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Book Reviews

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jennifer egan
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4 Stars

This novel was written differently from the any novel I have previously read. It’s quirky, and each page delves deeper into the intertwined stories of the large cast of characters. Although, each chapter was more like a short story, once finished with the entire book, all the chapters fit together nicely to form a fully developed novel. The author’s great character development lets the reader into their thoughts and lives. Many minor characters mentioned within a chapter were often developed into more substantial characters in later chapters, which kept the flow of the novel interesting. The author saved her descriptions for the characters instead of the setting, and it worked for this story.

Still Life
Louise Penny
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3.5 Stars

This first book in Louise Penny’s, now wildly popular, Inspector Armand Gamache series introduces us to Gamache and his team as they investigate a suspicious death in a idyllic village outside of Montreal. What originally looked like a hunting accident, it soon becomes clear that the village’s retired school teacher was killed for a much for sinister reason. Penny does an excellent job of introducing us to not only reoccurring series characters, but also unique and memorable ones specific to this story. The mystery is excellently done in a way that is engaging and intriguing, without being unfathomable. Mystery fans will not want to miss this debut and those that pick it up will be glad to learn that they have twelve more books in the series awaiting them.


The Mountain Between Us
Charles Martin
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This fiction novel is a survival story, but that’s only the surface, it’s so much more. It’s a story about inner strength and pulling from that when it matters most, it’s about never giving up, it’s about love so strong it transcends everything, it’s about forgiveness, and it’s about believing and trusting in yourself first and foremost. This plot-driven novel had strong character development, believable location descriptions and the pace was perfect.


Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty
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4 stars.

A grade school trivia night fundraiser takes a deadly turn when a parent is killed. While the story begins with a death, before readers can find out who and why, Liane Moriarty takes readers back months prior to trivia night, following the lives of three moms, Celeste, Madeline, and Jane. Through the lives of these three women and the cast of characters in their lives Moriarty is able to address issues from bullying, the difficulties of parenthood and female friendships, to domestic abuse, in approachable and thought provoking situations. Given the style and format of this work, it is not surprising that the TV show adaptation has become such a huge sensation. While the TV show may draw in many readers, they will enjoy the work for the page turning drama, wit and accessible themes.


My Friend Dahmer
Derf Backderf
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Wisconsin, July 1991: Jeff Dahmer was arrested and confessed to the murder of 17 young men and adolescents, most met in clubs or on the streets of Milwaukee and Chicago. Titillating details came out – he had sex with some of the corpses. He kept trophies from the ones he found most attractive. One of his victims almost escaped, but two police officers helped Dahmer take him back to the apartment.

Years before this, Dahmer was known in high school as a little odd, a loner with a drinking problem, and the class clown. Graphic novelist Derf Backderf doesn’t claim to have the answer to what twisted his friend into one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Police and news reports, conversations with classmates, Dahmer’s interviews and confessions combine with Backderf’s memories to give insight into Dahmer’s teenage years: increasing isolation, family and financial issues, substance abuse, and the first stirrings of Dahmer’s necrophilia.

Backderf’s drawings are similar to Robert Crumb’s or Sergio Aragones, which fits the mid-1970’s setting of My Friend Dahmer. Tragedy and menace, informed by our knowledge of Dahmer’s future, play across the pages. This graphic novel was first published in 2012; the new edition includes photos from the 2017 movie and an introduction by the movie’s director.


Secret Life of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd
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This was a beautiful book all around, setting, characters and storyline. It is a story of a girl finding the love of family even when she thought she was unloveable. It is about finding out the truth she thought she wanted to know, and then finding out that sometimes the truth is worse than not knowing. It is about learning to live with the truth and forgiving. Lastly, it is about looking beyond racial lines during the civil rights movement and finding unconditional love and acceptance. This book is a must read for all ages.


The Half-Drowned King
Linnea Hartsuyker
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Ragnvald spends a summer raiding in Ireland, to build a dowry for his sister Svanhild. But on the return journey home, he is betrayed, stabbed and forced into the cold sea by men in the pay of his stepfather. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald vows revenge, and to rescue his birthright and his sister from his stepfather’s clutches. But things don’t go quite right at the local assembly, so Ragnvald throws in with the up-and-coming Harald of Westfold, who is determined to unite all the petty kings of Norway under his rule.

Meanwhile, Swanhild is desperate to avoid an arranged marriage to a much older man, an ally of her stepfather. But the man who offers her escape is Solvi, the man who tried to kill her brother and a sworn enemy of Harald – but also the man who captured her heart before she knew of his crime.

Set against the mystical and heroic backdrop of Viking-era Scandanavia, The Half-Drowned King is the first in a promised trilogy.


The Red Queen
Philippa Gregory
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Margaret Beaufort at age fourteen enters into a marriage arranged to solidify support for the ailing King Henry VI. Even as the Yorks gain the ascendancy in the Wars of the Roses, she keeps her faith and promotes her son and only child, the Lancastrian heir apparent to the throne of England.

As her family’s fortunes rise and fall, and as she is separated from her son and her beloved brother-in-law, Jasper, she does not waver in her support. Inspired by Joan of Arc, Margaret plots, prays, cajoles, and finally orchestrates a great rebellion to make Henry Tudor king.

This is the last book of Philippa Gregory’s series, The Cousin’s War, but it’s a good standalone read, too.


National Geographic Atlas of Beer: A Globe-Trotting Journey Through the World of Beer
Nancy Hoalst-Pullen and Mark W. Patterson
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Hey beer drinkers, do you remember when Coors was considered micro brew? National Geographic remembers!  Nat Geo’s Atlas of Beer is a milestone in how far the frothy and prolific beverage has progressed in the last few centuries.  Everything from spotlights on up and coming versus established breweries, historical timelines, and regional ingredients preferences are just scratching the surface of all the heady info stashed in this hardcover tome. [Obvious pro tip]: it is even more enjoyable to read while drinking some micro brew!


Readers Advisory Staff

Looking for that great new read? The Villa Park Public Library has a fantastic Readers Advisory staff that is happy to recommend novels. Whether you’re looking for new authors like your old favorites, or you’re ready for something completely new, our RA staff is here to help. They run reading groups and book discussions to help make reading a more social experience. These folks know their stuff!

Looking for a Recommendation?

If you’re looking for a recommendation you can contact one of the readers advisory staff.



Favorite Genres:
Mysteries, Graphic Novels
Denise’s bookshelf on goodreads

Favorite Genres:
Romantic Suspense, Scifi-fantasy
Jean’s bookshelf on goodreads


Favorite Genres:

Historical Non-Fiction, Women’s Literature
Jawahir’s bookshelf on goodreads

Favorite Genres:
Alternate History Fiction, Suspense
John’s bookshelf on goodreads
kandice k

Favorite Genres:

Chick Lit, Suspense, and Mysteries

lesley c

Favorite Genres:

Mysteries, Audiobooks, History
Lesley’s bookshelf on goodreads

Favorite Genres:

Historical Fiction, Psychological Thrillers
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Favorite Genres:

True-life biographies, Non-fiction
Sean’s bookshelf on goodreads

Favorite Genres:
Fantasy, Film