Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Are you looking for a contemporary fiction book with a dash of romance? One that doesn’t have romance as the major theme? If so, I recommend Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. While there is romance, there are other themes and relationships focused throughout which, in my opinion, lean this title more about friendships and family and less about romance.

Billy Perkins is an independent music teacher working out of his apartment above Charm City Rocks, a record shop in Baltimore. He’s happy. He loves his job and loves being a single dad to his nerdy teenage son, Caleb.

Margot Hammer is the former drummer of the band Burnt Flowers. They used to be famous until Margot had an infamous meltdown on television. Now she is a recluse living alone in New York City. After a new music documentary is released highlighting Burnt Flowers, Margot finds herself somewhat unwillingly thrust back into the spotlight. When a new publicist assigned to her by her label shows up on her doorstep, Margot knows she’s in for quite the life change.

Billy and Caleb have been watching this new music documentary together. When Billy mentions to Caleb that he has always had a crush on Margot, Caleb gets an idea. You see, Caleb is having difficulty choosing what college to go to because he thinks that Billy is lonely. Late one night, Caleb works out a plan to get Margot to visit Charm City Rocks.

In the cold light of day, Caleb thinks his plan is a dream, but imagine his surprise when Margot and her publicist show up in Baltimore. Her label has decided that she needs the publicity, so when the opportunity to play with a young band in Baltimore pops up, they jump at the chance. When they arrive however, they are greeted by Caleb, Billy, and the very confused owner of Charm City Rocks. This messy introduction puts Billy and Margot on a collision course to figuring out what really makes them happy.

What set this book apart for me was its unique storytelling. Norman writes from the perspectives of multiple different characters: Billy, Caleb, Margot, and more. Supporting characters are so much more in this book – readers get a glimpse into their lives and how fully they impact and interact with each other. This was a quick, charming, quirky read, one that is humorous, relatable, and goofy. This book doesn’t focus only on romantic love, which was a relief. Norman writes about family, both found and ones you’re related to, as well as finding yourself and discovering what you really need. Pick up this feel-good contemporary romance for a palette cleanser.

Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

Aminder Dhaliwal has created a comic detailing the day-to-day of the minority cyclops community within the two-eye majority in Cyclopedia Exotica. This graphic novel is so relatable and heart-breaking. These comics were originally published on the artist’s Instagram page. Her drawing style is cartoonish, yet realistic, reminding me of some of my favorite comics.

The characters in this book come from the cyclops community and are pictured doing daily life. Some are using dating apps, others have families, some have jobs, and others are trying to figure out their identity. The cyclops are an immigrant community with physical differences from the two-eyes majority. Microaggressions occur in doctor’s offices, public transportation, museums, and every other place they visit. Despite the hardships they face, they are all just trying to live normal lives. Coexisting is hard. Being ‘othered’ is hard. Trying to find yourself is hard.

This comic is witty and full of social and cultural critiques. Even though this graphic novel is fiction, it handles real issues faced by marginalized groups today. It’s full of thought-provoking ideas. Characters face xenophia, highlighting disability, sexuality, race, and gender issues that can easily transfer to real life. Dhaliwal outlines cyclops passing as two-eyes, fetishization of cylops, interracial relationships between cyclops and two-eyes, and representation/misrepresentation of cyclops in the media. Cyclops are used as a metaphor for these issues, but this content is relatable to anyone and everyone. They are dealing with their own unique struggles, but are trying to live their daily lives the best they can while dealing with intense hate. Additionally this graphic novel has a large cast of characters, but the artist makes them all individuals and gives them all their own intriguing storylines. Cyclopedia Exotica is thoroughly engaging and full of social commentary.

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

“Why read at all? Why does anyone do it in the first place? Why do I? There is the element of escape, which is real enough—that’s a real-enough comfort. But also we read as a way to come to grips with the randomness of our being alive. To read a book by an observant, sympathetic mind is to see the human landscape in all its odd detail, and the reader says to him or herself, Yes, that’s how it is, only I didn’t know it to describe it. There’s a fraternity achieved, then: we are not alone. Sometimes an author’s voice is familiar to us from the first page, first paragraph, even if the author lived in another country, in another century.” Bob held up his stack of Russians. “How can you account for this familiarity? I do believe that, at our best, there is a link connecting us.”
― Patrick deWitt, The Librarianist

