Suggested Reading February 9, 2022

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 usually published on Tuesdays; sorry this one is a bit late – I was bit swamped yesterday!

The next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, February 15, 2022.

The Agony of the Ghost and Other Stories by Hasan Azizul Huq and Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Agony of the Ghost

Hasan Azizul Huq is known for his stories that bring a powerful social consciousness to bear on the lives of ordinary people in contemporary Bangladesh—but doing so with surprising twists to what we think of as the typical grounds of realistic fiction. The Agony of the Ghost gathers twelve remarkable stories from his large oeuvre that offer a sense of the range of his insights and approaches. In “Without Name or Lineage,” a man returns home in search of his wife and son after the war, only to find them in ways both unexpected and expected. “The Sorcerer” finds a sorcerer dying without revealing his secrets to three brothers who had been trying to compel him to tell—and strange deaths follow. In “ Throughout the Afternoon,” a disarmingly simple story, a young boy awaits his grandfather’s death. In all the stories, the lives of the most disadvantaged people in Bengali society are revealed in harrowing, unforgettable detail.

The Beirut Hellfire Society: A Novel by Rawi Hage

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

Beruit Hellfire Society

Although the characters in this novel are fictitious, the final sentence of Hage’s (Carnival, 2013) spectacular novel acknowledges, this is a book of mourning for the many who witnessed senseless wars, and for those who perished in those wars. For the Lebanon-born, Canadian-domiciled, International IMPAC Dublin Award winner Hage, real-life experiences surely drive his fiction, for he witnessed nine of the 15-plus years of the Lebanese Civil War. What he’s undoubtedly accepted is that life’s only certainty is death. For second-generation Beirut undertaker Pavlov, death is his inherited livelihood. Like his late father, Pavlov enables the final journey for outcast cadavers no one else will touch. After his father’s death, Pavlov, too, is visited by the Hellfire Society, whose libertine members, with Pavlov’s cooperation, will likely return to ashes and dust in a remote mountainous crematorium. Between his undertaking care of drug dealers and drug takers, murderers and mourners, Pavlov navigates a surreal reality of dropping bombs, brutal family feuds, dangerous liaisons, occasional companionship with a gentle (albeit murderous) prostitute, the ephemeral Lady of the Stairs, and his loyal (if ghostly) dog. Death binds them all, Hage’s visceral reminder that beyond money, power, religion, and war, we are nothing more than corpses to either let rot or set aflame. Starred Booklist Review

Color of the Sea by John Hammaura

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Color of the Sea

Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Sam Hamada is not destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a mere plantation worker. Education, both traditional schooling and martial arts training, is Sam’s ticket out, leading him to college on the mainland, where he meets Keiko, the fetching, willful daughter of Japanese immigrants. Yet while Keiko and Sam are falling in love, their adopted and native lands are preparing for war. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Keiko’s family is incarcerated in internment camps while Sam is drafted into the U.S. Army, where he unwittingly plays a key role in the bombing of Hiroshima, still home to his mother and siblings. To be a Japanese American in mid-twentieth-century America was to be perceived as neither Japanese nor American, and it is this conflict that informs Hamamura’s ambitious coming-of-age novel, in which the fate of two people amid the devastation of war reveals how the promises of honor and the security of love can rescue souls and restore faith. Booklist Review

Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall

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

Daughters of the North

From prison, a woman tells us she has been Sister for the last three years; her former name is simply gone. So is the Britain we might have recognized in this futuristic tale set in the semitropical Britain of the authority, where seasons blur and people mourn the loss of March hail and even January cold. Flooded ports and lowlands, residents crammed together, Baghdad-style power outages, Soviet-style deprivation, civilian travel banned and cars, without fuel, long abandoned, nationalized resources, weapons in the hands of a dictatorial government that mandates contraception all parts of a 10-year official recovery that compels the narrator, after practicing for a month, to slip away with the rucksack she has hidden in an alleyway alcove. With food, water, clothes, and a World War II rifle, she seeks Carhullan, a women’s commune of presumed terrorists and Furies, on a dangerous journey into the distant mountains. Halls compelling writing recalls Atwood and Lessing, resonating beyond obvious current parallels and never softening her vision of a dismal, hellish future and exalted, albeit transient, rebellion. Booklist Review

Donorboy by Brendan Halpin

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

Donorboy

Rosalind is mourning the deaths of both her moms, and Sean is working on his own issues—the only thing they have in common is a little DNA

When both of Rosalind’s mothers die, she moves in with the donor father she never knew. Fifteen, angry, and feeling completely alone, Ros refuses to speak to her biological father, Sean, sharing her feelings only with her journal. But through a series of emails and text messages, Ros and Sean slowly get to know each other.
Sweet, comic, honest, and moving, Donorboy is the story of two people who seem to have nothing more than genes in common stumbling toward a shared future. Brendan Halpin has crafted a thoroughly modern take on love, family, and figuring it all out.

