Current Picks: Book Reviews

Jez

Comics for a Strange World by Reza Farazmand (2017)

comicsstrangeworldYou’ve likely seen Reza Farazmand’s work floating around the internet, even if you’ve never heard his name. His newest book, Comics for a Strange World, is the second collection from his popular webcomic series Poorly Drawn Lines. Organized by theme, you can consider these short comics the “best of the best” of Farazmand. His humor is offbeat, tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally bleak, but his commentary on technology, humanity, and society will absolutely resonate with a wide audience, especially among Millennials.poorlydrawnlines
IPPL Staff

The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (2017)

scribeofsienaIn the present day, neurosurgeon Beatrice travels to Siena after her brother, a medieval historian, dies. Somehow, Beatrice travels in time to medieval Siena during the plague (around 1350). As you read The Scribe of Siena, you’ll feel that you were there too—the writing and descriptions are so vivid. Check out Melodie Winawer’s captivating debut novel today. For fans of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.
Mary S.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits, 2005-2016 by Annie Leibovitz (2017)

annieleibovitzDelight in 150 color and black-and-white photographs of actors, artists, athletes, politicians, and distinguished people from various nations taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. The unretouched, compelling portraits capture each subject’s personality in interesting and meaningful settings. In Annie Leibovitz: Portraits, 2005-2016, there is a distinctive photo of Jack Nicholson on Mulholland Drive and Queen Elizabeth on the steps of Windsor Castle with her corgis and dorgis. The Library of Congress named Annie Leibovitz a living legend.
IPPL Staff

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn (2018)

womaninthewindowA suspense-filled, attention-grabbing story that kept me riveted from beginning to end. I couldn’t wait to get back to The Woman in the Window when I wasn’t listening to it on CD. Check out A. J. Finn’s debut novel today if you enjoy psychological suspense or Hitchcock films. For similar novels, check out our list.
Katie

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me by Lorina Mapa (2017)

When Rina learns that her beloved father has passed away unexpectedly, she flies to Manila to attend his funeral. This graphic novel memoir is told in flashbacks as Rina recalls aspects of her childhood growing up in the Philippines.

Lorina Mapa skillfully illustrates emotion in her panels which change between grief and humor, always with love for her family, friends, and country. I laughed out loud more than once as I recalled some of my own memories of growing up -- who didn't have a pop culture inspired haircut that didn't quite work out? (Mine was the bangs from The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

I would recommend Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me for fans of Lucy Knisley, Ramsay Beyer, and Alison Bechdel.

 
 
Lora

The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens (2018)

When a few female senior citizens are murdered in their homes, the neighborhood that the victims resided in goes on high alert. Octogenarian Bernard and his friends decide to take action and make sure that the older single women are not alone by having a single man in the group move in with them until the perpetrator is caught. Amy, an artist in her 30s, begins to create paintings about the crimes. Another neighbor, teenager Maddie is home alone a lot with her younger brother since her mother abandoned the family. Maddie also has doubts that the man the police are targeting is guilty since she knows him as a customer at the restaurant where she works as a waitress.

In The Other Side of Everything, Lauren Doyle Owens explores the aftereffects of a series of crimes through these three characters and their intersecting lives. As suggested by the publisher on the flyleaf of the book, Owens’ debut is for readers who like Megan Abbott and Laura Lippman's standalone novels. Also, if you enjoy this book, try the wonderful, yet not well known The Long and Faraway Gone by Louis Berney.
Jez

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (2017)

Lois Clearly moved to San Francisco to work in one of the most cutting edge robotics companies, but hasn’t quite settled in and feels listless. One night, Lois receives a menu for a local restaurant and her whole world changes. Every night, Lois orders the spicy soup and sourdough meal, until the owners pick up and move their business overseas, but not before leaving a gift for their “number one eater:” their sourdough starter. Thus begins a journey of self-discovery, baking, email exchanges, and the lost history of a little-known people, all of which lead to an underground, experimental farmer’s market.

Filled with charming and eccentric characters, with a dash of magical realism and a large helping of baking history and tips, Robin Sloan’s Sourdough is a recipe for success for any reader looking for a strange new adventure.
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Jennifer

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (2018)

This fun and flirty debut novel is a charming contemporary romantic comedy. After Alexa and Drew are stuck in an elevator, she agrees to be his fake girlfriend for his ex's wedding. Hilarity ensues between the lawyer-turned-mayor’s chief of staff and pediatric surgeon from opposite ends of California as they navigate their relationship in this multicultural romance.

Pick up The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory when you’re in the mood to laugh (although it’s not all fun and games as they overcome obstacles). For other contemporary romances featuring smart protagonists, try The Thing About Love by Julie James or our new list of recommended romantic comedy novels.
Mary P.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (2018)

In 1944, British bomber Hugo Langley parachutes into German-occupied Tuscany. He is found by Sofia, who nurses him back to health and hides him from the Nazis. Thirty years later, Hugo’s daughter finds an unopened letter written to Sofia that startles her and sets her on a journey to understand her father’s past.

Pick up The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen for a gripping historical novel.
Joe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016)

Dystopian writing at its best—it is the distant future, and humanity has overcome poverty, hunger, and even death, while a seemingly benevolent artificial intelligence known as the Thunderhead watches over everything...almost everything. The one thing left to humanity is to control the overpopulation of the planet, and that is left to the scythes: men and women chosen to kill the populace at random based on a quota system. Some scythes are weighed down by the burden of responsibility while others take great satisfaction in their duties. When two teen scythes are pitted against one another to compete for one opening, it sends shockwaves through the entire scythedom.

After reading Neal Schusterman’s Scythe, check out the sequel Thunderhead.
IPPL Staff

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (2017)

wishtreeRed, a wishtree, has been around her community for a long time. She's seen people come together and now she is seeing her community torn apart by a single word carved into her trunk: LEAVE. Red—and her residents, which include owls, skunks, possums, raccoons, and a crow—work to bring their community back together.

Wishtree was recommended to me by one of the K&T librarians, Monica, and it did NOT disappoint!

Katherine Applegate's writing style is accessible and natural. Her words flow and easily tell the story. I was utterly captivated by the history of the wishtree and all that Red has seen in her life. And I love the idea of bringing a community together, so needless to say, I was rooting for everyone!

I listened to this book on audio and it would make a great car trip read for families. I think that fans of Erin Hunter's Warriors series or of Applegate's Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan would absolutely enjoy this title as well.

 
IPPL Staff

Firstlife by Gena Showalter (2016)

firstlifeImagine if our lives right now weren’t our only lives, that if after we die, there’s another life. But there’s one caveat, we have to choose a side: Myriad or Troika. One, a world of eternal darkness but luxury beyond your deepest desires. The other, a world of eternal light and joy. If you die before choosing, you’re stuck in the Land of Many Ways: a place where you're rumored to be terrorized for all eternity before eventually experiencing your second and final death. Troika and Myriad are rivals trapped in a bitter, never-ending war, looking to recruit the most souls.

Both afterlives are in a race to recruit Tenley Lockwood, but how does she know which is the right choice? This is the afterlife, after all. Once you decide, there’s no going back. Check out Firstlife by Gena Showalter.
Denise

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017)

scarletskyIf you enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, then I think you’ll really enjoy this book by Mark T. Sullivan. Beneath a Scarlet Sky takes place in Italy during WWII. Although I was a bit leery about reading “another WWII novel,” I’m so happy that I did. It’s the incredible story of Pino Lella, a courageous and inspirational hero who saved many lives while experiencing much tragedy and devastation. What makes it truly remarkable is that it is based on a true story. I learned much about Italy’s involvement in WWII—and the struggles between the Fascists, the Nazis, and the bravery of the Resistance.

A powerful and unforgettable account of a young man's experience of the war, his first love, and his relationship with a cast of fascinating characters, based on many interviews with Pino Lella. Highly recommend!

Want more WWII fiction? Check out our lists of WWII novels and WWII fiction featuring women in the resistance.
Jez

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (2015)

neurotribesSteve Silberman has taken on a large task, trying to cover the whole history of autism and neurodiversity in a single book, but NeuroTribes brings us about as close as we can get. Despite some news articles, autism is by no means a new thing; it’s just gone by other names in the past. Silberman looks at the major players who “discovered” the neurological differences at roughly the same time in multiple corners of the world, works through the research of the last 70 years, and dispels rumors related to disability and vaccines. Throughout, he shares personal stories from the families and doctors of, and especially the autistic people themselves.

Reading this book will give you a new appreciation for how brain chemistry and sensory abilities have changed over time and see that often, autism can act not as a bug, but as a feature.
Jennifer

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (2017)

extraordinaryunionSet during the American Civil War, An Extraordinary Union features spies working on behalf of the Union. Alyssa Cole’s historical romance features adventure, intrigue, period details, and memorable characters.

Born into slavery, Elle Burns is now a free woman. In 1862, she goes undercover, working as a slave in the household of a Confederate senator in Richmond, Virginia. She meets Pinkerton Secret Service Agent Malcolm McCall, a Scottish immigrant, and the pair form an uneasy alliance. As their relationship (both professional and personal) grows, Elle and Malcolm must navigate the uneasy world of race, politics, and war.

For other historical romances featuring spies, try Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Beverly JenkinsThe Winds of the Storm, or Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady.