TPL Staff Picks 2023 – Linda!

Next up, it’s our resident mystery expert, Linda!

Linda’s Top 5 of 2023

The Maid/Nita Prose

The main character in this book, Molly the Maid, is neurodivergent, probably on the autism spectrum. She is socially awkward because she has a difficult time reading people, and she loves cleanliness. Every day she goes happily to her job in an upscale hotel with the goal of returning everything to a “state of perfection”. One day while cleaning rooms in the hotel, she discovers the body of a very wealthy, powerful man. Molly’s unique outlook and attention to detail make her a key witness. Her lack of the expected emotional response to such a crime, make her the main suspect. The weak point in this book is the shoddy police investigation that led to her arrest. It hardly mattered though, because Molly, and her allies, were able to bring about justice, at least Molly’s idea of justice. There were twists at the end that I never saw coming, and, at least in this case, all’s well that ends well.

Reflecting the Sky/S.J. Rozan

Chinese-American PI, Lydia Chin, and her partner, Bill Smith, are sent to Hong Kong to deliver an inheritance to the family of a Chinese-American businessman. Unknown on either side of the Pacific, Mr. Wei had two families, one in New York and one in Hong Kong. Even so, this should have been a fairly easy assignment, and a chance for Lydia to see firsthand the culture of her ancestors. The situation becomes much more complicated when they arrive to discover that the young man receiving the inheritance has been kidnapped. Ordered not to involve the police, Lydia and Bill must find the boy and figure out just what is going on behind the quiet front of the Wei’s Import/Export company. The boy’s life, and their own, may depend on it.

Lightning Strike/William Kent Krueger

This is a prequel to the Cork Corcoran mystery series that takes place in northern Minnesota, in the small town of Aurora. Twelve year old Cork idolizes his father, Liam, the town sheriff. But when Cork and his friend Jorge find Big John Manydeeds hanging from a tree, all that begins to change. Just outside the Ojibwe Indian Reservation, tensions have always existed between the town and the Rez, but the death of Big John Manydeeds brings those tensions near the boiling point. Cork’s mother is half Ojibwe and his grandmother full blood. Even within his own home anxiety is high. To Cork, everything seems to be changing before his very eyes, and he doesn’t like it one bit. This is a coming of age story as much as it is a complex murder mystery. The characters are fully formed, the issues contemporary, and the mystery will keep you guessing until the end. Oh, and don’t plan on going to bed until it’s finished.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers/Jesse Q Sutanto

What happens when an elderly Asian woman finds a dead body in her teashop one morning? Well, if that woman is Vera Wong, hilarity ensues. Vera is fierce, a traditional Asian mother. She expects everyone to fall in line, and they do. Before long Vera has four suspects, all who seem to have something to hide. But is it murder? As Vera searches for the truth, she becomes involved in the lives of her suspects, and doesn’t want any of them to be guilty. Somehow, in her wisdom, Vera makes all their lives better. This book has many humorous moments, and some poignant ones too. You will love these characters, especially Vera, and you’ll never guess who did it.

The Last Devil to Die/Richard Osman

This is the fourth book in this series featuring the lovely characters at the Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village. They  are the members of the Thursday Mystery Club, a group of seniors who meet every Thursday to discuss old unsolved crimes. Somehow, current murders always take precedence. Each one has been in my top 5 on the year it came out. This one surpasses them all, in my opinion. It has the quirky characters we have all come to love. It has a complex mystery to solve. There are plenty of laughs as well. And it packs a punch you won’t see coming. It is written beautifully and with genuine insight. You won’t soon forget this one.

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?