For some reason, I have been reading a number of books set in foreign countries. Three that I will recommend are "Say You're One of Them" by Uwem Akpan (Africa), "Finding Nouf" by Zoe Ferraris (Saudi Arabia) and "Death in a Strange Country" by Donna Leon (Italy).
Actually, I have read several of Leon's books, all featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. I have grown quite fond of this character and look forward to reading more of Leon's series; not just for Brunetti, but for the way the author describes the politics and scenery of Italy. This has led me to look for other authors who set their mysteries in Italy and also feature a series character. So far, I have decided on five authors who fit this pattern and whose books I am hoping to read.
Magdalen Nabb's Marshal Guarnaccia is featured in her crime series, the first two books of which are "Death of an Englishman" and "Death of a Dutchman." Grace Brophy's "The Last Enemy" features Commissario Cenni. "Ratking," "Vendetta," "A Long Finish" and "And Then You Die" are some of Michael Dibdin's books, and his character is Aurelio Zen. Christobel Kent's Sandro Cellini, a private detective, is found in "A Time of Mourning" and "A Fine and Private Place." Iain Pears' "The Raphael Affair," published in 1990, and the much later "The Immaculate Deception" are both part of the Flavia de Stefano mystery series.
According to some author interviews I have read lately, publishers also like this type of series — figuring that if one book with a character sells, another one will also. But that is OK with me. When I want to sit down with a relaxing book after a hard day, knowing that I already am familiar with one or more of the characters makes it that much easier to get into the story.
Update on 'Maker' spaces
I mentioned two weeks ago that some libraries were creating "Maker" spaces to use and promote science, technology, engineering and math learning. The Institute of Museum and Library Services announced in December a grant to support the development of a Maker space within the Chicago Public Library: "The Chicago Maker space will enable mentor-led learning and will introduce adults, families, teens and children to technology and equipment that is enabling new forms of personal manufacturing and business opportunities.... The project team will create a how-to guidebook for other public libraries that may wish to create their own similar labs."
Both of our Friends of the Costa Mesa Libraries bookstores offer a service that you may not be aware of. Should you be looking for a certain book, we will call you when one comes in. We keep a list of these "Books on Request," and both bookstores will be looking for what you want. There is no cost for this service.
The bookstore at the Mesa Verde Library is showcasing health books in January, and romance in February.
At the Costa Mesa/Donald Dungan Library
Toddler Storytime will meet at 11 a.m. Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. This program, featuring stories, songs and crafts, is free, and all children and their families are welcome to attend.
The Costa Mesa Mystery Book Club meets the last Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. This book club reads a variety of mysteries — everything from classics to "cozies" to current best-selling mysteries. On Jan. 29, the group will be discussing "The Serpent's Trail" by Sue Henry.
The Costa Mesa Book Club meets the first Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. This book club is free to join, and new members are always welcome. The group reads a mix of fiction, nonfiction, classics and bestsellers and always has interesting and lively discussions. The book of the month is always available at the checkout desk for the month prior to the meeting. At the Feb. 4 meeting, the club will discuss "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway. For more information, call the library at (949) 646-8845 and ask for Samantha.
At the Mesa Verde Library
Tuesday at 11 a.m. is Storytime. Wednesdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. is for Legos. Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. is Family Game Night. For more information, call (714) 546-5274.
MARY ELLEN GODDARD produced this column on behalf of the Friends of Costa Mesa Libraries, the Costa Mesa Library Foundation and the three Costa Mesa branches of the Orange County Public Libraries.