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Friday, December 30, 2016

Passings of 2016

Here is a listing of writers who passed away during 2016.
Richard Adams was a British novelist best known for Watership Down, a novel that developed from stories that Adams would tell his daughters when they were children. He wrote in the fantasy genre, for both adults and children; his novels often were told from the perspective of animals. Some of his other works include Shardik and The Plague Dogs.
Pat Conroy wrote novels about life in the southern United States. His fiction included Beach Music, The Great Santini, and The Prince of Tides. He also wrote the memoir My Losing Season, about how basketball influenced his life, and A Lowcountry Life: Reflections on a Writing Life, a collection of his letters, interviews, and magazine articles.
Umberto Eco was an Italian novelist, literary critic, and university professor. His most famous works were the novels The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum, and The Island of the Day Before. He also wrote academic textbooks, children’s books, and essays.
Carrie Fisher, an actress whose most recognized film role was that of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series also was the author of several books, including Postcards from the Edge, Wishful Drinking, and most recently The Princess Diarist. She also worked as a “script doctor” in the film industry.
W.P. Kinsella was a Canadian novelist and short story writer whose most famous work was the novel Shoeless Joe, on which the film Field of Dreams was based. His other written works mainly dealt with two separate themes: baseball and life on the Canadian Indian reservations.
Harper Lee was an American novelist best known for the book To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic about attitudes about race and class held by members of society in the 1930s Deep South. It has been read by generations of American students. Lee never published another work until 2015 when a manuscript written earlier was discovered and published as Go Set a Watchman.
Gloria Naylor was an American writer born in New York City. She obtained a Master’s degree in African American literature at Yale University. Her first novel, The Women of Brewster Place, won a 1983 National Book Award. Naylor also worked as a professor of writing and African American literature at several universities.
Elie Wiesel was a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, coming to the United States as a Holocaust survivor. As well as writing 57 books, Wiesel was a professor, political activist and Nobel Laureate. His most famous book was Night, an account of his experiences as a prisoner of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.

The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women who Helped Win World War II

           Written by journalist Denise Kiernan, this is the story of the beginning of the atomic warfare era and the women who helped make it happen. Beginning in the 1930s, the idea of atomic energy began to develop within the international scientific community. Then with the advent of World War II and its horrific cost to human life, the United States government decided to achieve the development of atomic warfare, before the enemy did. They established several worksites to conduct this mammoth project; the largest one located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the one that Kiernan examines.
            Using in-depth interviews of some of the surviving workers, along with historic documents, news articles, and other sources, Kiernan describes how this project influenced such sociological trends as working women, segregation of the races, mingling of the sexes, and the rapid development of a community. This mix of history and memoir is both informative and enjoyable to read. Historic photos of the worksite accompany the text.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Mysteries -- Part Two

Are you ready for some more holiday mayhem? Here it is.
            Christmas Caramel Murder, the latest in a series written by Joanne Fluke, finds protagonist Hannah preparing for the town’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. She also is supporting her friend, Lisa, who is implicated in the murder of her husband’s ex-girlfriend. The book features more than 20 holiday-themed recipes.
            In Smoke and Mirrors, written by Elly Griffiths, DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto hunt for a killer during Brighton’s holiday season. Two children were gruesomely murdered at a crime scene resembling that of the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”.
            Fields Where They Lay: a Junior Bender Holiday Mystery is written by Timothy Hallinan. It features Junior, who has been hired by a murderous Russian gangster to look into a rampant shoplifting problem at the Edgerton Mall. He also uncovers two murders.
            Eggnog Murder presents three holiday-themed mysteries by three popular authors. The title mystery, written by Leslie Meier, is one in which a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog proves to be a killer concoction for a Tinkers Cove local, leading Lucy Stone to seek out the murdering mixologist.
            Wishes for Christmas, written by Fern Michaels, is a crossover holiday story featuring favorite characters from both the Sisterhood and Godmothers series. In it, Maggie is preparing a tribute to a beloved teacher while Toots investigates a mystery surrounding a designer from an exclusive Charleston firm. 
            In A Christmas Escape: a Novel, written by Anne Perry, widower James Latterly seeks comfort in his loneliness in a small Mediterranean hotel during the holiday season where he is introduced to the island’s beauty by an orphaned teen. Then a violent murder takes place.
 A Christmas Message: a Novel is also written by Anne Perry. While on a once in a lifetime trip to Jerusalem for the Christmas holiday, Victor and Vespasia Narraway meet a fellow traveler who soon is murdered over a torn piece of ancient parchment. The Narraways risk their lives to complete the man’s mission.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is written by David Rosenfelt. Here, Andy Carpenter defends a friend who has been reported by a cranky neighbor for fostering homeless puppies during the holiday season. Then more trouble is thrust upon him when the neighbor is found murdered. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Mysteries

            Crime never takes a holiday, even at Christmas. To prove this theory, here are some recently published holiday mysteries.
            The Bark before Christmas, written by Laurien Berenson, introduces us to Melanie Travis who is returning to her old job at a posh private school where she hopes to make the Christmas Bazaar its biggest success ever. Then a prize show dog disappears, and Santa Claus is found dead. This isn’t what’s supposed to happen at Christmas!
            Away in a Manger, written by Rhys Bowen, features Molly Murphy who steps in on behalf of two young beggars who are severely mistreated by their aunt when one is accused of stealing a purse. Molly’s investigation into the children’s background uncovers a disreputable aspect of New York upper class society.
            Deck the Hallways is written by Kate Carlisle. Contractor Shannon Hammer is trying to transform a Victorian mansion into apartments for homeless families in time for Christmas. Her work is interrupted when her father is accused of murdering a miserly bank president. Shannon must find the real killer before it’s too late.
            Harbour Street is written by Ann Cleeves. When Vera Stanhope and Joe Ashworth discover the murdered body of a woman on the metro during Christmas, they begin a search near the victim’s home. They then discover some secrets around the neighborhood and a second murder.
            Ornaments of Death, written by Jane K. Cleland, is the story about Josie who meets her charismatic distant relative Ian during the holiday season in Rocky Point. Suddenly Ian disappears! And so do two priceless seventeenth-century miniature portraits in his possession.
            Dying for Christmas, a thriller written by Tammy Cohen, features Jessica Gould, whose date with the charming Dominic leads to a horrifying Christmas celebration. Jessica is held captive by him, forced to wear his missing wife’s clothes, and open her gifts. Will he murder her or will Jessica’s secret help her stay alive?
            Purebred Dead, written by Kathleen Delaney, features heroine Mary McGill whose discovery of a bloodstained corpse and a cowering dog in a manger at Santa Louisa’s Christmas pageant leads her to investigate.

            Mystery in White: a Christmas Crime Story was originally written in the 1930s by J. Jefferson Farjeon. In this classic, a train breaks down and the passengers take shelter in a deserted country house. Then a murderer strikes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Afternoon Book Discussions: January through June 2017

            Join us for our afternoon book discussions, held on the third Wednesday each month, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Here is what is scheduled for the first half of 2017.
            My Beloved World is written by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American Supreme Court Justice. She shares the story of her life before becoming a judge, describing her youth in a Bronx housing project, the ambition that fueled her Ivy League education, and the individuals who helped shape her career. The discussion takes place on January 18th.
            Girl Waits with Gun, a novel, is written by Amy Stewart. Living in virtual isolation years after the revelation of a painful family secret, Constance Kopp is terrorized by a belligerent silk factory owner and fight back in ways outside the norm for early twentieth-century women. The discussion takes place on February 15th.
            Mountains beyond Mountains is written by Tracy Kidder; it is a portrait of infectious disease expert Dr. Paul Farmer, following the efforts of this unconventional Harvard genius to understand the world’s great health, economic, and social problems and to bring healing to humankind. The discussion takes place on March 15th.
            Circling the Sun: a Novel is written by Paula McLain. It is about aviator Beryl Markham, who was raised by her father and the Kipsigis tribe in 1920s Kenya. Beryl endures painful losses before entering a passionate love triangle and discovering her unconventional true calling. The discussion takes place on April 19th.
            Nora Webster: a Novel, is written by Colm Toibin. Struggling with grief and financial hardships after the death of her beloved husband, widow Nora Webster struggles to support her four children and clings to secrecy in the intrusive community of her childhood before finding her voice. The discussion takes place on May 17th.
            The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is written by Rebecca Skloot. It documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. The discussion takes place on June 21st.


Monday, November 28, 2016


            Dogs and humans have lived and worked together for thousands of years. Because of our interest in our canine friends, many books have been written about them. Here are a few new ones.

            Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell, is written by Alexandra Horowitz, a leading researcher in dog cognition who also has written Inside of a Dog, As we already know, dogs gather most of their information about the world through their noses; they have hundreds of millions of olfactory receptor cells in comparison to humans’ mere six million. Horowitz describes the many ways humans can train dogs to help us identify various substances, upcoming weather, upcoming earthquakes, and more. The book is both informative and fun to read.    

            Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home, written by Pauls Toutonghi, is the story about Gonker, a six-year-old Golden Retriever mix who bounded away while hiking with his owner Fielding Marshall on the Appalachian Trail. Since Gonker has Addison’s disease it is imperative that he be found within twenty-three days or he will die. Fielding, his parents and his sister go into overdrive searching for him and publicizing his disappearance on the media. This is a heartwarming story with a positive ending.

            Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days, is written by Brandon McMillan, the well-known animal trainer who hosts the television shows Lucky Dog and Shark Week. Simple instructions and black-and-white photos provide the reader with a guide to teaching your dog the seven common commands: sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no. Problems with housetraining, door dashing, chewing, barking, digging, and mealtime also are covered.

            Every Dog: The Ultimate Guide to Over 450 Dog Breeds is written by Nancy Hajeski. The book is divided into chapters encompassing the various types of dogs - i.e. scent hounds, terriers, guarding dogs, and more. Each chapter devotes a page to each breed within that type. Included are color photos, description, history, and indicators as to ease of training, affection, playfulness, whether they are good with children and with other dogs, etc.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Cookbooks

