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What we’re reading in March.. March 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Genre Book Discussion, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time by Gary Saul Morson

INarrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time…‘ve been reading two books by a literary critic that I like a lot named Gary Saul Morson.  He wrote a great book about Anna Karenina called Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely, so I was curious to learn about his other work.  One book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is about how certain novelists, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, create stories that convey a sense of time as open, even if the novelist knows what is going to happen.  It also talks about how novelists represent free will in their characters, and fight against an interpretation of the world as deterministic.  The second book, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, co-authored with Caryl Emerson, is about the work of a Russian literary critic and philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, who came up with some very innovative and exciting ways of thinking about the novel as a genre.  Morson is a wonderful, lucid, and deep thinker, and I’m enjoying these books very much.   Andrew

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchison

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun…Sixteen-year-old Elena is the product of a virgin birth (it’s a real thing with a scientific explanation).  She also hears voices and can perform miracles (there is no scientific explanation for this).  Elena is just trying to navigate normal high school crushes and family drama, and she really doesn’t have time to save the world.  Also, she’s not really sure she should be saving it. This is a truly bizarre and thought-provoking novel for fans of A.S. Kind and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Megan

The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who’s Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless – Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything But a Pink Tutu  by Devorah Blachor

The Feminist's Guide to Raising a…This book is really all about the importance of being a good role model as a parent and letting your child be who she wants to be.   The book dives into the history of the Disney princess culture and how it has evolved over the years and has affected our culture, specifically our young daughters. I found the book to be somewhat lacking in concrete insight for navigating the logistics of fostering my child’s authentic self while she is very drawn to the imagery and excitement of princess culture.  Beth

I Hate Fairyland by  Scottie Young

I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After…Do you love/hate fairy tales? Hero journeys? Landscapes made of candy? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dorothy hadn’t found her way back to Kansas? Then you will enjoy this graphic novel. I hate Fairyland (Volume 1) follows the story of Gert, a green haired, ax wielding, foul mouthed, middle aged 6 year old (In Fairyland, time goes by but you don’t age). Gert hasn’t really taken the conventional path to finding her way back home and after a few decades of failed riddles and violent vendettas she may have worn out her welcome. A hilarious, graphic-graphic novel.  Greg


March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

March: Book One by John LewisThis autobiographical graphic novel relates the early life of Senator John Lewis from his rural upbringing on an Alabama farm through his early involvement in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement.  March does a very nice job of providing the larger context of the movement and what is happening outside of Nashville and Lewis’s immediate world.  However, the authors manage to keep the story from losing focus of Lewis personal experience and the impact that creates.  This is done in part by having the story told from Senator Lewis’ own voice as he provides an impromptu tour of his office on Inauguration Day, just before President Obama is about to be sworn into office for the first time.  A fascinating and powerful read. Trent

 The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen When Johanna Langley’s father Sir Hugo suddenly dies, Johanna wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American…This book has been on my radar for several years, and being the chosen book  for One Community Reads, I  finally dove into it, and I am so very happy I did.  This is a grim read but a necessary read.  Author, Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of engaging the reader in a piece of non fiction.  He introduces the reader to eight families in Milwaukee living in poverty and struggling with eviction.  Readers learn about the business and culture of evictions, while getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee.  Many residents are spending more than half of their meager income on housing.  For most, what money is left after paying rent simply isn’t enough to get by, hence, starts a downward spiral leading to evictions.  The fates of the eight families in this book are in the hands of two landlords.  I couldn’t help but feel that there is blood on the hands of everyone.  Desmond spent years living in these neighborhoods, painstakingly taking notes and recording events.  I highly recommend this book to everyone. Mary

Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel…Having several friends and family members who suffer from anxiety, I wanted to read a book to help me understand and empathize with them. Monkey Mind, so far, has done the trick. It is an extremely eye-opening memoir about the onset and treatment of Daniel Smith’s anxiety disorder. He intersperses stories about his own life with research and writings about anxiety from scientists and philosophers like Kirkegaard and Freud. When the audiobook starts to feel overwhelming (because Daniel Smith’s rehearsals of his absurd, painful, and self-destructive thought patterns can be just that), I remind myself that this is how it is to live with anxiety, and that I am one of the lucky ones who can turn off the audiobook and walk away. The book is not 100% heavy and dramatic, though — Daniel Smith’s dry humor about the situations he finds himself in is one of the strengths of the book. Trigger warning: the author does not shy away from sharing a story about how he was raped at 16, and while he documents what happened (in my opinion) tactfully, it is still distressing. Lindsey

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodEight years after many failed fertility treatments and a tragic adoption, Tess is still grieving and bitter as she visits her childhood friend in her hometown in rural Vermont. Torn between her great love for her best friend’s two daughters and her jealousy of the life they lead, as well as the growing rift in her marriage, Tess’ visit is fraught with emotion.  While driving home from a late night liquor store run, Tess sees a small, wounded half-naked little girl in her headlights on the dark country road.  When she stops to help, the girls disappears into the woods.  As Tess calls together the community to search for her, she finally finds a sense of purpose until those around her begin to suspect she was drunk,  broken-hearted and imagined the whole thing.  This book is a great look into grief, relationships, healing and what matters in life.  Sara

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders: A novel by Daryl GregoryIn the 1970s, the Amazing Telemachus family toured the U.S. as psychic performers, led by patriarch/con-man Teddy and the genuinely talented Maureen. Debunked on national television, they lost their notoriety. Twenty years later, they’re all struggling with real world problems, albeit with a psychic dimension. Irene, a human lie detector test, can’t maintain a relationship and has brought her son Matty home to live with her father. Raconteur Frankie, who practices telekinesis, can’t get his business off the ground and is in hock to a local mobster. Buddy, the youngest, sees the future, and is steadily working to prevent it, even if it means building holes in the backyard. Told in alternating chapters from each character’s point of view, this quirky tale of family, mobsters, the CIA and first love, is a hoot – funny, crazy and tender. I listened to it on audiobook and it was a treat! Dori






Unmasking Egyptian Religion February 15, 2018

Posted by Luke in Book Review, Non-Fiction, Outside the Lines, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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The Kemetic Tree of Life

My fascination with ancient Egypt goes back as far as I can remember.  Sculpture, temple ruins, pyramids, animal headed gods, and walls filled with hieroglyphs have always remained a fascination.  But it’s been my experience that most books on ancient Egypt scratch only a little below the surface of its cultural remains or long-held conventional conclusions.

The Kemetic Tree of Life is for the serious seeker after the symbolism and mysticism of ancient Egypt.  It is an exploration of the oldest of the several major religious systems to come out of ancient Egyptian culture.  These several systems were in no way opposed to each other.  Rather, each one focused on a different aspect of the Egyptians’ concept of Immanent Reality.  The Kemetic Tree discusses the tradition that arose in the city of Anu, or the “Anunian Theurgy.”

“Kemetic” is an anglicized form of the ancient Egyptians’ term for their own country, the land of Khem.

Popular nonfiction works on ancient Egypt tend to be academically guarded and unwilling to offer conclusive specifics concerning Egypt’s spiritual systems, or they talk about Egyptian spirituality with constant reminders – subtle or otherwise – about its superstitious and primitive nature.  The latter is simply modern arrogance.  Dr. Ashby’s depth is refreshingly different.  He doesn’t approach the remnants of ancient Egypt as an academic, but as a practitioner of its spiritual science.  He appears to have a command of hieroglyphic symbol and the ancient Egyptian language.  His text incorporates approximations of the Egyptian vocabulary – key words and phrases relevant to an understanding of the Anunian Theurgy specifically and Egyptian spirituality generally.  I had to start a file to keep them straight.  In this way, his book parallels many Western works on Eastern philosophy and religion, e.g. Hinduism, where ancient Sanskrit terms are incorporated throughout.  He also does not use the classic Hellenized names for Egypt’s gods – Osiris, Isis, Horus, Anubis, etc., but instead retains the Egyptian approximations – Asar, Aset, Heru, Anpu, etc.  The Kemetic Tree also includes many figures of hieroglyphic images and mythological scenes.  Essentially, the book is intended to initiate the reader into living this spiritual science.  Its chapters include lectures, questions and answers, and sections to promote meditative journaling.

A drawback to the text is that it’s poorly proofread, if at all.  The author writes in a very conversational style which often sets an enjoyable pace for reading.  But it lends itself to run-on sentences, strange phrasings, and numerous grammatical errors that can grind that enjoyable pace to a halt.  Since Dr. Ashby is in something of a class by himself in presenting such profound and sophisticated teachings in an easily readable and digestible way, I wish the text’s final grammatical form were in pristine condition.  It would make The Kemetic Tree even more enjoyable.

Even though the style of writing is non-academic, as a seeker I enjoy seeing sources for the information presented, especially when an author makes claims and presents information very few others have offered.  The information Ashby presents is in no way outlandish, although it may certainly seem so to someone reading him without the proper background in ancient religious systems and symbols – the very different mentality of antiquity relative to the present day.  But nonetheless, the boldness and intricacy of Ashby’s statements seems to demand numerous and varied sources for credibility.  Unfortunately, he does not offer many sources outside his own writings.  He’s written prolifically; and The Kemetic Tree is not the first book he’s written.  Perhaps sources outside his own research and intuitive recognition are given in some of his other works.

