This week we have a trilogy, a twerp, a love story times 2, another love story, the royal yacht, a Degas (or is it!?), some science and faith and some blues, and some nostalgia. 

Let us begin!

John is ready for the next installment! “I've finally gotten around to starting The Twelve the second installment of Cronin's hit Passage trilogy.  If you haven't read The Passage, I highly recommend it.  It's a blast and Cronin knows how to entertain.  These are long books, but he brings the reader up to cruising speed quickly and before you know it, you're completely absorbed in the story.  He's a great writer, though this installment is not quite as strong as The Passage.  But if you're like me, you finished the first book and were dying to move on to the next.”

Alison our Numbers Woman is reading Wanted Man by Lee Childs and is perplexed by some forthcoming cinematic casting. “This is the new Reacher book and it’s getting better.  I can’t believe that Tom Cruise was cast to play Reacher in the movie. Reacher is a big guy at about 6’4’. Cruise is a little 5’6” twerp.”

Gretchen is reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. “I didn’t want to read this book, I generally shy away from cancer stories, but it is a book being considered for our OBOC as well as a possible Printz contender so I figured it was high time I cracked that spine. I am about halfway through and really enjoying it. Hazel is suffering from cancer and meets Augustus (Gus) who also has cancer. They are perfectly suited in wit and intelligence and though their individual tastes certainly vary from literary novels and violent video games – they fall in love. Cancer stories could be sappy, emotional tales, but Hazel and Gus face the world with an honesty and wit that is refreshing to read. The Fault in Our Stars is a glimpse into what life as a teen with cancer is like and a way to celebrate life as it is, ‘Living our best life today!’”

And here is Stephanie’s take on the same book. “This week I jumped on the bandwagon and finally read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. This YA novel is an unwinding love story between protagonist Hazel and a boy she meets named Augustus. Which is where a lot of YA novels start, but this one has an extra urgency—Hazel has terminal cancer, and she meets Augustus, a survivor of osteosarcoma, at Cancer Kid Support Group. No surprise, I cried like a baby through a lot of this book (and many thanks to the lady across from me on the train, who politely ignored the tears dripping down my face), but it’s not a sappy tearjerker. It’s smart, thoughtful, and genuine. I think even adults who don’t normally read YA would enjoy it. In fact, if you’ve been thinking about trying a YA book, this might be a good one to start with. But it’s also a sterling example of what YA books can do for teens, and I know teens love it, just based on some of the outpouring of writing and art I’ve seen related to this book online. So it would be a great read for teens as well, and maybe even a good holiday gift for the teen in your life (just double-check they haven’t read it yet, since this book has been on bestseller lists all year).”

Miss Kiera has just revisited something I consider to be a masterwork. “I just reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since high school. The movie is coming out this spring and I wanted to refresh my memory before having Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DeCaprio completely obliterate my own imaginings of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. I had forgotten how much I love Fitzgerald's writing. Despite how awful and self-involved almost every single character is throughout the story, you nevertheless fall in love with these flawed, melodramatic people. Fitzgerald's lush descriptions of New York in the 1920's (lights twinkling on Long Island Sound, raucous dance parties dripping with diamonds and champagne thrown in Gatsby's immense garden, Daisy's fabulous, flowing silk gowns... ah!) bring you immediately to the time period. I also rewatched the 1974 film starring Mia Farrow (as Daisy Buchanan) and the delicious Robert Redford (as Gatsby.) Whether the remake will live up to the sumptuous set design and costumes that won the 1974 film two Oscars remains to be seen.” 

Miss Elisabeth has just started Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn. “I'm only about 30 pages in but so far am finding it delightful. Miss Marian recommended it to me, and she hasn't given me a title that I've disliked yet! In this book, Queen Elizabeth II is feeling rather discouraged by the rigors of modern life and the rapidly changing world she finds herself a part of. One day, she decides to take herself on holiday to visit the formal royal yacht. She leaves without telling anyone and is accompanied only by some loyal servants who happened to see her leave and followed her. There's a great Upstairs-Downstairs, Downton Abbey-esque feel to the story, and I love the British monarchy!”

Poor Ann.  Superstorm Sandy is still an intrusion into her world of sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.  Here is what she has to report.  “Sadly to say with the holidays coming and contractors in and out of the house, (from the tree damage), I have only been able to finish Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  This is at first look a light read and fun book but then you realize Bernadette is going through a difficult time.  She has a daughter, Bee, who is her main support and the one who believes in her mother coming back home.  It is also the story of competitive parents, Microsoft and people in general who we can all recognize in our daily lives.  This book made me smile.”  And honestly isn’t that all we can ask for in times of stress and strife?  Ann we wish some normality for you soon!

Barbara M. Not in France.  Not a Nazi in sight.  Discuss.”I’m reading The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, a novel loosely based on the theft in 1990 of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Claire Roth, an artist, supports herself by copying famous paintings for Reproductions.com. When gallery owner Aiden Markal asks her to make a copy of a stolen Degas in return for a show at his gallery Claire faces a difficult decision. The writing is good but not extraordinary and the plot takes many twists but what makes this book really interesting for me is the information about art forgery.”

Jeanne is, no surprise, doing two things at once.  “I am making my way slowly through Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel of human frailties and foibles. Slowly because for me, anyway, Kingsolver's writing is always beautiful but very dense. Kind of like the roosts of monarch butterflies in this story of man vs. environment and man vs. man. And like the monarchs, Dellarobia Turnbow, the young mother who lives with her family and her husband's family on a farm in rural Appalachia, longs to spread her wings. There's usually the element of teaching from this author and I am enjoying the tests of science and faith as well as the exposure of public opinion as (mis)reported by the media.  I also just finished listening to Laura Lippman's Baltimore Blues: The First Tess Monaghan Novel on audio. Lippman was a reporter for twenty years at the Baltimore Sun and she weaves a great tale of murder, mystery, law and journalism. And of course there is sex (not too much), deceit (plenty) and money (whose?) throughout. Tess Monaghan, our heroine, is an unemployed former reporter who a) wants to be employed, b) wants to find her friend's killer and c) gets up at 5:00 in the morning to do her rowing workouts on the Patapsco River. This is a great story to listen to in the car as you make your way through your week.”

Pat T. is feeling festive! “'Tis the season and I like Pete Hamill, so I picked up his latest book titled The Christmas Kid  which is a collection of short stories first published in the Daily News in the 1980's. Anyone who hails from Brooklyn will enjoy this collection  of stories because they capture a period of time when Brooklyn was a borough filled with lower middle class homes where the immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europeans settled with their families. The stories are nostalgic and poignant!”

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