linear, a product of cause and effect (one for one, two for two, etc.), “(t)o appreciate the power of [social] epidemics, we have to abandon this expectation of proportionality. We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and changes can happen quickly.”
We can only hope so.
Put The Tipping point by Malcolm Gladwell on hold here, and keep an eye on our recommended summer reading lists for more inclusive and educational literature selections.
For further reading, see our books addressing racism and discrimination in our Children’s Collection at Williamson County Public Library:
To be able to understand the possible genetics that could result in schizophrenia and psychosis; to pinpoint the gene or genes that are damaged or missing, alone or in concert – that is what the Galvin family can offer.
In biographical form, Kolker narrates the history of the Galvins beginning with the childhoods of Mimi and Don Galvin, their meeting, romance, marriage, and family that resulted in twelve children over the course of twenty years. In a post war society of competition, the Galvins were successful in the number of children they were able to produce, but why or how did six of their sons end up with a schizophrenic diagnosis? Kolker weaves the Galvin’s history with the nineteenth and twentieth century’s progression of mental health diagnosis and treatment, and how the Galvin family crossed paths with the National Institutes of Mental Health. The nature versus nurture argument looms large – was the extremely high number of schizophrenic children (6 of 12) a result of flawed genetics or a result of a strict mother yet violent “boys will be boys,” outbursts and shocking abuse? Hats off to the Galvin family for their candid story – it could not have been an easy journey.
With most of the Galvin family members donating samples of their DNA to the study of mental illness, they have joined other families with multiple members exhibiting symptoms of mental psychosis to help detect abnormal or predeterminate genes. These genetic studies have gone on for decades – these families’ genetic contributions have been an invaluable tool in understanding the evolution of mental illness.
I read this book because it landed at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List for nonfiction; it sounded interesting. It read like a novel; I was able to finish it over a weekend. It was engaging and, on some level, horrific. At times it was like a train wreck, I was unable to look away, and on the way, I learned a lot.
I will be adding Kolker’s 2013 book, Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery to my reading list.
I have to confess to not having read any of Mr. Burke’s novels prior to this one. I will say that I enjoyed it immensely and I can see why he is so popular. The verbiage is wonderfully dense with excellent scenery and character building. He engages the mind and the imagination with an intense, quick paced story that keeps one wondering what next and looking forward to the next chapter.
The tale starts with two lovebirds involved in an odd sort of sex slave scheme between two mafia families. Isolde Balangie has been taken by Johnny Shondell and he is supposed to ‘give’ her to his older Uncle Mark. He chooses to run off with her instead. Dave walks away from her plea for help but then can’t stop himself from going back and trying to find her. His friend, Clete, becomes involved with him as they try to help the two teenagers and unravel the mystery of a sinister assassin who stalks them at the behest of one of the families because of this interest in their affairs.
Several threads in the story develop with a cast of colorful characters as Dave and Clete travel from New Iberia to New Orleans and the Florida Keys. Everyone is understandably imperfect and makes bad decisions with good intentions which propel the plot forward. Burke takes us on a fascinating tour of this part of the South and it’s underbelly with all the malfeasance and malice to be expected in a gritty story about a police detective, ex-cop, mafiasos, beautiful dames, and hitman.
It was a tightly wound Southern noir mystery with some horror, science fiction, and romance. I thoroughly reading it. It has all the elements I like in a story since I enjoy a good scare and urban fantasies. Highly recommended for fans of John Sanford, Dennis Lehane, Lawrence Block, and Michael Conelley. It comes out in August of 2020.
By Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Originally posted September 14, 2018
Can you believe we’re living in The Future? For decades, the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away. Folks imagined that, by now, we’d have robot teachers and colonies on Mars, and the end of all disease. Companies would add the number “2000” after model numbers to connote cutting-edge technology from the bright, distant horizon. Marty McFly’s 2015 was a land of flying cars, expanding pizza, and self-tying shoes. (And fax machines. Fax machines were everywhere.)
