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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?

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.

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.

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
Calendar of book events: February-April
Posted: February 23, 2015 - 11:15 pm

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

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.

2015 is the year to expand your reading
Posted: February 23, 2015 - 3:30 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 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.

Book review: Runs by Blacksburg's Poverty Creek exercise sense of poetry
Posted: February 08, 2015 - 12:00 am

As a former English teacher and runner, I came to “Poverty Creek Journal” by Virginia Tech professor Thomas Gardner with eager anticipation mingled with a little skepticism. The slender paperback felt skimpy in my hands; yet within its few pages lay the promise of lyrical essays Gardner penned after running Virginia trails from January to December 2012.

Thursday 02/05/2015
Beth March died in 'Little Women' - or did she? (with poll)
Posted: February 05, 2015 - 6:00 am

This week I was reading an old Buzzfeed article that said Beth March died in "Little Women." I scrolled down to the comments and someone said that Beth did not die in "Little Women," but in the following book, "Good Wives." Someone else replied that "Good Wives" is just the second half of "Little Women."

Tuesday 02/03/2015
Roanoke Valley Reads chooses Beth Macy's 'Factory Man'
Posted: February 03, 2015 - 4:26 pm

“Factory Man,” Beth Macy’s best-selling book about furniture executive John Bassett’s efforts to save his company’s Galax factory, is the Roanoke Valley Reads selection for this year’s communitywide reading project.

Monday 02/02/2015
Cece Bell's 'El Deafo' deemed a Newbery Honor Book
Posted: February 02, 2015 - 11:49 am

Montgomery County author and illustrator Cece Bell received one of the top honors of children’s literature on Monday.

Sunday 02/01/2015
Book review: How the Civil War was more than America's fight
Posted: February 01, 2015 - 12:00 am

In these closing months of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, we may expect a last flurry of publications on that monumental conflict, many of them pompous and scholarly, others lightweight and trivial. This one is neither. Thoroughly researched, excellently written and edited, it deserves wide distribution among both general readers and seasoned historians.

Thursday 01/29/2015
Roanoke region has strong showing at Virginia Festival of the Book
Posted: January 29, 2015 - 6:00 am

The Virginia Festival of the Book began in 1995 with a couple of book lovers and a dream. It grew quickly; now, in its 21st year, tens of thousands of people from around the world have descended on Charlottesville in March to talk about books, hear about books and learn about books.

Wednesday 01/28/2015
Restricted reading spurs debate in schools
Posted: January 28, 2015 - 12:00 am

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” “The Great Gatsby.” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” “Harry Potter.” “The Diary of Anne Frank.” “The Grapes of Wrath.” “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Brave New World.”

Monday 01/26/2015
January Monday open book stuff
Posted: January 26, 2015 - 6:00 am

Jan. 26 — They say you can't have too much of a good thing. That includes love, your sheets' thread count and books space in The Roanoke Times.

Sunday 01/25/2015
Book review: Meet 'Vanessa and Her Sister,' the talented Virginia Woolf
Posted: January 25, 2015 - 12:00 am

Virginia Woolf provocatively stated in her essay “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1923) that “on or about December 1910 human character changed.” She allows that this date may be arbitrary, but that there was during this period an important cultural shift in England.

Book review: 'Crucible of Command' is refreshing juxtaposition of Civil War giants
Posted: January 25, 2015 - 12:00 am

I wish I had been with William C. Davis when he decided to write “Crucible of Command.” It must have been a moment of epiphany not unlike those when Newton first understood gravity or Galileo found moons circling Jupiter or Edison’s lab found the right combination to make a functional light bulb — Saul on the road to Damascus.

Thursday 01/22/2015
Bad women make for good reads
Posted: January 22, 2015 - 6:00 am

But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale —

Sunday 01/18/2015
Book review: A top-flight history of aviation in Roanoke
Posted: January 18, 2015 - 12:00 am

How many of us know that Eugene Ely made the first airplane flight in Roanoke on Sept. 22, 1910, at the Great Roanoke Fair along the river in South Roanoke?

Book review: Bestselling author skillfully creates, uncovers secrets
Posted: January 18, 2015 - 12:00 am

“It’s just a house. Bricks and mortar.” Except it isn’t. Rebecca James depicts an Australian mansion that in many ways is the main character of her second novel “Sweet Damage.”

Thursday 01/15/2015
Next Saturday is National Readathon Day
Posted: January 15, 2015 - 6:00 am

If an event ends in -athon, that usually means you need to eat a protein-packed breakfast and put pants on. Luckily, readathons are exempt from that.

The winner is ... Book giveaway: 'Crucible of Command'
Posted: January 15, 2015 - 5:45 am

So many great, educational responses to this giveaway. I got lots of e-mails, too, some of them very in-depth. I'm afraid I can't count those as entries, and I'm picking a winner just from the comments -- in this case Dave Hanson. Dave, please e-mail a mailing address to suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com and I will get this book to you ASAP. Feel free to come back and tell me if you like it.

Monday 01/12/2015
A new story set in the world of 'His Dark Materials' (with audio)
Posted: January 12, 2015 - 6:30 am

Philip Pullman spawned fans and foes with the release of "The Golden Compass," the first in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. Readers loved the detailed world, Pullman's stubborn child protagonist Lyra, the novelty of our souls walking beside us in the form of daemons. Critics condemned the series as anti-religious and an attack on Christianity.

Sunday 01/11/2015
Book review: Just shut the door on weak 'Winter' thriller
Posted: January 11, 2015 - 12:00 am

In the movie “Throw Momma From the Train,” mystery writer Larry points out to his student, Owen, that the mystery he had just written was easy to solve because it had two people in it and one of them had just been murdered. Although Sarah Graves’ “Winter at the Door” isn’t quite that simple, it does carry with it that veneer of amateurism.

Monday 01/05/2015
Raleigh Court Library redo to go forward despite cost overrun
Posted: January 05, 2015 - 5:47 pm

The Raleigh Court Library renovation and expansion will move forward despite construction bids coming $1.5 million over budget thanks to cost-saving changes and money that had been set aside to design fire stations.

Sunday 01/04/2015
Book review: 'Americanah' is complex, fulfilling work about love, race, culture
Posted: January 04, 2015 - 12:00 am

Efemelu, a Nigerian who came to the United States to complete her university education, now holds a respected fellowship at Princeton University. Her blog, provocatively titled “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black,” has become something of a sensation. She stands on the train platform on her way to Trenton to have her hair braided. WASPish Princeton has no such shops.

Wednesday 12/31/2014
The 52 books a year challenge
Posted: December 31, 2014 - 12:15 pm

There's just one more week to complete the challenge, so time for an update on the number of books I've read this year. I'll link to reviews as I have them.

The best of the Roanoke region's arts and culture of 2014
Posted: December 31, 2014 - 12:00 am

THE YEAR IN BOOKS

Monday 12/29/2014
Monday open book stuff
Posted: December 29, 2014 - 6:00 am

Dec. 29 -- It's the last Monday of the year.

Sunday 12/28/2014
Book review: Earth (Home-World) according to scientist (Student-Person)
Posted: December 28, 2014 - 12:00 am

If you have an interest in the Earth (Home-World) and the universe (All-There-Is), and you can’t quite keep all the arcane terms used by astronomers, here is a small book (with a large import) that will help you make sense of it all.

Sunday 12/21/2014
Book review: History of Hawaii is introduction to paradise
Posted: December 21, 2014 - 12:00 am

James Haley’s latest history, “Captive Paradise,” is a narrative history of Hawaii, the 50th member of the United States. He follows the dramatic changes from the 1778 visit by England’s Captain James Cook until it became a state in mid-20th century. In that relatively short time, the island nation moved from a feudal system ruled by King Kamehameha I (The Conqueror) to a democratic society.

Book review: Strange, new, beautiful, complex, familiar things
Posted: December 21, 2014 - 12:00 am

Michel Faber’s long anticipated new novel “The Book of Strange New Things” far exceeded my expectations. I am not ordinarily a fan of science fiction or Christian fiction, but this novel, the story of Peter Leigh’s mission to take Christ to an alien race on an imaginary planet, resonates in a deeply human way while avoiding the preachiness and partisanship found in much of today’s religious writing. Vulnerable characters, perfectly paced plot and provocative themes make this novel one of my favorites of 2014.

Thursday 12/18/2014
Need a last-minute gift? Consider a book
Posted: December 18, 2014 - 5:45 am

It's the week before Christmas, you've finished shopping, and you're about to relax on the sofa with a mug of peppermint hot chocolate and "It's A Wonderful Life." Suddenly, you splutter and sit upright. You just realized: You forgot Aunt Fifi/cousin Bill/your best friend's sister's uncle's dad. You had a gift picked out, but you took the kids to see Santa, then you had to bake, and then mail out Christmas cards … you just didn't get round to buying anything.

In times like this, the best gift you can offer is a book. They're easily grabbed at your local bookstore, or you can schedule a delivery date for an e-reader. The Roanoke Times Sunday book reviews offer fertile ground for ideas, and to help you out, I've rounded up reviews of all genres from 2014. The best part? These books have been out for months, making them even more affordable and accessible than new releases.

To get more ideas, scroll through the blog posts at blogs.roanoke.com/backcover. When it comes to books, there truly is something for everyone.

The sports fan:

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

For anyone who loves going to Red Sox games, dreams of the big leagues, or is just plain interested in America's favorite pastime, "Where Nobody Knows Your Name" will score you a home run. John Feinstein follows players, managers and an umpire as they go from minors to majors and back again. The author covers the business of baseball as well as players' motivations — money, pride, the love of the game. Sports fans are likely familiar with Feinstein's work, but if you're not, this is a good book with which to begin.

Reviewer Mike Ramsey says, "You are likely to enjoy the prose (which is exemplary) and the ennobling stories of triumph, defeat and perseverance in the face of unrelenting professional and personal challenges."

Wednesday 12/17/2014
The winner is ... 12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways -- Day 12
Posted: December 17, 2014 - 5:15 am

Kathy Shaw likes the original version of "Little Women." Kathy, I hope you like it even more now, because you are the winner of the book giveaway. Please e-mail me at suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com with a mailing address and I will get the book out ASAP.

Tuesday 12/16/2014
The winners are ... Book giveaway and author Q&A: 'A Nip of Murder'
Posted: December 16, 2014 - 5:45 am

Well, I'm sorry that Carol wasn't able to answer your questions, but thank you all for participating anyway. I'm still picking winners, in this case Carla McCurdy Bream and Jodie Jones. Please e-mail suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com with mailing addresses so I can get your books out.

Monday 12/15/2014
The winner is ... 12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways -- Day 9
Posted: December 15, 2014 - 9:30 pm

Melissa Hobbs Davis, I hope your face lights up with a smile, because you are the winner. Send a mailing address to suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com and I will get this book out to you ASAP!

Roanoke author's story lives on in 'Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening'
Posted: December 15, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Cancer took Carol Wall’s life, but it did not take her story.

Sunday 12/14/2014
The winner is ... 12 Days of Christmas Book Giveaways -- Day 7
Posted: December 14, 2014 - 5:00 am

Pajamas? Yes, I love pajamas. Kelly Bigelow VanderMey, congratulations, you are the winner of the giveaway. E-mail a mailing address to suzanne.wardle@roanoke.com and I will get this book out to you ASAP!

Book review: Runaway details harsh reality of life in North Korean camp
Posted: December 14, 2014 - 12:00 am

Every day, Shin Dong-hyuk pulled on the same pants he wore the day before. They never got washed and were stiff from dried sweat and urine. If the teacher was in a good mood, he and classmates might pick the lice from one another’s bodies. If he were lucky, he’d catch a rat or some insects to supplement his meager meals.

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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