Check out our new Virtual Book Club!

It’s Sunday. What day of quarantine is it? Who knows – we’ve all been stuck inside for what seems like forever.

We librarians know that you miss all of our face-to-face library programs, but especially our beloved book clubs. So, good news, everyone: we are hosting a virtual book club! And the first book is… drumroll please… Little Fires Everywhere! (Click that title for a direct link to the book in our Overdrive e-book catalog).

Set in our very own Shaker Heights, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a gripping drama of the complicated relationships between Mia Warren, a wandering artist, her daughter Pearl, and the rich family of socialites that are their landlords. The streaming service Hulu also just released their adaptation of the book, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

We’ll be talking about this book through the month of April and will post a few questions to discuss each week on Sunday. If the quarantine continues, we’ll announce a new book at the beginning of May, and so on.

We invite you, our lovely patrons, to make your voices heard in the comments below. Tell us if you think Mia is a scam artist, or if Elena is a crazy stalker! We want to hear it all, but please keep your comments courteous.

Our first questions are: 

  • How would you describe Mrs. Richardson and Mia, the two mothers in this novel? In what ways are they different? Why might the former always be referred to as “Mrs.” rather than Elena, while Mia is always referred to by her first name? Clearly it is done purposely by the author: how does it shape the way we feel about the two women? 
  • Talk about the four Richardson children, Lexi, Trip, Moody, and Izzy. Are any of the four more sympathetic than others? What is their relationship to one another? How does their affluence shape their outlooks on life?

Questions from litlovers.com.

Check back next Sunday for more discussion questions!

What we’re reading in March…

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland

The Floating Feldmans: A Novel by Elyssa…

What happens when a waspy mother, her shopping addict daughter, marijuana growing son, and their families are all stuck on a luxury cruise ship together? The dysfunctional family trip of a lifetime, of course! The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland is the perfect lighthearted companion to bring the comic relief you need on your next family vacation. Beth

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon

Run Me to Earth by Paul Yoon is set in Laos during the Vietnam War, when the country was continuously bombed in a covert attempt by the CIA to wrest power from the communist Pathet Lao, a group allied with North Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Three teens, Alasik and siblings Prany and Noi have lost their parents to opium and violence, and are surviving by working at a makeshift hospital, driving motorbikes to make deliveries, tending to patients and staking out paths between the unexploded bombs. Yoon’s spare, exacting prose expresses their hopes, their friendship, their humanity in the midst of heartbreaking events. Beautiful, just beautiful – I couldn’t stop reading it. Dori

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

This spooky supernatural thriller follows 20-year-old Carly Kirk as she ventures to upstate New York, having recently lost her mother to cancer, determined to solve the mysterious disappearance of her aunt Viv at the Sun Down Motel 35 years ago. Viv worked the overnight shift at the motel and completely vanished one night in November of 1982- her body was never found by authorities and her family basically wiped her from their collective memory. Carly herself signs on for the same graveyard shift at the motel, and soon discovers that the town of Fells, NY seems to have had a number of never-solved murders of local young women immediately preceding Viv’s disappearance. Readers experience the story in alternating narratives, from Viv’s point of view in 1982 and Carly in the present, with both characters experiencing terrifying moments at the motel as they dig deeper into the motel’s secrets. I haven’t made it to the end yet, but I can’t wait to see how this wraps up! Mystery and horror fans will definitely want to pick this up. Nicole

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli

This is the political rom-com I did not know I needed. Jamie Goldberg is happy to volunteer for his local senate candidate. His cousin is the campaign manager and Jamie himself has political aspirations, which will never happen because he just can’t talk to people. Maya’s life is falling apart–her parents are separating and her best friend is too busy working and getting ready for college. When her mom runs into Jamie’s mom the two mothers hatch a plan for the teens to canvass together. What’s in it for Maya? A car at the end of the summer. The reluctant duo start knocking on doors and before they know it a new friendship has developed. Jamie and Maya expertly handle their roles as activists, but the issue of cross-cultural romance is not so easy a topic to navigate. A rare YA book with present and supportive parents as well as normal and realistic friendships. While the relationship between Maya and Jamie is cute, the book doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to addressing racism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy. Megan

