February Staff Picks

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Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands
Langlands is an archaeologist and medieval historian, and Craeft presents a history of both making and being through traditional crafts like haymaking, thatching, tanning, and others.  Craeft is itself an Old English word that means something more than just making–it’s a worldview and a knowledge, a connection to a place and to materials.  Through Langland’s examination you realize how different a world it was when we were by necessity connected to our environments and natural human inclination toward making.  It’s a really delightful book!
–Marie

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to this book since I adore Barbara Kingsolver. I don’t usually read memoirs, but as I’m thinking about spring and planning my garden, this started to call to me. I loved it! More than a memoir, the book delves into the family’s year-long commitment to eat totally local, including much they grow themselves. I’m hoping to accomplish a similar goal this year, though on a much smaller scale. Kingsolver presents the facts of conventional farming and meat production in a way that really hit home for me. It wasn’t exactly new information, especially these days, but it made me never want to eat anything but grass-fed meat again. Not only for ethical reasons but because grass-fed, happy, healthy animals are drastically more nutritious. I felt like the last few chapters were a little extra like the book could have ended with the successful fall harvest and left it at that. Didn’t really need to know so much about turkeys. But, Kingsolver is a lovely writer and funny. The asides from her husband and daughter were nice additions.
–Cayla

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #9)
I’m not sure what to make of this one, it has a very inconclusive ending. Without giving too much away, it was unusual. If you are new to the series, best start at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It was nice to see Flavia growing up a little and learning to ask for and accept help from others. It is also nice to see her relationships with her sisters improving as they grow up. It definitely has the much-loved Flavia wit and cleverness, her turn of phrase and resourcefulness never disappoint. The secondary characters are fantastic as always. This series is great in that it has a familiar formula without feeling formulaic and boring. I like the set-up for the next book, it was just what I hoped would happen, so I’ll look forward to that.
–Cayla

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It’s a classic I’d had–unread–on my shelf at home, but I wanted to get to it before the movie comes out. It’s a quick and easy read, and I can see the appeal for young-adult readers. Although it’s classified as science fiction–and there is a bit of serious science in it–the focus is really on the power of love and faith.
–Diane

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
I really liked this.  Following the death of her best friend, Corrigan tried to find a better way to grapple with those difficult conversations that personal crises demand.  Anchored by a dozen phrases–including “tell me more”–Corrigan gently, and with abundant self-deprecating humor, illustrates how we can better listen to each other.
–Diane

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December Staff Picks

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The Fifth Trimester by Lauren Smith.
Admittedly, I haven’t quite finished this one yet, but I think I’ve got the gist. I think this book is a phenomenal resource for working moms, no matter how long you’ve been back to work. It is aimed at brand-new moms either freshly back at work, or anticipating their return, but the advice remains valuable even if it has been a while. Working motherhood is a logistical and emotional challenge it can sometimes feel like we never quite master.

Smith is a high-powered, NYC, fashion magazine editor and some of her advice on commuter heels and meeting a nanny in Central Park can feel a little irrelevant to those of us commuting in Bean boots in rural Maine. But, her book is designed to let you skip around to the chapters you find most useful, so feel free to miss the make-up tips if that’s not your priority.
She has great advice on how to talk about your new needs with your boss and your co-workers, the best way to figure out what childcare set-up works for your family, and how to beat the “I-must-quit” refrain that can run in your mind when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Honestly, I think everyone should give this book a read, not just new working moms. Understanding what working moms are going through is valuable for managers, HR reps, child-free workers, and anyone contemplating parenthood. It emphasizes open communication, and how beneficial flexible and understanding workplaces are to working mom productivity and retention.

My only major complaint, besides being super jealous of offices with special pumping rooms and in-office daycares for new moms, would be the language. I listen to audiobooks on my commute, usually with my toddler in tow, and I didn’t appreciate the swears. While infrequent, they were still enough to make me wince and hope my child isn’t absorbing them.

