What We’re Reading Now–September edition

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith

This challenging and haunting debut novel straddles the line between horror and literary fiction, following three women in Vietnam in three different time periods: 1986, 2009, and 2011. In the 2011 narrative, young American ex-pat Winnie goes missing without a trace. The book is an unpredictable mash-up of Vietnamese folklore, colonial history, revenge, violence, and ghosts- all of which have something to do with Winnie’s disappearance. I have yet to finish the book, but the puzzle of these intersecting characters and timelines is intriguing and I’m looking forward to how this all comes together in the end. Nicole

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

The Vietnam War is coming to an end, and as Saigon is about to fall, a Captain begins to plan his General’s escape from the county.  Together, with a select few, they flee Saigon on one of the last army transports over-crowded with other refugees.  The Captain, half-French half-Vietnamese, a man of two minds, is a communist agent whose role is to observe and report back on the military cadre as they establish themselves in America.  As suspicion of a mole rises, the Captain must deflect attention away from himself at terrible costs.  This was an especially interesting and relevant contemplation of war, refugees, politics, and film considering the parallels of current events.  Trent

The Guncle by Stephen Rowley

Patrick loves his niece and nephew, but he is not prepared to be their caregiver when their mother dies and their father checks himself into rehab. A six and nine-year-old don’t really fit into his solitary actor’s life, but he’s resigned to making the best of it. He has Guncle Rules (Gay Uncle Rules) and treats for dinner. The trio stumbles through the summer not realizing how much they are all helping each other. I loved this one so much. It gave me the same feelings as The House in the Cerulean Sea-charming, delightful, and the perfect book for right now. This book was so funny I could almost forget it was, at its heart, a book about grief and loneliness. A must-read, feel-good story. Megan

Her Heart for a Compass by Sarah, Duchess of York

In 1865 London, Lady Margaret Montagu Scott is supposed to be delighted with the man her father chooses to be her husband. She is not! The night her engagement is to be announced, she runs off. Margaret’s family is embarrassed in front of 200 aristocratic guests. Her father refuses to have anything to do with her. Margaret is banished from the family and soon devotes her time and energy into helping the poor.  She heads to Ireland, America and then back to England. This is a fun gossipy tale. Emma

Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Lavery

Lavery’s collection of personal essays struck me with a range of emotions but mostly it had me laughing. This insightful and clever memoir switches from genres and formats with each chapter (and interludes) showcasing the author’s skill as a writer. I highly recommend the audiobook version which is read by the author. Greg

The Wonder Test by Michelle Richmond

On-leave FBI agent, Lina, and her son Rory head to Silicon Valley to clear out her recently deceased father’s house (which is in an extremely snobby and upscale neighborhood) as they are also recovering from her husband’s death. As Rory tries to adjust to life at his exclusive new school, he discovers all academics revolve around something called “The Wonder Test”, a national exam in which his school continuously places first. Students who do poorly on practice tests are required to see tutors in the evenings and on weekends, encouraged to “be sick” on exam days, and there have been some strange teen disappearances. Lina can’t help but to investigate as she attempts to make sense of this strange town and keep her son safe. Sara

If You Plant It, They Will Come

Our 2021 One Book, One City reads are all about Monarch butterflies, tracing their travels, and learning about the importance of their journey. Monarchs are amazingly beautiful, but are just one of many pollinators that are threatened by decreasing habitat and climate change. If you remember one thing, remember that pollinators support our food crops – and finding ways to decrease habitat destruction or build new habitat will provide sustenance to future generations.

Native plants and their varying cultivars have evolved together with pollinators, and so have ideal flower sizes and shapes to support the many pollinators we need. And because they’re from Ohio, they’re easy to grow – no picky plants in the bunch! Here at Rocky River Public Library, with the help of the Beach Cliff Garden Club and library volunteers, we put in a pollinator garden that is officially certified by Monarch Watch. We’ve called our garden “Monarch Trails & Tales” and it includes milkweed for Monarchs, their only food, as well as numerous native perennials. Take a look at it the next time to visit and see what kinds of pollinators you spot – there’s butterflies and bees of course, but also small flies that are essential to pollination!

Lots of local nurseries sell native plants, and the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District sell native plants in groups of 50 for a reasonable cost. If we all sacrifice a little lawn or even plant containers of native plants, we can grow and nurture our pollinator population, creating pollinator pathways and beautiful gardens at the same time.

