While my local library is reopening it’s doors tomorrow, during it’s closure they kicked off a service that I was all too game to try. Grab bags! That’s right, you could roll up to the parking lot for drive-by pickup and be handed a librarian-curated assortment of books. While there were several selections I simply returned with out reading, these are the four I decided to tackle. (Truth be told, I’ve been buying books a LOT more regularly in quarantine so I was not hurting for things to read when I got my grab bag. Had I been practicing any sort of book buying restraint I probably would have read ALL my librarians picks!) Let’s see how that librarian did, shall we?!
The four books I chose to read were —
The Lido by Libby Page – a feel-good contemporary fiction set in London
Solo by Kwame Alexander – a young adult contemporary written in verse
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – an alternate history young adult fantasy
The Death of Mrs. Westaway – a mystery thriller with a creepy setting
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Synopsis: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money. Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
|I love books (especially mystery-thrillers) where the setting almost becomes a character itself and Ware definitely creates that here. To meet her new “family” and work out the details of the inheritance Hal finds herself lodging at Trepassen, an aging English manor that holds many secrets. Much of the plot unfolds within it’s gothic, creepy walls.
Read if you like the movie: Knives Out, or any movie with a closed circle mystery
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Synopsis: The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
|If you think The Hunger Games meets The Man in the High Castle sounds like something that’d be up your street, this book is for you. It certainly was for ME. I’m excited to see what happens in book 2 of this duology.
Read if you liked the movie: The Hunger Games, or any fantasy/sci-fi film featuring a dark game
Solo by Kwame Alexander
Synopsis: Blade never asked for a life of the rich and famous. In fact, he’d give anything not to be the son of Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star and drug addict with delusions of a comeback. Or to no longer be part of a family known most for lost potential, failure, and tragedy. The one true light is his girlfriend, Chapel, but her parents have forbidden their relationship, assuming—like many—that Blade will become just like his father. In reality, the only thing Blade has in common with Rutherford is the music that lives inside them. But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities: the threat of losing Chapel forever, and the revelation of a long-held family secret, one that leaves him questioning everything he thought was true. All that remains is a letter and a ticket to Ghana—both of which could bring Blade the freedom and love he’s been searching for, or leave him feeling even more adrift.
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
|This was a really fun and quick read! Because it is written in verse the pages fly by. Our main character Blade is the son of super famous rockstar Rutherford Morrison. Blade is 17 going on 18 and grappling with first love, family dynamics, confusion about what to do with his life — all under the watchful eye of the paparazzi. Then, he receives some news that has him embarking on a journey that will forever change his life.
Read if you liked the movie: Lion, or any movie with an important familial quest
The Lido by Libby Page
Synopsis: Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat. As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure.
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐
|A really cute, feel-good book. The moral of the story is basically like “finding community and being around people to socialize and exercise is awesome for mental health” and now is just a weird time to be faced with that. My rating probably has more to do with being bummed about pools being closed this summer and less to do with the quality of the read.
Read if you liked the movie: A Man Called Ove, or any feel-good found family film
Overall, I’d say my librarian knocked it out of the park with these selections! While The Lido and The Death of Mrs. Westaway were books on my radar, I don’t think I would have picked them up myself without a little nudging. Wolf by Wolf I’d never even heard of and it earned a 5-star rating! It’s seriously such a well done dark games YA and I will shove it into the hands of anyone who enjoys that genre. And Solo was another I was happy to learn about and won’t soon forget. Nothing new here but it bears repeating — I LOVE LIBRARIES!
My next bookish post hitting the blog soon will be my SUMMER TBR. See you then!
P.S. More library love.