Dolly Parton has long been considered an icon. Even before she was a teenager, Dolly was singing on local radio stations in their small Tennessee town. And at 13 years old, she performed at the Grand Ole Opry and met Johnny Cash. After high school, Dolly immediately moved to Nashville to hone her talents and live her dream. I think we all know how that panned out—Dolly Parton is a household name with the records to support it, but her legendary status doesn’t stop with just music.
Dolly is a well-known philanthropist, through her Dollywood Foundation. It originally provided scholarships to local high school students then continued to grow and provide other charitable support as well. Her Imagination Library provides books to pre-school-age children in over five countries; one book per month from birth until they enter kindergarten. (For more information, visit our Children’s Department webpage!) During the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, she organized a telethon and gathered about $9 million for those impacted by the fires. She’s also donated to medical centers and specifically pediatric programs.
Even if you swear that you’re not a country music fan, it’s easy to find something to appreciate about Dolly Parton. Check out some of these books to pique your interest and then maybe you’ll feel inspired to listen to one of her albums!
How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix – Forced to return to the small Southern town where she grew up to sell her late parents’ house, Louise discovers that her and her brother’s old grudges pale in comparison to the terror that still lurks within its walls.
The Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict – After her sister Diana divorces her wealthy husband to marry a fascist leader and her sister Unity follows Diana to Munich, inciting rumors that she’s become Hitler’s mistress, novelist Nancy Mitford, after uncovering disquieting documents, must make difficult choices as Great Britain goes to war with Germany.
The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston – As Constance finds her way back to New York City in the late 1800s to prevent the death of her siblings and stop serial killer, Dr. Enoch Leng, FBI Special Agent Pendergast desperately tries to find a way to reunite with her before it’s too late.
Locust Lane by Stephen Amidon – When three teenagers – Hannah, a sweet girl with an unstable history; Jack, the popular kid with a mean streak; and Christopher – an outsider desperate to fit in – become suspects in the murder of a fellow student, their parents will do anything to protect them, even at the others’ expense.
What Lies in the Woodsby Kate Alice Marshall – Twenty-two years after her best friend was attacked in the woods, surviving seventeen stab wounds, Naomi Shaw, who has a secret worth killing for, returns home when the man responsible dies in prison to find out what really happened, no matter how dangerous the truth may be.
The Backup Plan by Jill Shalvis – When she inherits a falling-apart-at-the-seams old Wild West B&B along with her ex-best friend Lauren and Knox, the guy who once broke her heart, Alice unexpectedly finds acceptance, true friendship and love as they work together to restore the inn to its former glory.
Jane Morgan, a 39-year-old attorney, is caught having sex on the roof of her high-rise Manhattan apartment at midnight by a nosy neighbor with binoculars. Jane is charged with indecent exposure and is both fired from her firm and sentenced to six months of home confinement.
Jane’s perpetual cheerleader and current bill payer, her identical twin sister Jackleen, encourages Jane to use this down time to embrace her love of cooking by demonstrating old fashioned recipes on TikTok. When Jane discovers and introduces herself to (coincidentally) a neighbor who is also under house arrest, Jackleen prompts Jane to charge him for three home cooked meals a week.
Perry, who wears a less-than-fashionable location-monitoring ankle bracelet of his own, is intrigued by Jane as they spend time together over her meals. Eventually, the two begin to share in other evening activities —making things awkward when Jackleen decides she wants to date Perry, too.
Cabin fever gets the best of Jane, and she takes things a bit too far when she learns that her peeping tom (aka the witness to nudity on the rooftop and reason for Jane’s home incarceration) has died. Jane is curious if there was foul play and gets her parents to attend the woman’s wake —resulting in Jane inadvertently orchestrating a “green card” wedding for a Polish expatriate whose Visa has expired.
If this all sounds a bit mad-cap, it is! This novel is equal parts romance, mystery, comedy, and sibling rivalry story. Pick up Ms. Demeanorby the always witty Elinor Lipman. This quick read with its snarky lead character, breezy banter and hilarious hi-jinx will leave you laughing out loud.
Haruki Murakami turns 74 years old today! He is a prolific author, having written novels, short stories, nonfiction works, and essays that have consistently been published in The New Yorker. While Murakami remains mostly out of the public eye, the reader may get a general sense of who Murakami is when reading his books: a lover of jazz and music in general, a big baseball fan, a collector of random t-shirts, and a dedicated runner. His books incorporate magical realism, a unique brand of humor, and almost always a cat.
If you’ve never read Murakami before, he has an extensive catalog to choose from! Whether you prefer nonfiction or short stories or hefty novels, he has something for everyone. (Of course, while he is a well-regarded author, his works might not appeal to all!)
Containing stories such as “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” “The Kangaroo Communiqué,” and “Lederhosen,” this is a great introduction to Murakami’s writing style. One of the short stories (“Barn Burning”) even became the basis for the 2018 South Korean psychological thriller Burning.