Here are a few new books that we have added to our cookbook collection.
The Chew Approved: The Most Popular Recipes from the Chew Viewers, edited by Ashley Archer, is a collection of recipes endorsed by the hosts of this TV show. On the show, hosts Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz, and Michael Symon work with audience members to prepare dishes. Of the recipes in this book, some are the most popular from the viewer audience and some are from the hosts themselves; all of them are available to viewers through computer download. There are five chapters entitled: 1. Breakfast Bonanza; 2. Amazing Appetizers; 3. Weeknight Wonders; 4. Fabulous Weekend Feasts; and 5. Sensational Sweets. All of the recipes include ingredients, cooking instructions, number of servings, prep time, and cook time. The names of recipe contributors, comments from hosts, and many color photos also are provided.   
The book Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions is written by Domenica Marchetti. The recipes in this book go beyond the typical American jams and relishes. Through the author’s collection of family recipes and her travels through the different areas of Italy, we are given a variety of foods – those preserved in oil, or in vinegar, or in alcohol – those featuring tomatoes and sauce – confections – simple cured meats – and more; all preserved at the peak of their flavors and ready to enjoy year-round. 
A La Mode: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings: Pies, Tarts, Cakes, Crisps, and More Topped with Ice Cream, Gelato, Frozen Custard, and More is written by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. The authors have been featured on various TV shows and QVC, host a cooking podcast Cooking with Bruce and Mark, and have written several cookbooks and magazine articles. The combinations of pastries and frozen treats are out-of-this-world. Calorie counts are not included (why would you want them?) Color photos accompany the text.
Best Salty Sweet Snacks: Gooey, Chewy, Crunchy Treats for Every Craving is written by food writer and editor Monica Sweeney. Five chapters are comprised of five different types of snacks: 1. Gooey Snacks – such as salted butterscotch fudge; 2. Savory Snacks – such as peanut butter bacon cookies; 3. Crunchy Snacks – such as chocolate marshmallow popcorn balls; 4. Chocolaty Snacks – such as chocolate-covered potato chips; and 5. Nutty Snacks – such as salted almond brittle. Ingredients, instructions, number of servings, and color photos are all provided.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November is American Diabetes Month

             Diabetes is becoming more prevalent among the American population. If you or a loved one is diabetic, you might want to read some of these current books.
            Ask the Experts: Expert Answers about Your Diabetes, is a compilation of pertinent questions asked by the readers of Diabetes Forecast. It covers such topics as nutrition, exercise and weight loss, monitoring blood glucose, insulin and oral medications, complications, and more.
            The Low-Carb Diabetes Solution Cookbook: Prevent and Heal Type 2 Diabetes with 200 Ultra Low-Carb Recipes is written by Dana Carpender. The book presents 200 recipes that are very low in carbohydrates (grains and starches). They also do not have any gluten, artificial sweeteners, or other processed ingredients.
            The second edition of The Diabetes Dictionary is published by the American Diabetes Association. It provides clear, easy-to-understand definitions to more than 500 terms relating to diabetes.
            21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Nutrition is written by Stephanie Dunbar and published by the American Diabetes Association. This book answers the 21 most common questions/issues about diabetes and nutrition. It also includes information on carbs, proteins, fats, supplements, artificial sweeteners and more.
            Your First Year with Diabetes: What to Do, Month by Month is in its second edition and is written by Theresa Garnero. This is a week-to-week guide to managing diabetes and includes information about medications, exercise, meal planning, and lifestyle and emotional issues. It also gives easy-to-follow guidelines for creating a care plan.
            Dr. George L. King is the chief science officer of the Joslin Clinic at Harvard University. He has written The Diabetes Reset: Avoid It, Control It, Even Reverse It: A Doctor’s Scientific Program. In this book he presents eight evidence-based strategies to potentially reverse type 2 diabetes by resetting the body’s glucose mechanism.
            The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet: How to Beat Diabetes Fast (and Stay off Medication) is written by Dr. Michael Mosley. Here he is plan to treat and possibly cure diabetes using changes in diet. A diet plan and recipes are given.
            In the book Eat, Chew, Live: 4 Revolutionary Ideas to Prevent Diabetes, Lose Weight and Enjoy Food Dr. John M. Poothullil, a pediatrician and allergist proposes his theory that diabetes can be prevented through nutrition management. He recommends reducing our intake of carbohydrates,, increasing our intake of nutrient-rich foods, and mindful eating.


Monday, October 17, 2016

The Light between Oceans

            This novel, written by M.L. Stedman, is set during the early twentieth century in Western Australia. It is a story of love between a mother and her child and between romantic partners, and of what happens when those loves are lost.
            Tom Sherbourne returns as a hero to Australia after World War I but he doesn’t feel like one. Shell-shocked, he only can think of the men that were lost. He takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote place where the supply boat only comes once every three months and Tom gets occasional shore leaves at the mainland. Yet he will meet and fall in love with Isabel; marrying her and returning to Janus Rock together. Happy at first, Isabel and Tom become increasingly distraught as she suffers two miscarriages and a stillbirth. Soon afterwards, they hear a baby’s cry from the ocean. A boat with a dead man and a living infant girl wash up on the shore.
            Isabel begs Tom to let her keep the girl and raise her as their own, saying that she is a “gift from God”. He reluctantly agrees, forging records to indicate that Isabel delivered the healthy girl from her recent pregnancy. They name the girl Lucy.  

            Tom, Isabel, and Lucy return to the mainland two years later, discovering that Lucy’s birth mother resides there and is anguished over the loss of her husband and child. What to do: own up to their lie or cover up their theft of the child? The rest of the story plays out, examining moral issues, tragedy, and redemption. A bittersweet tale of what is loved and lost in our lives.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Biographical Fiction Featuring American Men

