They Went Left by Monica Hesse

Monica Hesse is one of my favorite young adult authors, my go-to when I need historical mystery fiction. Warning: her books cover heavy topics, which may not be something that you can handle right now.  Somehow I missed her newest release that came out in April 2020, so I spent a weekend reading They Went Left . This book discusses the Holocaust, World War II, and surviving post-war.

They  Went Left by Monica Hesse begins with the liberation of concentration camps in Germany 1945. The soldiers who liberated told the survivors that the war was over, but it didn’t seem like that to them. Eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman is in a hospital trying to recover and heal, so that she can start searching for her younger brother. Her mind and body are broken, but she must find Abek. Abek and Zofia were separated three years ago from the rest of their family. Abek and Zofia went right, while everyone else went left to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Their parents, grandma, and their Aunt Maja all went left. When Zofia and Abek were eventually separated, Zofia promised to find him again, no matter what.

Flash forward three years and Zofia feels the deep urge to find Abek. Relying initially on the help from others, Zofia travels to various places across post-war Europe desperately searching for any sign of Abek. As she searches, Zofia slowly begins to rebuild the remains of her destroyed life. Her mind and body begin to heal as she looks for answers and starts to open up to other survivors.

This book is also available in the following format:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Family and relationships are a major deciding factor in how a person turns out. Our past influences our desires and the decisions we will make in the future. Brit Bennett discusses how we choose our own fate and how that fate may be different than the ones our families had previously thought we would take.

The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett tells the story of the Vignes twin sisters. Growing up, the two were inseparable and identical. People in the community found it hard to tell the two apart, but knew that wherever they saw one, the other was not far behind. Living in a small, southern black community with rigid ideals, the Vignes sisters run away at age sixteen to escape the less than perfect notions the community had about who they should be. Struggling to make out a new life for themselves, one twin makes the difficult decision to leave the other behind. Her decision sets the family on a rocky path that none of them could have predicted.

The Vignes sisters’ life decisions at the age of sixteen shape their daily lives for years. As adults, their lives couldn’t be more different. Their families, their racial identities, and their communities know them as separate individuals with vastly different pasts.

Fast forward many years and one of the sisters has come back to her hometown with her daughter. Separated by states, the other sister has been secretly passing as white for many years and her white husband doesn’t know anything about her past. Even though the twins are living vastly different lives, their fates are still intricately connected.

This novel follows the Vignes twin sisters from the 1950s to the 1990s, spanning many areas across the country from the Deep South to California. As the twins grow, many generations of the Vignes family come alive to tell their tales. Both the older generation and the younger generation work to create lives that they can be proud of with the sisters sandwiched in between. When the twins’ daughters grow up, their lives are bound to cross. The delicate life balance full of truth and lies the sisters have created is destined to come crashing down at some point. It’s only a matter of time.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan

Young adult fiction is my escape. I have always found comfort in reading about young people as they work to discover who they are and who they have the capacity to be. Lately, I have been reading a lot of young adult fiction that discusses social justice themes and has characters working on finding their voices. It’s a relief to read about characters speaking out and affecting change.

Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan has been referred to as a feminist anthem for young adults working to raise their voices. Watson is a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author who has written a timely and thought-provoking novel about a group of teenagers who want their high school and surrounding neighborhoods to change.

Jasmine and Chelsea, along with their two other friends,  attend a progressive New York City high school. The curriculum may be different than other local high schools, but Jasmine and Chelsea quickly realize that the school is not as progressive as it claims to be. All students must join an after school club, something these young women greatly enjoy. When they each experience issues in their respective clubs, they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. The two post their work online for all to see. Soon their essays, poems, and videos go viral as other people in the community resonate with the stories of racial, gender, and weight-based microaggressions the two share. The club receives so much positive support, but that doesn’t stop trolls from targeting the group.

When the negatives start to boil over into real life, the school administration gets involved and the principal shuts the club down. Devastated and angry with this turn of events, Jasmine and Chelsea take the club off-campus to their favorite bookstore where they plan ways to fight back. Refusing to be silenced, Jasmine, Chelsea, and their friends risk everything to raise their voices and be heard at their school who touts the platform of all voices being heard, even though that just isn’t true. The art this group of friends creates adds a level of realness to this novel about two young women who demand to be heard.

