There’s an old saying: you are what you eat. In “Deep Nutrition”, Dr. Shanahan goes beyond the old saying and explains how what you ingest not only affects you down to your genes, but could also affect your children as well. She discusses the four nutritional habits found in common in the places where people live the longest, healthiest lives on the planet. She also explains how food is more than something that tastes good: it is information to our genes, directing cellular growth and change. This book is a fascinating read, and will make you think seriously about what really is good for you versus what we’ve been told has been good for us for so long.
Recommended by Beth
In the midst of severe drought and punishing heat, the citizens of Kiewarra, Australia are short tempered until a double murder/suicide throws the small community against the ropes. Agent Aaron Falk, returning to his hometown for the funeral of his former best friend Luke – who allegedly shot his wife and son before turning his rifle on himself. Agent Falk is flooded with memories of his past and harassed by those townfolk who remember him and his suspected involvement in the death of a local girl twenty years earlier.
Against his better judgment, Falk agrees to stick around and help out the local police with the investigation. Everything seems to point to Luke being the murderer. Except, the shell casings from the gun don’t match the shells Luke had at his home. And on further examination, some alibis and testimonies don’t hold up. The deeper Falk digs, the more tangled the mystery becomes, and the more blatant the aggression towards Falk becomes. This small town is full of big secrets, and some people are desperate to keep them.
I enjoyed this police procedural mystery a lot; the gradual unraveling of the community in the face of murder and suspicion kept the tension high and the end was truly a surprise. Keep a glass of water handy, the description of the drought and heat will make you thirsty!
A simple little story about a woman that takes a walk. Lillian Boxfish wanted to write in the most amazing city that she had ever visited. And she did.
As a woman in the advertising world she faced difficulty for certain. But she loved her city and she loved so many that she met along the way. In her last walk around town she remembers a life of love and heartbreak. If you liked “A Man Called Ove” you may want to give this one a try.
Set in the future. Frank Langella plays Frank – an aging jewel thief whose son buys him a domestic robot. Frank is experiencing dementia and his busy son is reluctant to put him in full-time care. The robot is programmed to give therapeutic care. When Frank realizes the robot can assist him in a heist to steal an antique copy of Don Quixote from the library for the affections of the local librarian, the story unfolds.
This movie gives a glimpse into the future of how robots are about to change our lives. In a recent article written by award winning sci-fi writer Liu Cixin, self-driving cars have made inroads in several countries. He expects to see the use of autonomous cars accelerating. This would transform our economy. People who drive for a living would loss their jobs. E-commerce may experience booms because of automation, and car ownership would become obsolete. Enter an address into an app, and a car will take you to your plane at the airport, and after you land, another will take you to your destination.
Liu Cixin projects robots will begin to creep into other areas of our lives leaving humans time for entertaining and developing artistic and sporting talents while scrupulously observing elaborate rituals of dress and manners. In this future, creativity is highly valued. People will sport ever more fantastic makeup, hairstyles and clothing.
One of my favorite late summer/early autumn pleasures is reading the new Louise Penny book. I absolutely adore Armand Gamache. There is nothing hard boiled about him. He loves good food, art, books and company. He believes in redemption and the power of love.
“A Great Reckoning” is the 12th book featuring Gamache. He is now the Commander of the Surete Academy and has been tasked with finding the root of corruption left behind by the former commander. In doing so, he finds that it is more traumatic than he guessed. He also needs to rely on an old friend who has been tainted by past corruption. We are also introduced to new characters – in particular Isabelle, the new recruit who Gamache chooses to redeem.
Even though half of the novel takes place at the academy, there is still much to love about Three Pines. The whole cast of characters is still there – Clara, Ruth, Gabri, Oliver and Myrna. Jean-Guy and Annie are expecting an addition to their family and Reine Marie continues to be the perfect wife.
I’m already looking forward to next summer’s novel…
I just finished “Blood Defense” by Marcia Clark. Remember her as a prosecutor from the OJ Simpson trial? This is the first book in her new Samantha Brinkman series. Samantha is a bold, fearless criminal defense attorney trying to make a name for herself in LA. This case involves the brutal murder of a Hollywood starlet and her roommate. Sam is defending the LAPD detective, Dale Pearson, charged with the crime. As she investigates, we go along with her trying to decide if he’s guilty, innocent, a sociopath or a nice guy unjustly accused. A surprise revelation from her past puts another curve into the situation. Just when you think you have it figured out, Marcia throws in a plot twist. Don’t skip the Epilogue! It’s not the typical “they lived happily ever after” ending. It’s more of a OMG eye-popper!
I can’t wait to read the next book in this series, “Moral Defense”, coming out in November. Marcia’s personal experience gives readers insight into the way defense attorneys think and how the legal system works. She challenges you to think about legal justice versus moral justice. Most of the action takes place outside the courtroom with no offensive, graphic violence or profanity. Sam’s character is well developed, and leaves us wanting to know what she’ll do next. Hopefully future books will explore Michelle (her lifelong best friend) and Alex (her charming, brilliant, ex-con investigator) more fully.
Taffeta Brown is starting to rebuild her tattered life in Mystic Creek, Oregon. She has opened a health food store, Healthful Possibilities, and is living in a small apartment upstairs trying to frugally survive.
Her heart is broken because she has lost custody of her little girl and has gone through a nasty divorce. Taffeta’s ex-husband accused her of child abuse and endangering their daughter, Sarah.
A local deputy, Barney Sterling befriends Taffeta and is suddenly drawn to her quiet demeanor. They become friends and she has a proposition for the deputy – marriage! Will this lead to love and commitment from Barney? What will happen with the custody of Sarah? Does Taffy have a chance to find true love and rebuild the family she lost?
Catherine Anderson writes wonderful stories of love, hope and redemption.
This is a romantic, suspense filled novel about tragic events that haunt a young preteen girl. Her father’s heinous crimes of the past follow her life into adulthood with pain filled memories of a shattered childhood.