–Cayla
 The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More than Some Antics by John Pollack

This isn’t a joke book (although it is larded with wordplay), but an examination of wordplay, puns across languages, the neurobiology underlying this use of language, and more.  And the author has competed in national pun competitions (yeah!  that’s a real thing!!)
–Diane

November Staff Picks

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The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Graphic Novel by Isabel Greenberg.
This graphic novel is an intricate story about stories–about storytelling, myths, and folklore, and how they shape human experience.  The art and words flow together, with so much detail in every picture.  It’s also got a lot of humor, both visual and textual.  The core story is about a storyteller from the cold land of Nord, and his travels to find the missing piece of his soul.  References to ancient cultures and their myths abound.  This is such a rich, rewarding story (or set of stories)!
–Marie

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
This real and very raw book is hard hitting from the beginning!  It is a no holes barred story in the trenches of the inner city projects in Chicago.  It involves gangs, police injustice, discrimination and a fuel to use words to make change happen.  The language is rough, but it was a story so relevant to today’s world and I loved Starr and her family! A must read for teens and adults in the world we live in today, where we must remember to treat everyone with respect, even when we disagree!
–Miss Amy

Revolution Downeast: The War for American Independence in Maine by James S. Leamon
It explains a lot about the place of Maine in the British Empire, how the end of the French and Indian War finally allowed Camden and the Penobscot area to be settled, how the new settlements were not yet on their feet when the Revolution arrived, how Maine got little support from Massachusetts, even though we were part of Massachusetts, how and why Maine eventually separated from Massachusetts. The “two Maines” are present right from the very beginning and in all the politics of the era.
–Ken

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandrai Marzano-Lesnevich.
As recent law-school graduate, the author was working for an anti-death-penalty program when the case of a child murderer hit her desk.  The perpetrator’s story compelled her to dig deeper into his history and, to her unhappy surprise, stirred up her own childhood memories.  A true-crime/personal-story balancing act, The Fact of a Body leads readers into sometimes uncomfortable terrain to explores the ways in which society often fails both victims and criminals.
–Diane

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
I revisit Virginia Woolf’s brief masterpiece every couple of years, reveling in the brilliance of the prose and the depth of Woolf’s grasp of the wonders and horrors of everyday experience.
–Diane

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater.
It was gorgeous. Fiction woven with legend, this is a tall tale that seems like it could really happen. Stiefvater has a gift for character-writing that makes everyone just so HUMAN. There is Beatriz Soria, “the girl with no feelings”, who turns out to have some very deep ones. Pete Wyatt, the boy with a hole in his heart searching for a future. Joaquin Soria who dreams of being a radio DJ and reaching the hearts of his listeners.

Daniel Soria is The Saint of Bicho Raro, who is able to call hidden darkness out of pilgrims and make it visible. The problem, then, is what the pilgrims do about the visible darkness. Some live with it for years – the girl with a constant rain cloud over her head, the twins bound together by a fierce black snake, the priest with a coyote head. For as long as anyone can remember, the Soria family has been warned that they cannot interfere with the pilgrims while they struggle to solve their problems. But now, Daniel has been claimed by the darkness in the name of love, and the Soria cousins are determined to find a better way and save him. The book is shot through with fantastic details of the desert, owls, black roses, and the trials of love in all forms – romantic and familial. Above all, it is about learning to forgive yourself and trust hope.

–Cayla

Cayla’s Reading: “The Women in the Castle” by Jessica Shattuck

women in the castleI’m drawn to World War II fiction, particularly centered around women. Therefore, the premise of the widow of one of the men who plotted to assassinate Hitler gathering other Resistance widows in her family castle post-war was irresistible. After finishing, and pondering over this book for about a week, I am still of mixed emotions.

Marianne von Lingenfels is a formidable, complex character. She is passionately idealistic to the point of being unable to see the human complexities of the people she encounters. To Marianne, you are either a Nazi or you are not, there is no grey area. The other widows and children she manages to pluck out of the post-war DP camps are not quite as black and white. Fragile, romantic Benita burns with her own quiet strength, yearning for a life she’ll never have. Stoic Ania harbors secrets darker than anyone might imagine. Their children struggle for any resemblance of normal childhood after losing their fathers and living through the horrors of war.

The book starts in 1945 and then jumps forward to 1950, and then 1991, with several flashbacks to during and before the war. At first, I thought the author should have lingered in 1945 a bit longer. I was fascinated by life for the widows in the castle, learning to live with each other and find meaning in their new lives.

