News and Reviews
Sometimes I appreciate audiobooks more than other times. But some books I enjoy even more in audiobook format because the narrators do such a fantastic job.
I recently listened to Kim Harrison's newest, American Demon, read by Marguerite Gavin. Not only can Gavin convincingly speak as a different ages and genders, but she can also portray the different species with amazing efficiency. I've long been a fan of the Hollows series--an urban fantasy about a local witch who works with local law enforcement to stop supernatural threats--and her narration makes me want to reread the entire series, this time in audio.
One of my first audiobooks was the House of Night series. My favorite narrator was Caitlin Davies, whose portrayals of the main characters sounds even better than I imagined!
A midnight jam session becomes a hotbed of emotional manipulation and ruined reputation in this loose rewrite of Othello set in the London jazz scene. Musicians congregate to celebrate the wedding anniversary of renowned pianist Rex and retired singer Delia, but one guest plots to drive them apart and lure the wife back to the stage for his own gain. Patrick McGoohan is incandescent as the Iago of the piece, an ambitious, amoral drummer who single-handedly drives the plot as he circulates among the partygoers, gaslighting a succession of gullible hipsters. All Night Long never lags as it moves swiftly and nearly in real time, the party shifting perceptibly from gaiety and camaraderie to paranoia and suspicion. Featuring cameos and performances from jazz legends like Charles Mingus, Dave Brubeck and Tubby Hayes, the music seeps through every scene and even helps identify character — McGoohan’s frenzied drum solos expose the obsession at the center of his role better than any dialogue.
British director Basil Dearden was known for socially-progressive message pictures, although All Night Long’s only political statement is its casual acceptance of interracial romance. The taut, gritty thriller Victim is another standout with blunter concerns, condemning Britain’s then-current anti-homosexuality laws, while Sapphire examines the fragile logic of racism and the breezy yet cynical The League of Gentlemen is a high-concept heist plot populated by disillusioned ex-soldiers. All four films were released on DVD by Criterion/Eclipse, and each is available through the AADL for the forward-thinking cineaste.
February might be over, but we're continuing the celebration of black history and culture. Check out a few recommendations below for some of the best in Black poetry.
Light for the World to See by Kwame Alexander:
In this collection of poems, the New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander gives readers a rap session about race. Best known for his youth novels, Alexander writes a book of poetry for adults in Light for the World to See. Inspired by three distinct events, Alexander masterfully writes about the murder of George Floyd, the anti-racism protest of Colin Kaepernick, and the historic election of Barack Obama. Adding to the thought provoking text and galvanizing themes are graphic illustrations that make this title all the more enjoyable to read.
Shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook, read by the author) based on the plays by Euripides, is a gorgeous and timely retelling of the Trojan War, from the women, some familiar, others less so, “whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.”
The narrative opens on the night Troy fell, ending 10 years of conflict with the Greeks (Remember that sneaky wooden horse?) As the city burns, the Trojan women find themselves the spoil of war - among them Hecabe, the once proud queen of Troy, brought low by the loss of her husband and sons; her daughter Cassandra, cursed to foresee the future; the Amazon princess Penthesilea who fought Achilles; and Creusa, who courageously tries to save her family.
We also hear from the Greek camp - Calliope, goddess of epic poetry, who offers a tale not of the men's glory but of the experiences of the women; Penelope, who writes biting letters to Odysseus for his long absence; Clytemnestra, who seeks revenge against Agamemnon for sacrificing their daughter; Oenone, Paris' abandoned wife; and Helen, who resents being blamed as the cause of war, and the prophecies she has no power to stop.
“The telling is nonlinear, but the varied stories flow naturally together, ensuring that readers won't lose their way. Haynes' freshly modern version of an ancient tale is perfect for our times.” (Booklist)
For fans of Madeline Miller. Readers might also want to check out Emily Hauser’s For the Most Beautiful: a Novel of the Women of Troy (2017). Further reading coming this spring and summer: Euripides’ Trojan Women: A Comic, by Rosanna Bruno, text by Anne Carson (May) ; Daughters of Sparta by Claire Andrews (June); and Women of Troy by Pat Barker (Aug.)
