Everywhere You Don't Belong

This dark and quirky coming of age story is set on the south side of Chicago. Claude's parents have abandoned him, but luckily he has his strong-willed, civil rights activist grandma and her alcoholic friend, Paul, to look after him. There are times when you'll wish you could just reach out and give the awkward Claude a hug as he struggles to make friends and fit in to society while navigating the tensions and issues of life on the south side.

Spiked with humor and social commentary, Gabriel Bump's debut novel is a quick and entertaining read full of memorable characters. Check out Everywhere You Don't Belong (2020) today.

Available as an ebook on Hoopla.



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Genealogy Group Meeting. May 28th, 1pm.

Are you interested in genealogical research and learning more about your family history? Local genealogists share their tips in our monthly Genealogy Group meetings. Register for the next meeting in the form of an online webinar:

May 28, 1-3 p.m. Researching at the Newberry Library. Presented by Sandi Trapp.





Listen to Neil Gaiman's Coraline, live from NYPL.

What is better than having someone read you a story? Having the author and famous actors read it to you!

The New York Public Library is hosting a live reading of Neil Gaiman's spooky book Coraline this week, from Tuesday, May 12 through Monday, May 18. Click here to see more details and this link to sign up for a reminder notice. Remember the time difference means it will be at 5pm Chicago time or just go here to watch later or catch up on missed chapters.

Borrow the eBook from Hoopla if you want to read along.



The Mountains Sing

This beautifully written multi-generational family saga brings to life the last 100 years of Vietnam's tragic history. This country and its people have been through so much, and author, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, showcases their strength, resilience, and courage in the face of so much violence and loss.

The story follows Diệu Lan, the matriarch of the family, as she desperately tries to keep her family together through famine, occupation, and war. The author gives you a vivid sense of what it was like to be in Vietnam during that time and manages to weave a thread of love and hope throughout the traumatic history.

This captivating book really drew me in with its expressive, lyrical writing and strong characters, while also teaching me about the history and culture of Vietnam.The Mountains Sing (2020) is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Pachinko and A Long Petal of the Sea.

Read or listen to The Mountains Sing on Hoopla today.



Self Sufficiency

I know many of us have been thinking about becoming more self sufficient recently. There has been a surge of interest in this area, so I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of eBooks we have on many of these subjects. If you need help with an outdoor project, browse our catalog for ideas on vegetable or herb gardening, composting, chickens and their coops, bee keeping, homesteading, carpentry and self sufficiency.



The Girl with the Louding Voice

Prepare to fall in love with the Adunni, the plucky heroine of The Girl with the Louding Voice (2020). Adunni is a 14-year-old girl living in rural Nigeria where child marriage, polygamy, and jungle justice are still common and a girl has no worth but for her bride price. But Adunni is a delightful character and despite all the hardships that come her way, she manages to find joy in her life and see the good in people who hurt her. All she wants is to get an education, as she believes this will allow her voice to be heard, to allow her to speak up and have a say in her future.

Abi Daré's debut novel is both heartrending and heartwarming—and full of wonderful characters. Written in Adunni's voice and dialect, it may take reading a few pages to get used to the writing style, but it is well worth it. A riveting and inspiring book.

You can also read or listen to this book on Overdrive.



Scott & Bailey. The Complete Series (2011-2016)

Do you love British crime TV?  Watch it from more of a female perspective with Scott and Bailey (TV-14).  Set in Manchester, UK, this police procedural follows the story of two strong female detectives as they solve crime while also dealing with office politics and personal problems.  Not only are the cases they are faced with fascinating, but the continuing backstory is also gripping.

Lesley Sharp and Suranne Jones make a formidable and entertaining partnership as detectives Scott and Bailey, who will have you rooting for them through their various trials and tribulations.  To give the show grittiness and doses of reality the writers of this series sought advice from a former Manchester police detective.

The entire show (seasons 1-5) is available to watch instantly on Hoopla.

