Delightful Debuts: Descent by Tim Johnston


There are so many new authors to try out these days, it can be difficult to choose where to descentstart. So here’s a tip- few others have excited readers and critics alike the way Tim Johnston has, with his literary thriller and adult debut, Descent. I just got this on my eReader and I am starting it tonight!

The story has won high praise and starred reviews galore. A “lyrical and hypnotic…pulse-pounding thriller of the first order” that is ”also a gorgeously written, thought-provoking, and haunting novel about family, survival, and the power of a single choice.”

Set amidst the stunning Rocky Mountains, the story centers around the Courtland family, who are trying to re-connect for one last time before Caitlin, their eldest, goes off to college. But instead they are thrust abruptly into a nightmare straight from today’s headlines when Caitlin and her younger brother, Sean, go out for an early morning run and only Sean returns.

Johnston is no stranger to high praise. He snagged an O. Henry Prize, the New Letters Award for Writers, and the Gival Press Short Story Award, as well as the 2009 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction for his collection, Irish Girl.







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ALA Names Top Adult Audiobooks for 2014

Love to listen to your books on audio? So do a lot of other people these days, especially when they can find the “good ones” at the library. Now, thanks to the American Library Association (ALA) committee that creates an annual “Best of” list for adult audiobook narration, it just got a little easier to find great titles that feature wonderfully talented readers.

Since 2010, The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration, “seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles with readers that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them.” Not only do these list creators name some great titles, they offer some read-alikes for each of their picks. Here are a few that were named to the 2014 list. If you have a favorite audio book reader, discover more of their work by searching the catalog for their name.

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

signature of all things Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, whose sublimely melodious, richly inflected voice brings myriad characters, places, and even plants and animals to life in this story of a fictional 19th century botanist. Alma Whittaker’s goal of finding a connection between all living things takes her on a solo quest to exotic places on this journey of serendipitous self-discovery.



Bellwether, by Connie Willis; narrated by Kate Reading for Blackstone Audio.

The Lieutenant, by Kate Grenville; narrated by Nicholas Bell for Bolinda Audio/Brilliance Audio.

Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver; narrated by Barbara Kingsolver for Recorded Books.

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

boys in boatEdward Herrmann’s lively and emotionally connected reading captures the excitement and detail of this real-life Cinderella story of the U.S. rowing team’s journey to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His masterful command of language and cadence, combined with his deft characterizations, makes this inspiring story a must-listen.



Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing; narrated by Simon Prebble for Blackstone Audio.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand; narrated by George Newbern for Books on Tape.

Wilt, 1962, by Gary M. Pomerantz; narrated by Stephen Hoye for Books on Tape.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.

oceanendlaneGaiman, as both author and narrator, immerses listeners in a modern fairy tale in which two stalwart children pit themselves against dark and relentless terrors. Through an exquisite management of pace and inflection, his voice becomes the story’s doorway just a surely as any rabbit hole or wardrobe.



The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly; narrated by Steven Crossley for Recorded      Books.

Ragnarok, by A.S. Byatt; narrated by Harriet Walter for Brilliance Audio.

The Winter Ghosts, by Kate Mosse; narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt for Recorded Books.


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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo



life changingIt’s the new year, and so that means people are again on the lookout for workable ways to organize themselves, and make their lives more relaxing and pleasurable in the process. It’s no wonder this book, written by a Japanese organizational consultant, is a best seller that continues to generate international buzz. Just take a look at what the publisher has to say about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles? Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever.

The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home–and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.   


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A Mystery Series for Coffee Lovers

Mystery Mondaycoffee_beans_2My co-worker really enjoys coffee.  With the snow coming down this morning and the temperatures dropping, the thought of something warm sounds really inviting.  Though not a coffee drinker, I thought it would be fun to mention a great cozy mystery series that is centered around this popular beverage, The Coffeehouse Mystery Series by Cleo Coyle.  (Cleo Coyle is actually a pen name for a husband and wife writing team: Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.)

The main protagonist in this series is Clare Cosi, who in the first book On What Grounds, has returned to her old job in Greenwich Village to manage the Village Blend coffeehouse.  Ten years earlier, Clare left New York to move to the New Jersey suburbs, raise her only daughter, Joy and leave behind a bad marriage.  Now Joy is grown and gone and Clare’s been persuaded to manage the Village Blend again.  On her first day back, Clare finds the assistant manager unconscious at the bottom of the steps.  Was this an accident or did someone intentionally push her?  Soon Clare is solving a murder that the police think was an accident and teaming up with the last person she thought she’d work with again–her ex-husband, Matt!

Once Upon  GrindThe series continues with Through the Grinder(#2), Latte Trouble(#3), Murder Most Frothy(#4), Decaffeinated Corpse(#5), French Pressed (#6), Espresso Shot (#7), Holiday Grind (#8), Roast Mortem (#9), Murder by Mocha(#10), A Brew to a Kill(#11), Holiday Buzz (#12), Billionaire Blend(#13), and the latest in the series, Once Upon a Grind (#14) published this month (12/2014), where Clare’s ex, Matt, is the prime suspect.

I also recommend checking out  You’ll find great recipes from the books as well as a checklist of all of the coffeehouse mystery titles.  On a snowy day like today, a hot brew and a fun mystery read are the perfect way to stay cozy.

–Carol W.

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JHL Welcomes Graeme Simsion

The James H LaRue branch is thrilled to welcome author Graeme Simsion on Sunday, January 18th at 6:30pm.

Simsion’s debut novel, The Rosie Projectrosie project, introduced readers to the delightfully droll Don Tilman, a genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love. To say Don is socially challenged would be an understatement, and his hilarious story quickly became an international sensation.



RosieThe Rosie Effect, which is scheduled for release on December 30, follows Don’s continuing foray into the unfamiliar territory of personal relationships, and family life could prove to be his undoing despite all of his determination and good intentions.




Please join in for what promises to be a fun evening and discussion with Graeme Simsion!

Register here:


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5 “Best of 2014″ Mysteries

MysteryMondayBannerAt the end of the year, it is commonplace for reviewers to pick the “best of 2014” novels.  Here’s a look at 5 mysteries that are on more than one “best of” list for 2014.  (I would classify most of these as mystery thrillers.)

The Son by Jo Nesbo

Sonny Lofthus has been in prison for a dozen years for crimes he didn’t commit to feed his heroin addiction.  Now’s he’s discovered some new information about his father, whose suicide started his downhill spiral into drugs.  He cleans up, escapes and is dead set on seeking revenge even if it leads him to Oslo’s crime overlord, a terrifying man known as the Twin.  If you’re wondering where the police are in this rampage, Simon Kefas is an aging detective who was Sonny’s father’s best friend and is trying to catch Sonny before the Twin does.  Note: there is a lot of violence in this tale.

The FarmThe Farm by Tom Rob Smith (who also wrote the excellent novel, Child 44)

Imagine that your mother and father moved to Sweden to retire peacefully on a rural farm.  You then get a phone call from your father who tells you that your mother is not well and has been admitted to a mental asylum.  Then you get a phone call from your mother who is on her way home to you in London and she insists that she is not insane but that your father is in the middle of a horrible crime and conspiracy and trying to lock her up.  That’s the scenario that the main protagonist is this story, Daniel, is thrown into.  While his mother’s story is difficult, it is not implausible.  Who should he believe?  What will the truth be?

I am a Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Pilgrim is a codename for a man who once headed up a secret unit of the C.I.A. and also wrote a book detailing forensic criminal investigation techniques.  Now that book has come back to haunt him because someone else used it to commit the perfect crime and Pilgrim has to find him.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds.  Soon Pilgrim is in a race against time and traveling the world to stop a jihadi terrorist who is planning to introduce a strain of plague that is vaccine-proof.

Good GirlThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Colin Thatcher is supposed to kidnap Mia Dennett.  Colin Thatcher is not supposed to hide her in a secluded cabin evading the police and his superiors.  This story is told from different perspectives: Mia’s socialite mother, the detective and even Mia herself.  What starts out as a simple kidnapping turns into a thriller that reveals how nothing is as it seems.

The Secret Place by Tana French

In the leafy suburbs of Dublin, a boy named Chris Harper was murdered on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school.  A year later, the police are still searching for answers. Then, Holly Mackey, who attends the boarding school and is Dectective Frank Mackey’s daughter, brings the police a photo of Chris found posted at her boarding school where someone wrote: “I know who killed him”.  A haunting look at teenage friendship and loyalty, this is another tale involving the Dublin Murder Squad.  Previous books in this series: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor.

–Carol W.

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Mystery Monday — Holiday Mysteries


Mysteries and the holidays are like snow and winter, or caroling and cocoa, or shopping and wrapping, or—well you get the picture!

In the midst of this season, be sure to check out the many holiday themed mysteries to enjoy during your down time. Even the most harried readers should have some luck finding satisfying books to wind down with. Even better if you are busy–we have short stories, and audio books to take on your travels, too.

A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer

rumpoleThis collection of 5 short stories was released after the author’s passing in 2009. A special treat for established Rumpole fans, it’s also a way for readers new to Morton’s colorful Horace Rumpole character to get acquainted. Though he is not a big fan of the season, Rumpole is almost sure to get you in the holiday spirit.






Silent Night by Robert Parker, with Helen Brann

silentnightHere’s a holiday gift for Spenser fans and crime readers needing a Spenser fix. Parker’s longtime literary agent, Brann, completed this novel that was left unfinished when Parker died in 2010.

It’s December in Boston, and Spenser finds himself pulled into a situation that threatens a group of homeless boys who are trying to get a break.   Christmas is just days away as Spenser prepares for a showdown.



Veiled Threat by Alice Loweecy

veiledthreatIt’s private investigator Giulia Falcone’s second Christmas since leaving the convent, and she is content. But Giulia’s holiday is darkened with disturbing news from her friends Anya and Laurel–their adopted baby girl has been kidnapped. When she discovers that two kidnappings in nearby communities, both involving same-sex couples, ended fatally, Giulia goes undercover to snare the kidnappers before they can kill again.




Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews ( A Meg Langslow Mystery)

duckthehallsWhen Christmas preparations are disrupted by a series of pranks being pulled on the town’s churches, Meg Langslow is called in to restore order and discover who is behind it. Suddenly things escalate beyond skunks, boas constrictors and ducks, and an elderly vestryman from Trinity Episcopal winds up dead. This series is as much about the town and Meg’s crazy extended family than it is about mysteries. Listen on CD to this latest, light hearted Christmas installment guaranteed to enhance the holiday mood.

A Christmas Grace by Anne Perry

a christmas graceThis is the sixth Victorian Christmas offering by best-selling author Perry. Emily Radley is drawn to a remote Irish village to care for her dying aunt. A violent storm looms on the horizon, and a terrible secret haunts the villagers. Will Emily solve the mystery and weather the storm? A slight tale that will appeal to Perry’s fans, and complement her other Christmas books.




Jane and the 12 Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

jane and theDenver’s own Stephanie Barron, aka novelist Francine Matthews, here serves up a satisfying holiday plot which combines Barron’s courtly language with an engaging group of characters from her popular series about English author, Jane Austen.

Jane and her family are invited to spend Christmas at an English country home, The Tyne. The festive holiday crowd includes other genteel country dwellers, but when one of their snow-bound party dies in a tragic accident, Jane’s suspicions are piqued. If the accident was in fact murder, the killer is one of Jane’s fellow guests. Jane works to discover the truth even as she grapples with discerning just who among their party she can really trust. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas is number 12 in this charming series.



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The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach

Glad you don’t live in Buffalo? But sort of wishing you were snowed in for a weekend so you could read?

RemedyforLoveHere’s the perfect book for you – The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach (from Algonquin and finalist for the 2014 Kirkus prize for fiction). Two strangers meet by chance in a grocery line, and end up together in a cabin during the storm of the century in Maine.

Eric – a defense lawyer who is trying in a last ditch effort to save his marriage, even though his wife has moved on, decides to cook a romantic dinner. He needs groceries. While in line he notices a young woman who in his mind is clearly homeless, probably unstable, and struggling to pay. He helps her and offers her a ride back to where she lives.

Danielle – is alone, squatting in a cabin far off the road and near the river. She doesn’t want him to help her home. Eric insists and that’s when he sees the rustic cabin with no running water, electricity or heat. He decides to help her whether she wants him to or not. She is distrustful of his intentions.

The storm comes. In this page turner, the reader isn’t sure about the motivation of either character; it is like watching a weird psychological tennis match with killer serves delivered by both parties. As several feet of snow falls and is measured in feet, there’s an odd world in that lonely cabin unfolding and it’s hard to step back without finding out how the characters will survive.

So settle into your favorite chair with your tea or cocoa and put your feet up. You will be reading this story from start to finish. Bill Roorbach is a gifted storyteller you will find yourself drawn into that cabin and into the characters’ troubled lives.LifeAmongGiants

The author lives in Maine and his novel, Life Among Giants has recently been picked up by HBO as a series. Roorbach is working on the script. You won’t regret settling into any book by Bill Roorbach.

