What the Staff is Reading

bluehourA character in The Blue Hour by Douglas Kennedy defines the blue hour as “the hour at daybreak or dusk when nothing is as it seems: when we are caught between the perceived and the imagined.” Indeed, the story starts with Robin and her husband Paul traveling to Morocco for a month of drawing for Paul, French lessons for Robin, and exploring and relaxing for both. Deeply in love and approaching the end of her childbearing years, Robin is also hoping this is the place where she will conceive a child. But from the very start, something seems off when Paul is inexplicably nervous going through customs. Things only get more mysterious as plans change and truths are discovered, until Robin discovers the ultimate betrayal by her husband. Things go further downhill as Paul goes missing, Robin is suspected of murder, and there are horrifying experiences in the remote Sahara. The sights, sounds and smells of Morocco are vividly described in this atmospheric, unsettling page-turner.

necessaryliesReaders who enjoyed The Help may also enjoy Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain. Both stories deal with young women determined to fight for social justice during the 1960s. Necessary Lies, set in North Carolina, follows the efforts of newlywed and young social worker Jane Forrester as she’s introduced to the residents of rural Grace County. She meets 15-year old Ivy Hart, a poor and orphaned tobacco farm laborer and student, who then becomes pregnant. While attempting to assist Ivy, Jane learns of the sterilization program in effect, and crosses the Department of Health lines in regards to interfering in her clients’ lives by becoming too involved personally. This was an especially enjoyable listen as the narrator did a wonderful job voicing several characters of various ages and dialects.

laamericanaA fascinating memoir that is part personal journey through grief, part love story and part travelogue is La Americana by Melanie Bowden Simón. Traveling with a friend to Cuba (through the back door, as this was 2001), the author is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s devastating death in her early 50s and hopes being in a totally foreign atmosphere can help. Her first day there she meets Luis, her taxi driver, with whom she falls in love. Over a period of years and with various trips back to Cuba we experience with her the tropical heat, Cuban cuisine, lively music, dense fumes, ancient cars, overgrown weeds, Santería ceremonies and more, all under the veil of communism. And of course, we experience her growing love and all the couple must overcome to ultimately be together.

Road Trip!

It’s that time of year when folks are traveling. Even if your summer doesn’t involve getting behind the wheel, we have a list of books to give you that Willie Nelson, “on the road again” feeling!

MotherRoad  HelenandTroy  LongestRoad   BlueHighways

What the Staff is Reading

WhattheLadyWantsIf you have an interest in Chicago history and wonder what life may have been like in the gilded age when a Prairie Avenue address meant you made it to the top of society, What the Lady Wants by Renée Rosen is sure to please. In this book of historical fiction, the author has done her research and then embellished the facts. It is the story of Delia Spencer Caton and her decades-long affair with Marshall Field. The story is set amid the background of a growing city, from the days of the Chicago Fire, through the unrest of the Haymarket Square Riot and the splendor of the Columbian Exposition, until Marshall Field’s death in 1906. Fans of Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank are sure to enjoy.

TheLakeHouseA great summer read to escape into is The Lake House by Kate Morton. In this family saga with Gothic undertones, the main setting is an old estate in Cornwall where an infant disappeared in the 1930s. At the turn of this century, a London detective on a mandated leave for disobeying policy, with unresolved issues of her own, discovers the abandoned estate and works to uncover the mystery. The narration alternates between present and past, where the reader learns about the family who lived there and all the events leading up to the abduction. There are layers and layers to this story, and just when one layer is uncovered and you think you know what happened, there is a new twist. Secrets abound, and the book has been described as moody, atmospheric and suspenseful.  In the end, past and present are neatly resolved.

WhenBreathBecomesAirA beautifully written, highly recommended memoir is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Just as Kalanithi is finishing extensive training as a neurosurgeon in his mid-thirties, he gets a devastating diagnosis of stage four lung cancer. He dies while writing this book, and ultimately his wife was able to finish for him. It is a short book with big questions dealing with what makes life worthwhile in the face of death. At the beginning of his career, the author chose a career of medicine over literature and writing, and the quality of writing in this inspiring book makes it clear that he excelled at both.

SummerBeforetheWarAnother good historical fiction summer read is The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, who also wrote Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.  Set in Rye, England, in the summer of 1914, old ways are tested as a free-thinking, single, female Latin teacher comes to town. Once again, there is great characterization as the town people deal with a non-traditional romantic relationship, class snobbery and other social constraints on the brink of World War I.

