Suggested Reading: March 22, 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, March 29, 2023.

American Mermaid by Julia Langbein

(Available Formats: Print Book)

American Mermaid

When Penelope Schleeman, a 33-year-old English teacher, published her debut novel, a feminist eco-thriller entitled American Mermaid, the last thing she expected was for it to become a viral sensation thanks to a popular Instagram influencer. Suddenly, her book is everywhere, and before long, Hollywood comes calling. Thus begins Penelope’s odyssey into the tumultuous world of screenwriting, where she’s paired with two young male screenwriters, Murphy and Randy, to adapt her novel for the big screen. Penelope relocates to Los Angeles, where she attends glamorous parties with her agent, Danielle, and watches her bank account balance grow to numbers she never even dreamed of while teaching in Connecticut. And yet, as she witnesses her mermaid heroine Sylvia transformed from an introspective twentysomething student of science grappling with her asexuality to a bold, sexy teen action-hero destined to make the ultimate sacrifice, Penelope starts to fear that she’s losing sight of the soul of her story and, perhaps, herself as well. Filled with wit and more than few laugh-out-loud moments, Langbein’s tale alternates between Penelope’s own adventures and chapters from her novel, making for a downright delightful debut novel. – Booklist Review

The Donut Legion by Joe Lansdale

(Available Formats: Print Book)

The Donut Legion

Charlie Garner is a former PI turned writer living in the dusty byways of East Texas, but he’s forced to give investigating another whirl when his ex-wife, Meg, and her new husband disappear. Whether in his celebrated Hap and Leonard series or in many fine stand-alones (Moon Lake, 2021), Lansdale has always displayed a master chef’s hand at blending genre and tone–horror, crime, coming-of-age realism, black humor–into perfectly emulsified, tasty entrees. He’s at it again here as Charlie, brother Felix, and wacky fellow investigator and would-be author Amelia “”Scrappy”” Moon follow Meg’s trail to a donut shop run by a cult that calls itself the Saucer People, so-named for the mound on their compound that they believe shields a flying saucer that will soon transport believers to a new world. Before takeoff, however, the cult, led by a psycho called the Cowboy and his enforcer, a chimpanzee answering to Mr. Biggs, has some doubters to dispatch–cue the severed limbs. Mixing horror and thriller is fairly commonplace these days, but few can match Lansdale at finding wit and tenderness bobbing along in the wake of the gore. – Booklist Review

Flight Paths: How A Passionate And Quirky Group Of Pioneering Scientists Solved The Mystery Of Bird Migration by Rebeca Heisman 

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Flight Paths

Science writer Heisman debuts with a winning examination of the seasonal movements of birds, tracing how scientific understanding of bird migration has evolved and detailing the technologies that ornithologists employ to study them today. Highlighting improbable theories proposed throughout history, she notes that Aristotle believed some “winter and summer residents were in fact the same birds in different plumages,” a 16th-century Swedish priest thought swallows hibernated at the bottom of lakes, and an English minister postulated that birds wintered on the moon. Contemporary scientists, the author notes, track flocks via radar and search for clues about where a bird traveled from by analyzing deuterium (“a very special type of hydrogen atom”) isotopes in feathers and matching them to regional variations in deuterium levels. She profiles the ornithologists behind these advances and tells how, for instance, evolutionary biologist Thomas Smith built on genome-sequencing technology to map genetic variation in warblers, finding that distinct genetic groups follow different migratory routes. Heisman pulls off the impressive feat of making technical discussions of genome sequencing and isotope analysis accessible, and the profiles offer revealing glimpses into the process and production of scientific knowledge. Admirers of Scott Weidensaul’s A World on the Wing will find this a treat. – Starred Publishers Weekly Review

A Half Baked Murder by Emily George

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

A Half Baked Murder

DEBUT This fun and fact-filled thematic entry into the cozy mystery genre has it all: a twisty murder investigation, a charming small town, a potential romance with the single guy next door, and recipes. At 28, Chloe Barnes has returned home, which wasn’t her plan. Her original plan was to stay in Paris, marry a handsome head chef, and bake amazing pastries in the best restaurants. But when her fiancé cheats on her and she receives a bad review from a critic, she decides it’s time to come home and care for her grandmother who’s been diagnosed with cancer. After baking some cannabis-laced treats for Grandma Rose to help ease her pain, Chloe decides to open a cannabis cafe in the quaint coastal California town. She is also compelled to investigate the murder of the town bully, after her aunt/business partner becomes the prime suspect.

