Books you can’t live without

Published 4:10 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

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LuAnn’s 5-Star Reads

LuAnn Mannes is an avid reader, pharmacist and amateur tri-athelete.

For many years, there was not much time for reading while she was chasing her four boys around. About 10 years ago, she started audiobooks on her 35-minute commute, four days per week. She can finish 1 1/2 books a week just during her drive to and from work! She checks them out from the library and downloads them to her phone. In addition to her audiobook, she is usually reading a “real” book at the same time (this has only been confusing a few times over the years if they happen to be similar settings/time periods).

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Mannes started running at age 42 and has done triathlons, half marathons, one full marathon and has transitioned to sprint triathlons. She says does these for fun, not competition.

She grew up in Emmons, went to college at Drake University and now resides on her grandparents farmstead in rural Emmons. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Kyle, for 25 years (they have been “dating” for 34 years). She loves traveling and has been to several countries and many locations around the United States.


3 reads you shouldn’t miss

“The Broken Girls”
By Simone St. James
Review by Meaghan Welter

I’m falling in love with Simone St. James. After I read, “The Sundown Motel,” St. James gave us a two-chapter teaser of “The Broken Girls.” I knew I needed it.

Heartbreaking, spooky and beautifully written.

The story brings us to 1950 with the Idlewild School for Girls, a boarding school for thrown away girls — the illegitimate children of rich men and their maids, defiant girls who speak their minds and orphans or immigrants seeking asylum. These girls are isolated from the world in a run-down boarding school, and all they have is each other. But also, Mary. Mary is the ghost of Idlewild who wears a black floor length dress and with a black veil covering her face. She tortures the girls, scratching at the windows, begging for them to let her in.

Bounce to 2014, a journalist is doing a story in Idlewild. The abandoned school has been bought and will be restored. But this journalist has intimate ties to the grounds at Idlewild. Her sister was murdered and left there, on the field hockey field, 20 years ago. As she begins her research on Idlewild, she uncovers years of hell that happened within those walls.

It was a fast read, and the author does an amazing job at keeping the reader on track without adding unnecessary details. I was sad when it was over. My favorite book of 2022 so far (and this is the 23rd book I have read)!


“Killers of a Certain Age”
By Deanna Raybourn
Review by Starr Fjelstad

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie have worked for the Museum — as assassins — for 40 years. Now their talents are considered old-school. When they get sent on an all-expense paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted. The board of the museum are the only ones to issue termination orders. The ladies are marked for death!

I really liked the fact that these women may be in their 60s but they are still tough. It gives a whole new outlook on girl power. I really enjoyed the fact it was an all-female group. They relied on one another for 40 years, and the friendship withstood it all. There were some real life troubles and the fact they still came out ahead. Had some dry humor as well that I really enjoyed. This is definitely action packed and a fun read.


“Not the Camilla We Knew: One Woman’s
Life from Small-town America to the
Symbionese Liberation Army”
By Rachael Hanel

Behind every act of domestic terrorism there is someone’s child, an average American whose life took a radical turn for reasons that often remain mysterious. Camilla Hall is a case in point: a pastor’s daughter from small-town Minnesota who eventually joined the ranks of radicals like Sara Jane Olson (aka Kathleen Soliah) in the notorious Symbionese Liberation Army before dying in a shootout with Los Angeles Police in May 1974. How could a “good girl” like Camilla become one of the most wanted domestic terrorists in the United States? Rachael Hanel tells her story here, revealing both the deep humanity and the extraordinary circumstances of Camilla Hall’s life.

Camilla’s childhood in a tight-knit religious family was marred by loss and grief as, one after another, her three siblings died. Her path from her Minnesota home to her final, radical SLA family featured years as an artist and activist — in welfare offices, political campaigns, union organizing, culminating in a love affair that would be her introduction to the SLA. Through in-depth research and extensive interviews, Hanel pieces together Camilla’s bewildering transformation from a “gentle, zaftig, arty, otherworldy” young woman (as one observer remarked), working for social change within the system, into a gun-wielding criminal involved in the kidnapping of Patty Hearst.

During this time of mounting unrest and violence, Camilla Hall’s story is of urgent interest for what it reveals about the forces of radicalization. But as Hanel ventures ever further into Camilla’s past, searching out the critical points where character and cause might intersect, her book becomes an intriguing, disturbing and ultimately deeply moving journey into the dark side of America’s promise.

The book can be found in local bookstores or by going to