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Great Reads – April 2021

Libertie

By Kaitlyn Greenidge

Inspired by the life of one the first Black female doctors in the United States, this work of historical fiction set in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn follows the coming of age of Libertie Sampson. As a free-born Black girl, Libertie struggles to find what freedom really means for a Black woman. Her mother, a practicing physician, wants her to go to medical school so they can practice medicine together. But Libertie is not so sure of a life in science. Urged by her desire to live her own life, she accepts the proposal of a young man from Haiti. Though he promises a marriage where they will be equal partners, once the couple arrives in Haiti, Libertie discovers that she is still expected to be subordinate to him. Libertie must find for herself her own freedom, and her story will resonate with readers today and beyond. 

 

The Survivors

By Jane Harper

Going home is not always easy. For Kieran Elliot, returning to his hometown brings up memories that are best left buried. Set in a small coastal community in Australia, Kieran’s parents are struggling to make ends meet and to deal with the absence of his brother, Finn. Kieran is visiting the area with his young family when a body is discovered on the beach. Long-held secrets start to come out, and Kieran’s own guilt over past mistakes continue to haunt him as old, unanswered questions resurface. Full of atmosphere and suspense, Harper builds a small-town crime thriller full of secrets, gossip, and regret.

 

The Eagles of Heart Mountain: A True Story of Football, Incarceration, and Resistance in WWII America

By Bradford Pearson

In 1942, the United States government forced 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast and sent them to internment camps. At the base of Heart Mountain in Cody, Wyoming, 14,000 people were held behind barbed wire fences in ill-constructed housing. Despite enduring racism, cruelty, and harsh winter conditions, the men, women, and children housed there did their best to recreate the established communities of their former homes. In the fall of 1943, the camp’s high school started a football team, the Eagles. Amid the joy of the game, the young men were divided over the government’s disruption of their lives, including their eligibility to be drafted to the front lines despite their imprisonment. Pearson weaves a detailed and well researched tale that honors the resiliency of unlikely heroes during a dark and complex moment in American history.

 

“The only good poem I’ve ever written is you. A daughter is a poem. A daughter is a kind of psalm. You, in the world, responding to me, is a song I made. I cannot make another.”

Kaitlyn Greenidge, "Libertie"

Great Reads – March 2021

The Berlin Shadow: Living with the Ghosts of the Kindertransport

By Jonathan Lichtenstein

In his memoir, Jonathan Lichtenstein documents his father Hans’s journey from Nazi-occupied Berlin as a child refugee on the Kindertransport. The Kindertransport was an organized rescue effort that brought nearly 10,000 children to the United Kingdom in the months before the outbreak of WWII. Hans, a German Jew, lost most of his family after Kristallnacht, and wanted nothing more to do with his German Jewish culture. Growing up in Wales, Jonathan and his siblings struggled to understand their father. As Hans grows older, he and Jonathan set out to retrace his journey back to Berlin. This is a deeply moving memoir about time, trauma, and family during one of the defining moments of modern history.

The Echo Wife

By Sarah Gailey

In this mind-bending science fiction thriller, scientist Evelyn Calwell discovers that her husband Nathan is cheating on her. And not just with any woman, but with Martine, a woman who looks remarkably like her. When Evelyn discovers that Martine is her genetically cloned replica, made possible by her own research, she is even more horrified to find that Martine is pregnant, and Nathan wants a divorce! But cold, workaholic Evelyn is even more shocked when sweet Martine calls her in a panic: Nathan is dead. The two women decide to cover up his death, and the consequences that follow are a non-stop ride of twisting thrills and dark humor.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

By Sonali Dev

The first book in a series of Jane Austen-inspired retellings, Sonali Dev introduces us to the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty who have built their lives in San Francisco. Dr. Trisha Raje is a renowned neurosurgeon, but her professional success isn’t enough for the powerhouse Raje family. A mistake from her youth has plagued her relationship with her family. If only she could find a way to redeem herself. Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine, on the other hand, has struggled to achieve the little success he has. And though catering for the Rajes offers the chance to make his culinary career, his interactions with Trisha test his patience as her arrogance and ignorance are constantly thrust in his face. A perfect, slow-burn romance showing the importance of family and reminding us that first impressions are often deceiving.

 

Deserve was such a strange word, throwing out both blame and accolades with equal mercilessness. Society’s skewed scale for assigning a value to human beings. How many times had he been judged and found lacking? Was there ever a way to measure what anyone deserved? Or was it just another way to pretend that the randomness of the universe made sense?”

Sonali Dev, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors

Great Reads – Jan/Feb 2021

Black Sun

By Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun is the first book in an epic fantasy trilogy as destinies collide during a solar eclipse. Xiala, a disgraced sea captain, is charged with taking a mysterious man to the capital city. Xiala is Teek, a people despised for their mysterious Song, a power that can calm perilous waters or make a man do their bidding. The young man, Serapio, is described as a harmless pilgrim, but he is blind, scarred, and has an aura that unsettles everyone around him. Xiala must get Serapio to Tova before the solar eclipse. Nara is the powerful Sun Priest, who’s humble upbringing sets her in a precarious position as the elite grapple for power. Set in a pre-Columbian Americas inspired world full of lush surroundings and fantastic creatures, this new fantasy series is filled with political intrigue, adventure on the high seas, and mysterious gods.

Greenlights

By Matthew McConaughey

Renowned and beloved actor Matthew McConaughey’s unconventional memoir is filled with the stories that we’ve come to expect from the larger-than-life Texan. Part diary, part self help guide, part love letter to life, this book is a collection of all the hard lessons learned and adventures that McConaughey has lived so far. Over the years, McConaughey kept journals of his experiences, and he finally decided to sit down and revisit some of the best and worst times of his life. “Catching greenlights” is what he calls success, and this book explores his signature frank and honest approach to dealing with life’s challenges, dealing with the inevitable, and finding a state of satisfaction in general.

One to Watch

By Kate Stayman-London

“One to Watch” is a romantic comedy that explores everything we love and hate about reality dating shows. Plus-sized fashion blogger Bea is no stranger to the internet limelight. Though unlucky in love, Bea loves the reality dating show “Main Squeeze.” But she lets loose on her blog about why the show casts the same type of person season after season. Turns out the producers want Bea to be the next star. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she fall in love. Bea wants to challenge anti-fat beauty standards and prove that the average size 16 is just as worthy of love as a size zero. But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. In the whirlwind of fantasy dates and internet bullying, she just might find love after all.

 

“We cannot fully appreciate the light without the shadows. We have to be thrown off balance to find our footing. It’s better to jump then fall. And here I am.”

Matthew McConaughey, "Greenlights"

Great Reads – December 2020

In a Holidaze

By Christina Lauren

Fans of holiday romantic comedies will love the latest book by the best friends turned writing partners behind the pen name Christina Lauren. Set in an idyllic snowy cabin, this Christmas isn’t going as planned for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, stuck in a dead-end job, and her love life is a mess. To make matters worse, this is the last year of her family spending Christmas together in Utah. As Mae drives away from the cabin for the last time, she has a mental breakdown and makes a wish: to know how to be happy. In a flurry of screeching tires, Mae wakes up, once again back on the plane that will take her to Christmas in Utah. She must relive the same holiday all over again, stuck in a time-loop until she gets it right. This hilarious holiday romance will have you laughing out loud at the characters and believing in the magic of the holidays.


Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker

By Gregory Maguire

Fans of the Nutcracker may need to find new ways to celebrate the holiday tradition of E.T.A. Hoffman’s famous story as social distancing continues. Thankfully, Maguire, who enchanted us all with his reimagining of The Wizard of Oz with his book Wicked, tackles the legend in his book Hiddensee. Blending historical fiction and fantasy, Maguire weaves a tale through the forests and salons of Germany, giving a backstory to the famous Nutcracker and the toymaker Drosselmeier. Maguire carefully blends the romantic philosophy of Hoffman’s time with the dark elements of a Brother’s Grimm fairy tale. Not just a retelling, Maguire explores how despite all the darkness in one’s life, hope is always there, and everyone has something precious to share.

 

 

Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

By Maya Angelou

This one has been out for a few years now, but its messages are as timeless as ever. This collection of poetry includes several of Angelou’s most famous poems in celebration of peace, love, and life. From tributes both big and small of all the things worth celebrating, such as a birthday greeting to Oprah Winfrey and a memorial tribute to Luther Vandross and Barry White. It also includes her poem “Amazing Peace,” first presented at the 2005 lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House. The poem honors all faiths and inspires us to embrace the peace and promise of the holiday season. This poem is also available as a storybook, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, so it can easily be shared with the whole family this Christmas.

 

 

“On this platform of peace, we can create a language

to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.”

Maya Angelou, "Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer"

Great Reads – November 2020

The Cold Millions

By Jess Walter

Newly released historical fiction for fans of Anthony Doerr and Amor Towles, Jess Walters delivers the long-awaited next novel after his critical success with “Beautiful Ruins.” Set in the early 1900s in Washington state, the Dolan brothers Rye and Gig are struggling to make ends meet with odd jobs. Rye longs for a life of stability while Gig quickly becomes involved in the labor movement, fighting alongside union men for fair pay and decent work. A powerful mining magnate will stop at nothing to keep his hold on his workers, and the entrancing vaudeville singer Ursula the Great. Full of a motley crew of characters, this story perfectly encapsulates a nation on the brink in the early twentieth century.

 

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

By V.E. Schwab

A sweeping story that blends history, magic, and romance. In France, 1714, a young woman named Addie LaRue makes a deal in an act of desperation. This Faustian bargain allows her to live forever, but she is also cursed. She is no longer remembered by any person she meets. After nearly 300 years, Addie walks into a bookstore to discover that the young man working there remembers her name. Haunting, emotional, and full of perseverance, this novel will have you rooting for our protagonists as they struggle with their choices, free will, and their desire to simply no longer be so alone.

 

Leave the World Behind

By Rumaan Alam

A tense thriller, this is a story about two families and a vacation that goes suddenly, terribly wrong. Amanda and Clay head out to a vacation rental with their teenage son and daughter. Hoping for a quiet corner away from their busy lives in New York City, their vacation is suddenly disrupted with the late-night appearance of the home’s owners. Ruth and G.H. are an older black couple, and they bring a panicked tale of widespread blackout, no internet or cell service, and a desperate escape back to their rural home from the city. Neither family knows what to make of each other, or exactly what to believe. They are cut off from civilization and must test their bonds in a moment of crisis in a story that explores parenthood, race, and class.

 

“Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because visions weaken, and voices wither, and talent fades…. Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end… everyone wants to be remembered.”

V.E. Schwab, "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue"