5 for Friday: New Books

The Librarian of Saint-Malo
by Mario Escobar

What it is: the moving and fast-paced story of a young French woman’s battle to protect her small seaside town’s library (and the people who take refuge there) from Nazi destruction, told in epistolary form.

Starring:  Jocelyn Ferrec, the titular librarian; Adolf Bauman, the dissolute Nazi officer Jocelyn is forced to host in her home; Hermann von Choltiz, another officer charged with managing cultural artifacts of Nazi-occupied territories; Marcel Zola, a famous (fictional) Parisian author who becomes Jocelyn’s unlikely confidante through letters.

Razorblade Tears
by S.A. Cosby

What it’s about: Two homophobic ex-con fathers, one white and one Black, team up after their gay sons are murdered on their wedding anniversary, leaving their three-year-old daughter an orphan. But before the dads can wreak vengeance, they need to find out who’s responsible.

Read it for: the gritty, well-wrought characters; the propulsive pacing; the evocative Virginia setting; and the probing look at prejudice. 

Dead by Dawn
by Paul Doiron

What happens: On a cold December day, someone puts metal spikes on a remote road and Maine game warden Mike Bowditch’s vehicle ends up in an icy river. He manages to get himself and his wolf dog out, but now he needs to survive the wilderness — and whoever sabotaged him.

Series alert: This 12th outing for Mike, following One Last Lie, offers well-formed characters and an action-packed story that alternates between Mike’s current situation and events from earlier that day (when he began investigating a four-year-old suspicious death).

Island Queen
by Vanessa Riley

What it is: the engaging and richly detailed story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, an 18th and 19th-century Caribbean woman who built a business empire in the Leeward Islands to buy freedom for herself and her family. 

Did you know? The real-life Dorothy’s descendants include English opera singer Henrietta Simon Sala and her journalist son George Augustus Sala, who attracted the patronage of Charles Dickens and rose to prominence at The Daily Telegraph.

The Bombay Prince
by Sujata Massey

Starring: Intrepid Perveen Mistry, an Oxford graduate and Bombay’s only female solicitor, who works at her father’s law firm. 

What happens: Edward, the Prince of Wales, arrives in 1921 for a tour in the midst of India’s move toward independence. After a Parsi college student who’d opposed the prince’s visit is murdered, her family turns to Perveen for help.

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services

New in DVD

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

Horror R

A chilling story of terror, murder, and unknown evil that shocked even experienced, real-life paranormal investigators. One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them beyond anything they’d ever seen before, to mark the first time in US history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense.

In the Heights

Musical PG-13

The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside the 181st Street subway stop. The likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes for, imagines, and sings about a better life.

12 Mighty Orphans

Drama PG-13

The true story of the Mighty Mites, the football team of a Fort Worth orphanage who, during the Great Depression, went from playing without shoes, or even a football, to playing for the Texas state championships. Over the course of their winning season, these underdogs and their resilient spirit became an inspiration to their city, state, and an entire nation in need of a rebound, even catching the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

-posted by Ralph, Media Services

New in DVD

The Birthday Cake

Drama  NR

On the tenth anniversary of his father’s mysterious death, Gio brings a birthday cake prepared by his mother to a memorial celebration hosted by his uncle Angelo, a Brooklyn mafia boss. Gio’s life begins to change as he pieces together what happened to his father all those years ago, coming face to face with a kind of violence he has been trying to avoid his whole life.

-posted by Ralph, Media Services

2021 Adult Summer Reading Club Wrap-Up and Thank You!

A big “thank you” to everyone who participated in the 12th Annual Adult Summer Reading Club. This year’s program ran from June 15 through August 14. One hundred patrons registered – submitting a total of 703 titles. Thirty-nine prizes were awarded to the raffle prize winners. The 2021 Adult Summer Reading Club may have been a little different than years past but we are so glad you joined us and we hope it made your summer a little brighter.

