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Staff Picks

How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations by Max Lucado

February 20, 2020 Carl M @ Simpsonville
How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations by Max Lucado

The song and our parents were right: "you can't always get what you want." Inevitably, this brings with it frustration and disappointment. Relationships, work, and daily activities can be difficult and discouraging. How are some able to actually be happy through the different seasons and circumstances of life? Max Lucado's practical insight into this topic will help you recognize ways to see how your life can be filled with contentment and change you never thought possible. If you admire those with a positive outlook on life, and wish you could also experience this kind of joy, I highly recommend reading this book.


Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

October 18, 2019 Aimee B. @ Simpsonville
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

It’s lucky this novel is such a quick read, because it’s one I find myself coming back to again and again. Fever Dream, by Argentine author Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell, is an uneasy tale written as a conversation between a child named David and a woman named Amanda, who is not his mother. The tension of this book comes from the struggle to orient oneself in its reality as well as the eerie subjects Amanda and David discuss: a sickness called “the worms,” a woman who heals children but also changes them, and the terrible paranoia of motherhood. Here, horror is domestic and environmental -- a peculiar Halloween read that will haunt you long after its covers are closed.


The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

October 18, 2019 Aimee B. @ Simpsonville
The Sky is Yours  by Chandler Klang Smith

This novel was my favorite speculative read of the summer. The setting: a near-future cityscape where twin dragons swirl endlessly overhead; the characters: a sulky baroness, a doltish heir to a vast fortune, a lifelong criminal with a touch of clairvoyance, and a feral girl named Abby who feels a strange kinship with the fiery beasts who “will not let us be.” Though her protagonists are often hard to root for (but easy to laugh at), Chandler Klang Smith deftly melds satire with the proverbial search for human connection using language that is both clever and poignant. If you’re up for a gorgeously strange novel that bursts with fire and color, this is your book.


Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

September 20, 2019 Victoria @ Simpsonville
Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

This book is just the right blend of fascinating trivia and humor.  It's written by a former Google analyst who basically discusses what our "googling" reveals about us individually and society as a whole. His findings are funny, shocking, and utterly cringe-worthy. If you're not typically a non-fiction reader, give this one a try.


Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

September 12, 2019 Becca N. @ Pelham Road
Mrs. Everything  by Jennifer Weiner

None of us are perfect, sometimes we are selfish, and it’s okay to go after the things we want. That's what Weiner reminds us readers in her story about two sisters who navigate America's changing times from the 1950s to the present. Jo and Bethie (yes, these characters are a nod to Jo and Beth in Little Women) lead wildly different lives and go through periods of closeness and also silence. This book tackles tough subjects like racism, LGBTQIA issues, drug use, and sexual assault with understanding and respect. It is a message to modern women who want to do it all - being "Mrs. Everything" can just as easily be the "woman who misses everything." The struggles of these characters are so relatable that you can't help but feel a sense of solidarity by the end of the book. 


Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

July 29, 2019 Becca N. @ Hughes Main
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

In Notes on a Nervous Planet, Matt Haig comes through once again with the mental health advice we all need. This time he focuses on how modern life fuels our anxiety and unhappiness, largely stemming from our use of technology. The frequency with which we check our phones for notifications and scroll through news feeds has negatively impacted our health in ways we do not always realize, from our quality of sleep to our levels of anxiety and feelings of dread. We are overwhelmed by information, most of which inspires fear or sadness. Haig reminds us to take a step back and regulate our intake in order to save our lives. His writing style makes this a quick and easy read that is full of helpful information on how to survive our times. 


The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

February 6, 2019 Becca N. @ Hughes Main
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an unconventional mystery. Aiden Bishop is tasked with solving the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, but there are a few rules. He has to present the solution at 11 pm, and he has to be the first to do so. He has rivals in this game, and only one of them can leave Blackheath. To add to the difficulty of his task, Aiden wakes up in a different body each day after he fails to solve the murder. At the end of eight days and eight hosts, his memory will be reset and he will be forced to start over again. Aiden has to race against time and his rival sleuths in order to escape the loop. ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ ⁣⁣

This book is destined to become one of my favorites. It combines everything I love about mysteries, suspense, and period pieces. The plot twists and revelations rival the works of my dearly beloved Agatha Christie. I usually don’t go for stories that involve time travel and repetition of events, but Stuart Turton handled this aspect of the story exceptionally well. The amount of time the author must have spent plotting out this novel is incomprehensible to me. This will definitely warrant a re-read in the future. 


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

December 19, 2018 Rebekah @ Augusta Road
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

For fans of Tamora Pierce and Victoria Schwab, this novel is the perfect darkly magical world to lose yourself in on a snowy evening in front of the fire.  

Spinning Silver is a clever and suspenseful fantasy novel set in the heart of winter. At its center, it is a loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. The protagonist is Miryem, a skilled moneylender who brags that she can turn silver into gold. When the king of a race of wintry fey takes this boast a little too literally, Miryem is drawn into a world of intrigue and magic much larger than the small village where she was born. As her life grows more and more intertwined with that of an enterprising village girl, a duke's daughter, and a young tsar with a dark secret, it's not only her life at stake but also the survival of two kingdoms.

The book's rich world-building, vivid characters, and nuanced social commentary have made it one of my favorite reads of the year.


A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

October 15, 2018 Brian E. @ Hughes Main
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

This is my favorite book.  As a voracious reader and librarian, I understand the gravity of this statement.  I was first introduced to this novel in 7th grade, and fell in love immediately.  Zelazny takes many of literary horror’s greatest characters (Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.) and puts them in an intense month-long competition – a mysterious game that has dramatic, earth-shattering consequences.  Part of the joy is in the discovery, but as someone who re-reads this book every year, I can say with certainty that there is great pleasure in reading this book to get in the Halloween spirit!  And I have not even mentioned the eye-popping Gahan Wilson art scattered throughout!  If you enjoy Halloween as much as I do, you will love this novel. 


Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

October 5, 2018 Brian E @ Hughes Main
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside is one of the best and most imaginative fantasy novels I have read in years.  The story follows Sancia, a thief that struggles to survive in a city state governed by four wealthy founding houses.  These houses maintain their power through the invention and utilization of industrial magic – magic Sancia is all too willing to steal.  Once she acquires an artifact strong enough to change – or destroy – the world, things get intense, bizarre, and fantastic.  My only reservation in suggesting it is the fact that the rest of the series has not been published yet!  If you like fantasy, or merely want to like fantasy, I would give this book a try.