HPL Recommends

Book Cover of "Meet Cute"If you're a fan of rom-coms or romance novels, you may have heard the phrase "meet cute"—a scene in which two characters meet, usually in a silly, embarrassing, or memorable way.

This anthology is a collection of "meet cute" stories of all sorts from some of the greatest YA authors. The collection boasts works from several popular authors that many readers will recognize as well as works from authors newer to the YA scene. It's a diverse sampler that includes different genres and perspectives.

As with any anthology, there are some selections that stand out more than others. Nina LaCour's story of a teen intern at a print shop finding a connection with another girl through an angry customer-service tweet is particularly charming. Another memorable piece is Meredith Russo's contribution: a story of a transgender teen girl, caught in a media frenzy over wich school bathroom she can use, finds a romantic spark in an unlikely classmate. Nicola Yoon's "The Department of Dead Love" is beautifully reminiscent of the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but in Yoon's distinct style. Julie Murphy, a beloved YA contemporary author, has a hilarious story included in this anthology about a dating game show gone wrong. Many other incredible authors are represented: Dhonielle Clayton, Ibi Zoboi, Sara Shepard (author of the best-selling "Pretty Little Liars" series), and more.

Meet Cute offers something for readers of all genres and interests. It includes a number of LGBTQIA+ love stories, and ones featuring characters of color. There is always room for more diversity, of course—I would have loved to have seen more stories featuring characters with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, and other topics not normally represented in the romance genre. There are also tales of chance encounters, space travel, mystical islands, and libraries. Meet Cute is perfect for when you're in the mood for a lighthearted tale but perhaps not committed to an entire romance novel. Readers can easily skip arond and read the selections from their favorite authors, or let themselves be introduced to new ones.

Reviewed by Ari N.
Cover of Just Kids Audiobook
I’d been meaning to read this memoir since it was first published and I heard her being interviewed about it on NPR. I finally got around to it this year, but then I had another decision to make—the book, or the audiobook? The book has photos of Ms. Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe and their artwork. But the audiobook—she reads it herself, and there are few things in the world so wonderful as an audibook that's read by the author. In the end I did go for the audiobook, but I supplemented it by referring occasionally to images online and in my partner's copy of the book.
I really made the right decision, in my opinion. I so loved hearing this in Ms. Smith’s own voice. In particular, hearing her echoing the loving tone in Robert Mapplethorpe’s voice when he teased her made my heart go pitter-pat for them both. And I loved hearing the emotion in her voice as she recounted how the two of them took care of each other and what their art meant to each of them and to each other.
And audiobook or not, it was fascinating to learn about her world, the New York of the 1970s—the Chelsea Hotel, Andy Warhol's circle, and all the artists and musicians, famous and not, who helped, hindered, influenced, or just were part of the fabric of their life together. It was fascinating to hear about Ms. Smith's very working-class background, how she navigated poverty and illness and her own ignorance about her partner's sexuality, and how deeply his art mattered to her, from her own point of view. (Her own art mattered to her tremendously as well—in fact that's an understatement, like saying that breathing mattered tremendously to her—it was that intrinsic to her way of looking at herself. But she recognized her partner's genius and did absolutely everything she could to nurture it, without ever counting the cost.) It was horrible to bear witness to Robert's illness and death with her—but it also felt important that I understand how that was for her, and as far as she was able to relate it, for him.    
If I’d known about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe when I was a teenager I would have idolized them. As it is, I’ve developed a tremendous affection and respect for them both. I’m so glad I finally read this.
Picked by Michelle N.
Book Cover of Buried GiantPicked by Michelle N
Oh my goodness. I am in complete awe of this novel. 
It's an adventure that takes place right after the death of King Arthur. A fog of forgetfulness covers the land, so that people can barely remember what happened a few minutes ago, much less what occurred during the war so recently ended. Our protagonists—an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice—dimly remember, somehow, that they have (once had?) a son and that he lives (lived?) in a town nearby. Mistreated by other inhabitants of their own town, they make the huge decision to go visit him, trusting that they will be able to get there, and that once they arrive, he will welcome them with open arms.
The way is impossibly hard. In addition to nobody being able to remember anything except in fits and starts, they must travel on foot, and Beatrice is ailing. Britons and Saxons mistrust one another, the terrain is deadly uncertain even at the best of times, monks have become untrustworthy, and former knights of King Arthur roam the land with new agendas and alliances which they aren't necessarily forthcoming about. On top of all that, there are rumors of a dragon in the land.
This book reads, in many ways, more like a stage play than a novel. There are numerous Waiting for Godot moments. (Also numerous Monty Python and the Holy Grail moments, but in a very solemn-Terry-Gilliam-animation sort of way.) In a couple of places I began to lose patience with the odd Punch-and-Judy-like mannerisms of the characters—especially when monsters were present and/or violence and death were clearly imminent, and the characters just kept maundering on about whatever it was that Mr. Ishiguro felt the scene was really about. But I was always irresistibly drawn along anyhow.
A good thing, too. This is wonderful, eerily beautiful, and deeply moving piece of myth-making. Axl and Beatrice's deep, abiding, and generous love for each other inspired in me a great affection for them both, and then awe. Beatrice's faith in Axl sustains him, even as his enormous, self-sacrificing heart sustains her. None of this is remotely sappy: the reader becomes aware, gradually, of the weight of years and events between them that has caused this love to grow, and of the fact that, like any life-long love, it's not without its flaws and fault-lines. And we never quite know, as we read, what this world will bring them to in the end.
There's a reason why Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Read this book.

Book Cover: Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi TaylorOne of my favorite reads lately is a madcap British time-traveling series called The Chronicles of St. Mary's by Jodi Taylor. Think Monty Python crossed with 007 spy capers and action thrillers with a hefty dose of actual history lessons!

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary's Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don't call it "time travel"—these historians "investigate major historical events in contemporary time." And they aren't your harmless eccentrics, either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be "unintentional disaster magnets." They really like to blow stuff up, or burn it or melt it, all in the name of research, of course!

The series tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon "Chief" Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary's Institute (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-traveling terrorists. all the while leaving plenty of time for tea. 

There are nine books in this series so far, they are all fast reads and, while funny, they do pack quite an emotional punch. Be warned, main characters do die and some of the historical events they observe are quite harrowing.

Book 1 in this series is Just One Damned Thing After Another; click here to have us hold a copy for you.

Read by Heidi O.

Book Cover The Power - Naomi AldermanYou've almost certainly heard one version or another of the famous Margaret Atwood quote: "At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them." What if women weren't afraid of men's violence anymore? How would that change things? Naomi Alderman, who became Margaret Atwood's protege in 2012, set out to answer that exact question in The Power.

I started reading The Power last December--but I deliberately stretched out reading it, and ended up not finishing it until several days into the new year, so I’m counting it as my first book of 2018. I was enthralled with it and kept wishing I was reading it with someone so I’d have someone to talk about it with. The whole idea of how the world would change if women were more physically powerful than men--if they didn’t fear men--how women’s attitudes would change, how they would speak differently, act differently--what that would mean on an individual level, to them, to families and religions and countries and regions and cultures and the whole future--I couldn't stop thinking about it.

One may wonder, sometimes, what it would be like to be another gender. But *this* is about how it might be if people remained whatever gender they were, but the whole power structure got changed--and that change started within each individual woman, one woman at a time, until it became a tsunami.

I can't say much more than that without spoiling the plot of this very plot-driven book for you. It's not just plot-driven; the characters, unreliable narrators all, were real and vivid and I couldn't stop worrying about what was going to happen to each of them next (and what was going to happen to the world when it did). But the plot, with all of its twists and turns and peaks and troughs and frustrations and epiphanies, is definitely the focus.

In short: everybody needs to read this book. Five stars.

Click here to have us hold a copy for you.

Picked by Michelle N.

Book Cover - Calypso By David SedarisDavid Sedaris is a genre of his own. I enjoyed the audiobook as it is narrated by the author; the recorded book includes surprise (sorry!) live recorded readings as well. I understand that he pens many drafts, based on the audience laugh meter when he reads his new stories out loud.

I love how the stories interrelate in this collection, giving a great deal more resonance to certain themes. Middle age, old age, loss of a sibling, and a parent, and other sobering themes are treated humorously but lovingly. Life is so ridiculous sometimes. Like the moment that someone chooses to tell you exactly how your sister died. The quirks of people he knows and loves are made endearing and enduring... These family members and others whose portraits he draws live on in our hearts and minds forever... I want to do this for my parents (long gone)... which just goes to show you that many of us have incredible love for our parents despite the fact they are also the people who infuriated us the most.

His stories are revealing and yet he has somehow preserved family members' privacy at the same time. It works because he extracts traits and quirks from them and somehow weaves those quirks into observations of the world as he knows it. Finally, you get a sense of what Sedaris' life is like, at home and abroad. He loves his audiences and they love him and he spends a lot of time travelling to them!

Click here to have us hold a copy for you.

Read by Emily O.