A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh is a well known paranormal romance author, as well as a contemporary romance author. I picked up her newest contemporary romance book, A Madness of Sunshine, recently and found the mystery crime novel with a dash of romance to be fascinating.

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh takes place in New Zealand (If you have the chance to listen to the audiobook, I recommend it!). Anahera Rawiri grew up in Golden Cove. She fled this small West Coast New Zealand town at twenty-one in order to escape poverty and the childhood ghosts that haunted her. With no plans to return, Anahera sets up a brand new life as a famous pianist with a well-known husband. Eight years later, she finds herself back in Golden Cove desperately seeking comfort in the familiar after her new life implodes around her.

This small town is full of people who trust each other. Friendship runs deep throughout Golden Cove, until one summer shatters the residents of Golden Cove and their peaceful lives apart. Looking into the disappearance of a local beautiful young woman named Miri Hinewai, residents and the lone police officer, Detective Will Gallagher, are left to wonder just how safe they really are. Rumors begin to circulate possibly connecting the recent disappearance and the years-old disappearances of other women. Will begins relying on Anahera’s knowledge of both the area and the residents to help him solve the crimes. The past and present start to collide the deeper Will digs and he starts thinking that Golden Cove may hide something more sinister than the rumors and darkness lurking in the shadows.

Mobituaries by Mo Rocca

It might seem a bit morbid to be reading a whole book of obituaries, but in the hands of Mo Rocca it becomes a chance to celebrate the contributions of these people, many of whom are nearly forgotten footnotes to history. Mo teases out interesting little-known facts, explores backgrounds and upbringing, delves into personality quirks to paint a dynamic, multi-faceted portrait of each subject.

Some of Mobituaries more famous subjects include Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet “Common Sense” helped fuel the American Revolution but died in obscurity (apparently he wasn’t a very pleasant person and had no friends by the time he died); Audrey Hepburn who grew up in Holland and nearly died of starvation during the German occupation in World War II (although Hepburn was not Jewish, she felt a close kinship with Anne Frank who was the same age as Hepburn); and Billy Carter who, briefly, became almost as famous as his brother Jimmy and cultivated a country bumpkin manner that hid a sharp and thoughtful mind (there is an interesting quote from President Carter regarding his brother that kind of sums up their relationship). There’s Lawrence Welk who, despite what you think when you hear his accent, was not German at all, but born and raised in North Dakota; and Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese twins, who overcame great hardship and exploitation to become astute businessmen and raise large families.

Mobituaries also looks at the less famous that should be remembered for their contributions such as Elizabeth Jennings who has sometimes been called the Rosa Parks of New York City for breaking the color barrier on streetcars (among other accomplishments) or the first African American men elected to Congress (if you think that must of happened in the 1950s or 60s, you’re wrong; it happened in 1870).

And it’s not just people! Mo pays tribute to the station wagon and it’s demise, the disappearance of the country of Prussia and medical practices that have been debunked among other subjects. He includes the sad deaths of the Live Oaks of Toomer’s Corner, two famous trees that stood at the entrance of the University of Auburn’s campus. A center for celebrations when the Auburn Tigers won a game (especially against bitter rival Alabama), they were poisoned by a jealous Alabama fan and despite great effort, the trees perished.

Throughout the book, Mo is calm and non-judgmental, a good interviewer and listener, always with a dash of humor. He seems to be delighted in finding quirks and celebrates the courage and determination of many of his subjects. You’ll find lots of history and trivia in this book as well as an exploration of that strange creature, the human, with all their flaws and strengths, in good times and bad.

I also highly recommend Mo Rocca’s podcast, also called Mobituaries, where he reports on these stories and many others.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Challengers!

Just checking in halfway through the month to see how things are going for you. Have you been able to find a book you want to read? There are so many books set during World War II, it can be hard to pick one!

If you’re still looking, be sure to check the displays at each Davenport library location. And don’t forget about e-books – check our collection on the Overdrive or Libby app to see if a title you want to read is available to read on your Kindle or tablet (check with any librarian at the library if you need help getting started!)

Of course, sometimes the culprit is time – too many other obligations and distractions! In that case, maybe a movie would be a better idea. Here’s a few ideas.

Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds follows the convoluted journey of one of Gustav Klimt’s most famous paintings, from it’s creation, to it’s seizure by the Nazi’s to it’s return to it’s rightful home.

The Courageous Heart of Irene Sendler – Starring Anna Paquin true story of a Polish social worker that was able to smuggle Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto.

Dunkirk with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh recreates the tense and daring rescue of thousands of Allied soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks. From the terrifying Allied invasion of Normandy to the dangerous, war-torn villages of France and Germany, eight soldiers are sent to bring home one.

The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly is the fascinating story behind the Enigma machine and how the English broke the German’s secret code, saving thousands of lives.

Band of Brothers, a ten-part HBO mini-series about ‘Easy Company’ of the US Army who fought in several major battles including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and captured Hitler’s Eagles Nest while suffering major casualties.

And, of course, Casablanca. If you’ve never seen this classic, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

That’s just a small sampling. I’ve concentrated (both with movies and books) on the war in Europe, but there are many more set in the Pacific Theater. As always, read what interests you!

Happy reading (or watching!)

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on DVD

CIA analyst Jack Ryan sits behind a desk, working on a computer. He is not, he repeats, not a field agent. But when he uncovers a terrorist’s plan for a massive attack on the United States and her allies, he is pushed into action and sent on a dangerous mission to end the threat in season one of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.

The story is somewhat familiar: Suliman, a high ranking tribal leader in the Middle East has gathered a group of followers and is planning a massive strike on the West. Working as an analyst, Jack discovers a pattern of suspicious bank transactions that lead him to believe Suliman is planning something devastating. Despite the fact that he isn’t a field agent, Jack’s boss sends him to the Middle East to investigate and stop whatever the terrorist has planned.

Based on Tom Clancy’s books about Jack Ryan, this television series delivers with lots of action, intrigue, secrets and close-calls. John Krasinski as Jack Ryan is likable and relate-able, the every man (although one with considerable gun skills) that is pushed into impossible situations but manages to stay-the-course and come out in one piece. Ryan’s background is hinted out, but never fully explained, we simply know that he served in the Special Forces in the Middle East and was badly injured in battle.

A mature, fast-paced exploration of very complex issues.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

Have you ever been in the middle of reading a book and then had the author mention a place that you are very familiar with? I felt that immensely with my latest read by Tracey Garvis Graves. As I was reading, I felt myself grow more and more connected to the book and the characters because of my previous knowledge of the places mentioned.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves is told by bouncing back and forth between college years and then ten years in the future.

Annika has always been different. She frequently becomes overwhelmed in social situations and has a hard time reading people. Sensory overload often hits her and leaves her lost and confused in many situations. The things that most people care about just are not high on the priority list for Annika. She cannot match her clothes, has no problem staying in the comfort of her home all day, and does not understand why people could ever be mean to animals.

When Annika heads off to college at the University of Illinois, she finds adjusting to college life difficult as she struggles to fit in and find her place. Giving up after about a month, Annika is ready to go home until her roommate Janice takes her out and helps her find something to keep her interest: the college chess club.

Annika is a brilliant chess player, but she has no desire to compete. Meeting up with the group weekly to play allows her the ability to destress. Through the club, Annika meets Jonathan. Playing together the first day Jonathan joins the club, he is immediately captivated by Annika and her complete and utter focus on the game. Wanting to get to know her better, Jonathan and Annika start hanging out more and they fall in love. The two go through some challenges, but Jonathan is continuously patient and understanding of Annika and Annika finds Jonathan’s presence increasingly soothing. The two begin to make plans for the future, but a traumatic event drives the two apart and shatters the bond that they once felt.

Flash forward a decade. Annika and Jonathan meet by accident and the old feel of sparks and the tug of the familiar soon has them wanting to meet up again. Annika is highly functioning as a librarian, while Jonathan has become jaded in both his personal and his professional life. When the two begin hanging out again, they wonder if they will be able to pick up where they left off all those years ago or if long-buried feelings will work to keep the two apart.


The book is also available in the following format:

Outfox by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a well-known and prolific author of romantic suspense. She is also one of my go-to authors when I’m not sure what I want to read, but I need something that will keep my attention. Her latest kept me engaged from start to finish and had an ending that I didn’t see coming.

Outfox  by Sandra Brown tells the story of one man’s quest to capture a serial killer and another man’s desperate need to never be caught. Drex Easton has been hunting a serial killer for most of his adult life. For 30 plus years, he has been struggling to find a man that he last knew as Weston Graham. Weston is a sociopathic conman who has assumed many names and even more disguises over the past thirty years. So far, he has lured and tricked eight wealthy women out of their vast fortunes. These women then disappeared without a trace, along with Weston. Looking into the disappearances, the only commonality Drex sees is that a new man comes into each woman’s life before their disappearance. The man, who Drex believes to be Weston, then vanishes and leaves behind no trace that he even existed.