As Douglas Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and author of numerous books about the intersection of plants, animals and humans, writes “…we humans have disrupted natural habitats in so many ways and in so many places that the future of our nation’s biodiversity is dim unless we start to share the places in which we live –our cities and, to an even greater extent, our suburbs — with the plants and animals that evolved there”

~ Dori

Discover Book Club Kits @RRPL

The theme for the 2021 Cleveland Humanities Festival is Identity, and RRPL has embraced this theme by offering the Book Club Kit, Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. This book was chosen as one of the NYT’s Best Books of the Year 2020, one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2020, and best book of 2020 by the Washington Post and O Magazine.

An immigrant father and his son search for belonging in post-Trump America, and with each other.

Check out our Book Club Kits for 6 weeks and you will receive 8 book copies, a set of discussion questions and other pertinent information about the author and title, all inside a canvas library tote. Inquire at the Adult Reference desk for more information.

What we’re reading now….

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

It’s young adult fantasy fiction about a young woman who discovers that she has unique magical powers that may be the key to saving her country. It’s billed as dark fantasy but it’s mostly fluff with a love triangle, but sometimes fluff is what you need to read! Shannon

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Continuing my year of biographies and memoirs I recently read The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This graphic novel is about the author’s childhood and young adulthood. Her family is Iranian. Religious extremists take over her country. Her liberal minded family has a hard time adjusting to the years of war. From a very young age Marjane has always been outspoken and tends to get in trouble with teachers or other authorities for speaking out about inequality or injustice. She is sent to school in Europe for her safety, but being alone and coming of age in a whole new environment takes its toll. She finds her way back home, but it is no easier to fit into the traditional role her conservative society expects of her. Art and drawing and ultimately telling this story is what she needs to do. I watched the French animated movie based on this after reading it. I like the book just a bit better for providing details that are cut out of the film. Byron


The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

Published in 1894 this early work of “weird” fiction by Machen was a great read. A short novel, this story pertains the consequences of investigating beyond the physical realm and the ripple effect that occur. The story begins with an experiment to see the spiritual realm by Dr Raymond, an act the Doctor notes the ancient called “seeing the great god Pan”. I won’t give more away about the plot as part of the joy of reading this story was watching it unfold. Recommended to fans of horror and supernatural fiction. Greg


Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

After hearing multiple rave reviews of this fresh, feminist translation of Beowulf I’m finally reading it for myself! Fifty years after the translation of Beowulf that myself and many others were forced to read in high school, this new version is described as a “radical new verse translation” that brings to light elements of this classic tale that have never been translated into English. I just added this to my Kindle and am only on the introduction but looking forward to diving into the story. Nicole

Eartheater by Dolores Reyes, Julia Sanches (Translation)

After the death of her mother, a young woman’s compulsion to eat earth reveals that once ingested, she receives visions of the person with a connection to that earth.  The first earth she eats shows her how her mother died.  Abandoned by her adult relatives, she and her brother Walter live alone in the slums of Buenos Aires.  Though many of the locales are put off by her ability, more and more people start leaving jars of earth and notes pleading for her assistance.   A remarkable novel and the translator skillfully manages to convey a distinctive, youthful patois. Trent

Olive Bright, Pigeoneer by Stephanie Graves  

During WWII Olive’s veterinarian father raises prize winning racing pigeons. Olive is very much involved in their care and training. She is contacted by British Intelligence to assist in top-secret missions using the pigeons as messengers. Olive wants to do her part for the war effort and is excited about this opportunity. As part of her cover, Olive dates a British officer which leads to all kinds of speculation in the small town. In addition, a local woman is found dead near the Bright’s dovecote (a structure used to house pigeons or doves). Olive participates in the investigation that uncovers many secrets including some about her family. Mystery, history, and a little romance make for an entertaining read. Emma

His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie

This is the story of Afi Tekple, a young seamstress raised in a poor rural village in Ghana.  Afi is thrust into an arranged marriage to a wealthy businessman, Elikem Ganyo.  After moving into one of Elikem’s many residences with very infrequent visits from her new husband, Afi starts to dream up how she can make the most of her new-found lifestyle. Beth

