What we’re reading now….

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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This is a story about isolation and resilience. Kya, also known as the Marsh Girl, was abandoned by her family in the marsh lands of North Carolina. Alongside the story of her survival in the marsh as a child, an alternate timeline of a murder is unwound throughout the story. The writing is lyrical and descriptive which drags you deep into the marshes of North Carolina. The book is both heartbreaking and triumphant. Beth

The Complete Poems of A.R. Ammons  by A.R. Ammons

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American poet A.R. Ammons taught creative writing for years at Cornell, and recently a two-volume collection was published. I’m working my way through the first volume and hope to read the second as well. His poetry is a very intense exploration of the relationship between the natural world and the metaphysical. His voice is charming and unforgettable, and he is able to be funny and profound at the same time. Ammons grew up in rural North Carolina, and some of his most affecting poems (for me) are about his memories as a child, taking care of the animals on his family’s farm. A good, slow, enjoyable and worthwhile read. Andrew

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg

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In Palaces for the People, Klinenberg makes the argument that social infrastructure is fundamental to both the physical and social health of a community. In using the phrase “social infrastructure,” Klinenberg is referencing community places that cause human contact and social connections to form, including libraries, places of worship, parks, and schools. The connections made at these locations create social safety nets and allow for exposure to others; this imparts tolerance and understanding in a society often becoming more divisive. An interesting read; the frequent mentions of how libraries are valuable resources for communities may have influenced my appreciation and enjoyment. Trent


The Familiars by Stacy Hall

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This is a fictionalized account of the real life Pendle Hill Witch Trials. It’s 1612, Lancashire, England and young noblewoman Fleetwood Shuttleworth has yet to bear a child after four years of marriage. Each of her pregnancies have ended in miscarriage and the doctor has made a dire prediction-Fleetwood will not survive another pregnancy. And yet, she once again finds herself with child. When she meets Alice Grey, she begins to believe that both she and her baby might survive. Fleetwood places all her trust in her new midwife, who prescribes various herbs to treat Fleetwood’s ailments. While her health improves and her pregnancy progresses Alice finds herself being accused of witchcraft. Can Fleetwood save the only woman who can save her? Megan


Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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Kindred was pushed up in my reading priorities in February, but as is often the case I don’t usually read books based on monthly themes. I am now part way through listening to it being read by Kim Staunton on my commutes. It has some similarities to the Outlander series, but this book was written 12 years earlier in 1979. Dana is a black woman living in the 1970s who is mysteriously pulled back in time to the early 1800s. The book is a bit more fast paced with back and forth time travelling. Dana must learn to survive living on a plantation in the slave state of Maryland where she has no rights. She meets a couple of her ancestors and learns about her surprising black and white family tree. She experiences physical trauma similar to the women of several generations past. There isn’t really a science fiction device for the time travelling, so it is more fantasy based. Sometimes time travel stories can be full of loopholes and anachronisms, but Butler has very carefully constructed the plot based on history that the hero Dana cannot so easily change for the better. Byron


American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Thornton

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This is the story of Alice, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Alice is just 18 years old when McKinley is assassinated and her father becomes president. Rebellious Alice is in constant conflict with her father and stepmother. She soon marries Congressman Nick Longworth and must deal with his infidelity and heavy drinking. Alice gives birth to Paulina, who is believed to be the daughter of Senator William Borah. When Paulina dies young, Alice raises her granddaughter. This is an epic story of a strong independent woman way ahead of her time. Emma


Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

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George Washington Black, Wash as we come to know him, is a ten year old slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados in the mid 1800s. When the eccentric brother, Titch, of the exceedingly cruel master, Eramus, comes to stay, Wash is taken under the wing of Titch. Wash is both confused and terrified by such an unlikely kindness extended to him. Titch is a scientist, inventor, explorer and abolitionist. Wash is swept up in the life of such a diversified, yet strange young man. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption. The author deftly talks about slavery, racism and identity. It reads like both historical fiction and adventure. Have patience with this novel, at times, it seems disconnected, but well worth it. Mary

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

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Nine people join at a remote health resort in Australia for different reasons. Some are hoping to lose weight, some are getting over broken hearts, and others have heard it is just the most amazing experience ever. As each of them are cut off from the outside world and required to follow a rigid, individualized schedule prepared for them by the spa’s extremely eccentric owner/director, they begin to wonder what they have gotten themselves into. Should they stay and experience the promised life-changing experience, or should they run while (and if) they still can? Not as good as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies in my opinion, but still a good read with some interesting twists and turns. Sara

When I Spoke in Tongues by Jessica Wilbanks

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This memoir is about a woman who grew up in a very religious yet impoverished rural Virginia community and becomes an atheist. As I read it, I could not help but think of Tara Westover’s Educated. Even though there were many similarities in their stories, When I Spoke In Tongues dealt mostly with the complicated, painful process of leaving one’s faith. The most interesting aspect of the author’s journey away from faith was the way her relationships with family members changed. Jessica Wilbanks holds an MFA in creative non-fiction, and the writing in this book is haunting and beautiful. This book would be important for anyone who decides to depart from the faith tradition they grew up with, as well as anyone who wants to know more about Pentecostalism as a movement. Lyndsey

Waterworks by E.L. Doctorow

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I went back a few years and revisited a 1994 E.L. Doctorow novel, The Waterworks, because it was recommended. Set in post-Civil War New York, the book is narrated by a world-weary newspaperman, McIlvaine, whose freelance writer, Martin Pemberton, has disappeared. Pemberton, smart, rebellious, and scion of the wealthy and recently deceased Augustus Pemberton, had confided to McIlvaine that, though his father had died, he believed he recently saw him passing by in a carriage. McIlvaine enlists the help of Donne, a rare honest police officer during the Boss Tweed era, and the two search for Martin, discovering his half-dead body in a facility where the genius Dr. Sartorious is trying to defeat mortality. Doctorow starts off well, lyrically capturing New York and its inhabitants, the poverty, wealth, power and industry, but eventually the plot becomes too gothic and the characters stereotypically good or evil. Maybe this isn’t one of his best? Dori

What we’re reading now….

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The  Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

This novel begins in the summer of 1969. Four young siblings stumble upon information of a traveling fortune teller within their neighborhood, whom can tell anyone the day they will die.  Curious about such a power, the children seek out the fortune teller, and each are told the day of their death. The story is told in four separate parts, each part dedicated to each sibling.  The four children, straightforward Varya, bossy Daniel, magic obsessed Klara and dreamy Simon, must come to terms with the information imparted on them by the fortune teller.  This is also a story about family.  While each sibling has their own story, their relationship with each other is woven into their lives, and always a piece of them. What keeps the reader most engaged lies in which characters will meet their demise on said projected date and how will death take them, or better yet, can they somehow change their fated date? Mary

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Long ago the Raven promised his protection to the lands of Iraden.  In return for his protection, the Lease must sacrifice himself upon the death of the Raven’s physical manifestation.  Mawat rides for the Raven’s Tower informed that this rite is imminent.  There he will take his rightful place on the throne as the Lease’s heir.  However, another now sits on the throne and claims the title Lease for himself.  Worse yet, he claims the previous Lease fled and the sacrifice to the Raven has not been made. Though The Raven Tower may be a fantasy novel, Leckie has retained some of the essence typical of a science fiction novel.  Large swaths of the novel are taken over by explaining the magical system and contemplating what are essentially logic puzzles. Everything is very precise, but as with the best science fiction, it remains lively and fascinating. Trent

If You See Me

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

I was fascinated by and completely absorbed in this debut book of short stories by Neel Patel. I finished the book in a week, which is unheard of for me. Most of these stories have a refreshingly modern voice and are told from the perspective of a first-generation Indian American who stands at the intersection of cultures where traditional beliefs (such as arranged marriages) collide with modern rituals (such as Facebook stalking). The stories are deceptively casual in that the language is conversational, but each character contends with complicated questions about cultural and sexual identity, mental illness, and family dysfunction – and does so with charm, depth, and humor. Hand this book to any person who likes a thoughtful and entertaining story. Lindsey

Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg

Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg.

I also have Ms. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series on my reading list so when an advanced copy of this Smoke & Summons became available I was excited to sample it. It is the beginning of a new trilogy called the Numina trilogy. It is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic steampunk world, but with outlawed magic talismans and spells secretly used by a select few. Or you could say it is a polluted, corrupt, “smokepunk” world with a big division between the haves and have-nots. Young adults Sandis and Rone are unlikely heroes at the center of the story. Sandis is a vessel for an ancient spirit, known as a Numin. She is a slave to an evil wizard who can summon a raging fire horse into her against her will. Rone is a street-smart thief who is willing to help her escape as long as he can fix his own family troubles first. So far the first half of this fantasy adventure with religious hypocrisy and dangerous occult forces sprinkled throughout is exciting. It has delivered several surprises that make me eager to find out what happens next. Byron

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White…

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

In this best-selling book, renowned anti-racism educator Dr. DiAngelo clearly and succinctly outlines how racism is not simply a “bad person” phenomenon, but a systematic construct. Her concept of white fragility refers to the defensive moves white people make when their notions of race are challenged. Beyond detailing the problem, DiAngelo also provides clear instructions on how white people can engage in cross-racial discussions more productively. This is an eye-opening, must-read for white people who are truly invested in having meaningful, live-changing conversations about race. Megan

The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop…

The Art of Asking , or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Written by singer, songwriter, and performance artist, Amanda Palmer, this book straddles the line between biography and manifesto. This book’s creation was spurned by Palmer’s TED Talk  where she told of her time as a living statue and how it exemplified her belief in the act asking and the act’s power. This book gives a short biography of Palmer’s career and how it was influenced/driven by relationships she built. A great book that offers an alternative relationship than the producer/consumer of many artistic fields. I personally recommend the audio book as it includes songs from Palmer’s career  and creates a fuller picture of her creative output. Greg

The Victory Garden: A Novel by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

This is the story of Emily Bryce who wants to join the war effort. After the death of her only brother, Emily’s parents want her home. When Emily turns 21 she joins the Women’s Land Army where “land girls” are taught necessary farming skills while the young men are off fighting in WWI. Emily falls in love with an Australian pilot who is killed in action. Pregnant and alone she volunteers to tend the neglected gardens of a Devonshire estate. The “Woman’s Land Army” detail was an interesting addition to a great story from a very talented author.  Emma

Kabbalah by Gershon Scholem

Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem

  Scholem, as a scholar, pretty much brought the topic of Jewish mysticism into the consciousness of the 20th century.  Kabbalah is a book about Jewish mysticism – its historical development, ideas, and personalities.  Although at times somewhat dry, especially in the opening section on the historical development of Jewish mysticism, the book picks up much speed in the section where I am now, which discusses the really staggeringly original ideas involved with Kabbalah, including the sefirot, the Zohar, and ideas about how the world was created.  Recommended for people interested in mysticism and religion.     Andrew

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I just finished the third book of the Bear and the Nightingale trilogy, and it was fabulous.  These stories are set in Russia of the 1400’s and are a seamless mix of truth and folklore.  Vasilisa Petrovna must once more save her beloved Moscow from the evil forces bent on destroying it.  As Christianity and old religion come face to face, things are not as simple as the parish priests would like the people to believe.  Vasya must come to terms with the accusation of being a witch and the shame it brings her family, and the reality that Rus needs someone to fight and believe in the “old ways” in order to battle forces of evil and destruction.  Sara

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This book is a beautiful testament to the importance of providing a nurturing and supportive environment for children to grow into their best possible selves.  The inside view of Michelle’s childhood is evidence that through the support and encouragement of her parents and extended family, she was able to focus on her education and become a successful female, African American lawyer before she was 30.  Her early career in law was only the beginning of her reluctant journey to become one of America’s most beloved first ladies. I walked away from this book with strong admiration for the very public figure that Mrs. Obama has become in our culture.  I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  If you love the Obamas you should read this book. If you don’t like the Obamas, you should really read this book. Beth

Read a book by a “new to you” author

There’s still time to finish that Winter Reading Bingo card and fill your “new to you” author square. A new-to-you author can be just about anyone, but if you typically pick up a bestseller, here are a few books by new or lesser-known authors who may fly under your radar. (We have a flyer named Under the Radar Fiction that comes out each month in the new fiction area of the Grand Reading Room). This list is all recent books, so they will be found in New Fiction. I saw many of these on our shelves just this morning!

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky

American Spy by Lauren Wilkenson

The Eulogist by Terry Gamble

What we’re reading this year so far…

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Keiko is a 36-year-old single woman working for a convenience store.  Keiko has always struggled to function the way that her family, friends, and society expect her too.  Since she was young she has tried to act “normal” and give made up excuses for why she still works in a convenience store, isn’t married, and has never been in love.  Keiko has found it easier to make these excuses, but really, she likes her work, does not want to get married or fall in love.  I devoured this funny, and a little heartbreaking, novella in an evening.  Trent

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

When Heather Mackenzie’s grandmother, Nan Hughes, died she left Heather some beautiful embroidered flowers like those embroidered on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Heather searches to understand why her grandmother left London and settled in Canada. She soon discovers that Nan had worked at the house of Norman Hartnell, and that the royals wore designs by Hartnell. Nan and Miriam Dassin, a fellow embroiderer and recent refugee from France, were charged with the delicate details of the wedding dress. Why did Nan leave such a prestigious position and never talk about it? The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding is a charming historical detailed novel. Emma

Queer Threads by John Chaich

A wonderful survey of works by fiber and textile artists in the LGBTQ community. This book was the companion to an exhibition, profiled here on NPR, that was curated by Chaich. The works are faithfully reproduced in high quality photos and artist interviews are included in the back to add additional depth to the content.  A great book for individuals interested in seeing fiber/textiles and their techniques pushed in exciting and new areas.  Greg

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

I’m currently listening to this selection. It does not have the comic tone of the series Adam Ruins Everything, but it is similar in that it does shatter some myths with facts and figures. There are assumptions on both sides of the political divide that lead people to think that things are getting worse. With a lot of examples professor Pinker proceeds to lay out his case that the world and the human condition are in fact getting better. Or at least with the problem solving tools of the Enlightenment we humans are capable of improving the world’s problems. I really need this dose of hope as it is so easy sometimes to fall into despair. Byron

The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter


  I just finished Numbers and am beginning Deuteronomy, with a lot more to go(!) – Prophets and the Histories waiting in the future for me.  It has really been an incredible reading experience so far.  I went to a Jewish school from kindergarten to eighth grade, so was familiar with many of the Bible stories.  But I hadn’t read them as an adult in English.  The story of Joseph is particularly affecting, strong and rich.  I am looking forward to Deuteronomy, which Alter says is the most “rhetorical” of the first five books, which means there is a great deal of eloquence in Moses’ farewell speeches to the Hebrews.  Alter not only translated the entire Hebrew Bible, but he also provides commentary, so reading the books is like reading with a study partner.  Alter also pays much attention to the style of the Hebrew and English, and therefore makes some changes to the King James Bible, which are very interesting and even original.  A truly important read.     Andrew

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This month, Andrew and I will be kicking off a series called Pub Reads with a discussion at Rocky River Wine Bar on this National Book Award Winner. This is a sad but important book about a family facing just about every hard issue you could imagine: poverty, prison, drug addiction, murder, and cancer. Honestly, if I were not reading it for the book discussion, I might be tempted to put it down; it’s too sad. But Jesmyn Ward’s writing is startling in its beauty and haunting. She is telling a truth that I have not had to live with, and for this reason, I want to honor black families from the south by listening closely to this story. The audiobook alternates readers between three narrators: thirteen year old JoJo, his drug addicted mother, Leonie, and a ghost that’s connected to the family. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes literary fiction, wants to learn more about America’s history, and wants to see what type of writing a Genius Grant recipient and two-time National Book Award winner can do.  Lyndsey

50 After 50 by Maria Leonard Olsen

At age 50 Marie Olsen took a hard look at her life thus far.  She is a recovered alcoholic, divorced and an empty nester.  She was depressed and stuck.  Instead of continuing to slide on a downward slope in her life, Maria went on a crusade to make the most of whatever time she has left.  She challenged herself to do 50 things that were significant to her.  This list included physical challenges, travel and lifestyle changes.  Each challenge taught her something new about herself, and how she might want to shape her future.  While each person’s list may be different, Maria, along with the reader learns that accomplishing new things, learning new skills, deepening personal relationships and seeking out challenges will give purpose and vigor to your life that may otherwise feel insignificant, inauthentic or just plain boring.  Mary

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

There is an old saying, “In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. This newest Gamache mystery has Armand and his Three Pines friend Myrna in the dark as to why they were appointed as executors of the estate of a woman they never even met. As they attempt to figure this out and to execute the woman’s extremely eccentric will, another person turns up dead causing them to question whether her death was of natural causes after all. In the midst of all this, Armand attempts to find and stop a large shipment of extremely dangerous drugs that he allowed into the country during his previous assignment as he worked to take down a drug cartel. Will he stop the drugs from hitting the streets before more lives are lost? Sara

Sara’s Top Ten of 2018

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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Four girls attending boarding school participate in a sinister game which involves lying to everyone except each other.  However, years later when a body is found, it becomes obvious that someone broke the only rule of the game.

 

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

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When Beth disappears, everyone says she’s run off with another man.  But her best friend Natalie, doesn’t believe that at all, and proving it just might get her killed. A perfectly paced psychological thriller that keeps you wondering until the end.

 

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

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After heartbreaking infertility and failed adoption attempts, Tess sees a young, half-dressed little girl in the road who disappears into the woods.  But with no other sightings, missing child reports or  witnesses, Tess begins to be doubted by the townspeople and herself.

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Young Eddie and his friends develop a game using chalk figure codes which leads them to a dismembered body and to the end of their game.  Years later chalk figures are showing up again, and one old friend turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others.

 

Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

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A young female artist accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death—a breathtaking image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.

 

 

 

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

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Essie is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a hit reality TV show about her family’s life and fire-and-brimstone religious beliefs.  When Essie winds up pregnant, will she be forced into an arranged-blockbuster-marriage episode? Or will she escape her strange, always-on-display life?

 

 

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy, small-town life is torn apart by a horrifying attack which leaves their mother dead, and their family forever shattered.  Twenty-eight years later, another violent act forces them back together, and brings up long lost secrets and questions.

 

 

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

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Five-year-old Madison disappeared while chopping down her family’s Christmas tree.  Three years later, her parents are still desperate to find her and hire a private investigator known as “the Child Finder,” who is their last hope.

 

 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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Tarot card reader, Hal, discovers she has been left an inheritance.  She is certain it is a mistake, but is desperate for cash and decides to play along. But once at the family estate with the brooding, mysterious heirs, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake.

 

 

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

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Adrian Wolfe has been divorced twice and recently lost his newest wife to suicide or so it seems.  As Adrian searches for answers, he discovers his perfect modern life with two amicable divorces and 5 step children who love each other seamlessly may not be as perfect as it appears.

What we’re reading in November

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes 

Cover image for Things are starting to look up for Dix Steele.  Looking for a new start in post-WWII Los Angeles he has found a swanky new apartment and reconnected with his old war buddy, now a homicide detective, Brub.  All he needs now is to find love, and he has his eye on his alluring neighbor, an up-and-coming starlet, Laurel Gray.  If he can have Laurel all to himself, he may not even strangle women walking alone at night anymore.  Well that, and if Brub’s nosy wife Sylvia would stop being suspicious of Dix and find him charming and agreeable like everyone else.  An excellent post-war noir that subverts some of the traditional misogynist motifs of the genre.  Megan Abbott, an accomplished noir author in her own right, has written more knowledgeably on how In A Lonely Place accomplishes this in the Paris ReviewTrent

 

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

Cover image for This is the source material for the Disney animated movie The Sword in the Stone as well as the Broadway and movie musicals Camelot. It includes four books in one: The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind. I am still in the first book, so not very far into the story of King Arthur. The fantasy adventure has a comic tone that I was not expecting. I thought the Disney movie was responsible for the funny talking animals and Merlin’s absent-mindedness. However, those aspects are present in the novel. Merlin and the author as narrator make anachronistic references to appeal to readers of the 1950s and 1960s close to the time when the novel was published. In fact there are a couple satiric jabs at current society since it is suggested that Merlin has been to the future and is living backward through time. It is a massive medieval adventure, but so far the chapters move along quickly. At least while Arthur is known as a boy named The Wart in the first book it seems like it is aimed more at younger readers, but I wonder if the tone changes later when Arthur reaches adulthood. I’ll keep reading and find out.  Byron

 

November Road by Lou Berney

Cover image for November road :Frank Guidry, a charming, well-dressed gangster who works for a New Orleans mob boss, has just returned from Dallas after following orders to deliver a blue Eldorado, when he learns that JFK has been assassinated. When Frank receives orders to return to Texas to dump the car in the ocean, he knows that his involvement means he’s next to die and decides to run for his life, a ruthless hitman in hot pursuit.  Meanwhile, Charlotte, mother of two young girls, decides to leave her alcoholic husband in Oklahoma and travel to Los Angeles to find a better life. When these two meet on Route 66, sparks fly and Frank convinces Charlotte to travel with him – the perfect cover – but he soon realizes that he could grow to like this new role.  Evocative and suspenseful, it’s got 60s sensibility, romance, a road trip, seedy motels, neon-lit Las Vegas, diners and Dylan. I listened to the fantastic audiobook version through Hoopla! Dori

