Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Your Ann update of the week does seem hopeful.  She seems to think The Sandy Nightmare may just about be close to completion.  She reports that the Appalachian aspect of their home (i.e. no electricity or running water) has ended and that the workmen seem to be actually finishing various tasks.  Here is hoping that is indeed the case.  I am also happy to report that  Barbara M. is back to normal, so there will be some Nazis and Paris in our future. This week we have some small town, Old School style, the Blitz, toast masquerading as a cookie, memory loss, all that and a bag of chips, Anastasia, some quirk  and a lot of distractibility.

Let us begin!

Marilyn of MatMan is joining us for the first time this week!  Welcome aboard!  “I just finished reading Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.  It is labeled a Detective Mystery which is not my normal genre of reading so I almost didn't check it out.  I am so glad that I did.  I loved it!  The story is set in 1961 in a small town in Minnesota.  The narrative is told through the voice of Frank who was thirteen that year, the middle child of a Methodist minister father and an artistic mother.  There are several tragic deaths that summer in their small town which provides a page turning story with many twists and turns.  It is also a moving story of family relationships, friendships, prejudice, painful loss and faith.  For anyone who would not normally read a D-M (and for those who do), I would highly recommend this wonderful book.”

John says, “Because Sally spoke so highly of it, and because I told her I would read it, I've just started Old School.  As an English major, I can totally relate to it and so far I'm thoroughly enjoying it.”

Sweet Ann is reading my favorite book of the year so far, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.   Let’s see her take on it. “This novel is a breath of fresh air in that it takes you as a reader on different adventures with the main character, Ursula, as she is ‘reborn’ into different scenarios.  Ursula was born in England February 11, 1910.  In one scenario she survives and in another she doesn’t.  During the Blitz she works to rescue victims of bombings and at the same time in another experience she is married to a German living in Germany.   This book is so well written that you can follow all the twists and turns of Ursula's life and you care deeply for her in every situation.  You will cheer for her as well as cry for her.  This was a really good read.”

Barbara M!  I am so relieved and you all should be too! “I am back in France and reading The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France by John Baxter, an Australian who has been living in Paris for twenty years. Baxter wanted to create a classical French meal, which seems to be disappearing in today’s world so worried about health. As he researches each part of the banquet he travels around France and relates the origin of each dish. I was surprised to learn that in Proust’s original manuscript, the famous madeleine was actually a piece of toasted bread. I am thoroughly enjoying this mouthwatering book but nonetheless, I don’t think I’ll be ordering lampreys as a fish course anytime soon.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is reading a rather grown-up choice! “I am late to this bandwagon, but I just finished Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson, and wow, what a read. I picked the book up because I saw on Early Word that Nicole Kidman has been cast to star in the movie, and I am so glad I did! Christine wakes up every morning with no memory of where she is or how she got there. After suffering an extreme trauma 20 years early, she has been living with amnesia. When she sleeps, she forgets every memory she has made that day. Luckily she has her loving husband, Ben, to take care of her and remind her who she is. But when Christine starts keeping a journal to help her remember her day-to-day life, she feels a growing sense of unease. Is Ben keeping things from Christine? Is her new doctor? Or is she keeping dark secrets from herself? I could not put this book down. To borrow from the late, great Roger Ebert, two thumbs up!”

Stephanie has been insisting that I pick this one up.  I just may need to obey her.  “This week I could not put down The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, the story of four friends who meet at summer camp and think they are going to change the world and be fascinating their entire lives—that then follows them through their adolescence and adulthood and their entrance into the real world. There are a lot of things to say about this book, and smarter people than me are going to say them, so I will just note that I loved it and very highly recommend it to pretty much everybody I know. How much did I love it, you ask? So much that I accidentally ate an entire bag of chips while reading it because I was so engrossed.”

Jeanne.  Doing two things at once.  I love it when things are back to normal.  “Many may recognize John Boyne as the Irish author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I am reading his latest novel, The House of Special Purpose which starts out in England with an eighty year old couple, Georgy Daniilovich and Zoya Jachmenev who decide to travel back to Russia, their homeland, to possibly put to rest ghosts of the tragic past that haunts them. The story takes the reader back through time in the early part of the 20th century to the Winter Palace of the Tsar in a time of change and bloody revolution.  I wondered at the title so I Googled it, but I didn't need to since Jen is a wealth of information on the Imperial household. Inspired by true events this is Boyne's version of a household servant of Tsar Nicholas II in a time of Bolsheviks, Anastasia and St. Petersburg. I like this author for his ability to offer an alternative historical version of an era while evoking the emotions of the personal lives in turbulent times.  That being said,sometimes I just want to read a book that doesn’t have any cultural or historical significance or isn't about someone famous. Just give me an entertaining novel, a good read with lots of fun characters and conversation. People that could materialize in your kitchen: people in believable situations but with some quirks. Elinor Lipman’s fiction usually fits that bill. I am enjoying her latest, The View from Penthouse B. It's fun and engaging and I am spending time with people who, through no direct fault of their own, survive various ‘setbacks’ and take in roommates to keep living in their NYC penthouse while hatching money-making schemes.

Like a lot of us this week, I have been finding it hard to concentrate.  There is so much going on!  Some of it heavenly, but some of it not so much.  I was so relieved to FINALLY find a good book to sink into.  The Gravity of Birds is a first novel by Tracy Guzeman.  A hidden away painting of sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler and the artist himself Thomas Bayber, is found and Thomas would like to sell it.  But first he must find the sisters who have disappeared.  The story is told in alternating voices and it reminds me a lot of Lily King.  So if you are looking for some smart, literate dysfunction, this could be yours come August.

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