Need Something Different for Book Club?

Try The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue.  The protagonist, Razi, is a spirited, independent women.  Not so unusual in today’s world, but in the 1920’s she was quite a maverick.   Driven in her focus to attend medical school at Northwestern, Razi also finds it her mission to educate women on their reproductive rights in secret “boyless” meetings.

The story centers on her passionate love affair that ends abruptly when she dies in a tragic accident.   Razi, now “in-between” the physical world and the hereafter, spends her time searching for her lost love.  After almost 70 years “in-between” she finds herself tugged into the life of Amy and Scott.   Razi manipulates their world in all the eerie ways a ghost can in an effort to get Amy to unleash the secrets that are keeping her from having a happy, fulfilling marriage.

It is a great mixture of romance, mystery and the spiritual world that provoked lively discussions of feminism, great loves, and, of course…ghosts.

Staff Picks from Adult Services

After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story
by Michael Hainey
Genre: Memoir

Michael Hainey has always been haunted by his father’s death. A seasoned journalist like his father before him, he knows intuitively that the facts just don’t add up with the story he was told as a kid. An obituary he discovers as a teenager reveals that his father died in the 3900 block of North Pine Grove after “visiting friends.” Who were these friends, he wonders? And why has he never met them? When he turns 35, the same age as his father when he died, he realizes he will never have peace in his life until he solves the mystery surrounding his father’s death.

Appeal: This book has wide appeal, but will be especially enjoyed by people who grew up in or near Chicago. The language and presentation should also appeal to people who enjoy short stories and poetry. It also happens to be a satisfying mystery. First and foremost, though, this is a book about how our families – even the absent ones – shape who we are.

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a three year survivor of stage 4 thyroid cancer and her long term prognosis is not very good. Convinced, as she puts it, that she is a human “grenade” she avoids new relationships for fear of the pain and suffering she will leave in her wake when she dies. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Her life consists of reading, watching America’s Next Top Model, and attending a weekly cancer support group. There she meets Augustus Waters, the young man who challenges her to live and to love with all her heart.

Appeal: It’s a tearjerker, but also inspirational, philosophical, and life affirming.  For adults and teens. Movie comes out June 6th.

Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Diana Bishop has been running from her magical heritage almost her entire life. She has always blamed magic for the death of her parents, and has done everything in her power to live a strictly non-magical life ever since. A well-respected history professor, she spends her days at Oxford’s Bodleian Library reading rare alchemical manuscripts. Despite coming from a long line of powerful witches, she’s gone mostly unnoticed by the wiccan community. Until the day she unknowingly breaks the spell on an elusive and enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782, attracting the attention of powerful and dangerous creatures who will stop at nothing to uncover (or suppress) the book’s secrets. As the creatures close in around her, she finds an unexpected ally in the brilliant scientist Matthew Clairmont, who also just happens to be a vampire.

Appeal: Fantasy readers who don’t mind a little romance. Romance readers who don’t mind a little fantasy. Twilight/Harry Potter/50 Shades of Grey (without the kink) mash-up. Should also appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), wine aficionados, and yoga practitioners.

Staff Picks from Adult Services

Me Before You
by JoJo Moyes
Realistic Fiction

After the restaurant where she works as a waitress closes down, Louisa Clark is left with few job prospects. Desperate for work, Louisa takes a job as a kind of caregiver/companion for Will Trainer, a wealthy quadriplegic has lost the will to live. His bitterness and anger about his condition is often misdirected towards Louisa, making him almost unbearable to work for. If her entire family wasn’t dependent on her income, she would have quit almost immediately. When she finally expresses her frustration to Will, the two reach an uneasy truce, and settle in to a comfortable routine with each other. As they get to know one another better, they grow to respect and genuinely care for each other. But when Louisa learns of Will’s intention to put a permanent end to his physical pain and misery, she is horrified. She has six months to convince Will that life is worth living. She’s planned everything. Outings, adventures, vacations. But will it be enough to change his mind? Will she be enough?

Appeal: Book clubs groups, fans of Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks, adults and teens, people who can’t resist a good tearjerker. BookPage top 50 Books of the Year 2013.

