Last week in this space, I considered the difficulty that many of us have been having concentrating on anything these days, including reading. There have been many articles in the book-related emails that come into my box every day. For many of us, reading is just something that we do—eat, sleep, play, work and read. But in these strange times, with so much going on over which we have no control, it can be hard to focus on anything other than the news. One of the articles that resonated with me was about re-reading favorite books. I rarely re-read something because I’m always more tempted by the next new book, but this article makes some very good points about the value of re-reading. How about you? Do you re-read some books?
Jo Hansen has found comfort in cozy mysteries and revisiting old friends in Harry Potter. This is what she wrote:
I’ve been struggling getting into books right now, but found a mystery that drew me in right away. After taking several years off from her mystery series, Julia Spencer-Fleming is back with her ninth book, Hid from Our Eyes. The Rev. Clare Fergusson is trying to manage her ministerial duties along with a newborn. Her husband, Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne, has his hands full trying to keep the police department from being eliminated through a referendum. They both get caught up in an investigation of a young woman’s death that is similar to two other unsolved murders decades apart. This is a great way to try out the series, or you can start with the first book, In the Bleak Midwinter. The entire series is in Overdrive/Libby and will appeal to fans of Louise Penny.
I grew up with the Anne of Green Gables books, which prompted me to pick up Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy. The author imagines Marilla’s time as a girl growing up on Prince Edward Island with her brother Matthew. The story explains how Marilla became a lifelong friend of Rachel Lynde and a spinster. It is a fun book to read if you are a fan of the Anne books and offers interesting history about Canada during that time period.
I’m reading Victim 2117 by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a Danish mystery series about Department Q, which tries to solve very cold cases. The newest book offers insight into one of the key people in the department, the mysterious Assad. This is one of my favorite mystery series because of its unusual characters and Scandinavian setting. If you want to start the beginning, pick up The Keeper of Lost Causes.
I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books for my comfort reading. I’ve read the entire series many times, but this is the first time I’ve listened to the books with the excellent Jim Dale narrating. Right now Overdrive is offering #HarryPotterAtHome, where you can read or listen to the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with no waiting.
Ellen writes: After a month of being in a quarantine-related mental fog, I have finally gotten my reading mojo back and am relieved. I found thrillers to be the key to reopening my reading life. Thrillers are fast-paced and make me want to keep reading because I want to know what happens to the protagonist who’s in danger, usually through no fault of her own. (Yes, victims are too often women, but that’s the topic for another blog post.)
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown was brilliant because the reader sees the POV of both the con artist and her main target—both are women from very different worlds and both are sympathetic characters. Even though I knew the con artist was doing bad things, I came to understand her motivations. The book kept twisting and turning until the very last page. Highly recommended. This title is available via both Overdrive and CloudLibrary via Cook Library.
Contrary to my normal reading preferences, I picked up 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand—very definitely a beach read but such a smart beach read. Unbeknownst to everyone in her family and close social circle, Mallory has what she calls a “Same Time Next Year.” Based on the movie of the same title, Mallory has had a secret long-term, once-a-year relationship with a man and that secret is about to be revealed as the book starts. Set on Nantucket Island over 28 years, I felt like I was there on the beach as I read this heart-warming love story. I’m definitely going to read more by this author. If you’re looking for a feel-good read, get this one when it comes out on June 16.
James McBride’s Deacon King Kong introduced me to a neighborhood of folks just trying to get by and keep their kids safe now that drugs have become part of their economy. Set in South Brooklyn in 1969, we meet Sportcoat, who for reasons he doesn’t even remember, shoots a kid he once coached in the neighborhood baseball team in broad daylight. Sportcoat has a lot on his mind, not least of which is the Christmas Fund money his recently deceased wife had collected for the folks at Five Ends Baptist Church. He cannot find anywhere and she’s not helping (she visits sometimes and pesters him). This is a warm-hearted story and I am loving these folks. I used to listen to it while on the treadmill at the gym, so it’s taking me a bit longer to finish since the gym has closed. This title is available on both CloudLibrary and Overdrive through Cook Library.
I know I’m late to this party, but I flew through News of the World by Paulette Jiles which came out in 2016. It is the story of an old Civil War general who now travels through Texas reading newspapers to folks who can’t read or don’t get a paper, which was a thing apparently! At one stop, he is offered a 50 dollar gold piece to take a young girl who had been recently freed from a lengthy Indian captivity back to her parents on the other side of Texas. Talk about an odd couple! Yet despite her unwillingness to leave her beloved Indian family and his reluctance to take on this task, this is the tale of their travels north through the wilds of Texas during the post-Civil war period of martial law. It’s a great book filled with vivid images of Texas, its people and their contentious post-war politics. Two things more to encourage you to read this book now: #1. Jiles has also written another wonderful book featuring a minor character from this book called eponymously Simon the Fiddler which was just released in April. #2. News of the World is being made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and it will be released on Christmas Day 2020. Great books for book discussion and News of the World is available via Hoopla.
Marianne Charles, our intrepid book club coordinator, has also found thrillers a good choice for these strange times. Here’s what she wrote:
I just finished Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. I really liked it!! Writing is not fantastic, but it’s quick-paced and funny. Book is divided not by chapters, but by interconnecting stories set in the 1950’s about a group of African-American sci-fi nerds. Smart weaving in a Jim Crow, slavery and Lovecraftian lore (and racism). Horror, but not very gory. Book has been developed by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams for an HBO series. Only available on Hoopla.
Also, just finished an Icelandic thriller, The Legacy, by Yrsa Siguroadottir. Scary, creepy story featuring a child psychologist and recently promoted detective trying to connect seemingly disconnected crimes via a child witness. Keeps you guessing until the end.
Read a while ago The Other Mrs. By Mary Kubica. Psychological thriller (you sense a theme here??). Main character keeps “missing” time and when her neighbor is killed can’t figure out if it’s her creepy niece who’s responsible or someone else. Twisty and turny til the end.
Thrillers, old favorites and sweet stories seem to be the ticket for the Bookies at Cook Library to get their reading mojo back. We hope that one of these titles will help you get yours back. At least until we’re back at the library and able to chat with you about books in person. Stay well and Happy Reading!