Reconnect @ RRPL – #GrumpLit

There are so many fans of A Man Called Ove, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and books along those lines, that there is indeed a hashtag for books starring lovable curmudgeons. I am not sure why this is a trend but let’s face it, Charles Dickens gave us Ebenezer Scrooge and we’ve wanted more ever since. So stop your scowling, because I may have found your next new favorite book!

In The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons, Eudora is an 85-year-old with no friends or family in her life. Although in decent physical shape (she swims laps at the local pool almost daily), Eudora considers herself done living. Having cared for her mother at her own end, Eudora never wants to be in a position where she is forced to rely on someone else when she can no longer care for herself. She’s decided she will end things on her own terms and has written to a clinic in Switzerland that promises to allow her to do just that. Eudora is eagerly awaiting to be accepted into this program when she meets and is befriended by her new neighbors’ daughter, Rose, an adorable, wise-beyond-her-years 10-year-old with a built-in wild fashion sense and an inability to take “no” for an answer.

Rose inserts herself into Eudora’s world, bringing along another older neighbor and widower named Stanley. Their kindness and exuberance for life forces Eudora outside of her comfort zone, and she finds herself not only trying new things, but also reflecting on her past and the possibilities of what might lie ahead.

Although you’ll need a handkerchief nearby (not a Kleenex—Eudora is a classy lady), this novel is ultimately a feel-good story that will lift your spirits and make you laugh out loud.

-Carol

Reconnect@RRPL – One Sweet Read

One of my favorite reads this summer was Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman.

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When you look its adorable frosting-filled cover, you just know this book is going to be a sweet read and it is, but there is also a good bit of depth in here to balance out the sugar!

In this novel we meet Kate. She is a 39-year-old advertising agent for a local grocery store. She is in love with her boyfriend Nick. The two are all set to move in (and Kate thinks, eventually marry) when Nick gets cold feet and asks for a break, and Kate finds herself hurt and, worse, moving back home with her mom.

To get her mind off her troubles, Kate volunteers to give food demonstrations at a retirement home. There, she meets Cecily, a 97-year-old who is always complaining, and won’t even taste what Kate has cooked. Kate loves a challenge and forces herself into clever and cantankerous Cecily’s world but isn’t always happy to hear her advice about Kate’s boring job or her thoughts about waiting around for a man. When Cecily gives Kate a cookbook from the 1950s, it becomes more like a self-help manual for Kate, and cooking her way through the recipes gives Kate the confidence to demand better things.

This is a perfect summer read about good food and good friendships, that also requires a box of Kleenex close at hand. As you root for Kate to get her life together, it is Cecily who is the real star here, with her jaw-dropping insults, fascinating life story, and brusque but well-meaning advice- and, bonus, her character is based on the author’s own grandmother.

I just loved seeing these two women become unlikely friends. Check this one out if you are looking for that perfect heartwarming and totally delicious read. -Carol

Chadwick Boseman’s Gift

I hadn’t read any Black Panther comics or books and had the same amount of background knowledge of his place in the Marvel Universe as I did about Thor (ie – so very, very little) before seeing the movie based on the character. Oh. My. Gosh. The 2018 film staring Chadwick Boseman was 134 minutes of greatness!! The history and lore of Wakanda, the special effects, the serious moments mixed with humorous moments, all the surprise twists, and getting to watch Chadwick Boseman create an unforgettable, strong, vulnerable hero as King T’Challa. Mr. Boseman passed away on August 29th but his kindness, his vision of what the movie industry could be, and his long list of films, speak to the legacy of this legend, taken too soon. Thank you for all the gifts you gave to us Mr. Chadwick Boseman!

Imagine Your Story – Book to TV, done right

I feel like it was a million years ago that I read and loved The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Published in 1994 (so, not a million years, per se), this novel was the first in Carr’s dark historical fiction series featuring Dr. Laszlo Kreizler as an ahead-of-his-time psychologist whose ability to profile criminals helps track down serial killers. Kreizler is assisted by Times reporter and friend of Teddy Roosevelt, John Schuyler Moore, and society woman-turned-trailblazing policewoman Sara Howard. This team is not afraid of gritty scenes and certainly finds them in 1890s New York City when a string of street children are gruesomely murdered. In this novel and its two sequels, Carr’s magic is his character development and slow building suspense.

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In 2018, I was thrilled when “The Alienist” was was released as a TNT television series, starring Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning. For me, it checked all the boxes for good murder mystery viewing: lush period setting, beautiful fashion, brooding intensity, and fine acting.

I’m even more excited that the second season, “The Alienist: The Angel of Darkness,” debuted last night! After watching the two hour premiere, not only am I a little extra sleepy today, I am already looking forward to next week’s episode to see what will befall my favorite characters.

If you are ready to dive in, just know that both the TV series and books are dark and violent–you can’t have a criminal profiler if there isn’t a criminal, right? Disclaimers aside, find sometime for a book that will stay with you throughout the years and pick up Caleb Carr’s 1995 Anthony Award for Best First Novel, The Alienist, or set your DVR.

-Carol

Imagine Your Story – Books

I have a book to recommend, but first I have a few disclaimers: 1) This novel is about a boy who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills 191 other people. 2) This book made me cry. 3) The plane crash is described and it’s scary–especially to people like me who really don’t love to fly. 4) I was only able to read this book knowing I wouldn’t be getting on a plane any time soon.

Whew, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, I’m relieved.

And, if you are still reading this blog post, then maybe you will take a chance on Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Edward Adler is 12-years-old when his brother and parents and 183 other people are killed in a plane crash that he survives–but that is just the beginning of his remarkable story. He’s not magic or anything. He is just a lucky kid, you might think, until he wakes up alone in a hospital, emotionally and physically broken. He moves in with his Aunt Lacey, who has just lost her sister, and her husband John, who is determined to protect Edward from the endless barrage of strangers obsessed with the crash, who might want to exploit him. With the help of a slew of people, including his therapist, Dr. Mike, and his new neighbor and friend Shay, Edward must learn to go on living.

dear edward

So, yes this book will break your heart. Not only is Edward’s story sad, but readers hear some of his fellow passenger’s personal stories as well. If that wasn’t enough, alternating narratives within this novel share glimpses of the grief of their loved ones.

But this book will lift you up too. It will make you see how people can truly care about one another, and give you hope for humanity. At least it did for me.

So, read this novel about loss, love, and friendship to get in touch with your empathetic side. After all, who knows what might be troubling people who cross our paths every day. Just be sure to keep a tissue handy.

-Carol

Imagine Your Story : Historical Fiction That Educates, Too

This week had me occupied with a book recommendation from my husband. While we generally agree on films, food and other critical-to-marriage subjects, books are where he sticks to nonfiction, but where I enjoy more of the make-believe varieties.

So when he reads fiction and then wants to talk about it, I am in. And, spoiler alert, he was right (and now that I’ve blogged about it, has bragging rights). The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips is that good. In this book, set in 1601, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I is dying without an heir. Her likely successor is James VI of Scotland, who outwardly professes to be Protestant, but raised Catholic and with a Catholic wife, whose religious convictions are difficult to decipher. Those who wish to see England’s crown pass to a Protestant heir, including spy and stage actor Geoffrey Belloc, are desperate to know James’ heart on the matter.

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A man without a dog in this fight is Ottoman Muslim Doctor, Mahmoud Ezzedine, who, banished to England because of unfortunate events, has been forced to become an expert on the nuances of Christianity and English politics. If Ezzedine has has any hopes of seeing his family again, he must assist Belloc. Ezzedine is made to be a judge of that which he knows little, in order to save a realm of which he cares little, in the faint hope he can return to the world he came from.

Today, it can be hard for some people to see beyond their perceptions of a person’s culture. This is one of the themes in this historical fiction/mystery hybrid novel. The doctor becomes a good spy, because while he might be distrusted for his foreignness, his foreignness also makes him invisible. Unseen, what will this man do to become free?

Not only is this book entertaining on so many levels, it may also have you reconsidering your own preconceptions of other cultures and people. In my opinion, that’s good fiction that educates.    ~Carol

Imagine Your Story -Variety Pack

You know how sometimes (or fairly often) it can be hard to settle down and read? I’ve found a variety pack of options to entertain myself, and maybe some of these ideas will appeal to you as well…

Magazines! From HGTV to Gourmet to bite sized articles in How it Works that help me learn something new, I’ve been enjoying flicking those pages until something catches my eye.

I’ve also been reading from the Diverse Voices for Younger Readers collection. I 100% think books for teens and younger readers can be as good -or better!- than adult books as they tell stories that are compelling but tend to be shorter (aka don’t get bogged down in wordy, unnecessary extras). Why not give it a try?

Sometimes I just listen to music while I clean or do some crafting…

But if you want to be ambitious? You could join me in the Great Courses Myth in Human History and -so far, so good!! And then I have an eye on How to Make Stress Work for You….

I hope one of these choices sounds appealing and gives you something new to try!

