Staff Picks 2022 April

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Sea of Tranquility: A novelSea of Tranquility: A Novel by Emily St. John Mandel. A young man travels back in time in an attempt to discover the cause of a momentary flash that has appeared to certain people in different centuries. He is strictly admonished by the Time Institute to do nothing that will alter the course of the future in any way. The punishment is being banished to one of the Far Colonies. Reading this fascinating novel is a little like finding your way through a complex maze and the light shining at the end will catch all but the most perceptive completely off guard. Very few authors could weave threads of a dystopian future, a devastating pandemic, time travel, and habitation in dome-covered worlds into a tapestry as dazzling as the one Emily St. John Mandel unfolds in Sea of Tranquility. ~ Alden Graves
Young MungoYoung Mungo by Douglas Stuart. Stuart does not disappoint with his latest novel, set again in working class Glasgow. Mungo is trying to find himself as a gay man, amidst this overtly brutal masculine landscape of the time. Stuart deftly explores the many nuances of maleness, as well as the divisiveness of religion in the area, at a time when big industry is dying, leaving many without jobs or meaning in their lives. Powerful, explorative, and compassionate. ~ Becky Doherty
French Braid: A novelFrench Braid: A novel by Anne Tyler. The Garretts persevere. If some of their endurance involves finding comfort in well- intentioned delusions, that hardly makes them unique. When Mercy Garrett decides that she wants to rent a room where she can paint without any interference, she neglects to tell her husband of nearly fifty years that she is leaving both their home and their marriage. The family has always been at the heart of Anne Tyler's novels. This is a warmly encouraging book, filled with wise observations about the human condition and gentle reminders of the equally human capacity to forgive others for the flaws we all tote around. ~ Alden Graves
How Strange a Season: FictionHow Strange a Season: Fiction by Megan Mayhew Bergman. This collection of short stories and one novella showcase the author’s skill at creating characters in various stages of adversity. Each of these stories made me think deeply about the desire for meaning and fulfillment. "Indigo Run," this collection's crowning achievement, takes place at an ancestral home near Charleston, South Carolina in the early 20th century. Everyone is in some way trapped by their circumstances. The main character thinks to herself, "Practice the art of polite conversation...and know that a woman can die of thirst beside the ocean." ~ Stan Hynds
Sister StardustSister Stardust by Jane Green. This novel is all sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. A thoroughly enjoyable, whirlwind read that follows a young girl embarking on an adventure to Marrakesh at the height of the swinging sixties. Cece gets caught up in the fast lives of the rich and famous of the era, rubbing shoulders with rock stars and the elite. Inspired by the world of Talitha Getty, the wife of philanthropist, John Paul Getty Jr. The couple embraced the era of hedonism and free love after the oppression of the fifties. ~ Becky Doherty
The Summer Place: A NovelThe Summer Place: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. Weiner is a brilliant chronicler of contemporary life, and this is a novel that follows multiple members of a sprawling blended family as they plan a Cape Cod summer wedding in the summer of 2021. It is an absolute delight. Family drama, long-buried secrets, pandemic frustrations, and a whole lot of love and joy - this novel has it all. ~ Rachel Person
Nine Lives: A NovelNine Lives: A Novel by Peter Swanson. Another addictive and fast-paced thriller from Peter Swanson! Nine seemingly unconnected people from across the country receive a list with their names and the names of the others on it. Some treat it as a prank or set it aside for later, but one by one the people on that list turn up murdered. Heavily influenced by And Then There Were None and the ABC Murders, this mystery will take you on a whirlwind journey through the lives of these people. ~ Kirstin Swartz
We Begin at the EndWe Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker. It has everything you want in a literary crime thriller. Perplexing questions and big reveals. Great dialogue and page-burning plot development. Strong characters to pull for with all your heart, even as they do bad things. The strongest, most maddening, most desperately in need of a break, is the champion of the story, Duchess Day Radley, a thirteen year old outlaw from a family afflicted by tragedy. A triumphant breakout novel from a a gifted writer. ~ Stan Hynds
Hot StewHot Stew by Fiona Mozley. Longtime tenants in a rundown building in the colorful Soho district of London are fighting eviction to make way for the area's conversion into luxury apartments by a determined young millionairess. The fact that many of the tenants are prostitutes doesn't bode well for success. This novel is teeming with vibrant, quirky characters who are unbowed and unwilling to capitulate to monied interests or society's disapproval. An old story involving the oldest profession is given a fresh new lease on life. ~ Alden Graves
That Summer: A NovelThat Summer: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner. Jennifer Weiner is the queen of the smart, satisfying, feminist page-turner. This is no exception, a novel full of complicated twists and turns, a #MeToo reckoning, and the beauty and complexity of female friendship. You will be swept away. ~ Rachel Person
GoldGold by Rumi. I was immediately taken by the first poem in this beautiful translation of Rumi's work. It is interesting to see how much of the human experience hasn't changed. We love, we hurt, we hope and we persist. These poems capture that. Treat yourself to Rumi! ~ Connor Johnston
In a Garden Burning Gold: A NovelIn a Garden Burning Gold: A Novel by Rory Power. Rory Power's first step into the adult genre is this imaginative Greek inspired fantasy novel lush with vivid imagery and prose. It follows near immortal twins, Alexandros and Rhea, as they contend with a growing independence movement and possible betrayals. This is a political fantasy where family dynamics are at the forefront, making for an engrossing read that will have you constantly turning the pages. ~ Cassidy Washburn
Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver BallPinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball by Jon Chad. Never did I think I would be so fascinated by pinball and yet here I am. This is an incredibly well- researched and engaging memoir about pinball, analyzed not only as a technological marvel but as a cultural superpower. The striking art is reminiscent of the iconic silverball games themselves and the writing both educates and entertains. This is a love letter to pinball and, whether you’re a die hard fan, new to the hobby, or just fascinated by pop culture, there’s something to enjoy and appreciate for everyone. ~ Jordan Starks
AzimutAzimut by Wilfrid Lupano & Jean-Baptiste Andreae. This is a fun, whacky story with marvelous, intricate artwork. A cast of quirky characters race around a beautiful setting trying to track down the missing North Pole while not being noticed by Death. Imagine a trip through Wonderland with a tour guide from Monty Python and you will get a sense of the journey. ~ Ben Parker
The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783The Cause: The American Revolution and its Discontents, 1773-1783 by Joseph J. Ellis. This is a well-written, quick read given the scope of the complex history and the years it covers. Ellis cuts through the mythology of the Revolutionary War (referred to at the time as The Cause), to unveil the thinking and actions of the founders who somehow came together to form this most imperfect Republic. He is quick to point out the contradiction of these "United States" who often found it difficult to turn away from regional priorities to join a larger cause, and who also allowed the original sin of slavery to fall like a shadow on every decision they made. A refreshingly honest look at the characters and circumstances that made this nation, and how that drama continues today. ~ Allen Boulet
Poor Richard's Women: Deborah Read Franklin and the Other Women Behind the Founding FatherPoor Richard's Women: Deborah Read Franklin and the Other Women Behind the Founding Father by Nancy Rubin Stuart. Lucy Foley’s prudent, practical Ben Franklin, universally hailed as an inventor, Founding Father, and all-around wit, has seldom been depicted as a lovelorn, often obsessive romancer. Until now. Stuart slyly digs into Ben's amorous escapades, both as a husband and later a widower, with sophisticated women who, to his bafflement and frustration, often gave him the slip. ~ Mike Hare
Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story ChangesCassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser. What if women had been the storytellers of the centuries? How would that have shaped the worldview on women and their place in the world? Partly a humble memoir, partly a social commentary, Lesser puts new spins on stories of the past and looks forward to a future where women and men can be the kind of heroes that don’t need violence and domination, but instead use love, compassion and communication. A great companion read for fans of Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. ~ Kirstin Swartz
The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames: A True StoryThe Secret Life of Dorothy Soames: A True Story by Justine Cowan. The author explores her relationship with her demanding mother Eileen, the “Dorothy Soames” of the title. Eileen had tremendous difficulty nurturing her daughter and, consequently, Cowan became estranged from her. It was not until after her mother’s death that she began to look into her troubled history and try to begin to understand her. This memoir reminds us that often we don’t appreciate what hardship or emotional pain some difficult people we have known may have endured. The harms inflicted on one person ripple down to the next generation. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap