Little Fires Everywhere

My book club decided to read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’m glad I read it since Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are turning it into a series on Hulu. But… I don’t know if I get the hype. I enjoyed it, but it’s nothing mind blowing. It probably doesn’t help that I kept comparing it to Big Little Lies, which I enjoyed a lot more. The two are getting compared a lot. Mostly, I imagine, because of Reese*, but they both are suburban mom stories that are well written, that also discuss the deeper and darker parts of our everyday lives. Which I find commendable. Great stories don’t have to be about huge things. I just liked Big Little Lies more. I think I like that it made me laugh while also think about the deep and the dark.

I’m going to be lazy here and copy and paste the Goodreads synopsis:

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

I wish I had paid a bit more attention to the audiobook in the beginning, because so many things come full circle and I had to backtrack in the print book when finishing. Also, I was personally not a fan of the narrator. I’m sure that did not help my paying attention in the beginning.


Karen Abbott and Club Book

On Thursday my mom and I went to the Roseville Library to hear Karen Abbott talk about her most recent book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. The talk is part of a MELSA program called Club Book: The Book Club Rewritten.

While I still haven’t finished the book despite starting it way back in May, I did really enjoy the talk. I read Abbott’s other books, Sin in the Second City  and American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare and really enjoyed them. However, I just can’t get into Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Maybe it’s because of the interweaving of four different stories, so I don’t feel connected to any one woman. Or maybe it’s because I’ve done most of my reading on lunch breaks and 20 minutes just isn’t enough time to get into a good nonfiction groove. Whatever the reason, it’s a very interesting subject matter and I do plan on finishing the book eventually. Hopefully soon, since my dad wants to borrow it after me.

Anyway, the talk… Abbott was very well spoken and covered a lot of ground in 45(ish) minutes. We learned about her inspiration for the book and her research methods. My favorite part of her presentation were the political cartoons. The audience also had several interesting questions and Abbott seemed to appreciate each question and answer thoughtfully.

I will certainly check out more Club Book presentations!

The Glass Castle


The library book club read The Glass Castle  by Jeannette Walls and discussed it last Thursday. Earlier in 2015 we read Half Broke Horses a fictionalized biography of Walls’ grandmother. I say fictionalized because the characters are real, but Walls admits that she can’t know for sure what happened since she wrote based off stories told by her mother and grandmother. We all loved Half Broke Horses and Walls’ writing style.

Most members of the book club were not so sure of Glass Castle. Many wondered how accurate the memoir is, and many also said they had a hard time finishing it based off the abuse Walls and her siblings suffered. Our discussion was especially interesting as several of the ladies work in child services or the health field and had many professional opinions surrounding the treatment of the children.

Overall, I found the book fascinating, even if there are some doubts as to the truth behind the plot. The fact that someone who had such child could be so successful as an adult is inspiring.

Adult Book Club

As Branch Librarian I also run adult programs, the most regular of which is book club. I really enjoy book club as it encourages me to read different adult books. I worked in schools for so long that it seems I only ever read children’s or YA books, so I was (and am) way behind on my adult reading. Book club makes me read those books everyone else read 3 or 4 years ago, like The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society, Olive Kitteridge and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

The other books we’ve read this year are:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Wells

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by  Susan Vreeland

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geve

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup

The current book club group is composed mostly of retired women, many of which are 75+. Hearing their stories is wonderful, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to meet with the older members of the community.

Middle and High School Book Club

I started a middle and high school book club in my second year as the school librarian in Louisiana. We had a small group, but each student actively participated and came up with their own questions, and encouraged discussion amongst the group. Overall, my role was pretty limited. Watching the leadership and teamwork develop was pretty wonderful. Over the course of the year, we read:*

The Giver by Lois Lowry

“The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.”

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

“Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.”

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

A brave and beautiful story that will make readers laugh, and break their hearts at the same time. Now with a special note from the author!

Steven has a totally normal life (well, almost).

He plays drums in the All-City Jazz Band (whose members call him the Peasant), has a crush on the hottest girl in school (who doesn’t even know he’s alive), and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother, Jeffrey (who is cuter than cute – which is also pretty annoying). But when Jeffrey gets sick, Steven’s world is turned upside down, and he 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 (yes, you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human … until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Inside Out and Back Again by Lai Thanhha

Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.”

My favorite part of book club, was seeing book reviews by students who claimed that the book club books were their favorite books. One girl cited Stargirl as a positive influence on her self confidence and another wrote that Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie encouraged her to be more patient with her hyperactive brother, because it “could be so much worse.”

*reviews from