Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Club Selections for 2015

Personally, I highly recommend the books by Sam Thomas, Alyson Richman, and Anthony Doerr 

February 20
The King’s Deception by Steve Berry

March 20
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman 

April 17
MidWife's Tale (Midwife's Mysteries #1) by Sam Thomas.  

May 15
The Oath by John Lescroart 

June 19
The Harlot's Tale by Sam Thomas

July 17
Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult

August 28
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

No meeting in September.

October 16
When the Lion Feeds by Wilbur Smith

November 20
All the World We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Louise Penny's Latest Book and Project Babylon

I am reading the latest Penny book in the Inspector Gamache series, Nature of the Beast. I first became hooked on this series because of the book club. Still Life was Penny's first book.  In this book a 9 year old child, with a vivid imagination, from the village of Three Pines has been murdered.  The Surete du Quebec is in Three Pines to investigate this murder that was set up to appear as if it were an accident.

After reading every one of Penny's books, the characters have become like familiar friends. The usual quirky characters are present such as Ruth, the crazy poet; Myra, the psychologist turned bookseller; Clara, the insecure and talented artist; Gabri and his partner Olivier, owners of the local Bistro/guest house. Some of the characters from the Surete that we met in previous books are present to investigate the murder; Beauvoir and Lacoste.  My guess is that the new, young, arrogant officer Favreau, introduced in this book,may appear in a future book in the series.

Right now I am on page 109 and this murder mystery has now led me into the world of Project Babylon, a supergun created by Gerald Bull, with links to Saddam Hussein and the biblical Whore of Babylon. The "OMG" moment is that this supergun and Canadian-born Gerald Bull and the link to Saddam Hussein are factual. Fascinating.

Penny likes to sprinkle literary references in her books; usually poems. This one has references to songs, poetry, and to biblical verses. "By the waters of Babylon...." words from the Bible come up often. The biblical words put to song by a Jamaican group, the Melodians, is a favorite of mine.

Fans of Louise Penny, you will enjoy this interview with the writer. 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Books: Memories, Time, the Supernatural

It suddenly occurred to  me that the three books I have read recently had the following themes; memories and time plus the supernatural as a subtheme. I read two of the books for the book club, Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The other book, Slave Time: Midnight was a gift from the writer, Howard Potts. Really, it's just a coincidence that they all had similar themes and I read them one after the other.

Leaving Time was about Jenna recalling childhood memories and what happened to her mother.  Also included in the story was the incredible memory of elephants. And one character just happened to be a psychic. A good portion of Slave Time was about Old Sam's childhood memories of slavery and the stories told to him as a child.  Some of the stories were about his experiences as a young adult and included a meeting with a voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Madame Laveau.

I just finished reading Ocean at the End of the Lane, fantasy fiction for adult readers.  It is the book club selection for August. This was not my favorite book. The main character drove to the Sussex country side where he grew up as a child, after being the speaker at a funeral.  We are not told whose funeral. I thought that was odd.  I thought I missed it and went to the beginning to reread. The main character has no name. Very odd. Anyway, once in the area of his childhood home, he looks for and finds a pond at the end of the lane that he remembers from his childhood. He remembers some strange magical incidents that happened when he was 7 years old.

"Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me." The narrator was a sad, lonely, and imaginative child who loved to read.  He found solutions to his problems in books.  He recalls how he met 11 year old Lettie Hempstock, her Mom and grandmom, and was transported to a whole new "other" world.  He recalls how he became the door that let the monster, Ursula Monkton, into his family's lives.

I am about to start an award winning book by Jamaican writer Marlon James, A Brief history of Seven Killings. If this book turns out to have the themes memories, time, and magic (the supernatural), then I think the universe is telling me something.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Slave Time: Midnight a novel by Howard Potts

Imagine my surprise when author and former colleague, Howard Potts, sent me my own autographed copy of his new book,  Slave Time. This book was inspired by real life slave stories as told to interviewers involved in the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA) in the 1930s.

I just started reading and am on page 55.  Tom Smart is the interviewer in the story, raised in the North, who is sent to Georgia and Alabama to interview former slaves. Tom thought his calling was to interview congressmen, senators, and presidents.  This was the depression period; Tom had to take this job interviewing elderly black people in the Deep South. Some of these former slaves were too old to remember life back then in great detail and some were suspicious of white interviewers from the North digging into their family history. Tom, however, hit the jackpot when he was directed to Old Sam Worthington who had a great memory, was known in the area as a storyteller and was willing to share his stories. Old Sam told his own first hand experiences plus the stories that were told to him as a child. For example, he was told that he was born into slavery on a day in 1833 when there was a Great Leonid Meteor and could relay this tidbit to Tom. He told the story of an African princess and her fellow villagers who were tricked into getting on a slave ship.

It's a fascinating book. It is very descriptive and would be of interest to history aficionados.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Leaving Time by Jodie Picoult

Jodie Picoult has taken me into the world of metaphysics of  Serenity Jones and the world of elephants of Thomas and Alice Metcalf in the book, Leaving Time. I am on page 165.  The main characters are Jenna Metcalf, a 13 year old teen; Alice Metcalf, a scientist/elephant researcher and Jenna's Mom; Serenity Jones, formerly a celebrity psychic, and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective and former cop. So far the story has been told by these 4 major characters. Alice, however, has been missing for 10 years. Jenna is looking for her and has recruited the other two characters, the psychic and the private investigator, to find out if she is dead or alive. If she is alive, why did she leave? Why did she leave her daughter?

The pace of the story started off slowly but once Jenna met Serenity the pace of the story has been moving along quickly. There is a back story to Serenity and she is intrigued by Jenna's case. There is a back story to Virgil who was briefly familiar with the missing Alice.  The missing Alice and the accidental death of an employee at the Metcalf's elephant sanctuary have haunted him for 10 years. It was fairly easy to get him on board to help find Alice. He is,of course, skeptical of Serenity.

There is a whole host of facts about elephants in the book. I have learned a herd of elephants are led by the matriarch. Elephants can only breathe through their trunk not their mouth. Elephants really do seem to have long memories, they think, feel, hold grudges and experience grief.

The themes in the book seem to be grief and memory. Interestingly, Thomas Metcalf has very little memory and has been institutionalized just around the time of his wife's disappearance.  If you have lost someone you loved through death, this book will tug at your heart as you read the psychic's point of view in relation to death and the spirit world.

At this point, this is not my favorite Picoult book but she always has a twist in the end so I am anticipating an interesting twist.  I am on page 165 and I have more to read. I could change my mind.

My all time favorite books by Picoult are My Sister's Keeper and Nineteen minutes.  I also enjoyed reading Second Glance which included elements of the paranormal world like this book

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Connections in "All the World We Cannot See"

I loved how Anthony Doerr took this history of the burning of Saint Malo during World War 11 and turned it into a precious story of hide and seek with the theme of connection. In All the World We Cannot See, a father and his blind daughter have a special connection in this story. Every birthday he gave her a gift hidden away in a box and she always met the challenge of opening the box and finding the gift.  A young boy being trained to be a Nazi  discovers his unique connection with this blind French girl. I was a little disappointed in the end but this is my I would give it 4.5 stars. So glad I read this book.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Oath by John Lescroart

Our book this month at the bookclub is The Oath by John Lescroart. It is the eighth book in the Dismas Hardy series. This is my first time reading a book by Lescroart.

Is it just me or are there too many characters in this book? I am on page 136. Chief of San Francisco police, Lt. Abe Glitsky and his acolytes, Bracco and Fisk, are interviewing (and videotaping) Dr. Kensing about the death of Tim Markham, CEO of an HMO called Parnassus Health.  What started off as a case of hit and run, is now a murder case. Dr. Kensing was hit and badly injured by a green car driven by some unknown person. Markham was admitted to Parnassus' flagship hospital, Portola Hospital, under the care of Dr. Kensing and now Markham is dead.  Turns out that the injuries were not the cause of death. Jackman, the DA, is happy that this is now a murder case because it allows his department to legitimately look into the shady business affairs of Parnassus.

Here is the dilemma for Dr. Kensing. He did not have a good working relationship or personal relationship with Markham.  Markham was Dr. Kensing's boss.  Their work conflict had to do with Dr. Kensing wanting to save the lives of his patients. and Parnassus wanting to save money. In their personal relationship, Markham was the lover of Dr. Kensing's wife and the reason the marriage of the Kensings ended. This leaves Dr. Kensing with motive and opportunity to murder Markham.

Adding to the drama, Glitsky's best friend is Dismas Hardy. Hardy is Dr. Kensing's lawyer. The interview is being conducted in the absence of the lawyer.

This book is holding my interest. So far I am thinking this book would make a good movie. I am anxious to see how this drama is resolved. Who did it? I am betting it is not the obvious choice, Dr Kensing.