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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 suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com and I will get this book out to you ASAP.

Wednesday 04/22/2015
Calendar of book events: April-May
Posted: April 22, 2015 - 10:45 pm

Got a book signing, book sale, or some other book-related event going on? E-mail me at suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com.

Monday 04/20/2015
'All The Light We Cannot See' wins Pulitzer for fiction
Posted: April 20, 2015 - 3:55 pm

NEW YORK — Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See," a World War II novel that has been one of the top-selling literary works of the past year, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

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 suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com 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.

Saturday 03/14/2015
2015 is the year to expand your reading
Posted: March 14, 2015 - 9:00 pm

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.

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 suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com 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.”

Book review: Great divide separated Washington, Jefferson as presidents
Posted: March 08, 2015 - 12:02 am

Thomas Fleming has a passion for American history. When he speaks, you can hear enthusiasm in his voice; it is also evident in his writing. In “The Great Divide,” Fleming’s prose generates excitement in the reader by focusing on the key elements of a dramatic time in our country’s history — an epic conflict that began a debate about government that continues today.

Cece Bell is a literary superhero
Posted: March 08, 2015 - 12:00 am

ELLISTON — The guy who created “Captain Underpants” sent her a congratulatory email.

Sunday 03/01/2015
Book review: Virginia's Unionists fought fiercely against Civil War
Posted: March 01, 2015 - 12:00 am

Amid the stacks of literature about the Civil War, little attention has been paid to Virginia’s strong Unionist movement that successfully opposed secession until the week before the mid-April showdown at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. What if the Unionists had prevailed — would the war have been averted?

Book review: 'My Best Everything' is an interesting concept lost in muddled writing, cliche characters
Posted: March 01, 2015 - 12:02 am

Having lived in a small town her whole life, Luisa “Lulu” Mendez is desperate to escape. She has plans of going to the University of San Diego, or as far away from stuffy Dale, Virginia, as possible.

Book review: Moonshine-making teen in 'My Best Everything' has spirit
Posted: March 01, 2015 - 12:00 am

Small rural communities such as those in the New River Valley are great places to raise kids. Crime rates tend to be low, there’s little violence compared to the city and folks tend to be tight-knit. There’s the scenery, too: colorful autumns, majestic mountains and the beauty of the river.

Carol Wall's family carries on her story and legacy
Posted: March 01, 2015 - 12:00 am

Dick Wall listened closely as his wife spoke.

Friday 02/27/2015
'Little free libraries' sprout around the New River Valley
Posted: February 27, 2015 - 6:00 am

CHRISTIANSBURG — Take a book; leave a book.

Thursday 02/26/2015
March Madness is more fun with books
Posted: February 26, 2015 - 6:00 am

If you're like me, March Madness is that thing with the brackets that I'm bound to lose money on because I know nothing about basketball, so why bother? But a bracket that pits literary characters against one another? Now that sounds like fun.

Monday 02/23/2015
February Monday open book stuff
Posted: February 23, 2015 - 6:00 am

Feb. 23 — February 2015 will go down as the month of big book news.

Surveys show college students still prefer print over e-readers
Posted: February 23, 2015 - 5:45 am

Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.

Sunday 02/22/2015
Book review: A prophetess in racially divided America
Posted: February 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

We should remind ourselves that when Sophocles wrote the tragedy “Antigone,” the story of the civil disobedience of Oedipus’ younger daughter and her self-sacrifice for a greater moral good, he was drawing on the ancient myths of Greek civilization. He selected and focused specific aspects of the myth for dramatic purposes.

Book review: From 268 pounds to 133, Andie Mitchell explains she was herself all long
Posted: February 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

For some people, food is simple. You eat when you’re hungry, you stop when you’re not, then you proceed to the next item on your to-do list.

Book review: 'Gray Mountain' shows Grisham's still got it
Posted: February 22, 2015 - 12:00 am

In the prolific writer John Grisham’s own words: “Shades of Donovan. Shades of Marshall Kofer.” He is referring to two savvy lawyers who share an enthusiasm for winning in the courtroom and become important to Grisham’s storyline.

Friday 02/20/2015
New Dr. Seuss book comes out in July
Posted: February 20, 2015 - 6:00 am

Dr. Seuss is a staple,

Sunday 02/15/2015
Book review: The 'Whipping Boy' who set out to find his childhood bully
Posted: February 15, 2015 - 12:00 am

For me, it was just another day at the grocery store. I was a teenage cashier. Boxes, cans, coupons and generally surly people passed through my line. About half an hour into an eight-hour shift, it was all a blur to me, and everything was interchangeable. The store had hired a new guy, who viewed himself as a bit of a philosopher. During the lull in the nonaction, he turned to me and said, “Jason, how many people do you think you’ve waited on who have murdered someone?” The question left me thunderstruck, and it took me several weeks not to view people with suspicion, my mental barometer tuned to potential murderers in my midst.

Book review: 'Boys of Summer' author can still bring it
Posted: February 15, 2015 - 12:00 am

This story has been told and retold many times to the point where it’s in a dusty archive on the back shelves of an old library. Every few years, the story is exhumed in some blustery speech congratulating the colorblind white general manager and the competitive stoic black second baseman.

Thursday 02/12/2015
'Fifty Shades of Grey' is opening and I don't know anyone excited about it
Posted: February 12, 2015 - 6:00 am

I know that headline sounds condemnatory, but I'm serious: Millions of people have bought this book. I know a few people who have read it, not one person who liked it, and I don't know anyone who plans to see it. Perhaps it's a case of birds of a feather flocking together; I don't plan to see the movie either. I haven't even read the series, although I might get round to it eventually. That and "Twilight."

Sunday 02/08/2015
Book review: Love, again, is possible for 'old' people
Posted: February 08, 2015 - 12:00 am

In “Love, Again,” Eve Pell is old and in love as she begins to tell all about her romance in an uplifting memoir that includes the relationship experiences of other old people.

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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