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Note to Shelf: July 2021 Edition

We’ve waited a while for summer to arrive and this July offers us so much to celebrate! We're getting ready to reunite with family and friends while connecting with the richness and beauty of the outdoors. What a joyful process it is to contemplate where you might head on your summer adventure.

A favorite start of the summer season for the Reader Services team is to invite you to be part of our Adult Summer Reading program! We hope you will book your summer with us via an adventurous Literary Road Trip. We’ve done all the work for you, so you can just sit back, relax, and let us do the driving while you escape into one of the best summer books – from mysteries to memoirs, we invite you can take your pick of settings – Malibu, Rome, Cape Cod and London, for example. Pick up your game card at the Welcome Desk or play online. Play as many times as you’d like for the chance to win one of our fantastic prizes! For more reading inspiration, check out our booklist with July's new releases.

Also, your holds are now available for pick up from behind the Welcome Desk. Your items will not be checked out to you, so please stop by one of our new self-checks to finish the process before you leave. Now, let’s see what books our librarians are packing in their beach bags this month.

Amanda D.

A Maine native, Erin French is a self-taught cook who has been cooking since she was twelve. In her book, Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story Remaking a Life from Scratch, Erin shares, “When you grow up in a restaurant, it’s inevitable that bits of it will rub off on you…There is a romance, there’s magic, there’s love”. When Erin was five years old, her family purchased a diner. Then when she turned twelve, her father put her to work on the line. As she grew older and more experience, she became proficient in every basic kitchen skill.

After growing up in Freedom, Maine, a town with a population of about 700, Erin decided to experience the city. She attended college in Boston and studied medicine, but found herself back in Maine two years later after becoming pregnant. Erin’s love for food and appreciation for the connection created by feeding strangers kept her working in the food industry at a bistro. While her love and knowledge of food continued to grow, a regular customer stole her heart.

In Finding Freedom, Erin shares her brightest and darkest moments. A secret supper club Erin created in the apartment she shared with her then-boyfriend soon evolved into a restaurant. The restaurant brought Erin fulfillment and moments of utter joy. Sadly, the stressors of a failing marriage and toiles of owning a restaurant weighed on her mental health. As her time in the kitchen increased, she became more dependent on her anxiety and depression medication.

Erin currently runs the very successful restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, located in a grist mill. Four days a week, Erin creates a set menu for 48 people a night. Erin wants each of her guests to feel cozy and cared for during their dining experience. Diners won’t find printed receipts or online reservations. To get a reservation, foodies enter a lottery by sending in a postcard and cross their fingers

Erin French’s voice is honest and humble, and as a reader, I couldn’t help but root for her. Finding Freedom is a beautiful story about a woman on her journey to find freedom that will leave you hungry to learn more about the self-taught cook and hungry for a reservation.

Maria

Sarah Penner’s debut historical fiction novel, The Lost Apothecary, addresses female empowerment in an unexpected manner: using two timelines, two different centuries, and three women impacted by deceit.

In 1971, we meet Nella, a woman in her forties who inherited an apothecary from her mother in the city of London. Under her mother’s ownership, the hidden apothecary was once used to help heal women in an otherwise male-dominated society. However, under Nella’s ownership, power is given solely to women. The apothecary provides women with poisons and toxins needed to eliminate men from their otherwise suppressed lives. The rules were simple: the poisons must never be used to hurt another woman and Nella must keep a log with the name of the client, poison used, and who it’s meant to murder. Life only gets more complicated when Nella becomes captivated with a 12-year-old girl named Eliza who comes looking for a potential toxin for the mistress for whom she works.

In present day, we have Caroline visiting London on her 10th wedding anniversary after learning about her husband’s infidelity. Pondering about where she wants her life to go, she finds herself mudlarking in the Thames when she comes across a hidden treasure that would change her life forever.

The Lost Apothecary is a spellbinding page-turner that you should add to your summer reading list!

Barbara M.

It’s 1948, World War II had just ended and the Cold War has just begun. Thus begins the story of twin sisters in the historical fiction novel, Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams.

In 1940, both sisters were traveling through Europe and visiting their brother who worked for the U.S. Foreign Office in Italy. When war breaks out one sister, Iris, who has fallen in love with Sasha Digby, a U.S. diplomat and communist sympathizer, remains in Europe to marry him. The other sister Ruth, a former model, returns to the United States to become a successful modeling agency executive in New York. Iris’ husband and her family eventually defect to Russia and the sisters remain estranged until Iris sends a postcard to Ruth in 1952 pleading for help. The story is loosely based on the Cambridge Spy Ring which was a ring of spies in Britain that passed information to the Soviet Union from the 1930s until the 1950s.

As usual, Beatriz Williams has done her research and captures the atmosphere of the Post-World War II era making this a captivating read.

Sarah

In A Thousand Ships, Natalie Haynes serves up a fresh, female-centered retelling of the Trojan War. Haynes challenges the mythic narratives of male triumph and conquest seen in books like Homer’s epics The Iliad and The Odyssey by exploring, instead, the experiences of the women in those stories.

The book features a wide cast of characters - Greek and Trojan women, goddesses, nymphs, and witches – with Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, as the narrator. Calliope is told to weave a story for a poet (perhaps Homer) about the men of the Trojan War, but rejects this demand and chooses to weave a story about the women. Haynes’ eloquently written chapters follow these women as they brave the awfulness of war, widowhood, and death. These characters discover their own inner courage to seek justice and righteous revenge, and ultimately find a sense of selfhood in a world that regards them as passive observers.

Haynes drew from a rich range of material for A Thousand Ships, and it shows: every character has her own vividly depicted story. While the book takes place in an ancient time, it addresses timeless questions: whose voices are forgotten in the retelling of a war? What do we lose by dismissing those voices? And what defines an act of heroism – fighting in a war despite the risk of death, or raising a child alone because your husband has left you to fight in that war? A unique and thought-provoking read, this is a great choice for fans of Circe by Madeline Miller or The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

Amanda G.

Railway magnate Tom Severin's fortune and influence in Victorian England makes him one of the most powerful men in the country. When he spots Lady Cassandra Ravenel, he immediately offers financial incentives for her hand. His offer is rejected. Lisa Kleypas' Chasing Cassandra follows the diverging paths the couple takes over the next year that leads them back to each other. Cassandra's sweet demeanor and stubborn streak make her feel like that of a younger sister. You can't help rooting for her to realize that Tom loves in his own way, not the way she expects. Tom's journey from coldness to caring for others is the backbone of this novel. Cassandra is the instigator of these changes, but Tom himself is the heart as he finds himself along the way. Chasing Cassandra is a quick read that is perfect for listening to on your commute!

July Spotlight

Connecticut is home to many fantastic destinations and there’s always something new to discover! Here are some wonderful summer day trips to consider.

  • Steep Rock Preserve, Washington Depot. This 998-acre nature preserve is full of scenic hiking trails. Walk along riverbanks and gaze at the picturesque hillsides around you. If the temperatures start to rise, explore the Tunnel Road Trail. This easy trail has a 100-yard tunnel of trees that will shade you from the sweltering sun.
  • Farmington River Tubing, New Hartford. When the sun beats its relentless rays, it's time to float the river. Farmington River Tubing offers exciting 3-mile adventures along gorgeous waters. Three sets of rapids will spike your adrenaline and keep you coming back for more.

And while you’re out and about, enjoy a fun comic book from our newest digital resource, ComicPlus. With two collections, Full Library for adults and a Children’s Collection for kids and teens, there’s something for everyone! Simply download the LibraryPass app for iOS or Android or browse the web version.

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