Staff Picks

The Girl on the TrainBrandon
The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins

Synopsis: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them ... Their life--as she sees it--is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Brandon Says: If you’re looking for a fun thriller with a frustratingly obtuse protagonist, this book is for you. Rachel, our protagonist, often made decisions that caused me to cringe—she tended to do things the hard way, even when she was sober. Her redeeming quality, though, was that she was persistent. When others might have given up, it was her persistence that slowly uncovered the truth about a person’s mysterious disappearance. This story is mainly told through the eyes of Rachel, but sometimes focuses on the experiences of two other characters. Paula Hawkins did a good job at conjuring sympathy and dread for her characters, and the story has a good ratio of mystery and thrill.

Call Number: THR F HAW

Brandon's Past Staff Picks

Water for ElephantsBrooke
Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen

Synopsis: An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of "Riding Lessons”. When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her. Beautifully written, "Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.

Brooke Says: If you love an array of characters, Water for Elephants will do nothing but deliver. From a Cornell-trained vet to a spunky little terrier, Sara Gruen captures the true essence of just how many different persons it takes to run a show - especially a traveling circus during the Great Depression. There are times when this historical fiction piece feels nothing of the sort. Mr. Jankowski, the aged version of Jacob Jankowski, narrates his past while also snapping us into his current life as a vibrant 90-year-old man trapped in a retirement home. Reading will turn into listening as you travel back with Mr. Jankowski to a time when people were struggling to survive and love seemed impossible.

Call Number: F GRU

Brooke's Past Staff Picks

The Glass CastleDonna
The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Jeanette Walls

Synopsis: The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

Donna Says: The movie just scratches the surface of the Walls family’s relationships, so please read the book. Tell your friends and family to read the book, as well, since you will want to discuss it with them. This would be a wonderful companion book to read along with Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It is my “Adapted into a movie” pick for this year’s Read More challenge.

Call Number: B WAL

Donna's Past Staff Picks

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Matthew Desmond

Synopsis: In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty.

Elizabeth Says: This is a brutal and heartbreaking look at poverty in America. The author spent a year with 8 families documenting their struggle to survive when rent takes 80% of an already meager income. Well researched and documented “Evicted” is a must-read. Note: Can be used in the category of “Book about a current issue” in the Read More 2018 Challenge.

Call Number: 339.46 DES

Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks

Neil Gaiman

Synopsis: Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart--and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed--a dark subculture flourish in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city--a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known.

Megan Says: Neverwhere is fantasy and lore within a not-so-perfect world of sewage and grime. Gaiman takes the people that you see every day in large cities, the ones you ignore and turn your heads from – the ones on the side of the road holding out empty cans, the ones muttering to themselves, the ones covered in filth that you pretend not to see, and he creates a whole new world around them that is completely ignored by the London Above people. The character development, the cheeky and absolutely hilarious dialogue, the underground railway station names and their otherworldly implications, and the fantastical world of London Below combine to form an obsession rather than a mere good read.

Call Number: SFF F GAI

Megan's Past Staff Picks

Paper and FireNina
Paper and Fire
Rachel Caine

Synopsis: With an iron fist, the Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion and in the name of the greater good forbidding the personal ownership of books. Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like what he envisioned. Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library's deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London. But Jess's home isn't safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control.

Nina Says: The suppression of knowledge. The manipulation of facts. Enemies of the state disappeared. Young people leading the change. The sequel to Ink and Bone feels more relevant today, and easier to imagine, than it did even when it was published in spring 2016. Fortunately the follow up, Ash and Quill, came out a year later, so binge reading is available with the next novel on the horizon. It’s the perfect kind of YA for adult booklovers, knowledge seekers and those who ponder the darker side of “What if.”

Call Number: YA SER GRE

Nina's Past Staff Picks

All the AgentsRandall
All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands
Stephanie Elizondo Griest

Synopsis: After a decade of chasing stories around the globe, intrepid travel writer Stephanie Elizondo Griest followed the magnetic pull home--only to discover that her native South Texas had been radically transformed in her absence. Ravaged by drug wars and barricaded by an eighteen-foot steel wall, her ancestral land had become the nation's foremost crossing ground for undocumented workers, many of whom perished along the way. The frequency of these tragedies seemed like a terrible coincidence, before Elizondo Griest moved to the New York/Canada borderlands. Once she began to meet Mohawks from the Akwesasne Nation, however, she recognized striking parallels to life on the southern border.

Randall Says: From travel writer Elizondo Griest, All the Agents and Saints is an earnest study on the effects of international borders on the peoples they divide. What sets this book apart from others is the author’s dual treatment of the Mexican/American and Canadian/American borderlands. Recommended for Read More category: book about a current issue.

Call Number: 972.1 ELI

Randall's Past Staff Picks

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