the seven good yearsEtgar Keret is an Israeli writer who has had his work translated into thirty-seven languages. He is a lecturer at a university and a short story writer. Keret has also appeared in many newspaper publications and reviews and contributes on This American Life. I was first introduced to Keret through his short stories and the work that he has done on two films, Jellyfish and Wristcutters: A Love Story.

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir chronicles in a year-to-year story the seven years between the birth of Etgar’s son and the death of his father. Each section is broken up into a different year and while Etgar does manage to incorporate flashbacks to help readers realize how he became the person he is today, how he met the people important to him, and how his relationships with his family have grown and changed, the majority of the story is on pivotal moments that happened within those seven years of grandpa, dad, and son relationships.

Lev, Etgar’s son, was born in the middle of a terrorist attack. When they finally get to the hospital, there are no doctors in the maternity ward because there are so many trauma people needing help. The journalist who goes to interview Etgar makes this attack seem commonplace and Etgar soon references Tel Aviv. Readers are thrust into a Keret’s world, a world where he travels the world doing book talks, meets with different people, and does readings from his previous works. The flashbacks provided me with much needed background to understand the reluctance and focus on family behavior through certain circumstances. Although Lev and Etgar experienced their childhood at different time periods, the overarching base emotions prove to be the same. I found this book by Keret to be an engaging and emotional read, one that while being marketed as a memoir, also read to me as a story about more than just his family life. Sure, on the surface the family dynamics are there, but I found myself digging deeper into the book to really flesh out the happenings that molded Etgar and his family to behave the way they do.

I found this book to be an introduction to a culture and an area of the world that I basically grew up knowing little to nothing about. This memoir could have been exceptionally heavy and depressing, in fact at points it is, but Keret was able to show readers that while sad moments are present, there are always ways to find good moments as well.

you're not edithThe English student in me cringes whenever someone says, “Let’s read an essay” because in my mind, the term “essay” is still equated with the five-paragraph, three-reasons-why type essays that you had to write in high school. When I was flipping through Allison Gruber’s You’re Not Edith, a book exclusively filled with autobiographical essays, I noticed that instead of the traditional format, her essays read like chunks of a story broken apart for relief, flashback, comedy, and a wide variety of other purposes. I started reading You’re Not Edith and discovered that I was in fact reading an autobiography with much shorter chapters, something that my brain found easier to digest because there were breaks where I could stop if I had to go do something else and I found that I was able to finish this book much quicker than I was other books. Books containing autobiographical essays have begun to grow on me.

In You’re Not Edith, Allison Gruber reflects upon her entire life as she’s experienced it so far. Just like in her life, Gruber takes risks when she explodes her life into these essays for readers to dissect. She pulls no punches as she describes how she tried to use her fascination with Diane Fossey to help her win her girlfriend in high school or how she was diagnosed with breast cancer as she was teaching at the collegiate level. Gruber is a hilarious writer who speaks with shocking candor and isn’t afraid to tell the truth about her struggles with cancer and how she figured that even though she wouldn’t allow others to take care of her, she would still be able to care for Bernie, a little dachshund who didn’t fit her perfect ideal of the Edith dog, but ended up being exactly what she needed.

I encourage you to pick up this book to check out her feelings on weddings, her father’s mental problems, and how she came into her own through music, drama, English, and many other interconnected things.

signal to noise

Love. Friendship. Vinyl records. Music. And of course, magic. Moreno-Garcia has taken the everyday perils of teenage life and added in her own twist: magic found in vinyl records.

In Signal to Noise, readers are introduced to Meche, an awkward fifteen-year-old girl, who is friends with two other awkward fifteen-year-olds, Sebastian and Daniela, in 1988 Mexico City. As they slog and struggle through family and school, Meche soon discovers that in the vinyl records that are scattered throughout her house lies the possibility of magic. Soon the three are off searching record stores and Meche’s house for records that are either hot to the touch or give off a shock when touched. Meche is the one who shows a natural aptitude and ability for magic, something her grandmother both fears and acknowledges will happen as she too was blessed with the gift of magic at a young age, though she was not nearly as strong as her sisters. As Meche and her friends begin casting spells, they realize that this new magic will afford them the chance to become more popular and noticed, fix their broken families, find love, and become more confident with themselves. This use of magic comes with a price though.

Flash forward to Mexico City in 2009: Meche has come alone back to Mexico City for her estranged father’s funeral. Moreno-Garcia accomplishes the switch between 1988 and 2009 by alternating back and forth between the different time periods as the reader progresses. The difference between 1988 and 2009 leaves readers wondering what happened between Meche and her family, as well as what happened between Meche and her friends.

For those of you that are trying to wade your way into the realm of fantasy or those of you who are looking for a break from heavy fantasy, Moreno-Garcia helps these by tempering the amount of practiced magic in her book with stories of magic told by Meche’s grandmother about previous practicing witches and warlocks. The amount of fantasy within the book is also lessened by the fact that the friendships between the three teens dominate the majority of the book with magic being a thread that weaves its way throughout everything. This book worked for me as a good introduction into fantasy since the magic present within did not overwhelm me as I was reading.

girl onlineSitting at the reference desk affords me the best opportunities to figure out what the people who visit any of the three Davenport Public Libraries like to read. Reading selection catalogues is good for finding what reviewers think my patrons will like to read, but actually sitting at the desk and talking really gives me a solid idea about what our patrons want to see on the shelves.

My newest reference desk plug comes from a string of junior high and high school girls who, within the span of two to three days, all requested one book: Girl Online: the first novel by Zoella by Zoe Sugg. This book can be found in the young adult section and while that alone might throw some of you off and also send some of you wondering why there is a young adult review on this blog, let me tell you that while there are themes of first love and heartbreak and friendship within this book, there are also adult themes that I found resonated with me, even though I had to venture into teen land to find it. So let me tell you this: Instead of “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” maybe we should switch that handy motto to “Don’t judge a book by its call number”.

Girl Online: the first novel by Zoella by Zoe Sugg chronicles a short bit in the life of Penny, the girl behind the popular blog, GirlOnline, an anonymous blog that she runs online after she finds out that it is easier to share her real life and real feelings online than it is to face ridicule with everyone she knows in real life, or maybe a better way to word what she is doing online is to say that she is unsure whether or not others are feeling the same way as she is, so she posts her feelings and interactions only to be surprised that there are other people out there who feel the same way as she does. Penny, who is suffering from panic attacks after going through an accident with her parents, is supported through her online escapades and real life encounters by her best friend, Elliott, a gay boy struggling to get his parents to understand his homosexuality who lives right next to Penny and is able to knock on her wall with a secret code to let her know that he wants to come over and visit.

Well, Penny’s parents just happen to own a wedding planning business and, more specifically, a wedding dress store where they specialize in designing somewhat off-the-wall and different weddings. As the plot rolls on, Penny and her parents, Elliott included, are invited to New York to help plan a Downton Abbey themed wedding just around Christmas time. Could anything be more perfect?! Of course because this is a young adult novel!!! Once there, Penny meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming, tall eighteen-year-old boy who just happens to be the grandson of the chef for the wedding. This. Is. Awesome. They travel around New York together and have picnics together on a roof top and just when you think they are going to be parted, Penny’s mom gets asked to design another party, which means they get to stay together for a whole other week! Sweet!! Penny and Noah fall in deep like, but alarm bells kept going off in my head because it seemed like Noah had a secret too. Can’t spoil everything for you. Read the book and let me know when your alarm bells start going off. Mine were right when they met. (And all the while, Penny is blogging about her encounters in New York, anonymously of course). Anyway, Penny comes home and THINGS BLOW UP! Not actual bombs and stuff, but metaphorical “her life is over because she’s a teenager and no one else will love her”. Sugg’s writing was so good in this part, I actually could not put the book down and read it all the way through breakfast.

The reason why I am blogging about this book is because it shows people just what happens when you put your life all over social media. The consequences, the interactions between your real and online life, and the inevitable collision between the two are what really makes Sugg’s writing shine in this novel. Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, is a vlogger, someone who, like bloggers, posts videos online to diary and document what is happening in their lives. Sugg does this through her YouTube channel. If you visit the about page on her YouTube channel, there are multiple links to her other various social media platforms. She is a social media QUEEN, winning awards and such for her presence online!

Summer is my romance novel/vacation read time. This summer’s romance pattern: kilts. Rugged Scottish Highlanders tearing up the countryside as they fight with claymores and dirks, display their clan colors with pride on their kilts, and fight to save their damsel, even when she’s capable of saving herself. That description may sound like the plot to many, many different Scottish Highlander romance novels and I tell you, yes, yes it is. But when that plot line lands in the hands of certain authors, it twists and molds itself into a beautifully crafted story involving love, fealty, family, and fierce Scottish loyalty. Here I’ve gathered my most recent Scottish Highlander reads. Enjoy! (If you’re looking for more information about romance novels, check out the Romance LibGuide put together by one of our awesome librarians!)


outlanderDiana Gabaldon is the author of the Outlander series, a total of 8 books with many novellas and other books added to the initial 8 books. She is currently working on the 9th book in the series. The first book in the series, Outlander, introduces the character of Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, who is reunited with her husband Frank as they reconnect on a second honeymoon in the British Isles. As they are exploring their surroundings, Claire and Frank stumble upon an ancient stone circle containing several plants that amateur botanist Claire is very interested in. One night, Claire is back looking at the plants when she walks through the stone circle and finds herself thrust into a different world. Dazed, confused, and lost, she becomes a captive of a group of Highlander men in 1743 Scotland. Forced to deal with circumstances thoroughly out of her control, Claire soon finds herself in the pleasure of a young James Fraser, known to his acquaintances as Jamie. Claire and Jamie soon are forced to rely of each other to survive. Gabaldon weaves the Outlander story around the delicate balance between Claire’s old and new life and the balance between her truth and the lies she must tell to survive. (If this interests you, this book/series has also been made into a television series – which is also available for checkout.)


My most recent Highlander romance series read was the Scandalous Highlanders series by Suzanne Enoch. I just finished mad, bad, dangerous in plaidreading Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid, the third book in this series with a fourth due to release in October. I picked this book up not realizing that it wasn’t the first book until I was about halfway through and by then I was too hooked to start the series at the beginning. In this book, we find Rowena MacLawry has escaped the Highlands and run away to London to have her debut season after her brothers have expressly told her she could not. She returns home to the Highlands with a large number of her sophisticated English ladies and lords in tow to help plan the wedding of one of her brothers. Rowena, or Winnie as she is known to her brothers and to the dashing Lachlan MacTier, has brought along these sophisticated men to hopefully find a husband and to prove to everyone that she is over her 18-year crush and obsession over Lachlan. As soon as Winnie expresses her disdain for Lachlan, he realizes that maybe he doesn’t want her giving up on him just yet. A humorous and disastrous mix of complications plague the wedding preparations and Winnie and Lachlan are forced to come up with a rather ingenious plan to make sure everyone ends up happy. I recommend that you check out the first book in the series, The Devil Wears Kilts, and the second book, Rogue with a Brogue, before reading the third. Also keep an eye out for the release of the fourth!


There are many, many other Scottish Highlander romance novels, but these are just my memorable ones from this summer’s reading, so if you’re interested in more Highlander romance novels, check out this list that collects from all three Davenport Libraries and contains some of the Highlander romance novels we own.

