October 17, 2015

September 2015

If summer is for beach reads, fall is for cozy cushions.

Here's what we discussed:

Elon Musk - Ashlee Vance.
Pause, Play: A Higher Consciousness Handbook - K.P. van der Tempel
Goodbye to All That - Robert Graves
Information Doesn't Want to Be Free - Cory Doctorow
Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
We Believe the Children - Richard Beck
Stone mouth - Iain Banks
The Dark Forest - Cixin Liu
Armada - Ernest Cline
The Island Worlds - Eric Kotani and John Maddox Roberts
Now Wait For Last Year - Philip K. Dick
The Girl in the Spider's Web - David Lagercrantz
Burning Down George Orwell's House - Andrew Ervin
The Naked Eye - Iris Johansen
Friction - Sandra Brown
The Festival of Insignificance - Milan Kundera
West of Sunset - Stewart O'Nan
The Vacationers - Emma Straub
Books by Thomas Disch
Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Tortilla Curtain - T.C. Boyle
San Miguel - T.C. Boyle
The Nightingale - Kristen Hannah
The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
Top Secret Twenty-One - Janet Evanovich
Fire in the Hole - Elmore Leonard
X - Sue Grafton
Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles - A.L. Herbert
The Cavendon Women - Barbara Taylor Bradford
Words Onscreen - Naomi S. Baron
Butterflies in November - Auour Ava Olafsdottir
Second Street Station - Lawrence Levy
Library of Babel (a project of a universal library)
One Righteous Man - Arthur Browne
Doc - Mary Doria Russell

From our sister club in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015


Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War
Gillon, Steven M. American Paradox: A History of the United States Since 1945
Hughes, Terry. I Am Pilgrim
Kyle, Aryn. The God of Animals
Rappaport, Helen. The Romanov Sisters
Pearlman, Edith. Binocular Vision
Pietila, Antero. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City
Sedaris, David. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
Smith, Tom Rob. Child 44
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States


The Gift
Iris (Iris Apfel)
Leviathan (Russian. 2014)
The Painting (French: La Tableau. 2011)
Straight Outta Compton
A Walk in the Woods
Witches of Eastwick


Great Performances: Twilight (Anna Devere Smith)


Luther (BBC with Idris Elba)
The Wire


James Bond actors. Idris Elba as the next James Bond. 

From Mary Lou in MD:

September 2015

Len Deighton, Faith (1994), Hope (1995), Charity (1996). Here is another dark, convoluted, espionage trilogy by the master. Bernard Samson’s special instincts about the Cold War stem from his boyhood in Berlin, where his father was Resident for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), (MI-6). The first three books of the series, Game, Set and Match, are set in 1982 -1984. The second trilogy, Hook, Line, and Sinker, are set in 1987. This most recent trilogy is set in 1988 – 1989. All the novels are narrated by Bernie, except Sinker, a third-person narrative focusing on Bernie’s wife Fiona and revealing things Bernard does not know (yet). The lack of understanding between Bernard and Fiona are a secondary source of tension in these novels. All of Bernard’s colleagues and superiors are untrustworthy and he knows it. His immediate supervisor Dicky Cruyer is a vain, fantasy-spinning, power-craving London bureaucrat with bountiful, unjustified confidence in his spy-craft. Frank Harrington, Berlin Resident for many hears, is crafty and competent, but committed first and foremost to maintaining his position as he approaches retirement. Bret Rensselaer, an Anglophile American, eventually rises to Deputy Director General in the course of this trilogy. He understands and respects Bernard more than the others, but still objects to the agent’s tendencies to follow his instincts more than his orders and to withhold as much information as possible as a matter of principle. The chief delights of these novels are Bernard’s narrow and often brutal and bloody escapes from the Bad Guys (Stasi, KGB, etc.), his insights into his superior’s thoughts and motivations, and his evasions of the traps set by the SIS bureaucracy. Even his best friend since childhood, Werner Volkman, keeps secrets from Bernard when London Central orders him to do so. In this culminating trilogy of the series, Bernard works against orders and with great determination to solve mysteries relating to his wife and fellow-spy Fiona, his sister-in-law Tessa, and his brother-in-law George Kosinski. Only the instincts developed in a lifetime in and around Berlin and 20-some years of spying for SIS enable Bernard to survive his missions (official and free-lance) into East Germany and Poland. His superiors neither understand nor approve the violent, often deadly acts by which he survives. The enemy agents and agencies don’t much like them either, and would happily take advantage of any opportunity for revenge. Bernard’s life is equally threatened by Stasi/KGB agents and London Central’s ignorance and incompetence. The suspense is intense.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851; 2010). The Salem house of the title and the family that inhabits it was cursed a century ago by a man tried and hanged for witchcraft. Hawthorne, in his preface, deems the work a romance rather than a novel because it is given more to fantasy than to realism. The narrator is discursive, judgmental, and intrusive and all of the characters are bizarre. The Pyncheons believe themselves to be gentry and proper owners of a vast tract of land outside Salem, but the papers documenting their claim was lost long ago. Now the house has become decrepit and it is inhabited only by an elderly, reclusive spinster, Hepzibah Pyncheon. She has decided she has no alternative but to open a Cent Shop in the house, but she dreads contact with the public. Her young, cheerful cousin Phoebe arrives unexpectedly from the country and proves a very helpful housemate and storekeeper. Hepzibah’s cousin the Judge is wealthy and well regarded by the town, but Hepzibah believes him to be thoroughly evil. One of the gables of the house is rented to a mysterious young photographer who believes his photo has captured the Judge’s true evil nature. Eventually the overlapping mysteries are solved and right prevails in a most unconvincing manner. As Hawthorne told us, this is a romance.

September 07, 2015

August 2015

"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl 

As you can see, not much time has been spent in front of the TV:

Emma - Alexander McCall Smith
Political Order and Political Decay - Francis Fukuyama
The End of History and The Last Man - Francis Fukuyama
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
Islands - Anne Rivers Siddons
Books by Wallace Stegner
The Memory House - Bette Lee Crosby
Monkeys on the Interstate - Jack Hanna
The Ridleys - Matt Haig
The Tragic Story of the Empress of Ireland - Logan Marshall
The Forgotten Sister - Jennifer Paynter
Blueprints - Barbara Delinsky (not recommended)
When the Night Comes - Favel Parrett
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
Solitude Creek - Jeffery Deaver
The Long Way Home - Louise Penny
Mr. Peanut - Adam Ross
Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread - Chuck Palahniuk
It Comes in Waves - Erika Marks
Ten Thousand Saints - Eleanor Henderson
Skink - Carl Hiaasen
Bad Monkey - Carl Hiassen

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, August 13, 2015
The next meeting will be: Sept. 10, 2015


Carr, Caleb. Alienist; Angel of Darkness
Ferber, Edna. Cimarron; Giant
George, Elizabeth. All of her books.
Godsave, Bayard. Torture Tree
Harrer, Karl Maria. Miracles Through Our Lady
Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on a Train
Jones, Hardy. People of the Good God
Martin, Wednesday. The Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir
Powell, Julie. Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously *
Roensch, Rob. The Wild Flowers of Baltimore
Rutherford, Edward. Paris
Siegal, Nina. The Anatomy Lesson
Smith, J.E. Edna Ferber’s Hollywood
Wachter, Robert. The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hipe, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age


Big Sleep
I’ll See You In My Dreams
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Mr. Holmes
Testament of Youth


Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: Suzannah Lipscomb Dispels Myths about the Lovers Who Changed History.

