Mercurial May Staff Picks
I recently spent time in Sarajevo, Bosnia and saw for myself the destruction left by the Bosnian War (1991-1995) While there, I learned about the history of this land and war, but never knew about the 60,000 women and girls who were raped, beaten, and killed. The women were literally used as “weapons of war.” Many of the survivors participated in the Hague International Trial, where the women told the story of their war, in a faraway court, in a foreign language and foreign legal system. They were strong and brave as they spoke of things they wanted to forget. They soon come to understand that to expose a crime, the victim must be violated again. This heart-wrenching account brought me to tears several times. It’s a horror story, but it’s TRUE! -Virgie
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It is so refreshing to see more Native voices in books today. David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, does the genre proud in this fast-paced thriller. Following Virgil, an enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota that imparts justice on behalf of people when the American justice system has failed and so has tribal council for a fee. Virgil becomes embroiled in a gritty crime mystery that takes him to Denver at one point. Fun side note: Casa Bonita makes an appearance! This excellent book is already making several shortlists for awards including Reading the West and the Edgar. Watch out for this debut author! – Kim B.
The Beautiful Ones is an absolute whirlwind of a tale from the author of Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who has quickly become my #1 recommended author. Our stage is set in the fictional city of Loisail. There is a strict social hierarchy reminiscent of the turn of the century, if the early 1900s had a touch of telekinesis. Centered in this story is the beautiful, but naive, Nina, who is in the city for the first time attempting to catch a husband, but also to try and learn telekinetic control. Also, we have the enigmatic Hector, who sweeps Nina off her feet, but has more secrets than he has psychic talent. And he is quite talented. In the background is Valerie, who is beautiful and calculating in equal measure. These three and the world they inhabit are on a collision course, and it’s anyone’s guess who’ll make it out in one piece.
Moreno-Garcia has a true talent for blending the beautiful and the bizarre, and lovers of her other novels will not be disappointed to read this one. It is perfect for fans of historical fiction and magical realism in turn. Picking it up will leave you curious, enthralled, maddened, and appalled. I cannot recommend it enough. – Jenna
This is a dystopian tale that, for once, didn’t scare me to death but rather motivated me to think about love in its simple but all-consuming form. Klara is an AF (artificial friend) who is powered by sunlight. One would assume that robots have no feelings, but Klara is different. She is so observant of human behaviors that accompany emotions that she is able to identify and feel the emotions herself. As Klara protects “her girl” Josie, who is very sick, one can “feel” the love, and if you can feel love from a robot, you know the author has been successful! I loved this book! - Virgie
In this deeply disturbing dystopia, the new norm is people eating people. All animals have contracted a disease that is deadly to humans and instead of veganism civilians have taken up cannibalism where people are bred and slaughtered like cattle. It forces you to ask questions like: is meat just meat if it doesn't have a name? Is this possibly the solution to overpopulation? From the perspective of a mundane man who experiences love, loss, work stress, and the heaviest of secrets as he struggles to survive this new reality burdened with memories of before the Transition. Morbid, gory, and unapologetic in its absurd beauty, Bazterrica explores the darkest of themes in such a way that you won’t be able to put this book down until the bitter end--if you can stomach it. - Josie
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Dragon, lord of the valley, takes a young woman every decade or so. Agnieszka knows that her best friend Kasia will be chosen because Kasia is special and Agnieszka is just kinda dirty. But when Dragon steps out of mid-air to select someone, he takes Agnieszka. In his tower, she learns secrets about magic, the evil forest that borders the valley, and the politics of her kingdom.
Uprooted takes the damsel trope and flips it in a wonderfully nuanced way. Everything is painted in shades of grey, there is nothing that you can judge at first sight. If you are looking for a good fantasy book that will have you reading late into the night, this is for you. -Izzy
Hidden on a coastal region of the United States, lies Area X, inexplicable in its nature, origin, or if it’s even a threat in the first place. The first of The Southern Reach Trilogy, Vandermeer takes the mystique of The Colour Out of Space and drags it into the modern era. A subtle and creeping horror, this novel climbed right into my head, curled up, and isn’t going to leave any time soon. - Ryan
If your mind is waiting to be trapped within an addictive love story that involves two marriages but three perspectives of the truth, then this book is for you! There is a reason this book is categorized as a psychological thriller! Which version of the truth will you believe? Believe me, your head will be spinning before you finish this story! - Virgie
I have always loved a good mystery book, and this is one of my favorites. I picked it up and did not want to put it down again.
