Spring Ahead with New Books

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

Mary Doria Russell Epitaph
This is a fantastic sequel to Doc, her brilliant 2011 novel about Doc Holliday. This narrative concentrates on Wyatt Earp, dissecting the legend and creating a Homeric tragedy in turbulent American history. As only she can, she unearths truths out of myths, creating an epic. Dramatic backstory, detail and aftermath of the O.K. coral. Complicated bittersweet tale of the West in 1881. 30 seconds and several lifetimes. Complex characters, moving bonds of brotherhood.
If you loved the PBS special on the Earps you will marvel at this novel. I think reading Doc first would give you a greater appreciation of this story, as well as look forward to the vignettes of Doc.
All of her books are well worth reading, and five stars. She has a PhD in Biological Anthropology and her research skills are also legendary (19 linear feet of books and source material for his book, to say nothing of recreating a trail ride).

Ian Caldwell The Fifth Gospel
This is Caldwell’s second book and is a fast paced addictive read: part murder mystery, part family saga, part legal thriller and part papal politics. It is a thought provoking, intellectual thriller, again with extraordinary research and moving human drama. Fascinating history of Eastern Orthodox and catholic religions, the shroud of Turin and the gospels as historical teachings. Excellent balance of smart characters, intricate twists, sacrifice and forgiveness.
It needed a map, the Vatican is an intricate mystery on so many levels.
A second reading is possible to rethink some of the detailed information. Recommend listening to the audio book narrated by British actor Jack Davenport.

Neil Gaiman Trigger Warnings
If it has Gaiman’s name on it, I am going to buy it in hardcover preferably, with or without a coupon. In an Indie bookstore if I can. 25 stories and poems about the dark corridors of our imaginations. Most of these have been printed elsewhere: I strongly urge you to get your hands on the illustrated book version of The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains (2010). When I reviewed A Study in Sherlock (2011) I highlighted The Case of Death and Honey as one of the best. It is fantastic to have them collected here, as several were hard to track down. Do not read in one sitting.
(NB The Truth is a Black Cave is exceptionally read by Euan Morton in Stories by Neil Gaiman (2010) RPL has the audio book! I loved the audio book read by Gaiman himself, but first at the Sydney Opera House. BUT Morton’s Scottish voice is absolutely perfect for this Skye folktale. Yes, I have read this four times. Once when published, again when Eddie Campbell illustrated, once listening to Gaiman, and last night listening to Morton.)

Sarah Jio The Look Of Love (2014)
I am not sure how I missed this as I have read all of her novels. This is slight deviation from her usual style, but was a rewarding, enchanting read, once again in modern Seattle. It is an unusual fantasy with interesting characters and journeys we all make with love. The story reveals six types of love found in the family and friends of Jane Williams, who isn’t sure she’d recognize any. Pragma, Agape, Mania, Storge, Eros, Ludos. Happy endings are not necessarily found but it’s charming, heartfelt and well written. A perfect beach read, a perfect cosy Sunday read, or a perfect rainy day escape.

Good reads all summer long!

Review by Helen McIver

Summer is a time for indulgence – a time to get away from it all.
You don’t have to travel, skip the trip and get lost in a good book!
Enjoy the ‘forbidden’ pleasures of reading by the pool, in the shade, in a hammock, on the beach. And remember to read to your child, a grandchild, any child!

Sarah Jio. Goodnight June 2014

I have recommended several of her books before: I simply loved her first novel The Violets of March (which also won a library journal best book of 2011 award, and especially Blackberry Winter and The Last Camellia (still my favourite). Her books take place in a variety of places, from NYC to PNW to England to the Pacific and are often historical love stories/mysteries. I think they are perfect summer reads, for escapes in time, place with fascinating characters and interesting historical events. This tale is also published by Penguin Books, notes for their good literary reads.

Once again she has written a lovely tale, this time about one of our favourite childhood stories Goodnight Moon, (Margaret Wise Brown 1947) because no one knows what inspired her to write this story.
This is a delightful heartwarming story that will make you wish you had a bookstore. It is an important story about installing a love of reading in children (and grandchildren). There are a number of mysteries and secrets that are uncovered mostly through letters between Aunt Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown. Don’t miss this tender story, foremost of family and the importance of being there, forgiveness and second chances.

“When you are looking for something, it is right where you find it.”

“We didn’t have much, but we always had books.”

4 stars (only because, while charming, it was predictable. And disbelief with Bill Gates)
Popular with book clubs


Book Review – “Blackberry Winter”

Blackberry Winter
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love when a book can grab you by the throat in the first few pages, and hang on until the last page is turned.  It doesn’t happen very often.  Too often a book opens with wonderful promise, only to lose my interest half-way through.  Even worse is when a book opens with great promise, keeps me on the edge of my seat through every page, and then drops the ball in the last few pages.  So disappointing that so many books do that.  Thankfully, that’s absolutely not the case with Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  From the first few pages of this book, I was completely hooked; and, as I turned the last page, I did so with disappointment that the story had finally come to a close.  I would miss the characters.

Blackberry Winter tells the story of two women, Vera and Claire, both suffering the loss of a child, but separated in time by more than 75 years.

In 1933 Seattle, Vera Ray is a young woman on her own with her 3 year old son, Daniel.  In the midst of the Great Depression, she’s poor and her resources are limited.  In order to keep starvation at bay, she must leave her precious child alone at night while he sleeps in order to keep her job as a maid at a nearby posh hotel.  She kisses her son goodbye late one May evening and heads to work, only to be shocked early the next morning to step out onto snow-covered streets.  She rushes home only to find her precious son missing from his bed.

In 2010 Seattle, Claire Aldridge is a newspaper reporter assigned to write a story about a freak May snowstorm that has occurred on the exact same day as the one in 1933.  Struggling to find an angle for her story, she notices the police blotter has a brief mention of the disappearance of young Daniel Ray.  Further investigating reveals that his disappearance was written off as “runaway.”  But Claire knows – as every rational adult understands – that 3 year olds don’t simply run away from home.

What happened to Daniel Ray?  It’s a question that Clair simply cannot let go.  As she begins the investigation into what really happened to Daniel Ray, the emotional wounds of her recent loss finally begin to heal.  The need to learn what happened to Daniel and to his mother begins to give her the first “purpose” since the loss of her own precious child nearly a year earlier.  In order for her own wounds to heal, she must find closure for the disappearance of Daniel Ray.

Blackberry Winter is a beautiful novel of loss and healing.  The characters are compelling and made me feel such complete empathy for the plight of both women that I caught myself more than once with tears of empathy streaming down my face.  The story was simply riveting.

This book will be released on next Tuesday, September 25th, and will be available at the Rochester Public Library.

For more information about this book, you can visit the author’s website by following this link.

Check out the YouTube Video Trailer for this book: