Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers by Ruth Conniff

Reviewed by Jayne S (Library Staff)
Migrant workers are critical to the survival of Midwestern dairy farms. The undocumented workers, mostly Mexican, account for 80% of the employees of the mega-sized farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The author shares the stories of the workers who send their earnings to their families in Mexico, while staying under the radar so they are not deported. Their goal is to earn enough money for nice concrete houses, be able to send their children to college and then finish their lives at home in Mexico.

The farm owners initially were reluctant to hire undocumented workers, but found them to be hard working and reliable. They are saddened when a worker earns enough money to go home and often hire a relative of their worker to replace him. The owners learned Spanish, the workers learned English.

A program started that sent an interpreter and farmer owners to Mexico to visit their workers’ families. They found hospitality and good people, who are benefitting financially from their loved ones wages, but sacrifice seeing each other for years and years.

The author also goes into the explanation of immigration policies over the decades and the current political issues that have US citizens in disagreement.

This book gives the backstories of the immigrants and employers and makes them real people instead of statistics and misunderstandings. I recommend this book to everyone that wants information on a very divided current issue.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (331.672 CON)

Sisters in Arms by Kaia Alderson

Reviewed by Holly (Library Patron)

This story follows the journey of two Black women who served in WWII. It outlines the development of a friendship that grows deeper with the ins and outs of the character’s lives as they served in the first unit of black women to serve in the US Army. The challenges and bonds formed create some interesting plot twists. Overall, I would say it was an average read.

Available through the Bridges Library System

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Reviewed by Nick K (Library Patron)

In Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling currently attends the Bureaus behavioral science unit for the FBI. Clarice has been called up to talk to Hannibal Lecter, who is being kept in an insane asylum. Hannibal Lecter is a psychopathic Serial murderer who leaves many to question what to do with his twisted thoughts. The two must work together to find the psychotic killer Buffalo Bill. Through good and evil, Clarice Starling must work around Hannibal Lector’s Psychotic behavior to unravel the truth and get to the bottom of Buffalo Bill before he can kill any more people for his final goals.

Thomas Harris has done a great job to let the emotions and feelings of the characters resemble the real-life situation of solving a crime. Harris has a great feel for involving the written amount of information and story to get the reader deeper involved with the interactions of the characters. Harris makes you question why sometimes his descriptions are so vivid in certain scenes. The emphasis that the description brings travels across the story to important events that shape the plot to an outstanding climax. Having said all that, Harris carries the smallest bits of information until the final scenes of the book where everything else in between is solved. The book is long, but the sheer amount of plot buildup makes the book a page-turner. The only thing that some readers might find odd is the small amount of action that is played out in the book. There are great loads of suspense, but for a book overlaying the two minds of psychotics and psychopaths, there is little action that involves gore. I believe any fan of mysterious or suspenseful novels would love The Silence of the Lambs. I would give this book a 9 out of 10, for the excellent storytelling and plot play through.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC HARRIS)

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Lessons In Chemistry is a remarkable novel in that its plot and characters are highly original, but in the end I found it to be an uninspiring read. I think my biggest problem with the book is that I didn’t really like the main character.

The reader is meant to be amazed by Elizabeth Zott: a working chemist in the 1950s, she battles against the patriarchy until an out-of-wedlock pregnancy finally ousts her from her professional life. Then she reinvents herself as a TV chef, instilling the basics of chemistry and a strong dash of feminism into an audience of housewives. When that, too, goes awry, she is able to return to her rightful place in the lab with the help of a wealthy benefactress.

I wasn’t amazed by Elizabeth; I was annoyed with her. She is effortlessly beautiful, brilliant, confident, and talented at everything to which she turns her hand. The author would have us believe that the only thing keeping Elizabeth from actual apotheosis is the old boys’ club. The result is that she doesn’t seem like a real person, just a cipher standing in for all the women who have been kept from achieving their potential by a patriarchal society. She simply isn’t an interesting character. Her boyfriend, her daughter, even her dog are more rounded, realistic characters. If not for them, I might have quit reading.

I was also displeased with the ending. (Spoiler alert!) When Elizabeth leaves her hit TV show to pursue her goals as a professional chemist, she is only able to do so because a very wealthy woman shows up with a checkbook and a personal interest in Elizabeth. This turn of events left a bad taste in my mouth: is the message, then, that at the end of the day all that matters is money and those who have it? Our already one-dimensional heroine has not learned, grown, or changed during the story–she just has all her problems fixed with money. Not the ending I’m looking for in a purportedly feminist story.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC GARMUS)

The Silver Coin Vol. 1

Reviewed by Jess H (Library Staff)

The Silver Coin is an anthology horror series featuring stories by Michael Walsh, Chip Zdarsky, Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, and Jeff Lemire.

At the center of the five stories in this anthology is a silver coin. Those who have the misfortune of taking possession of the coin find themselves the cause of disasters or overtaken with bloodlust. The stories jump from the time of Puritans and witch trials to the far future where humans have merged with machines.

I enjoyed the jumping time periods and mystery surrounding the silver coin. The art is dynamic and expressive. These bite-sized horror stories are a great way to ease myself into the spooky season and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on volume two.

Located in Adult Graphic Novels (GRAPHIC WALSH)

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

Meg Williams thinks of herself as a grifter but she’s far more than that. The ordinary grifter does not retain the skillset to embed themselves in another person’s life as if they’d always been there, the determination to mold themselves into the perfect, believable bait in order to do so or the patience to carry out a decade’s long con. The plan she has in mind must be flawless and in order to be flawless, she must be five moves ahead of everyone around her at all times.

Once you get to know Meg you will understand every word, though most are lies, are bricks she naturally and intricately lays to make you trust her. The reader is drawn backwards from the image Meg creates as the novel unfolds and it isn’t until you see the whole picture at a distance that you realize she really exemplifies the “artist” in “con artist.”

I highly enjoyed reading this novel and look forward to more from Julie Clark in the future.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC CLARK)

The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang

Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Do you ever wish you could read some classic Russian literature, updated for the 21st century but still retaining that essential everyone-ends-up-unhappy, nihilistic vibe? Look no further than The Family Chao, the newest offering from Iowa Writers’ Workshop maven Lan Samantha Chang! However, if you aren’t familiar with Dostoevsky’s parricidal classic The Brothers Karamazov, fear not–The Family Chao is still a good read, and you will be surprised with the twist at the end.

The Chao family are five: parents Leo and Winnie, who migrated to the U.S. from China and run the Fine Chao restaurant in Haven, Wisconsin; and sons Dagou, Ming, and James. As the story opens, Winnie has recently left the womanizing Leo, and the sons have all returned to Haven for the restaurant’s annual Christmas party. Each son has a complicated relationship with his parents. Dagou, a gifted chef, works at the restaurant but struggles with the demands and cruelties of the temperamental Leo. Ming is a very successful real estate broker in New York who wants to bury his Chinese heritage entirely. College freshman James loves his family deeply but is pulled in different directions by his loyalties to father, mother, and brothers.

When Leo Chao is found dead the morning after the Christmas party, the question is not who had motive to kill him, but rather who didn’t? What follows is not a whodunit in a traditional sense, but rather a family drama that happens to involve a murder. The characters–especially young James–are brilliantly drawn and vibrantly real, and the reader empathizes with each of them in turn. The twist ending will surprise non-Dostoevsky readers, and even satisfy those of us who knew what was coming. Just don’t look for anybody to end up happy; we all know that it is better to be content than to be happy, anyway.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC CHANG)

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro Vol. 1 by Nanashi

Reviewed by Jess H (Library Staff)

High school junior, only known as Senpai, ends up in the sights of sophomore Nagatoro. Senpai is a generally nervous, quite guy who keeps to himself and wants to pursue his interest in art in private. Nagatoro is his pretty and popular underclassman who is dead set on working Senpai up into a ball of nerves.

Don’t Toy With Me Miss Nagatoro plays on the trope of if someone likes you, they’ll pick on you. The manga is pretty funny and drawn well. The only downside is that the volumes are incredibly short.

Though the characters are in high school, I would say this is more for young adults and the older side of teenage.

Located in Manga (MANGA DON’T TOY)

Have You Seen Gordon? by Adam Jay Epstein & Ruth Chan

Reviewed by Andrea Bisordi (Library Staff)

Have You Seen Gordon? is an absolutely delightful picture book. It starts off like a Where’s Waldo? book, and that seems like a lot of fun since we are searching for a fun little purple anteater named Gordon. The illustrations reminded me of a Richard Scarry book, with many animals engaging in all sorts of activities. There’s a snake jumping rope, a parade with a walrus dressed up as a pizza, and a group of animals doing yoga on the beach. But then there is a rather big twist, and the real adventure begins.

Highly recommended for those who like seek and find books, silly books, and engaging lap reads.

P.S. Keep an eye on the axolotl for another layer of engagement!

Located in Children’s Picture Books (E EPSTEIN)

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse

Reviewed by Cassidy Hammel (Library Staff)

After devouring The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, I had high expectations for her second novel titled The Retreat; however I have mixed feelings after finishing it. Was I compelled to finish the book after getting to know all the characters? Yes. Was I thinking all along that the novel seemed suspiciously similar to her first one? Yes. That disappointed me and I can’t mention much so I don’t spoil anything but it seems she stole the recipe from her first novel and just chose the exact opposite setting, a summer beachside instead of winter mountains and in/on a suspicious location.

There was one small detail that surprised me near the very end but I’d say The Sanatorium packs more chills. Of the two Pearse has written, I’d recommend trying that one, or if you already have, skip this in favor of any of the other titles currently buckling your bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent mystery but I had higher hopes.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC PEARSE)