What is on your “To Read” list?

I was recently updating my library account information here at work and realized my “To-Read” list was out of control! I will oftentimes add books as a note on my library record when patrons give me recommendations and pull from there when I am looking for a new book to check out. Well, I have obviously been neglecting that list as of late. –Time to get to it! Below is mine with links to goodreads reviews. We would love to see yours!





Patron Recommendations: October 2012

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

“Amazing portrait of life on the Hebrides Islands, where a couple struggles to maintain their relationship in a place of extreme and brutal poverty.” ~SWHPL Patron

From Goodreads:

A portrait of a marriage, a meditation on faith, and a journey of conquest and self-discovery, Island of Wings is a passionate and atmospheric novel reminiscent of Wuthering Heights.

July, 1830. On the ten-hour sail west from the Hebrides to the islands of St. Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil McKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders, and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil’s journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St. Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie — bright, beautiful, and devoted — this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. She is sure only of her loyalty and love for her husband, but everything that happens from now on will challenge all her certainties.
As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and subsist on a diet of seabirds, and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage — and their sanity — is threatened. Is Lizzie a willful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil’s zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops?
Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, Island of Wings is more than just an account of a marriage in peril — it is also a richly imagined novel about two people struggling to keep their love, and their family, alive in a place of terrible hardship and tumultuous beauty.”


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

From Goodreads

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.”


The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

From Goodreads:

“Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.”


Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

“Centers around 3 women from their teen years until their 40’s growing up and going through WW II together. A real page turner. Reminded me of The Help in many ways.”      ~ SWHPL Patron

From Goodreads:

“For fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Postmistress, and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave set during the years of World War II and its aftermath.
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.”

Welcome to SWHPL Readers’ Advisory!

One of my favorite jobs as a librarian is connecting people with books….in fact it is one of my favorite things to do in and out of work! I love readers’ advisory and I am very excited to be able to create a forum online where I can share some of what I know about the world of books as well as connect with my wonderful community online. On these pages you will find links to staff picks and reviews, helpful links related to finding and researching books as well as a variety of fun ways to contribute and show off your own collections. I will keep the library blog fresh and current, so return here often for monthly staff and patron reviews and picks as well as fun and interesting information I want to share with you. If you click on the monthly archive links on the bottom of the right-hand sidebar you will be able to sort through some past book reviews. Also on the right sidebar of each Book Nook page you will find a form you can use to submit to me your own book reviews. You can always email me directly at lmurray@swharbor.lib.me.us or connect with us on facebook here.

Staff Picks for Fall 2012

Vesta Kowalski

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
~This is about as far from Harry Potter as it is possible to get. It’s hard to find a likeable character among the many (all just slightly overdrawn) whose stories are followed, but the cumulative effect is to immerse the reader in the gritty reality of the lives behind the ever-present statistics of poverty, welfare and drug abuse. Although the setting begins with a peculiarly English situation, it requires no great leap to see our own culture reflected here, and to hear the cry of help from an author whose own life began in similar circumstances.~

From Publisher’s Weekly, Sep 27, 2012
“On the face of it, Rowling’s first adult book is very different from the Harry Potter books that made her rich and famous. It’s resolutely unmagical: the closest thing to wizardry is the ability to hack into the amateurish Pagford Parish Council Web site. Instead of a battle for worldwide domination, there’s a fight over a suddenly empty seat on that Council, the vacancy of the title. Yet despite the lack of invisibility cloaks and pensieves, Pagford isn’t so different from Harry’s world. There’s a massive divide between the haves and the have-nots—the residents of the Fields, the council flats that some want to push off onto a neighboring county council. When Councilor Barry Fairbrother—born in Fields but now a middle-class Pagforder—dies suddenly, the fight gets uglier. In tiny Pagford, and at its school, which caters to rich and poor alike, everyone is connected: obstreperous teenager Krystal Weedon, the sole functioning member of her working-class family, hooks up with the middle-class son of her guidance counselor; the social worker watching over Krystal’s drug-addled mother dates the law partner of the son of the dead man’s fiercest Council rival; Krystal’s great-grandmother’s doctor was Fairbrother’s closest ally; the daughters of the doctor and the social worker work together, along with the best friend of Krystal’s hookup; and so on. Rowling is relentlessly competent: all these people and their hatreds and hopes are established and mixed together. Secrets are revealed, relationships twist and break, and the book rolls toward its awful, logical climax with aplomb. As in the Harry Potter books, children make mistakes and join together with a common cause, accompanied here by adults, some malicious, some trying yet failing. Minus the magic, though, good and evil are depressingly human, and while the characters are all well drawn and believable, they aren’t much fun.”

