Another Turn of the Page: Summer Reading Officially Begins

“Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.”
Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

Yes, June, once again heralds in all of the Reading Clubs. Not only the ones the local library runs but now Jimmy Fallon has a book club, Reese Witherspoon has a book club, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has a book club, The American Library Association (ALA) has a book club and of course Oprah still has a book club. But if you are like me, I don’t really need a book club to give me incentive to read. Sometimes I scan the various club’s selections but I usually have so many books on my “to read” list already, I really shouldn’t try to find more. Currently I am enjoying mysteries by Jane Harper and fantasies by Brandon Sanderson. Yesterday I started to read Stephen King’s latest, The Outsider, and I just downloaded the audio of The President is Missing by James Patterson & Bill Clinton…and the list goes on. Here’s what the group started with this summer.

1. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (2006) 345 pages. A coming-of-age story of a widowed father and his 3 extremely likable sons and their life on a Montana homestead in the early 20th century. It is also about the housekeeper they hire and her brother, who ends up replacing the teacher at the school. The book is told from the memories of the oldest boy.

2. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (1989) 288 pages. A novel about four Chinese mothers who came to America during World War II, and their four Chinese/American daughters. All eight characters have a narrative in the story as they speak of their relationships, the demands of the parents and the struggle for independence on the part of the daughters.

3. A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa (2000) 172 pages. In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life.

4. Ruthless Tide: The Tragic Epic of the Johnstown Flood by Al Roker (2018)
320 pages. A gripping narrative history of the 1889 Johnstown Flood—the deadliest flood in US history from the Today Show’s legendary weather authority Al Roker.

5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989) 637 pages. A bitter-sweet, brilliant, laugh out loud, tragic tale about an epic friendship between Owen Meany (a runty guy with a screechy voice) and Johnny Wheelwright, beginning in the 1950s and into the Vietnam War era.

6. Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon (2016) 336 pages. Flight of Dreams is a fictional  portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg.

7. Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott (2014) 287 pages. This novel is set in the town of Lowell, Massachusetts during the 1830s. Lowell is one of the East Coast towns that were famous for the cloth mills that populated the area and were infamous for their “sweatshop” conditions. Alice Barrow is a farm girl who travels to Lowell to begin work in the mill.

8. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2016) 432 pages. Beartown is a small Swedish town out in a forest in the middle of nowhere where winter temperatures reach sub-zero and hockey is the name of the game for its struggling residents. You don’t have to like hockey to love this story. Sort of the Friday Night Lights (high school football) of Sweden.

9. End Game by David Baldacci Will Robie #5  (2017) 408 pages. Will Robie and Jessica Reel are two of the most lethal people alive. They’re the ones the government calls in to take out those who plot violence and mass destruction against the United States. And through every mission, one man has always had their backs: their handler, code-named Blue Man. But now, Blue Man is missing.

10. Hard Way by Lee Child Jack Reacher #10 (2006) 371 pages. Who would have thought that just sitting and drinking coffee would get Jack Reacher involved in the investigation of the kidnapping for ransom of a woman and her child? Well that’s how it goes with Reacher and you know he’ll win in the end, no matter how many bodies he has to walk over.

11. The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan (2017) 440 pages. The fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States.


Another Turn of the Page: I was Absent. I was Traveling.

“He read while he walked. He read while he ate. The other librarians suspected he somehow read while he slept, or perhaps didn’t sleep at all.”
Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer

I very rarely miss this book group but it happened to fall during migration and I was off birding in Ohio. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. I take books with me whenever and where ever I travel. However, I usually moderate our group and keep a list of what was read by the members. This month I asked someone to send me a list of the books. I loved the list I got. Those attending just passed a sheet around and everyone wrote down their book. Here is the list I received.Feel free to read their comments. I will add brief annotations to the list below.1. The Secret Life of Violet Grant (Schuyler Sisters #1) by Beatriz Williams (2014) 432 pages. I just had to quote a reviewer on Goodreads for this obvious Summer read, It had two awesome superstar heroines, lots of mystery, lots of banter, lots of cocktails, espionage, broken hearts and international travel! Plus did I say amazing lunches of tomato soup and grilled cheese and yummy breakfasts of Yuban coffee, bacon, scrambled eggs and toast? Oh…lest I forget…cigarette smoking…inside buildings! Yes…it was that era!

2. Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper (2013) 336 pages. The story of a strained relationship between a mother and her fifteen year old daughter and how it is made whole again. The twist – most of this book is told from the point of view of their cat, Prudence.

3. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham (2017) 352 pages. This is a tale of four friends attending law school when they figure out the loans they took out for the second-rate school is somewhat of a scam. (Hmm? Trump University?) They devise a plan to expose the shady lenders by posing as lawyers.

4. Play Dead by Harlan Coben (1990) 452 pages. The story is about Laura and David who are on their honeymoon and then David dies?! Or does he? Laura then starts to find out things that were supposed to be hidden forever but should she? This was Coben’s first ever novel and in the beginning of the book he writes a disclaimer asking the reader “to please not start with this particular book if you haven’t read any of his work before, he’ll happily wait for you to come back, as he was only a young lad in his 20’s and a tad fresh”. You were warned.

5. Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder by Amy Knight (2017) 384 pages. Knight traces Putin’s journey from the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the late 1990s to his subsequent rise to absolute power as the Kremlin’s leader today, detailing the many bodies that paved the way. Though an interesting topic, by most accounts, the book is a boring read.

6. Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally (2016) 382 pages. The author, an ex-seminarian, tackles the complicated issue of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church. A thoughtful novel that exams conscience and celibacy, and, of what has made the church one of our controversial institutions.

7. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (2013) 347 pages. The story follows two families; the Simmonses of Point Clear, Alabama in 2005 and the Jurdabralinskis of Pulaski, Wisconsin during WWII.  The stories of the families are closely woven together as the novel progresses. Our reviewer particularly like the Wisconsin references (that’s where this book group hails from) and the information about the WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots).

8. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (2017) 320 pages. One day while out chopping wood, Wade Mitchell’s wife does something unspeakable, sending their lives off course forever. Years later, Wade has remarried and is slowly losing his memories to early onset dementia. Can his second wife, Ann, piece together what happened before Wade forgets himself?

Another Turn of the Page – They’re Back!!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Spring is here, at least by the calendar, and our snowbirds are starting to return. We numbered 14 and there are still a few that haven’t broken away from their southern nests. Now I don’t blame those who won’t be back till May because they missed out on our April blizzard. That is why I have used a shelf of pastel books for the opening image. I am sick of looking at piles of snow. I am craving green, and birds and sun and blue skies and tulips and crocus. Well, you get the idea. Before I get to our books I have to mention the author that was reported on. Linda decided to do a throwback from her childhood, Carolyn Keene. It made all of us smile, even the guys because they were thinking of their own throwback…The Hardy Boys. So here’s a vintage Nancy Drew cover before we get started.

Now here is what we read:

1. Sudden Country by Karen Fisher (2005) 400 pages. Based on the girlhood journal of her ancestor, Emma Ruth Ross, Karen Fisher recreates her family’s migration from Iowa to Oregon in 1847.

2. Robicheaux by James Lee Burke (2018) 447 pages. In this 21st book in the series – set in the Cajun environs of south Louisiana – Dave Robicheaux is involved in investigating several killings and an alleged rape.

3. Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin (2017) 384 pages. This book is more than the history of the Earp and Masterson brothers, it is also the history of Kansas and mostly of Dodge City. The author gives a brief history of the discovery of the West from the Spanish and the French to Lewis and Clark. But the primary focus of the book is the period from 1870 to 1880s in Dodge City.

4. Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden (2016) 400 pages. During World War II, two African-American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

5. The Child by Fiona Barton (2017) 448 pages. When an old house is being demolished in London, the body of a small child is found buried. The story is told from the POV of three separate women, one reminded of a terrible tragedy, one with a dark secret and one an investigative journalist.

6. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (2018) 346 pages. If you could know the exact day of your death, would you want to find out? If you did find out, how would knowing that information affect how you lived your life? These are the questions at the heart of this book.

7. Lithium Jesus: A Memoir of Mania by Charles Monroe Kane (2016) 152 pages. “ In a memoir that blends engaging charm with unflinching frankness, Monroe-Kane gives his testimony of mental illness, drug abuse, faith, and love.” –Goodreads

8. Origin by Dan Brown (2017) 461 pages. Robert Langdon ( Da Vinci Code) is on another adventure. Our reviewer said if you are looking for good writing forget Dan Brown. But if you want a damn entertaining book with crazy puzzles, stunning secrets and shocking conspiracies then this is perfect. Don’t analyze, just have fun.

9. Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018) 435 pages. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. His PTSD, an undiagnosed condition in 1974, takes a toll on him and his family.

10. Arrowood by Laura McHugh (2016) 270 pages. A haunting novel about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and the family secrets it holds.

11. Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015) 1088 pages. This huge SF novel, is assembled from a three-book series that came out in the mid-2000’s. The author decided that the work, about science, technology, politics and global climate change, would read better if combined into a single book, and brought up to present day science. 

12. Don’t Wake Me at Doyle’s: The Remarkable Memoir of an Ordinary Irish Woman and Her Extraordinary Life by Maura Murphy (2004) 404 pages. Not as compelling as Angela’s Ashes, but still an enjoyable autobiographical account of life in a poverty-stricken home in Ireland.

13. The Disappeared (Joe Pickett series #18) by C.J. Box (2018) 400 pages. Wyoming has a new, highly unpleasant governor who tasks Pickett with finding a missing British businesswomen. Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski drags Joe into another case on behalf of a group of falconers. Good addition to the series with a wild end.

14. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright (2018) 304 pages. A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world,


Another Turn of the Page: Short but Sweet

“When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began.”
Rita Mae Brown

Raise your hand…Who remembers the card catalog?

I sure do. I used it when I was a kid, a young adult and as an adult. I filed cards in it and looked through it to help my customers find a book when I first was a librarian. And I mourned its loss when we went digital. Don’t get me wrong, a computerized card catalog was so much easier to maintain and much more efficient than the old card catalog but it was just bittersweet. The loss of those warm brown drawers with all the handwritten, typed or printed cards was sad. If your library was old enough your card catalog had all three. Sometimes the cards had little handwritten notes like “third floor storage” or “rare books room.” That is mostly what I miss, that hint of an actual librarian making sure you could find this book. So there’s your little trip down memory lane.
Anyway we were a small group in March, just seven. Two other members sent me their book reviews from points south, so we ended up with nine titles to recommend.

1. The Keeper of Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter (1925) 528 pages. A classic by an author usually overlooked. Stratton-Porter was an amateur naturalist, a wildlife photographer and a writer of novels. In this book, her last, a Master Bee Keeper and his bees restore a severely wounded World War I veteran, Jamie McFarlane, back to health.

2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018) 435 pages. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. His PTSD, an undiagnosed condition in 1974, takes a toll on him and his family.

3. Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (2009) 374 pages. (Harry Bosch series #14) Harry Bosch is assigned a homicide call in South L.A. that takes him to Fortune Liquors, where the Chinese owner has been shot to death behind the counter in an apparent robbery. All signs point to the Hong Kong Triad. When Harry’s daughter disappears in Hong Kong, Harry must find out if the two incidents are connected.

4. The Enemy by Lee Child (2004) 464 pages (Jack Reacher series #8) Long before the events of the previous seven novels Reacher got involved in something while he was an MP Major and had to take a demotion as a ‘punishment’. This is the story of that one messy, tangled case that can shatter a career and put a man on a different path.

5. Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve (2001) 325 pages. This tells the story of intense love between Linda and Thomas who first meet as high school teenagers then as young adults and much later as adults just past their prime when both have established themselves in similar careers. A story of first loves and second chances.

6. Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (1998) 320 pages. A tale of a young girl with Tourette’s Syndrome, growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950’s.

7. The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn (2017) 384 pages. Dr. Rachel Katzman and her colleague, actor Liam Finucane, are sent back in time to find an unpublished Austen novel and, hopefully, to diagnose the illness that led to Austen’s premature death. They must not affect any history in any way that will change the future. ( Good luck with that). A nice mix of Connie Willis’ The Doomsday Book ( time traveling historians) and The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury ( a short story tackling The Butterfly Effect).

8. Prince of Risk by Christopher Reich (2013) 369 pages. Bobby Astor is a fearless New York hedge-fund gunslinger on the verge of making his biggest killing ever. But everything changes when his father, the venerable chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, is murdered along with the head of the Federal Reserve in a brazen, inexplicable attack on the South Lawn of the White House. Goodreads summary.

9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (2016) 480 pages. Picoult likes to tackle hot-button issues and this book certainly fits the bill. About a year ago, the author read where a black female nurse in Flint, Michigan had been dismissed by a white supremacist patient over skin color. Picoult used that court case as the basis for this book.

