Staff Recommendations

February 2024

Milk Street SimpleMilk Street simple by Christopher Kimball Regardless of where you come down on the America’s Test Kitchen/Milk Street rivalry (I know where I do), there is no denying that both outlets routinely spin out excellent cooking texts. This latest from Milk Street is precisely what the title implies: simple. The recipes run the gamut from snacks to sides to mains, with each presented clearly and accompanied by colorful (and appetizing) photographs. Almost all of the recipes can be prepared on a weeknight with ingredients either already on hand or easily procurable. After working with this cookbook for a few weeks, it continues to bear new staples while also stretching my comfort zone. I recommend it! ~Noah Weckwerth~

Welcome to Beach TownWelcome to beach town by Susan Wiggs Nikki’s life is finally going perfectly. She was able to attend a prestigious high school and graduate as valedictorian. For a girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” it is quite the height of a dream. However, there is a secret and her well-rehearsed speech changes at the last minute to shatter the community with information none of the elite want to acknowledge. A surfer’s daughter, Nikki goes into exile as a competitive surfer herself, finding fame, but not fortune. A personal tragedy finds her returning home to Alara Cove to rebuild her life. Times have changed for the community, but her dad needs her and romance finds her unexpectedly. In typical fashion, the author takes a hot button current topic and weaves an enchanting story around it. Love all her titles. ~Sharon Passick~

Three Tasks for a DragonThree tasks for a dragon by Eoin Colfer and P.J. Lynch This is a fairy tale about a young prince, exiled by a duplicitous stepbrother who wants the crown for himself. Young Prince Lir doesn’t have the magical gift that is the mark of the rightful ruler, and instead his brother, Prince Delbayne, displays this gift. However, the gift was achieved by using black magic and Delbayne can’t risk exposure so Lir is sent on a quest that his brother secretly hopes will result in his death. Lir must rescue a girl, Cethlenn, held captive by a fierce dragon, which may require fighting and slaying the dragon. However, when Prince Lir meets the dragon, both he and the dragon have to reassess what they expected of the other. The Prince is kind and helpful to the dragon and the dragon begins to reveal secrets. On top of that, Cethlenn has a few surprises of her own. Colfer is well-known for his tales of adventure, and at only 105 pages with rich illustrations by Lynch, this story could be a terrific family read aloud. ~Sue Daniels~ 

The HoldoversThe holdovers (DVD) by Alexander Payne My first introduction to Alexander Payne was through the 2004 Oscar Winner Sideways, a hilarious movie that touches on many difficult subjects without ever dimming the lights of the actors' delivery and comedic timing. With his newest movie, The Holdovers, Payne brings back Sideways star Paul Giamatti who plays a curmudgeonly boarding school teacher in a story about a rambunctious teenage student (Dominic Sessa) who is left by his family to spend Christmas at the school. Over the two-week Christmas Break, Giamatti, Sessa, and the school's head cook (D'avine Joy Randolph) form an unlikely bond as they all work through intense and complicated periods of their lives. This movie made me cry, warmed my heart, and had me laughing out loud. The Holdovers feels like an instant Christmas classic, and will be a movie that I rewatch every year during the holidays. ~Mike Wadle ~

The Museum of Lost and FoundThe museum of lost and found by Leila Sales Sixth grade is a challenging time for Vanessa, especially since her long-time best friend, Bailey, has grown distant. Vanessa is afraid their friendship is officially over so when she discovers an abandoned museum in her neighborhood, she decides it’s the perfect place to create an exhibit showing how wonderful her friendship with Bailey has been. Next the museum is discovered by a boy from Vanessa’s Hebrew school who wants to add an exhibit about his recently-deceased dog. Then Vanessa’s brother wants to add an exhibit and soon, there are several exhibits, all being kept secret so the kids don’t get into trouble for being in an abandoned building. Working on the museum gives Vanessa an outlet to sort out her troubles, which also include having an active-duty father deployed overseas, until she learns the museum is scheduled for demolition. A subplot involving a mysterious painting found in the museum adds some intrigue, but this is primarily a story about growing up and taking responsibility for one’s own life. Recommended for grades 4-6. ~Sue Daniels~ 

The Corset and the JellyfishThe corset & the jellyfish by Nick Bantock | The title is weird. If you’re familiar with Bantock, it’s to be expected. All of his work is bizarre, fantastical: a waking fever dream. This book is a collection of drabbles – 100 word micro-short stories. Each vingette is its own – a snapshot from a shoebox of years worth of vacations photos. Even if you’re not into short stories, you should give this a try. It’ll stretch your brain a bit, and spark wonder within you for how so vivid an image can be created from so few words. ~Elizabeth Glaser~ 

Starling HouseStarling house by Alix E. Harrow | Opal will do anything it takes to get her brother, Jasper, out of Eden, Kentucky. Her dreams have all been put aside and forgotten, including her rather persistent dreams of the Starling House. The Starling House, built by E. Starling, author of the children's horror book The Underland. The Starling House, which everyone avoids. The Starling House, where Opal finds herself working as a cleaner. The house seems almost alive, and is as mysterious as its warden, Arthur Starling. As Opal starts putting together the pieces of the past, she draws unwanted attention. Can she figure out the real history of E. Starling before her past catches up to her? Or will she be just another victim of Eden's bad luck? Starling House is a quirky standalone supernatural mystery with closed-door romantic elements. ~Frankie Harkavy~  

The Bookshop on the CornerThe bookshop on the corner by Jenny Colgan | As in the way of the world, our dream job does not always pan out. So Nina finds herself out of that dream job, a librarian in a hectic city matching books with readers. But now she is at loose ends. To change the course of her life she moves to a far away village, buys a huge van, and converts it to a mobile bookshop she moves from corner to corner in the nearby neighborhoods. She is still changing lives with books and storytelling. Her own included, maybe even a happily ever after. Delightful story—how can it be otherwise if it is about books! ~Sharon Passick~    

The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered LadiesThe benevolent society of ill-mannered ladies by Alison Goodman | This book was not what I expected. I judged this book by its cover and expected another Jane Austen-era historical mystery with some light romance, which it is, but with a “girl power” vibe in the best way possible. The main characters are well-to-do middle-aged twin sisters, Lady Augusta and Lady Julia Colebrook. Lady Augusta is intelligent and resourceful and particularly dissatisfied with the role she has been assigned by society as the invisible spinster, a role reinforced by her disagreeable brother, Lord Duffield, the head of the family. So, when a close friend beseeches the sisters to rescue her goddaughter from an abusive husband, they agree, and the adventures begin. One rescue leads to another and Augusta finds herself repeatedly crossing paths with a nobleman who is on the wrong side of the law for reasons that aren’t completely clear…yet. This is the first in an expected series and I look forward to seeing what these ladies will get up to next. ~Sue Daniels~

January 2024

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho As it is with each new year, many of us are beginning a journey to better ourselves in some way, shape, or form. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is an excellent accompaniment to any personal journey one might be embarking upon. It tells the tale of Santiago, who leaves behind his life as a shepherd to travel the world in search of treasure. This quick and easy read is packed full of life lessons, worldly wisdom, and encouraging anecdotes. Coelho gives the reader a grounding and humbling experience through a fictional character whose trials and tribulations blend seamlessly with those we face daily in the real world. Whether you're working on a new year's resolution, looking to learn about yourself, or just in need of an intriguing read, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, is a great way to kick off a new year of reading. ~Mike Wadle~

murder by degreesMurder by Degrees by Ritu Mukerji As a fan of historical fiction, I'm drawn to books that portray women in history whose important roles may have been overlooked and underappreciated. In Mukerji’s debut novel, the heroine is a woman physician in 1875 Philadelphia who has to make a place for herself in the male dominated field of medicine. But between teaching and seeing patients at the hospital, she becomes involved in the apparent murder of one of her patients. Her detective skills prove to be as brilliant as her medical skills as she aids local law enforcement in solving the murder.  

I really enjoyed this book for two reasons. First, it was a suspenseful mystery with clever twists and turns you don't see coming. Secondly, I appreciated how the author (who happens to also be a physician herself) draws us into the world of a woman doctor in the late 19th century and how she had to prove to everyone that she belonged there. I look forward to more from this physician-writer.  ~Mary Hartwig~

PrincelessPrinceless (Graphic novel) by Jeremy Whitley | What an absolute hoot! This is shelved as a kid’s graphic novel, but honestly, kind of like the jokes in Disney’s 1992 Aladdin, you really need to be an adult to fully appreciate the nuanced subversion. A mish-mash of fairy tale troupes – princess in a tower, prince charming – collide, centering on a smart, plucky heroine and her dragon, Sparky. Favorite quote, “You’re so anxious to take a wife! Why don’t you take a book first? Work your way up.” This princess is off to right the world. ~Elizabeth Glaser~

Assistant to the VillainAssistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer | Evie Sage is a young woman in a generic medieval fantasy setting working to support her ill father and young sister. When her previous employment ends with her getting stabbed, she accepts the first offer that comes her way, being the personal assistant to the Villain, the scourge of the town and the enemy of King Benedict. The job has more eyeballs and corpses than her last one, but the Villain is not what she expected--he is almost polite to her, as well as attractive. They soon find out that there is a traitor in their midst; can Evie find out who it is before she loses her job, and maybe her life? And could the Villain possibly like her back? Assistant to the Villain is a fun fantasy romance that will leave you eagerly awaiting the sequel. ~Frankie Harkavy~

Shot with CrimsonShot with Crimson by Nicola Upson | This newest title in the Josephine Tey series takes Tey to Hollywood during Hitchcock’s filming of Rebecca in 1939, and includes a cameo appearance by Daphne du Maurier. Members of the Rebecca film crew leave Hollywood to travel to England for shots of the actual mansion that inspired du Maurier’s novel. Crimes of the past come to light and propel additional violence, both in England and Hollywood. Upson is skilled at pulling characters, clues and history together to create striking images and a startling conclusion. ~Sarah Muench~