Staff Picks for Adults and Teens

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Knights of Sidonia



Knights of Sidonia is an addicting manga sci-fi epic of high stakes, war, and the spark of hope that humanity can hold onto even in the darkest of times.  Knights is set in the distant future, long after Earth and its solar system has been destroyed by an extremely adaptable alien life form known as the gauna.  These creatures are nearly impossible to destroy, regenerating impossibly fast.


What remains of humanity is living aboard a spaceship mimicking the conditions of Earth called the Sidonia.  Tanikaze is one of the ship’s inhabitants, but he is considered to be a bit more “crude” than the majority of Sidonia’ s society, which has been genetically advanced.  For example, Tanikaze is singled out for his “excessive” need to eat three meals per day, whereas nearly everyone else needs to eat only once per week and otherwise gains energy from a less wasteful process they refer to as photosynthesizing.  Some in the society are also genderless or have a new gender altogether, which I find a very interesting concept explored by Nihei.  Despite what could be called Tanikaze’s “overly” human tendencies, he is surprisingly excellent at flying the Gardes, which are the ships that are used to defeat the gauna.


Despite all of the destruction and death you might expect in a series like this, there is a good amount of humor to lighten things up and above all, a very interesting treatment of the characters and all of their unique abilities and characteristics.  The world-building in this series is extraordinary—dense with detail and always intriguing.  Nihei also does an excellent job showing instead of telling, allowing us to come to our own conclusions instead of relying on heavy-handed narration.  I can’t understate how much I love this in fiction in any medium.


If this concept all sounds a bit familiar, you may be thinking of the series Attack on Titan.  I think readers of the Titan series would likely enjoy Knights, as it is in a similar vein but is definitely its own story, and one which I’d highly recommend.

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Devil in the Marshalsea

The Devil in the Marshalsea

Antonia Hodgson knows how to create atmosphere.  She also has done her research.  The result is a wonderfully cinematic story that thrusts you into the dark, gruesome underbelly of London, England in 1727.  The narrator that Hodgson crafts is Thomas Hawkins, a young man, once bound for the clergy, now bound for the Marshalsea, an infamous debtor’s prison, filled with brutality, bad luck, and disease.  Despite his desperate efforts, Tom finds himself confined with a possible murderer for a roommate.  If Tom values his life and liberty, he must expose the truth before what little luck he has runs out.  This would be a thrilling novel to listen to on audiobook.  As it so happens, the audiobook has received high praise for its voice acting.  If you are prepared to be hurled into a world of gut-wrenching living conditions and treachery at every turn, please consider this gem.

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What If?

Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (2014)
What If? by Randall Munroe

Randall Munroe earned a degree in physics at Christopher Newport University (VA) and went on to work on robots at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia before quitting to become a cartoonist  ( “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”).  He employs humorous stick figure sketches to help provide scientific answers to absurd hypotheticals submitted to him through his website.

I loved this book – and the great thing is, if there is a question you don’t care about, simply skip to the next one.  One of my favorite chapters addressed  “What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?”  A science-supported answer, bolstered by helpful, hilarious sketches, help you decide whether constructing such a display would be a good project to undertake.  The author also includes some questions he doesn’t bother answering that are quite funny and often disturbing.  If you enjoy science and humor, you will likely really enjoy this book.  I am only disappointed that the book didn’t address the scenario depicted on the cover:  how long it would take a tyrannosaurus rex to be digested in a sarlacc pit.

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Drawing Autism

Drawing Autism

Drawing Autism showcases the artistic talents of individuals with autism spectrum disorder while giving perspective on how these artists relate to the world around them.  Temple Grandin has written the forward which is a perfect introduction and sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Author Jill Mullin, a behavior analyst with a clinical background in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), divided the selected works into themes.  Her goal was to provide an overview of the autism spectrum while celebrating the individuality of each person.  Artists selected for the book were all asked to complete the same questionnaire.  Some were able to complete these on their own, some had assistance from family or a caregiver, while others were unable to answer any questions at all.  Content the artists shared with Mullin is included on the page(s) with their work.


As with any art, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There were some pieces I enjoyed immensely and would happily hang in my house, while others I didn't care for.  No matter how I felt about an artist's work however, I was able to appreciate their process and what, if anything, they were trying to convey.  This is a book that we keep in our adult non-fiction collection, but can be enjoyed by anyone with an appreciation of art or someone in their life on the autism spectrum.

