Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

Aminder Dhaliwal has created a comic detailing the day-to-day of the minority cyclops community within the two-eye majority in Cyclopedia Exotica. This graphic novel is so relatable and heart-breaking. These comics were originally published on the artist’s Instagram page. Her drawing style is cartoonish, yet realistic, reminding me of some of my favorite comics.

The characters in this book come from the cyclops community and are pictured doing daily life. Some are using dating apps, others have families, some have jobs, and others are trying to figure out their identity. The cyclops are an immigrant community with physical differences from the two-eyes majority. Microaggressions occur in doctor’s offices, public transportation, museums, and every other place they visit. Despite the hardships they face, they are all just trying to live normal lives. Coexisting is hard. Being ‘othered’ is hard. Trying to find yourself is hard.

This comic is witty and full of social and cultural critiques. Even though this graphic novel is fiction, it handles real issues faced by marginalized groups today. It’s full of thought-provoking ideas. Characters face xenophia, highlighting disability, sexuality, race, and gender issues that can easily transfer to real life. Dhaliwal outlines cyclops passing as two-eyes, fetishization of cylops, interracial relationships between cyclops and two-eyes, and representation/misrepresentation of cyclops in the media. Cyclops are used as a metaphor for these issues, but this content is relatable to anyone and everyone. They are dealing with their own unique struggles, but are trying to live their daily lives the best they can while dealing with intense hate. Additionally this graphic novel has a large cast of characters, but the artist makes them all individuals and gives them all their own intriguing storylines. Cyclopedia Exotica is thoroughly engaging and full of social commentary.

Social Work Spotlight: Prioritizing Your Mental Well-Being

PRIORITIZING YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING

May is Mental Health Month, a time to raise awareness and promote the importance of mental health and well-being. Mental health is integral to our overall wellness, deserving as much attention as our physical health. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about mental health prevent people from seeking the help they need.

The reality is that mental health issues are widespread. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness annually. These issues span from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression to more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The good news is that many effective treatments and self-care modalities can alleviate symptoms, and with proper support, individuals can and do recover.

Seeking help can feel daunting, often due to fears, shame, or misunderstandings surrounding mental health. However, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Many resources are available to support your mental health journey, including professional help, therapy, support groups, and trusted loved ones.

Your primary care provider can be a valuable starting point in your mental health journey. They can offer guidance on whether a referral to a mental health specialist is necessary and provide that referral if needed. Additionally, local community mental health centers offer walk-in options that provide direct access to mental health professionals.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organizes both in-person and virtual sessions to provide support for individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges. There are also local support groups available to help foster a sense of community and connection, providing a safe and supportive space for sharing experiences and emotions. Additionally, mental health hotlines are available for individuals who require immediate assistance and support.

In addition to seeking professional help, taking care of oneself is crucial for promoting mental well-being. Sleeping, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and practicing stress-reducing techniques like meditation or deep breathing can contribute to overall wellness.

Here are some suggestions for activities that individuals and families can engage in to prioritize self-care:

Remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and prioritize your well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help. Reach out by calling or texting 988 for support.

Oprah’s Latest Book Club Pick: Long Island by Colm Tóibín

Join Simply Held to have certain celebrity book club picks automatically put on hold for you: Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, and Oprah Winfrey. While Reese and Jenna generally announce a new title each month, Oprah’s selections are more sporadic. She has announced her newest selection: Long Island by Colm Tóibín. Reminder that if you join Simply Held, you can choose to have these titles automatically put on hold for you.

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Oprah Winfrey has selected Long Island by Colm Tóibín.

Curious what Long Island is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

From the beloved, critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author comes a spectacularly moving and intense novel of secrecy, misunderstanding, and love, the story of Eilis Lacey, the complex and enigmatic heroine of Brooklyn, Tóibín’s most popular work twenty years later.

Eilis Lacey is Irish, married to Tony Fiorello, a plumber and one of four Italian American brothers, all of whom live in neighboring houses on a cul-de-sac in Lindenhurst, Long Island, with their wives and children and Tony’s parents, a huge extended family that lives and works, eats and plays together. It is the spring of 1976 and Eilis, now in her forties with two teenage children, has no one to rely on in this still-new country. Though her ties to Ireland remain stronger than those that hold her to her new land and home, she has not returned in decades.

One day, when Tony is at his job and Eilis is in her home office doing her accounting, an Irishman comes to the door asking for her by name. He tells her that his wife is pregnant with Tony’s child and that when the baby is born, he will not raise it but instead deposit it on Eilis’s doorstep. It is what Eilis does—and what she refuses to do—in response to this stunning news that makes Tóibín’s novel so riveting.