Series Spotlight: Winternight

If you grew up on fairy tales and want to rediscover that magic as an adult, then the Winternight trilogy (start with The Bear and the Nightingale, 2017) is for you. Katherine Arden brings to life Russian folklore and spirits you away to the forests of medieval Russia in this lyrical tale.

Vasya is born into a time when the old beliefs are being threatened by the introduction of modern religion, but she is one of the few who can still see and talk to the household and forest spirits. Struggling to keep the old traditions alive to protect her family, Vasya is drawn into an age-old battle between the frost-king and his brother. The action continues from the frozen forests to the capital, Moscow, and through the fantastical Midnight Lands, home to the mythical witch Baba Yaga.

Beautifully written with a strong female lead and a captivating portrayal of 14th century Russia, the Winternight trilogy (book 2: The Girl in the Tower, 2018 and book 3: The Winter of the Witch, 2019) interweaves historical moments with old world fantasy to create a wonderful epic fairy tale. This trilogy would appeal to readers of Neil Gaiman and Kiersten White.


The Poppy Wife

A hauntingly beautiful book dealing with the aftermath of the Great War. Set in 1921 with flashbacks to the war years, The Poppy Wife follows the story of war widow, Edie and her brother-in-law Harry, the only surviving brother of three. Edie's husband, Francis, was an avid photographer during the war, faithfully documenting his wartime experience. But when Edie is sent a photo of him with no note attached, 3 years after he was reported missing in action, she latches on to the possibility that he may still be alive somewhere in France and recruits his brother Harry to help look for any sign of him.

Harry's job is as a photographer, taking photos of graves or places of import for bereaved families who are in need of closure. It takes him back to all the places he was stationed throughout the war, villages that have been wiped out or are struggling to rebuild, locals attempting to come to terms with all their loss, and widows searching for any information about their lost husbands. The Poppy Wife (2019) delivers vivid imagery and raw emotion as it follows both Edie and Harry's travels across France.

Caroline Scott is an historian specializing in WWI and The Poppy Wife is an expertly rendered portrayal of the postwar period. Her writing is beautifully atmospheric and the characters are well-drawn, evoking strong emotions.


The Chestnut Man

Brutal murders are taking place around Copenhagen and it's not long before investigators realize that they have a serial killer on their hands. The most intriguing clue left behind at each murder scene is a small toy man made of chestnuts and matchsticks, placed on or nearby the body.

Things get even more interesting when a fingerprint is found on each of the chestnut men, and it belongs to the daughter of a government minister who was kidnapped and murdered a year ago. The lead investigators, neither of whom wants to be in their current job, get caught up in the hunt for this twisted, brutal killer, while he always seems to be watching and taunting them. With twists and red herrings, this gruesome police procedural was an entertaining, fast-paced read.

Add this author to the growing list of exciting Nordic crime writers to read. The Chestnut Man (2019) is Soren Sveistrup's debut novel, but he's had plenty of screenwriting experience in this genre. The Killing book series by David Hewson are adapted from an award-winning TV series written by Sveistrup, from which an American version of the TV series was also made.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

I was feeling the need for a good book to escape into and Alix E. Harrow really delivered with whimsical prose and a fantastical story in The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019).

Set at the turn of the 20th century in Vermont, we follow the story of January, a young mixed race child in the care of a wealthy collector, Mr. Locke. Her guardian employs her father to travel the world searching for and obtaining rare treasures and curiosities, which are then added to Mr. Locke's extensive collection or sold at secretive auctions.

At the age of seven, while on a trip to rural Kentucky with Mr. Locke, January opens a dilapidated blue door amongst some ruins in a field and is briefly transported to another world, a world that smells of salt and stone, a world that feels strangely welcoming. Her few short moments there leave her wondering if it was a real memory or just her imagination. Then, at the age of 17, her father disappears while on one of his trips and a book mysteriously appears in a treasure chest in Mr. Locke's collection—a book that carries the scent of adventure and other worlds and tells of ten thousand 'doors'. And so begins an upheaval of January's life and the opening of new doors.

