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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #816, Unlikely Assassins

Fri, 09/23/2022 - 2:39pm by muffy

killers_of_a_certain_age

Deanna Raybourn, author of the Edgar Award–nominated Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey series,  presents a contemporary stand-alone in  Killers of a Certain Age  * * *  (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook.) 

After 40 years of dedicated service to The Museum, a clandestine international organization, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are retiring, being sent off with an all-expenses paid luxury cruise. They are not the deadliest assassins for nothing - Billie at once notices a fellow colleague passing himself off as a crew member. A search of his cabin unearths a sophisticated bomb, large enough to send the whole ship off to oblivion.  Realizing only the Museum Board could order the termination of field agents, these 60somthing know that they will have to turn the table, rely on their training, experience, and each other to survive. 

“The story jumps back and forth between the late 1970s and early '80s, when the women were first recruited, to the present day… The writing is witty and original, and the plot is unpredictable…As the women race around the world trying to stay alive, Raybourn vividly evokes a number of far-flung locations while keeping readers on their toes trying to figure out what's going to happen next….A unique examination of womanhood as well as a compelling, complex mystery. “ (Kirkus Reviews)

AUDIO PICK

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The Old Woman with the Knife (downloadable eBook and audiobook) is the first book to be translated into English for South Korean author Gu Byeong-mo.

65 year-old Hornclaw knows retirement is imminent. After 4 decades of eliminating double-crossers, corporate enemies, and cheating spouses with ruthless efficiency as a “disease control specialist”, she has to admit she is no longer as fast or as strong - liabilities for an assassin. But before she could settle into retirement, living modestly in the same small apartment, with her aging rescue dog, Deadweight, she had one last assignment. Due to an uncharacteristic slip-up, she is injured and makes an unexpected connection with a doctor and his family at an all-night clinic. But emotions, for an assassin, are a dangerous proposition.

“In (Chi-Young) Kim’s fluid translation, the novel resembles recent South Korean narratives that became popular in the United States, like Bong Joon Ho’s 2019 film Parasite and Hwang Dong-hyuk’s 2021 television series Squid Game,  like these works, “The Old Woman With the Knife” uses occasionally cartoonish action and horror sequences to offer a broader social commentary.” (The New York Times Book Reviews

*  *  *  = 3 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Great Games You Can Play in Under an Hour

Tue, 09/13/2022 - 10:06am by emjane

Don’t get me wrong, those long games you can spend all afternoon (or even all weekend) playing are wonderful, but sometimes you only have an hour or so. These great games can all be played relatively quickly (with the caveat that sometimes the first play as you’re learning the rules can be a bit longer)! And, even better, they can all be checked out from your FAVORITE LOCAL LIBRARY!

Forbidden Island | Request Now

Forbidden IslandThis quick cooperative game is a great transitional game for eager boardgamer kids ready to play the “grown up games” (but it’s also fun for just adults to play, too!) Your team of players must work to rescue four relics from the Forbidden Island before the water levels rise and the island sinks into the sea forever! Each player is randomly assigned a role with unique skills, preventing your most seasoned players from always being the “star of the show” and allowing for some replayability. The game is structured with various difficulty levels, making it simple to create a surmountable challenge depending on who’s playing. The one downside of Forbidden Island is that once you’ve experienced all the player roles, the game can develop a bit of a “same” feeling (even though the board is different each play). This makes it a perfect candidate to borrow, rather than buy!
 

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Quirky Fiction

Tue, 09/06/2022 - 10:11am by emjane

Characters with out-there personalities, situations that could happen but aren’t particularly common in the everyday, and plots that don’t follow the through-line you might expect: these traits are what make a book fall under the “quirky fiction” umbrella. These sorts of books are my very favorite, and I’m always looking for more! Don’t hesitate to comment if you’ve got one that I should check out!

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson | Request Now

Nothing to See Here by Kevin WilsonLillian doesn’t have a whole lot going in her life, so when her former classmate Madison reaches out with an intriguing employment offer, Lillian follows through. Madison, the wife of a prominent (and rich!) politician, needs some help looking after her twins. The one wrinkle: when they get agitated (which happens a lot), they spontaneously combust. Not only can burning twins cause chaos in their atmosphere, but the knowledge of their “little problem” would tank their father’s political career.

