Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

June 23, 2020 by

[Tricia]

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and this is her first novel. It is a warm and absorbing book that looks at the lives of several generations of working class women (and the men in their lives) in a small town in Ohio. The book mostly revolves around Ellie, who comes of age in the 1950s and finds herself living a very different life than she had planned. Like Dominicana by Angie Cruz, which I also read recently, this book is loosely based on the life of the author’s mother and I love the way both books pay tribute to women whose stories aren’t often told. Both Ellie and her husband Brick could have come across as stereotypes if their story was told by someone who didn’t herself grow up working class in small town Ohio. But their lives, their strengths and their flaws, are written with a great deal of empathy. This is a big-hearted book that gives a glimpse into a time and place that I didn’t know much about. I’m glad I read it.

Daughters of Erietown is available on Libby/Overdrive and at the Library.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

June 22, 2020 by

[Tricia]

One of the things I love about this book is how skillfully it tells the specific and intimate story of Roy and Celestial and Andre and their extended families in terms of the wider societal forces – particularly the mass incarceration of Black men in this country – that wreak havoc on their lives. We see up close, through a very effective section of the book written in letter form, the impact on Roy and Celestial’s young marriage after Roy is convicted of a crime he did not commit and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The book is always both universal in its explorations of love, marriage, friendship and parenthood, and very specific in the ways it situates these issues and relationships in the wider social context of the lives of Black people today in this country. I also loved the way the book alternates between the perspectives of Roy, Celestial, and Andre (Celestial’s life-long friend), allowing the reader to feel empathy and understanding for perspectives and choices that might be harder to understand if the whole story was told from either Roy or Celestial’s perspectives alone. This is a fascinating, well-written and timely book that I highly recommend.

Available in the Library, on Hoopla as both ebook and audiobook, and on Libby/Overdrive as both ebook and audiobook.

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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

June 22, 2020 by

[Veronique]

I had my reservations at first. This book was on my holds list, but after reading the mounting criticism from the Latino communities about it I thought: why waste my time reading this when my “to read” list exceeds my life expectancy by about 30 years! But the more I read about the controversy the more I wanted to know for myself.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. There are definitely some cliches very hard to swallow (the platonic relationship between Lydia, the married bookstore owner and Javier the drug lord), too many odd coincidences, and definitely a one in a billion chances that all the events depicted would happen to the same person. It is though a good synopsis of the tribulations encountered by undocumented immigrants trying to make their way to America to escape the poverty and the danger to their lives from the all powerful drug cartels. The book is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) - ebook

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

June 11, 2020 by

[Tricia]

This coming of age story set in the mid-1960s centers around Ana, a 15 year old girl from the Dominican Republic whose family decides she is to marry a man in his 30s (whom she does not love, or even like) and move with him to New York. The hope, or really the expectation, is in that they make enough money to bring the rest of her family to the U.S. And specifically the expectation of Ana, placed heavily on her shoulders by her mother, is that Ana do everything she can to be the perfect wife so that Juan will want to take care of her and ultimately her family. As Ana is undocumented, she is dependent on Juan and he is controls every aspect of her life. It is a turbulent time, and the world is churning outside of the apartment window (Malcolm X is assassinated in the building across the street from their apartment). You can feel Ana’s frustration building at her claustrophic and lonely life trapped in their apartment, and at the abuse Juan inflicts on her. And her relief when Juan returns to the Dominican Republic for a while and she finally gets to experience some freedom and independence in the city is powerful. The author based the story on her mother’s life, and you can feel the admiration she has for Ana’s strength and resilience, and her dedication to her family, and the empathy she has for the sacrifices that Ana is forced to make. This book brought to mind Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, in that they both give a vivid sense of the life of new immigrants to New York, trying to create lives and raise families, and the strength that it takes to survive.

Both Dominica and Girl in Translation can be checked out from the Library.

Autopsy of a Boring Housewife by Marie Renee Lavoie

May 28, 2020 by

[Veronique]

So this book is not the type of book I usually read. I would consider this a beach read, which is timely since summer is coming up! I feel like I needed this book, to lighten up my thoughts from all that is going on right now. Witty, borderline hysterical, the story of this “boring wife,” Diane, just made me laugh out loud but also I could see myself and a lot of my middle aged friends in some of her comments and her outlook on younger women! I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla.

Autopsy of a Boring Wife

Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie Renee Lavoie is available as an ebook and audiobook on Hoopla.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

May 26, 2020 by

[Tricia]

If you’re craving some 1970s nostalgia, this is the book for you. It is a fictionalized documentary-style story of a band in the 70s, very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. It is a good listen as an audiobook, with a full cast of voices for the band members, managers, and family members. Like Fleetwood Mac, the band goes through a great deal of personal drama at the same time that they find enormous success. The best thing about it for me was that it led me to revisit the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours, which you can listen to on Hoopla. The whole experience just took me back to that feeling of sitting on the floor listening to an album for hours while staring at the album cover and reading the liner notes.

Daisy Jones & the Six - ebook

Daisy Jones and the Six is available on Libby/Overdrive.

Rumours

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is available on Hoopla.

