Monday, February 1, 2016

February 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

February 1, 2016

Lord and Lady Spy
By Shana Galen

Shana Galen’s Lord and Lady Spy is a fast-paced, fun, and gripping Regency romance romp.

I knew this book was a keeper when I read the first scene and laughed so loudly that my husband said he could hear me from another room. The scene involves a “rider” and a “horse” neighing loudly behind closed doors, beginning when Agent Saint, a spy on a mission to find and interrogate Napoleon Bonaparte’s advisor, is investigating the quarters of the advisor’s mistress. Saint barely has a chance to finish surveying her surroundings when suddenly the mistress and a different lover burst in the room and begin to engage in roleplay, leaving Saint no other choice but to hide in the nearest closet.  As Agent Saint crouches in the cramped closet awaiting the advisor, she hopes for two things: one, that her fellow spy and competitor Agent Wolf won’t find a way to get to the advisor first; and two, that she will be able to escape the closet before the “horse is…stabled."

Early on in the story we learn that Agent Saint and Agent Wolf have been unknowingly living together under the same roof for years as husband and wife (Lord Adrian and Lady Sophia, respectfully) when they are summoned by their boss to hunt down a murderer. Lord Adrian has no idea that the impassive woman to whom he is married is actually the fearless and brave Agent Saint, while Lady Sophia has no idea that her staid husband Adrian is actually the strong, strapping Agent Wolf who she greatly admires. Together, these two strangers discover and reveal their true selves to each other while facing danger at every turn and slowly falling in love.

A side note to the reader: this book is steamy. Steamy, as in melt the snow right under your boots in a Nor’easter. Steamy, as in even your mama will know why you’re blushing. As Adrian and Sophia try to track down the murderer, they spend a lot of time “getting to know each other” including on a garden bench (splinters anyone?), inside a fast-moving carriage while pursuing enemies, and during a night cap in their living room as an armed assassin tries to catch them off guard. However, there is no such thing as being caught off guard for these two--they excel at multitasking…a lot.  

Aside from the steaminess though, this story also has a lot of heart and the reader comes to care very deeply for the characters, and the pains and struggles they each face. Lord and Lady Spy delivers romance, intrigue, and comedy, and you won’t be able to put this book down. Currently available in Overdrive as an eBook and other CWMars libraries, Lord and Lady Spy will soon be found in WPL’s romance stacks! 


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 2016 Staff Book Recommendations

January 26, 2016 

The Girl on the Train 
By Paula Hawkins 

Since this past summer, when the weather was more hot and humid than bitter and biting, I’ve wanted to read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This domestic noir novel had reached number one on The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list and I was intrigued. The novel, as it turns out, was an exciting read which kept me reading past my bedtime trying to figure out whodunit. 

The reader is introduced to Rachel, an alcoholic having trouble pulling her life back together. Her train ride to and from London, Monday through Friday, passes a life lost, an ex-husband, Tom, with a new wife, Anna, and a new baby in the very same house she shared with Tom. The train route is a daily reminder to Rachel of the life she used to have, the life she screwed up, the life she desperately wants back--the life that Anna, the new wife has now. A few doors down from the ex-husband lives a couple, a distraction for Rachel. She often sees the pair outside while passing on the train. She imagines the kind of perfect, loving life they lead and has even gone so far as to name them. Jess—beautiful, petite, and blonde—and Jason—masculine, strong, and protective—are the ideal couple to Rachel. However, her image of the ideal couple is shattered when Rachel, from the train, witnesses Jess kissing another man and subsequently goes missing. 

From here on, Rachel’s life becomes wrapped up in the disappearance of Jess, or rather, Megan Hipwell, as identified in the papers. Rachel believes the kiss is a clue and worries police will go directly for Jason (Scott Hipwell) without pursuing the potential lover. She does not yet have a complete picture, partly because she is an outsider to Megan and Scott’s world, and partly because of her alcohol addiction and tendency to blackout when drinking. 

