Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Natalie Lloyd's debut juvenile novel makes my heart sing. In fact, A Snicker of Magic is just "splendiferous". So, thank you to friend and author Kaye Wilkinson Barley for recommending this magical novel. For those of us who love Sarah Addison Allen, Ellery Adams, and, yes, Kaye Wilson Barley as authors, this is an exciting, enchanting debut.

Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee was a place where magic lived. "The people who lived there had magic in their veins." There used to be magic in the secret place, sheltered and hidden by the mountains. But, a duel between brothers was just the start of the drain of magic.

When Felicity Pickle arrived in Midnight Gulch with her mother and younger sister, Frannie Jo, most of the magic was gone. Her mother grew up there, but her wandering heart led her elsewhere. But, Felicity, now in sixth grade, and Frannie Jo, longed to have a place to call home instead of too many "first days" of school, first days in six different states. Those are days that make Felicity nervous, but when Jonah Pickett saw her, he wanted to be a friend. No one had ever reached out to her like that, but Jonah has a gift of know-how. He knows how to fix what's ailing people.

Felicity's gift is words. She's a word collector. Words hang in the air for her, drip and dance with meaning. She writes poems for her sister, but freezes up when she has to talk. Something, though, in Midnight Gulch calls to Felicity. She hangs on every word of the town's magical past. Two brothers had a gift of music that made people dance in the streets. There were people who could call up thunderstorms, and people who could disappear. But, the duel, and loss, ended most of the magic in town. However, Felicity suspects there is still a trace, "a snicker of magic", and she hopes that there's enough to help her conquer her own fears, and enough to settle her mother's restless spirit. Felicity wants Midnight Gulch to have enough magic to become home.

A Snicker of Magic may be a juvenile novel, but the author is wise in the way of human needs and longings. Debut novelist Natalie Lloyd brings Felicity Pickle to life, a wonderful twelve-year-old with a gift that anyone who loves books and words will appreciate. But, Lloyd has her own gift, an ability to bring life to other characters. Felicity's friend, Jonah, is a wonderful character. In fact, all the unusual residents of Midnight Gulch spring to life on the page.

Looking for the next Sarah Addison Allen? Don't overlook A Snicker of Magic because it's a juvenile novel. It's a story in the best tradition of our magical storytellers. It's filled with magic and music, love and loss, loneliness and friendship, and stories. It's just perfect.

Natalie Lloyd's website is

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Scholastic Press. 2014. ISBN 9780545552707 (hardcover), 314p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

American Elizabeth Bard had lunch with a Frenchman in a Paris cafe, and never went home.Whether it was Gwendal's charm, or the steak, Elizabeth was in love. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes is her story of romance, food, and trying to find a place for herself in an unexpected life. The book has recipes throughout, but it also has the thoughtful yearning of an American with feet in two worlds.

Bard first met Gwendal at a conference in London. He was finishing a PhD in Computer Science, and she was starting a Master's in Art History. And, after she met him for lunch in Paris, went to his apartment for tea, and then dinner, she ended up staying. "I had no way of knowing, that first damp evening in Paris, how much this man, and his non-recipes, would change my life." Something about Gwendal and the romance of Paris and food drew in this woman who longed for beauty and romance in her life. And, having escaped from a port city, Gwendal himself was still discovering Paris. "He was still open to the magic of this place. I didn't know a lot of people that were open to magic at all."

Bard's description of her life, the markets, the food, and the recipes, will leave foodies drooling, and armchair travelers ready to set off for Paris. At the same time, life wasn't always easy for her. She was twenty-five when she first went there, with ambitious plans herself. Once she stayed, she couldn't work, didn't know what to do, and, at times she was lonely.

Bard's memoir is the story of a woman who finally realized she could put together her love of French food, her love of the man who became her husband, and her knowledge. Once she combined all those elements, she had the book that became Lunch in Paris. It went on to become a New York Times and international bestseller, a Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" pick, and the recipient of the 2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best First Cookbook (USA).

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes is fun, just the book to take you away for a day. You might want to spend your own April day in Paris with Elizabeth Bard.

Although Elizabeth Bard's website is, you're better off following her on Facebook at

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard. Little, Brown & Company. 2010. ISBN 9780316042796 (hardcover), 324p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, April 18, 2014

Winners and a Sherlock Holmes Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Teacup Turbulence will go to Glen D. in Yuba City, CA, and Gloria D. of Oswego, IL will receive How to Paint a Cat. The books will go out in the mail tomorrow.

This week, I have two books with traces of Sherlock Holmes in them. Michael Robertson's Moriarty Returns a Letter is a Baker Street mystery. Brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath have a hard time dealing with all the mail they receive at their London law firm. It's not their business that's booming, but that of a previous occupant. Their address is 221B Baker Street, and mail comes addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Now, someone from their past, someone they thought had disappeared, reappears causing all kinds of problems for the brothers.

Or, you could win an Advanced Reading Copy of The Spook Lights Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. While Carpenter and Quincannon are investigating cases in 1865 San Francisco, one unwelcome figure continues to show up. It's a man who claims he is Sherlock Holmes. To Quincannon's disgust, he always seems to have ingenious ideas about their cases.

Which mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Send your entry to me at The subject line should read either "Win Moriarty Returns a Letter" or "Win The Spook Lights Affair." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end Thursday, April 24 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I was never interested in reading M.L. Stedman's bestseller The Light Between Oceans when it was
first published. Sometimes, it takes a book club to push you to read a book you wouldn't normally pick up. And, everyone who showed up for the group the other night admitted we were glad we read it.

Tom Sherbourne survived World War I physically, but he had memories of the war that he wanted to push to the back of his mind. When he returned home to Australia, he accepted a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a lonely, quiet post where he could listen to nature, and live an orderly, routine life. But, Isabel Graysmark pushed her way into his life, a sly, laughing young woman who insisted she wanted nothing more than to marry him, and have children.

It was Izzy's longing for children that altered their lives forever. Following her miscarriages, she was lost in grief until the day a boat washed up on Janus Rock. The man in the boat was dead, but a baby girl survived. Despite Tom's insistence they needed to notify the authorities, Izzy claimed the baby was a gift from God. And, Tom's hesitation gave Isabel just the time she needed to form an attachment. While Isabel insisted the baby's mother must have drowned, Tom wonders if there isn't a woman somewhere mourning the loss of her husband and child. Now, the man who forced the memories of the war to the back of his mind forces his legal obligations to the back of his mind for the sake of the woman he loves.

When Tom and Isabel keep the baby, their actions affect a number of people. The Light Between Oceans is a difficult story, a tragedy for everyone involved. We all agreed that we had sympathy for all the characters, and could understand why they acted as they did. That sympathy doesn't mean characters always made the right choice. In fact, it's a story about choices, and the consequences.

If, like me, you haven't picked up The Light Between Oceans, you might want to consider this thoughtful, quiet novel. It's a powerful story of lost people suffering terrible pain.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Gale. 2013. ISBN 9781410452573 (Large Type), 553p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Library Week

For the last few years, I've celebrated National Library Week here by asking you to share. Do you have a good memory of a library? Is it a public library, a school library, a special library somewhere? Or is there a special memory of a librarian?

I've been working in public libraries for forty-one years. I started as a page (a shelver) when I was sixteen. I've never left the library. It's where I met and married my husband, and where I met most of my friends. My mother worked in a high school library, and both of my sisters and a nephew worked as pages. We love libraries.

What about you? Is there a special library you want to tell us about? Celebrate National Library Week here with other readers.

And, I just can't resist sharing this from Neil Gaiman. (How can any librarian not love Neil Gaiman?)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh

Sunday, I hosted an event at the library called "Local Voices: Conversations with Local Authors". It's similar to the events I held in Glendale in which ten local authors get a chance to do an "elevator pitch", speaking about their book for five minutes, taking questions and answers, and then they can sell and sign their books. Lanea Stagg and the late Maggie McHugh had an interesting concept for a book.  Recipe Records, and the sequels, Recipe Records: The 60's Edition, and Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to the Beatles, combine recipes, songs and stories. Or, as it says on the cover, "Food for Thought, Food for the Soul, Food for the Love of Rock n Roll".

Lanea is the cook, and Maggie was the D.J. Stagg, a mother of eight, has included recipes that are easy.  Together, they put together recipes with names such as "Take a Little Pizza My Heart" or "Another One Bites the Crust." Clever, fun, and the recipes are enticing as well. They even included a "Suggested Song List" to go with the recipes. There are recipes for appetizers "The Opening Act". "Backstage Passes" are salads and sides while "Headliners" are the entrees. Along with anecdotes, they also include a list of the best-known "Mondegreens", the term for misheard lyrics.

Congratulations to the authors of Recipe Records for an inventive concept. The books work for parties, family meals, and, fortunately for me, library programming.

Lanea Stagg blogs at And, she is on Blogtalkradio at - Recipe Records.

Recipe Records by Lanea Stagg & Maggie McHugh. Recipe Records. 2010. ISBN 9780615374826 (paperback), 206p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I bought a copy of the book.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache Series Re-read

On Friday, Louise Penny made this official announcement on her Facebook page.

"We have some fun news- we're starting a virtual, online club to re-read the Gamache books, starting with Still Life on April 21st. Each book will be discussed for two weeks, then onto the next one, culminating in the publication of The Long Way Home on August 26th.

"This will be like a gathering at Myrna's New and Used bookstore, only from your own home.

"There'll be discussions and special guests and giveaways. (But you'll have to provide your own croissants). Mostly we hope this'll be a chance to re-visit Three Pines with others who've come to know the village, and see how the characters have grown together and evolved. It's also a chance to introduce Gamache, Ruth, Clare, Gabri et al to new readers. New members of the community.

"Please tell friends and other readers, and make sure they know they're welcome to join in.

"Now you'll have to sign up for it, of course. Here's the link:

"Have fun, and see you at the first meeting. We can go over to the bistro later. (I wish)."

I wish we could go over the bistro or Myrna's as well. I hope you join us, and I do mean us. Louise's publicist at St. Martin's, Sarah Melnyk, asked me to lead the first discussion. I have the honor to introduce Still Life, the book that introduced Inspector Armand Gamache to the world. I'm a little nervous, hoping I can do justice to this book.

If you are a fan of this series, or want to discover the series, I hope you join us. Sign up now, and I'll see you next Monday for the first discussion.