The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
After marrying off her three daughters, Sookie Poole longs for some peace and quiet. But she can’t keep blue jays from emptying her bird feeders, and her demanding, eccentric mother Lenore lives down the street in Point Clear, Alabama. When Sookie learns that she was adopted in Texas, is actually 60 instead of 59, and that her birth mother was from the Polish town of Pulaski, Wisconsin, her world is turned upside down. Sookie pretends to have the flu to keep her mother away while she learns more about her fascinating birth family, supported by her kind husband Earle. Fritzi Jurdabralinski’s father opens a filling station in the 1930s, and builds an air strip nearby. Fritzi learns to fly a plane and does some wing walking, before she and her three sisters are needed to run the filling station. Three of the sisters, along with their brother, end up as pilots during World War II; much of their experiences are told in letters. Sookie doesn’t feel like she’s accomplished much with her life, but learning about her birth family inspires her. I think Lenore was a bit too eccentric to be believable, but this was a very enjoyable, heartwarming book.
Recipes for Love and Murder by Sally Andrew
Are you looking for a new mystery author, or some new recipes to try? This mystery debut, set in the Klein Karoo region of Western Cape, South Africa introduces Tannie Maria, a widow who writes an advice and recipe column for the Klein Karoo Gazette. Melktert (milk tart), anyone? Some of the letters Maria receives are rather alarming, and one correspondent is found dead. Maria and young reporter Jessie decide to investigate, to the dismay of their editor Hattie and detective Henk Kannemeyer. The food and scenery descriptions are wonderful, the mystery is both funny and suspenseful, and the appealing characters have depth.
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Sadie Sparrow is a detective in London in 2003, but is visiting her grandfather in Cornwall while on leave. On a run with her grandfather’s dogs, Sadie discovers an abandoned house, Loeanneth. In 1933 the Edevane family hosts a midsummer’s eve party at Loeanneth. The next morning, their little boy Theo is missing and is never found. Sadie is fascinated by the story and the house, and works with a retired policeman, the local librarian, and an elderly mystery writer to find out what happened. Much of the book is set at Loeanneth in 1932-33, where three sisters, Deborah, Alice, and Clemmie are growing up, mostly oblivious to their family’s many secrets. Readers who like mysteries and family sagas may enjoy this book, along with readers of Mary Stewart, Rosamunde Pilcher, or Melanie Benjamin. The beautiful house has its own secrets, and there are many twists and turns to the plot. Some readers thought it too long, but I kept turning the pages to find out the answers. Sadie is an appealing character, as is the mystery writer’s personal assistant. This was a memorable, satisfying read.
The Best Books We Read in 2015
Here is a list of the best (or favorite) books the reference and readers advisory staff at the Woodridge Public Library read or listened to in 2015. Not every book was published in 2015, but most of them are. Happy Reading! Brenda
Fink, Joseph and Jeffery Cranor. Welcome to Night Vale (Denise)
Tahir, Sabaa. An Ember in the Ashes. Read by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West (Beth)
Atkinson, Kate. A God in Ruins (Pam)
Brennan, M.L. Dark Ascension (Denise)
Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See (Brenda)
Gaiman, Neil. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances (Chris)
Haruf, Kent. Our Souls at Night (Brenda)
Laurenston, Shelly. The Unleashing (Denise)
Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven (Pam)
Mitchell, David. The Bone Clocks (Brenda)
Morrison, Toni. God Help the Child (Chris)
Thorpe, Rufi. Dear Fang, With Love (Denise)
Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread (Chris)
Fraction, Matt. Hawkeye. Vol. 3, L.A. Woman (Denise)
Flanders, Judith. A Murder of Magpies (Brenda)
Hart, Elsa. Jade Dragon Mountain (Brenda)
Penny, Louise. The Nature of the Beast (Pam)
Pulley, Natasha. The Watchmaker on Filigree Street (Brenda)
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Butcher, Jim. Working for Bigfoot: Stories from the Dresden Files (Denise)
Gibson, William. The Peripheral (Denise)
Koch, Gini. Alien Separation (Denise)
Novik, Naomi. Uprooted (Chris)
Robinson, Kim Stanley. Aurora (Brenda)
Schwab, V.E. A Darker Shade of Magic (Chris)
Green, Sally. Half Bad (Beth)
Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl (Denise)
Beard, Mary. S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome (Chris)
Bock, Laszlo. Work Rules! (Chris)
Brown, Daniel James. The Boys in the Boat (Brenda)
Buck, Rinker. The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (Brenda)
Chapman, Bob & Raj Sisodia. Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family (Chris)
Gawand, Atul. Being Mortal (Beth)
Grazer, Brian. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life (Chris)
Langguth, A. J. After Lincoln : How the North Won the Civil War and Lost the Peace (Joel)
Larson, Erik. Dead Wake (Brenda)
McCullough, David. The Wright Brothers (Brenda)
Murphy, Brian. 81 Days Below Zero (Brenda)
As the library’s renovations are coming to the end, I’m looking forward to January and the start up of both our Tuesday Morning and Tuesday Evening Book Groups. We will be meeting regularly in the front half of the 2nd floor Meeting Room, which is still being remodeled as I write. Due to lack of meeting space we didn’t have our usual Joint Book Group Gathering in December, but I will bring cookies to our January discussions, and offer building tours.
On January 19 at 10:00 am, the Tuesday Morning Book Group will discuss Dead Wake by Erik Larson, about the last voyage of the Lusitania in May, 1915. Here’s my earlier review of Larson’s gripping real-life adventure story.
On January 26 at 7:00 pm, the Tuesday Evening Book Group will discuss Delicious! by Ruth Reichl, set in the New York City offices of a food magazine, and with a mystery in the form of letters written to chef James Beard during World War II. Here’s my earlier review.
The Crime Readers are meeting at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien on Thursday, January 21 to discuss Grave Mistake, by Ngaio Marsh. The discussion begins at 7:00 pm, with optional dinner at 6:00 pm. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
After You by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark, featured in the very popular novel Me Before You, is trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. After some travel in Europe and a longer stay in Paris, she’s bought a flat in London but has barely furnished it, and is working at an Irish pub at an airport. Lou is still smart-mouthed and there are a few funny scenes, but her life is pretty blah. Then troubled teen Lily breezes into her life, and Lou has a bad accident. This leads her to reconnect with her parents, and finally start going to a support group. Then she meets a cute paramedic named Sam, who she confuses with his brother. I would definitely recommend reading the poignant Me Before You first. Not a lighthearted book, I’m glad I read this mix of humor, sadness, family life, and romance.
Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
The poet Emily Dickinson comes to life in this novel set in 1860s Amherst, Massachusetts, which also features her (entirely fictional) maid, recent Irish immigrant Ada Concannon. Emily writes her short poems, gardens, bakes, and occasionally visits with her sister-in-law Susan, who lives nearby with Emily’s brother Austin. Increasingly reclusive, Emily decides to wear only white, and rarely travels beyond her home. In contrast, Ada, 18, is hard-working, outgoing, and friendly. Ada first lives with her uncle, then with the Dickinsons. Her beau, Daniel Byrne, cannot protect her from a stalker, and Emily seeks her brother Austin’s reluctant help for Ada. Except for the stalker, this is a charming story told from two very different points of view, and it made me want to learn more about Emily Dickinson’s life. Several of Emily’s poems are included, a nice touch. Nuala O’Connor is an Irish author, and part of the book is set in Dublin, Ada’s hometown. An unusual and memorable historical novel.