About Sylvia

I've been working in Adult Services at the Warrenville Public Library for 13 years. I also lead the Wednesday Afternoon Book Discussion. I like to read literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and memoirs. I also enjoy cooking, gardening, and walking. All of which I can do while listening to audiobooks.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Book – It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a John Grisham novel and I’m very glad that I read the legal thriller Sycamore Row.  Attorney Jake Brigance from A Time to Kill resurfaces to protect the interests of his client multi-millionaire Seth Hubbard who is battling terminal cancer.  Seth has handwritten  a new will rescinding the one he had previously drawn up at another law firm.  The following day he hangs himself from a tree. The new will cuts out his children, grandchildren, and ex-wives and leaves the bulk of his fortune to his African-American  housekeeper Lettie.

This is Ford County Mississippi, where racial tensions still run high as Jake battles the Hubbard family and an army of lawyers disputing the validity of the new will bestowing an excess of $20 million. Was Seth unduly influenced by Lettie, were his medications and pain clouding his judgement? This is a mystery that tries to get solved in this fast paced, suspenseful legal procedural.  Well written with great character development, this book is a must read!

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Book – After returning to Western Australia from the Great War, Tom Sherbourne takes on the job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. He hopes that the isolation will help him overcome some of the emotional scarring that he is experiencing. The supply boat only comes out four times a year bringing food, clothing, and mail. Tom soon realizes that his life would be more fulfilling with Isabel, a headstrong vibrant girl he met on the mainland and fell in love with. On his first shore leave they marry and return to Janus together, believing that their love for each other and the beauty of their surroundings would be enough to sustain their happiness and joy in in each other’s company. The couple enjoy life on the island but their happiness is overshadowed with two miscarriages and one still birth and Isabel is beside herself with grief.

One Spring morning, Isabel isn’t sure if it is the wind she hears or a baby crying, She scrambles down the rocks to find a small boat washed ashore containing a dead man and a baby girl. It is Tom’s duty to report the incident immediately, but Isabel begs him not to. Tom struggles with his conscience but gives into Isabel hoping the child will assuage her sorrow. They name the girl Lucy – the light of their life, the child of the lighthouse. All goes well until they return to the mainland and someone thinks they recognize Lucy… This is an excellent debut novel and an excellent book club read as there is a lot to discuss and ponder.  The movie version is scheduled to be released in 2016.

The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings

PossibilitiesBook – It’s been three months since Sarah’s 22 year old son, Cully was killed in an avalanche while snowboarding and she decides that it is finally time to pull herself together and go to work. She has also decided that it is time to go through Cully’s belongings and enlists the aid of her best friend, Suzanne. Sarah is shaken when they discover evidence that her son may have been involved in dealing pot. She also struggles that her idealized memories of her son may not be deserving and questions whether she could have been a better parent.

Soon after, a girl named Kit shows up on Sarah’s doorstep offering to shovel snow. Sarah’s father, Lyle, forms a comfortable bond with Kit and she soon reveals to them that she and Cully had a relationship. Sarah, still heavily grieving can’t believe that Cully kept this relationship a secret and she invites Kit into her home as a connection to Cully and to possibly learn more about her son. A memorial service planned for Cully brings together Cully’s mother, father, grandfather, Suzanne, and Kit. Kit makes an astounding revelation concerning Cully that could make a drastic impact.

This is a story of loss and heartache and how each character tries to find peace and come to terms with Cully’s death. This book has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Review. Kaui Hart Hemmings is also the author of The Descendants, which was made into a movie starring George Clooney which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

9781250049377Book – The demands of balancing work and two daughters, especially when you are the primary breadwinner can make you forget why you fell in love with your husband in the first place and cause you to screw up your priorities and forget what is really important in life. In Landline, Rainbow Rowell offers heartfelt insight into the life of career driven Georgie and the choices she makes during the holiday season.  When she realizes her decision may lead to the ultimate unraveling of her relationship with her family and husband Neal, who offered to be the stay-at-home dad, she feels that the only way to fix things at this point is to resolve past relationship issues.  But her husband is unreachable in the present and the only success Georgie is having in contacting him is by landline from her girlhood home and the Neal that she is talking to is the Neal that she started dating years ago and fell in love with in college.  Readers of this delightful and humorous novel, will be rewarded in knowing how the couple’s relationship began and bloomed and will be wondering if the resolutions of the past will be enough to guarantee them a future.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

girl on the trainBook – Rachel rides the train into London every day and fantasizes about the idyllic couple that she can see through the train window on her daily commute.  She has even named them and imagines what their daily lives are like.  She is obsessed with them, because the couple lives in a house near where she and her ex-husband Tom used to live together and she is still in love with him and wishes that her married life would have been as perfect as the couple she views from the train. Things spiral out of control when Anna, the wife of the golden couple vanishes.  Rachel had witnessed Ann kissing another man the day before her disappearance.   Rachel is questioned by the police after they receive a tip from Tom’s new wife that Rachel was in the area on the day that Anna vanished and that she was drunk and out of control. Rachel battles her alcoholism and desperately launches her own investigation trying to retrieve memories clouded by her inebriation.   As she slowly pulls herself together the reality of what really happened to Anna is a shocker!

A top notch thriller of psychological suspense, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has received starred reviews from BookList, Publisher’s Weekly, and Kirkus.  This book should appeal to fans of Gone Girl and it is also going to be made into a movie.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

elizabeth is missingBook – Maud is concerned that her friend Elizabeth is missing.  Maud is also aware that she frequently forgets things and becomes confused; that’s why she writes things down of importance on pieces of paper that she leaves around her house or stuffed in her pockets or purse.  She is distraught because no one takes her seriously regarding her friend’s disappearance. Maud’s search brings up other old memories, the disappearance of her sister Sukey during post World War II.  Though authorities determined that Sukey simply ran away to start a new life away from her husband, due to lack of evidence to suggest foul play,  Maud has always been haunted that her older sister would have shared this secret with her and bid her farewell. Could the two mysteries be connected?

This is a bittersweet glimpse inside Maud’s dementia.  She doesn’t always know who her daughter is, she keeps buying tins of peach slices when she has a pantry full, and forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made.  We feel her panic when she gets lost or can’t remember why she is at a certain place and why she is interacting with “strangers”.   She realizes that she may only have a short time until her memory fails her completely to resolve the disappearances of her friend and sister.

This is the author’s first book and it received starred reviews from Library Journal and BookList.  This novel would make an excellent book club selection.


Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

songs ofBook – How can a mother abandon her seven year old son at an orphanage with promises that she will return for him and still leave him there for years after she is famous and prosperous?  Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford tells the story of William, now 12, a resident of Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage in the 1920s.  He still has loving memories of his ah-ma and is certain that a woman named Willow Frost that he sees in a film advertisement is his actual mother.  William is determined to track her down wanting to know why he was abandoned. He tries to escape the orphanage with dreams of re-uniting with his mother. This book follows the trials and stories of both William and Liu Song (Willow Frost).  This is a wonderful story of a “boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness”  ~ from the book jacket.  Ford also does a great job of conveying a vivid sense of the time period and atmosphere.   A thought provoking novel  that would be great for book discussion groups.  If you enjoy this book you should also read Ford’s first book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

orchardistBook – William Talmadge is a lonely orchardist tending acreages of apricots and apples at the foot of the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest.  His life is forever changed when two pregnant girls decide to take refuge on his property.  He feels protective of these young women, since he is still haunted by his sister’s disappearance 50 years ago when she was a teenager. He slowly builds trust and a relationship with sisters Della and Jane, but tragic consequences  leave him unexpectedly caring for Jane’s baby as she flees  and tries to confront and take revenge on the ghost of her past. Talmadge is heartsick at her leaving and works at her redemption as he strives to protect her from her from the psychological traumas she had suffered.    Set in the early 20th century this story gives a great insight into the hardships and lawlessness of the old West. Beautifully written, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin explores the complexity of human nature.  This book has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal and Kirkus and is a great choice for book groups.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

adorationBook – To what lengths should parents go to keep their child alive? Should they do it even if it’s illegal? Is it really in the best interest of the child? The Adoration of Jenna Fox explores these questions and addresses issues of medical ethics. I don’t usually read young adult science fiction books, but I was mesmerized by this one. Jenna wakes up after being in a coma for over a year. She is 17 and has almost no memory of her previous life. Her parents try to jog her memory by having her watch videos of her childhood. As she slowly recalls events in her life, new mysteries surface for Jenna. Why did her family move from Boston to California, especially since her father still works there? Why is her grandmother cold and hostile toward her? She is remembering having two best friends – why aren’t they getting in touch with her? This is an interesting story of suspense that would appeal to both adults and teens driven by Jenna trying to define her identity. This book has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal.  The next book in this series is The Fox Inheritance.

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Broken-HarborBook – Many thought the Spains had the perfect life. Sweethearts as teenagers, they are happily married with two wonderful children. They buy their dream starter house in a luxury development in Broken Harbor near Dublin.  But something goes horrifically wrong! Patrick and the children are brutally murdered and Jenny the wife and mother is miraculously found still alive at the murder scene, but barely. It is up to veteran detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy and his new rookie partner Richie Curran to solve the crime. As the detectives further their investigation they find that things are not what they seem. The victims’ façade of the good life begins to unravel and secrets and various suspects surface including the Spains themselves. We also learn of Kennedy’s mysterious attachment to Broken Harbor. The author, Tana French, is a master of psychological suspense and this book will not disappoint. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. They do not need to be read in order, but if interested, here are the titles in sequence: In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place, Broken Harbor, and The Secret Place.