Suggested Reading December 7, 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 published on Wednesdays.

And as it is already December (how did that happen so fast?!), the suggested reading posts for this month will feature some of the most popular and critically acclaimed titles published in 2022.

The next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Wednesday, December 14, 2022.

The Choice by Nora Roberts

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Choice

Bestseller Roberts expertly weaves threads from the previous two books of her Dragon Heart Legacy series into an epic climax and gratifying grand finale (following The Becoming). Life continues in the magical world of Talamh in the aftermath of the Battle of the Dark Portal: fallen loved ones are honored, couples wed, babies are born, and the wheel of the year turns. But the shadow of the evil god Odran, who hopes to crush Talamh and rule all the worlds, still looms, and series protagonist Breen and her found family prepare for a final confrontation between the forces of light and darkness. The world and characters are comfortably established by this point, allowing readers to be swept away by waves of events as the battle intensifies. Though the broad outcomes are easily anticipated, Roberts raises the stakes enough to keep readers guessing from moment to moment. Add in a little romance to round out the tale, and the result is a rewarding outing for old and new fans alike. -Publishers Weekly Review

Reader’s Note: The Choice is the third title in the Dragon Heart Legacy series. If you’d like to start reading the series from the beginning check out book one: The Awakening.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

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

Demon Copperhead

“A kid is a terrible thing to be, in charge of nothing.” So says young Damon Fields, who’s destined to be known as Demon Copperhead, a hungry orphan in a snake-harboring holler in Lee County, Virginia, where meth and opioids kill and nearly everyone is just scraping by. With his red hair and the “light-green eyes of a Melungeon,” Damon’s a dead-ringer for his dead father, whom he never met. More parent to his mother than she was to him, he’s subjected to hellish foster situations after her death, forced into hard labor, including a stint in a tobacco field, which ignites one of many righteous indictments of greed and exploitation. Damon funnels his dreams into drawings of superheroes, art being one of his secret powers. After risking his life to find his irascible grandmother, he ends up living in unnerving luxury with Coach Winfield and his smart, caustic, motherless daughter. Kingsolver’s capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny survivor’s tale is a virtuoso present-day variation on Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, and she revels in creating wicked and sensitive character variations, dramatic trials-by-fire, and resounding social critiques, all told from Damon’s frank and piercing point of view in vibrantly inventive language. Every detail stings or sings as he reflects on nature, Appalachia, family, responsibility, love, and endemic social injustice. Kingsolver’s tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance. -Booklist Review

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD Audiobook, eBook & Downloadable Audiobook)

Fairy Tale

King’s latest novel follows Charlie, a teen boy who befriends local recluse Mr. Bowditch and his elderly dog, Radar. Soon after, Mr. Bowditch passes away, leaving everything to Charlie, including a cassette tape that reveals the existence of a portal to another world in an old garden shed. Hoping to use the magic of this other world to restore Radar’s youth, Charlie enters Empis and becomes drawn into a desperate struggle to prevent this already sick and dying world from being finally destroyed. King’s fantasy otherworld, which some characters posit is the source of many fairy-tale or fantastic stories, is by its nature a bit of a hodgepodge of various existing references, with some occasional striking images of its own (millions of monarch butterflies, a telepathic cricket). While this novel certainly doesn’t break new ground for King or for the fantasy genre, it should please King’s existing fans, especially those who enjoyed the more complex otherworlds of the Dark Tower series or King’s earlier fantasy work, The Eyes of the Dragon (1987).

HIGH DEMAND BACKSTORY: A new novel from King means lots of interest and lots of holds. -Booklist Review

Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor by Kim Kelly

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Fight Like Hell

Labor journalist Kelly looks back to the early days of U.S. industrialization in this freshly inclusive review of the country’s labor history. Beginning with the mill girls of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in 1824, she moves forward chronologically, providing insightful glimpses into dozens of strikes, union actions, and bloody confrontations. Kelly purposefully highlights events involving often overlooked groups, including Indigenous, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American women. Readers will also find famous episodes covered, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the Haymarket massacre, but the emphasis is on people and events that remain relatively unknown. Kelly’s well-documented research and straightforward writing style allow her to pack an enormous amount of material into these pages, but the narrative never reads as dull or dense. Moving from one topic to another–miners to harvesters to cleaners–she provides a concise but comprehensive narrative that serves as an excellent entry point for new understanding of work in America. With union movements enjoying renewed support and influence, readers will find a lot of value in this previously “”untold”” history. -Booklist Review

