Category Archives: Book News

Teen Reviewer : School Spirits

School Spirits

School Spirits, by Rachel Hawkins
Disney Hyperion, 2013

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins is a well-written book with plenty of monster-hunting action to keep the reader entertained. With likable characters, an interesting plot, lots of mystery, action and a hint of romance, it is hard to put the book down!  The story line was brilliantly thought out, the events are perfect for keeping the reader’s interest, and the shocking twists really make the story unpredictable..

Izzy Brannick, like all of her ancestors, is a monster hunter. Her sister has disappeared, and her mother thinks Izzy is not ready to go on missions on her own. Izzy thinks otherwise, but it is her word against her mother’s. When the two hear about a haunting in Ideal, Mississippi, they move there and get Izzy enrolled in Mary Evans high, the sight of the hauntings. Ghosts are relatively easy to get rid of, so Izzy has this mission all to herself. The only problem is . . . Izzy has never set foot in a school.

When Izzy starts school, she hears about a ghost hunting club, and she’s eager to join to get clues about the haunting. Also in the club are Romy, Anderson, and Dex. Izzy quickly befriends them all, but she suspects Dex is a monster. After hearing about the first attack, Izzy learns that the ghost is leaving warnings for its victims, and it is not long before it leaves another warning, and she must fight a violent and powerful ghost, and must get rid of it quickly, or someone could be killed.

Izzy goes to the graveyard to seal the ghost in its grave, but her attempt fails and the ghost is not trapped. She discovers the ghost has gotten too powerful from the terror it strikes in the students of the school, and comes to believe a witch has summoned the ghost from its grave. When she and Dex go to the cave the ghost died in, they find a charm Izzy thinks was used in a spell. The identity of the witch remains unknown, but Izzy has to find out soon, or the angry ghost will kill everyone.

This story is a great recommendation for lovers of mystery with a paranormal twist, or for someone who likes a good ghost story.

Reviewed by Emma Clodfelter

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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews


Review : Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Cinnamon and GunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder
by Eli Brown

Farrar Strauss & Giroux, June 2013

What a great book season this has been for me!  My rep friend, Tom Leigh at MacMillan sent me this advance copy — did you know I’d get such a kick out of it, Tom?

Set in the early 1800s, and told through the journal entries of a man named Owen Wedgewood, this is a pirate story, a history lesson, and an adventure in culinary delights all rolled into one.

Wedgewood is an artiste.  Highly trained, he works as the personal chef for a wealthy and powerful man. But when that man is murdered in a surgical land strike by a flamboyant red-tressed pirate named Hannah Mabbot, Wedgewood is taken captive onboard the Flying Rose, and is later informed that he would cook for his life, literally.  Captain Mabbot wants him to cook for her on Sundays, “...the finest supper.  You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane…

As can be expected, supplies onboard the pirate ship are less than gourmet, and the equipment is worse. The beleaguered Wedgewood despairs of surviving, but sets to the task, and creates a really amazing meal from weevil infested cornmeal, hardtack, jerky, and fresh caught seafood. Meanwhile, he gets to know the crew, including the first mate, Mr. Apple, a giant of a man who spends his free time knitting, the Chinese twins who serve as Mabbot’s bodyguards, the syphilitic cook, the deaf cabin boy, and many more.  He also begins to learn more about Captain Mabbot and the mission the Rose is on — the pursuit of a mysterious pirate named The Fox and eluding the agents of the Pendleton company. Along the way, he also learns something about world politics, religion, and human suffering.

If you follow my reviews, you may know that I do love a good battle scene, and this book does not disappoint!  Flying cannonballs and gunpowder abound, there are bloody battles, bloodless raids, and plenty of booty. There are dastardly villains and dastardly good guys, and a few people that are harder to define. Other action includes bar brawls, underground labrynth chases, men overboard, lost limbs, squalls, and sabotage. So much fun!

But the very best parts of this novel are the cooking scenes.  Week after week the Flying Rose and her crew sail the seven seas in pursuit of the elusive Fox, and Wedgewood outdoes himself with the dishes he brings to Captain Mabbot’s cabin each Sunday.  Other reviewers have compared this part of the story to Scheherazade’s stories, and this is an apt analogy.  As Wedgewood acquires new ingredients like miso paste and fresh papayas, he applies a certain genius to his own kind of alchemy, which Brown describes in exquisite and philosophical details.  He makes bread leavening from scratch, nurtured in a little can he carries on his person at all times, builds equipment from scraps, and even uses a cannonball for a rolling pin . Here is how he prepares an eel that one of the pirates catches for him:

“The eel I handled thus: after cleaning it, I rubbed salt and a little honey into the body cavity and coiled it on the grill of the improvised smoker above a small pile of red-hot embers.These coals I covered with a handful of steeped tea leaves.  The lid I left slightly ajar and returned every ten minutes to add more coals or tea until, with the daylight waning, the eel was finally done.  The honey had caramelized into the meat, which came easily from the bones, As for the smoke: when one has been on the road, tired and rained on, and catches, long before seeing any sign of a house, the faint but unmistakable odor of a chimney and with it the promise of drying off next to a fire–that is the feeling that the tea smoke imparts, not the actual arrival, but the comforting nearness of home.”