The Readers’ Services Department would like to extend our gratitude to the following local businesses and publishers for their generous prize donations:

Bagel Boss

Iavarone Brothers


Trader Joe’s

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Publishing

Hachette Book Group

HarperCollins Publishers

Macmillan Publishers

Simon and Schuster


New in DVD

Above Suspicion

Action R

Susan Smith is a young woman desperate to escape a seedy life of crime and drugs in a Kentucky coal mining town. When a newly minted FBI agent named Mark Putnam (Jack Huston, “Fargo”) recruits Susan as his informant for a high-profile case, she believes her bad luck may finally be changing. But as Susan and Putnam’s relationship deepens, so does the danger, setting them both on a collision course with deadly consequences.

Finding You

Drama PG

After an ill-fated audition at a prestigious New York music conservatory, violinist Finley Sinclair travels to an Irish coastal village to begin her semester studying abroad. At the B&B run by her host family she encounters gregarious and persistent heartthrob movie star Beckett Rush, who is there to film another installment of his medieval fantasy-adventure franchise. As romance sparks between the unlikely pair, Beckett ignites a journey of discovery for Finley that transforms her heart, her music, and her outlook on life. 

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Drama R

The world’s most lethal odd couple bodyguard Michael Bryce and hitman Darius Kincaid, are back on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’ even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid. As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protectees, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman.

Ip Man: Kung Fu Master

Not Rated

Back in the days before the Communist Revolution in 1949, Ip, the martial artist who famously tutored Bruce Lee, was then a police captain framed for the murder of a ruthless but honorable mobster, and targeted for vengeance by his dangerous daughter. Forced to quit the force, Ip soon also has to contend with the arrival of the Japanese army in Guangzhou.

The Virtuoso

Action R

Danger, deception, and murder descend upon a sleepy country town when a professional assassin accepts a new assignment from his enigmatic mentor and boss. Given only where and when along with a cryptic clue, the methodical hit man must identify his mysterious mark from among several possible targets, including a local sheriff. Meanwhile, a chance encounter with an alluring woman at the town’s rustic diner threatens to derail his mission.

-posted by Sonia, Reference Services

5 Questions with Author Alka Joshi

Welcome to “5 Questions”, a blog series hosted by the Readers’ Services Department at Syosset Library, that will help booklovers everywhere get started on their reading journeys. As Readers’ Services Librarians, we aspire to match each reader with the perfect book and connect people in the community with their favorite authors. “5 Questions” will showcase our recommended reads and author interviews sharing insight and background material about their work.

Visit YouTube here to view Afternoons with the Author: Virtual Author Visit with Alka Joshi, hosted by the Readers’ Services Department of Syosset Library for an in-depth interview about the writing of The Henna Artist.

Join us again this Tuesday, August 17 at 3 p.m. for another live discussion regarding the writing of the second book of the trilogy, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur. Join via the zoom link in our calendar of events. No registration required.

Read on for a brief interview with the author …

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi:“Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own. Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.” (From the Publisher)

About Alka:

Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, Alka has lived in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She ran her own advertising and PR agency for 30 years. The Henna Artist was her first novel. Currently, she is working on the third book of the trilogy and a screen adaption of The Henna Artist (From the author’s website: https://alkajoshi.com).

Interview with Jackie Ranaldo, Head of Readers’ Services:

What inspired you to write The Henna Artist?

I wrote this book for my mother. Arranged in a marriage to my father at 18, three children by the age of 22, she was always at the service of others. It took me years to appreciate the gift she gave me, her only daughter. She wanted me to have the freedom to choose my spouse, my career, whether or not to have children and how many I wanted—the choices she’d been denied. At some point, I began to reimagine a far more independent past for her, and Lakshmi, the henna artist, was born. The frenetic period following India’s independence from the British, when India was building new universities, government and cultural institutions, and roads, dams and bridges at an unprecedented rate, was an ideal setting for Lakshmi to create a new life for herself. I like to imagine that my mother, like Lakshmi, would have navigated the patriarchy on her own terms and emerged victorious.

Did you have an ending planned at the beginning of the writing process or did the characters create the storyline as they developed and grew?

