The Diviners by Libba Bray

diviners“‘Let’s try another question.  Do you have any prophecy for us, Naughty John?  Any fortune-telling?’

The scryer remains still.

‘Do tell us something else, won’t you?’

Finally, there is movement on the board. ‘I…will…teach…you…fear…’ the hostess reads aloud.

‘Sounds like the headmaster at Choate,’ the boy in the fez teases. ‘How will you do that, old sport?’


I A-M T-H-E B-E-A-S-T.”

Things are not right in New York. The Ouija board spells out a terrifying message for the partygoers, and that is just the beginning. Something sinister is stirring; when dead bodies marked with strange symbols begin surfacing, Evie and her uncle are pulled into the investigation.  What could be killing New York inhabitants in such an frightful way?  Is there something darker at work than a simple murder?

Evie thought New York would be a breeze-she was sent away from her boring  hometown to live with her Uncle Will in New York. Evie was excited-the city lights were practically spelling out her name.  The speakeasies! The shows!  Jazz! However, it’s not all she hoped-Will is the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, or the “Museum of Creepy-Crawlies”.  Because of his expertise in the subject, Will is needed to consult on the murder cases, and Evie finds herself in the middle of the investigation. Forget shows, short haircuts, and flapper style-now Evie’s life consists of curses, secrets, and racing against time.  Will Evie and Will be able to find and stop the killer before it is too late?

This is one of the rare 500 + page books that doesn’t feel like one at all.  Libba Bray’s Jazz Age New York is full of music, bright lights, and carefree hearts-until the murders begin, at least.  The supernatural elements to the plot are sure to delight fans of the paranormal, while the 1920’s setting adds interest and prevents this from being “just another scary magic book”.  Scary?  Yes, absolutely.  But it’s the very best kind of scary:  eerie, suspenseful, and fresh; you’ll be checking over your shoulder and wondering about old curses as you read.  Libba Bray not only brings us a great historical setting, she also gives us characters that feel like real people.  This winner of a book combines ancient prophecies, Broadway lights, jazz, and murder, all told by a master storyteller.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website:

Book’s website:

Bray, Libba. The Diviners. Little, Brown: New York, 2012. 578 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you liked this book, you will probably love Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series:

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Rebel Angels

The Sweet Far Thing

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

“Okay…so how exactly do you solve a murder?”

Friends, it’s Halloween! And do you know what I love?  Ghost stories!  Ghost stories and graphic novels and books that Neil Gaiman call masterpieces!  And LOOK!  That is exactly what I have for you today.

Anya is a teenager in a private school in the U.S.  She immigrated from Russia with her mother and little brother when she was five, and she still struggles with feeling like an outsider.  It’s not easy, trying to fit in, make friends, and please her family at the same time….but it’s way less easy to do all of this when you’re being haunted by a murderous ghost.

 When Anya stumbles onto a skeleton (and the ghost attached to it), she is at first excited about the opportunities a ghostly friend affords: cheating on tests!  A lookout for when she wants to smoke without getting caught!  A friend!  She doesn’t even want to help solve her ghost’s murder, because that would free her.  But when her spirit friend turns out to be far more malicious than she appeared, Anya has to figure out how to get rid of her-and fast.

Violet and gray illustrations maintain the slightly creepy tone of the story, and dialogue just this side of sparse gives readers space to consider the heavier issues of assimilation, family, and high school trauma.  There are plenty of humorous moments to offset the vengeful ghost and gym class drills, like a panel illustrating Anya’s Google keyword search: “how to get rid of ghosts”.  Come on, that’s hilarious!

I finished this book in an hour and it has a great Halloween feel and a solid, well-executed story, complemented with beautiful art.  You’ll love it!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: (Did you know she worked on the movie Paranorman?!)

Brosgol, Vera.  Anya’s Ghost. First Second: New York, 2011. 244 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you liked this book because of the ghost and creepiness, you might want to try Ghostopolislook! Ghost wranglers!  If you liked the immigration and cultural aspects, I have to give you the Best Graphic Novel ever: Persepolis.  It’s long, but it’s awesome and you will completely love it.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

“‘But I wonder if this tale may be too disturbing for you,’ said Uncle Montague, seeing me peering towards the window, turning to the fire and prodding at a log with the poker.

‘Really, Uncle,’ I said, pushing out my jaw. ‘I am not as timid as you seem to think.’

Uncle Montague lay down the poker and turned to me with a warm smile; a smile that quickly faded from his face as he linked his long fingers together and began this new story.”

After I finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I felt a little bereft and needed another creepy, atmospheric book to bolster myself up.  Since I’m in library school now, I try to justify all my reading time as “professional development”, but really, I just like to sit in the park and look at the fall leaves and read fun things that remind me why I want to be here in the first place…and not study for my cataloging test…at least, not just yet.

Anyway, look what I found!  This creeptastic book features Edgar and his rather ominous Uncle Montague.  Uncle lives in a candlelit, Gothic monstrosity of a house, replete with red velvet curtains, a lurching butler, and a nightmarish array of artifacts. Edgar regularly makes his way down the forest path to sit in his uncle’s parlor and listen to the stories his uncle tell.  It seems each relic in his home has a ghastly backstory, and Edgar’s uncle is eager to share them.  There is a unifying theme to these chilling tales, and readers will be kept guessing until the very end of the book.