Quarantine Word of Mouth Recommendations

May 11, 2020 by

[Tricia]

Our Word of Mouth display at the Library consists of books that you, our Stratham readers, recommend. Whenever one of our Library patrons returns a book and tells us it was great, we put a star on the spine of the book. You can see those stars when you are browsing the shelves for a good book, and we have an ongoing display of those starred books at the Library. It is a great way to discover books that other readers in town have enjoyed.

We thought it would be nice to do a special virtual Word of Mouth display so that you can see what others in town are reading and enjoying during this stay-at-home time.

Here are some of the recommendations (with comments by the readers when they were given) that we’ve gotten so far:

The Splendid and the Vile - ebook

The Splendid and the Vile, is a “a terrific nonfiction work by Erik Larson . It is “A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz”, covering the events leading up to, and encompassing the  horrific bombing of London (and other targets in Great Britain) by the German war machine in the 1941 time frame. In our minds, this book really is educational on many levels, and was well worth the time to read its 600+/- pages. Other books by Erik Larson include “Devil in the White City” and “Thunderstruck”, both of which I enjoyed some years ago.” The Splendid and the Vile is available on Libby/Overdrive.

The Overstory - ebook

The Overstory by Richard Powers is a “book I loved, an environmental themed novel.” The Overstory is available on Libby/Overdrive.

The Housekeeper

The Housekeeper by Natalie Barelli. One of our patrons recommended this one to one of our staff members with similar taste in books. The Housekeeper is available on Hoopla.

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Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – “I’m reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis right now and finding it very interesting.” Becoming Mrs.Lewis is available on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

The Nickel Boys - ebook

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. One of our book group members recommended this book, which just won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize. The Nickel Boys is available on Libby/Overdrive.

Olive, Again - ebook

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. According to one of our readers on Facebook, “Olive, Again is excellent!”, adding “I get her! She says what she thinks!” Olive, Again, the follow up to Olive Kitteridge, is available on Libby/Overdrive.

The Silent Patient - ebook

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is “really really good!” The Silent Patient is available on Libby/Overdrive.

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The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. A patron recommended this book to one of our staff members who again shares a similar taste in books. The Keeper of Lost Things is available on Hoopla .

The Things We Cannot Say

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer was recommended on Facebook with 3 exclamation points! The Things We Cannot Say is available on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

Another Facebook recommendation:

The Feather Thief - ebook

The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson, as part of Water Street Bookstore’s online community read. “It is really great”. The Feather Thief is available on Libby/Overdrive.

This recommendation just in from the comments below:

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming is “one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read for its unique way of revealing truths and her use of imagination and interpretation while studying family photos, which clearly comes from her life work as an art historian and critic. Stunning.”

A double recommendation from someone in the Library book group:

Title details for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - Available
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy - ebook

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry & The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. “Just finished a set of books by Rachel Joyce that are fantastic!  Easy and pleasant to read, but full of reflection and lots to
talk about. You should read them in order. They are the same story but from different points of view, and really are beautifully orchestrated,”adding that the second one “totally brings out the first storyline in such depth. The 2 books together are marvelous” Both books are available on Libby/Overdrive.

An email recommendation from one of our Stratham readers:

The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce. “Just what I need for distraction!” Available on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

What have you been reading during this stay-at-home time that you would recommend?

Cookbook Recommendations from Cindy!

May 5, 2020 by

[Cindy]

It seems like we are all cooking a little more and hopefully enjoying it!  Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks.  These are all in our collection, so when we start up again, maybe you might want to take a look.  In the meantime, you can go to Amazon and see a sneak peak of them and see a few opening pages.  Also, if anything catches your eye, I could email the recipe to you!

Cindy

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman Find Mark Bittman’s books on Hoopla. Place a hold on the physical book in the Library.

I’ve had this book in my collection for a long time and I will hazard a guess that there is not a week since I’ve owned it that I haven’t picked it up.   It’s full of basic recipes with many suggestions for interesting twists and variations.  Sprinkled throughout the book, he has tables with hints, such as “13 fish and shellfish dishes that go great on greens” or “6 simple additions to pasta with butter and parmesan”.  In addition he has an Equipment section – a list of basics for your kitchen.  He also includes a Techniques section – Basics of Roasting and others.  It is not filled with recipes requiring obscure or hard to find gourmet ingredients.  It is for every day, creative cooking with ingredients that most people already have on hand or are available from the nearest supermarket.  

Barefoot Contessa.  How easy is that? by Ina Garten Place a hold on the physical book in the Library. Check out another book by Ina Garten on Libby/Overdrive.

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

Well, I have to admit I love Ina Garten and Barefoot Contessa, her television show.  This was the first book of hers I purchased and it is well-used and the pages are spotted, wrinkled, and much of the cover is chewed at the edges from my birds (never leave any paper products alone with an unattended bird)!  I like everything about this book.  The layout is great, the recipes are complete on 1 page (no turning the page to get to the next step!), lovely photographs, and easily read type.  The recipes themselves are straight forward and she provides hints and suggestions for all.  This book was published in 2010 and more than a few have become staples in my kitchen.  The Lobster and Shells, Scalloped Tomatoes, and Easy Cranberry & Apple cake are a few the come to mind.  

Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli Place a hold on the physical book in the Library

A favorite Chef of mine is “Iron Chef” Alex Guarnaschelli , from the Food Network (also a judge on Chopped).  One of my great joys of cookbooks is when they are storytellers.  It’s like reading a letter from a friend with stories of past events, family or just a little of this and that.  This book is filled with old family photos, copies of handwritten recipes and illustrations, and of course beautiful photos of the food.  Her introduction sets the stage with childhood memories, the long road to becoming a chef and more.  I was hooked at once.  The first chapter is “what kinds of stuff I like to use in the kitchen” and off we go!  The recipes are wonderful, well-written and easy to follow.  She also uses side-bars of old-school tips.  “Put your flour for dusting and rolling your dough into a strainer and sprinkle the rolling surface like you’re crop dusting.  An even layer of flour for rolling and you will likely use less flour for rolling and there won’t be any clumps or excess flour which can make the texture tough”  Another chapter I particularly liked was “make it from scratch for the fridge door”  things like: butter, pickles, barbecue sauce, mustard, hot sauce and others. I don’t see myself making my own butter anytime soon, but the barbecue sauce sounds great!

The Farm: Rustic recipes for a year of incredible food by Ian Knauer Find another book by Ian Knauer on Hoopla. Place a hold on the physical book in the Library.

I had never heard of Ian Knauer until I read a foreward  of his new cookbook by Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet magazine.  I was a huge fan of the magazine and her.  Ian was a tester for recipes at the magazine and eventually promoted to a food editor (a test cook for the magazine).  He was clearly near the front of the popular “farm-to-table” movement at the time.  Quoting Reichl, “Most cookbooks are about the end product, making good food to put on your table. But a great cookbook offers you more than that – it helps you appreciate the process”.  This cookbook is all that and more.  Wonderful stories of farm life, beautiful photography.  The recipes are great with short stories about where the idea came from for the recipe, hints for its success and why.  I made a dried-fruit stuffed pork loin with apple-mustard cream for a holiday meal and it was great!  He has a nice chapter on preserving that he titles “A Jarful of Sunshine, a Bottleful of Sin”.  That made me smile.

What’s Cooking at Scamman Farm? by Stella Scamman Place a hold on the physical book at the Library.

Last, but definitely not least is the Scamman Farm cookbook.  What a treasure trove of recipes!  This is one of those cookbooks you’ve seen from churches, fire departments, schools…etc.  When my father was on the board of our local Senior Center, they did one every year.  Recipes, many passed down through the years, compiled in a loose leaf book.  This book is a gem!  There are so many great recipes and I’ve made lots of them since 2012 when I got the book.  There are great illustrations and family photos.  It has the same cute stories about the recipes and where they came from.  I’ve made the Moussaka multiple times, it’s great…just cut the ingredients in half, unless you’re feeding a hoard!

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

April 24, 2020 by

[Recommended by both Vero and Mary-Ellen]

Mary-Ellen:  I’m not sure what drew me to read The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton.  I typically find it hard to read books centered around World War II, due to the heart-wrenching pain and horror of that time. I am, however, so glad I chose to read this book. Although historical fiction, it centers on the true story of Truus Wijsmuller, who risked her life to smuggle endangered children out of Germany and other Nazi-occupied countries. It brings to light this amazing woman and demonstrates how seemingly ordinary people can perform great acts of courage and kindness. 

Veronique:  Tante Truus’ s selfless actions saved countless young Jewish lives before most people realized the danger of the rise of Adolf Eichmann’ s “ Final Solution Of the Jewish Question” in Eastern Europe. Truus, a Dutch resistant, Zofie-Helene and Stefan are all heroes of this novel, and represent the thousands of bigger than life real heroes of these dark times. I’ ve read countless books about this time in history in multiple languages, and am always wary at first of a fiction novel, as too many always tend to romanticize real history. I feel it is more important than ever to disseminate the truth about history. I felt this novel accurately depicted facts that took place while at the same time making it easy to read and kept you wanting more.

You can read The Last Train to London on Hoopla and on Libby/Overdrive.

The Last Train to London

Staff Picks Hall of Fame Author: Alafair Burke!

April 24, 2020 by

Did you know that suspense author Alafair Burke has been recommended by 3 different staff members on this blog? Back in 2016 Cindy recommended The Ex, saying “A great courtroom thriller/mystery.  I read a review of this book and was intrigued and plunged in.  This book is inhabited by some very interesting characters and not many of them are that likable!  Even so,  the story is so well told and fast paced, you just can’t put it down.  This was the first novel I read by this author and will definitely be back for more.”

Mary-Ellen recommended The Better Sister as one of the best books she’s read in the past few months, and Karen included The Wife as one of her favorites this year.

You can find The Ex on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The Ex by Alafair Burke - Wait list

Find The Better Sister on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

The Better Sister

Find The Wife on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The Wife by Alafair Burke - Wait list

Did you know that Alafair Burke is the daughter of suspense author James Lee Burke? You can find James Lee Burke’s on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive too!