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Fabulous Fiction First #708, Embracing Second Chances

Sat, 05/25/2019 - 6:43pm by muffy

theres_a_word_for_thatPicked as one of 9 Books Not to Judge by Their Covers,  There's a Word for That * is the first book for adults by YA author Sloane Tanen.  “The novel's title refers to German words that express concepts that take a whole sentence to convey in English, like Verschlimmbessern (to make matters worse in the process of trying to improve them) and Schnapsidee (a plan so stupid, it must have come from a drunken mind), and others make up the five sections of the book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Retired film producer Marty Kessler, addicted to opioids, man-handled by his latest girlfriend Gail, is running through his life savings at an alarming rate while still supporting his daughters Janine and Amanda and her twins, Hailey and Jaycee. 41 year-old Janine, a former child star is struggling to make a life for herself. Recently divorced Amanda, a high school drama teacher worries about her girls’ future.

On the other side of the pond, celebrated novelist Bunny Small is self-medicating for a severe writer’s block and estrangement from her only son Henry. Unbeknownst to the family, Marty and Bunny were once married. Their reunion at Directions, a ritzy Malibu rehab center, will bring these two wildly flawed families together, for better or for worse.

“With equal parts humor and empathy, Tanen's first novel for adults employs multiple narrators and a skillfully drawn cross-generational family to examine how relatives impact one another… For readers who miss The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg (2012) and the Lamberts from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (2001).” (Booklist)

* = Starred review


The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted, the first solo effort by Australian author Robert Hillman is an “uplifting exploration of how people rise above tragedy to find joy.” (Publishers Weekly).

It is 1968, Tom Hope, a cash-strapped sheep farmer is hired to do some carpentry work for Hannah Babel, a recent immigrant and Holocaust survivor, determined to open the first bookstore in town. Trudy, Tom’s unstable wife, left him again but this time taking with her Peter, her son that Tom has raised as his own, to join a Jesus camp. Sophisticated, colorful, charismatic and haunted, Hannah lost her entire family at Auschwitz, including her young son and vowed never to love another child again. Despite the vast age difference, attraction between Tom and Hannah is mutual and they soon marry. But when a horrific act of violence sends Peter back to Tom, Hannah has a difficult decision to make.  

“The openness of the Australian countryside is an apt setting for a complex exploration of grief, faith, and restoration, and in poignant, meditative, and stirring prose Hillman tells a heartrending and heartwarming tale of love and sacrifice.” (Booklist)

Suggested for fans of The Little Paris Bookshop and The Light Between Oceans."

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New Stories to Go

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 1:35pm by evelyn

Stories to Go Summer LabelDo you know about our Stories to Go collection? These bags are a great way for kids to get a curated selection of books on a single topic. Each bag comes with approximately ten picture books on a topic (some bags also include a DVD). The bags check out for four weeks, and you can put them on hold to pick up at any branch you like!

We’ve recently added some brand new themes:

  • Coding (Learn to code! This kit includes a book to help parents learn to code too!)

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #707, Sizzling Summer Reads

Sat, 05/11/2019 - 9:16pm by muffy

stay_up_with_hugo_bestStay Up with Hugo Best *  by Erin Somers

29 year-old June Bloom, an aspiring comedy writer, has been working as a writers' assistant for a late-night talk show, Stay Up with Hugo Best when the show was cancelled for falling ratings. Unemployed with little prospect, June left the farewell party and made her way to an open-mic night at a dive bar where she unexpectedly met up with Hugo, and impulsively accepted the sixtysomething-womanizer’s invitation to spend the long Memorial Day weekend at his Greenwich mansion. Though the exact terms of the visit were never spelled out, June was realistic and clear-eyed enough to guess. The weekend started with a series of misunderstandings and misadventures and the presence of Hugo’s teenage son, Spencer, home from prep school further complicated matters.

“Somers sidesteps the predictable path the reader might expect this weekend to take, instead meandering into subtle, surprising territory… a winning debut.” (Publishers Weekly)

 * = Starred review

cheer_upNamed one of 2019's most anticipated reads by LitHub and Entertainment Weekly, Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe by Evan James is a hilarious and sophisticated comedy of manners about an eccentric family during one frenzied summer in the Pacific Northwest.

Carol Widdicombe is convinced moving into Willowbrook Manor, their new Bainbridge Island home would bring her husband Frank out of a deep depression. She is sure it won’t hurt to turn their elegant summer home into a showplace, perhaps even as a feature in a décor magazine. And so begins a whirlwind summer of multiple social dramas involving the family and a few chosen friends.

Their son Christopher, is nursing a broken heart after a year abroad in Italy. Michelle Briggs, Carol's personal assistant is enamored with Bradford Dearborne, a blue-blooded screenwriter and Frank’s tennis partner. Their gardener Marvelous Matthews, a recovering alcoholic, finds himself enchanted with Gracie Sloane, a self-help guru.

“When this alternately bumbling and clever cast of characters comes together, Willowbrook transforms into a circus of uncovered secrets, preposterous misunderstandings, and irrepressible passions.”  For fans of Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette?; Andrew Sean Greer's Less; and Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins.


