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A Mid-Summer Report July 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading this summer?

~Megan

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Happy Trails Y’all …it’s time for the Western Genre! May 31, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Westerns.
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Once again it’s time to decide how well we stuck to the guidelines of the genre we were reading… Westerns have a strong sense of time and place with clear resolution to a conflict. The hero of the story might be flawed but readers want them to win anyway. Now let’s read what everyone had to say about the book they read:

Chris: Red River, the movie. It’s 1865, and the Civil War has ended leaving the south bankrupt so Tom Dunston (John Wayne) decides to move his herd of 10,000 cattle from Texas to Missouri to prosper. That’s a 1,000 mile run which will take 100 days to complete and a lot happens during that journey: Indian attacks, fighting within the ranks, horrible weather, lack of food etc. but they eventually make it due mostly to Dunston’s determination and stubbornness. A great western classic and a must-see in black and white.

Carol: Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley is set in Kansas in 1880, where two waitresses from the Harvey House Restaurant have been murdered. The Pinkerton Agency is called upon to solve the crimes but local Sheriff Branch is less than thrilled with the help—until he meets and falls for Pinkerton Agent Katie Madison who goes undercover as a waitress to get the killer. This blend of western, mystery and inspirational romance adds up to a lighthearted read that has a happy ending.

Emma: In Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, Smoky is captured and trained by Clint to become a cow horse. Eventually the horse and cowboy come to trust and respect each other. Soon Smoky and several other horses are stolen from the Rocking R Ranch. When Smoky refuses to allow anyone to ride him, he is beaten. Soon Smoky becomes “The Cougar”, a mean man-hating bucking bronco rodeo attraction. When the horse is worn out, he is sold again to another abusive man and renamed Cloudy. When the horse’s owner is arrested for cruelty, Clint and Smoky are finally reunited. Even though the book is a Newberry Award winner I feel the story is written more for adults than for children.

Gina: In Jon Sharpe’s High Plains Massacre, from the Trailsman series, known scout Skye Fargo is asked to help solve the disappearance of settlers on Indian territory. Accompanied by fellow scout Bear River Tom and new army recruits, Trailsman goes on this mission. There’s more to this assignment than expected in this quick action thriller. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading more of Skye Fargo’s adventures in the West.

Lauren: Vengeance Road from YA author Erin Bowman tells the story of young Kate Thompson who sets off to hunt down the famous Rose Riders who “done murdered her Pa.” The book checks off just about every single element of the classic Western: gunfights, saloon poker, horses, a desert landscape, outlaws, an Apache guide, and of course a quest for gold.

Dori: In Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert, former lawman Arthur Sprawl is called out of retirement to hunt down a serial killer who’s viciously mutilating American Indians and leaving their bodies for display. It’s bleak Depression era in Eastern Oregon, and Sprawl, on his horse, is joined by his son Elijah, who considers himself a prophet, as they travel through the countryside investigating these murders. Sprawl is no angel; he’s got a reputation as an effective lawman, but his success was attained through brutal bloodshed and frontier justice. Though thoroughly dark, gritty, and deeply violent, Holbert’s prose beautifully describes the natural world through which Sprawl and his son travel.

Steve: Robert B. Parker’s Resolution is the second book in the Virgil Cole/ Everett Hitch series, and finds the two gunslinger friends together again, this time in the town of Resolution. They are hired on as enforcers for the greedy Mr. Wolfson. Wolfson is buying up the town stores and businesses, and is at odds with the other rich townsman, Eamon O’Malley, who has hired on two quick draw men as well. Will the four end up deciding things in a shoot-out? Or are other events in store?

Beth: Louis L’Amour’s Sacket is a classic western tale. This story follows independent William Tell Sacket as he takes the journey to visit his mother and finds gold along the way, which of course is accompanied with plenty of trouble. This is a quickly paced, action packed western.

Megan: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown is a beautifully written novel in verse about the infamous journey west that claimed the lives of nearly half the travelers. In 1846 ninety people-men, women, and children-left Illinois in search of a better life in California. A series of missteps and an early winter left the caravan trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As food supplies dwindled and hope for rescue faded the survivors turned to cannibalism. Told from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old survivor, the poems that make up this novel are lovely as well as harrowing. This is a truly unique story told in a unique format.

