Local Reads: Books with regional ties just in time for Christmas shopping

Getty Images / Special to The Forum

FARGO — There's no shortage of local gift options this year, and that includes plenty of ideas perfect for a loved one's bookshelf.

Several notable local books have been released in 2018, while others explore regional topics or are set in the area. Here's a quick look at some of the many that are now available.

"The Big, Bold, Adventurous Life by Lavinia Warren" by Elizabeth Raum. Special to The Forum

"The Big, Bold, Adventurous Life of Lavinia Warren": Prolific Fargo author Elizabeth Raum explores the fascinating life of Lavinia Warren, a star of the 19th century who was a schoolteacher before she became a "curiosity" on a traveling showboat. When P.T. Barnum takes notice, she agrees to join his American Museum, and she eventually meets and falls in love with another famous little person, Charles Stratton, also known as Tom Thumb. The two would be married Feb. 12, 1863, with their wedding becoming a national story; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Fly Girls" by Keith O'Brien. Special to The Forum

"Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History": Keith O'Brien's nonfiction work soars in its exploration of five history-making women, including Florence Klingensmith, an aviatrix in the late 1920s and early '30s who grew up just north of Moorhead. She was the first woman to participate in an air race against men, though her life was tragically cut short when her plane malfunctioned and crashed just one day before her 29th birthday; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Foreign Threat" by Mitchell Goldstein. Special to The Forum

"Foreign Threat": It only makes sense that the writer of this "medical espionage thriller" is a general surgeon for Sanford Health in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Mitchell Goldstein weaves a wild tale in this book, which he thought about and worked on for several years while keeping busy at his day job and raising kids. In "Foreign Threat," readers follow young surgical intern Steve Carmichael as a surgery residency becomes dangerous, leading Carmichael to embark on a mysterious adventure that just might be his final test; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Hush Hush, Forest" by Mary Casanova. Special to The Forum

"Hush Hush, Forest": The quiet of a north woods winter in Minnesota comes to life in author Mary Casanova's latest children's book. The northern Minnesota author previously wrote "Wake Up, Island" in 2016, and she once again worked with artist and printmaker Nick Wroblewski on this book, with the artist adding handmade woodcut blockprints to liven up the pages. With its rhythmic flow of words and illustrations showing the forest animals getting ready for a cold winter's night, this bedtime read is full of warmth for readers of all ages; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"The I-94 Murders" by Frank Weber. Special to The Forum

"The I-94 Murders": Real-life forensic psychologist and Minnesota native Frank Weber brings back character Jon Frederick, an investigator trying to find a serial killer traveling Interstate 94 through Minnesota. As the killer taunts the investigator with hidden messages, a young woman named Sonia and her terrible secret might hold the key to solving this mystery. Jon Frederick was also the star of Weber's 2017 novel, "Murder Book"; Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

"It Takes a Village" by Odell Bjerkness. Special to The Forum

"It Takes a Village: The Story of Concordia Language Villages, Memoir and Perspective": The Concordia Language Villages today are a far cry from the origins of the program, when a Concordia professor launched a German language camp at a rented Bible camp. Odell Bjerkness dives into the history of the program, relying on his own experiences as the executive director of the program starting in 1971 and overseeing the effort as it grew, added more languages and touched even more lives; https://shop.concordialanguagevillages.org/products/it-takes-a-village.

"Love Without Limits" by Jacqueline Bussie. Special to The Forum

"Love Without Limits: Jesus' Radical Vision for Love With No Exceptions": Concordia College theology professor Jacqueline Bussie faced a complicated challenge to release this book — part memoir, part how-to guide on how to love others. Written a couple years ago, her original publisher didn't think a couple chapters addressing Muslims and LGBT people would be in line with the values of its readers. Bussie refused the suggested edits and rewrite, and she was dropped from the major Christian publishing house that had been eager to release the book. Instead, she took to social media with her story in a post that went viral, and she soon had a new partner in Fortress Press, which published the book this summer; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Murder at Pelican Lake" by Marjorie Mathison Hance. Special to The Forum

"Murder at Pelican Lake": Marjorie Mathison Hance taps into more than 50 years of summering at Minnesota's Pelican Lake for this novel, though the murder mystery at the heart of this story is purely fictional. The resident of Wayzata, Minn., sets up her story at Pelican Lake, where the protagonist returns to her childhood cabin after losing her job and partner. But a teenager is soon abducted, and Carley realizes this vacation community might have darker secrets than she ever knew; Amazon.

"No Ordinary Life" by Mary Ann Byron. Special to The Forum

"No Ordinary Life: Awakenings in the Final Days of Apartheid": Mary Ann Byron grew up in Moorhead and attended Shanley High School. But she drew from her life experiences after leaving the community to write "No Ordinary Life," a story about the experiences of young newlyweds who go overseas to South Africa where they find turbulent times as potential civil war looms. The nonfiction work, set in the early 1990s, is based on the real-world experiences of Byron, a diplomat, and her husband, Patrick McGhee, who was a special agent; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Nurtured by Nature" by Alice Bjorklund Gunness. Special to The Forum

"Nurtured by Nature: Sixty Years of Learning and Loving in the Red River Valley of the North": Alice Bjorklund Gunness always liked to write, but it took several decades to get around to it. The 85-year-old Richville, Minn., native now lives at Fargo retirement community Riverview Place. It was there that Riverview staff helped connect her with Karla Smart-Morstad, a retired Concordia College education professor, who helped Gunness collect her memories about everything from growing up the youngest of seven children to riding horses into town during a massive March 1966 blizzard and everything in between. Smart-Morstad's husband, David Morstad, a retired University of North Dakota math professor, also helped Gunnes with editing; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Only Then" by Jamie Parsley. Special to The Forum

"Only Then": In his 13th book of poems since 1992, Fargo poet Jamie Parsley proves he's still at the top of its game. The Associate Poet Laureate for the state of North Dakota is also the priest in charge at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Fargo. Loaded with captivating descriptions and vivid imagery, poetry fans will find something to read, and re-read, for years to come; Amazon.

"Sister Secrets" by Matt Valan. Special to The Forum

"Sister Secrets: A Brother's Reveal": Moorhead High School alumnus Matt Valan waited many years to publish this story, and its deeply personal look at his own family explains why. In his book, Valan ponders the big question — Why? — as he explores his own sisters, Cordee Jo Tungseth, who suffered from mental illnesses and killed her husband in 2006, and Liz, her older sister and close friend who also struggled with mental illness and died in a car crash in 2005. The pastor at Fargo's Messiah Lutheran Church says this story is ultimately about hope, even if it's a painful journey to get there; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

"Standing Rock" by Bikem Ekberzade. Special to The Forum

"Standing Rock: Greed, Oil and the Lakota's Struggle for Justice": Turkish photojournalist and documentary photographer Bikem Ekberzade recounts the 2016 and 2017 protests by thousands of people prompted by the Dakota Access Pipeline on North Dakota's Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The author's interviews with key players in the movement looks not only at the protest, but how it fits into the centuries-old struggles of America's indigenous people; Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

To suggest a book for Local Reads, email Ryan Johnson at rmjohnson@forumcomm.com.