Credits

Tell Us What You’re Reading

Book

On Monday, May 18, we held a special meeting of the Waltham Public Library Virtual Book Club.  Everyone who participated shared titles of books that they’re reading as well as some shows and movies that they’ve been watching.  We had a wonderful conversation and all of us came away with some more titles for our “To Be Read” lists.  Below are the titles that attendees shared.
Join us on Monday, June 15 at 7:00 pm to share any titles that you’re reading!  E-mail Laura (lbernheim@minlib.net) for the meeting link.

Books

Movies/TV Shows

Waltham Public Library Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Get to know more about the resources Waltham Public Library provides to keep you in the know and entertained while social distancing with our Virtual Scavenger Hunt!  Read the questions below and submit your answers on our form.  You can edit the form after submitting which allows you to do the hunt a little at a time. We’ll be closing the form on July 6, then reviewing responses. By submitting your completed scavenger hunt, you’ll get a chance to win a GIFT CARD to a local business! If you have questions, please write to waltham@minlib.net. Have fun! (Hint — all of the answers can be found by visiting walthampubliclibrary.org)

  • Where do you learn how to talk like a pirate?
  • Where can you listen to Fiona Apple’s new album Fetch the Bolt Cutters? What is the name of the first song listed?
  • Where can you watch Weston Woods videos? What’s the name of the video/picture book that you watched?
  • What were the titles that we read through the Virtual Book Club meetings in April?
  • Find the tool you’d use to find the highest rated mattress available for purchase. Tell us the resource.
  • How many trustees are there and where can you find meeting minutes (copy and paste the link!)?
  • Find a recipe for shepherd’s pie using one of our databases. Tell us the name of that database.
  • Follow our account on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and/or Facebook. Tell us which account you followed.
  • Find the resource that would allow you to find a Boston Globe article about Pedro Martinez coming to play for the Boston Red Sox. Read the article. Tell us the title and author of the article.
  • How do you access a digital copy of The Mirror/Waltham High School Yearbook from 1955? Who was that year’s edition dedicated to?
  • According to Novelist Plus, what are some titles that are “readalikes” for Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead? Why are they considered readalikes?

Submit your answers to tinyurl.com/wplscavengerhunt
Good luck!

Staff Reads May 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Janet Z.

Greg

Dana

  • My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla) : I read this at the very beginning of the quarantine and honestly I don’t remember much about it now, other than it’s about a high school girl who has an affair with her forty-something year-old English teacher, and then repercussions, etc.. I do remember I liked it and thought it was quite well written.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Even though I had read Mary V’s review of this book back in March, I was somehow still surprised by how sad this book is. Based on true events, it follows a young girl and her younger siblings as they’re kidnapped from their family’s shantyboat and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, where they were then sold to other families. It was a very compelling book, and also horrifying that this actually happened so often.
  • The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): I don’t read thrillers or ghost stories very often, so I’m not a connoisseur, but I thought this was a great haunted house story. I loved that one of the main characters was a history nerd with an appreciation for local history, and that there were flashbacks to the previous century. I didn’t love the ending, but thought the book as a whole was good.
  • Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington (Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Every now and then it’s nice to read another woman’s experiences with motherhood, especially when you have moments where you feel like you’ve found a kindred soul. I thought this was a decent collection of essays, with a few laugh-out-loud moments, and others where I wanted to give Harrington either a hug or a high-five, or both.
  • Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays by R. Eric Thomas (Read it on Overdrive.): This is a funny and touching memoir about how Thomas has grappled with being “other” throughout his life – based on race, sexuality, economic background, religion, and more. His writing style is the kind that feels effortless in its humor and reflection, and it made me want to seek out his other work (he has a daily humor column about politics at Elle.com).
  • Wickett’s Remedy by Myla Goldberg: After reading The Last Town on Earth right before Covid-19 hit the news, I really wanted to read more about the 1918 influenza… maybe for some kind of reassurance that people made it through a pandemic, or maybe just because I find it fascinating. I was lamenting the lack of historical fiction focusing on the Spanish flu, and some colleagues recommended Wickett’s Remedy (I love working with librarians!). It was such a good book, with a bonus of being set in Boston, and I liked the different ways Goldberg tells the story – through the main plot, plus through old newspaper articles and commentary in the margins by different voices. It was very different, and very good.
  • Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden (Read it on Overdrive.): I had read positive reviews about this book – a satire about the education system – so I was pumped when my hold on Overdrive came in. It takes place in an underfunded urban high school in Texas, and follows the daily work and personal lives of several teachers. Even though I’m not a teacher, I could appreciate the humor in many of the scenes, and found the characters very compelling.
  • Overdue: The Final Unshelved Collection by Gene Ambaum, Bill Barnes, & Chris Hallbeck (Not in Minuteman, but there are other Unshelved books in the network.): I used to follow the Unshelved webcomic pretty religiously when it was active, and even got to meet Ambaum and Barnes at a library conference (nerd alert). I’ve been enjoying reading through this collection of their comics, and feeling wistful about working in the library!
  • Yesterday: My husband and I really enjoyed this movie, about a struggling musician who wakes up after an accident to discover that no one has ever heard of the Beatles. It was very cute, with a good soundtrack.
  • Fleabag: A bit late to the party with this one, but I love it. I’m so glad I snagged the Blu-Ray of Season 1 the last day the library was open!
  • Sex Education: We started watching this show before quarantine, and were able to binge our way through the rest of it once lockdown started. Such a good show – well-developed and synpathetic characters, and I want to live in Otis’s house!
  • I’ve also been spending a lot of quality time with Kanopy Kids, namely:

Debora

  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang (Read it on Overdrive. Listen to it on Hoopla) : This nonfiction read is a fascinating insight into the lives of young rural Chinese women, many of whom are teenagers, who travel to the country’s manufacturing cities to work in factories. The scale of the so-called migrant movement is huge: 130 million individuals hop from job to job in massive factories (one is so large it has its own hospital) to improve both their pay and opportunities. They sleep in bunk beds in factory-owned dorms with others whom they rarely get to know; they interview for positions at the Talent Market where they lie about their experience and references are never checked; they work long hours with mandatory overtime and send money home to their parents on the farm. Chang focuses on the lives of two young women in particular, giving a sense of both perspective and story arc.

Ashley

  • We Were promised Spotlights by Lindsay Sproul (Read it on Overdrive)
  • The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (Read it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla.): I loved this. Highly recommended for fans of Ashly Herring Blake or if you like gentle and melancholy lyrical stories.
  • Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer (Read it on Overdrive.):  This was so good! It was exciting and mysterious and I couldn’t put it down!
  • PS I Miss You by Jan Petro-Roy (Read it or listen to it on Overdrive.  Listen to it on Hoopla): Also sad! But it’s so great that we now have so many middle grade books with lesbian main characters. You’ll cry reading this one.
  • Motherland Fort Salem on Freeform/Hulu: I really love this show. I was hesitant after reading less than stellar feeviews, but I devour every episode.
  • Home Before Dark on Apple TV+: An amazing young cast, killer soundtrack and intriguing mystery make this show very compelling to watch.
  • Killing Eve season 3 on BBC America
  • Trapped: The Alex Cooper Story (Hoopla): Film version of Alex’s memoir Saving Alex about the 6 months her parents forced her into conversion therapy when she told them she was gay. Definitely an important watch, as conversion therapy for minors is still legal in 30 states.
  • I Am Not Ok With This on Netflix
  • What We Do in the Shadows season 2 Hulu (Watch the movie on Hoopla or Kanopy)
  • NOS4A2 on Hulu based on the book. (Listen to the book on Hoopla.)

