All posts by Jessica FitzHanso

Book Brunch: Fall for these titles!

Thanks to all who joined us for our Book Brunch book share program this month!  Jess and Jill shared some new titles coming into the library, and attendees (readers just like you!) told us what they have been reading and recommending.

Fall is always full of great new books from big authors, so our list has the latest from Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Meg Mitchell Moore, and Clare Pooley. It’s also a great time for big debuts, like the titles from Sunyi Dean, and Tess Gunty. Our audience mentioned some of the books that have been, or will be, read by our library book groups. Check out the full 2022-23 book group schedule here, and join the conversation!

Need more recommendations?  Check out our Reading Room blog, sign up for the next Book Brunch on November 18!

Summer Reading Challenge: Read an author that is new to you

Summer is winding down, and so is our Summer Reading challenge. Have you had a chance to complete your Bingo card yet? We will accept entries until August 30, so there is still time! Just click here to view and print a copy of the Bingo card, read in as many categories as you can and turn it in to the main library to be entered. Plus it’s fun to read off the beaten path. To wrap up the challenge, I’m going to share a few more categories that I have accomplished lately. For even more ideas about what to read, visit some of our past posts. Today I am going to cover some suggestions to Read a book by an author that is new to you:

An author I encountered for the first time recently is Casey McQuiston. McQuiston writes thoughtful, imaginative, and hilarious romance stories about young people finding love and at the same time learning so much more about who they are. The title I read is her most recent, One Last Stop, in which August, a cynical 23-year old living in NYC, finds love in the form of a beautiful but hard-edged punk rocker named Jane, whom she meets on the subway everyday. This should be happily ever after, but there’s a serious catch: Jane is actually stuck in time, in the 1970’s, and cannot exist beyond the subway car they ride every day. This novel is peppered with other great characters too, and some great pop-culture references – it’s a delight!

A second author I’ve just tried for the first time is Karin Slaughter. Yes, I know, she has been writing for a while and is very popular, but that’s one of the things that makes challenges like this so great, they present an opportunity to pick up some of the books we may have missed. Slaughter writes taught, smart, gripping, and even, at times, funny thrillers. Her main characters often face immense challenges, both externally and internally before they find the killer. The novel I chose to read was Pieces of Her, for the Mystery Book Club, and I was pulled into the suspense immediately. In the story, Andy (Andrea) thinks she knows her mother, the caring, hardworking, smart woman that Andy left her life in NYC for when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Flash Forward three years, and Andy at 31, is still living with her mom, but her mom thinks she should really be getting back to her life. Until a terrible event occurs that changes Andy’s perception of her mother for good. Now Andy has to uncover who her mother was before Andy came along to help them clear their names.

Join a book group!

September is just a few weeks away, and that means the return of our book groups! The Chelmsford Library hosts eight book groups, most of which meet from September through June every year. Whether you like fiction, nonfiction, classics, cookbooks, or mysteries; whether you prefer to meet at night, midday or morning, we have a book group for you. All of the book groups meet in a hybrid format (come in and connect, or join the group via Zoom) and are actively welcoming new members. Check out the line-up below, and take part in the conversation!

Novel Conversations – First Friday of every month at 12:30PM. The next meeting will be September 2 to discuss The Day the World Came to Town.

Upcoming titles:

Knit-Lit Book Group – Meets on the second Friday of the month, at 10:30am. The next meeting will be September 9  to discuss The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

What we’re reading: The group will decide the full calendar of titles at their September meeting. Past titles include:

Wednesday Morning Book Group – Meets on the third Wednesday of the month, at 10am. The next meeting will be August 17 to discuss The Other Black Girl.

Upcoming titles:

Evening Book Group – Meets on the fourth Monday of the month, at 7pm.The next meeting will be September 26 to discuss One, Two, Three.

Upcoming Titles:

Mystery Book Group – Meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month, at 2pm.The next meeting will be August 24, to discuss We Begin at the End.

Upcoming titles:

History Book Group – Meets on the fourth Thursday of the month, at 7pm. The next meeting will be September 22 to discuss Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.

Upcoming titles:

Bibliobites Cookbook book group: – Meets on the fourth Friday of the month. The next meeting is TBD.

Upcoming titles: We decide month to month, depending on our taste buds. Here are some of the titles we’ve read in the past:

SoJust Book Group: Chelmsford Library’s Social Justice-focused book group meets at 7 p.m. on a Monday evening once every three months for lively conversation, and includes a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. The group will be meeting to discuss Just By Looking at Him, by Ryan O’Connell on Monday, September 12.