Long Island is about longings unfulfilled, even unrecognized. The silences in Eilis’ life are thunderous and dangerous, and there’s no one more deft than Tóibín at giving them language. This is a gorgeous story of a woman alone in a marriage and the deepest bonds she rekindles on her return to the place and people she left behind, to ways of living and loving she thought she’d lost. – Scribner

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Join Simply Held to have Oprah, Jenna, and Reese’s adult selections automatically put on hold for you!

Asian American and Pacific Islander Month 2024

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated each year from May 1–31. Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander voices through reading. Log your reading and activities here to earn badges and tickets all month long. Enter your tickets into our drawings for a chance to win prizes!

This reading challenge is live on Beanstack from May 1, 2024 to May 31, 2024. Curious what you need to do? Sign up on Beanstack today either online or on the app!

Needs ideas about what to read? Try any of these Asian American and Pacific Islander books.

Juvenile Nonfiction

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Fall down seven times, stand up eight by Jen Bryant

From the Tops of the Trees by Kao Kalia Yang

Sakamoto’s Swim Club by Julie Abery

Seen and Unseen by Elizabeth Partridge

Adult Nonfiction

Asian American histories of the United States by Catherine Ceniza Choy

Breaking the Model: Stories of Asian American History and Presence

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

A Living Memory by Nicole Chung

The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian King

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Speak Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

“Why read at all? Why does anyone do it in the first place? Why do I? There is the element of escape, which is real enough—that’s a real-enough comfort. But also we read as a way to come to grips with the randomness of our being alive. To read a book by an observant, sympathetic mind is to see the human landscape in all its odd detail, and the reader says to him or herself, Yes, that’s how it is, only I didn’t know it to describe it. There’s a fraternity achieved, then: we are not alone. Sometimes an author’s voice is familiar to us from the first page, first paragraph, even if the author lived in another country, in another century.” Bob held up his stack of Russians. “How can you account for this familiarity? I do believe that, at our best, there is a link connecting us.”
― Patrick deWitt, The Librarianist

In celebration of National Library Week in April, I was on a hunt for a book about librarians that I had not read yet. Enter The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, a novel that combines my love of senior citizens with my love of librarians. Bob Comet is a retired librarian. He’s spending his retirement surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Oregon. Bob has his small comforts and his routines. On his daily walk one morning, Bob stumbles upon a confused elderly woman standing lost in a market. She’s staring into the cold sections with a lost look on her face. Lucky for Bob, and the clerk working behind the counter, the lost woman has a note secured around her neck letting people know where she lives. Bob volunteers to escort this lost woman home to the senior center. Once they arrive, Bob is intrigued by the people he meets. He decides to volunteer at the senior center, a decision that changes his whole life. The more Bob interacts with the people at the senior center, the more parts of his past and character are revealed to the reader.

This book felt like a warm hug from a close friend. The characters were charming, full of quirks and colors. Every person Bob met ended up shaping his life in some way. Even though this book was charming and cheerful, it was also full of melancholy and bittersweet with a bit of darkness under the surface. Bob’s past is colorful and complicated. He has a knack for finding bizarre and full-of-life people that he welcomes into his life. The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt reads like a love story to loners, to the outcasts in life who aren’t sure where they fit, to the introverts who want to be left alone amongst the fast-paced world they live in. People’s pasts are a mystery and this book is a prime example to never judge a person by the calm front they present.

This title is also available in large print or CD audiobook.

May’s Celebrity Book Club Picks

It’s a new month which means that Jenna Bush Hager and Reese Witherspoon have picked new books for their book clubs! Reminder that if you join Simply Held, you can choose to have their selections automatically put on hold for you.

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Jenna Bush Hager has selected Real Americans by Rachel Khong for her May pick.

Curious what Real Americans is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster, and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn’t be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.

In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can’t shake the sense she’s hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than it provides answers.

In immersive, moving prose, Rachel Khong weaves a profound tale of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance—a story of trust, forgiveness, and finally coming home.

Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made? And if we are made, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome? – Knopf

This title is also available in large print.

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Reese Witherspoon has selected How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang for her May pick.

Curious what How to End a Love Story is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Helen Zhang hasn’t seen Grant Shepard once in the thirteen years since the tragic accident that bound their lives together forever.

