Robin Allen is the owner of Forever Books. A former history teacher turned entrepreneur, she opened Forever Books on April Fools Day in 1999 after the closing of a local children's bookstore. When not at the store or working for the store (rare), she enjoys reading non-fiction history, memoirs, political works, and fiction. She also loves spending time with her two nieces. Robin has served on the board and as Board President of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association.
Part Agatha Christie, part time-travel, part Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, this stunning book is original, creative, unexpected, and totally engrossing. British author Turton is a brilliant storyteller: His main character awakens in a forest with no memory of who he is and the name of the woman he is shouting. He also discovers he is not the person he sees in the mirror and knows none of the people gathered for the 19th anniversary of the death of the owner's child. Nothing formulaic here! (Warning: 5 am reading!) Quite simply, the most astonishing mystery I've read in twenty years as a bookseller.
A novel based on Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov’s account of his harrowing experiences tattooing prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp where he met his future wife. Morris includes photographs, a map of the camp, and a postwar follow up on Lale, his wife, his family, some of the prisoners, and his guards. Agonizing, yet triumphant.
Always wanted to know what it’s like to run a bookstore? A bit curmudgeonly with a wry sense of humor, Bythell owns the largest used bookshop in Scotland in the small town of Wigtown. He shares his one-year diary of store operations: the customers, the book acquisitions, working with staff, and engaging with his community. You don’t have to be a bookseller to enjoy this!
When WWI breaks out, Lucius, an inexperienced medical student, enlists, ending up in a woeful field hospital set up in a church in the Carpathian Mountains, depending on Margarete, a nun, who teaches him how to treat patients. They fall in love, but things change quickly when a battered soldier arrives and is tortured by passing soldiers. With Mason’s superb writing, there’s much to discuss here, particularly the ending!
A small mountain community in North Carolina is the setting for this charming, engrossing, and smart novel. Compelling characters: a young pregnant woman; a kind pastor and his bitter sister; a healer with gumption; a reckless bully and his sidekick; and a new teacher from “the outside” combine to create one of my most unforgettable reading experiences.
You don’t need a background knowledge in Greek (I have little) to enjoy this stunning novel about Circe, daughter of Helios, god of the sun. Ignored by her family as homely, banished by her father to a remote island for turning a human into a sea monster, Circe eventually meets Odysseus, turning his crew into swine. Loved this!
Mr. Flood is an eccentric, cranky, old man whose estate home has turned into a hoarder’s nightmare since his wife (mysteriously?) died. His Irish caregiver begins to uncover secrets, but she has some of her own. Is anyone who they seem to be? Kirkus reviews hit it spot on when they wrote: “It won't be like any other novel you've read this year--or maybe ever--but it's worth it.”
Set in Britain in the decades following WWII, by the author of The English Patient. Two young people are left with two men they’ve never met before when their parents spend a year in Singapore. Both mysterious and humorous, one reviewer wrote, “. . . this novel about secrets and loss may be Ondaatje's best work yet.” I couldn’t agree more!
Ellis is an Oxford working class 45-yr-old widower, who gave up his dream as an artist to work in a metal shop. We follow his life as a young man, his close relationship to Michael and subsequent romance with his future wife, leading to a life-changing decision. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, this tin man doesn’t think he has a heart, but he does. A sweet read.
At age six, Clemantine fled the Rwanda massacres with her 15-yr-old sister. Separated from their family, the two of them wandered for six years through seven countries, only to end up in America on television, where Oprah reunites them with their family. A graduate of Yale, her remarkable story is stunning.
At the turn of the 19th century, feathers were the fashion, leading to the massacre of birds on a massive scale. Unfortunately, in 1999, the hunt began again; people clamored for rare feathers for the new fad: tying flies for salmon fishing. In 2009, an American studying in London took off with hundreds of birds from the Tring Museum. An enthralling account of a truly bizarre crime and Johnson’s hunt for the truth.
Brought on the last slave ship to America in 1860 (illegally), Kossola is the last survivor of the cargo and is interviewed by Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God) in 1927. Rife with controversy, the manuscript was never published until now. Fascinating.
The author of Cold Mountain has written a novel about the life of Varina Howell, the second wife of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The story bounces back and forth from the past to the year she dies. Varina was not enthusiastic about the Civil War, and at the end of the war, Davis give her a pistol to kill herself if she is captured as she flees to Florida with her children. Much I didn’t know!
Fly Girls focuses on the women pioneers of aviation and their struggles to share the sky with men. In the decades of the 1920s and 30s, aviation was dangerous with horrific crashes, unsafe planes, and runways in disrepair. The race was on to fly the highest, fastest, and furthest, and record crowds scrambled to watch the thrilling competitors. While Keith O’Brien’s spotlight is on these five women pilots, he gives an overview of the state of aviation during those perilous times in aviation history. A riveting read.
McLain focused on Hemingway’s first wife in A Paris Wife; in Love and Ruin, the focus is on wife number three, Martha Gelhorn. Gelhorn, a writer herself, became a well-respected war correspondent, following wars from the Spanish Civil War through Vietnam, into her 80s. Gelhorn was also the only woman on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and the only wife to leave Hemingway.
Another wonderful novel by the author of The Nightingale! After returning from Vietnam as a POW and suffering from PTSD, Ernt is convinces his wife and daughter (13-yr-old Leni) to leave Seattle and start anew on a remote Alaska island. They are totally unprepared and barely survive. Leni’s voice is riveting in this story, but it is the characters that inhabit the island that drive the story. Both harrowing and joyful.
This little known event from WWI resulted in the largest manmade explosion in the world until Hiroshima. A ship packed with tons of explosives and on its way to France, collides with another in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, killing and injuring thousands and flattening the city. Spellbinding, with shocking photos of the devastation. By a Michigan author.
An unlikely pair fall in love: free-spirited Rosie and uptight Rex. Their 10-year-old daughter, Willow, struggles to fit in at school (she’s her eccentric mother’s daughter) and with how to relate to her father. Alternating chapters unfold the story of how her parents meet and fall in love with chapters from Willow’s perspective. Moving fictionalization of the author’s childhood.
Frank is the owner of a music shop on a London side street full of shops that are all past their prime by 1988. Frank refuses to give up on vinyl and sell cassettes, but he stays in business because he has the gift of selecting the exact record each customer needs to listen to help them with their specific problems. One day, a woman faints outside of his store, setting in motion changes for Frank and everyone on his street. Charming!
In 1969, the four Gold children visit a fortune teller who tells each of them (in private) the date of their death. What follows is the story of each of them and how they really die. Original premise, excellent writing, and begs the question, “Would you want to know the date?”
Cantu writes of his experience as a border patrol agent in Texas, who quits after five years, unable to cope with the cruelty on both sides of the border. When he tries to help a Mexican illegal he’s befriended, Cantu gets the chance to see what happens to illegals after the border patrol hands them off to the system. Cantu never preaches, but gives the reader serious food for thought.
When 15-year-old, home-schooled Sunny gets arrested for shoplifting a dictionary, the judge assigns her to work at the library for the summer. She’s assigned to Kit, the reference librarian who’s recently moved to town to escape her past. Throw in Rusty, a Wall Street investor gone bust, and a parade of delightful characters, all with a fascinating story, and you have a charming summer read.
For this novel, Hunter has researched her Jewish grandfather’s family experiences during WWII with stunning results. All have harrowing experiences and end up scattered around the globe during the war: Siberia, Poland, Israel, and South America. Yet they and all of their children survive. While you read these unbelievable accounts, you will agree they “were the lucky ones.
(PB releases April17) Helena and her mother are trapped in the swampy wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, held captive by Helena's father, who kidnapped her mother when the mother was a teenager; Helena was born a year later. You find out at the beginning they escaped fourteen years later, and now her father has escaped from prison. Captivating (pun intended); I could not stop reading it, finishing the book in the wee hours of the morning!
(PB releases March 27) Popular crime novelist Alan Conway has just completed this novel, Magpie Murders, about detective Atticus Pund, who is investigating the murders at the English estate of Sir Magnus Pye. When the novelist commits suicide and the last ten pages of the novel are missing, it’s up to the author’s editor to determine just what happened. A “book within a book” format that is clever, intelligent, and thoroughly enjoyable.
A theft of original Faulkner manuscripts are stolen from a library, and a novelist is hired by the insurance company to discover if a book dealer who dabbles in the black market of stolen manuscripts has acquired them - - without arousing suspicion. My first Grisham, and I loved it! Perfect beach read!
In the 1920’s, thousands of women were hired to paint radium on watch hands and instrument panels. Told it was harmless, these “ghost girls” lit up the streets on their way home, covered in the fine dust, even painting it on themselves for fun. When they began getting sick, it stumped the health community and alienated the government and big companies. Shocking yet compelling, with photographs of these brave young women, Radium Girls will haunt and move you.
The 12 lives in the title refer to the 12 times Samuel has been shot during his sketchy and vagabond life. Ready to settle down, widowed Samuel and his spirited teen daughter move to his wife’s hometown in Massachusetts. The story shifts back and forth from the 12 shooting escapades and the struggle to raise his daughter in a small town full of ghosts of the past. Exceptional and enjoyable!
In 1922 the Bolsheviks sentence Count Alexander Rostov to house arrest in the luxurious Metropol Hotel in Moscow for political crimes; however, he is moved from his suite of rooms to a spare attic room. How he copes with the span of 30 years in confinement makes for an inspiring, moving, and thoroughly enjoyable read. I can’t rave enough about this spectacular novel!
The bestselling author of Brooklyn retells the ancient Greek tale of Clytemnestra, who kills her husband Agamemnon to avenge the death of their daughter Iphigenia, and her son Orestes, who kills her in turn to avenge his father's death. I knew little of the mythical story - - but no matter - - the result is a dramatic, intimate chronicle of a family implosion set in unsettling times as gods withdraw from human affairs. Both absorbing and moving.
In 1935, Detroit became the City of Champions: the only city to win championships in baseball, football, and hockey in the same year. At the same time, a dangerous and ominous group called the Black Legion was recruiting thousands of men (often at gunpoint) from all walks of life, creating corruption, terror, and murder. While I don’t follow baseball, Stanton’s fascinating account of Detroit sports and Depression-era crime had me hooked from page one. I’m a FAN!
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THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series on PBS that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. There will be a nationwide vote to choose America's most beloved book. Find the 100 book selections here and read and place your vote by clicking on image to the left!