February 21, 2018: “Read & Tell”

The book discussion this evening was on When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams – lead by Sonya and Dave, and chosen by Cashew.  Everyone really enjoyed the book.  One woman admitted that she started it, decided she didn’t like it, put it down, picked it up again later, and after finishing it, bought several of the books for her friends!  Another person said that reading it felt like reading poetry!

Next book club meeting on 3/21:  The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf lead by Jon


Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Sonya, The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan, 3.5:  An Indian woman, her husband and children move back to India after some time in NYC. She writes of reintegrating with Indian life – in particular, there is a woman across the street from her apartment who has several cows from whom people buy their milk each morning – fresh from the cows’ teats.  She writes of her relationship with the milk lady, of the history of cows in India, and other aspects of her life.  I enjoyed it because it is giving me a flavor of life in Bangalore.

David, Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks, 5.0:  Almost anything by Oliver Sacks is fascinating.

Leah, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, 3.5:  The husband is wrongfully convicted of rape and is put in jail, and eventually released. It is about how these events affect their marriage.  She found it more political than expected.  Each chapter has a different narrator.  Another woman in the group heard her interview on PBS – the author was amazing – very dynamic.

Kjerste, Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, 4.5: This woman tells you her life story as she walks – lives in NYC.  It is a fun story and based on true events.

Tom, Vengeance by Zachary Lazar, 4.5:  Not exactly sure why he picked it up.  It is called a novel but really seems to be autobiographical.  The protagonist shares his name and history with the author.  It is set in contemporary Louisiana, sees a passion play in the state prison, talks to one of the inmates who says he is innocent, it then shifts to inmates point of view.  At the end, Tom had forgotten that it was fiction, and was left floundering a bit – finally remembered it is fiction because the inmate was not in the acknowledgements at the end.  The author is very aware of his position as a white person, the writing is exquisite but not in a flashy way.

Shelagh, Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker, 4.8:  It is a memoir written through letters – she writes to the various men in her life – cab driver, uncle of a somalian girl she adopted, former lover.  Very good writing.

Kathleen, The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, 5.0:  Sweeping history of last few thousand years showing that the world revolved and revolves around the countries of the Siulk Road from Chinga to Italy.  Showed how people were interconnected through interchange of culture, language, slaves, disease and trade. And, how governments and powerful people continue to make the same types of mistakes century after century.

Karen,  The Persian Boy by Mary Renault, 4.5:  A historical novel, the last 7 years of Alexander the Great’s life, campaigns up to India and back, learned about his campaigns and what kind of leader he was, why they followed him.  The device she uses is the persian boy who is the eunuch lover of King Darius, and then of Alexander.  He is a real boy, and it is very likely that Alexander did have those types of relationships.

Tim, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley, 4.0:   Flavia de Luce novels – it starts with the father dying, then there is the aunt who is going to decide everything for them, the sisters go on a boat trip, get a better sense of who Dodger is.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles 5.0:  the 30-year saga of the Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is placed under house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness 4.0:  This is the third and final volume of the All Souls Trilogy that started with A Discovery of Witches. This is one of the few trilogies, that I have read, in which the final volume is the best of the three. As with the other volumes, the author packs this story with historical details in a wonderful magical setting.

Pam, We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 5.0:  It is a collection of essays published in the Atlantic Magazine over the course of Obama’s presidency..  He takes a topic and drills down – very enlightening, challenging and intense – talks about the presidency and some of the positions which he disagrees with.  She found it fascinating – many things she didn’t know about before on how blacks were treated.

Paul, God: A Human History by Reza Aslan, 4.0:  He writes on the premise that how we organize our society is how we organize our spirituality.  The hunter-gatherer society had pantheism, societies with royalty have monotheism – it is an interesting idea and it appears to be generally true, though Hinduism is left out.

Kitty, Gilgamesh: A Novel by Joan London, 5.0:  Fabulous so far, small little book.

Mimi, Last Hope Island by Olson, 4.75:  Story of the contributions of the Poles Czechs, Norwegians to the Allied effort in WWII which the Britich & Americans never really acknowledge (arrogance was unbelievable).  Two people had it on their top 10 list for last year – it is worth it.

