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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.

Tuesday 03/24/2015
Calendar of book events: March-April
Posted: March 24, 2015 - 5:15 pm

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

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 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.

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 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.

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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