You are hereBack to top
Current Staff Picks
Here it is, my FAVORITE book of 2019. (Yes, I read it in January of 2020, but procrastination is one of my specialties.)
Hollow Kingdom is a cautionary tale of what’s ahead for the human race if we don’t put down our phones and look around once in awhile. But that’s not why I love it so much. There are plenty of great dystopian future novels out there. What makes this one different is its point of view. It’s told by a pet crow named S.T. (you’ll find out what that stands for if you read it). His “MoFo,” Big Jim, succumbs to some sort of virus and so S.T. goes in search of help. He takes Big Jim’s bloodhound, Dennis, along for backup. Their adventure, through the neighborhoods and environs of Seattle, is the story of how “domestics,” or pets, set out to save humanity, and why. I won’t spoil it for you, but as you can imagine, it’s an uphill battle. S.T.’s devotion to mankind is tested by his encounters with wild crows, Seattle’s escaped zoo animals, and the roving MoFos who are forever trying to kill them all.
Watching the end of humanity through the eyes of the other sentient inhabitants of the planet (including trees) is, somehow, a treat. It’s unbelievably funny, touching, and inspiring. Dennis is my favorite character of 2019, or maybe all time.
Sometimes it happens that the book everyone is raving about really is that good. This is one of those times.
Our protagonist, Kya, is left to fend for herself in the marshes of Eastern N.C. as a child. When she tries to go to town for help, she finds that her place is in the woods, on the water, with the birds, fish, and trees.
The nature writing is stellar, which speaks to Owens’ lifelong career as a published wildlife scientist. It is as beautiful and immersive as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, which you should definitely read, especially if you’ve only known the Disney version.
Kya grows into an adult, not entirely without help, but completely on her own terms. Her interactions with other people just further convince her that she doesn’t belong with them. The last part of the book is a first-class murder mystery that keeps you guessing until the last pages, and brings into sharp focus Kya’s lifetime of straddling two worlds.
I wouldn’t be much of a Southerner if I didn’t say that I have a few teeny, tiny problems with the geography in this book, but it’s entirely forgivable.
A refreshing take on the "small town blues." So often, these characters are presented as stereotypes, but Shelbourne writes Lucy and Jeptha as complex human beings. A supporting cast of friends and family, colorful locals, and a beloved pet give the protagonists context for their story. The sense of place is strong, also, from the honky tonk where they work to the tobacco fields Jeptha's family owns. Despite their shortcomings, they were both characters that I wanted to see happy. There are lots of economic and social issues that will make this a great book club discussion.
When a politician's young wife hires her old school friend as a nanny for her two stepchildren, the main duty will be to keep the twins out of sight and out of trouble. That's because the kids' father is a senator and under serious consideration to be the next Secretary of State. But what if the children can't control themselves? Who is the best person to take care of children who are afflicted with spontaneous combustion? Obviously, a woman with no fear of fire, nothing to lose, and nothing to gain. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this unique novel explores family dynamics, resentment, and retribution, leaving the reader with a new perspective on motherhood and what it means to be loyal to those you love.
The Donner Party, hidden gold, an exciting archaeological discovery, and missing skulls associated with descendants of a member of the ill-fated Donner Party; a very intriguing combination!
The Lost Camp of the Donner Party is the setting for this story of grave robbing, murder, and mayhem. The story takes many twists and detours as the plot thickens. I was not expecting the last turn of events at all...Masterfully led astray by Preston & Child!
A GREAT READ!
An ambitious book that delivers. Coates said that he wanted to add some unifying, powerful mythology to the history of Black America. I believe he's done it here with the phenomenon of "conduction." It reads like historical fiction by way of Marvel comics, and I mean that as high praise. At turns heartbreaking and triumphant, Hiram's life as a slave to his half-brother, then his father, interspersed with his training as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, make for compelling reading. He also writes Harriett Tubman as the superhero that she undoubtedly was. Very satisfying and thought-provoking, with just enough ambiguity to defy easy good-versus-evil platitudes. This will make a great book club read.
Beautiful nature writing that reads almost like poetry, but with the sting of truth. No mere salute to natural beauty, Late Migrations includes an unsentimental look at the carnage one can’t help but observe in a life of watching the natural world. Renkl intersperses her musings on birds, wildflowers, and the like with family memories, both her own and those told to her. Her grandmother and mother provide context in Renkl’s understanding of family, memory, place, and grief. From her childhood in the woods of Alabama to adulthood in suburban Nashville, Renkl describes the trajectory of the South writ large through interactions with wildlife and family.
A pregnant woman is missing; her abusive husband seems to care less. Heavy rains, combined with winter thaw, is causing rivers to flood, and threatens many Canadian towns...including Three Pines. Inspector Armand Gamache has just returned to the job after being demoted from Chief Superintendent. Social media is on a rant concerning his return to active duty, but he has more important things to worry about! He is assigned the missing woman case, but soon becomes enmeshed in all that threatens his hometown.
Well developed characters (who are INDEED "characters." A fast moving plot, and enough twists to keep you guessing all make for a delightful read from Louise Penny!