Guapa: A Novel by Saleem Haddad

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Guapa

The titular Guapa is a dive bar in an unnamed city in the Middle East that has the feel of present-day Cairo. Guapa offers its habitues an escape from the watchful eye of a hard-line regime. Protagonist Rasa, a young, educated (in America) gay man, is a visitor to the underground club, where he meets friends and his lover, Taymour. At the start of this affecting novel, Rasa’s indomitable grandmother Teta, with whom he’s lived since the death of his father and the disappearance of his mother, discovers him and Taymour in flagrante delicto in Rasa’s room. This threatens to end his relations with Taymour, and for the rest of the novel Rasa attempts to patch things up with his lover while wondering about his existence as a gay man in a traditional society. Haddad, born in Kuwait City of a Lebanese Palestinian father and an Iraqi German mother and now residing in London, has served as an aid worker for Doctors Without Borders in several Middle Eastern countries. Here he opens a window onto a man coming to terms with his sexuality in a repressive society during the recent upheavals in the Arab world.

VERDICT Warmly recommended to all readers who are interested in issues of diversity and the Middle East. –Library Journal Review

Homeland by Barbara Hambly

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Homeland

Two women, one a Northerner with a husband fighting for the Confederacy, and one a Southerner yearning to attend art school in Philadelphia, exchange letters and find in their unlikely friendship the strength to survive the Civil War, and though shades of Scarlett O’Hara occasionally pop up, Hambly manages a mostly original take on a much-covered era. Newly wed to Tennessean Emory Poole, Cora Poole retreats to Deer Isle, Maine, to remain true to her husband among friends and relatives who abhor his allegiance and suspect hers. In Greene County, Tenn., Emory’s neighbor, Susanna Ashford, dabbles in the arts while facing an increasingly dire reality. The correspondents share feelings, views of current events and accounts of their respective tribulations: Susanna nurses the wounded, hunts and sews to pay for her sister’s midwife. Cora raises her infant daughter, cares for her demented mother and also sews as the war exhausts resources. The leads are three-dimensional, occasionally surprising and always sympathetic as they find in their unlikely friendship the strength to accept the loss of their ways of life and to seek new ways where they both might thrive. Publishers Weekly Review

In All Good Faith: A Novel by Liza Nash Taylor

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

In All Good Faith

May Craig and Dorrit Sykes have nothing in common. May is a well-off wife and mother who helps run the family farm and business. Dorrit is a shy teenager, living in a cramped Boston tenement with her father Roy and older brother. However, the summer of 1932 finds them and the rest of the nation struggling. For May, the family businesses are barely holding on. While they are lucky that May’s husband gets a job in DC, it does mean he will be away from their family during the week. Roy is a WWI veteran who, like many veterans that summer, travels to Washington to pressure Hoover and Congress for early payment of war bonuses. He takes Dorrit with him, starting a chain of events that changes everyone’s lives. In this stand-alone sequel to her first novel, Etiquette for Runaways (2020), Taylor delivers a well-researched and deftly written historical fiction novel. The Bonus March is not often covered in historical fiction and Taylor brings to life the desperation of those veterans. Both May and Dorrit pop off the page and their dual narratives shine a light on the struggles women faced during the Great Depression. Highly recommended for all libraries. Starred Booklist Review

The Next Ship Home: A Novel of Ellis Island by Heather Webb

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout eBook)

The Next Ship Home

When thinking of Ellis Island, some envision freedom and new beginnings. For Alma and Francesca, it represents corruption, unwanted advances, and manipulation. Taking a job at Ellis Island, Alma gets an inside view of how immigrants are treated when they arrive in the States. On Alma’s first day, she meets Francesca, who came from Italy to escape her abusive father. Francesca desperately wants to stay in New York but needs Alma’s help to make that happen. Inspectors, food vendors, and matrons take liberties with the immigrants they work with every day. Reports of corruption start to surround Ellis Island, and the government calls for change. Bonded by friendship and secrets, Alma and Francesca fight back against an unethical system. Webb (Three Words for Goodbye with Hazel Gaynor, 2021) tells the story of female friendship and strength with great historical detail. She stresses the need for barriers between the classes to be broken. With compelling detail, she weaves in suspense with secrets and the risk of danger due to riots, deportation, and an upset society. This is a great historical read. Library Journal Review

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ava Lee

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Water Rat of Wanchai

Chinese Canadian Ava Lee, forensic accountant, chafes at being office bound. She and her business partner, “Uncle,” instead find Mission Impossible-style assignments. They rescue business owners who, through careless or naive transactions, have been scammed. (Incidentally, getting large sums of money back to their rightful owners might require somewhat illegal maneuvers by Lee.) In this outing, Ava must recover several million dollars that went missing through an international seafood operation. Moving globally, she homes in on her target when she discovers the ringleader is holed up in Guyana, a country not conducive to a smooth operation. But Ava’s quick thinking helps her emerge victorious.

VERDICT Although other titles in this Canadian run (The Disciple of Las Vegas: The Wild Beasts of Wuhan; The Red Pole of Macau) have been released here, fans won’t want to miss this series launch. Ava Lee is a must add.

Spoiler alert: it’s a crime novel, not a murder mystery, geared for readers who savor elaborate traps meant to ensnare bad guys with abundant action involved. While not as comedic as Colin Cotterill’s Jimm Juree series, it carries similar appeal with a strong Asian female lead and large ensemble cast. Library Journal Review

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

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

The Digital Catalog, is an online catalog containing eBooks, downloadable audiobooks, digital magazines and a handful of streaming videos. The catalog, which allows one to download content to a PC, also has a companion app, Libby, which you can download to your mobile device; so you can enjoy eBooks and downloadable audiobooks on the go!

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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