The Girl You Left Behind
by JoJo Moyes
Realistic Fiction/Historical Fiction

Sophie Lefevre will do anything to see her husband again. It’s been three years since her husband left the small French town of St. Perone to fight on the Front, and the town has since fallen into German hands. Life is hard under German occupation. People are starving, yet Sophie and her sister, proprietors of Le Coque Rouge, are forced to feed the enemy. Sophie takes comfort from a painting that hangs on the wall of Le Coque Rouge. A reminder of her husband’s artistry, and the girl she used to be. Before the war took everything she loved. She draws strength from this vision of herself, but she is not the only one who appreciates the painting. The new German commander has taken an interest as well, but is he an admirer of the painting or its subject? When Sophie receives word that her husband has been sent to one of the worst POW camps, she hopes to use her influence with the commander to guarantee his safety. But how much is Sophie willing to sacrifice? Years later, in present day London, the painting becomes the subject of a legal battle when Edouard Lefevre’s descendants claim the painting was looted during World War I. Olivia Halston, the current owner of the painting, feels a special connection with the girl in the painting. It was a honeymoon gift from her deceased husband, and she can’t bear to let it go. But fighting it may lead not only to financial ruin, but it may cost her a real chance at happiness with the first man she’s truly cared about since her husband died. How much is she willing to lose over a piece of artwork? Is it really worth the sacrifice?

Appeal: Book club groups, fans Nicholas Sparks, historical fiction and romance.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
by Peter Swanson
Fast-paced Thriller

One day is pretty much like the next for George Foss. He has a steady job, an open relationship with his on again/off again girlfriend, and a cat named Nora. Life is predictable. Until a blast from his past walks in to his favorite bar and draws him into a dangerous world of drama and intrigue. Though he hasn’t seen her in years, and has every reason not to trust her, he can’t resist her pull when she asks for his help. She’s stolen money from her former employer/lover, and she’s been on the run from his goons ever since. All she wants now is to return the money, but she’s afraid for her life. If George, a neutral party, were to return the money all her problems would be solved. He quickly agrees, and the drop seems to go as planned. But when her former employer ends up dead he finds himself the prime suspect in a murder investigation and the woman is nowhere to be found. Is she a femme fatale or a damsel in distress? Time will tell, but the clock is ticking for the girl with a clock for a heart.

Appeal: Fans of Gone Girl, Hitchcock and the Femme Fatale. Should appeal to both men and women. Fast, quick read by a debut author.

The Weird Sisters
by Eleanor Brown
Realistic/Domestic Fiction

Written in the unusual first person plural, The Weird Sisters is the story of Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia Andreas. Each named for a Shakespearean heroine by their professor father, the girls struggle to live up to their namesakes, as well as to escape the roles they are cast within the family. Rose, the eldest, is the intelligent, responsible sister. She wants nothing more than to teach mathematics at her beloved Barnwell, where her father is a professor of literature. Bianca, a.k.a. Bean, is the beautiful and restless middle sister. She wants more than anything to be somebody, even if it means breaking a few rules along the way. And finally, Cordelia, is the fun-loving, laid back younger sister. She never takes anything or anyone too seriously. When their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, the Andreas sisters find themselves once again living together under the same roof. Each sister is running away from something; using their mother’s diagnosis as an excuse to return home. The sisters will need to learn how to break out of these molds if they can ever hope to change their destinies. Readers who recognize the Shakespearean reference in the title will be delighted with the many quotes from the Bard sprinkled throughout the novel. Shakespeare is the first language spoken in the Andreas home. It is the default means of communication used by their father, often to humorous effect:

“Marry, sir, ‘tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers: therefore he that cannot lick his fingers goes not with me,” he said finally.

“Um, what?” Bean asked.

“I think what your father means is that since breast cancer may be hereditary it’s important that you do self-exam, “ our mother said, patting his hand as he nodded uncomfortably.

Oh. Right. We’re sure that’s exactly what Shakespeare was trying to say.

Reading is the number one pastime of the Andreas family. “How can we explain what books and reading mean to our family, the gift of libraries, of pages?” Bean even breaks up with her boyfriend over reading. “Because despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a reader, and, well, let’s just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put.” Weird Sisters is a delight from beginning to end.

