Authors like Janet Evanovich


Janet Evanovich is most well known for her best selling mystery/romance series about Stephanie Plum, who is a bounty hunter from New Jersey.  Stephanie Plum is a unique character that loves to cook and has a fondness for junk food.  These books are lighthearted and fun, especially appealing to women, and always written in the first person.  Evanovich is also the author of the Wicked series and the Fox and O’Hare series.

Listed below are authors that are similar to Evanovich and write books that involve both mystery and romance.  All of the books listed can be found here at HPL

Donna Andrews

  • The Real Macaw: a Meg Lanslow Mystery
  • Six Geese A-slaying


Sue Grafton

  • V is for Vengeance (Paperback, Spanish, and Audio)
  • Kinsey and Me: Stories (Adult fiction, Paperback, and Large Print)


Sarah Strohmeyer

  • Kindred Spirits


Victoria Laurie

  • Lethal Outlook: a psychic eye mystery
  • Vision Impossible


Joanne Fluke

  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder
  • Cream Puff Murder: a Hannah Swensen mystery with recipes


J.D. Robb

  • Celebrity in Death (Adult Fiction and Paperback)
  • New York to Dallas


Lisa Lutz

  • How to Start a Fire
  • The Spellmans strike again


Gemma Halliday

  • Play Nice


M.C. Beaton

  • Something Borrowed, Someone Dead: an Agatha Raisin mystery
  • Busy Body

Movie Review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work


Call Number: DVD E R524j  (In the nonfiction DVD section)
Rated R

Most everyone knows who Joan Rivers is: a comedian known for her outrageous and sometimes controversial material.  This documentary allows the viewer to see a different side of Joan; the serious, work obsessed business woman who likes to live extravagantly, but who also loves her dogs and misses her friends in LA.  The viewer begins to feel like they are seeing the real person behind the overwhelming persona and get to know about the tragedies of her past and how hard she worked to become successful.  It’s a completely different and refreshing perspective than her reality TV show Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? in which Joan’s crazy antics drive her daughter Melissa crazy.

A large part of this documentary focuses on Joan trying to get back into the spotlight. She’s frustrated because it’s extremely hard for her to get jobs and she feels that she isn’t successful if she isn’t constantly working.  We also get a brief glimpse of her extravagant NYC apartment and learn that she really has to keep working in order to support her lavish lifestyle.  This is really interesting because we get to see what the business aspect of being a comedian is like, and how hard they work to stay employed.  We see Joan go from having an empty schedule book and really pushing to get work to her being completely booked after she wins The Apprentice.  When she is booked she works constantly and describes her hectic schedule and lack of sleep.  It really makes the viewer wonder when she gets to enjoy her lavish apartment and if money is the real reason she’s so driven.

The film also goes into the huge strides the industry has made in including women comedians, and how Joan contributed so much to this when she started out.  It was also really interesting to discover that she originally wanted to be an actress, and was only doing stand up as a way to support herself.  The audience is shown some clips when she was a young comedian and we begin to see that the raunchiness of her act is partially an attempt to keep up with the times and stay controversial.  She explains that when she started out she was controversial for the time, and what seems tame to us now was in fact pushing what was acceptable.  

There was one really interesting scene where she cusses out a heckler who objects to one of her jokes because he has a blind son.  She defends herself by saying that it’s comedy and to get over it, but afterwards when she is talking to a fan we really see that she felt terrible about it.  This really shows two sides of Joan; the comedian who will say anything for a laugh, and the regular person who empathizes with someone who is struggling.

While I really enjoyed this documentary, I would have liked to have seen more of Melissa and Joan’s relationship.  Because they work together so often and have a fraught relationship, it would have been interesting to see them together and having interactions that weren’t staged.  I also was expecting to learn more about Joan’s addiction to plastic surgery and how that affected her life and career.  Because Joan died in 2014 the documentary is sad to watch but also really makes the audience appreciate who she was.

Because this is Joan Rivers there is a lot of swearing and jokes that some people may find offensive.  A really interesting look into the life of a famous comedian.


Review of Nimona


Written and Illustrated by Noelle Stevenson
Call Number: YA Stevenson Graphic

Lord Ballister Blackheart, who was designated an evil villain when he was kicked out of hero school, is not doing too great a job at being a bad guy, until he meets Nimona. Nimona is a teenaged girl who has the ability to shapeshift, and desperately wants to be Blackheart’s sidekick.  Together they , infiltrate ‘The Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics’ and create a plot to out the agency’s hoarding of powerful magic.  Blackheart is a mad scientist with a twist; he doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone. Nimona on the other hand, doesn’t have as big a problem with this, and doesn’t understand why Blackheart isn’t more ruthless.  

The setting is a strange mix of medieval culture and technology that really works, and allows the author to do a lot more with her characters and plot than if it was strictly medieval.  Although it’s set in medieval times and the characters dress accordingly, Nimona has a partially shaved head and several piercings.  She also wears a short, modern looking dress, with medieval accessories, such as boots and gauntlets.  Both her attitude and her looks prove that she’s not your average stereotypical girl, and I think a lot of female readers will be able to relate to this.  It was also refreshing that she was drawn to have a real body that she isn’t ashamed of.

Towards the middle of the book, the focus shifts from Nimona to Blackheart, as Blackheart begins to question Nimona’s ruthless plans.  The plot then becomes less about Blackheart and Nimona’s relationship, which is starting to develop into a true friendship, to Blackheart’s relationship with Ambrosius Goldenloin.  Ambrosius is a knight of the Institution who was once Blackheart’s best friend, but betrayed him when Ambrosius fights unfairly and causes Blackheart to lose his arm.  This relationship helps to engage the reader even further and keeps the plot moving as the reader discovers what really happened between the two knights and watches as they both come to terms with their emotions and try to repair the friendship.  This also makes the book more about the characters, whom the reader really comes to love, instead of just the exciting, fast paced plot.

There is a really surprising twist towards the end of the novel that was unique and surprisingly non cliche.  It really gets the reader thinking about what makes someone good or evil and how these classifications can really be forced on people.  The novel really tries to make the point that people aren’t purely good or evil, but a mix of complex emotions.  It does a great job of getting this message across without being preachy or condescending.

I really loved this graphic novel and was surprised by how funny it was.  The writing in graphic novels is just as important as the drawings, and Stevenson does an amazing job creating humor, depth, and excitement.  This novel is based on the web comic and has been nominated for several awards.  You can read the first three chapters on Noelle Stevenson’s website and explore some of her other comics.  

Halloween Chapter Books

There’s nothing better to get you in the Halloween spirit than a great book.  These are some of the best spooky middle grade chapter books we have.  Perfect for your eight to twelve year old who wants something scary, but maybe not too scary.  Great as books they can read on their own, or as something you can read with them.  Many of these can also be found as e-books on CWMars.

Click on the pictures to see the book in our catalog


Bunnicula: a rabbit-tale of mystery by Deborah Howe
Call Number: j/SR Howe (in the Summer Reading section)
Grades: 3-7

Harold and Chester, who just happen to be a dog and cat, decide to find out about the new pet; a rabbit with fangs.

haunted castle on hallows eve

Haunted Castle on Hallows Eve (The Magic Tree House Series) by Mary Pope Osborne
Call Number: j Osborne Series #57 (in the Series section)
Grades: 2-5

Annie and Jack must travel back in time to save Camelot and the Stone of Destiny, which has been stolen.  They travel to a haunted castle with a magician named Teddy to find it.

a tale dark and grimm

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Call Number: j Gidwitz
Grades: 4-7

Hansel and Gretel are the heroes of this story as they encounter other characters and stories from the Brothers Grimm.  They go through a lot, such as being killed and brought back to life, as they try to reach their happy ending.

short and shivery

Short & Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales by Robert D. San Souci
Call Number: j San Souci
Grades: 3-7

