In the Summertime

Ahhh summer, a time of rest and relaxation, days at the beach and nights under the stars. While some folks want to embrace undemanding fare while lounging poolside, others may want to read or watch that classic or prize winner that they’ve neglected. Either way, here’s a selection of movies and books that take place during this most blissful of seasons!



For more suggestions, new hot titles, beach reads and more, stop by Reference Desk and we’ll be glad to help!

~ Dori

What we’ve been reading in May…

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Cover image for This is the story of Christopher Knight known as “The North Pond Hermit”, a man who walked into the woods of Maine at age 20 and did not leave until arrested 27 years later. He was arrested for burglarizing nearby cabins to obtain food and various essentials for his survival.  Once arrested, he immediately confessed to what added up to nearly 1000 burglaries and showed remorse for his crimes. He never hurt anyone, nor did he ever damage anything. Mr. Knight simply wanted to live alone in the woods. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, the author, Michael Finkel, is able to give a detailed account of Knight’s secluded life.  In addition to Knight’s story, Finkel discusses famous hermits in the past, and mental illness topics which help the reader to better understand Mr. Knight, however, the author leaves the reader feeling that one will never have a complete understanding of Knight’s mindset & choices. I found the story of Christopher Knight to be fascinating. He survived by his high level wits, common sense and courage. He could “MacGyver” anything, and bring himself to a peaceful mental state of embracing the quiet and solitude of the forest.  He clearly wrestled with fundamental communication & social skills (a common thread in his family), and believed his escape to the woods was his only choice for survival. This is an excellent choice for book clubs, having so many different discussion points to pursue.  You will also find that readers will have very different viewpoints about Mr. Knight, as did the residents of North Pond, which will add to the talking points about this book. I personally see all sides to this story, and have a weak spot for Christopher Knight.  The big question I ask myself is can we unconditionally accept each other for who we truly are? Mary


Boy Erased by Garrard Conley

Cover image for Boy Erased has been on my radar since it was released in 2016, and recently came to my attention again since it is being made into a movie. In this memoir, Conley recounts his experience growing up as the only child of a Baptist pastor in Arkansas. After being outed as gay to his parents, he agreed to enroll in conversion therapy. The memoir moves between his experience in the program and memories from his childhood and teenage years. As expected, the trauma Conley experienced in the conversion therapy program is upsetting and heartbreaking, but it is also beautifully observed and eloquently written, on par with Dani Shapiro or Mary Karr in terms his ability to powerfully self-excavate. This is a must-read for members of the LGBTQ community who grew up in religious households, all clergy, and for those looking to increase their capacity for empathy.  Lyndsey


The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Cover image for I’ve been reading The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, who is a social psychologist and professor at New York University.  I really enjoyed his more recent book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, so I thought I’d give this a try.  I’m not finding it as challenging as The Righteous Mind, but there are interesting chapters about the difference between romantic love  (passionate, fleeing) and companionate love (longer lasting, deeper attachment), as well as a great chapter about whether or not modern psychological studies can back up the idea that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Haidt thinks that we can learn from adversity under the right circumstances, especially if we can construct a life-narrative that makes sense out of our suffering.  He argues that positive relationships, meaningful work, and a connection to something larger can work together to make us happier.  Andrew


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Cover image for In Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, attorney Avery Stafford leaves her job in South Carolina to assist in the care of her cancer-stricken father. At a meet and greet event at a local nursing home Avery meets May Crandal. Seeing an old photo in May’s room makes Avery think there might be a link between May and her Grandma Judy. May’s real name was Rill Foss until she and her siblings became part of black-market adoptions practiced by the Tennessee Children’s Home. The mystery begins. This is a difficult tale to imagine. The novel was inspired by firsthand accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society that existed into the 1950’s. Emma


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Cover image for I’ve just finished listening to Ready Player One during my commutes, which was a great adventure. I’m still gradually working on the ebook A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-1960. Following Free Comic Book Day I read a handful of various comics. Next I’m looking forward to a book on CD of Amy Bloom’s White Houses. It is not often that I pick up a brand new best seller, but I’ve read many good things about this work of historical fiction. Since recently watching a Ken Burns documentary series about the Roosevelt family (with extra attention paid to Teddy, FD, and Eleanor) I’m primed for this intimate story about perhaps the most intriguing first lady in history.  Byron


The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg

Cover image for This past month I had the great pleasure of reading The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg. A retelling and mash-up of stories (fairy tales, biblical, and folklore), this collection of stories feels familiar and yet very alien.  Though there is a sinister tone that seems to saturate the book that is often reinforced by the ambiguous endings of each tale. Ortberg plays with gender and archetypes and it’s often this play on the structure and tradition of these stories that brought me the most  joy as a reader. It is a quick read but never feels rushed. Recommended for readers who love sinister tales that jump from magical realism to all out fantasy. Greg


The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

Cover image for When Beth, a small time bar maid, disappears, everyone thinks she has just moved on to a new adventure.  But her best friend Natalie does not believe it for a minute.  She is sure something sinister has happened.  Nat tries to piece together Beth’s past and her relationships, realizing her friend kept a lot of secrets.  And as strange things begin to happen in Natalie’s house and to an elderly bar patron with a foggy memory, it becomes obvious that someone wants these secrets to remain hidden.  Another fantastic suspense story from Christobel Kent, beautifully written, with characters you would want to meet and images of an English countryside you would love to visit.  Sara

New in the Reading Room!

Take a look at these new book reviews in our Reading Room.  Click on the link to take you there.


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Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth


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Agatha Christie: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah


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 On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen


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Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn


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The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld


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The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes


Beach-y Keen Books!

It was tough, but we persevered and made it happen.. We all found a book we’d enjoy reading on the beach or the back porch and then we talked about them! Crazy, right? But I think the diversity of the list makes it especially fun. Are you ready for some fun? Done!

Chris: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. Turn quick to page 163 for one of my absolute favorites: Still I Rise. When Governor Cory Booker referred to the other day, it reminded me of how much I loved this poem and I was compelled to go back and reread it. Every bit as good as I remember. Of course, it led to reading more of this wonderful collection.

Lauren: In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, and the two set off on adventures around the world. On the eve of their first anniversary, Jesse is on a photojournalism assignment with a crew when their helicopter disappears over the Pacific Ocean. Devastated, Emma returns to her small Massachusetts hometown and starts over. Years later she’s reconnected with a high school friend, Sam, and found love again. As Sam and Emma are enjoying their lives together and planning a wedding, Emma gets a life-changing phone call: Jesse has been found, alive.

Gina: Jojo Moyes continues her series following Louisa Clark in the book After You. This picks up after Louisa lost her love, following how she copes with this loss and moves on in her life. Louisa returns home after an accident and meets an unexpected individual that turns her life upside down. After making a deal with her parents, Louisa participates in a Moving On support group, meets new friends, and even finds a new love interest. This books keeps you engaged and rooting for Louisa to find happiness, a great beach read!

Sara: I read the new Liane Moriarty novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty. This is a story of three suburban couples who get together for a weekend barbecue that ends in a tragedy. Sam and Clementine are happily married parents of two, working together to juggle their hectic lives and careers. Erika and Oliver are a quiet, reserved, childless couple who both appreciate their calm and peaceful lifestyle. Vid and Tiffany are the larger than life, outgoing, fun-loving neighbors hosting the barbecue. Each family has problems and deep, dark secrets; and all of these come into play on and after this fateful weekend. They all can’t help but wonder what life would have been like if they had just said no to the invitation. Guilt and misconceptions are the threads binding these 6 people, and Moriarty does an excellent job of weaving it all together in the end. At times I thought I knew all the secrets and that this would be a predictable read, but she managed to continue to bring in new bits of information and surprise me at the finish.

Dori: In The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, Beth follows her husband Matt to Washington D.C. after he gets a job with the Obama administration. There, she’s in for a rude awakening: everyone knows one another, sharing their political connections, and Beth, a writer, feels out of the loop. Soon she and Matt meet a charismatic couple from Texas, Jimmy, a White house staff member, and his wife Ashleigh, a somewhat typical Southern belle. The four become best friends, meeting for meals, trips and one snowy weekend, when all of D.C. shuts down. Soon, however, tensions arise and their friendship is threatened as Jimmy starts getting promotions, while Matt’s career stagnates. This novel is a funny, light, and breezy insider’s look at D.C. and its political machinations.

Steve: Killing Reagan, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, tells the fascinating story of Reagan’s life, his road into politics and beyond, all while painting a vivid picture of the world and events around him, leading up to and beyond the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. The authors include both the good and bad about Reagan, with plenty of dirt about his early love life, other politicians’ negative thoughts on Nancy, and much more.

Beth: Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew. Kate Batista spends her days working in a school and her evenings taking care of her father and sister, but never really tending to herself. Her father is on the brink of discovering a cure for autoimmune disease, but when his research is in jeopardy, he asks Kate to take on the most daunting task of her life. This was an enjoyable read, with very lovable characters.

Carol: In Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, Caren Gray is the manager of former sugarcane plantation Belle Vie—now a tourist attraction and banquet hall, when a body is found on the grounds. Caren’s ties to Belle Vie run deep, and knowing its secrets gives her an edge in solving the crime—even as it puts her own life in danger. This smart, award-winning literary mystery was a perfect take-along on my vacation.

Stacey: The Lovers’ Guide to Rome by Mark Lamprell is narrated by an omniscient ancient blue (think a little like a Greek chorus?) as readers are guided through three stages of love: bliss, doubt, and loss. Each stage is represented by a different couple, a young couple just met and feel the bliss of new love, a middle-aged couple are beginning to doubt their long-term marriage, and a widow has come to spread the ashes of her husband. Getting to know the characters makes the story charming enough but the added information on Rome’s history, art, and religion is pure bonus!

Next time we’ll be reading Religious Fiction! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to find a book that has religiously-based attitudes, values, or actions as a central feature of the story in any genre. Enjoy!


A Mid-Summer Report

If you ask me, mid-summer is an ideal time to compile a Best Of list. People have a little more time to read and listen to books. Maybe you are trying to catch up on your to read list or maybe you are looking for a hot new summer read. Whatever your needs, we have you covered! With my own personal reading I have been doing a little bit of both. Here’s what I have been reading and loving so far this summer:


A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl is the story Alex and his mother and their journey from New York to L.A. via the world of Cons. It’s about the comic book industry, it’s about feminism and fandoms and a family that is going through traumatic changes. This story was so beautiful and the relationships that are explored will stick with you. For another coming of age story try The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extent.


So, I took the plunge into J.D. Robb’s long-running In Death series (psst-this is Nora Roberts, in case you didn’t know that already). What have I gotten myself into? Naked in Death introduces Eve Dallas, a NYC police lieutenant. The year is 2058. Prostitution is now legal, but crime is still crime and murder and political corruption are at the heart of Dallas’s case. I can totally see the appeal of this series! It’s a futuristic crime-thriller with lots of sexy bits! I will definitely keep plugging away at this series, which is currently 43 books and counting!

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Speaking of long-running and on-going series, I started Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series in preparation for the author’s visit to Rocky River (save the date, October 14 and check back with us for more details!). I started with A is for Alibi way back in January and am currently waiting for N is for Noose to be available for me! These books, starring PI Kinsey Milhone are quick, easy, and fun reads. Perfect for summer!


Finally, how about a little magic for your summer reading? Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (aka, Mira Grant) is a dark and mysterious novel that answers the what if the magic doorways, wardrobes, and rabbit holes that swallow children up are real? The children at  Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for children to go after their magic fantasy world has gives them the boot. When this once safe-haven becomes the site of vicious murders Nancy, the newest arrival, sets out to figure out what is happening. This short book is lovely and weird.

What are you reading this summer?


It’s Summer -and all the reading is fine!

I think everyone had an easy time picking a title for our last genre book discussion… We discussed what we might read on the beach or on the porch during the lazy days of summer. Unsurprisingly, everyone liked the book they read! And now maybe you’ll be able to find just the right thing to read while you sit in the sun -or shade!

Maureen: Kimberly McCreight’s new novel Where They Found Her opens with the shocking discovery of an unidentified dead newborn in a creek in the well-to-do university town of Ridgedale, New Jersey. Who does the baby belong to? Why would someone do something so unspeakable? New Ridgedale transplant and fledgling local reporter Molly Sanderson uncovers there is much more to the story than anyone previously imagined when she discovers the creek site was also the scene of another mysterious accident several decades ago. Complicating matters further is the fact that Molly herself lost a baby to miscarriage not long ago, causing her doting husband to want her off the story. With a few other characters and plotlines woven in and told in alternating chapters covering their different lives using flashbacks to build the suspense, this is a well-written, compelling novel full of twists!

Beth: In Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter is Dead, Dexter Morgan, full-time forensics investigator for the Miami PD, part-time vigilante serial killer, has his last hoorah in the eighth novel of the Dexter series. As a follow up to a crime scene in Dexter’s Final Cut, the Miami PD is desperate to explain and cover up a messy situation that happened on their clock, pinning blame on Morgan. With the reemergence of a former character, Dexter finds himself fighting for his freedom, and taking on a whole new deadly monster in order to save his remaining family members. You might become infatuated with the monster who is Dexter Morgan in the first few Dexter novels. The series is darkly humors and thoroughly entertaining. Lindsay does a great job wrapping up the series the best way he possibly could.