Sara: I read True Grit by Charles Portis, a novel initially published as a 1968 serial in the Saturday Evening Post . This novel tells the story of Mattie Ross’ adventure to avenge the death of her father when she was just 14 years old. In a direct and often funny way, Maddie tells how she hired one-eyed Rooster Cogburn– the meanest U.S. marshall, a man of “true grit”, to hunt down and apprehend the man who murdered her father. However, much to Rooster’s dismay Mattie intends to travel with him on this journey into Indian territory to make sure the job is done right and that Rooster earns the $50 reward she is offering. Rooster is a cantankerous and eccentric man who has been on both sides of the law and has no use for children. But as the adventure unfolds, he and Mattie develop a bond of true friendship and mutual respect.

Stacey: I went for a classic Western -OR- kickin’ it old school with my cowboy boots on! I read Trouble Shooter by Louis L’Amour with Hopalong Cassidy as the main character -whoa nelly Topper (aka Hops horse) that’s a classic! I enjoyed that in essence this is a good mystery story but with horses, dogs, and cattle mixed in for drama. The characters were entertaining and there was plenty of action. Now I know why these books are still so popular!

Next time we’ll be reading suspense/thrillers. Suspense novels compress action into a short period of time, emphasize the psychological and physical danger and appeal to the reader’s sense of unease. Thrillers are complex stories that use a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, and often have exotic settings that emphasize the defeat of the villain.

enjoy!

Stacey

Hello Sunshine! May 13, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book List, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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I see it -and I feel it, so it must be true… it’s the Sun! You know what this means don’t you? That’s right! We’re about to hit prime porch reading weather! So this weekend why not spend some time hauling out the outdoor furniture, sweep off the porch, and buy plenty of your favorite beverage; then pick out a nice crisp piece of paper to start your TBR (summer reading edtion) list!

My list is longer (already) than I’d like it to be -how lucky we’re about to hit an Endless Summer!- but the (current) top five are:

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Alice & Oliver : a novel by Charles Bock

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Wired to create : unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind by Scott Barry Kaufman
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The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

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A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

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Rosalie Lightning: a graphic memoir by Tom Hart

I’m starting small so I can look super successful next week…

Now it’s your turn to share… What do you want to read this summer?

enjoy!
Stacey

Award Winning Books! April 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
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So many awards, so many choices! As you can see from what everyone said about the book they chose, it was also a crowd pleaser, plus we really covered a whole bunch of genres in this one discussion! Shall we see what everyone had to share?

Megan: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, winner of the 2015 Eisner Award for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens, is the story of best friends, summer camp, and monsters. Welcome to Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types! The camp is home to the Lumberjanes scouts. Best friends and fellow campers Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley accidentally witness an old lady transform into a bear, and like any group of curious teens, they follow her into the woods. They quickly learn that the bear-woman is not the only mystery surrounding the camp. These clever campers are determined to use their scout skills to unravel these mysteries. This all-ages, female-led comic series is rollicking good fun. Readers will devour the first three volumes and be eager for more Lumberjanes adventures!

Chris: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2005 and in that same year was a finalist of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography. In 2007, it was adapted for a Broadway Play and had a successful run. It tells the story of Joan’s husband, John, suffering a massive fatal coronary while their adopted daughter, Quintana, lies in a coma in the hospital. Sadness and grief all around realistically presented in that unique Didion voice. I particularly liked her reminiscences over the many good times and trying times she and her writer husband, John Gregory Dunne, shared throughout their forty-year marriage. She ends her chronicle with a few of John’s words spoken about timing the swell of the ocean just right: “You had to go with the change.”

Carol: In Scottish author Denise Mina’s mystery novel, Garnethill, which won the John Creasey Award for Best First Crime Novel, Maureen O’Donnell’s psychologist boyfriend Douglas Brady has been found murdered in her apartment. Because of her history of mental illness and the fact that she’d just discovered that Douglas was married, Maureen is the prime suspect. With help from her friend Leslie and her brother Liam, Maureen attempts to find out who the killer is—endangering their lives and her own in this gripping, dark and action-packed read.

Emma: In The Nest, Leo, Beatrice, Jack and Melody Plumb’s father funded a hefty nest egg for his four children to be distributed when the youngest, Melody, turns 40. The siblings are anxious to get their inheritance and each has specific plans for the money. With their mother’s permission, money was used when drunken Leo was in a serious car accident. A 19-year-old waitress was badly injured and much of the money was used to settle her medical bills. Leo promises to eventually repay his siblings. Time will tell in this fast-moving often-funny book debut by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Steve: In Michael Shaara’s classic novel The Killer Angels he takes you inside the minds of the men that fought in the battle of Gettysburg. This work won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and was striking in that it depicted the thoughts of the characters, not just the action and movement of troops and men. This is an excellent novel that humanizes the men and focuses on the leaders, like Robert E. Lee and Joshua Chamberlain.

Lauren: In honor of her latest book, My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem was award the 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, inaugurated in 2006, is the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace. The Prize invites nominations in adult fiction and nonfiction books published within the past year that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. This memoir recounts Steinem’s nomadic lifestyle from an early age and throughout her life as a writer, activist, and community organizer.

Dori: In The Round House, the second book of a trilogy set on an Ojibwe Reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich brings back Judge Coutts from the first book in the trilogy, The Plague of Doves. The judge is spending a Sunday with his wife Geraldine and their 13-year-old son Joe when Geraldine receives a phone call from work that she is needed. She rushes in but doesn’t return. Joe and his father search everywhere and when they return home, they find Geraldine in the driveway, near death after being assaulted and raped. She won’t speak, won’t accuse her assailant, and her family is devastated. Judge Coutts and Joe go through his case files looking for clues, eventually leading Joe to the probable culprit. Meanwhile, as Joe and his friends live through the summer, meeting girls, riding bikes, and pulling pranks, Joe plans his revenge. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery and social commentary, this a compelling and deeply moving novel. The third book in the trilogy, LaRose, is out in May. Winner of the National Book Award in 2012.

Stacey: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery was a 2015 National Book Award Finalist in the Nonfiction category and also on ALA’s 2016 Notable Books list. This is one of those books that make me equally excited and nervous to read; I can’t wait to find out more about these fascinating creatures but I’m afraid many of them will succumb to a tragic ending. Spoiler Alert: both things happened, I’m now a big fan of this species *and* I used a tissue (or two) while reading. Additionally, the author is able to provide an interesting perspective on how we define the intangible consciousness of any living creature. Be bold, take a risk you might shed a tear, and pick up this winning title!

And next time? We’re headed way out West! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to select something that evokes a strong feeling of wide open spaces and larger than life characters. Most westerns have a clear hero and villain with the conflict clearly ending with one winner.

Enjoy!
Stacey

How Love(ly)… the Romance genre! April 4, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Romance.
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Who doesn’t love love? Well, for a brief time the boy and the girl in the romance story you’re reading don’t love love but that’s just a plot device -no need to worry! They’ll have their disagreement and then things will (mostly) turn out okay at the end! So are you ready to read about what we read? Me too!

Carol: In Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 29-year-old Hannah Martin flees New York after a relationship disaster and ends up temporarily living with her best friend, Gabby back home in L.A. On her first night in town, Hannah reconnects with her high school sweetheart, Ethan, and at the end of the night, Hannah must  decide whether or not to go home with him. In parallel storylines, Hannah lives out both decisions, and each take her in very different directions. This book about fate, true love and chance tackles some serious issues and at the same time reads like a choose-your-own adventure. Readers will wonder if there really is such a thing as a soul mate and root for (both versions of) Hannah the whole way.

Steve: You Suck by Christopher Moore is the second book in the “Love Story” series, although you could read it as a standalone.  Newly turned vampire C. Thomas Flood and his girlfriend Jody, the vampire who turned him, are being pursued by Tommy’s old work buddies and the very old vampire Elijah, who wants Jodi back.  Lots of witty and offbeat humor and characters in this fast-paced read.  

Megan: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb-When Eva’s crush-turned-new-boyfriend moves from New York to L.A., she is desperate to see him again. She finds the perfect solution. A reality quiz show, The Smartest Girl in America, is holding auditions and Eva’s best friend Annie is a shoe-in. Having secured a spot show and convincing her mother that they would be safe, Eva sets off on a cross-country road trip. Armed with a bus ticket and a supply of romance novels, Eva is ill-prepared to confront the realities of love. This not-so-fluffy romance focuses on love of all types-love for friends and family and of course, love for the cute poetry writing boy!

Emma: Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray is the story of two sixty-something florists. Divorcee Julie Roseman and widower Romeo Cacciamani fall in love despite the feud between their families. Unfortunately the origin of the feud isn’t known to the second and third generations, but they are bound by it. Julie and Romeo’s children are strongly against any relationship between their parents.  Eventually Grandma Cacciamani divulges the secret behind the long-standing dispute.  This is a fun light-hearted romance for adults.

Lauren: My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts introduces us to Lady Ravenna Walsingham, a spy for the British crown who is sent to Scotland to pose as a governess for the son of a rebellious laird who refuses to send his boy to England for educating.  Ravenna also suspects that Laird Ruiari Sutherland may be part of a plot to band together with other Scottish clansmen to rise up against the monarchy.  Still, even though she is sent to investigate the family, she soon finds herself devoted to her young student and falling in love with Laird Sutherland.  This is classic, formulaic, historic romance—it’s fast-paced and juicy!

Beth: In Joan Johnston’s Shameless, Pippa becomes pregnant with a married man’s child and is taken by surprise when her father uproots her family from their cattle station in Australia to take over his father’s ranch in Wyoming.  Pippa is thrown into family rivalries as she attempts to navigate pregnancy and her desire to learn the truth about her mother.  In desperation, Pippa moves in with one of the family enemies and her emotions start to flare.  The story is packed with exasperated twists and turns, but in a true romance fashion, ends happily ever after.

Dori: Curtis Sittenfeld reimagines Pride and Prejudice in modern America in her new novel Eligible. Lizzy Bennett, a successful New York editor and her sister Jane, a yoga instructor, return home to Cincinnati when their father becomes ill. There, they find the family in disarray; their two youngest sisters are sponging off their father while obsessing over exercise and diets, Mary, their middle sister, has become a bit of a recluse and their mother still has tunnel vision, only wanting marriage to successful men for her daughters. At a neighborhood barbecue, Jane meets Chip Bingley, a doctor fresh off a Bachelor-like TV show and they hit it off. Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, does not make as positive an impression on Jane. At the Bennetts navigate through these various travails, Sittenfeld provides a modern look at gender, class, money, romance, and family. Funny, charming and romantic, it’s a fresh look at Austen’s classic.  

Stacey: Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier, author of Ruby Red Trilogy, is the first in her new The Silver Trilogy -and that couldn’t please me more! Fifteen-year-old Liv and thirteen-year-old Mia have lived all over the world. Their current destination is Oxford to spend the school year with their mom while she teaches for the University, but plans have changed. It looks like they’ll be staying in London with their mom, her boyfriend, and his high school-aged children; and then things really get weird. Liv is able to watch other people’s secret dreams while they sleep. Plus a group of boys in her new school who can do the same… how? why? But that one boy, he seems pretty nice -even if he’s up to no good.

Next time we’ll be reading Award Winners! Another easy category!! All you need to do is find a book that has won a real (legitimate) award -in any genre. (See how easy?!) Happy Spring Reading!

—Stacey

Lots of Wordy Books (aka Literary Fiction!) January 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Literary Fiction.
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We’re starting off the year with the Literary fiction challenge -were you able to find something that was characterized by a distinctive writing style, focused more on character than plot, or prompted a high degree of interaction between reader and book? If so, then you were a successful participant in our first genre discussion! If not, don’t worry -we still have eleven more genre challenges to come. You’ll get ‘em next time!
Are you wondering what everyone had to say about the books they chose? Here we go…

Maureen: In Dostoyevsky’s final and epic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, he weaves an intricate story surrounding the lives of three brothers who each have a reason to want their philandering father, Fyodor, dead. One brother is not given the inheritance he feels he is due from his deceased mother, one begrudgingly leaves his beloved monastery work at the command of his father, and one is just disgusted with the total lack of morals displayed by his father. When Fyodor is murdered one fateful evening and brother Dmitry is implicated, the secrets, motivations, love affairs, scandals, and crimes of all of the brothers are slowly revealed to build the story to its conclusion. The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the greatest works of Russian fiction. While not a quick or easy read (it took several months!!) it was an interesting look into Russian society of the time. If you find yourself looking for another great Russian work from a bit later time period, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is another fantastic, though far-fetched, literary Russian read that is worth a look.

Chris: Snobs by Julian Fellowes is Julian’s first novel and it gives us an insider’s look at England’s upper class in the 1990s and those who aspire to become part of it. Like Edith, who marries the Earl Broughton one of the most eligible aristocrats around. From the very beginning his mother, Lady Uckfield, knows why Edith has chosen her son. Will the marriage last? Many of their friends and so-called friends play a part in the outcome. So many characters, so much drama. Much like the beloved PBS series Fellowes went on to write, Downton Abbey. With one difference for this reader: He seems to not much care for the Broughton Hall characters (perhaps he was finding his way back then) whereas he loves his Downton Abbey people. Me, too.

Megan: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is a fictional account of a real life murder. The year is 1906 and sixteen-year old Mattie has big dreams. Desperate to earn money and escape her small-town life, she gets a job at the Glenmore Hotel. There she meets Grace Brown, a young guest who asks Mattie to burn a packet of secret letters. When Grace’s body is found in the lake, Mattie realizes that the letters may prove that Grace’s drowning was not a tragic accident but a premeditated murder. Mattie is the product of Donnelly’s imagination, but Grace Brown and her murder are true crimes. Fans of historical fiction and true crime will enjoy this story set in the Anirondaks.

Lauren: Vendela Vida’s The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is set in exotic Casablanca, Morocco and lures the reader in with elements of mystery/thriller. A woman—you, as the story is told in second person—travels to Morocco on her own and almost immediately her money, passport, and identification are stolen. She is at first panicked and desperate to go to the police and seek to recover her belongings only to run up against bureaucracy and corruption on top of the challenges of navigating a foreign country. Gradually she comes to see her situation—a woman without an identity—as an chance to become someone else entirely and find true liberation.

Beth: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins takes place in a very plausible distant future semi-relinquished, dried out California landscape. The main characters, Luz and Ray are contently squatting in an abandoned mansion until they cross paths with a child who they bring into their fold. With new found responsibility, they pursue a more sustainable home and discover the ambiguous power of their most treasured relationships.

Dori: In Like Family, a spare, slender novel by Paolo Giordano, a married couple hires a childless widow to care for the wife when she has some problems in her pregnancy. After the baby is born, Mrs. A stays on as a nanny for the baby and as housekeeper for the family. After eight years, however, one day she announces that she’s not feeling well and will not be coming back. Sixteen months later, she has passed away from cancer. The husband, a physicist, narrates, telling us all this within the first few pages of the book. The remainder of the book are his memories of conversations he’s had with Mrs. A, what he learned about her and her life and most importantly, he relays the importance of her to his family. Mrs. A helped them all, smoothing over differences between husband and wife, wholly loving their child, and appreciating and encouraging all of them. Without her, they are all bereft and feeling a hole where she once had been. She had an intimate role within their family, at least from their perspective, even though she was employee; she wasn’t family, but was she? Giordano contemplates the variety of love, the definition of family and the value of relationships, however fleeting, in this melancholy but sweet book.

Emma: In Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, Addie Moore has lost her husband. One day she invites neighbor widower Louis Waters to spend nights with her. Nights are especially lonely. Nosy neighbors quickly find out what’s going on, but Addie and Louis don’t care. Gene, Addie’s son, leaves his son Jamie with her for the summer. He does not approve of the relationship between Addie and Louis, and eventually forbids Addie to have contact with her grandson unless she breaks contact with Louis. A beautiful story even with Addie’s bullying son’s interference.

Carol: In My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, the title character is a married New York City writer who reflects on her upbringing by chronicling a few days in the 80s, when as a grown woman, she ends up in the hospital for an extended stay. Lucy’s estranged mother comes to visit during that time, and readers learn about their strange and sad family dynamic from what the two reminisce about and the topics they avoid. This short novel about forgiveness and the bonds of family and love is eloquently written and will be remembered long after its last page has been read.

Steve: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an excellent but bleak work. In a horrible post-apocalyptic world an unnamed man and his young son are striving to make it to the coast against awful odds. Along the way they elude gangs of violent thugs and scavenge for what little food they can find, all in hopes of finding other good guys.