I’ve spoken before about the desperate need for books about low-functioning/high needs autism, so I was thrilled to see We Walk hit library shelves. It delivered more than I thought possible. Amy S.F. Lutz talks about life parenting a child with severe autism, ranging from discussions on the medicalization of marijuana to the philosophy of personhood. She also talks about how the higher-functioning autism community does a disservice to children like her son and how there needs to be a better balance (in the community and also in the medical field) to reflect both ends of the spectrum; before anyone gets upset about this, though, she does so in a very fair and even fashion that had me reconsidering my prior beliefs (see the compromise on “functioning/needs” label in my first sentence). So much of these points had me nodding in understanding and pausing in thought. I highly recommend this to anyone, but especially those involved in the autism community, from whichever end of the spectrum, and I believe this perspective could and should be required reading for anyone making decisions in the community.
“Meet Ray. He is the light bulb who lives in the closet at the end of the hall.” Those two lines were all it took for me to be charmed by this simple but insightful picture book by Marianna Coppo, titled Ray.
While Ray has lived in several different rooms, the closet he currently resides in doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment or wonder. Every day he hangs out with the same books, and toys, and off-season holiday decorations, and Tom (the spider—every closet needs one). But just as often as the light is on, the light is off. We’re told “darkness is boring if you don’t know how to fill it.” Ray doesn’t even see anything when he dreams. Until one day, he’s unscrewed from the closet light fixture, and placed in a lantern. Ray is taken camping—one short experience that changes everything for this little lightbulb. Although he comes back home to the closet after his camping trip, the memories he has now fill the darkness.
I work at a library and have written a few books, so of course I was reading to my baby from the day he was born! Here's a couple of his favorites:
Goodnight, Gorilla is about a gorilla who sneaks out of the zoo and follows the zookeeper home for bed. I find this book cute as an adult, and when you're reading it for the millionth time in the same day, it's easy to recite from memory while you do something else yourself!
Jane Yolen was one of my favorite authors as a child, and my kid loves her book How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad, which teaches anger management skills early through dinosaur antics. Yolen has several other books along this line that are just as engaging.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary
The Sanatorium * by Sarah Pearse (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook). Elin Warner, British police detective on extended leave (there is more to that backstory) travels with her boyfriend Willy Riley, to Le Sommet, a 5-star ski resort in the Swiss Alps, at the invitation of her estranged brother Isaac, to celebrate his engagement to their childhood friend Laure Strehl. Arriving in the midst of a snow storm, they soon find themselves totally cut off from the outside world. When Laure, a manager of the resort, disappears overnight, Elin suspects foul play, and her brother as the most likely suspect. Afterall, wasn’t Isaac responsible for the death of their younger brother, Sam?
As bodies are discovered, including that of Laure’s, it’s clear that a killer is on the loose among the remaining guests and staff. With police unable to reach the resort, Elin assumes the role of investigator, and soon focuses on the sordid history of the resort, once a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients.
“Pearse not only creates believably fallible characters, she also vividly portrays the frigid landscape of Le Sommet buffeted by blizzards, and a chilling epilogue cries out for a sequel.” (Booklist)
Shiver (eBook and also available in downloadable audiobook) by Allie Reynolds, is set in the French Alps where 5 friends at a reunion weekend are stranded at Le Rocher, a remote ski resort during a snowstorm.
Curtis, Milla, Brent, Dale, and Heather have not seen each other for over a decade since that winter they spent training for an elite snowboarding competition, and Saskia, the sixth member of their group, vanished and presumed dead. Yet no sooner do Milla and the others arrive for the reunion than they realize something is horribly wrong. The cable cars that delivered them have stopped working, their phones disappear, electrical power is intermittent, food supplies vanish.
“Finding out what’s going on tests the physical and mental endurance of Milla and the rest of the crew. Winter-sports fans are in for a treat here, as are all who enjoy a tale of extremes; the fierce competition between women characters is also a bonus. The answer to who’s pulling the strings here is a little incredible, but overall this debut is an atmospheric winter treat. Recommend it to those who enjoyed recent tales of reunions gone awry, such as Laura DiSilverio’s That Last Weekend (2017) and T. M. Logan’s The Vacation (2020).” (Booklist)
"The sometimes-grisly action has a palpably visual immediacy to it—it comes as no surprise that this debut novel has already been picked up for television.... This suspenseful debut thriller by a former freestyle snowboarder contains both style and substance.“(Kirkus Reviews)
* = Starred review
Black History Month is celebrated every February as a chance to remember and celebrate the many contributions of African-Americans to society. While this month has been designated, Black history and culture should be recognized in every month. From honoring Black history to celebrating Black culture and identity, we’ll feature a few reviews this month that celebrate and uplift the Black community. Below are a few recommendations for youth picture books.
I Promise by LeBron James, illustrated by Nina Mata
NBA Champion LeBron James has accomplished a lot in his career. He’s a four-time NBA champion and four-time NBA MVP. Despite all of this success, the most important part of his legacy has been off the court. LeBron opened his I Promise school in Akron, Ohio in 2018 that especially aims to teach at risk children. Inspired by the kids from his school, the book I Promise tells a story of action and responsibility in a way that kids will take to heart. Children from different backgrounds are wonderfully shown in harmony with lessons in the text meant to inspire self reflection, accountability, and unity. Nina Mata provides vibrant, colorful illustrations to the text. With simple but powerful words, kids from everywhere will enjoy this book filled with encouragement and fun. I really enjoyed this book and found it especially helpful in the times we’re facing today.
In The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook download), Khai Diep doesn’t believe that he’s capable of feeling emotion—not grief, not love, nothing. He deeply believes something is broken inside of him. But his mother won’t let anything stand in the way of her quest for grandchildren, not even her own son, so she returns to her native Vietnam to find him a bride. She comes back to California with Esme Tran, a woman who has never been able to escape the slums she grew up in and, in her own way, has always felt as out of place as Khai does ... not that it makes things any smoother between them as Khai's mother forces them to a share the same house.
Like Helen Hoang’s first novel, The Kiss Quotient (paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook download), The Bride Test’s romantic leads feature a character on the Autism spectrum, as well as aspects of Asian American immigrant family experiences. These #OwnVoices novels drew me in; they delivered everything a good romance novel should and kept me up way too late just so I could finish reading the story.
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Phillis Wheatley is the first known African-American woman to have published a book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. Captured in West Africa as a child, she was sold into slavery around the age of seven and purchased by the white Wheatley family of New England, who decided to give her an education and free her when she became an adult.
The documentation we have about Wheatley that does not depend on the perspectives of white people is scant. Jeffers’ poems re-imagine the inner life of a girl and then young woman ripped from her family, forced into a traumatic ocean crossing, and brought up amongst people who cared for her, yet owned her; who encouraged her intellect but wanted to erase her culture and heritage.
55 year-old Bennett Driscoll, once a Turner Prize-nominated artist fears he is “slowly descending into obscurity”. Eliza, his wife of 20 years divorced him for a hedge fund manager in New York. His gallery dropped him because his works are no longer selling though they’ll have more value retrospectively…when he’s dead. The only bright spot is Mia, his 19 year-old daughter, an art student, who remains loyal to him. To make ends meet, Bennett resorts to renting out his large home in (West London’s) upscale Chiswick area on AirBed (an Airbnb-like site) while living in his cramp studio in the back garden.
Though Bennett struggles to find purpose in his day-to-day, he is most concerned with retaining his Super Host status on AirBed, fretting over every less-than-stellar review. That all changes when he comes into contact with three different guests - lonely American Alicia; tortured artist Emma; and cautiously optimistic divorcée Kirstie; as well as bartender and new love interest Claire. These encounters “highlight Bennett's essential problem: figuring out what were the missteps in his life and what he really wants now… A painter herself, Russo (daughter to Richard) makes the act of creating art come alive, while effectively limning her characters in this incisive study of contemporary life.” (Library Journal)
“In Russo’s charming and poignant debut…the author writes with warm sympathy and humor. A treat for fans of Nick Hornby and Tom Perrotta.“ (Kirkus Reviews) Readers might also want to check out the New York Times Review by Sloane Crosley.
Folklore and fairy tales connect us to magical worlds, yet also our families, history, and communities. In Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales we are introduced to various Black women and girls who are centered in the stories told. Virginia Hamilton invites us to experience these tales that have been passed down through families and follows up each story with a description of its origin. The collection ends with three personal accounts by real women, told in their own words. Her Stories is at times a little scary for our characters, others times funny, and consistently an inspiring, delightful read.