* June now owns every sized slow cooker and has determined to cook dishes from around the world.

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes August 2015

Mia King, Good Things (2006). Deidre McIntosh is the famous star of Seattle’s “Live Simple” TV show about cooking and life style. Then, with no warning, a bitch named Marla launches a competing show, heralded with a vicious ad campaign attacking Deidre as well as her show. Deidre’s show is cancelled and her best friend and roommate decides to move in with his boyfriend. She has a spectacular wardrobe and a flashy car, but no savings, no income, no place to live and no idea how she is going to survive. An attractive stranger offers her his country home as a retreat until she gets her life on track and she finds herself in a remote cabin a few miles from the tiny town of Jacob’s Point, near Lake Wish in Eastern Washington. The Wishbone Café and its owner Lindsey become central to Deidre’s life and recovery. Lake Wish has unexpected magical powers and the handsome stranger provides the novel’s love interest as well as its main mystery.

Tracy Chevalier, The Last Runaway (2013). In 1850-something Honor Bright leaves her Quaker community in Dorset to immigrate to America with her sister Grace, who is going there to marry a shopkeeper in a Quaker community near Oberlin, Ohio. When Honor arrives in Ohio after a dreadful voyage she learns that some of the local women are assisting fugitive slaves, while a rakish man on an impressive horse employs himself as a slavecatcher. The slavery controversy is very heated. Honor does not understand why her new family is hostile to her and forbids her to do anything to assist runaway slaves. She struggles to fit into her new life while remaining true to her Quaker conscience. This novel presents a vivid account of the personal, social and political struggles surrounding the slavery issue.

Jean Zimmerman, The Orphan Master (2012). This novel is set in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (Manhattan) in the 1660s. Edward Drummond, posing as a grain merchant, has traveled there as a spy in the service of King Charles II to seek out regicides who have taken refuge in the New England colonies and to evaluate the Dutch fortifications in the event of British attack. He soon meets Blandine van Couvering, a vibrant and independent young woman who is a savvy trader in furs and other goods. She also is an orphan, long befriended by the local orphan master, one Aet Visser. Several young orphans have been brutally murdered and others have disappeared. Witchcraft is suspected. At one time or another, Edward, Blandine, and Aet fall under suspicion even as they attempt to identify the murderer. There are many other colorful characters, the historical setting is fascinating, and the plot is engaging.

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers (1857; B&N Classics 2005). This is volume 2 of Trollope’s 6-volume Barchester series. It is a comic novel of character set in and around the fictitious Victorian town of Barchester. The characters are variously flawed by naiveté, pride, jealousy, greed, ambition and hypocrisy. The author/narrator is intrusive and judgmental. Dr. Proudie, an outsider, is appointed Bishop of Barchester, his wife and his curate (Mr. Slope) are vying for control of the diocese, and the local Anglican worthies are outraged by the low-church dogma the newcomers attempt to impose. Almost all of the characters are selfish, ambitious, and scheming and the few without such motives are a mystery to the others. The plot, such as it is, turns on the resulting miscommunications.

August 02, 2015

July 2015

A little surprised at the diverse list we have for our summer reading:

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
Seveneves - Neal Stephenson
By the People - Charles Murray
Leviathan - Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
Lost Sandusky - M. Kristina Smith
The Sword of the Lictor - Gene Wolfe
Words Without Music - Philip Glass
Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold
Top Secret Twenty-One - Janet Evanovich
Retire Smart Retire Happy - Nancy Schlossberg
Revitalizing Retirement - Nancy Schlossberg
Everybody Sees the Ants - A.S. King
Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe - Alexander McCall Smith
Funny Girl - Nick Hornby
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee
Silent Night - Stanley Weintraub
Ghost Map - Steven Johnson
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
A Good American - Alex George
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Deep Down Dark - Hector Tobar
Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
Same Sky - Amanda Eyre Ward
Rhino with Glue-on Shoes - Lucy Spelman
Monkeys on the Interstate - Jack Hanna
Range of Motion - Elizabeth Berg
Why isn't My Brain Working - Datis Kharrazian
West of Sunset - Stuart O'Nan
Dreams of Joy - Lisa See
Shanghai Girls - Lisa See
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
My Life in the Cleveland Zoo - Adam Smith
Lobster Chronicles - Linda Greenlaw
Lost Sandusky - M. Kristina Smith
At Home with Madame Chic - Jennifer Scott

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes Laura August 2015

Mia King, Good Things (2006). Deidre McIntosh is the famous star of Seattle’s “Live Simple” TV show about cooking and life style. Then, with no warning, a bitch named Marla launches a competing show, heralded with a vicious ad campaign attacking Deidre as well as her show. Deidre’s show is cancelled and her best friend and roommate decides to move in with his boyfriend. She has a spectacular wardrobe and a flashy car, but no savings, no income, no place to live and no idea how she is going to survive. An attractive stranger offers her his country home as a retreat until she gets her life on track and she finds herself in a remote cabin a few miles from the tiny town of Jacob’s Point, near Lake Wish in Eastern Washington. The Wishbone Café and its owner Lindsey become central to Deidre’s life and recovery. Lake Wish has unexpected magical powers and the handsome stranger provides the novel’s love interest as well as its main mystery.

Tracy Chevalier, The Last Runaway (2013). In 1850-something Honor Bright leaves her Quaker community in Dorset to immigrate to America with her sister Grace, who is going there to marry a shopkeeper in a Quaker community near Oberlin, Ohio. When Honor arrives in Ohio after a dreadful voyage she learns that some of the local women are assisting fugitive slaves, while a rakish man on an impressive horse employs himself as a slavecatcher. The slavery controversy is very heated. Honor does not understand why her new family is hostile to her and forbids her to do anything to assist runaway slaves. She struggles to fit into her new life while remaining true to her Quaker conscience. This novel presents a vivid account of the personal, social and political struggles surrounding the slavery issue.

Jean Zimmerman, The Orphan Master (2012). This novel is set in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (Manhattan) in the 1660s. Edward Drummond, posing as a grain merchant, has traveled there as a spy in the service of King Charles II to seek out regicides who have taken refuge in the New England colonies and to evaluate the Dutch fortifications in the event of British attack. He soon meets Blandine van Couvering, a vibrant and independent young woman who is a savvy trader in furs and other goods. She also is an orphan, long befriended by the local orphan master, one Aet Visser. Several young orphans have been brutally murdered and others have disappeared. Witchcraft is suspected. At one time or another, Edward, Blandine, and Aet fall under suspicion even as they attempt to identify the murderer. There are many other colorful characters, the historical setting is fascinating, and the plot is engaging.

June 28, 2015

June 2015

So glad Judy could join us!

Here are the books we discussed:

Walk Among the Tombstones - Lawrence Block (book vs. movie)
Fire in the Hole - Elmore Leonard
Friends of Eddie Coyle - George Higgins
Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese
Death Comes to the Archbishop - Willa Cather
Scandal in the Secret City - Diane Fanning
Postcards from the Past - Marcia Willett
Broadchurch - Erin Kelly
Finding Nouf - Zoe Ferraris
The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass
Nora Webster - Colm Toibin
This is the Life - Alex Shearer
We Are Not Ourselves - Matthew Thomas
Ruth's Journey - Donald McCaig
China Dolls - Lisa See
Shanghai Girls - Lisa See
Behind the Smile - Bobbi Phelps Wolverton
Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett
Wheels Within Wheels - F. Paul Wilson
A Better World - Marcus Sakey
Girl in a Band - Kim Gordon
Trailer Park Fae - Lillith Saintcrow
Ancillary Sword - Ann Leckie
Days of Rage - Bryan Burrough
The Dead Key - D.M. Pulley
David and Goliath - Malcom Gladwell
The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
Central Park - Sara Cedar Miller
Storied Life of A.J. Fiery - Gabrielle Zevin
The Houseguest - Agnes Rossi
Benediction - Kent Haruf
Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf
Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
Night in Shanghai - Nicole Mones
The Chinese Chef - Nicole Mones
West of Sunset - Stewart O'Nan
Solitude Creek - Jeffery Deaver
Your Next Breath - Iris Johansen
Memory Man - David Baldacci
Gathering Prey - John Sanford

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes June 2015

Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen (2008). The late Marco Cirrini developed the ski resort business in the small town of Bald Slope, North Carolina. The life of his 27-year-old daughter Josey is totally subsumed in chaffering her mother to appointments and social functions. The widow Margaret Cirrini is bitter and self-centered and never misses an opportunity to tell Josey she is fat and ugly. Despite her mother’s rigid control of her life, Josey befriends one Chloe Finley, a young woman of no pretentions who makes delicious sandwiches in a tiny shop at the local courthouse. Josey has two secrets: she is in love with Adam the mailman, and a mysterious woman, Della Lee, has taken up residence in her closet. Chloe’s secret is that books simply appear in her life and demand to be read. If she throws them away, they rescue themselves and follow her. Then one presently stalking her is Finding Forgiveness, but she is not ready to forgive her boyfriend Jake. Della Lee has a secret too, but we don’t discover it until the very end of the novel. The bits of magic are woven unobtrusively into the plot as the three women work toward their destinies.

Sarah Addison Allen, The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010). Sixteen year old Emily Benedict goes to live with her grandfather in the small town of Mullaby, North Carolina when her mother dies. Her mother has told her nothing about her grandfather or the town. Her grandfather turns out to be a gentle arthritic 8-foot giant and the gothic revival house where her mother grew up has succumbed to dust and disrepair. Emily moves into the room that was her mother’s, where the wallpaper changes according to mood and where the view from the balcony reveals strange lights moving about the garden in the moonlight. As if the house isn’t mysterious enough, Emily finds the townspeople strangely hostile to her because of something her mother did. Emily is befriended by her 30-something neighbor Julia, who runs a local barbeque café she inherited from her father and bakes fabulous cakes. Julia doesn’t want to be the one to tell Emily why the town is still outraged about her mother. Julia has her own mystery to solve. Eventually romance triumphs.

Sandra Brown, Rainwater (2009). This novel is not one of Brown’s Texas crime thrillers but it is a book that’s hard to put down. It is 1934 and Texas is suffering from the economic depression and the drought that produced the dustbowl. A shanty town of the homeless has developed on the edge of town. Ella Baron supports herself and her autistic son Solly by running a gentile boarding house. The town doctor brings her a new boarder to fill her recent vacancy – Mr. Rainwater. As the new tenant settles in, Ella feels her independence threatened by his gentlemanly courtesy and his interest in Solly. Eventually, when trouble comes to the rural community, they become allies for justice. Read this novel and you will see why Brown felt compelled to write it.

Yasmin Crowther, The Saffron Kitchen (2006). The story emerges from the remote mud hut village of Mazareh in northeastern Iran, near Afghanistan. Here Maryam Mazar grew up as a daughter of a wealthy official for the Shah. Through a series of traumatic events, she becomes an exile married to Edward and living in Richmond Hill, a suburb of London. They have a daughter, Sarah, who is 29 when the novel begins. Maryam’s sister Mara has died in Tehran and her 12-year-old son Saeed has come to live with his aunt. His arrival precipitates a series of events that lead Maryam to retreat to Mazareh and eventually to reveal to Sarah the sequence of events that propelled her to her life in England, with her heart still tied to Mazareh. The mysteries of Maryam’s past must be revealed and resolved to bring peace and wellbeing of sorts to the entire family. This is a moving novel with strong characters and lyrical, sensuous descriptions of settings, tastes, smells, and emotions.

Jane Sanderson, Eden Falls (2013). The chronicle of the inhabitants of Netherwood and Ravenscliffe continues. It is 1902 and Eve MacLeod’s brother Silas Whittam, who made his millions in the Jamaican banana trade, has outfitted ships to carry luxury passengers as well as bananas and bring them to his fancy English-style hotel in Jamaica. Eve’s first-born son Seth is the assistant manager of his uncle’s hotel. Silas is imperious with the Jamaican staff and as a result he is dissatisfied with their grudging performance. Much to the dismay of Eve’s husband Daniel, Seth asks Eve to come to Jamaica to put things to rights with the local staff. The marriage of Eve’s friend Anna and Labor MP Amos Sykes is also strained by their differing outlooks on social class, politics and economics. Meanwhile, life of the gentry at Netherwood Hall is disrupted by the flighty new American Countess Thea and Lady Henrietta’s notorious actions as a leader in the women’s suffrage movement. Not all of the conflicts are resolved by the end of the novel, so we can hope for a continuation of the life stories of these engrossing characters.

