Recently reviewed by the Cottage Book Club, The Murmur of Bees turned out to be a favorite of the twenty-some women who participated. That’s rare in the book club world and a testament to the story, beautifully written by Sofia Segovia and translated from Spanish by Simon Bruni.
Set in Mexico at the onset of the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s, The Murmur of Bees is a family saga of survival during the agrarian movement in Mexico and the Spanish flu epidemic before 1920. It was a time when accumulation of land was not a stable endeavor for the wealthy. It was a time when unproductive lands were being seized and portioned out to the less fortunate.
The Morales family was landed gentry. They were struggling to keep their land productive so that it would not be seized. Into their lives came an orphaned baby of special needs: Simonopio; a baby boy disfigured by a cleft palate whose mouth appeared as a hole that would not close. In addition, he was covered in bees that would not leave him. It was as though they were his protection, his guardians. Despite all that, the Morales family took him in. As he grew, they began to realize that he was gifted with an unexplainable intuition that the bees seemed to impart. Francisco, head of the Morales household formed a special bond with Simonopio and as the boy grew, put faith in him as one of his own.
Of course there has to be a villain. One of the share-croppers on the Morales estate felt that Simonopio, with his strange appearance, was an instrument of the devil. Not only did Anselmo Espiricueta fear him but was also jealous that the boy was being raised by a wealthy family when his own family was poor and needy. What ensues is an emotional journey from tragic and heart-breaking to uplifting.
With just enough magical realism to be believable, The Murmur of Bees is captivating historical fiction; the story of a boy, a family and a country in the midst of pandemic and change. This is a book of characters that jump off the page, making you cheer and cry all at the same time! One of my favorites of the year!
One review said, mesmerizing, another said, riveting, and another said, gripping; all are true! The very first paragraph, takes us to the far eastern Primorye Territory of Russia, in the Bikin River Valley, and the scene is set. A man and his dog are heading home through a winter forest so cold, “… if a man spits, it is frozen before it hits the ground.” As they approach his cabin, the dog stops, the hackles on his back standing straight up. They hear a rumble seemingly coming from everywhere. And that’s the last time the man is seen alive.
If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, I don’t know what will! This is a true story from the late 1990s. It’s the story of the Siberian tigers that live there and of the men who share it as home. Yuri Trush is the official squad leader of an Inspection Tiger unit. One of his jobs is to protect this endangered species of cats from poachers and, at the same time, hunt down those that have had run-ins with humans. It’s a wily business. Besides the tigers as inhabitants, the people who live there tend to be impoverished, unemployed, used to living off the land, not afraid of breaking the law, and most often fending for themselves. Get out a world map. Look up the far eastern area of Russia. I would guess few of us know anything about it, but in this book, it plays an important role. The people and their culture are as rough and tough as the land itself. And, the fear of tigers is real because, “tigers [seem] to be able to identify its attacker[s] and hunt them down…even if it takes months.” As one man said, “Tigers think.”
This is the real-life tale of the pursuit of a man-eating tiger, and his allusiveness against all odds. The reader never quite knows whether to root for the tiger or the hunters. The pictures of people and the ones that showcase the immensity of the Siberian tigers give the reader lots of grist to consider. Non-fiction at its best; to learn, to feel reality, to fear, to admire! Two thumbs up!
Survival stories are the most riveting when the odds of getting out alive are so slim that it takes almost a miracle to endure. And that was the name of the ship - Endurance. About 25 years ago the Cottage Book Club reviewed Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing, originally published in 1959 and still in print. The ship, Endurance, has only recently been discovered below the ice at the South Pole, and the story of its captain, Ernest Shackleton has, once again, come to light. Like humans in general, he was a complicated man, and had I not read this latest biography, I never would have known the backdrop of Shackleton’s personal story before he became famous.
As Fiennes relates, Shackleton’s leadership skills were so good that they disguised his total lack of experience for the type of exploring he was about to do. His ambitious dreams of being the first to reach the South Pole brought him into competitive encounters with fellow explorer, Robert Scott, leading to divisions within the Geographic Society in England. Plus, in many cases, the vast sums of money he was required to raise created enemies, shortcuts, and difficulties in paying borrowed money back; all of this, in light of the fact that he had a wife and family to support - a responsibility he was barely able to meet. In all, Shackleton made three trips to the Antarctic despite troubles with certain crew members, weather hardships beyond imaging, and the inadequacies of food and clothing in the early 1900s era. In the end, he paid the ultimate price. He never made it home from his last mission.
Fiennes’ biography brings into focus a man of great determination, of ego and great ambition, a man loyal to his men, a man of courage, but never-the-less, a man of many failures who was unable to reach his final goals. There are lessons to be learned from his failures, which in the end, may not be failures at all. As someone once said, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” He certainly proved that. Fascinating biography!
Zowee! What a book this is! The quote from The Boston Globe puts it perfectly, “There’s something bordering on the supernatural about Geraldine Brooks. Sometimes, reading her work, she draws you so thoroughly into another era that you swear she’s actually lived in it.” Brooks connects the past with the present through her characters; characters who walk right off the page into your living room.
The novel begins with a discarded painting that is tossed to the curb by a newly widowed woman. The young man across the street (who happens to be an art historian) sees the woman toss it out and becomes curious. And so begins this historical novel about one of the most truly famous thoroughbred race horses in history: Lexington. Weaving together the mystery of the painting and its artist, joining Civil War era with the present, Brooks’ story intertwines the painter, with the horse, with the black groom who raised him, with the scientist who wanted to study the bones of racehorses for clues to their power and endurance.
The characters build the back story here: Lexington's owners in the mid 1800s, the artist who painted him, the art gallery owner in 1954 who was obsessed with the nineteenth-century painting, the Smithsonian scientist in 2019 studying the actual bones of Lexington, and the art historian who wished to uncover the lost history of Black horsemen responsible for Lexington’s great racing career (in real life, Lexington won 6 out of 7 of his races and came in second in his one losing outing). All of this is like reading a mystery, a reckoning of our racist past and present, of feeling the horrors of war, of coming full circle to where we stand today.
This book will keep you up all night, giving you a window into our past, with edge-of-your seat accounts of horse racing, of escapes from danger and an artful telling of art and science, as well as evil and goodness, success and failure of humankind. If you don’t care much for horses, then read it for the people whom you will meet and the satisfied feeling of having read a well-told story!
If you want something really different to read, then this is the book for you. You can’t stop thinking about this book when you’re done! Here’s the “gist” of the plot: a plane flying from Europe to the U.S.A. comes through a horrific storm shortly before landing. When the pilot radios the airport for landing instructions, he is met with silence for several moments before traffic control hesitantly tells the pilot that that plane has already landed. From that point on this story takes the reader on a mind-bending journey to try to make sense of what happened. Not only has the plane landed, but all the same passengers have disembarked and gone about their lives. Sooo, who are the passengers on the other plane that has yet to land?
As you meet the passengers one by one, you begin to wonder “where is the mistake”? Is there an ulterior plot? And after that, you begin to look at yourself…and wonder… if I met “myself” as another flesh and blood person with the same DNA, the same everything, then how could I make sense of my life, and what would I think of myself as a person?!
The premise of this book is so fresh, so thoughtful, so interesting that it’s just one of those books that years from now, you, as the reader, will not be able to forget. So, take the flight and enjoy the bumpy ride!
From the very beginning, this book was impossible to put down. Sometimes epistolary (letters), sometimes current to the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s time period, this fictional account of a privileged Japanese family is riveting! If it was possible to crawl inside a book to protect the character you love, this was the book!
