Check It Out Category: Picks by Cathleen

Cathleen’s Pick: Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard

Cathleen's Staff Pick photoAs if road trips through difficult weather weren’t already minefields, the slim-but-potent Listen to Me employs the perceptions – and baggage – of an isolated couple to craft delicious strain in the narrative. Even more impressive is how author Hannah Pittard calls upon the reader’s preconceptions to coil additional tension in a masterpiece of character-driven suspense.

Cathleen’s Pick: It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

Cathleen Staff Pick photoPopping the question to her boyfriend of ten years was part of Delia’s plan; seeing his panicked text to another woman that same night was…not. It’s Not Me, It’s You is a darkly comic journey of self-discovery through misadventure. Witty, sometimes wacky, but also pointedly real, Mhairi McFarlane’s story is one to cheer.

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? Enjoy this book for any one of the following categories:

A. Read a book written by a new-to-you author.
C. Read a book set in a different country. (England)
G. Read a romance. (of sorts)

Cathleen’s Pick: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Cathleen Staff Pick photoAn ideal gateway into fantasy for crime story fans, Skin Game by Jim Butcher is a thrilling heist adventure with Chicago’s only professional wizard leading the gang. Narrator James Marsters is nothing short of spellbinding in telling the smart, twisty, and witty tale of a motley crew under duress breaking into the vault of Hades for the literal Holy Grail.

Have you taken up this summer’s challenge of Reading Takes You Everywhere? Enjoy this book for any one of the following categories:

A. Read a book written by a new-to-you author.
D. Read or listen to a digital book.
L. Read a book set in the Chicagoland area.
Q. Read a book of fantasy or magical realism.

Cathleen’s Pick: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Wedding Date book coverCathleen of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory:

It may be a meet-cute you’ve seen before, but when Drew and Alexa are stuck in an elevator together, their connection is made with such charm that it becomes entirely fresh.

Drew is a pediatrician on his way to the wedding of his ex and his best friend, so when he finds himself dateless, it isn’t…ideal. When he meets Alexa, the mayor’s chief-of-staff, in the stalled elevator, he’s struck by how smart and funny she is — not to mention quite attractive – so he impulsively invites her to be his plus-one. He’s surprised to hear himself ask, but even more surprised when she agrees! So begins a wedding weekend built on a lie, but the chemistry is undeniable.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is told in alternating points of view with winning banter and a bit of narrative wink. The warmth and fun with which Drew and Alexa navigate falling for one another is completely charming, and when those inevitable obstacles emerge, you can’t help but hold your breath for the happily-ever-after ending they deserve.

For more entertaining stories of relationships that begin in pretense and become real…

Act Like It book coverAct Like It
by Lucy Parker
A London actor with an image problem is paired with a charity-minded ingénue for a publicity-driven romance that takes them both off guard.
Kiss an Angel book coverKiss an Angel
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Presented with the choice between jail and marrying a stranger, flighty Daisy Devereaux becomes the newest member of a traveling circus beside a husband who is determined to change her uptown ways.

 

Duke and I book coverThe Duke and I
by Julia Quinn
The Duke of Hastings will stop at nothing to keep the matchmakers at bay, even if it means pretending to be engaged to the lovely Miss Bridgerton, but strong feelings on both sides soon complicate the plan.
Yours to Keep book coverYours to Keep
by Shannon Stacey
In preparation for her grandmother’s visit, Emma recruits a recently returned army vet to be her fake fiancé, but when their pretend relationship turns into something real, they must make some difficult decisions.
Tempest book coverTempest
by Beverly Jenkins
When the first meeting of a spirited mail-order bride and a young widowed doctor results in a gunshot wound, the planned marriage of convenience seems to hold promise of more sparks than either expected.

