Monday, December 31, 2012

A Slight Cure for The Downton Abbey Blues

The Walnut Tree

The Walnut Tree is a holiday tale published this year by the mother/son team known as Charles Todd.  

Their bio states that the authors "live on the east coast of the US.  Caroline Todd has a BA in English literature and Charles Todd a BA in Communication Studies.  They have a rich storytelling heritage from time spent listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce.  An uncle/great-uncle served as a flyer in WWI and aroused an early interest in the Great War.  This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time."

They pen the Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries which take place right after WWI.  The Inspector has just returned from the war and gets caught up in his work in order to save his own sanity.  The Bess Crawford mysteries follow a WWI nurse who becomes an amateur sleuth.  These are historically accurate cozy mysteries.  

The Walnut Tree is a stand alone holiday selection and lightly evokes the wartime atmosphere of Britain and France.  As one reviewer stated "Find some cures for the post-Downton Abbey blues".  The woman on the cover even looks like Lady Sybil Crawley! 

The story revolves around Lady Elspeth Douglas who gets caught up in the chaos that erupts when war breaks out.  She defies her position to become a war nurse and sees her soon to be fiance head off to war.  In his absence she falls for a handsome Captain.  This is not War and Peace but if you enjoy cozy mysteries and the books of Louise Penny and Anne Perry this author is a good one to check out.

As an aside - did you know that prolific cozy mystery author Anne Perry was convicted in 1954 at the age of 15 and served five years in prison for participating in her friend's mother's murder?  Her bio says that since being released from prison she has not committed any crimes (good to know!).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do You Know Any "Outliers"?

Chances are you've heard of some famous Outliers but probably don't know one personally.  An outlier is a term meaning something that lies outside of normal experience.  An outlier appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample.

International bestselling author and The New Yorker staff writer Malcolm Gladwell highlights many outlier individuals and gives interesting statistics to prove his hypotheses in this 2011 non-fiction selection.  The information is set forth in a very readable, lively fashion, almost like the author is having a conversation with the reader.  He discusses many famous and some not so famous outliers such as Bill Gates, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Asian math whizzes, New York Jewish lawyers and others and gives reasons as to why and how they became outliers.

A wise man once said "opportunity is luck meeting preparedness"Are people successful because of just plain luck or is there something else at work?  You will learn some fascinating ideas about why some people are phenomenally successful.  Did you know that the Beatles spent 10,000 hours honing their craft before they became famous?  Or that a young, curious Bill Gates had the opportunity to work on a super computer at a time when computers weren't a part of everyday life?  Does the date you were born increase your chance of success?

Gladwell is also well known for his other books.  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is about change.  Why did the crime rate in New York City dip dramatically in the mid 1990s? Why is word of mouth so powerful? Why do teens continue to smoke even though everyone knows that cigarettes kill?

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is about the kind of thinking that happens in the blink of an eye.  It's about what goes on in the first few seconds of an event.  Gladwell says he doesn't like the word "intuition" and never uses it.  He says that what we may call intuition is actually powerful and rational thinking.

Some have criticized Malcolm Gladwell as using "pop" sociology and have questioned his methodology but our book club found Outliers engaging, readable and even inspiring.   Why not see for yourself and check it out?

Malcolm Gladwell

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Musings about Interesting Men

The new book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a heartfelt journey.  Travel with Harold as he meanders for months through England's cities and villages struggling to figure out his life after his retirement.  You will get to know him, his bewildered wife he's left at home and the dark past that haunts him.  You will fall in love with this enduring novel.

That aristocratic detective Charles Lenox is back with a new mystery to solve entitled A Death in the Small Hours.  This is the sixth in author Charles Finch's  "cozy" mystery series.  This time Lenox is home from his Burial at Sea adventure and is a respected member of Parliament. He gets pulled back to his first love - finding the murderer.  You will feel yourself walking the gas lit streets of Victorian London right along side Lenox. Downton Abbey won't be back on American PBS until January, 2013 so this is a delightful way to fill the hours until then.