In celebration of National Library Week in April, I was on a hunt for a book about librarians that I had not read yet. Enter The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, a novel that combines my love of senior citizens with my love of librarians. Bob Comet is a retired librarian. He’s spending his retirement surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Oregon. Bob has his small comforts and his routines. On his daily walk one morning, Bob stumbles upon a confused elderly woman standing lost in a market. She’s staring into the cold sections with a lost look on her face. Lucky for Bob, and the clerk working behind the counter, the lost woman has a note secured around her neck letting people know where she lives. Bob volunteers to escort this lost woman home to the senior center. Once they arrive, Bob is intrigued by the people he meets. He decides to volunteer at the senior center, a decision that changes his whole life. The more Bob interacts with the people at the senior center, the more parts of his past and character are revealed to the reader.

This book felt like a warm hug from a close friend. The characters were charming, full of quirks and colors. Every person Bob met ended up shaping his life in some way. Even though this book was charming and cheerful, it was also full of melancholy and bittersweet with a bit of darkness under the surface. Bob’s past is colorful and complicated. He has a knack for finding bizarre and full-of-life people that he welcomes into his life. The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt reads like a love story to loners, to the outcasts in life who aren’t sure where they fit, to the introverts who want to be left alone amongst the fast-paced world they live in. People’s pasts are a mystery and this book is a prime example to never judge a person by the calm front they present.

This title is also available in large print or CD audiobook.

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 Simply Held, you can choose to have their selections automatically put on hold for you.

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Jenna Bush Hager has selected Real Americans by Rachel Khong for her May pick.

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

Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster, and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn’t be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.

In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can’t shake the sense she’s hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than it provides answers.

In immersive, moving prose, Rachel Khong weaves a profound tale of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance—a story of trust, forgiveness, and finally coming home.

Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made? And if we are made, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome? – Knopf

This title is also available in large print.

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Reese Witherspoon has selected How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang for her May pick.

Curious what How to End a Love Story is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Helen Zhang hasn’t seen Grant Shepard once in the thirteen years since the tragic accident that bound their lives together forever.

Now a bestselling author, Helen pours everything into her career. She’s even scored a coveted spot in the writers’ room of the TV adaptation of her popular young adult novels, and if she can hide her imposter syndrome and overcome her writer’s block, surely the rest of her life will fall into place too. LA is the fresh start she needs. After all, no one knows her there. Except…

Grant has done everything in his power to move on from the past, including building a life across the country. And while the panic attacks have never quite gone away, he’s well liked around town as a screenwriter. He knows he shouldn’t have taken the job on Helen’s show, but it will open doors to developing his own projects that he just can’t pass up.

Grant’s exactly as Helen remembers him—charming, funny, popular, and lovable in ways that she’s never been. And Helen’s exactly as Grant remembers too—brilliant, beautiful, closed off. But working together is messy, and electrifying, and Helen’s parents, who have never forgiven Grant, have no idea he’s in the picture at all.

When secrets come to light, they must reckon with the fact that theirs was never meant to be any kind of love story. And yet… the key to making peace with their past—and themselves—might just lie in holding on to each other in the present. – Avon

This title is also available in large print.

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

Moms in Movies

Celebrate this Mother’s Day with a movie from Davenport Public Library. In these movies, moms are the stars of the show, as they navigate their lives and relationships with their children. (Descriptions below provided by publishers.)

Days of the Bagnold Summer: Adapted from the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, it is a tender, funny coming-of-age story about single parenting and heavy metal. Sue works in a library. Daniel eats chips and listens to Metallica. This was the summer Daniel was due to spend with his dad and his dad’s new wife in Florida. But when they cancel his trip at the last minute, Sue and Daniel suddenly face the prospect of six long weeks together. An epic war of wills ensues in the unassuming battleground of their suburban home as they each reckon with private tragedies and pursue their passions. Featuring original songs by Belle and Sebastian.

The Perfect Man: Every time Jean goes through a bad breakup, she moves her two daughters elsewhere. Determined to make a home in New York, their latest destination, eldest daughter Holly creates a fake online secret admirer for her mother, based on her friend’s uncle. But as the “romance” develops, Holly encounters obstacles as her mom falls for the lie. Meanwhile, Holly has found her own love interest this time around in her cute classmate Adam.

 

Snatched: Dumped by her boyfriend on the eve of their vacation, impetuous dreamer Emily Middleton persuades her cautious mother, Linda, to accompany her on an exotic getaway to South America. Polar opposites, Emily and Linda must soon work through their differences to escape from a wildly outrageous and dangerous jungle adventure.