Naomi Carson rebuilds her life with help from her uncle’s love and resourcefulness. Will she ever find happiness and escape her dreadful past, is true love a dream or reality? She is a successful photographer who settles in a small town of Sunrise Cove trying to find peace, love and a sense of self worth. This is a great read for all of Nora Roberts’ fans !
No book should ever be 700 pages. That’s just a book editor not doing their job.
“A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara is a case in point. “Barkskins” by Annie Proulx, the same. I saw some critics joke that if Proulx was really concerned about trees, she might have saved a forest all on her own with a little discretion here.
But IMO, that’s her editor’s job. I mean, a writer’s gotta write, right? In Proulx’s case, I imagine that after “Shipping News” and “Brokeback Mountain”, she’s got the clout to overrule any editor. Mistake, I say. If you haven’t done it in the first 500 pages, you’re not doing it right.
So I’m not recommending “Barkskins” even though I read all 713 pages. I wanted to like it (and I did, in some ways). But it was just too much – too many pages, too much switching back and forth from one time-frame to another (man, do I hate that literary gimmick; enough already!), waaay too many characters to keep track of, no less care about.
But this is a recommendation blog so here’s what I actually recommend this time – another book but sort of the same: “The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World” by Andrea Wulf. It’s one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year written by an award-winning author.
But – it’s non-fiction.
That’s often a deal breaker for me. I want to read non-fiction, I really do, especially a book like this. I like to read about travel and history. I want to be informed about important global trends. But non-fiction is sometimes soo boring. I need the characters, the dialogue.
Oftentimes, when I’m trying to get through a book of non-fiction, I’ll read another book at the same time. I know I’m not the only person who does this. (In fact, Wulf writes about people doing this very thing!) Sometimes you have an “upstairs” book and a “downstairs” book. Sometimes, it’s brain candy to offset a thriller. With me, I often turn to a novel for a break while I’m reading non-fiction.
This time, I found the perfect combination – if you too are a Proulx fan and you think you want to give “Barkskins” a try but are daunted by the sheer size of it, try reading it in combination with “The Invention of Nature”. They go together so well that some characters mentioned in one book are also in the other.
Humboldt was a scientist and naturalist at the turn of the 18th century who, Wulf claims, was the first to note the symbiosis of all life on the planet. He influenced others including Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin and he called out climate change nearly 200 years ago.
Wulf’s story ranges from the jungles of South America to the establishment of the German state and is really interesting history. It’s all the more interesting with regular injections from Proulx’s characters, who are set in the same time-frame and are living out the effects described by Humboldt.
Your mission here, if you decide to accept reading both books in tandem, means you’re in for more than 1,000 pages. Are you up for the challenge?
Jack Morgan is providing international security in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His consulting firm, Private is world renowned for safety and excellent security. The World Cup Soccer games were held two years ago in Rio with the games being plagued with issues.
Jack is back for the Olympics being held in Rio. This is a classic James Patterson book filled with action as bodies mysteriously disappear and residents are crashing the games. Will Jack be able to save the games from disaster?
I waited and waited for this book to come out and boy did it deliver! I really enjoyed it. So much so, that I read the entire book in one evening. I got home from work, made a cup of tea, curled up with my pup, and started reading. I couldn’t stop and before I knew it, I had reached the last page. Amy Schumer, a new (and hugely popular) woman on the comedy scene, wrote this fantastic memoir. Her first movie, Trainwreck, came out last year and her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, is in its fourth season. While sometimes crude, Amy tackles many women’s issues in her comedy, and is a huge proponent of women’s rights and equality.
I’ll be honest, I expected a constant laugh riot in this book. What I got was somewhat different, but definitely for the better. Amy chronicles many stories from her life. Some hysterically funny and others exceedingly sad. Not only does Amy talk about her time in the comedy world, she also talks about painful experiences, like abusive relationships, being an introvert in an extremely public profession, self-worth, family illness, and gun violence. You will laugh out loud. You will get a little verklempt. You may even scream! She is vulnerable, honest, witty, hilarious, crass, heartbreaking, inspirational, and powerful. I definitely recommend this book.
A wonderful movie produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey that takes place in southern France. A successful French Michelin restaurant with an outstanding reputation is operated by a snobbish proprietress. The owner is threatened by an Indian establishment that opens 100 feet from her own business. This begins an all out war between the establishments. The two worlds collide in the kitchen with the chefs trying to outdo the other.
I enjoyed reading this book so much! It is an enjoyable read with many stories of Jack as a young man at college and his early days living in Tennessee trying to support his family. He finally found his calling at the Columbus Zoo in Powell, Ohio. You will laugh at the many adventures and mistakes of a young zoo director. He has written many stories of his family and friends at the zoo and world travels! He also talks about the David Letterman shows’ antics and hotel experiences with the animals. Enjoy, laugh and be entertained!
Every month, I read a book I don’t choose. No, it’s not some weird library thing. I’m in a book club, duh!
Like most people who enjoy being a member of a book club, I look forward to reading something someone else thinks is good. I hope I’ll come across an author or some ideas I would not have discovered on my own.
And, like many people in book clubs, I find it sometimes doesn’t work out that way.
I like what I like and she likes… something else entirely. I think it’s because people read for very different reasons. Some people read to escape the daily ho-hum. Some want their fiction to soothe the anxieties of modern life, or confirm their view of the world. I like to say I read to learn something new.
So it’s no surprise when conflict arises at book club.
Not long ago, I recommended my book club read “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz. It’s also my recommendation for you today. Diaz is an acclaimed author who writes from the point of view of a man of the Dominican Republic, which is what he is, actually, in his real life.
Some members of my book club actively disliked it. Some (more than one!) said they stopped reading it before they finished because they found it so unpleasant. (It’s profane. Really profane.)
So why do I recommend it? I’m going to let a professional book critic from the New York Times take over here (because she’s better at it than I am):
“Diaz writes in an idiom so electrifying and distinct it’s practically an act of aggression, at once alarming and enthralling, even erotic in its assertion of sudden intimacy: ‘Dude was figureando hard. Had always been a papi chulo, so of course he dove right back into the grip of his old sucias, snuck them down into the basement whether my mom was home or not.’ ” (Yes, I’m afraid you have to google some to get the full meaning.)
Here’s why I appreciate this book: I believe great novelists are really just writing versions of their life stories. And I treasure the truths I discover in their words – even though they call it fiction. “This is How You Lose Her” reveals the life of a fellow human I would never have understood on my own. I feel like that draws me into the circle of humanity in a good and important way.
A few months later, my book club read “A Man Called Ove”, also the story of a man making his way in this world. Although many people enjoyed reading it (even me, kinda), I learned nothing. The characters, while entertaining, were caricatures; the superficial story read like a screenplay (whattya know – it’s already a movie: ‘a touching, comic crowdpleaser’. Of course.)
Which brings me back to why people read: If you read in search of truth about the human experience, I recommend you read Junot Diaz.
And if you like the idea of belonging to a book club, Ritter has two for adults. Our evening book club takes on those classic titles you never read in school. Read them now with the help of a guided discussion. I promise you’ll learn something new. The afternoon book club reads popular titles. It’s fun and relaxing. Check the clubs’ upcoming books on our calendar. Then, think about why you read, and join one!
Theodosia, who is the owner of the Indigo Tea Shop, is catering an event at the Heart’s Desire Jewelry Shop, where priceless pieces of jewelry are being displayed. The party has been well attended with many local citizens admiring the breath-taking pieces from museums and private collectors. The party is crashed by a gang of smash-and-grab thieves who steal the collection, and a dead body is found in the aftermath of the robbery.
Theodosia and her friend Drayton are asked to help solve the mystery by her dear friend Brooke, the owner of the jewelry store. It is a well-written plot of twists and turns with help from the FBI and local law enforcement. Enjoy the recipes at the end of the book and the history of the teas being served at the tea shop!
This classic novel takes a step back in the time of mid-1800 England. The title, “The Way We Live Now”, applies to that time, and our current time with the exception of women’s rights. The story unfolds with a variety of characters portraying outward appearances, inward thoughts and manipulations. It places one in an understanding of the hierarchies of English nobility as well. Amusingly, some of the English expressions are still used today. It’s a slow read, but well worth the patience.
I love a book that transports me to a location. Even as I type this I am thinking about the cool darkness that surrounds Black Rabbit Hall. The story takes place in England and the characters are serious and unpredictable. A woman is desperate to find the perfect location for her upcoming wedding, but soon she becomes desperate to unravel the story that unfolded in the former home of the Alton family. When she arrives on the scene thirty years after the Alton children tromped through the halls and ran through the woods – Lorna finds only mystery and secrets. Will she discover the truth or follow the rabbit hole to the past? A wonderful short read – perfect for summertime.
This little gem of a book is an uplifting story. Isabel befriends nonagenarian Edward upon the request of her dear friend. Edward’s beloved 95 year old wife Paula has passed away. He is alone and in need of company.
Isabel is a reporter for the New York Post. Her marriage is crumbling and she is burying herself in her work. Yet, she makes time for Edward and the friendship transforms her life. By taking time out to help her solve her problems, Edward begins to overcome his grief. His gourmet meals uplift both of them. They are delightful little creations that pair lovingly perfected dishes with wine and dessert.
In short, Edward teaches this international reporter the value of a “life well lived”. By slowing down, thinking things through, and enjoying the little things, Isabel learns just that. I recommend this book to anyone who loves food and wants to create more meaningful relationships. The recipes and instructions that Edward shares are really precious.
In June, I paddled under the strawberry moon.
Sounds like the lyrics to an old-fashioned song, right? But in this case it is actually true; I did that very thing, as part of my mindful campaign to be more intentional about enjoying life. (Wow, you’re probably rolling your eyes, she’s both “mindful” and also “intentional”. I know, I know but there really are times when what’s trending is also good!)
Anyway, I was lucky enough to kayak one evening on the Vermilion River as the strawberry moon was rising. This is the full moon that appears in June. It may have gotten its name from Native Americans because it appears at the same time that strawberry season peaks. Or, some say, it was named for the reddish tint it takes on when it is so close to the horizon.
I was paddling with some school-teacher friends who are smart enough to know that we had to be heading in this direction at this specific time in order to get the best view of the rising moon. We looked and looked until suddenly, ahead in the silhouette of tree branches, there it was, bright and rosy, beautiful and oh so mysterious.
People on earth have long been fascinated by our celestial neighbors, ever since we first were able to lift our eyes up from the rigors of daily existence to peer heavenward and consider them. The sight of the strawberry moon glowing above the waters of the river made me think of a book I highly recommend, “Equilateral” by Ken Kalfus.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Kalfus imagines, a British astronomer believes he sees activity on Mars and devises a plan to communicate with whoever might be out there. Kalfus’ story is inspired by the real-life “discovery” (which was later proved erroneous) of canals on Mars in 1877. At that time, some people went so far as to propose these were irrigation canals being built by an intelligent civilization.
Kalfus’ astronomer has a grandiose scheme – to construct an enormous, triangular trench in the Egyptian desert, flood it with oil and set it afire to send a blazing signal to the engineers on Mars that intelligent life also exists here.
But alas (of course), our earthly scientist is yet a man – beset by human passions: he’s driven by his hunger for power, his need to control and his instinctual desire to assert his primacy, enflamed by the threat of potential rivals, on earth and elsewhere.
Kalfus is a National Book Award finalist for a previous novel, and three of his works have been named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He earned tons of acclaim for “Equilateral” too. I recommend you read it. It’ll give you something to think about next time you’re looking up into the night sky and you begin to imagine who else might be out there.
I’m dying for something good to read! I say this all the time. So then, what to do?
We all have our ways of finding the next good book to read. You ask that one friend. You go to NPR books. You stop in the library and browse the shelves. Maybe now you even go to Ritter Recommends. (Aw, thanks!)
So here’s what happened to me recently. I was dying for something good to read. So I started googling around. Down the rabbit hole and next thing you know I’m at the New York Public Library’s twitter feed (how’d that happen?) and here’s what I came up with – a very enticing title, “Black Wings Has My Angel” by Elliott Chaze.