Liz

Kim

  • Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  My favorite read of quarantine. Maybe of the year so far? Shapiro is a well-established, proudly Jewish author. She takes a DNA test on a whim, and everything changes. She is launched on a journey to discover the truth about her existence. This memoir (as are her others) is sweet, delicate, loving, and ever so eloquent. I loved learning about her family memories, DNA testing, and the factors that convalesced to bring Shapiro into being. I highly recommend this title.
  • Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): What a fascinating, and often upsetting, book. Kolker tells the story of the Galvin family as they grew up in the 1970s. There are twelve children, by itself a distinguishable characteristic. But that’s not the story: six of the children are diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book jumps back and forth a bit, but overall it’s a very compelling story about mental health and family dynamics.
  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King (Read it or listen to it on Overdrive.  Read it on Hoopla).:   I really enjoyed this novel about an aspiring writing set in Cambridge. It felt like a believable and honest portrayal of a young woman aging and finding her footing.
  • Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz  (Listen to it on Overdrive.): This book was a truly enjoyable read in which I learned a good amount about my canine companion’s biology and senses.
  • Setting the Table by Danny Meyer (Read it on Overdrive.  Read or listen to it on Hoopla):  Had some issues with the self-congratulatory narrative of this book. There’s no real acknowledgement of the author’s privilege, which struck me as odd and unfortunate. However, Meyer’s thoughts on hospitality are good, and they are buried throughout the memoir. I would’ve preferred digesting those bits in a listicle.
  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Okay. Not previously a Jessica Simpson fan (still not), but that’s not why I picked this memoir up. I just kept hearing how good, open, and honest this audiobook was (and it lived up to that!). Simpson spills the tea on a lot of pop culture moments I vaguely remember but enjoyed hearing about. She is open about her abuse, addiction, family troubles, and the national body shaming she endured before/during/after her career. It was a perfectly mindless kind of read overall, definitely a great distraction. I recommend the audiobook. Also, turns out my dislike of John Mayer is justified!
  • You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  I did not enjoy this book as much as I’ve enjoyed their other books. It felt somewhat formulaic (for them). The suspense built for SO LONG, but was all resolved within a few pages and it didn’t feel satisfying.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Finally finished rereading this treasure. I can’t say anything more about it than that it is worth your time.
  • The Suspect by Kent Alexander (Read it on Hoopla.): This is a great read about how the media ran wild with a suspect in the Olympic bombing in Atlanta in the 90’s. It was very well written and engaging, but never refrains from sensationalizing the events like a certain movie about the same topic (Richard Jewell). In fact, you probably won’t recognize this story if you only saw that movie!
  • The Witches are Coming by Lindy West (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This collection of essays were well enjoyed. Part call-to-action, part-memoir…always written with candor and often with humor. My partner and I loved this book so much…in fact, he asked to listen to her other book, Shrill, immediately upon completing this audiobook.
  • Shrill by Lindy West  (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This was my second time reading this memoir and I loved it just as much. I find West’s voice to be so clear, she just gets to the point and doesn’t suffer fools. I highly recommend both of her books listed here, as well as the TV adaptation of this memoir!
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.):  I was nervous about this book because I’d heard the buzz for so long, but found myself having a hard time getting invested. All of a sudden 70 pages in, I was hooked. I thought I knew where some of the story was going, but I didn’t. I loved not being able to see what the reveal was going to be ahead of time. I liked this much more than I liked Everything I Never Told You. If you’re one of the few that hasn’t already read this and binged the adaptation on Hulu, why not pick it up now? It’s available on Libby/Overdrive!
  • The Last Dance (ESPN)
  • Normal People (Hulu) (Read or listen to the book on Overdrive.)
  • The King (Netflix)
  • What We Do in the Shadows (season 1 on Hulu) (Watch the movie on Hoopla or Kanopy)

Mary V.

  • Decent Inn of Death by Rennie Airth: When the church organist falls to her death in a stream on her way home, it is thought to be an accident. However, her friend and housemate doesn’t believe it. Enter former Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair who is visiting friends near Winchester. He looks into the tragedy and follows a circuitous route to discover answers.
  • Long Range by C J Box (Read it on Overdrive.): This is the newest Joe Pickett novel. Joe must help his best friend Nate Romanowski who is being targeted by a vengeful group of terrorists who want to kill Nate, his wife and infant daughter.
  • Sins of Two Fathers by Denis Hamill: The lives of two fathers cross paths many years ago. Now, one of the fathers wants to avenge his son who was sent to prison for something that he didn’t do by conspiring to send the son of the second father to prison for something he didn’t do. I think this is a very good story about the consequences of alcoholism and how alcohol can destroy families. However, none of the characters in this book can utter a sentence that isn’t laced with profanity. I detest profanity and I found the endless stream of profanity distasteful.
  • Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This is a sweet story about a teenager who is obviously autistic although that word is never used. A neighbor’s dog is killed during the night and Chris Boone is determined to find the culprit. He has limited resources but immense determination.
  • Tenant For Death by Cyril Hare: This novel was written in 1937. London financier Lionel Barrymore is found strangled. Mr.  Barrymore was involved in a financial scandal. So, suspicions fall on those involved in the scandal. However, there are many other suspects who have motives for disposing of  the very unpopular Mr. Ballantine.

Amber

  • Vegetables Illustrated by America’s Test Kitchen (Read this on Overdrive.): When I bought this book nearly a year ago I had no idea how much I would come to rely on it. A few weeks ago I subscribed to a vegetable delivery service. Similar in nature to a CSA, the options provided are what’s in season and what’s available that specific week so, basically, you get what you get and you don’t get upset! The vegetables in the book are organized alphabetically and there are recipes for each vegetable ranging from appetizers (parsnip hummus) to desserts  (carrot cake). What I especially love about this book is the background provided, including information on how to properly store and prep each vegetable.
  • Jazz Festing in Place on WWOZ New Orleans: The annual New Orleans Jazz Fest, scheduled to take place over two weeks in April and May, was obviously canceled this year. The local independent radio station instead held Festing in Place: full days of performances spanning the history of the festival’s 50 years in existence. The lineup included truly out-of-this world performances such as Ella Fitzgerald with surprise guest Stevie Wonder and an emotional performance from Bruce Springsteen performing with the Seeger Sessions Band the year after Katrina. WWOZ provides a two-week on-demand archive of their streaming content so, as of this writing (May 6), there is still time to go back and have a listen.
  • Homeland Season 8 (Previous seasons. Read the e-book on Hoopla) : This is the final season of the CIA spy drama starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin. Although I’ve watched the show since the beginning (2011, how is that possible??) I haven’t been as excited about the show in recent seasons because, to me, it required a bit too much suspension of disbelief and I didn’t think the writing was as sharp as it was in the first season or two. However, the show really was in top form for its final run and I found myself on the edge of my seat during several episodes. When we discovered Showtime was only available for free during April (and we were two or three episodes from finishing) we promptly subscribed.
  • BoschSeason 6 : Based on novels by Michael Connelly, the sixth season of this American detective show recently returned to Amazon Prime. Similarly to Homeland, I felt that though the show had drifted off the rails in past seasons, the current season was a return to form. I also think Titus Welliver is amazing and would likely watch him in just about anything.
  • Scott & Bailey (Watch it on Hoopla): This smart British detective series featuring strong female characters was written by Sally Wainwright, the writer of Happy Valley (also featuring strong female characters). Though the show focuses on the murders that Detectives Scott and Bailey must solve, the characters are  given subplots that add to the drama.
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: I rarely watch anything on network tv (and have actually just canceled my cable subscription) and it’s even more unlikely that I watch a network show live, but this show was worth every single ‘we’re all in this together’ commercial I had to endure. The show focuses on Zoey, a  computer coder in San Francisco, and how her life changes after an MRI gone awry enables her to hear people’s thoughts in song. The musical numbers are spectacular, the writing is razor sharp, and I really can’t say enough about this show. I loved it so much I am going to rewatch every episode until the cable technician comes to take away the cable box (which is on hold because of the current situation).

Molly

Laura

  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (Read it on Overdrive. Read it on Hoopla): I was excited that Alvarez, one of my favorite authors, wrote a new novel and it did not disappoint.  Come discuss this book at the June 25 meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • Dig by A.S. King (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This mysterious and beautiful novel focusing on multiple points of view of various teenagers covers a lot including white privilege, violence against women, and long time secrets all surrounding a typical, or not so typical family.
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): Woodson’s lyrical writing gives great life to Melody and her family as they explore what it means to be black and how it defines their identities.  Whether Woodson is writing in verse of prose (as she does here), I love her beautiful writing style.
  • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): This is the true story of a family, namely the family of transgender actress, Nicole Maines.  In addition to Nicole and her family’s story, there is a lot of context and history.  I’ve been recommending this book to everyone I know.
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman, read by the author (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla.): I enjoyed Gaiman’s witty take on a scary tale featuring a very resourceful and smart girl.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • From the Corner of the Oval by Becky Dorey-Stein, read by the author (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.): I expected a bit more from this memoir of an Obama White House stenographer.  Instead of an insider’s take on what it’s really like to work in the White House, a lot of the book seemed to be about the writer’s unhealthy relationship with a fellow staffer.
  • Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson, read by Perdita Weeks and John Sackville (Read or listen to it on Overdrive.  Read or listen to it on Hoopla): Back and forth tale using Frankenstein as a base.  I found it interesting and thoughtful though I don’t think audio was the best way to experience the novel.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui, read by Soneela Nankai (Read or listen to it on Overdrive. Read or listen to it on Hoopla.): This bittersweet, descriptive novel is about Pival, a woman traveling to the United States and her two travel companions, Satya and Rebecca.  Pival is in search of, and coming to terms with, her son, Rahi.  This book was the topic for a previous meeting of the Virtual Book Club.
  • Big Little Lies (show): I had read and enjoyed this book a few years ago but had been holding off on watching the television adaptation until now.  I was intrigued how the story would go beyond a first season, when it ran out of source material.  The second season was a little over the top, but I still enjoyed it.  I also appreciated that the characters of Bonnie and Renata were a lot more developed as characters than they were in the novel.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Watch it on Kanopy): This is a heartbreaking movie about the friendship between Jimmie and Mont and Jimmie’s attempt to reclaim the house that he claims his grandfather built in a now gentrified neighborhood.
  • I’ve been doing some re-watches of old favorites, some of which have aged better than others:
    • Dallas: This show had already not aged well when I first binge watched it back in the late 1990’s.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it hadn’t aged well by the time the show ended in 1991.  Yet, I still love it.  Secret confession time: a part of me wanted to be a Ewing grandchild.  I liked the idea of going to a wedding in which someone was going to get pushed into a pool.
    • The X-Files: Mulder and Scully forever!  Some of the episodes are great and some are a bit miss, but the chemistry of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is still off the charts.  The episode, “F. Emasculata” about a disease outbreak and public health concern rings a little too true, right now.
    • The Golden Girls: While there are definitely elements to this show that are a product of its time, this show was ahead of the curve in so many ways and, with the exception of some episodes, still plays well.  A lot of the jokes still land and I love that the women on this show, all of whom are senior citizens, are vibrant and proud of their sexuality.

Staff Favorite Videos on Hoopla, Kanopy, and Mango

Hoopla Logo Kanopy Logo Mango Languages Logo
Did you know that as a Waltham resident, you have access to three different video streaming services through the library?  Our subscriptions to Hoopla, Kanopy, and Mango Languages allow our patrons to watch a variety of content on your computers, phones, tablets, and televisions at no charge.  There is a lot of content and it can get a little overwhelming so here are some suggestions of what our staff have enjoyed through these services. If you need help using these services, please send an e-mail to lbernheim@minlib.net.
For more suggestions from our staff, please read our last “Staff Reads” post or review our “Staff Favorite Podcasts

Kate

  • What We Do in the Shadows, available on both Hoopla and Kanopy

Ashley

Laura

  • Clue (Kanopy): This is one of my favorite movies.  I’m so excited that it’s available for free to our patrons!  There are so many good lines.  “Communism is just a red herring”  “It flames, flames, on the side of my face.”  I could go on and on and on.
  • Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Kanopy): I have a bit of a bias, I admit, but I loved learning more about this famous institution.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Kanopy): Jimmie acquaints himself with the large house that his grandfather built in San Francisco and goes on a journey of self discovery.
  • You Can Count on Me (Kanopy): Quiet and touchingly funny movie about the relationship between an adult brother and sister.
  • The Virgin Suicides (Kanopy): So haunting and lovely.
  • Big Night (Kanopy): Warning!  You’ll be very hungry at the end of this movie.
  • The Farewell (Kanopy): Great showcase for Awkafina, who I first saw in Crazy Rich Asians. 
  • Moonlight (Kanopy): Coming of age film that won the Best Picture Oscar.
  • The Great British Baking Show (Hoopla): This is the nicest reality show ever made.
  • Call the Midwife (Hoopla): This British import makes me cry every episode and I just love it.
  • Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway (Hoopla): While theater lights are dark, enjoy this documentary about the Broadway smash hit.
  • Frida (Hoopla): Salma Hayek is great in this biopic.
  • Bride and Prejudice (Hoopla): Very fun Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice. 
  • Viva Cuba (Mango Languages): Beautiful movie about the forbidden friendship of two young children.

Luke

Dana

I’ve been spending most of my time using Kanopy Kids these last few weeks. It’s great because it has some of my son’s favorites like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and even new-to-us titles featuring favorite characters, like The Miffy Movie. Also in heavy rotation are Wild Kratts and Franklin, which makes me feel nostalgic for the 90s.

Though I haven’t been using Hoopla much, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see so many of my favorite titles. For books: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, and 1984 by George Orwell. For movies: 13 Going on 30 and RBG! And I was amazed to see Spectrum by Westlife available under music – my favorite band from my youth and their glorious newest album!

Dana’s recap:

National Park Week April 18 – 26

It’s National Park Week!  I have been very lucky and have had the pleasure of visiting a small number of our many National Parks, including Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  That doesn’t even cover the National Parks and Historic Sites that we’re lucky to have in our state, including the beautiful Cape Cod National Seashore.  Visiting a National Park in person is not an option right now, so please enjoy this guide featuring a variety of online resources and do some “visiting”.

  • National Park Service and National Park Foundation
    The National Park Service (NPS) and National Park Foundation are amazing resources and have put together a lot of great initiatives so you can enjoy the National Parks from the comfort of your home.
    • Earth Day Digital Celebration
      April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.  The National Parks has created a lot of videos and activities in order to celebrate.  Here are my two favorite guides:
    • “Parked at Home” Initiative
      • Junior Ranger Online Program: Those who have visited National Parks with young children may have had the pleasure of participating in the Junior Ranger program.  I highly recommend it as its informative and fun for the adults just as much as the kids.  A few years ago, my young travel companion held the distinction of being the first “Junior Ranger” of the season at the Boston Harbor Islands and the actual ranger made a big announcement to others at the visitor center to a huge round of applause.  
      • Distance Learning: Great resources for teachers who are teaching via virtual classrooms or for parents looking for some ideas for home schooling.  Even those of us who are neither teachers or parents can find something to learn.
    • Virtual Visits to a National Park
      Though nothing beats an in person visit to these amazing landmarks, these still photos and web cams are the next best thing.  Here are a few I’ve been enjoying:
      • Yellowstone live webcams: In addition to Old Faithful, “visitors” can view the various entrances to the park, different views of Mount Washburn, and the Mammoth Hot Springs.
      • Grand Canyon Tour with Elmo and Murray from Sesame Street: These Youtube videos featuring Grand Canyon Park Ranger, Amala, teaching the two Muppets about the features of the park, are very sweet.
      • Channel Islands National Park Tour with Jordan Fisher: Actor Jordan Fisher, best known for co-starring in the live productions of Grease and Rent, gives visitors a brief look at this California National Park.  Of the three I mentioned here, this was the one I had not visited (or knew) so I really appreciated it.
    • Massachusetts National Parks
      When the COVID-19 crisis is behind us, you’ll be able to satisfy your National Park itch by not traveling far.  We’re lucky in this state to be home to 15 National Parks, 5 National Heritage Areas, 3 National Trails, and 189 National Historic Landmarks!  Here are some of the highlights that you can enjoy from home:

posted by Laura

Waltham Public Library Virtual Book Club Meetings

Frankisstein
We are pleased to announce Virtual Book Club Meetings from the Waltham Public Library! If you’re looking for some respite while you’re in quarantine, please join us virtually as we discuss books that are available through our online subscription to Hoopla.
If you’re interested in “attending” any of these meetings, please e-mail Laura at lbernheim@minlib.net for the meeting link.
Please note: All in person book club meetings are suspended until further notice.  Please continue to look in this space as we add virtual meetings.

  • Monday, April 27, 7:00 pm: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • Thursday, April 30, 7:00 pm: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
  • Saturday, May 2, 10:00 am: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
  • Monday, May 18, 7:00 pm: Share what you’re reading!
  • Tuesday, May 26, 7:00 pm: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • Thursday, May 28, 7:00 pm: New Kid by Jerry Craft
  • Monday, June 8, 7:00 pm: I’m Spiritual, Dammit by Jennifer Weigel
  • Saturday, June 13, 10:00 amNews of the World by Paulette Jiles
  • Monday, June 22, 7:00 pm: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
  • Thursday, June 25, 7:00 pmAfterlife by Julia Alvarez

Staff Favorite Podcasts

podcast symbol

Our staff love podcasts of all different types and opinions. Please read below to get a list of what some of our staff have been enjoying. Want to see more staff suggestions? Read the latest edition of “Staff Reads”.

Dana

Laura

  • Love Letters: The podcast version of the Meredith Goldstein column
  • Keep ItSocial commentary on pop culture and society
  • Awesome EtiquetteFun look at modern manners from the descendants of Emily Post.
  • Out on the LanaiAnalyzing every episode of The Golden Girls!
  • The Book ReviewInterviews with authors featured in that week’s New York Times Book Review
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class: Goes into depth about topics of which you may only know a capsule, including the flu epidemic of 1918.
  • Ewing BarbecueGen Xers watching Dallas!
  • For HarrietThoughts from Kimberly Foster about pop culture and news affecting the African-American community.
  • Musical Hell: “Diva” gives sentences in her court to some of the worst offenders when it comes to movie musicals.

Greg

  • Lore by Aaron Mahnke: My personal favorite. He looks over folktales, mysteries and historical events throughout the world, and explains how they’ve impacted modern day culture. Also, he’s a Massachusetts local, so while he explores all sorts of stories it’s New England tales that really get to shine.

Kate

Tessa

Louise

Todd

Molly

Luke

Kim

  • Pod Save America, Pod Save the World, Lovett or Leave It:  (My household) loves Crooked Media and these three pods are mainstays- Jon, Jon, and Tommy are involved in 1 or more of these 3. The pods are varying levels of seriousness with humor. Lovett is pure fun though it is news related, Pod Save America is more serious and in-depth discussions about current events revolving around US politics but still with some humor. PSTW is by far the most serious of the three and it focuses on foreign affairs. Occasionally we listen to other pods by Crooked Media and I’d encourage you to check them out!
  • The Daily: Brief look at a big story to start your day. So good.
  • This American Life: About ten years ago I went through their archives and listened to every.single.episode. It was before podcasts were really a thing, (I think of TAL as the OG pod) so there wasn’t as much out there. It took a while of course (it was about 600+ episodes at the time)but it was worth it. I particularly love stories from David Rakoff (RIP), David Sedaris, and Sara Vowell. They stick out in my memory, but Ira and his team always put out amazing stories. They connect dots you didn’t think to connect, and of course, pull on my heart strings. I don’t listen as regularly these days, instead bingeing it now and then to catch up, but it always feels like home. You can still find all of their archives on their site.
  • Monster: DC Sniper
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

Ashley

  • 99% Invisible: All about design, why things are the way they are.  Excellent episodes include “Ten Thousand Years”, “Weeding is Fundamental” and “The Great Bitter Lake Association”
  • Criminal: A show all about crime, best intro episode “Ex Libris”
  • Spooked: Spooky ghost stories told by the people who experienced them. Are the stories real? I don’t know, but they’re definitely fun to listen to!
  • NancyAll things LGBT
  • Headlong: Surviving Y2K: An interesting look back at what people thought would happen NYE 1999.
  • Good Christian Fun: A discussion about contemporary Christian culture from the late 90s. Discussed from a evolved, progressive viewpoint, but with a fondness for the past.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Jenny Owen Youngs and Kristen Russo recap every episode, and Jenny (a musician) writes a song related to each episode.
  • Vernonica Mars InvestigationsJenny Owen Youngs and Helen Zaltzman recap each episode of Verónica Mars.
  • Vanity Fair Still WatchingI enjoyed their recaps of Westworld and Sharp Objects.

Emily

Seana

Grace

  • Last Podcast On The Left: Hilarious and meticulously researched, covering true crime and all things spooky. A bit loud, a bit raunchy, but very very funny.
  • My Favorite Murder: Two friends and comedians hang out and discuss cases. These two are down to earth, and have a looser feel to the format.
  • This Podcast Will Kill You: Two epidemiologists go over a different disease each episode, covering the biology as well as the history. Currently they have a six part series on Covid-19.
  • Bear Brook: Investigative podcast. A wild story about how a crime can be solved, even without knowing the identity of the victims. The people interviewed, investigators and townspeople are great characters, and the story is packed with twists and turns.

Lisa

Aaron

Amber

Liz

Take Me out, Er, Keep Me in to the Ballgame

This is the time of year that all of us baseball fans look forward to: Opening Day!  When last year’s last place team has the same win/loss record as the previous World Series winner.  When “Wait Til Next Year” is finally here!  It’s baseball time again, and, the last few years, we’ve been treated to it a little earlier than usual, in late March.  This year was to be no exception with Major League Baseball Opening Day scheduled for Thursday, March 26.  This year, however, Major League Baseball did the right and responsible thing by delaying the start of the season so that all of us can stay safe and healthy.  That doesn’t mean, though that we won’t miss our annual spring ritual so I present to you online options to tide you over until the start of baseball season.

posted by Laura

Staff Reads Late March 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Mary V.

  • The Babe Ruth Deception by David O Stewart: This book was so boring, I stopped reading half way through it.
  • Woman on the Edge by Samantha M Bailey (Read it on Overdrive): This book was excellent for this author’s debut novel. A woman is standing on a subway platform when a disheveled young woman thrusts her baby into the stranger’s arms, asks her to take care of her baby and jumps to her death in front of an oncoming train.  Witnesses do not corroborate the stranger’s story and she is accused of pushing the young woman because she wanted a baby.
  • Burn Boston Burn by Wayne Miller: This is an arson investigator’s  tale of an arson ring in Boston between 1982 and 1984. This group of arsonists burned over 250 buildings in Boston and surrounding towns before they were stopped. I lived in Boston at the time and have a very limited memory of it. I do remember leaving my condo in the middle of the night and going to my brother’s condo until the next morning. It was a dumpster fire that was mentioned in the book.
  • Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (Listen to it on Hoopla or Overdrive. Read it on Overdrive) :  An antiquarian bookseller on Beacon Hill wrote a blog listing 8 books which had perfect murders. Now, years later someone is trying to replicate all 8 murders. This book was very entertaining if not very well written.

Dana

Amber

  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King (Read it on Hoopla or Overdrive.  Listen to it on Overdrive.): I couldn’t put this down. Set in Cambridge, MA in the late 90s, this novel is about a young woman reeling from the death of her mother while trying to make it as a writer. The entire book is beautifully written and the final pages stayed with me for several days after finishing. Ms. King’s other books, including Euphoria, another favorite of mine, are also available via Hoopla
  • The Yellow House by Sarah Broom (Read it on Hoopla or Overdrive) : The story of Ms. Broom’s childhood home, a shotgun house in New Orleans East, this is an incredibly powerful story of one family’s history in an area not found on any tourist map of the Big Easy. There are no schools, hospitals, or grocery stores in this area of the city and many who were displaced during Katrina never returned. I finished this story just before visiting New Orleans and while there got to spend time with a life-long resident of the neighborhood which has no schools, hospitals, or grocery stores. Admittedly, I have a deep interest in all things NOLA-related, but this fascinating and moving story is a must-read for all. 
  • Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless by Raquel Pelzel (Read it on Hoopla): While this may not be an ideal time to try new recipes, this book (as well as Sheet Pan Suppers) is a great resource for all who are now cooking seven days a week. The recipes are easy to follow and easily adaptable with what might be on hand in the pantry. 
  • Sally’s Baking Addiction by Sally McKenney: (Read it on Hoopla): I’ve been following Sally’s blog for several years and many of these yummy desserts are bookmarked and made over and over again. 
  • Fodor’s travel books (Read them on Hoopla): Plan a “when this is over” trip or just enjoy armchair travel with an extensive variety of current editions. 

Debora

  • A Well Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler (Listen to it on Hoopla or Overdrive.  Read it on Overdrive): This one had me from the start for one very specific reason: the voice of Alva Vanderbilt. I loved right away her sarcasm, deadpan humor, and ability to see through the strict social constructs of her era. Based on the real life Alva Smith who married into Vanderbilt money to save her family from the poorhouse, this novel brings you into the world of the Gilded Age elite and their eye popping money and lifestyle. WK Vanderbilt has money but no reputation; Alva has reputation but no money – their marriage is a match to meet both their needs. Through Alva, you learn of her interest in architecture, her endless work to win respect for the Vanderbilt name, her empathy for those without means, and her work as a suffragette. She even gets love in the end. A very satisfying read for fans of Jane Austen. 
  • The Light Over London by Julia Kelly (Read it or Listen to it on Overdrive): Yay: Another WWII era novel! Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever tire of immersing myself in this particular era. The answer is apparently not. This novel has 2 time periods – present day and 1941 England. Not surprisingly, I found the WWII story line of Louise Keene, a young woman who joins an anti-aircraft gun unit, more compelling than the present day story of antiques dealer Cara Hargraves. Louise is scrappy and brave and defies her parents and small town to help the war effort and fall in love with someone of her own choosing – a choice that ultimately turns out to be a bad one. Cara’s job is to unravel the story for us while learning about herself along the way. 