Now a bestselling author, Helen pours everything into her career. She’s even scored a coveted spot in the writers’ room of the TV adaptation of her popular young adult novels, and if she can hide her imposter syndrome and overcome her writer’s block, surely the rest of her life will fall into place too. LA is the fresh start she needs. After all, no one knows her there. Except…

Grant has done everything in his power to move on from the past, including building a life across the country. And while the panic attacks have never quite gone away, he’s well liked around town as a screenwriter. He knows he shouldn’t have taken the job on Helen’s show, but it will open doors to developing his own projects that he just can’t pass up.

Grant’s exactly as Helen remembers him—charming, funny, popular, and lovable in ways that she’s never been. And Helen’s exactly as Grant remembers too—brilliant, beautiful, closed off. But working together is messy, and electrifying, and Helen’s parents, who have never forgiven Grant, have no idea he’s in the picture at all.

When secrets come to light, they must reckon with the fact that theirs was never meant to be any kind of love story. And yet… the key to making peace with their past—and themselves—might just lie in holding on to each other in the present. – Avon

This title is also available in large print.

Join Simply Held to have Oprah, Jenna, and Reese’s adult selections automatically put on hold for you!

Online Reading Challenge – May

Welcome Readers!

This month the Online Reading Challenge travels back in time to the 1950s & 1960s. Our Main title for May is Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. Here’s a quick summary from the publisher:

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.

But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day. – Dutton Books for Young Readers

Looking for some other books set in the 1950s or 1960s? Try any of the following.

As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read something set in the 1940s that you enjoyed? Share in the comments!

I had previously read The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman, our main title, for a book club a couple years ago, so decided to give it a re-read. Overall, I enjoyed this book – it read like narrative nonfiction.

Quick overview: The Real Lolita covers the 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner by Frank LaSalle, a man pretending to be an FBI agent. In addition to that traumatic event, Weinman also discusses Vladimir Nabokov’s writing and publication of Lolita, which he published seven years after Sally’s abduction. These two concurrent narratives are presented elegantly, factually, and with an incredible amount of researched detail. Readers learn about Sally and all the people in her circle, at the same time as they learn about Nabokov and all the people in his circle. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Seeing how Sally’s story may be mirrored in Lolita was compelling. I enjoyed the crossovers between the two worlds and have more questions than answers.

I am *almost* done with this title and still plan on finishing. Even though this is a re-read, I am still finding content that I didn’t remember from my initial read. This title admittedly covers multiple decades starting in the 1940s and then heading into the 1950s, but the main events happened in the 1940s. Those key events influenced later events, books, movies, etc. greatly. As a librarian and as someone researching their family’s history, I resonated a lot with the author’s frustration at not being able to find primary source material. The Real Lolita has been an engaging narrative nonfiction read so far and I can’t wait to finish this again. I haven’t read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and honestly can’t say if I want to after reading this title. I’m torn. What are your thoughts?

Next month, we are traveling to the 1950s & 1960s.

Libby Book Awards, aka The Libbys

Did you know that Libby by OverDrive has book awards? The winners of the inaugural Libby Book Awards were announced on March 12th, 2024. How does this work? Well, these books are considered to be the best of 2023 by an expert panel of librarians. Said panel nominated five finalists in seventeen different categories. After that, librarians and library workers across North America vote and the winners are announced online in a virtual ceremony!

Below you will find the winners and honorable mentions from a variety of categories. You’ll notice that not all categories have honorable mentions – these were chosen when the race was close.  For a list of the nominees as well as more information, visit the Libby Life blog. Descriptions have been provided by the publishers or authors.

Best Adult Fiction

Winner: The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us. – Riverhead Books

Honorable Mention: Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother, and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew.  – Harper

Best Adult Nonfiction

Winner: The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann

On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

But then … six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang. – Doubleday

Best Young Adult Fiction

Winner: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love. – Wednesday Books

Honorable Mention: What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera belongs to the glittering upper society of nineteenth century Buenos Aires, and like the rest of the world, the town is steeped in old world magic that’s been largely left behind or forgotten. Inez has everything a girl might want, except for the one thing she yearns the most: her globetrotting parents—who frequently leave her behind.

When she receives word of their tragic deaths, Inez inherits their massive fortune and a mysterious guardian, an archeologist in partnership with his Egyptian brother-in-law. Yearning for answers, Inez sails to Cairo, bringing her sketch pads and a golden ring her father sent to her for safekeeping before he died. But upon her arrival, the old world magic tethered to the ring pulls her down a path where she soon discovers there’s more to her parent’s disappearance than what her guardian led her to believe.

With her guardian’s infuriatingly handsome assistant thwarting her at every turn, Inez must rely on ancient magic to uncover the truth about her parent’s disappearance—or risk becoming a pawn in a larger game that will kill her. – Wednesday Books

Best Audiobook

Winner: I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.

But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case. – Penguin Books

Best Debut Author

Winner: The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.
 
Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer—the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.
 
At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin. . . . – Dutton

Best Diverse Author

Winner: Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

In remote northern Canada, a team led by a visionary American architect is break­ing ground on a building project called Camp Zero, intended to be the beginning of a new way of life. A clever and determined young woman code-named Rose is offered a chance to join the Blooms, a group hired to entertain the men in camp—but her real mission is to secretly monitor the mercurial architect in charge. In return, she’ll receive a home for her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother and herself.

Rose quickly secures the trust of her target, only to discover that everyone has a hidden agenda, and nothing is as it seems. Through skill­fully braided perspectives, including those of a young professor longing to escape his wealthy family and an all-woman military research unit struggling for survival at a climate station, the fate of Camp Zero’s inhabitants reaches a stunning crescendo. – Atria Books

Best Comic/Graphic Novel

Winner: The Talk by Darrin Bell

Darrin Bell was six years old when his mother told him he couldn’t have a realistic water gun. She said she feared for his safety, that police tend to think of little Black boys as older and less innocent than they really are.

Through evocative illustrations and sharp humor, Bell examines how The Talk shaped intimate and public moments from childhood to adulthood. While coming of age in Los Angeles—and finding a voice through cartooning—Bell becomes painfully aware of being regarded as dangerous by white teachers, neighbors, and police officers and thus of his mortality. Drawing attention to the brutal murders of African Americans and showcasing revealing insights and cartoons along the way, he brings us up to the moment of reckoning when people took to the streets protesting the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And now Bell must decide whether he and his own six-year-old son are ready to have The Talk. – Henry Holt and Co.

Best Memoir & Autobiography

Winner: Pageboy by Elliot Page

“Can I kiss you?” It was two months before the world premiere of Juno, and Elliot Page was in his first ever queer bar. The hot summer air hung heavy around him as he looked at her. And then it happened. In front of everyone. A previously unfathomable experience. Here he was on the precipice of discovering himself as a queer person, as a trans person. Getting closer to his desires, his dreams, himself, without the repression he’d carried for so long. But for Elliot, two steps forward had always come with one step back.

With Juno’s massive success, Elliot became one of the world’s most beloved actors. His dreams were coming true, but the pressure to perform suffocated him. He was forced to play the part of the glossy young starlet, a role that made his skin crawl, on and off set. The career that had been an escape out of his reality and into a world of imagination was suddenly a nightmare.

As he navigated criticism and abuse from some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, a past that snapped at his heels, and a society dead set on forcing him into a binary, Elliot often stayed silent, unsure of what to do. Until enough was enough. – Flatiron Books

Best Cookbook

Winner: Start Here: Instructions for becoming a better cook by Sohla El-Waylly

Honorable Mention: Let’s Eat: 101 recipes to fill your heart & home by Dan Pelosi

In his debut cookbook, larger-than-life personality Dan Pelosi offers up a warm hug of home cooking, sharing both comfort food and connection with 101 of his nearest and dearest Italian American recipes. Some have been passed down through his family, and others have been cooked up from scratch—but all are made with love and accompanied by fun, meaningful stories to warm your heart while filling your belly. Read how Bimpy (the 100-year-old grandpa the internet loves to love!) smuggled homemade subs into Yankee Stadium, then craft your ultimate Big Italian Sandwich. Relive the memory of Dan learning how to make his friend’s mom’s stuffed chicken cutlets in their Jersey Shore house (and getting himself adopted into their family), then level up with Prosciutto & Mozzarella–Stuffed Chicken Parm. Learn how Dan’s mom would spring him out of school before the final bell (just to preheat the oven), then make your own Early Dismissal Pot Roast. And rewind to the beginning of Dan’s relationship with his boyfriend, Gus, then recreate the Zabaglione (and the romantic Cheesecake Factory ambiance) that inspired their first “I love you.”

In addition to the staple chapters like Eggs, Appetizers, Pasta, Meat & Fish, and Sweets, you’ll also find deep dives on Italian food recipes like Dough and Marinara, presented with hero recipes you can spin into all kinds of deliciousness. (Don’t worry—his viral Vodka Sawce is here!) Also sprinkled throughout this recipe book are Grossy’s Guides to cooking, cleaning, organizing, and everything you need to become intuitive in your kitchen.

Approachable and tasty, Dan’s recipes are meant to be shared with the ones you love. Set the table, grab a chair, roll up your sleeves . . . now LET’S EAT! – Union Square & Co.

Best Mystery

Winner: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Best Thriller

Winner: Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll—author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis—delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer—and that he’s struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation. – Simon & Schuster / Marysue Rucci Books

Best Romance

Winner: Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.  – Kensington

Honorable Mention: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

New York City, 1959

Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life—he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret—this fragile, tender thing between them—seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight. – Cat Sebastian

Best Fantasy

Winner: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die. – Rebecca Yarros

Best Romantasy

Winner: Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros

Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College—Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.

Now the real training begins, and Violet’s already wondering how she’ll get through. It’s not just that it’s grueling and maliciously brutal, or even that it’s designed to stretch the riders’ capacity for pain beyond endurance. It’s the new vice commandant, who’s made it his personal mission to teach Violet exactly how powerless she is–unless she betrays the man she loves.

Although Violet’s body might be weaker and frailer than everyone else’s, she still has her wits—and a will of iron. And leadership is forgetting the most important lesson Basgiath has taught her: Dragon riders make their own rules.

But a determination to survive won’t be enough this year.

Because Violet knows the real secret hidden for centuries at Basgiath War College—and nothing, not even dragon fire, may be enough to save them in the end. – Rebecca Yarros

Best Science Fiction

Winner: System Collapse by Martha Wells

Am I making it worse? I think I’m making it worse.

Following the events in Network Effect, the Barish-Estranza corporation has sent rescue ships to a newly-colonized planet in peril, as well as additional SecUnits. But if there’s an ethical corporation out there, Murderbot has yet to find it, and if Barish-Estranza can’t have the planet, they’re sure as hell not leaving without something. If that something just happens to be an entire colony of humans, well, a free workforce is a decent runner-up prize.

But there’s something wrong with Murderbot; it isn’t running within normal operational parameters. ART’s crew and the humans from Preservation are doing everything they can to protect the colonists, but with Barish-Estranza’s SecUnit-heavy persuasion teams, they’re going to have to hope Murderbot figures out what’s wrong with itself, and fast!

Yeah, this plan is… not going to work. – Tordotcom

Best Historical Fiction

Winner: Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward

Let Us Descend describes a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation. A journey that is as beautifully rendered as it is heart wrenching, the novel is “[t]he literary equivalent of an open wound from which poetry pours” (NPR).

Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Annis leads readers through the descent, hers is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation. – Scribner

Best Book Club Pick

Winner: Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.

So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.

So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.

But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves. – William Morrow

Social Work Spotlight: Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

SENIOR FARMER’S MARKET NUTRITION PROGRAM

This month, our resource spotlight shines on the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), an initiative dedicated to enhancing senior health and wellness. SFMNP offers eligible seniors a $50 voucher to purchase fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey from participating farmer’s market vendors.

Administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in partnership with the Iowa Division of Aging and Disability Services, this program ensures seniors have convenient access to nutritious produce, promoting their overall well-being. SFMNP plays a vital role in fostering community health and wellness by supporting local farmers and encouraging healthy eating habits among seniors.

Area Agencies on Aging facilitate the distribution of vouchers to eligible seniors, with Milestones Area Agency on Aging serving as the administering organization for the seventeen counties in their planning and service area, which includes Scott County. To apply for SFMNP benefits, seniors must meet specific age and income criteria and complete an application. Seniors who received vouchers last year will automatically receive an application by mail by mid-May. First-time applicants are encouraged to contact Milestones Area Agency at (563-324-9085) to request an application. Applications will be accepted exclusively through the mail, and Farmer’s Market vouchers will also be sent to recipients via mail. Please be aware that no business transactions will occur at any Milestones office, and there are no distribution centers.

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 60 years of age or older.
  • Your annual household income should not exceed 185% of the Federal poverty level. This means an individual’s yearly income should not exceed $27,861 or $2,321.74 monthly, or $37,814 or $3,151.71 monthly for a two-person household. You can find the income guidelines at https://fns-prod.azureedge.us/sites/default/files/resource-files/sfmnp-ieg-2024-25-memo.pdf
  • Seniors must reside within the service area of the Area Agency on Aging.

For more information about the Farmers Market Nutrition program, please visit https://www.milestonesaaa.org/nutrition-programs/farmersmarket/ or contact Milestones Area Agency on Aging at 563-324-9085. You can also find a list of eligible Farmers’ Markets by visiting Eligible Farmer’s Market Locations.