Posts Tagged ‘Melissa O.’s Picks’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?


Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

Best New Books of 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 10, 2014

This is my favorite blog post of the year; a chance to review my favorite new books of 2014. It is hard to narrow it to only five, but here are my selections. I love both fiction and nonfiction, especially those with lots of thrills and edge of your seat action! You never know what I might stumble across to share with you!

Destroyer AngelDestroyer Angel by Nevada Barr
Anna Pigeon is a park ranger. We think hats, nature lovers, and a big smile right? Not this park ranger. She is fierce and not someone you want to make mad. Anna and her friend Heath, a paraplegic, and Heath’s teenage daughter set out on a canoe trip with Leah and her teenage daughter. Leah designs outdoor equipment and she has a new design to make the outdoors more accessible to the disabled. This is supposed to be a trial run and a nice little vacation. Some bad guys decide to abduct Anna’s friends. Not a good idea. If you have read other Anna Pigeon books you don’t want to miss this one. If you haven’t, hold on and prepare for a wild ride.

HackerHacker by Ted Dekker
Nyah Parks is a hacker and she is in big trouble. Some bad people want her dead. Not a bad start to the newest Ted Dekker novel. He is known for his suspenseful, sometimes scary inspirational fiction. This tale starts off with a bang and hurtles forward from there. Computer technology, political cover-ups, murder, and a child’s desperate love for her mother cause Nyah to take steps that stretch our level of belief. We have heard that our brains are like a biological computer. Hacking computers is one thing, but how far would you go to save the people you love?

Denali's HowlDenali’s Howl by Andy Hall
Andy Hall more than remembers the events that occurred in Alaska in 1967; he was there. He was a child, the son of the park superintendent at Alaska’s Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. Twelve young men set out to climb the mountain, only 5 returned. This is an amazing story of survival, man vs. nature, and mountaineering. We learn not only what happened on the mountain, but also the struggle of those who tried to save them. Hall is now a journalist and he spent years tracking down the true story of this tragedy. Through survivor accounts, radio transmissions, and buried documents he has produced a gut-wrenching, white-knuckled read you cannot put down.

UndetectedUndetected by Dee Henderson
I fell in love with Dee Henderson’s books long ago and her newest series does not disappoint. Naval warfare, romance, and family are intricately entwined as we are pulled into the life of Gina Gray, an ocean researcher. Gina is a genius and her discoveries shatter what we thought we knew of ocean science. Now she finds herself fleeing a broken relationship and seeking solace with her brother, a submariner. There she meets Mark Bishop, a friend of her brother and a nuclear submarine commander. He also happens to be a widower and newly open to the idea of love again. Now she is wrestling with whether she should continue to develop her new ideas, and will her knowledge save those she loves or destroy them?

Artemis AwakeningArtemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
Welcome to the pleasure planet Artemis. At least it used to be. This former playground for the wealthy has been lost for centuries. Long after the war that shattered the galaxies, archaeologist Griffin Dane sets out to rediscover its mysteries. And he does, but not quite in the way he had planned. Now he is trapped on a primitive planet with no way to escape. All living things on this planet were bioengineered to better serve their wealthy guests. Rescued by a huntress, Adara, and her psych-linked puma, Sand Shadow, Griffin must solve the mystery of Artemis if he has any hope of surviving. This is a wonderful new book by the author who brought us the Firekeeper series. She is a master of writing stories involving humans bonded with animals. Technology, lost civilizations, and a pretty despicable bad guy all make for some amazing science fiction.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

Best New Books of 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 12, 2013

Here it is! My favorite blog post of the year. It is difficult to narrow down my favorite books of the year to only five, but here is a sample from all over the library. As you can see, I have wide ranging interests, so you never know what I might stumble across to share with you!

The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber
This book combines the suspense of a crime drama, the anxiety many of us feel about going into the hospital, and a serial killer into a frightening edge-of-your-seat tale! This is the true story of Charles Cullen, a registered nurse who was implicated in the deaths of as many as 300 patients during his career and was finally arrested in 2003. The most terrifying aspect of the story is how he managed to be so successful as a serial killer.  For more information read a review of this book or check out the author’s website.

Nobody by Jennifer Barnes
Have you ever felt invisible, overlooked, or unimportant? Of course, it is all in your head. But what if it wasn’t? What if you COULDN’T be noticed? Meet Claire, a Nobody who does not know she is one. Until the day someone tries to kill her.  But how can he notice her when no one else does? And why would anyone care enough to want to assassinate her? With a nice mix of Sci-Fi, action, and romance this is a fun read.

