Staff Picks

The confederacy of DuncesBrandon
A Confederacy of Dunces
John Kennedy Toole

Synopsis: A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole's hero is one Ignatius J. Reilly, "huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, and a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original character, denizens of New Orleans' lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures" (Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun Times).

Brandon Says: This book isn’t for everyone, but it was for me. Fun and funny characters mixed with a New Orleans French Quarter setting made it really fun to read (although it could be sad, at times). I used to work with someone who was from the area of Louisiana where this book takes place, and he told me that the accents the writer gives the characters is spot on—and that way of talking was hard to nail down in the medium of the written word. He also told me that this was his favorite book of all time…so there’s that, too. 

Brandon's Past Staff Picks

Smoke and MirrorsBrooke
Smoke and Mirrors
Elly Griffiths

Synopsis: Brighton, winter 1951. Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance ’of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’. DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

Brooke Says: If you’re a fan of fairy tales, this mystery is sure to entertain. Elly Griffiths writes a mystery based off of the original fairy tales that demonstrate particular realities of life: love, loss, innocence, and loyalty. We’re not talking your popular tales of princes, glass slippers, and lost princesses but rather your darker, more twisted glimpses of human nature - the tales without happy endings. As DI Stephens struggles to solve a seemingly cold case, Elly Griffiths creates a world where Grimms’ fairy tales prove believable when compared to the sinister murder of two children. Smoke and Mirrors may be the second novel in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series but this does not affect the clarity of characters and their relationships. With backgrounds between characters explained organically and an intriguing crime-solving duo, you won’t be lost. If anything, you’ll be picking up a copy of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales to either reread or explore for the first time.

Brooke's Past Staff Picks

Ordinary GraceDonna
Ordinary Grace
William Kent Krueger

Synopsis: New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson's Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family--which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother--he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years. Told from Frank's perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Donna Says: This wonderful book is a great choice for readers who enjoy a coming of age story in a small town setting. The year is 1961, which evokes memories of the excitement of the young president, John F. Kennedy but also, the fear brought about by the Bay of Pigs and the Cold War. Thirteen year old Frank Drum reveals his story concerning the four deaths that touched him during the summer of 1961. Through Frank, the Drum family, Gus, and the residents of New Bremen, Minnesota, the reader will experience the excitement of youthful discoveries; yet also, brutal truths of life and the ordinary grace of God. 

Donna's Past Staff Picks 

Let's Pretend this never HappenedElizabeth
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
Jenny Lawson

Synopsis: Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives the ones we’d like to pretend never happened are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

Elizabeth says: Jenny Lawson’s first book is a hilarious recount of her bonkers childhood and her struggle with depression and anxiety. I read her first book “Furiously Happy” a few years ago and I’m so happy I circled back around to her first. Can be used in the category of “A book by a Texas author” in the Read More 2018 Challenge. 

Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks

The Peach KeeperMegan
The Peach Keeper
Sarah Allison Allen

Synopsis: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots. But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

Megan Says: Sometimes you just get a hankerin’ for a book that invites you to kick up your feet, pour a glass of peach-flavored iced tea and just relax. Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper is just such a read. Endearing characters, great storytelling and winsome humor make this book feel like a much deserved vacation.

Megan's Past Staff Picks

Gilded CageNina
Gilded Cage
Vic James

Synopsis: In an England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, not all are free; not all are equal; not all will be saved. Commoners must serve the Equals for ten years. Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty-- but will her heart pay the price? Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family, cruelly oppressed, with friends whose ideals could cost him everything, Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

Nina Says: As a debut work, the novel can be a bit wobbly at times on its narrative legs. But James’ Skill is keeping you compelled to read forward and wanting book two, Tarnished City, waiting by the bedside so you can immediately keep going. A fast read, and a great crossover for fans of YA.

Nina's Past Staff Picks

At the Table of WolvesRandall
At the Table of Wolves
Kay Kenyon

Synopsis: A young woman must go undercover and use her superpowers to discover a secret Nazi plot and stop an invasion of England. In 1936, there are paranormal abilities that have slowly seeped into the world, brought to the surface by the suffering of the Great War. The research to weaponize these abilities in England has lagged behind Germany, but now it's underway at an ultra-secret site called Monkton Hall. Kim Tavistock, a woman with the talent of the spill--drawing out truths that people most wish to hide--is among the test subjects at the facility. When she wins the confidence of caseworker Owen Cherwell, she is recruited to a mission to expose the head of Monkton Hall--who is believed to be a German spy. As she infiltrates the upper-crust circles of some of England's fascist sympathizers, she encounters dangerous opponents, including the charismatic Nazi officer Erich von Ritter, and discovers a plan to invade England. No one believes an invasion of the island nation is possible, not Whitehall, not even England's Secret Intelligence Service. Unfortunately, they are wrong, and only one woman, without connections or training, wielding her talent of the spill and her gift for espionage, can stop it.

Randall Says: Kenyon’s series launch is a clever alternate history fantasy set in pre-WWII Europe. Paranormal abilities add to the tension as Britain and Nazi Germany pit their spies against each other. This is a great choice for the Spy Novel or First in a Series categories for the Read More Challenge; fans of historical fiction will enjoy the setting and careful world-building.

Randall's Past Staff Picks

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