Our world as we know it has changed, but what hasn’t changed is our natural world! Nature awakens in May with the first tree buds turning into leaves, and flowering lilac bushes explode with a sweet, fragrant scent that fills the warm May air. Life returns to our gardens too. The perennials begin to sprout up from the soil and it’s time to pull on our gardening gloves, dig out the shovel, and plant the annuals that will grow lush and full over the summer months, offering us an abundance of natural beauty to fill us with wonder and the possibilities of hope. After all that physical activity in the great outdoors, you can look forward to taking a rest and escaping into a good book! Nature and books offer us a sense of calm and balance when our lives feel upended.
And don't forget to check out our featured Gardening booklist for additional horticulture inspiration.
Here are some of the exciting books our staff has been reading these spring days! All of these titles are available for download at Hoopla or at Libby by Overdrive.
Looking for something light? Then I highly recommend The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. Kai’s mother is desperate to find her autistic son a wife. She travels to Vietnam and meets Esme (My) who she believes is the perfect wife for Kai. In addition to being a romantic novel, with a “girl meets boy” scenario, the complexities of how the emotions of an autistic person are processed in interpersonal relationships will draw you into this story. In a light-hearted manner, the author gives us insight into Kai’s world and follows his emotional growth. Also, Esme’s continued belief in herself and in what she deserves, despite her circumstances, empowers her in the face of hardships. I commend her for that. All in all, The Bride Test is a sweet romance filled with uplifting emotions—the perfect read for a spring day!
In Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker recreates an untold account: a seemingly ideal family, graced with physical and mental gifts, is devastated by schizophrenia. Not just one child but six out of ten sons are afflicted.
Don and Mimi Galvin, who married young, were buoyed by the post war enthusiasm of the late 40's and embarked on creating a large family. Starting in 1945 and ending in 1965, the Galvins ultimately had 12 children, ten boys and two girls. They were bright and beautiful; the all-American family. Yet by the early 60's, cracks had begun to appear as the older boys were increasingly displaying behavior that far exceeded boisterous and had edged into outright violence. Beginning with the oldest son, Don Jr, who was diagnosed in his sophomore year in college, the Galvins watched helplessly as five more sons became afflicted and all of their lives spun out of control. Even the siblings who didn’t suffer from the illness were deeply impacted by it. Some lived with a constant barrage of violence and instability that destroyed any comfort in their home lives. And the six 'healthy' ones all lived with some level of guilt.
Kolker does a phenomenal job of describing the evolving field of Psychology, beginning in the fifties and ending with the status quo today. His research is impeccable and he is able to bring to life not just the human side of this story by creating vivid portraits of each family member, but also the science side of inherited mental illness, which to this day remains embryonic.
Author Chris Bohjalian leaves the reader of his newest book The Red Lotus wondering how he could have timed the novel more precisely. Austin, an administrator, and Alexis, an ER doctor at a university research hospital in New York City, embark on a prenuptial bike tour of Vietnam with an aspiration for Austin to memorialize the sacrifices his father and uncle made in the Vietnam conflict. Austin never returns from his memorial segment of the tour; he is found dead on the side of the road, possibly murdered. This leaves Alex wondering what the real reason for the tour might have been, and what connection her hospital might have had with Austin and Vietnam. Secrets, pathogens, antigens, antibodies, and…rats! These are the leading characters in this suspense novel of scientists, traders in biological weaponry—and pandemics.
Note to Shelf, Teen
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the anthology Life Inside My Mind, compiled by 31 YA Authors, is a powerful way to experience what millions of people suffer each day, and to celebrate and explore their journeys. In the anthology, 31 YA authors come together to share their own battles with mental health, covering topics like ADD, addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD and many, many more. Each story digs to the core of the author’s experience with the aim of breaking the stigma around discussing mental health in the United States. You can read one story, or the whole collection, but make sure you have tissues nearby!
Note to Shelf, Junior
Fans of all-things-spooky will particularly enjoy this week’s review title. Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters tells the story of Korean-American twelve-year-old Harper Raine, who has recently moved from NYC to Washington, D.C. When her new friend Dayo tells Harper her new house is haunted, she begins to notice her little brother is acting strangely. And as the evil spirit inhabiting her home slowly overtakes him, Harper’s memories of the traumatizing events that led to the family’s move resurface. But it’s not until her estranged grandmother comes to visit that Harper fully realizes the danger her family is in - a danger that only she can save them from. Equal parts creepy, suspenseful and mysterious, Spirit Hunters will have readers on the edge of their seats until the very end.
Looking for more spine-chilling stories geared toward younger readers? Check out Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Coraline, Christian McKay Heidicker’s Scary Stories for Young Foxes, and Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories collections - all available through our OverDrive and Hoopla collections.
Just For Fun
Since we have no baseball to watch, may we suggest watching a classic sports movie such as The Pride of the Yankees, starring Gary Cooper. This uplifting title is listed as an all-time best sports movie and is available on Hoopla.
Barely one year after Lou Gehrig's death from ALS, the heartbreaking story of his life became the second sports movie ever (after the 1931 boxing flick "The Champ") to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
Yankees teammates Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel, and Mark Koenig played themselves in the film, which takes us through Gehrig's days at Columbia University, his relationship with his immigrant parents and his wife, Eleanor, his early clashes with Ruth, his then-record consecutive games streak, and, finally, his poignant "luckiest man" speech months after receiving his fateful medical diagnosis of ALS.
If you have never seen this movie you're in for a treat. And if you have, watch it again-it only gets better!