Virtual Book Club – Readalikes for Where the Crawdads Sing

Still trying to get a copy of 2018’s smash hit novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens? Us too! Don’t know what Crawdads is about? We’ve got you there too: viewed with suspicion in the aftermath of a tragedy, a beautiful hermit who has survived for years in a marsh becomes targeted by unthinkable forces. This book has topped the New York Times Bestseller list for over 30 weeks and was also selected for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.

While you wait, try one of the novels below! They are recommended by our librarians as being similar in feel to Crawdads. Click any book cover for a link to our library catalog, where you can put the book on hold with your library card number and PIN. And we know they’ll probably come in faster than Crawdads! Links to our ebook services have been included where available. 

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Her world upended by the death of a beloved artist uncle who was the only person who understood her, fourteen-year-old June is mailed a teapot by her uncle’s grieving friend, with whom June forges a poignant relationship. 

Overdrive link





My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Enduring an isolated existence after the death of her mother, 14-year-old Turtle roams the rocky shores and tide pools of the California coast and refutes every outside attempt to engage her before an unexpected friendship with a newcomer helps her realize the vulnerabilities of her life with her charismatic father.

Overdrive link


Let's No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda

Let’s No One Get Hurt by Jon Pineda

A teenage girl squatting in an abandoned boathouse with her disgraced college professor father in the swamps of the American South begins an unbalanced relationship with the rich, bratty son of a developer who has bought the property. 





A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Jess Hall, growing up deep in the heart of an unassuming mountain town that believes in protecting its own, is plunged into an adulthood for which he is not prepared when his autistic older brother, Stump, sneaks a look at something he isn’t supposed to, which has catastrophic repercussions. 

Overdrive link



Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Coming of age in a dwindling 1960s farming community in eastern Pennsylvania, Mimi struggles with profound family secrets and the pain of falling in love with the wrong person against a backdrop of dynamic historical periods.

Overdrive link





All book summaries courtesy of Novelist. Check back next Sunday for our next ‘Readalikes’ installment of the Virtual Book Club!

Life is enough of a dystopian novel right now–I don’t need to read one.

It’s been a strange summer, to say the least.  And it looks like it’s gearing up to be a strange fall with kids going back to school, fall sports, restaurants being open or not all up for grabs.  It’s a time of uncertainty, and although I usually like a good dark thriller with a twisty, unpredictable ending; for now, I think it’s time for some good, old-fashioned humorous books to make me laugh.  Hope you enjoy some of these!  Sara

 

New and Upcoming Romance Reads

Sometimes, we all just need to read something light, fun, with a happy ending, and maybe a little spice for good measure, especially during times of turmoil and stress. Enter- the romance genre! Whether you want your literary escape to be sexy and scandalous or wholesome and heartwarming (or something in-between!) romance has got your back.

Check out some new and upcoming romance titles that are sure to give you some much deserved reprieve or serve as your next beach read.

What are some of your favorite romance novels or beach reads of the summer? Share in the comments! Happy reading!

Imagine Your Story – Summer Reading

The official Rocky River Public Library summer reading season has come to an end, but, of course, summer reading continues! Many of you participated this year, though our format required some flexibility on your part – and we really appreciate it! Winners will be announced soon – stay tuned!

In the meantime, what have you been reading? Do you feel like it’s hard to focus on reading in the pandemic or just the opposite? I started this pandemic out poorly – I just couldn’t concentrate – but then slowly, a few books caught my attention and hit the sweet spot of what I needed to read.

First up, Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza. I am always drawn to books by Latin American authors, and I’m so happy I picked up this debut after reading about it on The Morning News Tournament of Books. Optic Nerve was in the final challenge, but lost to Normal People by Sally Rooney (which is another good book btw). Sign up to get notifications about this tournament and you’ll be on top of some of the best books of the year.

Back to Optic Nerve. First off, this book is not a plot driven story; it’s a series of reflective vignettes that center around a piece of art, a painting, a drawing, etc. The author is an art critic, and so is the narrator, so I’m sure there are biographical influences – each chapter she talks about a piece of art that moves her – and the artist’s life – and weaves it through something happening in her life. Some of the artists are well-known, but the works of art are not, because they’re generally in museums in Buenos Aires. I loved her writing, her reflections; someone describes it as ‘deeply felt’ – yes – it’s just one of those books.

I also just finished reading Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry – I read it in one day, it’s that engaging. The story of two middle-aged Irish gangsters, waiting in a Spanish port for the next boat from Tangier – doesn’t sound too thrilling, I know. But their conversations in their Cork accent, their flashbacks, their relationship – comic, but deeply sad as well.

What’s next? – well, I just started listening to Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – it’s about the death of Shakespeare’s 11 year old son during the plague – sounds timely. And I’m hoping to read some galleys of books coming out this Fall – I’ve got Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions on my iPad. I loved his book The Beautiful Ruins, and I’m hearing great things about this one as well.

Happy Reading!

~ Dori

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Opioid Crisis

With everything going on in the world, it is easy to forget that Ohio is still in the middle of the opioid epidemic. Ohio is considered “ground zero” in the ongoing crisis, so for this week’s virtual book club, we thought we’d spotlight books to start the conversation, as well as local organizations that need your help and further information and reading from various authorities on the matter. 

Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to the library’s catalog, where you can place a hold on any of the books with your library card number and PIN. Links to our ebook service Overdrive have been included where available. 

Books to start the conversation:

Title: This is Ohio : the overdose crisis and the front lines of a new America
Author: Shuler, Jack
Note: This Is Ohio will be released on Sept. 8, 2020.

Local organizations: 

St. Vincent Charity Rosary Hall 

Salvation Army Harbor Light

Hitchcock Center for Women

Stella Maris 

Community Assessment and Treatment Services 

More information: 

Ohio State University Extension has an extensive page of resources on the opiate epidemic in Ohio. You can also find facts on statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse here. Lastly, Ohio Guidestone, an addiction treatment center, has an article with sobering facts on the opioid crisis in Ohio.

Stay tuned next Sunday for our next virtual book club post! 

Favorite Books of 2020 (So Far)

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through 2020?! I know I surely cannot. Little did we know in January how very different this year would look compared to years past, and really March to now have been a bit of a foggy blur. Not only does my handy dandy planner help me with my to-do lists now more than ever, it also helps me remember what day it is (which was not so much of an issue pre-2020).

One thing that remains constant though is the joy of reading. Despite whatever madness might be occurring, I can always find a comfy perch somewhere and escape into a book for a few hours. Books have been a reassuring friend to me these past five months and I hope you have been able to curl up with a fabulous book as well.

Below you’ll find some of my most favorite books I’ve read so far this year!

Circe by Madeline Miller

Miller’s novel is absolutely amazing. Circe is a beautifully written, smart, feminist tale that takes readers into the world of Greek mythology but with an entirely new vantage point. Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. She is strange, empathetic, and viewed as weak by her family and peers, turning to mortals for friendship and comfort. Eventually she discovers she holds the power of witchcraft, particularly the power of transformation, and is subsequently banished to live in exile on a remote island. Here is where she truly finds herself and her power. This complex story has it all- complicated heroines, magic, monsters, romance, tragedy, and adventure. It is also very much a story about families and finding our own paths independent of our familial bonds. I wept at the ending not only because of how perfect it was, but because I could have easily read another 300 pages of this masterpiece.

The Strange Bird by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve written about my fangirl love for Jeff VanderMeer’s work on this blog before, but this is perhaps my most favorite book of his to date. It is also the one that ripped my heart out. It is an exploration of the beauty of humanity, conversely also about the cruelty humanity is capable of, and the endurance of love- all packed into under 100 pages. Readers will be mostly lost if they haven’t read any of the other Borne stories (Borne; Dead Astronauts) so I would highly recommend picking up at least one of those before diving into The Strange Bird. Here we follow a new character- a biotech bird mixed of human, avian, and other creature’s genetic material, known only as the Strange Bird. Following her escape from the lab that made her, she is plagued by mysterious dreams, drawn by some invisible beacon inside her to a faraway location. A difficult and gorgeous story that will stay with you long after you close the cover.

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

Perhaps my favorite spooky book so far this year (and you know I love spooky books!). An eerie and atmospheric horror story of women and witchcraft, that also reads as a psychological thriller. The story is set in colonial New England and follows a young woman who is lost in the woods while picking berries for her family- or did she leave her family on purpose? Much is unclear about her circumstances. Eventually she runs into a helpful older woman in the woods, who leads her to yet another mysterious and generous woman with a cozy cabin and plenty of food. Quickly it is made clear that all is not what it seems in this forest and these women may not truly be trying to help her return home. Elements of classic fairy tales and folklore, combined with an unreliable narrator and surreal, dreamlike moments unfold into a disturbing story that I could not put down.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

I wasn’t sure I liked this book until I was more than halfway through it, but I’m glad I kept reading, because it turned out that I actually loved it. The writing is extraordinary and what kept me turning the pages, but I wasn’t confident this tale of wealth, white-collar financial crimes, and ghosts would all come together and hit me with the emotional impact I expect of a book. Well, The Glass Hotel delivers and in many unexpected ways. The story looks at multiple characters, but begins and ends with Vincent, a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass palace on a remote island in British Columbia. Readers travel to Manhattan, a container ship, the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, and back, as we follow the connecting threads of one devastating Ponzi scheme and the various people it’s long tendrils dragged down with it.

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

This book is tricky- it wants you to think it is one story, but it twists and turns into another story and then yet another story. It is difficult to share why it is so captivating and amazing without spoiling too much of the plot, but I can say the early parts of the book introduce you to two particularly irritating white hipster men. They have an obsession with “real” music which essentially means any music that is from black culture and eventually this morphs into a hyper-focused interest in blues from the pre-war era for one of them. There are some seriously funny but bothersome passages discussing audiophile interests, vinyl collecting, and expectations of “real” musicians. I assure you, it is worth it to keep reading through the annoying narrator. The story really goes off the rails maybe halfway through and takes readers on a a new narrative that shifts our sense of reality and time, eventually ending with a note of satisfying and thought-provoking vengeance. Alternatively, this is also a story about white privilege, appropriation of black culture (especially music) in America, white wealth created from the exploitation of black bodies, the industrial prison system, and many more deep seated themes.

Have you read any of my favorites? What are some of your favorites that you have read in the past six months? Share with me in the comments!

Virtual Book Club – Native American Voices

For this week’s virtual book club, we’re looking at books written by indigenous peoples. What better time than now, especially with the controversy around changing the name of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. Though the First Nations peoples who lived in Ohio were largely forced out of the state by settlers, it is estimated that 0.3% of Ohio’s population is American Indian – around 350,000 people, or the total population of Toledo. Find more information here, from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Below we’ve got books to start the discussion, local organizations that need your support, and some more information about the Native American mascot debate. Click on any title to be taken to our catalog, where you can put a hold on the book to be picked up at the Library. Hoopla links are included in the captions where available, and as always, books from Hoopla are ready whenever you are with your library card number and PIN. 

Books to start the discussion 

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
The Only Good Indians: a Novel by Stephen Graham Jones

Local organizations to support: 

Lake Erie Native American Council

Cleveland American Indian Movement

North American Indian Cultural Center

Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance

Lake Erie Professional Chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society

More information:  

For more information on the psychosocial effects of Native American mascots, see this scientific journal article from Race Ethnicity and Education, here. The American Psychological Association has also recommended the retirement of these mascots, which you can find here. Lastly, find here an opinion column on Native American mascots published last week on Cleveland.com.

Check back next week for another installment of our virtual book club on difficult topics!

YA Round Up Part 2

So it appears that I have been pretty stingy with the 5 star ratings so far this year. Here are the final titles that have been outstanding reads for me so far this year.

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis: This brutal survival story is not for the squeamish! Ashley always felt right at home in the deep woods of the Smoky Mountains, so she was looking forward to what was supposed to be a fun night of camping and drinking. But, after finding her boyfriend with another girl, she storms off in a drunken rage. She takes a hard fall, but she’s too mad to worry. It’s not until she wakes up the next morning that she realizes she is alone, far from the trail, and injured. It’s a race against time, and the infection creeping up her leg, to get herself to safety. I am huge Mindy McGinnis fan and can’t wait to read what she offers next.

