Reading Suggestions - Staff Recommendations

Books the staff have enjoyed (or not) recently...


Bitter Harvest by Susan Bowden
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Harry Potter And The Deadly Hallow by J.K. Rowling
The Sweet Potato Queen's 1st Big Ass Novel by Jill Conner Brown
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

At Home in the World by Joyce Maynard
In April 1972, Joyce Maynard published an article in the New York Times entitled “An Eighteen-Year-Old Looks Back on Life.”  The article was well-received (and even led to a book deal), and among her fan mail was a letter from J.D. Salinger.  The two corresponded for months, and at 19, Maynard dropped out of Yale to move in with the 53-year-old author.  Her memoir recounts the events of their relationship and breakup in explicit detail.  When the book was published, she was condemned by Salinger loyalists for daring to violate the reclusive author’s privacy.  Maynard’s harsh criticisms of herself give credibility to her story.  I found it mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor.  Most the details Boyd divulges regarding her marriages to George Harrison and Eric Clapton have been told and retold in various books and documentaries.  Though she is a sympathetic narrator, she comes off as somewhat naïve and lacking in personality (the writing is pretty bland, too).  Still, her story of overcoming abusive relationships is admirable and may speak to readers who find themselves in similar situations.

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta.  A high school sex education teacher is targeted by a local evangelical church for answering a student’s question regarding a taboo subject.  This novel explores the ongoing battle between liberals and conservatives, and in the hands of a lesser writer, a story like this might reveal an agenda.  Perotta presents characters on both sides of the issue as three-dimensional and human, leaving the reader much to consider.  Another winner from Mr. Perrotta.

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir.  A highly readable and richly detailed account of the 45-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I and life in Tudor England.   Also recommended: Weir’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
Emma by Jane Austen
The friendly Jane Austen: a well-mannered introduction to a lady of sense & sensibility by Natalie Tyler - An encyclopedia for Janeites—informative without being academic, it includes biographical information, quizzes, quotations, and a guide to the movie adaptations of her novels.

Witch Child by Celia Rees (YA)
England. 1659. Young Mary Newbury sees her grandmother tried, tortured, and executed as a witch.  Fearing a similar fate, she accepts an invitation from a kind stranger to travel to the New World with a group of Puritans.  Big mistake.  Shortly after arriving at the Massachusetts settlement, suspicions arise and Mary becomes the scapegoat of a witch trial involving a group of Puritan girls.  Written in diary format, this is a fast and suspenseful read.

The Blue Bistro – by Elin Hilderbrand  This novel is set in Nantucket revolving around the lives of the employees of the restaurant and the diner.  It is very interesting.

The Beach Club – by Elin Hilderbrand  This is a novel that takes place at a hotel along a beach in Nantucket.  It is about the personal lives of the owners, employees and guests at the hotel.

Daily Reading from your Best Life Now - Joel Osteen  These are very inspirational and motivational reading.  I highly recommend it to everyone.

Suze Orman’s Financial Guidebook by Suze Orman – Excellent book to help you better understand how to handle your personal finances.

Complications:  A Surgeons Notes on an Imperfect Science – Atul Gawande
The author describes his experiences as he is completing his residency.  He tells of the side of medicine that we never see.

Landing It:  My Life on and off  the Ice – Scott Hamilton with Lorenzo Benet-It is a very interesting book that tells of Scott’s life as he grew from a child to an adult. It tells of his battle with cancer and how he fought to beat it.

Dancing with the Stars-Guy Phillips and Tasha Brown- If you like the show on television by the same name you will like this book.  It looks behind the scenes and also teaches some of the dancers’ workouts.

The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy - The weekend in the life of a commuter from Dublin to their small home town.  It's interesting to see the way the lives are connected to other passengers on the bus.

Life's Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard - An inspirational story that helps you take a look at your life from a new perspective.  It was a very quick read for me.

McNally's Secret by Lawrence Sanders - A mystery about some Inverted Jenny stamps that have been stolen.  It was a fairly quick read and good plot.

The Duchess by Jude Deveraux - Very well written.  An American heiress is engaged to the duke and falls in love with the mystery man in the castle.

Dance While You Can by Shirley MacLaine - A memoir of the actress coming to terms with growing older and her relationships.  Interesting.

The Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig (F H149.65d) - The story is about a son haunted by his father's ghost to seek revenge for his death.  The story itself was okay, but the lack of quotation marks and expected punctuation was distracting.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (F G869.5ru or LP F G869ru) - Very good.  A trial involving the tobacco companies and the death of a smoker.  The jury is controlled by one man.  Well written and hard to put down.  Also available on audio book and was made into a movie which I haven't seen yet.

Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss (Y K86.1si) - A fifteen year old is diagnosed with lymphoma.  Her experiences are described and the way she copes with the challenges of the treatments.  A short book and quick read.

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey (F H151.6wo) - The book is a collection of letters written by Bess (Elizabeth Steed Garner).  The book covers her journey from childhood through marriage and grandchildren.  It is very interesting to just read the letters and not the responses.  It's was an interesting way to present the information and let the reader fill in the time between the letters.

I finally watched the Runaway Jury last night.  It once again proves that watching a movie does not replace reading the book.  The trial was changed from a case against a tobacco company to a case against a gun company.  The characters are the same and the plot twist at the end is the same, but the whole premise of the movie is changed by changing the subject of the trial.  I know the list is what you are READING, but just so people don't think they will get the same story by watching the movie I thought I'd include this.

Deadly Appraisal by Jane K. Cleland.  Josie Prescott is settling into her new life in New Hampshire with her antique business after leaving New York under less than happy circumstances. As part of her effort to fit in with the community she helps out with a charity auction. When the director of the charity is murdered at the auction, the question is, was she the target, or was Josie?

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews.  Meg and Michael are moving into their newly renovated farm house and planning a surprise elopement following a holiday party when suddenly people from all over the area start dropping off zoo animals they had been fostering “temporarily”. As Meg’s father is digging a hole in their basement for a pool for the penguins, the body of the missing zookeeper turns up. Meg tries to solve the mystery while keeping her eccentric relatives (who have come to help with the move) from discovering the planned elopement. This series is great if you like lots of wacky relatives cluttering up a mystery novel, as I do.

Remains to be Scene by R.T. Jordan. Polly Pepper is an aging TV star who gets a chance to be in a teen movie as the grandmother (horrors!) after two of her contemporaries die (are murdered?) on the set. Polly solves the mystery and charms the investigating detective. She has a couple of sidekicks in her son and maid (named Placenta!) who help with the investigation by throwing lavish dinner parties where the suspects are stealthily interrogated. Apparently this is the first of a series of Polly Pepper mysteries.

Once Around the Track by Sharyn McCrumb. This is the first book by this author I have read that is not in her Bootlegger’s Daughter series. It is not a mystery and is set on the NASCAR circuit. I certainly learned a lot about racing!

Why She Went Home by Lucinda Rosenfeld.  I don’t know exactly what to say about this one. The cover claimed this was a hilarious and affecting new novel. It didn’t strike me that way, and I kept thinking I was going to give up on it, but somehow I ended up reading to the end anyway. You’ll need to make your own judgment I guess.

Rage by Jonathan Kellerman. Part of the long running Dr. Alex Delaware series. Alex is called by a young man he had examined several years ago as a teenager when he was involved in killing a toddler. Before Alex can meet with him, he is found dead. Investigating that murder opens up a whole can of worms including questions about who really killed the toddler. If you like this series, you’ll enjoy this one as well.

No! I don’t want to join a book club by Virginia Ironside.  Written in the form of a diary, Marie Sharp decides to chronicle her run up to the “big 60”. She’s determined not to do all the trite things that older people do, but she is enjoying the fact that “getting older means that at last I’m entering the final act. It means I can see freedom at the end of the tunnel. Getting older means I get happier and happier. It means that at last I can put aside those nagging guilty anxieties about whether I should take up tap dancing or become an opera singer. Being sixty will mean that I don’t have to worry about doing anything anymore. I will, officially, be retired.” Set in Great Britain, some of the ‘bennies’ of getting older are different, but I think we can still relate.