Black Buck * * * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Mateo Askaripour, a darkly comic novel, is “25.8% autobiographical”. (Check out Scott Simon’s interview with the author on NPR)
The title, derived from an old racial slur, is written as a sales manual, with hints and tips sprinkled throughout, intended to “help(ing) people…(b)lack and brown people that have been others, especially in the workplace. And this could be true for anyone that’s felt otherized, whether that’s due to sexual orientation, gender expression, religion, or race.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Once the valedictorian of Bronx Science, 22 year-old Darren Vender is a barista at a Midtown Starbucks. Living with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone, and hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, he knows his lack of ambition is a disappointment to his mother. An inexplicable impulse to suggest a different drink for a customer changes all that.
Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, sees potential in Darren, and offers an invitation for Darren to join his elite sales team. Before grasping the nature of the company (a platform for virtual therapy sessions), Darren recreates himself as (Star)Buck, a ruthless deal-closer, and a super-salesman.
“While he tries to square his growing discomfort in his new role in this strange, morally dubious workplace with the expectations of his family and friends, tragedy strikes, and Darren secretly begins a rival start-up focusing not only on training people of color to enter the white world of elite sales but also to revolutionize the industry. Askaripour has created a skillfully written, biting, witty, and absurdist novel that sheds light on racism, start-up culture, corporate morality, media bias, gentrification, and many other timely, important themes. Askaripour is an author to watch.” (Booklist)
* * * = 3 starred reviews
The Way of the Househusband is an award winning manga that follows Tatsu, a former legendary Yakuza boss known as the “Immortal Dragon”, who is now focused on being the best domestic husband he can be. While his wife is a hard working career woman, Tatsu puts his energy into housework. Hilarity ensues as he applies the ways of the Yakuza to his domestic life, including wrestling with the vacuum and taking cooking lessons. This was a quick, lighthearted read that I really enjoyed, and I look forward to reading more volumes! (And, Netflix recently announced an original anime coming next year, based on the books!)
Judee Sill’s Live in London: The BBC Recordings 1972-1973 makes an excellent introduction to the haunting beauty of this once-obscure singer/songwriter’s unique work. Signed to Asylum Records in 1971, her two LPs enjoyed national publicity (including an early Rolling Stone cover) that didn’t lead to major sales, resulting in a brief but eventful career. Mostly ignored by radio stateside, she twice toured England to a warmer welcome, gaining glowing press, television appearances and the chance to perform live on the BBC, the source for the recordings on Live in London.
The music draws from classical, gospel and country/western styles, her clear, pure plaintive voice accompanied by her own deftly plucked guitar or stately piano. Weaving a gentle, ethereal veil around kaleidoscopic verse about bravery in the face of apocalypse, awe at witnessing the infinite and the longing for a righteous, romantic hero/messiah, her songs sound like prayers, like hymns, like someone yearning for eternity in the dark. Both studio LPs are exceptional, but Live in London’s advantage is a stripped-down, unadorned Judee, delivering her songs alone with a captivating intimacy upon which orchestral flourishes and background singers could only intrude.
Judee lived briefly and in tumult. After leaving Asylum her career faded, and she suffered ill health and poor choices before dying young in 1979. Reissues of her rare titles in the 21st century spawned a small cult of wide-eyed admirers, and the 2020s could be her biggest decade yet; the New York Times recently ran a belated obituary noting the 40th anniversary of her death, and a documentary is currently in post-production. In this digital age, her music is more accessible than ever before, and just in time.
The Bad Muslim Discount * * by Syed Massod (also available in eBook and audiobook) is a well-observed and comic novel about two Muslim families from Pakistan and Iraq finding their way in contemporary America.
As Pakistan grows increasingly conservative and embraces Islamic fundamentalism, the Faris family moved from Karachi to Fremont (CA) looking for a fresh start. While his devout mother and model-Muslim older brother Aamir were quickly adopted by the local Muslim community, 14 year-old Anvar, rebellious and wisecracking was more interested in fitting in, even if it meant being a bad Muslim. In college, his irreverence made him an outcast with fellow Muslim students, including his (very secret) girlfriend Zuha. He transferred out East and eventually got a law degree.
In alternating chapters, Safwa, a young girl living in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. Anvar and Safwa became neighbors in a SF apartment complex, at the largesse of a landlord who is happy to offer a “good Muslim discount” as long as you don’t mind the rundown, mold-infested units. Though Safwa, now called herself Azza, is engaged to a bully hand-picked by her abusive father, they fell into an easy relationship. When Zuha becomes engaged to Aamir, now a doctor; and Safwa’s desperate and poorly-conceived plan to gain her freedom attracts the attention of Homeland Security, their lives and that of their families are irrevocably transformed.
“A born storyteller, Masood has crafted a fast-paced page-turner with plenty of insightful commentary on religion, family, love, and national politics in this debut novel that is expertly written and a joy to read; highly recommended.” (Library Journal)
* * = 2 starred reviews
Chef Ashna Raje joins a “cooking with celebrities” reality show to try and save her late father's struggling restaurant, and ends up paired with an international soccer star . . . who’s also her ex.
Due to a positive COVID test among the staff in one of the Downtown Library staff teams, the Downtown Library will be closed Thursday February 4th.
Due to the staffing impact of quarantine, pickup hours at the Downtown library will be 2 PM - 8 PM daily, starting when we reopen on Friday February 5th. Stay tuned for the resumption of regular hours once quarantined staff are able to return to work.
If you had scheduled a pickup for Thursday, February 4th, it will be canceled and you can reschedule it. All items ready for pickup in the Downtown Lobby will stay right where they are until 2/15.
This small book is a joy for any fan of Bob Ross. Featuring full-page paintings of happy trees, nice little clouds, and warm cabins, each section focuses on a different aspect of Bob’s life philosophies. Patience, facing obstacles, and taking time for you, are just a few of the topics covered. There are even some tidbits about Bob’s personal life. Did you know, Bob first decided to perm his hair as a way to save money by needing fewer hair cuts? This book compiles the positivity and wisdom Bob imparted on his audience each episode. Reading through felt like a visit with an old friend, complete with his encouragement and acceptance.
A long chain of toxic mother-daughter dyads… “Feeling unloved by her mother, who left the family when Blythe was 11 and never looked back, Blythe fears having a daughter of her own. When she gives birth to Violet and is unable to bond with her, her fears multiply. While she fiercely loves the son born a few years later, her relationship with Violet remains fraught, and when a tragedy takes place, it cannot recover. Both an absorbing thriller and an intense, profound look at the heartbreaking ways motherhood can go wrong, this is sure to provoke discussion.” (Booklist)
“This is a sterling addition to the burgeoning canon of bad seed suspense, from an arrestingly original new voice.” (Publishers Weekly)
Sera loves true crime podcasts and when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera sets out to investigate and plunges headfirst into the wild back-country of Northern California, following clues hidden in the episodes of Rachel's podcast to an isolated ranch. As Sera digs, she finds that Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won't be the last.
“Blending the true crime compulsion of Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark with the immersive creepy-craziness of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, Brazier creates a heady, pitch-dark cocktail all her own.” (Publishers Weekly)
Jane, a recent transplant, walks dogs for the well-heeled residents of Thornfield Estates, people who won’t notice when items go missing here and there. Then she meets Eddie Rochester. The rich, brooding, and handsome widower could finally offer Jane the life she yearns for. As they prepare to marry, the death of Eddie's first wife, Bea, and her best friend, Blanche, in a boating accident continues to haunt them. When the police reopen their probe, an increasingly concerned Jane starts investigating Bea's fate and what part, if any, Eddie played.
“First-person narration by Jane allows for a slow reveal of her past, and occasional perspectives from other characters provide clues to their motivations. An altogether sinister novel that will make readers of Jennifer McMahon, Ruth Ware, and Donna Tartt shudder ” (Booklist)
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd (the husband-and-wife writing team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos), it probes the dark side of influencer culture, and explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we'll go to be liked by strangers.
Former fashion editor Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, Britain's most famous Instamum, claims to offer an unfiltered view of life raising a young family. Followed by millions, only her embittered, washed-up novelist of a husband knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth. Then one of her followers becomes obsessed and stalks the Jackson family, clearly with malicious intent.
When her seven-year-old son, Cody, tells her about “New Granny” he meets in the park, Georgina reasons that it is entirely understandable that Cody might have invented a "New Granny" to replace his beloved grandmother who recently passed away. It's only when Cody's imaginary friend starts leaving signs behind--candy wrappers, mysterious phone calls--does Georgina suspect that there could be something more sinister going on, or she is losing her mind.
