Posted in Adult, eBooks & eAudio, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Staff Picks, Thrillers

Books I Hated and What to Read Instead

Let’s get one thing straight up front: These are not BAD books. They’re actually wildly popular for the most part, and objectively well-executed, I just happened to hate them. Personal taste does not have to be rooted in reality or logic. We like what we like. For instance, I will put most books and movies down that feature a love triangle because they make my skin crawl. Below, I listed several best-selling books I was led to believe I would enjoy, but did not, and what I would recommend reading instead.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (2018) by Hank Green
Why I hated it: So, so, so many reasons. This is one of the only books I’ve ever rage-quit and had it been a physical and not audio copy I may have hurled the book into a different room so it would no longer offend my eyes. Based on this title alone, Hank Green cannot write female characters. The protagonist is a bisexual 20-something Asian woman. Cool, diversity is cool, but Green used this character’s sexuality like a cheat code for objectifying the other female characters in the story. Also, this book features giant robots mysteriously appearing around the world. How awesome, right? IT IS NOT the robots didn’t do SHIT. And the book ends on a cliffhanger, which I only know about because I looked up the ending online after rage quitting. Finally, the use of modern youth vernacular will NOT age well in this novel. I was wincing when I read it and the ink had hardly dried. 

Read instead:

A Master of Djinn (2021) by P. Djeli Clark
Why it’s great: Where Green totally biffed writing women characters, Clark excels. Most characters of consequence in this book are women. It blows my mind that in the year of our lord 2022 I am feeling grateful to encounter a whole book full of multidimensional female characters that don’t focus on their looks or a man to make their way in the world. Read this book for access to a mostly female cast of vibrant and memorable characters, gorgeous world building, and incomprehensible eldritch beings trying to cross into nice, semi-horror filled early 20th century Cairo. Did I mention Cairo is a world superpower because someone figured out how to let djinn and other spirits back into the world? And that’s not even a spoiler.

Nobody’s Fool (1993) by Richard Russo
Why I hated it: Sully, the titular character, is a perennial loveable loser who squandered his life being moored down by family trauma and a can’t-do attitude. Russo seems to be in love with his own prose as well as protagonist Sully, and I just don’t get it. Indeed, the writing itself cannot be beat, it was the ideas within however, which I took umbrage. For instance, a horrid racial epithet is casually bandied about at one point to describe the nature of work Sully engages in, and the level of male wish fulfillment appearing throughout was kinda gross. Every book its reader, and I am not the one. I made it about half way through the almost 600 page doorstop before I put it down. Save yourself some time and watch the 1994 screen adaptation of Nobody’s Fool starring the ever-wonderful Paul Newman instead of trying to slog through this brick.

Read instead:

Empire Falls (2001) by Richard Russo
Why it’s great: This is Russo’s Great American Novel. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction over a Jonathan Franzen book, thank god, because it deserved the honor. Now, I don’t normally stan boomer-age whiteguy authors, as they tend to write books for other men (see above for criticism of Russo’s earlier work), but this book shines with an undeniable light that we can all bask in. Empire Falls was adapted into a very passable miniseries for HBO starring Ed Harris. Watch the series for sure, but be sure to read the book too, so as not to miss out on an evil cat giving protagonist Miles a run for his money, amongst other things. 

The Spellman Files (2007) by Lisa Lutz
Why I hated it: Lutz published six Spellman books in the 2010ishes and all I could think about while reading the freshman installation was how badly this was not working for me so how could they possibly be popular enough to demand so many installations. Spellman strives to assemble a quirky and interesting family of private detectives whose dysfunction is more a feature and less a bug, but they come across as a watery Royal Tannenbaum situation with more severe antisocial disorders. And not in a fun way! While the protagonist was meant to be a daring and independent young woman, all I could see was somebody who would benefit from therapy, a reinforcing of boundaries, and maybe a damn hug. 

