Reading Room Blog
In The House of Small Shadows, protagonist Catherine has had a bleak past. After losing her job at a top TV network in London thanks to corporate insecurity, she decides to move on with her life and experience the tedious job of antiquing and auctioning. She welcomes a new challenge assigned by her elderly boss: cataloging and maintaining a massive doll collection owned by the niece of infamous taxidermist M.H. Mason. Catherine finds it thrilling to also examine the strange and sentimental display of stuffed animals, posed and costumed in bloody scenes from the Great War.
“...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” - Jack Kerouac's On the Road
The Beats: A Graphic History tackles the generation of post-World War II writers who revealed an untold side of America while pushing censors' boundaries with their writing style.
With a mother who tries to be prim and proper and a daddy who dreams big but has sorrowful, often hilarious runs of bad luck trying to make his way in the world, young Daisy Fay—with a chipped front tooth, brave heart, and clever mind—finds the 1950s a spectacularly exciting time to come of age. As in her other best-selling novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Fannie Flagg’s Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man overlays its sometimes somber situations with such absurdities as to have readers laughing out loud.
Looking for a mystery with great characters and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat? Read The Girl Next Door, by Ruth Rendell.
Six decades after World War II, construction workers uncover a tin box containing two skeletal hands. The ensuing police investigation leads to the reunion of six friends who decades before had lived and played in the neighborhood where the hands were found. Old friends will reunite, a marriage will break up, and a past crime will be solved.
Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky is a memoir set in the rugged, sheep-raising terrain of Montana. It was a time when the last of the small-town ranchers were on their way out, pushed along by the Great Depression and rich men buying up failed farms to add to their own.
The author’s people were not of the rich kind. They were scrappy, immigrant stock. Ivan’s grandfather came with family from Scotland. They ran sheep til their luck ran out. Then they worked for the big ranchers. Ivan’s father was a little guy, but he broke broncos—sometimes breaking his own bones doing it -- rode herd on sheep, bossed the other hands, and fell in love with a 16-year-old girl.
William Kent Krueger has yet again captured his mystery readers by storm in his thirteenth installment of the Cork O’Connor series, Windigo Island. In the middle of a large and dangerous electrical storm, the body of a young Ojibwe girl washes up on the shores of Lake Superior, Minnesota, bruised and severely abused.
Fried chicken. Cornbread. Sunday morning bacon. Apple Brown Betty. All of these delicious, home-cooked foods traditionally come out of a cast-iron skillet. At my house, we have three or four of them that have been passed down through generations. While Ellen Brown’s New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook has takes on these basic things, it opens a wider range of flavors and techniques from around the country and around the world.
In Bobbie Pyron’s The Dogs of Winter, five-year-old Ivan doesn’t know where his mother went. Maybe she traveled to the City to find work. She had lost her job at the bakery, so they hadn’t had anything good to eat for a long time, and the house had no heat. The bad man who lived with them just said she was gone. Forever.
The Next Life Might Be Kinder, by Howard Norman, has one of those great first lines: “After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alphonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me.”
For his first published novel, cartoonist and writer Edgar Cantero has given the world an exquisite and mysterious work of speculative fiction in The Supernatural Enhancements. The narrator, a twenty-something European man who only goes by A. Wells, inherits the Axton House, an old plantation mansion in Point Bless, Virginia, after he learns of a second cousin, (“twice removed”) who has recently committed suicide by jumping out of a window. To A.’s surprise, the suicide follows a familiar pattern in the Wells family tree: the same age, the same time of the year, and the same method of suicide…and the worst of it is, A. is getting especially close to falling in with the same death pattern himself.