December 21, 2014

December 2014

Wishing you merry holidays and a happy and healthy new year!  Many thanks to the friends, family and authors who made this a very special year.

At our holiday party we discussed:

The Blood of an Englishman - M.C. Beaton
Book of Ages:  The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin - Jill Lepore
The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin
Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage - Molly Wizenberg
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
The Death of Money - James Rickards
Tom Jackson's book blog Jackson St. Book Club
The Darwin Awards - Wendy Northcutt
Factory Man - Beth Macy
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
Ghost Map - Steven Johnson
The city of Sandusky was once known as Portland
Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

From our sister club in OK:



Faulkner, James. Requiem for a Nun
Gilbert, Elizabeth. The Signature of All Things
Jack, Belinda. The Woman Reader
James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley
Maclean, Norman. Young Men and Fire
Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas
Rendell, Ruth. No Man’s Nightingale
Stafford, Ed. Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time



Barbusse, Henri. Under Fire
Bennett, Alan. An Uncommon Reader
Block, Lawrence. Walk Among the Tombstones
Chevalier, Tracy. Falling Angels
Clancy, Tom. Command Authority; Full Force and Effect
Flagg, Fanny. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
Follett, Ken. Whiteout
Hiaasen, Carl. Star Island
King, Laurie. Beekeeper’s Apprentice; A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Kingsolver, Barbara. Bean Trees
Lehane, Dennis. The Given Day
Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas
Piper, Don. 90 Minutes in Heaven
Rendell, Ruth. No Man’s Nightingale
Scottoline, Lisa. Don’t Go
Vestal, Shawn. Godforsaken Idaho


Despicable Me 2
Walk Among the Tombstones


Decision Height


Downton Abbey

We ARE book people, who meet once a month for dinner and scintillating conversation which turns partly (but only partly!) on books. That’s who we are. And National Book Lovers Day is a marvelous tip of the hat to who we are. But we would be book people even without National Book Lovers Day. Frantzie Couch

From Mary Lou in MD:

Jodi Picoult, Lone Wolf (2012). This is another engrossing novel by this very talented author. The “lone wolf” is wildlife biologist Luke, who is so obsessed with these animals that he spends two years living as a member of a pack in the wilds of Ontario. Even when he is home in New Hampshire, he spends most of his time with the wolves at the small wild animal rescue park he runs. His obsession is hard on his wife Georgie, his daughter Cara, and his son Edward. At the beginning of the novel, he is critically injured in an auto accident. Georgie, now happily married and the mother of twins calls the estranged Edward home from Thailand. Reluctantly, the three of them must learn to function as a family unit again as they consider whether to end Luke’s life support. The narration shifts among the four of them and reveals the traumas and secrets that drove them apart. As Luke narrates his experiences, we learn a great deal about the behavior and values of a wolf pack. The parallels between the norms of family and wolf pack are intriguing, but not strained. Georgie, Edward and Cara gradually come to terms with more truths than they ever imagined in the course of deciding Luke’s fate.

Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler, Treasure of the Khan (2006). This has as much action and as many improbably escapes from disaster as any of Cussler’s novels. The historical background includes Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, and an archeological expedition that disappeared in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 1937. The present day action begins with Pitt and Giordino conducting a deep water survey of Lake Baikal just north of the Mongolia border in Russia. Trouble starts with a mysterious earthquake under the lake. The villain of the piece is bent on taking over the world oil market. There is more than enough gratuitous destruction.

Sandra Brown, Smoke Screen (2008). Charleston, SC TV journalist Britt Shelby wakes up with a massive hangover in the bed of a former lover and can’t remember how she came to be there. Worse yet, after she has showered and dressed, she discovers that Jay Burgess is dead. The police suspect her of the murder (of course). They don’t believe her claim that she can remember nothing about the evening because someone drugged her drink at the bar where she met Jay. Britt’s attempts to find out what happened lead her deep into the story of a fatal fire at police Headquarters 5 years before, and Jay and the other police heroes of that fire. Then Britt is contacted by Raley Gannon, the arson investigator who was discredited before completing his investigation. The trail of treachery, brutality, corruption, and assassination takes many surprising twists and turns. Britt and Raley escape many life-threatening situations in the course of determining exactly who is behind all the crimes.

Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken (2010). Louie Zamperini was a boyhood delinquent until his older brother got him interested in running. Great determination and dedication enabled him to make the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Louie was a member of the University of Southern California track team and training hard for future Olympics when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Louie enlisted in the Army Air Force. In May 1943 his bomber crashed into the Pacific. Somehow Louie and a few of his crew mates survive for weeks adrift in a life raft without provisions,. When they finally drift to land, they are taken prisoner by the Japanese. Because of the brutality of the Japanese soldiers and guards against the POWs, the camps are even more life-threatening than the ocean. This cinematically detailed true story accurately and suspensefully portrays one man’s experience of the WW II air war in the Pacific.

Jerry Apps, In a Pickle (2007). This story of 1950s family farms is set in fictitious Link Lake, founded by Increase Joseph in Ames County, in central Wisconsin. Korean War Vet Andy Meyer works on his family’s farm and manages the local pickle factory during the summer. Most of the small family farms supplement their erratic and meagre incomes by raising a ½- to 2- acre pickle patch. The owners of the pickle factory are headquartered in Chicago and are encouraging farmers to borrow money, acquire more land and equipment, and plant dozens of acres of cucumbers on contract with the company. Andy’s father avoids debt and continues farming the old fashioned way, but his friend and neighbor prides himself on adopting modern methods. The community debates small family farms vs. industrial farms and their one room school vs. consolidation and busing. Faculty of the University of Wisconsin AG School and Education Department meet with the community and advocate for change. Meanwhile, Andy has a series of challenges managing the aging equipment and eccentric workforce of the pickle plant. Neither the characters nor the plot are particularly intriguing, but the presentation of 1950s rural Wisconsin is vividly detailed, making this a very interesting read.

November 02, 2014

October 2014

Mom got us into the Halloween spirit by reading Bats to the group.  Then I found a huge one in my garage.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Here's what else we discussed:

The Great Glass Sea - Josh Weil
The Driver's Guide to Hitting Pedestrians - Andersen Prunty
Fuckness - Andersen Prunty
The De-Textbook -
This Book is Full of Spiders - David Wong
John Dies at the End - David Wong
The House I Loved - Tatiana de Rosnay
Still Life with Bread Crumbs - Anna Quindlen
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
Object Lessons - Anna Quindlen
One True Thing - Anna Quindlen
The Crossing Places - Elly Griffiths
Strange Wine - Harlan Ellison
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan
The Eye in the Pyramid - Shea and Wilson
Rome's Gothic Wars - Michael Kulikowski
Our Pet Queen - John Higgs
Strange Attractor - Jake Shannon
Today We Choose Faces - Roger Zelazny
The Shadow Factory - James Bamford
The River of No Return - Bee Ridgway
Influx - Daniel Suarez
This American Life
Cop Town - Karin Slaughter
Police - Jo Nesbo
Personal - Lee Child
The Golem of Hollywood - Jonathan Kellerman
Death on Blackheath - Anne Perry
The Map that Changed the World - Simon Winchester
God started the world on October 23, 4004 B.C.
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
Divine Comedy - Dante Alighieri
The Time for Justice - Anthony Curto

From Karen:

SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN by Lisa See. It is a close look into the terrible cultural practices of China during the 1000 years of foot binding. Also, this story graphically depicts the role of women in their society. Published in 2006 so many of you have surely read it.