—Stacey

Imagine Your Story – Twins, Two Ways

Wow! I just yesterday finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and it has been taking up much of my brain space over the last 24 hours. If you haven’t heard of this brand new, of-the-moment novel yet, listen up. The story is set from the 1950s through the 1990s and begins in Mallard, Louisiana, a town whose population is composed mostly of light-skinned African-American people whose founder believed the lighter they are, the better they are. There, readers meet twins Stella and Desiree Vignes, descendants of their town’s founder, who run away when they are sixteen. The two separate when Stella decides to embark upon a life passing as a white woman – a secret she intends to keep from everyone, including her white husband and daughter. Following the trajectory of these sisters’ vastly different lives had me on the edge of my seat and I literally couldn’t put down this book. Not only is it thought-provoking and timely, it is also an exceptionally well-written look at relationships between mothers and daughters and the men they love that had my heart aching. Read this one. I know your book club will.

If you want to totally twin-out, I have one more twin-focused read. This one is a bit lighter but still tugs at the heart-strings. The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine is the perfect novel for word nerds. It tells the stories of Daphne and Laurel Wolfe, red-haired twins who begin speaking their own private languages as toddlers and are obsessed with words and grammar ever since. Unfortunately, they are equally obsessed with an old dictionary that their late father gave them, something that drives a wedge between them. Watch these wicked-smart girls become adults, figure out their careers and raise families, drifting apart even as they can never lose that twin connection.

And, yes, these are very different reads. I guess, maybe, just like twins can be.                     ~Carol (not a twin)

Imagine Your Story – Books

I may have mentioned that I’m finding it a bit hard to stick with an entire book right now. So when I find a novel that compels me to read it in one sitting, not only do I want to celebrate, I want to share!

darcy

My eBook for Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell became available on Saturday morning and as soon as I started it, I knew my chore list was shot. This fast-paced and suspenseful domestic thriller stars unreliable (and mostly unlike-able) characters who have shady pasts and who make many bad choices and stir up plenty of family drama.

Floral shop owner Charlotte has the perfect life, including money, a fabulous apartment, a beautiful daughter named Daisy, a handsome husband and a super successful business. Unfortunately, she is wracked by anxiety, is overprotective of her family, and can’t always sleep at night. Adding to her woes is her brother Rocco, who barely has his life together and whose taste in girlfriends has always been horrible, each one less tolerable than the last. But when Charlotte meets his newest girlfriend Ruth, she thinks maybe this time Rocco got it right.

In Ruth’s eyes, however, it is Charlotte who isn’t perfect. Ruth, who didn’t have a good relationship with her mother, thinks that Charlotte doesn’t appreciate what she has. Ruth longs for a daughter just like Daisy–or maybe even Daisy herself. Before too long, Ruth will turn Charlotte’s life upside down and will take readers on a journey filled with twists, turns, and plenty of juicy secrets.

Like cotton candy, this novel won’t overly fill you up or ruin your appetite for your next read, but it sure tastes good as a treat. If this sounds like your type of read, place a hold in our catalog here.

Imagine Your Story – Sympathetic Serial Killers

I admit it, I love a good serial killer story. And, no, the quarantine didn’t drive me to it; I just like the way that authors let us readers live inside of the mind of fictional characters, and some of those characters happen to be serial killers.

If we want to trace the beginnings, though, while I’m sure I was influenced by all the baddies that Stephen King had to offer back in the day, I first, truly fell for a serial killing character in The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I admit to reading this one after seeing the flick starring Matt Damon and Jude Law. Reading it really made me fall for Ripley, though. So misunderstood, so handsome, so deadly.

Next up was when I met Dexter in the novels by Jeff Lindsay-and my friend tells me the series is great too. But here, too, I encountered an utterly handsome and charming guy, who is almost perfect– minuses for working as a blood spatter analyst (yuck!) and for regularly murdering people (but he only murders bad people!)? So, who wouldn’t fall for that kind of guy…am I right?

Oh, and then there is Patrick Bateman from Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, who was, to be honest, fun reading about, but I wouldn’t want to run into personally. Ew, actually, he was pretty demented, Let’s just skip him.

Which brings me to today’s obsession–Villanelle. My latest serial killer obsession is the star of Killing Eve, a BBC show that just concluded its third season. This British black comedy-drama spy thriller television series follows Eve Polastri (the amazing Sandra Oh), as a British intelligence investigator who has been tasked with capturing the psychopathic assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). As the chase progresses, the two develop a mutual obsession. I’m with you, Eve. I can’t wait for season four either!

I get it if these murderous types aren’t your cup of tea, though. Just wait a week and I’ll likely be back to birds and kittens.