is bound to make for a long post – but stay with us – there’s a lot of good stuff here.
Feedback from our January meeting
Our February meeting on February 21 will be a discussion – chat – about classic books, classic being defined by you (and we can talk about what that word should mean). For this reason, our January meeting was about new books – we started off saying the best of 2014 but we are pretty loose with definitions so it turned out to be fairly recent and certainly some that didn’t fit the best category.
So here’s what we talked about. Lynette always gives us a very organized list complete with her commendations sorted by non-fiction and fiction (non-fiction first)
The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most
Fascinating and very enjoyable historical account.
The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of World War II, it is the history of Paris’s world-famous Hotel Ritz —a tale of glamour, opulence and celebrity; dangerous liaisons, espionage, and resistance. Mazzeo is the best selling author of The Widow Clicquot and The Secret of Chanel No. 5. When France fell to the Germans in June 1940, the legendary Hotel Ritz on the Place Vendome was the only luxury hotel of its kind allowed in the occupied city by order of Adolf Hitler. Mazzeo traces the history of this cultural landmark from its opening. At its center it is the extraordinary chronicle of life at the Ritz during wartime, when the Hotel was simultaneously headquarters to the highest-ranking German officers and home to exclusive patrons including Coco Chanel.
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeanette by Hampton Sides.
The story of the exploration of one of the last unknown areas on earth, this is a tale of snow blindness, polar bears, ferocious storms, frosty labyrinths, madness and starvation. With twists and turns worthy of a thriller, In the Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory on earth.
Other books by this author that are recommended: Ghost Soldiers – the story of the rescue mission of the last survivors of the Bataan death march in the Philippines during WWII. Hellbound on his Trail – account of the search for Martin Luther King’s killer.
Congratulations, by the way: Some thoughts on kindness by George Saunders -this was originally a commencement speech at Syracuse University in 2013. Has been turned into a little book that would make a great graduation gift. You can read the text on-line at:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII in a small Town in France) Follows two young people – a blind girl in France and a reluctant German boy fighter who really just wants to work with radios
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein – In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant whole trees and is set on a huge estate overlooking Seattle’s Puget Sound. Exploring the secret stairways and hidden rooms, Trevor finds a spirit lingering in Riddell House whose agenda is at odds with the family plan and that reveals the key to his family’s future.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez – an excellent account of the challenges of immigration
I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes - an incredible spy thriller with amazing twists and turns
Natchez Burning by Greg Iles – first book in a trilogy features southern mayor and former prosecutor Penn Cage who is tracking a conspiracy involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of Mississippi’s most powerful men.
AND OUR OTHER READERS HAD CONTRIBUTIONS AS WELL
The Widower’s Tale and And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass – both highly recommended – both deal with families and the relationships among them
Cuckoos Calling and Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling) – mysteries featuring detective Cormoran Strike aided by office temp Robin Ellacott. Cuckoos Calling was more highly recommended than Silkworm by some participants.
The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm – aimed at middle school readers, a science based story that raises the question on whether a new cranky boy could really be Elle’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Lighthearted touch and plenty of humor – Holm is a 3 time Newbery Honor Winner.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan – generational story of four women at the family’s beach house. Recommended by two readers.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng - story of a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. The first sentence is: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – (FIRST IN A SERIES)“Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a wonderfully original and inventive book with colorful characters, a mysterious tale woven together with threads of historical relevance, and incorporating unforgettable vintage photographs which bring the story to life.”—
Transatlantic by Colum McCann – Three crossings – 1919 – first non-stop attempt across the Atlantic Ocean; Dublin 1845 and 46 – Frederick Douglass’ tour in support of his autobiography and New York 1998 – Senator George Mitchell heads to Belfast for peace talks on Northern Ireland. These three crossings are connected by a series of woman whose personal stories are caught up in history.
North of Boston by Elizabeth Elo – mystery featuring Pirio Kasparov (I think we’ll be seeing her again) that begins on the Boston waterfront when a freighter rams the fishing boat she is on tossing her and her friend into the water. It develops into something much larger and more disturbing.
The Global War on Morris by Steve Israel – satirical look at Homeland Security by a Congressman from NY
Life After Life by Jill McCorkle – set in the Pine Haven Retirement Center, Jill introduces the residents there with her usual humor and empathy.
The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman - another of her social comedies – this one is about two sisters living in a Manhattan apartment and surviving widowhood and Bernie Madoff
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant - a grandmother is telling her granddaughter the story of her life as a Jewish woman born of immigrant parents in 1900 in Boston (and the story begins with a book group)
AND NOW FOR THE BOOKS WE DIDN’T LIKE
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton - Man Booker winner and Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, much recommended but not much enjoyed by our reader – very long book – nearly 900 pages – with very large group of characters. Setting is New Zealand during the gold rush of the late 1800’s. While there were positive things to say, the author wasn’t able to make the reader care about any of the people and that makes it hard to get through that many pages.
The Forever Girl – Alexander McCall Smith – Although the reader generally enjoys some of his series (especially the Scottish series) this was a disappointment.
A Dark and Stormy Knit by Anne Canadeo – while the reader didn’t have high expectations of this title, it didn’t meet them anyway.
The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses – this book had an interesting title and a lovely cover and was compared to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which is much loved. This book was not – by the two readers who got sucked in.