Online Reading Challenge – July Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read something set in suburbia that you enjoyed? Share in the comments!

As I was making the displays full of suburbia books for each Davenport library, I realized that a lot of what I read is set in this location without me even realizing it – those cozy mysteries, generational fiction, thrillers, etc that keep me company day after day. For July, I read our main title: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Well technically, I had already read this title for a previous virtual book club that happened during COVID. (Side question: do any of you re-read books? I generally only do if it’s an absolute favorite comfort read since there are so many other books out there & not enough time! Let me know in the comments.) Anyway, instead of re-reading the book, I spent time going over my review and learning more about Ann Patchett. My favorite fact about Ann is that she opened Parnassus Books, a bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2011. Visiting there is on my bucket list. Let’s get into the book!

” ‘Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?’ … ‘But we overlay the present onto the past,’ … ‘We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.’ ” – Ann Patchett, The Dutch House

Danny and Maeve Conroy’s mother left their house and never returned when the siblings were very young. Their father is not warm or caring, instead he’s taciturn and withdrawn. Luckily for Danny, his older sister Maeve steps in and becomes his champion and ally. Their bond grows as the two age, providing them with love that they didn’t receive from their father. Their bond gets even stronger when their father marries out of the blue.

Their new stepmother Andrea moves into the house with her two little girls. It quickly becomes apparent that Andrea has absolutely no interest in Danny or Maeve, despite the four children getting along. In fact, Andrea works to exclude the older two from the family, giving one of her girls Maeve’s bedroom and forcing the housekeepers, who raised Maeve and Danny, out of the way. Their father is noticably more distant, making excuses to be away more frequently.

What drew Andrea to the family is the beautiful Victorian house that Danny and Maeve’s father bought for their mother. It’s located in an upscale Philadelphia neighborhood. He purchased the house with the former owners’ family portraits and furniture still in it. He saw this house as a symbol of his own success, while their mother saw it instead as excessive and overwhelming opulence with way too many expensive furnishings. Ultimately the house is what drove her away – somewhere to donate her time to helping other people. Andrea, however, saw the house, wanting it and the status that it would give her. She married their father for the house, which eventually led to Danny and Maeve being forced to leave and being haunted by that action for years.

The Dutch House is told first person through Danny’s point-of-view with some input thrown in by Maeve. This is rare for Ann Patchett, but added a layer of mystery to the story as Danny is written as a somewhat clueless character. Readers only see what Danny wants them to see with Maeve providing more details about their upbringing.

This book is about obsessive nostalgia and real estate lust, which I found to be somewhat contradictory, but that nevertheless worked together. It’s incredibly sentimental, heart-warming, and full of themes of forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, redemption, and letting go of the past. This is a story of unconventional families, making due with what you have, and what happens when children are left to their own devices. It gave me strong fairy tale vibes with the theme of motherless children (ie. ‘Cinderella’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Little Princess’). All in all, this book was hard for me to stop reading and left me thinking about the story long after I finished. I hoped you like this pick!

In August we’re headed to Japan!

New Short Story Collections

Do you want to read something, but you can’t make it through a novel? Try a short story collection. These are all a book of short stories and/or novellas that are all written by a single writer. You can distinguish a short story collection from a fiction anthology as anthologies contain word by several different authors. When I’m in a reading slump, I pick up a short story collection. If I am finding it hard to concentrate, these collections help me to focus in short bursts.

Multiple short story collections are published each year, but I wanted to focus on a handful that have been p this year or that will be published later this year. Below I have gathered a list of short story collections that have been published in 2023. All of the below titles are owned by the Davenport Public Library. Descriptions have been provided by the publisher and/or author.


The Faraway World: Stories by Patricia Engel

From Patricia Engel, whose novel Infinite Country was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick, comes an exquisite collection of ten haunting, award-winning short stories set across the Americas and linked by themes of migration, sacrifice, and moral compromise.

Two Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends.

The Faraway World is a collection of arresting stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, “a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners” (The Washington Post). Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.


Call and Response: Stories by Gothataone Moeng

Richly drawn stories about the lives of ordinary families in contemporary Botswana as they navigate relationships, tradition and caretaking in a rapidly changing world.

A young widow adheres to the expectations of wearing mourning clothes for nearly a year, though she’s unsure what the traditions mean or whether she is ready to meet the world without their protection. An older sister returns home from a confusing time in America, only to explain at every turn why she’s left the land of opportunity. A younger sister hides her sexual exploits from her family, while her older brother openly flaunts his infidelity.

The stories collected in Call and Response are strongly anchored in place – in the village of Serowe, where the author is from, and in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana – charting the emotional journeys of women seeking love and opportunity beyond the barriers of custom and circumstance.

Gothataone Moeng is part of a new generation of writers coming out of Africa whose voices are ready to explode onto the literary scene. In the tradition of writers like Chimamanda Adiche and Jhumpa Lahiri, she offers us insight into communities, experiences and landscapes through stories that are cinematic in their sweep, with unforgettable female protagonists.


A Broken People’s Playlist: Stories (from songs) by Chimeka Garricks

A Broken People’s Playlist is set to the soundtrack of life, comprised of twelve music-inspired tales about love, the human condition, micro-moments, and the search for meaning and sometimes, redemption. It is also Chimeka Garricks’s love letter to his native city, Port Harcourt, introducing us to a cast of indelible characters in these loosely interlocked tales.

There is the teenage wannabe-DJ eager to play his first gig even as his family disastrously falls apart—who reappears many years later as an unhappy middle-aged man drunk-calling his ex-wife; a man who throws a living funeral for his dying brother; three friends who ponder penis captivus and one’s peculiar erectile dysfunction; a troubled woman who tries to find her peace-place in the world, helped by a headful of songs and a pot of ginger tea.

Infused with the author’s resonant and evocative storytelling, each page holds “the depth of a novel” (Hari Kunzru); a character, a moment that will—like a favorite song—long linger in the heart and mind.


When Trying to Return Home: Stories by Jennifer Maritza McCauley

A dazzling debut collection spanning a century of Black American and Afro-Latino life in Puerto Rico, Pittsburgh, Louisiana, Miami, and beyond—and an evocative meditation on belonging, the meaning of home, and how we secure freedom on our own terms

Profoundly moving and powerful, the stories in When Trying to Return Home dig deeply into the question of belonging. A young woman is torn between overwhelming love for her mother and the need to break free from her damaging influence during a desperate and disastrous attempt to rescue her brother from foster care. A man, his wife, and his mistress each confront the borders separating love and hate, obligation and longing, on the eve of a flight to San Juan. A college student grapples with the space between chivalry and machismo in a tense encounter involving a nun. And in 1930s Louisiana, a woman attempting to find a place to call her own chances upon an old friend at a bar and must reckon with her troubled past.

Forming a web of desires and consequences that span generations, McCauley’s Black American and Afro–Puerto Rican characters remind us that these voices have always been here, occupying the very center of American life—even if we haven’t always been willing to listen.


Butter: Novellas, Stories, and Fragments by Gayl Jones

Gayl Jones, who was first edited by Toni Morrison, has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century and was recently a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. This new collection of short fiction is only the second in her rich career, and one that displays her strengths in the genre in many facets. Opening with two novella-length works, “Butter” and “Sophia,” this collection features Jones’s legendary talents in a range of settings and styles, from the hyper-realist to the mystical, in intricate multi-part stories, in more traditional forms, and even in short fragments.

Her narrators are women and men, Black, Brown, Indigenous; her settings are historical and contemporary, in South America, Mexico and the US; her themes center on complex identities, unorthodox longings and aspirations. She writes about spies, photographers, playground designers, cartoonists, and baristas, about workers and revolutionaries, about environmentalism, feminism, poetry, film and love, but above all about our multicultural, multiethnic and multiracial society.


Old Babes in the Wood: Stories by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has established herself as one of the most visionary and canonical authors in the world. This collection of fifteen extraordinary stories—some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine—explore the full warp and weft of experience, speaking to our unique times with Atwood’s characteristic insight, wit and intellect.

The two intrepid sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; “Impatient Griselda” explores alienation and miscommunication with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and “My Evil Mother” touches on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. At the heart of the collection are seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love—and what comes after.


Have you read any short story collections? Let us know in the comments.


The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth

Soulmate by Sally Hepworth (is this a trend?) is made up of very short chapters. Another trend that Hepworth follows is the jump from the present time to the recent past in alternate chapters.  Both of these techniques are actually suited to this particular story: a story of suspense and literal cliff hangers.

Set near Melbourne, Australia, Pippa marries golden boy Gabe, and, while he is good looking, charming and a great father, their married life is full of drama. Because of Gabe’s work and personal issues, they relocate to a house on a cliff.  It’s beautiful, but also dangerous.

Hepworth is adept at sketching in the setting (a small seaside town full of young families) and the extended family, friends and co-workers of the couple.  All this, though, seems like a structure that is built to examine the marriage of Gabe and Pippa – why they stay together and the repeated blows that threaten the nuclear family.

I enjoyed it on both levels. It was a quick, propulsive read, but the examination of the interior lives of all involved, in particular Pippa, was meaty enough that it was worth my time. I felt like the ending was especially satisfying; it felt inevitable, yet also surprising.

Books with Numbers in Their Titles

Are you trying to figure out what to read next? When I’m in a bind, I look for books that have numbers in their titles. It’s a fun diversion and I usually find a new-to-me book pretty quickly! (Be careful though. Some numbered books are actually part of a series- like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich). If you’re ever in doubt if a book is part of a series, check out Fantastic Fiction where you can search by author or title.

Below I have gathered a list of newer fiction novels with a number in their title. Descriptions are provided by the publishers.


The Only One Left by Riley Sager

At seventeen, Lenora Hope
Hung her sister with a rope

Now reduced to a schoolyard chant, the Hope family murders shocked the Maine coast one bloody night in 1929. While most people assume seventeen-year-old Lenora was responsible, the police were never able to prove it. Other than her denial after the killings, she has never spoken publicly about that night, nor has she set foot outside Hope’s End, the cliffside mansion where the massacre occurred.

Stabbed her father with a knife
Took her mother’s happy life

It’s now 1983, and home-health aide Kit McDeere arrives at a decaying Hope’s End to care for Lenora after her previous nurse fled in the middle of the night. In her seventies and confined to a wheelchair, Lenora was rendered mute by a series of strokes and can only communicate with Kit by tapping out sentences on an old typewriter. One night, Lenora uses it to make a tantalizing offer—I want to tell you everything.

“It wasn’t me,” Lenora said
But she’s the only one not dead

As Kit helps Lenora write about the events leading to the Hope family massacre, it becomes clear there’s more to the tale than people know. But when new details about her predecessor’s departure come to light, Kit starts to suspect Lenora might not be telling the complete truth—and that the seemingly harmless woman in her care could be far more dangerous than she first thought.


Two Nights in Lisbon by Chris Pavone

You think you know a person . . .

Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon, alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong.

She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Why would he drag her along on his business trip? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—much younger—husband?

The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, running out of time, and the one person in the world who can help is the one person she least wants to ask.


The Three of Us  by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Long-standing tensions between a husband, his wife, and her best friend finally come to a breaking point in this sharp domestic comedy of manners, told brilliantly over the course of one day.

What if your two favorite people hated each other with a passion?

The wife has it all. A big house in a nice neighborhood, a ride-or-die snarky best friend, Temi, with whom to laugh about facile men, and a devoted husband who loves her above all else—even his distaste for Temi.

