While You’re Waiting for Girl on the Train…

Many weeks as a bestseller has placed debut psychological thriller Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins on everyone’s “Must Read” list. While you’re waiting, or even if you’ve already devoured a copy and are yearning for more fast-paced and compelling psychological suspense, the Library has some suggested titles to tide you over.

Never Look Away – Linwood Barclay Cover image for

Little Black Lies – S.J. Bolton

Don’t Try to Find Me – Holly Brown

The 19th Wife – David Ebershoff

Hausfrau – Jill Alexander Essbaum Cover image for Hausfrau

Losing You – Nicci French

The Secret Place – Tana French

The Other Woman’s House – Sophie Hannah

The Silent Wife – A.S.A. Harrison Cover image for

Into the Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

The First Prophet – Kay Hooper

The Line Between Here and Gone – Andrea Kane

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica Cover image for

Defending Jacob – William Landay

Mystic River – Dennis Lehane

What the Dead Know – Laura Lippman

Dear Daughter – Elizabeth Little

Sister – Rosamund Lupton Cover image for

The Intruders – Michael Marshall

Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

Cover of Snow – Jenny Milchman

Jack of Spades – Joyce Carol Oates Cover image for

Where Serpents Lie – T. Jefferson Parker

The Expats – Chris Pavone

The Collector – Nora Roberts

Suspect – Michael Robotham Cover image for

Unbecoming – Rebecca Scherm

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

Caribou Island – David Vann

The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

Under the Lake – Stuart Woods

Looking for more? Check out our “If You Like… Gone Girl” link.


150-Year-Old Newspaper Articles of Mark Twain Discovered

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is one of the most celebrated authors of American literature, penning works such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Roughing It (1872), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court   (1889). These classic novels have become standard repertoire for students in middle and high school.

Huckleberry    Tom Sawyer    Roughing It    Yankee

Recently, some of Mark Twain’s 150-year-old newspapers articles have been uncovered by scholars at the University of California (Berkley). In 1865 and 1866, Twain wrote for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper of Virginia City, Nevada, where he was paid $100 a month for his labor. At the Territorial Enterprise, Twain wrote a six-day-a-week, two thousand word column about life in San Francisco. These letters were written early in his career when he was 29.

An additional document suggests that Mark Twain had tackled the idea of suicide. At the time of the letter being written, Twain faced extreme debt, frustration at his lack of career advancement, and struggle to find his writing identity. Fortunately for the literary community, Mark Twain developed his talents and went on to become one of the fathers of American Literature.

For more information about these recently uncovered letters by Mark Twain, please view the articles below.

Letter by Mark Twain Suggests He Once Contemplated SuicideTime

Lost Mark Twain Stories Recovered by UC Berkeley ScholarsLos Angeles Times

Mark Twain’s Suicidal Thoughts Revealed in Rare 150-year-old LettersNational Post

What the Staff is Reading

CloseyourEyesHoldHandsChris Bohjalian’s powerful new novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands will appeal to older teens as well as adults. Sixteen-year-old Emily is on the run, homeless after her parents are killed in a nuclear power plant explosion, an explosion that her parents are suspected of causing. She finds herself hanging out with a bad crowd, and yet becomes fiercely protective of a young boy who falls under her protection. As in other novels by this author, difficult subjects are handled with integrity and sensitivity.

SleepingDictionaryReaders of multicultural fiction will enjoy The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey. In this historical epic, attention to detail  and great character development make for a long but enjoyable read. It is the story of Pom, a young Bengali girl who loses her entire family in a tsunami in 1930. Her story of coming of age , reinventing herself and seeking personal independence is set against the stage of India’s independence movement. There are similarities to Memoirs of a Geisha as far as mood, and the story also makes a great book to listen to.

One staff member really enjoyed We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler,  but says it’s much better if  you don’t know what’s coming, so no spoiler alerts! The story evolves around a girl coming of age in an eccentric family.

IndomitableWillFor nonfiction fans, Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency by Mark Updegrove is a great book to listen to, as it includes historical audio snippets of LBJ speaking. The entire book was a real eye opener for one staff member, as she had previously associated LBJ mainly with  the Vietnam War. Instead, this book concentrated on the positive social reforms for education, civil rights, and health care LBJ achieved, as well as helping to understand the background of poverty he came from.

MenExplainAnother good nonfiction book is Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. In this collection of essays, the author examines what goes wrong in communications between men and women. The end results can be hilarious and there is a great deal of humor involved, although the book ends with a now-classic serious essay on violence against women.


Literary World Awaits the Release of Go Set a Watchman

On July 14, 55 years after Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee will be releasing her much anticipated second book, Go Set a Watchman. While much speculation still exists as to why Harper Lee waited this long to release her second novel, one thing is clear: Go Set a Watchman will become one of the mega bestsellers of Summer 2015.

To Kill A Mockingbirdgo set a watchman

Though this might be Harper Lee’s second published book, Go Set a Watchman was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird. The original editors from the 1950’s were more interested in Scout’s memories of her childhood and advised Lee to expand the novel on that idea.

Since its release date in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird has sold more than 40 million copies. Over 1 million copies of To Kill a Mockingbird are still sold a year, in a total of 40 languages. Go Set a Watchman is already #1 on Amazons Best Sellers Rank and the publishing firm HarperCollins plans on releasing 2 million copies.

Harper Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. In 1999, To Kill a Mockingbird was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by Library Journal. In 2007, Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature by President Bush. President Obama honored her with the National Medal of Arts in 2011.

For more information on Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman, look no further. Here are some recent noteworthy news articles on the details surrounding the release of the Harper Lee’s second novel.

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman Will Realign the Literary UniverseTime Magazine

Reese Witherspoon to Narrate Harper Lee’s Go Set a WatchmanTime Magazine

Alabama Officials Find Harper Lee in Control of Decision to Publish Second Novel – New York Times

Harper Lee to publish sequel to To Kill a MockingbirdThe Washington Post

Charmed, I’m Sure

I’m always a sucker for the “quirky charmers” – books that in some way surprise or set off in a direction I wasn’t expecting but will gladly follow. Whether it is slightly odd characters and/or a story with a certain amount of eccentricity, by the end I find myself delighted even if (or perhaps because) they strayed away from the usual path.

Etta and OttEttaOttoRussellJameso and Russell and James by Emma Hooper  Although she lives on the Saskatchewan prairie, 83-year-old Etta decides it’s time to go see the ocean – and sets off walking.  A marvelous story of love, loyalty and friendship.


2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino – The title was enough to get me started on this tale filled with off-beat humor, and a smart-mouthed 10-year-old who is desperate to sing and reconnect with her widower father.

familyfangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson – The humor is a bit darker in this smart story of adult children trying to come to grips with their crazy performance artist parents. (In my book journal I noted that I both liked AND disliked the ending!) A book to try if you liked Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

presidentshatThe President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain – Gallic charm and social commentary abound in this tale of the travels of Francois Mitterand’s hat. Or, if you prefer, head to London and be delighted by the Queen’s discovery of a bookmobile in The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen – Publisher’s Weekly summed this up nicely: “Fans of Wes Anderson will find much to love in the offbeat characters and small (and sometimes not so small) touches of magic thrown into the mix during the cross-country, train-hopping adventure of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy, T.S. Spivet.”

Amish Romance Novels

A fascinating new romance genre in the last twelve years is Amish romance, more fondly known as “Bonnet Rippers.” The importance of hearth and home are central themes in Amish romance with the backdrop of a tight-knit and loving community. While an outsider might woo a young Amish girl, she remains true to modesty and faithfulness. Many enjoy the genre as it is not racy, erotic, or overly sexual, but rather a sweet and innocent romance.

The three most popular authors of Amish romance are Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, and Wanda Brunstetter. Together, they have sold more than 24 million books since 2003. Other spinoffs of Amish fiction include mystery, science fiction, and even “The Amish Bloodsucker Trilogy.”
Beverly Lewis         Cindy Woodsmall      Wanda

For more information on the Amish romance genre, take a look at this article by The Wall Street Journal.

Three popular Amish Romance series you might enjoy are:

 Home to Hickory Hollow Series by Beverly Lewis

Amish Vines and Orchards Series by Cindy Woodsmall

Brides of Lancaster County Series by Wanda Brunstetter

And don’t forget to check out this helpful list of Amish Fiction created by your very own St. Charles Public Library Reader Services team!



The Blessing of an Irish Tale

What a blessing it is to delight in an Irish read! Lose yourself in one of the titles listed below, or browse our “Read Me–I’m Irish!” display featured this month behind the Reader Services Desk (located near the “New Books”):

TeapotsIrelandThe Teapots Are Out and Other Eccentric Tales From Ireland (FIC KEANE)

The Book of Irish-American Poetry (811.008089 BOO)

The Big Little Book of Irish Wit & Wisdom (820.809415 BIG)

For the Love of Ireland (820.809417 FOR)littlebookIrishwit

Finding Ireland: A Poet’s Explorations of Irish Literature and Culture (820.99415 TIL)

You may also enjoy this list of Contemporary Fiction by Irish Authors.


