Staff Choices

Posted by jlasky on 05/10/19
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An American Marriage heartbreakingly depicts racial injustice in modern America. Up and coming in their careers, and newly married, Roy and Celestials lives are thrown into chaos one fateful night when Roy is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Tayari Jones likens it to the Odyssey. Odysseus embarks on a challenging journey, hoping to find his faithful wife waiting for him.

The challenge of maintaining the marriage affects the couple as well as their parents, families and friends. Jones wanted people to understand that for black Americans, "Injustice in the criminal justice system — it's just in the air. Like hurricanes if you live on the East Coast or earthquakes if you live out West. It's just something that is." The possibility of being snapped up into the system is always there, hovering.

The story is beautifully written. Jones is a remarkable writer. Using alternate voices helps the reader to see the circumstances and viewpoints through each narrator. If you enjoy character-driven, compelling stories, this will be a great addition to your reading list.
Posted by LucyS on 04/24/19
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Peoples’ lives distill into emails, texts and blog posts in Mary Adkins’ debut novel When You Read This. This feels very familiar since this is how many of us interact today. In this story, the impersonal becomes personal as the narrative fleshes out while we read the communications between the main characters of Smith, Iris, Jade and Carl. Carl is a self-important, manner-less college intern who insinuated himself into Smith’s brand management business to an exasperating yet comic effect. Iris worked for Smith and Jade is Iris’ sister. Their paths intertwine with each other, clients and friends. All this points out how complicated lives are and how we occasionally create our own stumbling blocks. The story is oddly endearing, occasionally philosophical, has tender moments and made me feel like I was peeking into their correspondence.

Try this book if you are a fan of epistolary novels. Other titles in this literary style are Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher and Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson.
Posted by Alisa S on 04/22/19
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The first stand alone novel from down under author Jane Harper, The Lost Man is a slow simmering mystery that masterfully transports the reader to another place.
In the remote and brutal Australian Outback, three brothers stand to inherit the vast cattle ranch where they were raised.  But when the middle son, “golden boy” Cameron, is found dead under bizarre circumstances, everyone becomes a potential suspect. Harper gradually reveals the dark family secrets that may have lead to Cam’s death; abuse, grudges, jealousy, forbidden romance, and more.
The Lost Man is a character driven mystery, as the reader grows to understand what lies beneath the surface of each of the brothers, extended family members, and employees on the cattle station. But the overarching “character” is Australia itself...namely the enormous, harsh landscape of the Outback, where the closest neighbor might live three hours away. The enforced isolation adds to the growing sense of dread.
I’m a big fan of Harper’s earlier thriller series, which follow detective Aaron Falk. But I believe  The Lost Man is by far her best work yet.
Posted by SherriT on 04/16/19
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In Tracey Garvis Graves latest book, The Girl He Used to Know, Annika is a high-functioning woman with autism spectrum disorder. Throughout the story, the reader is given an inside look into her life and how she copes with being on the spectrum. Annika struggled with life in a way most of us will never understand. Socially awkward, her experiences with college and daily life was so very different and only underscored how difficult just the simplest encounters could be.

When Annika gets to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has an understanding roommate that signs her up for the chess club she meets Jonathan Hoffman. Jonathan does not mind that Annika is different. He can see through her awkwardness to her beautiful heart, and they fall in love. After a tragic event and separating ways, their story picks up again ten years later when they meet by chance at Mariano’s in Chicago. Annika is the girl that Jonathan never forgot and Annika still hurts over their breakup.

I enjoyed this second chance romance very much, but the book also strongly focuses on the heroine's own personal growth. How she evolves from someone filled with anxiety that leans heavily on others to cope socially, to a woman who has fought for her own self-confidence and the skills to thrive on her own two feet. The book has dual points of view and alternates from the present time to flashbacks of the past in the couple's college years.

This is a unique book written with remarkable empathy. Although this is a fictional story, it is extremely relatable, inspirational, and insightful.
Posted by jlasky on 04/04/19
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On April 29, 1986 the Los Angeles Public Library burned down. It burned for 7 hours. We don’t know or remember much about it because it was underreported due to an incident called Chernobyl taking over the news cycle. In her exquisite writing style, Susan Orlean takes on the research of this fire, as well as the history of libraries throughout time.

Orlean learns about the fire when she takes her child to visit the LAPL. This, as well as fond memories of attending her child hood library in Ohio with her Mother, sparks her curiosity to dig deeper. A man named Harry Peak, a small time actor wannabe was the only suspect, but the cause of the fire, possible arson, is still unsolved. Orlean turns into investigative reporter as she pours through city and library files as well as shadowing Los Angeles librarians as she tries to finds answers. What she does find is the extent of books, manuscripts, maps, menus, ephemera and more that the LAPL carries, which unfolds the history of Los Angeles and it’s astounding library.

