April 18, 2018: “Read & Tell”

The book discussion this evening was on Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward – lead by Pam.

Next book club meeting on 5/16:  Book Picks Night

Bring a book to recommend, each person gets to talk about their recommended book for a couple minutes, and after all have talked about their book, we each get to vote for 6 books. We then negotiate dates for leading the book discussions for the top 6 books.  All selected book club books are available at Phinney Books in paperback and, you get 15% off of the book.  There are only a few guidelines for selected books:

  • Must be in paperback
  • Must be available for purchase from Phinney Books

 


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 Humans: A Novel, by Matt Haig, 4.75:  Based on part of the description, you could possibly describe this book as sci-fi but really it is just what the title says – being human. An alien takes over a human body and is repulsed but eventually becomes aware of how amazingly wonderful it is to be human. He is a thoughtful writer, made me laugh and shed a few tears.  I recommended another of his books to a friend who is suffering from depression – Reasons to Stay Alive.

Dave:  Other than the book club book, he read bits and pieces about a lot of things, including neuroscience.

Karen, The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story by Janet Gleeson, 5.0: It is about pasionn, greed, enslavement, theft – in essence, about porcelain. In the 18th century, the  royalty coveted porcelain – came only from China – and was very very very expensive – they would do anything for it.  One rich person traded 600 soldiers for 60 porcelain vases – it is a really thrilling read.

Tom, Country Dark by Chris Offutt, 4.8:  Read his review in the Phinney Book Newsletter #182.  He compares the author to Raymond Carver – he comes from rural Kentucky, and hasn’t published fiction for 20 years.  It is set in the 50’s through 70’s – comes back from Korea – country noir – well told and observed, page turner, phenomenal – 4.8.

Happiness by Aminta Forna, 4.7

Paul, Ideas of Heaven by Joan Silber, 4.74:  It is 5 or 6 stories that are linked together by a minor character who will be the major character in another story.  The general themes are “people becoming who they really are” and “people who have an idea of what will satisfy them or make them happy and what happens when they don’t get that.”

Deanna, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, 4.5:  Loved reading it – a story over many generations and how the government and political decisions carried down to a personal level – the writing was beautiful – felt timeless.

Kris, House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, 5.0:  A family saga – mexican-american family – revolves around 2 events – funeral of matriarch and the 70th b-day of one of her sons – reaches back in time to tell the story – different mothers – really rich!

Pam, Brother I am Dying  by Edwidge Danticat, 4.0:  A memoir of growing up in Haiti – takes you right into the nasty gangs, she and her brother stayed behind in Haiti while parents went on to the U.S. – aunt and uncle raised them for awhile, but the dad and uncle were quite close – back and forth between the U.S. and Haiti – gave a good feeling for the life and the extreme poverty there.

Marla, Ill Will by Dan Shaon, 4.0:  This is a dark tale – really well written – about damaged people who go around damaging other people – not a favorite read.

Mimi, The Immortalitsts by Chloe Benjamin, 4.0:  About 4 siblings who live on the lower Eastside during a hot summer – they see a gypsy woman who predicts their lives – it is about how each of them deal with the information they were given – everything from short to long lives – how do you choose to live your life?

Jennifer, The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 4.75:  It is a young adult’s book which handles complex themes – two children who sneak away from their abusive mother by evacuating themselves from London – follows these children from 41 to 43 during WW2 – presents the time period really well.

Jon:  Went rafting down the green river in Utah which has an amazing landscape – found it a shame that Humboldt didn’t make it to that area – rivers cutting through rock and seeing the layers – he would have been quite fascinated!

Tim, The Immortal Irishman by Timothy Egan 4.8/:  (the Irish revolutionary who became an American hero).  This is the epic story of one of the most fascinating and colorful Irishman in nineteenth-century America. Meagher’s live sweeps through some of the key events in Irish and American history. After first showing his resistance to English rule and his violent opposition to it, we see him in the United States, where the almost equally vexing treatment of the Irish by American immigrants who had established themselves in the country a bit earlier than these Irish newcomers. Meagher stood out as one of the great public speakers of the age, and his heroism on the battlefields of the Civil War makes him a major, if peripheral figure in that conflict. But the genius of this books is how much it makes us understand so many things. The Irish Question, Resistance to English rule, Migration to America, The abuse of the Irish in the United States, The reasons why many went to war against the South, The Question of Slavery, The Civil War itself, along with many of its greatest battles, The end of the War, Western expansion, and we finally learn just how wild the wild west could be. All these aspects of Irish and American life are masterfully told..

The Magic of Recluce by L.E. Modesitt Jr 4.5:  Lerris, a bored magician’s apprentice, embarks on a quest for knowledge–called the dangergeld–during which he encounters the magic of the Chaos wizards and battles the Archenemy of Order.

Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony by Marcia Bartusiak 4.0:  (THE STORY OF A GAMBLE, TWO BLACK HOLES AND A NEW AGE OF ASTRONOMY).  Marcia Bartusiak reports on an aspect of Astronomy. She tells us about the new generation of observatories, showing the motivations of the detectors’ creators and the gamble they made to prove Einstein right when all other attempts had failed. She traces the quest of astronomers to build the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, the most accurate measuring devices humans have created, and the discovery of gravitational waves, revealing the brilliance, personalities, and luck required to start a new age of astronomy.

Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann 4.0:  (Saying No to the CULTURE OF NOW)  Discussions about the Sabbath often center around moralistic laws and arguments over whether a person should be able to play cards or purchase liquor on Sundays. In this volume, the author writes that the Sabbath is not simply about keeping rules but rather about becoming a whole person and restoring a whole society. Importantly, Brueggemann speaks to a 24/7 society of consumption, a society in which we live to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess. We want more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more. Keeping the Sabbath allows us to break this restless cycle and focus on what is truly important.

 

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March 21, 2018: “Read & Tell”

The book discussion this evening was on The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf – lead by Jon.

Next book club meeting on 4/18:  Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward lead by Pam.


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!”

Dave read School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith. 5 star rating.
Jon read The Darling by Russell Banks.  3
Kjersti read Hamilton by Ron Chernow 3
Kathleen read the Monk of Mokha 5  Dave Eggers
Shelagh read 1947 When Now Begins Elisabeth Ashbrink 5
Leah read Eruption, Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson 4
Mimi read Bill Bryson’s One Summer 4
Tim read Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape our Decisions by
  Dan Ariely  5
Marla read Men Explain Things to Me Rebecca Solnit 4
Tom read All the Pieces Matter The Inside Story of the Wire Jonathan Abrams 5
Jennifer  read Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson 4.5
Deanna read The Quartet by Joseph Ellis 3.5
Lilly read Sherman Alexie, You Don’t Have to Say You love me (unrated)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.