Joanne likes fantasy, dystopia, mysteries, nonfiction and realistic stories and cooking.
October 6, 2023: Joanne's picks this week are three books that resonate with her interest in history and political science and which have been, in her opinion, inexplicably banned: "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You" by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. This in depth, thought provoking book for young adults has been banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people. "Kite Runner" written by Khaled Hosseini. This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.” "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. This classic novel has been challenged and banned because of its use of racist language, themes of rape and "white saviorhood". But this book is so much more than those specific details and can be used to teach and discuss the realities of the time period and events portrayed in the novel.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2023: Joanne said she had to read more Peter Heller and she meant it. Her picks today are Heller's “The River” and its sequel “The Guide.” In “The River” Wynn and Jack, two college friends with a strong bond over a love of books and the outdoors, have taken a semester off for a leisurely river trek in northern Canada. The trip soon becomes an ordeal dealing with a fast-moving forest fire and malicious humans. Heller paces the story brilliantly with his descriptions of nature, calm and chaotic as well as the characters. As Kirkus Reviews described it: “An exhilarating tale delivered with the pace of a thriller and the wisdom of a grizzled nature guide.” The impact of the final events remained with me and certainly colored my reading of “The Guide.” While it can be read as a stand-alone, I would not suggest it. “The Guide” takes place 3 years later and continues Jack’s story in a world once again focused on fishing, but also on the good and maliciousness of humans. Jack is now a fishing guide for country singer Alison K at an exclusive resort offering the rich a getaway from the persistent strains of Covid-19. But not is all as it seems with shooting neighbors, attacking dogs, strange rules. Once again Heller’s descriptions of fishing, nature and the characters fascinated me and added to the mystery story. As Kirkus Reviews says: “This is an unconventional mystery, an unconventional romance, and an unconventional adventure, creepy and spiritual in good measure."
SEPTEMBER 19, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is "The Last Ranger" by Peter Heller. I now have the perfect example of an "immersive story". Heller's lyrical and descriptive yet sharp and evocative writing immersed me in the physical and emotionally vulnerable every day life, actions and thoughts, complicated feelings and motivations, quick and decisive decisions, and nuanced personal justice system of a contemporary enforcement ranger in Yellowstone National Park. Ren Hopper spends his days policing poachers and saving families from animal attacks, interacting with tourists and locals, fishing (as a newbie Heller reader I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his fishing descriptions and philosophy), and hanging out with, saving, and protecting Hilly, a biologist who is studying the wolf packs that inhabit the park. While you may think literary and adventure are mutually exclusive, Heller's writing most definitely proves otherwise. Found a new writer, for me; so if you share my eclectic reading style, join me--now onto "The River", and then "The Guide"....
AUGUST 3, 2023: It's all about foraging! We have guides for adults, activities and stories for the young ones and even a puzzle if you want to forage from the comfort of your family room!
JULY 18, 2023: Joanne’s pick this week is Michael Finkel's “The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession”, a non-fiction true crime book about the life of Stéphane Breitwieser, a prolific art thief who admitted to stealing over 239 art objects from small museums, churches, castle and institutions in Europe between 1995 and 2001. I was intrigued by Breitwieser’s story. He is a rare kind of art thief who did not steal art to profit by selling it, or holding it for ransom, or using it as collateral on the black market. Rather, he was an obsessed individual who through serendipity, daring and without violence or threats, stole in the presence of security and patrons for the sole purpose of keeping it and enjoying its beauty. Finkle, a gifted journalistic storyteller with an unassuming, non- judgemental approach to his subject, has delivered a meticulously researched and compelling story.
JULY 13, 2023: Joanne's pick is the extraordinary historical novel by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray: "The First Ladies". This writing partnership has produced a strong story portraying two formidable women, Eleanor Roosevel and Mary McLeod Bethune, and their enduring legacies as historical figures at the start of the 20th century well as individually as friends across color lines. You will be both compelled and captivated by the authors' writing and by the story they are telling. Be prepared to think about the powerful and unforgettable Mary and Eleanor, their strength and triumph, long after you have finished reading this book.
JUNE 28, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is the adult fairy tale, recently in paperback, "Nettle & Bone" by T. Kingfisher. Kingfisher's fairy tale with a world of magic and political complications and threats and unique characters including the third daughter princess on a quest, a dust-wife, a fairy godmother or 2, a demon chicken, a knight and an evil prince is fresh, funny, complicated and so well written. What made this novel a truly memorable tale for Joanne is the nuanced good versus evil -- OK to harm if good result? -- motivations of those characters that directed their decisions and the development of the creative storyline.