I allowed the story to unfold as I wrote—a process of writing, rewriting and revising that took 10 years. During that time, the characters showed me their backstories, their future stories, and their deep-seated intentions. I kept layering their stories organically—as they lived it, as they moved through the scenes—with the era’s political backdrop, classism, colorism and casteism, Indian traditions and customs and the beauty of centuries-old crafts like henna painting. It was that complex layering that made the characters come alive on the page, as thousands of readers have now told me.

Do you have a favorite character? A character you feel a special bond with?

Lakshmi’s deep-seated convictions are a fusion of my mother’s and mine. We believed in every woman’s right to make decisions about her own destiny, as Lakshmi does. All the options available to women should be on the table, not just the ones deemed appropriate by society. I also have a soft spot for Malik. As his character developed, he became the wise person Lakshmi needed—someone who would show her a path when she faced obstacles. They are loyal to one another in a way that makes us long for friendships like theirs.

So many readers fell in love with Malik that his character compelled me to write a sequel about him. It’s titled The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, and it was released June 22 this year! Of course, most of the characters from The Henna Artist, including Lakshmi and Dr. Kumar, are a major part of the story.

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to become a writer? Do you write full-time?

For decades, I wrote advertising commercials and marketing copy. It was my husband who said I might be good at long form fiction. He encouraged me to take evening workshops; my author-instructors were so encouraging! When I enrolled in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the age of 51 and saw my professors’ reaction to my work, I began to feel like a serious writer. I don’t write full-time because I don’t see it as a job that I have to perform for the same number of hours daily. Rather, I start with research and let characters play around in my imagination, composing multiple scenarios and various plot lines before committing them to the page. I write in the morning, afternoon or late at night when the mood strikes. I write for an hour or six hours, depending on how far my imagination is taking me that day. With four decades of work experience, I’m always able to meet the publisher’s deadlines.

What are you working on now?

I’m researching book #3, the last story in the trilogy. This one is about Radha, who is now 33 years old. She works as a perfumer in Paris. She’s married to a Parisian, has two little girls, and is on the cusp of designing her signature scent when an unwelcome visitor from book #1 shows up at her door. Will she acknowledge the acquaintance or pretend she’s never met him before? How will Lakshmi’s help be enlisted to resolve the betrayals and deceptions? I’m loving the research into how perfumes are made, imagining what Radha would concoct (she had such a talent for mixing henna paste and paints as a girl) and designing the lengths she’ll go to hide her past.

Thank you, Alka, for participating in “5 Questions”!

Visit Syosset Public Library’s catalog to place your reserve for The Henna Artist and The Secret Keeper of Jaipur today!

Also available for download on Overdrive as either an eBook or Audiobook.

Afternoons with the Author – Celebrating the Wrap-Up of the 2021 Adult Summer Reading Club

Looking for your next great read? Join the Readers’ Services librarians for Afternoons with the Author. Learn more about the authors, the writing process, and how their impressive new books came to be! No registration required. Join via Zoom from the link on the Calendar of Events.

Photo credit: Garry Bailey

Alka Joshi

Tuesday, August 17, at 3 p.m.

Novelist Alka Joshi returns to discuss her summer 2021 release, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, a follow-up to the 2020 New York Times bestseller, The Henna Artist. The story continues as Lakshmi arranges for her protégé, Malik, to intern at the Jaipur Royal Palace, leading to the discovery of a web of lies.

Hope you can join us!

New in DVD

Queen Bees

Comedy PG-13

While her house undergoes repairs, fiercely independent senior Helen temporarily moves into a nearby retirement community. Once behind the doors of Pine Grove Senior Community, she encounters lusty widows, cutthroat bridge tournaments and a hotbed of bullying ‘mean girls’ the likes of which she hasn’t encountered since high school, all of which leaves her yearning for the solitude of home. But somewhere between flower arranging and water aerobics Helen discovers that it’s never too late to make new friends and perhaps even find a new love.

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Action R

Oscar winner Angelina Jolie stars as Hannah, a smoke jumper still reeling from the loss of three lives she failed to save from a fire when she comes across a traumatized 12-year-old boy with nowhere else to turn.

-posted by Ralph, Media Services

A blog written by the librarians at Syosset Public Library, Syosset, New York.

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