May 31, 2015

May 2015

Many thanks to poet Dave Lucas for spending time with us!  Very appreciative to be able to share Weather with him both in the literary sense and meteorological.  Thunderstorms rolled in from the lake while we listened to poetry.

Here's what else we discussed:

The Kitchen God's Wife - Amy Tan
The Greek Myths - Robin Waterfield
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
On Leadship - John Gardner
Drunk Tank Pink - Adam Alter
Fault in Our Stars - John Green
An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
Paper Towns - John Green
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins  (boo!)
Books by Kent Haruf: Benediction, Plainsong, Eventide
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
War and Peace - Tolstoy
Ten Thousand Saints - Eleanor Henderson
The New Testament - Jericho Brown
Weather (VQR Poetry Series) - Dave Lucas

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, May 8, 2015
The next meeting will be: June 11, 2015


Fitzgerald, Penelope. The Book Shop
King, Stephen. Mr. Mercedes; The Stand
Konigsburg, E. L. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Oller, John. American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague …
Rappaport, Helen. The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra


Water Diviner

From June Rain reports on Netflix:

* Daimian Lewis (Henry VIII of Wolf Hall) headed the cast in 3 seasons of Life, a series based on the premise that a cop was erroneously convicted and served 12 years of a life term before he was freed—only to return to his job. Very interesting & well done and not a bad actor in the bunch. Watched all episodes
* Midway through 15 seasons of Midsomer Murders; almost completed season 6 of Inspector Morse; all 6 seasons of George Gently. Surprised there’s anyone alive in the U.K. who isn’t in prison or a member of the police force. I’ve seen every conceivable means of offing someone under the Union Jack. I hope they keep making and exporting them.
* 42 episodes of The Killing. Wish there had been more. Murder and mayhem done in the U.S.
* TED talks – Mind-bending, hilarious, enlightening, inspiring – never a waste of time.

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes Laura May 2015

Jane Hamilton, The Book of Ruth (1988). Ruth is not very bright, but she is extremely perceptive. As she narrates the story of her life, she describes her reality with vivid, earthy and surprising similes. Pick a page, any page: “she was so happy . ., she felt like a spring fed cow pond.” Ruth’s mother May is a bitter and verbally abusive woman. She dotes on her math genius son Matt and never misses an opportunity to tell Ruth how stupid she is. Still, Ruth understands a great deal about her family, her neighbors, the minister, and the social dynamic of her tiny town of Honey Creek in northwest Illinois. There are few bright spots in Ruth’s young life – an elderly neighbor with whom she listens to recorded Dickens and Austin novels and her Aunt Sid in St. Louis. There is no doubt that things will end badly, but Ruth’s point of view remains fascinating throughout all the turmoil and tragedy.

Claude Izner, Murder on the Eiffel Tower (2003; English translation 2007). The brand new Eiffel Tower is the centerpiece of the 1889 World Exposition. Much of the action of this murder mystery takes place in and around the tower at the Exposition. The amateur detective and narrator Victor Legris runs a bookstore with his foster father, who happens to be Japanese. A couple of Russians and a couple Americans also figure in the tale. The setting and the historical milieu should have made this novel more engrossing than it was for me. I found Victor comical and tiresome as he chased one improbable theory after another in his attempts to identify the murderer. Maybe the novel lost a lot in translation.

Deborah Crombie, Leave the Grave Green (1995); And Justice There Is None (2002); No Mark upon Her (2011). New Scotland Yard’s Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant (later Inspector) Gemma James need their combined talents to solve the brutal and puzzling homicides that confront them in these novels. The murders are properly mysterious, the plots are cleverly suspenseful, and the subplots of bureaucratic politics and an emerging love affair weave effectively through the tales.

Jane Sanderson, Netherwood (2011). This is the first in a series of novels set in a Yorkshire coal mining town in the early 1900s. The poverty of the mining family of Eve and Arthur Williams contrasts starkly with the opulence of the huge estate of Teddy Hoyland, Earl of Netherwood. The novel begins with the eviction of striking miners from their company-provided cottages in nearby Grangely, where Eve grew up. Teddy takes pride in the fact that his three mines are much better managed and free from labor troubles. Still, they are not as safe as they could be and Arthur’s friend Amos Syles is trying to organize the men. The earl’s wife Clarissa is planning a spectacular celebration of son Toby’s 21st birthday. Toby is frivolous and self-indulgent, in great contrast to his sister Henrietta, who has a very unladylike interest in the business of the mines and the estate. The plots involving the activities of the two families are sufficient to hold the reader’s interest, but the strength of this novel is in the vitality of the characters.

Jane Sanderson, Ravenscliffe (2012). This novel carries forward with the characters from Netherwood and introduces a few new ones. Eve’s friend and housemate Anna Rabinovitz, widow of a Russian Jewish miner from Grangely, encourages Anna to lease a spacious house on the common – Ravenscliffe. The family moves there and Anna reveals her talents as a decorator. The baking business has moved from Eve’s kitchen to the old flour mill, generously rehabbed and outfitted by Teddy Hoyland. Eve, widowed in the first novel, now has a suitor, master gardener for the Netherwood estate, Daniel MacLeod. Eve’s son Seth is a troubled and troublesome teenager, breaking his mother’s heart with his determination to follow his father’s path in the coal mines. Amos Sykes becomes a Labor candidate for parliament and falls in love with Anna. Up at Netherwood Hall, Toby continues his irresponsible ways and annoys his mother by falling in love with a convention-flaunting American. Henrietta continues to push her father toward safety improvements at the mines and eventually becomes interested in the woman’s suffrage movement. The events of the plot provide the impetus for a satisfying degree of character development. Sanderson sustains the high standard she established in her first novel.

Sarah Addison Allen, Garden Spells (2007). In the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, the members of the Waverley family are viewed with some trepidation because of their magical powers. The apple tree in their back garden shows the future of a person who eats its fruit, so Claire Waverley buries them. She is a very gifted caterer who uses the flowers and herbs of her garden for her specialties. She also can devise recipes that will cause a particular emotional reaction in the persons who eat them. Her elderly cousin Evanelle has a strange compulsion to give things to people. Soon the person will need the peculiar item. Evanelle never knows why. Understandably, any town resident who receives a gift from Evanelle is a bit apprehensive. The plot is a basic romance with a gently humorous magical twist. This is a very Southern novel and delightful reading. 


May 23, 2015

April 2015

"April hath put a spirit of youth in everything."
William Shakespeare

Here's what we discussed:

The Alphabet House - Jussi Adler-Olsen
Swansong 1945 - Walter Kempowski
Family - Ian Frazier
My Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier
The Most Dangerous Book - Kevin Birmingham
A History of Byzantium - Timothy Gregory
The Janus Stone - Elly Griffiths
The Story Hour - Thrity Umrigar
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
Death of Yesterday - M.C. Beaton
When Books Went to War - Molly Guptill Manning
Death of a Policeman - M.C. Beaton
The Death of Caesar - Barry Strauss
Invisible City - Julia Dahl
The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Kurt Behrendt
The Blues, a Visual History - Mike Evans
The Book of Strange New Things - Michel Faber The Armed Services EditionsGreek sculpture of Buddha
The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennessy - Rachel Joyce
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Undertaker's Daughter - Kate Mayfield
The Lady and the Unicorn - Tracy Chevalier
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue - Meryl Gordon
Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman
Etta and Otto and Russel and James - Emma Hooper
The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Michael Chabon
Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler
See Jane Run - Joy Fielding
Someone is Watching - Joy Fielding
Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty - Diane Keaton
Pictures at a Revolution - Mark Harris
1967 Best Movies:  Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Heat of the Night
Thoughts on Design - Paul Rand
The Laughing Monsters - Denis Johnson
Invisible City - Ken Schles
Vertigo 42 - Martha Grimes
The Late Scholar - Jill Paton Walsh
A Walk Among the Tombstones - Lawrence Block
Last to Know - Elizabeth Adler
Girl Next Door - Ruth Rendell
Down Don't Bother Me - Jason Miller
War and Peace - Tolstoy
The Last Station movie

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, April 9, 2015, 2015
The next meeting will be: May 8, 2015


Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers (June Rain)
Brown, Daniel James. The Boys in the Boat
Fitzgerald, Penelope. Beginning of Spring; The Book Shop; Human Voices; Offshore
Henderson, Caroline. Letters from the Dust Bowl
Jost, Lora and Loewenstein, Dave. Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide
Lee, Hermione. Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (June Rain)
I Love You to Death
My Old Lady
Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Wallender - series in both English and Swedish


Emperor of All Maladies
Inside the Court of Henry VIII
Twice Born
Wolf Hall

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes Laura March 2015
Jude Deveraux, Lavender Morning (2009), Days of Gold (2009), Scarlet Nights (2010), The Scent of Jasmine (2010), Heart Wishes (2011). This series is set in the fictitious town of Edilean, near Williamsburg Virginia, named for the Scottish woman who helped found the town in the 18th century. I read them in the order written, but it might have been better to read them according to the chronology of the family saga. The cast of characters in each novel is large, varied, and well-drawn.

* In Lavender Morning Jocelyn Minton is astonished to inherit all the possessions of her elderly neighbor Edilean Harcourt, who nourished her spirit through a difficult childhood in Boca Raton. The inheritance consists principally of Edilean Manor, in a town Jocelyn has never heard of. Miss Edi’s final letter to Jocelyn instructs her to move there, make the acquaintance of the two female tenants in their respective wings of the house, and let herself be courted by the town attorney, Ramsey McDowell. The letter also hints at Edilean mysteries going back several generations. It is only the beginning of the surprises awaiting Jocelyn.

* Days of Gold is set in the 1760s and 1770s in Scotland and Virginia and features Edilean’s founders, Edilean Talbot and Angus McTern, who according to legend immigrated there with a wagon load of stolen gold. Their escape to the New World from Edilean’s avaricious and unscrupulous Scottish relatives and suitors requires all their ingenuity.

* Scarlet Nights is the story of Sara Shaw, tenant of one of the wings of Edilean Manor who is planning her wedding to a charming newcomer, Greg Anders. Mike Newton, an FBI agent, is the brother of the tenant of the other wing. He has never been to Edilean, but he is sent there undercover to investigate and bring about the arrest of an elusive and deadly team of criminals, a mother and her son, alias Greg.

* Scent of Jasmine is set in 1799 in Charleston, SC, where Cay Edilean Harcourt has gone to visit her godfather. He is bedridden with a broken leg and asks her to deliver a packed horse to an old friend’s son. This son turns out to be Scotsman Alex McDowell, escaped from custody after false accusations of murder. Things do not go as planned and Cay and Alex are driven into the Everglades as they attempt to escape pursuit.

* Heartwishes centers around the legend of the Heartwishes Stone, reputed to grant the wishes of anyone named Frazier. History graduate student Gemma Ranford learns of the legend when she takes on the job of cataloging the family documents of one of Edilean’s founding families. The eldest Frazier son Colin is even more fascinating than the papers Gemma is deciphering.

All of these romantic novels are intricately plotted and suspenseful and quite entertaining.

Marcia Talley, Sing It to Her Bones (1999). This is the first novel in a mystery series featuring Hannah Ives. She lives in Annapolis where her husband Paul teaches math at the Naval Academy. Hannah has just been “reorganized” out of her 20-year paralegal and administrative position with a K Street law firm and she is in a very angry mood. She is recovering from a mastectomy and the subsequent chemotherapy and Paul’s sister persuades her to go spend a few weeks waiting for her hair to grow out in a family cottage in a small fishing town in Southern Maryland. Instead of peace and quiet, she finds the body of a girl who disappeared from town 8 years before. Her sleuthing nearly gets her killed, of course, before she solves the mystery. Other novels in this series include Unbreathed Memories (2000), This Enemy Town (2005), Through the Darkness (2006), All Things Undying (2010) and The Last Refuge (2012). The stages of Hannah’s recovery from breast cancer and her interactions with other survivors are traced throughout these novels. Her propensity for going in harm’s way strains credulity but the settings, in and around Annapolis, are very entertaining for a reader who knows the area. The best use of this locale is in The Last Refuge, where Hannah has joined the cast of Patriot House, a TV reality show seeking to replicate life in a prominent town mansion in 1774. The portrayal of upper-class colonial life is fascinating and the tensions among cast members are quite humorous.

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things (2013). This sprawling 5-part novel about the fictitious Whittaker family illustrates the scientific explorations and theories of the 18th and 19th centuries and the religious uncertainties accompanying them. Henry Whittaker’s father is employed at London’s Kew Gardens, “a botanical Noah’s Ark,” and Henry learns a great deal about the value and propagation of rare plants. Kew’s director sends young Henry as a botanical collector on Captain Cook’s 1776 voyage to the Pacific. Thereafter, Henry makes his fortune in the South American quinine trade. He marries and fathers a daughter, Alma, who becomes a gifted botanist. Part One focuses on Henry, the roguish adventurist, but the remainder of the novel tells the story of the Alma’s life-long studies of the natural world and her quest to understand the nature of life, “the signature of all things.” Alma is an intricate and fascinating character. She is no beauty and she is very practical, orderly and intelligent. This is no recipe for a woman’s success in love in the 19th century, but eventually, nevertheless, she finds it. Meanwhile, through years of detailed, meticulous, observation and study, she becomes an international authority on mosses. When through this endeavor she does indeed discover “the signature of all things,” we gradually recognize that she has grasped the most cataclysmic concept of 19th century thought. This novel is an outstanding imagination of 19th century intellectual history.

John Sherwood, Flowers of Evil (1987); A Bouquet of Thorns (1989). These are two novels in a series of cozy British mysteries with a horticultural theme. Celia Grant, a petite widow, runs a premier nursery in Sussex. She is regularly commissioned for landscaping jobs for the would-be gentry. In Flowers of Evil, a prominent entrepreneur wants the neglected garden of his estate returned to perfection for a pretentious party. He has attracted unwanted attention by his apparently demented or drunken behavior at public events. Tabloids are buzzing and stock prices are falling. Celia wonders if someone in the family is using a plant based poison in an attempt to drive down prices and gain control. The members of the family are equally nasty and suspicious. The Medieval language of flowers weaves delightfully through the plot of A Bouquet of Thorns.

April 13, 2015

March 2015

It felt like we were all coming out of hibernation!

We had a good turnout and discussed:

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Lisette's List - Susan Vreeland
The Paris Architect - Charles Belfoure
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
The Pianist of Willesden Lane
Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln - Richard Slotkin
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer
The Baby Boom - PJ O'Rourke
The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty
Still Life - Louise Penny
Still Alice - Lisa Genova
Caribbean - James Michener
Cat on a Cold Tin Roof - Mike Resnick
The Children Act  -Ian Mc Ewen
Motion - Jonathan Kellerman
Mightier than the Sword - Jeffrey Archer
Night in Shanghai - Nicole Mones
The Inner Voice - Renee Fleming
Call Me Debbie - Deborah Voigt
The World America Made - Robert Kagan
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
The Kings of London - William Shaw
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
The Fragile World - Paula Treick DeBoard
Invisible City - Ken Schles
Mambo in Chinatown - Jean Kwok
One Step Too Far - Tina Seskis
100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design - Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne
The Art Book - Phaidon
Everything I hate from A to Z - Roz Chast
The Whiskey Cabinet - Mark Bylok
Life is a Trip - Judith Fein

I thought I'd share my working conditions:

March 15, 2015

February 2015

We continue to keep watch over the two freighters docked here for repairs.

We also discussed:

The Healing of America: A global quest for better, cheaper, and fairer halth care - T.R. Reid
The One Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing - Marie Kondo
Shovel Ready - Adam Sternbergh
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
What if? serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions - Randall Munroe
Responsible Responsive Design - Scott Jehl
An illustrated book of bad arguments - Ali Almossawi
No one belongs here more than you - Miranda July
The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman
Emily Alone - Stuart O'Nan
The Mathematician's Shiva - Stuart Rojstaczer
Clara and Mr. Tiffany - Susan Vreeland
Luncheon of the Boating Party - Susan Vreeland
The Forgers - Bradford Morrow
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Lila -Marilynne Robinson
Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
Home - Marilynne Robinson
This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper
The Inner Voice - Renee Fleming
Flesh and Blood - Patricia Cornwell
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Cat on a Cold Tin Roof - Mike Resnick

Laws of Murder - Charles Finch
Lake Huron (American Lakes Series) - Fred Landon
Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll - Peter Bebergal
No Score - Lawrence Block.
The Golden Apple - Wilson and Shea
How Rome Fell - Adrian Goldsworthy
The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty
War and Peace - Tolstoy
Killing Jesus - Bill O'Reilly
Julius Caesar
An Italian Wife - Ann Hood
The Paris Winter - Imogen Robertson
Never Look Back - Clare Donoghue
Private India - James Patterson
Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo
Brain on Fire - Susannah Cahalan
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
Force Majeure
The Ice Storm
Life is a Trip - Judith Fein

Lawton Book Bunch


Ayrton, Pete. No Man’s Land: Fiction from a World at War
Christie, Alix. Gutenbergs’s Apprentice
Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name
Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust
Kidd, Sue Monk. Invention of Wings
Kiernan, Denise. Girls of Atomic City
L’Engle, Madeiline. Wrinkle in Time
Rabb, Sanora. Whose Names Are Unknown


Imitation Game


Sabar, Ariel. “The Mystery of Mount Baldy” Smithsonian,” December 2014. p. 71.

Apocalypse: World War One
Codebreaker (2011)
Earth: A New Wild

Lawton Book Bunch

Thursday, March 11, 2015 
The next meeting will be: April 9, 2015


Child, Lee. Worth Dying For
Coelho, Paulo. Veronica Decides to Die
Johnson, Josphine. Now in November
Kimmerer, Robin. Gathering Mosses
Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac
Rappaport, Helen. Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
Seward, Desmon. Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty


McFarland, USA


Hamilton (Rap Musical)
Wolf Hall (RSC on Broadway 15 weeks beginning March 20)


Peaky Blinders (BBC, US rights to Netflicks)
Wolf Hall (PBS begins April 5th)

From Mary Lou in MD:

David Baldacci, King and Maxwell (2013). This is one of a suspense series set in the Washington, DC area and featuring ex-Secret Service agents Sean King and Michele Maxwell. They now own their own private detective agency and are hired by 15-year-old Tyler Wingo to find out what really happened to his father, reported killed in action in Afghanistan. Almost immediately they are warned off by agents (or supposed agents) of DIA, CIA and FBI. This makes them all the more determined to find out what is going on. Meanwhile, Army Ranger Sam Wingo is trying to find out why his secret mission has gone wrong, who has set him up, and who is trying to kill him. He also is determined to make his way back to his son, despite being sought by his Army chain of command, DIA, and whoever wants to make sure he doesn’t survive to clear his name. Young Tyler is a great character and there are plenty of intellectual puzzles in this novel.