VERDICT With increasing acceptance of cannabis as a supplement to medical care, this series starter helps normalize its use and promotes safe consumption, complete with designated drivers. Highly recommended. – Starred Library Journal Review

Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years Of  Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry And  Hope by Sarah Bakewell

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Humanly Possible

NBCC Award winner Bakewell (How to Live) brilliantly tracks the development of humanism over seven centuries of intellectual history. Humanism, she concedes, isn’t easy to define, though it fundamentally centers “the lives and experiences of people here on earth.” Drawing on the usual suspects (Erasmus, Voltaire, Bertrand Russell), as well as less expected luminaries (Ludwik Zamenhof, who invented Esperanto in hopes that a universalized language might promote multicultural understanding), Bakewell takes readers through the evolution of central humanistic concerns—whether life can be understood without God (“humanism warns us against neglecting the tasks of our current world in favor of dreams of paradise”); human interconnectivity (the South African concept of “ubuntu” for human relationality; the interconnectedness in E.M. Forster’s writing); and the importance of education (which Erasmus believed “should train a person to be at home in the world”). She also discusses humanism in philosophy, politics, and medicine, the latter of which centers the humanist goal of “mitigating suffering” even if some early interventions harmed more than helped. On the flipside, Bakewell unpacks antihumanism, which “point out the many ways fall short,” though she notes humanism and antihumanism have historically worked to “renew and energize each other.” Erudite and accessible, Bakewell’s survey pulls together diverse historical threads without sacrificing the up-close details that give this work its spark. Even those who already consider themselves humanists will be enlightened. – Starred Publishers Weekly

Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Moonrise Over New Jessup

Civil rights-era fiction generally presupposes that all African Americans fought ardently for integration. Yet in her first novel, winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize, Minnicks brilliantly presents the Black struggle through an anti-integration lens that is equally powerful and persuasive. Alice, on the run from an abusive white neighbor, finds herself in New Jessup, Alabama, an all-Black town with a history of fierce independence. To Alice, New Jessup is miraculous. As she falls in love with Randall, a son of one of the town founders, she grows determined to protect this island of safety and cultural pride. All Randall wants is financial and political independence from the exploitative whites beyond the woods, and neither has any use for race mixing. Yet they are beset by Black integration activists as well as conservative town elders who fear that any “agitation” will spell the community’s doom. At a time when many African Americans are questioning the value of integration and the subsequent loss of Black community institutions, Alice and Randall’s principled commitment to “separate but equal” segregation is not easily dismissed. – Booklist Review

A Novel Proposal by Denise Hunter

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

A Novel Proposal

Hunter (Bookshop by the Sea) opens this heartwarming romance with Queens, N.Y., western writer Sadie Goodwin learning that her publisher wants her to switch genres to romance. Luckily, her best friend offers Sadie the use of her mother’s South Carolina beach duplex for a summer of writing. There, Sadie meets grouchy Sam Ford, the duplex’s other tenant, and sets up a Little Free Library for the community. When someone leaves a book in the library containing a secret compartment hiding a beautiful engagement ring, Sadie’s determined to get the book back to its proper owner—whoever the bookish proposal was meant for. To succeed, however, she’ll need Sam to use his connections as a local. In exchange for helping, Sam asks Sadie to be his plus one at the wedding of his former girlfriend and his cousin, though he doesn’t explain just how fraught the situation is. Working together leads Sam to warm to Sadie’s endlessly cheerful nature and Sadie to see behind Sam’s gruff exterior, but Sam struggles to open his heart to love after having been burned before. Hunter’s charismatic and complex characters effortlessly propel the story. Readers won’t want to put this down. – Publishers Weekly Review

Stone Blind: A Novel by Natalie Haynes

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Stone Blind

Feminist retellings of Greek myths are all the rage, and Haynes (A Thousand Ships, 2021) stands among the foremost authors in this area. Her third such novel melds her classics expertise (see her nonfiction work, Pandora’s Jar, 2022) with a conversational style and biting humor. With snakes for hair and a petrifying gaze, Medusa has been considered a horrible monster, but Haynes makes us rethink this characterization. The only mortal among the Gorgons along Libya’s shores, Medusa is an attractive, curious young woman growing up under her loving older sisters’ care. Her rape by Poseidon in Athene’s temple traumatizes her; so does Athene’s act of revenge. Perseus, the supposed hero seeking to decapitate a Gorgon, is an incompetent adventurer without the sense to ask for directions. Seen from multiple perspectives, including those of Perseus’ mother, Dana’s; prickly goddesses; and the Gorgoneion (Medusa’s head), which speaks with candor, this tale evokes passionate fury on behalf of its heroine, a tragic victim of male violence. Her death scene is utterly heartbreaking. It all begs the question, How could we have gotten Medusa’s story so wrong? – Publishers Weekly Review

Time’s Undoing by Cheryl Head

(Available Formats: Print Book & eBook)

Time's Undoing

Head, the award-winning author of the Charlie Mack Motown mystery featuring a Black, female, queer PI, brings her gift for strong women protagonists and suspense to this tale about a young, Black, female journalist from Detroit on a dangerous quest. In 1929, a Black master carpenter, Robert Lee Harrington, is killed in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2019, his great-granddaughter, Meghan McKenzie, decides to go to Birmingham to hunt down the hidden truth about Harrington’s life and unsolved murder. Head charts every step in Meghan’s Birmingham investigation, from her gutsy, seemingly fated research to her finding friends and allies, including a Black woman activist, a white librarian destined to make painful discoveries about her family, and a distractingly sexy Black man working in the mayor’s social justice office. Harrington’s harrowing story of Jim Crow racism and violence is equally vivid and affecting. After being forced to leave Florida, he has finally brought his beautiful pregnant wife and their young daughter to Birmingham only to have trouble hunt him down one final time. As threats intensify against Meghan, Head dramatizes the ongoing horrors of white supremacy, police brutality, and the “conspiracy of hate,” but she also spotlights the way people come together to fight for justice. This heart-seizing tale even has a touch of the supernatural as it celebrates Black lives. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Thanks to strong prepub buzz and its deeply resonant subject, Head’s commanding novel will be on many “”must read”” lists. – Booklist Review

Two Wars And A Wedding by Lauren Willig

(Available Formats: Print Book)

Two Wars And A Wedding

Willig (Band of Sisters) delivers a winning epic of war and friendship in the late 19th century. The nonlinear timeline begins with Betsy Hayes, a Smith College graduate and aspiring archaeologist, boarding a boat for Cuba in 1898, determined to stop her estranged friend, Ava, from taking a dangerous nursing post during the Spanish American War. Betsy had already witnessed the horror of the Greco-Turkish War, and though the details don’t come out until later, Betsy believes her own life is of little value. In flashbacks to Athens, where Betsy had traveled two years earlier hoping to work on a dig, she meets Charles de Robecourt, a charming married archeologist who gives her a leg up (they also have an affair, and she falls in love with him). But Betsy’s choice to become a nurse when war breaks out in Greece drives a wedge between her and Ava, who doesn’t think Betsy is cut out for the work, and she faces further heartache involving Charles. Willig’s strong character work and extensive research on the Smith College Relief Unit brings Betsy to vivid life. The harrowing battle details, too, are spot on, from the Spaniards’ smokeless gunpowder to the menacing whine of a Mauser bullet. Readers will devour this riveting tale. – Starred 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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