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 cafĂ© 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.

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