French Braid by Anne Tyler

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD Audiobook, eBook & Downloadable Audiobook)

French Braid

Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road) returns with a dry and well-crafted look at a family that inexplicably comes apart over several decades. Serena Drew, a 20-something Baltimore grad student traveling with her boyfriend, James, thinks she recognizes her cousin, Nicholas Garrett, in the crowd at a Philadelphia train station in 2010, but she can’t say for sure because she hasn’t seen him for years. “You guys give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘once removed,’ ” James says, and wonders if “some deep dark secret” might explain why Serena rarely sees her aunt Alice or her uncle David, Nicholas’s father. But the explanation, as it happens, is not so simple. This also turns out not to be Serena’s story, as Tyler leaves the young couple for late 1950s Baltimore, where Alice; Serena’s mother, Lily; and David are raised by their mismatched parents, a socially awkward plumber named Robin and begrudging housewife Mercy, who wants to be an artist. Once the parents become empty nesters, Mercy spends most of her days and nights in her neighboring studio. There are no big reveals, but Tyler’s focus on character development proves fruitful; a reunion organized by the wistful Robin in the ’90s is particularly affecting, as is a coda with David during the Covid-19 pandemic. As always, Tyler offers both comfort and surprise. -Publishers Weekly Review

The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family by Kerri K. Greenidge

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Grimkes

Tufts University historian Greenidge (Black Radical) delivers a revelatory study of the Grimke family and their complicated involvement in the fight for racial equality. Quaker sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, suffering from spiritual guilt over slavery—yet willing to receive financial support from their slaveholding relatives—relocated from Charleston, S.C., to Philadelphia in the 1820s and became influential abolitionists and women’s rights activists who emphasized the detrimental effects of the “peculiar institution” on white women’s souls. After the Civil War, they learned that their brother Henry had fathered three sons by an enslaved woman, and Greenidge incisively details how the sisters’ relationships with their nephews, Archibald, Francis, and John Grimke, got tangled up in assumptions of white privilege and assertions of Black freedom. Also spotlighted are Francis Grimke’s wife, Charlotte Forten Grimke, a writer and teacher whose paternal grandmother and aunts cofounded one of America’s first abolitionist women’s organizations and frequently clashed with white women over ideology and tactics, and Archibald’s daughter, Harlem Renaissance playwright Angelina Weld Grimke, who promoted the concept of racial uplift, popular among middle- and upper-class Blacks as they distanced themselves from the poor and uneducated in pursuit of racial equality. Greenidge offers no tidy or optimistic conclusions about the long shadow of slavery, but readers will be riveted by how she brings these complex figures and their era to life. This is a brilliant and essential history. -Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Haven by Emma Donoghue

(Available Formats: Print Book, Large Print, CD Audiobook

Haven

Skellig Michael, a steep, rocky island off the southwestern Irish coast, is the setting for this atmospheric work, an imagined story about its early human inhabitants. In the seventh century, Artt, a scholar-priest guided by a dream, asks two monks to join him on a pilgrimage to an empty isle “less tainted by the world’s breath.” Excited at achieving a greater life purpose, the elderly Cormac, a talented storyteller and mason, agrees to go, as does Trian, a lanky, adventurous younger man. From the days-long boat journey through their mission to establish an island settlement and worship God appropriately, their work is arduous. Donoghue’s (The Pull of the Stars, 2020) prose glimmers with images of the pristine natural world, including many varieties of sea birds, but as Artt’s sanctimonious piety increasingly challenges common sense, Cormac and Trian wonder if their vows of obedience will doom them. As always, Donoghue extracts realistic emotions from characters interacting within close quarters and delicately explores the demands of faith. This evocative historical novel also works as a cautionary tale about the dangers of religious control.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Donoghue’s readers and all lovers of thought-provoking literary fiction will be looking for this quietly dramatic tale. -Booklist Review

