Book Reviews

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The Last Chance Library

By Freya Sampson

Book Review by Jana Fort

This is a feel-good story centered around June Jones. June is a shy, quiet librarian living in a small English village called Chalcot. She works in the same library that her mom did during the day, and spends her free time at home reading books in the same house she grew up in. When the library is threatened with closure due to budget cuts, June must finally learn to speak up or risk losing everything she holds dear. June ends up banding together with some library patrons that feel the same way about the library that she does, and together they fight to save their small library. These somewhat quirky patrons all have their own reasons for saving the library, and as each person’s story unfolds they all become good friends. I appreciated how this not only told how important the library was to these people, but also how the library itself is much more than just a place to borrow books. The library for many is a place to make friends, escape from reality for a while or perhaps learn new things. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, not only because I love books and the library, but for its heartwarming story about a group of friends fighting for the same cause.



Frontier Follies: Adventures in marriage & motherhood in the middle of nowhere

Ree Drummond

Book Review by Jana Fort

In Ree Drummond’s new memoir, “Frontier follies: Adventures in marriage & motherhood in the middle of nowhere”, she talks about her experiences with ranch life, raising her children and doing a cooking show. This was such a fun book! I loved how honest she was in telling her stories and laughed out loud many times while reading it. It even has a chapter on how Ree and her family coped while in quarantine during the COVID-19 Pandemic. There are lots of stories about all the animals on the ranch, which I really enjoyed also. I am personally a big fan of Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman), whether it is her cooking show on Food Network, her many cookbooks or her line of cooking and kitchen products. The Red Oak Public Library carries her cookbooks, her first memoir and a series of children’s picture books, as well as The Pioneer Woman magazine if you want to find out more about her life and her recipes.


The Plot

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Review by Jana Fort

Jacob Finch Bonner is a writer that wrote a popular novel that was very successful, but since then has been unable to write another. He is now teaching a graduate-level writing class which is not something he likes doing. One of his students, Evan Parker, claims he has the makings of a great novel that everyone will want to read. Jacob is skeptical, but once he hears the plot, agrees that it does sound pretty amazing. Some years later, Jacob is still unable to write anything worthwhile and finds himself having to work dead end jobs. One night, he discovers by chance that his former student, Evan, died before he had a chance to write his great novel. Jacob remembers the plot his student had told him about and decides to borrow it for himself. He feels that no one will be the wiser, now that his former student is gone. Jacob writes the story and it is an instant success. He becomes famous when the novel becomes a New York Times best seller and soon to be made into a movie. Jacob believes he has achieved all he ever wanted, until he receives an email that says, “you are a thief”. Someone knows that this is not his story. As Jacob continues to receive threatening emails, he begins a journey to try and find out who is sending them. He wants to learn more about his former student, and who else could possibly know where he got the plot for his bestselling novel? This was such a good story and the ending has a real twist you won’t see coming!


Beyond Driving with Dignity: The Workbook For Older Drivers and Their Families

Matt Gurwell

The Library has had a recent donation from Connections Area Agency on Aging.  This workbook has been designed to provide comprehensive steps for families to take as they evaluate an older adults' driving abilities and work through issues of a successful driving retirement. Connections Area Agency on Aging hopes that having these workbooks in local communities will empower the families and caregivers of older drivers. “It will give them tools to step out of their own comfort zone to help keep a loved-one safe and independent for many years to come” stated Jan Schnack, Family Caregiver Community Engagement Specialist at Connections Area Agency on Aging. She continued, “Our staff at Connections believe this workbook will serve as an invaluable resource for caring and compassionate caregivers struggling with concern for an older driver.” Many Americans will face addressing this topic at some point in their life. Connections Area Agency on Aging knows this is a collaborative effort between family members and the older driver in making a smooth transition from driver’s seat to the passenger seat. The library is happy to make this workbook available for our patrons to check out.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Review by Jana Fort


Hannah is happy and in love and settling into married life with her new husband Owen. The only thing she thinks she needs to work on is her relationship with her stepdaughter, Bailey. Hannah’s life is turned upside down when Owen goes missing, leaving a note for her saying: Protect her. Hannah knows that he must mean her stepdaughter Bailey, but he also left a note for her, along with a bag full of money.  As Hannah’s calls to her husband go unanswered, she sees on the news that Owen’s boss is arrested for fraud. She wonders if her husband is wrapped up in the scandal.  It isn’t long before the FBI and a U.S. Marshal show up at her door wondering the same thing. 