JUNE 24, 2023: Joanne’s pick this week is award-winning bestselling author Juliette Fay’s addictive historical novel, “City of Flickering Light.” This is historical fiction at its best! Inspired by glamorous events and impactful realities, silent films, “scandals”, and real-life figures of the 1920’s in the early days of Hollywood, Fay’s writing will grab you from the beginning and you will not want it to end. You will very quickly be invested in the lives, loves, flaws, grit and challenges of friends Irene, Millie and Henry as they navigate Tinseltown.
s genre with her beautiful prose in this unforgettable tale contemplating life, death and making your mark in this world. Addie LaRue makes a deal with a demon so she can live her life the way she wants to. But, like most deals, there are strings attached, and these strings make it so she is forgotten by everyone she meets. Dancing non-linearly about time, the book shows Addie’s life over 300 years and takes a closer look at her modern life when there is an abrupt change on one day, with one boy, in one bookstore . . .
MAY 5, 2023: Joanne 's pick this week is award-winning bestselling author, Juliette Fay's newest novel, "The Half of It." Helen Spencer is a 58 year old grandmother when she runs into her first love, Cal Crosby. Forty years may have passed, but the way they parted ways still has an impact on their current lives. Told in dual timelines from Helen's point of view, this is a story of bad timings, questionable decisions, regrets, but also family, love, strength and second chances. The current timeline is realistically set in the pandrmic. Fay explores how the choices we make in life ultimately shape who are. I was invested in the well developed characters, emotions and story from beginning to end. Meet Author Juliette Fay, Thursday, May 4, 7:00—8:00 PM in Multipurpose Room 138, Weymouth Tufts Library, 46 Broad Street, Weymouth, MA. Register online https://www.weymouth.ma.us/
APRIL 12, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is the poetry collection by Clint Smith, "Above Ground." These predominantly narrative poems are quite accessible to all readers, even those who shudder at the memory of high school English poetry assignments. While you do not have to be a great aunt watching your nieces and nephew beginning to navigate the world of parenthood at the great joy of the babies' grandparents and 94-year old great grandfather, it does add to the experience of reading these poems. Smith's poems are told from his fatherhood perspective and are full of joy, humor, trepidation, history, astonishment. They are intimate and immense. Intimate in telling of the love for his son, daughter, wife, and of the daily insights and activities of this new experience of being a father -- post dinner dance parties, bear hugs, dinosaurs, a leaf that looks like a star, double strollers. Immense in reflections on legacy, societal and systemic issues like police brutality, racism, gun control, and New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. In "Ars Poetica" Smith answers his child's question (and our question...) about a poet's subject matter to say that "a poem can be about anything." "Everything is a poem." "Poems are in everything." "Poems are inside of me?" "They are."
APRIL 7, 2023: Joanne’s pick this week is the newest novel by Jacqueline Winspear, "The White Lady", featuring a the female protagonist, Elinor “Linni” White (De Witt). In 1947 Elinor lives in a “Grace and Favour” cottage in a village in rural Britain. One day Elinor's quiet life is disrupted when the young couple with a small child who have moved into the village from London are threatened by the husband's brothers, members of a London organized crime family. Elinor decides to interfere, getting in contact with her former SOE colleague who is now a senior detective in Scotland Yard.
Elinor’s story is told through three alternating timelines. As Elinor investigates, her life story unfolds, with the narrative switching back and forth between the 1947 present and either Elinor’s youth during WWI in Belgium or her service as a spy in WWII and the tragic events that have left her desperate to find peace in the aftermath.
Winspear’s descriptive language, twisting plot and character development will keep you engrossed from beginning to end.
MARCH 30, 2023: Joanne’s pick this week is “The Lincoln Highway”, the third novel by one of Joanne’s favorite authors, Amor Towles, which is now in paperback. This sweeping story takes place over 10 event-filled days in 1954. Eighteen-year-old Emmett Watson returns home to Nebraska following the death of his father, after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter at a juvenile work farm. Emmett’s plan is to collect his 8 year old brother Billy at the family farm that has been foreclosed upon by the bank and head to California to start over. However, two friends from the work farm, Duchess and Woolly, have escaped and have a very different plan that includes going to New York City. I could not stop reading this story told from multiple points of view. Towles’s use of vivid language in his absorbing story-telling and development of characters and events moved me in his “Rules of Civility” and “Gentleman in Moscow”. This amazing novel, “The Lincoln Highway”, while once again a very different story line, is no different. It will grab you and not let go.
