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No Baggage

posted by: July 13, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art fo No BaggageTraveling to a different country can be scary and exciting, but when you’re doing it with a person you just met on an online dating site, it becomes an adventure. No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering is a memoir by Clara Bensen about her traveling adventure through eight countries in three weeks. Her traveling partner Jeff is a university professor she met on OkCupid just a few weeks before their trip.

 

Clara describes herself as quiet and reserved, while Jeff has a personality “bigger than Texas.” After a few magical dates and undeniable chemistry, Clara agrees to accompany Jeff on his upcoming trip to Istanbul. In addition to agreeing on a spur-of-the-moment trip, they decide to fully embrace their spontaneity by purchasing plane tickets and ending the planning there — no hotel reservations, no concrete plans, no luggage. It’s certainly a risk, but it’s one that this young couple is willing to take.

 

This book is a refreshing love story about romance in the digital age. Clara describes her relationship with Jeff as “all very modern.” No need to define or question anything; just going with the flow and falling into the rhythm of being with one another. Of course, there are some snares in their honeymoon-like trip, but Clara’s anxiety and worry about the future slowly melt away as she learns to accept and appreciate each moment in front of her — from the warm sea air of beaches in Turkey to the olive trees and burnt grass in Greece. Readers who enjoy thoughtful travel memoirs such as Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun will love this warm and inspiring travel tale.


 
 

The Way Back to You

posted by: July 11, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Way Back to You Six months after Ashlyn Montiel dies in a bicycling accident, her best friend Cloudy and her boyfriend Kyle are still reeling in The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott. Kyle copes with his grief by quitting the baseball team and adopting a feral kitten that he maybe suspects might be Ashlyn reincarnated. Cloudy copes with her grief by not coping with it.

 

Cloudy learns that Ashlyn’s parents have been in contact with a few of the recipients of Ashlyn’s donated organs. When her parents go out of town for winter break, she takes advantage of their absence and embarks on a top secret road trip to visit them and somehow make sense of her friend’s tragic death. And who better to invite on the road trip than Kyle — the one person who understands exactly how much she misses Ashlyn?

 

To complicate things, Cloudy had a crush on Kyle for months before she knew Ashlyn was interested in him. And after she made a fool of herself in front of Kyle when he and Ashlyn were together, things have been awkward. Hours and hours alone together in a car? Definitely going to be awkward.

 

Beginning with a little boy’s play and ending with a young woman’s Las Vegas wedding, with detours to visit family and friends who know them better than anyone (or at least should know them from a stranger on the street), Cloudy and Kyle confront their feelings — about Ashlyn’s death and about each other.

 

Scott is the author of two previous novels including Freefall and contributed to the collection Violent Ends, while this is Andreani’s debut. The duo met in an online writing class and exchanged thousands of emails, texts and Tweets while co-writing The Way Back to You. They chronicled their experiences over the past four years on their website.   


 
 

Her Again

posted by: July 7, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Her AgainHow did Meryl Streep become the only actor to receive a record-setting 17 Academy Award nominations? Michael Schulman’s latest biography, Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, answers this question. Using interviews and diaries from those close to her, he deftly chronicles Streep’s ascension to stardom, from childhood to her breakout role in the movie Kramer vs. Kramer.

 

Told in chronological order, Schulman begins with her idyllic childhood in the New Jersey suburb of Bernardsville. She spent her time taking singing lessons in New York City, hanging out with friends and acting in school plays. Schulman’s tale of how she became Homecoming Queen in 1966 is eye opening.  Discovering her love for drama as an undergrad at Vassar, she went on to attend the prestigious Yale School of Drama. How she made this decision will make you laugh out loud. While at Yale, she sharpened her talent but, more importantly, made the connections which landed her in the heart of New York’s theater scene. One such connection was with the late actor John Cazale, most notably known for his role as Fredo in the Godfather movies. Schulman not only tells of their devoted relationship but also provides background on Cazale and the making of the film The Deer Hunter. His description of her after Cazale’s untimely death is truly heartbreaking. And, you will be mesmerized by her difficult working relationship with Dustin Hoffman on the film Kramer vs. Kramer.

 

Schulman’s compelling, detailed bio of Streep's early years, filled with backstories and humorous anecdotes, will give you a glimpse into her formative years. Not only will you learn about her relationships and personality, but also about the 1970’s entertainment industry. Fans of Streep as well as Arts and Entertainment enthusiasts will enjoy this revealing bio. Find out for yourself how Her Again proves without a doubt why Streep is a respected, award-winning actress.

 


 
 

The End of FUN

posted by: July 6, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for The End of FUNAaron O'Faolain has a lot of problems right now. He just got expelled and his parents are divorced and inattentive, which is how he managed to scam them all by dropping out of his new school and going to live on the streets of San Francisco. Only that didn't work as well as he was expecting. This is The End of FUN by Sean McGinty.

 

To make some quick cash, Aaron signs up to test out the latest product from FUN®! — Tickle, Tickle, Boom!, an anticipated virtual reality platform that integrates social media, gaming and online marketing. After spending a month doing nothing but playing, he owes $10,000 and a virus in the software is giving him tiny seizures. To get out of his contract he has to pay back the money he owes and collect enough YAY!s to meet his user agreement. Luckily for him, his grandfather just died and left him as the sole beneficiary —  if he can solve the treasure hunt his grandfather stipulated in his will. Debut author McGinty breathes new life into the cyperpunk genre with this sardonic spin on Young Adult archetypes, setting his narrative in the midst of multiple concurrent global catastrophes, rather than in a post-apocalyptic world. Aaron begrudgingly (and sometimes unwittingly) embarks on a multi-tiered quest that has him searching for material wealth, spiritual fulfillment and rectified relationships, although not actually saving the world. Fans of Holes, Ready Player One and The Westing Game will appreciate this nuanced and realistic story that is completely fun.

 

Liz

Liz

 
 

Lucky Penny

posted by: July 5, 2016 - 7:00am

Lucky PennyPenny has the worst luck. She lost her job and her apartment on the same day and now her best friend Helen is moving to Long Island. But she'll be okay! She is resourceful and obtusely optimistic. Plus, Helen got her a job interview at her family's laundromat, which is where Penny bides her time, fighting off the neighborhood delinquents and trying to figure out how to move forward under the watchful glower of her new petty dictator of a boss. To stay clean, she scams showers from the cute nerd working at the gym next door. Despite the fact that their dates are disastrous and their interests are wildly divergent, Penny develops a real infatuation for Walter. But can their relationship survive Penny's contretemps? What about the villains waiting in the shadows, plotting Penny's downfall?

 

Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota is a book that revels in the absurdity of everyday life and in absurdly dramatic climaxes. Fans of Scott Pilgrim and 500 Days of Summer will find this a romantic-comedy of errors that is sweet without being saccharine, funny without being trivial. Originally serialized as a webcomic, you can find Easter eggs detailing the hilarious romance novels adorning Penny's shelves, Penny's bad advice blog, as well as more comics by Ota and Hirsh (a couple in real life) at their website Johnny Wander.

Liz

Liz

 
 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

posted by: June 30, 2016 - 7:00am

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendLooking forward to meeting her fellow book lover and American pen-pal Amy for the first time, Swede Sara Lindqvist arrives in Amy’s hometown of Broken Wheel, Iowa — just in time to meet the mourners leaving Amy’s funeral. Sara had planned for a two-month vacation of reading and talking about her favorite books with Amy; now she has no friend, no real plans and no one to talk books with.

 

Broken Wheel isn’t what she expected from Amy’s letters, and the people who still live in the dying Midwestern town definitely don’t know what to expect from its first tourist. They don’t expect her to stay for the two months, and they certainly don’t expect her to open a book shop stocked with Amy’s vast collection. But in The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, that is exactly what Sara does when she decides that what the townspeople need most is books.

