Best of 2015: Library staff favorites

 

 

ADULT FICTION

 

Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

A sweet romance set in Milwaukee. Elizabeth, known as Lou, is upset and not able to concentrate at her restaurant. While delivering a special coconut cake, she discovers her fiance with another woman. Unfortunately, that’s the day Al visits the restaurant and writes a scathing review. Later, Al and Lou meet and are attracted to each other, but since they don’t discuss work or jobs, it takes a long time for them to figure out who's who. ~ Susan Ringer

Country by Danielle Steel

Something about this book really stuck with me. Stephanie Adams is a devoted stay-at-home mom married to a successful lawyer, but when her 52-year-old husband dies suddenly, she struggles to find herself as an independent person. A spur-of-the-moment road trip and fork in the road lead her to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, where she meets country music megastar Chase Taylor, who opens his world to her. Country captures the upheaval of sudden loss and the freedom it can bring. ~ Joanne Mengel

Dietland by Sarai Walker

So not a diet book. This novel beat out a very competitive field because of the way it used humor and plot twists to hold popular culture up for examination. In it, we root for Plum Kettle, a 300-pound-plus persecuted minion at an elite New York City fashion magazine who discovers that life doesn’t have to wait until you’re thin enough and turns the tables on her bosses in subversive and surprising ways. ~ Terri Fleming

Eve by William Paul Young

I love books that challenge me to look at the world from a different point of view. This newest book from William Paul Young, author of The Shack, tells the story of Lily, who washes ashore on an island between our world and the next. Physically and spiritually broken, she is helped by healers, scholars and others. While fading in and out of consciousness, she witnesses the story of creation. Like The Shack, this is a great discussion book. ~ Lori Burgess

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child

Known for his work with co-author Douglas Preston, Child also does solo publishing as well. This novel continues the story of “enigmalogist” Jeremy Logan, who is confronted with a mysterious force that causes people to do away with themselves in the most horrific ways. As always, Child pulls the reader through the story, often causing severe loss of sleep as each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger that demands that you read on. ~ Daryl Rogers

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig

Funny, heartwarming story with endearing characters and descriptions of ranch life in Montana. Donal is an orphan raised by his grandmother in 1951 Montana. When she needs surgery, she sends Donal to her sister in Manitowoc, but it doesn't work out, and Donal is soon on the road again with the surprise addition of the sister's German husband. ~ Susan Ringer

The Liar by Nora Roberts

This has just the right amount of romance and suspense. A small town girl, Shelby, gets swept off her feet by a smooth-talking successful businessman. They have the the perfect life. Only one problem. When her husband is declared missing at sea, Shelby discovers their life is a big lie. This book stayed with me because I thought Shelby was a likable character. She showed amazing inner strength in the face of a nearly insurmountable obstacle, and yet she did it with such class. ~ Joanne Mengel 

Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr.

A personal trainer leads a group of hikers into the wilds of California, but the group ends up taking a trail that leads to danger. I liked how the viewpoint of the story rotates from character to character, showing the experience from very different social lenses and backgrounds. By the end of the book you understand and even like each character, although they are very different from one another. ~ Jenny Wittlinger


Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman does it again; another great anthology of short stories that goes from horror to fractured fairy tales, from ghost stories to poetry. Familiar names parade through these stories, like Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes and David Bowie. This anthology won’t disappoint Gaiman’s new readers or long-time fans alike. ~ Gabriela Langholff

 

ADULT NONFICTION

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Written by the author of The Devil in the White City, this is a riveting account of the ship’s tragic sinking, intertwining the stories of its captain and various passengers on board, as well the Germans who sunk the ship, leaving questions of why steps weren’t taken to avert the tragedy. ~ Marge Brashier

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson

In this very funny follow-up to Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson (The Bloggess) goes deeper but doesn’t abandon her wildly inventive humor and use of er, original, language to bring us inside her life dealing with depression and mental illness. It’s not often you find yourself laughing out loud reading a book trying to get you to understand such a weighty subject. ~ Terri Fleming

Life from Scratch: a Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin.

Food blogger sets out to cook a dish from all 195 countries, but her quest is really about coming to terms with her difficult childhood and her beloved eccentric mother. This book stands alone as a memoir, but it also has interesting recipes. Try the Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting recipe. It is oh so delicious. ~ Susan Ringer

The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen

We're taken inside the Pentagon agency that gave birth to the early internet among many other things: some laudable (GPS) and some regrettable (Agent Orange). As a Cold War history reader, I’ve been looking for a worthy follow-up to Eric Schlosser's Command and Control, and I think I've finally found it. Like Schlosser's book, this is a surprising page turner while still telling a thorough history. ~ Josh Cowles

Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group by Dennis Dunaway and Chris Hodenfield

I’ve been a fan of the Alice Cooper group since the early 1970s and have read three other histories of the band. I found this one particularly interesting because it was written by a fellow bass player. Dunaway and Hodenfield do a good job describing the formation, rise and implosion of the 20th century’s seminal theatrical shock-rockers. ~ Daryl Rogers

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

This fascinating book concentrates on the period between 1900-1912 and the relationships of Wilbur, Orville and their sister Katharine. I enjoy learning new things about history, and this book was full of insights such as the prominent role their sister played in their lives, how well-read and self-educated the brothers were and how they all persevered and were able to improvise. I also enjoyed learning how to tell the two brothers apart! ~ Susan Ringer

 

TEEN

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Tahir has created a plot with such rich detail and world-building that it evokes the power of ancient civilizations with a freshness that will grab you and force you to finish in one sitting. Good thing this is book one of a new series. It’s a fantastic book that will stand out from the dozens of other series in young adult fiction. ~ Sarah Newton

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Two 12-year-olds, an American girl and a boy from the slums of Zimbabwe, become pen pals. She sends him life-saving gifts, and the only promise he can make is that he will “always write back." This book really made me think and made me aware that an average person can make a difference. ~ Annette Clark

 

DVD

Inside Out

I loved the clever concept: an 11-year-old girl is guided by characters named Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness, who are located in “headquarters.” As the story unfolds we see how changes in the girl’s life brings out all these emotions. This movie will appeal to children and adults alike. The animation is top-notch. ~ Nancy Bilitz

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Season One

This is a strange alternative-history story about two British magicians in a world where magic is real. The magicians use their powers together, and then against each other, for competing purposes and goals. The special effects in this production are very good yet do not overpower the story. A bizarre tale told in a most entertaining way. ~ Daryl Rogers

Veep Season 3
I'm listing season 3 because it was released in 2015, but if you've not watched the show before, you need to go back to season 1 to truly enjoy the journey of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' demented take on the ultimate self-serving politico, Vice President Selina Meyer. Selina's rung-by-rung climb out of (or into?) the White House viper pit while surrounded by the motleyest of crews is easily the best comedy on TV today. ~ Terri Fleming

CHILDREN

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor
(Picture book) Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl. He's a master of disguise. Although Hoot Owl thinks he's quite fierce, he is mainly hungry and a drama queen. Despite many funny costumes, Hoot Owl's prey always escapes him. Children and adults will enjoy this very funny story. They'll get caught up predicting the outcome of Hoot Owl's next plan and join in with "I am a Hoot Owl, I am hungry and here I come!" This playful picture book is a terrific read aloud, begging for dramatic readings. ~ Julia Cartwright

Wearable Books by Donald Lemke

(Board book.) This collection includes Book-O-Beards, Book-O-Mustaches and Book-O-Hats. Colorful and interactive, these fun books are not just for your littlest of friends, but for everyone! ~ Sarah Newton

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman

(Picture book) I wear underwear, you wear underwear, we all wear underwear! This is a fantastic book that takes a lighthearted look at why we underwear and how necessary it is. A hilarious way to encourage your child to leave those diapers behind. ~ Sarah Newton

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory Jon

(Chapter book for middle grades) The new kid in town bumps heads with the already established prankster extraordinaire, which sets up a crazy tale of two tricksters who set out to pull off the biggest prank their cow-loving town has ever seen. ~ Sarah Newton

 

MUSIC

It’s a Holiday Soul Party by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

'Tis the season for holiday soul, and Sharon Jones delivers a very fun and festive disc with a mix of original songs and classic tunes like Silent Night and White Christmas, Ms. Jones and the band would bring a smile to even the grinchiest of Grinches. ~ Jon Mark Bolthouse

 

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