Gemma and Danny just moved to a nice house in Bristol, and are coming up on a year of marriage when Danny suddenly goes missing. Gemma, worried sick, goes to the police, only to find out soon after that there’s a killer running around Bristol killing men who have a striking resemblance to her husband. Determined to find him alive Gemma launches an investigation of her own. But with so little to go on and the suspicious circumstances behind his disappearance, everyone is wondering, is Danny the next victim of this killer, or is there something more sinister going on? Find out in The Perfect Couple, where you’ll be second-guessing yourself at every turn. A perfect book for those who love mystery. - Patty
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When Stars Go Dark is set in California in the early 1990s, around the time of the Polly Klass kidnapping. Anna Hart, a seasoned San Francisco detective, goes home to Mendocino to work through some personal heartbreaks. A girl goes missing there as well and soon she becomes embroiled in this new mystery which brings up old mysteries. McLain usually writes historical fiction like the Paris Wife but wow can she write a mystery. Could not put this book down. Anna Hart is such a complete, well-developed character and the mysteries are so compelling. Yet another good book by this veteran author. – Kim B
Christina Lauren never ever fails to make me smile. This intrepid writing duo creates characters and situations that are simultaneously familiar, and also so ridiculous that they could only be found in the pages of a book!
This newest story follows Jess Davis after she submits a sample to a dating service that pairs people up based on their genetic compatibility (think 23&Me meets Tinder.) Enter Dr. River Pena, the scientist behind the app. In true enemies to lovers fashion, Jess and River meet and instantly dislike each other, which turns out to be rather inconvenient when the algorithm spits out an unprecedented 98% match between them. Now these two must play along to save Jess’s business and give River the publicity boost his endeavor needs to go public.
Of course, the feelings get complicated and with Jess’ young daughter in the mix, things are always on the brink of going sideways. Have no fear though! CL’s happily-ever-after magic comes through in full and satisfying force! – Jenna
I must admit that I was immersed in the Bridgerton Series on Netflix and was impatient for the next series to come out. I just couldn’t wait until next year to get my “Bridgerton fix” so I read this lovely romance novel, which hovers around my favorite Bridgerton character, Eloise. It was the exact BOOK CANDY I needed! Furthermore, I know there are more titles just waiting for me when I need a break from my dark, heavy reads! - Virgie
In this installation of the Bridgerton novels, the story focuses on Benedict Bridgerton, the second oldest son. Love strikes at a masquerade ball, when Sophie, the bastard daughter of a high-ranking member of the ton, sneaks into the party under the nose of her awful stepmother. Of course, at the stroke of midnight Sophie must scamper off, leaving Benedict with only a glove to try and find her. Years go by, and through the power of fate they are reunited when Benedict saves Sophie from a rather unsavory household where she was employed as a maid. Of course, Benedict doesn’t realize that Sophie is the same mystery woman he’s been chasing for all these years, and Sophie isn’t about to tell him. Will their love win out in the end? Or will society’s demands keep them apart? -Megan
Francesca Bridgerton is definitely the most private of the Bridgerton siblings, preferring to keep the quieter company of her husband John, the Earl of Kilmartin, and John’s best friend/cousin Michael. When John is prematurely struck down, Francesca becomes a widow before she is even able to produce an heir to the Earldom - thus, the title passes to Michael, who has a secret that is eating him alive with guilt: He has been in love with Francesca since the day he saw her, at her and John’s wedding. Overcome with emotion, Michael escapes to India and avoids Francesca for several years, until they finally cross paths again in London, where Francesca has arrived to find herself a new husband. Will Michael finally declare his long-repressed feelings? Don’t skip Quinn’s spiciest novel yet! - Megan
Out of the whole Bridgerton series, Hyacinth Bridgerton’s story might just be my favorite. As the youngest daughter, Hyacinth has always been a little...more. A little more defiant, a little more loud, a little more opinionated - much the same as the infamous Lady Danbury, whose grandson Gareth St. Clair might just be the perfect match for Hyacinth, if only she would let herself see it. Gareth, meanwhile, has a secret - everyone knows that he and his father don’t get along, but what they don’t know is that Gareth is a bastard (at least according to his father). When Gareth gets a hold of his other grandmother’s diary, it might just hold the answers to his true parentage - but he will need Hyacinth’s help to translate it. Will Gareth trust Hyacinth with his deepest secret? And will Hyacinth allow herself to fall in love? -Megan
