Good Reading in September

"The Maid's Version" by Daniel Woodrell

The busy fall publishing schedule begins this month with a number of new books from celebrated authors.

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

M.L. Stedman gives a glimpse into life as a lighthouse operator beginning in post-World War I Australia in her debut novel, "The Light Between Oceans." The isolation of living on a remote rock is brought home in this novel. The main plot poses a very difficult moral dilemma for Tom Sherbourne, the lighthouse keeper. His decision eats away at him for years and when he changes course, his life implodes.

This is the kind of novel you might read if you need a good cry. The characters' mistakes which drive the plot are completely understandable. There are no good guys--just frail humans. 

--Julie C., Headquarters

Sumptuous Costume Drama Dresses Up Fascinating Danish History

Royal Affair

Add "Royal Affair" to the growing list of Mads Mikkelsen's tour de force performances. The film is a historical drama centering on a German doctor brought in as a personal physician to King Christian VII of Denmark. Christian was considered mad and alienated his wife, Queen Caroline of Britain. Mikkelsen's character, Dr. Johann Struensee, was a commoner but well-read and familiar with Voltaire and other champions of the enlightenment.  Struensee befriended Christian and urged him to introduce reforms like orphanages and banning torture of prisoners. Simultaneously, Struensee found Queen Caroline articulate and perspicacious and they began a passionate affair. According to an interview with writer/director Nikolaj Arcel, the plot hews close to the truth and was based on the Queen Caroline's letters and diaries.

Mad about Mads Mikkelson

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy

Great actors are often defined by their ability to become their characters. Gary Oldman, a chameleon-like actor, is underrated because audiences don't even realize the same man played both the obsessive terrorist in "Air Force One" and the calculating but subdued cold war agent, George Smiley, in the remake of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." Enter Dane Mads Mikkelson who is similarly convincing in a wide array of roles. He played a driven resistance fighter in the stylish "Flame and Citron," a period piece that took place in Copenhagen 1944. Then he played Le Chiffre, one of the creepier bad guys to face James Bond.

Welcome to the Punch

Welcome to the Punch

Writer/director Eran Creevy found the sweet spot between action and psychological thriller with "Welcome to the Punch." Starring James MacAvoy as obsessed cop Max Lewinsky and Mark Strong as criminal mastermind Jacob Sternwood, the typical cat and mouse game takes unexpected turns. During Sternwood's last big heist, Lewinsky almost catches him single-handed.  While Lewinsky sees himself as a failure, Sternwood lives in spectacular luxury until Sternwood's son ends up in police custody. Both men will go to any length to triumph over the other, but the situation becomes far more complicated than mere self-sacrifice. Lewinsky navigates bureaucratic machinations and tangles with a new partner. Sternwood needs to ferret out the people his son was working for. The film features the expected shoot outs, chase scenes, and explosions but there are also issues of grief, self-worth, and a murder in the shadows. In the "making of" feature, MacAvoy says "Welcome to the Punch" is really a character piece.

The Pope's Last Crusade

"The Pope's Last Crusade," Peter Eisner

While Pius XII is most commonly considered the "World War II Pope," his predecessor, Pius XI, fought the rise of Hitler and Mussolini from the start. In his book, "The Pope's Last Crusade," Peter Eisner discusses how Pius XI enlisted the aid of an American priest to write a papal condemnation of their ideologies. The effort was done largely in secret to avoid political infighting, yet Eisner's version includes backroom intrigue among the few Vatican officials who were in the know. There were justifiable concerns about provoking Hitler and about Mussolini's Italian government, which was just outside the Vatican's front door. Much of this story was unknown until the 1970s and is still the cause of debate and speculation. 

What’s for Dinner?

Have you ever foraged for a meal? Before gathering leaves sprouting from the cracks in the sidewalk to make a salad, check out these books on what to look for, where to look, and how to prepare your harvest.

"Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn't Know You Could Eat" by Ellen Zachos focuses on plants often found in urban and suburban areas. It includes color photographs for identification and tips on how to avoid pesticides.

Samuel Thayer's book "Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants" also offers detailed plant descriptions along with helpful photos and drawings highlighting features that distinguish edible plants from the poisonous plants they might resemble.


If you like the idea of reading dozens of interesting life stories in one manageable volume, I recommend "The Socialite Who Killed a Nazi with Her Bare Hands and 143 Other Fascinating People Who Died This Past Year." This second annual compilation of selected New York Times obituaries includes deaths that occurred from August 2011 through July 2012. The eye-catching title is a vast improvement over last year's compilation which was simply titled "The Obits 2012."

These diverse personalities are linked only in that they were all notable, and that they all died in the same twelve-month period. The profiles include newsman Mike Wallace, entertainer Andy Griffith, dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi, and St. Louis' own Bob Cassilly.

New Historical Romance

"Once Upon a Tower" by Eloisa James

Checkout the newest historical romance releases from St. Louis County Library. Reserve your copy today!

Tessa Dare - "Any Duchess Will Do"-- When her son refuses to marry, his mother bets him she can turn any woman he picks into a Duchess. As their carriage pulls into Spindle Cove, he spots Kate, a simple store clerk covered in flour and with a mountain of responsibilities. He knows Kate is perfect! Not for him, of course...but she'll serve as a lesson for his mother and make her regret ever pressuring this rake to marry. 

Elosia James "Once Upon a Tower"--James revamps the traditional tale of "Rapunzel" and matches a passionate cello player with a Duke. Gowan must woo his new bride Eddie out of her tower if he ever wants a chance at winning her heart, and getting back in her bed. 

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