Ah, summer – a time for relaxing, enjoying a well-earned vacation, and finally getting to your TBR pile in that most enjoyable of activities – summer reading! We here at the library will be indulging in a bit of summer reading ourselves, so watch the blog for recommendations from our librarians. Or in the case of this first post, our archivist! Here are a few books that are on the shelves right now that Ms. Parsi recommends:
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
It is the late 1950’s and Elizabeth Zott is part of a research team at a company called Hastings in Commons, CA. She is clearly the smartest one on the team, but spends her days being mistaken for the secretary and having men take her ideas and claim them as their own. One day, she enters the lab of Hastings star employee, Calvin Evans, to borrow some beakers for her underfunded project. There are sparks – chemistry, shall we say- and before long the two of them are inseparable. But things don’t go as planned and she finds herself alone, pregnant, and unemployed. With no other options to support her and her daughter Mad, she ends up hosting an afternoon cooking show called “Supper At Six” – however, she does it in her own unusual way, by teaching her viewers about the chemistry behind cooking and food. Elizabeth is estranged from her own family, but her found family are one of the reasons why this book is so good – her neighbor Harriet, her boss, her doctor and rowing mentor, her dog Six Thirty, and her small but already brilliant daughter Mad. Elizabeth is smart, funny (though not intentionally), and has a heart bigger than she thinks. And she is a woman ahead of her time, leading a revolution with her cooking show. It made me think of those books about the hidden history of women – like Hidden Figures or Fly Girls – or the books by authors like Marie Benedict. Elizabeth being fictional doesn’t change what she represents – and the book shows us where we once were, and how far we still need to go.
The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith
Greta James is a young 30-something rock star who we meet at a particularly low point in her life. She lost her mother unexpectedly and her grief caused her to have a “meltdown” on stage, which instantly went viral. She has been laying low, trying to get up the courage to perform again, when her brother asks her to accompany their father on an Alaskan cruise. The cruise had been their mother’s dream, and they did not want him to go alone. She tags along with her father, very reluctantly, as he and she have never had the easiest relationship. It was her mother who supported her career, her father who wanted her to have a more stable life. On the cruise, she meets Ben, a successful author also at his own crossroads. They instantly click and we can sense romance in the air. While I am always a fan of romance, I think the best part of this book was Greta and her father’s relationship. They are both grieving the same woman, but not in the same way. They need to come to terms with their relationship – he to realize that Greta is living the life she was meant to live, she to understand his worries about that life. There are some difficult moments and conversations between them, and the ending might have been a bit predictable, but I enjoyed the journey to get there. If you like books like Evvie Drake Starts Over or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, then give this one a try.
The Verifiers by Jane Pek
Claudia Lin works for a company called Veracity, which is a referrals-only online-dating detective agency. Claudia thinks this could be the perfect job for her – she grew up reading mystery novels – but she did think she would be doing more sleuthing and less spreadsheet creating. But their next customer Sarah changes all that. She asks Veracity to verify the identity of someone she has been chatting with online. She is suspicious of his motives and hesitant to meet him in real life. Then she comes back and asks them to verify someone else she met online and has been dating – is he too good to be true? When she misses an appointment, they think she is trying to skip out on the double billing. They learn from her sister that she committed suicide, and that she was not entirely upfront with them – in fact, she had been using her sister’s name (Iris) and profession (a lawyer) because she was actually a journalist chasing a story. Claudia is eager to figure out what happened to Sarah, but the owner of Veracity shuts down the account and fires Claudia for breaching company policy. She continues to think about the case, and with the help of her former coworkers, uncovers the secret of what Sarah was working on, which has ramifications far beyond a few dating profiles and into the big business of online dating itself. This is a fun and clever read. Claudia is an excellent character, a gay Chinese woman with a family that she both loves and who drives her crazy, a supportive best friend and roommate, and a penchant for quoting her favorite fictional detective. It will also make you think about online data and privacy and trust me, it will make you a bit uneasy. I sincerely hope this is the start of a series and we will see more of her. If you are in the mood for a lighter mystery, then give The Verifiers a try!
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
We meet Emma and Leo at a scary moment in their lives – they are about to learn if Emma’s cancer is in remission. They are taking it day by day, caring for their young daughter Ruby, and trying not to think of the possible outcomes. Leo is an obituary writer, and one of the ways he deals with his stress is to start writing Emma’s obituary – which she specifically asked him not to do. He soon learns out why – as he does an innocent search to confirm a detail from her university days, he finds out that she has lied about her degree. Unable to help himself, he starts looking for other things and discovers more little lies and starts to wonder about this woman that he married. For her part, Emma is also worried about this being the end, so she seeks out a mysterious person, who she refers to as “the love of her life”, wanting to reach out and connect even though she has been forbidden contact. Emma’s diagnosis is very positive – her treatment works and her cancer is in remission. While very happy news, this does not stop what Leo has put in motion with his questions. The narrative goes back and forth between Emma and Leo, slowly leading the reader to a surprising reveal, one with so many shades of gray that I think this would make an excellent book club title. If you liked The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave or Girl A by Abigail Dean, then you might like The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh.
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
Nell Young grew up around maps. Both her father and her mother, who died very young, were brilliant cartographers, and Nell always wanted to follow in their footsteps. But Nell has not spoken to her father in many years, not since he fired her over an argument about a cheap gas station map. When her father is found dead in his office, she is astonished to learn that he had that same gas station map hidden in his desk. She decides to catalog it, as a tribute to her father, but she discovers that in fact the map is very rare and valuable. Other copies have been lost, stolen or destroyed, and this one may be the last of its kind. Her investigation will lead her back into her parent’s past and reveal the truth about the map- a truth that will change the direction of Nell’s life forever. If you like a little magic to your stories, if you ever wanted to step inside a map, if you ever wondered, “What is the purpose of a map?”, then this book if for you!
The library reopens for the 2022 ASP session on Monday June 27th – come by and grab a few books for your own summer reading fun!
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