Staff Reads — Happy New Year 2020!

Book Projector Treble Clef

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  • Fugly by Claire Waller : This wonderful YA novel had me from the first word to the last.  The main character of the novel, Beth Soames, lives in a flat with her mother and brother.  Her dad flew the familial coop and mom has fallen into a life of medication,  depression, and excessive television viewing.  Her younger brother is keeping late hours and locking himself into his room.  Beth tries to attend to her mother and brother, but this is an uphill battle.  She has a hidden life as an internet troll where she feels more powerful than in her ‘real life’.  Beth is attending university hoping to make some positive changes in her life and things to begin to change for her.  Two friendships, one online and one in university, begin to change the path that Beth has embarked on.
  • Reality Boy:  A Novel by A.S. King:  This is a fabulous YA novel about a young man whose entire childhood was upended due to unwanted exposure on a reality show at the age of 5 with a so called nanny ‘helping’ the family.  The nanny is actually an actress playing a nanny.  Gerald, our main character, has an older sister who is psychopathic…except the family does not acknowledge this and all clues to this are suppressed in the reality show.  He has another sister who sees all that goes on and is an ally to Gerald.  The novel begins with Gerald at age 17, his kind sister Lisi is off at college and not keeping in touch.  The psychopathic sister is taunting him at home and the family, as per usual, is turning a deaf ear to the awful behavior of this out of control family member.  This novel is so absorbing and brings us hope for Gerald who has grown up in such a difficult heart wrenching situation.  This only underlines my personal distaste for reality television.  However, even fans of reality television will be moved by this well crafted novel.
  • Dark Money:  The Hidden History of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Right by Jane Mayer : For me, the narrator of audiobooks is as important or even more important than the content. I am happy to say that the narrator of this audiobook is excellent and I am enjoying this aspect of the book.  As one can see from the title, this is not a ‘happy’ story but it is instructive and well written.  I have been very curious about the radical right and how it has so much power in our country and even the world.  This book is filling in some of the gaps.  This is not a light read but it is educational and does fill in some of the blanks for those of us who are wondering what the heck is going on in our corporate/political system.
  • The Topeka School by Ben Lerner : This novel has been very well reviewed and the plot intrigued me.  Please do not take my review as gospel.  I felt that the book lacked heart and, although the plot line and the setting were quite good, I felt a remove from the characters and did not, in the end, enjoy this book.  I would advise readers to make their own judgements as no book will appeal to every reader.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (streaming) 


  • State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby:
    Nick Hornby’s newest drops the reader into the lives of Tom and Louise, a couple who are just beginning marriage counseling. The entire book takes place at the pub across the street from the therapist’s office, where Tom and Louise meet for a drink before each session. Most of the book is conversation – it reads a bit like a screenplay – but Hornby has a knack for driving the plot well that way.
  • The Cockroach by Ian McEwan: This is a brilliant work of satire that plays out as the reverse of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. In McEwan’s book, a cockroach takes the human form of the British Prime Minister and uses his new body to push forward a controversial new bill that would turn the nation upside down. With vague references to Brexit, Trump, and Parliament, it is timely and funny, and as a bonus can be read in one sitting.
  • Westlife: Our Story, by Westlife and Mark Roach (book) and Spectrum, by Westlife (album): My favorite boy band from my youth released a new album this month, after seven years apart, and I have been giddily reliving my halcyon days by playing it non-stop. I’m also finally getting around to reading their memoir, which came out ten years ago. It’s cheesy and not very well written, but I’m loving it nonetheless
  • The Crown, Season 3: I’ve started watching the newest season of The Crown on Netflix. It’s taking a bit to get used to the new cast, but so far I’m really liking it. Plus, one of my favorite actors, Tobias Menzies, is in it now, so that’s a bonus!