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Cancel the Wedding


The one year anniversary of Olivia’s mother’s death is drawing near. Her mother’s dying wish was very explicit, her ashes were to be scattered in two specific locations in Huntley, Georgia, a town neither Olivia nor her sister had ever heard of.  Looking for a way to escape her increasingly chaotic personal life, Olivia decides now is the perfect time to go Huntley and find out why this place was so special to their mother. What she finds makes her wonder if she ever really knew her mother at all. Huntley is gone…well actually it now sits at the bottom of a man-made lake. Olivia is drawn to the mysteries that she has discovered and decides she needs to stay in nearby Tillman and find out what else her mother has been hiding all these years. The more questions she asks, the more it seems people are trying to hide things from her. The mystery behind the long lost town and the secrets her mother has kept hidden for decades continue puzzle and intrigue. You find yourself at the edge of your seat and anxiously awaiting the outcome of this compelling story.

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All the Light We Cannot See


Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives a quiet life with her Father, Daniel LeBlanc, at Number 4 rue Vauborel in Paris, France.  Daniel is a locksmith for the Natural Museum of History in Paris before the German occupation of France during WWII.  Marie-Laure becomes totally blind by the age of six.  Her Father fashions a miniature replica of their neighborhood from wood so that she may memorize and better navigate her surroundings while he is busy working at the museum. 

Werner Pfenning also lives a quiet life with his sister, Jutta, at an orphanage in Zollverein, Germany.  The directress of "Children's House" is a kind woman named Frau Elena who loves the orphaned children as if they were her own.  Werner, who is a gifted math student, finds a hobby building and fixing radio receivers.  By age 13, he is well known as a master radio repairman.  His notoriety catches the attention of an elite German Officer, and soon he is sent to a prestigious school ruled by the powerful German Reich.   

In "All the Light We Cannot See", Anthony Doerr writes a masterful story.  He manages to intertwine the lives of these two fascinating characters using exceptional attention to detail with alternating chapters devoted to Marie-Laure and Werner as the teenagers travel along the same timeline.  However, their identity to each other is not revealed until their circumstances collide in the final chapters.  

As Germany gains more control over the city, Marie-Laure and her Father are forced to leave the museum and Paris.  The intrigue of their abrupt departure is magnified by the unknown location of a 133 carat diamond known as the "Sea of Flames"; which has long been kept safe deep inside the museum.  Father and daughter find refuge in the home of Daniel's eccentric Uncle Etienne LaBlanc and his loyal housekeeper Madame Manec who live in the more protected "city within the walls" of Saint-Malo, France.  As the relationship between the young blind girl and her Uncle Etienne grows stronger, Etienne shares with his niece the forbidden collection of gramaphones and radio transmitters that secretly occupy his attic.  

Meanwhile, Werner is in great demand as a transmission expert under the watchful eye of Dr. Hauptmann.  Wireless radios prove to be a crucial component of war.  The transmitting and receiving parts are used to assess an enemy's position or expose an enemy's plan of attack.  Though Werner's special talent earns him protection and respect, he is confused about the war objectives and the Reich's plans for the future of Europe.  The young boy is unprepared for the disagreeable facts of war, and he often yearns for the more carefree life at the orphanage with his sister Jutta.      

The author builds an imaginative story that commands interest by combining elements of mystery, espionage, the hunt for a shiny stone, and an underground resistance movement.  At 530 pages, "All the Light We Cannot See" is a lengthy read.  However, the details are intoxicating and the story captivates as it unravels.  When the conclusion arrives, the reader is reminded that there are always voices behind the static of a radio, and sometimes the blind see more than the sighted.   





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The girls of Atomic City

the untold story of the women who helped win World War II (2013)
The Girls of Atomic City

If your country needed your help would you give up your career, your comfortable home and endanger your relationships for an unknown job in a location that didn’t appear on any map?  Could you handle never speaking of your job to your spouse, or knowing where and why they had to leave for weeks? Could you work on just one small job over and over for years, not knowing what came before or would come after?

The Girls of Atomic City bravely chose this path to help their country and bring their brothers and sons home sooner from World War II.  This book throws open the curtain of secrecy to reveal the hardships they faced, the huge contributions they made towards creating the ultimate weapon, and their personal stories of love and loss.

The author was inspired by a black and white photo of a woman seated at a huge machine full of dials.  Determined to meet as many of these wartime workers as she was able to find, she tracked down these women, then in their eighties.  They recalled rough living packed together in small huts made of cement, constant construction so the ground was either dust or sticky mud, rationed food and clothing, fear of spies, and the lack of news.  They also remembered sharing your best dress with a friend who was going on a date, weekly dances, visits to the nearest town to shop, and meeting people from all over the United States.  Everyone wondered—what are we creating?  So much material comes in, but no product ever seems to leave.  Many worked for years, not knowing what end they were working toward, until the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan.

This is a very readable and enlightening book, whether you enjoy biographies or history.

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April 1865

The Month That Saved America


We generally think of the Civil War as ending with Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, but that isn’t strictly the case.  Lee only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.  Other Confederate armies were still on the field, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was determined to continue the fight.  The assassination of Abraham Lincoln just days later caused many to believe that the South would be inspired to renew the struggle—exactly what John Wilkes Booth had hoped when he entered that box at Ford’s Theater.  Clearly, the war that had been raging for four years was coming to an end, but whether the result would be peace at last or a prolonged guerilla war was not yet clear.  April 1865: the Month That Saved Americaprovides a gripping account of a pivotal period in American history.


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The Obamas


This book reminded me a bit of watching West Wing. We don’t realize how the White House is buzzing 24/7. Kantor takes us inside for an eye-opening expose of life in America’s most famous mansion. Michelle and Barack Obama managed to adapt to a very dramatic change in their lifestyle with grace and maturity. But it wasn’t all rosy. We learn about the trials and tribulations the first couple endured while trying to maintain their “date” night, celebrating Halloween, dealing with the Gulf oil spill, examining the President’s competitive nature, and witnessing Michelle’s fierce loyalty to her husband while she slips into “mama bear” mode. It’s all here and more. Prepare to get up close and personal with the first family and the President’s closest advisers: Rahm Emanuel, former Chief of Staff; Robert Gibbs, his longtime Press Secretary; and David Axelrod. West Wing may make you dizzy. This book will verify the hectic pace portrayed on that show.

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Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever

Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever

Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever

Tom Neely & Friends

This is an adult graphic novel about a fictional domestic relationship between Glenn Danzig and Henry Rollins. Much license is taken here, as Danzig and Rollins are most definitely not in a domestic relationship, but their real life personalities come through in the fictional character’s day to day lives. This gives it a niche audience. But if you are at all familiar with the real life characters, you will be well rewarded with plenty of laughs.

There are a  lot of “guest appearances” from Hall and Oates, Lars and James, Lou Reed, various demons and many more that I’m sure I didn’t’ “get.” Even Danzig’s mother is in a couple chapters. (She puts child safety locks on all the torture devices in their dungeon and orders survivalist gear for them, as “their kind” won’t be taken up in the rapture).

Some of the best storylines occur in Henry and Glenn’s day to day living, as when they go to couple’s counseling, or are eating breakfast together and planning their day. I love the scene when they go to the pharmacy to get flu shots and watch in amazement as a clerk successfully changes the mood of a grumpy old man. (What a customer service mastermind! What’s she doing stuck in a job like this? That woman can change the world!).

Many adult graphic novels contain subject matter that is not suitable for children, and this is no exception. The humor is dark and sometimes sophomoric, but a lot of that is a play in the personalities of the characters. I only recommend this for those who are aware of this and are not offended by the content.


Further "reading":




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The Good House

The Good House


You don't want to trust Hildy Good, but at the same time, you wish she was your best friend. What Hildy has to offer as narrator and co-conspirator is dishy goodness.  She knows things – secrets. It should be no surprise then that she has plenty of her own.  As a functioning alcoholic, Hildy is trying to keep her head above water and herself out of trouble. This becomes impossible when Rebecca, a new client of Hildy’s realty firm, can’t seem to keep her own secrets at bay.  You will be surprised by how invested you become in Hildy’s fate.  See whether or not the first few pages entice you by reading this sample, provided by Overdrive.

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