Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I was never interested in reading M.L. Stedman's bestseller The Light Between Oceans when it was
first published. Sometimes, it takes a book club to push you to read a book you wouldn't normally pick up. And, everyone who showed up for the group the other night admitted we were glad we read it.

Tom Sherbourne survived World War I physically, but he had memories of the war that he wanted to push to the back of his mind. When he returned home to Australia, he accepted a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a lonely, quiet post where he could listen to nature, and live an orderly, routine life. But, Isabel Graysmark pushed her way into his life, a sly, laughing young woman who insisted she wanted nothing more than to marry him, and have children.

It was Izzy's longing for children that altered their lives forever. Following her miscarriages, she was lost in grief until the day a boat washed up on Janus Rock. The man in the boat was dead, but a baby girl survived. Despite Tom's insistence they needed to notify the authorities, Izzy claimed the baby was a gift from God. And, Tom's hesitation gave Isabel just the time she needed to form an attachment. While Isabel insisted the baby's mother must have drowned, Tom wonders if there isn't a woman somewhere mourning the loss of her husband and child. Now, the man who forced the memories of the war to the back of his mind forces his legal obligations to the back of his mind for the sake of the woman he loves.

When Tom and Isabel keep the baby, their actions affect a number of people. The Light Between Oceans is a difficult story, a tragedy for everyone involved. We all agreed that we had sympathy for all the characters, and could understand why they acted as they did. That sympathy doesn't mean characters always made the right choice. In fact, it's a story about choices, and the consequences.

If, like me, you haven't picked up The Light Between Oceans, you might want to consider this thoughtful, quiet novel. It's a powerful story of lost people suffering terrible pain.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Gale. 2013. ISBN 9781410452573 (Large Type), 553p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Library Week

For the last few years, I've celebrated National Library Week here by asking you to share. Do you have a good memory of a library? Is it a public library, a school library, a special library somewhere? Or is there a special memory of a librarian?

I've been working in public libraries for forty-one years. I started as a page (a shelver) when I was sixteen. I've never left the library. It's where I met and married my husband, and where I met most of my friends. My mother worked in a high school library, and both of my sisters and a nephew worked as pages. We love libraries.

What about you? Is there a special library you want to tell us about? Celebrate National Library Week here with other readers.

And, I just can't resist sharing this from Neil Gaiman. (How can any librarian not love Neil Gaiman?)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh

Sunday, I hosted an event at the library called "Local Voices: Conversations with Local Authors". It's similar to the events I held in Glendale in which ten local authors get a chance to do an "elevator pitch", speaking about their book for five minutes, taking questions and answers, and then they can sell and sign their books. Lanea Stagg and the late Maggie McHugh had an interesting concept for a book.  Recipe Records, and the sequels, Recipe Records: The 60's Edition, and Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to the Beatles, combine recipes, songs and stories. Or, as it says on the cover, "Food for Thought, Food for the Soul, Food for the Love of Rock n Roll".

Lanea is the cook, and Maggie was the D.J. Stagg, a mother of eight, has included recipes that are easy.  Together, they put together recipes with names such as "Take a Little Pizza My Heart" or "Another One Bites the Crust." Clever, fun, and the recipes are enticing as well. They even included a "Suggested Song List" to go with the recipes. There are recipes for appetizers "The Opening Act". "Backstage Passes" are salads and sides while "Headliners" are the entrees. Along with anecdotes, they also include a list of the best-known "Mondegreens", the term for misheard lyrics.

Congratulations to the authors of Recipe Records for an inventive concept. The books work for parties, family meals, and, fortunately for me, library programming.

Lanea Stagg blogs at And, she is on Blogtalkradio at - Recipe Records.

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh. Recipe Records. 2010. ISBN 9780615374826 (paperback), 206p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache Series Re-read

On Friday, Louise Penny made this official announcement on her Facebook page.

"We have some fun news- we're starting a virtual, online club to re-read the Gamache books, starting with Still Life on April 21st. Each book will be discussed for two weeks, then onto the next one, culminating in the publication of The Long Way Home on August 26th.

"This will be like a gathering at Myrna's New and Used bookstore, only from your own home.

"There'll be discussions and special guests and giveaways. (But you'll have to provide your own croissants). Mostly we hope this'll be a chance to re-visit Three Pines with others who've come to know the village, and see how the characters have grown together and evolved. It's also a chance to introduce Gamache, Ruth, Clare, Gabri et al to new readers. New members of the community.

"Please tell friends and other readers, and make sure they know they're welcome to join in.

"Now you'll have to sign up for it, of course. Here's the link:

"Have fun, and see you at the first meeting. We can go over to the bistro later. (I wish)."

