Jo Hansen

Jo Hansen

 


Jo Hansen has been a Readers’ Advisor at Cook Library for several years, after a 20-year career as a newspaper journalist. Libraries rock! She especially enjoys literary and historical fiction as well as mysteries and fantasy. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, she enjoys playing with her chocolate Labrador Yogi Bear and watching great movies. 


 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_summeroftheheadnew.jpgCounty prosecutor Belfa Elkins faces many personal and professional challenges in Julia Keller’s third mystery, Summer of the Dead.

Bell’s sister Shirley is living with her while trying to piece together a new life after spending 30 years in prison for killing their abusive father. Bell’s beloved teen daughter Carla decides to not come home for the summer so she can work in London. And then an old man is stabbed to death in his driveway while fixing a car for his grandson. When a second man is murdered, residents worry they have a serial killer on the loose.

As a West Virginian native, Keller’s writing rings true about the tough living facing some Appalachian residents. Bell is such a complex and interesting character whose frustration is palpable when she tries to make a difference in her small hometown of Ackers Gap. Living in the breathtaking backdrop of mountains, Bell’s job exposes her to the ugly parts of the area, including abject poverty, drug abuse and violence.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_JKRowling.jpgJ.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, returns with a well-crafted, entertaining second mystery starring private detective Cormoran Strike. By taking on the publishing world in The Silkworm, she creates a complex, gritty story that keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

Strike is in better shape these days, thanks to his success in proving that a starlet had not committed suicide but was murdered in the Cuckoo’s Calling. Now with more cases and income coming in, he has been able stop sleeping in his shabby London office and  move into the small apartment a flight up. His faithful assistant, Robin Ellacott, is still there, hoping to prove that she can be more than just a secretary.b2ap3_thumbnail_silkworm.jpg While she yearns to be a private detective, her prat of a fiancé, Matthew, disapproves of her low-paying, undignified job. The working relationship between Strike and Robin continues to nicely develop despite all the tension created by Matthew.

When flaky Leonora Quine asks Cormoran Strike to find her missing husband, the detective learns that the eccentric novelist has written a bizarre unpublished novel that clearly besmirches the reputations of prominent people in the ruthless publishing world. Strike eventually discovers Owen Quine’s dismembered body, and turns to the author’s poison-pen novel for a list of suspects. Was Quine killed by his publisher? His editor? His literary agent? His lover? A rival author? The police believe that Quine’s wife is the real killer, driving Strike to prove Leonora’s innocence.

With a masterly crafted plot, exquisite writing and complex characters, Rowling once again proves that she is an exceptional novelist.  Even better than Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm is a sign that mystery readers have much to look forward to from Rowling/Galbraith.

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Quirky characters abound in Amy Bloom’s new story about an unusual family’s attempt to survive during World War II. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_rebeccamakkainew_20140805-142746_1.jpgReading Rebecca Makkai’s inventive sophomore novel, The Hundred-Year House, is like solving a complex puzzle.

When we first visit the grand estate, we meet the elderly Gracie Breen, who is descended from a famous old-money Canadian family, the Devohrs. The home was built north of Chicago in 1900 by her great-grandfather Augustus to oversee his grain investments. A few years later, when Augustus’ wife Violet committed suicide in the attic, he moved out. The house eventually was turned into an artist’s colony from the 1920s to the 1950s, and the artists believed it was haunted by Violet’s ghost.

b2ap3_thumbnail_hundredyearhouse_20140805-142949_1.jpgGracie now lives in the mansion with her current husband, Bruce Breen. They soon are joined by Gracie’s daughter Zee and husband Doug, who move into the coach house for free. Zee is a Marxist literary professor at a nearby college and Doug is a writer who is struggling to finish a biography about a little known poet named Edwin Parfitt. Doug hopes his stay at the old house will motivate him to finish his biography on Parfitt, who had been a resident of the estate when it was an artist’s colony. But when Doug asks Gracie for permission to explore the locked attic for files about the colony, she refuses. What is Gracie hiding? Is the house haunted? What other surprises does the hundred-year-old house hold?

