Hidden Gems

This month our library staff share some of their favorite hidden gems with you.  These are the books & other media that we love, but never got a whole lot of attention.

  • The Backstagers by by James Tynion IV, Illus. Rian Sygh – A cute story of a high school stage crew with access to a magical storage space where they get their props & costumes. A must read for fans of Lumberjanes!
  • Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis – A group of magical girls (think Sailor Moon) juggle college life & fighting bad guys in both our world and another dimension!
  • Destroyer by Victor LaValle, Illus. Dietrich Smith – Dr. Baker is a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein of Mary Shelley fame. Her teenage son is killed at the hands of police & she follows in the footsteps of her ancestor, bringing him back to life.
  • Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor – Paul, a gender bending shapeshifter, meanders through various queer subcultures across America in the 90’s.
  • Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth, Illus. Megan Levens – Three witches embark on a road trip to retrieve their stolen belongings. A fun & funny romp throughout!
  • The Cahill Witch Chronicles by Jessica Spotswood – The Cahill sisters are witches who grow up in an alternate New England that’s ruled by the oppressive Brotherhood who seek to punish women for any and every transgression.
  • Spa Night – A 1st generation Korean immigrant comes to terms with his sexuality in the spas of LA.
  • The Tales of series isn’t completely unknown, but definitely doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves!  It’s one of the few local co-op games left and is the only co-op JRPG I’ve come across.  Much like Final Fantasy, the games aren’t usually connected, but there are some key elements that repeat from game to game.  The gameplay is  somewhere between an action/adventure game and a fighting game, and the stories and characters are almost always top notch.

You’ve probably never heard of an author named Sam Savage (unless you look at my Staff Picks shelf) but I think he’s brilliant and I’ve really enjoyed all of his books. My favorite is probably The Cry of the Sloth, with Firmin as a close second.

Touch by Courtney Maum was a well-reviewed book that I thought would really take off last year when it was published, but it has surprisingly few ratings on Goodreads. It’s a novel about a trend forecaster who sees a shift away from technology back to person-to-person contact, and it was one of my favorite books last year.

Another book I recommend a lot but that isn’t very popular is Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics. It’s a horror novel set in the 19th century. I think of it as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s worst nightmare. It’s so creepy!

My favorite hidden gems in books are:
The Witch Must Die by Cashdan
Lilith the First Eve by Hurwitz (Not available in network, but you can get it via interlibrary loan!)
Under the Poppy by Koja
Natural Selection by Freedman
Chess Machine by Löhr

…in movies are:
The Road Within (2014)
Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (2013)
Hick (2011)
A Bag of Hammers (2011)
Fire (1996)

…in music are:
Karol Conka
Lydia Ainsworth

…in games are:
any Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (Nintendo)
any Professor Layton (Nintendo)
Kolejka (polish board game…”Queue” or “Line”)

…in Podcasts are:
King Falls AM
Wooden Overcoats
The Bridge
Family Ghosts
Very Bad Words

If you’re a fan of horror, like me, you’re always on the lookout for bone-chilling movies and series (especially those featuring haunted houses). During one of my many adventures browsing through Shudder, I found a French mini-series called Beyond the Walls (Au-delà des Murs). Spoiler: I couldn’t sleep at all that night.
So basically, Lisa finds out she’s inherited a house from a neighbor she’s never met. As soon as she moves in, she starts hearing unsettling noises coming from the walls, little-girls-crying-kind-of-unsettling. When she decides to investigate her eerie new home, she gets lost in a creepy realm where reality mixes in with the unbelievable. Not only can’t she find her way back, but she’s pretty sure there’s someone or something out to get her. Will she make it out alive? Will she be stuck there forever?

This mini-series is thrilling, well-made, and full of spooky surprises. I’m definitely grateful I ran into this little gem made for French television in 2016.

The Touchstone trilogy by Steve Augarde – The Various, Celandine, and Winter Wood – is full of the kind of timeless childhood woodland magic that people love, yet no one seems to have heard about it. A few other adult literary fiction picks that I think are worthwhile but under the radar are Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill, the kind of big generational family story that people love; The Good People of New York by Thisbe Nissen, a coming-of-age/mother-daughter story; and another coming-of-age mother/daughter story, in which one is a violin prodigy, Overture by Yael Goldstein. I also really liked Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (who has a new novel out now, Bellevue Square), and his story collection Fidelity. And this wasn’t quite the question, but I wish everyone would read Leah Hager Cohen’s book I Don’t Know – or anything by her, really. She’s one of the wisest and most thoughtful writers working today, and she’s here in Massachusetts!

Let us know some of your favorite hidden gems in the comments below!

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