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What we’re reading now… January 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized, Young Adult.
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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch's Compendium: Magical and…Not a book designed to be read straight through, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium is much more a resource guide for individuals who wish to include their magical practice into their everyday routine and life. Resource guide might actually be an understatement. This 512 page volume contains dozens and dozens of recipes and remedies addressing jam preserves to making your own self care products to dyeing your own fabric. The instructions are approachable, easy to read (Franklin is a British writer but graciously provides a conversion table in the back for measurements) and clear. There isn’t much magical instruction within all these amazing recipes which was a bit of a let down, but there is a ton of information towards the back to what ruling planets, deities, and celestial phases all the ingredients correspond with. Highly recommended for readers looking for a resource they can return to again and again for ideas on how to handle the pragmatic with a magical flair. Greg


System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3) by Neal Stephenson

The System of the World by Neal StephensonThis final volume of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle ties up the myriad storylines that have emerged throughout the series. There is something for everyone in this.  For much of the series, we follow Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse through pre-Enlightenment England as Isaac Newton and the Royal Society pivot from alchemy to science.  If the invention of calculus is not your cup of tea, there is no want of political intrigue among Protestants and Catholics following the restoration of the British Monarchs.  If not that, there is the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe, King of Vagabonds or Eliza as she rises through the European elite via machinations involving new inventions in finance.  The breadth of this series is far beyond the size of anything that should work – yet it does.  Trent


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyI’ve been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s an amazing book.  Tolstoy is so incisive about his characters, he knows them so well, and so over time we feel like we really get to know and even love Pierre, Andrei and Natasha (although there are a lot more characters, those are probably the main three).  Tolstoy studied in a very intense way the military campaigns between Russia and France, and then he is able to infuse what he learned with his astonishing imagination.  It seems like he gets every detail right, from the description of what the men and women are wearing in a ballroom, to descriptions of gun smoke in a field during a battle.  He’s able to really zoom in and zoom out in this wonderful way.  Andrew 


Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel  by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie…This is the story of Clara Kelley, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction and fiction. Emma


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by…This book marks the author’s return to the land of faeries. Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and her sisters were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Faerie is all she knows and all she wants is to truly belong. One of her biggest obstacles is Prince Cardin, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. Cardin despises mortals and goes out of his way to make Jude’s life miserable. To earn a place in Court, Jude must go head to head against Prince Cardin. When she does, she finds herself caught in the middle of a political scandal that threatens everyone in Faerie. Can a mere mortal outwit the traitors and save fae? Megan


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward AbbeyI’m almost finished with this book from the 70s about environmental saboteurs against the industrial complex out west taking the land’s natural resources. To be real the characters, plot, and writing are becoming annoying and I’m just trying to finish it quickly. Next I’m waiting on a hold through Overdrive on my Kindle for Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen and a book on CD from Rocky River of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. Byron


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh NguyenA captivating and complicated set of short stories that examine identity, family, and romantic love through the eyes of Vietnamese refugees. Realistic elements are mixed with some fantastical ones (for instance, in the first story in the collection, a girl is visited by her brother, a ghost)—a literary technique perhaps intended to shed light on how disorienting and bizarre immigrant life can be.  In the audio book format, Nguyen reads his own stories, and his gentle and lightly accented voice creates an authentic soundscape for the reader. It is no wonder that Nguyen was showered with accolades for his first book, The Sympathizer. His masterful, self-aware prose won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, among others. Lyndsey


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane GayThis was not quite what I expected but a very good read nonetheless. I found the beginning to be a bit scattered and slow at times which made it difficult for me to make a connection with the book.  However, after reading and digesting all her essays I feel that I would like to strive to be a similar feminist to Roxane Gay – someone who is thoughtful, objective, outspoken when necessary and truly unique.  Mary

 


The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThis story takes place mostly in one very transformative day in the life of two teens, Daniel and Natasha. They meet by chance as they are both on their way to two very different, but equally important meetings that could potentially change the course of their lives forever.  The story is hopeful and sweetly romantic. Beth

 

 


