Beth Solka

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen

Lucky You

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen is about a young black woman named JoLayne Lucks who has one of two winning tickets to the Florida lottery--and when she cashes it in she will win $14 million. As a vet assistant, she is very involved with raising the baby turtles that she finds and plans on using her money to buy a section of Florida swampland to create a wildlife refuge.  However, two con men named Chubb and Bodean Gazzer--who have formed a white supremacy militia--own the other winning ticket. When they find out that JoLayne is also a winner, they decide that $28 million would be even better to help them finance the White Clarion Aryans.

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Trinity, our greyhound mix, was a natural leader. She would break up cat fights by putting her head between the fighting cats.  Whenever there was dissent among our dogs, she would stare them down until they retreated. When our cat was dying and had to sleep in the bathroom the night before she took her final trip to the vet, Trinity slept on the other side of the door. We had no idea what a positive effect she had on the dynamics of our household until she passed away. Now the cats fight right next to one of our dogs' heads and they just lie there looking at them as if to say, “Will you look at that!”

The novel Rose in a Storm is Jon Katz's first fiction in 10 years. Jon Katz usually writes nonfiction books about his farm, Bedlam Farm, an hour outside of Albany, NY, where ironically, his lead farm dog is named Rose. It is a wonderful example of how a little book can be so much more than the reader expects. The book is written from Rose’s perspective. Rose is the best farm dog in the county, and her reputation is so good that other farmers have borrowed Rose when they have had problems on their farms. She and Sam, the farmer, share an excellent non-verbal bond as they work the farm on a daily basis. But their life is turned upside down when a catastrophic blizzard envelops the farm and all of the animals that they have are in danger of freezing to death or being attacked by coyotes.

Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me about Awkward Family Photos. This is a collection of photos that I would probably have burned if I had some of these for my family.  However, these families bravely submitted them for the world to see.

Sometimes the reason for the awkward moment hits you in the face, but then there are others that you really have to look carefully at the picture and what is happening in the background to figure out what is funny about the photo. When I realized what is “special” about the photo I felt stupid for not noticing it right away.

Bold Sons of Erin by Owen Parry

Bold Sons of Erin cover

You have to love living in Fredericksburg! I enjoy walking my dogs through the forest paths of the Fredericksburg Battlefields, but you have to be out of the park by sundown because the park police lock the gate.  One evening I was hurrying down the darkening path before sunset when I heard footsteps behind me.  When I turned around to see who was walking behind me, I saw a Confederate soldier coming out of the shadows of the path.  I was being followed by a ghost and I don’t even believe in ghosts!  I made a mental note to talk to my Supervisor at the library about getting some time off for my mental health.  As I came to the edge of the woods and climbed up the hill into the clearing with a little extra daylight I could see that there were Confederate soldiers milling around everywhere.  I had to be smack dab in the middle of a re-enactment.  Whew! That was relief - scratch the request for a mental health day!

If you love mysteries and the Civil War, then you might enjoy Owen Parry books.  The main character is Major Abel Jones, who is an unassuming tiny man who walks with a limp and uses a cane.  He is a Welsh immigrant to America who serves in the United States army, but previously served in the British army in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Now he is a secret investigator for President Lincoln.  In Bold Sons of Erin, Major Abel is sent by Lincoln to investigate the sudden death of General Stone.  The book begins with Abel arranging to dig up the grave of General Stone.  When it is opened, he finds the body of a young girl who has been stabbed to death buried in the grave of the General. 

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

Alex & Me cover

Years ago when researchers were in heated debates about whether or not animals can think, I could have told them that they do.  When I was first married I had an incredible dog named Doctor. One day when I was young and stupid, I had a knock on my door.  There was a man standing outside my door whom I didn’t recognize, so I locked my screen door to keep my dog in and stepped outside to see what this man wanted.  He began to ask me some very bizarre questions about the neighborhood. He kept stepping back to draw me away from my front door. Suddenly I found that I had gone into my front yard to talk to this strange young man. Red flags were going off in my brain at this point. He was about to ask me another odd question when he suddenly stopped and said, “I have to go.” He turned around and walked quickly away. I thought, “What a strange man that was!”  When I turned around I discovered that Doctor had jumped up, unhooked the screen door, and was sitting behind me with his lips curled back in a silent growl. Evidently, he thought that the man was odd also.

 When my husband bought me Alex & Me, by Irene Pepperberg, last year and gently said, “I think that you would like this," I politely thanked him and stubbornly put it on the shelf.  A year later I picked it up and now I grudgingly have to admit that he was correct.  I do love this book!

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero cover

Recently when I went to the beach I took Patient Zero with me to read.  While I sat in stopped traffic, motorcyclists weaved in and out, roaring past us laughing.  My first thought was, “That is SO illegal! I hate you!” But my next thought was, “They are going to get to the beach long before we do, and they are having more fun doing it this way.”  If Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero were a vehicle it would be one of those motorcycles roaring past the stopped cars.  The action is fast and furious from the beginning to the very last page of the book.

Chapter One introduces Joe Ledge--a modern day Rambo. 

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

Mermaids in the Basement

 Michael Lee West’s Mermaids in the Basement finds screenwriter Renata DeChavannes grieving from the recent loss of her mother and stepfather in an airplane crash. She retreats to her family home in the Outer Banks where she eats uncontrollably. While she is buying her movie-producer boyfriend a sweater in a little clothing store, she happens to see the tabloid article telling that her absent love is rumored to be dating his latest movie’s star in faraway Dublin.

Devastated, her drinking, too, begins to get out of control. One night, a drunken Renata has a beach bonfire and burns her manuscript. When she wakes up not knowing what she has done, she looks through all of her drawers to find it but instead discovers a letter from her mother instructing her to contact her paternal grandmother in order to find out the stories of her mother’s “dirty deeds.”

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse by Thomas E. Sniegoski

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

Recently, I found myself running around a hotel and trying to hide so that I could just finish my book and no one would see me crying. Last week my son got married, and even though I am not very emotional my family kept saying “You are going to cry when he gets married. I know you will.” I kept saying, “I am not. I am going to remain calm and collected.” When a friend called to recommend a book, “A Kiss Before the Apocalypse,” I decided to take it with me to the wedding. It is about an angel, Remiel or Remy Chandler who decides to come to earth along with a few other angels to pretend to be one of God’s most beloved creations – Man.

However, while he is here he falls in love with a woman named Madeline and they marry. Since angels do not age and humans do, the book begins with Remy visiting his elderly wife who is dying of cancer in a nursing home. Everyone who works there believes that Madeline is his mother, but the reader soon becomes part of a magical love story of a woman and an angel.

Talking Books

Talking Books

At the Central Rappahannock Regional Library we offer services for all readers. I manage Assistive Services which provides talking books to people who can no longer read standard print. People with dyslexia, physical handicaps, vision impairment, or blindness are eligible for this service.

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

When you read a book at night until it unnerves you so much that you have to put it down to go sleep and then you dream about it, you know you have a great book!  The Cypress House takes place in 1935 and focuses on Arlen Wagner. As a veteran of World War I, he develops the ability to tell when someone was about to die. 

After the war, he is working as a CCC worker and is asked to take a train down to the Florida Keys to help build the bridge out to Key West. Unfortunately, when the train reaches Florida, Arlen can tell that everyone on that train is about to die. He attempts to convince everyone on the train to get off, but the only one who listens to him is a teenage boy, Paul Brickhill, who has been traveling with him.