Freaky Friday, Then and Now

When I was younger, one of our favorite movies to watch as a family was Freaky Friday starring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. The sass and attitude that both Lohan and Curtis (to say nothing of Mark Harmon) brought to the screen were (and remain) comedy gold. I felt both old and excited recently when I discovered how many iterations of the story there are to discover. Here’s a rundown of how you can laugh your way through some body-swapping action.

Start here: 

Through inter-library loan, you can start with the 1977 original Freaky Friday, based on a book of the same name by Mary Rodgers. This is the classic storyline: thirteen-year-old Annabelle thinks her mother Ellen sure has it easy, and doesn’t understand how hard Annabelle’s life is at all. But then, one hilarious and freaky Friday, she gains a greater understanding and sympathy for her mother after they swap bodies for the day. Hijinks include an out-of-control washing machine, parent-teacher conferences AND losing her little brother.

Then, a walk down memory lane:

Next comes the 2003 film Freaky Friday starring Curtis, Lohan, Harmon, and more comedic geniuses from my childhood. In this version, punk rock guitarist Anna changes her contentious relationship with straitlaced psychotherapist mother Tess after a magic fortune cookie makes them swap bodies…the day before Anna’s band is supposed to have the audition of a lifetime, and Tess is supposed to get remarried! It’s a laugh-a-minute race against the clock, and I doubt I’ll ever really get sick of it.

Gender-bend it!

In 2011, there was a gender-bending take on the concept with The Change-Up, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman as childhood best friends Mitch and Dave who have drifted apart, and now find themselves envying each other’s lifestyles. While Mitch is still single and partying, Dave is an overworked father. After a crazy night and a bit of magic, they wake up in each other’s bodies, and not only have to figure out how to switch back but also discover the truth in the adage “Careful what you wish for…”

Next, a musical reboot:

In 2018, Disney made an updated version of the original story, with a few interesting tweaks. In this musical version of Freaky Friday, mother Katherine and her 16-year-old daughter Ellie are at the most stressful times of their lives, and struggling to see each other’s point of view, when a magic hourglass from Ellie’s late father sends them on a body-swapped adventure. Once again, the next day’s wedding adds urgency to their quest to switch back.

And now, a horror-movie twist!

Originally released in 2020, Freaky is the dark comedy story of Millie, a 17-year-old trying to survive high school, who finds herself the latest victim of the local serial killer The Butcher. The magic of his dagger swaps their bodies, and it’s up to Millie and her friends not only to find a way to switch back before it becomes permanent, but also to survive The Butcher on a killing spree, emboldened by his new innocent and feminine appearance.

Women’s History Month: Recommended Reads for Kids & Teens

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we asked staff for their favorite reads. Below you will find our recommended reads for kids and young adults. The descriptions are provided by the publishers.

Juvenile Nonfiction Series

Chelsea Clinton’s She Persisted series

She Persisted: 13 American Women who Changed the World

Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.

Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.

She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.

This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.

She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians who Changed the Game

Throughout history, women have been told that they couldn’t achieve their dreams, no matter how hard they tried. Women athletes have faced their own unique set of challenges, across countless sports and levels of play. In this third She Persisted book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to women who have excelled in their sports because of their persistence.

She Persisted in Sports is a book for everyone who has ever aimed for a goal and been told it wasn’t theirs to hit, for everyone who has ever raced for a finish line that seemed all too far away, and for everyone who has ever felt small or unimportant while out on the field.

This book features: Margaret Ives Abbott, Gertrude Ederle, Mildred Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Wilma Rudolph, Jean Driscoll, Mia Hamm (and the 1996 Olympic soccer team), Kristi Yamaguchi, Venus and Serena Williams, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, Diana Taurasi, Simone Biles, Ibtihaj Muhammad and Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux.

