The Vanishing Half – Staff Pick – Cherise

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I wasn’t a big fan of it the first couple of chapters, but I think I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this story. It didn’t take long for that opinion to change. I quickly became wrapped into this story and characters, needing to know more about the mystery of Stella. I tend to struggle with books that are family sagas like this one was, but this story somehow did it in a way that wasn’t hard to follow and left you wanting more. The story revolves around Desiree and Stella, twin sisters who live in the town of Mallard in the deep south. The “town” (as we find out later it’s not a real town according to the government, but it’s clear this is simply because of who lives there) is populated by light skin African Americans. At 16 the twins run to New Orleans, escaping the town they grew up, that their own family founded. But not long after Stella disappears, leaving Desiree alone. The story revolves on Stella’s disappearance and the aftermath, as life goes on. Desiree comes back to Mallard years later with a daughter, Jude, who is dark skinned and is ridiculed by the kids at school. We meet Early, a boy that Desiree had fallen for as a teenager and is given a second chance with, who had been hunting down Desiree and Jude (he’s a bounty hunter who was paid to try to find them) only to volunteer to look for Stella while keeping their secret. I picked up this book because it had LGBTQA+ representation and we find that representation when  Jude when she moves to California for college. She meets Reese, a sweet man that is hard not to love instantly. We learn Reese is a trans man and he has gay friends who are drag queens. The whole group of characters are simply really well done and hard not to love. We learn Stella is living a double life, one in which she hides that she’s African American from her husband and daughter, this all in the time of racial discrimination. It leaves the reader wondering, if you had a chance like Stella, would you take it? Would you kill the person you were after all the hate you saw growing up? Or would you be like Desiree who refuses to kill that part of her, even working for the FBI in a time when there was questions of if the FBI had any link to the death of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, only to return to Mallard, the home she was so desperate to escape. Both twins live completely different lives and have daughters that remind them more of their sister than themselves.  I highly recommend this book. It’s a really interesting story that might take you out of your comfort zone. It makes you look at race relations in this country in a different life and forces you to ask what would you do in this situation, knowing the hardships and abuses these women faced and the lives of their daughters.

4 stars

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Staff Review – Haley

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes By Suzanne Collins

This prequel to the Hunger Games Trilogy, Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows eighteen year old Coriolanus Snow in the dystopian world of Panam during the time of the 10th Hunger Games.

This book, unlike the trilogy, is not action driven but rather a philosophical look at the choices of morality, politics, and power the main characters make in regards to their world. While I can see why many thought it was a slow read, I very much enjoyed learning the history which created the Panam and President Snow I am familiar with as a fan of the Hunger Games books. Collins did a wonderful job of showing readers how society and the choices we are forced to make can ultimately shape who we can become as an individual.

4 Stars

The Tenant – Staff Review – Maddy

The Tenant by Katherine Engberg

In Copenhagen, Denmark, a young woman, Julie Stender, is  murdered in her apartment by a killer who drew intricate patterns on her face.The crime is eerily similar to a scene in the manuscript written by the victim’s landlady, who is trying to publish her first book. 
Detectives Korner and Werner are unsure if Ester de Laurenti is a suspect in this murder investigation, or a pawn in a larger game of revenge the police have yet to fully understand. The detectives must act quickly to solve the case before another person is harmed. 
The Tenant started off a little slow, but gradually picked up as the story went on. I liked the changing plot twists as the author kept readers guessing about who the killer was and where the story would lead. 

3 stars.

Black Panther and The Crew – Staff Review – Terry

Black Panther And The Crew #1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We are the Streets by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a well written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel featuring Marvel’s Black Panther as well as a host of other prominent Marvel characters, all who are persons of color.  The narrative of the story mostly follows Misty Knight with T’Challa (Black Panther) as more of a supporting role despite the title and this particular perspective is where the book really shines, featuring a black female police detective with no real super powers of her own other than a few high tech gadgets and her own wits and skills dealing with a crisis in New York City and the resulting fallout, which is very reminiscent of current social and political affairs.  An entertaining read with a strong social message.  

