Historical Fiction, More Thrillers, and Science Fiction/Fantasy

Picking up from yesterday’s post….

For our suspense/crime/thriller readers, here are a few new authors to try:  Joe Ide has written a fascinating murder story, Hi Five, that involves arms dealers and a witness, also a suspect, with multiple personalities.  This one will keep the reader on their toes.  Lucy Foley’s second book, The Hunting Party, is the story of a group of friends who gather on New Years to bring in the new year and one of them turns up dead in the midst of a blizzard.  The Wife Who Knew Too Much  by Michele Campbell is set in the Hamptons and involves murder and characters who will do anything, criminal or not, for love and money.  Pretty Things by Janelle Brown tosses together troubled family relationships, theft and con artistry, and fabulous settings all into a page-turning book.  Alex North returns with The Shadows, another creepy, scary story that involves the blending of dreams and reality.  This one will keep you up at night, so get your night lights ready!

Historical fiction, especially novels set during and around World War II, are hot now, and we’ve got several for you to enjoy.  The Vanishing Sky by Annette L. Binder studies a family who is torn apart by opposing viewpoints of events in Germany as World War II comes to a close.  Universe of Two by Stephen Kiernan is a fictionalized story of a real-life mathematician who worked on the Manhattan Project.  The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper is the story of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and her will of steel that helped her husband settle into his unexpected role of king and guided England through some of its darkest times.  Exile Music by Jennifer Steil is the story of a Jewish family who flees Vienna for Bolivia when the German forces invade Austria.  Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini is a novel about a group of American Women in Berlin who wage a secret war against Hitler.  To Wake the Giant by Jeff Shaara is a novel of Pearl Harbor, a departure for Shaara, who has spent most of his career writing about the Civil War.

Historical fiction titles that are not set during World War II include Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner, and  The Paris Hours by Alex George.  Simon the Fiddler is set in post-Civil War Texas, The Paris Hours is set during the brilliant and lush Belle Epoque, and The Jane Austen Society is set in a small village in England in the years just after World War II.  It is a must-read for those who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyThe Woman Before Wallis: A Novel of Windsors, Vanderbilts, and Royal Scandal by Bryn Turnbull is as delicious as its title.  Miss Austen by Gill Hornby is about Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, and her life after the death of her sister.

I’ll finish up this post by letting you all know about some science fiction/fantasy titles that we’ve just received.  The Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth is an adult title written by the author of the Divergent series, and it is apocalyptic, sweeping, and brilliant.  The Last Emperox  by John Scalzi is the last of a trilogy and is very timely: it is about an epidemic of a viral disease.  The Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh and Master Class by Christina Dalcher would be interesting to read together.  They’re both stories about a not-too-distant future when women and girls are forced into roles and lives against their will by governmental powers.

I’ll write one more post this week tomorrow and let you all know about some very timely and contemporary fiction, some literary fiction, and a lot of novels about families and relationships.  We have so many new books in – please come browse our new book shelves.  Our browsing hours are 11am to 2pm Tuesday through Saturday.  You can also read more about these and other great titles in our catalog:  https://uppl.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/external.  From the catalog, requests can be placed for books for curbside pick up.

New Non Fiction and Thrillers

Hello! The blog is back, and so are new books! We have so many new ones, that I’m going to break this post up over the next three days, discussing new books by subject/genre and give very little commentary on each title.
In nonfiction, we have some new titles that cover natural phenomena, current events, and some memoirs with a little history in between. Growing Old: Notes on Aging with Something Like Grace by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is an affirming book about the beauty and joys that come with age. We finally have a copy of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump, the President’s niece. Mary Trump is a clinical psychologist and gives insight on Trump family history. The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek will be a favorite among those who have faithfully watched Jeopardy each night. Rivers of Power: How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilizations, and Shaped Our World by Laurence C. Smith is a fascinating read about how rivers have shaped geography, economy, and culture throughout history. Thirteen Days in Ferguson is a timely book written by a Ferguson police officer, Ron Johnson, that gives the reader a very close view of what happened during those turbulent days. Five Days: The Reckoning of an American City by Wes Moore is another timely book that offers an in-depth view of the circumstances surrounding the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the events that followed. Hell and Other Destinations is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s memoir of her time as the first female in that position.
For World War II enthusiasts, we have two new titles in: A Game of Birds and Wolves: The Ingenious Young Women Whose Secret Board Game Helped Win World War II by Simon Parkin and The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destory Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather. Both books tell the story of two very interesting sides of World War II that you may not have known about before. Written by Forbes senior editor Zack O’Malley Greenburg, A-List Angels How a Band of Actors, Artists, and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley, talks about just that – how a few actors and entertainers used their social reach and money to fund and launch companies/concepts like Uber, Airbnb, and Spotify. Rounding out some of our new nonfiction titles are two very poignant books: My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me by Jason B. Rosen and My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boyland. So as not to spoil either of them for you, all I will say is that they are both lovely tales of unexpected events that deeply touched the authors’ lives.
We have some new thriller and crime titles in by some of your favorite authors: Eagle Station by Dale Brown, Never Ask Me by Jeff Abbott, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, Final Judgement by Marcia Clark, Credible Threat by J. A. Jance, The Persuasion by Iris Johansen, The Night Swim by Megan Golden, Night.Sleep.Death.The Stars by Joyce Carol Oates, and The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda.
I’ll continue tomorrow with a discussion of some thrillers and suspense books by new authors, some new science fiction/fantasy titles, and a lot of historical fiction. Happy Reading!

We’re Back!

Hello everyone!  It’s been a while, but this blog is back, with new posts forthcoming each week.  We are so glad to be open for you to come in and choose your books.  If you’re busy and can’t get in to the library (which I hope you’ll always make time for the library!), then let us hand-pick some great reads for you.  You can complete the form here: https://upform.wufoo.com/forms/handpicked-reads/  and we’ll email a list to you and put the books on hold.

If you are interested in American history, and especially the settlement of the western part of our country, then we have two new books for you: Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Fremont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War by Steve Inskeep; and The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David MCCullough.  Imperfect Union tells the story of John C. Fremont, one of the United States’ greatest explorers and how he mapped the United States in the 1850s not only geographically but also politically.  It also tells the story of his wife, Jessie, who was a woman well before her time and her influence on her husband’s work.  This book will spark memories of things you learned about in your American history classes back in college:  The Missouri Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the California Gold Rush, the concept of Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War.  Inskeep has written this book in an engaging narrative style, which makes it highly readable and enjoyable.  The Pioneers begins during the French and Indian War and continues through the 1860s.  Readers will enjoy the stories about the leaders and settlers who were involved in moving people west of the Mississippi river in the early 19th century and the extraordinary events that led them to look west.  McCullough is one of our greatest writers about American History, and this book does not disappoint.

We have a few new thrillers in, and they will keep you in your toes!  The Truants, a debut novel by Kate Weinberg, is a beautifully written story of four students from very diverse backgrounds who befriend each other when they are new at university.  The dynamic between them turns dark, and a tragedy ensues that breaks up their friendships.  The story also involves love affairs, secrets, and finding your path in life.

The Return by Rachel Harrison involves a missing girl, her best friend who believes she will come back one day, and the return of the missing girl.  Did the missing girl return, or is it someone else?  This debut novel will keep you turning the pages to find out.

The Last Passenger, the latest in the Charles Lenox Mystery series by Charles Finch, is set in London’s Paddington station in 1855.  Young detective Charles Lenox must find the identity of the body of a young gentlemen found slumped in a train car.  The search for his identity shapes Lenox’s character and his career.

Last Girl Standing, by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush, will bring back memories of high-school cliques, but it also has the very grown-up concept of how sometimes mistakes and horrible things that happened long ago follow you into adulthood.  The story involves accidental deaths that aren’t accidents that will continue until the last girl is left standing.

The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green involves the murder of a pageant queen, a quaint, idyllic New England town, and her sister’s search for answers about the murder.  The story is told in dual narratives (each of the sisters’) and has dark humor infused throughout, mostly in the voice of the sarcastic sister who is the black sheep of the family.  The humor in the book adds a light touch to an otherwise sad story of complicated family relationships and missed connections.

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White is set on a desolate, eerie island town in the dead of winter.  Very unsettling and frightening, the story surrounds a murder told from two points of view – the widow of the man who was murdered, and the wife of the man who is suspected of killing him.   This book kept me up for most of a weekend night, and it brings to mind the question of how well do we know the people we love and who we are closest to?  This book is a page-turner.