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b2ap3_thumbnail_landline.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_biglittlelies.jpgEver wonder what the library staff is reading? Then you are in luck! Every month I compile a list of the adult books employees throughout the library have read, and post it on the Books/Movies/Music Page. I break it down by Fiction, Mysteries/Suspense, Nonfiction and Biography/History. As you can imagine, we read a lot of books, and August’s list is especially long. For Fiction, don't forget to scroll to the next page.

Our August Fiction List contains two authors who are popular with the staff: Liane Moriarty and Rainbow Rowell. Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret was a big hit a year ago. Her new book, Big Little Lies, already is generating buzz among us. Rowell burst on the fiction scene a year ago with her two terrific young adult books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. This year she tried her hand at a fun adult novel, Landline.

b2ap3_thumbnail_matchmaker_20140802-144748_1.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_closeyoureyes.jpgElin Hilderbrand has four books on the staff fiction list, no doubt because she was here in June for our Authors Out Loud program to promote her latest Nantucket beach read, The Matchmaker. I know some staff went back and read some of her earlier works, including The Blue Bistro, The Castaways and Summerland. Other authors who have visited our libraries for Authors Loud also made August’s list, including Chris Bohjalian, whose new book is Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. He visited us a year ago to discuss his novel Sandcastle Girls, the breathtaking historical fiction about the Armenian Genocide.

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When I started reading all the rave reviews in 2012 for Leigh Bardugo’s dark fantasy, Shadow and Bone, my interest was piqued. The New York Times called the debut novelist’s writing “Mesmerizing…Bardugo’s set up is shiver-inducing, of the delicious variety. This is what fantasy is for.”

The reviewers were right: I loved Shadow and Bone, Bardugo’s first book in her young adult fantasy trilogy. She has created a dark, mysterious country called Rafka with the flavor of old Russia. The heart of the book is Bardugo’s heroine, Alina Starkov, a b2ap3_thumbnail_leighbardugo_20140725-183224_1.jpgwise-cracking orphan who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Alina’s life dramatically changes when she discovers she has a hidden superpower. She is forced to be trained as one of the Grisha, the magical elite led by a fascinating, dangerous man called the Darkling. Alina eventually realizes the Darkling wants to use her power to conquer all of Rafka.

After I read
Shadow and Bone, it was hard waiting for the next two books. Siege and Storm was released in 2013, and the finale, Ruin and Rising, came out last month. Although the books deal with dark themes, humor is sprinkled throughout the pages, which lightens the reader’s journey with Alina. Some romantic twists also nicely add to the highly entertaining, action-packed story.

DreamWorks bought the rights to
Shadow and Bone, so a movie may be in the works. In the meantime, Bardugo is writing another fantasy set in the same world as the Grisha Trilogy, but in a different country with new characters. I can’t wait.

Jo Hansen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Meet Junior Bender, a professional cat burglar who is more than an ordinary thief. His intelligence and skills have made him the go-to guy for crooks with problems.

Do you want to know who stole your stolen painting? Then Junior is the person for the job, if you can put up with his wise-cracking remarks and moral streak (yes, a burglar can have a moral streak). He follows his own code, such as only stealing from the rich. As Junior notes, “They’re the only ones with anything worth taking. What are you going to steal from the poor? Aspirations?’’b2ap3_thumbnail_timothyhallinan.jpg

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Meet Lori Rader-Day at Cook Library at 7 p.m. July 15. Register

I really enjoy reading debut novels. It’s so much fun discovering new authors and anticipating their future books. One such author is Lori Rader-Day, whose psychological thriller, The Black Hour, comes out July 8.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_rainbowrowell.jpgIf you want to know about some of the best new books that librarians love, check out LibraryReads. Once a month librarians across the country vote for their favorite books, and only 10 make the list.

The July list has just been announced, and we are so excited because our own Andrea Larson’s review was picked for the number one book! Andrea recommended the novel Landline by Rainbow Rowell, who is a favorite among librarians for her young adult novels Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Landline is Rowell’s first adult novel. Andrea wrote that “Landline explores the delicate balance women make between work and family, considering the tradeoffs and pain. Rowell has a special gift for offering incredible insights into ordinary life. Never heavy-handed, Rowell’s writing is delivered with humor and grace. I finish all of her books wanting to laugh and cry at the same time–they are that moving. Landline captured my heart.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_loriraderday.pngWe also are thrilled because The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day is one the top 10 books picked for July. Rader-Day is coming to Cook Library to talk about her terrific debut mystery at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 15. The Black Hour also has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was listed by Chicago Magazine as one of six great summer reads by local authors. We are so proud to host this talented author, and hope you can join us. Register here.

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I’m not sure why, but most major book awards are announced either in the spring or fall. The last big award of this season, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize), was announced Wednesday.

Here is a roundup of all the spring awards, in case you missed the announcements.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_chinadolls.jpgWith China Dolls, Lisa See has written a highly engaging novel looking into the popular "Oriental'' nightclub scene before World War II in San Francisco.  

Three young women from different backgrounds form a rocky friendship when trying to survive in a difficult environment of racism, sexism and family challenges.

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We welcome three debut novelists this summer as well as two New York Times bestselling authors to the library.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Your-Perfect-Life-web-picsm.jpgWe start out the summer fun by throwing a book launch party with special guest author Jen Lancaster for Your Perfect Life, a debut novel by authors Liz Fenton and Libertyville resident Lisa Steinke at 7 p.m. June 10 at Aspen Drive Library. Fenton and Steinke, who have been best friends for 25 years, imagine what happens when two best friends wake up after their 20th high school reunion and discover they have switched bodies. Lancaster praises Your Perfect Life for its “delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights”. Lancaster's latest book is The Tao of Martha: My Year of Living, or Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog. The party will include delicious refreshments. Click here to register or call 847-362-2330.

b2ap3_thumbnail_elinhilderbrandsm.jpgLater in June we have lunch with New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, who will talk about her touching new novel, The Matchmaker, at noon June 26 at Aspen Drive Library. The story centers on Nantucket resident Dabney Kimball Beech as she sets out to find love for those closest to her before it’s too late. Nantucket is the backdrop for Hilderbrand's 12 books and where she has called home home for 20 years. An optional lunch from the Picnic Basket can be ordered for $6 and must be paid for by Sunday, June 22, at Cook Park or Aspen Drive Library. Choose from chicken salad; veggie with provolone; turkey with cheddar; or ham with Swiss. Lunches include bottled water, chips, fruit cup, and cookie. We also will raffle two beach bags filled with summer goodies. Click here to register or call 847-362-2330.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_donteverlookback.jpgHooray! Retired Police Detective Baruch “Buck’’ Schatz returns, more ornery than ever, in Daniel Friedman’s terrific second mystery, Don’t Ever Look Back. Friedman introduced the colorful octogenarian in Don’t Ever Get Old, imagining what life would be like for a Dirty Harry type of character in his 80s.

At 88, Buck is in even worse physical shape in Don’t Ever Look Back, thanks to injuries he incurred in the first book. He is living with his wife in a senior assisted living facility, and must use a walker to get around. As annoying as the walker is, Buck discovers that it turns out to be a handy weapon.

Buck’s sedentary lifestyle, filled with painful physical therapy appointments, is disrupted when an b2ap3_thumbnail_danielfriedman.jpgenemy from his past shows up at the retirement home. The 80-year-old criminal, known only as Elijah, got away with a huge bank robbery heist in 1965 when Buck was a cop. But now Elijah beseeches Buck for help, saying his life is in grave danger.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_bellweatherrhapsody.jpgWhen I started reading the delightful Bellweather Rhapsody (publication date May 13), it was clear to me that Kate Racculia was a band geek growing up. Both my kids were band geeks, and attended music festivals like the one in Racculia’s second novel. The author’s attention to detail, from the black bottoms and white tops to the quirky guest conductors, rings with authenticity.

The stars of the show are Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker, two twins who are polar opposites. Alice loves being the center of attention and singing her heart out to anyone who will listen. Rabbit (a nickname for Bertram) is his sister’s quiet side kick, who feels most alive when he is playing his bassoon, Beatrice. When they both are chosen to go to an all-state music conference from their small town, Alice can’t wait to meet new friends and show off her talents. Rabbit hopes to just get through the long weekend.

But soon it becomes clear that this won’t be just an ordinary music festival. Alice
b2ap3_thumbnail_kateracculia.jpgis assigned to Room 712, where a murder/suicide took place 15 years before. When Alice finds her roommate Jill hanging from the ceiling in their room, she rushes to get help. A few minutes later, Jill’s body is gone, and a note is left saying, “Now she is mine.’’ The
horrified Alice is determined to find out what happened.

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Many novels have been written about World War II, but All the Light We Cannot See is one of the best I’ve read, thanks to Anthony Doerr’s exquisite writing and moving story.

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Avid readers know that the book is almost always better than the movie, with a few exceptions (To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind). So here's hoping these movies will be able to live up to these books we love!

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In celebration of National Library Week, the Read! Watch! Listen! bloggers share their shelfies in the library. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_jussiadlerolsen.jpgJussi Adler-Olsen digs into a sordid chapter of Denmark’s past in his latest mystery, The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel (book 4 in the series).

The author tackles the nasty subject of selective reproduction by looking into the history of Sprogo, a Danish island which was used from 1923 to 1959 to imprison women considered promiscuous to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Many of the women were forced to be sterilized before they were released back into society. Adler-Olsen adds a fictitious villain by the name of Curt Wad, a charming but evil physician whose mission is to ensure the purity of the Danish population. At the center of the plot is Nete Hermansen, who plans revenge against Curt Wad and the others who ruined her life.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_dinner.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_theson.jpgWhile college basketball fans are busy losing money in their March Madness office pools, book geeks are once again enjoying the revelry of the annual Tournament of Books. Haven’t heard of the Tournament of Books? This entertaining book vs. book bracket is presented by the Morning News in Dallas, and is in its 10th year. Every week in March, two books go cover to cover in a battle of words to move on to the next bracket. Each round features guest judges, such as John Green and Geraldine Brooks, who explain their reasoning behind their selection. The judges’ comments and the color commentary are great fun to read. There even is a zombie round where two books that were eliminated are brought back for one last shot. Like the Cinderella basketball teams, a few lesser known books are thrown into the mix to compete against some heavy hitters.


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b2ap3_thumbnail_sarahaddisonallen.pngHave you discovered the delights of Sarah Addison Allen? If you haven’t read any of her books, you are in for a treat. If you are a fan like I am, you can be glad that she is back with another delightful story, Lost Lake.

Allen‘s amusing, whimsical stories are all set in the South, with quirky characters who have to overcome personal tragedies or dilemmas. She helps them along the way by sprinkling a touch of magic into their lives. Her first book, Garden Spells, is a book club favorite and a good introduction to her works.

In Allen’s newest novel, Kate Pheris is slowly coming back to life after mourning the death of her husband over the past year. She realizes that she has been ignoring her 8-year-old daughter Devin, b2ap3_thumbnail_lostlake.jpgand allowing her pushy mother-in-law to take over their lives. When Kate discovers an old note from her Great Aunt Eby, warm childhood memories flood back of the summer she spent at Eby’s vacation resort, Lost Lake, with a boy named Wes. On the spur of the moment, Kate decides to take Devin to Lost Lake to revisit some happy times.

But Lost Lake has seen better days. Eby has decided to sell the land with the run-down cabins to a developer. In true Allen style, the reader gets to meet some eccentric characters with interesting backgrounds. The result is a delightful, spellbinding book that will warm you up on a cold winter’s day.

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