Books (and More) We Loved in 2022 Part 5!

From Susan!

My top picks usually run to fantasy, as usual. I particularly enjoyed two series this year. Rebecca Ross’s A River Enchanted combined all the great fantasy elements for me-an island, childhood enemies who are attracted to one another after a long separation, magic, music and strange disappearances AND… an unfinished plot line which promised a sequel!  

Another series I was intrigued with was AJ Hackwith’s  Hell’s Library Novels beginning with the Library of the Unwritten. Something about the librarian of the Unwritten Wing of a library in hell just captured my imagination. Claire, the aforementioned librarian, must pursue runaway characters who escape from the pages of their book and return them before catastrophe occurs. Sardonic humor, snarky angels, cranky librarians and unpredictable heroes create a fun getaway read for this library Director.

I also loved a historical fiction series (did you notice I like series?) I found through my Kindle app, Octavia Randolph’s Ceridwen Saga. The ten books that comprise this tale begin with The Circle of Ceridwen. Set in 871 Ceridwen, orphaned as a child,  has struck out on her own at 15. She becomes entangled in the life of a young Saxon girl who has been “given” in marriage to Viking war chief as a part of peace treaty.  It is a tale of two strong women who manage to make their own way in a difficult time in history.  The series follows the ins and outs of their lives, their children and those they love and hate.

Finally, a standalone novel called The Maid by Nita Prose was a surprise for me. I don’t usually enjoy mysteries but 25 year old Molly Gray, a maid at the Regency Grand hotel really pulled me in. If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, you will love The Maid. Molly is a very sincere, black and white thinker who finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation which she finds extremely confusing. A great story about the power of love, friends and quirkiness.

And finally, here’s Emma’s favorites from 2022:

Published in 2021, My Heart is a Chainsaw was my favorite read of 2022. Not only is Stephen Graham Jones one of the best authors writing in horror today, he’s one of the best authors writing in any genre. At once a love letter to the slasher genre, while simultaneously subverting its tropes, My Heart is a Chainsaw mediates on gentrification, class and race, familial trauma, and what it means to be an outcast, while still providing the tension and gore of the very best of slashers. The end is so heartwrenching, and yet so triumphant, you’ll find yourself punching the air for Jade, the main character, while crying your eyes out. I’m very excited about the just released sequel, Don’t Fear the Reaper.

Added bonus: A book has to be one of my favorites if you see me wearing a t-shirt referencing it (see below).

As a huge fan of A Visit From the Goon Squad, I was excited for this sequel, The Candy House. Jennifer Egan, as ever, does not disappoint. Not only do we see what happens to the characters from Goon Squad, but we see Egan consider the ramifications of social media and our lives being online, and where that might take us in the future.

It’s almost impossible to describe how immersive this phantasmagorical, elegant, and utterly unique novel is, a reading experience that mirrors the labyrinth at the heart of the story. Piranesi is like no other book I have ever read. It’s not even like Susanna’s Clarke‘s previous novel, one of my favorites, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. What made it even more strange for me is that I lived near the “real life” place in the book at the same time it is set, so it was easy to believe that the labyrinth was there all along, just around the corner, and I just didn’t know about it.

Other books I read and enjoyed in 2022:

Books (and More) We Loved in 2022 Part 4!

Mariah’s turn!

BRELAND Cross Country

SUCH a good album! Track 8 made me cry, track 3 made me dance in my car 🙂

Michael Franti Follow Your Heart and Work Hard & Be Nice

This is my go-to happy music! Having a great day? Put these albums on to celebrate! Having a terrible day? Put these albums on to get a pick-me-up! Also recommended is going to see Michael Franti in concert – it is a nonstop dance party, and when it’s over everyone is full of peace and love – he is so inspiring as a human trying to make the world a kinder place!

Follow Your Heart

Work Hard & Be Nice

Leonard (My Life as a Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak

On their 300th birthday an alien species (a collective made of pure energy) is permitted to travel to earth and assume an earthly form to learn the ways of the planet and gather information so as to better understand their neighbors. This particular alien had been looking forward to being a human for years, but while practicing jokes on their interstellar journey the alien veers off course and into the body of a house cat. Adventures ensue, lessons are learned, lives are changed. I LOVED this book – I laughed through most of it, except when I was crying. This book has been out since the moment it landed on our shelves, and is adored by every kid I have talked to. Do you want a book that is fun and makes you laugh but also gives you all the feelings about the preciousness of life? This is the book!

Alone by Megan Freeman

Maddie had only meant to have a secret sleepover with her besties, but when her plan backfires she finds herself left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated overnight. There’s no people, no cell service and soon the power goes out – will Maddie be able to survive on her own? I literally couldn’t read this book fast enough – I ended up skim reading just because I couldn’t stand the suspense!

Station 11

What is the value of art, and is it only valuable if you share it with others? Why do we do what we do? If your world was about to end, what would you regret? This show blew my mind. I wasn’t really in the mood for a dark, pandemic-themed show, but I’m so glad I gave this a chance! Ultimately hopeful and uplifting, Station 11 puts a lens on our humanity, and on our courage and fear, and how we navigate both.

Awake and Aligned: How to Navigate the Human Experience as a Spiritual Being by Nova Wightman

I finished this book, then read it again, then recommended it to all my new-agey friends! Now, instead of waking up and going “uuuuughghhhghhghghhghghg” I (attempt) to wake up grateful! (or at least, I go “uuughghghhg….oh wait! Yay, I’m awake!”)

Dale’s Picks!

Mazebook by Jeff Lemire
Undertow: Blood Forest (Fun fact: Adult Services Librarian, Emma J. Gibbon, was on the writing team behind this podcast!)
The Head Season 1

Books (and More) We Loved in 2022 Part 2!

Here are Tami’s top reading for 2022!

The Rockton Series by Kelley Armstrong

City of the Lost

A Darkness Absolute

This Fallen Prey

Watcher in the Woods

Alone in the Wild

A Stranger in Town

The Deepest of Secrets

And by Anne LaBastille


Beyond Black Bear Lake

Here are Cyndi’s picks:


Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds/illustrated by Jason Griffin
Family of Liars by E. Lockhart
M is for Monster by Talia Dutton


The Nice House on the Lake Volume 1 by James Tynion IV and lvaro Martz Bueno
A Killer by Design: Murderers, Mindhunters, and My Quest to Decipher the Criminal Mind by Ann Wolbert Burgess and Steven Matthew Constantine
All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work by Hayley Campbell

Books (and More) We Loved in 2022 Part 1!

We’re a little late with our top picks this year, so as it is February, we thought we’d keep with the theme and tell you the books (and media), the Topsham Public Library staff loved last year!

From Jennifer:
In no particular order here are my top picks of 2022:

Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice

The story of growing up Black and female in the United States in her own words.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin

Reynold’s poetry is succinct and all the more striking for it. He hits you right in the heart.

The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell

A beautifully written story about the father/daughter relationship.

The Road Dance by John MacKay

Set in Scotland as the Great War begins, a young woman’s future is upended by acts of violence near and far, and the fallout from those actions takes a toll on all.

All the Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell

An interesting, gruesome, and yes, comforting, look at those who handle the body after death.

From Linda:

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

This was a delightful read. The setting is a house party at a country estate in England in 1820. A number of the guests are characters drawn from the novels of Jane Austen, including Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, and Colonel Brandon and his wife Marianne. The house party had just gotten underway when Mr. Wickham, (from Pride and Prejudice) walks in uninvited. It seems everyone there has reason to hate him. When he turns up dead, there is no lack of suspects. Ms. Gray captured the mood and manners of the Regency Era very authentically, from my meagre knowledge, and I was happily immersed in the lives of the inhabitants of the house. With so many suspects, it was a challenge to discover the murderer, and it was near the end that I finally figured it out. Reading this book was a wonderful escape from the 21st century. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman

The third book in the Thursday Murder Club reunites us with the lovely characters at the Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village. These characters sneak right into your heart and take hold there. There are plenty of laughs and many poignant moments too. I laughed out loud and cried a little too. If you’re of a certain age, you will recognize yourself here, and if you’re young and want to understand your parents or grandparents, this is the book to read. To top it all off there is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery, as well. Prepare to be entertained.

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Frankie Elkins is an alcoholic. She’s in recovery, but every day brings a new challenge to decide to stay sober, and her past is dragging her down. To keep her own demons at bay, Frankie chases other demons. She finds missing people., 14 so far, but none of them alive. She’s getting desperate. She needs a win, even more than she needs a drink. There is a teenage Haitian girl in Boston, who has been missing for months. The police have gotten nowhere. But there is something about Frankie. She somehow knows the right questions, and begins to get answers. There is way more to this story than originally thought, and Angelique isn’t the only girl missing. The police think Frankie is in way over her head, and perhaps she is. The danger gets closer and closer. Will Frankie get the girls back alive, or will she join the missing?

CC, SDH, and Other DVD Accessibility Features

We regularly have patrons looking for DVDs and Blu-rays with closed captioning or subtitles, and while it should be clearly indicated on the case, it isn’t always so easy to tell exactly which service is available. Looking them up in our library catalogue is another way to tell. It should list the features in the note and subject sections. See the screenshot below as an example:

While closed captioning and subtitles are similar, there are differences in intended purpose as well as features. In looking further into it, we have learned a few things that we’d like to share.

Closed Captioning versus Subtitles

Closed Captioning (CC)

Closed captioning (CC) was developed to help ensure accessibility for individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing. Closed captions involve transcriptions of dialog – the conversion of audio into text form in the exact wording that the original speaker used. They also communicate other audio such as sound effects, speaker IDs, and non-speech elements. “Closed captions should account for any sound that is not visually apparent but is integral to the plot. For example, the sound of keys jangling should be included in closed captions if it is important to the plot development – like in the case where a person is standing behind a locked door.” source



Intended for viewers who can hear but do not speak/understand the language used in a video, subtitles are translations – an interpretation to convey meaning, not exact wording – of video dialogue into other languages so that audiences all over the world can watch videos, movies, and more in their native language (or language of choice). They communicate spoken content only, not non-speech elements such as sound effects, and are synchronized to media files so that they play at the same time as the spoken word.


Now that we have touched on the differences between CC and subtitles, let’s look at a couple of other accessibility options…

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH, SDHH) are written for viewers who may not be able to hear the audio and combine the information of both captions and subtitles. SDH contains information about background sounds and speaker changes, along with a translation of the script.

How is it different from closed captioning?
– The biggest difference is that the two are encoded differently and closed captioning is not supported by High Definition Media Interface (HDMI), while regular subtitles and SDH are. Therefore, SDH can be found on many more types of media such as streaming internet videos and Blu-ray DVDs.
– There is also a difference in appearance. Traditionally, closed captions have been formatted as white text on a black background that can be positioned anywhere on the screen. In contrast, SDH is usually text overlaid directly on the video and is found on the bottom third of the screen and can vary in color.

Remember we just said that closed captions are not supported by HDMI? If you are trying to access this feature on a DVD that says it has “CC” but can’t seem to make it work, this is why – the signal is in an older format which is incompatible with today’s technology. SDH has been replacing closed captioning on newer DVDs due to the easier access. If you don’t see the “CC” symbol, look for the SDH abbreviation.

Descriptive Audio

Descriptive audio enables individuals who are blind or have low vision to hear a spoken narration of a movie’s key visual elements including actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene details & changes. Descriptive audio supplements the regular audio track of a program and is usually added during existing pauses in dialogue.

Here is a short example from Lion King that will give you a clear sense of what this service offers.

This feature goes by many labels including English descriptive audio (the most common), English described audio, audio described English, video description, described video… you get the point.

The Audio Descriptive Project is a very thorough online resource about this service and maintains a list of DVDs with audio description.

source Text shown to demonstrate the audio narration.

We hope you have found this information helpful. Please do let us know if you have any questions.

Staff Picks 2021, Part IV

This is the final installment of staff picks from 2021. We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into some of our favorite reads, listens, and watches from last year.

Linda’s Top Picks:

Best Laid Plans by Gwen Florio
The protagonist is a woman in her 50s suddenly confronted with her husband’s infidelity. Her life changes in an instant, and she just reacts without thinking. Nora jumps in their brand new truck and luxury RV and just takes off. She has never driven anything so huge and so powerful before. After an exhausting overnight drive she finds herself in a campground in Wyoming, next to a vibrant young couple who befriends her instantly. But how friendly are they really? When the husband disappears, apparently eaten by a bear, the real mystery begins and Nora realizes she is in way over her head. With her husband, Joe, on her heels and a nasty sheriff on her back, she experiences a life more a nightmare than the dream come true she had anticipated. Did a bear really eat Brad? Should she go back to Joe? What does she want out of life now? Most importantly, how can she escape going to prison for a murder she didn’t commit?
Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This mystery takes place in and around a retirement village in England. The Thursday Mystery Club is a group of seniors who met every Thursday to discuss unsolved crimes. Then a murder occurs right in their neighborhood. The four friends decide to put their skills to good use to solve the murder. The mystery is solid, the characters real, and somewhat humorous. The book also gives insights into the thoughts and feelings of those being put ‘out to pasture’. Anyone over retirement age will identify with these characters, and anyone who has older parents or grandparents will get a glimpse of their lives.
Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
This mystery is set in 1920s India. Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer, works for her father because India has not yet recognized women to the Bar. On the death of a wealthy mill owner, Perveen is sent to confer with his three widows, in order to assure that they each receive their rightful inheritance. However, the male guardian placed over them is murdered, and Purveen becomes determined to find the truth and make sure the women receive the best outcome for their future. Expertly winding two narratives together, the author takes us along with Perveen on her investigation, while telling us her story and revealing why she cares about these women so much. In the process, we get a clear picture of Colonialism and traditional Indian life in that time, as well as what life was like for the women of India.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
This is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series. (See above) It picks up within days of the first one ending and continues the story of the seniors living in a retirement community in the British countryside. It delves more into the background of Elizabeth, who was a former M16 agent. All the main characters continue, and knowing them already, makes the book even more delightful. The Thursday Club members find themselves embroiled in cases with local police and they work their magic on current M16 agents. Their antics are amusing and poignant, as they prove once again that age is not an accurate indicator of capability. There is a twist at the end that you may not see coming.

Monique’s Top Picks:

Ted Lasso, Apple TV series
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Hamnet : A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Staff Picks 2021, Part III

This is the next to last installation of staff favorites from last year and in this roundup we share top picks from Mariah, Cyndi, and Dale.

Mariah’s Top Picks:

How to Change Your Mind : what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence by Michael Pollan
Wink : surviving middle school with one eye open by Rob Harrell
The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold
Midnight Mass, Netflix series

Ted Lasso, Apple TV series

Dale’s Top Picks:

Once & Future created by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora (graphic novel)
Silver Coin by Michael Walsh et al. (graphic novel)
Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, streaming on Paramount Plus
Squid Game, Netflix series
The Silent Sea, Netflix series

Cyndi’s Top Picks:

Teen Fiction:

The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf:
Wolf’s skill as an author places the reader into the middle of the blizzard. The descriptions of frigid temperatures and lack food drove me to reading this book under a blanket, with a steaming cup of tea.
Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer:
This fantasy has everything, strong character development, court intrigue, rebellions, betrayals, and romance. It was a great escape read.
Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach: This book gave me a lot to think about. The labels and pressures from society verses the internal narrative of who we are and what we expect of ourselves.

Teen Graphic Novels:

SPY×FAMILY 1 by Tatsuya Endo: This manga is a quirky, dark, action, comedy.
The Crossroads at Midnight by Abby Howard: This is a collection of five creepy short stories.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang: Not a big fan of basketball, but this autobiographical story was a pleasure to read.

Adult Non-Fiction:

Olive, Mabel and Me: Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs by Andrew Cotter:
I must admit I am NOT a fan of social media, but I am a fan of dogs. I somehow stumbled across a video of Olive and Mable, adeptly narrated by Cotter, and I was hooked. This book and the various videos on YouTube will bring a smile to the face of anyone who has ever loved a dog.

Later this week, for the final installation of Staff Picks, we’ll learn the 2021 favorites of Linda and Monique.