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Library - Brown Bag Booktalk

Brown Bag Booktalk

Looking for something new to read? Why not join Judy, Shelly, and Stephanie at one of our quarterly Brown Bag Booktalks? You bring your lunch; we'll bring the coffee and some fresh-brewed book recommendations. At the end of the session, we’ll open the discussion for some recommendations of your own, so feel free to bring a book to share with the group!

The next booktalk will be Thursday, May 8 at 1:15 pm at the Velma Teague Library. In the meantime, enjoy the booklist from the last booktalk! "JAC" are Judy's picks, "SL" are Shelly's picks, and "SCR" are Stephanie's picks. Click on a book's title or cover image to find it in our library catalog.

For more information, please call 623-930-3431.

Brown bag

Brown Bag Booklist from February 13
The first phone call from heaven

Albom, Mitch - The First Phone Call from Heaven (Fiction Albom) -- The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of people who are getting phone calls from heaven -- from people who have passed away -- children, sisters, mothers and a call from an employee who was fired from his job. Are the phone calls for real?  People from all over the world want to visit this small town and hear more about the phone calls that happen every Friday. Mitch Albom also wrote Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, just to mention a couple of his books. -- SRL

Lost Lake

Allen, Sarah AddisonLost Lake (Fiction Allen) -- Lost Lake Camp is in southern Georgia. The camp, with twelve cabins and a house is owned by Eby Pim, who has lived there for most of her life. She is a long-time widow, and now wants to travel the world. She decides that this will be the last summer for the camp, which she is ready to sell to a developer. As the summer progresses, Eby’s great niece Kate Pheris and daughter Devin decide to visit on a whim. A couple of eccentric old ladies, Selma and Bulahdeen, who have been coming for years also decide to come, as does a very quiet gentleman named Jack. And then there are people from the past including Eby’s mute housekeeper Lisette and her young neighbor Wes. This is an atmospheric, enchanting and somewhat mysterious novel. -- JAC

The bride's house

Dallas, Sandra - The Bride’s House (Fiction Dallas) -- This is a novel about the secrets and passions of three generations of women, who have all lived in the same Victorian home called the Bride’s House. The three generations of women in this novel are Nealie, a battered but strong girl who strikes out on her own to build a new life in Colorado during the late 1880’s and finds love with two very different men. Later, comes Pearl, quiet and dutiful who must find her own happiness as she lives a life shaped by her father’s memories. Finally, there is Susan, a child of privilege who may have the chance to find her dreams in Georgetown, Colorado. -- SRL (based on the summary in

The whole enchilada

Davidson, Diane Mott – The Whole Enchilada (Fiction Davidson) -- Goldy Schultz is a fantastic caterer in Golden, Colorado. She is devastated when one of her best friends dies as she is leaving a birthday party which Goldy had catered. She is even more upset when the autopsy reveals that it was not a massive coronary, as was originally believed, but murder. Then it becomes clear that Goldy herself may be the next victim. It is up to Goldy and her sheriff husband Tom to figure out the motive and the culprit. This is the seventeenth novel in this series which continues its great popularity. As always, recipes are included. -- JAC

The all-girl filling station's last reunion : a novel

Flagg, Fannie – The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (Fiction Flagg) -- Sookie Simmons Poole has just married off her last daughter and wonders what will come next.  Since she lives next-door to her aging, overbearing and formidable mother, Lenore Simmons Krackenberry, who is the epitome of genteel southerness, Sookie is pretty sure she won’t be bored. Then a mysterious letter arrives, and Sookie questions everything she thought she knew about her Alabama family and their roots. Her story soon dovetails with that of a proud Polish family from Wisconsin. The Jurdabralinki’s gas station nearly had to close when all the area men joined up during World War Two. But the family’s four girls stepped up to the challenge. Fritzi, the eldest daughter became the mechanic and the other girls offered full service (on roller skates). Later, Fritzi, who had also been a stunt pilot, joins the WASPS, an elite female branch of the U. S. Air Force. Fannie Flagg is in rare form and this may be her best novel yet. It is warm and funny and has a fascinating historical backstory. This may be the best genealogical novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading. -- JAC

Murder by sunlight : the charity quilt

Graham, Barbara – Murder by Sunlight (Fiction Graham) -- Tony Abernathy is the Sheriff of Park County in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. His wife, Theo, owns a quilt shop, also known as gossip central. The small town of Silersville is about to celebrate the Fourth of July. Tony hopes it will be quiet, but has his doubts with a quilt show being hung in his mother’s folk-art museum, the first annual ramp (an  aromatic onion type bulb) festival and an antique car parade. The book is a good example of a small-town rural police procedural. It is also peopled with some very strange local characters. A number of crimes soon take Tony’s and his small staff’s attention: an intruder who attacks with a hammer and wrench, a body found in a tree, another body found in a greenhouse. For those who like crafty mysteries, Theo’s mystery quilt pattern (included in the book) will add another layer of enjoyment. -- JAC

The girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War II

Kiernan, Denise - The Girls of Atomic City (Non Fiction 976.873 K475g) -- During World War II, the women left behind joined forces in their desire to help win the war in any way they could.  Though many began to work in their local factories, some relocated to a secretive facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  After surviving lengthily interviews, invasive background checks, and substandard living conditions, they began working in jobs they did not fully understand.  It wasn’t until after the news that the atom bomb was dropped in Hiroshima, that they finally discovered their roles at Oak Ridge. -- SCR

The boy on the wooden box : how the impossible became possible... on Schindler's list

Leyson, Leon - The Boy on the Wooden Box:  How the Impossible Became the Possible. . . on Schindler’s List (Youth Biography 92 Leyson, Leon) -- Set in the century’s darkest times, Leon Leyson recalls his life as a young boy in World War II Krakow.  After the Nazis invaded Poland and life became dangerous for the Jewish population, Oskar Schindler hired Leon’s father.  Though Schindler was not seen as a trustworthy man, employment at Schindler’s enamelware firms saved Leon’s family and many others from certain death.  This memoir is from the youth department, but do not let that stop you from reading this poignant memoir. -- SCR

