Search The Catalog My Account

Life at Wit’s End, or with a chimpanzee, or in a barroom when a loa appears with a hatchet

September 29, 2016 by Reader's Connection

Wit's EndRima Lanisell is all alone. Her father has recently died. Her mother died almost fifteen years ago of an aneurysm, and her brother Oliver four years ago in an auto accident. She has left Cleveland and gone to Santa Cruz, California, to live with her godmother, the famous mystery writer Addison Early, whom Rima doesn’t know at all. The house, which was previously a bed and breakfast, is called Wit’s End.

Also living there is Tilda, a previously homeless woman with a history of drinking. Two college students, Scorch and Cody, come every day to walk Addison’s dogs on the beach. Tilda’s irritating son Martin sometimes visits.

And Wit’s End is loaded with doll houses. Addison Early builds a doll house, complete with little bitty corpse, before she ever writes a mystery.

Rima is working on a mystery, herself. How come Addison is her godmother? What exactly was the relationship between her late father and the famous A. B. Early?

Enough with my attempts to describe this novel, Wit’s End. Author Karen Joy Fowler (who is the winner of this year’s Indiana Authors Award in the National Author category) is a lot of fun, and what I want to do is unload a bunch of her sentences on you. .

Here’s Rima visiting a nearby amusement park.

Two women sat at an outdoor table drinking coffee and discussing, presumably, a third woman. As she walked by, Rima heard one woman say, “She doesn’t sparkle.”

And the other–“You sparkle.”

And the first–“You sparkle too.”

Rima felt a wave of sisterly solidarity toward the absent, unsparkling woman.

I’m smiling at this, and then Fowler takes me around a corner, into the grief that is always travelling with Rima.

There’d been an undertone in Scorch’s blog, maybe in a few comments Addison had made, or maybe Rima had imagined it. You weren’t supposed to love your brother more than anyone else in the world. Maybe in a Dickens novel you could get away with that, but not today. Not here at the start of the twenty-first century, when the whole world of MySpace friends lay before you. Rima’s eyes began to sting and she had to wipe her nose.

My eyes sometimes begin to sting, too, while I’m reading Wit’s End. But I smile a lot, even while elements of character are being laid out.

Addison’s main mode of conversation was to tell stories. She was, as you would expect, quite good at it, but there was a polish, a sense of practice that, no matter how intimate the content, kept Addison behind glass. Tilda told stories, too, and she was terrible. She always left out some crucial piece and had to go back and add it later. “Did I say he was blind?” “Did I tell you they were identical twins?” “Did I say they were on horseback?”

While I’m grinning about Tilda, the question of why Addison is always behind glass is allowed to germinate in my brain.

The story is usually told from Rima’s point of view, but sometimes we’re with Addison; and on one occasion, about halfway through the novel, there’s a story

that takes place . . . when Addison was three years old. This was back when they’d lived on Pacific. She’d never told anyone this story, because she didn’t remember it. No memory, no story, no memory of a story.

And then [SCARY AUTHOR ALERT. DON’T READ THIS NEXT PART IF THE MENTION OF AN AUTHOR YOU DON’T LIKE MIGHT SCARE YOU AWAY FROM WIT’S END] there’s a chilling story about Addison’s childhood. The way it appears in the middle of the novel reminds me of the way the late Addie Bundren gives her only testimony halfway through William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. [END OF SCARY AUTHOR ALERT]

Wit’s End, which is also available as an eAudiobook and an audiobook on CD, is an odd one. Inside this book about a mystery writer there are all sorts of mysteries. One of the little bitty doll house corpses even gets stolen! What’s an author to do?

Did I tell you that Karen Joy Fowler will be at Central Library (I feel like Tilda) for the Indy Author Fair on October 29th? And that evening, she’ll receive her award. (More about the author fair is planned for the next blog post.)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Fowler’s novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was one of books discussed during our Adult Summer Reading Program this year, and here’s the little review I wrote for the SRP brochure:

Rosemary Cooke, the young woman who narrates this funny, upsetting novel, was raised in Bloomington, Indiana, with an older brother. She had a sister, too, who was about the same age as Rosemary; but the brother was a human, while the “sister” was a chimpanzee. Rosemary’s father was an IU professor who had added a simian to the family as part of a scientific experiment.
The experiment did not go well, and Rosemary can be a hilarious narrator. She is attending college in California—eternally, it would seem—and looking back at her Hoosier years with dismay. The family has fractured–her brother and “sister” have long since disappeared, and Rosemary misses them terribly. The novel makes us look anew at what it means to be a family, and what it means to be human.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, in large print.


