OK … I’m ready to forgive C.J. Box. I thoroughly enjoy his Joe Pickett series and enjoyed Back of Beyond, the beginning of a new series featuring whoOK … I’m ready to forgive C.J. Box. I thoroughly enjoy his Joe Pickett series and enjoyed Back of Beyond, the beginning of a new series featuring who I thought was a recurring character, Sheriff Detective Cody Hoyt. In Box’s next Cody Hoyt book, The Highway, (awesome book, set in Yellowstone, scared the bejeebers out of me) Hoyt is conquering his demons and mentoring a new Sheriff’s Detective, Cassie Dewell. But something goes wrong and suddenly readers are left hanging.
I was mad at C.J. Box after that book. I loved Cody Hoyt and I didn’t like how the book ended. For me, C.J. Box has redeemed himself in his new book, The Badlands. Cassie Dewell emerges as a strong protagonist who can hold her own. I guess maybe Box had to give her a chance and needed a couple good novels to write his way there. Time for me to move on …
In The Badlands, Detective Cassie Dewell takes a new job in Grimstad, the petroleum capitol of North Dakota. Life is tough there. The economy is booming but crime follows money and Cassie is tasked by the Sheriff to do some internal investigating. She is also haunted by her past and the criminal who got away and is still lurking “out there.” She’s also drawn to a young boy who may be invisible, but knows a lot more than the world is willing to acknowledge. The book is fast paced, the characters are great, and readers are left wanting more from this new protagonist. I think we have a lot to look forward to from C.J. Box and his Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell series!...more
Summer reading for me tends to be less worthy of book group discussions and more about just being lost in a good story that doesn’t tax my brain. TheSummer reading for me tends to be less worthy of book group discussions and more about just being lost in a good story that doesn’t tax my brain. The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand was a light fun read set on Nantucket that satisfied my curiosity about the title and cover of the book.
Definitely chick lit, where gossip is paramount, best friends Madeline and Grace are the envy of the island with their perfect husbands and children. But rumor has it that Grace has been having an affair with her gorgeous landscape architect, Benton; that her husband, “Fast Eddie” Pancik is in over his head with a new real estate development; that Grace’s daughter, Allegra, and Madeline’s son, Brick, are not the storybook young couple everyone thinks they are; and that Madeline is struggling with writer’s block and isn’t meeting her editor’s deadlines.
These story lines are explored along with the relationship between twin sisters, Allegra and Hope. Rumors and realities converge when Madeline starts writing a novel based on what’s happening to the people on the island. Things escalate and the denouement isn’t a perfect ending for the lives involved. Strong female friendship wins out in the end and what would a good summer read be without a little sex to spice things up?
Too bad I’ll be missing my Book Group’s August selection, H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, when I’m vacationing with my family in Estes Park for ten days. Now what shall I take with me to read? Hmmm…....more
I have been enjoying a new cookbook from the Library’s collection, and when I finally settled on a recipe to try, a trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s MarI have been enjoying a new cookbook from the Library’s collection, and when I finally settled on a recipe to try, a trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market was in order.
The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook features recipes contributed by more than one hundred mystery authors. Some of my favorites are included–Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Louise Penny–and you will recognize so many others: Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, Max Allan Collins and Barbara Collins, Sue Grafton, Scott Turow, and James Patterson to name a few. In addition to the authors’ introductions to their recipes, the editor has added several other short essays, one of which answers the question “What exactly is a red herring?”
Many of the recipes are for foods served in the mysteries. I chose Louise Penny’s “Madame Benoit’s Tourtiere,” a dish mentioned in A Fatal Grace. Penny’s mysteries are set in Quebec, and tourtiere is a regional dish from that province. It is essentially a meat pie, with onion and garlic, and it provided me with a chance to visit with Lois Pavelka of Pavelka’s Point Meats to get some ground pork and beef. Lois and her husband raise livestock on their farm north of Solon, and she is a regular at the Market with all kinds of delicious choices for pork, beef and lamb. Their picnic bacon is especially good!
Next, I went to Grinnell Heritage Farm’s table to get some fresh garlic, and decided that potatoes and green beans would be good side dishes to the meat pie.
The resulting savory pie was a tasty example of comfort food, and would be a good dish to bring to a potluck or family gathering. In her introduction to the recipe, Penny says that tourtiere can be eaten all year long, but is particularly associated with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve celebrations. ...more
The Third Twin by Ken Follett features Dr. Jeannie Ferrami who is studying nature versus nurture. She is raped but the suspect claims his innocence. FThe Third Twin by Ken Follett features Dr. Jeannie Ferrami who is studying nature versus nurture. She is raped but the suspect claims his innocence. Further investigation uncovers another man with identical DNA. And, as the title indicates, there emerges a third character. Part mystery and part thriller, the plot is quite intricate and intriguing....more
This is the first book in a series written by identical twin sisters Julia De Villers and Jennifer Roy. It introduces Payton, the “pretty” one, and EmThis is the first book in a series written by identical twin sisters Julia De Villers and Jennifer Roy. It introduces Payton, the “pretty” one, and Emma, the “smart” one.
Because of a wardrobe malfunction, they must switch clothes and identities for the day. Needless to say, that becomes not the only time; however, they learn that it’s okay not to adhere so rigidly to labels and how to use their individual skills to help each other as well as others....more
Two sisters discover each other’s existence because of a video on YouTube. Told from alternating viewpoints, this book chronicles that beginning of thTwo sisters discover each other’s existence because of a video on YouTube. Told from alternating viewpoints, this book chronicles that beginning of their relationship, their first face-to-face meeting, and other milestones. Even if you are not adopted, nor a twin, this heartwarming memoir will make you smile....more
New Prairie Kitchen by Summer (Honest!) Miller, photographs by Dana Damewood. The subtitle of the book is, “Stories and seasonal recipes from chefs, fNew Prairie Kitchen by Summer (Honest!) Miller, photographs by Dana Damewood. The subtitle of the book is, “Stories and seasonal recipes from chefs, farmers, and artisans of the Great Plains.”
The recipes are great, but the book is far more than a collection of recipes. The author has visited the people and places where the food is grown and where it is prepared, and she tells their stories. She is from Nebraska and there are more Nebraska stories than elsewhere, but Iowa is represented. The photographs — of the people, the food, and the landscape, are simply marvelous.
This is a book to savor in many ways. I can see some of my regular Farmers’ Market vendors in the next edition. ...more
Kent Haruf’s beautiful, lyrical final novel was a bit of serendipity I recently discovered on the Fiction Express shelf. I love Haruf’s novels. They aKent Haruf’s beautiful, lyrical final novel was a bit of serendipity I recently discovered on the Fiction Express shelf. I love Haruf’s novels. They are set in Eastern Colorado and have a strong sense of place. Haruf develops his characters in a way that brings them alive on the page and he has a gift of writing beautifully about the complexities of human relationships. Haruf is a 1973 graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop who died late last year at age 71.
According to a New York Times article, “Kent Haruf pulled a wool cap over his eyes when he sat down at his manual typewriter each morning so he could “write blind,” fully immersing himself in the fictitious small town in eastern Colorado where he set a series of quiet, acclaimed novels, including “Plainsong,” a 1999 best seller.”
I first discovered Haruf’s writing when I read his 1999 novel, Plainsong. I was drawn into the beautiful writing and the compelling story. I vividly remember the characters in that book – two bachelor brothers who took in a pregnant teenager, creating an unlikely but loving family. Equally memorable are the two main characters in this novel. Addie Moore is a lonely widow who takes a big chance in her life. Louis Waters is also lonely but rediscovers a purpose for his life through a new relationship and responsibility.
Our Souls at Night is a quick read, but one that will make the reader smile and appreciate human relationships and love....more
Eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee needs to write to a pen pal for the school year and her teacher wants her class to choose a child from a school in JaEleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee needs to write to a pen pal for the school year and her teacher wants her class to choose a child from a school in Japan so they will get to know someone from a different country. Some kids hesitate because this story is set in 1949 and World War II is still fresh in the minds of all. Glimpses of the prejudice and anti-communist feelings are obvious. Tate decides she wants to write to Hank Williams, an up-and-coming country and Western singer she’s heard on a Saturday night radio program each week with her family. Although the story is told entirely via letters Tate writes to Mr. Williams (and his only response is sending autographed photographs), she is not deterred because he never writes back. Once you get past the idea that Tate never gets any letters in return from the singer (I would have found a different pen pal who wanted to correspond with me!), the reader will enjoy the narrative. Her letters are almost journal entries as she tells about her day-to-day life practicing her singing for a talent show, laughing with uncle Jolly’s girlfriend, and cuddling with her dog. Tate’s parents are absent and she lives with Aunt Patty Cake and her Uncle Jolly. We later learn that her actress mother is serving time in prison because of a bad choice she made and her father is off supposedly taking photographs all over the world for his job. Tate has not been dealt a fair hand in life but she is still a positive and upbeat character who loves her caring aunt, funny uncle, and especially her dog, Lovie. Her annoying brother, Frog, adds an important element to the story, especially in the surprise ending to the book. As Tate continues writing to a complete stranger, her personality and outlook on life unfold revealing a very real character with spunk, humor, and hope for the future. I love historical fiction and have enjoyed other books by Kimberly Willis Holt so this story was a great choice for me to read and be able to recommend to 4th-6th grade readers this summer. A tender, and at times heartbreaking story, this book will surely take the reader on a memorable ride in a by-gone time....more
Consummate storyteller Anne Tyler has written her 20th novel to great reviews. This is the story of four generations of Whitshanks who lived in a housConsummate storyteller Anne Tyler has written her 20th novel to great reviews. This is the story of four generations of Whitshanks who lived in a house in Baltimore beginning in the 1920′s. Recounting her romance with Red that began on a glorious “yellow-and-green afternoon” in July of 1959, the matriarch, Abby, relates all their complicated lives full of love, jealousy, and secrecy. The author touches on her insights into assumptions about class, gender, race and age and the story is told with humor and great dialogue. Her family is now trying to figure out how best to care for Abby and Red in their old age and some wish to sell the old homestead. The novel switches back and forth in time as it unfolds the family’s history and this may be a bit confusing for some readers. The conversations, the stream of consciousness, the wisdom and wit all make for a great choice for Book Group discussion. The three-dimensional characters are memorable such as Linnie Mae, Junior’s wife; Stem, Red and Abby’s adopted son who still feels like he plays second fiddle; Denny, who can’t be counted on and comes in and out of everyone’s lives bringing his young daughter into the mix; and sharp-tongued Amanda. A Spool of Blue Thread is a story about family–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tyler’s prose is as touching and truthful as ever when dealing with a family in all its complexity–something most of us can surely relate to in our own families, especially those of use in the sandwich generation. Bravo, Anne Tyler, you’ve done it again....more
Loop by Karen Akins is not a run-of-the-mill time travel book. In the 23rd century, the ability to move through time is biological and regulated. BreeLoop by Karen Akins is not a run-of-the-mill time travel book. In the 23rd century, the ability to move through time is biological and regulated. Bree Bennis is a clumsy 16-year-old Shifter who, during an ordinary mid-term exam, accidentally takes a 14-year-old boy hostage. When she goes back to try to fix the blunder, she doesn’t go far enough. Finn is now 17 and “totally hot”. To compound the situation, he then follows her back into the future. Naturally, this messes up the time-space continuum and they must work together to save their worlds....more
To escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS. His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an oTo escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS. His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an object much like Charlie’s Golden Ticket, that upon redemption will make him the heir to the eccentric founder’s estate. After discovering the first key he must battle enemies, real and virtual, to claim the prize. Although this novel is written by a self-proclaimed gamer geek, the pop culture references and intense action appeals to a diverse readership....more
This is one of those interior decorating books that I want to read and not just look at the photographs. Spence’s specialty is turning inexpensive fleThis is one of those interior decorating books that I want to read and not just look at the photographs. Spence’s specialty is turning inexpensive flea market finds into modern and usable design features. I love the basement redesign the author did, illustrating how to turn an ugly dresser into a media center, build a wine cellar, and use colors to brighten up a dark “woman cave.”...more
At age 12, Artemis Fowl II is already a master villain, definitively overshadowing his father’s modest criminal enterprises and earning millions in thAt age 12, Artemis Fowl II is already a master villain, definitively overshadowing his father’s modest criminal enterprises and earning millions in the process. He uses his ill-gotten gains to fund his obsession with fairies. When he tries to and succeeds in kidnapping one in order to prove their existence, mayhem ensues. Artemis must use his formidable intellect to outwit the magical realm and gain his heart’s desire. This initial book in the eponymous series by Eoin Colfer caused me to check out the next one immediately for more shenanigans. The first four are also available as graphic novels....more
The Heist Society series by Ally Carter also mixes humor and action with criminality. After 15 years of a larcenous lifestyle with her family, Kat BisThe Heist Society series by Ally Carter also mixes humor and action with criminality. After 15 years of a larcenous lifestyle with her family, Kat Bishop uses her skills to escape to an elite boarding school where she believes she can have a normal life. Very shortly thereafter, her best friend Hale arrives with the news that her father has been framed for a theft, allegedly one only he has the skills to commit. Can Kat and her crew make things right and save the day? Most likely. But it’s the daring escapades used to accomplish this that will keep the pages turning and make you wish you could join the team....more
When a title begins with “A Good Thief’s Guide to. . .”, a certain plot is expected: something will be stolen and complications will occur. After allWhen a title begins with “A Good Thief’s Guide to. . .”, a certain plot is expected: something will be stolen and complications will occur. After all Charlie Howard, whose day job is writing novels about a burglar, is only a good thief, not an excellent one. What is unexpected is the wry humor that Chris Ewan uses to navigate the various circumstances in each specific location....more
Many of you know that I am a huge Beatrix Potter fan and as a children’s librarian, have been charmed by her 23 small books about Peter Rabbit, JemimaMany of you know that I am a huge Beatrix Potter fan and as a children’s librarian, have been charmed by her 23 small books about Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle Duck, Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and her other animal friends for many years.
I have collected Beatrix Potter books and related merchandise my entire career and have displayed my collection at the Iowa City Public Library and the Coralville Public Library. So when I accidentally came across Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales, needless to say, I was thrilled.
Oh, and did I tell you that I am a flower gardener?
Author Marta McDowell from the New York Botanical Garden gives an account of the famous children’s writer and illustrator’s life. Included in the book are old photographs, quotes from Potter’s books, letters, book illustrations, journal entrees, and her beautiful watercolor sketches of flowers and book characters. The second part of the book is a seasonal overview of what is blooming in Potter’s gardens at Hill Top Farm and her other properties in the Lake District of England. The book culminates in a traveler’s guide with information about visiting Potter’s home and gardens today.
Readers may not have known that Beatrix Potter left her privileged life in London to farm, raise sheep, write, garden, and conserve the beautiful landscapes in the north of England. Most impressive are all the thousands of acres of land she left to the National Trust upon her death. I’ve read several biographies about Beatrix Potter so I didn’t learn anything new about her life; however, her passion for gardening and the expert information by the author, a consulting horticulturalist, was most informative and a pleasure to read. Someday I hope to travel to the Lake District and visit Hill Top Farm and before I do, I’ll re-read this fascinating book....more
Hellhound on his Trail is both history and true crime, and it’s riveting. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last days are chronicled and details of his assassiHellhound on his Trail is both history and true crime, and it’s riveting. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last days are chronicled and details of his assassin’s life and flight from justice are doled out at a measured pace. The manhunt for King’s killer, who had been living under an alias or two, was massive, and it eventually reached overseas. Please note that Sides gives no credence to the government conspiracy theory of the assassination, so you’ll have to look elsewhere (one-star Amazon reviews) if you’re inclined that way....more