Meet the Book Reviewers

Get to know the reviewers! Learn about what we love to read, then discover something new on our Current Picks blog with movie, TV show, and music reviews. Looking for something new to read? Get personalized reading recommendations by completing the Books Just for You form. 

debbieDebbie says... I like mysteries, suspense, and literary fiction with a historical setting. Realistic characters and a strong sense of time and place are more important to me than plot, so don’t expect any fast paces thrillers from me!

As leader of the library’s Crime Readers book discussion group, I spend a lot of time reading suspense, crime novels, and mysteries with complex, discussable plots and set all around the world. I am also a sucker for a good, nostalgic coming of age story.

Suspense recommendations: Instruments of Night by Thomas H. Cook and The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns.

Mystery recommendations: A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn and Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill.

Coming of age story recommendations: The Cape Ann by Faith Sullivan, The Bottoms by Joe Lansdale, and Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker.

My Latest Reviews

  • Nova Scotia fisherman and amateur artist Angus MacGrath leaves his wife and son to enlist in the army during WWI. MacGrath has been lead to believe that his skills as an artist will be put to use as a cartographer. Instead he finds himself in the middle of the fight, witnessing horrors he never imagined. […]

  • When Jillian Leigh hears of the death of her eccentric ghost hunting Uncle Toby, she must put her Oxford studies aside and travel to seaside village Rothewell. There she learns of local Blood Moon Bay, haunted by a notorious ship wrecker. But more than a two hundred year old ghost is haunting the Bay. Local […]

deniseDenise says... I love to read fiction for pleasure and escapism. Learning about another part of the world or culture, a time in history, or perspectives on current issues is often an added bonus! The most important factor for me is characterization. Well-developed and at least one likeable character is crucial. I love to meet new characters and see the world through someone else’s eyes, or feel like I’ve made a “connection” with a character.

My favorite fiction genres are mystery, suspense, thrillers, and women’s fiction. I enjoy the fast-paced intensity and sense of problem-solving found in suspense, thrillers, and mysteries. I love unexpected plot twists (the element of surprise). A few of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Nelson DeMille, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly.

Alternatively, I enjoy reading about people’s lives and relationships, and stories that touch my heart, often found in women’s fiction. I appreciate books that help me gain new insights into myself, or others, as well as books that allow me to escape to a different place or time, and open my mind to something I've never even imagined. Some favorites are The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My Latest Reviews

  • This is a fast-paced psychological suspense thriller, filled with many twists and turn. An added bonus is the interesting cast of characters, especially a woman who has an extremely rare genetic mutation wherein she cannot feel pain. This is an actual condition that I found fascinating to learn more about. Although there are some graphic, […]

  • In this fascinating and well-researched novel, Diane Chamberlain tackles many social issues, including the controversial, but real, subject of state-mandated sterilizations, known as the “Eugenics Sterilization Program” in North Carolina that took place from 1929 to 1974. Necessary Lies starts out briefly in present day, then flashes back to 1960, where we meet Jane, an […]

jennieferaJennifer primarily reads fiction, and loves getting drawn in to a character’s story. She enjoys both contemporary and historical novels (especially those that have strands of both such as The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes). She appreciates witty/quirky dialogue or characters (The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger) and fast-paced stories that quickly engage her attention. Within fiction, she particularly enjoys WWII tales (Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity), mysteries (The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling), and romance (Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen). Series hold a special place in her heart, especially Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation spies, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Chicago Stars, and Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells.

Jennifer is partial to nonfiction that weaves a personal story into history (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan).

My Latest Reviews

  • In this witty teen mystery, Millie Ostermeyer investigates the murder of the successful (yet unpopular) high school football coach in small town Honeywell. Aided by the enigmatic quarterback Chase Albright, Millie battles her archnemesis – the newspaper editor and cheerleading captain Viv – and the bumbling town detective in her pursuit to uncover the truth […]

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Bertsche’s quest to emulate a different celebrity each month (Jennifer Aniston’s workout regimen, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cooking, etc.) in order to improve her happiness, well-being, etc. In Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me, the planning and execution of the journey is balanced with her personal struggle with infertility. The author’s engaging voice is humorous […]

Jez_profile_picture2013Jez enjoys fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels in the adult, GenLit, and young adult collections. Within fiction, she reads fantasy, science fiction, dystopias, LGBTQ, and mainstream. With all fiction, she enjoys good world-building and engaging plot, which must hold her attention and be well-paced. Within nonfiction, Jez enjoys reading biographies and memoirs, especially written by celebrities and comedians, such as Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling. She also reads many memoirs involving Asperger’s syndrome. Jez listens to many audiobooks in a wide variety of genres and has made herself very familiar with audiobook critique and narrators.

Some of her favorites include The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, the Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and anything by David Levithan.


My Latest Reviews

  • Having grown up in New York City, Astrid is feeling suffocated by her new home in a too-small town where most of her family just can’t seem to fit in. Her mother works from home and rarely leaves the house, lest she hear the whispers of the neighbors, and Astrid’s father has chosen to manage […]

  • Well known from his years writing, co-producing, and acting on The Office (US), B. J. Novak has finally brought his comedic genius to the printed page with his first book, One More Thing. In this collection, Novak showcases his fiction in the form of both short stories and flash fiction (pieces under 1000 words), which […]

joanJoan says... I can read most genres if the main character is likable and interesting and the writer paints a setting that you could walk right into and long to visit. I cannot tolerate lengthy descriptions that go on for pages and pages. I would rather the characters and setting details unfold as the story progresses. My reading time is often limited, but if I can get my hands on a good page turner, I cannot put it down. If I am up until 3:00am and the story resonates with me throughout the coming day of exhaustion, that is a 5 star read to me.

Although my preference is fiction, I have found some narrative nonfiction enthralling. Fiction based on a true story, a semi-biographical story, or a great historical fiction novel is also appealing. A good mystery is relaxing, but many other types of novels can have an element of suspense or mystery and keep my attention. For years Dean Koontz’s psychological suspense entertained me, but I could never go for Stephen King. I find myself skimming through gore and violence. I cannot believe I loved Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy. The suspense and the characters allowed me to see past the gore and violence.

I enjoy a plot that goes back and forth in time and draws connections between characters in different time periods. A good example of this is hard to find. It may encompass historical fiction, mystery, and/or fantasy. I like a surprise ending, but not a totally unexpected and out of sync with the rest of the book and the nature of the characters. An ambiguous ending can be frustrating and I will often make up my own.

Recent favorites include The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann, and A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka.

My Latest Reviews

  • Six teens meet at Spirit in the Woods, a camp for the arts, in the 1970s. Julie Jacobson’s life is altered in ways she never imagined. As she becomes part of The Interestings, her name is permanently changed to Jules and it is mainly from her point of view that we follow the lives of […]

  • Out of the Deep I Cry is another suspenseful installment of drama in the small town of Miller’s Kill. This mystery spans decades and Julia Spencer-Fleming skillfully goes back and forth naming her chapters – Then and Now. Having this advantage, the reader begins to piece things together even before Rev. Clare and Russ crack […]

joeJoe says... I like to read nonfiction, young adult fiction, and science fiction, but any book with a good plot will grab me.

Nonfiction: For many years, nonfiction has been what I like to read, especially adventure stories like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. More recently, I have enjoyed The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown, No Easy Day by Mark Owen, and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I like books that start in the middle or at the end and then come full circle, because these stories start in the thick of the action. Also, whereas too much detail in a fiction story seems to bog things down, I relish the minutia that nonfiction writers unearth, provided they weave it artfully into the story.

Young Adult Fiction: In the past two years, I have rediscovered my love of fiction, and I prefer to read young adult titles like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Holes by Louis Sachar. As far as the “where” of the setting, I am not too picky. The story could take place in some fantasy realm, or it could take place today. As long as the plot grabs me, I am happy. If the author goes a step further and brings me into that world, I admit, I am even happier.

Science Fiction: My two favorite books are adult science fiction titles: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde. Although I will read books from any time period, I have recently become addicted to stories set in a dystopian future where society is broken into factions. I am also enamored with tall tales like George Fitch’s The Big Strike at Siwash. You know the story is over the top, that the characters are exaggerated, and yet you just eat it up. A science fiction version of this might be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

My Latest Reviews

  • This young adult title will make you cry both tears of joy and anguish as it explores the themes of racism, child abuse, and high school bullying. T. J. Jones, an adopted high school senior of mixed race, takes it upon himself to stop the quarterback of the football team from bullying a mentally challenged […]

  • Shades of Grey is science fiction, suspense, and comedy rolled into one. It is set in a dystopian future in which everyone is color blind and one’s class status is determined by the amount of color that he or she can see, with the greys toiling at the bottom, the purples at the top, and […]

marykMary K. says... I enjoy reading literary fiction, mysteries, some suspense as well as true adventure, memoirs and history. Books about ordinary people confronted with “extraordinary” circumstances appeal to me. Although I don’t intentionally seek out books to learn something new, curiosity about a place, event, or historic timeframe will often draw me to a title.

I prefer novels with interesting characters and endings that are unambiguous. Some of my favorite authors include Alan Furst, Rebecca Cantrell, Anne Tyler, and Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain mystery series. A few of my favorite nonfiction titles are No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

 My Latest Reviews

  • Remington James abandoned a successful advertising career to pursue his true passion—nature photography. Late on a fall evening, he checks his camera trap on the northern Florida property which he inherited from his father. As he reviews the footage, he is horrified when he views a brutal murder that the film captured. Soon the killers […]

  • Harry and his wife Robin lost their young son Dillon in an earthquake when they lived and worked as artists in Tangier, Morocco. Or did they? Harry believes that Dillon is still alive, even though everyone, including Robin, insists that Dillon is dead. Dillon’s body was never found, which fuels Harry’s belief that Dillon is […]

 marypMary P. says... I enjoy reading historical novels, mysteries, suspense, and women’s fiction (typically written by women and read by women), literary fiction and nonfiction books. I’m delighted when I find a book with a strong sense of place and time. I guess that is why I enjoy historical stories by far.

I lead the Novel Idea book club at the library. I try to introduce less famous authors to the group hoping that they will find a new favorite and continue to read that author.
I like learning something I haven’t known about from a book.

I listen to audiobooks and find that experience gratifying. Sometimes the author will read their own book, especially in nonfiction works.

I can recommend:
Historical Fiction: Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones
Mystery: Silent Voices: a Vera Stanhope Mystery by Ann Cleeves
Suspense: Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason
Fiction: Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen and Falls the Shadow by William Lasher
Nonfiction: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and Reading Jackie by William Kuhn 

 My Latest Reviews

  • I have watched Masterpiece since it first was broadcast on TV. Masterpiece Theatre and its sister program Mystery! were outstanding productions of British classics. Rebecca Eaton has been its executive producer for the past 28 years. She shares what that’s like, plus a lot of her own personal story. There are interesting anecdotes about many […]

  • “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite” attracts widower Oliver Milliron to the job advertisement of a for a housekeeping position in 1909 Montana. What follows is a delightful story about the family of father and three sons, their housekeeper and her brother, who takes the job as the school teacher in the one room school. Doig’s […]

marysMary S. says... I have taken pleasure in reading since childhood. I read fiction mostly for escape and sometimes to learn about other cultures. I like books that are more plot-driven than character-driven. I prefer books that are fast paced, tied up at the end, and for the most part probable. As far as characterizations, I favor a book with at least one likeable character and fairly well-developed characters. It slows down my reading when there are so many characters that I have to keep flipping back to remember who a person is.

The genres I read most are mystery (Nevada Barr, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series) and suspense (Deborah Crombie, Dennis Lehane). I read some literary (Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, E. L. Doctorow) and issue-driven women’s fiction (Anna Quindlen, Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper). For the setting, I primarily prefer contemporary or where it starts in the present and relates to things in the past. I appreciate books where artwork or rare books are featured.

The nonfiction books I enjoy are on the subjects of memoirs about well-known people, travel, cats and other animals where they don’t die at the end, and true crime especially theft. If possible, I prefer to listen to a book.

Favorite books include Blessings by Anna Quindlen, The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Run by Ann Patchett, and Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie.

My Latest Reviews

sallymSally says... I read more literary fiction than anything and I enjoy mystery, suspense, and historical fiction. I enjoy stories with multiple story lines, but the plot should be engaging. I like books that focus on issues and ideas. But nothing is as engaging as a good storyteller, for instance, Elmore Leonard. I really don’t like implausibility or cliché; rather I look for ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. An author (like Barbara Vine) who makes past events unfold in the present day will always be on my reading list.  

My Latest Reviews

  • In New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island. These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted […]

  • 1930 was the year of New York Justice Joseph Crater’s infamous disappearance (his body was never found). This novel tells the story as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best: his wife Stella, his mistress Ritzi, and the maid Maria. Their story, expertly woven around these events, comes from the […]

shirleyShirley says... I have eclectic tastes and read—or listen to—whatever grabs my attention as I scan titles and book descriptions or read literary reviews. So, I have trouble pinning down my preferences. This means I read a variety of genres, although I often pick up a romance when nothing else appeals. If pressed, I’d say I prefer intelligent main characters and first-rate word craft (rich, descriptive use of language). Weak writing, overused phrases and incomplete sentences, and grammatical or editing errors annoy me and ruin my enjoyment of the work. I read mostly for the story and how the characters relate within it, and I have read a number of delightful nonfiction memoirs/biographies, especially those that speak to the human experience and connections with others and with animals (such as The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating and Conversations with a Prince). On the other hand, a page turning mystery provides escapist fun, too. I also enjoy a variety of short stories (Poe, Russian masters, Elmore Leonard), and I read some Christian and inspirational fiction.

As a regular listener to audiobooks, I count Barbara Rosenblat’s narration of the Nevada Barr books as among the best. 

My Latest Reviews

  • I haven’t become so invested in characters in a long while. This subtle, evocative novel interweaves multiple stories and characters during the course of one August day in the small western Canadian town of Juliet. I discovered many lovely moments in this wonderful piece of storytelling, including some of almost indescribable lyricism; I especially loved […]

  • The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (2010) “It must have some kind of teeth, and it wasn’t shy about using them.”—A description of a nightmarish monster? No. Instead, it’s a tai chi master…snail. This surprising, lovingly crafted homage to a snail, written by the seriously ill and bed-ridden Bailey whose […]

suzySuzy says... I read mostly for pleasure, and I enjoy literary fiction and chick lit. I like reading about people’s lives and their relationships with others. When I am reading, I really enjoy well-developed characters that I think about after I close the book. Some of my favorite books have unforgettable characters such as June in Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Dellarobia in Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Quirky stories and offbeat characters also really draw me into a book, such as in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

I like to listen to audiobooks and with the right narrator, it can be a remarkable experience. Ralph Cosham narrates the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny and his rich voices gives life to the many characters in the story. Wally Lamb’s latest book We Are Water features multiple narrators including the author himself. I enjoy the way audiobooks transform a story into a dynamic listening experience.

My Latest Reviews

  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is written for those of us who love and work with books. The acrimonious bookseller, A.J. Fikry, is particular about the books he carries in his bookstore and has a long list of genres he will not carry. Gabrielle Zevin incorporates the right amount of humor to transform […]

  • This was a moving story of young love facing insurmountable obstacles. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet takes place in Seattle at the start of World War II chronicling the friendship between Henry, a Chinese-American boy and Keiko, a Japanese-American girl. As the war progresses and the Japanese are forced into internment camps, Henry […]