Staff Reads — May 1, 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Nancy D.:

  • Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan: This excellent and very dark murder mystery/thriller takes place in modern day Dublin, and features a strong and complicated female protagonist, Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan, trying to track down a serial killer.
  • Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira: I absolutely loved this novel, which takes place in Albany, New York in 1879. Dr. Mary Sutter, a former civil war surgeon who tries to find two young girls who go missing during a terrible blizzard in the city. It is rich in character development and suspense. If you like this novel, you might want to read the author’s previous book titled I Am Mary Sutter, which introduces the main character in the Winter Sisters.
  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig: The protagonist of this novel is a (supposedly) 41 year old man named Tom Hazzard. However, Tom is really several centuries old. He has a condition that causes him to age very slowly (although he will ultimately die). He and others like him are controlled by the Albatross Society, which has one very hard and fast rule: Never fall in love. I adored this novel, its hero, Tom, the rich cast of characters he meets during his long life, and the lessons he learns and offers about life and love.
  • The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd: This is my one thumbs down read. A woman in London, England becomes obsessed with a man who was imprisoned for 20 years for the brutal murder of a young girl. After watching a true crime documentary about him, the woman starts writing letters to the man in prison, and eventually comes to the U.S. to meet him, and marries him (while he is still in prison.). The man gets released from prison, based on evidence brought out in the documentary, and now the two can live happily ever after. But they don’t. He is not quite who he seems, and she is incredibly naive. I didn’t like any of the characters, and found the whole story hard to believe.
  • CSNY 1974: I loved this CD by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, which features live concert performances of some of their greatest songs. Anyone who appreciates wonderful vocal harmony will like this album.
  • Hidden: DVD/BD: This SF-Horror thriller features a family that is hiding underground from unknown forces threatening them (known only as The Breathers). I really enjoyed this movie, It didn’t hurt that Alexander Skarsgard (from the True Blood series) was one of the main characters.
  • I, Tonya : DVD/BD: I basically enjoyed this fictionalized account of the life of the talented figure skater, Tonya Harding, and how her world comes crashing down when her ex-husband conspires to injure Nancy Kerrigan (a fellow Olympic hopeful) before the 1994 Olympics. Margot Robbie as Tonya and Allison Janney as her mommy dearest, gave particularly spectacular performances. However, I though the movie dragged in parts and could have been shortened a bit.


  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda: I actually liked the movie, Love, Simon better.
  • The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: I didn’t get very far into this, the characters were flat and boring.
  • Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake: I loved this middle grade book so much! I may have cried ugly tears while reading it in public. It was so sweet and sad.
  • Killing Eve on BBC America based on the book Codename Villanelle by Luke James. This is such a fun show! Sandra Oh plays a middle aged MI5 agent who longs to be a spy, as he desk job does little to satisfy her. She’s soon on the trail of a prolific assassin, living her dream of being a spy. It has it all, suspense, drama, and comedy!
  • Princess Cyd: This indie film tries a little too hard to be serious and literary, but the cast is great, and it’s a pretty sweet film. It also boasts a fantastic genderqueer actor.
  • Rebels on Pointe: Ballet Trockadoro De Monte Carlo is a ballet company made up of men, who have female ballerina personas. They perform traditional ballets in their “drag” personas, but back it up with actual technique. They are all fantastic dancers, and the great dancing mixed with comedy is fun to watch!
  • Westworld: I liked this series more than i thought i would, the mystery was fun, and it’s not as gratuitous as other HBO shows.
  • A Quiet Place: Such a good horror film! If you like your horror tension filled and not bloody.
  • Call the Midwife: Season 7 on PBS


  • A Murder in Time and its sequel, A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain: These books combine two of my favorite things: historical fiction and time travel. The premise is that FBI agent Kendra Donovan finds herself in 19th century England. Of course, there are murders for her to solve, but as a woman with crime-solving skills, Donovan must navigate the norms of the era. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a page turner like these two books.
  • Victoria by Daisy Goodwin: OK, it took me until the end of the story to realize that the PBS Victoria series was written by the same author and throughout the novel, I was amazed at how similar the series was to the book. I loved the writing, the characters, and the insight into this fascinating monarch.


