A Different Take on the Calamity Novel

Chris Bohjalian's latest, "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands" presents the harrowing story of Emily Shephard, a smart teenager obsessed with Emily Dickinson whose biggest problem is a growing concern about her parents' drinking until an accident at a nuclear power plant changes everything. When Emily learns that her father has been blamed for the nuclear meltdown, she runs away to avoid questions. Soon she is homeless, scrounging for shelter and food, and surprising herself with what she is willing to do to survive.

June is National Audiobook Month

"A Tale for the Time  Being" by Ruth Ozeki,

My time ran out for listening to the CD recording of "A Tale for the Time  Being," fiction by Ruth Ozeki, and I had to return it. Other readers were waiting for it. Yet, I did not want to let loose of this story about the intertwining of a writer with an unknown, unknowable reader, and the realm of the written word they share. Yet, unlike the Japanese teenager's diary washed up on the Pacific shore of Canada, this novel endowed me with no ownership rights as its finder.

Popular St. Louis Sleuth Returns

"Face Value" by Michael Kahn

Michael Kahn reports that he began writing the Rachel Gold mystery series after his wife grew tired of him saying he could write a better mystery than the one he just read. She encouraged him to stop complaining and start writing. Since his first book was published in 1988, readers have enjoyed Kahn's clever plots and breezy style.

Kahn's latest book "Face Value" is the ninth novel featuring Rachel Gold, a St. Louis attorney with plenty of street smarts and quirky friends. The mystery involves the apparent suicide of a young lawyer. When a mailroom clerk with Asperger's Syndrome explains to Gold why he knows the death was actually a homicide, she agrees to investigate.

A cartoonist's take on aging

"Can't we talk about something more pleasant?

The quirky cartoonist for the New Yorker, Roz Chast, has a new book out called "Can't we talk about something more pleasant?" It's a graphic novel of her parents' decline that is touching, funny, sad and all too familiar. An only child, Chast bore the brunt of her parents' transition from independence to complete dependence, indignity and death.

Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man

Both a mystery and a musician, Rodriguez was a folk singer/songwriter and the subject of "Searching for Sugar Man." Despite cutting two albums of high quality with songs that left lasting impressions on the producers, he vanished into obscurity. Far off in the country of South Africa, his music took hold and a legend began. Still in the days of vinyl, record stores were selling millions of his albums. Rodriguez was as big as Elvis and The Beatles. Many of his lyrics were gritty and hit hard like "This system's gonna fall soon/To an angry young tune/and that's a concrete cold fact." Thanks in part to the South African government banning his songs, he became a hero to those oppressed by apartheid and liberal Afrikaners. His fans found precious little about him in the liner notes of the albums, but they knew the tales of his tragic death where he set himself on fire. Where did Rodriguez come from and why did he commit suicide in such a way?

One of the Crown Jewels of Soul Singers

The royal sessions by Paul Rodgers

Paul Rodgers, one of rock n roll's most soulful voices, has released a CD of classics. In the liner notes for "The Royal Sessions" Rodgers mentions he was fortunate to have some of the same session musicians who performed the original versions of gems like "I Thank You" and "That's How Strong My Love Is." Apparently some of those studio musicians were unfamiliar with Rodgers, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist who performed "All Right Now" and "Wishing Well" with Free and "Can't Get Enough" and "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" with Bad Company. The rich, velvety texture of Rodgers's voice is well-suited to both the gritty blues of "Born Under a Bad Sign" and the smooth "I've Been Lovin' You Too Long" included on "Royal Sessions." Most interesting is his spin on "Walk on By," made famous by Dionne Warwick. On "Royal Sessions" the heavy polish of the production is rubbed away exposing more of the emotional pain.

Problems with People

"Problems with People" by David Guterson

David Guterson is perhaps best known for his 1994 best-selling debut novel "Snow Falling on Cedars." His latest book is a collection of stories titled "Problems with People."

Readers meet a wide variety of protagonists in these stories including a man on safari with his terminally ill sister, a middle-aged couple on their first weekend trip together, and a lonely landlord hoping to get to know his new tenant. What the characters have in common is difficulty with human connections. They each face challenges with people in their lives, whether it be a mother, a former colleague, or a wayward son. And they each have their own internal problems that make relationships difficult.

The Summer Books are (almost) Here!

If you are lucky enough to have more reading time during the summer, you may want to reserve a copy of one of these new books today.

Janet Evanovich continues her wildly popular series featuring New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum with "Top Secret Twenty-One." In this caper Plum juggles several dangerous assignments while helping her Grandma Mazur with her bucket list.

You may remember that Robert Galbraith's "The Cuckoo's Calling" received good reviews but little attention until it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was actually J. K. Rowling. The new Galbraith book "The Silkworm" features the same detective now investigating the murder of a novelist.

In a World

In a World

Winner of Sundance's best screenplay competition in 2013, "In a World" is a fun indie movie that does a good job balancing comedy with drama. Lake Bell, who wrote and directed also plays Carol, a voice-coach still living with her dad. Her father is a famous vocal talent, with a big booming voice. A new dystopian film is coming out and who does the ad beginning with the iconic phrase "in a world" is all the buzz. Carol is encouraged to break the glass ceiling by geeky studio guy, Louis, who is also crushing on her. Meanwhile, her father's protégé, Gustav, thinks the job is surely his only to find competition coming from all quarters. Throughout the film, Carol, determined to get accents and verbal tics down on tape, risks her own safety to eavesdrop. The dysfunctional family dynamic is so realistic it may make you want to cry instead of laugh, but there is plenty of sarcastic humor to lighten the mood.

--Cindy F., Headquarters

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