Three Bags Full

> In the seaside Irish village of Glennkill, a man lies murdered, pinned to the ground by his own garden spade. His neighbors, a suspicious lot with plenty of secrets to hide, respond to the homicide in their midst with idle talk and bitter recriminations, and the local police show little interest in the case. It falls to the victim’s truest friends to solve the mystery of his murder – provided they can stop grazing long enough to do so!

You see, in Leonie Swann’s Three Bags Full the murder victim is a shepherd – and the amateur sleuths are sheep. Led by Miss Maple, the cleverest sheep in the village (and possibly the world), this band of rag-tag, woolly detectives dedicate themselves to solving the crime that took the life of their beloved shepherd. But to track down the necessary clues, the sheep must first overcome their own secrets, fears, and potentially dangerous weaknesses. What became of lead ram Sir Ritchfield’s brother Melmoth when he left the flock? What occurred in Othello’s mysterious past to make him so brave? And will Mopple the Whale be able to conquer his voracious appetite long enough to do some investigating?

You’re sure to be charmed by these wonderful ovine characters with their unique personalities and perspectives – often wrong but always entertaining – into human behavior. (If the long-nosed man lives in the building called the House of God, then surely his name is God?) From the finding of a Thing in their meadow (“Human beings are attached to Things”) to their philosophical musings on the nature of Cloud Sheep (just clouds to us), the detectives of Three Bags Full will stay in your heart long after the last page is turned.

The Geometry of Sisters

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Luanne Rice is an expert at writing fiction that examines family relationships, and her new book The Geometry of Sisters is no exception. This is the story of the bonds between sisters—how they relate, support and help to define each other. After her family is touched by tragedy, Maura accepts a teaching position in Rhode Island. As she and her children struggle to move forward with their lives, they try to reconnect with a run away daughter and an estranged sister. Rice illustrates how destructive family secrets can be and uses the daughter Beck’s abilities at mathematics to explore the complexities of the relationships between the sisters in the story The three sets of sisters in the book relate to each other in various ways—straight lines, angles and parallel lines—illustrating the twists and turns that family dynamics can take.

If you liked The Time -Traveler’s Wife

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Have you seen it yet? I haven’t been able to and it’s just killing me. The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger just came out in theaters and I’m torn. I loved the book and I can’t imagine any possible way that the movie could be as good.
If you loved the story, here are a few suggestions to keep you busy while you debate whether or not to see the film. If you want a tale of love in the midst of great trials, try Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Inman, a soldier makes his way home to North Carolina from a Civil War hospital while his love, Ada, waits for him.
If you like a bit of magic mixed in with a great story, you might like The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde or Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. The Eyre Affair is a mystery set in a surreal version of Great Britain in 1985, where time travel is possible and one can travel in and out of great works of literature. Like Water for Chocolate is the beautiful story of Tita and Pedro, incorporating love, food, and humor in a tale you’ll never forget.

That Old Cape Magic

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Richard Russo has again written a winner. His Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Empire Falls was made into an HBO mini-series starring Paul Newman in his last live-action role. This latest story is again set in New England. That Old Cape Magic was the song sung by Jack Higgins parents as they crossed the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod every summer for their long-awaited vacation. Now that Jack is again heading to Cape Cod with his wife he reminisces about those long ago summer vacations and realizes that he is turning into the person that he least wants to be, his father.

Russo examines the close ties we have to our parent’s way of life as we age and see ourselves doing the very things that we declared never to do. The moments of introspection are countered with hilarious looks at a fiasco of a rehearsal dinner for his daughter, again on Cape Cod, and the comedy of driving around with the ashes of his father and mother in his trunk and hearing them continue to give him their opinions.

Angels and Demons

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Popular author Dan Brown is a master at fiction that involves puzzles, mysteries and conspiracies and Angels and Demons is no exception. His character, symbologist Robert Langdon from the book The Da Vinci Code, becomes involved in a hunt that involves antimatter, the long-lost secret group the Illuminati as well as secrets of the Vatican. His chase to save the St. Peter’s and the Vatican from destruction sends him racing across Rome for clues to prevent the murder of 4 Cardinals and the explosion of antimatter. Brown’s story is exciting if improbable and his writing is not the most literary, but he tells a story filled with action and excitement, along with some interesting information about how things work in the Vatican.

Kentucky Pioneer

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It is so fun to find a tresure beneath a beat up cover in the stacks. A patron recommended Hannah Fowler by Janice Holt Giles and I dove right in. Hannah moves west to Kentucky with her father in the 1700′s. After her father receives a dangerous ax injury, she encounters Tice, a settler hunting in the woods. Hannah’s quiet strength maintains her through the upcoming trials.

I have long loved stories of women pioneers, but this book is especially well-written. There is adventure and romance, but the most compelling aspect of the story is her chronicle of day-to-day life as a settler.

