Staff Reads March 2021

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  • All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the third in the Ellery Hathaway series by this local Waltham author with whom I went to school.  It’s so very cool to know a successful author of books I like to read! I did not correctly guess the killer, so that was a nice surprise for me. My second guess wasn’t correct, either, but another character shared my incorrect guess, so at least I’m in good company. If you’re looking to start at the beginning, the first in the series is Vanishing Season and the second is No Mercy. (Watch the Joanna Schaffhausen WPL program, “Famous Kidnappings & How They Were Solved“. Join us live on March 17 at 7:00 pm or watch it after the event on Youtube!)
  • Artemis by Andy Weir: This is a book by the author of The Martian that I really, really enjoyed as an audiobook a few years back… I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to find out what happened next! I listened to this one on audio as well and it’s narrated by Rosario Dawson. I really enjoyed this one, too. Artemis is a city on the moon. There’s a lot of science to these fiction titles, plus some scheming and a cool setting with many logistical problems to keep things interesting!
  • Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand: This is a bit on the chick-lit end of a spectrum for me but I started this series because it takes place on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John where I’ve traveled often. This is the third of a trilogy that starts with Winter in Paradise and continues with What Happens in Paradise. It’s the story of a woman whose husband dies around St. John. She travels to the island in order to find out about the circumstances of his death.
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: This is my first 5-star book of 2021. I added it to my To-Read list based on a Good Reads list and moved it to the top of my list on my colleague Dana’s recommendation, since she is yet to steer me wrong! (See last month’s Staff Reads for Dana’s review.) I listened to this one as an audiobook and enjoyed the narration. This novel is mental health meets magical realism meets quantum physics meets fabulous storytelling!


  • Medicus by Ruth Downie: A hugely satisfying historic fiction set in the ancient Roman empire. The best part about the novel? Its voice. Roman army medic Ruso is serving in the distant outpost of Deva, Brittania (modern day Chester, England). Trouble seems to follow him everywhere and he ultimately saves an enslaved woman, discovers and solves two murders, and finds love in the process. He’s a wry, very likeable character and the story is fun. One thing I found astonishing was how advanced Roman medicine was circa 100 AD – they were doing cataract surgery!
  • Eli’s Promise by Ronald Balson: This WWII novel spans three time periods: 1939 Poland, 1946 Germany, and 1965 Chicago. In 1939, Eli Rosen lives with his wife and young son in Poland when the Nazis invade. The Nazi noose tightens daily as Eli tries to protect his family and construction business. Maximilian Poleski is an immoral extortionist who promises to help Eli’s family – and profit nicely for himself. In 1946, we see Eli and his son in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war. Eli learns there is a Max selling illegal visas to America and he’s sure it’s the same man, Poleski. He works hard to bring Max down. In 1965, Eli is living in America and working for the government. We meet several new characters and watch in horror when two of them are murdered. Eli is still a man on a mission to seek justice for a man who betrayed his family and country – Max.
  • The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White: I don’t know how three authors managed to create a novel together, but they did and it’s a great read. There are two story lines: one in 2013 featuring author Sarah Blake who is determined to find out what role her great-grandfather may have had with the sinking of the Lusitania and one in 1915 on the Lusitania with a cast of characters who we follow for the seven days before the ship is torpedoed by a German U-boat. Southern belle Caroline Hochstetter is unhappy in her marriage with husband Gilbert; Caroline’s longtime friend Robert Langford is in love with Caroline; and thief Tessa Fairweather is determined to accomplish one last crime and then retire. The characters’ lives become intertwined and the story is fast paced up to the very end. The 2013 storyline also has a satisfying love drama.




  • Road Through Midnight: A Civil Rights Memorial by Jessica Ingram: A photo album-style book featuring images that look, at first glance, quite ordinary: a vacant lot, a dirt road, a run-down building. Often lacking memorials or plaques, these were the sites of murders and other racially motivated crimes that were pivotal events in the civil rights era of the 1950s, 60s, Ingram’s supporting research is both thorough and heartbreaking.
  • The World is Round by Gertrude Stein and illustrated by Clement Hurd: I loved this children’s book, although Stein’s stream-of-consciousness writing style isn’t for everyone. Clement “Goodnight Moon” Hurd’s illustrations are lovely and the vivid pink pages with light blue text are unexpectedly soothing.
  • Newton and Curie: The Science Squirrels written and illustrated by Daniel Kirk: I can’t believe a book like this was written in 2020. Brother squirrel Newton wonders aloud about various scientific phenomena while sister Curie would rather play. She begrudgingly helps him conduct various science experiments, occasionally exclaiming “And It’s Fun!” This book plays into gender stereotypes around girls and science. Two paws down!
  • “Throughline” Podcast: “How Octavia Butler’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Became A Constant In A Man’s Evolution” (Feb 18 2021): I’m not a big sci fi reader but now want to read all of Ms. Butler’s books. This podcast made for an hour very well spent.


  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo: This was a sweet coming of age story about a gay, Chinese-American teenage girl growing up and figuring out who she is in San Fransico in the 50s.
  • A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong: The 6th installment in her Rockton series, this one felt like a lot of filler. Some things were answered, and loose ends tied up, but all in all, not the best read in the series.
  • Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine: The final book In her Stillwater Lake series, this one did not live up to the greatness of its predecessors. It also seemed to have a lot of filler and dialogue about things that happened in previous books, which didn’t move the plot along very quickly.
  • Ginny & Georgia on Netflix: Promos tried to say this was the new Gilmore Girls, but I don’t understand the comparison. A single mom who had a kid as a teen does not Gilmore Girls make. The highlight of this show for me was the appearance of two actors who were on Degrassi as kids, especially Sarah Waisglass. She’s been playing a 15 year old since 2013, but this is her best performance yet.
  • Night Stalker on Netflix: I enjoy a good true crime documentary, and this one was incredibly well done. What I feel really made it, was the compelling narrative told by the officers who had worked the case. I found their narrative absolutely riveting. THis wasn’t just a story about a man and the horrible things he did, but the story of these officers’ lives, and the entire community that was impacted.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 (Season 5): This show has gone completely off the rails by season 5, but it’s fun to see the characters wearing styles and outfits I wore as a preteen in the mid nineties!



  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J Ryan Stradal (read by Judith Ivey): A heartfelt and humorous novel with memorable characters. You don’t have to like beer or be from Minnesota to enjoy this read… but it helps. Judith Ivey hits the right notes in the audiobook version (available on overdrive) with her voices, accents.
  • The Yellow Book by Sam Cha: A challenging, thought-provoking, and moving debut collection from an exceptional poet who writes against genre in these pages that read more like prose, elaborating instead a new kind of space and language to hear and better understand the impact of white supremacy (and ignorance) directed at people from Asian countries, particularly those living in the U.S.
  • Side Pony (music album) by Lake Street Dive: A band that has grown together and grown on me through the years. With a new album out this year, I went back to revisit (and bob along to) Side Pony.


  • Hello, Habits by Fumio Sasaki which is a great book about both the art and science behind how habits work, how you can fine tune your better habits, and how to stop bad habits. I really enjoyed it.
  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle was one of the best things I’ve read in a while. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but it’s charming and very thought provoking. I stayed up too late one night and finished it in one setting. This would be a great book group choice for discussion.


  • Group by Christie Tate: I adore this memoir by Christie Tate. We get to know about her and her insecurities; her loneliness, her food issues, her fear of revealing too much of herself. Then we get to meet all of the members of Christie’s delightful and unconventional therapy group. Christie was raised in a family that relied on appearances. Her family was and is loving, but did not have a lot of vocabulary for feelings and what goes on beyond the surface. Christie comes to terms with her inner self in this book and we root for her as she becomes a more integrated person who has much healthier relationships. I recommend this to anyone who likes to read about people’s inner struggles, growth and recovery. 
  • Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshigazu Kawaguchi: This gem of a book can be found on Hoopla. The action all takes place in a small, hole in the wall coffee shop in the outskirts of Tokyo. Rumor has it that there is an option to travel back in time from this location. One curious reporter tried to get a first hand report on the matter but could not find anyone who had actually made the time travel journey. However, dear reader, you will get to meet four amazing women who take this journey. They learn about some of the time travelling rules of the coffee shop. One of them is that you can only meet with someone who has been inside of the cafe. Another is that the time traveler takes a cup of coffee with them. They must drink the coffee before it gets cold if they want to come out in one piece. They can not stay longer than the time it takes for the coffee to get cold. No matter what happens they can not change the presence. This is a lovely book about the words in our hearts that we sometimes wish we could have said in the past or, that we would like to say to the future when we are no longer here. Beautiful.
  • White Ivy by Susie Yang: Read this book if you enjoy stories about second generation immigrants and the misunderstandings that can happen between parents and children. However, do not read this book if you want a conventional, well behaved main character. Ivy is neither conventional nor well behaved. This book actually reminds me a bit of the Theodore Dreiser classic An American Tragedy. So many of us fall prey to the belief that money, wealth, prestige are the key to happiness. Ivy is no exception to this. Unfortunately, her dogged pursuit of these ‘important’ acquisitions, do not necessarily lead to total contentment for Ivy. The character of Ivy is complicated and rich and this book is addictive and rich and great for book clubs as it can lead to really interesting and fruitful conversation. I loved it and highly recommend it. It goes a bit dark so keep that in mind when deciding.
  • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish: This book is a hoot! I recommend the audiobook because Haddish herself is the reader and she does a great job with the narration. Haddish had a very difficult childhood but she refuses to feel sorry for herself. Instead she really makes humor and energy work for her. Personally, I loved this book and really admire Ms. Haddish. Such spunk and joie de vivre! I really enjoyed this and found it to be a fast read. Fun!
    Note: there is violence, graphic language, some slightly cringeworthy description of someone with a disability in this book.
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, well. My colleagues can tell you that science fiction is not my main reading interest. However. This is a fabulous book. Kim Stanley Robinson describes for us New York City and its possible iteration in the year 2140. Due to global warming, the city is more like Venice with people getting around in boats for the most part. Central Park is still there and people take walks. We meet a group of people who all live in the same building and they are all extremely interesting and colorful. At first, I felt upset because of the climate change issue. I switched to Red White And Royal Blue (see below) because it is an entertaining romance that my esteemed colleague Liz recommended. Then I came back to Mr. Robinson. I felt more acclimated when I came back to the book. In my case, I listened to the audiobook which is really good with multiple narrators. There is a great deal of human spirit and humor in this book. The characters are trying to make things better; to save the planet, to keep the wealthy from having everything at the expense of everybody else. I was really left with a lot of hope and admired the author for taking on this tough subject.
  • Red White And Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: This is a great pandemic read! Imagine if the President of the United States was a Black woman, she had biracial children, and one of them develops a crush on a member of the royal family….this book is like having scones and tea and then relaxing on a lounge chair by the pool. Sheer fun! Funny, too.
  • All Adults Here by Emma Straub: This is a story of three generations of a family in small town New York, their ups and downs, their struggles. It is rather sweet. Quiet and sweet. Good pandemic reading because people are working hard to communicate and love each other despite their flaws. A nice read.
  • Night Of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel: This classic has been reissued and it is a quick and interesting read. I really enjoyed this novel. Note: there are no cell phones, people are drinking and smoking like they did in Mad Men which is kind of entertaining at least to me. Times have really changed in these ways! The book was written in 1965 and, in my opinion, it really holds up.
  • Dawn by Octavia E. Butler: Oh. My. Goodness. I am reading another science fiction novel. Perhaps this is habit forming! I watched an interview with Octavia Butler and decided I had to give her a try. This book is sooooo good. Part of a trilogy which means, uh oh, I may have to read the whole thing. Not to worry. It is an easy and quick read. Our main character Lilith, has been ‘asleep’ for a long time. When the novel opens, she is having an awakening. She has apparently had several of these. Here’s the thing. Um well, earth was kind of destroyed by some crazy people and Lilith is meeting extraterrestrials who have been putting her to sleep and awakening her. They are soooo interesting…and she is such a strong character. I am totally engrossed in this book!


  • You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar: Amber Ruffin, host of The Amber Ruffin Show and writer/performer on Late Night with Seth Meyers joins forces with her sister, Lacey, to recount the real life racist experiences that Lacey has endured while working, shopping, seeking medical care. In other words, just living her life. This book is a must addition to anti-racist work and booklists.
  • The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison: This collection of essays and speeches by the late great Toni Morrison span over four decades but are timeless. The essays about racial justice and respect (or lack thereof) for writers and those in the arts could easily have been written three months ago and not 20+ years ago). Morrison’s writing is lyrical and thoughtful.
  • More Bridgerton novels by Julia Quinn: Prior to the show, I had only read three in the eight book series, so I’ve been catching up on those that I missed as well as re-visiting others:
    • The Viscount Who Loved Me: This was a re-read (or listen, in this case). This is still my favorite of the series and I’m excited that the second season of the show is going to cover this novel.
    • An Offer from a GentlemanA different take on the Cinderella story and (an attempt to) look at class structure in Regency England. 
    • Romancing Mister BridgertonThis is my favorite of the novels that were new (to me). Penelope is a great character in the novels. 
    • To Sir Phillip with LoveNot sure how I feel about this one. I think part of the issue is that I really liked Eloise on the show as well as another show character whose name I won’t spoil (who only exists in the book series as someone who died before the book takes place). I don’t love the fates of either character as presented here. I would probably feel better about this novel if I hadn’t watched the show.
  • Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, read by Carrington MacDuffie: Novel which imagines a scenario in which Hillary Rodham (Clinton) breaks up with Bill Clinton and how it changes both of their lives. I’m almost finished with this and undecided how I feel about it. Good pick for those who like alternate histories but I have a lot of thoughts about the narrative and direction that I’m trying to piece together. I preferred Sittenfeld’s previous First Lady novel, American Wife
  • Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St. Onge, and Jay San: I loved this graphic novel so much! Hazel and Mari fall in love in the 1960s as teenagers but family and societal pressures force them to end their relationship. They rediscover each other many years later and find themselves with a second chance. This is a beautiful depiction of a loving, healthy, and passionate relationship. There is always more room for LGBTQIA+ romances as well as romances focusing on people of color. However, I also just really appreciate the fact that the couple at the central part of the story are women who are senior citizens. So few romances focus on anyone over a certain age and how refreshing to see a romance book cover with characters with gray hair! 
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas: Prequel to The Hate U Give about Starr’s father, Maverick. Beautiful story about the struggles that Maverick has to face, including having enough money to support his infant son, Seven, struggling with the murder of his beloved cousin, Dre, and pressure to keep his emotions intact. It’s not necessary to read The Hate U Give in order to enjoy this novel, but I definitely recommend it, anyway! It’s also interesting to see how the adults we met in the previous book became who they are.

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