6 Debut Novels for the First Day of Summer

Today is the official first day of summer!  Here are six exciting and original first novels for the beach, the lake, the back deck or wherever you find your happy summer reading place.

American WarAmerican War by Omar El AkkadImagine the clash between red states and blue becomes a second American Civil War followed by a devastating plague.   In this terrifyingly plausible future set in the late 21st century, a family is forced into a camp for displaced people where a young woman is befriended by a mysterious functionary who would transform her into a living weapon. Akkad is a journalist with Canada’s Globe and Mail, most recently as a correspondent for the Western United States.



LeaversThe Leavers by Lisa KoOne morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. This stunning tale of love and loyalty—to family, to country—is a moving look at the immigrant experience in America. Ko’s novel won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.



Rabbit CakeRabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett.  A darkly comic novel about a precocious 12-year-old girl named Elvis who worries about her troubled family and tries to figure out her place in the world in the aftermath of her mother’s accidental death.  Hartnett, a former Newton resident and a teacher at Boston’s Grub Street creative writing center, wrote this novel while a writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library.





sycamoreSycamore by Bryn Chancellor.  When human remains are linked to the unsolved disappearance of a teen 18 years earlier, the residents of Sycamore, Arizona rekindle stories, rumors and recollections while examining the complicated history that led to the tragedy.  This page-turning, multi-voiced debut novel exams how one tragic circumstance can sow doubt within a community begging the question, “Do we really know anybody?”.  Chancellor teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.



RemindersThe Reminders by Val EmmichGrief-stricken over his partner Sydney’s death, Gavin leaves Los Angeles for New Jersey, where he hopes to find peace with the family of an old friend. Instead, he finds Joan.  Joan the family’s ten-year-old daughter, was born with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, the rare ability to recall every day of her life in cinematic detail. Joan has never met Gavin until now, but she did know his partner, and the startlingly vivid memories to prove it.  Told in alternating voices, this novel is a hilarious and tender exploration of loss, memory, friendship, and renewal. Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, singer-songwriter, and actor.


Wages of Sin

The Wages of Sin Kaite Welsh.  Despite numerous barriers, Sarah Gilchrist is determined to become a doctor in 1882, the first year the University of Edinburgh admitted women, but is drawn into a murder mystery when a former acquaintance turns up as a corpse in the dissecting room. A page-turning tale of murder, subversion and vice.  Welsh is an author, critic and journalist living in Scotland.


Celebrate National Poetry Month

Established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month highlights the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets and encourages the reading of poems in the month of April.  Visit the website to find 30 ways to celebrate, here are six:

poetry PSign up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning

Poetry O   Check out a book of poetry from the Library

Poetry E   Watch a poetry movie

Poetry T


Attend a poetry event near you

Poetry RShare a poem during Poem In Your Pocket Day on April 27th

Poetry yPlay Exquisite Corpse – a collaborative poetry game – with your family & friends


Fact or Fiction? 4 websites to help you vet the daily news

https://mediabiasfactcheck.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/logo.png?w=150&h=150Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) is an independent online media outlet dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices.




FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. FactCheck monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.



Snopes aims to debunk or confirm widely spread stories in American popular culture such as urban legends urban legends, Internet rumors, e-mail forwards and other stories of unknown or questionable origin.



PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics.

5 Real Life Romances

Who wouldn’t want a good love story for Valentine’s Day – especially one that is true!  Here are five books about how true love happens in real life.


Eve of a Hundred Midnights : the star-crossed love story of two WWII correspondents and their epic escape across the Pacific by Bill Lascher. When the Japanese started bombing Manila on New Year’s Eve in 1941, newly married journalists Mel and Annalee Jacoby barely escaped, then spent the rest of the war just one island ahead of the ever-invading Japanese troops as they continued their reporting. A love story of daring and dedication.

Image result for GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART FENTON JOHNSONGeography of the Heart by Fenton Johnson.  The story of two men – one a descendant of Appalachian folk and one a descendant of Holocaust survivors – who met, fell in love, lived, loved, and experienced death during the AIDS epidemic.  A testament to how humans could and should treat each other.


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3202551Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home by James Carville and Mary Matalin.  Carville and Matalin speak in alternating voices, addressing both politics and the personal as they move from raising a family in high-pressure Washington, DC to post-Katrina New Orleans.  A fascinating look at the last two decades in American politics and an intimate primer on grown-up relationships and values from our nation’s famously ideologically mismatched, and intensely opinionated couple.

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3802147The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino. The husband-and-wife stars of the popular “Fixer Upper” television program share the story of their life together, from how they met in Waco, Texas to their success as entrepreneurs and television personalities.


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3230717Romance is My Day Job: a memoir of finding love at last by Patience Bloom. Who knows the ins and outs of romance better than a Harlequin editor?  Using the characters and plots from classic romance novels, television shows, and movies, Bloom compares and contrasts her up-and-down love life from age 15 to happily ever after at age 41.

8 Novels About Revenge to Read While Waiting for the Super Bowl

Many a fan note that it is fitting payback for the New England Patriots to compete in this year’s Super Bowl.  The theme of revenge or vengeance makes for compelling reading  and we’ve picked a few novels — some older and some newer — to whet your appetite for a “dish best served cold.”

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3762116Redemption Road by Jon Hart. In a town on the brink and on a road with no mercy, a boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother, a detective finally confronts her troubled past, a good cop walks free after serving 13 years in prison and the unthinkable happens on the altar of an abandoned church.  This stand-out crime thriller by Edgar Award winning Hart explores the human capacity for resilience and trust in the face of heartbreaking betrayal.

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3596218Woman of the dead by Bernhard Aichner.  A grieving widow and professional mortician discovers there was more to the hit-and-run accident that took her husband’s life than she originally thought, and vows to find out and get revenge on those responsible.   A number one bestselling author in her native Austria, Aichner’s gritty and fast-paced story featuring an unconventional heroine is the first in a trilogy.

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/2888007Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When a beautiful woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage and a mysterious illness; while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred.  This stellar best-selling novel is a disturbing and unique story about revenge.

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3504707The Revenant by Michael Punke.  This novel is based on the life of American frontiersman, fur trapper, hunter and explorer Hugh Glass. While on an expedition in 1823, Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow trappers, yet he survives and treks through the wilderness to seek justice and retribution.


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/2081512Carrie by Stephen King.  A repressed teenager uses her telekinetic powers to avenge the cruel jokes of her classmates.  This is the creepy story that launched King’s career.



http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/2683104True Grit by Charles Portis.  Pursuing a murderer who has escaped into Indian Territory, U.S. Marshal Rooster J. Cogburn teams up with a bounty-hunting Texas Ranger and Mattie Ross, a cantankerous young lady who is bent on avenging her father’s death.  This eccentric and unflinching tale from acclaimed comic writer Portis is an American cult classic.


Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  A Russian princess, a Hungarian count, a Swedish beauty, and an assortment of Americans, English and French are brought tohttp://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/960963gether on the elegant Orient Express.  Just after midnight, the train is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift and millionaire Samuel lies dead in his compartment. Detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again. One of Christie’s most famous mysteries, this novel was inspired by two real-life crimes and the author’s own experience being stranded on the Orient Express during Christmas of 1931.

Image of itemThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. This classic tale of justice and retribution tells the story of Edmond Dantes wrongfully imprisoned in an unreachable sea fortress.  Dantes discovers a hidden treasure that he uses to finance elaborate vengeance on the people who wronged him.

Staff Favorites from 2016

Here is our year end roundup of the stand-out reads and listens of 2016

http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3731023The Door by the Staircase by Katherine Marsh follows the adventures of an orphaned girl. It takes the folklore of the Russian witch, Baba Yaga, and weaves it into a tale that kept me sitting in my car in the garage, waiting to find out what happens next!  – Melissa, Children’s Services



Superhero by Laurie Berkner.  In true Laurie Berkner fashion, this is a fun, witty, get-up-and-singable collection of amazing songs for kids!  I was hooked on the first listen.  Favorites include Juniper Square, the Bicycle Song, and a dance remix of We are the Dinosaurs.

Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well by Jennifer Gasoi.  Jennifer has a great blend of modern and jazz-style technique that lends itself well to a wide variety of musical styles.  The music is a ton of fun for kids and their grown-ups!  – Katrina, Children’s Services


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. Telgemeier has outdone herself in this engaging graphic novel of family, friendship and tradition. A must read for all ages!  – Bonny, Teen Services



http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3148348Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is an action packed series in the YA fantasy/supernatural genre. Crown Prince Dorian offers eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien her freedom in exchange for her loyalty.  Sardothien is very strong female lead, and a kind of anti-hero. I always want to know what’s going to happen next, and want to start the next book in the series after I’ve finished one!

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is a manga series where what’s left of mankind has hidden in a giant, three-walled city, trapped in fear of the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming human-kind, but the sudden appearance of an enormous Titan is about change everything. I got started on this by watching the anime first, but the manga story goes beyond what’s in the anime. Definitely a page turner. – Kristen, Circulation Services


Beauty Behind the Madness by The Weeknd.  This album tells a story both lyrically and musically that is meaningful, honest and gripping, especially as we deal with the opiate crisis.  I hear something new and surprising every time I listen to it.  – Katrina, Children’s Services


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3315972The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution” by Jonathan Eig.  A fascinating look at how the birth control pill came to be and how the social and political atmosphere of the time helped shape a really important scientific discovery.  Very interesting, too, since most of the development of the pill happened in our own backyard:  the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology was located in Shrewsbury, and one of the doctors who helped develop the pill lived in the house right next door to the Northborough Library.  – Danielle, Circulation Services


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3957190Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton is the 25th Anita Blake-Vampire Hunter novel, a series which I have followed for years.  Anita Blake is a powerful female character who, although both a necromancer and a vampire executioner, is eternally linked to a vampire and a werewolf. Hamilton’s work is where 50 Shades of Gray, Dracula and “The Wolfman” meet! It’s a kind of acquired taste, if one can stomach it without cringing or blushing! Melissa, Children’s Services



The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. The protagonist of this novel is Anil, an Indian doctor who is a medical resident in Texas. He is torn between two cultures while trying to fulfil his role as the eldest son in his family after the sudden death of his father. This is a rich story that allows you to experience the complexities of straddling two different cultures. – Geneinde, Circulation Services




I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is a haunting novel where soul-rendering pain gives way to hope, gives way to confusion and utter terror.  This is a rollercoaster of a whodunnit, and definitely worth your while!  Consider listening as it is read very well by the narrators. Katrina, Children’s Services.


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/2539586Katahdin: An Historic Journey by John W. Neff. This book about Mount Katahdin in Maine encompasses history, lore and legend and retraces the steps of Native Americans who considered the mountain a sacred place. It also illustrates the resolve of those who were involved in early conservation efforts to save the North Woods, particularly Maine Governor Percival Baxter, for whom Baxter State Park is named. It has inspired me to climb the mountain in the coming year and see for myself where Henry David Thoreau first encountered what he described as a “wholly wild place.” – Chris, Director


A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.  Listen to this very genuine and heartfelt novel about a very basic, unassuming man whose heart has been broken.  I laughed, I cried, and I just loved Ove. – Julie, Children’s Services





The Martian by Andy Weir. This novel was filled with suspense throughout which kept me wanting more. It was also written fairly simply, so it was a quick fun read.  Mike, Circulation Services




The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. This novel is a first-person fictionalized account of the life of Artemisia Gentileschi: a 17th century Baroque painter, student of Michelangelo’s nephew, and good friend to Galileo. The novel follows two decades of Artemisia’s life as she navigates the male-dominated world of art in Renaissance Era Florence and as she deals with her distant father, unfaithful husband, and unruly daughter. A thoroughly engaging look into the life of a fascinating but relatively unknown artist. Spencer, Adult Services


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3500303The Soul of an Octopus: a Playful Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. A fascinating look at the unique problem-solving, emotional and social intelligence of octopus. Through her many experiences with octopuses at the New England Aquarium and undersea dives, Syd Montgomery reveals the highly developed consciousness of the octopus, their unique capabilities, and the strong emotional connections they can form with their human caregivers.  Montgomery raises interesting parallels between their souls and human souls. You will never look at an octopus the same again! Donna, Adult Services.


http://catalog.cwmars.org/opac/extras/ac/jacket/large/r/3730243Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and be Your Own Personby Shonda Rhimes. What if you said “yes” to everything, especially to the things that challenge you or make you feel uncomfortable?  Follow along with Shonda Rhimes (creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) as she shares the unexpected and positive outcomes of the year where she said “yes” to every invitation and request.  Shonda’s conversational, down-to-earth manner evokes the feeling of conversing with your best friend.  In telling her story, Shonda unassumedly encourages you to make it your own.  Listen to this one, especially for the re-broadcast of her 2014 Dartmouth College commencement speech. Deborah, Adult Services