Suggested Reading: December 1, 2022

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

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

Weekly Suggested Reading postings are now published on Wednesdays. Unless Linda is swamped, and them, occasionally, they are published on Thursdays as it the case today!

And the next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

(Available Formats: eBook & Hoopla instant check out audiobook)

Before Your Memory Fades

Kawaguchi returns with the heart-warming third installment of his internationally best-selling series (following Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Tales from the Cafe). Instead of taking place at the small Tokyo caf Funiculi Funicula, this story occurs at caf Donna Donna in Hakodate, a city on the island of Hokkaido. As at Funiculi Funicula, Donna Donna customers are given the opportunity to travel back in time, but they must follow a list of rules, the most important one being they must return to the present before their cup of coffee gets cold. Like the two previous books, this title follows four new customers wanting to travel back in time: a daughter, a comedian, a sister, and a young man in love. The first and last stories, “The Daughter” and “The Young Man,” are the standouts in this book.

VERDICT Fans of Kawaguchi’s series will enjoy this latest installment. While the stories are similar to previous ones, readers will enjoy reading about a new group of customers and seeing some familiar faces. Kawaguchi’s comforting and thought-provoking book is perfect reading for cold winter nights.-Library Journal Review

The Call of the Wrens Jenni L. Walsh

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant check out eBook & audiobook)

The Call of the Wrens

Walsh (Becoming Bonnie) offers an enticing story of two Englishwomen serving their country during both world wars. In 1917, Marion Hoxton ages out of the orphanage she was raised in and joins the Women’s Royal Naval Service (the “Wrens”), while her best friend Eddie Smith joins the Royal Navy. As they each make their way toward the front lines in France, their friendship develops into romance. Meanwhile, Marion works as a dispatch rider and helps her new friend Sara train carrier pigeons to send and retrieve messages. In a parallel narrative set in 1940, well-to-do Evelyn Fairchild joins the Wrens, desperate to prove she’s overcome a childhood disability impacting one of her legs by serving as a motorcycle driver. Evelyn and Marion’s paths cross when Marion returns to be a leader in the new Wrens, her romance with Eddie having turned out not as they’d hoped. Marion also harbors a secret about Evelyn’s true parentage, as Evelyn’s parents failed to disclose she was adopted. Walsh expertly contrasts the lives of orphaned Marion with privileged Evelyn to expose their common desire to show their value outside societal labels. Historical fiction fans will be riveted. – Publishers Weekly Review

Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Death on a Winter Stroll

In December, Nantucket would be desolate and bleak, except for the Christmas Stroll event—the first since Covid began—which lends the town a festive air in Mathews’s knotty seventh Merry Folger mystery (after 2020’s Death on Tuckernuck). Two disparate groups arrive on the island: the Secretary of State and her family, and a cast and crew filming a murder mystery TV show. Merry, recently promoted to police chief, is tasked with assisting the security detail for Madam Secretary and keeping the Stroll running smoothly. When two dead bodies are found, Merry and Howie Seitz, recently promoted to Merry’s old detective job, must uncover the web of connections among the murder victims, the many visitors, and island denizens, including a National Geographic photographer-naturalist. The solve depends on a fairly simple, conventional clue, but many of the character motivations are both complex and coherent. The Secretary’s seemingly feckless stepson befriends the TV star’s daughter, and their tender, genuine relationship steals the emotional show. Fresh, well-wrought prose brings the setting of Nantucket to life. Mathews consistently entertains. – Publishers Weekly Review

Reader’s Note: As mentioned in the review, Death on a Winter Stroll is the seventh book in the Merry Folger series, if you’d like to start reading the series from the beginning checkout book one: Death in the Off Season.