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert: Marva Sheridan has been waiting to be old enough to vote for as long as she could remember. One election day she was the first in line at her polling spot. As she’s heading out to go to school she overhears a guy her age insisting he was registered, despite his name not being on the rolls. Marva steps in to intervene, and sets off a chain of events she never anticipated. She and Duke, the guy from the voting spot, set off to set the record straight and enable Duke to cast his first vote. The more time they spend together the more they learn about each and the more they learn the more they like each other.
The Voting Booth hits many hot button topics in the news-voter suppression, gun violence, police brutality-in one delightful, whirlwind tale. I have read everything Brandy Colbert has written and she never disappoints. This is a must read!

Slay by Brittney Morris: You don’t have to be a gamer to appreciate the fact that 17-year old programmer Kiera is a genius. Kiera Johnson is one of just a few black kids at her school, but after school she joins thousands of black gamers in the multi-player online role playing game called SLAY. What no one knows is that she is creator. She goes to great lengths to protect her identity, but when a murder IRL is connected to the game and a troll infiltrates the world of SLAY, Kiera’s safe and beloved world is in danger. Can she protect her creation and her identity? This is not my go-to type of book as I have not interest in online games, but I am so glad I picked this one up. Great characters and a thoughtful look at the need for black people to have safe spaces just for themselves.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: Pair this nonfiction autobiography of the author’s childhood experience in Japanese internment camps with the Kiku Hughes’s fictionalized account of her grandparents’ experiences. Takei’s story is a harsh reminder that internment camps were part of our country’s RECENT past. There are people living today who were imprisoned for being Japanese and Japanese-American.

My last three 5 star reviews are parts of series.

The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland: This sequel to Dread Nation picks up the story of Jane McKeene, a badass restless dead hunter, as she ventures West towards California. This alternate history duology takes place after the Civil War, when soldiers because rising from the dead and government decided that form slaves and black girls were the perfect people to battle the undead. It’s a wild ride!

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson: This is the third and final book in the Truly Devious series. It is a completely satisfying end to the story of Ellingham Academy. Fans of true crime and My Favorite Murder will recognize the cases of hiding people Stevie mentions. Fans of Agatha Christie will appreciate the many nods to the queen of mystery stories. I can’t to see what Maureen Johnson has in store for us next!

The King of Crows by Libba Bray: This is the final book in the super creepy Diviners series. I was not expecting the tears at the end of this one. This final book in the series is a scathing commentary on our past wrongs and evils, a cautionary tale as our current political environment has shockingly repeating some of these wrongs, and also a hopeful and stirring love letter to true American patriotism. As I was having these thoughts I kept wondering if I was reading too much in to it, but the author’s note, which I recommend NOT skipping, confirmed that I was not. Oh, and there was a really awesome story about ghosts and monsters and people with powers and love and romance and running away to join the circus. Truly a masterpiece.

That’s all for my 5 star reads of 2020, but I have plenty of amazing 4 star titles to share in future posts. Stay tuned.

~Megan

Virtual Book Club – Difficult Topics – Incarceration

This week in social justice topics, we’re looking at mass incarceration, reentry, and recidivism. While people of all races are incarcerated, African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites, so many of the books below deal specifically with the Black experience (for more information, see the NAACP’s Crimincal Justice Fact Sheet). To see our past virtual book club post on racism, click here. These two virtual book club posts go hand in hand.

Below we’ve got books to start the discussion, local organizations that need your aid, and further recommended reading. To check out any of the books below, have your library card number and PIN ready, and click on one of the book covers to be taken to Hoopla, one of our ebook services. From there, you can check out your book at any time, with no holds lists and no waiting! 

Books to start the discussion: 

Local organizations to support: 

North Star Neighborhood Reentry Resource Center

Aspire Greater Cleveland

Cleveland Eastside Ex-Offender Coalition

Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry

Oriana House

Further resources: 

The question of mass incarceration is a complicated one. For some quick facts and figures on reentry and recidivism, check out The Challenges of Prisoner Reentry: Facts and Figures from the Urban Institute, a fact sheet on Barriers to Successful Re-entry of Formerly Incarcerated People, and a former incarcerated person’s personal account of reentry from the ACLU.

Check back next Sunday for our next difficult topic in social justice!