Children’s ebooks Featuring Characters with Learning Differences

World Autism Month kicks off each year with World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Below, we have compiled a list of children’s books from our ebook collection that feature main characters with learning differences.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt (Ages 10 and up)

A finalist for the National Book Award, this book follows 14-year-old Doug as he moves to a new school and navigates tough family dynamics. Doug, who struggles with reading and has grown up in poverty, finds an unlikely friend in the local librarian and discovers his artistic talent through the bird paintings of John James Audubon. It’s a story of loss and recovery with lovable characters and some American history thrown in.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 8 to 12)

Harbor Me was on last year’s Bluebonnet list and touches on many important issues including learning differences, bullying, and race. When six kids with learning differences get together each Friday afternoon for “special-kids only time”, they share their stories and come to understand each other on a deeper level. This book beautifully displays what it means to care for someone else and listen without judgment, and is a great family conversation starter on friendship and forgiveness.

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (Ages 8 to 12)

Mason Buttle has a lot to battle: learning differences, bullies, and grief over his best friend’s death fifteenth months ago. The police don’t believe Mason when he says he had nothing to do with it, and when his new best friend goes missing, Mason is in trouble once again. Can Mason figure out what happened to both of this friends, and will anyone believe the truth when he does?

Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever series by Henry Winkler (Ages 8 to 12)

Based on Henry ‘the Fonz’ Winkler’s own life and experiences growing up with dyslexia, Hank Zipzer is a funny, relatable 12-year-old boy who finds himself in hilarious everyday situations thanks to his creative mind. After kids read the books, they can also watch the TV show based on the series.

Rules by Cynthia Lord (Ages 9-12)

Catherine’s brother has autism, and her family’s life completely revolves around it. As hard as she tries to teach her brother not to embarrass her in public, it never seems to work. When Catherine meets Jason, a friend she wasn’t expecting, and Kristi, her new neighborhood best friend, she is forced to face her own shocking behavior. Will these experiences change her view of what it means to be ‘normal’?

Roll with It by Jamie Sumner (Ages 10 and up)

Ellie has cerebral palsy and a no-nonsense approach to life. She has a wheelchair but she also has big dreams for her future, including being a professional baker. When she moves to a new town with her mom, she has to deal with not only being the girl in the wheelchair but also the one who lives in a trailer park on the bad side of town. The future is looking gloomy for Ellie until she makes her first-ever friends. Can she convince her mom that this move might be the best thing that has ever happened to them? Fans of Wonder and Out of My Mind will love this book, which is another story of resilience told from a first-person perspective.

Counting by 7s (Ages 10 and up)

Willow Chance loves nature, researching medical conditions, and counting things by 7s. Extremely smart but considered an outcast, she struggles to connect with anyone besides her adoptive parents. Despite all of that, she manages to live a happy life until her adoptive parents are tragically killed in a car accident. Suddenly completely alone in the world, Willow learns to deal with her grief and finds a new surrogate family who loves and accepts her, quirks and all. Willow is very endearing, and readers will find it impossible not to root for her all the way to the end!

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl (Ages 8 to 12)

Another Bluebonnet selection from last year, this book follows Lucy Callahan, who was struck by lightning several years ago. Although she doesn’t remember the incident, it made her a genius at math and she has been homeschooled ever since. At just 12 years old, she is ready to go to college, but her grandmother insists that she attend one year of middle school first…and make a friend, participate in an activity and read a book that’s not a textbook. Lucy’s OCD doesn’t make any of those things easy, but meeting new friends helps her get outside of her comfort zone and embrace those things that make her unique.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick (Ages 10 and up)

Oversized, troubled Max teams up with his new neighbor, the tiny, brilliant boy with Morquio Syndrome named Freak. Together they aim to defend the weak and right wrongs in their town under the name “Freak the Mighty”. This story touches on many difficult themes including bullying and shows that courage isn’t about being big and strong.

Women in World War II books

If World War II is an interest of yours, specifically the roles that women played in the War, then we have quite a few titles coming that you will enjoy.

The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper is the story of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and her will of steel that helped her husband settle into his unexpected role of king and guided England through some of its darkest times.  Karen Harper is one of my favorite authors.  She chooses some of the most fascinating women in history, thoroughly researches their lives, and then writes books that shows us the more intriguing and little-known parts of their lives.  We have this book on order, so you can put it on hold so you’ll be the first to get it.

Daughter of the Reich by Louis Fein, is both poignant and spell binding, and will reinforce your belief that love is powerful and conquers everything.  It is the story of Hetty, the daughter of a high-ranking officer, who has to choose between family and her lifestyle when she begins feeling an intense attraction to a Jewish friend from her past.  The characters in this novel are rich and the reader feels their joys and pains as if they were experiencing them themselves. Daughter of the Reich will be published in May, but you can place a hold on it now.

Three Hours in Paris  by Cara Black is riveting, action-filled, and thrilling.  Kate Rees is a country girl from Oregon and an excellent markswoman who is recruited by British intelligence to drop into Paris during Hitler’s brief, three-hour visit just after Paris fell to Germany with one task:  to kill the Fuhrer.  She takes a shot at Hitler and misses, which then reveals the plan to kill him.  Kate must then run for her life, not knowing who to trust.  The rest of the story will take you for a fast, fascinating ride!

The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly is the story of three friends in England at the dawn of World War II.  One is a socialite, another is a home front war worker, and the last, Marie, is a German expat who worries about being imprisoned in an internment camp.  The three fight to keep Marie free.  This is a story of the power of friendship and women in the midst of conflict.

Exile Music by Jennifer Steil is an interesting read, a World War II story, with a couple of story lines that are fascinating.  It is the story of a musical Jewish family in Vienna.  The father plays in the Vienna Philharmonic, and the mother is an opera singer.  When the Germans invade Vienna, the family flees to La Paz, Bolivia and finds refuge there in an expat Jewish community.  What follows is the story of their acclimation to a new home, culture, and terrain – the beautiful Andes Mountains in Bolivia.  This story is powerful, strong, beautifully written, and will captivate you.

The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards is about a celebrated singer in Paris (Genevieve Dumont) who enjoys a position of privilege when the Germans occupy the city.  She uses that privilege to work with the Resistance.  When her estranged mother is captured by the Germans, Genevieve becomes frightened that her mother will be tortured and give away information about an upcoming Allied invasion.  She must find a way to rescue her mother while trying to keep her from giving away secrets about the invasion.  This is an exquisite novel about strength, courage, and unconditional love.  This book will not be published until June, I have an advance copy of it for the first person who emails me that they’re interested in it at sperry@uptexas.org.

Code Name Helene y Ariel Lawhon is the story of Nancy Wake, a young journalist living in Paris in the years just before World War II and at the inception of the War.  She falls in love with a wealthy French industrialist and marries him and becomes involved with the French Resistance.  She goes by a code name – Helene – and tries to protect not only her own identity, but to protect her loved ones from exposure.  Full of accurate and extremely researched information, this is a moving story, with action, suspense, and a love story.  If you haven’t read any of Lawhon’s previous books, we do have them here at the library (I Was Anastasia, Flight of Dreams, and The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress).  They’ve all been amazing.  Code Name Helene will be published in April, and we do have it on order, so you can place a hold on it now.

Hannah’s War by Jan Eliasberg is a debut novel.  It is the story of Dr. Hannah Weiss, a female Jewish scientist who is working on a research project to split the atom.  She’s conflicted, as she know the damage her discovery will inflict on innocent people, and she is treated poorly by the powers that be in the Third Reich.  While in exile to the United States, she works on the Manhattan Project and becomes a suspect in a series of leaks of information about the Project to the Germans.  Her interrogator, Major Jack Delaney, becomes a little more involved with her than he should, which makes for an interesting three days when he is called upon to interrogate her.  This is a Wartime story of loyalty and truth, and will draw the reader into Hannah’s and Jack’s lives.  Our copy of this book has not arrived, but the first person who emails me at sperry@uptexas.org  that they’re interested in it can claim an advance copy.

 

Just a few short notes:  Several of you – Nine, to be exact, are on hold for JoJoMoyes’ The Giver of Stars.  We have ordered eight extra copies, and they should be in soon.  We’ll give the nine of you a call when they’ve arrived.  I’ve also ordered extra copies of Such a Fun Age and The Dutch House.

Stayed tuned early next week, as I will be posting about my all – time favorite “happy reads.”  Happy reading!  As always, let me know if you have questions or comments at sperry@uptexas.org.

So Sorry it’s been a while….