Short Stories for a Short Month

February is fast slipping away!  In search of a quick read this month? Short story collections are an often overlooked goldmine of reading gems. Stop by the Reader Services Desk for suggestions or check out any of the recommended titles below:

funny onceTrue Stories Well Told: From the First 20 Years of Creative Nonfiction Magazine  814.008 TRU

Read Harder  Ed Park 814.6 REA

Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing  Neal Stephenson 814.6 STE

A Darker Shade of Sweden: Original Stories by Sweden’s Greatest Crime Writers of Sweden  John-Henri Holmberg  839.738 DAR

Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s:  A Short Novel and Three Stories  Truman Capote FIC CAPOTE

Samuel Johnson is Indignant: Stories  Lydia Davis FIC DAVIS

Problems with People: Stories  David Guterson FIC GUTERSON

Unaccustomed Earth  Jhumpa Lahiri FIC LAHIRI

Love is Murder: Including Original Stories from Bestselling Thriller Authors  FIC LOV

Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories  Lydia Millet FIC MILLET

Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014  Alice Munro FIC MUNRO

Funny Once: Stories  Antonya Nelson  FIC NELSON

Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations  Alexander McCall Smith FIC MCCALL SMITH

Fools  Joan Sibler FIC SIBLER

Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories  Paul Theroux  FIC THEROUX






Listen to This!

The book was so much better than the movie!  How many times have we heardwild (or said) that? And generally, it’s true. The most recent example that comes to mind is “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. The book was better.  And I’d argue that the audiobook is best!


So what about audiobooks? When is the listen better than the read? Ardent listeners know that good narrators make a book come alive. As listening is my preferred format, here are a few suggestions for your spoken word pleasure.  All worth trying if you’ve been curious or are looking for a good listen while you wait for Season 2 of Serial.

Girl on the TrainHot out of the recording studio is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It’s being touted as the next Gone Girl so get your name on a hold list. Hawkins delivers a tight, psychological thriller located on the outskirts of London. Love those British accents!


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  Australian mates this toime. Fun, offbeat romance with quirky lead the rosie effectcharacter. The sequel, The Rosie Effect is just out on audio so you can make it a marathon.

Nonfiction can be so dry (a.k.a. boring) but not in the hands of this narrator! Try Arthur Morey‘s reading of In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides.In the Kingdom of ice Yeah it’s 17 hours long, but Morey’s assured tone keeps you interested.


Literary Fiction is usually great on audio and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is no exception. The Invention of WingsTwo narrators alternate in telling the story of Sarah Grimke, the actual abolitionist and women’s rights advocate and Hetty Handful Grimke a fictionalized enslaved woman owned by the Grimke family. The clip is from the opening chapter of the book in Sarah’s voice:


Mysteries are great to listen to because with audio you can’t easily cheat and flip to the last chapter to see who done it. Try Robert Galbraith’s  The Cuckoo’s Calling followed by The Silkworm, or Still Life – first in the series by Louise Penny. Also good: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, Cop Town by Karin Slaughter or The Heist by Daniel Silva.

Finally, if you really don’t care what the book isEdoardo Ballerini about and just want to listen to a good reader, seek out Edoardo Ballerini.  You won’t be disappointed. (The clip is from Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant.)



Patron Picks

A new roundup of titles that have received “thumbs up” from your fellow patrons:

An avid mystery reader recommends the series by A. D. Scott. Set in the Scottish Highlands just after WWII, it has interesting characters and “great charm.” Start with A Small Death in the Great Glen

DoubleFeatureDouble Feature by Owen King – yet another in Stephen King’s family is proving to be an entertaining writer!

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris – very interesting story and look at Jewish customs in an ultra-orthodox London community.

If you enjoy romantic suspense, don’t miss the The Black Knights series by Julie Ann Walker, starting with Hell on Wheels.TimeInBetween

The Time in Between by Maria Duenas – two patrons came in separately on the same day talking about how much they loved this book. This Spanish saga has been a hit overseas too.

One of our voracious readers of romance suggests trying anything by either Dakota Cassidy or Vicki Lewis Thompson.

MaliceMalice by John Gwynne – very well done “sword and sorcery” fantasy.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (YA) – a mother-daughter duo highly recommend this  complex fantasy that combines other-worldly beings and a modern day art student.

sevenbadideasSeven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World by Jeff Madrick (330 MAD) – a very interesting critique of current economic thinking written in such a way anyone can appreciate what he has to say.