What we’re reading now….

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

The  Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

This novel begins in the summer of 1969. Four young siblings stumble upon information of a traveling fortune teller within their neighborhood, whom can tell anyone the day they will die.  Curious about such a power, the children seek out the fortune teller, and each are told the day of their death. The story is told in four separate parts, each part dedicated to each sibling.  The four children, straightforward Varya, bossy Daniel, magic obsessed Klara and dreamy Simon, must come to terms with the information imparted on them by the fortune teller.  This is also a story about family.  While each sibling has their own story, their relationship with each other is woven into their lives, and always a piece of them. What keeps the reader most engaged lies in which characters will meet their demise on said projected date and how will death take them, or better yet, can they somehow change their fated date? Mary

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Long ago the Raven promised his protection to the lands of Iraden.  In return for his protection, the Lease must sacrifice himself upon the death of the Raven’s physical manifestation.  Mawat rides for the Raven’s Tower informed that this rite is imminent.  There he will take his rightful place on the throne as the Lease’s heir.  However, another now sits on the throne and claims the title Lease for himself.  Worse yet, he claims the previous Lease fled and the sacrifice to the Raven has not been made. Though The Raven Tower may be a fantasy novel, Leckie has retained some of the essence typical of a science fiction novel.  Large swaths of the novel are taken over by explaining the magical system and contemplating what are essentially logic puzzles. Everything is very precise, but as with the best science fiction, it remains lively and fascinating. Trent

If You See Me

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel

I was fascinated by and completely absorbed in this debut book of short stories by Neel Patel. I finished the book in a week, which is unheard of for me. Most of these stories have a refreshingly modern voice and are told from the perspective of a first-generation Indian American who stands at the intersection of cultures where traditional beliefs (such as arranged marriages) collide with modern rituals (such as Facebook stalking). The stories are deceptively casual in that the language is conversational, but each character contends with complicated questions about cultural and sexual identity, mental illness, and family dysfunction – and does so with charm, depth, and humor. Hand this book to any person who likes a thoughtful and entertaining story. Lindsey

Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg

Smoke & Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg.

I also have Ms. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician series on my reading list so when an advanced copy of this Smoke & Summons became available I was excited to sample it. It is the beginning of a new trilogy called the Numina trilogy. It is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic steampunk world, but with outlawed magic talismans and spells secretly used by a select few. Or you could say it is a polluted, corrupt, “smokepunk” world with a big division between the haves and have-nots. Young adults Sandis and Rone are unlikely heroes at the center of the story. Sandis is a vessel for an ancient spirit, known as a Numin. She is a slave to an evil wizard who can summon a raging fire horse into her against her will. Rone is a street-smart thief who is willing to help her escape as long as he can fix his own family troubles first. So far the first half of this fantasy adventure with religious hypocrisy and dangerous occult forces sprinkled throughout is exciting. It has delivered several surprises that make me eager to find out what happens next. Byron

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White…

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

In this best-selling book, renowned anti-racism educator Dr. DiAngelo clearly and succinctly outlines how racism is not simply a “bad person” phenomenon, but a systematic construct. Her concept of white fragility refers to the defensive moves white people make when their notions of race are challenged. Beyond detailing the problem, DiAngelo also provides clear instructions on how white people can engage in cross-racial discussions more productively. This is an eye-opening, must-read for white people who are truly invested in having meaningful, live-changing conversations about race. Megan

The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop…

The Art of Asking , or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Written by singer, songwriter, and performance artist, Amanda Palmer, this book straddles the line between biography and manifesto. This book’s creation was spurned by Palmer’s TED Talk  where she told of her time as a living statue and how it exemplified her belief in the act asking and the act’s power. This book gives a short biography of Palmer’s career and how it was influenced/driven by relationships she built. A great book that offers an alternative relationship than the producer/consumer of many artistic fields. I personally recommend the audio book as it includes songs from Palmer’s career  and creates a fuller picture of her creative output. Greg

The Victory Garden: A Novel by Rhys Bowen

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

This is the story of Emily Bryce who wants to join the war effort. After the death of her only brother, Emily’s parents want her home. When Emily turns 21 she joins the Women’s Land Army where “land girls” are taught necessary farming skills while the young men are off fighting in WWI. Emily falls in love with an Australian pilot who is killed in action. Pregnant and alone she volunteers to tend the neglected gardens of a Devonshire estate. The “Woman’s Land Army” detail was an interesting addition to a great story from a very talented author.  Emma