Fantastic, Gorey-style illustrations?  Yes.  Stories that are both original and spooky? Yes!  I especially see this book as hitting that sweet balance of a very engaging subject matter (scary stuff for a slightly older crowd), quirky format, and accessible reading level that is just right for enticing more reluctant readers.

Happy reading!

Author’s website:

Priestley, Chris. Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror. Bloomsbury: New York, 2007. 237 pp. Ages 10-14.

If you liked this book, you will probably like these:

A House Called Awful End 

A Series of Unfortunate Events 

The Witches 

The Haunted Tea Cosy




Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

“Because with Charlie, nothing was ever easy. Everything was windswept and octagonal and finger-combed.  Everything was difficult and odd, and the theme songs all had minor chords.”

Vera’s former best friend Charlie is dead.  It’s hard enough when your best friend dies, she thinks, but when he stabs you in the back and then dies, it makes things infinitely worse.  Worse still, when he comes back to haunt you, with his ghostly form showing up in the car when you’re kissing another guy, or in the bathroom at school, it is the absolute pits.

Vera is eighteen, living with her father (you will love him, I think.  He’s pretty much the Best. Dad. Ever!), an accountant and recovering alcoholic who invests his whole heart in making sure she has the best future possible.  She works full time at a pizza place, and spends the rest of her time drinking to forget Charlie and the secret she is determined not to tell.  Of course, it’s not as easy as all that-Charlie’s ghost keeps showing up at inopportune times, a silent, shaming reminder urging Vera to tell what she knows and clear his name.

The best part of this book?  The format!  See, the story is told in a creative way-all first person, addressed right to you, and by different speakers.  I think readers will love Ken Dietz, Vera’s dad.  He chimes in during the story, in chapters titled things like “A Brief Word from Ken Dietz (Vera’s Frustrated Dad)” and with flow charts, like “Ken Dietz’s Face Your Shit Flow Chart”.  I kid you not, I actually made a copy of that flowchart and pasted it up on my bulletin board.  And besides Ken and Vera (and even Charlie, who pipes up every few chapters), there is the Pagoda.  That’s right, a building.  The Pagoda is a park building with special significance to Ken and his ex-wife (she left them when Vera was 12), and it gets a few chapters of its own. Trust me, the Pagoda is hilarious-I think it’s the best and funniest part of the novel.

This book combines creative elements (a haunting, a mystery, a talking Pagoda) with a great format (many voices, FLOW CHARTS!), and very common social problems of young people.  I think you’re going to love it! (And others did, too-this is a Printz Honor book, and a nominee for the Edgar Allen Poe mystery award!)

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: (The website is really funny-the giant header describes her as “a corn lover” and “wearer of magical writing pants”. Awesome!)

All right, folks, since I’m in library school now, I think I’ll change the way I give the book information.  If you hate it, please let me know, and I’ll change it back!

ISBN 9780375865862
Personal Author King, A. S.1970-
Title Please ignore Vera Dietz /A.S. King.
Edition 1st ed.
Publication info New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2010.
Physical descrip 326 p. ; 22 cm.

Ruined by Paula Morris

“Rebecca nodded, watching Lisette amble away.  Now she understood why Lisette haunted the Bowman house.  She understood why for the past one hundred fifty years she’d drifted around in the long shadow of its quiet, oak-shaded galleries.  It was the place she’d died, murdered at the age of sixteen–and it was her father’s house.”

When Rebecca is uprooted from her New York home, and sent to live with an aunt in New Orleans, she has a hard time adjusting.   Her father has to go to China on business, and she misses him terribly.  It’s simply difficult to fit into the “close” atmosphere of New Orleans, where old money and newcomers never mix, and each family has a skeleton in the closet.

Rebecca’s aunt is a fortune-teller, and lives in a musty shotgun house crammed with artifacts.  It’s located directly across from the cemetery.  Rebecca has been warned never to enter it, but one night, she slips in…and makes a friend.  Lisette is kind, helpful, and eager to talk.  However, soon Rebecca realizes that no one else can see Lisette but her. Lisette is a ghost.

The fact that Rebecca can see Lisette is significant.  A century-old curse, New Orleans’ most prestigious family, and a dark secret create a dangerous environment for Rebecca, and it isn’t long before the truth comes out.

So, here’s the thing: I am a sucker for ghost stories.  When combined with curses, crumbling old houses, and cemeteries, I absolutely can’t resist.  Whatever! It’s a preference.  I can’t help myself. Furthermore, I whiled away thousands of hours, time when I could have been playing soccer or learning chemistry, reading my way through countless Scholastic books.  You know, the ones that are sold in paper flyers that your teacher sends home from school.  My mom used to buy tons for us, and I grew up with them.  This Scholastic story was like so many of the others, and certainly didn’t disappoint.  They are mass-marketed to students across the country: often light, engaging reads, sold in inexpensive paperback formats.  A lovely friend gave this copy to me, and I’m grateful for it.  It’s been rainy and gloomy all week long: the perfect setting for a ghost story. This one didn’t disappoint me, either.  The only thing I could ask for would be a little more creepy-haunting business, and a little less high school drama.  Other than that, this was exactly what I was hoping for: a ghost story in an interesting setting.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website:

Morris, Paula. Ruined. New York: Scholastic Books, 2009. 309 pp. Grades 7-10.