Staff Picks 2022 March

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Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy #2)Moon Witch, Spider King (The Dark Star Trilogy #2) by Marlon James. What a joy to return to the wholly original Afrofantasy world of Booker-winner Marlon James’ Dark Star Trilogy. It offers a Rashomon -like perspective on the events of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, but that is only a fraction of Sogolon’s life. From her origins as an abused girl in a termite hill to an attendant in the royal court to the explosive discovery of her fickle powers, this book offers unparalleled world-building and character development with James’ remarkable, defamiliarizing prose. Drawing inspiration from mythology, pre-colonial history, and the different beats or tropes of African storytelling, James yet again does what Tolkien did for Germanic mythology and GRRM did for British history and geography. Mad kings, shapeshifters, love & heartbreak, shocking violence, strong- girl-bildungsroman, water sprites, scary nuns, and the sangomin–maybe his greatest contribution, a genuinely scary assortment of monstrous mutant children turned assassins ~ Dafydd Wood
Notes on an Execution: A NovelNotes on an Execution: A Novel by Danya Kukafka. This gripping tale of a serial killer begins at 12 hours before his execution as he waits on death row. The chapters alternate between his jail cell and the story of his life, starting with his early childhood years and continuing throughout his adulthood. We discover when, how, and why his psychopathic behavior began and developed, as told through the eyes of three prominent women in his life. His mother, his wife, and a female detective weave through the story and lead you to the final hours of his life. In a strangely empathetic way you find yourself trying to decide if you actually feel sorry for him. ~ Jen Grigsby
Wahala: A NovelWahala: A Novel by Nikki May. A fast-paced, labyrinthine, debut novel that hooks you from the start. Ronke, Boo and Simi are the best of friends, but when an old school friend from Nigeria turns up, things start to go wrong for all of them. The novel deftly draws on the history and culture of their shared experiences as British-Nigerian women, as well as exploring their different relationships and attitudes towards motherhood. I could not put this book down. ~ Becky Doherty
Groundskeeping: A novelGroundskeeping: A novel by Lee Cole. Cole delivers a thoroughly entertaining debut about the glory and terror of having your whole life ahead of you. Are you stuck or are you free? Should you stay or should you go? Filled with wonderfully crafted characters and sharp dialogue, Groundskeeping follows two young lovers who are also writers. She is privileged and published. He works on the grounds crew and lives in his grandfather's basement. A very fun and smart ride. ~ Stan Hynds
One Italian Summer: A NovelOne Italian Summer: A Novel by Rebecca Serle. If you enjoy getting your heart ripped into a million pieces then this is the book for you! The crisp Italian atmosphere, mixed in with the bitterness of the main character suddenly losing her mother and coping with her new, empty world, brings a heartful lesson on grief and how to go on. Beautiful storytelling, vibrant characters, and a touch of magic will leave you craving pasta and sunshine, but also holding back tears. Highly recommended. ~ Kirstin Swartz
The Cave DwellersThe Cave Dwellers by Christina McDowell. Aristocratic bloodlines, not political power, define the elite in Washington D.C. Having your name listed in the ever-secretive Green Book means that you and your ancestors didn't follow the political circus or the nouveau riche who are ever changing in their town. They socialize and live beside each other. Their children attend the A-list schools and parents never worry about finances. But when one of the families is brutally murdered, they must look at their own behaviors and beliefs to get past the horrible crime. ~ Suzanne Rice
American DirtAmerican Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. It is hard to exactly put into words the profound impact that this poignant, epic telling of a migrant’s arduous journey had on me. It is a beautifully written and timely book that puts a human face on those seeking asylum. Heart-wrenching and filled with humanity. You will never look at this issue the same again, I know I won’t. EVERYONE should read this book! ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
Foregone: A NovelForegone: A Novel by Russell Banks. Canadian documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, who is suffering from terminal cancer, has consented to a series of interviews about his successful career. Much to the frustration of the people filming the sessions, he decides to use them as a personal confessional. The truth that Fife has endeavored to expose with his camera has eluded him throughout his own life, and he is determined that his wife remembers the deceptive man, not the celebrated artist. Written with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel, this novel is eloquent testimony that words never spoken can be just as destructive to the human spirit as actions regretted. ~ Alden Graves
Sorrow and Bliss: A NovelSorrow and Bliss: A Novel by Meg Mason. An outstanding debut novel! Our protagonist, Martha, has an undisclosed mental illness that rules her life, and all her relationships are tested to their limits, but we, as the reader, are treated to her incredibly dark witty inner dialogue that makes it a joy to be on the journey with her. I was unable to put it down, and was ultimately blown away by the handling of the subject. Stunning! ~ Becky Doherty
