jump to navigation

What’s So Scary? Horror books- of course! November 8, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Horror.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

We did it! We talked about dark, scary things that go *bump* in the night and we survived! Don’t forget, horror books are written to frighten the reader and are distinguished by supernatural or occult elements, often featuring the power of the natural world gone awry. So, are you ready for a scary read?

Megan: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt and translated from the original Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier, is the story of a picturesque Hudson Valley town that lives under the curse of a 17th century witch. With her mouth and eyes sewn shut she wanders the streets and enters homes and buildings. The residents, all cursed to remain in Black Spring, have protected the town from the outside world, keeping their secret and themselves safe. When a group of frustrated teenagers rebel against the long-standing virtual quarantine, they set in motion a dangerous and deadly series of events. The juxtaposition of the tragic story of a 350 year old witch with the modern day is fascinating. This is a compelling and truly creep read sure to satisfy any horror lover.

Lauren: Dawn is the first book in Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Series. Planet Earth has been ravaged by atomic civil war and Lilith is one of the survivors. She has survived because she is in the care of an alien species, the Oankali. However, whether she has been rescued or captured remains debatable. When the Oankali wake Lilith from suspended animation aboard their spaceship she is tasked with learning their language and culture and preparing to assimilate the other humans as they are awakened, before they can make their return to Earth. But it is the mission of the Oankali to genetically merge with the civilizations they discover. Though they initially prevented the total extinction of the human race it becomes clear that Lilith’s children and the generations that come after them will be less than human.

Gina: Knowing of some of the many adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I thought it would be a horror. I did not expect for this novella to be as calm as it was. The book begins by following the lawyer Mr. Utterson investigation of an encounter between a young girl and a man known as Mr. Hyde. Through this investigation, Mr. Utterson becomes aware that Mr. Hyde is the beneficiary of a friend and client named Dr. Jekyll. After a confrontation, Mr. Hyde assures Mr. Utterson that everything is alright and in order. Time passes, and another incident happens- evidence points towards Mr. Hyde, but he is nowhere to be found. Instead, Dr. Jekyll appears with a note showing that he has ended any relations with Mr. Hyde. The narration changes to follow Dr. Hastie Lanyon, a collogue of Dr. Jekyll; upon being a witness to the strange transformation of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, he dies of shock. Before his death he writes to Mr. Utterson explaining what he witnessed. Mr. Utterson receives the letter and with concern from Dr. Jekyll’s butler, rushes to the doctor’s home to find the body of Dr. Hyde died from an apparent suicide. Mr. Utterson discovers a note written by Dr. Jekyll; explaining his experimentations and hypothesis of the duel personalities. Dr. Jekyll writes that what began as a simple experiment, easily controlled, became something he could not handle and feared for what more damage could happen and so he decided to end his life, to stop Mr. Hyde.

Sara: I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. This book was a combination of mystery/thriller/horror. Camille Preaker is a Chicago journalist who has recently been hospitalized for self harm-carving various words onto her whole body. She has been suffering for years since the unexplained death of her younger sister Marian, her mother’s favorite child. She reluctantly goes to her tiny hometown to cover the murder of one young girl and the disappearance of another. Camille is reunited with her estranged, unloving mother and her half-sister Amma. As secrets of Camille’s past are revealed, she becomes close to her half sister and learns that her mother is capable of unspeakable things. This book is a page turner, but also deeply disturbing. The twist at the ending makes the journey worthwhile.

Carol: In Come Closer by Sara Gran, Amanda and her husband move into their new trendy loft and all is perfection—until Amanda begins to hear noises in the home and have strange dreams. Amanda’s life begins to spiral out of control. Is the loft haunted; is Amanda losing her mind; or is there something more sinister at work? Read this “scariest book of 2004” and find out!

Steve: Mrs. God by Peter Straub is a creepy, slow moving tale with a letdown of an ending. Professor Standish heads to England for a fellowship at the spooky Esswood House, owned by the aristocratic Seneschal family and home to their renowned library of literature. Odd characters and happenings abound, like servants that vanish or really don’t exist, doors that lock by themselves and whispering mystery voices. Is it Standish’s drinking, madness, or a dark secret of the Seneschals? Unfortunately the end is a train wreck which doesn’t really come to a conclusion, too bad as the first 75% was quite good.

Emma: The book In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters takes place during the height of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Sixteen-year old Mary Shelley Black is sent to San Diego to live with her aunt. Despite the ever present fear of the flu and war, Mary Shelley is eager to reunite with her childhood friend, Stephen. When she learns that Stephen’s brother has made a name for himself among the Spiritualists by claiming to photograph the spirits of the dead, she is determined to prove him a fraud. Her plans are derailed when she is visited by an unsettled spirit. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, the paranormal, and spooky ghost stories.

Dori: Dori: In Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s I Remember You: A Ghost Story, an Icelandic couple buy an abandoned vacation house in an isolated village in hopes of turning it into a vacation rental. They go there in the off season to work on the house and quickly encounter disturbing sights: moving crosses, mysterious footprints and odd smells. Meanwhile, psychologist Freyr, who’s 6-year-old son has gone missing, is asked to help with an investigation into an incident of crude defacement in a preschool. This snowballs into further inquiries into mysterious suicides which involve strangers that are obsessed with the disappearance of his son. This is an eerie, disturbing ghost story that builds to a surprising and tragic conclusion.

Stacey: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is the kind of story that will have you looking over your shoulder, avoiding dark hallways, and jumping at unexpected noises -for days and days …and then… many more days! A group of women, without any discernable connection, have been kidnapped and taken to a desolate bunkhouse in the middle of the remote, Australian Outback. With no way to know who’s responsible for their brutal imprisonment or why they’ve been selected, these women begin to form a social order to match their dark world. Just as disturbing as what readers learn about these conditions is the lack of explanation or information. This is a really smart, psychological horror story!

Next time? We’re going to lighten the mood with -Holiday Stories! This is another one that you can read pretty much anything you’d like as long as a Winter holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve) is prominently featured in the story.

Enjoy!
—Stacey

Advertisements

All the Big Words (are in Literary Fiction!) October 5, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Literary Fiction.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

That’s right, we discussed literary fiction this time! Literary fiction is defined by a multi-layered, experimental, or technical virtuosity writing style. The focus is more on character than plot and will prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book. When you read what people had to say about their books, you might just find something to suggest to your own book discussion group!

Megan: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood is a deeply moving yet disturbing love story. Wavy, the daughter of a meth dealer father and a mentally ill mother, is taught from an early age to not trust anyone. When one of her father’s thugs wrecks his motorcycle eight-year old Wavy is the only one who sees the accident. Her decision to help Kellen will forever change both their lives. Kellen becomes her friend and protector and she is his constant companion. No one takes notice of the relationship between the strange, silent child and the enormous ex-con with a heart of gold until Wavy becomes a teen. Wavy and Kellen’s story is heartbreaking and engrossing and at times even uncomfortable to read about. No matter what you believe about their relationship, their story will stick with you long after the book is done.

Chris: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. It’s 1991 and Lotto and Mathilde have just married a few months after falling madly in love with each other at first sight. Theirs is romance friends envy because it seems so perfect in every respect. But a decade later, it’s revealed that things are not always as they seem. Yes, there are two sides to every story and this novel is written with Lotto telling his side first followed by Mathilde’s side which is the more interesting. It reveals the secrets that they kept from each other, and it’s these secrets that ultimately kept the marriage together. A fascinating read–A New York Times Best Seller, Finalist for the 2015 Book Award and named Best Book of the Year by many publications.

Beth: Lynda Cohen Loigman’s introduces us to two sisters by marriage and their families as they cohabitate in a two-family home in Brooklyn, NY. The story unravels the complexity of family relationships as it shares their story over 30 years, through the different family members’ perspectives. The Two-Family House leaves the reader pondering on relationships and choices over a short lifetime.

Gina: In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the story is told by main character Holden; reminiscing on the time in his life that could be considered to be his lowest point. After be expelled from his fourth prep school, Holden went on a journey to New York to find himself. Holden battles with the understanding of innocence, sexuality, and the meaning of life; but through this journey, he finds hope in his sister’s youthfulness. This is a true American coming of age book for everyone to enjoy.

Carol: In The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, Lib Wright is a former “Nightingale” nurse in 1850s London who is sent to a small Irish village in order to investigate the locals’ claim that eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell hasn’t eaten anything in months, but instead is surviving on manna from heaven. Lib is obviously skeptical and when Anna’s health declines during the observation period, Lib finds a hard time avoiding emotional involvement. Is she witnessing a miracle or is Anna in dire need of help? The Wonder is an atmosphere novel with a slow-building suspense that left me completely enthralled from start to finish.

Steve: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is a tense page turner that finds Georgia plantation slaves Cora and Caesar on the run as they escape their horrible lives via a vast physical underground railroad. The two at first find their way to South Carolina and settle into a seemingly progressive town with caring citizens, only to find out that the town is doing experiments with disease and birth control on runaway slaves. The two continue seeking freedom elsewhere, while desperately trying to outrun the brutal slave catcher Ridgeway.

Emma: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was written in 1952. For 80+ day’s Cuban fisherman Santiago has had a run of bad luck. He’s caught no fish. So Santiago finally travels far beyond the other fishing boats and eventually catches a giant marlin. It takes him two days and nights to bring the fish back to shore strapped to the side of his boat. He loses most of it to sharks on his return trip. The marlin would have fed him for many months or it could have been sold at a good price. This is a rather sad but beautiful long short story.

Dori: In Joan London’s award-winning book The Golden Age, 12-year-old Frank Gold is convalescing at a home for victims of polio after World War II. The child of Hungarian refugees who have unwillingly been resettled in Perth, Australia, he’s an observant, dreamy boy who yearns to be a poet. When we first meet him, he’s wheeling around the hospital with one goal: to glimpse Elsa, the only other child his age and the object of his affections. The book doesn’t just limit itself to Frank and Elsa, though; London is attentive to all her characters and their inner lives. Her writing has a lovely radiance and she’s able to evoke the feelings of displacement, growing up, finding hope and safety and, of course, love.

Sarah: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is about a young mother, Lucy Barton, who is recovering from a minor operation that became complicated and and kept her in the hospital for months. She and her mother haven’t spoken for years, having become estranged after Lucy’s harsh upbringing in a poverty-stricken small town. Yet Lucy is touched and grateful when her mother comes to visit for five days. She tells Lucy about the town and people of her youth, about their marriages, lives and deaths, as she and Lucy begin to reconnect. However there is an underlying tension as memories of Lucy’s troubled childhood surface, and we are given a glimpse into how complicated family relationships can be. This was a fascinating and engaging story that left me wanting to get to know Lucy Barton and her mother better.

Lauren: The Girls is Emma Cline’s debut novel. We meet Edie Boyd, a shy and lonely teenager living in California during the late-1960s. She meets a group of girls—mysterious and magnetic Suzanne stands out—and is slowly drawn into their isolated world of counter-culture, freedom, sex, and drugs. At the helm is their leader, Russell, whom the girls all seem to worship. Split between the present-day and Edie’s remembrance of the past, a frightening picture is slowly painted as the girls approach a horrific point-of-no-return.

Stacey: Open the cover on To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey and you’ll find yourself spirited away to a different time and place. Multiple storylines are told concurrently with subtle shifts in tone and style to reflect each character, descriptions of the natural world mix easily with mystical elements, and the use of images enhance a reader’s experience. Recording the past as journal entries but calling certain aspects into question through a contemporary correspondence builds one complex story full of subtle, surprising moments. A beautifully crafted book, from the wildly adventurous story to the presentation on the pages, this is a reading experience you won’t soon forget.

Next time we’ll cover the dangerous world of horror fiction! Horror books are written to frighten the reader (obvs?) and are distinguished by supernatural or occult elements, often featuring the power of the natural world gone awry. Turn on all the lights and -enjoy!

—Stacey

Something to (read and) Think About… Religious Fiction September 8, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Gentle Read, Religious Fiction.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Our current genre presents a little more of a challenge than the beach reads (ie pretty much whatever you wanted -no limits!) This discussion featured religious fiction, a book that has religiously-based attitudes, values, or actions as a central feature of the story in any style of story. When you read what people said about their books, you’ll see there’s a pretty interesting variety. Are you ready to find the next book to add to your growing TBR pile?

Megan: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, is a hilarious and irreverent accounting of Jesus’ life between the time of his well-documented birth and his famous teachings, miracles, and ultimate sacrifice as an adult. Jesus’ best buddy Biff tells all, revealing all sorts of adventures and high jinx. Fans of Moore will recognize his satirical humor and well-placed bawdy joke.

Carol: The winner of several awards for Christian fiction, Dear Mr. Knightley, Katherine Reay’s 2014 debut novel, is jam-packed with Jane Austen references and is based on the 1912 novel Daddy-Long-Legs. Samantha Moore receives a grant from a mysterious benefactor to receive her Masters’ degree with the caveat that she write him letters telling him how she is doing at the school. Sam uses the correspondence to this anonymous “Mr. Knightley” as a means to escape her unfulfilling life—revealing to him alone what she truly feels. “Sam” is naive, innocent, and flawed, but finds that with guidance from some new friends, including the single, handsome writer Alex Powell, she might not mess up her one chance at a new life.

Beth: Michael Perry’s The Jesus Cow is a satirical take on small town life in middle America. When Swivel’s own born and raised, Harvey Jackson discovers the face of Jesus Christ on his calf, he tries his darndest to ignore it. Soon the secret gets out and his small town farm turns into a national destination. This blasphemous tale of false idols is light hearted and enjoyable.

Steve: Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is the heartbreaking tale of two women, Mariam and Laila, who, through tragic circumstances, end up the wives of the sadistic Rasheed. They come to rely on each other and form a surprising bond as they help each other survive in the brutal household in this moving story that spans three decades, beginning with the turbulent 1970s in Afghanistan.

Sara: I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This is historical biblical fiction based on the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob. Jacob is well known for having 12 sons, the youngest and most famous being Joseph, abandoned by his brothers but going on to rule Egypt. Dinah is mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible as the daughter who is defiled by a prince of Shechem and avenged by her brothers. This story tells of Dinah’s life as girl living in a world where her father and grandfather have multiple wives, and women are seen as property and breeding stock. Dinah grows up with her mothers and aunts, learning about life and dreaming about love while sitting in the red tent where women went during their times of impurity in keeping with Jewish law. This was an interesting look into what the life of a woman of her times could have been like.

Gina: In William Paul Young’s The Shack, Mack returns to the Shack. This old abandoned building was the last location that Mack’s youngest daughter was thought to have been when she was abducted from a nearby camping grounds in Oregon during a family vacation. Mack was intrigued by a note he received in the mail to return to the shack, addressed by God. In this visit, Mack meets all three forms of God, gets understanding of life’s mysteries and finds peace. If you have ever wanted to have a deep meaningful conversation with God, this is the book for you as it was for me.

Emma: In Cynthia Ruchti’s As Waters Gone By, Max and Emmalyn Ross bought a cottage on Madeline Island in Lake Superior 8 years ago. Currently Max is serving a 5-year prison term for seriously injuring a man when he drove drunk into a fertility clinic. In order to pay Max’s legal fees, Emmalyn had to sell their home and move to the island. She plans to restore the cottage and hopes to restore her soul. The good neighbors on Madeline Island play an important role in helping her achieve her goals. This Christy Award finalist in contemporary fiction is a short sweet happily-ever-after book.

Dori: In Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, 16-year-old Amal decides to start wearing the hijab full-time to school to embrace her faith, but she’s worried about everyone’s reaction. She knows she can count on her best friends, but what will the teachers, her parents and handsome Adam think? Set in Australia, this young adult novel helps to explain why young women would choose to wear the hijab and also deals with prejudice and fear. It also does a great job of explaining that Muslim people are as different, or as alike, as everyone else. Amal is a fully realized character; she’s smart, funny, and charming and you will want to see how she and her friends succeed in negotiating our tricky world.

Stacey: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff starts with an unnamed woman visiting a recently opened exhibit “Two Hundred of Circus Magic” at the Petit Palais in Paris. She’s checking for a message from the past, hoping to find out what happened to her dearest friend when they were separated by tragic circumstances during World War II. Both women face persecution based on religious beliefs and are aware they must hide important elements of who they are in order to survive. With plenty of historical details and changing relationships, this could be a good book choice for your next book discussion.

For our next genre discussion? We will *not* be lightening the mood -at all. Next up is literary fiction defined by an inventive, rich, demanding, multi-layered, experimental, or technical virtuosity writing style. The focus is more on character than plot and will prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book. And so -let the search begin!

enjoy!
Stacey

Beach-y Keen Books! August 11, 2016

Posted by stacey in Beach Reads, Book List, Genre Book Discussion.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

It was tough, but we persevered and made it happen.. We all found a book we’d enjoy reading on the beach or the back porch and then we talked about them! Crazy, right? But I think the diversity of the list makes it especially fun. Are you ready for some fun? Done!

