Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhanon

Book – Speaking of Summer is the character driven story by Kalisha Buckhanon told from Cover image for Speaking of SummerAutumn Spencer’s perspective of her missing twin sister, Summer. Autumn embarks on a lonely, determined, and obsessive journey to discover the truth of what happened. We learn of the sisters’ upbringing in small town Illinois and their eventual journey to New York and the unsettling reality of what happens and doesn’t happen, to missing women.

When news of a serial killer who once lived in her Harlem neighborhood surfaces, Autumn delves deeper into whether Summer was one of his victims, or if she fled, wanting to leave love and loss behind her forever. Broken up into four seasons, Speaking of Summer goes by quickly if you are not paying attention. Who survives and how, are a few of the questions revealed in this intriguing tale. Despite minor and easily forgettable literary lapses, Buckhanon writes a beautiful, compelling and poignant story.

Tired of Winter? Check out Speaking of Summer on Hoopla.

 

 

Favorite Children’s and Young Adult Books of 2019

Books – The weather outside is frightful, but reading a new book over winter break can be delightful!  Here are some of my favorite Children’s and Young Adult books published in 2019.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman (YA Fiction)

I don’t usually read much science fiction, but this space-based story caught my attention right away with its compelling characters and adventurous plotline.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord (Juvenile Fiction)

A shorter chapter book about the impacts of true friendship–even the friendship of a rabbit!

The Big Book of Monsters by Hal Johnson (Juvenile Non-Fiction)

For fans of the scariest of creatures.

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir (YA Graphic Novel)

I am a huge fan of fractured fairy tales, so this book was right up my alley!  What happens when Alice, Dorothy and Wendy meet and their fantasy worlds collide?

Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer (Picture Book)

Daniel explores what makes a “good day” for the people around him.

Dear Justice League by Michael Northrup (Juvenile Graphic Novel)

Even superheroes are not perfect.

Sparkly New Friends by Heather Burnell (Beginning Reader)

A unicorn and a yeti become best friends who both love sparkly things.  What is not to love?

The Line Tender by Kate Allen (Juvenile Fiction)

This beautiful, unique story of grief and connection to nature’s mysteries had me sobbing.

Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez (Juvenile Fiction)

Four unlikely friends team up to protest a revered feathered hat connected to town history.  A story of friendship, civic engagement, and bird facts!

Stargazing by Jen Wang (Juvenile Graphic Novel)

For fans of Raina Telgemeier’s books.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (YA Non-Fiction Graphic Novel)

A powerful and important account of Japanese internment camps during World War 2.

 

 

 

Over The Hedge (2006)

Cover image for Over the hedgeDVD – What happens when an urban animal family hibernates for the winter in a big log surrounded by their lush and well-stocked forest, then wakes up to find this huge green monstrosity running down the middle of the forest as far as the eye can see? Pure panic ensues when they need to figure out what this thing is, why is it there, and how will they gather food because their forest has largely been torn down. Enter RJ the raccoon. He owes a big black bear a huge cart of human food and thinks he can get a gang to help him steal it all from the inhabitants of the new subdivision. Will they help him, will he make the deadline, will he learn and grow to know what it means to be part of a family?

I absolutely love Over The Hedge. Although it is animated (hello young ones!), there is plenty of adult humor throughout to make it entertaining for all. The animation, graphics, and insight of the natural behaviors of the animals is spot on. A superb cast of actors lend their voices to the film. Wanda Sykes as a skunk? This alone should make you want to watch this!

The Toll by Cherie Priest

Book – Titus and Melanie are on their honeymoon, driving out to a cabin in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp where neither of them really want to be, when they cross a bridge that shouldn’t be there. When Titus wakes up, Melanie is gone, and so is the bridge. The locals in the nearby town of Staywater offer to put him up while he looks for his wife, but none of them seem to believe she’ll be found. Especially not Claire and Daisy, two little old ladies who know entirely too much about that bridge and what it demands of those who cross it.

