Month: January 2021

Check It Out Blog

Celebrating Black Authors

black authors

Diversify your reading in more than one way during Winter Reading! Here we highlight recent titles by Black authors, an optional reading challenge category offering all flavors of story. Enjoy a mere sprinkling of books below as a teaser, or delve deeper with a full list of titles by Black authors here. Happy browsing, reading, and watching snow fall!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown book cover

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Emerging from a life-threatening illness, a fiercely organized but unfulfilled computer geek recruits a mysterious artist to help her establish meaning in her life, before finding herself engaged in reckless but thrilling activities.

Romance; Banter-filled

Black Leopard Red Wolf book cover

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hired to find a mysterious boy who disappeared three years before, Tracker joins a search party that is quickly targeted by deadly creatures.

Afrofuturism; World-building

Three-Fifths book cover

Three-Fifths by John Vercher

A biracial black man who passes for white becomes unwittingly involved in the aftermath of a hate crime committed by his best friend which unleashes racial tension and violence in 1990s Pittsburgh.

Crime Fiction; Fast-paced

It's Not All Downhill from Here book cover

It’s Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan

Confident that her best days are still ahead, a successful businesswoman relies on close friends and her resourcefulness when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down.

Relationship Fiction; Funny

The Shadow King book cover

The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste

Tending the wounded when her nation is invaded by Mussolini, an orphaned servant in 1935 Ethiopia helps disguise a gentle peasant as their exiled emperor to rally her fellow women in the fight against fascism.

Historical Fiction; Action-packed

The Water Dancer book cover

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A Virginia slave narrowly escapes a drowning death through the intervention of a mysterious force that compels his escape and personal underground war against slavery.

Magical Realism; Character-driven

Luster book cover

Luster by Raven Leilani

A young black artist falls into an affair with a man in an open marriage before gradually befriending his wife and adopted daughter against a backdrop of dynamic racial politics.

Coming-of-Age; Darkly Humorous

 

 

Dive into Winter Reading! January 1st – February 28th

black voices

Celebrating Native American Authors

Native American Authors

Native American voices have won glory for several recent titles covering a variety of topics for every reader. Plus, reading a book by a Native American author is part of the optional mini-challenge for Winter Reading this year! Below are stories pulled from a larger list of Native American authors, featuring modern life in its wit and struggles, historical trauma, the twin pulls of embracing tradition and breaking away, epic fantasy, and more!

Crooked Hallelujah book cover

Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

A first collection by an award-winning Cherokee writer traces four generations of Native American women as they navigate cultural dynamics, religious beliefs, the 1980s oil bust, devastating storms and unreliable men to connect with their ideas about home.

Family Saga; Gritty

Winter Counts book cover

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

A vigilante enforcer on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation enlists the help of an ex to investigate the activities of an expanding drug cartel, while a new tribal council initiative raises controversial questions.

Crime Fiction; Suspenseful

This Town Sleeps book cover

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

Engaging in a secret affair with a closeted white man, an Ojibwe from a northern Minnesota reservation navigates small-town discrimination before a ghost leads him to the grave of a basketball star whose murder becomes linked to a local legend.

Intricately Plotted; Moving

Cherokee America book cover

Cherokee America by Margaret Verble 

In the Spring of 1875 in the Cherokee Nation, Check, a wealthy farmer and mother of five boys, must protect her mixed-race family and tight-knit community at all costs when violence erupts.

Historical Fiction; Compelling

Savage Conversations book cover

Savage Conversations by LeAnne Howe

Mary Todd Lincoln is addicted to opiates and tried in a Chicago court on charges of insanity. Entered into evidence is Ms. Lincoln’s claim that every night a Savage Indian enters her bedroom and slashes her face and scalp. She is swiftly committed. Her hauntings may be a reminder that in 1862, President Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakotas in the largest mass execution in United States history. No one has ever linked the two events–until now.

Novel in Verse; Historical Fiction

Black Sun book cover

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

A trilogy debut is inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and follows the unbalancing of the holy city of Tova amid a fateful solstice eclipse.

Epic Fantasy; World-building

Night of the Mannequins book cover

Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

A contemporary horror story where a teen prank goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose: is there a supernatural cause, a psychopath on the loose, or both?

Horror; Menacing

Apple: Skin to the Core book cover

Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth

The term “Apple” is a slur in Native communities across the country. It’s for someone supposedly “red on the outside, white on the inside.” Eric Gansworth tells the story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds.

Memoir; Lyrical

 

 

Read what warms you up for Winter Reading! 

Native American Voices

Chosen Family Stories

chosen family stories

Chosen families happen for a variety of reasons, but they always have very special and unique bonds. We’ve collected a bunch of stories that explore chosen families. These books show how diverse the idea of family can be. As these are fictional stories, there are some truly magical selected families as well as self-styled families that can be found in present day or in the past. Choose your pick of a chosen family story!

