Staff Recommends

 

 This Month's Staff Recommends

 

 

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Jenny Allen, Borrower Services

The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes
Prompted by the popularity of her more recent novels, I decided to read one of Jojo Moyes earlier books- The Last Letter From Your Lover. Well-crafted and researched, it makes for a compelling read, exploring issues such as women’s liberation, consumer protection, and the virtues of letter writing as opposed to texting. The intertwined love stories take place 50 years apart providing great opportunities for reflection on the changing times.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings follows the intertwined, and this time, contemporaneous, lives of two main characters who experience utterly different realities. Based on actual historical events and characters, this is a harrowing portrait of slaves and masters in early nineteenth century Charleston, SC and the struggle of women to achieve their liberation from intolerable oppression.

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 Reviewed in 2014

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Lucy Loveridge, Supervisor of Children’s Services

Three years and counting since the last Game of Thrones volume; it’s time to start looking for some new sprawling, world-ranging, multi-character fantasies.

I just enjoyed Brent Weeks’ Lightbringer series, books 1-3: The Black Prism, The Blinding Knife, and The Broken Eye. Color magic gives you power but also binds you to work for the good of the people and to an early death. The Prism, the empire’s religious leader, has the most powerBP and magic but usually burns out very early after 7 or 14 years of rule. Gavin Guile, the current Prism, having survived 16 years of rule, is looking forward to 5 more years to accomplish certain goals he’s had. So far, he’s managed to navigate the politics of the Color Council and heal some of the wounds in the Seven Satrapies that were created by the False Prism’s War. That was led by his younger brother and ended with Dazen’s death 14 years ago. He’s also managed to contain the machinations of his power-mad father and to keep a very deep, life-threatening secret from him and the rest of the country. Alas, all his hopes for the next five years begin to fall apart in a very short time with the advent of a religious movement intent on bringing back the old gods and destroying the Prism’s rule through war; the discovery of a fat, inept, uneducated bastard son, Kip, conceived during the False Prism’s War who upsets many of the Prism’s relationships in the capital when Kip’s sent there for education and safety; and the rumored resurrection of a secret society of assassins who may or may not be behind some attempts on Kip’s life (Kip suspects it’s his grandfather wanting him dead). Throw in a prophecy, a spy network or two, some conflicted oath holders and old lovers, an army of insane color mages or color wights, and another bastard—this one educated, powerful and a complete psychopath—and the stage is set for an absorbing read. Unfortunately, this is not a trilogy--there’ll be a two year wait for book 4, and who knows how many more books will be necessary to finish the story.

This year finally brought the last book in Laini Taylor’s YA fantasy trilogy about Karou: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters. We meet the mysterious Karou living in Prague and attending art school. She has startling blue hair achieved by wishes rather than hair dye and was brought up by four teeth-collecting monsters—half snake/half woman, half ram/half dragon, etc—who have a magical portal that can open in many cities around the worldDSB and another possibly magic door that is forbidden to Karou; if anyone even knocks at it, she’s kicked out till they’re gone. One day while collecting teeth in Morocco for her monster family, Karou runs into and is almost killed by a beautiful angel with flaming wings. While recovering from her wounds, she sneaks through the forbidden door and finds another world with two moons and a plethora of monstrous types, and is attacked there by a human/wolf hybrid. Her family, incensed by her transgression, exiles her to Prague, and then, bad timing, the angels burn all the magic portals on Earth. Karou is determined to make it to the other world to try and find her family again while the angel, Akiva, is drawn back to Earth to watch Karou who reminds him of another woman in his world who was horribly executed. It turns out the angels and monsters are locked in a millennium-long war on that other world and that Karou is part of a Romeo and Juliet love story that could change the fate of that world (and ours, too, which may become a new battleground in the war when the angels discover our advanced weaponry) if revenge and retribution don’t get in the way. Of course, although this story ends in book three, there are hints of another trilogy to come involving an even greater conflict between worlds and involving Karou, Akiva and their peoples, so more waiting for the true end of the story is necessary.

A promising new series just started this year with Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades, book 1 of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. The emperor of Annur has set three different paths for his children: the eldest, Adare, a female who can never be emperor, has been educated to be a minister in the empire’s government and has spent her life at courEBt learning the ins and outs of courtly politics; his heir, Kaden, has been sent to a remote monastery to learn the strange disciplines of the monks of the Blank God; and his youngest son, Valyn, has been sent to a remote island to train to become a Kettral, an elite soldier who works with giant hawks as transport. All of them have their trials and tribulations with their upbringing but all love their father and want to serve the empire. However, their father is suddenly dead, betrayed by someone close to him. Adare, Kaden and Valyn must now try to figure out who can be trusted while trying to identify their father’s murderer, protect the new emperor, and grow into their new duties as their paths through the lives their father set for them continue to unwind. The characters, and the different environments and situations they find themselves in, make it worth waiting for the rest of the series.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Barbara Slavin
Burial Rites by Hannah KentBurial Rites
The story begins with Agnes Magnusdottir arriving at the home of Jon Jonsson, a local district officer, to be boarded with his family while awaiting her execution. This well researched novel based on history- the last execution of a woman in Iceland in 1828 -takes the reader to a drama set in a gritty setting where Agnes and her spiritual advisor, the young Reverand Toti grow and learn as they move toward the inevitable conclusion. It's not a beach read, but it does convincingly transport the reader to another time and place and the feeling of being enriched by reading the saga.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Janet Drake

Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity by James D. Tabor
Paul nevPauler met Jesus. Yet, he began to preach, attributing his authority to claims of his visionary experiences. This story is about the fierce struggle between Jesus' followers and the so-called 13th apostle. Tabor contends it was Paul who set Christianity apart from its parent faith, Judaism. And, Paul developed his version of Christianity independently and at odds with the gospel message that Jesus, his brother James, and Peter had preached, with little in common other than the name Jesus itself. Whether or not you're a believer, this provocative account is for all who are interested in the origins of Christianity.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Kelly Sprague, Supervisor of Borrower Services
Take a stack of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamash mysteries on vacation! Begin with Still Life and keep going through the next eight titles until you finish How the Light Gets In. Then be ready to reserve Long Way Home, due for an August release. Penny has won multiple awards for this series about life in the tiny village of Three Pines, Quebec, and the empathetic Inspector who finds his way there when faced with the horror of a murder. The characters are complex, intelligent, and emotionally real. Move to Three Pines for the summer; you will fully enjoy this series! The library staff will be happy to help you get all ten in the right order!
Still LifeHow the Light Gets InLong Way Home

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended By Jennifer Tosti, Information and Research Services
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nathaniel PNate Piven, a 30-year-old Harvard educated writer living in Brooklyn, has no trouble attracting women. He feels guilty for the lack of interest that always settles into his relationships, but mostly he just hates dealing with the awkward and embarrassing scenes that always ensue. Nate’s self-interest and developing book deal remain his primary preoccupations, taking precedent over everything, and everyone else. When Nate meets a nice, smart woman named Hannah one night at a party, there is a glimmer of hope that perhaps Nate has changed his ways and has actually embraced the possibility of forming a mature and balanced relationship with another person. Read the novel to find out whether Nate is ever captivated, or if he decides to maintain his comfortable independence.

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin
Happy All the TimeOriginally published in 1978 and taking place in Cambridge, this very funny and touching novel follows two best friends, Guido and Vincent, and the ways their lives irrevocably change when they meet the women they want to spend the rest of their lives with. Romantic Guido and ever cheerful Vincent have their hands full with complicated Holly and cynical Misty, who to their angst and confusion do not immediately return their resolute and fervent affections. Discover the outcome of this amusing story and see whether or not the four of them find happiness in each other or end up drifting apart.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Mary Wasmuth, Job-Search Coach, Main Library

DiazThis Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. 213 pages
If your group thrives on controversy, Junot Diaz is your man. And if you see in fiction a means to move past, as Diaz puts it “the checkpoints on your social borders,” you’ll do well to jump the fences of language and attitude and venture deep into the, as Publisher’s Weekly puts it, “precarious, unappreciated, precious lives in which intimacy is a lost art, masculinity a parody, and kindness, reason, and hope struggle to survive like seedlings in a war zone.”

Many of Diaz’s compelling, perfectly made, stories focus on a recurring character, Junior, as he moves from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey and later to Boston. With him, we watch his womanizing older brother flail against the cancer that will kill him. And we watch Junior fall in love, destroy love, and mourn its loss, over and over. This funny, aching, thought-provoking collection is guaranteed to get your book group talking.

ErdrichThe Round House by Louise Erdrich. 321 pages
Joe Coutts is thirteen years old when his mother is brutally raped. She’s further brutalized by a justice system skewed against native women. Joe’s attempt to achieve some resolution thrusts him into the complexities and traumas of adult life, and he learns he can no longer rely on the connections that had sustained him—his easy friendships, his open and loving parents, and the unquestioning acceptance of his extended family.

Over the years, Louise Erdrich has created a unique body of work, vividly populated and richly described; hilarious and heart-wrenching; many of them set in the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Introduce your book group to this amazing writer, and they’ll be forever grateful.

McDermottSomeone by Alice McDermott. 232 pages
Someone opens with a crowded Brooklyn street viewed through the eyes of seven-year-old Marie, who, she says, is the “sole survivor, now, of that street scene.” We know from this that we’re reading about a community deeply connected in a way few today have experienced. We see that we’ll be moving back and forward through time with Marie, an extraordinarily perceptive guide. McDermott’s layered, moving novel is dense with reflection and feeling, a deceptively simple story about the life of an apparently ordinary woman. But we know better.

Unlike many titles recommended for groups, Someone doesn’t take on contemporary issues. Instead, it examines the meaning of family, love, loss, and community and shows us, subtly and beautifully, how a life accrues value and purpose. I’d call these topics worth discussing.

SmithThere But For The by Ali Smith. 236 pages
At a suburban-London dinner party, a guest locks himself in the bathroom and refuses to come out. Extending from days to weeks, Miles’s stay turns into a media circus, and an unlikely group of people assembles to support him. The book is narrated by four characters who know Miles slightly: Anna, a woman in her forties who encountered him on a high-school trip; Mark, a gay man in his sixties who met him at the theater; May, an elderly woman suffering from dementia; and "preternaturally articulate" ten-year-old Brooke. It may well take a book group to unravel the mysteries of this intricate, funny, literate, and affecting novel. Mine had a great time doing it.

And a Few More
The long and the short: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, 426 pages; The Buddha in the Attic* by Julie Otsuka, 129 pages
For controversy: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, 253 pages; The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, 273 pages

*reviewed in 2013's Staff Recommends

Even More Ideas
Book Browse Book Club Resources
Great Group Reads (selected by the Women’s National Book Association)
Indiebound’s Indie Next Lists (focus on book groups several times a year)
Reading Group Choices
Reading Group Guides

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Mary Murphy, Borrower Services
The Time Between by Karen WhiteThe Time Between
This is a story of love, guilt and redemption that takes place in the Low Country. Eleanor is a young woman who is guilt ridden because of an accident that has paralyzed her sister when they were 14. It is the lure of a piano that convinces her to take a job with her boss’s elder, Aunt Helene. This shared passion for music bonds these two characters. This bonding reveals a past history of guilt and love with Aunt Helene’s sisters during Nazi occupation in Hungary during World War II. This becomes a story about recognizing second chances and taking them.

David and Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm GladwellDavid and Goliath
Gladwell discusses by examples and through a period of time how people with what is generally perceived as a disadvantage creatively turn it in to an advantage. He starts with the story of David and Goliath. Goliath makes an assumption that David will fight in the same manner as he. These types of assumptions often lead to failure. He talks about people with physical and mental deficits developing their strengths and using these to become very successful. He wants you to think and approach life events with possibilities in mind. Gladwell is persuasive.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Laraine Worby, Information and Research Services
The Last Telegram by Liz TrenowLast Telegram
The threads of love, loss, guilt and consequences are beautifully interwoven in this emotional novel. Told as a series of flashbacks, the story draws on the experience of an English girl on the Home Front during World War II. With thoughts of a romantic future, Lily Verner’s life is forever altered when tragic events force her to assume control of her family’s silk factory, kept afloat by the demand for wartime parachute silk. Lily makes a disastrous decision that haunts her adulthood, but she is finally able to come to terms with her choices as she nears the end of her life.

The author, from a centuries old silk-weaving family, adds authenticity with her industry knowledge.

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakBook Thief
A beautifully written book with Death as its narrator, the Book Thief follows the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster child in World War II Germany. At the heart of the story are the relationships that Liesel builds with her foster parents. Her best friend and a secret guest in her home are drawn slowly into her life, and her love of books and the power of reading bind them to her. The story itself offers a fresh take on the German WWII experience, told through the eyes of ordinary Germans caught in a growing storm.

The power of this book lies within the language engaged by the author.

Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Harriet W., Borrower Services

Women Disappearing…
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne RayCalling Invisible Women
Clover Hobart has become invisible, not just in the way middle aged women tend to feel they disappear, but truly invisible. Though loved by family and friends, hardly anyone notices. Clover finds a support group of women like her, and with humor and determination she uses her invisibility for the greater good. Hold onto your kleenex. You’ll see why!

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
Though it has been compared to the darkly disturbing novelThe Silent Wife Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Silent Wife delves in more depth with the main character, Jodi, a psychiatrist who lives her life with carefully constructed ideals of flexibility and freedom. She applies this deeply held approach to her partner of twenty years, leaving much room for his indiscretions and undisciplined behavior… until he tells her he is leaving. As her world disintegrates, Jodi becomes increasingly aware that the way she approaches life is rooted in negative events in her childhood. Psychologically enlightening.

 
You'll find more ideas on the Reader Services Page, the Fiction Booklist Section and among our previous Staff Recommendations.

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Updated on 10/28/2013 02:40 PM
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