This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

What if you could take a vacation to your past, without the filter of memory? What would you give to go back in time and relive your youth, in person, with the people who shared it? These are the questions Alice faces in This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But something is missing. Her father, the single parent who raised her, is ailing and out of reach. How did they get here so fast? Did she take too much for granted along the way?

When Alice wakes up the next morning somehow back in 1996, it isn’t her 16-year-old body that is the biggest shock, or the possibility of romance with her adolescent crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 49-year-old version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, is there anything that she should do differently this time around? What would she change, given the chance? (from the publisher)

I’ve always loved time-travel/live-your-life-differently/second-chance stories. It’s so intriguing – if impossible – to try a different choice and speculate if the outcome would have been better, or worse. Sadly, this title fell a little flat for me although the ending was satisfying. I found it difficult to connect with the main character, especially when she was in the past as a teenager. However, the writing is skillful and, as expected, returning to the past as an adult with greater understanding of the world, was endlessly intriguing.

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 Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

A London heiress rides out to the wilds of the English countryside to honor a marriage of convenience with a mysterious and reclusive stranger in The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews.

Tall, dark, and dour, the notorious Captain Jasper Blunt was once hailed a military hero, but tales abound of his bastard children and his haunted estate in Yorkshire. What he requires now is a rich wife to ornament his isolated ruin, and he has his sights set on the enchanting Julia Wychwood.

For Julia, an incurable romantic cursed with a crippling social anxiety, navigating a London ballroom is absolute torture. The only time Julia feels any degree of confidence is when she’s on her horse. Unfortunately, a young lady can’t spend the whole of her life in the saddle, so Julia makes an impetuous decision to take her future by the reins—she proposes to Captain Blunt.

In exchange for her dowry and her hand, Jasper must promise to grant her freedom to do as she pleases. To ride—and to read—as much as she likes without masculine interference. He readily agrees to her conditions, with one provision of his own: Julia is forbidden from going into the tower rooms of his estate and snooping around his affairs. But the more she learns of the beastly former hero, the more intrigued she becomes… (from the publisher)

This fun romance is the second in Matthew’s series “Belles of London” (the first is The Siren of Sussex with more promised). A quick read with a charming, book-loving heroine!

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

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

Are you a Louise Penny fan? There are a lot of us, but in case you haven’t read any books by this amazing mystery writer, here is a push to get you started!  Set in Canada, her Three Pines mysteries are complex, intelligent and thoughtful with appealing characters (especially the main character Chief Inspector Gamache) and tense scenarios. You can start with any in the series, but the characters and relationships develop over the course of the novels. I would recommend starting with any in the series and then, when you realize you must read them all, start from the first one (Still Life)

The newest, A World of Curiosities is the 18th in the series and, like the previous ones, is highly recommended. From the publisher:

It’s spring and Three Pines is reemerging after the harsh winter. But not everything buried should come alive again. Not everything lying dormant should reemerge.

As the villagers prepare for a special celebration, Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir find themselves increasingly worried. A young man and woman have reappeared in the Sûreté du Québec investigators’ lives after many years. The two were young children when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged, shattered. Now they’ve arrived in the village of Three Pines.

Gamache and Beauvoir’s memories of that tragic case, the one that first brought them together, come rushing back. Did their mother’s murder hurt them beyond repair? Have those terrible wounds, buried for decades, festered and are now about to erupt?

As Chief Inspector Gamache works to uncover answers, his alarm grows when a letter written by a long dead stone mason is discovered. In it the man describes his terror when bricking up an attic room somewhere in the village. Every word of the 160-year-old letter is filled with dread. When the room is found, the villagers decide to open it up.

As the bricks are removed, Gamache, Beauvoir and the villagers discover a world of curiosities. But the head of homicide soon realizes there’s more in that room than meets the eye. There are puzzles within puzzles, and hidden messages warning of mayhem and revenge.

In unsealing that room, an old enemy is released into their world. Into their lives. And into the very heart of Armand Gamache’s home.

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.

 

 

 

January’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, these titles will automatically be put on hold for you.

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Jenna Bush Hager has selected Sam by Allegra Goodman for her January pick.

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

What happens to a girl’s sense of joy and belonging—to her belief in herself—as she becomes a woman? This unforgettable portrait of coming-of-age offers subtle yet powerful reflections on class, parenthood, addiction, lust, and the irrepressible power of dreams.

“There is a girl, and her name is Sam.” So begins Allegra Goodman’s moving and wise new novel.

Sam is seven years old and living in Beverley, Massachusetts. She adores her father, though he isn’t around much. Her mother struggles to make ends meet, and never fails to remind Sam that if she studies hard and acts responsibly, adulthood will be easier—more secure and comfortable. But comfort and security are of little interest to Sam. She doesn’t fit in at school, where the other girls have the right shade of blue jeans and don’t question the rules. She doesn’t care about jeans or rules. All she wants to climb. Hanging from the highest limbs of the tallest trees, scaling the side of a building, Sam feels free.

As a teenager, Sam begins to doubt herself. She yearns to be noticed, even as she wants to disappear. When her climbing coach takes an interest in her, his attention is more complicated than she anticipated. She resents her father’s erratic behavior, but she grieves after he’s gone. And she resists her mother’s attempts to plan for her future, even as that future draws closer.

The simplicity of this tender, emotionally honest novel is what makes it so powerful. Sam by Allegra Goodman will break your heart, but will also leave you full of hope.

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Reese Witherspoon has selected The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes for her January pick.

Curious what The House in the Pines is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously 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….

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.

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

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall

From the  author of Boyfriend Material comes a sweet and scrumptious romantic comedy about facing your insecurities, finding love, and baking it off, no matter what people say in Alexis Hall’s Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble

Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favorite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.

But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.

But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves. (from the publisher)

If you like baking shows and watching people overcome their fears and find inner strength and value, this lovely, quick-read romance is perfect for you!

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