Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

“Everyone has secrets, Lou,” she says. “Everyone should be allowed their secrets. You can never know everything about a person. You’d go mad trying to.”
― Sarah Pinborough, Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough had an ending that I did not see coming, one that I had never read before. That automatically makes this book at least one star better than I would have given a similar book.

Louise is stuck in a rut. A divorced mom of one working as a secretary for a local psychiatrist, Louise’s life trudges by the same every single day. Everything changes when she decides to go out for the night and meets a mysterious handsome man at the local pub. Sparks fly, the two kiss, he leaves, and Louise is finally happy.

The following Monday, Louise shows up to work to meet her new boss, David. Her heart drops when she realizes that he is the same man that she met at the bar. He’s very much married. David and Louise talk where he tells her that their kiss was a mistake. His eyes say a different tale though – he can’t stop watching her.

After this talk, Lousie happens to bump into Adele. She’s a lonely housewife who is new in town, desperate for friends. The two develop a quick friendship. Louise has always suffered from night terrors. Adele has a way to help her cope with those. They start working out together, helping Louise to shed her extra weight and get in shape.  One slight complication: Adele is David’s wife. Louise is living a double life: forming a friendship with Adele, while also continuing her affair with David. The longer she carries on with both, the more cracks begin to appear. Louise starts to wonder what exactly is happening in David and Adele’s marriage. Her curiosty is piqued. The more she digs, the more she realizes that she is unable to extricate herself from David and Adele. They are hiding something, but she’s not sure what. They will do anything to protect their marriage’s secrets.

This book is also available in the following formats:

No Romo – Books Featuring Aromantic Characters

So in the last year I finally read The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (see my love letter to Mackenzi Lee here). Aside from being an exciting adventure and a story of feminism and determination, it’s also a remarkable book because of the main character’s complete lack of interest in romantic relationships. She’s focused instead on her ambitions, her family, and her desire for true friends.

What that captures (that most other books don’t) is something called ‘aromanticism’, which is the lack of romantic attraction to anyone. It’s not extremely common, but it does exist, and is often lumped in with asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. For a nonfiction treatment of this broader topic, try the excellent book Ace by Angela Chen.

There are some really great books featuring asexuality, including Let’s Talk About Love, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and Beyond the Black Door, but in all these cases the main character still experiences romantic attraction. For similar characters who don’t have romantic attractions and/or don’t pursue romance, you’ll want to try these titles:

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Also check out our Libguide of similar books: No Romo: Great Books Without Romance.

Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix

I love a good travel story – and I’ve made the LibGuide Armchair Traveler to prove it! Most recently I read Porcelain Travels by Matthew Felix, and I highly recommend it for an entertaining journey and an education on the bathroom traditions in different parts of the world. It’s kind of hard to describe, but here’s the publisher’s version:

Matthew Félix is not a luxury traveler. But traveling on a budget fails to explain why so many of his most unforgettable experiences take place on the toilet, in the tub, or under the shower. From Matthew’s nightmare while relieving himself in Morocco to his unorthodox bathing practices in Paris and Istanbul to the Dead Sea shower incident that led to an arrest, Porcelain Travels is sometimes hilarious, occasionally shocking, and always entertaining.

What I liked was that there were so many levels on which to enjoy it. The toilet and bathing experiences are, for the most part, relatable and humorous (and fascinatingly informative where they’re not relatable); the various locations are a great source of escapism and global knowledge, and the short vignette chapters are engaging and easily readable. Less enjoyable was the author’s somewhat pretentious attitude on some things, but his humility in relating these episodes was a good balance for any sanctimoniousness.

If you’re a devoted travel reader, love cultural comparisons (Europeans’ horror at the existence of the garbage disposal, e.g.), or cannot travel without knowing the bathroom situation, this is a good book for you. Similar vibes include Bill Bryson of A Walk in the Woods fame and David Sedaris, known for Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Love Your Library During a Reading Slump

If you just can’t read a book right now, don’t feel bad! You’re not a worse person because you can’t get yourself to read anything more than a cereal box or social media post. Whether you’re busy with schoolwork, family obligations, or just plain burnt out, you can still love and support your library and be part of our bookish lifestyle without picking up a single book.

Tip #1: Do something cool! Try the TechKnow library (featuring a digital camera, a mobile scanner, Snapchat spectacles, and MUCH more), our collection of board games (from Scrabble to Super Mario Checkers), or a community experience pass to a local museum like the Figge.

Tip #2: Go multimedia! Save some serious money by checking out a new movie (like Till or the new season of You), music CD (maybe Charlie Puth’s latest?), or video game (including PS5 games like Dying Light 2) so you can try before you buy.

Tip #3: Read without reading! Skim a heartwarming graphic novel like Moonstruck, or listen to a book on playaway or CD (pro tip: pick a short one like The Poet X, a 3.5 hour listen) for a quick lit fix. (Disclaimer: these are definitely real books and count as real reading, but since they may be easier than traditional print, I’m including them.)

Tip #4: Just show up! Come exist in our spaces – read magazines and enjoy the view at Eastern, warm up at Fairmount’s fireplace, or schedule a Makerspace tour at Main.

Tip #5: Be social with it! Engage on social media from home — repost our news and events, browse databases and digital resources, and check out challenges in the Beanstack website or app.

However you engage with the library, we appreciate you and we want to hear from you! What’s your favorite way to ride out a reading slump – or your favorite way to love the library?

Wallace the Brave by Will Henry

If you love comics and graphic novels about friendship, discovery, and the joy of being weird, you won’t want to miss out on Wallace the Brave by Will Henry.

This comic series, now in its fourth collected volume, centers on the bold and imaginative Wallace in his picturesque hometown of Snug Harbor, where he lives with fisherman father, plant-loving mother, and feral little brother Sterling. Wallace is outdoorsy and adventurous, making his own fun with the help of best friend Spud, brainy Rose, and aggressive Amelia. This is a utopic read filled with hope, light, and appreciation for the small comforts of life — alongside quirky humor and pride in being different.

A wholesome heir to Calvin & Hobbes and as healing to read as the Tea Dragon Society, Wallace the Brave is recommended for all ages who need a gentle, humorous read.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Have you heard the hype yet about Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree? A gentle read for lovers of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, this warm-hearted slice-of-life story captures the magical adventure that is everyday life, while touching on identity, belonging, change, prejudice, and chosen family.

Viv is an orc who’s spent her life as a fighter. But after sampling the gnomish drink “coffee” she has a new dream: to settle down and open a coffeehouse. She gathers her savings, does her research, and then takes the terrifying leap… to civilian life. With the help of a hobgoblin craftsman and a business-savvy succubus she slowly starts to introduce a skeptical community to her new business. It’s not an easy road, and obstacles and frenemies abound, but with courage and the right support Viv has a chance at a new kind of life.

This book is delightful not only because you get to watch orcs, succubi, elves, dwarves, hobgoblins, and other assorted creatures get introduced to coffeeshop culture (including the magic of cinnamon rolls), but also because it’s so full of hope. Viv and her new friends defeat obstacles with determination, good sportsmanship, and clever thinking, without resorting to violence – though they’re also honest about the hardships they’ve faced.

A sensitively diverse book that explores what makes life fulfilling, this is recommended for the weary fantasy-lover looking for a story where people have good days and things generally work out.

 

What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman

While looking back over what I read in 2022, I realized that I only read one nonfiction title. This year, I decided that I’m going to read more nonfiction. The perfect way to ease myself into nonfiction? Graphic novels! My first nonfiction read of 2023, What to Do When I’m Gone: A Mother’s Wisdom to Her Daughter by Suzy Hopkins and Hallie Bateman, is a beautifully writter, yet incredibly sad graphic memoir written and illustrated by a mother/daughter duo.

Hallie Bateman is an illustrator/writer, while her mother Suzy Hopkins is also a writer. When Hallie was in her early twenties, she was kept up late one night after realizing that one day her mom would die. Devastated and wanting a way to gather all the motherly advice that she would miss, Hallie came up with a plan. She asked her mom Suzy to write down step-by-step instructions for her to follow after her death. Her mother laughed, but then said yes and began writing.

Suzy started by saying that Hallie needed to walk away from her phone after her death, then ‘pour yourself a stiff glass of whiskey and make some fajitas’. Suzy’s advice walks Hallie through the days, weeks, months, and years after her loss. The advice, guidance, and support she supplies throughout is at times funny, but also heart-wrenching. She talks about issues of all sizes, from how to cook certain recipes to how to choose a life partner. As they worked together making this grpahic novel, they discussed a wide variety of everyday issues with open minds and open hearts.

While I enjoyed the juxtapoisiton of Suzy’s advice with Hallie’s colorful art style, the topics discussed had me tearing up. The format of this book was a unique take on processing grief. It’s essentially a years-long instruction manual for getting through life without your mom. It was a quick read, but one that had me laughing and crying at various points throughout. As soon as I finished, I started my own list of questions that I wanted to talk to my family and friends about while they’re still living.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

“Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change”
― Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

Isabel Allende was born in Peru to Chilean parents and became an American citizen in 1993. Her first book, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. This book began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then she has sold more than 77 million books that have been translated into more than forty-two languages. Allende is an accomplished writer who devotes much time to human rights causes. She has also received fifteen honorary doctorates as well as more than 60 awards in over 15 countries, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Allende has been on my radar for many years, but I had never read any of her books. After talking to another librarian, I decided to read The House of the Spirits. I’ll admit it took me some time to get involved in the story, but listening to the audiobook definitely helped (it’s over 19 hours though)! Let’s talk about this sweeping family generational novel.

Spanning four generations, The House of the Spirits weaves a story of triumphs and tragedies and all the small moments in-between. The patriarch of the family, Esteban, is a very proud man. His volatile attitude sets his tennants and family on edge. Over his entire life, Estaban’s political ambitions defined his actions and behaviors. His ambitions and explosive behavior are only softened by his deep love of his wife Clara. Clara is a delicate woman with a mysterious connection to the spirit world. Living in a world of her own, Clara floats through life, managing the family, their friends, and the two properties they rotate between.

Clara and Estaban have three children: one girl and two boys. Their eldest daughter Blanca proves to be a headache to her father when she starts a forbidden love affair with a man she has known since she was a small child. Estaban is vehemently against their relationship, threatening her lover with bodily harm. The result of their union is his granddaughter Alba. He adores her. She is a beautiful child, who proves to be just as strong-willed as her grandfather. Alba’s beliefs vary greatly from her elder family members. As she grows older, Alba begins to explore revolutionary ideas, which she introduces to her family in the hope that their beliefs will change.

This novel covers multiple individuals in the Trueba family, even venturing back to Esteban and Clara’s parents and various other family members. This is a sweeping generational family saga full of eccentric characters. In addition to learning about the family members, readers learn about the area’s history, politics, and the forces of nature behind the actions of others.

This book is also available in the following format:

“The point was not to die, since death came anyway, but to survive, which would be a miracle.”
― Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

Simply Held January Authors: Vince Flynn and RaeAnne Thayne

Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction and fiction? You should join Simply Held. Choose any author, celebrity pick, nonfiction and/or fiction 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 Simply Held. January’s authors are Vince Flynn for fiction and RaeAnne Thayne for romance.

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Our January fiction author is Vince Flynn. Flynn was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1966, as the fifth of seven children. After college he worked for Kraft General Foods as an account and sales marketing specialist. He then left Kraft to accept an aviation candidate slot with the United States Marine Corps. However, one week before he was supposed to leave for Officers Candidate School, he was medically disqualified due to concussions and seizures he had growing up. While attempting to obtain a medical waiver, he started thinking about writing a book, which was a shock because he was diagnosed with dyslexia in grade school and had trouble reading and writing.

After not getting anywhere with the Marine Corps, he took a job with a commercial real estate company. After two years of working with them, he quit his job, moved to Colorado, and started working full time on his first book, Term Limits. Flynn bartended at night and wrote during the day. He received more than sixty rejection letters and decided to self-publish his first novel after five years. After doing so, he signed a deal with Simon & Schuster. Flynn writes thrillers. Flynn died after a long battle with prostate cancer in 2013 when he was 47. His bestselling Mitch Rapp series was taken over by author Kyle Mills.

Flynn’s latest book is Oath of Loyalty, published in September 2022. This is book 21 in the Mitch Rapp series written by Kyle Mills.

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

With President Anthony Cook convinced that Mitch Rapp poses a mortal threat to him, CIA Director Irene Kennedy is forced to construct a truce between the two men. The terms are simple: Rapp agrees to leave the country and stay in plain sight for as long as Cook controls the White House. In exchange, the administration agrees not to make any moves against him.

This fragile détente holds until Cook’s power-hungry security adviser convinces him that Rapp has no intention of honoring their agreement. To put him on the defensive, they leak the identity of his partner, Claudia Gould. As Rapp races to neutralize the enemies organizing against her, he discovers that a new type of assassin is on her trail.

Known only as Legion, the shadowy killer has created a business model based on double-blind secrecy. Neither the assassin nor the client knows the other’s identity. Because of this, Legion can’t be called off nor can they afford to fail. No matter how long it takes—weeks, months, years—they won’t stand down until their target is dead. Faced with the seemingly impossible task of finding and stopping Legion, Rapp and his people must close ranks against a world that has turned on them.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Our January romance author is RaeAnne Thayne. Growing up, Thayne wanted to be an actress, teacher, or lawyer. After her mother made her take a journalism elective in high school, she realized that being a reporter was where she belonged. After college, Thayne took a job at the local daily newspaper where she rose from reporter to editor. While working there, she was writing romance stories in her head. She sold her first book in 1995 and now has written more than sixty books. Thayne writes full-time now while living in the northen Utah mountains. Thayne writes romance and romantic suspense.

Thayne’s newest book is All is Bright, published in September 2022. This is book 8 in the Hope’s Crossing series.

Curious what this book is about? Below is a description provided by the auhtor:

Return to Hope’s Crossing this Christmas in New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne’s latest heartwarming story of matchmaking at the holidays!

Sage McKnight is an ambitious young architect working at her father’s firm who takes on her most challenging client in Mason Tucker. The former pro baseball player is still healing from the physical and emotional scars after a plane crash left him a wheelchair-using single dad, and he’s determined not to let anyone breach his emotional defenses. Sage knows her work on Mason’s new home in Hope’s Crossing is her best work yet, and she won’t let her grumpy client prevent her from showcasing her work personally.

With Sage’s gift for taking broken things and making them better, the matchmaking talent of the quirky locals and a generous sprinkling of Christmas cheer, Mason doesn’t stand a chance against the power of this magical holiday season.

This book is also available in the following format:

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and is observed on the third Monday of January each year. While it’s lovely to have an extra day off (if that applies to you), it’s also a reminder to stop and remember a great man and his many contributions to our society.

Are you interested in furthering his legacy and keeping it alive? here are some ideas to try today and throughout the year.

The day is frequently promoted as A Day of Service – reaching out to others in your community to help in some way, big or small. Teach for America has a great list of ideas that are easy to incorporate into your life any time, not just one day a year.

Another great way to celebrate is to read and promote Black authors. Often under-represented in traditional review journals, it is well worth your time to read these authors. The African American Literature Book Club is a great resource with author interviews, book lists and commentary all focused on books by and about people of African descent. They recently published a list of 170 New Books by Black Authors Coming Out Soon which lists books for both adults and children.

The staff at the Davenport Library has put together some LibGuides (a fancy name for subject guides) on African American Authors, African American Genealogy Resources and African American History in the Quad Cities to help keep you entertained and informed with our local resources.