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Book reviews by library staff and guest contributors

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

Words that soar

Cover of At the Mountain's Base
A review of At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell and Weshoyot Alvitre

A loving Cherokee family waits at the mountain's base for a young pilot to return from war. Told in song, this picture book provides a larger to smaller view where the action and words are incorporated into the grandmother's weaving, building to a surprise finale. Author Traci Sorell's website describes her as an author of inclusive works for inquisitive young minds and this picture book showcases that beautifully, blending history, culture, and art in an uplifting way. 

May 24, 2021

Navigating the gap

Cover of Home is In Between
A review of Home is In Between by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Lavanya Naidu

Shanti waves good bye to her village in India and hello to her new town in the United States. Life in her apartment with Ma and Baba feels much like life in her village, but outside, in town things are strange. Shanti goes back and forth, remembering her village, and learning her new town. Back and forth, again and again, In Between. Most of the time, Shanti goes from village to town with great joy, but sometimes it is hard.

May 20, 2021

To infinity and beyond?

Cover of Project Hail Mary
A review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

After his caper novel on the moon, Weir is revisiting the idea of a lone human in space. Here the human is Ryland Grace who wakes up on a ship in space and has no memories of how or why he is there. Bit by bit (very small bits at first) he begins to put the pieces together and as he does so the reader is taken back into his recent past to see what brought him here; alone on a space ship, far from earth, with only a couple of dead crew mates as companions.

May 18, 2021

Messages of kindness, love and appreciation

Cover of A Beautiful Day in the Nei
A review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers

This is an absolutely charming book filled with 75 songs and poems from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and The Children's Corner. Sweetly illustrated by Luke Flowers on full-page spreads and as inclusive and timeless as ever, the collection explores universal topics such as feelings, acceptance, friendship, bravery, and growing up. 

May 17, 2021

Dealing with a devil?

Cover of A Lady's Code of Misconduc
A review of A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

In books, television and movies I love gray characters. I don't mean mole people who never see the sun, but those who are complicated (mostly because that's how real people are) and who aren't wholly good or wholly bad. Meredith Duran has written a romance that has both a heroine and a hero who are definitely in the gray category and they are all the more intriguing for it.

May 13, 2021


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