martha canfield library

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Russell Collection

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Book Reviews

Wanted: Book Reviews!

Send us short reviews of favorite books you think other like-minded readers will enjoy. E-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or drop them off at the desk.

By the way, if the library doesn't yet own the book, perhaps you'd like to purchase a copy -- at the library's 20-45% discount -- and gift it to the collection. You'll get to read it first! Talk to Phyllis.

Reader's Pick by Martha Folsom

Istanbul Passage: A Novel by Joseph Kanon

Kanon has, rightfully, been compared to Le Carre, Greene and Alan Furst. Istanbul Passage is an excellent spy novel in the tradition of these other writers. Istanbul is drawn with exactness; the convoluted atmosphere of spying in post-WWII is conveyed with lies, shifting loyalties and uncertain motives. Even our protagonist, Leon, isn't sure of his own motives.

Leon has been sent to do a straight-forward pickup. Meet a boat bringing in a man and take him to a safe destination. When it all goes wrong Leon finds he has killed a man and must now ensure the safety of his package. But his 'package' is more than he knows, perhaps a man not worth saving, and a man that every side wants.

Kanon brings out a new book approximately every three years. Each one is worth the wait and Istanbul Passage is no exception

Reader's Pick by Lesley Nase

Beginner's Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life, by Kate Braestrup

If you have ever wondered what words to say when praying, Kate Braestrup's book Beginner's Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life is a book that will make you ponder, laugh, and reflect on your own relationship with prayer. Kate is a community minister in Maine, she does not serve in a church; as she puts it, "I serve diverse populations out in the world." Kate Braestrup is the Chaplin to the Maine Warden Service. As Chaplin, she has been called to assist game wardens and other community members during good times and tough times. Kate's book is broken up into six parts: invitation, siren calls, ask, celebrate, the word and leap. Throughout she has sprinkled family stories, life experience and bible verses. It is not a book telling you what to believe, it is a book that will help you bring prayer to your life in a meaningful way for you. The greatest comfort or acknowledgment that one can offer is prayer whether it is for oneself or others. This book will inspire you to bring grace into your daily life.

Reader's Pick by Lesley Nase

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Susan Hill is an English author who has written many novels but never any crime novels until "The Various Haunts of Men." In this, her first Simon Serrailler crime novel, she wrote to tell the story of "why" someone would commit a crime. Set in a contemporary village in England, you meet ordinary people whose lives are changed in an instant while going about their everyday routines.

A single woman in her mid 50's goes out for her daily run; she vanishes. New DI Freya Graffham has a gut feeling something is just not adding up. DI Graffham connects the disappearance of a young overweight woman in her 20's to the first missing woman. She probes deeper till she has something to present to her boss DCI Simon Serrailler. How are two women, one male biker and one barking dog linked? All went missing without a trace on the Hill.

This first novel sets the place and the characters for the next five novels in the series. Susan Hill has you caring about the characters in a way that will have you identifying with their emotions, and will delight you with their actions and shock you at the end. This "who done it" crime story is an enjoyable read that leaves you wanting to find out more about DCI Simon Serrailler, his family and the fillage of Lefferton.

Staff Pick by Phyllis Skidmore

Beautiful Darkness (The Caster Chronicles, book 2) by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

In the sequel to Beautiful Creatures, supernatural teen Lena Duchannes has suffered a tragic loss and begun to distance herself from Ethan Wate, the mortal she introuduced to the magical world hidden beneath the small southern town of Gatlin. Lena is searching for a way to deal with the family curse that doesn't leave her many options when the time of her Claiming Moon comes, and she must decide which course her life will take.

Meanwhile, Ethan has begun having strange dreams, and tries to discover what they mean and how he can help Lena as he follows her into the tunnels beneath Gatlin and beyond. This atmospheric tale is full of details that develop the characters until we feel we've known them for years. This has a spoiler for the first book, so you should start at the beginning of the series.

Reader's Pick by Mallory Rich

Learning to Swim, by Sara J. Henry

book cover

I thought I'd run out of compelling, well written mysteries to read. Then I found the just-released debut novel by Vermont author Sara J. Henry. Learning to Swim hooked me from the first page and I couldn't put it down. Intense, sensitive, intelligent -- the story pulls you into the life of an almost-ordinary young woman who happens onto a tragedy in "mid-stream," and won't let go. That changes everything.