Invisible Prey by John Sandford. Part of a long running series featuring Lucas Davenport, this one features a very convoluted scheme by the “bad guys” involving antiques, quilts, politics and fraud. If you like this series, this won’t disappoint.

Visual Chronicles: the no fear guide to creating art journals, creative manifestos & altered books by Linda Woods & Karen Dinino. If you like the idea of creating a journal in less than conventional ways you might want to take a look at this one. Didn’t have as much “how to” information as I would have liked, but did have lots of inspiration.

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella. Part of the Shopaholic series, Becky is still shopping…this time for baby things. She’s also trying to get the store she works for to be a success, “investing” half of her baby’s trust fund (in things like bracelets and other “collectables”), and worrying about whether her husband’s ex-girlfriend, who is also her obstetrician is trying to steal him away. Light, fun, chick-lit.

Dead Heat by Dick Francis & Felix Francis. This mystery, written by Dick Francis and his son, as usual hovers around the edges of racing society, but the protagonist in this case is a chef. I always find Dick Francis novels an easy and enjoyable read, and this one was no exception.

Spare Change by Robert B. Parker.   This is one of the Sunny Randall series. In this one Sunny teams up with her retired cop father to solve one of his old unsolved cases. Sunny relies highly on her intuition and turns out to be right. The phrasing still reminds me of the Spenser novels, and in fact Spenser’s lady turns out to be Sunny’s therapist.

The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson.  This is a tiny little book about an odd man and his wife and what they do when he discovers he only has a month to live. Oddly appealing.

Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life by Marika and Howard Stone. This couple posits that the heralded wave of retirement of baby boomers will really be more about finding new and more enjoyable ways to make a living. They have all sorts of ideas of how to discover what it is you might like to do. A quick read, and thought provoking.

A Perfect Mess by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman
Subtitled “The Hidden Benefits of Disorder” I found this book fascinating. I picked it up to make myself feel better about my own cluttered ways, and to a great extent it worked, but it was also amazing to see how an “unorganized” way of doing things benefits creativity.

Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith.  Arkady Renko is having a little trouble at work again, when he suspects some of his co-workers are involved in his latest case. There are 
more complications, of course, when officials would rather he spent his time debunking sightings of Stalin on the subway. Arkady’s deadpan humor has lost none of its bite, and his persistence continues until both mysteries are solved, plus a personal one.

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. A young woman travels to Kenya to take a job delivering a library books to remote villages, on the backs of camels. She runs into the low expectations of her Kenyan co-worker and the mysterious culture of the villagers,  some of whom are thrilled by the world made accessible by her books, and some suspicious and fearful for their way of life.

A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin. The author imagines Sherlock Holmes in his rural beekeeping retirement, having lived until 1947 and observing his own mental deterioration. His mind keeps wandering between an old case and a new one, and his recent trip to Japan, where his host, a bee authority, had an ulterior motive for his invitation. The author blends the three story lines into an intriguing novel. For a Sherlock Holmes fan, an insightful (and delightful) extension of the legend.

Historical Whodunits edited by Mike Ashley. Hidden away in the non-fiction section (808.8 H673b) is one of the “Mammoth Book of . . . “ collections, this one of mysteries set in periods ranging from Egyptian New Kingdom to Victorian times. With a foreword by Ellis Peters, said by the editor to be the inspiration for many of the authors in this collection.  Almost every one a jewel. Much better than the sequel, located in the YAs.
Mistress of the Elgin Marbles by Susan Nagel. The story of the elegant and incredibly rich Countess of Elgin, whose adventures as the wife and traveling companion of the diplomat Earl of Elgin make fascinating reading. She was instrumental in the controversial removal of the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon because, while her husband wished it done, and was given permission by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to take them, it was she who had the personal charm and administrative skills to do it. Their scandalous divorce brought about a small step in the improvement of women’s rights, particularly a mother’s right, in English law. Terrific book. NF 941.07 N147m

I am America (And So Can You!) written and edited by Stephen Colbert and The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. On television, Colbert is a defiantly misinformed blowhard on topics ranging from environmentalists (scary tree-huggers) to bears (ditto).  His book, knocked out with his staff writers, includes charts such as Things That Are Trying to Turn Me Gay and a funny stream of snippy snap judgments.  Less frenetic, the wry Sarah Vowell—destined to always have this set of parentheses (the voice of Violet in The Incredibles)—produces a series of quirky essays drawn from visits to such Americanavilles as the underground lunchroom at Carlsbad Caverns.  I went there back in high school.  Good sandwich.  Oh, and the Caverns?  Impressive, but wear a jacket.  Caves and lunchrooms tend to be cold. 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver and See You in a Hundred Years: Four seasons in Forgotten America by Logan Ward. I understand what these authors are trying to convey: farm life clues you in to how the food chain works, it’s healthier, more honest; I get that.  Kingsolver’s book describes her family’s effort to eat locally, raising crops and poultry toward that goal, while Ward and his family try to run a farm as though they were living a hundred years ago.  It’s good to be reminded of the flavorful virtues of shopping in season, and of what life was like for my maternal grandparents in the days before rural electrification, but these books’ descriptions of weeding may raise blisters on your fingers.  

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks and Evolution for Everyone by David Sloan Wilson. The writer of Awakenings, Sacks describes unusual cases involving music, including a man struck by lightning who develops an intense desire to play piano, as well as people beset by musical hallucinations and other neural oddities.  Written with Sacks’ usual degree of insight and elegance.  Wilson takes a scientific topic and endeavors to simplify it for the general public, succeeding for the most part as he shows how evolution is woven through many aspects of our physical and cultural being.

Spook Country by William Gibson

Spare, evocative language, reminiscent of Kenzaburo Oe, but with a metamodern bent.  Our everyday science unfictions are wrapped into an uneasy thriller sending spies, artists and techniks on a chase after a mysterious CIA-connected shipment.  Not as incisive as his career benchmark, Pattern Recognition, but well worth the visit.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon and Away by Amy Bloom.  As an adopted member of the tribe, I’m always on the lookout for Jewish titles.  These, interestingly enough, both track through Alaska.  Chabon’s alternate history imagines a mid-20th century Jewish settlement in Sitka that grows into an alt-modern-day Yiddish-speaking state.  If that’s not enough of a high concept, Chabon throws in a film noir-style murder mystery.  Interesting, but intense amounts of Yiddish.  I recommended keeping a Yiddish website handy (such as  Bloom takes a more straightforward narrative starting point.  Lillian Leyb, survivor of a brutal pogrom that took the lives of her husband and (she thought) daughter, has fled to a mid-1920s New York City crowded with others struggling for their shmear of the American dream.  Told that her daughter may yet be alive but in Siberia, Leyb travels across America, thinking she’ll have a better chance of getting into Bolshevik Russia from the back way, en route experiencing a rough, disorienting passage.  A pocket-sized epic. 

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith. Smith’s portrait of Botswana is enough to make one wish for an airplane ticket to Gaborone.  Lacking such good fortune, let us make do with a cup of bush tea and this latest in his series featuring Precious Ramotswe, a traditionally built detective who solves crimes as she reflects on the vagaries of human nature.

Critical – Robin Cook. New York City medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton return in this medical thriller. This duo put their forensic skills to work as they attempt to unravel a puzzling medical crisis.

Bones To Ashes – Kathy Reichs. Temperance Brennan is back in Montreal facing a line-up of young female corpses, reminding her of a childhood friend from Acadia who also disappeared one summer. Very interesting mystery that keeps you on track to the end.

Wheel of Darkness – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. At a remote monastery in Tibet, a rare and dangerous artifact mysteriously disappears. Pendergast agrees to take up the search that leads him and constance to the maiden voyage of the “ Queen Victoria” and to an Atlantic crossing filled with terror.