But as the book went on, I realized the book isn’t so much historical fiction as it is a study in psychology and how each person handles tragedy. The plot in itself doesn’t really matter. It was, of course, an interesting look at post-war Germany, a perspective we don’t often get in fiction. We got to see insight into how German society put itself back together after such a terrible and divisive war. But it really is about the characters. Some find purpose and passion in reconstructing Germany. Some struggle to adapt, some try to forget, and some are trapped in regret and pain and cannot move on at all.

We also got to see how each of the grown children handled their lives after the war. Some want nothing to do with their histories, some study it, and all struggle with relationships and connections. Seeing each character at each point in time was really a remarkable study in human psychology. The events in the book didn’t feel like a nicely arranged plot, either. I actually had to check if they were based in reality, they had that certain random quality that made me think it had to be partly true. It turns out, the only true part is the assassination plot against Hitler. But, Shattuck is half-German and based a lot of the emotional content on her grandparents’ experience during the war.

All in all, I think I liked it, but it isn’t an easy book to read or to digest!

–Cayla

August Staff Picks

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This gripping narrative sweeps you off your feet with unexpected revelations, humor, and depth. Leia is a well-known graphic novel artist and has by her own admission “run, not walked,” away from every promising romance in her life. She lives near her seemingly-perfect step-sister, Rachel, with whom she shares a strained but affectionate relationship. After an uncharacteristic one night stand at FanCon, Leia finds that she is pregnant with the son of a man she knows only by his costume – Batman.
At 38, she decides this may be her only chance to have the baby she’s always wanted and decides this pregnancy is a blessing but thinks she has lost all chance of contacting the father. After keeping the pregnancy a secret for some time, she finally steels herself to break the news to her family. Before she can, two family emergencies happen at the same time. Rachel’s picture perfect marriage falls apart, and Leia’s beloved grandmother Birchie is revealed to have a degenerative brain disease.
Leia must head south to the tiny Alabama town her ancestors founded to sort out care for Birchie. In the process, she uncovers family secrets ancient and new, sees with new eyes the underlying racism of small-town America, and discovers a well of strength within herself. Her pregnancy grows and the impending motherhood shifts her long-held perspectives on the world, her art, and her family.
This novel deals with race, small-town life, the cracks and glue which hold a family together, and the strength and power of motherhood…with a healthy sprinkling of very current nerd-culture.
–Cayla
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
It’s intriguing, though some of the writing is problematic. Quite the mystery, steeped in the real-life history of Communist and modern-day Bulgaria. There is a lot of travel in circles and to me, anyway, unnecessary descriptions. Not finished yet, but I’m giving it a 3-star rating unless the ending is amazing.
–Cayla
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
This creepy, oppressive novel tells the story of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her father and step-mother.  Set around the time of the murders (and once jumping forward), a picture of a dysfunctional and insular family emerges.  It’s a compelling read, uncomfortable in places, but that works to the story’s advantage.  This is a book that stays with you after you’ve finished reading.  And while the novel doesn’t come right out and say who committed the unsolved crimes, the culprit’s identity is very heavily implied.
–Marie

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Those of us who grew up with Saturday morning cartoons will enjoy this scary, sci-fi throwback.  It’s a bit slow to start, and the style takes getting used to, but once the action starts it gets a lot better!
–Sarah

Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre De Dios by Holly Conklin FitzGerald
If this hadn’t been shelved in the nonfiction, I wouldn’t have guessed this was a true story!  This is an incredible, astounding tale of being lost in the Amazon.  The author is speaking at the library this month, too!
–Sarah

My “Marple Project”:  My husband, Scott, and I watch many of the BBC mysteries, including the Miss Marple series.  Having seen all of them, I started wondering which of the Marples–Joan Hickson or Geraldine McEwan–was more true to Christie’s vision of her elderly sleuth (sorry, Helen Hayes and Julia McKenzie, you’re just not in the running).  So I read all the Miss Marple novels (there are short stories, too, but my compulsiveness has limits). I loved them all!  Great fun, good mysteries, sly humor.  And the winner:  McEwan.  While Hickson’s Marple flutters more (a signature Marple trait), only McEwan’s Marple twinkles, something Christie mentions repeatedly.

 

And although I’m not usually an audiobook listener, I did listen recently to two recorded Agatha Christies–And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express-both ably read by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey).  It’s astonishing to think that the playful author of the cozy Marple mysteries penned And Then There Were None; it is incredibly dark.  Murder on the Orient Express is a Hercule Poirot mystery that demands the reader’s dexterity with something like 10 different accents.  Even if you don’t like the story, it’s worth the time to hear someone move so surefootedly (sure-tonguedly??) from character to character.
–Diane
Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach
I loved her first book ,”Simple Abundance”, and this next book is insightful
and necessary for the woman who seeks to lift herself out of an old life and
find her authentic self alive and well.
–Sandra
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I have read a couple of Bryson’s books of the past year and have to say this is by far one of the best books he has written. It deviates from his normal travelogue exploits and takes on all the sciences, from the Big Bang to quantum mechanics. In layman’s terms with some humorous anecdotes about some of the scientists and their discoveries, Bryson engages the reader in the ultimate travel adventure through science. It was the most interesting science book I have ever read.
–Mary

June Staff Picks!

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Every librarian here at CPL has great suggestions for your reading pleasure.  We all read different genres and have different tastes, so you’ll have a rich and varied list to choose from every month.

Below are our Staff Picks for June!

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Amani is a girl from the sands in the guise of a boy.  Why?  She wants to be free; free from being someone else’s property, free to do as she pleases, free to shoot in the competitions, free to speak her own thoughts, free of Dustwalk. After meeting Jin, a handsome foreigner, and taming an immortal being, she becomes caught up in his secrets, his revolution, his war.  The Sultan’s forces are using people and the Gallan forces are toying with everyone, no questions asked and people are starving and dying.  Action packed, great characters and a 2017-2018 MSBA nominee. –-Amy

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
A stunning, gothic mystery of twins, ghosts, and the hauntings of a badly damaged family. Counterbalancing the spooky side is a wholesome dose of antiquarian bookshops, doting fathers, delightful new friends, and a wonderful cast of leading ladies. Highly recommended on audio.  —Cayla

How to Talk to Anyone : 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes
Don’t judge the book by its title! While it may sound like a dry bullet point list of talking points for executives, this book is for everyone, and the advice can be applied to personal and professional interactions. How To Talk To Anyone is about relationships – your colleagues, your spouse, a first date, a stranger at a party, your dentist’s office receptionist – and the techniques introduced here can be applied in different measures to all. The book features a numbered list format, with each “little trick” featuring an example of how the technique can be used. Sometimes these stories sound a bit contrived, but they are effective in making a bullet point into a vivid and memorable illustration. There were some outdated references to technology – “a phone recording machine”, as well as some outdated terminology and slang in general, but surely anyone can take something helpful away from the 92 points in this book. My personal favorite – how to receive a compliment with grace whether you agree with it or not, “That’s very kind of you to say!” I am going to test that one out right now. Did you like my review? “That’s very kind of you to say!” Now doesn’t that make you feel special right back? —Olga

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
A 2013 non-fiction book about the rowing team from Seattle who won the 1936 Olympics. The book concentrates on the hardships of one particular team member. I really enjoyed the very descriptive narrative of this nonfiction tale, at times his descriptive style reminded me of some of the passages in David McCullough’s books. –Mary

A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
A young artist named Frankie who finds herself unable to cope with life holes up at her late grandmother’s bungalow.  The language is beautiful and spare, very introspective.  It’s a character-centered story, following Frankie as she examines her present depression and anxiety.  Lovely lyrical, insightful writing about painful subjects. Marie

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve & Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
I recently read two new novels by popular authors with ties to Maine:  Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire and Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible.  I don’t recall having read anything by Shreve, but this novel shows me why she is so beloved: she is a fine storyteller.  On the other hand, I’ve read all of Strout’s novels, and I always come away touched and dazzled—touched by the way she captures emotions and human connections and dazzled by the precision and originality of her prose.  (Just a heads-up: Although Anything Is Possible is not really a sequel to My Name Is Lucy Barton, there are multiple connections to the earlier book, so you might want to read  Lucy Barton first—also a beautiful book.) –Diane