Yellow Wife, by Sadeqa Johnson

July 26, 2021 by

[Lesley]

This was a well-written, fairly quick read about a strong and relentless heroine, Pheby Brown, a young slave who has been promised her freedom by her father (who is also the Master of the plantation), but is imprisoned instead after her father dies unexpectedly. Pheby’s mother gives her daughter a solid foundation of srength, pride, and self-sufficiency that will keep her alive and trying to maintain her mind’s freedom even as she moves from one type of prison to another.

Fast moving, sharp, and a story that makes you want to keep reading.

A note: there are graphic descriptions of violence, torture, and abuse in this book.

Yellow Wife: (Library catalog), (Libby/OverDrive)

Some read-alikes in the library catalog:
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates [on Libby/OverDrive]
The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom [on Libby/OverDrive]
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd [on Libby/OverDrive]

The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia

July 23, 2021 by
The Chicken Sisters: Dell'Antonia, KJ: 9780593085141: Amazon.com: Books

[SAM]

I have mentioned this in a previous review, but let me state here again, I am not a person known for my culinary skills. I am also not a person who watches a lot of cooking TV shows. That being said, for reasons unknown even to myself, if you set a novel around a competitive cooking show I am all about it. I am in. No further details required. And the Chicken Sisters is very much one of those novels.

Set in the small town of Merinac, Kansas The Chicken Sisters details the long running feud between the Moores and the Pogociellos, owners of two of the best friend chicken restaurants in the state, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s. In the middle of this century old fight sits Amanda Moore. She had worked for her mom at Mimi’s before marrying Frank Pogociello and working for Frannie’s.

In an effort to save Chicken Frannie’s from financial ruin, Amanda convinces Food Wars, a reality-TV competition, to come to town and cover the feud. But reality shows rarely lessen anyone’s family drama, and this is no exception. The ensuing circus brings Amanda’s celebrity sister Mae back to town, causes her mother to act out in phenomenal fashion, and generally creates major chaos in all directions.

This book has a lot going on, but its super enjoyable. The characters are both generally likeable and deeply imperfect humans. But so aren’t we all. Give this one a shot.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

July 23, 2021 by

[Tricia]

This big-hearted, nostalgia-filled, coming of age novel is a perfect summer read. Set in Baltimore in the summer of 1975, it tells the story of 14 year old Mary Jane Dillard, who comes from a very traditional, reserved, conservative family. Mary Jane is a kind, responsible, sincere, sheltered kid who loves Broadway showtunes and singing in her Church choir. She takes a summer job babysitting the 5 year old daughter of the Cones at their cool, chaotic, bohemian home where Dr. Cone is treating a well-known rock star for his heroin addiction. Jimmy, the rock star, and his wife Sheba (think Cher), are secretly living with the Cones for the summer during his treatment. Of course Mary Jane is wowed by the glamour and celebrity and freedom she encounters for the first time. But what I really liked about the book is that Mary Jane never tries to change herself to impress them all (as Mrs. Cone sometimes does). She only becomes more herself — more confident in her ability to cook and clean and organize the house, to sing and share her favorite songs, to talk about her feelings (and allow herself to feel them), and to see Izzy through the challenges of that summer. And I loved how sincerely they all see and appreciate Mary Jane for who she is. If you’ve ever been a babysitter, the book will bring you back to that feeling of entering another family’s life, and seeing other possible ways of living. And if you grew up in the 1970s, you’ll feel yourself transported back. Thanks to Karen for recommending this light-hearted, enjoyable book!

Mary Jane is available at the Library and as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator was terrific!

Title details for Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau - Wait list

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

July 21, 2021 by

[Courtney]

I have finally found some time to read books written for grown ups, and I’m so glad this one came across my path.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows Thomas Wazhashk, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Minnesota (a fictionalized version of Erdrich’s own grandfather), as he forms a delegation to go to Washington, D.C. to fight House Concurrent Resolution 108. The resolution is framed by the federal government as “emancipation” of the Native Americans from their reservations, from their separation from the rest of the United States. The goal is complete assimilation. The tribe sees it as a “termination” act, with the government destroying their way of life, forcing them to relocate, then selling their land for profit.

If it sounds dry, I promise it isn’t! There are, of course, many other wonderful characters (even a ghost!) who all feel very real and at home in this novel that is really about family, and about the lengths people go to protect and honor their families and homes. I wish I could meet some of these characters, they feel that rich. And because it is historical fiction, many of the details are true, which really amplifies the stakes.

Highly recommend. I listened to the audiobook, read by Erdrich herself, and I found it wonderful (and a great help in learning the pronunciation of Chippewa words).

The Night Watchman is available at the Library, as an audiobook on Hoopla, and as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Movie Review: Nomadland

July 21, 2021 by

[Scott]

Nomadland Rated R Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 94% fresh (critics) / 82% fresh (audiences)

Nomadland is slowly paced. The dialogue is sparse. The plot is non-existent. And surprise, surprise, it won the Oscar for Best Picture! Seriously though, it is, in fact, well deserving of the Academy Award. Frances McDormand (Fargo) is effortlessly intense as Fern, who lives in her van. She travels the country as sort of a domestic migrant worker, mainly at Amazon distribution centers. The cinematography is sublime; Nomadland is so beautifully filmed, it almost works as an American travelogue. But it’s Fern’s humanity in desperate times, and the humanity shown toward her by her traveling brethren, that make this film stand out. After all, she’s not homeless, as she reminds us, “just houseless.” Both sad and uplifting, this film is based on the popular book Nomadland, which WML has in paperback and large print. The book is also available as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive. The movie is now available at the library in Blu-ray and also on Hulu.

Nomadland (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

July 19, 2021 by

[Tricia]

When reading about this book I came across many comparisons to both The Devil Wears Prada and to the movie Get Out. While those kinds of comparisons can be reductive, they can sometimes be helpful to me in terms of setting expectations of tone. The Devil Wears Prada comparison was a bit of a stretch for me, other than the fact that the main character, Nella, works in a high pressure New York publishing house. But as someone who very rarely reads any horror (I’m easily scared that way), I found it very helpful to have the comparison to Get Out – one of the few horror movies I’ve seen and really liked, particularly for the powerful and unusual way it addresses racism in the U.S. This book has a similar slow and subtly growing thread of horror that merges with the microaggressions, isolation, and anxieties that Nella experiences as the only Black woman working in her company, and with the complicated dynamics that arise when Hazel, another young Black woman, starts working there. The ways in which the horror elements of the book interact with and highlight the lived realities of the characters in this book is haunting and really effective. This is a riveting, engaging and thought-provoking novel.

The Other Black Girl is available at the Library and as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris - Wait list

Florence Adler Swims Forever, by Rachel Beanland

July 16, 2021 by

[Lesley]

This is a short review because it doesn’t need to be long. READ THIS.

OK, maybe a little longer 😀
What I loved most about this book is its lightness in the face of tough times. There is just a thread of goodness – in the place, the people, the time – even as circumstances shift. Yes, there is tragedy (the book opens with a drowning), family secrets and the feeling of betrayal, people hurting and being hurt… but so much of it comes from a place of love and wanting to spare those we love.

This book was just such a good read — I highly recommend it.

Florence Adler Swims Forever in the library catalog
It made me think of:
Monogamy, by Sue Miller (also on Libby/Overdrive here)
All Adults Here, by Emma Straub (ebook and audiobook available on Libby/Overdrive here)

Infinite Country, by Patricia Engel

July 7, 2021 by

[Lesley]

For some unknown reason, this book was one of those that I liked immensely but while I was reading it I couldn’t remember the title or what the cover looked like. I hate that. “I’m reading this great book!” “Oh, what is it?” “Ummmmm…” “What’s it about?” “Ummmmmm…” Then I would look it up on my library account and there it was.