How did our work culture shift from considering it something you NEED to do to survive to something you should LOVE to do? How have worker’s rights movements aligned with civil rights? Why won’t the job I love love me back? These are a few of the questions Jaffee brings up in Work Won’t Love You Back. This is a fascinating exploration of contemporary work culture and attitudes. This book helped me understand so much about my own relationship to work in general and put me on the path to reconceptualizing and rebuilding it. This is a must-read for anyone who gives 110% to their job, is exhausted, and can’t see a way out. Or, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in labor rights. - Izzy
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Colonization isn’t exceptionally funny, but the indigenous comedians this book highlights sure put a funny spin on it. Kliph Nesteroff interviews many indigenous funny people in this book about their dedication to comedy, their senses of humor, and whatever else is on their minds. He pairs these interviews with careful analysis of how indigenous comedians have shaped the entertainment industry they are shut out of. Nesteroff makes a point to center and amplify these comedians’ voices, so most of the book is made up of little vignettes of these comedians’ experiences and thoughts. This book is endlessly interesting and funny.- Izzy
Mini’s got a busy summer ahead of her. Between tutoring, thrifting, and applying for college she volunteered to plan her sister’s wedding. And it’s not going to be a small wedding, it’s going to be as elaborate as a $32000 wedding can be. As Mini navigates the perilous landscape that is planning a desi wedding, she must also navigate the many mixed emotions that arise. Her mother died 7 years ago, and this wedding is one way to honor her.
As if this wasn’t enough, she runs into Vir, a quite lovely dude who is a little complicated but more attractive.
This is a perfect summer read. It’s light, fun, and feels like stretching out in the sun. - Izzy
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This is a poignant story of someone who loses sight of her dreams because of what current culture dictates is ok in a relationship. Even though it’s not and we as a society sweep under the rug because we don’t want to talk about it. This is one of those books that even though it’s a romance, teen boys should read it too!! - Chris
The Telegraph Club is a smoky little bar where Tommy Andrews, a male impersonator, performs. Among the booze, cigarettes, and perfume muddled air women seek each other out. In 1950’s San Francisco it is one of the few places folks can express their sexuality. Lilly is trying to figure out how to make her future look more like the one in her sci-fi novels and why she can’t stop thinking about Katherine. When Lilly makes her way to the Telegraph Club, some bits of her life start to make more sense.
My goodness, I really can’t express how much I love this book. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is an intersectional narrative dealing with community, race, sexuality, feminism, and general growing pains. It is a truly excellent book, and you should definitely read it. -Izzy
I loved Treasure of the World!! It is so heart wrenchingly beautiful and deep.
In a world that is not so black and white anymore, it’s good to travel outside of what you know and experience things that you wouldn’t normally. Treasure the World is one of these books that brings a very different world to life through Sullivan’s wonderful writing and her understanding of what the current events are like in Bolivia. And it’s a wonder why all these young people are trying to find something better for themselves by trying to come to America. – Chris
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For those Billy Miller fans, author Kevin Henkes has a new book, a new adventure, with the Miller family. The lovable characters are the same as those in the Newbery Honor Book, The Year of Billy Miller. It’s the beginning of the summer for 8-year-old Billy Miller, and he makes a wish for something exciting to happen. I guess his wishes come true, to the point that Billy wonders if he has “special powers.” The simplicity of this book makes it a perfect choice for emerging readers who are attracted to chapter books. - Virgie
Sometimes things don’t quite go our way, but that’s okay! We should all encourage children to understand that their complex feelings are valid, even if they aren’t always reasonable or warranted. We can encourage them to think about how others may feel without invalidating their feelings. One of my favorite things about this book is that the illustrations are so much more inclusive than many of the books I grew up with, and I think that is a beautiful thing. – Kim T.
A young boy’s conversation with an “imaginary gorilla” helps him confront the sadness of losing his mother. His conversation about death is simple, yet powerful. The illustrations paint a quiet, almost somber backdrop to the questions and answers about death. This book can be just the perfect way to initiate talks about loss and grief. - Virgie