Some of those visions for the future were spot on; others now seem charmingly out-of-date; and we’re still waiting for many of the rest to be invented. But isn’t it fantastic how often we hear about inventions that were inspired by Science Fiction? If “[science] is magic that works,” as Kurt Vonnegut says in Cat’s Cradle, then Science Fiction is the root of much of that magic. Imagination becomes ideas, which in turn become experiments. Experiments lead to discoveries, then inventions, and ultimately to the commonplace wonders we take for granted: such as the submarine (Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), the cell phone (the direct descendent of the “communicator” from the original Star Trek series), and even nuclear power (H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free). 
Wait. A fiction writer born in the 1800s gave the world the idea for nuclear power? It’s true! Decades after its publication, a scientist named Leo Szilard “read [The World Set Free] and was immediately inspired to create what Wells had dreamed up” – for better or for worse.  And when a teenaged Robert H. Goddard read Wells’ The War of the Worlds, it set him on a path of “research [that] culminated with the Apollo program, and man’s landing on the moon.”  So there’s an undeniable link between the Science Fiction genre and humanity’s incredible achievements. Keep that in mind the next time your friends give you a hard time for being a sci-fi geek!
Another cool thing about the sci-fi genre is that it often combines elements of many other genres, as well. There’s sci-fi horror, sci-fi thriller, sci-fi mystery, sci-fi romance… You get it. So, without further ado, I’m going to leave you with a great list of Science Fiction authors (many of them you’ll find on our genre bookmarks in the library), titles of some of their works, and sometimes the additional genres that come into play. (For example, when you see “humor,” think of it as “sci-fi + humor,” and so on.)
- Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (humor)
- A. American – Survivalist series (pulpy but fun)
- Charlie Jane Anders – All the Birds in the Sky
- Hiromu Arakawa – Fullmetal Alchemist (manga)
- Catherine Asaro – Quantum Rose
- Isaac Asimov – Foundation series; Galactic Empire series; Robot series
- Gertrude Barrows Bennett – Citadel of Fear (under pseudonym “Francis Stevens”)
- Alfred Bester – The Stars My Destination (cyberpunk); The Demolished Man
- Leigh Brackett – The Long Tomorrow
- Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles; The Veldt (short story)
- Octavia E. Butler – Xenogenesis series
- Pat Cadigan – Synners (cyberpunk)
- Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game series (YA)
- Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World (published in 1666!)
- Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
- C. L. Cherryh – Downbelow Station
- Arthur C. Clarke – 2001: A Space Odyssey (there are four books in the series); Childhood’s End
- Ernest Cline – Ready Player One; Armada
- Peter Clines – 14 (mystery, horror, paranormal); The Fold (thriller)
- Michael Crichton – Sphere (psychological thriller); Jurassic Park; Prey
- Philip K. Dick – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (police procedural)
- William Gibson – Neuromancer (cyberpunk); The Difference Engine (written with Bruce Sterling) (steampunk); Virtual Light (dark humor, detective)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Herland
- Joe Haldeman – The Forever War series; The Accidental Time Machine
- Frank Herbert – Dune saga
- Hugh Howey – Silo series (post-apocalyptic)
- Kameron Hurley – The Stars Are Legion
- Aldous Huxley – Brave New World; Ape and Essence
- P. D. James – Children of Men
- Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain
- Larissa Lai – Salt Fish Girl
- Ursula K. Le Guin – Hainish Cycle; The Eye of the Heron; The Left Hand of Darkness
- Madeleine L’Engle – Kairos cycle (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time) (children’s, “science fantasy”)
- Cixin Liu – Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (hard science fiction)
- Katherine MacLean – Pictures Don’t Lie (stories)
- Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven
- George R. R. Martin – Tuf Voyaging; the Wildcards universe
- Robert Masello – The Einstein Prophecy (historical fiction, mystery, thriller)
- Julian May – Pliocene Exile series (high fantasy)
- Anne McCaffrey – The Ship Who Sang
- Seanan McGuire – Parasitology Trilogy series (sociological, under pseudonym “Mira Grant”)
- Maureen F. McHugh – China Mountain Zhang
- Judith Merril – The Tomorrow People
- Elizabeth Moon – The Speed of Dark
- Larry Niven – Tales of Known Space series; Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds series
- Alice Norton – The Time Traders (under pseudonym “Andre Norton”)
- Christopher Nuttall – The Oncoming Storm (military, space opera); The Royal Sorceress (steampunk, alternate history)
- Nnedi Okorafor – Who Fears Death
- Malka Older – Infomocracy
- George Orwell – 1984 (speculative, “social science fiction”)
- Frederik Pohl – The Coming of the Quantum Cats; the Heechee saga (space opera)
- Kim Stanley Robinson – Mars trilogy (literary)
- Joanna Russ – The Female Man (experimental and not what you think)
- Mary Doria Russell – The Sparrow
- Carl Sagan – Contact
- John Scalzi – Redshirts; Old Man’s War series
- Alice Bradley Sheldon – Her Smoke Rose up Forever (stories, under pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr.”)
- Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
- Dan Simmons – Ilium series (fantasy); Hyperion Cantos series (fantasy)
- Neal Stephenson – Cryptonomicon (historical fiction); Snow Crash (cyberpunk)
- Karin Tidbek – Amatka
- Jules Verne – Journey to the Center of the Earth (adventure)
- Thea von Harbou – Metropolis
- Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse Five; The Sirens of Titan (all conceptual/unconventional)
- Sabrina Vourvoulias – Ink
- David Weber – Honor Harrington series (military); The Apocalypse Troll
- Andy Weir – The Martian; Artemis
- H. G. Wells – The Time Machine; The Island of Doctor Moreau; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds
- Martha Wells – The Murderbot Diaries series (described as a fun read!)
- Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog (historical fiction, rom-com, humor, time travel)
That’s enough to get you started, right? Remember, if we don’t have a book at the Williamson County Public Library, we’ll try to locate it with Inter-Library Loan. Enjoy – and be inspired!
I sourced most of the woman authors and their works from this excellent list: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/50-sci-fi-must-reads-by-women
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
Thirty years ago reading a comic book in the presence of your classmates in a middle school was a surefire plan to get picked on relentlessly. Now, every third movie and new television show is about one superhero or another or a team of them combined. The world has changed and now the geeks rule pop culture. So what do you read if you like being on the cutting edge of graphic novels? How do you boost your geek cred in a world where the popular people know the significance of Bobbi Morse and who Caitlin Snow really is? There are only two places left and I’m going to tell you where to find them (if you don’t already know).
Before I delve into the mines of alternative superheroes, I want to quickly mention other options. There are plenty of great graphic novels out there that don’t have anything to do with super heroes. You can find everything from mystery to fantasy to history to horror and even physics covered in books of sequential art. Our blog titled Little Known (but Amazing) Graphic Novels covers some great options that are not as well known. By that same token, Superhero 101: Foundations in Superhero History can give you some great reading suggestions from the heroes of the distant past. In fact there are a lot of great books out there that might even be considered superhero books if I weren’t sticking with the cape and cowl set. So while Buffy and Harry Dresden and the New Types of the Gundam universe might be super powered they’ll have to stay on the shelf today.
The most common place to look for new super heroes for your reading enjoyment is …the other publishers. There are dozens of small imprints and local publishers but you don’t even have to look that hard. If you are a fan of the super hero books from Marvel and DC, but just want something new try looking at Image, Valiant, and Dark Horse. While these guys are outside of the big corporations, they’ve been around for a while and many of their books have the history and depth you are used to.
Dark Horse is the oldest, dating back to 1986, and has specialized in the types of characters that don’t fit the traditional mold of a superhero, but they do have a few exceptions in their history.
- They had a revival of Doc Savage, a physician trained mentally and physically to superhuman levels (think Batman). There are many claims that he is the first superhero, predating certain Kryptonians by five years.
- Ghost was another more traditional hero, she was an undead spirit who spent her afterlife righting wrongs.
- The American was a cynical take on the patriotic type superhero.
Valiant is more traditional in its character creation. While they did some revivals back in the early nineties, like Turok and Doctor Solar, they had their own stable of superheroes.
- X-O Manowar is a Dark Age European warrior kidnapped by aliens who stole their greatest weapon and turned it on them only to return to earth and discover that, due to time dilation, 1600 years had passed.
- Ninjak is a superspy meets techno ninja. It sounds like cool overload, but this Joe Quesada created hero manages to pull it off.
- Bloodshot was a nanite infected assassin who was trying to rediscover the past that was stolen from him.
Image is possibly the best known of the alternative publishers. In actuality it was a collection of creator owned studios trying to start a company where the idea men actually remained in control of their characters. The initial line up of talent with image was legendary. Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd McFarland, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino and Marc Silvestri all had their own studios producing new characters and new stories like we’d never seen before. Liefeld eventually left somewhat acrimoniously, Lee sold his Wildstorm Productions to DC and the modern day has seen a shift to a more diversified field of titles with things like Saga and Walking Dead (which we have at the library). While the company has seen changes to its direction since 1992, the list of superheroes they created is lengthy and many are worth a read.
- The Savage Dragon was Erik Larsen’s childhood creation brought to the page in form he wanted. A green, scaly, fin headed humanoid with invulnerability and super strength.
- Spawn took a deal with the devil and turned it into one of the most popular anti-heroes of the era.
- Witchblade is a series detailing the stories of a mystical gauntlet that bonds with women and gives them the ability to fight evil.
One other place to look for stories you’ve never read is the past. Golden age comics are where it all began and while there are decades of stories out there about the heroes you already know, there are other great heroes you may not be quite so familiar with. Marvel predecessor, Timely Comics, gave the world Captain America and Namor, but they also created the original versions of the Angel, Vision, and Human Torch as well as the speedster known as the Whizzer (the Nazi-fighting Destroyer), and the Blazing Skull (the champion of Freedom). DC’s history is even deeper. Not only do they have a host of golden age superheroes you’ve never heard of, they have added those of other now defunct companies to their in-house universe. Fawcett comics gave the line Captain Marvel and the Marvel family, probably better known as Shazam. Quality Comics published the early adventures of the hero Plastic Man as well as Will Eisner’s original Spirit. Fox Comics (and later Charlton Comics and Americomics) created the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the Question. These are just a few of the many options from golden age.
If you’re bored with the current run of comics and tired of seeing the same old stories retold, look into the corners of the other heroes and the past and find new books to rekindle your love of heroes.
by Chelsea Bennett, Reference Department
Treetops, aflame. The air, crisp. Bonfires, hot cider, plaid shirts as far as the eye can see: classic signs of winter. Here’s one more timeless association for you: whodunits. Whether you’re into the classics, the creepies, or the cozies, winter is the perfect time of year to shroud yourself in Mystery.
Publishing professional Valerie Peterson divides the Mystery genre into four main types, and many subgenres. She starts with the types: Hard-Boiled (moody detectives and femmes fatales), Soft-Boiled (similar, but less explicitly violent or sexy), Cozy (Miss Marple and her descendants), and Procedural (thorough analysis of cops and crimes). Within those types, you may find any combination of hijinks and capers, amateur sleuths, local flavor, daunting puzzles, gritty detectives, historical figures, cats, romance, and more. 
Unless you simply “hate being titillated,” there’s bound to be a Mystery out there for you. Below, I’ve listed some of the genre’s best-loved authors, both classic and modern. Since mystery writers love to stick with their characters, I’ll sometimes include a character or series name rather than a book title.
(Quick note: some Mysteries have more intense content than others, especially if they cross into Thriller territory. If you’re concerned about potential triggers, check out a site like www.doesthedogdie.com, which helps you steer clear of certain content. You can also check out our blog post about cozy mysteries!)
Jennifer Finney Boylan – Long Black Veil
K. Chesterton – Catholic priest and amateur detective Father Brown stars in 53 of Chesterton’s short stories.* Netflix has the BBC’s adaptation.
Agatha Christie – Christie’s 75 novels run the gamut from fun and cozy to truly chilling. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, her two most famous characters, each appear in dozens of works. And Then There Were None is a must-read, but Christie named Ordeal by Innocence and Crooked House as her favorites among her own books.*
Mary Higgins Clark –Where Are the Children?; A Stranger Is Watching; Loves Music, Loves to Dance
Harlan Coben – Tell No One; The Woods; Fool Me Once; the overlapping Myron Bolitar and Mickey Bolitar series (a sports agent and his nephew)
Wilkie Collins –The Law and the Lady; The Moonstone; The Woman in White
Michael Connelly – Harry Bosch series. This bestselling police procedural series forms the basis for Amazon’s TV series, Bosch.