Quite a few of the short stories in this collection were featured in various English publications before being compiled into one book. Several were in The New Yorker, a few in Harper’s, and one in McSweeney’s. One short story, “Firefly,” was reused in Murakami’s well-known novel Norwegian Wood.
In 1995, a religious cult attacked Tokyo subway stations with the toxic liquid sarin, injuring over 5,000 people and killing 14. Murakami interviewed over 60 people: witnesses, survivors, family of the victims, and even members of the cult that committed the act, Aum Shinrikyo.
In this memoir, Murakami discusses his passion for running and how running goes hand in hand with writing. His discipline with the sport and examination of the relationship between running and writing are interesting to read about, even if you don’t run. Plus, reading about all the places he’s run marathons (Greece, Hawaii, Boston) is a treat.
Told from the perspective of Toru Watanabe, he is in his late 30s, reflecting on his days as a college student in 1960s Japan. A deeply emotional novel, the sense of nostalgia and longing are intimately felt throughout. This book helped catapult Murakami into more of a celebrity (to his dismay at the time).
If you read the short story “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” then you’ve already tackled the first chapter of the much-longer novel. Full of signature Murakami traits like cats, wells, unexpected phone calls, and mysterious disappearances, this is a great introduction to Murakami’s brand of humor. But forewarning—it is over 600 pages!
Intertwining narratives make up this magical tale: a 15-year-old boy who runs away to escape a curse and an old man who can talk to cats. Metaphysics, music, suspense, humor, and the mundane make up this brilliantly woven story.
Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano is the third book in the Finlay Donovan series. This newest addition picks up where book two leaves off, so it’s best to read them in order. Click on the covers to find these titles in the catalog.
Here’s a quick recap:
Finlay Donovan is a stressed-out writer and mother to two young children with a deadline, writer’s block, and an infuriating ex-husband. She does not need any more drama in her life, but that’s exactly what she gets after a meeting with her agent in a crowded coffee shop. Overhearing Finlay describe the plot of her new book, a customer mistakes her for a contract killer. Before she knows it, Finlay accidentally finds herself involved in a real life crime! Book two brings back Finlay and the motely crew she gathered in the book one-Vero, her nanny with a secret past and Detective Nick Anthony, the dreamy hot cop. This time it appears that Finlay is not the only one who’s done with her Stephen, her ex. On top of everything else, he seems to have attracted the attention of the Russian mob! Which brings us to book three. The unresolved issues of the previous book are still in play, so it seems like a risky move to enroll in the Citizen’s Police Academy, but that’s exactly what Finlay and Vero do. Danger, romance, and hilarity ensue. Vero’s past secret is revealed, as is the identity of the mysterious hitman, EasyClean, but fans will rejoice in the knowledge that there are still loose ends and further adventures of Finlay and Vero to come.
This series is pure addictive escapism. Non-stop shenanigans, close calls, and toddler antics are par for the course with Finlay and Vero. Fans of witty banter, will-they-won’t-they sexual tension, and the ugly realities of parenthood with enjoy this series. Finlay and Vero are quite the dynamic duo and the love interests are dreamy.
Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available January 31, 2023. Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Louise doesn’t want to go home. Home is filled with memories of the past, and they’re not all warm and fuzzy. Speaking of warm and fuzzy, Louise is dreading opening the door to her mother’s vast puppet collection. Or facing the cabinets full of dolls staring back at her. But at the top of her list of things to avoid is her brother, Mark, the golden child who never grew up.
After a tragic accident kills both of their parents, Louise and Mark are forced to look in every nook and cranny of their childhood home. But they find some oddities. Multiple pairs of eyes follow them at every turn as they find a boarded up attic and life-sized dolls watching television…even though the television was unplugged. And at the center of it all is one raggedy puppet who has always taken on a life of his own- Pupkin.
When I first heard the title of this book I was expecting the same old take on a traditional ghoulish haunting. But as I began to read this book it took a different turn. In the hands of Grady Hendrix, a haunted house in South Carolina becomes the stuff of nightmares. Hendrix sets the scene with lengthy passages describing the spooky occurrences that happen. Normally I’m not a big fan of long narrative passages but in this case it works. Childhood trauma also plays a role in the backstory of Louise and Mark’s fraught relationship. But above it all, the question remains- what is reality and what is childhood imagination?
Take a look at some of the exciting new releases coming to our shelves in this week…
Spare by Prince Harry – With its raw, unflinching honesty, Prince Harry’s memoir—in which he discusses the effect of his mother Princess Diana’s death on his life—is full of insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett – A Cambridge professor, scholar and researcher on the study of faeries visits the hardscrabble village of Hransvik where she gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones and resists her insufferably handsome academic rival.
Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica – When her husband Jack vanishes without a trace, Nina Hayes will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, which, unbeknownst to her, is inextricably linked to their close friends, who may have been the last to see Jake before he went missing.
Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo – Assembling a team of dubious allies, Galaxy “Alex” Stern is determined to find a gateway to the underworld and rescue Darlington from purgatory in the second novel of the series following Ninth House.
Nazi Conspiracy, The: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchillby Brad Meltzer – In this gripping true story of daring rescues, body doubles and political intrigue, the New York Times best-selling authors of The First Conspiracy and The Lincoln Conspiracy reveal the Nazi’s plans to kill FDR, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill – an assassination plot that would’ve changed history.
All the Dangerous Thingsby Stacy Willingham – After her son is kidnapped while sleeping in his crib, a mother agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster with ulterior motives in the new novel from the best-selling author of A Flicker in the Dark.
The House of Wolves by James Patterson & Mike Lupica – Jenny Wolf’s murdered father has left her in charge of a multi-billion-dollar empire—a newspaper, a football team, a holding company … and a dysfunctional family that knows no bounds.
Sometimes, I imagine what it would be like if seasons had souls. If they were personified, in my mind, each would have very distinctive personalities. Spring would be a spritely young child frolicking joyfully in the rain. Summer, a fair maiden reclining languidly by a shimmering stream. Autumn an ebullient goddess setting the world ablaze in enchanting beauty, and Winter an introspective wise woman creating herbal tonics and filling empty books with her immeasurable knowledge. Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Wisdom comes with winters.” Perhaps for him, the seclusion and isolation of the year’s coldest months provided an inspiration for him to pen some of his greatest works.
Winter provides the perfect setting to delve deeper into your own mind. Heavy snows and frigid temperatures often leave one housebound, a forced pause on the chaos of everyday life, where autopilot becomes the standard setting.
For me, it is a time to cocoon myself in my red knit blanket, clutching a warm mug of creamy cocoa, dreamily watching as a calligraphy of steam curls above it. It is a time for leatherbound books with gilded pages, quiet contemplation, and museful philosophizing. So much can be learned through the written word. A simple passage can be a key that unlocks powerful profundity. It does not matter whether you’re inspired by the esoteric imagery of Plato, the flowery language of Jane Austen, or the simple rhymes of Seuss. The point is to find books that resonate with you and read them. Immerse yourself in the words, write your own thoughts and reflections in a beloved journal until your fingertips are stained with ink. Consider your own perspectives in comparison to that of the author or their characters. Can you expand upon them? Can you see something in a completely different light? Do you have your own unique interpretation beyond the pages before you? Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimension.” And what better time than winter to broaden your inner horizons? Books are a treasure trove, brimming over with sparkling sagacity.
Here are some of my favorite words of wisdom that I have uncovered over the years:
“It is only with the heart one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antione de Saint-Exupery “The Little Prince”
“Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien “The Fellowship of the Ring”
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” Jane Austen “Sense and Sensibility”
“There’s no use to going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll “Alice in Wonderland”
“I went looking for dreams outside of myself and discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.” L.M. Montgomery “Anne of Green Gables”
“Perhaps it is controlling the chaos within more than controlling the chaos without.” Erin Morgenstern “The Night Circus”
“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.” Epictetus “The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness”
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” Carl Sagan
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies” Aristotle
Weave wisdom throughout your life and let the poignancy of your thoughts take you on many an inward journey to amazing destinations!
Pigeons, parrots, penguins-oh my! With almost 11,000 species of birds in the world, there’s a lot to learn! In North America, that number lessens to about 2,000 species and in just Ohio, there are 427 species, making it a little easier to recognize that bird perched on a tree branch in your backyard.
Whether you’re a birdwatcher, bird lover, or just bird tolerator, there’s a lot to know about these ever-present creatures. If you’re curious about the best places to birdwatch or you want to learn which birds are native Ohioans or just look at some pretty pictures of birds, we’ve got some books for you!
Viv is ready to hang up her sword and quit the mercenary life for something quieter-and sweeter. Armed with a legend, an artifact, and a little known Gnomish beverage, Viv sets about opening her coffee shop on a ley line in Thune. Her new venture attracts a motley cast of characters, including a baker, a business-minded succubus, and the head of the local mob.
This book is as comforting as a latte and a warm cinnamon roll on a wintery day. Having spent nearly a decade working in coffee shops myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Viv’s shop open and evolve. I savored the pages dedicated to the pure joy of a cinnamon roll. I laughed each time Thandri had to change the chalkboard menu and delighted in meeting their customers. While this does take the better half of the book, it’s not all coffee and sweets. As Viv and her crew learn the ropes of the business, trouble is quietly brewing. But Viv isn’t just building a business-she’s building a community and family who have her back when tragedy strikes.
I cannot stress enough how absolutely charming and delightful this book is. If you enjoy a good slice of life story with quirky characters and happy ending, this one is for you. I recommend taking this book to a local coffee shop to be enjoyed with a latte.