The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham. – ANNA SEWELL, Black Beauty

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes is the embodiment of the above quote. The town of Baileyville, Kentucky is not what Alice Wright expected. Growing up in England, all Alice wanted was to get away from her stifling life and her narrow minded parents.  When she met Bennett Van Cleve, a handsome American who promised her a thrilling life away, Alice married him and left. Traveling across the world and eventually ending up in Baileyville, Kentucky, Alice has stars in her eyes about her new life and all the wonderous things she can do.

Baileyville does not live up to her expectations. It quickly becomes claustrophobic as Alice and Bennett are forced to live with Bennett’s overbearing father. Struggling to carve out a life for herself separate than that of her domineering father-in-law and away from the judgmental eyes of the local townsfolk, Alice wants so much more than this life has. When the opportunity to join the team of women delivering books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library appears, Alice promptly signs up.

Beginning to work with the team, Alice learns more about their daily lives and the motivations for why(and how) each ended up with the horseback librarians. The leader of the local horseback librarians is Margery, a woman who quickly becomes Alice’s friend and, more importantly, her ally. Margery has always lived on the outskirts as a self-sufficient, self-confident, and quick-witted woman who has never asked for a man’s permission to do anything. Margery, Alice, and three other women become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky and start bringing books, magazines, recipes, and information to families who desperately need them.

The women are clearly the focus in this novel, but the relationships with the men they love quickly show how compassion, loyalty, humanity, and justice are all necessary components to life in Baileyville, but whether or not the townspeople follow them is another story altogether. Although these women are working hard to provide a necessary service to people, the community doesn’t support their efforts entirely. The dangers these women face grow everyday as they travel the mountainside to bring books and materials to people who have never had any. Apparently giving the community access to facts and information is offensive to some and those people will stop at nothing to end the packhorse librarians for good.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget.

The tagline for V.E. Schwab’s latest book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the best I’ve seen at perfectly distilling a book down to its essence. V.E. Schwab is mostly known for her children’s and young adult fiction that she published under the name Victoria Schwab, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue  is a wonderful addition to historical fantasy for adults that you’ll want to cozy up and read as soon as you can get a copy.

France, 1714. Addie LaRue is desperate. Growing up in a small town in France, Addie thought she had successfully avoided marriage until she is promised to a man with young children. Knowing if she marries him she will be live and die in this same small town, Addie manages to slip away before her wedding. Stumbling in her desperation, Addie kneels in the woods and prays for freedom to a god who only answers after dark. This god, or is he a devil, answers Addie’s call and makes a deal with her that she so desperately wants. Over time, Addie learns the limits of the deal and regrets it: she will live forever, but she will be forgotten by every single person she meets. Every time they turn away, every time they close a door, Addie will slip from their memory, a person or a thought always just out of reach. She will spend her years traveling the world, never quite feeling at home anywhere, and never able to make her mark on the world. Addie must get creative in order to leave her legacy as she visits artists of all types and notices that the seven freckles that dot her cheeks can be found throughout history, like a scattering of stars.

Flash forward 300 years. Addie is searching for something new, anything new that will shake up what she’s already discovered in her 300 years. Walking the streets of New York, she yearns. Suddenly, Addie finds a bookstore that she has never seen before. In it, a boy named Henry will change her life with three little words, ‘I remember you’.

Those three words. How is it possible? Did Luc, the god who made her deal, mess up? He must have. She yearns to be remembered, yearns to belong to someone. She has found the one her soul has been searching for after 300 years. Both Henry and Addie have been yearning for years to not be alone, though Henry’s life has been considerably shorter than Addie’s, but his desire is just as strong. Wanting to feel that connection while they have been alone for all this time is something pressed deep into their souls. Addie and Henry are fearful of what they’ve discovered, that fear running strong in Addie as the anniversary of her deal approaches. Knowing that Luc may show up at any second, whenever the mood hits him, Addie is desperate that Henry remember as much of her life as he can before Luc makes him forget.

