Current Picks: Book Reviews

You Can't Touch My Hair

Half of the podcast (and show)Two Dope Queens (her partner Jessica Williams provides the foreword), comedian Phoebe Robinson's infectious personality is on display in her debut collection of essays. She shares personal and professional experiences in a humorous and moving way in You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain (2016).

I highly recommend listening to Robinson narrate the audiobook (available via Overdrive) to hear her take on being a Black woman in America, racism and sexism in the workplace, and current and classic pop culture topics. It's funny and engaging social commentary. If you prefer to read the memoir, that's on Overdrive too.

We've got a list of Black Voices: Memoirs, Essays, & Poetry. Check it out.



Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes)

My book club recently read Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with recipes) (2019). We all enjoyed the novel and it inspired a wonderful discussion. Lorna Landvik's writing style is beautiful and humorous, though the non-chronological storytelling is sometimes difficult to follow.

Haze Evans, 81, has been a columnist for her local newspaper in small town Minnesota for the past 50 years. After she suffers a stroke and is hospitalized, the newspaper's editor reprints some of her columns, highlighting major cultural events from the past. Haze's personality is very likable, and her elegant word choices and storytelling abilities really draw you into her life.

The editor's teenage son needs a job, and is given the task of sifting through Haze's past columns and deciding which ones to run. As he comes to know more about Haze and the issues she wrote about, he's inspired to share them with his English class at school, which profoundly affects his classmates, their teacher, and all involved in reprinting the columns.

Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla today.

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Toil & Trouble

In his latest memoir, Augusten Burroughs, once again, delivers a story filled with laughter, heartache, and yes...magic. In this story of moving from the big city to the country, he reveals that he is a witch. Yes, a witch! Yes, I was a bit thrown over this revelation, but through his candid telling of his own life, I grew to appreciate him even more.

As always, he includes a fantastic cast of characters you really can connect to. If you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed. In Toil & Trouble (2019), he reveals much more of himself to his fans than just being a witch.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.

The Rural Diaries

Hilarie Burton Morgan's book The Rural Diaries (2020) is like catching up with an old friend over coffee.
I have been a fan since she played Peyton Sawyer on One Tree Hill. I didn't follow her personal life much until a year ago when I started following the cast on Instagram. Hilarie seemed well-grounded and normal. I wondered if it was an act for Instagram or if this was actually her.

After reading her book, I'm pleased to say, it's all her. She's so normal. It's refreshing. Her words are real and authentic. She uses bad four-letter words occasionally. Her stories are heartwarming and relatable. She shares tips for gardening, recipes, and home improvement. And speaking of home improvement, she loves Home Depota girl after my own heart. She talks about being a friend, a mother, a wife, and a woman.

She is married to actor, Jeffery Dean Morgan, who I had a mad crush on when he played Denny Duquette on Grey's Anatomy. And, she co-owns a candy store in a small New York town with actor, Paul Rudd. How did this all happen? I don't want to spoil it for you. Read the book. It's just another one of the heartwarming stories that she tells. Trust me; you'll enjoy it.

I'm so glad I listened to Hilarie narrate the book. I think hearing her words, spoken by her, made her stories more enjoyable. Like I said, catching up with an old friend over coffee.

If you're a fan of Hilarie, read (I mean, listen to) the book. Even if you're not a fan, it's a truly enjoyable memoir that in a nutshell, is about a girl, her life, and a farm. Check out The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm today. Visit Overdrive to listen to the audiobook or read the ebook.



Hey Kiddo

This memoir is a moving, sad, but also hopeful story of a family affected by loss and addiction. Hey Kiddo: How I Lost my Mother, Found my Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction (2018) tells a story of how families can come in all shapes and sizes, messy and ugly, but also loving and forgiving. Throughout, Jarrett J. Krosoczka found hope and a sense of love and support. Others will feel less alone in their own struggles.
The audiobook is amazing! Using music and sound effects, this very personal audiobook is narrated by the author with family members and friends voicing the rest of the characters. In the author's notes, he gives us more insight into his family and childhood. Listen to the audiobook on Hoopla today.

The author uses mixed media art with actual letters included in with his drawings. The burnt orange undertones and pineapple wallpaper are a beautiful part of the story as the author explains in notes on his art.This powerful and unforgettable graphic novel is heartbreaking yet uplifting.

Hey Kiddo is a memoir not to be missed. Read the ebook on Overdrive.

Hey Kiddo is a National Book Award Finalist, a 2021 Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (Abe), and a Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults.

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia

Just finished playing a Legend of Zelda game and are longing for more? If so, this is the perfect book for you. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia (2013) is jam packed with pictures, lore, and information regarding the various Zelda titles. It goes in depth into how some of the environments were created and how it impacts the greater Zelda universe.

If nothing else, the book is just a joy to look at for its art style alone and design choices. Read it instantly on Hoopla today.

Splinter the Silence

A welcomed reuniting of two of Val McDermid's most memorable characters occurs in Splinter the Silence (2018). D.I. Carol Jordan and psychologist Tony Hill are hot on the trail of a vicious serial killer and they are running out of time. Those of you who are fans of McDermid will thoroughly enjoy this non-stop page turner. Those of you who are new to McDermid will be looking for her books from now on. A perfect enjoyable read!

Visit Hoopla to find Splinter the Silence: read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.



Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I just saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1997) on Overdrive's ebook list. Well if you are looking for one great book to read, go no further. You found it. The best page-turning adventure that you can't put down, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in this epic story of the eleven-year-old wizard who becomes every reader's favorite hero.

Even if you saw the movie, you'll want to read Harry's entire story. It has no boring parts and will grip your attention from page one. You will feel you've been transported into the story itself. And it does not matter how old you are. Even as I'm writing this, I can feel myself aboard the Hogwarts Express on my way to live Harry's journey with him and his pals Hermione and Ron. This is a ride you will not want to miss.

Check out J. K. Rowling's debut novel (and the one that started it all). Visit Overdrive to read or listen to the first book... then check out the rest of the series.



The Psychopath Test

This is a funny yet thought-provoking look at the diagnosis and treatment of psychopathy, a disorder involving anti-social attitudes and behavior. Jon Ronson talks to some pretty interesting characters including Emmanuel Constant, paramilitary leader of a Haitian death squad.

Beyond the very interesting case histories, Ronson purports that the diagnosis of psychopathy is largely dependent on the confirmation bias of the examinerand that could put all of us at risk.

The title of this book refers to an actual list of anti-social traits called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist. Ronson examines the effectiveness of the list and concludes checklist results can be interpreted conflictingly by different researchers. In other words, the checklist results are in the eye of the beholder.

You will like The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (2011). Read the book on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla. Ronson also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats and So You've Been Publicly Shamed, which are good too.



When We Were Vikings

Quirky and optimistic, 21-year-old Zelda is discovering her place in the world. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Zelda's brain doesn't work like everyone else's does; she narrates her unique coming of age journey with endearing innocence.

When We Were Vikings (2020) will capture your attention from the start. For me, Andrew David MacDonald's uplifting debut was a one sitting read. It's perfect for fans of Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook today.



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Everywhere You Don't Belong

This dark and quirky coming of age story is set on the south side of Chicago. Claude's parents have abandoned him, but luckily he has his strong-willed, civil rights activist grandma and her alcoholic friend, Paul, to look after him. There are times when you'll wish you could just reach out and give the awkward Claude a hug as he struggles to make friends and fit in to society while navigating the tensions and issues of life on the south side.

Spiked with humor and social commentary, Gabriel Bump's debut novel is a quick and entertaining read full of memorable characters. Check out Everywhere You Don't Belong (2020) today.

Available as an ebook on Hoopla.



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Two Girls Down

If you're looking for an incredibly smart and fearless protagonist, you will love Alice Vega, who is featured in this suspenseful tale. Alice is a bounty hunter from California with a talent for finding missing people. Two young sisters disappear from a parking lot in broad daylight in a small Pennsylvania town. Their mother, as would be expected, falls to pieces and her aunt hires Alice to help find the two girls. The local cops try to shut her completely out of the investigation. However, nothing will stop Alice who enlists the help of Max Caplan (Cap), a disgraced former cop. Together they make quite a formidable team.

After this novel, you will most likely look forward to more appearances by the multitalented Alice Vega. Check out Two Girls Down (2018) by Louisa Luna today. Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook.



The German Girl

I highly recommend The German Girl (2016). It is the fascinating story of two very different girls growing up in different times. In 1939, Hannah Rosenthal is wealthy and originally from Berlin. In 2014, Anna is from New York.

Hannah's story features her and her parents' escape from Germany before the war begins. She is not of "pure" German blood and they escape by securing passage on a luxury transatlantic ocean liner, called the St. Louis. Her family plans to make a new life for themselves in Havana, Cuba.

Anna receives a birthday gift from a mysterious unknown relative, her Great Aunt Hannah, in Cuba. So Anna and her mother travel to Cuba to meet this relative and find out the truth of her past.

Author Armando Lucas Correa weaves the two stories together so well that I could not put the book down. It is inspired by the true story of the passengers of the St. Louis and what became of them during the Holocaust. (Spoiler alert: read the article from the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum—but not if you want to be surprised by the book).

The German Girl is available to read or listen to via Overdrive. Check it out today. Visit our website for a list of World War II Novels.



Code Name Hélène

In Ariel Lawhon's latest gripping historical novel, she delves into the life of socialite spy Nancy Wake. Code Name Hélène (2020) is richly detailed. The chapters alternate between her early life and her life as an agent.

This New Zealand native left home at 16. She moved to Europe and worked as a journalist. Nancy eventually married a Frenchman. When France falls to Germany during World War II, she starts working for the Resistance. She is quite a dynamic leader with good instincts and quick reactions. I was truly disappointed when this ended.

Visit Overdrive to read the ebook or listen to the audiobook of Code Name Hélène. Learn more about the real-life heroism of Nancy Wake by reading this History.com article. For more novels featuring women in the resistance, check out our book list.