Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

The Detroit Electric Scheme

Detroit in the early 1900s is the setting for a fast paced historical mystery, The Detroit Electric Scheme, written by Kalamazoo area author D.E. Johnson. The book was named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the year, and won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award.

Will Anderson is the son of the owner of Detroit Electric, the era’s leading manufacturer of electric cars. One night Will gets a call from a former college roommate, John Cooper, asking Will to meet him at the car factory. Will agrees, but when he arrives at the darkened factory, he finds Cooper dead, crushed by a huge press. Since Cooper was engaged to Elizabeth, Will’s former fiancé, Will becomes the police’s prime suspect in the murder, and they pursue him ruthlessly.

Will’s cat and mouse game with the police involves him in encounters with organized crime, and dealing with hooligans such as the Dodge brothers. Will also has friends in the upper echelons of society- Edsel Ford, for example.

I found the history of Detroit especially fascinating in this book—the beginnings of the automobile industry and the “players” come to life. It also gives a view of the everyday lives of Detroiters around 1910, the well off and immigrants alike.

You can come and hear author D.E. Johnson in person on Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 pm at the Washington Square Branch Library, 1244 Portage St. Books will be available for sale and signing.

Please join us!


The Detroit Electric Scheme

Smokin Seventeen

Smokin" Seventeen by Janet Evonavich

The Stephanie Plum novels are a fun quick read. Leave reality, immerse in the characters and have fun.

Take a look at the back cover and you tell me who Stephanie is modeled after. I was very upset when it was announced that they were making a Stephanie Plum book into a movie. I love that they will make it a movie I hated that they chose Katherine Heigel for the role of Stephanie Plum. My fellow CAMP workers at the library tend to agree with me on that aspect. They do think that the person picked to play Ranger is definitely drool able. Ranger is a major hunk so this actor has an almost impossible task ahead of him. In this novel there are a bunch of bodies being buried in shallow graves at Vincent Plum Bail Bonds temporary location. Not good for business to have police roping off crime scene areas right in front of your trailer which is your office. Yeah the killer of these victims is sought but the greater thrust is Who will Stephanie pick; will it be the Hunky Ranger who can send her into orgasmic heaven or will it be Morelli who was Mr. Bad boy but is now a cop and can give her a night of passion that has her passing out from delight. These books have a rough plot of solve the crime and Stephanie has colorful friends like Lulu but mostly the book is about Stephanie's urges. Her quandary about which man to hook up with solely. She wants them both and has them both. As do we vicariously as the author describes the mounting passion and the trip to heaven. Personally I think she needs to settle down and choose Morelli, but she is still in the have your cake and eat it too phase. So she sleeps with both, mostly Morelli kinda in the roll of husband (or steady lover) but she also keeps taking a trip on the wild side with Ranger as he has the ability to blast her into outer space. There is debate in CAMP as to who she should choose. But there is not debate that even the thought of being with Ranger makes you weak in the knees. But Ranger is so transient that he is only good for a roll in the hay. Morelli is the one she should marry but not until she has the ability to quit getting it on with Ranger. She has to choose someday but the longer she puts it off the longer she has the best of both worlds and lives in orgasmic bliss. As to the story, it's incidental but yes she solves the mystery. I love the Stephanie Plum novels. I love the quirky way she brings in a bond jumper and I love her internal debate over who to choose and I love her descriptions of her trips to the heavenly delights.


 Smokin" Seventeen

Shock Wave

Shock Wave by John Sandford.

