Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

June 14, 2021


This is a beautiful, thoughtful, personal memoir. It might seem strange to say that it is personal, given that is a memoir, but the author is very forthcoming about her commitment to being open and vulnerable, and about her determination to be known and understood, both in her life and through this book. That openness and vulnerability are hard won. There are many reasons why her defenses might be up. Growing up Black and poor in Indiana, her father, whom she adored, was incarcerated when she was a young child, leaving her to be raised by her mother — a very complicated woman with whom she has an intense, fraught relationship. She grows up constantly surrounded by family – her grandmother, her cousins, her siblings, and especially her mother. While in many ways her family is a source of strength and joy for her, that closeness also comes with expectations and demands that inhibit her and contribute to the feeling that she can’t truly be herself, even around those closest to her. She paints a vivid portrait of her family that is both brutally honest and loving. The book is particularly effective in depicting what it is like to grow up with an unpredictable parent who is at times fun and loving, and then suddenly, explosively abusive. She also movingly articulates what it is like to suffer from anxiety, which is heightened after she is sexually assaulted as a child. It is painful to watch this funny, smart, inquisitive child start to close herself off from the world. But throughout the book you also have the strong, reassuring voice of the adult Ashley telling the story. As the narrator of her own story (and the very effective reader of the audiobook), she is strong and open and fully herself. It is a wonderful reminder of the power of telling your own story, and having kept herself hidden for so long, this memoir is a beautiful way to bring herself back into the world.

Somebody’s Daughter is available at the Library and as both an ebook and an audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Somebody's Daughter

20 Titles of 2020 (Print edition)

December 22, 2020


I said it last year, and while a lot of things have changed, this particular sentiment of mine has not. So let me state once again that I’m not a big fan of creating best of lists, because I’m far too literal a person to declare anything “the best of 2020.” That being said, I have read all kinds of really wonderful books published this year. And I’ve read them in many of different formats. In this post I’ll focus on books we have physical copies of in the library, and in the next one I’ll do a round up of some 2020 favorites from overdrive and Hoopla. So as we head into the new year, here are 20 of my favorite titles published in 2020.

Young Adult Books

Just a boy and a girl in a little canoe by Sarah Mlynowski

The gravity of us by Phil Stamper

You should see me in a crown by Leah Johnson

Yes no maybe so by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed

The voting booth by Brandy Colbert

Mind the gap, Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

10 things I hate about Pinky by Sandhya Menon


She came to slay : the life and times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Lifting as we climb : black women’s battle for the ballot box by Evette Dionne

True or false : a CIA analyst’s guide to spotting fake news by Cindy L. Otis.

Big friendship : how we keep each other close by Aminatou Sow, Ann Friedman.

Why we’re polarized / Ezra Klein

Kids Books

Kenzie kickstarts a team by Kit Rosewater

Ice breaker : how Mabel Fairbanks changed figure skating by Rose Viña

Finish the fight! : the brave and revolutionary women who fought for the right to vote by Veronica Chambers 


Primer : a superhero graphic novel written by Jennifer Muro & Thomas Krajewski

Check, Please! 2 : Sticks & Scones by Ngozi  Ukazu

Drawing the vote : an illustrated guide to voting in America by Tommy Jenkins 


Party of two by Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two: Guillory, Jasmine: 9780593100813: Books


Everything comes next : collected and new poems  by Naomi Shihab Nye

Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems: Nye, Naomi Shihab:  9780063013452: Books

The Missing Ones, by Edwin Hill

July 26, 2020


I missed that number two – The Missing Ones – in the Hester Thursby series had come out — I’m so glad a friend alerted me!

I read the first book (Little Comfort) mainly because it was set in and around Boston. Oh – and the main character is a librarian!! I kept reading it because of the pace and how it grew in suspense; I couldn’t have stopped. Hester (uses her librarian super powers to find missing people) and the cast of characters both in her life and in her “case,” is flawed, a little damaged, but also eminently likeable. You both want her to pull it together personally and yet want the craziness that actually makes her good at investigation (and self-preservation!) to save her. And, at least she is nowhere near as crazy as her best friend who is also the twin sister of Hester’s boyfriend. A LOT!

This second book’s plot and mystery take place on an island off the coast of Maine (can you say Monhegan?); a place with not many year-round residents, and all of the old, complicated relationships that come with it. Add in new, deadly strains of drugs, a derelict house that is a magnet for the down and out (and high), a love quadrangle, and corrupt police and you have an inevitable disaster just waiting to happen. And who turns out to be at the center of the disaster? Hester’s best friend/Morgan’s twin sister who has been missing for over a year, and whose daughter has been living with Hester and Morgan as if their own.

Another book that I read quickly and tried to follow the twists and turns along the way. If you are looking for a new mystery series that is very New England (and not gory!), I recommend you try out Hester Thursby books by Edwin Hill.

Find this book in our catalog.

Cookbook Recommendations from Cindy!

May 5, 2020


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!


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!

INTERNMENT, by Samira Ahmed

April 22, 2020


Ahmed invites us into a parallel universe, one in which, after the 2016 election, anti-Muslim sentiment grows so large that Muslims are forced into internment camps in the desert, much like what was done to Japanese-Americans in WWII. The main character, Layla, is strong-willed and spirited, a leader to the teens in the camp. The  camp’s evil director operates above the law (or at least, very nearly), and Layla quickly becomes his primary target. I found the writing a little heavy-handed, and the romance between Layla and her boyfriend David feels a little flat. But, I liked some of the relationships Layla makes in the camp and I appreciated that while her parents appear cautious or even a little weak, it’s clear that they are dealing the best they can. I think there’s no right way to handle the circumstances depicted in the book, and Ahmed does a good job of illustrating the different ways people handle collective trauma. I found it to be thought-provoking; the reality is that thousands of people on any given day are currently being held in detention camps here in the U.S., including children and teens, and the author is  clearly drawing inspiration from current affairs as well as the ugliness of the past to paint a realistic and disturbing picture of a U.S. “fifteen minutes in the future.” Definitely recommended for any teen interested in history or dystopian fiction.

Available as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for Internment by Samira Ahmed - Available

Author Spotlight: Lisa Genova

March 30, 2020


Lisa Genova is an author and a neuroscientist (she has a Degree in Biopsychology from Bates College and a PhD. in Neuroscience from Harvard University) and each of her 5 books revolve around a neurological condition, with a blend of patient progression and the challenges and effects of the condition on family and friends. This author writes about life-changing illnesses and the impact on all involved, but she does it in a lovely way, if that makes sense. Left Neglected deals with Traumatic Brain Disorder, Love Anthony addresses autism, Still Alice revolves around early-onset Alzheimer’s, Inside the O’Briens tackles Huntingtons, and Every Note Played is about ALS. Having finished Every Note Played I have now read all 5 of her books. They’re not new books but I’m glad I read them – they are impartial and beautifully written. You can access several of Lisa Genova’s audiobooks on Libby/Overdrive , and the Library carries all five of her titles.

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

March 6, 2020


I know what you’re thinking. A biography of a historical figure? You’re going to recommend that for pleasure reading. You’re going to suggest I do “homework” during my precious little respites from an increasingly exhausting and chaotic world. No thanks, please return to your reviews of strange cookbooks, comics, and the fluffiest fiction you can find. 

I hear you, but let me counter. This book is 137 pages. Yes, that’s right, it’s less than two hundred pages. Author and historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar has done something truly extraordinary. She has written a powerful, accessible, and enjoyable biography of an important historical figure that so many of us know of, but do not truly know. In addition to details on her escape from slavery and her numerous journeys as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, this book also delves into Harriet Tubman’s work within the union army during the Civil War, her advocacy for women’s suffrage, and her contributions to the creation of a home and hospital for the elderly.

It’s a pager turner filled with beautiful illustrations. And the audiobook (which is less than 4 hours long) plays just like a good podcast. So check out She Came to Slay

Image result for she came to slay harriet tubman

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

February 25, 2020


This collection of sci-fi short stories was just breathtaking. From the beginning of the universe to today’s rise of Artificial Intelligence, the short and not-so-short stories explore daily but complex concepts we are all confronted to.

What is free will? Does it really exist? Will AI eventually overtake and manipulate us the way we have each others for so long? Through a cast of thoughtful and empathetic characters, you will find these existential and philosophical questions dealt with with positivity, compassion and beauty.

The audible version kept me totally captivated through the different voices in the book.

Check it out on Libby:

Exhalation - ebook

Woven in Moonlight, by Isabel Ibañez

February 21, 2020


Social upheaval, political unrest, colonialism, revenge and subterfuge, and ultimately, redemption, all set in the fantastical world of Inkasisa (loosely based on Bolivia and its history). Our hero, Ximena, is the Condesa’s decoy, and her one job is to protect the true Condesa of the Illustrians at any cost. When Atoc, the king of the Llacsans, comes with a “peace” offering in the form of a marriage proposal to the Condesa, it must be Ximena who crosses enemy lines to fulfill this duty. It doesn’t hurt that she’ll be able to search for the enchanted stone that can help them finally win the war, retake their city, and reach peace at last.

But, the longer Ximena stays with the Llacsans, the more she is challenged to question stereotypes. The violence and abuse of the king is easy to hate, but the kindness she receives from her guards and helpers confuses her. Not wanting to be disloyal to the true Condesa, but wanting to remain true to her budding beliefs, Ximena finds herself confronted with impossible choices.

I loved how the magic felt so organic to the story–Ximena’s talent is weaving, but it is made more beautiful (and powerful, and useful!) by her magic. And her weaving is so central to the story, that the way it changes and grows feels earned and satisfying. The relationships felt strong and the frequent conflicts were familiar, though heightened. The descriptions of the foods were absolutely mouthwatering!

Highly, highly recommend this awesome YA for fans of fantasy, strong female heroes, and action/adventure.

Check it out through ILL!

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The Grammarians by Catherine Schine & Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

February 6, 2020


Reading these two books back to back was so interesting. They both pack interesting and important social commentary into very readable, enjoyable books.

The Grammarians focuses on the deep, fraught relationship between identical twins Laurel and Daphne, who are obsessed with language, which both unites and separates them from each other and those around them. The twins are interesting and flawed characters who can be hard to empathize with. While their love of language, especially as young children, is endearing and unusual, it is also a way in which their social biases are revealed. Daphne, who writes a column about language, has a rigid, elitist take on “proper” language, as well as a condescending view of Laurel’s teaching job and her desire to stay at home with her daughter. Laurel, insecure in her desire to be a stay at home mother, ends up arguing that it is because she doesn’t want her daughter learning to speak with an accent from a nanny. This social commentary is interwoven into the larger struggle of identity for Daphne and Laurel, as women in the New York writing scene in the 1970s and 80s, as educated white women from a privileged background, as mothers and daughters, and ultimately, as twins. The twins’ parents and spouses, perhaps the most sympathetic characters, love them, but are shut out of understanding the experience of being a twin. Ultimately the struggle of identity in the context of being a twin was the most compelling part of the book for me (full disclosure, my Dad is an identical twin so it’s always been something I’ve thought about).

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is similar in that it works both as a fast-paced, engaging read, and a deeper reflection on identity, and gender, class and racial bias. The main character, Emira, is by far the most interesting and sympathetic character in the book. She is a 25 year old African American woman trying to make ends meet as a babysitter with a part time transcription job, worrying about turning 26 when she will be kicked off her parents’ health insurance. Her friends seem to be passing her by economically and professionally, and she hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to do with her life. Alix, the white 30-something writer Emira works for, is a complicated character. While on the surface we seem to have reasons to sympathize with Alix, given her lonely and complicated upbringing, a humiliating breakup, and indifferent parents, the adult version of herself that she constructs, and the stories she tells herself about her life, reveal some very troubling motivations. She is painfully self-absorbed, quite manipulative, and her obsession with needing Emira to like her and be her friend has little to do with Emira herself. Additionally Kelly, Emira’s white boyfriend, who seems on the surface to be a good guy, has a condescending view of Emira’s work in child-care, a lack of self-awareness about his own class privilege, and there is some question about his motivation for dating Emira. A videotaped incident of Emira getting questioned by a security guard at an upscale supermarket while babysitting Briar is the catalyst for much of the plot of the book, particularly Alix and Kelly’s storylines, although, revealingly, neither of them seem to be focused on how Emira was affected, or how she wants it to be handled. While the drama of Alix and her life, as well as her backstory with Kelly, swirl around the book, often dominating the plot, the heart of the story is Emira, and the book always comes back to her, and to maybe the most important relationship in the book –the one between Emira and Briar, the funny 3 year old Emira adores.

These were two books definitely worth reading.

Such a Fun Age and The Grammarians be found on Libby/Overdrive.