June 26, 2016

June 2016

"No two persons ever read the same book." - Edmund Wilson

Here's what we've been reading lately:

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
When We Were Sisters - Emilie Richards
Future Crimes - Marc Goodman
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew - Margaret Sidney
The Gathering Storm - Winston Churchill
The Quartet - Joseph Ellis
Almost French - Sarah Turnbull
God is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens
The Queen of the Night - Alexander Chee
Bad Dog: A Love Story - Martin Kihn
Beach Town - Mary Kay Andrews
The Weekenders - Mary Kay Andrews
Speakers of the Dead - J. Aaron Sanders
Mystery of the Lost Cezanne - M. L. Longworth
Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux
Wine and War - Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup
God Bless John Wayne - Kinky Friedman

From our sister group in OK:


Baldacci, David. The Guilty; Memory Man

Barclay, Linwood. No Time for Goodbye

Bell-Scott, Patricia. The Firebrand and the First Lady

Coben, Harlan. The Stranger

Cole, Henry. Brambleheart

Cooper, Anderson and Gloria Vanderbilt. The Rainbow Comes and Goes

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See

Edgarian, Carol. Rise the Euphrates

Erdrich, Louise. The Round House

Goldsworthy, Andy and David Craig. Arch

Hot Dudes Reading Blog. Hot Dudes Reading

Lackberg, Camilla. Hidden Child; Lost Boy; The Stonecutter

L’Amour, Louis. Sackett’s Land; To the Far Blue Mountains

Le Carre, John. Night Manager

Lee, Hermione. Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up

Little Thunder, Julie Pearson. Doris Littrell: A Life Made with Artists

Michener, James. The World Is My Home

Penman, Sharon Kay. Falls the Shadow

Penny, Louise. Cruelest Month; A Rule Against Murder

Poling-Kempes, Leslie. Ladies of the Canyon: A League of Extraordinary Women and Adventures in the American Southwest

Richardson, Wyman. The House on Nauset Marsh

Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Sides, Hampton. In the Kingdom of Ice

Skiff, Jennifer. Divinity of Dogs

Simpson, Helen. The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea

Smith, Tom Robb. Secret Speech (Child 44 Trilogy)

Walls, Jeannette. Silver Star


McAdams, Dan P. “The Mind of Donald Trump.” The Atlantic, June 2016, pg. 76+

From Mary Lou in MD:

Rosemary Sullivan, Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (2015). This is a carefully researched and well written biography of a very complex personage who definitely captivates the reader. The title, though inevitable, is rather ironic, since Svetlana struggled her entire live to be viewed as herself, not her father’s daughter. Svetlana was born in 1926 and spent her childhood in the Kremlin. Her mother died when she was 10 and she didn’t realize the extent of her father’s cruelties until he died when she was in her 20s. She had a very difficult life, marrying four time and having three children. When she was 40 years old, she defected to the USA but long term happiness proved elusive. Unfortunately she inherited a bit of her father’s volatile temper and her outbursts alienated a number of friends over the years. The notion of her paranoia probably was exaggerated. After all, she was hounded by the press, both the KGB and the CIA exploited her as much as they could, and once in the West her publishers and lawyers did not do particularly well by her. At age 85 she died penniless as Mrs. Lana Peters in rural Wisconsin. This is a thoroughly fascinating book, for both the character and the history.

J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine (2011). The Kellehers are a Boston Irish Catholic family with an unusual talent for saying vicious things to one another. The matriarch is Alice, and when we meet her in chapter one she is well into her 80s. When she and her husband Daniel were young and childless, he won a 3-acre costal property in Maine in a poker game. They built a cottage there and over the years their children and grandchildren spent many boisterous summers there. Their son Patrick is a prosperous businessman married to Ann Marie, a perfectionist who dedicates herself to the needs of her family, whether they want her to or not. She and Patrick built a modern house for his parents on the property and Ann Marie has worked out a schedule for her siblings and their families to spend a summer month in the cottage. Alice’s oldest child Kathleen is assigned to June, Ann Marie and Pat have July, and Alice’s other daughter Clare and her family are assigned to August. In chapter two we meet Kathleen’s daughter Maggie, a New York freelance writer who is planning to spend the first two weeks on June in Maine. In chapter three we meet Kathleen, divorced and living as far away from her hard drinking family as she can get. She left her husband when her children were small, joined AA, and eventually met aging hippie Arlo and moved to Sonoma Valley with him to run a worm farm. The chapters of this novel alternate among the four women, slinging acrimony at one another and revealing a great deal of family history as they consider the conflicts and challenges of the present. Yes, this is a beach book and thoroughly entertaining.

Christopher Isherwood, The Last of Mr. Norris (1935); Goodbye to Berlin (1939). Isherwood is a gay British novelist who spent much of the early 1930s in sexually liberal Berlin, at the time when Hitler was on the rise and Nazis and Communists were in competition. After returning to England he wrote and published these two novels, later collected as The Berlin Stories (New Directions, 1963). In The Last of Mr. Norris, the narrator William Bradshaw meets the title character, a very nervous older man, on the train returning to Berlin. For the rest of the novel, covering a period of many months, Mr. Norris flatters and manipulates the younger man into assisting him in various matters while dodging all of Bradshaw’s inquiries as to the nature of his difficulties. While the conversations and situations imply at a minimum, sexual attractions among the male characters, nothing is explicit. Rather, this motif is consistent with the general murkiness of the atmosphere of Berlin at this time. Eventually Bradshaw pieces the puzzle together. Bradshaw’s landlady Frl. Schroeder is a colorful comic character who appears also in Berlin Stories. Here the author narrates in his own name and she calls him, fondly, Herr Issyvoo. Again the

period is the early thirties, the Nazi’s are on the rise, and Berlin is particularly decadent among European cities. There is a notable lack of plot in these stories, each of which is titled after one of the author’s acquaintances. One of these, Sally Bowles, a thoroughly amoral American girl who markets her sexual favors while indulging in the city’s night life, is later portrayed by Liza Minelli in the musical Cabaret. With the war threat engulfing Europe, Isherwood traveled with his friend W.H. Auden to the United States in 1939. Isherwood became a U.S. Citizen in 1946 and lived in California where he died in 1986 at the age of 81.

Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace, To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery (1989, 2012). This volume of short, well-illustrated chapters traces the successes of beautiful American heiresses in captivating the society of Queen Victoria’s England, including even her son “Bertie,” Prince of Wales. It is said to have influenced Julian Fellowes in the creation of Downton Abbey’s Lady Grantham. There are many entertaining stories about famous American millionaires, their socially ambitious wives, and beautiful, fashionable daughters.

Colleen McCullough, Bittersweet (2013). This is another large family saga by the author of The Thorn Birds. It is set in the Shire and City of Corunda, New South Wales, Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. Church of England Reverend Thomas Latimer has two sets of twin daughters. The mother of Edda and Grace died soon after their birth. A little over two years later, their stepmother Maude gave birth to Tufts and Kitty. All the girls are attractive, but Maude sees beauty only in Kitty. The girls are united in protecting Kitty from the damages wrought by Maude’s doting. As the novel opens, the sisters are about to escape home and Maude by embarking on nurses training at Corunda Base Hospital. Challenges and conflicts involve practices of medical institutions of the period, Tory vs. Labor politics, and the economic depression following the economic crash of 1929. The personalities of the four girls are quite different and they each are molded by their experiences as the novel progresses. In general, their suitors are unworthy of them.

Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War (2016). In June 1914 Beatrice Nash finds it necessary to support herself after her father’s death and she finds a position as a Latin teacher in the town of Rye, East Sussex. Although the town worthies are reluctant to engage a woman Latin teacher, Beatrice’s candidacy is supported by Mrs. Agatha Kent, whose husband John has a position of some importance in the Foreign Office. They have two nephews, surgeon-in-training Hugh aspiring poet Daniel, for whom Rye is a second home. When the first Belgian refugees arrive in Rye, the town worthies exhibit great self-importance in their efforts to house and assist the refugees without lowering or inconveniencing themselves. Town fetes and parades cause great excitement, but for the Kents, Beatrice, and the cousins the war becomes a terrible reality. The strong-minded Beatrice is a particularly engaging character as she struggles against the prejudices and restrictions facing a single woman without male protection.

May 2016

With the help of modern technology, we were able to chat with author Eve Sandstrom (JoAnna Carl) and enjoy her lovely company.  We hope one day to be able to visit with her live and in person.  Thank you, Eve!

We also talked about the books we've ready lately:

The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin
What You Really Need to Know for the Second Half of Life - Julieanne Steinbacher
The Chocolate Moose Motive - JoAnna Carl
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
The Prodigy's Cousin - Joanne Ruthsatz
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
All the Stars in Heaven - Adriana Trigiani
The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende
Fat Girl Walking - Brittany Gibbons
Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly
The Sword of Damascus - Richard Blake
The Core of the Sun - Johanna Sinisalo
I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
Morning Star - Pierce Brown
To Live Forever - Jack Vance

From our sister group in OK:


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus

Chevalier, Tracy. At the Edge of the Orchard

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See

Le Carre, John. Night Manager

Michener. James A. The World Is My Home

Montgomery, Sy. The Soul of an Octopus

Morton, Frederic. Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914

Murray, Pauli. Song in a Weary Throat

Poling-Kempes, Leslie. Ladies of the Canyon: A League of Extraordinary Women and Adventures in the American Southwest

Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

Scott, Paul. Staying On

Smith, Lane. It’s a Book

Smith, Tom Robb. Secret Speech (Child 44 Trilogy)

Social Register Association. Social Register of Philadelphia 1947

Urquhart, Brian. Ralph Bunch: An American Life

Walker, Alexander. Audrey: Her Real Story


Miller, Jennifer. “Men Have Book Clubs, Too.” New York Times. May4, 2016.

Television & Videos

Le Carre, John. Night Manager

Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge

Scott, Paul. Raj Quartet


From Mary Lou in MD:

Laurie Fabiano, Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events (2006, 2010). The central characters in this novel are based on the author’s grandmother and great grandmother. The novel or fictionalized biography begins in the small island fishing town of Scilla, Calabria, Italy, 1890 – 1901. Despite austere living conditions, Giovanna Costa enjoys a happy childhood and marries her childhood sweetheart Nunzio. The declining economy leads Nunzio to seek a new life with his cousin in New York, leaving his wife behind. Things do not go well. Eventually Giovanna also journeys to New York. Life there is also difficult but Giovanna finds work assisting a midwife. Elizabeth Street is the location where she raises her family. The description of immigrant life begins with the Ellis Island experience and progress through language and cultural difficulties and labor exploitation. Familiar historical events also influence the lives of the characters. The family history is traced through the 1970s and 1980s, but the majority of the story occurs during the first two decades of the 20th century. The story is engrossing and the characters are especially vivid.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847, 1848, Norton Critical Edition 1971). The novel was originally published under the pseudonym Currier Bell. It was quite successful, going through three editions in Charlotte’s lifetime. Contemporary reviews were favorable, although some found the melodrama and plot coincidences excessive. Yes, it is melodramatic and yes, the coincidences are excessive. The characters are roundly drawn, however, and Jane’s first person narrative sustains the suspense over her situational difficulties and ethical crises. I re-read the novel for a class on the Brontes and found it every bit as good as I remembered.

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847, 1850, Norton Critical Edition 1963). The novel was originally published under the pseudonym Acton Bell and the 1850 edition was edited by Charlotte, since Emily had died by that time. Contemporary reviewers found Jane Eyre melodramatic? Her sister’s novel is decidedly gothic. I found it a faster read than Jane Eyre, which may be an indication of my inferior taste in novels. Where Jane firmly governs her emotions with reason and ethical principles, Catherine Earnshaw has no such restraint. As for Heathcliff, he is beyond Byronic and positively demonic. The love between the two is intense, but they bring out the worst in each other. The dual levels of narration, first the Thrushcross Grange tenant Lockwood and then the housekeeper Nelly Dean, take us from the opening chapter in 1801 back some 30 years into the histories of the Linton family (The Grange) and the Earnshaws (Wuthering Heights) before the final resolution of the family conflicts. Both narrators have their misconceptions and Bronte is very skillful at revealing the distortions to us. I am hard pressed to declare which Bronte sister has written the better novel.

Margaret Coel, Eye of the Wolf (2005). In 1874 in the area that later became the Wind River Reservation, a group of Shoshone led Captain Bates’s US cavalry unit onto Arapaho tribal grounds and almost everyone there was massacred. Now Father John O’Malley receives a threatening anonymous message about revenge against old enemies and telling him to go to the Bates battlefield. There he discovers three dead Shoshone positioned to mimic warriors fallen in the battle. His friend Vickie Holden, Arapaho attorney, is representing the main suspect in the deaths. Someone is attempting to disrupt the peace that has endured for decades between the Arapaho and Shoshone on the Reservation. Father John and Vickie must solve the murder mystery to restore harmony. Coel has produced another master blend of history and suspense.

April 2016

In honor of National Poetry Month, special guest Dave Lucas joined us for an evening of poetry and laughter.  We thank him for sharing his writing and insights!

We also talked about the latest books we've read:

After the First Death - Lawrence Block
Disasters of Ohio's Lake Erie Islands - Wendy Koile
Deep Shaker - Les Roberts
The Chocolate Falcon Fraud - JoAnna Carl
Ancillary Mercy - Ann Leckie
Cockpit Confidential - Patrick Smith
When You are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris
The Martian - Andy Weir
The Finest Hours - Michael Tougias
The Nightmare - Lars Kepler
The Great Bridge - David McCullough
The Girl in the Ice - Robert Bryndza
The 6:41 to Paris - Jean-Phillippe Blondel
Dark Corners - Ruth Rendell
Doc: A Novel - Mary Doria Russell
Miller's Valley - Anna Quindlen
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
A Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler
The Beat Goes On - Ian Rankin
The Steal Kiss - Jeffery Deaver
Confucius and the World He Created - Michael Schuman
Apple Turnover Murder - Joanne Fluke
Annie Dillard
1916 Easter Rising
Sonny's Blues
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden - Jonas Jonasson
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
My Life in France - Julia Child
Ruhlman's Twenty - Michael Ruhlman
Market Garden Brewery's Brews and Prose

From our sister group in OK:


Baldacci, David. The Sixth Man
Chabon, Michael. Yiddish Policemen’s Union
Goldsworthy, Andy. Arch
Hyland, William. George Gershwin
Indridason, Arnaldur. Outrage
Kaufman, Sarah. The Art of Grace
Macmillan, Gilley. What She Knew
Nimura, Janice P. Daughters of the Samuri
Penny, Louise. Discussion of books and of Inspector Gamache
Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
Scakzi, John. Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future
See, Lisa. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Sime, Ruth Lewis. Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics
Simenon, Georges. Books in general and Inspector Maigret
Smith, Tom Bob. The Secret Speech (Child 44 Trilogy)


Eleanor Roosevelt


At our February meeting, I mentioned the kitchen scene from Bandits with Cate Blanchett in relation to the book The Art of Grace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC6rilb9RN0


Call the Midwife
Father Brown

Official Name of our Book Group

Any Book Book Bunch

From Mary Lou in MD:

Jane Austen, Emma (1816; Lionel Trilling, editor, Riverside 1957). Austen said Emma was “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” I agree more with the author than the critics who rave about this novel. Emma is snobbish, insensitive, deluded, and egotistical and most of the time I wanted to smack her. Her character only shows favorably in contrast to the even more snobbish, insensitive, deluded and egotistical Mrs. Elton. Where Emma manipulates young and beautiful Harriet Smith into refusing a loving match in hopes of one with more social standing, Mrs. Elton positively bullies the refined but penniless Jane Fairfax into accepting a governess position she does not want. Austen’s irony and narrative skill flourishes in her use of dialogue to reveal the misconceptions of Emma, Mrs. Elton, and other characters. Many of the characters speak at cross-purposes to highly comic and sometimes disastrous effect. Eventually, Emma recognizes and acknowledges her mistakes and the harm she has done to others. Alas, unlike more sympathetic readers, I remain unconvinced that Emma is a reformed character by the end of the novel. I am confident that continuation of her story would have made me want to smack her again.

Anne Tyler, If Morning Ever Comes (1964). At the age of 25, Ben Joe Hawkes left his home in Sandhill, North Carolina, to start law school at Columbia. Three months later, dissatisfied with the scanty news from home contained in his sister Jennifer’s letters and worried by the discovery that his older sister Joanne has left her husband in Kansas and come home with her baby, he takes the overnight train home. His family is a collection of improbable characters including five sisters, his grandmother, and his widowed mother. No one knows what he is doing home, not even Ben Joe. Nobody understands anything about anybody else and yet they all love one another. There us a great deal of comedy, some of it resulting from the characters’ blindness to their own motivations and much of it provided by the outlandish statements and actions of Gram. In the course of Ben Joe’s visit, we learn the bizarre family history and the things he has done in largely futile attempts to shield his relatives from pain. Already in this early novel Tyler is skillful in portraying family dynamics.

Regina O’Melveny, The Book of Madness and Cures (2012). Gabriella Mondini is the daughter of a prominent Venice doctor in the 16th century and a medical practitioner in her own right. Her father disappears and she is no longer permitted to treat patients. Taking his letters and her own medical manuscript and supplies, she sets off with her maid Olmina and Olmina’s husband Lorenzo in search of her father. They journey through northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France and Scotland, staying in places her father had mentioned in his letters. Olmina and Lorenzo remain reluctant but faithful companions. The news of Dr. Mondini is increasingly discouraging. Hardships increase and resources diminish, but Gabriella continues her quest. Illustrative maps are provided of this journey through Renaissance Europe.

March 26, 2016

March 2016

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
― Mark Twain

And we've got it!
Here are our books:

Road to Character - David Brooks
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
Joe Steeler - Harry Turtledove
The Just City - Jo Walton
Golden Son - Pierce Brown
The Annihilation Score - Charles Stross
Apex - Ramez Naam
Luna: New Moon - Ian McDonaldA Carlin Home Companion - Kelly Carlin
The Arrangement - Ashley Warlick
M.F.K. Fisher
The Man on the Washing Machine - Susan Cox
Death by Water - Kenzaburo Oe
The Hours Count - Jillian Cantor
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
The Royal We - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Black Widow - Randy Wayne White
The Muralist - B.A. Shapiro
The Nightmare - Lars Kepler
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
The Language of God - Francis Collins
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
The Sandcastle Girls - Chris Bohjalian
The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Melanie Benjamin
Ladder of Years - Anne Tyler
The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
I Am My Own Wife - Doug Wright
Wildlife Wars: The Life and Times of a Fish and Game Warden - Terry Grosz
The Bangor Maine Police Department on Facebook
The Burn Palace - Stephen Dobyns



MOVIES — Hoopla Digital, Overdrive, Crackle, Open Culture.

TV SHOWS — Hoopla Digital, Google for show websites. 

MUSIC — Hoopla Digital, Freegal, Spotify, Pandora.

EBOOKS — Hoopla Digital, Overdrive, Project Gutenberg.

AUDIOBOOKS — Hoopla Digital, Overdrive, Librivox.

COMICS — Hoopla Digital.

NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES — Overdrive (for magazines), Sanduskyregister.com, cleveland.com (app available), Washingtonpost.com (free with Register subscription, app available), USA Today. 

PROVIDERS (Google for website)

Hoopla Digital — The most important library digital service. Movies, TV shows, comic books, lots of music, ebooks, audiobooks. Easy to use app. Hoopladigital.com, register with your library card (all local libraries). 

Freegal — Has the music that isn't licensed to Hoopla. Available from Cuyahoga County Public Library and others. 

Overdrive — Ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Available at all local libraries. 

Spotify — Music source, free with ads. Now has the Beatles. 

Crackle — Free TV shows and movies, aimed at male audience.

Open Culture — Old movies in the public domain, college lectures, free art books. 

Pandora — Internet radio, free with ads.

Project Gutenberg — Free public domain ebooks (Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens etc.)

LibriVox — Free public domain audiobooks. 

NOTE: All of these services have apps for your smartphone or tablet. Services from libraries are in boldface. 

From Mary Lou in MD:

Austen, Mansfield Park (1814; Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen reprint nd). About 30 years before this story begins, one of the three Ward sisters made a fortuitous match with Sir Thomas Bertram of Mansfield Park. Another married the Reverend Mr. Norris and Sir Thomas gave him the local living. Miss Frances married Lieutenant Price of the royal Marines, who had no fortune and no social standing. Her sisters rejected her as a result. Twelve years and nine children later, Mrs. Price receives the assistance of her more prosperous sisters in the form of an offer to take in the eldest daughter and raise her at Mansfield Park. Thus Fanny Price begins her Cinderella role at Mansfield Park. She is most exasperatingly humble with all the insults she suffers from her aunts and uncle and the mistreatment she receives from her four cousins. Lady Bertram is weak and lazy and Mrs. Norris is mean-spirited and nasty and both of them are focused on their status within Mansfield society. Austen’s satire is at its best in describing the sisters and other local notables. Only Sir Thomas and his younger son Edmund note and appreciate Fanny’s talents. What is to become of our poor heroine?

