The Good Son by Pierre-Jacques Ober

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

This cinematic book brilliantly tells the story of one French solider from the First World War using staged miniatures. The dramatic photography makes the stationary figures seem so dynamic, bringing all scenes–whether city or country, melancholy or violent–to life. Ober’s writing is spare but strong, pairing expertly with the scenes to convey a powerful message.

I was amazed to read in the afterward that Ober painted only preexisting models and miniatures. As he tells it, “the story was drawn from them instead of them being used to suit the purpose of a pre-written story.”

And what a story they told!

Located in Teen Graphic Novels (TEEN GRAPHIC OBER)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

My heart is full of this book.

With short chapters and short sentences, The Fountains of Silence is so fast to read that you don’t realize how deep you are in the story until you come up for air. Multiple points of view weave seemingly unrelated threads of story in and out until the end, revealing a cohesive tapestry that will bring tears to your eyes.

Set in 1950s Madrid, the story centers upon the mutual attraction between Daniel, the teenage son of a Texas oil tycoon, and Ana, a vibrant housekeeper at a Spanish luxury hotel catering to rich Americans. Their relationship is constantly constricted by a tangle of secrets and the cultural oppression of the Franco dictatorship, now in its 18th year.

Ruta Sepetys has always excelled at the research aspect of her historical novels, and this book is no exception. The setting is so rich it is practically a character itself–you can feel the dry Spanish heat on your face and opulent hotel linens beneath your fingers.

With storytelling so sophisticated, yet lacking any content inappropriate for younger readers, I’d hand this gem to any teen or adult–that is, if I could get my fingers to let go of it.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC SEPETYS)

The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories by Emily Winfield Martin

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

This gentle and evocative book feels like discovering ancient secrets in an antique shop. It pairs a short “scrap” of text (ex. “They each thought it was the others fault”) with a strange–occasionally surreal–painting. Emily’s paintings feel quiet and nostalgic, though twinged with mischief, effortlessly igniting your imagination.

The Imaginaries is very short but it will add something to your life that you didn’t even know you were missing. It feels like a modern day Mysteries of Harris Burdick (Chris Van Allsberg, 1984), and if you’re familiar with Harris Burdick, you know what a strong compliment that is.

Available through the Bridges Library System

Dry by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

In this terrifyingly believable apocalypse, California has run out of water and suburban teenager Alyssa and her little brother Garrett find themselves on a journey of survival. Their experiences range from that first bewildering trip to Costco to find that cases of water are completely sold out, through their neighbors shift from civility to violence practically overnight, and finally to–well, I’m not going to tell you where they end up but it is quite far from “Gee, how weird that Costco is out of water.”

Alyssa and Garrett end up joining forces with some pretty unlikely companions (like that old saying, “apocalypses make strange bedfellows”…or something like that) who range in age from 10-20 and come from all different economic and family situations. Narration alternates between our handful of main characters, and also includes quick snapshots of what other people are experiencing, painting a very broad picture of a crisis of this scope with extremely engaging and straightforward writing.

As you read, you can’t help but ask yourself what you would do in these situations, and the answers become far more uncomfortable than you would have thought possible when you casually started this book with a tall glass of ice water by your side.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC SHUSTERMAN)

Waitress: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Years ago, while going through a break-up, a friend saw my sadness and handed me the 2007 movie Waitress (starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion), an unexpected romantic comedy about nurturing the spark of life inside you, especially when it seems the world has snuffed it out. It never became one of my favorite movies, but it made a distinct impression on me and I would think about it often.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I learned that Sara Bareilles, a singer/songwriter I admire, had composed the soundtrack for a Broadway musical based on this overlooked cult classic. I was unsurprisingly intrigued and sought it out. Within the first few lines, I knew this music was going to be something special, and by the end of the album it had become my new favorite musical. The songs grabbed onto those emotional threads that had stayed with me after watching the movie and tied them tightly to my heart with rich lyrics and melodies.

The songs range from hilarious to heartfelt, with phenomenal performances by the Broadway cast. Uplifting, strong, and honest without becoming sickly sweet (despite all those songs about pie!), this album will pick you up when you’re down. I also highly recommend the album What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, where Sara Bareilles herself performs many of the songs with less of that Broadway theatricality and more of her intimate piano and vocal style.

