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

 

 

 

 

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BookTalk for Adults

In case you missed the BookTalk for Adults program today at the library, here is what we talked about….

The Best Books of 2018 So Far. While there are many excellent books that have been penned thus far in 2018, I managed to widdle the list down to ten. The list spans different genres including fiction, literary fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller and memoir. Here is the list of books we discussed –

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
There, There by Tommy Orange
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn
When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
Educated A Memoir by Tara Westover

Our next BookTalk for Adults will be Friday, October 26th at 10AM. Being so close to Halloween we will discuss (you guessed it) Spooky books. Come join us!

What exactly is the New York Times Bestseller List?

The first New York Times Bestseller List was published on October 12, 1931.  It only contained five fiction and four non-fiction books for New York City only.  Over time it was expanded and lists for multiple cities were included. A national list was finally compiled in 1942 and published in the New York Times Book Review supplement as it is today. This list is compiled from “reports from leading booksellers in 22 cities,” although the exact data compilation process is a trade secret.

There is much controversy among authors, publishers, and others as to whether the list really represents best-seller status.  Some believe the list can be manipulated by authors, sellers, retailers and wholesalers.  The New York Times has been sued for excluding books from the list, accused of allowing authors to buy their way onto the list, and been criticized for favoring liberal authors over conservative ones (a claim the New York Times denies.) Whether it is fair or not, this list remains prestigious and well known, and according to a  Stanford Business School analysis, the “majority of book buyers seem to use the Times list as a signal of what’s worth reading”.  Here are a few books from NYT Bestseller List for the week of July 29th.  Click, call or stop in today to put a hold on one!

FICTION

1 THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. (Little, Brown and Knopf.) President Jonathan Duncan takes on adversaries at home and abroad.

2 THE GOOD FIGHT, by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte.) Meredith McKenzie embraces and eschews the values of her family of lawyers during the tumultuous 1960s.

3 CLOCK DANCE, by Anne Tyler. (Knopf.) A window into Willa Drake’s life over 50 years and how she adjusts to some of life’s surprises.

4 THE OUTSIDER, by Stephen King. (Scribner.) A detective investigates aseemingly wholesome member of the community when an 11-year-old boy’s body is found.

5 ALL WE EVER WANTED, by Emily Giffin. (Ballantine.) A scandal sends members of two Nashville families into chaos.

NON-FICTION

1 CALYPSO, by David Sedaris. (Little, Brown.) A collection of comedic stories on mortality, middle age and a beach house dubbed the Sea Section.

2 EDUCATED, by Tara Westover. (Random House.) The daughter of survivalists leaves home for university.

3 THE SOUL OF AMERICA, by Jon Meacham. (Random House.) The present political climate is contextualized through the lens of difficult moments in American history.

4 HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, by Michael Pollan. (Penguin Press.) A personal account of how psychedelics might help the mentally ill and people dealing with everyday challenges.

5 INDIANAPOLIS, by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic. (Simon & Schuster.) A newly researched look into the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the story of the survivors and the fight to exonerate the court-martialed skipper.

 

 

Reading With My Boys

One of my favorite things to do with my boys is read together.  We are well beyond the picture books, but my boys & I enjoyed reading together until they hit their teens.  Summer vacation is right around the corner, and me & my 12 year old son have been discussing what books we would like to read together this summer.  The older they get, the more difficult it is to find time to read together during the school year due to homework and extra- curricular activities, but we try to carve out at least 15 minutes in the evening of reading a book together.  Depending on the book, sometimes this 15 minutes can turn into an hour.  During summer break it’s much easier to find time to read together.  Most times we find ourselves on the glider on the back patio, catching up on our most current favorite story.  Summer usually involves a road trip or two, and reading together in the car has been a hit as well.

Now let me be clear, by reading together, I do mean I read the story out loud.  I know, it may seem somewhat juvenile for a middle schooler, but trust me they love it.  I ham it up with accents and lots of emotion in my voice.  With my oldest & youngest, they sat right next me and read along.  My middle guy played nerf basketball while I read away, nonetheless, he was equally engaged in the story.

When my oldest two boys were in high school I would stare at their required summer reading splayed on the coffee table, pretty much untouched. Finally, I picked it up & started reading.  The required summer reading can be great picks, although your high schooler may not agree.  If you read it too,  you can discuss the book with them.  Discussion wasn’t lengthy about a book they couldn’t choose, but it was something to share with your teenager & how often does that happen?

The library Community Read events are fantastic book pics to share with any member in your family.   So much of our family time together has been swallowed up by devices. Even though we all may be sitting in the same room, individually we have our head down, scrolling through our devices.  Put those devices down, pick up a book, read it out loud or share what you’ve read for just 15 minutes each night.  Trust me, you will cherish these moments & remember them forever.

These are some of my favorite books I read with my boys:

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Here are my favorite high school summer reading pics I read along with my boys:

Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

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How Do You Listen to Audio Books

Are you seeing a pattern here? My third post about audio books. I will admit that this year I am committing myself to more books, and audio books have helped me inch toward my goal.

Did you know that the library offers audiobooks in numerous formats?  I have listened to all my audiobooks through Overdrive – it’s so easy.  I go to my overdrive app, go to Clevenet digital library, peruse their awesome collection, once I’ve chosen a book, I tap borrow, tap on go to loans, go to my bookshelf, tap on title so that download will begin, and listen.

You can also visit Hoopla, another digital media service offered to our  patrons.  You can download the Hoopla site through the main page of the Rocky River library website.  Once you have created an account, you have even more awesome titles to choose from for your next audio pick.

We also offer Play-aways.  Play-away comes pre-loaded and ready use with one audiobook per device, making them super simple for your use. All you need is a set of headphones and a triple A battery.

Last, but not least, lets not forget about the CD’s.  If you have a CD player at home, this is the route to go.  Our CD collection has fiction, nonfiction, biography, new titles, classics – you name it!

Some of my favorite audiobooks I’ve listened to this year are:

 

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Top of the List 2017

I must admit that I did not read as many books as is my norm this year. I will not offer up a bunch of excuses (except 2017 was a whopper of a year, wasn’t it?), but will share the best of those I did read, with many gems in the bunch:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I listened to this remarkable Booker Prizewinning book in audiobook form – with its cast of notable actors casting a spell that had me hooked. It was so unique:  moving, funny, weird, and insightful. I think it’s one of those audiobooks that I need to now read in book form. Don’t miss this one.

 

exit - CopyExit West by Mohsin Hamed
Two young people who fall in love in an unnamed country when a civil war erupts escape through metaphysical ‘doorways’. Finding themselves as refugees, they have to come to terms with their pasts and futures. Brutal and ravishing.

 

anythingAnything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
A short story that follows the lives of people briefly encountered in her previous book My Name is Lucy Barton that is just beautifully written and offers glimpses of the wonder of humanity. These are the kinds of books I’m drawn to – seemingly simple but powerful.

 

mountainThe Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon
Another seemingly simple book. In restrained but exquisite prose, Yoon’s short stories are about people across the world who’ve been molded by tragedy and loss but still put one foot in front of the other and carry on.

 

manhattanManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Egan delves into straight up historical fiction, creating characters that resonate and enveloping readers in the fascinating world of New York City during the Depression. Not my favorite Egan, but a great example of ambitious historical fiction.

 

allgrownAll Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
This book made me laugh and that was important this year!  Her main character is a single 39-year-old woman who’s living life defying, while worrying about, the expectations of others and society at-large. She might exasperate you, but she sure is someone a lot of us can relate to.

 

leaversThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
This debut about a young Chinese-American boy who’s adopted into a white family after his immigrant mother disappears is a moving look at what happens to those who leave and those who are left behind. Plus it’s an eye-opening look at the effects of U.S. immigration policy.

 

saintsSaints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Raise your hand if you love a quality dysfunctional family book!  If so, this is one you have to get a hold of asap. Irish immigrants to Boston, family deception that resonates through the next generations – it’s got it all.

 

longwayclosedThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit and by Becky Chambers
My co-worker recommended these to me and I thank her for it! These are the first two in Chamber’s Wayfarers series and they are adventurous, funny and meaningful outer space dramas. Even better as audiobooks!

index (1)On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
This is a short but incredibly important book to read right now! A historian of the Holocaust, Snyder takes lessons from the past to guide us for the future.

 

And a bonus:

fifthThe Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison:
I must admit that I haven’t finished this one – I began listening recently and I’m hooked. It’s the first book in a trilogy – The Broken Earth series – and is set in a post-apocalyptic society. The world building is incredible and the characters, fascinating. I’ll be spending much of my winter with this series.

 

Happy Holidays and best to you and yours!

~ Dori

 

 

 

 

 

Greg’s Top 10 for 2017

First off is a book I previously reviewed, Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. As the title describes this is a three books of short stories in one not so compact volume. This had to make my list for the sheer variety it offered fans of horror. Much like Barker’s films there is a balance of psychological and visceral horror. Recommended for the horror fan who needs an introduction to Barker’s writing.
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I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
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Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
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What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
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If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
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If I had to give Gaiman’s work a subtitle it would have to be “Translated for Clarity and Entertainment.” Master storyteller, Gaiman makes traditional Norse and Northern European mythology digestible for a wider audience. If you ever attempted to read traditional translations of Norse sagas you know that they can be a bit dense and at times confusing. This is a great introduction to the Norse religion and for fans of Neil Gaiman’s wider body of work.
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Maybe too dry (pun intended) for some, I found The Drunken Botanist an informative and intriguing romp into the history of alcohol and the cultures that made them. I enjoyed this book as an audio book while on a long drive to a conference and think it may be its best in that scenario. Filled with moments of “huh didn’t know that” and the science to back it up, Stewart’s work is great material for parties or possible future games of trivia.
Cover image for Wuvable oaf
A subversive and unconventional take on the idea of a romantic comedy. We follow Oaf Jadwiga (former professional wrestler, owner of a cat sanctuary and maker of stuffed animals) as he tried to catch the eye of black metal front-man Eiffel. Now what would be romantic comedy without a few mishaps? Oaf has to deal rival bands, exes (his and Eiffel’s), and cats with emotional problems. With moments of tenderness, gross out humor, and an in your face attitude this book was always surprising.
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If you enjoyed the Alan Moore’s Watchmen’s take on the world of cape crusaders there is a good chance you will enjoy Black Hammer : Secret Origins. Lemire’s take on a super hero team takes a decidedly dark psychological tone. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are the a superhero team who have been trapped in a reality that they cannot escape. Rather than Superman’s Phantom Zone, their prison takes the form of a small rural town. This first volume gives us a look into the hero’s previous lives, the baggage they hold, and how they cope in a world where they have little to do but reflect.