Mysteries the Staff Have Enjoyed

There are many reasons mysteries are so satisfying. Mysteries are puzzles and we like not only having them solved but trying to solve them ourselves along the way; we enjoy getting to know characters in a series and seeing what happens to them over time; and we know that the “bad guy” will be caught and justice will be served in a satisfying ending (usually).

Here are some new and old mystery titles the staff have been enjoying:

mrchurchSeries by Susan Elia MacNeal, starts with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Fast-paced, historical mystery with spy elements set in WWII London. Great sense of time and place.

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall is the first in a series featuring India’s “most private investigator.” Filled with interesting characters and humor–a good one to try if you like the #1 Detective Agency books by McCall Smith.

thymeSusan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series starting with Thyme of Death–former lawyer buys an herb shop in Texas and becomes involved in solving mysteries. Enjoy the stories and the recipes and information about herbs.

The Cat Who Came to Breakfast by Lillian Jackson Braun T(who died in 2011). This is sixteenth in series of 29 books. They are amusing, fun, “clean,” heart-warming mysteries with a strong sense of place. The main characters are retired reporter and amateur detective Jim Quilleran and his two Siamese cats. (Note: Cats do catlike things that are interpreted by Quill as clues in solving crimes, but they are not supernatural, magic, etc.). In this story they are investigating odd accidents plaguing a fancy resort recently built on a nearby island.

malteseThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. A beautiful woman arrives at Spade’s office begging for help and it leads to the death of Spade’s partner, Miles Archer. It is up to Spade to try and sift through the stories of some colorful characters and put together the truth (and up to the reader to try and guess if Spade is motivated by vengeance, the law, money, or the truth). Iconic (if pointedly un-politically correct) dialogue in this classic hard-boiled mystery.

spellmanThe Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz is the first in character-driven series featuring a dysfunctional family who run a PI firm in San Francisco. These are light, funny reads with quirky characters who are likeable and quick-witted. Also good in audiobook format.

talkingTalking to the Dead by Harry Bingham. This police procedural/psychological thriller features Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, a Cambridge grad and rookie officer who doesn’t quite fit in with her co-workers.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams. Thirteen-year-old thespian Ingrid loves Sherlock Holmes, so when her new-found friend, “cracked up Katie” is murdered–and Ingrid is a potential suspect–she decides to solve the case. This award-winning JH title is fast-paced with a good sense of danger. (JH ABRAHAMS)

reluctantFans of historical fiction should try the informative and entertaining Thomas Potts mystery series by Sara Fraser.  Set in early 19th century England, Fraser has thoroughly researched the customs and culture of a rough-and-tumble closed society. The first is The Reluctant Constable.

this dogIf you like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone character try This Dog for Hire by Carol Lea Benjamin, the first in series set in Greenwich Village featuring PI Rachel Alexander and her “partner” (a pit bull).

Last-Minute Road Trip Reads

road tripHitting the road this spring break? Whether you’re traveling with family or just need some solid listening suggestions, remember to take a look at the Library’s popular audiobook pages. These titles are hand-picked by our Readers Services librarians and can be found under the Books Movies Music tab. Select Books and then scroll down the Suggested Reads menu to find the Audiobook category, which includes Road Trip!, Dream Voices, and When the Audio is Better than the Print, among others. Click on any title to go directly to our online catalog, reserve an item, or just read more about it.

Or, stop in to browse our newest books on CD anytime, found in the first row of the Audiobook section and with the NEW label in yellow on the spine.

Ask us about the library’s eAudiobook collection and Playaways, too.

Safe Travels!





Books You “HAVE” to Read

I admit it: often when someone posts a list of books that should be read “by age 30,” or “in your lifetime,” or some other arbitrary measurement, I feel a bit guilty about not automatically wanting to comply. So you can only imagine how much I love THIS list recently posted by Janet Potter on The Millions: 28 Books You Should Read If You Want To.WhatStaffisReading

I just have two library-specific items to add (rounds it up to a nice 30):

You should read the book that catches your attention on the “What the Staff Is Reading” display (an eclectic, ever-changing display in Reader Services).

JustReturnedYou should read the book you would have never found on your own from a “just returned” book cart.

That is, if you want to.

Dust Everywhere!

“Pardon our Dust!” If you’ve stopped in the Library within the past week you’ve no doubt witnessed a flurry of activity, above and beyond the usual bustle. Our building is swimming with construction workers and everything is in flux– materials are being shifted around, furniture has been relocated, the scent of fresh paint is in the air, and the mezzanine is entirely (though temporarily) blocked off! In short, lots of DUST has been stirred up. Staff is confident that this “controlled chaos” will eventually settle into place nicely. However, dust does seem to be center stage for the moment, even in our fiction collection. Check out these reads that, interestingly enough, even share this title:

Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Dust by Patricia Daniels Cornwell, Dust by Joan Frances Turner, Dust by Elizabeth Bear, and Dust by Hugh Howey,

Dust really is everywhere! Thankfully, the “literary” kind doesn’t aggravate your allergies. :-)

Sweet Thoughts on Book Discussion

After Visiting FriendsA big shout out to the 2nd Tuesday Evening book group for venturing out on a very cold night to discuss After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story, by Michael C. Hainey.

Besides the delicious edible treats (cranberry and chocolate shortbread cookies from the Blue Goose!) we had the A/V treat of discussing the book with the author who joined us from New York via Skype.

Discussing universal themes of love, loss and family, Michael Hainey gave generously of his time and delved deeply with us into his story of truth-seeking and reconciliation.  All of us in attendance appreciated Mr. Hainey’s thoughtful responses and were moved by his willingness to address our questions.

After we signed off with Michael we continued to discuss the book – but having had a glimpse of the real person behind  the words on the page, our discussion seemed weightier.  Some of us changed our opinion about the author’s motivation. Some of us felt an even deeper bond to the story.  Our discussion meandered through personal histories, memories of Chicago landmarks, family relationships – all the while linking back to the memoir we had gathered on a chilly night to discuss.

Next month we will be discussing The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Morning) and The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (Evening).  I hope you will consider dropping by.  There will be treats, there will be conversation and there will be something to think about.

Sense of an Ending               affair

For more on this topic please see Marlise’s “Part 2″ post.


More Sweet Thoughts on Book Discussion

Once again I find myself amazed by the monthly event known as the “2nd Tuesday Book Discussion.” This deceptively simple name does adequately describe it (we DO discuss books and – hey! – it’s always on the second Tuesday of the month) but it cannot capture the full range of what is so often experienced. One of the co-leaders, Jane, has written more about this in her  post, Sweet Thoughts on Book Discussion.

In addition to agreeing with Jane’s sentiments, I was also struck by something else. Often when the words “books” and “technology” are combined I find myself stifling some feelings of irritation or frustration. However this past week was the culmination of the very best of books and technology with the result that I’ve spent days thinking, “I love living in the future!”

It started innocently enough last June when I was reading After Visiting Friends and tweeted about it, including the author’s Twitter name. Imagine my surprise when Mr. Hainey saw I was interested in using the title for 2nd Tuesday and replied with an offer to join in!MichaelHaineyTweet3

Fast forward seven months and suddenly there were a multitude of emails with Mr. Hainey’s helpful assistant, Emily as we worked out the details.  Yes, it seemed Mr. Hainey would be available on the evening of February 11 (we had tried for the morning discussion group in January but, alas, he was traveling in Italy). Of course he would be in New York, not St. Charles, but no problem! This is the future: we can use technology to put him in the room with us — and that’s exactly what happened. For nearly 30 minutes, Mr. Hainey spoke to us via Skype and shared from the heart about his book while the group listened and asked questions.


It was an extraordinary experience (again, see Jane’s post) and a delightful reminder to me that “books and technology” is a combination of terms book groups should take advantage of as often as possible!

One More Time

Life After LifeGroundhog Day was this week, so of course I’ve been thinking about the iconic Bill Murray movie of the same name, which then got me thinking about the nature of repetition. No wonder. Thoughts of shoveling one more pile of snow, of putting on boots, and scraping the car windshield–of the sheer one-more-timedness of winter. Turns out there’s a perfect book for this whole phenomenon.