In Japan, Nori is born to the estranged daughter of a well-known Japanese family. She is born out of wedlock to an “unacceptable” father. At an early age, she is sent back to her grandparents to be raised by them. It’s a heart-rending story of child abuse and isolation from the world and, I must say, at times painful to read! But when her half-brother joins the household, her life circumstances begin to change. A world of music and culture begin to enter her life, and her love for her brother becomes almost obsessive. But there are hard times ahead. Her grandmother is a bitter, controlling person who has no intention of allowing the friendship with Nori’s half-brother to continue. Her grandson is her heir, and there is no place in the family for a child born out of wedlock. You have great hopes for the main characters to find solutions to these Japanese family traditions. You just have to get to the end to find out what happens! A warning: you may need another reader to discuss the problematic ending. However, this story about Eastern culture that is mostly hidden from the West is, at the very least, a compelling one worth the time and definitely the enjoyment of a good read!
Whenever there’s a new book by Jerry Dennis, I grab it! There is so much knowledge about nature, always written in such an easy entertaining style. My copy of Up North in Michigan is already dog-eared, with those pages re-read - if for nothing, but holding dear the comfort of the place where I live. No matter where I am, this book will remind me of home. Divided into the four sections of the seasons, each season is introduced by the essence of "The North" as depicted in the art of Glenn Wolff. Each illustration is followed by an essay that hits home to those of us who live here, and which may entice others to come see what we’re all about.
Shared experiences are what made this book a joy to read. It was a reminder of memories and good times. Here are just a few of my very favorite passages:
“How much we see in the world depends, of course, on how willing we are to look.”
“Spring is the most complicated season…It doesn’t spring, it sidles, two steps forward and one back…and you have to wait through another week of cold and snow before is eases forward again.”
“Gulls are universally slandered as flying rats, but it’s hard not to admire a tern for its sleek profile and graceful hinged wings. Gulls stand around like sullen smart-asses with too much time on their hands, but terns are all business.”
And-about Lake Superior: “…the water so cold and crystalline it’s like looking up at the stars at night. When we see the same water and sky that the earliest people saw, the sweep of history carries us along.”
What struck me most, is the way Dennis came to reading. He admits, that as a young student, he wasn’t particularly excited by the classroom. With his knowledge of the natural world, it’s evident that somewhere along the line, self-education carried a lot of weight. If you love nature and the outdoors and have never read Jerry Dennis, this little gem is a good place to start. After that, you’ll want to follow up with each of these! It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes, A Place on the Water, The Living Great Lakes, and The Windward Shore.
In these times of great division in our country, along comes a book that sets you back on your heels and forces you to look inward; forces one to consider what it feels like to be “other.” Homeland Elegies is an important book… but only if you are willing to listen, consider, and feel for your fellow man.
Considered a novel, the main character has the same name as the author, and yet, parts of the book appear to be fiction…an interesting format. It’s up to you,
the reader, to sort it out.
The protagonist, Akhtar, is born in the United States to a Muslim Pakistani family. His father is a cardiologist and wants so badly to be considered American; to “belong." The mother is devastatingly homesick for her homeland. Their relationship is complicated. After 9/11 the troubles begin, as racist and anti-Muslim attitudes grow and infect the livelihood and lifestyle of the whole family. In desperation, Aktar takes a crucifix pendant and wears it for several months in hopes of proving his patriotism. But the dream of national belonging eludes them all.
Akhtar, the author and Pulitzer Prize winning playright, exams the contradictions in American policy, the American desire to “make money,” to be
fair, and to be an example of Democracy. If the reader is willing to put aside opinions and consider different points of view-that we are not always right, nor are we always wrong-then this book becomes a worthwhile read. Considered by The New York Times as one of the ten best books of 2020, it’s a book very hard to put down, let alone forget!
Finding Wallace Stegner is like hitting pay dirt in literary reading. From the time I read Crossing to Safety and Angle of Repose (1972 Pulitzer), I was hooked. I haven’t read all of the dozens of novels he has written, but I know enough that when I pick up one of his books, the writing is going to be exquisite. All the Little Live Things is one of his earlier novels, and some argue that he was still shaping his writing skills. I found it a captivating read. Joe Allston is a retired literary agent. He and his wife, Ruth, are building a home in the country that they hope will bring them peace and tranquility in their retiring years. But, as often happens in life, what we dream for and what we get don’t always match up. Today, we would call Joe a curmudgeon. His opinions about the younger generation stem from the death of their only child and son; a son who could never quite find his place in life. Joe and Ruth become close-knit friends with the younger couple next door, the Catlins, a lovely younger couple who greet life with an open-mindedness that Joe hardly understands or even cares to understand. Marian Catlin is an optimist. And even though she is dealing with her own set of problems, she tries to tease Joe’s pessimism to her point of view. Into their lives comes a young motorcycle hippy who trespasses on their property with the intention of setting up his base. Joe is furious, but with much urging from Ruth, she persuades Joe to allow the young man to use the property with the understanding that he will follow some basic rules. It doesn’t end well.
There is no one better than Stegner to show the reader the interior of someone’s mind and soul. We all know the “Joes” in our own lives. In fact, we know all of these characters.
While I wouldn't call this a “happy read," it is a rewarding book that does have humorous moments, and, as always, beautiful and inciteful descriptions of both humans and nature. As with all well-written books, I won’t forget what this novel is about!
I got hooked on Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne series when The Cottage Book Club reviewed In the Bleak Midwinter. If you are a fan of Louise Penney (and why wouldn’t you be?!), you’ll love these mysteries. I just finished this one, the fifth in the series, and I am already looking forward to #6! (So far, there are nine.) The stories take place in upstate New York in a small town called Millers Kill. Reverand Clare Fergusson is an Episcopalian priest who is also a veteran helicopter pilot. Russ Van Alstyne is the Chief of Police and an Army veteran. The two develop a romantic attachment as the author’s series continues, beginning in book #1 with the murder of Van Alstyne’s wife, Linda. Was Linda killed as revenge against her Chief of Police husband? Was it something to do with her business venture in a new resort complex? Or…was it Van Alstyne himself? And, so, the twisty, plotting mystery unwinds, ending with the most unlikely of culprits.
Spencer-Fleming has the dialog down pat, with enough humor, longing, and smarts to keep the reader guessing. And, yes, a forbidden romantic relationship develops to make the reader wonder how it all will end. If you wish to be a realist, you would think that all the murders taking place in this small town would make it a dangerous place to live. But sometimes the reader has to suspend a degree of believability, and just go with the flow. There are other themes running through the stories including Clare’s often rocky relationship with her parish, the relationships within the police department, and other minor problems that crop up within any small community. All contribute to making these novels just enough true-to-life to keep the reader coming back for more. These are great reads when your brain needs a break, and you just want to sit back and enjoy a good mystery with characters you care about! It’s like saying hello to a good friend.
One of the best books I have read this year and to be added to my “All-Time Favorites” list! I hope Heller continues to write about Celine. There aren’t many women super-heroes who are in their late fifties, who can shoot bottles and cans off a log---“ping!-ping!-ping!,” who can deduce and judge a person’s character at a careful glance, and whose sidekick (her husband) has the faith and dry New England humor to be her alter-ego. I want to be just like them (except without Celine’s breathing problem).
Celine is a PI (she calls her occupation “Cases of Lost Causes”) and an artist. Her investigative skills, along with keen observations and help from her husband, make them a formidable team. Her expertise lies in finding lost persons; in this case, a father who has been missing for twenty-three years. The prologue sets up the mystery and right away, gives you the feeling of a family distraught by the tragedy of a drowning. From there the story merges into the background of Celine with the loss of her own father and the effects it has had on her life.
One day she receives a phone call and takes on a case about a missing National Geographic photographer. Interweaving the story of Celine into the story of the missing photographer begins the process of an adventure which takes them into the wilds of Wyoming and Montana. Here is where Heller excels. You see the scenery, you know the people-from the crude tracker to the nasty “biker boys”. Celine handles it all with spunk and just enough courage and smarts to make it seem real. You want to stand up and cheer! And you will laugh because the subtle humor is wonderful. There is danger and tension, too, as the resolution begins to unravel. Just enough of everything in this story, along with beautiful writing! Couldn’t be more entertaining! Thumbs up! A ten rating!
This is all about revenge…and it’s not so sweet! But the book is a page-turner, because it makes you so uncomfortable, you just want to get it over with and hope for the best! Aside from the mystery, and a set-up murder, and a kidnapping, and a love triangle, and entitlement, and creepiness, nothing much is going on in this book. Jackson hooks you from the very beginning, and you just have to find out what the heck is going on!
Bree Cabbat didn’t grow up rich, but because of her marriage, she and her children have all the privileges of the upper crust: private schools for the kids, a beautiful home and a smooth ride through society. Then her infant child is kidnapped and the note left behind says, “GO HOME.”
That’s when the wild ride begins, and leaves the reader wondering, “What would I do in these circumstances if the safety of my child was at stake?” Oh, my! And, yes, at times the reader needs to suspend reality and just go with it. But it’s worth it. There are a cast of characters that you learn to love and hate, or just want to slap, so be ready.
Jackson has the ability to keep the reader coming back for more, just as in Gods in Alabama and Never Have I Ever. So, if you like this one, you may want to read those, too.
For those of you who like nonfiction and especially history, don’t miss this book. Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Horwitz, lends an eye to the divisions that both harm and enhance our American culture. Having found a book by Frederick Law Olmstead called The Cotton Kingdom, from his long overlooked book collection, Horwitz became curious about the two trips Olmstead took into the south a decade before the Civil War. Olmstead, as many of you may know, was the famed landscape architect who fashioned more than 100 urban landscapes including Central Park in New York City, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, the U. S. Capitol and White House grounds, and other major park projects across the nation and Canada. Horowitz wanted to find out how Olmstead perceived the cultural divide more than 160 years ago. What Horowitz learned was that the cultural divide is still very visible today.
Horwitz followed Olmstead’s exact path as best he could, traveling by train, river barge and even horseback (or mule). He met well-to-do and blue collar. He met families and academics. He reported what he saw and what he heard. His journey is not all interviews but includes humorous experiences the author encountered along the way, atop a mule or in the mud. Traveling down the Ohio River on a coal barge, down the Mississippi by paddle boat, into Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and across the Mississippi into Texas, his encounters give a broad picture of geography, politics, and racial history both past and present. I learned more about this area than was ever taught in our history books. Eye-opening and fascinating.
Sadly, Tony Horwitz died suddenly at age 60 just before the start of his book tour for this title. His other books include Blue Latitudes, and his best seller, Confederates in the Attic. Spying on the South will be one of my most memorable reads!
From one of my favorite Midwestern authors comes another heart-warming story about coming of age, seeking truth, and solving what you feel is right in your heart.
If you are familiar with the author’s mystery series and his protagonist, Cork O’Connor, Lightning Strike, due out in August, is a book you’ll want to add to your list. Even if you haven’t read this series (and I have not, but will now!), this stand-alone novel grabs you from the very beginning!
Cork O’Connor is a twelve-year-old boy whose father is sheriff in Aurora, Minnesota. When Cork and his friends discover the body of Big John hanging from a tree, it opens up an unexpected journey to find the truth. Was it suicide or was it murder? Exposing the civil divide in Cork’s hometown of the "haves" and the "have nots", he attempts to link the few clues surrounding Big John's death. Of course, in all good mysteries, the clues unfold little by little. As the web draws tighter, so does the danger, and Cork finds himself in the midst of it all. His twelve-year-old curiosity leads him directly into the web.
Like his stand-alone novels, Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land, Krueger has a wonderful knack for writing about children and their dilemmas, their journeys, their solutions; always heart-warming, always!
You are in for a treat if you are new to this author. You will want to read everything he writes! But start with Ordinary Grace first.
Wunderland has been sitting on my shelf for over a year, which means it is now in paperback! As with all World War II novels, it takes me a while to decide whether or not I want to read them. The atmosphere in Germany during that time in history is hard to wrap my mind around, but the issues in our own country today seem to have a correlation.Wunderland is the story of three women: Ava, Renate, and Ilse. Each chapter is devoted to one of the women and takes place in a year of their life. The story moves forward and back and requires the reader to pay attention! Each has a relationship to one-another. Each is searching for something to help make their life understandable. Each has her secrets.Epstein has put together an incredibly believable story of what it was like for singular individuals to get through a political upheaval of human cruelty and radical beliefs. I should say that though there is little graphic description, the reader’s imagination fills in the blanks.All three women were born in Germany in the lead up to WWII in the 1930s. Without spoiling the story, all three are related in one way or another with an element of the overarching mystery that is gradually revealed.This story is not all doom and gloom. As the characters mature, we glimpse into their personal stories, their struggles, their loves, and their hates. The dialog has humorous moments and is always real. I would go so far as to recommend this book for teenagers as a means to help them understand, not only past history and its reality, but also to understand how fragile our world can be.Good writing!
In the small town of Millers Kill, in upper state New York, a newborn baby is left outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in the dead of winter, with instruction to give the baby to a childless couple who are members of the church. Then a body is found in the river just outside of town. Who is the deceased? How did she get in the river? Was the baby hers? Award-winning author, Julia Spencer-Fleming’s first book in the Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series (there are nine) is off to the races!Rev. Clare Fergusson, a former army helicopter pilot and newly ordained Episcopalian priest has been assigned to St. Alban’s. Russ Van Alstyne is the Chief of Police, is a former military MP, and is married to Linda. When it is determined that the woman found in the river was the mother of the baby and was murdered, the investigation heats up with the realization that whomever left the baby at the church must have known its members. The couple who were named to receive the baby comes under suspicion. It doesn’t do their case any good that they are rather pushy and quite desperate to adopt a child. These and other red herrings dropped along the way make this book a page-turner. The dialog is snappy, sometimes funny, and just revealing enough to keep you hanging on. And then there’s the relationship between Russ & Clare that makes you wonder….after all, Russ is a married man…Spencer-Fleming has created two believable leading characters, and just like all good series, this reader is going to be reading all of them. So, stay tuned. Oh, and by-the-way, don’t look up Millers Kill, New York…it’s not there.
If someone dreamed up this story for a movie, most everyone would find it highly improbable: a spy with a wooden leg who was never caught; who, during WW II, helped with prison escapes; who organized sabotage against German troops occupying France; who communicated intelligence briefs for the Allies; who organized French resistance groups; who, escaped across the Pyrenees… on the prosthetic leg during one of that area's worst winters in history. It seems that only recently are the lives and exploits of previously unknown women beginning to surface 100 years and more since women were legally afforded equal rights.
Would you ever have conceived that an American woman born in 1906 would have become one of the most successful spies for the Allies? Why are we only hearing about this woman now? We can give our thanks to author Sonia Purnell, a British journalist and writer. For more than three years, Purnell dug into files (some only fairly recently declassified) across the globe to find out why Virginia Hall’s name kept popping up in WWII files. Why did a young well-to-do American woman from Baltimore seem to find a higher calling, not only literally fighting in a war, but fighting against discrimination? It’s a remarkable story.
Virginia was rejected by the U.S. State Department for intelligence duty. She ended up in desk jobs for the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive), a British intelligence service, and was posted in various European locations. While in Turkey, she had a hunting accident that caused gangrene in her leg that was eventually amputated above the knee. But that didn’t stop her. In fact, it drove her determination more than ever to make something of her life. On a chance meeting with a British secret service agent while in Spain, she was referred to the organization in Britain just after the Germans occupied France. The rest of the story, is an amazing account of her exploits in France fighting not only against the Germans, but also against female discrimination within the British service. To the Germans, she became known as that “Limping Lady” spy and was intensely sought after.
The rest is history, as they say. And, yes, Paramount has bought up the movie rights. So look for it down the road.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • From the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, a boldly conjured debut novel about a magical gift, a devastating loss, and an underground war for freedom.
Maybe those two-winged creatures surrounding our daily lives are of no interest to you whatsoever. But, in light of the world around us today, why not fly away to another world? One that is fascinating and, at times, unbelievable. After reading, The Bird Way, you may just stop calling anyone a “bird-brain." Yes, just as the cover of this book says, birds do “talk, work, play,
parent, and think." And how they do it is quite amazing!
Did you know that birds can sing in duets with one another, that they can imitate one another? You already know that birds can catch fish. But did you know that many have strategies for actually baiting the fish; which is evidence that some birds use problem-solving to secure their food. Birds also like to play. Witness the ravens that do acrobatic tricks in the air, rolling 360,
diving within inches of the ground before swooping out, even sliding down slippery slopes two or three ravens at a time.
Ackerman scours the globe revealing amazing bird varieties such as the greater ani from tropical South America that forms parental cooperatives, helping each other incubate eggs and raising young. Or, the kea called “the Clowns of the Mountains” in Austria. When the author visited the kea aviary there, she was told to “leave everything you can outside the aviary-phone,
watch, earrings, everything.” When she enters the aviary, Ackerman says,” Suddenly, the birds descend on my sneakers and get busy with my shoelaces, tugging at them until both sets are undone and the ends start to unravel.” While across from her, the birds had expertly taken the barrett out of her guide’s hair.
Ackerman has received numerous awards for her writings about science and nature. She entertainingly show us that “no two birds are alike.” The next time you are out walking and hear the birds chattering away, try to remember that they might just be talking about you.
Being in Great Britain during the first years of World War II was a testament to the spirit of survival and the quality of leadership. True to his writing style, Erik Larson has put together another riveting non-fiction narrative. Even though you know the outcome, you just can’t wait for the drama to unfold and reach its positive end!
With great personal tidbits about Winston Churchill, his children - especially Randolph and Mary-about the people surrounding him in his Cabinet (Lord Beaverbrook, “Pug” Ismay, Frederick Lindermann-“the Prof”, Lord Halifax, etc.), Churchill’s personal secretaries and body guards, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, and his adversaries- Göring, Goebbels, and Hitler, …the list goes on and on, all of it enthralling. Having accessed the diaries of many of the people involved with the British government during the time of “the Blitz”, Larson puts together an insider’s view of what it was like to be caught in the middle of unrelenting bombings, just trying to hang on until (hopefully) help arrived. It’s a thrilling account of a terrible time, when the British people were amazingly resilient, and their leaders were “real leaders”! It is hard to fathom what the civilians of war-torn nations go through and even more frightening trying to understand the evils within mankind. Thus, the title is fitting and the story lays it all out, piece-by-piece. If you love non-fiction, even if you don’t love war stories, don’t miss this one for the lessons taught and wishfully/hopefully – lessons learned.
Change is hard. Going against corporate greed is hard. When you know you are right, “keeping the faith” is hard. So, where does the persistence, the courage, the bravery come from to soldier on? If we could dissect the persona of Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, we might be able to find
out. Dr. Wiley was a chemistry professor from Perdue University in the late 1800’s. He was appointed as the chief chemist of the agriculture department. At the end of the nineteenth century, he and his colleagues began investigating and testing commercially sold food and drink.
Wiley became suspicious of certain health issues and deaths he thought might be related to human consumption. What they found was alarming. In order to enhance the appearance and longevity of some foods, substances such as formaldehyde, salicylic acid and borax were added.
Many of the additives were more plentiful in the food and drink than the actual food itself. There were no regulations. There was no labeling of content. It was profit before health. And there were definitely health issues. And, so, the testing began with a group of men who volunteered to
consume questionable foods. This group became known as “The Poison Squad”. It was a thirty-year fight but in the end the FDA was finally established in 1931.
And the fight goes on -the common good or the very few? Fascinating reading!
It’s tricky to talk about religion and politics. One has to approach from neutral territory and just listen. That’s all. Just listen. Little Faith is one big-hearted, warm, thoughtful, sad and even, sometimes, funny story about a devoted grandfather to his grandson and to his daughter, and to his wife, and to his friends. He’s a good man struggling to understand his own feelings about Faith and God.
Lyle and Peg lost their son in infancy; and that grief has never left them. When the opportunity came to adopt a little girl, they did. Shiloh became the center of their life and joy. She wasn’t an easy child, but they loved her and continued to love her even when she came under the influence of a charlatan self- prescribed preacher. Lyle has always doted on his grandson, Isaac, and for some time, Isaac and Shiloh lived with he and Peg. But that all changed when preacher, Steven, came into their lives.
The division among them arose when Isaac became seriously ill. Was it prayer that would heal him or was it medicine? And so, the conflict began, with one accusing the other for Isaac’s illness.
The power of Faith, the power of Prayer, the power of Love, where does it all intersect and how does it fit together? Little Faith is a powerful book, beautifully written and thoughtfully presented. It’s heart-breaking. It makes you angry, and, yes, sometimes even laugh. It’s the kind of book that sits with you a long time.
In thinking about this book, about this author, it struck me that some of my most favorite books are written by Midwestern authors Peter Geye (Minnesota), Leif Enger (Minnesota), Willa Cather (born in Virginia but raised in Nebraska), Aldo Leopold (Wisconsin), Jim Harrison (Michigan) and now, Nickolas Butler (born in Pennsylvania but raised in Wisconsin). I think it’s because a lot of the background is so familiar. It’s as though the setting is part of the character. There’s a certain “something” about us Midwesterners and it shines through the words of these authors’ books. Check them out.
This "soul stirring" novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Room (O Magazine) is one of the New York Post's best books of the year.
You would be hard-pressed to find a book by Rick Bragg that wasn’t entertaining! My first introduction was All Over but the Shoutin' about growing up in rural Alabama. It’s still one of my all-time favorites! But, The Best Cook in the World is not far behind.
Bragg’s nonfiction writing is full of beautiful descriptive sentences about time, place and people; mostly people from the deep South, and mostly described as “poor whites.” In The Best Cook in the World, Bragg tells tales surrounding his mother’s life and her off-the-cuff cooking.
When you’re poor, you make due with what you have, and his mother certainly did that. The love of his mother, of the rural South, its traditions and people come shining through. There are times when the reader will laugh out-loud or feel the consequences of being truly poor, but also, truly good. If you plan to start a diet or if you are watching your cholesterol, you probably won’t want to try his mother’s recipes that are included. But, be sure to read them. If you don’t smile after reading the ingredients and cooking instructions, then this book is not for you.
Even Bragg’s own life is worth a story. From an early age, he had a love of reading, but not necessarily a love of schooling. Bragg never graduated from college, but has taught in several. His talents have garnered him many accolades, including a Pulitzer. If you love humor, beautiful writing, learning about cultures, and taking a break from politics, Bragg is the perfect solution! You are in for a treat! Happy New Year!
From the bestselling author of Born to Run, a heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America, and, in the process, discovering the life-changing power of the human-animal connection.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK AS FEATURED ON TODAY • “Make sure you have tissues handy when you read [this] sure-footed tearjerker” (NPR) about a young boy who must learn to go on after surviving tragedy
If you are “in” for a challenge…for a 500 page book, for a thought-provoking read, for great writing, for quirky characters (including and most particularly-trees), then this novel is for you. There’s more information packed into this book about the world around us than a single brain can absorb in one sitting. It’s the 2019 Pulitzer Prize Winner for fiction and it’s a “mind-bender!"
Author, Richard Powers weaves his story around the health of this planet by introducing nine human characters in the first part of the book: Nick the artist; MiMi, the engineer; Adam, the psychologist researcher; Ray and Dorothy, the married couple; Douglas, the Vietnam Vet; Neelay, the computer game inventor genius; Patricia, the scientist; and Olivia, the college dropout.
You meet each of them, one by one as the author gradually brings them together through their own connection with trees. There is violence, there are moral issues and there is a fascinating journey into the natural habitat of a species that has more to its own life than we ever imagined…except maybe Tolkien! Richard Powers finds ways to make the reader really care about these species that we see everyday of our lives. When we observe them as “just a thing,” he tells us that they communicate, that they protect each other, that they protect us. And he tells us how.
Overstory is a powerful tale about man vs. nature, how we fight to preserve it, how we fight to destroy it. But the author makes one thing clear - when all the trees are gone, humans won’t be far behind. However…Earth will simply endure over the millions of years and slowly regenerate itself, just as it has done millions of years in the past. Whether you believe in climate change or any other environmental concerns, you can make up your own mind about the issues that Overstory so succinctly presents. A tough read but worth it!
We all know Amelia Earhart, but have you ever heard of Florence Klingensmith, or Ruth Elder, or Ruth Nichols, or Louise Thaden? Neither had I! And if you haven't read West with the Night or Circling the Sun, you should so you will be familiar with Beryl Markham. All of these women were pilots who fought and won respect, as some of the earliest women aviators.
After Charles Lindberg made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, aviation captured the imagination of the American public, including a handful of women who became famous in their own right. Often ridiculed for their daring, they banded together to push against the entrenched prejudice that women were to fragile mentally and physically to attempt mastering flying machines.
Florence Klingensmith was a high school dropout from Fargo, North Dakota; Ruth Elder, an Alabama divorcée; Amelia Earhart, the most famous, but not necessarily the most skilled; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at her blue blood family’s expectations; and Louise Thaden, the young mother of two who got her start selling coal in Wichita.
In the 20’s and 30’s, the popular sport of airplane racing coast to coast or around pylons set up in a field, fueled the imagination of the public. It was dangerous and demanding of courage and steady nerves. Crashes and deaths occurred. At first, only men were allowed to enter these competitions, but the women wanted to be included. As their expertise grew, this group of aviatrix were determined to be accepted, and by the mid 30’s, they were allowed into some races. And in 1936, one of them triumphed over the men.
Fly Girls is a fascinating history of the early 1900s when women were seeking the right to vote and were pushing to be accepted into American culture as equals. It makes one grateful for those who came before paving the way toward that equality.
"With all the feels of a This Is Us episode, Hyde's latest novel will delight readers" (Booklist). Three adult siblings. Three days with their father. What could go wrong?
One of the The Wall Street Journal's 10 Best Fiction Books of 2019
"A gem of a book . . . lyrical, tender, and profoundly insightful."--Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
Arthur Pepper has been widowed and "lost" since the death of his wife a year earlier. When he finally brings himself to sort through her personal belongings, he finds something unusual stuffed in one of her shoes; so unusual for Miriam to have hidden it from him. I can't really tell you what it is, because you need to find out for yourself. But, let's just say that this "something" leads him on the journey of a lifetime. And like any good journey, it's not the geography that counts. This is an inner journey as well as a physical one. The twists and turns are amazing discoveries to Arthur who thought he knew everything there was to know about his wife. Some of his travels are a bit of a stretch which makes it all the more fun.If you can find a quiet moment at this time of year, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a fun and quick read to enjoy. No literary effort required.
History buffs, this one's for you; a must read! After finishing Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, one can only sit back and try to imagine the life of this extraordinary man! These are things our history books could never convey. Born in 1868 in Whitewater, Wisconsin, Edward Curtis dropped out of school in the 6th grade and then went on to become one of the most famous recognized portrait photographers of his day. And yet, nowhere that I can recall, had I ever learned of him; his life story seemingly having faded away...until now, thanks to Timothy Egan (author of The Worst Hard Time). Curtis'sswashbuckling image hardly matched the feats he left us in the annuals of the history of this nation. High words, I know, but an amazing story when you see the comparative ease in which photographs are taken today.Curtis built up a portrait photography business in Seattle, Washington, having migrated to the area with his father. His life took a fortuitous turn when on a photographic expedition on Mt. Rainier, he helpedrescue a party of lost scientists who included George Bird Grinnell founder of the Audubon Society and C.H. Merriam, one of the original founders of the National Geographic Society. With the beginnings from those connections, his portrait studio launched him into taking some of the most iconic pictures of the rich & famous including Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan. But it was the picture of Chief Seattle's daughter, Princess Angeline and trips to Indian Reservationswith Grinnell that gave him his "Great Idea": "to capture on film the continent's original inhabitants before the old ways disappeared." That feat would have been incredible on its own, but along with the photographs, he chronicled and audibly recorded Indian languages and ceremonies as well. Just imagine hauling all that equipment, glass slides, audio recorders, food, camping materials...on horseback!But let's not forget the financial obligations to his staff, suppliers, Guides... and to himself. It took him over 30 years to complete the task, never taking a penny for his work, begging for sponsors, ending up losing his marriage and every last personal and business possession. The work he accomplished with the North American Indians (20 volumes) is his lasting legacy to a monumental work of art and history. Epic indeed! Thank you, Edward Curtis and thank you Timothy Egan for bringing this story alive!
Okay, I’ll admit it, my science IQ is less than zilch! So, why did I read this book? Because my book club picked it. And am I ever GLAD! Lab Girl will be one of my favorites, one that I won’t forget when someone says, “who is Hope Jahren?”
Jahren tells about her journey from her stoical family upbringing, to her struggling student years, to becoming a renowned geochemist and geobiologist. A long the way, she meets Bill, her one-of-a kind lab partner who sticks with her through thick and thin. She tells vividly of her struggles with bipolar disorder as well.
Jahren is best in her descriptions of plant life. Did you ever think about how a plant lives, how it struggles to survive, how it communicates? As she says in her book, talking about life in general, “We are each given exactly one chance to be.” And about the lives of trees and the rings in their trunks, “The delicate shape of those lines tells you the story of a couple of years. If you know how to listen, each ring describes how the rain fell and the wind blew and the sun appeared every day at dawn.” Who would have ever thought that a writer could give plants personalities, could make their lives light up a page, or begin to think that maybe the trees in Lord of the Rings really could talk?!
By the end of this book, I just wanted to walk into the woods and observe and wonder and listen…and plant a tree somewhere. Thanks, book club. This was an eye-opening winner!
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Step into a small quiet Spanish town and into the home of Maria, the narrator of this story. Linda Olsson’s beautiful writing puts you there; the sea breezes, the solitude, the aromas of good food. But underneath it all lies a story of tragedy, estrangement and then, forgiveness.
Maria’s sister, Emma has accepted an invitation to visit, even though the invitation is two years old. As the visit begins, it is clear that some underlying family history during their childhood has disrupted their comfort with one another. Emma’s insistence to talk about it unnerves Maria, who, over many years has not been able to put it to rest. Olsson delicately exhibits how perceptions of particular events can differ from one person to the next even…or perhaps especially... within families. Complicating matters is the fact that Emma married Maria’s boyfriend, and through the years seems to have a happy, settled life. Maria, however, moved on and into a preciously meaningful relationship, one which set her life on an entirely different path. The six day visit from Emma reveals much to the sisters as they begin to see things in a different light-perhaps even understanding.
I try to read everything Linda Olsson writes. She does not disappoint. (Astrid and Veronika and Sonata for Miriam are equally insightful). Her stories don’t have big, full-bodied plots or big “Ah Ha” moments. The sparseness and subtleties of her writing lets the reader discover the emotional impact. This small book leaves its mark and is worth every word.
In this compelling four generational historical fiction tale of a Korean family, the issues of minorities, outsiders, immigrants, and disenfranchisement become reoccurring themes. A finalist for the National Book Award for fiction in 2017, the New York Times listed Pachinko as one of its “Ten Best Books of 2017."
In the early 20th century, born to a hard-working family in Korea, Sunja, at age 16, falls in love and becomes pregnant by Hansu, a Korean mobster who lives in Japan. To save her from shame, a Korean Christian pastor marries her and they immigrate to Oska, Japan to join his brother in the Korean ghettos. After her husband, Isak, is arrested for basically being a Christian and not worshiping at Japanese shrines, Sunja becomes the ultimate survivor and supporter of her family of two boys-Noa (Hansu’s illegitimate son) and Mozasu. The family lives with Isak’s brother’s family and together they negotiate the trials and tribulations of providing for their families in a country that does not recognize them as citizens; a country which, until the mid-1900s, imposed upon the Koreans (whether born in Japan or not) alien registration every three years, job discrimination, and basically did not accept them into their culture.
Despite the hardships, both sons become successful. However, to Noa, who learns he is not Isak’s son, life becomes stifling. He separates himself from his family and pushes aside his dreams for the future. Mozasu finds his way to the only means of occupation for Koreans in Japan, by working for the owner of Pachinko parlors (pin-ball type gambling facilities). And even Mozasu’s son, Solomon, who excels in school, graduating from an American university, is pushed aside by Japanese business dealings, ending up working for his father in the Pachinko parlors.
The themes in this book are timely and poignant in light of the vast immigration crises around the world today, and realizing how hard it is for different cultures to accept one another. Throughout time, people who leave their home countries are often not accepted in their new country, and upon returning to the old, are not accepted there either.
Pachinko tells the story of the clash of Korea and Japan, but it also tells the story of the resilience and survivorship of human nature. History of occupation around the world is a hard reality to accept by those who are occupied and by those who occupy. Pachinko is a page turning saga and an eye-opener into a part of the world that seems far away, but today, really isn’t. One of my favorites of the year!
Throughout Doris Kearns Goodwin’s writing career, she never fails to bring biographical non-fiction to life in no uncertain terms. In this book, she documents the rise of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson from their earliest childhood days, describing, bit-by-bit, the qualities that led them through the most difficult decisions of their times. Goodwin clearly lays out their growing ambitions, determinations, and the leadership qualities that brought them through crisis in times when their country needed a strong will of purpose and a moral sense of direction.
With Lincoln, it’s the Civil War. With Theodore Roosevelt, it’s the economic battles with the onset of the industrial revolution. With Franklin Roosevelt, it’s the depression and WWII. With Johnson, it’s Civil Rights. Each of these men had failures early in their careers. Each had a different style of leadership. But the one thing each of them did have, was fortitude and a clear vision of what was right for their country.
This is a fascinating journey into the personal and professional lives of four men who were not afraid to govern for the rights of all people, who stood up to devastating criticism in times of great peril and moral truth. They weren’t perfect, but their abilities and resilience against all odds, made their leadership skills an example for Presidents to come. As always, Doris Kearns Goodwin delivers history as exciting as any novel. If you love biography, this book is for you!
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
THE USA TODAY BESTSELLER
Bestselling author Marie Benedict reveals the story of a brilliant woman scientist only remembered for her beauty.
The first novel in ten years from award-winning, bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is a sweeping story of new beginnings against all odds that follows the inhabitants of a hard luck town in their quest to revive its flagging heart.
The Cottage Book Club selected The Keeper of Lost Things to be on their summer reading list. What a prize! As a debut novel, author Ruth Hogan will be on my watch list for future books. This could have been a sad tale about a man who misses the love of his life so much that he dies of heart-break. BUT…what surrounds his life in serendipitous ways, are the lives of other unrelated characters that somehow matter in the end. I don’t want to be a spoiler here, so that’s all I’ll say about that. What I didn’t expect were the smiles and laugh-out-loud humor that are interspersed, making sometimes woeful experiences have redeeming qualities.
Anthony Peardew is a successful writer and is “the keeper of lost things.” On his trips from home and about town, he discovers these items, only to take them home, assigning each with a note of where he found it, a description, and the date found. The stories he writes about the lost things eventually become bestsellers.
Laura is his administrative assistant, and when Mr. Peardew dies, he leaves all that he has, including a lovely home with rose garden, to her. It’s a life she never expected to live. In his will to Laura, he has one caveat; that she must try and find the owner of each lost item. This is no small task, as, over the years, he had collected hundreds.
Of particular charm in the story is the young girl with social communication issues who helps Laura categorize the lost items and acts as a host to visitors. Her dialogue is masterfully written full of warmth and accidental humor. And Fred, the gardener, becomes of special interest. Yes, this is a sort of romance, a mystery and a warmhearted tale with particularly good writing! Ms. Hogan is an observer of life’s ups and downs and understands the humor in some of life’s most serious experiences. What a satisfying page turner and a thoughtful turn on human relationships. A very fun read!
As she did in the bestselling novel A Friend of the Family, Lauren Grodstein has written another provocative morality tale, this time dissecting the permeable line between faith and doubt.
College professor Andy Waite is picking up the pieces of a shattered life.
Pulitzer Prize winner and PEN/Faulkner Award winner for Independence Day, Richard Ford has become one of my favorite authors. Somehow good writers tell a story with so much human reality that, before the reader even knows it, he/she is drawn in to the stories of ordinary people having extraordinary life encounters. Canada is such a story. Dell Parsons, now in his sixties and a school teacher, is looking back on the life that brought him to the place he now is. His father, Bev Parsons, thirty-seven and retired from the Air Force, moves the family to Great Falls, Montana in the late fifties. Bev is a dreamer with no clue on how to make his way through life, let alone support a wife and two children. One job after another fails until, finally, he trumps up a scheme to sell stolen beef . Unable to pay off the Indians who supply the beef, he becomes desperate and decides to rob a bank. If you were in Bev's shoes, you probably would be able to feel the success of this scheme, to understand the reasoning. But, because you are the reader, you see and feel what's in store for Bev, his wife, Neeva (who goes along with his scheme) and his two children. What happens next to young Dell, as he avoids becoming a ward of the state, is a story of survival in a back roads town of Saskatchewan among disreputable characters who are also trying to escape from lives created by poor choices. It seems so unlikely that this teenage boy could survive among such rough characters and in such sparse living conditions. But survive he does, seeing his own life unfold through un-jaded eyes, feeling the fright, feeling the cold, living the pain and barely hanging on.
Richard Ford delivers such concise, morally-packed, beautifully crafted prose, that getting lost in his books is as easy as falling off a log in mid- stream.
The Colour of Milk is a literary tour de force of power, class, and fate, told in the fierce, urgent voice of the irrepressible Mary, a character as indelible as The Color Purple’s Celie and Margaret Atwood’s eponymous Alias Grace.
Written almost thirty years ago by Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic William McPherson, Testing the Current is a gem of a book that has been out of print for twenty-five years. Now reissued by New York Review Book, it is well worth savoring slowly and carefully. The only action you'll find is through the observations of young Tommy MacAllister. And wonderful observations they are! Somehow, like all good writers, McPherson gets into the head of Tommy, and through his perceptions we, the readers - presumably, older and more aware of life experiences than he - watch the progress of life as it unfolds around him. His older siblings, his parents, his neighbors, and his friends all get the introspective judgments we all make about those around us. Bringing back our own childhoods, we understand, sympathize and laugh as he faces what we knew to be true as we grew up. He does not enjoy greeting his great aunts, "...who looked formidable, like craggy fortresses within great unyielding fronts, as if they were all stony bosom from their shoulders to their thighs." and having to "...dutifully kiss their papery cheeks, avoiding if possible Cousin Maud's mole that sprouted long hairs." Dense in introspection, with long paragraphs that seep into your psyche, Testing the Current is clothed in the innocence of childhood. It is a truthfully told family story through the eyes of an eight-year-old who is unaware of the traumatic national recession during the 1930s, nor the rumblings of the coming war in Europe. Like any literary novel, it tests the reader's patience to delve deep, but well worth the effort!
“A witty, contemporary story of the Downton Abbey-esque tensions between servants and employers, the young and the old, and tradition and modernity.” — Glamour
A New York Times Bestseller, The Orphan Master's Son is one of the most difficult stories I have ever read. By difficult, I mean the story line - full of violence and torture. If I had not read the non-fiction book, Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick first, I would never have thought a story like this might be near the truth. Having said that, it will be a book I won't forget! The story takes place in current day North Korea, and follows the life of Pak Jun Do who was brought up in an orphanage. His father was the Orphan Master. Through fate and recognition as a gifted young man by the superiors in the government, he is assigned various duties including kidnapping Japanese citizens for "The Dear Leader"-Kim Jung Il, intercepting and translating American radio transmissions, being given a mission to Texas as a translator, and being recognized as an imposter of a well-known general. A tale of many twists and turns with countless deceptions, it may, nevertheless be possible in a totalitarian regime who has starved millions of its own people. By focusing on one life, it becomes even more real. If you can stomach the violence ( I skimmed many of those parts), you will find a potent, skillfully written novel based on historical fact.
A book club pick for the Cottage Book Club, The Weird Sisters turned out to be a real sleeper! It's hard to believe that this is the author's first novel. The writing is superb, and the character studies are amazing! The three sisters in the Andreas family-Rosalind (from As You Like It), Bianca (from The Tempest) and Cordelia (from King Lear) were named by their father who is a Shakespearian scholar and professor of English Literature at the local college. Throughout the girls' childhood, Dr. Andreas quotes lines from Shakespeare for almost every conversation in their lives, whether it be advise, or just everyday observations. Of course, the girls pick up on this and simply cannot help bringing to mind these quotes throughout their own lives. The girls are three years apart, and, as in most families, there are issues of jealousy, family love, hurt feelings, great sorrow, and joy. Brown leads the reader through the troubled lives of the sisters in their effort to figure out what lif has in store for them. The dialogue is right-on among the girls and their parents as the sisters all come home "to roost" when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. This is NOT a "downer" book, but one to savor and enjoy...especially if you have a sister! And believe it or not, there are times when you'll laugh-out-loud!
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In the new novel from the author of Last Night at the Lobster, a middle-age couple goes all in for love at a Niagara Falls casino
Lokk out for City of Secrets coming from Viking on April 26, 2016
As a knitter (and a grandma) this book has been dear to me since its release last January. Beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen, this tells the story of a little girl who lives in a cold little town that is drab, drab,drab. When Annabelle finds a box of what looks like ordinary colored yarn, she takes it home and knits herself a sweater. With the extra yarn she knits one for her dog as well. But there was still extra yarn.....the story continues like this, with Annabelle knitting and knitting and the colorful yarn brightening up the town and making people happy. Every magical story has a villain, and in this case it is the evil Archduke, who decides he must have the yarn for himself. What will happen? This is a lovely story that illustrates the impact one kind deed can have on a community. Perfect for ages 2-5.
Author, Kristin Kimball was a “big city girl.” She never imagined herself any other way. But for an article she was writing, she traveled six hours out of New York City to interview an organic farmer. Little did she know that the interview would be a turning point in her life...not just a gradual curve, but an abrupt right angle! Mark was good looking, young, energetic, an entrepreneur full of new ideas. Shorthanded on the day of his interview, he soon had her hoeing broccoli and helping to slaughter a pig...in her new white agnes b. blouse. You might think this is just another “how I changed my life” story, but it is much more than that. With good humor and never taking herself seriously, Kimball relates her amazement about small town friendliness, open-hearted goodness and the discovery that...”good food is at the center of good life.”
When you consider that the author, Lily Koppel, was walking down a street in New York City one day when she noticed a pile of old wardrobe trunks being tossed into a dumpster, the reader can only visualize the lost treasures behind the locked lids of those trunks. The management of the apartment building on Riverside Drive had decided to clean out the basement which was full of old pre-World War II trunks that had not been claimed. People were already rummaging through the contents finding flapper dresses, silk gloves, sweaters still hanging from knitting needles. In Lily's case, a doorman at the apartment building gave her a red leather diary he had found in the midst of the mess. It was a five year diary and the name inside said, “This book belongs to...Florence Wolfson.” It had been a present from her aunt on Florence's fourteenth birthday, August 1, 1929. She wrote in it faithfully until her nineteenth birthday. The Red Leather Diary transports you back in time and makes one realize that there is no such thing as an “ordinary life.” It's a wonderful time piece of nostalgia, culture, history and even mystery as the author searches for its owner and actually finds her. A fascinating read!
Sometimes a book takes on a life of its own, propelling the reader along like a swift stream, unable to stop or get out of the current. The Last Season by Eric Blehm is just such a book. It is about the life (and death) of Randy Morgenson, a much-loved back country ranger for the National Park Service in the High Sierras of Southern California. Even if this story was only about Morgenson's legendary knowledge of this territory, or of his fascinating childhood, or his friendships with Ansel Adams and Wallace Stegner, this would still be a compelling read. But, add to that the fact that in 1996, at the age of 54, after 30 seasons in the High Sierras, Morgenson, while on duty mysteriously disappears. Not until five years later, after search and rescue by hundreds of people, is his body found. The final pages poignantly memorialize his life and leave the reader wondering why and how his death may have occurred.
Okay, all you fitness and running nuts out there -- this is the book for you! This book will blow your mind. Why? -- you keep asking. Entertainingly written, Dean Karnazes talks candidly about his interior determination and excessive drive to run long distances -- without stopping (makes me feel weak)!
Where have I been?! Years ago our McLean & Eakin founder, Julie Norcross, asked me if I had ever read Wendell Berry. Finally! Known as the "Philosopher of Place", Wendell Berry writes quiet books about people and places, gratitude, life and grief...and love. Hannah Coulter weaves a wise and gentle story about farmers in Kentucky. Hannah recalls her life from youth to old age. Her husband Virgil goes off to World War II, never to return, leaving her with a baby he would never see. The gracious family of her deceased husband surround her with compassion and love and never stand in her way when she falls for Nathan who has recently returned from the war Pacific Theater. Hannah and Nathan's life together would be considered ordinary-working their farm, growing their children and sending them out into the world to find their own ways, if it were not for Hannah's introspective revelations and observations. With wit and exquisite writing, Hannah Coulter leaves you feeling so much wiser and comfortable within yourself.
An oldie but a goodie! You will smile all the way through this story- not because murder is a funny subject, but because the author's wit is so wonderful! This was one of the very first classic court room trial books, and it is a fascinating case taken directly from a trial in which the author won. The issues are complicated and cleverly addressed. I loved this book even though parts may seem dated.
What a great historical book about the times, and about a feat that was thought to be "superhuman." The three runners couldn't have been more different if the author had made them fictional characters! Having grown up in the 50s -- I loved this book! FANTASTIC! A 10!
The setting is a small museum outside of London, one room of which displays artifacts about some of the more sensational murders that took place between the two world wars in the late twenties and thirties. The museum is owned by the three siblings of the founder and they are about to re-sign a lease for the continuance of the museum. T complicate matters, one of the siblings, Neville Dupayne, has no interest in continuing the business. One of the contingencies of the lease is that all three siblings must sign. Of course, Neville mysteriously becomes the first victim. What happens next is pure James. Slowly she leads the reader down the path of the murderer with clues, however remote, that are there for the reader to catch. Reviews are mixed on this P.D. James mystery but if you're a true James fan, as I am, you will still find satisfaction. There is no one in the mystery field who writes a more literary "who-dunnit", or one who can set a scene so visual that the reader steps through the pages of the book right into the story. As usual, her characters are fascinating. And at age eighty-six, P.D. James is still very "hip" to the times! Even when she is not at her best, she's good.
Marilynne Robinson is an incredible writer! I won’t pull any punches, this is a dark, dark story but the writing is spectacular. Just don’t read it in the thick of winter when you’re feeling a little “down." Two young girls, Ruth and Lucille, are being raised first by their grandmother, then by two incompetent aunts and finally by a very eccentric aunt. Even the name of their town, “Fingerbone” leaves the reader feeling a bit edgy; in fact, the town could be considered as much a character of this book as the humans; interaction between both heavily impacts the plot. I’m certain someday, this book will be considered a classic. It’s a great book club discussion!
Graham Greene is one of my favorite authors. There isn't a book of his that I have read that I haven't come away in wonderment at his gifts as a writer. Greene digs into the darkest parts of human souls and somehow puts it all down on paper. The Quiet American is set in Vietnam in the early 50s. The French are still struggling to maintain their political position against the Communists, and the United States has their "toe in the door". Fowler, a British journalist is the main character along with the American - Pyle, whose reasons for being in Vietnam remain vague. The story is multi-leveled; a love story, a political expose, a moral dilemma, a thriller -- take your pick. But if you really read between the lines, you'll feel the turmoil and almost understand what happened in Vietnam. If you have seen the movie only, you will be missing the real essence of this story as well as the fabulous quality of one of the Twentieth Century's best writers.
At the close of WWII, Aldred Leith is asked to report on the changing world of the Far East -- in particular, China and Japan. His travels bring him to Kure, Japan where he meetes the Driscoll family -- a family that will forever change his life. Written in a quiet, flowing style, Hazzard's descriptions of people and places are a thing of beauty. Not an easy read, but beautifully presented!
hough the subject matter of this book is about the fanatics of the Mormon religion, it could be about religious fanaticism anywhere. It just seems disturbing to this reader that some people seem to get themselves caught up in extremes through need, weakness, total innocence or unquestioning belief. As is the cornerstone of all of Jon Krakauer's books, his research is thorough, fascinating and scary! Throughout isolated communities of Mormonism, polygamy is still practiced. Male zealots, answering only to what God tells them to do. . .including murder. . .hold sway over willing participants with Taliban-like power. This is not the book that Krakauer intended to write, but the more he researched the subject, the more he learned about the fanatical Mormons; and not just the Mormons of today, but the past history of the Mormons as well. Reading like a novel, this book is hard to put down and simply unbelievable to comprehend the "hows and whys" of this life style! As Americans, it is important for us to not look the other way and ignore what is going on around us!
Think this might be boring? Too much history? Too much geology? Dry? NOT A CHANCE!! This is an entertainingly written story of a journey taken; of discoveries along the way; of adventure. But, especially it's about the wonderful uniqueness of the Great Lakes from a world's perspective. This is TERRIFIC!!!
The first novel to come out of Afghanistan in modern times, The Kite Runner is simply written and beautifully told. The issue of friendships between classes and different ethnic groups as the government structure of the country collapses becomes a main plot of the story. Thoughtfully written, you won't soon forget this story and you will ask yourself - "what would I have done?"
One of the most definitive books about modern-day China, Wild Swans is an astonishing picture of a country in turmoil. Told in an honest, straight forward style, it will leave you incredulous over the day-to-day lives of the Chinese throughout the 20th century. The history woven into the story is fascinating as well. This book is still banned in China. If you are at all curious about China, don't miss this book!
Although this autobiography has some tough moments, it is well worth "the read!" After all, life isn't always easy. You will be amazed at this family and the hardships they endured. Each parent has a toughness that shines through, even though their weaknesses are so very evident. Your heart will ache at times, but more than anything else, you'll know that you may not have survived!! Unforgettable!
If you like: 1) A challenge! 2) Great writing! 3) To be stretched! This is the book for you! Definitely not a casual read, this book loosely mirrors the political life of Huey Long of Louisiana. This story is steeped in moral issues - loyalty, right, power, love - an incredible piece of literature. It asks the question -does power corrupt? A great classic!!
Rising Tide is an amazing chronicle of the great Mississippi flood of 1927. The characters that arose from the debacle are people you may never have heard about but will definitely not forget. The catastrophe catapulted Herbert Hoover to the Presidency in 1930. Hoover was appointed to head the rehabilitation program for the Mississippi Delta area and gained national attention for his efforts. It's politics as usual with all the in-fighting, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the migration of blacks North and the recovery. . .such as it was. Incredibly, over one million people were displaced by the flood. . .and not for just a few days. The role of the government in the catastrophe forever changed the relationship between federal and state responsibilities. Personalities like the Percy family, engineers--Humphreys and Eads and other main players in that era, including the rise of Huey Long make the history of the time come alive. So much more than a story about a flood, Rising Tide is a "tour d' force" of the history of the United States in the first half of the 20th century.
This is the way history should be taught! If this was fiction, it would be amazing! I learned things in this book that I had never heard of before. What an amazing journey told in straight-forward style that is hard to put down. The characters remain unforgettable! If you love history - A MUST READ!
Laurel McKelva, a widow, takes a leave of absence from her very successful job in Chicago to return to New Orleans to help care for her ailing father. Trying to be of comfort to him. Laurel must also endure her very young and selfish step mother, Fay. After her father's death, she and her step mother travel back to the family home in Mount Salus, Mississippi to make arrangements for his funeral. Laurel's jounrey is more than one of miles and sadness, but also of the heart and of coming to terms with her own past. Beautifully and memorably told, Eudora Welty's simple, visual sentences convey deep and complex relationships as only marvelous writers can do. The author has a finger on the pulse of this small southern town, understanding friendships, relatives and the inner workings of our minds. This short novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1973. A "must read" for those who love the subtle descriptive portrayals of human relationships.
At once poignant, funny and exasperating, Sullivan weaves a sympathetic tale told from the child’s point of view about a family struggling during The Great Depression. Lark Erhardt observes life in her family- the relationship of her mother and father. Lark’s mother has always dreamed of owning a Cape Ann style home and is determined to have it. Lark’s Father is a gambler and therein lies the conflict. I loved the characters in this book. They are well told and you find yourself loving some and hating others!