This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
What if you could take a vacation to your past? As she turns 40, Alice Stern’s life, though ostensibly happy, is not quite what she imagined. Her beloved father is dying, her career stalled, her love life flat lining. If you ask Alice, she’s still waiting for her real life to begin. As a teenager, it all seemed so limitless: a great relationship with her dad, countless friends and future prospects. On the evening of her 40th birthday, Alice falls asleep: alone, inebriated, and in a shed. When she wakes up, it’s 1996 and she’s in high school again. What follows is Alice’s tender, thoughtful, and (very) funny journey to discovery. Do not be turned off by the time travel element. This Time Tomorrow is a perfect book for right now: wise and witty, a truly enjoyable reading experience.
But wait there’s more! This Time Tomorrow is the featured book for Elm Grove Reads 12, featuring NYT bestselling author Emma Straub! Join us at the Elm Grove Woman’s Club on Thursday, May 26 at 7 p.m. as Emma will be in conversation about her latest book with Elm Grove Librarian Noah Weckwerth. This event is presented by the Friends of the Elm Grove Library and Boswell Book Company.
NOTE: This is a ticketed event. Tickets are $28 + tax and fees, and can be purchased at emmastraubegpl.eventbrite.com. Ticket includes a signed copy of the book. Books will be distributed at the event. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Hello Molly: A Memoir by Molly Shannon
I’ve always enjoyed Molly Shannon’s exuberant and over-the-top sketches on Saturday Night Live, and wondered what could have inspired such absurd yet oddly familiar characters. An unthinkable tragedy shaped her life: at age 4, Shannon, her 6-year-old sister, and their father survived a fatal car accident that claimed her mother, baby sister and young cousin. The driver was her father, who had been drinking. This is a profoundly honest and heart wrenching account of a resilient survivor who found joy in humor and mischief; a wholehearted and fearless force of nature who became a comedy legend, then left television to start a family and take back some of the life that she had lost so long ago. Deserving of all the hype it has generated for its candid and redemptive story as well as its peek into the world of comedy television and movies, I could not put it down and finished it in one day! ~Shannon McKeown~
A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear
England, 1942. Private investigator Maisie Dobbs is hired by pilot Jo Hardy to find the answer to two questions: 1. Who fired shots at her plane as she was flying low near Biggin Hill airfield? 2. Who abducted the American serviceman, Matthias Crittenden, found bound and gagged in an abandoned barn close to where the shots were fired? In Jacqueline Winspear's 17th book in the series, Maisie's new assignment thrusts her into complex wartime issues as she unravels a plot with multi-layered intrigue affecting local villagers, her own family, and the national security of both England and America. The important work of the British Air Transport Auxiliary pilots of WWII who "ferried" planes from one airfield to another is featured in this book, as well as the historic visit of Eleanor Roosevelt to England in 1942. Having read all of the books in this mystery series, I found this installment to be exceptional. I both read and listened to it, and really enjoyed the narrator of the audiobook. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Life for the inhabitants of the boarded-up house at the end of the road is simple. They keep to themselves, almost forgotten by the rest of the world. But this daily peace balances on a precarious tightrope. Lauren wants to go outside and play like the other girls, but Ted forbids it and often locks her away. Ted is not Lauren’s father. Olivia rejoices in the word of God and thinks she should have her own TV show. Olivia is a black cat. Living on top of one another means these three have become each other’s whole worlds. As much as they love each other, they can hate each other just as intensely. But their already delicate way of life is thrown into further turmoil when a new neighbor moves in next door. She introduces herself. She asks uncomfortable questions. She is determined to find her missing sister. You think you already know this story. You don’t. ~Jay Robillard~
Quilters of the Door by Ann Hazelwood
If you are intrigued with Door County, and have an interest in quilts (even if you don’t really), meet Claire Stewart. Claire is ready for a change in her life, and when her dear friend offers her the use of a cabin in Fish Creek, she can’t resist. She also takes her friend’s place in a very exclusive quilting club. Claire is a watercolor quilt artist, and the beauty of Door County captivates her right away. Never one to stay satisfied with the status quo, if she thinks there might be a better way, Claire goes for it. The bad relationship she wanted to escape is behind her, or is it? More of Claire’s ideas show up in the sequel Door to Door Quilts. The author has also written other series about quilts available in the Bridges Library System. ~Sharon Passick~
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