  • Circe by Madeline Miller: Take The Odyssey and, instead of reading about Odysseus’ triumphs and travels, learn about the witch Circe that he stays with for over a year. Miller tells Circe’s rich and compelling backstory with a language that is as lyrical as, I’m guessing, the original Odyssey. Circe is a complicated woman with faults and feelings who struggles with many things in her long immortal life. She ultimately makes a choice that both surprises and makes complete sense. I loved this book so much I didn’t want it to end. This book will appeal to fans of The Mists of Avalon.
  • That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron: This historical novel was a big disappointment. American Jennie Jerome, who became Lady Churchill and gave birth to the baby Winston was a controversial and outrageous woman who flaunted the norms of her Victorian era. While it was somewhat interesting to read this imagining of her life and the time period in which she lived, overall I found the story dull and plodding.
  • The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott: A fascinating premise, this novel tells the story behind Boris Pasternak’s book, Doctor Zhivago, and how the CIA used it as a propaganda tool. Told from several different character voices, it goes back and forth among the stories of Pasternak’s lover and muse, Olga, the two CIA secretaries who began as typists and became spies, and one or two other characters. That back and forthing is confusing and I frequently had to look back to see which character was speaking. The voice of Olga was most compelling and learning about her time in the Gulag truly horrifying; the other characters I found flat and boring.



  • Limetown on Facebook Watch: I couldn’t get into the podcast. It didn’t sound like actual people  being interviewed, just really earnest actors (which it was because ots fiction) and that really turned me off. The show however, is compelling and suspenseful, with a stellar cast, including Jessica Beal and John Beasley. (It’s also a book).
  • Black Christmas (1974)
  • Black Christmas (2019): Similar to the original in setting only. Was a fun, not very scary PG -13 horror film with strong feminist themes.
  • The L Word Generation Q on Showtime
  • Dark Waters: Remember when we found out that teflon was really bad for us? No? This legal thriller will remind you.
  • Knives Out in theaters was a fun whodunnit, filmed locally, including Moody Street.



  • Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Susan Ware: Our library was so fortunate to host the author of this excellent inclusive history of the woman’s suffrage movement featuring women and artifacts who have not been given enough due regarding their roles in the movement.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern:  Zachary recognizes an episode from his childhood in a mysterious book in his college library and starts on a mysterious journey.  Written in a non linear format, the style is dreamlike with a lot of mysterious characters and extremely descriptive detail.  Although the pace was very leisurely, I read the book very quickly, though I much preferred Morgenstern’s first novel, The Night Circus.
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds, read by Heather Alicia SimmsI’ve been enjoying Jason Reynolds’s Track series, the second being about Patina aka “Patty”.  This book is a great blend of lighthearted prose along with serious situations, such as Patina’s mother’s diabetes.  I love the loving and complicated relationship she has with her uncle and aunt who are raising her.
  • The Girl in the White Gloves: A Novel of Grace Kelly by Kerri Maher: I would recommend this upcoming novel for readers who enjoy to read fictitious accounts of celebrities, such as Josephine Baker’s Last Dance and The Paris Wife. 
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: Beautiful coming of age, character driven novel, written in verse, about Xiomara, who discovers her love for slam poetry while navigating her relationship with her immigrant parents, her twin brother, and a new love.
  • March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley: The four authors each tackle one of the March sisters in this unique analysis of Little Women.  I saw the four sisters in a different light upon reading this, especially Beth and the oft-maligned Amy.
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier: Telgemeier continues to be my favorite graphic novel writer/illustrator and really captures the anxiety of a pre-teen girl in her latest addition.
  • Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, read by Julia Whelan: Evvie, a young widow who had been on the verge of leaving her husband, connects romantically with Dean, her tenant and a washed up baseball player.  This was a pleasant read (or listen) though I found it hard to completely invest in the characters.
  • Trailblazer by Dorothy Butler Gilliam: Fascinating memoir and history about the first female African-American reporter at The Washington Post
  • Dawnland: This documentary details the horrible history behind child welfare agencies removing Native American children from their homes and the results of a “truth and reconciliation commission” from Maine to investigate the practice.  Very powerful and ends with more questions than answers.
  • Bright Lights: This sad, raw, and occasionally funny documentary is about the relationship between mother and daughter, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.  The fact this was released just weeks after their deaths adds a poignancy to the film.
  • It’s Me, Hilary: The Man Who Drew Eloise: Oooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love Eloise (and by extension the man who illustrated her).