Staff Picks

Not sure what to read next, or just looking for something new? Our staff loves to read and put together a list of their favorites below. The list is regularly updated so check back often. Not interested in the options below? Check out our suggested adult reading list, or ask for a list of personalized recommendations from one of our librarians.
Staff Picks and Reviews at Arapahoe Libraries
Title Author Description Staff Review
Jacqueline Winspear It's early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square--a place of many memories--she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member.

"I love this series. It is such a fantastic combiation of a strong lead character, great historical background, satisfying puzzzles and excellent writing. This particular book " ~Cindy P.

Fredrik Backman Elsa is seven years old; her grandmother is seventy-seven years old. She is Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, the letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones... but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

"Is Granny just a crazy old woman or is there more to her numerous fairy tales that she shares with her beloved almost-eight-year-old granddaughter, Elsa? The reader enters Elsa's life at a particularly trying time....her mom is expecting another baby, her dad is not a very important presence in her life, Elsa is being picked on in school and Granny is dying of cancer. How all this gets put together into a story of putting-all-the-pieces together makes for a great story....with some great writing ("Death's greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.")" ~Cynthia K.

Jason Boog A program for parents and professionals on how to raise kids who love to read, featuring interviews with childhood development experts, advice from librarians, tips from authors and children's book publishers, and reading recommendations for kids from birth up to age five.

"This is a great book to recommend to all new parents.....instilling the love of reading! Jason cites picture books for different age ranges and how to enliven and engage with your child during the different developmental stages. He does delve into apps and warmed my heart by suggesting libraries and libraries as great resources." ~Cynthia K.

John Elder Robison An extraordinary memoir about the cutting-edge brain therapy that dramatically changed the life and mind of John Elder Robison, the New York Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye.

"Listening to Mr. Robison talk about his participation in the brain stimulation research and his exploration of the science behind it is fascinating.  I think that he is especially strong in talking about how his own Asperger's syndrome gave him both gifts and challenges.  He also ponders the ethical questions that arise with treatments like this and there are some very real concerns about how to approach 'fixing' this syndrom." ~Cindy P.

Kate Morton It started with a letter. A letter that had been lost for a long time, waiting out half a century, stifling summer after cooling winter, in a forgotten postal bag in the dim attic of a nondescript house in Bermondsey. Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Millderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother's emotional distance masks an old secret.

"What a lovely story! The last few discs I wanted to just stay in the car and drive and drive just to finish this tale of 3 spinster sisters living in Milderhurst Castle in Kent, England. The burden of the legacy caused by their bestselling author father's book and personal life intertwines with WWII and the Castle becoming a temporary home to a London child. Love and loss and relationships are ingredients in the plot that skillfully pulls you into the Castle and its many secrets. The audio is highly recommended." ~Cynthia K.

Margarita Engle; illustrations by Rafael López Follows a girl in the 1920s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums, and that there has never been a female drummer in Cuba. Includes note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who inspired the story, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters.

"Gorgeously illustrated, this tells the true story of how one girl followed her passion to play drums and broke the stereotype that it was a boy only activity. On the School Library Journal Best Picture Books 2015 list." ~Cynthia K.

Laurie R. King Mary Russell is used to dark secrets--her own, and those of her famous partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes. Trust is a thing slowly given, but over the course of a decade together, the two have forged an indissoluble bond.

"Making Mrs. Hudson the focus of this book rather than Mary Russell or Sherlock Holmes really brings new perspectives to all the characters. The way that Mrs. Hudson's story is weaved into the present day mystery kept me hooked. Few authors would put their main characters in a supporting position, but it works and makes for a great read." ~Cindy P.

Tina Connolly Jane Eliot wears an iron mask. It's the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain--the ironskin. When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"--a child born during the Great War--Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

"A fun fantasy book with elements of steampunk, Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre.  This Jane is strong, yet damaged from the war with the fae and I found her to be really interesting.  The author uses some different imagry for the fae and dwarfs and other beings that I have read before." ~Cindy P.

