Thursday, December 1, 2016

Throwback Thursday - Gift Ideas

For your literary friends,  books by a few of the authors we lost in 2016.

Pat Conroy (1945-2016).  
A Low Country Heart: reflections on a writing life (Nan A. Talese hardcover, 25 October 2016).

This new volume of Conroy’s nonfiction brings together some of the most charming interviews, magazine articles, speeches, and letters from his long literary career. 
Ranging across diverse subjects, such as favorite recent reads, the challenge of staying motivated to exercise, and processing the loss of dear friends, Conroy’s eminently memorable pieces offer a unique window into the life of a true titan of Southern writing.

Umberto Eco (1932-2016).  The Book of Legendary Lands (Rizzoli hardcover, 5 November 2013).

Eco leads us on a beautifully illustrated journey through these lands of myth and invention, showing us their inhabitants, the passions that rule them, their heroes and antagonists, and, above all, the importance they hold for us. 
He explores this human urge to create such places, the utopias and dystopias where our imagination can confront things that are too incredible or challenging for our limited real world. 

Lois Duncan (1934-2016). Who Killed My Daughter? (Delacorte Press hardcover, 1 May 1992).

The heart-wrenching account of her search for the truth behind the murder of Duncan's 18-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, was written in real time as the horror story unfolded.
When the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police department dubbed Kait’s death a random shooting, ignoring evidence to the contrary, Duncan launched her own investigation.
Her search for the answers took her into the underworld of Vietnamese gangs and led her to seek the help of the nation’s top psychic detectives, who, along with a courageous newspaper reporter, provided information that proved to her that Kait’s death was far from random.

W.P. Kinsella (1935-2016).  Butterfly Winter (Enfield & Wizenty hardcover, 1 September 2011).  

The story of Julio and Esteban Pimental, twins whose divine destiny for baseball begins with games of catch in the womb. 
They mature quickly and by the age of ten they leave home for the Major Leagues. Julio is a winning pitcher who, much to the chagrin of any team that signs him, will only throw to his catcher brother, who is a very weak hitter.
As they pursue their baseball dreams, events in their homeland, including political brutalities and the outlawing of baseball, continue to shape their lives. 

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016).  Open Heart (Knopf hardcover, 4 December 2012).

Eighty-two years old, facing emergency heart surgery and his own mortality, Elie Wiesel reflects back on his life. 
His family before and during the unspeakable Event. The gifts of marriage and children and grandchildren that followed. In his writing, in his teaching, in his public life, has he done enough for memory and the survivors? 
His ongoing questioning of God—where has it led? Is there hope for mankind? 
The world’s tireless ambassador of tolerance and justice has given us this luminous account of hope and despair, an exploration of the love, regrets and abiding faith of a remarkable man.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Funny Friday

   FoxTrot by Bill Amend                                                                                              11/13/16

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Teen Tuesday

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey (HarperColins Childrens hardcover, 20 September 2016).


When twelve-year-old Shane Woods' parents divorced, he and his mother moved from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area. He still misses his dad, but his life is pretty good:  he's the star pitcher for his baseball team, the graphic novel he's working on is coming along nicely, and Madeline Duncan seems to like him!

When his mother tells him that he has to miss the championship game to go to San Francisco, he's not as upset as he should be, even though his best friend Josh keeps harping on it, saying Shane can visit his father anytime.

But the real  reason that  Shane isn't upset about going to is that he and his mother are going to see Dr. Anne, the specialist who is helping him deal with his body dysphoria, mainly to discuss whether it's time for him to start testosterone injections.  

Yes, Shane was born with the physical characteristics of a female, though he can't remember ever feeling like a girl.  His body still looks like a girl's, and he's terrified that someone in his new school will find out.  

When he accidentally mentions the name of the school he went to in San Francisco, and the class bully says he knows someone there, Shane knows it's only a matter of time before his secret is revealed.

M.G. Hennessey has written a sensitive and thoughtful book about a transgender boy in middle school.  The story is even more powerful for being written in the first person from Shane's viewpoint.  Interspersed with the narrative are excerpts from Shane's graphic novel.  
This is a realistic and emotional story that deserves a spot in all libraries.

FTC Full Disclosure:  Many thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Brush With the Paranormal

By special guest Lena Gregory.

Lena lives in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island with her husband and three children.

When she was growing up, she spent many lazy afternoons on the beach, in the yard, anywhere she could find to curl up with a good book. She loves reading as much now as she did then, but she now enjoys the added pleasure of creating her own stories.

Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal? An experience that you couldn’t explain away, no matter how hard you tried? Have you ever visited a psychic?

In Death at First Sight, Cass Donovan leaves her psychiatric practice in New York City after a
series of unfortunate events and returns to her childhood home on Bay Island. Though Cass doesn’t really consider herself psychic in any traditional sense, she’s always been very intuitive. She’s always had a gift for “reading” people. 

As a teenager, Cass worked the beach and the boardwalk, approaching tourists and offering a glimpse into their lives. She only charged if her predictions proved accurate. More often than not, they did. 

When she returns home, it seems natural to return to giving “readings.” Not because she wants to con anyone, but because she wants to help people. Helping to ease the grief many of her clients suffer helps Cass to heal. She offers individual readings, which tend to be more intimate, and group readings, which have become quite popular on Bay Island.

The idea for Cass’s character began with my own experience visiting a psychic. I’ve always been interested in the supernatural, fascinated with the idea of a world beyond our own. A number of people mentioned a psychic they visited to me. Jay. Supposedly, she was very accurate. 

A friend of mine was having a difficult time conceiving and was undergoing treatments but not having any luck. She was starting to give up hope when she went to the psychic. Jay predicted the birth of her second son before she was pregnant and only missed his birth date by two months.

My sister went to see her, and she told her exactly what she’d be doing over the next few years, and she nailed it almost perfectly.

So I figured, why not give it a try? 

One of the things I learned during my reading is that spirits don’t just sit down for a chat, at least, not with Jay. Instead, they send symbols and signs, which she then has to interpret. 

She mentioned my brother, who passed away about six months before I went to see her, but not by name. She said she saw something to do with hair. As silly as it might seem, our hair was always a big joke between my brother and I. When we were kids, I had stringy blonde hair. And he had aheadful of thick brown hair with gorgeous natural highlights, you know, the kind women pay a fortune for! And, from the time he was a teenager, he always wore it long. 

Even after he was grown and working as an air traffic controller, he didn’t cut his hair.
I do have to say, Jay’s predictions about what I’d be doing within the next few years have proven remarkably accurate. 

The one thing I found odd was the unexpected sense of peace the reading left me with. I’m kind of a high-strung person, always taking on too much then running around like crazy trying to get it all done. I move fast, I talk fast, and I rarely relax. I don’t sleep much, usually only a few hours a night. I worry about everything. And I do my best work under pressure.
Yet, when I walked out of Jay’s house, a sense of peace and calm I’ve never experienced before settled over me. 

I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. I didn’t feel pulled in twenty directions. I just
felt calm, peaceful, serene. I would go back to her in a heartbeat, just to recapture that feeling.

So, back to my original question. Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal? Have you ever visited a psychic? 
Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Please welcome Jenn McKinlay!

Twenty years ago, The Catcher in the Rye was checked out to Candice Whitley, a teacher, on the day she was murdered. When the book is returned to the Briar Creek Public Library during its fine amnesty day, librarian and amateur sleuth Lindsey Norris can’t help but think it might be a clue to the cold case that has haunted the small coastal town for decades. And so starts Better Late Than Never, the seventh title in my Library Lover’s Mystery series.

Why The Catcher in the Rye? This has probably been the question I’ve been asked the most since I wrote the book. It’s a really good question. I wish I had a really good answer. But I don’t. Frankly, my relationship with the novel has been a love hate relationship over the years.

I first read Salinger’s story about Holden Caulfield when I was in high school. Full disclosure, I hated it. I thought Holden was a whiner and his ceaseless complaining about everyone being a phony grated on my nerves. Of course, in high school, I was heavily into genre fiction (that has never changed) so I wasn’t really enjoying any of the literature I was reading. Faulkner gave me fits!

Like a bad penny, Catcher showed up again in my college years. I hated it less as I was feeling rather anti-establishment myself and Holden’s angst and confusion, as I dipped my toe into adulthood, made more sense to me. He seemed to be able to read people with a clear-eyed gaze and was frequently disappointed in them and their lack. By that time, I had met a few disappointments myself. We were not friends but I felt less animosity towards the book. 

Then I began my library career. Reader’s advisory was my jam so I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I was lucky enough to be the fiction selector for three years in my first library job in Cromwell, CT, so I read every issue of the New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, etc., all in my quest for the best the fiction world had to offer. (Side note: some of these publications could be very harsh to authors and the fact that Publisher’s Weekly gave me a starred review for one of my first mysteries still makes me Snoopy dance). 

In addition to keeping up with the latest and greatest, I also encouraged my patrons to read the classics and as a librarian I became a big promoter of encouraging people to read banned books. Well, guess which book in the twentieth century is one of the most frequently challenged and banned? Yes, you got it – The Catcher in the Rye.

Why was it banned? Vulgar language, drinking, promiscuity, not fit for children, yada yada, the same old noise that is always made when something challenges preconceived notions of appropriateness. 

As I look at my own journey with the book, I realize it was not a novel I could appreciate as a teen but when I read it again before writing Better Late Than Never, I actually fell a little in love with the damaged Holden Caulfield. I had finally lived enough life, known pure joy and tremendous sorrow, to understand him and his desire to be “the catcher in the rye” the keeper of children’s innocence. So, that’s why I chose to use The Catcher in the Rye as the book that was checked out to the victim in Better Late Than Never.

Now the only question is, does the book help Lindsey solve the case of who murdered high school English teacher Candice Whitley?

Thanks for letting me visit!

Happy Reading,


Jenn McKinlay
is the New York Times 
bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries
the Hat Shop Mysteries
and the Library Lover’s Mysteries
As Josie Belle, she writes the Good Buy Girls Mysteries
and as Lucy Lawrence, she wrote the Decoupage Mysteries
She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her family.*

*Biography from publisher's website