Online Reading Challenge – April

Hello Challenge Readers!

New month, new author for our Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re reading books by and similar to Jojo Moyes.

Jojo Moyes writes about women, friendship and community. Many of her novels are classified as romance, but her newer titles are catalogued as fiction. Her break-out novel was Me Before You, followed by After You and Still Me. In addition she’s written favorites such as The Girl You Left Behind and The Giver of Stars.

If you’ve read everything by Moyes, or would like to try similar authors, take a look at these titles:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Landline by Ranbow Rowell

One Day by David Nicholls

The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

You Me Everything by Catherine Issac

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Welcome to Pine Away Motel and Cabins by Katarina Bivald

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Lots of great choices, right? I’m planning to read The Giver of Stars which picked up a lot of interest when Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club. It’s also garnered some controversy and mixed reviews since it was released a few months after another book on the same topic, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson was published (which I have read and it is excellent) The topic is fascinating – the horseback librarians of rural Appalachia during the Great Depression – and I’m looking forward to seeing how this compares to Book Woman.

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

 

Online Reading Challenge – March Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? I hope you found something that grabbed your interest!

I read Dana Stabenow’s The Singing of the Dead, one of the Kate Shugak mysteries set in Alaska. It took me a bit to get into the book and in fact, I thought I might not be able to finish it. I was confused by the large cast of characters (it probably didn’t help that I didn’t start with the first book in the series!) and at first I wasn’t sure about Kate herself. But I stuck with it and pretty soon I got caught up in the story and came to really like Kate (and Mutt).

Kate Shugak, a private investigator in Alaska, is hired to act as security for one of the candidates running for state senate who has received threatening notes. Kate is a Native and knows and understands the people, their concerns and how they live in such a unique and isolated part of the world. As she tags along with the candidate on the political trail, she sees little evidence of any threats, but she does discover a lot of corruption and betrayal within the campaign itself. When first one and then another person connected to the candidate is shot and killed, Kate joins forces with police detective Jim Chopin to find the killer.

Parts of the novel are set in the earliest days of the state, when the gold rush brought people of all kinds to the territory including “ladies of the evening”. I enjoyed this look at  the rough-and-tumble history and the guts and determination required to survive. I thought the ties between the sins of the past and the present-day murders were a little shaky, but I tend to read mysteries for the characters and the setting which, in this case, did not disappoint!

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

Online Reading Challenge – March

Hello Challenge Readers!

Welcome to a new month of Challenge Reading! This month’s author is: C.J. Box!

C.J. Box has written a couple of mystery series, some stand alone titles and several short stories, all set in the Western United States. He is best known for his Joe Pickett mystery series, set in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming where Joe is a game warden who often tangles with less savory people.

I’ve just recently discovered C.J. Box and quickly became a fan, reading all of his Joe Pickett series in just a few months. A blog post I wrote about one of his newest titles, Long Range, will give you a good idea of the characters and stories. I strongly recommend any of his books – interesting, complex characters, tense, exciting storylines and over it all, a stunning, untamed landscape.

For C.J. Box read-alikes, I went with titles and authors that feature the outdoors as a major element to the story. Most of these are mysteries and many are part of a series, so if you find one you like, you’re set for what-to-read-next for awhile! Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Nevada Barr writes the National Park series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon.

Randy Wayne White has two series, both set in Florida. Hannah Smith is a fishing guide and Doc Ford is a marine biologist.

Steve Hamilton sets his PI Alex McNight series in the Upper Penisula of Michigan.

Craig Johnson writes the Longmire series about a sheriff in Wyoming.

Patricia Skalka writes about Sheriff Dave Cubiak who works in Door County, Wisconsin.

For some individual titles, check out Crazy Mountain Kiss by Keith McCafferty which follows PI Sean Stranahan, a private investigator in Montana; The Precipice by Paul Doiron about game warden Mike Bowditch searching for two hikers missing in Maine; and The Wild Inside by Christine Carbo, a novel of suspense set in Glacier National Park.

I am planning to read The Singing of the Dead by Dana Stabenow from her Kate Shugak series. I’ve heard a lot of good things about these mysteries which are set in Alaska, but haven’t read one yet. Now’s the time!

What about you? What will you be reading this month?

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – February Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

How did your February reading go? What wonderful, magical, mind-twisting book did you discover this month? Or was it the opposite and nothing caught your fancy?

I’m afraid I fell into the second category, somewhat. I failed to finish The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – it just wasn’t working for me. It felt very dark and very sad to me and I just couldn’t finish it (it doesn’t help that a kitten was killed early in the book) Harm/abuse of children or animals will keep me away from any book, no matter how good it’s supposed to be. I also have no trouble not finishing a book if it’s making me unhappy – there are too many good books out there that add value than to continue to read just for the sake of finishing!