Suspect by Robert Crais
This is a must read for any mystery, action thriller, or dog lover! A new favorite, this book grabbed me from the first pages as it brings together two damaged souls: a cop and a former war dog. Both are recovering from devastating injuries. Both have lost their partner. Can Scott and Maggie help each other heal? And will they ever be able to protect and serve again? You cannot help but root for this duo as they fight to solve the mystery of Scott’s partner’s death.

The Elite by Kiera Cass
The second book in Cass’s dystopian series (after The Selection) immerses you in political intrigue, romance, and … reality TV? Torn between two loves, America Singer is vying for the hand of Prince Maxom even as she is drawn back to her first love. But this prince doesn’t woo his princess in the way you would expect. He selects his bride through a televised competition. Think “The Dating Game” meets “The Real Housewives!” A fun read and I am looking forward to the next installment.

Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of WWII by Mitchell Zuckoff
Two stories are woven together in this suspenseful retelling of a tragic and heroic rescue effort from WWII.  The book begins with the November 5, 1942 crash of a US cargo plane in Greenland. The rescue effort saw another plane crash, and the vanishing of a Grumman Duck amphibious plane. The modern day quest for those lost men and the retelling of the months long rescue is a riveting tale. What made it more special is describing the book to my grandfather, an Army lieutenant throughout war, and having him recall hearing about these lost men over 70 years ago.

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

April 5, 2013

You might pick up this book thinking it will be a nice story about winged horses, but you’ll be wrong. Robin McKinley takes the traditional mythological creature, the Pegasus, and turns it on its’ head. This is one of my current favorite fantasy books. Being a horse lover I did pick it up because of the title but, I am glad I did. The pegasi we meet are intelligent, beautiful, and powerful even if they cannot communicate fully with their human allies.

Our story begins when in a tradition which has existed for over a thousand years, the human princess Sylvi is bound with Ebon, a royal Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. But this time something is very different. They are shocked to be able to speak telepathically to each other. As they explore their new relationship and the impact it will have on both their societies, they meet obstacles and threats which could tear them, and their people, apart.

McKinley is masterful at weaving a world of beauty and magic and her description of the pegasi language, art, and family is amazing. At times I felt I could soar with Sylvi and Ebon, and when I finally put the book down I almost felt a sense of loss of that freedom and grace. Reading Pegasus is like travelling to another world and I cannot wait to visit it again.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Melissa O.’s Picks

December 27, 2012

I am what you would call an eclectic reader. I love mystery, science fiction, thrillers, inspirational, and I am an avid nonfiction reader. I also love young adult and even juvenile fiction. So you see my difficulty in describing my reading interests. The good news is this makes it easy for me to make reading suggestions! Here are five of my favorite older books I read or re-read this year. (Yes, I am a re-reader!)  — Melissa O.

Skull Duggery by Aaron Elkins
Gideon Oliver is a forensic anthropologist (think old bones instead of recent murders). When Gideon joins his wife on a trip to Mexico he finds himself reluctantly pulled into yet another murder mystery. And it turns out someone will kill to keep it unsolved! Elkins manages to bring just the right amount of humor into his books, and you get the added bonus of traveling the world with the bone detective as he gets roped into, or manages to trip into, another unsolved crime.

A Spell For Chameleon by Piers Anthony
I discovered this book in high school and it remains my favorite humorous fantasy series. We meet Bink, the only citizen of Xanth with no magic, a tragedy for which he will be exiled. So he sets out to find his magic and just might win the girl of his dreams in the process. This is the first of the Xanth novels and I reread it this year to remind myself why I love these books so much. If you are a fan of puns you will die laughing!

Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
This is the first in the Pendragon Cycle and sets the stage for the next four books. Lawhead expands on the usual Arthurian legends by weaving the mythic city of Atlantis into the tale. Lawhead also skillfully weaves a more prominent Christian message into the novels, but in a way that will not put-off non-Christians. In addition to Taliesin we meet Charis, a bull dancer, and watch their lives come together in one of the greatest love stories I have read recently.

The Sacrifice by Robert Whitlow
When you read Whitlow’s inspirational legal thrillers you can tell he is writing from experience. A practicing attorney for decades, his books are gripping and believable. We also get the added bonus that Whitlow is a local author and sets many of his books, including this one, in North Carolina. Scott Ellis is an attorney who finds himself advising a mock trial team at a high school. Add in a school shooting and you won’t be able to put this book down.

The Loch by Steve Alten
Alten takes the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and twists it on its head while including the right amount of science to keep my inner biologist happy. Zach Wallace returns to Scotland when his estranged father is accused of murder. Unfortunately, Angus’s sole defense is that “something” in the Loch killed his business partner. Zach must solve the mystery even as more bodies continue to pile up. Much sleep was sacrificed as I was sucked into this story!

The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey

November 21, 2012

Space travel and aliens and romance, Oh My! Anne McCaffrey has captured me once again with her fantastic science fiction. The Rowan is the first novel in her “Tower and the Hive” series, and I first read it over twenty years ago. Picking it up again, I was engrossed from the start. The novel is set in a time when humanity has expanded to populate multiple planetary systems. Space travel and commerce is dependent on The Talents, a group of humans with psychic powers capable of teleportation and telepathy.

I don’t normally like romance in my science fiction, but MCaffrey has converted me with this series. She never loses that sci-fi edge that made me a fan in the first place, but when the Rowan makes contact with Jeff Raven I could not wait to see how their relationship developed.


If you are thinking this is just another series about people with psychic powers, don’t be fooled. The world of the Rowan is different from any I have read before. These “Talents” have become a pivotal force in every aspect of human life as humanity expands throughout the galaxy. If you want to learn how this came about, I highly recommend her “Talent” series beginning with To Ride Pegasus.

Anne McCaffrey, who passed away last year, was a master of science fiction. She has left us a lifetime of award-winning books, and was the first female science fiction writer to have a novel on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame was well deserved. She will be missed.

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The Sleeping Beauty by Mercedes Lackey

September 7, 2012

Mercedes Lackey has been a favorite author for years, ever since I picked up the first novel of Valdemar, but I have fallen in love with her Five Hundred Kingdoms series. The Sleeping Beauty made me laugh so hard I cried. These books have just the right mix of action, humor, and fantasy.

The driving force behind all these stories is THE TRADITION and the fairy godmothers. Imagine living in the Five Hundred Kingdoms where lives are directed to follow the path of traditional fairy tales, and now imagine you have other ideas for how life should go. “That’s the prince I’m supposed to marry and live Happily Ever After with? Uh uh. No way. No how.” I love it.

Along with the more recognizable fairy tales, in this novel Lackey adds another dimension by pulling in some Norse traditional tales. I really enjoyed the novelty while still laughing at the inside jokes as she poked fun at Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

If you thought you were a fan of fairy tales before, you have to experience Lackey’s take on the genre. She takes the traditional stories we all grew up on and twists them on their head in the most delightful way. Involuntary outbursts of laughter in public places are a possible side effect. Read with caution unless in the privacy of your own home.

If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend any of her Valdemar series. It is a fantasy world you can easily get lost in.

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French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle

June 5, 2012

This week we’re featuring some of our favorite Audio Books, just in time for planning your summer road trips. You can also click the Audio tag at the bottom of this post or at the top of the tag cloud on the right hand side of our blog’s home page for more great audio book suggestions!

Eat your way across France and then write about it? That’s right. Peter Mayle took the challenge and ran with it, and the result is a literary delight that will leave you laughing at the wonder (and at times horror) of the French culinary world. From frog leg festivals to the blessing of the sublime truffle, Mayle’s
year-long journey will captivate you.

This book is especially engaging as an audio edition — narrated by Simon Jones — as you can truly appreciate the French pronunciation of their foodstuffs (something they take very seriously as evidenced by the amount of time and money the French are willing to spend in pursuit of gastronomic enjoyment). In addition, narrator Simon Jones’ droll humor truly brings to life Mayle’s descriptions of life in France.

And never fear, Mayle does not simply drag you along from food item to food item. There are also delightful forays into kitchens, restaurants, and local festivals all interspersed with informative, and yet often hilarious, historical background on the subject.

For anyone who has yet to give nonfiction a try, this is your book. Put it in your car, listen as you clean or organize your closets, or just get inspired to try some of those French recipes you have gathering dust in the corner of your kitchen. You’ll feel as if you have spent a year in France!

If you enjoy this audio book, try Mayle’s first book A Year In Provence on audio, or try any of his wonderful nonfiction writings (my personal favorites) or his novels.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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