  • I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Bohjalian’s novel Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. Emily Shepherd is a resilient young woman who, after the loss of her parents in a tragic accident, ends up homeless. Hope is never totally missing in this poignant, moving and beautifully told tale. Includes an interview with the author and Grace Blewer, the reader (Bohjalian;s daughter) at the end of the audiobook. Attention all dog lovers, you will be moved when you read about the family dog, Maggie. This novel is notable for its first person narrative and the realistic and believable point of view of a troubled teen. If you don’t mind some alcohol abuse, some literal nuclear meltdowns and you love great character development in a New England setting, this is your book.
  • I am currently reading Coffee With Freud by Brett Karr, illustrated by Allison Bechdel. This is an entertaining look at the psychoanalytic model developed by Freud with a very creative premise. Freud agrees to be interviewed at a Vienna coffeehouse by Brett Karr. Yes, he comes to the living world for one day in order to answer some questions and provide insights into his life and the creation of psychoanalytic therapy. The reader is entertained and can decide for him or herself whether the cigar is just a cigar or not. Apparently, Brett Karr has also written a book called Tea With Winnicott which takes a similar approach to helping the reader to understand about Winnicott’s groundbreaking observations about object-relations theory. This book is entertaining and educational at the same time and is really a pleasure to read.
  • Wally Lamb’s novel, I’ll Take You There, as read by George Guidall, has a very creative premise. The main character of this novel, Felix Funicello, (apparently from the Lamb novel Wishin’ And Hopin’ which I have not yet read), gets to view and enter his past on film. (kind of like Woody Allan’s Purple Rose of Cairo) He is aided by a ghost who appears to him. This is a very entertaining novel and the reader learns about Felix’ life and some of the family secrets that affected the entire Funicello household. Although I am still listening to this book, I am ready to heartily recommend this to anybody who enjoys a good novel with some family secrets. The book includes lots of details from the fifties and the sixties that baby boomers and Mad Men fans can relate to.
  • I heartily recommend Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell’s new novel/graphic novel, Bizarre Romance. This wonderful collaboration has short stories and vignettes in both traditional written and graphic format. They include a man who has pesky angels who are singing night and day in his attic, a woman trying on a Halloween costume who falls into a mirror and lands in another world where she is queen. She ends up married to a man with whom she has a daughter who looks like a badger. The illustrations are delightful, the stories funny and fantasy filled. There are new takes on what the world of fairies is really like. The creativity, the whimsy, the humor, the romance. Such a delight! The angels sing as you read this lovely book and they are not annoying.



  • Changed for Good : a Feminist History of the Broadway Musical by Stacy Wolf: Wolf examines musicals from the 1950’s through the the first decade of the 21st century through a feminist lens. She examines specific titles from each decade through most of the book and then devotes the last two chapters to Wicked. I enjoyed her analysis as well as the background information on current events during the various decades as well as the history of musicals during the time periods. I would love to chat with her on why she chose to include certain shows and not others. I would also be curious about her thoughts regarding the shows that have been released in the years since the book’s publication.
  • White Houses by Amy Bloom: This is a fictionalized version of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and her likely lover, Lorena Hickock. The novel varies back and forth between time periods, and Lorena, like a lot of Bloom’s protagonists, is not a fully realized character. I do enjoy Bloom’s writing style and mainly enjoyed this novel, but I’m curious to read one of the other novels about the women’s relationship or the biography, Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn to get a better grasp of the story.
  • Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell: Mackrell devotes two thoughtful lengthy chapters each to six well known “flappers”, Diane Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, and Tamara de Lempicka. Mackrell does a nice job of setting the scene as well as illustrating race, gender, and economic politics from that era and what has changed and what has stayed the same.
  • Justice League: There is potential for a good movie in here, somewhere, and some of the characters are fun, and, yes, it’s better than Batman vs. Superman, but this movie bored me. Do yourself a favor and watch Wonder Woman or Black Panther a second time.


  • I’m currently reading Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Natural Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich. It’s an extremely moving examination of the tragedy that took place near Pripyat in 1986. Some of the stories are only a paragraph long, others a few pages, all are gut-wrenching and put a very human face on the impact of this nuclear accident. I was born in the same year and only had a pop culture/historical understanding of the events before reading this book.
  • I recently read The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani and loved it. If you can get past the first page it’s worth it. It’s a cutting look at the socioeconomics of nannying. Slimani gets at the inherent tensions as well as the joys of nanny-employer relationships, while also creating a really suspenseful and engaging story. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few hours.
  • Another short read I highly recommend: Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro. She’s an author and longtime producer of This American Life. In this narrative, she shares scenes from her marriage and life in scenes that reflect how we grow together and apart- or separately together. She’s honest, open, and insightful and this book is instantly relatable and familiar to anyone who has been in a long-term relationship of some kind.
  • If you still haven’t read The Power by Naomi Alderman– DO IT. It’s a dark take on what might happen if women had more physical power than men. It’s sci-fi grounded in reality. It made me squirm throughout.
  • I just watched I Am Evidence, an HBO documentary about the backlog of untested rape kits across the country. It packs a lot of emotion into 87 minutes and it’s important not only to bear witness, but to take action to help work through this backlog and make sure the culture that allowed this to happen will change.
  • What I’ve been listening to: as a longtime Weeknd fan, I’ve been trying to get into his newest effort My Dear Melancholy. It’s not there for me…but maybe it will grow on me? If you’re into him at all, go back and check out his 2011 mixtape House of Balloons instead. Same for the new J. Cole album, KOD. It’s no Forest Hills Drive but it’s pretty good and it’s getting in my head the more I give it time.



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