Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong:  Poet Ocean Vuong’s highly anticipated debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, takes the form of a letter from a young writer to his illiterate mother. The writer, who goes by the nickname Little Dog and whose life bears a strong resemblance to Vuong’s own, is the first of his family to go to college. The letter is an attempt to share his fragile sense of self with his mother. Little Dog’s grandmother survived the Vietnam War as a sex worker, and his mother was fathered by an American soldier. After immigrating to the United States and settling in a working-class Connecticut neighborhood, Little Dog became a victim of his mother’s abuse and a witness to his grandmother’s untreated schizophrenia. Without siblings or a father, Little Dog was isolated and lonely, hyperaware of his small size, his lack of English and his origins. Vuong’s poetry collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds was one of the most celebrated books of 2016. In On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, his prose is richly poetic, and his references draw from a wide range of sources, from Roland Barthes to 50 Cent. The novel finds its heart when Little Dog invites his mother to acknowledge a part of his life he’s never fully shared with her. Little Dog and Trevor met as teenagers when they worked on a tobacco farm, and their attraction was immediate. The depiction of the boys’ affair is graphic yet tender, and the blunt portrayal of Trevor’s opioid addiction alludes to the grim consequences of poverty and violence in their community. Disarmingly frank, raw in subject matter but polished in style and language, this book reveals the strengths and limitations of human connection and the importance of speaking your truth. on earth we're briefly gorgeous
  • Underland by Robert Macfarlane:  We reach for the stars and keep our eyes to the skies, but how often do we look below our feet and wonder what lies below the grass or sidewalks we tread on every day? What intricate networks lie just below our toes? Could we ever glimpse them? What could we learn by journeying through them? In the mesmerizing Underland: A Deep Time Journey, Robert Macfarlane enthusiastically conducts us on such a journey, descending into solid rock to a repository designed to store nuclear waste in Finland, swimming down through sea caves in the Arctic and crawling into the “invisible cities” below Paris. In Paris, for example, he and fellow claustro-philes follow a map that offers advice about passageways (“Low, quite low, very low, tight, flooded, impracticable, impassable…”), also naming places along the underground paths in the depths below (Crossroads of the Dead, the Chamber of Phantoms, the Chamber of Oysters). In England, Macfarlane traverses caves, learning “undersight” as he crawls through narrow spaces, “face forced into wet gravel.” Macfarlane also reveals the fascinating existence of what he calls “the wood wide web,” an intricate and mysterious network that joins below the ground to make forest communities. He introduces readers to Canadian forest ecologist Suzanne Simard, who has discovered that an underground network of “mycorrhizal fungal species” links trees to other trees. Blending classic stories of descent into the underworld–the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Aeneid, for example–with his own lucid stories of his experiences in geologic time, Macfarlane poetically concludes that “darkness might be a medium of vision, and descent may be a movement toward revelation rather than deprivation.” He discovers that every culture places into the underland “that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.” As Macfarlane descends through some of these narrow passages in search of enlightenment, we often hold our breath and feel our hearts racing, but when he emerges we see with him the beauty of the world beneath our feet. underland
  • The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith:  Dominic Smith’s engaging new novel, The Electric Hotel, offers a deep dive into the history of early cinema. In the early 1960s, Claude Ballard, a retired French filmmaker, lives in a run-down hotel. When approached by a young graduate student named Martin Embry about the long-lost film masterpiece The Electric Hotel. Ballard is reluctant to revisit the past, but Embry’s enthusiasm encourages Ballard to recall his role in the making of an early cinematic treasure. Then Ballard reveals that he still has a copy of the film. A photographers’ apprentice in Paris in the 1890s, Ballard was hired by the Lumiere Brothers as a roaming projectionist. His travels took him as far away as Australia and America, where, in picaresque fashion, he befriended a stunt man, a French actress and the young owner of a seedy Brooklyn amusement parlor. Before long, this idiosyncratic troupe settled in the cliffs of Fort Lee, New Jersey (once a prime location for the making of American movies, hence the expression “cliffhanger”), pouring all their energy, money and talent into what Ballard refers to as the “great cinematic experiment.” It will come as no surprise to readers that the making of The Electric Hotel almost destroyed the lives and careers of the four friends. As in Smith’s own masterpiece, The Lost Painting of Sarah DeVos (2016), the joy in The Electric Hotel is in the getting there:  the travels from Paris to New York at the very birth of cinema, the repeated run-ins with a litigious Thomas Edison and Ballard’s return to Europe amid the scarring battlefields of World War I. Smith skillfully blends film history with the adventures of his intriguing crew, never losing sight of their individuality. This book enchants with a compelling plot but satisfies with the fully felt pathos of its characters. electric hotel
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok:  As a child, Sylvie Lee had a lazy eye, a crooked tooth and a peculiar birthmark that she’s retained into adulthood. Now grown, she’s brilliant and successful. She is cold and even punitive toward people she doesn’t know, but she is capable of passionate love for the few who are close to her. She spent the first nine years of her life in the Netherlands with her grandmother; her mother’s rich cousin, Helena Tan; Helena’s husband, Willem; and their son, Lukas. After that, Sylvie was shipped back to the cramped Queens, New York, apartment of her Ma, Pa and adoring younger sister, Amy. When Jean Kwok’s latest novel opens, Sylvie has returned to the Netherlands to tend her dying grandmother’s funeral, then vanishes. No wonder:  If you were Sylvie, you’d probably want to get as far away from the Dutch branch of your family as possible. Helena hates her, and Willem is handsy. Friends Estelle and Filip, whom Sylvie meets when she returns to the Netherlands, are duplicitous. Sylvie falls in love with Lukas, but it’s an impossible union, not only because they’re second cousins but also because she’s already married to an unfaithful man and Estelle is Lukas’ girlfriend. After Sylvie’s disappearance, Amy burns up her savings to fly to the Netherlands to find her. On top of the turmoil surrounding Sylvie’s disappearance, Kwok throws in the racism experienced by the Lees in America, and the less expected but often cruder racism the Tans experience in the enlightened Netherlands. Throughout the novel, women struggle to cope with the misogyny found in Chinese, American and Dutch societies, language barriers, class differences, amusing customs (such as the Dutch traditions of giving three kisses in greeting and riding bicycles absolutely everywhere) and irresistible cuisine. Kwok is unafraid to fully translate her characters’ flowery Chinese and contractionless Dutch, which gives the book an unexpected Pearl S. Buck-style flavor. There’s even a cache of valuable jewels passed from mother to daughter that everyone thinks everyone else wants to get their hands on. The result is a book that is busy, compelling and not a little wild. When you think of it, it is very much like Sylvie herself. searching for sylvie lee
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (e-book):  Elisabeth Scrivener is an orphan. Raised in one of the kingdom’s six Great Libraries, she has been training as an apprentice, hoping one day to become a library warden who’s responsible for the categorization and containment of dangerous magic. The Great Libraries house not only regular books but also grimoires–books created with sorcery that contain ominous spells and rituals. These grimoires can also transform into deadly creatures known as Maleficts. Elisabeth knows not to trust sorcerers and the powerful magic that whispers to her from the shelves. In fact, she has been raised to defend humans from and contain the powerful magic. But when disaster strikes her library and she is accused of treason, Elisabeth makes an unlikely alliance with young sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn and his Mephistophelian servant, Silas. Uncovering the true saboteur leads Elisabeth down a terrifying path of conspiracy and chaos, but also of self-discovery. As she learns more about her connection to grimoires and gets closer with Nathaniel and Silas, she begins to reassess her goals and question some of the Great Library’s teachings. Bestselling author Margaret Rogerson (An Enchantment of Ravens) presents a unique twit on a magical fantasy plot, setting the novel in a 19th-century Western Europe-inspired world that’s dealing with the inheritance of medieval magic as well as the innovations of an industrializing society. Elisabeth is a charismatic heroine, and her chemistry with Nathaniel is inevitable and natural, but it is Silas’ character arc that is particularly compelling. A race against time filled with demonic magic, vivid settings and classic romantic tension, this book is a chillingly good gothic.sorcery of thorns
  • All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker and Kelly Murphy:  In Laura Tucker’s All the Greys on Greene Street, Ollie, a gifted artist, is content living with her artist parents in a loft in New York City. But then her father leaves for France, accompanied by a woman whom Ollie and her mother playfully nickname “Vooley Voo.” One week later, the playfulness has vanished, and Ollie’s mother will not get out of bed. Ollie strives for normalcy as she attends school, hangs out with her two best guy friends and goes to visit Apollo, her father’s partner in his art restoration business. Due to her mother’s urgent, hushed phone conversations and a desperate man who appears at their door, it becomes apparent that a mystery surrounds Ollie’s father and his departure, which coincided with the disappearance of a valuable piece of art. This is a lot for 12-year-old Ollie to puzzle out, and she becomes fiercely protective of her mother and refuses to accept the truth of her mother’s depression. There is a beguiling naturalness to Tucker’s depiction of Ollie and her troubles. Ollie is observant and reflective, allowing the reader full access to her emotional upheaval. Her best friends are genuine and loyal but clumsy in their attempts to help. Apollo is kind but distantly adult. Perhaps the most lovely element of the book is the infusion of art:  Ollie’s art, rendered in pencil drawings, is sprinkled throughout the book, and there are discussions of art technique, art in museums and, most instructively, the provenance of art displaced by war. This book is a poignant and well-structured debut novel that’s sure to satisfy young readers. all the greys on greene street
  • In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow:  Residents of West Mills, North Carolina, joke that their town never changes. Yet there’s never a dull moment for the stubborn, loyal characters in De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s debut novel, In West Mills. The novel opens in 1941 with a fight between main character Azalea “Knot” Centre and her man, Pratt. When Pratt enlists for the war, Knot’s neighbor Otis Lee looks after her and keeps her company. He chides her for her obsessive drinking and reading. In turn, she scolds him for his rift with a mutual friend, Valley. And so it goes, friends becoming family until the town includes three generations of fierce fighters and lovers. Reminiscent of August Wilson’s 10-play cycle marking each decade in 20th-century African-American history, In West Mills telescopes four decades into a densely packed drama surrounding Knot, a woman full of passion and pathos, an object of both hate and love. Knot is nicknamed as a girl for balling up her little body around ceramic “whatnots” stolen from her mother. Other West Mills inhabitants’ nicknames include Pep, Breezy and Goldie, showing how these neighbors claim one another as their own. As the novel progresses, the story becomes less about Knot and more about how the whole town handles its woes, and the story’s central figure becomes a tightly wound web of lies, secrecy and forgiveness. Characters deal with inflamed emotions, gender and race roles, sexual preferences, addiction and children born out of wedlock–the stuff of the soap operas Knot and friends watch every day on their new televisions. What distinguishes West Mills’ melodrama from episodic TV, however, is the real-life, unglamorous attitudes of ordinary people. Amid their squabbles, they work hard as farmers, cleaners, midwives, teachers and musicians. They eschew happy endings but stick with each other despite their differences. This book exemplifies the timeless adage that it takes a village to raise one another. This is a historical fiction triumph.  in west mills
  • The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair:  World War II and its immediate aftermath compose a well-trod territory for fiction, especially the British homefront. But this book breathes life into that era with a sprightly historical mystery. It’s 1946. Rationing is still in effect, and the catastrophic damage of the Blitz still pockmarks the city’s surface, but London is shakily getting back to business as usual. For Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, the end of the war has left them both somewhat adrift. And so they both leap almost gratefully into action when a client of their matchmaking agency, the Right Sort Marriage Bureau, is accused of murder. Dickie Trower has been arrested for the killing of Tillie La Salle, a canny shop girl with whom the Right Sort had arranged for him to go on a date. Elegant war widow Gwendolyn leads the investigative charge, at least initially. And while her fledgling attempts to understand the London transportation system without the aid of a chauffeur are endearing to the extreme, Montclair adds in twists of melancholy given Gwen’s still very fresh grief over her beloved husband Ronnie’s death. To make matters even worse, Gwen had a nervous collapse upon receiving the tragic news, was sent to a sanitarium for four months and subsequently lost custody of her and Ronnie’s child to his aloof, snobbish parents. Montclair balances Gwen’s pursuit of both independence and the murderer with her partner Iris’ own struggle to adjust to peacetime. The Right Sort of Man‘s rat-a-tat dialogue is never better than when Iris is eviscerating the latest unfortunate to stand in her way, or when she’s finagling her way into a new line of inquiry like a scrappy British cousin of Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. And as with Gwen, Montclair slowly reveals the profound sadness that lies beneath Iris’ wry and witty exterior. “I can’t answer that” is her constant refrain when asked about what exactly she got up to during the war; it’s a running joke that becomes an increasingly sad motif, reminding the reader that the freedom and excitement of Iris’ classified activities on behalf of king and country have faded away. But Iris can still use her less-than-savory skills and reach out to some of her shadowy war buddies to solve the case. As she and Gwen delve into the lower-class world of La Salle, who may or may not have been involved in a black market scheme with a very charming gangster, Montclair mines fantastic comedy from both Iris’ ever-increasing portfolio of underhanded skills and the very genteel Gwen’s interactions with Iris’ motley former comrades. Brimming with wit and joie de vivre but sneakily poignant under its whimsical surface, this book is an utter delight and a fantastic kickoff to a new series.   right sort of man
  • This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura:  Her family’s unofficial motto is Katsuyamas Never Quit, but that hasn’t held true for 17-year-old CJ, who knows she’s never going to be as high-powered as her ambitious single mom. CJ prefers helping her Aunt Hannah at their family floral shop, Heart’s Desire. Heart’s Desire is a point of family pride. CJ’s grandfather spent 30 years saving enough money to buy back the shop at an astronomical markup. When the Katsuyamas and thousands of other Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, her grandfather was forced to sell all of his property to an investor named McAllister for a fraction of its true value. But now, with Heart’s Desire struggling, CJ’s mom is threatening to sell it right back to a McAllister who currently serves as the head of the venture capital firm where she is a partner. This outrage stokes CJ’s activist spirit, especially when she learns that the Heart’s Desire scandal is only one of many examples of the McAllister family profiting off the losses of Japanese Americans. This books shows CJ wrestling with her growing awareness of racism and the injustices of history while also grappling with more typical teenage concerns like an unattainable crush or a changing relationship with her best friend. With the help of a history-loving boy, CJ starts to realize that although we might never be able to fix past mistakes–both globally and personally–we can learn from them, tell their stories and try our best to avoid making them again. this time will be different
  • Leaving the Witness by Amber Scorah:  Reality is the most effective antidote to a religion whose tenets are designed to keep their members segregated from “the world.” In Leaving the Witness:  Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life, Amber Scorah chronicles her journey into the world and, subsequently, away from her religious community. By Scorah’s account, her Jehovah’s Witnesses church kept its members preoccupied studying, preaching and submitting records of their activities; discouraged them from going to college and cultivating friendships outside their congregation; and advised them to take subsistence jobs rather than pursuing careers that might refocus their interests. Why bother with careers, after all, when Armageddon is just around the corner? Email turned out to be the serpent in Scorah’s Eden. After she and her husband moved to Shanghai in 2005 to preach their gospel (which was illegal there and had to be done furtively), she took a job podcasting about life in China. Listeners were encouraged to email her questions and comments. One who did so was Jonathan, a screenwriter in Los Angeles. It becomes clear that something emotionally seismic is brewing in the narrative when the readers noticies that Scorah never states her husband’s first name or endows him with personality but quotes lavishly from her correspondence with Jonathan, who views her religion as a cult and tells her so. Although she was so devoted to the Witnesses that she learned Mandarin in order to preach in China, she finds her faith slipping under Jonathan’s barrage of skepticism. Her exhilaration at finally making the break is tempered greatly, however, by the realization that it has cost her the comfort and friendship of everyone she’s been close to throughout her insulated life, including her entire family. With nothing to hold her elsewhere, she relocated to New York to embark on a new plane of existence. The last pages of her story are heartbreaking, but unlike many apostates who look back wistfully at the beliefs they’ve left behind, Scorah has no doubt that she has delivered herself from a kind of evil. leaving the witness
  • Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn:  Desperation can lead a person to extreme decisions they wouldn’t otherwise countenance. For a parent, what could be more heart-wrenching than the choice to leave one’s child behind and move to another country in search of a better life? That’s the decision made by the title character of Patsy, Nicole Dennis-Benn’s follow-up to her assured debut, Here Comes the Sun. But one of the satisfying nuances of her second novel is that this heartache is only partly due to the knowledge that, by emigrating from Jamaica to America, single mother Patsy will leave behind her 6-year-old daughter, Tru. As the novel opens, it’s 1998, and Patsy is still in love with her childhood friend Cicely, who moved to America several years earlier. Patsy hopes to secure a tourist visa–her previous application was declined two years earlier with no explanation–and rekindle their romance. Soon, Patsy leaves Tru and Mama G, her religious  mother who collects Jesus figurines, and flies to New York, where Cicely meets her at the airport. Patsy’s surprise upon reuniting with her friend is one of the many turns this novel takes. Cicely lives in a brownstone in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, is married to an abusive would-be real estate mogul and is raising a son Tru’s age who takes violin lessons at a prestigious music academy. Over the next decade, Patsy fails to find the America–or the Cicely–of her dreams and has to settle for a job cleaning bathrooms in a faux-Jamaican restaurant before securing gigs as a nanny for a host of privileged women. The story moves back and forth between Patsy’s increasingly disheartening experiences in America and Tru’s grim situation back home. Tru has to live with her father, Roy, a police officer she barely knows. As Tru enters her teens, she struggles with depression and her sexuality, all the while wondering why her mother has been gone for much longer than the promised six months and why she never calls. This moving work about the immigrant experience is distinguished by Dennis-Benn’s compassion for her characters and her acknowledgement that issues related to sexuality and immigration require subtlety and understanding.   patsy
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Summer Reading Guide

The Jacksonville Public Library has a Summer Reading Program for every single person no matter the age. Check out some of our best new books that we recommend to get your reading started off on the right foot!