John (and family)

Laura

  • Sunny by Jason Reynolds (Read or listen to this on Overdrive): This was my favorite of the Track series so far.  Sunny is a great protagonist.  Listen to the audiobook and be treated to an interview with Jason Reynolds and narrator, Guy Lockard talk about the real life “Sunnys” they encountered as children.
  • The Resisters by Gish Jen (Read or listen to this in Overdrive): In the not so distant dystopian future, baseball provides an instrument of rebellion for Gwen and her parents.  A strong sense of place and lots of rapid dialogue.
  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi (Read or listen to this on Hoopla.  Read or listen to this on Overdrive.): Fabiola and her mother are flying from Haiti to live with relatives in Detroit when her mother is detained, forcing Fabiola to go alone to her aunt and cousins’ home.  This was a great own voices book and really brings the reader into Fabiola’s situation.
  • This Side of Home by Renee Watson (Read this on Overdrive) : Maya is entering her senior year as she faces drifting apart from her identical twin sister, her best friend moving away, gentrification, publicity for her school for the wrong reasons, a surprising romance, and a new and misguided principal.  Short chapters make for a quick read, but don’t let the pace fool you.  There are a lot of characters that are well developed and the Portland, OR neighborhood setting is a character itself.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel (Put a hold on the e-book or audiobook on Overdrive for when it’s released digitally): I’ve been thinking of Emily St. John Mandel, lately, given her last title, Station Eleven, seems strangely relevant, now.  Her latest has a very different premise but is still full of the same beautiful lyrical writing and mysterious and layered characters.  A great read for socially isolating.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read by Carolyn Seymour (Read or listen to various versions of this on Overdrive.  Read or listen to various version of this on Hoopla.): I’ve been revisiting a lot of classics that I read (or never got around to) via audiobook, and this is my latest.  Seymour’s narration brings the characters alive, especially Mrs. Bennett.  Next up on my read pile are some modern spins on this story, Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin and Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft (Read or listen to this on Hoopla.  Read or listen to this on Overdrive): Charming and realistic graphic novel about Jordan, a budding artist, as he navigates his new private school while being one of the few African-Americans in the school.  His side bars, featuring “Jordan’s” drawings that comment on his situation are equally powerful and hilarious.  I loved this book!
  • Professional Book Nerds Podcast from Overdrive: I mentioned this podcast in a previous “Staff Reads” but I wanted to give them another shout out.  What’s great about these is that they’re always available!  You can listen to them via the Overdrive website or through your Libby by Overdrive app.  Episodes that I’ve downloaded are “Interview with Jasmine Guillory”, “Interview with Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen”, and “The Professional Book Nerds’ Best Books of 2018”.

Marie

Seana

Luke

Casey

Louise

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm: I have been watching Larry David’s Hilarious Series, Curb Your Enthusiasm Seasons 1-9 Larry’s hijinx make me laugh and I love seeing all of the characters and his fellow comedian friends. If you need to laugh, I recommend this with a great deal of enthusiasm!
  • Weather by Jenny Offill (Read or listen to it on Overdrive): This is a delightful, quirky and witty novel. Jenny Offill knows how to create characters and her writing style is unique, fun and quietly brilliant.
  • The Carol Burnett Show (Listen to Carol Burnett sing on Hoopla): What a delightful show! Very funny. When I was much younger, I watched this show in black and white. I am really enjoying the full color version! Recommended if you like to laugh so hard that your stomach hurts!
  • Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of a Buddha by Tara Brach (Listen to it on Hoopla): Tara Brach is a meditator, a teacher and a psychologist and she has a very compassionate and loving approach that can be useful to anyone.
  • Priceless: Hors De Prix (Watch this on Kanopy): This is a charming romantic comedy about a young woman who longs to be rich and the not rich hotel employee who becomes hopelessly smitten. French with subtitles.
  • Cafe Society: A visually rich romantic comedy about 1930’s Hollywood ‘cafe society’, gangsters, and New York nightclubs. Screenplay and narration by Woody Allen.

Ashley

  • Emma (2020): Cute comedy. Bill Nighy! I can’t get over the fact the actress playing Emma wasn’t even alive yet back in 1996 when the last one came out, which you can watch on Hoopla
  • The Book of Etta by Meg Elison: Sequel to The Unnamed Midwife, which I LOVED. This one? Kind of boring.
  • A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCright: I feel like the author was inspired by Big Little Lies. It took awhile for me to get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Cursed Coven: Second in a series of middle grade graphic novels, starring a young Buffy Summers. These are ADORABLE! 
  • The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner: Another enjoyable thriller.
  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James (Read or listen to it on Overdrive): This was a haunting story about a girl searching for the aunt who disappeared over 30 years ago, told in both perspectives, from the aunt in the eighties, and her niece in the present day as they both work at the same creepy motel. Definitely a satisfying mystery. 
  • Westworld, Season 3
  • American Horror Story, 1984: Are you a fan of American Horror Story? Read about what happens behind the scenes in Hoopla

Staff Reads — March 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Dana: 

  • The Last Town on Earth, by Thomas Mullen: This book grabbed me immediately and didn’t let go until it ended. I may have even exaggerated a headache during the holidays so that I could stay in my room and read it – it was that good. The book takes place in the fall of 1918, and is set in a fictional town in Washington state that quarantines itself from outsiders in an attempt to avoid the Spanish flu. It also touches on World War One and labor strikes of 1916, so it was a gold mine for a history nerd like me.
  • More Deadly than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War, by Kenneth Harris: After reading The Last Town on Earth, I realized I know very little about the Spanish flu. This book gives a good overview of what the flu was like and how it spread, and also goes into the context of the war, and the times in general.
  • Hardcore Anxiety: A Graphic Guide to Punk Rock and Mental Health, by Reid Chancellor: This is a graphic memoir about Chancellor’s struggles with anxiety, his experiences attending and playing in punk shows, and how the two often overlapped. Sprinkled throughout are short histories of famous punk bands and how anxiety and mental illness contributed to their lives and music.
  • The Man Who Saw Everything, by Deborah Levy: I came so close to abandoning this book; I have little patience these days for works of literary fiction that feel like the author was trying too hard. Before giving up, I started skimming and got hooked when I realized the plot wasn’t as it seemed and I really wanted to know what was going on. If you like books with unreliable narrators and/or literary fiction dripping with symbolism that would make AP English teachers swoon, this might be a book for you!
  • F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me, by Chloe Hilliard: I have to admit that the title is what drew me to this book! That, and a review on the Book Riot site. I didn’t know Hilliard before reading it, but I really enjoyed her writing style and sense of humor. The book is a collection of autobiographical essays touching on race, feminism, and body image, with facts about various topics adding context to Hilliard’s experiences.

Liz

Aaron

  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: Funny and fearsome. I loved getting to know Marji and her large, small rebellions. Satrapi’s reminder that a nation’s people, culture, and history are infinitely more nuanced than whatever narrative may be in the news remains relevant, even urgent.
  • Once More to the Rodeo by Calvin Hennick: It’s On the Road but instead of Dean Moriarty, our narrator has bundled his biracial 5-year-old into a rental car and they’re driving from Boston to his hometown of Maxwell, Iowa. And instead of jazz-induced revelries and late night parties, it’s fast food stops on the interstate and an occasional tantrum. OK, it’s not much like On the Road except that Hennick, our Sal Paradise, is a sensitive, lyric narrator driving us through perilous yet heartfelt observations of what it means to be a father and what it means to parent a young black boy in America. There are no answers, but the road once again lends itself to insight and imagination. I enjoyed this journey.
  • This podcast was excruciating to listen to; I hung on every word. The true story of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling’s abduction had haunted my home state of Minnesota–and myself, 7 years old when Jacob disappeared–for nearly 27 years. The man who eventually confessed to kidnapping and murdering Jacob was an early suspect in the case and lived in a neighboring town the whole time. Why did the case take so long to solve? This podcast investigates the investigators and provides an unrelenting narrative of their mistakes. I listened, sometimes yelling at them, in my car. I’m grateful to journalist Madeleine Baran who courageously pursued the truth that I and so many Minnesotans sought.
  • Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan: My 17-month-old son loved sharing this book before bedtime and hooted at the titular owl throughout. Myself, I never quite grasped the plot. The seemingly poetic details seduced me into thinking that something was happening, but no, nothing was happening. Suddenly, it’s morning in the story and what just happened?! Dawn is confirmation that readership matters; this story is for my son who values above all a good hoot.

Laura

Louise

  • Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs: An entertaining work of nonfiction that feels like fiction. Mr. Burroughs claims to come from a long line of witches and in his usual witty fashion, explains how this works in his life.
  • Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown: A beautifully written novel that paints a picture of a Jewish family in the lower East Side of New York in the 1930s. The narration alternates between a mother and daughter, Rose and Dottie, and the difficulties that they are facing. What does one do about an unwanted pregnancy in a time when a woman can not hold on to a job when pregnant? How do different generations with different beliefs communicate and come to terms? Ms Brown presents us with a story of women facing tough choices and showing great strength as they do so.
  • Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat To The Craziest Campaign In American History by Katie Tur (book on CD): Katie Tur takes us through the insults, the sacrifice to her personal life and the threats to her own safety as a reporter during the Trump presidential campaign of 2016. She narrates the audiobook and her narration is excellent; lively and clear.
  • Gloria Bell on Kanopy: I love that this was available on our Kanopy streaming media platform. Gloria Bell is a divorced woman with two grown children who works in an insurance agency. She meets an intriguing man at a singles’ bar (played to perfection by John Turturro) and they start a relationship. Her partner has some very heavy baggage from his former marriage and Gloria has to figure out what to do as things develop. The scene in Las Vegas is not to be missed. I don’t want to give any spoilers here so suffice it to say, this movie is fabulous.
  • American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis: Winner of Library Journal’s Best Women’s Fiction and Library Reads Favorites 2016, these stories pack a wallop. From the most unusual book group ever, to feuding neighbors, to a hilarious reality television show, to ‘proper’ Southern ladies’ code, you will find yourself laughing out loud. Interesting note: Helen Ellis is also a professional poker player.
  • The Room-mating Season by Rona Jaffee: I used to read Rona Jaffee novels when I was in my twenties. Class Reunion was a personal favorite of mine. The Room-mating Season did not disappoint. Think of Sex And The City except it starts in the late 1950’s and takes you through to the early 2000s. Three roommates in New York City find love and work and have their share of heartaches and joy. A fun, light read that could be called an earlier version of chick lit before that term was popular.
  • The Devil In Jerusalem by Naomi Ragen: I love, love love Naomi Ragen. Her plot lines are so interesting. In this novel, we have a young married couple and their children who end up in a cult that is run by someone who is very mesmerizing and also very unsavory. You will be on the edge of your seat all through this novel.
  • The Tenth Song by Naomi Ragen: Another fabulous Naomi Ragen novel with another intriguing story about a Brookline based family whose entire life is thrown into disarray when the head of the household, an accountant named Adam, is charged with aiding and abetting terrorists. He is taken away in front of all of his staff by people from the FBI and he has no idea what is going on. His wife and children, particularly his daughter Kyla, are totally shocked and their lives are thrown into disarray. Kyla is a student at Harvard Law School but begins to question everything about the life that she has been living to date where she has tried to please everyone at the expense of herself. Adam and Abigail, her parents are threatened with the loss of their reputations in the community and of everything they own.   Kyla impulsively leaves the country and goes to Israel where she finds a community that works on archeological digs and has a very simple lifestyle in the desert. Adam, who is in the middle of negotiating with lawyers who want him to take a plea bargain, begs his wife Abigail to head to Israel and see what is going on with his daughter. It turns out that Abigail also likes the community and she likes Daniel, the surgeon who Kyla seems to be attracted to. Desperate, Adam sends Kyla’s fiance to Israel as well to ‘rescue’ his brainwashed wife and daughter.   If I tell you anything more, we will need a spoiler alert. This is a riveting read that makes us wonder about what is really important in life when all is said and done.
  • Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter: This is a beautifully written novel about Evie, who is raised on Winter Island, off the Southern coast of California. Her mother disappears for years at a time, reemerging at random. Her father is loving but he is also a hopeless addict so Evie often has to fend for herself. At the start of this novel, Evie is about to get married to her fiance, Liam. Her mother has arrived for the wedding and Evie is having mixed feelings about her mother’s presence.   This novel is lovely and the descriptions of the island are captivating.
    This is Van Meter’s first novel and one can expect more great writing from her in the future.  
  • The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins: I am listening to this in audio format and I was gripped from the very beginning. Excellent narration, a compelling story line, fabulous characterization. There is romance, mystery, angst, a comical hypochondriac, a likable narrator; in short, everything one could want from a novel. 
  • Evicted: Poverty And Profit In The American City by Matthew Desmond: This book reads like fiction which is my highest praise for non fiction. The cycle of poverty that is driven by evictions in Milwaukee’s poorer neighborhoods, the hopeless situations faced by those who simply can not get their heads above water, is examined through the lives of real people who we get to know and care about. Desmond’s extensive research is very impressive and one hopes that there will be some new legislation and housing vouchers to help people to be able to live with dignity and feed their children rather than feeding all of their money into housing and not have enough leftover to live their lives.
    Desmond spent time with all of the people in this book and got to know them. We meet Arleen, the mother of two small boys, Larraine who lives in a trailer park but can not make ends meet, Scott a former nurse who lives in the trailer park after losing his job from drug abuse, Shereena, a landlord who is getting rich off of the tenants she serves and several other people whose lives are so difficult and chaotic due to poverty. Desmond points out that in Milwaukee, it is often the women who deal with the evictions while the men are often incarcerated. This book is well worth reading. 
  • Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: This is a great book and a great audiobook. Trevor Noah is a natural born storyteller and his childhood in South Africa is not to be missed. Noah’s sense of timing and story is impeccable and his strong spirit and sense of humor make this a great read that you will want to share with your friends
  • Becoming Eve: My Journey From Ultraorthodox Rabbi To Transgender Woman by Abby Stein: I am reading this book now and have loved it from page one. Abby grew up as a Hassidic Jewish boy but knew from a young age that she was really a girl. This book takes us through the difficult process of trying to follow the rules of her religion but knowing that they did not really apply in her case. 

Mary V.

  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling: This story is about a young model who falls from the roof of her building. The police deem it a suicide, but the victim’s brother wants the detective to investigate because he thinks that it is murder. I finished the book but I thought that it was very tedious. I wasn’t really interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This is the first book in a series and the last one that I am going to read.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate:  I had not heard of this book. It was in the book drop. There are two little girls on the cover, so I assumed the story was about sisters. It was a devastating story about five siblings who were kidnapped and brought to  the Tennessee children’s Home. They were caught  in a baby stealing and baby selling ring. I identified with twelve year old Rill who was the oldest of the five children. When I was twelve, I had four younger siblings who were similar ages to Rill’s siblings. Rill tries very hard to keep the five of them together, but she is still a child. This tale takes place in 1939 and there is another story which takes place in 2017. I tried to figure the connection between the two stories, but I did like how them came together.
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger: I thought that this was the latest book in the Corcoran O’connor series. It’s not. It is a stand alone novel about young teens who are in an Indian Training school during the great depression and very similar to “Before We Were Yours” . Three teens escape with a six year old orphan and have adventures that children should not have to experience.
  • Blue Moon by Lee Child: This is the newest Jack Reacher book. I liked almost all of the Jack Reacher tales, but not  this one because it was exceptionally violent.
  • Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond: This is a book about Georgia Tann, the infamous director of the Tennessee Children’s Home who was a character in “Before We Were Yours”. It is incredible how she was able to steal children and sell them to the highest bidder. She preyed on the poor and uneducated people of Tennessee. I was amazed at the number of people who aided and abetted her from 1923 – 1950. She died just as the scandal was breaking in 1950.
  • Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate:  When Lisa Wingate was promoting her new book “Before We Were Yours” in 2017, she was contacted by many victims of Georgia Tann. She collaborated with Judy Christie who is a journalist. They interviewed dozens of adults who had been in the clutches of Georgia Tan when they were babies or small children. They planned a reunion for the victims to meet in Tennessee. These are their stories.
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: This is the story of a man who was born into slavery. His father was the slave owner who impregnated his mother. His mother was torn from him when he was very young, so he has no clear memory of her. When he is a young adult, he becomes involved with Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad. This novel gives a very good description of how the underground railroad operated.
  • The Night Visitors by Carol Goodman:  Mattie Lane, a 59 year old social worker in upstate New York, is called in the middle of the night to go to the bus station and help a young woman and a ten year old boy who are escaping domestic violence. Although, she should take them to a shelter, Mattie breaks protocol and takes them to her home. Both Mattie and the young woman are keeping secrets. As they try to weather a  blizzard and other threats, they form an uneasy alliance.

Kerry

  • My husband and I recently watched The Game Changers. Produced by James Cameron, it features athletes, scientists and firefighters in NYC all adapting to a plant based diet. Did you know that even the Gladiators were thought to be plant based? We took the same 7 day challenge that the firefighters took in the film. That was nearly a month ago and I have to say I’m sold. I highly recommend this documentary! Find it on Netflix by checking out one of our Rokus!

Casey

Debora

  • The Summer Country by Lauren Willig: This novel is set in Barbados and alternates between two time periods – 1812 and 1854 – the earlier date during slavery, the later date after it’s abolished. Richly engrossing and suspenseful, the storyline threads are elegantly woven until finally the reader has the whole picture at the end. In 1854, British Emily inherits her grandfather’s Barbados plantation, only to find it in ruins when she visits with her cousin and his wife. Emily’s story is as much a discovery about herself as it is about the Peverills plantation. In the 1812 narrative, we learn the backstory of Peverills, the neighboring plantation, Beckles, and the people whose lives became intertwined. The ending is a satisfying surprise, but to me the 1812 love story seemed a reach.
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan: This novel is also set in Barbados and focuses on the fate of an enslaved boy whose life trajectory is altered forever when he’s taken under the wing of his master’s brother, Titch. It follows Wash and Titch from Barbados to the Arctic and eventually to England. The author doesn’t shy away from describing the brutality of slavery in her narrative. The writing is rich and beautiful.
  • Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg:  A story of female friendships old and new, with a fun road trip thrown in. This author never disappoints me.

Ashley

  • Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong: Kelley Armstrong has done it again, with another compulsively readable Rockton mystery. In this installment, we spend most of our time outside of Rockton, meeting new characters. However, some old favorites do pop up from time to time.The mystery kept me guessing, and I couldn’t put it down. I was also incredibly happy with the inclusion of a lesbian character. While I love her books, Kelley Armstrong’s novels tend to only have straight characters. If there have been other gay minor characters in any of her books, I’ve forgotten about them. I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
  • Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine: While I was hoping that the events at the end of Wolfhunter River would usher us, and Gwen into mysteries that are less personal, that didn’t happen. That being said, I still enjoyed it, it was fast paced and interesting,  and couldn’t put it down.
  • Little Women (2019): I liked some of the choices made in this adaptation, especially the way the necessity of ending up with a man was presented, as the professor has always felt an odd and out of place choice. However, the Masterpiece miniseries from 2018 may be my favorite.
  • On Becoming a God in Central Florida on Showtime: Set in the early nineties, this dark comedy stars Kirsten Dunst. When her husband is killed by an alligator, she takes over his multi level marketing business. I can’t stop watching.

Kim

  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore: The protagonist is a police officer, her estranged sister is an addict. Suddenly, women in her sister’s circle are being murdered. The protagonist can’t help but get involved and search for her sister. The novel employs flashback to provide context for these women to great effect. It’s a really well done and humanizing look at the opioid epidemic, single motherhood, and how trauma can spread in families. On top of all that, it maintains suspense as the protagonist tries to find the killer. This was simply an excellent read– it looks long, but you like it you’ll finish it quickly because you won’t want to put it down.
  • The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell: I finished this book in 2 sittings because I wanted to know how it unraveled but by the time it was done I was left with a “oh, that’s it?” feeling. Ultimately, I was unphased and felt it was only mildly creepy and lacked enough depth to feel impactful. If I had not been expecting a thriller, I may have liked it more overall.
  • Murder in the Bayou (Showtime): A docu-series based on a book that tells the stories of 8 women that disappeared from the same small town in Louisianna. It certainly doesn’t answer any questions, but hopefully generates enough interest for law-enforcement to re-examine the crimes.
  • Marriage Story: Heart-felt acting and unique storytelling combine to make a truly moving film.
  • Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan: I love real-life medical mysteries, and Cahalan is a wonderful narrator. The book humanizes the long, often agonizing search for answers about what is happening in your body. It’s very engaging, too! 
  • The Captain and the Glory by Dave Eggers: A quick, easy read. I truly enjoyed Egger’s imaginative satire and recommend it in both print and audiobook. The print version has lovely illustrations throughout, and the audiobook is read by John Hodgman.
  • Understanding Japan  (Great Courses) 
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: A young black woman is accused of kidnapping while babysitting for a white child late one Saturday night. It’s caught on film, but Emira doesn’t want it to go public. This event sets the novel up to explore privilege and race in a way that drives the novel’s plot. It sprinkles in some relatable twenty-something angst (feeling adrift after college) and white guilt. The story has a great plot and solid character development. I really loved this book.
Next Page »