Reese Witherspoon November Pick – ‘Group’

Reese Witherspoon has selected Group by Christie Tate as the November pick for her book club.

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

The refreshingly original debut memoir of a guarded, over-achieving, self-lacerating young lawyer who reluctantly agrees to get psychologically and emotionally naked in a room of six complete strangers—her psychotherapy group—and in turn finds human connection, and herself. Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasizing about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that continued to plague her in spite of her achievements? Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up, and be honest. About everything—her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.” So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect. Group is a deliciously addictive read, and with Christie as our guide—skeptical of her own capacity for connection and intimacy, but hopeful in spite of herself—we are given a front row seat to the daring, exhilarating, painful, and hilarious journey that is group therapy—an under-explored process that breaks you down, and then reassembles you so that all the pieces finally fit.

This book is also available in the following format:

Want to make sure that Reese’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The world right now is uncertain. I find myself longing for times when family and friends could get together without care or worries. In an effort to feel more of that carefree spirit(without actually getting close to people), I have been searching for more books to read about families. Cue: literary generational fiction.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz tells the story of Ellie and Brick. In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are growing up in Clayton Valley, Ohio. Ellie wants to marry Brick McGinty. She wants to go to nursing school. It seems Ellie has finally figured out how she can get what she wants, even if her grandparents don’t approve.

Brick may be a basketball star at his high school, but he has big plans to go to college on a scholarship to play basketball. That is his chance to escape his abusive father, to be the first in his family to attend college, and to become a man that he can be proud of. Ellie and Brick are determined to succeed together and start a new life in a new place.

Their plans fall apart when Ellie finds out she is pregnant. Realizing that their big dreams will have to be put on hold, the two switch gears and begin to build their family. Ellie and Brick quickly discover that this new life is full of ups and downs. They have to rely on each other and work together to provide a stable and loving home for everyone. Just as they seem to settle back into a rhythm, someone knocks on their front door and delivers news that has the power to destroy their lives.

The Daughters of Erietown follows the evolution of women’s lives over fifty years. While each person in this story may have their own secrets, others have the power to reach out and destroy the precious balance that they have created. This novel discusses the known and the unknown, the whispers that may be true or not, and how you choose to deal with them.

This book is also available in the following formats:

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai is a heartfelt young adult novel that tells the history of a family of Indian vichole. Vichole are also known as matchmakers. Simran ‘Simi’ Sangha is expected to be a matchmaker one day and take over the family business that is currently run by her mom and aunt. Her family is known for helping parents find good matches for their children.

Out one day with her family, Simi accidentally sets up her cousin with a soon-to-be lawyer. This chance meeting organized by Simi has her aunt and her mom in a flutter. She must have the matchmaking gift! The only problem is that Simi doesn’t want to have anything to do with matchmaking. She is an artist and wants to create art for a living.

Simi and her best friend Noah have decided that this year is the year that they will change their circumstances and become more popular. When one of their friends suggests that matchmaking may be the thing that makes Simi and Noah popular, Simi is unsure. Since Simi is working with her mom, she has access to the family’s ancient matchmaking guide. Simi, her brother, and friends develop a matchmaking app using those ancient tips that starts to upend the fragile school hierarchy. When the app matches the school soccer star with the new girl, Simi quickly finds herself the focus of unwanted negative attention. She must find a way to balance the old and the new, matchmaking and her art.

This book is also available in the following format:

Book Club @ Night – ‘American Street’ on October 14th

It’s time for a new book club! On the second Wednesday of the month through December 2020, Book Club @ Night is meeting at 6:30pm to talk about young adult books!

On Wednesday, October 14th, Book Club @ Night will be discussing American Street  by Ibi Zoboi. Information about how to join is below.

Using GoTo Meeting, patrons will be able to meet to talk about a new book with one of our librarians. Book club books available at the Eastern Avenue Library.

Curious what American Street is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie — a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

This book is also available in the following format:

The November meeting will not take place on November 11 as the library is closed on that day in observance of Veterans Day. The November program will meet instead on November 18.