City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty,

The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad…A perfect winter escape, this debut fantasy novel, book #1 in The Daevabad Trilogy, transports readers to mystical Arabia. Nahri, an orphaned young woman living in Cairo by her wits, her cons, and a little bit of magic, has her life upended when she unknowingly calls forth a djinn warrior who recognizes that she’s not entirely human. Chased by demons, they journey to the supposed safety of Daevabad, the city of brass, where political and ethnic strife is swirling beneath the surface and where Nahri discovers the mystery of her origin.  Dori


The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. TudorSwitching between 1986 and 2016, this book takes you through the summer holidays of Eddie and his friends who are growing up and looking for some excitement in their tiny British village.  They sure find it when a game they’ve developed using chalk figure codes leads them to a dismembered body.  Jump to 2016 and the chalk figures are showing up again. It seems like just a prank until one of the old friends turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others. Sara


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top of the List 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by Dori in Audio, Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, eAudio, Fantasy, Fiction, First Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017.
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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

 

 

 

 

 

Lyndsey’s Top 10 of 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by lgvora in Book List, Book Review, eAudio, Non-Fiction, Top Ten, Young Adult.
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Hi, my name is Lyndsey, and I plan events for adults at RRPL. Because of my love for young adult literature, juvenile literature, and poetry, at college I studied to be a high school English teacher and minored in theology, if that gives you any indication where my interests lie. Here are the movies, music, and books I most enjoyed this year.

Books

1 addie

When We Were On Fire by Addie Zierman
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This is a beautifully crafted, sharply felt memoir about a girl raised in an aggressive, strange, and at times manipulative Christian 90s youth culture. As her life went on, the author continued to amass church-inflicted wounds at her conservative college, living and working for a Christian organization in China, and trying to settle into a string of bizarre churches. Eventually she became an alcoholic. When she hit rock bottom, she resolved to work through her anger and depression with a trauma counselor and with the support of her husband. Addie’s prose — her symbolism, her way of recreating a scene and dropping you into it — struck chords in me.

 

Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro
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Another memoir. At 23, Dani Shapiro had dropped out of college, began having an affair with a wealthy married man (who happened to be her best friend’s father), and fell into drug addiction. Then came the phone call that changed—and possibly saved—her life: her parents had been in a near-fatal car accident. As Shapiro moves home to take care of her parents and work through her addiction, she meditates on how her isolated, overprotected Orthodox Jewish childhood brought her to this point. Shapiro is a master storyteller, and the scenes she creates last beyond the book’s final page. The self-excavation is so well done.

 


Still by Lauren Winner
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Again, it’s a memoir. Again, it’s about trauma and religion. And again, it’s written by a woman. (Apparently, this year I was all about these types of stories.) After Lauren Winner’s mom dies, her marriage collapses—and so too does her faith. In this honest, smartly written collection of reflections on her “dark night of the soul,” Dr. Winner, who teaches at Duke Divinity school and since the book’s publication became an Episcopal priest, doesn’t let herself settle for easy answers. I just loved her voice: smart, relatable, funny, ballsy, and sometimes, soft.

 


From Nothing and I Watched You Disappear by Anya Krugovoy Silver
Borrow From Nothing in eBook format | Borrow I Watched You Disappear in eBook format

Anya Silver is–hands down–my favorite poet. She is terminally ill and writes about sickness—hers and her friends’—so, so beautifully. Her poems are accessible but deep. When I read her poetry, I don’t feel like I have to put in a ton of work to unlock it. But, the more attention I gave to her language use, the more meaningful the poems are. I got to meet her earlier this year when she gave a reading in Ohio, and she was as lovely as her poems are.

 

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
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It’s 1970. 10 years ago, in 1959, Alaska was made a state, and it forever altered the lives of four children and their parents. Now, those children have become teenagers, and their lives become entangled. When one of the four falls into grave danger, it’s up to the others to step in. Gayle Forman’s blurb said, “Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s Alaska is beautiful and wholly unfamiliar”—and it’s true. Aside from her compellingly drawn characters, The Smell of Other People’s Houses presents us with a side of United States history we haven’t seen before. Alaska comes alive and becomes a character all of its own.

 

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
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Not sure why I didn’t read this book as a kid. It was obvious to me, upon listening to the audiobook, that there is a reason Bud, Not Buddy won pretty much every award known to kid lit: The Newbery Medal, The Coretta Scott King Award, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, IRA Children’s Book Award winner, and on. And on. Christopher Paul Curtis’ narrator, Bud Caldwell, is equal parts perceptiveness and hilarity, and James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and reads the audiobook, makes Bud’s personality even more vibrant. As an adult, there was a lot to love about this story of a brave orphan searching for family during The Great Depression.

uncle phil

 

Movies

Their Finest Poster

Their Finest
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With the men off to war, it’s up to Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to write the “slop”—otherwise known as female dialogue—for a WWII propaganda film. As Catrin works on the script, she begins to fall for her co-worker Buckley (Sam Claflin), who is the first man to encourage her as a professional and validate her voice. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that she’s married. Arterton and Claflin are charming and earnest. Bill Nighy turns in a hilarious performance as a vain, aging Hollywood star who is oblivious to his own self-centeredness.

I am Not

I Am Not Your Negro
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I am so glad to have seen this important film. It is not just an autobiographical film about the author and activist James Baldwin, and it’s not just a film about racial tension in the 1960s. It is a haunting and prophetic in the way that it exposes how anti-black sentiment is still operating in our society, embedded not only into our social and political lives, but into our “cultural imagination.” Juxtaposed with footage of modern-day black deaths (Trayvon Martin et al), Baldwin’s words about the deaths of MLK, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evars were chilling.

Gifted-movie-banner-poster

Gifted
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This is a fun and light recommendation for watching with family or friends. Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a six-year-old math genius being raised by her Uncle Frank (Chris Evans), a boat mechanic, in a Florida trailer park. Frank decides to enroll Mary in school, because (as he says), her only friends are the landlord (Octavia Spencer) and Fred, their one-eyed cat. One day, Frank’s mother Evelyn shows up and insists that a genius like Mary’s can’t be neglected. She wants to take Mary and give her a “proper,” private education with the best tutors. The film is at its best when Uncle Frank and Mary share the screen. Bring tissues.

 

Music

seat
A Seat at the Table
by Solange
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I heard a lot of great music this year, but if I had to pick one album to recommend, it would be Solange’s A Seat at the Table. Solange’s soprano a treat. The album’s content (songs about how it feels to be black in America) and the album’s style (ranging from funk to soul to R&B) feel classy and timeless. The album is a work of art. As a white woman, I felt privileged to listen in and take, for a moment, a seat at her table.

Megan’s Favorites of 2017 December 15, 2017

Posted by Megan in Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Top Ten, Young Adult.
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Ah, the annual struggle of a reader…picking the favorites.

Favorite Teen Reads:

  1. Scythe by Neal Shusterman-In a world where disease and old age have been conquered, the only way to die is to be killed by professional reapers. Two teens are in a contest to become a scythe, despite the fact that neither wants the job.scythe
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas-When Starr Davis becomes the sole witness to the police shooting of her childhood friend, her life changes. The incident makes headlines and everyone from her poor neighborhood and the upscale prep school she attends has an opinion on the matter. hate
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Liani Taylor-Lazlo Strange has long dreamed of the lost city of Weep. Actually, this gorgeous, epic fantasy is too complicated to describe in a sentence or two. I can’t do it.strange
  4. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin-In an alternate history the Axis powers won WWII and Hitler is alive. Yael, a survivor of human experimentation at the hands of Nazi doctors has one goal: win the annual motorcycle race, secure a meeting with Hitler, and kill him.wolf
  5. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zenter-Carter Briggs loses his three best friends after a text message caused a fatal car accident. Carter struggles with his guilt and grief with the help of Blake’s grandmother and her idea of a “goodbye day.”goodbye

Favorite Adult Reads: Apparently I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in 2017! Any why not? It’s pure escapism.

  1. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss-The first book in the Kingkiller Chronicles tells the story of Kvothe, a magician, thief, and assassin. This book is currently in development by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Showtime!name of the wind
  2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden-A mesmerizing fairy tale set in the cold Russian north. bear
  3. A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers-This is a light-hearted space opera in the vein of Firefly. long way
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey-The first book in the Expanse series and the source material for the Syfy show of the same title, this is a face-paced thriller of a space opera. I do love a space opera!leviathan
  5. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter-Abby returns to her small hometown to investigate a corporation that seems to have connections to an old scandal. Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls.bonfire

Favorite Nonfiction Reads: 

  1. Ranger Games by Ben Blum-The bizarre true story of a group of young army rangers who rob a bank. ranger
  2. Hunger: a Memoir of (my) Body by Roxane Gay- This deeply personal series of essays explores body image and self esteem and the author’s relationship with food and weight. index
  3. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder-The author, a historian on fascism, offers a guide to understanding and resisting totalitarianism. index (1)
  4. Tears We Cannot Stop: a Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson-This provocative call for change details how white America can work towards real and lasting racial progress. A painful and necessary read. tears
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. The majority of my nonfiction reading this year was true crime (totally obsessed and if you are too I recommend the podcast My Favorite Murder) or political books. Killers of the Flower Moon is a fascinating addition to the true crime genre. (It’s also the topic of our Men’s Book Discussion in January)killers

~Megan

Greg’s Top 10 for 2017 December 14, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Horror, New Books, Non-Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017, Uncategorized.
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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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Cover image for               Cover image for
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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Cover image for
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.
Cover image for
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.
Cover image for Norse mythology
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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Cover image for The drunken botanist
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.
Cover image for Black Hammer :
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.

Sara’s Top 10 of 2017 December 11, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Debut Author, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Mystery, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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I’m a little behind on my reading so these aren’t all new books.  It was hard to choose but was a lot of fun remembering how much I enjoyed each of these as I went through them.  Hope you find something you’ll enjoy too!

Cover image for The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

This thriller  kept me on the edge of my seat.  The unusual main character, the outdoor setting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the drama of wondering who will catch the Marsh King made this a great, compelling read.

 

 

Cover image for Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache, and all the eccentric characters of Three Pines do not disappoint in this creepy, dark mystery that has many more layers than at first it seems.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Dry by Jane Harper

A stunning debut novel, with tension and bridled energy at every turn. Looks like small Australian towns come with big secrets.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I guess this book is considered fantasy, but it seemed real to me as I was reading it! An extraordinary tale of superstition, tradition, family and magic that takes place in the long-lasting winter of the Russian wilderness.  I can hardly wait to read the next book, The Girl in the Tower, just recently released.

 

 

Cover image for Home by Harlan Coben

Book #11 in the Myron Bolitar series, released almost six years after its predecessor, brings back the characters we love- Myron, Win, Esperanza and Big Cindy. A decade older and a little wiser (debatable), they take on the task of finding Win’s cousin who has been missing for 10 years.  A satisfying but dark mystery about friends, family and coming home.

 

 

Cover image for Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor Flood’s life is a complete mess, but she has decided today will be different.  And she has no idea how right she is!  A hilarious story with a main character you can’t help but love and an ending that makes it all worthwhile.

 

 

Cover image for The Golden Hour by T. Greenwood

I somehow thought T. Greenwood was a new author, but now I am wondering why I haven’t read her other eight books?!  A beautifully written story of a young mother struggling with her marriage, her career, and her future–all because of the lies of her past.

 

 

Cover image for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

A debut novel that thankfully is the beginning of the Gemma Woodstock series, The Dark Lake tells of teenage jealousy, hurt and secrets that will resurface until they are brought to light and put to rest.

 

 

 

Cover image for The Trespasser by Tana French

It seems that every Tana French book is better than the last, and this is no exception. The book solves a murder, but more importantly digs into the deeply-rooted culture of the Dublin Murder Squad, with it’s egos, grudges, deceptions as well as  its loyalty and commitment to protect and serve.

 

 

Cover image for Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Spending a year as the captive of a psychopath will definitely change your life. This story looks into the mind of Annie O’Sullivan as she discusses the past with her therapist and struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. A creepy, psychological mystery that’s quick to read.

 

Check out these reviews! New to the Reading Room November 28, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
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Why Short Stories Work for Me November 21, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Gentle Read, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

-Greg
Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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What we’re reading in November… November 13, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Uncategorized.
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Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer EganA childhood encounter with her father and a local gangster remains in Anna Kerrigan’s memory, even after he disappears and she grows up to work at as a diver at the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II. Why did her father leave? Did it have something to do with the gangster or was it because of her disabled sister Lydia? Egan’s look at the life of a smart, capable young woman and the mystery surrounding her father’s absence is an engaging novel chock full of historical details. Dori


Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka…There’s only one person who has ever truly understood 14 year old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle Finn Weiss.  Awkward, shy and feeling disconnected from her older sister, June feels she can be her true self only in the company of Finn.  When Finn dies of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down.  At Finn’s funeral June notices a strange man lingering beyond the crowd.  A few days later she receives a package in the mail, with a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.  Hence begins a remarkable friendship which both desperately need for their loss, and courage to carry on.  The novel takes place in the 1980’s where the reader is exposed to the fear & ignorance of the AIDS virus.  We follow this very quirky yet strong young girl in her journey to find peace with herself and the world around her.  This is a beautiful coming of age novel, and your heartstrings will tug for June and all the people in her life.  Mary


The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly and Molly McGill by Jim Fergus

The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of…This is the story of Margaret and Susie who were part of the original “Brides for Indians” program. They moved west and married Cheyenne warriors. Their husbands were killed when the village was attacked by the U.S. Army. Their babies froze to death on the escape route to the Lakota’s, and these women want revenge. Molly McGill, a new participant in the “Brides for Indians” program which is obsolete, still marries a warrior named Hawk. Margaret and Susie and the new recruits train to become warriors. Told in alternating chapters from the journals of Margaret and Molly, the sequel to One Thousand White Women is a compelling tale. Emma


Books Of Blood: Volumes One To Three by  Clive Barker

Books of Blood 1-3 by Clive BarkerThe season for horror may have passed for most of the country, but I continue to delight in stories of the strange, the uncanny, and the unnerving. Clive Barker began his career with a series of short stories put together in Books of Blood. Here we have the first 3 volumes of tales that are sure to satisfy any fan of the macabre or the curious. If you love Barker’s movies this is a great introduction to his written work. Some fans will even notice a few plots that have become films since this collection’s publication.  This may not be the book for everyone but with Barker’s ability to create worlds within each story and his trademark take on horror, it is bound to find fans in readers looking to keep the Halloween season going a little longer.  Greg


Kenyatta’s Last Hit by Donald Goines 

Kenyatta's Last Hit by Donald GoinesThe final book in Goines’ Kenyatta series appears on the surface to be nothing more than another urban fiction/crime novel.  At times grisly, others lascivious, it is above all else honest and relevant. If not for the uniquely 70s patois and sartorial descriptions, this is a novel that could have been written today.  The struggle against institutionalized racism, an unaddressed heroin epidemic, privilege, and greed are all catalysts in a story that still strike a chord today.  Goines creates many strong characters, most who are doing unquestionably bad things, but like the best authors, he makes you question who is actually the villain. Trent


Ranger Games: a Story of Soldiers, Family, and an Inexplicable Crime by Ben Blum

Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family…This story explores the role that Ranger indoctrination and training played in the commission of an armed bank robbery. Alex Blum always dreamed of serving his country in the elite Army Ranger squad. After surviving the grueling training, 19 year old Alex attained his dream and was set to deploy to Iraq in August of 2006. To the shock and horror of his family, he never made it to Iraq. Instead, he was arrested for armed bank robbery along with four other Rangers. Blum was arrested and confessed to being the getaway driver. His defense? The robbery was simply an elaborate training exercise. Written by his cousin, this book digs deep into Alex’s story. The author, a former computer scientist, needed to get to the bottom of this bizarre event. Fans of true crime stories and the podcast story will want to add this to their reading list. Megan


Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Enlightenment by Robert Wright

Why Buddhism is True: The Science and…I really enjoyed Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Enlightenment. His argument was really fascinating – that mindfulness meditation can loosen the grip on our minds that natural selection holds – that, essentially, we are wired to see the world in a certain way because of natural selection, but that this way might not be good for our species, or the world at large. According to Wright (and evolutionary psychology), we are built – our brains are wired – to pass on our genes. Therefore it is in our evolutionary interests to identify with our feelings and thoughts, because our feelings and thoughts might have saved us when we were hunting in the wild. But nowadays, as Wright argues, this vehement identification with what we feel and think can foster tribalism. His answer to this problem of tribalism, essentially, is mindfulness meditation, which he argues can allow us to perceive the world more truthfully (and with more beauty), by letting us see things without our story about things. Andrew


 

The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka

The Big Smoke by Adrian MatejkaThis is a book of poems that tell the story of Jack Johnson, a Jim Crow-era boxer who became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. The Big Smoke won the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. The poems do a wonderful job of showing how black people were (mis)treated at the turn of the nineteenth century and illustrating what impossible hurdles Johnson had to clear in order to be accepted into the white-dominated professional sports world. The poems also do a good job of humanizing Jack Johnson. While Jack Johnson has been painted as a larger-than-life, mythic American hero, poet Adrian Matejka shrink away from a thorough investigation of Johnson’s flaws. A must-read for those interested in the intersection of sports, history, and race relations in the United States. Lyndsey


Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

 Eleanor Flood wakes up with small ambitions to improve her life, but little does she know, her day will propel her into an unimaginable future.   The characters were charming, the plot twist was surprising, and the overall tone was upbeat and enjoyable. Beth

 

 


The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Detective Gemma Woodstock’s life is complicated- her relationship with her boyfriend is shaky, and her place as the only female detective in the department is exhausting.  When the body of a young woman found floating in the lake turns out to be Rosalind Ryan, things take a turn for the worse.  Gemma was captivated by the mysterious Rosalind in high school and becomes obsessed with finding her killer after her death.  But by solving the case, it is possible that some of Gemma’s own secrets won’t be able to remain in the past.  Sara

 

 

What we’re reading now… October 16, 2017

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book Review, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

They May Not Mean To, But They Do: A Novel…The challenges, frustrations and fears associated with aging parents and how to care for them (even when they are not interested in being cared for) are issues that many have dealt with or will struggle with at some point in their lifetimes. We are introduced to 86 year old Joy Bergman, sole caregiver of Aaron, her husband struggling with significant health issues, soon to lead to his demise.  We observe Joy as a lonely widow, struggling to keep her independence while yearning for constant company of her beloved children Molly and Daniel.  Molly and Daniel have their own struggles, believing Joy can not manage on her own, and are pressing for change ( in her best interests, of course!).  The struggles for all characters are portrayed well, without feeling that the author has taken any sides.   We see all the characters at their best and worst.  Joy is is a kind yet fiesty woman, and at times, made me laugh out loud.  I found this to be a poignant novel which I would recommend. Mary

Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein

Mindfulness: Six Guided Practices for…I’ve been reading a smart and insightful book called Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein.  The book is about the Buddhist practice of mindfulness – essentially becoming aware of the ways our minds work, the good and the bad, and looking at these things in a non-judgmental way.  There are chapters about how to handle difficult feelings, as well as how to treat one’s own thoughts, which I found super interesting.  Unlike traditions like Freudian psychoanalysis, in which one really tries to get at the meaning of one’s thoughts, this book suggests that we treat our thoughts as insubstantial and fleeting, like clouds in the sky.  Andrew

 

Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in…Spence, a librarian that balances snark and sincerity, chronicles her long history of book relationships.  She encapsulates her enduring loves and salacious affairs through love letters but also includes the occasional Dear John letter.  Filled with wit and passion this may be a fun and quick read but reader beware Dear Fahrenheit will be sure to lengthen anyone’s to-read list. Trent

