Current Picks: Book Reviews

Jez

A Prince on Paper

Nya is the cousin of Naledi, the new queen of the African country of Thesolo, and the daughter of a diplomat now in prison, and she is starting to learn who she is outside of the shadow of her family. When Naledi's big royal wedding approaches, Nya gets paired up with the only other single member of the wedding party, the playboy "prince" of a small European country. Johan is the half-brother of the heir to the Liechtienbourg throne, but the people are voting on whether or not they want to keep the royal family. When Johan needs to appear more charming in the eyes of the media and Nya wants to shock those around her, the two turn an awkward misunderstanding into a fake engagement announcement. Now, even though they don't see eye to eye, they need to pretend to be in love for the cameras, but things get complicated as feelings become real.

Following A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, A Prince on Paper (2019) is the third book in Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series. Though the series does not need to be read in order, this book is best appreciated if one first reads A Princess in Theory, to learn Nya's backstory. This is a highly enjoyable read with two winning leads and a captivating love story. I highly recommend Cole's entire series for anyone looking to get caught up in a whirlwind (fictional) romance.


Catherine T.

The Stationery Shop

Set in 1950s Tehran, this ill-fated love story features teenagers Roya and Bahman. Roya's favorite place is Mr. Fakhri's stationary shop and she goes there every Tuesday after school to indulge her love of novels, poetry, and everything stationery. It is here that she meets Bahman, a young political activist and, despite parental disapproval, class differences, and Iran's political unrest, their love blossoms.

The story actually begins 60 years later in Boston. Raya has spent her adult life in America as an immigrant, always wondering why the love of her life never showed up to their rendezvous in a city square amidst a violent coup. Out of the blue, she discovers that Bahman is a resident in a nursing home nearby. Will visiting him finally give her the answer? Has their love lasted a lifetime?

I really enjoyed this romantic tale by Marjan Kamali, who writes very evocatively of the 1950s streets of Tehran. Her descriptions of Persian food had me looking up recipes, especially for the cooling melon ice that she mentions multiple times in The Stationery Shop (2019). I went out and bought some cantaloupe the next day and it was just as refreshing as I imagined!



Lora

The Spies of Shilling Lane

When Mrs. Braithwaite is ostracized by the community because of her recent divorce and her bossiness running the local Women's Voluntary Service, she decides to travel to London to see her daughter, Betty. When Mrs. Braithwaite arrives where Betty is staying, she discovers that Betty is missing. With help from Betty's landlord Mr. Norris, Mrs. Braithwaite finds herself involved in quite an adventure to bring Betty home.

Mrs. Braithwaite also discovers her life and herself changed forever for the better amid wartime London. The Spies of Shilling Lane (2019) is a delightful read, much better executed than Jennifer Ryan's debut, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. A great readalike for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.



Jennifer

Where Am I Now?

Did you enjoy Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, or the remake of Miracle on 34th Street? These 90s films feature a delightful performance by the adorable Mara Wilson. She's all grown up now, and has written an engaging series of essays. In Where Am I Now?True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016), Wilson covers her childhood in the spotlight (both good and bad), her struggles with OCD and depression, and coming of age as an aspiring storyteller in New York City.

Don't let the childhood stardom fool you. Wilson pursued the creative arts (both performing and writing) in high school and in college at NYU. She is a gifted writer and experienced storyteller, and those talents shine throughout her memoir. It is full of heart, featuring both heartbreaking and humorous stories.

Listen to her memoir via Overdrive. Watch a video with Mara on mental health for Project UROK. 



Joan

The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Harriett (Hal) Westaway is at the end of her rope, emotionally and financially. At 21, she is mourning the sudden and violent death of her mother and trying to make ends meet as a tarot card reader. She borrowed money from the wrong person and is now receiving threats. She is skeptical when she opens a letter from a law office, but it turns out to be a request for her presence at the reading of the will of her grandmother, Hester Westaway. There is a slight problem: Hal's grandmother was Marion and she died before Hal was even born. She couldn't help speculating. This could be the ticket out of her current mess, if she could get away with it and IF her conscience would let her get away with it. A few thousand pounds could get her back on her feet and the loan sharks off her back. Surely, a wealthy family wouldn't miss that amount of money.

When she arrives at the rundown estate and meets her "family," she begins to wonder if the money is worth the risk. She finds herself enjoying being part of a family, but this family has a tragic history and a few secrets hidden away where no one was supposed to find them. Hal finds herself uncovering secrets that involve her more than she could have imagined. This suspenseful plot and intriguing characters will keep readers spellbound until the very last page of Ruth Ware's The Death of Mrs. Westaway (2018).



Mary P.

City of Girls

This racy read begins in 1940 when 19-year-old Vivian Morris is thrown out of Vassar College. Her parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a crumbling theater. Vivian meets the charismatic and sensual theater players, embarking on a wild adventure.

Elizabeth Gilbert captures the fictitious Vivian's life from her wild-child teenage years through her 80s. The story covers WWII, family tragedy, unexpected friendships, and self-discovery. City of Girls (2019) has a strong sense of place, with New York City featured as a character. This lively, sensuous, and interesting novel showcases one life in the 1940s and 50s.


Elizabeth

Someone Knows

Allie Garvey was only 15 years old when she, and four other teenagers, played a prank in the woods that went horribly wrong. The teens never tell anyone. For twenty years, the dark and horrible secret eats away at Allie, both physically and in her relationships with others. Now, Allie wishes to uncover the truth about what really happened that night—and hopefully be released from her own self-inflicted life sentence.

