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The Magicians. Seasons 1-5

A fantasy series full of magic, horror, wit, and fabulous costumes, The Magicians (2015-2020) is like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Based on the books by Lev Grossman, who borrows from other popular fantasy stories (most notably the Narnia series), this TV show revolves around a group of young people who are tested for their magical ability and offered places in Brakebills, an academy for magicians.

Adventure abounds as they discover and hone their magical skills, missteps and disasters just adding to their education. Add to this the possibility of travel to other worlds and a mysterious beast targeting the school, and you have an exciting, action filled show.

Please note that this is for adult audiences (rated TV-14)


Piranesi

Piranesi is the sole inhabitant of a gigantic, mysterious 'house' with endless rooms full of statues and an ocean in the lower levels which surges upstairs during high tides. Written in the form of his journal, Piranesi guides us through his beloved labyrinthine house and introduces us to 'The Other,' a sporadic visitor to the house and the only other living human being in this world...or so he thought.

Susanna Clarke's lyrical and hypnotic writing pulls you into Piranesi's world, enveloping you in the mystery of the house and the question of how he came to be there. Piranesi (2020) is for fans of The Starless Sea and The Bedlam Stacks.

Check out the ebook on Overdrive.



Finding Neverland

When I heard Finding Neverland (2004, rated PG) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, I hoped it would win--but it did not. Nevertheless, it is a terrific movie. Johnny Depp who portrays James M. Barrie and Kate Winslet are equally great together. All of the fantasy is typical Johnny Depp and had me wondering if there was any truth to this story about how James Barrie created Peter Pan.

As the movie progresses, a more serious tone emerges with a climactic ending befitting Academy Award worthiness. Heaven is a real place don't you know, and I for one can only imagine just how beautiful it will be.

Watch Finding Neverland on Hoopla today or on DVD. While it didn't win Best Picture, the film did nab an Oscar for Best Original Score. Listen to it on Hoopla. For more of the true story behind the film, read this New York Times article.


Echo

Echo begins as a fairy tale with Otto, a boy lost in the woods who meets three strange women telling him of a prophecy concerning a rare harmonica. From there, we hear three different stories of four pre-teen children who all live in different times, places, and circumstances, leaning on music to get them through hard times. The tales take you to Germany, Pennsylvania, and California, with storylines interconnected and centered around the possession of a rare harmonica. The audiobook was magical to listen to. I would recommend this beautiful, historical fairy tale to readers for all ages.

Listen to Echo (2015) by Pam Munoz Ryan on Hoopla today.



The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning (1999) is the start of the downright dreadful, disastrous, and dangerous turn of events that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire must endure after the passing of their parents in a tragic fire. They are sent to live with the dreadful Count Olaf, who cares more about the inheritance the children have than their wellbeing. The Baudelaire siblings must work together to thwart the evil doings of Count Olaf and figure out what really happened with the fire that killed their parents.

Lemony Snicket's writing gives the story character and makes the reader long for more with his unique style and prose.The Bad Beginning kicks off A Series of Unfortunate Events. Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I just saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1997) on Overdrive's ebook list. Well if you are looking for one great book to read, go no further. You found it. The best page-turning adventure that you can't put down, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in this epic story of the eleven-year-old wizard who becomes every reader's favorite hero.

Even if you saw the movie, you'll want to read Harry's entire story. It has no boring parts and will grip your attention from page one. You will feel you've been transported into the story itself. And it does not matter how old you are. Even as I'm writing this, I can feel myself aboard the Hogwarts Express on my way to live Harry's journey with him and his pals Hermione and Ron. This is a ride you will not want to miss.

Check out J. K. Rowling's debut novel (and the one that started it all). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the first book... then check out the rest of the series.



Listen to Neil Gaiman's Coraline, live from NYPL.

What is better than having someone read you a story? Having the author and famous actors read it to you!

The New York Public Library is hosting a live reading of Neil Gaiman's spooky book Coraline this week, from Tuesday, May 12 through Monday, May 18. Click here to see more details and this link to sign up for a reminder notice. Remember the time difference means it will be at 5pm Chicago time or just go here to watch later or catch up on missed chapters.

Borrow the eBook from Hoopla if you want to read along.



Penelope

Penelope Wilhern is living a fairy tale. She is an heiress, living in a beautiful mansion, being pursued by a charming aristocrat…and she's tasked with breaking the curse she was born with that left her with a pig snout instead of a nose. Such a task seems hopeless when suitor after suitor run away in terror after seeing her, but when one of those suitors helps Penelope learn to take risks, she begins to see there is more to life than breaking the curse.

Penelope (2006, rated PG) is feel good, modern day fairy tale peppered with comedy, fantasy, romance, and charming performances by Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, and Reese Witherspoon. Watch it on Hoopla today.


Good Omens

Good Omens (2011) is the brainchild of two legendary authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, who created a fun, humorous story of an unlikely duo. An angel from heaven and a demon from hell must work together to stop the apocalypse. Going against orders, they are trying to maintain the status quo so they can maintain their current lives and friendship. The unlikely duo bounce off each other with their dialogue, making it a joy to see on page how the story will unfold.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.

The book has been turned into a TV show on Amazon Prime. Sign up for a free trial or place a hold on the dvd or our Roku with Amazon Prime to see the adaptation.



Carry On

You've read and re-read all the Harry Potter books, watched all the movies, maybe even tried to find some magic in Narnia or Middle Earth, but you're still looking for more… Rainbow Rowell is here for you. Carry On (2015) tells the story of Simon Snow, the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen. Somehow, even as things are falling apart around him (sometimes even catching on fire), things always work out, much to the dismay of his roommate and mortal enemy, Baz (who happens to be a vampire and maybe also the love of his life?).

Come and visit the Watford School of Magicks for a very Harry Potter-esque story with maybe just a bit more sarcastic humor. Enjoy the audiobook on Hoopla or the ebook on Overdrive, and then look for book two:Wayward Son.



Series Spotlight: Winternight

If you grew up on fairy tales and want to rediscover that magic as an adult, then the Winternight trilogy (start with The Bear and the Nightingale, 2017) is for you. Katherine Arden brings to life Russian folklore and spirits you away to the forests of medieval Russia in this lyrical tale.

Vasya is born into a time when the old beliefs are being threatened by the introduction of modern religion, but she is one of the few who can still see and talk to the household and forest spirits. Struggling to keep the old traditions alive to protect her family, Vasya is drawn into an age-old battle between the frost-king and his brother. The action continues from the frozen forests to the capital, Moscow, and through the fantastical Midnight Lands, home to the mythical witch Baba Yaga.

Beautifully written with a strong female lead and a captivating portrayal of 14th century Russia, the Winternight trilogy (book 2: The Girl in the Tower, 2018 and book 3: The Winter of the Witch, 2019) interweaves historical moments with old world fantasy to create a wonderful epic fairy tale. This trilogy would appeal to readers of Neil Gaiman and Kiersten White.


So Weird. The Complete Series (1999-2001)

I have been finding that Disney+ is a great way to relive favorite shows of your childhood.  My latest binge was So Weird (TV-Y7), about Fiona, a teenager, on the road with a band for which her mom (Mackenzie Phillips) is the lead singer.  Fiona is drawn to everything strange and unusual, which she constantly stumbles upon, revealing more and more about her father's unexplained car accident when she was a baby.

While revolving around many supernatural occurrences, older kids and their families can enjoy this family adventure/mystery series together.  So Weird originally aired on The Disney Channel in the late 90s, but you can now stream the entire series on Disney+ via the library's Family Roku devices.

Series Spotlight: The Last Firehawk

Owls are determined to save their home – the island of Perodia – from the evil Thorn, a vulture who is destroying the island with the help of his army of tiger bats and prickle ants. Rivers are dry, trees are being destroyed, and no flowers are blooming. Heroes of this animal fantasy early chapter book are Tag, an owl who uses a magic map; Skyla, a squirrel who uses a slingshot; and Blaze, the last surviving firehawk who uses his wings. When Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are successful in the quest to find all the pieces of the ember stone, their home might be saved.

The first page of each book explains where Tag, Skyla, and Blaze are in their search for the ember stone so the books do not have to be read in order…but in order would be best. Start with The Ember Stone (2017).

A map of Perodia, which is a copy of the magic map used by Tag, is on the next page after the introduction. The reader will want to refer back to the map while reading the adventure. On the last page of each book are questions and activities suggestions, which will add to the enjoyment of the reader and extend their learning. Each of the 10 books (so far) in The Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman are 90 pages. There are black and white illustrations on each page. Lexile range is 550-640.



The Witcher. Season 1

​Are you looking for something to fill the void after the disappointing final season of Game of Thrones?  The Witcher, a friend of humanity, is here to slay monsters, collect coin, and reignite our excitement in fantasy TV shows.

In The Witcher (2019, TV-MA), Geralt of Rivea is no ordinary man. Subjected to a deadly trial as a child, he became a Witcher, a mutant hunter used to rid the world of scum.  After accidentally invoking an ancient custom at a wedding, he finds his destiny tied with Cirilla, the young princess of Cintra.  After her kingdom is attacked, she must find Geralt to understand her future and her power. Follow Geralt as he tries to slay monsters, navigate relationships, play politics, and find Cirilla.

Henry Cavill is phenomenal as Geralt.  It was the role he was born to play.  The fighting choreography is stellar and will have you wanting to watch it over and over.  The monsters are unique and disgusting and don't hold back.  Be prepared to have the song, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher" stuck in your head for an eternity.

I have a few small complaints: the writing can be cheesy at times but the actors do their best with what they are given.  In addition, because two of the main characters live extended lives, the timeline skips around and can be confusing.  Despite these flaws, I recommend this to any fantasy lover looking for a show that doesn't pull its punches.

To watch The Witcher. Season 1 check out one of the Rokus for access to Netflix.

 If you enjoy the TV series, check out the books by Andrzej Sapkowski.  And if you enjoy playing video games, look for Witcher III: The Wild Hunt for PS4 and Xbox One.