5 Stars

No Longer Human – Staff Review – Terry

No Longer Human by Junji Ito

No Longer Human adapted to manga format by Junji Ito is a cathartic story of the spiraling downward of a man’s life in early 1900s Japan. This book is not for the faint of heart as it deals with some very heavy subject matter, often with the use of some very grotesque and morbid imagery. A great find for anyone into body horror or gothic horror, as well as anyone who likes a good story that goes into the fractured mind of a broken soul.

5 stars.

As long as we both shall live – Staff Review – Maddy

As long as we both shall live by JoAnn Cheney

Matt told park rangers his wife was dead- she fell off a high cliff when hiking into the river below. A rescue search ensues, but rangers are skeptical of what the outcome will be. But when a body turns up, it creates more questions than answers.

Matt’s first wife died under mysterious circumstances as well. Detectives Loren and Spengler have a lot of questions for Matt as they delve into the case and the couple’s past.

As long as we both shall live is a psychological thriller novel in which the author keeps readers guessing who did what and who’s guilty to the very end. Not everything or everyone is what they seem and the married couple in this story have much to hide. This book was a quick read and is good for those who enjoyed Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.

3 stars.

Evvie Drake Starts Over – Staff Review- Maddy

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

In a small coastal Maine town, Evvie Drake barely leaves her house. Her best friend Andy and most the town think her seclusion has to do with her husband’s death. Andy’s best friend Dean Tenney, a major league baseball pitcher in New York is struggling with the ‘yips’- he can’t throw straight anymore. Andy invites Dean to Maine, thinking the vacation and fresh air might do him some good. So Dean moves into Evvie’s apartment under the condition that he won’t ask about her husband and she won’t ask him about baseball. This doesn’t last long however, as the two become friends and help each other overcome their demons.

Evvie Drake Starts Over was a cute, fun read that was hard to put down. I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters and how they helped each other through hard times.

4 stars.

Landline – Staff Review- Izzy

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell is an engaging, funny, and reflective novel about a marriage gone wrong and a magic phone that could be the answer to everything. Georgie McCool loves her husband Neal, of course she does, and Neal loves her, no question. So then why does she find herself home alone and working over Christmastime while her husband and kids fly off to visit his family in Omaha without her? And why has her own family started to tiptoe around her like she is going through a divorce? As Georgie begins to unravel with worry that Neal is more than just his usual upset with her this time, she discovers something different about her landline phone in her old bedroom at her mom’s house – it connects her to Neal from before they got engaged. Staying up late and talking on the phone with her husband’s younger self, she begins to wonder if this is her second chance to make things right before they went wrong. But what does making things right even look like and what will it do to the life and family she has come to build? Read if you don’t mind a book that can bring you to tears and laughter simultaneously and if you ever wished you had a phone that could connect you to the past!

4 Stars

The Moroccan Girl – Staff Review – Maddy

The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cummings

For those looking for a quick read or that enjoy spy and espionage novels, give the Moroccan Girl a read. The story focuses on Kit Carradine, a writer of spy novels who is suddenly drawn into a real life spy scenario in which he is tasked by MI6 to look for a woman, Lara Bartok who has ties to the Resurrection, an international revolutionary group targeting political figures. Initially, all he has to do is make contact with Lara while at a literary festival in Morocco. However, Kit soon realizes he is in over his head and the situation is much more complicated. Kit must choose between aiding his country or keeping Lara Bartok alive at his own risk.

As I said, the Moroccan Girl is a quick easy read that transports readers into the world of spies and secrets, if only for a few days. 

3 stars fiction

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination – Staff Review- Maddy

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brain Jay Jones

 Everyone knows and probably read books by Dr. Seuss growing up, but who is the man behind the legacy? Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel. Before he was known as a children’s author, Geisel drew political cartoons and catchy ads for materials such as bug repellant and education materials for soldiers during World War two. You may be surprised to learn how Dr. Seuss came to write childrens’ books or how he got his name, but I won’t tell. One thing is for sure, Dr. Seuss created a legacy and changed the way people thought about children’s literature for the better. Brian Jones did a great job with this biography, capturing all the details of Dr. Seuss’ life that made him the man he was while keeping readers engaged. 

4 stars biography 

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