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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Mon, 04/29/2019 - 9:42am by howarde

Book cover of Maybe You Should Talk to SomeoneWhen Lori Gottlieb’s boyfriend of two years unexpectedly leaves her, she experiences a midlife crisis, emotional meltdown, and accidentally-wear-pajamas-to-work loss of functionality. Gottlieb, herself a psychotherapist, decides that she needs to find a therapist. This lands her in the office of Wendell, a quiet, dorky, middle-aged therapist who has no patience for Gottlieb’s wallowing, but lots of faith in her ability to free herself from the mental traps she’s created in her life.

A book about a therapist’s experience in therapy might seem…I don’t know…boring, myopic, technical? But Gottlieb’s book brims with humanity and humor. As the story proceeds, Gottlieb’s breakup takes a backseat to her conversations with her clients. These include a TV screenwriter who seems to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder but actually just has a heartbreaking secret, a young successful academic dying of a rare form of cancer, and a 69 year old artist who, in the wake of her devastating family life, decides that she will commit suicide on her 70th birthday if her depression doesn’t clear up. Just as Gottlieb gains self-understanding and growth in her sessions with Wendell, Gottlieb’s clients undergo remarkable transformation as they face themselves, their problems, and their loved ones with compassion.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone has a lot of buzz—it’s even now in development as a TV series—but it’s definitely well-deserved. A great read for anyone interested in the human heart and psyche.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #706

Fri, 04/26/2019 - 2:41pm by muffy


Released on the author’s 50th birthday, Miracle Creek * * by Angie Kim is “delightfully startling, and startlingly moving.” (Sarah Crichton, Publisher)

Recent immigrants Pak and Young Yoo run the Miracle Submarine, an experimental hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) treatment facility in a small town in Virginia. Sessions (called dives) in the pressurized oxygen chamber are prescribed to treat conditions spanning from autism to infertility.

When the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes killing two people during an evening dive, Elizabeth Ward, the mother of one of the victims, is charged with murder. In the ensuing trial, Matt Thompson, a young doctor who survived the explosion is first to testify while every person present that evening must reckon with what really happened. Pak, now in a wheelchair, might be motivated by the insurance payout that could send daughter Mary to college. Young is plagued by the guilt of lying for her husband. The hot-tempered teenage Mary, now permanently scarred, hopes her not-completely innocent secret will not come to light.

"With so many complications and loose ends, one of the miracles of the novel is that the author ties it all together and arrives at a deeply satisfying - though not easy or sentimental ending. Intricate plotting and courtroom theatrics, combined with moving insight into parenting special needs children and the psychology of immigrants, make this book both a learning experience and a page-turner." (Kirkus Reviews)

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #705

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 2:39pm by muffy

wolf_and_the_watchmanNamed Best Debut Novel of 2017 by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers, and is pegged one of this year’s best books by the Washington Post, The Wolf and the Watchman *  by Niklas Natt och Dag will appeal to readers of Nordic crime fiction and historical mystery alike.

Stockholm, autumn 1793. Night watchman Mickel Cardell was roused from a drunken stupor to pull a floating corpse out of the Larder, once a pristine lake on Stockholm's Southern Isle, now a rancid bog. Cecil Winge, a young lawyer dying of consumption, was entrusted to solve this heinous crime where the body showed signs of prolonged torture. Aided by Cardell, the pair had little to go on beyond a scrap of fabric with an unusually design and the sighting of a green sedan chair. Eventually their painstaking investigation led them to the Eumenides, an ostensibly charitable upper-class organization.

“Natt och Dag's first novel is engrossing and gross. The imagery is vividly conveyed and not for the faint of heart or stomach. Yet for those who like their mysteries dark, this is a standout. The characterization is excellent, as is the evocation of eighteenth-century Stockholm, an uncommon historical setting that provides a vibrant backdrop for this unusual mystery. Natt och Dag's side-plots dovetail neatly, his pacing is skillful, and he explores with aplomb his novel's main theme, Homo homini lupus est  - Like a wolf is man to other man ~ Plautus.“ (Booklist)

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #704

Sun, 04/14/2019 - 8:08pm by muffy

waiting_for_bojanglesWinner of the Prix du Roman des etudiants France Culture/Telerama; the Prix Roman France Televisions; and the Prix Emmanuel-Robles, Waiting for Bojangles, Olivier Bourdeaut’s debut is “at once delightfully whimsical and hugely touching.” (Library Journal) It is told from the perspective of a young boy who shares a grand Paris apartment with his eccentric parents and an exotic pet crane named Mademoiselle Superfluous.

George and Louise (though she was never called by the same name twice) met and married on a whim. She was beautiful and quite mad, and he was indulgent and smitten. He sold his businesses  (quite profitably) so they could stay home, have wild parties and dance all night to Nina Simone’s “Mister Bojangles.” When the teachers did not approve of the boy’s tardiness and unexplained absence, they chose to keep him home.