I’m not sure how I feel about eel, but I think I’d eat anything this man made!

So, all ye foodies, adventure lovers, and historical-fictionados, this is your must get beach read of the summer!

Thanks, Tom.

review by Annie Leonard


Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews


Book News for May 14th, 2013

Inferno Inferno by Dan Brown

Kept under wraps until today, so I haven’t read it yet, but the newest thriller from the author of The Da Vinci Code is out, to much fanfare!!  As before, the hero is Robert Langton, the erudite and adventurous hero of Brown’s previous books.  I’ll keep you posted as to whether it’s as awesome as Code!  Better yet, you let me know!  Write a review, and I’ll post it!

Guns at Last LightThe Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson

The long awaited final volume in the Liberation trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner, Atkinson is finally here.  I’ve been reading this one for a couple of weeks, savoring one incredible, rich, revealing chapter at a time; learning something new in each one – even though I would have thought I knew a little something about WWII in Europe.  This book is amazing, and will forever change the way I look at war in general, and the last World War in particular.  If you haven’t read the first two in the trilogy yet – An Army at Dawn, and The Day of Battle – I’m stocking those as well.  Congratulations, Mr. Atkinson, on a remarkable achievement.  Read more.

Sleeping in EdenSleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart

For those of our customers who so enjoyed Far From Here (about the wife whose pilot husband disappeared over Alaska, and the secrets she unearthed about his life), here is the newest offering from Iowa native, Baart.  This time the past and the present are on a collision course in Blackhawk, Iowa, when a doctor filling in for the coroner is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, and then finds the body of a young woman buried under the floor of the barn, just below the suicide’s body.  With the atmospheric and beautiful prose we’ve come to love from Baart.  Read more.

Sinners and the SeaSinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife by Rebecca Kanner

This novel is getting lots of buzz, and is being compared to the Red Tent, and it certainly has a beautiful cover!  This is the story of a girl who remains unnamed because of a birthmark, which is seen as the mark of a demon.  When she is nearly too old to be married, her father gives her to a strange old man named Noah.  Yes, that Noah.  And this unnamed, but incredibly strong woman is destined to be the mother of all the generations after the flood.  This is her story.  Read More.

5th WaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

If you keep an eye on books in cyberspace, like I do, you’ll find that this one is prompting some serious chatter.  Described as “The Passage meets Enders Game”, this young adult post-apocalyptic is being hailed as the next big thing.   I just lost about 15 minutes as I was writing this up, so no doubt you’ll be getting the report from me on this one!  So, here’s the scenario: Cassie is a girl alone in the world, maybe not the last human on earth, but one of the last, after an alien invasion.  She’s smart, tough, and very afraid, and she has to decide whether or not to trust the few people she encounters, because you never know if someone is really human, or if they are Other.  If you loved Hunger Games, check this one out   Just in time for summer reading!  Read more.

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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews



Book News for May 7th 2013

It’s Tuesday, which means our book shipment is in, so I’ve got some great new titles to share with you and some new releases in paperback, etc.

Just Released!

Silken PreySilken Prey by John Sandford

The 23rd book in Sandford’s Lucas Davenport thriller series set in Minnesota, and Booklist gives it a Starred Review!  This time, Davenport, the lead investigator for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is asked by the governor to investigate a stash of kiddie porn found on the computer of a Republican political candidate, a grade school friend of the governor.  Then the story is leaked to the press, and the opposing candidate, a beautiful and ruthless woman, begins to gain ground in the polls, and a political operative disappears.  “This is the best [Davenport novel] in a long time. It’s suspenseful, witty, and wise in the ways of modern politics. And the conclusion is darkly unforgettable. A superb thriller.” (Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)  This is one of our best-selling series, so if you love a razor-sharp thriller and haven’t picked up a Sandford yet, now’s a good time!  Filled with politics, crooked cops, dangerous women and plenty of action. By the way, John Sandford is a native Iowan.  Read more.

Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is one of my personal favorites of the year, continuing with my little riff on Middle Eastern fiction, but definitely of more universal appeal. It is the story of two mythical creatures, one anciend and one newborn, one a captive Syrian jinni named Ahmad, and the other Chava, a Golem made of mud by a renegade Rabbi, living among their traditional peoples in the immigrant neighborhoods of New York City a century ago. As they struggle to make sense of the teeming humanity around them, they encounter each other and become unlikely companions. And then an ancient evil begins to stalk them through the streets and workshops of the ethnic enclaves populated by folk with one foot in the old world and one in the new, where everything is shifting, and enemies can hide in plain sight.  I found Ahmad and Chava’s story profoundly moving and suspenseful, sometimes eerie and strange, but at others intimately familiar.  Even if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre, give this beautifully haunting tale a spot in your reading pile this year.  Read More

Just out in Paperback!

WildSome of the past year’s best sellers are just out in paperback, including Cheryl Strayed‘s raw memoir Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which has been selected for Oprah’s Bookclub, won a Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award, and has appealed to many of our customers here at The Next Chapter.



Bring up the bodiesAlso out in paperback this week is Bring Up the Bodies, the second part of Hilary Mantel‘s fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s life after Wolf Hall, and winner of the Man Booker Prize. In the words of New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, Bring Up the Bodies is “beautifully constructed… The wonder of Mante’l retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again…Sublime.”



Agent Garbo

If recent history is more your thing, Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty is another new release about master spy Juan Pujol, a Barcelona poultry farmer who posed as a Nazi spy inside of England and “created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and borugght a vast network of fictional subagent to life.” He convinced the Germans that Allied forces approaching Normandy were just a feint, and that the real invasion would come at Calais.  This incredible, true story is based on years of research and interviews, and is a pulse-pounding true espionage thriller.

Crucible of GoldFor fans of Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire series, the wait for the 7th installment is over!  Crucible of Gold is now out in paperback, and this time Will Laurence and his faithful dragon Temeraire come out of retirement in Australia to fight Napoleon’s forces once again, this time in South America! This series is alternate history fantasy at its most entertaining, and although it’s aimed at adults, it is a great choice for teens transitioning out of the children’s section.



Top 20 Reads for Spring 2013!

This is a list of our favorite new books released this season!

These are selected by Annie, Tresa and Diane, especially to appeal to our customers.  We don’t pretend that these are necessarily the most important books of the season, or that these will all become classics, but they are all great reads we hope will keep you entertained and enriched for the next few months at least!  Enjoy!

Love AnthonyLove Anthony , Lisa Genova

Gallery Books, $16.00, Fiction

By the author of Still Alice and Left Neglected comes another tour-de-force exploring the inner workings of the human mind. This is the moving story of one family’s struggle with the realities of parenting a child with autism, and the support they get from the community around them.  When the child dies young, his mother, who has struggled to connect with him, is left to pick up the pieces of her life and find hope again. After reading this remarkable story, especially those passages told from the child’s perspective, you will see autism in an entirely new light.  Read More

Promise of StardustThe Promise of Stardust , Priscille Sibley

William Morrow, $15.99, Fiction

The story of a successful and loving, but childless, couple and the tragedy that shatters their world, leaving a wife on life support, and a family to grapple with questions of life and death in the face of a political and media frenzy.  Full of questions about the boundaries of decency and the public versus the private world.  Moving and thought provoking, great for fans of Jodi Picoult.  Read More

Calling Invisible WomenCalling Invisible Women, Jeanne Ray

Broadway Books, $14.00, Fiction

A delightful read about Clover, a middle aged former reporter, wife and mother who wakes up one morning to discover she’s invisible–truly invisible!  What would you do?  Have you ever felt invisible to your family and the world around you?  Would you retreat and hide, unsure of your new role? Or would you set out to change the world? As Clover grapples with this problem, she learns she is not alone in her invisibility, and that she may just have what it takes to change the world for all the Invisible Women!  Read More



BenedictionBenediction , Kent Haruf

Knopf, $25.95, Fiction

The new, beautifully written novel from the beloved and bestselling author of Plainsong and Eventitide, set once again in Holt, Colorado. In Benediction, Haruf follows ‘Dad’, a dying man through his quiet last days, as he reflects on the ties that bind people together, and observes all the wonderful small things about life in a small town. But make no mistake, this is not a book about dying, it is a book about living told in the luminous prose fans of Haruf have come to love. Read More



Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace, William Kent Krueger

Atria, $24.99, Mystery

A departure from Krueger’s usual thriller fare, this is a coming of age story about a two boys in the early 1960s whose childhoods come to an abrupt end as death visits their small town — first with the death of a young boy, then with their happening upon the body of a hobo, and most terribly, the brutal murder of the beautiful older sister of the main character.  As they grapple with death and what it does to their own families, they must also learn what ripples it will leave in their community. Ordinary Grace is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.  Read More


Ghana Must GoGhana Must Go , Taiye Selase

Penguin Press, $25.95, Fiction

Kwaku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside the home he shares in Ghana with his second wife. The news of Kwaku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before.  This novel teaches us so much about the lives of immigrants to America, and the cultural differences that we all grow up with that shape how we see the world and what we believe is wrong or right. This one with stay with me for weeks!   Read More.



BirdseyeBirdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, Mark Kurlansky

Doubleday Books, $15.95, Biography

This lively biography from the author of Cod and Salt follows the life and times of Clarence Birdseye, the man who developed the process for fast freezing food, and founded the company that still bears his name.  But not only did Birdseye forever changed the way we preserve, store, and distribute food, and the way we eat, but his insatiable curiosity let him to invent solutions to a wide variety of problems, and to a rich life full of family and perpetual discovery. This is a vibrant and affectionate narrative reveals Clarence Birdseye as a quintessential “can-do” American., Read More


After Visiting FriendsAfter Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story

Michael Hainey, Scribner, $26.00, Memoir

This memoir that reads like a thriller is the account of a man’s search for the truth about what happened to his father forty years ago,  when he was found dead in Chicago.  Filled with familiar places, and set against the backdrop of the newspaper industry of the Midwest, it is a son’s relentless quest to uncover what really happened, and an account of a mother’s love and sacrifices, and how families create and bury secrets.  Read More.




Rage Against the DyingRage Against the Dying , Becky Masterman

Minotaur, $24.99, Mystery/Thriller

Retired FBI agent, Brigid Quinn’s experiences in hunting sexual predators have left her with memories she wishes she didn’t have and lethal skills she hopes never to need again. But the past intervenes when a man confesses to the worst unsolved case of Brigid’s career. We definitely hope to see more of this feisty white-haired heroine and her riveting adventures!  Read More




Evidence of LifeEvidence of Life , Barbara Taylor Sissel

Mira Books, $14.95, Mystery/Thriller

After a woman’s husband and daughter disappear during a weekend camping trip, she mounting evidence that her husband had secrets, and she will not rest until she solves the mystery of what happened to them.  For fans of Anita Shreve, this is a taut psychological thriller that cuts to the heart of a woman’s fears. Read More




YardThe Yard, Alex Grecian

Putnam, $16.00, Mystery

Set during the early days of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, just after Jack the Ripper’s rampages, during the height of the Victorian era, this tale of murder and suspense is a satisfying first entry in a new series.  Readers get to know the hard-working cops that patrol the streets of London, their families, and the murderer who is stalking them and killing the police-men one by one. Readers also get glimpses of the emerging science of forensics, as law enforcement begins to use the advancements of science in their sleuthing.  The first in what promises to be a great new series of historical mysteries!  Read More


Maid and the QueenThe Maid and the Queen : The Secret History of Joan of Arc, Nancy Goldstone

Penguin, $16.00, History

You may think you know the story of Joan of Arc, the simple medieval peasant girl who led the French army to victory against the invading English, but was later tried for heresy and burned as a witch.  But, as Goldstone carefully lays out, that is not the whole story.  Joan, or Jeanne D’Arc as she was known, did lead an army, but she was much more than a simple peasant, and she was supported by Yolande of Aragon Queen of Sicily, one of her time’s most influential politicians.  This is the tale of two powerful women set against a complex backdrop of shifting alliances and a world where women had to work behind the scenes to control their own destinies.  Not a light read, but one of those fascinating and satisfying books that change the way you look at history. Read More

Seven LocksSeven Locks, Christine Wade

Atria, $15.00, Historical Fiction

With a haunting and utterly unique voice, this is the story of a wife and mother living in a Dutch community in the Catskill Mountains on the eve of the American Revolution.  She cares little for what her neighbors think, but when her husband abandons her to care for their farm and children alone, she must depend on her community, and her own hard work for survival.  This novel gives voice not only to a hidden corner of history, but also to the common citizens who were buffeted by the winds of war and politics during the early years of your nation’s history.  If you like historical fiction, don’t miss this one! Read More



Aviators WifeThe Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin

Delacorte Press, $26.00, Historical Fiction

This novel goes inside the private world of the very public figures of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and will change the way you look at fame, at aviation, and even at history.  Beautiful and riveting, this story gives us an inside look at what it was like to be a wife and mother during the early decades of the 20th century, at a crossroads of women’s rights and responsibilities within the family, at a juncture of fame and fortune, and during the crisis of a family caught in the middle of it all.  Read More



Mary CoinMary Coin, Marisa Silver

Blue Rider Press, $26.95, Historical Fiction

Most of us have seen the iconic photograph taken by Dorothea Lange of a woman and her children during the dustbowl years of the Great Depression.  This is the story inspired by the photograph of this Native American migrant worker and mother of six. It is also the story of the photographer who captured the image, and a man, decades later, who tries to find the truth of the story.  This is Diane’s pick for best book of the year!  Read More


Orphan TrainOrphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

William Morrow, $14.99, Fiction / Historical Fiction

This is the story of a 9 year old Irish immigrant girl who was among the thousands of children shipped west from New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on what became known as the Orphan Trains.  These children were parceled out to any families who would take them in states like Kansas and Iowa, and often faced lives of servitude and abuse at the hands of their new ‘parents’.  This is also the story of a modern-day troubled teenager who is just aging out of the Foster Care system, and is given the choice to do community service to recompense for her crime.  To meet her obligation, she goes to help an elderly woman clean out her attic, and the two find they have a great deal in common as they sift through the memories of a lifetime. Read More


Weight of Small ThingsThe Weight of Small Things, Sherri Wood Emmons

Kensington, $15.00, Fiction

When an old love resurfaces in her life, asking for her help in keeping his non-profit children’s shelter open, a woman must decide if she will help him, thus facing the choice she made decades ago. Moving and thought provoking, this story explores the weight of those decisions we all carry with us as we move through life. Read More




Truth About Love and LightningThe Truth About Love and Lightning , Susan McBride

William Morrow, $14.99, Fiction

A freak tornado brings a magical man to the walnut farm where Gretchen lives with her twin sisters. It’s as if he fell from the sky, landing in the millions of walnuts dropped by the storm.  This mystery man has no memory of who he is or how he got there, but something seems very familiar.  With Gretchen’s daughter Abby arriving simultaneously to the farm, pregnant and unmarried, all is a bit unnerving for Gretchen.  Are these events about to reveal her 40 year old secret?  Read More


Fate of Mercy AlbanThe Fate of Mercy Alban, Wendy Webb

Voice, $15.99, Gothic Suspense

For fans of the classics from Phyllis Whitney and Daphne DuMaurier, a quintessential Gothic Romance from award-winning novelist Webb. This is a spine-tingling modern-day haunted house story set on Lake Superior, with all the elements a good gothic should have, including a mysterious house, a beautiful heroine, an enigmatic love interest, forgotten stories, and the retainers that know them all. Webb has woven a suspenseful mystery that skillfully skirts the boundary between what is paranormal and what is psychological., Read More



Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen, G Willow Wilson

Grove Press, $16.00, Fantasy

A sort of Arabian Nights meets Harry Potter in which a young computer hacker in an unnamed Arab emirate shields his clients–dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups–from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif. He is in love with a woman out of reach of his social status, and when she is betrothed to his arch enemy, the Government computer mastermind known as The Hand of God, he is betrayed, sending Alif on the run through the streets of the city along with his neighbor, a young woman whose face he has not seen since they were children and she took the veil.  Deeper than it’s adventurous spirit may seem, this was one I could not put down, and that has stayed with me for months!  Read More


River of No ReturnThe River of No Return, Bee Ridgeway

Dutton, $27.95, Fantasy / Historical Fiction

This romp in time has it all!  There’s a dashing hero, several feisty heroines, some really nasty bad guy, plenty of mystery, suspense, humor and romance as Ridgeway navigates her eminently plausible route along the River of Time filled with paradoxes and switchbacks. For readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Deborah Harkness’ Discovery of WitchesRead More


Review : Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

It’s the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and all the havoc she wrought, and yes, it’s been all over the news, including one memorable interview with New Orleans mystery author, Julie Smith.  Smith says she quit writing for a long while after the storm, as she struggled to come to grips with what her city has become.  Now, mind you, I’ve never had the good fortune to go to New Orleans, although it’s definitely high on my list of want-tos, but I’ve got a thing for books about New Orleans, and here is one of my faves.

A couple of years ago, I devoured Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran. Claire DeWitt is an edgy private investigator who follows clues in her dreams, is a devotee of a mysterious dead French detective, and has a down and dirty approach to finding out what happened to a prominent New Orleans prosecutor, who disappeared during the Storm. She haunts the streets around the missing man’s home, she makes friends with teenaged delinquents and drug dealers. She listens in the missing man’s empty house, testing the wind for whispers of clues.  Her methods are fascinating.

Aside from great characters, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead gave me a glimpse of what really happened as the storm raged and the levies broke, and the people scrambled for safety.  It was the most genuine rendering of the disaster that I’ve seen, and gave me a new layer of understanding over my substrate of impressions and preconceptions.

I read a whole lot of books in my line of work, but this mystery juxtaposed a fresh style with a really dirty story, and has proven to be one has stayed with me in some surprising ways. Read it!


Review : The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

The Stockholm Octavo is a rich historical thriller detailing a little-known episode of class warfare in Sweden during the height of the French Revolution.

Set almost entirely in The City, as Stockholm is known, this is the story of a callow young bureaucrat named Emil with a penchant for playing cards, who is told to marry —  or lose his cozy position as a customs inspector.  One night at the gambling tables, Emil encounters a mysterious older woman named Mrs. Sparrow, who pulls him into a web of intrigue and danger swirling around a mystical spread of cards called the Octavo, that will, she tells him, help find the wife he needs.  “Any event,” Mrs. Sparrow says, “that may befall the Seeker – any event—can be connected to a set of eight people. And the eight must be in place for the event to transpire.”

As Emil returns each night to learn what the next card in his Octavo might be, the reader is given illustrations of the cards and their layout, one card at a time.  And as Emil races to identify each of the eight players in his Octavo – identities with labels like ‘The Seeker, , The Magpie, and The Prize, he engages, perhaps for the first time, in something larger than his own interests, and must decide how far he is willing to go to get what he wants. Glittering scenes of fabulous wealth are juxtaposed with hints of the desperate lives of most Swedes at the time, and we are pulled with Emil into a sometimes bewildering maelstrom of politics, hatred, and desperation mixed with heady romance, fine art, and honor.   Will the Octavo turn out to be a real construct, or is the mysterious Sparrow using Emil for her own purposes?  Will he find the connection he seeks, or will he be tricked into committing treason?

With lush settings, finely drawn characters, and a darkening plot that involves refugees from the violence in France, fabulously expensive custom wrought fans, poisons, Kings, maids, and runaways, this was a most entertaining foray into a piece of history I knew nothing about. And it also had me wondering who my own Octavo might be.


Next Chapter Top 20 Spring 2012 Reads

This is a list of great new books selected especially to appeal to OUR customers by Tresa, Diane and Annie, with lots of input from our extensive network of expert readers. We don’t pretend that these are necessarily the most important books of the season, or that these will all become classics, but they are all great reads we hope will keep you entertained and enriched for the next few months at least!  Enjoy!

ImageA Good American by Alex George

Amy Einhorn Books, $25.95, Fiction

A moving, sweeping novel about the immigrant experience of the last century, about family, and what it really means to be an American. A young German couple makes the perilous journey to America in 1904.  If you get around to one book this season, this should be the one!  Read More.

Titanic First Accounts by Tim Maltin

Penguin Classics, $16.00, History

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, the publishing companies are rolling out lots of Titanic-themed books.  We think Titanic First Accounts is one of the best, with fascinating first-hand accounts taken from survivors sometimes just after their rescue, sometimes years later, and from newspaper articles and more.  [Also of note are Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster, a history of the first class passengers and their world and The LIfeboat by Charlotte Rogan, a novel based on the idea of a group of people doing what they must to survive in a lifeboat during this type of disaster. Another notable entry into the field is a young adult novel called The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky, which is getting thumbs up from our teen readers.  Read more about Titanic First Accounts.

Hinterland by Caroline Brothers

Bloomsbury, $15.00, Fiction

One of Annie’s must reads of the year, this is the compelling story of two orphaned Afghani brothers who struggle to make their way alone across Europe, surviving human trafikkers and predators of other kinds, encountering the occasional decent citizen, but often encountering governmental persecution instead of the help they so desperately need. Disturbing, suspenseful, and beautifully written.  Read the review here on our blog.  Read more.

Day of Honey : A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezlado

Free Press, $15.00, Memoir

Part war reporting, part travelogue, part food writing, this is one of the most intimate memoirs I’ve read in years. Ciezlado gives us a look at how people in the middle east survive perpetual war and turmoil by something so simple and basic as sharing food with each other.  A beautifully-written story about love and resilience, and the ties that bind us all together more than the wars can tear us apart. Read more.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Little Brown & Company, $24.99, Fiction

A beautiful, magical tale of a childless couple who homestead in Alaska in the 1920s, and quietly nurse their grief over the loss of a child, as they work themselves into oblivion to establish their new home.  One day, in a moment of fun, they build a snow child.  The next day, although their snow child is gone, they begin to see glimpses of a young girl running in the trees.  They wonder if she is alone out there, and if so, how is she surviving?  Populated by a wonderful cast of characters, a group of genuinely good people who understand that helping one another is the only way to survive, and written in luminous prose, this is a treasure of a book, and not to be missed!  Read more

Far from Here, Nicole Baart

Howard Books, $16.00, Fiction

This is a lovely page-turner about a young Iowa woman who falls for a pilot, despite the fact that she has a profound fear of flying.  They make their happy new home in Black Hawk county, Iowa, until the day her husband gets an offer to take his dream job — flying in the back country of Alaska.  He accepts the offer, which is only for a few weeks, but on his last flight before returning home, her husband disappears.  Is she now a widow? An abandoned wife? Her path to discovering what happened to her husband will push her to her own limits, and teach her things she never imagined about love and loss and about starting over. As an added bonus, this great writer is one of Iowa’s own!  Read more.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Harper Collins, $26.99, Fiction

A vibrant retelling of Jane Eyre set in 1960s Scotland, this is the story of Gemma Hardy, orphaned and raised first by a cruel aunt, and then in a cold orphanage, before she finds a position as a tutor for a wealthy family on the lonely Orkney Islands.  Of course, not everything is as it seems there, and the indomitable Gemma will learn about love and passion and secrets, just as her predecessor, Jane did in her own time and place. Beautifully written, this book is as much homage as redux, and is a lovely choice for a leisurely lounge-chair read. Read more.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Random House, $15.00, Fiction

This is the story of Clara Driscoll, the woman who worked for the Tiffany company and designed the famous stained-glass lamps manufactured in the early 20th century.  Because she was a woman, Clara was never publicly recognized for her work, and faced difficult restrictions on her personal life — Mr. Tiffany would not employ married women, for example.  Set in the first decades of the 20th century, Vreeland lovingly chronicles Clara’s struggle to reconcile the work of her hands with the leanings of her heart in an environment that barely tolerates a woman’s presence, much less her life as a wife and mother.  Another spot on examination of a little known corner of the art world, from Vreeland, who also wrote Girl in Hyacinth Blue.  Read more.

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Viking, $25.95, Fiction

In this mystical and loving family epic, Tuccelli takes us from pre-World War II Washington DC to rural Georgia over a span of a century as she follows the fates of a community of free African Americans, Cherokees, and Scots Irish, as they grapple with survival, racism, and the vagaries of history. Glow is told from the viewpoints of two young girls — a mother and her daughter — one from the 1940s and one from the 1920s, both of whom are victims of racial crimes, and who meet the world head-on with courage and joy.  I was reminded of Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons by the theme of Cherokee people dealing with the invasion of their homeland in various creative ways, while still maintaining some last shreds of their culture, and also by the atmospheric evocation of time and place.  I’ve never been to the mountain region of Georgia, but after reading Glow, I feel like I might know my way around a bit.  Highly recommended!  Read more.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

Plume, $15.00, Fiction

From the author of Violets in March comes a love story spanning decades, about a young American woman named Anne, who volunteers during WWII and is sent to the Pacific island of Bora-Bora to serve as an Army nurse. Once there, she meets an enigmatic soldier named Westry, and they form a deep bond, whiling away their private hours in a hidden bungalow on the beach.  But a horrifying murder, a jealous friend, and the vagaries of war separate them, and they each move on to their respective duties, and in time, their civilian lives.  But Anne never forgets Westry, and she never stops wondering about the events she witnessed in the bungalow, and she cannot rest until she learns the truth about what happened and comes to terms with the losses she suffered.  With lush locations and enough romance for the most demanding romantics, this will be the best beach read of the summer!  Read more.

The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele

NAL, $15.00, Fiction

Another great WWII tale, this time set in a small village in Tuscany.  This is the story of Giovanna Bellinni, an aristocratic 17 year old girl, who comes of age in the midst of the war.  When the Nazis occupy her village, and take over her ancestral home, Giovanna’s brother joins the Resistance.  As the war and its terrible choices comes ever closer, the Giovanna begins to grow up, and learns more about the Nazis and what they have done to the Jews, and what role her own family has had in the Italian Fascist party, and she will have to make her own choices.  Along the way, she will find wisdom, hardship, and perhaps even love.   Read more.

A Covert Affair by Jennett Conant

Simon & Schuster, $16.00, History

This page-turner history is the riveting account of Julia and Paul Child’s experiences as members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII, and the tumultuous later years when they were caught up in the McCarthy communist spy hunt in the 1950s.  Filled with intimate details of this fascinating couple’s life, this book gave me a sense of what it must have been like to find yourself the target of those investigations, and of the times and fears that made the McCarthy investigations possible.  A fresh new look at this beloved couple, and at a frightening time in a not-so-distant past.  Read more.

Mrs Kennedy and Me : An Intimate Memoir by Clint Hill

Gallery Books, $26.00, Memoir

The memoir of Clint Hill, the secret service man assigned to protect Jacqueline Kennedy during her husband’s term as president, from 1960 to 1964.  Hill went from being a reluctant guard dog, to being a fierce protector of the First Lady, and perhaps her closest friend.  This is a moving story of loyalty written by a remarkable gentleman who waited 50 years to tell his story about a woman he very much came to admire.  This gets top ratings from Kennedy fans everywhere!  Read More.

Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, Mystery

The newest entry in Stabenow’s long running mystery series brings together her two popular protagonists, Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and Alaska state trooper Liam Campbell, in one story for the first time!  If you haven’t read Stabenow, this is a great entry point into the series, as the two detectives work together to solve a murder, as they navigate the web of conspiracy they find behind the death of a very unpopular aviation entrepreneur.  Stabenow’s characters are always meticulously developed, and her arctic settings are always compelling — if you love a solid, smart mystery, discover this writer today!  Read more

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Delacorte Press, $26.00, Mystery

This is an unusual and taught legal thriller that doubles as a family drama, in which Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney must deal with helping his teenaged son face the accusation that he murdered another child.  As the accusations and denials fly, the trial intensifies, his marriage begins to crumble, and Andy must find a way to stand by his son, no matter what.  Think Jody Picoult meets John Grisham — with a bit of a sharper edge!  And we have to admit that we really enjoyed visiting with Mr. Landay at the MIBA meetings last fall — his discussion of the process of thinking about and writing this story was fascinating.  We think you’ll all love it.  Read more.

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry

Broadway Books, $15.00, Suspense

“If I’d blinked, I would have missed it. But I didn’t, and I saw something fall from the rear deck of the opposite ferry: a small, wide-eyed human face, in one tiny frozen moment, as it plummeted toward the water.”

With an opening gambit like this one, how could we resist?  And the book delivered, with enough suspense, mystery, and twists and turns to keep you up late at night!  Learning to Swim is the story of Troy Chance who makes a split second decision one evening as she rides the ferry across Lake Champlain, and jumpes into the frigid waters to save a small boy.  When she gets to him, she finds that he is understandably terrified and that he speaks only French. She saves him from drowning, and when they reach shore, she realizes that no one is looking for him!  From there, she makes a fateful decision and takes the boy home to care for him until she can find his family.  But no one is coming forward looking for him, no pleas on the media, no police investigations, nothing.  As she works to discover what happened to the young boy, she uncovers a tangled web of privilege, money, power, and ruthlessness.  Read more.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose (The Reincarnationist #4)

Simon & Schuster, $24.00, Suspense

The fourth in her Reincarnationist series about a group of artifacts that can help the user access past life memories, and the man obsessed with finding them, wherever they may be.  In this entry, we meet Jac L’Etoile, the daughter of a French perfume house in crisis, who begins to experience ‘flashbacks’ to Cleopatra’s Egypt associated with a particular ancient scent that no one has been able to identify, she is dragged into a maelstrom of international intrigue involving Tibetan dissidents, Chinese nationalists, and the relentless Dr. Malachi who will stop at nothing to possess the scent itself.  The books in this series stay with you, and the twist of the past life memories and how they help solve each mystery is an added intriguing bonus!  Read more.

Expats by Chris Pavone

Crown Books, $26.00, Thriller

When American wife and mother Kate Moore’s husband gets a great new job, the family moves to Luxembourg where Kate hopes she can start anew, and leave her old life behind.  But things in Luxembourg are not always what they seem, and Kate soon discovers that her past cannot be outrun, and that her husband has a secret life of his own that will put everything she loves in jeopardy.  This is a stylish, smart thriller and great fun to read!  Read more.

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Knopf, $25.95, Fantasy

Oh, yeah, Rice is back!  After a period during which she wrote about different types of subjects, the author of Interview with the Vampire has returned to her former paranormal themes with this thick, satisfying tale of a young journalist who visits a fantastic old mansion in northern California where he is brutally attacked and transformed into, you guessed it, a werewolf.  Lush detail, settings you feel you could step into, a magnificent personal transformation, and a driving plot make this the perfect book to get lost in this summer. Read more

By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair

Scribner, $24.00, Memoir

The searingly honest memoir of an Iowa man grappling with fleeting youth, his marriage, his four children — including one autistic son — and a flood that tears everything down to its essence.  A compelling voice from a promising young writer.  Read Bob Leonard’s review on this blog and more information here.

Pioneer Woman Cooks : Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

William Morrow and Co., $29.99, Cooking

This great cookbook from the engaging ‘Pioneer Woman’ is so popular with our customers that it has been hard to keep in stock!  We understand, because this is not only a great learning resource for beginning cooks like graduating seniors and newlyweds, with step-by-step photos and clear instructions, but it is also a tremendously fun read, and a peek at an appealing rural lifestyle, as this former city girl does her part in running her ‘Marlboro Man’s’ cattle ranch in Oklahoma.  Read more.


Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Book News, Books, Reviews


Book Review : Hinterland

Hinterland by Caroline Brothers

This book kept me riveted from the first page, and I had a hard time putting it down in spite of a blazingly busy few days. I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about Aryan and Kabir, and what they endured as they made their way across the world to their promised land — England. And now, a few days later, I still can’t stop thinking about it!

Hinterland is the odyssey of two Afghani brothers, orphaned by war, one about 14 and one 8, who are traveling alone across Europe in a desperate attempt to reach England, where they believe they will be able to live in peace and go to school.  Aryan, the elder is one of the most steadfast characters I’ve encountered in literature; he battles through his own internal demons and what is probably PTSD, to care for and encourage his little brother Kabir as they make their long and difficult way across the continent.

Some of the scenes are horrific, certainly, but mostly it was the tenuousness of their survival and the boy’s courage and optimism that makes this an unforgettable book. But in spite of the boys’ love for each other and their resilience, it is the perpetual the failure of the international community to help these children and the thousands like them that was most stunning.  Of course, there were people along the way who were kind — mostly in small ways; but there was also a smorgasbord of predators of various ilk who preyed upon these children at every turn.  By the end, they felt like they could have been my own brothers. I suppose they are.

Hinterland belongs in a group with Little Bee and the Blue Notebook in how it points out the plight of children in unfamiliar parts of the world, but it also stands as a great, suspenseful read, one of those universal stories of tremendous courage against insurmountable odds that speaks to something fundamental in all of us; and I, for one, will never be the same after spending the weekend in the Hinterland.  As the review line on the cover of the book says, this is a story that all of us should read!

reviewed by Annie Leonard


Author & Humorist Charlene Baumbich Comes to Knoxville!

A couple of years ago a woman from Illinois and her husband were driving through Iowa, and they happened to stop for gas in Knoxville at the BP station just east of the square.The woman took advantage of the stop and visited the ladies room, and much to her delight, found it to be super clean and very stylish with checkerboard tiling in raceway colors.  She mentioned her approval of the bathroom to the gas station attendant, as she was purchasing a soda at the counter.  The cashier mentioned that the root beer she had chosen was made locally at our new brewery, which led her directly down the street to Peace Tree Brewing Company. During her tour, the director learned that the woman was an author and she sent them over to us at The Next Chapter.
This charming and charismatic woman bounded through the book store door asking whether I’d ever visited the BP bathroom before.  After I admitted I hadn’t had the pleasure, she proceeded to go on and on about how fabulous it was, even showing me a picture she had taken of it!  She continued on, in her excited and contagious way, to describe her fabulous time at Peace Tree, with t-shirts in tow for her sons.

As we talked, I learned that Charlene is an author.  She has written numerous books, including several inspirational and self-help titles, the beloved Dearest Dorothy series, and the Snow Globe Connections series, and when I met her she was working on a new book for her Snow Globe Connections series.  She mentioned that she was looking for a ballet dancer to help her with some technical details for this newest book.  Of course, I disclosed that I was a book store owner, but also the owner of “Tresa’s School of Dance” and had taught dance classes for 38 years!

It was like a match made in heaven as she ran across the store to hug me, and then asked if I would help with her process by reading her manuscript. I was honored and excited at this request, and sent her to the computer shop to have her script printed so she could leave it in Knoxville with me. Then, local KNIA/KRLS news director, Dr. Bob Leonard, also happened into our store during Charlene’s visit, and he asked if she might be interested in giving an interview for his weekly show, to which she graciously and excitedly agreed.

After a lovely visit, we sent Charlene and her husband to The Swamp Fox for dinner, and so their gas station stop turned into a six hour sojourn in Knoxville!

Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Charlene, read some of her books, and learned more about her career as a humorist and speaker.  I enjoyed reading her manuscript for Finding Our Way Home, and was able to offer some expert advice to make the book, which features an injured ballerina who must learn to live without her dancing, even more true to life.  And now, I am so pleased to have the final result on our shelves along with Charlene’s other books!

So, to celebrate the release of Finding Our Way Home, it is with great pleasure that we welcome Charlene to Knoxville once again, for a trio of special events on Thursday, March 22nd.  At 12 noon, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce will host Charlene at the Peace Tree Tasting Room for an edition of Expert Edge– Business Survival 101: The Balance Between Humor and Grit. At 2pm, an Afternoon Tea and Book Signing here at the Next Chapter. Finally, at 5:30, come to The Peace Tree for “Charlene, etc., Life’s Quirky Tidbits,” as our special guest entertains us with humor, uncommon wisdom, and passionate insights.

We hope you can join us!

Read more about Charlene and her work at her website:


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