John Sandford is one of myBook My Favorites authors. If you are a resident you too can sign up for Book My Favorites. This book is one of his Virgil Flowers series. Virgil Flowers is a spinoff of the Lucas Davenport books. Virgil Flowers is a detective in the Minneapolis area and works for Lucas Davenport. In this mystery someone is blowing up stuff and people, with bombs. Virgil is called in to solve the mystery. The readability of the book is more of an immersion than a finding out who did it. Yeah, Virgil solves the crime but the author brings Virgil to life. When Virgil will be up late at night he takes a nap in the afternoon, he eats breakfast (and you get to read what he orders). You feel like you are there, an unseen watcher. Virgil is a holdover from the 60's person, always wears a t shirt from some band. The people he interacts with always comment on his penchant for wearing these t shirts. Women for some reason desire him and he usually winds up woo'ing one of them. 

PyeMart is planning to open a store in a small town. By opening this store it will destroy many small businesses, they just will not be able to compete. The rain runoff from the huge parking lot is threatening the river. PyeMart is a made up name but when Walmart came to Portage we had some of the same issues. There were lots of articles about how the runoff ruined Portage Creek. So, I'm thinking some of this is a change the name so we don't get sued, make a statement about big business and the environment, take a what if scenario and make a mystery of it. It's a good read.


Shock Wave

Kill Alex Cross (I keep rooting for the Villain)

 "Kill Alex Cross" by James Patterson. There are times I'd like to kill Alex Cross or at least let him get beat up like he did in a previous book. For those of you who do not know Alex Cross, he is a Detective working in Washington DC and is a recurring character in James Patterson books. For those of you who do know him, do you find him as arrogant and full of himself as I do? In this book the President's children go missing. Even though there are literally thousands of intelligent agents from all sorts of agencies; Secret Service, FBI etc, Alex Cross thinks if only he could see the evidence he could solve this. Unfortunately he is James Patterson's protagonist so of course he solves the crimes and is the hero. That said, I did find this book to be a page turner and stayed up too late nights reading just one more chapter. In addition to the president's children missing there is also a terrorist group doing bad things. I'm not sure how I feel about books that detail how a terrorist group could poison the water, or sabotage the subway etc, on one hand it makes us more aware but on the other hand it hands over to a terrorist group a plan of attack. Course a lot of mysteries show you how to commit the perfect crime. The other thing that bugs me about Alex Cross is how he thinks he is the best dad in the world when really his nana is raising those children. He just shows up from time to time like a divorced dad with visitation rights. Keeping in mind this is a fictional character I give kudos to James Patterson, he elucidated a response out of me and made Alex Cross Real. His name is on many books in collaboration with another writer. Personally I think those books are written by those writers and James Patterson just had editorial rights. I like the Alex Cross novels best and I anxiously await his next Alex Cross Book.



Kill Alex Cross

Update on favorite authors

Readers of my previous posts will know of my fondness for N. K. Jemisin and Joseph Heywood.  Both published new books fairly recently, and I enthusiastically devoured them.  Jemisin's finale to her Inheritance trilogy, The kingdom of gods, was just as delightful as its two predecessors; Heywood's latest installment in the Woods Cop series, Force of blood, was another enjoyable, exciting read (and I particularly liked the self-reference near the end).

Right now I'm rereading a classic by Jerry Mander, Four arguments for the elimination of television.  It's just as compelling the second time around.


The kingdom of gods

Enthusiasm for a new arrival

It is always a pleasure to find an author whose books are so enjoyable that one finds oneself eagerly anticipating each new arrival. Six years ago, I read And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, and I’ve been delightedly reading each and every book in the series. These appealing mysteries are set in nineteenth century Europe, and feature Lady Emily Ashton, a feisty heroine who is always stumbling across a mystery, and who contravenes the prescribed behavior for upper class young ladies in her pursuit of adventure, solutions, and an exciting, authentic life.

The most recent title, A Crimson Warning, has just been published. I’m waiting for an uninterrupted moment to curl up with a cup of tea, a cat, and this undoubtedly engaging book.


A crimson warning

What would you do for family?

Lisa Gardner had me guessing, backtracking and rethinking. She did it, she didn’t do it or how could she do it! In Love You More a female state trooper must fight the battle of her life for her survival and the survival of the most important person in the world to her. This is a passionate suspense that touches on the lives of many and the relationships that intertwine with them. Great story! I was hooked from the beginning and could not put it down!

