Have you heard of Louise Penny, the Canadian author of the Armand Gamache mysteries set in Québec? If not, then you probably didn’t spend up to an hour standing in a line that wrapped around the block waiting to see her talk about her brand-new book, A Great Reckoning. That was the scene recently in Naperville, when seven or eight hundred fans (including my sister and me) paid and waited to get a signed copy of her 12th book. The author event was great, including an interview of Louise Penny by mystery author Charles Finch, who writes Victorian era mysteries, and plenty of time for questions from the audience. There was much laughter at some answers, and a fascinating look at how hard it is to write a second novel when the first one took you five years or more. It’s truly remarkable that Louise Penny has kept up the excellent quality of her writing for twelve books in a series, including intricate plotting and characters who seem absolutely real.
The first book in the series is Still Life, if you need an introduction to this award-winning series. Three Pines is a tiny village in Québec, near the Vermont border. Only dial-up internet is available, and the town is missing from maps of Québec. In A Great Reckoning, Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie have recently moved to Three Pines, where several of his former cases have led. Now Gamache is the Commander of Québec’s Sûreté Academy, training police officers. The previous administration was corrupt and recent graduates have shown tendencies of cruelty. With a combination of new and current teachers, Gamache tries to reform the Academy. When there is a murder, no one mourns for the victim, but Gamache takes four cadets close to the victim back to Three Pines for safety and to continue investigating a map found in the walls of the local bistro. With links to World War I and plenty of scenes with the unforgettably unique villagers (including a possibly mad poet and her pet duck), this is a very satisfying yet suspenseful mystery that Louise Penny fans will savor. I’m not sharing many plot details, lest I spoil your reading experience. My sister wouldn’t tell me anything about the book until I’d read it, but thankfully she finished our shared copy in only two days. Already finished the series and hungry for more about Three Pines? Recipes based on the books can be found here. And as a follow-up treat, my Tuesday Evening Book Group will be discussing Charles Finch’s first mystery, A Beautiful Blue Death, in November. Happy reading, or bon appétit!
The Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. on September 20 to discuss Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon. This is a novel about the last voyage of the Hindenberg in 1937. It will be interesting to compare and contrast with the non-fiction account of the Lusitania in Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, which we discussed in January.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on September 27 to discuss My Name is Lucy Barton, the newest novel by author Elizabeth Strout. Elizabeth Strout will be speaking at Ashton Place in Willowbrook at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 24, for our Big Author Event. Here’s my review of her stunning new book. Readers may remember her for her book of connected short stories, Olive Kitteridge, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Crime Readers return to Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien to discuss A Death in Vienna, by Daniel Silva, the thriller writer whose new book, Black Widow is topping the bestseller lists. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m., and the discussion is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 15. The Crime Readers is co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of the books are available at the Adult and Teen Services Reference Desk.
Novelist Maeve Binchy has died at the age of 72. Beloved by her many fans since her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1983, her heartwarming novels and short stories are set in Ireland, London, and Greece, and are known for their well-drawn characters and good storytelling. Tara Road was the first novel to have a million copy first printing, and was later made into a movie, as was Circle of Friends. She delighted her readers by coming out of retirement in 2002 and wrote five more books. Her book for aspiring writers, Maeve Binchy Writer’s Club, contains some short stories readers may have missed. Minding Frankie was her most recent book; see my review here. Brenda
Robyn Carr’s Virgin River is a fictional village set in northern California, but it feels real. The bestselling, award-winning, romance series is up to 19 titles, with another coming out in November. I have read three books scattered throughout the series and expect I’ll read more: Shelter Mountain, Paradise Valley, and Harvest Moon. I’ve had to replace most of the books for the library’s collection as they have worn out. What makes these books so appealing? The cozy small town setting, romances that continue on throughout the series, plots that don’t wrap up neatly in a single book, characters that continue to change and grow, and heal. I would describe them as romances that readers of cozy mystery series might enjoy. The people who come to Virgin River tend to have medical or military backgrounds, and many are wounded in body or soul, and have come to Virgin River to start over. Here, they find friends, new jobs, hang out at the bar, and often get married and have babies, then welcome other members of their family to town. For lots more about the series and characters, visit the author’s website. The Virgin River books are:
2. Shelter Mountain
3. Whispering Rock
4. A Virgin River Christmas
5. Second Chance Pass
6. Temptation Ridge
7. Paradise Valley
8. Forbidden Falls
9. Angel’s Peak
10. Moonlight Road
12. Wild Man Creek
13. Harvest Moon
14. Bring Me Home for Christmas
15. Hidden Summit
16. Redwood Bend
17. Sunrise Point
There are also two novellas in That Holiday Feeling and Midnight Kiss.
Hello, Harry Potter fans! As you may or may not know, there is news a’rumbling about a brand new adult novel by our favorite author, J. K. Rowling. This book, entitled The Casual Vacancy, will be published on Thursday, September 27th, and there are many people who have already pre-ordered their copy from their local library.
J.K. Rowling’s publisher, Little Brown Book Group, is (not surprisingly) hush-hush on the specific details of her first adult novel. As far as we know, many of her original fans are now in their twenties, and I’m sure a big reason for the new book was to keep her main fan base going.
According to USA TODAY, “the book will be set in an English town called Pagford where things are not as idyllic as they seem on the surface.” The Little Brown Book Group says the book will be “darkly comic, thought provoking, and constantly surprising”. Goodreads.com has also given a short summary of the book here. Order your copy at the Woodridge Public Library today!
Author Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, he wrote fantasy, horror, mystery, and science fiction. He is best known for Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. Many of his novels and stories were adapted for film and television.
Thanks to everyone who participated in The Big Read 2012, featuring The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. The wide variety of programs, discussions of The Paris Wife and two books by Ernest Hemingway were attended by over 2500 people, including the final event with author Paula McLain. The Big Read committee met this week to start the process of looking for the book we will select for The Big Read 2013. If you have any ideas, please comment here or pass along your suggestions at the reference desk. The Big Read is a cooperative project of ten public libraries: Clarendon Hills, Downers Grove, Hinsdale, Indian Prairie, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lisle, Thomas Ford, Westmont, and, of course, Woodridge. For more information, see our website at www.thebigread.org.
The past selections have been an even mix of fiction and non-fiction, and have covered seven different decades. It’s anyone’s guess what will come next. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking book to read or listen to, these are the previous selections:
2005 The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
2006 Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand
2007 The March, by E. L. Doctorow
2008 Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, by Elizabeth Berg
2009 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
2010 The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
2011 Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers