Another Turn of the Page: No Matter What Happens, We Keep Reading

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
Mark Twain

This book group meeting occurred right after the Friends of the Library’s Big Book Sale and just before they geared up for the Give-a-Kid-a Book campaign. This is the Friend’s program to get new donated books from the community to give to children in need. We distribute the books the same day as the Toys for Tots. I don’t work the tables during distribution anymore. It is a joyful job but also exhausting and heart-breaking. There are more families than you can imagine who come through those doors. All have first registered with the Salvation Army so they are truly in need. But I say all this because I have been immersed in books lately and I am hoping the quote by Mark Twain is true because then I am a really smart person or maybe just a smartass. I hope a lot of books find their way under your Christmas tree so you can be smart too. See ya after the holidays.

What we read in November:

1. Midnight Champagne by A. Manette Ansay (1999) 240 pages. The time-frame is a single evening where a family wedding is occurring during a mid-western blizzard. April and Caleb have known each other for just three short months, so their Valentine’s Day wedding at a chapel near the shores of Lake Michigan has their families in an uproar.

2. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (2000) 354 pages. Set in the Virginia hills, with a charming cast of quirky, lovable personalities, this heart-warming story revolves around the narrator, one Ave Maria, the town’s self-proclaimed spinster who is a thirty-five year old pharmacist.

3. Devil’s Code by John Sandford (2000) 354 pages. This is book 3 of the Kidd books. In this book we learn more about the Kidd and LuEllen relationship and also about Kidd’s relationships in the hacker community as one of his fellow hackers gets killed and Kidd gets involved. The Fool’s Run is book #1. These books were originally written under the pseudonym John Camp.

4. Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life by Graham Nash (2013) 360 pages. From Graham Nash, the legendary musician and founding member of the iconic bands Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies, comes a candid and riveting autobiography that belongs on the reading list of every classic rock fan.

5. Line of Vision by David Ellis (2001) 448 pages. Marty Kalish has been accused of murdering his lover’s husband. He had motive. He was at the scene of the crime. He manipulated evidence to hide his guilt. He even confessed. But wait, there’s more! (This book won the 2002 Best First Novel Award for an American Author.)

6. Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach (2000) 281 pages. Set in the 1600’s during the Tulip mania in Amsterdam, this story is about Sophia, who has been married off to an old merchant, but falls in love with Jan van Loos, the painter who comes to do the couple’s portrait.

7. The Bookseller by Mark Pryor (2012) 300 pages. Hugo Marston series #1, Max—an elderly Paris bookstall owner—is abducted at gunpoint. His friend, Hugo Marston, head of security at the US embassy, looks on helplessly, powerless to do anything to stop the kidnapper. Marston launches a search, enlisting the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green. A pretty good mystery for a first novel but the star of the show is the Paris setting.

8. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories by Lee Child (2017) 432 pages. Eleven previously published stories and a thrilling new novella. These are tales from his childhood to an active military role, to the current lone wanderer. And just let me say for the record, Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher.

9. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas (1929) 314 pages. The author was a minister before he became a writer. This was his first book written and published after he retired from the pulpit around 1928. Saved from drowning, carefree playboy Robert Merrick learns the price that was paid by eminent Dr. Wayne Hudson. This transforms his life to continue Hudson’s work and make amends to those closest to the late surgeon as well as to the community. But to accomplish this, Merrick must learn Hudson’s secret.

10. The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance and Hope by Amy Goodman (2012) 342 pages. This book chronicles Goodman’s writings from 2009 until 2012 on a variety of topics such as Occupy Wall Street, Veterans’ suicide, the Afghan War, WikiLeaks, Gun control, police brutality, the Obama presidency and much more. Amy Goodman is an investigative, truthful journalist and the host of the news show, Democracy Now!

11. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck (2014) 384 pages. This novel revolves around the lives of the fictional seamstress Laura Kelley and the real poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and the relationship which develops between them in an upstate New York town.

12. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (2017) 386 pages. Nel Abbot was found dead in the river, just a few short months after the death of her daughter’s best friend Katie in similar circumstances. Nel’s sister Jules, searches for clues about her sister’s death. Was it an accident, a suicide or murder? This book is by the author of, Girl on a Train. Our reviewer loved that book but was not impressed with this one.

 

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Another Turn of the Page: Slaves and Orphans

“Great readers (are) those who know early that there is never going to be time to read all there is to read, but do their darnedest anyway.”
Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond

Of the 14 books discussed this time, about a third of them were about slaves or orphans. Are there just a lot of books out there about slaves and orphans or is my book group into bondage and homelessness? Nah! Just a coincidence but I am always amazed how themes pop up in this group of very different people most of whom never see each other until we get together for book group. In the list I will mark these particular titles with an asterisk.  Hey!! TOUCHDOWN!  Oh don’t mind me, I am typing and watching the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints. Talk about multi-tasking…..:)

1. The Good People by Hannah Kent (2016) 384p.* This is a tale of the lore and superstitions of Ireland in the 1800s, a place and time where fairies are seen in a different light. The book opens with the death of Nora’s husband Martin. Because of her daughter’s death and her son-in-law not wanting him, Nora is now left to be the sole caretaker of her grandson, a four year old that can neither talk nor walk and screams constantly at night.

2. Fallout by Sarah Paretsky (2017) 448p.   V.I. Warshawski #18   Private Eye Warshawski leaves Chicago to head to Kansas to find a missing actress and the documentarian hired to film her “origin story.”  The two have gone missing and the clannish locals don’t want to discuss it.

3. Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (1998) 505p.*  The author, a descendant of South Carolina slave masters, sets out to trace the lineage of the slaves who lived on his ancestors’ plantations. Through amazing detective work, Ball is able to locate and re-tell the story of many of his family’s slaves, some of whom were the offspring of master-slave sexual relations, and therefore distant relatives.

4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 305p.* Spanning centuries and continents, this novel follows two families, one from the slave trading Fante nation and another from the Asante warrior nation, in the British colony that is now Ghana. This novel has won the American Book Award for 2017, among other honors.

5. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011) 359p. This thriller is about a woman who has amnesia and cannot remember her memories from day to day. Determined to discover who she is, she begins keeping a journal before she goes to sleep, before she can forget again. The truth may be more than she can handle.

6. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) 288p.* A novel based on an historical truth. “Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. ” – Goodreads

7. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain (2003) 240p.* From the author of the bestseller The Paris Wife, this book is a powerful and haunting memoir of the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children.

8. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck (2015) 403p. This book of historical fiction  focuses on the relationship and marriage between the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his wife Sophia, who excelled at drawing and painting and was an artist in her own right. The book is told from Sophia’s point of view.

9. Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak (2017) 310p. This is the true love story that was fictionalized and written into Dr. Zhivago. The author is the granddaughter of Boris Pasternak’s sister Josephine and had considerable access to a lot of family members and archives.

10. The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley (2013) 484p. Nicola Marter is able to touch an object and get glimpses of those who have owned it before. A woman arrives one day at the gallery where Nicola works. She has a small wooden carving of a bird and claims it is an artifact called The Firebird, owned by the 18th century Empress Catherine of Russia. Nicola believes her. But in order to prove this, Nicola must ask for help from a friend and former lover, Rob McMorran, whose psychic gift is even stronger.


11. Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016) 264p. The author, a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, gives a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town. This book offers a broader look at the struggles of America’s white working class. (Touted as a book that explains the rise of Trump. Try to put your political leanings aside and read this with an open mind.)

12. The Bible by Inspired Authors (First printed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s) King James Version published in 1611. 1590p.* Sue, one of our members, said she didn’t have a book to report on this month because she is taking a 6 week course on The Bible, and that is all she’s been reading. I felt I should include it in our list, and it also has orphans and slaves.

13. The Store by James Patterson (2017) 259p. One of Patterson’s latest about a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had. Hmm, sounds a lot like Amazon.

14. The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello (2014) 358p. A bunch of gossipy suburban moms get together and start googling other moms to gossip about. Caroline, a mother of two, decides to beat them to it and googles herself. What she finds out shocks her.

Another Turn of the Page: Back to the Beginning

“Harry — I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”
And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
What does she understand?” said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
“Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“But why’s she got to go to the library?”
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging.
“When in doubt, go to the library.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Over the last year we have been talking about moving our wonderful round table book group from the coffee shop where we meet every second Thursday to someplace that is quieter. Since its humble beginnings back in, hmm, I think 2004, when I was still a librarian, a fledgling group met to present the books they were reading in this unique place. Surrounded by books and coffee, tea and pastry, it was perfect. I blogged here about this beginning and its first transition in 2011. But then it grew and so did we. As The Attic grew, more and more people competed for tabes and more coffee was sold and thus the sound of the espresso machine grinding coffee was a constant reminder that we weren’t in our own private room. Our little group also grew. Where we once had 4 – 6 people on a good day, we now had 12 -14. We would crowd around the tables, (sometimes three tables pushed together) and try to hear our fellow book lovers discuss their latest read. Not everyone has a loud, projecting teacher voice and frankly some of us are not hearing as well as we did 10 years ago, so many were missing out on complete presentations. So we talked about other locations. Most eateries or coffee shops aren’t interested in a big noisy group who camp out for 2 hours, they want to turn tables. That is why The Attic and its owner, Bill Macier was special. I finally thought, why not go back to the library? The only reason we started here was because it began as an outreach program but I retired in 2010!  We tried it last month. The room we chose was cold but the sound was great. We agreed to give it another go. So our September meeting is in a different room which we hope will be warmer. It does have softer chairs. Our biggest regret is the lack of coffee but I told our group, stop in The Attic and grab a cup before heading over to the meeting. It’s the least we can do for our host for all these years.

1. Mother Land by Paul Theroux (2017) 509p. A novel of a family held together and torn apart by its narcissistic matriarch who excels at playing her offspring against each other. Our reviewer liked the writing but found it overly long and repetitive.

2. Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (2009) 349p. “Eloquent, illuminating tale about frontier life in Northern Texas between 1864-1871. Based on a true story, this novel is also graphic and bloody in its descriptions of the capture and dispatching of frontiers’ people  by Kiowa and Comanche.” -Goodreads

3. Cutthroat by Clive Cussler (2017) 393p. Isaac Bell series #10. The year is 1911. Chief Investigator Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency has been hired to find a young woman named Anna Pape who ran away from home to become an actress, Bell gets a shock when her murdered body turns up instead.

4. End of Watch by Stephen King (2016) 432p. Bill Hodges series #3. This is the 3rd book in the series. Our reviewer read it not realizing this fact. Our recommendation: Excellent series but start with Mr. Mercedes, followed by Finders Keepers.

5. Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (2017) 320p. A contemporary thriller featuring a deaf protagonist. It will keep you turning the pages from the shocking opening to the twisty turning ending. It was a good summer read (or anytime of the year.)

6. Wanted Man by Lee Child (2012) 405p. Jack Reacher #17. Jack Reacher novels. They’re formulaic, completely predictable, and the action scenes are fun, in a big body count kind of way. Usually they are stand-alones but this one isn’t going to make too much sense unless you read the previous book, Worth Dying For. Odds are, if you are a Reacher fan you’ve read it, and even though this is a weak entry in the series, you won’t care.

7. Caesar by Colleen McCullough (1997) 752p. Masters of Rome #5. Excellent historical fiction. McCullough does her homework and her writing breathes life into Julius Caesar as he transforms from a master politician to a brutal military genius. This whole series has received excellent reviews and can be read out of order.

8. The Nest by Cynthis D’Aprix Sweeney ( 2016) 368p. The title of the book refers to a “nest egg” as we follow four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their lives.

9. A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita (2016) 320p. On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree—becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. This is her story.

10. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (2010) 352p.Considered a light beach read, Weiner’s latest story is about four women whose lives become entwined by circumstance (one baby). The story unfolds as each chapter is devoted to the point of view of an individual character.

11. Second Sister by Marie Bostwick (2015) 352p. A powerful story of two sisters, one who is loving, caring, and a bit odd, the other, a workaholic who lives life in the fast lane and just wants to forget the past and focus on the future. An unexpected tragedy occurs with Alice (the eldest) that forces her younger sister (Lucy) to come back to her roots.

 

Well those are the last books of August. Will we say farewell to this special place or go back in October? I will report back after our next meeting.