Stacey: One of my favorite fiction titles to make the list of Notable Books for Adults for 2016 was This Is the Life: A Novel by Alex Shearer. Two brothers, who haven’t always had the easiest of relationships, are brought together again when Louis is diagnosed with a brain tumor and his younger brother provides whatever support he can. A small book with a big impact, there really is something in this book that is likely to make readers laugh, cry, and maybe even pick up the phone to call a loved one…

If you want to keep reading with us, you’ll want to go looking for the first novel of an author you’ve never read before! Finding the debut work of a new author can be pretty exciting, so you might want to start your search …now!

enjoy!
Stacey

Happy Holiday Reads! December 19, 2015

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
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As you may remember from just a few weeks ago, we consider anything featuring a Winter holiday as fair game. So yes, it was absurdly easy to select a book for our recent gathering! And now we’ll make it absurdly easy for you to select one as well…

Dori: In Alexandra Brown’s The Great Christmas Knit-Off, Sybil bolts to the small picturesque English village of Tindledale after she’s jilted at the altar of her Star Wars themed wedding. Her friends run a pub there and soon she’s taken in by the quirky residents, forming fast friendships and even finding an admiring, handsome doctor. When the local craft store, Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, is threatened with closure, her knitting skills come in handy as she rallies the villagers to create holiday themed knitted goods for Hettie to sell so she can keep her business. First in a series, this is a fun and quaint holiday read with a great cast of eccentric characters, a frisson of romance and knitting galore! Includes a pattern for a Christmas pudding holiday decoration.

Chris: Christmas with Rita and Whatsit by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod with the sweetest illustrations by Olivier Tallec tells a charming story about a little girl and her dog getting ready for the big day. Lots of typical activities like writing Santa a letter, baking goodies etc. ensue, but most are done with darling twists. Like Whatsit asking Santa for a police dog uniform and decorating his own little tree with a garland of sausages, salami and bologna to smell just right. On Christmas morning, they find all kinds of wonderful presents left by Santa, but one: A big hug from your best friend. Hugs all arounds. CUTE!

Carol: A Christmas Tragedy is a short story by Agatha Christie. Miss Jane Marple is spending an evening of fun with some friends who are taking turns sharing mysterious stories. The story Miss Marple tells revolves around the suspicions she feels upon meeting Mr. & Mrs. Sanders while at a spa during Christmastime. Miss Marple is immediately convinced that the man means to murder his wife. When Mrs. Sanders is later found dead, it is up to Miss Marple to prove that the husband committed the crime. While this title doesn’t necessarily spread Holiday cheer, it’s like a little gift to read anything by Agatha Christie, the queen of crime!

Megan: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris is a collection of humorous short stories that a shine light on the dark underbelly of Christmas. These dark, irreverent, and sardonic stories show readers how the Christmas spirit can go awry. Readers looking for a sweet, happily-ever-after story should steer clear, but fans of dark humor will appreciate this slim volume. An 2008 reprint included six new stories.

Emma: Two stories in one comprise The Christmas Bells. One story revolves around Sophia, school music teacher and volunteer children’s choir director at St. Margaret’s Church, who is about to lose her teaching position. Lucas, the choir accompanist, is very interested in Sophia but reluctant to make his feelings known. The father of Alex and Charlotte, two talented choir members, is MIA in Afghanistan. The second story takes place during the 1860’s. This story revolves around Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who is mourning the death of his wife and trying to convince his son not to join the Union army. It showcases Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” written in 1863. The poem is the basis for “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, one of the songs Sophia’s choir is practicing. The Christmas Bells is a heartfelt story of Christmases past and present.

Steve: Glenn Beck’s The Immortal Nicholas attempts to return Christmas, Santa and St. Nicholas to the origins of Christ, with limited success. The story begins with the main character Agios, forager of frankincense, who has just lost his son and all hope and has turned to wine. He is captured in a drunken stupor by a caravan and brought back to one of the three wise men, who is looking for frankincense to present to the new King who is to be born. From there the story follows the story of Jesus, and not until the end do we see the connection to Nicholas. A good effort that starts out strong but something didn’t quite mesh.