Love After Love book cover



Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

An award-winning Trinidadian author offers a novel that looks at a complicated marriage, an unconventional family and the shocking secrets that unite them.

Strong Sense of Place; Lyrical

Little Family book cover



Little Family by Ishmael Beah

A powerful novel about young people in a conflict-scarred land, struggling to replace the homes they have lost with the one they have created together.

Atmospheric; Complex

House in the Cerulean Sea book cover



The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place-and realizing that family is yours.

Heartwarming; Witty

In West Mills book cover



In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

A woman in mid-20th-century rural North Carolina, determined to live on her own terms in spite of community gossip, finds unexpected support from a veteran fixer who struggles with an inability to correct his own troubled past.

Historical Fiction; Well-Crafted Dialogue

My Kind of People book cover



My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

A group of New England islanders come together for a recently orphaned girl, an act that reveals the power of community, as well as dredges up long-buried secrets.

Character-driven; Melancholy

Cantoras book cover



Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

Enduring the rampant violence against women and the LGBTQ community in the decades of the Uruguayan dictatorship, five women heartbreakingly unite as lovers, friends and family.

Dramatic; Lush

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie book cover



Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

After getting dumped by her husband, a woman sets out to prove her worth by entering a ‘best housewife’ pageant in 1970 Palm Springs.

Humorous; Engaging

Best Books of 2020

Best Books of 2020

We sifted through a great many of the Best Books of 2020 opinions that have been making the rounds and put some of the more frequent fliers on this curated Best Books of 2020 list. Featured below are some of the books that our staff have heard rave reviews about as well as those consistently on those Best Of indexes!

Deacon King Kong book cover

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

In the aftermath of a 1969 Brooklyn church deacon’s public shooting of a local drug dealer, the community’s African-American and Latinx witnesses find unexpected support from each other when they are targeted by violent mobsters.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family book cover

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Tells the heartrending story of a midcentury American family with 12 children, 6 of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Transcendent Kingdom book cover

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice.

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Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Compelled by poverty to agree to a lucrative final heist that will allow him to go straight, a skilled getaway driver finds his efforts complicated by racial dynamics and the ghosts of his past.

The Cold Millions book cover

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Enduring a harsh existence as day laborers, orphaned brothers Gig and Rye Dolan are drawn to a feminist activist and a vaudeville singer whose experiences reflect an unjust world on the brink of upheaval.

The City We Became book cover

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Takes readers into the dark underbelly of New York City where a roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars.

The Only Good Indians book cover

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Party of Two book cover

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

Going against her better judgement, LA lawyer Olivia Monroe secretly starts dating a hotshot junior senator until their romance is made public and her life falls under intense media scrutiny, jeopardizing everything.

Best Films of 2020

best films of 2020

2020 was a very different year for films, but we scoured through the Best Films of 2020 rankings that have been circulating and spotlighted the more frequent fliers on this Best Films of 2020 list. Featured below are some of the movies that our staff have heard rave reviews about as well as those consistently on multiple Best Of indexes!

For Best Of streaming-only options (not featured here), you can look into checking out one of our Rokus.

First Cow DVD cover

First Cow

A loner and cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon Territory, though he only finds a connection with Chinese immigrants. The men collaborate on business, although its longevity is reliant upon the participation of a wealthy landowners prized milking cow.

The Assistant DVD cover

The Assistant

One day in the life of Jane, a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. As Jane follows her daily routine, she, and viewers, grow increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colors every aspect of her workday, an accumulation of degradations against which Jane decides to take a stand, only to discover the true depth of the system into which she has entered.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always DVD cover

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, the film is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion.

Beanpole DVD cover

Beanpole

1945, Leningrad. WWII has devastated the city, demolishing its buildings and leaving its citizens in tatters, physically and mentally. Two young women search for meaning and hope in the struggle to rebuild their lives amongst the ruins.

The Whistlers DVD cover

The Whistlers

Not everything is as it seems for Cristi, a police inspector in Bucharest who plays both sides of the law. Embarking with the beautiful Gilda on a high-stakes heist, both will have to navigate the twists and turns of corruption, treachery and deception. A trip to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language might just be what they need to pull it off.

Bad Education DVD cover

Bad Education

The beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district and his staff, friends and relatives become the prime suspects in the unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.

Sorry We Missed You DVD cover

Sorry We Missed You

Ricky and his wife Abby, who lost their home in the 2008 financial crash, are desperate to get out of their economic distress. When Ricky gets the opportunity to be his own boss as a delivery driver, they trade in their only asset, Abby’s car, for a new white van and the dream that Ricky can work his way up to owning his own franchise. But the couple find their lives are quickly pushed further to the edge by an unrelenting work schedule, a ruthless supervisor, and the needs of their children.