(Handy tip: If you’re reading a romance novel and aren’t sure whether it is the first in a series, check to see if there are siblings to the main character and whether or not any of them are married or in a serious relationship. If this is true, you most likely are not reading the first in the series. This is a generality and is not always true. Just something I’ve noticed. When in doubt, contact us at the library and we can check.)

everything i never told youI love book lists. Give me a list of award books or a list of books you absolutely adored, and I will slowly make my way through the list until I have read them all. Today’s book is one I discovered on an award list. The title is Everything I Never Told You and is Celeste Ng’s debut novel. I first heard of Everything I Never Told You when I was tuned in to watch the Alex Awards online. The Alex Awards are an award given out by the American Library Association (ALA) to the 10 best adult books that have special appeal to teens. (This book has also been on numerous other lists and won another award. Check out Celeste Ng’s website for more information.)

Everything I Never Told You begins, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.” After those simple, yet devastating, few sentences, Ng weaves together the story of a Chinese-American family growing up in 1970s Ohio. Each family member is outlined: the professor father James, stay-at-home mother Marilyn, older brother Nathan who is desperate to leave home, younger sister Hannah who seems to blend into the background, and the middle golden-child Lydia whose mother and father have placed all of their hopes on her shoulders, as well as several other members of the community. When Lydia’s body is found in the lake right down the street from their house, the entire family falls apart.

This book delves into the complex nature of the Lees: family, history, home, and the struggles we all make on a daily basis to understand each other and to find ourselves.

 

no one else can have youIf that description caught your interest, check out No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. This book deals with similar concepts of love, loss, and the tragic and upheaving nature of death. This book takes place in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, where residents have been shocked by the discovery of high school student Ruth Fried’s body in a cornfield. Her best friend, 16-year-old Kippy Bushamn, finds herself trying to solve her best friend’s murder. Ruth’s mother has given Ruth’s diary to Kippy with the express instruction to redact the sexy parts. Kippy sets out to find out who murdered her best friend and discovers that in her small Midwestern town, everyone seems to have secrets.

This quirky murder mystery will have you following Kippy around as she emulates her idol, Diane Sawyer, to figure out who her best friend really was and what really happened when she died.

the real thingEllen McCarthy has written a charming set of lessons about living and enjoying love in her book, The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook. What intrigued me the most about this book was that McCarthy was a skeptic about the whole wedding business and love when she first began reporting about weddings and even after she married. She sometimes is still skeptical, but feels that working as a wedding reporter has allowed her to find a set of resources, whether those resources are married couples, the notes she’s scribbled down, or the books she has read, that she can utilize to keep her marriage strong and alive. This book serves as a collection of the lessons she believes everyone should be aware of regarding love and life.

McCarthy writes throughout this book that she took her job as a wedding reporter because she wanted to write about people. Sure, she would love to have a Saturday night off to go and hangout with her friends, but once she is sitting and waiting for the ceremony begin, she is immediately thrown into a new beautiful love story and the beginning of a new life together. McCarthy tackles the questions of “How do you know this person is the one?”, “Should we live together before marriage?”, and even “Should I call the wedding off?” McCarthy admits to being far from a marriage and love expert and that is why she augments her written beliefs within this book with multiple interviews from experts, as well as interviews and snapshots into the weddings and lives of the people she has interviewed for her job.

McCarthy has gathered together a multitude of information about how people go about finding love and the life they want. This book is eye-opening for people in all stages of relationships, from single to happily married for years to divorced, and provides help for those who may need a little push to understand the life they are living now.

 What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Storieswhat was i thinking was edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman as a way for people to talk about the point in their relationship where they realized that their dealings with that person were doomed and over. Sometimes the relationship may not actually end for weeks or even years later, but there is usually that one defining moment where it suddenly hits you that you don’t like that person as much as you thought you did. Out of the hundreds of submissions that Davilman and Dubelman received, they were only able to pick out 58 to put together into this collection.

As I was reading this book, I came across many themes: 1) sometimes the reasons for our break-ups may seem like nothing at all to other people(he plucked his uni-brow, I dyed my hair, he didn’t like to read), but they can be deal-breakers to the person who ultimately calls it quits, 2) that A-HA relationship-ending moment may not be so obvious to us right when it happens, but in hindsight, we definitely recognize that moment as the “start of impending doom”, 3) that blast of clarity when we know that the relationship was over was sometimes more vivid and easier to remember than the entire relationship itself, and 4) no matter how many times our friends tell us our significant other may be just a little too weird, we will not actually break-up with that person ourselves until we burst out of the happiness bubble and honeymoon phase of the new relationship and see the person for who they really are.

Check out this book to commiserate with these women about the moments when they knew their relationships were just over and it became clear that that relationship was not going to work out. Be prepared to look back out your own relationships as you read this book because the women sharing their personal stories are not afraid to dig deep into their pasts to talk about their moments of clarity, no matter how foggy those moments have been right in the midst of the happiness.

irritable hearts

Let’s talk about how we come to find books to read. Sometimes we hear about certain books on television, spy a blurb written online about the newest work by a famous author, or a friend recommends a book to us that they think we may like. Most of my book recommendations come from either friends or online blurbs. Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland was my newest book recommendation from a friend, one who thought that I may relate to the main character and how she goes about finding out her truth.

In this memoir, Mac McClelland writes about her journey around the world, her life story, and a new love. Mac is an investigative journalist who is not put off by the prospect of covering the news in dangerous parts of the world. In 2010, Mac travels to Haiti to cover the aftermath of the massive earthquake that killed over 200,000 people. Here, Mac decides to team up with several locals to write stories about the devastating aftereffects and the displacement of so many people living in Haiti. She delves into many traumatic situations in order to get to the bottom of her story. While in Haiti, Mac also meets Nico, a French soldier with whom she begins a world-travelling love affair. Mac believes she has a hold on her life and that the new symptoms she is displaying after witnessing a particularly gruesome attack(one which she never actually describes in detail) are just part of being a journalist.

After leaving Haiti, Mac’s symptoms get worse. She starts crying and imagining graphic scenes of violence that lead her to call an emergency meeting with her therapist. While meeting with her, Mac realizes that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which her recent trip to Haiti and her previous tension/trauma-filled life experiences have brought to light. Trying to deal with her symptoms becomes increasingly difficult and she turns to alcohol, television, and some violent therapies to help her cope. Mac also reaches out to other PTSD sufferers and begins researching and reading everything about PTSD that she can get her hands on. Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story is McClelland’s story of finding a new love with Nico, her struggle to repair herself, and how she deals with all of the changes happening around and within herself.

war of the wivesA phone call wakes you up in the middle of the night: “This is Detective Inspector Bowles from the Metropolitan police, Mrs. Busfield. We’re outside your house. Can you please let us in?” You scramble out of bed in shock, your first thoughts running to your two grown children and the one sleeping down the hall. Are they okay? You open the front door to find two policemen telling you your husband of twenty-eight years has been found dead, floating in a river. Not possible. He’s supposed to be in Dubai on business. You are in denial.

Fast forward to the funeral. As you walk to the crematorium flanked by your children, everyone stares. Standing outside, you hear wailing coming from the parking lot and see a grown woman on her knees keening. As she staggers to the door, you’re infuriated that she dare intrude on your grief. She reaches the vicar standing on the steps, grips his arms, and demands to know what happened to your husband and wants to know who organized the funeral without telling her. He politely tries to disengage, while asking who the woman is. She grips his arm and says, “I’m his wife.” You are shocked. She can’t be.

Two women. One husband. Deception, betrayal, and death. If this description has caught your interest, check out Tamar Cohen’s War of the Wives for more information about Selina, Lottie, their families, and the dead patriarch of the family, Simon Busfield. Just remember: Not everything is as it seems.