New Books Tuesday @RRPL

In this week’s special picks there are new exciting romance, mystery, adventure, and many more genres for you to choose from! Enjoy!

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – An unwilling dark sorceress destined to rewrite the rules of magic clashes with a popular combat sorcerer while resolving to spare the lives of innocents. By the award-winning author of the Temeraire series.

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde – In an England populated with anthropomorphic rabbits and humans, one hare family moves into a cozy little village that does not want them there and are defended by two human neighbors who take a stand against prejudice.

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher – When the Last Titan, a being more dangerous than anything humanity has faced in a millennium, declares war on the city of Chicago, professional wizard Harry Dresden embarks on a defense that permanently transforms the mortal world.

The Gift of Family by Mary Monroe – A middle-aged couple who has never been able to have children and an elderly widow who maintains a grueling schedule to support her grandkids come up with a solution to help both families during the holiday season, with unexpected results.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson – A conclusion to the story that began with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead traces the story of prodigal son John Ames Boughton, who pursues a star-crossed, interracial romance with a high school teacher who is also the son of a preacher.

Unrestricted Access by James Rollins – A first anthology of short fiction by the best-selling author of the Sigma series includes 11 previously published stories as well as a new full-length novella featuring Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane.

Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke – Firing up the Cookie Jar’s ovens to attend a lengthy holiday checklist, Hannah Swensen helps loved ones manage seasonal doldrums before she is challenged to identify a skilled antique restorer found near death outside her bakery.

The Orphan’s Guilt by Archer Mayor – When a man’s routine DUI defense reveals evidence of a years-old shaken-baby murder case, Joe Gunther and his Vermont Bureau of Investigation team peel back layers of history to uncover links to other deaths.

The Brightest Star by Fern Michaels – Writing biographies to support her family’s struggling Christmas shop, Lauren is assigned to pen the life story of a handsome and surprisingly intelligent online retailer mogul who has put hundreds of small companies out of business.

Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery – An independent businesswoman and single mother offers support to her neighbor and secret crush during a holiday season shaped by a prickly daughter’s pregnancy, a painful secret, difficult past mistakes and an unexpected second chance at love.

Just Like You by Nick Hornby – Miserably married to a man with whom she once shared everything in common, Lucy forges an unexpected bond with her 22-year-old babysitter, a man from an entirely different class, culture and generation. By the best-selling author of About a Boy.

The Return by Nicholas Sparks – Moving into a family beekeeper cabin to recuperate from war injuries, an Afghanistan veteran falls in love with a guarded sheriff while working with a sullen local teen to investigate the mystery of a grandparent’s death. 1.5 million first printing.

Dreaming Death by Heather Graham – Sparring with a new partner who considers her underqualified, a rookie Krewe of Hunters agent uses her supernatural prophetic dreams to outmaneuver a killer who has been targeting vulnerable young women in Washington, D.C.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – A new novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived. By the internationally best-selling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.


New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

This week we have a collection of romance, horror, historical fiction, and much more for you to choose from. You can also find topics such as friendship, family life, and animal & nature… Enjoy!

Shadows in Death by J. D. Robb – Spotting an infamous assassin from Dublin among the onlookers at a Washington Square Park murder scene, Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, struggle to protect each other when they discover the killer is targeting them.

One by One by Ruth Ware – When an offsite company retreat is upended by an avalanche that strands them in a remote mountain chalet, eight coworkers are forced to set aside their corporate rankings and mutual distrust in order to survive.

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves – Discovering a toddler in an abandoned vehicle near the run-down home where her estranged father grew up, Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope approaches the property during a boisterous Christmas party before discovering the body of a woman outside.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Taken hostage by a failed bank robber while attending an open house, eight anxiety-prone strangers including a redemption-seeking bank director, two couples who would fix their marriages and a plucky octogenarian discover their unexpected common traits.

Robert B. Parker’s Fool’s Paradise by Mike Lupica – Surprised by the murder of a man he met the night before at an AA meeting, Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone follows leads to one of the wealthiest families in town to identify the victim and his mysterious agenda.

A Question of Betrayal by Anne Perry – A sequel to Death in Focus finds daring young MI6 photographer Elena Standish embarking on a first mission in Mussolini’s Italy to rescue and uncover the truth about a former lover who betrayed her six years earlier.

Hanging Falls by Margaret Mizushima – Scouting for trail damage after a Timber Creek flood, officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner, Robo, stumble on the body of a murder victim with ties to a bizarre religious cult, before an unexpected visit leads to astonishing revelations.

The Stone Wall by Beverly Lewis – A Lancaster County tour guide researches her Alzheimer’s patient grandmother’s Plain heritage and the story behind a mysterious stone wall while confronting a difficult choice about her growing feelings for a handsome Mennonite and a young Amish widower.