Read Instead:
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (2011) by Sara Gran
Why it’s great: I love a hot mess protagonist and where The Spellman Files falls short, Clare DeWitt succeeds in spades. DeWitt is the self-described world’s best PI who is obsessed with the work of obscure French detective Jacques Silette. In the City of the Dead, she has found herself in a recently post-Katrina New Orleans which DeWitt fled years earlier when her mentor was unceremoniously murdered. She is back to track down a missing DA as well as try to untangle her violent past. While none of that sounds earth-shattering, there is something about DeWitt and her unflinching self-destruction and devotion to Silette’s teachings that I found completely compelling. So far, Gran has graced us with three Claire DeWitt novels, and they get successively better. Read them in order for the best experience. If you’re a Mead card holder, all three are available in ebook and audio format on Hoopla, so no wait time for you. 

Lock Every Door (2019) by Riley Sager
Why I hated it: Some authors never resonate. This is the case for Sager. He is massively popular and has several titles that on paper seem like they’ll be right up my alley but in execution I can’t get into it. Lock Every Door initially appealed because it takes place in an early 20th century construction of a fabulous spooky Manhattan apartment building. There’s a Rosemary’s Baby vibe happening, but no Satanists, and buddy I got to tell you that was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever had in my leisure reading life. The solution to this “mystery” was pretty irritating and I wish I had the time back that I used to read this. I also read Lock Every Door which has a supernatural switcheroo as well, so maybe it’s a theme in Sager’s work. I dunno. It doesn’t do it for me. 

Read instead:

There’s Someone Inside Your House (2017) by Stephanie Perkins 
Why it’s great: First and foremost, before you read any further, take a moment to say the title of this book out loud. No wait, don’t just say it, SCREECH it. Try it, you’ll like it. Besides the very fun-to-yell title, this YA thriller has a brisk pace, interesting character arcs and juicy secret pasts to unfold. The creep-factor is high and the central mystery has a satisfying and hard to predict solution. Most who enjoy thrillers or mysteries would enjoy this highly consumable and appealingly candy-colored book.

Would I say my taste in books is highly individualistic and not based on any objective literary criticism? Yes, yes I would. That’s the beauty of leisure reading. We get to pursue what we like without justifying the reasons. Some people only read Amish romance. Some people only read nonfiction accounts of Arctic expeditions. Some people only read graphic novels and manga. Guess what, they are all valid in their reading pursuits because there’s no wrong way to leisurely read.  

If you are casting around for book recommendations consider using our reader’s advisory service, Your Next Five Books, by clicking HERE. If you are in need of ebook or audiobook troubleshooting, or help requesting books, please call us or stop in for help, and happy reading. 

Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait VI: The House Across the Lake and Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

Two more popular books with some readalikes! Unsurprisingly, the popular fiction book is a new thriller – it’s one of our most popular genres. The non-fiction book was more of a surprise. It sounds interesting – a woman’s memoir of working as a maid to support her family – but it’s a few years old at this point. I’m not sure why it suddenly has a hold list again, but there you go – perhaps it’s just gotten some very good word-of-mouth!

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

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Posted in Adult, Fiction, Historical, Horror, New & Upcoming, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers

Library Reads July 2022

Every month, librarians across the country pick the ten upcoming titles they’re most excited to read. This month’s picks include a deliciously creepy take on Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, the story of an 8 year old girl forced to attend Weight Watchers, and a pair of romance novels that grapple with the intersection of love and mental health.

Top Pick: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

A retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher, Kingfisher’s latest adds the
creepiest of flesh to the bare-bones tale by Poe. Complete with a scary,
isolated mansion and eerie behaviors of the residents, this version not only
makes perfect sense within the original narrative, but adds a depth of
understanding that suddenly makes all the pieces fall into place. For fans of
Mexican Gothic, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Night Stranger. —Sheri Stanley, Gulfport Library

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Posted in Adult, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait V: The It Girl and Out of the Corner: A Memoir

It’s the start of a new month, and I’ve got another selection of two popular books (with waitlists, of course!) as well as a few things to tide you over while you wait. It’s not surprising that Ruth Ware has another book that everyone is dying to read; if you like thrilling mysteries and intricate plots, you should definitely check this out. And on the non-fiction side, actress Jennifer Grey has a memoir coming out that will take you from 1970s Malibu through 1980s Hollywood and all the way up to her present hard-won life.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

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Posted in Adult, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait III: The Investigator and Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff

April is finally here, and it even feels a little bit like spring today! And with the new month comes another pair of popular upcoming books. This time, John Sandford has a new book coming out (and it’s the beginning of a new series!). On the non-fiction side, it looks like de-cluttering hasn’t gotten any less popular. And since both of these books have waitlists, I’ve put a few read-alikes together as well!