The Attic: Books & Coffee, 730 Bodart St., Green Bay, Wisconsin

Another Turn of the Page: June Reads

“I’ve always loved joining clubs–although,
in truth, they’re usually book clubs.”
Gitty Daneshveri

reading program

I really hate to do two book posts back to back but I’ve been having a writing dry spell.  All my creative juices have been going into bookmaking, gardening, embroidery and travel. So you are stuck with another reading post. Now that shouldn’t be too bad. Summer reading programs at libraries across the country are in full swing so I am betting that some of you are looking for a great read to get to that next prize level. Or not. After I retired from the library I joined the reading club every year. When I was a Librarian I wasn’t allowed to participate because it wouldn’t look right, I guess, for the worker bees to win prizes. For adults this usually amounted to free coffee certificates at a local cafe or a cool bookmark, not exactly trips or flat screen TVs. But I understand. So after I retired I participated for about 5 years. Never won anything and frankly I didn’t need an incentive to read, so last year I didn’t join. Now I am not saying you shouldn’t sign up. If you have kids or grandkids it is a great way to read along with them. Or maybe you do need that extra push to open up more than one book in the summer. Reading Programs are right for you.

So, looking for a book to take on vacation? Will one more book get you to the Star Reader level? Try one of these:

july17

  1. Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson (2013) 146p A short sweet novella featuring Walt Longmire. Very much like the Christmas books many other authors release once a year, so don’t expect an involved plot. However if you enjoy the Longmire series this is an added treat.
  2. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff (2014) 252p A memoir about literary New York in the late nineties where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century, J.D. Salinger.

  3. A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (2017) 320p  Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, is based on a real woman named Christina, who is restricted by a crippling disease she was born with that only worsens as she gets older. This novel examines both her life on a farming ranch in Maine and the painting.

  4. Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2017) 432p Beartown is a small town in Sweden that is slowly but surely fading away. It is a hockey town (think ‘Friday Night Lights’ in Texas) and too many of the residents financial futures are tied to this sport.  Hockey is the business of Beartown. Winning is everything.
    But when a tragic event occurs the people of this small community are unsure where to place their faith anymore.  It is an inner look at how people, families, and teams in communities respond in the face of adversity. You don’t even have to like hockey to love this book.

  5. News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016) 209p  In the aftermath of the American Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people.

  6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016) 462p  In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat who has written seditious poetry, is sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He is removed from his suite of rooms there to a dusty attic room. His life might appear to be over, but you will be surprised at the life he eventually lives.
    .
  7. The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (2016) 384p  Peter Ash returns from two stints in Iraq with a severe case of claustrophobia. Once you learn how this affects his daily life you get tossed into a mystery thriller full of former military tough guys, a surprising discovery under an old rotted porch, and a mean, smelly 150 pound dog named Charles Mingus. First in a projected series featuring Peter Ash.

  8. Spy Sinker by Len Deighton (1992) 400p  The final volume of the second trilogy featuring British agent Bernard Samson. If you like British spy thrillers, at the very least, read Spy Hook and Spy Line before even thinking about this one.

  9. A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar (2002) 464p  The book is about the life story of John Forbes Nash – a mathematical genius and inventor of a theory of rational behaviour for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1994.

  10. Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline (2013) 374p  While Mike Scalon is serving in Afghanistan, his wife dies in an apparant household accident, leaving his baby daughter motherless. He has only 10 days back home to take care of business so he places his daughter temporarily with his brother and sister-in-law.  After he returns from overseas, he begins to find out that things are what they seem.

  11. And Then Life Happens: A Memoir by Auma Obama (2012) 342p   A moving account by Auma Obama about of her life in Africa and Europe, and her relationship with her brother, Barack Obama.

  12. A Wolf called Romeo by Nick Jans (2014) 288p The unlikely true story of a six-year friendship between a wild, oddly gentle black wolf and the people and dogs of Juneau, Alaska.

     
  13. The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson (2016) 432p This book contains several hundred of the letters written by Laura Ingalls Wilder that have been maintained in public and private collections.

 

Another Turn of the Page: The Summer Reading List

Remember when you looked forward to summer because you were out of school, you were free to sleep late, do nothing and read whatever you wanted to read. That was me. I loved to read and still do. However now I don’t have to look forward to summer to read whatever and whenever I want.

Just for fun I asked my book group members to each compose the list of books they were hoping to read this summer. I had no restrictions. It could be anything. Maybe it was the next new book coming out in the next three months by an author they love. It could be one book or 20.

Well, I wasn’t sure I’d get anything but many indulged me and put together a list. Some said they really didn’t have any plans. Once they finished the current book they would start looking for the next. Others remarked that when they were in high school summer meant required reading lists for the fall semester and that was no fun. They didn’t want to revive bad memories.  So if you are looking for the next book in your reading life, or you are just curious,for better or worse, here is our:

SUMMER READING LIST. Sorry, no annotations but you have Amazon. Look them up. Also if you want to see the list larger just click on it.

 

Another Turn of the Page: Books, Books, and more Books

“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.”
Arnold Lobel

Hello Dear Reader, reader of books and reader of my blog. I have been remiss in my posting of the books my Attic Book Group has been reading. A little vacation here, a little road trip there. House guests, a Birdathon, gardening..that, and more, has taken priority over my blogging. Have the book posts been missed? Maybe not but I still feel like it is important to report on actual books being read by serious people. Not matter if the book is a history of WWII or heart-warming family saga, they are all important to the life of the reader.

Now the problem I run into is two sessions are a lot of books and if I reported on them all this post would go on for days..or it may seem that way, so I have chosen to publish the most recent meeting, May, and just post pictures of April’s list. Hope that works for those of you ( probably 2 or 3) who enjoy the book posts. I promise June will be on time and awesome.1. The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict (2016) 304 pages. This fictional biography is the story of Einstein‘s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the Theory of Relativity is hotly debated. She may have inspired his discovery by her very personal insight but her contribution has been lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow.

2. Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade (2015) 416 pages.This historical novel, inspired by true events, is the story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.

3. Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles by David Thomson (1996) 463 pages. An intriguing no-holds-barred biography of Orson Welles, who produced, co-wrote, directed and starred in Citizen Kane at the young age of 26.

4. Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War by Ben Macintyre (2016) 400 pages. According to the author, much of this book has been held in secrecy for 70 years. He had full access to the WWII archives of the Special Air Service, better known as the SAS.

5. Last Bus for Wisdom by Ivan Doig (2016) 480 pages. This is a coming of age novel and the story of a journey, in more ways than one. It’s 1951 on a ranch in Montana, an orphan boy gets sent to his grand-aunt and uncle in Wisconsin while his beloved grandmother is having an operation.
During the bus trip across Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota on his way to Manitowoc, eleven year old Donny, decides to ask his fellow passengers to sign his memory book in the hope of making the world record for the largest collection of autographs and ditties. Note: Ivan Doig died shortly after this book was published.

6. Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer (2016) 288 pages. True story. To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven. ” Librarians are the secret masters of the universe.” – Spider Robinson

7. A Curious Mind: The Secret of a Bigger Life by Brian Grazier (2015) 320 pages. ‘Grazer has been holding what he calls “Curiosity Conversations” for much of his life with people he finds interesting. What he presents in this book are chapters praising the various virtues of curiosity mixed with stories about trying to meet people for these conversations.’ -Goodreads  Reviews of this book are definitely mixed.

8. Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family’s Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue and Redemption by Vinh Chung (2014) 368 pages. This is a true story of the author’s life in South Vietnam. His family was wealthy, controlling a rice-milling empire worth millions; but within months of the communist takeover in 1975 they lost everything and were reduced to abject poverty.

9. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (2016) 240 pages. A contemporary version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

10. Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy (2015) 416 pages. A post-apocalyptic re-imagining of the Lewis and Clark saga. Years after a devastating super flu and a resulting nuclear fallout from unattended power plants, Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark leave the failing St. Louis Sanctuary in search of hopefully an uncontaminated area. Expect monsters and unexplained science.

11. Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff (2017) 368 pages. Set in WWII, this is the story of Astrid, a Jewish woman hiding and sheltered in a traveling circus, and Noa, a younger Dutch woman who was cast out from her home when she became pregnant by a Nazi soldier. When Noa stumbles into the care of the circus the two women forge a special relationship.

12. Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller (2014) 304 pages. When 82-year-old American widower, Sheldon Horowitz goes to live with his granddaughter, Rhea and her Norwegian husband, Lars, in Olso, the last thing he expects is to find himself on the run from the police with a small boy in tow. But the ex-Marine, suffering dementia, has witnessed the murder of the boy’s mother and feels compelled to keep the boy safe.

 Below find April’s books. Sorry, no annotations but you know how to use Google. Click on picture for larger view of covers.