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

An earlier book by the author of The Sundown Motel, this novel follows the same model of a mystery with a (sort of) believable supernatural twist. Fiona Sheridan, a journalist, is drawn to the location where her older sister’s body had been found 20 years earlier. A mysterious woman has begun renovating Idlewild Hall, a school for “wayward and difficult girls,” that has long been abandoned and is the place where Fiona’s sister’s body was dumped. There is something unnatural about that place- a cold dampness, a constant aura of anxiety and fear, and a legend of a ghost that wanders the grounds. While covering the story of the renovation, Fiona is drawn into the tale of a group of girls at Idlewood Hall in the 1950s, one of whom went missing, presumed dead, and whose body was never found. Fiona learns about the lives of these forgotten girls who were basically abandoned by their families, and at the same time uncovers a secret about her sister’s murder that puts her own life in danger. Sara

February is Women in Horror Month

For the past twelve years, February has been celebrated as Women in Horror Month, a topic very near and dear to my heart. According to the Women in Horror Month website, “Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre.” WiHM aims to help horror works by and featuring women reach a wider audience. This inclusive and positive movement is open to everyone, of course, just as they believe the horror genre should be open to everyone.

WiHM recently announced that as of March 1, 2021 there will no longer be an official WiHM organization, but that they have found there is more than enough content, traffic, and engagement to bring this celebration to communities year round. So, Women in Horror Month might look different moving forward as everyone is now encouraged to choose their own month to celebrate, but I look forward to seeing the creativity and innovation from this community in the years to come!

You can take a look at events going on around the country celebrating WiHM here. Two events I was particularly excited about this month are the “Females of Fright: Zoom Edition” live author panels, both offered for free, thanks to the Horror Writer’s Association! The first panel took place on Friday, February 12th but luckily you can watch it on the HWA’s YouTube channel here. The first panel included Zoje Stage, author of Wonderland, which just so happens to be the next title up for discussion in our Novel Scares book club. Interested in joining us on March 18th to discuss this great creepy novel? Sign up here! The next “Females of Fright” panel is Friday, February 26th at 8 pm (EST) and you can register here.

Looking for more resources for WiHM? Check out two of my favorite blogs, RA for All: Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction. Finally, I want to share a recent discovery that is full of dark and horrific literary treasures- including some up and coming women authors- Nightmare Magazine. You can read and listen to full articles for free on their website, and the February 2021 issue includes this *amazing* short story from author E.A. Petricone, “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It.” I cannot stop thinking about this piece and look forward to reading more from her!

Happy reading and stay safe and warm!

Readalikes for The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library catalog link

This week in our readalikes corner, it’s libraries, libraries, libraries! It’s a little self-indulgent on our part, but to be fair, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is one of the most-requested books on our holds lists. Based on a true story, [the book] describes how a lonely, 1980s teenager befriends an elderly neighbor and uncovers her past as a librarian at the American Library in Paris who joined the Resistance when the Nazis arrived.

Sounds really interesting, right? Click the book cover up above to put a hold on it in our catalog.

But you might have to wait a while (it comes out on February 8, 2021), so we’ve curated a list of books that you might like to try in the meantime. Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

Lions of Fifth Avenue catalog link

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

A New York Public LIbrary superintendent’s wife reevaluates her priorities upon joining a woman’s suffrage group in 1913, decades before her granddaughter’s efforts to save an exhibit expose tragic family secrets.

Lions of Fifth Avenue Overdrive link



The Archivist catalog link

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

A battle of wills between Matt, a careful, orderly archivist for a private university, and Roberta, a determined young poet, over a collection of T. S. Eliot’s letters, sealed by bequest until 2019, sparks an unusual friendship and reawakens painful memories of the past.

The Archivist Overdrive link

People of the Book catalog link

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

In 1996, Hanna Heath, a young Australian book conservator is called to analyze the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless six-hundred-year-old Jewish prayer book that has been salvaged from a destroyed Bosnian library. When Hanna discovers a series of artifacts in the centuries’ old binding, she unwittingly exposes an international cover up.

People of the Book Overdrive link

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek catalog link

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

A last-of-her-kind outcast and member of the Pack Horse Library Project braves the hardships of Kentucky’s Great Depression and hostile community discrimination to bring the near-magical perspectives of books to her neighbors.

Book Woman Overdrive link

Book Woman Hoopla link

The Library Book catalog link

The Library Book by Susan Orlean 

The author reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution: our libraries.

The Library Book Overdrive link




All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.