Staff Picks 2022 May

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Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry. Emily Henry once again has delivered a PEAK romance novel, overthrowing her two previous books to make Book Lovers my favorite of hers to date. A poke at go-to romance tropes, this novel perfectly balances making fun of the usual Hallmark plots and changing–more like leveling up–the tropes. We’ve got a steamy enemies-to-lovers workplace romance, a sprinkle of drama and comedy here and there, and lots of lots of book talk. Nora and Charlie were perfect couple goals, but the real love story is with Nora and her extroverted pregnant little sister, Libby. Wholesome, hilarious, wonderful, heart wrenching. Emily can do no wrong. ~ Kirstin Swartz
FICTION
Mrs. EnglandMrs. England by Stacey Hall. A wonderful gothic novel and an absolute page turner, even though the plot is a tantalizing slow burn. Halls is a master at creating atmospherics, and this one is no different. You will totally be drawn into the gloomy, gaslit world of a Yorkshire moors mill town. We are taken there by Ruby May, the new nanny for the four children of the house, only to find that things aren’t quite as they should be, either at the house or with Ruby May herself. ~ Becky Doherty
Vigil Harbor: A NovelVigil Harbor: A Novel by Julia Glass. Once a working-class fishing village on the Massachusetts coast, Vigil Harbor has been transformed by the magic wand of prosperity into an upscale haven for the affluent. Most of the current residents belong to the yacht club and the troubles and trials of ordinary folks don't get much farther than the town line. The sudden dissolution of two high profile marriages is an unwelcome intrusion into an insular world that is further rocked by explosions detonated by eco-activists in lower Manhattan and Cambridge. In this tense and unsparing account of contemporary life, the author probes the wounds that bitterness and betrayal can inflict. The reader is constantly reminded of the unseen danger that often lurks just beneath the surface of the calmest waters. ~ Alden Graves
The OdysseyThe Odyssey by Lara Williams. An unflinching and razor-sharp satire exploring consumerism and the monotonous life of a disturbed and directionless woman working aboard a cruise ship. The Odyssey is a bleak and biting ride, with pitch-black humor and a progressively off-kilter protagonist. Reading it is a disorienting experience, with a hallucinogenic feel that becomes increasingly sobering as Ingrid nears closer and closer to her home: both on land, and within herself. Absolutely brilliant. ~ Madison Gallup
BreathlessBreathless by Amy McCulloch. With the trek to the summit of Manaslu in Nepal, celebrated mountaineer Charles McVeigh will have ascended all of the highest peaks on earth in a year's time. An eclectic group of world-class climbers gather to join him in the historic event. One of them intends to reveal the truth about a death during an earlier expedition. When he suffers a fatal fall, suspicions begin to arise that the dangers posed by the mountain might not be the most perilous aspect of the ascent. An edge-of-the-precipice thriller that deftly combines elements of an Agatha Christie whodunit with exhilarating Alistair MacLean adventure. ~ Alden Graves
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
PAPERBACK FICTION
Damnation SpringDamnation Spring by Ash Davidson. For generations, Rich Gundersen's family has made its living by cutting trees along the rugged California coast for the powerful Sanderson Timber Company. Rich's wife begins to suspect that chemical defoliants used by the company are causing miscarriages and birth defects in the area and her tentative alliance with the concerns of an environmental group makes her family a target of retribution. The author invests the Gundersens with a strength and courage to endure which matches the ancient redwoods that tower over their majestic surroundings." Also a comma after novel here: "This is a vitally important American novel, and the complex issues it explores still resonate ominously in today's world.- ~ Alden Graves
WhereaboutsWhereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri. The word “sonder” is defined as the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own- populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness. If this is something you identify with, read this marvelous book! ~ Madison Gallup
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
 
NON-FICTION
A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent MindA Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent Mind by Rebecca Schiller. This is an excellent memoir about the inner workings of a neurodivergent mind. Schiller shows us how one mind can work differently from others in a beautiful, raw, and authentic way. Having recently moved her young family into a new way of life, on a small homestead with vegetable beds, chickens, and goats to look after, she is not only finding her feet in nature, but also undergoing many medical tests to find the right diagnosis. ~ Becky Doherty
Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David ThoreauSix Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau by Ben Shattuck. Shattuck is the perfect companion on his Thoreau-inspired ambles on the beach and through the woods. The book succeeds as an extremely agreeable example of armchair travel combined with masterful nature writing. It also ignited in me a new curiosity about his muse, Henry David Thoreau. Sprinkle in the kindness of strangers, the importance of friendship, and the comfort of family, Six Walks is a deeply personal and highly relatable excursion by a very talented writer. ~ Stan Hynds
The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other EndingsThe Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings by Geoff Dyer. Geoff Dyer returns with this study ostensibly on “late style.” The book is built from small sections of prose, usually no more than a page, that follow a pattern of one topic gradually shifting into the next which might not outwardly seem connected until Dyer brilliantly makes his point clear. Structured along threads like tennis (both the pros and his own avid playing), Nietzsche, Philip Larkin’s poetry, the effects of Covid, Jazz, almost confrontationally “interdisciplinary,” it offers a bounty of riches and meditations from one of our most talented critics. ~ Dafydd Wood
YOUNG ADULT
Some Girls DoSome Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan. This sweet, funny, gentle romantic comedy gave me so much joy. Readers of all ages will enjoy watching the love story unfold between out and proud track star Morgan and Ruby, an ornery (and very closeted) car mechanic and beauty queen. Dugan's books never disappoint! ~ Rachel Person
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY
The Blacktongue ThiefThe Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman. Dark, witty and hard to put down, this is an easy fantasy novel to race through, featuring a cast of likable, flawed characters tied together on a daunting quest. I found it immensely enjoyable and consider the book one of the best new fantasies from the last couple years. Highly recommended for fans of Patrick Rothfuss or Tamsyn Muir. ~ James Case
Siren QueenSiren Queen by Nghi Vo. A fantasy take on the Golden Age of Hollywood, revealing the demonic underbelly of highly placed studio executives, their many desperate rising stars, and the costs each of them are willing to pay for their five minutes of fame. Luli Wei is a young, queer Chinese-American determined to be a star, even if that means she’ll only play the monsters of the movie world. Her journey is long and lonely, but Luli is ruthless in her pursuit of stardom. While the magic is left open to interpretation, the story itself is a glamorous picture. Fantastic for readers of historical fiction and fantasy. ~ Kirstin Swartz
The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty ComputerThe Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae. A collaboration of stories that work together to craft an image of a different world, with a perspective persistently centered around hope, dreams, and freedom of thought and expression. We cannot create a better way of being if we cannot first conceive of it. Let this book inspire us. ~ Arabella Peterson
CHILDREN
Almost There and Almost NotAlmost There and Almost Not by Linda Urban. Vermont author Linda Urban delivers another marvelously witty and touching novel in which a pre-teen named California is dumped at her great aunt's house. Her mother has died and her father is incapable of raising her. In her new home she learns about family, belonging and how to write a proper letter. Also, there are ghosts. ~ Stan Hynds
My Parents Won't Stop Talking!My Parents Won't Stop Talking! by Emma Hunsinger & Tillie Walden. Two of the very best cartoonists of our day have united to create this ridiculously beautiful and funny picture book. On a walk to the park, Molly's mothers are interrupted by a neighboring family and an onslaught of small talk ensues. Molly must grapple with the agonizing experience of waiting for one's parents and the realization that having a good imagination is the solution. A really relatable, hilarious book with stunning watercolor illustrations. My new fave. ~ Reilly Hadden