Here’s What We’re Reading in July…

Hide By Matthew Griffin

Cover image for Dealing with the failing health of a partner/spouse is an incredibly difficult and personal experience for anyone, one that can be only compounded by having to keep the true nature of your relationship secret to the world. This is the reality for Wendell and Frank who met right after WWII, fell in love, and made a private life for themselves over the next 60 odd years. This life is threatened when Wendell finds Frank collapsed in the yard. What follows is a novel that goes back and forth from the start of their relationship to the difficulties of the modern day as Frank recovers and Wendell fights to keep it all together. Taxidermy imagery is used throughout which may disturb some readers but it is used as a literary device for identity, superficiality, and the creation of the appearance of artificial life. Greg

 

Two Steps Forward by Graeme C. Simsion

Cover image for This is the story of Zoe Witt who travels to France after the apparent suicide of her husband to visit an old friend. Once there she decides to hike the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile spiritual walk route that winds through France and Spain. Martin Eden, a recently divorced British engineer, is hiking the Camino de Santiago testing out his one-wheeled cart design. The two cross paths multiple times along the way and become more than friends. This is a heartwarming tale of grief, forgiveness, healing, and determination. Emma

 

How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture Then and Now by James Kugel

Cover image for I’ve been reading a great book about the Bible.  Kugel is an academic, but the book is written for the layperson, and so far it’s been a tour de force.  His approach is to look at stories and passages from the Bible from the perspective of both its ancient interpreters and from modern Biblical scholarship.  This means as a reader sometimes experiencing an intense cognitive dissonance, because the two perspectives seem so deeply divergent (i.e. the thesis that the Bible is divinely inspired, versus the thesis that it was written by four people, the documentary hypothesis).  Kugel himself is an Orthodox Jew, so I’m curious to learn more about how he balances his knowledge of modern scholarship with his faith.  Kugel is an excellent teacher and communicator, and the book is an amazing synthesis of theology, archaeology, history, sociology, psychology, and religious studies.  Andrew

 

Queenpin – Megan Abbott

Cover image for The unnamed narrator, a young woman with limited prospects, takes a job keeping books at a small nightclub.  Soon after she begins practicing some shady accounting, she comes under the scrutiny and then wing of the infamous and ruthless Gloria Denton.  Casinos, racetracks, heists – all the big money in the city runs through Gloria before it makes it’s way to the big bosses out of town.  Gloria will be her access to all the action and the lavish lifestyle to go with it if only she can keep from falling for the wrong guy.  Megan Abbott takes the bones of the same old, time-tested gangster story and gives it new life.  By the end symbols of traditional masculinity are kicked apart and lay shattered and bloody on the floor. Trent

 

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright

Cover image for In the evangelical church, there is a myth about missionaries: those who do “God’s work” can do no harm. After living in Costa Rica as a missionary for five years, Jamie Wright pulls back the curtain on missionary life, writing about her experiences and observations. She points the finger at the careless and nonsensical ways of “helping” that sending organizations permitted to happen, veiled by the vague language of “loving on people,” “just showing up,” and “hearing from God.” Her stories about mutually exploitative practices, wasted resources, and underequipped ministers were helpful in understanding the gravity of the harm Christian missionaries can do, if not prepared to serve in careful, sensible, and sustainable ways. Even though the content of the book is serious, Jamie’s voice is fun and entertaining, but also scathing – maybe a little like watching a Trevor Noah routine. While I appreciated the foundation that the beginning chapters laid about Jamie’s early years, the final two sections were ultimately the worthwhile ones. Lyndsey

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Cover image for I loved Ruth Ware’s In a Dark Dark Wood, a gripping psychological thriller that left me hanging every step of the way.  Then I read The Woman in Cabin 10 and was mostly just confused by too many characters.  The Lying Game is the best book from Ruth Ware so far.  Four  girls spent a year together at Salten, a second-rate boarding school  in the English countryside until they are forced to leave to avoid a scandal.  Truth be told, no one is sorry to see them go, as their favorite activity was The Lying Game, a game with complicated rules and scoring systems that involved lying to faculty and boarders alike. The number one rule however was, “Never lie to each other”.  Fifteen years after the girls go their separate ways, three of them receive a text from the fourth saying only, “I need you.”  As if time hasn’t passed, the girls run back to Salten and into a situation that is dark, dangerous and brings to light the fact that someone broke Rule #1.   Fabulous descriptions of the eerie  and dark marshlands  in the waterlogged area near the English Channel perfectly set the tone for the story which is an addicting page turner.  Sara

 

There There by Tommy Orange

Cover image for Tommy Orange’s debut novel There There is a window into the lives of urban Native Americans of Oakland, California. We hear from twelve different characters, young and old, embedded in their heritage and barely aware, as they wind their way through stories steeped in tragedy and despair, hope and family, culminating on the night of an Oakland powwow. Read the prologue if you do nothing else – it’s devastating. Dori

 

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

Cover image for A debut psychological thriller and the perfect beach read. Erin, a documentary film maker and her investment banker husband Mark are honeymooning in Bora Bora. This tropical paradise turns into a nightmare when a scuba diving excursion uncovers something sinister in the water. Do Erin and Mark report their finding? Each decision they make after their discovery has dangerous consequences for the young couple. This taut and unsettling  novel is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Paula Hawkins. Megan

 

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara

Cover image for This past month has consisted of doing extra research in order to teach film history to kids/teens in a filmmaking summer camp. As I continue to make an effort to include more diverse voices in my reading choices, I’m now reading The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara through Overdrive. It is a relatively short read, which is what I wanted. In quick chapters Che describes the adventures and misadventures that he and a friend from medical school have while travelling through South America. Next I’ll have to watch the movie adaptation with Gael Garcia Bernal. Byron

 

Us Against You (Beartown #2) by Fredrik Backman

Cover image for This is my first read by the popular author Fredrick Backman, and oddly enough, I did NOT read Beartown.  However, the review of the book caught my interest, and I much enjoyed it.  The reader does not have to read Beartown to understand this book.  The beginning does a very good job of concisely wrapping up Beartown, and swiftly picking up where it has left off.  Beartown is populated with a diverse group inhabitants. Some old , some young, some cranky, some hardworking, some who hardly work, and some dreamers.  Something bad has happened in Beartown, and now its residents are divided.  Much talk about the beloved local hockey team and its future is where this book begins. Changes ensue for the hockey team and the town.  However, this book isn’t just about hockey. This book is about life. It has sadness, tension, fierce competition, politics, kindness (sometimes in the most unlikely of places), love & compassion. You don’t have to love hockey to love this book, you just need to love life. Mary

 

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In the Summertime

Ahhh summer, a time of rest and relaxation, days at the beach and nights under the stars. While some folks want to embrace undemanding fare while lounging poolside, others may want to read or watch that classic or prize winner that they’ve neglected. Either way, here’s a selection of movies and books that take place during this most blissful of seasons!

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For more suggestions, new hot titles, beach reads and more, stop by Reference Desk and we’ll be glad to help!

~ Dori

What we’ve been reading in May…

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Cover image for This is the story of Christopher Knight known as “The North Pond Hermit”, a man who walked into the woods of Maine at age 20 and did not leave until arrested 27 years later. He was arrested for burglarizing nearby cabins to obtain food and various essentials for his survival.  Once arrested, he immediately confessed to what added up to nearly 1000 burglaries and showed remorse for his crimes. He never hurt anyone, nor did he ever damage anything. Mr. Knight simply wanted to live alone in the woods. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, the author, Michael Finkel, is able to give a detailed account of Knight’s secluded life.  In addition to Knight’s story, Finkel discusses famous hermits in the past, and mental illness topics which help the reader to better understand Mr. Knight, however, the author leaves the reader feeling that one will never have a complete understanding of Knight’s mindset & choices. I found the story of Christopher Knight to be fascinating. He survived by his high level wits, common sense and courage. He could “MacGyver” anything, and bring himself to a peaceful mental state of embracing the quiet and solitude of the forest.  He clearly wrestled with fundamental communication & social skills (a common thread in his family), and believed his escape to the woods was his only choice for survival. This is an excellent choice for book clubs, having so many different discussion points to pursue.  You will also find that readers will have very different viewpoints about Mr. Knight, as did the residents of North Pond, which will add to the talking points about this book. I personally see all sides to this story, and have a weak spot for Christopher Knight.  The big question I ask myself is can we unconditionally accept each other for who we truly are? Mary

 

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Cover image for Boy Erased has been on my radar since it was released in 2016, and recently came to my attention again since it is being made into a movie. In this memoir, Conley recounts his experience growing up as the only child of a Baptist pastor in Arkansas. After being outed as gay to his parents, he agreed to enroll in conversion therapy. The memoir moves between his experience in the program and memories from his childhood and teenage years. As expected, the trauma Conley experienced in the conversion therapy program is upsetting and heartbreaking, but it is also beautifully observed and eloquently written, on par with Dani Shapiro or Mary Karr in terms his ability to powerfully self-excavate. This is a must-read for members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in religious households, all clergy, and for those looking to increase their capacity for empathy.  Lyndsey

 

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Cover image for I’ve been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.  I really enjoyed his more recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I’m not finding it as challenging as The Righteous Mind, but there are interesting chapters about the difference between romantic love  (passionate, fleeing) and companionate love (longer lasting, deeper attachment), as well as a great chapter about whether or not modern psychological studies can back up the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Haidt thinks that we can learn from adversity under the right circumstances, especially if we can construct a life-narrative that makes sense out of our suffering.  He argues that positive relationships, meaningful work, and a connection to something larger can work together to make us happier.  Andrew

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cover image for In Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, attorney Avery Stafford leaves her job in South Carolina to assist in the care of her cancer-stricken father. At a meet and greet event at a local nursing home Avery meets May Crandal. Seeing an old photo in May’s room makes Avery think there might be a link between May and her Grandma Judy. May’s real name was Rill Foss until she and her siblings became part of black-market adoptions practiced by the Tennessee Children’s Home. The mystery begins. This is a difficult tale to imagine. The novel was inspired by firsthand accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that existed into the 1950’s. Emma

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cover image for I’ve just finished listening to Ready Player One during my commutes, which was a great adventure. I’m still gradually working on the ebook A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Following Free Comic Book Day I read a handful of various comics. Next I’m looking forward to a book on CD of Amy Bloom’s White Houses. It is not often that I pick up a brand new best seller, but I’ve read many good things about this work of historical fiction. Since recently watching a Ken Burns documentary series about the Roosevelt family (with extra attention paid to Teddy, FD, and Eleanor) I’m primed for this intimate story about perhaps the most intriguing first lady in history.  Byron

 

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

Cover image for This past month I had the great pleasure of reading The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. A retelling and mash-up of stories (fairy tales, biblical, and folklore), this collection of stories feels familiar and yet very alien.  Though there is a sinister tone that seems to saturate the book that is often reinforced by the ambiguous endings of each tale. Ortberg plays with gender and archetypes and it’s often this play on the structure and tradition of these stories that brought me the most  joy as a reader. It is a quick read but never feels rushed. Recommended for readers who love sinister tales that jump from magical realism to all out fantasy. Greg

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

Cover image for When Beth, a small time bar maid, disappears, everyone thinks she has just moved on to a new adventure.  But her best friend Natalie does not believe it for a minute.  She is sure something sinister has happened.  Nat tries to piece together Beth’s past and her relationships, realizing her friend kept a lot of secrets.  And as strange things begin to happen in Natalie’s house and to an elderly bar patron with a foggy memory, it becomes obvious that someone wants these secrets to remain hidden.  Another fantastic suspense story from Christobel Kent, beautifully written, with characters you would want to meet and images of an English countryside you would love to visit.  Sara

New in the Reading Room!

Take a look at these new book reviews in our Reading Room.  Click on the link to take you there.

 

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Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

 

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Agatha Christie: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

 

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 On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

 

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Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

 

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The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld

 

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The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes

 

Beach-y Keen Books!

It was tough, but we persevered and made it happen.. We all found a book we’d enjoy reading on the beach or the back porch and then we talked about them! Crazy, right? But I think the diversity of the list makes it especially fun. Are you ready for some fun? Done!

Chris: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. Turn quick to page 163 for one of my absolute favorites: Still I Rise. When Governor Cory Booker referred to the other day, it reminded me of how much I loved this poem and I was compelled to go back and reread it. Every bit as good as I remember. Of course, it led to reading more of this wonderful collection.

Lauren: In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, and the two set off on adventures around the world. On the eve of their first anniversary, Jesse is on a photojournalism assignment with a crew when their helicopter disappears over the Pacific Ocean. Devastated, Emma returns to her small Massachusetts hometown and starts over. Years later she’s reconnected with a high school friend, Sam, and found love again. As Sam and Emma are enjoying their lives together and planning a wedding, Emma gets a life-changing phone call: Jesse has been found, alive.

Gina: Jojo Moyes continues her series following Louisa Clark in the book After You. This picks up after Louisa lost her love, following how she copes with this loss and moves on in her life. Louisa returns home after an accident and meets an unexpected individual that turns her life upside down. After making a deal with her parents, Louisa participates in a Moving On support group, meets new friends, and even finds a new love interest. This books keeps you engaged and rooting for Louisa to find happiness, a great beach read!

Sara: I read the new Liane Moriarty novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty. This is a story of three suburban couples who get together for a weekend barbecue that ends in a tragedy. Sam and Clementine are happily married parents of two, working together to juggle their hectic lives and careers. Erika and Oliver are a quiet, reserved, childless couple who both appreciate their calm and peaceful lifestyle. Vid and Tiffany are the larger than life, outgoing, fun-loving neighbors hosting the barbecue. Each family has problems and deep, dark secrets; and all of these come into play on and after this fateful weekend. They all can’t help but wonder what life would have been like if they had just said no to the invitation. Guilt and misconceptions are the threads binding these 6 people, and Moriarty does an excellent job of weaving it all together in the end. At times I thought I knew all the secrets and that this would be a predictable read, but she managed to continue to bring in new bits of information and surprise me at the finish.

Dori: In The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, Beth follows her husband Matt to Washington D.C. after he gets a job with the Obama administration. There, she’s in for a rude awakening: everyone knows one another, sharing their political connections, and Beth, a writer, feels out of the loop. Soon she and Matt meet a charismatic couple from Texas, Jimmy, a White house staff member, and his wife Ashleigh, a somewhat typical Southern belle. The four become best friends, meeting for meals, trips and one snowy weekend, when all of D.C. shuts down. Soon, however, tensions arise and their friendship is threatened as Jimmy starts getting promotions, while Matt’s career stagnates. This novel is a funny, light, and breezy insider’s look at D.C. and its political machinations.

Steve: Killing Reagan, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, tells the fascinating story of Reagan’s life, his road into politics and beyond, all while painting a vivid picture of the world and events around him, leading up to and beyond the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. The authors include both the good and bad about Reagan, with plenty of dirt about his early love life, other politicians’ negative thoughts on Nancy, and much more.

Beth: Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew. Kate Batista spends her days working in a school and her evenings taking care of her father and sister, but never really tending to herself. Her father is on the brink of discovering a cure for autoimmune disease, but when his research is in jeopardy, he asks Kate to take on the most daunting task of her life. This was an enjoyable read, with very lovable characters.

Carol: In Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, Caren Gray is the manager of former sugarcane plantation Belle Vie—now a tourist attraction and banquet hall, when a body is found on the grounds. Caren’s ties to Belle Vie run deep, and knowing its secrets gives her an edge in solving the crime—even as it puts her own life in danger. This smart, award-winning literary mystery was a perfect take-along on my vacation.

Stacey: The Lovers’ Guide to Rome by Mark Lamprell is narrated by an omniscient ancient blue (think a little like a Greek chorus?) as readers are guided through three stages of love: bliss, doubt, and loss. Each stage is represented by a different couple, a young couple just met and feel the bliss of new love, a middle-aged couple are beginning to doubt their long-term marriage, and a widow has come to spread the ashes of her husband. Getting to know the characters makes the story charming enough but the added information on Rome’s history, art, and religion is pure bonus!

Next time we’ll be reading Religious Fiction! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to find a book that has religiously-based attitudes, values, or actions as a central feature of the story in any genre. Enjoy!

—Stacey

A Mid-Summer Report

If you ask me, mid-summer is an ideal time to compile a Best Of list. People have a little more time to read and listen to books. Maybe you are trying to catch up on your to read list or maybe you are looking for a hot new summer read. Whatever your needs, we have you covered! With my own personal reading I have been doing a little bit of both. Here’s what I have been reading and loving so far this summer:

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A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl is the story Alex and his mother and their journey from New York to L.A. via the world of Cons. It’s about the comic book industry, it’s about feminism and fandoms and a family that is going through traumatic changes. This story was so beautiful and the relationships that are explored will stick with you. For another coming of age story try The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extent.

naked

So, I took the plunge into J.D. Robb’s long-running In Death series (psst-this is Nora Roberts, in case you didn’t know that already). What have I gotten myself into? Naked in Death introduces Eve Dallas, a NYC police lieutenant. The year is 2058. Prostitution is now legal, but crime is still crime and murder and political corruption are at the heart of Dallas’s case. I can totally see the appeal of this series! It’s a futuristic crime-thriller with lots of sexy bits! I will definitely keep plugging away at this series, which is currently 43 books and counting!

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Speaking of long-running and on-going series, I started Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series in preparation for the author’s visit to Rocky River (save the date, October 14 and check back with us for more details!). I started with A is for Alibi way back in January and am currently waiting for N is for Noose to be available for me! These books, starring PI Kinsey Milhone are quick, easy, and fun reads. Perfect for summer!

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Finally, how about a little magic for your summer reading? Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (aka, Mira Grant) is a dark and mysterious novel that answers the what if the magic doorways, wardrobes, and rabbit holes that swallow children up are real? The children at  Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for children to go after their magic fantasy world has gives them the boot. When this once safe-haven becomes the site of vicious murders Nancy, the newest arrival, sets out to figure out what is happening. This short book is lovely and weird.

What are you reading this summer?

~Megan