Suggested Reading July 19, 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, July 26, 2022.

Even the Darkest Night: A Terra Alta Novel by Javier Cercas

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Even The Darkest Night

The shadow of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables looms large over the engrossing latest from Spanish writer Cercas (Outlaws). Hugo’s classic is the favorite of ex-con Melchor Marín, who read the book while serving time for his involvement with a Colombian drug cartel and who identifies with police inspector Javert, whom he thinks of as a “false bad guy.” Now a detective in the Spanish town of Terra Alta, Melchor begins to channel some of Javert’s implacable pursuit of justice in his investigation of the murder of a printing magnate and his wife. Though the businessman had many enemies, no evidence turns up to implicate anyone for the crime, prompting his department to close the case. That rankles Melchor, in part because it reminds him of the death of his mother, a sex worker whose murder was never solved. Melchor’s dogged determination to keep investigating the case behind the backs of his superiors eventually risks danger to himself and his loved ones. While Cercas resorts to lengthy swaths of exposition to relate the characters’ back stories, the narrative is generally well paced and suspenseful, and a surprise ending firmly roots the novel in Spain’s troubled 20th-century history and brings Melchor’s Javert fixation full circle. Fans of literary detective novels ought to take a look. – Publishers Weekly Review

The Foundling by Ann Leary

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

Foundling

One of the cardinal rules of the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age is that staff and inmates must never fraternize. To even acknowledge each other could cause the employee to be fired and the inmate to be incarcerated in the asylum’s most punitive housing. So Mary Engle’s shock at seeing Lillian, her childhood friend from their mutual time at a local orphanage, as one of the patients assigned to the onerous dairy crew is enough to raise conflicting emotions. Mary needs her prestigious job as secretary to Dr. Agnes Vogel, the psychiatrist and eugenics proponent who runs the facility. But she also knows that Lillian is not intellectually or morally deficient, as Vogel claims. When Lillian asks Mary to help free her from Nettleton so that she can reunite her with her child and lover, Mary puts herself and others at great risk. Leary’s (The Children, 2016) richly rendered, tender tale of friendship and loyalty, based on her own family history, brings into sharp focus the horrors of such punitive institutions, which proliferated in early-twentieth-century America. – Booklist Review

The Heart of Summer by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Heart of Summer

“Maeve Binchy fans will adore it—she just gets better and better.”—Patricia Scanlan

On Ireland’s Finfarran Peninsula, summer means glorious weather and a life-changing choice for local librarian Hanna Casey in this delightful installment in the USA Today bestselling series, a captivating tale filled with all the beauty, charm, and warmth of Ireland that is perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan, Nina George, and Nancy Thayer.

Summer has finally arrived on Ireland’s west coast. On the Finfarran Peninsula, Hanna Casey is looking forward to al fresco lunches with friends and balmy evenings with her boyfriend Brian in their stunning new home in beautiful Hag’s Glen. With a painful divorce behind her and family drama finally settled, Hanna begins to plan a romantic holiday getaway for the two of them.

But life takes a turn when Brian’s adult son suddenly moves in and Hanna unexpectedly runs into Amy, a former flatmate from Hanna’s twenties in London. Reminded of her youth—and all the dreams and hopes she once had—Hanna begins to wonder if everything she now has is enough. When Amy suggests a reunion in London with old friends, Hanna accepts.

While it’s only short hop to England, Hanna feels like she’s leaving Brian far behind. And when she’s offered a new opportunity—the chance to be more than a local librarian in the little rural community where she grew up—Hanna is faced with a difficult choice: to decide what her heart truly wants.

The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran

(Available Formats: Print Book & downloadable audiobook)

Kingdom of Sand

The geographical and emotional landscape of contemporary rural Florida is at the core of this majestic and wistful rumination on ageing, loneliness, and mortality from Holleran (Dancer from the Dance). The 60-something unnamed narrator strives to hold onto a long, lingering friendship with Earl, who’s 20 years older, and reflects with bittersweetness on losses, past loves, and the indulgences of desire and lust. (His melancholy excursions include cruising a video arcade and a boat ramp in nearby Gainesville, places he’s visited for the past couple of decades.) Earl is a retired accountant and widower, and their common interests­­—books, music, “fine furniture,” picking blueberries—have bound them through the years as they remember friends of theirs who have died from AIDS and the narrator cared for his ailing parents. He thinks of their friendship as a “bucolic dream,” the “perfect combination of solitude and companionship.” The specter of death feels to the narrator “like a game of musical chairs… when the music stops you have to sit down wherever you are.” Though the novel is permeated by a mournful depression, Holleran brings stylistic flourishes and mordant nostalgia to the proceedings, and fully develops the narrator, who floats elegantly on his distilled memories and eventually lands on a beautiful resolution. This vital work shows Holleran at the top of his game. Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Iona Iverson's Rules

Pooley’s second novel, following The Authenticity Project (2020), is another joyous tale about serendipitous friendship and seizing each day with vigor. The epitome of a feel-good book that is also laugh-out-loud hilarious, it centers on the titular Iona, an indomitable middle-aged woman, and the eclectic cast of characters she encounters each day on the train. Her fellow travelers range from an awkward teenage girl to an obnoxious manspreader in a suit, but they all have one thing in common, they’re strangers who never, ever speak. But that changes the day the manspreader chokes on a grape, bringing this ragtag group together. The chapters shift among various points of view, providing a look into each commuter’s life and thoughts and a reminder that there is so much more to each of us than our outward appearance. Each person’s history is slowly unraveled as the bonds between the unlikely intergenerational group grow stronger. In a time when our differences so often divide us, Pooley’s novel is like a reassuring hug, assuring readers that our differences can strengthen relationships and should be embraced and celebrated. A not-to-be-missed read in the mode of Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (2017). – Booklist Review

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Last To Vanish

This eerie thriller, in which the setting itself may be actively malevolent, can stand next to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Stephen King’s The Shining. Over the past 25 years, a string of visitors has vanished from the trails around a lodge in Cutter’s Pass, North Carolina, a mountainous region that includes access to the Appalachian Trail. The disappeared include four fraternity brothers (the first to vanish), a young woman who completed her hike and then went missing once she left the trail, and a journalist who was investigating the disappearances until he himself vanished. The past and present history of Cutter’s Pass is narrated by Abby, a woman who has worked at the lodge for the 10 years since her life derailed. The missing journalist’s brother turns up, growing increasingly paranoid and unhinged, and Abby forms a very uneasy alliance with him to solve the mystery. Abby is somewhat of a mystery herself: What is the draw she feels to this isolated area and to the people, at the lodge and in town, whom she feels may be in on a terrible secret? Expect shivers and lots of them. – Booklist Review

The Murder Book by Mark Billingham

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Murder Book

British author Billingham’s masterly 18th novel featuring Det. Insp. Tom Thorne (after 2020’s Cry Baby) finds Thorne content in his relationship with Melita Perera, who works with the police as a forensic psychiatrist, following a period of social isolation. Meanwhile, Thorne’s nemesis, Stuart Nicklin, who once tortured and nearly killed Thorne’s best friend, pathologist Phil Hendricks, escapes from prison and undergoes cosmetic surgery that makes him all but unrecognizable. When three grotesque murders, which imitate the proverbial “see no evil” theme, occur in London, Thorne and partner Det. Insp. Nicola Tanner investigate. They tie all three to sociopath Rebecca Driver, an acolyte of Nicklin’s, who meets her victims on a dating website, and arrest her. While Driver is in a holding cell after conviction and waiting to be sentenced, she finally decides to expose Nicklin’s evil manipulations. In the brilliant denouement, Thorne confronts Nicklin in Melita’s home, and the fallout from their violent encounter is sure to reverberate through the lives of Tanner, Hendricks, and himself in future installments. The intricate plot matches superior characterizations. Thorne fans will eagerly await his next outing. Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Reader’s Note: If you’d like to start reading this series from the beginning, checkout book 1, Sleepy Head.

Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Our Last Days in Barcelona

In this engrossing saga, Cleeton picks up the story of the Perez family from When We Left Cuba, following their exile in Florida after Castro’s revolution. The eldest daughter, Isabel, 28, travels to Barcelona in 1964, worried that her sister Beatriz’s job at the U.S. consulate there, a cover for CIA-supported anti-Castro work, has put her in danger. In Beatriz’s apartment, Isabel discovers an old photo of herself as a toddler taken in Barcelona with her mother, Alicia, and an unknown man. Cleeton then shifts back to 1936, with Alicia taking Isabel to visit her parents in Spain after learning of her husband Emilio’s infidelities. Alicia reconnects with Nestor, a doctor she had a crush on when they were both students. They fall in love while Alicia tries to help her unmarried pregnant sister, Consuela, keep her baby. Back in 1964, Isabel falls in love with Beatriz’s friend, Diego, whom she later suspects is working for the CIA. There are satisfying endings for mother and daughter, with an unexpected revelation of how Alicia’s choice made Isabel’s possible a generation later. Cleeton’s complex female characters and evocative settings, spiced with a dollop of political drama, make this a pleasing outing. – Publishers Weekly Review

Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Wash Day Diaries

With spare dialogue and lush renditions of self-care rituals, Rowser and Smith paint a loving and intimate portrait of city life for a group of young Black women. The ensemble includes Kimana, a singer who is avoiding a scarily persistent suitor, Malik; Nisha, a photographer torn between two guys and the freedom of her “hoe phase”; Davene, who is drawn in blue-and-purple hued panels to reflect a bout of depression; and Cookie, whose Dominican grandmother attempts to make amends for her past homophobia as her granddaughter does her hair. Each story centers a different friend in their clique and is painted in a different rich color palette. Smith’s lithe character design and eye for detail pair nicely with Rowser’s economic storytelling, and Rowser expertly utilizes the group text as a sort of Greek chorus. The arc culminates at Kimana’s performance, where the women band together to stave off both an aggressive Malik and Davene’s looming blues, their colorful personalities coming together in a rainbow. The motif of wash day— as the women wash their own hair and others’, go to the salon, and get braids—invites the reader into the rhythm of their lives, with welcome inclusivity of queer romance, as well as non romantic story lines. This subtle but heartwarming homage to friendship, feminism, and reconciliation sings. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

(Available Formats:  Print Book, Large Print & eBook)

Wedding Dress Circle

Ryan’s latest historical novel, following The Kitchen Front (2021), is another charming read set during WWII and is centered on the lives of three very different women. Grace, Cressida, and Violet have all experienced some form of loss that has impacted their lives, and the war is taking its toll. Grace’s energy is consumed by her work as a vicar’s daughter and her duties as the soon-to-be wife of a vicar. Cressida’s home and business are lost to the blitz. Violet’s dependence on the predictability of class and society is in shambles. Though the women don’t have much in common, they band together to make the best out of a bad situation, and each woman undergoes a transformative journey through their friendships as they learn from one another. While these are fictional characters, Ryan weaves actual events into their story lines, and the backbone of this novel is the clothing shortage during WWII and how people did their best to make-do, particularly brides. Comforting but still rich with interesting history, this will please fans of cozy WWII fiction. – Booklist 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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