Another Turn of the Page: No Romance for February

“Even though February was the shortest month of the year,
sometimes it seemed like the longest.”
Lorraine Snelling

When you think of February do you think of hearts and candy and flowers and romance? Or is it more like, ‘Another winter month to struggle through, thank the gods it is short’. And then after snow and ice storms and numerous days of below zero wind chills, you start saying, ‘Will it ever end?” If you live in the upper Midwest it is more like the latter. That one day in the middle of the month doesn’t really save the rest of the days. So what to do? Well reading is high on my list. My group, however, is not one for romance and sweetness in their choices of books in the dead of winter. We are more the adventure, war, spies, illness, death and thriller kind of people. How uplifting. Sounds like Finnish Noir. Toss in a few escapist novels and some stories about penguins and elephants and you’ve got the February book offerings. Maybe March will be lighter. Ha!

1. Three Day in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier (2017) 368p. Bret Baier, the Chief Political Anchor for Fox News Channel and the Anchor and Executive Editor of Special Report with Bret Baier, explores the extraordinary yet underappreciated presidency of Dwight Eisenhower by taking readers into Ike’s last days in power.

2. Hell or High Water: Surviving Tibet’s Tsangpo River by Peter Heller (2004) 336p. The author of fiction books: Dog Stars, The Painter and Celine, takes on a true life adventure.He joins an elite kayaking team and chronicles their travels from from the banks of the river to the insane portages up neighboring mountain passes. The Tsangpo falls through one of the deepest gorges in the world and a fabled waterfall on its course gave rise the legend of Shangri-La.

3. Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose by Joe Biden (2017) 272p. When Beau Biden, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and his survival was uncertain, he told his father, Joe Biden, “Promise me, Dad, Give me your word, that no matter what happens, you’re going to be all right.” Joe gave him his word. In this book, he chronicles the year following leading up to his son’s death and his decision not to seek the presidency. A tearful memoir.

4. George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade (2013) 235p. This is the incredible true story of six spy’s who helped win the American Revolution. I have heard the AMC series: Turn: Washington’s Spies is better than the book. Maybe you should tune in first.

5. Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke (2014) 368p. After serving in the army in the 1920’s, Billy Williams goes to wild, undeveloped Burma to work with elephants. The book is part biography and part nature treatise. Working with the elephants becomes his life’s passion. The book also highlights the many extremes of life in a British Colony: the bugs, the snakes, the malaria, the heat.

6. Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell (2015) 229p. The author’s story of his time 40 years earlier as a house counselor in an Argentine boarding school. While on a trip to the Uraguayan coast, he comes upon hundreds of Magellan penguins that have all been killed by an oil slick – except for one lone penguin, covered in oil, but hanging on to life. He decides to take the penguin back to Argentina and nurse it back to health. 

7. Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018) 427p. A mixture of “Girl on a Train” and “Rear Window.” A pulpy, fast-paced thriller. Not deep, just a page-turner for another one of those long, cold winter days.

8. Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky (2018) 332p. When Nora’s husband, Hugh, announces he is leaving her for his pregnant girlfriend she vows to start her life again and not be dragged down by this terrible situation. Three years later she is working as a newspaper columnist in a small town, when her ex and his now wife move into the same town. Nora’s pain and anger return to her all over again. When her ex-husband and his new wife are found dead in their home, clues seem to point to Nora.

9. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (2017) 505p. A historical novel based on a real-life female spy unit, The Alice Network, that operated in France during World War I.

10. In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie  Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James Series #10 (2005) 384p. Just one book in this series of British Police Procedurals featuring Scotland Yard investigators, Kincaid and James. Our reviewer highly recommends this series which begins with A Share in Death.

11. Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan ( 2017) 288p. A unique story about a man who keeps and catalogs the lost things that he finds. His story and the stories of the others who have lost the items intertwine as the book progresses.

Another Turn of the Page: A New Year

“She remembered one of her boyfriends asking, offhandedly,
how many books she read in a year. “A few hundred,” she said.
“How do you have the time?” he asked, gobsmacked.
She narrowed her eyes and considered the array of potential answers in front of her. Because I don’t spend hours flipping through cable complaining there’s nothing on? Because my entire Sunday is not eaten up with pre-game, in-game, and post-game talking heads? —- Because when I am waiting in line, at the gym, on the train,
eating lunch, I am not complaining about the wait/staring into space/admiring
myself in reflective surfaces? I am reading!
“I don’t know,” she said, shrugging.”
Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters

I know, that’s a long quote. (And don’t you just love the word, gobsmacked?) But for the beginning of the year when we all start making resolutions for losing weight, getting organized or taking a class on candlewicking –  reading more, is usually the only one that I can keep. I belong to Goodreads, a site where you can keep track of the books you have read. Every year they offer a “Reading Challenge”, where you set your own personal goal for the year. In 2016, I said I would read 50 books, I read 51. In 2017 I challenged myself with 60 books, I read 66. Surprised myself. This year I got conservative again. We have a lot of travel planned and I just wasn’t sure, so for 2018 I have set 55 as my goal. I think I can change that as the year rolls on, so we shall see. But the reason some people can read 50, 60, 70..100 books in a year is just what the gal in the quote says, she reads everywhere. I always take a book with me to doctor’s appts. hair appts, waiting for the oven to heat up, waiting for the clothes to wash, long rides on planes, trains, cars. I have even read while also watching TV. Not easy, and the book has to be light fiction and the TV show has to be light as well. But it can be done. So set a goal and start reading, it’s only the end of January, you’ve got 11 more months. ( Btw, I am signed up for a candlewicking class).

Here are the books my group read in January:1. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (2017) 307p. When Michael Wright, a black lawyer from Chicago, stops in the small East Texas town of Lark, he never makes it back home. His body is pulled out of the nearby bayou, and his fancy car has disappeared. A short time later, the body of Missy Dale, a local white woman is also found dead. The possibility does exist, considering how small this town is, that the two deaths are connected.
Darren Matthews, a black Texas Ranger, currently on suspension because of a different case up in Houston, is asked by the FBI to casually check out the incidents and see if they are related. A compelling mystery.

2. Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch #20) by Michael Connelly (2017) 417p. Harry Bosch is back as a volunteer working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department and is called out to a local drug store where a young pharmacist has been murdered.

3. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story by Dan Harris (2014) 256p. After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris decides to make some changes and investigates research that suggests meditation can help the body and mind recover. More a memoir than a discussion of meditation.

4. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) 555p. A “biographical fiction” tale of the life of Laura Bush. This cannot really be considered historical fiction since names and places have been changed. (Note: The author Curtis Sittenfeld is a woman)

5. The Runner by Christopher Reich (2000) 512p. Set in Germany immediately after the end of WWII, this thriller concerns an ex-Olympic sprinter, who is awaiting a war crimes investigation. He finds himself sprung from the POW camp where he is incarcerated, to join a plot to assassinate both Churchill and Truman on Russian territory.

6. Unbelievable: My Front-row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur (2017) 291p. Tur lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, following Trump around the country.  She visited forty states with the candidate, made more than 3,800 live television reports. This is her account of how America sent a former reality show host to the White House. It’s also the story of what it was like for Tur to be there as it happened, inside a no-rules world where reporters were spat on, demeaned, and discredited.

7. Personal History by Katherine Graham (1997) 642p. This is the autobiography of Katharine Graham, whose family owned the Washington Post. She was the publisher and President of the Washington Post Companies from the 60’s through the 80’s. A very timely book considering the recent release of the movie, The Post, which covers the newspaper’s involvement in publishing the Pentagon Papers.

8. The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash (2017) 384p. This novel is based on the true life of Ella Mae Wiggins, a poverty-stricken mill worker at the Loray Mill in North Carolina, 1929. She helped to try to form a union, especially an integrated union, in a time when people didn’t accept blacks.

9. There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon (2017) 320p. This is a novel about an American woman’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, the lessons she learned, and how her story will shape her granddaughter’s path.


Another Turn of the Page: No Matter What Happens, We Keep Reading

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
Mark Twain

This book group meeting occurred right after the Friends of the Library’s Big Book Sale and just before they geared up for the Give-a-Kid-a Book campaign. This is the Friend’s program to get new donated books from the community to give to children in need. We distribute the books the same day as the Toys for Tots. I don’t work the tables during distribution anymore. It is a joyful job but also exhausting and heart-breaking. There are more families than you can imagine who come through those doors. All have first registered with the Salvation Army so they are truly in need. But I say all this because I have been immersed in books lately and I am hoping the quote by Mark Twain is true because then I am a really smart person or maybe just a smartass. I hope a lot of books find their way under your Christmas tree so you can be smart too. See ya after the holidays.

What we read in November:

1. Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay (1999) 240 pages. The time-frame is a single evening where a family wedding is occurring during a mid-western blizzard. April and Caleb have known each other for just three short months, so their Valentine’s Day wedding at a chapel near the shores of Lake Michigan has their families in an uproar.

2. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (2000) 354 pages. Set in the Virginia hills, with a charming cast of quirky, lovable personalities, this heart-warming story revolves around the narrator, one Ave Maria, the town’s self-proclaimed spinster who is a thirty-five year old pharmacist.

3. Devil’s Code by John Sandford (2000) 354 pages. This is book 3 of the Kidd books. In this book we learn more about the Kidd and LuEllen relationship and also about Kidd’s relationships in the hacker community as one of his fellow hackers gets killed and Kidd gets involved. The Fool’s Run is book #1. These books were originally written under the pseudonym John Camp.

4. Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Graham Nash (2013) 360 pages. From Graham Nash, the legendary musician and founding member of the iconic bands Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies, comes a candid and riveting autobiography that belongs on the reading list of every classic rock fan.

5. Line of Vision by David Ellis (2001) 448 pages. Marty Kalish has been accused of murdering his lover’s husband. He had motive. He was at the scene of the crime. He manipulated evidence to hide his guilt. He even confessed. But wait, there’s more! (This book won the 2002 Best First Novel Award for an American Author.)

6. Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach (2000) 281 pages. Set in the 1600’s during the Tulip mania in Amsterdam, this story is about Sophia, who has been married off to an old merchant, but falls in love with Jan van Loos, the painter who comes to do the couple’s portrait.

7. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor (2012) 300 pages. Hugo Marston series #1, Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper. Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. A pretty good mystery for a first novel but the star of the show is the Paris setting.

8. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child (2017) 432 pages. Eleven previously published stories and a thrilling new novella. These are tales from his childhood to an active military role, to the current lone wanderer. And just let me say for the record, Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher.

9. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929) 314 pages. The author was a minister before he became a writer. This was his first book written and published after he retired from the pulpit around 1928. Saved from drowning, carefree playboy Robert Merrick learns the price that was paid by eminent Dr. Wayne Hudson. This transforms his life to continue Hudson’s work and make amends to those closest to the late surgeon as well as to the community. But to accomplish this, Merrick must learn Hudson’s secret.

10. The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope by Amy Goodman (2012) 342 pages. This book chronicles Goodman’s writings from 2009 until 2012 on a variety of topics such as Occupy Wall Street, Veterans’ suicide, the Afghan War, WikiLeaks, Gun control, police brutality, the Obama presidency and much more. Amy Goodman is an investigative, truthful journalist and the host of the news show, Democracy Now!

11. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck (2014) 384 pages. This novel revolves around the lives of the fictional seamstress Laura Kelley and the real poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the relationship which develops between them in an upstate New York town.

12. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (2017) 386 pages. Nel Abbot was found dead in the river, just a few short months after the death of her daughter’s best friend Katie in similar circumstances. Nel’s sister Jules, searches for clues about her sister’s death. Was it an accident, a suicide or murder? This book is by the author of, Girl on a Train. Our reviewer loved that book but was not impressed with this one.


Another Turn of the Page: Slaves and Orphans

“Great readers (are) those who know early that there is never going to be time to read all there is to read, but do their darnedest anyway.”
Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond

Of the 14 books discussed this time, about a third of them were about slaves or orphans. Are there just a lot of books out there about slaves and orphans or is my book group into bondage and homelessness? Nah! Just a coincidence but I am always amazed how themes pop up in this group of very different people most of whom never see each other until we get together for book group. In the list I will mark these particular titles with an asterisk.  Hey!! TOUCHDOWN!  Oh don’t mind me, I am typing and watching the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints. Talk about multi-tasking…..:)

1. The Good People by Hannah Kent (2016) 384p.* This is a tale of the lore and superstitions of Ireland in the 1800s, a place and time where fairies are seen in a different light. The book opens with the death of Nora’s husband Martin. Because of her daughter’s death and her son-in-law not wanting him, Nora is now left to be the sole caretaker of her grandson, a four year old that can neither talk nor walk and screams constantly at night.

2. Fallout by Sarah Paretsky (2017) 448p.   V.I. Warshawski #18   Private Eye Warshawski leaves Chicago to head to Kansas to find a missing actress and the documentarian hired to film her “origin story.”  The two have gone missing and the clannish locals don’t want to discuss it.

3. Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (1998) 505p.*  The author, a descendant of South Carolina slave masters, sets out to trace the lineage of the slaves who lived on his ancestors’ plantations. Through amazing detective work, Ball is able to locate and re-tell the story of many of his family’s slaves, some of whom were the offspring of master-slave sexual relations, and therefore distant relatives.

4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 305p.* Spanning centuries and continents, this novel follows two families, one from the slave trading Fante nation and another from the Asante warrior nation, in the British colony that is now Ghana. This novel has won the American Book Award for 2017, among other honors.

5. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011) 359p. This thriller is about a woman who has amnesia and cannot remember her memories from day to day. Determined to discover who she is, she begins keeping a journal before she goes to sleep, before she can forget again. The truth may be more than she can handle.

6. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) 288p.* A novel based on an historical truth. “Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. ” – Goodreads

7. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain (2003) 240p.* From the author of the bestseller The Paris Wife, this book is a powerful and haunting memoir of the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children.

8. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck (2015) 403p. This book of historical fiction  focuses on the relationship and marriage between the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his wife Sophia, who excelled at drawing and painting and was an artist in her own right. The book is told from Sophia’s point of view.

9. Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak (2017) 310p. This is the true love story that was fictionalized and written into Dr. Zhivago. The author is the granddaughter of Boris Pasternak’s sister Josephine and had considerable access to a lot of family members and archives.

10. The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley (2013) 484p. Nicola Marter is able to touch an object and get glimpses of those who have owned it before. A woman arrives one day at the gallery where Nicola works. She has a small wooden carving of a bird and claims it is an artifact called The Firebird, owned by the 18th century Empress Catherine of Russia. Nicola believes her. But in order to prove this, Nicola must ask for help from a friend and former lover, Rob McMorran, whose psychic gift is even stronger.

11. Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016) 264p. The author, a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, gives a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town. This book offers a broader look at the struggles of America’s white working class. (Touted as a book that explains the rise of Trump. Try to put your political leanings aside and read this with an open mind.)

12. The Bible by Inspired Authors (First printed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s) King James Version published in 1611. 1590p.* Sue, one of our members, said she didn’t have a book to report on this month because she is taking a 6 week course on The Bible, and that is all she’s been reading. I felt I should include it in our list, and it also has orphans and slaves.

13. The Store by James Patterson (2017) 259p. One of Patterson’s latest about a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had. Hmm, sounds a lot like Amazon.

14. The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello (2014) 358p. A bunch of gossipy suburban moms get together and start googling other moms to gossip about. Caroline, a mother of two, decides to beat them to it and googles herself. What she finds out shocks her.

My Little Free Library: Retired, Relocated, Renewed

Wednesday, I said goodbye to my Little Free Library. ( To learn all about Little Free Libraries and see when mine first went out, read this earlier post ). It first went up in June of 2012 on a rural road in the Town of Scott in Wisconsin. Use at first was slow but then we would get the occasional person out for a walk or some kids on bikes. I put a sign at the road with an arrow so people were aware of its existence. Soon a car would stop and books weren’t just taken but dropped off as well. I kept track of what went out and tried to stock my library with a variety to please different tastes. But when you can only get a maximum of 30 books into your little box at one time that variety is slim. Still I would “circulate ” 40 – 50 books in a good year.

The trouble with being on a rural road in Wisconsin is the winter. Because of snowplows my Little Free Library went into storage from November through April, prime reading time for most people in the winter. This spring/summer has been the worst. Maybe 15 books went out and 3 or 4 were dropped off. I had to admit it was time to retire my precious LFL. Two years ago I had redesigned and repainted the library and Curt had come up with a new base idea so I was sure I would have no trouble finding a new steward. Using Facebook as my notice board I found a taker in a few minutes. But when that person discovered it would be difficult to put it on her property and had to decline, it only took about 5 more minutes before the 2nd hand went up. So this past Wednesday we took it down and loaded LFL #1776 into the SUV.


The new owner was only 5 minutes away and she had a friend who was handy.


On Thursday, the very next day, it was resurrected at its new home. We sent along good visual instructions so once the base was level it went up quickly. The neighbor children immediately came over to help put the books in.


The road it is on is called Bay Settlement and it is fairly busy with cars but also bikes and joggers, and scooters, so I expect it will be used and loved. If you live on that road, pay it a visit, I gave the new owner a box of books but she has a lot of her own so it should have a fairly lively collection. It is so close I’ll probably visit it too. Oh, and drop off a book once in awhile too.


Another Turn of the Page: Back to the Beginning

“Harry — I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”
And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
What does she understand?” said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
“Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“But why’s she got to go to the library?”
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging.
“When in doubt, go to the library.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Over the last year we have been talking about moving our wonderful round table book group from the coffee shop where we meet every second Thursday to someplace that is quieter. Since its humble beginnings back in, hmm, I think 2004, when I was still a librarian, a fledgling group met to present the books they were reading in this unique place. Surrounded by books and coffee, tea and pastry, it was perfect. I blogged here about this beginning and its first transition in 2011. But then it grew and so did we. As The Attic grew, more and more people competed for tabes and more coffee was sold and thus the sound of the espresso machine grinding coffee was a constant reminder that we weren’t in our own private room. Our little group also grew. Where we once had 4 – 6 people on a good day, we now had 12 -14. We would crowd around the tables, (sometimes three tables pushed together) and try to hear our fellow book lovers discuss their latest read. Not everyone has a loud, projecting teacher voice and frankly some of us are not hearing as well as we did 10 years ago, so many were missing out on complete presentations. So we talked about other locations. Most eateries or coffee shops aren’t interested in a big noisy group who camp out for 2 hours, they want to turn tables. That is why The Attic and its owner, Bill Macier was special. I finally thought, why not go back to the library? The only reason we started here was because it began as an outreach program but I retired in 2010!  We tried it last month. The room we chose was cold but the sound was great. We agreed to give it another go. So our September meeting is in a different room which we hope will be warmer. It does have softer chairs. Our biggest regret is the lack of coffee but I told our group, stop in The Attic and grab a cup before heading over to the meeting. It’s the least we can do for our host for all these years.

1. Mother Land by Paul Theroux (2017) 509p. A novel of a family held together and torn apart by its narcissistic matriarch who excels at playing her offspring against each other. Our reviewer liked the writing but found it overly long and repetitive.

2. Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (2009) 349p. “Eloquent, illuminating tale about frontier life in Northern Texas between 1864-1871. Based on a true story, this novel is also graphic and bloody in its descriptions of the capture and dispatching of frontiers’ people  by Kiowa and Comanche.” -Goodreads

3. Cutthroat by Clive Cussler (2017) 393p. Isaac Bell series #10. The year is 1911. Chief Investigator Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency has been hired to find a young woman named Anna Pape who ran away from home to become an actress, Bell gets a shock when her murdered body turns up instead.

4. End of Watch by Stephen King (2016) 432p. Bill Hodges series #3. This is the 3rd book in the series. Our reviewer read it not realizing this fact. Our recommendation: Excellent series but start with Mr. Mercedes, followed by Finders Keepers.

5. Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (2017) 320p. A contemporary thriller featuring a deaf protagonist. It will keep you turning the pages from the shocking opening to the twisty turning ending. It was a good summer read (or anytime of the year.)

6. Wanted Man by Lee Child (2012) 405p. Jack Reacher #17. Jack Reacher novels. They’re formulaic, completely predictable, and the action scenes are fun, in a big body count kind of way. Usually they are stand-alones but this one isn’t going to make too much sense unless you read the previous book, Worth Dying For. Odds are, if you are a Reacher fan you’ve read it, and even though this is a weak entry in the series, you won’t care.

7. Caesar by Colleen McCullough (1997) 752p. Masters of Rome #5. Excellent historical fiction. McCullough does her homework and her writing breathes life into Julius Caesar as he transforms from a master politician to a brutal military genius. This whole series has received excellent reviews and can be read out of order.

8. The Nest by Cynthis D’Aprix Sweeney ( 2016) 368p. The title of the book refers to a “nest egg” as we follow four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their lives.

9. A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita (2016) 320p. On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree—becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. This is her story.

10. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (2010) 352p.Considered a light beach read, Weiner’s latest story is about four women whose lives become entwined by circumstance (one baby). The story unfolds as each chapter is devoted to the point of view of an individual character.

11. Second Sister by Marie Bostwick (2015) 352p. A powerful story of two sisters, one who is loving, caring, and a bit odd, the other, a workaholic who lives life in the fast lane and just wants to forget the past and focus on the future. An unexpected tragedy occurs with Alice (the eldest) that forces her younger sister (Lucy) to come back to her roots.


Well those are the last books of August. Will we say farewell to this special place or go back in October? I will report back after our next meeting.

The Attic: Books & Coffee, 730 Bodart St., Green Bay, Wisconsin