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Staff Reads November 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Dana

  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: This is one of those books that I totally disappeared into, and was sad when it ended. It’s a richly detailed work of historical fiction that jumps between World War One and just after World War Two, focusing on the lives of two very different, but very strong, women. Eve works as a spy in German-occupied France during WWI, and Charlie is an unwed, pregnant college student being dragged to post-WW2 Europe by her mother to “take care” of her “little problem.” Charlie runs away to London, where she meets Eve and begs the retired spy to help her find her missing cousin. And then… it’s just so good. 
  • Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life, by Ali Wong: I know Ali Wong from her Netflix comedy specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, and was curious to read her book. It’s a memoir in the form of letters to her two daughters, and combines her sarcastic sense of humor with stories ranging from her adventures studying abroad, to childbirth, to her journey becoming a stand-up comedian, to the experience of being the child and grandchild of immigrants. I found it to be funny and touching, but anyone unfamiliar with her comedy should note that it tends to be on the raunchy side.

Ashley

  • The Grace Year by Kim Liggett: I would say this is not so much like The Handmaid’s Tale, but The Hunger Games. Young women are sent away from their home when they turn 16, so that their “magic” will leave them before they return and are married. This novel was visceral, and at times, i didn’t want to know what bad things girls could do to each other. 
  • Toy Story 4
  • Midsommar 
  • Nancy Drew on the CW
  • Batwoman on the CW
  • Evil on CBS: This show is actually pretty creepy!
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark on Nickelodeon: 90s kids, remember this? It’s back! And creeping out this grown up

Debora

  • Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand: Late to the party as usual, this was my first Elin Hilderbrand beach read. Little did I know, it was also her first historical fiction book, which is always my go to. Like all of her books, this was set on Nantucket in the summer. The storyline goes back and forth among 4 main characters: three daughters, Blair, Kirby, and Jessie and their mother, Kate. There are background details to set it firmly in 1969: Kate’s son Tiger has been shipped to Vietnam; Teddy Kennedy stays at the Martha’s Vineyard inn where Kirby is working the night he drives his car off the bridge at Chappaquiddick, and Jessie’s first crush Pick is planning to take her to Woodstock with him. But really the story is all about family dynamics, personal regrets, skeletons in the closet, and dealing with difficult life issues. The novel is a compulsive read and Hilderbrand does a great job of keeping you interested; I finished it in a week.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: I rarely read memoirs and I’m so glad I read this one. I felt I got to know this amazing and accomplished woman through her honest and intimate narrative. Her voice comes through so clearly that I practically could hear it; I later learned that she reads the audio book. And, although the book is truly her story, it does include vignettes of Barack, which were delightful to read. By the end, I wanted to reach out and invite her to my house for a glass of wine and to be my friend. 
  • Costalegre by Courtney Maum: Honestly, I don’t know how this book got published. I read it because it was described as a work of historical fiction but in my opinion, this book was not that. Set on a remote resort in Mexico in 1937, the cast of characters is a group of artists collected by wealthy socialite Leonora Caloway who spirits the group out of Nazi Germany to escape Hitler’s oppression. But really this is a story told from the perspective of Lara, Leonora’s teenage daughter who suffers from neglect, the pangs of first love, but mostly, boredom. It’s that last emotion that permeates the book and was the one I felt, too. 

Louise

  • Body Leaping Backward:  Memoir Of A Delinquent Girlhood by Maureen Stanton: I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by Maureen Stanton.  Maureen grew up in Walpole Mass, a suburban town with the prison looming over everyone.  She describes her childhood on a dead end street, her parents’ divorce, having six siblings and feeling invisible.  Unfortunately, she gets into angel dust and loses some time hanging around the wrong people.  Maureen and her mother also get into shoplifting during a time of financial difficulty. This is a great depiction of some of the trials and tribulations of suburban working class lives during the sixties and seventies.  Many references of the time period resonated with me including but not limited to:  shag carpeting, Watergate, the Cowsills,  listening to lp records, watching the old show A Family Affair and finding out tone of the adorable twins, Buffy, became a drug addict.   I recommend this book to fans of All Souls:  A Family Story From Southie by Michael Patrick MacdonaldAngela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt.
  • The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland: This book is hilarious and I love the premise.  The Feldmans, an upper middle class suburban family from Great Neck, Long Island get together on a cruise ship to celebrate the matriarch’s 70th birthday.  Pandemonium breaks loose as various family secrets are revealed…a shopaholic, a pot salesman, and more.  Get ready to laugh!

Pat O.

Casey

Kim

  • On Looking : Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz: I loved this book about how exciting and interesting our everyday surroundings can be!  The author explores regular city streets with a focus on a particular sense. She walks with experts on typography, geology, etc. It’s truly fascinating and good reminder to slow down and stay curious. 
  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo:  This book offers a peek behind the curtain of three women’s lives and the role of desire and sexual relationships in the shaping of their lives. The author spent about 10 years working with these women to write this book. No books have been written that study the topic so closely, with subjects and insights about womanhood that are so relatable. At times it feels voyeuristic, but ultimately the author really connects you to these women’s deepest, most private thoughts, feelings, and desires. It’s an extremely honest and intimate snapshot of their lives. I didn’t love the author’s voice in her intro chapter, but after that it was a breeze to read.
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller: I could not put this down. Miller gives voice to the powerless, though it’s only her story she tells. Miller was sexually assaulted in the infamous Brock Turner case and known throughout the trial as “Emily Doe”. In writing this book, Miller makes herself vulnerable and shows strength- not only her strength, but the strength of every survivor that chooses to go public. She shows the hard road they walk, the roadblocks  they face in our legal system and in the court of public opinion. The topic isn’t an easy one, but she manages to make the reader feel optimistic, powerful, and part of the solution. Through her story readers get a very intimate perspective of the very real culture around assault and victim blaming in our society. I highly recommend this read.
  • Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow : Another page turner! I listened to the audiobook version and aside from the sometimes hilarious accents Farrow puts on, it’s a serious work. Farrow tells the story of NBC burying his story about Weinstein and how it came to be that he published it at the New Yorker. He’s tailed by spies, offered help from those looking to get information for Weinstein, and threatened along the way, all the while trying to convince those with stories to speak out while they are often facing the same threats. Farrow tells the story with commanding ease and keeps readers easily on track through all the twists and turns.
  • Colorado by Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Neil’s voice and musicians sound good as ever. I cannot stop listening. 

Laura

  • A Good Place to Hide: How One French Community Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II by Peter Grose: Compelling story about a small town in the Loire Valley of France in which several of the townspeople rallied to save the lives and hide Jews and other victims during the Holocaust.  The book is extremely detailed and is a good introduction to France’s role during World War II.
  • Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra: Have you ever wondered how Little Women would fare if it took place in current times, skipped over the first part of the book, was set in North Carolina, and was only told from the point of view of the two oldest daughters?  Then this is the book for you!  Interesting AU (alternate universe) fiction about the March family.  I appreciated hearing more of Meg’s point of view than I did in the original novel and there were some interesting changes but not sure I’ll read the sequel (Beth and Amy, I assume) if there is one.
  • The Living by Matt De la Pena: This was a fun and quick paced teen disaster book set aboard a cruise ship with a bit of mystery and intrigue.  
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory: Guillory is my favorite romance writer.  Her characters are well developed, most of her leads are people of color, and the women have a lot of agency.  Plus, they’re always fun and make me feel happy!  This is the direct follow up to The Wedding Party and this book is a bit of a fairy tale when Vivian has a whirlwind romance with a high ranking staff member of the Queen of England.  What’s refreshing is that both leads are adults in their 50s, which is something I have not seen in a lot of romance novels.
  • Louisa on the Front Lines: Louisa May Alcott in the Civil War by Samantha Seiple: Louisa May Alcott worked as a Civil War nurse in Washington DC prior to her writing Little Women, an experience she documented in Hospital Sketches.  This book details a lot more of her experience as well as the reality of medicine and the front lines during the time.
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by the author: This is a compelling, thoughtful, sorrowful, and hopeful memoir, written in verse, detailing Anderson’s triumphs and tragedies, including the impact a sexual assault had on her life.  This book is very powerful and a good parallel to Anderson’s Speak.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney: Coming of age novel about Marianne and Connell’s who have an on again/off again romance through late high school and college in Dublin, Ireland.  This is a quiet, thoughtful read that is character driven.
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds, read by Guy Lockard: This is a children’s book about track that can be appreciated by non sports fans.  Lockard’s narration really adds depth to the novel by giving bigger voices to already well developed characters.
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust Volume II) by Philip Pullman: This book is the follow up to La Belle Sauvage, which had been the prequel to His Dark Materials trilogy, but it is also the sequel to His Dark Materials trilogy as Lyra is now an adult in her 20s.  As with the first book in The Book of Dust trilogy, it is extremely plot driven and it moves on from character to character at breathtaking speed.  A lame romance subplot and an attempted sexual assault seem unnecessary as well.  I’ve been enjoying the His Dark Materials television adaptation so it was good to have this be on my recent brain while watching.
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Lovely coming of age story about a friendship and eventual romance between two boys, Aristotle and Dante, in the 1980s.
  • Full Dissidence by Howard Bryant: This is an upcoming book of essays by the talented sports journalist, Howard Bryant, who wrote the brilliant Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. The essays are honest, thoughtful, and (at times) angry about the reality of race relations in this current age.  
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, read by Kate Burton: I first read this book 30(!) years ago and remember loving it but wasn’t sure what would happen when I revisited it.  I still very much enjoyed the story of Francie Nolan and the hardships (and happiness) of her life with her family and neighbors.  
  • Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town under Siege by Mike Thomson: During the height of the current Syrian Civil War, residents of Daraya saved thousands of books and stored and circulated them in an underground library.  I was impressed with the resilience of the people featured in this story as well as getting human faces to the very complicated Civil War in Syria.  This book is a good start for learning more about the conflict.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: This historical novel, written in the same vein as Triangle and Orphan Train, is, like those, a duel narrative taking place in the past and present day.  The historical portions feature a fictional family who are victims of the Tennessee Children’s Home adoption scandal.  The modern day portions do tie into that, but I didn’t find it necessary. That being said, I was horrified by the real life story of the scandal and am inspired to read more about it.
  • Game of Thrones (television show): Well, I’m nothing, if not relevant, waiting six months after the last episode of this show before starting it.  It’s definitely entertaining, well acted, and extremely violent.  I’m enjoying it but it definitely has its issues.  

Janet Z.

2020 Young (At Heart) Adult Book Club Titles 2020

A book club for adults who love reading young adult/teen books! Join us and share your love of YA Literature with other adults. In 2020, we’ll be meeting bi-montly on Wednesdays at 7:15 pm. All are welcome! No registration required.

2020 Waltham Public Library Thursday Night Book Club Selections

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano

Announcing the 2020 reading list for the Waltham Public Library Thursday Night Book Club! Meetings are once a month on Thursdays at 7:15 pm. The book club is open to everyone. No registration required. And we always provide snacks!

Staff Reads October 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Louise

  • The Sisters Weiss by Naomi Ragen: This is a gem of a novel that makes me want to read everything that Naomi Ragen has ever written.  The story is compelling.  Two young girls grow up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn in the 1950s.  They adhere strictly to the traditions and customs of their culture.  Things change for Rose when she meets a classmate whose father has a camera and a passion for photography.  Rose begins to be curious about  the wider world and what it can offer.  I also recommend these similar books: All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen; Unorthodox:  The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots by Debora Feldman
  • How Not To Die Alone by Richard Roper: If this book were a television show, it would be a combination of The Office (the English version) and Six Feet Under.  Andrew, our main character, works in a municipal job where he goes to dead people’s houses to try to get clues about their next of kin.  And, oops!  somehow, during his job interview, he wasn’t quite paying attention and accidentally told his boss to be that he is married with a family by saying ‘yes’ when the answer should have been no. The boss has suggested that everyone host a dinner at their home to built the esprit de corps in the office.  Andrew has created a fictional wife and family.  What will he do?  If you like humor that is sometimes rather dark, than this is the book for you.  I laughed out loud several times and am hoping for more books from this author.

Liz

Laura:

  • She the People: A Graphic History of Uprisings, Breakdowns, Setbacks, Revolts, and Enduring Hope on the Unfinished Road to Women’s Equality by Jen Deaderick, illustrated by Rita Sapunor: Part graphic novel, part prose history book, this is a great inclusive book about the role women (all women) have played in United States History. 
  • The It Girls by Karen Harper: Novel about real life sisters, novelist, Elinor Glyn and fashion designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon who inspired the term “It Girl” and lived in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.  The passage of time moved very quickly in the novel, but it did inspire me to want to read more about the two woman including Glyn’s so-called “scandalous” novels.
  • American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures edited by America Ferrera: This is a beautiful collection of essays from various celebrities who are either immigrants to the United States or first generation.  This book highlights all of the wonderful ways that we’re different while still addressing what we all have in common.  
  • After the Flood by Kassandra Montag: The world has changed drastically due to the Hundred Year Flood, which was then followed by the Six Year Flood.  Myra and her young daughter, Pearl, go off in search of Myra’s older daughter who disappeared years earlier and meet up with a cast of characters who all have their own baggage as a result of the Floods.  This somber yet hopeful novel creates a world that is believable and is a good readalike for someone who enjoyed Station Eleven but who may not normally read post-apocalyptic literature.  (After the Flood is the choice for ALA’s Libraries Transform Book Pick and is offered without a waiting list from our e-book catalog through October 21)
  • A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombie by Paul Lewis, illustrated by Ken Lamug: Speaking of the apocalypse, this tongue in cheek graphic novel written in the style of Goodnight, Moon is funny, yet terrifying.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: A witty and biting novel about race, class, and transactional relationships, this is the story of Emira Tucker, an African-American woman in her twenties who babysits for a white family, who claim to consider her part of the family but don’t actually know what that means.  A series of events and Dickensian coincidences lead to some interesting encounters and choices. I really enjoyed this fast paced but thoughtful novel, set for release in late December. 
  • All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, read by Richard Poe (Digital audiobook): I had read this book several years ago but had forgotten most of it.  It’s viewed as the history of the 1972 break-in at the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee, but really it’s a detailed look at what goes into a news investigation.  Highly recommended for anyone interested in journalism history and investigative reporting. And perhaps if enough people read (or re-read) this book, they’ll remember that Watergate was the name of the scandal because that was the location and we can stop adding gate at the end of every public scandal.  (“Deflategate”, “Spygate”, hmm, why are so many of these about the Patriots?)
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown, read by Amanda Dolan (Digital audiobook): Teenager Joanna Gordon is a lesbian and is, mostly, accepted and supported by her evangelical minister father.  However, when they move from Atlanta to a small town in Georgia, Joanna is forced to hide her sexuality.  A lot of the side characters in this novel seem more like plot devices than actual people but overall, I like the message of this novel which states that being religious and being an LGBTQ+ ally do not need to be mutually exclusive.  

Kate

Dana

Pat A.