Lauren: Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel brings together a number of quirky (to say the least) characters from other of his books set in the coastal California town of Pine Cove. The townspeople are busy making preparations for the Christmas holiday when young Joshua is devastated to witness the murder of Santa. What has actually played out is a deadly altercation between “evil developer” Dale Pearson dressed and Santa and his ex-wife Lena. Joshua sends up a prayer to the heavens for Santa to be brought back to life in time to save Christmas. Enter archangel Raziel, who has visited Earth to grant a Christmas miracle. Given that Raziel truly is the stupidest angel, he misunderstands Joshua’s request and casts a blanket resurrection over the body of Dale Pearson/Santa as well as all the deceased residents of Pine Cove in the nearby cemetery. The dead rise, and typical of zombies, instantly seek to feast on human flesh. As Moore states, this is “a heartwarming tale of Christmas terror.” Brace yourselves.

Stacey: I didn’t know I needed a sequel to the classic A Christmas Carol -until I read one! Charlie Lovett wrote the ‘spirited’ (pun intended!) novel, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, based on the transformed character of Scrooge. When the ghost of his old partner Jacob Marley appears to ask for help shedding the chain he’s been forced to carry, Scrooge is more than happy to do what he can to help. This is a charming story with the positive message giving is better than receiving -one you’ll be sure to enjoy!

Next up is Literary Fiction! If you want to read along -you’ll want to find something characterized by a distinctive writing style. Literary fiction focuses more on character than plot, deals in nuances, and prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book.

Enjoy!
Stacey

2015: It’s a Mystery December 18, 2015

Posted by Ann in Book List, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2015.
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“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.”                        MICKEY SPILLANE

My 2015 list this year includes Mystery, Suspense, and Thrillers!

Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn. Chet the Dog is so famous he has his own website- http://www.chetthedog.com/

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. The “good girl” runs into a bundle of trouble.

Last Words by Michael Koryta. He didn’t know it at the time, but they were the last words he spoke to her.

Little Black Lies by Sandra Block. Black lies are definitely worse than white lies.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. No doubt this will be on many best lists!

The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham. This ferry will take you on a wild ride.

Orient by Christopher Bollen. Strange things are occuring in the town of Orient on Long Island.

The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo. Some parts of this book are “unbearably grizzly”!

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. A twisty, psychological thriller debut novel.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain. Another winner from author Chamberlain.

~Ann

Lauren’s 2015 Top Ten (and then some…) December 16, 2015

Posted by Lauren in Book List, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2015.
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This year I’ve got an even split between fiction and non-fiction! While I am always reading both, I definitely read more fiction in general.  I guess if it’s non-fiction it’s something I’ve heard about and really want to read, so I am usually not disappointed. Here are some of my favorites I’ve read the past year–and a chunk of bonus books!

Fiction

Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Crimson Petal

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Non-Fiction

Thunder and Lightning

Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss

Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Why Not Me

Why Not Me?  by Mindy Kaling

Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Spinster

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

My bonus section is reserved for series that I love and that have taken up a lot of my reading time this year–they are mostly historical fiction/mystery, with a little YA and sci-fi/fantasy thrown in.  Any of these books’ “partners” in their respective series are a GO.

As Chimney SweepersCareer of EvilMortal Heart

Curious BeginningWinter

-Lauren

 

 

Megan’s More than 10 Top Picks of 2015 December 16, 2015

Posted by Megan in Book List, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2015.
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Normally I love making lists of books, but I agonize over these end of the year favorites lists. After reviewing all the books that I read this year I discovered that this is the first time in many years that I read more adult (non-YA) books that YA books. Does this mean I am a real grown-up now? I hope not! I also noted that this was a year dominated by science fiction, fantasy, and amazing graphic novels.  Ok, let’s get started!

  1. The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.

string diaries

2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

fatesfuries

3. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

mistborn

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

uprooted

5. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. (This is a bit of a tease as it isn’t due out until March 2016)

26154406

6. Bingo’s Run by James Levine.

bingos run

7. Lock In by John Scalzi.

lock in

8. The Martian by Andy Weir.

martian

9. Descender, vol.1: Tin Stars by Jeff Trillium.

tin stars

10. Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery and vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygot by Kurtis Wiebe.

rat1 rat2

Of course, I can’t finish this list without mentioning some of my favorite YA books.

laborden salt to the sea walktheearth wrath Everything everything fixer Wicked will rise Under a painted sky all the rage all the bright places

Happy Reading!

~Megan