Suggested Reading September 28, 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 (Libby app) 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.

And the next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, October 5, 2021.

All’s Well: A Novel by Mona Awad

(Available Formats: Print Book)

All's Well

Awad (Bunny, 2019) returns with a brilliant noir comedy about art and illness. Miranda Fitch is the dedicated director of an underfunded university theatre studies department. She’s perpetually in pain, a debilitating but medically invisible pain that’s led her into the nightmarish fog of daily handfuls of painkillers. But Miranda won’t let her mysterious ailment or anything else stop her from putting on a legends-making performance of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well–not a student actor-led coup, nor accusations of scandal, nor a distracting romance with the set designer. Miranda is assisted in her quest by three mysterious beneficiaries she meets at the local watering hole. As the story unfolds, Miranda becomes increasingly powerful and out of touch with reality, all culminating in one wild opening-night performance. Awad’s characters are deliciously over the top and impossible to forget, as is the author’s gift for morbid humor. The real magic of this novel lies in Awad’s ability to draw the Shakespearean irony out of contemporary tragedy. Were he writing today, Shakespeare would surely have something to say about the opioid crisis, the pitiful state of the arts in higher education, and the chronic medical ignorance of female illness. Endlessly thought-provoking and not to be missed. Starred Booklist Review

Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Cloud Cuckcoo Land

Pulitzer winner Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See) returns with a deeply affecting epic of a long-lost book from ancient Greece. In the mid-22nd century, Konstance, 14, copies an English translation of Cloud Cuckoo Land by Antonius Diogenes with her food printer’s Nourish powder while aboard the Argos, an ark-like spaceship destined for a habitable planet. She found the book in the Argos’s library, and was already familiar with Diogenes’s story of a shepherd named Aethon and his search for a book that told of all the world’s unknown lands, because her father told it to her while they tended the Argos’s farm. Her father’s connection to the Diogenes book is gradually revealed, but first Doerr takes the reader farther back in time. In chapters set in and around Constantinople leading up to the 1453 siege, two 13-year-old children, Anna and Omeir, converge while fleeing the city, and Omeir helps Anna protect a codex of Cloud Cuckoo Land she discovered in a monastery. Then, in 2020 Lakeport, Idaho, translator Zeno Ninis collaborates with a group of young children on a stage production of Cloud Cuckoo Land at the library, where a teenage ecoterrorist has planted a bomb meant to target the neighboring real estate office. Doerr seamlessly shuffles each of these narratives in vignettes that keep the action in full flow and the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of Constantinople, Idaho, and the Argos are each distinct and fully realized, and the protagonists of each are united by a determination to survive and a hunger for stories, which in Doerr’s universe provide the greatest nourishment. This is a marvel. Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks The Law by Mary Roach

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Fuzz

In her previous adventurous books, Roach has explored the science of peculiar and familiar subjects ranging from human cadavers to life in space. In Fuzz, she entertainingly investigates “the intractable nature of human-wildlife conflict.” (Think Amy Schumer narrating Nature on PBS.) About 2,000 species regularly perpetrate actions that disturb or harm human beings. Some offenses are quite serious (manslaughter, assault, home invasion), others less heinous (vandalizing, robbery, littering). But Roach observes that animals are following their instincts, not committing crimes. Featured creatures include California mountain lions, bears, wild elephants, leopards, white-tailed deer, thieving birds, macaques, mice, and rats. Roach accompanies investigators on the human-animal beat all over the world and explains their use of forensic science, DNA testing and GPS collars, scat examination, and humane methods of trapping and exterminating. She also reviews various remedies for problematic animals and notes that killing wildlife doesn’t work as damage control–nature finds a way to compensate. Unusual terminology pops up, such as snarge (remains of birds scraped off an airplane), frass (insect excreta), and murmuration (a mass of birds flying in shape-shifting flocks). Roach writes splendidly about the often-surprising challenges inherent in coexisting with other animals in their natural habitats. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Intrepid, witty, and elucidating, best-selling Roach is an ongoing popular-science supernova. Starred Booklist Review

Gardens Of The Moon by Steven Erikson

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Gardens of the Moon

In this sprawling fantasy epic of the Malazan empire at war with its enemies and itself, the first of a projected 10-volume series, Canadian newcomer Erikson offers many larger-than-life scenes and ideas, but his characters seem to shrink to fit the story. Perhaps they need to stay small enough for the reader to keep them all in mind. Jumping often between plot lines, the novel follows Ganoes Stabro Paran from his boyhood dreaming of soldiers to his escape from imperial service. Paran travels on journeys of body and soul, going from innocent to hardened rebel against gods and empire without losing his moral core. Other characters may go further, to death and back even, but none is as sharply portrayed. The book features a plethora of princes and paupers, powers and principalities, with much inventive detail to dazzle and impart a patina of mystery and ages past. The fast-moving plot, with sieges, duels (of sword and of spell), rebellions, intrigue and revenge, unearthed monsters and earth-striding gods, doesn’t leave much room for real depth. Heroes win, villains lose, fairness reigns, tragedy is averted. Erikson may aspire to China Miéville heights, but he settles comfortably in George R.R. Martin country. Publishers Weekly Review
Readers’ Note: This is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. The author wrote 10 books in the series before passing the writing torch on to author Ian C Esslemont who, subsequently, wrote and additional seven books-to-date for the series – so if you’re looking to binge read a fantasy series – check this one out!

Gone By Midnight Candice Fox

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD audiobook, eBook & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

Gone By Midnight
Two years after being falsely accused of kidnapping and assaulting a 13-year-old girl, Ted Conkaffey believes he’s still the most hated man in Australia. So when eight-year-old Richie Farrow goes missing from the Cairns hotel where he’s staying with friends and their parents, Conkaffey is picked up by two cops and sends out an SOS to his partner, PI Amanda Pharrell. Turns out the boy’s mother has specifically requested Conkaffey’s help on the case, and he insists Pharrell join him, despite the bad blood between her and local police over the recent death of one of their detectives. This all happens just as Conkaffey is preparing for a visit of his nearly three-year-old daughter, Lillian, so he’s torn between being a dad to the daughter he dearly loves and finding someone else’s missing son. In her third Crimson Lake novel (after Crimson Lake, 2018, and Redemption Point, 2019), Fox ramps up the suspense, leading to a climactic scene in a crocodile-infested swamp. Compelling plot aside, it’s the humanity of both Conkaffey and the appealingly eccentric Pharrell that lifts this well above the standard suspense thriller. Starred Booklist Review

Home Of The Floating Lily: Stories by Silmy Abdullah

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Home Of The Floating Lilly
The short stories in Abdullah’s debut collection take place in small eighth-floor apartments, in spacious homes with servants, in train cars–in spaces that gradually, unexpectedly feel like home. Set primarily in Toronto, Canada, and in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Abdullah’s stories trace the lives of Bangladeshi women who have immigrated to Canada. A mother worries that a long-held secret will destroy her close relationship with her beloved daughter. A newlywed moves to Toronto to join her Canadian husband, trying to fit in with his life in a country she doesn’t know. A widow struggles with her traditional family role while watching her brother-in-law’s new wife embrace a more modern lifestyle. A man remarries after his wife’s death and finds himself confounded by his second wife’s place in his world. Abdullah’s characters deal with discrimination, isolation, and Islamophobia among other challenges of building lives in a new country. In beautifully descriptive prose, The Home of the Floating Lily is an evocative debut that explores family, culture, tradition, and love in places that simultaneously promise opportunity and struggle. Booklist Review


If you’re looking for a frightful story, in keeping with the season, check out:

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

(Available Formats: Print Book, downloadable audiobook & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