I will admit to already being a fan of Hendrix’s work, so I was itching to get my hands on a copy of The Final Girl Support Group and let me say, it did not disappoint. The novel opens with a therapy group populated by “final girls,” a word used to describe the last girl standing in horror films after the killer has been defeated. However, the trauma these girls faced was real and was used to churn out film franchises based on their lives. When one of the girls is suddenly murdered in the place where she confronted her killer decades before, only ultra-paranoid final girl Lynette questions the origin of the rapid string of assaults on the other girls that follows quickly after. She uses all her survival instincts to save her fellow group members and prevent herself from becoming the final Final Girl. Hendrix has a deft hand at combing tongue-in-cheek humor with skin-crawling horror and little splash of commentary on popular culture. ~Rachael Fealy-Layer~
Verity by Colleen Hoover
Lowen is suffering a bout of writer’s block when her publisher approaches her with an incredible offer: to ghostwrite the last three installments in bestselling author Verity Crawford’s book series. Verity is medically incapacitated and cannot finish writing on her own. Arriving at the Crawford home, Lowen meets Verity’s handsome and deeply broken husband Jeremy. Verity’s recent car accident is only the latest in a string of tragedies that have befallen the Crawfords. While going through Verity’s office, Lowen discovers a manuscript that was never meant to see the light of day. It reveals Verity’s ugly side and fuels Lowen’s attraction to Jeremy. The more Lowen reads, the more repulsed she is by Verity and the more desperate she grows to “save” Jeremy by telling him the truth. But is she aware of all the secrets in the Crawford family? In the middle of this elegant yet ominous setting, Hoover has created a cluster of characters that you simultaneously do and don’t want to root for. ~Jay Robillard~
From Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, comes another excellent historical drama. Set in Belgravia, a posh London neighborhood during the 19th century, the story follows two families: the Trenchards, a successful but snubbed family due to their lack of aristocratic background, and the Brockenhursts, comprised of an Earl and his relations, who are highly respected within their social circle. Lies, secrets, greed, scandal, and yes, even love, inescapably bind both families. The "downstairs" characters are also well represented and play pivotal roles in the surprising twists and turns of the plot. This is a slightly darker, more menacing version of Downton Abbey, but a well-laid plot, good acting, beautiful sets, and period costumes all make for satisfying viewing of this six episode series. ~Mary Hartwig~
As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall
Chicago crime beat reporter Jordan Manning has a difficult job that repeatedly forces her to confront the ugliest sides of humanity. As a woman of color, she also strives to shine a light on the disparity of work put into crimes involving black victims as opposed to white victims. When a black honors student from a prestigious STEM school is found brutally murdered, police progress is slow and Jordan is determined to unmask the killer. She straps on her stilettos and pounds the pavement, conducting interviews, looking for clues. Armed with a master’s degree in criminal forensics and a cultural insight that most cops don’t have, Jordan is able to read between the lines on both sides of the investigation. Written by Emmy-winning talk show host Tamron Hall, Jordan’s narration gives voice to an otherwise neglected population. Her job and culture often pull her in opposing directions and she does everything she can to bridge the gaps. ~Jay Robillard~
The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher | For those who enjoy books about books (and paper, printing, publishing, bookstores and libraries), this is fun historical fiction. The bookseller referred to in the title is Sylvia Beach, who opened Shakespeare and Company in Paris in 1919. Beach’s acquaintances and customers included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and, most significantly for this story, James Joyce. Beach became Joyce’s first publisher of Ulysses while the book was banned in the United States. Maher relates, in detail, the enormous amount of time and hard work involved in the project, and its effect on Beach and her life partner Adrienne Monnier. After finishing, I wanted to learn more about Beach, Jazz-Age Paris and the contemporary version of Shakespeare and Company in Paris (different location, different owner.) A helpful author’s note and a short bibliography are included at the end. ~Sarah Muench~
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict | Hedy Kiesler is a beautiful young woman in 1930’s Europe. After starring in a controversial film, her Jewish father convinces her that marrying an Austrian arms dealer will be protection from the persecutions happening across Europe. She is required to host lavish dinner parties, where frequently she is the only woman, vastly overlooked except for her beauty. By 1937, she realizes life with her controlling husband is not worth the “safety” he represents. She manages to escape, winds up in Hollywood, and becomes the screen star we know as Hedy Lamarr. Nevertheless, her biggest secret (after her Jewish heritage) is that she is a talented scientist. The story behind her invention is fascinating, and shows how much women were ignored for their brains. A recurring theme is the many ways to show how being “only a woman” has been and still is a universal issue. ~Sharon Passick~
Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay | Matt Pine is no stranger to tragedy. Years ago, his older brother Danny was arrested for the murder of his high school girlfriend Charlotte. Despite a Netflix documentary rallying public support declaring him innocent, Danny was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Now Matt has gotten word from the FBI that his parents and younger siblings have died from an apparent gas leak while on vacation. Guided by Special Agent Sarah Keller, Matt returns to his hometown to bury his family, only to encounter hostility from a community scarred by Charlotte’s murder and affronted by the documentary’s intrusive research methods. Meanwhile, Sarah is conducting an investigation of her own. If her suspicions about the Pines’ deaths are true, then it raises questions about Danny’s conviction. Blending past and present, the core mysteries of this book are just “simple, yet complicated” enough to make you break out the corkboard and string on your own. ~Jay Robillard~
The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera | When Prudencia Prim answers an employment ad seeking a private librarian for a household located in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is sure it's the opportunity she's been waiting for. Little does she know what kind of world she is about to step into. She takes the assignment of labeling and organizing the vast book collection of her employer's family home, then begins to make the acquaintance of the townspeople and learn of their unconventional ways. Their outlook on life, love, literature, education and community are a challenge to the highly educated Miss Prim. As the author wrote regarding the residents of San Ireneo de Arnois, they attempt to "preserve the best of the past, without which the present cannot be understood, nor the future be faced." This is a delightful and thoughtful tale. Not a new release, it was recommended to me by a library patron as she was returning it (and paid an overdue fine.) Now I understand why it was an international bestseller upon release in 2014. ~Nancy Arevalo~
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman | In this latest collection, Klosterman looks at the decade between the materialism of the ‘80s and the nascent days of pervasive technology in the early 2000s. Over the course of 12 essays, Klosterman examines U.S. culture through the apathy of the Gen Xers, Ross Perot’s bid for presidency, the beginning of our relationship with the internet, baseball’s doping disgrace, and more. Far from a nostalgic look at the ‘90s, this book shines a light on the behavior and interests of Americans over a decade and how that reflects today. He also covers topics such as the Mandela Effect, Friends and network TV in general (before streaming became the method of choice for households), the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Gulf War, and an inexplicable longing for the 1970s. As enlightening as they are entertaining, these essays will have you reliving the ‘90s. ~Rachael Fealy-Layer~
West Side Story (DVD) | Full disclosure: I have loved West Side Story since I was an impressionable 7th grader, my heart torn in two over star-crossed lovers, colorful gang members, and the haunting melodies that they sang, danced, cried, and died to. So to me, the audacious plan to remake this beloved classic felt like nothing short of heresy.
This was Romeo and Juliet on the streets of New York, with white street gang (Jets) in conflict with newly arrived Puerto Rican gang (Sharks), and the disruption caused when a maturing Jet and the younger sister of the Sharks’ leader fall in love. The award winning 1961 film was an adaptation of the 1957 play and featured starlet Natalie Wood, her singing dubbed, in the lead role of Maria (Juliet). From joy to sorrow, desperation to elation, and hope to tragedy, the music by Leonard Bernstein is at once classical and contemporary, a modern ballet of love, hate,life, and death.
Clearly an homage to the classic film, the 2021 version by Steven Spielberg retains more of the original play with an enhanced and socially aware script by Tony Kushner. This time, racially appropriate casting as well as the singing is pitch perfect, with standout Ariana Debose bringing a fiery intensity to the role of Anita that was rewarded by an Oscar. The beautifully dense and rearranged music and choreography come alive on location and the America number in particular is a breathtaking tour of ins and outs of the neighborhood, full of color and passion that rises above the spoken dialogue. Rita Moreno (Oscar winner as Anita in the 1961 version) shines as an elderly neighborhood storeowner who has lived as witness to a growing and deadly rivalry. I love them both! ~Shannon McKeown~
New in Town by Kevin Cornell | Puddletrunk is a tiny community separated from the rest of the world by a giant chasm and Mortimer Gulch fleeces the residents every few years to rebuild the bridge over the chasm and line his own pockets. When the visiting clock repairman refuses to contribute to the new bridge, patronizing Mr. Gulch declares that the repairman is “new in town and does not know how things work” while secretly plotting against him. However, when you reach the surprise ending of this funny picture book, you realize that the clever repairman knows exactly how things work as he turns the tables on Mr. Gulch. ~Sue Daniels~
Quiet by Céline Claire and Magali Le Huche. | Mr. Martin is fed up with his noisy neighborhood. His solution is to cover his house in a giant bubble that provides complete silence and isolation. Mr. Martin is delighted with the result until he finds that he can’t get rid of the bubble. Will his neighbors realize that he needs help and rescue him? ~Sue Daniels~
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel | Disclaimer: Although true crime aficionados will recognize this novel’s inspiration from the real-life case of Dee Dee Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose, Wrobel uses many elements of that case to tell a completely separate and fictitious story.
