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Staff Reads September 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Deb F.

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This was SOOO well-done. By complete coincidence, I started listening to this on audiobook right after finishing So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Turns out, Bahni also narrates The Hate U Give, a great young adult fiction story that really walked the walk of the principles in So You Want To Talk About Race. It was a terrific pairing, albeit accidental!
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: Some books can provide “windows” to view another’s reality; books that reflect a reader’s own life are considered “mirrors”. For me, this book was both: a mirror because it was about Librarians, but a window because the characters worked in Depression-era Kentucky & delivered books on horseback! I listened on audio and it was so good that I was really anxious to get back in the car & hear what would happen next and had to sit in my driveway to finish it because I knew I was only a few minutes from the end!

Louise

  • Godshot:  A Novel by Chelsea Bieker: Lacy Mae, the fourteen year old narrator of this beautifully written novel, has a difficult story to tell. She is living in an impoverished town near the Napa Valley that is suffering a terrible relentless drought.  The raisins that were the lifeblood of the community are no longer growing successfully.  Her grandfather commits suicide in despair.
    A preacher comes to town and, seemingly miraculously, there is a long rain.  Lacy’s family become regular church members.  When the drought resumes, more is asked of the church members.  Unfortunately, the desperate residents comply rather than question their prophet.  Lacy has to grow up fast and to make some very difficult decisions about her path.
    I loved this book and heartily recommend it with a caveat; there is sexual abuse in this novel.
    I would classify this as a beautiful pro feminist piece of fiction that explores mother daughter relationships, coming of age and false prophets.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Zora Neale Hurston was a brilliant African-American writer and anthropologist during the Harlem Renaissance.  This love story takes place in the American South and our heroine, Janie, is a woman ahead of her time.  She is not satisfied to just live in a docile and obedient fashion with any man, but follows her heart instead.  This is an uplifting story about a strong, resilient, spunky young woman who is able to break free of others’ expectations and be who she is meant to be.  I plan to read more by Zora Neale Hurston and I regret that she did not get the appreciation for this novel during her lifetime that she gets today.  
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (audiobook): I had been meaning to read something by Celeste Ng for a long time, and I am so glad that I listened to this book.  It is the 1970s and the Lee family’s middle daughter, Lydia has disappeared.  The Lees have to come to terms with a lost daughter, lost hopes and difficult family dynamics.  A beautiful novel about families, prejudice, fears and hopes that is highly relatable and very sad. Do not read this if you are wanting light reading but do read this if you want a beautiful novel about family dynamics, American society, the sexism that women are subject to, and the prejudice that people have when facing others who are different from themselves.
  • All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg (audiobook): The death of a rather criminal patriarch shakes up his entire family who must come to terms with the emotional scars that he has left behind.  I really enjoyed this book as it had some humor, some pathos, and some healing all in one.  
  • Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (audiobook): This is a one of a kind novel about taxidermy, suicide, family pain, and redemption.  Beautifully written with believable and well developed characters.  Warning:  a lot of graphic taxidermy details that might not be palatable to all readers.
    I heard about this novel in the library’s Tell Us What You’re Reading book club and I am so glad to have listened to this book.  I plan to read more by this author.
  • Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (audiobook): Just started this audiobook and I am already thoroughly engrossed and can hardly wait to hear more.  Sittenfeld writes about Hilary Rodham Clinton and posits a situation where Hilary and Bill date, are seriously considering marriage, but decide to part due to Bill’s ‘problem’ with cheating.  Great narration, too!
  • Mama Day by Gloria Naylor: I recommend this book to anyone who likes a great story, a talented author, a bit of mysticism and magic, and strong female characters.  Gloria Naylor apparently based this novel on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  The narration of this novel is very interesting because we are hearing from people both living and dead and it gives the book a poetic and mystical feeling that I really enjoyed.
    I plan to read other works by Ms. Naylor because I know that I will be in good hands!
  • The Miseducation Of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: Beautifully written coming of age novel about a teenage  girl who loses her parents in a tragic car accident. Her Aunt comes to live with her and, unfortunately, Aunt Ruth is a born again Christian who sends Cameron to a place that tries to degay teenagers. And, unfortunately, there are still misguided Aunt Ruths who believe in sending their children to these sorts of places. Cameron is an athletic, intelligent, spunky heroine and I was rooting for her from the very first page of this enticing and thoughtful novel.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This book begins with a fire and a general suspicion about who set the fire.  Two families intersect in this novel about norms and outliers; the Richardson family and a single mother and her daughter; Mia and Pearl.  Mia is an itinerant artist who has moved herself and her daughter many times.  The Richardsons are an upper middle class family in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  One of their children, Izzy, is more impulsive and true to herself vs. social norms than the rest of the family.  She calls things like she sees them and is deemed ‘crazy’ by various Richardsons.  Her mother is hardest of all on Izzy.
    Pearl spends much time with the Richardsons and Pearl and Mia grow more and more intertwined; until a dispute about a baby happens.  Everything changes then.  A great read with a very interesting plot.
  • Dirty Dancing: I watched this movie twice in a row.  The dancing, the music, the Catskills, the joy, Jerry Orbach as a dad.  This movie is such an uplifting, funny (schlocky in the best sense of the word) delight.
  • Gloria Bell: Okay, this is my third time watching this film where Julianne Moore falls into a very unfortunate romance.  Great movie about divorce, blended families and keeping one’s spirit going during difficult circumstances.
  • Mystic Pizza: This is the movie that put Julia Roberts on the map.  This is great when you want to see a coming of age novel about friendship, maturation from teenager to young adult, Mystic Connecticut and a secret recipe for the greatest pizza in town.
  • The Miseducation Of Cameron Post: Some changes from the beautiful novel but this movie keeps the spirit of the book and I loved the acting and would watch this again. The acting is very believable and the scenery is gorgeous.  I do recommend seeing the film and reading the novel because both are beautiful in their own way.  This is a coming of age novel about a young teen who loses her parents in a tragic car accident.  Her Aunt Ruth, a born again Chrisitian, is horrified about Cameron’s sexuality and sends her to a place that attempts to encourage teens to pray away the gay.
    Luckily for all of us, Cameron is a strong and spirited young woman who works to find her way to herself during a very difficult situation.  She befriends a couple of her fellow inmates and they support each other through the trials and tribulations of this experience.  This movie is very timely as there are still many in the world who believe that this is an appropriate way to ‘help’ those who are gay.
  • In The Aisles: A lovely film (German film with English subtitles) about a group of people working in a big box store.  We learn about their lives, their tragedies, their romances and we grow to love them.
  • The Party: A great little dark comedy about a woman who is celebrating a promotion; except the celebration turns dark rather quickly. You will not see the ending coming until…the very end!
    Don’t fast forward now that I said that.  Hilarious in a dark sort of way.  Great acting!
  • The Wedding Plan: This is not exactly the same as Muriel’s Wedding, a film that I adored, but if you liked that one, you will love this one.  Our heroine, a very observant Jewish woman, is having problems finding a match.  She decides to plan her wedding party anyway and to have total faith that a groom will appear.  Delightful, lovely, charming, and funny. 
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God: I really enjoyed this movie with Halle Berry playing Janie and excellent casting in all roles including the wonderful Teacake (her true love).  I felt that it was very true to the book and enjoyed every minute.  This is a romantic and, ultimately, feminist story of a woman truly following her heart and coming into her own.

Debora H:

  • They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery: This was a fascinating look at the protest movements born out of the many police killings of Black people in cities across America, starting with the response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The movements have evolved over time: from believing change could come from within the system, to knowing that the entire system had to change; from making sure the public knows about police killings to doing political organizing. Protesters like Martese Johnson learned that, even though he was a college student serving on the University of Virgnia’s Honor Committee, he wasn’t safe from police harassment. And even when protesters succeeded in getting the president of the University of Missouri to resign for failure to address racist incidents on campus, they soon realized that nothing had changed with regard to the culture on campus. One incident Lowery writes about is when protester Bree Newsome literally climbed the flagpole outside the South Carolina state house to take down the Confederate flag. Although the flag was put back up 45 minutes later and Newsome was arrested, two weeks later, state legislators debated the issue and ultimately voted to take the flag down for good. The protesters make savvy use of social media to get their message out. One trending hashtag, #iftheygunmedown, encouraged Black youth to post photos of themselves with family, or at graduation, or in their service uniforms, or reading to children side by side with photos that showed them doing something less positive like partying. The goal was to combat the media tendency to post negative photos of the victims of police shootings, often to perpetuate the myth that the young person was a thug. Bad mouthing the victims of police shootings, rather than the shooters themselves, often leads to the impossible dilemma of trying to defend the honor of the victims. Lowery notes, “the protest chants were never meant to assert the innocence of every slain Black man and woman.” He adds, “Who is the perfect victim? Michael Brown? Kajieme Powell? Eric Garner? Sandra Bland? Freddie Gray? Young activists reframed the question: Does it matter?” Does it matter? I think not. These are human lives lost because of an entrenched system of racism that won’t die unless we all take active steps to change it. The book ends just before the 2016 election and there is an especially poignant quote from a young activist: “The protests will continue…Regardless of who is elected, we’re going to work to continue this level of engagement with the next administration; there’s just too much at stake.” The protests have continued, yes.
  • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta: Boy, was this a disappointment. I read it because I had loved The Leftovers, but this book doesn’t measure up. It’s just plain stupid. The main character, Eve Fletcher, is likeable enough, but she’s poorly imagined and acts more like her teenage son than a fortysomething mother. Even the one moment when there is an impending crisis of Eve’s son walking in on his mother’s threesome simply disappears after the build up. It has a happy, but not very believable ending.

Amber

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney: This novel that follows the on-again, off-again relationship between two young Dubliners made nearly every best-of list in 2019 has been made into a critically acclaimed tv show on Hulu.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Longlisted for the 2020 Man Booker Prize, this is a relevant and timely novel about race and privilege.
  • Drinking French by David Lebovitz: Go from day (cafe drinks) to night (aperitifs and cocktails) in this gorgeous book about French culture. Santé!
  • That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life by Marissa Mullen: I love, love, love cheese boards and I love, love, love this book. Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by pretty pictures and illustrations that focus on simple ingredients to make fun themed boards.
  • Perry Mason: This series shows us how Perry Mason became Perry Mason and is one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Great writing, great acting, great score, this show is worth the price of a monthly HBO subscription on its own.
  • My Life is Murder: I must confess that I did not watch Xena: Princess Warrior so I had no idea how utterly charming Lucy Lawless is until now! This Australia series set in Melbourne, features Lawless as a retired police detective that gets pulled back in to help with hard-to-solve cases.
  • Dublin Murders: Based on Into the Woods and The Likeness by best-selling author Tana French, this series is set in Dublin and focuses on a present day crime that seems to be connected to the disappearance of two local children in the 80s. A second plotline arises about halfway through this eight-episode season.
  • Nice White Parents: A new podcast from the makers of Serial about equality in public schools. Although this series focuses on public schools in New York City, the issues at hand are surely occurring in some variation in every single public school in this country.

Dana

Kim

Kelly

  • The Cactus by Sarah Haywood: A fun, light beach read with quirky but likeable characters.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: A funny, silly rom-com, literally set on the beach. I kept thinking this would be a cute movie. The plot’s a little out there, but very enjoyable overall.
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone : a Therapist, Her therapist, and Our Lives Revealed  by Lori Gottlieb: I loved this true story about one therapist’s journey through therapy. I found the idea of therapy through the eyes of a practicing therapist fascinating. Her story, and that of her patients, was equally amusing and moving; I laughed and I cried. Gottlieb is a great writer.
  • The Body: a Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson: What a fabulous book. Bryson is an incredible writer and it makes tough science read easy. I was shocked by how little I know about the body and some of the “healthy” habits I had that Bryson debunks. I have recommended this book to many people and everyone has thanked me. A highlight for me is that you can skip around chapters (I jumped around and read what was most interesting to me first).

Ashley

  • The Old Guard: Based on the comic of the same name, this featured Charlize Theron kicking butt as an ancient warrior.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix: This was amazing, adorable, and exceeded my expectations.
  • The Gymnast: Ever loved a movie so much you want everyone to see it? But you are also too scared to introduce anyone to it because you’re scared they won’t love it? This low budget indie blew me away when it came out in 2006. It’s rare to have actual dancers play dancers in film, and this, while it has a few flaws, is really beautiful. Just don’t tell me if you watch it and don’t love it.
  • The Aerialist: The sequel to The Gymnast I’ve been waiting for for 14 years! Dreya Weber, the star of both The Gymnast and The Aerialist, is an incredible performer who brings such talent and depth to this film about our bodies and how they betray us. Shot in 10 days, with almost no budget, this film is as mesmerizing as its predecessor.
  • These Woods are Haunted on Travel channel: I’ve always loved creepy stories, especially the ones told by the people who experienced them. You might enjoy this if you like the podcast, Spooked. Let’s just say I’ve lost all desire to go camping after binging both seasons. But it was fun!
  • In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby: While this adorable middle grade novel is about a present day young teen figuring herself out through her love of old soapoperas, it was a nostalgia filled journey fir me, back to 2000, and the first lesbian character on daytime tv. This was a sweet middle grade novel.
  • You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This was a disappointment. I was excited because I love gothic spooky house stories. But I didn’t really care for the protagonist, and well, I saw almost every “plot twist” coming. It just wasn’t actually that creepy or scary.
  • Malorie by Josh Malerman: This sequel to the exciting Bird Box was ok, it was a little too slow and introspective for me.

Laura

  • Shuri by Nic Stone: I enjoyed this coming of age novel about Shuri, best known as the younger sister of T’Challa, aka “Black Panther”. It does help to have some knowledge of either the comics or film universe of Black Panther but I don’t think anyone needs an excuse to read something by Nic Stone. Chadwick Boseman’s (T’Challa from the film) untimely death do make me remember this book, with bittersweetness.
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram: Sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay which I loved. Fresh off a trip to Iran to visit his mother’s family, Darius is navigating a lot of relationships in his life, including his family, first boyfriend, and burgeoning friendship with Chip. Another great character driven novel. I hope there’s a third entry!
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall: Recently, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which, theoretically, gave women the right to vote but, in reality, not all women, especially Black and Indigenous Women, and other women of color. This book highlights how it’s important to remember all women when fighting for women’s rights, not just straight cis white women, and how to make the movement more intersectional.
  • The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo: You do not need to be a serious hiker in order to enjoy this memoir of an Appalachian Trail Through Hiker. In fact, you can be a complete poseur and wannabe hiker like me! Lugo’s prose is witty and thoughtful as he details his six month journey as well as the fact that he was one of the few through hikers of color.
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, read by Santino Fontana: I’m so done with prequels. After seeing The Phantom Menace on opening night in 1999, I really need to stop watching/reading prequels. I really didn’t need to read (or listen, in my case) to one for The Hunger Games trilogy. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m not as into The Hunger Games as  once was.) That being said, it was fast paced book and Fontana’s narration did add to the novel, in a good way.
  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: Did I say that I was not that into The Hunger Games anymore? I meant to say, that I’m really not into Harry Potter, anymore! (JK Rowling’s transphobic comments and attitude about transgender women certainly has not endeared me to her works, either). Oddly, my fall of enthusiasm for the Harry Potter franchise is exactly why I’ve been enjoying this gentle parody by Rainbow Rowell so much. Wayward Son is the sequel to Carry On, which was actually the fan fiction of the fictional Simon Snow series written by the fictional Cath in Rowell’s novel, Fangirl.  (Everyone get that?) On its surface, this world may just seem like an ersatz Harry Potter but they stand up so much on their own, and (in my opinion) correct a lot of the issues that I have with the Potter books.
  • Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory: My favorite romance writer does it again! Olivia, sister to Alexa from The Wedding Date who has just moved to LA to start her own law firm, has a meet cute with Max, a US Congressman as they bond over dessert. I continue to love how Guillory’s characters always seem real and that the relationships are realistic and healthy.
  • Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi: This re-working of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi takes events from America history that most of us were taught in school and presents them through a different lens. There is so much that we (at least my generation) were not taught.
  • BambiThis was my third time seeing this movie, and first time since I was a child.Still traumatizing.
  • Bambi IIAs direct to video Disney sequels go (or midquels, in this case), this wasn’t too bad. Patrick Stewart as Bambi’s father made me chuckle. I kept waiting for him to tell Bambi, “engage”
  • The SimpsonsI am definitely part of the Simpsons generation. I remember when they were shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show and I owned a Bart Simpson, “Don’t Have a Cow, Man” t-shirt. That being said, I haven’t watched a new episode in at least 15 years (possibly even 20). I’ve started to go back and binge watch the early seasons. In a lot of ways, the early episodes still hold up and are, in some cases, more relevant now than they were in the 1990s. However, there is a lot that has not aged well, including, but not limited to, white actors, such as Hank Azaria, voicing characters of color, such as Apu. It took the show much too long to make amends regarding that.
  • The Problem with Apu: Documentary produced by comedian, Hari Kondabolu and his complicated relationship with The Simpsons. Although he was a fan of the show, he realized the problems that arose from Hank Azaria’s portrayal of Apu, the show’s South Asian convenience store owner. Great and thoughtful documentary.

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