The larger story is fleshed out through not only Rachel’s perspective, but Megan and Anna’s as well. Rachel’s world is full of gin and tonics, wine, missing memories, drunk dials, trouble with Anna, the police detectives, her roommate/landlord, etc. Megan’s story leads up until her disappearance and reveals her past and somewhat troubled life. Anna’s perspective focuses on the trouble Rachel causes her would-be perfect life with her perfect husband, perfect baby, and perfect happiness. 

Hawkins lays out this exciting novel with accounts of regret, infidelity, addiction, and mistrust which kept me interested and guessing throughout the novel. Domestic noir is a genre I have yet to delve into but based on this novel I would definitely consider adding another one to my reading list. I invite you to do the same (after reading this book first, of course!)


January 19, 2015

The Goblin Emperor
By Katherine Addison 

The Goblin Emperor tells the story of Maia, a young half-Goblin who suddenly becomes Emperor of a major kingdom. Hated by his father the Emperor, exiled from the capitol, and far to the back of the line of succession, Maia never expected to hold any kind of power. However, when his father and half-brothers are murdered by unknown forces, the politically naive Maia must take the throne and learn to rule while overcoming prejudice, plots and a lack of political skill, all while attempting to determine who caused the deaths of his family. 

I greatly enjoyed The Goblin Emperor for its uniqueness. The novel is a bit different from many other fantasy novels in that you won’t find epic battles between giant armies or wizards fighting monsters. Instead, most of the battles play out in the political arena as forces both inside and out of the empire attempt to maneuver against the new leader. The book’s political focus is somewhat similar to the A Song of Ice and Fire series, while being far less dark and ultimately more hopeful. One of the appeals of the book is that Maia genuinely tries to be a good ruler despite the backstabbing nature of the empire, and the characters are well-written and sympathetic. 

One potential drawback, however, is that there are a lot of characters. Plus, the way Addison uses surnames means that it can occasionally get confusing as to who is who. Even as an experienced reader of fantasy, I often had to check the index at the back of the book in order to figure out who had done what. Still, the world building is very well done, and the book definitely didn’t feel derivative as fantasy novels sometimes do. I highly recommend this one. 


January 13, 2016 

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future 
By A.S. King 

When Glory O’Brien was four years old, her mother, Darla, committed suicide. Since then her life has been haunted. Darla, unlike many dead parents in young adult (YA) literature, maintains a presence throughout her daughter’s story. The aftershocks of her suicide rumble through every page of the book: “My mother wasn’t conveniently dead, like so many stories about children…She didn’t die to help me overcome some obstacle by myself or to make me a more sympathetic character.” Glory has anxiety and panic attacks; she worries that her mother’s suicide is hereditary and that one day she will follow in her footsteps. 

On the eve of her high school graduation,Glory and her best friend/neighbor/non-friend, Ellie, drink the ashes of a bat that gives them the ability to see into the future. Yeah, you read that right. Glory can see people’s “infinities”: their ancestors and their descendants, events from the future and the past. She begins writing down these visions in a book called The History of the Future. It becomes startlingly clear that the future of the country is bleak. Glory sees a future in which women are subjugated to men, causing society to break down and a new civil war to arise. 

Reading this book felt like reading the psychedelic YA prequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. King writes with a prophetic and spiritual tone. She also captures the reality of living in the wake of your loved one’s suicide really well. Despite the somewhat “out there” plot, this book is about death and life and moving on. These are things that everyone can relate to and are important for young people to investigate. You won’t need to suspend your disbelief to read this novel because from the beginning it’s clear that it’s about more than a prophetic bat. Read if you like Margaret Atwood or anything that bends genres. 


January 2, 2016
Stand Off
By Andrew Smith

Have you read my review of Winger?  Stand Off is Andrew Smith’s impressive follow up.  