She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women who Changed History

Women around the world have long dreamed big, even when they’ve been told their dreams didn’t matter. They’ve spoken out, risen up and fought for what’s right, even when they’ve been told to be quiet. Whether in science, the arts, sports or activism, women and girls throughout history have been determined to break barriers and change the status quo. They haven’t let anyone get in their way and have helped us better understand our world and what’s possible. In this book, Chelsea Clinton introduces readers to a group of thirteen incredible women who have shaped history all across the globe.

Julia Adams’ Women Who Made History Series

Activists and Leaders

Women around the globe have made history through their activism and leadership. Through concise, but detailed biographies, readers of this inspiring volume can learn about some of these world-changing women. Colorful illustrations and captivating text introduce motivational figures readers may not be familiar with, and provide deeper insight on many they likely already know about, such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Featuring high-interest, historical content, this book is the perfect supplemental resource for any elementary social studies curriculum.

Adventurers and Athletes

From sports stars such as tennis icon Serena Williams to aviators and mountaineers, many women have overcome great hurdles to succeed as athletes and adventurers. These women have made history in their own rights and have paved the way for future generations to do so as well. This engaging resource tells the stories of these incredible women. Brief but detailed biographies hold readers’ attention while colorful illustrations bring the stories into splendid detail. This high-interest volume pairs well with social studies curricula and is sure to be a popular addition to any library and classroom. 

Inventors and Scientists

Women have always made great contributions to science, and some of the greatest inventors in history were women, but for far too long many of these individuals weren’t recognized for their accomplishments. For example, even today, many people don’t know it was a woman, English mathematician Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program. Readers of this accessible volume will learn about Lovelace and many other inspiring women who changed the course of history through their inventions and contributions to science.

Writers and Artists

Throughout history, women have made countless contributions to all forms of art. This informative volume introduces readers to female musicians, writers, painters, and performers from many different countries and cultures. With the help of beautiful illustrations and engaging text, the stories of these women are delivered with fascinating detail. Detailed biographies of artists, such as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, will captivate readers and perhaps inspire them to become involved in art in their own ways. This stimulating text includes key historical content, making for an excellent resource to be paired with any elementary social studies curriculum. 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series by Elena Favilli

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World

The latest installment in the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, featuring 100 immigrant women who have shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.

Packed with 100 all-new bedtime stories about the lives of incredible female figures from the past and the present, this volume recognizes women who left their birth countries for a multitude of reasons: some for new opportunities, some out of necessity.

Readers will whip up a plate with Asma Khan, strategize global affairs alongside Madeleine Albright, venture into business with Rihanna, and many more. All of these unique, yet relatable stories are accompanied by gorgeous, full-page, full-color portraits, illustrated by female artists from all over the globe.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

To the rebel girls of the world: dream bigger, aim higher, fight harder, and, when in doubt, remember you are right.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

 

_____________________________

Juvenile Nonfiction

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Get to know celebrated Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—in the first picture book about her life—as she proves that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable!

Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent a lifetime disagreeing: disagreeing with inequality, arguing against unfair treatment, and standing up for what’s right for people everywhere. This biographical picture book about the Notorious RBG, tells the justice’s story through the lens of her many famous dissents, or disagreements.

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children by Jonah Winter and Nancy Carpenter

A stunning picture book about Mary Mother Jones and the 100 children who marched from Philadelphia to New York in a fiery protest against child labor.

Here’s the inspiring story of the woman who raised her voice and fist to protect kids’ childhoods and futures– and changed America forever. Mother Jones is MAD, and she wants you to be MAD TOO, and stand up for what’s right!

Told in first-person, New York Times bestelling author, Jonah Winter, and acclaimed illustrator, Nancy Carpenter, share the incredible story of Mother Jones, an Irish immigrant who was essential in the fight to create child labor laws. Well into her sixties, Mother Jones had finally had enough of children working long hours in dangerous factory jobs, and decided she was going to do something about it. The powerful protests she organized earned her the name the most dangerous woman in America. And in the Children’s Crusade of 1903, she lead one hundred boys and girls on a glorious march from Philadelphia right to the front door of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

The Woman’s Hour: Our Fight for the Right To Vote by Elaine F. Weiss

American women are so close to winning the right to vote. They’ve been fighting for more than seventy years and need approval from just one more state.

