HPL Recommends

cover of eternal lifePicked by Michelle N.

Rachel Azaria can’t die. Two thousand years ago, she and Elazar sacrificed their own deaths so that their son might survive a terrible illness—and for two thousand years, Rachel has lived life after life and raised family after family, loving them all, changing very little.

She moves from place to place as her apparent immortality became a danger to her loved ones because of the beliefs of the society around them, or as she is killed in a fire and finds herself renewed, a physically young woman again, somewhere in the world far from where she has “died.” The first time this happened was when she was burned to death at the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, and it’s happened enough times since for her to have lost any fear of it.

What she does fear is that her life will never end. After this many centuries and this many lives, living has lost its meaning. It has also, in this age of social media and biometrics, become much harder to properly disappear and start a new life. And Elazar—who sacrificed his death alongside her, who has followed her and who has become a mysterious presence in the lives of her offspring—Elazar is stalking her, convinced that they are meant to be lovers throughout eternity.

Then her favorite granddaughter starts studying longevity, and Rachel begins to hope, for the first time in many, many lifetimes, that she can die after all. Maybe she can strike a bargain with this granddaughter.

This book is beautifully written—you really get the sense of what somebody born two millennia ago would feel and think if they were still alive today. You understand both the joy and the despair of unending life, the mystery of a terrible oath resulting in a miracle so huge that there’s no knowing whether it’s a blessing or a curse. Highly recommend.

Click here to have us hold a copy for you


Picked by Ari N.

Jolie is finally about to have the surgery that she’s been waiting for her whole life: the one that will fix her underbite, thus ridding her of chronic headaches, jaw pain, trouble eating and speaking (not to mention making her look normal). But after watching way too much worst-case scenario reality TV, Jolie becomes obsessed with the possibility that she could die on the operating table. With the help of her best-friends Derek and Evelyn, Jolie creates a bucket list and races to finish it before the big day.

Although jaw surgery may seem like a rather specific subject, the plot of this novel is certainly not one-note. Jolie is also grappling with her older sister’s unplanned pregnancy, and is struggling to be there for her while she pushes Jolie away. And Jolie’s friends are not without problems: Evelyn is struggling in school and dealing with the reality that she may not get into college to pursue her fashion design dream, while Derek is still reeling from his father’s death four years prior.

Meanwhile, Jolie finds herself caught up in a school musical while trying not to acknowledge the spark she feels between herself and Derek —a spark that could ruin their friendship. The best-friends-turned-crush isn’t the most original YA plotline, but the charm of the rest of the novel was enough to make me forgive this cliché. There is a lot going on in Things Jolie Needs to do Before She Bites It, but Winfrey seamlessly weaves these storylines together. Winfrey excels at balancing light-hearted humor with a serious subject. 

Kerry Winfrey presents a cast of fleshed-out characters that feel authentic. Jolie’s two best friends have quirks, passions, and flaws that bring nuances to the book without overpowering Jolie’s story. Winfrey presents characters of color, fat characters, and queer characters, for whom these identities are just parts of their lives and are not treated as problems they must overcome. Jolie herself is an incredibly relatable and believable character. She longs to be rid of the health problems caused by her underbite, but she’s also a teen who desperately wants to be pretty. Throughout the book, Jolie struggles with what it means for her that she wants to change her appearance: is she shallow? Self-absorbed? Is she conforming to society’s expectations? The novel addresses self-worth, confidence, body-image, feminism, and agency. Jolie questions whether she is making the right decision for the wrong reasons, and Winfrey answers with a thoughtful discussion on the ability to make choices for one’s own body and the empowerment that comes with those choices.

While underbites and jaw surgery are perhaps not common problems, readers of all backgrounds will relate to Jolie’s fears, doubts, and her quest to love herself on her own terms. Through the support of her friends and family, Jolie works to understand that getting surgery can improve her health and well-being, but that it won’t “fix” her, because she was never broken. Jolie’s story will strike a cord with anyone who has ever felt different, and she’ll resonate especially with teens who are still trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

Click here to have us hold a copy for you!

Tags: young adult, realistic fiction, ari n,

cover of becomingPicked by Emily O.

Listen to it as an audiobook, with Michelle as the perfect reader. She certainly nails the right tone for every chapter and every moment, from humorous to poignant to outraged. It's a personal memoir; it's also an urgent message to save this country from the divisiveness and shame of a president who now wants to undo all the progress of his predecessor.

She deals with the unfortunate attacks both she and Barack suffered when they were in the political fray. But mostly it's a fascinating look at the signal moments of her coming of age, how Obama came to his position, and how she grew into her position as the first African-American First Lady.

I enjoyed hearing about the issues and causes she took on in her role and that she continues to care about, women and girls' issues and opportunities for education, and lobbying for a healthier lifestyle and food choices for kids and the American population as a whole. I think it's an inspiring journey, from the Southside of Chicago to the White House, that I could only guess at before listening to this book. Life within the White House is certainly an odd thing for any of us to contemplate and I have never read anything so honest and revealing about the specific constraints and privileges of being a Presidential family. 

Click here to have us hold a copy for you


cover of goodnight gorillaPicked by Emily O.

Suggested age range: Toddler, Preschooler

Gorilla is a mischievous creature... he lets the animals out when the zookeeper's back is turned. Turns out they just want to go home with the kindly zookeeper.

Children reading along get to say 'good night' to all the zoo’s inhabitants, one by one. Children who don't like to sleep in their own beds will relate to this one!

Click here to have us hold a copy for you

Disponible en español tambien


The Women by T.C. BoylePicked by Emily O.

I am a fan of T.C. Boyle's writing. I am also fascinated by the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, and it is original and illuminating to view or structure the narration of his life through the lenses of the four main women and/or relationships in his life. A great flawed genius, unconventional relationships, and great triumphs and great tragedies—such is the stuff of this hugely entertaining and affecting novel. I listened to the audio version and greatly appreciated the incredibly beautiful imagery of the writing.

Click here to have us hold a copy for you. 


Picked by Michelle N.

This book sat on my to-read pile for a really long time—close to a year, I think—because while initially it appealed to me, I started to have reservations about it and it got lower and lower on my list. Finally, though, I was in the mood for something a little nostalgic, even if it was British working-class crumbling-industrial-town nostalgia; so I went for it.

And actually it was really great. I’d say that the protagonist, Dolly, totally reminded me of myself at that age, if it weren’t too embarrassing—oops, did I say that out loud? Of course, Dolly’s humiliations and triumphs are exaggerated in order to make them better reading. But it is, indeed, wonderfully amusing reading, especially her gleefully lusty enjoyment of life in general and of lust in particular. And her cultural touchstones—Blackadder, Blade Runner, and her blundering entry into the local Goth and indie music scenes—made my heart go pitter-pat.

The basic idea: a young working-class (and just barely that) girl manages to completely humiliate herself on television—and she wasn't exactly Miss Popularity to begin with. She has absolutely no desire to be herself anymore, but decides, very sensibly, that suicide isn't an option. That's the last sensible decision she makes for some time, though. What she decides to do instead is to completely reinvent herself, name and all, and become a music critic for a major rock magazine, in spite of having no experience and no knowledge of the current music scene. Oh, and a dad who is convinced he will be the next major working-class rock star, if only he can get someone in the industry to listen to his demo tape.

I am so glad I decided to read this book after all. I haven’t had so much fun cheering a character on in a long time; she just can't catch a break, and her humiliations pile up on each other, but she never quits. Oh, and the narrator for the audibook version was spot-on perfect. I can’t imagine this in anybody else’s voice.

Click here to have us hold a copy for you.