They Left Us Everything

By Plum Johnson

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Dec 6, 2017

​They Left Us Everything is an emotional journey through Plum Johnson's grief and search for self after losing her parents and childhood home. After almost twenty years spent caring for her aging parents, Alex and Virginia, Plum is both liberated and burdened by their deaths, which happen just a mere three years apart. Though Plum loses them, and the loss is enormous, she finds them again through their belongings as she clears out their house, her childhood home, and prepares to sell it.

In packing her parent's belongings, she discovers who they really were, and also what it means to be Plum

Miller's Valley

By Anna Quindlen
Star Rating

Rated by LeeAnn B.
May 11, 2016

Miller’s Valley is a coming of age novel about Mimi Miller, a girl growing up in the 1960s in rural Pennsylvania. Mimi and her family live on the same farm their family has lived on contentedly for generations. But things in Miller's Valley are beginning to change. Mimi’s dad is a farmer, but he’s really the fix-it man for the entire town. Mimi’s mom is a nurse who still manages to be around to raise Mimi and her two brothers. Mimi’s aunt, Ruth, also lives in a little house on their farm. In fact, she hasn’t left the inside of her house for many years. Over the years, their valley has been

Welcome to Night Vale

By Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Sep 26, 2015

A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep.

Welcome to Night Vale.

This book features side characters from the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Fans of the show will be delighted with the trademark weirdness of the little town, and overjoyed to see referenced characters as protagonists and the origins of the Man in the Tan Jacket (I don't think a single fan has yet stumbled over the truth). If you've never heard of the show, I suspect you might be a bit lost in the meandering prose and

Eight Hundred Grapes

By Laura Dave
Star Rating

Rated by Diane H.
Aug 5, 2015

Eight Hundred Grapes, the number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine, is a story about relationships – with spouses, fiancés, family, self, and home.

Georgia Ford is certain she’s made the right choices for herself. She has a stable job and a fiancé who really seems to understand her. They’re about to move to London to her dream house and neighborhood, where she can build a life for herself away from the tumult and uncertainty of her family and the family business - a vineyard in Northern California.

So why does it all seem to be falling apart days before her wedding? Can Georgia

Still Alice

By Lisa Genova
Star Rating

Rated by Jennifer W.M.
Feb 9, 2015

Still Alice is a very moving book that captures the heartbreak and suffering of someone diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. We often hear about older people dealing with this dreaded disease but it also affects a surprising number of younger people. Genova captures the great loss felt by a young Harvard professor and mother as she faces the detrimental impacts of the disease. Alice’s story is powerfully written, engaging, and fast paced, although it takes place over two years. It's very emotional and I identified with all the characters on some level. Recommended for book club

Please Look After Mom

By Kyung-Sook Shin
Star Rating

Rated by Megan C.
Jan 18, 2015

This best-selling novel by South Korean author Kyung-Sook Shin takes a piercing look at how we treat those closest to us, and what it means to be a wife and mother. Told from four perspectives, the story examines the aftermath of the disappearance of “mom”. Some of the narrators speak in the unusual voice of second person, which serves to make the narrative more personal.

The narrators’ revelations are often poignant but can be uncomfortably honest, creating a family portrait that might serve to make the reader painfully aware of his/her own family’s foibles, but also of the strength of love

The Middlesteins

By Jami Attenberg
Star Rating

Rated by Kinsley Riggs
Nov 10, 2014

Edie and Richard Middlestein have been married for over 30 years, enjoying their family life in Chicago. But as their relationship stops growing and Richard decides to leave, all Edie can seem to do is grow.  She is obsessed with food and eating.  Will the family save her from herself?  Will Richard come back and continue loving every ounce of her?  One particular scene in The Middlesteins made me realize just how much this woman is eating:  Edie's daughter-in-law follows her from the house to McDonald's, then to Burger King, and on to the Chinese restaurant, watching Edie order, eat and throw

Willow Run

By Patricia Reilly Giff

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Oct 2, 2014

This historical fiction book is about Meggie Dillon's life.  To help improve the family's income, Meggie's family ups and moves to Willow Run, Michigan, during WWII. Her father has obtained a job working on war planes at night to help the war effort. Because they are moving into a small apartment they have to leave her German grandfather behind in New York.  Meggie soon realizes that she misses him but quickly meets other kids in the same circumstance as hers.  Then, coming home one day to a military car parked outside, she learns that her older brother is missing in action, and Meggie must

Remember Me Like This

By Bret Anthony Johnston
Star Rating

Rated by Bryan V.
Jul 16, 2014

Despite the blurbs on the back cover, Bret Anthony Johnston’s debut novel, Remember Me Like This, is not a thriller in the traditional sense. The elements are all here: a kidnapping, a possible murder, a family in turmoil. But to Johnston’s credit,  his novel is partly about  thwarting expectations—mostly the reader’s, and not always in ways that we’re accustomed to.

The story begins in noir mode with the happenstance discovery of a floating body in Corpus Christi, Texas, and its possible connection to a long-forgotten kidnapping. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Johnston is not

The Waiting

By Cathy LaGrow
Star Rating

Rated by Colleen O.
Jul 9, 2014

In 1928, sixteen-year-old Minka has to make a decision that will affect her life forever: to give up her newborn daughter Betty Jane for adoption. At a sewing class picnic, Minka was assaulted in the woods by a stranger and becomes pregnant. The family has no way to support the baby, so against her strongest desires, she chooses a better life for Betty Jane. But she can't ever forget her little girl, and for twenty years she writes the adoption home trying to find information about her precioius daughter. At every point in her life, she thinks about how old her daughter would be and what she

Dad is Fat

By Jim Gaffigan
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 18, 2014

I read Dad is Fat for my book club and, as a group, we reached several conclusions.

- If you have children, Gaffigan is really funny.

- If you don’t have children, he’s just “meh."

- While reading the book is okay, listening to Gaffigan read his work is much better. If you can, choose the audio.

-We all love how adoringly, respectfully, and admiringly Gaffigan speaks of his wife. I, personally, will be crushed if, five or ten years down the road, we find out they actually hate each other and are just pretending for the book.

My favorite two essays are “Dogfight," where Gaffigan expresses

Bread and Wine: Finding Community and Life Around the Table

By Shauna Niequist

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Mar 18, 2014

This book is a combination of short stories of Niequist's life with a focus on difficulties having children. She is a woman of faith and relates her stories to spiritual lessons which she realized after each individual experience. Almost every chapter is tied to a specific dish which she cooked for a particular experience and she includes recipes at the end of the chapters. I thought that this book was interesting because it was an intimate portrait of a woman's struggle with being thankful for what she had while wanting a larger family. Her stories were well-written and provides readers with

Anna Was Here

By Jane Kurtz

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Feb 11, 2014

Anna, a Gold Ribbon Safety Citizen is prepared for anything except moving from her beloved Colorado home to her father’s small Kansas hometown.  Her father, a minister, is called to accept this post until a replacement can be found.   Most of Oakwood's townspeople are related but she eventually embraces them and their unique ways.  Anna has a bumpy ride from the first but she soon comes to see things differently.  This book would be appropriate for ages 8-12.

How To Talk To a Widower

By Jonathan Tropper
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 17, 2014

Poor Doug Parker. At 29, he’s living a life he never anticipated. And it's great. Surprisingly great. Great, until his wife Haley goes off and dies, leaving him alone to deal with his 16-year-old stepson, Haley's beefed-up ex-husband, and a crushing sadness that prevents him from really living.