Drex is convinced that each of these women have been murdered and that Weston is the mysterious man responsible. Every time he gets close to capturing Weston though, he slips away, leaving Drex frustrated and with another dead woman left behind. Using countless tools at his disposal, Drex is now convinced that he has finally found Weston and is working hard to gain his trust.

Jasper Ford is attractive and charming. Having just married a successful businesswoman significantly younger than him named Talia Shafer, Ford ticks off many of the things that makes Drex believe that he is in fact Weston Graham. Desperate to save Talia from death, Drex moves to the town where the couple lives and begins insinuating himself into their lives. He starts surveillance on their house, posing as a neighbor researching a new book that he is writing. The closer Drex gets to the couple, the more he becomes convinces that Jasper is in fact that sociopath that he has been hunting for years.

Drex has only one chance to catch Jasper Ford and prove that he is in fact Weston Graham, but the attraction that he feels towards Talia threatens to destroy all the hard work that he has put in. Relying on help from his friends and hiding from the ire of others, Drex works diligently to prove Jasper’s guilt and Talia’s innocence.


This book is available in the following formats:

The Poppy Wife by Caroline Scott

Edie believes her husband Francis died in 1918 in a horrific battle near the end of World War I when he is declared “missing, presumed killed”. But in 1921 she receives a photo of Francis in the mail with no letter or return address and she begins to wonder if he made it out alive and is waiting for her. She contacts Francis’s brother Harry, and asks him to help her, to either find Francis or find his grave.

Harry, who was with Francis when he was wounded, does not believe Francis is still alive, but he is in love with Edie and will do what he can to help. Harry has been working as a photographer, taking pictures of graves and battle-sites for grieving families back in England and he understands just how chaotic and devastated the French and Belgium countryside is – entire villages have completely disappeared, while others struggle to rebuild, fields are littered with shells and mortar and bones and whole forests are nothing but burned and broken stumps.

Returning to the places that Harry and Francis (and Will, their younger brother who was killed early in the war) fought is difficult for Harry as he is flooded with memories of what they had been, what they went through and what happened to them. It is obvious that Harry is suffering from what we now call PTSD but that he is coping and that Francis also suffered and was broken by the war. In addition, Harry is burdened with the fact that he has been in love with Edie for years and, while nothing happened between Harry and Edie, Francis cannot forgive him.

Edie and Harry, traveling both together and separately, meet a wide range of people suffering in the aftermath of the war – widows and families searching for lost soldiers (many that died were never identified or found) trying to find closure with a grave or memorial, veterans haunted by what they had witnessed, ordinary people struggling to survive.

The Poppy Wife paints an unapologetic portrait of “the Great War” and it’s devastating and long-reaching affects. The chapters move between the three brothers during the war and Harry and Edie’s search for Francis in 1921. Scott’s writing is calm and collected, almost poetic, but the horror and senselessness of what happened on those foreign fields is never far from the surface. And it is nearly impossible to put down as the tension and mystery builds. Highly recommended.

If you are interested in learning more about this time period, I highly recommend Vera Brittan’s Testament of Youth (which is not fiction but actually happened to her) which has been made into a mini-series, to watch A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tautou, and Peter Jackson’s brilliant documentary They Shall Not Grow Old in which footage from the war has been remastered, bringing the time vividly to life.

Online Reading Challenge 2020 Begins Today!

Hello Challengers!

It’s a New Year and a New Online Reading Challenge! Hurrah! Unlike those pesky New Year’s Resolutions that try to “fix” you and are usually abandoned within a few days, the Online Reading Challenge is all about having fun and trying something new with no pressure. Read as much or as little as you like, whenever you like. And you get to choose what to read from a list of suggestions – no more getting stuck using your precious reading time on a book you really don’t want to read!

Our 2020 theme is “From Film to Book”. We’re going to take iconic films (you’re probably familiar with the basic story even if you’ve never seen the film) and read books that have a similar setting or time period or theme.  At the beginning of each month I’ll talk about the film a bit and then list some suggested titles. There will be displays at each Davenport Library location with more ideas, plus you’ll want to stop in and pick up a Online Reading Challenge book log/bookmark which lists the film for each month and even has room to list the books you read!