The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks by Gwendolyn Brooks

(Available Formats: eBook)

The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks

Discover the most enduring works of the legendary poet and first black author to win a Pulitzer Prize—now in one collectible volume

“If you wanted a poem,” wrote Gwendolyn Brooks, “you only had to look out of a window. There was material always, walking or running, fighting or screaming or singing.” From the life of Chicago’s South Side she made a forceful and passionate poetry that fused Modernist aesthetics with African-American cultural tradition, a poetry that registered the life of the streets and the upheavals of the 20th century. Starting with A Street in Bronzeville (1945), her epoch-making debut volume, The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks traces the full arc of her career in all its ambitious scope and unexpected stylistic shifts.

“Her formal range,” writes editor Elizabeth Alexander, “is most impressive, as she experiments with sonnets, ballads, spirituals, blues, full and off-rhymes. She is nothing short of a technical virtuoso.” That technical virtuosity was matched by a restless curiosity about the life around her in all its explosive variety. By turns compassionate, angry, satiric, and psychologically penetrating, Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetry retains its power to move and surprise.

The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories by Jamil Jan Kochal:

(Available Formats: eBook)

The Haunting of Hajji Hotak

In this captivating collection, Afghan writer Kochai (99 Nights in Logar) paints intimate portraits of Afghans and Afghan Americans. In turns amusing and devastating, the stories are rich with vivid scenes and distinct narrative voices, and are mostly set in California or Logar. “Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain,” told in an engaging second-person narration, follows a teenage boy in California who plays video game set during the Soviet-Afghan War in order to connect with his father, a former mujahid. In “Enough,” an aging woman reflects on her past as she loses her grip on reality. “Occupational Hazards” tells an Afghan man’s life story in the form of a CV, with overlapping pastoral experiences chronicled under “Shepherd” and “Grade School Student” in Logar in the 1960s and ’70s giving way to a harrowing stint under “Mujahid” from 1980 – 1981 (“Duties included: transporting a rewired Soviet bomb that had landed in the center of Hajji Alo’s compound without exploding; avoiding Communist kill squads and Soviet airpower”), and culminating with a beautiful reveal. Many of these stories end in violence or tragedy, but on the whole, the collection is far from repetitive; the range of framing and styles keeps the reader on their toes and delivers emotional impact in one hard-hitting entry after another. Readers won’t want to miss this. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

(Available Formats: Print Book & Large Print)

The Hero of This Book

McCracken (The Souvenir Museum) blurs fiction and memoir with a mischievous and loving portrait of her late mother. The unnamed narrator dislikes memoirs, and her mother, Natalie, whom she revered, “distrusted” them. So the narrator turns to fiction, claiming that all it takes to leap from the dreaded realm of grief memoirs is to make a few things up, such as the desk clerk at the London hotel she checks in to in 2019, a year after Natalie’s death, to sort through her thoughts and feelings. Despite her avowed opposition to memoir, she unleashes a flood of details about Natalie while wandering around London, describing how the short Jewish woman’s cerebral palsy made walking a struggle, and how she had to cultivate a stubborn nature to ignore the “muttering” of those who doubted her potential. (She ended up a beloved magazine editor in Boston.) The narrator lists a few made-up details that diverge from McCracken’s own life: “the fictional me is unmarried, an only child, childless,” and she notes how novelists are free to kill off characters as needed. What emerges alongside this love letter to the restive Natalie is an engaging character study of a narrator who views everything through the lens of fiction (“Your family is the first novel that you know”). It’s a refreshing outing, and one that sees McCracken gleefully shatter genre lines. – Publisher Weekly Review

Jackal: A Novel by Erin. E. Adams

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)