Kate Atkinson’s inventive, mind-bending novel Life After Life takes this notion of repeatedly living in the moment and turns it on its head. The story begins on a dark and wintery night in 1910 when Ursula Todd comes into this world–and almost immediately leaves it. Yet she doesn’t, quite, for a few pages further on, it is a cold and snowy night once more, and Ursula Todd is once again born but doesn’t immediately disappear into a kind of death.

This happens repeatedly during Ursula’s existence–some days it’s her 1910 birthday all over again, and other times it’s a day when she’s a teenager and there’s a killer stalking the woods behind her house. Throughout her life, Ursula will bear witness as England endures two World Wars and countless family tragedies. Though darkness falls in each episode, Ursula comes to life again to relive it in a different way.

Atkinson’s evocative reimagining of a life with endless possibilities is a vast and welcome respite from the sure-thing of this seemingly endless winter.

Patron Picks!

Another roundup of book your fellow patrons enthusiastically recommend!

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnessenseofanending: This short yet intense novel follows a middle-aged man contending with a past he has never much thought about until he is presented with a legacy that forces him to reconsider past decisions.

Canada by Richard Ford: After 15-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank and are arrested, the trajectory of his life is forever altered.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: When a white servant girl violates the order of Southern plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. A stunning debut novel.LadyofAshes

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer: An unforgettable story of three brothers, of history and love, of marriage tested by disaster, of a Jewish family’s struggle against annihilation, and of the dangerous power of art in a time of war.

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley: After she inherits her childhood home, a magnificent chateau in Le Cote d’Azur, France, Emilie de la Martinieres realizes that it may hold secrets to her family’s enigmatic past during World War II.

Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent: A most unusual heroine–an undertaker–and an interesting time period–1860s London–drives this first in a new series.TheWildTrees

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese: An enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston (585.509794 PRE): This account of the amazing world of redwoods is by turns terrifying, moving, and fascinating.

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (770 EGA): The remarkable untold story behind iconic American photographs.

Winter Reads

Chill FactorLove it or hate it, the snow and ice are here to stay – for awhile, at least. Why not embrace the midpoint of the season with a wintery read?

The Dead of Winter: A Rina Martin Novel – Jane Adams
Tempting Evil: A Novel of Suspense – Allison Brennan
Chill Factor – Sandra Brown
61 Hours – Lee ChildWhiterThanSnow
Whiter Than Snow – Sandra Dallas
Dry Ice - Bill Evans
White Corridor – Christopher Fowler
Ice Cold: A Rizzoli and Isles Novel – Tess Gerritsen
Downtown Owl – Chuck Klosterman
A Cold Season – Alison Littlewood
The Boy in the Snow - M.J. McGrathBoyintheSnow
The Cold Kiss – John Rector
Snow Day - Shannon Stacey
Frozen Solid – James M. Tabor

Stay warm!


Good, Better, Best

Everyone and his brother is doing a “Best of 2013″ list, so why shouldn’t I? This reading year was filled with a ton of great books, so let’s get to it.

thisisMine is the story of a happy reader, because the last book I read in 2013 was one of the year’s best: Ann Patchett’s collection of stellar essays, This Is the Story of  A Happy Marriage.


wantWant Not, Jonathan Miles’s sophomore novel, was a wry take on American consumerism. James McBride looked at the raid at Harpers Ferry through the eyes of a young boy in The Good Lord Bird, while Karen Russell looked at just about everything, but in a quirky new way in her clever collection of short fiction, Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

housein2013 was a year of  mind-boggling memoirs and exasperating exposes of global injustice, from Amanda Lindhout’s harrowing tale of captivity at the hands of Somali kidnappers in The House in the Sky, to the amazing Malala Yousafzai’s inspiring story of taking on the Taliban in I Am Malala:  The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, to Nicholas Kristof’s examination of global gender inequality, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

thankyouforThere were books about war–Ben Fountain’s scathing satire of the military and uber-patriotism, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk–and David Finkel’s sobering look at the stateside challenges faced by soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thank You for Your Service.

lethimAnd finally, these three novels proved that one didn’t have to top 700 pages to be a worthwhile read. Sometimes the best things really do come in small packages, as demonstrated by Alice McDermott in Someone; Larry Watson in Let Him Go; and Kent Haruf in Benediction.

We can only hope that 2014 serves up as many good reads.

Happy New Year, everyone!