This title comes in many formats. I'm sure you can find the right one for you.


Love you more

A Respite from the Weather

 When the weather is sweltering and the mosquitoes are biting, it is tempting to explore the wilderness through a good book. Instead of venturing out for a hike, take a virtual trip with DNR Detective Grady Service, a Conservation Officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Service, the main character in Joseph Heywood’s Woods Cop mystery series, is a former Marine who patrols the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, thwarting poachers and solving mysteries. The first book in the series is Ice Hunter; if you enjoy it, there are six more mysteries featuring Service, and KPL has them all.

These are intricately plotted mysteries that leave the reader with heightened appreciation for the natural beauty of Michigan’s wild areas.

Joseph Heywood lives in Portage.


Ice Hunter

Don't Breathe a Word

Are you one of the chosen?  Those are the words across the cover of the book above the haunting, crystal bluish-grey-green eyes of a child.  She is Lisa, Queen of the Fairies.

When I started reading the book and discovered it might be a fantasical jaunt through a world of mystical, other worldly beings, I was leery.  Not something I would normally read.  But, the narration flip between Lisa from 15 years ago and Phoebe from today both trying to find some meaning in their lives kept me intrigued.  I like stories written like that, so I read on.  Before I knew it, I was half way done and couldn't put the book down.  I'm not a devourer of books at all.  I kind of nibble on them, a couple at a time.  I'm a slow reader, at best. Jennifer McMahon, however, kept me reading deep into the early morning.  Craftily detailed, suspenseful, strewn with the possibility of another world, but not so much so that it soured a reader not believing in such things, this book is both haunting and exciting at the same time. Caught between children's imaginations and the reality of life, the reader is easily (and ironically) sucked in.

I can't wait to read her other novels.


Don't Breathe a Word

Why Read? It’s Summertime!!

Recently, I was reading the May/June 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine when an editorial caught my eye. Written by Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief for the magazine, the editorial, titled “Who Can We Count On?” raises several very good questions about reading in general, and specifically, about summertime reading by schoolchildren. These questions are certainly ones that teachers, parents, librarians, and other concerned adults should ponder. Here they are, with some of my own added:

• How many books should one read in a given time frame?

• Should we encourage schoolchildren to read?

• Does reading level (of the reader) really matter?

• Should summer reading schoolchildren be provided with incentives for reaching pre-set reading goals? And, who should set these goals?

• What types of incentives should be offered? (books, burgers, bicycles?)

• Should the number of books read count for anything?

As a librarian in a public library who works almost exclusively with children’s reading habits, I find these questions “right on the money” for insuring success in a summertime reading program or club. At the Kalamazoo Public Library, the summertime reading program for kids begins in early to mid-June, and continues until the last weekend in August. Somewhere close to twelve (12) weeks. The Library offers summer games for children ages birth-entering Kindergarten, for children entering 1st-4th grade, for ‘tweens who are entering grades five through seven, and for teens entering grades eight through graduation. (Don’t worry, adults, there’s a game for you, too!) Each of these games offers incentives at intervals along the way. Each of the children’s games encourages reading books at one’s pre-determined level (usually from the Accelerated Reader program in the schools). Each game encourages reading for a minimum of twenty (20) minutes a day, and also allows for reading at one’s level and for being read aloud to.

This year, incentives and games are going to be more “across the board” than they have been in the past. Readers will earn paperback books, tee shirts, stickers, and colorful beads at pre-set intervals.

Should you bring your child/encourage your child to come to the library this summer and read in one of the games? Absolutely! And, don’t forget to read yourself! What better role model than a reading parent?

Roger Sutton’s editorial concludes with this question: “…creating a second home on the floor of the children’s room…”. Won’t you join me this summer and read, read, read?


Summer Reading
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