Current Picks: Book Reviews

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

It's hard to sum up this book in a few words: it's historical fiction, a western adventure, immigrant voices, coming of age, and so much more. How Much of These Hills Is Gold (2020) centers around Lucy and Sam, two recently orphaned Chinese-American children on the run from a Californian mining town with a stolen horse. They journey through the harsh landscape in search of a place to call home, but the siblings find it difficult to agree on anything, let alone their destination.

C Pam Zhang adds Chinese myths and traditions to the story and expertly paints readers a picture of the Wild West in its dark and gritty glory. How Much of These Hills Is Gold gives us a fictionalized history of the Gold Rush era from an immigrant perspective and will have you pondering questions about home, belonging, and identity.

Read the ebook via Overdrive today.


The Wisdom of Donkeys

This is a book about a man's appreciation for the donkey, one of the most soulful animals in existence. Through anecdotal accounts, Andy Merrifield shares how donkeys can show humans humility, respect, hard work, and patience. Interspersed with ancient and timeless fables of donkeys, some famous, some not, in cultures throughout the world, Merrifield shows how important the donkey is in human history. All in all, The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World (2009) is a love letter to an animal who can teach everyone lessons on life and how to be a better person.

Read The Wisdom of Donkeys on Overdrive today.



Nancy

In Nancy by Olivia Jaimes (2019), look at a collection of current Nancy newspaper comic strips. In 2018, Olivia Jaimes became the first woman to write and illustrate the classic comic strip. Nancy, a precocious eight year old, starred in the newspaper comic strip starting in 1938. Written and drawn by Ernie Bushmiller until his death in 1982, various writers and artists have continued the strip.

Jaimes, using a clever and minimalistic style, brings a fresh approach to Nancy and brought her into the 21st century, including cell phones and a robotics class. Nancy, her friend Sluggo, and Aunt Fritzi continue to be entertaining at school, home, and play. I had not seen the comic strip in years, so reading the book brought back memories of laughing at the simple strip. Nancy appeals to a broad audience.



Above the Bay of Angels

In 1896, after her family has fallen on hard times, Isabella goes into service as a maid. When an opportunity arises to interview for a cook position at Buckingham Palace, Isabella jumps at the chance, even though it's under false pretenses. After getting the job, Isabella finds that she has a gift for cooking and becomes a trusted member of Queen Victoria's household. However, the memory of her privileged upbringing and the fear of losing her job are never far from her mind. When love possibly comes her way, will Isabella choose a career over being a wife?

Above the Bay of Angels (2020) is another delightful read from author Rhys Bowen with lots of descriptions of what life was like in the royal household.



The Cuckoo’s Calling

The first book in the Cormoran Strike detective series made me a fan— and I have three more Strike novels to look forward to.

Strike is a British private detective. Unfortunately, he and his business are a mess. Just as he gets to the end of his rope, a wealthy man hires him to investigate the death of his sister, a famous celebrity high fashion model. Everyone except the victim's brother thinks it was a suicide. Strike has a temp secretary, Robin, who helps him with the case. Their interactions make this sixteen-hour audiobook seem like a quick read (and Robert Glenister narrates with a dignified British accent).

The Harry Potter series wasn't for mewrong generation, I guess. What I didn't know was that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling. That was a surprise. Terrific job, J. K.

The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) is available to read or listen to in Overdrive—and if you get hooked, you can read the rest of the series too. Also, the first three novels were adapted into a British TV show called C. B. Strike.



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.

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.



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.