Appeal: Fans of domestic fiction and books small town life. Especially for women with sisters or daughters and anyone nostalgic about books and reading.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed
Memoir/Travel

This engaging memoir chronicles the author’s brave and some might say reckless decision to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the state of Washington by herself. With no real long-distance hiking experience, Strayed embarks upon a life changing journey along one of the most scenic and challenging trails in the United States. Weighed down by an enormous pack of supplies (she even has a foldable saw!), nothing could prepare her for the actual reality of hiking the PCT. Strayed encounters wildlife, extreme weather, intense hunger and dangerous thirst, as well as a cast of vividly depicted characters she meets along the way.

Much more than a travel memoir, Wild is the story of a young woman whose life is spiraling out of control following the tragic and unexpected death of her mother from lung cancer. Seemingly determined to ruin her life and her marriage, she engages in high risk behaviors including a string of one-night stands with strangers and a dangerous flirtation with heroin. Following her inevitable divorce from Paul, who by all accounts appears to be the most patient and understanding man in the world, Strayed is determined to get her life back. Hiking the PCT is the first step of a long journey back to her true self.

“I had to change was the thought that drove me in those months of planning. Not into a different person, but back to the person I used to be – strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good. And the PCT would make me that way. There, I’d walk and think about my entire life. I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous.”

Strayed writes with breathtaking honesty about her own mistakes, her sense of guilt, and the unquenchable grief she feels at the loss of her mother. Wild is inspiring, funny, sad, cathartic, and well written. Readers will enjoy taking this journey with Strayed; perhaps even being inspired themselves to invest in a good pair of hiking boots and a bottle of Snapple lemonade.

Appeal: Fans of travel writings such as Into the Wild, and memoirs like Eat, Pray Love. Should appeal to readers who enjoy stories about overcoming obstacles, dealing with loss, and the journey to self-discovery.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Our Book Clubbers group here at the Library just finished reading The Weird Sisters for our discussion this month, and it was a real crowd pleaser!  It can be tricky picking a title for a group to read together. We all have different tastes, different life experiences, and different ideas about what makes a book “good.”  This month, we all agree.  This debut novel by Eleanor Brown was a winner!

Written in the unusual first person plural, The Weird Sisters is the story of Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia Andreas.  Each named for a Shakespearean heroine by their professor father, the girls struggle to live up to their namesakes, as well as to escape the roles they are cast within the family.

Rose, the eldest, is the intelligent, responsible sister.  She wants nothing more than to teach mathematics at her beloved Barnwell, where her father is a professor of literature.  Bianca, a.k.a. Bean, is the beautiful and restless middle sister.  She wants more than anything to be somebody, even if it means breaking a few rules along the way. And finally, Cordelia, is the fun-loving, laid back younger sister.  She never takes anything or anyone too seriously.  When their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, the Andreas sisters find themselves once again living together under the same roof.   Each sister is running away from something; using their mother’s diagnosis as an excuse to return home.  The sisters will need to learn how to break out of these molds if they can ever hope to change their destinies.

Readers who recognize the Shakespearean reference in the title will be delighted with the many quotes from the Bard sprinkled throughout the novel.  Shakespeare is the first language spoken in the Andreas home.  It is the default means of communication used by their father, often to humorous effect:

Marry, sir, ‘tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers: therefore he that cannot lick his fingers goes not with me,” he said finally.

“Um, what?” Bean asked.

“I think what your father means is that since breast cancer may be hereditary it’s important that you do self-exam, “ our mother said, patting his hand as he nodded uncomfortably.

Oh.  Right.  We’re sure that’s exactly what Shakespeare was trying to say.

Reading is the number one pastime of the Andreas family.  “How can we explain what books and reading mean to our family, the gift of libraries, or pages?”  Bean even breaks up with her boyfriend over reading.  “Because despite his money and his looks and all the good-on-paper attributes he possessed, he was not a reader, and, well, let’s just say that is the sort of nonsense up with which we will not put.”

The Weird Sisters is a delight from beginning to end.  Give it a try for your next book club meeting and you will not be disappointed.   We have several copies available in our library’s book club collection.  It’s also available on CD, or may be downloaded in audio or ebook format from Overdrive.

Next month, our group will be reading I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes.  You’re welcome to join us!  Books for this and other library sponsored book clubs are available at the Adult Services Desk at the Main Library.  Hope to see you at one of them!