Tropper has a gift for realistically portraying emotion. In the titles I’ve sampled, Tropper’s main characters are stuck in a suspended state, whether it be grief, or shock, surprise, bewilderment, or all of the above. And there is always a caste of wonderful characters, mostly dysfunctional family

While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty

Star Rating

Rated by Becky C.
Jul 15, 2013

Veronica Von Holten’s life is falling apart.  A pre-med student at KU, she normally leans on her mother Natalie for support.  Only problem is, Natalie’s life is spiraling out of control even worse than Veronica’s.  During her marriage to Veronica’s father, Natalie devoted her life to the family as a stay-at-home mom.  Despite their fairly affluent married life, now that they are getting divorced, Natalie struggles to find meaningful, well-paid work and even a roof to put over her head.  Toward the end of the novel, Veronica is talking about a band major in her dorm, but this passage could be

Jul 7, 2013

Twelve year old Deza Malone in Christopher Paul Curtis’ The Mighty Miss Malone is exactly what the title of the book implies—she is mighty! The daughter of two proud and honorable black parents living in Gary, Indiana during the Great Depression, Deza is the smartest girl in her class, receiving special lessons from her beloved teacher who has pegged her for greatness. When her beloved father loses his job he secretly slips away to seek employment outside of Gary. Deza, her older yet much smaller brother, Jimmie, and her mother leave Gary to look for him. Throughout the book, Deza and her

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Rated by Lisa J.
May 9, 2013

Rules for David:  If the bathroom door is closed, knock!  Say “thank you” when someone gives you a present (even if you don’t like it).  No toys in the fish tank.  These are just a few of the rules that twelve year old Catherine has written for her brother David who has autism to help him navigate the world and try to look “normal”.

Catherine wants what most twelve year old girls want: normal.  However, having a brother with autism takes a lot of “normal” out of life.  Catherine struggles with her conflicting feelings about David.  She loves him but at the same time she is embarrassed by him

The Leftovers

By Tom Perrotta
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Apr 4, 2013

In The Leftovers, Perrotta puts human relationships under a microscope, sometimes to chilling effect. The town of Mapleton has never stopped reeling after the Sudden Departure, when large numbers of random people simply vanished into thin air. When the smoke clears, those left behind not only grieve for their friends and family who are suddenly gone, but also wonder why they were spared (or not spared). Cults are formed, hate groups emerge, and others just try to pick up where they left off. The story focuses on Mayor Kevin Garvey. While he didn’t lose anyone directly to the Sudden Departure

Mar 30, 2013

This sometimes drawn-out tale revolves around the life of Dorothy Nicolson and her family.  It moves between present day, 1959 and 1942.  Chapter headings help the reader keep track of the time frame.  Dorothy is dying and her daughter, Laurel, wants to learn the reason for a murder she saw her mother commit in 1959.  She tries to talk with her mother who lapses in and out of reality.  Laurel searches diaries and other accounts of people she believes to be involved in her mother’s life before her marriage.  Much of what she learns takes place in 1942 London during the Blitz.  The first half of


Rated by Rachel N.
Feb 14, 2013

What would you do if you were given the option to know when you would meet your soul mate? Would you want to find out? Oona (Emma Caulfield) desperately wants to know the answer to when and who. In her world you can find out by having a timer embedded in your wrist. There’s a catch, your soul mate also has to have a timer for the countdown to begin. Oona’s timer is blank. She dates people who are timer-free and when things start to get serious, she takes them to get timers. Unfortunately this results in the termination of the relationship, as the newly embedded individual is not her match

Dec 14, 2012

Dellarobia wishes her life were even a fraction as interesting as her name.  Pregnant and married at 17, she lives with her husband in a home his parents built for them in the shadow of their own and under their thumbs.  One miscarriage and two children later Dellarobia is trying to escape her life in the only way she knows how – affairs with other men.  On her way to her first actual liaison she climbs a mountain near her home and sees something that will change her life forever – millions of Monarch Butterflies.  This encounter introduces the phenomenon, fictional, though possible, of

Nov 18, 2012

Mental institutions were exposed for the unspeakable places they were in the 1970’s.  The exposure led to the closing of most of these human warehouses and the development of education and community services for families and individuals with disabilities.  Laws regarding guardianship and the basic rights of people with disabilities have also seen significant reform since that time.  But in the 1950’s individuals could be locked away for the rest of their lives simply because they were not wanted or because families or society did not know what else to do with them.  This is the touching story

Nov 8, 2012

I had never read a Mary Kay McComas book before and I was delightfully surprised at what a good story What Happened to Hannah turned out to be.  Twenty years ago, Hannah Benson, at the tender of 17, left her home in the small Virginia town of Clearfield and ended up in Baltimore, Maryland where she’s been living ever since unbeknownst to the people of Clearfield who think she’s dead.  The people of Clearfield believe that the night Hannah ran away she was really killed by her abusive father.  The same night her mother finally had enough and killed Hannah’s father.  Now, 20 years later, Hannah

Jul 13, 2012

The families of Bitsy and Brad Dickinson-Donaldson and Sami and Ziba Yazdan converge at the Baltimore airport on August 15, 1997.  What brings them together is the arrival of two adopted girls from Korea.  The large, loud, festive Dickinson-Donaldson clan, wearing buttons that proudly display their status—“Mom,” “Dad,” “Grandpa,” etc.—are handed Jin-Ho by the adoption agent.  They keep her Korean name and spend her first few years trying not to Americanize her too much, keeping her bowl hair cut, dressing her in scratchy native costumes, and reminding her constantly of her heritage.  Until Jin

May 6, 2012

During the summer of 1979 Letty and her three children returned to their island home in the Hebrides following the mysterious death of her husband, Nicky, a diplomat with the British Embassy in Bonn.  All four struggle to come to grips with the loss of a beloved husband and father.  Letty has become dysfunctional by torment over accusations that Nicky committed suicide following a failed attempt at espionage in East Germany.  Georgie, age 17, is waiting for her life to begin but is plagued with memories; Alba, at 15, is angry and vents it primarily on her seven-year-old brother, Jamie, who was

Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenhoff

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Apr 19, 2012

Brooklyn, Burning is the story of a homeless teen named Kid who falls in love with another kid named Scout over the course of one glorious Brooklyn summer.  Unfortunately, Kid spent the previous summer head over heels for Felix, and after learning the painful lesson that loved ones leave, Kid is desperate not to fall in love again.  It doesn’t help that Kid is a prime suspect in a warehouse arson case.  Being a teenager with a family that rejects you is hard, but on the plus side, you can make your own family when blood fails.

Told in second person through a series of letters Kid writes to

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Mar 15, 2012

This is a blog post but not about a book.  Well, it’s sort of about a book—The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht.  A strange book that I wish I could rave about as much as the reviews I’ve read.   The story is set in the Balkans from World War II to the Balkan Wars of the early 1990s—certainly a hard-pressed region fraught with a darkness that is the pervasive theme of the book.  Told in flashbacks, Obreht weaves fables throughout the story, from the deathless man to the deaf-mute who can commune with the escaped tiger from the war-ravaged zoo.   But this post is not about the book. This is about

The Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Dec 9, 2011

If you are looking for an inspirational story to read this holiday season and you are short on time, I suggest Donna VanLiere's beautifully written and illustrated book, The Christmas Journey. Donna VanLiere begins her book with the actual Luke’s account of Jesus birth and then retells the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in her own voice. She wonderfully develops the details of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. VanLiere’s version of the Nativity story is both poetic and realistic, because she neither embellishes the exhausting journey that Jesus’

Nov 16, 2011

In an attempt to broaden my reading horizons I set out to read international fiction, a genre I’m not familiar with. Once I began The Bible of Clay, however, I felt a little bit like I was cheating since it’s the kind of book I’ve read a lot of – intrigue, mild thriller, archeological finds, flashbacks to the past, even a Holocaust connection. But since the author, Julia Navarro, is a Spanish journalist, and the story takes place mostly in Iraq and Europe, I decided that it fit for an international fiction book. The bible of clay was supposedly the story of creation as told by Abraham to an

Sep 15, 2011

Moon over Manifest won the 2011 Newberry award. That was enough reason for me to read it, but I quite enjoyed it and want to offer a few more reasons.

It is set in Kansas. The town, Manifest, if fictional, but is based on family stories and memories of a real Kansas town that the author’s grandparents lived in. It’s set in both 1917 and 1936 – very interesting times, what with WWI and the Great Depression. It deals with overcoming hardship and finding your place in the world. These are broad themes, and therefore applicable to… everyone. I always enjoy stories about coming together in the face