            From colonial times to the twentieth century, here are some novels featuring the famous and the infamous.
            Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard: A Novel, written by Sally Cabot, is about William Franklin, the son of Benjamin. He is appointed Royal Governor of New Jersey by the British Crown. Problems arise when he doesn’t support the colonies’ fight for independence.
            Fates and Traitors: A Novel of John Wilkes Booth is written by Jennifer Chiaverini. It tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, as interpreted by the four women closest to him: his mother, sister, lover, and a Confederate widow.
            Tom & Lucky and (George & Cokey Flo): A Novel is written by C. Joseph Greaves. It is based on the 1936 trial of “Lucky” Luciano, who is being prosecuted by Thomas E. Dewey and defended by George Morton Levy. It portrays a corrupt criminal justice system.
            Paradise Sky, written by Joe R. Lansdale, is the story of Nat Love, an African-American cowboy who went by the nickname “Deadwood Dick”. He becomes an expert marksman, a Buffalo soldier, and a friend of Wild Bill Hickok.
            Sutton: A Novel is written by J.R. Moehringer. It is about Willie Sutton, well-known bank robber of the twentieth century. It includes his many escapades, jail escapes, and the final pardon of this very popular criminal.
            Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings, written by Stephen O’Connor, describes the first years of the 37-year relationship between Jefferson and Hemings, when both were in Paris. It examines the conflict between Jefferson’s ideals and the institution of slavery.
            West of Sunset: A Novel is written by Stewart O’Nan. It describes the last three years of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life where, while his wife is institutionalized, he works as a Hollywood screenwriter and falls in love with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham.
            The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, written by Michael Punke, also was made into a movie a few years ago. It is set in 1823, when fur trapper Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by the other trappers. But he survives and is driven by the desire for revenge to make his way back home across 3,000 miles.
            Snowbound is written by Richard S. Wheeler. It is the story of American explorer John Fremont who is trapped in the snowbound Colorado Mountains while searching for a railway route to the West along the 38th parallel.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Highlighting American Women through Fiction

            Readers who enjoy reading biographies of the famous also may enjoy novels based on their lives. Here is a selection.
            The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel is written by Melanie Benjamin. It tells the story of socialite Babe Paley, who seemed to have it all. Her friends were “the beautiful people” during the 1950s and 1960s – Frank Sinatra, the Kennedys and more. She befriends writer Truman Capote, only to find her secrets ending up in his stories.
            Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule: A Novel is written by Jennifer Chiaverini, the author of several other biographical/historical novels. The main character is Julia Dent, a woman from Missouri who becomes the wife of the future Union general and American president Ulysses S. Grant. She brings her slave Jule into her marriage.  Over the years Jule eventually obtains her freedom and becomes a businesswoman.
            The Hamilton Affair: A Novel is written by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman. This is the love story of Elizabeth Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton; from the American Revolution to Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr to Elizabeth’s life after Hamilton’s death.
            Under the Wide and Starry Sky, written by Nancy Horan, tells the story of American divorcee Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne who, while travelling with her children in France, meets Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, who is ten years her junior. A twenty year love affair ensues.
            Fever, written by Mary Beth Keane, tells the story of Mary Mallon, better known historically as “Typhoid Mary”. She is an immigrant from Ireland whose dreams of becoming a cook are dashed when she is discovered to be an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever.
             The Paris Wife: A Novel is written by Paula McLain. In the book, Hadley Richardson meets Ernest Hemingway who is on the cusp of becoming a famous writer. As his first wife she shares his successes and disappointments, until their marriage collapses.
            I Always Loved You: A Story of Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas is written by Robin Oliveira. American artist Mary Cassatt’s years of study in Paris ends with a rejection from the Paris Salon. Deeply disappointed, she then meets and falls in love with French artist Edgar Degas.

            Clara and Mr. Tiffany, written by Susan Vreeland, is the story of Clara Driscoll, the Women’s Division Head at Tiffany’s stained glass factory. She is the one who develops their famous stained glass lamp project and oversees its mass-production. Unfortunately she does not get recognition for it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

September is Healthy Aging Month

Let these books help you as you work towards healthy aging.

            The Age Fix: a Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Really Look 10 Years Younger is written by Anthony Youn, MD. For sixteen years he has researched how to maintain youthful skin using diet and skin care techniques, not invasive plastic surgery, using information from other plastic surgeons, dermatologists, dietitians, and makeup artists. Dr. Youn has been featured on several TV shows and in magazine and newspaper articles.

            Bio-Young: Get Younger at a Cellular and Hormonal Level is written by Roxy Dillon, a certified nutritionist who has developed a program using vitamins, natural oils, and healthy foods to rejuvenate cellular and hormonal functions. The reader gets step-by-step instructions on health repair using exercise, skin care, and nutrition.

            Disrupt Aging: a Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age is written by Jo Ann Jenkins, the chief executive of AARP and the former CEO of the Library of Congress. The book focuses on the social issues of aging – where to live, whether to work and/or volunteer, and finance – and the health issues. The stories of many seniors who are aging successfully are given. A resistance against ageism is encouraged.

            The Longevity Book: the Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time is written by Cameron Diaz. In this book, the actress and author of The Body Book, shares information on how the female body ages from her interviews with physicians, scientists, and nutritionists. Information is given on optimizing health through strengthening the body with food, exercise and rest, managing stress, and building a stronger brain.



Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Romantic Suspense

           Romantic suspense novels are popular with many readers because of their pleasing combination of the elements of romance, mystery, and thriller. Here are some recently published selections.
            Beyond the Sunrise, written by Mary Balogh, tells the story of teens in a love that cannot be because the hero is of illegitimate birth. Eleven years later, during the Napoleonic wars, they meet again as spies on opposing sides. Despite this, their passion still lives.
            The Devil’s Own, is written by Sandra Brown. In the book, the heroine Kerry must rescue nine orphans from a South American war zone. She asks Linc, who she thinks is a mercenary soldier, to help them escape; not knowing that he really is a renowned photojournalist.
            The book Facing Fire: Bad Boys Under Cover is written by HelenKay Dimon. It is the story of Josiah, a member of an elite black-ops group “The Alliance”, who meets up with Sutton, a Baltimore private eye. They have a common goal: to capture a killer who has murdered the relatives of both of them.
            In Curious Mind: A Knight and Moon Novel, written by Janet Evanovich, financial analyst Riley and genius Emerson join forces to uncover an embezzlement scheme at the bank at which Riley works.