 

Archery Catching Fire Among Young Girls

I was struck this morning by a fascinating report on NPR about how the success of the Hunger Games book trilogy and movies have breathed new life into an old sport – Archery.

Girls as young as seven are discovering that bows aren’t just something you wear in your hair.  Suppliers are even having a difficult time keeping traditional recurve bows, like the one used by heroine Katniss Everdeen, in stock.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Following in the footsteps of Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, who’s fiercely talented with a bow and arrow, is one reason Y’Jazzmin came through the door here this fall.

Her mom, Alicia Christopher, says positive reinforcement has kept her daughter coming back. Y’Jazzmin competed in her first tournament earlier this month.

“Watching the way that she’s developed confidence in what she’s doing — she’s very confident,” Alicia says. “She used to be a really shy person, but now she’s opening socially.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  Amazing, how reading a simple story can lead you to try something new and ultimately give you more confidence.  I’ve tried to think back if a character ever impacted me like that as a girl.  There was no one quite like Katniss Everdeen when I was growing up, but I was drawn to independent and strong female characters.  Anne (with an e) Shirley, heroine of L.M. Montgomery’s wonderful Anne of Green Gables series was a real “kindred spirit” and I was sure that if we ever met we would become “bosom friends”.    Anne taught me that mistakes don’t define you because “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it…yet.” She also left me with a lifelong fascination with Prince Edward Island and a secret desire for red hair.

What about you?  What books or characters have impacted you either as a child or an adult?  Who are your literary heroes and heroines?  

Have you ever been so enthralled with a character or book that you learned a new skill or traveled to a new place?  Did reading Wild motivate you to take up hiking?  Did A Year in Provence inspire you to live abroad?  Did Julie and Julia encourage you to start cooking?  Does reading this blog post make you want to share your story?  Please share them in the comments section below. I would love to hear your stories!

Hunger Games Trilogy:

   

 

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

 Years after surviving a brutal attack while riding her bicycle in college, Laurel Estabrook retreats into a world that includes only a few trusted friends, her swimming routine, and the familiarity of her work at a homeless shelter.

When a former patron of the shelter named Bobbie Crocker dies leaving behind a box of negatives, Laurel is charged with the task of developing the film and creating an inventory for a show to benefit the shelter.

Laurel, an amateur photographer herself, recognizes at once the quality of the work and the prominence of the subjects. Who was this man who photographed everyone from presidents to movie stars? How did he end up homeless? Laurel soon becomes obsessed with finding the answers to these questions.

Among the box of negatives are a few old family snapshots taken in front of a home, which Laurel feels sure she recognizes as a place she used to go swimming as a girl. Could this man, Bobbie Crocker, actually be the prodigal son of the wealthy Buchannan family? And to what lengths might they go to protect the family name from embarrassment?

As Laurel begins to develop the film, she is startled to discover several shots of a woman resembling herself riding a bicycle through the woods. She recognizes the trail as the scene of her attack and begins to wonder if she might be the woman in the photographs. Why was Bobbie Crocker taking pictures of her? What is this man’s connection to her?

Her quest for answers will ultimately bring her face to face again with one of her attackers. But is she ready to face the truth of what happened to her all those years ago?

Christopher Bohjalian crafts a novel that is at once suspenseful and introspective. The characters are all fully realized and completely believable. Readers will also be delighted and intrigued by the many references to people, places and events of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Several revelations made towards the end of the story may change your perception of characters and events. So much so, that you may not be able to resist the urge to read it again in a new light. An excellent choice for book clubs, and readers who appreciate complex characters.

Other books by Chris Bohjalian:

  • The Light in the Ruins
  • The Sandcastle Girls
  • The Night Strangers
  • Secrets of Eden
  • Skeletons at the Feast
  • Before You Know Kindness
  • The Buffalo Soldier
  • Midwives
  • The Law of Similars
  • Trans-Sister Radio
  • Water Witches
  • Past the Bleachers

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Before I get into the meat of my first post here at our Reading Corner, let me introduce myself! I’m Jen Jazwinski, also known as Ms. Jen by some of our younger patrons, and I’m the Young Adult Librarian here at the Algonquin Area Public Library. My focus is on working with teens and young adults and you’ll see me at the Adult Reference Desk sometimes. I love to read young adult and children’s literature, but I also love almost anything genre – particularly regency romances, mysteries, paranormals and fantasy. Two things my favorite books almost always have are at least a little humor and some well defined female characters. I’m starting off here with a young adult book published this year that I absolutely adored – on to The Summer Prince!

June Costa is 18 years old and obsessed with becoming the best artist in Palmares Três – a pyramid city in what used to be Brazil before the Y Plague wiped out 70 percent of the male population, before the dirty bombs, before the nuclear wars and the freezing and the southern migrations. Older women called Aunties rule in Palmares Três. After all, look what male rulers did to the world. Palmares Três has a King only once every five years. At the end of a king year, the king is sacrificed and with his dying breath names the new Queen with word or gesture in a ritual that has lasted for hundreds of years. This year’s Summer King is Enki – Enki who is only 18 years old, Enki whose skin is darker than the gene modifications are supposed to allow, Enki from the verde – the lowest level of the pyramid city, Enki who June and her best friend Gil adore from afar until they actually meet and sparks fly. By the time Enki, June, and Gil are done, they and Palmares Três will never be the same.

To understand the world of Palmares Três takes work, but it’s well worth it. Johnson naturally reveals clues to how society has recreated itself following apocalyptic events through June’s thoughts and feelings as she starts to better understand her place in her city. Palmares Três has a vibrant culture with roots in Brazil, Africa, Japan, Catholicism, and Candomblé and the evolution of language as depicted here plays with all those cultures – verde for the algae infested lower pyramid tiers, kiri for assisted suicide, waka for the young people, grande for the older people. Johnson manages to convey all this without info dumps and still keeps June’s character as a privileged Tier 8 teenager consistent. June is far from perfect – easily caught up in how she’s perceived, particularly as an artist, constantly faltering from her ideals, resentful of her mother and her mother’s new wife, but June’s also open to new ideas, a thoughtful artist, brave and intelligent – even if she’s almost always a step behind Enki and the Aunties.

Like all the best science fiction, Johnson tackles big ideas and sticky issues. Johnson extrapolates on how society as a whole might change with certain advances. For example, what would it look like if lives were extended so that people could live for 200 years? Adulthood might come later and teenagers might be feared and controlled even more than they are now. Assisted suicide might become an accepted choice for those who feel they cannot continue their lives through such a span. Johnson also tackles issues we face today such as how big a role technology should play in our lives. Should the government be in control of how much and what kinds of technology are available? When does technology become detrimental to life? When does using outdated technology become unacceptably dangerous? Johnson ably presents multiple viewpoints, showing that while technology is one type of tool, neither good nor evil, it is a dangerously powerful tool that can be used in service to both.

What’s amazing is that these are only a fraction of the topics Johnson explores – there’s also the power of art and music, the myth of matriarchal societies automatically being altruistic, and socioeconomic justice. All while giving us characters that are true to life and easy to sympathize with even when their actions are reprehensible. All while keeping track of a plot that twists and turns. All from a debut novelist. So, yeah – I loved this book – and I hope someone else out there has read it, because I’d love to talk with you about these meaty themes and what you think is next for June and Alaya Dawn Johnson!

If The Summer Prince sounds fantastic to you, here’s a couple other titles to check out:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

feed“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” So begins M.T. Anderson’s futuristic story of consumerist teens with computer feeds directly wired into their brains. Bombarded with information and commercials every second of the day, Titus lives for his feed. Then he meets Violet who wants to fight the feed and everything changes.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

shipbreakerCopper wiring, aluminum, nickel, even steel clips and tiny staples – this is the “treasure” Nailer’s light scavenge crew sweats and scrapes to retrieve from the hulking wrecks of tanker ships. Ship breaking is a hard life, the crew face possible death or permanent injury every day, but it puts at least a meager amount of food in their mouths. Nailer hates scavenge work and avoids his druggie father, but he gets by as best he can even as he worries about what he’ll do when he gets too big for the tight spaces that hold the best scavenge. Everyone dreams of the lucky strike that might take them to the top of the ship breaking heap or even away from the destroyed beachfront, but lucky strikes are one in a million. Then, after a hurricane, Nailer finds the fanciest storm-wrecked ship he’s ever seen – days before anyone else knows it exists. With scavenge from this lucky strike he could be set for life. Only one thing stands in his way: Nita – the one survivor of the shipwreck – a swank, beautiful girl. Inspired by real Bangladeshi ship breakers, Bacigalupi has created a fascinating, near-future world devastatingly changed by technology and ecology in ways that seem quite possible.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

readyplayeroneWade Watts spends as much time as possible in the virtual world of the OASIS, and he spends a lot of that time trying to figure out the puzzle that Halliday, creator of the OASIS left behind. Whoever solves that puzzle will be given control of OASIS and since most of the world spends it’s time there, that control will equal enormous power. When Wade stumbles across the first challenge, it’s not long before competitors the world over are after him – including a nefarious corporation – and the race is on. Steeped in the culture of the 1980s, Ready Player One is a particularly fun listen with narration from Wil Wheaton.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
smekdayA story of the alien invasion that focuses on Gratuity “Tip” Tucci and renegade Boov mechanic J.Lo and their road trip across the U.S., The True Meaning of Smekday made me laugh more than any other science fiction story I’ve read while still making me think. The hardest part is trying to decide whether to recommend the book with it’s hilarious illustrations or the audiobook with masterful narration from Bahni Turpin – in the end, I say grab both and flip back and forth as needed!

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Just finished reading the first book in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Fans of well-written historical fiction and mysteries featuring intelligent women are sure to enjoy following the exploits of M. Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator.

A significant portion of this first book in the series is devoted to Maisie's backstory. After her mother dies, young Maisie is sent to work for the Comptons as an undermaid. Fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy reading about her life "below the stairs" in this well-to-do household. There's even a loyal butler named Carter who bears a striking resemblance to a certain butler in service to Lord Grantham.

When Maisie is caught reading in library one night, Lady Rowan, the liberal-minded lady of the house, encourages her to continue her education. Enlisting the help of Maurice Blanche, who becomes Maisie's tutor and mentor, Lady Rowan helps Maisie gain admittance to the prestigious Girton College at Cambridge.

Unfortunately, her academic pursuits are cut short by the outbreak of World War I. Maisie does her part by volunteering as a V.A.D. nurse with the Red Cross and is ultimately sent to tend to the wounded on the battlefields of war-torn France. During that time, Maisie experiences love and loss on a deeply personal level, the memories of which she keeps carefully buried.

Years later, Maisie's past catches up to her while working her first case as a private investigator. During the course of a routine investigation, she comes across a curious set of cemetery markers that share a troubling connection - the lack of a surname. The trail leads to a home for battle scarred veterans called The Retreat, but is this respite from the world all it's cracked up to be? Her quest to learn the truth stirs up painful memories from the war. Solving the case will mean confronting her own demons, but is she brave enough to face the truth after all these years?

More than just another cozy mystery series, Maisie Dobbs explores issues of class, gender, love and loss following the wake of World War I.

Maisie Dobbs is available to check out in multiple formats including print, audio CDe-book, or e-audiobook.

Maisie Dobbs Series:

1. Maisie Dobbs
2. Birds of a Feather
3. Pardonable Lies
4. Messenger of Truth
5. An Incomplete Revenge
6. Among the Mad
7. The Mapping of Love and Death
8. A Lesson in Secrets
9. Elegy for Eddie
10. Leaving Everything Most Loved

If you enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series, here are some other titles that may interest you:

Jade del Cameron Mystery Series by Suzanne Arruda

Like Maisie, Jade del Cameron, heroine of this outstanding historical mystery series, sees the horrors of war first hand as an ambulance driver in the Great War. Her promise to a dying soldier leads her to colonial Africa, where she quickly becomes entangled in a murder investigation where supernatural forces appear to be at work.  Mark of the Lion is the first title in a series of six books to date.

 

Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries (featuring Harriet Vane) by Dorothy Sayers

Fans of Maisie Dobbs, the bluestalking, will fall in love with Harriet Vane.  Harriet is a well-educated and highly intelligent mystery writer who finds herself on trial when her former lover is murdered by the very method she is researching for her next book.  Lord Peter Wimsey is the debonair "gentleman detective" intent on proving her innocence.  Strong Poison is the fifth book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and the first one in which we are introduced to Harriet Vane.  Other books in the series featuring Harriet include Have His CarcaseGaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon.

 

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

If you were drawn to Maisie Dobbs by the historical backdrop of the Great War, you may also relish the historical detail of this multi-layered novel about a British officer's love affair with a French woman during World War II.  Faulks writes in heartbreaking prose about the horrors of war and the toll it takes on the body and soul.

 

 

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Another wonderful and well-written historical novel set in wartime England is Ian McEwan's Atonement.  While this novel is set years later, during World War II, readers will recognize similarities between Maisie and Robbie Turner. Both walk a fine line between the social classes. Robbie, whose mother is a housekeeper for the Tallis family, grows up as "almost" one of the family.  His Cambridge education is even financed by the family.  Yet he is never truly one of them.  Readers drawn to Maisie's background as a VAD nurse, will also follow Briony Tallis' career as a war-time nurse with interest.  Richly detailed and beautifully written, this is one of my favorite novels. Be prepared, though, for your heart to break.  There's nothing "cozy" about this book.

The Golem & the Jinni

Cultures collide when two mythical creatures from different traditions meet in turn of the century New York City. Chava, a golem whose master dies aboard ship to America, arrives at Ellis Island uncertain of her purpose and path. A sympathetic rabbi recognizes her for what she is and helps her adapt and fit in to the Jewish community. Chava longs to be useful and obediently follows the rabbi’s advice, careful always not to draw too much attention to herself, lest she be recognized and destroyed. She constantly wrestles to keep her true nature in check, afraid she will endanger the people she cares about.

The jinni, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Ahmad, who has been trapped in a bottle for thousands of years, cares only for himself and satisfying his own desires. He craves his own freedom and pleasure, just as Chava desires only to please others. Those are their natures. When the two cross paths, they are equally critical of each other and their choices. Yet, the two forge a tentative friendship that cuts across the social and religious boundaries constraining their human counterparts. As it turns out, Chava and Ahmad have more in common than they realize. They are linked by a powerful enemy who threatens to destroy everything they are and all that they have become. Can Chava and Ahmad overcome their natures to save themselves and each other?

Although slow-moving at times, this historical fantasy is richly detailed with well-developed and interesting characters. Book clubs looking for something a little bit different will find plenty to discuss and explore here. The recurring themes of free-will and identity should spark a lot of interesting discussion.

The Golem and the Jinni is available to check out in print, or to download as an audiobook to your computer or smartphone. Look for e-book availability coming soon!


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

“It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild.  With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. ”
— Cheryl Strayed

I recently finished listening to Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, at the recommendation of fellow librarian, Claire Matthews.

This engaging memoir chronicles the author’s brave and some might say reckless decision to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the state of Washington by herself.  With no real long-distance hiking experience, Strayed embarks upon a life changing journey along one of the most scenic and challenging trails in the United States.  Weighed down by an enormous pack of supplies (she even has a foldable saw!), nothing could prepare her for the actual reality of hiking the PCT.  Strayed encounters wildlife, extreme weather, intense hunger and dangerous thirst, as well as a cast of vividly depicted characters she meets along the way.

Much more than a travel memoir, Wild is the story of a young woman whose life is spiraling out of control following the tragic and unexpected death of her mother from lung cancer.  Seemingly determined to ruin her life and her marriage, she engages in high risk behaviors including a string of one-night stands with strangers and a dangerous flirtation with heroin. Following her inevitable divorce from Paul, who by all accounts appears to be the most patient and understanding man in the world, Strayed is determined to get her life back. Hiking the PCT is the first step of a long journey back to her true self.

“I had to change was the thought that drove me in those months of planning.  Not into a different person, but back to the person I used to be – strong and responsible, clear-eyed and driven, ethical and good.  And the PCT would make me that way.  There, I’d walk and think about my entire life.  I’d find my strength again, far from everything that had made my life ridiculous.”

Strayed writes with breathtaking honesty about her own mistakes, her sense of guilt, and the unquenchable grief she feels at the loss of her mother.   Wild is inspiring, funny, sad, cathartic, and well written.  Readers will enjoy taking this journey with Strayed; perhaps even being inspired themselves to invest in a good pair of hiking boots and a bottle of Snapple lemonade.

Wild is available in multiple formats from the Library including regular print, CD audio, eBook, and downloadable audiobook.

Book Trailer