 

Tully: When mother Marlo gives birth to her third baby, she wasn’t expecting to hire a nanny to help with the newborn. Her brother contracts the services of young Tully as a nanny on Marlo’s behalf, however. At first Marlo thinks of having a nanny as an unnecessary indulgence, but as the two women get to know each other better, they begin to form an unexpected bond, although their relationship is not always such smooth sailing.

 

Kidnap: A typical afternoon in the park turns into a nightmare for single mom Karla Dyson when her son suddenly disappears. Without a cell phone and knowing she has no time to wait for police help, Karla jumps in her own car and sets off in pursuit of the kidnappers. Karla will stop at nothing to recover her kidnapped son.

 

 

During the month of May, look for the “Movie Moms” display at the Eastern branch for more recommendations.

April’s Simply Held Fiction Picks

Changes are coming to Simply Held starting July 1, 2024, but before that happens we wanted to share our April fiction picks for our patrons that are already signed up! Starting July 1, there will only be four fiction picks for you to choose from: diverse debuts, graphic novel, historical fiction, and international fiction. Our fiction picks are chosen quarterly and are available in regular print only. If you would like to update your selections or are a new patron who wants to receive picks from any of those four categories, sign up for Simply Held through our website!

Below you will find information provided by the publishers and authors on the titles we have selected for April from the following categories: Diverse Debuts, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, International Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Out of This World, Overcoming Adversity, Rainbow Reads, Stranger Things, and Young Adult.

Diverse Debuts:

Diverse Debuts: Debut fiction novel by a BIPOC author.

Acts of Forgiveness by Maura Cheeks

How much of their lineage is one family willing to unearth in order to participate in the nation’s first federal reparations program?

Every American waits with bated breath to see whether or not the country’s first female president will pass the Forgiveness Act. The bill would allow Black families to claim up to $175,000 if they can prove they are the descendants of slaves, and for ambitious single mother Willie Revel the bill could be a long-awaited form of redemption. A decade ago, Willie gave up her burgeoning journalism career to help run her father’s struggling construction company in Philadelphia and she has reluctantly put family first, without being able to forget who she might have become. Now she’s back living with her parents and her young daughter while trying to keep her family from going into bankruptcy. Could the Forgiveness Act uncover her forgotten roots while also helping save their beloved home and her father’s life’s work?

In order to qualify, she must first prove that the Revels are descended from slaves, but the rest of the family isn’t as eager to dig up the past. Her mother is adopted, her father doesn’t trust the government and believes working with a morally corrupt employer is the better way to save their business, and her daughter is just trying to make it through the fifth grade at her elite private school without attracting unwanted attention. It’s up to Willie to verify their ancestry and save her family—but as she delves into their history, Willie begins to learn just how complicated family and forgiveness can be.

With powerful insight and moving prose, Acts of Forgiveness asks how history shapes who we become and considers the weight of success when it is achieved despite incredible odds—and ultimately what leaving behind a legacy truly means. – Ballantine Books

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Graphic Novel:

Graphic Novel: Fiction novel for adults of any subgenre with diverse characters depicted by color illustrations, sketches, and photographs.

My Picture Diary by Fujiwara Maki, translated by Ryan Holmberg

The wife of Japan’s most lauded manga-ka documents a year in their lives with her own artistry.

In 1981, Fujiwara Maki began a picture diary about daily life with her son and husband, the legendary manga author Tsuge Yoshiharu. Publishing was not her original intention. “I wanted to record our family’s daily life while our son, Shosuke, was small. But as 8mm cameras were too expensive and we were poor, I decided on the picture diary format instead. I figured Shosuke would enjoy reading it when he got older.”

Drawn in a simple, personable style, and covering the same years fictionalized in Tsuge’s final masterpiece The Man Without Talent, Fujiwara’s journal focuses on the joys of daily life amidst the stresses of childrearing, housekeeping, and managing a depressed husband. A touching and inspiring testimony of one Japanese woman’s resilience, My Picture Diary is also an important glimpse of the enigma that is Tsuge. Fujiwara’s diary is unsparing. It provides a stark picture of the gender divide in their household: Tsuge sleeps until noon and does practically nothing. He never compliments her cooking, and dictates how money is spent. Not once is he shown drawing. And yet, Fujiwara remains surprisingly empathetic toward her mercurial husband.

Translated by Ryan Holmberg, this edition sheds light on Fujiwara’s life, her own career in art, writing, and underground theater, and her extensive influence upon her husband’s celebrated manga. – Drawn and Quarterly

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Historical Fiction:

Historical Fiction: Historical fiction novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

A History of Burning by Janika Oza

In 1898, Pirbhai, a teenage boy looking for work, is taken from his village in India to labor for the British on the East African Railway. Far from home, Pirbhai commits a brutal act in the name of survival that will haunt him and his family for years to come.

So begins Janika Oza’s masterful, richly told epic, where the embers of this desperate act are fanned into flame over four generations, four continents, throughout the twentieth century. Pirbhai’s children are born in Uganda during the waning days of British colonial rule, and as the country moves toward independence, his granddaughters, three sisters, come of age in a divided nation. Latika is an aspiring journalist, who will put everything on the line for what she believes in; Mayuri’s ambitions will take her farther away from home than she ever imagined; and fearless Kiya will have to carry the weight of her family’s silence and secrets.

In 1972, the entire family is forced to flee under Idi Amin’s military dictatorship. Pirbhai’s grandchildren are now scattered across the world, struggling to find their way back to each other. One day a letter arrives with news that makes each generation question how far they are willing to go, and who they are willing to defy, to secure their own place in the world. – Grand Central Publishing

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International Fiction:

International Fiction: Fiction novel originally written in another language with BIPOC main character(s).

The End of August by Yu Miri; translated by Morgan Giles

From the National Book Award winning author, an extraordinary, ground-breaking, epic multi-generational novel about a Korean family living under Japanese occupation.

In 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea, Lee Woo-cheol was a running prodigy and a contender for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. But he would have had to run under the Japanese flag.

Nearly a century later, his granddaughter is living in Japan and training to run a marathon herself. She summons Korean shamans to hold an intense, transcendent ritual to connect with Lee Woo-cheol. When his ghost appears, alongside those of his brother Lee Woo-Gun, and their young neighbor, who was forced to become a comfort woman to Japanese soldiers stationed in China during World War II, she must uncover their stories to free their souls. What she discovers is at the heart of this sweeping, majestic novel about a family that endured death, love, betrayal, war, political upheaval, and ghosts, both vengeful and wistful.

A poetic masterpiece that is a feat of historical fiction, epic family saga, and mind-bending story-telling acrobatics, The End of August is a marathon of literature. – Riverhead Books

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Juvenile Fiction:

Juvenile Fiction: Fiction chapter book with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for children 7-11

Green by Alex Gino

Green is lucky. They’ve got a supportive dad, friendly neighbors, and good friends. They’ve figured out a lot of things . . . but they can’t figure out what to do about Ronnie.

Ronnie’s a boy who’s been in Green’s class for awhile. He’s sweet. Funny. And lately, Green’s heart has raced a little faster whenever he’s around.

Green is pretty sure about their own feelings. But they have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how Ronnie feels.

When Green doesn’t get a part in the school musical – a very untraditional version of The Wizard of Oz – they join the crew to work alongside Ronnie.

Is this a good idea?

Green’s about to find out. . . . – Alex Gino

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Out of this World:

Out of this World: Science fiction novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

Counterweight by Djuna; translated by Anton Hur

On the fictional island of Patusan—and much to the ire of the Patusan natives—the Korean conglomerate LK is constructing an elevator into Earth’s orbit, gradually turning this one-time tropical resort town into a teeming travel hub: a gateway to and from our planet. Up in space, holding the elevator’s “spider cable” taut, is a mass of space junk known as the counterweight. And stashed within that junk is a trove of crucial data: a memory fragment left by LK’s former CEO, the control of which will determine the company’s—and humanity’s—future.

Racing up the elevator to retrieve the data is a host of rival forces: Mac, the novel’s narrator and LK’s chief of External Affairs, increasingly disillusioned with his employer; the everyman Choi Gangwu, unwittingly at the center of Mac’s investigations; the former CEO’s brilliant niece and power-hungry son; and Rex Tamaki, a violent officer in LK’s Security Division. They’re all caught in a labyrinth of fake identities, neuro-implants called Worms, and old political grievances held by the Patusan Liberation Front, the army of island natives determined to protect Patusan’s sovereignty.

