A Good Book for Book Club

The Foundling
by Ann Leary

In 1927, Mary Engle is a bit naïve for her 19 years, likely due to being raised in an orphanage. When she graduates from a secretarial course, she is thrilled to be offered a job at the Nettleton State Village for Feebleminded Women of Childbearing Age in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Mary is impressed by the institute’s head psychiatrist and (female!) superintendent Dr. Agnes Vogel and thinks if she saves money and goes to college, she might become a powerful woman in charge one day. Vogel is a believer in eugenics, and therefore is interested in controlling reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable, “desirable” characteristics. She leads Mary to believe that Nettleton’s residents have been confined because they are not fit for society, due to low IQ or loose morals, and that they deserve to remain incarcerated until they are no longer of childbearing age.

At first, Mary does not question Vogel’s practices, which include keeping wages from women who work outside of Nettleton, not allowing residents to correspond with their family and enabling bored husbands to institutionalize their wives.

Things change when Mary spots Lillian, a woman around her age that attended the same Catholic orphanage where Mary spent her childhood. Mary is sure Lillian has no mental disorder but is afraid she will lose her job if she admits to knowing her. Lillian, the title’s “foundling,” sees Mary as her way out but must first convince her how corrupt Vogel’s program really is. Can Mary save Lillian, whose life has taken a bad turn? Or does Mary have her own reasons for wanting to keep her past friendship with Lillian a secret?

The Foundling by Ann Leary is fascinating historical fiction that is based on the author’s own family experiences. Readers of well-researched novels and book clubs will appreciate this look at a dark chapter of our history and the crimes committed against women in the past by those in power. This novel kept me reading until the end to learn the fate of Leary’s characters who come to life between its covers.


Looking for a Sweet Summer Romance?

How to Love Your Neighbor
by Sophie Sullivan

Grace is a design student in her mid-twenties who has finally decided to renovate the California beach bungalow she inherited from her grandparents. Though she had a rough childhood, Grace has a positive attitude and makes friends wherever she goes, and while she struggles to make ends meet, she is not afraid to work hard to achieve her goals. And, no one should ever doubt her ability to do things herself – this woman has serious power tool skills.

Noah is a real estate developer from New York, newly relocated to Southern California and desperate to shed his “silver spoon” image and distance himself from his tycoon father’s questionable business practices. Noah moves into the fixer-upper next door to Grace, looking for contractors to whip the place into shape for him. When they first meet, Noah tries to charm his new neighbor into selling her house to give him room to build a pool. Grace is staying put and thinks Noah is spoiled – handsome, but spoiled. A less-than-friendly competition is struck to see which of the two are more handy (it’s Grace!), and soon they themselves helping one another with household repairs. That’s just being neighborly, right?

When a famous magazine asks Noah for permission to record his house makeover, he thinks it is the break that will put him on the West coast map. There is one little catch – they want the neighbor, Grace, to be his designer on the project. Could working together for mutual benefit build a solid foundation for a new relationship?

How to Love Your Neighbor is a chaste, funny, lighthearted and heartwarming romantic comedy. If you are looking for a sweet read this summer, and you love a home renovation show, this book will keep you turning its pages to see if a couple of opposites can fall in love on their way to making a house a home.


Do The Time Warp Again

A Rip Through Time
by Kelley Armstrong

It’s May 20, 2019 and Vancouver homicide detective Mallory Atkinson is in Edinburgh, Scotland visiting her dying grandmother. To let off some steam, Mallory goes for a run and comes across what appears to be a woman in period costume being strangled. Mallory attempts to intervene and is strangled and left unconscious.

When Mallory wakes up, she’s not herself, both figuratively and literally. Instead, she finds herself in the body of a young housemaid, Catriona Mitchell, who was also attacked and left for dead in the exact spot Mallory was, on the very same day – 150 years earlier, in 1869!

Mallory cannot reason why she’s become a stranger in a strange body in a strange time, but quickly realizes that if she wants to survive (and not end up in an insane asylum), she’ll have to keep her origin story to herself and learn what it takes to be a housemaid in Victorian Scotland. Lucky for Mallory, her “new’ employer, Dr. Duncan Gray, is the local undertaker who assists Edinburgh Police Detective McCreadie solve crimes. When Mallory learns that the two men are investigating the strangulation of a man, an attack like the one made on Mallory’s life, she pins her hopes that helping to catch the murderer will lead her back to modern times.

Playing the role of Catriona along the way, however, who is more street-savvy thief than young, timid maid, might be tougher than Mallory suspects. And if Mallory is in 1869 making a mess out of Catriona’s life, what ever could Catriona be up to in Mallory’s life in 2019?

If you like mysteries, time travel stories, engaging characters, and historical fiction, you won’t want to miss A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong. My only complaint about this first in a new series is that I will have to wait for the sequel. It almost makes me wish that time travel were truly possible.  


Get Cozy, with a Mystery

Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross

Jane Darrowfield is in her 60s and after just a year of retirement from her job as a corporate executive, she’s already bored. She’s put her extra time to good use, however, and has managed to help a few friends out of some delicate situations, and word has got around in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts. When the director of a nearby senior living community asks Jane to help solve a problem among its residents – and get paid to do it – Jane agrees, even though it means she’ll be temporarily relocating to a place she feels she’s not old enough to live in.

Jane goes undercover as a prospective resident and quickly figures out who the bullies behind the pranks and rivalries are at Walden Springs. Before she is there a full 24 hours, one of the residents is found dead on the golf course and Jane finds herself in the middle of murder investigation. Have these seniors’ juvenile shenanigans gotten out of hand or is there something more sinister afoot? Don’t worry, Jane will get to the bottom of things.

Jane Darrowfield, Professsional Busybody is the first in a series and Jane is the perfect sleuth – smart, level-headed, and a good observer who is unafraid to stick her nose into other people’s business. With plenty of humor, the promise of possible new romance, and plenty of red herrings that will keep you guessing, why not take a break from the heavy stuff and pick up this cozy mystery? And then, reward yourself with its sequel, Jane Darrowfield, and the Madwoman Next Door.


A Look at Some New Children’s Books

I sometimes forget how lucky I am to be in a profession where my colleagues and I share book recommendations with one another almost daily. And, even better, I regularly also hear about titles that aren’t even out yet.

A couple of weeks ago, my good fortune was rewarded once again when I attended Cuyahoga County Public Library’s “Youth Book Buzz”. This virtual event offered several publishers, including Norton Books, Penguin Random House, Workman and Baker and Taylor, an opportunity to share some of their new Summer and Fall children and teen book releases. Librarians all over Ohio were invited to learn about hundreds of forthcoming books to be prepared to recommend that “perfect” new title to patrons and parents.

Here are just a few books that caught my fancy from that day:

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill is a fantasy for readers aged 10 and up and is about the power of generosity and love, and how a community suffers when it loses sight of those things. Already published in March, it’s technically not a forthcoming title, but I still can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho will be published in November. In this romantic comedy, Lari Ramires falls hard for Pedro Molina, but knows, as the grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries, their love can never be. With a beautiful setting, a star-crossed romance and amazing-sounding food, this new teen novel will be one to devour.

A Library is a lyrical picture book by poet Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by fine artist Erin Robinson. Together they have crafted a love letter to the magic places that libraries are. A Library will be published in September this year, and while it might seem obvious, I will be sure to check it out.

The Flamingo by Guojing is my kind of illustrated book. This wordless, graphic novel/chapter book follows an imaginative girl who becomes obsessed with flamingoes while on a beach vacation with her grandmother. I can already tell that this title, out in September, will make a great holiday gift.

Elephants Remember by Jennifer O’Connell is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Lawrence Anthony and his animal reserve in South Africa. There, he developed a deep bond he with the matriarch of an elephant herd that he helped to save. Look for it in October.

Beatrice Likes the Dark by April Genevieve Tucholk and illustrated by Khoa Le is picture book that will be published in September. It is heartwarming, slightly spooky tale about two very different sisters, Beatrice and Roo, who learn to celebrate their individuality, understanding that love runs deeper than their differences. I’m looking forward to reading this one to my favorite four-year-old.

While these titles are (almost) all too new to be in our catalog. Make sure you look for them starting this Summer. In the meantime, visit us at Rocky River Public Library and we’ll suggest some other great books for you to read.


A Gothic That Keeps You Guessing

Mrs. England
by Stacey Halls

A recent graduate from the renowned Norland Nurse program, Ruby May might be new to the role of governess, but she knows when a family dynamic is normal or not, mostly due to her own unusual upbringing. When she is hired by the wealthy England family to care for their four children, she is unsurprised that their manor home in a remote Yorkshire town feels so isolated compared to her last appointment in London. The differences from her previous happy workplace to her new position, unfortunately, don’t stop there. The longer Nurse May stays at the England’s Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right going on in its halls. Not only does Mrs. Lillian England keep strange hours, she seems to ignore her children and mostly stays hidden in her room for hours at a time. Unusually, it is her husband, mill owner Charles who appears to run the household and who warns the new governess not to leave Lillian alone with the children. Is Lillian truly to be feared, and why? What’s really going on in Mrs. England’s house and what is Nurse May willing to put up with to keep her own secrets hidden?

Simmering with slow-burning suspense, Mrs. England by Stacey Halls is a gothic mystery set in 1904, against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire. This compelling and descriptive slow-burn of a novel transports its readers to a different time and place, where danger lurks around every corner, and it is the perfect read for fans of Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Downton Abbey.


Check Out a New Mystery Debut

Pay Dirt Road
Samantha Jayne Allen

After graduating college, Annie McIntyre returns to her small hometown of Garnett, Texas –a place, she thinks, where nothing much ever happens. She begins working as a waitress while trying to figure out her next step when two murders happen on the same day. Sadly, one of the victims is her coworker Victoria, a newly single mother, who Annie had cancelled plans with just hours before her death. Annie is racked with guilt and the feeling that she could have prevented this tragedy. She gets a chance to redeem herself when Leroy, her grandfather and former town sheriff asks her to assist at his private investigation firm. Before she knows it, Annie dives head-first into the world of crime solving, even as her lack of experience gets her into hot water with locals who would prefer she look the other way.

Pay Dirt Road by Samantha Jayne Allen won the 2019 Tony Hillerman Prize, which is awarded to a previously unpublished author for a first mystery novel set in the Southwest. This slow-burning mystery is a solid debut with a surprise ending and refreshing and relatable characters, especially Annie, who bungles her way into dangerous situations as she learns the ropes of investigative work. Crime fiction fans in need of something new have just hit pay dirt, and this reader is hoping it will be the first in a new series.


Earth Day, Every Day

Founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, the first Earth Day saw rallies held in held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and most other American cities, including here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Earth Day is recognized annually on April 22 and is considered to be the largest secular observance in the world, marked by over a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local environmental policy changes.

Rocky River Public Library will celebrate Earth Day this Saturday, April 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on our Front Lawn. We’ll have representatives from green-friendly organizations who’ll be here to help you learn ways you can be kinder to our planet, opportunities for recycling, seedlings for planting, crafts to make, a plant swap from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., and more!

The good, clean Earth Day fun will continue on Sunday, April 24, with a volunteer opportunity to help clean up Rocky River Park. Meet us there, starting at 9:00 a.m.

Sure hope to see you there.

– Carol

Dive into a Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

In 1912, English immigrant Edwin St. Andrew wanders into a forest on Vancouver Island and unwittingly witnesses a fragment of time occurring at an Oklahoma City Airship Terminal in the year 2172 –a phenomenon also witnessed in the same spot and caught on film by Vincent, a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Gaspery-Jacques Roberts grew up in Night City on the moon’s Colony Two. In 2401, he is hired by the Time Institute to investigate this recurring blip in time, a scene which has also been written into a pandemic novel by Night City novelist Olive Llewellyn. Gaspery travels throughout time to investigate the anomaly and meets with Llewellyn in a chapter titled “Last Book Tour on Earth,” set just as a pandemic is about to hit. The connections Gaspery makes with the people who witnessed this time blip only seem to increase his questions about reality, life, and humanity.

I devoured Sea of Tranquility in a single sitting and while its plot is tricky to describe, it is the perfect post-quarantine novel. It subtly asks big questions about the human experience, while taking you on a magical journey through time that reminded me how good making connections with people (even through time and space) feels. While Sea of Tranquility can be read independently, fans of Mandel’s most recent novels, The Glass Hotel (2020) and the recently adapted for television Station Eleven (2014) will especially enjoy how Mandel continues to build on the multiverse of characters that span across her novels.


Spring into a Crime Fiction Series

by Louisa Luna

Zeb Williams, a one-time college football player went into hiding after he sabotaged his own team’s chance at a huge win. Thirty years later, California-based private investigator Alice Vega, a missing persons specialist, is hired to find him. On the outs with her partner, ex-cop Max “Cap” Caplan, Vega heads alone to the small town of Ilona, Oregon – the last place Zeb had been seen. There, she ends up uncovering a white supremacist gang who are terrorizing their neighbors. Vega won’t let that stand and interjects herself, getting badly beaten in the process. She heals, but then learns that Cap’s daughter is being harassed on the other side of the country. Readers will almost feel sorry for the revenge Vega has planned for this group, whose members include the son of a town bigwig. Is Vega over her head? And how does this connect to the disappearance of the infamous Zeb Williams?

Hideout is an adrenaline filled entry in the Alice Vega series by Louisa Luna, and fans of the first two books will appreciate the character and relationship development and surprises in this installment. Alice Vega is a tough as nails, fearless yet complex P.I., a champion for the helpless and downtrodden who is not afraid of hurting those who hurt others. Readers of Lee Child, action-packed gritty crime fiction, and strong female leads should pick up Hideout or, better yet, the series’ starter Two Girls Down.