Suggested Reading February 8, 2023

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.

And the next Suggested Reading posting will be published on Wednesday, February 15, 2023.

Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

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

The Bean Trees

Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to “Taylor” when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up ’55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor’s passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. A first novel, The Bean Trees is an overwhelming delight, as random and unexpected as real life. The unmistakable voice of its irresistible heroine is whimsical, yet deeply insightful. Taylor playfully names her little foundling “Turtle,” because she clings with an unrelenting, reptilian grip; at the same time, Taylor aches at the thought of the silent, staring child’s past suffering. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson, Ariz., with two flat tires and decides to stay. The desert climate, landscape and vegetation are completely foreign to Taylor, and in learning to love Arizona, she also comes face to face with its rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Similarly, Taylor finds that motherhood, responsibility and independence are thorny, if welcome, gifts. This funny, inspiring book is a marvelous affirmation of risk-taking, commitment and everyday miracles. – Publishers Weekly Review

Better The Blood by Michael Bennett

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

Better Than Blood

Bennett (In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-Cop’s Fight for Justice) makes his fiction debut with a stellar series launch set in contemporary New Zealand that explores the devastating belated consequences of a horrific murder of a Maori chief by six British soldiers in 1863—an act preserved in a daguerreotype. The opening pages reveal the original crime, and it soon becomes apparent that a killer is enacting vengeance on the six soldiers’ descendants. As the body count mounts, Bennett dramatically portrays the psychological fallout of age-old violence upon Auckland police detective Hana Westerman and a range of well-drawn secondary characters; and he convincingly reveals Hana’s inner turmoil and the conflicts inherent among her roles of detective, Maori woman, ex-wife to the senior police officer, and mother to a talented, outspoken teen activist. Told in third person mainly from Hana’s perspective but also from the perspectives of her daughter, the killer, and the victims, the narrative moves at a quick pace. Immersed in modern-day technologies and with a keen sensitivity to cultural issues, this is a finely crafted page-turner. Bennett is a writer to watch.

The Chinese Groove: A Novel by Kathryn Ma

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Chinese Groove

In January 2015, 18-year-old Shelley (sporting the name bequeathed by a beloved English teacher) leaves home in “the most beautiful realm in all of China.” His father can no longer ignore the unprovoked abuse Shelley endures from their extended family and finally fulfills his promise to Shelley’s late mother to send their only son “away from this unhappy life and into a brighter world.” Relying on the titular Chinese groove that links even strangers as long as backgrounds overlap, Shelley lands in San Francisco to start anew with a “conveniently rich” uncle. That “uncle” turns out to be second-cousin-once-removed Ted, who picks him up in a “crapmobile,” stops by Costco, and arrives at a modest “saltbox” to a party (not for Shelley) in progress. Ted’s not-Chinese Jewish wife, Aviva, has already set a two-week limit for Shelley occupying the sagging downstairs sofa. Shelley prevails through English classes, boarding-house woes, homelessness, illegal green-bean prepping, elder-, child-, and dog-care, app development, and more. While reconnecting broken bonds, Shelley succeeds in accomplishing the “Three Achievables . . . Family, Love, Fortune,” albeit eventually and not particularly resembling his initial expectations. Balancing humor and poignancy with seemingly effortless ease, Ma (The Year She Left Us, 2014) is a magnificent storyteller.

Death at the Falls by Rosemary Simpson

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

Death At The Falls

Simpson’s intriguing seventh Gilded Age mystery (after 2021’s The Dead Cry Justice) sends New York investigative attorneys Prudence MacKenzie and Geoffrey Hunter to Niagara Falls in 1890, when land prices are skyrocketing in the face of burgeoning industrialization. Lucas Adderly, before he went missing seven years earlier, put some of his family fortune as well as valuable newly purchased land in trust for his daughter, Rowan, who’s expected to gain control of the trust on her upcoming 18th birthday. Lucas’s greedy mother attempts to block Rowan’s inheritance by claiming that the girl’s late mother was promiscuous and she’s another man’s child. Shortly after arriving in Niagara, Prudence and Geoffrey watch “Crazy Louie” Whiting, who hopes to be the first human to survive a trip over the falls, send a sheep down the cascade in a barrel. When the barrel reaches the bottom, it reveals the corpse of a surveyor’s assistant who suspected collusion between corrupt government officials and those seeking profits from Niagara land. Incorporating characters ranging from Indigenous tribespeople to souvenir shills, Simpson brings Niagara and its contentious modernization to life. This one’s for history buffs and fans of smart female sleuths.

On a Reader’s Note: As noted, this is the seventh book in the Gilded Age series, if you’d like to start reading the series from the beginning, check out book one: What the Dead Leave Behind (2017).

Deluge by Stephen Markley

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)


In this brilliant dystopian epic from Markley (Ohio), spanning from 2013 to 2040, a range of characters attempt to avert catastrophic climate change, sometimes at great personal risk, and with varying degrees of success. There’s geologist Tony Pietrus; climate justice activist Kate Morris; Shane Acosta, a sophisticated ecoterrorist; and Ashir al-Hasan, chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The plot begins in familiar terrain, with scientists sounding the alarm that time is running out. Speculative elements emerge with the meteoric ascent of Morris, whose organization, A Fierce Blue Fire, has made global warming the sole litmus test for its political support. The charismatic Morris also dreams up investment opportunities to benefit neglected and poverty-stricken regions. Interstitial segments, including a newspaper article written by AI about Shane’s truck bombing of an Ohio power station in 2030, add to the sense of frightening plausibility. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic al-Hasan comments in a memo on the “inanity and profiteering that surround the legislative process,” while Pietrus, whose work on methane clathrates is quietly incorporated into government models, remains divisive and marginalized. Markley makes this anything but didactic; his nuanced characterizations of individuals with different approaches to the existential threat make the perils they encounter feel real as they navigate cover-ups and lies. It’s a disturbing tour de force. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone: A Novel by Benjamin Stevenson

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

Everyone in my Family Has Killed Someone

Ernie Cunningham, the narrator of this exceptionally clever and amusing mystery from Stevenson (Either Side of Midnight), hooks the reader immediately with his opening words: “Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once.” Ernie, who acknowledges up front the recent trend in crime fiction for narrators such as himself to be unreliable, self-publishes how-to books for aspiring authors. As another character comments, “You write books about how to write books that you’ve never written, bought by people who will never write one.” It’s been three years since Ernie’s testimony sent his brother Michael to prison for murder after Michael asked Ernie to dispose of a corpse that turned out not to be quite dead yet. While attending a tense family reunion at an Australian ski resort, Ernie winds up in the middle of a real-life whodunit. The death of a stranger, apparently killed by a fire in the snow that didn’t melt any snow, resembles the work of a serial murderer known as the Black Tongue. Along the way, the author tosses in other deaths, past and present. Stevenson carries off this tour de force with all the aplomb of a master magician who conducts his tricks in plain view. This is perfect for Peter Lovesey fans. Starred Publishers Weekly Review

The Forever Witness: How DNA and Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder written and read by Edward Humes

(Available Formats: Print Book and Downloadable Audiobook)

The Forever Witness

In 1987, 18-year-old Tanya Van Cuylenborg and 20-year-old Jay Cook, the victims at the center of this stellar true crime account from Pulitzer Prize winner Humes (Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t), disappeared while on a road trip from Canada to Seattle. Their bodies and their abandoned van were found days later; Tanya had been raped and shot and Jay beaten to death. The case made headlines for months, but it would be 31 years before Bill Talbott, a 55-year-old Seattle trucker “with no criminal convictions on his record and no known connection to the victims,” was arrested, thanks to determined cold case investigator Jim Scharf and genetic genealogist CeCe Moore. Humes delves into Scharf’s and Moore’s personalities and backgrounds while explaining the development of home DNA kits, their use in solving crimes, and the controversy over police use of these private for-profit databases, from which anyone can update a DNA profile to trace their ancestors and unknowingly finger a criminal relative in the process. In “the first-ever genetic genealogy murder trial,” Talbott was convicted in 2019, though he’s currently awaiting a second trial after the first was overturned on appeal based on an issue unrelated to the DNA evidence. Humes matches taut prose with assured storytelling. This fascinating look at how technology has revolutionized crime solving is must reading. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

Hokuloa Road: a Novel

(Available Formats: Print Book & CD Audiobook)

Hokuloa Road

After COVID grinds his carpentry work in Maine to a halt, Grady Kendall takes a long shot and applies for a job as caretaker in Hawaii at an isolated island estate on Hokuloa Road owned by eccentric millionaire Wesley Minton. Grady’s fantasies of a Hawaiian paradise take a dark turn, however, when he’s warned upon arrival that the island tends to punish its inhabitants, and a glaring memorial to dozens of recently vanished people lends foreboding weight to those words. Later, on his own after Minton decamps to an outpost on sacred Hokuloa Point, Grady is confronted by evidence of the island’s lore: an otherworldly, dog-like creature appears near his cottage. When Grady links the creature’s warnings to the disappearance of a woman he befriended on the plane to Hawaii, he realizes he’s been chosen to either find the missing or join them. Horror collides with amateur sleuthing here as the island’s protective spirits seek justice for a predator’s crimes against its sacred space and its adopted people. Hand, author of the iconic 12 Monkeys, is a master at genre-blending stories that feature carefully dosed supernatural malevolence. Here, she wields that mix of horror and thriller to draw together a cast of sympathetically awkward, fiercely loyal outcasts. Another strange, satisfying winner.

The Guest House by Robin Morgan-Bentley

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

The Guest House

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Jamie and Victoria are off for a last quick vacation before the arrival of their first baby. The remote country guesthouse Victoria chose seems like the perfect retreat—miles away from the distractions of work and their regular life. And the older couple that run the establishment, Barry and Fiona, are more than accommodating.

But when Jamie and Victoria awake on their first morning, they find the house deserted. Barry and Fiona are nowhere to be seen. All the doors are locked. And their cell phones and car keys have disappeared.

They have no way out and no way to call for help and the contractions are getting stronger.

Disturbing and irresistible, The Guest House is devilish, jaw-dropping, and completely unpredictable with twists perfect for fans of Riley Sager and Mary Kubica.

Meredith, Alone by Clarie Alexander

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Meredith Alone

Alexander’s satisfying debut follows a woman who hasn’t left her home for over three years. Meredith Maggs, nearing her 40th birthday, is content to live within the confines of her Glasgow flat, working as a freelance writer, solving jigsaw puzzles, and spending time with her best friend, Sadie, who helps with such errands as taking Meredith’s cat to the vet. Meredith finds company in an online mental health support group, where she meets Celeste, a kindred soul who loves cats as much as Meredith does. Also keeping her company is Tom McDermott, a volunteer from the Holding Hands charity whose objective is to offer “friendship and support to anyone who needs it.” She insists on not needing charity, but Tom turns out to be a caring companion with whom Meredith enjoys sharing biscuits and poetry. He gently prods into her past, seeking the reason she stopped going outside and stirring up memories of her difficult childhood. The measured pace keeps the plot moving even as most of the action takes place within Meredith’s flat, and the endearing characters offer a sensitive portrayal of what it means to live with mental health issues. The result is a quiet slice-of-life story with heart to spare. – 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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