Excellent Eco-Thrillers (Part 1)

I first discovered the eco-thriller genre – action-packed books focusing on environmental threats – through The Swarm by Frank Schatzing. It’s a somewhat intimidating book because of its length, but extremely well done in action, characterization, and scientific explanation. Ocean creatures begin unexpectedly attacking humans, and it’s up to a diverse set of scientists and environmentalists to figure out what’s causing it and how to stop it. The answer to the puzzle is both bone-chillingly deadly and incredibly beautiful. If you’ve ever felt worried about just how deep the oceans are and how little we know about them, this book will fascinate (and maybe terrify) you.

Inspired by how much I enjoyed The Swarm, I started a quest to read more eco thrillers and see how they compare. Here are my first two contenders and how they measure up.

First: Zoo by James Patterson. This book was made into a TV series a few years ago, though the series only loosely follows the plot of the book. In the book, we follow almost-scientist full-time conspiracy theorist Jackson Oz as he struggles to understand and raise awareness of the rash of animal attacks spreading across the world. He’s aided by beautiful French scientist Chloe along with a host of military and government figures. The picture of humanity’s future that this book paints is chillingly real, to say the least, though honestly the characters are such standard action-movie stock as to be disappointing. In my opinion, it doesn’t measure up to the complex mosiac of The Swarm.

Second: Eden by Tim Lebbon. In this book, Dylan, his daughter Jenn, and their team are escaping the polluted, climate-change-wracked world by an adventurous race across one of ‘The Virgin Zones’: protected swaths of land where no humans are allowed to live or visit. They’re attempting to be the first to cross Eden, the oldest Virgin Zone which has swallowed up many would-be adventurers. Once inside, their adventure turns frightening as the jungle turns against them, a malicious force which might be responsible for the disappearance of Jenn’s mother… This book is very good at building suspense and a sense of horror, getting more gory toward the end as the climax is reached. I wasn’t as convinced by the Nature Personified element or the resolution, but the characters and action are well-drawn. It almost measures up to the Swarm, but not quite.

The one thing all three had in common is a sobering message of warning for humanity: if we abuse our planet and its resources past a certain point, there will be consequences that we’re most likely not prepared for. The realism of that message makes these books heavy material to consider, but moving, important, and thought-provoking. This is a fascinating genre to explore, so stay tuned for a possible part 2!

This is My America by Kim Johnson

My latest read is a dive into racial injustices in the American justice system, albeit a fictionalized account. Kim Johnson has written a young adult novel examining mass incarceration and the affect it has on families. This is My America is a necessary read from the perspective of the families of those incarcerated.

Tracy Beaumont is seventeen. Her father is on death row. He only has 267 days left. He has been on death row for seven years and Tracy is angry. Every week, and sometimes every day, Tracy writes letters to Innocence X. She is hopeful that the organization will be able to help get her father off death row and discover who really committed the crime for which he was sent to prison. Tracy is growing increasingly desperate, willing to do whatever it takes to get Innocence X’s attention, so when her older brother Jamal and their whole family is invited for a television interview showcasing his athletic talents, Tracy has to decide if she will potentially ruin his opportunity by talking about her father’s plight.

Tracy doesn’t know what to do. Just when she thinks things can’t get worse, the unthinkable happens. Police swarm their house in the middle of the night and fighting off flashbacks to the night when her dad was arrested, Tracy and her mom discover that they are there to arrest her brother. In an instant, Jamal switches from a promising young track star with college plans to a thug accused of killing a white girl. Jamal is on the run. Tracy and her family find themselves living in a nightmare. Working hard to free her father and figuring out what actually happened the night of Jamal’s alleged crime, Tracy soon discovers who she can actually trust. As she starts investigating what happened between Jamal and the murdered woman, Angela, down at the Pike, Tracy uncovers a dark racist history in the town that may relate to what happened that night. By proving her brother’s innocence, Tracy may inadvertently destroy her relationships with the people in her life.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

Katrine Engberg’s debut mystery, The Tenant, is the first book in the exciting Korner and Werner series.  Another strong entry in the Scandinavian crime genre, Engberg’s debut focuses on  Danish detectives Jeppe Korner and his partner Anette Werner who reside in Copenhagen.  Their latest case involves a young woman, Julie, who has newly relocated to Copenhagen alongside her friend and roommate.  Julie is found murdered in her apartment after a night out with friends.  Julie’s murder has undertones of a ritualistic killing pointing to Danish history.  The detectives soon learn that the victim is a tenant in a building owned by a budding novelist, Esther de Laurenti, who just happens to be writing her first novel about a young women who is murdered.  Her main character bears more than a passing resemblance to Julie.  To complicate matters, Esther is a member of a writer’s group who share their writing with other members of the group and provide feedback to each other.  Did someone have access to one member’s computer and gain access to their writing or did Esther kill her tenant?

Since de Laurenti is still actively working on her novel when the murder occurs, suspicion again turns to her when a second murder occurs and the victim is another person close to her.  She quickly becomes the prime suspect but her motivation is unclear.  Esther de Laurenti’s life is extremely colorful, hosting lavish parties and events for a sampling of Copenhagen’s elite.  Could a fellow partygoer have a reason to frame Esther?  The detectives are convinced that the crimes will continue based on her newly finished prose and urge caution when Esther convinces them to let her write another chapter in order to entrap the killer.  Will the killer follow her storyline?

Looking into her past as well as Julie’s past reveals deep and dark family secrets that are decades old and have just come to light.  Old alliances and friendships are revealed and mistaken identities are divulged.  These revelations are coupled with detective Korner’s personal demons that run the risk of derailing the entire investigation when he becomes involved with someone close to the murders.

Filled with red herrings, mistaken identities and a possible killer that has a master plan for everyone involved, The Tenant is perfect for readers who are passionate about Scandinavian crime.  The second book in the series, The Butterfly House, was just translated into English and released earlier this year.  More books in the series are planned and I look forward to the complex and multilayered relationship between Detectives Korner and Werner.

 

 

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Liz Moore’s newest book, Long Bright River, is a dive into drug addiction and the impact it has on families across generations. Alternating back and forth the present and past, Moore tells the moving story of two sisters and the additions that define their lives and relationships.

Mickey and Kacey are sisters. Living in Philadelphia, the two travel the same streets on a daily basis, but they live vastly different lives. Growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood that saw the opioid crisis destroy their family and the community around them, Mickey and Kacey have changed immensely since their childhood days. As children, the two were inseparable, sharing a bed in their grandmother’s house and struggling to survive in a world without their parents. Kacey always stuck up for Mickey, keeping her safe and taking her side. Mickey, the older sister, kept an eye out for Kacey, making sure that she was where she needed to be.

Mickey is a police officer. Kacey lives on the streets, struggling with addiction. They haven’t spoken in years, yet Mickey keeps an eye out for Kacey as she drives through the area. Mickey never stops worrying about her sister, hoping she will eventually get, and stay, sober.

One day, Mickey realizes that she hasn’t seen Kacey in a while. She has disappeared. Mickey starts asking around and people are hesitant to say anything about her whereabouts. The same time that Kacey disappeared, a string of murders starts in Mickey’s district. This extra stress leads Mickey to take the law in her own hands. She will do anything to find the person responsible for the murders, and hopefully her sister, before her world comes crashing down.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Best Sellers Club June Authors – Michael Connelly & Robyn Carr

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! June’s authors are Michael Connelly for fiction and Robyn Carr for romance.

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Our June fiction pick is Michael Connelly. Connelly is the internationally bestselling author of the Harry Bosch thriller series. That series has been made into a television series called Bosch,  which can be found streaming on Amazon Prime Video. A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Connelly once had a magazine story short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize. He has written over thirty-six novels as well as one nonfiction title. There are over eighty million copies of his books worldwide that have been translated into forty languages.

Connelly’s latest book is The Law of Innocence, the sixth book in the Lincoln Lawyer series and 24th in the Harry Bosch universe. This book was published on November 10, 2021.

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

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge.

Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder–as an officer of the court he is an instant target.

Mickey knows he’s been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Our June romance pick is Robyn Carr. With 11 of her novels reaching #1 on the New York Times bestselling books list, Robyn Carr has become one of the most popular authors of women’s fiction and romance. Her books have sold over 27 million copies and have also been translated into nineteen languages in thirty countries. In 2016, the Romance Writers of America awarded Robyn the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Carr’s current writing plans involve writing one stand-alone women’s fiction and one contemporary romance per year.

Carr is best known for her Virgin River novel series, which has been made into a popular Netflix series. Season 3 is set to premiere on July 9, 2021.

Carr’s latest book is Return to Virgin River, the 21st book in the Virgin River series. This book was published on October 13, 2020.

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

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr returns to the beloved town of Virgin River with a brand-new story about fresh starts, new friends and the magic of Christmas.

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Infused: Adventures in Tea by Henrietta Lovell

According to a few online sources I found, June is National Iced Tea Month in the United States (International Tea Day is April 21). In honor of this observance, I’d like to tell you about a nonfiction book I read recently which is (somewhat) related– Infused: Adventures in Tea by Henrietta Lovell.

Published in 2019, Infused is Lovell’s memoir / travel diary about the global tea industry, highlighting all the places, people, and methods which help to create the amazing teas we (or I, anyway) drink every day. Lovell, also known as “The Rare Tea Lady”, includes recipes and photography to help capture the wonder of tea growing, processing, and of course tea drinking. She starts with her early journeys into China, mixed with meditations on why tea is so meaningful in her everyday life, and also mentions tidbits of tea’s history as a global product. Gradually she traces her growth into The Tea Lady, taking the reader on breathtaking journeys into the hidden places we’ve probably never been in countries like China, Russia, and even the UK.

I’m not a connoisseur by any means, with only a vague sense of ‘that tastes good’ (or not), but I found this book compelling for the care and detail that Lovell put into it. It’s fascinating to meet individual growers and chefs that make the creation of tea their life’s work, especially those that are carrying on deeply rooted local traditions. Lovell also makes a good case for choosing quality, loose-leaf tea over industrially-produced string-and-bag products, though of course the transition is easier said than done (and she can come across as snobbish on this point). Moreover, the writing style is readable, engaging, and thorough, with a restful, poetic level of description. The author’s love for tea and a strong sense of wonder shine through on every page.

For better or worse, I probably won’t change my tea habits too much going forward, but I definitely came away feeling enriched. Tea lovers, history buffs, travel enthusiasts, and devotees of whole, natural food products should try this book.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is the master of soul searching young adult fiction. Her first young adult novel, Allegedly, was published in 2017. This novel is based on a story that was in the headlines years ago that caught the author’s attention.

Allegedly tells the story of Mary B. Addison. She killed a baby. Allegedly. After the police were called and she was brought in for an interview, Mary didn’t say much. In fact, she didn’t talk. Mary’s situation was very much a trial by media. Since little was being said about the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death, the media drew their own conclusions. A white baby had died while under the care of a black woman and her daughter. The woman went to church while her daughter was only nine-years old. Mary went to trial. The public and the media had all but convicted Mary of the crime and the jury sentenced her.

Mary was sent to baby jail for six years before being placed in a group home. She never came out and said what actually happened, so her fellow prisoners and jailers all treated her as if she was guilty. The group home is bad. Mary lives in a state of constant fear and the other girls who live there constantly torment her. The women in charge of the home degrade the girls and treat them badly.

The only bright spot in her life is Ted. Since Mary is in a group home, she is able to leave for certain things: one of them being her assignment to work at a nursing home. It is at that nursing home that she meets Ted. He sees her for who she really is: a young woman in desperate need for kindness. Ted also doesn’t know Mary’s dark past and she isn’t quite sure when, or even if, she should tell him until she discovers that she is pregnant. With the state threatening to take away her baby, Mary needs to get the truth out about what happened the night the baby died. She won’t lose her baby over something that she didn’t do. In order to prove her innocence, Mary has to fight. She also has to get her Momma to tell the truth.