“(F)irst-time author Ryan draws the reader into not only Georgina's terrifying journey to save her son, but also her marriage and her sanity… Seasoned mystery lovers will recognize similarities to B. A. Paris' The Breakdown (2017), Mary Kubica's The Other Mrs. (2020), and A. J. Finn's The Woman in the Window (2018).” (Booklist)
Summer, 1978 Nebraska, Pickard County deputy sheriff Harley Jensen has to deal with an unresolved case involving the missing body of a murdered child, and the lingering sadness of his mother’s suicide. 18 year after Dell Jr. went missing and his body was never found, the Reddick family decides to lay a headstone. Paul, the youngest Reddick, a troublemaker and instigator and Pam Raddicks, married to Rick, is restless, and drawn to Harley’s dark history. Unfolding over six tense days, Pickard County Atlas sets Harley and the Reddicks on a collision course—propelling them toward an incendiary moment that will either redeem or destroy them.
“Thornton's debut rural noir is grim, with a foreboding atmosphere and a story that does not grow more hopeful. Fans of Laura McHugh's The Wolf Wants In may appreciate this dark book.” (Publishers Weekly)
* * = 2 starred reviews
The fantasy genre can get pretty stale sometimes. There’s an adolescent boy, usually white, usually naive, usually heterosexual, and always able-bodied. He finds out that he’s destined for some type of greatness. His quest is noble, his heart pure. He probably has some quirky sidekicks, again, usually white, usually not well developed beyond their desire to help our protagonist. Not that there is anything wrong with these stories but if you’re anything like me, you’ve grown a bit tired. Maybe you’re looking for characters you can relate to, maybe you want to read about the people that aren’t “chosen,” people that have to make their own destinies. Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology delivers on all that and more.
Made up of two books, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, the series tells the story of a group of misfits from the fictional city of Ketterdam undertaking a magical heist. The plot is fast paced and fun but the true beauty of the story is found in its diverse and well developed cast of characters. Their relationships with one another are heartwarming and completely believable.
Salma the Syrian Chef is a picture book by Dann Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron, about a young Syrian refugee and her mother who have recently arrived in Vancouver, Canada. Salma sees how sad and tired her mother has become since they had to leave their home in Damascus and Salma’s papa. Salma decides to make her mother’s favorite dish, foul shami, as a surprise to cheer her up. But Salma isn’t sure of the recipe and doesn’t know the English names of all the ingredients. With help from other immigrants living with them at the Welcome Center and staff, Salma and her new community of Syrians, Somalians, Iranians, Canadians, Lebanese, Venezuelans, and others, tackle these and other challenges along the way to create not just a dish but a joyful journey centered on food and memories.
The story highlights the complex emotions of the immigrant experience, and the bright illustrations are framed by Syrian-inspired geometric patterns. If you’re the kind of person who cries at poignant moments, be prepared to choke up in a few spots along this touching story of resilience, the importance of community, and finding home.
I spent the majority of my younger years scouring the local library’s shelves for those little horror paperbacks for teen readers. Like the Fear Street series by R.L. Stine or anything by Christopher Pike. These books captured my imagination, as they answered questions that my inquiring, pubescent mind wanted to know: How will I fend off the serial killer who is watching me babysit three nights a week? What should I do when my best friend stabs my boyfriend, who happens to be the captain of the basketball team? Did I fall down the stairs on my way to my high school choir solo or did someone push me?
Imagine my joy when I stumbled across the novels of Grady Hendrix—which I lovingly refer to as Goosebumps for Adults. He is a horror writer who isn’t afraid to be campy or sentimental and ultimately, Hendrix always finds a way into your heart. Check out all of his books below, even if horror isn’t your thing!
My Best Friend’s Exorcism: Your best gal pal is hanging with bad boys, befriending all the girls who teased you in middle school, and can’t bother to pick up the phone anymore. Is she “growing up” or is she possessed by Satan?
Detransition, Baby : A Novel * * (also available in downloadable eBook and audiobook) by Torrey Peters is described by Entertainment Weekly as “a tale of love, loss, and self-discovery as singular as it is universal, and all the sweeter for it.”
