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Staff Reads — July 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Ashley: 

  • Mr. Kiss and Tell: a Veronica Mars Novel by Rob Thomas: This came out in 2015, it’s the second book that takes place after the move. I figured I should read it before new episodes air on Hulu in July. If you like Veronica Mars, you should definitely pick up the books.
  • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager: So far I’m one for 3 with Mr. Sager. I really liked his second book. This one, I didn’t like as much. Mostly because it reminded me of a certain Lois Duncan book, and a certain Kate Hudson film.  I knew what was going to happen from the first chapter, and it took all the fun out of it for me. It as still a decent read, but if you don’t see the end coming, it’s probably better.
  • Sleep, Sheep by Kerry Lyn Sparrow: This is the cutest picture book. A little boy has a hard time going to sleep at night, he uses every trick he can think of to get out of going to bed. Until his mother tells him to try counting sheep. But one of those sheep might be more than what he bargained for.
  • Veronica Mars: Re-watched all three seasons and the movie, just in time for the new season coming out in July.

Liz

  • Letterkenny (Hulu) This oddball Canadian comedy series is full of hockey jokes, agricultural references and chain-smoking, hard-drinking, yogurt-eating small town yokels.
  • Captive State (DVD): This 2019 science fiction film is set in Chicago after ten years of occupation by an alien force.
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel: I just saw the musical adaptation of this classic graphic memoir. It was outstanding, and it made me want to go back and reread the original. Fun Home is a family tragicomic about Bechdel’s closeted father, his suicide, and her coming out as a lesbian.
  • Growing Things by Paul Tremblay: This collection of chilling and suspenseful short stories by the author of “The Cabin at the End of the World” and “A Head Full of Ghosts” was released on July 2nd.
  • Aug. 9 – Fog by Kathryn Scanlan: This bizarre, minimalist novella has a fascinating backstory. The author found a diary fifteen years ago at an auction. The diary belonged to an 86 year old woman, and Scanlan spent the next decade and a half reorganizing it into what would become this novella.

Casey

Kim

Dana

  • And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready, by Meaghan O’Connell: This memoir of O’Connell’s pregnancy and first year of motherhood was refreshingly honest. She writes openly about her doubts, questions, and struggles, but also about her victories, revelations, and joys. It made me feel seen!
  • March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; art by Nate Powell: This three-volume graphic memoir tells the story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of Congressman John Lewis. I enjoy the graphic element of memoirs like this as it can really add depth to the story without adding length, and in March it adds a wide range of emotion. The scenes showing violence were upsetting, but also showed vividly the horrible things that Lewis and others involved in the Movement were subjected to. It was a very powerful read.
  • Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston: It’s an alternate not-so-distant future, and America’s first woman president is launching her reelection campaign. When her son Alex makes the wrong kind of headlines by starting a fight with Britain’s Prince Henry, the administration quickly starts damage control by demanding Alex and Henry act like best friends. The pair successfully avert an international PR nightmare, but complications arise when their bromance turns into a very real romance. It’s a sweet and hopeful love story, and a good dose of escapism!
  • Captain MarvelIt took me forever to finally see this, and when I did I really wished I had seen it on the big screen. It was awesome! Now I just need to finally get around to seeing Avengers: Endgame

Janet Z.:

  • Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen: Teen author Maya Van Wagenen moved with her family to Brownsville, Texas while she was in middle school. There, she embarked on an unusual social experiment by spending the eighth grade following a 1950s popularity guide. The book is often hilarious, especially the chapters covering pearls, girdles, and curlers, but it’s also touching as Maya offers readers of all ages her own modern example of confidence and kindness. I loved this book!
  • Dress Like a Girl by Patricia Toht: The girls in this picture book dress up all right! They dress like an astronaut, doctor, firefighter, construction worker, diver, and more!
  • Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan by Lois Palken Rudnick: This book, which is a compilation and condensation of Luhan’s voluminous diaries, reads like a who’s who of early 20th century American and European artists, writers, philosophers, journalists,  and anarchists. Think Gertrude Stein, John Reed, Emma Goldman, Margaret Sanger, Lincoln Steffens, and many more. If you’re interested in this time period, you’ll enjoy this book.
  • Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown: This book is set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935 and was rich in details. What I didn’t expect were all the surprising plot twists. A great read!
  • A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke and John Rendall (digital audiobook): The authors purchased a lion cub at Harrods Department Store in London in 1969 (thankfully, this is no longer possible). This is the story of how they raised Christian in London and then the English countryside before arranging for him to be flown to Kenya to be cared for and reintroduced to the wild by lion expert George Adamson.

Laura:

  • The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Freshman effort from the author of A Gentleman in Moscow.  Imagine The Great Gatsby taking place during the Great Depression, and none of the main characters are affected by the Depression. 
  • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang: This modern day romance takes place in the same universe as The Kiss Quotient but it’s not necessary to read the first title in order to enjoy this one.  This is a good twist on the concept of an arranged marriage and I appreciate that once again, one of the protagonists is not neurotypical.
  • The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley: The premise of this book, in which the narrator, the first of  adopted sisters embarks on a journey about her past after the death of her wealthy mysterious adoptive father, is intriguing but the execution doesn’t work.  The other sisters are not well developed and seem to be character tropes.  I imagine that they get more well rounded in their own volumes, but I’m not continuing.
  • How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs: I highly recommend this short story collection for readers who like a strong sense of place and identity.  Each story is told through the point of view of someone who are Jamaican nationals or first generation Jamaican-Americans.  Each story is different in tone and together make a complete and enjoyable volume.
  • This This This is Love Love Love by Jennifer Wortman: This intense and descriptive short story collection is beautiful and heartbreaking.
  • The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake, Read by Chloe Cannon (digital audiobook):  Lovely and quiet novel from the author of Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World.  Chloe Cannon, once again, does a great job at bringing Blake’s prose to life.
  • Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano, read by the author (CD): Gripping and powerful memoir by the woman who would become Maria on Sesame Street.  I grew up on Sesame Street and am very familiar with “Maria” and now very much appreciate the road that she traveled.
  • The English American by Alison Larkin, read by the author (CD): This is a touching, yet often very funny story about a woman who was adopted at birth by British parents and reconnects with her American Southern birth mother as an adult.  
  • Spiderman, Into the Spiderverse: I had heard good things about this animated film which is a nod to all of the comic book versions of Spiderman, most notably Miles Morales.  The movie exceeded my expectations and was the right combination of heart, humor, and fun.  Kudos to whoever cast Nicolas Cage as the 1930’s film noir version of Spiderman, because that was perfect.  

While You’re Waiting…

What To Do While You Wait For These Top Requested Books?   

Try these readalike suggestions!

Where the Crawdads Sing  by Delia Owens

This highly acclaimed novel features a character who is abandoned by her mother who grows up isolated in a marsh in North Carolina. When a man is found dead, she is suspected of being the murderer. But this could not be farther from the truth.

Readalikes

Magic Hour by Kristen Hannah

Dr. Julia Cates, a prominent psychiatrist, is suffering a crisis of confidence due to a rogue patient and a damaged reputation.  Her sister, who is a small town police chief, needs her help with a young girl who is mute and seems to have literally been raised by wolves.   Suspense, romance, introspection and beautiful storytelling make this a novel not to be missed.

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

In this novel, we have a young girl going off the grid to join an intentional community at the Ash Family Farm.  Is she going to a commune or is she joining a cult? Read this book and find out. This book is set in North Carolina.

King’s Oak by Anne Rivers Siddons

This beautifully written novel features a poet who lives “off the grid” in nature and who captures the heart of Diana, who has left an abusive marriage.  This novel features well drawn characters, suspense and romance. Please have your Kleenex ready.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This novel features a group of college students who study with a very unconventional classics professor.  They try an experiment that gets way out of hand. The book has a gripping storyline, well developed characters and will keep you reading from start to finish.

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone:  A Therapist, Her Therapist And Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

This highly readable memoir of a therapist and her patients is both personal and insightful. This book is almost impossible to put down. Gottlieb has great insight into herself in her own therapy and great compassion for the patients she treats.


Readalikes

Halibut On The Moon by David Vann

In this novel, David Vann imagines the final days of his father’s life and his mental illness.  David Vann is a bestselling New York Times Notable Author.

The Fifty Minute Hour by Robert Linder

This is a classic work about a therapist and the difference that he makes in his patients’ lives.  

August by Judith Rossner

A beautiful novel that explores a therapist’s life and the life of her patient.

Love’s Executioner And Other Tales Of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom

A compulsively readable collection of stories about the relationship between a therapist and his clients.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

This classic work by famed neurologist Oliver Sacks is a compassionate and fascinating tale of different patients that he worked with.  

Becoming by Michelle Obama
The former first lady writes about her marriage, her time in the White House, being a mother and more in this witty and honest memoir.

Readalikes

Mrs. Nixon:  A Novelist Imagines A Life by Anne Beattie

Pat Nixon did not write an autobiography and in this novel, Anne Beattie tries to imagine what it must have been like to be the wife of Richard Nixon.

First Ladies:  Presidential Historians On The Lives Of 45 Iconic Women Susan Swain, editor

A collection of interesting pieces by presidential historians about our first ladies.

My Beloved World by Sonja Sotomayor

The first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice tells about her life, from growing up in a project in the Bronx to becoming a member of the highest court in the United States.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A wide ranging collection of writing and speeches that include wit and thoughtfulness.  

If You Ask Me:  Essential Advice From Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt

Read some of Mrs. Roosevelt’s wit and wisdom from the advice column that she wrote for more than twenty years.

Save Me The Plums:  My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl, an acclaimed food writer, tells about her time working For Gourmet Magazine in this fascinating memoir.

Readalikes

Delicious:  A Novel by Ruth Reichl

The main character of this novel by Reichl is working in public relations for a once prestigious culinary magazine and uncovers a correspondence between a young James Beard and a twelve year old.

Tender At The Bone:  Growing Up At the Table by Ruth Reichl

A collection of vignettes involving food and family.  This book won the 1998 New York Times Notable book of the year.

Kitchen Confidential:  Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

This colorful book minces no words as the late Bourdain describes his experiences; the good, the bad and the bloody in a series of restaurants on the road to the great success that he achieved.  You will not be disappointed with this well written, captivating and witty food memoir.

Notes From A Young Black Chef:  A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi

Raised in the Bronx and Nigeria, Kwame became obsessed with food at a young age and tells about his path to success in this riveting memoir.  Onwachi has been named one of Food And Wine’s best new chefs under 30.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
A famous painter who seems to have it all, shoots her fashion photographer husband five times in the face one day. Then she stops talking. Will her psychiatrist be able to solve the mystery of what happened? Read this book and find out.

Readalikes

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

Even the title is similar in this psychological suspense fiction by A.S.A. Harrison.  I regret to say that she is deceased so after you finish this one, see below. This book describes the slow disintegration of a marriage due to infidelity and deceit and the small cracks that can turn into a major fissure…

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This book is impossible to put down.  The words are the ‘crazy’ glue that keep one reading to find out what the heck is going on in this awful marriage that appears to be so perfect on the

The Other Mother by Carol Goodman

Two mothers meet in a therapy group for postpartum depression. They become fast friends but something goes terribly wrong…

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

They are married.  They have a beautiful baby.  One night, they go right next door to a party, checking on the baby regularly.  Nothing could go wrong, could it?

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Parris

This marriage looks perfect from the outside.  What is happening behind those closed doors? Hint:  it’s not good.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swann Huntley

Catherine has everything, wealth, beauty.  And her new relationship seems great. On the other hand, her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, feels strongly that there is a problem.  What is it? I will forever be a fan of Swann Huntley after having read this novel.

Girl On A Train  by Paula Hawkins

Rachel, who enjoys her alcohol, sees a couple every day whose life she imagines to be perfect.  Then something happens and she feels compelled to get involved. What is the truth? Read this book and find out.  I personally could not put this one down.

She Was The Quiet One by Michele Campbell

Twin sisters Rose and Bel Enright enroll in the prestigious Odell School in New Hampshire.  Then the rivalry begins…and the school is not as wholesome as it appears to be. Rituals, dark traditions and more emerge in this intriguing novel.

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

A wealthy and privileged family tries to put a tragedy behind them by purchasing an island in Maine. This novel explores three generations of this family who seemed to have it all.


Readalikes

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A tale of tragedy, wealth and scandal, New money vs. old money. This novel is a classic and I get something different out of it whenever I read it. A heartbreaker.

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Sullivan explores three generations of a family in Maine.

Too Much Money:  A Novel by Dominick Dunne

A tale of the wealthy old guard of New York including one who is suspected of murder.

Colony:  A Novel by Anne Rivers Siddons

This novel follows three generations of a high society family in Maine.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
A tale of a wealthy family’s secrets revealed.

Bittersweet:  A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

A wealthy family’s secrets are revealed at their cottage in Vermont and their guest has to decide what to do about them…

Staff Reads — June 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Pat O:

Kim:

  • Vacationland by John Hodgman: I thoroughly enjoyed Hodgman’s storytelling and his way of circling back to earlier anecdotes throughout the book. Having spent a lot of time in Massachusetts and Maine, I really enjoyed his take on both states and their people and wilderness. He clearly loves both places and it comes through even when joking about some aspect of one or the other. I listed to the digital audiobook, which is read by the author, and I recommend doing the same.
  • Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco : This was a really great read for anyone interested in what it’s like to work for a senator or president. Mastromonaco worked for Obama throughout his transition from senator to president. She is down-to-earth and a refreshing break from the ivy league white guys that surround many high-level politicians. Her stories are hilarious and borderline-TMI sometimes, so if that’s not your cup of tea maybe skip those passages. Overall, it was a light, easy read and I really enjoyed it.

Laura:

  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved BeforeP.S. I Love Youand Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han: I really loved this teen trilogy about Lara Jean, a well rounded teenage protagonist with a lot of facets to her and a variety of interests including cooking, working with seniors, scrap booking, and planning out future travel, including to her mother’s native Korea.  Despite the fact that this was written in the first person, the side characters are well drawn, including Lara Jean’s grandmother.  The books are also quite feminist with refreshing looks at teenage sexuality and sex shaming.  I have yet to watch the Netflix movie based on the first book but I’m looking forward to it!
  • Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks: In a small Nova Scotia town, one summer, Mir and Weldon meet, become friends, and even start to fall in love.  The problem is that they are scions of the opposing sides in a dispute about the creation and rights of “The Tomorrow Men” a fictionalized version of “The X-Men”.  Considering this is a take on Romeo and Juliet, the adult characters are refreshingly understanding (for the most part) and the detail regarding the comics and fandom world is a lot of fun.  I would suggest this for those who enjoyed Ship It by Britta Lundin or A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl. 
  • Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina: Sixth grader Merci is entering her second year as a scholarship student at a prestigious private school and making new friends and re-establishing some rivalries.  At home, however, she worries about her beloved grandfather, Lolo, who has become forgetful and accident prone.  This lovely book realistically captures middle school relationships, including evolving friendships, as well as the effects an ill relative can have on a strong family dynamic.
  • The X-Files: Case Files (graphic novel): I always enjoy more of Mulder and Scully, especially in any authorized stories with strong hints of their coupling (yeah, I’m a shipper and proud of it).  The two cases in this comics collection aren’t especially interesting, but it was nice to read about Scully having a positive rapport with another female side character and and Mulder and Scully’s sarcasm is at an all time high. 
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, read by Frederick Davidson (unabridged audiobook): Finishing this novel has always been a goal of mine.  Lots of descriptive detail (I now know everything about sewers in Paris in 1832) and much more nuanced characterizations than the musical and other adaptations.  
  • Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee (audiobook): Once again, Moriarty tells a complex story featuring a cast of quirky characters.  This time is the setting is Tranquillum House, a health spa in Australia where the owner, Masha, uses some questionable methods.  I didn’t find this quite as compelling as her earlier work, but Moriarty still weaves a good tale that is quickly paced.  Lee, as usual, is perfect as the narrator for Moriarty’s world. 

Louise

  • 13 Ways Of Looking At A Fat Girl by Mona Awad: This is a great collection of vignettes that focuses on Lizzie and her struggles with weight, relationships and life in general.  Even when she loses pounds, she still feels like she is heavy.  I recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled with body image or with relationships. 
  • Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty: I loved loved loved this book.  For anyone who has tried any form of self improvement and been suspicious of the person or persons in charge of the session, for anyone who had a guru who turned out to be rather disappointing.  The hardest part of this book for me was the fact that it had to end.  Warning:  I have some friends who do not like novels that get dark in any way who did not like this book.
  • Help Me!  One Woman’s Quest To Find Out If Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life by Marianne Power : Oh, this book is such a gem.  Marianne tries a different self-help book each month and really lives and breathes the advice from each author.  You may have to take breaks because you will be laughing at times so hard that you will need a glass of water.  I recommend this for anyone who has tried to follow any self-help book and who has a sense of humor.
  • Rabbits For Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum: This is a darkly funny novel about one woman’s struggle with depression and the feeling that she is unlovable.  I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in this sort of novel.  If you like Ottessa Moshfegh, you will definitely like Binnie Kirshenbaum.  Both of these authors provide interesting and quirky main characters.

Dana:

  • Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah: This book was the April selection for Overdrive’s Big Library Read and I found it incredibly powerful. al Rabeeah (who co-wrote this book as a teenager with one of his middle school teachers) and his family moved from Iraq to Syria to escape religious persecution, only to find their lives interrupted again by the start of the Syrian civil war. As the family waits to see if they will be granted refugee status, they try to carry on in the midst of shootings, car bombings, and neighborhood raids. It was heartbreaking to read about all the violence al Rabeeah witnessed at such a young age, but incredible to know he survived and was able to share his story.
  • Internment, by Samira Ahmed: This book was INTENSE. It imagines a not-so-distant future in which policies of the president lead to Muslim Americans being placed in internment camps, just as Japanese Americans were in the early 1940s. The story follows 17-year-old Layla, whose family is forced from their home in the middle of the night and brought to the first camp, and her attempts to agitate for the freedom of her fellow citizens. I was hooked from the first chapter and am still thinking about it, even though I finished it several days ago. 
  • The Book of Essie, by Meghan MacLean Weir: Essie is the youngest child of a megachurch pastor, whose conservative Christian family stars in a hit reality show about their lives. The story begins with the revelation that Essie is pregnant, with her mom and the production crew scrambling to figure out how to handle the situation. I thought the character development in this book was great, and the plot kept me hooked. 
  • Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han: I’d been waiting for the third and final book in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series for months, but sadly this book didn’t live up to my self-created hype. It felt a little mailed-in, and a little too full of random pop-culture references, and the characters didn’t feel familiar like they had in the first two books. I still finished it, because I wanted to know what happened to Lara Jean and Peter K., but it was definitely my least favorite book of the series.
  • I’ve had two CDs in heavy rotation in my car this month. Strangeland by Keane has been my go-to when I want something chill, and The ABBA Generation by A*Teens: an album of late-90s Europop ABBA covers – has been sparking some embarrassingly awesome car-dancing sessions.

Janet Z.:

Debora H.:

  • We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet: I liked this book, but didn’t love it. Yes, the language was beautiful and yes, the story of a woman’s deep love for a little girl she takes in during the chaos and bloodshed of WWII was compelling. But I found the backstory of the main character annoying – and grim. And, although the story was set in WWII, it didn’t feel like a historical fiction read, since the war felt mostly like a prop. Moreover, the narrative was incredibly slow paced, which made it hard to stay interested. There is one surprising plot twist that could’ve been highlighted better – it almost gets lost in the pages. The ending is mostly satisfying.
  • The Honorable Woman: This is an 8 part British mini-series available on DVD starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as Nessa Stein, a British woman who leads the company her father founded and who is about to award a contract for laying fiber-optic cables in the West Bank to a Palestinian business owner. When that man dies in a staged suicide, just before the contract announcement, the intrigue begins. Soon after, the son of Nessa’s close friend is kidnapped. British spy agency MI6 gets involved and secrets are revealed as the investigator uncovers them. Danger abounds for the main characters in this highly tense and suspenseful political thriller. 

Mary V.:

  • The Black Ascot by Charles Todd: The black ascot refers to the ascot horse races where everyone was dressed in black because the king had died.  This is the latest Inspector Rutledge mystery. A man who was helped by Rutledge returns the favor and gives him a tip about a missing suspect whom Rutledge pursues. This is a typical Ian Rutledge mystery, but I still enjoy reading them.
  • The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd: Lonely Samantha in England begins a correspondence with a man in prison in the United states for the brutal murder of a young girl. She falls in love with him and moves to Florida to be with him. While she is there, she works  with a producer on a documentary about the murder and tries to get him released.
  • If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin:  This takes place in the fictional town of Havenkill in the Hudson Valley.  The story is told from different people’s viewpoints about a young man who dies in an automobile accident. Was it an accident or something more sinister?
  • Hex on the Ex by Rochelle Staab: This is a very light murder mystery involving the ex-wife of a famous Dodger pitcher. It was okay, but I didn’t like the characters enough to look for other books in the series.
  • Wolf Pack by C J Box: This is the latest Joe Pickett mystery. 
  • Hitting the Books by Jenn McKinley: This series of books involves a director of a small New England public library. I was hoping for something similar to the Miss Zukas mysteries. There is no comparison. Again, I didn’t like the characters well enough to try another book in the series.
  • Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry: This is the second Daniel Pitt mystery. It’s enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series by the same author.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens:  Six year old Kya Clark watches her mother walk down the lane wearing her best shoes and carrying a small suitcase. She doesn’t even wave goodbye. Shortly thereafter, her three oldest teenaged siblings also escape from their abusive alcoholic father. Her brother, Jodie,  who is closest in age to Kya also leaves a few months later because he cannot tolerate his father’s abuse. Kya and her father form a tolerable alliance for a while by avoiding each other as much as possible.  He is gone for long periods of time and by the time Kya is nine years old he leaves and doesn’t come back. Kya must fend for herself which she does by hiding from other people while being shunned and despised by others in the town. This is an amazing story of a child’s resilience and ability to adapt to her situation. The novel begins in 1969 when the body of a young man is found dead, but Kya’s story begins in 1952. The novel goes back and forth between the two time periods. This is the author’s first book which is haunting. I found myself thinking of Kya long after I finished the book.

Amber

  • Killing Eve: My co-worker recommended this show and it was love at first sight. Dark, well-written, and clever with strong female leads and a great soundtrack. 
  • Dead to Me: This pitch-black comedy is so good I wanted to finish it in one sitting. I didn’t know anything about the premise which added an element of surprise for me so if you plan on watching the series and haven’t read any reviews yet, don’t! This series is currently available on Netflix (and accessible by checking out one of our Roku devices). 
  • Luther: It’s been three long years since the last season and I am currently counting the days until season five begins on BBC America (June 2). It’s been nine years since season one aired so I recently re-watched all four seasons. Highly recommended for fans of British crime dramas, dark detective shows, and/or Idris Elba (or all of the above!). 
  • One Day in December: My reading list so far this year has been pretty heavy in terms of subject matter and I needed a break so I picked up this title and I’m so glad I did. An easy, delightful read that is perfect for the beach (beach weather is coming eventually…right?) this story, set in London, had me laughing out loud and getting teary eyed in equal measure. 

Ashley:

Casey

Staff Reads April 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Laura:

  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: This sardonic dark comedy from Nigeria, is the story of Korede, whose sister, Ayoola, has a nasty habit of killing her boyfriends. The tone of this quickly paced novel is both creepy and funny and explores some interesting family dynamics.
  • Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram: I loved this teen/YA novel about a teenage boy, suffering from depression, who visits his maternal grandparents in Iran with his parents and sister. Darius is a well rounded character with a variety of interests, and his exploration of the many facets of his identity is well done. The side characters, including Darius’s father are well developed.
  • Hotel Bemelmans by Ludwig Bemelmans: Many not know that the author of the beloved Madeleine books started out his career working in well known restaurants and hotels in Europe and New York City and lived to tell the tales. This humorous and possibly exaggerated essay collection about his experiences is a fun read and interesting juxtaposition to the stories about the little girls in two straight lines.
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai: I’m about a third of the way through this heartbreaking novel told in alternating time periods and third person voices. I was in elementary and middle school during the early days of the AIDS crisis and while I do remember it, this book is allowing me to appreciate how scary, sad, and ignorant of a time it was.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama, audiobook (CD) read by the author: I’ve always been interested in the lives of the First Ladies, and Obama’s writing is thoughtful, witty, relatable, and refreshingly honest. Her audiobook narration added emotion and warmth to the quickly paced memoir.
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, audiobook (CD) read by Gwendoline Yeo: It’s been several years since I first read this beautiful novel about four women from China and their American born daughters. I was inspired to re-read it after watching a lovely production of the play in Concord. It can’t be easy to write for eight distinct characters, but Tan pulled it off as does Yeo’s narration.
  • Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle, audiobook (Overdrive) read by the author: Doyle, a recovering alcoholic and bulimic, has had trouble figuring out what is love and is caught off guard when her husband admits that he’s been cheating on her since the early days of their marriage. Love Warrior is her self journey as she navigates her life and role and learns to find hope. This is not normally the type of book I would read, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I would suggest this as a possible read alike to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Greg:

Ashley:

  • Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine: While not as absorbing as the first book, Stillhouse Lake, but I’m always impressed with Gwen’s strength, and bravery. I’d definitely like to have her on my side. I don’t want to give too much plot away, because where would all the fun be? But I can’t wait to see what happens next. I bet she’d make a great detective.
  • Cruel Fate by Kelley Armstrong: I was very sad when I realized Kelley Armstrong’s Cainseville series was ending with book 5. Then I was pleasantly surprised by the subsequent release of several shorter books. In this novella, Olivia’s father Todd has just been released from prison, after being exonerated of crimes he did not commit. Not even a day passes before someone anonymous calls the police, attempting to pin a murder on him. Who is it, and why? This was a fun, short mystery to read.
  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: I enjoyed this modern retelling of Little Women. I felt like the author attempted to cram too many issues into one book, it may have been better served as a series, but it was still nice.
  • The Fade by Demitria Lunetta: This was a great take on the haunted house genre, with quite the twist halfway through.
  • Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (Movie): Sophia Lillis makes an excellent mischievous yet charming high school aged Nancy Drew in this new film. Perfect for families, with just the right amount of mystery and scares. With the most by the book retelling yet, it won’t disappoint long time fans of the teen detective.
  • Call the Midwife Season 8 on PBS: Love this show and the memoirs it’s based on.

Dana:

  • Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken: When I spotted “New England” and “candlepin” in the description of this novel, I was intrigued. However, it ended up being just a touch too weird for me, and I gave up after about 85 pages. It might appeal to someone looking for a work of literary fiction that centers around unconventional and mysterious characters, but alas, it wasn’t for me.
  • The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit In by Ayser Salman: In this memoir, Salman tells of her experiences moving from Iraq to the Midwest, to Saudi Arabia, back to the Midwest, and then to Los Angeles, and her struggles to both fit in and find herself along the way. It was funny, entertaining, and touching, and I really enjoyed it.
  • The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior: I’m not a big fan of saying that certain books should be required reading for everyone, but if I were to make such a list, this would be on it for sure. Kendzior’s collection of essays shows how the American Dream has become unattainable for all but the very wealthy, touching on subjects like higher education, the post-employment economy, the media, gender, race, and religion.
  • The Hate U Give (movie): I’m always a little hesitant to see movie adaptations of books I love, but this one definitely did the novel justice. So, so good.

Debora:

  • The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff: I simply love this author and I’ve read almost everything she’s written. With a WWII historic fiction theme, this novel had promise; however, it fell flat for me. The plot moves back and forth between two time periods – during the war and in 1946. The 1946 plot verges on the ridiculous – Grace is a war widow who finds an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central station. Not only does she open it, but she takes a collection of photos she finds inside, leaving the case where it is. Her motives are unbelievable at best. The plot premise is Grace’s search for the young women in the photos; their stories are told in the WWII part of the narrative. It would have worked much better to just tell the amazing story of these female spies on their own because the work they did was both dangerous and important. The entire book felt rushed to publication.
  • The Good Mother by Sue Miller: The first time I read this book, it was for my book club and none of the group’s readers were yet mothers. We also went to see the author speak – to a packed auditorium in Cambridge. My friends and I decided to revisit this book, now that we all have children and it has stood the test of time. It’s an incredibly compelling story of a recently divorced mother, Anna Dunlap, with a four year old daughter, Molly. Anna falls in love with Leo and for the first time feels the full range of love and passion in her life. During one of Molly’s visits to her father, Anna gets a phone call from her ex alleging inappropriate contact between Leo and Molly. I couldn’t remember the outcome of the ensuing trial, so was speed reading to get to its conclusion. Without giving away the court’s ruling, the reader sees how there are so many issues at play including judgments about full-time day care, working mothers, sex, expectations for women, and double standards. Miller’s depiction of young Molly is spot on.

Casey:

Kim:

Louise:

  • Gloria Bell: I do not get out to the movies enough, but I was lucky enough to see this fabulous movie that features Julianne Moore. The acting is superb and this is a wonderful character study of a divorced woman who starts a relationship with a gentleman who has some serious issues.
  • Educated by Tara Westover: I love, love love this book. My highest compliment: it reads like fiction. Really compelling characters in Tara’s family. Ms. Westover grew up in a Survivalist Mormon family in Idaho and, wow, what an unusual childhood she had. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you read about her father’s extreme aversion to conventional medicine, schooling, birth certificates or anything else that would get one into the ‘system’. This is an extraordinary book. Please note: there is some violence that may make some readers cringe.
  • Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser: The WPL Thursday night book group will be discussing this book on Thursday, April 18 at 7:15pm. I loved the Little House books as a child and I love reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder as an adult. This Pulitzer Prize winning biography describes the injustices visited upon the Native Americans, the ecological damage caused by clear cutting, and some parts of Laura’s childhood that were not included in the series. Laura’s daughter Rose was a partner in the writing of the Little House series and also quite a fascinating character. This book is not to be missed.
  • The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esme Weijun Wang: Ms Wang shows great resilience and wit in these beautifully written essays. She has struggled with a major mental illness and some serious physical challenges. On a more shallow note, she is adorable. You can watch her here. This book is recommended for fans of The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks.

Staff Reads March 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Debora:

  • Never Change by Elizabeth Berg: I’m generally a fan of this author, but that doesn’t mean I like everything she writes. This book, though, moved my very soul. The premise is clever: Myra is a home care nurse whose newest patient is Chip, the super popular guy from her high school that she had an unrequited crush on. Sadly, what brings them together is that Chip is dying from a brain tumor. Life gets complicated when Chip’s old girlfriend enters the scene to help take care of Chip…and stay at Myra’s house. Along the way, all 3 of the characters change in ways that are unexpected and often touching. I highly recommend this fast read – a book that has stayed with me weeks later.
  • Halfway House by Katherine Noel: This novel succeeds in some ways, but not in others. Where it succeeds is in painting a vivid picture of a teenage girl’s mental illness and the impact it has on her life and members of her immediate family. Where it fails is in telling an actual interesting story. Things happen, yes, and characters do change, but at some point the book felt endless and I just needed it to be over.