Liz Rocher, the Black narrator of Adams’s stellar debut, an unforgettable gut punch of a horror thriller, returns reluctantly home to Johnstown, Pa., a largely white rust belt town, for the wedding of her white best friend, Mel Parker. When Mel’s mixed-race daughter, Caroline, disappears in the woods, Liz’s attempts to find Caroline lead her to the discovery of years of police cover-ups of the deaths of Black girls in the woods, their hearts neatly removed, and the revival of her own memories of hiding in the woods the night a fellow Black teen was murdered. Adams’s careful plotting impresses with the subtle organic feel of embedded clues primed to emerge as relevant much later. The girls’ thoughts are included at various points, and the reader is thrown off balance when the narrative shift to the point of view of the supernatural killer at the moment of violence. At the same time, Adams skillfully presents changing theories about the possible humans involved as Liz struggles with who to trust and navigates dreamscapes that seem increasingly real. This novel is a masterful and emotionally wrenching gem of Black storytelling. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Red Rose Chain

It should have been a happy time for half-fae knight October (Toby) Daye: she’s planning her wedding to King of Cats Tybalt and is in the good graces of Arden, the new Queen of the Mists. But when the former holder of that title decides she wants her kingdom back and convinces a neighboring kingdom to declare war on the Mists, Arden sends Toby to negotiate peace. It’s a compelling choice, as Toby is much more likely to stir up trouble wherever she goes. In the Kingdom of Silences, she finds a realm ruled by a tyrannical king who loathes changelings such as Toby.

VERDICT Sustaining a series over nine volumes is not an easy feat, and McGuire keeps things fresh by allowing Toby to grow while keeping her core values of protecting the weak and the innocent. This new entry (after The Winter Long) takes Toby away from her usual stomping ground and limits her allies, giving the dangerous situation extra tension. – Library Journal Review

Reader’s Note: This is the ninth book in the October Daye series, if you’d like to start reading from the beginning check out book one: Rosemary And Rue.

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

(Available Formats: Print Book, eBook & Hoopla instant check out eBook & audiobook)

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery

Cox follows The Edge of Belonging (2020) with a novel that portrays three generations of women and dramatizes the ways the impact of family misunderstandings are passed down over and over again. After tragically losing her husband, Sarah Ashby returns to Brighton, Tennessee, and Old Depot Grocery, which her family has maintained for decades. Her mother, Rosemary, is desperate to sell the store, but keeps her true motive hidden while Sarah’s grandmother, Glory Ann, finds solace there, squeaky floorboards and all, since the store gave her a second chance at life long ago. While Sarah plays peacemaker and seeks healing within the familiar aisles, she uncovers a long-buried secret. Masterfully told from each woman’s perspective and across two time lines, Cox’s tale articulates the emotional trauma each woman experiences while also weaving in forgiveness and hope. Readers will fall in love with Old Depot Grocery and its women as Cox explores themes of loneliness and isolation and highlights mother-daughter relationships and the strength of the female spirit. Cox is a writer to turn to for emotionally rich and redemptive fiction. – Starred Booklist Review

What We Found in Hallelujah by Vanessa Miller

(Available Formats: Hoopla instant checkout eBook & audiobook)

What We Found in Hallelujah

Two sisters reunite with their mother in Hallelujah, S.C., in the satisfying latest from Miller (Something Good). The death of family patriarch Henry Reynolds followed by the disappearance of his youngest daughter, 14-year-old Trinity, fractured the relationships among the remaining family members: Henry’s wife, Ruby, and daughters Faith and Hope. Eighteen years later, Hope lives in California and Faith lives in Atlanta, dealing with her strained marriage and obstinate teenage daughter, Crystal. Ruby convinces Hope and Faith to come home, citing an unwise business deal she’s made that’s put their beachfront home at risk of repossession, but their visit is tense and painful. As Hope confronts Ruby about a devastating family secret that’s kept them estranged, Faith starts to suspect that Crystal has been suffering from the same mental illness that ailed Trinity. With a hurricane approaching Hallelujah, Ruby must confront how her stubbornness and distance from God have kept her from having fulfilling relationships with her daughters. A dramatic plot and uplifting resolution make up for the occasionally stilted dialogue. The result is a potent testament to the power of faith and family in the face of tragedy. – Publishers Weekly 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.

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).

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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