This novel tore me apart. It’s not a thriller or a swift ride through the characters’ lives. Instead Schwab introduces both Addie and Henry’s lives in a wonderfully leisurely way, one where readers get to know the characters as they work through whatever newness they uncover. Schwab mixes the past with the present, switching between long stretches of Addie’s 300 years with Henry’s exquisitely awkward and painful shorter life. These moments are presented in a way that tugs at your heart as you wish for peace and comfort for both Henry and Addie in the end.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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:

Great Podcasts: Storytelling

To be honest, I’m notoriously fickle when it comes to podcasts. I can’t seem to remember to listen to them, because I just haven’t figured out how to work them into my everyday routine. But I know it’s a great medium with a lot of die-hard fans, so I keep trying, and there are a few I really like, even if I’m nowhere near caught up on any of them. The Adventure Zone, which you might remember my recommending in an earlier post, is a big one. Two other podcasts, which I’ll share with you today, both revolve around history, sharing little-known facts and crafting interesting narratives out of them. Quick disclaimer: I’ve only listened to bits of these, so I can’t vouch for all the content they contain. You may know lots more about podcasts than I do – and if you do, please share your tips and recommendations in the comments! These podcasts are available on their own websites, as well as Spotify, iTunes, and other podcast platforms.

The Myths and Legends Podcast

This podcast is about what it sounds like: each episode, the host tells a different story from the realms of myths and legends. Some of the stories he shares are little-known myths from countries around the world, and sometimes he shares the original myth behind a now-famous story like Aladdin or Mulan. He tells the story in a conversational and engaging way, with modern asides, and each episode also features a profile of a different mythical creature, which may or may not be drawn from that episode’s main story. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they’re gruesome or tragic, but for me they’re always intriguing, entertaining, and I always learn something new. If you like myths, legends, fairy tales, fantasy, or Disney, you may like this podcast.

The British History Podcast

Again, the name is fairly self-explanatory. The host takes on the massive job of telling the story of Britain’s history — from the beginning. The VERY beginning. Starting from its most ancient roots, he tells the story of the individuals, groups, and events that drove British history forward. Like the Myths and Legends podcast, the stories are explained in modern terms and delivered in a straightforward, conversational style. I really like the way he makes historical people relatable, fascinating, and sympathetic, bridging the huge gap of centuries between them and us. If you’re an Anglophile like me, or just a history buff, this may be a good podcast for you.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

A caste system is an artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits, traits that would be neutral in the abstract but are ascribed life-and-death meaning in a hierarchy favoring the dominant caste whose forebears designed it. A caste system uses rigid, often arbitrary boundaries to keep the ranked groupings apart, distinct from one another and in their assigned places.”

In the bestselling book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the title The Warmth of Other Suns, draws parallels between the often-unspoken caste system in the United States with those of India and Nazi Germany to elucidate the innate, systemic racism that is intentionally rooted and entwined in the history and core foundations of our country. This work combines deep, immersive research and moving narratives, such as Wilkerson’s own experiences, to express and relate how this invisible hierarchy affects the opportunities, safety, and day-to-day life of black Americans today.

Wilkerson first shines a light on current events, painting a disturbing picture. She describes the escalating racial tensions in America as “pathogens” or “toxins” that were never completely eradicated with the end of slavery or the implementation of civil rights legislation, but were rather buried beneath the surface in the “permafrost” until certain circumstances brought them back to the surface. She then considers the arbitrary construction of human divisions across America, as well as in India and Nazi Germany, before exploring eight distinct pillars of caste she believes are the foundations of the caste system in the United States.

After elaborating upon these powerful pillars, ranging from topics of divine will and endogamy to dehumanization and stigma, Wilkerson discusses the “tentacles” and consequences of the caste system lingering in the lives of black Americans today. One of the most telling parts of this book for me was learning about the many forms of backlash that transpired after President Barack Obama’s election and re-election, as many claimed the accomplishment of a black man in the Oval Office was a sign that racism was “dead.” This could not be further from the truth.

Lastly, Wilkerson calls for an awakening and the need for action in order to combat the dangerous, debilitating, and ever-present caste system preserving and prolonging systemic racism in the United States and has a strong response to those who dismiss racism based on the reasoning that it isn’t “their fault,” or the fault of their ancestors:

We are the heirs to whatever is right or wrong with it. We did not erect the uneven pillars or joists, but they are ours to deal with now. And any further deterioration is, in fact, on our hands.”

Overall, this title is extraordinarily written as Wilkerson writes in a compelling, thoughtful, and revealing way about this subject, and if you are looking for a raw, honest, and thought-provoking title to learn more about the origins of systemic racism in America, I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up this book.

This book is also available in the following formats:

OverDrive eAudiobook

OverDrive eBook

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds

“This book, this not history history book, this present book, is meant to take you on a race journey from then to now, to show why we feel how we feel, why we live how we live, and why this poison, whether recognizable or unrecognizable, whether it’s a scream or a whisper, just won’t go away.”