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The Neighbor . It was a case to spark a media feeding frenzy. Sandra, a pretty young mother—disappears without a trace from her South Boston home, leaving her four-year-old daughter alone and perhaps the only possible witness; her handsome, secretive husband– a prime suspect. To Detective to Sergeant D.D. Warren, they appear a hardworking young couple, but under the surface–things get murky. Jason Jones seems more concerned with isolating his daughter and destroying evidence than in searching for his young wife. Will the only eyewitness be the killer’s next victim?

Addie of the Flint Hills by Adaline Sorace

> Addie of the Flint Hills: “They say times are going to be tough. Well, I was born in 1915 and in the past 93 years, I have seen tough times. I’ve heard about even tougher—from my grandparents, who were early pioneers settling the Flint Hills of Kansas. I had hoped my grandchildren and their children would never have to face serious adversities, but if they are called to do so, I want them to know something about their forebearers …This account of my journey is for them.”

Addie, born in the Flint Hills of Kansas, begins her story in 1915 as wheat prices are booming. She shares the day-to-day unfolding of her life and the life of her family as they deal with the turbulent US economy of the 1920s and 1930s. During this period the price of wheat drops, followed by precipitous declines in stocks, minerals and farmland. The story ends in 1935 as the family grapples with the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. In the process, Addie of the Flint Hills weaves a complex tale of ordinary folks struggling with familiar themes: a father s work takes him far from home, a highly- educated woman and mother is alone, and a young girl never learns that she is beautiful.

“Unique and universal, the remarkable life story of Adaline Rogler Sorace looks to the past with affection, honesty, and clarity of insight. In a voice distinguished by intelligence and refinement she recounts a story of the Flint Hills as strong and as deep as the prairie grass.” -Jim Hoy, author of Flint Hills Cowboys

Modoc: the True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived

>Adventure, romance, and an animal story all rolled into one. Elephant trainer, Josef, was a proud father of an infant son, Bram, and a proud trainer of a baby elephant, Modoc, born the same day and hour. Bram and Modoc grew up together as playmates and were inseparable. When Josef died and the circus animals were sold, Bram had to go with Modoc to uphold his father’s last request that he take care of him. Bram and Modoc’s adventures at sea, in India and finally in America are astonishing to say the least. Both Bram and Modoc went through so many hardships, yet they survived the onslaught and were brought back together in an incredible manner. You may cry a bit, you will smile often as you journey through Ralph Helfer’s book about the life of Modoc: the true story of the greatest elephant that every lived.

Black Hills

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Nora Roberts comes through for her fans with this romantic suspense novel set in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Black Hills follows the lives of Lillian and Cooper, childhood friends and sweethearts who part ways then come together again as adults. Lillian becomes a wildlife researcher and Cooper, an ex-detective, returns home to help his beloved grandparents on their horse ranch. When strange things begin happening at Lillian’s wildlife refuge and it is discovered that a murderer lurks somewhere in the surrounding hills, Cooper becomes concerned that the next target may be Lillian. The romance and suspense are present, if predictable, and Roberts fills in the plot with lots of description of the beauty of the area as well as information about the wild animals that are cared for at the refuge and play a vital part in the story.

A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist

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A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist is set in 1860s Seattle. Joe Denton is a logger who needs a bride to keep his land. Anna Ivey comes west to get away from her cruel boss, believing that she will be the cook for Joe’s crew. He discovers that she is way to pretty to be a mail-order bride and she begins to reconsider her stance against marriage.

Gist is talented at creating a inspirational historical fiction that is fun and slightly steamy (within the bounds of propriety, of course) without going over the edge into preachy.

Escaping North Korea

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This book gives us a fascinating glimpse into the culture, politics and living conditions of North Korea–one of the most isolated and repressive countries in the world. It also tells the story of Mike Kim, a young American of Korean ancestry who, after learning about the repressive North Korean regime and the horrific living conditions in that country, left his job as a financial planner and founded the organization Crossing Borders, which provides food, clothing and medical care to refugees from North Korea who have escaped into China. He spent four years on the border–as well as crossing into North Korea–and has both witnessed first-hand as well as heard the stories of famine, corruption and repression in that country. His organization has established orphanages and shelters for refugees in China and aids them in finding placements in other countries as well. The stories of Kim as well those of the refugees he has helped, are compelling and inspirational as all have risked their lives to find peace and build new lives . I found Escaping North Korea a fascinating book.

A New Perspective on Austen’s Life

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Those of us who love Jane Austen’s works have long been disappointed about the lack of detail we have about her life. Her sister Cassandra destroyed many of her letters and her other siblings may have been selective about the details from her life, wanting to present her in the best possible light. Cassandra and Jane is Jill Pitkeathley’s attempt to fill in the gaps for us. She tells the story of Jane’s life from Cassandra’s perspective, creating the story of what might have been, including the sisters’ close relationship, the conflicts between Jane and her mother and a romance. A truly delightful read.