Staff Picks 2019, Part 3

Here it is. The final installment of Staff Picks 2019. May another year of great reading be ahead!



Linda leads the way:

Long Time Gone by J.A. Jance: This is the 17th book in this series featuring Seattle detective J.P. Beaumont. I had read the earlier ones years ago and somehow lost track of them. I had forgotten what good books they are. The stories are complete and complex as are her characters. This one is a page turner, full of twists and turns. It’s a very quick read. I finished it in a day. Her characters have grown and matured over the years and their relationships are deep. It might be good to read the first in the series to get a little background on them. Jance’s writing is so good, I was immersed in the setting and felt a part of the story, along for the ride, observing the chase. No, not observing, experiencing. It was a wild ride.

The Shaman’s Game by James D. Doss: With a full cast of complex and interesting characters, this book will immerse you in the culture and traditions of the Ute Nation in Colorado. Horace Antelope dies in the midst of a Dances Thirsty ritual, just as he taps into the power of The Great Mysterious One. He was old and dehydrated and exhausted from the demanding rite. His even older mother, Popeye Woman, dies of a heart attack from the shock. But there is much more here than meets the eye. Ute detective, Charlie Moon, spurred on by his own instincts and the spiritual insights of his Shaman Aunt Daisy, investigates what appears to be a death by natural causes. Suspects abound. Can Charlie Moon find the truth before anyone else dies?

Dave Slater series by P.F. Ford: I found this series free on Kindle and have enjoyed them very much. The author, apparently, went for years unable to get published and I don’t understand why. These are delightful, cozy British detective mysteries. They flow right along and are quick reads. I love the characters. They are quirky but intelligent and well suited to their jobs, and their relationships have humorous consequences even in the middle of their serious work. In each new volume, the plots get more complicated. So I recommend you go for a ride-along with DS Dave Slater and his partner, DS Norman Norman. (yes, really.) You won’t regret it. We are now carrying them in the library.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves: This is the first installment of a new series written by the author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope series. We meet Detective Matthew Venn as he stands in a church yard watching the funeral of his father. He is not welcome there. Little does he know he will soon be involved with his estranged family and church, soon enough. A body is found on the beach. The victim is recognized by a local young woman with Down’s Syndrome as someone who has befriended her on the bus. Then, a friend of hers goes missing from the same day center that she attends, the one managed by Venn’s husband, Jon. This girl is also the daughter of Venn’s mother’s friend, a member of the strict church that rejected him. Now it’s Venn’s job to put all the pieces together and solve this puzzle, hopefully before another body turns up. Ms. Cleeves’ great talents at creating characters, scenes, and complex plots, once again presents a compelling, suspenseful novel you won’t want to put down.

Shetland, Season 5 – DVD: This series, based on the books by Ann Cleeves has beautiful scenery, complex characters, and intense plots. The acting is top notch and the stories are riveting. This particular season delves into the subject of human trafficking, and tests the mettle of all our favorite characters. If you haven’t seen any of these, you may want to start at the beginning. The books are also wonderfully written. Try them too.


Emma is next:


In the Dream House: a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado




After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones




Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay




All Systems Red by Martha Wells




The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie




Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir



Mariah’s top picks:


Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls by Dav Pilkey




The League of Beastly Dreadfuls by Holly Grant




Best Friends by Shannon Hale




The Power by Naomi Alderman




The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss




The Walking Dead – TV series




Stranger Things  – Netflix series




Center Point Road by Thomas Rhett – album



And Dale will finish things off:


Middlewest by Skottie Young




Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias




Joker – DVD



The Witcher – Netflix series




Geist by The Browning – album


Happy New Year and we wish you all an adventurous year of reading, watching, and listening! See you at Topsham Public Library!




Staff Picks 2019, Part 2

Is the anticipation keeping you up at night? Are you anxious for more reading suggestions? Are you loving new reads or wondering, “what were they thinking?” Well, wait no further! Below is the second installment of Topsham Public Library’s Staff Picks of 2019.

I will kick things off this week:

2019 was a bit different for me as I read more nonfiction than I usually do. I tend to space the nonfiction sparingly throughout the year, but I found myself picking up one as I was finishing another and my Top Picks reflects this abnormality in my reading habits as half of them are nonfiction books.

