Semi-spooky storylines

Lara Zanotti, 12

      Hey Westfield, it’s your resident bookworm, Lara Zanotti, and today I’ll be sharing with you some of my recommendations when you’re looking for a book that won’t give you nightmares but still fits in with the spooky season vibe.

1. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Photo courtesy of amazon.com
Rating: ★★★★☆
Spooky tie in: gumihos, goblins, shamans, spirits, and more!

This is a story that’s part coming-of-age, part romance, and part adventure. Set in modern day Seoul, it follows a human boy and an immortal gumiho (the spirit of a nine-tailed fox who takes the form of a girl) as they fight against dokkaebi (goblins), family troubles of all kinds, and the moral dilemmas that threaten their lasting happiness. Cho weaves a captivating tale of learning how to fight for what you want and how to move on from tragedy. I loved this book for the insight into Korean culture and because it represents a common love story framed by concepts not traditionally seen in Western Literature. Personally, I thought Miyoung was irritating for most of the novel, but I adored Jihoon. If you like this book, check out the companion novel Wicked Spirits that was released earlier this month!  

2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Photo courtesy of barnesandnoble.com
Spooky tie-in: witches, witch hunters, organized crime, spies, magic, take your pick.

This is one of my all time favorite books because of the diverse cast of characters and the original twist on an “impossible heist” trope combined with a small taste of “teenagers revolution”. The story focuses on the crew of the criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker, who plan to make off with a large sum of money that they all need for different reasons: debt, new identities, revenge etc. Fans of Mission Impossible or Oceans 11 will undoubtedly love the book for the adventure. If you like magic and witches there’s a taste of that too. You get multiple points of view, subplots for every character, and it’s set in a world that could only exist in an imagination. Sometimes it can be difficult to believe that the majority of the cast are teenagers, but I’m willing to overlook it because of how nuanced the characterization is and the epic world-building. If you like this book, or even the style with which Bardugo writes, you’re in luck because there’s a sequel to this book (Crooked Kingdom) and another two series in the same universe (Shadow & Bone and King of Scars).

3. Stalking Jack the Ripper by  Kerri Maniscalco

Photo courtesy of amazon.com
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Spooky tie-in: Serial killers, gothic literature, and a hint of Frankenstein.

This story is about a girl who’s wanted to be a forensic coroner in Victorian Era England ever since her mother died. In an effort to prove herself to her father, brother and every other male who says she can’t, Audrey goes after the man who people are now calling Jack the Ripper. Fair warning: If any book in my suggestions were to fall in a horror category this would be it. I don’t like it as much of the others, but that’s a matter of my personal preference to avoid descriptions of the gruesome and macabre nature. Additionally, the characters tend to be flatter than the rest of my recommendations, and the “women can have power too” aspect is a little transparent. But my lower opinion could be due to the fact that it’s written in a different style from the books I normally read, with more emphasis on the action and suspense than the developing relationships. I did love how the story was put together and the little shout outs to famous gothic novels made me happy. Another aspect that I enjoyed was that the author took the time to add a note at the end correcting the historical inaccuracies of the myths and legends.

This book is also part of a quartet, the other three books covering topics such as Dracula, Houdini on a cruise, and the Murder Hotel in 19th century Chicago.

4. The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

Photo courtesy of amazon.com
Rating: ★★★★✬
Spooky tie-in: Doppelgängers, murder, but otherwise not much

This last recommendation isn’t as strongly related to all the Halloween nonsense, so if you don’t care for that, this is for you. If you do care, this is still for you because it’s just an awesome book. This series is made by the main character, Sage, and the plot twists. In the kingdom of Carthya the royal family has all been found dead. In order to avoid a civil war, one nobleman gathers three orphan boys with the intent to train them and pass one off as the long-lost prince who was said to die years ago. However, only one of them can be the prince, and the rest must die for the secret. The only reason I couldn’t give it a full five stars was because the first time I read through it I didn’t understand why a certain passage was included until the very end and was annoyed by it for most of the novel. But wow! Once you read it all the way through, everything comes together and you have to marvel at the foreshadowing! Going back and reading a second time is even more enjoyable then the first because all the little hints dropped make you think that you should’ve seen the twist coming! Even though a teenager is pulling all of this off, the way that Nielsen writes the character makes it believable . Additionally, Sage’s witty sarcasm and penchant for trouble will keep you entertained even when there’s no action. To those of you who will read this: never take anything Sage does at face value. There’s always a reason but it’s almost never revealed until the end. Yes, there’s a hint of romance, as there always is in Epic Fantasy novels, but the romance doesn’t overtake the legitimate plot. Making it even better, if you like the book, it’s only the first in the Ascendance trilogy.

Fast paced Rom-Coms

Dao Tran, 12

There are Jane Eyres, Great Expectations, and 1984s in the book world, and the following books don’t even come close. Oops! Light-hearted and inconsequential, but bitingly witty and thoroughly heartwarming, these books promise a good time and a guaranteed hiatus from any reading slumps. Just don’t come back to me asking about symbolism; there is none.

1. Frankly in Love by David Yoon

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Rating: ★

Frankly in Love follows one of my favorite tropes of all time: the fake-dating scheme. Frank Li (do you see the pun?), a Korean-American high school senior, is an expert at keeping his American and Korean identities separate until the unthinkable happens: Frank lands himself a non-Korean girlfriend by the name of Brit Means. Sheepish and desperate, Frank turns to a close family friend, Joy, to establish a devious fake-dating pact that appeases his strict family and leaves him free to pursue the girl of his dreams. Frankly in Love does an incredible job of highlighting the struggle between private and public life that bicultural teens are all too familiar with. Can you be both without losing important aspects of one culture? Frank himself is amusingly ignorant, in the sense that his boyish optimism leads him into questionable decisions that don’t all turn out too well, but make for a charming read. Yoon’s syntax is refreshing and creative without being overbearing. His exploration of complex family relationships was done well, but I especially appreciated that he just understands how to write teenagers. This is all said with the caveat that the plot is generally predictable, and frankly, Frank Li will turn out to be your least favorite character; nevertheless, Frankly in Love is a good balance of entertaining with meaningful coming-of-age themes. This is a must-read for fans of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

2. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

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Rating: ★★★★✬

I guarantee you have never and will never encounter another character quite like Hazel Camille Bradford. The first time she meets Josh in college, she drunkenly throws up all over his shoes, and the second time…well let’s just say it’s not any better (you’ll have to read to know what I mean). Fast forward a considerable amount of years later, Josh is coincidentally her new best friend’s older brother, and Hazel? Hazel is elated by this discovery. You see, Hazel loves Josh- the girl practically worships him- and Josh? He likes predictability, order, and conventionality- all things Hazel lacks. What follows is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I fell in love with Josh’s dry humor and composed demeanor from the get-go. The chemistry between the two was written so well; their banter always had me grinning, and they both were just so genuinely themselves and good together that it was hard not to love them. The best thing about Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating was Hazel’s unapologetic confidence. Hazel knows she’s a lot to handle, but she mourns the men who can’t handle her instead of blaming herself, which was an empowering message. There are a few mature scenes near the end, just as a warning, and I am not the biggest fan of the ending as it was a little too dramatic in comparison to the rest of the storyline, but that is my only critique. I finished this book in a day- just too adorable!

3. American Royals by Katharine McGee 

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

If there was ever a book equivalent to trashy TV shows that you just can’t stop watching, this is it. Think The Bachelorette mixed with Gossip Girl, then imagine that scenario happening to the Royal Family, and you’ll come pretty close to American Royals. McGee’s reimagining of an American royal family descended from King George Washington is told in alternating points-of-views of four different girls: the future queen, her younger sister, a wannabe queen, and a commoner. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because tabloids, couture gowns, Crown Jewels, and unnecessary drama are my vice, but if you are a book snob, this book probably won’t do it for you. American Royals runs cliché, but miscommunication, meddling press, strict guidelines, and sabotage keeps all of our characters from achieving their happy ending and the readers on their toes. Beatrice, the future queen, adds somewhat of a girl empowerment theme to the book, being the first female monarch, and Nina, the commoner, is the one you will sympathize with the most. If you go into this expecting nothing more than shallow love stories and ridiculous royal politics, I promise you you’ll have a good time, and if you do, McGee recently released the sequel on September 1st (which you should text me if you read, so we can rant together)!