March 15 marked the one-year anniversary of closing the Kanawha County Public Library for the COVID-19 lockdown, a difficult year for both staff and patrons.
A book is a comfort when times are hard, but KCPL libraries were closed. That is why one week after the library shut its doors, the Reference Department started answering chat questions from home. Many of the patron questions began with the phrase — “I’ve never read e-books, but I guess now is the time to learn how.”
KCPL offers e-books from three sources. WVDeli is a consortium of WV libraries that banded together to offer e-books, audiobooks and magazines, which they select from Overdrive. The library also offers e-books, audiobooks and video from Hoopla Digital. For pre-readers and middle grade readers, the library has Tumblebooks.
Library patrons were recently asked about the e-books that helped get them through the year of COVID-19. Here are some of their favorites.
n Kim likes JD Robb’s “In Death” series — Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. Kim is on book 28 now and likes that there are more than 50 in this series because she is really drawn to the characters that Robb has created. Set in the mid-21st century, Eve Dallas is a New York City police lieutenant in the homicide division. Originally an abused child from Dallas, Texas, she recalls little of her life before she was 8. Eve’s cases can be dark too, but they are fast-paced, and she has help from her co-worker and her boyfriend Rourke, who later becomes her husband.
n “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman spoke to Brandi. She has been a fan of Gaiman’s since seeing him at the West Virginia Book Festival. This Gaiman novel is a haunting fantasy of a man who has returned to his childhood home for a funeral. Being home brings back memories of Lettie, a little girl down the lane who claimed the pond by her house was the ocean. He begins to recall how a small girl protected him from an unleashed darkness.
n In “The Best of All Possible Worlds,” author Karen Lord created a world that appealed to Sasha. When the Sadiri home world is destroyed, the remaining Sadiri people search to discover their distant kind to save their race. As the Sadiri men search for wives on Cygnus Beta, they hope to maintain their kind and culture. However, they learn that those already on Cygnus Beta have a culture of their own, which they may not be prepared to give up. Can something new spring from the ashes of the attack? Can one of those things be a relationship? Readers rave about Lord’s world building.
n Jo Lynn was drawn into Rebecca Serle’s novel “In Five Years.” Dannie Kohan is right on track with her five-year plan. She aced an important interview with her law firm, and her boyfriend has proposed. However, when she wakes up, it is five years later — 2025. She is in a different apartment with a different man and a different ring on her hand. When she falls asleep again, she wakes back up in her real life in 2020. Was it a dream, a vision? Dannie isn’t sure and then she meets the man from 2025.
n Elizabeth read her way through the pandemic by typing Cozy Mystery Book 1 into WVDeli and reading series after series of lighthearted mysteries. One of her favorite series was Jenn McKinlay’s “Cupcake Bakery” series. Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura have been best friends for years and open a bakery together with help from Tate, who has been their friend since childhood. In the first book, “Sprinkle With Murder,” Tate’s totally-wrong-for-him fiancé winds up dead and suspicion points to the girls.
n “Winter World” is the first volume in a gripping trilogy by AG Riddle. Kathy was pulled into Riddle’s story of Earth dealing with a crushing ice age. NASA launches a probe near the sun from the International Space Station and finds that Earth is receiving far less solar radiation. Is the object orbiting the sun the cause? Before they find out, debris takes out the Space Station. Readers will be pulled into the survival and the mystery. On audio.
n Both Vivian and Ayesha recommended “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Brett. The Vignes twins are identical at birth but their lives diverge as adults. Desiree returns to her hometown with her Black daughter, Jude. Her twin, Stella, does not. Stella has a new life passing for white, hiding this even from her white husband. When Jude goes to college in California, she meets the long-lost Stella and her cousin Kennedy. Brett explores the complex issues of race in America and the color of our skin.
n Libraries are a magical place as Diana Bishop learns in “Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness. Pamela suggested this tale of Diana, who has been denying her heritage as a witch. But in using an old manuscript, Diana has unleashed witches, vampires and demons into the library. With help from vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, can she put things back to rights? First of a trilogy.
n “Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard is set in a world divided by blood. Leslee enjoyed this tale of Mare in whose veins flows common red blood. However, Mare has a power that threatens the silver-blooded elite. She is declared a long-lost silver princess, but where do her loyalties lie? First in a series.
n “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell explores the idea of consent as a minor. Fifteen-year-old Vanessa is drawn into a relationship with her charismatic teacher Jacob Strane. Seventeen years later, Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Now, Vanessa needs to figure out if the relationship was her choice or if she was being groomed by Strane? Ayesha recommends this well-written story that reflects the headlines.
n “Wild Seed” is the first in a noted series by Octavia Butler. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter, who changes physicality herself and has been shifting for several hundred years. The older Doro shifts his shape by taking the body of another person, thereby killing the person whose body he now inhabits. Doro views Anyanwu as a wild seed that he can use in a project to create a super race. Like so many readers, Candy was mesmerized by Butler’s powerful storytelling and characters.
n “The Culling Academy” by KF Breene is just one of the e-books that helped Cindy escape during 2020. A man shows up at Wild’s family farm to take her younger brother to a hidden school of magic. The school has resulted in the death of her older brother, so Wild is not keen on her younger brother going. However, if he doesn’t go, her whole family will be killed. With shades of “Mulan,” she decides to disguise herself and go in his place. First, she will have to survive the culling process to get to the school. Available on audio.
n Cleopatra’s life is often viewed through the lens of the powerful men in her life. In Margaret George’s novel “The Memoirs of Cleopatra,” she is allowed to tell her own story. Ashley enjoyed Cleopatra’s journey from an ambitious 21-year-old queen to her decision to choose her own end rather than be paraded through Rome.
These suggestions from patrons show that a great story is more than its format. Whether you read print books or e-books, search them out.