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Staff Reviews by Kathleen Kosiec

Cover: 'My Organic Life'

"My Organic Life" by Nora Pouillon

★★★★ It's easy to find organic produce and hormone-free meat now, but 50 years ago, that was not the case. Nora Pouillon is a Vienna-born chef and founder of Restaurant Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in the United States. When Nora came to Washington D.C. in the 1960s, she was horrified at the lack of seasonal produce and meat filled with hormones...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, food

Cover: 'Life from Scratch'

"Life from Scratch" by Sasha Martin

★★★★★ Blogger Sasha Martin may be best known for Global Table Adventure, the blog where she chronicled her culinary journeys cooking recipes from every country. Her memoir does discuss the blog, as well as her picky husband's foray into exotic foods, but the majority of the memoir focuses on the tragedies Martin experienced as a child, and how it affected her...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, food

Cover: 'Beneath the Bonfire'

"Beneath the Bonfire" by Nickolas Butler

★★★★ Nickolas Butler, author of "Shotgun Lovesongs," returns with a beautiful and memorable collection of short stories. Like the characters in his debut novel, Butler introduces readers to realistic characters who could be a neighbor, friend, or family member. If you enjoyed his debut novel, make sure to add this book to your summer reading list.

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Rebel Queen'

"Rebel Queen" by Michelle Moran

★★★★ Set in India during British occupation, this historical novel follows Sita, a young woman chosen to serve the queen of Jhansi, known as Rani Lakshmi. Sita is an intelligent and strong female character, devoted to her younger sister and her position to guard the queen as a member of the Durga Dal. Rani Lakshmi is eventually called the Rebel Queen after a...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction, historical fiction

Cover: 'Red Queen'

"Red Queen" by Victoria Aveyard

★★★★ Looking for a new dystopian series? Give this excellent debut novel a try! Mare Barrow is a thief living in a village with the rest of her family, born into poverty because of the color of her blood. The Reds are a lower caste than the aristocratic Silvers, who have superhero-esque abilities in addition to silver blood. Mare is offered a chance to work...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, dystopian, ya fiction with adult appeal

Cover: 'Getting There: A Book of Mentors'

"Getting There: A Book of Mentors" by Gillian Zoe Segal

★★★★★ Curious about how Warren Buffett, Jillian Michaels, or Michael Bloomberg became so successful? Read about the road to success from these public figures and more who excel in a variety of careers. Each person also offers advice in addition to their candid recollections about success. An excellent book, especially for anyone looking for a mentor or just some...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Illusions of Fate'

"Illusions of Fate" by Kiersten White

★★★★★ This title was recommended to me as "Downton Abbey meets Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series" and it certainly lives up to the comparison. Jessamin travels to the aristocratic country of Albion in pursuit of an education. As an islander from the nearby country of Melei, she is considered a lower caste than the fair-skinned residents of Albion, and...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'Worn Stories'

"Worn Stories" by Emily Spivack

★★★★★ Everyone has a piece of clothing hanging in a closet or folded away in a drawer that has so much sentimental value, it is impossible to discard, despite the stains or holes. This clever idea of documenting the stories of such clothing began as a side project in 2010. For the book, the author pairs each short essay with a stark photograph of each item of...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'A Court of Thorns and Roses'

"A Court of Thorns and Roses" by Sarah J. Maas

★★★ A new fantasy series from Sarah J. Maas is sure to delight her fans, but this New Adult novel isn't perfect. If you are not familiar with the New Adult genre, expect the same emotional highs and lows from YA, but with more sex and violence, although not on the level with "A Game of Thrones." The protagonist Feyre is a young woman who is forced to leave her...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, ya fiction with adult appeal

Cover: 'In the Shadow of Blackbirds'

"In the Shadow of Blackbirds" by Cat Winters

★★★★★ This powerful debut from Cat Winters is unforgettable! Set in 1918 during the peak of the Spanish influenza pandemic, the story follows Mary Shelley Black, who moves to San Diego after her father's arrest. Mary Shelley moves in with her widowed aunt, who is fascinated by séances and a local spirit photographer. Mary Shelley struggles with the constant fear...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, award-winning, morris award winner, ya fiction with adult appeal

Cover: 'The Cure for Dreaming'

"The Cure for Dreaming" by Cat Winters

★★★★ Morris Award Finalist Cat Winters follows her debut novel with this unique and terrifying story about a teenage girl who discovers she can see frightening images after undergoing hypnosis. Set in 1900 in Portland, Oregon, “The Cure for Dreaming” is the story of Olivia Mead, an outspoken proponent of the right to vote for women. Her father decides to have a...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'H is for Hawk'

"H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald

★★★ Part memoir, part nature essay, and part biography of eccentric author T.H. White, this book is difficult to categorize. Helen Macdonald decides to train a goshawk after her father's unexpected death, and the experience allows her to deal with her loss. Macdonald also writes about the parallels between her goshawk training experience and the English author...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir

Cover: 'The Scavengers'

