Suggested Reading May 24, 2021

Hi everyone, here are our recommended reads for the week.

Format Note: Under each book title you’ll find a list of all the different formats that specific title is available in; including: Print Books, Large Print Books, CD Audiobooks, eBooks & Downloadable Audiobooks from the Digital Catalog (OverDrive & Libby apps) and Hoopla eBooks & Hoopla Downloadable Audiobooks (Hoopla App).

*More information on the three catalogs is found at the end of the list of recommended reads*

Weekly Suggested Reading postings are published on Tuesdays.

The next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

China: A Novel by Edward Rutherfurd

(Available Formats: Print Book, eBook & Downloadable audiobook)


For his newest epic about an intriguing world locale, Rutherfurd (Paris, 2013) dives into seven decades of Chinese history, beginning in 1839, as circumstances lead to the First Opium War, the Boxer Rebellion, and more. The novel has a tighter scope, time-wise, than his usual big-canvas approach, which allows for in-depth exploration of an overarching theme, China’s subjugation by Western powers, particularly Britain. Taking the long view, Rutherfurd adeptly dramatizes the impact of and fallout from major events, including the Taiping Rebellion and the destruction of Beijing’s Summer Palace. His characters, among them British merchants, missionaries, Chinese government officials, peasants, pirates, and an artisan who rises high in service at the imperial palace through unusual means, assert their individuality while embodying beliefs on different sides of China’s internal and external conflicts. The protagonists are predominantly men, but many fascinating women also feature in the story. Though the first third feels overly drawn-out, the novel takes an entertaining, educational journey through China’s rich and complex history, geography, art, and diverse cultures during a tumultuous epoch. Booklist Review

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Clover Girls
“Like a true friendship, The Clover Girls is a novel you will forever savor and treasure.” —Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart.

Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, Veronica and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

Bestselling author Viola Shipman is at her absolute best with The Clover Girls. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will love its powerful, redemptive nature and the empowering message at its heart.

Find You First by Linwood Barclay

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Find You First

At the start of this suspenseful, expertly paced thriller from bestseller Barclay (Elevator Pitch), two people identifying themselves as police bang on the door of 21-year-old Todd Cox, who runs phone scams targeting the elderly out of his trailer home near Springfield, Mass. Eager to appear innocent, Cox lets them in, only to discover they’re frauds. The fake cops inject Cox with a lethal drug before sealing him in a body bag and sanitizing the place and the surrounding area. One of them comments, “Two down. Seven to go.”

Flash back three weeks. Miles Cookson, a Connecticut software millionaire, has been diagnosed with incurable Huntington’s disease. As Huntington’s is genetic, Cookson decides to use his affluence to bribe a desperate employee of the sperm bank he donated to decades earlier to trace any possible children, both to warn them that they may carry fatal genes and to name them in his will. The list he gets contains nine names, including Cox’s, hinting at a link to the initial homicide. Barclay makes even secondary characters feel real. Fans of Daniel Palmer will be pleased. Publishers Weekly Review

Mary Jane: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Mary Jane

Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this “delightful” (New York Times Book Review) novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout eBook)

Nature of a Lady

1906. Lady Elizabeth “Libby” Sinclair, with her love of microscopes and nature, isn’t favored in society. She flees to the beautiful Isles of Scilly for the summer and stumbles into the dangerous secrets left behind by her holiday cottage’s former occupant, also named Elizabeth, who mysteriously vanished.

Oliver Tremayne—gentleman and clergyman—is determined to discover what happened to his sister, and he’s happy to accept the help of the girl now living in what should have been Beth’s summer cottage . . . especially when he realizes it’s the curious young lady he met briefly two years ago, who shares his love of botany and biology. But the hunt for his sister involves far more than nature walks, and he can’t quite believe all the secrets Beth had been keeping from him.

As Libby and Oliver work together, they find ancient legends, pirate wrecks, betrayal, and the most mysterious phenomenon of all: love.

The Night Always Comes: A Novel by Willy Vlautin

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Night Always Comes

Set in contemporary Portland, OR, this latest by Vlautin (Don’t Skip Out on Me) is filled with darkness. Lynette has scrimped for three years to save enough money for the down payment on the house she shares with her mentally impaired older brother and her hard-drinking, chain-smoking mother. Now, just when Lynette’s plan is about to pay off, her mother tosses in a huge monkey wrench, forcing Lynette into the night and a series of life-threatening situations with the sketchiest characters imaginable. Her overnight odyssey brings her face-to-face not only with scummy people but also with a past not overfilled with happiness.

This fairly short novel is structured in one continuous 48-hour flow, which makes it seem even shorter. The story resonates, with characters we come to feel we know and dialog that is so natural we hear it, not just read it. Lynette may be, as her mother says, “just born to fail.” But in spite of everything that has gone wrong for her, in the end she is not defeated. Though alone in the world by story’s end, she departs home without bitterness, heading east toward the rising sun.

VERDICT This is literary art that will keep readers in their seats until the last page.–Michael Russo, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge – Starred Library Journal Review

Project Hail Mary: A Novel by Andy Weir

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Project Hail Mary

Waking up and not knowing where you are, but knowing that you have been asleep for a long time, would be challenging to anyone. Waking up with all of that, plus two dead people and no idea who you are? Even worse. But Ryland Grace will slowly gain his memory back and realize that he may be the last chance for Earth and humanity to survive. Now years and galaxies away from home, he will need to use everything at his disposal in his small ship to find a way to reverse the planet’s looming extinction all by himself. Then he discovers he’s not the only one looking for a solution. The book’s witty narrator, hard science, and flashbacks all blend into a high-stakes adventure of galactic proportions, while presenting some exciting twists and strong themes of collaboration and friendship.

VERDICT Weir brings back the pace, intelligence, and humor of The Martian and increases it exponentially. Scientific mysteries and survival instincts abound in this compelling and exciting novel.–Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton – Starred Library Journal Review

The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts

(Available Formats: eBook)

The Ride of Her Life

Penniless, homeless, and given a dire health prognosis at 63, Annie Wilkins set out to do the one thing she’d always wanted to do, see the Pacific Ocean. In late fall 1954, she loaded up her new Morgan horse, Tarzan, and with her faithful dog Depeche Toi headed south and west away from her home in rural Maine. In this era before cell phones, GPS, and credit cards, Wilkins would rely on her wits or die trying. She battled blizzards and floods, icy bridges and arid deserts and received acts of kindness from strangers who emerged at just the right moment with a meal, a bed, or a stable for Tarzan. This was during the heyday of local journalism and word of Wilkins’ unusual odyssey not only preceded her from town to town but also garnered national attention. In describing the road conditions, towns, and people, including celebrities, Wilkins encountered on her four-thousand-mile journey, Letts creates a nostalgic travelogue and a vibrant history of life in 1950s America. Thanks to deeply sourced research and her own travels along Wilkins’ route, Letts vividly portrays an audacious woman whose optimism, courage, and good humor are to be marveled at and admired. Upbeat and touching, Wilkins’ story is the perfect pandemic escapist read. Booklist Review

The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

(Available Format: eBook)

Summer Job

DEBUT: Dent hits a home run with her first novel. Elizabeth “Birdy” Finch and her best friend Heather could not be more different. Birdy flits from job to job and relationship to relationship, never really giving it her all. Heather has worked hard to become a sommelier. When Heather decides to chase romance in Italy, Birdy attends a wine awards ceremony in her place. A case of mistaken identity ensues, and Birdy, jobless and near homeless, travels to a hotel in Scotland to take a sommelier job under Heather’s name. We follow Birdy on her journey of self-discovery as she makes new friends, deals with her somber past, falls in love, and learns everything she can about wine.

VERDICT This witty, banter-filled novel seems frothy at first, but aptly balances the humor with darker subjects. Lovely descriptions of Scotland, quirky supporting characters, and a thoroughly lovable heroine make this a sure bet for fans of Jenny Colgan.–Nanci Milone Hill, M.G. Parker Memorial Lib., Dracut, MA – Starred Library Journal Review

A Theater For Dreamers by Polly Samson

(Available Formats: Hoopla eBook & instant checkout audiobook)

Theater for Dreamers

It’s 1960, and the world teeters on the edge of cultural, political, sexual, and artistic revolution. On the Greek island of Hydra, a proto-commune of poets, painters, and musicians revel in dreams at the feet of their unofficial leaders, the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled queen and king of bohemia. At the center of this circle of misfit artists are the captivating and inscrutable Axel Jensen, his magnetic wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian ingenue poet named Leonard Cohen.

When eighteen-year-old Erica stumbles into their world, she’s fresh off the boat from London with nothing but a bundle of blank notebooks and a burning desire to leave home in the wake of her mother’s death. Among these artists, she will find an unraveling utopia where everything is tested-the nature of art, relationships, and her own innocence.

Intoxicating and immersive, A Theater for Dreamers is a spellbinding tour-de-force about the beauty between naïveté and cruelty, chaos and utopia, artist and muse-and about the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius. Roiling with the heat of a Grecian summer, A Theater for Dreamers is, according to the Guardian, “a blissful piece of escapism” and “a surefire summer hit.”

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog:

The Digital Catalog, a catalog containing eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, Digital Magazines and a handful of streaming videos, has two companion apps, Libby & OverDrive. Libby is the app for newer devices and the OverDrive app should be used for older devices and Amazon tablets.

All card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can check out items from the Digital Catalog.

Hoopla Catalog:

The Hoopla Catalog features instant checkouts of eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, comic books, albums, movies and TV series. Patron check out limit is 6 items per month.

Hoopla is a Southeast Steuben County Library service available to all Southeast Steuben County Library card holders.

The Hoopla App is available for Android or Apple devices and most smart TVs & media streaming players.

StarCat: The catalog of physical/traditional library materials:

Card holders of all Southern Tier Library System member libraries can access StarCat to search for and request materials available at libraries through out the Southern Tier Library System.

The StarCat app is called Bookmyne and is available for Apple and Android devices.

Note: Book summaries are from the respective publishers unless otherwise specified.

Have questions or want to request a book?

Feel free to call the library! Our telephone number is 607-936-3713.

Tech Talk is a Southeast Steuben County Library blog.

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