 

 

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

The Illustrated Man by Ray BradburyThere is something about October that leads my thoughts to Ray Bradbury. It may be his use of the month in titles or my childhood love of The Halloween Tree. Either way, to me October is Bradbury month. I decided to revisit the first work of Bradbury’s I have ever read, The Illustrated Man.  I always recommend this book as an introduction to Bradbury’s work or for someone who may not be drawn to short story collections. The thing that makes a short story collection strong is variety in narrative but united in their creative voice. The Illustrated Man has both in spades. From a pre-Star Trek hologram room to a look at the Mars-based afterlife for authors, the work contained in this collection never allows the reader to be complaisant in their expectations on what the next tale will bring.  A great collection of works for a fall evening when you want to be entertained and challenged. Greg

 

Hold Still by Lynn Steger Strong

THold Still: A Novel by Lynn Steger Stronghis novel alternates viewpoints between Maya Taylor, a tenured professor living in New York City, and Ellie, her 20-year-old drug addicted daughter, who Maya sends to Florida to care for a friend’s child and get “a fresh start.” But just as things are looking up for Ellie, she makes a fatal mistake. Years later, as Maya and Ellie are still struggling to cope with their guilt and grief, Maya must own up to the parts of herself she sees in Ellie. Just as the chapters alternate in perspective, they also alternate between before and after the accident, building suspense. Selected by the Huffington Post as one of the “32 Books to Add to Your Shelf in 2016,” Hold Still balances an expertly woven plot with complicated, relatable characters. Lyndsey

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Since all of the men are off to war, the Vicar eliminates the church choir in The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan. When Miss Prim, a music professor, arrives in Chilbury, she insists the choir can be resurrected as a ladies’ choir. The choir lifts the spirit of participants and congregations/audiences. The story is told through diary entries by 13-year-old Kitty, her older sister Venetia, widowed Mrs. Tilling and midwife Edwina Paltry. Lots of things happen in Chilbury including bombings, baby-swapping, love affairs and undercover operations. An entertaining story. Emma

 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir…In The Best We Could Do debut author Thi Bui explores what it means to be both a parent and a child. With the birth of her first child she realizes that there is more to her parents than she fully comprehends. And so, she sets out to understand their lives in Vietnam and their escape after the fall of South Vietnam. As she explores her family’s past she is able to better understand her own childhood and recognize and appreciate her parents’ sacrifices and unspoken gestures of love. In addition to the poetic storytelling, this graphic memoir is also beautifully illustrated and meticulously researched. Megan

 

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Mrs. Fletcher: A Novel by Tom PerrottaMrs. Fletcher is a humorous depiction of a divorcee who has found herself attempting to overcome empty nest syndrome. Each of the characters is searching for a way to fill a void, and though few of them are terribly likeable, you can’t bring yourself to look away. Beth

 

 

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen…Helena has a loving husband and two beautiful daughters.  She has a few quirky habits such as taking two week camping trips alone, bear hunting and maintaining an impressive collection of guns and knives.  She also has a secret-she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena never knew about the abduction and loved her father, but eventually learned the truth and saw how brutal he could be when he tortured a man who appeared at their cabin.  Twenty years later, her father has escaped from prison, killed two guards and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows that because of her rigorous wilderness training as a child, only she stands a chance at finding him before he finds her. Sara

 

Less: a Novel by Andrew Sean Greer

Less: A Novel by Andrew Sean GreerArthur Less is anxious: he’s about to turn 50, his boyfriend has just left him to marry another, and his book deal has gone sour. How to deal? Less cobbles together numerous invitations and creates an around-the-world trip that ferries him to a literary conference, an author competition, a retreat, and a teaching assignment. Along the way, Arthur considers his past, his great romance with a famous poet, his mid-list literary career, and (vainly) the ravages of middle age, yet his optimism, kind heartedness and quirkiness win the day. Written with playful and witty prose, Less is a charming journey.  Dori