  • Once & Future by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta:  For 41 cycles over thousands of years, the wizard Merlin has had the same agenda:  Find Arthur, train Arthur, and nudge him onto the nearest throne. Then Arthur is supposed to defeat the greatest evil in the universe and unite all of humankind. Every cycle so far, Arthur has died and Merlin has aged backward–until this 42nd reincarnation of the once and future monarch. This time, Arthur is a teenage Arab interplanetary refugee who was taken in by an adoptive brother named Kay and his two moms. Arthur is also a girl named Ari. And, like nearly everyone else in this futuristic world, Ari is queer. Familiar characters and places from the legend are here in new guises. Gweneviere is the multi-racial leader of a rebel planet, Lamarack is gender-fluid, and Camelot is a combination of a run-down spacecraft and a world where medieval entertainment takes center stage. The greatest evil in the universe is a mega-corporation known as Mercer that’s led by an unforgiving Administrator. When a quest to reveal Mercer’s dark side–and to rescue Kay and Ari’s moms–goes awry, Ari and her friends must draw on previously unrecognized strengths to save themselves and the universe, and the stunning conclusion leaves room for future stories. once and future
  • The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol:  Caldecott Honor-winning author and illustrator Vera Brosgol’s new picture book charms with a story of a band of acorn-hatted creatures, a gang of inscrutable little guys who live on a small island. They may be small, but they live large. Tiny but strong, they are clever and fearless. Using their noggins, their numbers and their tight teamwork, they ford deep streams, cross dark forests, climb tall trees, lift heavy logs, dig deep burrows and even bounce on the belly of a big brown bear. They do this all to find food for the little guys. But one day, while hunting for their breakfast, they get carried away with their success and leave chaos in their wake. Soon they have bullied all the residents of the forest and collected a tower of food. All the food is for them. There is nothing for anyone else. The little guys quite literally have everything–everything except one grape in the beak of a small red bird. When the little guys create a tower to grab it, the tower sways and they all tumble into the water. The little guys float along and finally climb out, but only with the help of the forest creatures whose food they’ve taken. This incident wakes the little guys to the realization that they already have all they need. Together they are strong, they say, as they deliver the grape back to the small red bird. Brosgol’s story filled with bright, cartoonish illustrations will delight young readers and spur conversations about teamwork, greed and even the politics of power.   little guys
  • The Binding (e-book) by Bridget Collins:  What would life be if you could forget your most painful memories? Emmett Farmer’s family is horrified when a bookbinder requests Emmett as her apprentice. Under her guidance, he will learn to lay hands on people, copy their memories onto paper and bind those memories between two covers. Once the memories are committed to the page, their creator forget their most traumatic moments. Sexual assault and violence are no more, but what’s left in their place? Is it worse “to feel nothing, or to grieve for something you no longer remembered?” Emmett asks. “Surely when you forgot, you’d forget to be sad, or what was the point? And yet that numbness would take part of your self away. It would be like having pins and needles in your soul.” In this book, acclaimed young adult author Bridget Collins explores the way memory shapes a person in times both good and bad. Emmett learns that his trade is controversial–considered witchcraft by some–but that he’s powerless to avoid it. His mentor sees binding as a kind act for those who want to leave trauma behind, but other binders aren’t so ethical. Some practitioners sell books on the black market. Other binders take advantage of people’s need for money and purchase their memories. When Emmett spots a book bearing his own name, the ethical quandary becomes personal. Collins’ interest in bookbinding is apparent in her enchanting descriptions of these vessels of memories. She also found inspiration in her work with the Samaritans, the British charity organization she volunteered with, working with people who had experienced trauma. This book is an imaginative, thought-provoking tale of how–for better or worse–moments can define who we become.  binding
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney:  This novel is partly set in the small Irish town of Carricklea. Sixteen-year-olds Marianne and Connell attend the same school but are worlds apart socially and financially. Marianne is plump, uncool and unliked. She comes from a well-off family, which isolates her from her blue-collar classmates. The star of the football team, Connell, is a slightly aloof, decent, sweetly unassuming guy who picks his mother up from her cleaning job. A clandestine affair starts between the two, but at school Connell barely acknowledges Marianne. Marianne is treated badly at home, too, where she is ignored by her widowed mother and bullied by her brother. Connell’s casual cruelty evokes all the insecurities of teen life, of fitting in and worrying about what people think. It sets a precedent:  Marianne longs for Connell’s love, and he appears unable to give it. The complex relationship between the two–their incredible closeness and dysfunction–is masterfully done. Both Marianne and Connell receive academic scholarships to Trinity College in Dublin, and over the years, their lives bisect and cross. Marianne becomes popular, while Connell becomes introverted and distant. They become best friends, relying on each other’s counsel as they both enter into new relationships. But there is also a fractious, complicated longing that neither seems to know how to handle. Marianne’s bad choices in boyfriends–bullies and emotional abusers–only put Connell’s bad qualities in sharp relief. But he, too, is suffering. Depression sees him visiting a therapist and scuppers his relationship with a college girlfriend. The quality of Rooney’s writing cannot be understated as she brilliantly provides a window into her protagonists’ true selves. normal people
  • Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein:  A wealth of history turns this book into a novel that’s both beautiful and devastating. Author Jennifer Cody Epstein taps into the 1930s prewar era, laying out an unsparing narrative that details tragic events and horrifying legacies. Renate and Ilse, Jew and and Gentile, are best friends in pre-World War II Germany, but they’re driven apart in the terrible buildup to war when Ilse joins Bund Deutscher Madel, the female division of the Hitler Youth movement. Many years later, in 1989 New York City, Ilse’s estranged daughter, Ava Fischer, receives her mother’s ashes and a trove of letters, addressed to Renate but never sent, that reveal her mother’s terrible secrets. In turn, Ava resists sharing Ilse’s history with her own daughter, Sophie, and Ava realizes that she “has kept Sophie from her own story.” The narrative unfolds from several characters’ perspectives, making plain “the things we lie about to make our crimes bearable,” while also opening a new door that may lead to redemption and joy for future generations. wunderland
  • Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard: In this novel, Louis Bayard dramatically recreates the months after Abraham Lincoln’s 1840 winter arrival in Springfield with delicious detail and diligent diplomacy. Alternating between the disparate voices of Lincoln’s future wife and Lincoln’s best friend, Bayard offers an insider’s view of just how much the two may may have influenced the awkward, often ill-mannered country lawyer as he began to inch his way up the political ladder. Mary Todd is a debutante who has been told she needs to find a husband, and quickly. While visiting her sister in Springfield, Mary is not at all impressed by Lincoln in their first meetings, and besides, her family believes that Springfield’s societal rules restrict Mary from allowing the man a spot on her dance card, much less a courtship. Lincoln soon discovers that Mary is not the average young woman. She is educated and passionate about politics, something he doesn’t usually encounter in young women, if he ever even notices them. Mary eventually becomes drawn to Lincoln’s intelligence, humor and respect for her boldness. When Lincoln and Mary begin their relationship, albeit clumsily, they are forced to hide their courtship from everyone, including Lincoln’s roommate, Joshua Speed. Joshua rescues Lincoln as he arrives in Springfield with only the clothes on his back and a few other items in saddlebags. With no money and no legal work yet, Lincoln agrees to Joshua’s suggestion that they share a room with only one bed. The two become inseparable, historically rumored to have been lovers, and bonded together by mutual respect and a great deal of admiration. Joshua guides Lincoln through Springfield’s water, which can quickly become raging if proper customs regarding attire, table manners and the like are not observed. Joshua is not looking for a woman to share his life with, and he really doesn’t think that Lincoln should either–hence the crux of the problem and the book’s main thrust. Will Lincoln sacrifice his relationship with Joshua to court Mary? Better yet, should he?  courting mr. lincoln
  • Tangled Up in You (e-book) by Samantha Chase:  When police officer Bobby Hannigan is shot in the line of duty, he’s forced to take some rest and relaxation. In his downtime, he meets single mother and widow Teagan Shaughnessy, who’s just brought her son back home to be near family. The time is wrong for Bobby and Teagan. Their future’s too uncertain, the changes too big. But as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Their attraction is gentle at first, and they forge an undeniable bond through their shared emotional struggle to adjust to their respective new normals. Bobby’s love for Teagan’s son, Lucas, only reinforces their inevitable happy ever after. Chase takes readers on an emotional journey, and you’ll  laugh and cry and get sucked into the drama of the Shaughnessy clan. If you’re a fan of big, meddling families and a full cast of secondary characters, you’ll enjoy it all the more. tangled up in you
  • A Prince on Paper (e-book) by Alyssa Cole:  Love is the most dangerous gamble imaginable for Johan Maximillian von Braustein, stepson to the king of the tiny, tumultuous nation of Liechtienbourg. Bullied as a child for his sensitive heart, he’s learned to protect himself with an unending display of glamour and debauchery designed to keep everyone distracted and at a distance. Known as “Bad Boy Jo-Jo,” he’s on a first-name basis with members of the paparazzi, and there are online communities dedicated to the appreciation of him. Every move he makes is orchestrated and calculated to protect himself from ever having to be genuine or vulnerable. And while he’s known for his wild stunts, the one risk too hazardous for him to even consider is the idea of falling in love. Meanwhile, love is quite literally a game for Nya Jerami. Sheltered (read: stifled) by her manipulative, controlling father for most of her life, she seeks refuge in online games that let her play at romance, intrigue and seduction. And if her favorite happens to be One True Prince, in which her character is required to seduce a certain Prince Hojan transparently based on a Liechtienbourgian playboy, then who’s to know? It’s not likely that a man like him would ever notice a wallflower like her. A series of comedic mishaps through Johan and Nya together during a mutual friends’ wedding celebration. Nya finds herself thrust into Johan’s arms–and right into the media spotlight. It’s her chance to chase the adventure she’s always craved, with the man she has always desired. But years of treating love as nothing more than a harmless, consequence-free game have done nothing to prepare her for the moment when it’s there in the flesh, right by her side. This book is full of luxury and decadence–escapism at its finest! prince on paper
  • Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler:  On a cold January morning in 1986, everything changes for Nedda Papas, an 11-year-old science geek and astronaut fangirl. Ten miles from Easter, their small Florida town, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off and explodes. Soon, strange things happen:  Electricity surges and fails, ponds freeze and boil, the sky takes on a green glow. At first, Easter’s residents chalk up the weirdness to the Challenger explosion, but Nedda and her dad, Theo–a physicist who’s been laid off from NASA–begin to suspect otherwise. Theo and his wife, Betheen, both grieving a loss, have begun to live separate lives. Theo works obsessively on a project he calls his entropy machine, while Betheen, a frustrated scientist, has devoted herself to her baking business, cutting herself off emotionally from her husband and daughter. The novel alternates the 11-year-old Nedda’s story with that of the grown Nedda, who’s narrating from aboard the spaceship Chawla. The adult Nedda is part of a crew of four on a long-term mission to an unnamed planet, and the crew has learned that power spikes have affected the ship’s generator. As Nedda and her crewmates work to head off disaster, so does the 11-year-old Nedda, along with Theo and Betheen. Although this book includes plenty of science fiction elements, it’s also a coming-of-age story, as the young Nedda gains a new understanding of her parents and then works to rescue them and the rest of her town. Juggling dual timelines, wonderful mid-1980s period details and a large cast of secondary characters, Swyler has set herself an ambitious task. But the novel is well-paced, with a satisfying twist near the end that readers are subtly prepared for but that still feels surprising.  light from other stars
  • Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer:  Racing across the Mongolian desert in a pony express-style horse race isn’t a challenge many folks would choose to tackle. But when British 19-year-old Lara Prior-Palmer stumbles across a website detailing this very thing, she impulsively decides to throw her hat in the ring. The result is this stunning debut memoir detailing Prior-Palmer’s journey entering, competing in and ultimately winning the Mongol Derby, often dubbed “the world’s longest, toughest horse race.” It’s an extremely demanding test, not for the weak-spirited, requiring riders to change steeds 25 times through 14 different microclimates. In witty, open and revealing prose, Prior-Palmer details a slew of obstacles–from searing heat and pelting rain to food poisoning, uncooperative ponies and, most importantly, a lack of experience and preparation. Her tale could be pulled from the pages of Hollywood script, with its sweeping, scenic descriptions of the Mongolian steppe and the allies and fierce competitors who emerge among the unique cast of characters (like the skilled and highly trained Texan rider Devan, with her striking American accent and corporate sponsorships). In spite of being an amateur navigator and rider, who didn’t even bring enough food or clothing, Prior-Palmer makes her way with true grit and determination. And we passionately cheer her on, especially when she muses that the race is “a live show of humans slowly falling to pieces.” Against all odds, she wins, becoming the first woman and youngest person ever to do so. The ride is a learning experience for Prior-Palmer, one that helps her overcome fears of fleeing and teaches her to tap into her gut to make her way. As she says once she’s gotten her stride, “The race has got me going so fast I’ve lost hold of my ducking-out technique.” This book is a true page-turner, told in gorgeous, descriptive prose that readers will tear through like the ponies racing across the plain. rough magic
  • The Pioneers by David McCullough:  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was one of the most important acts of Congress in our history and crucial to an orderly settlement of the American West. It began taking shape on March 1, 1786, when Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam convened a meeting at the Bunch-of-Grapes tavern in Boston. The men there devised an ambitious plan to guarantee what would later be known as the American way of life. Veterans would be provided property in the Ohio country as payment for their military services. The conditions of this plan would allow freedom of religion and education but wouldn’t allow slavery. From this meeting, the Ohio Company was formed, coupling the group’s idealism with land speculation. In his absorbing new book, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, bestselling author and most readable of historians David McCullough brings to life the story of the courageous men and women who dealt with many hard realities to found the city that became Marietta, Ohio. Letters, diaries, journals and other primary sources give us an intimate portrait of the community. McCullough focuses on five men, quite different from each other, who were instrumental to the venture’s success. Women were responsible for many things, as well, but since they recorded little of their hardships, we have few of their first-person accounts. Putnam did much of the planning for the first Ohio Company group to settle in the West, and he was their leader. Manasseh Cutler didn’t move to Marietta himself, but his son Ephraim did, and he and Putnam were personally responsible for prohibiting slavery in the new state of Ohio. Joseph Baker, a skilled carpenter, became a notable architect, and Dr. Samuel Hildreth was a pathbreaking physician and an important historian of Marietta. All in all, McCullough has again worked his narrative magic and helped us to better understand those who came before us. pioneers
  • The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames:  Juliet Grames’ entrancing multigenerational family saga is based on the life of her grandmother, Stella, who was born in 1920 in the small Italian village of Ievoli and, 16 years later, immigrated with her family to Connecticut as World War II loomed over their homeland. Through the book, the author inserts fictional details into the life of her ever-stoic grandmother while focusing on her near-death experiences, which were well documented by family members and passed down over the years, including severe burns from cooking oil, an attack by a hungry pig, almost dying in childbirth and falling down basement steps at the age of 68. Just as compelling as Stella’s story is that of her mother, Assunta, who was born in Ievoli in 1899 and was married at age 14 to a domineering and abusive husband. At first, Assunta’s sad marriage convinces Stella to remain single, but eventually she gives in to traditional mores and weds Carmelo Maglieri, another Italian immigrant. Stella’s independent spirit is stifled, finally, and she ends up raising 10 children, the last one coming when she’s 44. The final 30 years of Stella’s life, following a partial lobotomy after her fall, are lonely ones. Estranged from her younger sister, whom she blames for her “seven or eight deaths,” Stella lives by herself, her grandchildren knowing her only as “an unintelligible crocheting grandmother engaged in a blood feud with her sister.” They have heard the facts of her many near deaths but know nothing of her feisty, independent spirit, now long gone. Embellished with details of the extreme hardship experienced by Italy’s poor throughout two world wars and the bigotry encountered by those who immigrated to the U.S., Grames’ debut will find broad appeal as both an illuminating historical saga and a vivid portrait of a strong woman struggling to break free from the confines of her gender.  seven or eight deaths of stella fortuna
  • The Farm by Joanne Ramos:  There are a number of compelling arguments for surrogacy. Some would-be mothers are unable to conceive. Gay couples may wish to become parents. But, as with any legal arrangement, complications can arise, especially when mercenaries try to exploit people’s emotions for monetary gain. Joanne Ramos imagines such complications in this ambitious dystopian debut. The novel’s effectiveness lies in the power of its premise. Financially straitened women, most of them Filipina immigrants–Ramos, an American, was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she was 6–are recruited to carry the babies of ultra-rich, typically white clientele in exchange for a huge payout. Among the immigrants is protagonist Jane Reyes, the Filipina mother of a 4-year-old girl who left her husband after she discovered his affair. After Jane loses her nanny job, she takes a tip from her 67-year-old cousin with whom she lives, and applies for a job at Golden Oaks, a fancy resort in New York’s Hudson Valley. At Golden Oaks, surrogate mothers reside in luxury, and this opulence includes organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages–all for free. But the pregnant women are constantly monitored, and they are restricted from leaving the grounds or from having any contact with the outside world. The person running Golden Oaks is Mae Yu, a high-achieving Chinese-American woman who, in a marvelous phrase, has “a lusty Ayn Randian love of New York.” Her job is to recruit Hosts who are willing to carry babies for the company’s wealthy Clients. Not all Hosts, however, are treated the same. A few are Premium Hosts, which means they’re white. They include Jane’s roommate Reagan, who represents the holy trifecta of Premium Hosts because she’s white, pretty and educated. She aspires to a career in photography and wants to break free of her domineering father. Another Premium Host is Lisa, who sees Golden Oaks for what it is and recruits Jane and Reagan in her plans to undermine its authority. And then there’s Jane’s cousin, whose motivations may not be what they seem. At one point, Reagan tells Jane, “Everything’s conditional. Everything’s got strings attached.” The Farm shows how intricately laced those strings can be. farm
  • Exhalation by Ted Chiang:  Reading a Ted Chiang anthology is an experience that slowly claims little corners of your brain until eventually your whole head is devoted to it. You read and digest one story, but each tale is so compelling and complex that no matter how long you wait, that first story will continue to beg questions even as you try to digest a second. One after another, Chiang’s stories claim their place in your mind until you’re completely swept up in his provocative and at times even charming world. Exhalation, Chiang’s latest collection of stories covering almost 20 years of his work, gathers nine tales that ponder questions of the nature of consciousness, the rigidity of history, our relationship with the machines that increasingly take control of our lives and more. In the title story, the narrator uses their own artificial lungs as the basis for a study on the nature of reality. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” Chiang explores time travel as it might have existed in a time before science fiction pushed it into the public consciousness. “The Great Silence,” one of the book’s shortest tales, explores the intellect and mortality of a parrot. Then there’s the collection’s centerpiece, the novella-length “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” which explores the growth and developing lives of a group of digital organisms and the humans who care for them. Each story is a carefully considered, finely honed machine designed to entertain, but this collection also forces you to look at things like your smartphone or your pet with new eyes. What makes Exhalation particularly brilliant is that not one of the stories feels like it’s designed to be thought-provoking in a stilted, academic way. Chiang is an entertaining, empathetic writer first, before being one of contemporary sci-fi’s intellectual powerhouses, and each story reads that way. Exhalation is a must-read for any fan of exquisitely crafted sci-fi. exhalation
  • Furious Hours by Casey Cep:  This wonderful book tells the strange saga of Reverend Willie Maxwell, a black Alabama preacher accused of murdering five members of his family for insurance money in the 1970s. Law enforcement officers and insurance officials suspected something was up but had no hard evidence, while Maxwell’s followers whispered rumors of voodoo after his relatives kept turning up dead by the side of the road. At the funeral of Maxwell’s last victim, his 16-year-old stepdaughter, he was shot dead by one of the girl’s relatives, Robert Burns, who until that moment had been a hardworking, law-abiding family man. Amazingly, despite the fact that hundreds of mourners witnessed the shooting, Burns was ultimately acquitted of his crime. Attending the trial was Harper Lee, who wrote that Maxwell “might not have believed in what he preached, he might not have believed in voodoo, but he had a profound and abiding belief in insurance.” After studying law at the University of Alabama, Lee was naturally intrigued by the Maxwell story–although she realized “all too well that the story of a black serial killer wasn’t what readers would expect from the author of To Kill a Mockingbird.” She spent nearly a decade working on a manuscript she called “The Reverend” but ultimately abandoned the project, much to the disappointment of many of the citizens of Alexander City, where Maxwell’s murder took place. Cep, a thorough researcher and polished writer, divides this sprawling tale into three parts:  first telling Maxwell’s story, then chronicling the lawyer who once had Maxwell as a client and ultimately represented Maxwell’s killer, and finally explaining the famous novelist’s fascination with and involvement in the case. All in all, Furious Hours offers an absorbing glimpse into the gifted but guarded life of this enigmatic literary hero. furious hours
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo:  Emoni Santiago, known for her amazing skills in the kitchen, is a senior at her Philadelphia charter school, but her family is closer to the forefront of her mind than classes and college applications. Her 2-year-old daughter, Emma, whom Emoni calls “Babygirl,” has just started daycare. Babygirl’s father, Tyrone, is sweet to the child, but he’s a headache for Emoni. Emoni’s own father, Julio, is an activist who couldn’t handle single parenthood after Emoni’s mother, a black woman from North Carolina, died during childbirth. Now, when Julio visits from Puerto Rico, he leaves without goodbyes. And Emoni’s grandmother, ‘Buela, keeps having doctor’s appointments that she doesn’t fully explain. But at school, a new guy is testing Emoni’s resolve not to deal with pretty boys, and then there’s the elective class she’s taking a chance on–culinary arts. When Emoni cooks at home, her dishes are inspired and have the power to bring people to tears. (Readers can try out Emoni’s dishes for themselves with the many recipes peppered throughout.) But the class assignments feature as much science as they do art, more discipline than creativity, and Emoni isn’t the school-achievement type. Plus, she’s not sure what to do about the culinary class’s study-abroad trip to Spain, which she has no money for. Readers will connect with Emoni as she navigates complex relationships, her irritation at being misunderstood and her self-identity with confidence and sass while trying to keep her dreams realistic and motherhood on the front burner. This book stands out for its unique, realistic subject matter and memorable characters. with the fire on high
  • The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer:  Varian Fry was a young Harvard-educated journalist and editor who worked for the American Emergency Rescue Committee during World War II. His primary goal was to prevent notable artists, writers and political exiles, many of them Jewish, from being interned in concentration camps. Stationed in Marseilles in 1940, Fry procured visas, created false passports and sought out escape routes on both sea and land for almost 2,000 people, including Marc Chagall, Andre Breton and Max Ernst. His inherently dramatic tale is the basis for Julie Orringer’s thoughtful and absorbing new novel, The Flight Portfolio. For just over a year, Fry and a core staff of Jewish and non-Jewish expats focused their efforts in the south of France, collaborating with an extensive network of forgers, blackmailers and petty thieves. Working out of a hotel room, Fry eventually rented a villa to provide a temporary home for refugees who needed a safe residence. The Flight Portfolio opens after an unpersuasive visit to the Chagalls, who show no interest in leaving France. Fry is approached by Elliott Schiffman Grant, an old friend and lover from her student days at Harvard, where both men were part of Lincoln Kirstein’s inner circle. Now teaching at Columbia, Shiffman–or Skiff, as he is called–has followed his German-born Jewish lover, Gregor Katznelson, to Europe in hope of locating Katznelson’s son. Both father and son need to leave Europe, and swiftly. Although Fry and Skiff haven’t seen each other in over a decade, they become romantically involved as they work together to provide the Katznelsons with safe passage. This book mixes historical fact with imaginative fiction. Though Skiff is an invention, Fry’s bisexuality is well documented, and Orringer makes use of the relationship to explore Fry’s sense of growing empathy and to highlight the moral issues inherent in deciding who is and who is not “worth” saving. Orringer is a meticulous researcher, and the novel’s cloak-and-dagger thrills keep the pace lively in this lengthy but intriguing tale of resilience and resistance. flight portfolio
  • Lanny by Max Porter:  This book is the ultimate incarnation of nature and its pitiless sovereignty:  a being who haunts the edges of a village, chronicling every word uttered in pub, house or street. It calls to the sweet, brilliant boy Lanny, drawing him into the woods, away from his parents’ home and from his kind old friend Mad Pete. The creature summons little Lanny to a doom we cannot know or understand, even after we’ve read this magnificent story. This awful, awesome personage–this human-hungry thing–goes by many names, such as Dead Papa Toothwort, Pan, Oberon or the Green Man. Toothwort sings the ancient, recurrent Song of the Earth, rising above a chorus of perplexed and panicked human voices. Boy, mother, father, artist, the entire village–all must face the music. All are done for. Lanny is one of the most beautiful novels of the past decade. lanny
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips:  Although it may seem that every square inch of the earth has been mapped, there are still places that are mysterious. The Kamchatka Peninsula is one such place. You’ve seen it on a map, extending like a swollen appendage from the northeastern edge of Russia into the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Okhotsk. Maybe you’ve wondered about the people who live there. Does anyone live there? Of course, people do live in Kamchatka, both in real life and in Julia Phillips’ powerful debut novel. There are those from the indigenous and the white Russian population. The book opens when two little white girls are snatched from the seaside by a creep. The rest of the book concerns both the search for these two girls and the mystery of how they could have vanished on a peninsula all but cut off from the rest of Russia by a mountain range. The book’s many characters are introduced in the preface, which calls to mind all those classic Russian novels with sprawling casts. But at the same time, Disappearing Earth is utterly contemporary. Cellphones are as inescapable in Kamchatka as they are anywhere else, even though they’re frequently out of range. Phillips’ focus in on her female characters. There are the missing Golosovsky girls and their desperate mother; unhappy schoolgirls; a new mother going out of her mind with boredom; and a bitter vulcanologist with a missing dog. We hear from a native woman whose own daughter disappeared years before, as well as from her other daughter and her daughter’s children. Most of these women brush or bump up against each other, connected, sometimes tenuously, by the disappearance of the Golosovsky girls. The men in their lives aren’t so much useless as they are in the way. The cops give up the search, and husbands, fathers, boyfriends and brothers just don’t get it. Besides the deep humanity of her characters, Phillips’ portrayal of Kamchatka itself is superb. Has there ever been a novel, even by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, set in such a strange, ancient, beautiful place, with its glaciers and volcanoes and endless cold? It’s a place where  miracles might happen–where what is lost can once again be found–if you jump over a traditional New Year’s fire in just the right way. Phillips’ stunning novel dares to imagine the possibilities. disappearing earth
  • The British Are Coming by Rick Atkinson:  This book begins in 1775 with the lead-up to the battles of Lexington and Concord and ends in January 1777 after the battles of Trenton and Princeton. Many of us have heard of these places, and some of us have visited them. One of the many virtues of Atkinson’s skill as a researcher and writer is that he is able to strip away contemporary accretions and give readers a tactile sense of those times and lands. Few of the Founding Fathers appear in these pages; they are off in Philadelphia writing their declarations and acts of the Continental Congress. But Ben Franklin, nearing 70, makes an arduous winter journey to Quebec as the Americans try and disastrously fail to split Canada away from Great Britain. Then there is Henry Knox, an overweight bookseller who turns out to be a brilliant artillery strategist. And the brothers Howe, leaders of the British Army and Navy, waver between punishing their enemies and treating them lightly to coax them back into the arms of the mother country. Towering above them all is George Washington, famous for his physical grace and horsemanship. During much of this time, he is such a failure that some officers plot against him, and he fears being dismissed as the military leader. Under his leadership, the army retreats again and again and again. The enemy mocks Washington, ironically calling him “the old fox.” He must beg soldiers to stay when their enlistments expire. He endures. One of this book’s great achievements is that it gives readers the visceral sense of just how much the American forces endured. It’s moving to read accounts from soldiers who slept on the snow and frozen ground with their bare feet to a fire, then rose and marched without shoes or jackets to cross the icy Delaware river on Christmas night 1776 to rout British-paid mercenaries in Trenton. The British Are Coming is a superb ode to the grit and everyday heroism that eventually won the war. british are coming
  • Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene:  A parentless child is an orphan. A spouse whose partner dies is a widow. But what, muses Jayson Greene, do you call a parent whose child has died? “It seems telling to me there is no word in our language for our situation,” he writes. “It is unspeakable, and by extension, we are not supposed to exist.” Greene and his wife, Stacy, find themselves in this nameless state after their only child, Greta, dies at age 2. Greta was sitting on a bench with her grandmother when a brick fell from a nearby windowsill and struck her on the head. The couple quickly turn to one another for comfort; while some families are torn apart by such a tragedy, the Greenes find hope in working through their grief together. But grief is a tremendous thing, and mourning Greta is a gargantuan task. Jayson and Stacy open themselves to healing possibilities outside of their norm. They didn’t think of themselves as the sort of people who would turn to a medium in times of grief, but she becomes part of their journey when the couple travels to the Kripalu Institute for a seminar called “From Grieving to Believing.” A grief expert at this retreat tells them, “Grief is a reflection of a connection that has been lost…It is a reflection of that love you had for that individual.” The Greenes find comfort in these words, and in the family and friends who rally around them. Even as they move forward–sometimes literally, like when they sell their home–the Greenes carry Greta’s memory and their pain. “The act of grieving our daughter continues on, and on, and on,” Greene writes. “We have held our firstborn child’s corpse in our arms, and now there is no limit to what we can endure.” Once More We Saw Stars isn’t about the tragedy that befell a family–although Greene recounts with exquisite detail how he felt in the tragic days that ended his daughter’s life. The memoir is instead a story of a couple who faced one of the worst things imaginable and still continued to choose life. once more we saw stars
  • If She Wakes by Michael Koryta:  Imagine waking to realize that you can’t move, you can’t speak or even blink, yet you’re fully aware of everything and everyone around you. Then imagine there is a crazed killer who will stop at nothing to extract a secret from you. For Hammel College senior Tara Beckley, she doesn’t have to imagine it. It’s real. And it’s terrifying. That’s the frightening premise of If She Wakes, the newest novel from thriller master Michael Koryta. Events start innocently enough as Tara chauffeurs professor Amandi Oltamu across town to deliver the keynote address at her Maine liberal arts school’s conference. When Oltamu asks her to stop, she figures he simply has the jitters about his speech. But he follows up with an odd request to take a picture of her on his cellphone and then to lock the phone in the glovebox of her car. Again, she obliges. But before they can get underway again, the pair are struck by an apparently out of control driver. Oltamu is instantly killed in the collision while Tara is knocked senseless, only to “wake” in the hospital surrounded by doctors and family. Koryta puts the reader in Tara’s shoes for some truly claustrophobic chapters in which her predicament is made all too clear. She can’t move, she can’t communicate, but she can hear everyone as they discuss her fate. While staying in Tara’s tortured mind is harrowing enough, Koryta throws in a few other characters and half dozen plot twists to ratchet up the tension even further. Insurance investigator Abby Kaplan discovers Oltamu’s phone, while Dax Blackwell, a young hitman out to prove himself worthy of his father’s legacy, strives to take it from her. But it won’t do either of them any good unless Tara can unlock its secrets. Koryta keeps the action fast and furious, tempered with his characters’ determination to persevere against all odds. if she wakes
  • No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder:  “I talk to a lot of people who don’t want to talk to me,” writes author Rachel Louise Snyder on the first page of No Visible Bruises. She begins with the case of Michelle Mosure Monson, fatally shot by her abusive husband, Rocky. He also killed their two children before committing suicide. Years later, Snyder sat down with Michelle’s father, trying to unravel what happened. She watched hours of home videos. She connected with Michelle’s family, law enforcement and community members who were traumatized by the crime. Most didn’t want to talk about Michelle. They felt complicit, wracked with regret and grief. The suffering induced by domestic violence is bigger than we can begin to understand, Snyder explains. Because these crimes are generally perceived as private, it’s nearly impossible to trace the collective impact. Snyder sets herself to the task, arguing that we need a broader research-based view of domestic violence. Snyder’s careful reporting about Michelle’s case lays the foundation for the many other stories she examines. Beyond the victims and their families, Snyder profiles several men who are trying to overcome their violent tendencies. She visits them in prison and sit in on counseling sessions, showing how hard it is for them to be aware of their processes of escalation–and how easy it is for them to slip back into violent tendencies that put them and those around them at risk. Finally, Snyder examines what interventions are interrupting the cycle of violence. This section offers tangible hope that our collective efforts, especially those that unite professionals around high-risk cases, can result in real change. Although No Visible Bruises is not easy or light reading, Snyder’s willingness to tell the intimate stories of domestic violence sheds light on an often neglected subject. All of us have a stake in becoming more aware of and responsive to private violence, and this book proves why. no visible bruises
  • Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell:  A young man falls in love with a 2,000-year-old girl he discovers in a Northern European peat bog. A young woman unwittingly becomes the human  host of a Joshua tree, while her boyfriend struggles to understand this startling change in their budding relationship. During a nostalgic visit to a tornado auction, an old man impulsively buys and rears one last tornado as he reviews his life choices. A woman strikes a bargain to breastfeed the devil to protect her unborn son. These are just a few of the brilliantly inventive premises of Karen Russell’s wonderful new collection of short stories. However, Orange World and Other Stories is so much more than fresh plots. Russell ties these seemingly disparate tales together with a pervading theme of alienation:  from the past, from family, from nature. Furthermore, despite their surreal nature, Russell grounds each story in human experience, both poignant and hilarious in turn. In “Orange World,” a mother is desperate to protect her infant son after the pain of repeated miscarriage. In “Bog Girl:  A Romance,” another mother makes the same remarks about her son’s new, albeit dead, girlfriend that mothers around the world have made. Underlying all of this is the exquisite beauty of Russell’s sentences, which will repeatedly surprise readers with their imagery and masterful language. orange world
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins:  Former slave Frannie Langton is warned early in her service to her London employer, George Benham, that “a good servant must know her place, to be content in it.” Frannie readily admits that this has “always been my trouble. Never knowing my place or being content in it.” Frannie, who is fiercely independent, immediately likable and stubbornly contrary to the expectations of her role in society, shares many such admissions while awaiting trial for the murder of Benham and his wife, Marguerite. What Frannie can’t account for is how she wound up covered in their blood and being charged with their murders. In an effort to make sense of it all, Frannie pens her life story from jail. What follows is a literary sojourn as Frannie explores her place in history through race, class and sexuality. Set in the early 1800s, The Confessions of Frannie Langton begins with Frannie’s life as a slave on a Jamaican plantation and her education in reading and writing. From there, she recounts how she attained her “freedom” when her master took her to London, where he “gifted” her to the Benhams, and how she eventually began a love affair with Marguerite. The story casually meanders through Frannie’s narrative in a mostly linear fashion but is interspersed with snippets from the trial in progress, including damning testimony and fiery newspaper accounts, making certain that readers don’t forget what’s at stake. confessions of frannie langton
  • Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak:  Two complex women inhabit Anna Pitoniak’s second psychologically astute novel, Necessary People–recent college graduates who’ve become the closest of friends, though they’re opposites in so many ways. Stella Bradley comes from a wealthy New York family, has two doting parents and a home on Long Island Sound featuring a carriage house, a pear orchard, a swimming pool and a dock stretching out into the water. Not much of a student, she enrolls at a small New England college because, in her own words, she’s “rick, and lazy.” Violet Trapp was raised by abusive parents in a “mildewed apartment with roaches” in Tallahassee. She’s an outstanding student who turns down a full scholarship to Duke against her counselor’s advice. Instead, she picks a school based solely on a five-minute conversation with Stella during orientation. Violet spends holidays and summers with the Bradleys, and after graduation, she and Stella share an apartment in New York City, mostly funded by Stella’s parents. Violet follows her love of journalism to an internship at a new TV channel, King Cable News. She quickly rises through the ranks, becoming an assistant and then assistant producer. She loves the challenge and relishes the sense of accomplishment she experiences as her work is recognized by those above her on the network ladder. Stella, however, is floundering–spending her parents’ money “like it was water,” her days “a chick-lit fantasy come alive,” in Violet’s own words. When Stella’s brother tells Violet that Stella is actually jealous of her, Violet doesn’t believe it at first. But then Stella uses one of her mother’s lofty connections to land a job at King News, and her beauty and outgoing personality catapult her to an anchor job, overshadowing Violet’s hard-earned accomplishments. Their longtime friendship gives way to ambition, each one feeling threatened by the other’s success. Pitoniak perceptively traces the fracture of Violet and Stella’s sisterlike bond, leading to a denouement the reader will not anticipate. The author’s insightful glimpse into the competitive world of television news, as well as her spot-on portraits of these two ambitious women, come together in an emotional, gripping novel sure to become a popular summer read. necessary people
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane:  In the early 1970s, Francis Gleason, an immigrant from Ireland, and Brian Stanhope attend the New York City police academy together and are paired in field training. Francis quickly marries Anne, a nurse and Irish immigrant. Brian marries Lena, the daughter of Polish and Italian immigrants. Though their career trajectories are different, within a year or two, Francis and Brian end up as neighbors in a suburban town about 20 miles north of New York. The families are not close. In fact, Anne is unstable and aggressively antisocial. But Brian and Anne’s only son, Peter, and Francis and Lena’s youngest daughter, Kate, develop an extraordinary bond. When Peter and Kate are in eighth grade, Anne commits an act of violence that rips both families apart. All of this happens within the first quarter of Ask Again, Yes. The rest of the beautifully observed story is about the course of Peter’s and Kate’s lives–and through them, their families’–as they find and lose and find each other again. Not surprisingly, it is a fraught journey, shadowed by the dark bruises of their histories. Time, it seems, does not heal all wounds. But it does heal some. To say much more would betray a narrative that holds many surprises, large and small. Keane sets her story among seemingly regular people in a normal-seeming American suburb. But Ask Again, Yes is a tale that will compel readers to think deeply about the ravages of unacknowledged mental illness, questions of family love and loyalty and the arduous journey toward healing and forgiveness. ask again yes
  • The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary:  Tiffy loves her job as assistant editor for a publisher of DIY books. That’s the only reason she can justify sticking around despite the dismal pay. But after her boyfriend dumps her–for real, this time–she’s got to find a flat with rent she can afford. Leon needs extra cash, and he’s willing to get creative. Working overnight shifts as a palliative care nurse means his place is vacant when most people are home. Why not rent it out? Though it means designating which side of  his bed is his and sharing it with a stranger, Leon is willing to go to extremes. His family needs his help. The flatmates follow a strict schedule to ensure that they won’t meet–a rule Leon’s girlfriend establishes before agreeing to this arrangement. But they begin to get to know each other through notes. Their correspondence starts when Tiffy leaves a sticky note next to a plate of oatmeal bars, and Leon continues it as he realizes how much of the snack he’s consumed. The pair builds a friendship, sight unseen, and their curiosity about each other grows. Peppered with amusing quips and multidimensional characters, this quick, engaging read is labeled a romantic comedy, but it also grapples with some of life’s more difficult moments. Even readers skeptical of the novel’s fanciful premise may find themselves surprised by the thoughtful way O’Leary faces not only new love but also the traces of individual pasts. flatshare