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Staff Picks: Modern Romance

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 2:34pm by eapearce

The past few years have offered a slew of great new romance novels, many of them featuring diverse characters and cultures–something that used to be much less common in romance novel publishing! We’re excited to recommend some of these fun new reads this week.

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley | Request Now

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie WesleyIn this sweet romance, a football player and a reality television star pretend to date in order to save his bakery. After starring in the country’s most beloved reality show–and turning down the proposal at the end–going out in public is hard for Jada Townsend-Mathews. Not knowing the real story, people are disgusted with her choice. Back in her hometown, she gets a job at a hot new cupcake bakery owned by professional football player Donovan Dell. Donovan’s uptight nature makes the job less-than-perfect, but when a photographer captures him and Jada together and the tabloids assume the two are dating, they decide to roll with it. The press might help them rehabilitate the bakery and improve Jada’s image, so it seems like a win-win. Faking it proves harder than they anticipate though, until, of course, it doesn’t…. 

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Staff Picks: Essay Collections to Make You Laugh (and maybe feel something too!)

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 12:33pm by emjane

Have you already read David Sedaris’s latest and are looking for more? Or are you (like me), still waiting your turn on the hold list? Either way, I’ve got great news – there are SO MANY wonderful humorous, yet insightful, essay collections out there. Here are just four of my favorites:

Vacationland by John Hodgman | Request Now

Vacationland by John HodgmanLet’s face it, most people still recognize John Hodgman as the PC in those long-running Apple commercials. But people who only know him as that are missing out because THE MAN CAN WRITE! (And, perhaps less surprising, he’s very funny). In Vacationland, an essay collection adapted from his one-man show, Hodgman chronicles tales from his childhood as an only child (or, as he calls it being a member of the “worldwide super-smart-afraid-of-conflict narcissist club”) to his path to adulthood and fatherhood. Hodgman is poignant without sappiness and his humor adds to his storytelling without feeling forced or overpowering. Gosh, I think I’ve just convinced myself to give this one a re-read!

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Staff Picks: Back to School Picture Books

Mon, 09/05/2022 - 11:26am by eapearce

We can’t believe school is starting back up already! Here are some back-to-school themed picture books to help ease the transition and celebrate school!

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes | Request Now

Chrysanthemum by Kevin HenkesThis classic picture book tells the story of Chrysanthemum, an adorable mouse, who is excited for her first day of school. But when she tells her classmates her long and unique name, she gets teased for its uniqueness. Saddened, Chrysanthemum doesn’t want to return to school despite the efforts and encouragement of her kind parents. However, when the beloved music teacher, an expectant mother, tells the class that she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone is delighted and Chrysanthemum’s classmates all wish they were named after a flower. This sweet book encourages owning your identity and supporting others. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is another great first-day-of-school read by Henkes.

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Staff Picks: Make it Musical!

Mon, 08/29/2022 - 2:19pm by emjane

Whether you’re interested in the science of music or just want to hear a good story about a fictional band, we’ve got you covered! Here are four titles I’ve enjoyed where music takes center stage (or maybe side-stage, but it’s still there!)

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Request Now

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins ReidTaylor Jenkins Reid’s books are having a surge in popularity – deservedly so, in my opinion. Like her other titles, Daisy Jones uses multiple characters’ perspectives to tell the story of the development of a successful rock band in the 1960s. Beautiful Daisy has been sneaking into rock clubs and partying since she was a young teen and eventually starts to get noticed for her remarkable voice. Meanwhile, Billy Dunne’s band, The Six, is making its way through the rock scene. Eventually, producers try to merge the two acts, and while something fantastic is created, it's marred by ego-driven drama.  Sound suspiciously like the plot to The Final Revival of Opal and Nev that I recommended a few weeks ago? The premises and executions are definitely SIMILAR, but both take their stories in different directions and provide their own unique read. I inadvertently read them one after the other, and while I might suggest spacing them a bit, it didn’t feel like reading the same book.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #815, Jazz-Age Mysteries

Sun, 08/21/2022 - 6:55pm by muffy

last_call_at_the_nightingaleLast Call at The Nightingale * *  by Katharine Schellman (also in downloadable eBook and audiobook) launches her new series (after her Lily Adler Series), set in Prohibition-era Manhattan. 