The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk – A father on the brink of uncovering his missing daughter’s fate and a talented Foley sound artist find themselves on a collision course with Hollywood’s violent underworld. By the best-selling author of Fight Club.

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons – Wanting to organize an assisted death on her own terms, a world-weary octogenarian forges an unexpected bond with an exuberant 10-year-old who drags her to tea parties, shopping sprees and other social excursions.

Monogamy by Sue Miller – Derailed by the sudden passing of her husband of 30 years, an artist on the brink of a gallery opening struggles to pick up the pieces of her life before discovering harrowing evidence of her husband’s affair.

Dear Ann by Bobbie Ann Mason – A woman facing a life crisis reflects on her past as a naïve graduate student who set aside her educational ambitions at the height of the Summer of Love to pursue an obsessive relationship.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez – A woman who is content to listen to the people she encounters talk about themselves is asked by one to do something extraordinary, in the new novel by the New York Times-best-selling, National Book Award-winning author of The Friend.

Call of the Raven by Wilbur A. Smith – An action-packed and gripping adventure by bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, about one man’s quest for revenge, the brutality of slavery in America and the imbalance between humans that can drive – or defeat – us.


New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

A Traveler at the Gates of Wisdom by John Boyne – From the award-winning, best-selling author of The Heart’s Invisible Furies comes an epic tale of humanity, a novel that aims to tell the story of all of us. Imaginative, unique, heartbreaking, this is John Boyne at his most creative and compelling.

No Offense by Meg Cabot – A sequel to No Judgments finds a broken-hearted Molly relocating to a library in the Florida Keys before the discovery of an abandoned newborn leads to an unexpected partnership with an arrogant town sheriff.

Choppy Water by Stuart Woods – When his Maine vacation is interrupted by extreme weather that a menacing adversary uses as cover to target a close friend, Stone Barrington uncovers a massive scheme with corrupt ties spanning New York City through Key West.

Lone Jack Trail by Owen Laukkanen – A veteran Marine and an ex-convict find themselves on opposite sides of the law, in a new thriller from the best-selling author of Deception Cove.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin – The discovery of an unknown girl found by the side of the road a decade after an unsolved disappearance compels a young police officer’s investigation into dangerous local and personal secrets. By the best-selling author of Black-Eyed Susans.

The Midwife Murders by James Patterson & Richard DiLallo – When two kidnappings and a stabbing occur on her watch in a Manhattan university hospital, a fearless senior midwife teams up with a skeptical NYPD detective to investigate rumors that shift from the Russian Mafia to an underground adoption network.

Microbes: The Life-changing Story of Germs by Phillip K. Peterson & Michael T. Osterholm – With straight-forward and engaging writing, infectious diseases physician Phillip Peterson surveys how our understanding of viruses has changed throughout history, from early plagues and pandemics to more recent outbreaks like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and Coronavirus.

Then She Vanished by T. Jefferson Parker – Helping a rising politician whose wife has gone missing amid an inexplicable series of bombings, private investigator Roland Ford investigates the activities of a mysterious group before uncovering sinister ties to a kidnapping that threatens an entire city.

Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family by Omid Scobie & Carolyn Durand – With unique access and written with the participation of those closest to the couple, the insider authors offer an honest, up-close and disarming portrait of a confident, influential and forward-thinking couple who are unafraid to break with tradition, determined to create a new path away from the spotlight, and dedicated to building a humanitarian legacy that will make a profound difference in the world.

Olive the Lionheart: Lost Love, Imperial Spies, and One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Africa by Brad Ricca – Draws on personal writings in an account of Olive MacLeod’s search for her missing fiancé, naturalist Boyd Alexander, in 1910 Africa, a quest shaped by dangerous natural elements, a murderous leopard cult and two adorable lion cubs.

Last Call on Decatur Street by Iris Martin Cohen – Working as a Crescent City burlesque dancer after college pressures and a drinking problem lead to her expulsion, Rosemary interweaves her pain into seductive performances before resolving to go sober on a transformative night.

Via Negativa by Daniel Hornsby – Dismissed by his conservative diocese for his eccentric insubordination, a homeless Father Dan transforms his car into a mobile monk cell and embarks on a spiritual road trip marked by an injured coyote and other offbeat travelers.

Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity by Sam Harris – The best-selling neuroscientist and author of The End of Faith shares transcripts of 12 top-selected conversations from his controversial podcast to explore such topics as the nature of consciousness, free will, political extremism and ethical living.

Little Scratch by Rebecca Watson – A debut novel written in the style of a woman’s thoughts on a deceptively ordinary day traces her growing perturbation of mind as she moves through a routine marked by self-doubt, impatience, philosophical development and personal neuroses.

Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home With Happy Plants by Danae Horst – A beautiful guide to selecting and growing the right plants for your home, with a plant profile quiz.

Help Yourself: A Guide to Gut Health for People Who Love Delicious Food by Lindsay Maitland Hunt & Linda Pugliese – More than 125 gut-friendly recipes plus science-backed advice for wellness in body and mind. This game-changing cookbook will make you rethink how you eat.

Operation Vengeance: The Astonishing Aerial Ambush That Changed World War II by Dan Hampton – The best-selling author of Viper Pilot presents a narrative account of America’s secret World War II mission to assassinate Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese commander who masterminded the Pearl Harbor attacks.

Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History by Kurt Andersen – The best-selling author of Fantasyland presents a deeply researched history of America’s 20th-century transition toward government-sanctioned, normalized inequalities that favor big business and resist progressive change while rendering everyday workers increasingly powerless.


New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

This week we have a collection of autobiography, horror, historical fiction, and much more for you to choose from. You can also find topics such as friendship, family life, and political science… Enjoy!

Filthy Beasts: A Memoir by Kirkland Hamill – A writer for Salon and The Advocate reflects on how his newly divorced mother moved her family to her native Bermuda, leaving him and his young brothers home to fend for themselves while she chased nightlife and suitors.

Miracle Country: A Memoir by Kendra Atleework – Describes how the author’s thriving childhood in the natural desert landscape of the Eastern Sierra Nevada was upended by her mother’s tragic early death and how the region of her youth has been ravaged by climate change.

When Truth Is All You Have: A Memoir of Faith, Justice, and Freedom for the Wrongly Convicted by Jim McCloskey with Philip Lerman. Foreword by John Grisham – The founder of the Centurion Ministries, the first American organization dedicated to freeing the wrongly imprisoned, describes his life-changing advocacy of an innocent convict and his establishment of a movement that has freed dozens of victims.

Other People’s Pets by R. L. Maizes – Abandoned by her mother and thief father, a woman who empathically relates more to animals than people drops out of veterinary school and turns burglar, targeting houses where ailing pets can benefit from her care.

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones – A novel that blends classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher – Joining the White Council’s security team to help facilitate peace among hostile supernatural nations, wizard Harry Dresden is confronted by manipulative political forces that threaten all of Chicago. By the best-selling author of the Codex Alera series.

Queen of Storms by Raymond E. Feist – Posing as innkeepers and awaiting instructions from their Kingdom of Night masters, Hatushaly and Hava are assassins from the mysterious island of Coaltachin and are called to arms when the Greater Realms of Tembria are threatened.

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal – When political divides, riots and sabotage compromise the Earth’s response to the Meteor strike, Elma departs for a fledgling Mars colony before the challenges of interplanetary pioneer life are further complicated by her husband’s presidential campaign.

Age of Consent by Amanda Brainerd – Forging a deep friendship in spite of disparate backgrounds, two 1980s boarding school students join a friend for the summer in a New York City apartment, where they are affected by sexual relationships with powerful older men.

The Order by Daniel Silva – The award-winning author of The New Girl and The Other Woman presents a latest high-action thriller that pits enigmatic art restorer and master spy Gabriel Allon against an international threat that tests the limits of his skills.

A Walk Along The Beach by Debbie Macomber – Two sisters must learn from each other&;s strengths and trust in the redeeming power of love in a touching new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

The Revelators by Ace Atkins – Struggling to recover after an attempt on his life, Sheriff Quinn Colson resolves to track down his would-be killers, only to find his efforts stymied by an interim sheriff who has been appointed by a corrupt governor.

Demagogue by Larry Tye – The definitive biography of the most dangerous demagogue in American history, based on first-ever review of his personal and professional papers, medical and military records, and recently unsealed transcripts of his closed-door Congressional hearings.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow  & Ann Friedman – The feminist hosts of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast argue that close friendship is the most influential and important relationship a human life can have, sharing strategies for creating fulfilling, long-term relationships with friends.


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!


Will the Spirit Move You to read …Religious Fiction?

For our discussion this month, everyone selected a book that had religiously-based attitudes, values or actions at it’s core. People found a diverse selection of books to share with the group -and with you! Why not take a moment to read what everyone had to say about their title:

Beth: In Lori Copeland’s Child of Grace, Eva Jean, E.J., returns to her hometown of Cullen’s Corner unannounced and without explanation after 18 years. After enduring a traumatic experience, she’s looking for some escape and answers to her life. Upon returning home she finds a restored faith in god and community and finds a way to navigate the path she is on. I found the story to be unrealistic and forced. There was a heavy pro-life theme that bordered on insulting to the option of adoption, especially considering the circumstances.

Chris: God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett is filled with life-affirming essays and stories. Each is just a few pages long, so I found myself picking it up often for a quick inspirational message to carry with me throughout the day. A nice, comforting read.

Carol: The Book of Strange New Things is a 2014 genre-bending novel by Michel Faber. In the 21st-century, mankind has set about colonizing its first extraterrestrial planet, calling it Oasis. Peter Leigh is a former addict-turned pastor who is selected by a shadowy organization to travel into deep outer space in order to teach Christianity to the planet’s reclusive native inhabitants. Peter, who has left his wife behind on Earth, sets out to teach about God using his knowledge of the Bible to the Oasans. Peter realizes things are off–colonists have disappeared, most of the humans on the planet act strangely, and the organization is censoring communications from Earth. Through a delayed email system, Peter learns from his wife about major catastrophes that have befallen the Earth in his time away and Peter’s once-strong faith becomes shaken. Ultimately, this is a slow-building suspenseful and thoughtful read you’ll want to savor.

Dori: In Roland Merullo’s Dinner with Buddha, book editor Otto Ringling visits his sister and her husband, Mongolian Monk Volya Rinpoche, at their meditation center in North Dakota. There, he’s urged by his sister to go on a road trip with her husband because her 8-year-old daughter, Shelsa, has had a vision of the journey. Otto, who’s recently lost his wife to illness and his children to adulthood, is ready to spend some time with the beatific monk, so readily agrees. Their quiet, reflective journey changes as they make their way through the Midwest and witness the lives of many Native Americans, and as the meditation center is menaced by men who would like to deny the spiritual potential of little Shelsa.

Emma: In Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher, it’s 1737 and 19-year-old Anna Konig joins the first wave of Amish to America. Anna can speak English so she translates for the group. Conditions on the “Charming Nancy” are deplorable for the immigrants who are forced to live below the deck. Anna’s charge, young Felix, is not content to stay below deck and explores the entire ship getting into mischief but eventually befriending the ship’s carpenter, Bairn. Bairn and Anna soon develop feelings for each other. Based on actual events, the first entry in the Amish Beginnings series is an interesting tale with lots of period detail.

Steve: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, is a novel written in letters, between the elder demon Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, detailing the finer points in tempting a man, the “Patient,” and derailing his conversion to Christianity. This is a clever read, and although short in length, just 149 pages, it will leave you pondering what it is to be a Christian and the role of the devil.

Megan: Coming of Age at the End of Days by Alice LaPlante is a dark and quirky exploration of a teen’s search for meaning and a purpose in life. Sixteen-year old Anna has never fit in and her depression has isolated her even further. Her life changes when she meets Lars Goldschmidt, the son of the new neighbors. The Goldschmidts are devout members of a religious cult and Lars invites Anna to join them as they prepare for the violent Tribulations at the End of Days. As she immerses herself in this world of violent prophecies and doomsday preparations she is forced to reexamine her relationship with her liberal, atheist parents. This is an unusual book, offering a fascinating look into the world of fanatic religious cults.

Lauren: Tidewater Inn by Colleen Coble introduces us to Libby Holladay, an architectural historian who has traveled to idyllic Hope Beach on the Outer Banks. Libby is there to investigate the disappearance of her best friend, Nicole, and claim an inheritance from her father who she believed had died when she was just a girl. Libby’s inheritance is an old inn, eyed by both her half-siblings and real estate developers looking to cash in on the prized beach property. The news that Tidewater Inn has been left to Libby has made a number of people very angry and put Nicole, and potentially Libby too, in grave danger. She turns to her newly rekindled faith to save her friend, find love, and rediscover her past.

Ann: In The Invisible City by Julia Dahl, Rebekah Roberts, a stringer for a New York City newspaper is assigned to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Ferreting out information about the story becomes difficult due the close-knit, closed-mouthed society of the Hasidic community. What makes this novel so fascinating is not only the mystery and the murder but the details about the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn and the fact that Rebekah’s mother was once a part of that community. A debut novel that was a finalist for the Edgar and Mary Higgins Clark Awards.

Stacey: In The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard readers will meet Aron, young Jewish boy trapped in a Polish ghetto at the start of World War II. As his family, and the world, crumble apart before his eyes, Aron is trying hard to survive. This is one of those books that was a little more uncomfortable to read but has really stayed with me in such a powerful way, I encourage you to give it a try!

Next time we’ll be getting ready for the spookiest month of all -October of course!- by reading Horror fiction to share with all of you! If you’d like to join us in with an unnerving book of your own, you’ll want to find a story that has been written to frighten the reader. Supernatural or occult elements distinguish horror and showcase the power of the natural world gone awry. Get ready to leave the lights on!


Let’s Discuss Religion? -as a story element!

This discussion was full of books that featured religion, using the general definition of: a belief system of god(s) that have their own ceremonies or traditions. This doesn’t mean the book was meant to be specifically about practicing a religion, but that this should be a strong element within the story. An interesting challenge that had some really interesting results:

Megan: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks chronicles the tumultuous life of Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a Puritan minister living in Great Harbor, Massachusetts. As her father devotes himself to converting and educating the native Wampanoag Indians, young Bethia dutifully fulfills her role as daughter and keeper of the house, all the while yearning for an education. While enjoying a rare moment of privacy and freedom, twelve year old Bethia encounters Caleb, the son of a chieftain and a boy of similar age. Despite the cultural and language barriers, the two forge a secret and lasting friendship that takes them both from the sandy beaches of Great Harbor to the halls of Harvard College. As their friendship evolves and their lives change, the one thing that remains constant is Bethia’s struggle with the rigid rules of Puritan life.

Carol: In Mr g, by Alan Lightman, Mr g has just woken up from a nap when he decides to create. Before he gets this idea, he simply exists with his Aunt Penelope and his Uncle Deva in the “Void.” First, Mr g creates time and space, and ultimately, he creates the universe. Mr g is made to reconsider what he’s done while speaking with Belhor, a creature who is supposed to represent the Devil and who materializes rather than is created. Mr g and Belhor debate the necessity of free will in the universe. I found read to be an interesting and thoughtful novel that is also like a little lesson in the physics of evolution.

Emma: Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock Is told from 11-year-old Roz’ point of view. Janis Anthony and her three children Wally, Roz (Rosalind), and Valerie escape an abusive alcoholic husband/father in Minneapolis to settle in Mills River, Illinois. With the help of Janis’ father, they settle into a new home. The former owner, 70-year-old Tillie Monroe, shows up on their doorstep explaining that she intends to die at the house she and her husband built many years ago. She complains that her sons had no authority to sell it while she was convalescing in a nursing home. Tillie quickly becomes invaluable to the Anthony family helping out as cook, nursemaid, babysitter, and spiritual guide. Alan Anthony finds the family in Mills River only contacting Roz and making her promise to keep his presence in town a secret until the dramatic ending.

Steve: For One More Day, by Mitch Albom, is the story of Charley “Chick” Benetto, who played briefly in the big leagues, and his decision to return to his childhood home to take his own life. Enroute Chick crashes his car, and oddly, awakens to his mother, who died years earlier. She takes him along for the day to to visit with her old friends. Through flashbacks we learn of Chick’s upbringing, his father who broke up the family, his mother’s struggle to provide, and Chick’s yearning for his dad’s love. And in the end, we learn of a few surprises.

Chris: Francis and Bernard by Carlene Bauer. Inspired by the lives of writer Flannery O’Connor and poet Robert Lowell, the author imagines what it would be like if they continued their friendship which began at the Yaddo artist colony in 1957. In Bernard’s (Lowell’s) first, brief letter to Frances (O’Connor), he ends it with “Who Is the Holy Spirit to you?” And so begins an eleven year friendship, that grows into love, and becomes more and less than that over the years. At the start of this story–told completely in letters–Bernard has just become a Catholic and wants to learn more about his faith from practicing Catholic, Francis. Even though many of their letters bring up faith, they being writers, talk their craft, literature and life. At one point, they are both living in New York and that’s when their love relationship really begins. But with two such powerful personalities, can it be sustained? A great! first novel.

Ann: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is Congregationalist minister John Ames’s account of his life to share with his young son. Ames is now in his seventies with a heart condition and knows he won’t live to see his 7-year-old son become a grown man so this lengthy letter is what he wishes his son to know of him and his ancestors. Ames, like his father and grandfather before him share the vocation of minister in small town Gilead, Iowa. His grandfather was an abolitionist and served in the Civil War. His father was a Christian pacifist. In a rambling style, with often beautiful prose, Ames ponders life, good and evil, and offers theological discussions. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005.

Dori: Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood is the story of a tortured young man, Hazel Motes, born into a family of preachers and destined to become one, until he decides to change his own fate. Returning from army service, he attempts to start a new life by opening the “Church Without Christ” in the small town of TaulkinhamIn, Tennessee, but finds that it’s not so easy to turn your back on salvation. With a slew of offbeat, obsessive and often obscene characters, this twisted tale of faith is weirdly funny and always compelling.

Stacey: In A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri, Saba is left behind when her mother and twin sister Mahtab flee post-revolutionary Iran in the 1980s. Her family becomes one distracted father, a bevy of village women, and two friends, Reza and Ponneh. Over the years there are only two constant desires in Saba’s life: 1) to marry Reza, a good-natured boy who wants never to leave their small village, and 2) to live in America as a college-educated , independent woman. After being caught in a compromising situation with Reza, Saba is forced to make choices that lead to a future she couldn’t have predicted. In this place and time, were there any truly decent options for women? This book takes a significant turning point in Iran’s cultural history and makes it understandable through the experience of a small group of people.

Next time we’ll share with you some book titles you might want to the beach! That’s right -we’re kicking off summer with Beach Reads! If you’re reading along with us, go looking for anything you might consider taking outside for a nice long read in the sun -with lots of sunscreen on please! Enjoy!

— Stacey

Religon for the Reading Masses

You may remember last month when I got everyone all revved up about tweaking Christian Fiction into a broader category? Well, if you don’t. This is most important part of what I said, “you’ll want to look for a book that is as gentle or as action-packed as you can take, but the main motivating factor within the story will be religiously based.” And so the department went forth and found books to read. Are you curious to see who took advantage of the tweaking? Let’s get to it then!

Janet: House of Secrets by Tracie Peterson is the story of the Cooper family. Bailee, Genna and Piper Cooper are invited to a gathering at the family summer house by their father who says that he has something big to share with them. Now young adults the girls have not been to their family’s summer house in 15 years, the night their mother died. On the last night of their mother’s life the girls were watching when their father ground up their mother’s medication and stirred it into her drink. Their mother was taken to the hospital where she died so the girls have believed for 15 years that their father killed their mother. They have never talked to their father about it. Bailee, Genna and Piper are ready to clear the air. The Cooper family has a great deal of issues to sort out. It is painful for them all. Their father and Bailee’s boyfriend turn to God for His help. Will He help anyone else? Are there other helpful resources for some of the family members? You will need to read the book to find out.

Megan: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is the story of two sisters and their very different struggles with grief, forgiveness and faith. Caro has always considered herself an only child, ever since her much older sister Hannah joined a convent many years ago. Much to her dismay, Caro’s happy family life is disrupted with the sudden announcement that Hannah is coming home. Hannah won’t discuss her decision to leave, which only serves to frustrate Caro more. Unable to cope with the stranger in her house, Caro tells lies that alienate her from her friends when she is caught. It is not until Caro inadvertently discovers the secret that Hannah has been keeping that she begins to understand her sister’s loss of faith. In seeking advice from the family priest Caro not only begins to renew her own faith and but forges a new relationship with her sister. This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at faith and family in young adult literature.

Carol: In Pie Town by Lynne Hinton, two strangers arrive to a place named for a dessert that hasn’t been served there in years. Father George Morris, fresh from the seminary, has been assigned to Pie Town, New Mexico as his first parish, and along the way there he’s picked up Trina, a young troubled woman who is hitchhiking. The town is in the midst of planning a party for Alex, a young boy with spinal bifida, who might be the only thing the disagreeable people in Pie Town can agree on. Alex is kind and loving, hopeful and forgiving, despite his diagnosis, spending most of his young life in a wheelchair, and being raised by his divorced grandparents after being abandoned by his mother. Trina’s first day in town ends with her breaking into the church, stealing wine and putting the moves on another girl’s boyfriend, and soon things start looking glum for Trina. And when the church burns down, Trina is the first suspect. Father George, who has secrets of his own, also begins to feel alienated and takes the burnt church as a sign that he is not wanted. Will these two misfits find joy in Pie Town, or will they move on? And when, if ever, will there be pie again in Pie Town? This bittersweet story is a quick read about small town life, faith, secrets, and guardian angels, that teaches some history lessons about Native American life New Mexico along the way. With lessons about forgiveness and second chances, this novel is ultimately uplifting. Readers should be made aware that the novel explores some issues like unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and also some curse words.

Julie: Sweeter than Birdsong is Rosslyn Elliott’s second book of The Saddler’s Legacy series which is fiction based on the lives of the Hanby family of Westerville, Ohio. The time is 1855 and Kate Winter is trying to escape from her family and the bonds of marriage while Ben Hanby is trying to help fugitives escape the bonds of slavery when their paths intersect and are forever changed.

Ann: To Darkness and to Death by Julia Spencer-Fleming is a novel of faith and murder set in the small Adirondack town of Miller’s Kill. Clare Fergusson, Episcopal priest of St. Alban’s is preparing for a visit from the bishop, when she’s called to help the local Search and Rescue team find a missing young woman. The story, which takes place over a 24-hour period, takes a fast rollercoaster pace as the townspeople search for the missing Millicent van der Hoeven, and other developments in town lead to a web of assault, blackmail, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Clare and the town’s chief of police Russ Van Alstyne struggle with the events taking place in their community and with the growing feelings of attraction each feels for the other. This is the fourth book in the series and it won’t disappoint.

Rosemary: Thunder and Rain by Charles Martin is a fast-paced, genuine novel that explores good vs. evil. Readers meet Tyler Steele, a third generation Texas Ranger, who has made a complete hash of his life. He is estranged from his wife, who longed for a deeper connection with Ty, but this was something he could never give. His chance for redemption comes in the unlikely pair of a young mother and her daughter. Samantha and Hope are frightened and obviously on the run. Ty knows he can protect them, but will he be able to thaw his stone-cold heart.

Steve: Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, is the philosophical story of the main character, Siddhartha, and his lifelong spiritual quest. He and a friend leave home and seek out the enlightened one, Buddha. Upon finding him, Siddhartha choices to continue his search and leaves his friend to join the Buddha’s followers. Siddhartha embarks on a journey of pleasure and riches, but tires of such emptiness and seeks another lifestyle of simplicity. He discovers a son he did not know existed, and upon the mother’s death, takes him in but finds they have nothing in common. Against this backdrop Siddhartha finds peace and his own brand of enlightenment. Siddhartha is a short and easy paced read, but is abundant in thoughtful lessons.

Emma: The Shack by William P. Young is the story of Mac and Missy Phillips. Six-year-old Missy is abducted during a family camping trip. Her blood-stained dress was found in a shack in the Oregon wilderness, but her remains were never found. Missy’s dad Mac blames himself for the kidnapping/murder. Four years later grief-stricken Mac receives a suspicious note inviting him back to the shack. He decides to go and discovers that the shack has been transformed into something lovely. Mac has been invited to spend a weekend with the Trinity for a weekend of healing, rest, assurance, and confrontation. A sad story with an interesting premise.

Dori: Lying Awake by Mark Salzman is the story of Sister John, a Carmelite nun who, having struggled with her spiritual purpose, now seems blessedly inspired and through her visions is writing best-selling poetry. At the same time, however, she has been having migraines which are getting worse. After a doctor’s visit she discovers she has epilepsy and that it is the cause of her inspiration; a simple operation would take it all away. Is the epilepsy and its effects the will of God or a delusion? Should she/can she return to her previous existence of doubt and disconnection? Salzman’s bare writing, alternating prayer and prose, takes your breath away.

Stacey: At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon is the first book in the very popular The Mitford Years series, and truthfully might just be my favorite. This is the book that introduces readers to Father Tim, the young boy Dooley, who needs strong guidance and lots of love, a massive dog named Barnabas, and an eligible neighbor lady who seems pretty friendly! The small town life, the interesting characters, and the satisfying relationships that continue to change, will make picking up A Light in the Window a must.

Next time we’re going be thinking beachy thoughts! This discussion will feature those easy, breezy books that people like to spend their summer days reading. If you’re feeling the heat already, why not look back at some of the books we enjoyed in the Summer of 2011?


— Stacey

Anyone for a Feel-Good Hug?

This was our gentle read slash religious book genre discussion. (You may be thinking, doesn’t she mean Christian fiction? And I would say, “Nope, I’m broadening our horizons and making it ‘religious’ fiction so we can include all kinds of faiths!” We like to be an inclusive group, so don’t you think that makes sense?) And I’d say we wound up with a good mix of gentle vs. religious themes and historical vs. contemporary settings, making for an interesting and wide-ranging discussion. There wasn’t one, big idea that came out of it, but I think now we all have a new appreciation for the variety of stories available in these two categories.

Why not decide for yourself? Take a peek at what we’re saying about the books we read and make up your own mind…

I’m saying this about the book I read:

Courting Trouble by Deeanne Gist is a sweet, funny romance featuring a main character that turns to her faith in time of need. Essie is an old maid in 1894 in a small Texas town but she’s just about given up any hope that she’ll ever have a family of her own. When a drifter comes to town and begins paying her special attention giving Essie hope again. But not all is as it appears and in the end Essie must decide what she wants to compromise about herself, if anything at all.

Evelyn is saying this about the books she read:

Collins, Brandilyn — Brink of Death (Hidden Faces #1)

Soon after Annie Kingston moves her family to the small town of Grove Landing, California, her neighbor is killed in a break-in. Erin, the twelve-year-old daughter of the neighbor sees the killer but is too traumatized to offer up a description. Because Erin is friends with Annie’s daughter, Annie, who is a courtroom sketch artist, offers to help Erin create a drawing of the killer. Erin’s father’s faith during this whole ordeal amazes the nonbeliever Annie and, as she tries to help Erin, she finds herself asking God for help.

Ferrell, Miralee — Love Finds You in Last Chance California

After the death of her father, Alexia Travers must manage the family horse ranch—not an easy task in 1877 California. Despite her best efforts, everything seems to go wrong. Some of the ranch hands refuse to work for a woman boss, a fence is cut and horses are stolen, even the gold her father received from the bank after mortgaging the ranch is missing. Alex offers widower-newcomer Justin Phillips a job after he arrives in Last Chance with his young son. He seems like a good man, but he has secrets he seems unwilling to share. He is a man of strong faith, but will he be able to help Alex learn to depend on God? A nice, historical/western romance that has likeable and engaging characters and an interesting story line; the author actually visited the present site (a ghost town) of Last Chance, California as part of her research.

Janet is saying this about the book she read:

Any Minute by Joyce Meyer centers on the main character, Sarah Harper. Even though Sarah is a wife, mother, daughter and career woman, her career receives the majority of her attention. Unfortunately it takes a life-threatening accident to get Sarah to take a good look at herself and her priorities.

Julie is saying this about the book she read:

I read Celebrations at Thrush Green by one of the masters of gentle reads, Dora Jessie Saint, aka. Miss Read. In this installment of the Thrush Green series residents are arranging festivities to celebrate the 100 years since the founding of both the town school and a mission in Africa set up by one of the village’s own. This isn’t a book with a great deal of pathos or action, but something to slip into if you want to feel a bit less hectic and bit warmer inside.

Carol is saying this about the book she read:

My gentle reads pick was Angela Hunt’s Doesn’t She Look Natural, the first book in her Fairlawn trilogy. This is definitely a work of Christian fiction as God and prayer are central to the plot. A newly divorced mother of two, Jennifer Graham, moves in with her mother in Virginia when her husband leaves her for the nanny. Just as Jennifer is at her breaking point, fate intervenes and Jennifer learns that she has inherited a historic Victorian home in Mt. Dora, Florida–only to discover, it’s also a funeral parlor. Jennifer puts her fate in the hands of God, who she believes has a greater plan for her life. Her only complaint: Does this plan really include running a funeral home?

Though a bit predictable, this novel celebrates the mortician ministry and its effect on loved ones left behind. Despite being filled with some gruesome details about the funeral parlor business, the supporting cast (including Joella and her society of Red Hatters) in this book were the reasons I kept reading. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be happy we also own books two and three in the series: She Always Wore Red and She’s In A Better Place.

Rosemary is saying this about the book she read:

Tyler’s Rowby Miss Read is a lovely and gentle story. Peter and Diana Hale are smitten with four row houses in the English countryside. Their ultimate plan is to remodel the houses into one beautiful home for their retirement. Of course, their dreams take much longer to achieve than they ever thought possible. The renters in two of the houses are cantankerous and not about to move to other living quarters. Peter and Diana prevail by drawing on their own good humor and the assistance of the Fairacre villagers.

Ann is saying this about the book she read:

Where You Once BelongedBy Kent Haruf

The narrative of small town bad boy, Jack Burdette told by one of the fellow townsfolk of Holt, Colorado. Jack, an unruly kid goes on to become a high school football star, but trouble follows him, and as a grown man when he marries a woman he met at a weekend convention, and then later shocks the town by committing a sinister crime, he becomes the town pariah. DISCLAIMER: This book is not a very gentle read. A better choice for a more gentle and uplifting story is Haruf’s Plainsong and it’s sequel Eventide, both set in that same small town of Holt, Colorado.

Emma is saying this about the book she read:

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene is the story of an unnamed Mexican “whiskey priest” on the run for eight years. Christianity has been outlawed by the state. All priests must renounce their faith, get married, flee or face execution. Although seemingly broken down by his love of the bottle, he remains true to his calling. Finally giving into the Mexican Government’s decree that all priests leave the country, he complies but is called back to hear a final confession. Is this his final act of faith?

Megan is saying this about the book she read:

Lucky T by Kate Brian

Carrie has always counted on her special T-shirt to bring her luck and it has never failed her. She has aced tests, won lead roles in school plays, and found a very cute boyfriend, all with the help of her lucky T. When her mother accidentally donates the shirt to Help India Carrie’s luck takes an immediate turn for the worse. Determined to get back her shirt, her luck, and her charmed life Carrie sets off to India to find the lucky shirt. The odds are against her, but with the help of some new friends Carrie begins a life changing journey. This is a sweet coming of age story with hints of comedy and romance suitable for teens of all ages.

Dori is saying this about the book she read:

In Recipes from the Dumpby Abigail Stone, single mother Gabby Fulbriten lives near the dump in a small town in Vermont. Intelligent, funny and honest, she listens to Shakespeare and frets about her lack of money and a man, about her weight and the environment. Interspersed are recipes for food and for life, such as ‘Life Juice’ and ‘Just Desserts’. Gabby may not find all she’s looking for, but she’s an interesting character to spend an afternoon with.

Donna is saying this about the book she read:

Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragonby Nancy Atherton is the fourteenth mystery in this cozy English series featuring Aunt Dimity, the paranormal detective. Lori Shepherd and her husband and twin sons live in a small English village in the Cotswolds. Aunt Dimity is Lori’s mother deceased friend who communicates with her by writing in a magical blue notebook. Together, they solve the mysteries surrounding Finch and the English countryside. Lori and the villagers are excited to learn that a Renaissance Faire plans to open nearby for the summer. After a series of accidents mar the opening of the Faire, Lori begins to fear that someone wants to kill King Wilfred the Good, the Faire’s organizer. Will Lori and Aunt Dimity be able to stop a murder before it happens?

Good variety, right? Next time things won’t be quite so … kind or … caring. Next up? Horror of horrors, it’s the horror genre! We’ll be reading frightening stories, often with supernatural or occult elements, and they may cause us to have terrified responses to a world gone awry. So, what do you think? Are you ready to sleep with the lights on for a while? Are you going to read a horror book with us? Edgar Allan Poe counts, if that makes you feel better?