From Mary Lou in MD:

John Sanford, Rules of Prey (1989). This is the first novel in the Prey series featuring Minneapolis homicide detective Lucas Davenport. I decided to re-read the series and fill in some of the gaps. Davenport is big and tough with a scar across his eye from his forehead to his cheek. He likes women but doesn’t stick with anyone for long. He made a fortune inventing computer games and training scenarios for law enforcement. His wealth enables him to dress well and enjoy driving his black Porsche too fast when a case gives him the excuse. His best friend since childhood is Sister Mary Joseph, a nun and a psychologist who helps him profile serial killers. These novels start from the point of view of the killer and the suspense comes from watching Davenport as he follows the clues and eventually solves the crimes. This takes all of his imaginative intelligence that he developed when designing the computer games. He plays fair only when that approach is effective. There are at least a dozen novels in this series and all of them are spellbinders.

Ken Follett, A Dangerous Fortune (1993). The Family Tree of the Pilasters is provided at the front of the book and this is useful in keeping track of the five generations of this powerful banking family. The story begins with a tragic accident at an English boys’ school in 1866. Mickey Miranda, the son of a wealthy, ruthless South American rancher makes friends with Edward Pilaster. With some of the other boys they sneak off to a swimming hole where there is some roughhousing and a boy is drowned. By 1873 Mickey has ingratiated himself with the Pilaster family, especially Edward’s mother Augusta. Edward’s poor cousin Hugh Pilaster is living with his Aunt Augusta, Uncle Joseph, and Cousin Edward and working in the family bank. Edward is being groomed to take over when his father retires, but he is weak and incompetent and too much under Mickey’s influence. There are many plot twists and great intrigue as the struggle for control of the bank evolves with international as well as national consequences. Only Hugh is motivated by the best interest of the bank, but it seems impossible that his integrity can prevail over the greed and duplicity of his relatives.

Robert Crais, The First Rule (2010). This action novel is one of a series with Joe Pike as the lead character. Pike is an ex-Marine, an ex-LAPD cop, an ex-special forces mercenary, a silent partner in a detective agency and the owner of a gun store. He has a reputation as a very dangerous man and he lives up to it. Pike learns that one of his fellow mercenary soldiers has been brutally murdered along with his family in a LA suburb. Pike seeks the help of Elvis Cole and Jon Stone, who also served in assorted dangerous places with the murdered former mercenary. Neither the LAPD nor the FBI seem to be able to make any progress in identifying the murderers but Pike and his friends have skills and resources beyond those of establishment law enforcement. Their quest to avenge their friend takes them into the violent underworld of drugs, prostitution, gun smuggling, and rivalry between the Serbian and Russian mobs. The plot is fast and complex and there is plenty of suspense and more than enough violence.

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, October 9, 2014
The next meeting will be Thursday, November 13, 2014


Arnold, Anita G. Oklahoma City Music: Deep Deuce and Beyond
Cook, Robin. Cure
Edelman, Marian Wright. Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors
Ehrlich, Gretel. Heart Mountain; Match to the Heart; This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland
Erdrich, Louise. Round House
Faulkner, James. Absalom, Absalom!; Flags in the Dust
Halber, Deborah. Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America’s Coldest Cases
Henson, Josiah. Life of Josiah Henson: Formerly a Slave, Now a Resident of Canada
Leaf, Monro. The Story of Ferdinand
McDowell, Marta. Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life
Mills, Marja. Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee
Penney, Stef. The Tenderness of Wolves
Penny, Louise. Trick of the Light
Polacco, Patricia. General discussion of the author/illustrator
Ziegler, Philip. King Edward VIII

Of Interest
Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans on view July4-October 19, 2014 at the New-York Historical Society.
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (PBS). Special attention to the segments about Derek Jeter and Anna Deavere Smith.
Time Team (PBS): The Search for Josiah Henson
The Roosevelts. PBS Sept.14-21, 2014

October 05, 2014

September 2014

Many thanks to Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea, for taking the time to talk to our book club.  It was the highlight of the evening!

We also discussed:

The Divine Comedy - Dante
From a Distance - Raffaella Barker
At Home in Mitford - Jan Karon
World of Wonders - Robertson Davies
The Other Story - Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
An Italian Wife - Ann Hood
All Fall Down - Jennifer Weiner
A New Light on Tiffany (Clara Driscoll) - Marin Eidelberg
And the Dark Sacred Night - Julia Glass
Three Junes - Julia Glass
I Sailed with Magellan - Stuart Dybek
Townie - Andre Dubus
Ron Hansen
W. G. Sebald
Jim Harrison
Nadine Gordimer
J. M. Coetzee
The Great Glass Sea - Josh Weil
Les Roberts
Cop Town - Karin Slaughter
Police - Jo Nesbo
The Arsonist - Sue Miller
My Beloved World - Sonia Sotomayor
Duck Duck Go
Rasputin's Shadow - Raymond Khoury
The Dinner - Herman Koch
Summer House with Swimming Pool - Herman Koch
Memory of Water - Emmi Itaranta

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Next meeting will be Thursday, October 8, 2014


Bourdain, Anthony. Author in general
Diamond, Jared. Author in general
Faulkner, James. Absalom, Absalom!
Larson, Erik. Devil in the White City
Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Penny, Louise. Trick of the Light; Beautiful Mystery
Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World
Shyamalan, M. Night. I Got Schooled
Tan, Amy. Valley of Amazement
Zevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Of Interest

Man Booker 2014 Short List:

Hogarth Shakespeare Series: (Authors include Anne Tyler, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, Howard Jacobson, Jo Nesbo, and Tracy Chevalier.

Texas Book Festival 2014 Line Up:


The Roosevelts. PBS Sept.14-21, 2014

We ARE book people, who meet once a month for dinner and scintillating conversation which turns partly (but only partly!) on books. That’s who we are. And National Book Lovers Day is a marvelous tip of the hat to who we are. But we would be book people even without National Book Lovers Day. Frantzie Couch

From Mary Lou in MD:

Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas (2003).  This is the first in a series set in the California desert town of Pico Mundo.  The 20-year-old narrator is a short order grill cook at the town’s one diner.  His oddity is his ability to see dead people who are not yet ready to move to the Beyond.  Some of these are just restless, like Elvis, and others may have died violently.  Odd’s unusual talent may enable him to assist Police Chief Wyatt Parker in apprehending the murderer.  All of the characters are strange, at least, and some of them are grotesque, like Odd’s friend and mentor the 6-fingered 400 pound Little Ozzie Boone.  Odd is a self-declared unreliable narrator, a good guy, and an amateur detective.  I will look for more of this entertaining series.  
Belva Plain, Crossroads (2008).  There are plenty of secrets and mysteries in this novel of family relationships.  Gwen Wright is the adopted daughter of Cassie Wright, powerhouse 3rd generation owner of a renowned glassworks in a thriving New England.  Gwen grows up with all the privileges and advantages, but also with the unsettling perception that she is a disappointment to her beautiful and talented mother.  In contrast, Jewell Fairbanks grew up poor and disadvantaged and jealous of Gwen, her boss’s daughter.   The secrets in the novel revolve around the identity of Gwen’s birth parents.  The dramatic tension builds as these three very different women interact on the way to realizing their true identities.  
Catherine Coulter, Double Take (2007).  FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, who happens to be Dillon’s wife, are drawn into a mystery by their friend Virginia sheriff Dixon Noble.  Dixon’s wife disappeared three years ago and now her godfather reports that he saw her in San Francisco, where she is he trophy wife of an aging millionaire.  Dix goes to San Francisco where he stays with Sherlock’s parents while he investigates.  Meanwhile, local FBI agent Cheney Stone pulls a woman out of San Francisco Bay, saving her from attempted murder.  She turns out to be Julia Ransom, famous widow suspected of murdering her spiritualist, medium husband.  The two plots become intertwined and wind through a mysterious world of psychic visions and communications with the dead which may or may not be total frauds.    
Stuart Woods, Hot Mahogany (2008).   Attorney Stone Barrington is a former NYPD detective who is “of counsel” to a very prestigious Manhattan law firm, handling matters with which they do not wish to be associated.   Stone is a handsome, wealthy bachelor who needs all his creative intellect to remain unscathed by entanglements with the fair sex.  His former NYPD partner Dino Bacchetti assists Stone in his detective endeavors.  This mystery centers on rare, highest quality antique American furniture, greedy private collectors, and unscrupulous dealers and (perhaps) forgers.  The chief delight of this novel, like others in this series, is Stone’s inventiveness in ensuring that the tricksters are justly tricked.  

Ann Granger, A Rare Interest in Corpses (2006).  In 1864, orphaned Lizzie Martin arrives in London to become lady’s companion to her godfather’s widow.  The garrulous and protective cabbie who conveys her to her new home offers future assistance.  Eventually Lizzie seeks him out as she seeks to solve the mystery of her predecessor companion’s unexplained disappearance.  Equally challenging for Lizzie is learning to navigate her strange and sometimes dangerous world of pretentious society and urban decadence.  Fortunately (and delightfully) she is astute.  I will look for more Ann Granger novels.  

September 01, 2014

August 2014

We chanted Om for B.K.S. Iyengar who passed away August 20 at age 95.

Nothing can be forced; receptivity is everything.
 - B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

We also discussed:

Light on Yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar
The False Prince - Jennifer Nielsen
The Runaway King - Jennifer Nielsen
The Shadow Throne - Jennifer Nielsen
The Giver - Lois Lowry
Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
Dear Daughter - Elizabeth Little
Northanger Abbey - Val McDermid
Silent Night - Robert Parker
The Directive - Matthew Quirk
Cut and Thrust - Stuart Woods
Goodness Falls - Ty Roth
Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick
Man on the Run - Tom Doyle
Science Fiction, An Oral History - D. Scott Apel
Historian Discordia - Adam Gorightly
The Blood of Alexandria - Richard Blake
Full Cleveland - Les Roberts
The Driver's Guide of Hitting Pedestrians - Anderson Prunty
Driving Mr. Albert - Michael Paterniti
The Telling Room - Michael Paterniti
Carsick - John Waters
Family Pictures - Jane Green
The Manticore - Robertson Davies
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Waiting to Exhale - Terry McMillan
Getting to Happy - Terry McMillan
The Girls of August - Anne Rivers Siddons
The Fault in our Stars - John Green
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Still Life with Breadcrumbs - Anna Quindlen
San Miguel - T.C. Boyle
Happens Every Day - Isabel Gillies
The End of Absence - Michael Harris
The Paradox of Choice - Barry Schwartz
The Soul of All Living Creatures - Vint Verga
All the Light we Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
I Love You More - Jennifer Murphy
Red Joan - Jennie Rooney
Virtual History, Alternatives and Counterfactuals - Niall Ferguson
Longfellow's translation, Purgatory - Dante Alighieri
The Dante Diet
Frankie and Melvina - Mary Waterfield
Frances Fyfield
Mrs. Dalloway -Virginia Woolf
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

From Dwight in FLA:

ee cummings - Susan Cheever
The Death of Santini - Pat Conroy
Inside a Pearl - Edmond White
The Keillor Reader - Garrion Keillor
His new book is just what it promises: it is a READER and many of the vignettes (truly a Keillor expression that I borrow all the time) you probably have read in the NYorker. There is quite a list of his books and I must confess I have devoured only 2. The tale about the Lutheran ministers falling overboard in 5' of water on the 4th of July is side-splitting.

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, August 14, 2014
The Next meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014

Burns, James McGregor. The Three Roosevelts
Connell, Evan S. Mr. Bridge; Mrs. Bridge; Son of the Morning Star
Frazier, Ian. Great Plains
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Signature of All Things
Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
McEwan, Ian. Amsterdam; Atonement; Black Dogs; On Chesil Beach; Saturday; Sweet Tooth
Montgomery, Ben. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk
Nesbo, Jo. Police
Pollan, Michael. Botany of Desire
Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch
Tetzlaff, Monica Maria. Cultivating a New South

Babette’s Feast and other food movies
Hundred Foot Journey (at both Moore Warren and Quail Springs)
The Giver (At both Carmike and Lawton 12)
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge

The Great Courses
Food: A Cultural History with Professor Ken Alba (36 lectures & a terrific bibliography)
Cameron University International Film Club
French Film Festival, August 21-23 and August 28-30

From Susanna:
Several months ago I was in The Full Circle Book Store in Oklahoma City It is a wonderful independent book store. I saw Grandma Gatewood on a shelf or table. It was just quirky enough that I picked it up to examine. I bought it, read it, and want to share it with the Omni Book Club. I'd like to pack it up and send it to you or my Wooster friends, Nancy and Alice. But I would look at the book and think - I know I will want to refer to or read it again. So please accept the attached review and look in your favorite store or library.

Montgomery, Ben. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.

  In 1955, 67-year-old Grandma Gatewood set off from Gallia County, Ohio, on the greatest adventure of her life. “She had no map, no sleeping bag, no tent.” She walked the complete length of the Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. She was the first woman to accomplish a thru-hike alone. She went through seven pairs of Keds over a trail that was not as developed or cared for as it is today. Sometimes, she managed to sleep in a cabin or home, sometimes, on a pile of leaves. The reader follows her steps and experiences on the trail, as well as reading about Grandma Gatewood’s harrowing life. The reader is also given pertinent information about the history and development of the trail and of the Interstate Highway System. She walked the trail two more times and in 1959 walked the Oregon Trail in celebration of its centennial. She played a part in the development of the Buckeye Trail and, in the Hocking Hills State Park, there is a Grandma Gatewood Trail. If the beginning of the book seems a bit slow, as it did for me, stick with it. Curl up in a chair and share an adventure with this remarkable woman.

