On the Shelf: Some old favorites to add to your summer reading list

003717d545cebefe44-0Eleven on Top
By Janet Evanovich


Although her novels are classified as mysteries, Janet Evanovich really deserves a category of her own. Her stories fall somewhere between soap opera and a cheesy whodunit by combining over-the-top drama with a healthy dose of humor and a Nancy Drew twist or two. With a series of successful stories based on the character Stephanie Plum, who can dispute Evanovich’s winning combination? The beauty of this series is that readers don’t need to read each book in succession to get a sense of the characters.


Plum is a moderately successful bounty hunter with a little too much spunk and not quite enough common sense who can’t seem to commit to a permanent relationship. The difficulties between Stephanie and the men in her life, Joe Morrelli and Ranger, pale in comparison to the difficulties she encounters in her job, all of which brings her to a life changing decision: time for a career move. In “Eleven on Top,” Stephanie convinces herself that life in the law enforcement field is over for her, so she attempts to start a new career. While this is great in concept, she just can’t seem to adapt to the mundane and finds herself doing office work for Ranger instead. The tension escalates as Stephanie walks the line between Ranger and Joe and tries to maintain her balance while seeking the identity of the stalker who is trying to kill her.


At the official Janet Evanovich website readers can learn more about Evanovich and all of her novels, www.evanovich.com.


– Laura Nawrot, Grand Rapids Main Library


414dajcxaIL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality
By Thomas Lynch


Funeral home director Thomas Lynch’s essays are as much about poetry as they are about undertaking, as much about life as they are about death.


Acclaimed essayist and poet Lynch runs the family funeral home in Milford, Michigan. “Bodies in Motion and at Rest” is a collection of essays that addresses both of Lynch’s professions but, more importantly, links them wholly to one another. Lynch writes about the struggles of each profession and the struggles of mixing them.


“Reno,” an essay that touches on marketing strategies for a poet/undertaker, contains moving passages comparing words of a poem to words spoken at a funeral.


In essays such as “Bodies in Motion and at Rest” and “Johnny, We Hardly Knew You,” Lynch writes with the knowledge of an undertaker and the wisdom of one who has experienced the death of loved friends and family. He speaks against those who pretend that death may never affect them, and against those who allow the drama of celebrity deaths to overshadow their own losses.


Lynch doesn’t shy away from other serious topics. In “The Way We Are,” he describes the alcoholism that runs in his family, writing with honesty about his own collisions with the disease and, more tragically, his son’s. As a victim of and a witness to alcoholism, Lynch writes with sensitivity and honesty about the grief of alcoholism.


These essays contrast with the funny, lighthearted tone found in the other essays of this collection.


“Notes on ‘A Note on the Rapture to His True Love'” is a step-by-step approach to writing a good poem. With humor and satire, Lynch makes it clear that he is a humble, sincere poet.


“Y2Kat” is a hilarious account of Lynch’s despised pet and adored son.


Like good poetry and good funerals, Lynch’s essays contain some death and some life, some humor and some sobriety, and plenty of honest wisdom.


– Stephanie M. White, Grand Rapids Main Library


By Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos


“Serpent,” Clive Cussler’s first “National Water & Marine Agency Files” book, gives readers a new hero for a new age. Kurt Austin has a master’s degree in Systems Management from the University of Washington and much experience in marine recovery. In “Serpent,” Austin and his Special Assignments Team of Joe Zavala and Drs. Paul and Gamay Trout find themselves conquering a mystery of legendary caliber.


“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue;” Austin and his team soon find that there were a lot of things left out of the popular children’s rhyme. With the help of Nina Kirov, the team investigates industrialist Don Halcon. Halcon is dedicated to carving a new country out of the southwestern United States.  To do so, Halcon needs a priceless pre-Columbian antiquity buried in the battered remains of the sunken Italian luxury liner Andrea Doria, and he’s prepared to do anything to get it.


Admiral James Sandecker, from Dirk Pitt fame, sends Austin and his team all over the world to stop Halcon before he can get his hands on the artifact. Austin and Zavala soon find themselves diving the Andrea Doria itself in order to gain access to a secured vault left behind when the liner sank fifty years before.


With a hefty dose of actual historical fact and fictional license, Cussler dishes out a wonderful first episode in the lives of the new heroes of NUMA. The subsequent novels in the series, “Blue Gold,” “Fire Ice,” “White Death,” “Lost City,” and “Polar Shift,” all follow Austin as he pursues a life of intrigue and danger.


Fans of Cussler’s Dirk Pitt will find much to love in Kurt Austin.


– Megan Andres, Grand Rapids Public Library’s Seymour Branch


9780738539508Grand Rapids in Vintage Postcards: 1890-1940
By Thomas R. Dilley


This volume by local author Tom Dilley is a wonderful contribution to the growing number of books about the history of Grand Rapids. Postcard collectors, historians and researchers continue to find this a useful and interesting book with its black and white reproductions of 228 postcards from Dilley’s personal collection, many of which are quite rare.


Dilley begins the volume with a concise overviews of Grand Rapids history and the history of postcards. Short explanations are given for the various types of postcards: postal mailing cards, real photos, white border cards, linen and chrome cards. He points out the importance of postcards as historical documents capturing the social history of a certain time and place.


The book is divided into three sections: “The City,” “Life in the City,” and ” The City at Work.”


This structure works well in categorizing the wide array of postcards.


Dilley starts by showing aerial views of the city. He proceeds with street scenes, individual buildings and bridges. Dilley does an excellent job of identifying buildings, giving the location, interesting details, the architect when known, and the life span of the structure. Dilley often refers to the contemporary counterpart of a historical building, giving readers a real sense of “then and now.”


The section “Life in the City” includes the commercial, religious, educational and social activities of the growing city. There are wonderful views of museums, theaters, retail stores, cafes, hotels, hospitals, churches schools and parks. The author spotlights social organizations such as the YMCA, the Ladies Literary Club and the St. Cecilia Music Society. Dilley’s book includes rare interior scenes of the YWCA gymnasium and the clothing department of May and Sons.


Section Three, “The City at Work,” shows Grand Rapids as a leader in “wholesale, retail and manufacturing enterprise.”


The furniture industry is given prominence, but other industries are also included. The Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Grand Rapids Brass Company, the Cargill Company, and Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company stand out as a few examples.


Grand Rapids in Vintage Postcards includes many cards that most people have never seen. Included is a rare double card of the Majestic Theatre, a real photo card of the Fanatorium Bowling Alley and a scene of visiting airplanes lined up for the 1919 dedication of the Grand Rapids Airport. Besides the wonderful visual images, a strong point of the book is the accompanying text, which is very helpful in giving a historical perspective on the postcard views. Dilley’s book will serve as a valuable reference work as well as an enjoyable walk down memory lane.


– M. Christine Byron, for the Grand Rapids Main Library