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Staff Reads April 2021

 

 

 

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Laura

  • Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: An aspiring romance writer, Tessa, suffers from writer’s block when she enrolls in a writing program at a specialty high school. Her best friend convinces her to live out a real life romantic comedy in order to get her inspiration back. This character driven teen novel turns romance tropes on its head and is a great love letter to the genre while also being critical. I really enjoyed this.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer DeLeon: This locally set novel is about Liliana who lives in Boston, but must attend high school in the fictional suburb of Westburg as part of the METCO program. This book tackles a lot of issues, including suddenly being one of the few people of color in school, undocummented immigration, realizing your parents don’t know everything, and general coming of age. Liliana is a great character and seems like a real teenager (something not always pulled off by adult writers of teen fiction). If you have a chance, please check out Jennifer DeLeon’s conversation with the WPL Real Talk Teen Leaders on our Youtube Channel!
  • Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody: Interesting biography of the author of Harriet the Spy. I loved Harriet the Spy (and had a very brief stint of carrying a notebook around recess in fourth grade) but never thought much about the woman behind Harriet. This brings a lot more context to that book and the others set in the same universe. 
  • There Once Was a Show from Nantucket: A Complete Guide to the TV Sitcom Wings by Bob LesczakWings is a better show than Cheers (set in the same universe). Yeah, I’m from Boston and yeah, I just said that something is better than Cheers. I dare you to watch this scene and not laugh. I had a lot of fun revisiting the show with this oversized book.
  • Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn: Continuing my journey with the original eight books:
    • When He Was Wicked: This was a re-read for me but I really appreciated it this time around. It focuses on Bridgerton sibling, Francesca, who was all but forgotten in the show (thus far) and barely registers in previous novels. She’s a great character. This is also the steamiest book of the series.
    • It’s In His KissHyacinth, the youngest sibling stars in the second to last novel, who strikes up a friendship and later romance with Gareth St. Clair when she translates the diary of his deceased Italian grandmother. Lady Danbury, who is Gareth’s other grandmother, has a large role in this and she’s always fun. I will warn you that, because of the title, “The Shoop Shoop Song” was in my head on a loop. Luckily, I’m a fan but it did get to be a bit much. 
  • The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz: If you put Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, Peyton Place, and Winesburg, Ohio in a blender and throw in a dash of Olive Kitteridge, you’ll get The Daughters of Erietown. 
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty: Twitty is a food historian who runs the food blog, Afroculininaria that talks about the history of African-American food including some of its roots in slavery. As he became more interested in what we think of as traditional Southern food, Twitty started what he called the “Southern Discomfort Tour” which included, among other things, preparing food in the authentic way that an enslaved person would have prepared it as part of plantation tours. He also embarks on genealogical research, including doing a DNA analysis on Ancestry and 23 and me. The research is often difficult as a lot of resources are very Western European Centric, really exposing issues with genealogy, in general. Twitty, who is Jewish, discusses his journey with Judaism as well, including comparing the history of the importance of food to either culture as well as how he’s been perceived by some of his students (and families) in the Hebrew and Religious school classes he’s taught at various synagogues. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the food they’re eating, a deeper look into Slavery and Racism in the United States, as well as the importance of identity. Michael W. Twitty is also a good social media follow. You can follow him @koshersoul
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: I really enjoyed this Marvel show! It does right by its two main characters, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, who were not as well developed in the films. It does have its bumps (the handling of Sharon Carter) but they’re minor. I look forward to seeing more of this story, hopefully on the big screen.
  • SuperstoreI adored this show which, sadly, came to an end last month. A comedic (and sometimes heartbreaking) look at life in retail. I recommend checking this out, if you haven’t done so, yet.
  • All AmericanI’ve been watching the show since it debuted about Spencer James, who lives in South Crenshaw (Los Angeles) and chooses to play football at a high school in Beverly Hills, under the direction of a South Crenshaw graduate, and old friend of his parents. This was a great character study of a teenager caught between two worlds and the surrounding cast does a great job as well. I’m still enjoying it but it seems to have delved into being more of a soap opera than it was, originally. (So many love triangles!) I do have to accept the fact, however, that I’m probably slightly older than the target audience, however! 
  • Say I DoDo you know what I dislike more than plain reality shows? Reality shows about weddings. Please keep them away from me! And yet, I can’t help but adore this very sweet show about couples planning their weddings with the help of professional experts, Jeremiah Brent, Thai Nguyen, and Gabriele Bertaccini. The couples all seem to have very healthy and loving relationships and the hosts are there to help with the wedding but not try to fix their lives. As these types of shows go, this one is pretty refreshing. 