Chris: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou. Turn quick to page 163 for one of my absolute favorites: Still I Rise. When Governor Cory Booker referred to the other day, it reminded me of how much I loved this poem and I was compelled to go back and reread it. Every bit as good as I remember. Of course, it led to reading more of this wonderful collection.

Lauren: In Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse, and the two set off on adventures around the world. On the eve of their first anniversary, Jesse is on a photojournalism assignment with a crew when their helicopter disappears over the Pacific Ocean. Devastated, Emma returns to her small Massachusetts hometown and starts over. Years later she’s reconnected with a high school friend, Sam, and found love again. As Sam and Emma are enjoying their lives together and planning a wedding, Emma gets a life-changing phone call: Jesse has been found, alive.

Gina: Jojo Moyes continues her series following Louisa Clark in the book After You. This picks up after Louisa lost her love, following how she copes with this loss and moves on in her life. Louisa returns home after an accident and meets an unexpected individual that turns her life upside down. After making a deal with her parents, Louisa participates in a Moving On support group, meets new friends, and even finds a new love interest. This books keeps you engaged and rooting for Louisa to find happiness, a great beach read!

Sara: I read the new Liane Moriarty novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty. This is a story of three suburban couples who get together for a weekend barbecue that ends in a tragedy. Sam and Clementine are happily married parents of two, working together to juggle their hectic lives and careers. Erika and Oliver are a quiet, reserved, childless couple who both appreciate their calm and peaceful lifestyle. Vid and Tiffany are the larger than life, outgoing, fun-loving neighbors hosting the barbecue. Each family has problems and deep, dark secrets; and all of these come into play on and after this fateful weekend. They all can’t help but wonder what life would have been like if they had just said no to the invitation. Guilt and misconceptions are the threads binding these 6 people, and Moriarty does an excellent job of weaving it all together in the end. At times I thought I knew all the secrets and that this would be a predictable read, but she managed to continue to bring in new bits of information and surprise me at the finish.

Dori: In The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, Beth follows her husband Matt to Washington D.C. after he gets a job with the Obama administration. There, she’s in for a rude awakening: everyone knows one another, sharing their political connections, and Beth, a writer, feels out of the loop. Soon she and Matt meet a charismatic couple from Texas, Jimmy, a White house staff member, and his wife Ashleigh, a somewhat typical Southern belle. The four become best friends, meeting for meals, trips and one snowy weekend, when all of D.C. shuts down. Soon, however, tensions arise and their friendship is threatened as Jimmy starts getting promotions, while Matt’s career stagnates. This novel is a funny, light, and breezy insider’s look at D.C. and its political machinations.

Steve: Killing Reagan, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, tells the fascinating story of Reagan’s life, his road into politics and beyond, all while painting a vivid picture of the world and events around him, leading up to and beyond the assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. The authors include both the good and bad about Reagan, with plenty of dirt about his early love life, other politicians’ negative thoughts on Nancy, and much more.

Beth: Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is a retelling of the Taming of the Shrew. Kate Batista spends her days working in a school and her evenings taking care of her father and sister, but never really tending to herself. Her father is on the brink of discovering a cure for autoimmune disease, but when his research is in jeopardy, he asks Kate to take on the most daunting task of her life. This was an enjoyable read, with very lovable characters.

Carol: In Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season, Caren Gray is the manager of former sugarcane plantation Belle Vie—now a tourist attraction and banquet hall, when a body is found on the grounds. Caren’s ties to Belle Vie run deep, and knowing its secrets gives her an edge in solving the crime—even as it puts her own life in danger. This smart, award-winning literary mystery was a perfect take-along on my vacation.

Stacey: The Lovers’ Guide to Rome by Mark Lamprell is narrated by an omniscient ancient blue (think a little like a Greek chorus?) as readers are guided through three stages of love: bliss, doubt, and loss. Each stage is represented by a different couple, a young couple just met and feel the bliss of new love, a middle-aged couple are beginning to doubt their long-term marriage, and a widow has come to spread the ashes of her husband. Getting to know the characters makes the story charming enough but the added information on Rome’s history, art, and religion is pure bonus!

Next time we’ll be reading Religious Fiction! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to find a book that has religiously-based attitudes, values, or actions as a central feature of the story in any genre. Enjoy!

—Stacey

A Mid-Summer Report July 7, 2016

Posted by Megan in Audio, Beach Reads, Book List, Fantasy, First Novel, Mystery.
Tags: ,
add a comment

If you ask me, mid-summer is an ideal time to compile a Best Of list. People have a little more time to read and listen to books. Maybe you are trying to catch up on your to read list or maybe you are looking for a hot new summer read. Whatever your needs, we have you covered! With my own personal reading I have been doing a little bit of both. Here’s what I have been reading and loving so far this summer:

hundred

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl is the story Alex and his mother and their journey from New York to L.A. via the world of Cons. It’s about the comic book industry, it’s about feminism and fandoms and a family that is going through traumatic changes. This story was so beautiful and the relationships that are explored will stick with you. For another coming of age story try The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extent.

naked

So, I took the plunge into J.D. Robb’s long-running In Death series (psst-this is Nora Roberts, in case you didn’t know that already). What have I gotten myself into? Naked in Death introduces Eve Dallas, a NYC police lieutenant. The year is 2058. Prostitution is now legal, but crime is still crime and murder and political corruption are at the heart of Dallas’s case. I can totally see the appeal of this series! It’s a futuristic crime-thriller with lots of sexy bits! I will definitely keep plugging away at this series, which is currently 43 books and counting!

mis for

Speaking of long-running and on-going series, I started Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone series in preparation for the author’s visit to Rocky River (save the date, October 14 and check back with us for more details!). I started with A is for Alibi way back in January and am currently waiting for N is for Noose to be available for me! These books, starring PI Kinsey Milhone are quick, easy, and fun reads. Perfect for summer!

every

Finally, how about a little magic for your summer reading? Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (aka, Mira Grant) is a dark and mysterious novel that answers the what if the magic doorways, wardrobes, and rabbit holes that swallow children up are real? The children at  Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for children to go after their magic fantasy world has gives them the boot. When this once safe-haven becomes the site of vicious murders Nancy, the newest arrival, sets out to figure out what is happening. This short book is lovely and weird.

What are you reading this summer?

~Megan

Happy Trails Y’all …it’s time for the Western Genre! May 31, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Westerns.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Once again it’s time to decide how well we stuck to the guidelines of the genre we were reading… Westerns have a strong sense of time and place with clear resolution to a conflict. The hero of the story might be flawed but readers want them to win anyway. Now let’s read what everyone had to say about the book they read:

Chris: Red River, the movie. It’s 1865, and the Civil War has ended leaving the south bankrupt so Tom Dunston (John Wayne) decides to move his herd of 10,000 cattle from Texas to Missouri to prosper. That’s a 1,000 mile run which will take 100 days to complete and a lot happens during that journey: Indian attacks, fighting within the ranks, horrible weather, lack of food etc. but they eventually make it due mostly to Dunston’s determination and stubbornness. A great western classic and a must-see in black and white.

Carol: Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley is set in Kansas in 1880, where two waitresses from the Harvey House Restaurant have been murdered. The Pinkerton Agency is called upon to solve the crimes but local Sheriff Branch is less than thrilled with the help—until he meets and falls for Pinkerton Agent Katie Madison who goes undercover as a waitress to get the killer. This blend of western, mystery and inspirational romance adds up to a lighthearted read that has a happy ending.

Emma: In Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, Smoky is captured and trained by Clint to become a cow horse. Eventually the horse and cowboy come to trust and respect each other. Soon Smoky and several other horses are stolen from the Rocking R Ranch. When Smoky refuses to allow anyone to ride him, he is beaten. Soon Smoky becomes “The Cougar”, a mean man-hating bucking bronco rodeo attraction. When the horse is worn out, he is sold again to another abusive man and renamed Cloudy. When the horse’s owner is arrested for cruelty, Clint and Smoky are finally reunited. Even though the book is a Newberry Award winner I feel the story is written more for adults than for children.

Gina: In Jon Sharpe’s High Plains Massacre, from the Trailsman series, known scout Skye Fargo is asked to help solve the disappearance of settlers on Indian territory. Accompanied by fellow scout Bear River Tom and new army recruits, Trailsman goes on this mission. There’s more to this assignment than expected in this quick action thriller. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading more of Skye Fargo’s adventures in the West.

Lauren: Vengeance Road from YA author Erin Bowman tells the story of young Kate Thompson who sets off to hunt down the famous Rose Riders who “done murdered her Pa.” The book checks off just about every single element of the classic Western: gunfights, saloon poker, horses, a desert landscape, outlaws, an Apache guide, and of course a quest for gold.

Dori: In Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert, former lawman Arthur Sprawl is called out of retirement to hunt down a serial killer who’s viciously mutilating American Indians and leaving their bodies for display. It’s bleak Depression era in Eastern Oregon, and Sprawl, on his horse, is joined by his son Elijah, who considers himself a prophet, as they travel through the countryside investigating these murders. Sprawl is no angel; he’s got a reputation as an effective lawman, but his success was attained through brutal bloodshed and frontier justice. Though thoroughly dark, gritty, and deeply violent, Holbert’s prose beautifully describes the natural world through which Sprawl and his son travel.

Steve: Robert B. Parker’s Resolution is the second book in the Virgil Cole/ Everett Hitch series, and finds the two gunslinger friends together again, this time in the town of Resolution. They are hired on as enforcers for the greedy Mr. Wolfson. Wolfson is buying up the town stores and businesses, and is at odds with the other rich townsman, Eamon O’Malley, who has hired on two quick draw men as well. Will the four end up deciding things in a shoot-out? Or are other events in store?

Beth: Louis L’Amour’s Sacket is a classic western tale. This story follows independent William Tell Sacket as he takes the journey to visit his mother and finds gold along the way, which of course is accompanied with plenty of trouble. This is a quickly paced, action packed western.

Megan: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown is a beautifully written novel in verse about the infamous journey west that claimed the lives of nearly half the travelers. In 1846 ninety people-men, women, and children-left Illinois in search of a better life in California. A series of missteps and an early winter left the caravan trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As food supplies dwindled and hope for rescue faded the survivors turned to cannibalism. Told from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old survivor, the poems that make up this novel are lovely as well as harrowing. This is a truly unique story told in a unique format.

Sara: I read True Grit by Charles Portis, a novel initially published as a 1968 serial in the Saturday Evening Post . This novel tells the story of Mattie Ross’ adventure to avenge the death of her father when she was just 14 years old. In a direct and often funny way, Maddie tells how she hired one-eyed Rooster Cogburn– the meanest U.S. marshall, a man of “true grit”, to hunt down and apprehend the man who murdered her father. However, much to Rooster’s dismay Mattie intends to travel with him on this journey into Indian territory to make sure the job is done right and that Rooster earns the $50 reward she is offering. Rooster is a cantankerous and eccentric man who has been on both sides of the law and has no use for children. But as the adventure unfolds, he and Mattie develop a bond of true friendship and mutual respect.

