Patron Picks: As Close to Us as Breathing

As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner

as close to us

I put this book in my save for later cart on Amazon several months ago as something that piqued my interest for a later read–as you get older, that’s one of those memory devices! As I have been going to the library every week with the grandchildren for the children’s summer reading program (an excellent way of grandparents instilling the love of reading with their grandchildren), I made a list of all those ‘save for later’ books from Amazon to check out at the library. Thankfully, I found As Close to Us as Breathing and only wished I would have read this book months ago.

The author tells a story of three Jewish daughters growing up in Connecticut and their lives span three generations of the family. The story enables the reader an excellent glimpse of the Jewish way of life and the strong bonds of sisterhood and family. You realize regardless of your race, gender, nationality or religious beliefs, we as individuals all experience the joys and sorrows of living our lives and the importance and impact of the family that influences who we are and who we become.

The story is told from the perspective of one of the granddaughters, and while you realize as you are reading she could not know everyone’s thoughts, the storytelling works. You are drawn into the daily life of the family and you want to just keep reading. The author marvelously foreshadows events throughout that captivate your interest. The book is a delightfully superb example of storytelling written by an extremely talented author.

Recommended by Beckley library patron, Shari Jones



Patron Picks: The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

amateur marriage

I was randomly strolling through the adult fiction section of the library while the grandchildren were enjoying meeting with the Miners baseball players (a wonderful activity provided by the children’s department of the library for the summer reading program) and gravitated toward authors I have enjoyed in the past. I was first introduced to Anne Tyler many years ago when the Raleigh County book discussion group read Back When We Were Grownups and have loved her since that time. She is one of those “go to” authors when you are just not sure what you really want to read. Browsing through the selection of Tyler’s books, I was caught by the title The Amateur Marriage and decided to check it out and enjoy some summer reading. What a pleasant surprise and an enjoyable read!

If you are or have been married and have children and grandchildren, you will definitely relate to the superb writing of Anne Tyler and her excellent character development of the Anton family. The book spans three generations and fifty years and will make you smile, laugh aloud and cry (make sure you have tissues nearby) and then ponder the complexities of life and the consequences of decisions. If you are currently single, this is an excellent book for you to think about your future and the choices you will make, especially involving love and marriage.

Here is a gem from the book that will hopefully entice you to read the book:

“When I’m trying to get to know somebody, I ask about their house dream…I believe that almost everyone dreams now and then about the house they’re living in. They dream that one day they climb a set of stairs they hadn’t noticed before or open a door that wasn’t there before, and presto! They find a whole new room! An undiscovered room that they never knew existed! Have you ever dreamed that dream? …And here’s what I’ve observed: half of the people think, Isn’t this wonderful! Someplace new to explore! And the other half thinks, Just what I need: another maintenance problem. This room has not been tendered in years and now I can see daylight through the ceiling…Would you look at that room as a gift, or a burden?”

Happy reading!

Recommended by Beckley library patron, Shari Jones

Patron Picks: Dogtripping

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt


David Rosenfelt worked as a marketing executive in New York. When he moved to Southern California, he met his wife Debbie Myers. Debbie loved dogs and had a golden retriever, Tara. Tara developed a nasal carcinoma and had to be put to sleep. They decided to volunteer at the Los Angeles Shelter and thus began their adoption of rescue dogs. Debbie fell in love with each one and at one time they had 42 dogs!

When Debbie decided to retire they were met with the problem of moving the dogs, 25 at a time, to Maine. The book discusses their trials in family transportation, volunteers, planning meals and breaks, motel reservations across the country, putting up temporary fencing, and administering medications. It is a heart-warming story of how these two people changed their lives and placed hundreds of rescue dogs in homes across the country.

Recommended by Beckley library patron, Judy Burns

Patron Picks: Outrun the Moon

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

A 15 year-old girl from Chinatown has her life turned upside down by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Mercy Wong has just manipulated her way into a prestigious school for young ladies. She has left her family, home and culture, and is trying hard to adjust when the earth trembles destroying homes and businesses and starting widespread fires.

The students and their headmistress flee to Golden Gate Park, the designated meeting place. Here, Mercy discovers her mother and brother perished in the fire and her father is missing. The girls learn to work together to feed themselves and share their meager food supplies and goodwill with other survivors. You watch them deal with their grief and losses and reach within to find skills and resiliency they hadn’t had to use before.

Ms. Lee develops the story well with detailed descriptions. You feel like you’ve met her characters. You share their struggles and cheer their successes. You are in the city passing by familiar landmarks. You feel the quake and hear the buildings crumbling and trees crashing. You smell the smoke in the air and listen to the continuous fire sirens as you sit by your tent in the park.

This is an uplifting account of a great tragedy. It portrays the good people can do if they believe in themselves and encourage others to do the same.

Recommended by Arlene Russell-Friends of the Library Member

Staff Picks: Undertow

Undertow by Michael Buckley

Those of you who have read my reviews in the past know that I’m a fan of YA fiction. I have read the first in Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm series (juvenile fiction) and found it quite entertaining, so I was interested to see what he would do with a YA novel. I was both pleased and let down with this book. There were many delightful components, but some of it left me rolling my eyes and saying, “Oh brother!”

