Another Turn of the Page: Hail to Librarians! It’s National Library Week

“Libraries raised me.”
― Ray Bradbury

“Librarians…possess a vast stone of politeness. These are people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions on God’s green earth. These people tolerate every kind of crank and eccentric and mouth-breather there is.”
Tatyana Eckstrand, The Librarian’s Book of Quotes

“Nonsense,” said another voice-Dr. Rust. “We’re librarians. When we don’t find what we’re looking for in the first place we look, we don’t give up.
We keep looking.”

― Polly Shulman

“That’s how librarians are. They just can’t help it.”
― Carla Morris

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
― Neil Gaiman

Calvin and Hobbes copyright, Bill Watterson

Yes, it is National Library Week and being a retired librarian I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries and librarians. That’s why I just couldn’t stop with one quote for my header this month. Every librarian I have known is described accurately by Polly Shulman’s quote. They not only keep looking for the answer, they keep looking till they find the perfect answer. The internet stops as soon as it finds something that satisfies the question.

The hunt, the chase, to find an answer was one of my favorite parts of being a librarian. It was like solving a mystery or getting the answer to riddle. Especially when the question was one like this,

” I need that book that’s called Shakespeare, but it’s spelled with a “Ch” and the author starts with M…”
This wasn’t one of mine but the librarian who actually got this question figured out the patron wanted the book Chesapeake, written by James Michener. Fiction questions like that always depended on the librarian being well-read and knowing how to question the patron. Even today the internet would be hard-pressed to answer that one.

Today fact based questions are much easier to answer with Google. Before the internet I got a question I’ll never forget, “How do you get the smell of a dead body out of a car?”

Back then, instead of calling the cops, after finding some material on cleaning and disinfecting, I referred the person to the health department but today you can get 41,000,000 hits if you ask Google that same question. Still, you might need a librarian to find the answer that most suits your particular odor and situation. In the reference interview a good librarian would have to find out whose body it was. The dog? The cat? The neighbor?

So here’s to those Masters of Information! Bring yours a nice gift this week like Neil Gaiman suggests. And here’s the books we read last month, many, thanks to librarians.


  1. Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford (2016) 384 pages. The Great War is over, and change is in the air, in this novel that brings to life the exciting days of early British radio…and one woman who finds her voice while working alongside the brilliant women and men of the BBC. Goodreads
  2. Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy (2016) 513 pages. A history about how the Romans were able to maintain a fairly stable empire for so many centuries with only a handful of notable rebellions. The term “Pax Romana,”  literally means “Roman peace,” and refers to the time period from 27 B.C.E. to 180 C.E. in the Roman Empire.
  3. The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (2009) 349 pages. Set in North Texas, this is the fictionalized version of, Britt Johnson, a slave freed immediately following the Civil War. His wife and children are kidnapped by Kiowa Indians and he rescues them single-handedly. Contains some graphic and bloody scenes.
  4. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans (2014) 284 pages. A heartwarming story about a ten-year old boy called Noel orphaned and evacuated from London to the small town of St. Albans during the blitz after the death of his guardian.
  5. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2007) 394 pages. First in a series, this mystery is set in medieval Cambridge; its heroine, Adelia, is a “medical expert” or what we would term, a coroner. In this one she is called to examine the death of four children who the locals believe were victims of Jewish sacrifice.
  6. Tradition of Deceit by Kathleen Ernst (2014) 360 pages. Chloe Ellefson Mystery #5. A nice combination of  three different storylines. Roelke is in Milwaukee, and out of his jurisdiction, trying to find out who murdered his former partner. Chloe is in Minneapolis helping a fellow curator and restoration expert with the old Washburn Flour Mill, when the body of one of the local historians is found in the abandoned mill. Finally there is a flashback story to the late 1900’s of a Polish immigrant family, who worked in the mill. All three intersect in the end.
  7. A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017) 231 pages. The narrator in this novel has separated from her cheating husband, Christopher, but her in-laws are still in the dark about their new status. So when she gets a call from her mother-in-law saying Christopher has gone missing while researching a book in Greece, she feels obligated to go looking for him. This has been touted as the next ‘Gone Girl’, but our reviewer didn’t find any similarities. She also found the book a bit slow.
  8. Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell (2015) 228 pages. Ruth Rendell has written mysteries for years and has been well liked, with a huge following. This is her last book before passing away in 2015. The publisher describes this book as “…an intriguing cat-and mouse-game of blackmail and murder. From diet pills, homeopathic cures, a desperate man who needs cash, a tenant, a friend, an opportunist, and a jealous neighbor. ” Unfortunately our reviewer found it disappointing.