In what becomes a love story to libraries, The Library Book tells a story. A story of a fire, a story of Los Angeles, a story of the impact and importance of libraries on their communities. With many colorful characters, facts, research and interesting chapter layouts from the Dewey Decimal System, Susan Orlean delivers a non-fiction book that reads like a fiction. The friend who handed it to me and said “just read it” was right. I couldn’t put it down. I hope you relish it as well.
Posted by jonf on 03/25/19
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The second August Snow mystery is a timely thriller that deals with the difficult times for illegal immigrants in America,  The story is set in the Mexicantown neighborhood in Detroit. August Snow is an ex-cop who has sued the city and collected millions, which he has used to help rehab Mexicantown homes and assist his neighbors. The area is being targeted by ICE and local cops, rousting illegal immigrants and spreading fear and anger. The trouble escalates when two teenage girls, who are illegals are found murdered.
Snow and his friends Tomas and Elena help tie the harassment and the murders to each other. They find that a group of rogue ICE agents and neo-nazis are engaged in human trafficking and murder. This a well written and thrilling mystery by Stephen Mack Jones, I look forward to more August Snow books.
Posted by Alisa S on 03/24/19
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Imagine taking a DNA test as a lark, only to have the results shatter the very foundation of your identity. This is what happened to author Dani Shapiro, who movingly tells of this seismic event in her latest book, 
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. Shapiro was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, the only child of an adoring father and a difficult mother. After she receives some shocking results from her mail away DNA test, she begins to uncover long held family secrets that force her to question the core of her being.  With both her parents long dead, she must become a genealogical sleuth as she pieces together her past.
As DNA kits are becoming more affordable and accessible to the public, many people are receiving surprising details about their heritages. This makes Inheritance an extremely timely book to read now. It is  beautifully written, though at times feels a bit indulgent as Shapiro comes to grips with her discovery.
Posted by SherriT on 03/12/19
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Told in the style of an oral history, Daisy Jones & the Six chronicles the tumultuous relationships behind the music of a famed '70s rock band. Real-life drama, fame and fortune, tabloid gossip, drugs and addiction - everything you want in a music biography, this book has them in spades. Inspired by VH1’s Behind the Music series, Taylor Jenkins Reid shares the band’s untold fictional story in a way that makes it feel like nonfiction.

Daisy Jones & the Six gives you a backstage view of the epic rise, and agonizing fall, of one beloved rock band.

Since there is no narrator in this story, you are hearing everything from the characters themselves and that gives it a sense of authenticity.  The fact that I wanted this to be a real band and even Googled them says a lot about the charisma of these characters and the rich, vivid detail. I devoured this book in 2 days!  I was thrilled to learn that Reece Witherspoon is producing a TV miniseries based on the book that is set to consist of thirteen episodes and will air on Amazon Video. For those of you who loved the recent movies A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody read this book immediately!
Posted by LucyS on 03/06/19
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The Radium Girls is a tragic and true story that unfolded for decades. In the early 1900's radium was touted as a curative and elixirs were sold over the counter to those who could afford it. Another lucrative business developed when a scientist created a radium paint formula used extensively for glow-in-the-dark watch and aircraft dials. The young women hired to paint these dials were instructed to use the unusual technique of lip-pointing to paint the watch dials causing them to ingest this toxic ingredient. Once the companies learned of the harmful effects, little to nothing was done to protect its female workers. This began the next chapter as the women banded together to battle their former employers in court to fight for worker rights and against injustice and corporate greed.
In her research, author Kate Moore walked the same streets as the women to inhabit their lives and to better portray a sense of who these women were. She delved deep into library and newspaper archives to bring us a book that humanized these workers. We learn their names and something of their daily routine; how, despite their suffering and subjugation to corporate and legal battles, their character persevered.
Join us on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 from 7:30 to 8:30 pm at the historic Banta House located on the Historical Museum grounds at 514 North Vail at Euclid, just across the street from the library for light refreshments and the first Paging Through History Book Discussion of The Radium Girls.
Posted by NealP on 03/05/19
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Nico Walker’s debut novel Cherry is a raw and devastating account of war, addiction, and love.  His writing is bleak, insightful, explicit, and unsettling. 
The novel follows an unnamed narrator who goes to college, falls in love, drops out of college, and joins the army.  As a medic in Iraq, he sees the effects of the war on both the civilian and soldier populations where he witnesses many of his friends die.  When he returns home, his PTSD is so profound he turns to heroin to escape his pain.  Eventually, he begins robbing banks to feed his and his wife’s addiction.   
Walker is currently in prison for bank robbery related to his own heroin addiction.  He wrote Cherry while serving his time and has used money made from the publication of the book to pay back the money he stole.   Cherry is a challenging novel in terms of language and subject matter.  Nevertheless, it is a timely book as war-related PTSD and the opioid crisis continue to haunt headlines.
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