Kabbalah by Gershon Scholem

Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem

  Scholem, as a scholar, pretty much brought the topic of Jewish mysticism into the consciousness of the 20th century.  Kabbalah is a book about Jewish mysticism – its historical development, ideas, and personalities.  Although at times somewhat dry, especially in the opening section on the historical development of Jewish mysticism, the book picks up much speed in the section where I am now, which discusses the really staggeringly original ideas involved with Kabbalah, including the sefirot, the Zohar, and ideas about how the world was created.  Recommended for people interested in mysticism and religion.     Andrew

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

I just finished the third book of the Bear and the Nightingale trilogy, and it was fabulous.  These stories are set in Russia of the 1400’s and are a seamless mix of truth and folklore.  Vasilisa Petrovna must once more save her beloved Moscow from the evil forces bent on destroying it.  As Christianity and old religion come face to face, things are not as simple as the parish priests would like the people to believe.  Vasya must come to terms with the accusation of being a witch and the shame it brings her family, and the reality that Rus needs someone to fight and believe in the “old ways” in order to battle forces of evil and destruction.  Sara

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This book is a beautiful testament to the importance of providing a nurturing and supportive environment for children to grow into their best possible selves.  The inside view of Michelle’s childhood is evidence that through the support and encouragement of her parents and extended family, she was able to focus on her education and become a successful female, African American lawyer before she was 30.  Her early career in law was only the beginning of her reluctant journey to become one of America’s most beloved first ladies. I walked away from this book with strong admiration for the very public figure that Mrs. Obama has become in our culture.  I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  If you love the Obamas you should read this book. If you don’t like the Obamas, you should really read this book. Beth

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Winter Book BINGO: Spotlight on Audiobooks

Some of my Favorites

Title details for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - Wait list
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Title details for The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle - Available
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Title details for The Power by Naomi Alderman - Wait list

LISTS TO GET YOU

STARTED

Sara’s Top Ten of 2018

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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Four girls attending boarding school participate in a sinister game which involves lying to everyone except each other.  However, years later when a body is found, it becomes obvious that someone broke the only rule of the game.

 

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

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When Beth disappears, everyone says she’s run off with another man.  But her best friend Natalie, doesn’t believe that at all, and proving it just might get her killed. A perfectly paced psychological thriller that keeps you wondering until the end.

 

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

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After heartbreaking infertility and failed adoption attempts, Tess sees a young, half-dressed little girl in the road who disappears into the woods.  But with no other sightings, missing child reports or  witnesses, Tess begins to be doubted by the townspeople and herself.

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Young Eddie and his friends develop a game using chalk figure codes which leads them to a dismembered body and to the end of their game.  Years later chalk figures are showing up again, and one old friend turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others.

 

Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

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A young female artist accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death—a breathtaking image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.

 

 

 

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

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Essie is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a hit reality TV show about her family’s life and fire-and-brimstone religious beliefs.  When Essie winds up pregnant, will she be forced into an arranged-blockbuster-marriage episode? Or will she escape her strange, always-on-display life?

 

 

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy, small-town life is torn apart by a horrifying attack which leaves their mother dead, and their family forever shattered.  Twenty-eight years later, another violent act forces them back together, and brings up long lost secrets and questions.

 

 

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

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Five-year-old Madison disappeared while chopping down her family’s Christmas tree.  Three years later, her parents are still desperate to find her and hire a private investigator known as “the Child Finder,” who is their last hope.

 

 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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Tarot card reader, Hal, discovers she has been left an inheritance.  She is certain it is a mistake, but is desperate for cash and decides to play along. But once at the family estate with the brooding, mysterious heirs, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake.

 

 

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

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Adrian Wolfe has been divorced twice and recently lost his newest wife to suicide or so it seems.  As Adrian searches for answers, he discovers his perfect modern life with two amicable divorces and 5 step children who love each other seamlessly may not be as perfect as it appears.

BookTalk for Adults

In case you missed the BookTalk for Adults program today at the library, here is what we talked about….