Creepy small towns, ominous and mysterious wilderness, unknowable monsters and terrifyingly competent little old ladies – The Toll has everything you could want in a horror-adventure novel. While the atmosphere is tense and ghosts abound (both literal and metaphorical), I didn’t find this novel frightening as much as enjoyably spooky. Many of the characters are more annoying than sympathetic, but that’s all right, it means you don’t mind as much when bad things happen to them. Claire and Daisy, on the other hand, deserve a sequel of their own. If you like monster movies and Southern gothic, you’ll appreciate Cherie Priest’s newest novel.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Okinyan Braithwaite

Cover image for My sister, the serial killer : a novelBook – Author Oyinkan Braithwaite’s short and dark comedy features two sisters, Ayoola and Korede. The former can’t help but kill off boyfriends with her father’s 8-inch blade, while the latter helps clean up crime scenes and dispose of the bodies. Korede, the troubled narrator, is the head nurse at St. Peter’s Hospital, the elder and keeper of her younger, dispassionate and talented sister. Life in Lagos, Nigeria is especially difficult for women, and less so for men like the sisters’ father, who may or may not have been killed by Ayoola’s hand.

Braithwaite’s prose is unlike those of conventional whodunnits, and therefore may not appeal to mystery lovers and likely challenge those looking to lose one’s self in a book. My Sister, the Serial Killer is driven by vivid portraits of strong, female characters and brilliant storytelling. This is Braithwaite’s first novel, which readers can easily imagine crafted into a feature film.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

BookPixar have made their fortunes by providing an easy shorthand, a brand identity built on children’s movies that adults will actually enjoy on their own merits. Children’s books that pull off the same trick can be more difficult to find. Even as adults reading YA lit has become a commonplace, it’s unusual to consider the adult appeal of books in the children’s section. Which is a shame, because the best children’s novels can be every bit as entertaining to older readers, hidden gems that are too often left on the shelf.

Three Times Lucky, the first in the four-book Mo and Dale Mysteries series and one of the most transportively atmospheric books I’ve read all year. Three Times Lucky is chock-full of charmingly eccentric characters drawn with marvelous literary efficiency, especially the narrator, eleven-year-old Moses ‘Mo’ LoBeau. A literary cousin to Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird, Mo is a believable mix of precocious and naive, scrappy but allowed to be scared in situations too big for a child, a smart-aleck and a schemer with buckets of charisma and bottomless loyalty. The mystery and adventure plots of Three Times Lucky are a little too much to be wholly believable (a decades-old bank robbery and a dark and stormy night are involved), but to mind about that would be missing the point. There’s too much to love about Mo, her adoptive family, her friends, and their tiny town of Tupelo Landing, N.C.

It may sound strange to compare a PG-rated children’s book to the dark, heavy, adult subject matter of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects–especially the excellent miniseries version–but actually, it’s surprisingly apt. In both cases, the perfectly-rendered atmosphere of a small southern town, and the outsized characters living there, make for stories that will linger in your consciousness long after their conclusions. While the perhaps more obvious comparison would be to Flavia de Luce (and any Flavia fans should absolutely seek Mo out), I would also recommend Three Times Lucky to anyone who enjoys stories driven by eccentric characters like those in Maria Semple‘s books, or who loves a book with a palpable sense of place.

Escape Plan: The Extractors (2019)

DVD –  When security expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is hired to retrieve a Chinese business tycoon’s daughter, unbeknownst to Breslin, his previous partner’s son is hell bent on revenge. To assure Breslin’s involvement, the villain also abducts his girlfriend. Will he make it in time to rescue both women and still come out alive?

The Escape Plan: The Extractors is the third installment of the franchise and I must admit, it was bad. The plot line is overly simplified and the music score, seemed off. The first movie, Escape Plan, however, was awesome! In The Extractors, Breslin is not even escaping OUT of a prison, using any fancy tools, or high tech gadgets. I’m not sure what the producers were thinking when deciding on Round 3 for this series, but it was a fail for me. Nevertheless, the fight scenes are outstanding, and you get to see Curtis “50 cent” Jackson for all of 5 minutes. If you are looking for a movie for background noise while doing something else and does not require much time, energy, or focus, this works. If you want a serious action adventure – keep looking.

Shout and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book – Author Laurie Halse Anderson first gained notoriety in 1999 for her novel Speak, which won numerous awards and honors and is rightfully considered a modern classic in Young Adult literature. In Speak high school freshman Melinda deals with great personal trauma all the while being ostracized by her peers. I highly recommend reading the original novel, if you haven’t already.

In 2018, the Graphic Novel Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll received strong reviews owing to its meaningful remake for established fans and introducing new readers to the story.

20 years after the publication of Speak, Anderson releases Shout – a powerful memoir in free verse. Here, she shares deeply of her complicated relationship with her parents, personal experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the reactions shared by readers over the years. Shout comes on the heels of last year’s #metoo and #timesup movements promoting awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Anderson is not a new voice in this conversation. Since the publication of Speak, she has advocated for open conversations about sexual assault.

Shout is a quick and powerful read and will interest fans who want to see how Anderson’s experiences found their ways into her books and learn more about her life as an author. Those interested in delving into the issues of sexual assault and harassment, will find jumping off points for thoughts and discussions.

We carry a variety of Anderson’s other books in our physical and digital collections, in addition to the DVD Speak starring Kristen Stewart (Twilight films).

The River by Peter Heller

Book- The River is the latest from Peter Heller, author of the bestselling novels The Dog Stars and Celine. The River follows Jack and Wynn, two college friends on a canoe trip in northern Canada. Both are outdoorsmen, but different in many respects. Jack, stoic with a realistic worldview, grew up in a ranching family. Wynn, while nearly as well versed in the great outdoors, is more optimistic and romantic. Although the two young men seem more than prepared for an extended trip through the wilds of Canada, a sense of foreboding looms from the beginning. A fast-approaching forest fire rages miles behind them, and is not the only unexpected challenge the two friends face. As Jack and Wynn distance themselves from the fire and toward civilization, they encounter obstacles that test their survival skills and friendship.

Other reviews summarize the plot in greater detail, but I recommend avoiding them, to fully grasp the suspense of this novel. The River is equal parts thriller, character study, and outdoor adventure, which is tightly plotted and beautifully written. Nothing feels extraneous. Peter Heller’s extensive knowledge of the outdoors lends itself to the authenticity of the novel.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Book– New York Times’ Bestselling author Jodi Picoult does it again with another one of her remarkable novels tackling prominent, arbitrary controversies of today’s times. This novel was so captivating, that I ended up not only borrowing the printed copy from the library, but listened to eAudiobook on the Libby app at every opportunity:  in the car, making dinner, cleaning the house, etc.

Ruth is a single mother of a high school honors student and a Labor and Delivery Nurse of Mercy-West Haven Hospital of 20 years. She is a person of color.

Turk dons a Swastika tattoo, a Confederate flag arm sleeve, oversees a white power website, and is a distinguished leader in the movement. He and his wife Brittany, are white supremacists. She just gave birth to their son, Davis.

After a brief encounter checking Davis’ vitals, Turk and Brittany make a point to remove Ruth from their service. They write, “NO AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSONNEL TO CARE FOR THIS PATIENT,” on a post-it note and affix it to their child’s file. When the unit is short staffed however, Ruth has no choice but to watch over baby Davis while the other nurses handle a medical emergency. But then, baby Davis goes into cardiac distress. Unforeseeable circumstances leave Ruth with two choices: intervene and go against the charge nurse’s orders and the wishes of the parents, or do nothing and break the nurse’s oath.

Readers are challenged to question whether Ruth should disobey the orders she’s been given by the hospital, or care for the baby to try to save him. This riveting story underpins racial discrimination and freedom of choice and expression. It confronts issues of power, privilege, and race in the United State’s justice system and brings to light the realities that African-Americans face every day, which white people often take for granted.

Above all, Small Great Things invites conversation about the implicit biases we hold and how our actions or inactions can ultimately be a disservice to others. Racism is very much alive in the U.S. and this story illustrates the societal ramifications microaggressions play in the lives of underrepresented groups in our country.

This title is available in print book format, Large Print, and as an eAudiobook in Overdrive.