He Started It by Samantha Downing

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

The title and cover, a woman walking away from an explosion with a shovel in her hand, lured me into trying the first few chapters and I was reluctant to put it down afterwards. The novel unfolds at the beginning of a road trip three siblings must drag themselves through in order to receive their dead grandfather’s inheritance. Except this isn’t a normal road trip, it’s a replica of one they took with their grandpa as children. Now grown and estranged, his final wishes force them into close proximity to dredge through a past none of them want to remember. I felt like I was on the drive with them and rode along saturated in suspense as the novel made its way to the close. If you like mystery, you’ll find this book full of twists and hard to walk away from!

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC DOWNING)

Before You Were Born by Deborah Kerbel

Reviewed by Taylor H (Library Staff)

Before You Were Born is a beautiful picture book written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. In rich, poetic language, the book describes parents’ love and anticipation for their arriving baby: “You were…/A curve in the road, up ahead out of view,/A whispered secret that only we knew.” The writing feels almost magical as it wanders through the habitats of different animals, including birds, deer, and foxes.

The illustrations also feel magical. Done in clay and acrylic wash, they are just stunning. The details and colors are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a picture book. I find new things to look at each time I pick up the book. Both children and adults will enjoy taking their time through the pages.
I highly recommend this picture book. This is a story of love parents (or other adults) can share with their children. The rhyming text and detailed illustrations flow very well and will hold readers’ interest. This book would also make a great gift!

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E KERBEL)

Where Lily Isn’t by Julie Paschkis

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

There aren’t too many families who haven’t lost a pet at some time, and there aren’t too many books written for a young child about this subject. In fact the last really good one I can remember is Judith Viorst’s The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, published in 1987. Now there’s a new one, and it’s very well written. This new book, Where Lily Isn’t, is a story from a young girl about all the places that her dog, Lily, isn’t anymore. Over a couple of pages we hear how Lily ran and jumped and barked and whimpered and growled and wiggled and wagged, and throughout the rest of the book we get to learn a lot about Lily and the girl who loved her. Although there’s obvious sadness, there is also a final line that makes us remember how special our special friends were, and how lucky we are to have known them.

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E PASCHKIS)

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

In this thought-provoking novel, 11-year-old twin and experimental cook Elodee and her family leave behind an undefined sorrow for a new start in utopian Eventown, which eschews television, cars, and the internet; where everyone lives in identical houses; and where the air tastes like blueberries. Upon arrival, newcomers must visit the Welcoming Center to tell six critical stories—their most intense experiences of fear, embarrassment, anger, loneliness, joy, and heartbreak. An interruption in Elodee’s storytelling leaves her with her memories intact, whereas her twin Naomi can no longer remember her told memories from their past life and revels in the placid conformity of the town, with its library of blank books and single song: the “Eventown Anthem.” As the twins grow apart, Haydu (Rules for Stealing Stars) sketches the sinister underpinnings of this seemingly perfect place, especially its pressure to conform in all things—even baking without a recipe or planting a treasured rose veers from the town’s established (and always perfect) order. Ultimately, this memorable and brave heroine chooses sometimes painful stories, memories, and love in favor of a sanitized perfection.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC HAYDU)

Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Series by Charles Soule

Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

Although I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan, I never got into the many diverse reading options that exist in the extended universe. After a recommendation from a podcast, I picked up the series “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith” and was pleasantly surprised to find an amazing story. The series starts immediately after the events of the movie “Revenge of the Sith”–Anakin Skywalker has now become Darth Vader. But now what? What does one of the most fearsome villains in movie history do upon his creation? Turns out, numerous adventures abound. But in a twist, these graphic novels are not “adventure of the week” sort of fare. They also explore the nature of evil and the deeper meaning behind Vader’s fate. They also focus more on why Anakin chose to become Darth. For a Star Wars fan, these volumes can’t be beat.

Located in Adult Graphic Novels (GRAPHIC STAR WARS)

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Six kids, mostly strangers to one another, are placed in a room where they may argue, disagree, or even tease but who are, in the end, devoid of cruelty. That’s the premise, but fortunately there’s a lot more going on here than just that. Predictably, at first the kids don’t want to say a word, but when Haley starts bringing in a hand recorder, something cracks open. Esteban is able to talk about his dad, recently taken by the police and sent back to another country. Amari about the restrictions put on black boys in America. Ashton on being one of the few white kids in their Brooklyn school. But it’s Haley herself that has the hardest time talking. About her mom’s death. Her dad’s incarceration. As the room comes together and bonds, people listen to one another and everyone gets and ending. Happy or not.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC WOODSON)

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This book was a relatively uneventful story of a young naïve woman who gets a job screening letters for an advice columnist at a woman’s magazine during war-torn London. She does not agree with the selection policy of the advice writer. As such, she decides to personally answer some of the letters and signs her superior’s name to her advice responses. Being that the main character is young and naïve her responses did not reflect wisdom or experience. In the course of this story, the main character does have a significant event that does force her to mature a bit. In my role as the reader, I found this book to be an “ok” read. I think it would have been better if the character experienced more in the course of this book. In other words it was light on plot. The author did a nice job of developing the main character. I just wanted more to happen.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC PEARCE)

Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood (2019)

Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

Quentin Tarantino’s latest does not disappoint! I am a quasi-fan of the director, having enjoyed some of his films (Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill, Django Unchained) while disliking others (Pulp Fiction) This film, though, set in the twilight hours of the 1960s in Los Angeles, probably is my most favorite to date. It follows two concurrent stories: the first–that of Rick Dalton, an alcoholic fading Hollywood star and his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth. The second story focuses on real-life actress and Charles Manson murder victim Sharon Tate. Since it is Tarantino at the helm, of course there is fantastical violence and a reimagined ending for our protagonists. The troupe of actors, however, are just phenomenal, particularly Brad Pitt. His relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is the heart of the film and never wavers. The film’s success is due in large part to his quiet, steady presence. Highly recommend!

Located in DVDs (DVD ONCE)

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

When a newborn mini donkey is born to a mother who is too sick to care for him, Louie takes on the challenge of raising him. Louie and his parents greatly feel the absence of Gus, Louie’s soldier brother, who is serving in the military, and who has lately started signing his letters “Remember Me.” Winslow, the little donkey, needs constant attention to survive, and Louie, in spite of everyone’s misgivings, gamely carries on. The person who is least interested in Louie and his new charge is Nora, a new neighbor who has recently lost both her premature baby brother and her dog to death. While Nora is determined to ignore Louie and Winslow, Louie throws himself wholeheartedly into Winslow’s care, and bit by bit we see changes happening to Nora. You may tear up a bit now and then, but Saving Winslow is a small story with a big punch.

Ages 7-12

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC CREECH)

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

I’ve been a fan of Dan Gemeinhart’s books for a while, and this is the best yet. Jonathan has been sentenced to Slabhenge Reformatory for Troubled Boys for an unnamed crime. Soon after his arrival, though, things take a stunning turn and the boys are left on their own. You’ll love some of the boys and hate others, and will be kept on the edge of your seat right up until the end.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC GEMEINHART)