 

 Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862-1917  by Jonathan Frankel

Cover image for Prophecy and politics :This is one of the more challenging books I’ve read this year, since there is a lot of information and, unfortunately, the font is small.  I also have traditionally struggled with reading books on history, but I’m giving it another go.  The book, at its best, is fascinating, and it can read like a novel – it is full of letters and speeches and ideas and characters and excerpts from socialist and nationalist literature.  Much of the book is devoted to the Bund, the group of Jewish socialists, founded in Russia in the 19th century, that spread to Lithuania and Poland.  Members of the Bund struggled with their cultural and political identities – how much were they Jews, and should be devoted to Jewish causes, and how much were they Russians, and should be devoted to Russian causes?  The history of the Bund is in many ways a history of the Russian Revolutions in 1905 and 1917, seen from a Jewish perspective, and it’s been fascinating to see figures like Vladimir Lenin interact with prominent members of the Bund.  It is also a history of Israel before Israel became a nation (the competing ideologies for Russian Jewry in the 19th century became nationalism, with roots in Palestine, and socialism, which had roots in Russia and America).  A challenging but worthwhile read. Andrew

 

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor D. LaValle

Cover image for The ballad of Black TomWith only being 151 pages long this book packs quite a punch. The Ballad of Black Tom is a retelling of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook but from the perspective of Tommy Tester. LaValle’s narrative highlights not just the horrors of the supernatural but of the racism and xenophobia as events unfold. The author creates  characters who are grounded in reality who then deal with the swell of the uncanny. You will be caught up in the fast paced narrative and even fans of the lovecraftian source material will have whiplash from the conclusion and epilogue. Greg 

 

 

The Fallen by David Baldacci

Cover image for The fallenEvery once in a while you need an action book with a good guy who you know will win.  That is Amos Decker in this new Memory Man book, The Fallen.  Amos and his journalist friend Alex take a vacation to visit Alex’s sister in a small, depressed Pennsylvania town.  Even when he is not looking for trouble, trouble finds him, and Amos discovers two dead bodies in the neighbor’s house.  It is soon apparent that something big is going on in this little town, and there’s no telling who is a part of it.  After suffering a concussion, Amos’s infallible memory begins to get a little fuzzy and less reliable.  Will he still be able to solve the case or was his memory the only thing that made him an amazing detective?  A quick and easy read that is a bit predictable but enjoyable none the less.  Sara

 

 Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart

Cover image for Miss Kopp just won't quitThis novel is based on on actual events and centers around two of them.  Anna Kayser’s husband has her committed to an insane asylum for the fourth time under false pretenses, and deputy Constance Kopp knows she doesn’t belong there.  In 1916, Sheriff Robert Heath is running for congress and a new county sheriff will be elected. The new sheriff has no desire in keeping a woman deputy sheriff on board. He quickly dismisses Deputy Kopp. Robert Heath loses the election and Constance Kopp is unemployed. The fourth entry in the Kopp sisters series leaves lots of loose ends to be worked out, but it’s a quick fun read for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

 

Warcross by Marie Lu

Cover image for WarcrossEmika Chen is a broke, orphaned eighteen-year-old with a criminal record – one she got from hacking computers. And, like the rest of the world, she’s obsessed with a virtual reality game called Warcross (think Quidditch meets Ready Player One). On the opening day of the International Warcross Championships, Emika is hurting for rent money. When she hacks into the game and attempts to steal an expensive item, she glitches herself into the action and reveals her identity. Emika thinks she’s going to be arrested, but instead, she’s pursued by the game’s creator, heartthrob Hideo Tanaka, to become a spy in next year’s tournament. But the sinister plot Emika uncovers could unravel the entire Warcross empire.   I picked up this book because I wanted to be able to recommend more sci-fi to teens. I am really enjoying the pacing of the book (Marie Lu knows how to write a thriller!) and the diverse cast – Emika, like the author, is Chinese American, Hideo is Japanese, and Emika’s Warcross team captain, Asher, uses a wheelchair. Recommend this NYT Bestseller and its sequel, Wildcard, to fans of The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, and Divergent.  Lyndsey