Speaking of PBS, don't forget Ken Burns' new documentary this Sunday and Monday, November 18 and 19, 2012 at 8 p.m. EST.  This time he explores the Dust Bowl with heart wrenching first hand stories.  He said he was always interested in this period and had a sense of urgency as the people who experienced the Dust Bowl are now in their 80s and 90s.  PBS says the Dust Bowl was "the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history".  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quiet Words of Wisdom from Alexander McCall-Smith


Alexander McCall-Smith

Our Thursdays With Maureen Group just discussed Alexander McCall-Smith's 2008 standalone novel La's Orchestra Saves The World.   

La (short for Lavender) has had her heart broken and moves from London to a small village at the start of World War II.  She lives a quiet life and being from London she craves a little more intellectual stimulation than the townspeople can deliver.  Eventually she volunteers to help with the war effort by taking care of a local farmer's chickens. This gives her days purpose and makes her feel more a part of village life.  One thing leads to another, she meets a mysterious Polish airman and starts a beloved community orchestra to boost moral and lighten the wartime mood.  

This selection is reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel SocietyMcCall-Smith's writing makes you feel you are transported back to wartime EnglandThis book is a little more serious than his other books.  He has stated that he wanted to highlight the everyday people of World War II who were never honored as heroes but who were brave just the same as they endured the war years.

He also says "The other group I wanted to pay tribute to was the Poles.  Polish servicemen played a major role in the war. Their airmen, for example, participated in the Battle of Britain, that crucial battle that decided the fate of Europe. At the end of the war the Poles were betrayed and the contribution of their forces largely ignored. In the victory parade in London, the Poles were not allowed to march with everybody else (Stalin insisted on this). So those brave men stood at the side of the road and wept. This book is about them too.".
44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1)McCall-Smith is the prolific author of many novels plus nine series including the well known No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series and Corduroy Mansions.  One of our members reads almost all of his series and said that the 44 Scotland Street books are her very favorite.  They revolve around the comings and goings at 44 Scotland Street which is described by the author's website as occupying  "a busy, Bohemian corner of Edinburgh's New Town, where the old haute bourgeoisie finds itself having to rub shoulders with students, poets... And number 44 has more than its fair share of the street's eccentrics and failures...". 

 McCall-Smith's books are quiet character studies.  There is not a lot of action but small gems of life's lessons are gently given.  La's Orchestra Saves The World is a wonderful selection for a brisk late autumn day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Gone Girl" - WOW!


Wow, what a story! Gone Girl is definitely the best page turner in a long while. 

It was written by Gillian Flynn who also wrote two other novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects.  She must have been practicing with those because Gone Girl is certainly dark but extremely entertaining.  

She is a former TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, lives in Chicago, was born in Kansas City, received a degree from University of Kansas and a masters from Northwestern.  Therefore, she's a Midwesterner.  That is useful while reading Gone Girl.  There is a lot of Midwest bashing and criticism of the media so it's nice to know her background and whose side she is on.  

This book is in the nature of the movies The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense.  It is most enjoyable if you have no idea what its about.  

There are many issues to discuss for book clubs if the members don't mind a dark selection.  Eventually you many not love the characters but you will certainly be highly entertained trying to figure out how it's going to end. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some Ideas for Your Next Read

Sometimes when patrons return books they comment on how much they liked them.  Here are some authors and titles that have had good feedback.

Simon Mawer is the author of the 2009 New York Times historical fiction bestseller The Glass Room, a story of a couple and their beautiful home before and during World War II.  One Amazon review says "a near perfect novel of architecture, art and love". 

Trapeze, Mawer's latest book, a blend of fact and fiction, is an espionage tale set in Europe again during World War II.  An English girl fluent in French is recruited by the British Special Operations Executive which trained agents to operate behind enemy lines. She is parachuted into France to join the resistance network. The New York Journal of Books said it has "many of the finest elements of spy thrillers and even romance novels" and "is a fascinating tale and homage to the resistance fighters and members of the SOE".


  the glass house

 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is still creating great comments.  Reese Witherspoon has been set to produce the movie. 

Gillian Flynn

Soon to be a movie

 Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail is Cheryl Strayed's memoir of her summer, 1995 eleven hundred mile hike.  She had no experience, "just an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise".  This is an Oprah Book Club selection.  It brings Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods to mind but that book is much lighter.  It does bear some resemblance to Elizabeth Gilbert's blockbuster Eat, Pray Love. The publisher says Wild is "told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor".  "It captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her".  

Cheryl Strayed, ten days into the Pacific Crest Trail in June 1995. / SF
Cheryl Strayed on the hike
Cover art for WILD 

 All these books have good "buzz".  Why not stop at the library and check one out.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wallander is Back!

Just a reminder that our favorite Swedish inspector, Kurt Wallander, returns Sunday with "three chilling new cases with devastating effects".  Season 3 of PBS Masterpiece Mystery starring Kenneth Branagh is here just in time to open the new fall season.  PBS says Wallander returns in An Event in Autumn "with a new home and relationship, a new sense of possibility".  

Wallander starts this Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 9 p.m. and continues for the two Sundays after that, September 16 (The Dogs of Riga)  and September 23 (Before The Frost).  

Fans of author Henning Mankell will remember the two books, The Dogs of Riga and Before The Frost.  The first PBS installment is based on a Mankell short story.  If you love Swedish noir, Henning Mankell is the master and PBS captures the brooding sense of doom in Wallander perfectly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin


Thursdays With Maureen Book Club's July selection was Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter winner of the 2010 LA Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller.  Strangely (to me anyway) some of the group did not know the reference to "crooked letter crooked letter" which is how children are taught to spell the word "Mississippi".  I suppose that if you didn't learn that as a child you wouldn't know from the title that this book is set in Mississippi.

It's classified as a mystery but the murder mystery is secondary to the unlikely friendship between the two main characters, one black, the other white.  Bookreporter says "like all great works, it transcends any particular genre to stand on it's own".

Ron Charles in his Washington Post review said  "Franklin, an Edgar-winning writer of atmospheric tales, deserves an audience to match the praise he's attracted for Poachers, Hell at the Breech and Smonk.  If you're looking for a smart, thoughtful novel that sinks deep into a Southern hamlet of the American psyche Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is your next book".  

Tom Franklin's writing has been compared to that of Harper Lee, William Faulkner and Elmore Leonard.  He is currently Assistant Professor of Fiction Writing at Ole Miss. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Willie Morris Prize for Southern Fiction.

There is something about reading a Southern novel during the hottest days of summer.  This summer in the Midwest offered up many days over 90 degrees with temps as high as 103.  So, the hot steamy days seemed just right for getting to know Larry Ott, the town oddball, who prayed that God would deliver a friend for him.  The town thinks he had something to do with a missing girl back when he was in high school so he remains a permanent outcast.  His childhood friend, Silas "32" Jones, now the town constable, also shuns Larry.  When another girl goes missing it forces the two estranged friends to confront their past.  Take in the rich Southern atmosphere created by one of our best contemporary writers.

 By the way, this Southern state is spelled "m,i,crooked letter, crooked letter, i, crooked letter, crooked letter, i, humpback, humpback, i". 

Author Tom Franklin

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wish I'd Thought of That!

In the category of "why didn't I think of that" here are two new books recently released:

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin and My Favorite Fangs, The Story of the von Trapp Family Vampires by Alan Goldsher.

These are real books.  Mmmmmmmmmmm.

My Favorite Fangs even comes with a reader's guide.

And the full title to Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is Fifty Shames of Earl Grey:  A Parody.  Really?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Updates on Authors Wally Lamb and Michael Connelly

Readers will remember Wally Lamb as the author of the 1992 debut novel, She's Come Undone, which was then picked as an Oprah book club selection in 1997.  USA Today has an interesting article in today's paper about Wally Lamb's friendship with a bipolar man named David Fitzpatrick.  It's an inspiring story of a 20 year friendship and how the successful author helped the mentally ill man find his voice. Mr. Fitzpatrick's first novel, Sharp, arrives in book stores today. Pick up today's paper to read the article or go to USA Today's website, click the "life" section and then "books" to find the article.

Also in today's news, Michael Connelly has won the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction for The Fifth Witness, fourth in his Lincoln Lawyer series featuring maverick attorney Mickey Haller.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Carl Hiassen is a hoot!


Lately, Florida author Carl Hiaasen is noted for his novels, Hoot, Flush, Scat and Chomp.  Even the titles are pretty funny which might make you want to pick up one of these young adult novels.  But don't forget his older mysteries. What a hoot!  Someone at Amazon commented that Skin Tight was one of his best and it really does make for a laugh out loud summer read.  One character, the six foot nine Chemo with the weed whacker arm, is unforgettable.

 His web site says "A graduate of the University of Florida, at age 23 he joined The Miami Herald as a general assignment reporter and went on to work for the paper's weekly magazine and later its prize-winning investigations team. Since 1985 Hiaasen has been writing a regular column, which at one time or another has ****** off just about everybody in South Florida, including his own bosses. He has outlasted almost all of them, and his column still appears on most Sundays in The Herald's opinion-and-editorial section. It may be viewed online....or in the actual printed edition of the newspaper, which, miraculously, is still being published. "

His sardonic sense of humor may not be for everyone.  But, if you like that kind of wit, he is a master.  He's a staunch environmentalist whose bad guys are always trying to exploit the environment or scam the tourists. "Fabulous sense of chaos and absurdity", delightfully warped mind", wicked imagination" all describe him.

One reviewer mentioned that it seems readers tend to say their favorite Hiaasen book is their first.  Maybe this is because of the reader's surprise.  It may tend to start out as a "normal" whodunit and then his biting wit emerges with laugh out loud consequences.

Why not give it a try - Skin Tight, Double Whammy, Native Tongue, Sick Puppy, Tourist Season are among his more than 30 books that readers mention as their favorites.  What a hoot!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Heading Out to Wonderful" by Robert Goolrick

Treat yourself to the first few chapters of this new mystery from Robert Goolrick.  He evokes life in 1940s in a small Southern town with such detail that the reader will become immediately absorbed.  The story is based on a true story told to the author in the Greek Isles 25 years ago.

Craig Wilson, the USA Today columnist (who is also funny and right-on with his wry observations of daily life in his Wednesday columns) says of Robert Goolrick:  "Once a hard-partying New York ad executive who ended up on welfare and in Alcoholics Anonymous, he is now well known as the author of a highly praised, best-selling debut novel, A Reliable Wife, and the blistering tell-all family memoir, The End of the World as We Know It.".

Goodreads says Heading Out to Wonderful is " charged and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terribly wrong...".  This is a novel where the less said the better.  Open it up, linger on the first few chapters to appreciate the skilled rendering of days gone by and then dive into the mystery.  As the opening lines of the novel says:  The things is, all memory is fiction.  You have to remember that.

Front Cover

Friday, July 20, 2012

"The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love
For Intense Discussion!

Nine members (an almost perfect number for discussion) of Between The Lines Book Club discussed The History of Love, the second novel of Nicole Krauss, published in 2005 and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.  This is a serious novel, not to be recommended as a lighthearted summer read.  For someone wanting substance, depth and with compassion for sympathetic characters, this fits the bill.

The novel follows two main characters living in contemporary New York City.  Leo Gursky is an elderly, lonely Jewish man who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Polish woods.  Alma is a 15 year old girl struggling after the death of her father.  The descriptions of these two are heartbreakingly real and at times hilariously funny.  There are several "loves" in this novel, each making for intense discussion.  The "book within the book" most agreed was not as compelling as the rest of the novel.

Some members couldn't say if they liked or disliked the book although they were glad they read it.  Several loved the book and even wanted to reread it.  There are a few twists that are shocking and the ending is ambiguous.  Both the twists and the ending caused lots of back and forth discussion.  A second reading would be worthwhile because of the knowledge the reader would now have.  Leo, especially, would be viewed in an even more tragic light.

We discussed some of the comments from the Internet.  The author is married to another, more famous author, Jonathan Safran Foer.  He wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which none of us had read.  Some comments on the Internet are critical of Nicole Krauss because both her book and her husband's feature similar characters and some plot lines.  Also, they both use similar and uncommon literary techniques.  Members dismissed this criticism as we are reading for pleasure and discussion, not a critical analysis of literature.

As mentioned, this is a complex book for serious readers and is highly recommended especially for book clubs.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"In The Sanctuary of Outcasts" by Neil White

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
Thursdays with Maureen's latest book discussion was In The Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White.  11 members attended which is a rather large group for a summer meeting.  Most enjoyed the book and as sometimes happens with book club selections, even those that didn't particularly think Mr. White was the best writer were glad they read his memoir.

