Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Michelle recommends "The Overdue Life of Amy Byler"

From the publisher: Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City. Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind. But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.

It felt like I started my summer reading a bit early this year. Light weekend read, women’s fiction with just the right combination of humor and thought-provoking situations.  I found Amy Byler to be completely relatable. I know it is completely unrealistic to walk out of my real world for a summer in the city, but this story gave me pause to imagine. Kids schedules, encouraging their passions or just trying to be everything for them takes a ton of energy and this mom had an opportunity to take a break; so it was fun to read along on the adventure. Also, she is a librarian so I might have related to her professional field, too.

Recommended for Adults

Monday, April 22, 2019

Sarah recommends “Nine Perfect Strangers”

The Books on Tap book club's April pick was "Nine Perfect Strangers" by Liane Moriarty.

When nine perfect strangers arrive at a health resort looking to reinvigorate and overhaul their lives, they have no idea just how much hard work they are in for. Frances Welty, a formerly best-selling romantic novelist, happens to be one of those nine. Frances thinks she is at Tranquillum House to recuperate from a bad back and a broken heart, but as she grows more and more intrigued by her fellow guests and the mysterious and charismatic resort owner, she begins to realize that maybe the solutions she was seeking are not actually the answers she needs.

Liane Moriarty, best-known for "Big Little Lies," writes page-turning thrillers with complex and relatable characters. This, her latest novel, was no exception. I listened to the audiobook, read by Australian narrator Caroline Lee, and she did an amazing job giving each character a distinct voice.

I really enjoyed "Nine Perfect Strangers," and most of the book group did too.

If you're interested in joining a casual book club for adults that discusses new and popular fiction, please join us at our next Books on Tap meeting on May 13, 2019, at Bar Louie Partridge Creek. We'll be discussing "The Island of Sea Women" by Lisa See (which was the Popular Materials Book of the Month for March).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Popular Materials April Book of the Month

Our April Book of the Month pick is Miracle Creek by Angie Kim!

In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night—trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges—as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. An addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Miracle Creek is both a twisty page-turner and a deeply moving story about the way inconsequential lies and secrets can add up—with tragic consequences.

“With so many complications and loose ends, one of the miracles of the novel is that the author ties it all together and arrives at a deeply satisfying―though not easy or sentimental―ending. Intricate plotting and courtroom theatrics, combined with moving insight into parenting special needs children and the psychology of immigrants, make this book both a learning experience and a page-turner. Should be huge.” ―Kirkus (starred review)

“This stunning debut by Angie Kim is both an utterly engrossing, nail-biter of a courtroom drama and a sensitive, incisive look into the experiences of immigrant families in America.” ―Nylon

“A stand-out, twisty debut . . . Kim, a former lawyer, clearly knows her stuff . . . a masterfully plotted novel about the joys and pains of motherhood, the trick mirror nature of truth, and the unforgiving nature of justice.” ―Publishers Weekly

“[A] masterpiece of grief, hope, and recrimination . . . A complex novel of parenting, prejudice, and putting blame where blame’s due, this one is not to be missed.” ―Crime Reads

Monday, April 15, 2019

Miss Lynn recommends "Piecing Me Together"

Piecing Me Together” is a young adult novel by Renee Watson.  It’s a moving story that deals with race and privilege, and how attempts at “helping” without thought or reflection can have the opposite effect. Throughout the story, the main character, Jade, finds her voice and becomes the advocate she needs.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Phil recommends "The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick"

Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon were all famous Universal Classic Monsters in the Golden Age of Hollywood.  However, there was something unique about the Gill Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a secret that had been kept for decades – he was created by a woman.  In an industry dominated by men and rife with sexism (in the 1950s and even today) Milicent Patrick quietly made her statement by creating one of the most beloved creatures in horror film history - while her male boss stole all of the credit. 

Author, screenwriter, and film producer Mallory O’Meara embarks on a quest to set the record straight and to find out all she can about this little known animator and pioneer of special effects design.  O’Meara’s quest takes her from Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California to the hallowed halls of the Walt Disney Archives as she pieces together the life of an unsung Hollywood hero. 

I still remember seeing “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” in 3D with my parents at the Detroit Institute of Arts and again on the Svengoolie show while I lived in Chicago.  It is a nearly flawless classic horror movie and I enjoyed learning about this little known piece of movie history.