Our optimism this week knows no bounds. Pansies and ranunculus are ready for sale next door, the snow is slowly receding, and I have even seen snow drops blooming in the mud.  Spring is on its way (5 more days!)  and not a moment too soon.  This week we have a fancy restaurant, unspeakable acts, lots of blood, a future screening (!), some very valid concern, understatement, a psychotic ghost and a rather unsavory obsession.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann’s Hurricane Sandy nightmare is almost over.  She sent this one to me while high on paint fumes. “I'm sitting in my house inhaling paint fumes before I go off to Pilates and thought why not do YAWYR? I just finished  The Dinner by Herman Koch.  The Dinner follows the dinner of two couples, Paul and Claire, and Serge and Babette.  The men are brothers and don't get along that well.  Paul narrates this story including the meal from appetizer to dessert, which in itself makes this novel quite interesting.  The book takes place in a very fancy restaurant in Amsterdam where the couples have gathered to discuss what their sons, (cousins), have done.  The fifteen year old cousins have committed a horrendous crime and the parents are trying to figure out how to handle the situation.  The book is engaging because as a reader you think what you would do, what the "right" thing to do is and what these two couples decide to do.  Since one brother tells the story you just get his side, but his thought process is intriguing and frightening at the same time.”  See?  Ann is sweet even when impaired.  This is why we love her. 

Jeanne, while not impaired to our knowledge, is also reading The Dinner by Herman Koch.  “Reading this novel makes me wonder why an author will write about the worst in people and why so many of us are compelled to continue reading. Do I hope that there will be redemption? Or am I just a sucker for a book that might describe good food? Through four courses in an upscale Amsterdam restaurant, Paul and his politician brother, Serge, along with their wives Claire and Babette seem to just go through the motions of dining while their teenage boys are up to unspeakable acts. I generally like the blunt way of European writers, but this story is shaping up to be very hard-boiled. I haven't lost my appetite yet.”

The Amazing Amanda finished the Jessica series with Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. This book picks up a few months where Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side left off. There is a murder mystery afoot which has led to the imprisonment of Jessica’s new husband, Lucius. Jessica is unsure of who to trust as she dreams of betrayal and blood. Lots and lots of blood. This book also delves into the romance of Jessica’s best friend, Mindy. Overall, it was nice to finish these books, but I felt that this book was a weak companion to the delightful earlier novel. Lucius is hardly seen since he is locked away in the dungeon and Jessica is sidelined as well thanks to Mindy’s story. I also figured out who was the murderer early on. So while I enjoyed this read, I wish there had been more about the vast society of vampires. There’s a lot of potential to flesh out this universe if the author would get away from the main cast.

Erin is clueing us in on her process!  “This week, I watched A Late Quartet with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener. It focuses on the beginning of the performance season of an acclaimed string quartet, just as one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. It was one of the more gorgeously heartbreaking films I have seen in a long time. Christopher Walken's performance, in particular, is nothing short of spectacular. We'll definitely screen it in our Community Room this April.”

Barbara M. has informed me she is still in India reading Shantaram.  No Paris.  No Nazis.  Just. Plain. Wrong.  I can no longer hide my concern.   She also shared with me that she is the proud owner of not one but two saris.  I am starting to think we have an imposter on our hands.  Discuss.

Stephanie has a new love!  “This week was devoted to Denise Mina, who I’ve finally discovered with some help from a patron. I don’t know why it took me so long (especially given that she briefly wrote for the comic series Hellblazer, one of my favorites). Gods and Beasts is her latest novel and it is fantastic. Tana French mixed with John le Carre; a beautifully understated and thoughtful crime novel with characters so real that I kept forgetting it was fiction. I also read Still Midnight and The Slip of the Knife and liked them just as much. She is my new favorite crime fiction writer.”

Miss Elisabeth of The CL is trying to come to grips with a sequel that is not living up to its predecessor.  Still, you have to admire her tenacity.  “This week I am reading The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson. It's the sequel to her The Name of the Star. Rory is a southern gal from Louisiana whose professor parents decide to teach in England during her senior year of high school, moving the whole family to the Emerald Isle and Rory to a boarding school in London. In the first book, Rory got mixed up with a very strange police force and a psychotic ghost imitating the Jack the Ripper murders. The Name of the Star was amazing - I literally read it until 3 in the morning and couldn't put it down. The Madness Underneath deals with the repercussions of events in the first book. It's good, but I'm not quite as gripped by it as I was by the previous story. Still, I feel affection for these characters, so I'm excited to see where the story takes me. “

Those who know us have a general inkling about our obsessions with topics far from savory.  One of these is murder.  We want to know it all.  Who what where and most definitely why.  If you need to know how to hide bodies just ask!  We can help!  And those who know us know that once one of us gets started obsessing, others will join in.  This has been decidedly the case with Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham.  Graham looks at what drove 15-year-old Juliet Hulme (Anne Perry’s real name) and her best friend, 16-year-old Pauline Parker to put a brick in a stocking and bludgeon Parker’s mother to death after Tea in 1954.  Not content with mere reading material I also viewed Heavenly Creatures this weekend. I know that my fellow obsessives Pat S. and Stephanie will be discussing this endlessly amongst ourselves and roping in others. Won’t you join in too?  The book comes out in May but you can get started by watching the movie which in the words of my son who I made watch it with me “is messed up.”  When your 20-year-old says this with awe and amazement in his voice, you can be assured this is a ringing endorsement.  And no, I am not worried about giving him ideas.

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