In this new novel, Smith continues the story of Ryan Dean West, rugby player, comic artist and youngest member of the senior class at Pine Mountain boarding school.  At the start of his senior year Ryan Dean is still grieving his best friend, Joey, who died the previous year.  He has developed an anxiety disorder and is terrified that another tragedy will befall him.  This fear is personified in his comics as a creature called NATE (Next Accidental Terrible Experience) who stalks Ryan Dean’s every move.  On top of all this the headmaster-with-the-unpronounceable-name has decided that Ryan Dean would make a great roommate and mentor for the school’s newest genius child: a twelve year old claustrophobic freshman named Sam Abernathy who is intent on destroying the social standing to which Ryan Dean barely clings.  And, finally, Ryan Dean attempts to find private time to finally have sex with his girlfriend, Annie Altman.

So… a lot going on here.  The novel perfectly captures the hectic drama of teenage life.  
Ryan Dean is a believable teenage boy: he can be immature, he can overreact and he is almost always thinking about sex.  But the character is more complex than that.  He’s deeply affected by his friend’s death and tries to deal with it in his own ways.  He breaks into their old dorm building and visits Joey’s former room.  He (somewhat awkwardly) tries to befriend Joey’s younger brother.  He pushes away new attachments because of his fear and anxiety.  

Despite some of the serious subject matter, Stand Off continues the tone of absurd humor introduced in Winger.  This series is a great choice for reluctant readers.  The humor and illustrations make it a quick read and help to break up the heavier emotional bits.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Find Your Next Great Read @ WPL

Did you know there is a whole branch of librarianship dedicated to perfecting the art of the book recommendation?  It’s called Readers’ Advisory and here at WPL we’re flexing our librarian muscles and kicking it up a notch with a new service just for our readers: Find Your Next Great Read.  Whether you’re an occasional skimmer of biographies or a voracious consumer of historical romance we’d like to help you find something you’ll love. 

Sometimes you get into a slump and you just don’t know what to read next.  Other times you feel like you need to be inspired to step outside your comfort zone.  Whatever your reading mood you can participate in this new service by filling out the Find Your Next Great Read form here.  We’ll ask you questions about books you like, books you don’t like and everything in between.  Let us know what you’re in the mood for and we’ll provide you with a personalized reading guide of titles hand selected by a WPL librarian.  Sure, you could find your next book on Novelist or Goodreads (and we do encourage you to explore!) but what Find Your Next Great Read offers is the personal touch.  Each reading guide will include a note from the librarian who compiled it, giving a little explanation as to why we chose the titles that we did.  Additionally you will receive summaries and appeal factors on each title.  These will give you hints about the books’ plots and why you might like them.

This is a new service and we welcome your feedback and suggestions!  Get inspired and check it out today!

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

December 21, 2015

Playing with Fire
By Tess Gerritsen

Grave is an Italian musical term used to describe a piece of music that is played solemnly or very slowly. In Playing with Fire, Tess Gerritsen gradually and painstakingly reveals the horrors and secrets from which main characters Julie and Lorenzo suffer. 

Julie Ansdell, a violinist from present day Boston, discovers a rare score of a waltz titled "Incendio" in an antique shop in Venice, Italy. With just a glance of the notes in Incendio, Julie can sense the urgency and beauty of the music and decides she must own it. Yet, Incendio is not just any piece of music; from the moment Julie purchases it, Julie is plagued with unsettling feelings, such as noticing the distinctly chilling temperature inside the antique shop, and the disturbing behavior of her once angelic three year-old daughter that seem to be stirred up whenever Julie plays the piece. Soon, Julie can trust no one, and those she loves become a danger to both her physical and mental state.

As Julie sets out to unearth the possible malignant powers of Incendio, the reader is plunged into a new story that takes place several years before the Holocaust in Venice, Italy. Gerritsen, inspired by true historical events, introduces the reader to a violinist named Lorenzo who is born to generations of Jewish Italians who live and breathe music. Lorenzo and his family are celebrated for their talent and contributions to their community, and although their fellow Jews are being hunted and terrorized in other parts of Europe, they do not believe that they could experience these same horrors in their beloved Venice. However, Venice, like the rest of Europe during the late 1930s, is not immune to the infestation of hatred and cruelty against the Jews. 

In spite of the gravity of subject matter in this part of the book, Gerritsen steadfastly reminds her readers about the power of Incendio and all the ways in which humans are connected to each other. Towards the end of the book, Playing with Fire explodes into a feverish pace as Gerritsen unravels how Julie and Lorenzo’s stories connect. The knots of tension continue to tighten leaving the reader grasping for the book’s initial tempo and a moment to process all that has been revealed. 

Grave (pronounced gra-veh): Music played in a slow and solemn manner.

Grave (pronounced grave): Serious, severe, momentous, somber, grim, dire, fateful, weighty. 

Art imitates life in Playing with Fire.


December 15, 2015 

Life After Life 
By Kate Atkinson 

As one would suspect, as a librarian, I am surrounded by avid readers. Periodically, a certain gotta-read title seems to grab everyone’s attention at once and you start to see and hear about it everywhere: the book magically migrates from desk to desk, you walk into conversations about it…For a while, it was The Martian by Andy Weir; then it was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. For the past year or so, the book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson has been meandering into my mindscape, ever more so lately since its sequel A God in Ruins was just published. 

So I gave in, checked it out, and found myself turning the pages, trying to understand why I was reading and rereading the birth and sometimes simultaneous death of a perfectly-formed child named Ursula during a snowstorm on February 11, 1910. Then I realized, that’s the magic of this novel: simply read each section as it unfolds and don’t overthink it, you don’t need to work that hard! Atkinson’s gift is seamlessly conjuring up one believable, captivating tale after another, each one chronicling a different version of Ursula’s life depending on the tiniest shift in circumstances. In so doing, she not only examines the age-old argument of fate versus free will, she also takes the reader on a tour of World Wars I and II, as experienced by members of an upper-middle class British family. (I have hardly read a more compelling account of what living with and dealing with the aftermath of daily bombings was like for civilians). 

The author wanted to call this book “Lunch Date with Hitler,” but the publishers wouldn't have it. Based on that alone, you might not be surprised to find this book is both entertaining and profound. Highly recommended for fiction readers interested in world events of the first half of the twentieth century. 


December 9, 2015

Tiger Eyes 

By Judy Blume 

In a fit of nostalgia I recently decided to read a Judy Blume novel. As an adolescent, the only one of her novels I ever read was the inimitable Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (If you’ve never read it, it is the quintessential puberty book for young girls). I decided I’d read one of Blume’s less well- known titles, Tiger Eyes, which was semi-recently made into an underwhelming film. 

Tiger Eyes is about a young teenage girl, Davey, whose father is killed in a robbery at his store. Davey, her mother and her younger brother are all traumatized by the violent tragedy. Her mother decides to move them away to New Mexico to stay with family while they learn how to deal. Rather than dealing with their problems, though, the family falls into a rut. Davey’s mother develops a drug problem and allows her sister and brother-in-law to take care of her children while she shuts out the real world. Davey is scared and angry and, on top of that, is forced to try to act normal at a new school. She worries that her younger brother is already forgetting their father. Davey finds healing through friendship with an older boy named Wolf whom she meets while hiking a canyon. Wolf’s father is dying and it’s this loss that helps Davey to confront her own. 

In the end, everything wraps up in a neat little package giving the book a very “afterschool special” vibe. Davey and her mother talk out their issues over a pitcher of sangria (because in the 80s I guess it was considered okay for a fifteen year-old to drink alcohol in a restaurant) and they move back to their home in Atlantic City. As corny as this book was (and it was, oh, so corny), I think it has an enduring value for young adults. If you have a teen or tween in your life who is struggling with a family tragedy, this story might help them to heal. Reading about Davey’s reaction to her loss—the emptiness, the numbness, the anger—might help young readers to understand that whatever they’re feeling is okay. 


December 2, 2015

The Lunar Chronicles
By Marissa Meyer

Love fairy tales? What about dystopian fiction? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then this series is definitely for you! It takes the stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White to a whole new universe.

Now that you know the characters, here's the when and where: The story takes place after World War V, as there was a III and a IV preceding the action. With the planet in pieces after these two world wars, the stories are set in a New Asia, specifically in the Commonwealth of New Beijing. 

In New Beijing, we meet Cinder, who of course has an evil stepmother who belittles her, an evil stepsister who despises her, but also another stepsister who tries to keep the peace with Cinder. Through her distant relationship with the only family she has ever known, Cinder struggles to stay out of trouble, avoid the Prince of New Beijing who she obviously likes after one brief encounter, and attempt to piece together her past in order to help save not only her future but the future of the world and her community, Lunar. Did I mention that she is part cyborg? Cinder can only remember pieces of her past since she is part human and part cyborg, meaning that in order to uncover her past she needs to figure out who or what made her the way she is.

In Book Two, we meet Red Riding Hood, or in this case, Scarlet. Scarlet is from France and when her grandmother suddenly goes missing, it is up to Scarlet and a mysterious stranger to figure out where she went and how to save her. Scarlet is forced to join forces with one of the creatures that took her grandmother, Wolf. Wolf is a Lunar soldier whose DNA has been modified and enhanced with that of a wolf, a.k.a. the ultimate killing machine. After convincing Scarlet that he is not the enemy and simply an outcast, the two set off on an adventure through the cities of France in order to track down Scarlet’s grandmother who it appears has some type of connection with Cinder.

In the third installment of this series, we board a spaceship that houses a small girl who has never seen anything beyond the walls of said spaceship. Meet Cress (Rapunzel): a highly intelligent and gifted child who can hack and infiltrate any system from her captor's spaceship. Being held prosoner by a Lunar official, Cress is forced to follow the instructions of Lunar's Evil Queen, Levana. Being overqualified for the job and realizing that freedom is never going to be an option for her, she devises an escape plan that will help her and Cinder and her gang of outlaws as well.

In the final installment of the Lunar chronicles, we are introduced to just one more character before all characters unite to face Levana and win the war that the started in Book One. Winter (Snow White) is the princess of Lunar, the Evil Queen’s stepdaughter, who is as pretty as ever, despite scars that deform her.  Winter is idolized by the people of Lunar and with the power of popularity on her side she can help Cinder and friends to once and for all take down the Queen. Will everyone live happily ever after? 


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 2015 Staff Book Recommendations

November 24, 2015 

By Christopher Golden 

This book was published during the summer I moved from Georgia to Massachusetts. Having grown up in the Northeast, I’ve always loved winter, so I thought delving into a New England winter story would be the perfect “welcome home” read for me. At first glance, the cover of Snowblind is breathtaking: diamond snowflakes on the trees and the grounds enveloping a warmly lit farmhouse in the distance; a traveler lost in the woods would surely find solace in that house or another, also inviting, along the lane. However, displayed at the top of the cover in sharp contrast to the glow of whites and golds below, lies this review from Stephen King: Instantly involving and deeply scary. It will bring a blizzard to your bones (and your heart) even in the middle of July. Throw away all those old “It was a dark and stormy night” novels: this one is the real deal. And watch out for that last page. It’s a killer…

Still, I thought I could handle this book. Many scary things happen in a blizzard. Getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and freezing in the car because it won’t start--not at all fun, but not bone-chillingly (except for the possible hypothermia) terrifying. Or, maybe the power goes out at home but there are always candles and flashlights to chase away the darkness, right? 

Not so much in this story. Demons find you outside or inside whether or not you have a car to escape in or lights on at home. Someone or something is haunting these New Englanders and oh, how I wish it was the Yeti. Pure, soundless snow muffles the screams of the dead and the living, and the gorgeous icicles affixed to a sea of trees are knives. 

The weather outside is frightful. You’ve been warned. 


