The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

‘What the Collective doesn’t understand is by honoring the past, our ancestors, our cultures—and remembering our mistakes—we become better.’ – Donna Barba Higuera, The Last Cuentista  

Donna Barba Higuera’s newest book, The Last Cuentista, flew to the top of my to-read list when I saw the list of 2022 ALA Youth Media Award WinnersThe Last Cuentista is the 2022 Newberry Award winner for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature. Donna Barba Higuera was also the 2022 recipient for the Pura Belpré Young Adult Author Award. This book is a top contender for my favorite read of 2022.

The Last Cuentista tells the story of a journey through stars to save humanity as we know it, told through the eyes of a young girl named Petra Peña who longs to be a storyteller like her abuelita. Her parents have hopes that she will be a scientist like them. Petra’s dreams are put on hold when the government realizes that there is a comet heading straight towards Earth that will destroy the planet and all life that lives there. Only a few hundred scientists and their children have been selected to evacuate Earth and head to a new planet named Sagan, where they have determined that people can safely live. Petra and her family are among the chosen few. The only hitch in this plan: it will take them hundreds of years to travel there.

The scientists and their children will be put to sleep while Monitors will watch over them and make sure the ship runs smoothly. While they are sleeping, they will be programmed with different informational courses that will allow them to wake up with all the information they will need to survive on Sagan.

Hundreds of years later, Petra awakens on the ship only to discover that she is the only person who remembers Earth. The Collective has taken over the ship and has hatched a new plan to control, essentially, everything. Their desire is to erase all the sins of humanity’s past. They have purged the memories of all those onboard. If they were unable to purge the memories, they eliminated the person altogether. Petra alone carries all the memories of the past. She isn’t quite sure what to do as having that knowledge puts her life in danger. Petra must find a way to save herself and the stories she carries within.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler

If you like Stephanie Plum, Agatha Raisin, and cozy mysteries with unique casts of characters where shenanigans ensue, you won’t want to miss Devil’s Chew Toy by Rob Osler. Funny and warm, with a caring center, this whodunit is both a fascinating mystery and a love letter to Seattle and the LGBTQ community.

Hayden has had an interesting night. At his regular queer bar last night, he’d finally worked up the courage to tip the handsome go-go boy dancing on the table, only for the dancer to lose his balance and kick him in the face. Despite the black eye, it wasn’t a total loss, because the dancer turned out to be a sweetheart named Camilo, who took Hayden home. Unfortunately, when Hayden woke up the next day, there was no sign of Camilo anywhere, just his dog Commander. Oh, and the police at the door. Hayden can’t shake his concern, and starts asking around to see if anyone knows where Camilo has gone (not least because having Commander at his apartment is escalating his feud with a nasty neighbor). In consequence, he meets Camilo’s friends Burley and Hollister, and all three are swept up in a quest to get to the bottom of the mystery and bring Camilo home.

What works well in this mystery is a balance between serious caring and lighthearted fun; for instance Camilo’s immigration status and Hollister’s experiences as a 6 foot Black lesbian are treated sincerely as good reasons to feel unsafe around (and less than confident in) law enforcement, but this is balanced with Hayden charmingly out of his depth (but remaining compassionate) as a petite teacher/blogger thrust into a world of jealousy and danger.

Mystery readers, don’t miss out on a self-identified “pocket gay” going on a journey of dog-sitting, wise 90-year-olds, butch lesbians, sinister pet stores, a borrowed Prius covered in religious bumper stickers, and a missing go-go dancer with a heart of gold.

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 our Best Sellers Club, these titles will automatically be put on hold for you.

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Jenna Bush Hager has selected Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt as her May pick.

Curious what Remarkably Bright Creatures is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow’s unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

This book is also available in the following format:

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Reese Witherspoon has selected The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams for May.

Curious what The Dictionary of Lost Words is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means “slave girl,” begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

Join our Best Sellers Club to have Oprah, Jenna, and Reese’s adult selections automatically put on hold for you!

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

“It’s not about where you came from. What kind of shit might have happened to you in the past. It’s about who you are. What you do with the opportunities life presents to you.”
― Lucy Foley, The Paris Apartment

The Paris Apartment is a locked room mystery that centers around the people living in a Paris apartment building. Jess needs a fresh start, especially since she doesn’t have a job anymore. After calling her half-brother Ben to ask if she can come crash with him, Jess is surprised that he isn’t there to greet her when she eventually shows up to his apartment building in Paris. He didn’t sound excited that she wanted to come last minute, but he’s family. Ben always keeps his word and would never leave her stranded.

When Jess eventually makes her way inside the building, she finds a very nice apartment that she is honestly surprised that Ben can afford. After all, he’s a journalist who mainly writes restaurant reviews and this is a fancy place. She searches his apartment, but there is no sign of Ben. Time passes and Ben still doesn’t show up. Jess starts digging into Ben’s life, starting with his neighbors. They are a slightly weird bunch, eclectic to put it nicely. Plus they’re not friendly. Jess’s innocent questions about Ben’s whereabouts put them on edge, which only prompts her to ask more questions. Why are they acting so cagey? And where is Ben?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Cozy Mystery Reads: Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series by Abby Collette

Abby ColletteAbby Collette is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Abby can be found writing, facilitating writing workshops at libraries, and spending time with her grandchildren.  Abby Collette is a pseudonym used by Abby L. Vandiver.  Under both names, the author writes cozy mysteries.

As Abby L Vandiver, she has written the following series: Mars Origin, Logan Dickerson Cozy Mystery, Normal Junction, Tiny House Cozy Mystery, and the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. The Logan Dickerson series features a second-generation archaeologist and a nonagenarian. The Romaine Wilder series tells the story of an East Texas medical examiner and her funeral-home-owning aunt.

As Abby Collette, the author writes two cozy mystery series: Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series and Books & Biscuit Mystery series. The Books & Biscuits mystery series is about a set of fraternal twins who reunite and open a bookstore and soul food cafe.

The cozy mystery series that first introduced me to this author was the Ice Cream Parlor Mystery series. I adore cozy mysteries set in restaurants and especially those that involve many generations of family.

The first book in this series is A Deadly Inside Scoop. This book tells the story of a millennial granddaughter who is now in charge of running the family-owned ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Bronwyn Crewse is an MBA grad recently moved back home to Chagrin Falls. Once her grandfather gives her the family’s ice cream shop to run, Win decides that it’s her time to restore the shop to its former glory. Win plans to do some major construction in the shop, as well as crafting homemade ice cream flavors based on her grandmother’s original recipes and on her own new recipes.

Win’s plans are waylaid by construction delays. She misses the summer season and instead opens it later in the year. The day she opens the shop, an early first snow hits the town and keeps customers away from purchasing ice cream. Desperate to improve the day, Win decides to make ice cream from snow, a treat her grandma used to make, and heads out into the storm searching for fresh snow. Her innocent exploration takes a turn when she finds a dead body in the snow. Win soon learns that the body belongs to a man who had a feud with the Crewse family, amongst others in Chagrin Falls. Win’s father is soon implicated in the murder. On top of running the ice-cream shop, Win also needs to find time to clear her father’s name. Win’s friends and family jump in to help her though, lightening her load as she works to find answers.

Ice Cream Parlor Mystery Series

  1. A Deadly Inside Scoop (2020)
  2. A Game of Cones (2021)
  3. A Killer Sundae (2022)

The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane

A satisfying cozy mystery woven with a well-drawn gay romance, this book reads like a modernized Agatha Christie Miss Marple story or a more diverse Midsomer Murders adventure.

In The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane, Adam is a young teacher expecting nothing but boredom and sniping from the process of selecting a new Head Teacher for St. Crispin’s school. The board of governors is prickly at the best of times, after all. But things go beyond gossip when one of the applicants is found dead. The police send Robin, a police Inspector and an alumni of St. Crispin’s, to investigate, much to his regret. Memory lane only brings up the traumas of bullying he endured, so he’s eager to get the case resolved. But the case is trickier than it appears, not least because Robin and Adam feel an instant attraction to each other that’s hard to fight. They start to work together to piece together clues, but struggle to keep up after a second body is discovered. The stakes have never been higher with justice, love, and careers on the line.

In terms of plot and pacing this is a highly readable mystery, with sympathetic characters and a relatively believable resolution. The balance between romance and mystery was good, which kept both the calm domesticity of the characters’ attraction as well as the methodical police procedural, from getting dull or repetitive. There’s also a very strong sense of place rooting the story strongly in England, and as an Anglophile I was delighted  a cozy mystery that is true to the genre and evokes classic tropes while seamlessly including gay main characters.

If you’re looking for a light, quick read that is thoughtful and positive in its depiction of LGBTQ life, but focused on a mystery plotline, this is a good pick for you.

Best Seller’s Club May Authors: Lisa Scottoline and Jude Deveraux

Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction? You should join the Best Sellers Club. Choose any author, celebrity pick, and/or nonfiction pick and the Davenport Public Library will put the latest title on hold for you automatically. Select as many as you want! If you still have questions, please check out our list of FAQs.

New month means new highlighted authors from the Best Sellers Club! May’s authors are Lisa Scottoline for fiction and Jude Deveraux for romance.

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Our May fiction author is Lisa Scottoline. Scottoline is a New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author of over 30 novels. All 32 novels have appeared on bestseller lists. Her first novel, Everywhere That Mary Went, was published in 1994 by HarperColins Publishers. She currently has over 30 million copies of her books in print in the United States, which doesn’t account for the large print, e-book, and audio copies. Scottoline is also published in 35 countries. Lisa and her daughter Francesca Serritella write a Sunday humor column called Chick Wit for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories from those columns have been published into a series of memoirs. Scottoline currently lives in the Philadelphia array with her wide array of pets.

Photo credit: Jeff Wojtaszek

What Happened to the Bennetts book coverScottoline’s newest book is What Happened to the Bennetts, published in March 2022.

Curious what this book is about? Check out the following description provided by the author:

Your family has been attacked, never again to be the same.

Now you have to choose between law…and justice.

Jason Bennett is a suburban dad who owns a court-reporting business, but one night, his life takes a horrific turn. He is driving his family home after his daughter’s field hockey game when a pickup truck begins tailgating them, on a dark stretch of road. Suddenly two men jump from the pickup and pull guns on Jason, demanding the car. A horrific flash of violence changes his life forever.

Later that awful night, Jason and his family receive a visit from the FBI. The agents tell them that the carjackers were members of a dangerous drug-trafficking organization – and now Jason and his family are in their crosshairs. The agents advise the Bennetts to enter the witness protection program right away, and they have no choice but to agree. But WITSEC was designed to protect criminal informants, not law-abiding families. Taken from all they know, trapped in an unfamiliar life, the Bennetts begin to fall apart at the seams. Then Jason learns a shocking truth and realizes that he has to take matters into his own hands.

Sometimes justice is a one-man show.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Our May romance author is Jude Deveraux. Deveraux is the author of forty-three New York Times bestselling books, but has published over seventy novels. She is known for her many stories about the Montgomery and Taggert families. She primarily writes historical romance, mystery, and romance. Currently, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in circulation worldwide. Those books are in print in eighteen languages. Deveraux was recogized with the Pioneer Award by Romantic Times in 2013, a recognition as a pioneer in the romance genre. She loves to travel and photograph all of her adventures. She also likes to box and weight lift. Deveraux currently lives in South Florida when she is in the States.

Photo Credit: Deborah Feingold

Deveraux’s latest book is A Relative Murder, book 4 in the Medlar Mystery series, published in March 2022.

Curious what this book is about? Below is a description provided by the publisher.

Even the closest families have secrets hidden away.

Bestselling novelist Sara Medlar is skilled at sharing stories about other people, but she hoped the truth about her own family would never surface. Her home in Lachlan, Florida, is her refuge and she loves having her niece Kate and dear friend Jack Wyatt together under her roof. The Medlar Three, as they are known around town, have sworn off getting involved in any more murder investigations.

When the sheriff unexpectedly leaves on vacation, Jack is surprised to find himself appointed as deputy. So when Kate stumbles upon a dead body while visiting a friend, the Medlar Three are back in the sleuthing game. Kate also has a charming new real estate client with a mysterious past. He seems to be followed by trouble and that makes Sara and Jack uneasy.

