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.

Happy Place by Emily Henry

“I want my life to be like-like making pottery. I want to enjoy it while it’s happening, not just for where it might get me eventually.”
― Emily Henry, Happy Place

Emily Henry is one of those romance authors that never disappoints, for me at least. Her latest book, Happy Place, is a dual timeline, forced proximity, found family, second chance romance that tugs at your heart strings.

What would you do if you started dating someone from your friend group, got engaged, and then broke off your engagement? How would you tell the other people in your friend group? How would you handle figuring out all the relationships with this change after ten years? These questions are what Harriet ‘Harry’ Kilpatrick and Wyndham ‘Wyn’ Connor have to deal with now that they aren’t together anymore.

Harriet and Wyn are the perfect couple, have been since they met in college. Well except for now and they don’t want to talk about it. The issue? They broke up five months ago and haven’t told their best friends. Harriet and Wyn have a plan that might work if it wasn’t for their yearly friend vacation. Their plans come crashing down when both end up at their annual weeklong vacation despite the plan that this year would be Harriet’s turn to vacation by herself.

Well shoot. Harriet and Wyn now have to share a bedroom and pretend they are still together for the sake of their friends. They have been vacationing at this Maine cottage for their friend group’s yearly vacation for the last decade. For this one week, they are all together without the pressures of their daily lives. When they were younger in college, they spent copious amounts of time together, but as they got older, this one week became the only time when they could count on seeing everyone together. It’s tradition. A tradition hanging on delicate strings as it becomes clear that their friends have secrets to tell on this year’s vacation.

Harriet and Wyn only have to keep their secret for one more week, but this proves even more difficult as they are forced together after not seeing each other in person OR talking in over five months. They were in love for years, so faking it for one more week shouldn’t be that hard, right?

What I enjoyed the most in this book is watching the characters grow as individuals and in their relationships. A lot of romance I have read doesn’t necessarily show growth and if it does, it tends to gloss over what led to the changes. In this title, Emily Henry gives her characters room to grow and has them explain their choices both in their heads and out loud to others. The characters are well developed and even the ‘side characters’ don’t feel like side characters. They are key players and all have their own important story arcs. Well done.

This book is also available in large print, CD audiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

“Things change, but we stretch and grow and make room for one another. Our love is a place we can always come back to, and it will be waiting, the same as it ever was. You belong here. ”
― Emily Henry, Happy Place

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie

What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie may be a juvenile fiction book, but parts still left me scared, checking my back seat for ghosts, my basement for shadows, and jumping at noises. Did that stop me from reading? No way!

Ginny Anderson has her summer all figured out. She will be spending time with her best friend at a mystery writing workshop. The kink to her plan: her dad. He works as a restoration expert in Chicago, traveling and restoring old buildings. He has surprised the family with a month-long trip to Michigan where they will be staying at Woodmoor Manor, a twenty-six room mansion surrounded by a dense forest.

In case being separated from her best friend isn’t bad enough, the grounds and the mansion are supposedly haunted! It’s not just a falling apart mansion determined to ruin this vacation – it’s the rumors swirling around town. The locals are leery of Woodmoor Manor. They believe that the surrounding woods are home to mutated creatures with glowing eyes. Locals say that many campers set foot in the woods, disappearing, never to be seen again. Great place to vacation, right?

The forest around Woodmoor Manor can’t be the only reason that locals want to tear the mansion to the ground though. From the moment Ginny sets foot inside, weird things start happening. The mansion seems to have a life of its own. Creaky floors, unexplained shadows, ticking clocks, power surges, and much more increase in frequency the longer they stay. Wanting to head back to Chicago as quickly as possible, Ginny seeks to learn the history of Woodmoor Manor and the surrounding areas with the help of her brother and a new friend. What they discover is certainly not what they expected.

If you’re looking for a spooky mystery book with a strong female protagonist, this is for you. Currie has crafted a story that won’t leave readers scared, perfect for juvenile fiction! This book ends with all the creepy elements tied up neat and tidy. Readers will also explore strong themes of family, bravery, and friendship – essential topics for readers of all ages.

This title is also available as a CD audiobook.

FRIENDLY READS

The human experience of friendship is universal. While the nature of those friendships can change over the course of a lifetime, most people of all cultures and all ages have experienced at least one friendship during their life. Friendships in our early years are typically based on play and companionship. But, when we mature into adults, friendships tend to become more intimate as we share our struggles and successes in a trusting relationship.

