Category Archives: Books

Book Suggestions: The Pope of Palm Beach

The Pope of Palm Beach, by Tim Dorsey

This is book #21 in Dorsey’s series – and every one will make you laugh out loud! The main character is Serge A. Storms – hyperactive, lover of Florida history, adventurer and explorer. Every book is Serge and his sidekick, Coleman, driving and exploring cool things from Florida’s history. They pull into a new town, and….wackiness ensues.

Oh. And Serge is a serial killer.

Not like *that* kind; he very specifically only kills bad people. And he’s amazingly creative about it. People generally don’t get shot in these books. Instead, in each book Serge spends time carefully thinking up punishments for people that fit their individual crimes. An alligator poacher is fed to a pool of alligators; evil bankers who stole people’s pensions are poisoned by bath salts in a Jacuzzi; he removes the safety device on a bungee swing ride and a gangster is thrown to his death.

As an added bonus, this book is all about books and the publishing industry. And, we get another example of Serge’s passion for librarians! (Smart chicks who like books: Really, aren’t they everyone’s type???)

If you need a beach-style book, that will make you laugh out loud as you read, with a dose of interesting Florida history mixed in for some educational value – these are the books for you! And if you like audio books, I really like these in that format – Oliver Wyman’s deadpan delivery adds to the laughter in every book.

From Amazon: “No one worships the Sunshine State as much as Serge A. Storms. Perpetually hunting Floridian arcana and lore, he and his permanently baked sidekick, Coleman, are on the road again. This time they’re on a frenzied literary pilgrimage that leads them back to Riviera Beach, the cozy seaside town where the boys spent their formative years.

Growing up, Serge was enthralled by the Legend of Riviera Beach, aka Darby, a welder at the port who surfed the local waves long before the hot spots were hot. A god on the water, the big-hearted surfer was a friend to everyone—the younger surfers, cops, politicians, wealthy businessmen and ordinary Joes—a generosity of spirit that earned him the admiration of all. Meanwhile, there was a much murkier legend that made the rounds of the schoolyards from Serge’s youth—that of the crazy hermit living in a makeshift jungle compound farther up the mysterious Loxahatchee River than anyone dared to venture.

Then Serge moved away. But never forgot.

Now he’s back, with those legends looming larger than ever in the rearview mirror of his memory. As his literary odyssey moves north from Key West, closer and closer to his old stomping grounds, Serge digs into the past as only Serge can. Along the way, he unintentionally disturbs some long-forgotten ground, attracting the attention of a cast of villains that only Florida can produce.

As the body count grows, so does the list of questions:

Why are the guys in the hard hats worried about the monkeys? When do you hack a motel air-conditioner? How does Coleman get high with cat toys? Who is expecting the dildo? And will book tours ever be the same after Serge decides to check one out?

Told in alternating flashbacks between Serge and Coleman’s childhoods and the present day, The Pope of Palm Beach is a witty and deliciously violent delight from the twisted imagination of Tim Dorsey.”

Guest Post for CMLE Reads Across MN: While the Locust Slept

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and it also has many interesting books. In this series, we are sharing some of the books we like from Minnesota, or Minnesota authors.

We are mapping our literary journey around Minnesota, so you can see all the interesting places where our books are set. Follow our progress on our Google Map, accessible by clicking that link or searching for the title CMLE Reads Across Minnesota!

This is a guest post from CMLE member Violet Fox. Want to write a book review for us? Let us know!

I picked up While the Locust Slept because the author is a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, and I’ve been trying to learn more about the cultures of the Native peoples who were here in Minnesota before settlement (i.e., the Dakota and the Ojibwe). But there’s little about Ojibwe culture in this book, as the author was cut off from his people when, shortly after his birth, his mother was sent to an asylum in St. Peter and his father abandoned him. While the Locust Slept is an autobiographical memoir of Peter Razor’s childhood and adolescence as a ward of the State of Minnesota from 1930 through the mid-1940s.