Debora

  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: Loved this novel about three women in Ireland, set during the 1918 pandemic. Like the author’s book, Room, the story takes place mostly in one room of a hospital – the tiny flu ward for maternity patients. Nurse Julia works hard to make her patients comfortable in an era when there was little to offer but hot lemonade. Dr. Kathleen Lynn is the covering physician whose back story both intrigues and shocks Julia and volunteer Bridie Sweeney opens Julia’s eyes to the dark underbelly of institutionalized care for children. While limited to the regimented hospital ward, Julia’s eyes and heart are opened in multiple ways that show readers the resilience of women living in very dark times. 
  • The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland: This was a fascinating read. The author uses the story of one so-called DNA seeker to shine a light on the exploding consumer DNA industry. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe encourage individuals to share their spit to discover their ancestry and, in the case of 23andMe, their genetic disease markers. Copeland follows the winding story of Alice Collins, a proud Irish American, who ultimately learns that her heritage is anything but Irish. Watch our April program, DNA Secrets, with this author on our Youtube Channel!
  • The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: I simply could not put this book down. Baker Kline tells the story of two women sentenced to transport to Australia for their crimes and one real life Aboriginal girl. Evangeline is a governess, impregnated by her employer’s son who is convicted of stealing a ring that he gave her; Hazel, also sentenced for theft, meets Evangeline on the ship to Australia; and Mathinna is an Aboriginal girl taken in – and later discarded – by the Governor of Van Dieman’s Land (present day Tasmania). Through their stories we learn the horrific history of both the women sent to the Australian penal colony and the Aboriginal people exiled from their own land. Beautifully written. 

Liz

  • The Lost Village by Camilla Sten: This horror novel about a documentary crew that sets out to unravel the mystery of an abandoned Swedish village is an absolute page turner. Great for fans of Limetown, Silent Hill or urban exploration.
  • Walking the Cape and Islands by David Weintraub: This book of 72 different walks/hikes of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is great for folks who want to get out and explore the beauty of the Cape beyond its beaches. With hikes for beginners all the way to experts, this book is full of absolute gems. My personal recommendation is the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail in Wellfleet and the Beech Forest trail in Provincetown.
     

Lisa

  • I have recently been reading the entire Bridgerton collection, including the prequel series. I have really enjoyed them and can’t wait to see the television show. I have had multiple laugh out loud moments reading these books. The series features strong relationships between family members, romance and appealing supporting characters.
     

Dana

  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline: I was eagerly awaiting this book, the sequel to Ready Player One. Almost immediately after starting though, I was disappointed. Maybe the first book was too tough an act to follow, maybe there was too much pressure for the sequel, but it felt forced to me. I felt like I was getting constantly hit over the head with name drops and throwbacks to the 1980s, like Cline was trying to see how much nostalgia he could cram into one story just for the sake of it. However, I stuck with it and by the end I was quite enjoying it, so I’m not really sure how to put into words how I feel about this book. Confused and lukewarm, I suppose?
  • This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey: This is a YA thriller that came out last summer, and it totally hooked me. Jess Flynn is a pretty typical teenager in the 90s… but then weird things start happening. Half of her hometown suddenly gets struck down by the flu, she starts hearing strange faraway chanting, her pet dog suddenly looks just a bit different, and a mysterious device with an Apple logo falls out of her friend’s backpack. Both family and friends are quick to dismiss her concerns. Is she losing her mind, or is she being gaslit as something bigger is going on? I thought the plot was a little predictable, and bits of it felt like the Divergent series, but it was still an incredibly entertaining read and I really liked it. 
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins: I’d heard good things about this modern take on Jane Eyre, and I wasn’t disappointed. Jane works as a dog walker in a posh neighborhood. A chance encounter with Eddie, a handsome neighborhood widower, leads to a whirlwind romance, but both Jane and Eddie have secrets that threaten to ruin everything. Admitting that I am a bad former English major, I have never read Jane Eyre, so I can’t attest to how the plots line up. I did see some shades of Rebecca, and I was pulled in and hooked by the mysteries and twists, so at least it’s safe to say I enjoyed it!
  • Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristen Kobes DuMez: As a former evangelical who is white, I’ve been especially fascinated by this book. I’m only about halfway done so I can’t give a full review, but learning about the history of the evangelical movement has been eye-opening, to say the least. Du Mez is a history professor at a Christian university, and the book is incredibly well researched, if a little dry at times. I’m definitely interested to see what awaits in the second half of the book.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+): I’m not a Bucky fan, but have been enjoying this series so far. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play off each other so well, and honestly, I admit that the new Captain America, John Walker, is annoying me into becoming a Bucky stan. It’s a confusing feeling.

Ashley

  • Alison Roman’s Home Movies on YouTube: It’s like the anti cooking show. Sometimes she can’t find ingredients, or forgets things, just like all of us at home in our kitchens, rather than a polished over produced cooking show. Did I mention she’s really really funny? I could do without the anchovies though.
  • The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor: A vicar and her daughter move to a remote country village in England, that just happens to be full of secrets. It was an excellent mystery that kept me guessing and engage until the end. 
  • One Last Stop by Casey Mcquiston: I guess straight up romances aren’t really my thing? I also found it a little too cutesy, but I think it would make an adorable movie. 
  • The Oregon Trail on Apple Arcade: I’ve been waiting FOREVER for a good Oregon Trail game for IOS. Not only is the artwork gorgeous, but they specifically worked with Native Americans to make a more diverse, truthful experience. Now if only my settlers would stop walking so close to the wagon and getting run over. 
  • Top Chef Season 18: This show is so addictive.

Casey

Deb

  • Every Waking Hour by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the fourth in the Ellery Hathaway series that begins with Vanishing Season. I liked this mystery book written by a Waltham native about kidnapping.  I read this in time for the author to present virtually for the library on March 17th.  See our YouTube Channel to watch now!  After some bumps in her career, Ellery has a new police partner/mentor/babysitter and I like her. There are several cases intertwined in this story and more loose ends are tied up than you bargained for!
  • Grandma Raised the Roof by Ethel Walbridge McCully: I like to travel in the Caribbean and read about places I’ve been. This book was published in 1954 and is the author’s memoir of being on her way to the British Virgin Islands when she decided, sort of on a whim, to jump off the boat she was on and build a house on the US Virgin Island of St. John instead. She’s a shrewd and spry grandmother whose family was back in New York, but had some learning to do about island ways. Trials and tribulations ensue.
  • Black Coral by Andrew Mayne: This is Underwater Investigation Unit book #2 which begins with The Girl Beneath the Sea. The characters are likable. The SCUBA diving is a fun focus. The ending seemed a little rushed, but I’ll read the next one due out next March.
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and narrated by Bahni Turpin: Fascinating and devastating pre-Civil War historical fiction about Cora, an enslaved woman who breaks away from the cotton plantation in Georgia where she was born. She encounters many different friends and foes along the way. I found it heartbreaking, inspiring and thought-provoking.
  • Mozart and the Whale; An Asperger’s Love Story by Jerry and Mary Newport: This is an intriguing memoir of two people living with autism who experience a lot of trauma growing up, meet, fall in love, have things go sideways, end up on TV and grow a lot along the way.  It is a fascinating perspective into the minds of people wired very differently from me and how they cope with the world around them.
  • Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk: It took me FOREVER to finish this book. I felt compelled because it’s on every “Caribbean must-read” list. Usually I am content to bail on a book if it’s not working for me.  There are way more books in the world than I will ever have time to read so I don’t waste my time on things that aren’t floating my boat. But I persevered in this case. And now it’s time to move on. The scenery was evocative of places I’ve visited and enjoyed. The trials and tribulations of island life logistics regarding shipping, construction and cisterns are real and often a comedy or errors. The misogyny, homophobia and portrayal of West Indian people were very 1965. It was 400 pages of so-so with all the drama happening in the last 20 pages.  There are many other books of island life, comedy and culture that I would suggest before this one.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson: This title is aimed at middle-school-aged teens. I picked this up on the advice of the Teens at Real Talk Presents: Jennifer de Leon.  It’s the story of three young sisters, the oldest of whom is 11, who live with their dad and grandmother in Brooklyn. The girls fly out to Oakland, California to meet their mom in the summer of 1968, during the early days of the Black Panther Party. I love the adventure and development of these girls! I was thoroughly annoyed with the mom, which means the author did a good job of making me invested in the story. I am angry that the racial issues of 1968 still exist today. 

Janet

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: I needed a laugh-out-loud read and David Sedaris, as always, delivered.
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Kanopy and DVD): I have read all seven of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies and still learned so much from this documentary. I especially enjoyed seeing footage from her career as a dancer, actress, and singer, her poetry reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and her appearance on Sesame Street!  
  • Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders (audiobook on Overdrive): I could not stop listening to the first half of the book and really appreciated that it was narrated by the gravelly-voiced author. While it touches upon Sanders’s early life and career, the book is largely devoted to the sometimes wonky, but surprisingly gripping, details of his campaign to win the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. I was less enamored with the second half of the book, which, for some reason, was narrated by Mark Rufffalo. He’s a great actor, but no Bernie Sanders! 

Aaron

Louise

  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis: This book is such a delight!  Brittey works at Commspan, a telecommunications company. She has snagged Commspan’s most eligible bachelor, Trent, and they have gone to eat at Iridium which is the place for a romantic dinner and a proposal.  And, she is scheduled to get an EED. An EED is a “minor” operation done on the brain in which couples who are truly connected get even more emotionally connected and all of the it people are having it done.
    C.B., the nerd of the office, begs Britty not to do this.  He tells her that something could go horribly wrong.  Brittey shrugs this off.  I will not tell you anymore because I don’t want to provide any spoilers but this book takes you on a hilarious roller coaster that is filled with romance, missed connections, a very over involved family and gossipy office, a smart niece, a beautiful scene in a library (hurrah!) and more.
    This is a rom com of a book that will leave you blissfully entertained. Read this book!
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler: Dana and her husband Kevin are celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday when she literally disappears and meets Rufus for the first time.  Rufus is Dana’s ancestor and she is apparently being called to save his life so that she can be born.  He is the white son of a plantation owner.  As we know, plantation owners often used their slaves as sex partners whether they consented or not and Rufus will not be an exception to the rule. Dana, who is a contemporary black woman writer,  is called back in time more than once. At one point, her white husband, Kevin, also goes to the plantation with her.  Dana essentially works as a slave during a lot of her time travels and Kevin ends up working to free slaves during a time when they get separated from each other.  Both Dana and her husband are changed forever after the time travel finally stops.  This is an amazing book with very good world building and character development.  Like all of the Octavia Butler novels that I have read to date, it will leave you breathless and asking questions about the human condition and the history of racism in our country.  Further, Octavia Butler presents strong female characters who are admirable and who question traditional societal roles.
  • Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler: This is the trilogy by Octavia Butler that begins with Dawn which I discussed in the last staff reads.  This is a brilliant trilogy that will leave you breathless.  Worldbuilding is so powerful.  I was transported to another place and time. 
    This series will leave you questioning so many things about the history of oppression and the destructive tendencies of the human race.  At the same time, like many great novels, it will leave you with hope and all the richer for having read this. 
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: I listened to this amazing novel as an audiobook and I have to give a shoutout to the narration of Lynne Thigpen.  The United States has become very dystopian with division and looting, climate change and classism.  Once again we have a strong female character who fights her way towards a better future.  You will be intrigued and engrossed and you will route for the “good guys” in their quest for a better life.  A must read.
  • Bridge 108 by Anne Charnock: This is a novel of a dystopian version of Europe in the not so far future where climate change and classism have wreaked havoc.  Our main character, Caleb, is only twelve years old when he gets separated from his mother and has to make his way in a very difficult world. Beautiful worldbuilding, great character development, a compelling story and a strong main character to root for combine to make this a worthwhile read. I really liked this novel by Anne Charnock.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. Leguin: This book is hilarious and light although it has some great lessons in the way of fables.  The premise of this book is that some people in airports with their stale air and lines, their mediocre food and uncomfortable chairs, discover that they can literally change planes.  The tales in this novel are of the different ‘planes’ where different beings and histories reside.  Fans of Greek myths, the Canterbury Tales, Gulliver’s Travels and the original Leonard Nemoy William Shatner Star Trek will love this entertaining collection of stories.  
    Shucks.  When I go to airports, I usually just sit in the uncomfortable seats and eat the mediocre food.  I have yet to change planes!

Seana

  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle: I loved this book! My daughter and I read it at the same time and would call each other to talk about it. I highly recommend reading it at the same time as a friend or for a book group, as there is so much you want to talk about.
  • A  Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I always picked this book up and put it back down. I was afraid it was going to be too sad, but instead it was warm, endearing, and hopeful. I listened to it, so I found out Ove is surprisingly pronounced “Oohvah”
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn: This book is a dark, twisting psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down. I am looking forward to watching the movie.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: I listened to this book and I am so glad I did. Michelle Obama is the narrator and I felt like I was hanging out with her every day on my way to and from work!
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed: Middle Grade Graphic Novel for everyone
    I don’t typically read graphic novels except to be able to recommend them to middle schoolers. However, this book is incredible. It is based on the real life experiences of Omar and his brother Hassan as they grow up orphans in a refugee camp. It is an incredibly touching account of how these two boys navigate the day-today life in a refugee camp, and make their own family unit while they wait for an opportunity for a brighter future. This book is not just for middle schoolers. Readers of all ages will be moved and inspired by Omar and Hassan and their journey. 

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