Todd

Ashley

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: As The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my very favorite books, I was excited for this release, 19 years after I read the first. While it doesn’t quite live up to it’s predecessor, it kept my attention, and I really wanted to know what happened.  It was interesting how this book functions as both a sequel to the television show and original book. While the first book really made an impression with the shocking barbarity of Gilead, I felt like there was a little too much going on in the sequel. Too much had to happen, so the reader was immersed not in the claustrophobic atmosphere of Gilead, but an action packed means to an end.  While not the shocking masterpiece of The Handmaid’s Tale, it is compulsively readable, and you won’t be able to put it down.
  • High School by Tegan and Sara Quin: I chose the audiobook version, because I knew it was narrated by Tegan and Sara, and they definitely bring a lot of personality to everything they do. The songs recorded when they were teenagers  added throughout were a fun bonus. 
  • All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • Mindhunter, Season 2
  • Ready or Not 
  • It Chapter Two: Definitely not as much of a horror film as the first installment. 
  • PomsA surprisingly cute and funny film.
  • Get Out: Creepy in that “somethings just kinda off” way.

 

Staff Reads — Labor Day 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Louise: 

  • The Behavior Of Love : A Novel by Virginia Reeves: Ed Malinowski is a psychiatrist who is determined to rehabilitate the developmentally disabled residents of an institution in Montana. He moves himself and his artistic wife to rural Montana and is enamored with one of the ‘inmates’, an epileptic named Penelope. He assures his wife that his interest in Penelope is only professional, but is it? We see the cracks and fissures in the marriage and watch to see what will happen. The character development and the story line in this novel is superb. I could not put it down.
  • Walking The Dog by Elizabeth Swados: Elizabeth Swados was a very eclectic and talented playwright and author, a five-time Tony nominee and the recipient of three Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Ford grant, among numerous other honors. This novel is very interesting if you like extremely unconventional characters and if you read for character. The narrator is an extremely talented, upper class child who ends up serving a prison sentence after a botched robbery which left some officers of the law dead not by her hand I might add. Her parents, although wealthy, did not really like their daughter and I felt sympathy for her all the way through. Recommended for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and Janet Fitch.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood and this novel does not disappoint. It is definitely a bit scary but so well done. The plot and the characters are very strong in this frightening tale of a patriarchy that has gone out of control.
  • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: This futuristic novel about a world that has gotten engulfed in crime and chaos and the seemingly wonderful Positron Project that combines working and prison for “the greater good” is horrifying and a little bit funny at the same time. Excellent plot line that will keep you reading. Has a kind of a Ray Bradbury tinge to it (and I am a big fan of Ray Bradbury as well).

Casey:

Laura

  • Dutch House by Ann Patchett: I was very lucky to get an advanced copy of Patchett’s upcoming novel.  This novel, about two adult siblings, drawn to their childhood home from while they were exiled, is typical of Patchett in that the characters are unique and well drawn.
  • All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred Taylor: This upcoming novel, read courtesy of another advanced copy, is a long awaited entry in the Logan family saga (most well known from Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry).  I was pleased to read a new story from a series that I loved back in high school. 
  • The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory: Another great romance from Guillory!  I love how she turns romance tropes on their heads as well as including a diverse (and well rounded) set of characters.
  • Nothing by Annie Barrows, narrated by Arielle DeLisle: The voices of the two protagonists in this teen novel, seemed so real to me.  It seemed very authentic to what had been going through my head as a teenager.
  • Pulp by Robin Talley, narrated by Stephanie Cannon: This novel, alternating between present day and 1950s Washington DC and two teenage girls, Abby and Janet.  Present day Abby is very comfortable and has a lot of support being out while Janet has a much harder time in the 1950s.  Throughout the novel are analyses and history about lesbian pulp fiction of the 1950s and the lavender scare.  

Debora

  • We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter : Fans of Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy will love this novel. Set during WWII, it tells the story of Poland’s Kurc family during the Nazi takeover. The chapters skip back and forth among the siblings and parents and tell an incredible tale of ingenuity, grit, and luck across cities, countries, and years. You should read it knowing that the book is a retelling of an actual family’s experience, told by the granddaughter of one of the siblings. This was impossible to put down.
  • The Huntress by Kate Quinn: I can’t seem to get out of WWII. This is another novel that weaves the different story threads through multiple characters, eventually pulling them altogether. Set after the war, it features an American family, a group of Nazi hunters, and a Nazi murderer – a woman who was called The Huntress. I’ve read other books by this author, but this was the best so far. Another compulsive read
  • Betrayal in Time by Julie McElwain: I’m not a mystery reader, but I’m completely hooked on this series. This is the author’s 4th Kendra Donovan mystery and what I love is the historical fiction aspect. Kendra is a 21st century FBI agent who accidentally travels back to 19th century England where she ends up solving murders. What I love is the juxtaposition of Kendra – a kick ass woman of our time – to a time when women are marginalized citizens without professions or power. Kendra navigates it all with humor and dry sarcasm. There’s a nice little love story, too. 