Past Titles:

Summer Reading Challenge: Read a Banned or Challenged Book

Read a Banned or Challenged Book: It is tragic to hear news of books being challenged in 2022, but it’s happening with startling frequency of late. That is why we are challenging you to go a step further than those seeking to eliminate these titles and actually read them as part of the Adult Summer Reading Challenge. I have picked two, one classic and one contemporary, that both seek to address systematic racism, though in very different ways. The first is the classic novel by Toni Morrison, Beloved. Published in 1987, the book has been challenged repeatedly, even as recently as 2021. In the novel, Morrison depicts a ghost story of sorts, about Sethe, a slave living in post-Civil War Ohio who is haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl. Yes, it is graphic, but it’s a story that needs to make an impact, to be visceral and to resonate long after the book is finished.

The second book I chose is The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. The book centers on a teen named Starr, who lives in Garden Heights, a fictional, middle class black neighborhood, but attends an affluent mostly white private school on the other side of the city. While riding home from a party one night, her and a neighborhood friend are pulled over by police, told to get out of the car, and then an officer shoots her friend. Starr is devastated by the incident, and equally devastated by the attitudes of those around her in the wake of her witness testimony. She struggles to realize how to act while being caught between the pressures of her family and her school community. It’s a moving portrayal of a smart young woman caught in an awful tragedy, and an excellent illustration of the systems of oppression the Black Lives Matter Movement aims to fight.

For The American Library Association’s lists of the most frequently challenged books of this year and years past, click here, and help defend the Freedom to Read.

Summer Reading Challenge: Read a Book by a New England Author

Our Summer Reading Challenge has reached the halfway point – how are you doing? My progress is slow this Summer, maybe I’m sluggish due to the heat, but I am working through the last column of the board! For the final weeks of the challenge, I’ll share what I chose for each of the five squares. This week: Read a Book by an author from New England.

So, I didn’t realize it at the time that I read it, but author Danzy Senna is a Bostonian. I read her psychological thriller New People. In New People, Maria is engaged to the handsome Khalil and living the hipster lifestyle in Brooklyn in the mid-nineties. Her and her fiance are also stars in a reality show focused on multi-racial marriages (both characters come from mixed-race households). But Maria has a secret obsession with a young black poet she has never talked to, and her obsession with him grows once she begins to see him around the places where her and her friends hang out. When she takes it to the next level, breaking into his apartment and even posing as his neighbor’s nanny, she risks losing her grip on reality and her seemingly wonderful life. Senna, herself bi-racial, has discussed the identity struggle that can occur when a person is forced to code-switch so often, with in their own family or friend circle, or is pressured to favor one part of their heritage over another. The book is pretty fast-paced and lends itself well to discussion.

Another New England author I might recommend is Celeste Ng. Many of our book groups have read and discussed the events of her books Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Both books reflect upon family relationships and dynamics, and questions from the past thought tucked safely away that unexpectedly rise up to haunt a new generation. She deftly incorporates to these seemingly domestic dramas contemporary social issues of race, class and identity.

 

Ng’s newest title, Our Missing Hearts, due out in October, takes on the problem of censorship in a society rampant with fear and anxiety and desperate to eradicate the influence, and maybe, existence, of a specific group of people. It is a frightening scenario, but certainly not one foreign to our current situation. It’s a thrilling and heartrending novel about a boy, in the midst of this fearful world trying to uncover the mystery of his mother’s influence and sudden disappearance, and the underground network of librarians that work to help him.

While you’re waiting for… Book Lovers

Nothing says Summer like those fun, colorful, romantic comedies. With tropes like “enemies to lovers,” “opposites attract,” and “fake relationship,” these books charm with strong characters, witty dialogue, and an upbeat, fast-pace to a heartwarming conclusion – the perfect beach companion.

This Summer’s hit is the latest from Emily Henry called Book Lovers. In Book Lovers, fierce publishing exec, Nora Stephens, encounters her New York nemesis, arrogant and brooding editor Charlie Lastra, while both are on leave from the city in small town North Carolina. The two big-city personalities clash at first, but, over a mutually adored manuscript they are both eager to work on, soon enough sparks fly. There are already over 100 holds on this new title, but don’t worry! We have some other great titles that will evoke those feelings of Summer love for you to enjoy while you wait.

The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory: Jasmine Guillory is a major force in this genre. Her books incorporate diverse characters in fun settings, often involving food. The Wedding Date is the first book in her Wedding Date series. A minor character in one novel becomes the star of the next, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be read in order. In The Wedding Date, a chance romantic encounter in an elevator leads Drew, a doctor from LA, to invite Alexa, an executive chef from Berkeley, to be his plus one to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. What starts out as a purely physical attraction soon becomes much more as they continue to see each other. Cultural diversity in characters and settings adds depth to these romances, and side characters broaden the perspective and allow the author to show off some great wit.

The Ex-Talk, by Rachel Lynn Solomon: For more love between feuding professionals, like in The Book Lovers, try The Ex-Talk. Shay Goldstein has been working in her dream job as producer at Seattle Public Radio since she was 19. She couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life, until she starts butting heads with arrogant newbie, Dominic Yoon. When Shay comes up with an idea for a program where exes give relationship advice, her boss, having noticed the tension between her and Dominic, suggests they team up as hosts. As the show’s success increases, so does the chemistry between Shay and Dominic. This is a smart, funny enemies-to-lovers story that’s perfect for pool-side.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: If you like quirky, coming of age romantic comedies about characters living in the city, try Casey McQuiston’s latest novel, One Last Stop. August Landry has just moved to Brooklyn after a childhood playing detective side-kick to her conspiracy theorist mother. Now independent, August is also alone and figuring out who she is. On the subway, she meets hip punk-rocker Jane Su, and the two hit it off right away. From then on, every time August enters the subway train, Jane Su is there, and as their relationship develops a group of friends emerges too. There’s just one problem though: Jane can never leave the train. Find out how the two find happiness in this engaging and original story about discovering one’s place in the world.

While You are Waiting for….The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

I’ve been surprised lately how many big authors are incorporating the pandemic into their new novels. It seems too soon, right? Well, it is certainly a moment in our collective history and consciousness, and fiction, to me at least, has always been an excellent way to make sense of challenging, painful experiences.

One of the most poignant examples released this past Fall is The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. Erdrich’s writing is complex and moving, with a cast of very human characters experiencing the pain and joys of existence. She often incorporates her own heritage to tell stories about the intersection of European immigrant and Native experiences in the rural Midwest. However, in her latest, she has chosen to tell a story set in the very urban city of Minneapolis, which is also home to her very real bookstore, Birchbark Books, a major setting for her latest work. Erdrich also incorporates the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and the subsequent protests and demonstrations.

While I highly recommend reading this novel for yourself, there remains high demand, so here is a quick list of some other books to read while you’re waiting for your copy of The Sentence.

Recent fiction by indigenous authors: Another book I have finally had a chance to read is Tommy Orange’s prize-winning debut There, There. It’s a sharply written contemporary story about a group of indigenous characters that live in or around Oakland, California. Each has their own pain, and all are making a journey to a big Pow Wow set to be held in Oakland, seeking a solution, in one form or another, to their individual struggles. (I should also plug our Morning Book Group here, which is meeting to discuss this book next week.) If you’re looking for a great horror story, try Stephen Graham Jones’s work, The Only Good Indians, a blend of classic horror and social commentary that follows four childhood friends as they are followed by a mysterious and haunting entity representing the heritage they left behind. If you’re into science fiction, try Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, which blends Pre-Colombian culture, political intrigue, celestial events and forbidden magic to create a fresh, gripping new story.

Recent Fiction incorporating the pandemic: For many, it will be too soon, especially considering in many ways we have still not entirely put the pandemic behind us. For others, as I said above, these novels present an opportunity to work through some of the difficulties we’ve all experienced over the past two years. One of these titles is by the award-winning writer Gary Shteyngart, called Our Country Friends.  Modeled on the social satire of Anton Chekov, Shteyngart’s characters start out in the early days of the pandemic. Alexander “Sasha” Senderovsky has decided now would be a great time to invite his best friends to join his wife and child at his remote compound in upstate New York, allowing them to escape their city existences for a while. Also joining them is an actor with whom Sasha is working on a screen play, and a young acolyte of Sasha’s from his days as a college writing professor. Over the course of their relative isolation, stories will be shared, hilarious and crazy things will happen and even love will bloom and be rekindled. But there is also great loss, and the friends will endure this together. Other significant novels released recently in this category include, Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here, Noah Hawley’s fantastical satire Anthem, and How High We Go In the Dark, which presents a chorus of voices, moving from an early pandemic through life and death and time telling the stories of pain, innovation, and adjustment to the changing world.

Hopefully among these titles you’ll be able to find something to tide you over until The Sentence comes around to you. For even more great recommendations, check out our Book Spots, every week on Instagram, and don’t forget to check out our Winter Reading Challenge, going on now through March 4, 2022.

Special Friends of the Library Book Sale, 12/1-12/10!

Find the perfect gift for the holidays, thanks to the Friends of the Library!

Across from the Main Desk, we’ll have a table full of like-new items, perfect for that special someone on your list. Each item will be individually priced and supplies may be limited! In addition, the usual sale carts with hardcovers, paperbacks, DVDs, and CDs will also be fully stocked! The sale starts today and continues through December 10.

It is with the fundraising efforts of the Chelmsford Friends of the Library that we are able to fund collections and programs, including our Annual one Book Chelmsford Celebration. Please consider supporting the Friends by shopping at the sale this year. To learn more about the Friends activities, and how to join, visit www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/get-involved/friends/ or find the Friends on Facebook!

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