However, I did finish a book that fits very neatly into the Neil Gaiman magical-realism read-alike category – my reserve for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab came in and I couldn’t put it down. Thoughtful, intriguing and surprising with a twisting storyline that keeps you guessing (and hoping). One of our librarians, Stephanie, wrote a blog post about it last month with an excellent summary and examination of it’s appeal. Go read it for more details!

So, while I might not have read what I had planned to, I still finished this month’s challenge!

What about you – did you finish this month’s challenge? (Remember, no judgement if you didn’t – there are no Library Police!)

Online Reading Challenge – January Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you find a great Kristin Hannah book or something similar?

I read The Great Alone, a title that had gotten a lot of buzz when it came out and a lot of very good reviews. However, I was warned by a couple friends that the book was pretty dark and sad so I was a little worried.

Well, my friends were right – it is dark and very sad in parts – but the reviewers were right too. Hannah is an excellent writer, able to draw you into another world quickly and able to keep the tension of “what happens!” rolling throughout the book. It might not be my favorite book of all time, but I couldn’t put it down and I haven’t stopped thinking about the themes in the book and what happened.

Set mostly in the mid-to-late 70s, The Great Alone is about a family that moves north to Alaska. Ernt Allbright has been nearly destroyed by the Vietnam War where he spent six years as a prisoner of war. Haunted by nightmares and unable to fit in, he takes his wife Cora and daughter Leni to Alaska to establish a homestead in a remote cabin far from the pressures of modern life.

Cora is ill-suited to the harsh work required to survive, but she loves Ernt deeply and follows willingly. At 13, Leni has no choice but to go with them but finds that there is a terrible beauty to Alaska that appeals to her and shapes her into the woman she will become.

At first, Ernt seems better. The family arrives in Alaska in the early summer, the neighbors and small town welcome them and they start to build a life. However, they are woefully unprepared for an Alaskan winter and the pressure builds in Ernt. He begins drinking too much, becomes convinced the government is coming to kill them all and then becomes abusive, beating Cora and punishing Leni for any mistake, real or imagined. Isolated and far from any help, Leni and her Mother must band together to survive not only the harsh conditions, but the danger from within.

This is a fascinating look at family dynamics, the strength of character and adaptability of people, and the devastating, long-term effects of war and PTSD. Throughout it all, Alaska looms large with it’s incredible beauty and unforgiving landscapes, a central character in it’s own right.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

 

Introducing the 2021 Online Reading Challenge!

Welcome to the 2021 Online Reading Challenge!

We’re back for another year (our 6th!) of reading recommendations with our super-casual, low-stress reading club. Each month I’ll introduce a new subject, suggest several reading choices and pick a title for myself. At the end of the month I’ll report back with what I read and encourage you to share what you read. And that’s it – no pressure, no being forced to read a book you’re not interested in, no obligation to host a bunch of strangers!

Our theme for 2021 is Read-Alikes! I’ve chosen 12 popular and critically acclaimed authors, one for each month. During that month you can read books by that author (especially if you haven’t yet but have been meaning to) or books by authors with similar writing styles (so if you’ve read everything by the author-of-the-month, this will give you a chance to explore more authors!) Of course, as always, you may do as you please – there are no Library Police! So if you wish to skip a month, or read more than one book in that month or read a book from a different month – go for it! No one will drag you off to Library Jail if you chose your own path!

Here is the schedule of Read-Alikes:

January – Kristin Hannah

February – Neil Gaiman

March – C.J. Box

April – Jojo Moyes

May – Toni Morrison

June – Alice Hoffman

July – Jodi Picoult

August – David Baldacci

September – Ann Patchett

October – Philippa Gregory

November – Chimamanda Adichie

December – Lisa Gardner

OK, let’s get started! January’s author is Kristin Hannah, who writes fiction highlighting strong female characters. She’s written a number of books that have been very popular including The Nightingale and The Great Alone which is quite a range! Here are a few suggestions.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Island House by Nancy Thayer

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

White Houses by Amy Bloom

That’s a great list of both contemporary and historical fiction, all centered on strong women. Clicking on any of the titles will take you to our catalog and a brief description of the book.

I haven’t read very many books by Hannah (just The Nightingale which is excellent) so I’m going to try The Great Alone which comes with lots of great reviews.

Now, what about you? What will you be reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – December Wrap-Up

Hello Readers!

We’ve made it through another year! Hurrah! I hope you’ve enjoyed our reading explorations!

This month’s inspiration film was The Maltese Falcon, a classic detective film starring Humphrey Bogart. It’s the quintessential private detective movie with a twisty plot, a mysterious woman and a jaded detective.

The book I read this month was The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (he also wrote The Maltese Falcon which the film is based on), which checks many of the same points including a twisty plot and a mysterious woman (or two). This one is set apart by the detectives though – in The Thin Man they are Nick and Nora Charles, a crazy-rich couple who solve crimes when their social calendar of cocktails and banter allows.