Read A Likes:
An awfully big adventure, Beryl Bainbridge
Something Happenned, Joseph Heller
Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis


Lisa Taplin Murray

The Invisibles by Hugh Sheehy

~There’s nothing I enjoy more than character driven short stories. Yes these stories are dark, many deal with murder, crime or a mystery, but it is through these plot devices that the inner world of the characters shine through.~

From Goodreads:

“Though Hugh Sheehy’s often tragic, sometimes gruesome stories feature bloodied knives and mysterious disappearances, at the heart of these thoughtful thrillers are finely crafted character studies of people who wrestle with the darker aspects of human nature—grief, violence, loneliness, and the thoughts of crazed minds.

Sheehy’s stories shine a spotlight on the bleak fringes of America, giving voice to the invisibles who need it most. A dismal assistant teacher spiking her coffee after school is suddenly locked in a basement with a student who has just witnessed his father’s murder. A seventeen-year-old girl at a skate rink whose name no one can remember is motherless, friendless, and sure she will be the next to go. The heartbroken victim of a miscarriage dreams of her fetus’s voyage through the earth’s plumbing. The estranged addict son, certain of his innate goodness, loses himself in a blizzard and fails his family again. Sheehy’s characters learn that however invisible they may feel and whatever their intentions, their actions incur a cost both to themselves and those around them. They struggle to tame or come to terms with the forces they meet—the tragedies—that are far larger than their small existences. In this debut, Sheehy illuminates the all-but-silent note of adult loneliness and how we cope with it or, perhaps, just move past it”

Read A Likes:




State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Lisa Taplin Murray

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
~I really enjoyed Patchett’s Bel Canto but wasn’t so crazy about her 2008 Run so I thought I’d give State of Wonder a try after hearing great things about it from our patrons. I was quite entranced by the two main characters, a scientist for a drug company, Marina, and her former mentor and researcher gone rogue in the Brazilian jungle, Dr. Swenson. I was struck by the illusions to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of my all-time favorite books, but Patchett was able to twist the story off that path and into her own world. Patchett writes great characters and while I would say her writing edges on philosophical literary fiction, this book skims that surface without getting too heavy. Questions of medical ethics, cultural sensitivity, aging and womanhood, as well as the many facets of love and friendship are all brewing in State of Wonder.~

From Publisher’s Weekly, 4/4/2011
“Patchett is a master storyteller who has an entertaining habit of dropping ordinary people into extraordinary and exotic circumstances to see what they’re made of. In this expansive page-turner, Marina Singh, a big pharma researcher, is sent by her married boss/lover to the deepest, darkest corner of the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague, Anders Eckman, who had been dispatched to check on the progress of the incommunicado Dr. Annick Swenson, a rogue scientist on the cusp of developing a fertility drug that could rock the medical profession (and reap enormous profits). After arriving in Manaus, Marina travels into her own heart of darkness, finding Dr. Swenson’s camp among the Lakashi, a gentle but enigmatic tribe whose women go on bearing children until the end of their lives. As Marina settles in, she goes native, losing everything she had held on to so dearly in her prescribed Midwestern life, shedding clothing, technology, old loves, and modern medicine in order to find herself. Patchett’s fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure, a juggernaut of a trip to the crossroads of science, ethics, and commerce that readers will hate to see end.”

Read A Likes:
An Obvious Enchantment, Tucker Malarkey
The Tattoo Artist, Jill Ciment
The White Mary, Kira Salak


Kate Pickup-McMullin

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
~A fun western rolic with strong characters. Very classic storytelling style.~

From Publisher’s Weekly,1/10/2011
“Dewitt’s bang-up second novel (after Ablutions) is a quirky and stylish revisionist western. When a frontier baron known as the Commodore orders Charlie and Eli Sisters, his hired gunslingers, to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm, the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually to Warm’s claim in the Sierra foothills, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers. Eli’s deadpan narration is at times strangely funny (as when he discovers dental hygiene, thanks to a frontier dentist dispensing free samples of “tooth powder that produced a minty foam”) but maintains the power to stir heartbreak, as with Eli’s infatuation with a consumptive hotel bookkeeper. As more of the brothers’ story is teased out, Charlie and Eli explore the human implications of many of the clichés of the old west and come off looking less and less like killers and more like traumatized young men. With nods to Charles Portis and Frank Norris, DeWitt has produced a genre-bending frontier saga that is exciting, funny, and, perhaps unexpectedly, moving.”

Read A Likes:
The Hawkline Monster, Richard Brautigan
True Grit, Charles Portis
Welcome to Hard Times, E. L. Doctorow
God’s Country, Percival L. Everett


Candy Emlen
Defending Jacob by William Landay
~I really liked it; the writing is solid and the story gave me a lot to think about.~

From Publisher’s Weekly, 10/24/2011
“Andy Barber, a respected First Assistant DA who lives in Newton, Mass., with his gentle wife, Laurie, and their 14-year-old son, Jacob, must face the unthinkable in Dagger Award–winner Landay’s harrowing third suspense novel. When Ben Rifkin, Jacob’s classmate, is found stabbed to death in the woods, Internet accusations and incontrovertible evidence point to big, handsome Jacob. Andy’s prosecutorial gut insists a child molester is the real killer, but as Jacob’s trial proceeds and Andy’s marriage crumbles under the forced revelation of old secrets, horror builds on horror toward a breathtakingly brutal outcome. Landay (The Strangler), a former DA, mixes gritty court reporting with Andy’s painful confrontation with himself, forcing readers willy-nilly to realize the end is never the end when, as Landay claims, the line between truth and justice has become so indistinct as to appear imaginary. This searing narrative proves the ancient Greek tragedians were right: the worst punishment is not death but living with what you—knowingly or unknowingly—have done. Author tour.”
Read A Likes
The Good Father, Noah Hawley
We Need to Talk about Kevin, Lionel Shriver
Vesta Kowalski
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.
~I really enjoyed this and think it would be a treat for many readers who like both Jane Austen and P.D. James. This great mystery writer, who’s now in her 90s, has departed from he usual time and place to involve the familiar characters from Pride and Prejudice in a mystery that gives her an opportunity to develop their characters in a direction that Jane Austen might, or might not, approve. (P.D. James opens with an apology to Jane Austen, and a suggestion that if Austen had chosen to tackle this kind of material, she would probably have done it better — which may or may not be the case.)~
From Publisher’s Weekly, 12/19/2011
“Historical mystery buffs and Jane Austen fans alike will welcome this homage to the author of Pride and Prejudice from MWA Grand Master James, best known for her Adam Dalgliesh detective series (The Private Patient, etc.). In the autumn of 1803, six years after the events that closed Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Darcy, the happily married mistress of Pemberley House, is preparing for Lady Anne’s annual ball, “regarded by the county as the most important social event of the year.” Alas, the evening before the ball, Elizabeth’s sister Lydia, who married the feckless Wickham, bursts into the house to announce that Captain Denny, a militia officer, has shot her husband dead in the woodland on the estate. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, who purists may note behaves inconsistently with Austen’s original, head out in a chaise to investigate. Attentive readers will eagerly seek out clues to the delightfully complex mystery, which involves many hidden motives and dark secrets, not least of them in the august Darcy family. In contrast to Pride and Prejudice, where emotion is typically conveyed through indirect speech, characters are much more open about their feelings, giving a contemporary ring to James’s pleasing and agreeable sequel.”
Read A Likes
Murder at Mansfield Park, Lynn Shepherd
Lady Catherine’s Necklace, Joan Aiken
Pride and Prescience, or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged, Carrie Bebris
Susan Plimpton
The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
~I have always loved Eva Ibbotson’s books, but missed this one till now. It was recommended by a well read young patron. She was right, I loved it! Reminds me of “A Little Princess” by Frances Hogdon Burnett, only more colorful and whimsical. Perhaps less believable but more fun? There are so many great characters and plot devices. The setting is rich with  pictures of a warm loving home life ; you can almost smell the cinnamon rolls baking  and the bee’s wax used for polish. Foundling Annika takes pure delight in learning new skills to please her two mothers. It’s a great example of foundling or adopted love with plenty of plot twists to keep it light. It conjures such wonderful images I’m surprised it’s not a movie… actually it doesn’t need to be, because the author writes “pictures” so well. It’s such an  engaging book, I will love recommending it.~
From Publisher’s Weekly, 11/29/2004
“Although there are no ghosts at large, this fairytale-like novel set in Vienna during Franz Joseph’s reign features the same unique blend of bigger-than-life adventure, sparkling wit and intricate plotting that characterizes Ibbotson’s previous novels (The Secret of Platform 13). Annika, a foundling, has been lovingly raised by two servant women working in the household of three professors in the heart of the city. Annika has enjoyed a happy childhood there, surrounded by friends. Even snooty Loremarie Egghart redeems herself by unwittingly forging a friendship between the heroine and Loremarie’s great-aunt, who was once a theater attraction in Paris and whose health is ailing. Still, Annika wonders about her past and dreams of some day meeting the mother who abandoned her as a baby. Then one day a stately German woman named Edeltraut von Tannenberg claims Annika as her long lost daughter and promptly whisks her off to Spittal, a gloomy, rundown estate up north. More at home in the kitchen than in the drafty dining room, Annika finds that the only people she can relate to are the servants, especially free-spirited Zed, a gifted horse handler who plays a key role in uncovering the ulterior motives of Edeltraut and rescuing Annika from a dangerous situation. Readers will never doubt for a moment that Annika will rediscover happiness. But following the twisting path (of carefully planted details) that leads to her complicated rescue proves to be a fun-filled trip full of surprises. Ages 10-up.”
Read A Likes
The Red Necklace, Sally Gardner
A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly
Rhiannon, Vicki Grove