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Staff Picks: Books

Love & Gelato

I read almost every book set in Italy I can find. So of course I would pick this one up. Love & Gelato tells the story of Lina, who is moving to Italy to live with a father she's never met after her artist mother has died. When she arrives, Lina is given her mother's old journal, full of sketches and writings, detailing her own college years in Florence. Though she grieves for her mother and her life in the States, Lina takes every opportunity to learn who her mother and father are this summer in Italy. In the process, she unearths a major secret, makes friends, and meets a love interest. I loved this YA novel. It's the perfect summer read for fans of realistic fiction, with light romance and travel.


Max

Incredibly researched and vividly written, Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali is not for the faint of heart. This historical fiction is based off of real events during WWII, beginning with our introduction to the titular character as he is preparing to be born, the first child of the Lebensborn Program. From his birth until the German surrender, we see the world through Max’s eyes and his heavily indoctrinated thoughts - sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic language included.
Getting through the first quarter of this book was a challenge for how descriptive the writing was in those regards. The second half of the book certainly rewards the reader for sticking it out, as Max subtly comes to understand the world around him, and how he deals with it. Max is a brutal story with an important message, well worth picking up.


Rad Women

Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z tell the stories of women who did amazing things, some well-known and, maybe more importantly, some not so well-known. From Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, Rad American Women A-Z came first and focuses on American women. Rad Women Worldwide focuses on forty women from all around the world who moved beyond boundaries. From punk rockers to polar explorers to authors, organizers, athletes, artists, and more, both of these great collections of biographical profiles feature amazing cut-paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. Both are great for all ages but reside in the library's Children's and Teen materials collections. Check them out if you are interested in being inspired and learning some real-life amazing stories!

 


Piecing Me Together

Jade’s mother tells her to take every opportunity that becomes available to her, but she also knows the word opportunity is laced with coded messages. When the opportunity to join Woman to Woman is put in front of her, Jade is not interested. Until she finds out that completing the program means getting a scholarship to college. Paired up with a mentor that doesn’t seem to have her life together any better than Jade, wondering why her white friend can’t see that sometimes it IS about race, and wanting more out of this so-called opportunity, Jade begins to learn more about herself, her place in the world, and that if she wants to see change, she needs to speak up for herself and others.

This book was so amazing. From the very beginning I was hooked. Jade’s voice is clear and strong, and, as the story progresses, I love that her character development is subtle, yet major. Finishing it, I felt inspired. I have a feeling this book will be making its way into my personal collection very soon.


American Street

American Street follows the story of a Haitian teenage girl named Fabiola who planned on coming to stay with her aunt and cousins in Detroit, Michigan. Though Fabiola was born in the US, and is an American citizen, her mother is not, and she ends up getting detained at the JFK airport.  As a result, Fabiola is forced to start a brand new life on her own-- creating a new identity in an unfamiliar country, with family she doesn't know, all the while trying to find a way to be reunited with her mother.

It's always interesting to see your home through someone else's eyes, and this debut novel by Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian immigrant herself, provides a fresh and unique perspective on the American Dream, and the compromises one has to make along the way.  


March

March: Book 3, the final installment of the graphic novel trilogy authored by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, was chosen as the Michael L. Printz award winner for excellence in Young Adult Literature on January 23 at ALA Youth Media Awards. This graphic novel chronicles the coming of age of Freedom Rider and Civil Rights activist, John Lewis. This incredible graphic novel, also the first GN to win the National Book Award, will inspire and encourage young people and adults to live a life of service. We can all be encouraged by John Lewis' example.


Beast

This take on Beauty and the Beast really is original. Dylan, an over-sized and hirsute 15 year old, is our unreliable narrator. Awash in a sea of self-pity and zero self-esteem Dylan spends most of the book thinking everyone sees him the way he sees himself (honestly, he spends so much time pitying himself it's exhausting) and waiting for a sign from his deceased father. Jamie, an amazing, funny, and creative girl challenges Dylan’s superficiality when he realizes that not only is he totally into her, but that she is transgender. So, confession: this book ticked me off a lot. I spent a lot of the day yelling at Dylan for being a jerk. Almost all the characters are crappy people and I felt incredibly cynical about them. BUT! I could not put it down. As frustrating as I found this book, the writing is compelling and the character growth is authentic. Also, unreliable narrators make for a fun read, even when they are super irritating.


Paper Girls 2 For Me and You!

Paper Girls 2 is here! If you're new to the series, just know that it is the perfect comic to read while waiting for season 2 of Stranger Things. Complete with a great group of kids, crazy monsters, and 1980s hairstyles in all their feather-fringed glory. If you are already a fan, you’ll remember, at the end of Paper Girls Volume 1, KJ was still missing, and the gang was mysteriously transported out of the 80s. If you’ve somehow been patient enough to wait for the next volume instead of going out to buy the single comics, you’ll be excited to know this one starts right where the last one left off—with the girls being dropped right in the middle of 2016, and Erin coming face to face with her adult self!

Will Erin be disappointed in her future self? Will they ever find KJ? Will the paper girls be able to survive the horrors of 2016???

There's only one way to find out-- check it out right now!


Lucky Penny

Penny’s life is a mess. She’s living out of her friend’s storage unit, and working for a 12-year-old tyrant at a laundromat. When she’s not attempting to rescue cats from mean kids in the neighborhood, she’s reading fantasy romance novels, and working on a real life awkward romance of her own. Lucky Penny, by creators Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, is a quirky romantic comedy, and also my new favorite graphic novel at the moment.

It reads like a cross between the epic Scott Pilgrim series and the super twee web cartoon Bee and Puppycat. It’s adorable, funny, and unabashedly nerdy. I enjoyed it immensely, and you probably will too, so check it out already!


Of Fire and Stars

I love a good, fun fantasy. The world building in Audrey Coulthurst’s debut novel, Of Fire and Stars, is thorough and interesting, as is the character development. Right from the start we are introduced to a girl who discovers she has an Affinity for fire, and while parts of the world are accepting of that, she’s already betrothed to the prince of a kingdom that believes magic use to be heretical. What gives this story a great twist is the romance that blossoms between our protagonist and the sister of her betrothed. I found it refreshing and interesting to read a world where their priorities were flipped - the main challenge of these two women being together wasn’t that they were both women, but that one was betrothed to the other’s brother. Oh, and she can use magic, which is kind of a big deal. Especially when magic-users might be involved in an assassination (or two). There were so many layers to this fantasy, and each one made me want more, even days after finishing the book.