Best Mystery Stories of 2017, 3.5

A House Among the Trees by Glass, 3.75: Nice read, a little above average.

 

 

 

 

 

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January 17, 2018: “Read & Tell”

The book discussion this evening was on American Romantic by Just Ward – lead by Marla.  It was a lively discussion with people who enjoyed the book and those who only finished it because it was for book club!  It always makes for interesting discussions when there are divided opinions.

Next book club meeting on 2/21:  When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams


Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Shawna, An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic by David Mendelsohn, 5.0:  It is non-fiction, a father attends the class his son is teaching bout The Odyssey.  They then go on a cruise to the places in The Odyssey.

Uncommon Text by Tom Hanks, 3.5:  Type writers are mentioned in every story – whether they are the subject or just mentioned.

Jon, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Kite Runner author), 3.5:  Very good writer – does a good job with language and makes you care about the characters – but it is a relentlessly and terribly unhappy read – very difficult to read – portrait of young women in Afghanistan.

Paul, Notes From a Bottle Found on a Beach at Carmel by Evan S. Connell, 5.5!:   He rereads it every 4 or 5 years – it is a 200 page poem but doesn’t read as a poem.  There is mystery out there – writes about things that people believe are true – deals with some of the horrible things we do to each other – atomic bombs, inquisition, sailors – starts with inquisition and ends with a boat sinking.  He considers himself to be a sort of a groupie for this author.  There is a sense that there is so much more out there to know – mystery and exploring.

Sonya, Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath, The Wife, The Cross by Sigrid Undset, 5.0:  The best book read in a very long time.  It is 3 books spanning the life of a Norwegian woman in the 1300’s.  The author writes about the human condition so well you understand that we humans haven’t changed all that much since then.  And the characterization, and growth of the characters – well shoot, just can’t say enough about it.  This will definitely be reread and reread!

Dave, Kristin Lavransdatter, 5.0:  Also read it.  The author’s father was a medievalist.

Karen, A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, 5.0: About a count who is captured by the Bolsheviks, escapes being executed, and is confined to a 5-star hotel for decades.  His small room in the attic faces the Kremlin.  He is a first class person – constantly cheerful, has genuine friendships – through the whole book you are spending time with him.  He was such an anecdote to the vulgarity and racism we are now experiencing.  It is the #1 book in Seattle for 2017.

Leah, Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, 3.0:  It is set in modern day England, followed the original story very closely – didn’t seem to fully translate to the modern times – it was fun, but would recommend the original.

Mimi, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser, 5.0:  A biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of her and her family – it is a history of the white settlement of the plains including how we destroyed the topsoil – it took a 1000 years to build an inch of topsoil.

Marla, Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village by Louis deBernieres, 5.0:  Short stories which all take place in the same English village, old fashioned sense of humor, interconnected stories of life – sweet, bittersweet, old fashioned – if you want to read something which makes you feel good…

 

 

 

November 15, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!” 
Next meeting, 1/17, will be American Romantic by Ward Just with the discussion lead by Marla.The discussion this evening was lead by Shelagh about The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs.  I can’t begin to recount the discussion – other than it was very lively and interesting.  We stopped at 9:05 and could’ve kept going for at least another hour!

Kjerste, In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende, 3.0:  Good story about 3 people coming together – liked their backstories/adventures.

Tom, Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum, 4.75:  Picked it up on a whim, jumped in and had a ball.  The author has a couple of doctorates and has dealt poker in Lake Stevens.  It is set in Snoqualmie in a fictitious casino.  The writing is a bit clunky but the characters immediately come to life and the story zooms ahead.  A bit magical.  Thought it was a hoot and thoughtful at the same time.

Jon, The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, 2.5:  Read it a long time ago, but don’t remember much of it from the first time.  Just didn’t get into it – didn’t do anything for me at all.  The story was interesting enough and flowed well, but the characters were putrid – the story even starts off with anti-Semitism.

Dave, Benjamin Franklin autobiography, 5.0:  Was pretty good.  Especially interested in the fact that he was living in Boston – which, at the time, was only about 10,000 in population.  Then went to London, a much bigger city, and enjoyed it very much – explains why he stayed there so long.  And did he really fly a kite?  Not really sure.  The writing is mostly a collection of letters to his son.

Sonya, The Choice, Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger, 5.0:  It is a memoir in which she recounts surviving Auschwitz, but the main gist of the story is about how she chooses to live her life since then.  She is now in her 90’s, and is going strong as a psychologist.  The title not only refers to her choice on how she chooses to live her life, but also an incident in the book.  We can all learn from her!

Paul, The Long Haul by Finn Murphy, 2.5:  A bunch of bar stories – about him screwing up, about others screwing up – wouldn’t want to reread it.  It was a fast read, and interesting.

Karen, The Cloud Splitter by Russell Banks, 4.5:  It is about Tom Brown and is considered historical fiction.  A bit redundant – much repetition about what he felt about slavery and other issues.  Though the last part of the book really started moving – it was the part about going into Harper’s Ferry.

Kathleen, The Obelisk Gate (2nd book in the trilogy) by N.K. Jemisin, 4.5:  Talks about the cultures which have grown up around the changes in the earth.  There are characters who can control volcanic activity and earthquakes – both revered and feared.  Does a wonderful job.

Marla, Before the Wind by Jim Lynch, 4.0:  Like his stories and the way he writes – family saga built on the framework of sailing – great characters.

Shawna, A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, 4.0:  It’s a fictional memoir of the woman depicted in Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. It is engagingly written and provides food for thought. Note:  Even though Shawna was not able to attend, she did read the book and thought it was timely, given that she has recently moved to a city neighborhood. She thinks she moved to the right one.

October 18, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Next meeting, 11/15, will be Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs with the discussion lead by Shelagh.

Marla, Dunkirk – The Men They Left Behind by Sean Longden, 4.0:  It is about the 41,000 British soldiers who were still fighting the German advance who ended up as POWs in German, or managed to get home on their own.  They were still fighting and didn’t know that people were being evacuated.  Really good.

Kathleen, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie, 5.0:  It is sad, angry, articulate, numbing, so hard to describe and learned so much.  It is about his life with his mother and when she died in 2015.  Wrote it after her death – she was a very erratic mother.

Sonya, The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin, 4.75:  First of three books – really well done and unique which is one of the things I love about sci-fi/fantasy.  Taking an idea into directions I would never have thought of myself.  It is a dystopian novel – about how we have really screwed up the Earth – and how people are surviving.  There are humans, and creatures that appear human but have very unique powers that affect the earth in ways you can’t guess….and this is just the first book.  All 3 books are published which is a big plus!

Dave, Chatterbox, 1 to 5! (depends on whether you look at the plot and characters – definitely a 1, or if you look at it as a historical and educational snippets of life at the time):  It is a collection of weekly newsletters began in 1866 by Erskin Clark.  He really got into the feel of the time – one example is a small piece, Wings of Silence”, an adventure story about a boy and girl and a time machine (plotwise – 1 out of 5, but historical/educational – 5 out of 5).

Cashew, Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward, 5.0:  The author toured recently in Seattle and it was such a beautiful event – heart-opening.  This book is a collection of her personal poetry – mostly on her childhood trauma – her experience as a queer black British woman – rich and thought-provoking – juicy.

Shawna, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks by Terry Tempest Williams, 4.0:  Made her want to do a tour of the national parks!

Leah,  Dark Tower VI – Song of Susanna by Stephen King, 4.5:   Though he is known for his horror books, this is not horror –a kind of a mix between westerns and fantasy.  It is a series but each book  has different things going on  – there is continuity with a lot of variety.  The main character is Roland – last of the gunslingers – connection between worlds.  There are 7 or 8 books in the series.

Mimi, Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, 4.0:  If you liked his other books, you will like this one – he spins a very good yarn – about a divorced woman who son is going off to college – she thinks he is wonderful, but he is really a shit – completely devastated by his last sexual encounter – he flails around in his life.

Tim, Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness 4.5:  In this second book of the All Souls Trilogy, she has produced a sequel that is almost as good as the first Book, A Discovery of Witches. It is also equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for the document, Ashmole 782, deepens, Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic. Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a vastly more dangerous journey.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 5.0:  This wonderful story is about the love and friendship between Henry Lee, a Chinese-American boy, and Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl, during the internment in World War II. It is a moving story about a very sad time in American history and has much to say to us today.

