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Book Reviews

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie: A Novel
Marie Benedict
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4 Stars

Prior to reading this historical novel, I did not know about much about the life of Agatha Christie, and this twist on her life was enlightening read.  While this was a leisurely paced novel, it did build in the end to a satisfying ending.  Melancholy and moody, the story has characters that are unlikeable and flawed, along with sympathetic characters that bring the reader to an unconventional ending.

-Michelle
Posted 5/10/2021

There There: A Novel
Tommy Orange
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4 Stars

Intensifying and character driven, There There is an important and encompassing novel.  A sweeping generational story that follows twelve characters’ lives as they navigate what it is to be an urban Native American.  Filled with authentic and complex characters, this intricately plotted story is real, moving and emotionally intense.

-Michelle
Posted 4/22/2021

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life
George Saunders
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5 Stars

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to attend a creative writing seminar led by a New York Times best-selling author? If so, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is the book for you. For twenty years, writer George Saunders has taught a class on the Russian short story at Syracuse University. This insightful book is a version of that class. It includes seven stories (in full): three by Chekhov, two by Tolstoy, and one each by Turgenev and Gogol. Saunders provides witty and personal instruction on each story in the form of essays. Although he uses the stories to illustrate useful writing advice, I disagreed with some of his story interpretations. Nonetheless, Saunders shows the value of close reading and proves that literature has the power to transform the reader.

-Brian
Posted 4/13/2021

The Mountains Sing: A Novel
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
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4 Stars

Character driven, medium paced and set in Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing was a beautifully written, sweeping, multi-generational story. Atmospheric, bittersweet, and filled with strong female characters, the reader follows Huong as she navigates life in Viet Nam after the war, learning about herself and her complex family history. A Compelling and hopeful novel, with a strong sense of place, that was an enjoyable read.

-Michelle
Posted 3/12/2021

The Paris Library
Janet Skeslien Charles
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4 Stars

Set in Paris shortly before the German occupation during WWII, courageous Odile is a Parisian who works as a librarian for the American Library in Paris. A compelling historical fiction novel, The Paris Library tells the story of the difference a library and their staff can make in so many lives. Emotionally intense and dramatic, this heartwarming story will stay with you after the final page.

-Michelle
Posted 3/12/2021

Good Neighbors: A Novel
Sarah Langan
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4 Stars

Former pageant-queen Gertie Wilde moved her family to Long Island for a fresh start. She thought she had found that on idyllic Maple Street. Her family may not fit in perfectly, but things are looking up when she befriends Rhea, the Queen Bee of the block. However, after a misunderstanding, Rhea drops Gertie from her life. And when Rhea’s daughter falls victim to an unfortunate sinkhole accident, Rhea will stop at nothing to lay blame on the entire Wilde family.

This novel about the everyday horrors of suburbia and how rumors can quickly spiral out of control is tense and compulsively readable. The flawed, complex characters who make up the main cast are not always sympathetic, and their actions are often uncomfortable to read. Still, the framing narrative of interviews and news articles that refer to the “Maple Street Murders” will surely keep readers hooked until the dramatic conclusion.

-Amity
Posted 2/11/2021

The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories
Joy Williams
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5 Stars

The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories is an essential read for fans of short stories. It is a career-spanning collection of forty-six stories by American writer Joy Williams. These are stories of dark humor and impeccable prose. Characters are often troubled and find themselves in situations that border on the absurd. This strangeness of plot can lead to a perplexing reading experience. Thus, these stories of death and loss are not for all tastes. Readers that appreciate imaginative fiction, though, will discover writing of the highest caliber.

-Brian
Posted 2/11/2021

The Midnight Library
Matt Haig
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4.5 Stars

Angst filled and bittersweet, The Midnight library is the story of Nora and complex choices. Nora has a chance to begin a new life through her missed opportunities, but is that what Nora truly wants? A story filled with heartache and happiness, Nora takes a look at her own life’s regrets and realizes that missed opportunities often best left alone.

-Michelle
Posted 2/11/2021
Where the Lost Wander
Amy Harmon
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4 Stars

With a strong sense of place, this moving story of a family’s journey west in a wagon train has the reader hooked from the beginning.  While Naomi and her family face harrowing trials on their journey west to California, they also experience moments of joy.  An epic story of strength and courage filled with likeable and authentic characters, the reader will get lost in this story of love, loss and the will to move forward.

-Michelle
Posted 1/13/2021

Malcolm Gladwell
Talking to Strangers: What we should know about the people we don't know
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3 Stars

By looking at several well-known incidents covered at length by the media, Gladwell, explores our interactions with strangers and why they often go wrong in this thought provoking work.

-Sean
Posted 1/13/2021

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.

Amity
Favorite genres:
Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Literature, Books about unusual animal friendships
Amity’s bookshelf on Goodreads.
Brian
Favorite genres:
Classic Literature, Film, and Philosophy
Brian’s bookshelf on Goodreads.
Denise
Favorite Genres:
Mysteries, Graphic Novels
Denise’s bookshelf on Goodreads
John
Favorite Genres:
Alternate History Fiction, Suspense
John’s bookshelf on Goodreads
kandice k
Kandice
Favorite Genres:

Chick Lit, Suspense, and Mysteries

Michelle
Favorite Genres:

Historical Fiction, Psychological Thrillers
Michelle’s bookshelf on Goodreads
Nancy
Favorite genres:
Literary Fiction and Regional American History.
Nancy’s bookshelf on Goodreads.
sean_final
Sean
Favorite Genres:

True-life biographies, Non-fiction
Sean’s bookshelf on Goodreads
Sandy
Favorite Genres:
Fantasy, Film

 

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