Jude Devereaux, The Summerhouse (2001). Leslie, Madison and Ellie met on their common 21st birthday on line to renew their driver’s licenses at the DMV in New York City. While they are waiting -- and waiting -- and waiting they share their histories and hopes for the future. Now they are turning 40 and have arranged to spend some time together at a summerhouse in Maine, talking about all that has happened in the past 20 years and what choices they might make differently, if given the chance. This all makes for a very engrossing tale.

Deborah Crombie, All Shall Be Well (1994). I am pleased to find another Scotland Yard mystery series. They feature Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sergeant Gemma James. Kincaid’s friend and neighbor is found dead. Because she was terminally ill, it is ruled suicide, but several things don’t add up for Kincaid. At first his sergeant tries to talk him out of what she views as his obsession, but gradually she is drawn into the quest for possible motives and explanations. When revealed, they are quite surprising.

Larry McMurtry, Comanche Moon (1997). This epic novel of the Texas frontier is placed in Austin in the 1850s and 1860s and filled with monumental characters. In the saga of Texas Rangers Augustus (Gus) McCrae and Woodrow Call, it falls between Dead Man’s Walk and Lonesome Dove. Gus and Call are bewildered in their love lives and frustrated by the poorly conceived and scantily provisioned Ranger expeditions assigned by the Governor. Their leader Captain Inish Scull and his lascivious wife Inez are such exaggerated personalities that it is a marvel that McMurtry makes them believable. Gus’s love Clara and Call’s love Maggie are fully characterized in their troubled relationships with the two Rangers. Comanche Chief Buffalo Hump, a great, old fashioned warrior and his half-Mexican son Blue Duck are portrayed in great detail, as is the Arapaho tracker and scout Famous Shoes and the prodigious horse thief Kicking Wolf and the torturing Mayan bandit chief Ahumado. McMurtry’s presentation of tribal cultures and values is detained and convincing, despite an amount of grotesque violence that is repulsive, horrifying and foreign to White culture, many of whom fall victims. McMurtry has provided an unforgettable fictionalized history of the West Texas Frontier.

J. A. Jance, Queen of the Night (2010). The queen of the night is the night-blooming cereus, a segmented cactus of the Arizona desert. It blooms only one night of the year, usually sometime in June. Tohono Chul, Tucson’s desert botanical garden, has an annual dusk-to-dawn celebration with luminaria marking the garden paths. This year, Abby Tennant turns over management of the festival for an anniversary surprise celebration with her husband. The evening’s speaker is

Dr. Lani Walker, a native Tohono O’odham adopted as a child by homicide detective Brandon Walker and his wife. Lani was mentored by an old medicine man who taught her native legends and traditions and in turn Lani is godmother to his 8-year-old grandson Gabe. Dan Pardee was similarly adopted as a child by his Apache grandfather. Now a returning Afghanistan veteran, Dan and his dog Bozo have joined the Shadow Wolves unit of the Border Patrol whose members must be at least a quarter Indian. Patrolling one night, he rescues 4-year-old Angie from a crime scene. Dr. Lani is on duty in the emergency room when Dan brings her in. The cast of characters is further expanded to members of other law enforcement agencies as a series of brutal murders, some current and some very old, are investigated and resolved. The recurring theme of rejected, abandoned and adopted children takes the novel beyond a mere detective story.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953); Afterword (1982), Coda (1979). SciFi is not to my taste, but this was on someone’s list of “must read” books. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn. In this futurist society, fireman are employed to burn books and any buildings that contain them. People no longer observe their natural environment or think or ask for the Why of things. It is difficult to fashion any character development in a novel about the essential absence of character or personality. The best part of the book is the author’s 1979 Coda, concerning modern society’s tendency to edit, remove, ban or suppress all individuality of thought or perspective from literary and other art forms, in favor of the inoffensive “politically correct.”

David Morrell, The Fraternity of the Stone (1985). Drew MacLane was a highly trained assassin for a secret government agency until one bloody assignment caused him to reject this murderous employment. He retires to the life of a religious hermit in a Carthusian monastery in Vermont. After six years, he is forced from seclusion by an attempt on his life. What follows is an intricate, suspenseful tale involving a secret, free-lance organization of mercenaries and a clandestine brotherhood loosely linked to the Roman Catholic church, dating all the way back to the Third Crusade.

Heather Graham, Unhallowed Ground (2009). The best feature of this neo-gothic romance is the setting in St. Augustine, FL. Sarah McKinley is an archaeological historian who lectures in period costume at a local historical museum. She has bought and is renovating an 1820 mansion that she has admired since spending her childhood in St. Augustine. Skeletons are found inside a wall in the course of repairs and Sarah hears rumors of ghostly appearances. Private investigator Caleb Anderson is in town attempting to determine what happened to a college girl who disappeared there a year ago. He believes it is linked to the recent disappearance of a girl of similar appearance. Sarah and Caleb must solve murders dating back to the Civil War era before the contemporary mysteries can be solved with the assistance of a benevolent ghost.

February 01, 2015

January 2015

So good to connect and catch up after the holiday break.

Here's what we discussed:

Mom read 74 books last year.
How the Light Gets In -Louise Penney
Boris Pasternak
Not My Father's Son - Alan Cumming
Citizen Coke - Bartow Elmore
Bottlemania - Elizabeth Royte
Baking Cakes in Kigali - Gaile Parkin
When Hoopoes Go To Heaven - Gaile Parkin
The Story Hour - Thrity Umrigar
American Queen - John Oller
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
The Glass Kitchen - Linda Francis Lee
The Thing About December - Donal Ryan
The Astral - Kate Christensen
Wish You Were Here - Stewart O'NanMozart in the Jungle - Blair Tindall.
Dear Committee Members - Julie Schumacher.
The Three-Body Problem - Liu Cixin.
The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty.
Retribution - Max Hastings.
The Claw of the Concilator - Gene Wolfe.
The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead - Charles Murray

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
One Plus One - Jojo Moyes
Silver Bay - Jojo Moyes
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Interview with Anthony Doerr
Town Maps for the Blind
Gene Wolfe's Book of Days - Gene Wolfe
Sycamore Row - John Grisham
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver
How to Paint a Vermeer - George Deem
Art and Craft
F is for Fake

From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The next meeting will be Thursday, February 12, 2015


Boynton, Sandra. Snuggle Puppy
Carl, JoAnna/Eve Sandstrom. Chocolate Clown Corpse.
Clancy, Tom. Full Force and Effect; Teeth of the Tiger
Cullen, John B. Old Times in the Faulkner Country
Kennedy, Caroline. Family of Poems
Nordberg, Jennifer. Underground Girls of Kabul
Palahniuk, Chuck. Beautiful You; Fight Club
Swarthout, Glendon. Bless the Beasts and Children; Homesman; Shootist


American Sniper
Imitation Game
Penguins of Madagascar
Theory of Everything


Percy, Jen. “What Liberation Looks Like for Afghan Women.” Harper’s Magazine, January 2015. p.51


Booze Traveler (http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/booze-traveler)
House Hunters International

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 December 2014
Ken Follett, The Man from St Petersburg (1982).  This early, suspenseful thriller is set in England just before the outbreak of World War I.  Romanov Prince Orlov, the Man of the title, has come to England to forge a secret alliance between Russia and England, in anticipation of Kaiser Wilhelm’s aggression. Young Winston Churchill convinces a reluctant Earl of Walden to host the Prince in seclusion at his country estate.  The Earl’s wife is Russian and related to the Romanovs.  The Earl’s teenage daughter is rebellious about the relocation to the country just when she has formed a romantic attachment.  Meanwhile, political events in Russia are moving toward the Bolshevik Revolution.  Russian anarchist Feliks Kschessinsky has made his way to England to assassinate the Prince. He happens to have been the youthful lover of the Earl’s wife.   It is difficult to see how these various looming catastrophes can be averted.  
Peter James, Not Dead Yet (2012).  Sussex CID Detective Superintendent Roy Graves is not at all thrilled that a Hollywood movie is being made in Brighton.  The rock superstar Gaia has returned to her home turf to star in a role she hopes will make her career.  She doesn’t believe that her life is in danger, but Graves is concerned that her stalker’s next attempt on her life may be successful.  There is more than enough tension swirling around the narcissistic star, her agent, the director, the producers, and the technical challenges of filming on location in ancient structures.  Only Graves is focused on keeping Gaia alive, although he and we aren’t sure she’s worth it.
Rhoda Janzen, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (2009).  This memoir begins with Rhoda turning forty-three and her life disintegrating around her.  Her husband of 15 years has left her for a guy he met on Gay.com and she has been seriously injured in a car accident.  When she is sufficiently recovered to travel, she packs herself up and returns cross-country from Chicago to her Mennonite family home in California.  There she tries to come to terms with her upbringing and the faith she no longer possesses.  As she reflects on her childhood in hilarious detail, we learn all about her peculiar family and their place in Mennonite culture.  Their well-intentioned suggestions for improving her lot in life have us holding our sides in laughter as she tears at her hair.  This memoir treats serious subjects of faith, loss, family and aging with a piercing humor that stabs right down to the hearts of these very human issues.  

Booknotes Laura January 2015
Jude Devereaux, Judith McNaught, Simple Gifts (1994, 1995).  These four romantic novellas are all set one way or another around the Christmas season.  Their individual titles are Just Causes and Change of Heart (Devereaux, 1994, 1995) and Miracles and Double Exposure (McNaught, 1994, 1995).  I liked the last one the best with its location of a grandeous Newport “cottage” and its spunky photographer heroine.  Each novella is enjoyable and amusing, but all four read in sequence become a bit too formulaic and saccharine.   
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety (1987).  This is a magnificent, compelling lyrical novel.  It begins with Larry the narrator and his wife Sally awakening in the Vermont guest cottage of their close friends Sid and Charity.  The couples are middle aged with children, grand-children, and staggering afflictions.  Sally has been crippled by polio and gets around with great difficulty by wheelchair.  Charity is dying of cancer and has summoned her friends for a farewell visit.  During the few days encompassed by the novel, Larry reflects back on their initial meeting in the 1930s as Instructors at University of Wisconsin-Madison where they confront successes and disappointments.  Larry recounts his courtship of Sally and imagines the courtship and early marriage of their friends.  The Lang family compound beside a lake in the Vermont foothills is described in loving, Naturalist detail, as is the family matriarch, Aunt Emily.  Some years after the Wisconsin period, the two couples spend a year in Florence, Italy, and those activities also are described in vivid, loving detail.  But most forcefully, the novel explores the complex, co-dependent relationships of the two married couples – how they developed over time and through life’s trials, how they confront mortality, and how they accomplish their “crossing to safety.”  I don’t know how I have missed reading Stegner all these years.  
Catherine Coulter, False Pretenses (1988, 2000).  Concert pianist Elizabeth Carleton is on trial in New York City for the murder of her husband.  A surprise witness, very credible, comes forward and testifies that she was with him at the time of the murder.  The DA is furious when the jury finds her not guilty.  The Carleton family is even more furious because Elizabeth inherits her husband’s controlling interest in the multi-billion dollar family conglomerate business.  Her attorney convinces her to resist the Carleton family’s vicious pressures to relinquish her inheritance and give over control of the business to them.  The Carletons remain convinced that she is the murderer and only Elizabeth remains fearful that the murderer is still at large and a lingering threat.  Several men attempt to manipulate Elizabeth as she struggles to learn how to function as a ruthless CEO.  Some of the most delightful episodes in the novel are the ones in which she outwits them.  A good deal of mystery and suspense transpire until all is finally resolved in proper romance novel fashion.  
Catherine Coulter, The Offer (1981, 1997).  This is a Regency romance plotted against the rigid rules and vicious gossip of London Society.  Lady Sabrina Eversleigh runs away from her grandfather’s home when her new brother-in-law tries to rape her.  Lost in the woods in a blizzard, she is rescued unconscious and nursed back to life in a hunting lodge by Phillip Mercerault, Viscount Derencourt, When Phillip’s friend and Sabrina’s neighbor Charles finds them five days later, when the blizzard finally ends, Society’s conventions decree that Lady Sabrina has been “compromised,” no matter what did or did not happen between her and Phillip.    When, with some shock, he realizes that Sabrina’s reputation is tarnished, he offers to do the gentlemanly thing and marry her.  To his surprise, she refuses his honorable offer.  This is the first in a chain of exasperating misunderstandings between the couple and a proper romantic resolution.  
Patricia Gaffney, The Goodbye Summer (2004).  Caddie Winter, a 32-year-old music teacher, lives with her eccentric artist grandmother in a town west of Baltimore.  Nana has broken her leg and wants to move to the Wake House convalescent home to recuperate.  Caddie is a classical violinist and pianist who is afraid to perform in public, or even before a few friends.  She and Nana are in denial about Nana’s increasing dementia, even as Nana’s hilarious pranks at Wake House become more extreme.  Caddie becomes involved in interviewing the 12 residents and transcribing their biographies for the “Wake House Memory Book.”  This is a very effective narrative device for exploring the histories and personalities of the characters, mostly elderly.  In the process of learning to understand the residents, Caddie greatly increases her own self-awareness and confidence.