Reader Review: Less

Posted on Monday, January 11, 2021 by patron reviewer

Editor’s note: This reader review was submitted as part of Adult Summer Reading. We will be sharing more throughout the rest of the year.

Less book cover

Less” follows a man named Arthur Less, a divorcee and moderately successful author about to turn 50. To avoid attending the wedding of the man he loves to someone else, Arthur picks up every possible travel opportunity to have an adequate excuse not to attend the wedding. This takes him to Italy, Germany, France, Morocco, India and Japan. Several embarrassments, misadventures, and life lessons ensue. I really enjoyed this book. It made me laugh out loud several times, and the ever-changing scenery keeps it interesting.

Three words that describe this book: Fun, heartfelt, humorous

You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a light, fun summer read that still has substance.

-Anonymous

Reader Review: The Riot Within

Posted on Wednesday, December 23, 2020 by patron reviewer

The Riot Within” is the memoir of Rodney King — the black man from Los Angeles whose mistreatment at the hands of the LA Police was the catalyst for riots in the summer of 1992. I sought this book out because I was barely six months old when the riots occurred, and while I had heard people speak of him and the riots, I knew little about the man himself. The reading level of this book is not advanced, but that is not to say that this book was an easy read.

One of the best parts of this memoir, to me, is that the book is about so much more than just his beating at the hands of the police and the riots that came after the acquittal — it was about him, the admittedly flawed human, who had done things wrong, who loved to fish with his family, who dealt with substance use disorder, who was mistreated at the hands of lawyers and who struggled to see who he was in the greater scheme of the Civil Rights movement.

One of the things that has stayed with me is that Rodney King talked about how difficult it was for him to be shrunk down to nothing more than an adjective — “The Rodney King Riots.” Never again will I minimize this man to those four words.

Three words that describe this book: Moving. Important. Strong.

You might want to pick this book up if: You want to step outside of your own community and learn more about the lives of others. Or perhaps you just want to learn more about the man whose mistreatment was the catalyst for the 1992 LA Riots.

-Anonymous

Reader Review: Circe

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2020 by patron reviewer

Editor’s note: This reader review was submitted as part of Adult Summer Reading. We will be sharing more throughout the rest of the year.

In the novel Circe, author Madeline Miller takes a character who was once a few lines in the Odyssey, and creates a swirling, beautiful, heartbreaking novel that shows Circe in full bloom. Circe is a goddess, banished to a deserted island for her use of magic. She grows up alone, creating a life for herself, growing plants, herding other banished women, and raising her son with Odysseus, who visits and decides to stay a while. The novel covers hundreds of years, but manages to be a page-turner, speaks of unchanging gods and ever-growing mortals, and is absolutely perfect.

Three words that describe this book: Surprising, magical, down-to-earth

You might want to pick this book up if: Everyone should read this. Classics readers, fantasy lovers, teens, adults who have never step foot beyond nonfiction or romance, human beings. Try the audio book, too! Circe’s soft-spoken, but strong voice is perfectly captured.

-Anna

Reader Review: This Is How It Always Is

Posted on Monday, November 16, 2020 by patron reviewer

Editor’s note: This reader review was submitted as part of Adult Summer Reading. We will be sharing more throughout the rest of the year.
This is How it Always Is book cover

This Is How It Always Is” by Laurie Frankel is about a family with a gender non-conforming child and how one secret can change a family’s whole dynamic. I loved the story itself and seeing the world from Poppy’s perspective. I didn’t entirely enjoy Penn’s long dramatic monologues. It was a slower read for me, but I feel like it opened my mind to what it would be like to have a big family and a gender non-conforming family member! The universal theme of a family keeping secrets is always interesting, too.

Three words that describe this book: family, secrets, heartwarming

You might want to pick this book up if: You’re a parent or someone who is gender non-conforming or loves someone who is!

-Samantha

Reader Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2020 by patron reviewer

Editor’s note: This reader review was submitted as part of Adult Summer Reading. We will be sharing more throughout the rest of the year. 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks book cover

I didn’t know what to expect from the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” I only knew it would have to do with ethics as it was recommended reading in a data ethics class I took. But I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the author blended the biography of the Lacks family, particularly Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, with the story of scientific progress in tissue culture due to the uniqueness of her mom’s HeLa cells. There were many moments I was very angry with scientists, balanced out with surprising responses from Deborah about how she didn’t want to stop the progress of science, she just wanted to understand what was happening to what remained of her mother and she wanted Henrietta to get recognition for her contribution.

This was a very powerful book to read (and listen to, in my case) as I begin PhD studies in health informatics, while Black Lives Matter protests are taking place across the country in the middle of a pandemic for which scientists are sprinting to get a vaccine and treatments out.

Three words that describe this book: insightful, unusual, provocative

You might want to pick this book up if: you want to understand how cell and tissue culture spring-boarded the study of viruses and cancer, or you’ve heard of HeLa cells but have no idea what that is.

-Anonymous

Reader Review: Blood Water Paint

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 by patron reviewer

I read “Blood Water Paint” as part of an online book club. I’m so glad that it was the club’s pick, because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up — it was such a unique and intense experience! It is written mostly in verse, but don’t let that put you off — the poetry is beautiful and quite accessible. There are intermittent chapters written in prose, and they were my favorites due to their content: the main character, Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi, remembering the stories that her mother had told her about strong women in history. There’s a theme throughout the book of women telling stories about women (especially those of women being abused and standing up for themselves) to girls/women because we need those stories and the boys have their own stories of warriors and kings . But I wish that the boys had BOTH stories — otherwise, how is anything ever supposed to change? I’m inspired by this book to strive to tell stories halfway as well to my own daughter as Artemesia’s mother did to her — and if I had a son, I’d sit him down right there next to her.

Three words that describe this book: Beautiful, raw, true

You might want to pick this book up if: You are interested in the Renaissance art world and/or gender issues. Trigger warning: rape.

-Erin

Reader Review: A Good American

Posted on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 by patron reviewer

The Good American book coverA Good American” is about a family of German immigrants who settle in Missouri; the book follows several generations of the family circa 1900 and onward. I liked the book because I learned more about Missouri history and because it tells the story of immigrants. It was a very entertaining, absorbing, informative, moving and a richly drawn narrative. I think I would have liked to understand the main character (and narrator) better, especially as an adult.

Three words that describe this book: historical, colorful, moving

You might want to pick this book up if: You want to learn more about Missouri’s immigration history.

-Anonymous

Reader Review: 11/22/63

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2020 by patron reviewer

11/22/63 book coverWhat a tome! Stephen King really does a deep dive into history, into paradoxes, into love, into causes and effects. I don’t always get into King’s out and out horror, but something like “11/22/63” is perfect for me. Sure there are still the occasional gruesome images (I mean, this is a tale centered around that time in history a US president had his head blown off), but for the most part this an introspective adventure novel. For years we are tracking Jake/George in an almost minute by minute way, and we’re better for it. He is having the sort of experience that can only happen in books, and it’s fascinating. For weeks now this protagonist has been a present friend of mine and I’ll be sorry to leave him behind. Sometimes you pick up a massive book and while you might be enjoying it, you nonetheless look forward to completing it. That’s not the case here. I’d happily spend another thousand pages inhabiting Jake’s mind and admiring his experiences. I’d love to get to ask, “What next?”

Three words that describe this book: Paradoxes, Passion, Pressure

You might want to pick this book up if: You love an excellent adventure, a protagonist you can really get behind, a meditation on the immutable nature of time.

-Xander

Reader Review: Exhalation

Posted on Tuesday, September 1, 2020 by patron reviewer

Exhalation book coverExhalation” is a collection of science fiction short stories. The author works in the software industry and is clearly knowledgeable about scientific principles and technology and curious about its possibilities. His stories often blend the scientific with the spiritual, and invoke a lot of moral and ethical questions. My favorite stories were “Omphalos” which focuses on a narrator struggling to reconcile her faith and purpose in light of new scientific evidence, and “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” which deals with the flexibility of memory, how we construct narratives about ourselves and our worlds, and how different forms of technology can shape those narratives.

Three words that describe this book: Thought-provoking, enlightening, well-crafted

You might want to pick this book up if: You like humanistic science fiction.

-anonymous

Reader Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 by patron reviewer

Ocean at the end of the lane book coverThe Ocean at the End of the Lane” is a modern fairy tale in the way that only Neil Gaiman can write. The protagonist returns to his rural hometown for a funeral, and finds himself recovering strange memories of events that happened when he was seven years old. Could they have really happened? Could he really have befriended an eleven year old girl who was actually as old as time itself? Could he have brought an ill-tempered spirit home with him from the edges of reality? Could he have died and come back to life? How is it possible that memories could be ripped out and new ones stitched together?

I love the way Gaiman weaves a story, and this one leaves just enough to the imagination of the reader, while being set in a fully-imagined world. It was a quick read—I did it in one sitting on a sick day in bed — and a wonderful escape from what’s going on in the real world. The characters are well-drawn; the “scenery” is at turns idyllic and horrifying.

Three words that describe this book: Magical, quick, fantasy

You might want to pick this book up if: You loved fairy tales as a child, and still love them as an adult.

-Jenn