Infinite Country is an immigration story – but not like any that I have read before. The country from which the family at the center of this story is Colombia and Mauro (the father in this family) is deported early in the book. His wife, Elena, makes the decision to send their youngest daughter, Talia, to Colombia to live with Mauro and Elena’s mother.

The book gives us glimpses into Mauro and Elena’s backstory and their lives in the United States between Talia’s life-or-death journey back to her father and then to America to the mother and two siblings she almost doesn’t remember. Mauro shares Andean myths and folktales with Talia; these are beautiful moments that shine a light on love for your country, her people, and the culture and how that can’t be erased by any amount of violence or war. I suppose it is tied to the human spirit.

Sometimes I feel like I read a lot of books that sound sad that might turn someone else off from reading them. This has sadness, injustice, violence, anger, depression — but it also has love, surprising kindness, family bonds, and redemption. I think many times this comes down to the characters; do we feel for them, do we relate to their essential humanity, are we hoping for their happiness? Tough, but gorgeous. I’m so glad I read it.

Find Infinite Country in our catalog
Read on Libby/OverDrive

Guest Post from one of our Library Teens: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

July 1, 2021 by

[Guest post by Bhumika Prem]

Becca Hart hasn’t believed in true love in a very, very long time, and she had no reason to. The only true love she believed in was the type in books, and that was it. When her former best friend, Jenny starts to tease her about being single, Becca makes up a lie about having a mystery boyfriend. When Jenny questions it, Brett Wells steps in and claims he’s the mystery guy. After Jenny leaves, Becca and Brett come up with an agreement. They will pretend to be in a relationship because it’ll get Jenny off Becca’s back, and get the school off Brett’s. Brett is the captain of they football team and the most popular guy in school. He shouldn’t have any problem finding someone to date, it’s just he’s always been too busy with school. His father often tell him to go out there and date girls and to have fun because he never could because he had married right out of high school. After the two have been fake-dating for a while, Brett finds out some horrible things about his father, and his family life starts to go downhill. Brett breaks up with Becca, and Becca is heartbroken, she had actually loved him. She realizes that the true love in the books she read had been misleading her, and for a period of time, she loses her identity. Can their relationship be salvaged? Or is their relationship ruined?Overall, I enjoyed this book. It had a good plot, it was sweet, and it was interesting to read. There were parts of the book where it was very ‘predictable’ but then the author changes it up and it’s the opposite of what you thought would happen. That was what kept me reading, every time the plot twists it made me more compelled to continue reading. I would recommend this book to middle to high schoolers who enjoy romantic books because I really think they would enjoy the plot as much as I did.

The book is available at the Library, as an ebook on Libby/Overdrive, and as an audiobook on Hoopla.

Caul Baby, by Morgan Jerkins

June 27, 2021 by

[Lesley]

There’s lots to like about this book: superstition/old “magic” (magical realism is what we call it these days) mixed up with culture conflicts, family, legacy, and desire. Good and evil and the mess in between. Laila, the character who triggers the sequence of events (like dominoes), is desperate for a child. All of her pregnancies have tragically ended in miscarriage and the other women in her circle pity her; for them she is a symbol of unhappiness and cursed luck. She turns to a powerful and mysterious family (the Melancons) infamous for the healing power of their “caul” – a special layer of skin believed to protect and heal even the most debilitating diseases of the body and the soul.

Once events are set into motion, Laila remains a tragic figure, but in the background as we follow the intrigue within the Melancons, family secrets stretching over generations, caste, and the flow of change in society, and through culture, people.

Historically, a caul is the membrane surrounding a fetus when born with its amniotic sac intact. It’s very rare but has been considered to have magical, healing properties since at least the 1400’s. In this family, they keep this special layer of skin over the course of their lives.

Qualities of the Gothic combine with family betrayal and unspoken rules between people to create a story both familiar and new. I’ll bet the audiobook is great – if you listen to it, let me know!!

Find Caul Baby in our catalog here.

GoodReads recommends this book for fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates or Jacqueline Woodson.
Find in our catalog: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Another Brooklyn and Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.
Or take a look at Fiction based on fairy tale, folklore, and mythology: a library list.