FoolMeOnceHarlan Coben is known for his suspenseful page-turners.  He does not disappoint with his latest, Fool Me Once. Maya, a former combat vet is grieving the murder of her socially prominent husband, Joe, while trying to protect her two-year-old daughter. While checking a nanny cam given to her by her best friend after the murder, she spots her dead husband with her daughter on the recording. Is she really seeing what she thinks she sees? As always, the book is filled with lots of dialogue, secrets, and twists in the plot in this fast read.



Beach Reads

No matter what your definition is of a “beach read,” we have you covered with these titles picked by Library staff!

“Something Light and/or Funny”

Canyoukeepasecret   LifeandTimesofthunderboltOpeningbelle   FuriouslyHappy

“Trashy Good Fun”

Showdown   LastNightatChateau

“Fascinating Nonfiction”

stiff  BorntoRun

“Something Compelling & Intense”

whatsheknew     IamPilgrim

“Something Different”

11-22-63      Futuristicviolence

Novel Ideas May 2016

Novel Ideas book group met for the third time in May. Novel Ideas is the newest book group at St. Charles Public Library where participants are encouraged to share with the group titles and authors they are currently reading and enjoying. Our goal is that you walk away with your next great read!

Here is a sampling of new book ideas shared at the May meeting:

In the Name of Gucci by Patricia GucciGucci

The gripping family drama–and never-before-told love story–surrounding the rise and fall of the late Aldo Gucci, the man who is responsible for making the Italian fashion label the powerhouse it is today, told by his daughter, Patricia Gucci.


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevinfikry

When his most prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, is stolen, bookstore owner A. J. Fikry begins isolating himself from his friends, family and associates before receiving mysterious package that compels him to remake his life.


Pretty Baby by Mary Kubicapretty

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.


The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flaggstation

Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her three daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle.  Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a shocking secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into
question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family and her future.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiffcleopatra

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Though her life spanned fewer than 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.


Novel Ideas will be held on the 4th Wednesday of every other month from 10:00-11:15 a.m.  Please drop in and discover your next great read!

2016 Novel Ideas Meeting Dates:

  • July 27
  • September 28

June is Audiobook Month

june audiobook monthI’m not sure who designates such things as ‘audiobook month’, but I couldn’t be happier about it.  As an ardent listener, every month is audiobook month.

In the mood for a British romance? Look no further than Jojo Moyes’ excellent, thought-provoking love story,  Me Before You and the satisfying sequel After You.  Moyes’ protagonist, Louisa Clark, is one part snark, two parts heart and you will be instantly drawn into her life.  Keep a hankie on hand.

How about a little fantasy on your commute? Neil Gaiman’s self-narrated The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a delightful–if a little unsettling–exploration of time and memory. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, is a masterpiece that will transport listeners into the body and mind of a wizard.  FYI, Gaiman just released a collection of essays, The View From the Cheap Seats, also self-narrated, which is generating heat in the publishing world.

Family sagas anyone?  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney has it all: four East Coast siblings and a shared inheritance hanging in the balance.  The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer is another sibling story filled with family secrets and bad behavior.

If Sci-Fi is your preference try Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or The Martian by Andy Weir.

Finally, thrillers/suspense. Who doesn’t like an ‘edge-of-your-seat’ story? Hot new releases include Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben, 15th Affair by James Patterson, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and The Last Mile by David Baldacci.

There are literally thousands of audiobooks to choose from, with more arriving every day.  So, take off your reading glasses, put on your headphones and get hooked on audiobooks.

Me Before You  jojo oceangaimanname station  The Martian

fool 15thnest Children's Crusade


Tracing Your Ancestors – Genealogy Series

Pen and Sword Books Are you a researcher digging for clues about your U.K. ancestors? Our Genealogy department houses a prolific series published by Pen & Sword dedicated to helping family historians track them down. Each volume hones in on a unique facet of their personal history, be it by profession (Ex.: medical personnel, fisherman, railway employee, coal miner), or military career (Ex.: Air Force, Royal Marine. P.O.W.), locale (Ex.: Channel Islands, Liverpool, rural, Yorkshire) , socioeconomic status (Ex.: pauper, criminal), and so on. These books are all available for checkout – watch for new releases to be added to this growing collection. Here’s a sampling of titles:

Cover image for  Tracing Your Ancestors Through Death Records GENEALOGY 929.1072 HER

