Review of The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
When Liesl Weiss’s boss has a stroke, she must take over running the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. First order of business, find the missing, very expensive book. With uncooperative co-workers, a demanding college president and the ever-present entitled donors, Liesl’s job just went from satisfying to stressful.
In every job I’ve had, the more trying the situation, the more people knuckled down and worked together. Not the bunch at this library. Avoiding blame and placing it seem to be everyone’s strategy. Sounds like politicians. The result was a bunch of characters that left me unsympathetic. Which means I didn’t get engaged in the story. Liesl, the heroine, struggles through the entire book to gain my sympathy, but always falls short – as a manager, as a wife, as a friend. I’m not saying that heroines have to be strong and nearly perfect. However, I would have enjoyed Liesl a little more if she had a bit more backbone.
Not everyone who reads this book will feel the same way. Others might get excited about university politics and departmental infighting. Some might be into rare books. I prefer accessible books. Other readers may really like solving the mystery to find the thief. Half-way through the book, I knew who the culprit was, so there wasn’t even much of a puzzle.
There were a couple of themes that the author put out there. One of the side-stories was about mental illness. There was also the subject of good old boys doing things their way while those that disagree (women) have to find a way to work around them.
This was a disappointing book for me, though was good enough to read to the end. And in the end, Liesl did the right thing.
Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
About The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk
What holds more secrets in the library: the ancient books shelved in the stacks or the people who preserve them?
Liesl Weiss has been (mostly) happy working in the rare books department of a large university, managing details and working behind the scenes to make the head of the department look good. But when her boss has a stroke and she’s left to run things, she discovers that the library’s most prized manuscript is missing.
Liesl tries to sound the alarm and inform the police about the missing priceless book but is told repeatedly to keep quiet to keep the doors open and the donors happy. But then a librarian goes missing as well. Liesl must investigate both disappearances, unspooling her colleagues’ pasts like the threads of a rare book binding as it becomes clear that someone in the department must be responsible for the theft. What Liesl discovers about the dusty manuscripts she has worked among for so long—and about the people who preserve and revere them—shakes the very foundation on which she has built her life.
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Today is the sixth anniversary of Whiskey With My Book. Over its short lifespan, the types of posts have changed but the basic premise remains the same. I started blogging because I love to read great books and I want to share them with like-minded people like you.
Today, 98% of my posts are book reviews. While I do take requests for book reviews, mostly I review books that I choose. Lately, I have become even more picky about what I choose to read and review. Taking the time to read a book and then write a meaningful review takes valuable time. I want don’t want to squander it on something that I cannot recommend. That is why 4 and 5 stars are the norm for this blog.
Last year I had a total of 68 posts. It was kind of a slow year for posting reviews. But it was a big year for reading. 172 books all together. 35 of those were children’s picture books that I must read as a librarian. I listened to 38 audiobooks. The rest fall into various and overlapping categories that include mystery, romance, scifi, historical and paranormal. If you would like to know the titles, I read, here is my Goodreads Year in Books 2021.
Today, I will share some highlight of what I read in 2021. If anything interests you, click on the book covers to take you to Amazon.
Highlights of 2021
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley – I absolutely loved The Winter Sea and The Firebird by this author. The Vanished Days is a prequel to this Scottish/Slains series. The author employs her typical epic storytelling combined with her keen ability to drop clues and reveal truths in a way Kearsley historical fiction fans have come to appreciate.
A Song of Flight by Juliet Marillier – This book was a beautiful wrap -up for Marillier’s Warrior Bards fantasy series. I was crying at the beginning (sadness) and at the end (happiness). I am such a fan of her beautiful storytelling.
Plan for the Worst by Jodi Taylor – Every book in this series both breaks my heart and gives me hope. But this one was so, so, so! If you read the series you understand. If you don’t read the series – you should! Definitely one of the best of the time-travel series out there.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – A lot of science gobbledygook wrapped up in a drama of world-ending crisis, friendship, heartbreak and triumph. My first Andy Weir book – I’d read him again.
New books in series I love to follow…
These are the series I keep reading. Mind you, not all series keep me interested past 3 books. A fact, I think, that some authors have figured out because they end series with book 3. But these are stories that I have not grown tired of, in fact I look forward to more of them. I will continue to read them as long as the authors continue to write them:
King of Pain (Interstellar Rescue) by Donna S. Frelick – Scifi Romance
Cosmic Boom (Project Enterprise) by Pauline Baird Jones – Scifi Romance
Books 1-6 in Celine Jeanjean’s Razor’s Edge series – Urban Fantasy
Books 3 and 4 in The Fae Files by Cecilia Dominic – Paranormal Romance
A Wicked Conceit (Lady Darby) by Anna Lee Huber – Historical Mystery
I normally gravitate to books about strong-willed heterosexual women and the men they love. Occasionally I read outside my box and this year I found two I really liked.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite is a historical romance about two women who really prefer to have control over their own lives. Winter’s Orbit by new author Everina Maxwell is scifi romance and one of my favorite books of the year. It features two men from different worlds who find out how much they want each other while solving a techno-political mystery.
Cozy mysteries are like the sherbet course between other courses. They cleanse the palette. Vampire Knitting Club series by Nancy Warren is a funny, fun series that combines mystery, paranormal and fine needlework – a combination that can’t be beat!
What’s wrong with this world?
Over the last two years, much has happened that has made me consider writing blogs that reflect more personal socio-political views. But this blog is about enjoying great books, so you will not see those types of posts here. However, I am not against recommending books that either reflect a personal view or give you cause the think about what is wrong with this world.
Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemison – Brilliant Scifi short story! When the elite humans need to return to the Earth they abandoned for a better life, they might find out they are not so elite after all.
A Wolf After My Own Heart by MaryJanice Davidson – this paranormal romance has so many hilarious and sobering comments about characters and events in the story that reflect what is going on in the real world. I will definitely continue to read this author.
Axiom’s End and Truth of the Divine by Lindsay Ellis – I enjoyed both of these scifi stories about first contact. One of the major premises is that a little leads to a lot. That is a very simplified statement, but if you consider that this can apply to limiting individual rights or censorship, it says a lot.
I read 3 books in the Dragonfury series from Coreen Callahan. She does a fine job telling the story of heroic male dragon shifters finding their high energy females. Easy to read, fast moving plots. Fun! I’ve read all of Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series, but before 2021, had never read any of the related Mercy Thompson series. Books 1-5 on audiobook sped by and I hope to catch up the rest of the series in 2022. I really like coyote walker Mercy Thompson and werewolf Adam Hauptman. The ties to Alpha and Omega is just an added benefit.
Some books just don’t live up their hype. Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells is the 6th book in the series. It was waning with book 5, but I read one more. Murderbot is a fascinating, much-loved character, but has lost its charm by this point. End of series for me. In 2021, I read The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk which releases 1/25/22. As a librarian, I was eager to read the mystery. The book has gotten some hype, but just didn’t do much for me. Good enough to finish. I may go ahead and review and then you can decide.
A good one to look forward to:
Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft – this was my first and last review for Library Journal. The unique voice had me mesmerized. I really enjoyed this one! Look for this Pacific theatre WWII historical novel to be released in March this year.
Thanks for being with me through the last 6 years. I’m sure there will be a lot of great new books to talk about in 2022. I look forward to sharing some of them with you!