Stacey: I went for a classic Western -OR- kickin’ it old school with my cowboy boots on! I read Trouble Shooter by Louis L’Amour with Hopalong Cassidy as the main character -whoa nelly Topper (aka Hops horse) that’s a classic! I enjoyed that in essence this is a good mystery story but with horses, dogs, and cattle mixed in for drama. The characters were entertaining and there was plenty of action. Now I know why these books are still so popular!

Next time we’ll be reading suspense/thrillers. Suspense novels compress action into a short period of time, emphasize the psychological and physical danger and appeal to the reader’s sense of unease. Thrillers are complex stories that use a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, and often have exotic settings that emphasize the defeat of the villain.

enjoy!

Stacey

Hello Sunshine! May 13, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book List, Thoughtful Ramblings.
Tags: ,
add a comment

I see it -and I feel it, so it must be true… it’s the Sun! You know what this means don’t you? That’s right! We’re about to hit prime porch reading weather! So this weekend why not spend some time hauling out the outdoor furniture, sweep off the porch, and buy plenty of your favorite beverage; then pick out a nice crisp piece of paper to start your TBR (summer reading edtion) list!

My list is longer (already) than I’d like it to be -how lucky we’re about to hit an Endless Summer!- but the (current) top five are:

[Cover]

Alice & Oliver : a novel by Charles Bock

[Cover]

Wired to create : unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind by Scott Barry Kaufman
[Cover]

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

[Cover]
A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar

[Cover]

Rosalie Lightning: a graphic memoir by Tom Hart

I’m starting small so I can look super successful next week…

Now it’s your turn to share… What do you want to read this summer?

enjoy!
Stacey

Award Winning Books! April 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

So many awards, so many choices! As you can see from what everyone said about the book they chose, it was also a crowd pleaser, plus we really covered a whole bunch of genres in this one discussion! Shall we see what everyone had to share?

Megan: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, winner of the 2015 Eisner Award for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens, is the story of best friends, summer camp, and monsters. Welcome to Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types! The camp is home to the Lumberjanes scouts. Best friends and fellow campers Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley accidentally witness an old lady transform into a bear, and like any group of curious teens, they follow her into the woods. They quickly learn that the bear-woman is not the only mystery surrounding the camp. These clever campers are determined to use their scout skills to unravel these mysteries. This all-ages, female-led comic series is rollicking good fun. Readers will devour the first three volumes and be eager for more Lumberjanes adventures!

Chris: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2005 and in that same year was a finalist of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography/Autobiography. In 2007, it was adapted for a Broadway Play and had a successful run. It tells the story of Joan’s husband, John, suffering a massive fatal coronary while their adopted daughter, Quintana, lies in a coma in the hospital. Sadness and grief all around realistically presented in that unique Didion voice. I particularly liked her reminiscences over the many good times and trying times she and her writer husband, John Gregory Dunne, shared throughout their forty-year marriage. She ends her chronicle with a few of John’s words spoken about timing the swell of the ocean just right: “You had to go with the change.”

Carol: In Scottish author Denise Mina’s mystery novel, Garnethill, which won the John Creasey Award for Best First Crime Novel, Maureen O’Donnell’s psychologist boyfriend Douglas Brady has been found murdered in her apartment. Because of her history of mental illness and the fact that she’d just discovered that Douglas was married, Maureen is the prime suspect. With help from her friend Leslie and her brother Liam, Maureen attempts to find out who the killer is—endangering their lives and her own in this gripping, dark and action-packed read.

Emma: In The Nest, Leo, Beatrice, Jack and Melody Plumb’s father funded a hefty nest egg for his four children to be distributed when the youngest, Melody, turns 40. The siblings are anxious to get their inheritance and each has specific plans for the money. With their mother’s permission, money was used when drunken Leo was in a serious car accident. A 19-year-old waitress was badly injured and much of the money was used to settle her medical bills. Leo promises to eventually repay his siblings. Time will tell in this fast-moving often-funny book debut by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Steve: In Michael Shaara’s classic novel The Killer Angels he takes you inside the minds of the men that fought in the battle of Gettysburg. This work won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and was striking in that it depicted the thoughts of the characters, not just the action and movement of troops and men. This is an excellent novel that humanizes the men and focuses on the leaders, like Robert E. Lee and Joshua Chamberlain.

Lauren: In honor of her latest book, My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem was award the 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. The Dayton Literary Peace Prize, inaugurated in 2006, is the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace. The Prize invites nominations in adult fiction and nonfiction books published within the past year that have led readers to a better understanding of other cultures, peoples, religions, and political points of view. This memoir recounts Steinem’s nomadic lifestyle from an early age and throughout her life as a writer, activist, and community organizer.

Dori: In The Round House, the second book of a trilogy set on an Ojibwe Reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich brings back Judge Coutts from the first book in the trilogy, The Plague of Doves. The judge is spending a Sunday with his wife Geraldine and their 13-year-old son Joe when Geraldine receives a phone call from work that she is needed. She rushes in but doesn’t return. Joe and his father search everywhere and when they return home, they find Geraldine in the driveway, near death after being assaulted and raped. She won’t speak, won’t accuse her assailant, and her family is devastated. Judge Coutts and Joe go through his case files looking for clues, eventually leading Joe to the probable culprit. Meanwhile, as Joe and his friends live through the summer, meeting girls, riding bikes, and pulling pranks, Joe plans his revenge. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery and social commentary, this a compelling and deeply moving novel. The third book in the trilogy, LaRose, is out in May. Winner of the National Book Award in 2012.

