TV6 Book Club December Read Wrap-Up and Introduction to February Reads!

Woman sitting in a windowsill and looking out yonder.

In December, Morgan and I read The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo to celebrate Thank a Soldier week December 24th– 30th. Here is what I have to say about the book:

Told in alternating viewpoints of 2 nurses serving in World War II, “The Fire by Night” tells in vivid detail the horrors of war. Jo stationed on the Western front in a makeshift hospital tent caring for six men alone and Kay, taken prisoner in the Pacific. Trying to survive while keeping others alive, the two women separated by war and bound by duty show the reader what a hero looks like.

I will not lie, there were many scenes in this book that were hard to read. This was very much a war book and not typically something that I would read. In the end, I am so grateful for the opportunity to dive in.

Our January plans were foiled for book club as our region received large amounts of snow. Below are our 4 options for February including our winning title! Feel free to check them out from Davenport Public Library!

a woman sitting in a martini glass

Mickey Chambers Shakes it Up by Charish Reid (in honor of Do a Grouch a Favor Day on February 16th)

Mickey Chambers is an expert at analyzing modern literature. But when it comes to figuring out her own story, she’s feeling a little lost. At thirty-three, she’s an adjunct instructor with a meager summer class schedule and too many medical bills, courtesy of her chronic illness. Picking up a bartending gig seems perfect. Sure, Mickey’s never done this before, but the gorgeous, grumpy bar owner, Diego Acosta, might be the perfect man to teach the teacher…if he wasn’t so stressed. – provided by Goodreads

 

 

pink cover four womenThe Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland (in honor of Galentine’s Day on February 13th)

In 1997, grunge is king, Titanic is a blockbuster (and Blockbuster still exists), and Thursday nights are for Friends. In Bellport, Connecticut, four best friends and high school seniors are ready to light the world on fire. Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer are going places.

Fast forward twenty-five years and nothing has gone according to plan as the women regroup at their dreaded high school reunion. When a forgotten classmate emerges at the reunion with a surprising announcement, the friends dig out the yearbook and rethink their younger selves. Is it too late to make their dreams come true? – provided by Goodreads

 

Man and woman on a fire escape passing a bookThe Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest (in honor of Make a Friend Day on February 11th)

Lily is stuck in life and currently on the subway in 90+ degree heat. In a moment of delirium, she stumbles across a newly created website for the author of one of her favorite books. Before knowing what she is doing, Lily sends an email to the author through the website divulging her life and accidentally hits send before passing out.

Surprised beyond belief, the author writes back and a connection is formed. The pair exchange a series of emails until the author, Strick puts an end to them crushing Lily.

Flash forward, Lily is living with her sister and shares an elevator with her dreamy new neighbor. In hopes of scoring a date to her sister’s wedding, Lily enlists the neighbor to help her find a date. What she doesn’t realize is that she will in turn get so much more. -Brittany

 

red cover silhouette of a woman and a man*** February Pick!
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (In honor of National Wedding Month)

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…
– provided by Goodreads.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Have you ever picked a title to read based purely on the cover? My latest read, The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston, was one I picked for that reason. Lucky for me, it ended up being right up my alley: ghostwriters, handsome editors, a family-run funeral home, literal ghosts, and a love story.

Florence Day no longer believes in love. This wouldn’t be a problem except that she is the ghostwriter for a very prolific romance author. Her job demands that Florence believe in love. She has her terrible ex-boyfriend to blame. He crushed her heart and left her standing in the rain after their breakup.

When Florence meets with her new editor, she’s distracted to find that he’s incredibly handsome. However, he won’t give her an extension for her book deadline and even mentions getting legal involved if she misses her current deadline! Florence is distraught, but all her work worries cease to matter when she receives a devastating phone call from home. She has to return home for the first time in a decade. Florence’s father has died.

Her tiny hometown has never understood her. Although she misses her eccentric family, their funeral parlor, and the sweet sounds of a warm Southern night, Florence was desperate to escape as soon as she could. Now that she’s back, it seems as if nothing has changed. Her feelings are thrown for a loop when she discovers a ghost standing on the porch of the funeral parlor, confused about why he’s there. Florence must help him pass on, but is unsure how. The ghost’s unfinished business, combined with her own grief, will have Florence confused about what she believed about herself. Does she really think romance is dead and that love stories are lost to her forever?

This title is also available in the following formats:

The Bookseller’s Boyfriend by Heidi Cullinan

I waited a long time on hold to get this book, and I’m excited to finally talk about it! The Bookseller’s Boyfriend by Heidi Cullinan is a heartwarming happily-ever-after about a bookseller and his favorite author pretending to date and unexpectedly falling for each other. In a nice coincidence, the author uses they / them pronouns  and is from Iowa – so they and I have a lot in common in addition to loving a good happy ending.

The novel switches between the perspectives of Rasul, a successful author struggling with writer’s block and a bad breakup, and Jacob, a bookstore owner who’s always loved Rasul’s work. Jacob knows you should never meet your heroes, so he’s apprehensive when Rasul moves to town on a temporary academic residency. Rasul is on a tight deadline and desperately needs to get away from his toxic ex, but is surprised to find Jacob’s store and apartment such a calming haven – not to mention the heat of their attraction. They pretend to be dating to help clean up Rasul’s image, but slowly their feelings become real, and they both have to face their demons to reach the future they want to create together.

There was so much I loved about this book. Cullinan packs in a crowd of well-drawn supporting characters, with backstory that’s clearly been deeply thought out. The plot is aware of romance tropes (in this case, “fake dating” applies, and the concept echoes Beauty and the Beast) but doesn’t get bogged down in them, choosing instead to follow what really works to help the characters work through their issues and come together naturally. Thoughtful engagement with the publishing process and the dark side of social media is a really effective thread that runs through the romantic story. Book lovers might also appreciate the loving nods to the fantasy and speculative fiction genres. Best of all, the inclusion of LGBTQ and racial identities is detailed, intentional and touches on the struggles of bi and pansexual men in the larger landscape. My only concern was that Cullinan put so much into this book that not everything could be covered in a comprehensive way, but I think for the space they had they did a fantastic job crafting a story, and a relationship, that’s grounded in deep emotions that will really resonate with readers.

A novel of mutual courtship, healing, creating community, and the struggle of creativity, The Bookseller’s Boyfriend is a sweetly simmering slow burn that romance fans won’t want to miss. If you’re looking for a romance with a lot of community, intelligence, and heart – and a good pinch of passionate heat – definitely try this book.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Agatha Christie was my favorite mystery author growing up, thanks to my grandmother who consistently bought me her books and watched her ‘Marple’ and ‘Poirot’ series on television. The classic whodunit mystery holds a special place in my heart. As a result, I have turned into a picky mystery reader. A mystery novel has to grab my interest quickly, sustain it through the end, and be complex enough that I am unable to predict whodunit. Enter in Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders and I felt like I was back at my grandma’s watching Poirot solve a crime. This book felt like a delicious dive into my childhood.

Magpie Murders is a book within a book, a mystery within a mystery, a murder within a murder. Susan Ryeland is the editor of Alan Conway’s mystery series featuring detective Atticus Pund. This book opens with Ryeland receiving a copy of Conway’s latest book, Magpie Murders, and her decision to read it over the weekend. Such begins the first foray into the book within the book. Conway’s Magpie Murders is the classic whodunit that takes place in the English countryside in a small village in 1955 where a well-known woman has died. Atticus Pund, a German concentration camp survivor who has become famous for his sleuthing skills, decides to head to the small village of Saxby-on-Avon to try to solve this Agatha-Christie like puzzle. A housekeeper named Mary Blakiston fell down a flight of stairs at Pye Hall. Her death had been ruled accidental, but the fiancée of Mary’s estranged son seeks Pund and asks for his help. There are many questions that Pund must answer and after a second crime occurs, Pund decides to visit on his own accord and figure out what exactly is happening in Saxby-on-Avon.

Flash to the present when Susan Ryeland has reached the end of the Magpie Murders manuscript only to discover that the last chapter is missing. Confronting her boss, Charlie Clover, about the missing chapters, both Clover and Ryeland are surprised to learn that the author, Alan Conway, has committed suicide. Conway mailed a letter to Clover before his death explaining why he decided to commit suicide. After reading the letter, Susan decides to look for Conway’s last chapter and sets off interviewing his family and friends to find it and to learn more about Conway’s motives for killing himself. That last chapter will save Magpie Murders and hopefully Susan’s business as the death of Conway will certainly sink the company if that last chapter is never found. As she searches, Susan comes to believe that maybe Conway didn’t kill himself. She soon finds herself becoming sort of a detective as she tries to figure out what exactly happened to Alan Conway.

I really enjoyed this book. Atticus Pund’s story was entertaining enough, but the addition of Susan’s story adds a delightful twist to the whole book. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end in both stories. I also enjoyed how the stories intertwined together and how Susan was able to rely on the Magpie Murders manuscript to help her figure out what happened to Conway. There were so many tiny clues and revelations hidden in both Pund’s and Susan’s story that had me on the edge of the seat wondering whodunit.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Author Name Pronunciation Guide

Let me introduce you to my FAVORITE library resource: TeachingBooks.net, particularly the section entitled Author Name Pronunciation Guide. This section has saved me multiple times! Have you ever wondered how to say an author’s name? Maybe you’ve been saying it one way, you hear a friend say it another way, and then you start second-guessing yourself? I do this all. the. time. So confusing. This problem is just like when you say a word out-loud that you have only ever read before just to have someone correct you and say that you’re pronouncing it wrong. Super annoying, right? Well, lucky for all of us the Author Name Pronunciation Guide at TeachingBooks.net exists. We’ll all become expert author name pronunciators and can spread our knowledge to others! Sounds perfect.

Now let’s find out where the Author Name Pronunciation Guide is! Go to TeachingBooks.net. On the home page in the banner bar at the top of the page, click Author & Book Resources.

That will bring you to a page that looks like the one below! Click on Audio Name Pronunciations.

Viola! Now you’re at the Author Name Pronunciation Guide which hopefully will start off with the following paragraph.

As you’re scrolling through that page, you’ll notice thousands of author names. My favorite one to have people play around with is Jon Scieszka because 1) I NEVER say his name right, even though I know about this guide and 2) kids ask for his books all the time and therefore are already familiar with this author. Anyway, scroll through the list and find his name (it’s alphabetical by last name). Once you click on it, a page with all his info will pop up! (Sorry for the tiny print.)

If you click on the orange play button, you’ll hear Jon Scieszka pronounce his name and talk some more. It’s awesome. It also connects you to author’s personal websites and their own page on TeachingBooks.net. Now play around and find out how to pronounce some author names! It’s definitely one of my favorite not-well-known librarian resources.

I also encourage you to click around the regular TeachingBooks.net site because there are a ton of other really good resources there. Who knows, maybe I’ll blog about them in the future!

The Sunday New York Times Book Review

NYTimesBookReviewMore often than not, the Sunday New York Times Book Review contains a passage that you wish you’d written, or that you’d like to save somewhere to inspire yourself about the importance of books, reading and libraries.

For example, this was part of a July 5th interview with Anthony Doerr. By the Book is a recurring feature in which writers are quizzed about their reading life. Here’s an excerpt:

“Have you ever gotten in trouble for reading a book?

Gosh, I’m not sure. Last year I bought an Eliot Weinberger essay collection to my son’s lacrosse practice and took a wayward ball to the shin because I was sitting too close to the field. I did read “The Sheltering Sky” when I was 11 or 12 years old. (“Mom, what’s hashish?) But I don’t think I got in trouble for it.  On the contrary, I was incredibly blessed because neither my mother nor the local librarians ever said ‘This is outside your age range, Tony.  You can’t handle this.’  They trusted us to make our own paths through books  and that’s very, very empowering.”

From Anthony Doerr: By the Book, New York Times, p. 8, July 5, 2015.

Or sometimes, it hits a little close to home. To quote Judd Apatow:

“My buying-to-actually reading ratio is 387 to 1. …I have actually convinced myself that buying books is the same as reading…”

This is in answer to the question: “Whom do you consider the best writers – novelists, essayists, critics, journalists, poets – working today?,” he says, “I am the last person you should ask because I don’t read that much.”

From Judd Apatow: By the Book, New York Times, p. 7, June 14, 2015

I intend to browse through back issues at the Main library, and look for Carl Hiaasen, Neil Gaiman, Anne Lamott, Alain de Botton, Marilynne Robinson, and Michael Connelly, among others (you can also browse the archives online to see a list of featured authors).  These are folks that I’m guessing are going to be both witty and not so very full of themselves.

So, how would you answer the By the Book questionnaire?

One Hit Wonders

to kill a mockingbirdOn February 3, 2015, the literary world was shocked to learn that Harper Lee would no longer be a One Hit Wonder. In July 2015, her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled to be released.

Go Set a Watchman is the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird and is set twenty years later.  An adult Scout Finch lives in New York and is back visiting her father, Atticus Finch, in Maycomb, Alabama. According to the publisher, Scout “is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

While Harper Lee may be leaving the One Hit Wonder Club, that still leaves other authors that will remain in the One Hit Wonder Club forever.

 

wuthering heights Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was published in London in 1847 by Ellis Bell.  The passion and violence in the book led people to believe that a man wrote Wuthering Heights.  Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848 at the age of thirty without knowing how popular her novel would become.

 

Black Beauty Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

It took Anna six years to write Black Beauty.  She was so sick while she wrote it that she dictated a lot of it to her mother.  Considered a children’s classic, Sewell wrote the book for people that worked with horses.  Sewell died on April 27, 1878 five months after her book had been published.

 

gwtw Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

It took Margaret Mitchell three years to write her famous novel and it took an additional six years before she showed  it to anybody.  In 1936, Gone With the Wind was published making Mitchell famous.  The movie release in 1939  only heightened her fame. Mitchell did not care for the spotlight which may be the reason she never wrote  a sequel.  In 1949, she was hit by a car and died five days later.

 

bell jar

 Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath was a published poet when she wrote her semi-autobiographical novel about mental illness.  In January 1963, The Bell Jar was published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.   Plath died less than a month later on February 11, 1963.

 

catcher in the rye J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger had published several short stories but The Catcher in The Rye made him famous in 1951. The attention made him reclusive and he published his short stories and novellas less frequently. Salinger died of natural causes on January 27, 2010.

 

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny

Book of Madness and cures

For Dr. Gabriella Mondini, there is no other option besides following in her father’s footsteps into a life of medicine in Regina O’Melveny’s debut, The Book of Madness and Cures.  She is passionate about healing the citizens of Venice. For a woman residing in this part of the word in the late 16th Century this proves to be a challenging feat.  In the male dominated Italian medical society, Gabriella gains credibility with her father’s colleagues by assisting him with research on “The Book of Diseases.”

A few years prior, Gabriella’s father, the elder Dr. Mondini, disappeared unexpectedly with only an occasional letter as to his whereabouts.  In addition to the sporadic correspondence, his writings are cryptic and give little clue to Gabriella and her mother of his condition, which has a tendency to gravitate toward madness.  With the prospect of continuing her medical career in jeopardy without her father’s guidance, Gabriella, her maid and a few additional servants embark on a journey to solve the mystery of what happened to her father.  The journey takes them across Europe to France, Germany, England, Spain and south to the tip of Morocco, all the while encountering danger while traveling and encountering locals who met her father and are able to provide clues to the group of travelers.

While in Morocco, Gabriella finds out the shocking truth about her father, his nearly completed book on diseases and her own future.  O’Melveny’s debut provides a rich look at late 16th century day to day life, the logistics of cross continent travels and the lives of women during this time.

Another Reknown Novelist Comes to the Quad-Cities

Fall of the SparrowFresh on the heels of Elizabeth Berg’s visit to the Quad-Cities, comes Robert Hellenga, author of many best selling novels. He is the keynote speaker Thursday, June 25th at Midwest Writing Center’s annual conference. This year, events are held at St. Ambrose University.

My favorite novel by Robert Hellenga is The Fall of the Sparrow, which is partially set at a liberal arts college in Galesburg (the author is a Knox College  literature professor), and partly in Italy.  Though there’s a insider feeling of intimacy when you’re familiar with the local references; the novel resonates with many themes. The main character is a classics professor  and the reader learns about Latin, Greek, Persian rugs, as well as the blues,  and shares Woody’s deep appreciation of Italian culture.

Elizabeth Berg Comes to the Quad-Cities

bergBarnes & Noble and the Moline Public Library snagged a pretty big fish; the Quad-Cities should be proud! Berg read from Home Safe and answered wide-ranging questions from a full house at the Moline Public Library Tuesday afternoon.

We learned that both daughters are writers (one professionally and one potentially), she’d like to serve tea to E.B. White and have a drink (vodka) with Marilyn Monroe (this in response to a question about who Berg would most  like to have tea with). She said she’d be too nervous to drink tea with White, so would rather serve him and a guest.

We learned also that the Oakbrook, IL author was a nurse before she was an author, was involved in a Second-City type of drama group in the Twin Cities, and likes to quilt but doesn’t think she is good at it.  The book she recently recommended to NPR was Beat That by Ann Hodgman – a cookbook that is just fun to read.

She talked about how devastating her experience with writer’s block was and how this led to her current book. Her daily routine of writing all morning (she normally writes till early afternoon in her pajamas and said her Fedex man must think she had a very long-lasting case of flu). She talked about her dry spell with her daughter, who suggested that she write about it. Home Safe is about Helen, a well-known novelist, who is unable to write after husband of many years dies suddenly. Helen gradually “fills her well” with life experience, such as teaching a writing class of disparate individuals (a high point of the novel). All of Elizabeth Berg’s  fans are grateful that her daughter’s suggestion was successful.