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • Trust Exercise by Susan Choi:  In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed–or untoyed with–by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley. The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls–until it odes, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true–though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place–revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence. trust exercise
  • A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell:  In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission:  “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it. Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day. Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. woman of no importance
  • Outside Looking In by T.C. Boyle:  In 1943, LSD is synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of grad students at Harvard are gradually drawn into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, become entranced by the drug’s possibilities such that their “research” becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead turns into a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living. With his trademark humor and pathos, Boyle moves us through the Loneys’ initiation at one of Leary’s parties to his notorious summer seminars in Zihuatanejo until the Loneys’ eventual expulsion from Harvard and their introduction to a communal arrangement of thirty devotees–students, wives, and children–living together in a sixty-four room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning. Is LSD a belief system? Does it allow you to see God? Can the Loneys’ marriage–or any marriage, for that matter–survive the chaotic and sometimes orgiastic use of psychedelic drugs? Wry, witty, and wise, Outside Looking In is an ideal subject for this American master, and highlights Boyle’s acrobatic prose, detailed plots, and big ideas. It’s an utterly engaging and occasionally trippy look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness, as well as our seemingly infinite capacities for creativity, re-invention, and self-discovery. outside looking in
  • Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan:  Soldier, son, lover, husband, breadwinner, churchgoer, Henry Maxwell has spent his whole life trying to live with honor. A native Pittsburgher and engineer, he’s always believed in logic, sacrifice, and hard work. Now, seventy-five and retired, he feels the world has passed him by. It’s 1998, the American century is ending, and nothing is simple anymore. His children are distant, their unhappiness a mystery. Only his wife Emily and dog Rufus stand by him. Once so confident, as Henry’s strength and memory desert him, he weighs his dreams against  his regrets and is left with questions he can’t answer:  Is he a good man? Has he done right by the people he loves? And with time running out, what, realistically, can he hope for? This book is a wry, warmhearted portrait of an American original who believes he’s reached a dead end only to discover life is full of surprises. henry himself
  • How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow:  16-year-old Tiger Tolliver never wanted to learn how to make friends with the dark. But that’s what happens when her mom dies unexpectedly and her ensuing grief becomes overwhelming. “If you looked at yourself in a mirror right now, could you see pieces of bone close to the surface?” Tiger wonders. “Is this how it will feel every day from now on?” Tiger may be strong, but she’s genuinely scared of what’s to come. She initially channels her “Grand Canyon of grief” by wearing the same ugly dress for days on end–the same dress that Tiger and her mom argued about. During that argument, they exchanged their last words. In these early days of grieving, Tiger feels like she is surrounded by the dark. All she feels is fear, sadness and uncertainty as she takes on the responsibilities of organizing her mother’s funeral and end-of-life documents. She never knew her father, and she doesn’t have any extended family that she knows of, so she becomes a ward of the state of Arizona, and she’s soon shuttled from foster home to foster home. When a previously unknown half-sister is discovered, Tiger becomes her charge, and together they reach out to their incarcerated father and try to navigate an uncertain (but hopefully forward-looking) future as a family. This book is an honest and extremely harrowing read. As young readers take this journey with Tiger, they will learn that grief takes all forms and that life, somehow, does go on–even amid the surrounding dark.  how to make friends with the dark

