Suggested Reading April 26, 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 published on Tuesdays.

And the next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.

Addis Ababa Noir edited by Maaza Mengiste

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Addis Ababa Noir

Few of the 14 stories in this solid Akashic noir anthology qualify as classic noir, but they all contain many of the classic elements such as desperation, greed, desire, and death. In Meron Hadero’s memorable “Kind Stranger,” the narrator literally trips over a stranger who’s lying on the ground at a construction site. The narrator sits down with the stranger, who proceeds to tell a fraught tale about a woman who rebuked his advances and how he took revenge on her during a time of political turmoil. Another strong entry is Girma T. Fantaye’s “Of the Poet and the Café,” in which a poet sets out to get rid of every copy of his one published book, only to find that it’s not just words that can be erased from the world. Solomon Hailemariam’s pointed “None of Your Business” examines life under a tyrannical regime where a simple school assignment can have dire consequences for one small boy and his family. Each contributor embraces day-to-day life in Ethiopia, and fills each story with a rich sense of time, place, and character. The authors reveal much about a culture unfamiliar to many American readers. Publishers Weekly Review

Readers’ Note: Maaza Mengiste’s short story, Dush, Ash, Flight which was published in the collection Addis Ababa Noir, won the 2021 Edgar Award for Best Short Story.

Readers’ Note Too: If you’re not familiar with them, The Edgars are awarded annually to outstanding mysteries within mystery sub-genres – i.e. best short story! And if you’d like to check out the listing of Edgar winners, here is a link to the official Edgar Award website:

Search the Edgars Database!

Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Daughters of a Dead Empire

In 1918 Russia, czarist Anna and communist Evgenia form a tentative alliance to escape a ruthless Bolshevik commander. Seventeen-year-old Anna is the sole survivor after her family is assassinated in Ekaterinburg. Her only hope of safety is finding her cousin who is stationed with the White Army. She offers 16-year-old peddler Evgenia a diamond in exchange for a ride on her old horse wagon. Evgenia, who’s a communist, agrees to help the bedraggled yet seemingly bourgeois Anna (whose true identity readers familiar with Russian history may divine before it is revealed in the narrative) because she’s desperate to afford a doctor to treat her injured soldier brother. Their journey is dangerous from the start but turns deadly when Evgenia’s branded a traitor and a Bolshevik secret police commander becomes set on killing both girls. Well-researched and accessible, this alternate history immerses readers in the Russian Revolution and the competing, equally bloodthirsty factions hoping to control the country’s destiny. A kind officer from the Czechoslovak Legion introduces a different perspective and the barest hint of romance. But Anna and Evgenia’s hard-earned friendship forms the heart of the tale and reinforces the importance of crossing class, political, and religious lines to find the humanity in all. A riveting reimagining of a historical legend as a pulse-pounding thriller. – Kirkus Review

Good Intentions: A Novel by Kasim Ali

(Available Formats: Print Book & downloadable audiobook)

Good Intentions

In the story of Nur and Yasmina’s promising relationship, and the troubling reality of unresolved racial dynamics, debut novelist Ali offers striking social insights and a peek into the life of the British Pakistani community in Birmingham. Nur, a British Pakistani man, and Yasmina, a British Sudanese woman, meet and fall in love as college students and subsequently move in together. But their relationship is under a dark cloud, as Nur doesn’t introduce Yasmina to his family, or even talk to them about her. Convinced that his family will have difficulty accepting his Black girlfriend, Nur is caught between familial and cultural concerns and his desire for a future built on love. As Ali tackles the difficult reality of racism within ethnic groups tied to assumptions of solidarity, he succinctly delineates memorable characters and complex interactions. The narrative’s leaps back and forward in time can be challenging, even as they serve to escalate the tension of Nur’s damaging choices. In all, a vitally important exploration of deep-rooted prejudice, and the disconnect between understanding and the genuine practice of inclusiveness. Booklist Review

Hitchcock and the Censors by John Billheimer

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Hitchcock And the Censors

Edgar Award Winner: This lively account of the director’s battles with the Code Office is “an essential addition to any Hitchcock shelf” (Mystery Scene Magazine).

From 1934 to 1968, the Motion Picture Production Code Office controlled the content and final cut on all films made and distributed in the United States. Code officials protected sensitive ears from standard four-letter words, as well as a few five-letter words like tramp and six-letter words like cripes. They also scrubbed “excessively lustful” kissing from the screen and ensured that no criminal went unpunished. Thus, throughout his career, Alfred Hitchcock had to deal with a wide variety of censors attuned to the slightest suggestion of sexual innuendo, undue violence, toilet humor, religious disrespect, and all forms of indecency, real or imagined.

During their review of Hitchcock’s films, the censors demanded an average of 22.5 changes, ranging from the mundane to the mind-boggling, on each of his American films. Code reviewers dictated the ending of Rebecca, absolved Cary Grant of guilt in Suspicion, edited Cole Porter’s lyrics in Stage Fright, decided which shades should be drawn in Rear Window, and shortened the shower scene in Psycho.

In Hitchcock and the Censors, John Billheimer traces the forces that led to the Production Code and describes Hitchcock’s interactions with code officials on a film-by-film basis as he fought to protect his creations, bargaining with code reviewers and sidestepping censorship to produce a lifetime of memorable films. Despite the often-arbitrary decisions of the code board, Hitchcock still managed to push the boundaries of sex and violence permitted in films by charming—and occasionally tricking—the censors and by swapping off bits of dialogue, plot points, and individual shots (some of which had been deliberately inserted as trading chips) to protect cherished scenes and images. By examining Hitchcock’s priorities in dealing with the censors, this work highlights the director’s theories of suspense as well as his magician-like touch when negotiating with code officials.

Kingdom of Women by Rosalie Morales Kearns

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

Kingdom of Women

In a slightly alternate near-future, women are forming vigilante groups to wreak vengeance on rapists, child abusers, and murderers of women. Averil Parnell, a female Catholic priest, faces a dilemma: per the Golden Rule she should advise forgiveness, but as the lone survivor of an infamous massacre of women seminarians, she understands their anger.

Her life becomes more complicated when she embarks on an obsessive affair with a younger man and grapples with disturbing religious visions.

She had wanted to be a scholar, before the trauma of the massacre. Later, all she wanted was a quiet life as a parish priest. But now she finds she has become a mystic, and a central figure in the social upheaval that’s gathering momentum all over the world.

The novel taps into a tradition of works that explore the inner lives of religious mystics (such as Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow; Ron Hansen’s Mariette in Ecstasy; Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory), but also engages broad social/political issues, similar to wide-ranging literary epics like The Poisonwood Bible and Midnight’s Children.

Kingdom of Women spans decades and delves into multiple points of view, not only highlighting the personal evolution of a complex, troubled individual but also exploring larger themes like the ethical implications of the use of violence against oppression, and the tension between justice and mercy, revenge and forgiveness.

Left On Tenth: A Second Chance At Life: A Memoir by Nora Ephron

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Left On Tenth

In her new memoir, Ephron will make readers feel, and with her short sentences and matter-of-fact voice, she’ll make readers laugh, swoon, cringe, and cry, sometimes all within the same section of writing. The novelist, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter (she wrote the film You’ve Got Mail with sister Nora) begins this memoir with the story of her husband’s death, from his time in hospice, to her grieving afterwards; she also introduces all the people who helped her through mourning. While trying to disconnect her late husband’s phone line, she has a bad experience that she writes about in the New York Times. The essay sparks interest in a man from her past who reaches out to her via email; Ephron includes this correspondence, among many others, in the book. The events kick off a new love story that is the focus of the first part of the memoir; Ephron’s leukemia is the theme of the second half. Through her own recollections and through emails, readers get to see the hope and positivity of Ephron’s friends, as well as the despair she felt during her illness. VERDICT With poetic writing, strong characterization, and a powerful love story, Ephron’s memoir takes readers on a journey of loss, pain, hope, and perseverance.-Starred Library Journal Review

The Ladies’ Lending Library by Janice Keefer

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

Ladies' Lending Library

Canada in the 1960s is the setting for Keefers melancholy tale of a group of Ukrainian immigrants whose lives are conspicuously connected by blood or circumstance. For the principal characters, the excitement of relocation to the Great White North has faded into a steady, at times numbing rhythm made up of raising families and going to work. Their one escape is summers spent at an idyllic lakeside resort, where the women read and discuss racy books, and their children begin to explore the mysteries of the opposite sex. (The husbands only come up on weekends, disrupting the women’s scandalous literary pursuits.) Sasha Plotsky is the ringleader of the reading group, the envy of many of the women because she always says just what she thinks. But her best friend, Sonia Martyn, a former model trapped in a lackluster marriage, is the novels driving force, spending the summer trying to keep the peace among a cluster of passionate personalities. Readers of Gilmores Golden Country (2006) will find much to like in this poignant saga of real life and unrealized dreams. – Booklist Review

Man On Fire: A Novel by Stephen Kelman

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Man On Fire

Bibhuti Bhushan (BB) Nayak has never met an extreme sports challenge that he could resist, the more extreme the better. From his first attempt at a Guinness Book record–43 kicks to his unprotected groin–BB lusts after sports immortality. To the consternation of his increasingly fretful wife, BB continually puts himself in harm’s way, believing that a strict training regime, along with proper diet, correct breathing, meditation, and prayer will help him achieve his goals. His exploits eventually attract the interest of John Lock, an Englishman disappointed in life and lately diagnosed with cancer. Faking his death to spare his wife the worry and care of his illness, Lock travels to Mumbai, determined to assist BB in his quest for a new record: to withstand 50 baseball bats smashed against his body. With the book narrated alternately by Lock from BB’s hospital bedside and by BB himself, it’s hard to know whether BB is a true sportsman or an insane masochist. VERDICT With its unlikely subject for such an emotionally rich and imaginatively told tale, this second novel easily fulfills the promise of Kelman’s much-admired and Man Booker short-listed Pigeon English. Astonishingly, most of this “fictional biography” is true. Starred library Journal Review

How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman

(Available Formats: Print Book)

How Late It Was, How Late

Winner of the Booker Prize: “A work of marvelous vibrance and richness of character.”—New York Times Book Review

One Sunday morning in Glasgow, shoplifting ex-con Sammy awakens in an alley, wearing another man’s shoes and trying to remember his two-day drinking binge. He gets in a scrap with some soldiers and revives in a jail cell, badly beaten and, he slowly discovers, completely blind. And things get worse: his girlfriend disappears, the police question him for a crime they won’t name, and his stab at disability compensation embroils him in the Kafkaesque red tape of the welfare bureaucracy. Told in the utterly uncensored language of the Scottish working class, this is a dark and subtly political parable of struggle and survival, rich with irony and black humor.

Small Mercies: A Novel by Eddie Joyce

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Small Mercies

An emotionally rich debut novel about family dynamics in the wake of tragedy. If Staten Island were Asbury Park, this former lawyer-turned-novelist could be its literary Springsteen. He was born and raised in the borough, which one of his characters calls “the servants’ quarters of the city,” and he has a deep affinity for the ethnic assimilations, class struggles, marital discontents and larger ambitions of those who share his roots. Though the novel flirts with sentimentality and occasionally succumbs to cliche, depth of character trumps plot melodrama here. In the seven days leading to the birthday of Bobby Jr., the son of a firefighter who was a casualty of 9/11, every member of the family has flashbacks and reminiscences that suggest the variety of knots the plot must untangle. Bobby Sr. became a firefighter like his father, Michael, who strongly resisted becoming a butcher like his own immigrant father, thus depriving his family of some security. Gail continues to resent her husband and mourn her son 10 years after his death. She has little relationship with her oldest son, Peter, the one who escaped the borough to become a successful lawyer and marry a WASP but who will find his life crumbling through the most conventional of complications. Middle son Franky is the family’s black sheep, an alcoholic who’s never been the same since his brother died. And Bobby’s widow, Tina, with whom Gail is very close, has finally become involved with another man, introduced to her by Peter, and she wants to bring him to Bobby Jr.’s birthday party. Will Franky cause a drunken scene? Will Gail be civil? Will Peter reconcile with his family? The novel unpacks a lot of emotional baggage (even without the 9/11 references), but readers will get to know these characters and care about them to the very last page. – Kirkus Review

Have a great week!

Linda Reimer

*Information on the Three Catalogs*

Digital Catalog:

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:

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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