The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Books and ideas are like blood; they need to circulate, and they keep us alive.”

One of my absolute favorite genres to read is historical fiction, but this particular book hits the jackpot because it is also about libraries and the amazing people who work in them! Just published in February, The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles, weaves together two primary narratives spanning across time and place to create a beautiful and haunting story about the strength of friendship, family, and libraries in the face of betrayal, loss, and war.

This story begins in 1939 France with the narrative of Odile Souchet, a fresh graduate of library school who interviews for a librarianship position at the American Library in Paris (ALP). She quickly finds herself at home in the stacks and among several new friends, including fellow librarians, devoted library subscribers, a volunteer who quickly becomes her best friend, and a police officer who becomes her beloved beau. Before long, however, Odile loses a part of herself as her twin brother, Remy, goes off to war and everything she loves, including the library, is endangered.

The second central narrative takes place in 1980s Montana through the eyes of a young teenager named Lily. After the death of her mother and her father’s eventual remarriage, Lily finds herself both lost and trapped in a small rural town she desperately wishes to escape. She eventually finds a sense of liberation in the friendship she develops with her elderly neighbor, who teaches her French, shares her love of literature and books, and essentially becomes a second mother during some of her darkest moments. Before long, Lily becomes curious about her neighbor’s past, as all she (and the rest of the town) knows is her status as a widowed war bride who left her entire life behind in Paris to come to Montana with her husband after the war. Despite the difference in age and background, these two characters have more in common than meets the eye and share a kinship of love and understanding that truly stands the test of time.

Overall, this novel is a heart-wrenching and tragic, albeit beautiful, story filled with memorable characters who are tested by unimaginable hardships. I reveled in the development of several characters, especially since I felt I was able to connect with their complex and flawed personas. While you learn the fate of many of these individuals, I definitely found myself wanting more information on others! I also really enjoyed Charles’s writing style – in addition to writing beautifully, it is obvious how much research she did in the creation of this book by the way she is able to truly whisk you away to another time and place as you read.

While I definitely loved the fictional aspects of this novel, I was delighted to learn that several librarians in the story, along with their remarkable and heroic actions, were based on real individuals. Despite the dangers and risks war posed to both the people and resources of the library, the ALP stayed open to subscribers, maintained a service in which they delivered around 100,000 books to soldiers fighting overseas, and risked their own lives to deliver books to Jewish subscribers who had been barred from entering the library. Charles first learned about this incredible history upon becoming the programs manager at the ALP and, feeling wholly inspired, decided to delve deeper into the history by writing this book. The result? An ode to the truly incredible and impactful roles libraries will always have in our society.

All in all, I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who loves libraries and books, remarkable character development, and experiencing the strength and resiliency of the human race, especially through relationships formed with others.

Friendshipping by Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane

Most people can agree that making friends as an adult is HARD. Finding time to meet up with people, not to mention knowing what to say when you do, often means a lot of loneliness and ghosting when it comes to adult friendships. If you’re like me, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can stop googling “how to make and keep friends” and just read this great new book: Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends. Written by Trin Garritano and Jenn Bane, the team behind the feel-good podcast of the same name, this is a practical guide to the confusing world of 21st century friendship.

My favorite thing about this book is its clear division into three sections (named in the full title): Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends. Each section features real-life tips and tricks for being the best friend you can be, along with specific questions submitted by their listeners. Full of empathy, their tips and tricks acknowledge that everyone is a little different, which means the tips will need to be customized, AND that making friends is a process, which requires patience. One of the keys to success, according to the authors, is to be kind to yourself through a practice called “metathinking”: listening to your thoughts and questioning whether or not they’re actually true. For example, if you find yourself thinking “I’m so annoying” or “This is going to go badly”, you’d challenge that thought and think carefully about where it’s coming from and what’s more likely to be an accurate statement.

One of the other unexpected gems in this book is the authors’ acknowledgment that sometimes we ARE the problem and need to make realistic changes. They provide tools for the reader to examine their behavior and habits to see if anything toxic or unhelpful is going on, and if the reader does come to the conclusion that their behavior is harming their friendships, the authors encourage them to seek therapy and other assistance. Warmth, inclusion, kindness, and yes, recommending therapy, are big themes in this book.

If you’re struggling with loneliness, want to do better at keeping up with people, are looking to make new friends, or feel like social awkwardness is really getting in your way, you might enjoy reading Friendshipping by Trin and Jenn. And if you love podcasts, check out all their new and archived episodes of the Friendshipping podcast on their website.

Virtual Book Club – July 15

Join our Virtual Book Club on Wednesday, July 15th at 2pm central for a virtual discussion of You Are Not Alone  by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. We will be using GoTo Meeting for this program.  Information on how to join in is listed below! We hope to see you there!

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is the third and most recent book written by the duo. The below is a description of the book provided by the publisher:

Shay Miller has three strikes against her: no job, no apartment, no love in her life. But when she witnesses a perfectly normal looking young woman about her age make the chilling decision to leap in front of an ongoing subway train, Shay realizes she could end up in the same spiral. She is intrigued by a group of women who seem to have it all together, and they invite her with the promise: ‘You are not alone.’ Why not align herself with the glamorous and seductive Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane? … They are everything Shay aspires to be, and they seem to have the keys to getting exactly what they want. As Shay is pulled deeper and deeper under the spell of the Moore sisters, she finds her life getting better and better. But what price does she have to pay? What do Cassandra and Jane want from her? And what secrets do they, and Shay, have that will come to a deadly confrontation? You are not alone: Is it a promise? Or a threat?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Jul 15, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/617521805

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (312) 757-3121

Access Code: 617-521-805

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
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Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman

When Malin Ahlberg starts her freshman year at Hawthorne College in rural Maine, she is immediately befriended by a group of freshman who are brought together by chance during their first few days as new students.  Malin, along with Gemma, Ruby, Max, John and Khaled remain a tight-knit group throughout their four years at Hawthorne, but their years together are marked by drama, suspicion, betrayal and, ultimately, murder.  Tell Me Everything  by Cambria Brockman is a psychological thriller with a unsettling and, frankly, disturbing series of events with an ending that is literally jaw-dropping!

Malin tells her story in alternating chapters with gradual glimpses of problems at home with her family,  most notably with her brother who passed away years earlier.  She always stops short of revealing too much,  so the reader is left with more questions than answers as the anticipation grows.  What is she hiding from her past?  She replicates this secrecy with her current group of friends, not letting anyone know the real Malin.  To be honest, Malin is not a very endearing or likeable character.  As I was reading Tell Me Everything, I could tell pretty quickly that something was clearly not right with Malin, but Brockman has a great way of keeping the reader on their toes!

As the years progress, it becomes apparent that Malin is choreographing many of the dramas, misinterpretations and misunderstandings between the group.  While stirring the pot, it becomes clear that she enjoys watching the drama unfold.  The crescendo of both plot lines (family drama as a child and currently at Hawthorne) comes together seamlessly with not only one but two murders that are equally disturbing.

I highly recommend Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman.  I cannot guarantee that you will be a fan of some of the characters, but this is a well-written and suspenseful debut.  I am impressed with Brockman’s first book and am excited to see what she comes up with next!

 

The Litigators by John Grisham

The Litigators by John Grisham is a legal thriller that revolves around lawyers, litigation, and what it takes to be the best. David Zinc is an associate at a Chicago firm that has paid him an immense sum over the last five years. He’s on the fast-track, along with thousands of other lawyers in this high-rise firm, to becoming a big name lawyer. Or at least that’s what they’re telling him. Going into work one day, David has a panic attack and dives back into the elevator to escape. Stumbling into a bar, David gets completely drunk and ends up at the law offices of Finley & Figg.

Oscar Finley and Wally Figg are law firm partners in a boutique legal firm who don’t particularly like each other. They bicker in the office over anything and everything, from advertising methods to who they take on as clients to when they come in to work. Add in some shady legal dealings and Finley & Figg find themselves in hot water over some of their cases quite frequently. Just barely making even financial wise, but not nearly making enough to be comfortable, the senior partner Oscar works to bring in some money while managing junior partner Wally comes up with crazy marketing schemes to bring in any and all clients. Neither lawyer is without fault and with the addition of a cantankerous secretary, who is actually a former client, it’s a minor miracle that the building is still standing, they’re still making some money, and no one has quit.

Wally’s latest scheme revolves around product liability and class action lawsuits dealing with medications. Wally sees dollar signs and a huge payday when he learns of a major pending class action lawsuit against the company that manufactures Krayoxx, a cholesterol-reducing drug that is suspected of causing heart attacks, death, and weakening of the heart. Oscar, and now David, are less than thrilled about this lawsuit, but once Wally gets an idea in his head, he’s going to see it through, no matter the consequences or what others think. A massive medical lawsuit ensues against the pharmaceutical company that owns the drug, Varrick Labs, with Oscar, Wally, and David quickly finding themselves in over their heads. The three join the class action and believe they are on their way to fame and fortune without ever having to set foot in a courtroom. Most of these class actions end up being settled anyway. This book is a suspenseful, entertaining read filled with courtroom drama and theatrics both inside and outside the legal system.


This book is also available in the following formats:

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