A wide variety of interesting books with local appeal came to us this year. Here is a look at some of the best.
For insight into another culture, read The Red Chamber by Oberlin author Pauline A. Chen, a juicy, satisfying family saga inspired by an 18th-century Chinese classic. It’s full of intrigue. In And Laughter Fell From the Sky, the exceptional debut novel by Barberton native Jyotsna Sreenivasan, young adults, children of Indian immigrants, search for a balance between the traditions of their culture and the lives they want to live.
Closer to home, there’s always plenty of Amish-related fiction. On the mystery side is Her Last Breath, fifth in Linda Castillo’s series about Kate Burkholder, an Amish-raised police chief in a tiny Holmes County town. Tallmadge author Amanda Flower continued her Appleseed Creek mystery series with A Plain Scandal and A Plain Disappearance, and, under the name Isabella Alan, began the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries with Murder Plain and Simple. The Wanderers, by Berlin author Paul Stutzman, reflects the author’s Amish heritage with a story of a Vietnam-era conscientious objector who wanders the country.
More mysteries came from You Cannoli Die Once, a wickedly witty mystery by Shelley Costa, kicking off her Italian Restaurant series. Brecksville author Casey Daniels launched her League of Literary Ladies series with Mayhem at the Orient Express, and Kylie Logan continued her Button Box series with Panic Button, set in a Chicago button shop.
Blunt Impact and Price of Innocence added to Lisa Black’s series about a forensic scientist in the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s office. Final Sale by former Beacon Journal reporter and editor Kathleen M. Fraze is seventh in a series about Jo Ferris, a police detective in a small college town who’s trying to solve a cold case.
For Win, Place, or Die, the 17th volume in the Milan Jacovich detective series, Stow author Les Roberts used a collaborator, Cleveland entrepreneur Dan S. Kennedy, for his knowledge of the harness racing world. The Midwife’s Tale, a superb debut mystery by Shaker Heights author Sam Thomas, is set during the English Civil War.
Other genre fiction included fantasy with Voracious, a crackerjack tale of the undead by Akron author Patrick Worden, and The Man From Scratch, a dark satire about human cloning, with sharp dialogue among author Rhonda Keith’s cast of female characters; historical romance, as Oberlin writer Becky Lower continued her e-book series with The Abolitionist’s Secret and Banking on Temperance, set in 1850s New York, Georgia and Missouri; and Western, with The Jerrigo Way by Michael Senuta of Barberton, about two travelers kidnapped from a stagecoach, and the exemplary The Dangerous Thaw of Etta Capstone by Karen J. Hasley, about a woman biding her time for revenge.
More notable fiction included Dollface, by Akron native Renee Rosen, a Roaring Twenties novel about a flapper who gets tangled up with two mobsters in Chicago gang wars; Painting Bridges, a debut novel by Shaker Heights author Patricia Averbach, about a ’70s widow who tries to help a deaf girl; and My Second Death, a debut psychological thriller by University of Akron alumna Lydia Cooper, which paints a chilling picture of a sociopath methodically trying to solve a murder or two.
Here Is How It Happens by College of Wooster alumnus Spencer Dew is full of sad, funny, precise observations about a group of directionless art students who are forming a family in a cold world. Tracy Chevalier did heavy research for The Last Runaway at the Hudson Library and Historical Society, and the area’s abolitionist heritage features prominently in the story.
Sweetie’s Song, by former Akron residents James and Cynthia Ignizio, using the joint pen name C.A. James, is a sensitive and surprisingly touching allegorical tale about loss. Tampa, a scandalous debut novel by Alissa Nutting, a professor at John Carroll University, is narrated by an unremorseful female pedophile.
Two books reimagined fairy tales: A Modern Grimmoire: A Contemporary Anthology of Fairy Tales, Fables & Folklore, Indigo Ink, a Canton nonprofit publisher, solicited contributions from emerging writers and authors. The inventive and sly Fairy Tales for Adults by retired Kent State English professor David R. Ewbank presents classic fairy tales as if they had been written by great American authors of the past.
Some nonfiction books were entertaining, informative or both. No Mopes Allowed is a collection of Brimfield police Chief David Oliver’s essays about integrity, responsibility and his Facebook page. Tallmadge resident Joyce M. Wiedie published her husband’s aunt’s journal of a lavish world tour: Thelma’s Diary 1935 is a nostalgic account of the romance of pre-war travel.
Ohio: A History of the Buckeye State, an accessible reference by University of Akron professors Kevin F. Kern and Gregory S. Wilson, may find its way to home bookshelves. Around the World in 80 Years: The Oldest Man to Sail Around the World – Twice!, is a witty, articulate narrative by Harry Heckel Jr., now 97, written with his daughter, Richfield resident Florence Heckel Russell. Russell tells her own travel story in Heading South: Tales From the RV Trail, as she and her husband hit the road.
Books for children and young readers include Phoebe & Digger, a delightful new storybook by Tricia Springstubb, whose What Happened on Fox Street is one of the best recent books for middle readers. Ariel Bradley: Spy for General Washington, a storybook by Bath Township resident Lynda Durrant, is the fact-based account of a Connecticut boy who provided intelligence in the Revolutionary War.
Bash and the Pirate Pig by Warren Tribune columnist Burton Cole is a rollicking Christian-themed novel for middle readers, with good-hearted characters and a light message. Jump Into the Sky is Silver Lake author Shelley Pearsall’s powerful historical novel about a young teen who discovers the reprehensible Jim Crow laws when he travels South near the end of World War II. The Enchanter Heir, an add-on to Cinda Williams Chima’s series that was originally announced as a trilogy, continues the story of magical guilds and sinister wizards in present-day Northeast Ohio.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.