BOOKSELLER EMERITUS - Jessica now works for Fontana Regional Library
I've worked part-time at City Lights since coming to Jackson County from Chapel Hill in the summer of 1996. I coordinate the writing and design of our printed newsletter, schedule author events for the store, and (like everyone else on the staff) do whatever I can to match a customer to a book. For my own pleasure reading, I gravitate toward mysteries, particularly those with a strong sense of "place" and character, whether historical or contemporary. My favorite authors are Nevada Barr, Janet Evanovich, Bruce Alexander, and Marcia Muller. In general, if there's an intricate plot (without too much extensively described gore) and good character development, I'm hooked.
This is one of my all-time favorite books, and many friends who have read it also put it in that category. What happens when the Jesuits, known for their contact with unfamiliar cultures (as in 17th-century Canada), go to meet the intelligent life on another planet? This is science fiction with a philosophical heart. Compelling and beautifully written, The Sparrow will leave you thinking (even dreaming!) long after you finish the last page. If you like this one, you'll also want to read Russell's The Children of God, which continues the story.
"Readers who like Lee Smith will like Susan Gilmore. Bezillia Grove is an unforgettable character with a unique voice, and we see through her eyes the troubles of class, race, and family in 1960s Nashville."
A terrific historical mystery series set all over Europe in the 13th century. Court fools are part of the Fools' Guild, a sort of medieval (and secret) Interpol. Nobody expects the jesters to pay attention to the intrigues at court, but they do! The series is well written, has good (and developed) characters, and intriguing plots. I expect good historical "ambiance" but the light touch of humor was an unexpected pleasure. If you read historical mysteries, try this series by Alan Grant. (You don't need to read them in order. I started with this one, the newest, and was instantly captivated.)
Ann Hood has written many novels, but I had never read her work until I picked up her newest novel, The Knitting Circle. Now I want to read all her other work. I am a beginning knitter, and an occasional one, at that, but this book was an inspiration in more ways than one. Of course I was drawn to the encouraging words her characters have about knitting as a hobby, but it was the richness and texture of the characters themselves that has stayed with me. The women have each experienced something difficult in their lives, and they find solace in each other as well in their shared craft.
-- Jessica Philyaw
Yes, this was the start of a great -- and ongoing -- series. "An excellent new mystery, and one hopes, the first of a series", raves "The Chicago Tribune" about this "New York Times" Notable Book. In 1919, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge remains haunted by World War I, where he was forced to have a soldier executed for refusing to fight. When Rutledge is assigned to investigate a murder involving the military, his emotional war wounds flare. It is a case that strikes dangerously close to home--one that will test Rutledge's precarious grip on his own sanity. A "Publishers Weekly" Best Book selection. Martin's Press
Falsely charged of theft in 1768 London, thirteen-year-old Jeremy Proctor finds his only hope in Sir John Fielding, the founder of the Bow Street Runners police force, who recruits young Jeremy in his mission to fight crime. - Jessica Philyaw
Julia Springer has just been widowed, her life is turned upside down in more ways than one, and the small-town gossips are in a feeding frenzy. But she handles it all with a southern lady's grace and aplomb, mixed with a wit that makes the book great fun to read. If you or someone on your gift list has enjoyed Jan Karon's Mitford books or Joan Medlicott's The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love, then you won't want to miss Miss Julia.
A wonderful collection of essays that make up a memoir. The author, a former classmate of mine at Vassar, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease at the age of 20. The book chronicles his illness, treatments, relapses, and return to health, but it appealed to me as much for its humanism as for its medical adventures. Here is a man with a rock-solid sense of self, and that sense is almost destroyed by the disease that is killing his body and by the medical system that is trying to save his life. Along the way, the book discusses family relationships, his marriage and children, and faith. A truly inspirational book, but also a book filled with humor in the face of pending disaster. Read the first few pages, and you'll know of you're hooked.
A superb historical mystery set in Victorian London. Silent in the Grave is a first novel and the first in a proposed series featuring an appealing sleuthing team, Lady Julia Grey and the mysterious Simon Brisbane. When Lady Julia's frail husband drops dead, everyone assumes illness claimed him. As Simon and Lady Julia begin to explore what really happened, we see them discover more than a murder. The characters are well drawn, the plot is pleasingly multi-faceted, and Raybourn's recreation of Victorian English society shows remarkable nuance.
-- Jessica Philyaw
The captivating story of a young girl who takes on a job as maid in the houshold of the Dutch master Vermeer. It is a coming-of-age story, a romance, a fine historical novel, and a tale of suspense, all in one. Chevalier blends these seemingly disparate genres into a well-written and compelling tale of life and art in seventeenth-century Delft. Griet, the young maid, is a complex personality in her own right, and she is a fine observer of her new master's character and art. From him, she learns to perceive the traces of blue, green, and yellow in a "white" cloud. From her, he learns that a "low-born" girl can have the intellect and insight of an educated gentleman.