Book Review: “That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story”

That Can Be Arranged is a lighthearted, funny, and colorful graphic memoir that details author Huda Fahmy’s love story, which happened to be an arranged marriage.  Huda guides us through what it was like growing up as a Muslim woman and trying to balance both familial and personal expectations for relationships.  The way she navigates the path between choice and tradition is very encouraging, but her stories are also hilarious. She sorts through suitors, dates with chaperones, and negotiates arranged marriages as well as any Jane Austen heroine. We get to live through bad dates and gossiping aunties, but also learn the lovely story of how Huda met her crush and now husband Gehad. 

I recommend giving this a read if you are looking for something sweet and fluffy to warm up these rainy days. The courtship between Huda and Gehad is really adorable, and I definitely enjoyed learning more about significant aspects of Huda’s culture, religion, and traditions along the way.  

This review is by Megan Hultman of the Circulation Desk.  

Click here to request a copy. 

Book Review: “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” by Iain Reid

Well, THIS was disturbing. Maybe not a book to read in 2020? I picked this up because the horror movie forums I follow were raving about Netflix’s new film version of it and I wanted to read it first. Now I can’t tell if I’m excited to see it or dreading it. Not really; I’m excited. Online fans mentioned how David Lynch-like it is (the movie), and they’re correct, but the book also has a real David Cronenberg and Chuck Palahniuk feel to it. In other words, it’s haunting. 

The book seemingly starts out with a routine (if maybe a little tense) trip to a farmhouse for the introduction of a new girlfriend (the narrator) to her boyfriend’s parents. We get mostly her inner dialogue and anxiety about her partner, Jake, and whether to end things. We’re given just enough of the relationship to think that maybe she should just stick it out, that this seems pretty workable, and then they arrive at the farmhouse and everything you thought you’d intuited is gone and never comes back and it’s one harrowing scene after another and you wish and wish they were just back in the safety of that car trip. Fueled by tiny, cryptic chapters that allude to an unknowable yet obviously terrible tragedy, this books speeds along stopping only occasionally for the reader to think “Wait. What? NO. NO. NO.”

I honestly don’t know if I’m recommending this or not. I loved it and think many others will too but it tore up my brain and soul — so just know that going into it, okay?

Review by Sarah Maciejewski of the Children’s Room. 

Click here to request a copy. 

 

 

Book Review: “Mooncakes”

Mooncakes, written by Suzanne Walker and beautifully illustrated by Wendy Xu, is a young adult graphic novel about witch-in-training Nova Huang, who is apprenticing at home with her grandmothers. Together they run a magical bookstore with just about every magical book you could want to read, and more tea than you could probably drink in a lifetime. Nova is going about her business protecting the town with her witchy expertise when a childhood friend, Tam Lang,  suddenly comes back into her life. Tam happens to be a werewolf with a big secret, but I won’t spoil the rest for you! 

This graphic novel is a diverse halloween adventure perfect for any reader looking for great artwork and an inclusive cast of characters. This story explores magic, romance, friendship, family, and the supernatural in such an entertaining and inventive way. I personally recommend adding this to your reading list if you enjoyed graphic novels like Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell or The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill.

Review by Megan Hultman, Circulation Assistant.

Click here to request a copy. 

 

Book Review: “Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre”

I would recommend Max Brooks’ Devolution to anyone, but especially to fans of Brooks’ World War Z, Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and the History Channel’s 2007 series, MonsterQuest. Told mostly through the firsthand journal account of Kate Holland, it’s interspersed with interviews with several people who either knew her or were involved in trying to piece together both her disappearance and the aftermath on the community she left behind.

Shortly after Holland and her husband move to a cultured Utopian living community called Greenloop, they get the uneasy feeling that they’re not alone. Only one community member immediately agrees with them; the others choose to ignore or explain away several warning signs.

Set against a backdrop of a devastating eruption of Mt. Rainier and the ill-equipped isolation it creates for Greenloop, Devolution first examines our growing dependence on technology, our increasing inability to intuit and accept the truth, and our ever-expanding forays into precious habitats. As the book progresses, two more questions emerge: Has the wild survival instinct within us truly disappeared? And . . . is there any sound more frightening than a Sasquatch thwacking a log against a tree? (I’d say only a Werewolf growl and it’s a tight competition.)

Good luck putting this one down!

 

Review by Sarah Maciejewski of the Children’s Room. 

To request a copy, click here. 

Book Review: “Eat at Home Tonight: 101 Simple Busy-Family Recipes for Your Slow Cooker, Sheet Pan, Instant Pot, and More,” by Tiffany King

For the start a new school year, Eat at Home Tonight is a wonderful cookbook, full of dinner options for busy families.  I have bookmarked many of the recipes to try, and the ones I’ve tried so far have been delicious!  I’ll be making her One-Pot Sausage, Corn, and Red Pepper Chowder this week for an easy weeknight dinner.

I love how the cookbook is organized into sections such as “I Only Have 15 Minutes Tonight,” “Everyone’s on a Different Schedule Tonight,” and “I’m Out of the House and Won’t Have Time to Cook Tonight.”

She has a section called “I Want to Cook for the Whole Week Tonight” that involves prepping ingredients for the freezer, that you can thaw out the night before you need them, and dump them into a slow cooker.  (Some recipes also have instructions for a pressure cooker if you prefer that to the slow cooker.)  This section is well organized with color-coded charts of the ingredients you need to buy.  I love her idea of sharing one of these frozen meals with a busy friend.

Another useful section is “I Want to Cook for Tonight and Tomorrow Night,” where she uses the leftovers from the first night in the second night’s dinner.  The leftovers are also freezable if you want to make the second dinner on a different night.

I hate to wash dishes, so one of my favorite sections is “I Don’t Have Time for Dishes Tonight.”  She includes some sheet-pan dinners, soups (including the one I’ll make this week), and skillet meals that only use one pot or pan.

I am always looking for easy recipes for busy weeknights.  This book is full of new meal options for me to try on my family.  You can also check out Tiffany King’s website (eatathomecooks.com) for some more of her tips and tricks.

 

Review by Amanda Walden, who works in the Children’s Room. 

To request a copy, click here

Book Review: “On the Horizon” by Lois Lowry

On the Horizon: World War II Reflections is a stirring new memoir written by Maine’s own Lois Lowry. The book looks back at the history of lives forever changed after the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. The slim novel/memoir is written in verse, with each poem a recollection of heroes both big and small. Her stunning reflections pull you back in time; they are filled with human emotion. Her writing allows each memory to feel personal. The way she recalls events with the innocence of a child but layers in her knowledge as an elder makes the writing so touching to me. Her accounts are brief and simple, but convey strong feelings about humanity, war, and hope.

The illustrations by Kenard Pak are also very simple and add a dream-like personality to each poem. I did not live during that time but it feels like I shared Lois Lowry’s memories, which helps me understand World War II a little better. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. What is truly awesome about this book is the message that time can heal, and that empathy, gratitude and solace can be achieved even after events so tragic. 

Patten Free Library is so fortunate to have Lois Lowry agree to be the keynote speaker at our very first annual Bath Book Bash! Ms. Lowry has written over 40 books and won the Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 1990, for Number the Stars, and in 1994, for The Giver.  If you want to read On the Horizon as a family, you can use the linked teacher’s guide to the book for further discussion.

Click the following link for more information about the Bath Book Bash.

Book review by Katy Dodge, Head of Children’s Services.

To request a copy, click here

 

Book Review: “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell

This book is a wonderfully executed piece of historical fiction.

Maggie O’Farrell creates a family history of William Shakespeare, his wife, and children. Working with very little available factual information, O’Farrell pieces together her imagined version of the world in which Shakespeare lived and worked. In the process, the reader is invited to speculate along with the author about the impacts of abuse, grief, and separation on his relationships and his work.  

O’Farrell opens the story as Hamnet, Shakespeare’s 11-year old son, is desperately seeking medical assistance for his twin sister, Judith, who has contracted the plague. We quickly learn that his mother, Agnes, is nowhere to be found, and that his not-yet-famous father is in London pursuing his dreams. 

While the fate of the twins hangs over you, the author then skips back and forth in time to fill out the family histories. We learn about: Shakespeare’s childhood; his father (who is painted as a social outcast and a bully); how Shakespeare and his wife meet and fall in love; Agnes’ own difficult childhood losses; how the two of them get married after she gets pregnant; how they almost immediately lead separate lives; and how a very spiritually-driven Agnes approaches and experiences childbirth. All this and more.

As you read, you are always brought back to the fate of the twins. (No spoilers, sorry.)  You worry with them; you feel their isolation and fear.  At the same time, the author invites you to wonder if Shakespeare’s marriage was immediately troubled and broken, or whether it was based on independence, support, passion, and trust.  

I can’t talk much about the author’s speculative ending without revealing too much about the book. It definitely elicited a “Wow!” from me.  O’Farrell writes beautifully and simply, yet somehow creates detailed scenes that place you directly in Shakespeare’s world.  I found that the story was also a reminder, in difficult times such as these, about healing and hope.

Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian

Click here to request a copy. 

Book Review: Great Beach Reads by Beatriz Williams and Elin Hilderbrandt

Her Last Flight, by Beatriz Williams
28 Summers, by Elin Hilderbrandt

For anyone looking for a good beach read during these dog days of summer, two authors of the genre have new releases that might interest you.  I recently read Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams and 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand.  I loved the former, I liked the latter, and I’m sharing my thoughts with you, dear reader, for what they’re worth.

Beatriz Williams is a best-selling author of lush, historical fiction.  Some of her books are meant to be part of a wider series (The Schuyler Sisters trilogy – no connection to the sisters of Hamilton fame, or the Wicked Readhead books) and all of her books seem to be a part of her own literary universe.  In other words, though this book is a stand alone story, fans of Williams’ work will recognize characters from other stories.  Her Last Flight is what I can imagine critics calling an achingly beautiful novel.  The story spans the globe and covers the exciting evolution of flight from the heyday of Charles Lindbergh and new flight records, to the weaponization of aircraft in the Spanish Revolution and WWII.  It’s essentially a story about Irene Foster, an Amelia Earhart type pioneer who disappears without a trace during an around the world flight, and Janey Everett, an independent and rather salty photojournalist who thinks she just may have solved the mystery of Foster’s disappearance.  As we learn the stories of these two women, we are treated to tales of female empowerment in difficult terrain, complicated parent/child relationships, and epic romantic stories that capture the rapture, hope, and sometimes heartbreak of love.  If you’ve got a case of wanderlust, this story will take you to Hawaii, California, Australia, Spain, France, and a few far-flung locales in between.  I have read all of Williams’ novels, and to me, this one is as strong as anything she’s written.  Her Last Flight wrapped me in a dreamy mood and stayed with me for days.  I highly recommend this book as a satisfying beach read.

28 Summers was the selection for a Mom’s bookclub that meets on the beach (Maine is pretty great!).  I’ve read a few of Hilderbrand’s books, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read.  Her novels are set on beautiful Nantucket, and it’s clear that she loves the island.  She also has a knack for describing food and drink with appetizing detail.  I confess to seeking out Sancerre from my local beverage retailer to see for myself how refreshing it is (it’s featured in all of her novels that I’ve read; it’s now a favorite summer white).  All this is to say that I approached this book expecting to enjoy it.  The basic premise of the story is that Mallory Blessing, a 20-something recent graduate trying to make her way in NYC, inherits a cottage on Nantucket and escapes her unhappy city life.  Her big brother comes to spend Labor Day weekend with her, and he brings his best friend from their hometown, Fray, and his college roommate, Jake.  Mallory and Jake have spoken on the phone, but never met.  It turns out that Jake and Mallory have a real connection, and it spawns a unique relationship whereby they meet every summer over Labor Day weekend, no matter what.  We are supposed to want Mallory and Jake to be together for always, but they have created a self-imposed obstacle to their happiness.  Over the years, we’re along for a ride of their individual ups and downs, triumphs and heartbreaks, children and career changes.  The end is heart-wrenching, though we know how it ends from the first pages of the book.  It’s a good read – a consumable read – and even if it doesn’t leave you in the sort of fog where you can’t quite part with the characters, it’s a solid option for escapist fun.  As with Williams’ novels, fans will enjoy the cameos from other characters in the Hilderbrand universe.  Though different, I found these books to be interesting companions.  They both explore femininity, motherhood, friendships, love and loss, and the life-changing nature of unsought fame.  If anyone would like to read these books and gather a group for discussion, I recommend meeting on the beach.  Perhaps with a glass of Sancerre.