Originally conceived by Djuna as a low-budget science fiction film, with literary references as wide-ranging as Joseph Conrad and the Marquis de Sade, Counterweight is part cyberpunk, part hard-boiled detective fiction, and part parable of South Korea’s neocolonial ambition and its rippling effects. – Pantheon

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Overcoming Adversity:

Overcoming Adversity: Fiction novel with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for people 14 and older.

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis

Two bold, utopic communities are at the heart of Ayana Mathis’s searing follow-up to her bestselling debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Bonaparte, Alabama – once 10,000 glorious Black-owned acres – is now a ghost town vanishing to depopulation, crooked developers, and an eerie mist closing in on its shoreline. Dutchess Carson, Bonaparte’s fiery, tough-talking protector, fights to keep its remaining one thousand acres in the hands of the last five residents. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, her estranged daughter Ava is drawn into Ark – a seductive, radical group with a commitment to Black self-determination in the spirit of the Black Panthers and MOVE, with a dash of the Weather Underground’s violent zeal. Ava’s eleven-year-old son Toussaint wants out – his future awaits him on his grandmother’s land, where the sounds of cicada and frog song might save him if only he can make it there.

In Mathis’s electrifying novel, Bonaparte is both mythic landscape and spiritual inheritance, and 1980s Philadelphia is its raw, darkly glittering counterpoint. The Unsettled is a spellbinding portrait of two fierce women reckoning with the steep cost of resistance: What legacy will we leave our children? Where can we be free? – Knopf

This title is also available in large print.

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Rainbow Reads:

Rainbow reads: Fiction novel with LGBTQ+ main character(s).

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Both a page-turner and literary tour de force, it is a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men.

Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars—Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic—and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.

Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much. – Grove

This title is also available in large print.

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Stranger Things:

Stranger Things: Horror novel written by a BIPOC author with BIPOC main character(s).

The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro

Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her.

Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.

When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors.

Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.

But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever. – Del Rey

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Young Adult Fiction:

Young Adult Fiction: Fiction chapter book with diversity, equity, or inclusion subject matter written for children 14 and older.

This Town is On Fire by Pamela N. Harris

A lot is up in the air in Naomi Henry’s life: her spot as a varsity cheer flier, her classmates’ reaction to the debut of her natural hair, and her crush on the guy who’s always been like a brother to her. With so much uncertainty, she feels lucky to have a best friend like Kylie to keep her grounded. After all, they’re practically sisters—Naomi’s mom took care of Kylie and her twin brother for years.

But then a video of Kylie calling the cops on two Black teens in a shopping store parking lot goes viral. Naomi is shaken, and her town is reeling from the publicity. While Naomi tries to reckon with Kylie, the other Black students in their high school are questioning their friendship, and her former friends are wondering where this new “woke” Naomi came from. Although Naomi wants to stand by her best friend, she now can’t help but see everything in a different light.

As tensions in her town escalate, Naomi finds herself engaging in protests that are on the cusp of being illegal. And then a bomb explodes, and someone is found dead. Will Naomi be caught in the center of the blast? – Quill Tree Books

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Join Simply Held to have the newest Fiction picks automatically put on hold for you every quarter.

Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn

If you don’t know what to read, what is your go-to? I gravitate towards cozy mysteries starring elderly people. My latest read was Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge, the first book in the new Mrs. Plansky series written by Spencer Quinn, a pseudonym used by author Peter Abrahams. Spencer Quinn is most known for his Chet and Bernie Mystery series that started in 2009, starring Chet the dog and his human partner PI Bernie Little.

Mrs. Loretta Plansky has been dealing with a lot lately: her husband has just died, her retirement in Florida is mired with dealing with her cantankerous 98-year-old father, and her children and grandchildren are constantly asking her for money. As a recent widow in her seventies, Loretta just wants to spend her day playing tennis and enjoying her new hip!

Mrs. Plansky receives a phone call in the middle of the night from her grandson, Will, saying that he has been arrested and needs ten thousand dollars. After asking some questions, she decides to give him the money. She sends him her bank details, delighted to receive another phone call a short while later saying that Will has the money and has been released. She heads back to sleep, happy that Will is safe.