Hannah soon learns that her husband is not who she thought he was, none of his past is what she believed it to be. Hannah and Bailey team up to find out the truth about Owen. They go to the earliest city that Bailey has memories from to try and find answers. As they begin to uncover the truth they also learn to trust and rely on each other. Hannah worries that amidst all the secrets and lies if she will be able to honor her husband’s wish to protect his daughter Bailey.

This is one of those stories you could sit and read in a day. I liked how Hannah and Bailey’s relationship developed over time. I appreciated how it kept me in suspense as to how it was all going to turn out in the end. This is a great summer read!



By Glennon Doyle

Review by Jana Fort

This story could be considered not just a memoir, but also a part self-help because it contains valuable pieces of wisdom from the author about what it means to live your best life. Glennon shares her experiences and struggles with marriage, divorce, starting a new relationship and blending families. She especially encourages women to be brave in choosing what they really want out of life, not just do what the world around you believes you need to be happy. The chapters it contains are short, some are filled with funny stories, others will touch your heart, but all of them will make you stop and think about life in general. For some, including celebrities, this book has been considered a life-changing experience and has given them a new outlook. There are so many good quotes from the book, but the one that I especially liked and I feel kind of sums this whole book up is this: “When a woman finally learns that pleasing the world is impossible, she becomes free to learn to please herself.”







By Melanie Benjamin

Review by Jana Fort


THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD is based on a true historical event that happened in the Great Plains on January 12, 1888, affecting hundreds of immigrant homesteaders and their children. The day began with mild weather for January, so most of the children went to school without wearing any heavy clothes or coats. When it was time for school to let out for the day, the weather had changed very rapidly into a blizzard. Young schoolteachers were faced with the life or death decision whether to let their children try to get home or to wait the storm out in the schoolhouses.

Raina and Gerda Olsen, who are sisters, are each teaching at different schools when the blizzard hits. Raina is teaching in Nebraska, while her sister Gerda is in the Dakota Territory. Raina at first thinks that maybe she should wait with the children inside the schoolhouse, but when a window is blown in; she decides they must take their chances and try to make it to the closest homestead.  Gerda on the other hand, dismisses her children sending them off on their own, to try to make it home, while she and her beau set off on their own. Her decision leads to devasting consequences for both herself, and for the children she was in charge of. Raina becomes a hero of sorts, when her bravery is taken note of by a newspaper man from Omaha who decides to write a story about her.

The story is divided into two sections. The first part is about the blizzard itself, and the story of how the survivors make it through. The second part is about the aftermath, and how the decisions both girls make affect their lives. I read this book during one of our snowstorms, which made it feel all the more real as the characters fought against the wind, snow, and cold. It was heartbreaking to read about the survivors who lost limbs in the cold, but also of so many who lost their lives, mostly children, who were lost in the storm. Many of the stories highlight the bravery and courage of those who fought to save others. If you like historical fiction, this is one you don’t want to miss! If you would like to learn more about the blizzard, the library also carries a non-fiction account of the same incident.





Book Review by Jana Fort

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half is a New York Times best seller, a Good Morning America Book Club pick, and was named Best Book of 2020 by The Washington Post, People, and Time Magazine. When I saw how great the reviews were, I thought maybe I should check out what all the buzz was about for myself.

 The story centers around identical twin sisters, Desiree and Stella. They run away from their small rural home in Louisiana and end up in New Orleans, but eventually they go their separate ways. After fleeing an abusive marriage, Desiree returns home with her young daughter. Stella, on the other hand, marries a wealthy man and lives in an expensive neighborhood, raising her own daughter.  The novel picks up a few years later when Desiree’s daughter, Jude, goes to college in Los Angeles on an athletic scholarship. Meanwhile, Stella’s daughter, Kennedy, becomes an actress, against her mom’s wishes. The two girls’ lives intersect at a party and they start spending time together. Jude realizes that they are cousins, but Kennedy has no idea.  The next part of the story offers several twists and turns that will keep you reading page after page. It is a story about family, racial identity, trying to hide your past, and finding out what really matters in life. The story does jump from one person to another and across different time periods in history, but I found it easy to follow. It was a great story and I really enjoyed it.