Tag Archives: Staff Favorites

Stories That Save You (Part 2)

As we’ve mentioned here before, beloved patrons, we all have stories that save us.  Those books that come into our lives precisely when we need them or stay around for years and years like an old friend.  Today, I wanted to talk with you about another one of those books in my life.  It’s a book I turn to every year around this time, for reasons that might very well become clear as we chat…

It’s ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

King’s second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot was first published in 1975.  According to his introduction to the 2014 audiobook recording, King was teaching Dracula to a high school class, and was inspired to consider what might happen if the titular count were to return again.  Though he might not survive in, say New York City, King’s wife Tabitha mused what might happen if he appeared in a more rural setting.  Like Maine.  And that was that.  The book was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 1976, and the Locus Award for the All-Time Best Fantasy Novel in 1987, and King has stated several times that it is among his favorite of his works.  In 1987 he told Phil Konstantin in The Highway Patrolman magazine: “In a way it is my favorite story, mostly because of what it says about small towns. They are kind of a dying organism right now. The story seems sort of down home to me. I have a special cold spot in my heart for it!”

Very broadly speaking, the novel follows a 32-year-old writer named Benjamin Mears, who returns to Jerusalem’s Lot township in southern Maine (where he lived for four years as a child), following the death of his wife, Miranda.  Ben is intending to write a novel inspired by, and based on, an old, decaying, creepy house in ‘Salem’s Lot known to locals as The Marsten House.  It is a house in which Ben had a traumatically frightening experience as a child that he hopes to heal fully through his writing.  Ben is not, however, the only newcomer to ‘Salem’s Lot.  Another person has rented The Marsten House. And their intentions are far from neighborly, to say the least.

I first encountered ‘Salem’s Lot while I was living in the UK and working on my Master’s Degree.  I had written a seminar paper on Dracula  (another book that I love just a bit too much), and was devouring all the subsequent vampire novels I could get my hands on.  My dad, who I think I’ve mentioned before, is an enormous Stephen King fan (I thought he was a family friend because we had so many of his books around his house), and reminded me that King himself had written a book inspired by Dracula, so I made it my present to myself.  The day I handed in my Masters’ Thesis (September 10, if I remember correctly), I bought a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot.

I loved it from the moment I started reading. Being far away from home, I adored the sections that talk about fall in New England, about the feeling of the cold seeping into the air, into your bones, into your consciousness.  I loved being reminded of the way telephone lines used to buzz gently in the days before digital.  I loved the discussions of darkness, and about what darkness did to the people who lived with it.

I also really liked that King used his study of a small town to talk about the ways in which secrets moved and circulated, and about the impact of evil.  Not just the big evils (although Big Evils abound in this book), but the petty kinds of evil: laziness, greed, selfishness, chauvinism.  If this book reinforces a real-world message, it is that those kind of small evils permit more small evils, and those build and build into something truly fearful.  Larry Crockett, for example, is a shady, lazy, sexist real estate agent who rents out the Marsten House (see an imagined image on the left), even though he knows in his gut that the man renting it is seriously bad news.  But he is also earning a very fat commission on the transaction, so he looks the other way–and allows the vampires to enter ‘Salem’s Lot.  We learn, eventually, about how the town turned away from the things that scared or disturbed them about the Marsten House…and how that permitted the evil inside it to fester.  I appreciated the ways that King discussed the grief and pain that these evils caused, from the loss of a child to the anguish of marital rape (and I also give him a world a credit for calling it ‘marital rape’ in 1975).

Oh, right, and I also loved the vampires.  That should go without saying.  But if you can’t tell, while this book scared me, I loved it too much to be scared of it.  Instead, I read it every year as fall begins.  And every year, I find something else to love.  Right after reading it the first time, I traveled to Belfast for a research trip.  Belfast wasn’t the best of areas to be around that time, as the trauma of the Troubles was still very real.  While I was there, I listened to the audiobook of ‘Salem’s Lot, and appreciated anew how well King plays on our very human fears of being alone and isolated.  It was a sensational that was as real in Belfast at the turn of the century as it was in the ghost town of Momson, Vermont, which “dried up and blew away” in 1923 (according to the novel).

You can read more about Vermont Ghost Towns here: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/vermont/ghost-town-vt/

Years later, I was working in Copley Square, and had to go to work two days after the Boston Marathon Bombing.  As I, and my fellow workers, emerged from the Green Line to a mob of reporters, camera operators, and police, a found myself recalling a scene where Susan Norton goes to pay a call on the Marsten House–and realizes what real fear is.  Not the jump-scare fear of movies, but the deep-down, paralyzing fear that can warp a person into something very ugly.   But Susan, like others in the book, reject that fear, and confront the darkness in the world with determination and hope.  “The act of moving forward at all became heroism,” King wrote.  That line remains one of my favorite in the book.

These past few years in reading ‘Salem’s Lot, I am struck by the discussion of faith in the book.  Not necessarily religious faith–though that it discussed in the book–but something perhaps more fundamental.  A trust in an inherent structure and a goodness in the world that goes beyond hierarchies and symbols.  Several times in the course of the story, at times of greatest emotional peril, characters in the book refer to their love for each other, and it is that love that saves them.  I find myself reaching for that kind of faith in my readings this time around, and it makes the world outside the book just a little less scary.

…What are the books that save you, dear readers?  Feel free to share them with us here, or come in and find some new ones today!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 8)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk:

The Cabinet of Curiosities: If you’re looking for a series with legs, then look no further than this series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, featuring the utterly unique FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast.  In this series installment, a construction project in Manhattan unearths a mass grave beneath a crumbling building.  As the quest to discover more about these bodies heats up, Pendergast steps in, ready to bend whatever rules necessary in order to get access to the site.  Before anyone can learn why, murders begin to take place across New York that mirror those of the bodies in the cellar–exactly.  Signs begin to point to a 19th-century scientist who was determined to find the elixir of life by any means necessary.  Did he succeed?  What is his final goal?  And what does all this have to do with Pendergast?  Although this is the third book in this series, this is the first book that truly focused on Pendergast himself, and is therefore accepted as the real launch to this series, which is still going strong.
From our staff: I read this series every summer (which is getting to be quite a feat!).  I love the first two books in this series, but for chilling revelations and intriguing characters, you cannot miss this book (and you can definitely enjoy it even if you’ve never read anything else by Preston and Child).  I hope someone reads this so I have someone to talk to about it soon!

Signs for Lost Children: Sarah Moss’ fascinatingly unique historical fiction deals with real-life cultural and social ills of its time, but also shows the hope that two intrepid people can create, even in the darkest and most unlikely places.  Ally Moberly, a recently qualified doctor, never expected to marry until she met Tom Cavendish. Only weeks into their marriage, Tom sets out for Japan, leaving Ally as she begins work at the Truro Asylum in Cornwall. Horrified by the brutal attitudes of male doctors and nurses toward their female patients, Ally plunges into the institutional politics of women’s mental health at a time when madness is only just being imagined as treatable. She has to contend with a longstanding tradition of permanently institutionalizing women who are deemed difficult, all the while fighting to to be taken seriously as a rare woman in a profession dominated by men. Tom, an architect, has been employed to oversee the building of Japanese lighthouses. He also has a commission from a wealthy collector to bring back embroideries and woodwork. As he travels Japan in search of these enchanting objects, he begins to question the value of the life he left in England. As Ally becomes increasingly absorbed in the moral importance of her work, and Tom pursues his intellectual interests on the other side of the world, they will return to each other as different people.

 

From the Upstairs Offices:

A Man Called Ove: There is little doubt that Fredrik Backman’s beloved novel is at the top of a lot of people’s “top picks” list, so we’d be very remiss if we left it off of ours!  Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time.  Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.  A Swedish blogger-turned-author, Fredrik Backman’s beautifully human, humane, and heart-warming tale is a perfect choice for anyone looking for an honest-to-goodness smile in their summer.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Another modern-day classic, Rebecca Skloot’s revelation about the truth behind some of the most profound tools in modern science’s arsenal has been hailed as a landmark achievement, and a critically important work for understanding the history of race, gender, and privilege in American society.  Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer, from whom doctor’s took a sample of cancerous tissue without her knowledge or consent, as was the custom then.  These cells ultimately provided one of the holy grails of mid-century biology: human cells that could survive–even thrive–in the lab. These cells gave scientists a building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio, as well as cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.  This book took over a decade for Skloot to research and write, and her hard work pays off in spades.  It’s not an easy read, but it’s a vitally important one.

 

Happy Summer Reading, Beloved Patrons!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 7)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk:

Wylding Hall: Elizabeth Hand’s short novel won last year’s Shirley Jackson award in that category, and for good reason–this is a weird, haunting, and unsettling story about memory, loss, and a disappearance that can’t be explained.  When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.  Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake?
From Our Staff:  This book defied all my expectations from the first page in the most beautiful way.   It’s weird, yes, but it’s a wonderfully human story that I find myself remembering months after I returned it to the library!

Flat Broke With Two Goats: A Memoir: Jennifer McGaha never expected to own a goat named Merle. Or to be setting Merle up on dates and naming his doeling Merlene. She didn’t expect to be buying organic yogurt for her chickens. She never thought she would be pulling camouflage carpet off her ceiling or rescuing opossums from her barn and calling it “date night.” Most importantly, Jennifer never thought she would only have $4.57 in her bank account. When Jennifer discovered that she and her husband owed back taxes—a lot of back taxes—her world changed. Now desperate to save money, they foreclosed on their beloved suburban home and moved their family to a one-hundred-year-old cabin in a North Carolina holler. Soon enough, Jennifer’s life began to more closely resemble her Appalachian ancestors than her upper-middle-class upbringing. But what started as a last-ditch effort to settle debts became a journey that revealed both the joys and challenges of living close to the land.  This is a hilarious, touching novel, not only about the homesteading movement, but about discovering the true meaning of home.

From the Upstairs Offices:

The Lacuna: Barbara Kingsolver’s books are always ambitious in their scope and depth, and this book is no exception.  Spanning the the North American continent and its history, this is a moving insightful study of one man and the history of the world around him. Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd has never known a real sense of home. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.  Meanwhile, to the north, the United States will soon be caught up in the internationalist goodwill of World War II. There in the land of his birth, Shepherd believes he might remake himself in America’s hopeful image and claim a voice of his own.  But as he journey back and forth from North to South, Harrison finds the layers of his life torn apart, rather than mended, making for a book that is both heart-wrenching and historically insightful.

Lady Bird: One of the best-reviewed films of 2017, this look into one young woman’s senior year at a Catholic high school in Northern California, and her quest for her own identity was also among the highest-rated films on the site Rotten Tomatoes.  Christine ”Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Roman) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letters) loses his job. The result is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

The Apartment: A classic comedy, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray are superb in this tale of love and ambition in the world of big business that went on to garner a Best Picture Oscar.  C.C. ”Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a lowly Manhattan office drone with a lucrative sideline in renting out his apartment to adulterous company bosses and their mistresses. When Bud enters into a similar arrangement the firm’s personnel director, J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), his career prospects begin to look up… and up. But when he discovers that Sheldrake’s mistress is Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the girl of his dreams, he finds himself forced to choose between his career and the woman he loves.  Here’s another multi-Academy-Award-winning film, sure to keep your summer full of laughs!

Until next week, beloved patrons, happy summer!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 6)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk: 

Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter: Dexter’s Inspector Morse is one of the most famous detectives of the modern era, and this case introduces him in all his curmudgeonly glory.  It was late at night when Sylvia Kaye and another young woman had been seen hitching a ride not long before Sylvia’s bludgeoned body is found outside a pub in Woodstock, near Oxford. Inspector Morse is sure the other hitchhiker can tell him much of what he needs to know. But his confidence is shaken by the cool inscrutability of the girl he’s certain was Sylvia’s companion on that ill-fated September evening. Shrewd as Morse is, he’s also distracted by the complex scenarios that the murder set in motion among Sylvia’s girlfriends and their Oxford playmates. To grasp the painful truth, and act upon it, requires from Morse the last atom of his professional discipline.
From Our Staff:This series is one of my all-time favorites, and I’m really enjoying re-reading them this summer.  Fans of Morse should check out the television adaptations  of his cases, and the show Endeavourwhich imagines Morse at the beginning of his career!

In Her Skin by Kim Savage: This is a twisted, dark tale about identities–those we steal, those we forget, and those for which we are willing to fight, that zips along at a unsettling, break-neck pace.  Fifteen-year-old con artist Jo Chastain takes on her biggest fraud yet―impersonating a missing girl. Life on the streets of Boston these past few years hasn’t been easy, and she hopes to cash in on a little safety, some security. She finds her opportunity with the Lovecrafts, a wealthy family tied to the unsolved disappearance of Vivienne Weir, who vanished when she was nine.   When Jo takes on Vivi’s identity and stages the girl’s miraculous return, the Lovecrafts welcome her with open arms. They give her everything she could want: love, money, and proximity to their intoxicating and unpredictable daughter, Temple. But nothing is as it seems in the Lovecraft household―and some secrets refuse to stay buried. When hidden crimes come to the surface and lines of deception begin to blur, Jo must choose to either hold on to an illusion of safety or escape the danger around her before it’s too late.
From Our Staff: This book is about all the horrible things we are willing to do to survive–but still manages to be hopeful and insightful and even beautiful at times.  I’m not sure I enjoyed reading, but I’m really grateful that I got to hear Kim Savage’s powerful, wholly unique voice, and can’t wait to read more!

From the Upstairs Offices:

Waking by Matthew Sanford: Matt Sanford’s life and body were irrevocably changed at age 13 on a snowy Iowa road when his family’s car skidded off an overpass, killing Matt’s father and sister and left him paralyzed from the chest down. This pivotal event set Matt on a lifelong journey, from his intensive care experiences at the Mayo Clinic to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Forced to explore what it truly means to live in a body, he emerges with an entirely new view of being a “whole” person.  By turns agonizingly personal, philosophical, and heartbreakingly honest, this groundbreaking memoir takes you inside the body, heart, and mind of a boy whose world has been shattered. Follow Sanford’s journey as he rebuilds from the ground up, searching for “healing stories” to help him reconnect his mind and his body.
From Our Staff: Sanford is a paraplegic yoga instructor and “Waking” is his memoir. After reading the book, I was dying to discuss it with people, so I assigned it to the library’s Mindful Reading Book Group. Even though we all agreed that it would be equally appropriate to title the book “Weeping” instead of “Waking,” the group universally loved Sanford’s story. His words deeply changed how I think about yoga, energy, and the mind-body connection, and as a yoga teacher in training, this book will change the way that I teach for the better as well. Inspiring, empowering, and healing. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Florida ProjectA deeply moving and poignant look at childhood, this is a film that is refreshingly different, and boasts a number of talented debuts from acting newcomers.  Set on a stretch of highway just outside the imagined utopia of Disney World, the film follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her rebellious mother Halley (Bria Vinai) over the course of a single summer. The two live week to week at “The Magic Castle,” a budget hotel managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of compassion. Despite her harsh surroundings, the precocious Moonee has no trouble making each day a celebration of life, her endless afternoons overflowing with mischief as she and her ragtag playmates fearlessly explore the utterly unique world into which they’ve been thrown. Unbeknownst to Moonee, however, her delicate fantasy is supported by the toil and sacrifice of Halley, who is forced to explore increasingly dangerous possibilities in order to provide for her daughter. With an impressive 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is highly recommended, and not only by us!