Garden of stones

Littlefield, Sophie - Garden of Stones (Fiction Littlefield) -- Lucy Takeda is just 14 years old when her father passes away and the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.   Soon, both she and her mother are sent from their comfortable San Francisco home to the Manzanar Interment Camp for Japanese.  When her mother’s exquisite beauty attracts the unwanted attention of camp authorities, tragedy ensues. -- SCR

Dogtripping : 25 rescues, 11 volunteers, and 3 RVs on our canine cross-country adventure

Rosenfelt, David – Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventures (Biography 92 Rosenfelt, David) -- My first question in reading this was why would anyone have 25 dogs? Well the answer is that David and his wife run a dog rescue operation called the Tara Foundation, which has placed several thousand rescue dogs with their forever families. And why would anyone move from California to Maine with such a large canine family? Well they certainly couldn’t leave the dogs behind. In addition to the hilarious tale of the trip, Rosenfelt tells the individual heart-warming stories of many of the dogs. -- JAC

Philomena : a mother, her son, and a fifty-year search

Sixsmith, Martin - Philomena:  A Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search (Biography 92 LEE, PHILOMENA) -- A young unwed mother is forced to give up the rights to her son 3 years after giving birth in an Irish convent.  Fifty years later, after Philomena confesses this indiscretion to her daughter, a renewed search leads them to the United States to pick up the trail.  While the movie of the same name focuses on the search itself, the book explores the young boy’s anguish over not knowing the circumstances behind his adoption. -- SCR

A star for Mrs. Blake

Smith, April – A Star for Mrs. Blake (Fiction Smith) -- In 1931 Cora Blake is offered the trip of a lifetime by the United States government. Thirteen years earlier, she lost her only son, Sammy, in World War I. He lied about his age and enlisted at the age of sixteen, and was the only one from their small Maine community to die. In 1929, Congress passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of fallen soldiers to visit their sons’ graves in France. This is the story of Cora and four other ‘Gold Star’ mothers who went on that pilgrimage. Cora is an organizer (actually she was a librarian) who takes it upon herself to bring their small group together. The group includes Katie, an Irish maid who lost two sons; Minnie, a Jewish farmer’s wife; Wilhelmina, who has spent time in a mental asylum; and Bobbie, a wealthy Boston socialite. They also have a military escort and a nurse assigned to the group. This is a touching and well-written story about a little-known footnote in American history. -- JAC

While we were watching Downton Abbey

Wax, Wendy – While We Were Watching Downton Abbey (Fiction Wax) -- This is a wonderful novel about friendships. In this case, the friendships are nurtured while watching the hit drama Downton Abbey. The Alexander is an historic Atlanta apartment building. The apartment concierge, Edward Parker, who is a transplanted English butler, has the idea to show the episodes from seasons one and two of the drama on succeeding Sunday evenings. The idea is a hit and serves as a way for three very different women to interact and become friends. Samantha Davis has been married for 25 years. She married for security, but could it have deepened into real love? Claire Walker has been divorced for a long time, and has just sent her only daughter off to college. A published author of two romance novels, she is taking the plunge into becoming a full-time author. The only problem here is writer’s block. The youngest woman is Brooke MacKenzie. She is raising her two young daughters alone, after a bitter divorce. She spends a lot of time avoiding her ex-husband who has moved into an apartment in the same building. -- JAC

I am Malala : the story of the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban

Yousafzai, Malala - I Am MalalaThe Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Biography 92 Yousafzal, Malala) -- This is the inspirational story of Malala Yousafzai, a young teen who dared to stand up to the Taliban in favor of equal educational opportunities for girls in Pakistan.  Because Malala’s parents held her in the same regard as her two brothers, she attended the school her father owned.   When Malala began to vocalize her views on the educational rights of women, she was shot in the head.  After her miraculous recovery in England, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. -- SCR

Cozy Corner:

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, check out our new mystery blog called the Cozy Corner. A new title will be posted weekly, along with a description of the story and a list of all the books in a series (if appropriate). You may access the blog through our homepage under Library News and Events, or you may go directly to

Other Good Books:
Murder at Hatfield House : an Elizabethan mystery

Carmack, Amanda – Murder at Hatfield House (Paperback Mystery Carmack) -- This is the first book in a mystery series set in Elizabethan England. In this story, taking place in 1558, Queen Mary is still on the throne and Elizabeth is at the center of many intrigues. Kate Haywood, a simple musician in Elizabeth’s household, sets out to solve the murder of Queen Mary’s envoy. –– JAC

Lending a paw

Cass, Laurie – Lending a Paw (Paperback Mystery Cass) -- Librarian Minnie Hamilton drives a bookmobile in the resort town of Chilson, Michigan. She is assisted by her rescue cat Eddie. Eddie leads Minnie to the discovery of a man’s body. This is the first book in the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series. -- JAC

Jeeves and the wedding bells

Faulks, Sebastian – Jeeves and the Wedding Bells; an Homage to P. G. Wodehouse (Fiction Wodehouse) -- Wodehouse documented the lives of Bertie Wooster (a young man about town) and his butler Jeeves (the very model of the modern manservant) from 1915 until 1974. Now, forty years later, the comic duo returns in a hilarious affair of mix-ups and mishaps. -- JAC

Morning glory : a novel

Jio, Sarah – Morning Glory (Fiction Jio) -- Boat Street is on Seattle’s Lake Union. The last slip on the dock (street) holds a houseboat with weathered cedar shingles and trailing morning glory (a white flowering vine whose loveliness is deceiving). The story ties together Penny Wentworth from the 1950s and Ada Santorini in the present day. In typical Jio fashion, Penny’s mysterious past and Ada’s clouded future are destined to converge. -- JAC