Neil White was a successful Southern journalist and publisher incarcerated for bank fraud in the early 1990s on a former plantation in Carville, Louisiana that also housed patients suffering from Hansen's disease.  Hansen's disease is the proper term for people suffering from the neurological disease of leprosy.  The story is about his journey from arrogance to a much more humble outlook.  You can imagine his distress in his first days in prison.  He had a privileged life with a fantastic job, nice family, prestige and everything that money can buy.  He tells his young children that he's going to camp.  There he meets some hardened prisoners and also leprosy patients housed there, some for over 50 years.  One of the first patients he meets holds out his hand for White to shake but the man has no fingers.  Eventually, he learns to accept the disfigured patients and the wisdom they impart to him. He says that it turned out to be a "wonderful, wonderful experience" and he doesn't think he would have had the same life changing experience if he'd been in a regular federal prison. In a poignant sentence towards the end, White thanks the judge that sentenced him to Carville.  

The book is a fascinating account of a group of very diverse individuals, sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad.  Publishers Weekly says "Brisk, ironic and perceptive, White's introspective memoir puts a magnifying glass to a flawed life, revealing that all of life is to be savored and respected".  

For further information, the fiction book Moloka'i by Alan Brennert comes highly recommended.  There is also a documentary film entitled Triumph at Carville - Leprosy in America that takes you inside the daily workings of one of the most intriguing medical establishments in our country.  The DVD, An Uncommon Kindness, is about Father Damien, the priest that lived among lepers on Moloka'i and ultimately was infected and died of leprosy.  

Our library has a book bag with eight copies of In The Sanctuary of Outcasts that is available for checkout for book clubs.  There is much to discuss and learn in this memoir.  It would make an excellent selection for your next book club read.  Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron

It was sad to hear that news that writer, filmmaker and essayist Nora Ephron died yesterday, June 26, 2012. She was known for her wit and all of us of a certain age can remember laughing and crying at "Sleepless From Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally".

Her books include Heartburn about her failed marriage to Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, I Remember Nothing and I Feel Bad About My Neck.

Product Details

Front Cover

“We all look good for our age. Except for our necks,” she wrote in the title piece from “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” published in 2006. “Oh, the necks. There are chicken necks. There are turkey gobbler necks. There are elephant necks. There are necks with wattles and necks with creases that are on the verge of becoming wattles. ... According to my dermatologist, the neck starts to go at 43 and that’s that.”

All women of a certain age can definitely relate to that!  I Feel Good About My Neck may make a delightfully easy summer read for our book club.  Her famous wit would have us laughing all the way through the book. 

Her sweetest quote:

“I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
—Billy Crystal to Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally

Our library has several of Nora Ephron's books and movies, why not check one out today?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Only For Doc Martin Fans!

Just a quick reminder for fans of the Doc Martin series.  Our library now has the latest season on DVD.  Get on the waiting list to check out Season 5.  Find out what Martin and Louisa name their new  baby.  And, boy, is he ever cute!

Also, just so you know, they will begin filming Series 6 in 2013.  (It's slated to be the last.)

The French Don't Go for E-Books

 The following is an interesting article taken from a blog posted by The Guardian:

E-books in France have been slow to catch on, as readers overwhelmingly prefer the printed page.
Reading habits were back on the political agenda in France this week when Hollande's government, vowing to protect the printed word and France's bookish reputation, announced it would roll back Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial VAT rise on books.
In contrast to the UK's famous three-for-two deals, the French state fixes the prices of books and readers pay the same whether they buy online, at a high-street giant or a small bookseller. Discounting is banned. The government boasts that price controls have saved small independent bookshops from the ravages of free-market capitalism that were unleashed in the UK when it abandoned fixed prices in the 1990s. France has more than 3,000 independent local bookshops and 400 in Paris, compared with around 1,000 in the UK and only 130 in London. But online book giants are still eating into small bookshops, many of which struggle to stay afloat.
The next question obsessing the market-watchers is whether old habits will change and the ebook will catch on in France. The state price-fixing rule has been extended to digital reading. But the change is not just a question of cost. Surveys have shown that the majority of French readers, like those in Germany, still prefer paper books to reading onscreen. While sales of English-language ebooks have grown rapidly – to around 20% of total book sales in the US and almost 10% in the UK – in France, predictions for this year are hovering at around 3% of the market. Some publishing giants are confident that ebook growth will come to France in time, but for now the paperback has the advantage.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What Book To Read Next? Some Summer Reads

As the library saying goes "so many books, so little time"!  There are so many books waiting to be read and more are published each week.  Here are a few intriguing ones. 
Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn:  The New York Times writes:  “This is the hardest part,” confides one of the untrustworthy narrators in Gone Girl “waiting for stupid people to figure things out.” ... Flynn’s latest novel of psychological suspense will confound anyone trying to keep up with her quicksilver mind and diabolical rules...she promises to deliver an account of the troubled marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne, who alternate as narrators, and so she does. The trickery is in the devilish way she tells their story".  USA Today and People Magazine also gave this new book excellent reviews and it seems to be the next "must read".
Heading Out to WonderfulHeading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick:   Robert Goolrick is the author of the taut, sexy, disturbing A Reliable Wife, his first novel, set in Wisconsin at the beginning of the last century.  Amazon says of his new endeavor: "The time now is 1948, as Charlie Beale rolls into the small town of Brownsburg, Virginia. It's the kind of small southern town where "no crime had ever been committed," where memories of the Civil War often seem as fresh as those of the recently completed Second World War, where every single person in town attends one church or another on Sunday mornings.".  If Heading Out to Wonderful is anything close to A Reliable Wife then it's going to be a summer read in the best sense.

The Expats by Chris Pavone:  It is immensely readable and well-crafted.  It explores the secrets that one keeps from friends, spouse and even oneself.  It isn't overly political and not violent.  As a reviewer at Good Reads commented: "the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships".  How true.  For a fast-paced mystery be sure to check it out!  

Park Lane by Frances Osborne:  This is the story of two determined women in socially constrained Edwardian London.  War breaks out in 1914 and the walls between social classes come tumbling down.  Does this remind you of our favorite saga, Downton Abbey?  That's enough to make me run to the library to check this out!  Happy summer reading!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Drowning Ruth" by Christina Schwarz

Drowning Ruth   

The Between The Lines Book Club's May discussion was an older Oprah book club selection called Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. Our book club is rather large with usually 14 to 16 in attendance.  This month only eight attended which was actually the perfect number for discussion.  No one could remember who selected this book but it was a great idea to go back and look at an older "book club" type book.  Everyone enjoyed the book and it created lots of very lively discussion.
 The story is told from different characters' outlooks and also from the point of view of a main charaacter at different ages.  At first this may take a little getting used to but it is an interesting technique.  We all agreed this story is like a soap opera but then, what is a soap opera but just the telling of stories of the lives and interactions of different people, in this case, family members with a terrible secret.

 BookBrowse says:  "Deftly written and emotionally powerful, Drowning Ruth is a stunning portrait of the ties that bind sisters together and the forces that tear them apart, of the dangers of keeping secrets and the explosive repercussions when they are exposed. A mesmerizing and achingly beautiful debut."

The author shows how secrets carry through time damaging everyone.  One of the fascinating parts of this story is how perception of an event or non-event effects each of the characters.  Without any basis in truth an entire event (infidelity) that never occurred is perceived to have happened by the husband of one of the sisters.  If you want to wake up the book club members just mention this topic!  Boy oh boy, did this create a lively discussion.

We all agreed this book was an excellent book club choice for creating lots of discussion.  Or, why not check it out just for the pleasure of reading a good book with very developed sympathetic characters and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"The Borrower" by Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai

The Reader's Garden group discussed The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai at their May meeting.  The setting is a library much like our own and we are excited to be welcoming Rebecca to our library on June 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.  All are welcome to come and meet this new author from Chicago.

Rebecca has a lifelong fondness for libraries.  She said as a child she would "walk a block to the library with her classmates.  The fact that first memories of the children's section are also my first memories of unsupervised freedom certainly has colored my lifelong relationship with libraries, not to mention this novel.  That one was a small and cozy library (which I nevertheless firmly believed to be haunted).  But as an adult I prefer libraries that are ancient and vast and storied.  The main branch of the New York Public Library is perhaps my favorite...and I was married in the Peabody Library in Baltimore, an old-fashioned model if ever there was one.  I think I seek out that sense of hauntedness to match the feeling of mystery I once associated with my own first library: the hush, the possibility, the anonymity". 

The Borrower
The protagonist in The Borrower, Lucy Hall, goes to work as a children's librarian in a small town after college graduation. At twenty-six she is already settling into the life of a "simple maiden lady librarian".  Then, things change as Lucy's favorite young patron runs away from home and Lucy makes an impulsive decision that will forever change the way both see themselves, the world and the stories they love.

The book received mixed reviews and only three club members finished it which was disappointing.  One member thought the character of Lucy was not strong and didn't think it was realistic that Lucy would get caught up in the events that occur.  Another member felt the story had great characters, it was entertaining and relevant to today and therefore an excellent choice for discussion. The readers all had several answers as to "who is 'the borrower' in the novel?". 

Please help us give a warm welcome to author and library lover Rebecca Makkai on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.
Our Own Favorite Library

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our Favorite Mystery Author Brian Freeman

 Amazon's Complete Selection of Brian Freeman Books
One of our favorite authors at The Carnegie Public Library is Brian Freeman.  Patrons may recall that he visited our library last year and was very gracious and an all around nice guy.  It is hard to believe he thinks up some of the murderous twists and turns in his books.  

Brian is a psychological suspense author and has just published another stand alone book, Spilled Blood, set amid the ghost towns of southwest Minnesota.  His first stand alone book was The Bone House which he said was based upon a real experience by someone he knows.  What if all the evidence points to you and you are completely innocent? Would your spouse stand by you and believe you?

 Readers may be familiar with his series featuring Lieutenant Jonathan Stride and detective Serena Dial.  There are currently five in that series, starting with Immoral which won the Macavity Award and was nominated for several others including an Edgar.  The latest in the series is The Burying Place which was a finalist for best novel of 2010.  The next Stride novel will be coming in 2013.

Brian states on his website that "I don't like books where the characters are all good or all bad.  I want them to live in the real world, where morality means tough choices and a lot of shades of gray. My goal is to write books with haunting characters and a lightning-fast pace...the hidden intimate motives that draw people across some terrible lines".

Brian says he'd like people to read his books twice.  Once for the quick pacing to get to the breathtaking climax and find out what happens; the second time to pick up the nuances of the characters.  He says "The beauty of the psychological suspense is that, once you know the secrets, the drama of the interactions changes and becomes something completely different.  Suddenly, you know the back story; you know what's in the back of the characters' minds.  It gives you a whole new perspective on the novel".

One bit of trivia is that although Brian lives in Minnesota he has relatives in the Chicago area.  He planned his stop with us on his way from his home to visit the Chicago relatives.  While in Angola he wandered the Circle Hill Cemetery to see the graves of his ancestors.

Brian is a big supporter of libraries and we hope that during his Midwest travels he will visit us again.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Secrets of a Successful Book Group - The Page Turner Book Club

Facilitator Lou Ann Homan

The Page Turners is a neighborhood book club in Angola, Indiana and is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. The club is limited to ten members and two are charter members - Barb Simper of Hamilton and club facilitator Lou Ann Homan.  Lou Ann is a storyteller, theater coach, actress and writer and was so gracious to share the "secrets" of her very successful book club.

The group began with reading Oprah's book club list and then members started reading reviews and finding their own selections that they felt were exceptional.  Today members lobby for a book they deem worthy of reading.  The group has read every Lisa See book (author of Snow Flower and The Secret Fan).  Also, they Skipe authors including Katherine Howe, author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and the just released The House of Velvet and Glass.  Charter member Lou Ann Homan's current personal favorite book is Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland.

All members are responsible for obtaining copies of the monthly selection.  Charter member Barb Simper purchases all of her books and keeps them on a shelf in her home.  She includes her notes from the discussions and the club's rating of each book. In essence, she has a growing library of wonderful book club selections.

This club is definitely a member driven group and all participate. Meetings are held at members' homes and include dinner. Many times the dinner will reflect the book. The first 20 minutes are devoted to visiting with each other.  Then there is discussion of the selection for about 45 minutes.  

Questions and study guides are generally not used but members bring their own notes. One person does an author study and one question is asked at every gathering -  "how does the book apply to our lives right now?".  That question always provokes lots of discussion. 

Books are given a rating of 1 to 5 with 5 being fabulous. The dinner conversation stays on a high academic level. 

After dinner the talk centers around the next several selections and a decision is made on who will host the next meeting.  A classic selection is picked several times a year. This May the selection is  House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende was the very first book the club read 10 years ago and it is being reintroduced because there are so many new members.

Daughter of Fortune:
The First Selection
Thank you to Lou Ann Homan for sharing her "secrets" of a very successful book club!

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