Solano County Library Staff Picks



Blood Orange
Blood Orange is the 24th in the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert. You might expect that the series would be losing steam by now, but it’s still going strong. In Blood Orange, China Bayles, former lawyer turned herbalist, confronts the disappearance of a nurse who is renting China’s guest cottage, and the growing suspicion that something is not quite right in the local Pecan Springs hospice. When the nurse calls China to say she has information about the hospice and then dies after being run off the road, China and her friends investigate the possibility that it was murder. All the while, China worries about her husband, a private investigator. What is this job which has taken him to El Paso? Is he in danger? Is he spending time with a former lover in El Paso? Is he even in El Paso?
Recommended by: Teri S. Want it? 




Dark Matter
Brilliant and engrossing exploration of what could happen if people could explore the path less taken. The main character, a physicist at a local college, finds himself in a world where another version of himself has found a way to tap into the multiverse and can get to worlds where different versions of the physicist made different choices resulting in a different universe. His journey to get back to his world with the family that he chose is a compelling, fascinating one that you should try. One of the best science fiction books I've read this year.
Recommended by: Taaren S. Want it? 




African Americans in Vallejo
This is a great overview of African American history in the city of Vallejo. The book also explains why many African American migrated from southern states to California during the Great Migration. This book also gives some insight on my family history.
Recommended by: Johnny P. Want it? 




The Last Kingdom (DVD)
The Last Kingdom is a British TV show adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon stories. It chronicles the life of Uhtred who was born a Saxon but raised by Viking Danes. I enjoyed taking a step-back into the time of the Vikings. Good script and acting as well....a great "binge" watch.
Recommended by: Jana C. Want it? 




Bullies: A Friendship
This book is part memoir, part history of Oakland, and chronicle of the East Bay Rats Motorcycle Club. It is a crazy ride that left me unsettled but engrossed in the organized violence of their clubhouse ring fights and street racing.
Recommended by: Heather C. Want it? 




The Illegal
Keita Ali, an elite athlete from the fictional land of Zantoroland, is an undocumented immigrant to Freedom State who is struggling to survive and compete. Although this very familiar story takes place in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where no land mass actually exists, both islands come to life in a way that could be ripped from the headlines.
Recommended by: Tim M. Want it? 




The Good Son
Former circus performer—and famous, but controversial author—Sonia Laghari plans a world peace symposium in the Kashmir region of Pakistan, but she and her esteemed guests are kidnapped en route. Trained in Jungian psychotherapy, Sonia translates dreams for the kidnappers while negotiating her survival. Back in the States…Sonia’s son Theo arranges for a specials forces strike to rescue her. The suspense is enough to keep you going, but Gruber’s novels always add a cross-cultural, anthropological aspect to the story.
Recommended by: Tim M. Want it? 




Welcome to Night Vale
Night Vale is a small town somewhere in the desert. Time doesn't always work right and all conspiracy theories are true. The Welcome to Night Vale podcast is well done and the book really expands on that world. It was a weird and quirky read...much like the town itself. I recommend both the book and the podcast.
Recommended by: Juli H. Want it? 




The Artist (DVD)
One of my favorite films of recent years is silent. Maybe you’ve heard of it. The Artist (2011) is a silent film about silent films. It takes place in the late twenties when silent films were on the way out and “talkies” were the new rage. And some silent film stars, like George Valentin (played by Academy Award winner, Jean Dujardin), were not able to make the transition successfully. This is also a love story, a rags to riches story, and, most importantly, a good story. It also stars Berenice Bejo as George’s love interest, as well as some great supporting actors such as John Goodman, James Cromwell and (my favorite) Uggie, the dog (who really should’ve won Best Supporting Actor, or, at least Best Supporting Animal). Besides Dujardin’s award for Best Actor, The Artist also won Best Picture and Best Director – all well-deserved. Since “talkies” have been around for almost 90 years, some might think a silent film would be difficult to follow or understand for a modern audience. But since the story is so well done and the subtitles are even easier to read than this review, hopefully others besides me will watch and love and cheer loudly for this silent film.
Recommended by: Dan R. Want it? 




An Incomplete Revenge: A Maise Dobbs Novel
I was immediately absorbed into book 5 of the Maise Dobbs series. Though not her most recent bestseller, there is a comfortable melancholy to this character’s post WWI descriptions. The very nature of dialogue creates a clinging atmosphere as she investigates still another mystery that is anything but straightforward. What starts off as a matter concerning a land purchase becomes far more convoluted, as much so as the community and the people of the area. What seems like a nice county village really has a secret that saturates everyone. As Maise brilliantly chips away at the underlying concerns, her case becomes far more intriguing. People are dead and Maise needs to know why and how. As any fan would agree, Winspear weaves her characters and history with true style and passion, and most importantly with a respect for all those who her pen touches.
Recommended by: Jennifer M. Want it? 




How Children Succeed
How Children Succeed is an open letter to educators, administrators, and parents condensing and connecting much of the science that has been uncovered over the last few decades on how to best apply society's energy and funding into today's youth. It explores methods that work, and some that don't, in order to give us a clearer road map to building a better future for each generation of children by maximizing their potential by looking at how social and physical factors influence brain development. Accessible and enlightening.
Recommended by: Taaren S. Want it? 




The Boston Girl (audiobook)
This entertaining novel is structured as an interview given by 85 year-old grandmother to her granddaughter. Addie Baum talks about her life as the daughter of Jewish immigrants in the beginning of the twentieth century, a life span that encompasses women’s suffrage, the Great Depression, two world wars, and so much more. While these historical events are mentioned in the context of this person’s life it is mainly a very personal story and Addie reminisces about her family’s heartaches and joys and reminds us how different life was for women one hundred years ago. She had to fight to get an education and her pluck enabled her to land some interesting jobs. After reading about Addie’s stint as a columnist for the ladies section of a Boston newspaper I read some historical articles from the Vallejo Chronicle on microfilm. While recognizing how restricted women’s lives were it was still fun to read about the luncheons, teas, parties, and occasional lectures that made up the society pages of that time. Listening to the narration by award-winning actress Linda Lavin was a great pleasure.
Recommended by: Sabine S. Want it? 




Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times
I start every weekday morning with the Today Show. So when Al shared his new book on television, I placed it on hold. I really enjoyed the book. All parents/couples, despite their social economic status, have similar relationship, parenting, and professional problems and that's what makes this book so relatable. It's just that many of us can't escape to our country home in upstate New York, but isn't it comforting to know that other people have the same problems you do and if they can overcome the problem so can you.
Recommended by: Juli W. Want it? 




I recently hosted a baby shower and turned to many books for game ideas and themes. What I really needed was inspiration. Lauren Conrad's book "Celebrate" was definitely inspirational, but in all honesty unattainable on my budget. But don't let that stop you from checking it out. I enjoyed the pictures and party themes. Conrad gives great suggestions for meals, games, party favors and even clothing for various party events. We may not live in the "O.C." but we can try to party like we do just with a "S.C." (Solano County) budget.
Recommended by: Juli W. Want it? 




Carnage (DVD)
If you like biting, dark humor this may be the film for you. It’s based on a play and is directed by the great Roman Polanski. It’s under an hour-and-a-half, and there are only four actors appearing in the movie—and what a collection of fine actors! Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz play a married couple who are guests at the apartment of another married couple, played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly. The former couple has a young son who has hit and injured the latter couple’s son with a stick at school. The two couples meet each other to discuss the problem. At first, everything is civil, if a bit strained. Each couple tries to be polite with the other, but there are some veiled criticisms. Soon the politeness gives way to overt and confrontational resentment. Each couple starts to go after the other. And then strains begin to appear between each married couple and the husbands and wives start to go after each other. The mental anguish the characters go through is excruciating—and funny. Delightfully so for the audience. Are you trying to imagine “delightfully excruciating”? Well, it’s a good trick on the part of the writers and deftly handled.
Recommended by: Jeff K. Want it? 




The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances is another hilarious and surprisingly informative book by Matthew Inman. He writes about the good, the bad, and the ugly truths of running. This collection of comics has something that every runner can relate to and laugh at.
Recommended by: Laura S. Want it? 




Finest Hours
I watched the movie and of course, the feeling of "there's something missing" hit me. I thought, I have to read the book. The coast guard assembled a rescue team who faced the most daring sea rescue. Their bravery was incomprehensible knowing the slim chance of surviving. The book was well written and it won't disappoint.
Recommended by: Loida M. Want it? 




Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
I'm not a gamer at all, but I did grow up at exactly the time this book covers (roughly 1989 to 1995), and I vividly recall the Sega v. Nintendo wars. Harris does a great job of capturing what was happening behind the scenes during those battles, as well as why it was of importance to the gamers themselves. If you absolutely hate videogames, there's no need to read this, but if you have even a passing interest in them, this is a great, entertaining read.
Recommended by: Mark F. Want it? 




The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England (audiobook)
I listened to the audio version of this, and it's a really compelling listen. I don't think Jones is breaking any particularly new scholarly ground, but this is an excellent way to get an overview of one of most interesting and crucial periods in English (and European) history.
Recommended by: Mark F. Want it? 




After seeing the film, I was inspired to read the book that prompted the making of the movie. If you're going to read the book, it is better to read the book prior to seeing the film. However, it is an intriguing read, and it is easy to see why they decided to put it out into the theaters. Getting used to the way Jack describes everything takes time, but once your brain wraps around it it becomes the most interesting part of the book.
Recommended by: Mychal T. Want it? 




Louise Erdrich writes a fictional account of Native American and American culture surrounding a family's tragedy and their community and how they heal. Erdrich is never cloying, her characters are rich, humorous at times, and complex. I enjoyed this read very much.
Recommended by: Emily R. Want it? 




Phenomenal : a hesitant adventurer's search for wonder in the natural world
"Phenomenal "reminds us what it is like to feel awe and a connection to our world and the people in it. Henion reconnects with nature and herself after the birth of her son by visiting a variety of phenomenal natural occurrences, such as the Northern lights, the Catumba lightning strikes of Venezuela, the Tanzanian herd migration, bio-luminescent waters, a Hawaiian volcano and it's mystic culture, and others. In doing so, Henion tapped into how her son and children look at the world in wonder and awe and curiosity. This book was spiritual and scientific. Refreshing and soulful to view the world and it's beauty with new eyes and appreciation. (sigh!)
Recommended by: Emily R. Want it? 




The productivity project : accomplishing more by managing your time, attention, and energy better
This is a book about helping to better manage your time, attention and energy. What I really liked was, that on top of giving advice on ways to tweak your workflow, there are also little challenges to help you think about what it is you need to work on and ways to better understand how to make his ideas a reality with your life. The author spent many years on this project trying various ways to manage his time and figured out the ways that he found worked best from reading other authors' books and articles to actually trying various techniques out in real life. He tells you what worked and what didn’t and why. Though everyone is different, he feels a lot of things he found worked for him will work for many other people, including you!
Recommended by: Sarah Lee GZ. Want it? 




13 hours : the secret soldiers of Benghazi (DVD)
If you like movies about war and things of that nature then this is a film for you. It is based on a remarkable true story, and is absolutely a picture of heroism. You will be on the edge of your seat the entire movie; this intense film will give you a new perspective on life.
Recommended by: Mychal T. Want it? 




I'll Be There (audiobook)
This story has made me more emotional than any of the many other books that I have read for awhile. Reading the blurbs I thought this was just going to be another teen love story, but it is really way more than that. It is about the love of two brothers who manage to overcome everything they have going against them and still come out okay at the end. It definitely was a twister and surprised me.
Recommended by: Sarah Lee GZ. Want it? 






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