Lovers of Narnia and The Time Traveler's Wife will enjoy this beautifully written book, full of the power of the written word, love, and strong female characters.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

​Though not your typical road trip movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was a huge hit in Australia back in the 90s and quickly became a cult movie with its outrageous costumes and classic disco music.  Featuring veteran actors, Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Bill Hunter, this film follows the adventures of a group of drag queens who take their show on the road to the Australian outback.  In need of money, they accept a job to perform in Alice Springs, quite a journey from their hometown of Sydney.

Traveling in a fantastically repainted school bus, they head out on a road trip through the outback, bringing us comedy and drama as they interact with the locals along the way.  The flamboyant crossdressers raise a few eyebrows in the country towns they pass through and while there is some intolerance, there is also education and tenderness.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, R) is a highly entertaining lighthearted film, but be warned that it does include a lot of coarse language and will have you humming disco hits for days afterward.

This movie is on our list of favorite LGBTQ films. Discover more on our website.


How We Disappeared

Set in 1940s Singapore, How We Disappeared grapples with the tragic history of 'comfort women' in World War II. These young local girls were taken from their families at gunpoint and subjected to years of brutal rape by the occupying Japanese forces. If they managed to survive the war and return home, instead of being welcomed back with open arms, they were often shunned by their family and neighbors.

We follow the story of Wang Di, who was taken from her village by the Japanese army in 1942. Almost 60 years later, she is now an old woman, but has kept her painful past a secret for all this time. Her husband has just passed away and she is struggling with her new lonely life and her overwhelming memories. At the same time, Kevin, a 12 year old struggling at school and home, loses his grandmother. In her last delirious hours, she whispers a confession to him, a secret about her son that she has kept since the war. Kevin is determined to unravel this mystery in the hope that it will help with his father's depression.

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee (2019) interweaves several different narratives to create a suspenseful story that also focuses on the beauty of friendship and human relationships.

Boy Swallows Universe

A coming of age story set in the gritty, drug-ridden streets of suburban Brisbane, Australia in the 1980s. Despite the ugly background of criminals, violence, and poverty, this is a beautiful story of a boy finding his voice and destiny.

Twelve-year-old Eli Bell is surrounded by drug addicts and dealers. His brother, August, is selectively mute, his babysitter is an ex-con renowned for multiple jailbreaks and his stepfather Lyle is involved with the local heroin dealing business. Eli has a big dream to become a journalist on the crime beat. He's honing his writing skills by exchanging letters with a criminal in jail and practicing being observant while accompanying Lyle on his drug deals. When everything starts to go wrong, Eli will rely on his skills and contacts to survive.

With secret rooms, heroin deals, a jail break-in and missing people, this book doesn't lack for action. It also shines a light on the strength of parental and sibling relationships. A tough upbringing can result in unbreakable bonds.

Boy Swallows Universe (2019) is an entertaining debut from Trent Dalton, loosely based on some of his real life experiences.



The Stationery Shop

Set in 1950s Tehran, this ill-fated love story features teenagers Roya and Bahman. Roya's favorite place is Mr. Fakhri's stationary shop and she goes there every Tuesday after school to indulge her love of novels, poetry, and everything stationery. It is here that she meets Bahman, a young political activist and, despite parental disapproval, class differences, and Iran's political unrest, their love blossoms.

The story actually begins 60 years later in Boston. Raya has spent her adult life in America as an immigrant, always wondering why the love of her life never showed up to their rendezvous in a city square amidst a violent coup. Out of the blue, she discovers that Bahman is a resident in a nursing home nearby. Will visiting him finally give her the answer? Has their love lasted a lifetime?

I really enjoyed this romantic tale by Marjan Kamali, who writes very evocatively of the 1950s streets of Tehran. Her descriptions of Persian food had me looking up recipes, especially for the cooling melon ice that she mentions multiple times in The Stationery Shop (2019). I went out and bought some cantaloupe the next day and it was just as refreshing as I imagined!