Book Review – A Different Kind of Normal

A Different Kind of Normal
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

It’s finally here!  I feel like I’ve been waiting years, and it’s finally here!  Today marks the release of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, A Different Kind of Normal.  And oh boy, are readers in for a treat!

Out of the kindness of her heart,  Ms. Lamb sent me an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this new release.  I say “out of the kindness of her heart,” but I’m sure there was no small amount of self-preservation involved.  After all, I’m sure it was just a bit disconcerting to receive contact from a reader who declares – in her best Kathy Bates stalker imitation –  “Ms. Lamb!  I’m your biggest fan!”  Scenes from Stephen King’s Misery likely flashed through her imagination, and she decided to take precautionary steps:  (1) Send Cathie Armstrong a copy of the newest book to keep her happy, and (2) Add Cathie Armstrong to the list of potential stalkers…just in case.

Okay, in all seriousness, I wasn’t that bad.  I hope.  I’ll let you know if the cops bang down my door at three in the morning and abscond with my laptop and the 15 rolls of duct tape (in designer colors) that my daughter has on hand for “emergencies.”

But back to A Different Kind of Normal.  I can sum this book up in one word:  Beautiful!  In true Cathy Lamb fashion, readers are brought a story that will make you laugh out loud, and is absolutely certain to bring forth tears of empathy and grief.  It’s what Cathy Lamb does best, and it’s probably why she truly is my favorite author.

Lamb’s newest novel tells the story of 17-year old Tate.  Born to a strung-out and drug-addicted  mother (Brooke), and adopted at birth by his 19-year old aunt (Jaden), Tate’s life will be anything but easy.  Likely due to his biological mother’s drug abuse and lack of any prenatal attention, Tate is born with a very enlarged head and lopsided eyes which make him appear freakish to strangers.  To his family – his Boss Mom (adopted mom, Jaden), his Nana Bird (grandmother), and his uncle and cousins – Tate is beautiful.  He’s brilliant and funny, and he teaches his family that love and laughter heal tears.

When Tate begs to go out for the basketball team, Jaden’s overprotective and hovering tendencies begin to smother her enthusiastic son.  Can Jaden put aside her fears and allow Tate to behave like a normal kid?  Can she step back and allow him to handle, in his own way, the teasing of strangers without pounding them to a pulp with her bare hands?

A Different Kind of Normal is what fans of Lamb have come to expect:  a story of love and family, beautifully written with strong characters, some sadness, and a whole lot of humor.  She simply never let’s us down!

Finally getting to read a new Cathy Lamb book is like being on a diet for a whole year; eating only fresh fruits and vegetables, but yearning for that warm chocolate lava dessert at your favorite restaurant.  You finally decide to treat yourself, so you feel the need to eat it slowly and savor every single bite because you know – when you’re done – you’ll have to go right back to those ho-hum fruits and veggies you’ve been existing on for the last year.

I’ve finished my “dessert.”  I wish I could say I ate it slowly and savored every single bite, but the truth is that I shoveled it in with a serving spoon in each hand.  It’s going to be a long year while I wait to see what Cathy Lamb has in store for us next.

This book is not yet available at the Rochester Public Library, but is available through inter-library loan. Check with the Reserves Desk to request a copy!
For more information about Cathy Lamb and her books, visit the author’s website at

Book Review – Gone Girl

Gone Girl
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

After 64 weeks on Amazon’s list of Top 100 books, I finally got my hands on a digital copy of Gone Girl through SELCO.  I finished it just this morning and I can sum this novel up in three words:  OH!  MY!  GOSH!

Okay, so maybe three words aren’t enough.  I think I’d have to add:  WOW!  YOWZA!  YIKES!

Like most people, I love a really good suspense novel.  Unfortunately, so many these days have become too formulaic and predictable.  This is absolutely not the case with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Flynn’s newest suspense novel takes the reader to the small midwestern town of North Carthage, MO.  Nick and Amy Dunne are transplants from New York, returned to Nick’s hometown to care for his terminally ill mother and Alzheimer’s afflicted father.  It’s not an ideal situation, but they’ve committed to making the best of a bad situation.

On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy disappears.  All that’s left behind are signs of a struggle and clues that lead the police straight to Nick as the primary suspect in her presumed murder.  Through the horrific investigation, the evidence against Nick just continues to pile against him:  an extramarital affair; a secret credit card account, maxed out on deviant and violent porn DVDs; and even Nick’s own daydreams of smashing in his wife’s head.  But did he do it?

Gone Girl is nothing short of a surprising and twisted psychological thriller.  Just when you think you have everything figured out, another curve ball is thrown and a new avenue of twists and turns opens for the reader.  The end result is jaw-dropping disbelief.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library in traditional and audio CD format.  It is also available through SELCO in downloadable e-book format.  For more information about this book, visit the author’s website by following this link.

A Case of Mistaken Identities (A Retraction)

Will the Correct Michael Reisman Please Step Forward? 

On our July 20th blog, Meet our Authors (Part 4 of 4), we inadvertently identified the wrong Michael Reisman as one of the participating authors in our First Annual Celebration of Rochester Authors Event.  Our blog should have identified Michael Reisman, author of Wanakijiji The Villagers, as our participating author.  Instead, we identified Michael Reisman, author of the Simon Bloom series of YA books, as our participating author.

The Friends of the Library and this blog which to express our most sincere apologies to both Michael Reismans and to our readers for this error.

Michael Reisman
Author of Wanakijiji The Villagers

Michael Reisman of Rochester, MN
Author of Wanakijiji The Villager

Mr. Reisman of Rochester has written a wonderful children’s picture book with beautiful illustrations and translations in Swahili.  This book is sure to appeal to children and their parents, and the same-page translations into Swahili are fascinating.

Michael Reisman
Author of the Simon Bloom Series

Michael Reisman
Author of the Simon Bloom Series

Mr. Resiman of the Simon Bloom series is the author of a series of YA books about 11-year old Simon Bloom who discovers a book that allows him to control the Laws of Physics.  These books are sure to capture the imaginations of middle school students and adults. 

For more information about the Simon Bloom series, you can visit the author’s website at


Book Review – The Steps Across the Water

The Steps Across the Water
A Review by Helen McIver

Young adult fiction is definitely for grownups! They’re also perfect to share with your grandchildren – no matter how old they get, they will ask you for recommendations!

Sales of fiction for 14-20 year-olds have increased dramatically in the last few years. Last year alone, there were 10,000 different YA books published. The Hunger Games alone sold 23 million copies and that was before the movie came out.  I still find it difficult to recommend it due to the premise of children killing children, but I read the books because they remain in the top 10 banned books since publication. And I have had great discussions with friends, children, librarians and strangers about those books.

Choosing among the many YA titles available is difficult; but it is great fun for most adults to lose themselves in the imaginary worlds and  innocence of childhood, all the while finding a great book to share with children. Adam Gopnik’s The Steps Across the Water (superbly illustrated by Bruce McCall) is a creative and imaginative masterpiece by a fabulous journalist and author.

Rose is a young child living in New York City with her adopted parents and brother, Oliver (Oliver was the subject of an earlier book and another must read!).  She knows she has a lovely family, but she is lonely and wonders who she really is. She desperately wants a dog and she loves snow globes. One day she sees a crystal staircase arching like a rainbow over the Central Park Lake (no one else believes her of course), and soon discovers another world called UNork populated with fascinating, intriguing and some scary characters!

Gopnik has a great deal of fun with names in the alternative universe (Times Square Squared), unique situations (food being shot at you with cannons, just open your mouth) and everyday parental quotes you’ve said (“If it weren’t for the coffee and email, I wouldn’t know I was alive,” and “…progressive school, which means they’re progressively draining my bank account…”).

This book deals with themes of identity and the meaning of home.  It is a charming story that will warm your heart and will be read many times for generations, and it is available in standard format in the Rochester Public Library in the children’s section.

Great Quotes From This Book
“Medusa Books? You mean your father’s never taken you there? Well, that’s a long overdue polka on your dance card, Miss Rose.”

“Where was it published? Do you remember that?” Alexandra frowned.  “London? Hong Kong? Maybe Mars?” … it if would be the most normal thing in the world….to be published on Mars.”

Rose :  “You’re only as big as the last brave thing you’ve done.”

For more information about this book, check out the YouTube video featuring author Adam Gopnik as he discusses this book.

YouTube Video with Author Adam Gopnik