Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

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I am back to my favorite genre again: historical fiction. This week, I am reviewing The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunna work of historical fiction that could also be classified as a romance novel.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant toggles between two distinct eras: 1951 and 2018.

In 1951 Esther is depressed after the sudden death of her youngest son and her husband, John, does not know what to do to help her.  Eventually he calls upon psychiatrist Richard Cresswell, who on the isolated island of Little Embers helps veterans recover from the trauma they experienced during war. Esther is his first female patient on the island.

Decades later, in 2018, marine biologist Rachel Parker is washed ashore during a violent storm at Little Embers. She recuperates with the help of Leah, the only inhabitant on the island. Rachel discovers a stash of love letters in a suitcase full of clothes Leah offers her. Rachel is determined to return the never mailed letters to “E” and determine the writer’s identity.

I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting parsing between the two time periods and putting the pieces together. I would heartily recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or romance stories.

~Emma

 

Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer Amazon.com: Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Mystery (Obama Biden ...

There certainly is no shortage of books by and about politicians these days–be they memoirs, analyses, or biographies. So it’s fun to step back and enjoy a fun novel about some of these figures. The Obama-Biden mystery series by Andrew Shaffer, with two books so far, are fun stories featuring these storied figures as main characters.

In Hope Never Dies (2018), Finn Donnelly, an Amtrak conductor and friend of Joe’s is dead. His remains are found on railroad tracks. Was it an accident, a suicide, or a murder? As the story unfolds the reader learns more about Finn, his sick wife,  his financial woes, and his connection to a motorcycle gang dealing drugs. The former vice president no longer has secret service protection but the former president does. Joe, Barack, and Secret Service officer Steve work to solve the mystery.

In Hope Rides Again (2019), we find Joe, Barack, and Steve all in the Obama hometown of Chicago. Obama’s foundation is working hard to make a difference in the lives of young Chicagoans. Joe makes acquaintance with a young man at one of the foundation’s programs. Soon, though, the young man is embroiled in violence and scandal that exposes a seedier side of Chicago that runs the gamut of Chicago’s power structures. This book features cameo appearances from several other figures from the Obama administration, including Michelle Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

Fictional forms of political figures aren’t exactly uncommon–whether it’s TV’s The West Wing (1999-2006), a fully fictionalized world that mirrored real-life figures and events; an anonymously published novel Primary Colors (1996) which fictionalizes the 1992 presidential campaign; or books like Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife (2008) and Rodham (2020), novels about Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton, respectively. These, though, tend to be serious analyses or treatises with occasional moments of levity. Andrew Shaffer’s Obama-Biden Mysteries are the exact opposite–silly, over-the-top, and fun.

It’s fun to witness the relationship between Joe and Barack in these stories. Joe is definitely in charge of the investigation  I am curious if Joe Biden and Barack Obama have read the books and, if so, what they think of them.

~Emma

Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin

This week’s read: Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin

Just before the band Vagabond becomes a sensation, lead singer Claire Martin is replaced. She finds a job as the musician for a baby playgroup for well-to-do mommies in New York City.  At first it’s just a job for Claire, but slowly the women accept her as part of their tight knit group and she enjoys being with them. Not everything is wonderful for these women. An expensive vitamin supplement they all take promises health and boundless energy. It seems to be too good to be true. What follows is an adventure of drama, wealth, privilege, and secrets.

Again, I stepped out of my reading comfort zone and am glad that I did. I tend to read historical fiction and cozy mysteries–this was more like a trip to a Real Housewives reality show!

Reviewers suggest this book for those who enjoy reading novels by Sophie Kinsella, Elin Hilderbrand and Elizabeth Berg. I would also say that if you enjoy reality TV, you’ll definitely find something to like here!

Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin will be released on May 19!

~Emma

Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

daughters

Last week, I recommended Connie Schultz’s 2007 book …and His Lovely Wifea memoir of her time as a political candidate’s wife. This week, I am excited to share about The Daughters of Erietown, Schultz’s first novel. For those who don’t know or remember, Connie Schultz was a journalist and columnist for many years at our very own Plain Dealer. Her columns won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. I was lucky to get an advance copy of the book before it is released officially on June 9th! I hope you enjoy hearing about it!

It’s 1957 in northeast Ohio. Ellie, who was raised by her grandparents, and Brick, who was abused by his alcoholic father, are seniors in high school looking forward to their futures. Ellie plans to go to nursing school and basketball star Brick plans to be the first in his family to attend college. When Ellie gets pregnant, though, the pair’s dreams are left behind. The young couple marries and Brick finds a union job at the local power company. When Brick is unfaithful, he is unaware another child is born. The little boy, who looks just like his dad, and his mother show up at Brick and Ellie’s home.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away. However the novel follows Brick and Ellie through the decades along with their two children.

It’s a novel to be enjoyed. Kirkus Reviews, which has a reputation for not mincing words when it doesn’t care for a book, described it as a “masterful debut novel.” I can’t help but agree.

~ Emma

Your Library Staff at Home- Book Recommendation

Schultz, Connie - ...and His Lovely Wife

When Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz got married in 2004, their’s wasn’t exactly a typical union. Both had been married and divorced; both had grown children. Brown had served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993; Schultz was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for Cleveland’s Plain Dealer. To make matters more complicated, less than two years into their marriage, Brown announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Upon the conclusion of the campaign (Brown was victorious), Connie Schultz released a memoir of her time as a candidate’s wife, …and His Lovely Wife (2007), a truly delightful book.

…and His Lovely Wife traces Brown’s campaign from its earliest days, all from the point of view of Schultz, a political neophyte. Schultz experiences the dirty work of opposition research (her trash is searched), the complicated matter of the news media (she’s a columnist at a newspaper with a very politically-vocal editorial page), and family challenges (Schultz lost her parents during the campaign).

Ultimately, though, the book is not a political diatribe. It’s mostly the story of a young relationship between two old hands at marriage, in the most unusual of honeymoon periods. It’s a love story, and a joy to read.

For the politically interested, …and His Lovely Wife features cameos from numerous figures whose statures have only grown in the years since: Brown’s Republican opponent is current Ohio governor Mike DeWine; also running for Senate in 2005-06 were future presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar.

Schultz has also published a compilation of her Plain Dealer columns, the also-enjoyable Life Happens (2006)She will be releasing her first novel, The Daughters of Erietownin June. My son Andrew was granted an advance reader copy of the book, and I will be sharing my thoughts on it next week! Check back then!

–Emma

Schultz, Connie - The Daughters of Erietown     Schultz, Connie - Life Happens

Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

mercies

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave takes places on Vardo, a remote island in Norway, in 1617. In a scenario based on historical fact, a terrible storm drowns most of the men from the tiny settlement on Vardo while they are out fishing. The women are left to provide and protect themselves. They are also left seeking answers: why did the storm come and take their men? And what do they do now?

Eighteen months later, Commissioner Absalom Cornet and his new wife Ursula come to Vardo. Ursula grew up in Bergen, Norway, surrounded by servants; she has no experience cooking, baking or cleaning, all of which are expected of women. Luckily, local woman Maren offers to help Ursula adjust to her new life. The women become fast friends.

The Vardo community has been left reeling from the storm, and is trying to adjust to their new normal. As commissioner, Absalom has been sent to take control of the situation, and to rid the community of supposed witchcraft. As suspicion mounts, Maren’s sister-in-law Diinna is suspected, as are others in the community. With the community turning to accusation and her husband seeking answers, Ursula is left to watch the chaos unfold.

The Mercies is a challenging read, that focuses on superstition, brutality, and the subjugation of women. For the willing audience, though, it is a fascinating journey back to seventeenth century Norway.

It is also interesting to explore the true history behind this book. In 2011, a monument was erected on Vardo in memory of the victims of this episode.

 

witch monument

Steilneset Memorial

~Emma

Your Library Staff at Home – Book Recommendation

valentine

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore takes place in 1976 in Odessa, Texas where oil fields are the economic mainstay of the community. Fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramirez escapes to Mary Rose Whitehead’s home the victim of rape and a horrific beating. Gloria’s attacker, Dale Strickland, finds her at Mary Rose’s house but fortunately police intervene and Gloria is taken away by ambulance.

Dale Strickland is charged with rape and has his day in court. Mary Rose testifies but Gloria does not. Dale is found guilty, fined and placed on probation. Some feel that the sentence does not fit the crime, especially the small group of women that surround and support Gloria. These women and Gloria tell the story from their point of view in alternating chapters.

This debut novel is a “Read with Jenna” Today Show book club choice and was a hard story for me to read. It depicts an obviously unfair system where a young Mexican girl does not get justice and leaves. It is a very well-written, engrossing read, but I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.

~Emma