Stacey: The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery was a 2015 National Book Award Finalist in the Nonfiction category and also on ALA’s 2016 Notable Books list. This is one of those books that make me equally excited and nervous to read; I can’t wait to find out more about these fascinating creatures but I’m afraid many of them will succumb to a tragic ending. Spoiler Alert: both things happened, I’m now a big fan of this species *and* I used a tissue (or two) while reading. Additionally, the author is able to provide an interesting perspective on how we define the intangible consciousness of any living creature. Be bold, take a risk you might shed a tear, and pick up this winning title!

And next time? We’re headed way out West! If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to select something that evokes a strong feeling of wide open spaces and larger than life characters. Most westerns have a clear hero and villain with the conflict clearly ending with one winner.

Enjoy!
Stacey

How Love(ly)… the Romance genre! April 4, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Romance.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Who doesn’t love love? Well, for a brief time the boy and the girl in the romance story you’re reading don’t love love but that’s just a plot device -no need to worry! They’ll have their disagreement and then things will (mostly) turn out okay at the end! So are you ready to read about what we read? Me too!

Carol: In Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, 29-year-old Hannah Martin flees New York after a relationship disaster and ends up temporarily living with her best friend, Gabby back home in L.A. On her first night in town, Hannah reconnects with her high school sweetheart, Ethan, and at the end of the night, Hannah must  decide whether or not to go home with him. In parallel storylines, Hannah lives out both decisions, and each take her in very different directions. This book about fate, true love and chance tackles some serious issues and at the same time reads like a choose-your-own adventure. Readers will wonder if there really is such a thing as a soul mate and root for (both versions of) Hannah the whole way.

Steve: You Suck by Christopher Moore is the second book in the “Love Story” series, although you could read it as a standalone.  Newly turned vampire C. Thomas Flood and his girlfriend Jody, the vampire who turned him, are being pursued by Tommy’s old work buddies and the very old vampire Elijah, who wants Jodi back.  Lots of witty and offbeat humor and characters in this fast-paced read.  

Megan: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb-When Eva’s crush-turned-new-boyfriend moves from New York to L.A., she is desperate to see him again. She finds the perfect solution. A reality quiz show, The Smartest Girl in America, is holding auditions and Eva’s best friend Annie is a shoe-in. Having secured a spot show and convincing her mother that they would be safe, Eva sets off on a cross-country road trip. Armed with a bus ticket and a supply of romance novels, Eva is ill-prepared to confront the realities of love. This not-so-fluffy romance focuses on love of all types-love for friends and family and of course, love for the cute poetry writing boy!

Emma: Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray is the story of two sixty-something florists. Divorcee Julie Roseman and widower Romeo Cacciamani fall in love despite the feud between their families. Unfortunately the origin of the feud isn’t known to the second and third generations, but they are bound by it. Julie and Romeo’s children are strongly against any relationship between their parents.  Eventually Grandma Cacciamani divulges the secret behind the long-standing dispute.  This is a fun light-hearted romance for adults.

Lauren: My Highland Spy by Victoria Roberts introduces us to Lady Ravenna Walsingham, a spy for the British crown who is sent to Scotland to pose as a governess for the son of a rebellious laird who refuses to send his boy to England for educating.  Ravenna also suspects that Laird Ruiari Sutherland may be part of a plot to band together with other Scottish clansmen to rise up against the monarchy.  Still, even though she is sent to investigate the family, she soon finds herself devoted to her young student and falling in love with Laird Sutherland.  This is classic, formulaic, historic romance—it’s fast-paced and juicy!

Beth: In Joan Johnston’s Shameless, Pippa becomes pregnant with a married man’s child and is taken by surprise when her father uproots her family from their cattle station in Australia to take over his father’s ranch in Wyoming.  Pippa is thrown into family rivalries as she attempts to navigate pregnancy and her desire to learn the truth about her mother.  In desperation, Pippa moves in with one of the family enemies and her emotions start to flare.  The story is packed with exasperated twists and turns, but in a true romance fashion, ends happily ever after.

Dori: Curtis Sittenfeld reimagines Pride and Prejudice in modern America in her new novel Eligible. Lizzy Bennett, a successful New York editor and her sister Jane, a yoga instructor, return home to Cincinnati when their father becomes ill. There, they find the family in disarray; their two youngest sisters are sponging off their father while obsessing over exercise and diets, Mary, their middle sister, has become a bit of a recluse and their mother still has tunnel vision, only wanting marriage to successful men for her daughters. At a neighborhood barbecue, Jane meets Chip Bingley, a doctor fresh off a Bachelor-like TV show and they hit it off. Chip’s friend, neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, does not make as positive an impression on Jane. At the Bennetts navigate through these various travails, Sittenfeld provides a modern look at gender, class, money, romance, and family. Funny, charming and romantic, it’s a fresh look at Austen’s classic.  

Stacey: Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier, author of Ruby Red Trilogy, is the first in her new The Silver Trilogy -and that couldn’t please me more! Fifteen-year-old Liv and thirteen-year-old Mia have lived all over the world. Their current destination is Oxford to spend the school year with their mom while she teaches for the University, but plans have changed. It looks like they’ll be staying in London with their mom, her boyfriend, and his high school-aged children; and then things really get weird. Liv is able to watch other people’s secret dreams while they sleep. Plus a group of boys in her new school who can do the same… how? why? But that one boy, he seems pretty nice -even if he’s up to no good.

Next time we’ll be reading Award Winners! Another easy category!! All you need to do is find a book that has won a real (legitimate) award -in any genre. (See how easy?!) Happy Spring Reading!

