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Reading The Family Plot felt like watching a home renovation show on HGTV. It gave me the same sense of vicarious satisfaction to imagine the old house that is the focus of the story being dismantled piece by piece, with Dahlia Dutton and her crew deciding what can be salvaged and what isn’t worth saving from the wrecking ball. It made me wish I could show up to work in cruddy jeans and boots and root around in a century-old carriage house. I wouldn’t mind switching places with Dahlia for a little while and trying out her very interesting career.

If it weren’t for the ghosts, that is.

Because yeah, I neglected to mention that the old Withrow house Dahlia is sorting through comes with some serious ghostly baggage. They’re not the creepiest ghosts I’ve ever encountered—not all of them are out for blood—but you definitely don’t want to take a shower in this house. Better to go unwashed than…well, I’ll let you read and find out for yourself.

I’m a little surprised I was so enamored with the salvage business, because I’m typically the “throw it away and ask questions later” type. I also don’t have much patience for shopping, and I get overwhelmed in stores that are disorganized or have too much stock. If I somehow came into possession of a house like the Withrows’, I’d probably take one look and say, “Burn it to the ground.” Although with the whole ghost thing, maybe that wouldn’t be the worst idea? Still, it’s a testament to Cherie Priest’s talents that she was able to convince me that old things can be cool, and it’s worth the effort to fix and clean them up.

I first heard of Cherie Priest a million years ago (aka 2009) when her steampunk Clockwork Century series exploded in popularity, but this is the first time I’ve read her. I’m hooked now for sure. The hard part will be deciding which one to dive into first. Will it be the alternate history about the clairvoyant Floridian, or the epistolary urban fantasy story based on the life of Lizzie Borden? (Seriously, what kind of delightfully twisted mind comes up with stuff like this?) Decisions, decisions!

Find it at your library!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, young adult books aren't just for young adults. Akata Witch is a perfect example of a title that's cataloged in the YA section but has broad appeal.

Sunny Nwazue is a pretty normal girl living in Nigeria. At least she feels pretty normal. There are certain things, though, that make her stick out. First of all, she's albino, and her pale skin and light-colored hair attract attention. Secondly, she was born in America and only recently moved back to her parents' homeland, and her accent betrays the truth of her origins. And if that weren't enough, Sunny finds out as a teenager that she has latent magical powers, and with those powers comes the responsibility to protect others from evil forces.

Don't tell me you're not fascinated by a hook like that!

Akata Witch delivers plenty of action and suspense, with refreshingly little romantic hand-wringing that poisons other YA fantasy novels I could name. Sunny teams up with a group of other magically-inclined teens, and together they learn to harness their powers. They'll have to learn fast—there's a murderer on the loose, a man who is kidnapping children for ritual killings, and Sunny and her friends may be the last and best hope for defeating him.

I absolutely loved Sunny. She made my inner feminist go wild. She has all the insecurities one would expect of a teenage girl, but she triumphs over them in a meaningful way. At one point, Sunny realizes she's being belittled not just for being a girl, but for being an ugly girl, and for a moment she feels the weight of that judgment. (What woman hasn't felt that way before? If you have the audacity to be an outspoken, strong woman, you'd better also be pleasant to look at, or what's the point of your existence?) In a lesser novel, Sunny might overcome her sadness at being teased by meeting a boy who sees her as beautiful. Instead, thrillingly, Sunny trumps her tormentors herself and in the end, her looks forgotten, is celebrated for her abilities. Nobody has to tell Sunny she's beautiful, because looks aren't really that important when you're fighting evil juju.

Nnedi Okorafor has several other YA titles already in print, as well as a book for adults. I can't wait to check out more of her work.