I’m so sorry it has been a while since my last post.  To be honest, I thought I had posted something new last week, but I must have failed to save the post.  Anyway, I’m so happy to be speaking with you again!  Please email me your questions or thoughts at sperry@uptexas.org.

Sorry that it’s been so long since our last post, but hopefully we’ll make up for it with some new titles by some of your favorite authors!  Let’s talk about most of your favorite genres:   Thrillers!

Harlen Coben’s newest, Boy From the Woods, is sure to keep you on your toes.  Thirty years ago, a man named Wilde was found as a feral young boy in the woods with no memory of where he came from.  Another child goes missing, and Wilde is thrust into a community where he doesn’t fit in, and must uncover secrets to find the missing child.

In Jonathan Kellerman’s newest Alex Delaware novel, LAPD Lietenant Milo Sturgis and Alex Delaware work to solve probably the most horrific and cruel murder case they’ve ever worked on.

J.D. Robb has written her 50th Eve Dallas novel, Golden in Death.  The book takes its title from a golden egg sent anonymously that when opened, it releases deadly toxic fumes.  Eve goes on a quest to find the madman who is sending the eggs.

James Grippando rips the theme of his next novel from the headlines in The Big Lie.  This story contains an Electoral College battle for the White House, a corrupt president, impeachment, and a winner of the popular vote who doesn’t win the presidency.

Preston and Child’s newest Agent Pendergast title, Crooked River, has Agent Pendergast solving his most difficult and horrifying murder ever.  Dozens of identical shoes, each containing a severed foot, wash up on the shore of Sanibel Island, Florida.

Surprise, Surprise!  James Patterson has a new title out – Blindside, a new installment in the Michael Bennett series.  Detective Michael Bennett is working against time to find the Mayor of New York’s daughter, who is missing, and to stop a serial killing spree that has national security implications.

For our western readers, we have two new William Johnstone titles in:  Bloody Trail of the Mountain Man and Preacher’s Frenzy.  Both are part of Johnstone’s Mountain Man series and contain plenty of action.

We have two novels coming in soon about Grace Kelly’s Life; The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher and Grace Kelly’s Dress by Brenda Janowitz.  The first title, The Girl in White Gloves, attempts to show that no matter how glamorous her life appeared to us all, Princess Grace made great sacrifices to marry her prince and was terribly lonely.  The second title, The Grace Kelly Dress, is a story about how three generations of women are affected by their involvement with creating Princess Grace’s wedding dress.  If you enjoyed The Gown by Jennifer Robson, about the design and making of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress, then you will enjoy this book.  I’m so excited to tell you about more new books!  Check back with us in just a few days.

Sharon Perry

Ripped-From-The-Headlines Titles

I hope you’re still enjoying the Holiday season and that you are getting some extra reading time!  We’ve received some exciting new titles in, and there is something for everyone in this batch.

Mystery readers, there are some new books in by some of your favorite authors.  M. C. Beaton’s latest title, Beating About the Bush, features Agatha Raisin looking into industrial espionage that turns into murder.  Also new on the shelves is The Peppermint Tea Chronicles, Alexander McCall Smith’s latest 44 Scotland Street novel.   Mary Higgins Clark draws from the headlines with a novel that combines elements of the #metoo movement with murder in Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry.  Sara Shepard’s new title, Reputation, also takes on a timely issue – a data breach – and blends it with murder.

We have a few new thrillers, including Criss Cross by James Patterson.  The creator of the Dexter character (which turned into a television series), Jeffry P. Lindsay, has created a new character in Just Watch Me.  Riley Wolfe is a master thief with Robin Hood tendencies: he only steals from the very rich but he doesn’t share them with the poor.  He’s also a violent killer when necessary.  Just Watch Me is the first in a series.  Robin Cook broaches another ripped-from-the-headlines topic, harnessing DNA from ancestry websites to catch a killer, in Genesis.  Something to think about in case you received one of those kits as a Holiday gift!  Thirty-six Righteous Men, by Steven Pressfield, is a murder novel with an apocalyptic twist – the men being murdered are the legendary 36 men who can preserve the world from destruction.

Bernard Cornwell has written the latest in The Saxon StoriesSword of Kings.  The Netflix series The Last Kingdom is based on these books.   Another historical fiction title just in is The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.  Set in 15th-century England, it is the story of a young priest who has his faith tested while determining the cause of death of an elderly priest.

Girl by Edna O’Brien is a fictional account of survival inspired by the 2014 mass kidnapping of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram.  O’Brien does not shy away from tough subjects or conversations, so expect a brutal narrative capped off by an inspiring, no-holds-barred survival of the toughest circumstances.

In nonfiction, I love Gwynne’s Grammar by N. M. Gwynne.  It’s a new edition; and it is the most enjoyable, concise guide to curing all of society’s ills (according to Mr. Gwynne) with proper grammar!  Read this book to hone your skills or just for fun; it will not disappoint.  Fascinated by the Cartier family and their jewelry empire?  Try The Cartiers: The Untold Story Behind the Jewelry Empire by Francesca Carter Brickell.  Brickell writes about the family’s history and their start in the jewelry business from Revolutionary France to the 1970s, covering four generations of the family.  Brickell has first-hand knowledge: her great-grandfather was one of the three brothers who propelled the business into international fame.  And just in time for the new Star Wars film, read I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story by Anthony Daniels.  Daniels was the actor behind the golden droid and the only actor to appear in every film in the franchise.  This book is a memoir of his journey during the Star Wars years.

As always, Happy Reading!  And be sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments about any of these titles.

Holiday Reading

Happy Holidays!  If you are looking something to cozy up with to put you in a Holiday mood, here are a few suggestions for you.

We have several Christmas-themed books by Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol, as well as Nancy Thayer, Fern Michaels, and Debbie Macomber.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a great Holiday read – it starts on Christmas Day, and there are a few other parts sets in Christmas throughout the story.  It will set the stage for the new Little Women movie, coming to theaters on December 25th.  Jeff Guinn, a former journalist for The Fort Worth Telegram, has written three novels that tell the history of Christmas with either Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus “telling the story.”  The first title, The Autobiography of Santa Claus, takes us from the earliest beginnings of a Christmas celebration more than 17 centuries ago up to the 20th century, with actual characters from history appearing. The next two titles cover Christmas during specific periods in history.  How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas is set during the 1600s when the Puritans attempted to ban the celebration of Christmas in England.  The Great Santa Search tells the story of Christmas in America and its commercialization.  All three novels are heavily researched, so the history is accurate; and all three are highly readable.  We have several editions of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, along with two versions of the movie on DVD.  If you’ve already read this classic, then try The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford.  It’s the back story of how and why Dickens wrote and self-published the book.  We also have the movie based on this book on DVD.

New fiction titles that we’ve recently acquired include The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Crichton, Final Option by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison, Code of Honor by Tom Clancy, 19th Christmas and Criss Cross, both by James Patterson, Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes by Ace Atkins, and Twisted Twenty-Six, the latest Stephanie Plum novel, by Janet Evanovich.

A few new non-fiction titles that have recently come in include Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom; The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt; and Tim McGraw’s fitness book, Grit & Grace.  We have a couple of new history titles as well:  Vicksburg by Donald L. Miller and Edison by Edmund Morris.  And lastly, we have the delightful little book Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall.

Check out (literally and figuratively) these books at the library!

New Book-Club-In-A-Bag Sets

The new Book-Club-In-A-Bag sets are here and will be ready for check out next week.  They’re listed below, with a bit of description and commentary:

I wrote about Whisper Network by Chandler Baker in an earlier post.  Once I finished the book, in retrospect, I liked it better than at first.  The reason I chose it as a Book Club set is that it lends itself to so many avenues of discussion:  women in the workplace, work-life balance, friendship and loyalty, and the #MeToo movement.  For discussion purposes, have someone in the group research examples of harassment in the workplace to compare to the story.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh is a spell-binding thriller that will keep a group discussing it for hours. There’s so much going on in this story! Just the subtitle gives you so much to discuss:  The Serial Killer Isn’t On Trial, He’s on the Jury.  This book kept me guessing about different parts of the story right up to the end.  The story is about a serial killer on a vendetta mission.  He goes through elaborate processes to have someone framed for murder and then to get on the jury to ensure that he’s convicted.

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad has been very popular (especially with book clubs).  The characters are rich in this story, and there’s such fascinating history and culture that it would be a joy to discuss.  The story shows the history of Palestine through the life experiences of one man, Midhat Kamal.  He leaves Palestine to study medicine in Paris and returns to his home country at the beginning of its fight for independence.  The history of Palestine and their culture are so relevant right now as well; it would be a very easy tie-in to current events.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes is about the relationship between young widow and a major league pitcher who have both suffered losses and have secrets to keep.  Linda Holmes is a pop culture guru who produces a podcast and gives commentary on NPR, and this is her debut novel.  It would make for interesting discussion to listen to some of her podcasts; you can find them in the iTunes store.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is full of emotion: dealing with tragedy, family and friendship, marriage, and forgiveness.  It’s the story of two next-door neighbor families in New York and a set of explosive events and their lingering effects.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land brings the term “working poor” to life.  Land was a single mother with very little skills or opportunity who cleaned houses, took online classes to work toward a writing degree, and relied on various government programs to support her and her daughter.  What I like best about this book is that Land is not complaining or making a political statement; she’s just exposing how a person can work hard and still live below the poverty line.  To add depth to your discussion, look at her website and blog:  www.stepville.com.

Probably my favorite book this year will be The Secrets That We Kept by Lara Prescott.  This is Prescott’s first novel; and it is the story behind the writing, printing, and distribution of Dr. Zhivago.  The story is told from several women’s point of view: Boris Pasternak’s mistress Olga Ivinskaya and the female U.S. spies who worked to get the novel distributed in the Soviet Union.  I loved this book – I even watched the movie version of Dr. Zhivago with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif after reading it!  You could include a movie-watching party as part of the discussion, but you may have to do it in two parts, as it is a long film.

Quichotte is Salman Rushdie’s modern re-telling of Don Quixote.  It’s bizarre, multi-faceted, imaginative, and compelling, all rolled into a great story.  Rushdie is a consummate story-teller, and he does this story justice.  There’s so much to discuss with this book:  obsessive behavior, moral and spiritual collapse, the influence of television and social media, and the construction of the story itself.  To add a different dimension to the discussion, have half of your group read Don Quixote and the other half read Quichotte.

I mention Hellhound on his Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in History by Hampton Sides and Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery last, as they are a special edition to the Book-Club-In-A-Bag set.  Sides is the keynote speaker at the 2020 Highland Park Literary Festival, and Montgomery is presenting as well.  The Festival committee asked if we could include at least one of the author’s books as a set, and we were happy to oblige.  Hellhound is an in-depth study of what happened in the months after Martin Luther King’s assassination by James Earl Ray.  It offers information about Ray’s early life and several unpublished documents, written in a thriller style.  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk is about the first woman to walk the entire trail alone; she was also the first person of any gender to walk it three times.  Montgomery interviewed family members and hikers who met her along the trail.  He also researched her diaries and trail journals to give readers a comprehensive study of this amazing woman.

As a reminder, our Book-Club-In-A-Bag sets contain eight copies of each title, along with discussion questions, author bios, and a list of suggested readings.  They check out for five weeks.  For more information, please email me at sperry@uptexas.org.

New titles for kids and teens

Diary of a Wimpy Kid #14: Wrecking Ball (Coming in November)In the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Greg’s family receives a surprise inheritance and starts to make changes to their house. Unfortunately, a lot of problems pop up. Is it worth all of the trouble? Even more importantly, is there something more sinister going on that will cause them to move away completely?

Keeper of the Lost Cities #8: Legacy (Coming in November)After honing her strengths and learning to fight in the seventh book in the series, Flashback, we find telepath Sophie Foster seeking answers and struggling to recover lost memories as she and her friends learn new things about each other. They must take on the responsibilities this knowledge brings, and discern their friends from their enemies.

Dog Man #8: Fetch-22 by Dav Pilkey (Coming in December)Dog Man is one of the most popular series in the library’s Chapter Book collection, appealing to readers with its themes of kindness and courage. Recently released from jail, Petey the Cat has a new lease on life while Li’l Petey struggles to see the good in the world. Can Petey and Dog Man over their differences long enough to work as a team and help Li’l Petey and the entire world?

Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2 in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy) by Tomi Adeyemi (Coming in December) Fans of J.K. Rowling and Nnedi Okorafor will enjoy this sequel to Children of Blood and Bone, Adeyemi’s fantasy book set in West Africa. In an Orïsha where the powers of the supernaturally-gifted maji as well as the nobles with magic ancestry have been reignited, Zélie must secure Amari’s right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy’s wrath, bringing their kingdom together before a civil war tears it apart.