Credits

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

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

posted by Laura

Staff Reads Late March 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Mary V.

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

Dana

Amber

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

Debora

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

John (and family)

Laura

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

Marie

Seana

Luke

Casey

Louise

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

Ashley

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

Staff Reads — March 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Dana: 

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

Liz

Aaron

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

Laura

Louise

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

Mary V.

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

Kerry

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

Casey

Debora

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

Ashley

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

Kim

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

Tax Filing Season 2020

It’s that time of year again!  Please use our online resource guide to help you through tax season.

From the IRS: The Tax deadline for filing has been extended until July 15, 2020.  If you are able to file your taxes at this time, please do them so as not to burden the system for those who are not able to file taxes before the original April 15 deadline.  Please visit irs.gov for more information.

Note: As the situation regarding Covid 19 continues to evolve, so does the information provided in this guide.  We are keeping up with the changes and adding them here as they become known.  Thank-you for your patience.

Obtaining Tax Forms

  • Library staff members are not authorized by revenue agencies to give tax advice or determine the correct form to match specific needs.

Where and How to File Tax Returns

Local Offices for Tax Agencies

  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Boston Office
    update, March 20, 2020: This office is closed until further notice.  According to the office’s outgoing voice mail message, those with existing appointments between now and April 15 will be contacted and will be helped over the phone. 
    JFK Federal Building
    15 New Sudbury Street
    Boston, MA 02203
    617-316-2850
    844-545-5640
  • Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR)
    update, March 20, 2020: This office is closed to the public until further notice.  Phone appointments are still accepted, at this time.

    100 Cambridge Street, 2nd Floor
    Boston, MA 02114 
    617-887-6367
    800-392-6089 (toll-free in Massachusetts)
    Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Free Tax Help for Those who are Eligible
update, March 20, 2020: Most in person locations that offer Tax Help are closed.  Some locations are hoping to offer online services for those who need it.  We will bring that information as it becomes available.

Other Resources

English Language Learning Club 2020 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.  We meet one Tuesday a month at 7:15 pm (19:15).  This group is recommended for intermediate and advanced speakers.

If you have any questions, please contact Aaron at 781-314-3442.

2020 Meeting Dates

Staff Reads — Happy New Year 2020!

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Louise:

  • Fugly by Claire Waller : This wonderful YA novel had me from the first word to the last.  The main character of the novel, Beth Soames, lives in a flat with her mother and brother.  Her dad flew the familial coop and mom has fallen into a life of medication,  depression, and excessive television viewing.  Her younger brother is keeping late hours and locking himself into his room.  Beth tries to attend to her mother and brother, but this is an uphill battle.  She has a hidden life as an internet troll where she feels more powerful than in her ‘real life’.  Beth is attending university hoping to make some positive changes in her life and things to begin to change for her.  Two friendships, one online and one in university, begin to change the path that Beth has embarked on.
  • Reality Boy:  A Novel by A.S. King:  This is a fabulous YA novel about a young man whose entire childhood was upended due to unwanted exposure on a reality show at the age of 5 with a so called nanny ‘helping’ the family.  The nanny is actually an actress playing a nanny.  Gerald, our main character, has an older sister who is psychopathic…except the family does not acknowledge this and all clues to this are suppressed in the reality show.  He has another sister who sees all that goes on and is an ally to Gerald.  The novel begins with Gerald at age 17, his kind sister Lisi is off at college and not keeping in touch.  The psychopathic sister is taunting him at home and the family, as per usual, is turning a deaf ear to the awful behavior of this out of control family member.  This novel is so absorbing and brings us hope for Gerald who has grown up in such a difficult heart wrenching situation.  This only underlines my personal distaste for reality television.  However, even fans of reality television will be moved by this well crafted novel.
  • Dark Money:  The Hidden History of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Right by Jane Mayer : For me, the narrator of audiobooks is as important or even more important than the content. I am happy to say that the narrator of this audiobook is excellent and I am enjoying this aspect of the book.  As one can see from the title, this is not a ‘happy’ story but it is instructive and well written.  I have been very curious about the radical right and how it has so much power in our country and even the world.  This book is filling in some of the gaps.  This is not a light read but it is educational and does fill in some of the blanks for those of us who are wondering what the heck is going on in our corporate/political system.
  • The Topeka School by Ben Lerner : This novel has been very well reviewed and the plot intrigued me.  Please do not take my review as gospel.  I felt that the book lacked heart and, although the plot line and the setting were quite good, I felt a remove from the characters and did not, in the end, enjoy this book.  I would advise readers to make their own judgements as no book will appeal to every reader.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (streaming) 

Dana: 

  • State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby:
    Nick Hornby’s newest drops the reader into the lives of Tom and Louise, a couple who are just beginning marriage counseling. The entire book takes place at the pub across the street from the therapist’s office, where Tom and Louise meet for a drink before each session. Most of the book is conversation – it reads a bit like a screenplay – but Hornby has a knack for driving the plot well that way.
  • The Cockroach by Ian McEwan: This is a brilliant work of satire that plays out as the reverse of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. In McEwan’s book, a cockroach takes the human form of the British Prime Minister and uses his new body to push forward a controversial new bill that would turn the nation upside down. With vague references to Brexit, Trump, and Parliament, it is timely and funny, and as a bonus can be read in one sitting.
  • Westlife: Our Story, by Westlife and Mark Roach (book) and Spectrum, by Westlife (album): My favorite boy band from my youth released a new album this month, after seven years apart, and I have been giddily reliving my halcyon days by playing it non-stop. I’m also finally getting around to reading their memoir, which came out ten years ago. It’s cheesy and not very well written, but I’m loving it nonetheless
  • The Crown, Season 3: I’ve started watching the newest season of The Crown on Netflix. It’s taking a bit to get used to the new cast, but so far I’m really liking it. Plus, one of my favorite actors, Tobias Menzies, is in it now, so that’s a bonus!

Debora

  • Circe by Madeline Miller: Take The Odyssey and, instead of reading about Odysseus’ triumphs and travels, learn about the witch Circe that he stays with for over a year. Miller tells Circe’s rich and compelling backstory with a language that is as lyrical as, I’m guessing, the original Odyssey. Circe is a complicated woman with faults and feelings who struggles with many things in her long immortal life. She ultimately makes a choice that both surprises and makes complete sense. I loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end. This book will appeal to fans of The Mists of Avalon.
  • That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron: This historical novel was a big disappointment. American Jennie Jerome, who became Lady Churchill and gave birth to the baby Winston was a controversial and outrageous woman who flaunted the norms of her Victorian era. While it was somewhat interesting to read this imagining of her life and the time period in which she lived, overall I found the story dull and plodding.
  • The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott: A fascinating premise, this novel tells the story behind Boris Pasternak’s book, Doctor Zhivago, and how the CIA used it as a propaganda tool. Told from several different character voices, it goes back and forth among the stories of Pasternak’s lover and muse, Olga, the two CIA secretaries who began as typists and became spies, and one or two other characters. That back and forthing is confusing and I frequently had to look back to see which character was speaking. The voice of Olga was most compelling and learning about her time in the Gulag truly horrifying; the other characters I found flat and boring.

Casey

Ashley

  • Limetown on Facebook Watch: I couldn’t get into the podcast. It didn’t sound like actual people  being interviewed, just really earnest actors (which it was because ots fiction) and that really turned me off. The show however, is compelling and suspenseful, with a stellar cast, including Jessica Beal and John Beasley. (It’s also a book).
  • Black Christmas (1974)
  • Black Christmas (2019): Similar to the original in setting only. Was a fun, not very scary PG -13 horror film with strong feminist themes.
  • The L Word Generation Q on Showtime
  • Dark Waters: Remember when we found out that teflon was really bad for us? No? This legal thriller will remind you.
  • Knives Out in theaters was a fun whodunnit, filmed locally, including Moody Street.

Molly

Laura

  • Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Susan Ware: Our library was so fortunate to host the author of this excellent inclusive history of the woman’s suffrage movement featuring women and artifacts who have not been given enough due regarding their roles in the movement.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern:  Zachary recognizes an episode from his childhood in a mysterious book in his college library and starts on a mysterious journey.  Written in a non linear format, the style is dreamlike with a lot of mysterious characters and extremely descriptive detail.  Although the pace was very leisurely, I read the book very quickly, though I much preferred Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus.
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds, read by Heather Alicia SimmsI’ve been enjoying Jason Reynolds’s Track series, the second being about Patina aka “Patty”.  This book is a great blend of lighthearted prose along with serious situations, such as Patina’s mother’s diabetes.  I love the loving and complicated relationship she has with her uncle and aunt who are raising her.
  • The Girl in the White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly by Kerri Maher: I would recommend this upcoming novel for readers who enjoy to read fictitious accounts of celebrities, such as Josephine Baker’s Last Dance and The Paris Wife. 
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: Beautiful coming of age, character driven novel, written in verse, about Xiomara, who discovers her love for slam poetry while navigating her relationship with her immigrant parents, her twin brother, and a new love.
  • March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley: The four authors each tackle one of the March sisters in this unique analysis of Little Women.  I saw the four sisters in a different light upon reading this, especially Beth and the oft-maligned Amy.
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier: Telgemeier continues to be my favorite graphic novel writer/illustrator and really captures the anxiety of a pre-teen girl in her latest addition.
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, read by Julia Whelan: Evvie, a young widow who had been on the verge of leaving her husband, connects romantically with Dean, her tenant and a washed up baseball player.  This was a pleasant read (or listen) though I found it hard to completely invest in the characters.
  • Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam: Fascinating memoir and history about the first female African-American reporter at The Washington Post
  • Dawnland: This documentary details the horrible history behind child welfare agencies removing Native American children from their homes and the results of a “truth and reconciliation commission” from Maine to investigate the practice.  Very powerful and ends with more questions than answers.
  • Bright Lights: This sad, raw, and occasionally funny documentary is about the relationship between mother and daughter, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.  The fact this was released just weeks after their deaths adds a poignancy to the film.
  • It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise: Oooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love Eloise (and by extension the man who illustrated her).

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club 2020

It’s 2020, which means the Waltham Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club has entered our 3rd year! Join us as we continue to read both recent additions to the genre as well as classics of the past.  Meetups are every second Monday of the month, 7:15-8:45pm. Books can be found at the First Floor Reference Desk. No registration required! Nerd or not, all are welcomed! Snacks provided!

January 13th: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

February 10th: Dawn by Octavia Butler

March 9th: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

April 13th: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

May 11th: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

June 8th: Vicious by V. E. Schwab

July 13th: The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

August 10th: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

September 14th: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

October 19th: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

November 9th: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

December 14th: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

2020 Saturday Morning Book Club Title List

We are looking forward to a great year of reading and hope you will join us!

This book group meets one Saturday a month at 10 am. Books are available on the shelves behind the Reference Desk during the month before each meeting.

The book club is open to everyone; no registration required. Coffee and snacks provided.

January 4 Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

February 1 The River by Peter Heller

March 7 Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

April 4 Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

May 2 Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

June 6 The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

July 4 No Meeting

August 1 Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

September 5 Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

October 3 The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

November 7 America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

December 5 Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

Initiating Inspiration Book Club 2020 Titles

The purpose of this book group is to offer a thoughtful mixture of self-empowering and spiritually inspired pieces of literature which are read and then discussed in a welcoming, safe and social setting.  Initiating Inspiration, through agreed upon book choices, is meant to be equal parts inspirational learning and casual fun. We meet every other month on the fourth Monday evenings of the month at 7:15 pm. There are no meetings in July or August.

Monday, January 27 7:15PM Evicted: Poverty And Property In The American City by Matthew Desmond

Monday, March 23 7:15PM One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant

Monday, May 18 7:15PM The Bold World: A Memoir of Family And Transformation by Jodie Patterson

Monday, September 28 7:15PM 10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice In My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge And Found Self -Help That Actually Works: A True Story by Dan Harris

Monday, November 23 7:15PM Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race To Turn Hope Into Action: A Memoir by David Fajgenbaum

Staff Reads November 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.  Check out our “Best of Staff Reads” display on our first floor through the end of November.

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.

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