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Marianne and Connell are high school seniors and clandestine lovers. Both are star students, however, Marianne is an outcast, raised by her widowed mother in a wealthy home ridden with dysfunction. Connell is a popular star athlete, raised by his unwed mother, in a working class home, yet is nurtured by a caring, wonderful mom. The twist… Connell’s mother works as a maid at Marianne’s home. For the next four years, the reader follows Marianne’s and Connell’s intense yet complicated relationship that’s repeatedly muddled by secrets, miscommunication, and anxiety about their their place in the social hierarchy. As a reader, you will get mad at those two, you will root for those two, in the end, you will understand those two. If this review doesn’t draw your interest, at least treat yourself to a book taking place in Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! Mary

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Journalist Lulu Randolph heads to Nassau in 1941 to investigate the governor, actually the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a popular New York magazine. Soon Lulu falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who is captured by the Nazis. Told in alternating chapters, It’s also the story of Benedict’s parents, Elfriede and Wilfred decades earlier. This is an exceptional historical novel full of romance, spies, intrigue, racial tension and murder. Emma

What we’re reading so far….

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is a story of siblings, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their obsessive connection with the iconic family house they lived in as young children and how their lives unfolded over the years.  The story is told through the eyes of Danny, younger of the two siblings.  We, as readers, watch Danny realize his life is peculiar, his childhood home is extraordinary, and the rooms and people of his childhood are more complex than he thought.  At times, the story resembles a fairy tale, with stepchildren and evil step mother, however, author, Ann Patchett, with such great compassion and wit, brings the story so alive that one can’t help but get hooked.  Get yourself on the holds list for this right now.  It was my favorite book of 2019.  In the meantime, treat yourself with any other book by Ann Patchett. Mary

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read his amazing Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) so I began reading Borne with high expectations. I’m happy to report that Borne does not disappoint and delivers more of the weird, literary, dark, dystopian science fiction that I had hoped for. In a destroyed city that is never named, readers meet the smart and resourceful scavenger Rachel. She tries her best to survive in the city with her partner Wick, gathering relics from abandoned buildings, rebuilding biotech, and trying to evade the gigantic, monstrous bear, named Mord. Mord enjoys flying above the city, eating whatever and whomever he pleases, and generally destroying all in his path. Mord is the creation of the evil and ominous Company, who appear to be responsible for not only Mord’s terrible presence but also the general collapse of the city and all of the terrifying and strange creatures who live there. Rachel finds a curious blob-like creature entangled in Mord’s fur one day while scavenging, and quickly discovers the blob is intelligent, talks, and is also growing at a rapid rate. She names the now tentacled discovery Borne, and things only get weirder from there. Nicole

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness is the first in the Gardiner and Renner series. Maggie Gardiner is a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department. Jack Renner is a homicide detective working a series of murders with the same cause of death but no other obvious connection. The more Maggie pores over the evidence, the more she suspects a vigilante killer who possibly has ties to the police department. When the evidence finally points to Jack, Maggie is confronted with a moral dilemma. Will she reveal Jack’s secret? Lisa Black is a former trace evidence specialist for the Cuyahoga County coroner and current CSI in Florida, and the crime scene details of the book are meticulously written and described. Jack’s vigilante serial killer story is introduced but not completely explained. Readers will have to continue the series for more details! I did, in fact, binge the series in it’s current entirety and it definitely gets better as they go along. Maggie and Jack tackle cases involving the murders of journalists, corrupt politicians, and teens living in a county facility. As they cover different cases they have to navigate the huge secret that defines their relationship. I look forward to more stories of fictional Cleveland crimes from Lisa Black.  Megan

Loom by Sarah Gridley

Loom by Sarah Gridley

I’m reading a book of poetry, Loom, by Sarah Gridley, which came out in 2013.  I had Sarah as a poetry teacher when I was briefly a student at Case, and she was wonderful for many reasons, so I could be biased.  But sometimes I think Sarah’s poetry is a kind of well-kept secret, not only in CLE but elsewhere as well, and that she deserves a wider audience.  Like other poets I love, including John Ashbery and Anne Carson, Sarah’s poetry gets pegged as “difficult,” but in a pejorative way – it’s too weird, people say, too interior, too lacking in narrative maybe, customary guideposts, something like that. But that’s exactly why I love Sarah’s poetry.  It is a kind of startling confrontation, because it forces you to trust your intuition, your heart, your own senses and your own mind, and encounter the poem without any preconceptions about what a poem should do, think, imagine or be.  Sarah’s poems are profoundly intelligent, open, spacious, deeply feeling-full, generous, fun, imaginative, and creative.  And the music of her poetry is her own – funny, wondering, modestly immodest, intimate. Check out Loom from RRPL, if you’re interested, and stay alert – her latest book of poems, Insofar, which won the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press, chosen by Forest Gander, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year, is coming out later this year in April.  Andrew

Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin

Recently I decided to take advantage of our large collection of digital audiobooks through ClevNet Overdrive to listen to audio versions of fantasy novels I haven’t yet read. I began with the iconic Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am 4 books in and have enjoyed listening to each one immensely. Already being a fan of audio books, I have found this digital format very convenient as I am able to switch from device to device and pickup where I left off. Audio books have allowed me the chance to catch-up on books that I have been meaning to read. Would high recommend this series and this format. Greg

The Furies by Katie Lowe

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Violet begins the fall term as the new girl at Elm Hollow Academy, the site of witch hangings in the 17th century and the mysterious death of a student years later. Her home life has been unhappy since her father and sister died in a car crash, and her mother never mentally recovered from the tragedy. She expects to be a loner, like she has been since the accident, but is immediately taken under the wing of a wild and charming girl and her group of friends. They are part of an advanced study group with a teacher who studies ancient history and mythology as well as the rites and spells of the witches from long ago. Taught as history not practice, the girls nevertheless are drawn towards the idea of powerful women and powerful magic. They become increasingly wild and reckless as they learn the secrets of the women who came before them and begin to feel the power these women held. When one of the girls is violated, they swear revenge, and Violet is no longer sure of what is real, what is make believe, and what is magic. Sara

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Journalist Lulu Randolph heads to Nassau in 1941 to investigate the governor, actually the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a popular New York magazine. Soon Lulu falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who is captured by the Nazis. Told in alternating chapters, It’s also the story of Benedict’s parents, Elfriede and Wilfred decades earlier. This is an exceptional historical novel full of romance, spies, intrigue, racial tension and murder. Emma

Greg’s Top 11 for 2019

Mary’s Top Ten of 2019

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro

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The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

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Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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Saints For All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

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Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

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Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

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The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

 

Cheers to another year of wonderful books.  I would love to hear about your top ten for 2019.  Stop by the Adult Reference desk and we’ll chat.  Happy New Year!

What We’re Reading Now…..

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel by Taffy…

Meet recently separated Toby Fleishman, medical professional by day, kids every other weekend, newbie bachelor exploring the the singles scene through a dating app on his phone. Toby’s life has been turned upside down by his ex-wife’s disappearance.  Has she truly disappeared, is she avoiding Toby and their shared responsibilities with their kids, or is she having a nervous breakdown?  Toby will embark on a desperate search for his ex-wife while juggling his career and trying to parent 2 unraveling kids.  Don’t pass this book up.  From the outside it seems like another “Bridget Jones ” type story, but there is much more here to enjoy and explore. This book is witty, fast-paced, with sharp observations about marriage, divorce and parenting in today’s world.  Mary

The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

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This is the tale of the ‘shining’ Genji, the favorite son the Japanese Emperor, and Genji’s many romantic dalliances and the resulting political consequences. While a bit of slog at roughly 1200 pages and with an unsympathetic main character, this novel, argued by many to be the world’s first novel, fascinatingly details the intricate court life of a thousand years ago in Heian Period Japan. Trent

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

High school dropout Galaxy “Alex” Stern has narrowly escaped her disastrous Los Angeles past of drug dealer boyfriends and violence, awakening in a hospital bed the sole survivor of a gruesome multiple homicide. While recovering, she is offered a strange but irrefutable second chance: attend Yale completely free of cost if she serves as the new “Dante” for Lethe. Lethe is the Ninth House of the Houses of the Veil, secret societies at Yale that generally practice magic to ensure their own professional success and financial security. Alex is responsible for overseeing the rituals and magic of the other eight houses, assuring everyone involved survives and that no dangerous magic escapes. Soon though a young woman is found brutally murdered on campus and Alex suspects magic was involved. Wildly atmospheric and emotional charged, this page-turner is highly recommended for fans of dark adult fantasy. Nicole

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

The Topeka School: A Novel by Ben Lerner

Lerner is one of my favorite contemporary novelists.  Whenever I read one of his books, I feel that he is describing aspects of my own experience, but much better than I could ever do – sort of giving me the words, or some words, I guess, that make sense to me, and help me understand my own life up to this point.  The Topeka School is a fictional take on Lerner’s adolescence – he grew up in the Midwest, Jewish, white and privileged, but also experienced anomie, rootlessness, angst, all the blues that come with being a teenager.  The novel is very smart, poignant, and incisive, as well as experimental in ways I find really interesting and exciting. Recommended as a fascinating study of violence, whiteness and maleness, that is not afraid to be both honest and compassionate.  Andrew

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Nebula and Hugo Award winning Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is a quick placed novella that introduces the reader to Binti as she leaves home to study at the most prestigious university in the galaxy, Oomza University. The author propels the reader into a futuristic world where marvels of technology live as the everyday and intergalactic travel is routine.  At times the amount of new information and fast pace can be a bit overwhelming, but when enjoyed as a whole series (there are two sequels that expand on many of the terms, concepts introduced) the reader is presented with a rich narrative that explores heroism, growth, and family.  Greg

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

It is 1957 and Naoko Nakamura wants to marry American serviceman Jimmy Kovac. Her family has other plans for her including an arranged marriage. Pregnant Naoko leaves her family’s home to marry Jimmy. When Jimmy is away, Naoko finds herself in a maternity home designed to take care of unwanted pregnancies, namely mixed-race children. Eventually Naoko escapes from the maternity home and her sickly baby is born. Decades later in Ohio Jimmy’s daughter, Tori, is given a letter from her father on his deathbed to be given to Naoko in Japan. Tori is determined to find her half-sister. This is an enjoyable well-researched piece of historical fiction.  Emma

Inland by Tea Obrecht

Inland by Tea Obreht

Two lives unfold in the late 19th century American West in Inland by Tea Obrecht. A duel narrative, we hear the story of Lurie, a former outlaw and a man haunted by ghosts, lost souls who always want something from him. Lurie’s mysterious traveling companion hears his story. Meanwhile, Nora awaits the return of her sons and her husband in drought stricken Arizona while conversing with her daughter, who died in infancy. Haunted by their pasts, Nora and Lurie do what they can to survive. I listened to the audiobook, which was transporting, with talented narrators who really captured the characters. Dori

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America by Carrie Gibson

El Norte: the epic and forgotten story of…

A deep detailed history of the Caribbean and North America with a little coverage of major events in Meso and South America. The Spanish have older roots here than the English. Written records like diary entries and letters by government and church administrators are quoted as often as possible. Gibson is specific also about the different ingenious cultures (ex. Tainos, Maya, Apalachee, and Zuni) encountered. It is a thick history book and is taking quite a commitment of time to work through it, but I am finding it constantly fascinating.  Byron

What we’re reading now…..

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Whitehead’s harrowing story about a reform school in Florida during the Jim Crow-era is fictional, though based on real life accounts.  The story does not dramatize the violence and horrors of the reality, rather lets the circumstances speak for themselves.  It is a powerful story regarding the very real racial inequality of our country in the not so distant past.  Beth

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

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This is the second short story collection I have read by author Karen Russell. Just like her other anthology Vampires in the Lemon Grove : Stories, Orange World offers the reader a variety of stories where everything seems similar and yet uncanny. In a USA Today interview Russell has said that her work isn’t so much magical realism as it is “magical thinking” writing. Highly recommend for fans of Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, and Victor Lavelle. Greg

Russell’s third collection gives readers eight amazing stories that span a variety of subjects and experiences, all beautifully written, insightful, and often wonderfully weird. Each work is wildly creative, whether you are transported to a future Florida ravaged by rising ocean water and climate change, joining two young women as they attempt to survive an evening trapped in a haunted ski-lodge, or following a widowed farmer as he recklessly returns to a life of raising tornadoes on the Nebraska prairie. Russell skillfully weaves tales that combine both the supernatural and mundane, crafting subtly creepy and emotionally resonant stories. A highly recommended volume for fans of her prior collections, as well as those who enjoy darkly humorous literary fiction. Nicole

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

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I recently read the stage play The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by writing partners Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. It was first published in 1970 during the Vietnam War era, a time when many young people were protesting the American involvement in that conflict. In the play Henry David Thoreau, as a young man, engages in Civil Disobedience by not paying his taxes to show his disapproval of the Mexican-American War. The parallel is clear. The play also shows Thoreau’s relationship with Ralph Waldo Emerson and allows the character to express several themes that he would write about in his middle age before he died at the age of 44. The script is often dream-like with multiple flashbacks from the jail cell used to highlight moments from Thoreau’s development as a thinker who would not just “go along” with the status quo. Byron

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

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This is the story of Edith and her sister Helen who have been estranged for decades when Helen convinces their father to leave the family farm to her. Helen uses the money to rebuild the Blotz beer brand with her husband Orval Blotz. When granddaughter Diana’s parents are killed, Edith raises her. Together they barely scrape by. Diana has a talent for making beer and eventually buys a small brewery. With Diana’s talent, perseverance, and the help of her grandmother and Edith’s elderly friends, the brewery is successful. This is a hopeful and heartwarming story of take-charge women when the going gets tough. Emma

 

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

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In the Spring of 1981, the four young Skinner siblings lose their father to a heart attack and soon to follow will lose their mother to severe depression, a time period that the siblings will refer to as The Pause.  Caught between the easy & comfortable life they once had and an uncertain future, the children navigate The Pause with fear and resentment, only to become fiercely loyal to each other.  Two decades later The Skinners find themselves again confronted with a family crisis that will test the strength of these bonds and force them to question the life choices they’ve made and what exactly they will do for love.  This book was much like Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  If you like family drama, like I do, I recommend this book. Mary

The Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson 

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is convinced that her best friend’s death is not part of a suicide pact that has already claimed the lives of the school’s two most popular mean girls. When she finds a mysterious grimoire with a too good to be true solution to her problem, she sets out to resurrect Riley. Of course things don’t go as expected–instead of bringing back Riley to get answers to her murder, she resurrects her bestie AND their bullies, the newly dead mean girls June and Dayton. To make matters worse, none of them have any memory of their deaths. Mila has one week to figure it all out while keeping her zombies out of sight. Surprisingly deep and insightful, this body-positive witch tale is a fun exploration of bullying, friendships, and redemption. Megan

Follow Her Home by Steph Cha

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Juniper Song has no experience as a detective.  The closest qualification she has when asked by her best friend to investigate whether his father is having an affair is that she is a Raymond Chandler super fan.  However, this lack of practical training does not deter Juniper from taking the role of Phillip Marlowe and agreeing to do some light snooping.  Following the tradition Marlowe long ago set, Juniper is quickly knocked out soon after she begins looking into the matter.  Only, when Juniper wakes up, the stakes have risen when she also finds a dead body in the trunk of her car.  Great noir that, while paying homage to Chandler, looks to update and add to the genre. Trent

Watching You by Lisa Jewel

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I read this quick moving thriller in a few sessions. Told from the points of view of a few “watchers”: a young, restless newlywed living with her brother and his wife has her eye on the handsome older neighbor who is the new school principal; the awkward teenage principal’s son has his eye on most of the neighborhood; the crazy lady next door is sure EVERYONE is watching her, and her daughter has heard terrible rumors about her new principal and is befriending his son to find out if they are true. This voyeuristic neighborhood is thrown into turmoil when someone is brutally murdered. Everyone saw something, but can anyone put it all together? Sara

The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions by Ken Wilber

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Wilber is a philosopher and transpersonal psychologist, and this is one of a few tomes he has written, all wonderful, about helpful ways of thinking about more out-there topics like mysticism, consciousness, and spirituality.  Wilber is also a Buddhist, but his critiques of religion are applicable to Western and Eastern approaches.  I have been reading him for some time now, and have always found him very insightful.  For anyone interested, a great place to start to understand his framework, which is called “AQAL” – standing for “all quadrant, all level” – is his Integral Psychology from 1994.  Andrew