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Staff Reads — June 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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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

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