Sunday, December 14, 2014

Louise Penny's Book #10: Cosmic Speculation, Cosmic Fact

I am on book #10 in the Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny titled The Long Way Home . Would you believe I started the first book, Still Life, in 2011 with Okefenokee Book Club? By the way,  I just watched the movie, Still Life, available on Netflix.

For me, Penny's books got better and better. I have been following Armand Gamache and the folks in Three Pines for three years so you know I am hooked.

This book is holding my interest. I still love the quirky characters in Three Pines, Canada. I love Penny's humor. I love how Penny weaves poetry and art in the story but I have to say the story is lacking something, je ne sais quoi. Perhaps I feel something is lacking because so far no murder has occurred. I am on page 197.

The focus in this book is on Peter Morrow, the artist who became jealous of his own wife's success as an artist. Peter is missing. There are hints that he may be dead. (Book 7, A Trick of the Light, is the one that featured Clara Morrow as a successful artist.) In this book, Armand Gamache is no longer Chief Inspector of the Surete, he retired and resides in Three Pines. He and Jean Guy are using their skills and resources to assist Clara in the search for Peter.

In the search for Peter, Louise Penny has taken readers on a journey that includes The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, created by Charles and Maggie Jencks in Dumfries, Scotland. The journey also takes us to a crater formed by a meteor 350 million years ago that has been transformed into Charlevoix in Quebec, Canada. On page 196, Peter's travel from Scotland to Quebec is represented as Peter's travel from cosmic speculation to cosmic fact.

Cosmic and magic are two words mentioned repeatedly.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our November Book Club Selection: the Eccentric King Ludwig

Our November book, Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Potzsch, (last name pronounced "perch"), is not from the Hangman's Daughter series; one of my favorite series. I have not started reading it yet but I know it is supposed to be of the Dan Brown type of historical fiction/mystery.  Potzsch apparently focuses on the mysterious death of an eccentric King of Bavaria, a man widely considered to have been insane. I am eager to get started on this book.

By the way, there is a castle used by Disney which is modeled after one of King Ludwig's castles.

Here is another book I intend to read and suggest for the book club for 2015, have you read it? It's the All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr set in Germany and France before and during World War 11. Please give me feedback if you have read it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our Book Club Selections October 2013 - October 2014

A year of reading with my Book Club. We do not meet in December. In January we usually meet and discuss books that we read and enjoyed during the Christmas break. This year we missed a meeting in July and discussed that book in August.  How many titles on our list have you read?

2013

October: Blood of the Prodigal; an Amish Mystery by P.L. Gaus.

November : Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt 

2014
February: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

March: Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls

April: Last Message by Shane Peacock

May: Sycamore Row by John Grisham

June:  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

July:  Fault in Our Stars by John Green

August: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

September: Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson

October: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

The book selections that were my least favorite were Fault in Our Stars and Half Broke Horses. My favorite selections were Bel Canto , The Husband's Secret, and Gone Girl. 

 Next Month's Book Selection

November : Ludwig Conspiracy by Oliver Potzsch 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I'm Reading "Orange is the New Black"

I am reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and she is giving me an inside look at life in a women's prison. Most people I have spoken to have heard of the made for TV version with the lesbian scenes and the overabundance of using-the-toilet scenes but they didn't know it was based on a book by Piper. The book is not exactly like the TV version. The characters are there Pop, Vanessa, Pennsatucky, "Crazy Eyes", Yoga Janet but not their back story as in the movie. The anecdotes in the book are not as dramatic and colorful or sexual as on TV.

I am on page 199 and the inmates are upset about this article written by Lynn Tuohy in 2004 that gives the impression that life in the Danbury Camp was like living in a big hotel. The informant gives the impression that the soon-to-be-imprisoned Martha Stewart would fit right in with all the classy inmates.  Piper, on the other hand, described the prison as a ghetto for the poor, uneducated and unskilled. In her opinion there was a revolving door between the ghetto where the poor, uneducated and unskilled lived on the outside and the ghetto in the prison system.  Turned out that the authorities really did not want Martha at Danbury anyway; there would be too much media focus on the conditions of the prison.

I am enjoying the book. Piper is great at expressing her emotions mainly her worry and humiliation but also her pleasure. She worried about her family and fiance and how her going to prison would affect them. She expressed her pleasure when receiving visitors in prison. She wrote of her pain and humiliation after seeing the prison gynecologist. Also, Piper has a lot of opinions about the prison system. I would rate this 4 out of 5.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In a World of Peculiars, Hollows, Wights, Ymbrynes

I am in a time loop in a world of peculiars; disaffected peculiars, who wanted to become immortal and instead turned into hollows;wights, who are in a purgatory-like state, and ymbrynes,who protect peculiar children and who can transform into birds. In this time loop, the peculiars relive the same day every day so they never age. The protagonist, Jacob, can pass through the loop freely from the present to the past and back again.

I am reading the fantasy fiction of Ransom Riggs titled, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, written for young adults. I like the pictures in the book because they make the story seem real, seem possible. The cover is great because it is creepy. I was expecting a scary ghost story but it is more about adventure. We don't get the 100 year old history of the hollows and wights until page 254 close to the end of the book.

I would rate this book 31/2 stars out of 5 even though I have not finished reading it. I find the resolution is taking too long. I am on page 323 and am rushing to complete the end. I like most of what I have read but am not committed enough to this story. This is not one I would recommend for members of my book club. When I get to the end, I will determine  if I want to read the follow up book, Hollow City.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reading Tyrant's Daughter with the Book Club

I am reading a very interesting novel, The Tyrant's Daughter by J. C. Carleson, with the Book Club. It's written for teens. The protagonist is Laila, a Middle Eastern teen, who is in exile in the USA with her Mom and brother courtesy of the CIA. Interestingly, the writer is a former CIA agent. The story so far is all about Laila and her family adjusting to life in the USA and her coming to the realization that her recently deceased Dad was not a King but a Dictator in their un-named Middle Eastern country.  The themes I have detected so far have to do with trust and change. As Laila tells us on page 95, everything has been turned upside down for her family, her head and her heart.  I like how the chapters are brief and how the story flows. My guess is that Laila's Mom has been charged by the CIA to win the trust of some of her countrymen and spy on them. I am on page 119 and am eager to find out where the story is really leading me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Estela Carlota, Argentina and Philomena, Ireland

Came across this article on Argentine activist 83 year old  Estela Carlota whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered during a period of military dictatorship. Her new born grand-baby was abducted.  Thirty five years later there is a DNA match. She's been able to reunite with her grandson. The story reminded me of Philomena except Estela had a happier ending. Kudos to the two groups, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which continue to work on finding the missing "children" and reuniting families.

I finished reading Philomena yesterday. It was not as I expected. I thought the book was going to be more about the search to find Mike Hess born Anthony Lee by Philomena and the writer Martin Sixsmith . This was a story written from Mike Hess's point of view ; his feelings, his influences, his demons; and cleverly written from the stories told to Martin by those who knew him well.   The movie trailer looks like it will be more about the search conducted by Philomena and Martin. The weirdest thing is that Martin and Mike Hess met and briefly spoke to each other. As Martin wrote in Philomena,"Fate has a curious way of crossing or nearly crossing the paths of those whose lives it will one day bring together."

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Philomena: Heartlessness, Hypocrisy, Shame

Before adoption of African children and Chinese children by American families, there was the adoption of Irish children. I'm reading Philomena by Martin Sixsmith, a journalist. It is based on the real life story of a pregnant Irish teen and her friend who were abandoned by their families, forced to work for free at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, then forced to sign away their rights to their children by giving them up for adoption to strangers from America. The time period is the 1950s when it was shameful to be an unmarried pregnant woman.

In Martin Sixsmith's own words, this is a story of heartlessness and hypocrisy.  I would say another theme in the story is shame. Anthony and Mary were adopted by an American couple but the Dad did not really want any more children. The couple already had three boys.  Adding two Irish children, one of whom spoke little English, to the family seemed to terrify the Dad and his boys, particularly the third boy. The presence of the children aged 2 and 3  threw the family off balance. While the children could not remember much about their real Moms, they felt incomplete, felt abandoned and were confused by the abandonment. Anthony in particular, renamed Mike, tried to get information about his biological Mom to no avail.

I am on page 243 and Mike is living with his partner Mark who was also of  Irish heritage.

The book has already been made into a movie starring Judi Dench as Philomena.  Audiences in Venice and Toronto gave this movie a standing ovation in the midst of their tears and laughter. I am requesting it through netflix.

Since the movie, there is an increase in the number of people putting their names on adoption registers to trace birth parents or trace children given up for adoption.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Club Pick: Fault in Our Stars

Our book club pick this month is the young adult novel,The Fault in Our Stars, about a teen girl fighting cancer.  There is also a movie out now based on this book.  I am at page 114 and Hazel, the teen battling cancer, wants to visit the reclusive writer of her favorite book, Peter Van Houten,  in Amsterdam with her new-found friend and love interest, Gus. Interestingly, Van Houten's book is about a girl who died of cancer and her story ends in the middle of a sentence to emphasize that the protagonist died or became too sick to complete her thought. Hazel wants to know "the rest of the story" such as what happened to the protagonist's Mom and her possibly con artist fiance.  It is odd that Hazel who is depressed about her own cancer diagnosis would choose Van Houten's book as her favorite.

This book is not as depressing as I thought it would be. It has a 4 1/2 star rating on amazon but I am not sure yet how I feel about it to give it my own rating.

Two coincidences occurred while reading this book.  One was that yesterday that Malaysian Airline that was shot out of the sky was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar.  I pause to express condolences to the families of all the passengers on that flight. Second, just minutes ago today, in the middle of my reading and listening to the TV, comedian Tig Notaro, a cancer survivor walked on the set of a talk-show to talk about her life with cancer and comedy. What message is the universe giving me?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Book Suggestions

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a young Adult novel just made into a movie, was suggested for our bookclub. This article by Brenna Ehrlich is suggesting additional Young Adult books  such as The Future of Us.

For people like me who loved Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, this site is suggesting we would like this psychological thriller, The Silent Wife by A.S. A. Harrison.

Here is my book suggestion. I think if you liked Gone Girl, you readers will like, The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.  In that book, the husband confessed in writing to a crime he committed as a teenager.  The wife finds the sealed letter that says it is only to be opened on her husband's death so she does not open it. She mentions finding the sealed letter to him on the telephone and he returns home early from his business trip.  He acts as if the letter were not important but he goes into the attic to search for the letter the next morning.  His action only indicated to his wife that the content of the letter was very significant to him. Read the story to find out what crime was committed and how it all turns out.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Dissecting a Marriage, Missing Wife, Clueless Husband = Gone Girl

Listen to Gillian Flynn writer of Gone Girl. The book was awesome.  I read until 4:00am this morning.  Dysfunctional families make great stories. This novel had some unexpected twists and turns and some will either love or hate the ending.   Language unnecessarily crude sometimes but this book is definitely  movie material. So what do you know, I searched the internet and discovered the movie will be released October this year starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the main characters and Tyler Perry as the lawyer, Tanner Bolt.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Gone Girl: A Wedding Anniversary,a Missing Wife and a Bitter Husband

I am reading Gone Girl a novel  by Gillian Flynn.  This is the Book Club's pick for June. The setting is Missouri.  It is the day of Amy's and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary and Amy is missing. The story is told from Nick's point of view as  the search for Amy progresses and also from Amy's point of view, before she goes missing. We get Amy's point of view in a diary format.  Frankly the husband is very suspicious.  He is an unhappy man,from a dysfunctional family, who tells these little half truths to the police. Amy is a strange woman with too-perfect New York parents who are writers of a story in which the protagonist is also named Amy. She has these treasure hunts for her husband on every anniversary.  He never is able to figure out all the clues yet she keeps writing them anyway.

I am loving the story so far because there is a lot to keep my attention. Why does Nick have a disposable phone? Why did Amy buy a gun? Where will these fifth anniversary clues ultimately lead Nick?  The clues are little love notes that suggest that she was happy with Nick so who was Amy afraid of really?  I am on page 139 and I am enjoying this.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What Am I Reading This Morning?

So glad you asked me! I am reading Americanah by the fabulous Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is all about race and the immigrant experience. The setting is Nigeria, the USA (New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland) and England. The main characters are from Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze, and this is about their fascinating and terrifying experiences as immigrants to USA and England respectively. Ifemelu seems to be the kind of woman who sabotages herself in her romantic relationships by constantly searching for a love that is beyond her reach.  Obinze is also sabotaging himself romantically by holding on to his love for Ifemelu.  She dropped him without giving him any explanation.

There are several sub-themes in this novel. Black women's love/hate relationship with their hair is one  sub-theme. Interracial relationships is another. The effects of acculturation is yet another.  What I love about the book is how accurately the writer described the black immigrant trying to navigate different aspects of American and British life - the language, race issues, job market, food, dating/friendships. I also liked that the two Nigerian characters and their friends had different backgrounds. Obinze had a privileged upbringing as son of a university professor.  Ifemelu's family was struggling. She had never traveled like some of her classmates. Her father lost his job and had to borrow money to pay the bills. Also, I enjoyed reading the writer's description of corruption in Nigeria and the uncertainties of studying in a university in Nigeria where the professors were constantly on strike for improved wages.

I am on page 293 and I am wondering if Obinze and Ifemelu will find love in each other again.  I am also wondering if Ifemelu will be able to fit into Nigerian life when she returns.

Here is what the author had to say about her book on NPR.    She's correct for a black non-American, "you have to learn what it means to be black in America."

As I read about life in Nigeria, let me also bring awareness to twitter campaigns #BringBackOurGirls and #BringBackOurDaughters on this Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Another Made-For-TV Book

Remember the movie Time to Kill based off John Grisham's book and starring Matthew McConaughey  as Jake Brigance, a small town lawyer? Well I am now reading Sycamore Row, the follow up book to Time to Kill. I am on page 352 and I am loving all the drama in Sycamore Row.

I stayed up until late reading and trying to figure out why wealthy southern businessman Seth Hubbard left 90% of his estate to his African American caretaker/homekeeper, Lettie? His reason for doing so seems to have some connection to some property owned by Lettie's ancestor, Solomon Rinds, and sold to Seth's Dad, Cleon Hubbard? Whatever happened between them and why did the entire Rinds family move out of the area?

Seth was a horrible father and he created horrible adult children who are suing to get a hold of the estate but Seth was clear in his written instructions to Jake Brigance that he did not want his children or grandchildren to inherit anything. Not one cent. The children believe that Lettie used undue influence on Seth who was dying of lung cancer and ended up committing suicide.

There is a hint from early in the story that Seth and his brother, Ancil, witnessed something traumatic as children. What was it? I am anxious to find out. Did this "thing" that they witnessed affect their personality? Seth and his brother are portrayed as dysfunctional adults.

Race continues to be an issue in this small town and selecting people from the community for jury duty is a very delicate matter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Club Selection: Last Message.

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading Half of a Yellow Sun. It made me laugh, cry and feel disgust. The storyline in this book reminded me of Left to Tell, a past book club selection, about the genocide in Rwanda.  Here is a memorial that took place recently in Rwanda. War is a horrible beast. 

It was well worth staying up most of the night to complete the reading of Half of a Yellow Sun. When I thought the main characters were all safe, something else happened to shatter that view. It was a roller coaster ride with these characters.  I loved the messages about love, war, and family. Now on to the next book.

I am now reading Last Message, in my lunch break, by Shane Peacock. It is a Young Adult fiction and it is our book club selection for this month.  There are seven books in the series and each book is written by a different author.  Peacock's book is number 6. This is unusual for me. Adam is the narrator and he is being sent on an adventure in France by his deceased grandfather,  David McLean.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book to Movie:Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Orange Prize-winning novel, Half of a Yellow Sun. has been made into a movie already with some top notch actors: Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Watch the trailer here.

Since my last blog, I have discovered the reason for the major conflict between  Richard and Odenigbo.  I should have guessed that Olanna, Odenigbo's girlfriend, was at the heart of the conflict.  

I am on page 357, the war is raging, the people have divided themselves into Nigerians/vandals and Biafrans/refugees, and the Biafrans, including the main characters, are living in unsanitary conditions.

Friday, April 04, 2014

I remember Biafra

I remember as a child, watching news-clips about the civil war in Nigeria and seeing starving children from the secessionist state, Biafra. Chimamanda in Half of a Yellow Sun is educating me on this aspect of Nigeria's history in the sixties. The horrors of the war is graphic.  The book is very well written.  I am totally absorbed in this historical fiction that is wrapped up in a love story and a story about social life and family life in Nigeria.  Something has happened to the main characters. I don't know what it is at this point and I am eager to find out.  Richard, a socially inept British expatriate, and Kainene are lovers and he has fallen out with a revolutionary professor who happens to be the lover of Olanna, Kainene's twin. Whatever the quarrel was about, Richard no longer visits the professor's home and when he sees Olanna, he tries to avoid contact. I am invested in these characters. Loving it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Another David Rosenfelt Novel: A Prisoner, Her Heart and Insurance Fraud

I have enjoyed three books by David Rosenfelt that were part of a series. Now I am reading a "stand alone" novel, Heart of a Killer, by the same author. It starts off as a story about a female prisoner who wants to give an organ to her dying daughter.  Problem is that the organ is her heart. The authorities are not going to kill the prisoner so that her child may live. Yet, this is what Sheryl Harrison is asking her lawyer to fight for on her behalf.  There are some other aspects to this story. Someone wants Sheryl murdered in prison. At this point I don't know why.  So far I know that there is a secret relating to Sheryl and her mother can not reveal it. Also, I am on page 72 and I have been introduced so far to two characters who have no connection so far to the main story. They are Alex Cahill and Ryan Palmer. Their story is that for one reason or the other they have died. An unknown claimant, who has no connection to any of the deceased, has received large payments from the insurance company. It is clear that the book is going to deal with insurance fraud at some point.  I am looking forward to see how all these stories will connect.

The main character in the book is a lackadaisical lawyer named Jamie Wagner.  This organ donation case seems to be allowing him to blossom into a more assertive lawyer. His sense of humor reminds me of Andy Carpenter, the protagonist in Rosenfelt's other books that I have read. The police officer who initially arrested Sheryl Harrison, Novack, is an interesting character. He is described as tough, moody and unpredictable and at this point in the story it seems he will be assisting Jamie Wagner with his case. His "visiting relationship" with his ex-wife reminded me of the "visiting relationship" between Andy Carpenter and his girlfriend. I am enjoying this book.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Andy Carpenter Series: A Decapitated Body, A Drug Dealer and An Investigator

I recently finished reading the second book in the Andy Carpenter mystery series by David Rosenfelt, First Degree. This book published in 2003 was selected as one of the best mysteries of  the year by Publishers Weekly.

A book club member recommended the series. In November, our club discussed Rosenfelt's debut novel which was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2003, Open and Shut  The most outstanding things about Andy Carpenter, our protagonist and young lawyer, are that he is a dog lover, he has a corny sense of humor, he believes in justice and he is in love with his field investigator, Laurie Collins.  I wrote about the first book on November 2nd.

In this second book, Andy is fighting for his lady love because she has been accused of murdering a corrupt cop, Alex Dorsey. Is the corrupt cop really dead or is he just faking his own death and gloating about Laurie's arrest? I will not give away any secrets. Read and find out.  I liked the complexities of this mystery; it was not open and shut. The storyline held my interest.  Some of the characters in the first book reappear in the second book for example, Willie Miller who was Andy Carpenter's client. Also  making a brief appearance is Andy's ex-wife. They are both on the periphery of this legal thriller. I am wondering if the writer is setting the stage to re-introduce these two characters to play a more active role in the third book.

I will be reading the third book in the series Bury The Lead soon. First, I have to complete reading John Grisham's The Racketeer   Yes, I am way behind on my Grisham reading.  His latest book for those who don't already know is actually, Sycamore Row, which I hear is excellent.