Bestsellers in 1919


books6In 2010, I started a year-long reading project as part of the Rochester Public Library’s 100th birthday. My goal was to read one book from each decade that the library had existed. I spent some time researching bestsellers and other books published in each decade from 1911-2011, and then spent even more time tracking down copies of the books I selected. I found many print copies in the stacks of the Rundel Building, but also found plenty of e-books that had been digitized through the Google Books project.

As happens on the internet, things you wrote and posted years ago pop to the surface at odd times. That happened today with my very first post about 100 Years, 100 Books – a review of The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum. That made me go back and look at the books I’d identified as published and popular 100 years ago. Below are two lists: one of notable books published in 1919 and one of the bestsellers of the year. 

1. Sherwood Anderson — Winesburg, Ohio
2. Edgar Rice Burroughs — Jungle Tales of Tarzan
3. Joseph Hergesheimer – Linda Condon
4. Hermann Hesse — Demian
5. W. Somerset Maugham — The Moon and Sixpence
6. Baroness Orczy – The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
7. Mary Augusta Ward – Fields of Victory
8. Virginia Woolf — Night and Day
9. A. A. Milne – The Camberley Triangle
10. H. L. Mencken – The American Language

Publishers Weekly Best Sellers of 1919

1. Vicente Blasco Ibanez – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
2. Joseph Conrad – The Arrow of Gold
3. Zane Grey – The Desert of Wheat
4. Mary Roberts Rinehart – Dangerous Days
5. Ralph Connor – The Sky Pilot in No Man’s Land
6. Harold Bell Wright – The Re-Creation of Brian Kent
7. Eleanor Porter – Dawn
8. Temple Bailey – The Tin Soldier
9. Elizabeth von Arnim – Christopher and Columbus
10. Robert W. Chambers – In Secret

And, finally, my review of the book I read for 1919 – The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

scarletI have fond memories of reading the book to which this one is a sequel – The Scarlet Pimpernel– one hot summer in between high school semesters. I was reading anything I could find about the French Revolution, and a librarian at the Gates Library recommended Baroness Orczy and the Pimpernel, which I devoured.

I had not realized there was a sequel until I started creating the lists for this reading project, and was delighted to find my old friend Percy Blakeney among the choices. In fact, I discovered there are a great many sequels to the original Pimpernel, which I’m sure will lead to much more reading for me!

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel picks up with Sir Percy still rescuing unfortunate maidens and righting wrongs in post Revolution France, albeit in a collection of short stories instead of one longer novel. Each vignette has Percy or another member of The League righting wrongs committed against members the aristocracy or members of their staff. Children are rescued, fortunes restored, and lives set aright, all at the hand of the man with the twinkling blue eyes that can turn to steel in a second.

An entertaining read for fans of the spy genre and historical fiction.

Murder at the Palace by Margaret Dumas


9781635114638_06b62Murder at the Palace is the first in what promises to be a successful and addicting new mystery series set in San Francisco and featuring Nora Paige, former screenwriter/Hollywood wife/about-to-be-ex-wife/classic movie expert and cast of memorable characters, both alive and dead.

The series set-up has Nora taking over the management of The Palace, a vintage theater owned by her best friend, while she begins recovering from a messy end to her marriage to a high profile Hollywood actor. In the best mystery tradition, Nora finds a body in the basement of the theater on her first day, setting in motion a rollicking good mystery that includes the ghost of an epaulet-wearing usherette who died in the theater 100 years ago, a mysterious and gorgeous Columbian “entrepreneur,” and a whole cast of colorful characters.

Nora shows her deductive chops as she untangles a very complicated mess and ultimately solves two murders while making some friends in her new town. Interspersed throughout are “blog posts” about old movies, which made me want to go watch all of them. The focus on “old Hollywood” and classic movies put me in mind of the old George Baxt books, which I adored, but also stands with the best modern “cozy” mysteries like the Lily Ivory series by Juliet Blackwell. Nora is an appealing, strong, and resourceful protagonist who functions quite well independently of her Hollywood husband. The plot was a little thin at times (I guessed the MacGuffin early on) but the story is well-written and engaging. I’m adding this to my list of must-read series. Recommended.

Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Publisher: Henery Press
Thanks to Edelweiss.plus for the review copy

What the Neighbors Read Last Year


Social media has been awash the last couple weeks with “Top Ten Reads of 2018” or lists of all the books people read last year. That made me wonder what the people of Monroe County borrowed, read, and watched in 2018. My curiosity was satisfied by three eclectic lists. Here they are, the Top Ten Books, DVDs, and E-books Borrowed from Monroe County Libraries in 2018!

Ten Most Borrowed Print Books

 

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
The Fallen by David Baldacci
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
The President is Missing by James Patterson & Bill Clinton
Fifty Fifty by James Patterson

Ten Most Borrowed DVDs

Wonder Woman
Wonder
Coco
Dunkirk
Black Panther
Despicable Me 3
The Shape of Water
Hidden Figures
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Spider-Man Homecoming

Ten Most Borrowed E-Books

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Camino Island by John Grisham
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Midnight Line by Lee Child
Origin by Dan Brown
The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Please note: this content was separated from any personally identifiable information on the borrowers before it was shared with me, in my capacity as Director of the Monroe County Library System.

Reader Profile – Cara Rager


photo jun 29, 7 27 44 pm

Cara Rager is the Manager of Educational Training and Family Engagement at WXXI in Rochester, NY. In her role, she works to engage, support, and empower Rochester’s families and educators using public media and PBS resources. In case you’re wondering, that’s Cara between D.W. and Buster!

What are you reading now?
I just finished reading The Burning Girl by Claire Messud and now I’m reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I have a pretty hefty “to-read” list.

Are you a fiction or non-fiction reader?
I mostly read fiction – I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers like The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, and The Girls by Emma Cline. Lately, though, I’ve been getting more into biographies. I’m loving reading about the lives of comedians, such as Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, and Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow. But my most favorite recent bio read was Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Given my work at WXXI Education and growing up with Sesame Street, The Muppets, and Fraggle Rock, I learned so much about Jim Henson, his creativity, the people he worked with, and all the places and spaces that he impacted.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?
Educated by Tara Westover. I couldn’t put the book down and I’m pretty sure I was in shock reading most of the book because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that it was a true story. I’ve been telling everyone to read it and even bought it as a Christmas gift for my mom to read! Highly recommend.

Is there a book you feel is highly overrated?
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I read it, I think the basic message is there but to me, I felt like a lot of women were left out of her picture. I do think it’s important for women to be empowered to shake up the status quo in places where they feel like they are not being supported or treated equally, such as their workplace. And I also think it’s really important to hear stories from lots of different women who have been able to make serious change. But, given all the praise the book got in the beginning, I wasn’t as impressed when I read it.

What book changed your life, or changed how you view the world? In what way?
I actually have two books that changed my view of the world and specifically my philosophy of education – Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen and The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I read both books when I was in my undergraduate education program at St. John Fisher College. As someone who loved school and learning and was going to school to be a teacher, this was the first moment that I realized that the whole picture was not being taught in school AND that it was my charge as a teacher to make sure my students left with a variety of perspectives of history to build the full picture. I definitely felt cheated when reading these books and learning how much I didn’t know.

Do you read with your children? What are some of their favorite books?
While I don’t have kids of my own yet, I do have 6 nieces and nephews and I love children’s books! I love to read with them when I can, but I especially love choosing books for them. Gifting books is one of my favorite things; I like to collect some information about books/topics/genres they like and then see what treasures I can find. I love that they all have such different reading preferences even being so young. My niece, Ruby, is 2 years old and loves dinosaurs (like her older brother), cooking, and dress-up. For Christmas, I gave her Brontorina by James Howe (from Webster!) about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina but is too big and Razzle-Dazzle Ruby by Masha D’yans about a spunky little girl who uses her imagination to go on adventures with her dog. I have another niece, Lila, who is 8 years old and devouring books like crazy right now. She loves comic books (like Garfield!) and graphic novels and she’s really enjoying book series. For her birthday in November I gave her Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #1) by Ben Clanton which is the first book in a super silly series about a friendship between a narwhal and a jellyfish who both love waffles, parties, and adventures. She loved it!

Are you a “finisher” or do stop reading a book if you’re not connecting with it?
My personal philosophy is that reading should be enjoyable – that said, there are times when you must read something – but if I’m reading for pleasure, I’m happy to discard a book if it’s not grabbing me. I think choice is a big part of getting people hooked on reading – especially kids. I love getting lost inside books and then sharing what I’ve read or learned. Not everything is interesting to me and I’m okay leaving a book behind. Perfect example: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.

Why do you read?
I read to relax, escape, exercise my brain, and learn.

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?
Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I’m on the waitlist for the ebook but I might have to just buy it because I’m #138 of 30 copies!

Describe your favorite place to read.
My favorite place to read is on the couch, under a blanket, with a cup of coffee, and in between my two dogs. It’s the best, coziest spot.

2019 Reading Challenge – READO!


For several years, staff in the Monroe County Library System have participated in a year-long reading challenge. This year, we’re using a version of BINGO called READO. The concept is the same – make a line vertically, horizontally, or diagonally or get the 4 corners – and win a prize.

We are in the process of creating a number of READO boards, and thought we’d share them here. While only MCLS staff are eligible for monthly drawings, some of you might enjoy playing along. Here are the first three boards: Reading Experiences, World Literature, and Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors.

READO World Lit

READO experiences

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Watch this blog for more boards throughout January.

Enjoy!

End of the Year Micro-Reviews


woman in lakeWoman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick

Cornick is fast becoming my go-to author for suspenseful, fascinating time-slip stories, and she delivers another one with The Woman in the Lake. Moving between present time and the 18th century, Cornick tells the intertwined stories of Isabella, Constance, and Fenella, all bound together by a gorgeous and deadly golden gown. Each woman struggles with her place in the world, complicated by aggressive, violent, and manipulative men who, in turn, cause the women to take drastic measures to survive. The story is well-paced, with lovely description and dialog, and characters who attract and repel the reader equally. My favorite among them is Constance, the insignificant lady’s maid who turns out to have more brains and balls than any of her “betters.” Consider this a one-sitting story – you won’t be able to put it down.

Publication date: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin-Graydon House
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

loch nessThe Loch Ness Papers by Paige Shelton

I stumbled on Paige Shelton’s first book in the Scottish Bookshop series purely by accident. I was looking for authors like Kate Carlisle and Shelton’s name came up. I was hooked from the first page and have devoured each entry in the series. In book 4, we find main character Delaney working hard to manage her upcoming wedding to Tom, including introducing her Kansas family to her Edinburgh family. While tracking down a reverend to officiate at the wedding, Delaney meets yet another interesting person. This time, it’s Norval Fraser and he draws her deep into a mystery involving the Loch Ness Monster, a missing father, and a murdered nephew. As usual, Delaney and all her Edinburgh friends are charming, the story is fun and engaging, and there are interesting developments in the personal lives of the characters. I’m beginning to think, though, that it’s time to let go of the books talking to Delaney. In the first book, the convention worked well, but here it felt kind of forced. Delaney is interesting enough on her own.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

ghost manuscriptThe Ghost Manuscript by Kris Frieswick

Fans of stories about King Arthur will appreciate this interesting treatment of the Arthurian legend and the people obsessed with it, but The Ghost Manuscript will also appeal to readers who just enjoy a good mystery. The characters are appealing and the story is by turns riveting and engrossing, mostly due to the author’s skillful switching between the more cerebral puzzle-solving and the physical activity of dealing with bad guys while actively searching for treasure. The big shocker about Arthur’s origins was somewhat similarly treated in an early Elly Griffith’s “Ruth Galloway” book, but the tribal involvement here makes this wholly original. Plus the female protagonist is a librarian. Kind of.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Post Hill Press
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

salt windsOrphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks

Oddly enough, it looks like this was published earlier this year as Call of the Curlew, and reviews generally echo my reading experience. Brooks delivers a solid, shivering, atmospheric piece centering on an old tragedy. She uses the common alternating time convention, switching between 1939 and the present day as she tells the story of Virginia and how she came to Salt Winds. The characters are vividly drawn and the story clever and suspenseful. This stands with the best of Kate Morton and M.J. Rose. Well done.

Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Tin House Books
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden


winter of the witchAround the beginning of December, I finally managed to get my hands on an advanced reading copy of Arden’s Winter of the Witch and had hoped to spend the weekend reading this end to the gorgeous Winternight Trilogy. Alas, that didn’t happen….because I finished it in a day.

I’ve written before that Arden’s writing is lyrical, lush, and full of magic and mystery; it will keep you reading well into the night, not only because she skillfully blends fairytale and history, but because she has created complex and fascinating original characters. Truthfully, I haven’t loved a series as much since I first read Harry Potter.

I will honestly say that the Potter series, which I have adored for more than 20 years, has been replaced by Arden’s Winternight Trilogy as my favorite in the fantasy genre. The story takes the fairy tales of my childhood and makes them flesh in a way that left me breathless. With this final entry, Arden has brought the stories begun in The Bear and the Nightingale full circle and created a tale for the ages.

When we left Vasya, Sasha, Olga & Dmitri, Moscow was burning due to Vasya releasing the firebird, a mythical creature contained within a golden horse that had been bridled and controlled by Kaschei the Deathless. Vasya, burned and exhausted, finds brief refuge within the terem of sister Olga, Princess of Serpukhov but is almost immediately confronted with a mob demanding her blood. Led by Brother Konstantin, the mob drags Vasya to the river and attempts to burn her as a witch. She escapes and makes her way into the realm of Midnight, where she recovers and learns more about her family and herself.

In Midnight, Vasya is considered an alternative to The Bear and The Winter King, two gods who control the chaos in the world. The chyerti of Midnight are tired of the feuding between the two and hope Vasya will break the cycle of chaos and cold controlled by these two brothers. Vasya begins to recognize her own power and understands that she can affect the outcome of war in the real world and chaos in the other realm.

There are so many themes to unpack here – the position and power of women (Vasya is different and therefore dangerous); the strength of family; the weakness of men and women when faced with unimaginable temptation; and the power afforded beauty and charisma and the danger when it goes awry. While this trilogy grew out of Russian fairy & folk tales, it is at its heart a story about family and loyalty.

What makes this a stand-out is Arden’s writing. In less imaginative and skillful hands, the story could be just another niche fantasy series; here it becomes history and romance and war as well as magic. I’ve read Arden’s other work (give Small Spaces a try next Halloween!) and found it just as beautifully written. She is a young author to watch. I don’t buy a lot of print books these days, but I have purchased a set of these books and will keep and re-read them for years to come.

Someone please make this a Netflix series!

Secluded Village Murders by Shelly Frome


The Secluded Village Murders by Shelly Frome

For tour guide Emily Ryder, the turning point came on that fatal early morning when her beloved mentor met an untimely death. It’s labeled as an accident and Trooper Dave Roberts is more interested in Emily than in any suspicions over Chris Cooper’s death. For Emily, if Chris hadn’t been the Village Planner and the only man standing in the way of the development of an apartment and entertainment complex in their quaint village of Lydfield, Connecticut, she might have believed it was an accident, but too many pieces didn’t fit.

As Emily heads across the pond for a prescheduled tour of Lydfield’s sister village, Lydfield-in-the-Moor, she discovers that the murderer may be closer than she thought.

Shelly Frome has delivered a fun and quirky murder mystery full of appealing characters and a clever plot. Frome is a skilled writer who delivers crisp dialog and lovely descriptions which help move the plot along. I sometimes hesitate to read novels written by academics because they tend to be so literary. (I readily admit that I am a blue-collar reader…) At the end of the day, I just like a good story with suspenseful action and characters that don’t make me want to throw the book at the wall, and I got that here. I started The Secluded Village Murders around 6 pm on a Friday night and finished it around midnight. Then I opened up my Libby app and started looking for more books by Shelly Frome.

If you are a fan of M.C. Beaton, Joan Hess, and Carolyn Hart, you will enjoy Shelly Frome. Recommended.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Published by: BQB Publishing

Publication Date: September 1st 2018

Number of Pages: 339

ISBN: 1945448202 (ISBN13: 9781945448201)

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Picking up speed, she passed the rows of Victorian houses with their pilastered front porches and attached shutters in homage to last century’s Colonial Revival. She’d grown up here, always lived here except for college and her transatlantic jaunts. But at this moment, her village might as well be a scattering of old photos.

Before she knew it, the rain was beating down harder, her wiper blades barely able to keep up. Among the nagging questions flitting through her mind was how could Miranda Shaw have suddenly gotten wind of her leaking roof? Or did somebody just put her up to it, to get Chris rushing pell- mell in the rain so he would…

Emily eased her foot off the pedal, barely able to see through the downpour. She switched the wipers on high and kept her eyes on the road, intent on avoiding an accident.

Minutes later, she pulled into Miranda Shaw’s place at a slow but steady crawl. As she reached the circular drive, straining her eyes through the thwacking blades, she peered up two stories above the stone archway.

There she caught sight of the familiar gangly figure climbing higher toward the peak of an eight-sided turret. At a point where the grayish-blue slate, copper flashing, and a mullioned window merged, the figure suddenly became a shuddering blur.

Emily honked her horn, blasting as loud as she could. But it was too late. The figure flopped over and slid down the turret, glanced off the aluminum ladder and toppled like a broken doll.

***

Excerpt from The Secluded Village Murders by Shelly Frome. Copyright © 2018 by Shelly Frome. Reproduced with permission from Shelly Frome. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Shelly Frome

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He is also a features writer for Gannett Media. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, and Murder Run. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Moon Games is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

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September Micro-Reviews


2686AB76-18BB-4C05-B351-3D3D38698006Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose

A tragic heroine with a dark secret paired with mysterious, sometimes villanous men, and a fascinating look into the art world – all things we’ve come to expect from M.J. Rose and all things that play a part in this lovely new story. Rose has a skillful ability to blend mystery, romance, and history into readable, un-put-downable stories and she has succeeded admirably here.

The peek into the world of Louis Comfort Tiffany is an extra treat here, and Rose captures the heady atmosphere of creating art in New York City in the early decades of the 20th century with color and panache. The characters range from appealing to repulsive, the action suspenseful, and the outcome deliciously romantic. And has there been a better named character than Minx Deering? I don’t think so! Recommended.

Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Published by Simon & Schuster Atria Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

B01FF0E0-18D7-4147-8C90-637270FEE18BGolden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

There isn’t another series of which I am aware that does such a masterful job of growing a protagonist from child to teen to (eventually) adult. Flavia de Luce has engaged readers since her first appearance in Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and continues to do so throughout the series. Initially a precocious, brilliant but still vulnerable child, we have traveled with Flavia as she has become a (still) brilliant and cheeky teen tempered by tragedy and change. Her insatiable desire to know the world, coupled with her tender regard for Dogger and need for acceptance by the Hewitts has made Flavia into a classic.

In this new entry in the series, we find Flavia and Dogger tackling a new case, precipitated by a gruesome discovery in sister Daphne’s wedding cake. The relationship between Dogger and Flavia continues to develop as they grow their detecting business, and provides a vehicle for the author to demonstrate Flavia’s maturity. Absent both her parents, Flavia looks to Dogger to guide her through difficult situations.

As we have come to expect, Bradley delivers a clever and funny story that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of the series will eat this up. Recommended.

Publication Date: January 22, 2019
Publisher: Penguin/Random House Delacorte Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

2FDE50A8-07FC-4BE9-9741-70C8387B159FLouisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

With every new story, I am more certain that Kate DiCamillo must be acknowledged as one of the most talented authors of this generation. In this newest offering, DiCamillo tells the story of Louisiana Elefante and how she came to live with Betty and Burke Allen in Georgia. Fans of DiCamillo will remember Louisiana from Raymie Nightingale and will be at once delighted and crushed as they follow her adventures from Florida to Georgia.

As DiCamillo writes here, there is a “great deal of power in writing things down,” and it is true that her stories always contain power, and gentleness, love, and heartbreak. Additionally, they also contain some of the most inventive and memorable dialog and description out there. For instance, there’s this gem:

It occurred to me that the Georgia sun was different from the Florida sun. I knew that it was the same sun —of course I did. There is only one sun, no matter where you go on this infinitesimally spinning earth. That is a fact. But there are facts and there are facts. And one fact is that it is the same sun, and another fact is that if you are far from home, and you don’t know who you are, it is a very different sun.

Any child (or adult) struggling with figuring out their place in the world will surely identify with Louisiana and find comfort and strength in her story. Highly recommended for middle grade readers.

Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Penguin/Random House Candlewick Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

BB19610D-1E20-4D37-95AD-BF6404841117Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

In this age of immediate gratification and super-multi-tasking, it’s inevitable that a book like Chris Bailey’s would surface. There are dozens of books out there that are intended to help you focus, but few that explore the science behind attention and focus in the chatty, informative way that Hyperfocus offers. The information provided here actually works and has helped me change the way I work and organize myself. Recommended.

Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Published by: Penguin Group Viking
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy