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Recent Reviews

The Nakano Thrift Shop Cover Image
Posted on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hiromi Kawakami’s The Nakano Thrift Shop is a charming and quirky novel  set almost entirely in a Tokyo secondhand store. It’s the first US translation from a promising and popular Japanese novelist, with more to come soon. Protagonist Hitomi works the register as the strange rhythms of life working for the eccentric Mr. Nakano unfold at an easy and enjoyable pace around her. This delightful novel, anchored by an unconventional and often funny love story, is a breezy look at everyday Tokyo life. Recommended by Danny

 

Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, June 22, 2017

I love discovering one writer through the relationship with another, as I did Ross MacDonald through his letters to Eudora Welty. This is a memoir of the relationship between the most talented and private of Southern novelists, Welty, and noir mystery writer, MacDonald, who had long admired each others writing before they began corresponding. Though many assumed Welty looked at life through the lens of a dutiful spinster, caring for her aging mother and ailing brother, this lovely book proves otherwise. This epistolary romance bears witness to the literary talents of each and enlivens a lost age of letter writing. Recommended by Kelly

Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, June 22, 2017

I love discovering one writer through the relationship with another, as I did Ross MacDonald through his letters to Eudora Welty. This is a memoir of the relationship between the most most talented but most private of Southern novelists, Welty, and noir mystery writer, MacDonald, who had long admired each others writing before they began corresponding. Though many assumed Welty looked at life through the lens of a dutiful spinster, caring for her aging mother and ailing brother, this lovely book proves otherwise. This epistolary romance bears witness to the literary talents of each and enlivens a lost age of letter writing. Recommended by Kelly

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Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and a Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, June 3, 2017

I'm late to arrive at Lawrence-based writer Caryn Miriam-Golberg's book Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and a Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other. The book tells the difficult and yet ultimately triumphant tale of late Lawrence residents Lou Frydman and Jarek Piekalkiewicz who both survived Nazi death camps and marches during the Holocaust. Frydman, along with his brother Abe were taken by the German army during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. By the end of the war, everyone in his extended family had been killed except the two brothers. Piekalkiewicz started his own underground army at age sixteen and remained part of the Polish resistance until his ultimate capture by the Nazis. The two men's harrowing tales as those targeted as "different" and "dangerous" by the governing party remains even more relevant in today's political climate. Mirriam-Goldberg's exhaustive research and beautiful translation of hours of interviews with the two men makes this book among one of the finest of Holocaust biographies. Highly recommended by Kelly

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The Language of Secrets: A Mystery Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, June 3, 2017

In her first book, The Unquiet Dead, Ausma Zehant Khan introduced us to Inspector Esa Khattak and his partner Rachel Getty of the RCMP in Ontario. Their unit—Community Policing Section—is charged with bridging gaps between the Muslim community and the police. The Language of Secrets takes up where the first novel left off: Khattak finds himself, as a devout Muslim, caught between his job and his faith community and undergoing an internal review based on his handling of a previous case. Khan's touch is getting even better in this novel as she weaves her way through the politically and religiously fraught landscape of our time. Khattak and Getty are great characters, full of interesting and believable foibles as well as strengths. If you are a fan of the character-driven police procedurals of Elizabeth George or Deborah Crombie or of Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache, you will like these new characters and this interesting new perspective. Recommended by Sarah.

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White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America Cover Image
Posted on Saturday, May 6, 2017

I just keep coming back to this book! I have read it twice! This is the history of white America that has been deliberately left out. It's embarrassing, crass, and super creepy. White Trash explores the history of "waste people," presidential perspectives, and how race has a part in every single piece of American history, no matter how hard some try to erase it. Nancy Isenberg has created a dialog that can change everything--all you have to do is read it. Happy learning! Recommended by Jenna.

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Jane Steele Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye is a wickedly thrilling read!  In the first chapter when Jane, the narrator says, “Reader, I murdered him” I was hooked.  Set in 19th century England, Jane lives at Highgate House with her mother and unfeeling aunt.  Her mother dies and Jane is sent to a dreadful boarding school for girls that’s run by a sadistic and cruel headmaster.  Jane escapes and flees to London, living by her wits for a few years.  (She has something in common with other literary characters who do bad things to bad people.).  She spies an ad in a newspaper for a governess at Highgate House and applies for the job, all the while determined to learn if she is the rightful heir, as she’d been told as a child.  I don’t want to give too much away, but just say that the book is a mystery, an adventure, a romance and an historical novel.  Marvelously well-written, fascinating characters, carefully plotted : there is much to love about this book!  Also, it’s a bit of an homage to Jane Eyre, a favorite book of Jane Steele’s (think Mr. Thornfield instead of Mr. Rochester).    One review said:  ‘Jane Eyre gets a dose of Dexter’, and Sue Grafton gave it an ‘A-plus’! Highly recommended by Rochelle McKown.

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Priestdaddy: A Memoir Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017

Patricia Lockwood's memoir Priestdaddy is pretty unforgettable, primarily because nobody can craft a joke like Lockwood. She lends her manic comic energy to the story of moving home from Savannah to Kansas City after her husband's expensive eye surgery for a rare vision condition. Thing is, home is a bit stranger for Lockwood than for the rest of us: her father is a Catholic priest who's basically beyond description, but here goes: he walks around in boxers, playhs electric guitar loudly, is an ordained priest with five children, and watches Glenn Beck, well, religiously. No summary can capture the strangeness of this family, and Lockwood mines the story for absurdist humor and effective moments of pathos. Laugh, cry, cringe: this is the holy trinity of reading anything by Patricia Lockwood, and Priestdaddy is no exception. Recommended by Danny

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A Reunion of Ghosts Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell is one of the best novels I've read in years. A wry black comedy, it begins in 1999 and is the story of the forty-ish Alter sisters: Lady, Vee and Delph, who share an apartment on New York's Upper East Side. But it's also the story of four generations of the Alter family, beginning with their great-grandfather, a brilliant German chemist who invented chlorine gas, among other terrible things. Tragedies have occurred in each generation, leaving the Alter sisters to conclude that there is only one solution that will break the curse. It's deftly written, rich and intelligent, the humor and wit razor-sharp. I highly recommend it. Rochelle

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Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Cover Image
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017

As if we needed another reason to celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg! This book is about her insatiable desire to change the world and her commitment to equality. It is a great book for the ardent feminist, as well as a book for parents to read to their children. There are lots of photographs, timelines, and fun facts. This book is especially important with the recent addition  to the supreme court. Happy learning!  Recommended by Jenna.