The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin

May 1, 2019 by

[Lesley]

There’s something about meeting friends/siblings as kids and then following the paths their lives take. The Immortalists is an interesting iteration of this type of story.

The plot spirals outward from one experience in 4 siblings’ lives, something that on the surface doesn’t seem like it would have long-lasting effects even though it looms large in their impressionable thoughts. As we follow each sibling’s path – chronologically* – we have to think about whether things would have turned out the same way without that childhood experience. Can our directions be changed significantly by one encounter or would everything have turned out that way regardless? Intriguing premise, interesting characters and relationships, and the tension builds all the way to the end.
Click here to find The Immortalists in our catalog

*One character’s “story” is followed over a period of years and the next character’s story starts its own period at the last year of the one before. This creates a great story arc.

Others following a group of kids and where they end up:
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (review)
The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

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The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez

May 1, 2019 by

[Lesley]

A meditation? A rhetorical exercise? A story of mentors, art, grief, aloneness, a city, and a dog? Yes, that last one. But also a meditation of sorts and a cerebral, rhetorical examination of grief, what it means to be alone or lonely, and art. There is deep emotion in the portrayals of loss (as expressed by our unnamed narrator and the great dane on the cover), but the writing is spare and non-emotional, somehow making the fragility of relationships (with others and with the world) that much more stark. Beautiful writing. This isn’t a book for everyone, but if you like Peter Heller’s novels or Open City by Teju Cole then I think you will like this book.

The Friend won the National Book Award in 2018.

Children of Blood and Bone / Tomi Adeyemi

April 24, 2019 by

[Tricia]

This book is the first in a YA (young adult) fantasy trilogy (I seem to be really into fantasy trilogies recently). It is the first novel by this Nigerian-American author, and she has done some fantastic world-building in this book. Adeyemi weaves in aspects of West African mythology to create the world of Orisha, where there is rising tension between the oppressed maji, and the Kingdom that has outlawed magic and nearly destroyed the maji population. The book deals with issues of oppression and prejudice, as well as teenage struggles of identity and young love. I particularly liked the friendship between the two main characters -Zelie and Amari – a maji and a royal respectively – young women from very different backgrounds who are each interesting and strong in their own ways.

The book is violent at times, and occasionally a little predictable, but it is really engrossing, and the audiobook is excellent. The book ends on a pretty major cliff hanger, but the second one is due out late 2019 so there won’t be too long to wait.

Read it again, Sam

April 11, 2019 by

[Lesley]

“Read a lot. Expect something big, something exalting or deepening from a book. No book is worth reading that isn’t worth re-reading.”
― Susan Sontag

“A good book is like really loved item at a really good restaurant, every time you go there you order it to see if it tastes like you remember, only to find out it is even BETTER than you remembered!” 
― K.A Cameron

I love to read something new: a great recommendation for a book just out, the next book in a series that I’ve been waiting for, a surprise topic discovered on library shelves by serendipity. I have found that I also enjoy re-reading books I have loved.

It’s not something I have always done regularly. I have books I have read several times but they are few (Wuthering Heights, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, On the Road, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Catcher in the Rye). For a long time I felt that there are just too many books to read to take time re-reading things. I was so wrong!

Over the past few years I have mixed it up. I still read mostly new-to-me books whether newly published or just something I haven’t read before. I re-read a few titles each year as well though. Hardly a waste of time that could be spent on the new titles, re-reading is like reading on steroids. While the text of the book is the same, you – the reader – are not. The rewards can be astounding in what you learn about who you were and are, finding layers of emotion, thought, illumination that you could only discover on a later reading.

Some of my re-reads in the last year:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Ender’s Game
Anna Karenina
For Lack of a Calling
The Golden Compass
The Art of Possibility

The River, by Peter Heller

March 25, 2019 by

[Lesley]

Peter Heller is a singular writer. His novels have a sparse quality that contains multitudes. The River is the story of two young men, best friends, and a wilderness river trip. They are skilled and comfortable with this sort of trip and their relationship is easy. As the story unfolds from the beginning, we learn about their background; how they became friends, where they are from, what their plans are for the trip. Observing their natural, experienced actions and knowledge is beautiful. They work together seamlessly – no need for talking – and Heller’s descriptions of their preparations and movements on the river establish a feeling of peace and trust. Even when they start to notice the faint of smell of smoke and Jack determines that there is a forest fire moving towards the river, Jack and Wynn aren’t panicked, they have it under control.

If you’ve read Heller’s The Dog Stars then you know how he can build suspense, anxiety, and threat over a short novel. When the intensity and danger of their situation begins to show cracks in their capable armor, the reader feels it – it has to be bad for these two to lose their equilibrium.

Some of Heller’s talent lies in telling basically simple stories where everything is at stake and telling that story in a slow reveal. My heart was in my throat for nearly the whole book; I was holding my breath in places and just when I thought things couldn’t get more threatening, they did. Unlike traditional thrillers though, the depth of these two characters and nature itself raises the stakes.

Find the books in our catalog:
The River
The Dog Stars
Celine
The Painter

Hazards of Time Travel, by Joyce Carol Oates

March 20, 2019 by

[Lesley] So strange! So good! I have read more time travel novels than I can count but never one like this. We can’t be sure (any more than the main character) if time travel is even happening, or if any part of any world is real. The characters are real (meaning they are real people – but not necessarily who they seem to be) – all the rest seems to be real (the character’s past, the society she is from, the reason and method she finds herself in “zone 9”) but the reality gets very fuzzy for us at the same pace that it is for her. I admire Joyce Carol Oates as a writer and have liked every book of hers that I have read. She is different from most prolific authors in that she manages to write in diverse voices and create wildly different stories (see The Falls compared with this book) in more than one genre. Never a dull moment – or story – from Joyce Carol Oates.

click here to check our catalog for other books by Joyce Carol Oates

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

February 16, 2019 by

[Lesley] It’s hard to describe how much I liked this book and what exactly I liked about it. It takes place in the ’80s – during the AIDS crisis – and in the present. Most of the characters from the ’80s part of the story (the book switches between the two time periods but not in a jarring or awkward way) aren’t still alive in the present day but the main character in the present keeps them alive through her experience and her own struggle. Honestly, some of the time I wanted to just stay in the world of 1980-ish; I found those characters, the climate, the emotional authenticity to be so evocative and intense. Every character in this book is a real person, not two-dimensional, and the conflicts are also bitingly real. This is a book of love stories, grief, anger, humor, selfishness, fear, and friendship – with a healthy dose of art and a pinch of politics. Loved it.

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Little Comfort, by Edwin Hill

January 31, 2019 by

[Lesley] As a first book by this author there was some unevenness in writing, but I really enjoyed it. Hester is a great character – a mix of warmth, chaos, curiosity (not always a good thing), and toughness. Of course I couldn’t help but like the setting – Boston and NH. I’m not usually a mystery reader, but liked the pacing here and some of the unconventional clues and the strangeness of those who-done-it. I will definitely read #2.

A few other books set in NH or NE to try:
Fiction:
The Last Policeman by Ben Winters
The Fireman by Joe Hill
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
The Arsonist by Sue Miller
Nonfiction:
The Penny Poet of Portsmouth by Katie Towler
Red House by Sarah Messer
Dogtown by Elyssa East

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

January 22, 2019 by

[Tricia]

This book looked like it would be right up my alley – a combination folk tale/historical fiction/warm fires on icy Victorian British nights- and it did not disappoint. Setterfield is a wonderful storyteller. She lets the characters tell their stories in their own time – and it this brings out their hidden depths in often unexpected ways. I’ve not read her first book – The Thirteenth Tale – but I’m definitely adding it to my list. This book is a good choice for fans of Kate Morton. And if you enjoy the folk tale aspect of this book, you might also enjoy Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

January 9, 2019 by

[Tricia]

This book would be interesting enough if it just told the story of the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Public Library, the search for the suspected arsonist, and how the community came together to rebuild, but it is about so much more than that – and that is why I loved it. Susan Orlean does a great job of balancing of historical context and personal stories in a way that kept me completely engaged from start to finish. Even things that I’m not especially interested in, such as architecture, were interesting to me in this book. We learn about libraries throughout the world and throughout time, the dark history of book burning and libraries being targeted in wartime. This broader historical context is juxtaposed with individual stories, including the string of fascinating people we meet who ran the L. A. Public Library from its founding up to the present. We learn of Ray Bradbury’s personal connection to this library (he wrote Fahrenheit 451 there). You can feel the pain and trauma of the library staff in the aftermath of the fire. And throughout the book you can feel the personal connection Susan Orlean has to books and to libraries, both as an author, and because of mother, who always wished she had become a librarian herself, and whom Orlean was losing to dementia through the process of writing this book. This is a beautiful, interesting book. Highly recommend.