I’m not above choosing a book just because the title sucks me in. But when I looked a little further, I found this crime novel was originally published in 1953. Hmm, interesting. What would an old-fashioned, pulp fiction written by an old-school newspaperman read like? (Chaze was a reporter for the Associated Press.)
Turns out, really noir, pretty cool:
“Twenty-seven may be too young to die, but it isn’t too young to die like a man,” says the tough guy. About the dame he’s seeing, “She was a lousy little tramp. God knows I’m an authority on tramps.”
And she says to him, “You move around like a damned tormented tomcat and your eyes aren’t right. You’re just about perfect. And you’re just about horrible.”
So much fun!
The sex scenes are vintage too: “She kissed the way an expert dancer follows the lead, giving and taking at exquisitely the right moment… If she could drive the way she loved… I gave her the wheel and she curved out of the gravel drive as slick as anything you’d want to see. She handled the hydramatic shift without self-consciousness and she fed the heavy car the gas in a nice soft gush.” Gosh! And I’ve never even heard of a hydramatic shift.
Here’s one period reference that stumped me: When the tough guy tries to track down the broad, he says, “By midnight, I’d combed more restaurants and bars than Duncan Hines covered in a week.” Huh?
Well, before Duncan Hines was a cake mix, he was a travelling salesman, eating in restaurants across the country throughout the 1930s and eventually publishing a book, “Adventures in Good Eating.” See what I mean about dropping down that rabbit hole?
Chaze’s writing isn’t cartoonish: “You’ve never heard a siren until you’ve heard one looking for you and you alone. Then you really hear it and know what it is… You sit in your living room and hear a siren and it’s a small and lonesome thing… But when it is after you, it is the texture of the whole world. You will hear it until you die. It tears the guts out of you like a drill against a nerve.”
I recommend that when you’re dying for something good to read, you spend some time with Elliott Chaze.
“It’s the Little Things: Creating Big Moments in your Home through the Stylish Small Stuff” by Susanna SalkThursday, June 23rd, 2016
It’s no secret that I love home decorating books. I love to look at the pictures when I’m curled up in bed dreaming of the living in the stylish homes. I love the mix of the old with the new, the pop of color, the eclectic collections, and the beautiful views. “It’s the Little Things” covers all that and more. A home reflects the personality of the owner, and Susanna Salk knows that better than anyone. A contributor to the Quintessence design blog, she hosts the “At Home With” video series.
In this sweet book, we are indeed “At Home With” many different personalities: creatives, collectors and designers. The stylish, small stuff, what we keep and display reflects our personality. If you are in need of inspiration, want to express yourself, or dream of a new style, then take this book home.
The world is a ruin of pollution and death. In the year 2044, the only escape from reality is the OASIS, a virtual reality that is so immersive that real life almost seems fake. Wade Watts is someone called a ‘gunter’ – short for egg hunter. Somewhere in OASIS, the world’s deceased programmer has left the ultimate easter egg for players to find – the control over the OASIS and his multibillion dollar fortune. Leaving behind cryptic clues and a diary full of 80’s culture, the hunt for the egg has been stagnant for over five years. Until the fateful day Wade unravels the secret of the first clue. Now everyone wants a piece of him and his knowledge, and some will go to great lengths to obtain control of the OASIS. Now Wade must continue searching for the egg, while hiding from a deadly corporation, deciding who he can trust, and falling in love. “Ready Player One” is a love letter to 80’s culture and video games, with a world that is as engaging at the OASIS itself.
As a lover of video games and geek culture, “Ready Player One” has been on my to-read list for a long time. I’m SO glad that I finally decided to read this dystopian novel as it blew me away in world building and description! The OASIS and virtual reality as a concept are thoroughly explored, and the descriptions of how the OASIS functions was fascinating to a gamer like myself. Though I was born in the early 1990’s the 80’s culture was fairly familiar to me and I could appreciate Cline’s thorough knowledge of the topic. However, this can also be the book’s greatest downfall, depending on your reading preferences. The narrative will go off on tangential topics for pages, giving the reader a proper understand of someone’s backstory or the history of the world, but it can take away from the flow of the plot as a whole. It took me a while to get through the first part of the book because of this, but once Wade cleared the first Gate, I was completely hooked.
Wade is an interesting character in that he isn’t really that special at the beginning. He’s a poor kid, living in the ‘stacks’ (stacked up mobile homes that could be over 20 stories high), attending the free OASIS schooling so he wouldn’t get bullied at an actual school. He’s clever and dedicated to the hunt for the easter egg, but this is a quality that all of the gunters share. When he unlocks the first gate he is shot into superstardom, with companies paying him to use his OASIS avatar for marketing and getting thousands of emails a day. It is Wade’s cleverness and sense of self-preservation that drives his character to grow past the self-conscious lonely teenager he was at the beginning. The other characters get some development, but not much. They’re interesting and help Wade feel more genuine and relatable, but they don’t get much growth despite the size of the book.
Overall “Ready Player One” is a solid four out of five stars for me, as the action and the fascinating world that Cline has created kept me on the edge of my seat. Definitely recommended, especially for gamers and lovers of 80’s geek culture!
“June” takes place in a small town in Northern Ohio during the month of June. It revolves around the life of June and her best friend, Lindy, in 1955, and jumps between past and present by featuring June’s granddaughter, Cassie, in 2015. The story begins with June having recently passed away. Cassie is dealing with her grief, until Nick, a representative from Jack Montgomery’s estate visits her and explains that she has inherited over 30 million dollars. Cassie and Nick must work together to find out if Jack Montgomery, a famous movie star during the 1950s, is related to Cassie at all.
The book illuminates a melancholy summer in Northern Ohio. The text emphasizes the lazy, hot days of summer, but also serves as a reminder that summer’s end is inevitable. The mystery is fairly predictable, but the well-written characters make up for lack of a surprise ending. I fell in love with June and Cassie. Lindy is a secondary character with a giant personality, and the dynamic she adds to the story is very much appreciated. Jack Montgomery, the larger-than-life movie star, seems subdued in the Northern Ohio town, and while I felt that I did not get to know his character fully, I am also not sure if I would have liked his character if the story took place in Hollywood.
This book is an interesting exploration of how location is incredibly important to how people react to different situations. I would recommend this title to anyone looking for a summer read, but I would advise them not to underestimate this one. It’s a light enough read for summer, but this is one that will stay with me for quite a while.
Recommended by Joy
The first in a lovely series. “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” pairs Sherlock Holmes with an unlikely understudy. At the start of the story, Mary Russell is a young fifteen year old, who is nerdy and lonely. Due to an unfortunate accident Mary finds herself in England living with her aunt. She is stumbled upon by Holmes and the two become friends and intellectual rivals. The reading is light and the adventures are wonderful to observe. Anyone interested in a less than serious novel about Sherlock Holmes in his late years will enjoy this series.
Do you ever have a time when you just can’t read? A period of a couple weeks or, heaven forbid, even a stretch of months, when nothing you pick up is engaging, you can’t read more than a few pages, or even a few paragraphs, and follow the storyline? Seems you’ll never find another good book to read and you begin to wonder if it’s you…
I’ve come to believe that when this happens, the remedy is – TV! Surprise, huh? Bet you didn’t see that coming! Well, let me explain:
I think that sometimes when reading has inexplicably become a chore instead of a pleasure, your eyes just really need a rest. Time to give in, put down the printed page for a while and turn on the television, where today, more than ever, you can get really great stories with thrilling plots and complicated characters, just like in a good book.
Now, before you object, give me a minute. I’m not talking about shrill and shrieky like “Two Broke Girls”. I’m talking about cool and complex like “Orphan Black” and “Man in the High Castle”.
These days, when I want to talk about some great television show I’m watching, I can kind of sort people out by their response. Some of my friends (and you can guess my age right about here) reply, a bit disdainfully, that they don’t watch television. At all. You can read between the lines – what they’re saying is television is for low-brow dopes.
But when I read between the lines, I think what they’re sometimes saying is they don’t have the skills to watch television that isn’t delivered old-school. They don’t have a smart TV, they don’t know how to stream, they still get DVDs in the mail from Netflix (wait, is that still a thing?), they have to show up at the television set Sundays at 9 and they’re still watching commercials. Ouch.
If this is you (you don’t have to admit it out loud, to anyone), then my recommendation for today is that you make the effort to fix it.
Don’t be afraid. It’s not that hard. And, we’ll help you!
Call Ritter today and make an appointment. You can choose to sit down with our tech-savvy staff member who is about your age and speaks your language. (We’ve got more than one! We can really make this happen.) With a small investment of brain power, you can join the future. You can go home and get in on all the must-see TV shows everyone’s talking about and enjoy what some critics are saying is the golden age of television.
And when you’re ready, I recommend these highly popular titles: “Breaking Bad”, “Game of Thrones”, “The Wire” and the above-mentioned pair. Then when you’ve plowed through those (if you also discover “binge watching”, please don’t tell your boss it’s my fault you’re bleary-eyed!), then come on back here and we’ll talk about what to watch next.
“The Muralist” is told from the perspective Alizée Benoit, a French-American abstract painter, and also through her grand-niece, Danielle Abrams, several decades later. This is an interesting blend of historical fiction – Alizée paints with Jackson Pollock, and befriends Eleanor Roosevelt before she disappears. Danielle attempts to track down her great-aunt through pieces of a mural she uncovers in an auction house in 2015. It is an artistic, historical, political take on 1940s America, as well as today’s New York art scene. If you enjoy art, history, literary fiction, or even mystery you may enjoy this one.
Recommended by Beth
Caden Bosch lives in two worlds: one contains his family, friends and high school…where he submits to his OCD, pretends to try out for the track team and believes people are trying to kill him. In the other he’s a crewmember on a voyage to the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest trench. He’s wary of the moody pirate captain and his parrot-who may or may not be planning a mutiny-and of his fellow shipmates as they sail uncharted waters toward unknown dangers. Slowly, Caden’s fantasy and paranoia begin to take over, until his parents have only one choice left. Will Caden make it through safely, or will he founder and sink forever in The Deep?
Challenger Deep gives the reader a multilayered, gritty look at teen mental illness: Caden’s retreat into his own paranoid fantasies is fascinating, full of riddles and surreal scenes. It’s not an easy read; at times it’s hard to separate the two worlds and as the story continues, more and more connections are made between the two. The author based the novel on his son’s diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder and psychiatric care and included drawings made while his son was in ‘The Deep’, which brings a very real, human element to the story.
This story follows Cora and her voiceless aunt, Ruth, as they walk from one end of New York to the other. The plot is set up in a dual timeline. We learn about Ruth’s childhood in a group home run by a religious fanatic, and as her past meets the future, the two plot lines intertwine flawlessly. This book is as much a mystery as it is a fantasy. It is the first true Gothic fiction novel that I have read in a long time, and it lives up to the genre.
My sister is an artist. Me, I’m pretty much mystified by art. But she and I hang out a lot and so I’m always observing when we’re together to see if I can catch on to her arty ways – her different perceptions and interpretations of the things we encounter. She says things like, “Look at that color!” and I turn my head this way and that and feel sort of left out.
So when I happen upon a book that purports to expound on the nature of art and the artist, I’m usually taken in – what can I find out about this mysterious tribe and their craft?
When I find a good book about art, I share it with my sister and then we compare notes. Sometimes we even travel together to view the piece in question and see what we think. It’s interesting and I always feel I’ve learned something important.
So I recommend “The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss” by Edmund de Waal. It’s the story of artists and their art and, as you surely know by now, you don’t need to know anything about it to really get this book.
In this case, the art in question is netsuke, miniature Japanese ivory carvings. (See? We’ve already learned something!) The author, a British potter whose work has been exhibited at museums including the Victoria and Albert, tells the history of his Jewish relatives, the wealthy and influential Ephrussi family, through stories about the collection he inherited.
It not only illuminates what artists think about and how they see the world, it’s also a very cool mystery about the Holocaust and its impact on this influential family. I’m definitely not going to spoil it by saying even one more thing!
I usually like to let the authors do the writing in my reviews. They’re the experts! But I had a hard time pulling out an example of why I recommend this book. De Waal’s subjects – and also his writing – are rarefied and recondite.
But here goes:
“I want to find how these nonchalant Parisians, Charles and his lover, handled Japanese things. What was it like to have something so alien in your hands for the first time, to pick up a box or a cup – or a netsuke – and shift it around, finding its
weight and balance, running a fingertip along the raised decoration… There must be a literature on touch somewhere, I think; someone must have recorded in a diary or letter the fugitive moment of what they felt when they picked one up. There must be a trace of their hands somewhere.”
That’s how De Waal thinks and what he’s searching for throughout this book. I definitely want to go along.
Finn has always been the weird kid in his home town of Bone Gap. So when he claims that beautiful Roza was kidnapped by a man with a face that he can’t remember, the townspeople aren’t surprised when the search comes up empty. People always abandoned Finn and Sean O’Sullivan – just look at their mother, who ran off to Oregon and left them alone. Even Sean, who misses Roza more than anyone, can only find blame when he looks at his little brother. But Finn knows he saw her being taken by the man who moves like cornstalks. He knows that she’s out there somewhere, waiting to be found. With the help of his brother, a feisty girl who looks like a bee, and the weird townspeople of Bone Gap, Finn has to navigate through the gaps that make up his world to find Roza – and himself.
“Bone Gap” took me by surprise. The beginning is a bit slow, with an underlying mystery and strangeness that pulled me into the story. Everyone starts as an enigma, and as the story progresses their layers are slowly peeled back, revealing the complex characters beneath. The story switches narrators to great effect, allowing the reader to really understand the main players in this tightly woven story. The magical realism aspects of the book bubble up to the surface as you read, with the ending being so weird and fantastical that I still think about it weeks later. But most importantly, this is a story about forgiveness, loss, and finding out who you really are, despite all of the gaps in the world. This was one of the best YA books of 2015 for a reason, and everyone should give “Bone Gap” a try.
Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda have all been given a second chance at life. They have been chosen to participate in the SUBlife pilot program – a program for terminally ill patients. Each of these people have received new, genetically perfect bodies, but have retained all their past memories and experiences.
“And Again” is an exploration of the human condition. These characters are required to relearn their physical identities. Hannah, who used to be an artist, has lost her natural ability to paint. These characters are faced with the question: how much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your body? How will they cope with and conform to their past lives?
Recommended by Carrie
The Lunar Chronicles is a series of six books for young adults that mirror the classic fairy tales of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White, but with a futuristic twist. The first book, “Cinder”, reminds us of the Cinderella story . . . except that Cinder is a “lowly” cyborg on an Earth of the future. Cinder has a very deeply hidden secret – one that she is not even aware of – that turns Cinder’s life upside down. Cinder finds herself embroiled in the fight between Earth and Luna. A fight that her secret can begin to unravel.
The second book, “Scarlet”, is (as you can guess) a take on Little Red Riding Hood. Scarlet Benoit lives a small life on a small farm. Small, that is, until she meets a street fighter named Wolf who tells Scarlet that her grandmother, a former war pilot, may be hiding secrets regarding the missing Lunar Princess, Selene. Scarlet meets up with Cinder and they team up to fight against Queen Levana, queen of Luna.
“Cress”, book three, is based on the story of Rapunzel. Cress is a “shell” lunar, who does not share her peers’ lunar powers. She is also a very talented hacker and has been banished to a space station by the Lunar Queen to help collect Earth secrets. Cress finds herself with Scarlet, Cinder and crew and becomes a vital part of the fight.
The series continues with “Winter” (you guessed it, Snow White). Winter is Queen Levana’s stepdaughter. Winter has seen the horrors that using her Lunar gift can bring, so has been driven mad by the unreleased gift inside of her. Though Winter suffers from hallucinations and a deteriorated mental state, she is also a formidable force when teamed up with Cinder’s crew. Winter’s involvement is sure to help the cause and start a revolution.
“Fairest”, book five, tells Queen Levana’s origin story (based on the Evil Queen from Snow White). The story begins when Levana is only 15 years old and her older sister, Channary, is set to become Queen of Luna. What follows is Levana’s spiral into hatred and cruelty that leads to her ascension to the crown.
The final book, “Stars Above”, contains short stories, which are origin stories for Cinder, Wolf, Carswell Thorne and Winter. Also included is a short story called The Little Android, which is a short, futuristic retelling of The Little Mermaid. The book also wraps things up for our fearless crew in a short, but meaningful story of their lives a mere 2 years after Winter concludes.
Though this is a series written for young adults, I quickly found myself completely engrossed in the stories. A very easy read, these books were a nice break from reality.
What a delightful find!
While not what I typically read, I found this novel to be light-hearted and a nice change in pace for the winter months. Sara is the young Swedish pen pal of Amy Harris, a native of Broken Wheel, Iowa. Due to their correspondence, Sara travels to visit Amy on an extended stay. These two have more in common than just their love for books, but the books take center stage. Bivald includes so many details about well known titles that it’s hard for a book lover not to find herself remembering all the stories told in so many great novels. For a little romance and a wonderful book about books – I recommend “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.”
The Expatriates follows the story of three women living in Hong Kong. I initially picked it up because I was expecting it to be similar to the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. While the plots were very different, fans of the movie will like this book, as well.
Mercy is a young Korean-American graduate of Columbia who is struggling to make a living. Hilary is a wealthy housewife who desperately wants a child. Margaret is a happily married mother of three. The events that lead to their stories combining are heartbreaking and compelling. If you’re looking for a great book to use for a book club, this is a good one.
As I write this, it’s snowing outside in Vermilion, Ohio. No complaining, people! It’s winter and we’re supposed to have snow, not 50 degree weather.
But okay. Maybe you’re someone who can’t hack the cold. I have a great book prescription for you. Get it? A la “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George? If you’re sick of the weather – or even if you’re not – I highly recommend “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan.
I don’t care if you like surfing or even know anything about it. That’s so not the point. This book is about beauty and nature and man’s (in the humanist sense, of course) interconnectedness with it.
Let’s start with the title. Finnegan’s “barbarian days” come from another author, Edward St. Aubyn (whom I also recommend, with the caveat that he is definitely not for the faint-hearted!) Barbarian days are that time of life when you are more interested in wild splashes of color than coloring inside the lines.
Let’s dive right in (ha ha!) You don’t even have to dive deep (did it again!) because the book jacket quote is completely seductive (IMO):
“Even at six feet, it was a serious wave. Heavy, long-interval lines marched out of the west, bending around the headland into a breathtaking curve. They feathered and bowled and broke at the outermost point of the horseshoe, and then reeled down the rocky shore… As we got closer to the lineup, the power and beauty of the waves got more drenching. A set rolled through, shining and roaring in the low winter afternoon sun, and my throat clogged with emotion – some nameless mess of joy, fear, love, lust, gratitude.”
Holy cow. Do I have to say any more?
I don’t have any idea what a set is nor feathering or bowling (and I really did read the whole book). But these beautiful descriptions touched me to my core and made me deeply curious about what Finnegan had found in surfing. Fyi, this book is al lot about compulsiveness.
“Being out in big surf is dreamlike. Terror and ecstasy ebb and flow around the edges of things… I always feel a ferocious ambivalence: I want to be nowhere else; I want to be anywhere else.”
Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?
Finnegan finances his surfing obsession as a staff writer for “The New Yorker” magazine and has had a successful career as an international journalist. He’s a really good writer and this is a really good book, especially when it’s cold outside and warm waters are still just a dream here in Vermilion, Ohio.
This book was recommended to me by a friend, and if I knew what I was in for, I may not have read it! It was absolutely terrifying. “Bird Box” plays on the primal childhood fear of the dark. The protagonist spends much of the book blindfolded, and the suspense is intense. What would you do if simply seeing something were to drive you to insanity?
If you’re a fan of thrillers or the horror genre, you’ll like this one.
Recommended by Carrie
A Memoir of Insanity is just how it sounds. Written by Mark Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut’s son, this book is a mesmerizing tale of a trip into psychosis. It begins in the late 60s and early 70s when Mark graduates from college. Frustrated with the “American Way,” he packs up his girlfriend and his dog and heads to Vancouver to start a farm commune deep in isolation. What happens next is both horrifying and fascinating. Mark heads full force into his first psychotic break. His memory of the event is quite intact, leaving the reader feeling almost a part of his insanity. What follows is Mark’s experience with his mental illness. Patterns of health followed by a descent into madness. This is a must read, especially for anyone interested in the mental health field. It does not read like a boring textbook, listing symptoms like a Diagnostic Manual. This book takes you into the mind of someone desperately struggling with Schizophrenia. I couldn’t put it down.
Erica Strauss is a former chef and popular blogger. Her blog the Northwest Edible Life is a thoughtful meditation on life. In The Hands-On Home, she writes about all things domestic. From making homemade granola to making homemade body soap, she has a recipe you can follow. I like to think of it as an extension of the slow food movement into a slow home life movement. This earth friendly manual has something for everyone who takes pleasure in doing it yourself.
Recommended by Patty
Has anyone else noticed that, in addition to being in our news all the time, China is now also starring as the winner in some of the newest apocalyptic fiction? David Mitchell’s “Bone Clocks”, for instance.
I admit this: I only really notice a global shift when it begins appearing in my fiction. (For that matter, has everyone also noticed the rise in apocalyptic plots overall? I may be the last one to pick up on that.)
But back to China. Aren’t those people Communists? Then how can they also be world masters? I know I need to find out more. But I like my information served up with a good storyline to keep me interested. So that led me to “Age of Ambition”, a work of non-fiction by Evan Osnos.
I know, right? That’s not usually my path. But here’s the subtitle: “Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China”. Sounds intriguing. And it is. The tales Osnos tells in this account of his years living in China are part personal history, part travelogue and part profiles of some very interesting characters. Taken as a whole, it does a fine job of explaining what is up with China these days in the compelling fashion of a really good read.
He starts with: “Autonomy was creeping into daily life. In Mao’s day, it had been considered immoral to take a second job, because spare time belonged to the state. By the nineties, so many people were moonlighting that there was a boom in the business of printing business cards. The state media, which had once encouraged everyone to be a ‘rustless screw’ in the machine, now acknowledged the new reality of competition: ‘You must rely on yourself.’ ”
Okay. I get it.
Then there’s this gal, who grew up at the foot of a mountain: “Gong’s family raised peanuts and cotton and chickens and pigs. She was the elder of two children, and she was small and sickly. She had narrow shoulders and thin lips, and her face at rest carried a wary expression. In the hierarchy of village life, this did her no favors. The local boys wanted girls with plump cheeks, and lips in the shape of a rosebud.”
Sounds interesting. Makes me want to keep reading. Get more details here.
I recommend this book because: works like journalism, reads like fiction.
Recommended by Bethany
This book was not what I was expecting. I have heard that China Miéville is somewhat famous for his vast, epic novels, and this was not one of them – in fact, it was a fairly short read. This book is about a young boy who has witnessed something horrible, and is told from the perspective of the boy who has grown up. The story flows between past and present tenses, which creates an almost otherworldly aura to the story, and comes off as a dark, twisted folk tale. This book is as much a thriller/horror story as it is a coming-of age narrative.
I would recommend this book to fans of Kelly Link’s short stories, or to fans of Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”.
Recommended by Patty
Okay, so you’ve read “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. Or maybe you couldn’t make it through that weighty tome. Either way, time to reach back to Tartt’s previous efforts. Even if you couldn’t take on “The Goldfinch”, try her other books. They’re so worth it. (Also, Goldfinch: 771 pgs. Her other books: about 560 pgs.)
Tartt wrote her first novel, “The Secret History”, while still in her twenties and when it was published in 1992, it quickly became a bestseller. This story of a tight group of friends at an elite eastern university features the strongly imagined characters and twisty-turny plot Tartt has become known for. So spooky, the characters stayed in my mind for weeks after I finished it.