As Louise descended deeper into mental illness, father and son went to great lengths to protect and humor her - by staging a kidnapping, and fleeing Paris for their country house in Spain. “Bourdeaut’s debut is both a charming tale that revels in colorful detail and language and a heart-rending depiction of the brutal march of mental illness. Its part-rhyming structure almost always feels organic (hats-off to translator Regan Kramer) and lends the narrative a sense of flow and momentum. But it’s the irresistible, childlike sense of delight—even in the face of unimaginable sorrow—that renders the novel a genuinely enjoyable reading experience and one that sparks complex and conflicting emotions.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Suggested readalikes: Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles, and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #703

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 3:20pm by muffy


The Altruists * by twentysomething Andrew Ridker is “(b)eautifully written, with witty, pitch-perfect dialogue and fascinating characters... (this) impressive, deeply satisfying debut is an extraordinarily insightful look at a family broken apart by loss and struggling to find a way back to each other and themselves.“ (Booklist)

Two years after losing his wife Francine to breast cancer, Arthur Alter is about to lose his home too. An un-tenured Engineering professor struggling to keep his job at a private university in St. Louis, he no longer could afford his too-large house. His two grown children have flown the coop, right after the funeral - taking with them their not-too-shabby inheritance from Francine (Arthur was written out of the will when she discovered his affair with a younger colleague).

Closeted in his expensive Brooklyn apartment, 31-year-old Ethan is in debt, having quit his consulting job, and addicted to online shopping.  Maggie, a recent grad and a would-be do-gooder, embraces self-imposed poverty(and starvation) by taking low-paying jobs in her Queens neighborhood. When Ethan and Maggie accept Arthur’s invitation for a home visit, none of them suspect the others’ secret agenda for this reunion.

“Ridker spins delicate moral dilemmas in a novel that grows more complex and more uproarious by the page, culminating in an unforgettable climax.” (Entertainment Weekly). A readalike for The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and The Heirs by Susan Rieger. For another Midwestern America family saga that confronts the divide between baby boomers and their millennial offspring, try The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg.

* = starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #702

Sun, 03/31/2019 - 7:56pm by muffy


Oksana, Behave! By Maria Kuznetsova is a Russian American girl’s bumpy path to adulthood.

Oksana Konnikova’s family emigrated from Kiev to the United State when she was 7. Her father, a physicist and a gifted mathematician, moonlighted as a pizza deliveryman to support the family - all so Oksana could have a brighter future. While gifted as a student, Oksana is irreverent, impulsive, and irrepressible - from calling 911 to report that her grandmother is trying to kill her; maiming a school bully; blackmailing the Principal to fix an election and destroying a family in the process; to hooking up with her high school track coach. No wonder her mother was constantly pleading with her:  “Oksana, Behave!”.  Her college years passed in a fog of booze, drugs, and promiscuity after the death of her doting father, and persisted into adulthood. “And yet despite this, she is an utterly compelling, deeply flawed, and completely endearing character Kuznetsova has created a heroine for the ages in her sparkling, piercingly insightful debut.” (Booklist)

When Oksana visits her grandmother in Yalta and learns about her wartime past and her lost loves, she begins to see just how much alike she and her grandmother are, and comes to a new understanding of how to embrace life and love without causing harm to the people dearest to her.

“An immigrant’s coming-of-age tale done with brio.” (KIrkus). Will appeal to fans of The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart.


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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #701

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 10:53pm by muffy

peoples_history_of_heavenA People's History of Heaven is award-winning author Mathangi Subramanian’s first novel for adults.

Heaven is a slum at the heart of Bangalore. Once marked by a sign that said ”Swargahalli”, but thirty years later, all that’s left is the word swarga, as in Sanskrit for Heaven. Now the bulldozers are back, ordered by the government to raze the rest of the ramshackle neighborhood to make room for new high-rises. For fifteen-year olds Deepa, Banu, Padma, Rukshana and Joy, it is home and the closest thing to heaven they have known. As a bulldozer flattens Banu's home, they spring into action. Joined by their mothers who are no strangers to hardship, “they form a human chain, hijabs and dupattas snapping in the metallic wind, saris shimmering in the afternoon sun”.

Going back in forth in time, we come to know these young women as classmates in the government-sponsored school and best friends. Banu is a talented artist who risks everything to cover the city in protest graffiti; Deepa, visually impaired, is a gifted dancer and a keen observer; transgender-Joy, (born Anand), is the scholar in the group and a Christian convert; Rukshana, a queer Muslim tomboy, is fiercely loyal; and Padma, a migrant from the countryside must shoulder the care for her illiterate family.  Their mothers’ stories are all the more heartbreaking… In a culture that does not value women, they endure abuse, abandonment, poverty, compounded by the lack of an education. They are “(a)ngry, unforgiving goddesses… the kind that protect their daughters”.

“The power of these fierce young women shines in spite of their circumstances, and they prove just how beautiful and influential a strong, unconditionally accepting community is. Subramanian is a remarkable writer whose vibrant words carry a lot of heart. This inspiring novel is sure to draw in readers with its lyrical prose and endearing characters.” (Booklist)