I am detecting a decided uptick in mood this week.  There seems to be a lot of happiness and optimism and we begin Daylight Savings Time on Sunday.  I don’t think that this is a coincidence by the way.  Maybe the PA Rodent is taking pity on Poor Winter Weary Us and fulfilling his promise.  Let’s hope. This week we have some magic, a restless ghost, some isolation, Iran, India, a murder, the Tsar, Ireland, delight, and a Royal wave.

Let us begin!

Erin is back from her hijinks on the high seas.  Here is a little something that she enjoyed whilst away.  “Over vacation, I watched a film called The Prestige, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and DAVID BOWIE. It’s about two rival magicians in London at the turn of the 19th century. This movie is so full of twists, turns, foreshadowing and all around CRAZINESS that I literally found myself exclaiming with joy at certain unexpected parts. I LOVED this film. “

Miss Elizabeth is crazy happy about her choice this week and it’s nice to see. “I’m two for two with my adult books recently – after reading and LOVING The Rook, I started reading Wide Open, by Deborah Coates, not entirely certain it would live up to the former’s pure adrenaline rush. But this nail-biting crime thriller was excellent! When her big sister dies, Sgt. Hallie Michaels is sent home from Afghanistan on 10 days condolence leave. Arriving at the airport in her native South Dakota, Hallie is greeted by her sister’s restless ghost. Though everyone in her small ranching town thinks her sister committed suicide, Hallie knows that’s not the case. She has ten days to solve her sister’s murder and avenge her spirit. This gritty, Midwestern novel felt more realistic than supernatural. I loved it!”

The Amazing Amanda read Blankets by Craig Thompson.   “Thompson is known for his beautiful, imaginative graphic novels which are weighty in the hands and hard on your tear ducts. The book is a loose autobiography of Thompson’s childhood where he dives deep into religious feeling to overcome the isolation enforced on him by his peers and family. However, his faith starts to tremble as he grows up. He finds comfort in writing to a girl he met at a Bible camp. Thompson’s journey explores the faith we place in others and ourselves. How one grows and how nothing can stay the same. This is a beautiful work and is simpler in themes than his later epic Habibi.  Both works explore the ties between religion, sexuality, and growing up.

Lois  Mistress of Materials Management is joining us for the first time this week and has just finished A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri. Welcome Lois! “It is the story of a young girl growing up in post-revolutionary Iran in the 1980’s.  Saba Hafezi and her twin sister Mahtab are obsessed with all things American and look forward to leaving Iran someday to live in the Western world.  When her twin sister and mother disappear, Saba believes they have left her to live in America.  She creates stories in which she imagines the life Mahtab is leading in America.  Their small rural village embraces Saba and her father, providing an array of surrogate mothers and unique friends that each bring different perspectives into her life.  As the years go by, Saba is caught up in the rhythm of life in Iran, but she never abandons her hope of moving to America for the chance to pursue her dreams.  I enjoyed the storytelling aspects of this book and the introspective views from a young girl born into a culture which is both warm and embracing as well as brutal and oppressive.  The author’s bio closely resembles that of her main character, Saba, and that lends heartfelt warmth and credibility to the story.”

Barbara M.  I have no words.  No Paris.  No war.  No Nazis.  There must be some sort of epic sun spot that is affecting the universe. “Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts was published in 2003 and in spite of rave reviews from all who read it I’m finally getting around to tackling this daunting 933-page book. This autobiographical novel tells the story of a man, later known as Shantaram, who escapes from a maximum security prison in Australia and travels with a false passport to Bombay, India. In Bombay he is befriended by a tour guide, Prabaker, and a beautiful Swiss woman, Karla, who will both have a great impact on his life in India. The writing is poetic at times and beautifully descriptive. Although I’ve never been to India this book seems to capture the special qualities of the land and the people.”

The Fabulous Babs B! joins us this week with the  The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson.  “I have to be honest, this was not one of my favorite books.  Teenagers Poppy and Serena were the only suspects in the murder of their teacher.  Poppy is convicted and goes to prison for 20 years while Serena is living a picture-perfect life with a husband and two children.  When Poppy is released she makes it her mission to find Serena and confront her... it seems she did not kill the teacher nor did Serena.  The ending FINALLY brings everything together as the reader finds out who actually did the dirty deed! “

Pat S. has finished a book I adored,   Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith.  Here is her take on it.  “This is a fascinating book which details the annihilation of an entire generation of the ennobled class in Russia at the turn of the last century. Everyone is familiar with the tragic tale of the Romanov dynasty but did you know that the upper class was as much in favor of abolishing the monarchy as were the worker/peasant class? Were you aware that the anti-Semitism which has long colored Russia's history was held down under the Tsar, and went through the stratosphere under the Soviets? In addition to brilliant scholarship, Smith details the ultimate extinction of the ennobled class by following two families, the Golitsyns and the Sheremetevs beginning in 1917. It is a  riveting story that reads like a novel but defines the much larger cultural ramifications of the tragedy.”

Stephanie and I, as usual, are in agreement about something.  This time around it is about the genius of   TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. “I approached this with trepidation. McCann is a great writer so one always does. Short sentences, short thoughts, then deep thoughts.  Interwoven stories through modern Irish history, from several perspectives, a chain. Imitable.  As you can see. But nothing I do can truly imitate McCann’s clean sentences and flawless metaphors; they guide you across the pages like so many neon lights on the runway, coming in for a landing on a clear and moonless night.”

Pat T. doesn’t mind the heat so she’s in the kitchen this week with The Lost Art of Mixing. “ If you have read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, you might be interested in reading the author's newest book The Lost Art of Mixing. I am in the middle of this delightful read that centers on Lillian, a cook, who has taken her love of cooking and created an inviting restaurant that draws her customers, as well as her employees together through their love of food. There is a whole mix of characters, some struggling with their relationships and others seeking friendship, companionship and love!”

Jeanne is only doing one thing this week.  Discuss. " I am loving The Uncommon Reader on audio. It is read by its author, Alan Bennett whose well-paced bon mots are a delight. The fun begins when the Queen discovers a mobile library near Buckingham Palace. She further discovers; with the help of Norman, a kitchen knave, that she loves to read. She loves reading so much more than the business of politics and she even manages to read surreptitiously as she travels in her royal car and waves her royal wave. Too bad it's a short novella, but I will be sure to look for other similar audiobooks."

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