November 17, 2015 

Burning Dawn 
By Gena Showalter 

This blog is about to get steamy. Like seriously smutty. The deal: Elin Vale is a prisoner of the Phoenix, an immortal race with the power to regenerate after death. She was ripped from her normal life when the Phoenix killed her family and took her captive. Because Elin is only half-Phoenix, she’s considered an abomination and treated worse than dirt. During her captivity she watches as a Sent One (a race of angel-like beings) is brainwashed and enslaved by Kendra, a powerful noble. Kendra uses the act of love to poison her victims and conquer their wills. Elin decides to help the Sent One, Thane, escape in the hopes that he will take her with him and protect her. As you may guess the pair fall into a passionate romance. The only problem? Thane despises the Phoenix and knows nothing of Elin’s mixed ancestry. Elin is terrified to reveal the truth and face Thane’s powerful wrath. Will they find a way to be together and overcome prejudice?!?!? Find out at your local library! 

Burning Dawn is a stellar example of the paranormal romance genre. Showalter mixes steamy love scenes, angst and just a smidgen of plot and backstory to create the perfect escapist novel. Read it for what it is! 


November 10, 2015 

A Curious Beginning 
By Deanna Raybourn 

Author Deanna Raybourn is back and has crafted another great adventure in her new book A Curious Beginning! Those of you who have journeyed with Ms. Raybourn in her Lady Julia Grey mystery series are surely in for a treat with this fun read. 

Meet Veronica Stillwell: lepidopterist extraordinaire and reminiscent of Lady Julia in terms of her wit, cleverness, and no-nonsense attitude. The story unfolds with Veronica who has just departed her aunt’s funeral. Her aunt’s death has left her alone in the world but while Veronica is looking forward to her next solo venture, the Vicar, his wife, and the townspeople want nothing more than to see Veronica cast off her rebellious, bold spirit and settle down with the humdrum husband they have already hand-selected for her. Veronica will have none of this. No sooner has Veronica escaped the pitiful looks and tut-tut headshakes of her neighbors does she return to her home in the midst of an intruder ransacking her meager possessions in search of something. Not one to shy away from danger, Veronica makes a surprise launch at the intruder-easily a man twice her size- wielding a sword stick and chasing him out of her house. The intruder clumsily tries to get the upper hand remembering his size compared to hers, grabs her wrists, and yanks her toward his waiting getaway carriage while she bites at him. End of story? Hardly! It is just the beginning. Why is Veronica in danger? She scarcely has a penny to her name and will soon be the town spinster so what would anyone want with her? 

Although A Curious Beginning has its slow moments (Ms. Raybourn packs a lot into this 300-plus page story), the tension constantly builds, suspenseful moments are always around the corner, and I came to care deeply about Veronica and her friends, especially one who has a lot of similarities to Nicholas Brisbane (see Lady Julia Grey mystery series for more about this rakish gentleman). A Curious Beginning was certainly a different take on the traditional whodunit, yet it was satisfying all the way through. 

This was just the beginning of my discovering a new companion in Veronica Stillwell, but I certainly hope it’s not the end!


November 3, 2015
By P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
What if you could leave everything behind? Say goodbye to your fake best friend, who, by the way, secretly has a huge crush on your boyfriend; say goodbye to your quarterback, football- loving, day-drinking, entirely immature boyfriend; and definitely say adios to your evil stepdad with his “God is good” attitude and the mother you used to know.
If the opportunity presented itself, would you leap at the chance to try on another life? Unfortunately, choices in life are not always an option for everyone, and for Zoe, there is no choice. Zoe has been “marked” and when people realize that she has been marked, she begins to see the true nature of her family and friends, which is exactly what she has been trying not to do for the last sixteen years of her life. If you are marked,, you are a vampire-in-training and you either begin training or die.
Forced to confront her overly religious stepfather and her follow-the-leader mother, Zoe must show them her mark and hope they will understand. One way or another, her old life is over and she must accept the darkness, enter a new school, and start training to become a vampire. Zoe’s life has been completely turned upside down and it is up to her to find where she belongs and make the choice to either go forth or be doomed.