The Investigator by John Sandford

By age twenty-four, Letty Davenport has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals. Now a recent Stanford grad with a master’s in economics, she’s restless and bored in a desk job for U.S. Senator Colles. Letty’s ready to quit, but her skills have impressed Colles, and he offers her a carrot: feet-on-the-ground investigative work, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

Letty is partnered with a DHS investigator, John Kaiser, and they head to Texas. When the case quickly turns deadly, they know they’re on the track of something bigger. Lorelai and her group have set in motion an explosive plan . . . and the clock is ticking down.

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Posted in Adult, Fiction, Horror, Mystery, New & Upcoming, Romance, Science Fiction, Thrillers

Library Reads: March 2022

What are librarians reading in March? This month’s picks include the story of a delivery boy thrown into an inter-dimensional Jurassic Park, a twisted horror tale set deep in the Mojave Desert, and a thriller about a family forced into Witness Protection.

Top Pick: Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Meddy Chan is getting married, and the wedding planners are perfect–until Meddy overhears the wedding photographer talking about murdering someone at the reception. Her aunties spring into action, setting into motion a series of madcap misadventures intended to save Meddy’s special day. A charming combo of close-knit family, humor, and light mystery. — LibraryReads review by Nanette Donohue, Champaign Public Library

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Posted in Adult, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Thrillers

While You Wait II: The Paris Apartment and From Strength to Strength

I’m back with two more popular upcoming books, one in fiction and one in non-fiction! They both have waitlists, of course – but I’ve included a few similar titles that you could grab while you wait!

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up—to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? —he’s not there.

The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

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Posted in Adult, Award Winners, Contemporary, Fiction, Historical, Mystery, New & Upcoming, Romance, Thrillers

LibraryReads Picks: February 2022

Every month, librarians from across the country pick the 10 upcoming releases they’re most excited to read. This month’s picks include a thriller set in Paris, a story about “the other woman” in Agatha Christie’s marriage, two queer romances, and a mystery revolving around the theft of a Stradivarius violin.

Top Pick: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Foley hits it out of the ballpark with this solid thriller set in a Paris apartment
building. Jess goes looking for her brother, but finds only the smell of bleach
and a broken St. Christopher medal lodged in the floorboards. Written in short
chapters with multiple points of view and delicious secrets dropped along
the way, this gripping, wild ride is impossible to put down. If you like
Liane Moriarty or Ruth Ware, pick this one up. —LibraryReads review by Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library

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Posted in Adult, Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Romance, Thrillers

6 Books Made to be Read in a Hammock

The summer run of books are frequently called “beach reads,” but hammocks are really where it’s at. You don’t have to leave your backyard to enjoy a hammock; it’s typically shaded; and you never get sand in weird places. From real life secrets to a snarky send up of #girlboss wellness culture to a rom-com in a book, here are 6 titles perfect for reading while stretched out in a hammock with a cold drink in reach on a lazy summer day.

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

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Posted in Adult, eBooks & eAudio, Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Romance, Thrillers

New Dual-Format Print/eBooks

The library is open again (with limited services, as you can see here); some people are comfortable coming in, while others still want to limit their time in public places. So I’ve put together a little list of some popular new books that are available either in print or as eBooks through Hoopla.

The advantage of Hoopla, of course, is that there’s no waitlist even on popular new titles like these (as long as you haven’t hit your borrowing limit for the month); on the other hand, some people think the feel of a physical book in your hand is worth waiting for.

Descriptions below are taken from either Hoopla or our catalog.

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If I Were You by Lynn Austin: Physical/eBook

From bestselling and eight-time Christy Award-winning author Lynn Austin comes a remarkable novel of sisterhood and self-discovery set against the backdrop of WWII.

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