The Lost Constitution – William Martin. This interesting novel blends modern-day treasure hunting with history. In this fast-paced novel, the hunt is on for an early lost draft of the Constitution that could forever change America’s history and its future. I enjoyed this book-lots of history.

The Genesis Code – Christopher Forrest. Another of the long line of secret code mysteries. Interesting but lots of subplots.

Flawless - Joshua Spanogle. Takes the reader into the dark heart of medicine to tell the terrifying tale of a billion-dollar medical breakthrough and the side effects it unleashes.

Mystery - Hare Today, Dead Tomorrow; Hare Today, Dead Tomorrow, Cynthia Baxter.  Love this series!

The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde - not for the normal person.  Jasper Fforde is like Douglas Adams on drugs.

Pastry Queen Christmas  by Rebecca Rather.

Look me in the eye : my life with Asperger's / John Elder Robison.  This was an eye-opening book written by the brother of Augusten Burroughs.  Describes life with this particular personality syndrome in a very positive way.  Demonstrates the difficulties persons with this type of personality face and how he successfully found a way to live with his condition and to thrive in spite (or maybe because of) his limitations and how he managed to channel his best qualities into finding rewarding and successful life.

I read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan recently, and I was totally engrossed with the true story of Mamah Borthwith Cheney's affair with Frank Lloyd Wright which scandalized American society in the early 1900's.  A mother who left her adoring husband and small children, a woman who embraced the movement for women's rights, an intelligent writer who struggled to stand out beside the brillance and arrogance that was Frank Lloyd Wright, Mamah was caught between was right for her and  how her actions affected all those around her.  Great characters, and a stunning ending that seems melodramatic but is the documented truth.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter I have read both of these novels and can't wait to read the third.  About a charming, lovable serial killer whose musings about what he seems to be to others and what he really is, a monster, coupled with witty bantering with those around him, compells you to like this guy in spite of himself.  Such fun, and now a series on Showtime, 1st season available on DVD.

What We’re Reading
(Staff Picks)
August 2007

I read Pet Semetary (F K54pe) by Stephen King. It was really good. A great fast read, I flew through it. I just wish I had read the book before I saw the movie.

I just finished reading Fight Club (VAN F P153.3fi). That was another really good book. One of my favorites.

At the moment I am reading The collected stories of Amy Hempel (F H491.3c). I only heard of her recently but the more I read the more I love her. The woman is truly a genius. She uses a very minimalistic style but her stories actually mean something. Not just a fast food novel. All that said, very enjoyable.

I'm alternating Amy Hempel with the short stories of H.P Lovecraft. H.P.needs no introduction. By all rights he is the master of the "spooky" novel. I've already read a couple of his Cthulhu stories, but I've vowed to finally read the rest.

The Polysyllabic Spree (810.9 H814p) and Songbook (782.42 H814s) by Nick Hornby
The Polysyllabic Spree is an entertaining collection of essays and author interviews from Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” column.  Recommended for those who don’t mind their “to read” lists getting a little longer.  Songbook is a collection of essays about the author’s 31 favorite songs.  Recommended for music enthusiasts.

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives (170 W288p )and The Secret Lives of Men and Women (155.6 S446w) by Frank Warren
Frank Warren initiated a community art project when he began leaving blank postcards in public places, with instructions for anonymous participants to write down a secret they had never shared with anyone and mail it to him.  He began posting the little works of art on his website (, and many were selected for these fascinating books.

King Dork (Y P853.5k) by Frank Portman (YA)
An original, clever, and hilarious novel about 14 year old Tom, who finds a secret code written in his deceased father’s copy of The Catcher in the Rye.  Recommended for mature teen readers and adults.

Love is a Mix Tape (on order) by Rob Sheffield
A memoir from a rock journalist who lost his young wife suddenly to a pulmonary embolism.  Rob recounts his seven years with Renee through mix tape play lists, the only common interest the two shared.  A sweet-but-not-sappy love story recommended for anyone who enjoyed Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity or who has ever made a mix tape.

Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies by Tom Perrotta
Young buddy narrates ten short stories about growing up in New Jersey in the 1970s.  More humorous than Perrotta’s more recent work, though just as poignant.  Highly recommended, as with all of Perrotta’s writings.

He's Just Not in the Stars: Wicked Astrology & Uncensored Advice for Getting the (Almost) Perfect Guy (133.5 K86h) by Jenni Kosarin. This book has a great table of contents and an easy chart to look up your potential man.  It's a fun read.

Mom, There's a Man in the Kitchen & He's Wearing Your Robe:  The Single Mother's Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly (646.77 F533m) by Ellie Slott Fisher.  An easy read with a lot of useful information.  It gives various viewpoints on many of the subjects involved with dating again after being widowed or divorced.

The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man (155.632 L478f) by John Lee.  The book details John Lee's journey to find his "true masculinity".  He is very honest with his story and the battles he faced to become the man he is today.  It can be an encouragement for people who come from dysfunctional families.

Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys (818 B279dc) by Dave Barry. Funny look at the difference between men and guys.

Women Who Think too Much (158.082 N791w) - by the same author (Susan Nolen-Hoeksema) as Eating, Drinking and Overthinking (616.852 N791e) which I finished first.  It helps women understand why we have a tendency to overanalyze and some methods to help avoid overthinking everything.

Hardscrabble Road (M H126ha) by Jane Haddam
The “Armenian Hercule Poirot” , Gregor Demarkian is called in to consult on a case involving a conservative radio host, a homeless man and a Carmelite Monastery. Lots of twists and turns to the rather cerebral plot.

Body Double (CD F G378b) by Tess Gerritsen (Audio Edition)
Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles gets the scare of her life when the dead body found outside her home when she returns from a trip turns out to be her double—an identical twin she never knew she had. While searching for the murderer Dr. Isles is forced to contemplate her own previously unknown heritage.

What Came Before He Shot Her (M G347.3wh) by Elizabeth George
The description for this book can be gotten from the title. It is a 548 page book and the murder is on page 506. So, it’s less of a mystery than a novel centered around the gradual decline in fortunes of a family in London. It is well written though, and fans of Elizabeth George will want to read it, although it is a tad depressing! It is apparently the back story to her last book, With No One as Witness.

With No One As Witness (M G347.3wi) by Elizabeth George
After reading What happened before he shot her, I had to go back and read this one. This one is much more what you would expect from this author—what the police were doing rather than what the (soon to be) criminals were doing.

The Secret Life of Bees (CD F K46s) by Sue Monk Kidd (Audio Edition)
This is a great one to listen to. The narrator’s southern accent and different voices for different people really adds to the story. Set in 1964 in the south, right after the civil rights act was signed, it is a fascinating glimpse of that time period.

Ground to a Halt (M B622.2g)by Claudia Bishop
One of the Hemlock Falls mysteries. This one has the Inn filled with pet food producers when a body is found in a sausage factory. Light fun, nothing too substantial.

Daddy’s Girl (F S431.5da) by Lisa Scotoline
Law Professor Natalie Graco is at a prison about to lecture an in-house prison class on literature and justice when a prison riot breaks out. She attempts to save the life of one of the guards who has been knifed with a home-made shank, and agrees to give his wife is dying words, “it’s under the floor”. The plot has a couple of twists from there…

Love Her to Death (M P174.7Ld )by Linda Palmer
This is second in a series based around a soap opera (sorry, they prefer the term daytime drama) writer/producer, Morgan Tyler. One of the stunt doubles for the show is murdered in the home of the actress she doubles for, and Morgan decides to investigate when her police detective contact tells her it’s been termed a cold case.

High Profile (M P242hi) by Robert B. Parker
This is from his Jesse Stone series, but somehow I keep hearing Spenser’s voice in the witty repartee. But, since I like Spenser, that’s not a big problem for me. This is a very easy read, large margins and lots of dialog. Enjoyable, but not particularly memorable.

Secret Sins (M C475se) by Kate Charles
If you like mysteries set in Great Britain and/or those with a church connection, you should like this one. Well written and keeps you interested in the outcome.

Murder on the Rocks (M M152.5mr) by Karen MacInerney
Innkeeper Natalie Barnes is involved in trying to keep a large resort from being built right next to her Inn, when she finds the developer of that resort (and her guest) dead on the rocks near the beach. When the investigating officer seems fixated on her as the main suspect she begins investigating on her own. Besides a fun mystery she’s also quite a cook, and the recipes are at the back of the book.

Died in the Wool (M M172.7di) by Rett MacPherson
Torie O’Shea is once again investigating an old mystery. This time her step-father the former sheriff is aiding and abetting her since he’s bored with being mayor.

Blessed is the Busybody (M R514.9b) by Emilie Richards
Aggie Sloan-Wilcox is trying to settle in to her husband Ed’s new congregation in Emerald Springs. She finds she likes the small town life better than she expected, except for one of the parishioners, Gelsey Falowel, who seems to have taken a dislike to Ed. When a dead body is found on her front porch, Aggie is sure Gelsey will find a way to blame her. When the next body turns out to be Gelsey herself, Aggie has to investigate to take suspicion off her husband. First in a series “Ministry is Murder”.

The Spellman Files (F L975.7sp) by Lisa Lutz
Izzy Spellman works for her parents at their private detective agency.

The Glass Castle (362.82 W215g) by Jeannette Walls
Memoir of a woman raised in truly dysfunctional circumstances who pulled herself out of if through sheer will. It’s amazing that she seems to bear her parents no ill will. If you enjoy true life stories of people rising above their “raising”, you’ll like this one.

One True Thing (F Q7o) by Anna Quindlen
You may have seen the movie of this with Meryl Streep and William Hurt. There’s a lot more to the book. It’s a story of a young woman who goes back home to help her dying mother. She’s always been a “daddy’s girl” but during this period comes to value her mother, and look more critically at her father’s role in the family’s life. It’s a tough read in some ways, particularly for anyone who’s lost a loved one to cancer, but very rich in examination of family dynamics.

Withering Heights (M C224wi) by Dorothy Cannell
Elli Haskell finds herself in a gothic novel setting when she visits the distant cousin of her husband and gets involved (along with her faithful side kick Mrs. Malloy) in trying to figure out if the local “lady of the manor” killed her husband and hid his body, as suspected by the cousin’s wife. I always enjoy this series, and this one had a good surprise twist at the end.

The Ivy Chronicles (F Q7.45i) by Karen Quinn
Ivy Ames suddenly finds herself out of a job and a marriage on the same day. Eventually she hits on the idea of starting a service to help people get their kids into the best private kindergartens. She also starts over in an apartment above a deli and finds not one, but two love interests in her building. Her friend who married the rich guy helps her out at critical times by providing makeovers, dates with George Clooney, etc. Not terribly realistic, but entertaining. And, she does have a moral dilemma which she solves by the end of the book (sort of).

The Man She Thought She Knew (M S533.5m) by Shari Shattuck
Callaway Wilde tries to save her fiancé, Evan Paley while also saving her engagement. Too many secrets between them is making it difficult.

Arthur & George (F B261.5a) by Julian Barnes. This is a novel based on an event in Arthur Conan Doyle’s later life, when he was already famous as Sherlock Holmes’s creator. Though he had declined many other requests to play at detection, he became determined to prove the innocence of an Anglo-Indian doctor accused of animal mutilation. Excellent.

Study in Scarlet and Sign of the Four (M D754.3s) by Arthur Conan Doyle. Reading Arthur & George revived an interest in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I enjoyed rereading several books of them, including The Adventures of S. H., The Memoirs of S. H., The Return of S. H.

109 East Palace (623.451 C743o) by Jennet Conant.  This account of the construction and operation of the secret town and laboratory of Los Alamos and the development of the atomic bomb takes an unusual tack by revolving around Dorothy McKibbin, who ran the eponymous office in Santa Fe where the actual organization of the town was managed, as well as the charismatic and brilliant J. Robert Oppenheimer, who held the project together through incredible difficulties. Actually, knowing the ending makes it even more interesting.

Los Alamos (F K16.8L) by Joseph Kanon. Recommended to me to follow up the nonfiction 109 East Palace, this novel takes the wartime development of the atomic bomb as the background for a murder-espionage plot. Delivers some of the same atmosphere as 109, many of the same (historical) characters.

Stallion Gate (F S655st) by Martin Cruz Smith. Another fictional based on the subject of the Los Alamos project, this novel takes more interest in the effect of the laboratory on the local Indians than on the scientists, and on the heavy-handed and ultimately ineffectual security around the project. Not as successful to my mind as Los Alamos.

The Scroll of Seduction (F B443.5s) by Giaconda Belli. A pretty silly title for a pretty good book, about Queen Juana the Mad, the heiress to the throne of Ferdinand and Isabella. I can’t really go along with the author’s sympathetic interpretation of Juana’s life and behavior, but it is a thoroughly entertaining novel of a relatively unknown but crucial period of European history.

The Yellow House (759.94 G286y) by Martin Gayford. A short, readable account of the nine weeks that Gauguin and van Gogh worked together in a house in Arles.  Hardly the cartoon characters that popular culture makes of them, they were very aware of themselves as revolutionary artists. Get an art book to go with it, the illustrations are minimal and you will want to look at the paintings that are described.

The World Without Us (304.2 W428w) by Alan Weisman (book) and Children of Men (film) loosely based on the novel by P.D. James.  The Korean DMZ is a de-facto wildlife preserve, protecting animals facing extinction elsewhere, while in a disputed area of Cyprus, a long deserted town has fallen into ruin.  Weisman expands those instances of man’s absence into a global vanishing, drawing from our history of extinctions to extrapolate a possible future.  How long would it take Manhattan to revert to wilderness?  Sooner, rather than later.  What human creations would endure?  Mount Rushmore, for one.  Paintings, famous buildings, domestic cattle, all likely to vanish.  What endures, what fades, and what returns.  In Children of Men, a film directed by Alfonso Cuaron, hope can scarcely endure when there are no more children.  If there is no human future, then why build, why maintain.  One character, driven to rescue works of art, recognizes the futility of his effort, while the film’s protagonist, faced with a glimmer of hope, struggles to overcome his lack of faith.  In both works, our future requires a respect for the natural world as well as for the perils of taking it for granted.

Thud! (SF P912thu) (print novel) and Going Postal (CD F P912g) (audiobook), from Terry Pratchett’s long-running Discworld series.  Pratchett is a major writer in Britain, up there with the Harry Potter lady, but while his books do feature magical creatures, the tone is entirely different.  Some books are pure Monty Python, others more like a droll take on Charles Dickens, but in all there is humor laced with human insight.  In Thud!, Night Watch officer Sam Vimes struggles to keep the city of Ankh Morpork’s main minority groups—trolls and dwarves—from one another’s throats, while in Going Postal, a con man is stuck with restarting Ankh Morpork’s mail service, an adventure that somehow involves golems, cutthroat competitors, a chainsmoking dame, and cabbage paper stamps. 

Native Guard (811 T799n) by Natasha Trethewey.  A trio of themes in this Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s volume—her mother’s untimely death, growing up in the South, and the experiences of a Civil War regiment of African-Americans.  To read her poems is to be reminded of how connected our lives are to those around us as well as to our region.  Indivisible, indelible, unforgettable.

Better: a Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (616 G284b) by Atul Gawande.  Our hospitals, veteran community and the nearby presence of Fort Hood ensures that Temple as a community is deeply threaded with healers, their helpers and their patients.  An endocrine surgeon, Gawande has penned essays on such topics as hand washing protocols, surgical tents in the Iraqi theater, malpractice insurance, and the importance of diligence.  Diligence, in an essay about different hospitals’ efforts in battling cystic fibrosis, is a concept that extends lives.

The Best of Bollywood: 15 Classic Hits from the Indian Cinema (CD 781.542 B561.6u) by Kishore Kumar, Anand, and others (CD).  I liked the movies Lagaan and Monsoon Wedding, and enjoy the music of Asha Bhosle.  Beyond that, I have slight knowledge of popular Indian music—that said, I enjoyed the tracks, as they play to the strengths of the genre’s steamrolling instrumentals and catchy choruses, particularly tunes featuring Kishore Kumar.

Operatic Arias / Handel by David Daniels (CD 781.68 H236o).  Handel is one of many classical composers who included castrati roles in their operas.  As castratos faded into history (thankfully), women assumed those roles, leading to such contrivances as women playing men pretending to be women, but now we can hear those roles as the composers intended.  David Daniels is the leading voice of today’s countertenors, blessed with a muscular tone and commanding presence that allows him to handle Handel (excuse the pun).  His warmth, though, is what shines through, particularly on “Ombra Mai Fu” from Serse.   

Mistress of the Art of Death (F F831.5m ) by Ariana Franklin. In 1171 Cambridge, England, Henry II is beside himself- four children have been found murdered and mutilated. He appeals to his cousin, the king of Sicily , to send him a master of the art of death – one who can look at the deceased and determine how he or she died. He is sent Adelia-a mistress of the art of death. She must piece together the clues before the monster strikes again. Excellent historical thriller.

God’s Spy (F G633.5g) by Juan Gomez-Jurado.  Contemporary thriller set in the Vatican where in the aftermath of Pope John Paul’s death the hunt for a serial killer targeting cardinals reveals a conspiracy. Excellent book.

Deep Storm (F C536.5ds) by Lincoln Child. “Deep Storm,”an advanced research facility built two miles beneath the surface on the ocean floor, has one purpose – to excavate a recently discovered undersea site that may hold the answer to an age-old mystery – what happened to Atlantis?Are these the true remains of the mythical civilization?

Medicus:a Novel of the Roman Empire (M D751.6m) by Ruth Downie. Roman army physician Gaius Petrius Ruso decides to seek his fortune in the remotest Roman outpost-Britannia. Similar to the towns of the Old West, Ruso finds himself  increasingly involved in the investigation of the murders of several prostitutes. Summoning all his forensic knowledge, he races to find the killer before he too becomes a victim. Very enjoyable book with a likable sleuth.

Night Falls on Damascus (F H638.3ni) by Frederic Highland. Police investigator Nikolai Faroun investigates the murder of beautiful and controversial Vera Tamiri in 1930’s Syria. Faroun follows a trail that leads to a conspiracy from Syria’s past and to a secret that may have cost Vera her life. Very interesting picture of the Syria of the 1930’s.

The Grave Tattoo (M M134.3g) by Val McDermid. The discovery of strangely tattooed body in a bog gives rise to rumors regarding William Wordsworth’s ties to the infamous Fletcher Christian, as Wordsworth specialist Jane Gresham searches for a manuscript that could hold the key to the historical mystery. This was an interesting book to read. Lots of conjecture but believable.

This Thing Called Grief (155.937 E47t) by Thomas M. Ellis
Short, straightforward, but very helpful book about how people experience grief.  One point that especially resonated with me was that grief is recurring:  that a new loss will trigger feelings of grief for previous losses.

America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money (332.024 E19a) by Steve & Annette Economides
There’s nothing particularly new here, but this is a very practical book about budgeting and handling family finances.

Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: the Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences (428.2 F634s) by Kitty Burns Florey
Charming, funny book about (of all things) sentence diagramming.  I would recommend it to anyone interested in language.


Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (302.13 H437m) by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Really excellent book about how to craft a message that people will remember.  For fans of The Tipping Point (302 G543t) and Blink (153.44 G543b).

Early Bird: a Memoir of Premature Retirement (646.79 R846e) by Rodney Rothman
Reasonably entertaining book about a young man who goes to Florida to live in a retirement community to sort of test-drive retirement.

Fame Junkies: the Hidden Truths behind America’s Favorite Addiction (306.4 H195f) by Jake Halpern
Interesting and entertaining book about our obsession with fame and the famous.

Better-than-average mysteries I’ve read lately:
Secret Sins (M C475se) by Kate Charles
Blessed Is the Busybody (M R514.9b) by Emilie Richards
Died In the Wool (M M172.7di) by Rett MacPherson
Dead and Berried (M M152.5d) by Karen MacInerney
A Fatal Grace (M P416.6f ) by Louise Penny
The Whole Truth (M P594wh) by Nancy Pickard
Little Tiny Teeth (M E43Li) by Aaron Elkins
Calamity Jayne Rides Again (M B131cr) by Kathleen Bacus
A Fall from Grace (M B259fa) by Robert Barnard
The Bad Quarto (M P312.5ba) by Jill Paton Walsh

Exceptional new decorating and craft books:
Makeovers for your outdoor spaces : backyards, decks, patios, porches & terraces (747.79 H217m) by Elizabeth S. Hamilton
Tim Gunn : a guide to quality, taste, and style (646.3 G976t ) by Tim Gunn with Kate Moloney
Pretty little things : collage jewelry, trinkets, keepsakes (702.812 A378p )by Sally Jean Alexander
Decorating cottage style (747 S428d) by Neva Scott

And, in a category all it’s own, a really funny book of dog cartoons (and I’m a cat person!):  They Moved My Bowl (741.5 B282t) by Charles Barsotti.

Just finished Knit Fast, Die Young (M K94.5kn) by Mary Jruger- ok mystery

Read 2 chapters in I love you, Beth Cooper (F D754.5i) by Larry Doyle.  Funny, but I lost interest.

YA book - Side effects (Y K86.1si) by Amy Goldman Koss.  Ends rather abruptly, but overall an EXCELLENT book “in the words of” a fifteen year old diagnosed with lymphoma.

Tried to read Witch Hunt (M D166.6wh) by Shirley Damsgaard but couldn't get through the first chapter.  Enjoyed her other books though.

Catalogue of death: A Miss Zukas mystery (M D431.5c) by Jo Dereske

March 2007

Black Girl/ White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates.  A timid college freshman spends her youth trying to win the love and acceptance of her radical parents and her extremely odd roommate. One of Oates’ better reads.

Southern Vampire series 1-6 by Charlaine Harris. (Dead until Dark; Living Dead in Dallas; Club Dead; Dead to the World; Dead as a Doornail; Definitely Dead) I am addicted to these books!  Fun vampire mysteries solved by a pretty telepathic barmaid who can never manage to read the right minds to solve the crimes.

Beach Glass by Wendy Blackburn.  The true story of a lifelong group of friends who have weathered addictions and recovery, marriage and divorce, beginning life anew and watching helplessly as two slowly fade away.  Inspiring.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving.  Orphaned by his parents, Homer Wells finds a permanent family within the orphanage’s staff.  At eighteen he sets out to create a family of his own, but is always pulled back to the doctor and nurses of St. Cloud’s.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.  I know Frey cheated the world when he claimed that his tale of addiction recovery was true, but even if read solely as a fiction novel, it is awesome and inspiring.  I highly recommend it and could not put it down.

Ordinary People by Judith Guest.  An oldie but a goody.  Whenever I try to describe depression to people who don’t understand, I tell them to read this book.

Cosmopolitan: a Bartender’s Life by Toby Cecchini.  Written by the guy who claims to have invented the “Cosmo” cocktail, this is a funny and interesting view of the life of a bartender/bar owner.

What Caroline Knew by Caryn James.  Written from several points of view, this is the story of a patron, her artist, and their love/hate relationship.  Caryn James does NOT create very sympathetic characters—you root for no one!

Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.  Short and fast-paced novella telling the story of The Iliad and The Odyssey through the eyes of Odysseus' long-suffering wife.  Thought-provoking.

Joe College and Little Children by Tom Perotta - Tom Perotta is such a good writer--very straightforward, not at all pretentious.

Joe College is a coming-of-age story about a young man attending Yale in the 80s.  If you like Nick Hornby, you might like this book.

Little Children is a look at the darker side of suburbia.  Very absorbing and highly recommended.  
Ophelia by Lisa Klein - a retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view.  Ophelia is presented as a strong-willed and independent character.  Very suspenseful.  If you like Libba Bray's books, you'll probably like this.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - Winner of the 2005 Printz Award, about a boy attending boarding school in Alabama.

I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence by Amy Sedaris - a funny, quirky guide to entertaining.

The book I've read recently is The Missing Peace  by John Lee.  The book covers the anger problem for alcoholics, addicts, and those who love them.  It was a very interesting book that helped me see not only what I could do to help some of my loved ones, but myself as well.  It features John Lee's Detour Method and mentions his other book called The Flying Boy.  I would recommend the book to anyone who is an addict or has one that they love.

Rise and Shine—Anna Quindlen. Meghan Fitzmaurice (TV talk show host) & sister Bridget. Meghan says something obscene on the air (by accident) and then disappears after hearing her husband is looking for a divorce. Bridget (social worker) tries to pick up the pieces with her nephew and learns that she can do things on her own.

The Boy Who Fell Out of the Sky –Ken Dornstein. True story of Ken’s search for meaning in the life of his brother, David, who died in the Pam Am Flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie Scotland.

Entombed –Linda Fairstein (Audio Version). One of a series about sex crimes prosecutor Alex Cooper.  Lots of Poe lore associated with this mystery/police procedural.

The Statement—Brian Moore (Audio Version). A French collaborator with the Nazis is being tracked down by one branch of the government, and hidden by the church and another government branch.

Saving the World—Julia Alvarez (Audio). Set in two time periods, the present day and early 19th century (small pox vaccination campaign)

House of the Deaf–Lamar Herrin. A grieving father goes to Spain to see the place where his daughter was killed by a Basque separatist bomb. His remaining daughter follows to try to save her father from himself.

Heart of the World—Linda Barnes. Carlotta Carlyle ends up in Columbia looking for her “adopted” sister, Paolina.

Snipped in the Bud—Kate Collins. Florist Abby Knight finds the body of a former (not so beloved) law professor and finds herself one of the suspects.

Funny in Farsi—Firoozeh Dumas. The author moved to the States from Iran in 1972 when she was seven years old. Funny in Farsi tells the story of her and her family’s adjustment to this country. She has a very funny turn of phrase which makes this an easy read, but it also offers an insight into the life of immigrants in this country.

Sleight of Hand—Kate Wilhelm. One of the Barbara Holloway novels. In this one Barbara faces an ethical dilemma in her defense of a client. It turns out OK in the end for the client, but has a profound effect on her own attitude. It will be interesting to see if there is another in this series.

Killer Deal—Sheryl J. Anderson. A Molly Forrester novel. Advice columnist Molly Forrester is trying to break into investigative journalism by solving a murder. In the process she gets crossways with her police detective boyfriend, and finds herself competing with her former boyfriend for the scoop. Oh yeah, and winds up endangering herself and her friends…

Memory Keeper’s Daughter—Kim Edwards. Back in the 60’s a doctor delivers his own twins during a blizzard. One of them is born with Down’s Syndrome, and while his wife is still unconscious he asks his nurse to take her to an institution, and tells his wife she was born dead. The nurse is unable to leave the child at the institution, and instead moves away with her and raises her as her own. The story tells of both families’ lives and how they finally come back together. Keeps your interest!

Artemis Fowl & Artemis Fowl: the Artic Incident—Eoin Colfer (audio version). These are children’s books, but great fun nonetheless. Artemis Fowl is a very intelligent 12 year old criminal whose father has disappeared, and whose mother has sunk into a depression as a result. He sets out to make some ill-gotten gains and rescue his parents in the bargain. His method—to hold the fairy world ransom. The accent of the narrator for these two titles is wonderful!

Lost Nation by Jeffrey Lent. The West never got wilder or more lawless or hardship more gruesome than in northern New Hampshire in the 1830’s, when it was disputed territory between the U. S. and Canada.   This is a fictional retelling of the creation and destruction of the Republic of Indian Streams, but the history is overwhelmed by the personal journeys and fates of its characters. Gritty, powerful and inspiring, it puts me in mind of Lonesome Dove.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, author of Isaac’s Storm and The Devil in the White City.  Once upon a time, when telephone and telegraph were common and a dozen undersea cables had been laid, when a ship went to sea it entered days or weeks of information blackout. Marconi’s development of wireless would change that, but it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t until his device enabled the capture of a notorious murderer that the international sensation . . . well, that’s the story, not unlike the structure of White City.

Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman.  Joe Leaphorn is recently retired from the Navaho tribal police and at loose ends, when an old friend writes to him about an old historical rug that was supposedly destroyed in a trading post fire. It has turned up in a photograph in an upscale magazine. Then Joe’s old friend suddenly dies in an unlikely accident. Reconsidering the trading post fire, Joe discovers another string of deaths, and calls on his former colleague Jim Chee to help him find the truth about the rug, the fire, and the deaths.

Mission Song,  by John LeCarre. Young and handsome Bruno Salvador, born in the Congo of mixed parentage and educated in England, has a valuable skill in interpreting several obscure African languages. When he is offered a very lucrative but hush-hush job for one weekend, he has just blundered into a passionate affair and determined to end his empty marriage. But his weekend gig turns into second life-changing experience.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. The daughter of an antiquarian bookseller reads only old books, has developed a specialty in reading old manuscripts, and writing the biography of obscure dead authors. The most famous writer in England has written to her and asked her to come to her home and write her biography. Lea has her doubts; the author is notorious for telling a different life to different journalists. But Vida Winter is near her end, and wants to tell, at last the truth; but she insists on telling it her own way, without interruption or questions. She unexpectedly breaks Lea’s resistance when Vida tells her, it is a story about twins. This is a wonderful modern gothic novel. I read the second half in one sitting.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Lucy Snowe is alone in the world, with nothing but her patchy education, a few pounds and narrow prospects. She visits an old friend in the kitchen of a lady who was once her schoolfellow, and meets the French governess of the family’s children. Suddenly, she sees a new possibility—perhaps she could be an English governess in a French-speaking city. In a desperate attempt to broaden 

All Aunt Hagar’s Children: Stories by Edward P. Jones.  One hearing of “God Bless the Child” and you have everything you need to know about Billie Holiday’s life.  Short stories are like that.  Not so much a novel writ small, but a universal truth made particular.  Take this book, for instance, which takes the fact that Southerners moved by the thousands to Washington, D.C. during our late century.  Instead of a tract or an epic, Jones gives us stories that are at turns lyrical, somber, detective noir, and magical realism, each one a pocket universe. 

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat.  Truly a classic, one I first visited as a child, and recently re-read.  This one goes deep for me.  A newcomer family in a dusty town on the Canadian prairies adopts an oddball dog.  This story is funny, heartfelt, and full of crackpot dreamers, not the least of which was the fence-climbing, hunting genius known as Mutt.

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  The future is bad and you don’t want to be there—the very definition of dystopian fiction.  Pfeffer’s Young Adult novel is in the form of a teen girl’s journal kept as her family copes with the destruction caused when the Moon gets whacked by an asteroid, while for McCarthy, the literary version of Stephen King, it’s all blood and body parts for a father and his young son as they travel through a desolate American Southwest.  Both quite good, but for me, Pfeffer’s take on family dynamics and human nature seemed more complex, more true to me than McCarthy’s monochrome bleak.   

World War Z by Max Brooks.  I’m not big on the monster genre.  Mummies, please.  Give me a good pair of scissors and I’d undo an army of them.  As for vampires, they’re just fashion addicts with midnight tans.  Zombies, well, who hasn’t felt a trifle undead on cold winter mornings?  I like my movie Zeds to be British and funny (Shaun of the Dead) or British and really, really fast (24 Days Later), but, despite being American, Max Brooks writes a ripping good account of our recently concluded struggle against the clammy hordes.  Um, so I haven’t been keeping up with the news lately, but it’s good to have advice on how to avoid a zombie.  Hint number one: Run!

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll.  Thanks to advances in molecular biology and related sciences, our understanding of evolution has greatly improved in recent years.  Carroll offers clear and well-explained examples, making his case without the strident tone of, say, Richard Dawkins.

