Staff Reads — February 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef

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  • The Book of Dust, Volume One, La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman: This prequel to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is much more plot driven than the original trilogy. This may be due to the fact that there is no need for world building since the world is most likely already familiar to the reader. The main character, Malcolm is not as well defined as a character as Lyra was in The Golden Compass but he is still a likeable protagonist. He becomes the protector of baby Lyra and meets characters with whom we’re already familiar.
  • The History of Bees by Maja Lunde: Tao is living in China in 1898 and working as a pollinator; George is in Ohio in 2007 and is heartbroken to learn that his son does not wish to carry on the family business of beekeeping; William lives in England in 1852, and seems unsatisfied with his life but becomes obsessed with making a new bee hive. This novel is anything but light and quick but the short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down. It has a little something for everyone as it blends multiple genres from historical to speculative/dystopian to realistic fiction.
  • Evicted by Matthew Desmond: This non-fiction, written in the narrative style, was the February entry for our Thursday night and Wednesday morning book club. Desmond followed eight families in Milwaukee in 2008 as they struggled with bills, rent, and desperate landlords. I dare anyone to read this book and not feel affected by it.

Kate S.

Janet Z.:

Pat A.:



  • I have heard that Rainbow Rowell is a fabulous writer and I checked out the book Landline. This is a great book for anyone who wants to read a book that is funny, romantic and slightly mystical. Georgie, a talented comedy writer is very dedicated to her work and her family. Her stay at home husband, Neal, is very upset when he learns that his wife needs to work during Christmas week and will not be able to visit his parents due to a fabulous business opportunity.
    Georgie is very upset about this turn of events and stays at her quirky fun mother’s house during this difficult time. Lo and behold, the landline in her childhood bedroom connects to her husband in the past. Is this an opportunity to fix the relationship by stepping back? A sign that Georgie is going crazy? An opportunity to change things so that the relationship does not go forward? (an option Georgie rejects because she loves her two daughters too much to not have them be born.)
    No spoiler alerts here. Read this delightful book and find out.
    If you like this book, I also recommend the delightful novel, Hanging Up by Delia Ephron.
  • Four court gavels up for Anatomy of A Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. If you like strong women protagonists, suspense, and compulsively readable novels, this is the book for you. The book is rich in character, plot and setting. You will feel like you have traveled to Oxford University, Liverpool and London in one novel.
    If you enjoy this book, I recommend : We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley. You will get a sense of upper class New York life and the struggles of those with money and those who plot to get their hands on some of that money.

Nancy D.:

  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu: Described as “a tense and gripping reimagining of one of America’s most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist.” I read the prepublication of this novel, which is coming out in March, and absolutely loved it. Beautifully written with wonderful character development. The novel brings to life the tragic, true story of the ill-fated Donner wagon train expedition to California during the 1840s. Even the supernatural twist makes sense within the horror of the actual situation.
  • Beneath the Mountain by Luca D’Andrea: In this “atmospheric and brilliant thriller, set in a small mountain community in the majestic Italian Dolomites, an outsider must uncover the truth about a triple murder that has gone unsolved for thirty years.” I personally love thrillers that take place in high, isolated mountain regions and this book fits the bill. At times I thought the language lost a bit in translation (originally written in Italian) and seemed stilted, but overall I got swept up in the mystery and its many twists and turns.
  • I Know My Name by C.J. Cooke: This mystery novel alternates primarily between two main characters: a woman who washes up on an almost deserted Greek island with no memory of who she is or how she got there, and her husband (living in London) who is frantically searching for his wife, who left their home and two small children without a trace. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it!
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: Domestic thrillers are very popular these days and some are better than others. This novel is definitely one of the better ones. The moral of this story might be “be careful what you wish for.”


  • The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce: I’m stealing People Magazine’s quote here because it is so true and good: This is “an unforgettable story of music, loss, and hope. Fans of the novel High Fidelity, meet your next quirky love story. Vinyl fans, hold on to your turntables…Joyce’s latest is a buoyant homage to the healing power of music well-played.” I loved everything about this book..the characters, their story, and the music that holds them all together. As a plus, the speaker was fabulous.
  • Artemis by Andy Weir: Following up his hugely successful book The Martian, Weir creates another out of this world novel. This one is based on the moon and its first populated community called Artemis. The protagonist of this funny, action-packed novel is a kick-ass female called Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, who only wants to move up in her world and somehow ends up involved in a high stakes lunar crime venture. As with his first novel, I didn’t understand all of the scientific and technical terminology, but I stayed involved because of wonderful characters and dialogue.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Another well written story by Ng (the author of Little Fires Everywhere), this novel centers around a Chinese American family living in 1970s small town Ohio. It opens with the disappearance and death of the middle child daughter, Lydia (on whom all the parent’s hopes and dreams are pinned on), and how this loss affects them all. The novel is written from the viewpoints of both the mother and father, and the three children (the oldest son and the youngest daughter), as well as Lydia herself, and moves back and forth in time. I found the story to be a heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting exploration of family dynamics among all too human beings.
  • The Child Finder by Rene Denfield: This novel centers around an investigator who must use her unique insights to find a missing little girl lost three years ago in the woods of Oregon. I loved this suspenseful and atmospheric book, which alternates between the voices of Naomi (the child finder) and a deeply imaginative child.


  • Happy Death Day DVD: I liked this film much more that I thought I would! The protagonist is a college-aged woman who must relive her own murder every day until she can figure out who killed her. A dark comedic take on the movie Groundhog Day and by the producer of Get Out and Whiplash, two other fantastic films.
  • Hotel Beau Sejour (Netflix): I loved this Flemish-language Belgian supernatural crime drama television series in which a teenager named Kato (caught in an afterlife limbo) investigates her own mysterious death and unravels a web of secrets in her seemingly tranquil village. Strangely, five people can still see and interact with her, and they all play a role in helping her solve her murder.


  • Two Irish Lads by Gerrie Burnie is a story of two young men who fall in love with each other in an era when it could kill them both. It’s also an adventure story set in the wilds of Canada in the 1820s and complete with a cast of interesting characters. Beautifully written and laugh out loud funny, it’s a quick read.
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller tells the story of the Trojan War and the special bond between Achilles, the “best of all the Greeks,” and the awkward and lonely prince Patroclus. It is history, love, and the tension of war all rolled into one. Don’t be surprised if it makes you cry.
  • Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull is an amazing first novel told in a compelling, wry voice. Alternating between present day in a nursing home and decades before as a young man in love, this story stayed with me for many, many months.