By all appearances, Patty Watts was a saint. The selfless single mother cared for her chronically ill daughter Rose Gold through a myriad of illnesses. It was years before the world learned the truth: Rose wasn’t sick, she just believed she was. It is what her mother always told her, and why would a mother lie? After a highly publicized trial where Rose testified against her, Patty was sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated child abuse. Now Patty is free and starting her life over, and Rose is helping her. Mother and daughter are living under the same roof once more. Patty wants to teach Rose a lesson for her betrayal. But Rose isn’t that helpless little girl anymore, and she has plans of her own for Mommy Dearest. Deeply unsettling from the very beginning, this book maintains a level of dread that is both agonizing and compulsively readable. Like two people cautiously circling each other at the start of a knife fight, all we can do is wait and watch in horrified anticipation. ~Jay Robillard~
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall | The monks of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing find Beatryce curled up next to Answelica he goat, shivering with fever and unable to recall how she got there. Brother Edik takes special interest in the girl but after her health is restored, she is sent away because the monks fear the king’s men who are tracking her. Beatryce can read and write, which are closely guarded skills and especially forbidden to girls, and that alone would cause the king to hunt her. Also, there is a prophesy that says a girl will unseat the king and Beatryce might just be that girl. As Beatryce’s memory begins to return, she becomes more and more certain that she must confront the people who wronged her and find her way home. This is a charming story told in DiCamillo’s distinctive voice and as with many of her tales, this would make an enjoyable family read-aloud. ~Sue Daniels~
How I Survived a Chinese "Reeducation" Camp by Gulbahar Haitiwaji and Rozenn Morgat
This gripping book is currently the first and only published memoir written by a survivor of the Chinese concentration camp system. Gulbahar Haitiwaji was a former executive in the oil industry in China. She is of Uyghur ethnicity, a group whose culture, language and religion have Turkish roots. She and her Uyghur ancestors are from the province of Xinjiang, in the northeastern corner of China. Twice the size of the state of Texas, this oil-rich land of deserts and oases has been fought over for centuries, but became part of Communist China in 1955. The discrimination towards the Uyghur people (pronounced "wee-guhr") has now become full-scale genocide. Facilitated by a gulag-type system of internment camps, it has been documented that more than one million Uyghur individuals have been detained in them. The author describes how she endured hundreds of hours of interrogation, torture, brainwashing, malnutrition, and police violence. Now living in exile in France, she courageously tells her story on behalf of the many Uyghurs who have undergone similar treatment but didn't make it out. ~Nancy Arevalo~
King Richard (DVD)
Get ready to fall even deeper in love with the Williams sisters! Instead of fanning out about this movie for three paragraphs (which I could do), I’ll just say I highly recommend it for its inspirational story and authentic portrayal of it. For Richard Williams, it’s a redemptive treatment, as his oft-derided and controversial parenting tactics are seen through a lens more fully in this film. All told, the successes of the Williams sisters (all of them) are a testament to the love and determination of their parents. An enjoyable origin story of two global icons and their hard-won journey. Plus, Will Smith reminds us he can really act. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. ~Noah Weckwerth~
The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley
Fast paced, riveting, suspenseful. This just begins to describe The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. The story begins as Jess arrives in Paris on the lukewarm invitation of her half-brother Ben, only to find he's gone missing. The residents of the swanky apartment building he lives in aren't too friendly and all have their own "issues." It soon becomes clear they are all suspects in Ben's disappearance…each one with their own twisted motive.
What really impressed me about this book was the pace. No testing of the waters here. You dove right into this story and never came up for air. There was no down time in this book. It seemed every chapter dropped a bomb and made you gasp. It held you captive the entire time, just what a good thriller ought to do. ~Mary Hartwig~
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rookie reporter Monique Grant has been offered a career-defining interview on a silver platter: elderly reclusive movie star Evelyn Hugo wants to tell her life story and she has inexplicably selected Monique to write it. The lives of glamorous starlets like Evelyn have always been subject to public scrutiny and venomous gossip. But even after years in front of cameras aimed by movie directors and paparazzi, Evelyn still has plenty of secrets to share. Depicted as a blonde bombshell hopping from one man to the next for much of her career, Evelyn is taking control of her own narrative one last time. Reminiscent of Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, Evelyn details a life every bit as captivating as the movies she starred in. This is a love story, just not in the way one might expect. ~Jay Robillard~
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (DVD)
If you are a fan of the original movie you will enjoy this sequel, as it is done the way a sequel should be. Egon’s daughter has inherited his “farm” with all its ghostly secrets. She and her two children have nowhere else to go, so they are forced to live in the creepy house. Eerie things are happening as Gozer is trying to continue his revenge after killing Egon. Nods to the original movie include the proton packs, the Cadillac Ecto-1, and an “appearance” by Harold Ramis. ~Sharon Passick~
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
On a quest to read more globally this year, I could not have started with a better book than Americanah. The language is evocative and the story is an emotional kaleidoscope. Ifemelu and Obinze could be considered star-crossed lovers, only instead of stars, it’s merely geopolitical and military machinations that get in the way. The book is the journey of their early adult lives, through love, heartbreak, identity, success, and the search for home. It’s also an accessible introduction to the African diaspora and a cultural education. An elegant and affecting read with plenty of meat on the bone. ~Noah Weckwerth~
Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy