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Staff Reads April 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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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.

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