From the West Branch:

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore: A novel focused on a middle-class African-American best friends trio who deal with life changes as they go through a turbulent year of middle age together. The book is relationship- and personal journey-focused, and perfect for those looking to slip into the shoes of another human being.  This diner in Plainview, Indiana is home away from home for Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean.  Dubbed “The Supremes” by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they’ve weathered life’s storms for over four decades and counseled one another through marriage and children, happiness and the blues.  Now, however, they’re about to face their most challenging year yet. Proud, talented Clarice is struggling to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities; beautiful Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair; and fearless Odette is about to embark on the most terrifying battle of her life. With wit, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together three devoted allies in a warmhearted novel that celebrates female friendship and second chances.

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 5)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk: 

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll: When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder.  Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.  Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.  Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.
From Our Staff: Jessica Knoll’s book works on a number of levels: it’s a salacious, vicious skewering of reality-tv and the culture it has created.  It’s a thought-provoking critique of ‘sisterhood’ and feminism.  It also turns into a compelling whodunit that will make you want to re-read the book just to pick up all the little clues and hints you might have missed.  It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did, I was completely hooked!

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country and Other Stories by Chavisa Woods: These stories paint a vivid image of people living on the fringes in America, people who don’t do what you might expect them to. Not stories of triumph over adversity, but something completely other. Described in language that is brilliantly sardonic, Woods’s characters return repeatedly to places where they don’t belong—often the places where they were born. In “Zombie,” a coming-of-age story like no other, two young girls find friendship with a mysterious woman in the local cemetery. “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” describes a lesbian couple trying to repair their relationship by dropping acid at a Mensa party. In “A New Mohawk,” a man in romantic pursuit of a female political activist becomes inadvertently much more familiar with the Palestine/Israel conflict than anyone would have thought possible. And in the title story, Woods brings us into the mind of a queer goth teenager who faces ostracism from her small-town evangelical church.  This is fiction that is fresh and of the moment, even as it is timeless.
From Our Staff: There are so many quotable sentences in this book.

From the West Branch:

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.  Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi.  But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.  The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.  But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke.  Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
From Our Staff: Excellent bisexual representation, diverse character cast; a bisexual teenager works through realizing she’s not exclusively attracted to girls and what her future will be like while helping her pregnant sister as they struggle through poverty and personal relationships in coastal Mississippi. A lovely story of self-acceptance and recognition of self potential.

From the Children’s Room:

Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C Kasasian: At the opening of this fifth installment of the Gower Street Detective series, 125 Gower Street, the residence of Sidney Grice, London’s foremost personal detective, and his ward March Middleton, is at peace.  Midnight discussions between the great man and his charge have led to a harmony unseen in these hallowed halls since the great frog disaster of 1878.  But harmony cannot last for long. A knock on the door brings mystery and murder once more to their home. A mystery that involves a Prussian Count, two damsels in distress, a Chinaman from Wales, a gangster looking for love, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House . . .
From Our Staff: These books are full  of dry wit, a solid eye for detail and a great heroine who’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Kasasian doesn’t shy away from gory details, though, so they’re not necessarily for the faint of heart. But if you like Sherlock Holmes, these books are likely to be a hit. This installment has March and Sidney chasing down a man who’s attacking women in London. A great, timely topic even though it’s set in the 1800s.

Until next week, beloved patrons, enjoy the summer!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 4)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

And just a reminder, the Main Library and both Branches will be open until 5pm today.  We will remain closed all day on July 4 in honor of Independence Day.  Our normal hours will resume on Thursday, July 5.  Please feel free to call or stop by if you have any questions!

From the Public Service Desk:

The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories by Osama Alomar,  translated from the Arabic by C.J. Collins: In these delightful, eye-opening stories, inanimate objects and personified animals come to vivid life on the page, living out spell-binding, harrowing, and emotional journeys all their own, performing in Alomar’s sharp allegories that shed light on current day politics, economics, and personal relations in ways that are as funny and subversive as they are moving.  These are surprisingly quick little tales, but they pack quite the punch.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman: Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. You see, every so often Carol descends into a death-like coma that she calls the Black Place. For two to four days her heartbeat slows way down, her breathing all but stops, and to the eyes of all she would appear dead as a doornail. Only two people know of her condition: her husband Dwight, and her former lover James Moxie–the most legendary outlaw the Trail has ever seen. Just before Carol can share her secret with a friend, she falls into the Black Place once again, only this time, Dwight begins preparations for her funeral two days hence, hoping to inherit her fortune. When a telegram arrives for Moxie, notifying him of the upcoming burial of his lost love, he rides out of retirement and hits the Trail once again, desperate to save Carol from a premature burial.
From Our Staff:  This is a weird, confusing, utterly bizarre novel that I find myself loving more and more as I think about it.  If you like westerns and weird fiction, this will definitely be up your proverbial alley, but there’s also stuff for historians and general fiction lovers and feminist readers alike!

 

From the Upstairs Offices:

Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie: This is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers : Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood–and perhaps supplement your viewing of the new documentary featuring this great human–with an inside look on Mr. Rogers’ spiritual legacy.  Eight years before his death, Fred Rogers met author, educator, and speaker Amy Hollingsworth. What started as a television interview turned into a wonderful friendship spanning dozens of letters detailing the driving force behind this gentle man of extraordinary influence. Educator? Philosopher? Psychologist? Minister? Here is an intimate portrait of the real Mister Rogers.  Hollingsworth also reads the audiobook recording of this title, and her very clear love and respect for Mr. Rodgers shines through, particularly in her anecdotal memories of their conversations.

From the Children’s Room:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi: Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
From our Staff:  This is a fun middle-grade read that’s exciting for any age. Chokshi uses Indian fairy tales, lore and mythology to weave an exciting tale of a girl who’s just trying to fit in and find her own way. In doing so, she finds adventure and unlikely companions and a better understanding of herself. Chokshi has a great sense of humor and keeps a life-or-death situation surprisingly light with a fast pace that practically begs the reader to want “just one more chapter” right through to the end. 

Happy Independence Day, beloved patrons, and happy reading!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 3)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk:

Himself by Jess Kidd: Having been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, Mahony assumed all his life that his mother wanted nothing to do with him. That is, until one night in 1976 while drinking a pint at a Dublin pub, he receives an anonymous note implying that she may have been forced to give him up. Determined to find out what really happened, Mahony embarks on a pilgrimage back to his hometown, the rural village of Mulderrig. Neither he nor Mulderrig can possibly prepare for what’s in store.  From the moment he arrives, Mahony’s presence completely changes the village.  The real and the fantastic are blurred as eager books fly and chatty ghosts rise from their graves with secrets to tell, and local preacher Father Quinn will do anything to get rid of the slippery young man who is threatening the moral purity of his parish.
From our Staff: This book is indefinable in the best of ways: it’s part murder mystery, part ghost story, with a love story and some small-town shenanigans built in for good measure.  There’s literally something here for everyone, and the storytelling is pure magic.

From the Teen Room:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
From Our Staff: It’s an incredible beginning to a very exciting series. Honestly the world building is incredible and immersive to the point that you feel part of the story. I also think it’s an important book to read because it has a lot of parallels to today’s political climate.

From the Upstairs Offices:

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy: As she drives her mobile library van between villages of Ireland’s West Coast, Hanna Casey tries not to think about a lot of things. Like the sophisticated lifestyle she abandoned after finding her English barrister husband in bed with another woman. Or that she’s back in Lissbeg, the rural Irish town she walked away from in her teens, living in the back bedroom of her overbearing mother’s retirement bungalow. Or, worse yet, her nagging fear that, as the local librarian and a prominent figure in the community, her failed marriage and ignominious return have made her a focus of gossip. With her teenage daughter, Jazz, off traveling the world and her relationship with her own mother growing increasingly tense, Hanna is determined to reclaim her independence by restoring a derelict cottage left to her by her great-aunt. But when the threatened closure of the Lissbeg Library puts her personal plans in jeopardy, Hanna finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the Finfarran Peninsula’s fragmented community. And she’s about to discover that the neighbors she’d always kept at a distance have come to mean more to her than she ever could have imagined.
From Our Staff:  The audio book recording of this novel is terrific, as well, so fans of either format will be able to savor this story!

 

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann: In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground.  In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary: Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.  Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy summer reading!