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris.  Sedaris in many ways is reassuringly old school with her recipes and advice, which is not to say this funny and charming book is quite Betty Crockerish.  More like a blend of Julia Child and Joey Ramone.  I Like You, Amy Sedaris. 

Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann.  In the Golden Age, Hollywood’s dream factory created images for their stars as fictional as anything filmed for the screen.  Hepburn, a strong-willed actress of ambiguous sexuality, soon realized that to remain a star she would have to invent an audience-friendly version of her life and personal history.  Mann offers a sympathetic, but clear-eyed view of Kate’s self-creation. 

Mephisto Club - Tess Gerritsen.Boston detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles return in this sixth installment of Gerritsen's series. A gruesome murder scene with what appears to be Satanic rituals leads the two women to Joyce Daniels, the psychologist who seems to be involved with the man who nearly killed Rizzoli, and to the Mephisto Club-an elite group interested in tracking down evil. The club believes in Nephili, Watchers, evil creatures discussed in the apocryphal biblical texts. Both Rizzoli and Isles are drawn to the group as both seem to be tracking the same killer. One of Gerritsen's better works-lots of plot twists and suspense.

Book of Fate - Brad Meltzer. A two-hundred-year-old code devised by Thomas Jefferson becomes the key to a present-day conspiracy at the top levels of washington and the power-elite of Palm Beach in this thriller. Very detailed yet hard to put down.

Dawn of Empire - Sam Barone. one of the better books I have read this year. This is pure speculative historical fiction set during the Bronze Age as the first walled cities arose in the fertile land of Mesopotamia. This is a tale of conflict between cultures-the farmers developing cities and the great nomad tribes whose way of life is threatened. Equal parts history, love story, and war saga-quite enjoyable.

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield. Who says you can't write a Gothic novel reminiscent of Jane Eyre today? In this debut novel, Diane Setterfield has done just that! This book kept me reading from chapter to chapter. I thought I had it all figured out, but I would be proven wrong in the next chapter. Not a light airy tale for sure. Some elements of the story seemed a little stretched, but all-around a good story. Then, for a real treat, check out the website : What fun!

Stalemate - Iris Johansen. The latest installment of Johansen's suspense series featuring forensic sculptor Eve Duncan.
Still haunted by the disappearance of her daughter Bonnie, eve agrees to do a skull reconstruction for a Colombian arms dealer when he lures her to South America by promising to release a man he is holding hostage and help eve discover what became of her daughter. Here, as in most of the Eve Duncan books, the reader becomes involved in a world where nothing is as it seems. Eve Duncan is one of my favorite characters.

Imperium a Novel of Ancient Rome Robert Harris. One of my favorite authors. here he carries on the tradition of his novel Pompeii , recreating the early career of Marcus Cicero as told through the eyes of Tiro, his slave and trusted secretary. This book provides an interesting look at the lives of the rich, famous, sometimes corrupt, and powerful of the Rome of Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Cicero.

Thunderstruck - Erik Lawson. I was eagerly awaiting this new work by Larson as I enjoyed Isaac's Storm and Devil in the White City. I wasn't disappointed. Larsen unites the stories of two totally different men, one a genius, the other a murderer. The genius is Guglielma Marconi the inventor of wireless communication. The killer is the notorious Englishman Dr. H.H. Crippen. It took the sensational murder and attempted escape to the United States by Crippen to bring worldwide attention to the value of Marconi's invention. A harrowing race across the ocean climaxes this story. if you enjoy history and unraveling a mystery, this the book for you.

The Expected One - Kathleen McGowan. Journalist Maureen Paschal discovers that she is destined to play a role in an international quest to gain control of a priceless series of scrolls supposedly written by Mary Magdalene hidden in the wilds of the French Pyreness. Another in the biblical/ancient mystery/thriller genre. The first in a planned trilogy.

I've just finished Love you to death, by Melissa Senate.  Quick read, interesting characters, nice book (for a murder mystery!)

Just starting Dust by Martha Grimes, a Richard Jury mystery.   Starts out a little more modern than most of her books. 

Just finished The Quest for the tree kangaroo: an expedition to the cloud forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery.  JNF
So who knew kangaroos could climb trees?  Fantastic photography. 

Since I get to see all the children's books, I want to say that Erin has ordered a great many, very interesting fiction books for YA and J, as well as some wonderful Easy Books (like the Library Lion by Michelle Knudesen)

The Secret History of Tom Trueheart by Ian Beck - J Fiction - excellent story.

I want to put in a good word for Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan, a rather remarkable 13 year old author.  The illustrations in the book are pretty amazing too.  (J Fiction)


October 2006

Keeper of the House by Rebecca T. Godwin.  An interesting and engrossing story of a young girl who is sold to a brothel as a maid. Over 40 years time, she becomes more and more important to the madam, and goes from housekeeper to keeper of the house. Couldn't put it down--and don't worry, there was nothing too naughty.

The Bronte Project: a Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR by Jennifer Vandiver.  This is the story of a literature professor whose life is, at first glance, ruined by her new coworker.  However, as the story unfolds, both you and she realize that a new start is just what she needs.

A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity by Kathleen Gilles Seidel.  Have you ever seen a TV show that has only one storyline with no small side stories to break up the monotony?  Well, then you'd understand the feel of this book.  It would be a good read for a parent of a pre-teen struggling to fit it, but otherwise skip it.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigliani.  An amazing story of love and betrayal set in in the 40's.  Lucia is an old woman relating her tale to her downstairs tenant, and in the telling, Lucia finally can move on with her life.

Rococo by Adraina Trigliani.  I love this writer,  I really do.  The Big Stone Gap Trilogy and the book above are nearly works of art, but she missed the mark on this one.  Although it's an interesting story, Trigliani can not write in a man's voice.  Bartolomeo is supposed to be a hot-blooded Italian man, but he says things like, "peppermint candy delish!"  Also, Trigliani has done TONS of interior design research and decided to use EVERY BIT in this book, which bogs it down a lot.  But the dynamics of this crazy Italian family and her trademark mouth-watering recipes are worth the trouble.

13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers.  A hilarious and enjoyable book chronicling half of Bluebear's 27 lives.  Each chapter is a new and different life, so it is easily broken up into good-sized chunks, perfect for bedtime reading or reading aloud to your kids.

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Think your life is bad?  Read this true story and you will be forever grateful for your own experiences.  McCourt writes with brilliance and avoids sounding whiney--even manages quite a few laughs to lighten up this heart-breaking tale.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch.  The story of the preteen daughter of a murderess, who becomes shuffled around in the foster care system after her mother is imprisoned.  Although her life is difficult, Astrid learns from each experience to grow into an amazing woman.  Makes you want to become a foster parent and smother kids like her with love.

The Tent by Margaret Atwood.  A collection of short stories, poems and, let's admit it, senile ramblings from one of the world's most renown writers.  As crazy and disjointed as some of these offerings are, Atwood's brilliant prose can carry them off.

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan.  Another beautiful and intricate tale of mother/daughter understanding by the master of Chinese-American dynamics.  Unfortunately follows the same formula of the Joy Luck Club and most of her other books--that of the American-raised daughter who has to uncover her mother's mysterious past life in China.  I suppose Tan can continue using this formula with slightly different stories indefinitely, but her fans should start demanding more.

A Son of the Circus by John Irving.  Another one in my top 10 list, this book with appeal to many readers as it contains mystery, romance and science.  Dr. Daruwalla is an Indian-American doctor who spends his summers in India researching dwarfism and offering free healthcare for the homeless.  While abroad, he meets all sorts of interesting and endearing characters and becomes involved in uncovering a murder mystery.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
  A mother gives birth to twins, but is told by her husband she has only one baby, a boy.  It tells the story of two families held together by a lie.  The lie is only revealed after the death of her husband.