Yeonmi Park ; with Maryanne Vollers Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape.

"This is at turns a heartbreaking and hopeful book.  I had not known about the terrible poverty and hunger and trafficing in North Korea that the author lived through.  It is one of those books that leaves me very grateful to live in the US with all of our freedom and advantages." ~Cindy P.

Ernest Cline It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS--a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be. Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world.

"Great title and I am not even a fan of playing video games. The plot intrigued me from the start as it is set into the future where reality is obscured by living and playing in the video word. Kids are even educated via virtual reality. The plot thickens with the treasure hunt of a famous gamer and game coder who provides clues based on 1980's games (video, of course!), music and movies. Intriguing ideas of what Planet Earth has become (depleted of fossil fuels) and how machines can be used to control us and/or make us better. How the battle plays out and its ultimate conclusion (in 13 audio discs) is ultimately satisfying" ~Cynthia K.

Kevin Powel This powerful memoir by writer and activist Kevin Powell vividly recounts the horrific poverty of his youth, his struggles to overcome a legacy of anger, violence, and self-hatred, and his journey to be a man and a voice for others. Driven by his single mother's dreams for his survival and success, Kevin Powell became the first in his family to attend a university, where he became a student leader keenly aware of widespread social injustice. But the struggle to define himself and break out of poverty continued into adulthood, with traumatic periods of homelessness and despair.

"Powell's early life was centered in poverty, abuse, and experiences of racism.  He had a great deal of anger towards society as a whole and it such an interesting story of how he became a writer to overcome his anger and become an advocate for all groups of people that struggle with oppression." ~Cindy P.

Linda Francis Lee Sandy Portman and Emily Barlow seem to lead a perfect life. Sandy is a successful businessman from an old-money family, and Emily, beautiful and smart, is quickly gaining respect in her career as a book editor. But Sandy is keeping a few secrets from Emily, and is hit by a car and killed before he has a chance to reveal the truth. In a Dickensian turn of events, he's given an otherworldly chance to make amends as a dog named Einstein.

"This story is told alternately from the (alive) wife's point of view and the (dead) husband's point of view. He has been placed inside a dog's body so part of the story is him in a dog's body and part of it is him as he was alive......... when an author can write so well that you hate a major character it speaks to great writing. i found i could stop whenever i got to an "einstein" chapter..... that being said, the plot of second chances, self-discovery and learning a bit about the publishing industry made this book "tops" in my list" ~Cynthia K.

Drew Barrymore Award-winning actress Drew Barrymore shares funny, insightful, and profound stories from her past and present told from the place of happiness she's achieved today. Wildflower is a portrait of Drew's life in stories as she looks back on the adventures, challenges, and incredible experiences of her earlier years. It includes tales of living on her own at 14 (and how laundry may have saved her life), getting stuck in a gas station overhang on a cross country road trip, saying goodbye to her father in a way only he could have understood, and many more adventures and lessons that have led her to the successful, happy, and healthy place she is today. It is the first book Drew has written about her life since the age of 14.

"I listened to the audiobook and Drew Barrymore does a wonderful job of reading her book.   She is very expressive and emotional.  She had such an unconvential upbringing and she is a great storyteller; not only about particular events in her life, but also how it made her feel and what she learned from the experience." ~Cindy P.

J.C. Nelson When it comes to crafting happily-ever-afters, the Agency is the best in the land of Kingdom. The Fairy Godfather Grimm can solve any problem--from eliminating imps to finding prince charming--as long as you can pay the price ... Working for Grimm isn't Marissa Locks's dream job. But when your parents trade you to a Fairy Godfather for a miracle, you don't have many career options.

"I really enjoyed this reimaging of what a fairy godmother (or father) does.  Granting wishes is a much darker profession in this world.  Marissa is constantly getting injured, cursed and other unpleasent things while handling a complicated job of matching a princess to her prince." ~Cindy P.

Elizabeth Wein In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must to survive while keeping secret all that she can.

"Thoroughly enjoyed the audio story of two young, spunky women who are caught up in the fabric of World War II. One becomes a pilot and the other a spy. I was so engaged with the plot as well as the historical references (e.g. the beginnings of the ballpoint pen - who would have thought what a marvel this was?)." ~Cynthia K

Tawni O'Dell Presents the story of brothers Kyle and Klint, whose precarious lives in Pennsylvania coal country are further challenged by their alcoholic father's death, until they are taken in by a septuagenarian curmudgeon with a tragic past.

"I became so very engrossed in the lives of Candice, an elderly spinster, and brothers Kyle and Clint who somehow end up living with Candice. They learn of Candice's back story - her love of Spain and of a bullfighter - as Candice learns to love again." ~Cynthia K.

Gigi Pandian Deciphering an ancient alchemy book is more difficult than Zoe Faust bargained for. She’d much rather be gardening and exploring her new hometown of Portland, Oregon—but time is running out for living gargoyle Dorian Robert-Houdin. If Zoe isn’t able to unlock an unusual alchemy book’s secrets soon, the French gargoyle will remain awake but trapped in stone forever.

"This is the followup book to The Accidental Alchemist which I would also recommend.  While this book is a little darker, it still has great characters and a great blend of fantasy and mystery.  Can't wait to see what happens in the next book!" ~Cindy P.

Susan Cox When former party girl and society photographer Theophania Bogart flees to San Francisco to escape a high-profile family tragedy, a series of murders drags her unwillingly out of hiding. In no time at all she discovers she's been providing cover for a sophisticated smuggling operation, she starts to fall for an untrustworthy stranger, and she's knocked out, tied up and imprisoned. The police are sure she's lying. The smugglers are sure she knows too much. Her friends? They aren't sure what to believe.

"This book won an award from the Mystery Writers of America for a Frist Crime Novel and it is easy to see why. The setting and characters are a bit quirky and interesting and the mystery very intriguing. I hope that this will be a continuing series." ~Cindy P.

Kate Morton A suspenseful new novel from beloved and internationally bestselling author Kate Morton, author of The Secret Keeper, The Distant Hours, The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton.

"The magnificent plotting in this novel keeps you guessing from the first page to the last. Add to that a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, a bit of history, strong character development and a deep sense of place and time and it is impossible to put down." ~Wendy T.

Mitch Albom This is the epic story of Frankie Presto - the greatest guitar player who ever lived - and the six lives he changed with his six magical blue strings. He makes records. He is adored. But Frankie Presto's gift is also his burden, as he realizes the power of the strings his teacher gave him, and how, through his music, he can actually affect people's lives. At the height of his popularity, tortured by his biggest mistake, he vanishes. His legend grows. Only decades later, having finally healed his heart, does Frankie reappear just before his spectacular death - to change one last life.

"Narrated by Music, this story mixes the supernatural with the fictionalized voices of famous real-life musicians. Though his circumstances are often tragic, Frankie's life is one of beauty and meaning.  Vivid imagery and unexpected and intertwined plot lines add to the magic." ~Wendy T.

Jenn McKinlay Delivering books to the housebound residents of the Thumb Islands, just a short boat ride from the town of Briar Creek, library director Lindsey Norris has befriended two elderly brothers, Stewart and Peter Rosen. She enjoys visiting them in their treasure-filled, ramshackle Victorian on Star Island until she discovers that Peter has been killed and Stewart is missing. Now she's determined to solve a murder and find Stewart before he suffers his brother's fate.

"This is the fifth entry into the series and the first to be published in hardback so I am not the only fan.  Of course I love the library setting, but the characters are warm and smart and I like the way McKinlay creates her character’s relationships and develops the plot." ~Cindy P.

Ellery Adams While attending the Coastal Carolina Crime Festival where Silas Black, a celebrity screenwriter and television producer is speaking, newlyweds Olivia and Chief Rawlings, along with the rest of the Bayside Book Writers, are faced with strange occurrences and a real-life murder.

"The mystery is enhanced by the coastal setting in a fictional area of North Carolina.  The weaving of coastal history with the modern mystery is interesting and Adams continues developing his characters and their relationships.  A consistently good series." ~Cindy P.

Jane K. Cleland Christmas lights twinkle throughout the cozy coastal town of Rocky Point, New Hampshire, and Prescott's Antiques auction venue has been transformed into a winter wonderland for Josie Prescott's annual holiday party. Josie is especially excited this year: Ian Bennington, a recently discovered distant relative, will be joining the fun ... It gives Josie an unexpected thrill to have family--and unexpected dread when he vanishes ... Ian has given his daughter two priceless 17th century watercolor miniature portraits, one of Arabella and one of her lover, King James II, and they've gone missing, too.

"I always learn something in this antique mystery series.  Cleland has a deft hand at mixing information about the antique business and the history of some of the antiques without taking away from the pace of the plot or the mystery itself." ~Cindy P.

Daniel de Visé A lively and revealing biography of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, celebrating the powerful real-life friendship behind The Andy Griffith Show--one of America's most iconic television programs

"A fascinating look at the lives of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.  I knew very little of either man besides their Mayberry days.  Both came from poverty and it drove both of them to succeed as well as giving them some lasting issues to overcome.  The audiobook is very well narrated." ~Cindy P.

Christine Husom Ever since she was a child, Cami has loved the sparkling beauty of snow globes, and now, she sells them. In fact, they're so popular, Cami and her friend--coffee shop owner Alice "Pinky" Nelson--are hosting a snow globe making class. After the flurry of activity has ended and everyone has gone off with their own handmade snow globes, Cami spots a new globe left behind on a shelf, featuring an odd tableau--a man sleeping on a park bench.

"This is the first of a new cozy mystery series.  The main character is someone you would want to hang out with and the rest of the cast are that nice blend of personality but not too wacky.  There are some nice twists in the plot as well.  After reading it I considered making the snow globe from the instructions.  But sanity returned and I just returned the book!" ~Cindy P.

B. A. Shapiro Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting, a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum, in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire's studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

"Claire Roth is a yet-to-be-discovered artist when her affair with her professor, an established artist, sends career on a downward spiral.  She ends up painting reproductions and becomes involved with an Edward Degas mystery.  I loved hearing about painting technique and style, too!" ~Cynthia K.

Kirsten Miller A teenaged pickpocket, haunted by the ghost of his brother killed by his father, is recruited for Mandel Academy, a school for criminals where only one student survives each semester.

"A teen title that is entertaining for adults, too.  Seems like The Hunger Games but then it takes a twist." ~Cynthia K.

Nancy Herriman After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, British-born Celia Davies left her privileged family for an impulsive marriage to a handsome Irishman. Patrick brought her to San Francisco's bustling shores but then disappeared and is now presumed dead.

"A great start to a new mystery series.  Herriman makes 1860’s San Francisco come alive.  Her two main characters are both interesting and appealing.  I liked how she shows parts of both characters pasts and current lives and weaves so much into the plot.  It will be fun to see how she develops the series. " ~Cindy P.

Jonathan Franzen A magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom Young Pip Tyler doesn't know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she's saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she's squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother--her only family--is hazardous.

"This dense and weighty book is not for the faint of heart, but the tightly-written prose contains absolutely no extraneous information. The intricate plot weaves in and out and back on itself creating a riveting story. The characters are genuine and well-developed and the description transports the reader." ~Wendy T.

Robert Kurson Into thin air and Sebastian Junger's The perfect storm comes a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery and make history themselves. For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport. Testing themselves against treacherous currents, braving depths that induced hallucinatory effects, navigating through wreckage as perilous as a minefield, they pushed themselves to their limits and beyond, brushing against death more than once in the rusting hulks of sunken ships.

"A great read that hardly feels like nonfiction.  I needed to remember to stop holding my breath with all of the underwater narrative!" ~Cynthia K.

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