Though school officials claimed that children would stay there no longer than three months, Razor grew up at the State Public School for Dependent and Neglected Children in Owatonna, living there from infancy to age fifteen. His Indian heritage and dark skin made him a favorite target for abusive employees at the school, and made it unlikely that a white family would adopt him. Razor’s straightforward prose makes it easy to imagine the cruelty (both intentional and unintentional) endured by a child who had only known life in an institutional setting.
At age fifteen, Razor, like many orphaned boys at the State School, was placed with a family living on a farm in Rushford, Minnesota. He was treated badly and underfed, by the family who took him in as a hired hand. Because he was quite intelligent, he was able to make passing grades at high school when he was allowed to attend. After a particularly severe beating, social services could no longer ignore the abuse and Razor was moved to the farm of a family who treated him kindly.
While the Locust Slept is a fascinating look into the history of Minnesota and how children were seen by the state’s social services not as requiring any nurturing, but merely as small adults who needed discipline above all to become useful members of society. It’s also a testament to the author’s resilience, though his difficult childhood was not without serious consequence—as an adult he suffered from anxiety and depression. Razor’s moving memoir is heartbreaking, but not a bleak read.
The State School in Owatonna was shut down in 1947 and the grounds are now home to the Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum. You can take a self-guided tour to see the museum, one of the cottages where boys lived, and the cemetery where 198 State School children are buried. I’m planning on visiting this summer to learn more about this chapter of our state’s history.

CMLE Reads Across MN: Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl’s Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and it also has many interesting books. In this series, we are sharing some of the books we like from Minnesota, or Minnesota authors.

We are mapping our literary journey around Minnesota, so you can see all the interesting places where our books are set. Follow our progress on our Google Map, accessible by clicking that link or searching for the title CMLE Reads Across Minnesota!This book sounds so interesting, and as someone who has always been curious about the lives of the people who have lived in the fancy mansions on Summit Avenue, I’m excited to read about a girl who lived there during the Jazz Age!

Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl’s Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age by Coco Irvine (Author) and Peg Meier (Introduction) is about Coco, the daughter of a lumber baron, who grew up on Summit Avenue during the Jazz Age.

“Coco’s diary carefully records her adventures, problems, and romances, written with a lively wit and a droll sense of humor. Whether sneaking out to a dance hall in her mother’s clothes or getting in trouble for telling an off-color joke, Coco and her escapades will captivate and delight preteen readers as well as their mothers and grandmothers.
Peg Meier’s introduction describes St. Paul life in the 1920s and provides context for the privileged world that Coco inhabits, while an afterword tells what happens to Coco as an adult—and reveals surprises about some of the other characters in the diary.”
Is there a Minnesota book you think we should feature? Leave a comment, let us know!


Resources for the African-American Read In

February is Black History Month, and we wanted to share this event with you since it is a great addition to the existing festivities! From February 1st – 28th, participate in the African-American Read In.  The goal of the African-American Read In is to “document readers making the celebration of African American literacy a traditional part of Black History Month activities.”

The celebration encourages places like schools, churches, libraries, professional organizations and citizens to get involved in making literacy “a significant part of Black History Month by hosting and coordinating community Read-Ins.”

To help you plan your event, check out these resources from Read Write that include links to classroom activities, a Library of Congress exhibit, and a host report card for you to record what happened at your own event.

Also visit NCTE’s site, which has this toolkit to help you prepare for your read in event. The toolkit has links to multiple booklists to help you with reading material selection.

Plus, on Tues. February 20th, CMLE will host our own African-American Read In at our headquarters location! Join us (and Office Dog Lady Grey) to celebrate African-American literature. We’ll have library books available to read and some light refreshments. Stay tuned for more information as the date approaches! 

Book Suggestions: Doll Bones by Holly Black

We love to read books, and to talk about books. Check out our entire series here! Need more book chatting and suggestions in your life? Listen to our Books and Beverages podcast!It’s so fun to pick books from Overdrive, because it exposes you to titles you may never have normally seen! This book was one of those finds, and I’m just about finished with it.

Doll Bones by Holly Black has a freaky-looking doll on the cover, and the story is just as delightfully creepy. It’s middle grade fiction and about three friends dealing with some of the tough parts of being a young teenager – trying to  figure out where you “fit in,” strict guardians, mean siblings, separated parents, and of course, a quest to bury a potentially haunted doll.

The main character is Zach, who has a fantastic imagination and loves making up stories with his neighborhood friends Alice and Poppy. He is also a member of the basketball team and is struggling to accept his father back into his life.

The book has some very real descriptions of the expectations and definitions of masculinity and how parents and peers reinforce those expectations, particularly onto others that may not fit the traditional mold. There’s also a lot of humor in the story, including some great Lord of the Rings references. Plus, a Carnegie library and it’s pink-haired librarian play an important role! I’m definitely enjoying this book and recommend it to you!

From Goodreads: “Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . . “