Books & More

FDL Reads: The Girl They Left Behind

The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

Reviewed by:  Becky Houghton, Reference Assistant

Genre: Historical Fiction

Suggested Age: Teens, Adults

What is this Book About?   It is 1941 in Bucharest Romania and the government has collapsed. Romanian Jews are being rounded up, tortured and murdered by the thousands.  A young Jewish couple is forced to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave their three year old daughter behind in order to save her as they flee this humanitarian crisis.  This young girl was the author’s mother.  What follows is a fictionalized version of Veletzos’ mother’s life although the basic story is true.  The child, Natalia, was adopted and named by Christian parents in Romania and raised as their daughter during the second World War, the later Russian occupation,  and Romania’s transition to communism. This book is an eye-opening look into the lives of Romanians during this tumultuous period.

My Review:  I actually liked this book.  Roxanne Veletzos is good storyteller and her personal involvement in her tale gives it a poignancy that is not always present in historical fiction.  Woven together are actual facts and an embellished version of the early life of her mother.  Natalia was left by her fleeing Jewish parents on a doorstep during the January 1941 Bucharest Pogrom. After spending a brief time in a Romanian orphanage, she was adopted by Anton and Despina Goza who were desperate for a family following several miscarriages.  Natalia became the most cherished of daughters in a reasonably prosperous Romanian family.  She had an almost luxurious life during the war years and became a talented and skilled pianist in spite of her young age.  She had dreams of studying music and making that a career, but post-war Romania and the Russian occupation ended those dreams.  Her father, Anton, was considered an “enemy of the state” since he was not a member of the Communist Party.  The family business, home and possessions were seized by the government and the family was forced into a communal living situation where they shared a small apartment with several other families. Natalia became a factory worker in her late teenage years.  A man named Victor, who her father had assisted as a youth during the war, reappears outside the factory and becomes involved in Natalia’s life again.  It is at this point that Veletzos departs from her mother’s actual history into a fictionalized version of the story.  Although her mother did not leave Romania in the way that Natalia does, many Romanian Jews did have their freedom “bought” by clandestine transactions with the Romanian government and were resettled in Israel and the United States, making the ending consistent with history.  I learned a great deal about World War II and the spread of communism behind the Iron Curtain through reading this well written book.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  Poignant, Gripping, Insightful

Give it a Try if You Like:   The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, War Brides by Helen Bryan or Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads


2019-09-15T12:29:35-06:00September 15th, 2019|

FDL Reads: Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Reviewed by:  Katie Smith, Reference Specialist

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Suggested Age:  Adult

What is this Book About?  In a post-apocalyptic future, where the United States has fallen to The Great Flood and resulting Energy Wars, the Dinétah nation (and former Navajo reservation) has been reborn – complete with old gods, old magic, and old monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter, trained by the immortal Neizghání. Slinging her arsenal of knives, guns, and supernatural clan powers, she fights to keep the people of Dinétah safe – until Neizghání abandons her. After struggling to find new purpose and suffering in isolation, she’s thrown back into the action when a local girl goes missing and Maggie is called upon to put down the monster who took her. When she uncovers dark forces behind the monster’s making, Maggie has to make some dangerous allegations and call upon the experience of wise leaders, charming medicine men, and trickster gods to put evil powers to rest.

My Review:  This is a stunning, impressive first novel – and the integration of Native mythologies makes this a unique, stand-out pick for urban fantasy and supernatural fans. I read Trail of Lightning at breakneck speeds, completely drawn in by the engaging characters and intense action. My favorite interactions were between the main characters – Maggie and Kai – and the old gods, who had their own motivations and stakes in the story. I was also deeply invested in learning all about Maggie’s powers and past, since her character is so dark and complicated. WARNING: This book has plenty of gore and unpleasant imagery. If you can’t stomach this, you may wish to stay away – but otherwise, this is a very moving, intense, and memorable novel. VERDICT: Very unique – a must-read for fans of urban fantasy!

Three Words That Describe This Book: Vivid, Mythological, Violent

Give it a Try if You Like:  American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads
2019-09-10T15:19:50-06:00September 9th, 2019|

FDL Reads: His Majesty’s Dragon

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Reviewed by: Melissa Friedlund, Reference Assistant

Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History

Suggested Age: Pre-teens, Teens, Adults

What is this Book About?  It is the time of the Napoleonic Wars and William Laurence is a British naval captain whose crew wins a sea battle against a French frigate carrying precious cargo; a dragon’s egg. It’s soon discovered that the egg will hatch before they make it back to port. Dragons must be bonded with a human aviator, a life-long partnership. When the dragon unexpectedly chooses Captain Laurence to be his aviator partner, his promising naval career must end and his new journey in the Aerial Corps begins. Laurence and the dragon, dubbed Temeraire, set off to the training grounds. They cause a bit of a stir because they are both unconventional additions to the Corp, Laurence being a naval officer and Temeraire being a rare Asian breed of dragon. Betrayal and an unexpected invasion attempt by Napoleon’s forces draw Laurence and Temeraire into service sooner than expected. Will the aviators and dragons of the Aerial Corp be able to save Britain?

My Review:  Fighting Napoleon with dragons! I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and was pleasantly surprised. It was a relatively quick listen (since I am a dedicated audiobook reader) and it seems perfect for pre-teens or anyone who would enjoy a 19th century how-to-train-your-dragon-type story. It does take itself seriously, so no juvenile joking around. This book was light on blood, guts, and romance; some of each, but it’s pretty mild. As a first venture into alternative history, I liked it. I will definitely recommend it to my pre-teen son.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Clever, Prim, Quaint

Give it a Try if You Like: Eragon, Dragon Rider, How to Train Your Dragon

Rating: 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads


2019-09-04T12:51:10-06:00September 4th, 2019|

FDL Reads: Dune

Dune by  Frank Herbert

Reviewed by: Susie Rivera, Reference Specialist

Genre: Science Fiction

Suggested Age: Teens, Adults

What is this Book About?  In the distant future the universe revolves around one precious resource, the Spice Melange.  Dune is an epic novel. Written in 1965, Dune is set against the backdrop of a feudal system of great houses that vie for control of the planet Arrakis, the only source of the Spice.  Paul Atreides is the heir to one of these houses. His father, Duke Leto Atreides, has been given control over Arrakis and Dune opens with the Atreides family assuming leadership of the planet.  In this time of transition,  the family faces betrayal and opposition from their arch enemy, House Harkonnen, while Paul starts to realize his role in the grand scheme of the universe.

My Review:  I read Dune for the first time in eighth grade and this was my third re-read as an adult while gearing up for the new film adaptation coming out next year. Dune has done for science fiction what Lord of the Rings did for the fantasy genre.  Few authors have achieved the  level of world-building that Herbert presents in terms of this novel’s political intrigue, ecology, religion, and culture.  There are many aspects of this world that I find intriguing.  I particularly enjoy the Bene Gesserit, an all-female sect focused on controlling the mind, body, and future of humanity. The Fremen, the desert dwellers who have adapted to their harsh environment, are also fascinating.   Herbert does focus more on the big picture, so those who enjoy extensive character development might be disappointed. This novel was revolutionary for its time, and many modern sci-fi/fantasy novels as well as films owe much to Frank Herbert.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Epic, Thought-provoking, Complicated

Give it a Try if You Like: Issac Asimov’s Foundation Series, George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads


2019-08-30T14:56:39-06:00August 30th, 2019|

FDL Reads: American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by: Laura Warren, Adult Services Manager

Genre: Fantasy

Suggested Age: Adult

What is this Book About?  The story begins with our main character, Shadow, pushing through the last few days before he is released from prison. Before his release date comes he is pulled into the warden’s office and told he would be released early to attend his wife’s funeral. Shadow lost his wife and his best friend in one tragic car accident. As Shadow re-enters civilian life, he knows things will never be the same, and the eccentric traveler, Mr. Wednesday, makes sure of that. Our main character then embarks on an epic road trip which will change his life, and possibly the fate of the world forever. A host of legendary characters and places will lead him down a fascinating and scary road full of magic and stories, where the line between myth and reality is never very clear.

My Review:  I love this book and have read it multiple times. Each time I learn something new and see something in a different light. The blending of the old and the new is stunning and makes the reader really consider history, life, and culture. America as a diverse, expansive, and sometimes tragic place is written beautifully. The characters are compelling and the road trip is magical, yet literal. Neil Gaiman writes about all types of places in America. Each of them is a real place and somewhere on the map, though many difficult to find. Though not from America, Gaiman manages to nail the American experience of many with expert precision. The stories of many great and small are told while following Shadow on his personal journey. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic writer and he is at his best writing American Gods.

Three Words That Describe This Book: powerful, mythological, thoughtful

Give it a Try if You Like: Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or Mythology

Rating: 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads
2019-08-30T16:03:42-06:00August 28th, 2019|

National Dog Day

August 26 is National Dog Day!  National Dog Day is an opportunity for us to recognize and appreciate the importance of dogs in our lives. One fun way to celebrate the day is to check out one of the many dog-themed movies that the library has in its collection and watch it with your furry friends. Here are a few PG-rated movies available from the library:

Cats & Dogs

Disney Dogs 1
(Shaggy D.A. / Shaggy Dog (1959) / Shaggy Dog (2006) / The Ugly Dachshund)

A Dog’s Way Home

A.R.C.H.I.E. 2: Mission Impawsible

If you want to spend some time reading to a dog, join us on Saturday, August 31, from 10–11 a.m. for the Paws to Read program with the Peoria Humane Society. Kids ages 5-14 can be registered online at or by calling the Children’s Department at 699-3917, ext. 1291.

– Sue, Youth Services Manager

2019-08-26T12:18:41-06:00August 26th, 2019|

FDL Reads: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Reviewed by: Beth Weimer, Communications Specialist

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery

Suggested Age: Teen, Adult

What is this Book About?: Abandoned by her family and shunned by her community, Kya, the Marsh Girl must learn to survive on her own in the coastal wetlands of North Carolina in the 1950s. Kya’s world is one of full of wild creatures, natural beauty, and deep isolation. As she explores the wondrous and cruel dichotomies of nature, she must also learn to navigate relationships with people and the love and misery those connections can bring. As an adult, her connection to a murder in the swamp divides the town and threatens to destroy the quiet life she’s so carefully constructed.

My Review: “I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” I usually don’t go for buzz books, but this one came to me strongly recommended by my mother and actually lives up to all the hype. I don’t know that a swamp – or a life of isolation –   has ever sounded more beautiful. Anyone who’s ever sat alone with nature or who’s ever ached to belong will connect with Kya and the creatures and humans that fill her life. Admittedly there are some gaps in the plot I wish Owens had filled in, but the striking imagery and rhythm of her writing were absorbing enough to just enjoy the flow of the narrative. More than merely a mystery or romance, Owens wraps story of survival in layers of Southern culture, naturalist observations, and themes of prejudice, familial violence, and resilience that are engrossing to unpack. As this was Owens’ first novel, I imagine her next will be even better.

 Three Words That Describe This Book: lush, haunting, (full of) yearning

Give This a Try if You Like… The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Conner, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Rating: 4.5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads
2019-08-27T10:44:45-06:00August 23rd, 2019|

FDL Reads: Goblins in the Castle

Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville

Reviewed by: Sarah Baker, Circulation Assistant

Genre: Fantasy

Suggested Age: Children (8-12)

What is this Book About?: William is eleven and has never left his home, Toad-in-a-Cage Castle. He’s explored most of it, but one night he finds a new passage and meets Igor. Igor is guarding something secret, something he can’t tell William about. There’s also the matter of the North Tower. It’s locked and shrouded in mist, and William is forbidden from asking about it. But one Halloween night, voices call to him from beyond that door. William gives in and opens it, unleashing something – goblins! They’re free and running amok and are full of hatred for humanity for locking them away. They’ve kidnapped Igor and now it’s up to William to set things right and save his friend!

My Review: I use habitica to challenge myself and to keep on top of my own life. One of the challenges I had this month was the KidLit reading challenge – read a favorite book from childhood. And this was definitely one of my top five favorites. I was so happy to see it held up over time, and that even though I remembered the story, it was never boring or dull. Even the illustrations were exactly as I remembered. There’s no deep world building here – you jump in with both feet and go where the path takes you. But there are lessons about friendship, following and breaking rules, and learning that trust takes time to rebuild.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Fun, Imaginative, Heart-warming

Give this a try if you like…The HobbitJeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher; Kiki’s Delivery Service

Rating: (out of 5)​​ 5/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads
2019-08-21T15:51:30-06:00August 21st, 2019|

Playaway Views

Playaway Views at FDL

Playaway Views are video players pre-loaded with entertaining and educational stories for kids! Views are durable, easy to recharge, and the interface is simple for young users. Featuring an external speaker and headphone jack, these devices are perfect for quiet-time use at home or on the go!

FDL’s collection includes 36 Views with popular characters and themes tailored to children in preschool and early elementary school. Patrons may check out up to 2 Views at a time for a 3-week lending period with 1 renewal.

If your family hasn’t tried one yet, check out a View today or ask a librarian for more information. Kids love the fun videos, and parents love that Views are easy options for safe and educational screen time!

2019-08-19T10:14:15-06:00August 19th, 2019|

FDL Reads: The Young Elites

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Reviewed by: Alexandra Schenk, Student Intern

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia

Suggested Age: Teens, Adults

What is this Book About: Adelina Amouteru survived the blood fever, the deadly illness raged through Kenettra a decade ago and killed half of the population. The few people who got infected but survived where left with strange marks. Adelin’s hair and lashes turned silver and she lost her left eye. Her father wants to get rid of his abnormal “malfetto” daughter and plans to sell her into marriage. Adelina notices his plans and flees from her home. Her escape plan doesn’t work out and she learns the hard way that the blood fever left her with more than just visible marks. Adelina possesses a power which gains her the attention of the Young Elites. That group, consisting of outcasts, has one big goal: They want to depose the king of Kenettra, and they want Adelina to take part in that plan.

My Review: When I started reading The Young Elites I expected nothing but a shallow romance taking place in a renaissance-style fantasy world. But the book managed to surprise me. At first I had sympathy for Adelina, I even pitied her. But as the book went on she started to become darker and more mature and the poor abused girl showed that she is a though fighter. Adelina is indeed a heroin with a very dark side, but this was another thing I liked about her character, she isn’t gleeful, happy or perfect but she is real! And I like my book characters like my people, they have to have rough edges. Romance starts to arise during the book, but even the romance is far from perfect and Adelina stays an independent character all the time. But she is not the only brilliant character in that book, the villain Teren is also a very complex character and brilliantly written. All in all, a good book with well written characters and definitely something adults can enjoy as well as teens.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Fantasy, dark, serious

Give this a try if you like… anti-heroes, very light romance, complex characters

Rating (Out of 5): 4/5

Find it at the library!

About FDL Reads

FDL Reads is a series of weekly book reviews from Fondulac District Library.

FDL Reads
2019-08-17T13:01:40-06:00August 17th, 2019|
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