Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

A dirty white peeling wall with faded areas where there had been framed photos. An electrical cord is plugged into an outlet in what appears to be an otherwise empty room.

By Cherise T.

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2017, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City tells the story of our national rental housing crisis through the lens of the Milwaukee area. Matthew Desmond focuses on two landlords renting the lowest quality properties to eight impoverished residents and families struggling against homelessness. Researching the 2007-2008 economic crisis, Desmond documents how even during the Depression finding affordable housing was nowhere near as difficult as it is today. Currently, paying for housing can cause a descent into poverty because, “the rent eats first.” Due to the limited options available to renters with low incomes, lack of enforced regulations of landlords, and limited local and federal resources to support struggling families, serial eviction has become commonplace.

When I studied the resources to present Undesign the Redline tours at HCLS, I learned about how where one lives and where one is allowed to live impacts a person’s access to good education, rewarding work, and leisure options with family and friends. Structural and systemic racism in the United States controls residential opportunities. Evicted delves into the connection between redlining and housing poverty. Landlords are legally allowed to offer substandard housing. Renters are subjected to a system that favors landlords and offers limited housing subsidies.

This narrative nonfiction title will appeal to readers interested in history and statistical sociological studies as well as those who prefer to follow personal stories. A sociologist, Desmond lived in low income housing as he met the characters who fill his book. Sherrena is a black landlord who gets to know her tenants, assisting them with groceries, for example, but she and her husband also need to make a profit. Doreen is a black single mom caring for three generations under the roofs of smaller and smaller properties even as her family grows. Scott is a white, drug-addicted, former LPN who cannot even afford a rental in a deteriorating trailer park. Arleen is a black single mom who has to apply almost 100 times before a landlord agrees to house someone with multiple children and a history of serial evictions.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.” Eviction tells its stories with sympathy and an abundance of well-researched urban housing realities. It offers insight, data and potential solutions to the problems it describes. There is also an excellent study guide provided by the publisher for use by students and book groups.

Cherise T. is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Grant by Ron Chernow

The photograph in black and white, by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, shows Grant standing, wearing the frock coat of his Union uniform.
Ulysses S. Grant, circa 1864, photographed by Matthew Brady

Review by Jean B.

Biographies, especially those by Ron Chernow, can be a heavy lift – literally. At more than 900 pages, Chernow’s acclaimed 2017 book examining the life of Ulysses S. Grant can be exhausting to hold for more than 30 minutes of reading. So now is a perfect time to tackle this large but highly satisfying tome, when you can read or listen to it electronically on a lightweight device and maybe have extra reading time in your day! Available through OverDrive in both ebook and eaudiobook formats, Grant offers a fascinating, detailed look at both the man and his era.  

I love to read history, biography, and historical fiction, but I’m always discovering how many episodes in history I really know nothing about. The Civil War era has been recorded in myriad ways, and yet, with Grant I gained new perspective on the war — learning details of the Western front that, as a Pennsylvanian whose education focused on Gettysburg, I hadn’t appreciated. More startling, I discovered how little I understood about the Reconstruction Era and the immense challenges that faced President Grant in securing the rights of newly freed slaves to work, vote, and be full citizens in the re-established Union.  

Ron Chernow sets out to correct the one-dimensional and largely negative portraits of Grant by earlier historians which portrayed him as an ineffective political leader tainted by scandals, corruption, and a chronic drinking problem. Though Chernow clearly admires his subject and goes above and beyond to compile contemporary opinions and statements to bolster his case in Grant’s favor, Chernow’s portrait has such depth, complexity, and humanity that I was persuaded, too, by the end, of Grant’s impressive leadership, moral courage, and devoted service to the ideals of a united nation and racial equality.  

And along the way, I enjoyed getting to know so many of the supporting (and often traitorous!) characters in Grant’s life, from his overbearing father, to his society-loving wife, to the infamous General William Tecumseh Sherman, to conniving Gilded Age businessman Jay Gould. It’s all here — family intrigue, dramatic changes of fortune, battles and blood, comradeship and bitter betrayal. Download and dig in!

Jean is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Central Branch who enjoys participating in book clubs with both kids and adults.

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part Two

The cover shows two pairs, each with a rabbit and a chick. The chick in the most prominent pair is vocalizing the word "Neither" in a speech bubble, referring to the baby animal in the foreground, who is "neither" rabbit nor chick. but a blend of both, with the legs, beak, and wings of a chick and the ears and tail of a rabbit.

 Reviews by Laci R.

Welcome back! It may be July but I’m still thrilled to share some more of my favorite LGBTQ+ picture books with you. Please be sure to check out Part One of my suggestions so you can enjoy the full list.  

Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack is a modern fairy tale about a strong and brave maiden invited to attend the Prince’s royal ball. She isn’t terribly excited about attending, but with a little nudging from her mother, she decides to go. The maiden makes quite the impression on the guests and even finds love when she meets the Princess. One of my favorite things about this book how it truly celebrates lesbian love, as none of the characters respond with “it’s forbidden” rhetoric. This bedtime favorite offers a lovely alternative to the predictable royal courting fairy tales. Pair with Prince & Knight by the same author.

We Love Someone We Sing to Them / Cuando Amamos Cantamos by Ernesto Martinez offers a heartwarming, bilingual story of a young boy who loves another boy. He shares this with his father and together they write the young boy’s crush a traditional serenata. The lyrical prose and whimsical art made me cry with beautiful depictions of supportive family relationships, cultural traditions, and falling in love for the first time. The lyrics to the songs are words you feel deep in your soul, as they solidify the undeniable power associated with expressing love through music (a personal safe haven of mine). “He says that gardens like mine, even through droughts, have persisted. He says that gardens like mine have always existed.” 

I’m always drawn to stories that celebrate not fitting into a certain mold based on societal views and perceived norms. A few great examples include: 

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall tells about a crayon who was labeled incorrectly at the factory and so is mistaken for the wrong color. This label confuses the crayon in question as he clearly draws every picture in blue. Many other crayons try to help him be red, but no matter how creative a suggestion, it doesn’t work. After a new friend arrives, things start to feel different for Red as he realizes he’s been blue all along and can live a fulfilling life just the way he is. A life where he doesn’t have to force himself to be something he’s not, just because of the packaging he was given. A great look at gender identity.  
 
Neither by Airlie Anderson takes places in the land of This and That, where the only two things that exist are blue bunnies and yellow birds. What happens when a green egg hatches revealing a new friend who isn’t quite a bunny or a bird? After struggling to fit in with each group, Neither decides to journey to find a new home and happens upon the Land of All – a place with many colors and shapes representing creatures of all kinds. This book does a great job at promoting diversity and teaching that differences can unite us. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce the topic of being non-binary.  

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian features two worms who are in love and excited to get married. As they plan the wedding, all the other bugs and insects in town are ready to help and give their opinions. They offer endless suggestions based on tradition. Who will wear the dress? What about the tux? It’s quickly decided that those details don’t matter. All that matters is that worm loves worm and, in their love, they create a new way of having a wedding that is right for them. Seeing a child cheering for these worms through the light in their eyes, alone, makes it worth reading aloud.  
 
I hope these titles help to introduce or continue the conversation about the LGBTQ+ community and all the reasons they should celebrate and be celebrated this month and always. Books that show LGBTQ+ characters in everyday settings diversify your reading collection while teaching compassion and love. I certainly wish more books like this were around when I was a kid, but I’m thankful to report that some of the mentioned books have helped me, as an adult, solidify layers of my own queerness. I’m learning every day how to embrace who I am and what it means to be me. I see myself in these books, and that is invaluable. There is so much joy to be found in being true to oneself, which is always something worth celebrating.  

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Everything Hamilton

Antique paper background with black image of heroic figure pointing to the sky from on top of a star.

Review by Cherise T.

Alexander Hamilton.

My name is Alexander Hamilton.

And there’s a million things I haven’t done

But just you wait, just you wait…

If this stanza makes your heart beat faster or maybe even brings tears to your eyes, then Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, is the book for you. “Splurge” and download the audiobook as well since Mariska Hargitay’s narration is outstanding. Like the musical itself, words come at the reader fast, and it’s an adventure deciding where to plunge in first. The text, the personal side notations, the primary source materials, and the graphics are a treasure and a joy. The libretto alone would fill a Hamilton fan’s heart, but the book also includes an abundance of stories about the creation of all aspects of the musical. We see the development of the show from the perspectives of creatives and cast members. The vintage-style photographs of the cast taken by Josh Lehrer using a camera lens from the mid-1800s are gorgeous. The book is a celebration of the full arc of the production’s evolution, from Lin’s first rap for the Obamas in 2009 at the White House, through the off-Broadway production, and all the way to opening night on Broadway in 2015. There’s nothing like being in the room where it happens.

On July 13 at 7 pm, author Richard Bell is going to discuss some of the history surrounding Alexander Hamilton. Register with an email address to receive an immediate registration confirmation. You will receive the link to the online class in the confirmation email. If you prefer to call in by phone, please register for the class online, then email askhcls@hclibrary.org to request the dial-in information at least 1 business day in advance.

With Disney+ streaming Hamilton this July, University of Maryland Associate Professor of History Dr. Bell explores this musical phenomenon. He discusses what this amazing musical gets right and gets wrong about Hamilton, the American Revolution, the birth of the United Sates, and about why all that matters. It includes an examination of the choices Hamilton’s creators made to simplify, dramatize, and humanize the complicated historical events and stories. We will also talk about Hamilton’s cultural impact: what does its runaway success reveal about the stories we tell each other about who we are and about the nation we made?

Dr. Bell is the author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home. The book tells the gripping and true story about five boys who were kidnapped in the North and smuggled into slavery in the Deep South – and their daring attempt to escape and bring their captors to justice. The book is available to borrow as a physical book and as an eAudiobook via Overdrive/Libby.

Cherise T. is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

Teens Read the Rainbow

The cover of When the Moon was OUrs by Anna-Marie McLemore has a deep blue cover with a water tower in black. White moons hand from tinydoted lines amd the title and two figures stand out in yellow against the black. There are roses decorating the text.

Reviews by Sarah C.

Looking for some excellent teen fiction featuring LGBTQ+ main characters and/or written by LGBTQ+ authors and illustrators? Look no further! We have you covered with different books from various genres, as well as our Rainbow Reads teen reading list from 2019. Many of the authors listed below have other titles, too. So if you find one you really like, keep reading!

The hard part is choosing which to review, but that’s a great problem to have, honestly. Each year we see so many more awesome books published, and are especially excited to see those written in our own voices because representation matters. ❤️

The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy follows seventh grade Rahul as he tries to find his place in the world. He navigates the ups and downs of middle school and his supportive, but at times super embarrassing, Indian family. Clever, funny, and an anxious perfectionist at heart, Rahul slowly realizes he might have a crush on his popular neighbor, Justin. While the book is technically part of the teen collection, I would easily recommend this to late elementary readers as well.

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann features Winnie, a self-confident fat queer Black girl from a small town, who enters a cooking competition to try and save her family’s diner.  On top of that, she is also trying to figure out her many complicated relationships – romantic, friendship-based, and with her family, especially with her opinionated grandmother. 

Birthday by Meredith Russo spans six years in the lives of two best friends, Eric and Morgan, as they each grow up in different ways while facing various challenges that involve family, school, identity, and each other.  Morgan has a huge secret that he fears will destroy their friendship, but it becomes harder and harder to keep it from Eric. This story is one of destiny as well as heartbreak, so be prepared!

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim gives you an epic road trip adventure story when three close friends head to New Orleans and have new experiences along the way. They have some hilarious and adorable moments like finding your inner drag queen and celebrating your true self, and some more serious ones like dealing with Islamophobia and deadbeat dads, and, of course, lots and lots of delicious food.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells presents an engaging rescue quest tale with all the traditional fantasy elements, especially DRAGONS! Marin journeys to the palace to save her kidnapped love, Kaia, only to find herself mixed up with an ancient prophesy, a lost prince, and a dangerous rebellion. She also might have some hidden powers of her own. Read it now, so you’ll be ready when the sequel is published in October.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi takes place in a not so distant future where evil has been totally eradicated and everyone lives safely in their utopian society…or maybe not. One day a deadly magical creature made all of teeth and claws and feathers emerges from Jam’s mother’s painting. Only it’s not the monster, it has been sent to hunt a real monster, one that is lurking nearby and hurting one of Jam’s friends. 

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore is a gorgeously written and haunting fairy tale that features a memorable, lovable cast of characters. Miel has roses growing out of her wrists and Sam hangs his painted moons all over town at night, and together they must ward off the wicked Bonner sisters who seek to steal their magic.

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee stars Jess, a Chinese-Vietnamese bisexual daughter of two famous superheroes with no powers of her own, who inadvertently interns for the local villain and her parents’ arch-nemesis. In her new job, she gets to work with her crush and maybe finally find her own powers, all while uncovering a secret plot. This is the first book in a series with three books in print and a fourth one in the works, all full of diverse queer characters.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power hits a bit too close to home, with an isolated boarding school under quarantine from a dangerous illness and no vaccine. Unlike current events, the so-called “Tox” causes all sorts of horrifying mutations and mostly affects the students and the island wildlife. Will anyone escape alive?

Proxy by Alex London is an action-packed sci-fi adventure that modernizes the fable of the Whipping Boy with added Hunger Games elements. When Syd is sentenced to death as punishment for Knox’s actions, the boys escape together but they are up against the world.

Happy Pride and happy reading! 

P.s. There are a ton of great LGBTQ+ graphic novels as well.

Sarah C. is the teen instructor at HCLS Savage Branch and she always has time to talk, about books, comics, school, or whatever you need to talk about.

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part One

The book cover shows a multicultural, multiracial group of adults and children holding up a rainbow sign with the title.

By Laci R.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, and it’s a time to celebrate all the beautiful identities and colors of the rainbow. Luckily, many vibrant books and stories can help you do so. Representation is incredibly important. Aside from the sheer joy and pleasure of getting to see yourself in books and stories, it promotes inclusivity and begins vital conversations with the children in your life about the history of the LGBTQ+ community and queer characters. Reading books with queer mention needs to be paired with open, safe, and informative conversation so compassion can flourish and curiosities can be sparked.  
 
I have chosen several books to share with you. It was difficult to narrow my list, but having many more resources available that feature characters in the LGBTQ+ community is such an amazing and liberating phenomenon.
 
I’ll start with some of my favorite non-fiction books:  

Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution by Rob Sanders (picture book) gives us a unique perspective on an essential civil rights story. The building itself narrates the story of how the police raided the Stonewall Inn located in New York City early in the morning on June 28, 1969. This wasn’t the first raid that took place, but things were different this time. A protest occurred full of members of the LGBTQ+ community in and around Stonewall Inn as demands of equal rights and justice filled the air. This movement continues even now, as I type these words.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders (picture book) tells about social activist Harvey Milk and how the gay pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, came to be created. It shows Milk as he is elected as one of the first openly gay people in political office and follows his fight for LGBTQ+ rights and freedom. Together, Milk and Baker create a symbol of hope- the rainbow flag. It’s a symbol you still see today proudly displayed all over the world. 

Pair this story with Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle Pitman to see a different perspective and learn other details about the rainbow flag’s creation. Need a follow up activity? Ask the child in your life to make their own flag! One that represents them and what makes them special. Encourage them to share with you and be sure to do the same. 
 
Please note: These books should be shared with the understanding that they offer an introduction to these major events and should be supplemented with additional information and conversation around the topics.  
 
Be sure to also check out Gay & Lesbian History For Kids: The Century Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be by Maya Gonzalez. These books contain excellent information and guidance for understanding a wide variety of identities. 
 
When it comes to picture books, I wish I could write about every single one. I decided to share a sampling of those that are well loved and ones that became unforgettable from the moment I read them. Here are a couple for you to look into, with more coming in Part Two of my LGBTQ+ recommendations for children and families.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman became an instant favorite. This rhyming story invites you to attend a Pride parade and meet all the wonderful people. Every page exudes joy and pure love. I absolutely adore the illustrations by Kristyana Litten. They are brimming with color and depict an undeniable energy bursting with flair. A note to parents and caregivers is included that provides information on how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with children in age-appropriate ways. You’ll also find a reading guide full of facts about LGBTQ+ history and culture.  

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff covers a lot of ground and will surely resonate with transgender children. It offers reassurance about becoming an older sibling all while celebrating some of the many transitions experienced by a family. When born, everyone thought Aidan was a girl. He was given a pretty name and his room and clothes looked like that of girls he knew. However, none of this felt right to him and changes were needed. Aidan’s parents offer endless support as he transitions to living in a way that allows him to flourish and thrive. In doing so, Aidan learns what it takes to be the best older brother he can be: the ability to love with your whole self. I also feel the need to mention that I wish I could share a wardrobe with Aidan because that little guy sure is stylin’.  

I hope these titles will make it into your home, classroom, gift list, or anywhere else that needs a bright rainbow. I invite you to continue learning about LGBTQ+ materials for children by joining me for Part Two, where we’ll take a look at more of my favorite picture books. Let’s keep this celebration going!

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Discussing Racism with Children

By Laci R.

Racism isn’t a new issue. However, it is one that people all over the world have recently come together in order to take a stance against. How do you bring the conversation into your own home? Were you ever directly told about racism, yourself? 

I’d like to share some vital information: 

  • As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.”
  • By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.”
  • By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.”

(Authors Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP & Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP 
Last Updated 7/29/2019 
Source American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019) 
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Talking-to-Children-About-Racial-Bias.aspx)

It’s not always easy to provide an explanation to a child; whether it’s the mechanics of something (why a toy will no longer beep and light up), safety (why it’s important to hold hands and look both ways before crossing a street), or why some people are treated poorly, hurt, and killed based on nothing other than the color of their skin.  
 
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano shows children as they discuss with their families the incident of a local black man who was shot by the police. These discussions look different in the home of Emma (who is White) and Josh (who is Black) but share a similarity in the feeling of injustice. The use of historical and present-day context is utilized in a way that promotes compassion and eagerness to learn. The story shows Emma and Josh applying what they learn when a new student from another country named Omar arrives at their school. This book provides general guidance for parents and caregivers full of vocabulary definitions, conversation guides, and additional online resources to visit to continue the conversation about racism.  
 
Opening up a safe space for children to learn about racism and how to be actively anti-racist is a necessary step in parenthood, guardianship, and adulthood in general. It’s crucial to be proactive during such an impressionable time.  
 
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is a story about Clover, segregation, and a determined friendship. Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. The two girls bend the rules set in place by their grown-ups by spending time together sitting on the fence that separates their homes. This is where they are allowed to exist in the same space, one they have created themselves. A lyrical narrative and thoughtful watercolor images show how this friendship is formed during a time when it seems impossible. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these discussions and questions that arise will look different in every family based on a variety of details and factors, including race. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham invites white families and children to become more invested in the reality that is racism and, in turn, to cultivate justice.  This story explains how each of us are affected by power and privilege from the very moment we’re born and offers an honest explanation for kids about racism, white supremacy, and civic responsibility. Pair these books with others about racism and segregation such as: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, and Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson (also available from Libby/OverDrive in eaudiobook format).
 
It can be daunting to know where to start despite the vast amount of resources flooding our social media accounts. Keep in mind that the conversation about racism can easily become a fruitful one, full of eagerness to learn and the desire to be kind. I strongly believe in the importance of embracing curiosity, including the tough questions. If you don’t have an answer ready for the child in your life, be sure to let them know you’ll have one for them soon- and then, follow up. Whether it’s just the beginning or you’re continuing the conversation about racism, don’t ever let the discussion end. No matter what.

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books. 

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Bright color blocks frame the silhouette of girl, with her figure in red and dress in yellow. The author and title appear in large white text across the middle.

Review by Claudia J.

For the ancestors, a long long line of you bending and twisting

Bending and twisting. 

Memory has a way of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, making it hard to decipher the truth. It is joyous, painful, and strange all at the same time. Jacqueline Woodson hits at each of those emotions in her latest novel Red at the Bone. She opens her novel at a coming-of-age party for 16-year-old Melody, taking place in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Her custom-made dress, full of symbolism and pride – fit for a blossoming woman, was originally meant for her mother, Iris, 16 years earlier. From this fact spirals a series of memories, told from the perspectives of Melody, her parents, and her grandparents at different points in their interesting lives. 

Through these memories, Woodson peels away layers of trauma and triumph of this Brooklyn family. By doing so, she relates her story to the millions of black and brown families experiencing similar burdens. The burden of love. The burden of neighborhoods changing. The burden of your goals vs. the goals set for you. Woodson weaves these characters through themes of identity, sexuality, ambition, pride, and purpose. But, most of all, it tells the story of parenthood and how expectation fights reality in bending and twisting ways.

Red at the Bone is lyrical, reflective, and insightful; a poetic tale of a family that continues to bend and twist its way through life. At a time of reflection and healing, Red at the Bone is a great read to get us through a time of significant change. I truly loved this book and I think you will too.

Available in ebook and eaudio through Libby.

Claudia J. is has worked for Howard County Library System for more than four years. She enjoys writing on rainy days and drinking iced coffee on sunny days.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

The book cover shows a turquoise sky and ocean, with a long pier extending into the water with a lighthouse and bridge at the end, and several people walking on the pier.  A seagull with wings extended is aloft in the foreground.

Review by Alan S.

Big‌ ‌Sky‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌fifth‌ novel ‌featuring‌ ‌Jackson‌ ‌Brodie‌. ‌Brodie‌ ‌retires‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌coastal‌ ‌town,‌ ‌and‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌cares‌ ‌for‌ ‌his‌ ‌teenage‌ ‌son,‌ ‌while‌ ‌working‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌private‌ ‌investigator.‌ ‌Brodie‌ ‌will‌ ‌soon‌ ‌discover‌ ‌that‌ ‌small‌ ‌towns‌ ‌can‌ ‌hold‌ ‌big‌ ‌secrets‌ ‌after‌ ‌a‌ ‌chance‌ ‌meeting‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌beach‌ ‌draws‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌criminal‌ ‌conspiracy.‌ ‌ 

‌Big‌ ‌Sky‌ ‌starts‌ ‌with‌ ‌two‌ ‌sisters‌ ‌interviewing‌ ‌via‌ ‌Skype‌ ‌for‌ ‌jobs‌ ‌in‌ ‌London.‌ ‌It‌ ‌is‌ ‌clear‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌is‌ ‌something‌ ‌sinister‌ ‌afoot‌ ‌even‌ ‌before‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌revealed‌ ‌after‌ ‌the‌ ‌call‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌agency‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌up‌ ‌and‌ ‌up.‌ ‌The‌ ‌story‌ ‌then‌ ‌careens‌ ‌from‌ ‌character‌ ‌to‌ ‌character,‌ ‌generally‌ ‌among‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌club‌ ‌set‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌town.‌ ‌Brodie,‌ ‌it‌ ‌seems,‌ ‌is‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌outskirts‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌action‌ ‌and‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌left‌ ‌wondering‌ ‌when‌ ‌and‌ ‌how‌ ‌he‌ ‌intertwines‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌main‌ ‌story.‌ ‌An unexpected encounter ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌beach‌ ‌with‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌characters‌ ‌and‌ ‌his‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌by‌ ‌another‌ ‌eventually‌ ‌brings‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌circle.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌then,‌ ‌the‌ ‌action‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌‌propelled‌ ‌by‌ ‌Brodie‌ ‌and‌ ‌he‌ ‌doesn’t‌ ‌really‌ ‌do‌ ‌much‌ ‌detecting.‌ ‌Even‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌police‌ ‌become‌ ‌involved‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌form‌ ‌of‌ ‌Brodie’s‌ ‌protégé (introduced‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌earlier‌ ‌book‌ ‌I‌ ‌did‌ ‌not‌ ‌read),‌ ‌the‌ ‌story‌ ‌and‌ ‌its‌ ‌conclusion‌ ‌tend‌ ‌to‌ ‌stem‌ ‌from‌ ‌coincidence‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌detective‌ ‌and‌ ‌police‌ ‌work.‌ ‌

Big Sky‌ ‌is‌ ‌an‌ ‌interesting‌ ‌story‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌evil‌ ‌that‌ ‌lurks‌ ‌in‌ ‌unlikely‌ ‌places.‌ ‌Go‌ ‌into‌ ‌it‌ ‌knowing‌ ‌that‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌entering‌ ‌a‌ ‌detective‌ ‌story‌ ‌without‌ ‌much‌ ‌detecting‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌main‌ ‌character‌ ‌who,‌ ‌while‌ ‌appealing,‌ ‌is‌ ‌generally‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌outer‌ ‌edges‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌main‌ ‌story.‌ ‌I‌ ‌didn’t,‌ ‌and‌ ‌it‌ ‌took‌ ‌me‌ ‌a‌ ‌while‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌past‌ ‌that‌ ‌and‌ ‌enjoy‌ ‌the‌ ‌compelling‌ ‌characters‌ ‌and‌ ‌storyline.‌ ‌ ‌

Big Sky is available in ebook and eaudio format through Libby.

Alan has worked for HCLS for just under 25 years, currently at the Savage Branch. He enjoys reading, television and most sports.

November Road by Lou Berney

A young girl, perhaps 8 years old, is riding in a car with her head stuck out the window. We see only her back and the back of her head. She has on a light cardigan and has a brown braid.  Above this picture is a blurred piece of a manuscript, where all you can read is "Kennedy Assassinated."

Review by Cindy G.

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was one of the first monumental things that happened when I was a child.  There are so many angles to this time period in American history. November Road, by Lou Berney, is a fictional book that may help us understand one small but interesting piece of what happened in Dallas, Texas in November 1963.

We follow fictional mobster Frank Guidry, who works for the real-life mobster Carlos Marcello. As a known criminal, Marcello was eventually brought to trial as the possible mob boss who helped orchestrate the assassination. In the book, Frank knows too much about what happened in Dallas during that fateful week. The author describes how the mob may kill its own people in back alleys to protect itself from leaks. Frank has heard he needs to protect himself, decides to head to Las Vegas, and along the way runs into a runaway housewife named Charlotte. She has left her abusive husband on the spur of the moment, her car has broken down, and she is nearly panic-stricken. Frank has always been an independent and lonesome mobster, but feels that pretending to fall in love with Charlotte and have her and her two children with him would benefit him tremendously–while being potentially dangerous for them all.

Are mobsters following Frank, Charlotte and the kids as they make their trek across the country in his car? Charlotte falls in love quickly with this generous, worldly, handsome man. Does Frank have a hidden, softer side? Or is he simply using this struggling family as a cover as he approaches his actual “family,” criminals who may or may not have his back. I rate this book 5/5, a wonderful historical fiction, nicely swirled with an interesting mystery, that made me think of the 1960s in a new way.

Cindy G. has worked for Howard County Library System for 12 years. She loves cooking, reading, maps, and spending time with her family.