Warm up with a good book

Her Quiet Revolution: A Novel of Martha Hughes Cannon,

Frontier Doctor and First Female State Senator

by Marianne Monson

This novel is based on the life of Martha (Mattie) Hughes Cannon. Martha was born in Wales in 1857. The young family emigrated to New York when she was just 2 years old. They joined the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon church), and after saving enough money the family headed west to Utah. Their goal was to settle in Salt Lake City. During the journey Mattie’s little sister, Mary Elizabeth, died. Her father died just days after arriving in Utah. It was during that time period that Mattie decided to pursue a career in medicine. Doctors were scarce, and women doctors were nonexistent.

For most women, their lifetime goals included marriage and lots of children. Polygamy was openly practiced. This was not the life Mattie wanted. She got her undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah). With some financial help from the Mormon church, she attended medical school at the University of Michigan. Her education continued at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a degree in pharmacy. She attended the National School of Oratory and learned how to speak eloquently in public. 

In addition to all her professional accomplishments, when Mattie moved back to Utah, she wanted to become a wife and mother. She soon became the fourth wife of Angus M. Cannon, a leader in the Mormon church. By this time the U.S. government was actively prosecuting polygamists, especially men. To help safeguard her husband, she left the country with her daughter.

In addition to being a physician, Mattie’s amazing life also included being a Utah State Senator (the first woman to serve in any state senate anywhere in the United States), a prominent women’s rights advocate and suffragist. In 2018, the Utah state legislature voted to honor Martha Hughes Cannon by sending a statue of her to Washington D.C. to represent Utah in Statuary Hall. The statue will be placed in Statuary Hall in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which allowed women the right to vote in the United States. (It was intended to be installed in 2020, the 19th amendment’s official centennial, but that has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

This book is a treat for fans of historical fiction and women’s history in the late 1800’s.


Cozy up with a new mystery

Murder in an English Glade

by Jessica Ellicott

Set in England in the 1920’s, Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport are owners of the “Helliwell and Davenport Private Enquiry Agency”. The women are asked by neighbor Constance Maitland to determine if Ursula, her sister-in-law who is recently married to her brother Hubert, is having an affair with world- renowned artist Louis Langdon Beck. Constance is certain they are not but wants to satisfy her live-in cousin Cressida that it’s being investigated. Ursula and her husband are hosting an artists’ colony at Maitland Park, and Louis is in attendance. (I wasn’t aware that an artists’ colony offers respite from everyday distractions, a quiet place to work, and a sense of creative community for artists in different fields.) Sadly, Louis is found strangled and Constance wants Beryl and Edwina to help in solving the murder along with the local constable who is also a woman.

There are lots of twists and turns in this mystery along with a second murder. Beryl and Edwina are fun characters with differing personalities that shine through. I heartily recommend the entire series.

Beryl and Edwina Mystery series

Murder in an English Village (2017)

Murder Flies the Coop (2018)

Murder Cuts the Mustard (2019)

Murder Comes to Call (2020)

Murder in an English Glade (2021)

Murder Through the English Post (2022)


Warm Up With a Good Book

In This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, hundreds of Native American children have been separated from their parents and sent to the Lincoln School in Minnesota, a boarding school meant to take the perceived “wild” out of these children by providing structure and forcing them to speak only English. The Brinkmans are the corrupt family who run the school and for years have taken advantage of their students, by stealing their money, by not permitting any family contact, and by doling out physical & mental abuse along with a shortage of nutritional food and clean clothing.

Odie narrates this novel and shares his adventures from the summer of 1932, when at 12-years-old, he and his older brother Albert O’Banion, along with Mosie, a mute Native American boy, and Emmy, a six-year-old ward of the Brinkman’s, decide they’ve all had enough at the Lincoln School and escape by canoeing down the Mississippi river.

As the group of self-proclaimed “vagabonds” journey in search of better lives, they have run-ins with drunks, bootleggers, hobos and con artists and get into some seriously dangerous situations along their way to St. Louis. Suspense builds as the gang learns that the Brinkmans have hired bounty hunters and are after them and closing in fast.

This Tender Land, was published in 2019 but is set during the Great Depression and reads like a modern classic. and is a beautifully crafted novel that has plenty for every reader —a mix of literary fiction, coming-of-age, adventure, mystery, and a lesson in morality and forgiveness.

If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, Huckleberry Finn or just enjoy compelling historical fiction, you won’t want to miss this novel.


Warm up with a Good Book in the New Year

Scandal in Babylon Barbara Hambly

This is the first entry in the “Silver Screen Historical Novels’ series by Barbara Hambly. It’s 1924 when Emma Blackstone joins her sister-in-law Kitty Flint, a Hollywood actress whose stage name is Camille de la Rose, on the set as Kitty’s girl Friday. (Emma’s American husband is killed in WWI and her extended family died from the Spanish flu.) Kitty’s first husband, Rex Festraw, is found shot to death in her dressing room, and someone is trying to frame Kitty for the murder. Emma and her significant other, cameraman Zal Rokatansky, are very clever in figuring out who the murderer really is.

For fans of historical fiction and Hollywood in the 1920’s, this is a quick fun read by the prolific author Barbara Hambly.



Nicole’s Top Ten of 2021

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley– An iconic work of early English literature is updated in Headley’s feminist adaptation, bringing to light elements never before translated into English.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben– A suspenseful, dark tale of family trauma, abuse of power, and the bonds of sisterhood that centers on supernaturally gifted twins Abby and Martha Waite and follows Abby’s choices after she discovers she has been diagnosed with late stage melanoma.

The Push by Ashley Audrain– A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family and one woman’s deeply affecting and difficult story of motherhood, womanhood, grief, and guilt.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith– Haunting and inspired, this novel looks at the stories of three women in Vietnam, weaving together Vietnamese folklore and themes of national and racial identity, women’s bodies and their burden, and sweet revenge.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca– A standout novella featuring an interesting combination of atypical structure, beautiful writing, and body horror about two women who meet in a queer chat room. This book, and the ending in particular, will keep you thinking long after you finish this short work.

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft by Samantha Silva– An amazingly well-crafted and beautiful historical fiction novel of Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world’s first feminist and one of the world’s most influential thinkers. Inspiring and enlightening.

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel– Perhaps my most favorite book of the year, this heartbreaking and remarkable novel is inspired by the life of McDaniel’s own mother. Set in rural Ohio during the 50s, readers follow Betty Carpenter, as she endures terrible discrimination, violence, loss, and love in this luminous and often emotionally difficult book.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling– A beautifully written gothic romantic thriller with a dash of magic and horror. Drawing inspiration from such classics as Bluebeard and working the dangerous bridegroom trope, Starling delivers an engaging and tense tale.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo– A skillful and fantastical reimagining of The Great Gatsby that reimagines Jordan Baker as a queer Vietnamese immigrant, embellishing upon Fitzgerald’s original plot  with commentary on gender, race, and  sexuality, set in a magical Jazz Age New York.

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke– A timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a society, delivered in a beautiful graphic novel.

New Books Tuesday @RRPL

Take a look at some of the exciting new releases coming to our shelves in this week…

The Sleep Fix: Practical, Proven, and Surprising Solutions for Insomnia, Snoring, Shift Work, and More
by Diane Macedo – A renowned ABC News anchor/correspondent and former insomniac presents cutting-edge research, expert advice, intimate stories and easy-to-implement solutions to help millions of people get the sleep they need.

Silent Parade by Keigo Higashino, Keigo – When the suspected killer of two young girls—20 years apart—dies during the annual street festival, Detective Chief Inspector Kusanagi turns to his friend Detective Galileo to help solve the string of impossible to prove murders.

Jane Austen’s Lost Letters by Jane K. Cleland – When she comes into the possession of two previously unknown letters by Jane Austen, antiques appraiser Josie Prescott, as she sets out to authenticate these letters, learns that someone is willing to kill to keep her from finding out the truth.

Agent Sniper: The Cold War Super Agent and the Ruthless Head of the CIA by Tim Tate – This look at one of most important Cold War spies details how he was able to smuggle out a huge amount of Soviet bloc intelligence and military documents.

Everyday Trauma: Remapping the Brain’s Response to Stress, Anxiety, and Painful Memories for a Better Life by Tracey Shors – A neuroscientist explores how trauma impacts the brain, especially for women—and how we can learn to heal ourselves.

Tailored Brain, The: From Ketamine, to Keto, to Companionship, a User’s Guide to Feeling Better and Thinking Smarter by Emily Willingham – Helping us understand cognitive enhancement, a journalist and science writer explores the promises and limitations of well-known and emerging methods of brain customization, including new research on the power of your “social brain.”

Fixed: How to Perfect the Fine Art of Problem Solving by Amy E. Herman – An art historian and attorney uses works of art to present a new paradigm for problem-solving that focuses on critical thinking skills to help recognize and overcome biases that prevent us from seeing problems clearly.

Creative Types: And Other Stories by Tom Bissell – Writers, video-game developers, actors and other creative types who see the world a little differently and are each on the verge of artistic and personal crises populate a new collection of stories from the best-selling co-author of The Disaster Artist.


New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week. Whether you are looking for a romantic page-turner, an autobiography, or a historical thriller, we have something for you!

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim – After her desperate family sells her to a courtesan school, Jade befriends JungHo, an orphan boy begging on the streets of Seoul, and must decide to pursue her dreams or risk everything in the fight for independence.

Sharpe’s Assassin by Bernard Cornwell – The New York Times best-selling author returns with his iconic hero, Richard Sharpe—outside, hero, rogue and the one man you want on your side.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-dale – Returning to the Palais Garnier Opera House to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart her career—and finally make things right with her former friends, ballerina Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed—and some secrets can’t stay buried forever.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw – An expert at locating missing people is asked to find the vanished, well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books and is led to Pastoral, a reclusive community found in the 1970s that many believed to only be a legend.

W. E. B. Griffin Rogue Asset by Brian Andrews & Jeffery Wilson – To save the secretary of state from an army of terrorists in Cairo, the President revives the Presidential Agent program and calls Charley Castillo out of retirement to direct a new agent, Killer McCoy, to get the job done.

Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding – Haunted by her failed career and lingering childhood trauma, a former stage performer turns to alcohol but is saved from the brink of the abyss by her son whose love redirects her towards rehabilitation and redemption.

The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths – Newly minted PI Emma Holmes, while investigating the murder of retired music-hall star Verity Malone’s husband, discovers they have a mutual connection—a man who is married to a Hollywood star who could blow this case wide open, but who could also be the killer.

City of Shadows by Victoria Thompson – Elizabeth Miles Bates investigates when a friend’s mother begins paying a medium increasingly large amounts of money to make contact with her son who recently died of influenza, in the fifth novel of the series following City of Schemes.

Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde – The son of prosperous landowners in rural California befriends the sons of field workers who must contend with the changes that occur after the bombing of Pearl Harbor scatters one each into the army, an internment camp and into hiding.

The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine’s Daughters by Rachel Trethewey – Drawing on previously unpublished family letters from the Churchill archives, this biography paints a vivid portrait of the Churchill girls—Diana, Sarah, Marigold and Mary—who were eyewitnesses to some of the most important events in world history.


Warm Up with a Good Book

Featherweight by Mick Kitson

Annie is born in the mid-19th Century, alongside coal-covered canals of the Black Country, in the West Midlands of England, to a large Romani family. When her father dies, her mother becomes desperate and makes the impossible decision to sell Annie, who is almost nine years old to the highest bidder at an annual fair. Overnight, Annie becomes daughter to the famous, and foul-mouthed bare-knuckle boxer Bill Perry, the legendary “Tipton Slasher,” who though over-fond of drink, dotes on the girl.

As Annie grows up, she ends up taking care of an aging and ailing Bill more and more. When Bill ends up in financial trouble, Annie decides to train as a fighter, herself, in order to get him out of the jam. Soon enough, Annie becomes a legend in her own right, and along with the opportunity to attend school and become literate. Will that be enough to allow her to escape to a better life?

This rollicking read is filled with run-ins with the law, robberies by dangerous highway men, the finding of first love, and of course, plenty of fist fights. Annie’s independence and joie de vive make her a delight to spend time with, and her determination to succeed no matter the obstacles in her path, makes her downright inspirational. If you like action-packed historical fiction with strong and unique characters, a vivid setting and old world dialect, don’t miss Featherweight. It will knock you out!


Warm Up with a Good Book

Miss Iris Sparks (a former British Intelligence Officer) and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge (a young upper class widow), co-owners of the “Right Sort Marriage Bureau”, are contacted by Lady Patience Matheson a cousin of Gwen’s who works in the palace. A letter meant for Princess Elizabeth was intercepted. Someone claims to have damaging information. Supposedly this blackmailer has correspondence written between Alice, Phillip’s mother, and a lover. Lady Matheson wants Iris and Gwen to authenticate the assertions and find out who sent the letter. The information needs to be proven true or false before the Princess and Philip become engaged. The investigation must remain hush-hush.

The second entry in the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series is a delight and a sure winner for fans of British mystery series and the royal family.

Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series

The Right Sort of Man – 2019

A Royal Affair – 2020

Rogue’s Company – 2021

Unkept Woman – 2022