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a love song to books and booklovers everywhere, with no judgments passed on what is read. Sara’s plan focuses more on engendering a similar level of affection that she feels towards books in the townspeople. In addition to celebrating books, readers will fall for the quirky characters themselves, from Sara to the members of the town. The book is lighthearted and genuine without ever becoming saccharine, and Bivald slips some funny moments as the townspeople come to accept Sara and she starts to take charge of her life.

 

Part chick lit, part book review and all heart, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend lets us remember not only how books change and stay with us but also how they can connect us to each other, even across oceans or differences in experience. Fans of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop may enjoy the time they spend in Broken Wheel.


 
 

The Devil You Know

posted by: June 29, 2016 - 7:00am

The Devil You KnowCan a person con their way out of a "lawyer-tight" contract that promises his or her soul to the Devil upon death? K. J. Parker, a two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, will elegantly feed you this delicious information in his science fiction and fantasy novella The Devil You Know.

 

“...Why exactly do you want to sell your soul to us?” This is a question that a demon case officer, who is in the soul buying business, asks his new client, Saloninus, the world’s greatest philosopher, liar, cheat and trickster. Time flew by rather quickly for Saloninus, a 77-year-old man who believes he wasted his talent on scheming others. Unhappy with the fact that he has no self-respecting achievements, he decides to sign a contract to sell his soul to the Devil in order to acquire 20 more years of life on Earth and a youthful transformation to age 25 for the opportunity to make a mark on history. Once Saloninus signs the contract, the demon case officer becomes his servant, who uses his own supernatural abilities to grant Saloninus outlandish requests. When the demon questions Saloninus about what he plans to do with his additional years on Earth, the philosopher behaves suspiciously. This behavior gives the demon a reason to believe that the old trickster is up to his old tricks again and that his target is… the Devil. Saloninus is supposed to be the cleverest man on Earth. Will Saloninus successfully swindle the Devil? The demon case officer is supposed to be the best in the business. Will he halt Saloninus’ plan? To swindle or not to swindle, that is the question.

 

Readers who relish stories that involve the supernatural, mortality and good and evil, will find K. J. Parker’s novella The Devil You Know delightful and possibly frightful. Add this entertaining treat to your summer reading list — if you dare.


 
 

The Girls

posted by: June 28, 2016 - 9:00am

Cover art for The GirlsEvie Boyd is that lady — the one who was a member of the hippie cult that committed those horrific murders. Acquired as part of a three book deal for a rumored two million dollars, Emma Cline’s hotly anticipated debut, The Girls, focuses on a 14-year-old drawn into a charismatic cult. It’s no secret that the fictional leader of the group, Russell, is a stand-in for the notorious Charles Manson.

 

The novel begins as current day Evie looks back on that transformative summer of 1969. Cline shines at illuminating the dark, sullen corners of the adolescent experience and, in her hands, readers have no doubt as to why plain, ordinary Evie eagerly follows the enigmatic young women she first spies at the park. She wants to be noticed, to belong, to be rescued from boredom.

 

The girls from the park are titillating in their openness. Evie is invited to the solstice celebration at their dilapidated ranch in the hills, a party with a banquet culled from a back alley dumpster and plenty of drugs and drink. Suzanne lends her a flowing dress, reeking of rodent droppings, from a community clothing rack. And when Russell finally appears, beaming and barefoot in filthy jeans and buckskin, Evie struggles to see to see the brilliance they all assure is behind the intensity of his stare. Later that night, she’s presented to him as an offering. Russell specializes in sad girls like Evie, willing to do anything for attention.

 

Soon she’s a part of the group, stealing from her mother’s purse to make offerings, frequently staying the night and hanging out with the famous musician who is sure to help make Russell a household name. She flits between home and the ranch, and all the while her distracted mother thinks she’s at a girlfriend’s house. The sadder and wiser adult Evie’s observations about her younger self make the reader ache. Lucky for Evie, she never gets pulled all the way in, and when Russell’s demands become increasingly dangerous, she’s left out. The Girls is as much a coming of age story as it is a sordid, cautionary tale and a study in cult psychology. Cline’s descriptive writing propels the story, and many of her observations beg to be read aloud. As a high concept literary page turner, The Girls delivers.

 


 
 

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