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The Vanishing Half

Desiree, one of the lost twins of Mallard, Louisiana, has returned home with her "black as tar" daughter Jude. She is returning to a town founded as a place for people who "would never be accepted as white, but refused to be treated as Negroes." The founder hoped to create a "more perfect Negro" with each "generation lighter than the one before."

In 1954, 16-year-old twins Stella and Desiree Vignes ran away from home. Desiree later works as an FBI fingerprint examiner in Washington D.C., and Stella leaves her sister to find her own way in the world. She moves to California, marries a white man, has a daughter, and passes for white. Her family has no idea of Stella's secret past.

As the story moves from the 1950s into the 90s, author Brit Bennett examines sisterhood and the idea of "a sister as a kind of alternate self."The twins share the trauma of seeing their father lynched by white men. The author explores how that kind of inherited trauma might affect the next generation who have no idea what they have inherited. Both sisters have daughters that meet by chance, not knowing that they are related or any idea of their mothers' shared past.

I found this novel so interesting on many levels: the idea that a town places importance on skin tones, the idea of passing, and the dichotomy of what life would be like staying in the South as opposed to living in the North. In The Vanishing Half (2020), we see two lives and two dramatically different paths. A compelling story of family, identity, and race.

Check out the ebook or audiobook of The Vanishing Half on Overdrive today. For more own voices stories, browse our list of Black Voices: Historical Fiction.



The Wife and the Widow

When Kate's husband John disappears after she believed he was at a conference in London, her life is thrown into turmoil. It's obvious her marriage isn't what she thought it was when Kate discovers that John never even left Australia. Another woman, Abby, lives on an island off the coast, and worries about her husband Ray's strange behavior and feels he is hiding something. In alternating storylines in The Wife and the Widow (2020), Christian White tells the stories of both women whose lives you know are going to intersect in this clever page turner. With two solid novels under his belt, White proves he's a writer to watch.



1984

Big Brother is always watching, thoughts against the state are a crime, and if you act out of line you disappear without a moment's notice. This is the world of 1984, a dystopian society where every action you take, every conversation you have, may be your last and you may not even realize it. Winston is one who falls in line typically but recent changes has him seeking pleasures that are hidden and taken away from society regularly. This beautifully suspenseful novel will keep you on your toes as Winston skirts the line between being safe and getting caught.

Check out 1984, the 1949 classic written by George Orwell. Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.



The Brother Years

Written like a memoir, this coming of age tale takes place in the wealthy North Shore suburbs of Chicago in the '70s and '80s. Being relatively poor, the Brennan family doesn't exactly fit in, but their father has high hopes that going to a good school, mixing with the wealthy, and giving everything their utmost effort will give his kids the chance of a better life.

Readers with siblings will recognize the love/hate relationship between the brothers, the rivalry, the hatred of comparison, and maybe even the violence. Before the high emotions of childhood mellow into a lasting friendship, we have to get through the struggle of those teen years.

Evoking memories of childhood, this was a bittersweet read with themes of class struggle, sibling rivalry, and family drama.

The Brother Years (2020) by Shannon Burke is a highly entertaining, relatable, and easily readable book.

Request the ebook or eAudiobook on Overdrive today.


Echo

Echo begins as a fairy tale with Otto, a boy lost in the woods who meets three strange women telling him of a prophecy concerning a rare harmonica. From there, we hear three different stories of four pre-teen children who all live in different times, places, and circumstances, leaning on music to get them through hard times. The tales take you to Germany, Pennsylvania, and California, with storylines interconnected and centered around the possession of a rare harmonica. The audiobook was magical to listen to. I would recommend this beautiful, historical fairy tale to readers for all ages.

Listen to Echo (2015) by Pam Munoz Ryan on Hoopla today.



Bird Box

Imagine you hear a noise in a completely dark room. You think there very well might be a big crazy guy with a large knife ready to pounce right in front of you. Would you turn on the light?

That's the creepy tense feeling of Bird Box (2014). No crazy guy with a knife, but some strange abstract entities that cause people and animals that see them to go insane, kill others around them, and kill themselves.

This is the story of Malorie and her children as they try to find safety blindfolded and in a blindfolded world. Taking off the blindfold outside could mean madness and death. The book starts a few years into the ongoing horror then alternates flashbacks and current action.

Cassandra Campbell narrates with a calm but serious voice. You will want to hear the whole book by Josh Malerman in one sitting (about 9 hours). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the book today.



The Bad Beginning

The Bad Beginning (1999) is the start of the downright dreadful, disastrous, and dangerous turn of events that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire must endure after the passing of their parents in a tragic fire. They are sent to live with the dreadful Count Olaf, who cares more about the inheritance the children have than their wellbeing. The Baudelaire siblings must work together to thwart the evil doings of Count Olaf and figure out what really happened with the fire that killed their parents.