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb:  One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but. As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives–a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys–she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell. With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.  maybe you should talk to someone
  • Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl:  When Conde Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. Yet Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no? This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media–the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down. Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams–even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.   save me the plums
  • Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger:  Helen Clapp’s breakthrough work on five-dimensional spacetime landed her a tenured professorship at MIT; her popular books explain physics in plain terms. Helen disdains notions of the supernatural in favor of rational thought and proven ideas. So it’s perhaps especially vexing for her when, on an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday in June, she gets a phone call from a friend who has just died. That friend was Charlotte Boyce, Helen’s roommate at Harvard. The two women had once confided in each other about everything–in college, the unwanted advances Charlie received from a star literature professor; after graduation, Helen’s struggles as a young woman in science, Charlie’s as a black screenwriter in Hollywood, their shared challenges as parents. But as the years passed, Charlie became more elusive, and her calls came less and less often. And now she’s permanently, tragically gone. As Helen is drawn back into Charlie’s orbit, and also into the web of feeling she once had for Neel Jonnal–a former college classmate now an acclaimed physicist on the verge of a Nobel Prize-winning discovery–she is forced to question the laws of the universe that had always steadied her mind and heart. Suspenseful, perceptive, deeply affecting, Lost and Wanted is a story of friends and lovers, lost and found, at the most defining moments of their lives.   lost and wanted
  • Metropolis by Philip Kerr:  Summer, 1928. Berlin, a city where nothing is verboten. In the night streets, political gangs wander, looking for fights. Daylight reveals a beleaguered populace barely recovering from the postwar inflation, often jobless, reeling from the reparations imposed by the victors. At central police HQ, the Murder Commission has its hands full. A killer is on the loose and though he scatters many clues, each is a dead end. It’s almost as if he is taunting the cops. Meanwhile, the press is having a field day. This is what Bernie Gunther finds on his first day with the Murder Commission. He’s been taken on because the people at the top have noticed him–they think he has the makings of a first-rate detective. But not just yet. Right now, he has to listen and learn. Metropolis, completed just before Philips Kerr’s untimely death, is the capstone of a fourteen-book journey through the life of Kerr’s signature character, Bernhard Gunther, a sardonic and wisecracking homicide detective caught up in an increasingly Nazified Berlin police department. In many ways, it is Bernie’s origin story and, as Kerr’s last novel, it is also, alas, his end.   metropolis
  • The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler:  In rural north Georgia two decades after the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Lulu Hurst reaches high into her father’s bookshelf and pulls out an obscure book, The Truth of Mesmeric Influence. Deemed gangly and undesirable, Lulu wants more than a lifetime of caring for her disabled baby brother, Leo, with whom she shares a profound and supernatural mental connection. “I only wanted to be Lulu Hurst, the girl who captivated her brother until he could walk and talk and stand tall on his own. Then I would be the girl who could leave.” Lulu begins to “captivate” her friends and family, controlling their thoughts and actions for brief moments at a time. After Lulu convinces a cousin she conducts electricity with her touch, her father sees a unique opportunity. He grooms his tall and indelicate daughter into an electrifying new woman:  The Magnetic Girl. Lulu travels the Eastern seaboard, captivating enthusiastic crowds by lifting grown men in parlor chairs and throwing them across the stage with her “electrical charge.” While adjusting to life on the vaudeville stage, Lulu harbors a secret belief that she can use her newfound gifts, as well as her growing notoriety, to heal her brother. As she delves into the mysterious book’s pages, she discovers keys to her father’s past and her own future–but how will she harness its secrets to heal her family?    magnetic girl

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee:  Despite the dark legacy of colonialism, it’s unquestionable that Christopher Columbus was a master mariner, explorer and promoter. He also had apocalyptic beliefs about the end of days that were either visionary or bizarre, depending on your point of view. His admiring son Hernando Colon, educated in Renaissance humanism, downplayed his father’s millenarian ideas when he wrote his biography of Columbus. But Colon had the same wide-ranging imagination as his father, no matter how different their beliefs. Born out of wedlock in 1488 but acknowledged by Columbus, Colon was a brilliant man whose intellectual ambitions directly provided the seed for modern libraries and whose sorting system indirectly anticipated internet search engines. Edward Wilson-Lee’s engaging new biography of Colon is at once an adventure tale and a history of ideas that continue to resonate. As a teenager, Colon accompanied Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Caribbean. But as an adult, his own ambitions led him to the great European book marts, where he conceived his dream of a universal library that would include every book ever printed. He collected thousands of books, pamphlets and prints–the “shipwrecked books” of Wilson-Lee’s title were some 1,700 from Venice lost on a voyage back to Spain. As he assembled his vast library in Seville, Colon led a project to describe all of Spain in a gazetteer, created a pioneering botanical garden and was the top Spanish negotiator (and probably spy) in a dispute with Portugal. But his greatest legacy was his series of book catalogs that attempted to categorize all human knowledge, a pre-digital Google. After Colon’s death in 1539, his library ended up at Seville Cathedral, where it remains, sadly reduced in size by theft, mold and the Inquisition. Happily, Wilson-Lee’s insightful and entertaining work refreshes the memory of Colon’s sweeping vision.  catalogue of shipwrecked books
  • SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson:  Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speak, drastically changed the ways in which authors wrote about teenage characters, helping to usher in the modern young adult genre as we know it today. After Anderson’s story of a high school student reckoning with the rage and pain of her rape became a bestseller, the dark and painful parts of adolescent life were up for exploring, and the coming-of-age experience was worth writing about. Now, Anderson is breaking ground again with a memoir-in-verse that challenges categorization and the ways we’ve thought about the YA genre for the past 20 years. Anderson, now 57, begins with short glimpses into her tumultuous early childhood in upstate New York, and we quickly learn about her veteran father’s PTSD and ensuing domestic violence, which informed her 2014 novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory.  But the ferociously raw, burning heart of this memoir is the recounting of her rape at the age of 13. In searing free verse, Anderson unloads decades of trauma on these pages. Although younger teens will benefit from being able to unpack and discuss many passages with a parent or other adult, there’s good reason to believe that this book will become popular assigned reading in classrooms around the country.   shout
  • Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins:  Twenty-four-year-old Wendell Newman is having a rough go of things when we first meet him in this heart-wrenching debut novel from Pushcart Prize winner Joe Wilkins. Wendell lost his father at an early age, his mother has just died after a long illness that’s left him with overdue medical bills, he owes back taxes on his parents’ property, and he has less than $100 in his bank account. His life is as bleak as the “bruised and dark” mountains of Montana in which he lives. When a social worker unexpectedly places Wendell’s 7-year-old nephew into his care after the boy’s mother is incarcerated on drug charges, Wendell has good reason to fall further into despair. The boy, Rowdy Burns, is traumatized  himself. He won’t speak, is “developmentally delayed,” and he has uncontrollable fits. But Wendell, who remains haunted by his father’s violent death years ago, sees something of himself in his young charge and a chance, perhaps, to give Rowdy the life he couldn’t have. He enrolls Rowdy in school, takes the boy to work with him and shares lessons learned from the land and wilderness. Wilkins, who grew up in rural Montana where this story is set, details the pair’s growing bond and sense of hope with vivid, heartfelt strokes–before, just as powerfully, pulling the rug out from under them. On one front, an overprotective teacher threatens to separate them in the mistaken belief that Wendell may be abusing the boy. And on another, neighboring ranchers opposed to government overreach onto their properties bring their conflicts to Wendell’s doorstep. Chaos and tragedy ensue, placing Wendell and Rowdy in a desperate bid for survival, while ultimately asking if it’s possible to escape the fate–and the land–they were born into. fall back down when I die
  • The Parade by Dave Eggers:  This is a short book but not at the expense of anything it needs to function as a taut, direct and lean narrative. There’s not an ounce of fat on this book, and that makes it both inviting and the kind of novel that will linger in your brain for hours, even days, after you’ve read it. Eggers sets his tale in a nameless country just coming out of a painful civil war. Two men, who refer to themselves by numbers rather than names to simplify their relationship, have been hired to pave a road that serves as both a symbolic and literal unifier of the country. It’s a simple job, largely automated thanks to sophisticated machinery, but the two men approach it very differently. One is businesslike, Spartan and committed to keeping to his schedule without any complications, while the other is carefree and eager to take in the culture. As the road project marches along and their journey becomes complicated by their conflicting personalities, the novel asks us to ponder the dueling ideas of isolation and immersion in a foreign land, and how much is too much of either. The novel is sparse, free of proper names and major geographic and political details because it doesn’t need them. In deliberate, measured prose, Eggers marches his characters down the road toward uncertainty, building tension and conflict until the novel’s complex and thoughtful climax. The purposeful vagueness makes the novel feel timeless and universal, while Eggers’ way of pouring on the emotional details when it really counts makes it haunting. This is a tight, thrilling brisk read that will make you ponder your place in the world. parade
  • The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley:  “Let me tell you how they break you,” says Dietz, a young soldier with a number of regrets, describing the grim reality behind a dream of military glory. “From the minute you step off the transport at the training base…you aren’t doing anything right. You don’t walk right, look right, talk right…No one likes you, let alone loves you. In great shape? It’s not enough. Smart? That’s worse.” Within a week, the victim of this treatment is fundamentally changed:  “You yearn to kill, because it’s the only thing that gets your DI to love you. When you withhold all praise, people will do anything to get it. They’ll eat each other, if they need to.” For you English majors out there, the thrum of Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the title of Kameron Hurley’s latest is as intentional as you’d expect, but you may be more immediately reminded of his embittered successors Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The characters, no older than the youths of WWI’s trenches, have ample material for a lifetime of shellshock before they’re out of basic training. Within three chapters they’re bonding over a bout of deadly illness caused by the medical treatments that the battlefield of the future demands.  This book has the kind of gimmick memorable enough to stick in the mind after a glance at the jacket flap–at war with a terrorist colony on Mars, Earth has solved the problem of interstellar travel by transforming its soldiers into light, enabling them to “drop” from Earth to a distant planet at light speed. It would be easy to hang an entire novel on the strength of this conceit, with its blazing metaphorical resonances (“Nobody ever thinks they chose the wrong side,” says Dietz, on whom these are not lost. “We all think we’re made of light.”) and its attendant drawbacks, which would do Cronenberg proud (the human components sometimes reconfigure in the wrong order, and a dropper who remains intact still runs the risk of materializing underground or inside a solid structure). Instead, Hurley uses it as the starting point for an old-fashioned tale of time displacement. It becomes quickly apparent that for Dietz, the “drops” are happening in the wrong order, shuffling the young recruit all over the longer timeline of the war from one drop to the next. As complicated as this device may seem, it works because it remains fully in service to a story about war and its human cost. Dietz’s disorientation (how much time has really passed?) feels as much a reaction to the routine horror of combat as the confusion of an accidental time-traveler. The wider cast, though intriguing and full of individual quirks, never come through for the reader in the way Dietz does, with good reason. The isolation inherent to living out events in the wrong sequence forcibly evokes the isolation of active duty. While Hurley leaves several character elements to be unwound with the story–blink and you’ll miss the fleeting mention of the protagonist’s gender–there is nothing coy about this book. It definitely deserves a reread.    light brigade
  • The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (e-book):  This book follows a family of three grown sisters after Althea, the oldest sister and the family matriarch, is sent to jail along with her husband. Her sisters, Viola and Lillian, must rise to the occasion to care for Althea’s twin daughters. While each woman battles demons of her own, they take turns carrying the story, each adding a beautiful and vivid layer to the plot as the narrative torch is passed. Viola, the middle sister, struggles with the eating disorder that has plagued her for years. As she contemplates whether or not she has what it takes to raise her teenage nieces, she’s also trying to reconcile her own marriage. Lillian, the youngest, has tenaciously held onto and restored her family’s old house, a place where she experienced profound pain and loneliness during her adolescence. She has a history of taking on the responsibilities of other people’s families:  Along with Althea’s twin daughters, Lillian cares for her late ex-husband’s grandmother, Nai Nai. Althea’s twins are as different as sisters can be and have dealt with the fallout of their parents’ incarceration in vastly different ways. When Kim, the more headstrong of the twins, goes missing, Lillian and Violet must band together to bring her home. The fourth narrator is Proctor, Althea’s husband, whose capacity for love is apparent in his letters to his wife. Through these letters, Proctor offers a subtle but brilliant contrast to the women’s internal monologues. Through these intimate perspectives, the family becomes a breathing entity, giving space to peripheral characters such as the parents (both deceased) and the brother, a troubled teen turned preacher. This book has an unforgettable force. Gray possesses the ability to avoid judging her flawed, utterly human characters, who are without exception crafted from the heart.    care and feeding of ravenously hungry girls
  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams:  At the start of Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel, Queenie Jenkins has just endured a messy breakup with her longtime boyfriend. A 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman living in London, Queenie is funny, clever and curvaceous. First to finish college in her family, she has landed a respected job with the local newspaper, where she hopes to do big things. But when her white boyfriend, Tom, unexpectedly ends their relationship, Queenie spirals through a series of self-destructive decisions until her self-worth is down in the dumps. Helping her navigate the doldrums–as well as a series of terrible choices in men from online dating apps–are perhaps some of the best girlfriends a person could ask for. Queenie is lucky to be surrounded by caring friends, family and boss. But that doesn’t stop her from constantly questioning how her race, the color of her skin and the size of her body will ever be good enough. Queenie, in essence, is every modern black woman who has ever questioned her abilities and her place in this world. With resonant reflections on race, relationships, sex and friendships, this book is a terrific debut that’s delivered with a touch of British humor and plenty of feel-good moments. queenie
  • The Other Americans by Laila Lalami:  When Driss Guerraoui, the owner of a diner near Joshua Tree National Park, leaves his restaurant one night, he’s killed in a mysterious hit-and-run while crossing the street. But this wasn’t an accident; it was murder, concludes his daughter Nora, as a variety of surprising details about her father’s life emerge. He was, after all, feuding with Anderson Baker, the owner of the bowling alley next door. As aspiring composer Nora returns to her hometown to help run the family diner and grieve with her mother and sister, she encounters a variety of ghosts from her childhood, including Baker’s son, A.J., who in high school wrote “raghead” on her locker, bullying her because her parents emigrated from Morocco out of fear of political unrest. Moroccan-born Laila Lalami was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Moor’s Account, and her much-anticipated fourth book, The Other Americans, doesn’t disappoint. The story carefully unfolds from multiple viewpoints, including that of Nora’s immigrant mother, Maryam; her jealous and seemingly highly successful sister, Salma; and even her dead father. There’s also Detective Coleman, an African-American woman investigating the case, as well as a Mexican immigrant who witnessed Driss’ death and remains haunted by his ghost but is afraid to come forward and risk deportation. Nora also reconnects with her high school friend Jeremy, now an Iraq War veteran and sheriff’s deputy. Lalami’s crisp, straightforward prose offers the perfect counterpoint to the complexity of her plot, which artfully interweaves past and present. Reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth in its depiction of the enduring effects of family secrets and betrayals, The Other Americans also addresses a multitude of other issues–immigration, prejudice, post-traumatic stress, love and murder–with what can only be described as magical finesse.other americans
  • In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston (e-book):  Shelly Laurenston returns to the uproarious, madcap adventures of her Honey Badger Chronicles with In a Badger Way. Hybrid shifter Stevie MacKilligan has met the one bear shifter who doesn’t make her fearful–Shen Li, bodyguard and Giant Panda. Stevie is a powerhouse due to the honey badger and tiger shifter abilities she shares. Unfortunately, she’s also a genius, highly sought after for her scientific insights, and prone to anxiety-induced panic attacks. It’s a deadly combination, especially as Stevie’s shifting becomes unpredictable when she’s riled up, anxious or off her much-needed medication. One of the few things that soothes her is Shen Li. Stevie thinks he’s adorable, given that he can shift into a Giant Panda instead of a terrifying bear that’ll send her blood pressure surging. When Shen is tasked with protecting and keeping the troublesome prodigy out of danger, he soon realizes this assignment should have come with a significant amount of hazard pay. A scientist is doing experiments on shifters and the MacKilligan sisters have their hands full with finding their evil cousins, who are just coming into their own powers. The combination of both plots make this an action-packed paranormal romance and for those new to Laurenston, the best advice is to strap in for the rollercoaster ride of brash heroines, snarky side characters and over-the-top fight scenes. Laurenston really is one of a kind when it comes to rip-roaring shifter shenanigans.  in a badger way
  • The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell:  Early in Namwali Serpell’s brilliant and many-layered debut novel, a turn-of-the-century British colonialist named Percy Clark wanders through the corner of what was then called Northwest Rhodesia (and is now the nation of Zambia) and complains:  “I do seem plagued by the unpunishable crimes of others.” It is, in a sense, a fitting slogan for the many ruinous aftereffects of colonialism, except here it is spoken by an agent and beneficiary of the colonizer. So begins The Old Drift, an expansive yet intricate novel that bends, inverts and at times ignores conventions of time and place. Part historical fiction, part futurism, part fantasy, Serpell’s hundred-year saga of three families and their intertwined fortunes is as unique as it is ambitious. And in just about every way, it succeeds. The story begins in 1904, when an unlikely incident (Percy accidentally rips a patch of hair off another man’s head) sets off a chain of events that reverberates through the decades. From there, Serpell introduces a cast of characters that ranges from the everyday to the fantastical. The book chronicles the interwoven lives of three families, cast against the creation of Zambia itself. There is a timeless quality to Serpell’s storytelling–or perhaps a sense that her novel moves almost independent of time. What starts as a story steeped in real colonial history eventually moves into the present and beyond–an invented near-future. In clumsier hands this complex, sprawling, century-spanning book might have easily folded in on itself, a victim of its scale and scope. Instead, The Old Drift holds together, its many strands diverging and converging in strange but undeniable rhythm. old drift
  • Murder by the Book by Claire Harman:  Claire Harman, previously a biographer of literary legends like Charlotte Bronte and Robert Louis Stevenson, has now set her sights on true crime with an intriguing, entertaining and occasionally gruesome mashup of mystery, biography, history and literary intrigue. Readers who delight in the likes of Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and the dark side of 19th-century London will find a haven here. Harman takes a storytelling approach to a crime that was the talk of 1840s London:  the murder of Lord William Russell. She sets the stage with a bloody, strange murder scene; unrest between servants and employers; and a conviction and punishment that don’t completely answer all the questions swirling around the tragic events. Woven throughout is the rising tide of blame aimed at violent novels. The wealthy became increasingly concerned that such novels were giving unsavory folk all kinds of ideas–after all, look at what happened to Lord Russell. It he wasn’t safe, who was? Armchair detectives will enjoy following along as Harman chronicles the investigation and its suspects, as well as the ways in which authors like Charles Dickens and William Thackeray were influenced by the goings-on (and, in Dickens’ care, later spurred to social activism). In two latter sections, Harman shares further fruits of her intensive research, offering a nice differentiation from present-day true crime books that cannot yet offer historical perspective. A fascinating, exhaustively researched exploration into how art can influence society and vice versa, Murder by the Book:  The Crime That Shocked Dickens’s London turns an unflinching eye to the ways in which biases born of economic inequality affect the way crimes are investigates and prosecuted. It’s a true crime devotee’s delight. murder by the book
  • A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie:  For young Ben and his posse at Bailey Academy, most of the grown-ups in their lives are either dead, dying or dysfunctional. But despite the bleak subject matter of Ann Beattie’s latest novel, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, Ben’s adolescent angst and ensuing quarter-life crisis is riven with hope and humor. The story begins when the bucolic bubble encompassing Ben’s posh New Hampshire boarding school is burst by news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, propelling the students further into the thrall of their Svengali-like teacher Pierre LaVerdere, whose role as their charismatic mentor and in loco parentis is solidified. Beattie’s novel moves from the abrupt conclusion of Ben and his friends’ boarding school days straight into young adulthood, giving only a cursory mention of their college days. Wealthy and smart, Ben and company were admitted to the likes of Cornell and Stanford, but their elite pedigrees have not prepared them for the indignities of the early aughts. Struggling to hold a steady job and even harder to maintain a relationship, Ben pivots between his devotion to a sex-crazed narcissist and his obsession with an old boarding school crush. When Ben escapes Manhattan and buys a house in the Hudson Valley’s idyllic Rhinebeck, he finds a kind of family in the warm embrace of his new neighbors, Steve, Ginny and their young daughter, Maude. Beattie’s belief in Ben’s inherent decency is  most evident in these passages, as our brooding antihero discovers friendship, camaraderie and a sense of belonging. Alas, without spoiling the ending, LaVerdere arrives back on the scene, delivering a shocking revelation that brings Ben–and readers–into the heart of Beattie’s postmodernist Greek tragedy, where the luck of these self-absorbed scions of the so-called “1 percent” is not nearly as wonderful as one might think. Beattie serves up an unflinchingly bleak–albeit sometimes laugh-out-loud humorous–serving of millennial malaise. It’s almost entirely character-driven, with plot far less important than dialogue, reflecting Beattie’s keen ear for not only what is said but also what is left unsaid, often with tragic consequences. wonderful stroke of luck

