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Library - Brown Bag Booktalk
Brown Bag Booktalk

Looking for something good to read? Why not join us 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 2 at 1:15 p.m. at the Velma Teague Branch Library. In the meantime, enjoy the booklist from the last booktalk! "JAC" are Judy's picks, "SCR" are Stephanie's picks, "HV" are Hannah's picks, "CJ" are Christine's picks, "SBB" are Sandy's picks, and "ON" are Olive's picks. Click on a book's title or cover image to find it in our library catalog.

For more information, please call 623-930-3446.

Brown Bag Booklist from February 7
If at birth you don't succeed : my adventures with disaster and destiny

Anner, Zach  If at Birth You Don’t Succeed (Nonfiction Biography 92 Anner, Zach) - Zach Anner is a comedian and YouTuber with cerebral palsy, dubbed by him to be “the sexiest of palsies.” This book chronicles his journey as an adult to find an audience for his brand of humor, whether it be on his local college TV network or on the internet, with stories from his childhood sprinkled throughout. While Anner himself hates to be labeled as a spokesperson for “anyone with a disability” or “anyone with cerebral palsy,” his book provides insight into what being “differently abled” means – in how one lives one’s life, in how one is perceived, in how one is treated, in how one feels. Anner’s story is a testament to perseverance and persistence as he’s had just as many setbacks as triumphs throughout his life so far. If learning about cerebral palsy or “disabilities” in general interests you, give this book a try!  - HV

Red rising

Brown, Pierce  Red Rising (Fiction Brown) – Red Rising is a science fiction, fantasy, dystopian tale that blends all of these elements together seamlessly. The world is divided by a caste system that is broken down by colors, Reds being the lowest and Golds being the highest. Darrow is a Red, mining valuable resources under harsh conditions just below the surface of Mars, striving for a future where people can live comfortably on the planet. His world shatters when he realizes that Mars was populated by humanity many generations ago and that Reds are no more than slaves to the ruling class. Darrow then seeks justice for Reds by infiltrating the Institute, where the next generations of Golds are trained. If you enjoy justice, strong characters, and cunning, with unexpected plot twists and turns, then this is a good book for you. - NM

The dream daughter

Chamberlain, Diane  The Dream Daughter (Fiction Chamberlain) - What would you do if you learned your unborn baby has a fatal heart defect?  Caroline Sears has just lost her husband in the Vietnam War and now faces the loss of her only child.  Then her brother-in-law tells her that he has time-traveled back from 2001, when physicians have the capability of surgically repairing the defect in utero.   Despite the fact that time-travel is complicated, Caroline takes the opportunity to help the baby. Unfortunately, complications from the surgery prevent them from returning as scheduled. SCR

Next year in Havana

Cleeton, Chanel  Next Year in Havana (Fiction Cleeton) - The Perez family lived in Cuba when Batista was in power.  Batista, once seen as a progressive leader, became a corrupt dictator.  At this time, Emilio, a sugar baron, his wife, and their 5 children lived in a prosperous Havana neighborhood. The family led a privileged life, complete with the best private tutors and couture clothing. They were oblivious to the fact that the majority of Cubans at this time were illiterate, had no running water or electricity, and no public schools.  As the Perez children mature, Castro begins to exert influence, sparking riots all around Havana. Elisa, now 19, falls for a rebel named Pablo.  Just as the Batista regime falls, the family flees to Miami.  Years later, Elisa’s granddaughter revisits Cuba to discover what happened to her family.  – SCR

Becoming Mrs. Lewis : a novel : the improbable love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis

Henry, Patti Callahan  Becoming Mrs. Lewis  (Fiction Henry) – This beautiful historical novel by Patti Callahan tells us about the love story between Jay Davidman and C. S. Lewis. Most of us know Lewis as the author of the Chronicles of Narnia. Joy Davidman was also a writer and poet, unhappily married with two sons. She was an American and wrote numerous letters to the British Oxford Professor Lewis. Somehow their minds came together through the lengthy correspondence, and when Davidman visits England in an effort to make more money and escape her abusive husband, they finally meet and the confirmed bachelor slowly and gradually falls in love with the American. A DVD called C. S. Lewis through the Shadowlands is also an enjoyable dramatization of their story. – JAC

Infinite wonder : an astronaut's photographs from a year in space

Kelly, Scott  Infinite Wonder: An Astronaut’s Photographs from a Year in Space (Nonfiction 779.9523 K298i) – Astronaut Scott Kelly is an amateur photographer, as well as being a scientist, engineer, and pilot. He is also the author of the best-selling book called Endurance about his life in space. This gorgeous book features his breathtaking photos taken mostly during his year spent in space aboard the International Space Station. He calls photography his hobby, but these stunning photos show that he has a unique photographer’s eye. The first section, called The Mission, is primarily photos of the astronauts and their home on the ISS. The next section is called The Natural World and features pictures of our planet from space. The last section is called Earth Art and includes awe-inspiring photos showing how the beautiful colors of earth make spectacular art. Kelly is the identical twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Gabby Giffords. Both men have written other books, including books for children. - JAC

Last days of summer : a novel

Kluger, Steve  Last Days of Summer (Fiction Kluger 2008) - Last Days of Summer is written in a unique writing style with letters, newspaper clippings, telegrams, et cetera, and is just filled with breathtaking character development. In Brooklyn in the early 1940s, just before Pearl Harbor, Joey Margolis, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, seeks a father figure in Charlie Banks, a third baseman for the New York Giants. Charlie Banks, on the other hand, is not as enthusiastic about the attention from this persistent fan. This story combines humor and emotions to build an amazing friendship throughout the pages. Even more importantly, you do not have to know anything about baseball to fall in love with this story. – NM

Rosemary : the hidden Kennedy daughter

Larson, Kate Clifford  Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (Nonfiction Biography 92 Kennedy, Rosemary) - In 1918, Rose Kennedy was determined to give birth at home like she had done with her first three children.  Unfortunately, when she gave birth to daughter Rosemary, a nurse’s poor judgement caused brain damage to the baby.  Though her parents made every attempt to use their ample resources to make up for her deficits by enhancing her education, Rosemary never advanced past a fourth-grade level.   When she entered her teen years, Rosemary became frustrated and tantrum-prone. The Kennedy’s were at a loss at a time when the family must appear perfect. When Rosemary reached her 20s, Joe researched lobotomies as a cure.  Without Rose’s consent, he authorized the doctor to perform the surgery.  Unfortunately, the surgery went awry and Rosemary lost her ability to converse and walk.  She was sent away and virtually disappeared from the family.  It was not until some 30 years later than Rose acknowledged what had happened.  SCR

The Kennedy debutante

Maher, Kerri  The Kennedy Debutante (Fiction Maher) - This fictionalized account of Kathleen Kennedy, AKA Kick Kennedy, begins as her father, Joe, has been appointed as the first Irish Catholic Ambassador to the United Kingdom.   Joe makes sure that Kick, her sister Rosemary, and mother are presented before the King and Queen of England. In fact, Kick’s popularity survives her father’s awkward stance on Hitler. During the season, she falls in love with Billy Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington.  He is the heir to the Duke of Devonshire, but he is Protestant.  Knowing her parents will not approve of marriage, Kick goes back home as the war escalates.  Returning to London as a Red Cross volunteer, the two reunite and marry.  Unfortunately, Billy gets shot by a sniper a mere 4 months later.  Kick returns home briefly but ultimately moves back to Devonshire to be with Billy’s family.  After the war, she becomes involved with a married man, further alienating her family. – SCR

My ex-life

McCauley, Stephen  My Ex-Life (Fiction McCauley) - Veteran novelist Stephen McCauley spins both an outrageous and believable story in his newest book:  My Ex-Life. Quintagenarian David’s younger lover Soren has just left him for a more attractive, more successful man, sending him into a depressive spiral of self-doubt and loathing. Whilst trying to rebuild his life as a singleton, he begins to reflect on his youthful, regrettable marriage to Julie Fiske. Though they were ultimately incompatible, due to his belated admittance of being gay, David has mostly fond memories of their life together. Julie, meanwhile, is going through a divorce, trying to break into the Airbnb business, and facing the possibility of losing her home to her greedy soon-to-be ex-husband, all while trying to adequately nurture her 17-year-old daughter and ensure her road to college. In desperation, Julie reaches out to David for support, so he flies to her aid to perhaps repair some of what went wrong between them and find a new place to call home. A bittersweet, yet funny, slice-of-life story with a satisfactory ending. HV

Sold on a Monday : a novel

McMorris, Kristina  Sold on a Monday (Fiction McMorris) – This novel was inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned America. McMorris takes this as the point of departure for a novel that begins with a sign, “2 children for sale.” What could possibly drive a parent to make such an offer? Struggling reporter/photographer Ellis Reed takes a poignant photo of two children sitting under the sign. He never meant for the photo to be printed, but a series of coincidences results in its nationwide distribution. Another employee at the paper, Lillian Palmer, also had a role in the inadvertent publication. The results of the photo have far-reaching effects, as the children are adopted by an unscrupulous rich family. Ellis and Lillian find the real mother, who had been ill, and try to track down the kids in order to reunite the family. In the process they must come to grips with problems in their own families. - JAC

The night circus

Morgenstern, Erin  The Night Circus  (Fiction Morgenstern) – This is a dazzling, magical story filled with poetic writing and extraordinary descriptions. The Night Circus revolves around Le Cirque des Rêves, a unique, magical circus that arrives and disappears without warning and is only open for one night before it moves again. In the background, there is a competition going on between two rival magicians’ apprentices, Celia and Marco, who have been pitted against each other since childhood. What they do not realize is that the game ends when only one is left standing. Filled with magic, imagination, and love, this story will keep you turning the pages all the way to the end. – NM

The lonesome bodybuilder : stories

Motoya, Yukiko  The Lonesome Bodybuilder: Stories (Fiction Motoya) – A strange but intriguing collection of short stories by veteran novelist and playwright Yukiko Motoya. This particular book is winner of the Akutagawa Prize and the Kenzaburo Oe Prize, and a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice. Each of the stories within this compilation contain small impossibilities, treated as the normal – such as a woman who takes up bodybuilding while her husband notices her changing physique not at all, or the woman who believes she is slowly changing to look and become like her husband while the outside world cares very little. The main characters of each story usually embody dissatisfaction or are presented as unharmonious with their surroundings in some way, with the stories providing a glimpse into their lives for a short amount of time. These are stories that are veritably about the journey, and not the destination or conclusion, as they usually end on a discordant note or abruptly without a typical resolution, despite the fact that the characters themselves are written as needing such resolution. An odd presentation of vignettes, but still interesting if you’re looking for something different. - HV

The gown : a novel of the royal wedding

Robson, Jennifer  The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding (Fiction Robson) - Ann Hughes is just 14 years old when she begins her apprenticeship embroidering at Norman Hartnell’s design workroom in London.  In 1947, Miriam Dassin, a French émigré, joins the team of women who put Hartnell’s intricate designs onto the sumptuous fabrics.  The two women become close friends.  When Hartnell is awarded the honor of making Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown, the team must come together to keep their work on time and secretive. Years later, Ann’s American granddaughter discovers a piece of the embroidery, leading her back to London’s finest museums to see just who her grandmother was.   Full of fine detail, this book is for fans of The Crown and Victoria. – SCR

The collector's apprentice : a novel

Shapiro, B. A. The Collector’s Apprentice  (Fiction Shapiro) – Shapiro has written several enjoyable novels about art: The Muralist, The Art Forger and now The Collector’s Apprentice. The story begins in Paris in 1922 when nineteen-year-old Belgian Paulien Mertens finds herself with no money, no friends and totally disowned by her friends and family who believe she helped her fiancé steal millions in a sophisticated con game. She creates a new identify as Vivienne Gregsby and sets out to recover her father’s beloved art collection. She wants to prove her innocence and wants to exact revenge on the former fiancé. Eccentric American art collector Edwin Bradley offers Vivienne the perfect job as his assistant in securing works by post-Impressionist painters. She becomes an intimate of Gertrude Stein and Paul Gauguin, among others, during her job and her quests. The action shifts between Paris and Philadelphia. - JAC

The hate u give

Thomas, Angie  The Hate U Give (Teen Fiction Thomas) – The Hate U Give is a powerful, impactful story, depicting important issues of today. The main conversation revolves around police brutality. The reader is in Starr Carter’s place as she witnesses her childhood best friend, Khalil, be shot and killed by a police officer. The novel takes the reader through a number of perspectives and brings up heavy discussions of the actions, consequences, and impact that all of this, including the trial, have on the community. Angie Thomas subtly weaves important issues into the story while educating the reader, but without being biased or making generalizations. A definite recommendation to anyone who is looking for an important, thought-provoking novel to read. - NM

Also Recommended
Death in Brittany

Bannalec, Jean-Luc  Death in Brittany (Fiction Bannalec) – This is the first book in a new series (to me) being published in America after being a huge international success. Jean-Luc Bannalec is a pseudonymous author who divides his time between Germany and coastal Brittany in France. Originally published in German, the series has since been translated and sold in thirteen countries worldwide. The mystery might remind you of the Commissario Guido Brunetti series of Venetian mysteries by Donna Leon. This series takes place in Brittany, and the country itself becomes a character in the novels. The gorgeous descriptions of the coast make me want to travel to Brittany. This first book in the series introduces Commissaire Dupin, who has been transferred from Paris to the remote Breton coast. He is a serious caffeine addict and is not very comfortable with technology such as cell phones and helicopters. Happily, he has a very able administrative assistant who protects him from his superiors and communicates with his two assistant detectives as well. Dupin is unique, but fortunately has an innate instinct enabling him to get to the bottom of the crime. - JAC

Forever and a day

Fleming, Ian [written by Horowitz, Anthony]  Forever and a Day (Fiction Fleming) – I always enjoyed the James Bond thriller mysteries by Ian Fleming. My Dad and I read every book as it came out and occasionally saw some of the earlier movies. Forever and a Day tells us the backstory of how James Bond earned his License to Kill and becomes 007. Anthony Horowitz is a renowned author of many mysteries and is equally well-known as a scriptwriter for television. His best-known mystery to date is the Magpie Murders and his scripts include the Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War. This Bond novel includes the usual hijinks, romance and fast-paced action and is a welcome addition to the Bond series. The novel includes some original material by Ian Fleming. - JAC

The Dutch wife

Keith, Ellen  The Dutch Wife (Fiction Keith) – This debut novel is by a Canadian writer and graduate of the University of British Columbia’s MFA program in creative writing. This is the story of what it took to survive the Holocaust of World War II. In May of 1943, Marijke de Graaf and her husband are arrested in Amsterdam and sent to different concentration camps in Germany. Marijke is given a terrible choice; she can endure the slow death of the labor camp or she can, perhaps, survive in the camp brothel. She has no idea where her husband is or what his fate might be, but chooses to do whatever it takes to survive, so that she might reunite with her husband and have a family once the nightmare is over. Against all odds both she and her husband, Theo, do survive and life goes on despite the awful experience.  Another character is SS officer Karl Muller who arrives at the camp where he encounters Marijke and falls in love (or is it lust). It is unknown what his ultimate fate was. The third character of note is Luciano Wagner who lives in Buenos Aires in 1977. He too ends up in a forced labor camp during the Dirty War of Argentina. What is good and what evil, what can be forgiven and what is unforgiveable? – JAC

In dog we trust

Kendrick, Beth  In Dog We Trust  (Fiction Kendrick) – This light-hearted romance features dogs, so how could I resist reading it? Jocelyn Hillier works in the tourist industry in her hometown in Black Dog Bay. She also walks dogs for some of the rich tourists who have built mansions far beyond the means of the year-round residents. When her client Mr. Allardyce dies, he names her as the legal guardian for his pedigreed Labrador retrievers. She has full control of the home and fortune of the late millionaire. Of course, five dogs are a lot to take care of every day and things are complicated by Allardyce’s son who, of course, contests the will. Although additional problems are caused by the professional trainer who is in charge of getting championships for the dogs, everything works out well in the end. – JAC

A Christmas secret

Spencer, Katherine  A Christmas Secret  (Fiction Spencer) – Usually I try to briefly review new Christmas books during our November meeting. This year we didn’t get them early enough for me to review. Of the batch, I would like to single out A Christmas Secret by Katherine Spencer. The novel is part of the Cape Light series of the late Thomas Kinkade. Martin Nightingale has returned to Cape Light at Christmas in order to fill the unusual terms of his grandfather’s will. He must spread joy throughout the town with anonymous gifts. Martin is a very shy man, but a chance meeting with a police officer, Louisa Tulley, helps him with the task. Give the series a try if you want a feel-good story. Spencer also writes cozy mysteries under her real name, Anne Canadeo. We will be reading the first book in her Black Sheep Knitting Mystery series on Thursday, February 14th. - JAC

Brown Bag Booklist from November 1
Just in time

Bostwick, Marie  Just in Time (Fiction Bostwick) – I have read and recommended a number of novels by Marie Bostwick – especially from the Cobbled Court Quilts series. This story is about three women who describe themselves as grief support dropouts. They bond together in their own group. Grace married the love of her life fifteen years ago, but for the past two years he has been in an irreversible coma. She faithfully visits him several times a week and is working on a quilt made from scraps of their life together. Nan has been a widow for twenty years but now that her children and foster children are all grown, she is looking for a new fulfillment beyond the love for her golden retriever, Blixen, and a series of rescue dogs. Monica is described as feisty, and she has had to be since the sudden death of her husband combined with the revelation of his infidelity. She works very hard at the restaurant she owns and tries to be a good parent to her two difficult teenage stepchildren. As always, Bostwick creates characters with real depth and you will enjoy watching them blossom into new, joyful lives. – JAC

Careful! : a user's guide to our injury-prone minds

Casner, Steve  Careful: A User's Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds (Nonfiction 613.6 C339) – The author is a pilot and research psychologist who studies the accident-prone mind and the psychology of safety. Using examples of disasters and near-disasters from the airline industry, he covers topics including driving, being a pedestrian, climbing ladders and using tools while working around the house, following medical advice, watching kids and getting older. This is an excellent manual, written in a no-nonsense way to sharpen our senses and cultivate general and specific awareness of our own safety. – SBB

The stolen marriage

Chamberlain, Diane  The Stolen Marriage (Fiction Chamberlain) – In  1944, 23-year-old Tess is almost finished with nursing school and is soon to be engaged to a doctor devoted to fighting polio.  But during his frequent absences to Chicago, she goes to Baltimore with a friend, drinking too much and ending up in the bed of a stranger.  When she finds herself pregnant, Tess breaks off the engagement and marries the child’s father, Henry Kraft.  Kraft lives in Hickory, North Carolina and heads up a furniture company.  But the marriage is not one of love; Henry spends much of his time away from home, leaving her alone with a hostile mother and sister-in-law.  She is an outsider in a very insular southern town.  After Tess miscarries the baby, Henry refuses to grant her a divorce.  Feeling trapped, she does go against Henry’s wishes and finishes her nursing degree.  When polio begins its frightful local debut, she digs deep into fighting the disease at the local hospital where she again meets her old fiancé. –SCR

The masterpiece : a novel

Davis, Fiona  The Masterpiece (Fiction Davis) – Clara Darden is a talented but unknown illustrator in 1920s Manhattan.  Unable to find a steady job, she signs up to teach at the Grand Central School of Art.  At the school, she is kind of a low man on the totem pole until she meets poet Oliver Smith, who advances her career in commercial illustrations.  She also meets Levon Zakarian, a revered artist at the school, who stretches her talents to new heights.  Unfortunately, the Depression brings the school to financial ruin. Years later, Virginia Clay has to find a job because her husband has deserted her.  After an employment opportunity opens up at the now dingy Grand Central Station, Virginia uses her time to learn more about the landmark.  She also finds the time to explore the deserted art school where she comes across some of Zakarian’s paintings.  When she decides to take one for her apartment, she becomes part of a dangerous game. –SCR

The Romanov empress : a novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna

Gortner, C. W.  The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna (Fiction Gortner) – Danish Princess Dagmar, known to her family as “Minnie,” led a modest life until her father became King Christian IX of Denmark.  At that point, it became imperative for his children to marry royal allies.  Her sister, Alix, marries Queen Victoria’s son Bertie.  Dagmar becomes betrothed to the Russian Czarevich Nicholas in a real love match, but before the marriage, he becomes ill and dies.  Before his death, he exacts promises from Minnie to marry his brother, Sasha.  Though she does not love him, she understands her duties and marries him, assuming the name of Tsarita Maria Feodorovna. Russia is reeling from unrest.  Nihilists see the huge difference between how they and the royalty live, and begin staging violent protests.  Tsar Alexander II begins to make reforms, but these are cut short when he is assassinated.  Minnie begins to work with the Red Cross and is shocked to see how the other half lives. Minnie’s husband assumes the crown as Tsar Alexander III, but he believes in a strong monarchy and ends his father’s efforts.  Minnie does what she can to relate to the people, but cannot change her husband. When he passes away, his son, Tsar Nicholas II, takes over and marries an unsuitable German princess, Alexandra of Hesse.  She has none of the natural relatability that Minnie possessed as Queen and after she gives birth to her hemophiliac son, Alexi, she turns all loyalty over to Rasputin.  He is allowed to have so much influence that the entire kingdom is overthrown and many of the family are murdered. – SCR

A mother for Choco

Kasza, Keiko  A Mother for Choco (Picture Book Kasza) – This is a picture book, but as November is National Adoption Month, I thought this would be a fitting book to highlight. Simply, Choco is a little bird without a mother, so he sets off to find another animal who is similar to him in some way that he can call his mother. A very sweet story that is perfect for preschoolers and upwards. The art is brightly colored watercolor paint and adorably eye-catching; this is great for any family to read, not just one with adopted members. – HV

If you leave me : a novel

Kim, Crystal Hana  If You Leave Me (Fiction Kim) – Part of the attraction for me in this novel is the location. The story takes place in Korea during the Korean War. This is a time, place and culture that I know little about. In 1951 Haemi Lee is sixteen years old. She and her widowed mother and her very ill brother Hyunki are forced to run to a refugee camp on the Korean coast. Her best friend is Kyunghwan, who is secretly in love with her. He doesn’t realize that his older and wealthier cousin Jisoo is also attracted to the spirited young Haemi. The two young men go off to fight in the war and Haemi chooses the safer option of marriage to Jisoo and his wealth. Over the next twenty years we watch the evolving story of the larger family and their relationships. If you read the book, I suggest you start with a list of characters, as it is often difficult for westerners to keep track of names so unfamiliar. Each of the chapters is told from a different point of view, which aids in the author’s superb characterization. This is a debut novel and is beautifully written. – JAC

The Paris seamstress

Lester, Natasha  The Paris Seamstress (Fiction Lester) – These interconnected stories about several French women received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.  Beginning in 1941, seamstress Estelle Bissette is sent from Paris by her mother as the war hits closer to her home.  On the trip over from France, she meets Sam, a man with a strong interest in design, and Janie, a beautiful Australian model.  As Estelle attempts to break into the New York fashion industry with her cohorts, she meets Lena Shaw, who is the mirror image of herself; Alex Montrose, a British spy who has resurfaced in NYC; and the notorious Harry Shaw, who shot Evelyn Nesbitt’s husband in cold blood. Years later, Estelle’s granddaughter, Fabienne, has met the love of her life while struggling to find her own identity amongst the fashion industry.  For readers who enjoyed The Lilac Girls and The Nightingale. – SCR

The bookshop of yesterdays

Meyerson, Amy  The Bookshop of Yesterdays (Fiction Meyerson) – Books, libraries and bookstores are always an intriguing hook for me to pick up a novel. Miranda Brooks grows up in Los Angeles as an only child, but she has Uncle Billy in addition to her parents. Billy is the “fun” relative and Miranda loves spending time with him at his bookstore (known as Prospero Books) – especially when he invents puzzles and scavenger hunts to enliven their time together. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Uncle Billy has a huge argument with his sister (Miranda’s mother) and he disappears from Miranda’s life. She never hears from him again until sixteen years later. At this point Billy has just passed away and he leaves Miranda his beloved bookstore, which is nearly bankrupt. He also leaves her one last scavenger hunt. The clues in various books lead Miranda on a voyage of discovery as she meets many of his friends, employees and the answer as to why he disappeared. This is an intriguing novel by another first-time author. – JAC

The Late Bloomers' Club : a novel

Miller, Louise  The Late Bloomers’ Club (Fiction Miller) – Miller is also the author of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. As with that previous book, the story takes place in small-town Guthrie, Vermont. This time the main character is Nora Huckleberry, who is now 42 years old and spent her entire life taking care of others. She runs the Miss Guthrie Diner, which was her father’s dream, not hers. Suddenly it seems that she may have some choices for her future, when she and her younger sister unexpectedly inherit the home, land and orchard of the town’s beloved town cake lady, Peggy Johnson.  Peggy had been in negotiations with a big-box developer to sell the land before a tragic accident ended her life. Nora could take the money (as her sister, the filmmaker, wants to) or try to find a way to save the town’s current way of life (as many other townspeople demand). While trying to make up her mind, Nora continues to run the diner and spends any spare time looking for Freckles, Peggy Johnson’s dog who went missing. I love Miller’s descriptions and her character development. As one reviewer said, the gradual unfolding of the story is perfect for this small-town drama. – JAC

Weather : an illustrated history : from cloud atlases to climate change

Revkin, Andrew with Mechaley, Lisa  Weather: An Illustrated History: From Cloud Atlases to Climate Change (Nonfiction 551.5 R454w) – Revkin is an award-winning environmental journalist and his wife, Mechaley, is a science educator. I would never have thought of describing weather and climate in an historical time-line, but this approach really works. There are one hundred different topical vignettes, from 4.567 Billion BCE when “Earth Gets an Atmosphere” to 102018 CE “An End to Ice Age.” In between we read about the contributions of Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin and Snowflake Bentley. We travel from Tibet to North Africa, China, London, the Arctic, China and Russia. Each narrative is paired with beautiful illustrations. For those wanting to explore any topic more fully, there is a chapter reference giving more information for further reading. You can dip into this book at will or read it from cover to cover but you will certainly learn something. – JAC

Shelter in place

Roberts, Nora  Shelter in Place (Fiction Roberts) – Nora Roberts has written hundreds of novels, romances and mysteries. In this thriller she looks at the stories of survivors of an unspeakable act of violence.  In our society we hear far too often of school shootings, theater massacres, arson explosions and more acts of unprovoked, incomprehensible, and random carnage. This novel begins on a typical summer evening at a mall near Portland, Maine. Three friends wait for a movie to begin, a boy flirts with a girl selling sunglasses at a kiosk, the manager at the video arcade tends to customers. Then the shooters arrive and eight minutes later the killers are taken down. Of the survivors, one dedicates himself to a law enforcement career, while another finds a way to pour the emotions into her art. Some people obsessively devour the details of the tragedy, while others avoid anything that might trigger a flashback. The survivors’ lives continue to play out and intertwine in surprising ways. This is not an easy novel to read, but we all know what a superb storyteller Roberts is. – JAC

Tiffany blues : a novel

Rose, M. J.  Tiffany Blues (Fiction Rose) – Many of us read Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland. If you enjoy such historical novels about art, here is another story to entice you. In 1924 Jenny Bell is one of a dozen new artists selected to study at Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony, Laurelton Hall, on Long Island’s Gold Coast. While Jenny is an amazing talent, she is deeply afraid that her tragic past has followed her. That past is so traumatic that she sketches and paints only in monochrome black and white. Tiffany encourages her to open up her palette to the color of the beautiful surroundings seen on his estate. Rose’s descriptions of the estate, sculptures, fountains and jewelry will leave readers wishing they could see the originals. Alas, Laurelton is no more as it burned down in 1957, although some of the art is still viewable in various museums. Meanwhile this is a beautiful portrait of the dazzling Jazz Age seen through the eyes of fictional character Jenny Bell. – JAC

Beneath a scarlet sky : a novel

Sullivan, Mark  Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Fiction Sullivan) – This novel is based upon the true story of Pino Lella, who was sent by his family to Casa Alpina, a Catholic boy’s camp in the Alps, to get away from the bombing of industrial Milan, Italy in 1943.  Because he is young and fit, Father Re assigns Pino with the job of leading refugees over the mountains to Switzerland.  Risking his life with the possibility of being captured, he successfully led the novices through severe weather to safety. But after Pino reaches conscription age, he is forced to return to Milan.  His family wants him to enlist with the German engineering wing called the Organization Todt, rather than waiting to be drafted into their infantry.  Against his inclinations, Pino does as instructed, ending up as a driver to Colonel Leyers.  Leyers, whose forte is logistics, arranges for equipment to get to where it is needed.  Though Pino isn’t happy with the situation, he begins to use his position to feed information to the Allies. –SCR

The thief

Turner, Megan Whalen  The Thief (Youth Fiction Turner) – This book is technically for “youth” but is another great series to read along with a younger relative or friend. The fifth book in this series was just published this year (2018), and the finale is slated to come out next spring (2019). The Thief is the first one in the Queen’s Thief series, which focuses on “the thief” Eugenides (Gen to his friends) and his various escapades in the fictional lands of Eddis, Sounis and Attolia. While Gen himself is witty and crafty, the series has a serious undertone, and the characters themselves suffer many trials, tribulations and some violence. The details of such violence aren’t relished in gory descriptions by the author, but it is made clear what is happening to the characters, so if you recommend this book to a younger reader, be aware that there are some scenes which may be considered frightening or negatively evocative. This first book in the series is definitely the lightest in tone and is perfectly fine as a standalone read, however, for a young reader. The author spins many myths about the lands in her story - very reminiscent of Greek or Roman myths, so this series will most likely appeal to those who enjoy that genre (à la Percy Jackson and the Olympians). The author takes great care in developing her characters into distinct, human – though not always likeable - people while adding a few twists to the story by the climax. The adventures always begin and end with Gen, one of the greatest thieves to grace fiction. – HV

The last hours

Walters, Minette  The Last Hours (Fiction Walters) – Raised by nuns, the literate and knowledgeable Lady Anne of Develish is her own woman. This is unheard of in 1348, the time of the Black Death. As mistress of Develish, she hears of this Black Death (a curse from God?) while her husband is away from the castle. She decides to do more than pray; she closes the castle, brings her serfs inside the walls and refuses entry to all, even her husband. Her daughter becomes her enemy, as does her husband’s steward. Lady Anne’s ingenuity is tested again and again as outside enemies seek to gain entrance and her serfs stand by her to the very last sentence. – SBB

Meet me at the museum

Youngson, Anne  Meet Me at the Museum (Fiction Youngson) – This is a new book this year (2018) by first-time novelist Anne Youngson. The premise of the novel is predicated on a real letter written by a Professor Glob (an archaeologist) in the 1950s to a group of young schoolgirls. He was responsible for discovering the Tollund Man (a 2,000-year-old preserved male buried in a peat bog) in Denmark and later wrote a book called The Bog People; a group of young English schoolgirls wrote to him asking for more information, and he wrote them a response which was published in his book. The female protagonist of this novel is a fictional version of one of the schoolgirls addressed in Professor Glob’s letter, now a grown adult in modern times. Tina, now with grown children and young grandchildren, feels that life has perhaps passed her by, and her lifelong dream of visiting the Tollund Man in Denmark is a foolish pursuit. In her sadness, she reaches out to the archaeologist who so inspired her as a child and writes a tentative letter to him in hopes of receiving some sort of affirmation. The reply is not at all what she expects but is the beginning of a burgeoning friendship with the curator at the museum where the Tollund Man resides. Through their letters, the reader learns more and more about Tina and the curator as they slowly open up to one another; their opposite personalities force them to reevaluate their perceptions and lives, renewing feelings and emotions they thought they had outgrown. A sweet and rather sad book, but oddly compelling. – HV

Brown Bag Booklist from August 2
Modern romance

Ansari, Aziz  Modern Romance  (Nonfiction 646.77 A617m) – This is an interesting look at how technology has affected “modern romance” in America and other countries around the world; some of the statistics and opinions about dating and in-person interaction have become rather alarming! Comedian Aziz Ansari teamed up with a sociologist (Klinenberg) to methodically research dating and relationships in our technology-filled world. Ansari focuses on heterosexual relationships, looking at statistics spanning the last century. In addition to numbers, he conducted many in-person interviews with people of all ages to gain perspective about courtship and marriage. While certainly not a comprehensive study, the trends and opinions uncovered by the author were unexpected and aren’t necessarily uplifting. Finally, although this is a topical subject matter, the caveat is that the writing is not anything special. Also, given that the author is a modern comedian, he does use profanity throughout the book - not in excess, but if that is not something you like to see in the books you read, FYI. - HV

Lighting the fires of freedom : African American women in the civil rights movement

Bell, Janet Dewart  Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement  (Nonfiction 323.092 B433l) – If you have any interest in black history or women’s history, this book is a must-read. Bell tells the story of nine African American leaders during the Civil Rights movement. Their stories are told in their own words – this is an oral history memoir. I have to admit I had never heard of most of them, but their stories are just as important as their African American male colleagues. Bell does a tremendous job of editing the interviews so that they are very readable, as well as informative. Each story is preceded by Bell’s summary of the work of Leah Chase, Dr. June Jackson Christmas, Aileen Hernandez, Diane Nash, Judy Richardson, Kathleen Cleaver, Gay McDougall, Gloria Richardson and Myrlie Evers. The book was published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. – JAC

The lost for words bookshop : a novel

Butland, Stephanie  The Lost for Words Bookshop  (Fiction Butland) – I cannot resist books about books. That is what drew me to this title, but I enjoyed it for many reasons. The main character is young Loveday (pronounced Love-dee) Cardew. She works in a used bookstore in York, England, and really prefers the books to people. She has a prickly personality, but you will enjoy finding out more about her and her past. Butland skillfully tells Loveday’s story by focusing on three different time periods. We have her time with her families (both birth and foster) in 1999, the recent past with an abusive boyfriend in 2013, and, finally, the present day in 2016, as she gradually begins to connect with a sympathetic poet. The bookstore itself is owned by Archie, who is content to let Loveday work behind the scenes and organize the books in her own somewhat unconventional way. The mystery of her past is partly revealed through some unsolicited used books donated to the store. There is a collection of Penguin Classics, Delia’s Complete Cookery Course, and some Kate Greenaway titles. Loveday likes to collect things: seashells, poetry, and tattoos of the first lines of her favorite books (she has nine so far). So, at the very least we have books, mystery, and romance. If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, give this one a try. – JAC

Return to Oakpine

Carlson, Ron  Return to Oakpine  (Fiction Carlson) – Jimmy has returned home from the city of New York to die. Craig owns the only hardware store in town and yearns to be a builder. Mason, a lawyer from Denver, has come home to sell his deceased parents’ home. Frank never left; he owns the local bar with a craft beer set up in back. The four men had a rock band in high school and gradually decide to reform and relearn the only piece they ever learned to play. Parents, wives, ex-wives and girlfriends from high school days are part of the lives of these four men as they attend present day high school football games to watch Craig’s fantastic son Larry and his high school friends … who become part of the story of Jimmy. A very nice book! – SBB

Murder at the house of rooster happinessThe missing guests of the Magic Grove hotelCasarett, David  Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness  and The Missing Guests of the Magic Grove Hotel  (Fiction Casarett) – This new mystery series will be a real hit with fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Casarett is a medical doctor who is a recognized expert on improving systems of care for people with serious, life-threatening illnesses. He has traveled to Thailand frequently over the past ten years as a medical consultant. The charming and eccentric main character in these books is Ladarat Patalung, who is a nurse ethicist at the most important hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand. She has no desire to be a detective, but she must investigate mysterious deaths related to her hospital, especially when her friend Detective Wiriya Mookjai asks for her help. In the first book, a young woman brought her husband into the hospital just after he died. A hospital employee remembers seeing the same woman bringing in a recently deceased husband to a different hospital just a few months ago, but it was a different husband. In the second novel, wealthy foreign travelers go missing. All they have in common is that they stayed at a mysterious resort known as the Magic Grove Hotel and may have been briefly admitted to Ladarat’s hospital. You will enjoy the descriptions of Thai culture, food and a nearly unique attitude toward life and death, in addition to the mysteries. – JAC

The home for unwanted girls : a novel

Goodman, Joanna  The Home for Unwanted Girls  (Fiction Goodman) – Outside Montreal, Maggie works for her father sorting and packaging seeds. She dreams of the day when she can work on the sales floor and eventually inherit the operation from her Dad.  But when Maggie is fifteen, she falls in love with a handsome but poor French farmer, Gabriel. Her parents do not approve of the relationship, so Maggie is sent away to live with an aunt and uncle.  Despite the distance, Maggie continues to see Gabriel and then gets pregnant. After the baby girl is born, Maggie’s folks have the child taken away to a local Catholic orphanage.  Life goes on for Maggie and Gabriel, who go their separate ways. Their baby girl, Elodie, lives contentedly among the nuns and other children until she is around four years old. Then the church reclassifies all orphanages as insane asylums in order to draw more government funding. Elodie is transferred to another facility without the benefits of education and her little friends.  Maggie has never forgotten her child, and worries when she sees the headlines in the local papers.  Even though she has married, Maggie increases her efforts to find her daughter.  This story was inspired by a similar situation experienced by the author’s own mother. For those who were intrigued by the books Philomena and/or The Orphan Train. – SCR

Uncommon type : some stories

Hanks, Tom  Uncommon Type; Some Stories  (Fiction Hanks) – These seventeen stories feature typewriters in some way. In A Special Weekend, Kenny visits his mother for the weekend all by himself and we learn that he lives with his father and stepmother and step-siblings. Kenny types a note on his mother’s office typewriter while waiting for lunch and activities. The mother’s boyfriend flies Kenny back home as a special surprise. Three Exhausting Weeks features two friends who hook up for a short time. Anna multitasks and the narrator is a well-off, laid-back realtor who suddenly has to buy running gear and get ready for scuba diving lessons while she rearranges his kitchen and mows the lawn. Tom Hanks writes as well as he acts. – SBB

The library at the edge of the world : a novel

Hayes-McCoy, Felicity  The Library at the Edge of the World  (Fiction Hayes-McCoy) — In my opinion, there can never be too many books about books and libraries. Hayes-McCoy has been an actress and writer. She has written a couple memoirs and is now branching out to fiction. Hanna Casey is a librarian and former researcher who is finding a way to rebuild her life. She is divorced and living with her irascible mother. Meanwhile, her daughter is working for an airline and is seldom around. One of the few joys in Hanna’s life is driving a bookmobile between villages on the western coast of Ireland. Another possible way to reclaim her independence is to restore a derelict cottage willed to her by her great-aunt. Descriptions of the country and the local characters are very appealing, combined with Hayes-McCoy’s wit and charm. Fans of Jenny Colgan or Maeve Binchy should enjoy this book. Thank you to Olive for bringing this charming story to my attention. – JAC/ON

A good year

Mayle, Peter  A Good Year  (Fiction Mayle) – Max Skinner is a twenty-something financial advisor in London.  Life is pretty good for him until he is booted out of his job by his unethical boss.  Luckily, at the same time he loses his livelihood, he discovers that he has inherited an estate and vineyard in Luberon, France.  Max and his friend Charlie see this as a new financial opportunity. But once Max arrives, he discovers that the 200-year-old estate is sadly run-down; the stones are in need of new mortar, the shutters are falling off, the doors are desperate for new varnish, and the yard is totally overgrown with weeds.  The inside of the home is also in decrepit shape.  Most importantly, the grapevines have been neglected and produce dreadful wine. Fortunately, both Charlie and Mayle come to Max’s rescue and guide him through the fun of bringing the estate and the vineyards back up to par. – SCR

Beauty : a retelling of the story of Beauty & the beast

McKinley, Robin  Beauty  (Youth Fiction McKinley) – This is a novel-length retelling of Beauty  and the Beast. I personally adore retellings of fairy tales, and McKinley has written quite a few which I enjoy. Beauty focuses on the development of “Beauty’s” personality and her relationships with her family members, the “magical” beings in the castle and the Beast himself. Each character is given a more well-rounded history than the typical children’s rendition of the tale, and it is a pleasure to see “Beauty” exist in a loving, warm family instead of having shrewish siblings with no other purpose than to illustrate how good “Beauty” is by comparison. This version also dispenses with a “Gaston”-like villain, but retains all of the enchantment and romance demonstrated in the Disney version. This offers no surprising twists or deviations from the original and may be frivolous to some, but if you enjoy fairy tales, McKinley has an engaging writing style and provides sympathetic protagonists. Overall, this is a light, enjoyable story, which is great to read with a daughter/granddaughter/niece if you are an adult. – HV

Dear Mrs. Bird : a novel

Pearce, AJ  Dear Mrs. Bird  (Fiction Pearce) – Emmaline Lake works by day for a solicitor and at night as a volunteer dispatcher for the Auxiliary Fire Service during World War II in London.  She lives with her best friend Bunty and is engaged to marry a nice young man.   One day, she spots an ad for her dream job as a war correspondent at the London Chronicle.  After she gets the job, she discovers that the work is not as a wartime journalist, but just helping Mrs. Henrietta Bird, a cranky old advice columnist at Women’s Friend. Emmy’s main duty is to screen letters for Mrs. Bird, who refuses to answer anything remotely carnal or immoral in nature.  But Emmy feels sorry for all the women who will never get advice for their problems.  She takes it upon herself to privately answer some of the letters and even goes as far as inserting a few into the column without permission. Toss in some troubles with her fiancé and Bunty, inevitable wartime losses, and new romantic possibilities, and you will have an enjoyable afternoon of reading.  For those who enjoyed The Lilac Girls and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. – SCR

What unites us : reflections on patriotism

Rather, Dan  What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism  (Nonfiction 323.65 R234w) – Rather asks the question “What is patriotism?” He then divides the book into five chapters with three subtopics each to elaborate on the answer. His first paragraph is the story of his family’s trip from his home in Texas as a first grader to watch a fireworks display. It was one hundred miles away and they weren’t sure their car would make it. The family sang America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner on the way down. They slept in their car because they had no money for lodging and the trip was perfect. He intermingles his text with stories of his father and teachers who set his first examples of citizenship, his broadcasting career, the ups and downs of history, public figures from the days of the revolution to the present time, and essays on being American that remind us to do the right thing. I could only read the book for short bursts as it was so powerful. – SBB

Chasing new horizons : inside the epic first mission to Pluto

Stern, Alan  Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto  (Nonfiction 629.435492 S839c) – Space exploration is a fascinating subject to me. This is the account of the New Horizons spacecraft and its journey to Pluto. While there were no human explorers on the ride, this story of the incredible odds of completing the adventure is just as thrilling. The book is written from the inside by Dr. Alan Stern, who is the principal investigator and mission leader. The odds of the tiny spacecraft being built, let alone taking off from earth, and actually fulfilling its mission, are mesmerizing. The full-color pictures of Pluto included just show how impressive this journey was. Library Journal said that “Armchair space explorers and budding scientists will relish this inspiring aerospace adventure.” - JAC

An Irish country doctor

Taylor, Patrick  An Irish Country Doctor  (Fiction Taylor) – This series is set in rural Ireland in the 1960s. Newly minted doctor Barry Laverty accepts a physician’s assistant ad in a small, rural Northern Ireland town, Ballybucklebo, and is thrown into a world with which he is quite unfamiliar. Barry’s “conventional” medical training has not prepared him for his new boss, doctor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, who turns out to be unorthodox, shrewd and not above telling outright lies to his patients for the sake of harmony. Barry slowly learns to adapt to country ways, and begins to loosen up as he endeavors to strike up a romantic relationship with a Ms. Patricia Spence, a local civil engineering student – although she is much more focused on her studies than having a boyfriend. With a tendency towards the ridiculous, though never overbearing, this series will generally appeal to those who enjoy lighthearted historical fiction. It could be considered to be similar to the TV series Doc Martin, although the doctors in this story have a much more genial manner than the eponymous Doc Martin. – HV 

Clock dance : a novel

Tyler, Anne  Clock Dance  (Fiction Tyler) – Out of the blue, Willa gets a call from a stranger in Baltimore to help out her “daughter-in-law” Denise and “granddaughter” Cheryl. Denise has just been shot in the leg and is recuperating in a hospital, leaving nine-year-old Cheryl alone.  It is not long before she is on the first plane from Tucson to come to their aid.  Oddly enough, Willa does this knowing that Denise was never married to her son and that Cheryl is not her granddaughter.  This is so unusual for a woman like Willa, who has always followed the rules, that her husband feels the need to tag along. Thus begins Tyler’s latest story of odd characters and quirky neighborhoods. Tyler slowly reveals the women’s personalities and the neighborhood residents, showing us the importance of taking new opportunities to enlarge what we call family. – SCR

Also Recommended
The cafe by the sea : a novelThe endless beach : a novelColgan, Jenny  The Café by the Sea and The Endless Beach   (Fiction Colgan) – If you have read any of Colgan’s books (especially the ones set in Cornwall, England), you will love her latest stories. These books are set in the remote and hauntingly beautiful Scottish island of Mure. Flora MacKenzie has a legal career in London which is not at all fulfilling. But when the death of her mother brings her back to the island of her birth, Flora is once again swept into her rambunctious family. Now she has three adult brothers and her father to take care of. Flora gradually discovers a passion for cooking and restores a small pink shop on the harbor. She gradually decides to stay on Mure. To her surprise, her difficult but adorable boss decides to follow and a fledgling romance begins. - JAC
The patchwork bride

Dallas, Sandra  The Patchwork Bride  (Fiction Dallas) – Ellen is working on a wedding quilt for her granddaughter June, when June arrives and announces she is going to call off the wedding. While being supportive, Ellen begins telling the story of one of their family members. Nell came from Kansas to live with her aunt and uncle in New Mexico territory. While there, she fell for a cowboy named Buddy, but things didn’t work out. Nell ran away from marriage twice more before finding the love of her life. The stories may lead June to rethink her wedding plans. - JAC

All we ever wanted : a novel

Giffin, Emily  All We Ever Wanted  (Fiction Giffin) – This is described as “a timely and absorbing portrait of the complexities of modern life” by fellow author Kristin Hannah. - SCR

The daughter of Sherlock Holmes

Goldberg, Leonard  The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes  (Fiction Goldberg) – There are literally hundreds of novels written about the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes. This is one of the best I have read in quite some time. In 1914 Joanna Blalock has become a highly skilled nurse. After she and her young son witness an apparent suicide, they are visited by the elderly Dr. John Watson and his handsome son, Dr. John Watson, Jr. The three set up a plan to catch a murderer. In the process we find out that Joanna (not to her knowledge) is actually the daughter of the now deceased Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler (the only woman to defeat Holmes). If you have enjoyed the mysteries by Laurie R. King and Charles Finch, you will like this new series. - JAC

Honeysuckle dreams

Hunter, Denise  Honeysuckle Dreams  (Fiction Hunter) – Library Journal reports that this is "a feel-good romance with a happy yet realistic ending. With several of Hunter's books already adapted as Hallmark Channel movies, this offering by a master of the genre is sure to be another hit with her fans." - JAC

The temptation of forgiveness

Leon, Donna  The Temptation of Forgiveness  (Fiction Leon) – In October the Velma’s Clues Cozy Mystery Book Club will be reading the first book in Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series. This is the most recent entry in the series and should be enjoyable for both long-time and new readers. Venice policeman Brunetti is both very astute and sympathetic to the reasons that may lead an otherwise honest man to crime. I love the Venetian descriptions and the ambivalence that a compassionate detective can bring to the job. - JAC

Welcome to Moonlight Harbor

Roberts, Sheila  Welcome to Moonlight Harbor  (Fiction Roberts) – This is the first book in a brand-new romantic series set on the charming Washington coast. Jenna Jones is about to turn forty and as a birthday gift she is getting a divorce. When her aging great-aunt Edie asks for help in running the Driftwood Inn, it may be the new chance that she’s looking for. - JAC

The gate keeper

Todd, Charles  The Gate Keeper  (Fiction Todd) – Charles Todd is actually a mother-and-son writing team. Their historical mysteries are outstanding. The plot is very intelligent, the historical research (post World War I period) is impeccable, and the complex characters have kept up the interest through twenty novels in this series. The protagonist is Inspector Rutledge, who suffers from shell shock. In this story he is just out driving to escape his dark thoughts when he comes upon a woman standing next to a car with a dead man at her feet. She says a stranger fired a shot at the victim and while Rutledge did not witness the shooting, he is assigned to the case. - JAC

Brown Bag Booklist from May 3
Island of sweet pies and soldiers

Ackerman, Sara  Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers  (Fiction Ackerman) -- This historical novel takes place in Hawaii in 1944. Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, have been traumatized, not only by the destruction of Pearl Harbor, but by the disappearance of their husband and father. The story is told by both characters: Violet’s story is told in the second person, while nine-year-old Ella’s story is told in the first person. These differing points of view are an interesting way of shifting the story between the adult point of view and that of a child. Ella is keeping a big secret from all of the adults in her life and refuses to tell anyone what is really bothering her, other than the obvious distress of wondering where her father is. Violet, however, realizes that life goes on. Violet, her housemates and friends decide to make sweet potato and chocolate honeycomb pies to sell to the recently arrived American Marines. Ella finds some joy in her animal friends. There is a cat, a nearly bald chicken that she rescues, and a lion cub that the Marines have brought along as a mascot. There is romance, mystery and deeply felt descriptions which aid in telling the story. The issue of how Americans of Japanese descent are treated is sensitively demonstrated by haole Ella asking to go to Japanese school with her friends. The author lives and writes in Hawaii and this is her debut published novel. -- JAC

The taster

Alexander, V. S.  The Taster  (Fiction Alexander) -- In 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents sent her to relatives in Bavaria to escape the allied bombings in Berlin.  After she arrived, her uncle used his influence in the Nazi Party to get her a job in the Civil Service.  But Magda is not happy to learn that her new position is at Hitler’s retreat, as one of his fifteen food tasters.  As she becomes acquainted with other staff, she realizes that not everybody is on board with Hitler’s viewpoint of the world.  Apolitical in the past, her involvement with the silent resistance becomes more solid after she is shown pictures of atrocities involving Jewish men, women, and children. When the allies advance into Germany, Magda must decide how to best help both herself and the resistance. -- SCR

The handmaid's tale.

Atwood, Margaret  The Handmaid’s Tale  (Fiction Atwood) -- In 2005, the United States suffered a devastating blow when the U.S. government was overthrown and replaced with a military-style dictatorship.  The nation was renamed the Republic of Gilead, the U.S. constitution was suspended and women’s rights were totally eliminated. Before the coup, Offred had been married to Luke and was the mother of a little girl.  Because she had the proven ability to bear children, she is assigned a spot as a Handmaiden to the Commander and his wife, Serena Joy.  Offred’s only function is to conceive and give birth to the Commander’s child and then relinquish all rights to the baby.  Serena Joy is resentful of Offred, but understands that the Commander will not be able to father a child.  She is willing to help Offred go outside the established legal methods to conceive.  Offred’s involvement with both Serena Joy, the Commander, and the local resistance leads her into a very dangerous position. -- SCR

White chrysanthemum

Bracht, Mary Lynn  White Chrysanthemum  (Fiction Bracht)  -- Hana lives on the island of Jeju, once belonging to the country of Korea and now under the protectorate of Japan.  It is tradition for the women on the island to train as haenyeos, or sea divers.  As World War II spreads to the east, 16-year-old Hana continues in this tradition of her ancestors, and she dives each day with her mother to harvest food from the sea floor.  Her mother has also tasked Hana to watch over her little sister, Emi.  When a Japanese soldier comes to the beach where the two are diving and Emi is playing, Hana hides her sister, risking her own safety.  The soldier abducts Hana and assigns her a role as a “comfort woman” for Japanese soldiers.  Years later, Emi discovers that she has terminal cancer.  Because she now has limited time, she must accelerate her search for Hana.  -- SCR

Paris by the book : a novel

Callanan, Liam  Paris by the Book  (Fiction Callanan)  -- Robert and Leah Eady first met over a couple of French classic children’s stories, The Red Balloon (screenplay and movie by Albert Lamorrisse) and Madeline (a series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans). They subsequently marry and have two daughters and still dream about going to Paris. Robert is an author who struggles with his muse. He is in the habit of leaving home on writeaways - short periods of time to immerse himself in writing. But this time it is different; Robert doesn’t leave a note behind and he is missing for months. Leah and her young teen daughters finally do track down some clues leading to Paris. So, they go to Paris hoping to find Robert. Before long Leah has purchased a struggling English language bookstore specializing in dead authors and the girls are enrolled in a French school. Leah and her daughters feel like they are constantly catching glimpses of Robert – but are they? The descriptions of Paris and of many books add greatly to the enjoyment of the story. -- JAC

The Mitford murders

Fellowes, Jessica  The Mitford Murders  (Fiction Fellowes) – Fellowes is known for her companion books to her uncle’s Downton Abbey television series. This mystery novel  builds upon our knowledge of post-World War I and the English aristocracy.  The Mitford sisters were a real family with six sisters. Two of them would later become fascists, one becomes a communist, and one marries and becomes a duchess. Two of them became authors. Two of them married nephews of Winston Churchill. The murder to be solved in this novel was also based on fact. A nurse, Florence Nightingale Shore, is killed on a train in broad daylight. The nursemaid, chaperone and confidante Louisa Cannon is fictional. She and the oldest Mirtford girl set out to solve the murder. They are assisted by Guy Sullivan, a young railroad policeman who hopes to work for Scotland Yard. Apparently there are plans for subsequent novels which will feature the younger Mitford sisters. -- JAC

Crimson Lake

Fox, Candice  Crimson Lake  (Fiction Fox) -- Fox has written two bestsellers with James Patterson and has published several best-selling crime novels in her native Australia. I don’t often read suspense/thriller novels, but I was intrigued by the premise of this novel and ended up enjoying it quite a lot. Sydney police detective Ted Conkaffey has been accused of a brutal abduction. He was not convicted, but all of Australia is convinced that he is public enemy number one. In order to escape his notoriety, Conkaffey has moved to the steamy crocodile swamps of Crimson Lake. His lawyer introduces him to another of his clients, eccentric private investigator Amanda Pharrell, who has already served time as a convicted murderer. Ted agrees to help Amanda solve a crime case filled with deception and obsession. At the same time, the two detectives try to find evidence that the crimes that each other has been accused of were not, in fact, committed by them. This is the first novel in a new series. -- JAC

Every note played

Genova, Lisa  Every Note Played  (Fiction Genova)  -- Richard Evans is a 45-year-old Boston concert pianist.  He has a college-age daughter named Grace, and an ex-wife, Karina, who was also a renowned pianist.  Early in the marriage, Richard accepted a teaching position in Boston, taking Karina away from the vibrant jazz scene in NYC.  Karina’s interest in jazz piano gets replaced by the birth of their daughter and with giving piano lessons to school children.  In the meantime, Richard finds fulfillment and fame in his career, but also feels the need to have frequent extramarital affairs.  It is not long before they divorce. At the peak of his fame, Richard’s right arm begins to twitch, and he is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).   When he begins to have symptoms on the left side, he realizes that his career is finished, and he can no longer live on his own.  Karina feels obligated to take care of Richard.  As Richard’s condition deteriorates, he is forced to make decisions about advanced life support options.  He also realizes he must atone for his past behavior with family.  At the same time, Karina and Grace must also learn the art of forgiveness. -- SCR

The room on Rue Amelie

Harmel, Kristin  The Room on Rue Amélie  (Fiction Harmel)  -- Ruby Henderson is just finishing college at Barnard in NYC when she meets a handsome Frenchman named Marcel Benoit.  They fall in love, marry, and move to Paris in 1939 despite her father’s warning about Hitler moving across Europe.  It is not until they are confronted with Hitler in France that the two lovebirds face reality. Despite the dangers, they stay in Paris and Marcel becomes an active member of the resistance.   Ruby befriends her Jewish neighbor’s daughter Charlotte and takes her in after her parents are arrested. After Marcel’s death, Ruby and Charlotte work hard to convince the network that they are worthy of also joining the resistance.  Under a new identity and in a new location, the two women begin to hide fallen allied pilots.  Ruby meets Thomas, an English pilot who stays with them, and falls in love.  He escapes back to England and the operation continues through the rest of the war, at great danger to Ruby and Charlotte. -- SCR

Sweet tea and sympathy

Harper, Molly  Sweet Tea and Sympathy (Fiction Harper)  -- This is a romance novel with a good dose of humor. Margot Cary is an exclusive event planner for Chicago’s high society. She is abruptly fired when an event goes horribly wrong – it involved a seafood tower and flamingoes. She is unable to find a new job until a distant family member reaches out to hire her for the family business. By the way, the business is in sleepy Lake Sackett, Georgia. The business? It is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. Organizing wakes and fishing trips is not something Margot has experience with, but how hard could it be? Eventually she gets a job offer back in her society life. Margot has to decide if she wants to leave her newfound family and a possible love interest (the hunky widowed principal of the local elementary school) in order to jump back into the rat race she knows. -- JAC

The bookshop at water's end

Henry, Patti Callahan  Bookshop at Water’s End  (Fiction Henry) -- I cannot resist novels that include the word bookshop or books in their title. Bonny Blankenship’s most idyllic memories are the summers she and her family and friends spent in Watersend, South Carolina. She needs someplace to start over after her marriage fizzles and her career as an emergency room doctor comes to an abrupt end after a mistake. She packs up her life and teenaged daughter, Piper, to return to the beach house. She also convinces her childhood best friend, Lainey McKay, to join her. Lainey is an artist with a happy marriage and two small children, but she is still haunted by the memory of when her mother disappeared one summer’s night – never to reappear. Despite the underlying angst of both women, the spell of the beach and the bookshop still owned by their friend Mimi remains. If you like Mary Alice Monroe, Mary Kay Andrews and Dorothea Benton Frank you will enjoy this summer read. -- JAC

I was Anastasia : a novel

Lawhon, Ariel  I Was Anastasia  (Fiction Lawhon) -- Is Anna Andersen the real Anastasia Romanov?  She has spent the years living on the generosity of different sponsors while trying to prove her identity. Now she and her husband are awaiting an official verdict from the courts. When the phone call comes in from Germany’s Prince Frederick, Anna understands that the verdict is not in her favor.  There will be no official recognition. Woven into the story are the last days of the Romanovs during the Russian Revolution.  Confined to a lesser palace, the family hears shots are being fired into the air and noisy rioting in the nearby city.  As time passes, the servants flee, the palace loses electricity, and all lines of communication are cut.  Another move is made to Siberia where the family meets its final fate.  The question remains whether Anastasia survived the massacre, and lives on as Anna Andersen.  -- SCR

As bright as heaven

Meissner, Susan  As Bright as Heaven  (Fiction Meissner) -- This is a historical novel featuring a time and place that I knew little about. Thomas and Pauline Bright lived in the Pennsylvania countryside with their three daughters. With the death of their infant son, they realize that it is time to move to the big city where there are better chances for employment and education and it might become easier to overcome their grief. They move to Philadelphia and Thomas becomes apprenticed to his great-uncle Fred, who is an undertaker. Things are not necessarily better, but they are different, and the loving family is adjusting well and making friends. Unfortunately the specter of World War I is ever looming, and then the Spanish flu pandemic reaches America. The flu claimed more than 12,000 victims, including some friends and family members. Even as they lose some loved ones, they take in an orphaned baby who becomes a source of hope. The story is skillfully told by Pauline and her three daughters and ends by being a novel of hope. -- JAC


The pearl sister : Cece's story

Riley, Lucinda  The Pearl Sister: Cece’s Story  (Fiction Riley) -- Three years ago Stephanie introduced us to the D’Apilèse family. The family consists of six daughters that Pa Salt adopted from around the world. Pa Salt died suddenly in the first novel, The Seven Sisters, and now each sister in turn learns more about her true heritage by following clues left by Pa Salt. CeCe is the fourth sister and is feeling very much alone. The sister she felt closest to, Star, is embarking on a new life and CeCe feels both abandoned and an outcast. She has clues to her origins in a black and white photograph and the name of a female pioneer who once lived in Australia. The female pioneer was Kitty McBride, who travels to Australia as a paid companion. She ultimately winds up on the northwest shore of Australia in the heart of the pearl fishing industry in Broome, Western Australia. CeCe eventually reaches the searing heat and dusty plains and something deep within her responds to the energy of the area and the ancient culture of the Aboriginal people. The interlocked stories of Kitty and CeCe are fascinating and compelling. The novel can be read as a stand-alone, but I intend to read all of them in the series. -- JAC

The glass universe : how the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars

Sobel, Dava  The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars  (Nonfiction 522.197444 S677g) -- Sobel has written several nonfiction best-sellers: Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter and The Planets. In the late nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began hiring women as calculators to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. Sobel has sifted through an immense amount of material, including letters, diaries and memoirs, to bring the ground-breaking study of the stars to the attention and understanding of present-day amateurs. The contributions and lives of the women of the observatory during the directorships of Edward C. Pickering and Harlow Shapley are examined and recounted in some detail. Harvard College Observatory under Pickering arguably contributed more to the advance of astronomy than any other single institution. By 1920, the telescopes of HCO began to be dwarfed by new large instruments at other institutions, but under Shapley HCO remained at the forefront of astronomical research and education in many areas. During these years, Henrietta Leavitt discovered the Cepheid period-luminosity relation that would be vital to determining the distances to other galaxies, Annie Jump Cannon studied the spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars, and Cecilia Payne pioneered methods for determining the chemical composition of the stars. These and other stories are followed in Sobel's fascinating work. Sobel also writes of the lives and motivations of the wealthy sponsors of the observatory's research, including scientifically-minded women such as Anna Palmer Draper and Catherine Wolfe Bruce. Numerous appendices aid in making the book more accessible, including a Catalogue of Harvard Astronomers, Assistant and Associates, various bibliographies and an index. -- JAC

The woman's hour : the great fight to win the vote

Weiss, Elaine F.  The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (Nonfiction 324.623 W429w) -- I assumed that this book of women’s history would focus on the lives and times of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Instead it is the fascinating account of the final struggle to get the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution passed.  In August 1920, the amendment must be ratified in Tennessee. It is the last state still in play. Thirty-five other states have approved it and the rest have turned it down. Weiss concentrates on the last six weeks of the campaign. It is one of the most important political campaigns of all time and Weiss does an excellent job of bringing it back to our attention. -- JAC

Educated : a memoir

Westover, Tara  Educated: A Memoir  (Nonfiction Biography 92 Westover, Tara) -- Tara was the daughter of two survivalists, brought up in rural Idaho.  After the Ruby Ridge raid in 1992, her father became convinced that government agents would burst through their door at any time.  In his bid for total self-reliance, he forces Tara’s Mom to apprentice as a midwife to learn critical medical skills. They kept their 7 children off the radar, and never even registered the youngest four children at birth. Mom “homeschooled” the kids, but her idea of schooling the children was to assign 50 or so pages to be read on occasion, with little or no oversight.  The kids spend most of their days helping dad salvage materials, often at great danger to themselves. Despite the lack of guidance, Tara’s older brother Tyler left home to seek a formal education.  Moving in with an aunt, he managed to take and pass the ACT, stating that his schooling conformed to state educational standards.  Against the wishes of her parents, Tara followed Tyler’s path, studying basic high school subjects, taking the ACT, and affirming her homeschooling as required.  But earning a PhD degree came at a high price to Ms. Westover and her brother. This memoir will appeal to readers of Hillbilly Elegy or The Glass Castle.  -- SCR

Also Recommended :
Death of an unsung hero

Arlen, Tessa  Death of an Unsung Hero  (Fiction Arlen) -- This is the fourth novel in the Lady Montfort Mystery series. Arlen has set her series in the Downton Abbey time frame. There are actually two main characters: Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson, who was her housekeeper, but now functions as the quartermaster for a World War I hospital. The hospital, which was formerly the dower house of the Montfort family, is for officers who are recovering from shell shock. Needless to say, not everyone in the community supports this idea. Real trouble begins when one of the officer patients is murdered. Who would murder a decorated captain who is suffering from amnesia? The two women are afraid that this will be the excuse that the War Office will use in order to close the hospital. They combine their efforts to find the murderer. -- JAC

Tears of salt : a doctor's story

Bartolo, Pietro  Tears of Salt  (Nonfiction Biography 92 Bartolo, Pietro)  -- This saintly doctor was born on the island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily.  This island was so small that it lacked educational facilities past an elementary school level.  Though his father wanted him to become a fisherman, Bartolo continued his education on the Italian mainland and eventually obtained his medical degree. He returned to the island with his wife (also a doctor), children, and in-laws, and eventually became the director of the local medical clinic.  It is this position that puts him at the forefront of the immigration wave coming in from the Mediterranean, often meeting refugees on the edge of death and starvation.  This is a remarkable story about a remarkable man. -- SCR

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