The Best Books of 2018 So Far. While there are many excellent books that have been penned thus far in 2018, I managed to widdle the list down to ten. The list spans different genres including fiction, literary fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller and memoir. Here is the list of books we discussed –

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
There, There by Tommy Orange
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson
The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn
When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
Educated A Memoir by Tara Westover

Our next BookTalk for Adults will be Friday, October 26th at 10AM. Being so close to Halloween we will discuss (you guessed it) Spooky books. Come join us!

What we’ve been reading in May…

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Cover image for This is the story of Christopher Knight known as “The North Pond Hermit”, a man who walked into the woods of Maine at age 20 and did not leave until arrested 27 years later. He was arrested for burglarizing nearby cabins to obtain food and various essentials for his survival.  Once arrested, he immediately confessed to what added up to nearly 1000 burglaries and showed remorse for his crimes. He never hurt anyone, nor did he ever damage anything. Mr. Knight simply wanted to live alone in the woods. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, the author, Michael Finkel, is able to give a detailed account of Knight’s secluded life.  In addition to Knight’s story, Finkel discusses famous hermits in the past, and mental illness topics which help the reader to better understand Mr. Knight, however, the author leaves the reader feeling that one will never have a complete understanding of Knight’s mindset & choices. I found the story of Christopher Knight to be fascinating. He survived by his high level wits, common sense and courage. He could “MacGyver” anything, and bring himself to a peaceful mental state of embracing the quiet and solitude of the forest.  He clearly wrestled with fundamental communication & social skills (a common thread in his family), and believed his escape to the woods was his only choice for survival. This is an excellent choice for book clubs, having so many different discussion points to pursue.  You will also find that readers will have very different viewpoints about Mr. Knight, as did the residents of North Pond, which will add to the talking points about this book. I personally see all sides to this story, and have a weak spot for Christopher Knight.  The big question I ask myself is can we unconditionally accept each other for who we truly are? Mary

 

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Cover image for Boy Erased has been on my radar since it was released in 2016, and recently came to my attention again since it is being made into a movie. In this memoir, Conley recounts his experience growing up as the only child of a Baptist pastor in Arkansas. After being outed as gay to his parents, he agreed to enroll in conversion therapy. The memoir moves between his experience in the program and memories from his childhood and teenage years. As expected, the trauma Conley experienced in the conversion therapy program is upsetting and heartbreaking, but it is also beautifully observed and eloquently written, on par with Dani Shapiro or Mary Karr in terms his ability to powerfully self-excavate. This is a must-read for members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in religious households, all clergy, and for those looking to increase their capacity for empathy.  Lyndsey

 

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Cover image for I’ve been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.  I really enjoyed his more recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I’m not finding it as challenging as The Righteous Mind, but there are interesting chapters about the difference between romantic love  (passionate, fleeing) and companionate love (longer lasting, deeper attachment), as well as a great chapter about whether or not modern psychological studies can back up the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Haidt thinks that we can learn from adversity under the right circumstances, especially if we can construct a life-narrative that makes sense out of our suffering.  He argues that positive relationships, meaningful work, and a connection to something larger can work together to make us happier.  Andrew

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cover image for In Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, attorney Avery Stafford leaves her job in South Carolina to assist in the care of her cancer-stricken father. At a meet and greet event at a local nursing home Avery meets May Crandal. Seeing an old photo in May’s room makes Avery think there might be a link between May and her Grandma Judy. May’s real name was Rill Foss until she and her siblings became part of black-market adoptions practiced by the Tennessee Children’s Home. The mystery begins. This is a difficult tale to imagine. The novel was inspired by firsthand accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that existed into the 1950’s. Emma

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cover image for I’ve just finished listening to Ready Player One during my commutes, which was a great adventure. I’m still gradually working on the ebook A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Following Free Comic Book Day I read a handful of various comics. Next I’m looking forward to a book on CD of Amy Bloom’s White Houses. It is not often that I pick up a brand new best seller, but I’ve read many good things about this work of historical fiction. Since recently watching a Ken Burns documentary series about the Roosevelt family (with extra attention paid to Teddy, FD, and Eleanor) I’m primed for this intimate story about perhaps the most intriguing first lady in history.  Byron

 