The Mere Wife

Susan Bennett masterfully narrates a stunning retelling of BEOWULF that confronts all manner of monsters. Dana Mills went away to war and came back with a son she has to keep safe from everything; Willa Herot lives at Herot Hall with a son who has been given everything. Bennett portrays a wide cast of characters, including both Dana and Willa, and does a particularly good job teasing out the nuances in the rage that propels both women to the inevitable bloody climax. Dana’s rage is jagged and immediate and laced with fear, but Willa’s rage is cold and buried deep within her, and all the more terrifying when it’s finally let loose. Powerful, upsetting, and unforgettable, Bennet’s narration is staggeringly potent. AudioFile Review

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The One That Got Away

Himes’s debut novel examines if the grass is greener on the other side. Abbey Lahey is an exhausted working mother of two young children. Her husband, Jimmy, owns a landscaping business, which is struggling. As Abbey is riding the escalator in Nordstrom’s, she falls and hits her head, landing in the hospital. When she regains consciousness, she is Abigail Van Holt, still a married mother of two but now to wealthy blueblood Alexander Van Holt–the man whom she met in college and whose proposal she turned down, setting her on a path to the middle class and Jimmy. Abbey sees how her life would be if she’d accepted Alex’s offer. She has a designer wardrobe, servants, a swanky apartment, and a hot husband running for Congress, but still, she struggles to adjust to her new situation. VERDICT Himes takes an intriguing look at how a simple yes could change a person’s entire life. Ample time is spent with the protagonist trying to decipher her unfamiliar surroundings; although one wonders how Abbey, who works in PR and is currently the wife of a Congressional candidate, cannot seem to find the slightest information on her persona by simply Googling herself. All in all, the effort is a rewarding investigation of how all that glitters may not be gold.—Library Journal Review

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Rationality

In this revealing pop take on the mind and society, Harvard psychologist Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) investigates the nature of straight-thinking and the many ways it goes crooked. He lays out the basics of formal logic, probability, and statistics, and dissects common fallacies that violate them. The “argument from authority,” for example, takes pronouncements by “experts” as unquestionable gospel, while “availability bias” makes people falsely believe that nuclear accidents that garner huge news coverage are more dangerous than less-covered coal-fired power plants, and the Texas sharpshooter fallacy—drawing a bulls-eye around a bullet hole after one shoots at a barn—is widespread as a way of passing off random data points as accurate predictions. Pinker skewers all manner of misguided thinking, myths, and “cockamamie conspiracy theories” across the ideological spectrum, from the Stop-the-Steal right to the “left-wing monoculture” that makes universities “laughingstocks for their assaults on common sense.” He manages to be scrupulously rigorous yet steadily accessible and entertaining whether probing the rationality of Andrew Yang’s presidential platform, Dilbert cartoons, or Yiddish proverbs. The result is both a celebration of humans’ ability to make things better with careful thinking and a penetrating rebuke to muddleheadedness. Publishers Weekly Review

The Manningtree Witches: A Novel by A. K. Blakemore

(Available Formats: Print Book & Hoopla instant checkout audiobook)

The Manningtree Witches

Award-winning English poet Blakemore’s debut novel recounts the harrowing story of a historical witch-hunt in Manningtree, Essex, during the English Civil War. With men away fighting, fields lie fallow, and famine threatens. Fear and jealousy fuel hostility towards the “poor and peculiar” women of the town. A familiar tale of sexually tinged persecution unwinds with the arrival of Puritan witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins. Teenage Rebecca chafes at the meager life her widowed mother, the reckless and quarrelsome Beldam West, is constrained to lead. Rebecca longs for more. Hopkins, meanwhile, casts her, like her mother, as the devil’s creature. Manningtree Witches is notable for the beauty of Blakemore’s language. Her poetic imagery exquisitely conjures ambiance, character, and period detail. Clouds are “bruisy and doomful of rain;” the women at trial, “an assortment of sour shapes in rags.” The well-realized principal characters are more than simply victims and villains. Rebecca, who has “taught herself to watch and listen,” perceives the tangled impulses and moral and spiritual ambiguities of those around her. Will she use that knowledge to save herself?

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog: https://stls.overdrive.com/

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: https://www.hoopladigital.com/

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: https://starcat.stls.org

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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