The Attic Book Group’s April selections

Another Turn of the Page: Hail to Librarians! It’s National Library Week

“Libraries raised me.”
― Ray Bradbury

“Librarians…possess a vast stone of politeness. These are people who get asked regularly the dumbest questions on God’s green earth. These people tolerate every kind of crank and eccentric and mouth-breather there is.”
Tatyana Eckstrand, The Librarian’s Book of Quotes

“Nonsense,” said another voice-Dr. Rust. “We’re librarians. When we don’t find what we’re looking for in the first place we look, we don’t give up.
We keep looking.”

― Polly Shulman

“That’s how librarians are. They just can’t help it.”
― Carla Morris

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
― Neil Gaiman

Calvin and Hobbes copyright, Bill Watterson

Yes, it is National Library Week and being a retired librarian I have a soft spot in my heart for libraries and librarians. That’s why I just couldn’t stop with one quote for my header this month. Every librarian I have known is described accurately by Polly Shulman’s quote. They not only keep looking for the answer, they keep looking till they find the perfect answer. The internet stops as soon as it finds something that satisfies the question.

The hunt, the chase, to find an answer was one of my favorite parts of being a librarian. It was like solving a mystery or getting the answer to riddle. Especially when the question was one like this,

” I need that book that’s called Shakespeare, but it’s spelled with a “Ch” and the author starts with M…”
This wasn’t one of mine but the librarian who actually got this question figured out the patron wanted the book Chesapeake, written by James Michener. Fiction questions like that always depended on the librarian being well-read and knowing how to question the patron. Even today the internet would be hard-pressed to answer that one.

Today fact based questions are much easier to answer with Google. Before the internet I got a question I’ll never forget, “How do you get the smell of a dead body out of a car?”

Back then, instead of calling the cops, after finding some material on cleaning and disinfecting, I referred the person to the health department but today you can get 41,000,000 hits if you ask Google that same question. Still, you might need a librarian to find the answer that most suits your particular odor and situation. In the reference interview a good librarian would have to find out whose body it was. The dog? The cat? The neighbor?

So here’s to those Masters of Information! Bring yours a nice gift this week like Neil Gaiman suggests. And here’s the books we read last month, many, thanks to librarians.

 

  1. Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford (2016) 384 pages. The Great War is over, and change is in the air, in this novel that brings to life the exciting days of early British radio…and one woman who finds her voice while working alongside the brilliant women and men of the BBC. Goodreads
  2. Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy (2016) 513 pages. A history about how the Romans were able to maintain a fairly stable empire for so many centuries with only a handful of notable rebellions. The term “Pax Romana,”  literally means “Roman peace,” and refers to the time period from 27 B.C.E. to 180 C.E. in the Roman Empire.
  3. The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (2009) 349 pages. Set in North Texas, this is the fictionalized version of, Britt Johnson, a slave freed immediately following the Civil War. His wife and children are kidnapped by Kiowa Indians and he rescues them single-handedly. Contains some graphic and bloody scenes.
  4. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans (2014) 284 pages. A heartwarming story about a ten-year old boy called Noel orphaned and evacuated from London to the small town of St. Albans during the blitz after the death of his guardian.
  5. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (2007) 394 pages. First in a series, this mystery is set in medieval Cambridge; its heroine, Adelia, is a “medical expert” or what we would term, a coroner. In this one she is called to examine the death of four children who the locals believe were victims of Jewish sacrifice.
  6. Tradition of Deceit by Kathleen Ernst (2014) 360 pages. Chloe Ellefson Mystery #5. A nice combination of  three different storylines. Roelke is in Milwaukee, and out of his jurisdiction, trying to find out who murdered his former partner. Chloe is in Minneapolis helping a fellow curator and restoration expert with the old Washburn Flour Mill, when the body of one of the local historians is found in the abandoned mill. Finally there is a flashback story to the late 1900’s of a Polish immigrant family, who worked in the mill. All three intersect in the end.
  7. A Separation by Katie Kitamura (2017) 231 pages. The narrator in this novel has separated from her cheating husband, Christopher, but her in-laws are still in the dark about their new status. So when she gets a call from her mother-in-law saying Christopher has gone missing while researching a book in Greece, she feels obligated to go looking for him. This has been touted as the next ‘Gone Girl’, but our reviewer didn’t find any similarities. She also found the book a bit slow.
  8. Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell (2015) 228 pages. Ruth Rendell has written mysteries for years and has been well liked, with a huge following. This is her last book before passing away in 2015. The publisher describes this book as “…an intriguing cat-and mouse-game of blackmail and murder. From diet pills, homeopathic cures, a desperate man who needs cash, a tenant, a friend, an opportunist, and a jealous neighbor. ” Unfortunately our reviewer found it disappointing.

Another Turn of the Page: And Then There Were Six

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Yes, you’ve guessed right, the Snowbirds have not returned. On top of that we have two members that keep forgetting to put our meeting time on their calendars and two others who are involved in a health study that meets at the same time. So there were six stalwart readers at last month’s round table gathering. Nevertheless, we managed to fill up the hour because we had time for discussion. When there are 14 in attendance I do have to keep everyone on task. I don’t expect March to be any larger but I do know it is always good when readers get together. 1. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2001) 336 pages. A coming-to-age novel set in South Carolina at the height of desegregation. Lily is a lovable pre-teen who’d grown up believing she killed her mother (accidentally) and is trying to escape a brutal, abusive father. Lily runs away with Rosaleen, a black servant, and finds herself in the home of three black beekeeping sisters.

2. Gone by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Michael Bennett series #6) (2013) 386 pages. This novel opens with the Bennett family in Witness Protection, as a crazed drug lord is after them in revenge for his wife’s death. Detective Bennett’s family is comprised of a huge clan of adopted children, Michael’s grandfather, and an Irish nanny.

3. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016) 340 pages. Laura Blacklock is a travel journalist given an assignment to cover the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise liner headed to see the Northern Lights. On her first night there she meets a mysterious woman in the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Later that evening she hears a scream and the sounds of a body being dumped into the sea. After seeing what she thinks is blood on the neighbouring railing she reports the incident, except the cabin is empty and no-one on the ship matches the woman’s description.

4. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (2016) 349 pages.

5. Holy Cow by David Duchovny (2015) 206 pages. Elsie Bovary, a cow, escapes her paddock one day and instead of flirting with the bulls, she goes up to the farm house. There she learns the truth, that humans eat cows. Suddenly she realizes where her mother went…

6. Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy :The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists by Dyana Z. Furmansky (2009) 376 pages. Rosalie Edge (1877-1962) was the little-known and unheralded mother of the modern conservation movement. She began life as the favorite child of an over-indulgent well-to-do father and developed into a conversationist only in late middle age. Her first significant action was to question the propriety of National Association of Audubon Societies’ close ties to ammunition manufactures and hunters when she was nearly 52 years old. She goes on to develop the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

Another Turn of the Page: Last Books of 2016

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

ruthsbookshelfWe ended our year with ten readers. Some were heading out to warmer points south soon and others were planning to leave after Christmas. All will continue to read but won’t need hot chocolate and thick socks. The rest of us will gather throughout the winter and share our literary finds with each other. It is good to come together and leave most of the crazy world behind and bury ourselves in the books. One of the reasons I continue to blog about our books is so the Snowbirds can keep up with the group. The other reason is everyone likes to get a suggestion for their next good read. So, eclectic as ever, here is what we read in December.december1. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (2015) 344 pages. This is a story of Lawyer Sebastian Rudd who represents people who no one else will touch such as drug dealers and murderers. The novel follows his life and the cases he is working on. Feels more like a short story collection than a novel.

2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2016) 342 pages. On the way home from the local bar, Jason Dessen is kidnapped by an unknown assailant in a mask. After being injected with something, Jason wakes up in a world he does not recognize. I have to quote a review from Goodreads which sums this book up perfectly: It is the perfect balance of suspense, action, sci-fi, romance, and WHAT THE HECK!?!?” Best SF I’ve read in years.

3. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson (2009) 194 pages. Based on rare archival material, obscure trial manuscripts, and interviews with relatives of the conspirators and the manhunters, this book is about the twelve day pursuit and final capture of John Wilkes Booth.

4. The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans (2016) 320 pages. Our charming Christmas book of the year, this is the third in Evan’s Mistletoe Collection. The first two being The Mistletoe Promise and The Mistletoe Inn. All standalone stories.

5. True Crime in Titletown, USA: Cold Cases by Tracy C. Ertl & Mike R. Knetzger (2005) 203 pages. Mike, a Green Bay, Wisconsin police officer, and Tracy, a police dispatcher, offer profiles of three historic unsolved crimes including a 1931 bank robbery, an extortion case and a restaurant murder.

6. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron (2016) 356 pages. Spanning the years from 1885 to 1929, this novel reveals the true nature of life “Under the Big Top’, behind the sparkle and glitz of the performances.

7. Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (2015) 512 pages. Music, the narrator of this book, tells the story of Frankie Presto—the greatest guitar player who ever lived—and the six lives he changed with his six magical blue strings.

8. Memory of Muskets by Kathleen Ernst (2016) 408 pages. Chloe Ellefson is a Curator at Old World Wisconsin and her supervisor wants her to plan a major Civil War battle enactment.  However, when a reenactor’s body turns up on one of the farms the celebration becomes more complicated.

9. Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly (2010) 551 pages. A historical fiction tale about what the Irish went through during the Potato Famine, and what led many to emigrate to America.

10. Cooking for Picasso by Camille Aubray (2016) 400 pages. A fictional story of Picasso’s stay in the French Riviera in the spring of 1936. In those few months he had a lasting impact on Ondine, the seventeen-year-old who cooked for him, and the generations that followed.

Another Turn of the Page: Turn Off the TV and Read

“I find television very educating.
Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
Groucho Marx

tvI like television. I do not remember not ever having a television unlike my husband who did not have one in his early childhood. I am a great lover of fiction so drama, science fiction, medical and legal thrillers, etc. are what I watch. I do enjoy sports as well, particularly football. But in the US, the political season has taken all the joy out of my television watching. Every commercial break has some Super PAC commentator telling me something despicable about everyone running for office. How did these people get elected in the first place? The commercials make it sound like they all should be in prison. My mute button is starting to wear out. And of course tonight is the next “debate”. It will pre-empt two of my favorite shows, Madam Secretary and Elementary. Thank the TV Gods, the Green Bay Packers will be playing opposite the Trump/Hillary smack down.

Now I usually have a book handy even when I have the TV on, just to fill up the time when there is a break in the action to sell me something. But lately I have been forgetting to turn the sound back on. The book is so much better. I am also a night owl who watches a lot of late night TV but frequently I just go curl up in bed with a book. Much more calming for my brain. I’m sure I’ll go back to my normal TV habits after the election, I just hope I won’t have to be familiarizing myself with Canadian television. If you are also looking for a diversion, here are the books my group read last month.sept-copy1. Boar Island by Nevada Barr (2016) 374 pages. Anna Pigeon #19. Anna, a National Park Service Ranger, has to deal with cyber-bullying and stalking. Very little about the park so not one of the best in this series.

2. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (2015) 179 pages. Addie is a widow seeking companionship. She makes an intriguing proposal to her neighbor, a widower named Louis. She asks him to come over to her place and share her bed. It is just to talk and fall asleep together and break the loneliness.

3. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (1997) 454 pages. This book is about a large family, the Mulvaneys, living all happily until something terrible happens to the sole daughter. This book is basically about this event and the aftermath.

4. Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles (2015)
608 pages. All anyone knows about Custer is the fight at Little Bighorn, this biography covers his time in the Civil War, his time trying to make a fortune on Wall Street, his marriage and many other areas.

5. Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour by Richard Zacks ( 2016) 464 pages. A rich and lively account of how Mark Twain’s late-life adventures abroad helped him recover from financial disaster and family tragedy.

6. The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe (2016) 379 pages. A historical novel based on the true story of Anita Hemmings, the first black student to attend Vassar, who successfully passed as white.

7. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011) 352 pages. The author starts with a compelling idea–taking vintage photographs with unusual subjects–and using them to weave a supernatural story of children who possess unusual abilities. A very strange and fantastic read.

8. Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke (2014) 368 pages. The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill.

9. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2014) 474 pages. Historical fiction featuring Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny.

10. Proof Positive by Phillip Margolin (2006) 320 pages. A legal thriller about the way CSI evidence can be misused by a killer to serve his own twisted sense of justice.

11. Iceberg by Clive Cussler (1974) 340 pages. An early Dirk Pitt (#2). Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous. The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. -Goodreads

12. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs (2008) 336 pages. Augusta Simpson is turning 50, has two 20-something daughters, and her own cooking show which is experiencing a ratings slump. The story revolves around her need to heal from tragedy and develop better relationships with her children. Not up to the author’s usual standards.

13. Casualties by Elizabeth Marro (2015) 288 pages. The Casualties tells the story of the people living on a little street in Edinburgh, in the final weeks before an apocalyptic event which only a few of them will survive.