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What we’re reading now… January 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, New Books, Non-Fiction, Suspense, Uncategorized, Young Adult.
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The Hearth Witch’s Compendium: Magical and Natural Living for Every Day by Anna Franklin

The Hearth Witch's Compendium: Magical and…Not a book designed to be read straight through, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium is much more a resource guide for individuals who wish to include their magical practice into their everyday routine and life. Resource guide might actually be an understatement. This 512 page volume contains dozens and dozens of recipes and remedies addressing jam preserves to making your own self care products to dyeing your own fabric. The instructions are approachable, easy to read (Franklin is a British writer but graciously provides a conversion table in the back for measurements) and clear. There isn’t much magical instruction within all these amazing recipes which was a bit of a let down, but there is a ton of information towards the back to what ruling planets, deities, and celestial phases all the ingredients correspond with. Highly recommended for readers looking for a resource they can return to again and again for ideas on how to handle the pragmatic with a magical flair. Greg


System of the World (The Baroque Cycle #3) by Neal Stephenson

The System of the World by Neal StephensonThis final volume of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle ties up the myriad storylines that have emerged throughout the series. There is something for everyone in this.  For much of the series, we follow Natural Philosopher Daniel Waterhouse through pre-Enlightenment England as Isaac Newton and the Royal Society pivot from alchemy to science.  If the invention of calculus is not your cup of tea, there is no want of political intrigue among Protestants and Catholics following the restoration of the British Monarchs.  If not that, there is the swashbuckling adventures of Jack Shaftoe, King of Vagabonds or Eliza as she rises through the European elite via machinations involving new inventions in finance.  The breadth of this series is far beyond the size of anything that should work – yet it does.  Trent


War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo TolstoyI’ve been reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  It’s an amazing book.  Tolstoy is so incisive about his characters, he knows them so well, and so over time we feel like we really get to know and even love Pierre, Andrei and Natasha (although there are a lot more characters, those are probably the main three).  Tolstoy studied in a very intense way the military campaigns between Russia and France, and then he is able to infuse what he learned with his astonishing imagination.  It seems like he gets every detail right, from the description of what the men and women are wearing in a ballroom, to descriptions of gun smoke in a field during a battle.  He’s able to really zoom in and zoom out in this wonderful way.  Andrew 


Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel  by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie…This is the story of Clara Kelley, a recent immigrant from Ireland, who assumes the identity of a fellow passenger who died during the voyage. She secures a position as lady’s maid to Margaret Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Clara’s goal is to send money back to her struggling family in Ireland. Andrew is attracted to Clara, and they secretly spend time together. Andrew shares some of his business expertise with Clara and welcomes her suggestions until Clara disappears when Mrs. Carnegie learns of her deceptions. For lovers of historical fiction and fiction. Emma


The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air) by…This book marks the author’s return to the land of faeries. Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and her sisters were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Faerie is all she knows and all she wants is to truly belong. One of her biggest obstacles is Prince Cardin, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. Cardin despises mortals and goes out of his way to make Jude’s life miserable. To earn a place in Court, Jude must go head to head against Prince Cardin. When she does, she finds herself caught in the middle of a political scandal that threatens everyone in Faerie. Can a mere mortal outwit the traitors and save fae? Megan


The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward AbbeyI’m almost finished with this book from the 70s about environmental saboteurs against the industrial complex out west taking the land’s natural resources. To be real the characters, plot, and writing are becoming annoying and I’m just trying to finish it quickly. Next I’m waiting on a hold through Overdrive on my Kindle for Scandals of Classic Hollywood by Anne Helen Petersen and a book on CD from Rocky River of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal. Byron


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees by Viet Thanh NguyenA captivating and complicated set of short stories that examine identity, family, and romantic love through the eyes of Vietnamese refugees. Realistic elements are mixed with some fantastical ones (for instance, in the first story in the collection, a girl is visited by her brother, a ghost)—a literary technique perhaps intended to shed light on how disorienting and bizarre immigrant life can be.  In the audio book format, Nguyen reads his own stories, and his gentle and lightly accented voice creates an authentic soundscape for the reader. It is no wonder that Nguyen was showered with accolades for his first book, The Sympathizer. His masterful, self-aware prose won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, among others. Lyndsey


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane GayThis was not quite what I expected but a very good read nonetheless. I found the beginning to be a bit scattered and slow at times which made it difficult for me to make a connection with the book.  However, after reading and digesting all her essays I feel that I would like to strive to be a similar feminist to Roxane Gay – someone who is thoughtful, objective, outspoken when necessary and truly unique.  Mary

 


The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola YoonThis story takes place mostly in one very transformative day in the life of two teens, Daniel and Natasha. They meet by chance as they are both on their way to two very different, but equally important meetings that could potentially change the course of their lives forever.  The story is hopeful and sweetly romantic. Beth

 

 


City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty,

The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad…A perfect winter escape, this debut fantasy novel, book #1 in The Daevabad Trilogy, transports readers to mystical Arabia. Nahri, an orphaned young woman living in Cairo by her wits, her cons, and a little bit of magic, has her life upended when she unknowingly calls forth a djinn warrior who recognizes that she’s not entirely human. Chased by demons, they journey to the supposed safety of Daevabad, the city of brass, where political and ethnic strife is swirling beneath the surface and where Nahri discovers the mystery of her origin.  Dori


The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. TudorSwitching between 1986 and 2016, this book takes you through the summer holidays of Eddie and his friends who are growing up and looking for some excitement in their tiny British village.  They sure find it when a game they’ve developed using chalk figure codes leads them to a dismembered body.  Jump to 2016 and the chalk figures are showing up again. It seems like just a prank until one of the old friends turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others. Sara


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ann’s Top Ten 2017 December 14, 2017

Posted by Ann in Book List, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017.
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Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. –Vera Nazarian

10. NUMMER ZEHN        THE DRYJane Harper

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9. NUMÉRO NEUF           I LET YOU GOClare Mackintosh

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8. NUMERO OCHO          THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANETBecky Chambers

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7. 數字七                              A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBITBecky Chambers

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6. NUMER SZEŚĆ             I FOUND YOU– Lisa Jewell

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5. NUMERO CINQUE      TWO IF BY SEAJacqueline Mitchard

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4. ÀIREAMH CEITHIR     THE LATE SHOWMichael Connelly

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3. NUMBER ਤੀਹ                HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDSBiance Marais

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2. NUMMER TO                THE CHILD FINDERRene Denfeld

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1. INOMBOLO YOKUQALA   THE KIND WORTH KILLING– Peter Swanson

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                                                                                                                                                      ~Ann >^.^<

 

Why Short Stories Work for Me November 21, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Adventure, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Gentle Read, Historical Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Uncategorized.
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Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

-Greg
Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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2016 Favorites – Top 12 Edition December 16, 2016

Posted by Dori in Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2016, Uncategorized.
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2016 was a book lover’s dream – I was like a kid in a candy store. Between reading and listening, I managed to finish a lot of literary fiction, and a few science fiction and suspense titles, but I have some catching up to do into 2017. Here are the books that I relished in 2016, in no particular order:

laroseLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a writer that I never miss and this book sums up what I love so much about her writing: devotion to characters, insightful commentary on American culture, family love and exploration of the mystical.

 

undergroundThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Deserved winner of the National Book Award, this book is a wildly creative and harrowing look at slavery and its legacy. A must read.

 

 

beforeBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Hawley, a screenwriter, deftly takes us through a horrific plane crash, exploring the survivor’s guilt and the investigation into the cause.

 

 

mynameMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This small book packs a punch – mother/daughter relationships, poverty, marriage – are all addressed powerfully and in Lucy’s voice – lovely and sad.

 

 

vegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
There’s no doubt that this is a weird book – it’s about a young woman whose choice to become a vegetarian impacts her whole family in tragic ways – but it’s also both mesmerizing and beautiful.

 

 

queenQueen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Chee’s historical epic about a 19th century American who becomes a famous Parisian courtesan and opera singer envelops and transports you.

 

 

commonCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
This is my first Patchett novel and I may have to read her earlier books based on this one – who doesn’t love a book about a dysfunctional family that sucks you in and doesn’t let go?

 

 

multipleMultiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Zambra is a Chilean author and his books often deal with memory and choice within the framework of Chile’s recent authoritarian history. This one’s in the form of a multiple choice test

 

 

goldenThe Golden Age by Joan London
Maybe my favorite of all, London’s look at how people deal with displacement in their lives takes place during the polio epidemic in Australia after World War II. It’s surprisingly sweet and tender and you’ll fall in love with the characters.

 

 

moonglowMoonglow by Michael Chabon
History, relationships, life, love, rockets! – all in Chabon’s signature style.

 

 

 

swingSwing Time by Zadie Smith
I haven’t quite finished Smith’s latest about two young brown girls growing up in London and the different paths they take based on family, race, class and culture, but I’m entranced so far.

 

 

darker

 

gathering

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I always like to dip into some great science fiction and I really enjoyed these first two in a series that take us to fantastic parallel worlds.  No. 3 is up next year!

 

BONUS CHRISTMAS BOOK:

fieldsThe Fields Where They Lay by Timonthy Hallinan
I chose this book for my Holiday read and I think I’ve found a new mystery series! It’s funny and clever and the mystery unfolded perfectly.

 

 

 

If` I could keep going, I’d throw these in as well: Debuts The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Yid by Paul Goldberg, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl, A Great Reckoning by  master of mystery Louise Penney, The Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

It’s a Suspenseful and Thrilling Summer! July 11, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Suspense, Thrillers.
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We each selected a book that could be described as suspense (lots of action in a short period of time and appeals to reader’s sense of unease) or as a thriller (a specific, often exotic, world that emphasize defeating the villain.) And then we discussed those books we picked! Ready? ‘Cause here we go:

Beth: Flynn Berry’s debut novel Under the Harrow is a fast paced thriller packed with unpredictable turns. The protagonist, Nora, takes a routine trip to the country to visit her sister, but upon arrival discovers her sister has been brutally murdered. The rest of the book uncovers secrets from the past as a grief stricken Nora tries to solve her sister’s murder.

Carol: In She’s Not There by Joy Fielding, Caroline Shipley’s life crumbles when her two-year-old daughter, Samantha is kidnapped on their family vacation in Mexico. Caroline’s marriage ends, her relationship with her older daughter suffers, and Caroline is vilified by the press for the perceived parental negligence that led to the kidnapping. Now, fifteen years later, Caroline gets a call from a young woman who says she thinks she is Samantha—and things tailspin once again. Though at times an emotional read, this novel psychological suspense is relatively free of the graphic violence often associated with suspense/thrillers.

Emma: In Darkness by Karen Robards, ornithologist Dr. Gina Sullivan is on a research expedition with other scientists on the island of Attu, Alaska. Gina is out on a lake in severe winter weather when she witnesses a plane crash. There is one survivor, James MacArthur Callahan (Cal). Gina rescues him, but danger sets in immediately. Together they battle the environment and countless enemies who are after Cal. I feel the cover of the book is a little misleading. This is not a light romance but an interesting serious thriller.

Sara: I read the book The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley. This is a story of two cousins, Arden and Rory, who have been like sisters their whole lives. They end up as roommates at a college neither girl wanted to attend because of the financial mistakes of their parents who own a restaurant together. There is a terrible fire in their dorm, both girls are critically injured and comatose, and one boy is dead. As police investigate the blaze, they begin to suspect that Arden started the fire. Her mother Natalie is sure of her innocence, and digs for details of her daughter’s life to find the truth. In doing this she finds she did not really know her daughter or niece at all, and that the girls knew more about the family secrets than they had ever let on. Told in the voices of Arden, Rory and Natalie this book is hard to put down and full of surprises til the very end.

Dori: In Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, a private plane unexpectedly crashes off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard shortly into the flight and there are only two survivors: a down on his luck painter, invited at the last minute, and the small son of the wealthy family who had hired the plane. What happened? As the National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI investigate the crash, we learn about the passengers and their backgrounds, trying to discover who caused the crash. There’s the head of a FOX TV-like media conglomerate, a man about to get arrested for selling arms to terrorists, an Israeli bodyguard and the painter, whose last paintings depict a series of disasters, including a plane crash. Hawley, a television writer and producer, keeps us turning the pages and delivers a completely unexpected outcome.

Steve: Velocity by Dean Koontz is a horrific thriller that finds small town bartender Billy Wiles drawn into a nightmare after finding a note under his windshield wiper offering an unwinnable 6 hour ultimatum. If he doesn’t go to the police, a blond schoolteacher will be killed, and if he does go to the police an elderly charity worker will die. Billy and his friend, who happens to be the sheriff, play it off as a sick joke, but he next day a blond school teacher is found dead. Things get exceedingly worse for Billy.

Megan: The Trespasser by Tana French is the sixth installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Detectives Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are the newest members of the squad and therefore are usually assigned the cut and dry cases. This seems to be the situation when they are handed a murder case that appears to be a simple lover’s quarrel turned deadly. However, as the pair digs into the details they become increasingly convinced that this case is just a little too simple. Conway begins to doubt her instincts as well as her partner’s intentions as the evidence piles up to indicate someone on her own squad is out to get her. Is she being paranoid or is there more to this case than meets the eye? This is another brilliant addition to the series. The psychological tension and suspense kept me up late into the wee hours. This book doesn’t release until October, so if you aren’t familiar with the Dublin Murder Squad now is the time to get started!

Lauren: Lydia Millet’s Sweet Lamb of Heaven finds Anna hiding out in a motel in Maine with her young daughter, Lena. They have left their home in Alaska and fled from Anna’s husband, an uncaring and increasingly dangerous man who has never shown the slightest interest in his daughter until he aims for a political career and begins his first campaign for office. Then he needs a trophy family and Anna and Lena find themselves on the run. Holed up in the motel with a small group of other guests and keeping constantly vigilant, Anna slowly realizes that she and the other guests may not have come together by chance at all.

Stacey: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood is what they like to call a “literary thriller” (in the library biz.) As the story begins, a small group of women have been abducted and taken to a remote location in the Australian Outback, had their heads shaved, and dressed in rough cloth to begin their punishment for promiscuity. As the women fight to survive harsh conditions, the tension builds around who’s responsible and when will they reveal their ultimate goal in holding these ladies hostage.

Next time? We’ll all be reading a Beach Reads book (ie something we’d be happy to take to the beach -or the porch!) Find something you’d like to read in the sun, or shade, just because it’s summertime!

enjoy!
Stacey

I’m Thrilled by the Suspense of it all…. in the Thriller and Suspense Genre! November 10, 2015

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Suspense, Thrillers.
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We kept the excitement going by moving from horror to horribly exciting – aka a suspense or thriller book! Se all our books were either: 1. a suspenseful book emphasizing danger faced by a protagonist or 2. a thrilling book set in a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, with an emphasis on the defeat of the villain and his conspirators. As usual, the list of what people read should have something for just about every reader -Are you ready to see which book appeals to you?

Maureen: When Nora decides to accept an invitation to attend her former best friend Clare’s hen (bachelorette) party after not seeing her in years, the ball is set in motion for what is sure to be a very strange weekend indeed in the chilling debut psychological thriller In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. A tiny select group of Clare’s friends gather for the November party at the remote, wooded summer house of party organizer, Flo, who herself seems oddly obsessed with Clare and overly concerned with everyone making sure this is the best weekend ever. As the partygoers drink, play games, and swap stories, long-buried memories are dredged up, secrets that people want to stay hidden are revealed, and emotions run high. Then the unthinkable happens – a horrific accident – that will bring all of the events of the past back to haunt those involved. A smart and top rate thriller that will keep you guessing!

Chris: See How Small by Scott Blackwood begins with three teenage girls finishing up their night shift at the ice cream shop when two men walk in, murder them and set the store on fire. All in two and one-half pages. That’s all the violence in this book which is more than fine with me. The rest of the book tells how family members, friends and the town mourn and grieve their deaths over the years. Wonderfully written and very unique: the first chapter is from the point of view of the deceased girls—Elizabeth, Meredith and Zadie. Alternate points of view join them throughout the story including one of the mothers, a witness, a possible suspect and family members. Just discovered Blackwood and plan on reading his other two novels: In the Shadow of Our House and We Agreed to Meet Just Here.

Lauren:In Mary Higgins Clark’s, The Melody Lingers On, New York City interior designer Lane Harmon is called to assist her boss in redecorating a condominium for a high profile client. The client turns out to be the wife of scam-artist financier, Parker Bennett, who disappeared two years prior after making off with billions of investor dollars. Did Bennett commit suicide or fake his own death in making his escape? Is he innocent of any wrongdoing as his wife believes? And could his son, Eric, who quickly charms Lane, be involved somehow? This latest book from the “Queen of Suspense” was not as enjoyable as some of her classics I remember reading and loving years ago, but loyal fans of her work may find it fun.

Carol: In In Wilderness by Diane Thomas, it is 1966 and advertising executive Katherine Reid has received a terminal diagnosis. She relocates to an isolated cabin deep in the Appalachian Mountains with few provisions, including the loaded gun she plans to use on herself. Once alone and surrounded by only nature, however, Katherine begins to feel better—until she realizes that someone else is watching her every move. Unstable twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran Danny is squatting nearby in a burned out mansion and he’s become fixated on Katherine. When the two eventually meet, both lonely and damaged and ill, they begin a passionate love affair–but it is one that won’t have a happy ending. Despite its creepy premise, this novel is a poignant and compelling read about PTSD, depression, grief, loneliness and mortality. I couldn’t put it down.

Emma: In Black-Eyed Susan: A Novel of Suspense by Julia Heaberline it’s 1995 and 16-year-old Tessa Cartwright is left for dead partially buried with another victim of a serial killer. The convicted killer, Terrell Darcy Goodwin, faces execution after 20 years in prison. Tessa is convinced that the wrong man is in jail and works with Terrell’s defense attorney and a DNA expert to determine the identity of the victims and the true killer. The novel includes lots of twists and turns and an unexpected ending.

Steve: Hot Pursuit by Stuart Woods finds the wealthy and well-connected Stone Barrington back for another adventure. Stone is jet-setting in his new plane to Europe with the beautiful Pat Frank, the pilot that has been assigned to him by his insurance company, and they soon run into trouble. Pat’s stalker ex-boyfriend keeps showing up in all the same locations. Meanwhile, back in Washington Stone’s friends in the government are hunting three Al Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated the country. There’s not much depth in these characters, but the action is non-stop.

Dori: Vanishing Games by Roger Hobbs, is the second in a trilogy about a fixer, a criminal that lives off the grid and leaves no footprint. Introduced in Ghostman, “Jack” returns in this outing to help Angela, the woman who trained him, whose plan to steal sapphires from a ship in the South China Sea has gone awry. Only one pirate has returned from the operation and he’s hiding something that is far more valuable than sapphires. After she gets a threatening phone call from a mysterious man, she contacts Jack who hasn’t seen Angela since their last crime. After landing in Macau, together they evade gangs, governments and guns. It’s an adrenalin filled ride and takes us behind the scenes and through the ins and outs of criminal life. It’s bloody and graphic; identities are changed, self-surgery is performed and oh yeah, so many guns!

Megan: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne is a page-turner of a psychological thriller. A year after one of Sarah and Angus’s twin daughters dies, the couple and their surviving daughter move to an isolated island to begin rebuilding their lives as they rebuild the abandoned house on the island. Instead of finding refuge, Sarah finds herself living a nightmare when her daughter Kirstie begins claiming that she is in fact Lydia, the daughter they thought they buried. All their lives unravel as the family struggles to cope with what really happened the day their daughter died. Family dynamics and a slow building tension will keep readers desperate to know which twin survived. Bonus points for the creepy, isolated island setting!

Stacey: The Enemy Inside is Steve Martini’s newest novel featuring Paul Madriani a Southern California lawyer who’s taken on the case of Alex Ives, a young reporter being held responsible for a fatal car accident. The victim was high-powered D.C. attorney Olinda Serna, a woman with shady connections on both coasts. When more ‘accidents’ happen to people connected to her cases, the original car wreck takes on new dimensions. I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the fast-paced action, entertaining characters, and surprising twists the author provided.

Next time? We’ll be reading and sharing Holiday stories! If you want to read along, you’ll want to find a book that features any Winter Holiday…. it’s almost too easy, isn’t it?

enjoy!
Stacey