Staff Picks for Adults and Teens

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The All You Can Eat Dream Buffet

Barbara O'Neal

This story is about four “food bloggers”, each with their own personal struggles. The four women met through their blogs and have become good friends, each helping the other get through traumatic events in their lives. Soon they will all be meeting for the first time face to face at Lavender’s birthday party.

Lavender is the 85 yr old owner of the thriving Lavender Honey Farm, in Washington State. With failing health, Lavender is struggling to find someone to take over her beloved farm. Someone who will love it as much as she has and keep it going after she is gone.

Ruby, is a survivor of childhood leukemia. She became a Vegan to help heal from her disease. She now writes a Vegan blog and runs a Vegan food truck. After a painful breakup, she finds herself pregnant and unsettled. Ruby needs to find a place to finally settle down, especially now that she has the baby to consider.

Ginny is an unhappily married cake decorator from Kansas. She finds an outlet for herself in writing a popular cake decorating blog. Finding little support from her husband and family, Ginny purchases an Airstream trailer and decides to venture out on her own for the first time in her life.   

Valerie, a retired ballerina, lost her husband and two of her daughters in a tragic plane crash. After the accident she created a wine blog to distract her from her grief. Val seeks a fresh start for her and her remaining daughter. They head out on a cross-country road trip hoping to find their new home along the way.

Together these women learn that leaning on others is not a sign of weakness. What they are missing in their lives is found during their journey to the farm and during their stay at the farm. It is a beautiful story, filled with sadness and joy. Love lost and love found and the true meaning of friendship.

I came across Barbara O’Neal’s books while browsing the library’s shelves for a new book to read. I was instantly hooked by her stories. Each story is somehow rooted in food culture, yet the way she manages to personalize each character’s struggles and accomplishments, draws you in and keeps you anxiously waiting for the next book to come out.

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Memoirs of Lady Trent (series)

A Natural History of Dragons
The Tropic of Serpents

A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents are the first two books in Marie Brennan's A Memoir by Lady Trent series. The cover art on the first title drew me in, and I was surprised by a very enjoyable read. This is a light fantasy told in the style of a Victorian memoir. Lady Trent pursues her lifelong passion to study and document dragons, and to become the world's first dragon naturalist. Pursuit of this goal brings travel and adventure, with great obstacles to overcome and mysteries to solve. Hopefully there will be more titles forthcoming in this series.

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Someone Knows My Name

Someone Knows My Name

Sweeping tale of an African woman, Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped near her village, at the age of 11, and sold into slavery in the United States. The story spans 60 years of Aminata's life from Africa to the US, then Canada, back to Africa and ending in England, where Aminata writes down her story for the Abolitionist movement in 1803, hoping to bring an end to the slave trade.

This tale is rich in history - I learned many things I never knew and Meena is the perfect narrator. Her strength and resilience are inspiring as she never gives up hope after all she endures. I had never heard of this novel before and, apparently, it has different titles around the world. In Canada, the home of the author, it is known as The Book of Negroes and, according to another reader, it is also known simply as Aminata elsewhere.

Regardless of what it is called, this is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

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The Rosie Project


"The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion is best described as delightful, funny, and quirky.  The central character, Don Tillman, has a reputation for being a rigid, highly scheduled, socially inept, and brilliant genetics professor at an Austrailian university.  Tillman is single, 39 years old, and due to his social limitations, sees himself with no prospects for love.  He moves to solve this dilemma through the development of an idea he dubs The Wife Project.  The Wife Project involves a 16 page, double sided questionnaire designed to screen dating candidates for compatibility as a suitable partner.  Don's expectations are at best unreasonable.  Though he enlists the help of friends Gene and Gene's wife Claudia, the quest to find a qualifying woman does not go well.  Results from the questionnaires actually prove to be more helpful for Gene.

The lonely Professor's image of the perfect woman is turned upside down when he meets Rosie.  Rosie walks into his life with endless contradictions to conflict with Don's idea of a life partner.  And though he finds her faults difficult to accept, he has an immediate attraction to the friendly, loud, and uninhibited woman.  They develop a friendship, and Rosie challenges the Professor's loyalty to nonconformity by introducing him to a sensory world reaching far beyond his structured environment.    

Rosie is interested in finding her biological father.  Because the quest to find Rosie's father involves the testing of DNA, Professor Tillman volunteers his expertise in genetics to help the psychology student who also moonlights as a barmaid.  This leads to the birth of the Father Project, and some of the story's most hilarious moments involve the attempts to capture and test DNA samples.  In one scenario, the duo work as bartenders and undertake a mass DNA collection at a medical student class reunion where they believe Rosie's Father is one of the attendees.                 

The author writes with a wry humor about elements of life ordinarily regarded as serious and complicated.  The occasional use of salty language may seem unnecessary to the storytelling, yet does not distract from the telling of a wonderful story. The Wife Project questions whether compatibility is a necessary ingredient for romantic love.  The Father Project asks how knowing the identity of a biological father relates to happiness.  "The Rosie Project" is a "can't put it down" book destined to keep the most discriminating reader up at night; well past a time the sun has gone down and the stars have come out.  In fact, Graeme Simsion has written a story worthy of a bright, gold star.         



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Pavement chalk artist

the three-dimensional drawings of Julian Beever (2010)

My interest in street art has led me to view numerous pictures on the internet.  Many are wonders of creativity and determination—from murals on a building to 3D art made from objects already in place.  Street art can have an important message or be a small scale drawing, there just to make you smile. 

One of my favorite types of street art is chalk art.  While temporary, in the hand of a master artist they can be incredibly detailed and convincing.  Chalk art combines art, creativity, perspective, and even performance.

One such chalk artist is Julian Beever.  He uses anamorphic drawing to create perspective by distorting the picture.  When viewed from the chosen perspective, the picture looks 3D, like you could step inside it.  Crowds surrounding his drawings show how passersby are intrigued and sometimes can become part of the scene.

I was happy and surprised to come across this book at the library.  Many of his most popular and convincing works are included, though he starts with his first creations.  You can see how his skill expands as he learns about the challenges of drawing in a certain place or at a certain angle.  For those who want to know how to do create anamorphic drawings the background and techniques are explained. 

Julian Beever has created chalk art around the world, and you will be amazed by the 3D world he creates!  View more on his website or check out this book.

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Land of Lincoln

Adventures in Abe’s America

The writer Andrew Ferguson set out to explore how Abraham Lincoln is viewed and commemorated across the nation nearly 150 years after his death.  He visits Lincoln places across the country and talks with those obsessed with our 16th president, whether they consider him a saint or a demon.  The book is a captivating look at how history remains alive, and is also extremely funny. 

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The Elephant to Hollywood


The Elephant of the title refers to a poor section of London, where the actor Michael Caine grew up.  His given name was Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, but when offered his first important acting role he was advised to change the name to something simpler.  Needing a name quick, he noticed the marquee for a movie theater showing the Humphrey Bogart film, “The Caine Mutiny.”  Sixty years, two Academy Awards, and a knighthood later, Michael Caine remains one of the best known actors in the world.  In this, the second of his memoirs (after What’s It All About?, 1992), he recounts events mostly from the last twenty years.  There’s some repetition from the first volume, which is a more expansive version of his life, but Caine remains a casual, self-deprecating, and funny story-teller, making for pleasant company.


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Weber's Big Book of Burgers

The ultimate guide to grilling backyard classics (2014)
Weber's Big Book of Burgers

I love burgers and trying new recipes. While the (rumored) arrival of summer is bound to make most all of us happy, trying nearly all of this title's beef recipes will further sweeten the deal for me. Also included are recipes for bison, lamb, pork, poultry, seafood, and vegetarian burgers, as well as condiments and sides.

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Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy

In 1950s New Orleans, Josie Moraine dreams of escaping the Big Easy and attending Smith College in Massachusetts. Unfortunately for her, this is an especially difficult task. Josie is the daughter of a French Quarter prostitute with a penchant for trouble. Josie's mother, Louise, fancies herself to be a gangster's moll and frequently gets Josie entangled in her mistakes.

Despite the seriousness of the events taking place, Out of the Easy is never over-the-top nor does it contain any graphic descriptions of things occurring in the story. What Ruta Sepetys does extremely well is create very realistic (and colorful!) characters that you genuinely care about. From the very first paragraph, you are transported to New Orleans, immersed in Josie's world and you will not want to leave.

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The Secret Life of Sleep

The Secret Life of Sleep

Kat Duff’s book had its beginnings as a blog for the “sleepy, the sleepless and the curious” and that sets the tone for the book. The chapters are short, interesting, folksy and informative.

Have you ever been falling asleep and suddenly your whole body startles awake? There is actually a name for this- a Myoclonic Kick. As we wind down to sleep we pass through a state called hypnagogia where we slowly lose consciousness. Once asleep, our brain continues to function, but in a way that is healing. The author brings up many interesting possibilities and conjectures about different states of sleep. Some are scientific, some are cultural, all interwoven.

Chapters are devoted to dreams. An ancient Greek philosopher stated that the science of the soul would come to us through sleep. During the Dark Ages, dreams were denounced as works of the devil. The affects of dreams on memory and learning are addressed here from a more modern viewpoint.  The psychological aspects of this subject are looked at through a Jungian lens.

Another section is devoted to trying to get to sleep when one cannot do so. Within this is a detailed history of sleeping pills from Bromide to Barbiturates to Benzodiazepines. There is some rather interesting data on sleep tests and drugs. People do not necessarily sleep much longer with the help of sleeping pills, but they feel more rested.

A side note I found interesting was that the president who established a special committee to investigate drug dependence in 1962 regularly took Ritalin for energy, barbiturates for sleep, codeine for pain, and Librium for anxiety.

It is easy to read a couple chapters of this book before going to bed at night. And what better time to read a book about sleep?



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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry


A.J. Fikry is a miserable man. His wife died tragically, his bookstore is struggling and now his prized possession, a rare edition of Poe’s Tamerlane has been stolen from his apartment. The sale of that book was what was going to get A.J. off this island some day. Now A.J. is stuck on Alice Island, where he has alienated most of the population with his superior attitude and bad disposition. Everything changes for A.J. when a mysterious bundle is left in his bookstore one night. This small bundle gives A.J. the power to change his entire life which, in turn changes the lives of other people close to him.


This book surprised me. This is not the type of book I normally would be drawn to and it actually sat on my desk for a week before I decided to give it a try,. The minute I picked it up, I was hooked and didn’t put it down until I was finished (with tears running down my face). This book is full of literary references, has the emotion of a memoir and yet at times, reads like a romantic comedy. Definitely quirky and may not be for everyone, but pick it up and give it a try. You may be as surprised as I was!

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