Described as a book containing history and rooted in the here and now, rather than as a traditional history book students read in school, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds is an adaptation or remix of a longer work by Ibram X. Kendi (Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America). Written to be more accessible to younger audiences, this work presents a history of racism in America, drawing parallels to how racist notions and theories that have been perpetuated in centuries past still strongly pervade America today with deep, toxic roots in the very infrastructure, policies, and foundations of the country.

Divided into five sections highlighting different periods of history, spanning from 1415 to the present day, this title explores a multitude of historically significant people, events, movements, and ideas that have actively disseminated or combated racist theories and practices in America. Within this exploration, there are three types of people who are specifically defined and deemed crucial to understanding when considering racism: (1) segregationists, which Reynolds colloquially terms “the haters;” (2) assimilationists, or those who are accepting of Black people when they are more like White people; and (3) antiracists, or those who love Black people for who they are.

Overall, this title is eye-opening, enlightening, and extremely educational, in addition to being very accessible to read. It is also a very timely and important read in light of the growing racial and social justice movements occurring in our own time, as well as in response to the many conversations that are starting to explicate and explore the racial dynamics in existence today within the United States. I definitely plan to read Kendi’s longer work, which was a National Book Award Winner in 2016, but would highly recommend this adaptation for everyone and anyone, especially teenagers and young adults, as Reynolds is an absolute delight to read. This book is available in the following formats:

Book on CD

Overdrive eAudiobook

Overdrive eBook

Academic Overdrive eBook

Playaway

Virtual Book Club – ‘The Night Tiger’ on August 19th

On Wednesday, August 19th, at 2pm, Virtual Book Club will be discussing The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to video chat with the librarian about the book! More information about how to join is listed below.

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

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dance-hall girl to pay her mother’s mahjong debts. When one of her dance partners leaves behind a gruesome souvenier, Ji Lin plunges into a world of secrets and superstitions. Eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy Ren is trying to find his master’s severed finger and bury with his body, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever. As both young people go on their quests, unexplained deaths plague their district in 1930s colonial Malaysia.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Aug 19, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/160996525

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3112

Access Code: 160-996-525

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/160996525

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a young adult historical fiction book that was originally published in 2011. It is the first book written by author Ruta Sepetys that was turned into the 2018 movie ‘Ashes in the Snow‘. Ruta Sepetys writes primarily young adult historical fiction with some romance twists.

Between Shades of Gray tells the story of fifteen-year-old Lina. In 1941, Lina lives with her younger brother Jonas and both of her parents in Lithuania. Everything changes for the family one night with they are pulled from their home in Lithuania by Soviet guards. Separated at a train station, the family doesn’t know where they will end up. Eventually they are sent to Siberia where Lina learns that her father has been sentenced to death in a prison camp. Lina, Jonas, and their mother have to fight for their lives as they struggle to keep their family together. This book tells only one story of a Lithuanian family, but it serves as a catalyst for readers to start their own research into the thousands of families that were affected by this in the 1940s.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – August 12

Are you missing book clubs? We are! Lucky for all of us, the Davenport Public Library has book club options available! On Wednesday, August 12th at 6:30p, Book Club @ Night will be meeting virtually to discuss Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Information about how to join in and discuss this book is listed below. Copies of the book are available at the Eastern Avenue Library. Stop at the desk to pick up a copy to borrow and read for the book club.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is a young adult fiction book published in 2010. Jennifer Donnelly is a best selling author with fifteen published books. Want to know what Revolution  is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

An angry, grieving seventeen-year-old musician facing expulsion from her prestigious Brooklyn private school travels to Paris to complete a school assignment and uncovers a diary written during the French revolution by a young actress attempting to help a tortured, imprisoned little boy–Louis Charles, the lost king of France.

Book Club @ Night

August 12th – ‘Revolution’ by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Club @ Night
Wed, Aug 12, 2020 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/301873461 

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

Access Code: 301-873-461

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/301873461 

Oprah Book Club Pick – June 2020

Oprah has just announced her latest book club pick: Deacon King Kong by James McBride! Oprah is one of the celebrities featured on our Best Sellers Club. If you would like to make sure that you don’t miss a single one of Oprah’s book club picks, be sure to join our Best Sellers Club today!

Deacon King Kong by James McBride is her latest pick. A work of domestic psychological fiction set in 1969 in a housing project in South Brooklyn.

Need more information? Check out the information below provided by the publisher:

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .45 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself. As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters–caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York–overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion. Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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