            Beautiful Storm, written by Barbara Freethy, is the story of news photographer and storm chaser Alicia, who thinks she has witnessed a murder occur during lightning flashes. However, the police cannot find the body. Alicia investigates on her own with the help of Michael, a member of Miami’s Cuban-American community. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Christmas in August

            Escape the August heat with some cool holiday romances – popular at any time of year.

            What Happens at Christmas, written by Victoria Alexander, is about Camille, Lady Lydingham, who is planning her engagement to a prince at Christmas. But fate intervenes when a former love interest with plans of his own shows up.

            The Christmas Cat, written by Melody Carlson, has protagonist Garrison in a dilemma when he has to find homes for the six cats left to him by his late grandmother. He is able to relocate the cats and find friendship and romance too.

            Home for Christmas: a Sanctuary Island Novel is written by Lily Everett. Magazine writer Libby has a plum assignment: set the stage for returning Army Ranger and single father Owen for his first Christmas with his daughter. Romance also intervenes.

            Marry Me at Christmas, written by Susan Mallery, features bridal boutique owner Madeline who is hired to arrange a Christmas wedding. The bride’s brother? Movie star Jonny Blaze. Madeline falls head over heels in love.

            The Heart of Christmas is written by Brenda Novak. The heroine is Eve, the manager of a B&B in Whiskey Creek. She feels like a fifth wheel because she is the only single among her married friends at Christmas. Then a handsome stranger comes to town.

            Evergreen Springs is written by RaeAnne Thayne. It features physician Devin who arranges for her patients to access the hot springs owned by rancher Cole, a single father. All she has to do is help his children have a happy holiday.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

            Written by noted non-fiction author Erik Larson, this is a densely researched recounting of the sinking of the Lusitania, a British passenger liner, during World War I. Several American citizens were among the passengers. In 1915, when this incident occurred, the United States was a neutral party in this war between European nations. Many Americans were isolationists, including then President Woodrow Wilson. Great Britain grew increasingly frustrated and hoped to encourage our country to join their side.

            The naval ships of Great Britain and France were increasingly under attack by German U-boat submarines. Officials mistakenly believed that the enemy would not attack passenger ships, but the German Navy was becoming more aggressive.

            Larson presents a highly descriptive narrative about the days leading up to the Lusitania’s sinking; including facts about her passengers and ship operations, operations of U-boat 20, and political events occurring in Great Britain, the United States, and Germany. All information was garnered from original documents and correspondence. The reader also learns about Great Britain’s secret “Room 40”, a government department tasked with translating encrypted German messages. This might mean that Britain knew about a possible attack against the Lusitania and did nothing to prevent it, hoping that it would stir the US to declare war against Germany.

            The resulting tragedy, killing more than one third of the passengers and crew, did not cause the United States to join the war at this time. This didn’t occur until 1917.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Last Runaway

            A historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier, this book details the adventures of Honor Bright, a Quaker who leaves her native England for the United States in 1850. Her reason for emigrating is not to do with a search for new opportunities or religious freedom but to escape a broken romance. Traveling with her sister to Ohio where the sister will marry her fiancĂ©, Honor suffers severe seasickness on her ocean crossing and the loss of her sister from Yellow Fever while traveling from the ship to Ohio. Alone for the first time in her life, Honor must rely on the help of strangers.

            Honor travels to the Quaker settlement in Ohio where her sister’s fiancĂ© and her brother’s widow reside. The surroundings are uncomfortable because of the marital status of all three. Honor also becomes a friend of Belle, a local milliner and non-Quaker who welcomes Honor’s sewing skills to help her with her business. Belle has a half-brother, Donovan, who is a slave hunter. Donovan is enamored of Honor and while she feels an attraction towards him she is horrified by his profession. Instead, she marries a fellow Quaker, Jack, and moves in with him, his widowed mother, and sister. The relationship with her in-laws is awkward; they do not want her to help the escaping slaves. Honor cannot understand why her Quaker community doesn’t support helping the slaves who are traveling through their area en route to the Canadian border.

             Following her own principles, Honor becomes involved with the Underground Railroad.  After some strife, events build to a climax and a satisfactory resolution.

            The author, Tracy Chevalier, was born and raised in the United States, but currently lives in England with her family. She also is the author of Girl with a Pearl Earring.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Heat: Barbecuing and Grilling

            Master of the Grill: Foolproof Recipes, Top-Rated Gadgets, Gear, and Ingredients plus Clever Test Kitchen Tips and Fascinating Food Science, is written by the editors at America's Test Kitchen. Get the tips and techniques for cooking with both gas and charcoal grills. Find the latest tools, and plenty of recipes for both classic and innovative dishes. Several step-by-step photos accompany the recipes. This is a compendium of information.
            Franklin Barbecue: a Meat-Smoking Manifesto is written by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay. Franklin is an award-winning pitmaster and owner of the Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue. He focuses mainly on smoking a brisket; but before he does this he sets the stage by demonstrating how to build or customize your own smoker, find and cure the wood, and create the best fire for smoking.
            America's Most Wanted Recipes at the Grill: Recreate Your Favorite Restaurant Meals in Your Own Backyard is written by Ron Douglas, a New York Times bestselling author of the series of cookbooks America’s Most Wanted Recipes. Preparing these main dishes and sides from such places as Applebees, Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, and more range from the simple to more complex.
            Meathead: the Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, is written by Meathead (Craig) Goldwyn with Greg Blonder. Goldwyn is a pitmaster and barbecue contest judge, and the creator of the barbecue website He explains the concepts, methods and equipment of barbecuing and grilling. More than 100 recipes are given, accompanied by full-color photos and line drawings.
            The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook: More than 100 Years of Sizzling Food Writing and Recipes, is edited by Peter Kaminsky. This is a compilation of newspaper articles on barbecuing and grilling, accompanied by recipes and anecdotes. Authors include Mark Bittman, Craig Claiborne, Jacques Pepin, Mimi Sheraton, and others.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

