March 29, 2014

March 2014

It was great seeing Monica again.  Now living in Granville, her five-hour roundtrip doesn't stop her from joining us!  Gotta love her enthusiasm.

Some important dates coming up:  April 23 is World Book Night and the club is giving away copies of Waiting to Exhale, most of which will go to the women's shelter in Sandusky.  If you'd like a copy/copies please let me know.

Also looking forward to Thursday, May 22 when Doug Cooper author of Outside In will be joining us. Spread the word and bring friends!

Here's what else we discussed:

Quicksilver - Neal Stephenson
Masculine Writing
The System of the World - Neal Stephenson
The Hunters of the Hills - Joseph Altsheler
I Remember (Stories of living in Sandusky) - Reuben Waterfield (1902-1977)
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg
Cold Tuscan Stone - David Wagner
Crime of Privilege - Walter Walker
Sense and Sensibility - Joanna Trollope
The Long Walk Home - Will North
Brotherhood of Fear - Paul Grossman
American Bloomsbury - Susan Cheever
Killer - Jonathan Kellerman
Mysteries by Meg Gardiner
The Tiger's Wife - Tea Obrecht
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks 
Indigo - Catherine Legrand
The Forger's Spell - Edward Dolnick
Those Who Hunt the Night - Barbara Hambly
Too Loud a Silence - Bohumil Hrabal
Going Clear - Lawrence Wright
Holy Blood, Holy Grail - Baigent, Leigh, Lincoln
Coincidence - Robert Anton Wilson
Average Is Over - Tyler Cowen
The Stress of Her Regard - Tim Powers
Generosity - Richard Powers
Six Armies - John Keegan
Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man - James Joyce
Why American History Is Not What They Say - Jeff Riggenbach
The Aviators - Winston Groom
Pepper Pike - Les Roberts
One Summer, America 1927 - Bill Bryson
The Odyssey, Homer - Robert Fitzgerald translation
Our Band Could Be Your Life - Michael Azerrad
Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana - Michael Azerrad
Ulysses - James Joyce
Ulysses - Hugh Jenner
Forgotten Sacrifice: Arctic Convoys of World War II- Michael Walling
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Ulysses and Us - Declan Kiberd
I Can't Complain - Elinor Lipman
A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
The Hare with Amber Eyes - Edmund de Waal
Wild Tales - Graham Nash
Under the Wide and Starry Sky - Nancy Horan
Loving Frank - Nancy Horan
The Red Thread - Ann Hood
The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin
Gift From the Sea - Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Century of Wisdom (World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor/ Power of Optimism) - Caroline Stoessinger
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Alice Herz-Sommer)
Outside In - Doug Cooper
The Chase - Janet Evanovich
Six Degrees of Salinger (PBS)
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
Silent Wife - A.S.A. Harrison (Better than Gone Girl?)
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch                                                                   
Thursday, March 13, 2014 
The Next meeting will be Thursday, April 10, 2014
Baldacci, David. The Winner
Cox, Adam J. No Mind Left Behind
Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent
Egan, Timothy. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher
Francis, Dick. Comeback
Goodwin, Doris Kearns. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism
Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars
Grimes, Martha. Biting the Moon
Gwynne, S. C. Empire of the Summer Moon
Hosseini, Khaled. And the Mountains Echoed
Le Carre, John. A Delicate Truth
Philbrook, Nathaniel. Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Rowling, J. K. The Casual Vacancy

Mental Floss

Colorized historical photographs:

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes March 2014
Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter (1972).  This is a collection of all the Lord Peter Wimsey short stories.  All of our favorite characters make their appearances here and there, starting with Lord Peter’s eclectically capable man Bunter and including his mother the Dowager Duchess, his young nephew Pickled Gherkins, his brother the Duke of Denver, his friend Freddie Arbuthnot, and the lovely Harriet Vane.  Each story presents a tidy little mystery that Peter manages to solve with the help of Bunter or Parker of Scotland Yard.  “The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will” contains a riddle that his niece must resolve if she is to inherit.  He tells her he has concealed his will where she “certainly will never find it unless by exercise of extreme frivolity.”  This is the perfect challenge for Lord Peter.  All the stories are quite droll.
Martin Cruz Smith, Havana Bay (1999).  Arkady Renko travels to Cuba to identify the body of a Russian Embassy employee, found floating in an inner tube in Havana Bay.  Renko is told this is a common local fishing technique.  The Cubans have come to regard the Russians as corrupt traitors to the Revolution, while Papa Castro’s Cuba represents True Communism. They want Arkady to simply identify the body and take it home to Moscow.  Arkady wants a proper investigation into the death.  Attempts are made on his life and he trusts none of the Cuban officials.  Eventually he begins to unravel a tangle of corruption, black magic, murder, and capitalist exploitation.  The lovely Cuban Detective Ofelia Osorio is initially as hostile as the other Cuban officials but eventually she and Renko come to trust one another and resolve the interlocking mysteries.  This is the only Renko novel I recall that is not set in a painfully frigid climate, but Renko still wears his overcoat.
Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues (1989), Flying Too High (1990), Death at Victoria Dock (1992).   For fans of the Australian BC series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, these are the first of the novels on which the programs are based.  Cocaine Blues begins with the Honorable Phryne Fisher in London in the 1920s, bored with the Season.  She agrees to travel to Melbourne, Australia to investigate the deteriorating health of a Colonel’s daughter.  Upon arrival she makes the acquaintance of the taxi drivers Bert and Cec and young, naïve and virtuous Dot Bryant, who becomes her confidential secretary. Phryne’s associates, outspokenness, manner of dress (or undress), and tendencies to entertain handsome men in her suite are shocking to the manager of the Windsor Hotel and to Dot, but she wins them over with her charm and resourcefulness. In this first novel in the series Miss Fisher seeks out a murderous abortionist as well as drug kingpins.  In Flying Too High Phyrne and Dot move to a house on the shore, 221B The Esplanade.  She hires Mr. and Mrs. Butler as handyman and housekeeper.  She is engaged by a distraught mother to prevent her son from murdering his father, who of course promptly turns up dead.  Then smart, plucky, but somewhat disobedient 6-year-old Candida sneaks out to the candy store and is kidnapped off the street.  Her parents seek Miss Fisher’s assistance.  Detective Inspector Robinson has succumbed to Phryne’s charms by this time and provides some unofficial assistance.  Airplane stunts help to bring matters to a successful conclusion.   Death at Victoria Dock begins with the windshield being shot out of Miss Fisher’s Hispano-Suiza.  She gets out to survey the damage and discovers an attractive young man with an anarchist tattoo, who dies in her arms.  She is determined to bring his murderers to justice.   The quest takes her to tattoo parlors, a séance, a group of Latvian revolutionaries, and a bank robbery.  These all are highly entertaining.  Watch the ABC series for the costuming if nothing else.
Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone (2012).  At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, orphans from New York City were sent by various charities across the country on trains to find adoptive parents.  One of these children is Cora.  She is adopted at about age 6 by a kindly farm family in Kansas.  Some 30 years later she is a respectable married woman in Wichita.  Her husband is a busy lawyer and their twin sons are leaving for college in the fall.  Cora is curious about her parentage and volunteers to serve as chaperone to a willful 15-year-old girl who has a summer placement at a famous dance studio in New York City.  Louise Brooks reads Schopenhauer, delights in shocking Cora, and proves impossible to manage. They share a small apartment for the summer and while Louise is in class, Cora searches out the Catholic orphanage where she spent her first years. There she makes the acquaintance of an impoverished German immigrant, handyman at the orphanage, and his young daughter who lives there. Cora strives to be a virtuous influence on Louise, without success.  Instead, Louise begins to overcome Cora’s conventional outlook on life.  Cora returns to Wichita with more courageous and liberal views that infuse the remainder of her long life. This historical novel provides vivid descriptions of the New York theatre scene in 1922, and equally vivid portrayals of the cultural changes in the heartland in the succeeding decades.    
Frank Delaney, The Matchmaker of Kenmare (2011).  Kate Begley is the matchmaker of the title and Kenmare is a small town on the southwest coast of Ireland.  Ben MacCarthy meets her in the summer of 1943.  He is a collector of folk tales, traveling the country by bicycle and on foot and he has come to chronicle the methods of Kate and her grandmother, another matchmaker.  Ireland is neutral in WW II and Ben likes it that way, but he and Kate get drawn into the scenes of the conflict anyway.  The novel provides startling close-ups of some of the horrors of that war, psychological as well as military.
Jane Smiley, Good Faith (2003).  Joe Stratford is an honorable middle aged real estate broker in a small town in New York State.  He is generally trusted and admired.  A local builder friend is justly proud of his custom houses, but when Joe sells the latest one to one Marcus Burns, a former IRS agent, his life suddenly becomes very complicated.  He is consistently suspicious of Burns’s methods of doing business, but against his better judgment he gets drawn into an investment partnership with him. All the characters are developed with Smiley’s usual skill, amusing and just short of caricature.  Smiley creates an atmosphere of considerable suspense as we worry along with Joe that he has been seduced into participating in a monstrous scam.  
Kent Haruf, Eventide (2004).  This novel continues the stories of residents of the high plains town and county of Holt, Colorado. The McPheron brothers are 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.  

March 15, 2014

February 2014

We welcomed Marilyn to the group, and someone remarked that the one good thing about February is that is stays lighter longer.  We also discussed what made a good memoir.  See below.

The Bond - Wayne Pacelle
Pandora's Lunchbox - Melanie Warner
Michael Pollan
Last Train to Paris - Michele Zackheim
Billy Crystal's memoir (don't bother)
Carol King's memoir (flat, no juice)
Diane Keaton's memoir (very good)
Penny Marshall's memoir (highly recommended)
The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
The River of No Return - Bee Ridgway
Why I Read - Wendy Lesser
Vera Stanhope mysteries - Ann Cleves
American Bloomsbury - Susan Cheever
Christopher Hitchens
E. B. White
Neal Stephenson:  Reamde, Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash
Islam - John Williams
Catholicism - George Brand
Protestantism - J. Leslie Dunstan (I enjoyed the excerpt that Elaine shared)
The Storyteller - Jodi Picoult
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon - Alexander McCall Smith
Beautiful the musical
Light of the World - James Lee Burke
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris
The Archivist - Martha Cooley
Auntie Mame - Patrick Dennis

From our friends in OK:
Lawton Book Bunch                                                                   
Thursday, February 13, 2014 


Adkins, Roy: Jane Austen’s England
Blevins, Brooks: Arkansas/Arkansaw
Byrne, Paula: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
Chevalier, Tracy: Remarkable Creatures
Gerstacker, Friedrick: In the Arkansas Backwoods: Tales and Sketches
Gwynne, S. C.: Empire of the Summer Moon
King, Laurie R.: The God of the Hive: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes 
King, Stephen:  Dr. Sleep
Kolbert, Elizabeth: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Munro, Alice: Dear Life
Pollan, Michael: Botany of Desire
Ripley, Amanda: The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
Shubin, Neil (Speaker at Cameron Thursday, February 6, 2014): Your Inner Fish 
Skloot, Rebecca: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


Eight Below
Iron Will (with Kevin Spacey – no Leonardo Dicaprio – would this be it?)
Monuments Men
Twelve Years a Slave


Kolbert, Elizabeth.  Annals of Extinction Part One. “The Lost World.” New Yorker December 16, 2013, p. 28.
Kolbert, Elizabeth.  Annals of Extinction Part Two. “The Lost World.” New Yorker December 23, 2013 p. 48.

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:

 Booknotes Laura February 2014
Quintin Jardine, Grievous Angel (2011).  Edinburgh Chief Constable Bob Skinner is having a difficult time dealing with all the horrors of his police career.  On the advice of his wife, he starts a journal of sorts, recounting some of his earliest experiences, some 15 years in the past.  The account includes his daughter Alex as a teenager and his first meeting with several young officers who figure prominently in later phases of his career, including the flamboyant Mario McGuire, the lovely Maggie Rose, and the steady Andy Martin.  Skinner never did suffer fools, and some of the older officers newly under his supervision need to show some initiative or find another slot.  The investigation involves several brutal murders, a couple of warring crime bosses, and cross-border intrigue.    
Rita Mae Brown, Puss ‘n Cahoots (2007), The Purrfect Murder (2008).  Mary Minor Haristeen (Harry) and Pharamond Haristeen (Fair) have remarried.  Harry has given up being postmistress and turned to full time farming, while Fair’s veterinary career is keeping him busier than ever.  As usual, Harry’s cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter and her corgi Tee Tucker do their best to protect Harry from the perils of her curiosity while pets and humans work to solve the murder mysteries.  The plots are a little thin and too many pages are taken up with discussions by both animals and humans of social and political issues that have only tangential bearing on the mysteries.
Felix Francis, Bloodline (2012).  Felix Francis has taken up his father Dick Francis’s calling, writing horsy mysteries.  Mark Shillingford is a race caller and TV presenter.  His twin sister Clare is an accomplished jockey.  When Clare apparently commits suicide, Mark doesn’t believe it for a minute.  His investigation of her death reveals ugly secrets in the world of racing.  
Martin Cruz Smith, December 6 (2002).  Since we know what is going to happen on December 7, it is astonishing how much suspense is packed into this novel set in Tokyo in December 1941.  Harry Niles, the son of fundamentalist American missionaries, grows up in 1920s Tokyo while his parents travel the country.  As the only gaijin (foreigner) at his school, he is always the target of his play-fellows’ samurai games.  As an adult, Harry runs a jazz club, the Happy Paris, faintly reminiscent of Rick’s in Casablanca. The Japanese distrust Harry as a Westerner and the Americans and English distrust him as too Japanese.  Harry, now an accomplished gambler, knows that was is coming soon and tries his best to hedge his bets and save his friends and himself.  The portraits of the two cultures and their misunderstandings of one another are compelling and the suspense is intense.  
Martin Cruz Smith, Rose (1996).  It is 1872 and Jonathan Blair, a mining engineer, has returned from Africa to London.  He is broke and suffering from malaria but he drags himself to the Royal Geographical Society to meet with his patron, Bishop Hannay.  The Bishop owes Blair money, but won’t pay him or send him back to the Gold Coast to continue searching for gold.  Instead, he must agree to go first to Wigan, the Hannay family coal mining town, to search for a missing curate, fiancé of the Bishop’s daughter.  No one among the Wigan residents, the coal miners, or the Hannay family is responsive to Blair’s questioning about the missing man. Even the Bishop’s daughter doesn’t seem to want him found.  Wigan is a very dangerous place on the surface and deadly in the mine. The mysterious pit girl Rose is attractive to Blair and Rose’s miner boyfriend is murderously jealous.  Blair repeatedly escapes death as he unravels the multiple mysteries.  
Margaret Coel, The Eagle Catcher (1995).  Father John Aloysius O’Malley is the head pastor of the St Francis Mission on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation.  Some years ago, when he was assigned to the Wind River Reservation after a bout with alcoholism, he felt exiled but he has since developed great respect and compatibility with the Arapaho view of reality.  The Tribal Chairman asks Father John to meet him at the pow wow grounds on the morning of an annual dance celebration.  When he doesn’t appear, Father John finds him murdered in his tipi.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Chief Art Banner and Father John search for the murderer and the motive.  Meanwhile, the local FBI agent, who has jurisdiction over serious crimes on the Reservation, arrests the Chairman’s nephew based on circumstantial evidence and no understanding of Arapaho culture.  Chief Banner and Father John enlist the help of attorney Vickie Holden, who has recently returned to her childhood home on the Reservation.  As Father John pursues his pastoral duties of home visits, wakes, funerals and other ceremonies, he attempts to school his young assistant in the ways of Wind River Reservation.  Thus we perceive the gulf of misunderstanding, duplicity and willful delusion that separate the FBI agent and the local white ranchers and businessmen from any true understanding of the plains Indian culture.  Finally Father John finds the truth in the history of the appropriation of Reservation lands by Euro-American Indian Agents.
Margaret Coel, The Ghost Walker (1996).  Father O’Malley’s old Toyota pickup stalls out on a Reservation side road in a snow storm. He begins walking toward a main road and discovers a body in the ditch, wrapped in an Arapaho star quilt.  Eventually he gets a ride to a garage but misses the meeting of the bishop’s representative with the local Roman Catholic pastors.  The next day when he returns with Tribal Police Chief Banner, the body has disappeared.  Rumors about the ghost walker abound among the Wind River Reservation Arapahos.  Then Father John is informed that the bishop’s representative announced at the previous night’s meeting that St Francis Mission is being sold a private group to build a large recreation center for the Indians.  Church politics, Euro-American greed, and Reservation governance challenge Father John’s efforts to save his Mission.  Meanwhile, Father John’s friend the Arapaho lawyer Vickie Holden learns that her estranged daughter has returned to the Reservation with three white men who appear to be holding her captive.  Father John and Vickie suspect the two mysteries are related, but nearly get themselves killed figuring it all out.  

Margaret Coel, The Thunder Keeper (2001).  Vickie Holden has returned to her old law firm in Denver, where she is handling the appeal of a mineral rights lawsuit that could open all Indian Reservations to commercial exploitation.  Back at the Wind River Reservation, Father John and the Elders do not believe that a young Arapaho on a vision quest at Bear Lake committed suicide at such a sacred place.  In Denver, Vickie witnesses the hit and run death of a lawyer from a rival firm who asked to meet her.  The white police in both Denver and Wyoming do not believe that these deaths were murders, but Vickie and Father John are determined to find the truth.  Once again, their understanding of Arapaho history and culture lead s them to the truth, while putting their lives in peril.   Fans of Tony Hillermans’s Navajo mysteries will enjoy Coel’s novels.