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes Laura August 2014
Jodi Picoult, The Storyteller (2013).  This is a stunning work of literature.  I don’t know how Picoult managed to envision it and I don’t know how to describe it.  Sage Singer is very shy about her scarred face.  She avoids social interactions by working at night as a baker.   Our Daily Bread is part of Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in the New Hampshire foothills run by Mary DeAngelis, a former nun.  One of the regular bread customers is nonagenarian Josef Weber who is also a member of the grief support group Sage has attended since the death of her mother.  Sage’s grandmother Minka is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Poland in the 1920s.  She is the storyteller.  Her story is a sort of Grimm tale narrated by eighteen-year-old Ania about her father the baker in the forest, the tax collector and the guardsman who oppress the villagers, and the horrifying and mysterious beast that preys on the village livestock and residents.  The several stories presented in the novel are interspersed and interdependent.  They weave themselves into various strands of allegory exploring the nature of evil, guilt, justice and forgiveness.  Buy some yeast and flour and read this novel.  
 Bailey White, Quite a Year for Plums (1998).     This little novel speaks in the charming, witty voice we remember from White’s NPR’s commentaries.  The novel set in a small south-Georgia town is filed with delightfully eccentric characters.  Roger is a peanut pathologist who becomes intrigued by notes left on still-useful items at the town dump.  He watches for the mysterious dumper and makes the acquaintance of Delia, an artist renown for her bird paintings. She is supposed to be preparing for an art show about wild birds, but instead she obsessively paints a lovely pair of Dominicker chickens, America’s oldest breed and now endangered.  Roger’s ex-mother-in-law Louise has taken to wandering and comes to live with her sister Eula. Their conversations are masterpieces of miscommunication.  Jim Wade collects vintage electric fans and will go to unusual and even unlawful lengths to obtain them.  White manages to make these and other improbable characters and their bizarre adventures believable.   
Laura Childs, Blood Orange Brewing (2006).  This novel is one of a cozy series set in and around a tea house in Charleston, SC.  Theodosia Browning, Drayton Connelly, and Haley Parker own and operate the Indigo Tea Shop. Drayton invents improbably combinations of teas, spices and herbs and Haley creates fancy entrees and pastries.   Theodosia handles the business side when she’s not distracted by her amateur sleuthing.  At the beginning of this tale, the trio are catering a candlelight concert in a rundown Victorian mansion recently donated to the Historical Society.  The event is a fundraiser attended by Charleston’s political and societal elite, all of whom become suspects in a locked-room murder mystery. Warning:  This novel will make you hungry for exotic pastries. Recipes are included.  
Suzanne Rindell, The Other Typist (2013).  Rose, the narrator, was raised in an orphanage by nuns and she finds her comfort zone in adhering to rules and conventions.  It is the roaring 20s and she is employed as a typist at a New York City police precinct.  Odalie, a glamorous and mysterious new girl joins the typing pool.  Rose is fascinated by Odalie’s unconventionality and soon allows herself to be introduced to the world of speakeasies.  As she describes her ventures away from the straight and narrow, she warns that her relationship with Odalie will not end well.  It doesn’t, and in a quite surprising manner, despite our sense throughout the novel that we know more about Rose than she knows about herself.
Giles Milton, Russian Roulette (2013).  This history of the early years of Britain’s Secret Service, later MI6, is meticulously constructed from memoirs, archives, and intelligence files.  It begins in the final years of World War I. Retired naval commander Mansfield Cumming is recruited by the Director of Naval Intelligence to create a secret network of spies to track events in Russia.  “C” as he is known gathers a cadre of venturesome individuals who are sufficiently fluent in Russian and other languages to move freely in many levels of Russian society.  Many of them are expert in assuming multiple identities and as the Bolshevik revolution evolves they form effective courier networks around Moscow and St Petersburg and provide increasingly valuable information to the Secret Service.   Meanwhile, British explorer Frederick Bailey gathers a small group of men and treks into Russian Turkestan to counter Lenin’s plans to foment revolution in northern India.  These men are not as successful as their northern counterparts in transmitting intelligence, but eventually Baily makes it to Meshed and briefs British officer Wilfred Malleson.  Malleson proves very savvy and creative in disseminating  disinformation that short-circuits a budding alliance between the Bolsheviks and the Muhammedans.  Giles presents the colorful personalities of these spies and their dangerous exploits in a very suspenseful and entertaining account of the evolution of spycraft.    
Heidi W. Durrow, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010).  Rachel, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish mother and a Black American GI, is being raised by her grandmother and aunt in Portland after a family tragedy in which her mother and siblings died.  Rachel spent her first 10 years in base housing in Germany and school in Portland provides her first experience of race in America.  Rachel is the narrator for much of the novel but some of the chapters are narrated by Jamie (Brick), a young boy who witnessed the tragedy.  The novel follows Rachel into her teen years as she eventually allows herself to remember what happened and discovers something of why.  All of the characters are well drawn and this is a very impressive first novel.  
Greg Iles, The Devil’s Punchbowl (2009).  This is a real thriller that is hard to put down.  Penn Cage, formerly a prosecuting attorney in Houston, has returned to his hometown of Natchez, Mississippi.  He has been mayor here for two years and is disappointed in how little he has been able to accomplish.  The oil industry is mostly gone from Natchez now and the town has turned to riverboat gambling casinos to boost its economy.  But rumors of crime have come with the casinos, especially the opulent Magnolia Queen, where Penn’s boyhood friend Tim Jessup is a dealer. At a midnight meeting in the town cemetery, Tim tells Penn that the reality is worse than the rumors of drugs and prostitution and extends to high-stakes gambling on the illegal blood sport of dog fighting. Corruption has seeped into local law enforcement and no one can be trusted.  Penn and his doctor father assemble a “magnificent seven” that includes a retired Texas Ranger, a Delta Force commando, a Marine sniper, a helicopter pilot, and a newspaper reporter who happens to be Penn’s former girlfriend.  They pit their wits and skills against sadistic IRA gangsters, Chinese money launderers, and huge, ferocious fighter dogs.  And the Mississippi River keeps on rolling. 

August 03, 2014

July 2014

We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.
We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.
    -Excerpt from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Here's what else we discussed:

Stand Up Guy - Stuart Woods
Snow Hunters - Paul Yoon
Carnal Curiosity - Stuart Woods
Want Not - Jonathan Miles
The Telling Room - Michael Paterniti
The Blessings - Elise Juska
That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo
Top Secret Twenty-One - Janet Evanovich
Fifth Business - Robertson Davies
Empire Girls - Hayes, Nyhan
I'll Be Seeing You - Hayes, Nyhan
Yeats is Dead (by 15 Irish Writers) - Joseph O'Connor
Me Before You = Jojo Moyes
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
Waiting to Exhale - Terry McMillan
Dragnet Nation - Julia Angwin
Archeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication - Douglas Vakock
The Monk - M.G. Lewis
Sons of Wichita -Daniel Schulman
No Place to Hide - Glenn Greenwald
Free NASA ebooks
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Vertigo 42 - Martha Grimes
The October List - Jeffery Deaver
The Prince of Risk - Christopher Reich
Murder at Mullings - Dorothy Cannell
An Appetite for Wonder - Richard Dawkins' memoir
The Zealot - Reza Aslan
The Giver - Lois Lowry
Flora and Ulysses - Kate DiCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo
Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman
Summer House with Swimming Pool - Herman Koch
Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Death of Bees - Lisa O'Donnell
Paper Daughter - M. Elaine Mar
Jackdaws - Ken Follett
The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
Deep Dish - Mary Kay Andrews
Blue Christmas - Mary Kay Andrews
Any Place I Hang My Hat - Susan Isaacs
Looking for Me - Beth Hoffman
L'Affaire - Diane Johnson
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Oldest Living Things in the World - Rachel Sussman
Notes from the Larder - Nigel Slater
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger - Nigel Slater
Carsick - John Waters

From our sister group in OK:
Lawton Book Bunch


Anderson, John Dennis. Student Companion to William Faulkner
Brown, Dan. The Lost Symbol
Clancy, Tom. Hidden Agendas, from the Net Force series
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying
Gabaldon, Diane. Written in My Heart’s Own Blood: A Novel, from The Outlander series
Grant, Michael. The Gone series (Light, Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear)

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World
Shyamalan, M. Night. I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America's Education Gap
Safdie, Moshe. Form and Purpose


As I Lay Dying, directed by and starring James Franco

From Mary Lou in MD:

Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010).  This is a stunning first novel.  Echo Park is a Los Angeles neighborhood inhabited by the Mexican underclass in the 1980s. It is where the author grew up and his fictional characters are drawn from this neighborhood with comic and often ironic perception.  The Madonnas of the title are a group of mothers and daughters who gather on a neighborhood street corner where a Madonna MTV video was filmed. The point of view shifts between a day laborer, a teenage girl, a “cleaning woman,”  a bus driver, and other Echo Park residents who can find housing only in their Mexican neighborhood but of necessity support themselves and their families with menial jobs in the prosperous LA white world where they receive no respect.  The interlocking narratives eventually form a chronology of shared experiences.  
Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters (2011).  Yes, the title is a reference to Macbeth.  The sisters are named for Shakespearean characters:  Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy).  Their father is a Shakespeare professor at a Southern Ohio university who converses obscurely and almost exclusively in quotations from the Bard.  The sisters are in their 30s.  Rose is still living at home and the others have just returned after generally messing up their lives.  Each sister is focused on guarding her guilty secret while attempting to support “our mother” in her struggle with breast cancer.  The point of view of the novel is first person plural and this is a surprisingly effective device for revealing the complex characters in this witty, poignant novel of family relationships. This is another stunning first novel.  
Martha Grimes, The Old Wine Shades (2006).  Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury is enjoying a drink in a pub when stranger tells him a tale of a friend of his, whose wife, son and dog disappeared one day on a trip to Surrey. Nearly a year later, the dog came back.  Jury suspects Harry Johnson’s tale may be a fabrication, but he can’t imagine why.  Also the dog Mungo is charming.  Whenever Jury thinks he’s about to spy a glimmer of truth, Harry postpones further details until the next evening.  Jury is hooked on the mystery and gets his sergeant Wiggins involved in an attempt to authenticate the tale, along with his friend Melrose Plant, the reluctant aristocrat with the terrifying Aunt Agatha.  All of our favorite characters are here with all of their endearing eccentricities and eventually a crime is discovered.  
Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline (1980).  “I wear the ring” the novel begins.  It may be Conroy’s most nuanced exploration of what it means to be Southern.  Will McLean, son of a decorated Marine veteran of Iwo Jima, leaves Savannah, GA to attend his father’s alma mater, Carolina Military Institute in Charleston, SC.  Charleston “South of Broad” is a city of opulent beauty and refinement masking decay and decadence.  Will’s aristocratic roommate introduces him to this culture.  The Institute operates under a strict code of military honor disguising brutal depravity.  Evil hides behind stiff rectitude.  The novel begins in September of Will’s senior year at the Institute, the year when the first Black cadet enrolls.  After establishing the central conflicts of the plot, the novel turns back to Will’s experiences as a plebe to describe the Institute’s crushing physical training and its demeaning hazing and verbal abuse.  Many of the boys break under the system and leave the Institute in disgrace. Others survive to become the brutal upper classmen who subject incoming plebes to the increasingly intense psychological and physical abuse, all under the cover of maintaining the “honor” of the Institute. Will manages somehow to survive this system but his smart mouth, sharp wit, and inherent honesty block him from unquestioning acceptance of its excesses.  The Institute’s Commandant “Bear” is a gruff moderating force but he may not be trustworthy.  Will’s roommates are also misfits to some extent.  Charleston aristocrat Tradd St Croix is effeminate.  Mark Santoro and Dante Pignetti (“Pig”) are Italian and Yankee and Pig is also very poor.   Under great peril, they are forced to test the depths of loyalty, courage and honor.  As with any of Conroy’s novels, The Lords of Discipline explores the essential ironies inherent in moral conflict.  
Geraldine Brooks, March (2005).  This is the story of Little Women’s father.  Mr. March, a chaplain in the Union army, is part of the retreat from the Battle of Bulls Bluff on the Potomac.  They fall back to a plantation home where March had visited some 20 years before, as he began earning his fortune as a peddler.  Young March was taken with the gracious living of the South and youthfully insensitive to the suffering of slavery at its foundation.  He made his fortune, returned to Concord, married “Marmee”, and enjoyed the Brahmin society of Emerson and Thoreau.  “Marmee” is a strong-minded, outspoken abolitionist whose real personality (to our delight) bears scant resemblance the saintly, conventional mother in Alcott’s novel.  Brooks draws heavily on the biography of Bronson Alcott in the characterization of Mr. March.  The familiar plot and characters of Little Women form the context for this story of the Civil War and its psychological traumas and gory horrors of battle.  Brooks also presents a gripping portrayal of the wrenching agony of slavery, the degenerative effects of the institution on the slave owners, and the callow self-righteousness of some of the abolitionists.  This historical setting is vividly detailed but the most intriguing aspect of the novel is the formation of March’s character through his experiences.    

June 28, 2014

June 2014

Many thanks to Elaine for bringing Jeanne to the group.  She's a teacher and bookseller at Ex Libris in Marblehead, and we hope she becomes a regular.  Also good to see Monica who travels very far to see us.

While we discussed books and poetry, the Huron river was roiling with trees and debris due to the recent heavy rains.
Bed in Summer
The Plantagenets
Where did you go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
Takedown Twenty - Janey Evanovich
Jewels of Paradise - Donna Leon
The Axe Factor - Colin Cotterill
The Collector - Nora Roberts
The Anatomy Lesson - Nina Siegal
A Circle of Wives - Alice LaPlante
Live to See Tomorrow - Iris Johansen
Field of Prey - John Sandford
The Target - David Baldacci
Sense and Sensibility - Joanna Trollope
After I'm Gone - Laura Lippman
Spider Woman's Daughter - Anne Hillerman
The Skin Collector - Jeffery Deaver
Appetite for Wonder - Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
Eulogy for Christopher Hitchens
The Cuyahoga - William Donohue Ellis
Yes, Chef - Marcus Samuelsson
Chestnut Street - Maeve Binchy
A Land More Kind Than Home - Wiley Cash
The Dark Road to Mercy - Wiley Cash
The People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
TransAtlantic - Colum McCann
Evensong - Gail Godwin
Swimming in the Moon - Pamela Schoenewaldt
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library - Chris Grabenstein
Outside In - Doug Cooper
Crux - Ramez Naam
Top Secret America - Dana Priest
The Break - Sean Gabb
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
South of Broad - Pat Conroy
The Outlander Series - Diana Gabaldon
Written in my Own Heart's Blood - Diana Gabaldon
The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin
The Good Body - Eve Ensler
Virtual History - Niall Ferguson
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Karen Armstrong
Our Earth - Paragon Books
Neil Stephenson's three books on Charles I
Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson
Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo
John Dies at the End - David Wong
This Book is Full of Spiders - David Wong
David Wong

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch                                                                   
Thursday, June 12, 2014 
The Next meeting will be Thursday, July 10, 2014


Blottner, Joseph  Faulkner: A Biography
Brady, Kathleen. Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker
Crichton, Michael. State of Fear
Doctorow, E.L. The March
King, Laurie R. The God of the Hive
Rawn, James. Root and Branch: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall….
Schiller, Lawrence. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder…..
Shyamalan, M. Night. I Got Schooled

Warren, Elizabeth. A Fighting Chance

From Mary Lou in MD:

Kate Atkinson, Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995).  Like Tristram Shandy, Ruby Lennox begins narrating her life story from the moment of her conception, in 1951, as marked by the midnight chimes of her great-grandmother’s clock.  From her mother’s womb she is fully aware of events in her parents’ pet shop and their home “Above the Shop.”  In Chapter One she begins telling us the story of her parents George and Bunty and their courtship and marriage in England in 1944.  Next, in Footnote (i) she introduces us to her grandparents’ story beginning at the time of World War I.  The novel jumps back and forth in this alternating chronology, gradually revealing the sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic mysteries of this dysfunctional family of bizarre characters against the background of 20th century history in York.  This novel is essentially a jigsaw puzzle of characters, events, settings, and even the clock.  It should not be read in short snippets with long interruptions.  If this is likely, keep a 3x5 card list of the characters and their relationships. It’s worth it.      
Ken Follett, Whiteout (2004).  A Christmas Blizzard smothers northern Scotland.  Toni Gallo, security director of a medical research firm, realizes that a canister of a deadly virus is missing.  While she is scrambling to prevent widespread disaster, the adult children of the research director who is developing the antiviral are scheming for ways to profit financially from their father’s research.   “The love of money is the root of all evil.”  Many of the characters are despicable and the suspense is intense.  
Margaret Coel, The Spirit Woman (2000).  The legend on the Wind River Reservation is that Sacajawea, the Native American woman who guided Lewis and Clark, is buried there.  A professor and longtime friend of Arapaho attorney Vickie Holden disappears while researching the legend.   Meanwhile, Father John O’Malley is once again scheduled to be transferred away from the Jesuit St. Francis Mission on the Reservation.  Vickie and Father John collaborate in attempting to find the missing professor and nearly get themselves killed in the process.   The wealth of cultural and anthropological detail and the strong characterizations make this series very enjoyable.  
Sandra Brown, Lethal (2011).  Widow Honor Gillette is icing cupcakes with her 4-year-old daughter Emily when they are taken hostage by Lee Coburn, a man on the run accused of shooting seven men the night before.  Coburn tears the house apart looking for an unknown item that will explain the reason for the ostensibly accidental death of Honor’s husband.  Without finding it, the three of them flee for their lives into the Louisiana swamps and bayous.  There they are hunted by local, state and federal law enforcement, none of them trustworthy because many of them have been corrupted by a vicious and mysterious crime boss known as the The Bookkeeper.  
John Sandford, Mad River (2012).  Three hopeless young adults go on a killing spree across Minnesota.  State and local police and even the National Guard are looking for them.  The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Virgil Flowers tries a very unorthodox strategy to predict where they are likely to be hiding.  Storm Front (2013).  A dying archeologist and a carved stone from Israel supposedly referring to the Old Testament’s King Solomon’s time pull Virgil Flowers into a web of criminal conspiracy and political intrigue involving even the Mosad.  In one of his best escapades to date, Virgil finesses the competitors to their just desserts and finds truth in an unexpected location.  These are very satisfying suspense novels and Virgil is as charming as ever.  
Doug Cooper, Outside In (2013).  The best thing about this novel is the setting, Put-in-Bay Ohio.  The descriptions of a young man’s immersion in alcohol and drugs to avoid confronting his true nature and his future are unfortunately tedious.  

Margaret Coel, The Story Teller (1998).  An Arapaho elder and storyteller asks Vickie Holden to investigate the disappearance of a tribal artifact from a Denver museum.  An Arapaho graduate student is found dead in Denver and Vickie and Father John do not accept the police conclusion that the murder was drug related. They become convinced that the student’s research at the museum led to his death. Their efforts to prove their theory lead them to retrace the student’s steps to remote areas of Southeastern Colorado where they research remote Arapaho history.  As usual, the cultural and historical details are fascinating and Vickie and Father John are delightful.     

May 31, 2014

May 2014

Doug Cooper author of Outside In was able to visit our book club in between jetting to exotic locales around the world.  I feel so lucky he was able to spend time with us.  He shared the breaking news that American Book Fest awarded Outside In with the 2014 International Book Award for Best Literary Fiction.  Congratulations, Doug!  If you haven't had a chance to read it, check out the animated preview.  I hope he will stop in again when his next book is out.

We did a quick round-robin to talk about what everyone else was reading.  Where else can you find a group that covers everything from Mike Mad Dog Adams to Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon
Where Did You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple
The Girl Who Married an Eagle - Tamar Myers
Wide Awake - Robert Bober
Brendan Prairie - Dan O'brien
Cockroaches - Jo Nesbo
Reading crime stories during Easter in Norway
The Fault in our Stars - John Green
By Its Cover: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery - Donna Leon
"If life had a smell, it would be springtime."
Waiting to Exhale - Terry McMillan
The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman - Laurence Sterne
A Question of Belief - Donna Leon
The River of No Return - Bee Ridgway
Zealot - Reza Aslan
On Writing - Stephen King
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life - Karen Armstrong
Past Lives (Elaine will get back to us on the title of the book)
Hunting Shadows - Charles Todd
Loss of Innocence - Richard North Patterson
The Great Dissent - Thomas Healy
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Liberty Defined, 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom - Ron Paul
The Prankster and the Conspiracy - Adam Gorightly
Brilliance - Marcus Davey
Taken At the Flood, The Roman Conquest of Greece - Robin Waterfield
Justinian's Flea - William Rosen
Nexus - Ramez Naam
In the Mirror - Kaira Rouda

From our sister group in OK:


Butler, Katy. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death
Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend
Gallant, Mavis. Home Truths
Gwynne, S.C. Empire of the Summer Moon
Hotaling, Ed. Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield
McEwan, Ian. Amsterdam; The Comfort of Strangers      
Moriarty, Laura. For the Rest of Her Life
Pollan, Michael. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation


Packer, George. “Cheap Words: Amazon is Good for Customers. But is It Good for Books?” New Yorker February 17 & 24, 2014 p.67.

Butler, Katy. “What Broke My Father’s Heart.” New York Times June 18, 2010.

Web Links

We ARE book people, who meet once a month for dinner and scintillating conversation which turns partly (but only partly!) on books. That’s who we are. And National Book Lovers Day is a marvelous tip of the hat to who we are. But we would be book people even without National Book Lovers Day. Frantzie Couch

From Mary Lou in MD:

She adds that she really recommends Orphan Train.

Ron Rash, Serena (2008).  In 1929 newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton arrive from Boston at George’s timber camp in the North Carolina Mountains.  The workers are skeptical about a woman talking an active role in the logging enterprise, but she has great charisma and she soon demonstrates that she can outwork and outsmart any man in camp.  She also encourages her husband to cut out his partners and take over the entire enterprise.  While her strength is admirable at first, eventually what seems to be courage is revealed as ruthless psychopathy.  Not satisfied with clear-cutting huge tracts of what the Secretary of the Interior is attempting to incorporate into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, she sets her sights on exploiting the ungoverned forests of Brazil.  She is oblivious to the strengths and beauties of Appalachian landscape and culture in the Depression but Rash portrays them skilfully.
Nicholas Sparks, At First Sight (2005).  Jeremy Marsh is a 37-year-old Manhattan-based writer for Scientific American who specializes in debunking the paranormal and supernatural, including such things as ghosts, bigfoot and UFOs.  He goes to Boone Creek, NC to investigate ghostly lights in a graveyard.  There he meet and falls in love with Lexie Darnell and three months later he leaves Manhattan and moves to Boone Creek to marry her.  Lexie’s grandmother Doris owns the local restaurant, the social center of the town.  Eventually Doris helps Jeremy to accept that there are some things that are real despite evading scientific explanation.  
John Grisham, The Street Lawyer (1988).  Michael Brock is an associate with a bright future at a giant Washington DC law firm.  The spectacular opening sequence of the novel brings him into traumatic contact with the world of DC’s homeless.  He meets Mordechai Green, head of the 14th Street Legal Clinic, and is introduced to the realities of legal and social work on behalf of the homeless – the world of sleep shelters, soup kitchens, and food stamps and the bureaucrats who fail to serve the needs of the individuals they are chartered to assist. Michael and Mordechai join forces against his former law firm in a tense and dramatic attempt to remedy a terrible wrong.  The plot is well structured and gripping.  This is Grisham at his best, before he became formulaic.
Zane Gray, The Mysterious Rider (1921).  This was an unexpected find in my Senior Center’s book exchange.  Respected patriarch Bill Billlaunds lives with his adopted daughter Columbine on White Sands Ranch in the Colorado foothills.  His son Jack is coming home after an absence of some years and Bill asks Collie to marry him and reform him.  Out of a sense of duty Collie agrees, but then she realizes she loves Wilson Moore, a cowboy on the ranch.  The “mysterious rider” Hell-Bent Wade appears and is committed to resolving the love triangle as “Buster Jack” continues to reveal himself (to everyone but his father) as unworthy of Collie.  This is an old fashioned, conventional, and sentimental novel, but Grey’s portrayal of the Old West and mythic characters such as Hell-Bent Wade make up for our exasperation with Collie’s unliberated views.  
Christina Baker Kline, Orphan Train (2013).  This novel skillfully interweaves the stories of two young girls separated by half a century and half a continent.   Molly Ayer is a rebellious, insecure 17-year-old foster child in Spruce Harbor, Maine in 2011.  She is assigned to do community service for attempting to steal a battered old copy of Jane Eyre from the local library.  She goes to work for Vivian Daly, a 92- year-old widow, sorting through her attic full of boxes and trunks.  Gradually the contents of the attic reveal Vivian’s story.  In 1929 in New York City she is orphaned at age 10, taken in by the Children’s Aid Society, and placed on an orphan train to the Midwest.  As Molly gradually learns Vivian’s story, similarities in their experiences emerge.  Both are social outcasts based on their ancestry and shunted from one desperately unfortunate living situation to another.  Vivian is a red-haired Irish immigrant with the foreign name of Niamh.  Molly is a Goth-attired Penobscot Indian. Both girls are repeatedly exploited and abused in their placements.  We learn their histories as they learn one another’s and admire the friendship that develops between them. Kline has done a commendable job of historical research but it does not intrude on the power of the personal histories or strengths of character of these two brilliantly imagined women. 

Dwight in FLA recommends Read, Kids, Read - Frank Bruni   

The chairs are out and you're invited to come over and relax a bit.  See you soon!

April 26, 2014

April 2014

Thank you for making World Book Night a fun success.  Be sure to sign up for next year and download your free ebook.  (Mine went to my Junk folder so you might have to dig for it.)

Good to see Mrs. Krebs who's preparing to "fiber bomb" Oberlin on May 9, and Ryan who told great stories called Adventures in Healthcare.

Here's what else we discussed:

God No! Signs You May Already by an Atheist - Penn Jillette
The Invisible Code - Christopher Fowler
Outside In - Doug Cooper
The White Princess - Philippa Gregory
Grange House - Sarah Blake
The Postmistress - Sarah Blake
Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks
The Dinner - Herman Koch
Under Magnolia - Frances Mayes
The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams - Lawrence Block
Heads in Beds - Jacob Tomsky
Orfeo - Richard Powers
The Raphael Affair - Iain Pears
A Few Good Men - Sarah Hoyt
Bone Deep - Randy Wayne White
The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert
Your Inner Fish - Neil Shubin
Your Inner Fish
The Address

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, April 10, 2014
The Next meeting will be Thursday, May 8, 2014


Austen, Jane. Emma; Mansfield Park
Editors of Esquire. Smiling Through the Apocalyse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties
Egan, Timothy. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher
Gardner, Lisa. Touch and Go
George, Elizabeth. Believing the Lie
Hotaling, Ed. Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield
McDermott, Andy. The Hunt for Atlantis
Morton, Kate. Secret Keeper
Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
Russo, Richard. Bridge of Sighs
Shubin, Neil. Your Inner Fish (book, CU guest speaker, PBS series)
Sotomayor, Sonia. My Beloved World

Some thoughts from Susanna:

Two Women Take Dugout Canoe Around Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan in a Dugout Blog

I love Lake Michigan and these women are from my area. I followed their story about two years ago and had rather forgotten it until today. Not only did they circumnavigate Lake Michigan - they started with the tree and made a canoe by hand.

I have heard it said that it is great to get through life with no regrets. Not sure that I buy that. I do have regrets. I regret that I was not more adventuresome. I would have loved to have been imaginative &/or knowledgeable enough to have done this. I thought about and never did take a trip down the Mississippi with Jeff when he was a teenager. Way long, too late now.

I would still like to circumnavigate Lake Michigan by boat or car. And It would be fun to cruise part/all of the Mississippi.
One book I will keep forever is "Fresh Water: Women Writing on the Great Lakes." Alison Swan, Editor.

"The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas" by Jerry Dennis.

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes April 2014
Martin Cruz Smith, Three Stations (2010).  The three stations are the grimy transportation hubs located in a street urchin infested and crime-ridden part of Moscow.  A young woman, Maya, escapes with her baby from a brothel in the desolate interior.  When she arrives by train in Moscow she awakes from a drugged sleep to find that her baby has disappeared. She is befriended by one Zhenya, an adolescent chess hustler also known as Genius and they search for her missing daughter.  He happens to be a protégé of Investigator Arkady Renko but Maya is opposed to any contact with the police.   Renko is suspended once again from the prosecutor’s office for uncovering crime and corruption in high places.  He pulls police detective Victor Orlov out of the drunk tank and accompanies him to a murder scene at Three Stations.  All the principle characters come perilously close to death as the strains of the plot wind closer and closer together. 
Carl Hiaasen, Star Island (2010).  Twenty or thirty years ago, the newly elected governor of Florida discovered the political and financial corruption that controlled the state and disappeared into the swamps.  From there he reappears in many of Hiaasen’s novels to pursue his own peculiar form of criminal justice against those who are trashing the environment.  In this one, “Skink” as he is now known, leaves his camp in the crocodile refuge and ventures forth in shotgun shell tipped dreadlocks to thwart a real estate development in the Keys.  In the course of this escapade he rescues Ann, who turns out to be the body double for the talentless druggie-alchie pop star Cherry Pie.  Cherry, her parents, agent, publicists, body guards and a gaggle of paparazzi constitute this novel’s set of hilariously grotesque characters. The language is as hilarious as the characters and Skink’s justice is very satisfying.  This is a romp.
Wendy Wax, Ten Beach Road (2011).     In the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, Malcolm Dyer’s Ponzi scheme collapses and brings ruin to many.  Victims include his sister Nikki, a Los Angeles matchmaker, Avery, architect co-star of TV’s “Hammer and Nail,” and Madeline, housewife and mother of two twenty-something children.   The three women are awarded joint ownership of a Florida gulf-side mansion in partial compensation for their loss.  When they go to check out the property, they discover that the house is a wreck.  So are their lives, as it turns out. They elect to restore the house and partner with a local contractor who is also Avery’s childhood friend.  The details of the exhausting renovation tasks are filmed by Madeline’s daughter and posted on Utube, complete with annoyingly unglamorous pictures of the three older women and the arguments between Avery and the contractor Chase.  This is a novel of self-discovery and rejuvenation and very amusing as well.  
Kent Haruf, Eventide (2004).  This novel continues the stories of residents of the high plains town and county or Holt, Colorado. The McPheron brothers taking Victoria Roubideaux, the single mother they took in in Plainsong, from their ranch to college in Fort Collins.  Victoria’s daughter Katie is now about a hear old and the separation is hard on all of them.  While 19 year old Victoria seems to be getting her life on track, other children in the community are faring less well.  We are introduced to Joy Rae and Richie, victims of school yard bullies, Luther and Betty June Wallace, their mentally challenged parents, and Rose Tyler, their competent and caring social worker.  We also meet DJ, who lives with and cares for his grandfather Walter Kephart, and their neighbors Mary Wells and her daughters Dena and Emma.  No one surpasses Haruf in his ability to capture the loneliness and helplessness of disadvantaged children and the endeavors of certain compassionate adults to address these conditions.  
Kent Haruf, Benediction (2013).  Also set in Holt, Colorado, the events in this novel take place some 20 years later.  None of the characters from Plainsong or Eventide appear.   Dad Lewis is dying of cancer and his wife is doing what she can to make his last days peaceful.  Their 40-something daughter Lorraine returns home to assist, but none of them know how to get in touch with their estranged son Frank. Gradually we learn that the causes of the estrangement lie in Frank’s childhood.  The other family whose tensions figure in the novel are the town’s new minister and his wife and son, who are unsympathetic with his trials of conscience and want to return to Denver.  The major themes are tolerance and forgiveness as the characters do the best they can with unhappy circumstances.  
Wallace Stegner, The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1938).  I’m not sure how I missed reading this classic novel by a former University of Wisconsin professor.   It spans the first 35 years of the twentieth century and travels the development of the continent from Minnesota westward to the Dakotas, Saskatchewan, the Oregon woods, Utah and Nevada.  Elsa nurses her mother through her final illness while caring for her younger siblings.  When her father quickly marries her best friend she travels to North Dakota to live with an uncle.  There she meets and marries the charismatic and mercurial Bo Mason. They have two sons and Bo moves the family from place to place ruthlessly and sometimes criminally chasing his latest delusion of the next Big Deal. Stegner has captured the vastness of the landscape of the American West, the monstrous character flaws of the men who, like Bo, sought to exploit it, and the painful toll of the quest on their families.   
Michael Connelly, The Overlook (2008).  Los Angeles homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch is once again irritated when the FBI, including agent Rachel Walling, inserts itself into his investigation of a murder.  The victim is a cancer doctor with access to radioactive materials and the feds fear a terrorist plot.  Just as Harry suspects, they attempt to cut him out of the investigation, but he insists on pursuing his homicide case with delightful embarrassments to the Bureau in the process. 
Margaret Coel, The Dream Stalker (1997); The Lost Bird (1999).  These novels continue the series set in Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation and featuring Father John Aloysius O’Malley, head pastor of the St Francis Mission, and his friend the Arapaho lawyer Vickie Holden.  As usual, the future of the mission is threatened and Father John is once again trusting in Providence to rescue it.  In The Dream Stalker, energy companies are seeking a lease to Reservation land for use as a nuclear waste storage facility.  In The Lost Bird, a Hollywood star hires Vickie to investigate clues that she was born in the area.  Each novel begins with a murder mystery for Father John and Vickie to solve.  This is a charming series.