~Lisa C.                         Program Liaison at James H. LaRue

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Volunteer Views

Volunteer Views


In this week’s list, our DCL volunteers offer some reviews which cover books for all ages!

miraclemapleshillMiracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen

All the best stories ring with truth and Miracles on Maple Hill is no exception. Ms. Sorensen very deservedly won the Newberry for this delightful juvenile book, which features glimpses of both the mundane and the complexities of life as experienced through a young girl’s senses during four seasons in rural Pennsylvania. Marly’s voice is so authentic and relatable that I found myself feeling a deep regard for all the people she meets and places she goes. Be prepared for the urge to consume some pure maple syrup at some point in the reading!


~Juvenile fiction; rated 5 stars by James H. LaRue volunteer Sara

inspectorpawsInspector Paws and the Wonders of Europe by Rosemary Budd

Inspector Paws moves in with Stella and Ernie Clayton and they provide him with food, and a big backyard, which caters to his roaming instincts. The best part is that there are no kids around to torment him. When Ernie has a fatal heart attack his death is attributed to natural causes, but the tingle in his whiskers convinces Paws there’s more to it. Then Stella and her friend Jo kidnap Paws and drag him off on a European tour, during which he becomes the tour mascot and self-appointed sleuth. Can he solve the mystery of who killed Ernie? An amusing little book that captivates you, much like other cat mystery books.

~Adult fiction; rated 5 stars by Castle Pines volunteer Bev

prolonged exposureProlonged Exposure by Steven Havill

Undersheriff Bill Gastner is recuperating at his daughter’s home in Michigan. Detective Estelle Reyes-Guzman calls from his hometown of Posadas, New Mexico, to notify him that his home has been robbed. She also tells him that his elderly neighbor has buried his wife on Gastner’s property. Gastner and his daughter return to New Mexico and are soon entangled in the search for a missing three year old boy. The search becomes more personal and heart wrenching when another little boy is kidnapped. Gastner must cope with his home invasion and his neighbor while supporting the kidnapping investigation. The plot is gripping, and I found myself unable to put the book down until the kidnapping was resolved.

~ePub fiction; rated 5 stars by James H. LaRue volunteer Sheryl

cotillionCotillion by Georgette Heyer

With some romance novels, you pretty much know what you’re going to get even before you flip to the first page. Not so with novels by Georgette Heyer, who consistently comes up with refreshingly original situations for her unique heroines and heroes. Cotillion is one of the best examples of her work. If you’re interested in atypical characters, an engrossing storyline with unexpected twists and turns, and a well-researched depiction of Britain’s Regency era – and you’re not looking for the literary genius of Jane Austen or the steamy heat of bodice rippers – then grab this e-book. You won’t be sorry.

~ePub fiction; rated 4 stars by James H. LaRue Volunteer Chris

angerviolenceAnger is Okay, Violence is Not by Julie Federico

This story delivers an empowering message appropriate for all people at all times. My kids, ages 5, 8, and 10 wanted me to read it over and over because it spoke to a solution for a universal problem. Though unsophisticated, the bright illustrations make a serious theme safe, accessible and conversational. The title is superb and my thanks go to Tate Publishing and Ms. Federico for this important book.

~Picture book; rated 4 stars by James H. LaRue Volunteer Sara 
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Mystery Monday — The Man Who Died Laughing

Mystery MondayI love to check out mysteries based on different cultures and settings.  As I was looking at different options, I decided to check out The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall which is set in India.  The title was intriguing and I hadn’t read any mysteries set in India before.  The victim, Dr. Suresh Jha, is murdered during a meeting of the weekly Laughing Club.  Apparently he has been killed by the goddess Kali, who hovers in the air and runs a sword through him while the other members of the club are helplessly laughing and magically unable to move.

The Man Who Died LaughingBecause this is such a sensational murder, Vish Puri, a famed detetective with a reputation for explaining the unexplainable is called in to assist.  However, Inspector Singh makes sure that Puri understands his involvement is not to be made known to the head of the police department.

The main suspect is Maharaj Swami, who leads a wealthy religious group and who Dr. Jha was extremely critical of.  Dr. Jha was the founder of the Delhi Institute of Rationalism and Education (DIRE) and a constant critic of Maharaj Swami as well as other Indian spiritualists.

Can this unusual murder be solved in a satisfactory way?  Most definitely.  With the help of his undercover agents, Detective Puri is able to put all of the pieces of this puzzle together.

This is the second Vish Puri Mystery.  Though I didn’t start with the first book in the series, it probably would be best to read them in order though I didn’t feel like I missed too much by not having read the first book (The Case of the Missing Servant in 2009).  Additional Vish Puri Mysteries include The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (2012) and The Case of the Love Commandos (2013).  But to really get a feel for the setting in India and correct pronunciation of the different names, I strongly recommend that you listen to the audio versions of these mysteries.

– Carol W.

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