Lemony Snicket's writing gives the story character and makes the reader long for more with his unique style and prose.The Bad Beginning kicks off A Series of Unfortunate Events. Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



The Alchemist

This wonderful story combines adventure and love and seeking our desires. Much like Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz, and Harry Potter, it's a story for all ages to enjoy and not difficult to read. And like the lead characters in those other classic novels, Santiago sets out on a great journey but will have to learn some things about himself before he can find his Personal Legend.

In a way, we are all seeking the same things that Santiago and Dorothy, Jim, and Harry seek. I want to believe we will all find it someday because we are all connected to that great Soul of the Universe.

Check out The Alchemist (1988) by Paulo Coehlo: read the ebook or listen to the audiobook via Hoopla today.



How Much of These Hills Is Gold

It's hard to sum up this book in a few words: it's historical fiction, a western adventure, immigrant voices, coming of age, and so much more. How Much of These Hills Is Gold (2020) centers around Lucy and Sam, two recently orphaned Chinese-American children on the run from a Californian mining town with a stolen horse. They journey through the harsh landscape in search of a place to call home, but the siblings find it difficult to agree on anything, let alone their destination.

C Pam Zhang adds Chinese myths and traditions to the story and expertly paints readers a picture of the Wild West in its dark and gritty glory. How Much of These Hills Is Gold gives us a fictionalized history of the Gold Rush era from an immigrant perspective and will have you pondering questions about home, belonging, and identity.

Read the ebook via Overdrive today.


Nancy

In Nancy by Olivia Jaimes (2019), look at a collection of current Nancy newspaper comic strips. In 2018, Olivia Jaimes became the first woman to write and illustrate the classic comic strip. Nancy, a precocious eight year old, starred in the newspaper comic strip starting in 1938. Written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller until his death in 1982, various writers and artists have continued the strip.

Jaimes, using a clever and minimalistic style, brings a fresh approach to Nancy and brought her into the 21st century, including cell phones and a robotics class. Nancy, her friend Sluggo, and Aunt Fritzi continue to be entertaining at school, home, and play. I had not seen the comic strip in years, so reading the book brought back memories of laughing at the simple strip. Nancy appeals to a broad audience.



The Words I Never Wrote

The novel opens in present day New York City when photographer Juno Lambert purchases a 1931 typewriter once owned by journalist Cordelia Capel. She discovers an incomplete manuscript, spurring Juno to investigate Cordelia's life.

The story then switches to the 1930s, where English sisters Cordelia and Irene end up on different paths and different sides of WWII. Irene moves to Berlin after marrying a German man; her husband rubs shoulders with high-ranking Nazi officials, putting her in treacherous situations. Cordelia ends up in Paris working for a newspaper. The sisters correspond with letters, but have a falling out after mistruths lead to complications.

The Words I Never Wrote (2019) by Jane Thynne is an intricate story that builds momentum as more secrets are revealed. Juno seeks to complete the story and discover what happened so many years ago.

If you enjoy reading novels set during WWII, check out our book lists.



Above the Bay of Angels

In 1896, after her family has fallen on hard times, Isabella goes into service as a maid. When an opportunity arises to interview for a cook position at Buckingham Palace, Isabella jumps at the chance, even though it's under false pretenses. After getting the job, Isabella finds that she has a gift for cooking and becomes a trusted member of Queen Victoria's household. However, the memory of her privileged upbringing and the fear of losing her job are never far from her mind. When love possibly comes her way, will Isabella choose a career over being a wife?

Above the Bay of Angels (2020) is another delightful read from author Rhys Bowen with lots of descriptions of what life was like in the royal household.



The Cuckoo’s Calling

The first book in the Cormoran Strike detective series made me a fan— and I have three more Strike novels to look forward to.

Strike is a British private detective. Unfortunately, he and his business are a mess. Just as he gets to the end of his rope, a wealthy man hires him to investigate the death of his sister, a famous celebrity high fashion model. Everyone except the victim's brother thinks it was a suicide. Strike has a temp secretary, Robin, who helps him with the case. Their interactions make this sixteen-hour audiobook seem like a quick read (and Robert Glenister narrates with a dignified British accent).

The Harry Potter series wasn't for mewrong generation, I guess. What I didn't know was that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. That was a surprise. Terrific job, J. K.

The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) is available to read or listen to in Overdrive—and if you get hooked, you can read the rest of the series too. Also, the first three novels were adapted into a British TV show called C. B. Strike.



Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes)

My book club recently read Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes) (2019). We all enjoyed the novel and it inspired a wonderful discussion. Lorna Landvik's writing style is beautiful and humorous, though the non-chronological storytelling is sometimes difficult to follow.

Haze Evans, 81, has been a columnist for her local newspaper in small town Minnesota for the past 50 years. After she suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, the newspaper's editor reprints some of her columns, highlighting major cultural events from the past. Haze's personality is very likable, and her elegant word choices and storytelling abilities really draw you into her life.

The editor's teenage son needs a job, and is given the task of sifting through Haze's past columns and deciding which ones to run. As he comes to know more about Haze and the issues she wrote about, he's inspired to share them with his English class at school, which profoundly affects his classmates, their teacher, and all involved in reprinting the columns.

Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla today.

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Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.