What we’re reading now….

Secret Historian by Justin Spring

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This the biography of Samuel Steward, a man who would go by many other names in his life. Born in Southeast Ohio, Steward would attend Ohio State University, work as a university English professor, befriend Alfred Kinsey and Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, collaborate and contribute to the work of the Kinsey Institute, begin working as a tattoo artist, be ousted from his university job, move to California, and write gay pulp novels. The story of his career is intertwined with his identity as a homosexual man and his intimate personal life. This book uses the treasure trove of personal letters and personal effects to give a frank depiction. An exploration of Pre-Stonewall and gay liberation that gives the reader a glimpse into this man’s world and life.  Greg

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Daisy is a girl coming of age in the late sixties.  She is a free spirited, beautiful young woman with a fantastic voice.  The Six is a band led by the  brooding Billy Dunne.  Daisy and Billy eventually cross paths in the world of music, and a producer realizes that the key to massive success is to put the two together.  What happens next is the story of rock legends.    Mary

Chapters in the Course of My Life by Rudolf Steiner

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Steiner was a 19th century Austrian philosopher and “Anthroposophist” – anthroposophy is a spiritual movement Steiner founded, that believed there was a spiritual world accessible to human experience.  Steiner was also the founder of Waldorf education, which focuses on the child as a holistic being, with an emphasis on imagination and creativity. His autobiography is absolutely fascinating, both as a chronicle of his own intellectual and spiritual development, as well as a record of the amazing thinkers, poets, and artists that Steiner associated with and learned from. Andrew

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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This book, often touted as a very Millennial love story, follows Connell and Marianne and their shifting relationship as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.  During high school, Connell is a star athlete, popular and well liked while Marianne is an aloof loner.  They begin to grow closer during the times Connell picks up his mother from her work as Marianne’s family’s housekeeper, eventually starting a secret relationship.  As time passes, so does the nature of their relationship and personal circumstances.  Both Connell and Marianne are relatable, though at times, unlikable characters, leading them to make upsettingly poor choices.   A quick read with a lasting impact. Trent

Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

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In 2017 much was being written about the rediscovered classic Mrs. Caliban. That was the year Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water featured a similar story of love between a woman and an amphibious creature. Earlier this year the author died and I decided to add this to my reading list for something a little different. This novella moves along at a fast clip. Despite the character Dorothy’s unhappy marriage and humdrum domesticity in the suburbs, Ingalls writes with a droll voice. The creature goes by the human name Larry although the news reports warn people that he is a dangerous monster. I’ve read analysis that Larry could just be a figment of Dorothy’s imagination, a representation of an exciting liberation from her mundane mechanical life. I tend to think of Larry as real, but until I reach the end I have yet to fully make that determination. What do you think? Byron

Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander

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This is the Russian story of Katya who inherits an old Bluthner piano in 1962. She loves music and her piano. Katya marries Mikhail, who becomes a violent drunk, and eventually settles in California. Sadly, the piano is gone. Years later Clara receives a Bluthner piano from her father on her 12th birthday. At 26 years old Clara, suddenly homeless, leases her piano to photographer Greg Zeldin who uses it for a photo series in Death Valley. Greg travels to places he remembers visiting with his mother. Clara follows the adventure ultimately making a connection with Greg, his mother, her father and the piano. This is a beautiful story with lots of attention to detail. Emma

Crimson Lake  by Candice Fox

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Set in a small town in Australia, this series opener stars a disgraced former cop trying to hide from his past and start over.  On the advice of his lawyer he seeks out a local PI who has her own dark past. They make for an odd couple, but they are soon teamed up to work a case involving a missing author. As they work the case Ted and Amanda each start poking around the other’s past. One odd couple, three cases, and a box of geese all make for a fantastic series opener. Megan

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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This book is a fictional depiction of the very real, very heinous Tennessee Children’s Home Society.   Through alternating timelines we learn about one politically powerful family’s ties to this heartbreaking institution and how so many lives would forever be changed.  Beth

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

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Marie Mitchell is working for the FBI during the 1980s Cold War when she’s recruited to travel to Burkina Faso as a spy to take-down their revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara. Black, female, French-speaking and repeatedly snubbed in her FBI career, she’s the ideal candidate for the job. Marie chose to be an FBI agent to pay tribute to her recently deceased sister, who died mysteriously. Now, still grieving, she’s heading to Africa, knowing she’d been chosen for her looks, not her talent, and questioning whether Thomas Sankara is as destructive as the U.S. claims him to be. Told as a letter she’s writing to her two young sons, American Spy is a fascinating look at espionage, the Cold War, African politics, race, gender and imperialism, with a dose of romance and suspense thrown in for good measure. Bahni Turpin does an incredible job narrating the audiobook! Dori

I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

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Cody Swift is doing a podcast with his girlfriend in an attempt to re-open an investigation into the deaths of his two best friends which occurred twenty years ago when the boys were only eleven years old. As Cody interviews old detectives, parents and witnesses, he frightens someone into threatening his and his girlfriend’s safety. It seems that no one told the whole truth about everything that happened that night. Told in the present, and also through the eyes of 11-year-old Cody in flashbacks, the book is an engaging, page turning read. I felt that the ending had a good twist to it that I did not anticipate, but it was a bit too rushed which made it somewhat anticlimactic. I still would recommend it. Sara


Winter Book BINGO: Spotlight on Audiobooks

Some of my Favorites

Title details for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - Wait list
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Title details for The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle - Available
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Title details for The Power by Naomi Alderman - Wait list



Why Short Stories Work for Me

Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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Something to (read and) Think About… Religious Fiction

Our current genre presents a little more of a challenge than the beach reads (ie pretty much whatever you wanted -no limits!) This discussion featured religious fiction, a book that has religiously-based attitudes, values, or actions as a central feature of the story in any style of story. When you read what people said about their books, you’ll see there’s a pretty interesting variety. Are you ready to find the next book to add to your growing TBR pile?

Megan: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, is a hilarious and irreverent accounting of Jesus’ life between the time of his well-documented birth and his famous teachings, miracles, and ultimate sacrifice as an adult. Jesus’ best buddy Biff tells all, revealing all sorts of adventures and high jinx. Fans of Moore will recognize his satirical humor and well-placed bawdy joke.

Carol: The winner of several awards for Christian fiction, Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay’s 2014 debut novel, is jam-packed with Jane Austen references and is based on the 1912 novel Daddy-Long-Legs. Samantha Moore receives a grant from a mysterious benefactor to receive her Masters’ degree with the caveat that she write him letters telling him how she is doing at the school. Sam uses the correspondence to this anonymous “Mr. Knightley” as a means to escape her unfulfilling life—revealing to him alone what she truly feels. “Sam” is naive, innocent, and flawed, but finds that with guidance from some new friends, including the single, handsome writer Alex Powell, she might not mess up her one chance at a new life.

Beth: Michael Perry’s The Jesus Cow is a satirical take on small town life in middle America. When Swivel’s own born and raised, Harvey Jackson discovers the face of Jesus Christ on his calf, he tries his darndest to ignore it. Soon the secret gets out and his small town farm turns into a national destination. This blasphemous tale of false idols is light hearted and enjoyable.

Steve: Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is the heartbreaking tale of two women, Mariam and Laila, who, through tragic circumstances, end up the wives of the sadistic Rasheed. They come to rely on each other and form a surprising bond as they help each other survive in the brutal household in this moving story that spans three decades, beginning with the turbulent 1970s in Afghanistan.

