Crying in the H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This book is the personal journey of its author through an extremely difficult time in her life, her mother’s fight and eventual death due to cancer. As such it was often depressing and reveals a lot of details that are not pleasant to read. Throughout the book the author details many memories that were linked to Korean food. I found this to be overbearing as I was not familiar with most of the dishes and their names occupied a large portion of the text. Even so the story describes a very personal reflection of her mother/daughter evolution through her perspective as the daughter. Overall, it was ok.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

When I first flipped through this book, I had no idea who it was written for. Children? Adults? Mystery readers? Breakfast enthusiasts? Having a keen interest in breakfast myself and a history of enjoying Lemony Snicket’s writing, I thought it’d be worth taking a chance on.

Part mystery, part philosophy, this meandering little book follows the author through a one-day investigation prompted by a note he receives in the morning which reads “You had poison for breakfast.” Liberally sprinkled with humorous statements and sage observations, it is classic Snicket–he still tells you what words mean but also makes you think deeply about ordinary subjects.

I laughed out loud more than once and was delighted by the Notes section at the end where the author gives titles to books and movies he described (which I assumed were fictitious) and credits quotes he referenced throughout. Plus, the mystery is resolved in a clever and surprising manner (though I’m not sure why I would expect anything less).

After having read the whole book, I still have no idea who it was written for, except to say with certainty that it WAS written at least a little for me, as I enjoyed it very much.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson

Reviewed by Lisabet Heather B. (Library Patron)

Nooks and Crannies is a Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-ish book where six children are invited to a party by a mysterious countess trying to find her heir. Things take a grim turn when children start disappearing. Will Tabitha, a budding detective, be able to solve the mystery before she too disappears?

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC LAWSON)

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Kate Milford

Reviewed by Lisabet Heather B (Library Patron)

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book is a gripping collection of folktales framed within a mystery. The combination of folktales and a spooky mystery is very interesting, but can be hard to understand. If you want to truly enjoy this book, read to discuss it with a friend.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC MILFORD)

Oliver Jeffers: The Working Mind & Drawing Hand by Oliver Jeffers

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Before picking up this book, I didn’t know much about Oliver Jeffers. I had read a few of his picture books and would recognize his art style and signature handwriting in passing, but that was it. I have to tell you, though–this oversized deep dive into his artistic process entranced me and got me to check out every single Oliver Jeffers book.

I learned that in addition to writing and illustrating picture books, Jeffers also produces high-concept philosophical and political art that is displayed in galleries. I especially loved learning about a series of portraits he painted, which he would then dip almost completely in paint at a very small exhibition of around a dozen people. Those people would be the only humans to have seen the completed portrait, which now exists only in their memory.

This is a quick read, with far more pictures than words, but you could conceivably spend hours poring over the details in the immersive matte spreads. I recommend checking it out to see which details surprise you.

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Devil and the Dark Water is billed as a classic locked-room mystery, and that is certainly what it delivers–and not much else. Though the mystery is a first-rate challenge for the armchair detectives, those who prefer a little bit of literary merit with their mysteries will be left unsatisfied.

The setting is a ship, bound for Amsterdam from Batavia in 1634, at the height of the power of the Dutch East India Company. Among the ship’s passengers are the governor general, his wife and daughter, his mistress, and his second-in-command, while locked in the ship’s brig is Sammy Pipps, the world’s greatest detective. Also aboard are Sammy’s bodyguard, a priest and his assistant, a greedy captain, a feckless purser, and innumerable bloodthirsty soldiers and sailors. And, apparently, a demon.

As the demon wreaks havoc abovedecks and below, the governor general’s wife teams up with Pipps’s bodyguard to stop whatever (or whoever) has summoned the evil. But every time they seem to be approaching a solution, a new problem appears. All the twists will definitely keep the reader guessing, but I found myself not really caring much about the outcome because I didn’t care about the characters. They are flat and uninteresting, and the dialogue falls somewhere between stilted and downright unnatural. The setting, which might be so evocative, is used almost entirely as a prop for new discoveries and given zero ink in its own right. And it’s best not to get me started on the historical accuracy.

Read The Devil and the Dark Water if you don’t have any friends handy to play Clue with. If you want a mystery with great 17th-century Dutch period detail, try The Miniaturist instead.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC TURTON)

Negative Cat by Sophie Blackall

Reviewed by Diane Basting (Library Staff)

Cats can be difficult roommates especially the first week they join your household. In Negative Cat we are introduced right away to a young boy who would desperately love to have a cat, the perfect cat, and after 427 days of consideration his family finally says yes, with conditions (Reading, cleaning, and care tasks). The first week is a bit rough as cat and boy try to find common ground. Maximilian Augustus Xavier, Max for short, is a hard cat to please but rest assured that the answer of what Max’s favorite thing is will warm any reader’s heart. I found it to be a fun Aunty read for after dinner before bedtime.

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E BLACKALL)

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Falling by T.J. Newman

Reviewed by Emily Terasa (Library Staff)

I’ve read two books in the last few months that have very similar plots. They both involve family members being held hostage so that their loved ones will crash a plane (a pilot in one book, a flight attendant in the other). In both there are unknown assailants on the plane, plucky flight attendants and passengers trying to help (and maybe hinder), and difficult choices to be made.

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Falling by T.J. Newman are both exciting thrillers that keep a fast pace throughout the entire book. But if I had to pick one that I enjoyed more, it would be Falling because I found the characters more likeable and the action better.

Hostage available through the Bridges Library System

Falling in Adult Fiction (FIC NEWMAN)

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

The Guncle is a very contemporary novel, with a moral that is timeless. The premise is one that I can’t imagine in a mainstream fiction book even twenty years ago: two young children who have recently lost their mother to cancer and their father to rehab move in with their out-and-proud gay uncle (guncle) in Palm Springs. Hilarity ensues, as it always does in Steven Rowley’s novels. The kids learn to enjoy a leisurely brunch (and lupper), the Tooth Fairy brings signed playbills, and they all celebrate Christmas in July–complete with a pink tinsel tree.

The Guncle isn’t all fun and games, though. Guncle Patrick struggles to find a way to help the kids talk about their grief, and to deal with his own. When he finally hits upon something that seems to work–making funny YouTube videos together–it brings his disapproving sister down on them with a fury. He is also trying to figure out his stalled acting career and a new romance, and the stress seems almost overwhelming. But Patrick handles everything with a great sense of humor and a huge heart.

Throughout the book, Patrick teaches the kids “Guncle Rules” to live by, including: cameras are not always your friend, if you can’t tone it–tan it, and (my personal favorite) fun drinks make everything more interesting. But the rule I took away from reading The Guncle is a life lesson for everyone: as long as you do things with love, you get it right in the end.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC ROWLEY)

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey

Reviewed by Stephanie Ramirez (Library Staff)

Although not my usual genre of music, I thoroughly enjoyed pop rock staple Halsey’s new effort. Their voice is soaring, their lyrics haunting and the production from geniuses Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a standout. Though songs like “Darling” are plaintive and haunting, the standout is synth-pop anthem “I am not a woman, I’m a god.” Though this is my first listen to their work, it won’t be my last.

Located in Adult CDs (CD POP/ROCK HALSEY)

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