Dana:

  • What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman: I’ve always had an interest in historical stories that involve people’s experiences in asylums, and tend to like books that feature parallel(ish) plots taking place in different times. When I spotted this book and saw that it offered both those things, I couldn’t wait to read it. One half of the book focuses on Clara, whose father commits her to a state hospital in 1929 when she refuses to marry the man he chose for her, and the other half features Izzy, a teen in 1995 who is navigating the foster system and who discovers Clara’s diary. It had so much potential, but I gave up a third of the way through. Parts of Clara’s story were too upsetting for me to deal with, and Izzy’s story line was so full of 1990s high school cliches that I just got annoyed.
  • Berlin: Portrait of a City by Hans Christian Adam: After visiting Berlin last fall, I’m now fascinated with the history of the city. This book gives a quick, but detailed, rundown of Berlin’s history from the mid-1800s to the present, and is full of awesome photographs.
  • The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D’Antonio: This was an eye-opening book about a disturbing part of America’s past, beginning with an introduction to the American eugenics movement and then looking at how faulty IQ tests were used to label children as “feeble-minded” and to justify locking them away in institutions. The book focuses on the stories of several boys who were institutionalized at the Fernald State School here in Waltham. It wasn’t an easy book to read (emotionally), but an important one.
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson: The cover of this book (an ecstatic-looking raccoon) is totally what drew me to it, and I’m glad it did! I really enjoyed this humorous memoir, which touches on topics as varied as mental illness and taxidermy. I lost count of the number of times I laughed out loud – the kind of laughing where my shoulders shook and I had a hard time regaining my composure – but there were also serious chapters that resonated as well. I was also excited (and admittedly late to the party) to learn that Lawson has a blog so I can continue to read her stuff even though the book ended.
  • The Future is Feminist: Radical, Funny, and Inspiring Writing by Women edited by Mallory Farrugia: This book is a decent collection of essays presented, unfortunately, in a hideous combination of neon orange and pink text on a white background. I could only read the pink text if the lighting was just so, and struggled with the orange even when I squinted and looked sideways at the page. I recommend trying to find the essays elsewhere if you want to read them, unless you have better eyesight than I do!
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver: I’m a sucker for books set in the UK, and this one didn’t disappoint. It follows the lives of Laurie and Jack over the course of ten years, starting when Laurie spots Jack from a bus and their eyes meet, igniting a spark that neither had ever felt the likes of before. I felt like I knew the characters as the story went on, and even missed them a little when I finished the book. It was a heartwarming escape from the real world!
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix. Volume 1: The Guardians movies really have fantastic soundtracks, and this CD has been a fun one to rock out to in the car – David Bowie, Jackson 5, Norman Greenbaum, Redbone, and more. The song in highest rotation has been Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” because my toddler loves the “ooga chaka” intro, which he thinks is “ooga chocolate.” I love that misheard lyric and don’t plan on correcting him.
  • The Life Pursuit by Belle and Sebastian: I uncovered this CD – a favorite of mine circa 2007 – recently and have been enjoying the nostalgia factor in between spins of the oft-requested “ooga chocolate.”
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: I had such high hopes for this movie! I loved the first one (Wreck-It Ralph ), and had heard that there were some fun internet-related Easter eggs in the sequel. I didn’t think it lived up to the hype.

Laura:

  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier: This beautiful, haunting, sad, sweet, wondrous, and magical realistic historical fiction written for middle grade readers caused me to cry throughout my reading. I know that I overused the adjectives but I can’t write anything about this title that does it justice. Nan is an apprentice to a cruel chimney sweep in Victorian London and misses her former mentor, “Sweep”, and creates a Golem, who she names Charlie. The lyrical prose and the strong sense of time and place is gorgeous and heartbreaking. All of the characters are compelling and the relationship between Nan and Charlie is fully realized. The historic aspect pays homage to the real children, who often died while performing the dangerous job of chimney sweeping.
  • The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve: This is perfect for anyone who likes present day (well, 1990s) angst and unreliable narrators mixed in with their historical fiction. Photographer Jean goes to Portsmouth and the Isles of Shoals in order to document the scene about a grisly 19th century murder (based on a real life murder). As Jean becomes more caught up in the crime, she becomes more suspicious and distrusting of her husband and brother in law’s girlfriend which leads to tragic results in the present day.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: In Thomas’s follow up to The Hate U Give, teenage Bri is a rising rapper hoping to follow in the footsteps of her rapper father, who was killed in gang violence. Bri is a fully realized character and the side characters are compelling, especially Bri’s mother and aunt.
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: This novel, told in verse, is haunting and suspenseful. Will’s brother, Shawn, was shot and killed last night and according to the rules that have governed Will’s life, he must get revenge on his brother’s killer. He grabs his brother’s gun and rides down in the elevator as he contemplates what he’s about to do. The book is gritty and real, with a touch of magical realism.
  • I Dare to Say: African Women Share Their Stories of Hope and Survial edited by Hilda Twongyeirwe: This is a very powerful collection of journalistic essays about very strong woman in Uganda. I highly recommend it.
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: A character driven novel about Li-Yan, a member of the Akha tribe, one of the ethnic minorities in China. Li-Yan has a daughter out of wedlock and, in order to save her from death, brings her to an orphanage. The rest of the novel proceeds with Li-Yan telling her story in the first person while we catch glimpses of the life of her biological daughter in California via e-mails and other correspondence. Once again, See creates strong female characters and also a strong sense of place. The production and importance of tea played such an important role in the book that it’s inspired me to learn more.
  • Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge, Read by Ray Porter (Overdrive audiobook): This book is a good introduction to the War in Vietnam as well as a good complement to anyone already familiar with the history. Interviews with those “on the ground”, including six soldiers, a nurse, and a Vietnamese refugee are interspersed with thought processes of historical figures including Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King.
  • What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper, Read by Deborah Grausman (Overdrive audiobook): This lyrical and thoughtful novel is the story of Gerta Rausch, who never identified as Jewish, until she and her father were taken to a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Although there are flashbacks to Gerta’s life before and during World War II, most of the novel takes place after the liberation and Gerta navigating life post War and in a displacement camp. The effective writing illustrates the struggles of survivors as they figure out where they belong and what to do. Grausman’s narration brings this powerful story to life. The only drawback to “reading” this as an audiobook is that I missed out on Stamper’s beautiful illustrations.
  • Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott, Read by Barbara Caruso (Audiobook on CD): I continue on my Louisa May Alcott kick as I finish the March Family trilogy. Most of the characters from Little Men return for this one, and there is a bit of a meta subplot in which Jo juggles the pros and cons of life as a famous writer.
  • I’ve been listening to the Professional Book Nerds podcast on Overdrive, featuring thoughtful interviews with a variety of authors. So far, I’ve listened to interviews with Nicola Yoon, Jason Reynolds, Susan Orlean, and Lisa Genova.
  • In honor of the passing of Luke Perry, I am touting one of my favorite podcasts, Again with This: Beverly Hills 90210. Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting, founders of the websites Previously.TV and the late Mighty Big TV/Television Without Pity, snarkily summarize every episode of Beverly Hills 90210. For those of us who came of age with the Walsh Twins and their friends, this podcast is a fun (and better) alternative to re-watching the show. Warning, if you are a Brandon fan (in a non ironic way), Tara and Sarah do not agree with you and this podcast may not be for you!

Casey:

Kim:

  • Mind Unraveled: a Memoir by Kurt Eichenwald: This is probably one of my favorite books from the past few years. Eichenwald recounts his epilepsy diagnoses (at age 18) and the nightmarish amounts of misinformation, mistreatment, and misdiagnoses from medical professionals that ensued during his college years. This should be required reading for anyone interested in becoming a medical professional, but not because it’s a medical text- it’s not. This book is a thrilling page-turner! It simply gives perspective, a human element to the effect doctors have on patients, and more broadly the effect we can have on other’s when we don’t confront our bias about disabilities.
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: I’ve been very interested in true-crime for a long time but had never read this classic work. Capote is a brilliant writer, and I was pleased that he dug into the story of the two murders as well as the family.
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown: I enjoyed this thought-provoking memoir from Channing Brown. She aims to challenge responses to racist actions in our society and shares how smaller acts have an impact on people.
  • American Prison by Shane Bauer: Another one that should be required reading. I love that the author covers so much of the history of these institutions and their role in American society. It was heartbreaking, stomach-turning, but also very interesting and important. Bauer was also very reflective and honest about his stint as a prison guard which provided a fascinating window into how power/authority/fear can transform people.
  • Minding the Gap (streaming): A wonderful documentary. The doc follows a group of friends as they come into adulthood. It’s filmed/directed by one of the friends in the group and his intent was to explore how their rough upbringings affected their lives. All three of the main subjects had iffy relationships with the adult males in their lives and turned to skateboarding as a release (which is how they all met).
  • Sex Education (Netflix): Hands down some of the most wonderful, honest story arcs and character development. Teen sex comedies seem to be having a moment, but this show is really special.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: I love the diversity of the cast and Andy Samberg. Very silly and fun to watch.
  • Innocent Man (Netflix): This docuseries is based on the bestselling non-fiction book by John Grisham detailing two crimes in the same town. In both cases, the wrong people are accused, confess, and later sentenced. Though the series could’ve done a better job keeping the two narratives apart, it’s a mind-boggling story. If you think people wouldn’t confess to crimes they didn’t commit, you’d do well to give this a watch or pick up the book by Grisham.

Janet Z.:

  • My Dinner with Hervé (DVD): Back in the day, I was a real Fantasy Island fan, so was immediately drawn to this movie about Hervé Villechaize (aka Tattoo). Peter Dinklage did an amazing job, but the script just did not hang together for me.
  • A Squirrel’s Guide to Success (DVD): It turns out these critters are incredibly intelligent and adaptable. I especially enjoyed learning how engineers are studying squirrel’s movements to build robots that can tackle highly variable and unstable terrain in areas hit by earthquakes and other disasters.
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife by Connie Scovill Small: I loved this book, in which the author writes about her 28 years of lighthouse life and service on the Maine and New Hampshire coasts alongside her husband. In the days before automation, this vital maritime profession involved long hours of difficult and even dangerous work.
  • I Hate My Cats by Davide Cali, illustrated by Anna Pirolli: Thank you, Liz, for recommending this adorable book. And don’t worry, cat lovers. The human in this book clearly loves his fur babies.
  • I Do Not Come to You By Chance by Adaobi Nwaubani: This wonderful book provides a fascinating and at times hilarious glimpse into the world of Nigerian email scams.
  • Floor Sample by Julia A. Cameron: I loved Cameron’s The Artist’s Way so of course was looking forward to reading her autobiography. Sadly, I barely made it to page 50 as I quickly tired of all the details of Cameron’s relationship with Martin Scorcese.

