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Important Messages
If you had to settle on just one reason to love books, what would it be? Friends of Poets & Writers’ Magazine Executive Director, Elliot Figman, recently said that books help us to grow, enrich our lives and give us hope. He stated that “studies have linked reading fiction, in particular to an increased capacity for empathy.” His top reason, though, is simply that “reading makes us human.”

Join with others at the start of 2017 and share your experiences of reading with our community. Prizes will be awarded based on a random drawing of entries, as well as two prizes for the best reviews as judged by the criteria below. Prizes will be to Cinemapolis and Buffalo Street Books. Reviews will be accepted between January 3 and February 28, 2017.

For more information, please contact: Teresa Vadakin at tvadakin@tcpl.org


a. At least one book should be either an award winner (see sample list at library.booksite.com/6631/nl/?list=CNL1&group=EB555 or chosen from the Staff Picks lists available at tcpl.org/we-suggest/staff-picks.php
b. The second book may be any book of your choice.

Reviews should be based on a thorough, careful reading of the book and will be judged by a panel of TCPL librarians on the following criteria

a. Word count: 50-200 words (slightly outside this range is acceptable)
b. State whether this book was chosen from the Staff Picks lists, or, if it has won an award, provide the name and year of the award.
c. Includes a brief statement of the thesis or description of the book
d. Contains an appraisal of the author’s writing style
e. Advises what readers this book would most likely appeal to and/or what other books are similar to this one
f. Incorporates a statement that reflects your own opinion about this book, the topic and/or its relevance to readers today
g. Optional: If you listened to this book on audio, how well did the narrator/reader deliver the contents?
h. Spelling, grammar, accuracy will be considered in judging reviews.
*Criteria derived in part from “Guidelines for Library Journal Reviews” reviews.libraryjournal.com/about/guidelines-for-library-journal-reviews/ .

Reviews
Read this book
Title
The Circle
Author
Dave Eggers
Rating
Review
The Circle is about a very advanced tech company (think Google, Facebook, and Apple combined) that is developing new technologies that impact basically every facet of everyday life. A young woman named Mae gets a job at the company and quickly gets sucked into the company culture, inadvertently becoming the poster child of the Circle. While the company is greatly improving life in many ways, at what point does accessibility and recorded information become surveillance?

Eggers's style is very natural and straightforward, pulling the reader in and immersing them in the insular world of the Circle. I would say it is appealing to young adults who have grown up in this age of accelerated technological advances. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and its take on a tech-based dystopian present/near future, despite most of the characters being quite frustrating in their thoughts and actions throughout the majority of the story. In my opinion, they are way too easily convinced that this modern day Big Brother level "accessibility to information" is worth a total abandonment of privacy in the digital age.

All in all, a fun read.  Read this book
ISBN
9780385351393
Read this book
Title
Before the Fall
Author
Noah Hawley
Rating
Review
A small private plane headed to New York from Martha's Vineyard crashes after only sixteen minutes in the air and unexpectedly falls into the ocean. The only survivors of the eleven passengers are a four-year-old boy and a middle-aged painter named Scott, who miraculously saves the pair's lives by swimming miles to land with the boy on his back.

Once the media and general public get wind of the crash, everyone wants to know what happened and why Scott was on the plane-did he cause the crash? Scott has trouble remembering what happened, and hides from the media as further questions begin to arise about the other passengers.

The novel slowly weaves together the unexpected ways all of the characters and their pasts are intertwined, and the outcome was an exciting twist. Before the Fall was everything a thriller should be: a mystery without crossing into detective novel territory, suspenseful, and, most importantly, a story that will keep any reader up far too long past their bedtime.   Read this book
ISBN
9781455561780
Comments
Personal choice
Read this book
Title
Small Great Things
Author
Jodi Picoult
Rating
Review
In her most thought-provoking novel yet, Jodi Picoult tackles the complex issues of racism and discrimination head-on, without flinching. Inspired by a true story, Small Great Things tells the story of Ruth Jefferson, a veteran labor and delivery nurse. After performing a routine checkup on a newborn, Ruth is abruptly assigned to another patient; the parents are white supremacists, and they don’t want Ruth, who is African-American, touching their baby.

However, the next day, Ruth happens to be alone in the nursery when the baby goes into cardiac distress. After a moment of hesitation, Ruth decides she is unwilling to risk the baby’s life and performs CPR, resulting in her being charged with a serious crime. The many sides of the ensuing trial are told in the alternating voices of Ruth, her public defender, and the baby’s father. In traditional Picoult style, her characters allow readers to reflect on the personal stories within broader hot-button topics. No matter your race or background, Small Great Things is a must-read.   Read this book
ISBN
9780345544957
Comments
Staff Picks
Read this book
Title
And After the Fire
Author
Lauren Belfer
Rating
Review
There is nothing more satisfying than picking up a good book. Within the first few paragraphs of Lauren Belfer’s And After the Fire the readers can relax; they have found an experienced storyteller. In their hands they hold a spellbinding story rich in both plot and character. The novel follows a musician and a philanthropist two centuries apart. The former receives a cantata from her teacher, Wilhelm Friedmann Bach, son of Johann Sebastian. The latter inherits the cantata but must determine its composer. Belfer traces the many owners through time and creates enormous suspense about the detailed process of authentication. The reader comes away with a greater appreciation of music and more insight into what curators and scholars do. In addition to a fascinating tale the author points the reader to a satisfying conclusion without filling in all the details--and even lets the readers know a little more than the heroines themselves.   Read this book
ISBN
9780062428516
Read this book
Title
Girl in the Dark
Author
Marion Pauw
Rating
Review
Few had trouble believing that oddball Ray Boelens was "The Monster Next Door," convicted of the brutal murder of his neighbor and her four year-old daughter. But when attorney Iris Kasterlein stumbles upon the fact that Ray is her half-brother, she can't help but look into his case. In her first American release, best-selling Dutch author Marion Pauw introduces us to single mother Iris, who is finding it hard to juggle a difficult son with her demanding career. Although her mother refuses to tell Iris anything about Ray, when she meets him in jail she finds a mild-mannered autistic man who desperately misses his tropical fish. The reader is left wondering if there is more to Ray than meets the eye. Told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of Iris and Ray, the story takes time to gain traction, but eventually it becomes an enjoyable page-turner. However, by the end, I think many readers might be able to solve the mystery. There are some plot twists but they are not truly stunning, and the ending feels too neat. Nonetheless, the characters are all well-drawn, and those who enjoy character-driven mysteries might enjoy it.  Read this book
ISBN
0062424793