The invention of wings

Kidd, Sue Monk -- The Invention of Wings (Fiction Kidd) -- When Sarah Grimke turns 11 years of age, her family gives her ownership of a young slave girl named Handful.  Sarah has rather unconventional ideas for early 19th century Charleston; the first thing she does with the young girl is to try to set her free. Though her parents stop this effort, a clandestine visit to Handful’s family leads to a promise to set Handful free in the future.  -- SCR

The birth house

McKay, Ami – The Birth House (Fiction McKay) -- Dora Rare is the first daughter in five generations of Rares. As an apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care. -- JAC

Stella Bain : a novel

Shreve, Anita – Stella Bain (Fiction Shreve) -- It is 1916 when a young woman awakens in a field hospital in Marne, France with amnesia.  Though she recovers from her physical injuries, she remains ignorant of her identity.  After deciding to stay at the hospital using the name of Stella Bain, she helps as a nurse’s aide and ambulance driver.   When her memory finally returns, she finds out that she has two children and a very complicated marriage in America.  -- SCR

Brown Bag Booklist from November 14
The hen of the Baskervilles : a Meg Langslow mystery

Andrews, Donna – The Hen of the Baskervilles (Fiction Andrews) – This is the fifteenth mystery in the Meg Langslow series. When it comes to funny, screwball, tongue-in-cheek mysteries I don’t think anyone writes better than Andrews. In this outing Meg is the organizer of the Caerphilly state fair and is soon involved in a kidnapping (of chickens). The crimes escalate from there but Meg (and her trusty notebook that tells her when to breathe) is on the case. -- JAC

The Paris architect : a novel

Belfoure, Charles – The Paris Architect (Fiction Belfoure) – A small time French architect finds the opportunity to design and build the projects of his dreams, if he will design spaces to hide Jews in World War II. What begins as a commercial decision becomes a moral dilemma when one of his hiding spots turns into a death trap. -- SCR

Benedict Hall

Campbell, Cate – Benedict Hall (Fiction Campbell) – Set in 1920 in Seattle, this is another candidate for those who love Downton Abbey. The extremely wealthy Benedicts have two sons and a daughter. The troubled younger son, Preston, has just returned from World War One and is about to settle down as a journalist (writing a scandalous society column). The daughter, Margot, is a free-spirited physician struggling for success in a gender-biased profession. The downstairs staff consists of a black butler/chauffeur, a not very good cook, and twin Irish maids. A former Montana rancher, Frank Parrish, is introduced to the family by Preston. Frank had a very difficult war, and is trying to find a new profession where the loss of his left arm will not be a hindrance. He finds a job with the fledgling Boeing Company. -- JAC

The spymistress : a novel

Chiaverini, Jennifer – The Spymistress (Fiction Chiaverini) – This novel is based upon the true story of a prominent Virginia family who were involved in aiding Unionists during the Civil War. At first, the Van Lews brought sustenance to captive Union soldiers, and then escalated to smuggling valuable information, soldiers and slaves up to the north. -- SCR


Deraniyagala, Sonali – Wave (Biography 92 Deraniyagala, Sonali) – The London-based Deraniyagala lost her family in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, while on vacation with her family. After she confirmed the worst, she buried herself in a haze of alcohol and medication. Though this is undeniably a sad tale, you get to know her family and understand her loss, then cheer for her eventual release from the most intense guilt and suffering. -- SCR

Five days at Memorial : life and death in a storm-ravaged hospital

Fink, Sheri – Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Non Fiction  362.110976 F499f) – The Pulitzer Prize winning Fink focuses upon the five days after Hurricane Katrina marooned both patients and staff at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. MMC posted a 27% mortality rate for this time period due to its method of triaging patients for evacuation and their usage of lethal drugs administered to terminal patients. -- SCR

The last original wife

Frank, Dorothea Benton – The Last Original Wife (Fiction Frank) – Leslie is the last original wife among her husband’s group of cronies. They have traded in their first wives for younger, blonder, enhanced models. She is proud of her status and the longevity of her marriage until one day she is out with her husband and his friends, she slips into a manhole – and no one realizes she is gone. She sees how her marriage has changed. After thirty years of marriage she leaves. Leslie is going to reclaim the strong, vibrant woman she was meant to be. -- SRL

Blackberry winter : a novel

Jio, Sarah – Blackberry Winter (Fiction Jio) – This is Jio’s third book (after The Violets of March and The Bungalow). She writes in the ‘women’s fiction’ genre with stories featuring wonderful characters and a strong sense of place. A blackberry winter is a meteorological term describing a very late spring snow-storm. Journalist Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover the Seattle 2010 storm and discovers there was a similar storm in 1933 Seattle. In the earlier storm Vera Ray comes home from work to discover her three-year–old son is missing. He was never found and now Claire is determined to find out what really happened. -- JAC

Weekends with Daisy

Luttrell, Sharron Kahn – Weekends with Daisy (Non Fiction 362.40483 L974w) – Luttrell decided to volunteer as a weekend puppy raiser. The dog-training program features young dogs trained during the week by a select number of convicts. Daisy is a fairly typical Labrador retriever, smart but with a mind of her own. Sharron, of course, falls in love with the dog and is very impressed with the training she is receiving behind bars. Her job is to take Daisy out into many social situations, something that, of course, is impossible in prison.  Ultimately Daisy will be given to someone who needs a therapy dog. -- JAC

The inn at Rose Harbor

Macomber, Debbie – The Inn at Rose Harbor (Fiction Macomber) – Jo Marie Rose arrives in Cedar Dove after the death of her military husband. She buys a bed and breakfast and starts her life anew. The first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. They have never gotten along, but a long-lost acquaintance from his high school days teaches him about forgiveness. The other guest is Abby Kincaid who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. She has painful memories from her past and hasn’t talked to her old friends for twenty years. This is a touching novel of life’s grand possibilities, and the heart’s ability to heal. -- SRL

