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Staff Picks: Books

Squid for President!

Jokes about presidential candidates are just too easy this time around so I’m going to skip that part and get right to Aaron Reynolds new picture book President Squid. It is true that no giant squid has ever been president before, but this might be the right time. Squid wears a tie, lives in a big house (a sunken cruise liner), is famous (he’s in a book), does all the talking, and likes to boss people around so he thinks he is perfect for the job. Will he be the fifth president carved into Mt. Rushmore? If you aren’t already having enough fun during this year’s presidential race, check out President Squid for even more laughs. 

Speaking of storybook characters running for president, stay tuned for our mock election this Fall where each library location will nominate and campaign for one for president. Of course, Washington Square’s nominee, Dora the Explorer, will win!

What Should I Read Next?

Full Disclosure: I haven’t read The Grownup by Gillian Flynn yet, but it’s on my list of books to read next. I discovered The Grownup while using our new database, NoveList, to find reading recommendations based on books I love. NoveList is an online resource that makes it easy to find books to read; it offers read-alike recommendations, reading lists, and an “appeal” feature that helps readers determine why they enjoy a book and whether a particular book will fit their style. I looked up my favorite book that I’ve read this year: Mr. Splitfoot, a contemporary gothic novel by Samantha Hunt. It was atmospheric, unsettling, and full of great character development. I wanted more! NoveList gave me list of ten recommendations based on that title, and due to its description, The Grownup appealed to me the most. Why did NoveList recommend The Grownup based on my love of Mr. Splitfoot? According to the recommendation, “These books are Creepy and Compelling, and they share: the genre 'Gothic fiction' and the subject 'Swindlers and swindling'.” All right, I’m sold.

NoveList is accessible with your library card on our website.

The ZER0ES are my Hacker Heroes!

Ever since the advent of the personal computer there have been stories about hackers. Super-intelligent misfits that can bring down big business and corrupt governments with a few keystrokes have become Robin Hood-like heroes in both books and movies. These types of stories are filled with enough techno-thrills, espionage and intrigue to make for great summer reads even for the biggest techno-phobe. Chuck Wendig’s Zer0es is the story of five “criminal” hackers who are captured and given a choice to either work on a special government project or rot in a jail cell. Our hacker heroes, dubbed “the Zeroes”, soon discover that the work they are doing has caused the “awakening” of a digital demon that wants to protect the world by enslaving the population! Reading Zer0es was like watching a big budget summer blockbuster. It was chock full of action, conspiracy, big explosions, monsters, and lots of hacking! No need to plug into to enjoy Zer0es!

Kindred by Octavia Butler

My sister recommended this book to me but I put off reading it for a while. I wish I hadn't waited to read it though. In Octavia Butler's Kindred, published in 1979, African-American woman Dana gets sent back in time from 1976 to the early 19th century. There, she must learn how to survive in the era of slavery until she can get back home. Her white husband, Kevin, also becomes involved in her time travel, so the reader can compare and contrast their experiences. Despite the time travel aspect of the story, it mainly reads as historical fiction. It is an uncomfortable read (the ending was especially unsettling), but that makes it more authentic and worthwhile. The edition that I read includes a critical essay by Robert Crossley at the end which discusses Butler as a black, female author in the historically white, male genre of science fiction, and explains some of the plot points to increase the reader's understanding of the book. I hope this title makes it to your reading list, because it greatly deserves a spot there.

Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin

Princeless is an all-ages, ongoing comic book series written by Jeremy Whitley with art and colors by M. Goodwin, and is published by Action Lab Comics. I am recommending the first trade paperback of the book, which collects the first 4 issues into one book. Or, if you prefer, you can access the series on your computer or tablet through Hoopla. You will find individual issues as well as the volumes there. 

Princess Adrienne's parents have locked her and her sisters into towers throughout the kingdom, with a different mythical creature guarding each one against would-be rescuers. The king and queen want a suitable husband for each daughter, and a worthy son-in-law as an heir to the throne. Whoever slays the beast gets the girl, and therefore proves himself as the best suitor. 

Adrienne decides to fight the status quo by embarking on a quest to rescue her sisters herself. A quirky female blacksmith named Bedelia and Adrienne's lovable dragon, Sparky, help her to begin her journey. Her brother Devin, who is more interested in prose than sword-fighting, also aids Adrienne. I love this book because it addresses sexism, gender roles, abuse of power by law enforcement, and other important themes, but in a humorous way that anybody can understand. And of course it tears down fairy tale cliches. Boys and girls, young and old, will enjoy this book. If you have not read a comic book before and you would like to try, just remember to follow it from top to bottom, and from left to right. Once you practice a bit, it comes easily.