But suffragists face opposition from every side, including the “Antis”–women who don’t want women to have the right to vote. It’s more than a fight over politics; it’s a debate over the role of women and girls in society, and whether they should be considered equal to men and boys.

Over the course of one boiling-hot summer, Nashville becomes a bitter battleground. Both sides are willing to do anything it takes to win, and the suffragtists–led by brave activists Carrie Catt, Sue White, and Alice Paul–will face dirty tricks, blackmail, and betrayal. But they vow to fight for what they believe in, no matter the cost.

Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Move aside history—it’s time for herstory. Celebrate fifty inspiring and powerful women who changed the world and left their mark in this lavishly illustrated biography compilation that’s perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and She Persisted.

Throughout history, girls have often been discussed in terms of what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Not anymore. It’s time for herstory—a celebration of not only what girls can do, but the remarkable things women have already accomplished, even when others tried to stop them.

In this uplifting and inspiring book, follow the stories of fifty powerhouse women from around the world and across time who each managed to change the world as they knew it forever. Telling the stories of their childhood, the challenges they faced, and the impact of their achievements, each lavishly illustrated spread is a celebration of girl power in its many forms. From astronauts to activists, musicians to mathematicians, these women are sure to motivate young readers of all backgrounds to focus not on the can’ts and shouldn’ts, but on what they can do: anything!

Women Artists A to Z by Melanie Labarge, illustrated by Caroline Corrigan

How many women artists can you name? From Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Xenobia Bailey, this lushly illustrated alphabet picture book presents both famous and underrepresented women in the fine arts from a variety of genres: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and more. Each spread features a simple line of text encapsulating the creator’s iconic work in one word, such as “D is for Dots” (Yayoi Kusama) and “S is for Spider” (Louise Bourgeois), followed by slightly longer text about the artist for older readers who would like to know more. Backmatter includes photos, extended biographies, and discussion questions for budding creatives and trailblazers.

Artists featured: Mirka Mora, Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Kay Sage, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Elizabeth Catlett, Judith Leyster, Leonora Carrington, Carmen Herrera, Edmonia Lewis, Maya Lin, Hilma af Klint, Maria Martinez, Gee’s Bend quilters, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Loïs Mailou Jones, Alice Neel, Helen Zughaib, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dorothea Lange, Xenobia Bailey, and Maria Sibylla Merian.

Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers & Rebels by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Livi Gosling

Women have been doing amazing, daring, and dangerous things for years, but they’re rarely mentioned in our history books as adventurers, daredevils, or rebels. This new compilation of brief biographies features women throughout history who have risked their lives for adventure—many of whom you may not know, but all of whom you’ll WANT to know, such as:

• Annie Edson Taylor, the first person who dared to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel
• Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman who dared to fly in space
• Helen Gibson, the first woman who dared to be a professional stunt person
• And many more!

This is the perfect read for anyone who wants to know what it means to explore, discover, play, climb, and fight like a girl!

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen

Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk.

The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change.

Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.

The A-Z of Wonder Women by Yvonne Lin

Celebrate historic and contemporary Wonder Women from around the world, from Ada Lovelace to Zaha Hadid!

Highlighting notable and inspiring women from across the globe and throughout time, The A-Z of Wonder Women features biographies of trailblazers and groundbreakers, including Ada Lovelace, Oprah Winfrey, Ruth Ginsberg, and Wajeha al-Huwaider.

This empowering alphabet-style book celebrates a wide range of skills and masteries in the arts, politics and activism, STEM, and more, providing accessible facts about these heroic women–and inspiring young readers to make the change they want to see in the world.

