Category Archives: Staff Recommends

I’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil REVIEW

gladI’m Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

Available in Print and eBook.

JJ Green wants to be a professional songwriter. Her mom is a lawyer. Her dad is a judge. Her brother is in law school. Hmmm…I wonder what they want her to do?

Luckily for JJ, she lives in New York City. In 1963, there is no place better for aspiring songwriters than the Brill Building, home to successful music composers and publishers.

JJ’s mom has nothing kind to say about the music business (largely due to her brother Bernie), but has agreed to let JJ work the summer as an intern in the Brill Building with the stipulation that JJ has to write a song that becomes a hit record by the end of summer or she gives up her dream of becoming a professional songwriter.

JJ often has lunch with her estranged Uncle Bernie (who is a big executive in the building). She is happy to learn from him, but she would never tell her mother about their contact. She meets Luke, who at first is aloof and mysterious, but turns out to be a lyricist who immediately understands her music. JJ befriends the night janitor who turns out to be the once famous singer Dulcie Brown herself. It is a fateful friendship that reveals much about everyone’s past. And then there is the murder…

…Or is it suicide like the police think? This is not just a story of a girl trying to prove something to herself and her parents (with a little romance thrown in, too). JJ must solve the murder of someone close to her – it becomes more important than anything else that summer including songwriting.

Cynthia Weil, the author, is a songwriter who worked in the Brill Building in 1960s and along with her husband wrote some of the most famous pop songs of the time.

~Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.

Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde re-tellings

hydeI had to share this book with you because it sounds so GOOD!

The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr.

Coming soon in Print. (On Order, place a request now!)

This steampunk fantasy intrigues me because it is a twist on the familiar Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde story. I absolutely love the cover of this first book in the new Electric Empire series.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde is about the daughter of Dr. Henry Jekyll, Dr. Eliza Jekyll, who is a crime scene investigator. Cue the song “Who Are You” by The Who.

The setting of The Diabolical Miss Hyde is an electric-powered Victorian London with lots of interesting tech gadgets for Eliza to use in her search for a new killer that is on the loose.

Much like her father, Eliza has a secret. A seductive and impulsive side that exhibits itself with the help of her father’s elixir.

The story doesn’t stop with hunting down a killer and an alternate personality. There is also an element of magic involved when Eliza is accused of being a sorceress.

I’m really looking forward to this twisted re-telling of the classic Hyde story.

If you are in the mood for another Jekyll/Hyde re-telling with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe, you might want to check out this next book.

madOf Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday (author blog).

Available in Print, and Ebook.

“In 1820s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which her father and his alluring assistant might be implicated”– Provided by publisher.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced first book in the “Of Monsters and Madness” Gothic series. It was a cross between Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with a bit of a Northanger Abbey flavor. Add to that the historical element of including Edgar Allan Poe and it was an interesting read. Be on the lookout for the next book in this series, coming soon, called “Of Phantoms and Fury“!

– Michelle Frost, Indy PL Librarian

Review of THE ONLY THING TO FEAR by Caroline Tung Richmond

fearThe Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond

Available in Print.

What if Germany had won World War II? The life you know would not exist – you would not exist. There would have been no Beatles, no Martin Luther King, no walk on the moon, no President Obama. Everything we have known for that last 70 years would not have happened.

Knowing the premise, I expected that Germany would have won the war by changing one thing in history (like they built the atomic bomb first), but it turns out that they created genetically altered superhumans. That’s how they overran Europe and eventually the United States. The US has been divided up: Germany controls the East, Japan the West, and Italy the Dakota region.

Zara lives in the same year we do now, but you wouldn’t recognize it. Nazi’s live in big, fancy houses in the center of town. Zara lives with her Uncle Red in a shack on a farm in the country. She is the descendant of Americans – even worse for her, she is part Japanese. Mixed race people are looked down upon even more than non-Germans.

Zara’s uncle is a resistance fighter, but lost all energy after her mother was killed for being part of the resistance, too. Zara wants nothing more than to be part of the resistance and fight the Nazi’s but her uncle refuses to let her. She lives a dreary life being a cleaning girl in a fancy prep school during the day and working on the farm until dark. The Nazi rule has left little hope for anyone not in step with the regime.

Zara is also an anomaly, a person with special powers (just another bit of science fiction). She can control the wind, even creating a tornado if she chooses. If the Nazi’s found out, they would kill her for sure. It is this secret and her family’s connection to the resistance that make Bastian’s attention so unnerving. Bastian is a student at the prep school and the son of one of a ruthless Nazi colonel. Zara must choose her words carefully when he speaks to her, because she does not know his motive for the conversations.

As the Nazi atrocities hit closer to home, Zara is swept up in the movement to help restore America. The action and suspense will not disappoint.

~Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.

Review of Seconds: A Graphic Novel

secondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley with Jason Fischer, drawing assistant ; Dustin Harbin, lettering ; Nathan Fairbairn, color.

Available in Print.

Write down your mistake, eat a mushroom, go to sleep, wake up anew with your mistake erased. If it only it were that easy. First, the mushrooms are special. Second, the mistake must have taken place on the premises (in this case, the Seconds restaurant).

Katie is a talented young chef trying to open a second restaurant while not quite able to step aside at the first one – in other words, the staff thinks she’s bossy and wishes she would go away.  The construction on her new restaurant is not going smoothly, causing her much stress. In the middle of this, she starts seeing a strange girl sitting on her dresser in the room where she lives above the Seconds restaurant.

In the dresser, she finds a mushroom and the instructions to erase mistakes. An accident in the kitchen that burns one of the servers causes Katie to follow the instructions for a ‘revision’. A run-in with her ex-boyfriend prompts her to do it again. The mysterious girl on the dresser warns her that she is only entitled to use the power once, but life is full of mistakes so if you have a chance to correct them…

Needless to say, things get out of hand for Katie. What life does she really want for herself? Does she want her ex-boyfriend back? Does she want to renovate the old building for her new restaurant or should she have chosen the other one at better location?

The author/artist (who also gave us the Scott Pilgrim series) has created vibrant graphics to tell this intriguing story. The manga inspired characters inhabit wonderfully detailed panels that only add to the enjoyment of this story.

~Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.

Review of Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

coverLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Available in Print and E-book.

I have great respect and admiration for those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. I am awed by their courage to stand up and say “No more” to laws and people and attitudes so ingrained in society and everyday life. I cannot imagine what it was like for those who marched and boycotted; those who sat at lunch counters and at the front of buses; those who protested peacefully and practiced non-violence; those who fought in the courts and in the streets to obtain the basic rights and dignity that we all deserve.

This story follows the first African American students to attend an all white high school in a small Virginia town. Ten students are finally allowed to go years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of it. The governor and parents fought it. The school closed down for months to prevent it from happening – better for no one to go to school than to let ‘them’ go.

Sarah Dunbar and her sister are among the ten. Through Sarah’s voice, we experience her life. We hear the racist chants by students and adults. We feel the spit on her clothes. We see teachers acting indifferent to the bullying if not expressing their own distaste of her presence in their classroom. We feel the ugliness of racism.  Sarah is a senior and one of the top students at the all black school. Her parents moved to Virginia to be part of the movement, but it is Sarah and Ruth who must face daily onslaught and threats.

Had we just had Sarah’s voice, the story might have become overwhelming and desensitizing but we also hear from Linda Harrison whose father runs a newspaper and is one of the most vocal opponents to integration. She spouts the same hateful things her father has been saying her whole life about black people. She tries to defend segregation as Southern tradition. She believes it is unnatural for races to mix and be together in the same places. She knows God never meant for that to happen. Linda also blames the ten for messing up her senior year – if they had not riled things up, she could go to prom.

It is only when Sarah and Linda are put together for a school project that Linda begins to see Sarah differently and Sarah gets the opportunity to tell a white person how she truly feels.

This story takes the reader right into the minds of these brave students. We see all they see and hear all they hear. We know the excruciating reality they face every day. It is unpleasant and shameful. The story did go in a direction I was not initially expecting. If the author was trying to draw parallels with today’s issues, I don’t believe it was necessary. Nonetheless, this is a compelling read.

~Review by Will Smither, Indy PL Librarian and Teen Services Committee. You Know You Wanna Read It Blog.