What We’re Reading Now…November edition

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Last year’s hit novel, this is the story of two families on a collision course. Amanda and Clay take their two kids to a vacation home on Long Island. In the middle of the night, the owners of the house, Ruth and G.H., show up, claiming that something has gone very wrong in New York City. With no idea what is happening and no other options, the two families stay together in the house and wait for what may be the end of the world. Shannon

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede

I am rereading this book from 2002. The author shares the experiences of the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland. They became hosts to the more than six thousand passengers traveling on thirty-eight U.S.-bound international jetliners forced to land in Gander in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The citizens of Gander and surrounding communities put their lives on hold for 6 days to feed, shelter and support those stranded. An amazing community of selfless people. Emma

The Ghost Variations by Kevin Brockmeier

I have read reviews of Brockmeier’s work before but this was the first one I elected to read. This collection of short stories of varying length is connected by its shared theme, ghosts. Each story offers its unique perspective on the theme, changing in tone from the humorous to the unsettling (and sometimes both).  Ghost Variations: one hundred stories was a great introduction to the author’s work that has made me excited to explore their previously published works. Greg

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain

Millions of Americans start their day with a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin or can’t help but sneak a few fries from the bag on their way home from the McDonald’s drive-through, but for black Americans, fast food is a source of both economic power and despair. In the years following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leaders believed racial inequality could be solved through “black capitalism.” As chronicled by Marcia Chatelain in Franchise, a struggling civil rights movement, McDonald’s clever system of franchising and advertising, and Nixon’s “silent majority” era perfectly combined so that fast food could become deeply entrenched in black communities. While fast food certainly created successful black entrepreneurs and black communities with serious purchasing power, economic advancement for black Americans ultimately fizzled in the face of food deserts, dead-end fast food jobs, and continuing racial inequality. A fascinating look at when Big Macs and capitalism combine. Marcia Chatelain is a Professor of History and African American studies at Georgetown University. Franchise won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History.  Kari

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

This smartly written coming-of-age horror story looks at a new type of “final girl” as it follows quirky slasher-obsessed teenager Jade as a series of mysterious murders spring up in her town of Proofrock. Jade is quite sassy and can be hilarious in her exchanges with other characters and is by far my favorite part of this book so far. My Heart is a Chainsaw is a completely different vibe than his previous novel, The Only Good Indians, and so far is much lighter fare.  Nicole

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

This book is a kind of Sherlock Holmes meets The Pirates of the Caribbean tale. Is the merchant vessel, the Saardam, travelling from the East Indies to Amersterdam, haunted? From evil omens painted on the sail and burned into the ship, to sightings of a bloody leper that the crew watched die in a fiery blaze, and a raging storm that lasts more than a week, strange things are certainly afoot on this old, scarred ship. The crew and passengers are hearing wicked whispers in the night, promising them their heart’s desires in return for performing a small service, and the crew is threatening mutiny for fear that there is a devil aboard. It’s up to the world’s greatest detective, Sammy Pipps, his body guard Arent Hayes and a few brave passengers to unravel what is happening aboard the Saardam before it is too late for all of them. A very entertaining book that will keep you guessing until the end. Sara

Discover@RRPL

Have you heard that (Cleveland’s own) Paula McLain has a brand-new book out? You’ll want to place your hold for When the Stars Go Dark right now.

In this novel, Anna Hart, a missing persons detective in San Francisco, is very good at her job. Having suffered trauma as a teenager in foster care herself, Anna is an outspoken advocate for young girls in trouble. After a personal tragedy, Anna takes a break from her life and work in San Francisco and flees to her one-time home in Mendocino, California to regroup. There, she rents a cabin in the woods and reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who is now the local sheriff. When Will tells her about a series of missing local girls, Anna quickly becomes engrossed in the investigation.

Paula McLain is well-known and loved as an author of bestselling, meticulously-researched novels of historical fiction. When the Stars Go Dark is more of a suspense novel, though, and is inspired by the author’s own personal experiences with foster care and abuse. With well-drawn characters, many edge-of-your-seat moments, and a satisfying conclusion, McLain delivers a truly compelling read. Just try and put this one down!

Review of Helene Wecker’s The Hidden Palace – sequel to The Golem and the Jinni

Book cover of The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

Fans of Helene Wecker’s award-winning historical fantasy novel, The Golem and the Jinni, rejoice – after eight years of waiting, we finally get a sequel!

The Hidden Palace comes out on June 8 and picks up shortly after the end of the first book (don’t worry – there are unobtrusive reminders in the text to get you up to speed with the preceding events). The evil sorcerer who had imprisoned jinni Ahmad in a metal vial (spoilers!) was defeated at much personal cost in the first book. Ahmad and Chava, the golem, now must weather the rapid changes at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City: the sinking of the Titanic, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and the beginning of the Great War, as well as changes in their relationship to each other and their communities.

Once again, Wecker has crafted an immigrant chronicle for the ages that grapples with the dual problems of the diaspora: attempting to assimilate into a new culture while at the same time keeping close one’s native culture, all while trying to find a place in the world. The Hidden Palace is a sweeping character-driven epic of a family forged in love, not blood ties, whose members fight and love and learn, falling apart and together organically. Even though I only read The Golem and the Jinni once many years ago, this new book felt like coming home, as if I never really left Ahmad and Chava’s world and was now spending time with treasured friends. The tone is melancholy with measured pacing so that readers can truly immerse themselves in the world, and while no one gets a happy ending, exactly, Wecker ends her novel on a hopeful, bittersweet note. The Hidden Palace is a worthy successor to its smash hit predecessor and will wrap you again in a fully realized world you won’t want to leave.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Reconnect@RRPL

If you are looking for a smart and funny mystery, put The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman on your to-read list.

This delightful story takes place in the peaceful town of Kent, England, where four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room at Coopers Chase, their retirement village, to keep their “grey cells” working. Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce and Ron are members of The Thursday Murder Club, a group of septuagenarians who meet not for book club or bridge, but to pore over old cold crime case files to see if they can solve them.

It’s like Christmas for these four when the developer of their very own senior complex is found murdered, and they set out to catch the killer. The club uses their years of experience and diverse backgrounds to start digging for clues, and with their powers of persuasion and perfected coffee cake recipes, they also manage to cleverly rope a new young local policewoman into revealing key facts to them about the ongoing investigation. Will this unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before he or she strikes again? You’ll have to read this complex, intelligent and engaging mystery to find out.

With a cast of diverse characters, tight plotting, and plenty of red herrings, The Thursday Murder Club is a laugh-out-loud cozy mystery that has already made it on my “favorite reads” list this year. Check it out today! -Carol

Reconnect@RRPL

In need of a pick-me-up? Pick up What You Wish for by Katherine Center!

In this novel, Samantha Casey is a school librarian in Galveston, Texas who loves her job and brings joy to all she does. But she wasn’t always that way. At her last school in California, Samantha was quiet, less confident and secretly in love with a enigmatic teacher who didn’t know she existed. Because she couldn’t be with this man, Samantha felt as though she needed to leave in order to change– she did, and she didn’t look back.

When the beloved principal at her Texas school dies, Samantha learns that his replacement will be Duncan Carpenter, the very same man she worked with (and loved from afar at her last school)! Samantha knows this former teacher-turned-principal will be perfect for the job. After all, this was “the guy,” her old crush, whose own wacky outlook, positive energy and love of life and teaching inspired her transformation into a more outgoing person.

But when Duncan arrives on the scene, he is nothing like the man Samantha remembers. He is no longer carefree, fun, or full of laughter. Instead, he is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing, scowling stick-in-the-mud who seems eager to change everything good about the school and destroy its legacy. Is it Samantha’s turn now to help Duncan rediscover who he really is, and teach him to take chances in life and love?

Pick up What You Wish For if you are in the mood for a light romance, but know that it also has some real substance to it. The engaging characters in this novel experience difficult situations and show personal growth, even as the book’s witty dialogue speeds the story along to its ultimately happy ending. Sounds like the perfect read to me. –Carol

Reconnect@RRPL – Keep Calm … and Read Historical Fiction

2020 has been something else! To escape, lately I’ve been reading one historical fiction novel after another. Not only does taking a peek at the trials and tribulations across centuries help me feel like we really don’t have it that bad, but it is also really entertaining.

