May 25, 2012

May 2012

Earline, who usually follows us remotely on the web, was able to join us live and in person!  Great time comparing and sharing tales of our book groups.  We hope we can do a book club “exchange” as it were, perhaps by going to the Virginia Festival of the Book in her neck of the woods.

Here are the books and various other topics we discussed:

Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Clara and Mr. Tiffany – Susan Vreeland
Other books by Vreeland
Mr. and Mrs. Madison’s War – Hugh Howard
Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan interview in The New Yorker
The New Yorker's new book blog Page-Turner
Wright for Wright – Hugh Howard
An Economist Gets Lunch – Tyler Cowen
In the Shadow of Ares - Thomas James and Carl C. Carlsson
The Cult of the Presidency – Gene Healy
The Last Pagans of Rome – Alan Cameron
Waterloo Station – Emily Grayson
Death Comes to Pemberly – P.D. James
An American Spy – Olen Steinhauer (don’t bother reading this)
The Postmistress – Sarah Blake
Extraordinary, Ordinary People – Condi Rice
Places in the Heart movie
Civil Rights Activists the Freedom Riders
State of Wonder – Ann Patchett
What Women Want:  The Science of Female Shopping – Paco Underhill
Call of the Mall – Paco Underhill
Why We Buy – Paco Underhill
Grace Before Dying – Lori Waselchuk & Lawrence Powell
11/22/63 – Stephen King
In Caddis Wood – Mary Rockcastle
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
The Wednesday Wars – Gary Schmidt
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Facebook and Twitter For Seniors For Dummies – Marsha Collier
The Bra Book – Jene Luciani
Author Martha Grimes
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
At Home – Bill Bryson
Author John McPhee
Citizens of London – Lynne Olson
The three titles nominated for the Pulitzer but no winner selected:  The Pale King – David Foster Wallace, Swamplandia! – Karen Russell, and Train Dreams – Denis Johnson

From our sister group in OK:


Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer
Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer
Sixth Man by David Baldacci
Hell’s Corner by David Baldacci
New York by Edward Rutherford
Wormwood by Susan Wittig Albert
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
Graphic novels as a category
Mark Spencer (former creative writing professor at Cameron University) as an author


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
My Week with Marilyn
The Raven

Opera DVDs

Samson and Delilah with Shirley Verrett

Scherrey’s photo album and travelogue of his March trip to Southern California:
Getty Villa, The Flower Fields. George C. Page Museum, La Brea Tar Pits, Stinking Rose (garlic) Restaurant, Huntington Botanical Gardens.

From Mary Lou in MD:

M. C.  Beaton,  Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (1997).   With unrealistic thoughts of salvaging her broken engagement, Agatha leaves her peaceful Cotswold village for a tour of Cyprus, where she hopes to find her former fiancée and regain his affection.  Instead, she finds dreadful co-travelers, political intrigue, mysteries and murder. 

Alexander McCall Smith, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (2008).  For the most part, the characters of the 44 Scotland Street series are either self-aware but powerless or delusional and manipulative.  8-year-old Bertie is the prime example of the former and his dreadful mother Irene of the latter.  Art gallery owner Matthew has married his Elspeth, Angus Lord discovers a missing portrait masterpiece, his dog Cyril becomes a father, narcissistic Bruce loses his fiancée of the gangster-wealthy father, and Big Lou of the neighborhood cafe escapes yet another unsuitable suitor. 

Fern Michaels, The Scoop (2009).  This is the fourth novel in the Godmother series.  The novel opens in Charleston, South Carolina, where mega-wealthy Toots Loudenberry is burring husband number 8 with appropriate fanfare but negligible sorrow.  When she learns that the fourth-rate gossip paper her daughter Abby works for in Hollywood is on the brink of collapse, she gathers her friends Sophie, Mavis and Ida, the Godmothers, and off they go to Hollywood on a secret mission to save the paper and turn it into a rousing success without Abby finding out. Just desserts are dispensed all ‘round. 

Julia Glass, The Whole World Over (2006).  Like Three Junes, this novel interweaves the stories of several intriguing characters. Greenie Duquette runs a successful commercial bakery in Greenwich Village.  Her friend and client Walter, a successful restaurant owner, serves the visiting governor of New Mexico a piece Greenie’s coconut cake.  Greenie’s husband Alan has become remote and occasionally abusive in some sort of midlife crisis and when the governor offers Greenie a job as his personal chef, she relocates to New Mexico with her son George.  One rainy day lonely Alan befriends a strange and ill-kempt young woman with a box full of puppies and the improbable name of Saga.  Saga lives in Connecticut with her uncle, a retired professor, but journeys into the City regularly by train.  She ends up dusting shelves and gardening for Fenno (of Three Junes) at his bookstore.  All these characters and plus the entire vibrantly colorful New Mexico contingent more are essential to the resolution of the seemingly unrelated threads of the plot.  This is a highly satisfying novel. 

Belva Plain, Blessings (1989).   Jenny Rakowsky is engaged to Jay Wolfe.  She is a lawyer with a shabby office in New York City where she represents the poor and downtrodden, especially women.  He is partner in a corporate law firm, on Madison Avenue. On a weekend visit to Jay’s parents in Connecticut, Jenny agrees to take on an environmental case involving a local wetland wilderness.  Just as everything is going so well, Jenny’s past intrudes in a frightening manner.

Joyce Carol Oates, Man Crazy (1997).  The narrator Ingrid Boone introduces herself from the psychiatric ward of the County Women’s Detention Center.  But for this, we would not expect her to survive the painful years of her childhood in upstate New York in the 1970s.  She is an only child who moves from place to place as her mother evades her father, a notorious wanted man.   Her mother supports them with a series of low-paid jobs and the favors of men attracted by her beauty.  Ingrid’s insecurity and sense of inadequacy are devastating.  This is quite a dark tale which nevertheless holds the reader’s interest by slowly unraveling the threads of a series of mysteries. 

David Baldacci, First Family (2009).  Former Secrete Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are asked by the First Lady to investigate the abduction of her niece, even though the Secret Service and the FBI are on the case.  The inter-agency rivalry is quelled only by their common resistance to cooperating with the “outsiders”.   Sean and Michelle are committed to finding the missing child, but they cannot be satisfied until they achieve justice as well.  As with other Baldacci novels, the bureaucracy is self-serving, the plot is intricate, and the pace is fast. 

From Dwight in FL:

I'm still reading with many mixed emotions and pleasures HEMINGWAY'S BOAT by Paul Hendrickson.  Bobbing along behind PILAR on a trip to Bimini from Key West was a 13' sea skiff, a LYMAN!  A Bernard Lyman is mentioned, building boats since 1875 and the exclusive lapstrake construction takes up a paragraph.

Enjoy the summer-like weather and see you next time!

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