Staff Picks

'Tis the Season!

Are you in need of a little Christmas inspiration or looking for a last minute Christmas gift for the reader on your list? I have been reading a few of the 2014 Christmas books over the past few weeks and want to share my favorites with you. There is a little bit of everything on the list, from mystery to romance, with both historical and contemporary settings.


For readers who like family sagas

Pulitzer-prizewinning novelist Jane Smiley’s latest book, Some Luck, is the first in her “Last Hundred Years” trilogy which chronicles the hopes and sorrows of the Langdon family of rural Iowa from 1920 to the present. If you enjoy family sagas such as Ken Follett’s “Century” trilogy, then you should read Some Luck. Each chapter of Some Luck covers a year from1920 to 1953 as Walter returns from WWI to the land that he just purchased and to start a family with his wife Rosanna.

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

In my last blog post I said I would share my thoughts on this year's Christmas books and I have to tell you there are some good ones out this year. I just read The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson and I think it would make the perfect gift for the animal lover on your list. It is a humorous and heartwarming tale filled with colorful characters, cats, wit and humor, a little light romance, and... cats.

It is official - I have been bitten by the Christmas bug!

I know it is early.... but I have officially been bitten by the Christmas bug. There is a fresh dusting of snow on the ground and the library is already partially decorated for the holidays. This is the time of year when many authors offer up their yearly Christmas book and I hope to read new titles as I catch them and share my thoughts with you. Luckily, most of the books are short and sweet and very easy reads. My first selection is An Island Christmas by Nancy Thayer.

Sometimes authors surprise us...

I have long been a fan of author Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her romance stories are written with style and grace, and most times love conquers all when the story comes to a happy ever after ending. She certainly surprised me with her latest book, Heroes are My Weakness. Even though the title hints at a romantic setting, this one has a much darker and serious feel to it. In some ways, the beginning had elements of classic gothic romances like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Returning to Gilead: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

This is the story of Lila, the much younger wife of Reverend John Ames, first introduced in the Pulitzer prize-winning novel Gilead. Marilynne Robinson’s books, Gilead, Home, and Lila are set in the small Iowa town of Gilead and are about things of the heart and spirit.

The Glass Kitchen: a novel of sisters by Linda Francis Lee

It might be the chill in the air, or the fact that winter is right around the corner, but lately I seem to be drawn to books about food. The storyline in The Glass Kitchen: a novel of sisters by Linda Francis Lee revolves around food, but is also the story of a young woman plucked from her childhood home in Texas and dropped into the bustling world of Manhattan. Struggling to make a new life for herself, with the help of her sisters, Portia Cuthcart uses her kitchen as a refuge which allows her to forgive, forget, and open herself up to her unique gift of magical food.

Chick-Lit novels with recipes

International bestselling author Jenny Colgan writes delicious little books that I consider total chick-lit. Similar to author Sophie Kinsella, most of Colgan's novels are set in England or France, and are fun reads filled with terms like "bugger" and "sod" that make the stories that much more engaging to me. The books I have read so far are Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, and Sweetshop of Dreams. Each story is unique, and all contain recipes guaranteed to make your sweet tooth tingle.

Dogs and humans are alike in many ways

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney was definitely a change from my normal reading. Seeing the word dog in the title of the book is what initially caught my eye, but once I started reading I soon realized this was not a cute little dog story, but a tender story of broken people and broken dogs and how they help one another. It took a few chapters to get into the book, but I soon discovered that dogs and humans really are very much alike.

One last beach read for the summer

Summer is winding down and beach season is almost over. In a feeble attempt to hold on to those last days of summer I grabbed On the Rocks by Erin Duffy off of the new fiction shelves. The cover picture displays what looks like a tranquil afternoon spent on the beach, but this book was anything but tranquil. On the Rocks is a well written and highly amusing look at one woman's attempt to put her life back together after a very public breakup - via Facebook.

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