Greetings and a Happy First Day of Summer to All! Let’s all hope for a weather situation free couple of months. It seems like a rather small thing to ask for at this point considering all we have been through. Also, please be aware that we will be taking next week off. There are many of us traveling many places. BUT think of it this way. Lots of travel means many hours spent trapped in charmless airports reading our current reality away while we try to calm the panic within that flying brings. Oh wait. That may just be me. Never mind. This week we have more of Our Girl Huguette (we LOVE her), the Fountain of Youth, some Poland, time travel, Chechnya, Pennsylvania, war, more cheese please, Dartmouth, Afghanistan, some world weariness, and an exception to the rule.
Let us begin!
Janet is home! We missed her. BUT while she was gone she was with Our Girl Huguette! “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune is an exhaustively researched and fascinating portrait of copper heiress Huguette Clark, wealthy beyond measure yet a ghostly presence in her own life which I read on the plane coming home. The story would not be believable as fiction, but it all really happened. I would recommend it for book groups and must add that is does not disappoint.”
Miz Krishna of the CL has just finished The Water Castle by Megan Grazer Blakemore. “The fountain of youth has been the subject of several books and movies and in Megan Grazer Blakemore's debut novel The Water Castle she adds new mystery, depth and a sci-fi twist to the legend. The Appledore family of Maine has been obsessed with the fountain of youth for at least a century and when the Appledore children's father suffers a stroke and their mother moves them to the family home the mystery begins. Could the Appledore family have really discovered the fountain of youth? What is that faint blue glow that seems to spark around the house? If you are looking for a novel that is part science fiction, part historical fiction and part adolescent struggle, you will love discovering The Water Castle.”
Erin is doing a little Programming Reading this week. “I am reading The Lullaby of Polish Girls. This debut novel follows three Polish girlfriends: Justyna, Kamila, and Anna and bounces between the summers they spent together when they were 13-15 and their lives now. After Justyna's brother-in-law murders her husband, readers are taken on a journey into the teenage years of these girls to find out how something so brutal came about. The author will be here July 25!”
The Amazing Amanda is reading Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone. “Are you a fan of time travel, romance, and the complexities that result when lovers are separated by living years apart? Anna is a sixteen year old that lives near Chicago in 1995. Bennett’s secret is that he’s a time traveler from San Francisco in 2012. He tries to keep his distance, but unable to stop himself, he falls in love with Anna. The pair now have to struggle with how to carry on a love affair when Bennett may be returned to his present life in 2012 at any moment. This book is a bit silly, but I have found it to be compelling as I race through the chapters. Anna, unlike her literary contemporary Bella Swann from Twilight, has a backbone and does not put up with Bennett’s evasive behavior. I love this as her reactions to the complications of her relationship are realistic. When she’s lied to, she gets angry and refuses to let Bennett wiggle out of confronting harsh realities. I can therefore respect the characters in this story as believable as it explores time travel. “
Sweet Ann. More darkness. Discuss. “I have just finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. This is a first novel for Mr. Marra and I hope it is only the beginning of a wonderful story telling career. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena takes place during five days of the Chechnya Russian conflict during the winter of 2004. Havaa is a young girl who escapes as her father is being taken away by the Russians also known as the Feds. The Feds want her so her neighbor, Akmed, one of the few remaining people in the town, decided to bring her to the hospital and hopes the one remaining doctor, Sonja, will protect her. The novel goes back and forth in time and you feel for all that the characters have gone through, from the family members of Akmed, Havaa and even the town's traitor. The title of this book comes from the definition of Life in a medical textbook mentioned in this story; ‘Life: a constellation of vital phenomena-organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.’ You can see aspects of that definition in the truly well written characters that Mr. Marra has created. It is a tough story but you experience the best in people and hope for humanity. It is a beautifully written book.”
