3 Books Following People Trying to Do Things Better

November 10, 2017 by

[Lesley] Not sure if it’s cheating to include three books in one review, but I read these fairly close together and they definitely reminded me of each other in some ways.

I tend to like books that relate a project someone takes on, or a challenge they set for themselves, or new skills (or new whatever) they have set a goal to learn – with a deadline. Basically the genre: change your life in X days. But – I don’t like the ones that seem too good to be true, or that send the message if you just do everything exactly as that person did, you will be successful and happy for the rest of your life. I want the people writing these books to be honest, funny, self-deprecating, and to have the same obstacles most of us face (money, time, space, no personal trainer or full time domestic staff, etc.).

If you like this kind of thing too, you might be interested in one of these titles:

I loved the quirky “projects” each of these books details, mainly because the people involved were funny, real, and not shy about either their “wins” or their failures. I don’t read these books because I plan to try any of what they describe myself – but more as memoirs of just one piece of someone’s life.

I read Year of No Clutter and No Cheating, No Dying in print, and listened to The Marriage Test. I loved the audiobook which mirrored the book’s alternating voices/perspectives with two readers, a woman and a man. It made me feel like I was actually listening to the authors talk conversationally about their experiences – kind of like a Story Corps recording. Initially when I checked out No Cheating, No Dying I thought it might be too similar to The Marriage Test; but the voices were so different, and the authors at different parts of their lives and relationships that it wasn’t repetitive at all. In fact, it was more interesting to have the two stories on a wider spectrum.

Know of any other books of this type that I should put on my “to-read” list? Let me know! librarydirector@wigginml.org


Cinnamon, by Neil Gaiman

October 31, 2017 by


It won’t surprise Gaiman fans that he presents this fairy-taleish story with surprising and delightful language and a wry, humorous take on the adult world from a child’s (and tiger’s perspective). I read it several times and enjoyed it even more with each reading. Much of the style and language hearkens back to Kipling’s Just-So Stories (I could almost hear the O Best Beloved in some of Gaiman’s phrasings), but it is like a nod to an old master by a new one – not derivative in any way, more a recognition of a long tradition in storytelling.

The story is about an Indian princess (named Cinnamon, of course) who is blind and who does not speak. Cinnamon’s well-meaning parents bring in many teachers to whom they promise wealth, etc. if they can get the girl to talk. Finally, a man-eating tiger arrives to take his turn, and if successful, to claim the rewards.

Parents may think because of its picture book format that this will be a good choice for very young children. Many stories in picture book format though are actually more appropriate for older kids and this is one of those. Anyone who has tried to read longer picture books like The Story of Ping or The Little House to younger kids will usually find the story can’t hold the child’s interest yet. On the other hand, sharing these with kids in early elementary school is a better match.

Check the library catalog for availability or to place a hold

Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King

October 26, 2017 by

528084[Sara] The audiobook of Wolves of the Calla was wonderful– I’m a little late in reading the Dark Tower series but am catching up bit by bit. This, the fifth book in the series, brings in more examples of self-awareness in the Stephen King universe and the connections and redundancies between different versions of reality. I highly recommend this series for those of his fans who haven’t yet read it. It looks daunting size-wise, but moves along at a perfect pace. Plus, I get the rare feeling of excitement at the end of each book knowing both that the story continues and that the next audiobook in the series is already published!

The narrator of this book, George Guidall, does a fantastic performance, but it took a few chapters to become accustomed to him after listening to the late Frank Muller narrate the first four books. Looking forward to listening to Guidall narrate book 6!

Find the Dark Tower series at Wiggin:
Audiobook in Catalog
Books in Catalog (Print Version)
Digital Copies on Overdrive

The Heirs, by Susan Rieger

October 25, 2017 by

[Lesley] This had some things in common with The Nest, but I liked the characters much more. I haven’t read many books with so many male/fraternal relationships and I liked the interplay. The small “mysteries” that get unearthed kept the story moving, but I was most engaged just by coming to know the characters and seeing how they reacted to the situations and each other.

Find The Heirs in the library catalog
Find The Heirs (ebook) on OverDrive

Never Caught: the Washingtons’ relentless pursuit of their runaway slave Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

October 23, 2017 by

[Tricia] Never Caught tells the true story of Ona Judge, one of George and Martha Washington’s slaves who lived and worked in the presidential residence in Philadelphia during much of George Washington’s presidency. Risking absolutely everything for a life of freedom, Ona escaped and, with the help of a network of free blacks in Philadelphia, made her way to Portsmouth, NH. This book offers crucial insights into the day to day lives of enslaved people, the differing attitudes about slavery and abolition among the states during the late 1700s, and the unthinkable risks and costs of escaping slavery. Particularly revealing is George Washington’s attitude toward slavery, and his seeming inability to comprehend why Ona Judge would choose freedom over what he took to be the relatively privileged position of being a slave in the President’s home. He simply couldn’t accept that, as Ona Judge said herself, she would “rather suffer death” than return to slavery. This book offers an important examination of the meaning of freedom.

Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer

September 11, 2017 by


“But this, dear unauthorized reader (or should I say intruder?) is a playbook. My ultimate playbook, in case you wanted clarification. It’s where I keep all my thoughts and ideas and strategies about how to win at life. Yeah but how is that different from a diary, you ask? Look, diaries are usually about what happened. Playbooks are about how you make things happen.”  

What I love about this book is Gabby’s confidence. She’s good at baseball, she knows it, and she’s proud of that. Even when things don’t work out her way, even when she’s a little over confident, even when she struggles, this story never punishes Gabby for being loud and proud.

The transition to a new school and finding her place on a new team are not as easy as Gabby assumed they’d be. But the skilled, confident Gabby we see in the book opening scene is the same Gabby we see at the end of the book. And along the way, she learns that no one succeeds alone, and no one is an all star all the time.

This book is super fun with appealing Diary of a Wimpy Kid style illustrations. A great chapter book for fans of realistic graphic novels like Roller Girl. Find it Here

Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

September 8, 2017 by


Click here to place a hold on this book at Wiggin
Click here to check out the digital audiobook

gwendyThere are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Quite the opening line.

This outlook at Castle View is the place where Gwendy’s life will change, a presumptive side effect of a meeting between a child and a haunting stranger.

This novella relates well to the reader in this tumultuous world we live in, as the character struggles with the control she has over the delicate balance of good and evil. The master storyteller does it again, with this page turner that will creep you out as well as make you examine your own evil side (you know it’s there. . . )

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

August 5, 2017 by

[Tricia] This is a lovely and completely absorbing re-imagining of a Russian fairytale. It is magical, lyrical, and you can almost feel the cold and beauty of the Russian winter. I loved the portrayal of Vasalisa. I just found out this is the first of what will be a trilogy. Looking forward to more.


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

August 5, 2017 by

[Tricia] This graphic memoir by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast is wonderful! It tells the story of the author caring for her parents at the end of their lives. It doesn’t sound funny, but it really is. It is also sad and moving and cathartic. The graphic format is perfect for expressing the ups and downs and frustrations of this fraught period of life. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

August 5, 2017 by


This was a fascinating book. Set in post-Russian Revolution Moscow, the book follows the life of Count Alexander Rostov who has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life under house arrest at the elegant Metropol Hotel. In many ways it is a very intimate book, focused on his life and how he adjusts to his new circumstances, but it also gives a very vivid sense of the impact that so much upheaval has on all facets of this society. He writes beautifully, and it is a really lovely book.