You see, no one but Mary knows the real Momma. Momma puts up a huge front and since the baby died, she has been born again. She has written out the nasty story of what Mary did and is working to start anew. Mary must get her to acknowledge the truth of what happened that night if she has any hope of keeping her baby and staying with Ted.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Waste-Free World: Recycling and Sustainability

We all know we should be doing more to protect the planet and dispose of waste responsibly. But if you’re like me, you might spend a lot of time wondering what’s recyclable and what’s not, and what sustainability really means. Here are three ways we at the library and in the city of Davenport are here to help you figure out the world of eco-friendly living.

READ: The Waste-Free World by Ron Gonen is a manifesto highlighting what companies can and should do to make recycling and reuse part of their normal daily processes in order to protect the earth and increase sustainability.

Can I Recycle This by Jennie Romer is a more practical guide to reducing plastic waste in your home.

WATCH: Going to green. Volume 1, Towards a more sustainable community is a series of documentary episodes discussing specific environmental and sustainability issues with helpful information for all ages.

PLAY: the Quad City Recycling Quest Game through the City of Davenport Public Works department website is a fun way to test and build your knowledge of waste disposal practices locally. The game allows you to pick whether a given item goes in recycling, compost, trash, a hazardous materials facility, or an electronics facility. It doesn’t take long to play and it will definitely teach you something!

Check out this LibGuide for more resources on how to make an eco-friendly home – and thanks for anything you do to make this world a greener, healthier place.

Key Changes: New Country Mega Albums

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about how being in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has caused many artists to make unique new music and innovative albums. This time around, it’s the Country Music Edition, featuring two artists who have created double and triple albums of their best work in the past year. Don’t miss these exciting large-scale projects from big names and hitmakers from the country music world!

First up, Eric Church. Heart and Soul were released in April, two weeks apart, and they’re designed to be part of a trilogy set. The third album, called ‘&’, which unites the two, is being exclusively released on vinyl to Church’s fan club. Heart and Soul are the two bookend albums with nine songs each, featuring songs each written and recorded in a single-day marathon recording session in early 2020, according to an interview with Church about the release. This allowed writers and musicians to collaborate more directly than in his previous work, a process which Church says produced a “special, special project.”

 

Second, Sturgill Simpson. Rather than releasing new tracks, Simpson has remixed his older country songs into bluegrass versions. Cuttin’ Grass vol. 1: the Butcher Shoppe Sessions, and Cuttin’ Grass vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions are two albums which pay homage to bluegrass music with powerful and creative versions of Simpson’s earlier works. Volume 2, released in April, also features a previously un-released track shared with Simpson by the late Merle Haggard. A longtime trendsetter in the country music genre, Simpson has now created a pair of albums that explore his inspirations, grounding his transcendent themes in an earthy style.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

“This is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.” – Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is a young adult novel about a teenager starting a feminist revolution in her Texas high school. The administration’s, as well as the student body’s, responses to this revolution play a very large part in this book.

Vivian Carter is annoyed. It may have taken her a while to want to do anything about it, but she is fed up. The football team can do no wrong and it has to stop. The boys on the football team are getting away with rampant sexual harassment of the girls in the school while the administration sits by and does nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Instead of punishing the boys, the administration has instead ramped up sexist dress code enforcements: pulling girls out of class and forcing them to wear giant gym uniforms. There doesn’t seem to be an actual dress code that they are following, but the girls are bearing the brunt of the blame. In addition to the increased number of dress code checks, the guys in the school are also harassing the girls in the hallway with violating games they make up. Combined with disgusting, gross, and degrading comments made by the guys during class that the teachers don’t punish and Vivian is done. The guys have been getting away for too much for too long. It’s time for a change.

Needing to blow off steam, but not wanting to get in trouble, Vivian remembers the box of zines that her mother has in her closet. Her mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s. She was tough and didn’t put up with bad behavior from anyone. Drawing from the strength she finds in her mother’s memory box, Viv creates a feminist zine that she distributes to her classmates, anonymously of course. This zine was just meant as a way for her to vent her anger, but other girls start responding to it. The more popular the zine becomes, the more the girls of her high school band together across cliques and popularity. It gains traction throughout the school and soon Moxie Girls are planning events and protests of their own. If the administration won’t take action, the Moxie Girls will demand it.

After all, MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!

This book has also been made into a movie on Netflix directed by Amy Poehler.