Kate Worthington, dismayed and disheartened by the loveless marriage of her parents, has vowed to never marry. She hopes to instead travel to India with her aunt, to escape the discordance of her family and to find both adventure and peace. Her closest friends are Sylvia and Henry Delafield. She has grown up with the siblings and has taken advantage of that by having Henry teach her what he has learned in his classroom. Henry is also the heir to Blackmoore, an estate in Northern England which has always captured the imagination of Katherine. When Katherine finally has the chance to visit Blackmoore, she makes a bargain with her scandalous mother–if she turns down three marriage proposals, she may go off to India. She makes an arrangement to receive the proposals–but will her bargain free her or allow her to lose her heart and her happiness? Katherine is a passionate, intelligent young woman struggling to find her place in the world, wanting independence and love, but not wanting to sacrifice her happiness for the loveless marriage her mother is trying to arrange. Blackmoore captures the desolation and remoteness of the moors and creates a fitting atmosphere for the story. Katherine and Henry are believable, intelligent and compassionate main characters. The portrayal of Kate’s dilemma, in 1820′s upper-class England, illustrates the difficulties faced by young women of the time who were reluctant to marry just for social status or to be considered respectable. This is a charming romance with likeable, well-developed characters, full of atmosphere, emotional tension and intrigue.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford’s debut novel, was a huge success that I somehow missed. It is on the top of my reading list now that I have read his second novel, Songs of Willow Frost. This is a bittersweet novel that tells a story of difficult circumstances, mistreatment and love. Set in Seattle during the Depression, a 12 year old boy, William Eng, thinks his mother is a film star. He has not seen her for 5 years when she left him at the Sacred Heart Orphanage. His best friend Charlotte helps him escape and together they search for her and discover a beautiful, broken woman. The plight of Chinese immigrants that are not respected is a sad history played out in this story. The history of the film industry in that part of the country is also explored as we progress from talkies to feature films.
Do you remember being a child and having the time to curl up in a chair, spending the day lost in an adventure taking place in another time or world? Remembering those classic children’s fiction books take us back to those days. And re-reading those books as adults, or reading them aloud to our children, brings a new perspective on the stories that we so fondly recall.
There are many children’s books that are considered classics, and a few of the favorites on my list include:
“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1911, is one of my all-time favorite stories, one that I read and re-read as a child and read aloud to my own children. It tells the story of Mary Lennox, orphaned in India and sent to live in the moors of England with her uncle. Misselthwaite Manor is a cold, lonely estate, made isolated and somber after the death of her aunt, leaving her uncle in inconsolable grief. Mary hears rumors of a hidden garden, as well as hearing strange cries in the night. She discovers the hidden garden as well as a sickly cousin, Colin. With the help of her maid Martha, Martha’s brother Dickon, and Ben, the kindly old gardener, Mary brings life back to the garden, to Colin and to the Manor. This is a charming story of friendship, family and determination, with wonderful descriptions of the garden and the children growing and changing. Burnett is also the author of another favorite, “A Little Princess.”
In her debut novel, The Ghost Bride, Yangsze Choo poses a few basic questions: What would you do if you were the young daughter of a Chinese family in Malaysia in the 19th century, and your father, whose had fallen into dire straits, was being encouraged to marry you off to as a “ghost bride” to the recently deceased son of a powerful and wealthy family? Continue reading
Dreading the day, zoo keeper, Theodora “Teddy” Bentley takes Alejandro, the Gunn Zoo llama, to a Monterey Bay area Renaissance Faire to give rides to children. She becomes charmed by Alejandro’s loving way with children, and is stunned when she finds Reverend Victor, the proprietor of a local wedding chapel, shot dead by crossbow in the llama pen. Local law enforcement makes a mess of the investigation by arresting Teddy’s mother. Teddy’s nosiness leads her to discover Victor was not a reverend. He married many people in the community, and those marriages are now void. Who is the killer? Teddy’s prying makes her a prime target. The Llama of Death is a “cozy” mystery with animal lore and a hint of evil, the third entry in the Gunn Zoo series, after The Koala of Death.
Emily McKellips, about to be married, is trying to be responsible, logical, traditional and conforming. Raised by her single mother, with a larger than life personality and 4 marriages to her credit, Emily has reacted by making her life predictable and settled and by doing the correct thing at all times. Engaged to Grant, a transplant surgeon (the perfect man with the perfect family), they spend The Week Before the Wedding at a resort in Vermont, finalizing the wedding plans and welcoming family members. At the resort, Emily’s best laid plans are turned upside down–Grant’s staid and correct mother and aunts are appalled by the behavior of Emily’s mother, her best friend Summer is disappointed in the way Emily is willing to go along with all of the wedding traditions from Grant’s family, and Ryan, Emily’s ex-husband appears on the scene. Ryan and Emily were married on a whim right after college and despite their chemistry and love for one another, were divorced after Emily tired of their lack of stability. Ryan is in Vermont scouting movie locations, and claiming that she is still the love of his life, forces Emily to question her choices. Will she opt for stability and tradition or be the free-spirited woman she one was? Author Beth Kendrick has created amusing situations and a cast of witty and charming characters, with a story that keeps the reader guessing who will Emily choose. This is an entertaining, enjoyable novel filled with likeable characters and laugh-out-loud scenes. A fun read!
Susan Withee, Adult Services Department Manager
Time to ward off the autumn chill with some simple, soul-satisfying home cooking – soups, stews, one-pot cooking, comfort foods, and slow-cooker meals. Full of the flavors of the season, this is cooking that fills the house with delicious aromas and anticipation of the meal ahead. It is fun to make and savor, and it’s even better when shared with others. Start your own family tradition or invite the neighborhood. Manhattan Public Library has hundreds of cookbooks for you, including these newer ones to inspire your autumn cooking.
“Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup,” by Maggie Stuckey.
“The Ultimate Soup Cookbook,” edited by Neil Wertheimer.
“Soups & Sides,” by Catherine Walthers.
“Chili Nation: The Ultimate Chili Cookbook with Recipes from Every State in the Nation,” by the legendary, entertaining cookbook-writing team of Jane and Michael Stern.
“Real Stew: 300 Recipes for Authentic Home-cooked Cassoulet, Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, …and Much More,” by Clifford Wright. Continue reading
In this work of nonfiction, David Rosenfelt (author of the mystery series featuring character Andy Carpenter, beginning with Open and Shut), tells the story of his and his wife Debbie’s love for dogs and of their adventurous move from California to Maine with 25 dogs on board 3 RV’s, along with 9 volunteers. Rosenfelt and his wife, while living in LA, were dismayed at the condition of many of the animal shelters as well as the number of older dogs that lived in them, with virtually no chances of being adopted. When their beloved Golden Retriever Tara died, they began a nonprofit dog rescue organization that, while trying to focus primarily in rescuing older goldens from shelters before they were euthanized, became a group that tried to save any dog that was condemned to death in a shelter. Their passion for dogs resulted in spending many years in California with between 23 and 40 dogs in their care, believing that every dog deserves to be cared for, loved and to live with dignity. The chapters that cover their chaotic, humorous and exhausting drive from CA to ME are interspersed with chapters about individual dogs under their care, each story reflecting the love for each dog.
Dogtripping is a charming, at times laugh-out-loud funny and at times tearfully sad story about a couple dedicated to giving animals the best life possible. This heartwarming tale will appeal to animal lovers everywhere.
As much as I love a book that warms that heart and reaffirms my faith in humanity, I also sometimes like a book that takes a hard and unrelenting look at the deep flaws in people. For these moods, writers like Lionel Shriver provide a bracing tonic against sweetness. Shriver, the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, has recently released Big Brother, a book that more than lives up to her reputation as a writer of difficult stories. Continue reading
Chris Bohjalian is a familiar author to many. I have enjoyed The Buffalo Soldier, Ideal Banter and numerous other fiction and non-fiction titles by this New York Times Bestselling writer. The Light in the Ruins is an historical crime novel. It takes us to Italy during the early 1940′s and alternates to the characters’ lives 10 years later. The story begins with a very horrifying murder of a formerly wealthy war widow, Francesca Rosati. Her life during the war is revealed piece by piece as Serafina, a burn -scared and memory-scarred detective searches for the murderer. The Germans are positioning themselves all over the country and many partisan Italians hiding in the hills are finding themselves in want and need of necessities. Villa Chimera is the home of daughter-in-law Francesca and her two children. Germans are coming to the villa to view the Etruscan ruins as investigators for the Ahnenerbe, the Ancestral Heritage Research and Teaching Society, who are trying to establish proof for the hypothesized “Aryan Race”. Cristina, Francesca’s younger sister-in-law is falling in love with one of the German SS officers. The villagers are murmuring about the Rosati family and their fraternization with the Germans while the war grows closer to all. This fast paced novel is gripping and has interesting historical links along with romance and a serial killer….something for everyone.
Jo Baker has written a wonderful addition to the tale of Pride and Prejudice. This time we see how the five staff at Longbourn cared for the Bennett household and lived their lives. Sarah, an orphan, has vague memories of a loving mother. She works alongside Mrs. Hill, the cook and housekeeper, dealing with the hard work and drudgery; serving with little appreciation. Along comes James, a young man with a mysterious background, who is hired as driver and groom. His seeming disinterest in Sarah, is reciprocated especially when she runs an errand and meets the footman at Netherland-tall, in fine livery and powdered wig. Author Jo Baker creates a marvelous story with all the grit and realism experienced by help in the 19th century. She delves into the backgrounds of the characters we know through Pride and Prejudice and reveals some reasons for their behaviors.
Librarians often get asked what we’re reading. One of the perks of our job is seeing what is new and being surrounded by readers who share what’s good. So I was excited to hear about Library Reads, a group that has started compiling lists of the “top books published this month that librarians across the country love.” Looking through the list significantly increased my “to read” list!
2. They also list Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming, another installment in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. I’ve been addicted to this series from the very beginning and I’m chomping at the bit to get my hands on this book.
4. Joshilyn Jackson has established a reputation for Southern Women’s Fiction. She’s back with Someone Else’s Love Story, the endearing story of a single mom who is forced to face the truth of her son’s conception. Continue reading
Anne Blythe is happy and successful in most aspects of her life, except for her love life. Leaving her latest partner after learning he was unfaithful, and surrounded by friends with meaningful relationships, Anne finds a business card for “Blythe and Company” and decides that fate is telling her to sign up at what she thinks is a dating service. She works up the courage to make an appointment and discovers that the company is not a dating service but one that arranges marriages. As the company rep describes the matching process and their success rate, Anne decides she has nothing to lose and signs up for the service. The clients all meet their matches on a vacation at a resort, where they marry the day after they meet. Anne has been matched with Jack, and although he is not her usual “type”, she realizes that there is a connection between them. They begin to care for one another when a secret between them is revealed–can their Arranged marriage survive?
This is a fun, entertaining romance with flawed but endearing characters and a unique and unpredictable plot. Anne and Jack are both on voyages of self-discovery and their journeys and their relationships are fascinating to observe — this is a delightful romance!!
Once again another great read by Sawyer! What Once Was Lost tells the story of Christina Willems as she carries on the work of the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor. The Asylum is the only home Christina has ever known. When a fire displaces all her charges, Christina is determined to bring them back together. However, circumstances seem to be against making that task possible. The characters are interesting and the setting takes you back in time.
Australian author Graeme Simsion has written a very funny romantic comedy about a 30 something, socially challenged genetic engineer who decides it is time to find a wife scientifically. Don Tillman creates a 16 page double-sided questionnaire to judge prospective mates. Along comes intelligent and beautiful Rosie Jarman whom he is able to actually spend time and converse with, yet he disqualifies as a wife candidate. He does help Rosie search for her own answer to who her real father is. This Asperger-like character is similar to people we all know as absent-minded professors, nerds or geeks. Getting into the mind of Don and seeing the way he thinks life should be referenced by this unemotional, critically- thinking person is very insightful and extremely funny. Rosie helps him break free of some of the socially inept tendencies and their relationship becomes very complicated. The Rosie Project was begun as a screen play project and became an award-winning manuscript before it was published in Melbourne.