Another Turn of the Page: Checkout a Library Book

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.
It is a never failing spring in the desert.”
Andrew Carnegie

“Without the library, you have no civilization.”
Ray Bradbury

shelveBefore I bring you our August selection of books I want to say a few words about libraries and library books. I am always gratified and amazed at how many members of this round table book group are reading library books. I say this because for years I have read that paper books will be gone tomorrow. Yep, nobody reads actual books. Audio books or digital books on Kindle and Nook is the future. I’ve been hearing that for over 20 years. Far as I know, it still hasn’t happened. And anyone who really wants a printed paper book will just buy it. (Sure, but they ain’t cheap)  Who goes to libraries anymore? Well, a  lot of people go to libraries and it is not just the retired or the “elders.”  Granted, my book group is composed of retired people. After all, who else can meet on a Thursday at 10am in a coffee shop to discuss books? And even though this group brings books they have purchased, books they read on Kindle, books they have listened to, they also are users of the library. Of the twelve books presented last month, I believe at least ten were library books. Mine was, and I listen and buy as well. Don’t get me wrong, if you are reading I don’t care how you get your books but if you aren’t reading because books are too expensive or you don’t know how to download an audio book, well damn! you’re missing the best deal in town. Libraries have these amazing people called librarians who will teach you how to download a book or will move heaven and earth to find any book you want to read. Hey! you retired people, since you are going to the library anyway, take those grandkids along. Best way to get them started reading – young. And it’s all free! No excuses. Get thee to a library. (full disclosure, I was a librarian for 30 years)

Here’s what we read. All obtainable at your local library.

August1. Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl (1984) 176 pages. Roald Dahl’s autobiography. He is the author of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG  and James and the Giant Peach.

2. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (2016) 415 pages. Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong? Warning: You will either love Moriarty or just find her books so-so, but give her a try.

3. The King’s Deception by Steve Berry (2013) 612 pages. This book has everything you need in an adventure; an old secret, a secret society, American agents, British agents, two old ladies and a thief. This is #8 in the Cotton Malone series.

4. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult (2005) 426 pages. A family drama centered on a “kidnapping” that occurred 28 years earlier.

5. Dietrich & Riefenstahl: Hollywood, Berlin and a Century in Two Lives by Karin Wieland (2013) 640 pages. Marlene Dietrich and Leni Riefenstahl, born less than one year apart, lived so close to each other that Riefenstahl could actually see into Dietrich’s Berlin apartment. Coming of age at the dawn of the Weimar Republic, both sought fame in Germany’s burgeoning silent motion picture industry.

6. Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier (1954) 351 pages. Written in 1951, this is a fictionalised account of the life of Mrs Mary Anne Clarke, who was the author’s great-grandmother, and who is famous principally for being the mistress of Frederick, Duke of York (second son of King George III). Not a great read. Try one of Du Maurier’s more suspenseful books, like Rebecca, for your first taste of her writing.

7. Grant Park by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (2015) 400 pages. A nice mix of thriller and a historical novel, Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras as it unfolds. A kidnapping and a plot to kill the newly elected President Obama keeps you turning the pages.

8. Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed by Sonia Choquette (2014)
384 pages. In order to regain her spiritual footing, Sonia turns to the age-old practice of pilgrimage and sets out to walk the legendary Camino de Santiago, an 820-kilometer trek over the Pyrenees and across northern Spain. Written in a daily “diary” style.

9. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne (1985) 374 pages. This book is a fictional account of the real life story of William and Ann Woodward. William came from a rich and powerful family in New York and Ann was just of ordinary lineage. When Ann (Grenville) “accidentally” shoots William, thinking he was a prowler, the matriarch of the family, Alice Grenville, stands behind her to avoid any scandal, but the family suffers from this decision.

10. The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich (2016) 320 pages. Fox and O’Hare series #5. Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare have to mount the most daring, risky, and audacious con they’ve ever attempted to save a major U.S. city from a catastrophe of epic proportions. Just another fun read from Evanovich.

11. The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton (2016) 288 pages. This coming of age on an apple farm story is full of wonderful descriptions — of life on a farm, as a child looking in on the adult world and family relationships. It reads more like a memoir than a novel.

12. Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman (2016) 336 pages. “A heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.” – Goodreads

Another Turn of the Page: June Books

“If you drop a book into the toilet, you can fish it out, dry it off and read that book.
But if you drop your Kindle in the toilet, you’re pretty well done.”
Stephen King

bookcase3When I was looking for a quote to start out this edition of the Whadda Ya Readin’? book group, this one by Stephen King just grabbed me. Not because it is true, not because it is sort of a denouncement of ebooks but because I “read” books in all sorts of forms and think they are all valid. I don’t worry about dropping them. I was a librarian for 30 years and for most of that time I read the paper type of book. Then along came the audiobook and I realized I didn’t have to restrict my reading to one title at a time but I could listen to one whiIe I drove back and forth to work and read a second over lunch, before bed or whenever I had the time. (note: contrary to popular perception, Librarians have very little, if any, time to read at work).

Now that I am retired I do it all. I have paper books (from the library or purchased from a book dealer), audiobooks (from the library’s CD collection or through their download service, or purchased from Audible) and ebooks, the Kindle type that can be dropped in the toilet…hmmm, how do you do that? I usually have at least two to three books going at the same time because there are, ‘so many books, so little time.’

Since I am a former librarian I get some surprised looks from people when I tell them I do not get all my books from the library. I will always support the library and I truly love a paper book but it is the reading that is the important part and I will use any format or any source to feed my addiction. Sometimes I just can’t wait for my turn on the waiting list.

Here are the June books from those in my group who are similarly addicted.

June1. Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (2012) 395 pages. Attacks by animals on humans begin escalating all over the world, and they seemed planned.

2. Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen (2012) 317 pages. A severed arm, a voodoo lady, a detective on the roach patrol and a very bad monkey, just another day in the life of a book by Carl Hiaasen.

3. An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos (2012) 370 pages. The story of two time periods: the native Chukchi people of Siberia in 1929 intertwined with a modern story of a young girl named Rosalie in the 1990s. The center of both stories are  Siberian huskies and dogsled racing.

4. The Scapegoat by Daphne DuMaurier (1957) 384 pages. John, an English history professor on his way home from holiday in France, meets a man in a restaurant. The man, Jean de Gue, is his double but of a very different character. After too many drinks, and possibly drugs, the main character wakes up the next day with the Frenchman’s luggage and clothes. His doppelgänger has vanished, and John is being picked up by Jean’s chauffeur. Fearing he may be accused of a crime or thought mad, he takes on this new identity.

5. The Innocent by David Baldacci (2012) 422 pages. First in a series featuring Will Robie, a U.S. government sanctioned hitman. Typical Baldacci thriller. Good summer read.

6. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (2014) 320 pages. When Helen Macdonald’s father dies, she finds herself inconsolable in her grief. In an effort to heal and regain a connection with her father she sets out to find and train a hawk. Not just any hawk, a Goshawk. The descriptions of the Mabel, the hawk, bring this book to life.

7. Chasing Gold: The Incredible Story of How the Nazis Stole Europe’s Bullion by George M. Tabor (2014) 500 pages. Art wasn’t the only thing the Nazis were stock-piling during WW II. A must read for anyone who enjoyed The Monuments Men.

8. The Golden Orange by Joseph Wambaugh (1990) 412 pages. This is not one of Wambaugh’s police procedurals but rather a  mystery thriller set in Newport Beach, California. Some of the dialogue may suffer from age but our reviewer enjoyed trying an author who regularly used to be a the top of the best seller list.

9. Simple Gifts: Lessons in Living from a Shaker Village by June Sprigg (1998) 240 pages. The story of one of America’s last Shaker communities–Canterbury Shaker Village, in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Another Turn of the Page: My Madness (it just happens to be March)

“There were two sets of double doors leading out of the antechamber, one marked STACKS and the other TOMES. Not knowing the difference between the two, I headed to the ones labeled STACKS. That was what I wanted. Stacks of books. Great heaps of books. Shelf after endless shelf of books.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind


stack-of-booksI love stacks of books too. I’ve been reading since I was a kid. My Mom would take me to the branch library where we lived in Chicago and we would both get books to read. ( My sister, not so much). I probably got my love of reading from my mother who was always reading a book as far back as I can remember. But I don’t think I really fell in love till I visited the main Chicago Public Library at Adams and Lasalle in downtown Chicago (in the 60’s). There were beautiful mosaics on the walls and ceiling, reading rooms and a lot of books. It is now the Chicago Cultural Center and its replacement is the Harold Washington Library Center (built in 1991). The next library that I loved was the old Swen Parson library at Northern Illinois University where I did my graduate work. I recall there being narrow metal stairs that went up into some of the stacks. The aisles for the books were narrow and sort of dim. By today’s standards it would be old, creepy and the perfect place for a murder mystery. But I thought it was an adventure. You never met too many people in the stacks so you felt like the whole place was yours. I remember browsing in the sciences and finding great resources and images for my art work. So my March Madness is a book madness and I think my fellow book group people are similarly afflicted. We once again gathered on the second Thursday of the month and this is what we read.

march1. The Undertow by Jo Baker (2011) 352 pages. Jo Baker was the subject of our author presentation this month probably because many of us have read her book Longbourn and enjoyed it. Undertow was her first published novel and it is a story of four generations of a family from WW I to the present.

2. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand (2014) 256 pages. After not having great luck with holiday reading, Pete finally found a Christmas book he truly enjoyed. Winter Street is the name of the inn that Kelley Quinn owns with his 2nd wife Mitzi. Between them they have four grown children with problems of their own. Kelley is looking forward spending the holidays with them until he catches Mitzi kissing Santa Claus, and not under the mistletoe.

3. Behind the Scenes by Judi Dench (2014) 256 pages. The autobiography of British actress, Dame Judi Dench. A candid blend of reminiscences and photos.

4. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947) 87 pages. Our classic of the month. Really a novella, The Pearl is the re-telling of a Mexican folk tale. The story is of Kino, a poor pearl diver, who finds an enormous pearl. He sees it as the path to dignity for his family and an education for his son, but it brings tragedy instead. This was a pretty quick read so our reviewer also read Tortilla Flat by the same author. Tortilla Flat has more humor and is a nice contrast to The Pearl and before you judge the attitudes and the language, remember it was written in 1935.

5. The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward (2015) 270 pages. In this novel, Carla is a girl being raised by her grandmother in Honduras.  After Carla’s grandmother dies she is left to care for herself and her younger brother. The area they are living in has become quite dangerous so Carla decides to leave Honduras and attempts to make the treacherous journey across the border. A very timely story and one that might give you a different view of immigration.

6. The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (2013) 432 pages. This debut novel by Swedish author Zander, is written in a similar style to Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo but the story is more on par with the spy novels of Ludlum and Follett. Fast-paced and filled with suspense and subterfuge, you might just read all night.

7. Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I learned the Unexpected Joy of Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall (2014) 294 pages. Probably the most unusual book in today’s mix. Not a gardening book, not a self-help book, but a memoir of an unusual friendship between two people who seemingly, on the surface, have nothing in common.

8. A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan (2014) 288 pages. You won’t remember Mr. Heming, he was your realtor, but Mr. Heming keeps a copy of the key to every house he has sold. He then “visits” when no one is home. Eating some food, looking through their things, their papers. Sometimes he hides in the crawl spaces and attics to listen and view them through the cracks. To him this is all normal because he is doing no harm. Definitely creepy.

And there you have the March books. As a bonus feature I have added pictures from the two libraries I spoke about earlier.

Staircase to the reading room and stacks of the Chicago Public Library

Staircase to the reading room and stacks of the Chicago Public Library


Stacks in the Swen Parson Library, NIU

Stacks in the Swen Parson Library, Northern Illinois University

One More Book Post

My friend Terra has a blog, Life as a Field Trip, where she likes to do a Throwback Thursday. This week when I popped in to see what she was resurrecting I could not believe my eyes, it was from 2002 but it was all too familiar. Mainly because I had written it. Well the part she posted she had written, I just did the editing.  Her throwback was the front page of a newsletter called BOOKMARKS that I wrote, designed, edited and compiled when I worked for the Brown County Library.

Three BOOKMARKS newsletters

Three BOOKMARKS newsletters

I did a lot of things like this. As a reader advisory librarian my job was mostly about marketing, that is, getting books into the hands of the customers. This was one of those ideas. I started it in 1999. It was a two-sided page that came out monthly. Front page featured my editor’s short column and a wider Staff Picks column (that’s what Terra posted). Back page had three columns that might be anything from a featured author to topics that corresponded with the month to a fiction category. The one below was for March/April so the Academy Awards and the IRS guided my choices.  Add some appropriate clip-art and send it off to the County printer.

Back page example

Back page example

I did roughly the same format through 2006, but by then it was getting harder and harder to get staff to give me a list with annotations.  So for the next two years I changed the front page to a Featured Author. Ten years….120 issues and then I burned out. Administration didn’t want to see it go but they couldn’t convince another staff member to take it on. Frankly, it was time to end it. When I started this, everyone and their second cousin didn’t have a tablet or a smartphone, so it worked. There wasn’t a Goodreads or a Slice Bookshelf or a zillion Book Blogs. Who knows how I’d be pushing books if I was still there?

It was a lot of fun. Terra’s Throwback Thursday brought back some great memories. (She even got a comment from a librarian I hadn’t heard from in years who still remembered when she herself was featured in Staff Picks.)  And if you are looking for some new titles to add to your reading list Terra still stands by every title she recommended back then. Visit her blog if you also might enjoy the adventures of a busy creative Mom and fulltime Librarian.

Another Turn of the Page: Last of our Fall Reading

“If you want to get laid, go to college.
If you want to get an education, go to the library.” -Frank Zappa


Our quote this month is from Frank Zappa and unless you are a baby boomer or music historian you probably don’t know who he is. Well he was an American rock musician and composer who had a band called The Mothers of Invention known for musical experimentation and interesting album covers. For me he was the last person I expected to find when I went looking for library and reading quotes.

Here’s our November list of recommended reading.  All fiction this time which is really unusual for this group. We almost always have at least one non-fiction book. Our author, presented by Ellie, was Nora Ephron who was an essayist, playwright, blogger and novelist so I guess we had a non-fiction addition after all.  So I give you our titles: some old, some new. All reviewed well except for Ape House which Ricky liked but didn’t love.

oct atticThe Daughter of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013) 528 pages. The latest from the author of Schindler’s List. This one is about a pair of sisters who are nurses from Gallipoli to the Western Front.

Behold a Pale Horse by Peter Tremayne (2011) 384 pages. A mystery of ancient Ireland (664 A.D.) featuring Sister Fidela of Cashel.

If You Were Here by Alafair Burke (2013) 384 pages. While investigating the video of a boy being saved in a subway from a racing train, journalist McKenna Jordan sees in the background a friend who has been missing for ten years.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987) 324 pages. Set after the American Civil War, this book concerns the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver after their escape from slavery. This won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (2003) 336 pages.  In 1886 a shy, middle-aged piano tuner named Edgar Drake receives an unusual commission from the British War Office: to travel to the remote jungles of northeast Burma and there repair a rare piano belonging to an eccentric army surgeon who has proven mysteriously indispensable to the imperial design.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (2013) 464 pages. A crime fiction novel by J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym. The mystery is okay but the characters are very interesting and I hope there will be future crimes for Comoran Strike to solve.

Ape House by Sara Gruen (2010) 320 pages. A quirky book about bonobos by the author of  Like Water for Elephants.

Peace like a River by Leif Enger (2001) 311 pages. Through the voice of eleven-year-old Reuben, an asthmatic boy obsessed with cowboy stories, this novel tells of the family’s cross-country search for Reuben’s outlaw older brother, who has been controversially charged with murder.

The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget (2009) 256 pages. Set in Minnesota, this fiction debut is about a love story with a heinous crime at its core.

As Frank Zappa would say, “So many books, so little time.” frankZappa

Another Turn of the Page: My Book Groups

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” -Groucho Marx


A peek at my personal bookshelves, two of many.

You’ve arrived at the first post in my book series.

I belong to two book groups and two online book share sites (Slice and Goodreads). The “live” groups are very different from each other and that makes it easy to belong to two. One group is very traditional. All the members read the same book. We gather, we eat good food, we discuss the book. We are the Bookies.

The second group called “Whadda Ya Readin’?”got started when I still worked at the public library. It was considered an outreach tactic to make the library visible in the community so we met at a local coffeehouse. At that time I led the group and did all the prep but when I retired the library didn’t want to continue with this particular project. However the group wanted to continue and so we do. Back then I would give a short talk, usually presenting a book related topic or an author, and then we went around the table and each member shared what they were reading (a mini-book talk). In post retirement, the  opening presentation is shared, but I still monitor the round table. If I can’t make it someone else stands in as leader. This is an enthusiastic group who read many books so a leader is definitely needed to move things along or we would be there for hours. Depending on how many attend (pick a number between 4 – 11) dictates how many books everyone gets to present. When I did it as part of my job I had to stick to an hour now we have more flexibility but we hardly ever go over 90 minutes.

Each month I will share the titles group number two brings to the table. This is an eclectic group who have a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences. Right now we are nine women, one man, all retired, but anyone can join at anytime. The books we read range from light mysteries to multi-volume biographies. I’ll try to say a bit about each book but anything extensive will make this post go way too long. Hopefully you’ll see something you may like to research further.

Our last meeting was June 13.  The author presented was Sandra Kring, a Wisconsin author who sets her books in Wisconsin and writes about families, love and relationships. Here are the books from the round table.


From left to right, top to bottom. Racism, prejudice and the time frame of WWII seemed to pop up alot. Seven novels, one book of essays, one book of nonfiction.

The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring (2006)   Takes place in the summer of 1961, and with characters like Button, Winnalee, Freeda and Uncle Rudy, how can you go wrong? Our other Jeanne enjoyed this author’s work so much she’s working her way through all of her other books.

Fallen into the Pit: A Felse Mystery by Ellis Peters (1951) This author is best known for her Brother Cadfael mysteries set in the 12th century. She also writes historical fiction under her own name, Edith Pargeter. Since Anita has read all of those she is now starting the George Felse mysteries set in Britain right after WW II.

Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr (2011) A novel that takes on American racism. Set in the countryside of Central Wisconsin against the backdrop of Vietnam and the post-Civil Rights era. Winner of the Indie Bookseller’s Choice Award.

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli (2012) This debut novel is, ” a tale of ghosts, slavery, racism and redemption”. For a group of people who only talk with each other once a month it’s amazing how our books end up on a theme.

Nothing to do But Stay by Carrie Young (1991) Eight essays on the hardships of pioneering in North Dakota in the early 20th century. The author details her mother’s experiences as a landowner, wife and mother.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009) A novel about the love and friendship of a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl during the Japanese internment in WWII. And yes, prejudice plays a part.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013) by David Sedaris  His latest collection of narrative essays, if you only read one let it be the one about getting a colonoscopy. Better yet listen to him read his own work on the audiobook.

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan (2011)  A future imagined with The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne in mind. Instead of wearing your shame and crime on your clothing in the form of an embroidered letter, you wear it on your skin. Your skin is literally turned red from an injection.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood (2013) The love affairs, the heartbreaks, of two very different women from two very different eras  – post earthquake San Francisco and the early 60’s – and how their lives connect.

See you next month, we meet on the second Thursday.

I’m a Reader. How about you?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader. I caught the reading bug from my Mom who was and still is a pretty voracious reader. I don’t remember her reading to me when I was little but I do remember her taking me to our local library. It was just a little neighborhood library in Chicago in the early 60’s. When I googled the address I discovered a beautiful library I did not recognize. The caption stated it was built-in 1991 replacing a small storefront. That small storefront was my library and I thought it was heaven.

When I was a librarian I talked to many parents who were so worried about what their teenagers might be reading that they would micro-manage every book they checked out. They should have just been happy their kids were reading. I can’t think of a time when my mother took a book away from me. Maybe I was reading tame stuff or maybe I hid it well. Hard to say, those details are lost in the mists. I do know I read a wide variety.

Early on it was the Dana Girls by Carolyn Keene. This is the same author who wrote Nancy Drew. I liked this series better because the Dana Girls first names were Jeanne and Louise, my first and middle name, so of course a girl of 12 would think that was cool. danagirl

But I went through phases. I had my gothic romance phase. I loved Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. The covers were all the same, big old mansions on top of windswept crags overlooking the sea or the moors. There was always one window with a light in it.

Hunter's Green


Then there was my Ian Fleming stage. Bond, James Bond.  Those were the “racy” books I read secretly. Sex, violence, who-hoo….but when I look back these were pretty damn tame compared to today’s standards. Just spend an evening watching or reading Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I think James Bond might even blush.a0_mxgso

After that, science fiction came into my life. Robert Heinlein (The Puppet Masters), Arthur C. Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama), Isaac Asimov (Foundation trilogy), Frank Herbert (Dune). It was love from the first line in the first book. Once again I have to credit my Mom for getting me hooked because I think The Puppet Masters” was her recommendation.

I read a lot in the summer. That was the best! No school, no job (teenagers weren’t entrepeneurs or working their asses off at MacDonald’s back then). And we didn’t have computers either. We were just off for the summer. My sister was not a reader and it would just piss her off that I could completely ignore her, literally tune her out, and continue to read while she tried everything in her power to distract me. Even at night while I was reading in bed she would try sneaking into my room to disturb my escapism. As if I wanted to play with my kid sister. Sheesh! I remember resorting to lining the floor at the entrance to my room with rolled scotch tape. I must admit her squeals when she stepped on the tape made me smile and look up from my book…briefly.

I guess it was inevitable that I would end up working in a library. That came after teaching art to teenagers for five years and then getting a M.A. in art. My husband got a teaching job at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and I went along, walked into the local library and applied for a job and spent the next 30 years working with adult  and young adult fiction, helping a ton of people find some great reading.

But why am I telling you this? Well the subtitle of this blog is ” Food, Art, Books, Birds and whatever… ”  I think the book part has been neglected. I belong to two book groups and I still read a lot and it’s not Victoria Holt anymore. So once or twice a month I’m going to share books with you. It may be a list, a review, a recommendation, an author. I hope you’ll enjoy having your own personal librarian.

Books You Can Eat

ribbonNational Library Week (this year, April 14 – 20) is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association. Each April libraries come up with very creative ideas to celebrate libraries, reading and books.  And it’s not just public libraries. I volunteer at the Cofrin Library at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and this year for the big week they held an Edible Book Fest. To make an edible book, participants can be inspired by a favorite book, involve a pun on a title or simply use food to shape a book. Bottom line, you have to be able to eat it. Being a lover of books and a former librarian I decided to try my hand at making a tasty novel.

The toughest part to making an edible book  is picking the book. Fortunately I had a list of titles we had compiled when we had the rebus contest. This was sort of the same idea, but instead of cutting pictures out of magazines, I had to make pictures out of food. One title spoke to me and I decided to go visually like a rebus rather than a pun. I sketched out an idea and went shopping.



This was about to become, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick. And for those of you unfamiliar with this title, it was the basis for the movie Blade Runner.

The sheep came first. Chocolate cupcakes, white fluffy frosting, Snow Caps, Nerds and licorice gumdrops.


add gumdrops, snowdrops,nerds

add black gumdrops, Snow Drops,Nerds

Next the base. A square cake for the bed and a round cake for the dream. I trimmed the round cake so it would look like a dream bubble.


Then the decorating began. I tried to make my android look similar to the Android Phone logo. As you can see there is no chance I’ll be sued for copyright infringement. The only other android I know is Data so this one would have to do. Frosting for pillow and blanket with Nerds for the blanket pattern. Jellybean dream bubbles and spaghetti for the antennae. Coconut for the grass. Finally the best part, the electric sheep get their cords and plugs.



Adding the Nerds.

Adding the Nerds.

Android w/ green spaghetti antennae

Android w/ green spaghetti antennae

Licorice/linguini plugs

Licorice/linguine plugs

Put all together I had my interpretation of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” I was surprised how much work it was and how long it took to make but it was worth it because I earned the “Biggest Wow Factor” award at the Edible Book Fest. Here’s the finished entry and if you follow this link you can view the other creative entries and the winners of People’s Choice, Punniest, Most Likely to be Eaten and Best Interpretation of a Title.