Category Archives: READING

A Book I Wish More Readers Would Enjoy

Sometimes when I interview readers for this blog, I ask: what book do you wish more readers would read?

Today I wish to answer my own question. Not with some thick tome, some bit of philosophy I consider very important. I answer with the title of a moving read too many of you have missed.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles. It is a beautiful read, a tale that scoops one up for a ride that doesn’t stop until the last page is read. Since I wrote about this book previously in a blog post, it became a finalist for the National Book Award. I expect that book clubs will love it.

In this tale of the Old West 10-year-old Johanna, captured by Kiowa raiders at age 6, has lived among them since that time. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd who is a 70 year old war veteran rescues her and plans to take her to live with relatives near San Antonio. It is to be a long journey. Johanna is frightened, doesn’t remember English and is reluctant to go.

The journey is remarkable for a number of reasons. The characters are absolute standouts whose interactions and learnings along the way will amaze the reader. Joanna manages feats more exciting than Wonder Woman on a comic strip page. The author writes movingly of her characters and of Texas in the late 1870s. It is a timely story told in lovely prose.

It is a must read for history lovers and for those that are willing to see an often maligned landscape in a new light. The characters pack a real whollop. This title was named the top book of 2016 by BookPage. Oh, and it’s expected to become a film starring Tom Hanks. Perfect casting. This one I have to see. I hope you read this book and see the movie when it comes out. It’s a small book, filled with a tight, tense story, but so satisfying. Go on – give it a try!


A Boy In Winter: A Novel
Author: Rachel Seiffert
Publisher: Pantheon Books, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 238 pages
Source: Personal Copy

For how long have we in the West wondered what it was like in the Ukraine in 1941, the early years of World War II and before during upheaval in Europe? That part of the world has largely been closed to us until the last few years. But as history unfolds, we are not especially surprised to hear of the enmity between the Ukraine and Russia. Certainly there is such history. Who was more hated by the people of Ukraine? Germany or Russia?

I wonder what day-to-day life in the Ukraine was like then. Yes, I know of Baba Yar? But where exactly was that? The foregoing explains some of the reasons as a reader, I was drawn to Rachel Seiffert’s book, a novel titled “A Boy In Winter”

The following quote sets the tone for this book. “Battle was fear and fury, but it was not confined to armies. It tore through fields and barns and houses, and slaughter didn’t only take the fighting men. It took all in its wake: the village women, the old and the lame, the children; all those with no flame or rifle, no reason for soldiers to heed them.” But soldiers did heed them. There were so many German soldiers doing nothing but terrorizing people. One can’t help but think if they had been deployed to the Russian front, the war might have ended differently. Of course, that is an obvious lesson.

The above quote not only sets tone, but showcases the skill of this author to communicate wisdom and setting through beautiful prose. Even more skilled is the manner in which she creates flesh and blood characters whose stories give a picture of Ukraine in 1941. The scene she writes of Ephraim penned in with fellow Jews, awaiting resettlement and worried for his two sons, missing since daybreak, was so immediate, this reader felt sick to my stomach, and not because I suspected what exactly was to come, but because the suspense, horror and injustice as communicated by Seiffert through her characters and descriptions literally sickened me.

Another character is Yasia, struggling to survive, as are they all, and hoping to find her lover and fetch him home. As the story progresses she shows great compassion for fellow sufferers and risks all for others, not her kin or her lover. Otto Pohl, a German Engineer faced with unfathomable choices, whose fate turns on the most unjust of circumstances. This author writes clearly with great caring and understanding of people in varying circumstances. Emotional depth and mercy are hallmarks of her story.

I found this novel highly absorbing and strongly recommend it for all readers. It is a sorrowful, yet beautiful story. For me, there is a belief that it will cause readers to stop and think about kindness, about who is our neighbor, and about how we face adversity.

The challenges these villagers faced are basic and real, especially in comparison to financial gains, taxes, leisure activities, and privilege that fill so many of our contemporary lives. Perhaps, it must be admitted that Sieffert’s characters were not so concerned about others, until unjust events smacked them so hard they could see the disintegration of their world. When that happened, they turned from their present survival tasks and actively cared for other people around them, with little thought to circumstances or eventual outcomes. Each found a moral compass and followed it.


The first chapter of Wild Things: the Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy is all about Goodnight Moon and its author Margaret Wise Brown. This most delightful children’s book is a pleasure to revisit. Handy calls it a “transcendent masterpiece.”

It is a book that almost everyone knows. It has sold 26 million copies in various editions and has been translated into twenty languages. It’s easy to take for granted. Have you reread it recently? The bright colors, the dreamy quality, and the unexpected transport the adult back to childhood.

Handy tells us it was Brown’s gift to experience the world like a child. If you know some of her other books: The Runaway Bunny, or my favorite The Important Book, among so many she wrote, you know how true that is. “The important thing about the sky is that it is always there.”

Goodnight Moon is so much more than a catalog of a room’s furnishings. Yet, it is hard to put your finger on just what it is that makes it so soothing. Rhythm, yes, but…. Clement Hurd’s illustrations are somewhat unexpected, yet familiar. I love the three little bears sitting on chairs. Nothing takes the youngest child’s attention like the red balloon. Nothing communicates hush and goodnight noises like the darkened room with the night sky showing in the windows.

I did not have this book as a child. So I associate it with the excited but sleepy faces of the many children I have read it to over the years. I have always been completely captivated by this author’s books. I love children’s literature. Bruce Handy’s chapter on Good Night Moon and Margaret Wise Brown helps me understand why.

I’m not sure what else Handy has in store for me in his book. But I look forward to finding out.


The Late Show
Author: Michael Connelly
Publisher: Little Brown and Company, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Hardcover Edition: 405 pages plus excerpt from next Harry Bosch novel
Source: personal copy

Connelly introduces a terrific female detective. She works the night shift for LAPD. That provides the title for the book and for her corner of Hollywood Station. Detective Renee Ballard doesn’t fit any mold. She creates her own world. A talented investigator she solves several crimes that, no surprise, turn out to be related.

It’s an exciting read. The reader is not surprised Ballard is ultra focused, but she’s fierce as she digs into every detail of the crimes she is assigned to solve. She never stops working, and she always pushes the envelope, perhaps further than advisable. Does she ever relax? Not even when she is on her paddleboard. This workout is not to relax but to build upper body strength. Well, maybe she relaxes a bit when alone with her dog. That is not often. Every few pages brings another surprise. The plot is fascinating.

This reader is a Connelly fan. I put The Late Show at the top of the list!


The Marsh King’s Daughter: A Novel
Author: Karen Dionne
Publisher: Putnam, 2017
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Thriller
Hardcover Edition: 307 pages
Source: Personal copy

The daughter of a captive mother and a psychopathic father tells her story of 14 years of modern day captivity in a remote cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The novel opens when the daughter Helena is grown, married and the mother of two daughters. When her father escapes from prison she feels compelled to track him through wilderness that is known to her.

This is a readable suspenseful thriller at least in part because the author Karen Dionne tells Helen’s coming of age story and strive for normalcy in a kind and understanding way. As a reader I admired the patience and caring of the daughter and the author. Movements back and forth in time are handled skillfully. There is never a problem understanding time and place.

Though there are similarities to Room by Emma Donoghue, this reader found this book deeper and more satisfying. The characters seem believeable and the young person’s viewpoint refreshing. The descriptions of the terrain of the Upper Peninsula areas reads very special indeed.

Certainly this is one of the best novels to come out of Michigan. It is superior story-telling – believable and suspenseful. All of the elements of fiction are finely balanced: character, setting, plot, and theme. Each strand of the story is handled with care. It’s a special read; and if you are at all familiar with such places in the UP (as Michiganders affectionately call it) as it’s forest and swampland, Lake Superior Shoreline, Tahquamenon Falls, Seney Wildlife Refuge and natural landmarks as well as its weather, it is likely you will be totally lost in the place and the story.

Don’t miss this read. I’m glad I didn’t.


What an exciting day at the indie bookstore Book Beat in suburban Detroit. A Celebratioin of 35 years of offering many books to their many fans.

Though I missed timing my schedule to match Michigan author Karen Dionne, I’m glad I didn’t miss this celebration. The store, always filled to the brim with good books spilled out onto the parking area.

There’s no place like Book Beat on this day or any day!

Visiting Authors, music and books, books, books.