Someone Knows (2019) is greatly entertaining and told from several points of view. You might lose a couple of nights' sleep, as this book is quite hard to put down. Lisa Scottoline really knows how to get into the heads of characters.



Denise

The Race

Considering The Race was published in 2007, many concepts and issues are surprisingly timely in today's political environment. Some of the topics covered are abortion rights, racism, immigration, Christian fundamentalism, and gay rights. If you have the least bit of interest in politics, you'll really enjoy this quick, entertaining, and possibly eye-opening look into a fictional presidential primary race.

Richard North Patterson portrays the dark, cutthroat side of American politics, where some (but not all, in this case) candidates will stop at nothing to destroy their opponents and bolster their own ranking. Well-drawn characters and personal storylines add interesting dimensions to this novel. There are twists and turns that kept me turning the pages and eager to see how it ended.


Catherine T.

The Night Tiger

Set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, The Night Tiger follows the adventures of several local children amidst a spate of mysterious deaths, which some people are attributing to the mythical weretiger.

Ren, an 11-year-old house boy, is on a mission to find the severed finger of his recently deceased master, an old British doctor. He needs to bury the finger with the doctor's body before the 49th day after death to ensure the doctor's soul will be at peace.

His story merges with that of Ji Lin, a young girl working at a dance hall to earn extra money to pay off her mother's debts. One night while dancing with a salesman, she ends up with a mysterious item from his pocket, a preserved human finger. Her subsequent search for the owner of the finger leads her and her brother, Shin, into intrigue and danger.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019) interweaves the supernatural and Malaysian folklore with themes of colonialism and class and gender divides, all mixed together in an intriguing murder mystery.



Jez

Millenneagram

You may have heard of the Enneagram, a system for sorting people into nine different categories, based on how they relate to the self, others, and the world at large. Enter Millenneagram: The Enneagram Guide for Discovering Your Truest, Baddest Self (2019), the updated enneagram for millennials (though you don't need to fall into that generation to enjoy this book). Filled with pop culture references and tongue-in-cheek humor, Hannah Paasch has transformed the classic personality test to appeal to the Buzzfeed generation.

My favorite pages are the meme-style charts depicting how the different numbers respond to situations like getting stuck in traffic. This guide breaks down the nine types into easy to understand descriptions that will help you better understand your loved ones, your coworkers, and your own emotions. Prepare to laugh out loud and be called out on your personal faults at the same time.

Kelli

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

Lucy does NOT want to go to middle school. She's been home-schooled since she was struck by lightning and became a math genius, but now her Nana insists that she try middle school for one year. Will she be able to keep the numbers in her head quiet and make at least one friend? Read The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty (2018) to find out how a dog named Pi helps three middle school misfits succeed!



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Jennifer

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (2018)

In this lyrical and leisurely novel, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza introduces us to a Muslim Indian family gathering for a wedding. The story is nonlinear, jumping forward and backward, giving us glimpses of the siblings' childhood, their parents' initial meetings, and their post-wedding relationships.

A Place for Us is a moving story shared from multiple perspectives. This interesting narrative structure might sound challenging, but the story is not difficult to follow. Read this book when you have a chance to delve deep into a story and emotionally invest in characters.

A great pick for book clubs: discuss familial relationships and expectations, cultural heritage and traditions, and characters and their choices. 


Lora

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper (2019)

Andrew works for the local council determining if those who have died have a next of kin. He's also perpetuating a big lie with his coworkers. Years ago, he told them that he was married and has two children, even though he's single. When Andrew takes a new employee named Peggy under his wing, it becomes harder to keep the truth of his life a secret as they become friends—and possibly something more. What has caused Andrew to shut himself away socially? Will his relationship with Peggy change his life for the better? How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper is a quirky, sometimes humorous novel. Give to readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things.
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Elizabeth

Then She Was Gone

Ellie Mack was a golden girl, beloved by all, especially her family. When she was fifteen years old, she disappeared on her way to the library. Ten years later, her grieving mother Laurel becomes involved with a very charming man who has two daughters. His 9-year-old Poppy happens to have a very strong resemblance to Ellie.

Then She Was Gone is a captivating, heartbreaking, and bizarre novel that will keep you turning the pages, with great interest, until the very last page. Check out this psychological suspense novel from Lisa Jewell.

Judy

Series Spotlight: You Choose Stories—Justice League

In order to enjoy this series, the reader should be a fan of the Justice League stories. There are seven Super characters in the Justice League, and they work together to protect the Universe! Many books and movies feature the Justice League.

The You Choose Stories—Justice League series engages the reader by requiring them to make decisions. The reader will notice as they start reading the book that…there, on the lower right corner of the right side page…in red…are choices to make:

If Batman goes after Black Manta, turn to page 23.

If Batman stays to help save the island, turn to page 29.

Throughout the book, the reader will make choices to continue the story.

Although this sounds complicated – and it will be too complicated for some readers – for those children who enjoy the "game" with the story – this will be an enjoyable book. Choose from Cosmic Conquest, The League of Laughs, The Portal of Doom, and The Ultimate Weapon.

Each book has 105 pages, and there are several full-page color, cartoon-style illustrations throughout the book. At the end, there is a glossary with pronunciations and definitions. There are four titles in the series – so far. The Lexile is 640-710.


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