Reader's Pick by Richard E. Gower

One of Our Thursdays is Missing, by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next, who lives with her irascible pet Dodo, Pickwick, and a hapless house-helper, Mrs. Malaprop, has the good fortune to sleuth among the text-based life forms in BookWorld, an alternative universe that will capture and completely absorb anyone who loves reading about the written word. Thursday reports to Commander James "Red" Herring, overall leader of the BookWorld Policing Agency in the intricately constructed detective series. This latest book took my imagination for a ride in the countryside in an old-fashioned, wire-wheeled sports car, with the top down on a crisp fall day. I knew I was in for a delightful spin when the frontispiece map of Fiction Island showed MP's expenses as a stop along the way to the more established genre towns of Crime, Comedy, Horror and Drama. A whistle stop to be sure, it's apropos of nothing in the story; just an added fillip that gave me yet another delicious shiver and contributed to the whimsy of the adventure.

Reader's Pick by Martha Folsom

Rose in a Storm, by Jon Katz

This book is in adult fiction, on the new books shelf. Good for ages 12 to adult.

Rose is a border collie/shepherd mix farm dog. She has an instinctive understanding of her role on the farm. She knows she must protect and control the animals on the farm and help the farmer, Sam. When an unparalleled winter storm hits the area it takes all of Rose's strength, courage and determination to help save Sam and the farm. Not since Watership Down has a book told from an animal's perspective moved me to such a degree. This is a story of how a deep understanding of one's role in life can impart great courage. Powerfully written, Rose in a Storm is a book not to be missed.

Reader's Pick by Martha Folsom

Killed at the Whim of a Hat, by Colin Catterill
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

My first comment is to say that it seems to me that those reviewers who are comparing this to Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series have read neither series and do a disservice to both. The series do have a few things in common. They both take place in foreign countries; they both feature likeable, female crime solvers and they are both immensely readable. There the similarities end. Mma Ramotswe is traditional – both in build and in philosophy. Jimm Juree is thoroughly modern – small, with a sarcastic sense of humor.

This second series character of Cotterill's, crime reporter Jimm Juree, is as enjoyable as his first, the 70 yr old Thai State Coroner, Dr. Siri Paiboun. In one of her university courses, Juree took a class called Public Oration and Oral Improvisation during which she had to study the oratory skills of President G. W. Bush. In one instance he "fell off the edge of the teleprompter" and was caught between "on a whim" and "at the drop of a hat". He ended up with the terrorists killing each other "at the whim of a hat". Juree is reminded of this when she suddenly realizes that an orange hat plays an important part in the crime she is investigating.

As she tries to get herself out of a sticky spot of bother with two police detectives sent down from the capital she thinks her course hadn't been entirely in vain... "If nothing else, my analysis of George W.'s oratory style had taught me that a sincere countenance and a confident stance were sufficient to distract your audience from the fact that you were talking rubbish." And so, she wings her way out of difficulty.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Bush and you come to realize that they don't seem so outlandish in a society where reality has little to do with official positions. Jimm comments that the Thai police are always willing to call a death a suicide – in order to cover all bases. Two bodies buried in a VW van, someone shot four times in the chest over a twenty minute period, a head in a plastic bag suspended on a rope from a bridge – all definitely suicide. (And it helps keep the crime rate down!)

The members of Jimm's family are there, certainly a bit on the eccentric side, but by the end of the book you love them all as well as Police Lieutenant Chompu with whom she solves the case(s).

I was nervous when I began reading Killed at the Whim of a Hat, because I really loved the series with Dr. Siri and Cotterill ranked up there as one of my favorite writers. I didn't want to be disappointed! By the time I finished the book I was extremely happy and I'm looking forward to more books about Jimm. BUT I don't want the series with Dr. Siri to come to an end, so I hope for more of both.

Staff Pick by Phyllis Skidmore

Flash Forward, by Robert J. Sawyer

Suddenly, without warning, all the people on Earth black out at the same moment for about two minutes. Planes fall from the sky and people have accidents. When the survivors awaken they have to deal not only with the results of the accidents, but with the 'dream' they had of their life twenty-one years in the future. Scientists work to figure out what happened and whether it might happen again. Sawyer is one of my favorite authors. He is excellent at putting a human face to the consequences of our use of technology, both good and bad. This novel was the basis for the ABC television series of the same name, which I did not happen to see.

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