07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Fiction, Mystery

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, read by Claudia, on 05/03/2014

In the 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas “32″ Jones were boyhood pals in a small town in rural Mississippi. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry was the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, black single mother. But then Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie and she was never seen or heard from again. He never confessed . . . and was never charged.

More than twenty years have passed. Larry lives a solitary, shunned existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has become the town constable. And now another girl has disappeared, forcing two men who once called each other “friend” to confront a past they’ve buried for decades.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Free by Willy Vlautin, read by Claudia, on 04/15/2014

Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable. An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again. Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy’s group home, works two jobs yet still can’t make ends meet. He’s lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative–and dangerous–proposition. Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy. She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father. Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Chosen by Chaim Potok, read by Claudia, on 04/01/2014

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….

Potok’s first novel, The Chosen, was published in 1967, and he quickly won acclaim for this best-selling book about tensions within the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities. This and later books have been both critically and popularly successful. Many of them explore the meaning of Judaism in the modern era, focusing on the conflict between traditional teachings and the pressures of modern life. The Chosen was nominated for a National Book Award in 1967 and made into a successful film in 1982. Its sequel, The Promise (1969) was the winner of an Athenaeum Award.

05. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty, read by Claudia, on 02/12/2014

The Husband's Secret

This is such a great book!  It could have been so predictable, but the author makes it into one of the most original reads I’ve had in a long time.  I was immediately engaged with the story and liked the characters.  There were so many spot-on things written about the lives of busy working moms struggling with balancing work and family.  I found it very relatable on that level.   I highly recommend this to readers of intelligent chick-lit!

From Barnes & Noble

“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died….” Her husband had not intended that she read the letter until after his demise, but Cecilia’s curiosity betrayed him. The unsettling words that she read forever changed the life of this once contented wife and mother; yet this well-intended posthumous missive also becomes the spur that enables Cecilia to connect with two other women recently pushed towards crossroads. A new novel by Liane Moriarty (What Alice Forgot; The Hypnotist’s Love) as original and well-crafted as a fine string quartet.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Cookbooks, Informational Book, NonFiction

Kale: The Complete Guide to the World's Most Powerful Superfood by Stephanie Pedersen, read by Claudia, on 01/23/2014

Kale is the veggie everyone’s gone mad for—from farmers and foodies to celebrity chefs! For those eager to get in on this healthy, tasty trend, here is a fun-to-read, one-stop resource for all things kale, including more than 75 recipes to entice, satisfy, and boost your well-being. The dishes include meltingly tender stews, flash-sautéed side dishes, salads and slaws, sandwiches, smoothies, and even muffins and chips. Stephanie Pedersen, a holistic health counselor and experienced health writer, provides dozens of tips for making kale delicious and desirable to even the most finicky eater. You’ll even learn how to start your own kale garden and turn over a new leaf for a healthier life.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Driftless by David Rhodes, read by Claudia, on 01/15/2014

David Rhodes’s long-awaited new novel turns an unblinking eye on an array of eccentric characters and situations. The setting is Words, Wisconsin, an anonymous town of only a few hundred people. But under its sleepy surface, life rages. Cora and Graham guard their dairy farm, and family, from the wicked schemes of their milk co-op. Lifelong paraplegic Olivia suddenly starts to walk, only to find herself crippled by her fury toward her sister and caretaker, Violet. Recently retired Rusty finds a cougar living in his haymow, dredging up haunting childhood memories. Winifred becomes pastor of the Friends church and stumbles on enlightenment in a very unlikely place. And Julia Montgomery, both private and gregarious, instigates a series of events that threatens the town’s solitude and doggedly suspicious ways. Driftless finds the author’s powers undiminished in this unforgettable story that evokes a small-town America previously unmapped, and the damaged denizens who must make their way through it.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Fiction, Mystery

Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, read by Claudia, on 01/07/2014

For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

The Good Life for Less: Giving Your Family Great Meals, Good Times, and a Happy Home on a Budget

Amy Allen Clark (creator of MomAdvice.com) has written a gem of book.  I must say the title of the book got my attention immediately.  Who doesn’t what to live the good life for less?  We all do, right?  I must admit I have gotten more skeptical with age, but by end of the first chapter I was hooked.  Clark has such a down-to earth, conversational style you practically feel like you know her!  She and her husband struggled early in their marriage with finances, and although they have made their way out of debt, they still choose to live simply and within their means.  I was impressed by Clark’s many smart and creative ideas for families living on a budget. She also includes a chapter of good recipes I have already introduced to my family, and most importantly, they liked them! This book is a guide for everyone who finds themselves challenged to juggle all the roles that come with working and parenting  Amy Allen Clark gives you the tools, the guidance, and the inspiration you need to run your own household with wisdom, wit, love, and style.  As a Librarian at Missouri River Regional Library, I purchased the book for the library and checked it out.  I wasn’t even half-way through reading the book before I decided I need to invest in my own copy, and that is truly the best endorsement I can give any book!

07. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Informational Book, NonFiction

How to find out anything by Don Macleod, read by Claudia, on 12/19/2013

In How to Find Out Anything, master researcher Don MacLeod explains how to find what you’re looking for quickly, efficiently, and accurately—and how to avoid the most common mistakes of the Google Age.

Not your average research book, How to Find Out Anything shows you how to unveil nearly anything about anyone. From top CEO’s salaries to police records, you’ll learn little-known tricks for discovering the exact information you’re looking for. You’ll learn:

  • How to really tap the power of Google, and why Google is the best place to start a search, but never the best place to finish it.
  • The scoop on vast, yet little-known online resources that search engines cannot scour, such as refdesk.com, ipl.org, the University of Michigan Documents Center, and Project Gutenberg, among many others.
  • How to access free government resources (and put your tax dollars to good use).
  • How to find experts and other people with special knowledge.
  • How to dig up seemingly confidential information on people and businesses, from public and private companies to non-profits and international companies.

Whether researching for a term paper or digging up dirt on an ex, the advice in this book arms you with the sleuthing skills to tackle any mystery.

07. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Informational Book, NonFiction

Discover your optimal health by Wayne Scott Andersen, read by Claudia, on 12/12/2013

Go from surviving to thriving! Anyone who has ever lost weight only to ultimately gain it back will benefit from this life-changing breakthrough program that shows you not only how to reach and maintain your healthy weight, but how to create a life of renewed vibrancy and become as healthy as you can. Thousands of people worldwide have gone from discouragement to confidence by following this easy-to-use guide by Dr. Andersen, one of America’s most esteemed and compassionate practitioners of weight loss and optimal health. Discover Your Optimal Health teaches you how to live better, happier, and healthier into your eighties, nineties, and beyond.

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, read by Claudia, on 11/28/2013

With the same incomparable style and warm, inviting voice that have made her beloved by millions of readers far and wide, “New York Times” bestselling author Fannie Flagg has written an enchanting Christmas story of faith and hope for all ages that is sure to become a classic.

Deep in the southernmost part of Alabama, along the banks of a lazy winding river, lies the sleepy little community known as Lost River, a place that time itself seems to have forgotten. After a startling diagnosis from his doctor, Oswald T. Campbell leaves behind the cold and damp of the oncoming Chicago winter to spend what he believes will be his last Christmas in the warm and welcoming town of Lost River. There he meets the postman who delivers mail by boat, the store owner who nurses a broken heart, the ladies of the Mystic Order of the Royal Polka Dots Secret Society, who do clandestine good works. And he meets a little redbird named Jack, who is at the center of this tale of a magical Christmas when something so amazing happened that those who witnessed it have never forgotten it. Once you experience the wonder, you too will never forget “A Redbird Christmas.”

04. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen, read by Claudia, on 11/07/2013

More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world.

“The Ruins of Us” is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

01. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Cure for Everything:untangling twisted messages about health, fitness, and happiness by Timothy Caulfield., read by Claudia , on 04/13/2013

Caulfield’s book has been dubbed the Freaknomics of the health industry.  Like many women, my weight has always been an issue. I like to eat everything that is bad for you ( I like good stuff too) from fast food to donuts, and watch out if I don’t have my afternoon Coca-cola!  I’m not much of an exerciser and my genetic make-up is not playing in my favor.  I try my best….I’ve been a weight watcher, a slim faster, a sugar buster, a Jenny Craigster, just to name a few!  Caulfield’s book equally humorous and depressing.  Guess what?  There is NO magic diet!  Researcher Timothy Caulfield talks with experts in medicine, pharmaceuticals, health and fitness, and even tries out many of the health fads himself, in order to test their scientific validity, dispel the myths, and illuminate the path to better health.  His findings are simple: intense exercise is best; eating fewer calories, more fruits and veggies, and no junk is better than any fad diet; and that you need to be “skeptical, scientific, self-aware and patient” to decipher greed-fueled mixed messages from food, drug, and diet conglomerates. No one says it’s easy, Caulfied notes, but the truth never is.



17. April 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Children's Books, Claudia, Fiction, Poetry

Book Speak: Poems about books by Laura Purdie Salas, read by Claudia, on 04/16/2013

This is a very whimsical children’s poetry book about books with fun titles like “Calling all Readers,” “A Character Pleads for his Life,” “On the Shelf and Under the Bed,” “Paper Sky, Bookplate,” and “I’ve got this covered” just to name a few.  Characters plead for sequels, book jackets strut their stuff, and we get a sneak peek at the raucous parties in the aisles when all the lights go out at the bookstore! My daughter and I took turns reading the twenty-one poems aloud to each other and found ourselves giggling until the very end.

03. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction · Tags:

Traveling Mercies: Some thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott, read by Claudia, on 03/21/2013

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

This is not your typical book on faith.  Anne Lamott shares the stories of her spiritual awakening and transformation in a refreshingly candid and endearing.  Her writing style always strikes me as poetic and funny. Lamott offers an honest look into her life, her search for meaning, her encounters with God, and her struggle with destructive addictions.  With a sense of humor and a dose of irreverence  Lamott reflects on her deepest fears, her painful losses, and her overwhelming desire for meaning and love in her life. Her tales are told with poignant insights and real pain as she offers wit, grace and hope for living life to the fullest and beyond. Traveling Mercies offers every woman and man, in search of meaning and spirituality, a traveling companion.

02. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Claudia, Fiction

Out of my mind by Sharon Draper, read by Claudia, on 02/19/2013

After repeatedly hearing what a great book this is from several people, and most importantly my 10 year old son, I decided to read it out loud to my 8 year old daughter.  Neither of were prepared for the emotional impact his book would have on us and for me, it lingers in my mind to this day.  Meet Melody.  She is a 5th grader who suffers from cerebral palsy. Although Melody has never spoken a single word or walked one step, she is one brillant young girl.  Her mind is always working overtime! This book is about assumptions….the ones we make about people who are different than us, especially people with disabilites.  Everyone in Melody’s world assumes just because her body doesn’t work that her brain doesn’t either.  This book is told in Melody’s unsentimental voice, and she tells it exactly how it is!  With the exception of her parents and another caregiver, she is considered invisible and incapable of interaction, let alone actually being able to learn something or contribute in a classroom setting.  She is literally going “out of her mind” from boredom and frustration and the inability ot express herself.  She is wasting away in school classes that don’t even begin to quench her thirst for learning….until a special teacher sees her potential.  Soon after, with the help of her devoted after-school care giver, Melody acquires a medi-talker (a machine that gives her a voice) and a whole new world is opens up to her….but it isn’t necessarily an accepting one.  Melody still struggles against preconceived notions about her and her disability….even from teachers!  This book is a must read for 3-6 graders, and is a Mark Twain nominee with a strong chance of winning this year’s award.  My money is on Sharon Draper!  This is a great book with a tough, but realistic ending.

07. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, read by Claudia, on 02/19/2013

Mudbound is a modern classic in my estimation.  It currently resides in my top ten list, and Jordan is my new one-to-watch favorite author.  I am already trying to find out when her next book will be published!     Mudbound was Jordan’s 2006 debut novel  and it was honored with the Bellwether prize for fiction.  The book is about prejudice. The year is 1946 and Laura McAllan is struggling to raise her children on her husband’s muddy Mississippi Delta farm., a place she dislikes from the outset and grows to hate.   In the midst of the family’s farm struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura’s brother-in-law, who is everything her husband is not—-charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, who has come home a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its  heartbreaking conclusion. The men and women of each family relate their versions of events and we are drawn into their lives as they become players in a tragedy we know was lived out by so many others years ago.

06. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

When she woke by Jordan, Hillary, read by Claudia, on 01/01/2013

I had the great pleasure of discovering the writing of Hillary Jordan back in December when I read her first novel Mudbound (2006).  Mudbound received the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, and a heck of a writer was introduced to the world.  Her 2nd novel was highly anticipated, and I truly meant to read it long before I did!  It is an amazing read and incredibly hard to put down.  You just have to know what happens and the sooner the better!

When She Woke tells the story of highly likable Hannah Payne, struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been severed and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned.  Instead, their skin is genetically altered (chromed is the term the author uses) to match the class of their crimes-and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; she has undergone an abortion.  She has refused to give up the name of the Father and the man who performed the abortion.

Upon her release into a brutally hostile world, Hannah begins to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

04. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, read by Claudia, on 01/23/2013

The Thirteenth Tale is a true literary masterpiece in the Gothic novel tradition.  It is charming, yet equally mysterious and sinister.  Gothic fiction is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance.  It originated in England in the second half of the 18th century and had much success during the English romantic period with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and later Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  

The books begins as a reclusive young English woman, who spends her days working at her father’s antiquarian bookshop (and is a part-time biography writer), receives a peculiar letter from the most famous author of the day. Vida Winter (as she is known) has requested Miss Margaret Lea to pen the truth story of her life…her thirteenth tale!  And so our story begins.  This strange tale is complete with an eccentric family, love, hate, incest, twins, and of course… murder!  The reader fluctuates between repulsion and utter fascination. What is real?  What is imaginary? The reader won’t completely know until the very end.  The Thirteenth Tale is beautifully and cleverly written tale with an ending no one could ever imagine.

22. January 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, NonFiction

Christmas memory : One Christmas ; The Thanksgiving visitor by Truman Capote, read by Claudia, on 11/19/2012

I was fortunate enough years ago to help someone on the Reference Desk who was searching our shelves for these stories.  The patron explained to me she read them every year around the holidays.  I thought how special these stories must be for someone to make a point of reading them every year.  I decided to read them myself three years ago, and I can honestly say reading Capote’s stories is one of the best gifts I’ve given myself.  I don’t remember the patron who recommended them, but if I could, I would love to thank her for sharing her holiday tradition with me….which has now become one of mine.

Novelist and playwright Truman Streckfus Person was born in 1924 in New Orleans to a salesman and a 16-year-old beauty queen. His parents divorced when he was four years old and was then raised by relatives for a few years in Monroeville, Alabama.  His mother was remarried to a successful businessman, moved to New York, and Truman adopted his stepfather’s surname.   Capote said that some of his happiest memories are of his childhood in Alabama and with his beloved Aunt Sook. This single volume gathers Truman Capote’s three most beloved holiday stories. These short memoirs and tributes carry the strong, delicious scent of holiday nostalgia.  When reading these short stories,  I felt as if I were literally  transported back in time when life was simpler and where people like my own grandparents lived their lives.  Truman is 7 years old in The Christmas Memory and shares an elaborate tale of his and his aunt and their holiday fruit cake making adventures.  One cannot help but laugh out loud when they contact the local moonshiner about buying whiskey for their cakes (instead of taking their handfuls of saved pennies he asks for “one of them cakes”) instead.  Another funny moment  is when Truman and Sook are making their recipient list and include President and Mrs. Roosevelt.  They muse about the possibility of their fruitcake being served at the White House Christmas dinner.  Thanksgiving Visitor is another delightful tale of the local bully being invited to Truman’s home for Thanksgiving and the drama that ensues. One Christmas is a more sobering tale of young Truman being forced to spend Christmas away from his beloved Sook and his Alabama clan and instead travel to New York to visit the Father he does not know.  It’s a heartbreaking story with moments of humor infused throughout.  These stories are among my very favorites, and I hope if you give them a chance they become part of your Christmas tradition as well.