Tracing Your East Anglican Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 BLA

Tracing Your House History GENEALOGY 929.107204 BLA

Cover image for


Tracing Your Royal Marine Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 BRO

Tracing Your Rural Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 BRO

Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 BUR

Tracing Your Labour Movement Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 CRA

Tracing Your Railway Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 DRU

Cover image for  Tracing Your Medical Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 HIG

Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 MAX

Tracing Your London Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 OATCover image for


Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records GENEALOGY 929.107204 RAY

Tracing Your Secret Service Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 TOM

Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 WAD

Tracing Your Legal Ancestors GENEALOGY 929.107204 WAD

Tracing Your Police Ancestors  GENEALOGY 929.107204 WAD

Fishing & Fisherman  GENEALOGY 929.107204 WIL

Writing Your Family History GENEALOGY 929.2 BLA



Award News for Mystery Lovers

In case you missed it, the Edgar Allan Poe Awards were announced last week and I am always fascinated by the nominee and winner lists as they often serve up hidden gems (in fact, two of the three pictured below are currently on the shelf!).  Click the link above to see the entire list.

Let Me Die  Sympathizer  Long and Faraway Gone

WalterMosleyIt’s also nice to see that Walter Mosley was awarded the Grand Master, the highest honor the Mystery Writers of America bestows, one that recognizes a lifetime of achievement and an impressive quality of work. Mosley, a prolific writer, is perhaps best known for his crime series featuring Easy Rawlins. The first in the series is The Devil in a Blue Dress.

What the Staff is Reading

master pradoThe first thing that a reader might notice when browsing through The Master of the Prado by Spanish author Javier Sierra is the copious amount of illustrations. For anyone with an interest in art and/or Spain, this is enough to grab one’s attention. The novel starts when a mysterious stranger opens a conversation with the young student, Javier Sierra, while he is alone in a room in Madrid’s Prado Museum. The stranger gives plenty of food for thought about a particular painting, and over a period of weeks, continues to reappear, making observations about numerous other paintings by great masters, leading the protagonist to wonder who this stranger is. Are there are truly hidden meanings in the art, involving prophesies, conspiracies, and heresies? In the meantime, there is intrigue as Javier investigates who this man might be, and is followed and threatened around Madrid and the surrounding area. Although there are similar themes as in The Da Vinci Code, this book moves at a much slower, more literary pace.
wolf called romeo
In nonfiction, A Wolf Called Romeo by Nick Jans is the account of the author’s six year relationship with a young black wolf in Juneau, Alaska. This unnaturally friendly loner wolf makes friends with local dogs and tolerates their owners, while the author and town have a chance to closely observe and learn about wolf behaviors. The author serves as a strong advocate of this misunderstood and feared animal, and works hard to reveal its more social-minded side. Philosophical at times, the book goes further to consider the relationship between wilderness and civilization.

magic stringsFor audio fans, an excellent book to listen to is The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. In this story filled with magical realism, Frankie Presto is a fictional character, the greatest guitarist to walk the face of the earth. In a manner reminiscent of Forrest Gump, we are transported through the musical landscape over the decades and see Frankie’s influence on real musicians such as Elvis and Little Richard. In the process, we all come to see how the gift of music transforms lives.  (According to one staff member, for this title listening is the only way to go!)

BrooklynAnother audiobook staff member really enjoyed listening to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. (This title is downloadable from Hoopla, so no waiting!) The setting is 1950s Ireland and New York, and has very vividly voiced characters. The contrast between small-town Ireland with its limited employment possibilities and large city America is striking, and so the story becomes about choices, not right or wrong, but just deciding between two very different worlds.

Saturn RunAnd finally, for those readers who enjoyed the “math and MacGyver on Mars” adventure of The Martian and are looking for something similar, try Saturn Run by John Sandford. Set in 2066, this richly detailed, exciting sci-fi exploration is all about a crew’s strength and courage tested against adversity and aliens using various engineering concepts.  (And for even more title ideas, check out our If You Like… The Martian booklist.)

A Great Escape

Have you enjoyed the recent news story about Inky the Octopus who escaped from his New Zealand aquarium – complete with telltale suction cup prints? Then I highly recommend The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery.

Soul_of_OctopusA National Book Award finalist in 2015, the author shares her experiences with octopi at aquariums and in wild. I was surprised to learn just how clever they are, and how many people love them! A perfect read if YOU want to escape into an upbeat, true story that’s full of gentle humor and wonder.