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • Never Tell by Lisa Gardner:  A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman – Evie Carter. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many. Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?  never tell
  • Savage Feast by Boris Fishman:  This memoir opens in the middle of the night, on a train at the border of Czechoslovakia, as Fishman, then 9 years old, and his parents and grandparents attempt to make their way from Soviet Belarus to a new life in the United States. The story then drops back to the lives of Fishman’s Jewish grandparents, detailing how they survived in Stalin-era Belarus in Eastern Europe. The author of two novels, Fishman lets his narrative move novelistically back and forth in time through key moments like his family’s emigration, their early days in Brooklyn and the recent past, when Fishman is uneasily tethered to his family’s foreignness. Fishman’s writing is brisk and vivid, and despite generations’ worth of trauma the family suffered, from pervasive anti-Semitism to the brutalities of World War II, his memoir is often funny. This book is mostly a coming-of-age story, as the young adult Fishman tries to find his place–and love–in his adopted country. Throughout, we see him visiting his grandfather’s Brooklyn apartment, where he’s fed an array of traditional Russian dishes prepared by his grandfather’s home-health aide, Oksana. As his grandfather grows sicker, and as Fishman suffers through a protracted depression and failed relationships, these traditional dishes–borscht, cabbage dumplings, latkes, rabbit braised in sour cream, ukha (salmon soup)–remain a comforting constant, and Fishman learns from Oksana how to cook them. That’s where this book departs from other memoirs:  Most chapters end with detailed recipes, adding a lovely, homey dimension.  savage feast
  • I.M. by Isaac Mizrahi:  Isaac Mizrahi is sui generis:  designer, cabaret performer, talk-show host, TV celebrity. Yet ever since he shot to fame in the late 1980s, the private Isaac Mizrahi has remained under wraps. Until  now. In this book, Isaac Mizrahi offers a poignant, candid, and touching look back on his life so far. Growing up gay in a sheltered Syrian Jewish Orthodox family, Isaac had unique talents that ultimately drew him into fashion and late into celebrity circles that read like a who’s who of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries:  Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Wintour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Meryl Streep, and Oprah Winfrey, to name only a few. In his elegant memoir, Isaac delves into his lifelong battles with weight, insomnia, and depression. He tells what it was like to be an out gay man in a homophobic age and to witness the ravaging effects of the AIDS epidemic. Brimming with intimate details and inimitable wit, Isaac’s narrative reveals not just the glamour of his years, but the grit beneath the glitz. Rich with memorable stories from in and out of the spotlight, this book illuminates deep emotional truths. IM
  • How to Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman:  This is a manual of essential skills that anyone can use to navigate safely and smoothly through the wild terrain of wellness today. Lipman’s advice covers everything from bone broth to foam rollers to electromagnetic frequencies. Some of the interesting things that are covered include a list of healthy fats (think smoothies, tahini, brussels sprouts with bacon), eight ways to “harness the power of dark to improve your sleep,” 10 baking-soda cleaning hacks and more. An index of basic protocols for common complaints and goals–brain fog, acne, weight loss, anxiety–is an especially nice way to close out this book. how to be well
  • Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas:  When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of this book, she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even through he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past. Phoebe sees the good man that West has become, and the only bad left in him is precisely the kind that a woman like herself finds oh-so-tempting. The romance is interesting as West’s best intentions to stay clear of Phoebe battle her resolve to get what she wants, and that push-pull drives the narrative. The reformed bad boy is a staple of the genre, and West is just the sort that readers adore. His regrets and overwhelming feelings for the heroine make him an unforgettable hero. There are even some cameos from Kleypas’ Wallflowers making this a must read. devil's daughter
  • Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe:  Jean McConville was 38 years old in December 1972 when a masked man kidnapped her from her flat in a bleak housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her 10 children, some of whom were clinging to her legs as she was dragged from her home, never saw her again. It was soon rumored that McConville, a Protestant once married to a Catholic, had been snatched–and probably executed–by the outlawed provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army because she was an informer. So begins this gripping, revelatory and unsettling account of McConville’s murder and its reverberations throughout the 30-year spasm of violence known as the “troubles,” which left 3,500 dead in its wake. To tell the story, Keefe delves into a long and devastating history of open and hidden conflict, parts of which remain entombed within the IRA’s code of silence. With visceral detail, he describes life in the embattled neighborhoods, where suspicion and betrayal festered on all sides. Keefe also offers compelling portraits of some of the leading figures in the conflict, among them Gerry Adams, who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to armed conflict. He went on to preside over Sinn Fein, sometimes called the political arm of the IRA. But the most riveting figure in this narrative is Dolours Price. She and her younger sister, Marian, were radicalized as students after a peaceful march for union with Ireland was violently attacked. Described as having a quick tongue, flaming red hair and a peacock personality, she was chosen by Adams for an elite squad. She played a part in McConville’s abduction, organized a car bombing attack on London and, when imprisoned, led a hunger strike that inflamed the romantic revolutionary imagination. But as a true believer, she, along with others, was devastated when Adams first denied that he was ever in the IRA and then brokered a peace agreement that did not include the unification of Ireland. She was, allegedly, not an inherently violent person, and she was left wondering what it was all for. Which is one of the most profound and unanswerable questions this searing book will leave in a reader’s mind. say nothing
  • Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner:  Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six. But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face touch decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her touch decision even harder. Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too. As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bond of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous—and momentous.  rayne
  • Never Enough by Judith Grisel:  This book is a timely, educational blend of neuroscience and memoir. It tackles the devastating problem of addiction. Current statistics speak to a dire state of affiars:  Nearly 16% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 fits the criteria for substance abuse disorder. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared our current opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency. Drawing from her own experience as a recovering drug addict, Grisel in uniquely positioned to study the neuroscience of addiction. She understands both the allure of drugs and the devastation they leave in their wake. Indeed, it seems that the way she has managed to stay sober for over 25 years is to make the study of addiction her life’s work. Now a professor and scientist, Grisel is a compassionate and empathetic guide to the hard science behind drug use. never enough
  • Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad:  Krungthep, Bangkok, New Krungthep–the Thai capital city goes by many names and assumes many, ever-changing facades in this book. Past and future intermingle like the waters that converge in the Chao Phraya river running through the heart of the city. Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s first novel ranges wide in time and scope, and the author masterfully captures dozens of different voices and thoughts in his vast cast:  the vagabond photographer who avoids returning to his ancestral home; a 19th-century missionary doctor who wants nothing more than a transfer to another posting when he first arrives in Siam; studious young swimmer Mai who achieves success in business that is the stuff of sci-fi dreams; a wandering jazz pianist who goes by “Crazy Legs” and plays for hours in the nightclubs; sisters Nee and Nok, who find themselves forever affected by the student political protests of the 1970s. Teenage girls obsessed with their looks grow into mothers, spouses cheat, parents age and die, and sons and daughters are born. This ambitious novel’s many overlapping stories chart a fast pace, and at times, the connective thread between them gets muddled. Sudbanthad’s narrative flits around and back and forth, much like the colorful parrots that inhabit the old colonial house at the epicenter of the novel and, later, the animatronic birds used to scan the infrastructure of the city in a technologically advanced future. The lives of the people who call, or once called, Krungthep home are inextricably tied to this place. In this city prone to flooding, rain is a constant, continually washing away what once was. And yet, in the words of a mother, “truth lingers, unseen like phantoms but there to rattle and scream wherever people try hardest to forget.” bangkok wakes to rain
  • The River by Peter Heller:  Dartmouth classmates Jack and Wynn have cleared a few weeks for fly-fishing and whitewater canoeing in northern Canada. Raised on a ranch in Colorado, Jack finds camping and hunting to be as natural as breathing. Wynn is a gentle soul from rural Vermont whose random trailside installations of stones, twigs and flowers do not take away from his acumen out of doors. The young men share a love of literature and outdoor sport, and imagine their two-week trek to be one of leisurely paddling, blueberry picking and reading around the campfire. This idyll is abruptly shattered when they sniff out the fumes of a swiftly approaching forest fire. Wynn and Jack agree to turn back and warn a couple they heard arguing the day before. This proves to be a fateful decision, as the woman, Maia, is found injured and bloody, and her husband, Pierre, no longer on the scene. The two men, with the badly shocked Maia in tow, are now on the run from the fire and, equally threatening, from a possibly homicidal husband. As if this weren’t bad enough, the crises put a strain on the two men, and an element of mistrust creeps into their friendship. Masterfully paced and artfully told, this book is a page turner that demands the reader slow down and relish the sheer poetry of the language. river
  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie:  The ruler of Vastai is bound to the Raven, a god who watches over the city. If the god dies, so does the ruler. Mawat, the heir to the throne, returns to Vastai to find his uncle sitting in his father’s seat. Eolo, Mawat’s attendant, captures the attention of another god, who needs a physical vessel to carry out his will. What is uncovered is a lifetime of conspiracy and agendas that threaten the lives of everyone in the kingdom. In a characteristically ambitious move by Leckie, first-and-second-person perspectives alternate, mixing palace intrigue with the new god’s mythical backstory. Eolo’s sections are narrated by this god, who may or may not be reliable, lending the entire tale a voyeuristic, ephemeral quality. Leckie’s confidence pays off here, establishing her unique perspective in an entirely new genre. raven tower
  • The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag:  When you’re dead drunk, the last thing you want to deal with is a dead man. Yet duty calls for Swedish night watchman Mickel Cardell, who laboriously hauls his war-wounded body off to retrieve a drowned carcass. But the cause of death is no ordinary drowning:  The corpse’s eyes have been gouged out, his teeth removed and his limbs severed. Accordingly, Cardell finds himself paired with special investigator Cecil Winge, a man so wracked with consumption and close to death that he has earned the nickname “Ghost of the Indebetou.” This unlikely couple is tasked with solving the unidentified man’s murder, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to do so before the coffin lid slides over Winge himself. But that’s just one obstacle they’ll have to overcome. The year is 1793, just one removed from the regicide of Swedish King Gustav III, mere months after French King Louis XVI had a date with a guillotine, soon to be followed by his queen consort Marie Antoinette. Swedish adventurism has left the national treasury in shambles, and the stark divide between the ruling classes and the peasantry has left the masses in a state of agitated discontent. The sense of a ticking clock pervades Niklas Natt och Dag’s swift-paced, cinematic first novel, which was named Best Debut by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers last year. Though they seem to be the oddest of couples–one a man of action, the other a man of deliberation–Cardell and Winge prove to be an effective team as they crisscross political, cultural and economic strata to establish the dead man’s identity, and ultimately try to effect some rough form of justice. wolf and the watchman
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid:  Daisy, a talented singer and a gorgeous, drug-addled train wreck, falls in with a band called The Six at a critical juncture. The group’s fame and fortune blow up, and Daisy rides the rocket with them thanks to her passionate duets with their founder and leader, Billy Dunne. Inevitably, Daisy and the married Billy fall in love. They also hate each other’s guts. It’s beautiful. Readers will feel for Billy though. A recovering druggie and alcoholic, he’s saved from dissipation by his wife, Camila, and their kids. His integrity and lack of cynicism keep the reader from resenting him the way his bandmates sometimes do. At the same time, Reid is adroit enough to make us understand why his white-knuckled virtue gets on people’s nerves. A multinarrative interview style of storytelling allows Daisy, Billy, the members of The Six and others in their orbit, such as managers, producers, rock critics and loved ones, to recall their memories. They’re being interviewed around 2012 or so, and everyone is now of a certain age, so some of those memories contradict, and many are funny or sorrowful and startlingly candid. Their confessions become even more surprising when we learn the identity of the interviewer. daisy jones and the six
  • The Altruists by Andrew Ridker:  Like Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, the central storyline of Ridker’s often darkly funny, heartfelt tale concerns an untenured professor in late middle age, without any money and not much chance of earning any. The professor in question is Arthur Alter. He has dragged his wife, Francine, and two children–the introverted Ethan (who soon comes out as gay) and idealistic Maggie–from Boston to St. Louis with the hope of getting tenure at Danforth University. When it doesn’t happen, he becomes disgruntled, increasingly desperate and miserable. We learn early in the novel that Francine, who is a family and couples’ therapist, will die from cancer. But as the novel skips back and forth in time, we get to see a family evolving, as well as young Francine and Arthur in love and filled with hope and ambition. We also know that Arthur, 63 by the story’s end, cheated on his wife when she was gravely ill, with a German history professor half his age. In the fallout from that affair, Francine removes Arthur from her will and cuts him out of her secret nest egg. By halfway through the novel, the reader is unlikely to have mustered much sympathy for Arthur. When the novel backtracks to the younger and far more idealistic protagonist’s trip to Zimbabwe, where he hopes to provide solutions to sanitation problems, readers will connect with him more deeply. When his project fails, Arthur is crushed, and his life’s trajectory is set. Later in his life, when he is broke and barely working, Arthur hopes his children might be able to part with some of their inheritance so he can avoid foreclosure. However, the lesson Arthur and his children learn by the novel’s end is not financial in nature but moral. It proves to be priceless. altruists
  • Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon:  Guido Brunetti’s 29th adventure starts when a wealthy, elderly man adopts a younger man as his son, causing some consternation among the rich man’s intimates, as the adopted son now stands to inherit the entire estate. Naturally, the old man dies shortly thereafter, and tongues start wagging. Then, when one of his closest confidantes is found strangled to death in her hotel room, the plot begins to thicken like roux over a blue flame. Leon is a multifaceted, effortlessly assured writer. Her plots are innovative and layered, her characters have developed and matured over the course of a lengthy series, and her prose is imbued with wit and compassion on virtually every page. If you are a fan of Louise Penny (and who isn’t), Leon should be on your short list. unto us a son is given
  • The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson:  This book is a weird, surreal ride–one that might be bumpy in the hands of a less adept writer. But Hutchinson has become known for his unique and offbeat takes on the young adult experience, and in his latest, he pairs a quirky premise with vitally alive–or, in one case, half-alive–teen characters. Dino’s parents own a funeral home, so he’s no stranger to death. But he’s not expecting his best friend, July, to die suddenly. Their relationship was, like many teen friendships, challenged when Dino started dating. It’s clear the two had unfinished business, so it’s lucky that just days before her funeral, July comes back to life–as an animated corpse. July and Dino try to come to terms with this supernatural occurrence while revisiting their friendship and trying to find out how Dino’s relationship with his new boyfriend will be impacted. Could Dino and July really have done things differently to stay friends while July was alive? And what does this mean for the future? Does July even have a future? This quirky novel has just enough surrealism to keep teens wanting more. past and other things that should stay buried
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon:  In the kingdom of Virtudom, one of many territories featured in this new high fantasy novel, a monarchy is necessary to keep evil at bay. According to the local faith, Sabran the Ninth–the latest in a long line of queens descended from a heroic figure called “The Saint”–is by her mere existence preventing a being called the Nameless One from reemerging. Sabran’s status among her people is goddess-like, but it comes at a price. With the Nameless One’s followers prophesying his return, she cannot waste a moment in finding a husband to conceive an heir. Into the closed-off recesses of her court drifts Ead Duryan, an enigmatic figure with forbidden magic up her sleeves. Ead is no friend of Sabran, but she has taken it upon herself to protect the queen at all costs. For enthusiasts of the high fantasy epic, this book is the real deal–large enough to draw its own gravity, with maps in the front and a glossary at the back. But it ultimately derives most of its heft from the crossed motivations of its range of characters, from Sabran’s old friend Loth, caught in a deadly quest of his own, to Tane, an ambitious and obsessive would-be dragon-rider from the Eastern end of the world, which revers the creatures that the West fears. Shannon frequents well-loved fantasy concepts but rarely leaves a familiar trope untampered with. Her dragons, honed to the setting they inhabit, are so specific in their biological quirks that it’s hard not to feel that you could do further research into your favorite species if you could only find the right field guide. Her prose is self-assured and light on its feet, maintaining a tightrope height without sacrificing the tension of its narrative or descending into the overwrought. priory of the orange tree
  • The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg:  High school students Jordan and Max couldn’t be more different. Jordan writes poetry and hangs out with his two female best friends while Max chills with the jocks on the baseball team. When Max stumbles into a summer job helping out at Jordan’s late father’s food truck, the boys are awkward coworkers at first and the truck is looking like it’s a miserable failure. Max isn’t getting paid and Jordan isn’t earning the money he needs to help his mother pay the mortgage. But once the boys redesign the truck and its menu (nevermind some bumpy false starts), their unique spicy chicken and frozen lemonade recipes start attracting customers. As sales begin to boom and the hot Phoenix summer blazes around them, the two boys begin to bond and share their vulnerabilities:  Jordan is scared by his mother’s mental illness, and Max is dealing with the trauma of being assaulted by an older boy at a party. Before long, they’ve moved from being friendly coworkers to being boyfriends. But will their feelings for each other be enough to sustain them as things begin to turn sour? music of what happens
  • Mama’s Last Hug by Frans de Waal:  In 2016, the 80-year-old biologist Jan van Hooff visited his old friend Mama, a dying 59-year-old chimpanzee matriarch. Their videotaped emotional reunion was seen around the world. In this book, the author begins with that endearing goodbye, then dives into his decades of experience studying our fellow hominids. With wit and scholarly perspicacity, the renowned primatologist and ethologist offers an abundant study of animal and human emotions, urging a kinder, gentler approach to those with whom we share out planet, from apes and rats to plants and single-cell organisms. Citing a wealth of experiments and studies, the genial scientist raises new awareness of our shared evolutionary history and suggests that a strictly behavioral model is no longer accurate or adequate. In fact, de Waal writes, previous theoretical constructs were largely based on assumptions (made by men) about male dominance. The matriarchal society of bonobos offers a conflicting example. These primate hippies make more love than war and are pros at peacemaking. Perhaps we humans are more like them–or should be. Chief among de Waal’s studies are animal emotions:  who has them, how they work and why humans should care. De Waal provides examples of a full range of emotions experiences by our fellow hominids like empathy, sympathy, disgust, shame, guilt, fear and forgiveness. He proves that rats enjoy being tickled; chimps and elephants can console, conspire and retaliate; and plants release toxic scents to protect against predatory insects. We are all animals, de Waal reminds us, and he has provided a rich perspective on–and an argent invitation to reconsider–every aspect of life around us. mama's last hug

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson:  Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask). A coded notebook is left behind and Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee–and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo–Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis.  How I became a spy
  • Right as Rain by Lindsey Stoddard:  In this brimming-with-life novel, sixth-grader Rain Andrews’ mother is a neuroscientist who studies the brain, but she can’t fix her family’s broken hearts after Rain’s beloved older brother, Guthrie, is killed in a car accident. Stoddard tackles grief head-on in her moving, uplifting portrayal of learning to live and embrace life amid loss. Determined to make a fresh start, Rain’s mom takes a new research job at Columbia University, moving the family to an apartment in Hamilton Heights and leaving behind virtually all of their belongings in the Vermont town that Rain adores. Rain’s grief-stricken dad is seriously depressed and stays in bed for much of the day, while Rain feels responsible for Guthrie’s death because she helped him sneak out of the house on that fateful night–the details of which are gradually revealed in short chapters intertwined with the main narrative. But Rain’s dad, who works in construction, has taught her that “If you take down a weight-bearing wall without setting up a system of support beams, the whole weight of the house will collapse down on you. But if you build up a strong system of support beams, you can take the weight right off.” right as rain
  • This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy:  In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen-year-old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first, things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students–found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.  this promise of change
  • Spin by Lamar Giles:  When DJ ParSec (Paris Secord), rising star of the local music scene, is found dead over her turntables, the two girls who found her, Kya (her pre-fame best friend) and Fuse (her current chief groupie) are torn between grief for Paris and hatred for each other–but when the lack of obvious suspects stalls the investigation, and the police seem to lose interest, despite pressure from social media and ParSec’s loyal fans, the two girls unite, determined to find out who murdered their friend.  spin
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham:  Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world:  shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history:  a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.  midnight in chernobyl
  • The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad:  In many ways, Aeham Ahmad is an ordinary man. The son of Palestinian refugees, he grew up in Yarmouk, home to 160,000 other Palestinians in Damascus. His father, a musician blind since childhood, bribed and wheedled young Ahmad into practicing the piano for hours at a time. His talent grew steadily, but only later did he develop a profound love for music. Ahmad achieved his dreams at a young age. Still in his 20s, he and his father built a thriving business selling musical instruments and giving lessons. He married a strong, intelligent woman, and together they brought a sweet boy into the world. But in June of 2012, the Syrian civil war made its way to Yarmouk, and all those dreams crumbled beneath the weight of the bombs, mortars and bullets fired by both the Syrian Army and the different militias fighting against them. In this book, Ahmad tells the story of his family’s terrible deprivations during the civil war. His losses are profound, and it was truly miraculous that he and his family were finally able to escape to safety in Germany. Yet the true hero of this story is Ahmad’s music. Pushing his piano into the bomb-ruined streets of Yarmouk, Ahmad and his impromptu choirs sang out songs of protest, mourning and hope. He rejected the jingoism of both the Syrian government and the militias. Instead, his music illuminated the horrors of war, while celebrating the simple dreams of ordinary people caught up in a nightmare. His songs were truly subversive, because they served no faction. Soon a YouTube and Facebook phenomenon, Ahmad became an increasingly marked man.  pianist from syria
  • Early Riser by Jasper Fforde:  Every winter, the human population hibernates. During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity. Well, not quite. Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses. You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind. When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling. When you get the dreams too, it’s weird. When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity. But teasing the truth from the Winter is never easy:  You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping, and stamp collecting, ensure you aren’t eaten by Nightwalkers, whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk. But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you’ll be fine.   early riser
  • The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders:  “If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams…And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.” January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.  city in the middle of the night
  •  American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson:  After a break-in at her home in which she is forced to defend herself from an assassin, Marie Mitchell decides to document her life for the benefit of her children in case she is one day killed. So begins Lauren Wilkinson’s debut novel, American Spy, which chronicles the life of a black woman recruited to the CIA during the height of the Cold War. In the ensuing pages, Marie recounts her early childhood infatuation with spies, such as James Bond in Goldfinger, and her own family’s role in law enforcement, from her father’s position in the Harlem police department to her sister Helene’s work as an Army intelligence officer. Even though she proves more than adept at both physical combat techniques and mental manipulation of her own “recruits”–the kind of stuff that only the best spies are capable of–Marie is consigned to being a paper pusher for much of her career in the FBI. So she is more than surprised when she is approached to work undercover for the CIA in a high-profile case. The CIA needs Marie to get close to and undermine Robert Sankara, the revolutionary president of the tiny West African nation of Burkina Faso. At first, Marie is reluctant to accept the job, but her desire to make something more of her life–and perhaps her despair over the mysterious death of her sister–convinces her otherwise. Taking on the task becomes more than complicated, however, when she develops a real affection for Sankara, who will eventually father her two boys, thereby causing her to question her loyalty to the U.S. and its policies.   american spy
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli:  A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination:  Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home. Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father. In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an “immigration crisis”:  thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained–or lost in the desert along the way. As the family drives–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure–both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations. Told through several compelling voices, blending texts, sounds, and images, this book is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity. It is a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. With urgency and empathy, it takes us deep into the lives of one remarkable family as it probes the nature of justice and equality today.    lost children archive
  • Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi:  Under the sea, fish do what fish do:  Seahorse hides, Pufferfish puffs up, Parrotfish crunches coral, and Crab…bakes cakes? Scallop swims, Dolphin blows bubbles, and…Crab bakes cakes. And so life goes on, until one night when everything changes with a splash! In the face of total disaster, can Crab’s small, brave act help the community come together and carry on?   crab cake
  • Figuring by Maria Popova:  This book explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries–beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement. Stretching between these figures is a cast of artists, writers, and scientists–mostly women, mostly queer–whose public contribution have risen out of their unclassifiable and often heartbreaking private relationships to change the way we understand, experience, and appreciate the universe. Among them are the astronomer Maria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science; the sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who did the same in art; the journalist and literary critic Margaret Fuller, who sparked the feminist movement; and the poet Emily Dickinson. Emanating from these lives are larger questions about the measure of a good life and what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world:  Are achievement and acclaim enough for happiness? Is genius? Is love? Weaving through the narrative is a set of peripheral figures–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman–and a tapestry of themes spanning music, feminism, the history of science, the rise and decline of religion, and how the intersection of astronomy, poetry, and Transcendentalist philosophy fomented the environmental movement.  figuring
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas:  This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the award-winning book The Hate u Give. Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it–she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be. Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, this book is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation.  on the come up
  • The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer:  She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it. This book tells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. “I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.   age of light
  • The Lost Man by Jane Harper:  Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet. In an isolated belt of Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another’s nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun. Nathan, Bub and Nathan’s son return to Cameron’s ranch and to those left behind by his passing:  his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers. While they grieve Cameron’s loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.  lost man
  • Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken:  From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century–nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person–Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark–with Bertha its most notable resident. When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden walls.  bowlaway
  • Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James:  Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter:  ‘He has a nose,’ people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder:  Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important question of all:  Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?  black leopard red wolf
  • Maid by Stephanie Land:  At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told:  the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor. This book explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives–their sadness and love, too–she begins to find hope in her own path.  maid
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer:  Beginning with the tribes’ devastating loss of land and the forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools, he shows how the period of greatest adversity also helped to incubate a unifying Native identity. He traces how conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of their self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. This book is an essential, intimate history–and counter-narrative–of a resilient people in a transformative era.  heartbeat of wounded knee
  • The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander:  In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life:  a Bluthner piano, built at the turn of the century in Germany, on which she discovers everything that she herself can do with music and what music, in turn, does for her. Yet after marrying, she emigrates with her young family from Russia to America, at her husband’s frantic insistence, and her piano is lost in the shuffle. In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy loses another boyfriend and again has to find a new apartment, which is complicated by the gift her father had given her for her twelfth birthday, shortly before he and her mother died in a fire that burned their house down:  a Bluthner upright she has never learned to play. Orphaned, she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who in his car-repair shop trained her to become a first-rate mechanic, much to the surprise of her subsequent customers. But this work, her true mainstay in a scattered life, is put on hold when her hand gets broken while the piano’s being moved–and it sudden frustration she chooses to sell it. And what becomes crucial is who the most interested party turns out to be…  weight of a piano