 

Cathleen’s Pick: Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Cathleen staff picks photoIt’s a hard fall from corporate mogul to sanitorium resident, but Henry Dunbar brought this on himself. In a play for adoration, he gave up control of his company, and now those he rewarded have left him with nothing. Both clever re-imagining of King Lear and contemporary morality tale, Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar exposes the heart of a once-heartless man.

Cathleen’s Pick: Something Rotten!

Cathleen Staff Pick photoIn a hilariously meta production, Something Rotten! imagines the birth of musical theater as the only recourse left to brother playwrights trying to compete with bad-boy superstar Will Shakespeare. The Broadway cast recording shows off the talent, the fun, the puns, and Easter eggs aplenty to tickle the fancy of any drama geek.

Cathleen’s Pick: Roughneck by Jeff Lemire

Cathleen's Pick - RoughneckThe embattled, soulful Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is a winter noir story that is both gritty and beautiful. Expert brushwork teases out different flavors of night sky, and the landscapes reflect the characters’ shifting degrees of serenity, menace, bleakness, and volatility. A harsh tale of family dynamic and of recovery, and one that has lived under my skin for months.

Books You Might Enjoy, Part Two

Does warmer weather make you thirsty for a new read? Whether looking to thrill your heart, excite your mind, lift your spirits, or escape to a different time or place, there’s a story for you — and we want to help you find it!  Below is a second set of hand-picked selections [part one is here] most likely to keep those pages turning during the hazy days of summer.

Picture of Jenny

Jenny says….

On the surface, recent releases Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig and The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman might not have a lot in common, however, both novels deftly balance talking about harder issues with light touches of humor and stunning grace.

Ginny Moon book cover

Meet Ginny Moon, a spunky, hilarious, and earnest 14-year-old girl who has everyone around her worried as she obsesses about the Baby Doll she left behind when she was saved from her birth mom five years ago. As Ginny shares her perspective as an adopted teenager with autism coming to terms with an abusive past, readers get to experience her joys and frustrations right along with her while she goes to extraordinary lengths to find her Baby Doll. Benjamin Ludwig will take you on a roller-coaster of emotion this summer with his debut Ginny Moon!

 

 

The Garden of Small Beginnings book cover

Filled with quirky characters, a chance of new love, and a strong family, The Garden of Small Beginnings is a ticket into a realistic slice of someone else’s life. It’s been almost five years since Lilli’s husband died and she was left to raise two young children with the help of her supportive sister. As Lilli and her family continue to work through their healing, a gardening class Lilli’s boss is making her sign up for holds an unexpected chance for a new beginning. For the reader looking for humor, heart, and healing, Abbi Waxman’s latest is a summer must.

 

 

Cathleen says….

He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly, expected in June, and New Boy by Tracy Chevalier, released last week, are two absorbing stories that turn dark motives into exciting storytelling.

He Said_She Said book cover

1999. In the afterglow of a total solar eclipse, Laura and her boyfriend Kit turn a corner to see what appears to be a violent assault. He said…it was consensual. She said…well, nothing out loud, but the look in her eyes tells Laura all she needs to know. The man is convicted because of Laura’s testimony, but sixteen years later it is Kit and Laura who live in hiding. With another eclipse expected, is this the time for harsh truths finally to be brought into the light? Find out in Erin Kelly’s debut He Said / She Said.

 

 

New Boy book cover

Transport the play Othello to an elementary school in 1970s Washington, D.C., and you have drama ripe for social commentary via sixth graders. In New Boy, a diplomat’s son is the first and only black student the school has ever enrolled. When he easily befriends popular girl Dee, it is too much for Ian, the class bully, who already feels threatened. The playground proves a ready-made setting for the jealousy and manipulation of Shakespeare’s classic, and you won’t want to miss how it ‘plays’ out.

Books You Might Enjoy, Part One

Summer is on its way! To help you prepare for your reading-in-the-sunshine endeavors, we have dipped our toes in recent book releases, poured over top new release lists, and examined reviews just to land on stand-out titles that resonated with us that you would enjoy, too. We’ll be back next week for part two!

Cathleen says….

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, new this month, and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, released in April, are two very different reads that make lasting impressions.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine book coverWe love championing a debut, but I’ll be honest: this book pitch practically sells itself. A popular way to describe Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is as A Man Called Ove meets The Rosie Project, which right there tells you almost all you need to know. Eleanor is a prickly, solitary woman who (hilariously) speaks her mind and is just fine with avoiding all human interaction. When in a short time she meets a local musician, needs to call on her work’s IT guy, and helps an elderly gentleman who’s fallen, she finds herself being pulled into a world with other people. Take the time to get to know Eleanor. You’ll be very glad you did.

 

 

Borne book cover

“What did I just read?!?” This was my reaction to Jeff VanderMeer’s stupefying Southern Reach trilogy, so I thought I was prepared for his newest. Borne is something new altogether. We start with the discovery of a fist-sized purple blob caught in the fur of a gigantic flying bear our narrator is using to scavenge for biotech scraps, and it gets weirder from there. The plot may be impossible to summarize in a way that does it justice, but reviewers are comparing to Cormac McCarthy and Margaret Atwood. Smart, literate, and mind-blowing, it’s quite a ride.

 

 

 

Picture of Jenny

Jenny says….

Try What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, released April 2017, and Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, releasing in June 2017.

 

What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky book cover
I am obsessed with this story collection right now. Arimah covers a lot of ground as she plays with different genres and explores what it means to be a girl, family dynamics, and the relationships people have with the world around them. With sentences like “[the Mathematicians are] …calculating and subtracting emotions, drawing them from living bodies like poison from a wound,” this short story collection is something to be savored. My favorites ended up being “Light”, “Redemption”, “Wild”, and the title story. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read them!

 

 

Do Not Become Alarmed book cover

The relaxing cruise trip cousins Liv and Nora have planned for their families takes a dark turn when their children go missing off of the coast of Central America leaving the parents to work out their feelings of guilt, fear and powerlessness. Best read under a hot sticky sun, Do Not Become Alarmed was something I finished in almost one sitting, as it begs you to keep turning the pages to figure out how everything can possibly end okay!

 

Staff Pick: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Cathleen from Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed book coverIf you know anything at all about William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, you likely know that it takes place on a remote island buffeted by supernatural storm. So, the idea of translating this story to a literacy program in a present-day county prison may not be an obvious one.

In Margaret Atwood’s brilliantly envisioned Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold, a very specific play is staged both as class project and as personal vendetta for a director once ousted from a prestigious festival. Watching the action unfold in a clever remix of showmanship, we the audience are treated to parallel dramas that are equally riveting in their creativity, humor, and compassion. To paraphrase a line from the original play, “O brave new world, that has such stories in it!”

For more contemporary tales infused with Shakespearean theatricality…

Calibans Hour book coverCaliban’s Hour
by Tad Williams
In a fantasy sequel to The Tempest, one that also echoes Beauty and the Beast, the hag-seed Caliban takes Prospero’s daughter Miranda captive and insists she listen to his story.
Station Eleven book coverStation Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel
Because they believe that “survival is insufficient,” a traveling Shakespearean troupe brings art to those who remain after a global pandemic destroys civilization as it was once known.

 

Gap of Time book coverThe Gap of Time
by Jeanette Winterson
In the first of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, A Winter’s Tale is contemporized as the aftermath of the 2008 recession, following flawed but driven characters from London to the American New Bohemia.
Dead Fathers Club book coverThe Dead Fathers Club
by Matt Haig
An eleven-year old boy is charged with avenging his father’s death, possibly by his own uncle, in a clever and poignant re-imagining of Hamlet.
Slings and Arrows dvdSlings & Arrows
(DVD) Each season of this brilliant Canadian television series showcases the staging of a Shakespeare play that finds its themes oddly paralleled in the current cast’s shenanigans.