The Husband by Dean Koontz
One of his better novels.  It is a book you cannot put down.  His wife gets kidnapped and held for 2 million dollar ransom.  He is only a gardener and has 60 hours to get the money or his wife will be killed.

I'm currently reading Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser, in anticipation of the movie that's coming out in October.  I just finished Rebel Angels by Libba Bray.  It's a really good YA gothic fantasy-- the sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty--which was also very good.  Before that, I read Dog-Friendly Dog Training by Andrea Arden and Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan, b/c my husband and I recently adopted a dog.

You Can Get Arrested for That by Rich Smith:  An amusing read about two British men who come to America to break stupid laws.  It was a very easy read in which you can learn a little bit about the reason behind a couple ridiculous laws and that it's not always so easy to break the law.

Do Penguins Have Knees? by David Feldman is the second "Imponderables" book I have read.  It is full of interesting tidbits of information.  The books are divided into very small sections for each imponderable so it is very nice to read when you only have a short period of time each day to read.

A Year in the World by Frances Mayes
From the author of Under the Tuscan Sun (among other things) this tells of her travels beyond her home in Tuscany. Each chapter is a different location, and it isn’t terribly coherent from one chapter to the next, but many are enjoyable glimpses of her reactions to natural beauty and historic sites.

Lovesick by Ángeles Mastretta
Set during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900’s this tells the story of a woman torn between a childhood love who keeps leaving her to follow the revolution, and the doctor who is her mentor and the lover who gives her peace. The heroine is unusual in that she is a primarily self-taught pharmacist and doctor in a period when women did not practice medicine.

Copy Cat by Erica Spindler
A good suspenseful mystery with two strong female police protagonists.

The Divine Circle of Ladies Courting Trouble by Dolores Stewart Riccio
A “cozy” mystery with poisonous herbs as the murder weapon. The “circle of ladies” are part of a wicca group so you learn a little about the wicca holidays along with the mystery.

She May Not Leave by Fay Weldon
A rather odd little story of a couple who hire an au pair from Eastern Europe, only to have her slowly take over the wife’s role in the household. Told from the perspective of the wife’s grandmother with a surprise twist at the end!

Malinche by Laura Esquivel (book on CD)
This is available in print or on CD. I listened to the CD which I found a bit difficult to follow as the story skipped through history. On the other hand, the narrator had a lovely Spanish accent which definitely added to the atmosphere of the story. It provided an interesting glimpse into the life of Hernan Cortez and the conquest of Mexico through the eyes of his native interpreter.


The Ice Soldier by Paul Watkins. It’s 1950, and an English boarding-school teacher must return to the scene of a traumatic wartime experience to carry out the last wishes of an old friend’s father. He and his friend, former expert mountaineers sworn never to return to the mountains, must make a hazardous, heavily burdened climb without porters or modern equipment. Engrossing, suspenseful story.

The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster. Nathan is retired, recently divorced, and sick (really sick) and looking for a place to die. He finds an apartment in Brooklyn, where he was born, and a pleasant café: one things leads to another, and he reconnects with his nephew, who reconnects with his little daughter. Together they make a collection of new starts. Lots of asides about literary Brooklyn. Just the thing for depressed readers.

White Ghost Girls by Alice Greenaway. A short, compelling psychological portrait of two sisters whose father, a Vietnam war correspondent, and mother, a self-absorbed artist, have left them largely unsupervised in their Hong Kong neighborhood.  Their risky adventures and growing estrangement create a suspenseful momentum to a foreshadowed but devastating conclusion.

Assassination Vacation (audio) by Sarah Vowell.  A quirky essayist with an equally offbeat voice, Vowell visits sites and researchers associated with the assassinations of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.  Vowell reveals an American faith, a separate path from conventional patriotism, but equally heartfelt.  And, for an ardent Lincolnist such as myself, it caused me to actually notice James Garfield—who, all in all, would rather have spent his day reading than having to run the country.

The Long Winter (audio) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Unlike other books in the much beloved series, this story has multiple perspectives, producing a greater depth and grit in Cherry Jones’ narration of an endless winter where the Ingalls and their neighbors face starvation.  A revelation, one to be revisited by those who recall the book from childhood.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik. A healthy brain has the consistency of soft tofu, writes this neurosurgeon, a statement not likely to improve my opinion of tofu.  As just demonstrated, Firlik has a knack for a telling phrase, along the way clearing away some misconceptions about her specialty as well as revealing that handling a patient’s concerns can in its own way be as complicated as the surgery itself.

Send in the Idiots by Kamran Nazeer.  Now a success in his field, Nazeer writes about his visits to adults who, like him, were once members of the same childhood class of autistics.  With insights about the nature of communication and how fallacies persist about autism, Nazeer has penned a fascinating book.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler.  Two families, one conventional Anglo, the other Iranian-American, happen to meet at a Baltimore airport while waiting on the arrival of their newly adopted Korean daughters.  Their lives intertwine, as do those of the grandparents—in particular an Iranian grandmother who has lived at an emotional remove from her adopted country, and, in the other family, a grandfather who is dealing with loss.  Indelible portraits, deeply felt.

The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett.  Balliett, a juvenile fiction author, produces an intricate follow-up to Chasing Vermeer.  In this volume, architecture and mysterious coincidences collide, bringing our intrepid sixth graders together to solve the case.

5th Horseman - James Patterson. A continuation of the Women's Murder Club as they investigate the deaths of hospital patients who are about to be released. One of the better ones.

Break No Bones - Kathy Reichs. Temperence Brennan comes to the aid of her old friend Emma Rousseau as mysterious deaths start mounting up. Enjoyed.

Book of the Dead - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Fourth in the series involving Agent Pendergast. I like the characters and enjoyed the book. Bring on more!

The Ruins - Scott Smith. Four Americans on vacation in Mexico meet a German tourist who convinces them to go to some Mayan ruins in search of his missing brother. Fans of "Lost" will probably enjoy this though I thought it a bit strange.

The Copper Scroll - Joel Rosenberg. Third in a series. A good Christian thriller involving finding the Lost Treasure of the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant.

Resurrection - Tucker Malarkey. Draws on the actual events surrounding the discovery of the Lost Gospels of Nag Hammadi as the author has crafted a suspenseful and eye-opening story of love and war, religion and murder set in Cairo, Egypt following WW II. I really liked this book.

Left for Dead : A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis. - Peter Nelson. This story recalls the sinking of the USS Indianapolis at the end of World War II, the Navy cover-up, and unfair court martial of the ship's captain, and how a young boy helped the survivors set the record straight. A very inspiring story.

Castles in the Air: the Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion by Judy Corbett.  Interesting account of the author’s struggles to restore a 16th century castle in Wales.

Free Gift with Purchase by Jean Godfrey-June.  The author has been the beauty editor of magazines like Elle and Lucky.  Pretty entertaining insider view.

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old like a Skank and Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom by Celia Rivenbark.  The title is the best thing about this book.  It was mildly entertaining, best read in small doses – the essays were originally written as newspaper columns.

Don’t Leave Me this Way or When I Get back on My Feet You’ll Be Sorry by Julia Fox Garrison.  The author’s physical and spiritual experiences after suffering a stroke at the age of 37.  Really quite inspiring (and I’m not all that easily inspired).

Anatomy of a Secret Life: the Psychology of Living a Lie by Gail Saltz.  Interesting exploration of the secrets we keep and the lies we tell ourselves and others.

Better than average mysteries I’ve read recently:
Still Life by Louise Penny
The Highly Effective Detective by Richard Yancey
Footprints of the Devil by Olive Etchells (I also thought her first book, No Corners for the Devil, was exceptional.
Murder on the Rocks by Karen MacInerney
A Garden of Vipers by Jack Kerley

We just got a really good book in that I would like to recommend - it's a children's book called the Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen.

Also, since the time of year is right,  The gobble-uns'll git you ef you don't watch out!  James Whitcomb Riley's Little Orphant Annie / illustrated by Joel Schick.

I enjoyed Putting Lipstick on a Pig by Michael Bowen, a new mystery with interesting characters and ok plot.