Thirty scary short stories that have been rewritten by San Souci specifically for younger readers.  Some are contemporary stories and some are retellings of classics.

the witch family

The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes
Call Number: j/PB Estes (PB stands for paperback, and these are located in the regular j section)
Grades: 2-5

Amy and Clarissa draw a witch and then banish her to a glass mountain, where she can only come out on Halloween.  The world they created starts to become very real and the old witch and her family come to visit them.

the smoky corridor

The Smoky Corridor by Chris Grabenstein
Call Number: j Grabenstein
Grades: 3-7

Zack is starting a new school, but he discovers he has bigger problems, such as a zombie in the basement and a ghost looking for a body to take over.

The haunted mask

The Haunted Mask (The Goosebumps Series) by R.L. Stine
Call Number: j Stine Series #42 (in the Series section)
Grades: 3-7

Carly Beth finds the scariest, ugliest mask ever to wear for Halloween.  But when she wears it she changes from a nice, timid girl to someone much meaner, and soon discovers she can’t get the mask off!

Review of Through the Woods

through the woods

Call Number:  YA Carroll Graphic

I mentioned this graphic novel in the YA Books for Reluctant Readers pathfinder because it’s a fast, easy read, and very suspenseful.  But reading it as an adult, I loved it too. This isn’t always the case with books for reluctant readers, since the reading level can be very low.  But Through the Woods is great for anyone who loves horror; especially because the beautiful and terrifying illustrations made the stories that much creepier.

This graphic novel contains five horror stories with color illustrations and is written and illustrated by Emily Carroll.  Most of the stories take place in the colonial or renaissance era and the illustrations reflect this, such as The Lady’s Hands are Cold, which has the characters wearing beautiful victorian dresses and jewelry.  The last story seems to take place in the 1920s (although this is never explicitly stated) and the author changes the style of drawing to show this.  Carroll really knows how to show things through her illustrations, such as important plot lines and setting, without hitting the reader over the head with it.She also sets the tone of the novel by using very dark and muted colors, and adding large splashes of red to draw the reader’s attention to particularly scary blocks of text or disturbing images.  

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was how well the illustrations helped tell the stories.  The text, which is often sparse, gives the basic outline of each story, while the pictures help fill in the details and plot.  Most of the stories have endings that are just illustrations, so that the reader has to interpret the pictures to figure out the ending.  A lot of readers will appreciate this because it allows a more open interpretation of the story, and also compels you to really study the pictures.  

Many of the stories focus on female characters, with only one story focusing on a male character.  Although the characters are mostly female, I think this book will appeal to guys, as well as girls, because of the horror element.

All of the stories were equally well done, but my favorite was His Face All Red, about two brothers who go out to hunt an unknown beast that was plaguing their town.  One brother is cowardly and feels inferior, while the other is popular and brave.  When they set off to hunt the beast something terrible happens in the woods.  While the plot is interesting and scary, it’s really the brothers and their relationship that pulls the reader along.  Carroll does an amazing job of developing all of her characters in a short amount of time, and then gives them a mystery to solve that often impacts their life.  Without this character development, the stories wouldn’t resonate as deeply with the readers, and the scary elements would lose a lot of their impact.

This was definitely one of the best graphic novels I read in a long time.  Although it’s great for reluctant readers, because of its content I wouldn’t recommend it for sensitive readers.  The only complaint I had was that some of the twist endings were a little cliche.  But this is only a problem for hardcore horror fans; the intended audience will probably not feel this way.

YA Books for Reluctant Readers

Everyone knows a reluctant reader.  Someone, for whatever reason, who just doesn’t like to read.  These are some teen books that are great for reluctant readers.  Most are quick and easy to read and have exciting plot lines and interesting characters that encourage the reader to want to keep reading.

the crossover

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Call Number: YA Alexander

This is a novel in verse about two twin boys, Josh and Jordan, who both love basketball.  Their dad used to play professionally but doesn’t anymore and refuses to coach, and Josh discovers the secret reason why.

Through the woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Call Number: YA Carroll Graphic

This is a graphic novel that contains five scary and mysterious stories about journeys into and out of the woods.

how it went down

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
Call Number: YA Magoon

Sixteen year old Tariq, who is black, is shot and killed by a white teen.  Tariq’s family and friends try to describe what really happened in their own words.

ms. marvel

Ms. Marvel volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson
Call Number: YA Wilson Graphic

This is a graphic novel about Kamala Khan, who’s just a regular girl from Jersey City.  She discovers that she has superhuman powers that may be dangerous and has to learn how to wield them.


Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Call Number: YA Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are all teenagers that have been chosen to be killed, or unwound. They decide to run away and come to a camp for unwinds where they learn specific skills.

the compound

The Compound by S.A. Boden
Call Number: YA Boden 

Eli lives in an underground compound with his family after a nuclear attack.  But he becomes bored and starts to wonder if he should leave the compound.  He then finds out a secret that will change everything.

the enclave

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (The Razorland Trilogy)
Call Number: Aguirre

Deuce is a fifteen year old huntress in a post apocalyptic world that is filled with tunnel monsters.  She lives in a protected underground enclave but must learn to survive when she and her partner, Fade, are exiled.

Review of The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

the winter people

Call Number: McMahon

Good horror novels can be really hard to find, but The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon really pulls you in from the very beginning.  It’s told mostly from Ruthie’s perspective, who is a teen and lives off the grid in Vermont with her mother and little sister. But Ruthie’s story is interspersed with the diary of Sara Harrison Shea, who lived in the same area in 1908, and tells a haunting story of how she discovered that people can be brought back from the dead.  When Ruthie’s mother suddenly goes missing, Ruthie must figure out what Sara’s story has to do with her own life.

While this novel isn’t outright gory, there is a creepiness that pervades the story of every character, from Sara Shea’s husband, who can’t figure out why his daughter’s severed braid is hanging where he put the pelt of a slain fox, to Katherine, who creates miniature scenes of her dead husband’s last moments.  The mysteries themselves are just as well written and complex as the horror elements and will leave readers guessing until the end. I was so convinced that the mystery of Sara Shea’s murdered daughter was committed by one specific character that I was completely thrown off (in a good way) when it turned out to be something entirely different.  McMahon definitely knows how to construct mysteries that will mislead and surprise you.

The characters, while not always entirely likable, fit the setting and story very well.  Ruthie is tough and independent, mainly because she has been forced to live off the grid and because of her mother’s insistence that she be self reliant.  Although she is tough, she also cares deeply for her little sister, and is terrified when her mother disappears, which gives her a more three dimensional feeling.  Sara Shea is also a tough but loving character, and is all the more real for her obsession with her daughter, and other subtle flaws.  I was especially fascinated by Katherine, who is a side character, but complex enough for the reader to really care about.  Katherine is trying to find out what happened to her husband and why he was in West Hall Vermont on the day of his death.   We see her torn between grief and anger at her husband, emotions which often come out in her bizarre art.  We see more of her strange behavior as the book progresses, which she often justifies as ‘the right thing to do.’

Another thing I loved about this book was that it revolved mainly around female characters, all of whom are strong and independent.  The reader sees very few male characters, and they are often used mainly as plot points.  The one male character we see is Martin, Sarah’s husband, who is interesting because of his feelings of inadequacy and his conflicting emotions of love and jealousy of his daughter and wife.  Because of his conflicted character, it’s difficult for the reader to know what to think of him, making the mystery of his possible involvement with the death of his daughter even more suspenseful.

The novel loses a little of it’s momentum towards the end of the book as the reader realizes that many of the mysteries are human based instead of supernatural, but it still pulls you along as Ruthie slowly gathers the pieces of the puzzle.  The end ties together really well, with all of the characters tied into the mysteries in some way.  And while everything ties together, the ending is in no way pat, and ends with the characters continuing to deal with the consequences of Sara’s decision to raise the dead.