Nevada Barr, The Rope (2011). This is the story of Anna Pigeon’s first assignment as a National Park Service employee. She is 35 years old and starting a new identity after her New York City life collapses. She is a summer seasonal worker, and much older than the other seasonal and permanent NPS employees at Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. Anna is naturally standoffish and reluctant to involve herself in the various hostile and dysfunctional relationships of her co-workers. On her first day off, she goes hiking in the park and does not return. Her coworkers think she has moved on without notice because her things are gone from her room. Actually, she is in a life-threatening situations. Although she has lost her memory, she gradually comes to believe that someone is trying to kill her. She manages to save herself, return to camp, and begin to investigate. No one can be trusted. This is just the first in a series of almost-murders that she manages to survive before she and we finally identify the bad guy. Of course she has to survive because it’s the beginning of a career we have been following for years. It gets a bit tedious.

Nevada Barr, Winter Study (2008). A U.S. Forest Service bush pilot flies veteran NPS Ranger Anna Pigeon to Isle Royale National Park in the middle of Lake Superior. (She was nearly killed here once before – see A Superior Death.) She is participating in the famous Winter Wolf Study, begun over 50 years ago. Wolves established themselves on Isle Royale one winter by traveling over Lake Superior on an ice bridge from Ontario. Isle Royale National Park is open to visitors only in the summer months. From October to May, wildlife biologists come to study the wolves. This year’s study group includes an unwelcome representative from Homeland Security, looking to close down the study, open the island to visitors year-round, and establish border security on the island. Other unnatural creatures include the mythical windigo, a dying bull moose with deformed antlers, and an elusive wolf or wolf-dog that leaves giant paw prints. All of Anna’s co-workers seem to have something to hide and tensions are running high. As usual, it falls to Anna to quietly take the mature, rational role. The setting is chillingly magnificent and the suspense is intense.

February 29, 2016

February 2016

We welcomed the newest member Emily to the group, and caught up with some members we haven't seen in a while.

Here are the books we discussed:

Lock and Key series - Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
Sandusky Bay Rowing Association
Mozart in the Jungle - Blair Tindall
Scandalous Behavior - Stuart Woods
Locked In - Marcia Muller
Encounters - George Braziller
The Nine - Jeffrey Toobin
The Traitor's Wife - Allison Pataki
My Beloved World - Sonia Sotomayor
The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
World Without End (miniseries) - Ken Follett
Spooky Action at a Distance - George Musser
Ashtabula Hat Trick - Les Roberts
The Blue Between Sky and Water - Susan Abulhawa
Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? - Stephen Dobyns
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
The Road to Character - David Brooks
My Turn - Doug Henwood
Belisarius: The Last Roman General - Ian Hughes
The Turing Exception - William Hertling
A Borrowed Man - Gene Wolfe
Red Rising - Pierce Brown
Joe Steele - Harry Turtledove

 From our sister group in OK:


Allee, Jennifer. Vinnie’s Diner
Artists of Cotiut. (Exhibit catalog.)*
Brown, Sandra. Alibi
Carl, Joanna. The Chocolate Falcon Fraud
Chabon, Michael. Yiddish Policemen’s Union
Galbraith, Robert (J.K.Rowling). Career of Evil; Cuckoo’s Calling; The Silkworm
Hamilton, Edith. The Greek Way
Heller, Joseph. Picture This
Hoag, Tami. Cold Cold Heart
Holland, Julie. Moody Bitches
Indridason, Arnaldar. Outrage
Kaufman, Sarah. The Art of Grace
Kiyosaki, Robert. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Macmillan, Gilly. What She Knew
Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balanace
Mouillot, Miranda Richmond. A Fifty Year Silence
Robinson, Marilyn. Lila
Wilder, L. Douglas. Son of Virginia
Zamperini, Louis. Unbroken


Bandits (2002 with Cate Blanchett)**
Love the Coopers

* http://www.barnstablepatriot.com/article/20130530/ENTERTAINMENT/305309998
** Bandits is a fun little movie. It is worth it for Blanchett’s kitchen scene. (Relate to discussion on The Art of Grace.)

Iceland Writer’s Retreat http://www.icelandwritersretreat.com/
(Book Bunch member, K.W. Hillis will attend in April 2016)

From Mary Lou in MD:

Booknotes Laura February 2016

P. D. James, Devices and Desires (1989). Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh comes to take his 2-week holiday in the windmill/cottage in Norfolk he inherited from an eccentric aunt. He soon discovers a fierce local controversy involving a nearby atomic power station. He also meets the scraggly, motherless and self-sufficient children of a curmudgeonly local painter. The characters all are fascinating. Dalgliesh does his best to escape involvement in the Norfolk CID’s hunt for a serial killer. And then there is an apparent suicide that’s not fully convincing. So much for the Commander’s vacation.

James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1996, 2006). As the author tells the story of his impoverished childhood as one of 12 children in Brooklyn in the 1960s, his understanding of his mother’s life develops gradually. Interspersed with this narration is the story of his mother’s life as an Orthodox Jew. She came to America at age 2, grew up in a very repressive household in Suffolk, VA, escaped to Harlem, and married a Black man. To the confusion of her son, she would never acknowledge that she was white. Instead, she thoroughly embraced the Black culture and it’s version of Christianity. When her son asks what color is God, she says God is the color of water. She is resilient through many hardships and totally dedicated to the education of her children, managing to enroll them in the best of New York’s public schools. Despite its probing exploration of issues of race, religion, family, and identity, this is a very funny book.

