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)