Loretta wakes up the next morning and phone calls start pouring in. She is shocked to discover that she has lost everything. Her bank and her financial advisor call to say that she drew her accounts down to zero the night before, millions of dollars gone in the blink of an eye. Loretta soon finds herself in meetings with law enforcement who inform her that her life savings are gone and unfortunately there isn’t much they can do to help her. The scammers are gone, their heist complete, and Loretta is left with nothing. After processing her emotions, she decides to start investigating on her own, following the only clue that she has to a small village in Romania. Mrs. Plansky wants her money back. She isn’t a fool and won’t be taken advantage of anymore.

This was a good introduction to a new series, enough to have me hoping that the subsequent books in the series will be more entertaining. Typically cozy mysteries have a main character with a quirky sidekick, but this book popped back and forth between two view points: 1) Mrs. Plansky and 2) the scammers in Romania. Mrs. Plansky spend the majority of the book by herself with no relief or help. The story focused instead on her forgetfulness as a character, which was distracting. Thankfully about 80% of the way through, some helpers popped into Mrs. Plansky’s life, adding some comic relief to the story. Hopefully these characters are also present in the next books.

This title is also available in large print.

Anime Movies

April 15th is National Anime Day. National Anime Day celebrates anime, a style of animation that originated in Japan and became popular with viewers worldwide. With its wide variety of animation styles and stories, anime has something to offer for everyone! Check out these award-winning anime films owned by Davenport Public Library. (Descriptions below provided by publishers.)

Ponyo: During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, a goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke, who gives her the name Ponyo. Ponyo longs to become human, and as her friendship with Sosuke grows, she becomes more humanlike. Ponyo’s father brings her back to their ocean kingdom, but so strong is Ponyo’s wish to live on the surface that she breaks free, and in the process, spills a collection of magical elixirs that endanger Sosuke’s village.

 

Weathering With You: The summer of his high school freshman year, Hodaka runs away from his remote island home to Tokyo, and quickly finds himself pushed to his financial and personal limits. The weather is unusually gloomy and rainy every day, as if to suggest his future. He lives his days in isolation, but finally finds work as a writer for a mysterious occult magazine. Then one day, Hodaka meets Hina on a busy street corner. This bright and strong-willed girl possesses a strange and wonderful ability: the power to stop the rain and clear the sky…

 

The Boy and the Beast: When Kyuta, a young orphan living on the streets of Shibuya, stumbles into a fantastic world of beasts, he’s taken in by Kumatetsu, a gruff, rough-around-the-edges warrior beast who’s been searching for the perfect apprentice. Despite their constant bickering, Kyuta and Kumatetsu begin training together and slowly form a bond as surrogate father and son. But the unlikely pair will be put to the ultimate test; a final showdown.

 

Belle: Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.

 

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl: As a group of teens go out for a night on the town, a sophomore known only as ‘The Girl with Black Hair’ experiences a series of surreal encounters with the local nightlife, all the while unaware of the romantic longings of Senpai, a fellow student who has been creating increasingly fantastic and contrived reasons to run into her, in an effort to win her heart.

 

Miss Hokusai: As all of Edo flocks to see the work of the revered painter Hokusai, his daughter O-Ei toils diligently, creating the paintings sold under her father’s name. Shy in public, in the studio O-Ei is brash and uninhibited. Seeking to come into her own as an artist, O-Ei sets out into the bustling city of Edo (present-day Tokyo), where she encounters spirits, dragons, con-men and traders.

 

During the month of April, look for the “National Anime Month” display at the Fairmount branch for more anime film recommendations.

QCL Book Club March Wrap-up and Introduction to April Reads!

woman with pearls with a salmon background

In March, Morgan and I read The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict to celebrate Women’s History Month. Below is a short synopsis of the book and what I thought of it! 

woman with pearls with a salmon backgroundThe Only Woman in the Room is a fictionalized first-person account of famous actress, Hedy Lamarr. From her time starting out as an aspiring actress in Austria, to a marriage to a powerful gentleman known as The Merchant of Death, Hedy faced many trials pre-war. Leaving acting to be a wife, Hedy spends many evenings hosting dinner parties with her husband and honing in on her acting abilities to hide her true feelings towards her husband and his colleagues. Often the only woman in the room, Hedy found herself learning the horrors of war and the power that her husband’s business acquaintances held. Afraid for her life, Hedy flees to America to find refuge but cannot escape the horrors of her past decisions and the events affecting her loved ones back in Austria.

Once in America, Hedy uses her influence and a key confidant to develop technology to end the war and redeem her for the decisions of her past.

This book had such an interesting premise and was such a great read to celebrate Women’s History Month!