There are certainly many benefits of having a friend. The risks or cost of not having a friend (or having difficulties with friendships) are also universal to all cultures. And, there are different kinds of friendship, including: same gender friendships, opposite or mixed gender friendships, group friendships, and friendships that lead to romance, among many. Check out some of these books where the story focuses on a particular friendship. See how the friendships influence the plot and how the events affect those friendships. During the month of February, look for the “Friendly Reads” book displays at Fairmount and Main for a wide selection. Below are a few titles to get you started. (Descriptions below from the publisher)

Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

“Zahra and Maryam have been best friends since childhood in Karachi, even though—or maybe because—they are unlike in nearly every way. Yet they never speak of the differences in their backgrounds or their values, not even after the fateful night when a moment of adolescent impulse upends their plans for the future.  Three decades later, Zahra and Maryam have grown into powerful women who have each cut a distinctive path through London. But when two troubling figures from their past resurface, they must finally confront their bedrock differences—and find out whether their friendship can survive. Thought-provoking, compassionate, and full of unexpected turns, Best of Friends offers a riveting take on an age-old question: Does principle or loyalty make for the better friend?”

 

You Can’t Stay Here Forever by Katherine Lin

“Just days after her young, handsome husband dies in a car accident, Ellie Huang discovers that he had a mistress—one of her own colleagues at a prestigious San Francisco law firm. Acting on impulse—or is it grief? rage? Probably all three—Ellie cashes in Ian’s life insurance policy for an extended stay at the luxurious Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France. Accompanying her is her free-spirited best friend, Mable Chou. Ellie hopes that the five-star resort on the French Riviera, with its stunning clientele and floral-scented cocktails, will be a heady escape from the real world. And at first it is. She and Mable meet an intriguing couple, Fauna and Robbie, and as their poolside chats roll into wine-soaked dinners, the four become increasingly intimate. But the sunlit getaway soon turns into a reckoning for Ellie, as long-simmering tensions and uncomfortable truths swirl to the surface. Taking the reader from San Francisco to the gilded luxury of the south of France, You Can’t Stay Here Forever is a sharply funny and exciting debut that explores the slippery nature of marriage, the push and pull between friends, and the interplay of race and privilege, seen through the eyes of a young Asian American woman.”

 

The Caretaker by Ron Rash

“It’s 1951 in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Blackburn Gant, his life irrevocably altered by a childhood case of polio, seems condemned to spend his life among the dead as the sole caretaker of a hilltop cemetery. It suits his withdrawn personality, and the inexplicable occurrences that happen from time to time rattle him less than interaction with the living. But when his best and only friend, the kind but impulsive Jacob Hampton, is conscripted to serve overseas, Blackburn is charged with caring for Jacob’s wife, Naomi, as well.  Sixteen-year-old Naomi Clarke is an outcast in Blowing Rock, an outsider, poor and uneducated, who works as a seasonal maid in the town’s most elegant hotel. When Naomi eloped with Jacob a few months after her arrival, the marriage scandalized the community, most of all his wealthy parents who disinherited him. Shunned by the townsfolk for their differences and equally fearful that Jacob may never come home, Blackburn and Naomi grow closer and closer until a shattering development derails numerous lives. A tender examination of male friendship and rivalry as well as a riveting, page-turning novel of familial devotion, The Caretaker brilliantly depicts the human capacity for delusion and destruction all too often justified as acts of love.”

 

Cozy Up with These Picture Books!

small cartoon child under a grey blanket

January to me is always a time to snuggle up with a good book under an ultra-soft blanket. With great amounts of snow currently falling and more forecasted for our region the next few days, I am excited to share some cozy books with you!  Below are some picture books in our collection that celebrate the cozy season!

The Lumberjack’s Beard by Duncan Beedie

Big Jim Hickory begins his day with exercises and a large stack of pancakes before heading out to chop down trees. After a long day of chopping, Jim is home resting when someone begins pecking at his door. Upon opening, Jim discovers that his job has sent some animal neighbors into a flurry of frustration. Ever the problem-solver, Jim is ready for the challenge of creating a safe home for his disgruntled neighbors.

This book is an absolute delight!

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small cartoon child under a grey blanket

Blanket: Journey to Extreme Coziness by Loryn Brantz

You may be wondering how to reach maximum level coziness. Your wait is over my friend, all you need is this book and your favorite blanket to achieve the blanket cocoon – epic level of cozy!

The artwork is delightful as is the content of this title, I hope that you enjoy!

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Narwhal with a yellow blanketBlankie by Ben Clanton

If you have decided to climb out of your blanket cocoon and looking for fun activities with your blanket. This book will give you some suggestions! Will you turn your blanket into a cape or take it on a living room picnic with waffles? The sky is the limit!

This adorable board book is fun for littles and bigs alike!

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Black hairy monster holding a small child

Wilfred by Ryan T. Higgins

Wilfred was a humungous, hairy, monster who only wanted one thing, a friend. One day, Wilfred discovers a peculiar town full of bald townspeople. With hope in his heart, Wilfred hopes to find friendship on a playground but sends most of the children running in fear. One brave child remained and thus began a beautiful friendship until the townspeople came up with a nasty plan.

This story teaches children empathy while making grownups cry. If you read this title, be sure to have your tissues ready. That said, it is one of my favorites and I share it every year when performing storytimes.

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cartoon child pulling a baby in a red sweater across a room.

That’s My Sweater! by Jessika von Innerebner

There are few things that Olivia loves more than her red sweater. This is why when Olivia comes to find that she has grown out of her beloved garment, she has some things to say. To add to her dismay, Olivia’s baby sibling inherits the sweater and is covering it in unspeakable bodily fluids! On a hunt for justice, Olivia makes a discovery, her parents love a hand-me-down.

For all of the older siblings out there, this is the perfect read!

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2 cartoon pirates and o monkey in a boat next to a sea monster

Ned the Knitting Pirate by Diana Murray and Illustrated by Leslie Lammle

Pirates are a fierce and rugged lot. As they sing their pirate song, it is ruined (made better) each time by Ned the knitting pirate.

Written in rhyme, this book is an absolute blast to read aloud! I enjoy singing and donning a Scottish accent as I read aloud. Like Wilfred, this is a yearly read teaches young people to be proud of who they are and that heroes come in all shapes and forms!

Relationships : learning to love by the School of Life

Who doesn’t need more help with their relationships? Whether you are single and seeking companionship or have been in a long-term relationship for decades, everyone has something to learn when it comes to interpersonal connection. Fortunately for all of us we have The School of Life.

The School of Life is a team of writers and educators who offer articles, books, films, therapeutic services and even an app to help teach people how life can be lived and what can make it truly worthwhile, effective and fulfilling. Their book Relationships: learning to love offers readers strategies to find love and maintain it over time. If you want to become the kind of partner that can foster satisfying, long-term relationships, check out Relationships: learning to love. You’ll be glad you did!

You may be interested in other books by The School of Life, that can be found in the Davenport Public Library’s Learning and Literacy Collection (LC), including: On being nice: a guide to friendship and connection and On failure

 

 

 

 

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

Confronting your past is an issue that most adults go through in life. Kate Clayborn’s newest book, Georgie, All Along, talks about how to reconcile your past, love, career, and understanding your worth in a whimsical and captivating story.

Georgie Mulcahy has spent her entire career putting others ahead of herself. As a personal assistant to high-profile people in Los Angeles, she has always known how to get people what they need. When she unexpectedly finds herself out of a job and heading back to her hometown, Georgie realizes that she has no idea what she wants or needs. This throws her for a loop.

While helping her best friend prepare for the arrival of her baby, Georgie finds a relic from her past – a ‘friendfic’ diary that she wrote with said best friend when they were teenagers. This diary is full of all of the possibilities that they imagined for themselves, albeit mostly Georgie’s wishes. Given that she has no idea what she wants to do, this diary full of ideas is her path to a new life.

Determined to get a head start on her new plan, Georgie heads to her parents’ house to read through her diary and figure out where to start. Her plans suddenly change when she discovers that her parents have accidentally let another person to stay at their house – Levi Fanning, a quiet, grouchy man. Levi comes with his own baggage. Born and raised in the same town as Georgie, Levi used to have quite the reputation as the town troublemaker. Now however, Levi is the town hermit, determined to rebuild his reputation by keeping his head down, working hard, and not getting into any trouble.

Levi eventually offers to help Georgie work through the list of ideas from her diary. As the two work through the list, they become closer and start to see how the way each of them have been living may not be the way they want to continue. Trying to figure out what they want proves difficult as their pasts start to push to the present in uncomfortable ways.

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

“Still, there might be something fitting about a friendship based on a common love of words being founded on an exchange of the same.”
― Sulari Gentill, The Woman in the Library

The Woman in the  Library by Sulari Gentill has been on my to-read list since it was published in June 2022. After listening to this title, I can firmly say that I haven’t read anything like this before. If you decide to read this book, go into it with an open mind. The description of the book barely scratches the surface of what the book is really about, but this review is going to be just as vague because *spoilers* would happen if I didn’t!

The Boston Public Library’s reading room is ornate and quiet. All of that is shattered one morning when a woman’s terrified scream radiates through the room. Four strangers sitting in the reading room reach out to each other, start talking, and become friends. Security guards investigate the noise, instructing everyone to stay put while they look for the source. They find nothing… at first.

Harriet, Marigold, Whit, and Caine are the four strangers brought together by the scream. They all have their own reasons for being in the reading room that day, some with secrets they are reluctant to share. The investigation into the scream casts suspicion upon the four with readers being led to believe that one of the four may be a murderer. Each person in this book has a story to tell, but if they are telling the truth or not is a whole other matter.

“The story of her life etched on her skin… She’s like a walking book. Patterns and portraits and words. Mantras of love and power. I wonder how much of it is fiction.”
― Sulari Gentill, The Woman in the Library

This book is also available in the following formats:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

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

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

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

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

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

This book is also available in the following formats:

Wallace the Brave by Will Henry

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

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

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