It took Tartt a decade to produce her second book, “The Little Friend”, and this one is much more accessible. It’s a fantastically well-written rendering of childhood in the rural South (think Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Is Tartt actually still a child? You’d think so the way she perfectly imagines the thoughts and days of her 11-year-old character.
But, warning! This book is also extremely frustrating. Don’t go looking it up on Goodreads. You’ll run smack into the angry hordes who loved the book and were really ticked off with Tartt by the end.
Me too. Even so, I highly recommend this book, because of writing like this:
“There were not many men in the Cleve family and headstrong, masculine activities such as tree pruning (and) household repair… had for the most part fallen to her. She did this cheerfully, with a brisk confidence that was the wonder of her timid sisters. None of them could even drive a car; and poor Aunt Libby was so afraid of appliances and mechanical apparatus of all sorts that she wept at the prospect of lighting a gas heater or changing a light bulb. Though they were intrigued by the camera, they were also wary of it, and they admired their sister’s breezy daring in handling this manly contraption that had to be loaded and aimed and shot like a gun.”
And descriptions like this, about some seashells collected on a long-ago vacation:
“ ‘They lose their magic when they’ve been out of the water awhile,’ Libby said; and she’d run the bathroom sink full of water, poured the shells in and pulled over a step-stool for Harriet to stand on. And how surprised she had been to see that uniform gray washed bright and slick and magical, broken into a thousand tinkling colors: empurpled here, soaked there to mussel-black, fanned into ribs and spiraling into delicate polychrome whorls… “Smell!” Libby said. “That’s what the ocean smells like!”
IMO, Tartt is worth getting ticked off over.
Recommended by Colleen
Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks – a young man is trying to make a comeback as a champion bull rider. He unexpectedly comes to the rescue of a college art student. Their paths entwined in everyday activities. They are each searching for meaning and a future together. They befriend an elderly man who will change their lives forever.
Watch this movie with someone you love and have tissues handy!
Recommended by Beth
Anne Elliot, at twenty-seven, may still be considered an eligible match due to her place in society, but the fact is she’s no longer young and her romantic outlook is bleak, to say the least. Eight years earlier, she fell head over heels in love with and became engaged to Frederick Wentworth, a young naval officer. Unfortunately, her youth and inexperience allowed her to be persuaded to break off the engagement as Frederick held neither fortune nor rank.
Now the tides are reversed: Anne’s father has squandered much of their fortune, forcing them into reduced circumstances and Captain Wentworth has returned from the sea successful, wealthy and looking for a wife. Anne has never truly stopped loving Frederick, but can he forgive the weak-mindedness of her youth? Or will she have to stand by and watch him find happiness elsewhere?
I re-read “Persuasion” every year; it’s far and away my favorite Austen story. It gently pokes fun at the pretensions and vanity of the upper class; many of the proper lords and ladies are vain buffoons. Anne’s father has mirrors on every wall so he can admire himself wherever he goes; her sister Mary is clueless that her class snobbery makes her less admired, not more. While I enjoy the comedy these sketches provide, it’s the love story, the longing and heartache that makes me come back again and again. The regrets and missed opportunities between Anne and Frederick, Anne trying to keep her game face on while she sees the man she loves slipping away, and the final letter from Frederick that makes me swoon every time I read it…literary gold.
If you’re new to Jane Austen or have only read her opus, Pride and Prejudice, let me ‘persuade’ you to give “Persuasion” a try!
Recommended by Bethany
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin who has chosen to compete to become the king’s Champion. As if defending herself against murderers and thieves isn’t enough, an evil magic has begun to threaten the castle. Celaena is left to battle monsters, defend her friends and fight for her own survival.
This book is incredibly well written and the world has been developed beautifully. Don’t let the “Young Adult” genre turn you off – “Throne of Glass” is written with the sophistication and pacing of adult fantasy novels. I fell in love with the story and characters early on in the book, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!
Recommended by Gaylyn
A library supports a community. A community supports a library. John Palfrey writes in “BiblioTECH” about the transition in libraries into a digital age. How can library workers think about new ways to offer information access to the people who use our libraries? Interesting brand new read in our non-fiction section.
Recommended by Patty
Sorry but I can’t make it in today. I stayed up way too late last night with a really great book and this morning, I just have to see what happens next.”
Am I right? (But don’t think that just because I work at a library I can get away with that!)
You know that exciting moment when you’re 20 pages in on a new book and you’re just beginning to get the idea that this one may be really great?
That’s how I felt about “The Sympathizer” by Viet Than Nguyen. It’s everything I’m looking for when I crack open a new book: a subject I don’t know much about but wish I did; “real” characters from whom I might also learn something; and the vital ingredient – good writing.
Nguyen’s sentences are paragraphs that I read over and over so I could unpack all the language and meaning and savor the imagery.
On vodka: “The beautiful Stolichnaya maintained a stoic Russian demeanor as we regarded it in silence. Every full bottle of alcohol has a message in it, a surprise that one will not discover until one drinks it.”
On Vietnamese soldiers and generals now refugees in America: “Seeing them again in mufti confirmed the verdict of defeat… They squeaked around in bargain-basement penny loafers and creased budget khakis, or in ill-fitting suits advertised by wholesalers for the price of buy-one-get-one-free. Ties, handkerchiefs and socks were thrown in, though what was really needed was cologne, even of the gigolo kind, anything to mask the olfactory evidence of their having been gleefully skunked by history.”
That’s funny. And also sad. Made me think.
The story in this best-selling, award-winning debut novel is told by a Vietnamese double-agent working for the Communist revolution. Get the details here.
IMO, it’s compelling (I’d say about 2 a.m.) and also kinda convoluted but wow, really worth it.
Harold receives a letter from a former coworker. She is dying of cancer in a hospice on the other side of England. Compelled to respond, Harold writes a letter in return. However, on his way to the mailbox he decides to continue walking. The story tells of his journey across country.
I enjoyed the description of the people Harold met along the way. Joyce told of lessons learned and a bit of the healing process in Harold’s life during his pilgrimage.
- Check It Out