The atmospheric The Lost Orphan by Stacy Halls is set in 1754 in London. Bess is a street hawker of shrimp who is forced, due to poverty, to give up her illegitimate day-old daughter to the nearby foundling hospital, with the intention to reclaim her one day. Six years pass before Bess has enough money to do just that, but instead learns that the girl has already been taken, years previously, by someone claiming to be Bess. As she seeks to find out what happened to her little girl, Bess’s story is contrasted with that of a wealthy woman who, under the guise of protecting her own young daughter from the dangers of London, does not allow her to leave the confines of their home. This captivating novel about family, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood is a good reminder that the struggle between the haves and have-nots is indeed a very old story.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is another page-turning historical about the plight of less fortunate women. It is set in the early 19th-century in Van Diemen’s land, a penal colony in Australia, where thousands of convicts were shipped from overcrowded English prisons and forced to provide free labor to the settlers there. This novel follows the journey of two such young English women, Evangeline and Hazel, both of whom were wrongly accused and imprisoned. Their stories intertwine with that of an Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who at the age of eight is adopted as a “curiosity” by white colonists who attempt to “civilize” her. Impeccably researched, this novel educates and enthralls. I read it in one sitting.

Perhaps you also need an escape. Find it in these and other books when you Reconnect@RRPL.

-Carol

The Nothing Man by Catherine Howard Ryan

Eve Black was twelve years old when her family-mother, father, and little sister-were murdered in their home. It was only chance that spared Eve. She spent the rest of her childhood with her grandmother never speaking of the events that destroyed their lives. As an adult, Eve became determined to find the serial killer known as the Nothing Man. A college assignment turned into her true-crime memoir, the first step on her journey. Now, she’s on a book tour that takes her back to the scene of the crime and seemingly everyone is reading about her trauma, everyone including the Nothing Man himself. With every page he reads his rage and panic grows. His only loose end has come back to haunt him.

This book ticks all my boxes!

  • A book within a book
  • A true crime “memoir”
  • Pursuit of justice
  • Surprise twists
  • A potentially unreliable narrator
  • An Irish setting and Irish audiobook narrators

The story of the Nothing Man is told from two perspectives. Readers experience Eve’s memoir along side Jim Doyle, the sixty-something store security guard who killed the Black family nearly two decades ago. The memoir portion reads as an homage to Michelle McNamara and her quest for the Golden State Killer, while Jim’s unraveling ratchets up the tension. This is a must read for fans of true crime and psychological thrillers.

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced audio copy of this book.

~Megan

YA Round Up Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

My last three 5 star reviews are parts of series.

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

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

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

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

~Megan

Your Library Staff at Home – Back to the Library!

You may have heard that we are starting curbside delivery service at the library next week. We are as excited to get materials to you as you are to receive some new reads, watches and listens.

Here’s how it’s going to work: from the hours of 11-7 Monday through Friday, we will take your phone calls to request items. We will only be able to place items on hold that are owned by Rocky River Public Library; unfortunately, we cannot get items from other librarys until they open. In the meantime, our library is a full of unknown treasures, so explore the catalog. Use the upper left hand filtering option to choose Rocky River Only. Then search away and find something new! We are also always willing to make recommendations if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

Once you call and ask for the item, you have then have to wait until you are notified with a phone call/email/text telling you that your items are available. Then come to the library, call us and let us know you are here. If you’re in a car, tell us the number of the parking space that you are in. If you’ve walked or biked, let us know – there will be a spot for you to pick those items up as well. All items will be walked out to you by staff with masks on and they will place in the items in the trunk of your car – think Heinen’s or any other curbside pickup service. That’s it!

Speaking of book recommendations, here’s another episode of RRPL Book Harbor – and please send us more at askalibrarian@rrpl.org!

Patrick emailed asking for a few book recommendations. He has previously enjoyed The Expanse series, The Boys in the Boat, and Into Thin Air.

Adult Services Associate Sara responded:

Those are some excellent books you’ve chosen!  Since you enjoyed The Expanse series, here are a few other science fiction series that feature the ideas of colonization, adventure, exploration, and conflict between species. You may enjoy: The Shadow Series by Orson Scott Card, start with The Ender’s Shadow. Old Man’s War Universe by John Scalzi, start with Old Man’s War. Since you enjoyed Into Thin Air and Boys in the Boathere are a few other non-fiction titles that are filled with outdoor adventure, teamwork and overcoming adversity.  The Three Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway, Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko.

I can’t wait to take your calls and help you get your library materials. Stay safe and stay home between library trips!

~ Dori