Located in Soundtracks (CD SDTK WAITRESS #1)

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

This mystery centers around one of my favorite tropes. You know the one–an eccentric billionaire dies and leaves their fortune hidden within a treasure hunt. The billionaire in this case is Vincent Pryce (no relation to that other VP), who nurtured a lifelong obsession for everything Edgar Allen Poe, which adds wonderfully creepy undertones to the clues.

Tuesday Mooney is a professional researcher who has both a way with solving puzzles and loyal, clever friends. They all get wrapped up in solving the clues left by Vincent Pryce and unraveling the shady mystery behind an unexpected (but very charming) member of their team.

Injected with effortlessly cool banter and a cast of colorful characters varying widely in age, this book is just plain fun. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I found out her previous book, Bellweather Rhapsody, shares at least one character with Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, I began reading it immediately.

Between the treasure hunt and pop culture allusions, this is an obvious choice for fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready, Player One (although I thought this one was much better!)

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC RACCULIA)

Mike by Andrew Norriss

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

In this quick novel (barely over 200 pages), teenage tennis prodigy Floyd feels like his life is going just fine until a boy named Mike begins harassing him. Even more unsettling is that no one but Floyd can even see Mike.

This psychological and thought-provoking exploration of finding the path that is right for you, no matter what anyone else says, is strange but poignant and it made me wish I had a Mike of my own to set me on the right path. But then I realized I already have one. We all do.

It’s just up to each of us to learn to listen to them.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC NORRISS)

Juliet, Naked (2018)

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

I don’t watch very many movies. They make it to my “To Watch” list and languish there for months or years while I read books instead. But when I heard about this one, I checked it out and watched it immediately and here I am suggesting you do the same.

The premise is quite far-fetched but this gentle romantic comedy makes you believe it could happen. So Annie is in this long-term, dead-end relationship with Duncan, who is far more in love with the music of washed-up, reclusive Tucker Crowe than he ever will be with Annie. Just as Annie begins to seriously question the life choices that have brought her to where she is, she unexpectedly strikes up a soul-bearing email friendship with none other than…Tucker Crowe.

I read the book this film is based on nearly 10 years ago and remember being very touched by it and continuing to recommend it to anyone who likes High Fidelity or any Nick Hornby books or movies. Nick Hornby has a way of capturing such real humanity in his characters, making them completely vulnerable and relatable. I am pleased to report that this delightful adaptation gave me all the same warm feelings that reading the book did a decade ago.

Available through the Bridges Library System

 

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Much, much more than a novelization, Cornelia Funke’s illustrated adaptation of Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 award-winning Spanish film is spellbinding.

Set in 1940s war-torn Spain, this dark fairy tale introduces us to a young girl named Ofelia who is working on completing dangerous tasks in the forest to prove to a wily faun that she is the long-lost princess of an underground kingdom.

As a lover of the film, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’ve been a Cornelia Funke fan since The Thief Lord (a magical Venetian adventure) and I was drawn like a magnet to this collaboration.

Slightly over-sized for a novel, with atmospheric ornamentation in the margins and stunning black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout, the book itself feels as magical as the text.
It shocks me to say this, but I think I actually love the book more than the movie! The film gets a little too gory for me at times and reading those scenes makes it easier for me to picture as much or as little of the disturbing imagery as I can handle.

Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, I recommend this book to anyone who relishes excellent storytelling and the bloodier side of fairy tales.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC TORO)

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

Reviewed by Melissa Beck (Library Staff)

Teenage Jaya lost her mom in an accident eight months ago. Since then, mysterious winged Beings have been falling to earth from the heavens. Out of the dozens of falls, no Being has survived.

Jaya is alone in an Edinburgh park when a Being falls right in front of her, surviving against all odds. The Being is so frightened and alone that Jaya can’t bring herself to turn her in to anyone–even Jaya’s own father, who has become obsessed with calculating exactly where and when the next Being will fall. Jaya hides the Being (whom she names Teacake, after the Being’s favorite snack) in a vacant apartment and ends up sharing her secret with a few new friends who have secrets of their own.

This book was quiet and thought-provoking, remaining realistic despite the supernatural elements. A recommended read for anyone who is feeling contemplative.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC CAMERON)

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