           The author, Arianna Huffington, is the editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post and author of several other books. Her inspiration for this book came when suffering an injury caused by lack of sleep, resulting in a remaking of her sleep habits and in-depth research of the science of sleep.

            Huffington identifies sleep deficiency as a worldwide problem, causing traffic accidents, susceptibility to illness, poor work performance and more. People often tout how little sleep they can get along on and still function well. But scientific studies reveal that adults must sleep between seven and nine hours in order to be at their best.

            Also included are appendices: a sleep-quality questionnaire, guided meditations to help in falling asleep, a list of hotels that focus on the sleep experience, and a review of mattresses for consumers. In-depth bibliographic information is given also.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summertime Garden Projects

            Now is the time to spruce up the yard and create an outdoor oasis for your enjoyment. Here are some books to help you reach that goal.

            The Gardener’s Guide to Weather and Climate, written by Michael Allaby, will help you understand how the weather (daily changing set of conditions) and climate (long-term weather averages) affect your garden and the successes and failures of its plants. Methods of protecting against harsh conditions also are given. Color photos and a glossary are provided.

            Gardening for Birds, Butterflies, and Bees: Everything You Need to Know to Create a Wildlife Habitat is presented by the editors of Birds & Blooms magazine and published by Reader’s Digest. Information is given on what annuals, perennials, grasses and vines, and trees and shrubs will attract wildlife to your yard. This is followed by information on the 70 bird species and 35 butterfly species you might see in your garden. Color photos and an index are provided.

            How to Mulch: Save Water, Feed the Soil, and Suppress Weeds is written by Stu Campbell. He explains how mulching, done correctly, can be beneficial for your vegetables, fruits, and flowers, and what types of mulch (wood chip, plastic sheets, living mulches, etc.) are best for each.  

            Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces is written by Daniel Winterbottom, a landscape architect, and Amy Wagenfeld, an occupational therapist. They provide ideas and designs for gardens promoting movement and physical rehabilitation, those for solace and comfort, those for promoting learning and sensory activities, and more. References, color photos, and an index support the information within the book.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Authors Born in June

           Which current authors were born in June? Perhaps some that you are familiar with, or those whose books you have never read.

            Patricia Cornwell, born on June 9, 1956, is a writer of mystery/thriller novels. Her most famous series of books features medical examiner and forensic anthropologist Dr. Kay Scarpetta; the series originated in 1990 and continues today. Cornwell also has a series of three books featuring Trooper Andy Brazil and Superintendent Judy Hammer.

            Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938. Considered a literary writer, her novels contain elements of psychological suspense and horror. Recent fiction includes The Doll-Master and other Tales of Terror, and The Man without a Shadow. Recent non-fiction includes The Lost Landscape: a Writer’s Coming of Age (2015), an account of Oates’ childhood, and A Widow’s Story (2011), describing her life after her husband passes away.

            Gail Godwin, born on June 18, 1937, is a novelist and short story writer. She started her career as a journalist before changing over. Her subject matter focused on women and their roles in society and relationships between women and men. Her books were written during the seventies, eighties and nineties. Most recently she has written Unfinished Desires (2009), a novel and Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir (2015).

            Salman Rushdie was born on June 19, 1947, in Bombay (then British India). He is a novelist, writer of short stories, and essayist who has won several literary awards. Most Americans are familiar with him because of his book The Satanic Verses, published in 1988. The book was banned in several Islamic countries because it contained a disrespectful portrayal of Mohammed, and a fatwa (order of execution) was proclaimed against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran.  

            Ian McEwan was born on June 21, 1948, in England. He is a novelist, most recent books being The Children Act (2014) and Sweet Tooth (2012). He also is a screenwriter for such movies as Atonement, The Good Son, Enduring Love, and more. He has won the Man Booker Award, and other prizes.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Eligible: A Novel

            Billed as “a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice”, this contemporary version of Austen’s classic novel is written by Curtis Sittenfeld. As the original book is considered a satirical study of that era’s social customs, so is Eligible one of our time.
            Here we meet a 38-year-old Liz Bennett, an unmarried career woman living in New York City, where her sister Jane also lives.  They left their parents and three younger sisters back in their hometown of Cincinnati, but return to help out when their father undergoes heart bypass surgery. They find that the family’s lives are chaotic: the three younger sisters don’t work, Mrs. Bennett has an online shopping addiction, the family house is falling apart, and Mr. Bennett doesn’t have health insurance for himself and the family. The two eldest daughters try to help out as best they can. On the social front, Jane meets Chip Bingley, a physician at the local hospital and former contestant on the reality show Eligible, a take-off of the show Bachelor. Liz, in turn, meets neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy and takes an instant dislike to him. Eventually they become running partners and engage in “hate sex”.

