Book Review: Box 88 by Charles Cumming

This is the first book in a new spy novel series. The action moves between British intelligence officer Lachan Kite’s youth and his current place in Box 88, a joint espionage group between MI6 and the CIA which is run in complete secrecy.

A fast, interesting read. Kirkus reviews says it is “the gold standard in espionage fiction.” Definitely recommended to readers of this genre.

Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This comedy sci-fi is one of my favorite books. I thoroughly enjoy the offbeat and absurd story of human Arthur Dent’s unexpected adventure through space. He’s guided by his friend, Ford Prefect, who is on Earth to learn about the planet because Ford is writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Along the way Arthur and the readers meet several interesting characters, my favorite being Marvin the robot.

Douglas Adams wrote sequels to this book, which are also entertaining, though this book is enjoyable all on its own if one didn’t want to read the whole series. The franchise has had various adaptations, including its original version as a radio comedy show and its later movie adaptation (which is also available at PFL!). PFL patrons can find this zany story in many formats, including print, audiobook, e-book, and e-audiobook. Be sure to check it out and learn why May 25 is National Towel Day, why Vogon poetry is so feared, and why the number 42 is significant.

Book Review: A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by Krystyna Poray Goddue

This biography came to me highly recommended by Miss Katy, the Head of Children’s Services.  I loved reading about the poet’s life and work, and more about the specifics of her ties to Maine. Like Miss Katy, I also feel compelled to recommend the title to others.

Because it’s a children’s book, it’s a relatively quick read. But don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t learn much because of the target audience.  This slim, 175-page volume covers her life from beginning to end, sometimes in fascinating detail. 

Here are just a few things I didn’t know:

  • “Vincent” was a published poet by the age of 14; by age 15 she had won a national poetry prize and received critical attention from editors and writers (many of whom could not believe how young she was, or that she was a female).  
  • She was also an accomplished actress and musician, and lived quite the Bohemian lifestyle in New York City after her graduation from Vassar. She had a flair for the dramatic, whether she was reading poetry, performing, or fighting for a cause. 
  • Her early family life was both challenging and liberating. She was raised in a single-parent household in relative poverty in and around Rockland, Maine. Her mother traveled to take on available nursing jobs, and often left Vincent in charge of the household and her two younger sisters for weeks and even months at a time.  As a result, she grew up independent and free-spirited.
  • She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (in 1923); in 1938 a national poll declared her one of the ten most famous women in America!

The book has so much information about her life, her schooling, her marriage and later life, as well as lots of history about her poems and poetry. There are many excellent photographs that accompany the text. I really didn’t understand what an important national figure she was in the literary world during her lifetime – she was not just a “Maine poet.”

 The book is thoroughly researched and presented: there are ten pages of chapter notes, recommended biographies, and a list of all of her works: poetry, prose, and plays.  

Extend National Poetry Month by reading this great little biography.  Enjoy!

What PFL Staff are Reading this Week

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Emotional Healing: How to Put Yourself Back Together Again by Dr. Harry Barry

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“A really terrific audio book, and for some reason I was surprised at how good the story is.”

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

“Totally fascinating. I read it AND listened to it on audiobook and that combo with the audio recordings of Huguette Clark’s voice with the pictures in the book was such a great experience.”

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier

“Wowzer!”

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

“A lovely novel that raises important questions about humanity and subjective reality.”

Naturalist: a graphic adaptation of E.O. Wilson’s book by Jim Ottaviani and C.M. Butzer

Wonder Seeker: 52 Ways to Wake up Your Creativity and Find your Joy by Andrea Scher

Fabulous ideas on how to cultivate a sense of wonder

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time by Annabel Streets

“As an (almost!) daily walker, I’m always looking for motivation to keep up the habit, and this book gives an impressive number of scientific examples of how the sights, smells, sounds, and sensations of walking are so good for the human mind and body.”

 

Book Review: The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner

The Kings family, lobstermen on Loosewood island for over three hundred years, are blessed with the bounty of the sea but cursed with the death of the firstborn son of every generation. Cordelia, eldest child and first female Kings to own her own lobster boat, must contend with this mythical heritage, the aging of her legendary father, and the neighboring islanders poaching and drug running in the Loosewood waters. Inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear, this is an utterly absorbing read.

Book Review: Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

In gorgeous, gripping language that intensifies as this collection progresses, Smith tracks, minute-by-minute, the progress of Hurricane Katrina as it grows from a tropical depression to a Category 5 storm. Smith describes the physical and emotional devastation of New Orleans, particularly in Black communities. Each poem in this collection feels raw and immediate, and Smith’s words bring into sharp, heartbreaking focus the failures of politicians to rebuild New Orleans after the storm.

Book Review: The Poets of Maine

The Poets of Maine is an 1888 “who’s who” of poems by Maine authors. Each listing includes a brief biography of the poet and several short poems. The volume is particularly interesting in that it highlights quite a few female poets, including Mary J. Cummings, born in Bowdoinham in 1838. Mary J. Cummings’ poems Summer-Time and Glamour evoke longing and use beautiful, illustrative language to bring you along with her. Her poems almost feel like 19th Century Taylor Swift lyrics that envelope you in firefly wings, perfumed summer air, and flashing diamonds. To hear more about Mary J. Cummings’ famous pen name and read more of Summer-Time, register for our History Room Live: The Poetry of Maine on April 15 at 3:00 PM.

Book Review: I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer

This brilliant collection of erasure poems start with the original texts from many different kinds of notes Kate Baer received or experienced online and are, according to the blurb on her book, “transformed into an absolute artform that reclaims the vitriol from online trolls and inspires readers to transform what is ugly or painful in their own lives into something beautiful.” With some of the cruelty witnessed on Facebook threads and Instagram DMs it can be hard to think positively about the state of the world, but this poetry collection truly turns cruelty into art, and bitterness into beauty. I was blown away by her first book, What Kind of Woman, which was an instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, and I’m equally blown away by this collection. My favorite poems include, “Re: Comment Section on Getting Your Body Back After Birth,” “Re: Storming the Capitol,” and “Re: Poems Made from Online Messages.” 

Book Review: The Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski

Ignore the strange title and throw away any preconceived notions you might have about coming of age stories involving sheltered girls from overly religious families- because this book is so worth it. Thirteen year old Jory’s family is strange, even by the standards of their conservative Idaho church community in 1970. So when her older sister Grace comes home from a missionary trip pregnant and claiming the child is God’s, their family doesn’t know how to handle it. Their mother takes sedatives and doesn’t leave her bedroom, and their father moves Jory and Grace to their own house on the edge of town while he figures out what to do with them. While Jory struggles to make friends at her new, non religious high school, Grace takes correspondence courses and descends even deeper into her already consuming religious fervor and the rest of their family continues to unravel.

Brelinski’s writing is marvelous, but where she really shines is in her character exploration of the many and varied personalities present in this unusual story, and her refusal to give in to clichés at any time. I have read my fair share of thematically similar novels, but this one leaves them all behind.

Book Review: Diversity in Romance

Romance has moved well beyond your great aunt’s old Harlequin bodice-rippers. Today the genre is vibrant and dynamic, with heroines (and heroes) of all orientations, ethnicities, and identities from all walks of life finding love in all its forms.

Whether you’ve already read every Nora Roberts book there or have never picked up a romance novel before, there’s something in our collection sure to delight everyone.

Don’t see something here that strikes your fancy? Ask our reference staff for help or try browsing the romance section (located in the non-fiction stacks) yourself!

Too embarrassed to be seen checking out a romance novel? Don’t be! Librarians don’t judge and our lips stay firmly sealed— so read as you please.

Below is a selection of some of our favorites to get you started.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

A Change of Heart by Sonali Dev

Royal HolidayThe Wedding Party; and The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune by Roselle Lim

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

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