Ashley:

  • Inspection by Josh Malerman: From the author of Bird Box comes an inventive, Original story definitely written with the screen in mind. What would happen if boys and girls were raised completely separate with no knowledge of the others existence? Would they thrive academically and career wise because there are no “distractions”? It reads a bit young, could be an excellent YA crossover. My main issue with the book is the assumption that people are ONLY attracted to the opposite sex. With almost 50 children, a handful of them are bound to be attracted to the same sex. It bothers me when i can’t tell if a problem was intentional or not. Since it was not addressed, this just seems like a glaring flaw to me. Other than that i enjoyed this almost modern fairy tale like novel.
  • Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong: I found the fourth installment in her Rockton series to be a little slower and less interesting than the first 3, however i’ll still be waiting impatiently for the next one. Armstrong’s mysteries always keep me guessing, and her characters are fun and interesting.
  • Russian Doll on Netflix: Do you like your television shows dark and a little funny? Than this is for you. I wasn’t sure i was going to like it, with all of the comparisons to Ferris Bueller. I just do not like things that repeat over and over. However with Jamie Babbit Directing, and Natasha Lyonne starring, i decided to try it. Even though it’s about a woman who keeps repeating the same day, each day is new and inventive, and we get to watch her character row. It was wonderful.

Liz:

  • The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh: This longlist Man Booker prize nominee is about three sisters and their mother who, after years of isolation brought on by their father, encounter three strange men.
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: Thomas’s follow up book to 2017’s The Hate U Give follows Bri, a 16 year old aspiring rapper who is also struggling with being racially profiled at school, an unstable home life, past trauma and breaking out of the stereotype society is forcing onto her.
  • Shock Value by Jason Zinoman: This is a history of horror cinema in the 60s and 70s, focusing on the works of directors like John Carpenter, Dan O’Bannon, Wes Craven and Brian De Palma. An entertaining read for any fan of horror film or cinema!

Staff Reads — February 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Dana:

  • A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs: I love, love, loved the first book in the series of which this is the fourth installment – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Books two and three, not so much. In my opinion, the mix of prose and creepy old photographs worked well in the first one, but didn’t hold up as the series went on; it felt more forced. However, that didn’t stop me from getting excited when I spotted this one on the shelf – I didn’t know more were being written! My excitement didn’t last long. I nearly abandoned ship several times, then felt rewarded when – around page 250 – it finally started to get good. But that didn’t really last either, as the story took a really weird turn. I regret a little that I wasted time reading 500 pages of “meh” when I could have been reading something else.
  • Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman: I read Bringing Up Bebe way back in my halcyon days before I was a parent, and thought it was brilliant. I thought I’d follow the book’s parenting advice to the letter and raise a perfectly well behaved child, just like Druckerman said all French kids were. Then I actually became a parent and learned that raising a child isn’t quite so easy as Druckerman made it sound. I soon realized that parenting books aren’t the be-all and end-all to the parenting gig! That said, when I spotted this book in the stacks I was quick to nab it. It’s sort of a Cliffs Notes version of Bringing Up Bebe. Be-all and end-all it may not be, but hey, I’ll take any hints I can get!
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: I put this book – the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before– on hold after watching the Netflix movie adaptation of the first book, and it finally came in this month. Even though it had been over a year since I read TATBILB, I slid easily back into the story and found myself wrapped up in it (though I’m unsure if that’s a good thing; I’m too old to get wrapped up in high school drama!). I love the characters, I love the writing, and I’m eagerly awaiting my hold on the third book to come in!
  • The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: I’d heard only good things about this book, and was excited to spot an available copy on our shelves. It was a cute story, if a bit predictable, and I found myself rooting for the characters to work everything out. I generally don’t read many romances, and was a bit blindsided by how graphic some of the scenes were, but on the whole it was a fun read.
  • Can’t Help Myself: Lessons and Confessions from a Modern Advice Columnist by Meredith Goldstein: I believe that every book has its own timing – sometimes a book is perfect for right now, and sometimes a book is good but it’s just not the right time to read it. My attempt to read this book was just not at the right time. I really like Goldstein’s writing style, and the book seemed like a fun idea, but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe I overdid it on books about relationships this month? Anyway, I’m putting it on my “will try to read later” shelf.
  • How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson: Seriously, I didn’t intend to spend this month reading so many books about relationships and romance! Anyway, I read a promising review of this book that talked up Roberson, who works for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and writes for The Onion among others, and I thought it sounded entertaining and good for a few laughs. And it was good for a few laughs, but not as many as I’d hoped for. There were a couple of gems in the book, but for the most part I found it low-level obnoxious and full of too many exclamation points. That made me feel like I was playing into the very patriarchal society that Roberson writes about in the book – was I finding it obnoxious because it was written by a young woman? – so I felt guilty for not liking it and got caught in a downward spiral of negative feelings. Not really the outcome I was hoping for.

Debora:

  • Caught in Time by Julie McElwain: OK, I’m officially addicted to this author’s books. This is the third in a series and, like its predecessors, combines my love of time travel and historical fiction (do not judge me). Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent in the 21st century. She falls into a wormhole to the 19th century, murders follow, and she shocks everyone around her by using her knowledge of crime solving even though she’s just a woman. Next in the series, Betrayal in Time, is due out July 2019 and I can’t wait.
  • The Third Son by Julie Wu: I read this because we’re hosting the author on February 27. I loved it because it told a compelling coming of age story full of grit, love, and hardship in a place and time I knew little about. Set in 1943 Taiwan, a little boy named Saburo is caught up in the upheaval of his time. He’s the third son and as such is horribly abused and ill cared for. We follow Saburo’s story through his youth and into his adulthood, where he lands in America. The author lives locally.

Casey:

Laura:

  • Don’t Let Us Win Tonight: An Oral History of the 2004 Boston Red Sox’s Impossible Playoff Run by Allan Wood and Bill Nowling: It was fun to relive the 2004 Baseball Playoffs, which will never get old to me. However, I didn’t learn anything new, here. Although there are some original interviews, a lot of the quotations are taken from previously published material.
  • Blended by Sharon Draper: This beautiful middle grade/young adult novel is the story of Isabella the daughter of an African-American father and white mother who are divorced. Isabella struggles with her identity and role within her family as well as contend with some other serious problems such as racism at her school. There is a lot going on this novel, but Draper does a good job at balancing everything and she creates well realized secondary characters. I really appreciated that Isabella’s prospective step mother, step father, and step brother are very sympathetic characters.
  • Why To Kill a Mockingbird Matters by Tom Santopietro: Judging by the title, I expected this to be more of an analysis of the legacy of Harper Lee’s famous novel. The portions that do are quite nuanced, but the majority of the book is just a behind the scenes look at the film. It’s certainly interesting, from a film history point of view, but I was just expecting a little more analysis of the book and its legacy.
  • Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan: The third novel in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy brings the series to a satisfying end. This fast paced novel adds a dimension and compelling back story to Su Yi (Nick’s grandmother and matriarch to the family). Those who thought that the character of Kitty Pong received a little too much “screen” time in the second novel and who are bigs fans of Rachel will likely be disappointed with this outing, though.
  • Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott: This is a short and sometimes humorous (yes, humorous) memoir of Alcott’s stint as a Civil War nurse in a Washington DC hospital. This book is a great complement to civil war buffs and Little Women fans as well as for those who read for a strong sense of time and place.
  • Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire: Maguire, who has tackled backstories for characters from Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, and Snow White, tackles the mysterious Godfather Drosselmeier from The Nutcracker. There are many allusions to Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Greek mythology and other well known myths and fairy tales. References are also made to Hoffman’s original story as well as the ballet. I’m a huge fan of The Nutcracker and always enjoy seeing (or reading!) another interpretation of the story.
  • Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein: This is definitely a warts and all memoir by the daughter of Leonard Bernstein. It’s a quick read and well written but it’s definitely more gossipy and less enjoyable than the memoirs written by the daughters of Irving Berlin (Irving Berlin: A Daughter’s Memoir by Mary Ellin Barrett) and Frank Loesser (A Most Remarkable Fella by Susan Loesser).
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: This plot driven very long fantasy novel is a pretty quick read and Rothfuss builds a believable fantasy world. I appreciate that this was a well done book, but it wasn’t for me.
  • Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown: This is a graphic novel in which Brown does a great job of explaining the complicated situation leading to the Syrian Refugee crisis. It is harrowing and sad and gives human faces to an extreme tragedy. I would suggest this for anyone who is interested in current events or for graphic novel fans who wanted a read alike for Persepolis or Maus
  • Josephine Baker’s Last Dance by Sherry Jones: This historical novel about the remarkable Josephine Baker reads a lot like the script for a biopic and jumps ahead in time, skipping over some important steps. Regardless, this is a compelling read, with detail highlighting the racism of early-mid 20th century United States and the rising fascism in Europe. It does inspire me to read an actual biography of Baker.
  • Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, read by P. Dean Robertson: This novel,about the Price family performing mission work in Congo did not work well as an audiobook. There are five narrators, all with distinct styles, but the narrator does little to distinguish them so it was hard to tell who was narrating. I do enjoy Kingsolver’s writing so I will probably try this as a print edition.
  • Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, read by Justine Eyre: I’ve been on a bit of a Louisa May Alcott kick lately and though I’ve read Little Women multiple times as well as other titles, I had never read Little Men or Jo’s Boys. Jo and Fritz are now running the Plunfield School for Boys (plus a couple of girls), and the two feature in the adventures of their “boys” which also include Jo’s niece and nephew, Daisy and Demi. The children at the school are the main characters, as opposed to members of the March Family. This is a sweet and pleasant story though I would consider it more of a companion novel to Little Women as opposed to a traditional sequel.
  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, read by Chloe Cannon: This is a coming of age novel about Ivy, a middle school age girl, discovering her sexual identity amidst the backdrop of her family losing everything in a deadly tornado. This leisurely paced novel is very descriptive and, although it’s in the third person, Ivy’s thoughts and feelings are well drawn. A lovely novel and Cannon’s narration is perfect.

Mary V.:

  • Past Tense by Lee Child: This is the newest Jack Reacher book. It follows the usual formula, but as usual it is entertaining.
  • Newcomer by Keigo Higashino: I continue to read every Higashino mystery in hope that the next one will be as good as his first, The Devotion of Suspect X. So far, none has been as good.
  • The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson: This story was very scary. The president was never really missing, but he went into hiding to deal with a national calamity. I kept wondering if this could really happen. I do hope not.
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean: This is a very interesting book about the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and the catastrophic fire that destroyed or damaged over 1,000,000 books in 1986. The size of this library is astounding. There are more than 70 branches and the Los Angeles Police Department handles security for the library.
  • Lost Books and Old Bones by Paige Shelton: This is the third book in a mystery series about an American woman who works in a rare book store in Scotland. I liked it because it reminded me of some of the things my brother, Charles experienced when he worked in the rare book business. I didn’t like it well enough to borrow the first two books.
  • A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd: This is the newest Bess Crawford mystery. World War I has ended, but Bess is still tending to the wounded in France. She works with serious injuries, such as amputations. A patient who lost a leg was sent home to Wales and sent Bess a cryptic message that worried her. She was granted leave to go home to visit her family in England. She decided to go to Wales and see this patient. He is staying with his sister-in-law, his brother’s widow in an isolated village. Bess hires a driver who takes her to this remote place.He becomes frightened and leaves during the night abandoning Bess. This village has no commerce, no telephone lines, no transportation of any kind. Bess is stranded there for weeks with no hope of ever being able to leave. I read it in two days because I could not put it down.
  • Sunday Silence by Nicci French: This is the seventh book in the Freida Klein mystery series. The first book, Blue Monday,introduced Dean Reeve, a brutal serial killer. Everyone except Freida believes he is dead. In this book, Freida finds a dead body beneath her floorboards and tries to convince the police that Dean Reeve is responsible. At the end of this book, after friends and family members are killed or hurt by Dean, Freida enlists the help of an old acquaintance to help her disappear.
  • Day of the Dead by Nicci French: This is the eighth and final book in the Freida Klein series. Freida has disappeared and none of her friends or family knows where she is. She is planning on a confrontation with Dean Reeve that will only end with her death or his. I really liked this series and am sorry to see it end.
  • The Unforgotten seasons one and two: This is a British police show that is rather dark, but I like the characters. If you like foreign mystery series, this is a good one.

Kelly:

Ashley:

  • Slayer by Kiersten White: A new series set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (My all time favorite tv show!) With brief appearances by beloved characters. You can definitely tell the Kiersten White is a fan and she has written this new story with quite a bit of respect for the original material. However, I wanted to like this more than I did. While I found the characters and plot interesting, there was so much exposition in the beginning that I was a little bored. Fortunately halfway through the story picked up and I enjoyed it, and will probably pick up the next in the series.
  • Squad by Mariah McCarthy: I really liked this book, mostly because I found the main character incredibly realistic and easy to emphasize with. Jenna is a cheerleader who in her junior year starts feeling a distance between her and her best friend. She tries so hard to fix it, and nothing works, she just makes it worse. Jenna has to figure out who she is without cheerleading or her old friends. I was confused at times whether it was supposed to be a thriller, romance or just contemporary fiction, the book itself seems a bit confused, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. As a plus there is great representation of LGBT folks.
  • Bird Box on Netflix: I enjoyed the book when it first came out, and enjoyed the film as well
  • The Meg on DVD: It was way more fun than I thought it would be. Definitely not as good as Jaws, and dragged a bit on the first half, but I liked it.
  • The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix: This was a very well paced and put together documentary. He went to my high school, and hung out in many of the same places I have, so I’m always interested in this story.
  • Boy Erased on DVD: Over 700,000 LGBT Americans have been impacted by the “conversion therapy” ministry. This film based on the memoir of the same name features Lucas Hedges as a young man whose parents put him in a conversion therapy program to cure him of his homosexuality. This is an important film about the horrors so many of us have been through.

Tax Filing Season 2019

Massachusetts Department of Revenue Logo Internal Revenue Service Logo

It’s tax filing season which is met with great anticipation (for those expecting refunds) or great dread (for those expecting to make big payments). With changes in tax laws, elimination of certain tax forms, and the partial government shutdown, this may be a confusing time for some, so we present this resource guide to help you.

Printable Version

Obtaining Tax Forms

  • Federal Tax Forms from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Massachusetts Tax Forms from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR)
  • Tax Forms for Other States
  • The library receives a small amount of federal tax forms and an even smaller amount of state tax forms every tax year which are displayed for our patrons. The forms and publications that we expect to receive this year are the Massachusetts Resident and Non-Resident Form 1 Booklets, the IRS 1040 Forms, and the IRS 1040 Form Instruction Booklets. Once these items are received, they will be displayed in our new book room on the ground floor of the library. Because we only receive a small amount, we ask that all patrons please only take forms they need for their own tax filing.
  • Members of the library’s reference department can print out 2 free copies of any tax form. Patrons using this service must supply the tax form number/name. Please note, as of this year, the 1040A and 1040EZ forms no longer exist.
  • Library staff members are not authorized by revenue agencies to give tax advice or determine the correct form to match specific needs.

Important Dates

  • January 28, 2019: The official start of tax season.
  • January 31, 2019: The latest date for employers to supply W-2 forms to their employees.
  • April 15, 2019: Tax filing deadline for tax payers who don’t live in Maine or Massachusetts.
  • April 17, 2019: Tax filing deadline for tax payers who live in Maine or Massachusetts.

Where and How to File Tax Returns

Local Offices for Tax Agencies

Free Tax Help for Those who are Eligible

  • What to Bring to Free Tax Preparations
  • Volunteer in Tax Assistance Program (VITA)
    • According to the IRS: “The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.”
    • VITA Tax Aide Locator
      1-800-906-9887
    • VITA Locations
      Please Note: Bentley University is not a VITA Location this year.

      • Brighton Branch / Boston Public Library
        40 Academy Hill Road
        Brighton, MA 02135
        855-687-7345
        Volunteer Prepared Taxes
        Appointment Required
      • Trustman Family Learning Center
        341R Saint Paul Street
        Brookline, MA 02446
        855-687-7345
        Appointment Required
  • AARP Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
    • According to the IRS: “The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.”
    • AARP/TCE Tax Aide Locator
      1-888-227-7669
    • AARP/TCE Locations
      • Waltham Senior Center
        488 Main Street
        Waltham, MA 02452
        Monday: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
        Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
        Friday: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
        Returns done by appointment only.
        February 4, 2019 – April 12, 2019
        781-314-3499
      • Newton Senior Center
        345 Walnut Street
        Newtonville, MA 02460
        Monday:1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
        Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
        Wednesday: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
        Thursday: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
        February 1, 2019 – April 16, 2019
        617-796-1660
      • Watertown Senior Center
        31 Marshall Street
        Watertown, MA 02472
        Monday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
        Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 05:00 PM
        Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
        February 1, 2019 – April 16, 2019
        617-972-6490

Other Resources

Staff Reads — January 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Luke:

Laura:

  • The Unstoppable Wasp Volumes 1 and 2 by Jeremy Whitley: This next generation of the Wasp is Nadia, an unknown daughter of Hank Pym, raised to be an assassin and rescued by Hank’s ex-wife, Janet Van Dyne, the first generation Wasp. Frustrated by the lack of respect for women in the super hero realm, Nadia recruits other young female super powered individuals and starts G.I.R.L. This re-imagining of a Marvel story and character is very empowering and answers the question of what makes up a family. The new version of She-Ra on Netflix would make a great watch alike.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson: Very charming graphic novel about Phoebe, her new best friend, the vain unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. This is a great alternative for those of us who still miss Calvin and Hobbes.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory: The Wedding Date was one of my favorite books I read this spring, and I was delighted to read a new title by the same author, featuring one of the former title’s secondary characters as one of the protagonists. NIk (short of Nikole) is horrified when the actor that she has been casually seeing for a few weeks proposes to her via the Jumbo Tron at Dodger Stadium. Carlos and his sister come to her rescue and defense when the fans give Nik a hard time for refusing. Predictably, Nik and Carlos start a tentative romance, but just as in The Wedding Date the relationship is well done with both parts of the couple having a lot of agency and proceeding in a healthy way. The book is also just a lot of fun and the secondary characters are well rounded.
  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver: This character driven novel features inhabitants living in Vineland, New Jersey in present day and the late 19th century. This thoughtful novel features a strong sense of place as well as a real life (but little known) 19th century female scientist, Mary Treat. I would suggest this for fans of A Map of Salt and Stars (for readers who enjoyed the alternating time periods), The Paris Wife (for readers who enjoy fiction about real people who didn’t get their due in history), State of Wonder (for readers who enjoy a little science with their fiction), and Inherit the Wind (for readers who enjoy dramas about Darwin and the Scopes Trial).
  • Nutcracker by ETA Hoffman: I re-read this classic tale and inspiration for the ballet for the first time in 34 years and was glad to revisit this edition beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean: Part true crime, part love letter to public libraries, this details the history of the Los Angeles Public Library as well as the investigation into the 1986 fire that damaged the building and its materials.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Read by Kate Reading (isn’t that a great last name for an audiobook narrator?): Reading Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux inspired me to revisit this classic about the March sisters. It had been so long since I had read it, that I had forgotten most of what had happened (and found I remembered more of the various film versions). A recent visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, helped me appreciate the novel in a new way!
  • My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley, Read by George Newbern: I’m currently listening to this novel, by the author of The Object of my Affection. David and Julie were married nearly thirty years ago, divorcing when David realized that he was gay. They parted on friendly terms but haven’t spoken since the divorce until Julie asks for David’s help regarding her teenage age daughter from her second marriage. This character driven novel is sardonic and often funny with melancholy moments.

Ashley:

  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan: I enjoyed this fantasy novel full of asian mythology and strong female characters.
  • Livia Lone by Barry Eisler: I’ll read almost anything set in my home state of Washington, especially thrillers with female protagonists. This had an engaging fast paced story, and i appreciated all the footnotes at the end detailing the author’s research with links.
  • Podcast: Surviving Y2K: Remember 1999 and the fear that computers wouldn’t understand they year 2000? Through present day interviews we are able to follow several different people as they prepared for the new millennium.
  • Top Chef Season 15 on Hulu I’m obsessed with this show and always binge it in a few days when it finally arrives on Hulu.

Debora H.:

  • The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable was a disappointment. I was enticed by the lure of a Kennedy story, but put off by the hugely unlikable characters. It felt like watching a movie with bad Boston accents. The story revolves around Alicia Darr, a Polish Jewish refugee and her romance with then Congressman Jack Kennedy. The author uses information released in 1977 that said Alicia was paid $500K by Bobby Kennedy just before JFK became President. We assume the money is to stay quiet, but quiet about what? That’s the question the author fleshes out. It’s a good premise but for me, fell flat.
  • The Practice House by Laura McNeal: Although I stuck with this novel, I don’t recommend it. It’s about Aldine McKenna, a 19 year old woman who leaves her home in Scotland to work as a teacher in the Dust Bowl that is Kansas in 1930. You think the story will be about Aldine and her sister because it begins with them, but shortly after the sister falls in love with a traveling Mormon (I am not making this up), the 2 young women leave for America and we never hear much about the sister after that. Then you think the story will be about Aldine, but in the second half of the book, many characters’ points of view are used. Aldine lives with a family on their failing farm, falls in love with the father, and when the family moves to California, is farmed out to work at a Harvey House restaurant. The writing is solid, but I found the plot and organization lacking. There is a satisfying twist at the very end, which made me glad I finished it.

Tessa:

  • The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells: I was hoping to learn about the fascinating history of libraries, but instead found this book to be an unorganized collection of mostly anecdotal stories referencing famous libraries and obscure bibliophiles. Most of the time I found myself searching online to understand the context of the stories the author told. There were some historical facts about libraries and books that I found interesting, but unless you are a dire hard book collector, this book is better left on the shelf.
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicolas Carr: In this book, Carr questions the impact technology has had upon our lives and how it is changing the way our brains process information. I was pleasantly surprised how well the author interwove the history of writing and reading and prior research about brain plasticity to demonstrate how the human brain has evolved over time. The author also provides an overview of the history of computers and how the internet developed to become the powerful entity that it is today. I didn’t feel that Carr was negatively criticizing technology, but instead he argued why it is important for society to understand how technology is altering our ability to “think deeply” so that we can make informed decisions about how we personally use technology going forward. Sometimes the author gets a little heavy handed with the statistics he provides and there are a few sections that felt a little dry (and might require a basic understanding of cell biology), but overall it was a well-researched book and interesting read.
  • London: a Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World presented by Professor Robert Bucholz: This lecture series is by The Teaching Company, and I watched it to prepare for a trip to London. Even though there weren’t many visuals and it was mainly Professor Bucholz lecturing to the camera, I really enjoyed the series. It covers London’s formation in 60 B.C. by the Roman Empire through the early 2000’s. If you are someone who enjoys history or is planning a trip to London, I highly recommend this series. It was perfect for watching in the evening after work and before bed. There is an audio version, but if you choose to use that I recommend printing out a few maps of historic London so you can get your bearings.

Dana:

  • Feminasty: the Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson: The title and reviews of this book gave me high hopes, but the book itself didn’t quite live up to them. This collection of essays, ranging in topic from periods to #MeToo to makeup and more, made some excellent (and maddening!) points, but I didn’t find it as funny as it was billed to be.
  • Flocks by L. Nichols: A graphic memoir of a trans man’s experiences growing up in a very religious community in rural Louisiana, discovering the world and himself with the help of academics and the various groups that supported him in very different ways. It was a quick read – I finished it in one sitting – and both heart-breaking and hopeful. I don’t read graphic novels/memoirs often, but found that the illustrations in this one added so much to the story.
  • Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein: This book is part memoir/part investigation into how the Evangelical sexual purity movement (True Love Waits, etc.) affected those who were a part of it. As someone who came of age in the church during this movement, I found this book especially fascinating.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue: A novel told from the point of view of five-year-old Jack, who lives with his mom in a sound-proofed shed where they’re held captive by his mom’s kidnapper. I’d been curious about this book for years but was worried that it would be a bit too difficult/intense to read as the mom of a young kid. There were certainly some parts that got me right in the feels, but it was one of those too-rare books that I just didn’t want to put down!
  • Shade: a Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza: A poignant comparison of the Obama and Trump presidencies, featuring photos by Souza, who was Chief Official White House Photographer under President Obama. This book made me all kinds of nostalgic.
  • Juliet, Naked: I read the book that inspired this movie back when it came out in 2009, and I remember thinking it was just okay. The movie, however (in my opinion) told the story better, and was cute and enjoyable. It’s hard to go wrong with Chris O’Dowd, and the scenery in the English seaside town was charming.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: An incredibly well done romantic comedy that doesn’t drag out all the tired tropes that can plague the genre. That said, I’m not a fan of ostentatious displays of wealth and/or entitlement, and this movie was full of both. I should have known going in, given the title, but alas. Otherwise, it’s a great film!
  • The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic: I was really into Weird Al in high school, and this was a fun trip down memory lane. It’s got some hits as well as some deeper cuts, which I enjoyed. However, I was a bit dismayed to realize how much of my brain’s real estate is still taken up by lyrics to these songs!

Janet Z.:

  • What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah: I loved this collection of short stories set in Nigeria with its rich characters and compelling plot lines. Be forewarned, though, that the theme of family dysfunction runs rampant throughout.
  • Nutmeg the Guinea Pig by Jane E. Clarke (Dr. Kittycat Series): I love illustrations that blend photographs with hand-drawn elements. Turns out the story line is also compelling as the Doctor and her assistant solve a medical mystery involving a furry patient who is feeling unwell.
  • Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go by Crusshiform: Beautifully designed book with side-by-side illustrations of animals and inanimate objects that travel at similar speeds such as a hedgehog and millipede (one mile-per-hour) and a high-speed train, peregrine falcon, Formula 1 race car, and frigate bird (217 miles-per-hour).
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Hilarious take on the challenges vampires face in the modern world, such as gaining admission to nightclubs, dealing with slacker flat mates, and more.
  • Barry: Oh how I love Bill Hader, but not in this very popular series, in which he plays a hit man trying unsuccessfully to get out of the “business.” Cluelessness and innocence have a certain charm, but Barry has a bit too much of both. Henry Winkler as Hader’s boss, on the other hand, is fantastic!

Liz R.:

  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: This debut collection of short stories is a terrifying and all too familiar set of dystopian tales revolving around race, privilege and capitalism. A mjst read for fans of “Get Out”, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood.
  • Marvel Rising, Vol. 1: Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl team up in this middle grade graphic novel. Joined by fellow superheroes America Chavez, Inferno and more. I’m overjoyed with the diversity Marvel has been embracing over the last five years. It’s great to see a variety of heritages and body types, particularly in volumes aimed at younger readers.
  • The Little Book of Life Hacks by Yumi Sakagawa: This was a fun start for the new year! This super cute book is full of tiny life tips for everything from relaxing, cleaning, crafting, cooking and more! My favorite tips were for ways to use white vinegar and lemon to clean different parts of your house, and the section on making your own hair care spa products.

Marie:

Staff Reads — December 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef
Happy Holidays! Looking for some great gift ideas (or gifts to avoid?) Take a peek at what books, movies, music, shows, and more that we’ve been enjoying (and not enjoying!)
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Liz:

  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood: This is the final volume in Atwood’s environmental dystopian MaddAddam trilogy. Begun in Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood, this volume follows Toby, the rest of her small band of plague survivors, and the genetically engineered Crakers, as they navigate a familiar but dangerous world of genetically engineered animals, crumbling infrastructure, and vicious human enemies.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Volume 1: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre Sacaso: Now a show on Netflix, this reboot of Sabrina the Teen Age Witch is dark, deranged and beautifully drawn. Teenage sorceress Sabrina Spellman is approaching her 16th birthday, when she must decide if she will be a witch for eternity through the power of Satan, or join the world of mortals so she can be with her football loving boyfriend, Harvey.
  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: Journalist Michael Pollan dives into the much misunderstood world of psychedelic substances as medicine, spiritual catalyst and recreational product. Pollan focuses on LSD and psilocybin, a.k.a magic mushrooms, and related the medical studies and spiritual histories of both substance. A must read for anyone interested in alternative spiritualities or human psychology.
  • Fierce: The History of Leopard Print by Jo Weldon: This fun book is chock full of pictures of vintage fashions and accessories in a wide range of big cat prints. It’s also a fun look at how women’s fashion has evolved over the last 150 years, from cut and color to fabric and fit.

Dana:

  • The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke: I read the first book in this series, The Girl with the Red Balloon, last month, and loved it. I foolishly assumed this book was a sequel, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to the characters from the first book. Turns out it’s a “companion book” and features totally different characters in a different time. I’m sure it was good, but I was so crestfallen that I had no interest in reading past the first chapter.
  • Everything is Trash, but it’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson: Phoebe Robinson is hilarious and I’d love to hang out with her. I had that conclusion after reading her first book, You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, and reading this follow-up only cemented the feeling. Her tales of meeting Bono made me – as she might say – www.jealous.org/omg.
  • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter: I’m admittedly late to the Hamilton party, but was lucky enough to be gifted tickets by a relative who loved the show and wants everyone she knows to see it. A friend recommended this book so that I’d have a better understanding of the songs before seeing the show, and she was right! Being able to read the lyrics and get some context before seeing the show made me enjoy it even more. The PBS special on the Watch Read Listen Roku was also helpful and fascinating!
  • Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley: This book was rough to read, but I think Conley’s story is an important one that needed to be shared. On top of digesting Conley’s story about being forced to attend conversion therapy for his sexual orientation, I did a lot of reflecting on our similar religious upbringings and where we are now. It was certainly the heaviest reading I did this month.
  • Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle: My son loves this book, and I like its theme of showing kindness to everyone, even bullies. The farm animals may be a bit suspect, but Little Blue Truck is a good chap.
  • Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle: This was my son’s introduction to the Little Blue Truck world, and he’d happily read it all year round. He’s especially fond of the flashing Christmas tree lights at the end.
  • 100 Farm Words illustrated by Dawn Machell: The page featuring different tractors and trucks is the highlight for my son!
  • When Sarah Met Duck by Sarah Gomes Harris: The BBC show, Sarah and Duck, is a favorite in my house, and both my son and I love that it comes in book form as well!
  • Hamilton: original Broadway cast recording by Lin-Manuel Miranda: Since seeing the show, the songs have been stuck in my head non-stop!

Seana:

  • The Unforgotten by Laura Powell: It is hard to believe that this dark mystery is Powell’s debut. It alternates between 1956 and 50 years later – the past being more fleshed out and interesting from my perspective. There are several twists and turns along the way which kept me guessing until the very end.
  • Listening to The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower: I am totally enjoying listening to this book on my commute! It is filled with stories and first hand accounts of White House service staff covering prior First Families through Obama. It also gives a behind the scenes tour of the ins and outs of the working White House on a daily basis and during special situations, like state dinners and the changeover when a new President takes over the House.

Aurora:

  • How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller is a cute story about Matilda and how she works to get her very picky parents to try new foods. It is fun to see the idea of parents trying to get teh picky eater kids to try new foods turned upside down. In short, a picture book that is an engaging, quick read with a point.
  • Ship It by Britta Lundin is well-written, humorous, and believable. I chose to read this book after listening to the author talk about the story, and I was not disappointed! I found the format of the chapters interesting, and the characters even more interesting. The story speaks to anyone who has been a major fan of any book, movie, or tv show, and it does it in a way that makes those interests feel natural.
  • Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn contains everything one would want in a Star Wars story. The cast of characters is exquisite, with Leia, Luke, and Han leading as they have in the films, while simultaneously expanding on smaller roles such as Wedge Antilles, and introducing some characters for the first time, like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. This host of roles are navigated through an exciting plot with new twists and turns that remain interesting even while rereading the story.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (extended edition) movie remains a peerless film. The story, characters, world, lines, costumes, actors, designers, sets, props, editing, sound, music, and just about everything else involved were excellent when it was made (as shown by the record breaking Oscar win) and each aspect has withstood the test of time. Add in all the behind the scenes appendices that show the making of the film, and this is a movie event that can always make me smile and keep me entertained for hours (followed by more hours of telling everyone else about it as well).
  • Listening to The Greatest Showman: Reimagined provides a simultaneously new and familiar experience as the songs are sung by different artists. While I’m not sure if I prefer one album over the other, it was definitely interesting to hear both versions!

Debora H.:

  • Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross: This was a fascinating read. It’s based on the legend that for a few years during the Middle Ages, the pope was a woman who successfully disguised herself as a man. According to the legend, she was discovered only when she gave birth during a papal procession. The author takes this kernel of a story and builds an entire world around it, filling it with believable and some hugely likable characters. Cross’ Joan is a brilliant young girl who fights against the norms of the times to become educated and then assumes the life of her dead brother. She falls in love with her foster father, but it’s years before they are actually romantic. This is one of those stories that, as a woman, makes you glad you were born in the twentieth century.
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: I had seen the movie and now I’m glad I read the book. The author tells the important story of the African American women who worked as human computers at NASA both before it was NASA and during its space race. In a voice that often made me pause it was so captivating, Shetterly both explains the importance of the math behind the aeronautics and the segregation laws that shaped the lives of the women who produced those numbers. Beginning in WWII, the book follows these women up through the Civil Rights era and brings to life their intellect and drive to show the difference they made in this country’s air and space industry.

Louise:

  • Family And Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz: This book did not draw me in at the very beginning but, gradually, it got better and I began to feel fond of many of the characters. There are some very funny scenes in this novel that make it worth the read. The novel centers on a family get together in Westchester in preparation for Emily’s marriage to David. Emily’s mother, Marla, a therapist, decides to get the children together for “family therapy” and the scenes are a hoot. Also, Emily’s sister, Lauren, who is gender neutral and who argues about pretty much anything that is conventional, is funny and yet lovable. Lots of laughter, quirky characters, and a satisfying ending, make this book a good read, especially if you want something light.
  • Rise And Shine by Anna Quindlen: I listened to the audiobook of Anna Quindlen’s novel Rise And Shine. The characters are very well drawn in this novel which brings a mixture of laughter and tears in perhaps equal measure. The story focuses on two sisters, Bridget and Meghan Fitzmaurice, orphaned in their youth and raised by their Aunt Maureen. Bridget works in a homeless shelter in the Bronx, while Meghan is a famous talk show host who commits a faux pas that costs her the job that she has held for so long. Bridget is the narrator of the story and introduces us to all of the main characters, a colorful and diverse group, always interesting and always interacting in unpredictable ways. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, I liked the way that Ms. Quindlen concludes this novel.
  • The Other Mother by Carol Goodman: Okay for all of you psychological suspense fiction lovers (and I am one), this one gets you from the first sentence. Excellent narrator on the audiobook but I am sure that reading the book is also a gripping and fabulous experience. I have trouble getting out of the car with this one and am looking forward to hearing more when I leave work tonight. The plot? It could not be more twisted and gnarled, and, as with the best of this genre, it is not clear how reliable or not our narrator, Daphne, is. She is a new mother who suffered from postpartum depression as did the other main character, her friend Lauren. There is a murder or is it a suicide? There is an abusive husband, or is he? There is a mental hospital right near Daphne’s or is it Lauren’s new job working for one of her favorite authors as an archivist. The novel is narrated by Daphne who also reads to us from the journals that she and her friend Lauren kept. I have not finished this book yet but it is very hard to put down. For fans of Girl On The Train, The Wife Between Us, Eileen, and The Couple Next Door.
  • A Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena: More psychological suspense from Shari Lapena. Things are certainly not what they seem to be in Karen Krupp’s marriage. On the outside, a beautiful upper class suburban neighborhood. On the inside, trouble. The whole thing kicks off with a car accident. Karen’s husband comes home to an empty house and he has no idea what has happened to his wife. Things begin to unravel and, for me, this novel was deliciously disturbing. You may not like the characters in this novel, but the plot will keep you chewing on your nails and, you can at least be glad for the very perceptive detectives. Worth a try.
  • The People We Hate At The Wedding by Grant Ginder: I am reading this book now and loving the theme of the dysfunctional family and yet another wacky therapist. Alice, our main character, is sleeping with her boss and going to a support group to help her get over a miscarriage that she had in Mexico. Her self-doubting but lovable brother, David, is in a relationship with the perfect self-assured Mark and in a job working for a renowned therapist who takes exposure therapy a little too far. The wedding is their half-sister Eloise who is very much a cause of resentment and stress. For fans of Family and Other Catastrophes , Running With Scissors, and My Year of Rest And Relaxation.
  • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller: There are definitely some bitter elements to this very well written novel with well-drawn characters and a suspenseful plot. The narrator of the novel is telling her story from an institution and looking back over the years to her youth and her friendship with a rather troubled couple. Oh, and there is a murder. Beautiful writing, great description, draws the reader in quickly and thoroughly. This novel is a great choice for fans of Donna Tartt’s A Secret History although it is not quite as long. Highly recommended.

Laura:

  • Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein: Goldstein, popular for her Love Letters blog and podcast, tries her hand at teen/young adult fiction and the result is an entertaining read with a sympathetic narrator, Maya and a richly detailed supporting cast. The settings of MIT and the city of Cambridge act are almost secondary characters and there is a small amount of science fiction that may be a good draw for some readers but can easily be dismissed for those who prefer realistic fiction. If you want to talk about this book with other adults who like young adult literature, please come to the February 13 meeting of our new book club, Always Young (At Heart) Adult.
  • Food Anatomy : The Curious Parts & Pieces of our Edible World by Julia Rothman with help from Rachel Wharton: This graphic novel is a good reference for any home kitchen or cookbook collection. Rothman details a brief history and evolution of food, including terms, products, and recipes. The language is accessible and brief and the style is colorful and bright.
  • I Am Actually a Penguin by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek: This picture book about a little girl who dresses up as and insists to everyone that she is a penguin is sweet and adorable. It really speaks to the power of imagination and the illustrations are charming.
  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux: I’m still reading this mashup of history, biography, literary criticism, and feminist theory and very much enjoying it. Little Women holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of folks in this area due to the Concord connection and I’m one of many who has read the book twice and seen multiple screen versions.
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Read by Lynn Chen: I was a little late to the party in tackling this story about Rachel Chu, who travels to Singapore, to meet her boyfriend, Nick’s extremely wealthy family. The plot driven novel, with a lot of dialogue and characters, is amusing and borders just enough on soap opera tropes without being too ridiculous. Chen as a narrator, does a good job, at bringing the written word to life.
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, Read by Lydia Look: While the first book in this series didn’t go over the top with its soap opera antics, this sequel doesn’t shy away from them. Poisoning, long lost siblings, an interrupted wedding, and a botched plastic surgery are only a few of the examples in this novel. Although I prefer the first book, this entry is still entertaining and detailed descriptions of food are making my mouth water. It took me awhile to get used to Look as a narrator, since I was used to Chen, but but she has grown on me.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: This documentary about Fred Rogers provides a detailed look at his life as well as what went into Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. It’s become a cliche to say that we could use Mr. Rogers today, but I’ll echo the sentiment, regardless. I’m also not ashamed to say that the documentary made me cry.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: This was a very well done adaptation. I watched it days after I finished the novel and everything that was added or cut from the book was perfect. I liked that Nick’s mother, who had little to no redeeming qualities in the novel, was a little more sympathetic in the movie without betraying her harsh character. I also appreciated that the characters of Oliver and Peik Lin were expanded giving the very funny Nico Santos and Awkwafina a lot of screen time!
  • Superstore: I’ve been rewatching this clever, funny, and often biting show about a group of employees at an ersatz Walmart called Cloud 9. The whole cast is great, but the supporting actors, including Nico Santos from Crazy Rich Asians, make the show a success.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald: I love the universe where this takes place but I think I may have had enough of the world of Harry Potter and friends. I enjoyed the first movie in this series, partly because it introduced original characters in a familiar setting. This second outing tied everyone to the characters we met in the original Harry Potter books and, like the Star Wars prequels, I think this film suffers from trying to give everyone (and I mean everyone) a back story. Ever wonder about the origin story of Voldemort’s pet snake? Don’t worry. Neither did I.

Vanessa:

Ashley:

  • Pulp by Robin Talley: Told in two alternating perspectives spanning generations, this was an interesting look at the lives of LGBT people in the 50s juxtaposed with today.
  • Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson: A crime from the past has repercussions on the present in this Scottish country house mystery meets thriller.

Amber:

  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin: This is the first James Baldwin novel I’ve read (though definitely not the last) and I’m so glad I have finally read something but this great author. A beautifully written story about two people in love, this devastating novel has been made into a film by writer-director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and is set to be released mid-December.
  • Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz: A must-have for any Beastie Boys fan, this gorgeous new release is a must-read for any music lover. I bought this the day it came out and immediately dusted off my favorite Beastie Boys cd to listen to while thumbing through the pages (yes, I still have a stash of cds in my basement!).
  • Watching

  • The Tunnel, Vengeance (Season Three): Season three is the final season in this spectacular drama set in England and France. The writing is superb and the acting is phenomenal. If you enjoy your crime dramas on the darker side I highly recommend this.
  • Listening

  • Vide Noir – Lord Huron: It seems rare these days to find an album that can be listened to (and enjoyed) from start to end. This music is beautiful and lush and and each track is fantastic.
  • English Language Learning Club 2019 Meetings

    Keep Calm and Keep Reading

    The library is pleased to offer an English Language Learning Reading Club. Are you learning English? Do you love to read? Join us for a monthly reading discussion group as we read and discuss selected American Short Stories and novels.  Starting with the June meeting, books will be available at our Main Circulation Desk on the first floor. We meet one Wednesday a month at 7:15 pm (19:15). This group is recommended for intermediate and advanced speakers.
    If you have any questions, please call Laura at 781-314-3435.

    2019 Meeting Dates

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