Check It Out Category: Staff Picks

Newer 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: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Book of Lost Things book coverIn The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, twelve-year-old David’s life is in disarray with having to leave his home in London to flee World War II, a dead mother, and a new step-mother and brother. His only escape is his bedroom full of books. When his fantasies intrude and the menacing Crooked Man steals his brother, David must take a journey where his stories take on an all-too-dangerous – and adult – reality. Perfect for anyone looking to get lost in a fantasy world with surprisingly sharp teeth.

Staff Pick- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Picture of DonnaI suggest the 2017 Pulitzer winner for general nonfiction Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. The author lived in the depressed areas of Milwaukee to gather his research for the book. It highlights several families that struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Some are locked in their situations while others can break the cycle. A  home is so very important for a person’s sense of well being.

Staff Pick: The Young Girls of Rochefort

Picture of JohnPossibly one of the most gorgeous motion pictures ever made (and a major inspiration for La La Land), Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort takes the conventional musical off the studio set and envigorates it with colorful sunlit location shooting. Vibrant, occasionally silly, and about as charming a film as you’re ever likely to see, this picture seems to capture the very essence of springtime.

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
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.

Sings and Arrows DVD coverSlings & 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.

 

Staff Pick: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Picture of NancyWill Schwalbe’s Books for Living is a celebration of reading and how worthwhile it is, even if you have a full plate of responsibilities. He thoughtfully explores more than twenty of his favorite books and what each has meant to him. This is a wonderful book for sparking your own thoughts on reading and discovering what you’ll want to read next.

Staff Pick: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Picture of Jenny In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid mostly mirrors reality to follow a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, thrust into the horrific state of civil war in their home country. Shedding light on this human experience, the somber portrayal of their journey toward safety glimmers with writing that may cause your heart to pause, but at the same time wraps you into wanting to know what will happen next to the two lovers.

 

Staff Picks: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Jennifer from Community Services suggests The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is basically the story of two Myfanwy, rhymes with Tiffany, Thomases. The first one we never officially meet: she exists in the letters (a suitcase full) that she writes to the second Myfanwy, the one who wakes up with two black eyes and her memory scrubbed. Myfanwy has the information she needs at hand, If only she can read the letters fast enough.

The story is an urban fantasy, of sorts, in that it is set in modern day London. However, the supernatural agency that Myfanwy works for exists in its own little world with posh offices and an elaborate boarding school that churns out a devoted army of supernatural agents ready to defend the world against all otherworldly threats.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way the story was told from the alternating perspectives of Myfanwy’s letters and the real-time Myfanwy trying to sort out her bizarre circumstances. This is a book with dragons and vampires and people with tentacles and tear-gas emitting sweat. It’s complex, original, sometimes violent and altogether satisfying. The minute I was done with it I wanted to sit back down and read it again.

For more intrigue with elements of fantasy or paranormal, try…

Angelmaker
by Nick Harkaway
London Falling
by Paul Cornell

 

The Troupe book coverThe Troupe
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Alif the Unseen book coverAlif the Unseen
by G. Willow Wilson
Borderline book coverBorderline
by Mishell Baker

Staff Pick: Embassytown by China Miéville

Picture of CathleenThe world-building in Embassytown is meticulous yet subtle, and it is a fascinating backdrop for a narrative in which an indecipherable language plays a central role in the dynamic between human colonists and the complicated beings on a distant planet. Complex, graceful, and perhaps perfect for any Arrival fans eager for next-level storytelling.