Our staff picks had been previously moved to Goodreads, but we are reviving this blog once again! Our Goodreads shelf will remain active, so think of this blog as a bonus where you can find reviews by genre, longer reviews and links to where you can access the content digitally while the library building is closed.
Stay tuned for lots of great recommendations from library staff.
I hadn’t before read a graphic novel (or in this case, a graphic memoir), so Kristen Radtke’s Imagine Wanting Only This was new territory for me. I was drawn to this book because of its topic, rather than its format. In it, Radtke explores her fascination with architectural ruins, relating them to her own sense of the impermanence of life and her grief over losing a close relative. Never feeling rooted or settled, she travels the world visiting abandoned towns and structures as they are slowly reclaimed by nature.
Radtke tells her story in direct, unfussy language and compelling black and white drawings. In some pages, she conforms to the traditional three to nine frame comic format, and in others her drawings overlap the frame or incorporate collage or drawn-over photographic elements, giving the book a lot of life, and the reader plenty of incentive to keep turning the pages. Radtke’s story is poignant, her illustrations lovely. This book quickly hooked me and I read it in one sitting. I now consider it a favorite. This is a great entry point into the graphic book format, and I recommend it to new graphic book readers (and experienced graphic readers won’t want to miss it). Request a copy.
I listened to the audiobook on a trip up and back to Massachusetts. I’ve read a bunch of Lisa Scottoline’s books (she’s a lawyer who writes really cool mystery books), so I thought I’d try this. She’s written a series of books with her daughter and I wanted to check it out. They take turns with the chapters and they talk about their lives alone and together and all kinds of stuff that happens in between. I enjoyed this, as a lot of it reminded me of my daughter and me. Now I may look for their other books, since I enjoyed this one. Request a copy.
I knew very little about Queen Victoria. The various Queens Elizabeth are much better known to me, but I am very glad I watched the Masterpiece show on PBS. Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV show and also the book. Having seen and read both, I would recommend you do the same.
Queen Victoria was quite small, under five feet tall. She was imperious, and while an era is named after her, she was not the fierce little old lady I was expecting. Her ascension to the throne happened when she was young, and many in power at the time tried to control her. She was determined to rule wisely and make her own choices. Jenna Coleman does a remarkable job in the title roll of the show, and if you look at pictures of Victoria when she was young, there is a good resemblance. The show closely follows the book, but it is still enjoyable to check out them both.
Lord Melbourne is the Prime Minister and the Queen’s first love. Lehzen, Victoria’s governess, later advisor and companion and Dash, the dog, also lend support. Of course we must mention Prince Albert, also a fascinating character with an interest in modernization and his own difficulties being married to Royalty. With politics, romance and history, this coming of age story is most enjoyable. So do read the book and also see the DVD of season 1. Some scenes were deleted from the original Masterpiece TV show, so it may be preferable to watch it on DVD if you are able. And God save the Queen! Request a copy.
It isn’t often that I have read a non-fiction book in the sciences that has been so enjoyable. This title is written in story form, as if trees are almost human. It’s not simply technical literature about how trees survive or do not survive in their various environments. I guarantee you will never look at another tree without thinking about what you learned from this book. Absolutely fascinating! Request a copy.
I listened to this as an audiobook, and it ultimately took me about 2 months to finish it, and I still can’t believe Lin-Manuel Miranda took this giant book on a tropical vacation to read! That being said – it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. The life that Alexander Hamilton lived and the accomplishments he was able to achieve in his relatively short life are absolutely mind boggling. His influence is still felt today in our financial world near and far. A life truly cut too short. What a loss to our country, but we are to this day indebted to him and his ideas. Listen or read this book – it will floor you! Request a copy.
Old-fashioned English professor Arthur Prescott of Barchester, England has two passions in his life — books/manuscripts and the Holy Grail. When he is not teaching, he can usually be found in the Barchester Cathedral Library, enjoying its centuries-old collection. His predictable life is shaken up when bubbly American Bethany Davis arrives to digitize the library’s ancient manuscripts. Are these two diametrically opposed, or can each of them appreciate both printed books and digital versions that can be used by anyone anywhere in the world? Oh, and Bethany is also a Holy Grail enthusiast. And there is a mystery surrounding a missing manuscript having to do with Saint Ewolda, long associated with the Cathedral.
This is a delightful novel about two very different people who just might be falling in love as they try to uncover the Cathedral’s secrets. A great read for book lovers, Grail enthusiasts who like a quieter approach than Indiana Jones, and Anglophiles. Reserve a copy.
Even though I am not a grandparent (and not about to become one), I saw Lesley Stahl’s book about grandparents and grandchildren and thought I would take a look – or a listen to the audiobook. Being familiar with Lesley from 60 Minutes, I found her stories from her own family life and experiences well written and researched. There is a science to the instant affection between grandparents and their newborn grandchildren. This is explained as an overwhelming feeling of attachment akin to love at first sight. There is also a wealth of difference in the parental experience and the “grands” experience. Differences in age and what grands will be called today are not what they were in the past. Finances also affect the family experience and more children are being raised by grandparents or foster grandparents today than ever.
The book describes the birth of grand-daughters Jordan and Chloe and stories from interviews with Diane Sawyer, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Brokaw. The grandfather experience and step-grandparents are also covered.
If you are a grandparent, a parent, or a grandchild, you will find this description of modern family relationships of interest. There is more to family dynamics than I would have thought possible, and Lesley Stahl narrates a wonderful audiobook on “the Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.”
Just how I like it – a story about a man, a woman, with a murder mystery in the background. Set on the island of St. Lucia, the story weaves just the right amount of intrigue with a smattering of kidnapping and a murder or two to keep your attention. A very quick read, definitely good as a vacation book.
A patron at the library recommended this to me…it’s a story about a woman unable to have a biological child of her own who makes a split decision one day to kidnap a child. She convinces everyone that she adopted the child and raises the baby girl as her own. Things start to unravel as the daughter, now in law school, discovers the truth. Brings up lots of questions and no easy answers.
A lovingly written book by a father about his 5-year-old daughter and her unexpected diagnosis of cancer. The author of this book is himself an author and illustrator of children’s books (that I now have to look for in my own library). In this book he deftly straddles all of his hopes and fears for his family and really paints quite a picture of the realities of living (and not dying) from cancer. A book of survival and what it means to try and find a new normal.
Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and Molly.
The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.
The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.
This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me. I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train. As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.
I have never read a book like this before. It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away. The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier. Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.
The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible. Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them. The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.
Another book from the YA section of the library and it’s a really good one. The subject matter deals with the death of a teenager (not sure why I’ve gravitated toward these books lately), but I did not find it depressing at all. In fact, this is another book that I felt dealt with this subject in a very realistic way. All involved survivors are grief stricken, but there are moments of humor as well. Added to the mix are the feelings of the main characters as they navigate through high school and budding relationships . I enjoyed this book and will look for others by this author.
44 Scotland Street is the first in a series by Alexander McCall Smith by the same name. The story takes place in Edinburgh in a neighborhood with very colorful residents. You will meet Pat, a young woman taking her gap year in Edinburgh; Bruce, who shares the flat with Pat; Domenica, an interesting widow in another flat; Bernie and his mother on the floor below. Bernie is only five and already learning Italian and how to play the saxophone. Pat finds a job working for Matthew in an art gallery but knows little about art.
You’ll find yourself turning pages and deep into the story before you know it. McCall Smith has a talent for giving many details but not getting bogged down in them. He’s very insightful and develops deep characters.