Carol: Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos takes place during one hot, steamy summer in the small college town of Grinnell, Iowa where big-city girl Claire attended grad school, but never imagined eventually living and working there as writer in residence, married to Don Lowry, a local boy turned real estate agent. Now 38 and mother to their two children, Claire is dissatisfied with how her life, her career and her marriage have turned out. Both partners begin to stray and things combust in group vacation (including their lovers) at a vacation in northern Minnesota, where all players contemplate their morality and mortality. This family drama novel is complicated and messy but rewarding and magical–just like real life.

Chris: The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation by Melissa Rivers is a fast, fun read. Melissa opens up about her special mother-daughter relationship with stories and life lessons learned from Mom Joan. Melissa also has a good sense of humor and as she relays Joan’s antics and quotes her lines, it kind of takes the edge off of some of those caustic remarks. Finding out more about Joan made me like her more. She knew what was important: education, and so, in the book, you’ll see her grade school and high school report cards. Work was very important to her, too, so you’ll see her first resume which states “Blonde-5’ 3” directly after her name and address. And you’ll see lots of family photos including one with Joan at the age of two with the caption “Even then she tried to pass herself off as one and a half.” I really enjoyed it.

Steve: Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, by Kostya Kennedy, is the story of Rose’s life, with a focus on his career and banishment from baseball. This an excellent book, is well written and gives an even view of Rose. Kennedy makes the case that, in light of steroid users in baseball, who have been given a chance to be on the HOF ballot, Rose’s request for reinstatement should be re-examined.

Lauren: Bonjour Tristesse was written by Francoise Sagan and published in 1954 when she was just 18—it was an instant hit. The short novel is from the perspective of 17-year-old Cécile, summering at a beach house with her widower father on the coast of France. Cécile has become used to her father’s playboy ways and the women who come and go in his life (this summer his companion is a young redhead named Elsa) and enjoys reciprocal freedom to spend her days however she wants, even if they are spent in the company of her lover Cyril or ignoring her studies. Her world is disrupted when they are joined by Anne, who was once a friend of Cécile’s mother, with whom her father falls quickly and seriously in love.

Megan: Armada by Ernest Cline is the book equivalent of the summer blockbuster movie and the perfect page-turner for the beach. Armada is the story of Zack Lightwood, a high school senior who has grown up on a heavy diet of science fiction films, books, and video games. One day reality and fantasy collide when a spaceship appears over Zack’s school. The ship looks exactly like the ones in his favorite video game and it has arrived to take Zack. Because of his gaming skills he has been recruited by a top-secret government agency to help save the world from an imminent alien invasion. This fun alien invasion adventure well-known sci-fi tropes and turns them upside down. Pop culture references to cult classics will please the most enthusiastic fans and the surprise twist will leave readers with plenty to think about long after the adventure has ended.

Dori: Ana of California by Andi Teran is a retelling of Anne of Green Gables set in modern day California. Bright and artistic Ana is in foster care in Los Angeles and her big mouth has made it difficult to place her, but one last option is to stay with two siblings, Abby and Emmett Garber, and work on their farm in Northern California. The experience is eye opening and Ana begins to love the farm and the Garbers, and they her, but will a misunderstanding send her back to danger in L.A.? A great summer read, with romance, cooking, and a charming title character that you’ll be rooting for.

Emma: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce is the story of Queenie, a patient at St. Bernadine’s Hospice. She learns that her former brewery coworker Harold Fry is coming to visit and she should wait for him. He plans to walk the entire length of England, 600 miles, to come see her. Harold sends postcards along the way so Queenie can track his progress. Eventually the other hospice patients are excited about Harold’s journey and also follow his progress. Unable to speak, Queenie relives their shared past through letters which are never sent. The complement to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a sweet simple story.

Stacey: The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig is the perfect kind of summertime reading. There’s a little bit of history (learning!) and a mystery (a puzzle for your brain!) plus a light romance (to make your heart go pit-a-pat!) all in an easy to carry softcover book! The only downside is that it’s the very last of a fabulous series, but the upside is that the author is writing plenty of other fabulous books -phew!

Our next genre will be religious fiction! If you want to join us, you will also want to look for a story that has religiously-based attitudes, values or actions at it’s core. It can be any religion and it can be sweet or salty -like a thriller– it’s up to you!

As always -enjoy!