After You by Jojo Moyes (sequel to Me Before You)

To those of you who have read Me Before You, I am here to recommend the sequel, After You. Author Jojo Moyes continues to craft relatable, interesting stories for the characters she brought to life in Me Before You as well as introducing a few new people. The best part of this sequel is that the other characters are given more time to develop instead of Louisa being the main focus. We get to see Camilla and Steven Traynor’s lives after Will, observe Josie’s growth and her marriage with Bernard more closely, and view Treena’s situation from a fresh angle. The only character I did not like, a teenage girl with a ton of personal and family issues, became very important and even her story interested me. Moyes delves into themes of grief, depression, and isolation in After You and succeeds in painting a very real portrait of loss that is important to find in fiction. We watch how long it takes Louisa to get her life back on track after the events of Me Before You and appreciate that her recovery takes a lot of time and introspection. While it did require more patience from me to stay with Louisa during this most challenging time in her life, it was worth it to reach the book’s satisfying conclusion.


Lost Girl

As someone who loves 20th century historical fiction of all kinds, I was drawn to Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls. The Girls follows present-day Evie Boyd as she recalls the events of the summer of 1969 when she was 14 years old. Evie, a lost and lonely adolescent, is drawn into a cult by the confident, effervescent Suzanne who is everything Evie wants to be. She finds sanctuary at the compound, but things begin to unravel when the leader plans a gruesome murder that rocks the nation. 

Being a teenager is hard on everyone. It’s an awkward time and all you want is to feel like you belong somewhere. My version of handling this stage in life was VASTLY different (mainly sitting in my room listening to emo music and reading Stephen King novels), but Cline conjured up a bittersweet nostalgia that made me feel a connection to young Evie. Cline also depicts the diversity of female relationships- with men, with girls and women, with society- and does not gloss over any of the negatives. Evie isn’t always likable and doesn’t always have a solid reason for her actions, and that’s okay. Cline isn’t afraid to show that everyone has flaws, not all decisions are crystal clear, and not all relationships are ideal, or even healthy.

I will confess that I wasn’t as captivated with the actual plot as I had hoped, but I was still drawn into this book. Even though the incident is comparable to the Manson Family murders, the thrill of the crime fell a little flat.  If you are looking for an edge-of-your-seat-true-crime-inspired fiction, move on, BUT if you’re looking for an emotional coming-of-age tale, get comfy and read on.  The Girls may not have been the historical crime story I was expecting, but it was definitely worth the read!

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

 I’ve read many novels about World War II, but A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, is the first I can recall with a Japanese setting to the Nagasaki bombing.

Amaterasu Takahaski, now living in Philadelphia, is skeptical when a badly scarred man, claiming to be her grandson, appears at her door. Her grandson and her daughter perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki, but this man carries a collection of sealed private letters that open long-buried family secrets that give her pause.

This is a heart-wrenching story of love and regret, ultimately healing and hope. I’ve been recommending this to my reader-friends and expect it will be one of my favorites of the year.

These Girls Pack a Punch!

 Do you need more dinosaurs, time travelers, and girl power in your life? If so, I have two fantastic graphic novels for you.  First up, is Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer named by Wired Magazine as " the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years." This suspenseful mystery starts with a slow burn as four paper delivery girls head out to cover their route the morning after Halloween in 1988.  After the girls accidentally set off a strange machine, the story kicks off at break-neck speed, and soon the girls are facing off against dinosaurs, laser-blasting knights, and sub-human creatures that might just be from the future. It’s intense, fast-paced, wicked fun, and the series is only just beginning. 


Also, make sure to check out the Lumberjanes series by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Lumberjanes follows five “hardcore lady types” spending the summer at a crazy camp surrounded by bizarre supernatural mysteries. The girls fight werewolves, solve riddles, and avoid the ever-watchful eye of their group counselor in this manic, off-beat, fantastic read. This series has been out for a while, but you can catch up on Hoopla digital.

Both of these series are a great mash-up of sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery with fabulous artwork. So what are you waiting for? 

Widow Basquiat

I’ve been interested in the New York art scene of the 1980’s since…well the 1980’s. The New York of that era would be unrecognizable to the gentrified, hyper-wealthy Manhattan of today. But it’s just that gritty, crime-ridden, underworld scene that interested me so much. It also allowed hip-hop music and graffiti art to be elevated to legit art forms and inspired some truly great artists to become household names. I was totally enamored by the populist art of Keith Haring, but the artist whose work and image intrigued me the most was Jean-Michel Basquiat. Seeing pictures of Basquiat back then, dreadlocked and in a paint-spattered Armani suit, seemed too cool to be real and when I first saw the raw voodoo power of his paintings, I really couldn’t get enough. There are many books that highlight this era and the artists who were forged within it, but the uniquely resonant prose of Jennifer Clement’s novel Widow Basquiat is exceptional in its ability to take you directly to that wild time in New York City and poetically tell the story of the volatile love affair between the doomed Basquiat and his muse Suzanne Mollouk.