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Librarian Picks: 7 Page-Turning Reads I Highly Recommend

April 5 2021
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Carol Ann Tack is the host of the popular podcast, Top Shelf at Merrick Library. She also hosts Top Shelf Live! on YouTube. Carol Ann is Head of Reader Services at Merrick Library. When she is not interviewing or editing, you can find her with a glass of cabernet and the latest horror, sci-fi, or thriller. Find out more here!

Spring has sprung folks, and with that a bumper crop of page-turners that you might have missed, that are out right now, and those to come are listed here. Hopefully I’ll be able to hand these out to patrons in person someday soon, but until then, on your mark, get set, place your holds!

Good Neighbors
by Sarah Langan

Let’s kick off the spring season on bucolic Maple Street as the Wilde family leaves city life for their dream life in lovely Garden City, New York. GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan is part thriller and part suburban miasma, exploring friendships, family relationships, mob mentality, and climate change. This book will keep you furiously turning pages until the very last one. I was lucky to speak with Sarah Langan about her book and more on a recent Facebook Live interview. I hope you enjoy our chat!

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Good Neighbors
Sarah Langan

A modern-day Crucible….Beneath the surface of a suburban utopia, madness lurks.” —Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish

“Sarah Langan is a phenomenal talent with a wicked sense of wry humor. Good Neighbors knocked me out. Like Shirley Jackson, Langan’s work blends a bleak streak with an underlying sense of the humane that wrung my heart.” —Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburbpitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.

Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson

Sadeqa Johnson’s YELLOW WIFE follows Pheby Delores Brown, a slave in the mid-1800s who is promised her freedom when she turns eighteen. A series of tragic events occur and Pheby has to make some choices. How she survives these choices makes for such a page-turner, I couldn't put it down. No spoilers here, but YELLOW WIFE is, quite simply, a must-read.

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Yellow Wife
Sadeqa Johnson

“A fully immersive, intricately crafted story inspired by the pages of history. In Pheby, Sadeqa Johnson has created a woman whose struggle to survive and to protect the ones she loves will have readers turning the pages as fast as their fingers can fly. Simply enthralling.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

Called "wholly engrossing" by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this harrowing story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation, belonging to neither world.

She’d been promised freedom on her eighteenth birthday, but instead of the idyllic life she imagined with her true love, Essex Henry, Pheby is forced to leave the only home she has ever known. She unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the bowels of slavery at the infamous Devil’s Half Acre, a jail in Richmond, Virginia, where the enslaved are broken, tortured, and sold every day. There, Pheby is exposed not just to her Jailer’s cruelty but also to his contradictions. To survive, Pheby will have to outwit him, and she soon faces the ultimate sacrifice.

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Sara Roncero-Menendez | October 21, 2021

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By Maddie Ehrenreich | October 20, 2021

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New in Paperback: 9 October Reads More Exhilarating Than a Haunted House

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Authors as Magicians: 8 Books That’ll Cast a Spell on You

By Sara Roncero-Menendez | October 15, 2021

Staff Picks: 10 Classic Novels We Truly Enjoyed Reading for School

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 14, 2021

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Himself
by Jess Kidd

The cover alone connotes spring, and even the trees in this Irish forest get plenty of page time in Jess Kidd’s terrific debut, HIMSELF. Mahony gets a call that something may have happened to his mom when he was a kid, but is it true? Dark secrets, but also some humorous moments, wrap around this semi-supernatural mystery thriller. I can’t stop recommending this one; it’s one of my favorites.

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Himself
Jess Kidd

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The Push
by Ashley Audrain

Blythe just wants to be a good mother, but this may be a tall order in Ashley Audrain’s tense debut, THE PUSH. This book will have you questioning motherhood, marriage, and more! Listen to my podcast interview with Ashley Audrain here.

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The Push
Ashley Audrain

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MENTIONED IN:

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Close
The Code Breaker
by Walter Isaacson

Talk about riveting! THE CODE BREAKER by Walter Isaacson is my new go-to favorite for nonfiction. At the beginning, we learn that Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna was told as a youngster that girls couldn't become scientists! I mean, c’mon! Luckily, Doudna took that as a challenge and ended up with a Nobel for editing DNA. Isaacson’s writing prowess makes this true story as thrilling as a detective novel. All I can do is shout about how great it is.

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The Code Breaker
Walter Isaacson

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity ​of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm…Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Close
The Other Black Girl
by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada....” and that’s about right for the soon-to-be-released debut by Zakiya Dalila Harris, THE OTHER BLACK GIRL. Nella is the only Black employee at a very tony publishing house, until Hazel arrives, and what should be a positive step turns Nella's world upside down. Downright chilling.

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The Other Black Girl
Zakiya Dalila Harris

“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.” —Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Close
Vera
by Carol Edgarian

I listened to the immersive VERA by Carol Edgarian as an audiobook, and honestly, I wound up blocks and blocks away from my house. A compelling page-turner that follows fifteen-year-old Vera before and after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. This, along with a cast of characters real and otherwise, makes VERA unforgettable. Don’t miss it.

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Vera
Carol Edgarian

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers an astonishing feat of imagination, a grand adventure set in 1906 San Francisco—a city leveled by quake and fire—featuring an indomitable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe and her quest for love and reinvention.

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Vera disregards societal norms and prejudices and begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors. Together they navigate their way beyond disaster.

In Vera, Carol Edgarian creates a cinematic, deeply entertaining world, in which honor and fates are tested; notions of sex, class, and justice are turned upside down; and love is hard-won. A ravishing, heartbreaking, and profound affirmation of youth and tenacity, Vera’s story brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels—as well as an unforgettable cast that includes Vera’s young lover, Bobby, protector of the city’s tribe of orphans, and three generations of a Chinese family competing and conspiring with Vera.

This richly imagined, timely tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, gifting readers with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Told with unflinching candor and wit, Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine and marks a stunning achievement by an inventive and generous writer.

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Sara Roncero-Menendez | October 21, 2021

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By Sarah Walsh | October 19, 2021

New in Paperback: 9 October Reads More Exhilarating Than a Haunted House

By Alice Martin | October 18, 2021

Authors as Magicians: 8 Books That’ll Cast a Spell on You

By Sara Roncero-Menendez | October 15, 2021

Staff Picks: 10 Classic Novels We Truly Enjoyed Reading for School

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 14, 2021

Close

Photo credit: iStock / Chinnapong

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