Current Picks: Book Reviews

Lora

Digging In by Loretta Nyhan (2018)

digginginTwo years after her husband died in an accident, Paige, living with her teenage son, Trey, is going through the motions of life. Adding to the stress, changes are afoot at the advertising agency where she works. Big Frank, the founder of the agency, has passed away and his son, Lukas has taken over. Lukas is enamored of the principles outlined in a trendy new business bestseller and has completely redesigned the workplace. He has also made it apparent that two out of the office's six employees will be let go soon.

One thing that has been extremely satisfying for Paige in this time of upheaval is digging in her backyard, much to the dismay of her noisy and not-so-nice neighbor, Mr. Eckhardt. Soon, Paige decides that she will turn the backyard into a garden. Will Paige be able to pull her professional and personal lives back together--and get a garden to grow? Digging In is a humorous tale of a woman overcoming a tragedy and finding a new self. Loretta Nyhan’s book is a great choice for those who love novels about relationships.
Jennifer

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole (2018)

dukebydefaultAnother unique and delightful romance from Alyssa Cole featuring realistic, sympathetic, and charming characters. In contemporary Scotland, Tavish is a traditional swordmaker struggling to keep his business afloat. American socialite Phoebe sees this apprenticeship as a chance to turn her life around. Sparks fly. You'll root for this pair as they navigate social issues, family challenges, and an unexpected dukedom in A Duke by Default.
Denise

Saving Sophie by Ronald H. Balson (2015)

savingsophieRonald Balson has written a complex, captivating story with great characterizations. Saving Sophie is a suspense/thriller infused with rich historical details and insights into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It takes you on a journey from Chicago to Hawaii to Israel, as Jack Sommers goes to any lengths to rescue his daughter. He is joined by an investigative team whose mission is not only to rescue Sophie, but to thwart a major terrorist attack in Hebron. There are many twists and turns to keep you interested. I found it not only entertaining, but also informative. At times it reminded me of I Am Pilgrim (another book I really enjoyed).
Heather

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (2016)

msbixbysWritten from the alternating perspectives of three sixth grade boys, this exceptional novel follows their quest to create a very special "last day" for their teacher, recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and unable to finish the school year. Clever, funny, and heartwarming, this quick read will take you through a range of emotions as you are part of Steve, Brand, and Topher's mission for their beloved Ms. Bixby.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson is among the 2019 Bluestem and Caudill Award nominees for the State of Illinois, designed for students in grades 3-5 and 4-8, respectively, but grownups, don't discount the opportunity to enjoy this book as well!
Hugh

The Midnight Line by Lee Child (2017)

midnightlineRetired army officer Jack Reacher has not settled down after leaving the service. He travels light, buying new when the old becomes worn and never stays long in one place. He finds a West Point ring in a pawnshop and begins a journey through the Midwest to Wyoming hoping to find the owner and hear her story. Along the way, Jack meets the owner’s twin sister and the detective she has hired to find her twin. They encounter many obstacles including those raised by illegal drugs, but Jack is tough and the honor of a fellow officer is at stake so there is no thought of giving up even when the way is filled with danger.

Check out The Midnight Line for Lee Child’s latest adventure starring Jack Reacher.
Katie

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (2017)

aminasvoiceAmina loves music and especially loves to sing. But whenever she stands on stage, words never come out. And Amina has more than just stage fright to worry about: friends, family visiting from Pakistan, and her parents have signed her for a Quran recitation competition! Can Amina find her voice in time?

Hena Khan writes a realistic, relatable character in Amina. Readers will cheer for Amina throughout the book; even when Amina makes some mistakes, she is quick to make amends.

I thought that the story was fast-paced and very engaging for readers. I had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen to Amina.

Amina’s Voice is currently on the Bluestem 2019 Nominees list for grades 3-5. Make sure to pick up a copy of our challenge log when you check out a copy in the K&T Department.

 
Jennifer

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (2018)

iwasanastasiaLong fascinated by the Romanovs, I jumped at the chance to read a new historical novel featuring the doomed Russian royals. Did Anastasia survive the firing squad? In alternating timelines, Anastasia Romanov and Anna Anderson share their stories. Whether you think you know what happened, you’ll be drawn into the dual narratives—Anastasia’s story starts in 1917 and moves forward, while Anna’s narration starts in 1970 and goes backwards in time.

I was Anastasia is a richly detailed and moving tale. Try listening to Ariel Lawhon’s latest novel—narrators Jane Collingwood and Sian Thomas do an excellent job bringing the fascinating story to life.
Laura

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (2013)

dadisfatI just listened to Dad is Fat on audio. Read by author Jim Gaffigan, it is a laugh-out-loud collection of essays of what it is like to be the father of five kids and their adventures of living in New York City. The humor is universal and the love for his family comes through in each chapter.
Denise

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

thugI definitely understand why this book is so popular. The Hate U Give is powerful, engaging, thought provoking, and topical. It is a well-written, realistic story with diverse, well-developed characters. Author Angie Thomas addresses uncomfortable issues such as racism (both intentional and unintentional), white privilege, and police brutality.

I loved the main character, Starr, a teenage girl who witnesses her friend being killed by a cop. The rest of the story revolves around the effects of this tragedy on Starr and her family (who are all wonderful characters), friends, and community. At times I felt angry, at other times I felt sad, and then there were times I was laughing. All in all, it was a very emotional read, and one I highly recommend!
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Mary P.

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith (2018)

goodpilotAlexander McCall Smith’s latest standalone opens on an English farm as the Americans enter WWII and fly into the English air bases. When Val rescues a border collie named Peter Woodhouse from his owner who was mistreating him, she gives the dog to Mike, a U.S. pilot living at the base. The American G.I.s become so attached to Peter that they begin taking him along on missions, acting as their mascot.

When disaster strikes, Woodhouse finds himself face-to-snout with Ubi, a German corporal. Ubi is tired of war and death and spares the lives of the pilots, changing the narrative of the war for the Americans. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is a charming and beautiful story that reaffirms even when life goes in an unexpected direction, things can still work themselves out.
Lora

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland (2018)

needtoknowVivian works for the CIA as a counterintelligence analyst focusing on Russia, trying to uncover their spies in the United States. One day, while doing her work, she finds information that hits close to home and leads her to question the last ten years of her life. Not really knowing who she can trust or turn to puts her on edge, especially when her children's lives are threatened. Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know is a fast-paced tale for readers who enjoyed Chris Pavone's The Expats and the television show The Americans. It's also the perfect book for your summer beach bag.
Jennifer

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig (2017)

ginnymoonFive years after being taken from her abusive mother, 14-year-old Ginny is in a forever home. And yet, not everything is proceeding smoothly. Narrated entirely from her perspective, Ginny Moon features the inner thoughts and interactions of this lovable yet troubled young autistic girl. The adults around her don’t understand why Ginny won’t let go of the baby doll left behind in her birth mother’s apartment, and Ginny doesn’t get why the adults won’t take action—leaving the reader trying to figure out the mystery.

Debut novelist Benjamin Ludwig will capture your attention with this moving and heartwarming story. If you loved Eleanor in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I think you’ll also enjoy Ginny’s story.
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Heather

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2015)

fishinatreeA fascinating and enlightening story, Fish in a Tree follows a sixth grade girl who always struggled in school, but never could understand why until a persistent, caring teacher finally helps diagnose her with dyslexia. The author herself experienced a similar childhood to Ally, which gives so much depth of perspective to the character's struggle with an inability to read and write. Once diagnosed, Ally begins to discover through perseverance that a learning disability does not define who she is or her intelligence.

I only knew the basic symptoms of dyslexia prior to reading Fish in a Tree; however, I now feel a whole new appreciation for those who struggle with this and similar learning disorders on a daily basis because of Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s thoughtful and personal testimony incorporated into her novel.

Fish in a Tree is among the 2019 Bluestem Award nominees for the State of Illinois, designed for students in grades 3-5.
Nancy R.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline (2018)

afterannaLisa Scottoline’s latest novel is a fast-paced family drama with numerous twists and turns. Noah and Maggie, both in second marriages, are confronted with lies, manipulation, and guilt. I never expected the ending! Check out After Anna today.
Katie

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (2018)

princedressmakerWhen Frances creates an outrageous new dress for a client, her talent is noticed by the royal palace. But her position isn't what she originally expected...it turns out that Prince Sebastian wants her to design dresses for him to wear as the wonderful Lady Crystallia.

Frances and Sebastian strike up an understanding immediately, with Frances designing the most extravagant dresses, making Lady Crystallia a fashion icon in Paris.

Jen Wang's illustrations are a thing of beauty. I adored this graphic novel that features acceptance, fabulous dresses, and love. (No, seriously, I hugged it after finishing it. I didn't want to bring it back to the library!) Lucky for all our patrons, I did. The Prince and the Dressmaker is available to check out in our Teen Lounge.