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.  

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