Robin read her way through puberty, numerous marriages and several good dogs. Her first love is non-fiction. But she's spent many a wild night with a thrilling mystery or an author who knows how to sling words together. Most of her best friends and strong opinions have come from books.
If there is a headstone to mark her grave, it will say... "I read about this once."
Most of us have one childhood home that we carry in our hearts. It is part of our story and how we became the people we are today. This is a love story to a particularly grand house. The Dutch House. This is also about the families whose lives filled every glorious inch of its space.
The best analogy I have is that of moths drawn to a flame. The Dutch House is most definitely the flame. The families (and I) are the moths. I fell in love with the inhabitants and their dramatic lives. But I am completely obsessed with the house. Like Danny and his sister Maeve, I too would park at the curb and gawk... years after moving out and moving on. And if given the chance, I would walk through the door and never leave. In the meantime, if I’m lucky, I will visit the Dutch House in my dreams.
OH, WHAT FUN! This gem of a story is both heartwarming and hilarious for anyone, anywhere. But if you happen to live here in Wichita, Kansas, you are in for a hoot and a half! At the heart of this tangled yarn is a struggling antique/flea market. The characters whose lives intersect amid the treasures and trash are a mixed bag of nuts. You will recognize the people, the places, and the drama. The mystery itself is really more of an “oopsie” that snowballs out of control. From talking Barbies to fine china, a headless MC Hammer to hermits and hoarders... you’ll be enchanted.
Whether you like mysteries, quaint historical tales, character studies, or psychological thrillers… Second Sleep is for you. England, 1468. Join young Fr. Fairfax as he journeys to the remote village of Exmoor. You’ll both soon suspect that something is afoot (or under foot) with the recent death of the previous parson, the townspeople, and the land itself.
If you can possibly read this delicious novel with a blank slate of expectation, you will be in for quite a thrill. Nothing is as it seems and when you have recovered from the first “Revelations”, you’ll still not be on solid ground. Oh no, not even close.
First I fell in love with Krueger’s This Tender Land, and Ordinary Grace. From there I had no place to go but down the rabbit hole of his Cork O’Connor mystery series, beginning with Iron Lake. Darn it! I just finished and find myself in every reader’s worst nightmare… without the next book in hand. That will be quickly remedied. Boundary Waters, here I come. You know where to find me… there are 16 books left in the series. I hear he’s started the next one. Oh, lordy!
A common request after Heather Morris' previous book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz was, "Tell us more about Cilka!" Thankfully, her story now lives in the hearts of grateful readers.
As a young girl, Cilka survived Auschwitz because she was pretty. She was sent left when others, were sent right. She was kept in separate housing for women deemed worthy of rape by the officers. After the war, the Russians found her guilty of “sleeping with the enemy” and sentenced her to 15 years in a Siberian work camp. She was sent to live in Hut 25… where women worked the mines during the day and were sexually assaulted at night. Incredibly, Cilka’s journey is one of finding a purpose in serving others in the midst of unspeakable suffering. This is one to add to the “never to be forgotten” shelf, for future generations.
Two memorable quotes:
“She’s too pretty. She’s going to have a rough journey.” and,
“Your body is an ATM machine.”
If you are haunted by images of Mexican migrants at our borders, you are ready for American Dirt. If you cannot fathom why a mother would risk everything to bring her child to our hostile country, you are ready for American Dirt.
Lydia and her son will lead you on a desperate journey to “el norte”, the United States. Brace yourself. There is brutality and blood on these pages. And ultimately there is a reckoning.
Bill Bryson has discovered something more challenging than his Walk in the Woods. The human body and all its quirky and bizarre wonders. As I read the chapter about the heart, I found myself saying a silent “thank you” and patting my chest a bazillion times a day. More than ever, I realize we are the result of fantabulous feats of Mother Nature Gone Wild.
Reading Bill Bryson as he explains how my eyeballs are able to read Bill Bryson is a trip! If you find yourself feeling ho hum… this book is a pair of jumper cables just waiting for you to latch on. Go for it. You’ll be saying “thank you”, in no time at all.
Book Clubs, you are in for a treat! Love, Death & Rare Books is absolutely everything the title infers. Gabe is a third-generation owner of “Chas. Johnson & Son, LTD. Antiquarian Bookstore”. The love of the written word and the history of those words are in his blood. His descriptions alone of a rare and valuable book will make you want to reach out to carefully touch the delicate spine.
I fell head over heels for the people who inhabit this rare book. There is indeed love and death. And they are handled as reverently as a first edition of Montaigne’s Essais. This story takes place in the time of emerging electronic rivals like e-books and amazon. Gabe’s navigation through times of love, loss and literary magic are pure gold. Prepare to be entranced.
Two memorable quotes:
"Outlasting the war didn't necessarily mean you'd survived." and,
"Storytelling is fundamental to resilience."
Unspeakable. In some Jewish families the holocaust is a constant presence, rarely discussed. Recently, Esther’s mother mentioned a shocking new bit of information. Esther’s father (now deceased) had a previous wife and daughter. Both were killed in a concentration camp. And, so begins the author’s journey of discovery.
Fascinating! How and why we so frequently misinterpret the words, intentions, and sincerity of strangers. Computers, analyzing only information, are far better at judging someone’s guilt or innocence (and future behavior) than judges, psychologists, and witnesses.
Based on our preconceptions of how people should behave in certain situations, the guilty often appear innocent and the innocent look like cold-hearted liars. They’re mismatched. Their outer reactions, facial expressions, and behavior don’t match our socially biased expectations. But wait, how do culture, alcohol, or surroundings further muck up our interactions? That’s just the tip of this Gladwellian iceberg.
Calling all book clubs... This is it! Historical fiction in the hands of a genius storyteller. A band of vagabond children on an epic journey to find their way during the great depression. Their search for home, for peace, for family, for identity is one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a very long time. This is Mark Twain meets Dickens, and then some. Extensively researched and eloquently told, this is storytelling at its finest.
Yes, I used the word “storytelling” twice. But there is no better example of this beautiful art form. The only thing missing is a crackling fire and a creaking rocker, as this tale unfolds.
“Lucky us”, as Mose would say.
I thought I knew. I had no idea.
My memory is made up of all the big moments shared by the news. Planes, towers, explosions, the Pentagon, flight 93. All Images, experienced vicariously.
Graff has collected first-hand accounts of 9/11 and woven them into a chronological masterpiece. I am awestruck by the tiniest of details, observations, moments. The following silence, like that after a heavy snowfall. Streets filled with women’s shoes. (Think about it.) These testimonies fill in the spaces between the big images burned into our national psyche.
These voices make it real. Make it human. Make it us.
Odessa, Texas. 1970’s. Oil patch country. Girls were expected to smile and cheer for the boys on the field. Football or oil… didn’t much matter which. When a young Mexican girl manages to "get herself raped", some folk consider this the price of admission. But this singular attack reverberates through the community and spreads like wildfire amongst its women.
Wetmore beautifully captures a moment in history. “… the whole day stretched out in front of us like an old house cat.” These are women you cry with and cheer for. Ultimately, this is sweet justice, wrapped up inside this perfect quote.
“The flatness of Mary Rose’s speech, the hollow affect, the cold and steady tone of voice – all are fear and rage transformed into wrath. Hers is the voice of someone whose mind is made up. All that’s left to do is wait for the little spark that will justify what is about to happen next.”
Ka-Pow! A roaring good tale that features time and history as main characters. Add in politics, religion and greed, and buckle up. I spent three days down this rabbit hole of a thriller. I may need to read tomorrow’s headlines, to see exactly where and when I have emerged.
Khoury begins in Istanbul 1682 with the discovery of an ancient incantation that will transport the speaker (and his knowledge) to another time. Like a deck of cards… pick a time, any time. “Khoury “jumps” forward to current day, with different good guys and their beliefs in control. The players are the same, but world dominance has exchanged hands. The results are either disastrous or divinely led. Or both. It seems that the one constant in rewriting history is the true nature of man. I’m not sure if I feel hopeful or doomed. Pick a page, any page…
“Which three literary characters would you invite for tea?” I finally have my answer and they all inhabit this novel. They are Lanny, Mad Pete, and Dead Papa Toothwort.
Young Lanny’s world is just like ours. Filled with magic and the mundane. Love and decay. Sewage and song. Dear Lanny embraces it all and dances between the seen and unseen worlds. Dead Papa Toothwort is the voice of the village and the woods. Timeless, he sees all from cradle to grave, seedling to compost. Toothwort is waiting for a special child. Mad Pete is an artist who soon realizes his young student, Lanny is in fact too wise and wild to confine within mere charcoal or ink.
A celebration of life, youth, and the human experiment.
One word: Epic. Not since Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, have I been so moved by a young girl’s earnest narrative. Zelda is not quite “normal”. (Thanks, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.) She holds her fragile world together with lists and rules. And oh yeah, our Zelda is obsessed with all things Viking. She is determined to defend her tribe, defeat villains, abolish all lurking Grendels, and make her own legend.
Zelda’s quest is noble and treacherous. There may not be the dragons or fair maidens of days gone by, but there are drug dealers, star-crossed lovers and librarians.
I am thrilled to learn that this is a debut novel. And Zelda’s voice rang so true, I was shocked to learn the author is a man! Remember this name, MacDonald is going to be legendary.
This is not a story you want to know. It is a story you need to know. The Nickel Boys is based on the true events from Dozier “Reform” School for Boys. (Marianna, Florida 1900-2011.) The atrocities that took place within these walls are all too real. Even today, the graves of throw-away boys are still being uncovered. Most of the survivors who lived to give witness are white. And most of the bodies are black. Let that sink in.
Only Colson Whitehead could retell this story via two young black boys in the early 60's. Each with opposing views of their place in the world. Only Jack Turner and Elwood Curtis, could slowly reopen those old wounds with such care and candor.
The ending is both heartbreaking and beautiful.
I was fortunate to read this lovely historical fantasy with no prior knowledge of where it would take me. And take me, it did. I am normally adept at spotting a hidden plot twist. But I was eased into this turn slowly. Then, whoosh! I took the hairpin curve, slighting tilting, thinking, “Is this really what’s going on?”
The plot alone will keep you turning pages at a fast clip. But the rich, “scenery” will force you to slow down. This book is about books, and the secrets they hold. Literally. The Binding is deeply enchanting and enchanted. A joy to inhabit its pages.
All the feels!
12-year-old Eddie is flying with his family to relocate across the country. Their doomed plane plummets into a Colorado field, leaving only the boy alive. In the blink of an eye, Eddie becomes Edward, Miracle Boy. Edward must suddenly navigate an entirely alien landscape, living with his aunt and uncle.
As Edward finds his way, we also receive glimpses of the fellow passengers on the plane, right up until impact. And via letters to “Dear Edward”, we meet loved ones left behind by the 191 souls on board.
But take heart! This novel is neither tragic nor gloomy. It pulses with a life force programmed to make sense out of a new reality. Like Edward, this novel brims with dogged determination to create hope and meaning from the ashes of fate. Your tears, like mine, will be those of joy.
This story will humble you.
Can you find love, without freedom? Can you be free, without love? Most of us will never have to weigh those questions in our own lives. Here, Ta-Nehisis Coates has delved into the very soul of slavery. Its history is laid bare through the eyes of a young black man, Hiram Walker. Through memory and stories, he attempts to make sense of a brutal, yet sometimes beautiful existence.
To call this story a “plot” would be demeaning to its essence. Within these pages there abides too many layers of struggle and strength to number. Young Hiram Walker’s life embodies every one of those layers. His desperate yet unwavering testimony to love and freedom is a singular voice. A voice that can, even today, ring out and carry us forward.
I have never EVER read anything remotely like The Reckless Oath We Made. And there has never before been a character like Gentry. The fact that he is autistic, and his diagnosis is barely relevant, won my heart. He gives a new meaning to the term Renaissance Man. I won’t reveal how or why. Just know that we should all strive to be more like dear Gentry and his “white trash” princess Zhorzha.
I wish I could find that dirt road and climb that hill and reassure myself that these good things are true.
I am going to miss the brave k-night, Sir Gentry and his fiery Lady Zee. I will miss Leon, the born-again Pitbull. And young Marcus, who brings hope and resolve to all. I’ll miss the old bank robber, the meth addict, and the 600-pound hoarder/dragon. I will even miss The Nag, The Hag, and The Douchebag. But most of all, I am going to miss reading this book!
Happy dance… 2019 Pulitzer for Fiction!
Some books are page-turners. The Overstory is a page-sitter. You will slow down, breath deeper, and let it sink in. The writing feels almost like a meditation. A manifesto/love letter… from mother earth. Part One: short stories that make up the intricate network of roots. Part Two: Suddenly, these individual personalities come together and begin a quest that forms The Trunk. (You get the idea.) From there, you follow the natural and supernatural grain as it grows into a majestic Overstory. And finally, Seeds.
P.S. The Overstory made me miss my dad. We would have spent hours pouring over this one.
PLEASE ADVISE! I’ve read the book. Now what, Kate Fazzini?
This is an avalanche of cyber warfare. Happening right under our noses. I can barely watch the news today without seeing the shadows of the dark underbelly below the headlines and suits. I flew through these pages, like an addictive crime thriller. All the while thinking, “Well, what the hell am I supposed to do now?”
I have questions, Kate. And I don’t know where to begin. Banks, credit, elections, stock market, mergers, infrastructure, power grids, social media. My head is spinning. Keeping my money under the mattress “granny style” is pathetic. (Right?) Thankfully I live a small life with small potatoes to show for it. I would not be a tempting target. But caught in a net of collateral damage? Absolutely. This book should be read by everyone who has an interest in, well, never mind. This book should be read by everyone. Period.
In the meantime, Kate, call me!
Miracle Creek is a punch to the gut. It’s a rare glimpse into the unspoken competition between mothers whose children have autism and other special needs. A perverse competition, at times. Understandably, which mother is the most devoted, dedicated and selfless? But also, whose child is the neediest, the most challenging, the most disabled? Finally, which mother can claim to have the most difficult life?
This is a community filled with therapy, experimental procedures, hopes, and dashed dreams. And it happens every day. But in Miracle Creek, this “special” society is the foundation for an especially horrific accident, (or crime?) that results in dead children, parents, and bystanders.
The story is played out in the courtroom and in chapters revealing each player’s part. Every person’s true character is laid bare. Even despicable acts can be viewed sympathetically, given the circumstances. You may be shocked to discover a bit of yourself in each complicit or conflicted decision. In other words, this one’s a doozy.
Book Swallows Reader. Wholly and completely. I have one hand reserved for the 5 books that have become part of my character. I realize now that I saved my pinkie for Eli Bell, the boy who swallows the universe.
There are books so transforming that you must carefully chew every word before swallowing. This is such a book. This is such a boy. The plight of Eli Bell and his shattered but unbreakable family is all consuming. There are terrible passages I could not bear to read, but I did. There are moments so blindingly beautiful that I read them again, slowly, to let them flow under my skin like tattoos. This story devoured me, not the other way ‘round. The author’s note at the end was so profound, it should be written in the air, with a flourish. Perfection.
PS… my only regret is that I did not find this book until it was too late to nominate for Indie Next. But I have a strong premonition that it is predestined.
Families, best friends, neighbors, fierce love and dark secrets. Ask Again, Yes is about the truths we do not talk about with those we love. Avalanches held at bay by mere denial. The slow erosion of relationships when we choose to dance around a problem instead of confronting it. We’ve all been there, hoping an unraveling seam will somehow magically repair itself. This is a lovingly told story of good people. There are no bad guys here. Just your average flawed humans, holding hands while trudging through the muck of life, love, addiction, obsession, and loyalty. You will love them all. You will stay up at least one night to see them through the journey. And you will hold them in your heart long after you close the book.
There are some books that are simply a delight to read. Here is such a book. One singular man holds together this patchwork quilt of a story. That strong center square is Tom Hope. He keeps a small dairy and sheep farm in Hometown, Australia. Tom is a sweet and simple man of the land. Steady, reliable, unassuming and yes, hopeful. He is adept and and confident when working the land or caring for his flock. But he doubts his ability to be a worthy companion or friend. People are so perplexing!
However, those wandering souls who come within Tom's orbit are eventually made whole. His wayward wife Trudy abandons her child and leaves Tom, for Jesus. Young Peter desires nothing more than to merely walk and work alongside Tom. Enter Hannah, an Auschwitz survivor. After losing her entire family to the camps, she carries that heavy loss and grief in her marrow. But Hannah is determined to balance the scale of life with beauty and books.
In other words, these people are flawed and lost and looking for something. Witnessing their frustration and anguish is understanding our own stumbling search for completion. Watching them each find their way is a joy. Oh, how I wish I could visit this dear little farm and the astonishing bookshop in the barn. But wait, I just did. And it was charming. Simply charming. Enjoy this one over a “cuppa”.
To make a secret agreement to commit an unwise or unlawful act, to the detriment of others.
Oh Lou Berney, what have you done? As your hero, slash villain, Guidry, is fond of saying, "Ye Gods!"
This November Road could not get any twistyer and turnyier. Even the Warren Commission would shake their collective heads at this outlandish but brilliant conspiracy. Is Guidry a good bad guy? Or a bad good guy? Even now, I wonder. (Maybe both, like the rest of us poor saps.)
Guidry's world of mobsters and mothers held me captive and captivated. Like his innocent but astute Charlotte, I have decided to allow my heart and head to duke it out.
November Road is a literary gateway drug. I need more. Back to the shelves I go... let's see...B for Berney. Ye Gods!
To be honest, you had me at Pelecanos.
George Pelecanos is smart, witty, and honest. He IS Washington D.C., minus the politics. He is the music, the food, the streets, the rhythm and pulse of DC.
There is a plot, of course. Probably a murder. The stuff of most mysteries. But this is not most mysteries. This is Pelecanos.
Pelecanos can grab me with the dialogue inside the car, on the way to commit a crime. Nobody does dialogue like Pelecanos. Snappy. Funny. Real. This book begins in the arms of a jailhouse librarian and a young man inspired by books and striving to rise above his own destiny.
Pelecanos has outdone himself. Once again.
Greenstone, Minnesota is a quirky little town, teetering on the brink. In a perfect world, it might very well exist... If you are lucky enough to find yourself lost in the mist from Lake Superior. And let's face it, sometimes we only truly find ourselves when we are quite lost. Which brings us to Virgil Wander.
Virgil wakes up in a concussed state. He was pulled from his car after it slid over a snowy ledge and dove straight into the lake. Virgil remembers very little, including himself, whom he refers to as "the previous tenant". He's lost his bearings and a few other fairly important things, like his purpose and balance. And adjectives.
Virgil owns the town's old movie theater, The Empress. The old dame is past her prime and fading fast, but he is determined to bring her back to life while likewise restoring himself. The cast of characters in Greenstone outshine those on the big screen. You'll meet an arctic kite flier who "calls upon the wind like a take-out pizza", and a man-eating sturgeon. But the true stars of this tale are the words. Those dazzling adjectives that come to life and sing. (I have a notepad to prove it, having copied phrases too perfect to leave behind.) Virgil's quest to rebuild his life and his hard luck town, is part homespun yarn and part magic. Every character is pitch perfect and oddly familiar. I fell in love over and over... with the man and the town.
Ok, here's the deal. This book was so incredible, that I did not want to read any more fiction for a while. I was sure to be disappointed by a merely good read, after having loved Where The Crawdads Sing. And oh, how I loved this book.
.Here is a life and location that is incredibly foreign. Yet I was literally wearing the skin of Kya within the first few pages. I felt the marsh beneath my feet, smelled the grease crackling on the old stove, soared with the screeching night herons and was crushed beneath the icy glares of the towns people. I fell in love and was spurned and burned. And reborn.
Don't let anyone tell you this is a murder mystery. This story is bigger than the sky and more intimate than a sigh.
David Joy, (once again) is the genuine article. He writes from his gut. Dang!
These characters broke into my house and won't be leaving any time soon. And that line that holds us? Well, it just got real blurry, real fast. The line between good and rotten, justice and penance, godliness and damnation. I give up.
This dude's voice curls my toes!
The subtitle of this glorious memoir, Everything Happens For a Reason, is the the real reason you must pick up this book. ..."And Other Lies I've Loved".
Oh my! The Prosperity Gospel gets turned on it's ear in these pages. Platitudes and promises are tossed out like spoiled food found in the back of your fridge. None of us, including our brave author, are getting out of here alive. No amount of good deeds, good will, good attitudes, or good faith is going to change that truth.
So why do we show up on the doorstep of our dying friend, bringing cheerful casseroles and pithy platitudes?
Kate Bowler is proclaiming a better way of dealing with sickness and death. Her own. Instead of baked lasagna, she brings us Stage Four Fortitude. Served up with unblinking acceptance of true grace and surrender for a fragile soul. Put down your casserole and curl up with Kate. She needs to talk to you.
This endearing tale is top of the heap in my books to recommend. To anyone. The main characters and circumstances are drawn from actual history. 1870, to be exact. An older gentleman, (Captain) reads the newspapers from around the world to illiterate townspeople across the state of Texas.
Captain is commissioned to return a rescued 10 year old girl to her family in San Antonio. Johanna was abducted by the Kiowa four years earlier. She is now a wild child, a hellion who has no desire to go "home", let alone live in the boxed in world of the white man.
Their journey together slowly turns into a love story of the truest form. An ending that will keep you up well past your bedtime and will demand to be read again in the morning. Prepare to be swept away.
Facebook is not my "friend". It WAS my addiction. I repeatedly quit. Then peeked. Then snuck quietly back in. Then lost myself in a sea of nonsense. I have quit cigarettes and booze, but was helpless against a social media app? Good grief!
Jaron Lanier has convinced me that not only was I addicted. I was drowning in thick and gooey stupidity. Algorithms are the new boogie man under the bed. My "free" internet access is being paid for by SOMEONE! Some anonymous, nefarious, and invisible agents. And here's the punch in the gut punchline... I am the product, not the consumer. I repeat. I am the product, not the consumer. I have been drugged and duped. If you believe you already know about the dark side of social media, you are in for a rude awakening.
Just read the darn thing. Then tell your friends. In person. Have an actual conversation. Use your vocal chords.
Use your head. We can do this.