This is the story of Lyric Walker, who lives on Coney Island. Several years back, a race of warriors who are half-human, half-sea creature emerged from the ocean onto the beach. They call themselves the Alpha and their appearance has caused a great disturbance among the human population. The government sectioned off part of the beach for the Alpha and for a time they are kept separate from humans…until they begin to integrate the children into the school system. Many residents feel the Alpha should not intermingle with their children and are set on keeping them separate. Lyric is recruited to help the Alpha assimilate; she is specifically assigned to a prince named Fathom. Their forbidden relationship starts to blossom into something a bit more than friendship, which Lyric quickly realizes is dangerous for many reasons. However, the two groups may have to set aside their differences and biases in order to fight against an evil neither of them saw coming.

It is obvious the author is trying to compare this story with racism and segregation of our past and teach a lesson. It is just a bit contrived, and the characters fall in love a bit too quickly in my opinion. Other than that, the story line is creative and I am curious to find out what happens in the next book in the series, Raging Sea, set to come out in February 2016.

You can find the availability of this book in our catalog here

Recommended (hesitantly) by Addie at Beckley Branch

Staff Picks: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

[Regarding reviews stating Atticus is a racist]… In my view, Atticus wasn’t a racist; he was a realist and still underlying the actions of his life was his utmost duty to follow the law, giving justice to everyone. Harper Lee had a message—at the time of the story, the 1950s, blacks weren’t ready for the responsibilities of voting, etc., because they had been downtrodden so long; but the NAACP, coming from the north where blacks had more opportunity and equality, didn’t see how behind the South was in terms of racial equality, hence the unrest in the South. Despite this valuable and valid message, Harper Lee didn’t have to use Atticus as the vehicle for the message. In fact, by doing so, I believe she sullied the reputation and honor that Atticus had attained in the original book and I think this new book should never have been written.

(Not) recommended by former RCPL employee, Paula Dill

What is your opinion? Check out the availability of this book in our online catalog here and decide for yourself.

Staff Picks-Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

In the mood for something a bit different? Then I highly recommend Gail Carriger’s YA novel Etiquette & Espionage. The setting is an alternate history/steampunk England and the story is fun, exciting, and clever. Sophronia is an intelligent, yet awkward teen whose family wants her to become a proper Victorian lady. Her mother sends her to “Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality” in hopes this prestigious school will reform clumsy Sophronia. However, as soon as she has left her family home, Sophronia realizes this is not going to be any ordinary trip to any ordinary finishing school! First the carriage they are in is attacked by “skyway men”…similar to highway men, but instead of on horseback, these bandits travel in hot air balloons. When Sophronia finally makes it to the academy, she realizes it is a floating, moving school, has werewolves and vampires for professors, and the skills she is set to learn include much more than your basic Victorian etiquette. This story is so much fun, is packed full of adventure and mystery, and even has a touch of forbidden romance. It is the first in the Finishing School series.

You can find the availability of this book in our catalog here

Recommended by Addie at Beckley Branch

Staff Pick-Lost Girls

The Lost Girls: The True Story of the Cleveland Abductions and the Incredible Rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus by John Glatt

I decided to take a short break from fiction to catch up on a current event I didn’t know a lot about. Of course, I had heard of the Cleveland abductions and watched a couple of interviews with Michelle Knight, one of the survivors, but I didn’t understand the case in its entirety. In this book by investigative journalist, John Glatt, I certainly got the full story: from the tormented childhood of abductor, Ariel Castro, to the lives of the three girls that were kidnapped; from the horrors they endured, to the amazing support they were greeted with after their escape. This book is obviously not for the faint of heart—it is upsetting to read about these poor girls and the decade of terror Castro put them through. However, reading about their strength and will to survive, along with their amazing recoveries definitely made it worth it. If you finish this book and want to read more about this case, the library also has Michelle Knight’s memoir, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed. Also, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus’s story, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland is currently on order for our library.

You can find the availability of this book in our catalog here

Recommended by Addie at Beckley Branch

Staff Picks-A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

In this exciting YA fantasy novel, 19 year-old Feyre kills a wolf in the woods. Later, a beast-like creature comes to her home to make her pay for what she’s done. But it’s not a wolf…it’s a fairy. She is forced to live at his home, but this is where her feelings start to change from hate to love. Along the way they both fight to break a curse.

This is a great story with memorable characters. I can’t wait for the second book in the series!

You can find the availability of this book in our catalog here

Recommended by Stacy at Beckley Branch

Staff Picks-Dead Wake

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

Most people have heard the tragic story of the sinking of the Titanic, but not as many know the truth about the fateful voyage of the Lusitania. On May 1, 1915, the Lusitania set out from New York, headed for Liverpool. Though submarine warfare was a huge threat at this time, the Cunard Line felt it would be safe to proceed on this journey. Due to a series of most unfortunate events, misunderstandings, overlooked warnings, and more, Captain Turner’s supposedly unsinkable vessel was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915. 1,266 passengers and a crew of 696 were aboard and of them; a staggering 1,191 lost their lives.
Erik Larson, best-selling historical non-fiction author of the books Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts (among others), weaves this tale of history in a way that allows the reader to get to know the passengers personally. The heroics of the survivors should never be forgotten, and Larson does an excellent job making sure this is the case.
I am a huge Erik Larson fan and I was not let down by this, his most recent work! If you enjoy non-fiction, stories of disaster, war, survival, and heroics, I would highly recommend this epic book.

You can find the availability of this book in our catalog here

Recommended by Addie at Beckley