Staff Reads — February 10, 2016

Looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day Gift? Check out what we’re reading this month.


  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters: This well-crafted novel takes place in Post WWI London. It is 1922 and the once wealthy “spinster” Frances and her mother Mrs. Wray are mourning the death of the two young men of the family in the Great War, World War I. Mr. Wray has died and, unfortunately, has left considerable debts. Frances and her mother are obliged to take in lodgers—Lilian and Leonard Barber of the “clerk class”. Life has been rather dull and drab for Frances; this is about to change with the lively couple who move in. There is some passionate romance afoot. Please be aware, it is of the same sex variety, so if that is not to your taste, please do not read this book. Due to the rather repressive timbre of the times, there is some tragedy, even murder to be dealt with. Your heart will be in your throat as you struggle with Frances and Lilian.
    This is my second novel by Sarah Waters and, I must say, she creates a powerful sense of time and place. One feels as if taken by this writer to 1920’s London, with the old house in disrepair, the nuances and niceties, the cups of tea, down to the smallest detail. The writing moves along and you are drawn in and unable to put this amazing novel down.
    This novel was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and nominated for the Goodreads Award for Best Historical Fiction.
    I give it five out of five teacups up!
    If you enjoy this book, I recommend the following as read-alikes: Atonement by Ian McEwan This riveting novel of World War II has murder, passion, tragedy and suspense and, a movie tie in. It was shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. It also won the Whitbread Award. Please read my next review for another excellent read-alike.
  • The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell: Even the title of this book about the Prohibition Era in New York City grabbed me. I am old enough to remember the manual typewriter. In this novel that I would classify as one of psychological suspense, we meet Rose Baker, a police typist who likes her job She transcribes the confessions of murderers and other members of the criminal element. Rose lives in a boarding house with a roommate who is separated from her by a sheet in the middle of the room. Helen often steals Rose’s things and has a knack for getting on her nerves.
    Enter Odalie, the other typist in the precinct. There are more and more cases coming in due to the
    Volstead Act and Odalie is hired on the spot. She is glamorous, mysteries and filled with life. Rose
    becomes obsessed and is drawn in to a lifestyle of speakeasies and wealth that she could never have
    come up with in her wildest dreams. Rindell’s debut novel is in some sense an homage to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald but it also stands on its own two feet. I was drawn up in this novel and was filled with suspense and a dark sense of foreboding as I read through to the harrowing conclusion.
    This book is being optioned for film and I can see why. If you are a fan of The Great Gatsby, or of The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, you will love this novel. A great read for people who like psychological fiction and who like a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
    I give it five out of five speakeasies up.

Pat A.: I am reading a novel that could be classified as a Romantic Comedy called The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. And that says it all.

Mary V.: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells is a suspense filled novel that I had trouble putting down. It concerns love, madness, psychological abuse and teenaged angst. There is a murder, but I would not call this a murder mystery even though Waltham has classified it as a mystery. The main character is a woman who is a wife and mother as well as a horsewoman and landscape gardener.



  • Watchers – Dean Koontz: One of my favorite books, a book I revisit every few years – Horror, Mystery, Scifi-ish, Love Story, with a little humor thrown in for good measure.
  • Early Warning [sound recording] : a novel / Jane Smiley: Too many characters with too much family history and turmoil over too many years for me.
    After 7 discs I skipped to the last disc and everything was resolved – I didn’t need to know all the details – but others may enjoy the trip thru this family’s life.
  • I enjoyed both these books but would have understood the situation better if I’d read them in order. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [sound recording] / Rachel Joyce:
    Wish I had read this after The Love Story Of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
    The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy [sound recording] : a novel / Rachel Joyce: Should have read this book before the one above.
  • I’ll be sad when Sue Grafton get to the letter Z I’ve enjoyed this mystery series very much
    S is for Silence [sound recording] / Sue Grafton: Kinsey helps a daughter solve the disappearance of her mother 34 years later
    T is for Trespass [sound recording] / Sue Grafton: Private investigator Kinsey Millhone searches for sociopath Solana Rojas, an identity she stole that gives her access to private caregiving jobs.
  • The Spymistress [sound recording] / by Jennifer Chiaverini: Good historical fiction story about the Civil War – conflict within families in the south in their views of the war.
  • Orphan Black. Season one [videorecording]: At first I was a little uncertain as to whether I’d like this one – but I got into it from the first scene. The actress playing the lead role is great. She plays multiple characters and each one is so different.
  • The Brokenwood Mysteries. Series 1: Fun characters interesting take on solving crimes – can’t wait for Series 2
  • Above Suspicion. Set 1 [videorecording]: A bit gory, don’t watch when eating dinner – but good characters and good story.
  • House of Cards. The complete second season: I don’t think anyone who gets in Frank’s way is safe…

Gerry C.

  • I am currently listening to After You by JoJo Moyes the sequel to her best seller Me Before You. Don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t read the first book. I am enjoying this book.
  • We are currently listening to Cold Betrayal by J. A. Jance. A book in her series where the main character is Allie Reynolds. Allie Reynolds is not one of our favorite characters but the story is okay.
  • Read The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah. Story about 2 sisters during of World War II. Thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  • Watched Downton Abbey Season 6. Loved this series. Sorry this is the end.
  • Currently streaming Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon. This is a comedy/drama about a fictitious N.Y. Symphony orchestra on the threshold of its opening season with a new conductor, Rodrigo. Series is based on a book by the same name. We are enjoying the dynamics of this show.


  • The Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski. The story centers around an an evangelical Christian family in 1970’s rural Idaho. Fourteen-year-old Jory Quanbeck along with her pregnant older sister, Grace, have been banished by their parents to an isolated house on the outskirts of town. Grace is a devout Christian who believes her condition to be a gift from God. The girls have to fend for themselves with the help of their neighbor,the elderly Hilda Kleinfelter and Grip, the Ice Cream Truck driver, who becomes an unlikely friend and support to both girls. It is a compelling and interesting story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and a thank you to Nancy D for the recommendation!
  • Listened to the soundtrack from Ricki and the Flash (streaming from hoopla)
  • Listening to Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt (streaming from hoopla) another Andy Carpenter story. Andy is on another case and once again up to the occassion, not only employing all of his skills but his wonderful sense of humor and take on life. Perfect story to make my time on treadmill go by quickly and with some laughs!
  • Watched The Martian, Directed by Ridley Scott.
    An entertaining movie that has a variety of aspects, suspense, action, science and a good dose of humor with a captivating ending.
  • Reading Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters.
    Being a lover of books it was easy for me to pick up this book and become engrossed in the story of Roberta, who works in The Old and New Book Store in England. Roberta is interested in the bits and pieces of letters she finds in the old books as she prepares to put them on the shelf.
    Her father donates some of her Grandmother’s books to the shop and brings them in an old suitcase that once belonged to a Mrs. D Sinclair. Roberta is intrigued by the suitcase and wonders about the identity of the owner. The story switches back and forth from Roberta’s investigattions in the present to her Grandmother’s life during WW II.

Hannah: Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan.
This book is a comprehensive biography of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s only daughter, from her childhood as “little princess of the Kremlin” to her defection to the United States and her death as a pauper in rural Wisconsin. Sullivan uses an array of sources to bring to life the complex and conflicted life lived by Svetlana. Full of personal tragedy and a never-ending search for an identity of her own, Svetlana spent her adult life after her defection wandering the globe from India to the United States to England and even back to the USSR. Svetlana brings a unique point of view of the politics and everyday life of the USSR. Her later views on Russia after the collapse and her judgments on the new leaders, Yelstin and Putin make this work not only about the Cold War era but an enlightening spotlight on Russia in the current age.


  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez: This was actually a re-read for me, having first read this about 15 years ago. It is a fictionalized tale of the Maribel sisters who joined the rebellion against the Dominican Republic dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Told in a series of flashbacks starting with sister, Dede, this beautiful, suspenseful novel is hard to put down.
  • The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas: I was lucky to get an advanced copy of this young adult novel, set to be released in April. This is a very creepy book which will, pardon the cliche, keep you on the edge of your seat. A teenage girl, Tessa, who’s been living in Florida with her grandmother briefly returns to her childhood home in Pennsylvania. Many years ago, Tessa and her best friend, Callie, were witnesses at a murder trial and identified the defendant. After she jogs her memory and some new evidence comes to light, Tessa starts to wonder if she and Callie may have caused an innocent man to go to prison. Place your hold on this item today and be one of the first to check it out when it’s released.
  • The X-Files (Television Show): When this show was first on the air, I was a casual fan, at best, occasionally catching episodes with friends and roommates who were hard core fans. The main reason I even tuned in was because I thought David Duchovny was cute (who didn’t in the 1990’s?). With the new edition currently airing on television, though, I decided to do a binge watch, and do I adore it! FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigate out of the ordinary events, uncover a government conspiracy, and develop an intense, emotional attachment. As the heads in the cloud Agent Mulder and practical minded Agent Scully, Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have a great chemistry reminiscent of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. (I’m not normally a fan of movie remakes, but if the two of them were to star in a remake of Adam’s Rib, I would check it out.) Standalone episodes about so-called monsters of the week range between being creepy and hilarious and are usually as fun as 1950’s monster movies. Some government conspiracy episodes are intriguing, although the amount of red herrings can get a little tedious. And as a woman, I just have to say that Agent Scully is a great female lead character. She’s intelligent, holds her own against her male counterpart, and is a completely realized person.

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