Black Glass: Short Fictions

The only other works by Fowler that I’ve read are the preface and the first story in Black Glass, which is a reprint of her first story collection.

In a blog post earlier this month, I mentioned the Lincoln Square Pancake House that’s across 24th Street from the Library Services Center where I work. I was there again, eating a biscuit with jelly, when I read Fowler’s new Black Glass preface, which made me weep. My waitress couldn’t have been kinder, but is should a preface have this sort of effect on a person?

The first story in the book is the title story, “Black Glass,” in which the hatchet-wielding temperance leader Carrie Nation appears as a loa–a voodoo spirit.

Carrie_Nation,_1910Yes. Voodoo and Carrie Nation. The story bewildered me, but The Washington Post said it “is one of those marvels that defeat criticism . . . It’s a piece of bravura virtuosity.” There was a lot going on at Lincoln Square, and I’m going to give “Black Glass” another try.

Black Glass is also available as an eBook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.

See you at the Indy Author Fair on October 29th!


October Book Discussions

September 26, 2016 by Reader's Connection

We have nonfiction about Stuart Scott and Jimmy Carter and the Wright brothers, and we have fiction about the real-life Queen Consort Elizabeth Woodville, and fiction about the real-life worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. And lots more.

The Girl on the TrainThe film The Girl on the Train is scheduled to appear in theaters on October 11th.

There may still be time to read the novel by Paula Hawkins beforehand, and you can come to the Nora Branch on Saturday, October 1st at 10:30 a.m., to discuss the book.

Registration is required for this program. Please call 317-275-4470.

Rachel Watson, the principal narrator of Hawkins’s psychologically astute debut, is obsessed with her ex-husband, Tom. She’s having a hard time putting the past behind her, especially since she confronts it daily, during the hourlong commute to London from her rented room in Ashbury, Oxfordshire, when her train passes the Victorian house she once shared with Tom. She also frequently spies an attractive couple, four doors down from her former home, who she imagines to be enjoying the happily-ever-after that eluded her. Then, suddenly, the woman, pixie-ish blonde Megan Hipwell, vanishes–only to turn up on the front page of the tabloids as missing. The police want to question Rachel, after Anna, Tom’s new wife, tells them that Rachel was in the area drunkenly out of control around the time of Megan’s disappearance. Hawkins, formerly deputy personal finance editor of the Times of London, deftly shifts between the accounts of the addled Rachel, as she desperately tries to remember what happened, Megan, and, eventually, Anna, for maximum suspense. — Publishers Weekly

The Girl on the Train is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.



Ray Bradbury’s story collection The October Country will be discussed at the Franklin Road Branch on Monday, October 3rd at 6:30 p.m. The discussion will led by Jonathan Eller, Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI.

The October CountryBlogger’s note: I don’t think I’m supposed to use any of the raves on GoodReads, but here’s a publisher’s note:

Ray Bradbury’s second short story collection is back in print, its chilling encounters with funhouse mirrors, parasitic accident-watchers, and strange poker chips intact. Both sides of Bradbury’s vaunted childhood nostalgia are also on display, in the celebratory “Uncle Einar,” and haunting “The Lake,” the latter a fine elegy to childhood loss . . . And has any writer anywhere ever made such good use of exclamation marks!?




Philippa Gregory’s novel The White Queen will be discussed at the Wayne Branch on Monday, October 3rd at 6:30 p.m.

The White QueenThe fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses, during which the two branches of the mighty Plantagenet royal line fought one another for the throne, once again proves fertile ground for historical fiction. Gregory, one of today’s most popular historical novelists, inaugurates a new series set in that tumultuous period of English history, focusing on the lives of important women. The title of this series debut refers to Elizabeth Woodville, who was born into minor nobility but, thanks to her stunning beauty, caught the eye of the devastatingly handsome Yorkist king Edward IV and married him (despite her family’s support of his enemy-cousins) in what began and remained a controversial marriage. The king’s roving eye aside, the new Queen Elizabeth struggled year after year to advance her brothers and sisters and to protect, in this backstabbing environment, the children of her previous marriage as well as her sons by the king. It is a well-told story, a kind of royal soap opera (but with strong factual underpinnings), richly detailed and fast moving. Gregory’s legion of fans will be delighted. — Booklist

The White Queen is also available as a eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD and in large print.



James Alexander Thom’s novel Fire in the Water will be discussed at Central Library on Tuesday, October 4th at 6:00 p.m.

Fire in the Water

The Civil War is ending and war correspondent Paddie Quinn has recently married and is looking forward to some honeymoon time when news of President Lincoln’s assassination reaches him. Paddie quickly finagles an assignment out of Harper’s Weekly and books passage for himself and his bride on the Sultana steamboat hoping to enjoy a honeymoon while writing his story. The trip takes an unexpected turn when it stops at Vicksburg to pick up numerous prisoners of war whom Paddie begins interviewing during their trip up the flooded Mississippi. It is during one of these interviews that he befriends Robbie Macombie, a Union soldier just released from the infamous Andersonville prison-of-war camp. Their fledgling friendship strengthens and buoys them through the tumultuous night of the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. — IndyPL reviewer



The Portrait of a Lady
On Fridays in October–the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th–the Shared Reading Group at the East 38th Street Branch will read aloud from Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady

Refreshments are consumed on a regular basis, and there’s a poem each week.







The Fountain Square Branch will host a discussion of Carol Rifka Brunt’s novel Tell the Wolves I’m Home on Thursday, October 13th at 1:30 p.m.

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeBrunt’s transcendent debut is an exploration of an unlikely friendship that blossoms in the wake of a terrible loss. It’s 1987, and 14-year-old June Elbus is reeling from the death of her beloved uncle Finn, a famous painter who has succumbed to AIDS. Shy and introspective, June preferred spending time with Finn, even as she tried to hide, from herself as much as others, her secret crush on him. Finn’s death leaves a gaping hole in June’s life, and she’s shocked when Toby, her uncle’s lover and the man her mother holds responsible for his death, makes a bid to fill that emptiness by contacting June secretly. Toby simply wants to get to know her and give her several gifts Finn left for her, and June starts to thaw toward him after she finds a note in a book from Finn imploring her to look after Toby. June’s burgeoning but covert friendship with Toby gives her new insight into Finn’s life but strains the already tenuous bond between her and her older sister, Greta. Peopled by characters who will live in readers’ imaginations long after the final page is turned, Brunt’s novel is a beautifully bittersweet mix of heartbreak and hope. — Booklist

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, and an audiobook on CD.



David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers  will be discussed at the Irvington Branch on Thursday, October 13th at 1:30 p.m.

The Wright BrothersTwo-time Pulitzer Prize winner McCullough exhibits his artist’s touch in re-creating the lives of the Wright brothers, their father, and their sister Katharine from historical documents. Mining their letters, notebooks, and diaries, McCullough shows the Wright brothers (snubbed by the British as mere bicycle mechanics) for the important technoscientists they were. With only high school educations, they personified self-reliance and ingenuity, making their own calculations and testing their mechanical skills as they experimented with gliders. Their solution to controlling the gliders’ flight was wing warping, enabling the gliders to bank like a bird’s wings. As early engine designers and mechanics, when they couldn’t find a light enough engine, they designed one that their mechanic built in six weeks. A few days after Langley’s $70,000 failure, the Wright brothers made several powered flights–for less than $1,000–to prove that humans could fly. When the US military rejected their services, the Wrights signed a contract with a French syndicate. From 1910 on, the brothers were much occupied by business and patent infringement lawsuits. Wilbur contracted typhoid and died in 1912, but Orville lived until 1948. The brothers were remarkable for their analytical minds, their skiIl as early pilots, and their brilliance as experimental scientists. This work is their great, eminently readable story. — Choice

The Wright Brothers is also available as a eBook, a eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.



The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe’s short story “The Lost Boy” will be discussed at the Nora Branch on Saturday, October 15th at 1:00 p.m. The discussion will be led by Dr. Mark Canada, professor of English and member of the Thomas Wolfe Society.