I wish we could go over the bistro or Myrna's as well. I hope you join us, and I do mean us. Louise's publicist at St. Martin's, Sarah Melnyk, asked me to lead the first discussion. I have the honor to introduce Still Life, the book that introduced Inspector Armand Gamache to the world. I'm a little nervous, hoping I can do justice to this book.

If you are a fan of this series, or want to discover the series, I hope you join us. Sign up now, and I'll see you next Monday for the first discussion.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Name is Bob by James Bowen & Garry Jenkins

If you're a cat lover, you probably already know the story of Bob and James as told in A Street Cat
Named Bob
. I reviewed the story of the street musician who adopted a street cat who changed his life. Now, James Bowen and co-author Garry Jenkins, along with illustrator Gerald Kelley, turn the story into a picture book in My Name is Bob. But, the book takes a different slant. What was Bob's life before he and James found each other?

This is a picture book that starts with a happy beginning and has a happy ending. The authors imagine that Bob was once a beloved housecat whose elderly owner was taken away in an ambulance. When Bob tried to follow, he became lost. And, that's where the story becomes a heartbreaker for adults more than children. While children will see a lost cat who eventually finds a home, adults will see a homeless cat, scrambling for shelter, and shooed away. It's easy for adults to compare homeless people and animals. When Bob no longer recognizes himself after time on the streets, it makes you think about all the homeless people on the streets. Do they recognize themselves in the people they now are?

Children will love the story of a cat who finds someone to love him, and enjoy knowing that James and Bob perform on the streets. Kelley's illustrations beautifully relate the story of two lonely creatures of the street who find each other. (Check out that lovely cover portrait of Bob.) As an adult, though, My Name is Bob is a beautiful, but heartbreaking story.

James Bowen and Bob can be found on Facebook at

My Name is Bob by James Bowen & Garry Jenkins. Barron's. 2014. ISBN 9780764767256 (hardcover).

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

If a reader is lucky, once or twice a year a book comes along that truly touches the heart. Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry might be one of those books this year for a number of us. A bookstore, discussion of books, a changed life, a child and romance. It's all wrapped up in a story that, despite tears, has a perfect ending.

Amelia Loman's first visit to Alice Island and Island Books couldn't have been called a success. The publisher's rep had to break the bad news to A.J. Fikry, a very eccentric bookstore owner with unusual taste in books, that the previous publisher's rep had died. But, she did leave behind a book she loved, even though Fikry wasn't interested. He was already on the way to disaster. He was drinking too much, and, one night, lost the most valuable book he possessed. His actions in failing to lock up cost him dearly, but also changed his life. The curmudgeon was forced to call the police, bringing Chief Lambiase into his life. And, then, because he had nothing to lose, he continued to leave the bookstore unlocked, only to find a two-year-old left there one day. Maya had been left by her mother whose note said, "I want her to grow up to be a reader. I want her to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about those kinds of things." With A.J. Fikry?

I can't spoil the book by revealing more. But book lovers will appreciate the discussions of books, including Fikry's idiosyncratic opinions of books which open each chapter. There's humor in the growing popularity of the bookstore and book clubs, almost in spite of A.J. Fikry. The characters are wonderful. As much as I loved Fikry, Maya, and Amelia, it was Lambiase that won my heart. And, the relationships are old-fashioned, and perfect for this book, just as the ending is quiet, and perfect.

Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a love letter to bookstores, a story about possibilities, and a story about being open to life. It might be A.J. Fikry's life story, but it's so much more. If you love books and bookstores, this book just might be one of those treasures that touches you this year.

Gabrielle Zevin's website is

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Algonquin Books. 2014. ISBN 9781616203214 (hardcover), 272p.

FTC Full Disclosure - A friend lent me a copy of the book.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Winners and a Cozy Pet Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Jacki R. of Pflugerville, TX won Brad Parks' The Player. The Spook Lights Affair will go to Carole O. in Sun City West, TX. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I'm giving away two cozy mysteries featuring pets. Teacup Turbulence is a Pet Rescue mystery by Linda O. Johnston. Los Angeles animal shelter manager Lauren Vancouver can easily place toy dogs, so a shelter in the Midwest has a surplus, Lauren arranges for a plane to fly the dogs back to L.A. She just didn't count on the rescue worker who came along for the ride, a rescue worker who was murdered.

Would you rather read about cats? Try to win Rebecca M. Hale's How to Paint a Cat. The narrator, Rebecca, runs the antique shop she inherited from her missing uncle while trying to look for clues to her missing uncle's hidden location. Aided by her two cats, she follows the clues all over San Francisco, hoping her uncle's disappearance is unrelated to a murdered intern at City Hall.

Cats or dogs? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win How to Paint a Cat" or "Win Teacup Turbulence." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 17 at 6 PM CT.