Book Club @ Night
Wed, Oct 14, 2020 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/664704165

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 664-704-165

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/664704165

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary to get your life back on track. Other times, it can end up completely derailing the precious balance that you have. Mary Kubica’s latest book, The Other Mrs., talks about the balance between family and work, new and old.

Sadie and Will Foust have the perfect life. Well, at least they used to. Having started their family in Chicago, they always imagined staying there forever. When Sadie finds out that Will is having an affair and when her older son has issues at school, they decide they need to move. Uprooting their family from Chicago to a tiny island off the coast of Maine, the Foust family is ready to start over.

Having only lived in this small town for a few weeks, Sadie is shocked when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home down the street. Crime doesn’t happen on the island. The murder shocks the small town, but Sadie takes it extra hard. She never imagined the horrors of Chicago would follow them to Maine, but it seems that they did. Sadie is on edge.

Searching for any clues as to what happened to Morgan, Sadie is dismayed to discover that suspicion has been cast onto her family. As the new family in town, Sadie can’t understand why people believe that anyone in her family would have anything to do with Morgan’s death. Wanting to clear her family, Sadie starts digging into what really happened that night. The more she uncovers, the more uncomfortable and uneasy she feels about the truth. If anyone finds out what actually happened, her life would be destroyed. Sadie has to decide what she’s going to do with the information she discovers.

This book is also available in the following formats:

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Some of my favorite books to read when I’m searching for hope, yearning for positive thoughts, and trying to find a purpose are young adult books. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo was my latest young adult read that gave me a glimpse into another life. This book focuses on family, friends, love, and the struggle to figure out your future.

Emoni Santiago is a teen mom. Pregnant with her daughter during her freshman year of high school, Emoni works hard to overcome the judgment she faces from strangers and her fellow students. Knowing that she has to provide for Emma, Emoni does whatever needs to be done to help support her daughter and her abuela. Her life is stressful, but Emoni is grateful for what she has.

When she needs a break, Emoni heads to the kitchen and whips up some magic. She is able to look at ingredients and know what will fit well together. Whenever she shares her food with others, Emoni knows that it makes them think of memories, of home, of long-lost family and friends. As much as she would love to become a professional chef, Emoni knows that her family must come first. Now a senior in high school, she is struggling to figure out what to do with her future. Her counselor, friends, and family have all been asking what she wants to do.

Hoping to push her in the right direction, her counselor tells her she should take the new Culinary Arts class. Emoni is beyond excited. Once she starts cooking in that class, she lets her talent free and has to deal with the consequences. Her dreams of working as a chef are so close she can almost taste it.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar

The lives of famous artists has always fascinated me. You get a tiny glimpse of their lives when you visit museums, but that’s hardly the full story. Sara Sligar’s debut book, Take Me Apartlets readers look into the background of a photographer as people try to figure out what really happened to her.

Take Me Apart by Sara Sligar talks about the history of a famous photographer through the eyes of an ex-journalist hired by her son. Miranda Brand is a famous photographer who died mysteriously when she was at the peak of her career. Miranda left behind a grieving husband and a young son who had to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives. The whole community of Callinas, California was shocked and wondered what really happened to Miranda. Her artwork became even more priceless and her agent was able to sell what he had left of hers for very high prices.

Decades later, Miranda’s son Theo heads back to the house where he grew up. His father has recently died and Theo has decided to clean up the house. He hires ex-journalist Kate Aitken to archive Miranda’s work and personal effects. She begins the arduous process of organizing her materials and finds herself at the center of the rumor mill surrounding the Brand family and their house. The community is still telling stories full of rumors and somewhat shocking details about Miranda’s life, while Kate is finding out bits and pieces of her true life. Miranda seemed to be crumbling under the pressures of family, marriage, and trying to balance her artistic ambition with being a new mother. While she works to catalog all of Miranda’s papers, Kate is continuously haunted by secrets from her own past. When a surprising discovery related to Miranda falls into her lap, Kate’s curiosity begins to tip out of her control, leading her down a spiral that concerns all those around her.