Rose Harbor in bloom

Macomber, Debbie – Rose Harbor in Bloom (Fiction Macomber) – Rose Marie has designed a rose garden in the memory of her late husband. She enlisted handyman Mark Taylor. Mark is short-tempered and surly. But they do find comfort in each other’s company. One of her new guests is Annie Newton who comes to town to orchestrate her grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary only to find out her grandparents aren’t getting along that great. The next guest is high-powered business woman Mary Smith. She was very successful, but illness made her face her sole regret. She broke up with her true love, George Hudson, and now has returned to Cedar Cove to make amends. Compassion and joy await Jo Marie, Annie and Mary as they make peace with their pasts. -- SRL

The girl you left behind

Moyes, Jojo – The Girl You Left Behind (Fiction Moyes) – Set in World War One, Sophie is living with her family in St. Peronne when the Germans come to occupy Northern France. Newly married, Sophie’s artist-husband has been conscripted into the army. Her only tangible memory of him is a painting done of her when they first met. When Sophie is forced into cooking for the Germans each night, the local commandant begins to admire the painting. Nearly a century later, the painting becomes the center of a dispute when its ownership is challenged by a lawyer who has made his mark by reuniting artwork with original owners. -- SCR

Calling invisible women

Ray, Jeanne – Calling Invisible Women (Fiction Ray) – Like many women in their fifties holding down jobs and looking after families, Clover Hobart has often felt like she is invisible. Then she wakes up one day to find she actually is. However, no one seems to notice. But quite by accident, Clover finds other women in her predicament. She uses her invisibility to get to know her family and friends better. -- SRL

Reunited : an investigative genealogist unlocks some of life's greatest family mysteries

Slaton, Pamela – Reunited: An Investigational Genealogist Unlocks Some of Life’s Greatest Family Mysteries (Non Fiction 362.8298 S631r) – After Pamela Slaton’s investigation into her own birth parents didn’t produce the desired response, she began her career in investigative genealogy with more successful results. Each chapter outlines both a case history and its resolution. -- SCR

Shadows on a Cape Cod wedding

Wait, Lea – Shadows on a Cape Cod Wedding: An Antique Print Mystery (Fiction Wait) – This is a very well-written and engaging mystery series. The ‘hook’ for me is the description of a real antique print at the beginning of each chapter. The descriptions are so evocative that I can picture the print in my mind. This time antique print dealer Maggie Summer is on Cape Cod to help with her best friend’s wedding. She is interrupted by a murder and a hurricane, but ultimately solves the crime and the wedding takes place. This book is published by Perseverance Press which is making a very nice name for itself by rescuing authors whose series have been dropped by one of the so-called major publishers. Some of my favorite authors are now being published by Perseverance. -- JAC

The prayer box

Wingate, Lisa – The Prayer Box (Fiction Wingate) – Tandi Rose is a single mom with a troubled past. She is renting a cottage from Iola Poole. When Iola passes away, Tandi is asked to clean up the house. Tandi finds letters and as she immerses herself she is allowed a glimpse into a world where people give without expecting anything I return, and love knowing they are bound to be hurt. -- SRL

The next three books can be read as a series, but each book has a main character and the similar characters just waltz in and out of the books.

Tending roses

Wingate, Lisa – Tending Roses (Fiction Wingate) – Kate Bowman move with her husband and young son to her grandmother’s Missouri farm. The family wants Kate to convince her grandmother to move off the beloved farm into a nursing home. The grandmother leaves her journal out for her granddaughter to find and begins teaching her lessons through her stories. -- SRL

Good Hope Road

Wingate, Lisa – Good Hope Road (Fiction Wingate) – This is a story about a community that is struck by a tornado causing them to not only rebuild their town, but also rebuild themselves. This is a story of new beginnings, repentance, forgiveness and unconditional service. -- SRL

The language of sycamores

Wingate, Lisa – The Language of the Sycamores (Fiction Wingate) – Karen and her younger sister have always been in competition. When Karen is let go from her job and also gets an abnormal test result from her doctor, it is a double blow that sends her to her sister who is now living on Grandma Rose’s farm. And in the quiet of the Missouri Ozarks she begins to discover the joy to make her life complete. -- SRL

Other Good Books:
The light in the ruins

Bohjalian, Chris – The Light in the Ruins (Fiction Bohjalian) – During World War II, curator Vittore Rosati attempts to keep Italian artifacts out of Nazi hands. When the Nazis discover his estate, Villa Chimera, is the site of an important Etruscan burial ground, the entire Rosati family is drawn into the battle to stop the appropriation of Italian art. But what is a valiant effort in their eyes is not seen as that by fellow Tuscans – SCR

Between heaven and Texas

Bostwick, Marie – Between Heaven and Texas (Fiction Bostwick) – Bostwick is the author of the Cobbled Court Quilt series. This book is like a prequel to the series filling out the life story of one of Cobbled Quilts minor characters, Mary Dell Templeton. It takes place in the small Texas town called Too Much. Mary Dell pieces her life together in much the same way she pieces her colorful quilts. This is a vibrant story of overcoming hardship through hard work, humor and warmth. -- JAC

Mix-up in miniature

Grace, Margaret – Mix-up in Miniature (Fiction Grace) – Miniature Mysteries is another series that has been resurrected by Perseverance Press. Camille Minichino is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors, who also uses the names Ada Madison and Margaret Grace. In this series the heroine Geraldine Porter builds miniature dollhouses from found items. She is helped in this endeavor by her adorable, young, precocious grand-daughter Maddie. In this case a very wealthy celebrity has volunteered to donate a fabulous dollhouse for a library fund-raiser. The potential donor is murdered, and it is up to Geraldine and Maddie to solve the case. A few tips on building dollhouses are included throughout the story and as an appendix. -- JAC

The lowland

Lahiri, Jhumpa – Lowland (Fiction Lahari) – Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Lowland relates how the thoughtless actions of a young Indian revolutionary change the paths of his immediate family for many generations. – SCR

A curious man : the strange and brilliant life of Robert Believe it or not Ripley

Thompson, Neal – A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not” Ripley (Biography 92 Ripley, Robert) – Born in 1890 as LeRoy Robert Ripley, he became known as Robert L. Ripley by the millions of fans who idolized him and his fascination with weird people and events. He sold his first cartoon to Time magazine at age eighteen, but it was his Believe It or Not concept that would make him a successful entertainment figure. – SRL

A summer in the country

Willett, Marcia – A Summer in the Country (Fiction Willett) – British author Willett is being compared to Rosamunde Pilcher. Brigid Foster has inherited Foxhole from her father and has created two guest cottages to supplement her family’s income in Cornwall. One cottage is currently occupied, however, by her irritating mother (meaning no income). The other, fortunately, is taken by one of her favorite regular visitors, Louise Parry. Brigid’s half-sister lives nearby. It turns out all of the women are working through some family issues and the growth of the relationships make for a very heart-warming story. – JAC

Christmas Bonus Books:
Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen

Brightwell, Emily – Mrs. Jeffries and the Merry Gentlemen (Fiction Brightwell) – This is a long-running very light mystery series taking place in Victorian England. Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland. Without her help he would never solve a case. -- JAC

The Christmas visitor : an Amish romance

Byler, Linda – The Christmas Visitor: an Amish Romance (Fiction Byler) – This is an inspirational Amish romance. Ruth Miller is a young widow with six small children. Her community helps to support the family, but now support and love comes from a new and wonderful source. -- JAC

The dogs of Christmas

Cameron, W. Bruce – The Dogs of Christmas (Fiction Cameron) – This is a heart-warming romance with dogs. Josh is a loner, who is thrown into panic when someone drops off a very pregnant dog at his home in Colorado. He’s never had a dog before, and has no idea how to take care of a dog with, ultimately, five puppies. He calls upon the local vet and the animal shelter for help. As Josh goes from just wanting to responsibly get rid of the dogs to loving all of them, he also opens up his heart to romance and a lifelong human/dog relationship. -- JAC

Starry night : a Christmas novel

Macomber, Debbie – Starry Night: a Christmas Novel (Fiction Macomber) – I usually look for Macomber’s Christmas romances featuring the angels Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. I couldn’t get my hands on this year’s installment, so I picked up this book instead. It is an old-fashioned Harlequin-type romance. A Chicago journalist sets out to find and interview a mysterious author who lives in the remote Alaskan wilderness.  Despite their best intentions, and obvious differences a happy Christmas ending ensues. -- JAC                                            

A seaside Christmas

Woods, Sherryl – A Seaside Christmas (Fiction Woods) – I love Woods novels taking place in Chesapeake Shores, Maryland. I thought sure everyone was already happily married, but now it is the turn of Jenny Collins. -- JAC

Brown Bag Booklist from August 8
Book cover

Albert, Susan Wittig – Widow’s Tears (Fiction Albert) One of my favorite mystery authors gives us the 21st entry in the China Bayles series. China is an herbalist and former lawyer living in Central Texas. This story features the Galveston hurricane at the turn of the 20th century, a ghost and a present day bank robbery turned deadly. The novel includes herbal information and recipes. -- JAC

Book cover

Atkinson, Kate - Life after Life (Fiction Atkinson)  What would you do if you could live your life over and over again until you get it right? In this year’s most unusual novel, Ursula is born with her umbilical cord around her neck. Gone before she even has the chance to make an imprint on life, it isn’t long before she gets another opportunity. -- SCR

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Brennert, Alan - Moloka’l (Fiction Brennert)  This richly imagined novel, set in Hawaii more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place--and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands.  Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin and those dreams are stolen from her.  Taken from her home and family, she is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy colony on the island of Moloka’i.  -- SL 

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Brett, Regina - God Never Blinks (Non-fiction 646.7 B845g) When Regina Brett turned 50, she wrote a column on the 50 lessons life had taught her. She reflected on all she had learned through becoming a single parent, working on her relationship with God, battling cancer and making peace with a difficult childhood.  These lessons will strike a chord with anyone who has ever gone through tough times- and haven’t we all? -- SL

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Buchanan, Cathy Marie - The Painted Girls (Fiction Buchanan) Set in 1878 Paris, the three Van Goethem sisters try to make a living at the Paris Opera’s ballet cadre. It isn’t long before oldest daughter Antoinette is asked to leave because of her sassy attitude and begins an encounter with the young Emile Zola. Marie, the middle girl, begins to feel the pressure to both model for Edgar Degas and acquire a male sponsor. Though The Painted Girls is considered fiction, Marie did model for Degas. His famous statue, “Tiny Dancer,” is currently on display in Paris.

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Dean, Rebecca - Shadow Queen (Fiction Dean) This book shows a far different Wallis Simpson than the hard-hearted, scheming opportunist that we normally hear about.  It explores her childhood and family battles that took place when she was growing up.  Her paternal grandfather offered her his substantial fortune if she would break all ties with her mother, but she would not. Was Wallis Simpson really the monster the royal family claimed- her to be? Or was she an extraordinary woman who led an unimaginable life?  The early life of Wallis Simpson offers a wealth of previously researched and documented materials. -- SL

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Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee - The Oleander Girl (Fiction Divakaruni) When the newly engaged Korobi loses her beloved grandfather when he has a heart attack, she discovers that her family was rather secretive about their financial situation and heritage. -- SCR

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Gee, Darien – The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society (Fiction Gee) This is the sequel to the author’s Friendship Bread. Fans of Kate Jacobs and Debbie Macomber will love both books. The Avalon [Illinois, population 4243] Ladies Scrapbooking Society is led by eccentric Bettie Shelton. Isabel is fixing up her ramshackle house and sorting through her late philandering husband’s affairs, Ava is mourning the love of her life while she helps her young son to grow up without a father, local plumber Yvonnie is smart and beautiful and new to Avalon, and Frances eagerly awaits the arrival of a little girl from China to add to her boisterous brood of boys. A humorous, wise, and deeply moving story. -- JAC

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Green, Jane - Family Pictures (Fiction Green) The story of two women who live on opposite coasts but who connected in a way they could never imagine. Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school. They are both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than they like. A shocking secret is revealed and their lives are blown apart. -- SL

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Kerasote, Ted – Pukka: The Pup after Merle (#1) (Nonfiction 636.7009 K392p)

Kerasote, Ted – Pukka’s Promise:The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs (#2) (Nonfiction 636.7089 K392p) Author/photographer Ted Kerasote is passionate about the outdoors – and his dogs. His first dog was Merle, a rescue dog. Kerasote wrote a book about Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. It took Ted several years before he could face getting another companion; they just die too soon. The result was Pukka (meaning genuine or first-class). Pukka is essentially a picture book about a young yellow Lab and the bonding of man and dog. The narrative is in the voice of Pukka himself, Ted just took the photos. In Pukka’s Promise, Ted researches ways to keep our dogs healthier and happier for longer. He examines breeding, neutering, food, vaccinations, training and even toys. All this is interwoven with the story of Pukka. -- JAC

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Lee, Ashton – The Cherry Cola Book Club (Fiction Lee)  The Cherico, Mississippi library is no beauty – think corrugated siding, cramped interior and moldy storage. But young librarian Maura Beth Mayhew knows the library is essential to the community. Now it seems that chronic underfunding is going to become NO funding. The good ole boys on the City Council want to close the library down. Maura Beth starts a book club as just one attempt to boost circulation. They begin by reading Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee – incorporating food, of course. This is a story full of southern charm, true friends, and great books. -- JAC

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Michaels, Fern -- The Blossom Sisters  (Fiction Michaels)  When Gus Hollister’s gold digger wife throws him out, he works to re-establish ties with his grandmother and great-aunts, whom he has ignored since his marriage and who have a few secrets of their own.  Gus owes all his success to his feisty grandmother, Rose, and her sisters, Iris and Violet, who raised Gus. Now the gold-digger is trying to take him for every penny he is worth. -- SL

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Rice, Luanne - The Lemon Orchard  (Fiction Rice) Julia lost her daughter and husband five years ago and is still just barely coping with the possibility that the crash was not an accident. When she decides to house-sit at her aunt and uncle’s lemon orchard in Malibu, she finds a kindred spirit in loss with the orchard’s manager Roberto. -- SCR

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Wall, Jeannette - The Silver Star  (Fiction Walls)  In Wall’s latest and best effort to date, teenaged sisters Bean and Liz are periodically abandoned by their flighty mother, Charlotte. When Charlotte’s latest disappearance leads the local authorities to check out the home situation, the girls flee back to the only place they know with relatives:  Byler, Virginia. A decaying old mansion, odd assortment of relatives, and trouble await their arrival. -- SCR

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Wiggs, Susan. – The Apple Orchard (Fiction Wiggs)  Kirkus Reviews are known for being honest, so when they say "Wiggs tells a layered, powerful story of love, loss, hope and redemption," you know this story is a winner. Tess Delaney is an antique specialist. She is shocked to receive notification that a grandfather she never knew is in a coma, and that she is one of his heirs. He owns a hundred-year old apple orchard in the magical Sonoma town called Archangel. Tess begins to discover more about her unknown family and the pleasures of earth and history which run run deeply in the story. -- JAC

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Wilhide, Elizabeth -- Ashenden (Fiction Wilhide)  Based on the real home Basildon Park, Ashendon recounts the story of an English country house from 1775 to the present. We meet the architect and his family, then the first owners and their housekeeper. Through the years, the inhabitants’ fortunes rise and fall, affecting both the condition of the house and who lives in it. During World War I, we see it turned into a convalescent home for soldiers, while during World War II, it houses prisoners of war. The current owners are a brother and sister, Charlie and Ros, who inherit Ashenden from their uncle and aunt.  Charles decides to sell, while Ros wants to hang onto the house. -- SL

Other Good Books:

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Aghdashloo, Shohreh - The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines  (Biography 92 Aghdashloo)   Aghdashloo looks back on her life as a privileged young woman in pre-revolutionary Iran, where she was a budding actress and activist.  When the Shah is expelled, her husband helps her to escape Iran.  Aghdashloo is now a respected international actress and has been seen in the television series 24 and was Oscar nominated for her role in the movie, The House of Sand and Fog. -- SCR

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Ballard, Mignon F, – Miss Dimple Suspects (Fiction Ballard) Ballard is a master of the cozy mystery. In this series, the heroine is Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, a first-grade teacher in a small town in Georgia during World War II. She manages to find a young missing girl, solve a murder and stand up for her principles of loyalty, patriotism and a devotion to the simple life. -- JAC

Letters from Skye

Brockmole, Jessica - Letters from Skye (Fiction Brockmole)  This is a sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars.  Set in the Scottish Island of Skye, it involves a young poet who falls in love with the younger American fan who writes her letters. Unfortunately, she is married, and their love causes a scandal. Many years later, her daughter tries to find the truth behind her mother’s love story. -- SL

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Elkins, Aaron – Dying on the Vine (Fiction Elkins) Elkins has written 17 classical mysteries in his award-winning series featuring forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, known as the skeleton detective. Oliver and his wife are on vacation in Tuscany, Italy. He is presented with the skeletal remains of Pietro Cubbiddu, who presumably killed his wife and then committed suicide. Oliver concludes that the police are wrong in that assumption. Elkins was an anthropologist himself and his puzzles always introduce fascinating techniques of anthropology. -- JAC

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Fowler, Earlene – The Road to Cardinal Valley (#2) (Fiction Fowler)

Fowler, Earlene – The Saddlemaker’s Wife (#1) (Fiction  paperback Fowler) Fowler is best known for her 15 mysteries in the Benni Harper series. They feature a curator of the San Celina folk art museum and are named after various quilt patterns. These two novels are not part of that series, instead featuring a family story steeped in the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Fowler writes a touching western saga brimming with secrets and well-delineated characters. -- JAC

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Hoffman, Beth - Looking for Me (Fiction Hoffman) Teddi Overman is the narrator, a woman of thirty-six as she tells of her family. She’s an antiques dealer and faux-finishing specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.  But, she’s also a woman who has lost much in her life; that compelling story of loss and hope runs throughout the story. -- SL

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Page, Katherine Hall – The Body in the Piazza (Fiction Page) Page is one of my favorite authors of contemporary cozy mysteries. Her Faith Fairchild series has been going strong since 1991 (this is the 21st entry). This time caterer Faith Fairchild and her husband Tom are visiting Italy. They plan a romantic weekend in Rome and then they’re going to a cooking school in Tuscany run by Francesca Rossi. Francesca was Faith's assistant back when they were both young and stationed in New York. As usual, the plan has to take somewhat of a back seat to the body Faith stumbles over in a Roman Piazza. Page excels at taking Faith on vacations (where she still finds bodies) and has also presented stories focusing on the days before the Reverend Tom. In fact the previous book in the series, The Body in the Boudoir, tells how Faith and Francesca first met. – JAC

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Ross, Ann B. – Miss Julia Stirs up Trouble (Fiction Ross) Southern heroine Miss Julia is a woman of a certain age in Abbotsville, North Carolina. She is just relaxing when she receives news that Hazel Marie’s housekeeper/cook James has fallen downstairs, broken his arm, and sprained his ankle. Hazel Marie can barely boil water – how will she ever be able to feed her adolescent son, twin babies, husband and James? Miss Julia can’t really cook either (after all she has Lillian), but decides to round up all their friends and have them write out their favorite recipes and demonstrate to Hazel Marie how to do them. The hilarity begins and things get even more complicated with the arrival of Hazel’s uncle, Brother Vern (an itinerant preacher usually up to no good). The series is one of the best character-driven ones around with absolutely no bad language or sexual content. -- JAC      

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Tessaro, Kathleen - The Perfume Collector (Fiction Tessaro)  When Londoner Grace Monroe gets a posted letter stating she is the only heir to Madame Eva d’Orsey, she flies to Paris to discover the truth about her inheritance. -- SCR

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Vincent, Peggy - The Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife   (Non-fiction 618.20233 V768b) California midwife Peggy Vincent recalls not only the poignant births she has witnessed, but speaks about the status of nurse midwifes in present-day United States. -- SCR

Brown Bag Booklist from May 8
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Anthony, Iris - The Ruins of Lace (Fiction Anthony) This debut novel of historical fiction by Anthony treats the subject of Flemish lace in 17th century France, where it is illegal to possess it. While most historical fiction focuses on the life of a royal figure, Anthony has created a fascinating and revealing story of the times unfolding from many viewpoints: the lace-maker, her sister who is trying to save her life, a young girl entranced by lace’s beauty, a border-guard, several aristocrats who will do anything to possess the illegal lace, and the smugglers (one of whom is a dog). -- JAC

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Benjamin, Melanie - The Aviator’s Wife (Fiction Benjamin) Even today most people have heard of Charles Lindbergh, first to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean (1927). Benjamin delves very deeply behind that public figure by focusing on the achievements of his wife Anne Morrow. Many remember she was a feminist author (Gift from the Sea), and that their lives were touched with unspeakable tragedy in the kidnapping and murder of their first son. But this extremely well-written fictional biography reveals that public hero Charles was far from an ideal spouse and that Anne herself became an aviator and very accomplished figure in her own right.  -- JAC

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Binchy, Maeve - A Week in Winter (Fiction Binchy) In Binchy’s last novel, Chicky Starr purchases Stone House in order to turn it into a Bed and Breakfast.  Binchy stays true to her formula, turning the B and B into a delicious collection of odd characters all coming together during the inn’s opening week.  -- SCR 

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Bradley, Alan - Speaking From Among the Bones  (Fiction Bradley) This is the fifth entry in Bradley’s delightful series of Flavia de Luce novels. Flavia is 11 years old and lives in a small English village in 1951. Her mother disappeared in an accident many years ago, her father is absent-minded and ineffectual, and her two older sisters torment her. Flavia, however, is brilliant and fascinated with chemistry (particularly poisons). As usual, when a mysterious body comes to light, Flavia feels honor-bound to figure out the murder. In this case the church organist’s body is discovered near the 500-year-old tomb of the church’s patron saint. -- JAC

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Chevalier, Tracy - The Last Runaway (Fiction Chevalier)  Honor Bright is an English Quaker who ends up in Ohio in 1850, completely alone and dependent upon the kindness of strangers. While all Quakers disapprove of slavery, few are willing to risk the consequences of actually aiding runaway slaves. Honor is forced both to adjust to a totally new way of life and to decide for herself what following her conscience will really mean. -- JAC

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Chiaverini, Jennifer - Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (Fiction Chiaverini) Another fictionalized biography, and, coincidentally, a novel touching on race relations in mid-nineteenth century America. Elizabeth Keckley, born a slave, earned her own freedom and that of her son by working very hard as a seamstress. Once free, Keckley moved to Washington, D.C. and became extremely popular as a seamstress to the elite. Her clients included Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Robert E. Lee. With the election of Abraham Lincoln, she was hired to be Mary Todd Lincoln’s personal modiste. She became an integral part of family life in the White House and a personal friend of the troubled first lady. -- JAC

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Dilloway, Margaret - The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns (Fiction Dilloway) 36 year-old Gal Garner lives a regimented life.  Her job teaching biology and her struggle with kidney disease keep her toggling between the high school, the hospital, and her home. Only at home, in her garden, does she really come alive.  Though wanting to win the Queen of Show in the rose market is her main goal in life, the unexpected arrival of her teenaged niece Riley changes her plans. -- SL

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Ettus, Samantha - The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do (Non Fiction 640 E85e) The simplest things are the hardest to master.  From brewing your morning cup of coffee and reading the newspaper to apologizing or remembering names, it’s the small stuff that makes up day-to-day life. -- SL

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Fay, Juliette - The Shortest Way Home (Fiction Fay) Sean is a nurse who has been stationed around the world caring for patients in the most primitive and dangerous situations. He never wanted to put down roots, but now due to some health issues of his own, it is time to spend some time with his family. Sean’s mother died of Huntington’s disease when he was just a youngster. His merchant marine father was unable to cope and dumped Sean and his younger brother and sister with their unsympathetic Aunt Viv. None of the three siblings were ever tested for Huntington’s disease which of course has overlaid all their lives with stress. But now Aunt Viv is showing signs of dementia, Luke’s actress sister is determined to move to the city of New York and his orphaned young nephew Kevin needs a father role-model. -- JAC

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Kellerman, Jonathan - Guilt (Fiction Kellerman) Alex Delaware and Milos Sturgis return to partner in an investigation of an infant buried long ago, then find themselves with the skeleton of a second infant with its presumed mother dead in a nearby park. -- SCR

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Kline, Christina Baker - Orphan Train (Fiction Kline) Young Molly Ayers finds herself filling community service hours sorting through the attic and memories of a woman who was on the orphan train during the Depression. -- SCR

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Kramer, Julie - Shunning Sarah  (Fiction Kramer) Riley Spartz, a TV reporter for a station in Minneapolis, convinces her new boss to send her to Amish community South Harmony  to cover the story of a ten-year-old boy who fell into a sinkhole containing the remains of a woman’s body without a face. -- SL

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Morton, Kate - The Forgotten Garden (Fiction Morton) After Nell discovers that she was abandoned as a child, she begins the process to find out her roots.  Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. -- SL

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Morton, Kate - The Secret Keeper (Fiction Morton) A spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder and enduring love. From her tree house, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson spies a stranger coming up the lane and sees her mother speak to him.  Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother. -- SL

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Picoult, Jodi - The Storyteller (Fiction Picoult) This novel is somewhat of a departure for Picoult.  Sage is a reclusive young woman who spends her nights baking and her days meeting with a married man.  When her breads garner the attention of an elderly man, she learns he is a former SS officer who needs her help. -- SCR

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Santo, Courtney Miller - The Roots of the Olive Tree (Fiction Santo) Another debut novel with a fascinating premise. Five generations of the Keller family live together near an olive grove in California. The matriarch, Anna, is 112 at the beginning of the novel. Her first-born daughter Bets is 90 and her granddaughter Callie runs the family store. Callie’s daughter, Deb, is in prison for killing her husband. Deb’s daughter Erin shows up at home pregnant and with a plan to get her mother paroled. The Keller olives were brought from Australia by Anna’s father and part of the story involves how various men were grafted onto the family tree, much as olive trees are grafted. Anna is obsessed with becoming the oldest person in the world, while others are obsessed with finding out why the family is so long-lived. -- JAC

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Smith, Haywood - Out of Warranty (Fiction Smith) The author of the Red Hat Club introduces the newly widowed Cassie Jones who is in need of an insurance policy/husband. --   SCR

Other Good Books:
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Archer, Jeffrey - Only Time Will Tell (Fiction Archer) In the first book of the Clifton Chronicles series, Harry Clifton wins a choral scholarship to an elite school, and becomes best friends with the son of his unacknowledged biological father.  -- SCR

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Bauermeister, Erica - The School of Essential Ingredients (Fiction Bauermeister) Bauermeister is another author who is a master at creating a rich cast of textured and nuanced characters. Lillian owns a restaurant which she closes on Monday nights. Once a month she offers a cooking class for eight students. She isn’t offering a list of ingredients and specific recipes, but rather a way for people to come together and integrate the beauty of food into their lives. We learn the back story of each student and of Lillian herself. If you haven’t read this (2009) novel please do, because I’m going to be recommending its sequel in our next Brown Bag luncheon. -- JAC

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Casey, Donis - The Wrong Hill to Die On (Fiction Casey) When Alafair, the mother of ten and "sleuth" of Casey's mystery series, travels with her daughter to Tempe, Arizona in a bid to cure their daughter Blanche's respiratory illness, they encounter the body of a young Mexican man on her sister’s property. -- JAC

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MacNeal, Susan Elia - Princess Elizabeth’s Spy (Fiction MacNeal) This second book in the Maggie Hope mystery series takes place in WWII England. Maggie is a young woman whose English parents were killed in accidents. As a result she was brought up by her American aunt. She is very well-educated in mathematics and codes and was about to begin a graduate degree at MIT. She travels to England to sell an inherited house and decides to stay. In the first book she ended up being one of Churchill’s secretaries. In this adventure she is training to become a MI-5 agent, but washes out because she can’t keep up with the physical demands. Instead she is assigned to become Princess Elizabeth’s maths tutor and undercover protector. This is a very well-written period mystery with a complicated and well-developed plot. -- JAC

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Preston, Douglas - Two Graves  (Fiction Preston) FBI special agent Pendergast discovers that his wife, presumed dead 12 years ago, is alive and in need of a rescue. -- SL

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Webb, Betty - The Llama of Death  (Fiction Webb) Local author Betty Webb is well-known for her Lena Jones mysteries based on the dark stories she covered as a reporter. The Gunn Zoo mystery series is totally different. Theodora Bentley is a zookeeper at the Gunn Zoo in California.  She is assigned to bring the zoo’s llama, Alejandro, to an area Renaissance Faire. When Teddy discovers the body of the Henry VIII impersonator in the llama’s enclosure, it seems that Alejandro may have stomped the king to death. Actually, he was killed by a crossbow. The incompetent acting sheriff is trying to railroad Teddy’s mother Caro for the crime. With her fiancé Sheriff Joe Rojas being out-of-touch at a Homeland Security training session, it is up to Teddy to find the murderer. This light-hearted series is especially good for its zoo insights. Not only llamas, but honey badgers, lemurs and Mojave rattlesnakes are introduced. -- JAC

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