Tracy Chevalier’s novel At the Edge of the Orchard will be discussed at the Pike Branch on Monday, October 17th at 6:30 p.m.

At the Edge of the OrchardJohn Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed) makes a cameo appearance in Chevalier’s new historical, but this is not the Disney version of frontier life. James Goodenough has moved his family to northwest Ohio in the 1830s. He is determined to grow apples, as he did in Connecticut, but circumstances have forced the family to live on the edge of the Black Swamp, a bad place for an orchard. In an intriguing twist, in this fractious family it is James’s wife, Sadie, who is a belligerent drunk, addicted to hard cider and applejack. This situation can only end in tragedy, and when it does, youngest son Robert heads West while still a child. The story of his adventures alternates between the hardscrabble years in Ohio and his subsequent wanderings, which lead him to California during the Gold Rush, though he finds work prospecting for seeds instead. His benefactor is an eccentric Englishman who collects redwood seeds and seedlings for the estates of his wealthy British patrons. With Chevalier’s excellent storytelling ability and gift for creating memorable characters, this novel paints a vivid picture of the hard and rough-hewn life of American pioneers on their Westward journey. — Library Journal

At the Edge of the Orchard is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.



Stuart Scott’s memoir Every Day I Fight will be discussed at the Lawrence Branch on Tuesday, October 18th at 10:15 a.m.

Every Day I FightThe posthumous memoir by the sportscaster who brought hip-hop to ESPN and subsequently showed his strength of character through his fight with cancer. Though Scott was once mainly known for his “Booyah!” catch phrase (which he explains the origin of here), this memoir shows what a mistake it would be to underestimate the man or his cultural influence. About half of it is what one would expect from a cancer memoir: the mysterious pain, the diagnosis, the operations, the chemotherapy, the false hope of an illusory remission, the support from family and friends, the unwitting insensitivity from others. Yet some of the most moving parts of the book have little to do with cancer—mainly showing what a devoted father Scott was to his two daughters—and some of the most revelatory sections reflect the dynamic between the sports journalism establishment (overwhelmingly white) and the athletes they cover (predominantly black). “I’ve been criticized for being too chummy with and soft on athletes,” he writes. “That critique is born of a very particular type of journalism: one in which predominantly white, middle-aged writers and broadcasters judge young, often black, athletes. I’ll ask tough questions, if need be. But they’ll be in service of explaining rather than judging.” Within such a culture clash, Scott was also closer in age to many of these athletes, sharing the culture of hip-hop that seemed to mystify or annoy older white fans (and broadcasters) but plainly resonated with a larger, younger part of the audience. So this is also the story of how he got to be where he was (unlike others, he had never aspired to ESPN). It’s also the story of a man who felt blessed by what life gave him and even learned to appreciate the perspective that terminal cancer afforded him: “It makes you look fresh at small moments and see them—really see them—as if for the first time.” A class act and a courageous voice to the end. — Kirkus Reviews

Every Day I Fight is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, and an audiobook on CD.



Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Branchportal on Sunday, October 23rd at 1:00 p.m.

This month’s theme: Back from the Dead: Resurrection and Reincarnation, from Zombies to Braintapes




As part of the library’s celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday, author Nate Dunlevy will lead a discussion of his book, Invincible, Indiana on Monday, October 24th at 6:00 p.m. at Central Library.

Here’s an interview with Dunlevy, in which he talks about Hoosier basketball and his upcoming program.

Invincible, IndianaDale Cooper arrived in tiny Invincible, Indiana determined to coach his way to a better job. He never bargained for a clueless principal, a bitter star, a racist point guard, and a town fiercely proud of 49 consecutive seasons of finishing exactly .500. When it becomes apparent to Dale that neither the town nor his players have any interest in winning, he devises a way to turn everyone’s expectations upside down. His gambit forces Invincible to strive for greatness if only to keep their dreams of mediocrity alive. Set in 1996-1997, Invincible, Indiana explores the myths and motivations that led to the demise of the ‘single class tournament’ that was the bedrock of Indiana mythology. Invincible, Indiana will make you laugh, cry, and cheer, but most of all it will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the hysteria that was basketball in Indiana. — Publisher’s note

The College Avenue Branch will host a discussion of Mary Roach’s Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War on Monday, October 24th at 6:00 p.m.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at WarWith compassion and dark humor, Roach delves into the world of military scientists and their drive to make combat more survivable for soldiers. Her interest in military matters wasn’t piqued by the usual aspects of warfare–armaments, tactics, honor–but the more “esoteric” ones: “exhaustion, shock, bacteria, panic, ducks.” Roach goes into great detail about the historical conditions that spawned particular areas of research, and she often describes seemingly absurd tests and experiments. Military scientists are so committed to bringing soldiers home alive that they examine nearly every facet of life and death, researching such topics as diarrhea among Navy SEALs, body odors under stress, using maggots to heal wounds, and the “injuries collectively known as urotrauma.” Roach also corrects some popular misconceptions while offering odd bits of trivia. Sharks aren’t particularly attracted to human blood, she finds, though it was discovered that bears love the taste of used tampons. And in the case of reconstructive surgery, her elaborate explanation of penile transplants brings home the true horror of war. Roach’s book is not for the squeamish or those who envision war as a glorious enterprise; it is a captivating look at the lengths scientists go to in order to reduce the horrors of war. —Publishers Weekly

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War is also available as an eBook and an audiobook on CD.



Jimmy Carter’s A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety will be discussed at the Beech Grove Branch on Monday, October 24th at 6:30 p.m.

A Full Life: Reflections at NinetyHaving written several books already–on his religious beliefs, his years in the White House, his childhood–Carter looks back on 90 years of life and offers lessons learned as well as information not covered in his previous works. New material includes his time in the navy, his years as a farmer involved in community projects, the backstories to his gubernatorial and presidential runs, an intimate look at his marriage as it has grown in equal partnership, and his relationships with other presidents. He offers commentary on racial changes in the nation, from his early days playing with boys from African American families who lived nearby to witnessing the slow integration of blacks in the U.S. military to dealing with the harsh racial climate of Georgia that objected to any efforts at integration and with challenges to Carter’s more progressive impulses that figured in his bids for local offices. Interspersed among the essays are poems, drawings, and photographs that enhance the feeling of intimacy as Carter reveals private thoughts and recollections over a fascinating career as businessman, politician, evangelist, and humanitarian. — Booklist

A Full Life is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, in large print.



Nisa Santiago’s novel Murdergram will be discussed at the Spades Park Branch on Wednesday, October 26th at 6:00 p.m.


Knock, Knock. Four broke girlfriends go into a Long Island church looking for a job. Four trained assassins come out. The Cristal Clique is born when these young killers are immersed in the intense underworld of murder-for-hire. But with youth comes naivete. When heartache, betrayal, and revenge lurk behind every door, these Brooklyn girls must remain on point if they want to stay alive. — Publisher’s note






Author B. A. Shapiro will appear at the Indianapolis Arts Center on November 7th to discuss her novel The Muralist, as part of the Jewish Community Center’s Ann Katz Festival of Books and Art.

In anticipation of Shapiro’s visit, the Nora Branch will host a discussion of the book on Sunday, October 30th at 2:00 p.m. Please call 317-275-4472 to register for this event.

The MuralistShapiro follows the enthusiastically received The Art Forger (2012) with an even more polished and resonant tale. In the present, Danielle, an artist working for an art auction house, discovers several abstract expressionist paintings that resemble canvases painted by her mysterious great-aunt, Alizée Benoit, who disappeared in 1940. Alizée steps in to tell her haunting story in chapters set in 1939 New York City, where she and real-life painter Lee Krasner are working on WPA murals in a harshly cold warehouse. When Eleanor Roosevelt tours the shabby facility, Alizée boldly asks the First Lady why none of the murals are abstract expressionist in style. Will their encounter be consequential? Alizée is passionate about art but far more concerned about her French Jewish family and their desperate struggle to secure visas to America to escape the Nazis. As dramatic, unexpected events transpire, Shapiro portrays the brilliant, unstable painter Mark Rothko and Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, who covertly obstructed the issuing of visas to desperate Jewish refugees. Shapiro perceptively parallels the creative valor of abstract artists seeking essential truth with that of those who courageously protested the government’s inhumanity. Shapiro’s novel of epic moral failings is riveting, gracefully romantic, and sharply revelatory; it is also tragic in its timeliness as the world faces new refugee crises. — Booklist

The Muralist is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print


The grandeur of Bloomington, and of the boundary waters, and of that oak in my back yard.

September 22, 2016 by Reader's Connection

Earth Works: Selected EssaysScott Russell Sanders is at a church in Bloomington, and he’s about to give away his daughter at her wedding.

Eva hooks a hand on my elbow while the three bridesmaids fuss over her, fixing the gauzy veil, spreading the long ivory train of her gown, tucking into her bun a loose strand of hair, which glows the color of honey filled with sunlight. Clumsy in my rented finery–patent leather shoes that are a size too small and starched shirt and stiff black tuxedo–I stand among these gorgeous women like a crow among doves. I realize they are gorgeous not because they carry bouquets or wear silk dresses, but because the festival of marriage has slowed time down until any fool can see their glory.

I wanted to thank Mr. Sanders for his book Earth Works: Selected Essays, which time and again performs the same function for me that his daughter’s wedding did for him: the essays here help me to see the glory (the gravity, the human importance, the importance in the wild world) of passing moments, as well as in longer expanses of time.
We have here:

• The sorrow and ambiguity of serving on a jury in Bloomington. Or actually, of being the 13th member of the jury, so not quite serving.

• The panic in watching Eva (same girl who was getting married above) almost get sucked underwater while on a Boundary Waters Wilderness canoeing trip. (That’s the Minnesota/Ontario boundary.)

• Actually, one of the glories of the essays, which were published 1981-2010, is the joy of watching Eva and her brother Jesse grow up.

• Sanders writes in one essay about the torments caused by his father’s alcoholism; and then we learn in another essay that his father was one of the world’s great grandfathers.

• Did I mention the wild world? You might hesitate, after reading Earth Works, to use the term “tree-hugger” contemptuously. Sanders hugs trees. He loves the wild world, thinks hard about it, mourns and is angered by its losses, allows himself to go on being amazed by it.

I don’t often read whole collections of essays, but this year’s reading challenge insisted that I do so, and I’m glad that I picked this one, by an Indiana Authors Award winner.

Earth Works is also available as an eBook.


Before the movie, read the book (and discuss it at Nora).

September 19, 2016 by Reader's Connection

The Girl on the TrainThe film The Girl on the Train is scheduled to appear in theaters on October 11th.

There may still be time to read the novel by Paula Hawkins beforehand.

And you can come to the Nora Branch on Saturday, October 1st at 10:30 a.m., to discuss the book.

Registration is required for this program. Please call 317-275-4470.

The Girl on the Train is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, an audiobook on CD, and in large print.


This will be the first in a series of “Before the Movie” book discussions. Coming up, same time (10:30 a.m.), same branch:

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk


Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Saturday, December 3rd


The Zookeeper's Wife


Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife Saturday, February 4th, 2017


LibraryReads for October–Hey, wait! News of the World by Paulette Jiles is on the longlist for a National Book Award!

September 15, 2016 by Reader's Connection


I’m jumping the gun. We’re only halfway through September. But October is my favorite month, and why should you have to wait to read these librarians’ reviews of ten new books?

And Keith Donohue, who once commented on this blog that Halloween was his favorite time of year, has a new one coming out!


The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

The Motion of Puppets

A young couple find themselves caught in a web of magic and horror. Kay is an acrobat and goes missing. Her husband cannot believe that she has disappeared and searches the city in vain all the while not guessing that she has been spirited away by a puppet master in the toy shop that fascinated her during their walks. Kay begins life anew as a puppet and soon begins to befriend the other puppets at night when they come to life. Will the evil that has charmed Kay be stronger than her husband’s love? Donohue writes a frightening account reminiscent of Grimm’s fairy tales and it will keep you up reading til dawn. — Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX



News of the World by Paulette Jiles

News of the World

Readers fortunate enough to meet Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an old ex-soldier who makes a living reading the news to townspeople in 1870s Texas, and Joanna, the Indian captive he is charged with returning to her relatives, will not soon forget them. Everything, from the vividly realized Texas frontier setting to the characters is beautifully crafted, right up to the moving conclusion. Both the Captain and Joanna have very distinctive voices. Wonderful storytelling. — Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

Blogger’s note: This novel is on the longlist for a National Book Award in the Fiction category. Finalists will be announced on October 13th, and the awards will be presented on November 16th.