MARCH 15, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is from international bestseller, Mhairi McFarlane, "Mad About You: a Novel". Once again Mhairi has written another emotionally complex, thought-provoking modern romantic fiction novel with wit, strong characters and an original story. Wedding photographer Harriet turns down her boyfriend's marriage proposal and must find a new apartment. Commiting to a house share arrangement with Cal, a stranger, they both must deal with serious issues while they progress from strangers, to friends to possibly more. Kirkus Reviews says it all: "McFarlane's gift is writing romantic comedy that depicts a recognizable world...without dimming the luster of shining moments of humor, love, and connection."
MARCH 7, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is "Fellowship Point" by Alice Elliott Dark. This sweeping story of the lifelong friendship of two women, one married with children and one who remained single, from Philadelphia and Fellowship Point in Maine and told from both of their POVs. They are still learning about themselves and the give and take of relationships into their 80's. Dark's exquisite language, deep character development, beautiful descriptions and moving story with intricate subplots pulled me in and kept me enthralled. The 600+ pages speed by!
February 23, 2023: Joanne's pick this week, for Black History Month, is the Coretta Scott King illustrator award winner, "Standing in the Need of Prayer" written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison. This "Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual" with lyrical text and impactful drawings, chronicles African American history from 1619 to the present highlighting many pivotal events. This book provides "informative reminders of yesterday, hopeful images for today, and aspirational dreams of tomorrow." #blackhistorymonth #standingintheneedofprayer #carolebostonweatherford
February 8, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is "The House Guest" by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Not every thriller needs a murder, but each one does need a unique story with unpredictable twists and turns. Ryan's skills discovering details developed while she was an investigative reporter inform her creation of this novel with buried clues and plenty of twists and turns. You want to tell newly separated Alyssa (her wealthy husband walked out) to tread carefully getting involved in a new friend's life and mystery, but then her own life gets complicated with an FBI investigation and more. You may think you have it all figured out but then.....
January 25, 2023: Joanne's picks this week are in honor of "World Read Aloud Day" (February 2) are the Geisel Award for beginning reader, "I Did It" text and graphics by Michael Emberly and one of the Honor Books "Fish and Wave" text and graphics by Sergio Ruzzier. The text of each book is simple yet appropriately challenging for begginer readers to read to themselves or out loud. The stories and graphics are entertaining: a fish and ocean wave figuring out how to be friends and a young one figuring out how to do It--ride a bike!
January 18, 2023: Joanne's pick this week is the domestic drama, crime fiction novel "Locust Lane" by Stephen Amidon told from the POV of 5 adults in an affluent New England community. Each narrator's story and actions are biased by his/her relationship to one or more pivotal characters in the unfolding investigation of the murder of 20 year old Eden. As nuances and details are revealed and social media explodes, the story takes unexpected twists and turns. The prologue will pull you in and the ending is not tidily resolved, both elements adding to this novel's intrigue.
January 18, 2023: Joanne's picks this week are nostalgic. January 18 is National Winnie the Pooh Day and National Thesaurus Day. Do you remember the first time you heard a Winnie the Pooh story--A.A. Milne original or Disney remake? I know I was young and was captured by the innocence and devotion of Pooh and his friends. I was jealous of Christopher Robin! Showing my age--loved the song "House at Pooh Corner" by Loggins and Messina: "It's hard to explain how a few precious things seem to follow throughout all our lives." Now for Thesaruses. A teacher I had in high school, Sr. Ruth, recently passed away at 95 years old. She taught us how to use a thesaurus so as to always use the best word to accurately voice your message. She counseled us to take time to consider what we were trying to share with others in our writings or speech. Life lessons from a children's author and a wonderful teacher: great way to start a new year! #winniethepooh #joannespick #shoplocal
November 2, 2022: Joanne's pick this week is "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Illustrated Edition" by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay with Neil Packer. Many years ago this fifth book in the series was the darkest yet and truly established the ongoing war of good vs. evil wizards. Joanne remembers refusing to read on for two days after the death of a main character dear to Harry. She needed to let all of the emotions and ramifications settle before continuing. As just one example of the intense depth and visceral impact of the illustrations check out pages 522 and 523 illustrating this pivotal event. Had to stop reading for a day again!
October 8, 2022: Joanne's pick for Mystery Series Week is just in time for the start of the baseball playoffs...the "Ballpark Mysteries" by David A. Kelly for readers ages 6-9. Cousins Mike and Kate solve mysteries in different MLB parks from Boston's Fenway to L.A. Dodger Stadium and many ballparks in between. Solve mysteries and learn unique facts about the park and team. Check out some of the 2022 playoff teams with their own books.
September 22, 2022: Joanne's picks this week are three books that resonate with her interest in history and political science and which have been, in her opinion, inexplicably banned: "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You" by Ibram X. Kendi and Jadon Reynolds. This in depth, thought provoking book for young adults has been banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people. "Kite Runner" written by Khaled Hosseini. This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.” "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank. This moving diary of a teen hiding from the Nazis has been banned because of sexually offensive language and disturbing subject matter.
August 16, 2022: Joanne's pick this week for Romance Month is "Thank You for Listening" by author, screenwriter, lifelong actor and award-winning narrator of over 500 hundred titles including Emily Henry and Kristen Hannah titles, Julia Whelan. Combine "snowed in", "just one night", "epistolary", "second chances", and "mistaken identities" tropes with 2 romance narrators making connections and life decisions and you get a funny, sexy, poignant and vibrant story. You know it is special when Emily Henry says "I wanted to bask in this book and I also wished I had written it."
July 11, 2022: Joanne's pick this week: Phillipines born journalist/writer Jose Antonio Vargas, with forceful prose, eloquently and emotionally dares to tell his story which echoes the story of so many others who both gain and lose so much living in the undocumented shadows in his memoir, "Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen". While this is Jose's personal story of immigration and balancing the people and facts of his life, regardless of your status, there is something in his story that will resonate with you.
April 14, 2022: Joanne’s pick this week for Poetry Month is Amber McBride’s William C. Morris YA Debut Award winning “Me MOTH”, a novel in verse. This impactful story of the joint road trip of two teens (Moth who cannot forgive herself for surviving the car crash that took the lives of her parents and brother and Sani who suffers from depression and has lost his music), will remain in your consciousness long after you finish reading it. The vivid rhythm of McBride’s succinct and expressive poetry provides the perfect conduit for the emotions, roots and mysteries discovered by Moth and Sani on their journey.
February 23, 2022 Joanne's pick this week is the 2022 Caldecott Honor, Seibert Honr, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner "Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre" by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. This clebrated author and acclaimed illustrator have joined to tell young readers in a moving and insighful way about the events that must not be forgotten and from which we have much to learn. Important book not just for Black HIstory Month but for every month.
February 16, 2022 Joanne's pick this week is Ojibwe author Angeline Boulley's debut novel, "Firekeeper's Daughter", a groundbreaking adult/teen thriller. In this Printz award winner, 18 year Daunis has spent her life balancing between two identities. Her father was a hockey star from the Sugar Island Ojibwe reservation, and her mother is the daughter of one of Sault Ste. Marie's most prominent families. Add to her story a fake romance, an undercover drug investigation and twists and turns, as well as racist realities and the result is a strong, engrossing novel from first to last page.
January 10, 2022 Joanne's pick this week is "State of Terror" by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny. This is a writer partnership made in political mystery reader's dreams. Match Penny's mystery writing skills, add one of Rodham Clinton's nightmares that haunted her while secretary of state and include some Three Pines appearances and you have a fast paced thriller from beginning to end.
October 13, 2021 Joanne's pick this week is "Marie Lu's Duology "Skyhunter" and "Steelstriker", a YA dystopian science fiction fantasy Lu is a master of this genre with high tension, relatable characters, unique worlds and no perfect endings.
October 5, 2021 Joanne's pick this week is "The Personal Librarian" by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. It took an amazing collaboration of an accomplished Black author of contemporary literary fiction with another accomplished writer of strong women historical fiction novels to bring to life with vivid detail and contemporary importance the story of Belle Marion Greener who hid her true Black self to protect her family yet accomplished so much professionally as white Belle da Costa Greene, the personal librarian to J.P. Morgan curating the Pierpont Morgan Library.
July 28, 2021 While Kendra is away on vacation, Joanne is doing the Wednesday pick. Joanne loves to cook. Her style is improvisational, different, messy, fun, simple, use whatever is in the refrigerator and pantry, and tweak the recipe as she cooks. Who would have thought they would make the perfect cookbook for all of us with her style of cooking – “The New York Times Cooking No Recipes Recipes” by Sam Sifton. She has already made several of the dishes using Sifton’s modifications and hacks and some of her own! Check out the Pizza Without a Crust recipe! Not to leave out the kids -- Cooking can be such a fun time for family and young friends and what better “cookbook” to use than “Kids in the Kitchen” by Sheila Simmons. It is a memory book, craft book and cookbook all wrapped into one. Fill in the blanks, make a craft, cook, eat and have fun using this interactive book. Check out the Skillet Spaghetti Pizza recipe!
July 8, 2021 “Beach Read & More” Teen pick by Joanne: While Hannah Reynolds tells the story of Abby and Noah’s complicated summer romance on Nantucket Island with humor and teen angst in “The Summer of Lost Letters”, she also creatively combines local flavor, researching family roots, World War II and Holocaust history and self-discovery in this entertaining young adult debut novel.
JANUARY 22, 2021-- FIRST PICK OF THE NEW YEAR IS A POWERFUL YOUNG ADULT NOVEL:
While Gary D. Schmidt (Newbery Honor Winner and National Book Award Finalist) has set his latest young adult novel Just Like That in the 1960’s, the same time setting of The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now, it is a timeless story about Meryl Lee Kowalski, an eighth grader, having lost her best friend to a car accident, “beginning anew” at a girls’ private school in Maine. It is a story of Obstacles, Resolutions, Accomplishments, friendships, challenges, and clashing society norms told with the backdrop of the Viet Nam War, sit-ins, racial and economic inequality and heart-rending changes intertwined with Matt’s story of struggle, avoiding a cruel criminal and courage all resulting in walls being taken down and demons being faced and love.
Sometimes books haunt me long after I finish them and sometimes I have to immediately reread them once I finished them. This weeks' recommendation is one of them: Louise Penny's 16th novel, All the Devils Are Here, per usual, is so much more than a murder mystery. It is a story about family, love, misconceptions, hurts, love, secrets, history, devotion, intrique, slight of hand/eye/mind, family,and love. Louise Penny's language, subtle clues, intense emotions, heart-stopping events and characters with great strengths and human weaknesses and faults hold you from the opening line to the last word. A rereading illumiinated so many comments and clues once you know the events in chapters 41 to the end. Armand Gamauche is one of those characters whose actions, words, and foundational beliefs and morals haunt me, in a very good way, long after I finish the book.
The first Jordan Sonnenblick novel I read was Notes from the Midnight Driver. I was moved by the humor, the pain, the joy, the uncertainty, the unlikely friendship and the million of emotions faced by a changing teen. We have all known (or are) an Alex or Laurie. I was hooked and read his first novel Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie and then each new one when published and recommend them to readers of realistic novels who want to read about believable characters who are facing the same things they are. Here are a few . . .
Notes from the Midnight Driver for Grades 9. When scheming teen Alex is ordered to do community service at a senior center he is assigned to Solomon Lewis, a "difficult" senior with a lot of attitude, and through their relationship, both are profoundly changed.
Falling Over Sideways for Grades 6 - 8. Claire's life is a joke, but she's not laughing. When the joke becomes serious, the only way Claire, her family, and her friends are going to get through it is if they can find a way to make it funny again.
Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie for Grades 7. When his little brother is diagnosed with leukemia, thirteen-year-old Steven is forced to deal with his brother's illness, his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece, his homework, the band, girls, and Dangerous Pie.
Zen and the Art of Faking It for Grades 7 - 9. When eighth-grader San Lee moves to a new town and a new school for the umpteenth time, he doesn't try to make new friends. Instead he sits back and devises a plan to be totally different.
Young people have been, are being, and will always be called to action to speak out, protest, work for change. In Kent State Deborah Wiles, using stunning, moving poetry, tells the haunting story of the murder of four students and wounding of 9 others on the college campus from every complicated angle, side and person giving a complete picture of the times, not just a “this is what happened on May 4, 1970” recounting. Whether you vividly remember this 50 year old tragedy or are, in these times of unrest, telling your grandchildren the history they must not forget, this book vividly makes us realize that we each must stand for truth and be brave in our commitment to the tenets of our democracy.
Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief novels star the most endearing, intelligent, mischievous, and incorrigible character, Eugenides the thief. This series for 12+ readers began with the Newbery winner "The Thief" in 1996 and includes political machinations and intrigue, intervention of the gods, battles of various kinds, dangerous journeys and multilayered alliances. You have time to read or reread the first 5 books in the series before the long awaited final comes out in October. Yea!
NONFICTION MUST READ! STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by JASON REYNOLDS AND IBRAM X. KENDI. This says it better than I can: "Reynolds (Look Both Ways) lends his signature flair to remixing Kendi's award-winning Stamped from the Beginning...Told impressively economically, loaded with historical details that connect clearly to current experiences, and bolstered with suggested reading and listening selected specifically for young readers, Kendi and Reynolds's volume is essential, meaningfully accessible reading."—Publishers Weekly, starred review "Jason Reynolds has the amazing ability to make words jump off the page. Told with passion, precision, and even humor, Stamped is a true story-a living story-that everyone needs to know."—Steve Sheinkin, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Bomb and Born to Fly