What we’re reading now.. February 9, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Cover image for August, a worldly anthropologist, has returned to New York to bury her father, but after running into an old friend at the subway station, she is flooded with childhood memories. At a young age, August’s father has moved her & her younger brother from Tennessee to Brooklyn.  Once settled into Brooklyn,  August finds her best girlfriends in Angela, Gigi and Slyvia.  Angela and Gigi are from fractured families, and Sylvia has over bearing parents with high expectations. The four girls together navigate growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970’s.  The girls find comfort, happiness and security in their friendship within turbulent times nationally and in their own neighborhood.  The effects of the Vietnam war, white flight, drug abuse, poverty, absent mothers and predatory men are intertwined with their adolescent years. Tragedy ultimately pulls at their friendship.  A beautiful and poetic coming of age story about girlhood, friendship, dreams and loss.  Mary

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Cover image for I’ve been listening to this trilogy on audiobook and really loving it.  The books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.  Right now I’m near the end of The Subtle Knife.  Although the novels are often considered young adult literature, they can really appeal to young and old alike.  There’s a great blend in the books of realistic and fantastic elements, and the characters are compellingly and convincingly drawn.  The books are so absorbing!  Listening to them, and being entranced by them, reminds me of my experience reading books as a kid – the way you can really get pulled into the story and experience in a really intense way the magic of reading.  Andrew

Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One by Clive Barker

Cover image for So one thing that may be coming very clear is I am a big fan of horror, specifically supernatural horror. This month I have decided to review a graphic novel I finished recently, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Omnibus. Volume One. This volume contains  issues Hellraiser #1 to #20 and Hellraiser Annual #1 which seem to pick up years after the second film. (One note is that these comics were originally published between 1989-1993 so the comics contained don’t reference the films past those dates.) Pinhead is of course in this collection but the stories told here wildly expand the Hellraiser universe with new characters, cenobites, and new views of hell/horror. The best thing about this volume is it combines many out of print collections of comics into one handy volume. If you are a fan of horror and the Hellraiser world this is a don’t miss. Greg

Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days  by Chris Guillebeau

Cover image for Chris Guillebeau provides a handbook for developing an effective alternative source of income in his book by giving  practical applications for finding extra income while pursuing a passion.  I found the example scenarios inspiring, and it has helped me to start searching for my side hustle opportunity hidden in my daily activities.  Beth


In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami (Ralph McCarthy, Translator)

Cover image for Kenji, an unlicensed guide for foreign tourists, makes his living providing tours for those looking to experience the seedier side of Tokyo nightlife.  So when his current client Frank’s behavior seems strange and troublesome, it isn’t because Kenji is naïve that he begins to wonder what Frank’s real intentions are.  An unnerving psychological thriller. Trent


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover image for The positive buzz and awards earned by this book are amazing. However, it is the dramatic historical fiction story, which reminds me a bit of the multigenerational miniseries Roots, and the “what if” aspect of the Underground Railroad in this telling being a real subterranean train that made me add it to my reading list. When Colson Whitehead appeared at a marketing conference in Cleveland last year giving a talk about storytelling, I picked up a copy of this book. I have high expectations for it and so far it is not disappointing. The humanity and lack of humanity in the slave experience comes across powerfully through Whitehead’s language. Byron

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

Cover image for A recent immigrant from Ireland, Clara Kelley, 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. Emma

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life by Kelsey Miller

Cover image for This book is an extension of a column Kelsey has been putting out every Monday since November 2013 called “The Anti Diet Project.” In the column—and, to a greater extent, in the book—Kelsey commits to unlearning disordered eating and distorted body image. With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach, she figures out how to eat based on her body’s instincts and how to exercise rationally and sustainably. All throughout this process, she examines how her relationship with food and her body was impacted by family, friends, and significant others. I am listening to the audiobook, and Kelsey is hilarious, sharp-as-a-whip, and wholly relatable. I highly recommend this book for any person who has been made to feel shame for their body shape or food choices. It is a liberating and empowering read (or listen). Lyndsey

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Cover image for This novel by author of The Dry takes us once again to a remote area of Australia as Federal Agent Aaron Falk investigates the disappearance of an important whistleblower in one of his cases.  Five colleagues from a family-owned business are forced to take a “team-building” nature excursion as part of  a corporate retreat, but when one doesn’t return, Agent Falk suspects that some of her co-workers know more than they are telling. This book gives a look into the complex relationships between co-workers, lovers, friends and family.  Sara

The Red Clocks by Leni Zuma

Cover image for The Red Clocks is The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation. Four women in a small Oregon town struggle with new laws that grant personhood to embryos and make IVF and abortions illegal. Ro is a single woman in her forties desperately trying to get pregnant. Susan is an unhappy housewife and mother. Mattie, one of Ro’s best students, is facing an unwanted pregnancy. Their lives intersect when Gin, a reclusive homeopath with connections to all three, is arrested. The Red Clocks is an audacious and unapologetic cautionary tale. Megan





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







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.


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
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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



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.


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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.



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


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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I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
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Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
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What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
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If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
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.
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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