Author Archive

Take a Trip with Some of My Favorites

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

The best books immerse you in another time and place — and soon you don’t want to leave. Take a trip with six of my favorite titles!

The Forstye Saga                                     Birdsong                              Mrs. Bridge

1. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1880s–1920s England)

This beloved trilogy follows three generations of the Forsyte family through the Victorian, Edwardian and WWI eras. Experience their love affairs, greed, passion, jealousy and loyalty against the background of wider societal changes. Then watch the BBC series.

2. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (1910–1930 France)

A steamy but thwarted love affair leads young Stephen to the trenches of WWI.  Unforgettable.

3. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell (1930s Kansas)

This lightly mocking (and funny) sympathetic satire depicts the perfect upper-class American wife and mother. But who is she really, and is she happy? No one has any idea. Connell later published Mr. Bridge so her husband could have his say.

Pied Piper                                     What Is the What                                   Doomsday Book

4. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (1945 France)

The gripping story of an elderly man who is persuaded to escort a group of small children across Nazi-occupied France.

5. What Is the What by Dave Eggers (Sudan and USA)

This epic tale of unbelievable courage and optimism follows the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Lost Boy of Sudan who was forced to leave his village at age 7 and walk across the deserts of three countries, eventually gaining refuge in the United States. Expect to be engrossed, and to learn a lot. It’s moving, suspenseful and sometimes unexpectedly funny.

6. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (2048 and 1348 England)

It’s the year 2048, and Kivrin’s studies in history require her to travel to the era she is researching — in this case, 14th-century Europe.  Unfortunately, a little glitch in the system lands her in England on the eve of the Black Plague. This book is our family favorite — fascinating and also hilariously funny.  The author has other time travel books that are almost as awesome.


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What Mood Are You In?

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Your current state of mind can turn a great book into a boring one, or an unappealing book into a fascinating one.  Sometimes nothing looks good! To help you, here are some of my favorite stories that you might like—depending what mood you’re in!

Funny, fascinating  time travel… Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

In 2025, when you major in history in college, you are required to travel in time to observe your period of study.  In this story, Kivrin misses her target by a few years, and lands in the middle of the European plague.

A moral dilemma… A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

Hank and his two feckless friends accidentally find a wrecked small plane and its dead pilot in the woods. They decide not to tell the authorities about the $4.4 million stuffed into a duffel bag.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave!

Heartwarming historical fiction… Pied Piper by Neville Shute

When an elderly Englishman takes a holiday in France during WWII, trying to get over his son’s death, he is talked into leading a band of children across the country on foot. They are strafed by German planes during the day, and hide in barns by night.

Nail-biting suspense… Half Broken Things by Morag Joss

A gripping, haunting exploration of love and our need for it, of the damage done when we go long without it, and the deeds we might be driven to in its name.  It’s a novel that peers into the lives of three dangerously lost people… and the ominous haven they find when they find each other.

Poignant humor… The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Macon Leary is a travel writer who hates both travel and anything out of the ordinary. He is grounded by loneliness and an unwillingness to compromise his creature comforts when he meets Muriel, a deliciously peculiar dog-obedience trainer who up-ends Macon’s insular world.

Total creepiness… Under the Skin by Michel Faber

This book is odd, weird, strange, and bizarre. It is also highly disturbing. It begins with a girl named Isserley, driving the Scottish freeways daily to look for hitchhikers.

Quirky but lovable characters… The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

Smithy is a 279-pound, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, 43-year-old misfit who works in a factory putting arms and legs on G.I. Joes.  When his parents and only sibling unexpectedly die, he finds peace by riding his bike across the country eating bananas.


Hope you enjoy some of these!  We’d love to hear about some of your favorite books!



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A Brand New Literature Award

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

For those of you who like lists (which I do), there’s a new literary prize out there beginning this year. The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction will be awarded — with $5,000 cash — to the author of the best book for adult readers in those two categories. Two additional finalists will also be chosen, and they will get $1,500.  The winners will be chosen this month.

The new award is sponsored by two divisions of the American Library Association. One of these divisions, The Notable Book Council, has since 1944 issued a list of “25 very good, very readable, and at times very important fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books for the adult reader.”  The new Carnegie Medal award winners will be drawn from the Notable Book list, and also from Booklist’s Editor’s Choice Awards. Check out these Carnegie Medal finalists — have you read any of them?




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The Best of the Best Books of 2011

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

How does a person decide what to read next?

It’s an important question to me.  I’m already 57 years old and there are a lot of great books out there!  About fifteen of them are piled on my dresser right now, as well as one in my car, a couple at work, and a few on my e-reader, downloaded from KDL.  Not to mention the dozens on my “to read” list on  I don’t have a lot of time to waste on characters I don’t like and stories that bore me.  The choice makes me nervous—will it be one of those books that everybody says is wonderful, but I will immediately hate it, like Lonesome Dove?  

Speaking of what everybody says is wonderful, you really must check out the 2011 “All the Best Books Compilation” on Blogging for a Good Book. Librarians from the Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia recorded “The Best Books of 2011″ lists from 237 different sources (magazines, newspapers, blogs, web sites, award lists, etc.)  They put the books in order by number of mentions each book received.  They claim that the list, in an Excel spreadsheet, “includes various genres and nonfiction subject areas to provide the most balanced look we can possibly give of which books were most loved in 2011.”

Take a look at the list  and let us know what you think of the choices! How many of the 3328 titles have you read?

Best General Fiction


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Road Trip!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I’ve got a vacation coming up! I like to start packing way ahead of time — organizing my reading and listening. This trip I’m going to read some kids’ historical fiction and some teen books. They’re easy to concentrate on, have lots of adventure, and I can share them with my granddaughter.

On my Nook I have downloaded (from KDL, of course): Chasing Orion,  A Christmas Sonata, Faith, Hope and Ivy JuneWhen You Reach Me and Please Ignore Vera Dietz

On my MP3 player I want to listen to The Red Pyramid and also The Ask and the Answer.  I know I’ll never get through all this, but it’s great to have some choices!  

And I have two adult books (actual paper!): The Sweetness of Tears, for our April book discussion, and The Good Father, which I’ve been waiting to devour.  

Oh, and of course among other music, I need Les Miserables to sing to while I’m driving in the dead of night.

Got any other great ideas for vacation?



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The Power of Love

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

They say all great books share the same one-word but oh-so-powerful theme:  LOVE.  To me this is wonderfully illustrated in the unforgettable book by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.  In the book, 13-year old Meg has traveled to the lost planet of Camazotz to rescue her little brother, Charles Wallace, who has been captured by the evil IT, the disembodied brain.  How would she ever save him?  “She knew! Love! That was what she had that IT did not have.”  Only her unconditional love for Charles Wallace was able to set him free. This moves me to tears every time!

If you want more, check out the power of love in these great new adult books, Heft by Liz Moore and The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo.  Moore’s endearing characters struggle with gross obesity (550+ pounds), pregnancy, alienation, addiction, and other problems. All are healed by the caring connections they have with each other, and you’ll hate to say good-bye to them at the end of the story.  Likewise, Marjorie from The Talk-Funny Girl will stay with me forever.  Her story is about hope and the amazing truth that wonderful and good people can emerge from horrible situations.

Expect to see a movie made of this — I have no doubt it will happen!



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Help for Downton Abbey Withdrawal!

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

What is it that makes us love Downton Abbey so much?  Is it because the characters are so easy to love or hate? Is it because it’s fun peeking at the fashions and manners of days gone by, in a world that is gone? Is it because we identify with all the aches and pains of the characters, and their large and small tragedies?  Whatever the reason, I am going through Downton Abbey withdrawal!  Are you?  

If you want to watch Seasons 1 and 2 again, you can reserve the DVDs from the library. Also, check out this booklist for some ideas to get you through until Season 3.  Some of these also have corresponding BBC miniseries that are fun to watch after you read the book. I remember also being obsessed with The Forsyte Saga, and then loving its adaption to film

Which your favorite Downton character? Don’t you have to just love Sybil?  But what about that Lord Grantham!

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Michigan Author Jeffrey Zaslow Dies in Car Accident

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Last Friday on an icy road in northern Michigan, Jeffrey Zaslow, beloved author and journalist, died in a car accident at the age of 53. He lived in Detroit and was returning home from a book signing event in Petosky. His funeral, attended by 1500 people, was yesterday.

Mr. Zaslow was the author of The Girls from Ames, and co-author of the best-selling The Last Lecture, as well as recent books about Chesley Sullenberger and the recovery of Gabrielle Giffords. Much of his writing centered on the themes of love, commitment and living in the moment. His lastest book, The Magic Room, about a bridal shop in Lansing, was dedicated to his three daughters.

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Cooking Up a Mystery

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Mixing food and books is not always a good idea — at the age of 14 I actually burned up my mother’s kitchen while making French fries and reading Ellery Queen at the same time.

A safer way to combine a love of food and books is to read a title from KDL’s new booklist, Cooking Up a Mystery. There you’ll find stories involving donuts, cakes, restaurants, caterers, cook-offs, lobster stew, spaghetti, peach pie and mousse. Most of the books also include recipes, which would be fun to cook up for a book discussion group. Also, most of these are parts of series, so you can get extra helpings if you’re hungry for more!




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Goodreads — You Gotta Love It

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

When you’re a librarian people are always asking you, “Have you read anything good lately?” My response is always a blank stare as I begin mumbling, my mind struggling wildly to remember a title. “Um, oh yeah, lots of good books lately…. I’ve found a lot of great reads…. Just read such a good one last week….” Finally I have to admit I can’t remember anything I did the day or week before. I tell them to check my Goodreads account at

Goodreads is the best! For years I had been writing down titles as I read them on scraps of paper that I crammed in a drawer somewhere. When I found Goodreads, I began recording my books there, even categorized them onto shelves like a good librarian. I have “the best of” each year back into the ‘90s. I have a “best nonfiction” shelf, “great graphics” shelf, “all time favs” and now that I’ve gotten so many great recommendations from KDL teen librarians, I’m starting a “teen” shelf. I can also add titles to my “to read” list, and then rank them by average ratings. It’s so much fun!

What’s even better is that you can subscribe to your friends’ accounts, and get emails when they add titles they’re currently reading and see how they have rated the ones they’ve just finished. And you can compare your whole list next to their whole list and see what you have in common, and if your ratings are similar!
If you consider yourself a reader, you like lists, you like sharing great books, and you don’t mind typing on a computer, try it, you’ll like it. It’s my life line.

Any other Goodreads users out there? Or do you have another favorite online tool for recording your books? Let us know!

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