We want to hear from you. Please send a blurb about something you've read and want to share with CML. Postings will be published monthly except over the summer. Next posting will be in March 2017. Send your recommendations to
This quarter’s blog has 16 entries from enthusiastic readers. Try some of these selections while you look forward to more sunshine.
When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi (Contemporary)
This is a beautifully written book about an Afghan family and their flight from Afghanistan to England. The story is about a woman Fereiba, a school teacher married to an engineer. When the Taliban rise to power their whole life implodes. Her husband is arrested and killed and she is forbidden to teach and so she begins her journey to leave Afghanistan and travel to Europe with her three children. The book gives you a very personal feeling about growing up as a woman in Afghanistan and continually makes you grateful that you were born in America. It also makes you realize how brave these people are. They leave their homes for a better life for themselves and their families. Our book group had a good discussion about this one.
Reviewed by Lucy DiRenzo
The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes (Historical Fiction)
My favorite JoJo Moyes book is The Girl You Left Behind. The story starts in France during World War I and weaves a painting into present day. Curl up on a winter day with this book and you won't be able to put it down! The library book group recently discussed this winner.
Reviewed by Bev Petell
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo (Contemporary Fiction)
This one is set in a small town in NY and although is a “stand alone” book, it is a follow-up of Russo’s NOBODY’S FOOL and I think the story is enhanced from having read that book. NOBODY’S FOOL (1993) was made into a movie (1994) starring Paul Newman. Most of the characters in EVERYBODY’S FOOL are just older, but not necessarily wiser. Sully, our main character, has had some unexpected good financial fortune, but his health is now an issue. The book is filled with humor and heart about these various less-than-perfect folks that make them all quite human.
Reviewed by Connie Locashio
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (Historical Fiction)
Ivey weaves a mesmerizing tale around an 1885 expedition to explore the newly acquired Alaska territory. The story is told in letters between the Colonel (who heads the exploration) and his new wife. Her fascination with birds and photographing birds becomes another layer of the story. Memorable characters abound--both the explorers and the native Alaskans--some with an air of mystery about them. Beautifully written by the author of The Snow Child. Historical fiction based on journals and news accounts of the expedition.
Reviewed by Janet Adelberg
Second Watch by J.A. Jance (Mystery)
For those who like the mystery/detective genre and this particular author, I found this J.P.Beaumont mystery a good read. We find Beau in the hospital having a double knee replacement and while under the influence of heavy pain medication he has “visits” from a couple of unresolved issues from his life – one the unsolved murder which was his first homicide case, the other about his time in Viet Nam and the officer who was instrumental in saving his life. As always in these page-turning books, all is resolved in the end. But what sets this book apart from some others is the “Author’s Note” at the end written by Jance telling us that the officer was a real soldier from her hometown of Bisbee, AZ. I almost wish that had been a Foreword as it might have enhanced the story while reading. Certainly reading the Author’s Note at some point (think sometimes we skip these!) is interesting.
Reviewed by Connie Locashio
Out of Bounds by Val McDermid (Mystery)
A complex murder mystery combines a decades old cold case with recent deaths. This story winds through Scotland and even brings in the Syrian War. Trump even gets a cameo. A thriller worth the read with the Scottish terms not a roadblock.
Reviewed by Steve Dodge
The Mistletoe Murders by P.D. James (Mystery)
This short story collection by the one and only P.D. James, published posthumously, is a gentle reminder of what a way with words she had. Four delicious little gumdrops for any mystery reader who loves being submerged in a different world, even one with an young Adam Dalgliesh. What could be better?
Reviewed by MaryJean Cowing
Nora Webster by Colm Toiban (Contemporary Fiction)
If you think male writers sometimes don’t understand their female characters, you’re in for a surprise in Nora Webster by Irish writer Colm Toibin (also wrote Brooklyn). Without any physical description of the main character, Nora, Toibin delivers one of the most interesting stories about a woman I’ve ever read. Nora has just lost her husband and is left with children to raise, a house to take care of, and financial worries. With a few of my friends having lost their husbands recently, I found the book particularly enlightening.
Reviewed by Linda McKee
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Contemporary Fiction)
Heller seems not so much to have authored as to have revealed The Dog Stars. He clinches every element one could wish for in a great story with a light hand and deep conviction.
Each character is composed of unique vulnerabilities and strengths, such that I grew to care greatly about what they were up to. Their post-apocalyptic world is stark, horrific, and utterly believable. There is a lot of mixed-up grief and love, to which we pre-apocalyptic folk can all relate, and the narrator's delivery further draws us with an intelligent perceptiveness. Amazingly, through this-all, there seems not a single extra word.
This is an atmospheric and poignant story of crushing loss and insufferable loneliness, and Heller somehow manages to morph it into something that feels almost hopeful in the final pages.
I was off of fiction for a long time but that sure was a dull move. The Dog Stars has proven to be a gripping yet warm welcome back. Read it if you're not sure you want to.
Reviewed by Sarah Adelberg
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Contemporary Fiction)
Clever, witty, funny and not a superfluous word. A great, short winter read with a Shakespearean twist.
Reviewed by Judy Danielson
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen (Contemporary Fiction)
This book is named after Mimi Miller’s family. A government agent is determined that he will buy out all the farms in the valley and flood the whole area to make a reservoir. Mimi’s mother is strong and everyone in the family expects her to save the valley.
Mimi wants to stay, and is so attached to the land she can’t imagine ever leaving it, and is also torn because she wants to leave for college and a better life.
She struggles with family circumstances; the death of her father, the intransigence of her aunt Ruth, who will not leave her home EVER, and her relationship with her beloved brother Tom, who turns out to be the bad boy of the family. We watch as she learns more about these family members and in the process about herself.
The water rises, threatening to reveal a secret no one would have expected. A good read!
Reviewed by Pam Chenea
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Contemporary Fiction)
This is a skillfully constructed, beautifully written post-apocalyptic literary novel. Chapters alternate between pre- and post “Collapse.” A flu pandemic kills most of the world’s population, the internet blinks out, cars run out of gas. The story follows three main characters as a wandering Shakespeare troupe caravans across a desolate landscape. With “Survival is insufficient” their watchword, they go from one enclosed town to the next, some frighteningly despotic; others communal. Children know nothing of what came before, but those who remember the pre-collapse world “stand looking over their damaged homes, trying to forget the sweetness of life.” This is not your usual post-apocalyptic novel. Its world is at once chilling, hopeful, and utterly recognizable.
Reviewed by Betsy Bowen
Engineering Eden by Jordan Fischer Smith (Non-Fiction)
Engineering Eden revolves around the tragic death of a young man from Alabama. In 1972 Harry Walker leaves his family farm to travel west. He stops in Yellowstone National Park where he is mauled to death by a grizzly bear. The Walker family sues the National Park Service, charging that the Park Rangers engaged in practices that unnecessarily placed the visitors in danger.
The trial sparked a long debate between the National Park Service and conservationists about how to manage and maintain the flora and fauna of the parks in a way that encouraged families to enjoy the park’s wildlife safely.
Reviewed by James DiRenzo
Olive Rush; Finding Her Place in the Santa Fe Art Colony by Jann Haynes Gilmore (Biography/Artist)
I don’t think I had ever heard of Olive Rush until one day I asked Jann Haynes Gilmore, “What is the subject of the book that you are writing?” the subject: Olive Rush.
Her book has been published and it’s a beauty; a fascinating story of Olive Rush’s life, her art, her determination to learn and improve, the people she knew, the environs, the times.
Olive Rush was born in Indiana in 1873 to a Quaker family. She moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in1920 and lived there until her death in 1966. The book is wonderfully illustrated and I found myself going back to look at the paintings again and again.
Reviewed by Cynthia Pelliccia
Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life by Richard Meryman (Biography)
Three things collide to make this book a biographical perfect storm. First, its subject is Andrew Wyeth and the family that created and sustained this great American painter’s astonishing talent. Then, Meryman, the biographer, had decades-long Wyeth friendships that enabled him to encounter his subject’s carefully-guarded secret life with understanding and compassion. And, last but not least, the narrative reveals one final, greatest secret -- the profound love that gave us the Helga paintings. The biography reads like a novel, with intertwining themes, fully drawn characters, and a dramatic arc that does justice to a life of passion and imagination.
Reviewed by Betsy Bowen
The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive In A World In Decline by Jonathan Tepperman (Politics)
This is the type of book I would normally avoid reading, but I saw an interview of Jonathan Tepperman on PBS and had to read the book. He takes an optimistic look at how some struggling countries and cities problem solve some of the most difficult issues (corruption, inequality, poverty, immigration, resources, environmental and economic issues, or ISIS, just to name a few) facing most governments. Tepperman obviously does not sugar coat anything, but each chapter addresses how a country found solutions to their own problems. There is a lot of interesting background history shared and the solutions are unique to each situation. Who can say if what worked in Singapore would also work in another country. But let’s have a little optimism; my first reaction was to assign this book to every political leader in the world. That’s the teacher in me, but reading the book has given me hope.
Reviewed by Anna Boynton