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Wednesday 06/03/2015
Calendar of book events: June
Posted: June 03, 2015 - 1:00 am

Got a book signing, book sale, or some other book-related event going on? E-mail me at

Sunday 05/31/2015
Summer reads to make your vacation better
Posted: May 31, 2015 - 6:00 am

Suntan lotion, bathing suit, toothbrush — you've packed all you need for your summer vacation except the most important thing of all: a good book. If you're looking for something to get lost in as you while away time on the beach, at the park or just in the hammock in your own back yard, Roanoke Times staff and book reviewers have got you covered. Whether you enjoy fantasy or autobiographies, thrillers or sports, there's a book for everyone on this list.

Book review: 'Missoula' a timely look at acquaintance rape on college campuses
Posted: May 31, 2015 - 12:00 am

Why is it so difficult for us as a culture to believe a woman when she says she was raped?

Book review: 'Big Data Baseball' can't escape shadow of 'Moneyball'
Posted: May 31, 2015 - 12:00 am

I assume most baseball fans, like me, know a lot more about Big Papi than Big Data. We wish to view baseball as a leisurely, pastoral game, unscripted and disconnected from time. That’s our sunshine idyll. Meanwhile, on the professional level, baseball is changing from intuitive to analytic.

Book review: Imaginative, creative 'Uprooted' sure to delight
Posted: May 31, 2015 - 12:00 am

Woods in fairy tales hold dangerous creatures — the wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood,” the witch’s cottage in “Hansel and Gretel.”

Thursday 05/28/2015
The Queen of Steam speaks her mind in new children's book
Posted: May 28, 2015 - 12:03 am

Rail workers and rail fans often attribute human qualities to venerable locomotives like the Norfolk & Western Class J 611.

Monday 05/25/2015
May Monday open book stuff
Posted: May 25, 2015 - 6:00 am

May 25 — I love it when a little book news happens.

Sunday 05/24/2015
Dashiell Hammett papers find home at University of South Carolina
Posted: May 24, 2015 - 12:38 pm

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A major collection of letters, photos and publications of the late crime fiction author Dashiell Hammett has been acquired by the University of South Carolina and will be made available to students and scholars within the coming year.

Book review: Ann Dunwoody is one tough lady, 'one helluva soldier'
Posted: May 24, 2015 - 12:00 am

Among the rugged, dedicated brotherhood of U.S. Army Airborne troops, the ceremony of “pinning” the silver jump wings on a newly certified parachutist has, in the past, shown a touch of blood sport.

Friday 05/22/2015
The winner is ... Book giveaway: A graphic novel of the Civil War
Posted: May 22, 2015 - 5:45 am

Thanks to everyone for all the recommendations. If you were stumped by this requirement for the 2015 expand your reading challenge, I hope this list helps. The winner is Sandi Saunders — Sandi, I looked up "Death Note" and it sounds eerie, fascinating, and something I would enjoy. Fingers crossed I'll get to it before the end of the year. Please send a mailing address to and I'll get this book out to you ASAP.

Thursday 05/21/2015
Book review: 2nd generation tackles politics, intrigue in 'The Virgin's Daughter'
Posted: May 21, 2015 - 6:00 am

Anne Boleyn has fascinated writers for hundreds of years. Countless books and movies seek to decipher this mysterious, complex queen who divided opinion the day she caught Henry VIII's eye. Laura Andersen does not take a stance on Anne in her books set in Tudor England; in fact the queen exists only so Andersen can explore an interesting question: What if she had delivered the coveted son?

Sunday 05/17/2015
Book review: 'Saltwater Cowboy' is true tale of crime, punishment, redemption
Posted: May 17, 2015 - 12:00 am

Tim McBride spent much of his life importing marijuana into the United States, and that’s the focus of this new memoir, “Saltwater Cowboy.”

Book review: 'Terms and Conditions' demands attention for small print
Posted: May 17, 2015 - 12:00 am

A car crash that robs a man of his memory — it’s a common scenario in movies and books, but Robert Glancy spins it in delightful directions in his novel “Terms and Conditions.”

Friday 05/15/2015
2015 is the year to expand your reading
Posted: May 15, 2015 - 2:15 am

One of my colleagues enjoys American history. He reads a lot of books about the Civil War and biographies of presidents — material in which I have no interest. He has no taste for the literature I devour either: generous portions of young adult and historical stories, with a side of contemporary novels and just a sprinkling of nonfiction.

Sunday 05/10/2015
Book review: And you think you're having a bad day ...
Posted: May 10, 2015 - 12:00 am

Winners get to write history, but that doesn’t mean the losers go away. They skulk on the sidelines, hoping someone will give them a voice. Good news and bad news for them: Michael Farquhar did, but not in the way they would like. His newest book, “Bad Days in History,” doesn’t excuse, explain or justify people who wound up on the losing side of various historical events, just highlights them. Lots of them, one for each day of the year.

Book review: 'BiblioTech' shows it's an exciting time for libraries
Posted: May 10, 2015 - 12:00 am

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” — Walter Cronkite, 1995

Sunday 05/03/2015
Keepers of the Tradition: Paintings and book celebrate the best of Appalachia
Posted: May 03, 2015 - 12:00 am

BLACKSBURG — Pam Puckett Frazier was about to become a work of art, and she was nervous about it.

Book review: The unconventional life of George Sand
Posted: May 03, 2015 - 12:00 am

George Sand, born Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin (her father insisted she be called Aurore) in Paris in 1804, became one of the most accomplished and notorious literary figures of 19th-century France. She wrote avant-garde novels, most autobiographically based, dressed in men’s clothes, smoked cigars, and took as lovers many of the most important artists of the period, including the famous actress Marie Dorval and the composer Frederic Chopin. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, one of her many admirers, aptly defined her gender-bending nature in a sonnet to her: “Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man.”

Book review: Author injects humor, wisdom in quest to become a 'real doctor'
Posted: May 03, 2015 - 12:00 am

Ever since the publication of “Intern” by Dr. X in 1965, the reading public has shown an excellent appetite for stories of that medical year of trial by fire known as “internship.” Perri Klass, Sandeep Jauhar, William Nolen and others have successfully recounted the trials and tribulations of that first year after medical school. Here is the latest offering: Dr. Matt McCarthy’s first year as a resident in internal medicine at Columbia. How well did four years at Harvard Medical School prepare him?

Book review: Revolutions knew no borders in 18th century
Posted: May 03, 2015 - 12:00 am

In the late 18th century, the British colonies on the American continent declared their independence from Britain. There was a long war. There were formal declarations. There were pamphlets and newspapers spreading the views of the effort to replace royal sovereign with the sovereignty of the people (well, at least the white male property owners).

Thursday 04/30/2015
What's old is new again
Posted: April 30, 2015 - 6:00 am

Last week a couple of books landed on my desk and I immediately got excited. Even though I hadn't heard of them or even the authors.

Sunday 04/26/2015
Book review: High points in 'Normal' don't make up for the lows
Posted: April 26, 2015 - 12:00 am

Author Graeme Cameron’s first novel, “Normal,” comes with an author bio that reads more like disclaimer, an insulation, perhaps, against a class-action lawsuit from disgruntled readers. We learn that he “has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist.” It’s hard to understand the purpose of such a statement, unless it is either an apologia or a bit of braggadocio. After reading “Normal,” it is still hard to tell.

Book review: The fall of Richmond, the woeful march to Appomattox
Posted: April 26, 2015 - 12:00 am

Sadness, jubilation. Despair, exultation. Cowardice, heroism. Incompetence, brilliance. All find their measures in this thoroughly researched, engagingly written drama, the concluding scenes of a war that had stretched over four years of time, and 200 years of powerful events, and which forever changed the face and spirit of our nation.

Book review: Explore Indian history with a rebellious queen
Posted: April 26, 2015 - 12:00 am

War typically is the domain of men, especially in the mid-19th century, and especially in the male-dominated culture of India.

Thursday 04/23/2015
The play's the thing....
Posted: April 23, 2015 - 6:00 am

Continuing on the theme of William Shakespeare (happy birthday/deathday, by the way), let's talk about plays.

The winner is ... Book giveaway: Happy birthday (and death day), Shakespeare
Posted: April 23, 2015 - 5:45 am

I got excited about lots of your responses; not going to lie, I want to watch "Henry V" with Fred and act out "Twelfth Night" with Hannah. But Samantha Leigh, you won me over with the trivial tidbit about the bunnies and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and for that you win a big book about Shakespeare. E-mail me a mailing address to and I will get this book out to you ASAP.

Monday 04/20/2015
April Monday open book stuff
Posted: April 20, 2015 - 6:00 am

April 20 — Thursday saw the second big Roanoke book event with the Roanoke Book and Author Dinner. I was out of town for it this year, but my colleague Mike Allen did an interview beforehand with author Garth Stein, one of the event's draws. Let me know if you went and if you enjoyed it; one of the Times' photographers was there was a guest and said it was good.

Sunday 04/19/2015
Book review: 'Bookseller' questions reality, the psyche
Posted: April 19, 2015 - 12:00 am

In her debut novel “The Bookseller,” Cynthia Swanson creates an unsettling world for protagonist Kitty Miller. Kitty seems to escape her life as the unmarried co-owner of a small town 1962 bookstore and owner of a frisky cat, by drifting into an apparent dream world where she is instead Katharyn Andersson, the married mother of three children in 1963 suburbia.

Book review: This cat out of hell comes with unexpected talents, humor
Posted: April 19, 2015 - 12:00 am

With two New York Times bestsellers behind her, author Lynne Truss introduces Alec, a retired librarian in Cambridge, who tells an incredible story of several cats who talk, read poetry, tear an office to shreds and commit ingenious crimes in “Cat Out of Hell.”

Tuesday 04/14/2015
Bestselling author to speak at dinner
Posted: April 14, 2015 - 12:00 am

Garth Stein’s artistic career track began as co-producer of an Oscar-winning film and arrives in the present day as author of a novel about a NASCAR-loving dog that sold more than 4 million copies.

Sunday 04/12/2015
Book review: You don't have to be a doctor to appreciate 'History of the Present Illness'
Posted: April 12, 2015 - 12:00 am

Louise Aronson has an M.D. from Harvard and an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. Her practice of medicine concentrates on the care of the elderly, geriatrics, and she’s involved in medical education. She’s also the author of 16 short stories compiled in “A History of the Present Illness.”

Book review: 3 books take readers through course of Constitution's history
Posted: April 12, 2015 - 12:00 am

Three books published this spring provide an opportunity to look at the roots of the United States government — the forces that created the Constitution and the forces that have acted on it geographically and historically.

Wednesday 04/08/2015
The invasion begins Saturday in Roanoke
Posted: April 08, 2015 - 6:00 am

No, not zombies, something better than that: authors.

Sunday 04/05/2015
Book review: Alzheimer's robs woman of everything, except love
Posted: April 05, 2015 - 12:00 am

Rowan Coleman’s 11th novel, “The Day We Met” (“The Memory Book” in the United Kingdom), deals most immediately with Claire Armstrong, a bright and engaging woman in her 40s who suffers from the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The degenerative and disorienting effects accelerate rapidly throughout the novel.

Book review: WWII ship bore brave crew when hell rained from heavens
Posted: April 05, 2015 - 12:00 am

Time passes, and the Greatest Generation is rapidly fading into history, along with first-hand tales of their combat actions. All the more reason, therefore, for author John Wukovits to provide a stirring account of the ordeal of the USS Laffey, one of the “little boys” of the Pacific Fleet, who with its crew was posted to the danger spot, Radar Picket Station No. 1, north of Okinawa.

Thursday 04/02/2015
Cover art released for Lisbeth Salander, Harper Lee novels
Posted: April 02, 2015 - 6:00 am

Ugh, I meant to blog about this last week: In case you missed it, the cover art is out for "Go Set a Watchman," the sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird." It strongly resembles the cover of one edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird," what with the tree and all, and the same or at least similar font. That has to be on purpose. We know the book is about Scout returning to her hometown, so presumably that's what the train is about. I think that's clever, to make the cover reminiscent of the first book and relate it so strongly to the new story.

Monday 03/30/2015
March Monday open book stuff
Posted: March 30, 2015 - 6:00 am

March 30 — When you think of books, you probably don't think of coloring books, but they still count. Coloring books are fun, yes; they are also learning tools as Christiansburg children found out with local, history-themed books.

Sunday 03/29/2015
Book review: Swim with 'The Mermaid's Child' on a haunting, beautiful journey
Posted: March 29, 2015 - 12:00 am

In 2012, British author Jo Baker wrote in a blog post about her decision to quit her day job and write full time. Her “aha” moment came after the usual angst over paying the bills, but she described the choice simply: “If I quit my job, I might come to regret it; if I don’t quit the job, then I definitely will.” Just such a dilemma faces the protagonist in “The Mermaid’s Child.”

Book review: A brilliant man touched by mental illness, destroyed by scientific hubris
Posted: March 29, 2015 - 12:00 am

It’s difficult to describe exactly what “He Wanted the Moon” is. It’s obviously a book, but it’s not quite a memoir and it’s not quite a biography. It hovers somewhere in between, and the best way I could think of describing it is as a sort of scrapbook.

Thursday 03/26/2015
Book giveaway: 'Behind Every Great Man' ... the winner is ....
Posted: March 26, 2015 - 5:45 am

I hope your mothers, sisters, friends and bosses were touched by your tributes. There were some lovely sentiments here, but I'm awarding the book to Deborah J. Good. Deborah, I hope I'm going as strong as your grandmother when I reach 103. E-mail a mailing address to and I'll get this book out to you ASAP.

Sunday 03/22/2015
Book review: A tour of buildings in western Virginia
Posted: March 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

For a bird’s-eye view of the distinctive diversity of the architecture of western Virginia from the flatlands of Southside to the western gateway at Cumberland Gap, readers can enjoy a new study in the “Buildings of Virginia” series. Anne Carter Lee of Rocky Mount assembled a team of knowledgeable people who spent years compiling this valuable history.

Charm of Appalachian dialect captivated Blacksburg children's writer
Posted: March 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you live before you came to Blacksburg and what did you do? What do you do now?

Book review: Behind every great man stands a woman with her own story
Posted: March 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

Quick, name the German-born scientist who developed the theory of relativity, revolutionized physics and won the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Wednesday 03/18/2015
Beth Macy talks about effort to save factory
Posted: March 18, 2015 - 7:08 pm

Beth Macy traveled to the past, the future and around the world to tell a large story about a small town, the big people who run businesses and the little people who struggle to earn a living.

Sunday 03/15/2015
Book review: Waterloo hinged on one long afternoon
Posted: March 15, 2015 - 12:00 am

Brendan Simms has distilled the history of the Battle of Waterloo down to the battle for one strategic position: La Haye Sainte (the sacred hedge) and the decisive performance by a group of Hanoverians called the King’s German Legion in his new book, “The Longest Afternoon.”

Book review: How Beanie Babies ballooned - then burst
Posted: March 15, 2015 - 12:00 am

The invasion started in the Midwest.

Friday 03/13/2015
Terry Pratchett brightened our world with his own
Posted: March 13, 2015 - 6:00 am

The book sat, ignored, in my bookcase for years.

Thursday 03/12/2015
My old friend Dave Barry sent me a book
Posted: March 12, 2015 - 6:00 am

When I was in high school, someone — I can't remember who — told me I should read stuff by some columnist called Dave Barry.

Tuesday 03/10/2015
Book giveaway and author Q&A: 'My Best Everything' ... and the winners are
Posted: March 10, 2015 - 5:45 am

Thank you, everyone, who participated in the giveaway. I really liked this book and encourage everyone to read it, but the winners are Suzanne Kauffman Cosgrave and Kimberly Vaccaro. Suzanne (great name, by the way) and Kimberly, please e-mail your addresses to and I will get copies out to you immediately.

Sunday 03/08/2015
Book review: Patton Oswalt takes reader on tour of life, movies in 'Silver Screen Fiend'
Posted: March 08, 2015 - 12:02 am

“This will be either the most interesting or the most boring addiction memoir you’ve ever read,” Patton Oswalt writes early on in “Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film.”

Suzanne Wardle
  • Suzanne Wardle
  • Books editor Suzanne Wardle read cereal boxes, lists of ingredients and just about anything when she was a child, so it’s no wonder she grew up to read for a living at a newspaper. She posts reviews, news, discussion topics and musings on literature of all types. When she’s not reading, she’s out on the greenway with the dog, testing recipes in the kitchen and trying to persuade friends to watch bad monster movies with her.
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