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.