A Few of Our Favorite Things: Staff Recommendations from 2019 

(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.) 

Mary Balog, Youth Services Manager, Bainbridge 

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Written by award-winning Kenyan actress, Lupita Nyong’o, this picture book will resonate with every child who has ever felt a little different.  Sulwe was born with the darkest, most beautiful skin although she did not feel beautiful.  She felt different.  She was darker than any one in her family, darker than anyone at her school.  The author weaves together a parable of two sisters, Day and Night and the importance of being different.  Illustrator, Vashti Harrison strengthens the story with her stunning drawings.  Readers, both young and old will find this book truly heartwarming.   

Jenna Mansfield, Shelver, Middlefield Branch 

Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer

Fletcher Moon has always had a knack for mysteries, and while he might not be too fond of how his height has earned him the nickname ‘Half Moon’, he’s more than pleased with how his online detective courses have panned out. With a fresh certificate of skill and a shiny new detective badge, Fletcher is eager to tackle his first case, but when it takes him straight for the local crime family, his investigation starts falling to pieces. Now Fletcher’s somehow the suspect! He has to clear his name and solve the mystery before it’s too late, but he’s going to have to form an unlikely alliance to do it… Pulling on Eoin Colfer’s skill with humor and wit, Half-Moon Investigations is a great read for both laughs and a frolicking mystery. 

Carolyn Henry, Library Assistant – Reference, Chardon 

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

This is the first book I have read from this author, and it certainly won’t be the last. The story revolves around women in the hill country of Kentucky, their lives, their relationships, and their work with the newly formed Baileyville WPA Pack Horse Library. Though a fictional story, the Pack Horse Library was a real program that delivered books to remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943. One of the main characters is an English woman named Alice who has been transplanted to Kentucky through her marriage to a local man, Bennett Van Cleve. Instead of being in a more populated city in Kentucky, she has been brought to the backwoods town of Baileyville. Alice joins the Pack Horse Library to help with the project and also to get away from the unpleasant atmosphere at her father-in-law’s house where she and her husband live. 

The role of women in the 1930’s, relationships between friends, marital expectations, shady business practices, and a murder trial are all part of this book. It was well written and easy to follow. Those with an interest in historical fiction will want to add this book to their reading list. 

Isabella Ziemak, Substitute Marketing Assistant 

Ready or Not

This film follows a new bride who follows her in-laws tradition of playing a game on their wedding night, unfortunately for the new bride it becomes a game of survival. Samara Weaving plays Grace, the bride, and she does a wonderful job of bringing this character to life. It is a fast paced horror film with a great soundtrack.  

Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout

I love Jennifer L. Armentrout, the whole top shelf of my bookcase is filled with her books. She mostly writes young adult as well as adult. She has this way of writing that sucks you into the plot and always leaves you hanging for more. Storm and Fury is a spin off from The Dark Elements series which follows a world that has demons residing along humans. Storm and Fury follows Trinity a human living in a commune full of protectors. Her world is turned upside down when protectors from outside the commune comes with news that something sinister is happening in D.C. Trinity and these new protectors must figure out what is wrong before it’s too late. 

Judy Osborn, Circulation Clerk, Geauga West

Christmas Cookies (Seasonal Cookbook Collection) by Gooseberry Patch, 2019

Gooseberry Patch cookbooks have been around since 1984 and they’re still going strong publishing new cookbooks every year.  I like this year’s Christmas Cookies because there are so many recipes to choose from, and not just cookies.  There are drop cookies, cut-out cookies, bar cookies, cookies from other cultures, and cookies made from cake mixes and premade cookie dough.  There are fudge and candy recipes, frostings, and mixes in a jar.  There’s hot cocoa, punch, and warm spiced cider.  True to Gooseberry style, there are personal stories of where recipes came from, and many helpful hints for baking and gift-giving.  I would recommend this cookbook to anyone who likes a simple down-to-earth approach to baking and candy making, and to anyone who loves to make homemade gifts.

Jessica Divis, Head of Adult Services, Bainbridge Branch 

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All  by Laura Ruby
Magical Realism typically isn’t what I seek out when I’m looking for my next read; however, after reading Laura Ruby’s Printz Award winning book, Bone Gap, in 2015, I’ve been eagerly anticipating another YA book from her. Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All follows two young women: one living and one dead, in pre-WWII Chicago. Frankie and her siblings live in an orphanage run by nuns after their father decides to move to another state with his new wife and her family. Frankie is observed by the ghost of a young woman who died during the Spanish Flu epidemic after suffering a great loss. Frankie works hard to protect her sister and herself in less than ideal circumstances and the reader will try to solve the mystery of the ghost. There are themes of survival and family throughout the book, and while some parts of the story are difficult to get through (I might have cried a couple of times) the writing is gorgeous and the story ultimately ends on a positive note. The story was inspired by real-life events. 

This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman
I read a lot of Historical Romances. A lot. And This Earl of Mine, a series starter by Kate Bateman, was one of my favorites this year. Georgiana Caverseed has a big problem. Her money hungry cousin is getting more and more insistent on getting his hands on her fortune. So in a desperate attempt to solve her problem Georgiana decides to marry a criminal scheduled to be executed so that she can keep control of what is hers. Everything seems to go to plan, but Georgiana is surprised when she sees her new husband across a crowded ballroom later that week. Over the course of the story the relationship between the characters develops as they go on adventures and get into trouble. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief with this story, but it doesn’t matter when the characters and dialog are so great. If you like smart and capable lead characters and excellent banter, this book is worth a shot. This book is moderately steamy and has a lot of material for the author to write the follow-ups in the series. 

Kris Carroll, Assistant Director  

American Predator: the hunt for the most meticulous serial killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan

Gripping and superbly researched, this will be a true crime classic. Podcast companion: The Clearing 

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

Another everything-you-think-you-know-is-wrong with some unsettling truths. Gladwell pleas for more thoughtful ways of behaving and advocates for people to  embrace trust, rather than defaulting to  distrust, and not to  “blame the stranger. Podcast companion: Revisionist History