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

Cover image for This past month I had the great pleasure of reading The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. A retelling and mash-up of stories (fairy tales, biblical, and folklore), this collection of stories feels familiar and yet very alien.  Though there is a sinister tone that seems to saturate the book that is often reinforced by the ambiguous endings of each tale. Ortberg plays with gender and archetypes and it’s often this play on the structure and tradition of these stories that brought me the most  joy as a reader. It is a quick read but never feels rushed. Recommended for readers who love sinister tales that jump from magical realism to all out fantasy. Greg

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

Cover image for When Beth, a small time bar maid, disappears, everyone thinks she has just moved on to a new adventure.  But her best friend Natalie does not believe it for a minute.  She is sure something sinister has happened.  Nat tries to piece together Beth’s past and her relationships, realizing her friend kept a lot of secrets.  And as strange things begin to happen in Natalie’s house and to an elderly bar patron with a foggy memory, it becomes obvious that someone wants these secrets to remain hidden.  Another fantastic suspense story from Christobel Kent, beautifully written, with characters you would want to meet and images of an English countryside you would love to visit.  Sara

Audio Books Galore

If you are looking for ways to fit more books into your life, audio books is a great way to do it.  You can listen anywhere.  Many prefer to listen while driving or exercising.  I prefer to listen while knitting or doing housework.  Others have shared with me that they listen while working on a puzzle.  I would like to invite you to join us at the library to listen to The Essential Agatha Christie Stories on Monday mornings in May at 11AM.  It’s a small gathering in our Community room, seated around a puzzle, fresh cup of coffee in hand & tasty cookie, while a central speaker broadcasts some good mysteries as if it were long ago. Sounds pretty relaxing, eh?  Not available to join us, keep in mind, Spring is in the air. Maybe you are finding yourself outdoors more often, possibly gardening or walking. Why not catch up on your reading while enjoying the outdoors with an audio book.  Below are some recommended titles.  Give it a try!

 

AUDIO BOOKS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by [Duhigg, Charles]

The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by [Winfrey, Oprah]

AUDIO BOOKS THAT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH OUT LOUD

BEST NARRATED AUDIO BOOKS

THE LATEST AND GREATEST AUDIO PICKS

(GET YOURSELF ON THE HOLD LIST ASAP)

 

 

What we’re reading in April…

 

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

Cover image for I have not read any Terry McMillian (the author of Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back), so I thought it was about dang time I did. This novel is about Georgia Young, a successful optometrist in her 50s who has “made it” in life – her successful career enabled her to buy a home in a wealthy neighborhood and live comfortably. But she is divorced, bored, and lonely. When news comes that a former lover passed away a few years earlier, it sets off a mid-life crisis that pushes Georgia to reevaluate her life and make some changes: quit her job to do something she loves, find a new home, and meet with former lovers to tell them what she never go to say to them. Terry McMillian knows how to tell a story and does a great job reading the audiobook, giving Georgia the sassy, wise-sounding voice she deserves. This is a great book for those who enjoy stories about relationships and how they define who we are. Lyndsey

 

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Cover image for Dread Nation is an alternate history Civil War story. With zombies. The War Between the States was derailed when the dead on the battlefield walked again. Now, the North and South are united against a common enemy. To fight the undead the Native and Negro Reeducation Act became law, forcing Negro children to attend combat schools. Jane McKeene is one such student at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore. She is training to become an lady’s Attendant. Jane dreams of returning to her plantation home in Kentucky, but instead she finds herself in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. As a new undead threat rears it’s head, Jane learns that these poor souls aren’t her biggest worry. Full of action and suspense, this isn’t just another zombie book. Jane is a badass, biracial woman killing zombies and taking on issues like institutionalized racism, sexual identity, and notions of femininity. She is clever, sassy, and a force to be reckoned with.  Megan

 

The Stand by Stephen King (adapted by Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa)

Cover image for As usual I’m working through multiple books in different formats at once. For Mystery Week in early April I began listening to the book on CD And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie during my commutes. While the large cast of characters is a bit difficult to keep straight early on in this classic, by the middle the mystery of the strange trap that has caught the characters has grabbed your attention. I am also reading Stephen King’s The Stand in graphic novel form. As adapted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa the story is split into six volumes. At this writing I’m in volume #4. Another novel with many characters that are quite distinctly drawn. This thrilling story of survival and rebuilding society has a classic good vs. evil dynamic. And on my Kindle by my bedside is A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960 by Jeanine Basinger, which I checked out with OverDrive. She takes a look at the genre of “Women’s Films” that featured starring women protagonists, women’s issues, and both subverted and supported the role a woman was supposed to play in society. I’ve heard of some of these film titles, but there are many others about strong women that I’ll have to add to my watch list after reading this. Byron

