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Note to Shelf: August 2021 Edition

Dear Father Time,

We would like to formally request the month of August to last a bit longer this year. Here in Connecticut, August is one of the best months of the year. It feels like life slows down, traffic isn’t as heavy, and while it might be hot, we can still enjoy the summer weather. It also is the best time of the year for reading.

For goodness' sakes there is only a week left to enjoy Darien Library’s summer reading program for adults, Literary Road Trip! Surely, you can slow down time just a tad so that we can fit in a few more books?

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Darien Library Readers’ Advisory Department

PS: Do you mind putting in a good word with Mother Nature? It would be great to have a little bit more sunshine and a bit less rain. We would love to spend a bit more time reading outside and enjoying all of the great books being reviewed this month.

Pat T.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau is a funny, yet poignant coming-of-age story about a resourceful 14-year-old girl growing up in Baltimore, Maryland with her traditional and slightly stuffy parents. Summer is approaching, so Mary Jane finds a job as a mother’s helper to a five-year-old neighborhood girl. Mary Jane’s mother thinks this is very acceptable because the dad is a doctor. Little does her mother know, Mary Jane’s world is about to turn upside down! The doctor is a psychiatrist who will be treating only one patient at his house: a rock star musician coping with addiction issues accompanied by his actress wife.

Mary Jane notices that appearances on the outside of a home can be deceiving. The inside of the Cone’s house is a whirlwind of chaos with papers and books covering all the surfaces, a kitchen stacked with the latest take-out containers, and an overflowing laundry pile. She employs the housework and cooking skills her mother taught her to bring some order into the Cone household. Five-year-old Izzy is delighted to be caught up in Mary Jane’s world of domesticity, as well as the four adults! During these summer days, Mary Jane is introduced to an alternate lifestyle and comes to understand and appreciate she has options and choices beyond her parent’s small world.

This is a perfect summer read because of the engaging characters, humorous interactions, and the collision of two worlds that Mary Jane navigates so flawlessly!

Kathleen

Bestselling author Peter Heller brings us his newest thrilling novel, The Guide. Jack, a fishing guide with a damaged past, joins an elite fishing resort on some of the “most pristine water on the planet.” He is paired with a fishing partner, a world famous singer who is more down to earth and devoted to fishing than a typical celebrity. It didn’t take them long before they both start to realize that all is not as it should be at this millionaires’ paradise. There are happenings that are frighteningly unsettling in this idyllic private resort located in a Colorado canyon.

Peter Heller takes us into a thrilling tailspin that will keep you turning pages into the night. Heller keeps the continuing pandemic center stage where the darkest nightmares become a possible reality.

This thriller leaves the reader with some big questions looming overhead. He never disappoints!

Kristen O.

In John Moe’s book, The Hilarious World of Depression, the author offers his own experiences with his struggle with mental illness, specifically depression. Like the podcast, which bears the same name, the book excels in humor that never comes at the expense of an individual. Moe himself is immensely likable, presenting depression in a way that invites readers to laugh along without feeling guilt or pity. He also excels at pacing and balance: while there are numerous tragedies covered, they are spread out in a way that isn’t overwhelming. (Readers should note, however, that the book includes detailed, non-graphic discussions of suicide.) The overall message is one of hope and love for life that doesn’t come across as overly sentimental or insincere. Those who have dealt with depression will find a kindred spirit within these pages, and those who haven’t will find insight into a real and serious condition and a deepened sense of compassion and understanding.

Ann

Our Darkest Night: A Novel of Italy and the Second World War by Jennifer Robson is historical fiction at its best. The reader is transported to World War II era and work camps in Northern Italy and Poland. The characters are authentic and their situations are truly credible. Nina and her parents are Italian Jews and their family has lived in Italy for centuries.

It is 1943 and the Germans are occupying most of Italy. Nina and her parents are Jewish Italians with a family tree that spans back centuries. Nina's father is a well-regarded physician and her mother, sadly, is ill and in a long-term hospital. To hide his daughter from the Germans, her father, with the help of a Catholic priest, informs Nina that she will become the wife of Nico, a devout Catholic, who lives with his family on their farm.

As a young teen, Nico encountered a German student who bullied the other boys. Nico spoke up about that boy's behavior, which sadly will have consequences when the Nazis enter the nearby town in 1943. Nico's family welcomes Nina, but are deeply disappointed that he will not be returning to the seminary as originally planned. Nina, who was hoping to follow her father into medicine, now must work tirelessly on her new family’s farm. Neighbors question both her ability and who she really is especially since she appears to have persuaded Nico to leave the seminary. However, Nico felt he needed to help the family on the farm after one of his brothers was killed in the war. Life become very difficult, when the bully from Nico’s youth, now a Nazi with a grudge against Nico, appears on their farm. Nico will face consequences for his resistance work and Nina will make a choice that will put her life at great risk.

This is a novel of survival, passion, guilt, cruelty at its worse; yet the power of humanity shines through. Our Darkest Night is an absorbing compelling read of World War II, as well as a story of love and the strength of family.

Erika

Adventure, mystery, and hints of romance, Ashley Weaver’s new cozy mystery, A Peculiar Combination, is the start to a great new series. During WWII in London, Electra McDonnell is a master lock picker and safecracker who, with her Uncle Mick, makes a living with a little light burglary. When she and her uncle are caught red handed during their latest jewel heist, instead of being thrown in prison, they’re recruited by the British Military to aid the Allies war effort. A great read for fans of feisty female characters and gripping historical fiction! This book has a satisfying conclusion, while setting up the series for more exciting stories of espionage. You can also find the e-audiobook on Hoopla.

August Spotlight

Are you looking for an evening of culture from the comfort of your own home? Then join us on Wednesday, August 11th at 7 p.m. to explore the work of renowned 19th century artist Frederic Church. This live virtual tour will introduce you to Frederic Church, his artwork, and the way his artist-designed house and landscape relate to his artistic process.

And sadly, our Literary Road Trip adventure is approaching its end on Friday, August 14th but there is still time to get your final challenges logged online or by turning in a game card at the Library. Don’t miss the chance to win one of our amazing three prizes:

  • The Weekend Getaway Prize, including a weekender bag, UGG travel kit, Kindle Paperwhite, two travel mugs, and more.

  • The Beach Bound Bag, including a Scout tote, Kindle Paperwhite, travel water bottles, towels, sunscreen, and more.

  • The Gourmet Picnic Basket, including a full four-place setting, Kindle Paperwhite, gift certificate to Aux Delices, and more.

Celebrate the dog days of summer with National Dog Day on August 26th!

Do you love books and sharing them with others? Come work with us! We're hiring for a part-time Reader's Advisor Assistant. Apply by Monday, 8/30.

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