Pam, A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles, 4.5:  Set in Moscow in 1922 – an aristocrat has been arrested and sentenced to house arrest in an upscale hotel in Moscow – you watch Russia change – learn about the old Russia from his conversations.  Really intriguing part is about the 2 girls he meets. Really great read and he is a good writer – she just kept reading and reading – couldn’t put it down.

 

September 20, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Next meeting, 10/18, will be Swing Time by Zadie Smith with the discussion lead by Mimi.

Kathleen, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, 4.5:  Story of a young woman in her 20’s who had a terrible childhood – she is very lonely but gradually learns to make her way in life, including making friends. It is told from her point of view. Just a lovely story.  Sonya (and her sister, Marla) also listened to the book reading and really enjoyed it.

 

Shelagh, The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father by Kao Kalia Yang, 5.0:  Beautifully written biography of Yang’s father. She chronicles his (and their family’s) flight from the mounts of Laos into a Thai refugee camp.  Written in his voice, then takes on their immigration and its attendant hardships to Minnesota in her own voice.  Often heartbreaking, always through-provoking and stays with you long after you’re finished reading it.

Dave, Timeline by Michael Crichton, 2.0:  Time travel back to medieval times, and of course they get stuck their and of course one of them is a bad guy.  Really bad HG Wells

Sonya, There is a Mystery There: The Primal Vision of Maurice Sendak by Jonathan Cott, 5.0 so far:  Only about halfway through it – was thinking of recommending it for book club pick along with Outside Over There – the children’s book Maurice wrote – the 3rd book in the trilogy which began with Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.   Apparently,  he uses Outside Over There “brilliantly and originally, as the key to understanding just what made this extravagantly talented man tick.”  What a fascinating man – I have recently read the last book he wrote which was about his brother whom he loved fiercely.  I will report more on this book next time.

Mimi, The Force by Don Winslow, 4.75:  Excellent cop novel about a cynical-cop-from-an-elite-squad-whose-life-starts-to-unravel. Dialog is spot on.  So I went & read another novel of his, Cartel (just what it sounds like), also well done, but so violent it was hard to get through.

Simpson, Casebook (FIC), 3.75:   Mona Simpson’s 1st novel, Anywhere but Here, was a delight, & I’m always a little disappointed that her following work doesn’t measure up (in my opinion).  A novel about a boy and his friend who become obsessed with spying on their parents, to find out what their secrets are.
Bogarde, Cleared for Takeoff (memoir), 3.5.  Dirk Bogarde was a British actor who appeared in about a million films.  Picked this up from a little library – it’s well done. Veddy British.

 

Jon, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, 5.0:  This is his second reading of the book – fantastic speaker – just a great book.  And the rereading is still a great book, so many passages like a good old friend.

Paul, The Zero by Jess Walter, 4.5:  Unsure if he read it or reread it.  It came out 10 years ago – loves everything he has written.  It starts off with the main character shooting himself in the head – takes place in the aftermath of 9/11 – plot device is that he loses track of what he has done – short-term memory loss – written in the same way with ellipses – in the middle of a sentence, and it stops.  Big pieces are missing in the book and missing for him as well. Very much tied into 9/11 and not knowing what is going on – takes place in NYC.

Mary, History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, 4.75:  On the Booker shortlist.  Incredibly well done, about an adolescent girl, became more and more captivated by it

Tim, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 5.0 /5:  The novel, set in Barcelona in the period following the Spanish Civil War, concerns a young boy, Daniel Sempere. Just after the war, Daniel’s father takes him to the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge library of old, forgotten titles lovingly preserved by a select few initiates. According to tradition, everyone initiated to this secret place is allowed to take one book from it and must protect it for life. Daniel selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. That morning he takes the book home and reads it, completely engrossed. Daniel then attempts to look for other books by this unknown author but can find none. All he comes across are stories of a strange man—calling himself Laín Coubert, after a character in the book who happens to be the Devil—who has been seeking out Carax’s books for decades, buying and burning them all.  There is a story within a story that is hard to put down.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 4.0/5 
A riveting book about love, literature, and betrayal. In this thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. He is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. As he begins the works he realizes that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and he believes that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own.

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 5.0 /5
A labyrinthine tale of love, literature, passion, and revenge in which the heroes of The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game must contend with a nemesis that threatens to destroy them.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett 5.0 /5
This mystery Set in Depression Era San Francisco introduces the world to Samuel Spade. The story is full of suspense and unfolds with many surprises.

Underground Airlines by Ben H Winters 4/5
A story that takes place in modern America but it is an America where the civil war did not take place and slavery is still practiced in 4 States.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 5 /5
A 1969 autobiography about the early years of American writer and poet Maya Angelou. A very moving account of her early life.

Marla, Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden, 4.0:   About Native Americans who become snipers in WWI.

Kitty, Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer, 3.75: Perhaps expected too much of it, memoir of woman in Seattle.

Cashew, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, 5.0 (an emphatic 5.0!):   Recommend every person read it.  It is her first book, very authentic voice about what it is like to live in an impoverished community in America, a black woman who is trying to succeed and yet live life on the edge.

Pam, Sing Buried Sing by Jesmyn Ward, 5.0:  On an African American streak of reading.  I is beautifully written and very compelling, post-Katrina, mostly black characters with 1 white person, there is a road trip, a drug addict is taking her toddler to pick up the dad in prison, wonderful loving grandparents, lots of richness, and what the ghosts bring to the story is very rich in terms of spiritually and folklore.  Gorgeously rich, straight on to the end.
Shakespeare and Company: Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, Edited by Krista Halverson, 5.0 (definitely):  Fascinating history about George Whitman’s English Language book store and lending library in Paris, founded in 1951 and later renamed after Sylvia Beach’s famous book store, Shakespeare and Company (1919-1941), which the Nazis closed in 1941. Narrative history of the store, told by the decade, is enhanced with an assortment of photos, letters by Tumbleweeds (people who “lived” there for days or extended periods, in exchange for helping out and reading books), newspaper articles, poems (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Morrison) and artwork. Interesting history of the store,the times, and of the political movements in Paris through the decades. Visually delicious.

August 16, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Next meeting, 9/20, will be book pick night.  Please click on “About” for more information.

The evening’s book discussion was Nutshell by Ian McEwan lead by Dave:  The first item of discussion was whether or not the book is part of the series of modern authors’ takes on Shakespeare’s plays (i.e. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood on The Tempest) and Tom settled it by looking it up and found that it is not part of that series.  It was an enthusiastic discussion, and it was generally agreed that though there were some similarities to Hamlet, it was not a plot-driven similarity.

Pam, Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, 5.0:  An novel about a dad and his 4 kids who live in poverty – each is trying to survive the loss of the mom, the elder daughter’s way of coping is sex – each had their own way of coping.  Set over just 12 days.  Hurricane Katrina is brooding.  The book is worth reading just for the writing itself – powerful, poetic, good description of Katrina.

Mimi, Pictures at a Revolution: 5 Movies & the Birth of the New Hollywood, by Harris, 4.75:  It is the story of the 5 movies nominated for best picture in 1967, Dr. Doolittle, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, The Graduate.  It is about how the movies were conceived, cast, politics, funded, stories about the cast.  She read about the book in Nick Hornby’s book, 10 Years in the Tub.  Tom also highly recommends it – fun and gossipy yet a lot of meat to it.

Miller & Shales: Live from New York (NF):  I must be on a show business kick.  The story of how SNL came to be.  Interesting.  I guess if you’re a fanatic, then it would be a must-read.  3.5
Perry, The Old Man (FIC) – Thomas Perry just isn’t the same since he married off Jane Whitefield.  Clever, but I wasn’t blown away.  3
Russo, Trajectory (FIC) – latest short story collection from Richard Russo.  As usual, his stories are funny & well-written, but there wasn’t one that totally grabbed me.  4.

Helen, Lolita by Nabokov:  Confusing and hard book to read but definitely a 5.0

Tim:  Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, 5.0:  equal parts history, romance, suspense.   Page-turner – as good as The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.  Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense.  Diana is a bold heroine witch who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, 5.0:  America’s most approachable astrophysicist distills the past, present, and (theoretical) future of the cosmos into a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read for a general audience. It does help to know some science.

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain, 4.0: In this sequel to a Murder in Time, we meet an irritated Kendra Donovan, whose attempt to get back to her own time has failed. When Duke of Aldridge’s nephew is accused of murder, Kendra quickly shifts into FBI agent mode to clear his name. What follows is a fast-paced murder investigation throughout London.  It was a fun read but not as good as the first book.

Leah, 1Q84  by Haruki Murakami, 5.0:  Set in Japan, Japanese author, magical realism, set in the real world in 1984 and in an alternate 1984.  Switches between the two main characters, certain little details they notice.  Raises interesting questions – the two main characters don’t know who the other is – interesting dynamic figuring it out.  Recommends starting with Wind up Bird Chronicle if you have never read anything by Murakami.

Sonya, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, 4.76:  At least 4 others in the book group have already read this one, and they all seem to agree – well worth reading.  About a “older” man in his late 60’s who is a widower and retired, lives in a small village in England and how hidden prejudices run us all to some extent whether we acknowledge them or not.  Love the characters (except for his shallow son who I wanted to slap!).  Very fun.

Dave, Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman, 5.0: A play in 3 acts.  She lived from 1905 – 1984, very popular author, until she got caught in the McCarthy era.  The play is a genre work, set in WWII – somewhat propagandish, set in the drawing room of a rich heiress, stock characters – black butler, French maid, refugee resistance family, totally evil eastern European.  It is a drawing room comedy which starts out slowly and ends up very powerful.  Dashiel Hammet was her partner/lover.

Shelagh, Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, 4.7:  Reminds her of Diane Ackerman – lovely way of combing facts and figures, observing, personal observations, describes their whole consciousness – Sy drops her filter as a human, and observes how they absorb info.  Loves her infectious enthusiasm.  Great read.

Tom, Henry David Thoreau, A Life by Laura Walls, 5.0:  Read Tom’s full review in his newsletter.  This bio had a lot of advance press – calling it the the definitive biography, it is not a challenging format – wonderfully done straight up biography, doesn’t dump everything she has learned into the book – feels very judicious – how deeply and constantly connected he was to his friends, community and other people and how that built his identity – almost a page-turner.

Kjerste, Erotic Stories by Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, 4.0:  Very fun read, and totally admit picking it up because of the title.  Set in London, woman’s parents are from India –  interesting how widows are treated, and how they take their identity back.

Kathleen, The House Among the Trees by Julia Glass, 5.0:  This book is about a children’s author, as the book starts, he has died – how his money is going elsewhere and about all of the various characters.  After finishing the book, started another book but didn’t like it after reading this one – uggghhh.

Marla, Return to Oak Pine by Ron Carlson:  Takes place in a small town in Wyoming, an ill man returns to his town, 30 years previous, he was part of a rock band, goes through how these people have changed.  This books wasn’t quite as good as his others.

Kitty, Hamlet by Shakespeare, 5.0:  That guy can really write….!

July 19, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Book Discussion was Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin lead by Pam:  The main takeaway most of the readers agreed upon is that how relevant his thoughts are and how little has seemed to change in terms of racism.  There was much spirited discussion about racism and xenophobia.

Marla, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, 5.0:  He also wrote Reluctant Fundamentatlist.  This book is an intriguing and imaginative way of dealing with refugees – how one becomes a refugee and the process – there are doors to choose from and you have no idea what is the other end.  Really good and fascinating read.

Pam, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie, 4.75:  They saw him at Town Hall – he was amazing – book is a memoir about his life with his mother.  Many hilarious stories – at one point, people were laughing so hard that they were sobbing.  He is an amazing performance artist – talks a lot about his mother who lived on the Spokane reservation and is one of the last speakers of the language.  Loved the book.  He is actually cancelling the remainder of his book tour because the grief was too much to live through each day.