Todd

Seana

Kim

Dana

  • The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay: This is a delight(!)ful collection of essays written about the small joys Gay observed over the course of a year, from gardening to watching a praying mantis to the use of air quotes. He does touch on some heavy topics as well, but the delights are the main focus. After reading it, I’ve found myself looking for the small delights in every day, and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s quite nice!
  • The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict: This work of historical fiction about film star Hedy Lamarr left me wanting to know more! It focuses on about a decade of her life, starting when she was a theater actress in Vienna, moving to her years spent married to a notorious Austrian arms dealer, and then her subsequent escape to America and rise in Hollywood. I knew vaguely before reading that Lamarr had invented something during World War Two, and this book showed just what a brilliant woman she was.
  • Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, by Lucy Knisley: At one point in this graphic novel/memoir, Knisley points out that “motherhood, birth, and miscarriage are topics that are too often silenced or unaddressed (especially in comic books).” This book helps fill that gap, and does so powerfully. Knisley tells the story of her struggles to get pregnant, then chronicles her pregnancy and the birth of her son, sprinkling tidbits throughout on the history of and myths, misconceptions, and facts about motherhood.
  • An Age of License, Displacementand Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley: I enjoyed Kid Gloves so much that I decided I need to read more of Knisley’s books. These three – two travelogues and one foodie memoir – were all quick reads, and fun and touching in their own ways, but Kid Gloves is still my favorite of the lot. 
  • Choose Your Own Disaster: A. A Memoir, B. A Personality Quiz, C. A Mostly True and Completely Honest Look at One Young Woman’s Attempt to Find Herself, D. All of the above, by Dana Schwartz: The “choose your own adventure” style of this book is what caught my attention, but it was also what made me not like the book very much in the end. I had conveniently forgotten how much I didn’t like the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid – I loved them in theory, but in practice I couldn’t stop thinking about what I missed by choosing my own way, and was annoyed that I essentially had to read the book multiple times just to see what I might have missed. The same happened this time around. 

Ashley

  • These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Stirling: First book in a long time that I could not put down. In this contemporary mystery/magical realism with a little bit of romance, Hannah is a teenage elemental witch living in Salem MA. After a bad breakup with her girlfriend, Hannah is just trying to spend the summer hanging with her best friend and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron. Until there is a blood sacrifice at the end of the school year bonfire. Someone bad is in town, and if Hannah doesn’t figure out who it is, she could be in trouble. The mystery kept me guessing until the very end, and I thoroughly enjoyed the rich characters and storytelling. 
  • The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka: I’m a big fan of Kristen Lepionka’s Roxane Weary novels. She’s a smart, whisky drinking PI who doesn’t always look after her own best interest, but can definitely be counted on in a crisis. While I can’t say this book is my favorite of the three, i’m definitely still looking forward to the next one. 
  • The Wolf Wants In by Laura McHugh: I really loved her first book, The Weight of Blood, and have been picking up anything she writes ever since. This story is told from the alternating points of view of two women, who do not even know each other, as one tries to uncover how her brother really died. Set in rural kansas, amid the opioid epidemic, this was an interesting mystery. It kept me hooked until the end. 
  • Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway: While this middle grade book tried to tackle a lot of issues; homelessness, mental illness, alcoholism, immigration…..it was an incredibly sweet read, and made me want pie. 
  • Vernonica Mars Season 4
  • Harlots, Season 3

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!
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