(Editor’s note: This will be a recurring series of blog posts in which our staff recaps their year in reading, watching, and listening, offering recommendations for holiday travel materials or gift ideas.) 

Marlene Pelyhes, Technical Services Manager, Admin Center 

The Moment of Lift : How Empowering Women Changes the World  by and narrated by: Melinda Gates

While listening to Melinda Gates narrate her book highlighting her journey from high school to running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I felt like my next door neighbor dropped by for a friendly chat.  Melinda (we are on a first name basis now) tells her life story from a typical middle class family to running a Foundation that helps millions of people around the globe.  The idea is simple, if you lift women up and give them a voice, everyone benefits and succeeds.  Checkout this sound recording for inspiring true life stories of men and women helping disadvantaged and forgotten women find their voices and end up not just helping themselves but entire communities. 

April Holmes, Adult Services Assistant, Bainbridge Branch 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

This is a story of the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarian Service that served the people of rural Kentucky in the 1930’s. The novel’s main character, Cussy Carter, is a descendant of a family that carries the gene for methemoglobinemia or one of the “blue-skinned people” of Kentucky. Riding out daily on her faithful mule, Cussy, or “Bluet” as the mountain people call her, travels some treacherous routes to bring books and other reading material to the isolated and impoverished citizens of the hills of Kentucky. Although the mountain people often distrust her, Cussy’s generous spirit often leads her to try to improve their lives in ways not related to her role as a librarian. 

If you are interested in another story about the Kentucky Pack Horse librarians, The Giver of Stars by Jo Jo Moyes is another excellent read. 

Katy FarrellManager of Mobile ServicesMobile Services  

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery by Christie Aschwanden  

Good to Go is a fun read that dives into the development and marketing of recovery efforts for professional and amateur athletes.  Christie Aschwanden, a competitive skier, sets out on a quest to discover if she has been wasting her time and money exploring new methods of recovery after exercise. Along the way, the author examines everything from energy bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to compression socks, blood tests, tracking devices, and Under Armour’s (Tom Brady-branded) bioceramic pajamas. The reader should be prepared to see widely accepted methods of recovery, like icing an injury, from a new perspective. Luckily, Aschwanden presents multiple perspectives for controversial recovery methods and trusts the reader to figure out which is best for themselves.  This book is perfect gift for the amateur athlete in your life who is a little bit skeptical of new trends or someone who loves to work out.   

Katy is currently reading Secondhand by Adam Minter. 

Cathy Sweet, Adult Services, Chardon Branch

Judy

I love the film The Wizard of Oz.  I love Judy Garland.  However, I do not love what the studios did to child actors and actresses in the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I knew her childhood was unhappy, but I had not realized the intensity of the stress she endured.  She was never considered thin enough, so they kept her from eating and even required her to take barbiturates and amphetamines, setting her up for a lifetime of addiction.  The reviews of the film were somewhat uneven, but Renee Zellweger in the title role is incredible.  Sometimes you think you are seeing and hearing Judy Garland herself, but Zellweger actually did her own singing.  I expect to see her nominated for an Oscar.  Yes, the film is sad, but worth the ride!  Rating: PG-13 (for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking)  P.S. – Judy, you deserved that cheeseburger! 

Andrea Milnar, Youth Services Assistant, Geauga West Branch 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Joanne Fluke 

Cozy murder mystery? Check! Recipes for delicious cookies?  Check! A series that continues the story? Check! This book checks all the boxes and is the perfect combination of fun, baking, and sleuthing! If you give someone this book as a gift, you may want to include a dozen Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies too! (recipe included) 

 

Jessica Divis, Head of Adult Services, Bainbridge Branch 

Ayesha at Last  by Uzma Jalaluddin Narrated by Roshni Shukla
I’m a sucker for JAFF (Jane Austen Fan-Fiction) and was excited to listen to this Pride and Prejudice modernization. This story is told in dual perspectives of Ayesha and Khalid, Muslim Canadians living in Toronto. Khalid, conservative and judgmental, makes a terrible first impression when Ayesha overhears him criticize her choices while she is out with a friend. Over the course of the book the couple gets thrown together and they begin to understand and appreciate each other and their experiences. While the bad guy characters are a bit overdone, the majority of the secondary characters are enjoyable. I appreciated how positively faith was handled throughout the story and enjoyed the slow-burn romance between the main characters. Roshni Shukla was a very entertaining narrator who captured several voices as she performed the audiobook. She handled the bantering and bickering between characters very well and kept the story moving. This was a great debut novel, and I will be looking for more from Uzma Jalaluddin in the future! 

Because by Mo Willems Illustrated by Amber Ren
Mo Willems is extremely well-known for his humorous books for children, especially the Elephant & Piggie books. In his book Because, Mo Willems takes things in a sweeter direction and shares a story about a child’s discovery of music and the journey she takes to become an accomplished composer and musician. Willems highlights all that goes into putting on a concert as well as stresses the hard work of not only the musicians but the composer, ushers, and tech workers. The text is lyrical and the story flows very well. The illustrations are colorful and depict the presence of the music as the girl experiences it. This is a lovely story perfect for reading one on one or before bedtime. 

Kris Carroll, Assistant Director  

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

A moving account of work as a psychotherapist, with added insight into the perspective of a patient.  The author explores her own struggles alongside those of her patients.  Gottlieb portrays her patients, as well as herself as a patient, with compassion and humor. This would be a great gift for professional therapists, readers of Mitch Albom, or people hesitant to try therapy.  

Confessions of a Dork Lord by Marta Altes

I have to admit that I have not read this title yet. But my youngest daughter loved it and shared it with all of her 10-11 year old friends. It appears to be a blend of fantasy world with a heavy dose of underdog middle school adventure and gets high reviews from the intended audience! Good gift for reluctant readers in grades 3-5. 

Carolyn Henry, Adult Services, Chardon Branch 

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I had started this series a number of years ago, but have enjoyed all the books in the series. It doesn’t hurt that the author keeps adding new adventures. The series takes place in Botswana, Africa about a woman who starts a detective agency to help people in her town. Through an inheritance from her father, she has the money to start her business. Her agency has a slow start, but picks up clients due to her uncanny, creative ways to get to the truth. The series is a very easy read. But, I’ve particularly enjoyed hearing it on audiobook. The reader’s voice has that particular accent to transport me to South Africa. Not to mention it helps with the pronunciation of the names of the people and the towns.