Sara: I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This is historical biblical fiction based on the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob. Jacob is well known for having 12 sons, the youngest and most famous being Joseph, abandoned by his brothers but going on to rule Egypt. Dinah is mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible as the daughter who is defiled by a prince of Shechem and avenged by her brothers. This story tells of Dinah’s life as girl living in a world where her father and grandfather have multiple wives, and women are seen as property and breeding stock. Dinah grows up with her mothers and aunts, learning about life and dreaming about love while sitting in the red tent where women went during their times of impurity in keeping with Jewish law. This was an interesting look into what the life of a woman of her times could have been like.

Gina: In William Paul Young’s The Shack, Mack returns to the Shack. This old abandoned building was the last location that Mack’s youngest daughter was thought to have been when she was abducted from a nearby camping grounds in Oregon during a family vacation. Mack was intrigued by a note he received in the mail to return to the shack, addressed by God. In this visit, Mack meets all three forms of God, gets understanding of life’s mysteries and finds peace. If you have ever wanted to have a deep meaningful conversation with God, this is the book for you as it was for me.

Emma: In Cynthia Ruchti’s As Waters Gone By, Max and Emmalyn Ross bought a cottage on Madeline Island in Lake Superior 8 years ago. Currently Max is serving a 5-year prison term for seriously injuring a man when he drove drunk into a fertility clinic. In order to pay Max’s legal fees, Emmalyn had to sell their home and move to the island. She plans to restore the cottage and hopes to restore her soul. The good neighbors on Madeline Island play an important role in helping her achieve her goals. This Christy Award finalist in contemporary fiction is a short sweet happily-ever-after book.

Dori: In Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 16-year-old Amal decides to start wearing the hijab full-time to school to embrace her faith, but she’s worried about everyone’s reaction. She knows she can count on her best friends, but what will the teachers, her parents and handsome Adam think? Set in Australia, this young adult novel helps to explain why young women would choose to wear the hijab and also deals with prejudice and fear. It also does a great job of explaining that Muslim people are as different, or as alike, as everyone else. Amal is a fully realized character; she’s smart, funny, and charming and you will want to see how she and her friends succeed in negotiating our tricky world.

Stacey: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff starts with an unnamed woman visiting a recently opened exhibit “Two Hundred of Circus Magic” at the Petit Palais in Paris. She’s checking for a message from the past, hoping to find out what happened to her dearest friend when they were separated by tragic circumstances during World War II. Both women face persecution based on religious beliefs and are aware they must hide important elements of who they are in order to survive. With plenty of historical details and changing relationships, this could be a good book choice for your next book discussion.

For our next genre discussion? We will *not* be lightening the mood -at all. Next up is literary fiction defined by an inventive, rich, demanding, multi-layered, experimental, or technical virtuosity writing style. The focus is more on character than plot and will prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book. And so -let the search begin!


A Gentle Introduction …to gentle reads

It’s always nice to start off anything new with a quiet, gentle approach -right? So why not start off the New Year with a Gentle Read?! If you’re reading along with us, that means you found a book that has a low-key, charming book that centers around a small community or group of people and their everyday joys or sorrows. Or maybe you were waiting to see what we all choose to read and share at our discussion? If so, then you’re in luck today! Here’s what everyone had to say:

Carol: In Morning Glory by Sara Jio , Ada is a travel writer who is mourning the tragic loss of her husband and child. When her psychiatrist offers to rent her a houseboat in Washington and the suggestion that she get away, Ada jumps at the opportunity. The houseboat and surroundings are just what she needs, and, with nothing but quiet and calm, and a few helpful old timers as neighbors, Ada begins the healing process and is given a second chance at love. She also learns about Penelope Wentworth, a woman who lived in the same houseboat in the 1950s. Penny was in an unhappy marriage and went mysteriously missing one night decades earlier. Ada attempts to unravel Penny’s story and the secret of her disappearance—a secret that some of her new neighbors are still trying to keep. This gentle read is about love, friendships, grief and healing and makes for quick reading. An added bonus is the addition of some tasty sounding recipes and a twisty surprise end.

Chris: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is an absolutely charming story. It all begins when Queen Elizabeth’s corgis go into a bookmobile parked near Buckingham Palace and she follows them in. Once there, she feels obligated to check out a book, does so, and that one checkout, ultimately turns her into a voracious reader. So much so, that she starts neglecting her royal duties; she’s more interested in staying home to read. Naturally, her palace staff is troubled, but never more so than when she turns her thoughts to becoming a writer. As wonderful and witty a story as you might expect from one of England’s most celebrated writers.

Dori: Miss Buncle’s Book, written by D.E. Stevenson and published in 1936, is a cozy story of small town village life. Barbara Buncle, a wallflower and spinster, is in need of money, so she decides to write a book about the only thing she knows – the villagers of Silverstream, England. Much to her amazement, the book is accepted for publishing under a pseudonym and becomes quite popular, but when her fellow villagers read it and recognize themselves, she creates quite the tempest in a teapot. Some residents vow to either sue the author for libel or hunt down the viper in their midst, but have no idea that Miss Buncle is the culprit. When events in the book begin to take place in real life, life in the village changes for the better. First of a trilogy, this is a humorous, quick read, perfect for a winter afternoon.

Beth: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag is a whimsical, magical tale of self-discovery and love. Cora Callaway is a scientist who spends her days in the research lab trying to complete her parents’ life work to save the world, at least until her grandmother, Etta Sparks, takes action. Etta’s dress shop is magical and every dress helps make her customers’ dreams come true. With a little meddling, Etta works her magic into the life of her granddaughter’s world, opening up new feelings, memories, and mysteries. This was a whimsical and lighthearted (despite some heavy circumstances) read. Though it wasn’t the most riveting storytelling, you can’t help but fall in love with some of the uncanny characters.

Lauren: Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof interweaves the lives of myriad characters on a quaint college campus. We meet professor Tom Putnam, his troubled wife Marjory and her mother Agnes, and Rose, the new campus bookstore employee who seems to charm everyone she meets. But everyone’s lives are upended with the arrival of ten-year-old Henry. Henry arrives at the train station with a backpack containing a teddy bear, a change of clothes, a birth certificate with Tom Putnam’s name on it, and a half million dollars. Woodroof calls upon each of her characters to cope with changing life circumstances, secrets, surprises, and true matters of the heart.

Steve: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson finds Mr. Malik, a widowed 61 year old, vying to identify the most birds that he can in a week, hoping to top his old school acquaintance, Harry Khan, for the chance to invite Rose Mbikwa to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball. Mr. Malik is secretly in love with Rose, who leads the weekly bird walks of the East African Ornithological Society that he attends. The story revolves around his challenge to identify the birds, and his nightly meetings at the Asadi Club, a social club where he and fellow members review the day’s events (the unassuming Mr. Malik surprisingly gets into more than his fair share of dangerous situations), and more importantly the bird totals.

Emma: The River is a stand-alone novel by Beverly Lewis. Tilly and her father have always had a strained relationship. She believes her father holds her responsible for her little sister’s death. Tilly left the Amish community, married an Englischer, and has young children. Ruth, Tilly’s sister, followed her into English life cutting off all ties with the family in Lancaster. The sisters are invited home to celebrate their parents’ 40th anniversary and discover their father is in poor health. An engaging story of family relationships that begin to reconcile after many years.

Stacey: In A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley, Sara Thomas, the main character in the contemporary setting, is a loner with uncanny ability to see patterns and break hidden codes. When Sara’s given the task of deciphering the diary of Mary Dundas, a seemingly average woman of the Jacobean era, everyone is surprised at the secrets revealed. The complex relationships, in both the present and the past, will provide plenty for readers to ponder and the historical information adds a little easy learning for all.

Next time? We’ll be sticking with the unexpected genre + month = theme by reading Romance! Yes, that’s right. We’ll be reading Romance in February… surprise! So if you’d like to read along with us -and who wouldn’t?- you’ll want a book that appeals to your emotions and will give you a fabulously happy ending. (Sweet!) All the characters can be strong and independant but it’s their romantic relationships that are the main focus of the story. Enjoy the love people…yep yep…enjoy the love!