It doesn’t take long to discover that the murder and the new man in town are somehow related—the question is how. When the stranger’s true identity is revealed, Sara realizes her carefully crafted story is about to unravel and she fears she’ll lose Kate and Jack forever. But she desperately hopes that love and honesty will win out over years of lies and deceit. And besides, family is family—even if you sometimes want to kill them.

This book is also available in the following format:

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring-Blake

How do you make peace with your past? In Delilah Green’s case, the answer is to fall in love with the last person she’d have expected – an experience which gives her a whole new perspective on everything, including her most painful memories. Give love a chance in the Cinderella-like (complete with evil stepmother and second chances) Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring-Blake.

After Delilah’s father died, Delilah was left in the care of her cold stepmother Isobel and her distant stepsister Astrid, who never made her feel welcome or wanted. She’s been living in New York, chasing her dream of being a photographer and having a string of one-night-stands to keep her company. Then Astrid gets engaged, and hires Delilah to photograph the wedding. When she arrives, Delilah is blindsided by her attraction to Astrid’s best friend Claire, now a single mom running a bookstore and struggling to trust her unreliable ex. As the wedding draws closer, so do Delilah and Claire – but the wounds from their pasts are never far away…

This is a very steamy romance, but it’s well-balanced with character development, real emotions, and healing from childhood trauma. Claire in particular is a well-rounded and relatable character, as is her daughter Ruby, in a refreshing portrayal of single motherhood and complex co-parenting. As for Delilah, readers will be just as invested in her fragile relationship with stepsister Astrid as in her sweet romance with Claire.

Recommended for fans of Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper, and other queer romance authors who show the depth of emotions and growth that goes into crafting a happily-ever-after.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello again Fellow Readers!

Today we launch a new month of the Online Reading Challenge with books that focus on racial injustice, advocacy and civil rights. These aren’t necessarily “fun” reads, but they’re powerful, moving and important reads.

Our main title is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Also available as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

Also in this month’s Book Flight:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Also available in Large Print, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson. In 1955, white men in the Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen-year-old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of white terrorism in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional. The national coalition organized to protest the Till lynching became the foundation of the modern civil rights movement. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, the Emmett Till generation, forever marked by the vicious killing of a boy their own age, launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle into a mass movement. But what actually happened to Emmett Till — not the icon of injustice but the flesh-and-blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, cultural scholar Timothy Tyson draws on a wealth of new evidence, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant, the white woman in whose name Till was killed.

Also available in Large Print.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father – a crusading local lawyer – risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Be sure to stop by one of the Davenport library locations for displays with these and many more titles!

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Challengers! How was your month? Did you read one of the books from our April Book Flight?

The main title this month was The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  I loved this book. I read it several years ago shortly after it was published and quickly became completely immersed in the historic setting and the work of these brave women.

This is a book about two wars, of the price paid both by those who died and those who survived, of sisterhood and loyalty and immeasurable bravery.

Before reading this I was unaware of the extent of the spy network whose work was instrumental in fighting World War I, and I had no idea that so many women sacrificed so much working behind enemy lines. There really was an “Alice Network” made up of women who worked in France, gathering information and passing it along to the Allies. This work was incredibly dangerous since they often had to pose as neutral and even supportive of the Germans, usually in close contact, posing as waitresses, store clerks and secretaries and sometimes becoming their lovers, all to gather information.

Although the scenes set during World War I were by far the most riveting, I also enjoyed the post-World War II storyline. The parallels between the wars, especially the brutality and suffering, were eerily similar. And again, it brought to light a true story from the Second Wrold War that I had never heard, that of the lost village of Oradour-sur-Glane in France.

What did you think about the women that worked as spies from any of our Book Flight books? Were you, like me, astonished by their sheer courage, their ability to overcome the fear of torture and death to complete a mission and to stay cool under pressure? What do you think motivated them – was it loyalty to a family member or loved one, or was it patriotism for a country? And what about their enemies, were they simply pure evil, or were they more complex?

Be sure to share your thoughts on this month’s Book Flight in the comments below!