I first heard about Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson when I saw the movie trailer for this book. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he moved to Alabama to defend prisoners on death row. Though the book is primarily about one case regarding the wrongful conviction of an innocent man, it also tells the story about his founding of Equal Justice Initiative and highlights some of the atrocities he saw in the criminal justice system.  It is a thoughtful look at how we treat people of all ages who are incarcerated.


Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty is an eye-opening look at what happens to dead bodies from natural processes to what morticians may do. Doughty is a mortician and funeral industry insider trying to help people become more comfortable with the dying process. This book is a collection of questions children have asked or might ask about dead bodies. It’s a quick read, and it’s hilarious, gross, and educational all in one.

Cyndi introduced this book to me and you will notice that is is on her Top of 2019 list as well. In some ways, I don’t know where to begin, but simply speaking American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan is the account of the capture of a serial killer who roamed the United States killing when the notion hit him, and no one was aware he even existed. To say killing was Israel Keyes craft is the best way I know how to say it, and that he was stopped was as accidental as he was purposeful. Callahan includes excerpts from the interrogations, and as a journalist, she knows how to keep the story going. There are aspects of this account that I still think about today.



A collection of seven short stories smuggled out of North Korea makes my list this year. The Accusation by Bandi, though fiction, introduces the reader to the realities of living in North Korea under such an oppressive, intrusive, and evil dictatorship.



When your niece, who is a night library aide at the University of Michigan texts you and says, “read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen; translated by Hester Velmans,” you do. It’s a hilarious and poignant look into aging that is set in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Though it is a work of fiction, you know it’s true.



Stephen King is an amazing storyteller. I haven’t read everything he has written because, well, I like sleeping at night, but this year I read The Green Mile and I couldn’t put it down. (He wrote it as a serial in six parts: Two Dead Girls, Mouse On the Mile, Coffey’s Hands, Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Night Journey, and Coffey On the Mile and the entire collection is titled The Green Mile.) Though some might call it a horror story, and there are definitely horrific aspects to the tale, I found it to be thoughtful and insightful into the workings of the human heart.


Helen continues the fun:


Old Bones by Douglas Preston




The Family Plot by Cherie Priest




The Escape Room by Megan Goldin




The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon




The Pandora Room by Christopher Golden



Cyndi keeps things rolling:

The Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey never stays long on our shelves and I wanted to know why. Pilkey and I go way back to the beginning of the Dragon and Captain Underpants series which captured the attention of my children when they were young. I love the Dog Man series! Pilkey is a great illustrator and has perfected the art of blending important messages in silly humor.



Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern, an adult graphic novel, is a hilariously warped take on the classic Romantic literature.



Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case is a graphic novel depicting the true-life story of the capture of one of America’s notorious serial killers.


American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan is the true story of a serial killer that roamed the United States killing at will, but in a way that allowed him to go undetected for years.



In Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories by Sarah Lerner, students who lived through the school shooting share their experience through poems, letters, journal writings and more.




Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren is a Young Adult novel that looks at gender role expectations through the eyes of a female on the all-male hockey team.



In Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer Echo’s father is captured by a wolf and she must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment or they will all be lost.


Susan will wrap things up this week:


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern




Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden: The Bear and the Nightingale; The Girl in the Tower; The Winter of the Witch



My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman




The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin




The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield



Tune in next week for the final installment of Topsham Public Library’s Staff Picks 2019!






Staff Picks 2019, Part 1

And here we are again! It’s 2020!! Twenty years ago, we lived through the build up to 2000 and wondered if the doomsayers were correct that the future would be one of planes falling out of the sky and only those survivalists with underground bunkers and stashes of freeze-dried food would last the year. Well, here we are, and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown!

The staff of Topsham Public Library has been making their list, and checking it twice, and I’m happy to present their Top 5-ish List of 2019.

Dave will get the party started:



Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout




The Long Call by Ann Cleeves




The Lost Man by Jane Harper




The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad




How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir by Kate Mulgrew




A Keeper by Graham Norton





Barry, seasons 1-2




The Kominsky Method, season 1-2




London Kills, season 1




Manhunt, season 1








Linda Ronstadt: Sound of My Voice



Lindsey, new to the game, keeps the party going:


Star vs Forces of Evil, television program




Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk




Klaus, movie




The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox



Julie keeps things rolling with her Top Picks:


You Suck at Cooking: The Absurdly Practical Guide to Sucking Slightly Less at Making Food by released by Clarkson Potter Publishers



Murderbot Diaries Series by Martha Wells:                                                                                      Book 1: All Systems Red; Book 2: Artificial Condition; Book 3: Rogue Protocol; Book 4: Exit Strategy



Shirtless Bear-Fighter! Volume 1 by Jodi Leheup and Sebastian Girner




Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Volume 1 by John Layman




Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith



And Lynne will sing us home with her Top Picks:


The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern




Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo




A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill




Murderbot Diaries Series by Martha Wells




The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste




The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath




The Sculptor by Scott McCloud



Tune in next week for Part 2 of Top 5-ish Picks of 2019!




















Holiday Hours

It’s so hard to believe that the next time I write a blog post it will be 2020! Everyone at Topsham Public Library wishes you Happy Holidays!

Our holiday hours are (items in bold are a change in normal hours):

Tuesday, December 24 9am-3pm

Wednesday, December 25 closed

Thursday, December 26 9am-8pm

Friday, December 27 9am-5pm

Saturday, December 28 9am-4pm

Sunday, December 29 closed

Monday, December 30 9am-5pm

Tuesday, December 31 9am-3pm

Wednesday, January 1 closed

Thursday, January 2 normal operating hours resume

What is there to notice in nature?

It can be hard to get out during this time of year, this transition time between fall and winter.  It’s cold and things look brown and bare. What is there to do and see outside right now anyway? Well… plenty! Read through the list of nature to explore around Topsham Public Library (and anywhere else) and then bundle up and get outside.



With branches exposed it’s the perfect time of year to look for nests. Check trees for bird and squirrel nests and shrubs for abandoned wasp nests (there’s one in a lilac shrub here at the library) as well as bird nests. You may also notice signs of mice constructing their winter shelters. If you’re able, spend a few moments investigating a nest. They are amazing structures!

Resources to inspire:


Marcescent Plants

Most plants shed their leaves in the fall but there are a few that hold on to them (or most of them anyway). This phenomenon is called marcescence: the trait of retaining plant parts after they are dead and dry. Some trees in our area that exhibit this are oaks,  and Witch Hazels (leaves & flower corollas) and the most common – American Beech. If you’re driving or walking and notice trees with pale tan or copper leaves when all others trees are bare, they are most likely beech.


Branches, Bark & Buds

When was the last time you took a good look at a tree? I mean really observe it. Notice the branching pattern. Is it opposite or alternate? What does the bark look like? How would you describe the texture (smooth, furrowed, scaly, papery, etc) and color? Some bark even has a distinctive scent. Scratch the bark of a Yellow Birch and you’ll get a whiff of wintergreen. Crush some bark or twigs of Sassafras and you’ll notice a spicy odor. Then move on to the buds. You should see the same growth pattern as the branches. Characteristics to notice are color, shape, texture, and scale arrangement. You might be amazed at the variety.

Resources to inspire:


Ice & Frost Formations

Not everyone loves seeing frost on windows, appreciates icy spots or admires tiny flakes but you may learn to after noticing their interesting features. Be intentional about slowing down to notice these fascinating structures.

Resources to inspire:

Now you have some ideas to keep in mind. Next time you are outside be intentional about slowing down to notice nature. Come back here anytime and let us know what you are seeing!

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature!

Do You Like to Throw Parties?

Not only are the holidays are upon us, but then there’s New Year’s Eve, the Superbowl, and random “I’m tired of winter so let’s have people over to keep the doldrums at bay” parties.  Well, Delish by Joanna Saltz and the Editors of Delish is a must have for any “raising a ruckus” party menu.

There is nothing subtle about this cookbook. From the pictures to the recipes to the extras throughout, it shouts, “Get some people together and have fun!” And it is a fun cookbook. They add pop culture references like a picture of Jennifer Lawrence saying, “I see you talking, but all I can think about is getting fries,” on the corner of a picture of their Parmesan Garlic Carrot Fries.

Food related pages are included covering topics like interesting food finds at the Minnesota State Fair and the Sonic Skate-Off. Who knew there was such a thing as the Sonic Skate-Off?! And mixed in are pages with multiple ideas for a basic food. For example, there is a layout on 5 Ways to Use Pizza Dough and one 4 Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken, but imagine my delight when I saw 31 Mix-Ins for Boxed Mac and Cheese! They speak my language.

The cookbook is broken up into twelve sections: But First, Drinks; Party Starters; Fun Dips; ‘Witches, Bitches; What the Fork’s For Dinner?; You Wanna Pizza This?; Carb Your Enthusiasm; Tex-Mex Madness; Good For You!; Brunch Time; There’s Always Room…; and Friendsgiving and More. Sweet, salty, vegetarian, meat lovers, breakfast, lunch and supper. It’s all in there. All but subtlety.

I made Tex-Mex Meatballs. On Fridays my brother, with his adorable granddaughter, have taken to dropping by, so I try to have something planned for supper. And when there’s a 2 1/2 year old running around, it’s always a party. I tried the meatballs on them. They were a hit. My family. His family. The meatballs were loved. They are spicy, and oh so cheesy and yummy. The recipe was straight forward, easy-ish (the most “difficult” aspect was rolling the balls), and quick.

And that is how it seems with all of the recipes: straight forward, easy, and quick. Not everything is from scratch. Many of the recipes calling for bread or dough use store bought bread or dough. If you prefer from scratch, you could make the bread/dough needed and just adjust the recipe for such.

If you’re looking for some delicious, fun recipes you must try this cookbook. Whether you are having friends over or not, there is something, probably many somethings, in this book that will delight your taste buds.



The Macmillan Boycott

Those of you who enjoy eBooks and audio books that are available through cloudLibrary with your library card, will be interested to know about the boycott of Macmillan Publishers eBooks (and its imprints) by Maine InfoNet, the Maine Library Association, and the American Library Association (ALA). The boycott is the result of the embargo Macmillan has placed on libraries for the eBooks that they purchase.

Right now, when libraries purchase an eBook, the price they pay is much higher than what an individual would pay for the same eBook. For example, The Codebreakers by David Kahn and published by Simon & Schuster was quoted for $59.99 as an eBook for a consumer purchase which means lifetime access. By contrast, the price to libraries for the very same eBook is $239.99 and this is for one copy and lasts for only two years. If the library wanted access for four years, it would pay $479.98. If the library wanted access for 20 years, it would pay $2,399.90 for one copy that is lent to one person at a time. ¹

Macmillan not only wants to change the price structure but also wants to limit the number of eBook copies of new releases to one per library entity for the first 8 weeks after its release date. That would make your wait for a new release in eBook format only longer. In their #eBooksForAll FAQ section, ALA points out that “Borrowers already wait a long time for eBooks they place on hold, even when hold lists number in the hundreds. Some will just go to another title on their long reading list. Some can’t afford to purchase hardcovers or eBooks, so they won’t buy them in any scenario.”

And this is not just about entertainment. Elementary schools, colleges and universities rely on digital access to books, eBooks, audio books, text books, journals and more. The price tag for the digital access will only grow if the big publishers are left unchecked. This embargo placed by Macmillan Publishers may be the testing of the waters, and it will pave the way for all publishers to limit, price gouge, and deny access unless you have the money to pay their price.

There is no escaping the fact that we live in a digital age, and libraries are not expecting something for nothing. According to the ALA report before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, “Libraries are prepared to pay a fair price for fair services; in fact, over the past ten years, libraries have spent over $40 billion acquiring content. But abuse of the market position by dominant actors in digital markets is impeding essential library activities that are necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to information, both today and for posterity.”

Libraries have, and always will, battle to ensure access for all, regardless of format. The ALA has launched an #eBooksForAll campaign and there are ways you can lend your support:

  • sign the petition and ask your friends to sign (
  • post about #eBooksForAll on social media (
  • write a letter to the editor or an op-ed and submit it to your local news outlet

If you have any questions or concerns, please ask during your next visit to Topsham Public Library or call us at 725-1727.

¹According to ALA’s report before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary October 15, 2019.


It’s That Time of Year

There has been a notable uptick of letters in my mailbox. As the end of the year approaches the requests for donations are numerous. There are many worthy organizations that depend on the generosity of the public, and Topsham Public Library is one of them. You may have already noticed a letter addressed to you from Topsham Public Library. It is our annual appeal and we ask that you consider supporting us.

Most of our funding is provided by the Town of Topsham through property taxes and we are so thankful for that support. An additional 15%, or $135,000, we must raise ourselves. We cannot emphasize enough what the support of our community means to us. Remember, this is your library where we strive to meet your needs and wants–from programming for all ages to providing materials for your entertainment needs to providing space for meetings of all kinds. We also display beautiful art shows in our gallery and host a number of author talks in The Highlands Community Room. Remember the wind storm of October 2017 when many of us were without power for days, and some weeks? Topsham Public Library provided warmth, a place for many to charge their phones/laptops/electronic devices, and a place for us to encourage and help each other through such a stressful time.

We are only here because of your support. We appreciate any gift amount! The important thing is not how much you give but that you give. The strength of a library is a reflection of the strength of its community, and Topsham is a great community!

Thank you, Topsham!

Following Nature’s Lead

“If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.”
– Vijali Hamilton

The temperature is cooling, daylight hours are shortening, leaves have fallen, migration has happened and plants have ceased their growth. Nature is slowing down. Many of us humans, however, are heading into a busy season with some big holidays on the way. It can feel fun and festive, fast-paced and sometimes even a bit overwhelming. For some it can be a season of mixed or difficult emotions. Tuning in to what’s occurring in nature and following her lead can help us embrace what each season as to offer.

So what lessons does nature have to offer during the fall? These are a few to take to heart (plus some suggestions for related reads, of course)…

Bird’s Nest Fungi – one of the many wonders to notice around the library when you slow down.

Slow Down

Everyone, including nature, needs periods of restorative rest; time to be still and quiet; time to observe and reflect; time to make meaningful connections. Make time in your day to slow down. Be intentional about observing what’s going on around you. Pause to notice the little things.

Slowing Down to the Speed of Life

Embrace Change

Change is necessary for growth and brings with it opportunity. Change is also inevitable. Sometimes it is slow and barely perceptible, others time it happens more quickly than we can keep pace with.  Moving through change with an open heart and mind may help you find the beauty in it. Or at least to find some acceptance of it.

Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom

Let Go

Organize your priorities so you know what is most deserving of your time. This applies to your thoughts, attitudes and relationships as well as your to-do list and social calendar. Letting go of that which no longer serves you frees up energy and space for more of what nurtures you. Like the trees, let go and focus your energies on new growth.

Nurture Your Roots

Even in this season of slowing down, growth continues. Trees focus their energies on their roots and seek out much needed nourishment. Consider how you might strengthen your own roots. Perhaps you’ll do so by being more present and engaged with loved ones. Maybe you’ll make special time to honor your ancestors and reflect on their impact on your life. Perhaps you’ll revive some familial/cultural traditions or create new rituals to incorporate into your day. Maybe adopt a hygge lifestyle. Whatever it looks like for you, this is the perfect season to be intentional about nurturing your roots.

hygge: a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture). source

The little book of hygge : Danish secrets to happy living

How to hygge : the Nordic secrets to a happy life

Be Grateful

Fall celebrations are a way to express gratitude for nature’s final bounty and recognize the efforts of the hard work in prior seasons. Preserve the feeling of the season by cultivating a practice of gratitude in your daily life. Be mindful of small blessings in your life, things that make you feel good and you appreciate, and intentionally give thanks. Over time you may begin to notice an enhanced sense of well-being.

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature!


Help Maine Authors Write a Mystery

Pictured from left to right: Kate Flora, Barbara Ross, and Maureen Milliken

Is it the estranged son taking out the overbearing, interfering mother? Is it the returned hometown hero taking out the town drunk who knows too many secrets? Is it the retired old spinster trying to keep the skeletons in the closet? And you never know about that innocent looking, always helpful, maybe too helpful, town librarian – did she finally have enough and take out a few unworthy souls?

It’s not a normal author talk, and you do not want to miss it. Wednesday, November 6 at 6pm here at Topsham Public Library, we welcome Kate Flora, Barbara Ross and Maureen Milliken. They are three talented mystery writers whose books are constantly crossing our circulation desk.

But this author night is a bit different than what you might be used to. With intense audience participation, the three writers will build a mystery novel on the fly, or at least make a plan for one. In the process, you will learn how writers make decisions when they create their books and everyone will enjoy some laughs.

Bring a friend, plan a murder, throw in some twists, and have a great time!