January Staff Picks

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A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney.
This book is quite unique as it is really one of the first to really examine the friendships female writers had, in their historical contexts. These authors point out that unlike the studies of the male literary friendships in history (ie Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Byron and Shelley) these friendships were multifaceted in that they served as a support for each of these women but in most cases there was rivalry and competition as well due to their time periods and the lack of support society had for female authors. A fabulous read for anyone who loves these authors or is fascinated with women’s studies.
–Stephanie

Ravens in Winter by Bernd Heinrich.
Bernd Heinrich was a former Professor of Zoology at the University of Vermont, who now lives in the western mountains of Maine. Maine winters can be long, but this book will take you on an outside adventure without leaving the warmth of your house.

“On a cold Maine day in 1984, Bernd Heinrich saw a flock of ravens sharing their food and apparently summoning other ravens to join in…Bernd’s adventures in the teeth of the Maine winters over the next four years, make an exciting detective story complete with false leads, apparently contradictory clues, and finally hard evidence.”
–Sarah
Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman.
Who knew grocery stores could be so fascinating?  Ruhlman blends a history of American grocery stores with a look at our current health issues and the way we interact with our food.  His style is funny and personable, and he’s very passionate about consumer education and about food.  Valuable insight into how food is marketed and sold in our country.
–Marie
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
This is a story about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep inside her. It was an easy read with some great insights into magic even for old timers :).
–Sandra
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
Although the book is fiction, it is based on the true story of Pino Lella, a 17 year old in Milan during WW II. After the bombings begin in Milan, his parents send him to a camp he used to attend as a child, where the priest in charge of the school sends him off to hike a different route everyday. This is practice for when he finally helps guide Jews who are fleeing Italy over the Alps into Switzerland. When he turns 18, his parents fear that he will be sent to the Russian Front so they force him to join the German army. By some stroke of luck he becomes the chauffeur for General Leyers. In this role he brings his observations back to the resistance which is then relayed to the allies.
–Mary
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, narrated by Stephen Fry
As I’ve said before, I generally don’t “do” audiobooks; I usually just can’t stay engaged.  But I am absolutely hooked on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes read by Stephen Fry.  Fry’s reading is so lively yet subtle that I find myself picking up my headphones every chance I get.  (Even just the way he has Sherlock Holmes say, “ah,” is part of the characterization.)  And if that audiobook merely whets your appetite for Stephen Fry, you’ll find his reading of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy laugh-out-loud great!
–Diane
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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