Recent Reviews

Staff Pick Badge
In the Bleak Midwinter: A Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (Fergusson/Van Alstyne Mysteries #1) Cover Image
In the Bleak Midwinter

In the Bleak Midwinter is Julia Spencer-Fleming's debut of her wonderful Clare Ferguson/Russ Van Alstyne series.  When I first read this book, I was amazed at how efficiently and effectively she creates characters within the first chapter of the book. I've read it many times since then as well as devouring the rest of the series, and these are compelling stories of real people as well as intriguing mysteries. Clare Ferguson is the newly appointed Rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in the very upstate New York community of Miller's Kill. She's an army veteran and pilot, who--as the first female priest at St. Alban's--finds herself discomfiting the traditional congregation. Russ Van Alstyne is the Chief of Police, a Vietnam vet who returned to his hometown to take up the badge. When an abandoned baby is found on the church doorstep, Russ and Clare are thrown together as they try to untangle a web of despair that threatens the peace of their community. Recommended by Sarah.

Staff Pick Badge
Lawrence in the Fall Cover Image
Lawrence in the Fall

Lawrence in the Fall is a sweet story of Lawrence the fox who finds himself with nothing to take to show-and-tell. After a trip into the woods with his father, he finds a bounty of collectibles: leaves. Perfect for a young nature-lover the book features accurate and beautiful illustrations of many common tree leaves. A great fall and back-to-school read. Recommended by Kelly

Staff Pick Badge
Saudade Cover Image

COMING IN OCTOBER Internal conflict, longing, and passion are all at the center of Suneeta Peres da Costa’s Saudade. Focused on the daughter of a Goan immigrant family in 1960s Angola, Saudade cannot be described as simply a coming-of-age novel. Rather, Peres da Costa combines a young girl’s desire to find love, friendship, and belonging with the complexities of ethnic discrimination and her family’s involvement in Portugal’s colonial rule. The narrator wants connection to her life while fearing the death that surrounds her as war breaks apart the only land she knows, leading her to exile. Peres da Costa expertly brings the perspective of a young girl to a story of colonialism’s impact. Recommended by Nikita

Staff Pick Badge
Lalani of the Distant Sea Cover Image
Lalani of the Distant Sea

COMING IN SEPTEMBER. Erin Entrada Kelly’s latest middle grade novel, inspired by Filipino folklore, is about a girl named Lalani who lives on the island of Sanlagita. The islanders live simply, but they must say daily benedictions to Kahna, Sanlagita’s formidable ruling mountain. Every so often, on Sailing Day, the island’s best set off to Isa—a mountain on a neighboring island said to be covered in yellow flowers that can heal any illness—but none (including Lalani’s father) have ever survived the journey. When Lalani accidentally brings Kahna’s wrath upon her island, she becomes determined to go to Isa and right her wrongs. This lush fantasy epic blew me away! Recommended by Mary

Staff Pick Badge
Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves Cover Image
Mama's Last Hug

Mama's Last Hug by renowned primatologist and animal behaviorist, Frans de Waal, offers a breakthrough look at the emotional complexity of animals. Based largely on his research with a troupe of captive chimpanzees and their matriarch, Mama, this work shatters the outdated and wrongheaded science that maintains humans alone experience a range of emotions from joy to sadness. I found his compilation of laughter research especially interesting–it turns out even rats laugh when tickled. This is soft-science at its best. – Kelly

Staff Pick Badge
In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch Cover Image
In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond
John Zada's In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond doesn't capture evidence of Sasquatch on camera or offer a stunning, first-hand account. Nor does he put the myth to rest to satisfy the naysayers. What Zada does do is offer readers a larger understanding of why so many first nations people and British Columbians do claim to have seen North America's reclusive primate. With the heart of a mystic and the intrepidnous of a adventurer, Zada travels the wilds of the Great Bear Rainforest to satisfy his own curiosity once and for all. Recommended by Kelly
Staff Pick Badge
The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm Cover Image
The Farmer's Son

The Farmer's Son by Irish cattle farmer John Connell is both natural history and memoir. Readers will gain a far broader knowledge of cattle as well as an understanding of the long and mythic history of humans and the animals they tend. The book also recounts daily life on an intergenerational farm, capturing the moving interactions between a son and a father who inevitably clash against and wound one another. Connell's raw honesty about overcoming depression while keeping the farm afloat are nothing short of literary nourishment in a beleaguered time. Highly recommended. – Kelly

Staff Pick Badge
The Ventriloquists Cover Image
The Ventriloquists

COMING IN AUGUST. Based on true events, E.R. Zamzipoor's The Ventriloquists is an excellent addition to the canon of historical fiction based on World War II. A ragtag group of Belgian journalists and their comrades conscripted to produce a propagandized version of the local newspaper risk their own lives and turn the tables on the Nazis by printing one subversive edition that reaches the hearts and minds of the their community. Readers will find this novel has particular relevance in light of recent attacks on journalists in our supposed democratic country. This is powerful historical fiction. I couldn't put it down. Recommended by Kelly

Staff Pick Badge
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church Cover Image

COMING IN OCTOBER. For decades, Megan Phelps-Roper was one of nationally notorious, anti-LGBT Westboro Baptist Church's most articulate champions. In her new memoir, Unfollow, she has become one of its sharpest critics. Reading about her journey from being one of her grandfather and Westboro founder Fred Phelps' most devoted followers to a person the group now condemns puts the reader in the center of a existential debate. What should a person raised in a reclusive faith community do when she begins to doubt its mission? How does she leave when it will mean being rejected by all the family and friends she's ever known? Roper-Phelps combines a sharp intellect and seemingly boundless reserves of emotional bravery to chart her slow awakening to the damage hatred can cause. A fascinating read! Recommended by Kelly

Staff Pick Badge
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved Cover Image
Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lives I Have Loved

The stunning memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I Have Loved, recounts Kate Bowler's diagnosis with Stage 4 colon cancer at 35. A professor at Duke Divininty school, Bowler is the foremost scholar of the history of Prosperity Gospel, a fundamentalist Christian doctrine that says everything a person claims in the name of God, they can have. The irony of her "terminal" diagnosis in light of the ideas has rippled into every area of her life. For anyone who wants to process their own diagnosis or be with someone else in the wake of their own, this moving and surprisingly funny book is good medicine. Recommended by Kelly