Finding “Holiday mysteries” in NoveList Plus

One way to find Holiday mysteries in NoveList Plus is to use the GN Genre field and type “holiday mysteries.” Only cozy mysteries with a holiday theme will appear on your dash.


Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance: a Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

This memoir, which is in four parts, is Dani Shapiro’s most intimate memoir to date. Shapiro who has always considered herself her father’s daughter is devastated to learn that he is not her biological father.

Despite clues along the way, nothing clicks until she takes a DNA test. She expected to find that she is 100% Jewish but the test reveals something else altogether. She is biologically related to her mother but not to her father. 

Gradually, more details come to light. Before Shapiro was born, her parents had visited an infertility clinic known to mix sperm. Though she hopes her parents had not concealed anything from her, it becomes obvious they knew she was donor-conceived. 

Shapiro claims she had always known something was amiss. For Shapiro, who was devoted to her father, but always felt at odds with her family, the DNA results answer many troubling questions. The DNA results opens old wounds, leaving Shaprio completely unmoored. 

She describes how lost she feels in poetic language:

“I am the black box, discovered years–many years–after the crash. The pilots, the crew, the passengers have long been committed to the sea. Nothing is left of them. Fathoms deep, I have spent my life transmitting the faintest signal…I am also the diver who has discovered the black box…I had been looking for it all my life without knowing it existed.”

Eventually, she has a meeting with her biological father whom she strongly resembles. They are brought together through the magic of social media.
Shapiro digs deeper, investigating the way cryobanks currently operate. She interviews dozens of donor-conceived individual who feel just as exiled and lost as she does.

As she forges deeper relationships with her biological family, however, Shapiro begins to see everything in a new light: as a blessing.  

Shapiro, who was raised as an orthodox Jew, is peppered with Jewish phrases and expressions. Her identity is still firmly Jewish, even if she is half Christian.

She puts all of her previous writings in perspective, realizing nearly all of her works were about family secrets.

Though she gives her social father “kol hakavod” (all the honor), she comes to cherish her biological one as well.

Shapiro’s story is so important in this age when DNA kits are becoming more and more recreational. As more and more individuals have genetic testing done, more connections will be made. The likelihood of family secrets becoming accidently unearthed–as Shapiro’s had–will increase over time.

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate

STEM Friday

Geoengineering Climate Change, by Jennifer Swanson

96 pages; ages 8-12. Twenty-First Century Books, 2017

Floods! Tornadoes! Super-hurricanes! Blizzards! Wildfires! Mudslides! These weather events and catastrophes have been increasing in the past couple decades and are related to climate change caused by a warming earth. Most scientists agree that human activity – primarily burning fossil fuels – is responsible. And of we don’t take action to prevent further warming, we’ll see even more drastic changes.

What can we do? The most obvious solution would be to stop burning fossil fuels. But some engineers propose we tackle the problem with … engineering. The propose constructing large-scale technologies to counteract climate change. Installations that would physically remove carbon from the air, or sequester carbon somehow. Some engineers propose crating artificial clouds to shade the earth, or send mirrors into space to reflect sunlight. Or shooting salt into clouds to make it rain.


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America’s reading habits: an infographic — Fictionophile

Wondering What Everyone Else Is Reading? The Most Popular Book Across the US Is… Are you the type who’s used to craning your neck so you can make out the cover titles of your fellow subway commuters’ books? Can’t wait to get your hands on the next great read, before you’ve even finished the book […]

via America’s reading habits: an infographic — Fictionophile

The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman

plumtreeWorld War II-era fiction is popular right now but what makes this debut different portrays an ordinary German family. The incidents were inspired by the author’s own family. Wiseman’s mother’s family lived in Germany during the war. 

The story is centered around Christine and her desire to protect her family and her boyfriend who is Jewish.

The Plum Tree is about longing, loyalty, and incredible bravery of the people who fought injustice. 

For a time, resistance was simply leaving hard-boiled eggs in places where the Jewish prisoners could find them. 

Eventually, Christine hides Isaac in the family attic. Once he is discovered, though, both are sent to Dachau.

She receives one of the better jobs and works for one of the better captors. Even so, her stay in Dachau nearly kills her. 

Wiseman explains in an afterward which historical details were altered to fit the story.

Blackout by Sarah Hepola


Blackout by Sarah Hepola


Reading memoirs is cathartic. They offer tiny glimpses into someone else’s life. Sometimes they make a reader breathe a sign of relief.

Hepola, who was a writer before and after becoming sober, also found stories cathartic. She would often read about addicts with relief that she “wasn’t that bad.”

Eventually, however, it did become “that bad.” One particularly bad episode in Paris, when Hepola was starting out as a journalist, left her mortified for years. She woke up in a stranger’s room with no idea how she had gotten there.

Hepola, who had her first blackout at twelve, continued to drink in high school. Attending University of Texas at Austin, Hepola was caught in a downward spiral.

She describes the unnerving feeling of whole chunks of her life disappearing as if they were “scooped…by a melon baller.”

Hepola drank to ease her anxieties about her weight and her social status in school:

I needed alcohol to drink away the things that plagued me. Not just my doubts about sex – my self-consciousness, my loneliness, my insecurities, my fears.

Later, she drank because she thought it helped her writing. After college she wrote for the entertainment section of an Austin, Texas newspaper.

After re-evaluating her life, Sarah embarks upon a painful journey of sobriety.

We’ve heard this story told many times, in many different forms, but never told so well.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget was a New York Times bestseller.

Similar stories about addiction:

Jacobsen, Lea. Bar Flower.
Laing, Olivia. The Trip to Echo Spring.
Vargas, Elizabeth. Between Breaths: a Memoir of Panic and Addiction.

More memoirs:
Parravani, Christa. Her: A Memoir.
Cahalan, Susan. My Brain on Fire.
Mcbride, Regina. Ghost Songs: A Memoir.

Hugo: A Look Back

Hugo was released six years and since then its lost none of its charm.

Hugo is a well-shot and well-acted movie that also happens to have a beautiful message.

I first became aware of the book which I always meant to read. The book is a marvelously illustrated and written by Brian Selznick.

Wonderful moments abound in this film, like Hugo hanging on to the arms of enormous clock. The scene looks like something out of the silent film Safety Last. The film honors silent films and silent film makers so this scene is so fitting.

One of the best aspects of the movie, however, is the theme.

Standing near the clear dial of the clock, which is an enormous window, Hugo realizes that the world is like an enormous machine.

If someone has lost their purpose, they are broken, just like the automaton Hugo’s father found. Yet, that doesn’t mean they can’t be “fixed” or redeemed.

“Are you a fixer?” Isabelle asks Hugo. Humbly, he says, “I think so.”

The villain of the movie has a prosthetic leg, which he needs because of a war injury.

The war has left him embittered; plus, he has had a terrible childhood. Consequently, he delights in locking up and terrorizing orphaned children.

Even this character though is “fixed,” in the end, as he returns with a working leg, presumably fixed by Hugo and Papa Georges.