Nick and Nora are the kind of wealthy people that could quickly become super annoying but instead, this pair is funny and charming, madly in love with each other and kind and generous to those in need.  Quite frankly, the mystery – which I found a little hard to follow – was secondary for me (I’m  not a big mystery reader so that’s not a surprise) Instead I enjoyed the characters and the atmospheric setting – I could almost hear the clinking of martini glasses and see the sharp clothes. This book is an enduring classic for good reason!

How about you? How did your reading go this month? Let us know in the comments!

We may be done with the Online Reading Challenge for this year, but the 2021 Challenge begins on January 2! Be sure to check back for all the details!

Online Reading Challenge – December

Hello Challenge Readers!

Here we are with the last Challenge of the year (what a year, right?) This month our inspiration film is the classic, The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart. For me, the film is nearly incomprehensible – I still don’t understand the fuss over the statue – but it’s still a great film, with several famous character actors, an incredibly stylish black-and-white film noir feel and Bogart at his charismatic best. So what kind of books does this film inspire?

Of course, you can read books by Dashiell Hammett who wrote the book our film is based on as well as classics such as The Thin Man and The Red Harvest.  One of his contemporaries, Raymond Chandler, wrote several outstanding detective novels including The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely. 

Others to consider include James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential), Ross MacDonald (the Lew Archer series) and James Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce). Newer authors include Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train), Robert B Parker (the Spencer series), Lawrence Block (the Matthew Scudder series) and Mickey Spillane (the Mike Hammer series).

I am planning on reading The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett about married private detectives Nick and Nora Charles and their dog Asta. It’s supposed to have lots of fun. snappy dialogue and has inspired a radio show, a television series, movies and even a Broadway play.

What about you – what will you be reading in December? Let us know in the comments!

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Greetings Challengers!

I hope you have safely returned from your time travel adventure by now. Time travel can be exciting, but also a little dangerous – one misstep and you put the whole future in jeopardy! Fortunately, at this time (as far as I know), time travel only exists in books and movies. Did you read something great this month? Please let us know in the comments!

My time travel adventure never took off – I failed to find anything that kept my interest. Of course, I threw this month open to any science fiction title, but I still came up short. This month (and year!) has been somewhat distracting!

If you too are still looking for something time-travel-y, check out some Doctor Who episodes (we have both classic and reboot series) which are loads of fun. C, one of our librarians, recommends Stephen King’s 11/22/63 about a man that goes back in time to try and prevent the assissination of John F Kennedy. They also suggest H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, an early classic in the genre.

So, now it’s up to you – what can you recommend for time-traveling/science fiction fun?

Online Reading Challenge – November

Hello Challenge Readers!

Welcome to the November Reading Challenge. This month our inspiration movie is Back to the Future!

This beloved film gives us a lot of options for books to read. Obviously, time travel would work, as would alternate histories. I’m also throwing it open to any science fiction title – maybe there’s one on your TBR list, or one that’s a little out of your usual reading choices that you’d like to try. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I do have some favorites.

Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is an obvious choice, but it’s a good one. Skip the movie, the book is much better with lots more character development and a deeper emotional impact. It is, in fact, a love story about a man who travels through time (without his consent or control) and the woman that waits for him.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I loved this book, but it might hit a little too close to current events for some (it was written in 2014, long before COVID) In this book, a deadly flu wipes out 99 percent of the human population. The story moves between flashbacks to the “before” and of the survivors struggling in the “after”. Despite this description, the book is full of beauty and joy and community and most important, hope.

Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara is a fun and romantic time travel novel. After Jo-Jo is hit by a car she wakes up in 1963 where everything is different. It happens again and again, sending Jo-Jo to the 1970s, then the 80s and then the 90s. Why is she traveling through time and how will she ever get back to 2013?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This one strays a little bit from our film inspiration, but it is an excellent book full with spells and secrets. Agnieszka loves her quiet rural village, but an ever present threat hangs over it – an evil forest known as The Wood. A wizard that lives in the nearby castle keeps it at bay, but in exchange, every 10 years a young woman is recruited from the village to serve as his apprentice. When Agnieszka is chosen, no one is more surprised than she is. For an excellent series of alternate history, read Novik’s Temeraire series starting with His Majesty’s Dragon where dragons are part of the naval fighting forces of the Napoleonic era. No, really. It’s excellent!

I am going to read A Murder in Time by Julie McElwen, the first in a series about Kendra Donovan, an FBI agent that is thrown back in time to 1815 and into the life of a servant where she becomes involved with solving the mystery of a serial killer. Hmmm. Intriguing. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How about you? What will you be reading this month? Let us know in the comments!