On a seemingly normal day, Temi comes over to spend a lazy afternoon with the wife: drinking wine, eating snacks, and laughing caustically about the husband’s shortcomings. But when the husband comes home and a series of confessions are made, the wife’s two confidantes are suddenly forced to jockey for their positions, throwing everyone’s integrity into question—and their long-drawn-out territorial dance, carefully constructed over years, into utter chaos.

Told in three taut, mesmerizing parts—the wife, the husband, the best friend—over the course of one day, The Three of Us is a subversively comical, wildly astute, and painfully compulsive triptych of domestic life that explores cultural truths, what it means to defy them, and the fine line between compromise and betrayal when it comes to ourselves and the people we’re meant to love.


Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang

A propulsive and dazzling debut novel set against the backdrop of the Chinese Exclusion Act, about a Chinese girl fighting to claim her place in the 1880s American West

Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and forced across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school, to a San Francisco brothel, to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story.


The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa by Stephen Buoro

Fifteen-year-old Andrew Aziza lives in Kontagora, Nigeria, where his days are spent about town with his droogs, Slim and Morocca, grappling with his fantasies about white girls – especially blondes – and wondering who his father is. When he’s not in church, at school or attempting to form ‘Africa’s first superheroes’, he obsesses over mathematical theorems, ideas of black power and HXVX: the Curse of Africa.

Sure enough, the reluctantly nicknamed ‘Andy Africa’ soon falls hopelessly and inappropriately in love with the first white girl he lays eyes on, Eileen. But at the church party held to celebrate her arrival, multiple crises loom. An unfamiliar man claims, despite his mother’s denials, to be Andy’s father, and the gathering of an anti-Christian mob is headed for the church – both set to shake the foundations of everything Andy knows and loves.


Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller.

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare.

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?


The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida—war photographer, gambler, and closet queen—has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers, and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to the photos that will rock Sri Lanka.


Eight Weeks in Paris by S.R. Lane

BREAKING: Lost novel of Bell Epoque Paris, The Throne, comes to the silver screen with an A-list cast. But will on-set drama doom the filming of this gay love story before it starts?

Nicholas Madden is one of the best actors of his generation. His personal life is consistently a shambles, but he’ll always have his art—and The Throne is going to be his legacy.

Then his costar walks off the runway and into rehearsal. The role of a lifetime is about to be sunk by a total amateur.

Chris Lavalle is out, gorgeous and totally green. He has thousands of Instagram followers, a string of gorgeous exes and more ad campaigns to his name than one can count. But he’s more than just a pretty face, and The Throne is his chance to prove it.

If only Nicholas wasn’t a belligerent jerk with a chip on his shoulder and a face carved by the gods.

Eight weeks of filming, eight weeks of 24/7 togetherness bring Nicholas and Chris closer than the producers had dared to dream. Chemistry? So very much not a problem. But as The Throne gets set to wrap and real life comes calling, they’ll have to rewrite the ending of another love story: their own.


Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke—until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list.

First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor, and they’re located all over the country. So why are they all on the list, and who sent it?

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next…


Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan

What happens when your love life becomes the talk of the town?

As birthdays go, this year’s for radio producer Everly Dean hit rock-bottom. Worse than the “tonsillectomy birthday.” Worse than the birthday her parents decided to split (the first time). But catching your boyfriend cheating on you with his assistant? Even clichés sting.

But this is Everly’s year! She won’t let her anxiety hold her back. She’ll pitch her podcast idea to her boss.

There’s just one problem. Her boss, Chris, is very cute. (Of course). Also, he’s extremely distant (which means he hates her, right? Or is that the anxiety talking)? And, Stacey the DJ didn’t mute the mic during Everly’s rant about Simon the Snake (syn: Cheating Ex). That’s three problems.

Suddenly, people are lining up to date her, Bachelorette-style, fans are voting (Reminder: never leave house again), and her interest in Chris might be a two-way street. It’s a lot for a woman who could gold medal in people-avoidance. She’s going to have to fake it ‘till she makes it to get through all of this.

Perhaps she’ll make a list: The Ten Rules for Faking It. Because sometimes making the rules can find you happiness when you least expect it.


Do you have a favorite book with a number in the title? Let us know in the comments.

Mystery Reads: Record Shop Mystery Series by Olivia Blacke

If  you’re ever not sure what to read, I highly recommend you listen to our podcast, Checked In: A Davenport Public Library Podcast. As of this writing, we have sixteen episodes ready for you! Our podcast is hosted by three librarians: myself and two others. Each month we talk about different topics, plus we share our reading recommendations and what we are currently reading. My latest read came recommended on the podcast  when we were discussing new cozy mystery series. This read was a very fun start to a new series with a concept that I hadn’t read before: murder in a record shop.

Vinyl Resting Place is book one in the Record Shop Mystery series by Olivia Blacke. Blacke has a criminology degree, something that is apparent as you read this title. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers as well as Sisters in Crime. Her writing hooked me from the start – the punny title alone grabbed me and made me want to read.

Vinyl Resting Place tells the story of three sisters and their journey to open a family business in their hometown. Juni Jessup and her sisters, Tansy and Maggie, have put everything into Sip & Spin Records, a record and coffee shop in Cedar River, Texas. Juni has moved home from Oregon, her sisters quit their jobs, and they put their savings into opening up a new record store in the same storefront that their grandparents had their record store. In case it’s not evident yet, family is everything to the Jessups.

At the kick-off party the night before the store is set to open, friends, family, and people from town fill the store. The Jessup sisters have high hopes that their store will fill a need. Being that they are so close to the Austin, Texas music scene, they are able to stock their store with local musicians. As the party winds down and they start cleaning up, the three are excited everything went so smoothly. Their joy pops when they find a dead body in the supply closet. Things escalate quickly: their uncle is arrested, they put up Sip & Spin for collateral, and then Uncle Calvin disappears! They are devastated that he would put them and their business at risk. Juni and her sisters decide they have to find Uncle Calvin. The best way to do that: to find the murderer. At least the three have each other, but even their help might not be enough to keep Juni safe and to solve the crime.

This start to a new series is charming. It’s full of tropes that make up a cozy mystery: a small town, a new entrepreneur turned amateur sleuth, a meddling family, and a love triangle! This isn’t your conventional cozy though: the setting and the protagonist are edgier than others. The family dynamic is different, the mystery and killer were unexpected (looking back now, I can see the hints), and Juni is intriguing. Plus there were so many music references that eventually I started writing them down, so I could look them up later! I can’t wait for the next one to come out!

Record Shop Mystery series:

  1. Vinyl Resting Place (2022)
  2. A Fatal Groove (2023)
  3. Rhythm and Clues (2024)

July is Lakes Appreciation Month!

Did you know that July is Lakes Appreciation Month? Established by the North American Lake Management Society over twenty years ago, Lakes Appreciation Month is an annual celebration of all inland bodies of water. Iowa established Lakes Appreciation Month in 2019.

Looking for a way to celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month? Try something from this list from the North American Lake Management Society:

  • Organize a shoreline cleanup
  • Develop an educational self-guided lake tour
  • Organize a hike or biking event with a focus on your local lake
  • Reach out to a local restaurant about hosting a “Lakes Appreciation Night” with a percentage of the proceeds donated to your local lake association
  • Enjoy your local lake, pond, or reservoir with fun summertime activities, such as: boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, or rowing; swimming; SCUBA diving; fishing; or enjoying the natural scenery with friends and family
  • Help monitor your local waterbody or watershed
  • If you manage a lake, host an activity. Bring enough sampling gear, id keys and other materials for everyone to join in.
  • If you don’t manage a lake, ask your local lake agency about shadowing a lake manager for a day
  • Start a watershed storm drain stenciling program
  • Have your septic system pumped if you live close to a waterbody
  • Go birding or take pictures at a lake or pond (don’t forget your mask!)
  • Tap into your artistic side and draw or paint a lake scene for your home or office. Be sure to send us a copy!
  • Organize a lake field trip for students

Looking for more resources? Check out Libraries Love Lakes, an outreach project established in 2019 that was inspired by NE GLEON (the Northeast Global Lake Ecological Observation Network).

Want a physical material to check out? We’ve gathered a list of nonfiction titles about lakes available at the Davenport Public Library.



In Limbo by Deb JJ Lee

“I love you when you’re at your lowest just as much as at your best.” – In Limbo, Deb JJ Lee

TW for suicide and abuse.

Deb Lee’s powerful new memoir explores coming of age in New Jersey as a Korean-American teenager. Deb examines the Korean-American diaspora and mental illness as she mines her history for answers. Deb left Seoul to come to America with her family when she was only three years old.  Ever since she arrived in the United States, she has been excruciatingly aware of her otherness. Her teachers couldn’t, and still can’t very well, pronounce her Korean name. Her English wasn’t perfect, she spoke Korean, but after some time, she slowly lost her Korean and spoke more and more English. Adjusting to the United States was difficult as her face and her eyes pointed her out as different. She felt wrong.

When Deb started high school, her life became harder. She started to feel increasing pressure at home, while dealing with high school changes. Her classes were more difficult than she expected, plus her friendships changed and ended. Deb struggles with finding a safe place to be herself, but luckily she has orchestra (even though that doesn’t last forever either). Her home life becomes increasingly chaotic as fights with her mom become more frequent, violent, and emotionally abusive. Deb has no idea what to do, feeling like she is stuck in limbo with nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help. Her mental health crashes, which results in a suicide attempt. Her healing process after is slow and methodical, but she is resilient, courageous, and willing to start the process. Art, self-care, and therapy help her start to understand herself and her heritage.

The artwork in this graphic memoir is amazing. Deb has drawn pages of evocative, grayscale artwork that give you the feel of memory. Some of their drawings are sharp while others are hazy, fuzzing out and fading to black. If you’re a fan of Tillie Walden, you will enjoy this art style. Deb worked on this for years before she finally was at a place where it was ready for the world. Their desire to wait makes this memoir feel polished and rewarding. This is a realistic depiction of a teen working through mental health experiences. Add in that this is a memoir and this is sure to be helpful to others.

Shark Week

Every year, around July or August, Shark Week dominates the media I consume. This year, Shark Week starts Sunday, July 23 on the Discovery Channel. I can still remember the first time I heard about Shark Week. It’s been around since the late 1980s! Every year, Shark Week is celebrated with a week of shark-related content on the Discovery Channel. I can’t wait to see what new shark content National Geographic and the Discovery Channel puts out.

To celebrate Shark Week, we’ve compiled a list of newer titles about sharks for you to check out. Descriptions are provided by the publishers.


Can’t Get Enough Shark Stuff: fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more! by Kelly Hargrave

Dive into the perfect combination of facts, stories, photos, and fun all about the world’s most ferocious and fascinating ocean predator-SHARKS! For animal lovers who are absolutely obsessed with everything sharks, this book has it all: tons of mind-blowing facts, exciting games, hands-on activities, hilarious shark jokes, and suspenseful stories from shark experts. It also includes tantalizing tidbits about perplexing prehistoric sharks, the latest info on studying sharks in the wild, and surprising, cutting-edge discoveries about shark behavior. Key features include: A glossary game in the front of the book to learn key terms More than 250 stunning photographs Detailed diagrams and infographics Articles on the latest shark research and hands-on accounts from experts “Fin-tastic Facts” gallery spreads showcasing sharks with the fiercest features, the sneakiest defenses, and more Hilarious shark jokes Hands-on activities you can try at home Quizzes and games to test your knowledge This brand-new series from National Geographic Kids combines fun facts, photos, info-packed articles, and incredible statistics all in a single book. It’s a one-stop shop for everything kids want about their favorite topic. A winning combination of running text and short bursts of information keeps kids excited and engaged as they get all kinds of amazing content about their go-to subject. From telling jokes to friends, to impressing teachers, to absorbing the latest research, kids will love sharing what they’ve learned about sharks and will want to dive into this book again and again.


Emperors of the Deep: Sharks – the ocean’s most mysterious, most misunderstood, and most important guardians by William McKeever

In this remarkable groundbreaking book, a documentarian and conservationist, determined to dispel misplaced fear and correct common misconceptions, explores in-depth the secret lives of sharks—magnificent creatures who play an integral part in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans and ultimately the planet.

From the Jaws blockbusters to Shark Week, we are conditioned to see sharks as terrifying cold-blooded underwater predators. But as Ocean Guardian founder William McKeever reveals, sharks are evolutionary marvels essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. We can learn much from sharks, he argues, and our knowledge about them continues to grow. The first book to reveal in full the hidden lives of sharks, Emperors of the Deep examines four species—Mako, Tiger, Hammerhead, and Great White—as never before, and includes fascinating details such as:

  • Sharks are 50-million years older than trees;
  • Sharks have survived five extinction level events, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs;
  • Sharks have electroreception, a sixth-sense that lets them pick up on electric fields generated by living things;
  • Sharks can dive 4,000 feet below the surface;
  • Sharks account for only 6 human fatalities per year, while humans kill 100 million sharks per year.

McKeever goes back through time to probe the shark’s pre-historic secrets and how it has become the world’s most feared and most misunderstood predator, and takes us on a pulse-pounding tour around the world and deep under the water’s surface, from the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle to the coral reefs of the tropical Central Pacific, to see sharks up close in their natural habitat. He also interviews ecologists, conservationists, and world-renowned shark experts, including the founders of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior, the head of the Massachusetts Shark Research Program, and the self-professed “last great shark hunter.”

At once a deep-dive into the misunderstood world of sharks and an urgent call to protect them, Emperors of the Deep celebrates this wild species that hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of the ocean—if we can prevent their extinction from climate change and human hunters.


How to Draw Incredible Sharks and Other Ocean Giants

This drawing book for kids has more than 80 creatures of the sea to learn how to draw!

Build confidence, encourage creativity, and expand artistic skills with this amazing collection of easy, step-by-step instructions for drawing sharks and underwater creatures! Encourage kids to broaden their artistic horizons and set them smooth sailing towards tackling fins, gills, tails, and other fishy anatomy. The impressive variety from stingrays and orca whales, to sea turtles and squids in this learn to draw provides hours of independent, artistic fun for kids to enjoy and gain confidence as their skills improve.

Whether they love the secrets hidden away in the depths of the ocean or visiting aquariums, this collection is a hit for fans of all aquatic animals–so grab some colored pencils and get creative!


The Shark Encyclopedia for Kids by Ethan Pembroke

This encyclopedia highlights 26 different sharks. Alongside thrilling photographs of these underwater creatures, readers learn about what various sharks looks like, where they live, what they eat, and more. Features include information about shark attacks, a glossary, additional resources, and an index.


Sharks!: A Mighty Bite-y History by Miriam Forster

An epic, oversize nonfiction picture book in the vein of Bees: A Honeyed History—all about sharks and their prehistoric predecessors

Sharks are some of the oldest creatures on the earth (or, rather, in its waters). This epic survey follows sharks from their earliest appearance in the Paleozoic era up through the challenges they face today.

Along the way, readers will meet many different sharks from different points in history. They will get an up-close evolutionary look at what makes a shark a shark—like their skin, their teeth, their fins, and more. And they will get a crash course in archeological time, as the book mostly covers prehistoric sharks or modern-day sharks who have been around much longer than humans. Like the hammerhead, who has been patrolling tropical coastlines for more than 20 million years!

With lush illustrations from Gordy Wright and meticulous research from author Miriam Forster, Sharks: A Mighty, Bite-y History is sure to delight shark lovers, science fans, and any reader who loves to discover new wonders about the world around them.


Weird but True Sharks by National Geographic Kids

Whale sharks have tiny teeth covering their eyeballs! It’s Weird But True! And this fin-tastic, photo- and fact-packed book in the best-selling series is the most jaw-some yet!

Sink your chompers into these wild facts:

Great white sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the water from one-third of a mile away.
Fossilized dino poop has been found with ancient shark bites in it.
Ninja lantern sharks glow in the dark.

They’re all weird, and they’re all true. And there’s A LOT more where that came from!

From bizarre creatures in the ocean today to gigantic prehistoric sharks and even some pop culture shark weirdness, this portable, browsable, supercool book is full of incredible facts, amazing photos, and fun illustrations about everything sharks.


Do you have a favorite shark? We’d love to hear your thoughts about sharks in the comments.


Once Upon a Tome

Once Upon a Tome  by Oliver Darkshire is actually a pretty fun read, considering its arcane subject matter. The author answers an ad for Sotheran’s – an antiquarian bookseller in London, little knowing that he’d be drawn into a strange and eccentric society. Slyly witty and self-deprecating, he makes every element of book collecting entertaining. In particular, the account of his accidental entry into the world of rare books is gently absurdist. This could be happily enjoyed on the level of comic workplace narrative. Even the introduction, written by the bookshop’s owner, is delightful in a very British manner.

He goes into some detail to explain the duties of the staff. As a librarian, it’s sometimes confusing to read how this profession uses a term like “cataloging.”  In the bookselling trade, cataloging means describing an item with a list of generally agreed upon vocabulary words. But how those terms are used is very subjective. For example, the degree of “foxing” or discoloration can be described such that it seems like a positive feature.  (When librarians catalog, they use a set of rules that are mathematical in their precision).

Darkshire’s descriptions of how he’s taught to tempt patrons into becoming first-time buyers and onwards to obsessed collectors is a treatise in salesmanship and human psychology.  It finally occurred to me that I was enjoying it so much because the writing voice was so similar to Bill Bryson – one of my favorite American-British writers.


Little Free Libraries

Did you know that the library hosts three Little Free Libraries (LFL) around the city?  Well, we do!

Thanks to the generous donations of our community and the hard work of our FRIENDS organization, materials are made available to distribute through these weather-proof boxes.

I take care of the Duck Creek LFL.  I normally stock it weekly, usually on Monday nights.  I collect a mix of children’s, teen, and adult items from the library and drive to Duck Creek to fill up the box.

Typically, about one to one-and-a-half feet of books need to be restocked.  But on one recent visit, I found that the shelves of the LFL had been decimated.  There were less than a dozen books left!  Fortunately, I had just enough books in my supply box to fill the library back up.

Upon arrival.








After re-stocking.








As a steward, I’ve stocked “my” LFL mostly with popular reading choices:  Grisham, Connelly, Blume, and various other kids’ authors.  But, included among these titles there are some personal favorites that stand out in my mind:

  • vintage Little Golden Books.  They go like hot cakes!
  • a 1960’s version of Amelia Bedelia.  Oh, Amelia Bedelia, who drew a picture of the drapes when she was asked to close (draw) them.
  • a pristine board book about colors.
  • a hardback Richard Bachman title.  “Bachman” is the name Stephen King wrote under in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • dictionaries.   I simply LOVE giving away reference books!

Tragically, some books that catch my eye are simply too unwieldy to be stocked.  For example, atlases.  They are just too large for the shelves.

I encourage you to visit one of our LFLs and browse the current items.  You might just find an interesting title.   If you do, take it.  Visit again to see what is on offer the next time.

Our Little Free Library locations:

  • Duck Creek Park (across from the Stampe Lilac Garden)
  • Sunderbruch Park (at the Telegraph St. entrance)
  • Fairmount Street Bus Stop (across from the Fairmount Library)

Not near one of those?  Visit the Little Free Library World Map to discover what Little Free Libraries are near you.

You never know what you’ll find in a Little Free Library!