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This month's Midwest Connection Picks



bookOnce in a Blue Moon Lodge
Lorna Landvik

Does this sound familiar? I have some friends that I may not see for ages, but when I do, we pick right up where we left off. Reading Once in a Blue Moon Lodge was that kind of experience. bookIt had been years since I spent time with Patty Jane and the gang at the House of Curl (from Landvik’s earlier book)—and I was so glad to get caught up and learn what they’d been up to.

And I discovered they’d been up to a lot! Here’s the opening sentence: “On the day my grandmother got arrested, I found out I was pregnant. With triplets.” The story is off and running, with Landvik’s signature humor as well as deep affections for her characters, in all their humanness.Patty Jane closes the House of Curl, Nora finds herself the single mother of triplet girls, Ione and the regulars at the House of Curl age with varying degrees of grace, and the family and the community which forms around them continues to expand. Although Landvik’s characters experience a variety of difficult situations, they face them with wry wit and with the support of each other. Landvik tells the story in such a way that you don’t have to have read Patty Jane’s House of Curl, but it’s such a fun read that you may want to.

Bring on the coffee! Bring on the gingerbread cookies! Settle in for an entertaining and satisfying read.

And here’s the best part:  we’re bringing Lorna Landvik to town on June 17! We’re joining forces with Bella Caffe’ and will have an event there at 5:00 p.m. More details will follow.

—Sally


book The Good Byline
Jill Orr

Meet Riley Ellison, a quirky young library assistant who has become known in her hometown of Tuttle Corner, Virginia, as Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Riley’s odd habit of living vicariously through people she reads about in the obituary pages hits a little too close to home when she is asked to write one for her childhood best friend, Jordan James. Jordan's unexpected suicide has left Riley desperate to understand why a young woman with so much to live for would suddenly opt out, so she steps out of her comfort zone and into the role of obituary writer.

Things get messy, however, when Jordan’s co-worker, a paranoid reporter with a penchant for conspiracy theories, convinces Riley that Jordan’s death was no suicide. He leads her down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks. 

The, laugh-out-loud book is the perfect mix of mystery, humor, and romance, anchored by an endearing heroine you can't help but root for. A fun, fast-paced read with a satisfying mystery at its heart. Perfect for fans of Janet Evanovich.



book The End of the Wild
Nicole Helget

Eleven year old Fern’s life is complicated. She and her family live in a rundown house at the edge of a beautiful forest. Her mother and infant sister recently died in a car accident and Fern tries to keep a home together for her two wild little brothers and her stepfather, who has PTSD. Her grandfather wants custody of the children. When a fracking operation comes to town, the forest Fern loves is threatened—but there are benefits as well. There’s the possibility of employment for Fern’s stepfather and her grandfather’s manufacturing company could get a lot of business. And Fern’s trying to keep up in school, but is distracted by the circumstances of her life.

This book, which is for middle grade readers, deals with the concerns of a young girl’s life in a realistic way which is never condescending. Its themes include the nature of family as well as poverty and concerns about the environment.

Contemporary children’s books are so different than the books I read as a child, and I think the change is positive. Helget writes beautifully and is able to explore the difficulties in Fern’s life without sentimentality. This is an excellent book for young readers—but also for adults.

—Sally

book Lake Fish: Modern Cooking with Freshwater Fish
Keane Amdahl

This is a great book for our part of the world!. Amdahl casts a wide net to gather up tips for purchasing, substituting, and preparing midwestern fish, from whitefish to perch, walleye to ciscoes, in tasty and often surprising ways.

Whether you fish or shop,  freshwater fish offer an excellent and varied way to savor “seafood” locally and sustainably.

Creative home cook Keane Amdahl takes the mystery out of this versatile protein source and brings its preparation into the twenty-first century with inspired ingredient combinations and ample advice on how to make the most of what’s at hand. Arranged by fish type, recipes include appetizers like Sunfish Pot Stickers and Harissa Grilled Smelt with Mint and Cilantro Yogurt; new interpretations of soup and salad standbys like Midwestern Fisherman’s Stew and Smoked Trout Kale Niçoise; and flavorful mains like BBQ Northern with Cajun Fried Rice and Walleye with Morels and Brown Butter. Drawing on all things local—from purveyors of smoked and fresh fish to aquaculture farms to farmers’ markets—Amdahl encourages readers to experiment along with him as they seek to thoroughly enjoy their catch of the day. 



Some favorite past Midwest Picks



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