The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser

Aislinn Murray is beautiful, lives in a picture-perfect cottage, and has a boy she’s crazy about. Antoinette Conway is a tough member of the Dublin Murder Squad who knows no one likes her and says she doesn’t care. When Aislinn is murdered, Conway and her partner Steve Moran take the case and start listening to all the stories about Aislinn. Which ones are true? Was she in love and with whom? Are the stories we tell ourselves and others anywhere near the truth? Great read from Tana French. — Kathryn Hassert, Chester County Library, Exton, PA




Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things

A black neonatal nurse is charged with causing the death of a white supremacist’s newborn baby. The story is told from the points of view of the nurse, her attorney, and the baby’s heartbroken father. As always, Picoult’s attention to legal, organizational, and medical details help the tale ring true. What sets this book apart, though, are the uncomfortable points it makes about racism. The novel is both absorbing and thought-provoking, and will surely spark conversations among friends, families and book clubs. — Laurie Van Court, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO



Crosstalk by Connie Willis


Crosstalk is the perfect romantic comedy for the digital age. Briddey works for a cell phone provider that is constantly searching for the next great way to help people “connect” – nevermind that she is already inundated by calls, texts, social media, and unannounced visits from her colleagues, friends, and nosy family. When she undergoes a procedure to telepathically sense the emotions of her seemingly perfect boyfriend, things go awry and she ends up connected to the wrong person. A perfect screwball comedy from a master writer! — Patricia Kline-Millard, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH



The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein

Einstein. Just hearing that name likely brings a smile to your face, as you picture the mischievous wild-haired scientist with the twinkle in his eye. In The Other Einstein, readers get a view of the woman behind the genius, his first wife Mileva Maric, a strong willed and brilliant physics student who refused to let society dictate her life’s path, but who lost her way when love came on the scene. Benedict has penned an engaging tale that will likely inspire readers to investigate the true story behind Maric’s genius and her personal and professional relationship with Einstein. — Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY



The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The Mothers

In a contemporary Black community in California, the story begins with a secret. Nadia is a high school senior, mourning her mother’s recent death, and smitten with the local pastor’s son, Luke. It’s not a serious romance, but it takes a turn when a pregnancy (and subsequent cover-up) happen. The impact sends ripples through the community. The Mothers asks us to contemplate how our decisions shape our lives.The collective voice of the mothers in the community is a voice unto itself, narrating and guiding the reader through the story. — Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO



Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will Be Different

I went into Today Will Be Different expecting the mockery of Seattle’s ridiculous idiosyncrasies What I got was different, but just as good. Eleanor is sympathetic and the story revolves around family conflicts and disappointments, as well as Eleanor’s awareness of the inevitability of aging and its effects on herself and marriage. Her relationships with those closest to her are also the ones with the most secrets, and with the potential for the most harm and the most hope. I’d recommend this to readers who love family-centric women’s fiction with a sharp eye for the quirks of marriage and parenting.”
— Jessica Werner, The Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA



All The Little Liars: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery by Charlaine Harris

All The Little Liars

The narrative of Aurora Teagarden was thought to be over. In a surprising, but welcome return, All the Little Liars picks up right where we left off with Roe. Newly remarried, Roe is dealing with a plethora of issues. With a missing brother and troublesome father in town, Roe is searching for answers. Pregnancy, family problems, and more make for a suspenseful, fast, and comforting read. Harris’ writing shines best when she portrays the minutiae of small-town lives and the inner workings of families, friends, and relationships. I can’t wait for the next book. — Mei-Ling Thomas, Rochester Hills Public Library, Rochester, MI



Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Smoke and Mirrors

Thrilled for another opportunity to enjoy DI Stephens and Max Mephisto joining forces against crime and intrigue. It may appear light hearted with its theatrical/magician twist, but these detective stories are full of dark happenings. Solving the gruesome murder of two local children dampens the holiday spirit in this small town. The lead characters are very enjoyable and the theater setting so unique. I enjoyed the love interest/overprotected daughter story line as well! Very much looking forward to the next installment. — Carol Ward, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Solon, OH