 

The Grifters by Jim Thompson

Cover image for Roy Dillion appears to be nothing more than a personable, hardworking salesman and has a hundred acquaintences that would swear to that very fact.  However, he is a natural of the short con; a grifter who has eschewed one of the cardinal rules of the trade and successfully worked the same city without notice.  When a sure-fire con misfires, Roy’s past catches up with him and his world begins to spiral out of control.  Trent

 

 

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Cover image for MY ANTONIAMy most current read is My Antonia, yes, an oldie but a goody. I was inspired to read this by a fellow co-worker’s blog about rediscovering the classics, and also because I  love a good coming of age story. This particular book did not disappoint. My Antonia takes place in the late 1880’s.  This is the story of Antonia, an immigrant of Bohemia, told by recently orphaned Jim Burden.  Jim is sent to rural Nebraska to live with his grandparents, also neighbors to the Shimerda family, of which Antonia is the eldest daughter.  Jim and Antonia spend their early years exploring the new landscape of rural Nebraska together and so begins a life long friendship between the two. Antonia is a bold and free spirited woman who endears herself to Jim and readers alike. Willa Cather does a wonderful job of introducing the reader to life in rural Nebraska, and the immigrant experience of adjusting  to a new world.  One can’t help but feel for Antonia’s triumphs and tribulations, and be inspired by such a strong woman. Mary

 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

Cover image for The Tuscan childThe Tuscan Child is the story of Johanna Langley’s father, Sir Hugo, who dies unexpectedly. She 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. This is a treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

 

The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig

Cover image for The star of redemptionI am very interested in the writings of Franz Rosenzweig, a German-Jewish philosopher, theologian, and translator who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century and died in 1929 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS.  Rosenzweig translated the Hebrew Bible into German with another famous Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber.  Rosenzweig also wrote a very interesting but challenging book called The Star of Redemption, which I am trying to read. The Star of Redemption is a book that helps me to think about the meaning of Judaism, though he also writes about Christianity, which he was close to converting to when he was a young man.  He is into “negative theology,” which means that any attempt to define or describe God fails, because God (according to negative theology) is unsayable and ineffable, totally beyond human concepts and categories, though we can experience God through the fullness or plenitude of the world.  At varying times in my life I have been an atheist, an agnostic, and (when I was young) a somewhat skeptical believer, but this book is making me think about Judaism in a new way.  Andrew

 

I See You by Claire Mackintosh

Cover image for I’m in a “quick read” phase, and I See You  hits the spot.  In this British thriller, Zoe Walker’s boring, suburban life is shaken up when she sees her picture in a classified ad for a service called “findtheone.com”  She digs deeper and discovers that other women who have been in these ads have been victims of violent crimes and wonders if she is next.  Her paranoia develops into full-blown panic as she worries that every stranger on her morning commute is watching her.  The book does a great job of building suspense and letting you get to know Zoe, however I found the ending to be less than plausible and a little unsettling.  Sara

 

Hot Mess by Emily Belden

Cover image for In Hot Mess by Emily Belden, twenty-five year old Allie Simon prides herself on being sensible; she has a good job, friends and a supportive family. Then she becomes consumed by bad boy celeb chef  and recovering drug addict Benji Zane who asks that she invest all her savings in a new restaurant. After he relapses and disappears, Allie is left with having to build a restaurant while recovering from heartbreak and maneuvering the food scene in Chicago. A fun read filled with romance and food starring a strong female character.  Dori

 

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Cover image for This is a timely story about the harsh reality of today’s racial tension.  Starr Carter lives in a poor urban neighborhood riddled with gang violence and racial profiling by police.   When Starr leaves a party after shots are fired, she and her childhood friend, Khalil,  are pulled over for a taillight.  The officer is nervous and misconstrues  Khalil’s words and actions, leaving Starr to witness the fatal unraveling of the police stop.  The book unfolds around this story and how the community and Starr deal with the aftermath.  It’s heartbreaking and painfully relevant.  Beth