You'll recognize a few names, but I've read many of these books so am sure you'll hear more about all of them in the near future.
Most books and the CD are available from Amazon through the link provided. If reviewed, I've provided the ranking. In some cases, authors also sell books on their own websites and would prefer you buy directly from them.
Don't shop online? Then print this page and take it with you to your local bookseller for holiday shopping or your own reading pleasure.
Long-time Birds reader and blogger at Late Fruit, Elaine Magalis lives near the Canadian border in West Glover, Vermont. A writer, editor, art historian and docent at the Old Stone House in Brownington, Elaine taps into her interests in the first two installments of a series of "cozy mysteries" set in the mythical Shrubsbury, Vermont, the quintessential small New England village of lore.
5 stars from Amazon!
A gem of a mystery! Elaine rolls history, the practice of art restoration, arts administration, Internet research and police procedure into a big knitting ball of a tale about an improbable murder in an idyllic locale. Follow her two would-be detectives as they track down a killer in a town ripped right from a Currier & Ives print. Reading this book is like taking a dip in a refreshing Northeast Kingdom quarry pool on a sweltering afternoon, without getting wet.
Another great cozy mystery from Elaine Magalis, a perfect read for a cold winter night. In this tale, we learn much more about the two "detectives," Alex and Tasha Mulholland, both of whom are experiencing trepidation over growing older. One is facing puberty and the other, old age. If you love Vermont, or just have a vision of how idyllic life might be in a slower-paced, less congested locale, you may be surprised to learn that ordinary people are less than perfect everywhere, even in Shrubsbury, Vermont, and especially to its south, in the nearly heathen Brattleboro. Can't wait for her third book in this series!
Conversations with the Wise Aunt: The Secret to Being Strong as a Teenager and Preparing for Success as an Adult
4.5 stars from Amazon!
Don’t you wish a wise relative would step in and help you raise your kids? Life-coach Dennis E. Coates and his wife, writer and blogger Kathleen Scott, assume the roles of favorite relatives in this book and its predecessor, Conversations with the Wise Uncle. Coates and Scott say all those things you wish you could say easily, but can’t. Even better, they throw in the advice your kids don’t want to hear from you (of all people!). What a blessing for a frazzled parent on your gift list!
The Spaces Between
5 stars from Amazon!
A closet poet for decades, Ann McNeal taught physiology at Hampshire College for 33 years while writing poetry published by small journals, including Peregrine, Paper Street, Equinox, and several anthologies, including On Retirement: 75 Poems (University of Iowa Press, 2007) and Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words, 2011).
This collection of her work speaks the quiet language of New England backyards and woods. Using images from nature, her writing portrays subtle changes of weather, both external and internal. Observations on a quiet pond, mathematics lessons in grammar school, the poignancy of autumn, all lead to accessible yet profound meditations on life and aging.
The Koontown Killing Kaper
4 stars from Amazon!
I finally got a chance to meet the iconoclastic novelist Bill Campbell. His third novel, Koontown Killing Kaper, is making some waves, even in academe where it is popping up on syllabi for African-American and contemporary lit courses. Bill is one of the most literate writers you’ll ever encounter, but he hides his reading addiction well behind a near-perfect voice for satire, especially on any topic related to the black experience. If you like the book, he has a whole range of related merchandise on his website.
Five O’Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?
4.5 stars from Amazon!
In her brilliant debut novel, longtime daily journalist Theasa Tuohy captures the essence of what drives those who go into war armed only with a camera, notebook, and pen. At a time when women rarely dreamed beyond careers as nurses, teachers or secretaries and certainly not as news reporters, a tall, enigmatic redhead arrives in Saigon. She is an object of great interest to the male correspondents, one of whom reports she arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport wearing high heeled bikini shoes. Few take her seriously as a reporter. To most, she is a trifle, a bobble, a lagniappe. Angela Martinelli survives a chopper crash, spends several days in the bunkers of the so-called Alamo Hilton during the siege of Khe Sanh, is captured briefly by the Viet Cong while trying to make her own way to the battle of Hue after being refused a hop on a military chopper because she isn't male, and finally is badly wounded when a jeepload of other correspondents are killed in Cholon, the Chinese quarter of Saigon. Her life, loves and struggle to prove herself chronicle the deterioration of the war, the strategic battles around the Tet offensive, and the conflict raging back home over the conduct of the war. Not since Graham Greene has anyone captured so well the tedium and terror of reporting on war.
and David Purdy
Icons of the Civil Rights Movement
Some of you may be familiar with artist Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s Icons of the Civil Rights Movement, a multi-media exhibit featured on this blog as part of a series of posts about civil rights. Using wood, oil paint and even gold, Pamela created 26 pieces of art commemorating milestones in the US civil rights movement or honoring its martyrs. Like religious icons, these panels tell a powerful story through images capturing the power and the dignity of those involved in the struggle.
The Icons have been exhibited at over 22 universities, art galleries, libraries, houses of worship, as well as at the Obama inauguration in 2008. As Pamela and her husband David, a retired United Methodist minister, traveled with the exhibit, they got a chance to meet and talk with some of their heroes, including Rep. John Lewis, the family of Viola Liuzzo, the father of a child killed in the Birmingham church bombing and one of the nine students who integrated the Little Rock schools in 1957. The Purdys also met “ordinary people who did extraordinary things,” Pamela says. These were the unknowns who marched, sat in, registered voters and did legal work for equal rights.
Using eyewitness testimony collected over the course of their travels, the two created a large-format, hardcover art book featuring 22 of Pamela’s pieces and a narrative based on David’s historical research. Not only does Icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Connecting the Dots contains high-quality reproductions of Pamela’s work, the book includes exclusive interviews with people whose courage and commitment changed the course of history.
You can purchase this book directly from the Purdys. Click on the title to link to their website.
Death Bed (2011 in UK, 2012 in US)
4 stars from Amazon!
UK author Leigh Russell writes the very popular DCI Geraldine Steele police-procedural series. Leigh’s most recent book, Death Bed, hit UK bestseller lists a year before it was available in the US. She promises her next book, Stop Dead, will top all the previous Geraldine Steele mysteries in shock and complexity. Not an easy task! Stop Dead will be published this month in the UK, but is available now for pre-order in the US at amazon.com.
Les convictions de Colette: Histoire, politique, guerre, condition des femmes
French university professor Paula Dumont looks at 20th century French novelist Colette's views on women's lives, loves, and history in a book published this month, in France. Les convictions de Colette is not available from Amazon at this time, but can be purchased through the link above.
Colette was a brilliant female writer, perhaps best known for Gigi, her scandalous novel about a young courtesan-in-training. Colette's own life was far more flamboyant than her literature. At 34, she began a very public romance with one of Napoleon's nieces. At 47, she seduced her teenage stepson. In the 1940s when she was in her 70s, she aided many Jews hiding from the Germans, including her own husband. At the same time, she flirted with Nazi occupiers.
For more about Colette's life and work, see http://bit.ly/UEI60z. I look forward to learning more about what drove this complex woman, according Professor Dumont's research.
Paradise City: A Joe Gunther Novel
4 stars from Amazon!
Another year, another mystery for Joe Gunther and his crack team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. This one takes them out of their comfort zone in Brattleboro, Vermont, to the lawlessness of urban and rural Massachusetts. An elderly woman surprises thieves in her Beacon Hill home and is viciously murdered. Thus begins a tale that moves from the streets of Boston to ivy-covered Northampton (a/k/a Paradise City) in the west, and ultimately back north to the Green Mountain State. Archer Mayor’s 2011 book made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. He’s on a roll. Best wishes, Archer!
Some Bright Morning (CD)
I’ve written at length about Rani Arbo and the agnostic gospel group Daisy Mayhem. We never miss a chance to hear them perform live. In fact, the best live music I’ve heard this season came from Daisy Mayhem and the hospice choir Hallowell at a Brattleboro church last month.
If you want to feel good or just belt out a few joyous sounds with like-minded folks, join with the Mayhem on their new album, Some Bright Morning. Follow the link to song samples, downloads and a place to purchase this gem of a CD. Suitable for all ages, orientations and most musical preferences.
For the last several years, blogger and journalist Connie Wilson has published three, four or five books a year. How does she do it? Does this woman ever sleep? This year, she co-authored a textbook on creative writing while producing weekly entertainment reviews and a collection of award-winning mystery/thriller short stories that are sure to scare you into mending your ways. All are available on Amazon.
Here’s Connie's current lineup:
Creative Writing Primer
by Ellen Tsagaris, Connie (Corcoran) Wilson, Robin Throne and Jodie Toohey
Hellfire and Damnation II
4.5 stars from Amazon!
The Color of Evil
3.5 stars from Amazon!
The Legend of Tug Fest and Other LeClaire Ghost Stories