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

(Available Formats: Print Book, eBook & Downloadable Audiobook)

Marriage Portrait

Following the critically acclaimed Hamnet (2020), O’Farrell creates another mesmerizing portrait of a Renaissance-era woman whose life is shrouded in mystery. “My Last Duchess,” Robert Browning’s poem about Lucrezia de’ Medici (1545-61), gave voice to the longstanding rumors that its subject was murdered by her husband, Alfonso, duke of Ferrara. Was she, and if so, why? A member of Florence’s large ruling family, Lucrezia, a restless dreamer who adores animals and creating art, is devastated to learn, at age 12, about plans for her to wed her late sister’s fiance. While Alfonso appears charming, she later witnesses his cruel streak. O’Farrell shines at instilling elegantly described scenes with human feeling, such as Lucrezia’s wedding preparations and her sense of inner strength while viewing the sunrise transform the sky at Alfonso’s country villa. The author proves equally skilled at evoking suspense. This she accomplishes by alternating between Lucrezia’s earlier life and the time when Alfonso brings Lucrezia, his 16-year-old bride, to an isolated stone fortress–perhaps to kill her. The potential motive won’t surprise anyone familiar with noblewomen’s dynastic roles. Historical-fiction readers will love the cultural details, while Lucrezia’s plight speaks to modern themes of gaslighting and women’s agency. The leitmotif of “underpainting,” hiding truths beneath the surface, echoes throughout this poetically written, multilayered novel.- Booklist Review

Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Nights of Plague

The bubonic plague afflicts a remote outpost of the Ottoman empire, inflaming old tensions but also presenting an opportunity for radical political change. In the stormy Mediterranean, somewhere between Rhodes and Alexandria, lies Pamuk’s imagined island, Mingheria, the “Pearl of the Levant.” The Quarantine Authority has well-rehearsed protocols to limit the spread of disease (and squelch unhelpful news reports). But the Ottoman “sick man of Europe” is fading, and the illness that sweeps the land in 1901 is unusually cruel. The island’s Greek and Muslim elders jostle for position. But the Sultan’s investigator, Bonkowski Pasha, has been murdered under mysterious circumstances, and a new Mingherian nationalism is ascendant. For the patriotic Major Kamil and his young wife, Zehnap, history calls. Deftly blending rich realism and wry social commentary, Turkish Nobel laureate Pamuk (My Name Is Red, 2017) delivers an invented history that leverages the all-too-familiar experience of a deadly pandemic to return to one of his cherished topics: Ottoman bureaucratic and social reform. The continued volatility of the Turkish political environment and the potency of Pamuk’s allegory were underscored when, upon this novel’s Turkish publication in 2021, Pamuk faced a criminal inquiry for allegedly besmirching Turkey’s founder, Ataturk. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pamuk is always a must-read, and the potency and timeliness of this novel will stir even more interest. -Booklist Review

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

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

Swimmers

Otsuka (The Buddha in the Attic) delivers a quick and tender story of a group of swimmers who cope with the disruption of their routines in various ways. The regulars at a pool range in age, ability, and swimming habits, and are connected by an incessant need to swim. When a crack shows up in the deep end of lane four, the swimmers all grows nervous about the pool’s future. While the “nonswimmers” in their lives (also known as “crack deniers”) dismiss the swimmers’ concerns, the swimmers collectively discover how the crack “quietly lodges itself, unbeknownst to you, in the recesses of your mind”—except for cheerful Alice, who has swum in the pool for 35 years and now has dementia. Some members stop going to the pool out of fear, while others try to get close to the crack. Just before the pool is closed, Alice determines to get in “Just one more lap.” Otsuka cleverly uses various points of view: the swimmers’ first-person-plural narration effectively draws the reader into their world, while the second person keenly conveys the experiences of Alice’s daughter, who tries to recoup lost time with her mother after Alice loses hold of her memories and moves into a memory care facility. It’s a brilliant and disarming dive into the characters’ inner worlds. -Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Have a great day!

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.

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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