Review by Emily Read, Development Director.

Click here to reserve a copy of Her Last Flight. (It is also available through the Cloud Library in eBook or eAudiobook format.)

Click here to reserve a copy of 28 Summers.

Book Review: “A Curse So Dark and Lonely”

A Curse So Dark and Lonely 
Brigid Kemmerer

In an instant, Harper’s life changed from one of deadly danger, as lookout for her brother’s nefarious doings, to a life of deadly danger, trapped in a castle with a lethal man-at-arms (Grey) and a monster/prince (Rhen).

Rhen’s father, while he was alive and ruling Emberfall, made the mistake of systematically slaughtering all of the mages in his kingdom.  Naturally, he missed one.  This one, strengthened by deaths of all the rest, has created a curse and bestowed it upon Rhen and Grey.  Each season, Grey leaves Emberfall and goes to “the other side,” fetching a woman they hope can fall in love with Rhen.  Each season, they fail.  Each season, Rhen is transformed into a monster who ravages his own people, his castle, and his people’s trust. 327 times. This is the last season.  

In this last attempt to save the prince and the Kingdom, Grey goes to Washington D.C. to grab a girl to end the curse. He is interrupted by Harper – and ends up with her, instead.  Harper, whose smart mouth and fighting spirit have gotten her in and out of trouble for years.  Whose father has abandoned her family.  Whose mother is dying of cancer.  Who has cerebral palsy.  Whose brother is playing thug in attempt to keep the wolves away from his tenuous situation.  

The traditional Beauty and the Beast fairy tale is only one thread of this brilliant retelling.  Loyalty, love, hope, fate, strategy, danger, and the value of a life complicate and enrich this complex, engaging story.  I have not been so utterly involved in a book in years, and this is by far my favorite fairy tale retelling ever. 

Review by Andrea Terry, who works at the Circulation Desk.

To request a copy, click here.

This book and its sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Lonely, are also available through the Cloud Library.

Kanopy Movie Review: “Mostly Martha” (2001)

When my husband and I received this movie as a gift many years ago, it took us a long time to actually watch the film. Once we did, we realized what a lovely gift of a film it was; I just smiled when I saw it among the KANOPY selections. I can’t wait to watch it again this weekend.

A German-made film (yes, subtitled), Mostly Martha is about a workaholic chef (Martha) who is forced to adjust to major changes in her personal and professional life when her eight-year-old niece, Lina, arrives on her doorstep. Martha’s sister has been killed in a car accident.

Martha and Lina’s relationship evolves slowly, sometimes painfully, as Martha is forced to address the needs of this sweet, but depressed and grieving child. Up until Lina’s arrival, Martha devoted every waking hour to her work. Every dish she created was a masterpiece; every night was a late night. Martha’s shyness, combined with her long, late work days, make it difficult for her to create a life with anyone, let alone care for a child.

Her connection to Lina develops with the help of Mario, Martha’s new Italian sous-chef. He wins the hearts of both Lina and Martha as he works to cheer them up with jokes and elaborate meals. He helps Martha locate and write a letter to Lina’s long-absent father in Italy.

And of course, the father appears just as relationships and routines seem to be settling. What happens next? You’ll have to watch.

Review by Roberta Jordan, the Outreach and Instruction Librarian.

To sign up for KANOPY, click here. Each patron will have eight free rentals per month.

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