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Jen Jen  

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Not a Sound

Heather Gudenkauf

Sally and I recently were in Nisswa, as Beagle and Wolf was asked to sell books at the Brainerd Friends of the Library’s wonderful event, Wine, Words, & Friends. One of the authors there was Heather Gudenkauf, who I have known of—we carry her books in the store, but I had never read her books. All of the authors at the event were truly terrific, but I was most captivated by Heather. I was moved by her account of growing up with a hearing disability and taking refuge in a family toybox to read/escape. After the event, I decided to read Heather’s latest book, Not a Sound, which is a thriller but drew a lot on her real life. My family can attest to my certified absence for the two days I spent devouring Not a Sound. (I started the book in the evening and if I were a night owl instead of a morning bird, I would have stayed up to finish it.) I discovered it’s possible to make oneself a sandwich while reading (and I don’t mean listening to an audio book, I mean actual reading print.) So what’s Not A Sound about? Amelia is an ER nurse who becomes deaf after an accident. She copes by drinking. A lot. Way too much. Her husband insisted she move out of the house after an episode in which their daughter could have been harmed. Amelia and her service dog, Stitch, are out for a run one day and they come across the body of a nurse in the nearby river. The story and characters are complex and interesting (what I’ve described above is a very surface accounting), the plot is both familiar (dead body) and completely new (a deaf protagonist??) I was completely absorbed. I recently bought a copy for my friend Karen, a nurse, and I don’t expect to see her again until she’s finished the book. The next time you’re in Beagle and Wolf looking for a mystery, I can guarantee you that I’ll likely press a copy of Not a Sound into your hands and you’ll be so glad I did.


Sally Sally  


The Everything Low-Carb Meal Prep Cookbook

Lindsay Boyers

At last! A cookbook that “gets” the way I eat and cook! I’m counting carbs for my health, and have been looking for recipes to help me out. This book is full of them, and the ones I’ve tried are delicious. They also give me ideas about how to adapt recipes I already have. I like to set aside a week-end afternoon to prepare food for the next week. I had no idea this was a “thing,” but it is, and it’s called meal prep. Each recipe in the book makes six servings, more or less, so the yield can appear in meals throughout the week. I like to mix and match, so meals are varied but prep time is minimized. The section of dressings is worth the price of the book—the dressings are great, and the recipes make small enough quantities that you actually have a chance to use them up while they’re still good. I’m cooking my way through this book, and it’s current home is on my kitchen counter.



Saints for All Occasions
J. Courtney Sullivan

I read a LOT during my recent illness, and Saints for All Occasions was not only my favorite book while I recovered—it’s one of my top picks for the year.
It’s a book about family. Sisters Nora and Theresa emigrate to the United States from Ireland in the 1950’s. Since their mother’s death a few years earlier, Nora has raised Theresa, and the girls are close. Nora is going to Boston to join her fiancé, a young man she doesn’t love and doesn’t particularly like, while Theresa is looking for romance and adventure. The book begins in 2009, with the death of Nora’s oldest son. It continues with the parallel stories of the sisters from 1957 to 2009. All the elements of a good family saga are here, from family secrets to a clandestine affair, marrying for duty, estrangement of family members, and more. It’s a great read, and I think would be a terrific pick for a book group.



Clock Dance
Anne Tyler

I love the quirky characters in Anne Tyler’s novels, and the way her treatment of them illuminates human nature. If you read nothing else in this book, read the chapter ‘1967.’ Tyler’s description of young teen Willa and her friend selling candy bars door-to-door for a school fundraiser nails teen-age girls in a laugh-out-loud section. Although Willa experiences a few defining moments in her life, her existence has been relatively ordinary and predictable. She’s an amenable person, often taken for granted, who doesn’t make waves. Until she gets a phone call from a woman she’s never met. Following that call, Willa flies from Arizona to Baltimore, husband in tow, to care for the daughter of her son’s former girlfriend and her dog, for reasons she can’t quite articulate. While there, she experiences an eccentric community of neighbors, vintage Tyler, and finds her assumptions about what makes a fulfilling life challenged.





The Second Mrs. Hockaday
Susan Rivers

The Second Mrs. Hockaday is a work of historical fiction set in the time of the Civil War. Placidia is only seventeen years old and has known the much older Major Hockaday for just a few days when he asks for her hand in marriage. His proposal is accepted, changing everything for Placidia. Shortly after she has left her childhood home and life of privilege, Major Hockaday is called to fight in the war. The young Placidia is faced with a multitude of challenges. She is responsible for raising Charles, her husband's child by his first marriage. She must also run their household and protect their property. After two years away, the Major returns to find that his wife has been accused of giving birth and killing the child. Placidia refuses to reveal what has really happened. In fact, the next generation is left to unravel the mystery for themselves.
The story is told in letters, inquest reports, and diary entries, a format which brings in a variety of viewpoints. I found Placidia to be a strong and complex character and The Second Mrs. Hockaday to be an interesting and compelling portrayal of the Civil War era.



baby with book

The Penguin Book of Outer Space Exploration
John Logsdon

So when I received a copy of this book I had mixed feelings. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction…because I don’t (When they used the phrase “historical insights” alarms went off in my head.) But it was about outer space and that’s a great topic. I discovered early on this wasn’t really an adventure book (and you have to admit space travel is an adventure) but more of a documentary. I like a documentary, now and then…on TV, where there are visuals to keep your attention. Not so much in a book. So be prepared for readings dug out of the archives of presidents, committees, and a precursor organization to NASA, to name a few. That’s not to say that even these notes don’t have their moments, like when there was a power struggle to see who gets to run the space program. Some of the memos back and forth, all based on politics, money, and prestige, were pretty interesting and, of course, those flights that went awry do get to be exciting even though you already know the outcome.

I liked the book, even though there were memos/bulletins posted that were in “outline form” with tons of governmentese. Note: I don’t do well with government thinking because I’m looking for the logic. However, if you’re one of those who loves facts (and this is a cool topic) then this is the book for you.





The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen: 83 1/4 Years Old

Hendrik Groen

Hendrik decides to give the world an uncensored expose' about his life in a care home in Amsterdam. A delightful story sometimes sad, sometimes frustrating, but interspersed with humor. I enjoyed this book immensely and am sure anyone with knowledge of our care centers will relate. The highlight for Hendrik is when the "old but not dead" club, which he helped found, goes on outings. They find many interesting and unusual places to go. An international bestseller, this story is great read for young and old.




Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Erik Larson

Many people have the misconception that the sinking of the Lusitania was the reason the United States entered World War I, but It was actually two years later that we joined in. Erik Larson gives us an interesting overview of the crew and passengers on the ship, including a description of the largest passenger ship on the water at that time. We also learn about the crew on the German sub U-20 that launched the fateful torpedo. Larson is the author of five national bestsellers, including The Devil in the White City. I recommend reading A Conversation with Erik Larson in the back of the book before you begin this fascinating historical fiction.



The History of Bees
Maja Lunde

England, 1851: William is a biologist and a seed merchant who sets out to build a new type of beehive-one that will give him and his children honor and fame.

United States 2007: George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.
China 2098: Tao hand paints pollen unto the fruit trees since the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao's young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find what has happened to him.

As one read these three fascinating stories you will realize there is a connection between them. Maja Lunde Is a Norwegian author. She has written 10 books for children and young adults but this is her first adult novel. She won the prestigious Norwegian Booksellers Prize. If you are looking for something a little different from what you usually read, try The History of Bees.




Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth
Sheila O'Connor

Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth is designated as juvenile fiction but it has much to offer adults, too. Eleven year old Reenie and her two brothers have been sent to live with their grandma in a small Minnesota town. Reenie is pleased to get her own paper route. When Mr. Marsworth doesn't answer the door, she decides to write him a letter. He answers and they become pen pals. When Reenie discovers Mr. Marsworth was a conscientious objector in WWI she decides he will be just the one to help her brother avoid the draft for Vietnam. I enjoyed the fact that the letters written back and forth help you discover the story as it unfolds. Sheila O'Connor is a professor in the MFA program at Hamline University and has won numerous awards for her previous books. Until Tomorrow is an endearing tale about friendship which blossoms where you least expect it.





New Boy

Tracy Chevalier’s retelling of Othello

Another of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, and it’s brilliant! Chevalier’s novel takes place one day in a 1974 Washington DC elementary school yard. The characters are 11 years old: Osai is the son of a diplomat and the only black child in the school. It’s his first day in the school. Dee is dazzled by him, and her reaction alienates some of the other boys. All of the intensity of the play is intact. How sad that the story fits so well into our world, 400 years after the play was written.

Here’s a great video of several of the authors in the series talking about Shakespeare and how they chose the plays they worked with.



Maude Martha
Gwendolyn Brooks

What a beautiful book! This novella is Brook's only prose work. It reads as easily as a novel but her poetry shines through, enriching every sentence. It's the story of a black woman, starting from her girlhood experiences in Chicago in the 1920s. She is rendered succinctly but completely. Each chapter is like a short story, heartbreaking or funny,  enraging or endearing. In the end, this very specific character reveals universal truths about the human condition. It's a life-affirming book.



Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Alexandra Fuller

This is a fine example of truth being more powerful than fiction. Fuller says she tried several times to write a novel based on her childhood, but eventually realized that a memoir would allow her to share the perspective of her white family more fully. They farmed in Rhodesia during the war that changed the country to Zimbabwe, and then tried other African countries. And what a family it was: reckless but hardworking parents, casually racist, a drunk animal-loving mother, a gorgeous sister. They carry Uzis and drive a mine-resistant Land Rover, but Fuller’s love of the African land and all the craziness she went through are apparent in every fascinating chapter. The book is graced with scattered photographs: I was grateful to see them.



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Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens

I read Dickens in my early 20’s, about the same time I saw Niagara Falls. Both are powerful forces of nature, each in their own way, one physical, one mental. At the time I thought, “OK, done that, now let’s move on to the next.” 50 years later, encountering both again, I’m amazed by their effect on me. None of their power was diminished in the least by the previous exposures. If anything, the intervening years have only added deeper significance, understanding, and downright pleasure to the encounters. It would seem then that there are an awful lot of books and places to be revisited.

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Can We All Be Feminists?
June Eric-Udori

This is my first foray into what I will call ‘Feminist Literature.’ This book is a collection of 17 essays by women of differing backgrounds: race, gender identity, disability, sexual preference, religion, you name it. I suppose my interest was to gain some exposure to what spokeswomen for marginalized communities were writing/thinking about. Well here it is! 17 articulate, diverse perspectives on the complexity of what it does, and does NOT, mean to be ‘feminist’. Additionally (and this is maybe the more interesting part), they talk about their efforts to understand, and make their differences work together for the betterment of everyone.

Would you like to be a guest reviewer? Email Sally at

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