Rick Bass, Where the Sea Used to Be (1998). This is a novel of character as molded by the physical environment. The setting is a remote valley in northwest Montana, cut off from the rest of the world for most of the year. This is where Mel has lived for most of her 40 years, studying the habits of wolves from a respectful distance. In her youth she fell in love with the valley’s golden boy, Matthew, who knew every inch of the woods and streams, talked to and hunted the animals, and built a stone wall along the trail for the love of the labor. He also was pulled into the Texas oil prospecting business by Mel’s father, Old Dudley, a character who becomes more diabolical as the novel progresses. As he pulls Matthew into the quest for oil, he drains his life force. Old Dudley has drilled many dry wells in the secluded valley and now he has sent a young geologist, Wallis, to locate a new drilling site. Wallis has been sent at the beginning of winter, the least appropriate time to study the topography for a new drilling site, since everything is covered with snow. Wallis takes up residence with Mel in Old Dudley’s cabin and gradually adapts to wintering in pioneer conditions, described in vivid detail. As his character develops, so does his relationship with Mel. She leaves the cabin each day to map the travels of the wolves; he stays indoors and draws speculative maps of the surrounding, invisible geology. Eventually he discovers a cellar under the cabin and a trunk with Old Dudley’s journals. These contain reverent and epic descriptions of the earth’s geologic history, delving beneath the surface and into the distant past, when oil was formed. The journals reinforce Old Dudley’s association with the underworld. As Old Dudley, Matthew, Wallis, and eventually the townsmen are drawn into the quest for oil, we resist this threat to the beauty of the wilderness landscape. Ultimately, the tensions and conflicts of this beautifully written novel are between the characters and the valley.

Rose Melikan, The Mistaken Wife (2010). In 1792, Britain and France are at war and American ambassadors are in Paris, perhaps to forge an alliance. Mary Finch is minding her own business as an independent heiress in Suffolk, observing the social norms of Austen’s England. She is
recruited by her former spy-master (apparently her prior mission was chronicled in The Blackstone Key) to travel secretly to Paris and masquerade as the “wife” of another agent, a painter. She can tell none of her friends and associates of her mission, not even her “special friend” Captain Holland. Through intricacies of the clever plot, he travels to Paris on a separate equally risky mission. Traveling in France is dangerous and Paris is even more so. The historical background is drawn in convincing detail and maps are provided to aid the reader. The two plots are carefully woven to a meeting point where the lives or hero and heroine are at risk. Suspense is sustained throughout this novel and Mary’s point of view is spirited and entertaining.

January 31, 2016

January 2016

We started off the new year with a new Beatrix Potter book to look forward to, as well as others (hello Annie Proulx fans!), and are still reading traditional paperbound books but will read an ebook if necessary.

Here's what else we discussed:

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler
My Sweetest Libbie - Jean Gora
Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald - Therese Anne Fowler
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny
Corrupted - Lisa Scottoline
Rogue Lawyer - John Grisham
The Lincoln Lawyer - Michael Connelly
The Guilty - David Baldacci
Margaret Fuller - Megan Marshall
The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
That Camden Summer - LaVyrle Spencer
The Courtesan - Alexandra Curry
The Making of the African Queen - Katharine Hepburn
Burning Down George Orwell's House - Andrew Ervin
The Circle - Bernard Minier
The Alienist - Caleb Carr
Humans of New York: Stories - Brandon Stanton
The Stupid Crook Book - Leland Gregory
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams -  Stephen King
The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith - Graham Greene
Choose Your Patricia Highsmith Recommendation Engine
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo

From our sister group in OK:


Alexievich, Svetlana. Voices from Chernobyl; Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War; War’s Unwomanly Face
Brown, Alton. Feasting on Asphalt
Carl, Joanna. The Chocolate Falcon Fraud
Coulter, Catherine. Final Cut
Goodman, Ruth. How to be a Victorian
King, Stephen. The Wolves of Calla
Lam, Vincent. The Headmaster’s Wager
Lewis, Michael. The Big Short
Lipton, James. Inside Inside
Patton, Benjamin. Growing Up Patton
Philbrook, Nathaniel. In the Heart of the Sea
Sacks, Oliver. An Anthropologist on Mars; On the Move: A Life
See, Lisa. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Sides, Hampton. Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette
Smith, Tom Rob. Child 44
Vonnegut, Mark. Just Like Someone with Mental Illness Only More So
Wilder, L. Douglas. Son of Virginia


Danish Girl
Hateful Eight
In the Heart of the Sea

Iceland Writer’s Retreat http://www.icelandwritersretreat.com/
(Book Bunch member, K.W. Hillis will attend in April 2016)

From Mary Lou in MD:

Anton Chekov, Selected Plays (Norton Critical Edition, 2005). I read the plays and selected critical essays for a Russian Lit class at my Senior Center. We studied Ivanov (first played 1887), The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1899), The Three Sisters (1901), and The Cherry Orchard (1904). Except for Ivanov, I had seen them all at least once, in very good productions. This is fortunate, as they don’t read all that well. I agree that they are masterpieces, but they are much better enjoyed in the theatre, where the director has done much of the interpretive work for you. Some playwrights are a joy to read (Shakespeare, Shaw), but in my opinion, not Chekov.

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818, posthumous). I read this in conjunction with a Senior Center class on The England of Jane Austen. I think this is the equal of her other, more famous novels. Anne Elliot is as admirable a heroine as Elizabeth Bennett and the novel offers several other admirable (though flawed) women characters, including her godmother Lady Russell and Mrs. Croft. At age 27, Anne seems fated for spinsterhood, having declined the proposal of a dashing but poor naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. Her father’s vanity has squandered the family fortune and they are obliged to rent out Kellynch Hall and take up lodgings in Bath. The Hall is let to Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who just happen to be the now-wealthy Captain Wentworth’s brother-in-law and sister. A series of social and domestic crises and numerous misunder-standings conspire against a reunion of Anne and Wentworth and while this is being worked out, Austen gives us a vivid portrait of the constraints social norms placed on women of the time.

Jo Baker, The Undertow (2011). The novel presents the story of four generations of the Hastings family from World War I to the present. In August 1914 William Hastings, a London factory worker, is about to leave for the Navy. He gives his sweetheart Amelia a lovely album for postcards and promises to send her one from every place he goes. In April 1915, Amelia gives birth to a son and names him Billy. As a teenager, Billy gets a job delivering groceries by bicycle and eventually grows up to be a champion cyclist. In World War II he is placed in a company of cyclists who ride into the D-day landings on military bicycles. Billy’s son Will manages to make himself into an athlete, despite a crippled leg. He also studies hard and gets to Oxford where he becomes a professor in the 1960s. His daughter Billie becomes an artist in London. She attempts to discover her family history. The postcard album makes scattered appearances throughout the novel. Reading this novel can be a slightly disorienting experience, as the focus shifts to the next generation before the story of the older generation reaches full resolution.

Charlotte MacLeod, The Withdrawing Room (1980). This is the second novel in the series of mysteries featuring Sarah Kelling and her eccentric relatives of a prominent Boston family. In The Family Vault (1979) young Sarah’s husband is killed and now the widow finds herself facing destitution. Over the vociferous objections of her family (Cousin Dolph, Uncle Jeremy), she turns her large Beacon Hill brownstone into a boarding house so she can continue to pay the mortgage. She carefully recruits her tenants and serves as their gracious dinner hostess, while disguising the fact that she is also the cook. She is ably, if unconventionally assisted by her maid and butler, Mariposa and Charles. In fact, no one in this household is quite what they appear to be. Things get really strange when her most obnoxious boarder is murdered. The replacement tenant proves hardly more satisfactory. Sarah is a resourceful and imaginative sleuth.

Martha Grimes, Vertigo 42 (2014). Wealthy Tom Williamson asks Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury to meet him at a bar named Vertigo 42 atop a London skyscraper. (Remember, the titles of all of Grimes’s Richard Jury novels are the names of pubs.) Williamson wants Jury to reinvestigate the death of his wife in Devon 17 years previously. The Devon-Cornwall investigating officer deemed the death accidental, ascribed to the wife’s known vertigo; the coroner issued an open verdict. The junior officer involved in the investigation was Brian Macalvie (a friend and colleague of Jury’s familiar in other Grimes novels). Macalvie found the death suspicious. Jury agrees to go to Devon to see where the “accident” occurred. On the way he stops to see his friend Melrose Plant and they go to the local pub, the Jack and Hammer. There they hear of the mysterious death of a young woman in a fall from a tower. Did she fall, or was she pushed? Now Jury has two mysteries to ponder. Without the astute comments of his fashion-conscious young neighbor Carol-anne and the actions of a stray dog, he never would have figured things out. This is a very witty novel with ample literary allusions. Grimes does not disappoint her readers.

January 02, 2016

October, November and December 2015

“If you are too busy to read, you are too busy.”
― Richard J. Foster, Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World

Late fall and the holidays can be hectic.  I'm thankful that we can make time for the important things.

Here's what we discussed:

On Secret Service - John Jakes
The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach - Pam Jenoff
Finding Fish - Antwone Quentin Fisher
The Murderer's Daughter - Jonathan Kellerman
Make Me - Lee Child
X -  Sue Grafton
Shadow Play - Iris Johansen
Buddhism - Richard Gard
Salt, the Fifth Element - Garnett Laidlaw Eskew
Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
Revival - Stephen King
An Open Book, Coming of Age in the Heartland - Michael Dirda
The Traitor's Wife - Allison Pataki
Room - Emma Donoghue
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Locke & Key series - Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Skullcrack City - Jeremy Johnson
A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Voices from Chernobyl - Svetlana Alexievich
Shelter Dogs - documentary film by Cynthia Wade
Havana Storm - Clive Cussler
Paul Simon: A Life - Marc Eliot
The Paris Review Interviews
The Lottery - Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
The Asylum - John Harwood
Books by Dorothea Benton Frank
Celia Garth: A Story of Charleston in the Revolution - Gwen Bristow
Broadway musical Hamilton
Humans of New York
Felines of New York
David Rosenfelt and his character Andy Carpenter
We Are Called to Rise - Laura McBride
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell

Tom's list:

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Browsing - Michael Dirda
The Day of Wrath - Sever Gansovsky
The Wright Brothers - David McCullough
Hosts - F. Paul Wilson
The Lonely Shadows, Tales of Horror and the Cthulhu Mythos - John Glasby
The Billion Dollar Spy - David E. Hoffman
Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink - Elvis Costello
The Mirror Man - James P. Hogan
Dick Kinzel, Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point - Tim O'Brien
The Girl Who Owned a City - O.T. Nelson
On Russian Music - Richard Taruskin

Ryan's list:

The New Gold Standard by Joseph Michelli
Skullcrack City by Jeremy Robert Johnson
The Blue Aspic by Edward Gorey
The Recently Deflowered Girl by Edward Gorey and Hyacinthe Phypps
Locke and Key Volume 4 by Joe Hill and Gabriel RodriguezThe Tailored Interior by Greg Natale
Faith vs. Fact by Jerry A. Coyne
Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Mary Lou's list:

Kris Radish, The Elegant Gathering of White Snows (2002). A group of women in a small Wisconsin town have been meeting every Thursday evening and they have developed strong friendships. They are career women, housewives, mothers, divorcees, and one ex-Prom queen. One Thursday evening one of them is in crisis and after midnight they all take off walking down their rural highway. They just keep walking for days and miles, attracting press attention and energizing women across the country. They are not much interested in the effect of their odyssey on others, but we hear some stories about that. Because his wife tells him to, the local sheriff assigns a deputy to shadow them and keep the press, gawkers, and hecklers at a distance. One by one, they tell their friends the tragedies and dark secrets that have shaped their lives. Gradually each woman gains the individual insight and strength she needs to move her life in a more positive direction. This is an intriguing book.

Mary Higgins Clark, The Lost Years (2012). Retired NYU professor and archeologist Jonathan Lyons is found shot in his study just weeks after discovering a valuable ancient parchment. His wife Kathleen, suffering from Alzheimer’s, is suspected of murdering him in jealousy about his mistress. His daughter Mariah is convinced her mother is innocent. She soon realizes that the likely murderer is to be found among her father’s friends who accompanied him on his archeological expeditions to the Holy Land. Police detective Simon Benet is convinced that Mrs. Lyons is guilty, but his partner Rita Rodriguez is not so sure. Predictably, Mariah is nearly murdered in the course of her investigation. She is assisted by long-time family friends, including her mother’s lawyer and a colorfully inquisitive retired couple. Although the plot is rather predictable, the quirky characters and the setting in Manhattan and northern New Jersey keep the novel entertaining.

Carol Higgins Clark, Decked (1992). This is a traditional light murder mystery I the style of the author’s mother Mary. The action takes place between Oxford, England and the Queen Guinevere cruise ship. Private investigator Regan Reilly returns to Oxford to attend her 10-year class reunion at St. Polycarp’s. She and her former roommate attend a cocktail party at octogenarian Lacy Veronica Exner’s Llewellyn Hall. The body of their classmate Athena, who disappeared 10 years before, has just been discovered near the Hall. Superintendent Livingston comes to the Hall to question the residents and Athena’s classmates, since the disappearance now appears to be murder, not elopement. Lady Veronica’s companion is taken ill and Regan is persuaded to take her place and accompany Lady Veronica on the trans-Atlantic crossing. Soon Regan discovers that Lady Veronica’s safety is threatened by more than her impetuosity and lack of judgment and Regan’s suspicion of her fellow cruisers increases. The Superintendent continues to investigate St. Polycarp while Regan suspects a link between Athena’s murder and the threats to Lady Veronica. There are many comic episodes, verging on farce. Several plot threads arte skillfully braided toward a satisfying cheerful resolution.

From our sister group in OK:


Chandra, Vikram. Sacred Games
Davis, Katharine. Slender Thread
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel
Ellison, Harlan. “Croatoan” and “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” (short stories)
French, Tana. Secret Place
Hill, Roxann. Death of the Blue Flower
Howe, James. Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
James, Miranda. Arsenic and Old Books
Kyle, Aryn. The God of Animals
Mankell, Henning. d. Oct. 5, 2015. General discussion.
Penny, Louise. Still Life
Ryan, Hank Phillippi. Truth Be Told
Smith, Tom Rob. Child 44


E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men (PBS)
Newsroom (HBO)


Bowler, Jerry. The World Encyclopedia of Christmas
Brett, Jan, Illustrator. The Night Before Christmas: A Poem by Clement Moore. 10th Anniversary Edition
Brown, Dan. Digital Fortress
Canellos, Peter S. The Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy.
Fang, Jade. Twelve Days of Christmas
Joyce, Davis D. Alternative Oklahoma: Contrarian Views of the Sooner State
McCormick, George. Island Empire
Matthews, John. The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas. (394.261 Matt). “Winter Solstice” p.45,
Monahan, Brent. Jekyl Island Club
Moore, Clement C. The Night Before Christmas. Illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat
Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex
Pearlman, Edith. Binocular Vision


“Bridge of Spies.” (Tom Hanks – James Donovan, Mark Rylance – Rudolf Abel)

Television & DVDS

“A Christmas Carol: The Concert” (As seen on PBS) Composed & arranged by Bob Christianson. Lyrics and Book adaptation by Alisa Hauser. Adapted from the Novella by Charles Dickens.
“Great British Baking Show.” BBC on PBS.


Beattie, Ann. Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life
Boo, Katherine. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Buck, Pearl. The Good Earth
Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go
Marquis De Custine. Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia
Patton, Benjamin. Growing Up Patton: Reflections on Heroes, History, and Family Wisdom
Penny, Louise. Still Life
Sheff, David. Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction
Stevens, Chevy. Never knowing


The Good Earth. (1937 with Paul Muni, Luis Rainer, Walter Connolly. Also on DVD)

Television: Einstein’s Centennial

Inside Einstein’s Mind. Craig Sechler. PBS-Nova. (Aired 11-29-15).
The Universe Beyond the Big Bang. Erik Thompson. History Channel H2. (Aired 11-30-15)