Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Me Before You" by JoJo Moyes, Best Book Club Selection!

Me Before You by British author and journalist JoJo Moyes is one of the best if not the best book club selection we've ever had.  Two book clubs have read it and all members simply loved this novel.  

JoJo Moyes is one of the few authors to twice win The Romantic Novel of the Year Award.  Besides Me Before You, The Last Letter From Your Lover (which is one of the two winning titles) and The Girl You Left Behind are all receiving great feedback.  Romance novels are not the forte of our book clubs but it seems Ms. Moyes has been practicing the art of writing since her decision to write full time in 2002.  She now cannot be classified as just a romance novelist.  Practice has made perfect.

Me Before You is the story of Lou Clark, a working class young woman who, desperate to make money for her family and hindered by inertia, takes a temporary job as assistant to wealthy, bitter quadriplegic, Will Traynor. That doesn't sound like the makings of a funny, poignant story full of witty dialog, thought-provoking subjects and ultimately an unforgettable love story but it is.  This is one of those books where you feel you are walking right alongside the characters and are sad to close the last page.  The story of Lou and Will will stick with you long after you've finished their story.  Run, not walk, to your local library and checkout Me Before You.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jeffrey Archer's The Clifton Chronicles

Englishman Jeffrey Archer has created quite a resume in his 73 years:  former member of the House of Lords, graduate of Oxford, prison inmate, playwright, author.  He also almost went bankrupt even though he has sold over 250 million copies of his numerous novels.  Readers of a certain age will remember him for the wildly popular Kane and Abel.  Archer said he came up with the idea of the Clifton Chronicles when he was working on a 30th edition of Kane and Abel

He is now working his way through his five part Clifton Chronicles.  The first one, Only Time Will Tell, was this month's book club selection.  The setting is England in 1920 through the start of World War II.  The finale of the series will end in 2020 so this is a very ambitious undertaking. 

Only Time Will Tell, follows Harry Clifton, a poor son of a dockworker who gets an unexpected chance to attend an exclusive boys' school where he makes lifelong friends and learns the truth (?) about his father. The mystery is building in this saga that the titles hint at:  Sins of the Father (#2), Best Kept Secret (#3) and the March 11th release of No. 4 Be Careful What You Wish For.

Archer has said that Harry is loosely based upon his own life. "I was brought up in the West Country (southwest England) with a mother who had a very hard time because my father died young...".  The mysterious figure of Harry's mentor, Old Jack Tar (a favorite character in Only Time Will Tell), is based on a real person, a decorated British army officer.

Jeffrey Archer's own life may be the most interesting read of all.  From a Reuters interview, when Only Time Will Tell was first published, Archer had this to say about his worldwide popularity:  "I got a young kid with a stack of books tapping on my window as I was driving slowly into Mumbai.  I put the window down and the young man said "Would you like the latest Jeffrey Archer?" and I said "I am the latest Jeffrey Archer!".  

First Installment

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dennis Lehane's "The Given Day"


Crime writer Dennis Lehane's ambitious 2008 novel The Given Day may not be for every book club due to its length (it's over 700 pages long) but it certainly is worthwhile whether you read it for a club or just for your own pleasure.  It takes place in Boston which is the setting for other Lehane novels including the acclaimed Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone.  It features Danny Coughlin, an Irish police officer who gets involved with the 1919 police strike.  Babe Ruth and other historical figures weave seamlessly throughout the book.  It's the story of two families, one white and the other black, as they struggle to find a place in a quickly changing world after World War I.  Lehane "unflinchingly captures the political and social unrest of a nation caught at the crossroads between past and future".  

The Given Day makes an excellent addition to your reading list if your interest has been piqued about the early 20th century.  While the lords and servants of Downton Abbey are coming to terms with the new century, the people of Boston and other big cities in America were also struggling to make their way during the time between the two great wars.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Big Business List of 100 Books You Should Read

Amazon recently released it's list of 100 books that you should read in your lifetime.  It is interesting to note how many of them you've read.  It also makes a good "go-to" list if you are in need of a book club title. 

The list seems to include many more modern titles than one would have thought.  Also, with apologies to Gillian Flynn, I don't think I would be any less well off if I"d never met up with the two psychopaths from her "Gone Girl" but that's just one opinion.

Amazon's list of 100 books to read in a lifetime:

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Most titles are available at your local library so check one out!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Another Ann Tyler-"Digging to America"

Our book club just read Ann Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye which everyone liked.  Her books are usually popular with book clubs.  While researching the author, a news story noted that her husband was an Iranian psychiatrist and had died in 1997.  It sounded like he had been the great love of her life and as a tribute she wrote the 2006 story Digging to America.  This seemed intriguing although when the book first came out it was not that popular with our patrons.  

Random House has this to say about the book:  "Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport-the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam's fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian wife.  Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea.  After the instant babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate:  an "arrival party" that from then on is repeated every year as the two families become more and more deeply intertwined. Even Maryam is drawn in - up to a point.  when she finds herself being courted by Bitsy Donaldson's recently widowed father, all the values she cherishes - her traditions, her privacy, her otherness - are suddenly threatened."

The audio version is a wonderful surprise.  Read by actress Blair Brown, it feels as if friends are speaking to you about their lives.  As Random House says, this truly is a "luminous novel brimming with subtle, funny and tender observations that immerse us in the challenges of both sides of the American story".  The characters, especially Maryam and Bitsy, stay with you long after the last disc has played.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Anne Tyler's "The Beginner's Goodbye"

Anne Tyler, the Pulitzer Prize winning author (for Breathing Lessons), is now 72 years old.  She has a reputation for being reclusive, almost in the same category as J.D. Salinger of Catcher in the Rye fame.  Then, after 35 years, she started giving interviews when her new book, The Beginner's Goodbye, was published.  When asked why, she responded "why not?".  

 Ms. Tyler seems warm and friendly in her interviews with no hint of the eccentric recluse some would make her out to be.  She's lived in Baltimore for over 40 years and has set most of her novels there.  Her characters are quirky as illustrated by her famous novel The Accidental Tourist which was made into the 1988 Academy Award nominated movie starring Genna Davis.  She told an interviewer for USA Today that she visualizes all of her characters forming "a small town in Baltimore where they pass each other in the street".  That would be a charming town indeed.

John Waters, the director of Hairspray, is a friend of the author and says "She beautifully captures regular people who are not trying to be noticed.  She writes about real life".  

The Beginner's Goodbye tells the story of a quiet young man who works in his family's publishing house.  A tree falls on his home, killing his wife instantly, leaving him a widower.  Publishers Weekly says the book is "an uplifting tale of love and forgiveness.  By the end of this wonderful book, you've lived the lives and loves of these characters in the best possible way".

Anne Tyler's books have a gentleness about them.  There is A Patchwork Planet about a lovable loser who starts a business called Rent-a-Back doing odd jobs for elderly clients.  Back When We Were Grown-ups features a 53 year old widow who operates a catering business out of her home and  is questioning every aspect of her life.  Rather than being depressing, Ms. Tyler's novels are uplifting, witty and poignant.  There are 19 to chose from so be sure to check  one out.

 The Beginner's Goodbye | [Anne Tyler]

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Still Life" by Louise Penny

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)
First in the series
Patrons are mentioning Canadian author Louise Penny's mystery novels more and more.  It may be time you met her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache for yourself.   

Still Life is the first of nine in this delightful "whodunit" series. All are set in the fictional village of Three Pines in the province of Quebec.  You don't have to read the novels in order but it will be more satisfying to get to know the delightfully quirky characters as the series unfolds.

Louise Penny is a former Canadian journalist.  She submitted the first book to United Kingdom's "Debut Dagger" and came in second out of 800 entries.  Since then she's won five Agatha Awards and all her books have been nominated or won many prestigious awards.

The recent How The Light Gets In is the 9th in the series.  It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Kirkus starred review says it has "luminous insights into trust and friendship". 

Armand Gamache is not one of your down and out, depressed Scandinavian detectives.  He is dignified and has deep affection for the villagers.  He also gives gentle life lessons.  He tells each of his new agents four statements that will lead to wisdom in solving crimes:
        • I was wrong.
        • I am sorry.
        • I don't know.
        • I need help.
Actually, these four statements would help bring harmony to all human relationships.  Check out Louise Penny's thoughtful volumes today.

The latest in the series