Tim, The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, 5.0:  This book is about two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their story is extremely interesting as is the work that they did on decision making and the ways in which the human mind systematically erred when forced to make judgments about uncertain situations.  Kahneman received the Nobel price in Economics for his work with Tversky.  They spent years looking at how people make decisions – for example in Israel – they came up with a way of deciding which people fit in best in the military – America even asked for them to consult.

Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black, 3.5:  Benjamin Black turns his eye to 16th century Prague and a story of murder, magic and the dark art of wielding extraordinary power.  It is a mystery but one that did not hold my interest although I did read to the conclusion.  I like his other mysteries much better.

Wayfarers in the Cosmos – The Human Quest for Meaning by George V. Coyne, S.J. and Alessandro Omizzolo, 3.5:  The authors present the history of human understandings of the heavens to arrive at a deep understanding of the cosmos.  I heard George Coyne many years ago on PBS and found his style of speaking very clear.  He has a point of view that is certainly God-centered but his telling of most of the history was very well presented.

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain, 4.5:  About a brilliant FBI profiler, Kendra Donovan, who stumbles back in time and finds herself in a 19th century English castle under threat from a vicious serial killer.  She scrambles to solve the case before it takes her life – 200 years before she was even born.

Mimi, Swell: A Novel by Jill Eisenstadt, 4.0:   Set in Rockaway Queens New York, it is about a very old lady in a crumbling beach side house – a bunch of immigrants – one ends up in her kitchen – she shoots her grown son and even though she admits that she shot him, everyone thinks the immigrant did it – there are many cranky eccentric people.

John, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart, 2.0:  John’s son strongly encouraged him to read it.  It seems to be a bit of a rip-off of Harry Potter and is inferior – the writing is not nearly as good as in Harry Potter

Paul, Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, 4.75:  Series of short stories – common theme is “what do things mean” – a lot of what ifs.  One was about memory – if you could see in the future – memory of what is going to happen and what has happened – what does that do for a sense of loss – memory of future – what does that do for free will.  There is another about heaven and hell and god – more transactional – if you do certain things, you will go to heaven – the protagonist follows them all, but still gets sent to hell.

Kjerste, Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple, 4.0:  A sweet novel – a mystery –  set in Seattle – about her life with her husband and child – Seattle idiosyncrasies – nice summer read

Dave, Wycliffe’s translation of Genesis:  He is studying how does it actually jive with King James – two translations – one follows the Latin grammar – he is perhaps one-quarter of the way into the book.  Wycliffe was excommunicated after he died.

Sonya, The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer, 4.5:  I am only 50% finished, but so far, it is definitely a 4.5.  It is not only about Timbuktu and how one man in particular, Abdel Haidaira, has saved so many of the historical books, scrolls, documents from that region, but about the history of Al Queada.  I will let you know next month whether it should keep its 4.5 rating or whether it should be less or more!

Shelagh, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, 5.0:  Loved it! A young adult novel about moving into a new town – negotiating a horrible home life – makes friend with another kid – bonds over mixed tapes and psychedelic fur.  The writing was really strong – had both points of view – creative strong beautiful language – sheer joy of reading it!

Julie, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, 3.0:  Julie’s dad used to work at long acres – found it to be soap operaish.  It was amusing but overly melodramatic.

Kitty, What Should I do with my Life? The True Story of People who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson, 5.0:   Non fiction – collection of essays – lots of people stories and how they figured out what to do with their lives – every story is framed with a point – they all hang together – his writing really grabbed her – no matter what he writes – kept wanting to read the next story.

Tom, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York by Francis Spufford, 4.75:   See his full review in his Newsletter.  He likes to research books that gets lots of buzz in the UK – this one won lots of awards – he wrote many other fiction books.  This one is set in 1743 in New York – a young man shows up on the shores of NYC and he has lots of money – the story of a mysterious stranger – super fun and inventive language – weird – thought it was a hoot – tore through it.

Kathleen, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders, 4.25:  Based on a true incident – Lincoln’s beloved son died at the beginning of the war – Lincoln visited the tomb.  The Bardo is the world between the 2 worlds – some people don’t know that they are dead and some do know that they are dead – but you are not supposed to hang out there for long – weird and hilarious  (Note from Tom – audio book is great – many different voices – highly recommended).