Deborah Crombie – Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series (Scotland Yard)
Colin Dexter –Inspector Morse series (a senior criminal investigator who loves Wagner, cryptic crossword puzzles, and cask ale)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The character of Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction. Doyle’s non-Sherlockian mysteries include The Mystery of Cloomber, and short stories such as “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement.” *
Barry Eisler – Eisler is a former covert CIA operative, a trained lawyer, and a black belt martial artist. His three series each feature a different hero: assassin John Rain, black ops soldier Ben Treven, and SVU detective Livia Lone.
James Ellroy – The L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia; The Big Nowhere; L.A. Confidential; White Jazz)
Dashiell Hammett – Because of The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and a host of series and short stories, The New York Times eulogized Hammett as “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”*
Kellye Garrett – Hollywood Homicide
Tess Gerritsen – The Bone Garden
Lamar Giles – Overturned (YA)
Alexia Gordon – The Gethsemane Brown Mysteries (an African-American classical musician)
Sue Grafton – Famous for her Alphabet Mystery series (A is for Alibi, etc.), Grafton passed away after completing Y is for Yesterday. “[As] far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y,” wrote Grafton’s daughter. 
Carl Hiaasen – “America’s finest satirical novelist” is a “laugh-out-loud funny and thoroughly entertaining” “master of the revenge fantasy.”  Try Tourist Season, Strip Tease, Skin Tight, or Double Whammy for a taste of his madcap, Florida-based mysteries.
Patricia Highsmith – Strangers on a Train; Deep Water; The Glass Cell; The Talented Mr. Ripley
Tony Hillerman – Leaphorn & Chee series (Navajo Tribal Police)
Joe Ide – IQ series (an unconventional, unofficial detective)
P. D. James – Death Comes to Pemberly; Adam Dalgliesh series (Scotland Yard)
Iris Johansen – Eve Duncan series (a forensic sculptor)
Ausma Zehanat Khan – The Unquiet Dead
Laurie R. King – Mary Russell series (a teenage girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes’ apprentice)
Attica Locke – Jay Porter series (a struggling Texas lawyer)
Sujata Massey –Perveen Mistry series (historical fiction; India’s first female lawyer)
John Mortimer – Horace Rumpole is “an ageing London barrister who defends any and all clients.” 
Abir Mukherjee – Sam Wyndham (Scotland Yard, historical fiction)
Jo Nesbø – Brilliant and troubled, Harry Hole (pronounced Hoo-leh) comes from Oslo, Norway, but his work takes him around the world. The series has been translated into English out of order; Hole first appears in The Bat.*
Leonardo Padura – The Mario Conde quartet is on Netflix as the Four Seasons in Havana miniseries.*
Sara Paretsky – Fierce, independent, and sharp, private detective V. I. Warshawski (Victoria) specializes in white-collar crime.
Louise Penny – Chief Inspector Gamache (character-driven, set in provincial Quebec)*
Dr. Kwei Quartey – Darko Dawson (a detective in Ghana)
Marcie Rendon – Murder on the Red River
Tess Sharpe – Far from You (YA)
George Simenon – Simenon’s legendary detective Jules Maigret has been portrayed by a wide range of actors, from Shakespearean stars (Charles Laughton) to slapstick comics (Rowan Atkinson). But why not picture him for yourself? He appears in 76 novels and 28 short stories.
Dwayne Alexander Smith – Forty Acres; The Unkind Hours
Sherry Thomas – Lady Sherlock series
Stephanie Tromley – Trouble Is a Friend of Mine (YA)
Nicola Upson – Josephine Tey (British theatre in the 1930s)
Randy Wayne White – Doc Ford series (a marine biologist / ex-CIA)
* indicates quotations and stats were taken from Wikipedia pages about the authors and/or their works