Staff Favorites

Lisa See
Donna D.'s picture
Reviewed by Donna D.

Set in nineteenth-century China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan recounts the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two best friends who endure the foot binding tradition together. It follows their familial journeys, explores their experiences with love and marriage, and describes their adventures in motherhood. But while Lily is lucky enough to marry into wealth and lead a life of good fortune, Snow Flower’s family history and secrets force her to accept a less fulfilling future. When a misunderstanding arises between the two, their friendship hangs in the balance.

This novel is full of references to China’s warn-torn past and deep-seated traditions. While the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower is the focal point of the book, readers learn a lot about the country’s history and values. An absolute must-read for historical fiction lovers, this book is available at Acorn and in the SWAN consortium.

David Maraniss
Donna D.'s picture
Reviewed by Donna D.

Patron Review--Submitted by Janice Gintzler

I hope you will read A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.

David Maraniss, associate editor at the Washington Post, has written an intimate story of his family in Detroit, Michigan, where the House Un-American Committee set up shop after World War II.

Elliot Maraniss was a newspaper man through and through. But he was always a man who accepted issues related to the perceived underdog: race relations, economic disparity, social justice for the poor and dispossessed. Because of his world outlook, Elliot Maraniss migrated to the Communist Party in Detroit, and worked in his time off for the local Daily Worker.

“Think of this story as a wheel. The hearing in Room 740 is the hub where all the spokes connect,” starts the story. A grandmother who needed the extra few bucks, took the job of informer and rose in the ranks of the CP. She is the one who sent the member list of the Detroit branch of the CP to members of the House Un-American Committee (HAUC). But the story is so much more than committee meetings of the HAUC in Detroit. It is the story of tentacles of the committee members, their memberships in the Ku Klux Clan, their work against voting rights, their work against the New Deal.

Elliot and his brother-in-law Bob Cummins both volunteered for the war in Spain in the 1930s, and then again, against Nazism in 1941. They spent five years in Europe and the Pacific.

So the story is about what makes a person American. This reminds me of when I visited the Soviet Union in 1971, as part of a semester abroad. We were at a bazaar in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, when a young soldier approached our group to ask from where we came. In our elementary Russian, we said, “America.” He asked, “Brazil?” Indeed, America is two continents.

Holly Black
Reviewed by Mallory
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude was seven years old when her parents’ killer took her away from the human world along with her twin sister, Taryn, and her older half-fey sister, Vivi to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now, as a seventeen-year-old, Jude is trying to secure her place in the Court, despite her fey classmates despising her and telling her she does not belong. In order to gain any kind of power as a mortal, she has two options: marry a fey or become a knight, and her chances of either appear slim. What lengths will Jude go to in order to prove herself worthy of the High Court, and at what cost?

While the novel was captivating and easily held my attention, it did take me a little while to read as I don’t always gravitate towards books narrated by the main character. I think it does work well for this novel because Jude is an outsider, not only in the sense that she feels out of place in both the faerie and the mortal world, but also because she is often at odds with everyone around her, even the people she cares about and seeks to protect. Through her perspective, we see the world of the fey for what it really is: beautiful, deceiving, and dangerous. I hope that as the books go on, we get to see more of the other interesting characters’ perspectives and the motivations behind their actions.

If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, check out The Cruel Prince and its sequel, The Wicked King. Both are available at Acorn and through SWAN interlibrary loan.

Nine Perfect Strangers
Liane Moriarty
Reviewed by Michelle

From the author of Big Little Lies, comes a new mystery drama. Nine strangers decide to escape the troubles of their every day lives and attend a 10 day health retreat. Little do they know, their lives are all about to collide and become intertwined in a very unexpected way. Moriarty gives us a complex and interesting cast of characters to follow throughout the novel. There is the “washed up” romance writer trying to get over her heartbreak and come to terms with the fact that her career is no longer what it used to be, the young married couple whose lottery win has taken a toll on their marriage, the middle aged man who just lost his beloved dog, and of course the beautiful resort director herself, whose ambition may bring them all to the edge. Although, the story moves a little slow at first, once it picks up the reader is in for a wild ride. Each chapter ends in a way that leaves the reader ready for the next, compulsively wanting to know what happens next. If you like locked room mysteries and character development, this book is highly recommended.