Recent Reviews

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April in Spain Cover Image
April in Spain

A master of the literary mystery, John Banville has created another atmospheric delight in April in Spain, where we find taciturn coroner Quirke trying to relax with his wife who insisted they take a vacation. Before long, a chance meeting with a doctor who he vaguely recognizes in an emergency room after he cuts his hand trying to open an oyster with manicure scissors, and he and his extended family become caught up in a dangerous murder plot. Little does Quirke know that the rising stakes will have lasting consequences for all he holds dear. Recommended by Kelly

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The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It Cover Image
The True Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It

This is a haunting feminist tale for older readers, deceivingly lighthearted until it's too late. It is a folktale reimagined, with striking minimalist illustrations that carry the wordless ending. A little mouse builds herself a house, and passersby can't believe she's a homeowner and not a wife—will she marry them? She turns them down one by one until finally a kitten strikes her fancy. But kittens always grow up. Recommended by Mary

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Mel Fell Cover Image
Mel Fell

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor delights with both illustrations and story. Follow Mel the fledgling kingfisher as she leaves the nest for the first time with all the animals in her nest tree frantically but unnecessarily trying to save her. Not only will little ones and their parents enjoy talking about their own brave "firsts," they'll also have fun turning the book to follow Mel's trajectory. Recommended by Kelly.

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Haskell Institute: 19th Century Stories of Sacrifice and Survival Cover Image
Haskell Institute: 19th Century Stories of Sacrifice and Survival

Dr. Theresa Milk's Haskell Institute: 19th Century Stories of Sacrifice and Survival offers a meticulously researched and poignant look at the injustices of the indian boarding school system through the stories of Haskell students. It also provides readers with missing details about the daily lives of individual residents. Recommended by Kelly

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What Happened to You? Cover Image
What Happened to You?

This is an excellent book for teaching kids about disability! Author James Catchpole has the same disability as the main character, Joe. Joe's playing pirates by himself when a kid he's never met asks him the dreaded question, "What happened to you?" He's heard this a hundred times before, and he's really not in the mood, especially when other kids start a ridiculous guessing game. Finally, they abandon their efforts and begin to join in Joe's pirate adventure, learning that it's okay not to know some things. Alongside this wonderful story for kids, there's a teaching guide for parents in the back. A must-read! Recommended by Mary

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The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays Cover Image
The Collected Schizophrenias

I loved Esmé Weijun Wang’s book of essays, The Collected Schizophrenias. Well-researched yet compact, this book follows Wang’s mental health journey through misdiagnoses, forced hospitalizations, and hallucinations to eventually land upon a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Each chapter follows a few different storylines, a nonlinear examination of Wang’s experiences paired with eloquent cultural commentary and sometimes a bit of data regurgitation to provide context. This book humanizes the schizophrenias in ways that society, and even mental health practitioners, have repeatedly denied. Also including the author’s experiences with delayed-onset PTSD and late stage Lyme disease (which is also bafflingly controversial in the medical community)—as well as her loving long-term relationship with her husband—The Collected Schizophrenias is an ultimately hopeful book which grants autonomy and power to those who know its namesake. Recommended by Mary

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Crossroads: A Novel Cover Image

Rarely do I completely forget that the world of a novel and its characters exist solely in the mind of the writer. But Franzen kept me under a spell. Crossroads so completely involved me in the lives of the Hildebrandt family that I could barely do anything else but read. Against the backdrop of a Christian youth group in the thick of the Jesus movement, ne'er-do-well pastor Ross, his depressed wife Marion, and their troubled children make and survive private and colossally public mistakes from Christmas to Easter of 1970-1971. Because Franzen so thoroughly enfleshes each character, we may cringe, but we can see exactly how they could have made these choices. In the end, even God cannot blame them. Recommended by Kelly

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Five Tuesdays in Winter Cover Image
Five Tuesdays in Winter

From a teenage girl who grows wiser and stronger through a summer job to a grandfather facing mortality, from a nascent bookstore romance to a brutal reunion of erstwhile roommates, these 10 skillfully and tightly constructed stories simmer with tension and emotion. In my favorite, a writer struggles to find uninterrupted time to write while also caring for her young children. The arrival of a stranger at her door catapults the story into entirely new territory. The distinctions between fact and fiction, cause and effect, reality and illusion blur, leaving delightfully unanswered questions and much to speculate. Recommended  by Nancy

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Tigers, Not Daughters Cover Image
Tigers, Not Daughters

Tigers, Not Daughters is the stunning tale of four young Latina sisters in Texas, told through the eyes of the naïve, voyeuristic boys across the street, and from the girls’ own perspectives as well. A year after the death of the eldest sister, Ana, her sisters are hollow, their spirits choked by their unreliable and emotionally abusive father. Ana returns as a ghost, haunting each of her sisters in a different way—each sister unique in her grief, developed so fully that they burst off the page. Mabry leaves a few threads running unresolved in the very best way at the close of this precious story woven with magical realism. I’ve never chosen an audiobook solely on the basis of its narrator, but after listening to Luis Moreno’s exquisite narration of this book, I now have reason to. Recommended by Mary.

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A Mind Spread Out on the Ground Cover Image
A Mind Spread Out on the Ground

In this memoir, author Alicia Elliott recounts her (not unhappy) childhood living in poverty and often homelessness, her conflicting feelings for her white Catholic mother who suffered from bipolar disorder, and her experiences of what it’s like to be Indigenous today (she’s Tuscarora). The lasting effects of colonialism, genocide, and assimilation are evident throughout her life and—as she thoroughly explores—in the lives of all Indigenous peoples. I was particularly captivated by her perspective on trauma—the way people always want proof that it happened, that survivors are often urged to painfully recount it over and over again, that sometimes it’s healthy to intentionally forget. Her final essay, which she deems “participatory,” asks the reader about abuse—what does it mean, what are its consequences, who’s allowed to do it and who isn’t, is it worth losing people over. This interesting book won’t drag you through the trenches like Heart Berries, but readers of Terese Marie Mailhot would do well to pick it up. Recommended by Mary