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani:  Twelve-year-old Nisha and her twin, Amil, know little about their mother, who died while giving birth. But Nisha yearns for her nonetheless, and at night, Nisha pours her feelings into her diary entries, which are written as letters to her mother. At first, she writes of daily events such as Amil’s etchings and their father’s long days working as a doctor. But it’s 1947, and India has just won its independence from Britain, and soon Nisha’s life will change in ways she never could have imagined.  night diary
  • The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty:  Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad–and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there. Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family–and one misstep will doom her tribe… Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid–the unpredictable water spirits–have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried. And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates…and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve. kingdom of copper
  • The Unteachables by Gordon Korman:  After 30 years as a teacher, Zachary Kermit is burned out and ready for retirement. But the superintendent, Dr. Thaddeus, wants him out before he can draw a full pension, so he assigns Mr. Kermit the class called SCS-8, or the Self-Contained Special 8th-grade class. Known as the “Unteachables,” Dr. Thaddeus hopes they drive Mr. Kermit to quit before the year’s end. Mr. Kermit knows it’s going to be rough, but he figures he’ll just keep his head down and coast until May. He is not surprised by the students. There is the slow worker, Parker Elias, social dweeb Mateo Hendrickson, anger-management challenged Aldo Braff, ex-athlete “Barnstorm” Armstrong, potential bully Elaine Okafor, sleep-deprived Rahim Barclay, and new student Kiana Roubini. Through many hilarious and touching escapades, Mr. Kermit figures out that what he really has is a group that just needs help, patience and the recognition that, really, they may be the most teachable of any class. This is a heartwarming story about not giving up on yourself or others. unteachables
  • Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer:  Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world fall apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf–the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum:  if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind ever door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up. Otherwise, Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever. echo north
  • The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi:  In this wonderful book, a crew of young people in an alternate version of belle epoque Paris use their wits and daring to restore their leader to his rightful place. In this world, some have “Forging” power–creative and metamorphic power over matter or minds–which is made possible through fragments of the Tower of Babel. These broken pieces are scattered across the world and safeguarded by the mysterious Order of Babel, which is organized in national factions and then further divided into Houses. Severin Montagnet-Alarie is the heir to France’s House Vanth, but he was denied his Order inheritance years ago and now watches the two remaining French Houses–Nyx and Kore–with envy. But Severin has a plan to claim his right, and a crew of various talents who live with him at his glamorous hotel will help him pull it off. They plot to steal an ancient artifact that will help Severin buy his way back into the good graces of the Order, but the artifact and its owner turn out to be more than they bargained for. gilded wolves
  • Talk to Me by John Kenney:  After news anchor Ted Grayson’s profanity-laced tirade is caught on camera, his reputation and career are destroyed, leaving him without a script for the first time in years. At the time of his meltdown, Ted is estranged from his wife, Claire, and his adult daughter, Franny, a writer for a popular website. Franny views her father’s disgrace with curiosity and perhaps a bit of smug satisfaction, but when her boss suggests that she confront Ted in an interview, she has to decide whether to use his loss as her career gain. And for Ted, this may be a chance to try to find his way back before it’s too late. talk to me
  • No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey:  Serge and Coleman are back on the road, ready to hit the next stop on their list of obscure and wacky points of interest in the Sunshine State. This time, Serge’s interest is drawn to one of the largest retirement villages in the world–also known as the site of an infamous sex scandal between a retiree and her younger beau that rocked the community. What starts out as an innocent quest to observe elders in their natural habitats, sample the local cuisine, and scope out a condo to live out the rest of their golden years, soon becomes a Robin Hood-like crusade to recover the funds of swindled residents. After all, our seniors should be revered and respected–they’ve heroically fought in wars, garnered priceless wisdom, and they have the best first-hand accounts of bizarre Floridian occurrences only Serge would know about. But as the resident’s rally for Serge to seek justice on their behalves, two detectives are hot on the heels of Serge and Coleman’s murderous trail. no sunscreen for the dead
  • Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley:  Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later, Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer’s evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia:  she is at the hospital. Zach is dead. In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored; all agree that Zach, with his generous, grounded spirit, was the irreplaceable one they couldn’t afford to lose. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. But instead of loss bringing them closer, the three of them find over the following months that it warps their relationships, as old entanglements and grievances rise from the past, and love and sorrow give way to anger and bitterness. This book explores the complex webs at the center of our most intimate relationships, to expose how, beneath the seemingly dependable arrangements we make for our lives, lie infinite alternate configurations. late in the day
  • The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker:  One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep, and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster. Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams, but of what? dreamers
  • The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati:  As a young girl climbs the seven stories to her own (very boring!) apartment, she imagines what’s behind each of the doors she passes. Does the door with all the locks belong to a family of thieves? Might the doorway with muddy footprints conceal a pet tiger? Each spread reveals–in lush detail–the wilds of the girl’s imagination, from a high-flying circus to an underwater world and everything in between. When the girl finally reaches her own apartment, she is greeted by her parents, who might have a secret even wilder than anything she could have imagined! neighbors
  • The Au Pair by Emma Rous:  Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle. Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through is belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby. Who is the child, and what really happened that day? au pair
  • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen:  Seeking women ages 18-32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. Question #1:  Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt? But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. Question #2:  Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about? As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly. Question #3:  Should a punishment always fit the crime?  anonymous girl
  • The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King:  A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times by Jerome Charyn:  Raising the literary bar to a new level, Jerome Charyn re-creates the voice of Theodore Roosevelt, the New York City police commissioner, Rough Rider, and soon-to-be twenty-sixth president through his derring-do adventures, effortlessly combining superhero dialogue with haunting pathos. Beginning with his sickly childhood and concluding with McKinley’s assassination, the novel positions Roosevelt as a “perfect bull in a china shop,” a fearless crime fighter and pioneering environmentalist who would grow up to be our greatest peacetime president. With an operative cast, including “Bamie,” his handicapped older sister; Eleanor, his gawky little niece; as well as the devoted Rough Riders, the novel memorably features the lovable mountain lion Josephine, who helped train Roosevelt for his “crowded hour,” the charge up San Juan Hill. perilous adventures of the cowboy king
  • An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma:  A contemporary twist on The Odyssey, this book is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, he hurls two of his prized chickens off the bridge. The woman, Ndali, is stopped in her tracks. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love but she is from an educated and wealthy family. When her family objects to the union on the grounds that he is not her social equal, he sells most of his possessions to attend college in Cyprus. But when he arrives in Cyprus, he discovers that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements for him. Penniless, homeless, we watch as he gets further and further away from his dream and from home. orchestra of minorities
  • The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke:  Detective Dave Robicheaux’s world isn’t filled with too many happy stories, but Desmond Cormier’s rags-to-riches tale is certainly one of them. Robicheaux first met Cormier on the streets of New Orleans, when the young, undersized boy had foolish dreams of becoming a Hollywood director. Twenty-five years later, when Robicheaux knocks on Cormier’s door, it isn’t to congratulate him on his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Robicheaux has discovered the body of a young woman who’s been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle. She disappeared near Cormier’s Cyrpemort Point estate, and Robicheaux, along with young deputy, Sean McClain, are looking for answers. Neither Cormier nor his enigmatic actor friend Antoine Butterworth are saying much, but Robicheaux knows better. As always, Clete Purcel and Davie’s daughter, Alafair, have Robicheaux’s back. Clete witnesses the escape of Texas inmate, Hugo Tillinger, who may hold the key to Robicheaux’s case. As they wade further into the investigation, they end up in the crosshairs of the mob, the deranged Chester Wimple, and the dark ghosts Robicheaux has been running from for years. Ultimately, it’s up to Robicheaux to stop them all, but he’ll have to summon a light he’s never seen or felt to save himself, and those he loves. new iberia blues
  • The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden:  Now, in the conclusion to this powerful trilogy, Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers-and someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of this conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of both worlds resting on her shoulders. With her destiny uncertain, Vasya must uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.winter of the witch
  • The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe: Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs. Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life–along with the people who have found their way into his heart.field guide to the north american teenager
  • She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge:  On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group–Aurora Jackson–is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other–they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found. Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers–including Aurora–personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever. This searing, psychologically captivating novel marks the arrival of a dazzling new talent, and the start of a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens.  she lies in wait
  • The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh:  Determined to protect his wife and daughters from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland, King moves them to an isolated island, lays out barbed wire, and anchored buoys with a clear message: Do not enter. He institutes cult-like rituals and therapies to fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world. When King disappears, they retreat further inward… until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent.  water cure
  • The Wicked King by Holly Black:  When this book opens, it’s been five months since 17-year-old human Jude planted Faerie Prince Cardan on the Elfhame throne. Now, she’s struggling to maintain her behind-the-scenes power, and it doesn’t help that Cardan is trying to undermine their deal or that her twin sister’s marriage to the duplicitous Locke comes with its own set of challenges. On top of all that, Jude’s stepfather is strategizing behind her back. But when the Queen of the Undersea threatens the Faerie kingdom and Cardan’s rule, Jude must spy and scheme to protect her family and her hold on the throne. But Jude can’t foresee everything, and someone is out to betray her. Despite growing up in a Faerie world, Jude is not one of them. And there’s only so much power a mortal girl can wield when fighting monsters.  wicked king

Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • Watching You by Lisa Jewell:    Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But is is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you. As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all–including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie–a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5–excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father. One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother–whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years–is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…watching you
  • Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd:  After Sir Robert’s injury from the battle of Waterloo begins troubling him again, his wife Lucy insists they relocate from the village of Kurland St. Mary to bath, along with her sister Anna, so that Robert can take the waters and recover. At the Roman baths, Robert befriends an elderly and pugnacious businessman, Sir William Benson, ennobled by the Crown for his service to industry. Their acquaintance is short-lived, however, when the man is found drowned in the baths. Robert vows to find his killer, with Lucy’s aid. The members of Sir William’s family seem the most obvious suspects to benefit from the wealthy man’s death, but his will has gone missing. To deduce who sent Sir William to a watery grave, Robert and Lucy must investigate with the utmost discretion–before they too find themselves in over their heads…  death comes to bath
  • Broken Ground by Val McDermid:  Internationally bestselling author Val McDermid is one of our finest crime writers, and her gripping, masterfully plotted novels have garnered millions of readers from around the globe. In Broken Ground, cold case detective Karen Pirie faces her hardest challenge yet. Six feet under in a Highland peat bog lies Alice Somerville’s inheritance, buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally uncovers it, she finds an unwanted surprise–a body with a bullet hole between the eyes. Meanwhile, DCI Pirie is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems. And as she gets closer to the truth, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.  broken ground
  • Bryant & May:  Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler:  As the Swinging Sixties paint dreary London a DayGlo rainbow, detectives Arthur Bryant and John May find themselves caught in the middle of a good old-fashioned manor house mystery. Hard to believe, but even positively ancient sleuths like Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit were young once, or at least younger. Flashback to London 1969:  mods and dolly birds, sunburst minidresses–but how long would the party last? After accidentally sinking a barge painted like the Yellow Submarine, Bryant and May are relegated to babysitting one Monty Hatton-Jones, the star prosecution witness in the trial of a disreputable developer whose prefabs are prone to collapse. The job for the demoted detectives? Keep the whistle-blower safe for one weekend. The task proves unexpectedly challenging when their unruly charge insists on attending a party at the vast estate Tavistock Hall. With falling stone gryphons, secret passageways, rumors of a mythical beast, and an all-too-real dismembered corpse, the bedeviled policemen soon find themselves with “a proper country house murder” on their hands. Trapped for the weekend, Bryant and May must sort the victims from the suspects, including a hippie heir, a missing millionaire, a blond nightclub singer, and a mystery writer–not to mention Monty himself–and nobody is quite who he or she seems to be.  bryant and may hall of mirrors
  • The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash:  Returning to his childhood home in 1979, New York’s famed Dakota apartments, former Peace Corps volunteer Anton Winter is swept up in a raucous celebrity effort to reignite his late-night host father’s stalled career. As Anton becomes enmeshed in his father’s professional and spiritual reinvention, he begins to question his own path in life.  dakota winters
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo:  Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers–especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.poet x
  •  Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny:  When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder. None of them had ever met the elderly woman. The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing. But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into what happened six months ago–the events that led to his suspension–has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception. Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers. As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.kingdom of the blind
  •  Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh: During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series. After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he. They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love.someone to trust
  • All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha RoyIn my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in fact German, but in small‑town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British. So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother, Gayatri, a rebellious, alluring artist who abandons parenthood and marriage to follow her primal desire for freedom. Though freedom may be stirring in the air of India, across the world the Nazis have risen to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, a German artist from Gayatri’s past seeks her out. His arrival ignites passions she has long been forced to suppress. What follows is her life as pieced together by her son, a journey that takes him through India and Dutch‑held Bali. Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, he comes to understand his long‑lost mother, and the connections between strife at home and a war‑torn universe overtaken by patriotism.  all the lives we never lived
  • The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman:  In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library.  When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation. Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?mortal word
  • How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin:  N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.how long til black future month
  • Newcomer by Keigo Higashino:  Detective Kyochiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department has just been transferred to a new precinct in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. Newly arrived, but with a great deal of experience, Kaga is promptly assigned to the team investigating the murder of a woman. But the more he investigates, the greater number of potential suspects emerges. It isn’t long before it seems nearly all the people living and working in the business district of Nihonbashi have a motive for murder. To prevent the murderer from eluding justice, Kaga must unravel all the secrets surrounding a complicated life. Buried somewhere in the woman’s past, in her family history, and the last few days of her life is the clue that will lead to the murderer.  newcomer
  • The Proposal by Jasmine GuilloryWhen someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn’t come as a surprise–or happen in front of 45,000 people. When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans… At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and lots of intimacy. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…proposal
  • Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore:  The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know. The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan. But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.blanca and roja
  • Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack:  Stacey Wynn was the clear front-runner for Lincoln High student council president. But then French-Canadian transfer student Julia Romero entered the race…and put the moves on Stacey’s best friend/campaign adviser, Brian.  Stacey also didn’t count on Tony Guo, resident stoner, whose sole focus is on removing the school’s ban of his favorite chocolate milk, becoming the voice of the little guy, thanks to a freshman political “mastermind” with a blue Mohawk. Three candidates, three platforms, and a whirlwind of social media, gaffes, high school drama, and protests make for a ridiculously hilarious political circus that just may hold some poignant truth somewhere in the mix.your own worst enemy
  • Mousie, I Will Read to You by Rachael ColeLong before the words make sense, Mousie,
    I will read to you
    The simplest story,
    about an acorn that drops to the ground.So begins this warm and poignant picture book that follows a mama mouse and her baby mouse on the little mouse’s journey to becoming a reader–from infancy, to toddlerhood, to elementary school, and beyond. When Mousie is little, Mama sings him lullabies about the sky, repeats back his DA DA DEES and BA BA BEES, and reads him poems and stories about wonderful things like forests and bears. Then one day, on a playground next to the library, Mousie sounds out a word, then two, then three . . . and a reader is born!  mousie I will read to ou
  • Queer Eye by Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown:  From the Fab Five–the beloved hosts of Netflix’s viral hit Queer Eye–comes a book that is at once a behind-the-scenes exclusive, a practical guide to living and celebrating your best life, and a symbol of hope.  Feeling your best is about far more than deciding what color to paint your accent wall or how to apply nightly moisturizer. It’s also about creating a life that’s well-rounded, filled with humor and understanding–and most importantly, that suits you. At a cultural moment when we are all craving people to admire, Queer Eye offers hope and acceptance. After you get to know the Fab Five, together they will guide you through five practical chapters that go beyond their designated areas of expertise (food & wine, fashion, grooming, home decor, and culture), touching on topics like wellness, entertaining, and defining your personal brand, and complete with bite-sized Hip Tips for your everyday quandaries. Above all else, Queer Eye aims to help you create a happy and healthy life, rooted in self-love and authenticity.  queer eye
  • Pulp by Robin Talley:  In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself–and Marie–to a danger all too real. Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject–classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.pulp

Are You Down with OBD…Yeah, So Are We

So, the title is a little goofy and it shows my age… but whatever. Here we are. The library now has an on-board diagnostic tool that you can use to figure out what is wrong with your car. Before I explain a little more about this nifty tool you can check out at the library, let me just say that I know a tiny bit about cars. I certainly don’t know everything though and that’s exactly why this tool is so helpful. Whenever I’ve had to bring my car to a mechanic, I feel a little lost and totally reliant on what they tell me. If you have a good mechanic, then it’s usually fine. However, I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve sort of doubted whatever they told me. I would have loved to have had a tool to confirm or deny what a mechanic told me before I spent hundreds of dollars on a repair. Side note:  we called every auto place in town and none of them offered this device for free. Some even charged upwards of $200 to “rent” a tool like this.

Most cars built within the last 20 years, have an OBD II port that you can use to plug in our device. An on-board diagnostic system simply allows an external tool to interface with the computer in your car. These have become more and more important as cars have become more technologically advanced and software has become the key to fixing a lot of problems. OBD has been around since the ’80s when emissions became more regulated and electronic fuel injection became a thing.

So, the port you need to be able to locate is usually under the dashboard on the driver’s side. When a car’s sensors decide that there is something going wrong with your car, they create a “trouble code,” which usually manifests itself as a warning light on the dashboard. An OBD scanner lets you check this code and determine exactly what is wrong. Side note:  it should also let you clear the code from the memory so that once the problem is fixed, the warning light will disappear from your dash.

So, what about the free OBD scanner that you can check out from the library? We have the Autel AutoLink AL539. It does something that other OBD scanners can’t:  it scans for electrical problems as well. It’s actually pretty small and light and has a long cable so you don’t have to be all hunched over in your car. It has a nice, color screen and icons for major functions. It also tells you things like engine speed, coolant temperature and other items.

All in all, the OBD won’t fix your problem for you but it might arm you with more information for when you need to talk shop with your mechanic. And it’s free to check out with  your library card–sounds like a good deal to me! autel autolink