OK – time to get started! Our first film is Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  Surely everyone is familiar with this film – the love triangle, the bar, the famous song, the final scenes at the airport.  Set in 1942 in Casablanca, a city teeming with refugees desperate to escape Nazi-occupied Europe, it embodies loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, patriotism and love.

There are a couple of different routes you can take when looking for this month’s book. World War II has long been a very popular subject for books and there is no shortage of excellent titles both in fiction and non-fiction. You could also read something set in Morocco (although there aren’t many to choose from), stories about refugees or the French Resistance or any wartime romance. And any book set during World War II will qualify (remember – there are no Library Police!)

I’ve always been interested in World War II and have read a lot set in that time period. A few of my personal favorites include:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr  (blog post)

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (blog post)

The Huntress by Kate Quinn (blog post)

City of Thieves by David Benioff (blog post)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (blog post)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (blog post)

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean (blog post)

A Thread of Grace by Mary Russell (blog post)

Check the displays at each of the Davenport library locations for lots more titles!

I’m planning on reading The Last Train to London by Meg Clayton. It’s fiction based on a true story about a woman in The Netherlands helping Jewish children in Europe escape to England. Can’t wait to get started!

Now, what about you? Will you be joining us in this year’s Reading Challenge? What do you plan to read in January?

 

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – 2019 Wrap-Up

Hello Challengers!

We’ve made it through another Online Reading Challenge year! Hurrah! Whether you read a book every month or just once, I hope you found something great to read and enjoy.

December’s topic – Friends and Family – had lots of relevant titles to choose from and yet my month was a Fail. I blame the fact that the end of the year is such a busy time, but the truth is, I just didn’t find anything that really grabbed my interest – if I had, I would have found time to read it! How about you – how was your December Reading Challenge?

However, overall my reading year has been great! I read 47 books this year (so far, I might squeeze one more in!) although I have to admit 19 of those were the Joe Pickett mystery series by C.J. Box. Not only are these relatively quick to read, they’re the kind of books that make you stay up way past your bedtime to finish! I read some truly great books this year, many of which have found their way onto my all-time favorites list. I hope you enjoyed a great reading year as well!

Be sure to check the blog on January 2nd when the Online Reading Challenge 2020 – Film to Book  will begin! I think it’s going to be another great year and I can’t wait to get started!

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey caught my eye the minute I saw the cover illustration and read a quick summary of the book.  I’m a huge fan of the traditional “cozy” mysteries and this book, first in the Manor Cat Mysteries series, takes place in rural England during the spring of 1912.

Lady Cecilia Bates spends the majority of her time on the grounds of her family’s estate, Danby Hall, living a life of leisure by assisting her mother, the Countess of Avebury, with parties and other domestic duties.  Her family’s estate is run like clockwork by a household of servants who cater the the family’s every whim.  Cecilia lives here with her brother, Patrick, who is the heir apparent of the estate.  To an outsider, Patrick seems an unlikely heir, as he would much rather be alone with the exotic plants he lovingly cares for in his laboratory.

As Danby Hall has increasingly become more difficult to maintain with the family’s finances, a glimmer of hope arrives in the form of Miss Annabel Clarke from the United States.  She, along with her vast wealth, arrive for a host of parties with the hope of an engagement to Patrick Bates who will become Earl of Avebury in years to come.

Immediately upon Miss Clarke’s arrival, an elaborate dinner party celebrates all that is best of Danby in order to impress the American heiress. What the residents of Danby Hall did not count on was the murder of a guest by poison just as drinks were served!  The victim is a renowned naturalist in between explorations who was making a quick stop at Danby Hall, but it quickly becomes apparent that maybe the poison wasn’t meant for him.

Lady Cecilia, along with Miss Clarke’s maid, Jane and her stowaway marmalade cat Jack, hit the ground running in an attempt to find the culprit and save Danby Hall from further scandal.  With the amateur sleuths finding clue after clue within the house, evidence points to someone close to the family or someone attempting to capitalize on the family’s dwindling fortune.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey.  Some of the twists and turns were to be expected, but the mystery kept my interest and was a true “cozy” mystery.  My only criticism is that I would have liked the manor cat, Jack, to have more of a starring role.  Maybe he will in the second installment, due in the summer of 2020.

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