“Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness” by Catherine Cho

A friend sent me a survey about “what kind of reader are you?” Do you like adventure or stick to one genre? Do you like to try new authors or would rather re-read favorites?

“Inferno” by Catherine Cho is not a title I would choose, but as she grew up in Frankfort, and studied violin with my daughter, I had to at least give it a chance.

I wondered how a 30 something year old had enough life experience to write a memoir, but only a few pages in, I knew this was a title that I wouldn’t be able to put down.

Cho and her husband, living in London, decide to visit relatives and friends scattered across the United States to introduce their two-month old baby, Cato. She weaves the story of these visits with her personal history as well as cultural history.

Korean culture suggests that mothers and babies stay in seclusion for the first 100 days, followed by a major celebration. Cho disregards the old wive’s tales and starts the visitation on the west coast and slowly works her way east to New Jersey.

The stress of the journey, the cultural conflicts, lack of sleep and privacy break her. She recounts the two weeks she spent in the psychiatric ward with backward glimpses of her past.

Cho is an incredible writer with unusual honesty about her illness, being able to shift from the tale of her psychosis and to the new experience of motherhood. “My first memory of psychosis is the light.” She mentions the feel of the hospital gown on her skin, the restraints “snaked” around her wrists and the strands of hair clenched in her hands.

The rules of time do not exist in the psych ward. Cho is able to stretch time for the reader, so that two weeks seems like months. She explains what it is like to doubt your own reality, to be “removed from time.” As she tries to remember who she is, there are loops and tangles of repeating memories each with a different outcome. She searches for what is her truth.

Cho’s story is consuming — waking me in the middle of the night, and then insisting she join me for breakfast the next morning. That kind of book comes around too rarely. Though it would not have been my pick, I found Cho’s story of devotion to her husband and Cato to be a luminous love story.

She shares her personal expectations and also the cultural differences of motherhood. She has written a beautiful, brave account of her journey back to sanity.

— Review by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books

“Daisy Jones & the Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones is a young girl coming of age in the 1970s, gate-crashing into clubs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. She is a naturally gifted singer whose love of music outweighs the sex and drug scene of California. Billy Dunne is the front man of the rising band, The Six. A producer notices that they make magic happen when they sing together, and with Daisy’s voice, they are on the way to becoming one of top groups. 

You might think this novel is based on Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac with Daisy’s conflicting relationships with band members and their addictions.  However, Reid says this is a fictional account of the sex, drugs and rock and roll of the times.   

The novel is creatively told as an interview 30 years after the band’s abrupt break-up. There are 13 voices that include managers, producers, critics and friends adding their memories to the story of what led to the dramatic mid-tour breakup. Their memories are individually skewed, but collectively the author paints the picture of the band members. The depiction of the early days of rock and roll are realistic and rich with details. The interview style of this novel, adds to its reality.  

Daisy and Billy were talented apart from each other but their relationship together was explosive. Daisy and Billy eventually fall in love, but they also hate each other’s guts. The band ultimately pays the price for their volatile chemistry.

Reid’s account is a unique depiction of the human toll it can take to create art. The Library Journal review says “Daisy Jones & the Six” is for “music lovers, romance fans, and anyone who wants to feel … intoxicated by music and a powerful longing for days gone by.” 

Reid creates a novel that is authentic to the world of the 70s, and the genius of the creative process. Sit back and listen to Fleetwood Mac while reading about the talented, imperfect, Daisy Jones.

— Review by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books

A Conspiracy of Stars” by Olivia A. Cole

In “A Conspiracy of Stars,” Cole presents a fresh science-fiction story with a diverse cast of characters — human and otherwise — and the fascinating world of Faloiv. 

Readers are introduced to a future where humanity has fled a dying Earth and settled as refugees on the planet Faloiv. The N’Terran colonists live in a strained truce with the Faloii, the planet’s mysterious indigenous people. Tensions are further strained when young Octavia witnesses her scientist father abduct one of the Faloii. 

As Octavia and her friends dig into mysteries past and present, she discovers hidden truths about Faloiv, N’Terra, her family and herself. In doing so, she risks everything — her professional aspirations, her relationship with her parents, and not only her life, but the lives of those closest to her — to unravel the secrets kept by N’Terra leadership and her parents. What she finds will change everything — as you may have suspected. 

Just a heads-up, this young adult novel is the first in a duology. The second book, “An Anatomy of Beasts,” is currently available

Olivia A. Cole is a Kentucky author and blogger who can be found on Facebook and Twitter. 

— Reviewed by Jonathan Sands, patron services associate, Paul Sawyier Public Library

“The Ruins” by Scott Smith

Smith’s novel begins with two couples vacationing in Cancun who meet two fellow tourists. When the brother of one of their new friends disappears, they all set off on an adventure to an archaeological dig site deep in the jungle to locate him.

Disregarding all warnings from the local people not to go, they forge ahead. However, when they locate the site, there is no one there. What they do find is a group of armed native Mayans who have no intention of letting them leave the jungle. The Mayans become the least of their worries when the true danger of the jungle reveals itself.

This creepy, classic horror story, which you may not be able to put down once you start, is perfect for Halloween. The storyline is fascinating, and the dynamics between the friends as they turn on one another in order to survive, propels you to keep reading until the end.

Recommended for those who enjoy horror or thrillers.

— Reviewed by staff, Paul Sawyier Public Library