Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Christmas Bells" 
by Jennifer Chiaverini

I read this historical fiction novel just before Christmas, and found myself turning again and again to the poem of the same name, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem is included in the front matter of the book, and it seems as relevant today as it did when it was written in 1863 during the American Civil War.  The story of Longfellow and his family is told in chapters which alternate with chapters of a modern family. Longfellow's son, Charlie, has run off to serve in the military, since his father will not allow him to enlist.  Charlie is wounded and brought home for a long recovery.  The story of the modern-day family is told though the eyes of a number of characters, as the children's choir practices for the Christmas Eve mass. They will be singing the carol that has been written using Longfellow's words.The father of two of the choir members  is on deployment in Afghanistan, and has not been heard from in several weeks.  Chiaverini captures the fears and anxiety of both families, but the novel ends on a hopeful note, wishing for "peace on Earth, good will to men."  Reviewed by Amy @ Harris-Elmore Public Library
"Emma" by Alexander McCall Smith

This adaptation of the classic novel by Jane Austen is another title  in the "Austen Project," in which contemporary authors update Austen's  novels by setting them  in modern times.  McCall Smith is an incredibly prolific author, with several series, such as the Sunday Philosophy Club and the #1 Ladies Detective Agency to his name.  In "Emma," he has faithfully retold the story of Emma Woodhouse, home from university and ready to arrange the lives of her family and friends-whether they need help or not.  Emma is so busy trying to tinker with others lives that she is remarkably unaware of her own feelings.  All the characters are true to their originals-fussy Mr. Woodhouse, boring Miss Bates, dashing Frank Churchill and pliant Harriet Smith.  While Austen purists may quibble with the adaptation, it is a gently humorous read, true to the spirit of the original, and may encourage readers to pick up Austen's novel.  I hope to soon read  "Available," the adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" by Curtis Sittenfeld.  Reviewed by Amy @ Harris-Elmore Public Library.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


by Erik Vance

I found this book to be so interesting, I couldn't wait to discuss the content with my husband.  Basically this book explores how our brains can trick our bodies into feeling something that it shouldn't be feeling.  Many of us have heard of the placebo effect which is discussed in this book but do you know about the Nocebo effect?  Placebo effect eases pain but the Nocebo effect causes pain to the body.  Advertising and price can affect us too.  Many people perceive more expensive wines and foods to taste better than less expensive ones even if blind test tastes refute this point.  All in all, this book, written by science journalist Erik Vance, will really get you to wondering how suggestible YOU are!
Reviewed by Mimi @ Genoa Branch Library


by Roger Rosenblatt

This book is the story of how Roger Rosenblatt and his wife helped their son-in-law and his three children after the Rosenblatt's daughter, Amy, died at age 38.  She died unexpectedly while on her treadmill (in front of her children) of an undiscovered heart defect.  The Rosenblatts move into their daughter's home and mournfully take over Amy's life.  They being able to help raise their grandchildren, while their physician son-in-law works.  Everyone feels the loss of Amy and this memoir tells the ups and downs of learning to live with this tragic loss of a young mother and wife.
Even though it sounds like a sad book, it has many light moments and Rosenblatt is an excellent writer.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


by Beth Macy

This is the true story of Willie and George Muse, African-American albino brothers.  They were born in Truevine, Virginia in the year 1899 to a woman who worked as a black maid.  This is the story of the popularity of circuses and of the Jim Crow south.  When Willie and George were 6 and 9 years old the were somehow taken from their mother and ended up in the circus sideshow as freaks.  They were billed as Ecuadorian White Savages, Ambassadors for Mars, and Sheep headed cannibals.  This is their story of their mother's search for them, the despicable way they were treated, and finally finding peace in their later years.
 Reviewed by Mimi @ Genoa Branch Library

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley 
Because my dad nearly died from a stroke this fall, I wanted to know more about what to expect when someone is dying.  This superb book was written by two hospice nurses.  They share stories from their experiences with the dying to help give advice on how to respond or help with requests from the dying.  This book is not at all depressing.  I learned that many individuals actually choose the time of their deaths and usually go peaceably.  I felt greatly comforted after reading this book.  
Reviewed by Mimi @ Genoa Branch Library

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Unusual Uses for Olive Oil"
by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is the incredibly prolific author of several popular series, such as the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and the Sunday Philosophy Club.  This book is an entry in the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series about Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld.  Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld is an expert in linguistics, and has written the definitive book on Portuguese irregular verbs. Although Von Igelfeld is a genius, he is so socially inept that he makes Sheldon Cooper of the "Big Bang Theory" look like the suave Cary Grant.  He is so wrapped up in his own pride of scholarship that he is unaware of the feelings of others-leading to many comical (and in the case of a poor dachshund, not so comical) incidents.  But even though Von Igelfeld is so self-absorbed, the reader does like him, and finds one rooting for him  If only he hadn't insulted Mrs. Benz...Reviewed by Amy @ Harris-Elmore Public Library