 

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Morgan and I have a very exciting lineup of book options for April, below are four titles including our winning read! Feel free to check them all out from Davenport Public Library! 

**April Pick!
Someone We Know by Shari Lapeña (In Honor of National Letter Writing Month) 

It’s a quiet suburb in upstate New York, until anonymous letters start to arrive. “My son broke into your home recently while you were out.” Into their homes, and into their computers as well. Learning their secrets, and maybe sharing some of them, too. When a woman down the street is found murdered, the tension reaches the breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their own secrets? — adapted from back cover  

 

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr (In Honor of National Siblings Day on April 10th) 

 Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other. When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women. Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts. Neither woman knows how to start life over, but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it. — adapted from back cover

 

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle (In Honor of Lovers Day on April 23rd) 

Maybell Parrish prefers living in her own mind than socializing with others. When Maybell inherits a stately old Tennessee manor from her eccentric Great Aunt Violet, she realizes it’s the perfect opportunity to escape. After Maybell arrives at her new home, the manor is practically falling apart around her. Enter the handsome yet reclusive groundskeeper, Wesley Koehler who seems to want nothing to do with her. Beneath Wesley’s brooding exterior lies an anxiety that exceeds her own, she realizes they might have more in common than Maybell ever dreamed. — adapted from back cover 

 

 

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (In Honor of Tell a Story Day on April 27th)

Sage Singer becomes friends with an old man who is particularly beloved in her community after they strike up a conversation at the bakery where she works. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor, to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses, but then he tells her he deserves to die. Once he reveals his secret, Sage wonders if he is right. Can someone who has committed a truly heinous act ever redeem themselves with good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you are not the party who was wronged? And most of all, if Sage even considers his request, is it murder, or justice? What do you do when evil lives next door? — adapted from back cover 

 

If you are interested in any of these titles, or have read them, I want to talk about them! Please consider leaving a comment! Want to converse with other QCL Book Club followers? Consider joining our Goodreads Group! Our next QCL Book Club segment will be held May 6th during Quad Cities Live at 3pm on KWQC TV6!

The Fury by Alex Michaelides

“And before you accuse me of telling my story in a labyrinthine manner, let me remind you this is a true story—and in real life, that’s how we communicate, isn’t it? We’re all over the place: we jump back and forth in time; slow down and expand on some moments; fast-forward through others; editing as we go, minimizing flaws and maximizing assets. We are all the unreliable narrators of our own lives.”
― Alex Michaelides, The Fury

Alex Michaelides’ latest novel, The Fury, relies heavily on unreliable narrators, which given the plots of his previous two books, The Silent Patient and The Maidens, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Unreliable narrators are narrators who can’t be relied upon to provide a trustworthy or completely accurate story. They may mislead readers, sometimes accidentally or deliberately. In my opinion, all first person narrators (those who are telling the story from their own point of view within the book) are unreliable narrators until you get to the end. The narrator in The Fury, Elliot Chase, tells the story from his perspective, whether or not it’s the 100% truth is up for you, the reader, to decide once he’s finished his story.

Have you ever read a story about a murder in the news and been curious about what led up to the crime? Well, Elliot Chase has a story for you. His best friend, an incredibly famous reclusive ex-movie star named Lana, has invited himself and her other closest friends to her private Greek island for a getaway over the Easter weekend. This isn’t anything new. Lana frequently invites her friends to the island as a way to escape the dreary English weather. What’s out of the ordinary this time? Murder. One of them will be dead before the weekend is over. This should be pretty easy to figure out. Everyone is trapped on an island cut off from others due to whipping winds and weather – this is a finite pool of people to figure out who the murderer and victim is. The murder, what led up to it, and its consequences were splattered all over the tabloids, but Elliot is able to give readers an insight into the story that no one else has. After all, he was privy to the gossip, revenge, and pettiness within their friend group. Elliot has been silent long enough. He has his own story to tell.

The Fury is also available in large print, as a CD audiobook, and as a Playaway audiobook.

[Note: Even though Alex Michaelides’ books aren’t in a series, they are interconnected. Characters from certain books are mentioned in others. Parts of some books are also mentioned in others. (This is all incredibly vague, but I can’t talk specifics without spoiling some parts). While they all may not seem like plot spoilers at the time of reading, some are, so I would recommend that you read his books in the order of publication: The Silent Patient (2019), The Maidens (2021), and The Fury (2024). ]