I read and loved The Outlander by Gil Adamson when it was released in 2008. Set in 1900 in the Canadian wilderness, this novel follows Mary Boulton, a young woman who is on the run from her two brothers-in-law, after having killed her husband. Atmospheric and suspenseful, with quiet moments of introspection and flashbacks of Mary’s earlier life, this character-driven novel is just exactly my favorite type of reading. If you asked me for a good historical fiction to read over the last 12 years, it is likely that I handed this one to you.
Finally, this story continues with the release of Ridgerunner, which was published in February. Ridgerunner is set in 1917 and focuses on 12-year-old Jack Boulton. Jack is the son of the recently-deceased Mary and also the son of the man known as the “Ridgerunner,” a notorious wanderer, loner, and thief. Jack is left in the care of a nun with a dark past, as his father robs mining towns and distant outposts in order to build a nest egg for Jack’s future. Don’t let this book’s online description as a “literary western” put you off. Not only does it have the descriptive and well-researched renderings of Canada and the Great Plains that won me over in The Outlander, Ridgerunner also explores the area’s physical landscapes changing due to tourism and the challenges of homesteading at the beginning of the 20th-century. Ridgerunner is a suspenseful ride, as well as an emotional journey between father and son, with twists, turns and secrets that you won’t see coming.
While The Outlander and Ridgerunner can be read independently of one another, why not thoroughly immerse yourself and read both? You can find these books and others by Gil Adamson on our library’s catalog.
If you like captivating and compelling historical fiction, The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly should be on your to-read list. This novel explores themes including love, loss, hope and friendship and its plot unwinds over three different time periods.
In 1907, Venetia has been hired by the owners of the Highbury House, to design a series of extravagant gardens on its estate. When she gets there, she is well on her way to making a name for herself in garden planning, but catering to the whims of the overbearing lady of the house threatens to ruin Venetia’s plans.
In 1944, the English countryside has become home to many land girls who are helping farmers produce food for the war effort, and Highbury House has been conscripted by the British forces to serve as a military hospital. The house is now owned by Diana Symonds, a young widow who feels like her life is out of her control. Diana’s only consolations are her beautiful son Robyn and the time she spends in her home’s lavish gardens, which she can no longer afford to maintain.
In 2021, Emma has been hired to breathe new life into the very same gardens, now very neglected and barely recognizable. Emma has longed to work on anything originally designed by the long-ago famous and secretive Venetia Smith and is thrilled when she’s picked to restore the grounds of Highbury House to what Venetia intended them to be. As Emma sets out to discover the garden’s original plans, secrets from the past begin to unravel, connecting these three women in unexpected ways.
Like a flower opening to reveal its beauty, this book is one to savor as it captures the lives and dreams of the very different yet strong women whose lives are bound by this special garden. If you are looking for inspiration to start picking out your backyard plants (or if you just want a fabulous read), pick up The Last Garden in England.
I’m so excited when I get to read a brand-new, brand new book -that is, when I am the first person to check out and read a library copy of a book. Don’t get me wrong, I love to share, but right now I am really enjoying the “new car smell” of the experience. It helps that I’m also really enjoying what’s going on between the book’s fresh covers, as well.
Better Luck Next Time by Julia Clairborne Johnson is set in 1938, in Reno, Nevada at the Flying Leap dude ranch. There, women who are waiting for their divorces to come through can, for a fee, put up stakes for the six weeks it takes for them to declare state residency and file the paperwork legally. While nursing their (sometimes) broken hearts, these women are pampered and catered to by hunky ranch hands like Ward, the narrator of this story, who finds himself torn between the job and, you guessed it, one of the ranch’s visitors. So far, this look at marriage, divorce, friendship, love, and finding yourself, is proving to be engaging and original and is educating me about a slice of American history that I hadn’t known before. Also, it is providing me with plenty of opportunities to laugh out loud along the way. Reserve your copy here!
But, enough about the book. Let’s talk food! It’s been so cold here lately that this weekend I thought I’d conjure some warmth by recreating a cake I made over the summer, a lemon cake that is chock-full of blueberries and covered a cream cheese frosting. I dare you to bake one yourself and take a bite with your eyes closed. You can almost feel the sunshine pouring down on you. I found the recipe online at https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/lemon-blueberry-layer-cake/ but you can find cookbooks by the genius who created this recipe in our catalog! Hope you enjoy. ~Carol
I’ve always liked playing video games but in the past, could walk away from the action pretty easily. In this last year, though, I’ve become more of a gamer than I ever have been, and now I find that my husband and I are constantly vying for the controller, especially when it comes to the newest game in our household, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Released at the end of 2020, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the twelfth major installment and the twenty-second release in the Assassin’s Creed series, but players don’t have to have be familiar with any of the franchise’s previous story lines to enjoy it. Set in 9th-century Europe, this game allows its players to take control of a Viking warrior who is embarking out from the frozen lands of Norway to (violently) raid the shores of England and to start a new settlement there. Not only is this game a visual treat, it has finely crafted story content. I love the mysteries I am encouraged to solve as the viking Eivor, the high-seas adventures I get to take on my longboat, and the open-world exploration that the game encourages.
That said, it can be hard to make a commitment, even when you know you love a franchise and have read all the good reviews. Why not ‘try before you buy’ when it comes to your next video game? Did you know that Rocky River Public Library has an impressive selection that you can borrow? It’s true. Search our catalog and discover your own new obsession. -Carol
I usually make New Year’s Resolutions and, like many, don’t keep them. One regular resolution of mine that I usually keep, however, is reaching my set goal of reading 52 books annually. While this might sound like a lot of reading, I know many people who put my numbers to shame, and that’s okay. Everyone’s reading pace is different. And, is it cheating to turn up the speed of audiobooks? (I say no!)
So, while I’ve been keeping this resolution over the last few years, I’ve kept a little blank book with lists of the books and the year that I’ve read them. I’ve been very proud of my little notebook and was sure I could keep up this pace…until 2020 happened. Oddly enough, in a year where I should have had more time to read than ever due to lack of socializing, I failed, and stalled somewhere around book #47! Even worse, it’s January 11th and all I can do is stare at screens (and no, they are not the screens where I have loaded e-books). I haven’t downloaded an audiobook, cracked a book cover, or even (gasp!), written the year down on the fresh page in my aforementioned precious notebook that mocks me from across the room.
How can I face that notebook knowing my intentions have changed? Yes, I will read. Yes, I likely will even read 52 books this year. And yes, I’ll likely record these books somewhere. But first, I’m going to be kind to myself about this. And, when I’m ready to turn a page, I’m sure I’ll find myself immersed in my next favorite novel.
Until I have a book to recommend, be kind to yourselves and one another. And, if you are feeling like I have been feeling, know that when you are ready for distraction, information, entertainment and connection, the library will be here waiting for you. ~Carol
I can’t let 2020 end without sharing two of my most recent obsessions with you, that you too, ahem, can also realize courtesy of your local library.
First up is a book that would have made my “Top Ten of 2020” post, had I read it earlier. Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen was my Christmas weekend read and I’m still reeling from this gut-puncher of a debut. This dark and darkly comic novel is told over the course of a single work-week through eyes of Majella, a 27-year-old woman who works at the local chip shop. Majella lives with her alcoholic mom in fictional Aghybogey, Ireland, a depressed border town where tensions between Catholics and Protestants run deep and violent. Majella, who might be autistic, is just trying to figure out the changing world around her. In the week after her grandmother has been murdered, Majella is desperate to carry on with her usual routine, and returns to work. There, her descriptions of a typical night in the chip shop provide a razor-sharp commentary on her small-town and its inhabitants, and on her own life’s painful history. I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. Place your hold in our catalog.
My second new obsession has been watching A Suitable Boy, a BBC television drama based on a (over 1,300 page!) 1993 novel by Vikram Seth, set in 1951 in a newly-independent India. This six-part miniseries is the coming-of-age story of Lata, a university student who is torn between her family duty, religious loyalty and love, as three very different men try to win her heart. This show has it all: lush settings, a lesson in Indian history, great music, and romance, of course! Acorn released episode five today and I cannot wait to watch it. Did I mention that I stream Acorn (including this show) for free from the library? You can, too! Click here to get started.
And, until next time, Happy New Year! ~Carol
In case you didn’t know it, today, December 21, 2020 is the day we mark the beginning of Winter, when we have the least amount of hours of daylight and therefore, when it is also the longest night. But this year is different (enter your ‘you can say that again’ joke here), not only because of the pandemic, but because of an event in tonight’s sky forecast that people are calling the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, or the “Christmas Star.”
While it looks pretty overcast right now, perhaps you will get lucky enough to witness this rare astronomical event– specifically, the positions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky closer than they have in nearly 400 years. If that isn’t jaw-dropping enough for you, it has been nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will this year.
Learn more about when to start looking up by reading this article by NASA, because they know more about space stuff than I do.
And, until next time, Happy Winter Solstice. ~Carol
Here’s one good thing I’ll say about 2020 – at least I had the opportunity to read and enjoy some pretty fantastic books this year! And for that, I am grateful and ready to share.
Here are my top ten of 2020 (along with links to our library’s catalog):
The Searcher by Tana French
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman
And, now, I’m off to make merry and to add my name to waiting lists for all of my coworkers’ favorite books that I haven’t read! Happy Holidays. -Carol
True confession: while I love to read, buy books, talk about books, borrow and lend books, I find it challenging to purchase books for adults, and so I usually choose to purchase (or make) something else for them. I do, however, absolutely love to give books to the kids in my life, and lucky me, I know some wonderful little ones who will be getting some great selections this year.
Here are some titles I recommend that you consider for the half-pints in your life:
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
Where’s Prince? by Kev Gahan
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by Jessica Hische
Find Frida Hardcover by Catherine Ingram
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
All Kinds of Kindness by Judy Carey Nevin
Draw Here by Herve Tullet
Inspired? You can order these, and books about practically anything else you can imagine, at Bookshop.org. While you’re there, maybe pick yourself up something to get into the holiday spirit.
Happy Reading and Happy Holidays! -Carol
Goodbye November 2020.
Perhaps I used up all of my “thankful for”s last week but I’ll confess that not only am I am not sorry to see this month go, I’m actually eager to turn the calendar’s page. Are you feeling drained by this year, too? Why don’t we right now decide to take it easy on ourselves on this grey and rainy Monday and last day of November evening blog post (or whenever you are reading this) and seek out a way to shut down for a spell and to relax?
My way tonight will be popping in The Return of the King, the third and final film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We (re)watched the first two films over Thanksgiving weekend, and despite the fact that we were not able to gather with loved-ones, we were still reminded how nice it is to spend some of our other “old friends.” Gandalf, Frodo, Sam and the rest of the Middle Earth gang helped fill an obvious void, and time spent with them was a bit of a respite from scrolling through news and dodging the already prevalent holiday shopping ads. It helped, too, that we chose a favorite where we know the good guys win in the end.
Do you need a brain-break too? Why not pick up your favorite ‘oldie but goodie,’ or put your favorite titles on hold and see if your DVD player still works? ~Carol