—Stacey

Lots of Wordy Books (aka Literary Fiction!) January 26, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Awards, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Literary Fiction.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

We’re starting off the year with the Literary fiction challenge -were you able to find something that was characterized by a distinctive writing style, focused more on character than plot, or prompted a high degree of interaction between reader and book? If so, then you were a successful participant in our first genre discussion! If not, don’t worry -we still have eleven more genre challenges to come. You’ll get ‘em next time!
Are you wondering what everyone had to say about the books they chose? Here we go…

Maureen: In Dostoyevsky’s final and epic novel, The Brothers Karamazov, he weaves an intricate story surrounding the lives of three brothers who each have a reason to want their philandering father, Fyodor, dead. One brother is not given the inheritance he feels he is due from his deceased mother, one begrudgingly leaves his beloved monastery work at the command of his father, and one is just disgusted with the total lack of morals displayed by his father. When Fyodor is murdered one fateful evening and brother Dmitry is implicated, the secrets, motivations, love affairs, scandals, and crimes of all of the brothers are slowly revealed to build the story to its conclusion. The Brothers Karamazov is considered one of the greatest works of Russian fiction. While not a quick or easy read (it took several months!!) it was an interesting look into Russian society of the time. If you find yourself looking for another great Russian work from a bit later time period, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is another fantastic, though far-fetched, literary Russian read that is worth a look.

Chris: Snobs by Julian Fellowes is Julian’s first novel and it gives us an insider’s look at England’s upper class in the 1990s and those who aspire to become part of it. Like Edith, who marries the Earl Broughton one of the most eligible aristocrats around. From the very beginning his mother, Lady Uckfield, knows why Edith has chosen her son. Will the marriage last? Many of their friends and so-called friends play a part in the outcome. So many characters, so much drama. Much like the beloved PBS series Fellowes went on to write, Downton Abbey. With one difference for this reader: He seems to not much care for the Broughton Hall characters (perhaps he was finding his way back then) whereas he loves his Downton Abbey people. Me, too.

Megan: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is a fictional account of a real life murder. The year is 1906 and sixteen-year old Mattie has big dreams. Desperate to earn money and escape her small-town life, she gets a job at the Glenmore Hotel. There she meets Grace Brown, a young guest who asks Mattie to burn a packet of secret letters. When Grace’s body is found in the lake, Mattie realizes that the letters may prove that Grace’s drowning was not a tragic accident but a premeditated murder. Mattie is the product of Donnelly’s imagination, but Grace Brown and her murder are true crimes. Fans of historical fiction and true crime will enjoy this story set in the Anirondaks.

Lauren: Vendela Vida’s The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is set in exotic Casablanca, Morocco and lures the reader in with elements of mystery/thriller. A woman—you, as the story is told in second person—travels to Morocco on her own and almost immediately her money, passport, and identification are stolen. She is at first panicked and desperate to go to the police and seek to recover her belongings only to run up against bureaucracy and corruption on top of the challenges of navigating a foreign country. Gradually she comes to see her situation—a woman without an identity—as an chance to become someone else entirely and find true liberation.

Beth: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins takes place in a very plausible distant future semi-relinquished, dried out California landscape. The main characters, Luz and Ray are contently squatting in an abandoned mansion until they cross paths with a child who they bring into their fold. With new found responsibility, they pursue a more sustainable home and discover the ambiguous power of their most treasured relationships.

Dori: In Like Family, a spare, slender novel by Paolo Giordano, a married couple hires a childless widow to care for the wife when she has some problems in her pregnancy. After the baby is born, Mrs. A stays on as a nanny for the baby and as housekeeper for the family. After eight years, however, one day she announces that she’s not feeling well and will not be coming back. Sixteen months later, she has passed away from cancer. The husband, a physicist, narrates, telling us all this within the first few pages of the book. The remainder of the book are his memories of conversations he’s had with Mrs. A, what he learned about her and her life and most importantly, he relays the importance of her to his family. Mrs. A helped them all, smoothing over differences between husband and wife, wholly loving their child, and appreciating and encouraging all of them. Without her, they are all bereft and feeling a hole where she once had been. She had an intimate role within their family, at least from their perspective, even though she was employee; she wasn’t family, but was she? Giordano contemplates the variety of love, the definition of family and the value of relationships, however fleeting, in this melancholy but sweet book.

Emma: In Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, Addie Moore has lost her husband. One day she invites neighbor widower Louis Waters to spend nights with her. Nights are especially lonely. Nosy neighbors quickly find out what’s going on, but Addie and Louis don’t care. Gene, Addie’s son, leaves his son Jamie with her for the summer. He does not approve of the relationship between Addie and Louis, and eventually forbids Addie to have contact with her grandson unless she breaks contact with Louis. A beautiful story even with Addie’s bullying son’s interference.

Carol: In My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, the title character is a married New York City writer who reflects on her upbringing by chronicling a few days in the 80s, when as a grown woman, she ends up in the hospital for an extended stay. Lucy’s estranged mother comes to visit during that time, and readers learn about their strange and sad family dynamic from what the two reminisce about and the topics they avoid. This short novel about forgiveness and the bonds of family and love is eloquently written and will be remembered long after its last page has been read.

Steve: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is an excellent but bleak work. In a horrible post-apocalyptic world an unnamed man and his young son are striving to make it to the coast against awful odds. Along the way they elude gangs of violent thugs and scavenge for what little food they can find, all in hopes of finding other good guys.

Stacey: One of my favorite fiction titles to make the list of Notable Books for Adults for 2016 was This Is the Life: A Novel by Alex Shearer. Two brothers, who haven’t always had the easiest of relationships, are brought together again when Louis is diagnosed with a brain tumor and his younger brother provides whatever support he can. A small book with a big impact, there really is something in this book that is likely to make readers laugh, cry, and maybe even pick up the phone to call a loved one…

If you want to keep reading with us, you’ll want to go looking for the first novel of an author you’ve never read before! Finding the debut work of a new author can be pretty exciting, so you might want to start your search …now!

enjoy!
Stacey