It Was a Gentle Kind of Story…

One quiet afternoon at the library, the Adult Services staff settled in to discuss the books we chose as gentle reads… well, that’s not totally true. There’s rarely a quiet afternoon here at the library, but we did discuss books that focus on everyday joys, frustrations, and sorrows of ordinary people -aka gentle reads! It’s actually one of the more difficult categories to pin down with distinct guidelines so if everyone had picked something completely random? I don’t think I would have been surprised. Instead, I’d say there is a definite gentle reads vibe to alllll these books and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find something (or multiple somethings!) that will pique your interest. So are you ready to read?

Megan: The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is the story of Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Dubbed the Supremes as teens in the 1960s, they forged a friendship at the window table at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat that had the strength to last a lifetime. Forty years have passed and life was not always kind to them, but the Supremes have stuck together through it all. Now, the trio is facing a new set of challenges. Luckily, they still have each other and their table at Earl’s. The heartbreaks and joys of ordinary lives are captured beautifully in this charming debut novel. Full of colorful characters and witty banter, this book is a tribute to the enduring power of lasting friendships.

Dori: In The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart, Balthazar Jones is a Beefeater who lives in the Tower of London and gives daily tours about its tragic history. His wife, Hebe, works at the London Underground’s Office of Lost Property. Suffering from the death of their young son, they are drifting apart. When the Queen asks Balthazar to become the caretaker of a menagerie of animals that she’s received as gifts over the years, he begins to heal and when Hebe reunites a lost urn with its owner, she begins to find her way as well. Quirky side characters, animal antics, and historical ghosts add a lightheartedness to this thoughtful gentle read.

Ann: True Sisters by Sandra Dallas is based on historical events. Imagine it is 1856 and you are a young woman living in England or Scotland. What could persuade you to give up your life in England or Scotland to travel to the United States and walk from Iowa to Salt Lake City, Utah? For the four women in our story who do just that, it is the lure of the Zion, the Promised Land described by the Mormon missionaries who have come to the United Kingdom seeking converts. The community and sisterhood that develop among the four women and their family are strong, but the trip to Zion is harsh, and one that not everyone completes. This is a gentle read tempered by the true reality of history.

Emma: The Icecutter’s Daughter by Tracie Peterson is the story of the Krause and Jorgenson families. At age 10, Merrill Krause promises her dying mother to care for her father and brothers. It’s now 1896 and over the years the men have come to rely on her help. Rurik Jorgenson moves to Minnesota from Kansas to help his elderly sick uncle with his furniture-making business. His ex-fiancée, Swea, follows him to Minnesota claiming to be pregnant with his child and hoping to force Rurik into marriage. Rurik does not love Swea and wants to court Merrill. A happy ever after story filled with neighbors helping neighbors and strudel.

Steve: Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley, is the story of 10 year old Jim, who is growing up in North Carolina during the Depression. At the story’s onset we discover that Jim was born just a few weeks after his kind-hearted father passed away. Jim lives with his mother and her three brothers on a small town farm. The story describes Jim’s gradual realization of life’s complexities. Those who are looking for a simple paced story will enjoy.

Carol: In The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick, it’s 1896 when Norwegian American Helga Estby and her 19-year-old daughter Clara accept a wager from the fashion industry to walk from Spokane, Washington to New York City within seven months in an effort to earn $10,000, money desperately needed to save their family farm. More than a year later, based on secrets she learned on the trip, Clara chooses to leave the family and change her name–resulting in a 20-year separation from the only life she has ever known. This gentle and inspirational read is based on a true story and teaches lessons about forgiveness, acceptance and God’s greater plan.

Stacey: A Little Folly by Jude Morgan was written by a contemporary author but has the feel of a classic novel created long ago. Valentine and Louisa Carnell are siblings who have been stifled by a harsh, uncaring father. It’s only after his death in 1813 that these two young adults really begin to live. Without having had many previous opportunities to make choices for themselves, they stumble a bit but it might just make them stronger in the end. This quiet, thoughtful book with plenty of lovely details and interior dialogue will provide many hours of reading pleasure.

Our next discussion genre? Women’s fiction! You’ll want to search out a book that features a female protagonist with a focus primarily on relationships between the main character and family, friends, or partners. There can be elements of suspense or mystery but will always have a more romantic tone. These characters will overcome and learn from the challenges they face. We’ll talk titles in a month!

— Stacey

Hello Mellow! or What We Read for Our “Gentle Read”

Allow me to clear up this one matter before we begin: a Gentle Read doesn’t have to mean boring or pointless, and the story shouldn’t be based in faith -those books will be discussed in our Christian Fiction genre discussion. Instead Gentle Reads are meant to be stories based on everyday life, the small moments, friendships and family in small towns you can find anywhere. These are the quiet books you enjoy on a peaceful afternoon when the weather is mild. Now that you’re feeling all centered and mellow, shall we see what everyone chose to share?

Janet: Hawks Mountain by Elizabeth Sinclair is a contemporary, gentle romance set on Hawks Mountain and the nearby town of Carson, West Virginia. Josephine Walker Hawks better known as Granny Jo, her granddaughter, Becky Hawks, and newcomer Nick Hart round out the cast of main characters. Both Becky and Nick are seeking refuge from the world from very different painful experiences. They are smitten with each from their first meeting. However, it takes a long time for them to overcome their personal demons and embrace a much happier future.

Steve: Nights in Rodanthe, by Nicholas Sparks, tells the story of 45 year old Adrienne Willis, whose husband left her for another woman. Seeking solace, she agrees to help watch a friend’s inn for a week. Adrienne and the lone guest, surgeon Paul Flanner, who himself is having a change of life experience due to a patient that died in his care, share their life stories and fall hopelessly in love. Paul though is just in Rodanthe to see the husband of the patient who died, and then will be heading to Ecuador to join his estranged son in providing medical care to the poor. Paul heads out and the two keep their love alive through letters, and plan on being reunited in a year after his trip ends. However, their relationship does not have a happy ending, as Paul suffers a terrible tragedy. It’s a very easy read that tries to speak to the human spirit about love and redemption, but seems much too formulaic to provide anything more than a flat and predictable story.

Rosemary: Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson is the sixteenth in the Goldy Schulz culinary mystery series. When talented caterer Goldy and her family take in fellow chef Yolanda Garcia and her aunt, they really had no idea the trouble and danger Yolanda and Ferdinanda would bring to them. Goldy needs Yolanda’s help to keep her catering business up and running, but Yolanda is anxious and easily frightened. The fire that destroyed the home Yolanda and Ferdinanda were living in might have been caused by arson. It will be up to Goldy, investigating on the sly, and her husband Tom, a sheriff’s department investigator, to find the answers to this simmering mystery.

Megan: An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor is a charming and comical look at the quirks and traditions of a small Irish village. The year is 1964 and Barry Laverty has just finished medical. He has secured a position as an assistant to a GP in the small village of Ballybucklebo, in Northern Ireland. His excitement fades upon meeting Dr. Fingal O’Reilly. A burly and gruff man, Dr. O’Reilly’s motto is to never let the patient get the upper hand and he’s not above twisting the truth. Barry is initially dismayed, but quickly sees that he has a lot to learn about being a country doctor and Dr. O’Reilly may be the best teacher he has ever had. With its beautiful setting, colorful characters, and a healthy dose of Irish colloquialisms, this first book in a series will leave readers eager for more.

Chris: The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty tells the story of Laurel, a Chicagoan, returning to New Orleans to care for her father, who’s hospitalized after eye surgery. He unexpectedly dies in the hospital so Laurel stays on to bury him then goes to Mississippi to spend some time in her childhood home before relinquishing it to her father’s new, young, flakey wife. Being back home, unleashes many memories–good and bad–of her parents and their relationships. After confronting them, Laurel is able to move on and return to Chicago. What I liked most about this book was the wonderful way Welty establishes the sense of place. You feel that you’re in the South, surrounded by eccentric family members gossiping and lamenting the passing of a loved one; you can hear the dishes being moved around the buffet table and the creaking floors of an old homestead. Chris

Ann: Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith begins with a flurry of danger when a cobra is found in the offices of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency just as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are about to have their bush tea. When the cobra is taken care of, Precious Ramotswe tackles a series of perplexing cases and provides advice to both clients and co-workers. As delightful as buying a new pair of shoes, this seventh book in the series is both charming and a bit old-fashioned.

Emma: Miss Julia to the Rescue by Ann B. Ross is the 13th entry in this popular series. Hazel Marie, her private eye husband J.D., and the twins have moved out of Miss Julia’s home, and husband Sam is on a trip to the Holy Land. Julia decides to redecorate the master bedroom and create an office for Sam. In the midst of the project Julia receives a strange late night telephone call from J.D. who’s been shot while investigating a case and is being held prisoner in a small town hospital in West Virginia. It’s Julia and Etta Mae to the rescue to bring J.D. back home and figure out what happened. At home the citizens are concerned about Agnes Whittman who has recently moved back home with a host of tattooed followers who are trying to convert the young carpenter working for Julia. A quick fun read!

Carol: In Emily Davis by Miss Read, retired schoolteacher, octogenarian Emily Davis passes away peacefully in the quiet English village she has spent most of her life in. When her best friend and house-mate, Miss Dolly Clare discovers her friend gone, she sets out to spread the news to Miss Davis’ other friends, former students and family. As the news spreads who fond memories of how Miss Davis improved so many lives, are shared. This sweet read kept my interest as the ups and downs of Miss Davis’ days are portrayed with compassion.

Dori: Cordelia Underwood, or, the Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League by Van Reid is the first of a series of books set in the late 19th century in Maine. It follows Cordelia, a feisty red-headed young woman, after she receives an inheritance from her sea-faring uncle and a cryptic note which may mean treasure! As she journeys to her inheritance, a parcel of land in the middle of Maine , she meets a large cast of eccentric characters and encounters adventures aplenty. Meanwhile, three nutty fellows decide to start a club named the Moosepath League and name Tobias Walton, one of Cordelia’s newfound friends, to be the chair. Originally published as a serial in a newspaper, the book’s numerous stories within stories involving balloonists, an escaped bear and ghost ships are funny, silly and charming. This is a genuine, old-fashioned yarn of a story where kindness wins the day.

Stacey: Persuasion by Jane Austen is a classic gentle read by one of my favorite authors, but this book hasn’t always been one of my favorite books. It was actually a BBC Film back in 1995 that helped me catch some of the finer moments in Anne Elliot’s journey to her happy ending. Anne is a dutiful daughter who has spent her life taking care of everyone’s needs but her own, including refusing the offer of marriage to a Frederick Wentworth, a man who had won her affection. Years later Anne is reunited with Frederick, now Captain of his own ship, but perhaps he is no longer seeking out her company. Or is he? The slow revealing of true feelings and Anne’s brave leap of faith at the end are what continue to persuades me this book is a great read!

Next time? We’re going to discuss the hot topic of … Romance! Books in this category appeal to readers who want immerse themselves in the emotion of love that have happy conclusions. Usually featuring a misunderstanding between the main characters or interference from outside of the relationship, the couple may have to face all kinds of obstacles before they find resolution. Romance books tend to have strong female characters in the spotlight, can be funny, and are often written as a series of titles with cross-over characters. Oh boy! Bring on the Romance!

— Stacey