"The Scavengers" by Michael Perry

★★★★ Don't miss Wisconsin author Michael's Perry's foray into children's fiction, even if you are a grown up! This dystopian chapter book follows twelve-year-old Maggie, (who later renames herself Ford Falcon) her life living outside of the Bubble Cities, and her quest to find her parents after they mysteriously disappear. Despite the futuristic, sci-fi plot,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Stevie Nicks'

"Stevie Nicks" by Zoë Howe

★★★ As a Stevie Nicks fan, I enjoyed this new biography from British journalist Zoe Howe, but recommend it with some reservations. I was a bit disappointed that most of the material is sourced from published interviews and books, so I would not recommend this book for fans looking for "new" insights about Nicks, especially fans who have already read one of the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, celebrities, music

Cover: 'Pin Action'

"Pin Action" by Gianmarc Manzione

★★★★ Gianmarc Manzione recreates the world of 1960s and 1970s action bowling in this story of championship bowler Ernie Schlegel. Using interviews, archival materials, and his own love of bowling, the author makes the reader feel like he or she is at the bowling alley, watching Schlegel bowl in one of his flashy outfits or witnessing a gangster draw his knife...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship'

"Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship" by Ashley Rodriguez

★★★★ Full of beautiful photographs and tasty recipes, this cookbook is great for couples looking to add some romance to their relationship through food. The author and her husband have weekly date nights at home, cooking three or four course meals after they put their kids to bed. Some of the recipes might seem rather ambitious (making homemade buns for...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission'

"If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission" by Jo Piazza

★★★★★ The nuns profiled in this book are inspiring, even if you do not identify as Catholic. Piazza interviewed ten nuns who have devoted their lives to various causes, ranging from helping victims of human trafficking to challenging the use of nuclear weapons. Each nun also discusses why she decided to become a nun, and how she discovered her cause. The author,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, spirituality

Cover: 'Choose Your Own Autobiography'

"Choose Your Own Autobiography" by Neil Patrick Harris, David Javerbaum, Antony Hare

★★★★★ Whether your favorite Neil Patrick Harris character is Barney Stinson, Doogie Howser, or Hedwig, this book is highly recommended. NPH models his autobiography after the "Choose Your Own Adventure" children's series, where readers make a choice at the end of each chapter that will change the outcome of the story. This book is full of humor and quirky details...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, celebrities, humor

Cover: 'Rebel Belle'

"Rebel Belle" by Rachel Hawkins

★★★★ If you enjoy YA books with a strong female protagonist, give Rebel Belle a chance. Seventeen-year-old Harper is an overachieving, popular teenager at a private school in Alabama, until she witnesses a deadly fight at a school dance. Suddenly, Harper is given magical powers, including superhero strength from a dying Paladin, and a quest to protect an Oracle...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Strange Library'

"The Strange Library" by Haruki Murakami, Ted Goossen

★★★★ In this fantasy from Japanese author Haruki Murakami, several people are imprisoned in a terrifying library, and must work together to escape. The illustrations and unique design of the book add to the reader's enjoyment, and help readers visualize the library and the characters imprisoned within its walls. It's a quick read, but Murakami still manages to...

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography'

"Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography" by Meryle Secrest

★★★★ This well-written biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The fiery Italian was a rival of Coco Chanel, good friend of Salvador Dali, and a mentor to Hubert De Givenchy. Schiaparelli created the famous lobster print dress that Wallis Simpson wore after she married the Duke of Windsor, and...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Prune'

"Prune" by Gabrielle Hamilton

★★★★ Foodies, professional chefs, and serious home cooks will love this creative and unique cookbook from the chef and owner of the NYC restaurant Prune. It's presented like a how-to manual for new cooks at Prune, complete with Hamilton's hand-written (and occasionally snarky) notes and tips about preparing Prune's signature dishes. There is even a section about...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'White Space'

"White Space" by Ilsa J. Bick

★★★ Blurred realities, terrifying monsters, and a protagonist who "blinks" into the lives of others set the tone for the first installment of the YA "Dark Passages" trilogy. I've never read a YA book like this before, and I really wanted to like "White Space" more than I did. Bick's story is very creative, and she is a descriptive and engaging writer, but this...

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, horror

Cover: 'A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey'

"A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey" by Jessica Fellowes

★★★★★ Full of gorgeous photographs, behind-the-scenes information about the show, and fascinating historical details, this book is a must-read for any Downton Abbey fan! The author breaks the chapters into months of the year, describing events that occurred each month and interviewing cast members and crew. She also focuses on a unique aspect of production on the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, television, celebrities

Cover: 'There Was a Little Girl'

"There Was a Little Girl" by Brooke Shields

★★★ Brooke Shields opens up about her sometimes tumultuous relationship with her mother and manager, Teri Shields. She reveals heartbreaking details about her mother's life-long struggle with alcoholism, and how her relationship with her mother affected her life. A constant theme throughout the book is Brooke defending her mother to critics, despite the pain...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, celebrities