Reese, Ames and Katrina find themselves thrown together from an unexpected pregnancy. Trans woman Reese, a 30something Midwestern transplant in NYC, is entangled in an affair with a kinky, dominant, and married man she refers to as “the cowboy”, while desperately wishing for a child. Three years ago, she was in a loving relationship with Amy who has since detransitioned (returning to the gender assigned at birth after living as another gender) to Ames, and is romantically involved with his boss, Katrina. When Katrina, badly scarred in a divorce finds herself pregnant, she looks to Ames for support and reassurance that she won’t have to raise their child as a single parent.
While Ames cannot see himself as a father, he relishes being a parent. Knowing how much Reese wants a child, he proposes that the three form an unconventional family.
“There’s no question that there will be much that’s new here for a lot of readers, but the insider view Peters offers never feels voyeuristic, and the author does a terrific job of communicating cultural specificity while creating universal sympathy... Smart, funny, and bighearted.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Recently, the Rumpus talked with Torrey Peters (MFA, University of Iowa; Masters in Comparative Literature, Dartmouth). She shared that “(t)he title is a pun, but I also think of it as a condition, where the comma is a painful knife’s edge that you walk as a trans woman. I wanted to fall off in one of two directions: to one side, if I could have a baby, be a mother, I think I would have felt a kind of legitimacy. In the other direction, if I could have found out a way to live comfortably in some kind of detransitioned state. These two options are represented by the characters.”
* * = 2 starred reviews
In the growing field of youth books that discuss antiracism, I Am Every Good Thing is simply one of the best. This book is essential and showcases Black boyhood in an empowering way. Author Derrick Barnes and illustrator Gordon C. James work together to tell a story that every parent should read with their child to understand or reaffirm the beauty and complexity of black children. It encourages diversity, acceptance, and unity in a world that is often riddled with bias and intolerance. Representation in literature matters and children from all walks of life can appreciate the beautiful artwork and moving words. The boy shown inside moves about in the world with confidence and joy. He is helpful and kind while also being brave and resilient. In an important lesson, he learns that while he is strong, it’s okay to be afraid at times. He is aware of his self worth and is a leader. And most importantly, he is proud of who he is. I Am Every Good Thing teaches us to love all parts of ourselves, to respect each other, and to take pride in who we are and where we come from. I found this book to be very enjoyable and hopefully you will too!
In the attic of an old house, Buttercup, a bisque doll lives with her friends, Teddy Bear, Sir Handsome (a marionette), and Laurent (a plasticine head), in a vintage suitcase. The toys have an idyllic life, until Buttercup is kidnapped to be a companion of the dictator The Head, who rules the Land of Evil: a place populated by rotting vegetables with showgirl legs, a human faced cockroach, and a vacuum tubed eye which spies on everyone. Teddy Bear, Sir Handsome, and Laurent- aided by Madame Curie (a toy mouse) and the other citizens of the toytown- must now all work together to rescue their friend.
Jiří Barta is a master of animation, and even his simplest figure is wonderfully expressive. He uses everyday objects like sheets and pillows to represent waves and clouds, and children’s drawings to show the view from the windows of a moving train. Done almost entirely by hand, the movie contains a wonderful mix of stop motion, clay, and hand drawn animation. Dark and strange at times, Toys in the Attic is mainly a magical and charming film, both for kids and adults.
The Ann Arbor District Library and the Washtenaw Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled are grateful to announce the generous gift of $45,000 from longtime patron Katherine M. Dohm, who passed away at the age of 99 years and nine months. The donation was made in appreciation of AADL's and WLBPD's service and kindness to her over the years.
She's remembered as being "such a lovely person," by Ann Arbor District Library and WLBPD staffer Beth Manuel. "It's touching that she'd leave this donation to the WLBPD.
AADL WLBPD staff member Katie Monkiewicz also remembers Kay fondly.
A picture book mash-up of dinosaurs and construction trucks—what’s not to love? Diggersaurs Explore by Michael Whaite is a high energy read thanks to the driving meter and rhyme, making it fun to read aloud.
The main narrative follows the Diggersaurs along their exuberant excavation treasure hunt. Each of the task-named Diggersaurs (Grabbersaurus, Dozersaurus, Wreckersaurus, Dumpersaurus, to name a few) have a part to play in getting everyone to the end.