            Many of the original characters are here with some updating and/or alteration. We become caught up with modern-day issues such as single parenting, eating disorders, transgender relationships, racism, and more. Although Eligible doesn’t completely follow the plot and the storyline isn’t as tender as that in Pride and Prejudice, its satirical bent makes it a hysterical read.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Afternoon Book Discussions

     Join us for our afternoon book discussions; they take place on the third Wednesday of each month from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. We just have released our schedule for the second half of 2016. It is as follows:
Wednesday, July 20th; registration begins June 15th. The Last Runaway. Written by Tracy Chevalier.   Forced to leave England and struggling with illness in the wake of a family tragedy, Quaker Honor Bright is forced to rely on strangers in the harsh landscape of 1850 Ohio and is compelled to join the Underground Railroad network to help runaway slaves escape to freedom.
Wednesday, August 17th; registration begins July20thDead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Written by Erik Larson. A chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as Woodrow Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat, and architect Theodate Pope Riddle.
Wednesday, September 21st; registration begins August 17thThe Wright Brothers. Written by David McCullough. Chronicles the story-behind-the-story about the Wright brothers, sharing insights into the disadvantages that challenged their lives and their mechanical ingenuity.
Wednesday, October 19th; registration begins September 21st. The Light between Oceans. Written by M.L. Stedman. Moving his young bride to an isolated lighthouse on Australia’s Janus Rock where the couple suffers miscarriages and a stillbirth, Tom allows his wife to claim an infant who has washed up on the shore only to witness a rift in their marriage that is further complicated by a search by the baby’s desperate mother.
Wednesday, November 16th; registration begins October 19th. The Silent Wife: a Novel. Written by A.S.A. Harrison.Told in alternating voices, this gripping novel follows the events leading up to the violent dissolution of Jodi and Todd’s marriage – a union steeped in lies, infidelity, jealousy and denial.
Wednesday, December 21st; registration begins November 16thGirls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women who Helped Win World War II. Written by Denise Kiernan. Looks at the valuable contributions made by the thousands of women who worked at a secret uranium-enriching facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during World War II.

Friday, May 27, 2016

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

            Learn how to promote the mental health of all Americans, this month and every month, by reading some of these current books.
            Capture: Unraveling the Mystery of Mental Suffering, is written by David A. Kessler, MD, a former FDA commissioner and the author of the bestselling book The End of Overeating. He identifies what the “capture” phenomenon is – a “process by which our attention is hijacked and our brains commandeered by forces outside our control”.  Kessler presents case studies that demonstrate how a neural mechanism can override positive mental health and deteriorate to such behaviors as overeating, obsessiveness, fighting, and suicide, leading to mental illness. He then demonstrates how people can overcome these problems through a range of behaviors.
            Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities, is written by Claudia Kalb. This book is a mix of pop psychology and biography, revealing suspected mental illnesses of the famous. Was Albert Einstein autistic? Frank Lloyd Wright a narcissist? Did Marilyn Monroe have borderline personality disorder?  Historical records and interviews with mental health experts reveal the answers.
            Kokoro Yoga: Maximize Your Human Potential and Develop the Spirit of a Warrior, written by Mark Divine, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, offers the reader an “integrated physical, mental, and spiritual training” experience. It’s perfect for those people suffering from PTSD and recovering from injuries, as well as those suffering from anxiety.

Friday, May 6, 2016

More Culinary Mysteries

            Fictional caterers seem to have an ability to solve murders. They can decipher clues while deciphering recipes and create exquisite cuisine while creating order out of criminal mayhem.

            Isis Crawford is the author of the Mystery with Recipes series. In A Catered Fourth of July, sisters Bernie and Libby Simmons cater their town’s Revolutionary War re-enactment. When someone is killed, the sisters go into action to prevent Bernie’s boyfriend Marvin from being charged with murder. In A Catered Mother’s Day, Bernie and Libby help their friend Ellen who is overworked running her pet treat company and underappreciated by her family. They set up a practical joke to help Ellen get the recognition she deserves but instead get her accused of murder.

            Camilla T. Crespi wrote The Breakfast Club Murder, in which her main character Lori Corvino tries to revive her catering business after her divorce. With distractions such as her unhappy teenage daughter and her vegan mother, Lori really has problems when her ex-husband’s new wife is found murdered. Guess who is the prime suspect?

            Joanne Fluke writes the Hannah Swenson Mystery with Recipes! Series. In Double Fudge Brownie Murder, Hannah finds the body of the judge who was to preside over her trial for vehicular homicide. She’s now the murder suspect. Meanwhile, her romantic life gets complicated. In Wedding Cake Murder, Hannah preps for her wedding and for the Food Channel desert chef contest. The celebrity chef judge is found murdered. Hannah conveniently is available to investigate.

            Katherine Hall Page is the author of the Faith Fairchild Mystery series. In The Body in the Birches, caterer Faith and her family become involved when one of the heirs to the Birches manor is murdered. Was another family member willing to kill in order to inherit? And in The Body in the Piazza, Faith and her husband Reverend Tom celebrate their wedding anniversary in Italy but find time to delve into murder and sabotage.

            All of these books include recipes and/or food facts.   


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Collection of Culinary Mysteries

            Enjoy food and drink without the calories when you read some of these mysteries featuring characters that combine their culinary careers with a sideline of amateur sleuthing.
            Here are two Chocoholic Mystery selections written by JoAnna Carl. In The Chocolate Clown Corpse, nobody in town was sad when a hated novelty shop owner was murdered. But when Lee Woodyard, owner of the chocolate shop next door, ponders a store expansion, she discovers that the killer is still on the loose and ready to strike again. And, in The Chocolate Falcon Fraud, Lee Woodyard is catering a chocolate party for the town’s crime film festival, when a dead body shows up on her doorstep.   
            These are two recent Tea Shop Mystery selections, written by Laura Childs. Ming Tea Murder has tea shop owner Theo Browning unwillingly attending the gala opening of an eighteenth century Chinese teahouse exhibit at the local museum. When a philanthropist is murdered, Theo investigates. In Steeped in Evil, Theo gets an invitation to a wine-tasting party that turns into disaster after a body in discovered in one of the wine barrels.
            In Scorched Eggs, from Laura Childs’ Cackleberry Club Mystery series, cafe co-owners Suzanne, Petra and Toni go into detective mode when their friend from the County Services Department is killed in a suspicious fire.
            Author Cleo Coyle writes mysteries featuring coffeehouse manager Clare Cosi. In Billionaire Blend, Clare rescues a billionaire tech guru from a bomb explosion. To thank her, he hires her to create an expensive coffee blend. But attempts on his life keep on coming. Who is doing this and why? In Once Upon a Grind Clare’s ex-husband (a coffee hunter) gives her magic coffee beans. She roasts them and sells the coffee during “Fairy Tale Week”. When fairy tale –style crimes start to occur, Clare gets help solving them with coffee-induced visions.
            As an added bonus, all of these books feature recipes and/or food information.

Friday, April 29, 2016

New Biography Selections

           Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen, is written by Kate Williams, a British author who also has written books about other royals such as Queen Victoria and Josephine Bonaparte. In this work, we learn of the events leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation; from her birth in 1926 as the first daughter of the younger brother to England’s future King Edward VIII, to heir apparent of her father King George VI, after his brother abdicates the throne to marry the commoner Wallis Simpson. Getting a late start in being groomed as the future queen, Elizabeth was an adept student, leading her to establish a monarchy that exhibited her intelligence and adaptability. The text is accompanied by several black and white photos.
            Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir is written by entertainer Joel Grey. Born in 1932 to a Jewish-American family in Cleveland, Ohio and the son of Vaudeville performer Mickey Katz, he began his career at the age of 9. Grey has acted in plays, films, and television for over seven decades and is best known for his roles in Cabaret, Chicago, and Wicked. He also delves into his personal life; after several years of marriage he divorced and came out as a gay man. Grey also is well-known as a photographer.

            Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter, is written by Barbara Leaming. It tells the story of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, one of the nine children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, centering on Kick’s arrival in England when she and her family accompanied their father to the court of St. James upon his appointment as the American ambassador in 1938. In England, she became part of upper class social life, meeting and marrying William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington. Kick’s mother Rose opposed the marriage because she would be marrying outside of the Catholic Church. Tragically, Cavendish was killed in combat shortly after their marriage. Devastated, Kick remained in England; she eventually fell in love and became engaged to the Earl Fitzwilliam. Unfortunately they both were killed in a 1947 airplane crash. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

            What if you had to spend up to 70% of your income to pay the rent? Could you pay your electric bill? Buy groceries for the family? And where do you go when you are evicted for non-payment of rent? Sociologist Matthew Desmond has written Evicted, a report on the observational study he conducted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on two neighborhoods, one in the inner city and the other in a trailer park. We meet a total of eight families on the edge of homelessness; each are there for different reasons. We also meet the two landlords who house them.
            Income for the eight families can come from government assistance or low-paying jobs, and is not enough to save for future needs. And if evicted from their homes, they are in danger of losing all of their belongings; landlords send them to storage units – if renters don’t keep up the payments for the units the belongings will be thrown out.
            Once they are evicted, each struggle to regain a home. Some stay with friends and relatives, or with near strangers, paying them a share of money for their keep. Others live in homeless shelters or on the street. Searching for a new living space isn’t easy; many are turned away because of a previous eviction history, or because they had been in prison, or because they have children.
            At the end of this book, Desmond traces the history of housing for the poor in the United States: from slums to housing projects to housing vouchers. He recommends universal housing vouchers, where tax money supplements 70% of rent cost and the renter pays 30%. Tighter rent control laws also would be needed. He also encourages the development of other solutions for this problem, recognizing that what works in one area might not work in another.

             Matthew Desmond, an associate professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, is also the author of the book On the Fireline, and co-author of two other books.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Book Releases – Late Spring to Early Summer 2016

As the year continues, other potential best sellers will be published. They include:
 n  The Apartment/Danielle Steel. Release date May 3 – Four friends share a loft apartment in New York City, experiencing life, love, career events, and more.
 n  The Cavendon Luck/Barbara Taylor Bradford. Release date June 7 – The story of Cavendon Hall, and its family members, nine years after The Cavendon Women. In 1938, the estate and family face the beginning of World War II.
 n  End of Watch/Stephen King. Release date June 7 – The third book of a trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers. It’s the “Mercedes Killer” Brady Hartsfield versus retired detective Bill Hodges; will good or evil win?
 n  The Pursuit/Janet Evanovich. Release date June 21 – Fifth in the series featuring con artist Nicolas Fox and FBI agent Kate O’Hare. 
 n  Private Rio/James Patterson. Release date June 27 – Security firm head Jack Morgan returns to Rio to protect the Olympic Games from disaster and bloodshed.
 n  Magic/Danielle Steel. Release date July 5 – The interwoven stories of seven individuals who are the invited guests of the spectacular “White Dinner” held in Paris.
 n  Black Widow/Daniel Silva. Release date July 12 – The further adventures of Gabriel Allon, an art restorer, assassin, and spy.

Place your reservations for these books now!