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