Friday, July 12, 2024

Dog Days! Books with Canine Stars


Enzo is a clever old dog who has learned a lot.  He adores Denny, an aspiring race car driver, and Denny’s daughter, Zoe, who is at the center of a custody battle. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein is a heartwarming novel with both tears and joy. 

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron is the first in a series of dog books. Bailey the dog is searching for his purpose in life. He finds it in caring for his boy, Ethan. When that life comes to an end, Bailey becomes a police dog, but he knows he needs to find his way back to Ethan. This book will both touch and charm dog lovers!


One Good Dog by Susan Wilson follows the story of Adam March, who once had it all until one day he lost control.  Sentenced to community service, he ends up with Chance, a pit bull mix who has issues of his own.  Wilson has several warm and affectionate fiction books that revolve around the human-dog connection.


When widower Sam moves with his son to Christmas Street, Jack the dog welcomes them to their new home.  Jack was left behind when his owners moved, but this neighborhood stray has the knack of building connections between people. A Dog Called Jack by Ivy Pembroke is a wonderful feel-good story about community and the love of a dog.


Jet pilot Brady Cole is really attracted to his next-door neighbor, Lily, but he’s not much of a dog person.  The trouble is, to get to Lily he’s going to have to get through her opinionated, temperamental, destructive doggy companion, Doug.  And Doug does NOT like Brady.  Beware of Doug by Elaine Fox is a delightful rom-com with a canine twist!


When Dawn’s boyfriend dumps her, she turns to the one being she can count on for comfort:  her rescue dog, Chuck. Chuck has some thoughts on the matter, which much to Dawn’s surprise, she can hear. In fact, she can hear all dogs now and they are just full of advice. Merrill Markoe’s Walking in Circles Before Lying Down is about the search for love, the etiquette of peeing, and the joy of playing fetch.


 Dancing Dogs is a collection of sixteen stories by Jon Katz featuring a variety of dogs, from purebreds to mutts.  Katz is a noted dog lover who titled his memoir A Dog Year.  The tales run the gamut of emotions, but all are endearing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Nevermore: When Crickets Cry, Southernmost, Boys from Biloxi


Reported by Rita

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl's pretty yellow dress can't quite hide the ugly scar on her chest. Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he's restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives. Before it's over, they'll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.

  Heartwarming and spiritual – couldn’t put it down.   – GP     5 stars


Southernmost: a Novel by Silas House

A natural disaster inspires an evangelical preacher to reverse his position about gay rights, a transition that ends his marriage and job, forcing him to take desperate measures to introduce his son to a more accepting world.

  One of the most beautiful books I’ve read.    - MD       5 stars


The Boys From Biloxi by John Grisham

For most of the last hundred years, Biloxi was known for its beaches, resorts, and seafood industry. But it had a darker side. It was also notorious for corruption and vice, everything from gambling, prostitution, bootleg liquor, and drugs to contract killings. The vice was controlled by small cabal of mobsters, many of them rumored to be members of the Dixie Mafia. Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco grew up in Biloxi in the sixties and were childhood friends and Little League all-stars. But as teenagers, their lives took them in different directions. Keith's father became a legendary prosecutor, determined to "clean up the Coast." Hugh's father became the "Boss" of Biloxi's criminal underground. Keith went to law school and followed in his father's footsteps. Hugh preferred the nightlife and worked in his father's clubs. The two families were headed for a showdown, one that would happen in a courtroom. Life itself hangs in the balance in The Boys from Biloxi, a sweeping saga rich with history and with a large cast of unforgettable characters.

Typical Grisham – enjoyable and easy to read.     – NH     4 stars


Other Books Mentioned


Amazing Men: Courage, Insight, Endurance by Joyce Tenneson

Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Amazon Adventure by Samantha Seiple

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth by Zoèe Schlanger

The Books of Jacob: Across Seven Borders, Five Languages, and Three Major Religions, Not Counting the Minor Sects  by Olga Tokarczuk


New Books


Container & Small-Space Gardening for the South: How to Grow Flowers & Food No Matter Where You Live by Barbara W. Ellis

Bittersweet in the Hollow by Kate Pearsall

Let us Descend: a Novel by Jesmyn Ward

Monday, July 8, 2024

Oversize Books: Mucha, Thing Explainer, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Atlas of Shipwrecks and Treasures


One area of the library is sometimes a bit overlooked:  our Oversize Book collection. As the title implies, these are large books that don’t easily sit on the regular book shelves and so are relegated to a special section with more space.  All are non-fiction and are on a number of topics from NASCAR to cake decorating.  Here are some favorites:

Alphonse Mucha was born in what is now the Czech Republic and showed talent as an artist at a young age. His big break came while he was in Paris, working for a publishing house.  The noted actress Sarah Bernhardt called, requesting a new poster in honor of her play and wanting it done immediately. Mucha designed the poster, which was an immediate sensation.  It proved so popular that Bernhardt ordered several thousand copies and hired Mucha to design future posters for her.  Much of his early work was for advertising or promotional purposes.  It was bright, beautiful, and eye-catching.  Once you have seen some of his work, his style is unmistakable and still influences artists today.  We have Alphonse Mucha:  Masterworks which has some wonderful examples of his works, beautifully reproduced along with his biography and information about the individual pieces.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead:  The Book of Going Forth by Day is a translation with photos of the Papyrus of Ani, the most complete such papyrus to be found.  Books of the Dead found in Egyptian burials contained information that the deceased might need in the afterlife:  directions, spells, hymns to the gods, and so forth.  There is not one definitive version.  The original papyrus of this one is housed in the British museum and was created for the Scribe Ani and his wife Tutu.  This book has a translation of the papyrus by Dr. Raymond Faulkner with commentaries by Dr. Odgen Goelet.  Each page shows a section of the papyrus with the translation below.  The artwork is lovely, and it is fascinating to see the hieroglyphics. 

Randall Munroe’s The Thing Explainer:  Complicated Stuff in Simple Words is a wonderfully informative book about, well, lots of stuff.  There are graphics and words showing everything from the Earth’s past to how they live on the International Space Station.  Munroe is accurate but also has a sense of humor. For this book, he decided he was just going to use the most common ten hundred words (the word “thousand” is not among them) so that people would understand and not be led astray by jargon or unfamiliar words. I think my favorite is the section on the sky at night with the wonderful names of the constellations using those same common words:  “pretend flying horse,” “water animal with hand cutters,” and “little dog.”  Some of them sent me to astronomy books to figure out what they were! In this same section, he offers tips about stargazing such as the best kind of “looking glass” to use to look at space as well as “put warm things over people” because it’s cold at night. Since I am one of those who can never see constellations, I particularly enjoyed the aside with the stick person looking at a drawing of a constellation named after a cat and commenting, “Have the people who named this ever seen a cat?” This book is just plain fun and very engaging.

When it comes to illustrated books, you can’t go wrong with anything published by DK.  That certainly goes for The Atlas of Shipwrecks & Treasure:  The History, Location, and Treasures of Ships Lost at Sea by Nigel Pickford. The book is divided up both by era and type of ship; for example, the first sections deal with Bronze Age, Viking, and Chinese Junks. Later sections deal with pirates, liners (such as Titanic), and World War II wrecks. There are sections about specific ships, both with the history of the ship and the history of the discovery and salvage, as well as overviews of multiple ships in a time period. The second part of the book is the gazetteer, with maps showing locations of various wrecks no matter the time period as well as a list of ships. 

These are just a few of the delights that await in the Oversize collection.  Check them out!

Friday, July 5, 2024

The Lost Bookshop by Evie Woods


Reviewed by Jeanne

London, 1921: Twenty-one year old Opaline Carlisle has just been informed by her brother that he has arranged a marriage for her with someone she has never met.  A spirited girl, she has no intention of being forced into wedlock, so she pretends to agree. Instead, that night she slips away with some books from her late father’s prized collection and escapes to Paris with the intention of becoming a bookseller.

Dublin, the present: Martha is also running away, trying to escape an abusive husband. With no firm plan in mind, she ends up in Dublin and takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for the flamboyant and imperious Madame Bowden. She’s startled one day to find an Englishman pacing beside the house. Henry is an odd young man, a scholar, who claims he is looking for a bookshop that is supposed to be beside the house.  The bookshop was supposed to belong to a renowned bookseller and collector, Opaline Gray.  Martha is a bit skeptical, but there’s something attractive about him.

Henry, for his part, realizes that Martha is perhaps the most intriguing woman that he has ever met. Unfortunately, he also realizes that he has not made the best of impressions.  He’s going to have to find some charm if he is going to learn anything about the bookshop—or the woman.

The book goes back and forth between these three characters, telling us of Opaline’s life as Henry and Martha search for clues—and deal with their own feelings.  They all have secrets, but as we all know secrets have a habit of not staying buried for long.

This is a charming book with beguiling characters who draw you into their stories.  There’s a thread of magical realism running through the book, and not just the mysterious bookshop. Opaline’s story is darker, though, and at times a sad and sobering look at women’s rights in past eras, or rather lack thereof. Overall the book is a beautiful tribute to readers and books, and the transformative power to be found there.  I was invested in all three of the main characters, and anxiously turned pages to discover their fates. There were a number of surprises along the way as well.

One of my favorite parts is when Opaline ends up in Paris where she gets a job at the legendary bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.  In the 1920s, the store was a second home to many great writers, including James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzagerald, all of whom were supported by the store’s owner, Sylvia Beach.  Woods did a lovely job of evoking that era—I wish there had been more chapters!

I am very much looking forward to her next book, The Story Collector, which deals with an Irish farm girl who helps an American translate Irish folk and fairy tales. It’s due out in August, and promises to be just as magical as this book.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Nevermore: Hypochondriac's Guide to Life and Death, Sweet Blue Distance, We Must Not Think of Ourselves


Reported by Rita


The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life and Death by Gene Weingarten

With an introduction by renowned humor columnist Dave Barry, this exploration of a hypochondriac's life makes a witty foray into medical history, hospitals, and homeopathic medicine, illustrating how an actual life-threatening illness is the ultimate cure for a health worrier.

  Laugh out loud funny – highly recommend.     – CD     5 stars


The Sweet Blue Distance by Sara Donati

In 1857, young midwife Carrie Ballentyne travels west to the New Mexico Territory for a nursing position. While helping women give birth in Sante Fe, she discovers her employer is keeping secrets and must ferret out the truth to save his young daughter whom she's come to love. 

  The writing is very descripted and well edited – impressive.    – WJ   5 stars


We Must Not Think of Ourselves: a Novel by Lauren Grodstein

In 1940, a prisoner in the Warsaw Ghetto, Adam Paskow joins a secret group of archivists working to preserve the truth of what is happening inside these walls, which leads to unexpected love. Still, when he discovers a possible escape from the Ghetto, he is faced with an unbearable choice.

Sad and sometimes difficult to read, but worth the time.    – CW     5 stars


Other Books Mentioned


Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy by Leo Tolstoy

O Jerusalem: A Mary Russell Novel by Laurie R. King

Dimestore by Lee Smith

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History by Robert D. Kaplan

The Labyrinth of the Spirits: a novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Woman in the Library: a Novel by Sulari Gentill

Sleepwalk With Me: and Other Painfully True Stories by Mike Birbiglia


New Books


The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

Secrets of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Where Rivers Part: a Story of My Mother's Life by Kao Kalia Yang

My Side of the River: a Memoir by Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez

The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro

Monday, July 1, 2024

July New Books


Bailey, Tessa  The Au Pair Affair

Cameron, Marc  Bad River (Arliss Cutter)

Coble, Colleen What We Hide

Coulter, Catherine  Flashpoint:  An FBI Thriller

Dailey, Janet  Calder Country

De la Cruz, Melissa The Five Stages of Courting Dalisay Ramos

Ellis, David  The Best Lies

Freeman, Brian Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Shadow

Giffin, Emily  The Summer Pact

Grossman, Lev  The Bright Sword: A Novel of King Arthur

Harkness, Deborah  Black Bird Oracle

Harris, Joanne  The Moonlight Market

Jewell, Lisa  Breaking the Dark (Jessica Jones Marvel novel)

Jones, Stephen Graham  I Was a Teenage Slasher

Lansdale, Joe R.  Sugar on the Bones (Hap and Leonard)

Lapena, Shari  What Have You Done?

McCall Smith, Alexander  The Conditions of Unconditional Love (Isabel Dalhousie)

McCreight, Kimberly  Like Mother, Like Daughter

Patterson, James  Hard to Kill (Jane Smith)

Peterson, Tracie  A Choice Considered

Robotham, Michael  Storm Child (Cyrus Haven)

Steel, Danielle  Resurrection



Lilly, Greg  Abingdon’s Boarding House Murder

Patterson, James  Tiger, Tiger (Tiger Woods)

Friday, June 28, 2024

The Fox Wife by Yangsze Choo


Reviewed by Christy

            In Chinese mythology, the fox spirit can take many forms and, depending on the story, can be benevolent or malevolent. In Yangsze Choo's The Fox Wife, Snow is a fox who looks like a young woman, and who is on a mission of revenge. Bao is a private investigator in his sixties, hunting down whoever is responsible for a young woman found frozen to death. As their points of view alternate, their stories slowly start to converge.      

            This isn't my usual type of reading but the cover would catch my eye every time I came across it. I picked it up on a whim, and I'm glad I did! I really enjoyed Snow's chapters – her quiet frustration with silly humans and her wry humor. I struggled more with Bao's chapters mostly because procedural detective stories are not generally my thing. But Bao is a sweet man who is hard to dislike, and he grew on me even more as their stories came together.

            Choo occasionally leaves little footnotes throughout to explain some of the mythology. As she clarifies in her notes at the end of the book, footnotes and reactions in the margins are a Chinese literary tradition. She wanted to fill the book with such annotations but was afraid of alienating her readers, so she used them sparingly (personally, I loved them).

            If I had to give a critique, the book is often very slow with not much happening. It can also be a little repetitive with the clandestine meetings and whispers between the same characters. Even so, there is still something engaging about the story and specifically the character of Snow. There's also a few minor reveals that keep things interesting.  And I enjoyed learning about the fox folklore!