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Book reviews by library staff and guest contributors

For some it's history

Cover of Ground Zero
A review of Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?  I was at home, watching the news, I stepped away to help my young daughter and when I came back, the South Tower was gone.  

A few years ago, my son's fifth grade class read Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes. I read along with him, and it was one of the first times that I understood that to my children, and so many others, September 11, 2001 was not a powerful memory or a deep wound, but a historical event.  

Jun 11, 2021

Love, loss, and kimchi

Cover of Crying in H Mart
A review of Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Michelle Zauner, a musician who goes by Japanese Breakfast, has an interest in food. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It might however be a surprise that Zauner has written such a thoroughly lovely and reflective memoir, called Crying in H Mart, that celebrates Korean food among the sometimes strained bonds of family and cultural identity, in light of her mother’s unexpected cancer death.

Jun 10, 2021

Zigzagging to the end

Cover of The Other Black Girl
A review of The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The publisher's blurb for this book mentions the movie Get Out and that's a fair comparison. But I recently heard author Zakiya Dalila Harris talking about the influences on her writing and she mentioned Stephen King and I can see that too. Those aside, debut author Harris puts her own fresh, unique stamp on her novel and takes the story to places neither of those others could or did go. What starts out as a skewering of the whiteness of the publishing biz is turned sideways when a building, unknown menace begins to infuse the story.

Jun 8, 2021

Fantastical Cairo

Cover of A Master of Djinn
A review of A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark

Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi, special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, knows she’ll need all those magical elements, and a few more, to get to the bottom of the latest investigation to cross her desk. The bodies of several prominent Cairenes, most European, are discovered burned to death at the mansion of a powerful Englishman, apparently gathered as part of a secret society. But these are not just any burns. The unfortunates had all their flesh burned away, but none of their clothing.

Jun 7, 2021

Finding peace

Cover of Murder Most Fair
A review of Murder Most Fair by Anna Lee Huber

In this the 5th (I cannot believe this is book 5 already) of the Verity Kent mystery series, author Huber marks a slower cadence to her story. Verity and her husband Sydney are visiting Verity's family home in the Yorkshire Dales for the first time since before the death of Verity's beloved brother whose plane was shot down during the war. And if that emotional quagmire weren't enough, traveling with them is Verity's Great Aunt Ilse who has left war-ravaged Germany and returned to England seeking some peace.

Jun 4, 2021

Finding their roots

Cover of Running Away to Home: Our
A review of Running Away to Home: Our Familiy's Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From and What Really Matters by Jennifer Wilson

It’s a fantasy for a lot of people; rent out the house, pay off some bills and give it all up for an adventure. For the Wilson family from Des Moines, Iowa this fantasy became a reality when they reorganized their life for a sabbatical in another country, Croatia. Jennifer Wilson had been traveling her whole life and as an accomplished writer the sabbatical seemed like a great idea for her to explore her immigrant roots. Her architect husband Jim’s role on the trip was to make sure their two young children had some sort of schooling during their unstructured months in a foreign country.

Jun 3, 2021

All is fair in love and food wars

Cover of A Phở Love Story
A review of A Phở Love Story by Loan Le

Bảo Nguyen and Linh Mai work across the street from each other at their parents' competing Vietnamese restaurants. Like Romeo and Juliet, Bảo and Linh are forbidden from talking to each other because their families are at war. War means gossip and rumors, sometimes harmless, sometimes not, and avoidance at all costs. The "phở* wars" and "bánh xèo** battles" between the two restaurants are delicious and painful to witness. Each new special or menu item takes the competition to another level.

Jun 2, 2021

Aspiring chefs take note

Cover of Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Re
A review of Kid in the Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Tips for Young Home Cooks by Melissa Clark

Food columnist, chef and home cooking authority, Clark shares 100 recipes and tips for young foodies who are hoping to grow their culinary skills. In this day of high-tech recipe searching, I don’t find myself looking at cookbooks much. So when I opened this one I was really excited about the content, the quality of instructions, and the conversational tone of the text. It also helped that the photographs of completed recipes, and recipes in process were so alluring.

May 28, 2021

Does anyone really know what time it is?

Cover of Just Last Night
A review of Just Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane

Mhaire McFalrane's has now become an auto-read author for me - and I can tell you that in recent years my list of such authors has become shorter and shorter. What McFarlane does so well in each of her women's fiction/chick lit/romance/fiction novels is to dive into the depths of the emotionally fraught relationships we have with one another and how complicated love (whether it's for family, friends or a significant other) can be.

May 26, 2021

Scribes and witches unite

Cover of In the Presence of Evil
A review of In the Presence of Evil by Tania Bayard

Single motherhood with the responsibilities of earning enough to support several generations—it’s a situation not unfamiliar to many modern women. It’s the situation Christine de Pizan lives in, but her world—1393 Paris—is far from modern in Tania Bayard’s debut In the Presence of Evil. As an educated woman, Christine is already something of an oddity, but growing up as both beloved daughter and widow of scholars employed in the French court has given her a chance to earn her living as a scribe and support her children and mother.

May 25, 2021


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