Lois is revisiting new stories from old friends: “If you are looking for a quick read which is engrossing but not too heavy, then Jennifer Haigh’s latest book, News from Heaven, is a good choice. The book returns to the Pennsylvania coal mining town of Bakerton, which was the setting for Haigh’s previous novel Baker Towers. News from heaven is a collection of interconnected short stories which bring the reader into the lives of the residents of Bakerton. I think that the common theme running through the stories is how a person’s life choices are influenced by the environment that they call home. The small town of Bakerton is an interesting setting because of its years of prosperity followed by its difficult decline. The residents vary widely in their relationships to the town itself and to each other. “
John is reading The Gone-Away World. “I enjoyed Angelmaker very much and I find Harkaway's writing to be thoroughly wry, poignant, and sometimes stunning. He's sort of a cross between Kurt Vonnegut, Erin Morgenstern, and Neil Gaiman. Gone-Away World takes place in the time leading up to, during, and finally in the aftermath of a war fought with weapons that do not explode, puncture, maim, or burn. Rather, they simply make the enemy disappear, along with a large chunk of surrounding area. For those of you who remember ICE-9 from Cat's Cradle this invokes that kind of surreal quality, but Harkaway's prose is more lucid and bears a greater degree of verisimilitude than Vonnegut's, who I always felt was being absurd (albeit on purpose). This is a very good book that I highly recommend.
Barbara M. Still no Paris. No Nazis. But she is at least on the Continent. “I’m reading The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti. This is a book about a cheese, a man, a region of Spain, pride,and revenge all told in vividly descriptive language. As Michael Paterniti tells his story about a storyteller he becomes a master storyteller himself. Be sure not to skip the footnotes – they’re almost as interesting as the story itself.”
Babs B. loves her time on a beach. Add a good read and a glass of Something and she is in heaven. She has just finished reading A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams. “ It's 1931 and BBFs Lily and Budgie are in their junior year at Smith and dating two handsome guys who happen to be the star players for Dartmouth's football team. Fast forward to 1938 and we find that Budgie has married Lily's boyfriend and needless to say, Lily is devastated. The story goes back and forth between 1931 and 1938 and eventually the reader learns why this marriage happened in the first place and it's not a happy one! Lily eventually forgives Budgie and they continue to spend summers at their family's Rhode Island beach house which has been around for generations, with Lily trying to get her life back together. Little did anyone know that the Hurricane of 1938 (which was a Category 5) is fast approaching the East Coast and will change everyones lives. This the perfect beach read and I loved it!
Jeannie. Just to keep us honest. Only one thing. Discuss. “I am listening to And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. The characters tell stories themselves so the reader is given a blend of intermingled tales that come together to tell an emotional journey through love and pain beginning in an Afghan village and traveling the world. The lovely instrumental music that plays serves to enhance the feeling of place as this complex story of family relations unfolds. The scope of brother, sister, father, mother, cousins, and more is very broad, but the three narrators, including Khaled Hosseini are captivating in their authenticity. Hosseini as an author transports us way beyond just words in a book to travel alongside his characters.”
Steph says: “A Delicate Truth by John le Carre was fantastic! How is he still writing books this good? I guess there’s plenty of new material for him to work with. Le Carre brings all of his world-weary, nitty-gritty sensibility to bear on the invisible and omnipresent world of private contractors, and the war on terror, or whatever it’s called now. It somehow feels more real and true than the newspaper. This is a quick read: think an air-plane read, or a beach read, but one that will sock you in your gut when you’re not looking.”
Abby is doing the unexpected. “I hadn't planned on reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, but when the sister I'll be visiting in California in a few weeks invited me to her book group meeting, I said yes. Wild was their pick. As I have been sent emergency emails and Facebook messages from my sister during these meetings looking for book group picks to share on-the-spot, I'm feeling some pressure to show up well-prepared and exceedingly pleasant. Once I finish Wild, I'll be prepared; pleasant I can't promise at this point as I am having trouble with Cheryl's inability to anticipate the consequences of her actions. Yes, she had an unusual and challenging childhood, but some of her choices as an adult are self-indulgent and motivated by self-pity. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is an enormous challenge for even the most experienced hiker and I respect her determination to do so. At the halfway point of the book, I would have respected it a bit more had she, I dunno, prepared? A woman driven to creating her own roadblocks, it will be interesting to see how her hike helped her on the road to personal development and healthier choices.
Those who know me know that my train book is always on my Kindle, except when it’s not. Sorry, but it just gets too heavy to lug physical books. The only time there is an exception to this rule is when I, for some reason, cannot get the book on my Kindle and it is so wonderful I cannot imagine being too far away from it at any given time. The last time this happened was with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which is now on the Jen Top of 2013 List. Wally Lamb’s We are Water is the latest in this elite list of rule breakers. While I cannot say for certain it will make The List, I can say for certain that I am really engrossed and enjoying this story of a family who has been torn apart by some life choices, an unsolved murder and family secrets. This one comes out in November.