Book beat has books for all, but as usual their collections for young readers is unbeatable! The store features all things appealing to children.

This place is always great fun

I bought this book. Caught up in the read, I can only say it is terrifically well-written and not to be missed. As someone said, if you read only one thriller in a year, make it The Marsh King’s Daughter.

Here is where you can learn more about the author Karen Dionne. I plan to watch her schedule and not miss my next chance to meet her and hear her speak!

Adult readers are not forgotten.

Thank you Book Beat. An Independent bookstore specializing in Art, Photography and Children’s Books. Located in Oak Park, MI at 26010 Greenfield Rd.


Visit a library and your spirits are likely to lift. I love all libraries. Last week the post of a friend on Facebook plunged me into a pool of comforting nostalgia for the library in the small town where I grew up. It is and was a magical place.

I share some of the libraries I have most enjoyed using over the years.


and Now

Reinbeck, Iowa Public Library

Clinton, Iowa Public Library

Dixon, Illinois Public Library – one interesting note about the Dixon library involves the lower level where local history was available in open stacks. Large grade level windows allowed the sun to stream in on the days I spent there. It was absolutely delightful. There were many comfortable places to read and work. I had the place to myself.

Galena, Illinois Public Library

Bloomfield Township, Michigan Public Library

UW-Madison Historical Library at Madison, WI

Iowa State University, Ames Iowa

University of Iowa Library at Iowa City

Perhaps I have forgotten a favorite, time will tell. Over the years the University Libraries are most likely to change. Hope I identified correctly the buildings I used, when I used them. But do let me know if I’ve made mistakes.

Realizing many of us love all libraries, do share one or two of your favorites.


The Woman In Cabin 10: a novel
Author: Ruth Ware
Scout Press: 2016
Genre: Thriller
Paperback Edition: 540 pages plus sneak peak The Lying Game
Source: Personal Copy


Second self


A huge reading pie is served up at summer-end and into fall. You blog readers want to know what good reads are lurking among the new releases. Look for one that surprises, one you can’t wait to hold in your hands or load onto your kindle.

Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage To Stand Alone by Brene Brown
One may think this book was about hiking but apparently it is about community and belonging.

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett
Here is the latest in Follett’s epic fictional saga set in Kingsbridge during the Middle Ages.
September 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Lousie Penny cares less about the conventions of crime than she does about conscience, or so some say. Inspector Gamache in Three Pines delves into another mystery.
August 2017

Grant by Ron Chernow.
Cherow is well-known for tackling the lives of Washington and Hamilton. In this book he brings readers the opportunity to reexamine the life of Ulysses S. Grant.
October 2017

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan.
This story begins in Depression-era Brooklyn where a girl’s father disappears.
October 2017

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
Word is this is a compelling thriller set in Northern Michigan is one of the newest such books not-to-be-missed.
June, 2017.

Origin: A Novel by Dan Brown
Brown commands a legion of fans; his latest is described as an inventive tale.
October 2017

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! : Simple Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives. By Ree Drummond
The title says it all.
October 2017

Sing, Unburied, Sing By Jesmyn Ward
Her sixth book, fiction, involves a multi-generational family on a farm in Mississippi. Sounds a bit like the television series Queen Sugar, doesn’t it?

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
All are raving in anticipation of this new thriller. How Horowitz has this ready so soon after Magpie Murders seems amazing. This one is at the top of my list even as it is the bottom of this one. Heard about the release on Twitter.
August 24, 2017

Guess if pop albums are announce via Twitter, if government personages release ideas on Twitter, why not the release date of books via Twitter?

Yes, I can vouch for all of these writers except Karen Dionne and Brene Brown.


Open Shelving

Yes, it’s trendy but ….
Be ready to dust and wash!

Loading Flatware in Dishwasher

So many mixed messages on this one. Here we may have the last best word: knives point down, forks point up, spoons alternate.

Create your next Skakshuka with Eggplant

The filling will be delicious and beautiful

Not Coconut Oil

Instead: EVOO, Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Avocado Oil, Sesame Oil
Avocado oil especially for salad dressing
Add sesame oil at the end of cooking for flavor.

And one more – no picture

Use Glass Containers for Storage

This September issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine is a treasure of trends and hints, not to mention great sounding recipes!

Check it out!