_____________________________

Young Adult Nonfiction

Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys by Karen Bush Gibson

From the very first days of aviation, women were there. Katherine Wright, though not a pilot, helped her brothers Orville and Wilbur so much that some called her the “Third Wright Brother.” Pioneers such as Baroness Raymonde de Laroche of France ignored those who ignorantly claimed that only men possessed the physical strength or the mental capacity to pilot an airplane, and in 1910 became the first woman awarded a license to fly. A year later, Harriet Quimby was the first woman to earn a pilot’s license in the United States and in 1912 flew across the English Channel—another first.

Author Karen Bush Gibson profiles 26 women aviators who sought out and met challenges both in the sky and on the ground, where some still questioned their abilities. Read about barnstormers like Bessie Coleman and racers like Louise Thaden, who bested Amelia Earhart and Pancho Barnes to win the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, sometimes called the Powder Puff Derby. Learn about Jacqueline Cochran who, during World War II, organized and trained the Women Airforce Service Pilots—the WASPs—to serve their country by ferrying airplanes from factories to the front lines and pulling target planes during anti-aircraft artillery training. And see how female pilots today continue to achieve and serve while celebrating their love of flight.

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz, illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl

Like all A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet—but instead of “A is for Apple”, A is for Angela—as in Angela Davis, the iconic political activist. B is for Billie Jean King, who shattered the glass ceiling of sports; C is for Carol Burnett, who defied assumptions about women in comedy; D is for Dolores Huerta, who organized farmworkers; and E is for Ella Baker, who mentored Dr. Martin Luther King and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement.

And the list of great women continues, spanning several centuries, multiple professions, and 26 diverse individuals. There are artists and abolitionists, scientists and suffragettes, rock stars and rabble-rousers, and agents of change of all kinds.

The book includes an introduction that discusses what it means to be “rad” and “radical,” an afterword with 26 suggestions for how you can be “rad,” and a Resource Guide with ideas for further learning and reading.

American history was made by countless rad—and often radical—women. By offering a fresh and diverse array of female role models, we can remind readers that there are many places to find inspiration, and that being smart and strong and brave is rad.

Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga by Jennifer Croll, illustrated by Ada Buchholc

The title says it all: Bad Girls of Fashion explores the lives of ten famous women who have used clothing to make a statement, change perceptions, break rules, attract power, or express their individuality. Included are Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Sidebar subjects include: Elizabeth I, Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna, and Vivienne Westwood.

Photos illuminate the text, while edgy, vividly colored illustrations depict the subjects with interpretive flair. Readers will learn not only about changing fashion styles through history, but about changing historical attitudes toward women, and the links between fashion and art, film, music, politics, and feminism. With an energetic, appealing writing style, Croll demonstrates how through the ages, women — often without other means of power — have used fashion as a tool, and how their influence continues to shape how women present themselves today.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit. Against overwhelming adversity, these remarkable women raised their voices and changed history.

With her one-of-a-kind wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world-famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary.

The women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. 

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Women Who Played to Win written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Sports highlights notable women’s contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem–but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media.

A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.

_____________________________

Great Podcasts: Think Deeply

Most of the time, I want a podcast that’s going to make me laugh or tell me an interesting story (or preferably, both) but sometimes I want a podcast that’s mindful, thoughtful, and helps me see things in a new way. Here are a few podcasts to try if you’re looking for a moment of gentle profundity, or insight.

Poetry Unbound (or any of the On Being family of podcasts) is a particularly beautiful place to start, in my opinion. In Poetry Unbound, poet Padraig O Tuama reads a poem and offers insight into what the poet may be saying (about life, being human, etc.) before reading the poem a second time. A great podcast for feeling calm and profound. Other podcasts from On Being include the eponymous On Being, Becoming Wise, and This Movie Changed Me, all on the same theme of life’s meaning and personal transformation and insight.

For a print version of this podcast, try The Poetry Remedy, edited by William Sieghart, or for a timely collection, Together In A Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn.

If you’re looking for a podcast that makes you think and helps you rest, but also teaches you something new, you may like 99% Invisible. This popular podcast focuses on the design, architecture, and infrastructure which underlies our daily lives but all but completely escapes our notice. Aiming to help you see the world differently, it’s accompanied by a print book, The 99% Invisible City, by the show’s creator Roman Mars.

And of course, there are also podcasts to help you start a meditation and mindfulness practice, such as Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. This podcast features guests, insights, and advice into how to live a more mindful life. Accompanying the audio insights is Harris’ 2014 book 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  For a more practical, advice-based book, see Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert

Spoiler alert: as far as romance novels go, I’m not a huge fan of what’s called the “enemies to lovers” storyline. To me, strong dislike is an odd and unlikely foundation for a relationship, so the story always feels implausible and vaguely annoying (yes, this includes Beauty and the Beast). That preference of mine still holds true in the case of Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert: the protagonists start off as enemies, and I don’t really care for it. However, the book has a lot of other things going for it which balance that part out.

Conventionally Yours is the story of Conrad and Alden, who have been playing the card game Odyssey in the same group for several years. They don’t get along: Conrad thinks Alden is arrogant and uptight, Alden thinks Conrad is a bit of a slob skating by on charisma. It doesn’t help that they’re the group’s two best players, constantly butting heads over the game. Unbeknownst to each other, they’re both going through a hard time when the book opens, each in great need of a miracle. The miracle comes when they’re given the chance to go to a big convention for Odyssey fans and play in a tournament which gives the winner a big boost of fame and a cash prize, not to mention the chance to become a professional player. The only catch: the convention is on the other side of the country, and to get there, they have to drive…together. As the miles roll on, they find themselves getting a better understanding of each other, and a genuine connection blooms. But the tournament can only have one winner, and the stakes are high for both of them – can their fragile new relationship survive?

Even though I don’t care for “enemies-to-lovers” romances, this book does include lots of other things I love: lots of diverse representation, realistic emotional stakes, cute illustrations, and homages to the world of fandom and fanfiction (where “there was only one bed” remains a beloved plot device). The characters are well-rounded and likeable, the romance is sweet, and the portrayal of gaming, fandom, and LGBTQ friendship is loving and on-point. If you’re looking for a feel-good read, and like some of these tropes more than I do, I definitely recommend trying Conventionally Yours.

Checkmate: Queen’s Gambit Readalikes

Did you catch chess fever when The Queen’s Gambit came out on Netflix? If you did, you’re not alone! If not, it’s never too late to start! Here’s a few ways you can discover more of the amazing world of chess through books.

First up, read The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis to see where it all began. In this page-to-screen story, an orphaned girl finds skill and passion when she learns how to play chess. She enters tournaments and becomes a rising star in the game… but is the pressure too much?

Next, check out a few real-life versions of the story with All The Wrong Moves by Sasha Chapin and The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers. Sasha Chapin’s memoir takes you behind the scenes of ultra-competitive chess matches all around the world, by turns highlighting his humiliating defeats and celebrating a beautiful game. In another famous page-to-screen story, The Queen of Katwe tells the story of a young girl from Uganda who, through the support of her community, becomes determined to follow her skill and become an international chess champion.

Then, try How To Become A Candidate Master by Alex Dunne to build your own skills. Based on real games, this book will help amateur chess players gradually build their skills through a series of matches, with the goal of eventually achieving master status. If you’re not yet looking to become a master, you could read How To Beat Your Kids At Chess, a guide specifically for adult beginners, or try a Great Course on How To Play Chess, good for players of all levels.

Finally, get philosophical with The Moves That Matter by Jonathan Rowson. In this case, a real-life grandmaster demonstrates how the complexities and strategies of the game also contain lessons for living life, including about sustaining focus, making hard decisions, overcoming failure, and much more. Using chess, Rowson shows how to gain a new perspective and appreciate the meaning and beauty in life.

Whatever kind of chess fan you may be, rest assured there’s a book out there for you!

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Karen McManus has done it again; the author of best-selling One of Us is Lying has another addictive showstopper with The Cousins, released in 2020. This standalone book tells the saga of an estranged wealthy family and their dark secrets, through the eyes of the youngest generation. Cousins Jonah, Aubrey, and Milly don’t really know each other, and they’ve never met their wealthy and mysterious grandmother Mildred, because she disowned their parents long before they were born, for reasons unknown. Now, she’s invited the three teens to spend the summer living and working at her resort as a chance to get to know them better – or so she says. Their parents insist they go, eager for a chance to get back in their mother’s good graces. However, once they arrive, the cousins quickly discover nothing is as it seems, as their family’s many secrets start to come to light.

As before, McManus’ characters sparkle as realistic, well-rounded individuals, and the plot is mostly relatable, though shot through with drama and glamour. Aubrey is an athlete reeling from a family betrayal, Milly is chasing a glamorous life but struggling for her mother’s approval, and Jonah is angry about his plans for summer science camp being derailed…among other things. Despite their vastly different personalities, they forge a strong bond as they team up against the summer’s mysteries and dangers. What I really liked was the interspersed chapters set in 1996 and told from Milly’s mother Allison’s perspective; these chapters tell of the events leading up to the disowning of Mildred’s children, make Allison and her brothers real and relatable, and help the main plot build to its climax in an unexpected way. It’s unclear from the ending if a sequel will be forthcoming, but personally, I wouldn’t be opposed.

If you’re looking for a thoroughly modern YA mystery with an Agatha Christie vibe, or if you’ve loved McManus’ other mysteries, or both, I definitely recommend you try reading The Cousins.

Montague Siblings Series by Mackenzi Lee

The Montague Siblings series by Mackenzi Lee is an adventurous romp that has surpassed my every expectation, and I’m thrilled that the third volume is supposed to come out in April.

The first book is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and tells the story of Henry “Monty” Montague, a nobleman’s son embarking on his “grand tour” of Europe before he settles down to work on the family estate. Monty would rather party and have fun than do the serious, cultured work of a nobleman, so he’s excited to get one last hurrah with his beloved best friend Percy (and, to a lesser degree, his younger sister) before the drudgery begins. Unfortunately for Monty, his impulsive, fun-loving nature quickly gets him into trouble, and his respectable “grand tour” turns into a disaster-filled chase across the continent, featuring pirates, vengeful nobles, alchemy, danger, kidnapping, and lots of romantic misunderstandings.

The sequel is The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, featuring Monty’s younger sister Felicity. A powerhouse of intelligence, backbone, and independence, Felicity wants two things:  to be a doctor, and avoid getting married. Regrettably, university administrators unanimously believe only men can be the guardians of science and medicine. Her last chance is to meet with a renowned doctor in Germany and convince him to change her fate, but finances are a problem… until a mysterious woman offers to foot the bill, in exchange for traveling as her maid. With no other options, Felicity agrees, launching her on yet another perilous quest across the European continent in pursuit of life-altering secrets.

The final installment is The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks, set some years later and featuring Monty and Felicity’s much younger brother, Aiden. As sole heir, Aiden is set to take over the Montague estate, but with a diagnosis of hysteria and an embarrassing breakdown on the public record, he’s not viewed as terribly fit for the job. In desperation, Aiden sets out on a journey to find his long-lost older siblings and convince them to take over the estate in his place. To his frustration, Monty refuses point-blank, agreeing only to help him claim the last of their late mother’s possessions in the Caribbean. But in true Montague fashion, this seemingly simple errand turns into a race across the world to chase down an mysterious artifact with links to a family curse.

I love these books because they’re packed with action and adventure, period details, and modern sensibilities – especially in the portrayal of well-rounded, realistically diverse characters. Not all historical fiction (or fiction published in the period) acknowledges disabilities, racism, sexism, LGBTQ identities, or mental health, but this series acknowledges all those things, and still presents happy or hopeful endings for the affected characters. I recommend this series as a perfect escapist read.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget.

The tagline for V.E. Schwab’s latest book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the best I’ve seen at perfectly distilling a book down to its essence. V.E. Schwab is mostly known for her children’s and young adult fiction that she published under the name Victoria Schwab, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue  is a wonderful addition to historical fantasy for adults that you’ll want to cozy up and read as soon as you can get a copy.

France, 1714. Addie LaRue is desperate. Growing up in a small town in France, Addie thought she had successfully avoided marriage until she is promised to a man with young children. Knowing if she marries him she will be live and die in this same small town, Addie manages to slip away before her wedding. Stumbling in her desperation, Addie kneels in the woods and prays for freedom to a god who only answers after dark. This god, or is he a devil, answers Addie’s call and makes a deal with her that she so desperately wants. Over time, Addie learns the limits of the deal and regrets it: she will live forever, but she will be forgotten by every single person she meets. Every time they turn away, every time they close a door, Addie will slip from their memory, a person or a thought always just out of reach. She will spend her years traveling the world, never quite feeling at home anywhere, and never able to make her mark on the world. Addie must get creative in order to leave her legacy as she visits artists of all types and notices that the seven freckles that dot her cheeks can be found throughout history, like a scattering of stars.

Flash forward 300 years. Addie is searching for something new, anything new that will shake up what she’s already discovered in her 300 years. Walking the streets of New York, she yearns. Suddenly, Addie finds a bookstore that she has never seen before. In it, a boy named Henry will change her life with three little words, ‘I remember you’.

Those three words. How is it possible? Did Luc, the god who made her deal, mess up? He must have. She yearns to be remembered, yearns to belong to someone. She has found the one her soul has been searching for after 300 years. Both Henry and Addie have been yearning for years to not be alone, though Henry’s life has been considerably shorter than Addie’s, but his desire is just as strong. Wanting to feel that connection while they have been alone for all this time is something pressed deep into their souls. Addie and Henry are fearful of what they’ve discovered, that fear running strong in Addie as the anniversary of her deal approaches. Knowing that Luc may show up at any second, whenever the mood hits him, Addie is desperate that Henry remember as much of her life as he can before Luc makes him forget.

This novel tore me apart. It’s not a thriller or a swift ride through the characters’ lives. Instead Schwab introduces both Addie and Henry’s lives in a wonderfully leisurely way, one where readers get to know the characters as they work through whatever newness they uncover. Schwab mixes the past with the present, switching between long stretches of Addie’s 300 years with Henry’s exquisitely awkward and painful shorter life. These moments are presented in a way that tugs at your heart as you wish for peace and comfort for both Henry and Addie in the end.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Finna by Nino Cipri

Not to be melodramatic, but Finna by Nino Cipri is the book I’ve been waiting for my whole life. It reads in many ways like an American version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – one of my all-time favorite books. The deceptively thin volume is the story of Ava and Jules, a young couple that just broke up a week ago and now has to find a way to continue working together at a Scandinavian big box furniture store. As if the horrors and indignities of working retail AND a breakup  weren’t enough, they then discover a wormhole to a parallel universe has opened inside the store — and a customer has wandered through it. It falls to Ava and Jules, as the employees with the least seniority, to go through the wormhole and try to bring the customer home. While trying to survive a perilous multiverse, they must also walk the perilous path from breakup back to friendship.

I fell in love with this book almost instantly, and there’s many reasons why. For one thing, it’s a slim and unintimidating 137 pages, and the writing style and brief chapters make it a quick and addictive read. The humor is dry and wry, realistic about the cruelties and frustrations of both working retail and navigating relationships. Both characters are honest about their own good and bad qualities and while the hurt and defensiveness is real, they don’t flinch away from taking a long, hard look at what went wrong in themselves and in their relationship. Moreover, meaningful as the relationship between the characters is, the book doesn’t get bogged down in it, balancing out the heartfelt discussions with lots of frankly wacky adventures in parallel universes both beautiful and sinister. Finally, this book is one of a very rare type: a novel, with a genderqueer protagonist, that doesn’t focus exclusively on that individual’s gender. In fact, Jules’ gender identity and the social difficulties that come with it are treated as established and routine, mundane everyday details compared to the rest of the plot. As a genderqueer person myself, it is so refreshing to read novels where gender-diverse people exist, live their lives, and do things other than obsess about their gender identity.

If you love slice-of-life sci fi, Welcome to Night Vale, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or are craving some light-hearted LGBTQ representation, I 100% recommend you check out this book.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

I think I’ve already mentioned that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. The strong female lead, the fairly unconventional take on romance, the theme of independence all really resonate with me as a reader. I’ve also mentioned that I was trying this fall to read more spooky books to get into the spirit of the season. One such book I read was Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth. I discovered it by chance on the homepage of the library catalog as one of the new books being ordered for the collection, and after reading the synopsis I was hooked. It has similar themes: lots of female characters, unusual and unconventional romances, and a strong theme of struggling for independence.

The book is told in alternating perspectives: first, in 1902, you hear the story of a girls’ boarding school as it’s rocked by a series of grisly deaths, all revolving around a mysterious and inflammatory book. Then, you’re transported to the early 2000s as Hollywood discovers the story of the cursed boarding school and starts to make a movie about it. The movie seeks to capture the horror of the original 1902 events, but succeeds too well as bizarre and frightening events start to happen on set. Caught in the middle are a number of fascinating characters – in 1902, the headmistress Libbie and her lover Alex strive to understand and overcome the boarding school’s sinister atmosphere, and they fail to protect several of their students including Flo and Clara, a bold pair of lovers, and ghostly Eleanor Faderman, who idolizes them. In the modern story, wunderkind writer Merritt, lesbian star Harper, and Audrey, daughter of an iconic scream queen, find themselves thrown together both in fear and mutual attraction as they work on the film.

The appeal of the book is partly its strong characters, complicated and fairly relatable, and partly its wry writing style. Like Jane Eyre, the narrator addresses the reader directly to tell the story (“Reader, I married him”, etc.), and the author really leans into the style, adding lots of footnotes and asides during the narrative. While it’s a fairly thick volume, with lots of story to tell at both points in history, I found that I kept reading without fatigue because of the tense atmosphere and slow-burn action. Typical of horror-style stories, you’re filled with an increasing sense of dread that something awful is going to happen. However (spoiler alert), I was surprised and a bit disappointed that while the 1902 story was full of horrible things happening, and its ending was decently grim, the modern story had a more ambivalent ending, neither grim nor hopeful. I was left with a sense of lingering questions and an uncertain future. As far as I was concerned, the last page could have read The End? (spoiler alert: it didn’t.)

Here’s my theory as to why that is: the underlying theme of both stories is resistance to oppressive norms, expressed particularly in the form of lesbian relationships. This book and its characters are entirely, staggeringly, defiantly sapphic, which comes with certain realities. My guess is the 1902 story had to end grimly, because the outlook for independent women and lesbian love at that time was decently grim. In the modern era, however, things aren’t so final. There’s more freedom and acceptance, but sexism and homophobia still exist, making for an uncertain, cloudy outlook. Therefore, the modern characters couldn’t be said to have completely defeated the curse, but they stand stronger against it. Of course, there’s a lot more going on in the book, especially as the characters struggled for independence in various ways. Some wanted to be independent of everyone, some wanted to be independent from their parents or their past, some wanted to be independent from society’s rules, and some wanted to be independent from their fame. (Their success at achieving independence predictably varied.) Altogether, I thought this was a thought-provoking, engaging book with lots of thrills and chills.

If you like historical fiction, horror fiction, dramedies, or feminist histories, I recommend you try this book. (Although, if you’re afraid of wasps, bees, and yellow jackets, you might want to think twice. They’re EVERYWHERE.)