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. 

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