Siblings Florence and Vivian Kelly spend their days toiling as seamstresses in a dress shop run by a mean owner. While Florence is sensible and practical, preferring to spend her evenings in their squalid tenement room, Vivian escapes to The Nightingale, an underground nightclub where the jazz band plays, illegal liquor flows, and the low light and dance floor welcomes all - from Asian bartender Danny Chin, waitress and singer Bea Henry, Nightingale owner Honor "Hux" Huxley and to  uppercrust Manhattan society. 

One night, on a cigarette break, Vivian discovers a body in an alley behind the club, and she is arrested during a subsequent police raid. An unlikely bail comes with strings - she is to spy on the dead man's family and help find the killer.

“Schellman lavishes many chapters on her colorful Roaring ’20s setting before moving the murder probe to the front burner, an understandable gambit in a series kickoff. Colorful period detail, providing insights into the social and political tenor of the times, might allay the impatience of traditional whodunit fans. Once the action gets started, Vivian nails the clever killer and finds a lover and potential sleuthing sidekick. A colorful period crime yarn with a heroine worth rooting for.” (Kirkus Reviews) 

miss_aldridge_regretsMiss Aldridge RegretsLondon-based Louise Hare’s US debut, (also in eBook and downloadable audiobook) is set largely aboard the glittering RMS Queen Mary, sailing from Southampton to New York.

London, 1936. Lena Aldridge, a mixed-race girl passing for white is barely able to pay her rent singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho since her pianist father died a year ago. The dazzling theater career she hopes for might finally be hers when an American shows up offering a starring role on a Broadway show and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. The timing is perfect considering the sleazy owner  of the club (and married to her best friend Maggie) is murdered right in front of her. 

Seated at a table in Cabin (First) Class with the wealthy and dysfunctional Abernathys, she is drawn into their bizarre family dynamics when the patriarch is murdered in a chilling familiar way. More murders follow and soon, Lena finds herself fighting for her life. 

“The novel's ambiance is spot-on; somewhat like Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple set 10 years later or Marie Benedict's The Personal Librarian. As Lena narrates, switching from the present to the past, readers gain helpful glimpses of her backstory.  With vividly drawn characters, this exciting blend of murder mystery and historical romance is hard to put down once one starts reading.” (Library Journal)

For fans of Nekesa Afia’s debut Dead Dead Girls  (and its sequel Harlem Sunset) and these Jazz Age Mysteries That'll Make You Swing. 

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Staff Picks: Great Two-Player Games

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 1:50pm by emjane

During the deepest, darkest days of the pandemic, my partner and I found ourselves desperately missing our Game Nights from the before-times and started a quest to find the best two-player games we could find. Though our gaming options have since broadened again, we still often find ourselves turning to one of these games for a quick after-dinner match!

Patchwork | Request Now

Patchwork board gameThe concept of Patchwork is simple: each player is given a quilt square and needs to fill it by piecing together patches. Players take turns selecting patches (imagine cardboard Tetris pieces), collecting bonuses, and attempting to finish their quilt. Quick to learn and light to carry, Patchwork also seems like a great game to bring on a picnic! Just make sure you have plenty of room on your blanket; the box is small, but a fair amount of space is needed to spread out the patches.

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Staff Picks: Road Trip Audiobooks

Thu, 08/11/2022 - 1:10pm by eapearce

August is a great month for road trips, and it can be a challenge to stay entertained during long hours of traveling. One solution is to listen to an audiobook! There are several ways to listen to audiobooks for FREE through AADL. You can check out audiobooks through the Libby app, formerly known as OverDrive, and you can check out physical books on CD to listen to at any of our library locations!

Here are a few of our favorite audiobooks!

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders | Request Now