Libertie: A NovelLibertie: A Novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge. Libertie, the freeborn daughter of a Black woman doctor in pre-Civil War Brooklyn, struggles to find her own path through America and Haiti in the years before and after the war. The gorgeously simple prose of this novel is filled with big ideas - freedom and loss and the love and anger between mothers and daughters. ~ Rachel Person
Vera: A NovelVera: A Novel by Carol Edgarian. In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, the earth began to shake in San Francisco. Buildings collapsed into rubble, gas mains ruptured and massive fires began to consume the city. For many survivors, however, the real ordeal began after the tremors had stopped and the smoke began to clear. Fifteen-year-old Vera Johnson was determined to find her mother, the proprietress of a brothel that catered to the city's elite, and nurse the grievously injured woman back to health. This is a colorful recreation of a raucous era, reminiscent of Ragtime, in which fiction mingles smoothly with history. ~ Alden Graves
The Kaiju Preservation SocietyThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi. If you have been looking for a book you won't be able to put down, look no further. When Jaime Gray loses his corporate job right at the start of the pandemic he is stuck working as a delivery driver, barely making ends meet. But when he delivers food to an old acquaintance who offers him a job specializing in “large animals,” it will change his life forever. This long-awaited sci fi reads like a summer blockbuster, but it is as humorous as your favorite comedy special. This is the story of mountain-sized monsters, snarky scientists, and the efforts to study a world so much like our own, but so vastly different. ~ Jordan Starks
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
The Aquanaut: A Graphic NovelThe Aquanaut: A Graphic Novel by Dan Santat. A cute story with a theme about environmentalism, animal conservation and family. When a handful of sea creatures find a surprise at the bottom of the ocean, it leads them on an adventure with a young girl and her uncle. These aquatic and land beings make an unusual, but formidable friendship/bond, and will do whatever it takes to keep the spirit of Sophia’s father’s research alive. But what is best for the animals and for Sophia and her uncle, might not necessarily be the easiest. Signature illustrations by Santat add to the humor and serious message. ~ Jeanette
The Maid: A NovelThe Maid: A Novel by Nita Prose. This book is a new favorite! It is at once a heartwarming exploration of grief, a beautiful story about friendship and connection, and, of course, a suspenseful whodunnit–all set inside a cozy hotel. Molly the Maid is a wholesome and endearing protagonist and she found a special place in my heart. I went into this for the thrills, and left feeling like I’d just received a warm hug from a friend. ~ Madison Gallup
The Paris Apartment: A NovelThe Paris Apartment: A Novel by Lucy Foley. Lucy Foley’s newest thriller keeps the tried and true formula of her last two mysteries: multiperspective, twisty, and with punchy chapters that keep you flipping the pages. Jess is a young Brit who decides to stay with her journalist brother, Ben, in his fancy new Paris apartment. When Jess arrives, Ben is nowhere to be found, and she’s left to solve his disappearance with little help from his eclectic group of neighbors who all seem to have reasons to want Ben to stay gone. It kept me on my toes until the very end. ~ Madison Gallup
Girl in IceGirl in Ice by Erica Ferencik. A gripping thriller in its own right, this very original story set in the Arctic Circle features solid writing, vivid imagery, and well-developed characters. In addition to the mystery surrounding one character’s death is that of the "girl in ice"...hoax or reality? Also woven expertly into the narrative are elements of climate change, coping with mental illness, and how linguistics and communication shape our perceptions of nature...the Arctic way of saying "climate change" roughly translates to the hauntingly beautiful "my friend is hurting.” This is one I will continue to think about for a long time after finishing it. ~ Tambra Johnson Reap
The Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight BackThe Woman They Could Not Silence: The Shocking Story of a Woman Who Dared to Fight Back by Kate Moore. A wife who speaks her mind, rather than deferring to her husband, is insane. That was the cruel truth in the United States until Elizabeth Packard came along. Her story, superbly told by Moore, is terrifying, tumultuous, and, finally, triumphant. ~ Mike Hare
Women and Other Monsters: Building a New MythologyWomen and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman. This is a pure, unadulterated, feminist read that analyzes female monsters from Greek mythology and compares them to women today. The goal is to help women reclaim what they've originally been told is "monstrous" (mostly by men); to see that anger, hunger, ambition, and sexual desires are not inherently bad, and in fact could be their greatest strengths. It is a powerful analysis, perfect for anyone looking for a new feminist read or fans of mythology. ~ Cassidy Washburn