Thanks as always to everyone who sent in suggestions for this year’s Liz’s Book Club.
For our 11th edition, we once again received lots — and lots — of suggestions for good reads:
Darlene Giles recommends the memoir “White Teacher/Black Mama,” written by Anita Kelley D’Abbraccio and Tiffany Lott Stevenson. Stevenson, who lives in Racine, is the “black mama” in the title and wrote the book with her son’s teacher. The mom and teacher, Giles said, worked together to help Stevenson’s son and became friends.
Constance Turner found she couldn’t put down the book “A Baptist Preacher’s Buddhist Teacher” by Lawrence Edward Carter Sr. This memoir, she said, is inspiring in its goals of world peace and harmony.” Since reading it in one weekend, she has loaned the book to several friends. She also recommends “By the Grace of the Sea: A Woman’s Solo Odyssey Around the World” by Pat Henry, in which the author shares her story of sailing around the world alone on her sailboat in 1989.
Richard Beiser, a Los Angeles native who now calls Kenosha home, wrote to tell us about James Michener’s “The Drifters,” first published in 1971. The story focuses on six young characters from diverse backgrounds and various countries as they travel together through parts of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Mozambique. “It’s personally relevant to me,” Beiser said, “because I was living in Spain at the time. As Hemingway once aptly said, ‘There are 155 countries in the world. Then there is Spain.’ I couldn’t agree more.”
Thom Sczygielski of Zion, Ill., “enjoyed John Grisham’s ‘The Reckoning’ (about a murder and trial in Clanton, Miss.) and am looking forward to his next book.” He also recommends the nonfiction book “Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler” by Bruce Henderson. Sczygielski read it after he traveled to Poland last summer. Finally, “from the sports world, I’m reading ‘Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks’ by Ron Rapoport. And a must-read for golfers is the novel ‘Miracle on the 17th Green’ by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge.”
Veronica Brissette wrote to recommend the best-selling novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. The story focuses on a murder in the small town of Barkley Cove, N.C. The mysterious “Marsh Girl” is the suspect. Brissette said the book “will linger in your heart forever. It should be required reading for young girls because it teaches self-reliance, perseverance, academic and survival skills. If Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl,’ can triumph, so can we.”
She adds that “Crawdads” “reminded me of another book I read many years ago about surviving the Depression era. ‘Growing Up’ by Russell Baker paints a vivid picture of hard times and reliance on family assistance that earns the respect of people who survived that era.” The memoir, she said, is “worth your time and attention.”
Bob Wirch — writing as a book lover and not a state senator — tells us “I like nonfiction books. ‘Charged’ by Emily Bazelon explains the great discretion prosecutors have in our criminal justice system.”
Jennifer Burns — who said she looks forward to this book club every year — sent in these suggestions for this year:
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama “has been on the bestseller list for over a year with good reason. Her memoir is intelligent, insightful and inspiring. If there is anyone who hasn’t read this book yet, get a copy immediately. You will have a new respect for our former first lady.”
“Vox” by Christina Dalcher “is set in an America where women have been silenced by law, restricted to 100 words a day. Told from the point of view of Dr. Jean McClellan, the story explores women’s roles and the importance of their literal voices as well as their contributions to public and private life.”
“Facism: A Warning” by Madeleine Albright is “not a light beach read,” Burns said. “It is a call to action for all who are disturbed by events around the world. This is a book you will want to talk about with others, so read it with a friend.
Finally, she tells us, “I recently re-read ‘The Clan of the Cave’ Bear by Jean Auel. Although it was published in the 1980s, it has held up remarkably well. The story of a child growing up as an outsider is timeless and recent science supports the idea of Neanderthal-modern human interaction at the center of the book. Happy reading!”
Sharon Acerbi recommends a cool-sounding novel: “Jane Steele” by Lyndsay Faye, which is modeled after the classic novel “Jane Eyre.” “The author,” Acerbi said, “prefaces each chapter with a quote from ‘Jane Eyre.’ How do you not love a book that begins with, ‘Of all my many murders committed for love and for better reasons, the first was the most important.’ Very entertaining.”
Sue Jozapaitis of Twin Lakes said her favorite author (for the moment) is Karin Slaughter, who writes murder mysteries. “By odd chance, I had won a gift bag from a radio station. Along with gift cards, lotions, cookies and such included a hard copy of her book ‘The Good Daughter.’ This one got me hooked,” she said. She found more Slaughter books at flea markets, including the novels “Faithless,” “Kisscut” and “Tripstych.”
Slaughter’s stories, she said, “twist and turn with who is the murderer, until the very end. Most of her stories take place in Georgia, which has a quaint atmosphere.” In the past 18 months, she adds, she has read 15 of Slaughter’s novels, including “Pieces of Her,” which she just finished. (It’s also about a twisty murder case.)
Barbara Blachowicz, who says she “loves all the recommendations for the Book Club,” sent in her list of recent favorites: “The Girl from Berlin” by Ronald H. Balson, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris and “We were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. “Some are based on true stories,” she said. “And all the books deal with World War II and how people survived to tell the truth about the Holocaust. Great reads!”
Kitty Plovanich tells us she hasn’t participated in this book club in a while, but adds, “I’m the gal who sent in the crazy title ‘Eat, Drink and be from Mississippi’ (by Nanci Kincaid) quite a few years ago.” (Yes, I’ve never forgotten that title; one of the best we’ve received.)
While Plovanich said she has “so many great titles that I could share,” she edited her list down to two this year: The first is “Astrid and Veronika” by Linda Olsson. “This is a very sweet story about two women who form a very unlikely friendship,” Plovanich said. “The story takes place in a rural town in Sweden and involves a very young woman and a reclusive elderly woman. The story follows these two women over about a year’s time and how this duo come to love and respect each other.”
Her second pick is a novel by Abby Fabiaschi called “I Liked My Life.” “This is the story of a family — dad, mom and 17-year-old daughter — and how they deal with the suicide of the mother,” Plovanich said. “This is so well written that it is never dark or depressing. The story is told through all three of the family members. Just like your own family, sometimes you don’t like them very much, but most of the time you love them to pieces. I found myself cheering for them as they made their way and grew through their experiences.”
“I look forward to seeing all the great titles that are sent in this year.”
Sharanne Whitmer recommends “Murphy: Book Five of the Siblings O’Rifcan Series” by Katharine E. Hamilton. “I have enjoyed the series,” Whitmer said of the books about a family in Ireland.
Jan Iselin of Powers Lake admits she has always “loved this book club — and always think I should send in my suggestions. Well, this is the year. I love the David Rosenfelt books starring Andy Carpenter, a defense attorney. They are funny and the cases are entertaining. I loved ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman. Louise Penny writes a good mystery, and her characters follow her with each new story. Her first book is ‘Still Life.’ Also, ‘Small Great Things’ by Jodi Picolt was a good read. Happy reading.” Thanks, Jan, for the suggestions in this year. I’ve read “Eleanor Oliphant” and loved it, too, and have also read the first Andy Carpenter novel and should read some more of those witty mysteries.
Peggy Covelli writes to tell us about “The House For Unwanted Children” by Joanna Goodman. Set in Canada, the novel is about “a 15-year-old whose baby is sent to an orphanage by her father. The orphanage turns into a mental institution. What happens to the children — and the life of the mother in trying to find the child?” She also recommends “No Exit” by Taylor Adams, which she calls “very suspenseful. A college girl is traveling home for Christmas. Her mom is dying from cancer. A very bad snowstorm forces her to enter a rest stop for the night. She sees a girl in a cage in a van. The four people in the rest stop are involved.”
Her third book pick is “Wild Card” by Michael Brandman. In this novel, the first in a series, “Buddy, a police officer, takes down a Russian drug lord.”
Julie Christenbury recommends two books which, she said, “have just one important thing in common.” Her first pick is Gabrielle Zevin’s “The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry,” in which readers will “fall in love with curmudgeonly A.J. He owns a bookstore, so who wouldn’t love him? The second book I suggest was new to me but published quite a long time ago. Get a copy of ‘A Prayer For Owen Meany’ by John Irving. In my opinion, it’s his greatest work.”
She said what these books have in common is “great storylines, of course, but their main characters are absolutely unforgettable.”
Mary Philips — who said she and her husband “moved from Illinois to Kenosha less than two years ago and are lovin’ it” (welcome, Mary) — recommends “anything by Elizabeth Berg, any of David Baldacci’s books, for light reading the ‘tea shop mysteries’ by Laura Childs and ‘My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry’ by Fredrik Backman.” That book, about a 7-year-old girl and her eccentric grandmother, is the latest novel from the author of the best-selling “A Man Called Ove,” a previous Liz’s Book Club favorite.
Tom Groleau of Salem said, for his pick, he’s “going to support a local author and radio personality: ‘The Day Picasso Died’ by Leonard Palmer. The entire Johnny Jump series is a fun read, but this is the first of the set.”
Pauline Hammerbeck recommends people read “A Solider of the Great War” by Mark Helprin. The book “should be included as one of the ‘great American novels,’” she said. “You can read it on a number of different levels. The story itself is well thought out and engaging. The writing is beautiful. But what likely is most striking about the book is the author’s ability to pull out certain truths about life that are just striking. He makes you think about what’s beautiful in this life — even amid great tragedies. It’s the kind of book you never stop thinking about.”
Cynthia Espinosa said she has “one book in particular that speaks to me like no other. Since junior high (Mckinley before it closed, sadly) I have been a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ In 1990, smack dab in the middle of my obsession with that musical, I discovered the novel by Susan Kay called ‘Phantom,’ which is based off Gaston Leroux’s original story.” The author, she said, “tells the complete story of Erik in passionate, page-turning detail, from his shocking birth and his horribly traumatic relationship with his mother to when he became the Phantom of the Opera. The subsequent and fantastic experiences he had after he left his hometown and into the cruel and merciless world shows us exactly why he became the brilliant, talented and violently unstable man he was when Christine met him at the Paris Opera House. Of all the books I read, this is the one I’ve kept for all these years.”
Sarah Tuohy writes to support her husband, Brian Tuohy, a local writer who has published five nonfiction books. His most recent book is called “The Fix is Still In: Corruption and Conspiracies the Pro Sports Leagues Don’t Want You to Know About.”
“He has been on over 100 radio shows including ‘Coast to Coast’ and many others,” Sarah Tuohy said, “and was featured in The New York Post. He has also been in The Wall Street Journal.” Brian Tuohy is the author of a series of books involving sports conspiracies. His work is based on publicly available media reports, his own interviews with athletes and sports figures and FBI files on sports bribery going back decades that he received through a Freedom of Information request.
Karen Stiemsma said, “A favorite I try to read again every year is ‘Ordinary Grace’ by William Kent Kruger. It speaks to the heart, which I think every good book should. I’d be lost without books in my life.” The novel, by best-selling mystery writer Kruger, is about a young man, a small town and murder in the summer of 1961.
Frederick Butzen sent in his book recommendations or, as he calls it, his $0.02 worth: “In a time like ours, which is politically troubled and confused, it helps to get back to basics. My recommendations center on two Founding Fathers, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and a Founding Mother, Abigail Adams. To begin, David McCullough’s biography of John Adams — titled simply ‘John Adams’ — is an excellent read. Adams’ life, as lawyer, scholar, revolutionary and president encompasses the founding of our republic and its first 50 years.
“John Adams and his wife Abigail had a lengthy correspondence during their long periods of separation. ‘The Letters of John and Abigail Adams’ gives a selection of the many letters written by two committed, intelligent people who were passionately fond of each other. If nothing else, they’re worth reading for Abigail Adams’ famous ‘Remember the Ladies’ letter of March 31, 1776. By the way, I recommend the ebook version that is freely available on gutenberg.org over any version I’ve seen in print, because the ebook includes the original edition’s footnotes, which the reader needs to sort out the many people and events that the letters refer to.
“Finally, John Adams exchanged many letters with Thomas Jefferson. Adams and Jefferson had a bitter falling out during the presidential election of 1800 when Jefferson defeated Adams; however, they were reconciled in 1812 and from there to their deaths in 1826 had a rich correspondence. It’s entertaining and enlightening to read the letters of two key founders of our republic in which they ‘riff’ on all sorts of topics — from Greek etymology to religion to their experiences in the revolution. I recommend the edition edited by Lester J. Cappon, which has a helpful introduction to each batch of letters and which footnotes the many references they make and the many passages in Greek and Latin that they quote to each other. It’s enlightening to see the sort of men who founded our republic.”
Jessica DeBoer puts me to shame, having already read 60 books this year. “I always love reading what other folks submit,” she sadi, “except then my to-read list gets even bigger, and there’s no way I will ever live long enough to read them all. Oh, well. First world problems.”
DeBoer said she “typically buys all my books used at thrift stores and from Thrift Books (dangerous!) and then, after reading, I put them in my Little Free Library to share with my neighbors. Very rarely do I read a book and love it so much that I keep it. In the past year or so the few books that I have kept have all been very different from each other: ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angela Thomas is a young adult novel about the struggles of driving while black, living in a tough neighborhood and trying to negotiate living in different cultural worlds. The audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin is incredible.
“‘I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives’ by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda is a true story about two middle school students who become pen pals. Caitlin lives in suburban Pennsylvania, and Martin lives in Zimbabwe. Over the course of many years, they keep up their correspondence despite an increasingly desperate situation for Martin’s family living under the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. This amazing story shows that one person really can make a difference and that perseverance can change lives. It was such a powerful story.
“For those who like a good mystery series, check out the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. Galbraith is actually a pen name for the author JK Rowling, she of the famous Harry Potter series. Don’t let that fool you, though, these books have nothing to do with magic and are definitely NOT for kids. The four books in this series (‘Cuckoo’s Calling,’ ‘The Silkworm,’ ‘Career of Evil’ and ‘Lethal White’) follow private detective Cormoran Strike and his associate/business partner Robin Ellacott as they are hired by clients to help solve mysteries in modern-day London. They are smart, well written and feature complex and interesting characters.”
Judy Steagall is another avid reader. (So happy to see I’m in good company as a book lover!) “I usually read two books a week and often, even if they are excellent books, I simply don’t remember them after another week has passed,” she said. “ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ isn’t one of these books that are easily forgotten. It’s an amazing story of survival and human ingenuity even in young children and how, as adults, we never forget where we came from.” That’s two recommendations for “Crawdads” — three if you count my mom, Jean, who’s a fan of the book — so it’s no surprise this novel has been at the top of the bestseller lists for several months.
Patti Gibbs suggests “anything by: C.J.Box, Michael Connolly, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult. Audiobooks are the way to go for listening to autobiographies or for people who multi-task. (It sure makes painting, driving or housework go by faster). I reserve my books from the Kenosha Public Library. I use the top 10 list from the Kenosha News to assist my choices and reserve them to download on my cellphone. The library is very helpful with getting the app on your phone and explaining how it works.”
Donna Burchfield of Pleasant Prairie — one of the many Liz’s Book Club regulars we love hearing from each year — said “My favorite book this year is ‘The Reckoning’ by John Grisham. I could not put it down. Pete Banning is a war hero, a farmer and father. Then one day he shoots and kills the methodist pastor Dexter Bell, then calmly says “I have nothing to say.” The story goes on and into Pete’s background. What a story! You keep asking WHY?”
Her other picks:
“Obsession Falls” by Christine Dodd. “A great mystery with romance and a little humor. The story begins with Taylor Summer, who witnesses a death threat to a young boy. She distracts the killers and they see her. She is on the run through the woods. She finds refuge in a small town ans starts a knew life. Great story.”
“The Neighbor” by Lisa Gardner. “A young mother vanishes from her home leaving behind one witness, her 4-year-old daughter. She could be the next victim. A great whodunnit.”
“Malice” by Danielle Steel. The main character “killed the man who abused and raped her for four years. No one believed her, so she went to prison. When she got out, she moved to Chicago and started a new life. She was so afraid someone would discover who she was. Happy ending ...”
“Prodigal Son” by Danielle Steel. “This story is about twin brothers who grew up hating each other. They were so different from each other, one was good and the other was bad. Good brother moved away and became very wealthy. Years later he goes back home.”
“Secret Sisters” by Jayne Ann Krantz. “Madeline and Daphne were as close as sisters, until a secret tore them apart. Now it might take them to their graves. Madeline promises to keep a secret to a dying man, but now the secret is out. A good mystery.”
“Granny Dan” by Danielle Steel. “A wonderful story, very moving, about a person no one really knew until after she died.”
Karen Dietz also said she “loves to read and enjoy reviewing the suggestions presented each year i this Book Club. As I was thinking about books to suggest, I realized the ones I enjoy the most have families at the center of the story ... some a bit more dysfunctional than others. Here are my suggestions:
Classics: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. “I have read this book a few times. It really is a timeless story of family, the struggles of immigrants and hope — all told through the eyes of an eleven year old girl. In spite of her circumstances, she perseveres. So many aspects of the story are relevant today even though it was published in 1943 and takes place in 1911.
“Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer. “While this is a long book, I feel it is well worth the time commitment. The story covers multiple generations, and each chapter begins with a list of the current club members. You are introduced to the characters as they graduate from college, marry, raise children and experience all of life’s events from 1868 to 1932.
Current (relatively): “Bloodlines by Neville D. Frankel.” I recently read this book and really enjoyed it. This spans the U.S. and South Africa and mixes mystery and family secrets with politics and apartheid as the backdrop. I think this book would appeal equally to men and women.
“A Place For Us” by Fatima Farheen Mirza. “This is my favorite recently published book. It is the story of a modern-day middle class family told by going back and forth in time and switches the point of view of the narrator so you are permitted to see the same event presented from more than one perspective. It is well written and deals with young love, family expectations and forgiveness.”
Judi Bondi of Salem read “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles after seeing it in our 2018 Liz’s Book Club. Of the novel, she said, “I loved it. It’s about a former Russian aristocrat who is now forced to live in an (upscale) Moscow hotel. He takes pride in dressing well and always showing the best of manners. Nina is his 10-year-old friend, and he aides her through many years and difficulties.”
“Author James Jonasson has given us ‘The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.’ Our hero is Allan Karlsson, who like Forest Gump, has been part of every important event in the last 100 years. Allen learns demolition skills in World War I, demolition and dynamite. He starts his own business at age 15. The story varies between the aftermath of his escape from a nursing home and the episodes of his life among several world leaders.”
She also said, “I continue to be entertained by the Inspector Gamache novels of Louise Penny. Gamache is a Chief Inspector in Quebec. Many of the stories involve the tiny town of Three Pines. The series begins with ‘Still Life,’ but they can be read out of order.”
Bob Cisler tells us about the 1971 Ross Thomas book “The Fools In Town Are On Our Side,” which uses a line from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” for the title. In his novel, Thomas “creates a protagonist named Lucifer Dye, ex CIA, who is paid $50,000 to thoroughly corrupt a town that already is teeming with small town corruption. Indeed, there is an uncomfortable truth about small town politics that permeates the book along with a jaded, cynical, yet humorous view of human nature. Warning — since the book was written in 1971 it is not politically correct.
“Before becoming a writer at the age of 40, Thomas worked for labor unions, PR firms, ran political campaigns and was a consultant to various branches of government. He may have worked for the CIA, yet when questioned merely states he was a ‘civil servant.’ People always said that things weren’t as bad as Thomas portrayed in his books and he replied, ‘no, they are worse.’ What Lucifer Dye and his associate Homer Necessary (what a wonderful name for a character in a corrupt town) discover is that ‘to get better it must be much worse.’ Discover Ross Thomas; you will be pleased you did.”
The second Thomas book he recommends is “Chinaman’s Chance.” In this story, “two morally ambiguous characters named Artie Wu, the pretender to the Chinese throne, and fellow adventurer, Quincy Durant, are quite delightful since they both have their own moral compass. A dead pelican, six trained greyhounds, a large sum of lost money and a trio of singing sisters from the Ozarks are all part of the story with a unique style, sharp dialogue and shady characters that Thomas weaves into this wonderful book.”
Cisler said he also still enjoys what he calls “comfort books.”
“We all have our comfort food (pizza, chocolate, gingersnap cookies) and I believe we all have our ‘comfort books or authors.’ My comfort author continues to be C.J. Box and his protagonist, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett and his ‘off the grid’ friend, Nate Romanowski. ‘Wolf Pack’ is the novel I recommend for readers of Liz’s Book Club. The Wolf Pack is a gang of four killers hired by a drug cartel to find a person. They are probably the most vicious group Box has ever created for his novels.
“Now, Joe Pickett is rather unremarkable and an unlikely hero. He cares about the environment, he cares about and wants to protect the wildlife that adorn his beautiful Wyoming and he serves the people. Just a decent man who is remarkable in his honesty and his ability to think everything through for himself. Joe does just that in tracking down the Wolf Pack in this excellent novel (of course, he does have help from his friend, Nate, who carries the biggest handgun in the world.) Box weaves in commentary on the environment and includes a female game warden, Kately Hamm, in the book. Kately is modeled after the only actual female game warden in Wyoming. Have some food while reading a comfort author.”
Joanie M. Sturycz — another champion reader who puts me to shame — offers what she calls “a couple titles of books that I loved so very much”:
“So Big” by Edna Ferber. “It’s about how a young woman overcomes her adversity after her wealthy father dies and leaves her to find a way to survive.”
“A Girl Named Sooner” by Suzanne Clauser. About a young girl who is being raised by her uncaring, bootlegging grandmother in the mountains and the way she has coped with her childhood. (This is “a real tear jerker,” Sturycz said.)
“Betsy’s Napoleon” by Jeanette Eaton. “I first discovered this book in fourth or fifth grade at St. Casimir’s School in the 1950s. I used to take this book out of the school library at least once a month. It is about a real person, Betsy Bascombe, who lived on St. Helena’s Island at the time that Napoleon was banished there. It is her story of how they became friends. As an adult, I went to the school and asked if they still had the book (and they did) and I checked it out and reread it. The funny thing is that I only identified with the part of the book where she was a young girl and didn’t realize that there was much more to the story after she had grown up. I was able to purchase the book from the nuns. My copy in great condition is a 1952 edition.
“Swan Song” by Robert R. McCammon, which takes place in an America ravaged by nucealr war. “I love reading stories of an Apocalypse and what the people do to survive it,” Sturycz said.
“Ancient Origin Series” by Robert Storey. “These are also books about an impending Apocalypse. I understand that there will be more books in the series. These are fabulous stories.”
“There are so many authors that I love and who grab my emotions,” Sturycz said. “I like any books by James Michener, Nelson Demille, Leon Uris, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts, Jayne Castle, Catherine Coulter, Casey Clifford ( a Kenosha girl and a friend of my sister) and so many others. Then of course, there is the popular ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee and the classic ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy. I read that book in early high dchool. It took me about a week and strangely, I never had any trouble following and keeping track of the characters in the story. I bet in my lifetime, I have probably read at least a million books. Because of my Kindle, I read voraciously. I can usually read one to two books a day!”
Cherie Dumas of Bristol recommends “a trilogy of novels that are based on a rare finding in Paris in 2013. An apartment was discovered that had been unoccupied for nearly 70 years; the owner left it when World War II broke out. All of the contents remained and were dust ridden but many rare finds were located within the place. (You can look it up online and see the beautiful furnishings and artwork that were found). The author is Ella Carey, and the three books are: ‘From a Paris Balcony,’ ‘House by the Lake’ and ‘Paris Time Capsule.’ Yes, the books are a little whimsical fiction, but also historically accurate. Hope the Book Club enjoys them!”
Gail Burgess of Bristol — a Liz’s Book Club regular contributor — sent in boks in her favorite genre: Mysteries.
“In the past year, I reread all of Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone mysteries, capping off the 33-book marathon with ‘The Breakers’ (2018). Each book in the series, starting with ‘Edwin of the Iron Shoes’ (1977) has a stand-alone mystery, although the characters carry over and in some cases felons from the past reappear,” Burgess said. “Sharon has a huge supporting cast of family and friends that the reader gets to know. She discovers she is adopted and finds her birth parents; she meets and eventually marries her husband and partner; her business expands from a one-person operation to something much bigger. All the while Sharon shares her love of San Francisco, her views on issues that remain contemporary 40 years later (!) and takes us across California to some places I’d never heard of before. Plus the mysteries tend to keep a reader guessing, which I like.”
She also recommends the Kopp Sisters novels by Amy Stewart. “Constance Kopp becomes a member of the Bergen County, N.J., Sheriff’s Department in the first novel (‘Girl Waits with Gun’) due to her persistence in capturing a crook,” Burgess said. “Later books follow her adventures as the only woman in the department in the early 20th century. The books are based on actual people. The fifth in this series is due out in September.”
Burgess also “started a new series with a male protagonist and author. The author, James Brenn, has set his character in the midst of World War II, yet I wouldn’t call this a war novel. The main character is Billy Boyle, a twentysomething Boston cop who has been assigned to Eisenhowers’s command because of their familial relationship. In the first novel, ‘Billy Boyle’ (2006), our hero is in northern England where an army is preparing to invade Norway. In the second novel, he travels to North Africa and in the third he is in Sicily; eventually he makes it to Paris. I found I learned previously unknown facts about the war while also enjoying Billy’s character and solving the mystery. The 14th book in the series is coming out in September.”
Jennifer Mikutis recommends “psychological thriller for your book club that I read last summer: Jennifer Hillier’s ‘Jar of Hearts.’ She is a new, upcoming writer of psycho/thriller stories and this by far knocked it out of the park. You will never look at those cinnamon candy hearts the same!! (wink, wink) From the beginning, she pulls you in and you can’t wait to read the next page to see what happened and whodunnit. This book made me read her first few novels and has become a favorite writer of mine. I think your reader’s would agree with me.”
Jean Hoffmann recommends two books: “The Sewing Machine” by Natalie Fergie (2017) and “Love is a Wild Assault” by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland (1984).
“The Sewing Machine” is set in Scotland and tells the story of a literal sewing machine and the people in its life, Hoffmann said. “The individuals stories are interwoven throughout the book, with each chapter bouncing between the life and experiences of Jean (1911), Connie (1954), Annie (1980) and Fred (2016). It’s a unique twist on how lives of individuals intertwine throughout time, this time using a sewing machine as the single commonality.”
“Love is a Wild Assault” is a fictional biography, based on records held in the Texas State Historical Association, of Harriet Moore (1810-1902). “We are introduced to Harriet as an elderly woman, living with her daughter and greatly attached to her granddaughter Addie,” Hoffmann said. “The rest of the book is her autobiography written to her granddaughter. She led a most unusual and adventurous life for a 19th century woman in Texas.”
Robert Hollingshead recommends author Paul Tremblay’s “The Cabin at the End of the World.” This is “not a read for the faint of heart,: he said, calling the novel (about a young family — dads Andrew and Eric, and their little daughter Wen — who are visiting a remote, lakeside cabin on vacation when they are accosted by four strangers who claim to have shared a series of visions that the world is about to end) “a tension packed page-turner that twists and turns throughout. It’s a book I couldn’t set down!”
Scott Bruss says his book picsk “certainly may have been recommended before, but here are some of my all time favorites: ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White; as a grade-schooler I realized that a book can open your eyes and bring you to tears. ‘All Over But the Shoutin’’ by Rick Bragg; a memoir of growing up poor in 1960s Alabama, it shows the strength and depth of a mother’s love; and ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo. You’ve seen the movies, the musical and the miniseries, now read the book! This is a classic for very good reason. But unlike some classics, the unabridged version is very readable and worth every minute.”
Darlene Doil sent in three suggestions:
”Tell No One” by Harlan Coben (2001). “I read this book shortly after it was published,” she said, “and it got me started as a fan of suspense novels. Even after reading all the following Coben novels, ‘Tell No One’ still remains my favorite. It was also made into a foreign film (French), which I enjoyed.”
”The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill (2006; original by Corrie ten Boom 1971). “This story is about Corrie ten Boom’s survivor of Hitler’s concentration camp, but perhaps more so about her dad as a watchmaker in the Dutch community, his unwavering faith and how he risked his life and the lives of his entire family to hide Jews from the Nazis,” Doil said. “It is well written and is a fast read, but with an in-depth and fascinating real-life story.”
”Maisie Dobbs” by Jacqueline Winspear (2003). “I received this book this year for Christmas from my daughter, who thought I might like to get started on the Maisie Dobbs series because it is one of her favorites. And now it is one of my favorites, and I will soon be reading more in the series,” Dpoil said. “Winspear describes a 13-year-old girl who works as a maid in a London household to help support herself and her dad after her mother dies. As the years go by, Maisie becomes a nurse during the Great War and then becomes a detective following the war. It’s just a fun read; perfect for the summer.”
Mary Lou Riordan tells us, “In the early ‘60s as a French student at Dominican College, my French professeur introduced me to a fabulous book entitled ‘Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It was written in 1943 and translated into many languages. The novella is an adult as well as a children’s book. The illustrations are amazing. It grabs your interest immediately as The Little Prince describes his journey from planet to planet, signifying the futile aspects of adult existence.
“I’ve read the English version to my kids in their early years and look forward to reading it to my grandkids. ‘Le Petit Prince’ is a book for the ages.”
Marie Stacy recommends two books: ”The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street” by Susan Jane Gilman, covering 70 years in a woman’s life from her days as girl peddling ice cream, and ”A Painted House,” a 2000 novel by John Grisham, inspired by his own childhood in rural Arkansas.
Marilyn Doxtater recommends Jodi Piccoult’s “A Spark of Light,” James Patterson’s “Step on a Crack” and ”I, Michael Bennett,” Greer Hendricks’ “The Wife Between Us,” Lisa Scottoline’s “Think Twice” and Robert Morgan’s “This Rock.”
Norman E. Gentry recommends two books he says “reflect positive, uplifting choices made during troubled times, giving us hope for America’s future.”
”Leadership in Turbulent Times” by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin “reflects four American presidents’ leadership qualities and how they recognized these qualities in themselves and others when the country most needed them,” Gentry said. The book shows how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt “pulled the country together through the Great Depression and World War II,” Gentry said, adding, “The book contains so many great examples of leadership, it would make great reading in schools throughout our country.”
His other recommended book is ”Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today.” In this 2018 book, witnesses to World War II share their memories with young interviewers so that their experiences will never be forgotten.
“The unique way of having children, some as young as 9, interview Holocaust survivors and members of the Resistance made th second world war come alive,” Gentry said. “Such survivors will not always be here to tell their stories.”