Welcome to a long overdue “What Are we Reading?” Just in time for a snow day!
Marie: Marie is reading Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olsted by Justin Martin. “Great book. An amazing life.”
Janice: “I’m currently reading, or more precisely drooling over, the new coffee table book The Writer’s Garden by Jackie Bennett. This is a lavishly illustrated love affair with icons of literature and the gardens they adored. How about a fantasy trip to William Wordsworth’s ‘Dove Cottage’ in Grasmere in England’s Lake District, where he got his inspiration for his famous poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’?”
- “I am currently reading: Mind over Medicine by Lissa Rankin,MD. It is about how our bodies have the innate ability to heal and how we can control this with the power of the mind.”
- “I have just started the novel Mambo In Chinatown by Jean Kwok.”
- The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris
“This British historical mystery is set in the 1780’s where Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an American colonist far from his Philadelphia home, works as an anatomist (surgeon) in London. This is the 4th in the series & it was good enough that I am going to read the first three & am looking forward to the publishing of the fifth later this month. The Lazarus Curse sees Thomas working for the Royal Society cataloging fauna and flora for a disastrous voyage to Jamaica which led to the deaths of the physicians on board. But the real interest of the Royal Society is news of a potion which awakens the dead & restores them to life. But the main theme of the book is the abject cruelty of slavery. (Slavery was not abolished in England until 1809.) Thomas finds himself embroiled in a revolt that is simmering in the household of a wealthy plantation owner by his servants. The mystery story is a little short changed as the story of the rich man’s slaves becomes the focal point of the book. It is well-written & very atmospheric.”
- Jack the Ripper and the Case for Scotland Yard’s Prime Suspect by Robert House.
“The title pretty much says it all. Unlike most Ripper books this one goes into the history not only of London in 1888 when the Ripper struck the slums of Whitechapel but of the immigrants who had flooded the area. It is one of these immigrants who the book fingers as the real Ripper, a young man who had spent years in one of the country’s horrid insane asylums. This is a much more reasonable and likely choice of just who the Ripper was although for years people have preferred a Ripper who had royal connections. The authorities who were assigned the task of uncovering the identity of the Ripper never came out & said who they suspected but papers & old police files from the head of Scotland Yard are used here to identify the suspect who was never caught.”
- The Good Luck Cat by Lissa Warren
“This short compact book tells the story of the author’s father’s cat Ting. When her father’s serious heart condition worsened Lissa felt he needed a cat knowing that owning a cat can improve the lives of ill people. Ting did just that for years. But when her father died Lissa found that Ting had a serious heart problem & was rushed to Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston to receive a human pacemaker, a tricky usually unsuccessful operation. Not only did Ting survive but soon after Lissa discovered that she herself was suffering from MS & Ting was there to comfort her. This is a book for people who love cats, who love to observe their secret ways, their sweet natures.”
- Grail Knight by Angus Donald
“One of the highlights of my winter is the yearly publication of Angus Donald’s superb series about Robin Hood & Alan Dale. This is the 5th in the Outlaw series. The year is 1200, a year after the death of Richard Lionheart & the beginning of the reign of the much-maligned King John of England. The story is told by Alan Dale who in this book agonizes over his pregnant wife Goody who lies near death. Robin convinces him that the only thing that will save her is possession of the Holy Grail. Alan’s manor at Westbury has been burned to the ground by an old enemy & it is believed that this enemy holds the Grail. Time for another knightly adventure filled with blood and gore. Just what I needed in the dark of winter!”
- Finding Me [sound recording] by Michelle Knight
“Horrific true story of the abduction and captivity of young girls, by Ariel Castro in Cleveland. Amazed at Michelle’s fortitude to make her way back, could only get thru 2 discs, the story was just too terrible. Difficult to believe this happens in our society…but it does.”
- You Should Have Known: a novel / [sound recording] Jean Hanff Korelitz
“Started to listen to this decided I’m not interested in peoples marital problems, when there are so many murder mysteries to read! Then wondering why I took it out, I read the blurb for the book, - There was a murder involved and it was a mystery so I tried again. Interesting story glad I went back to it.”
- A Wanted Man by Lee Child.
“Loved the method of communication worked out between hitchiker, Jack Reacher and the female passenger in the car.”
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King.
“Second adventure of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes - Sherlock wasn’t as prominent in this one until the end.”
- The Family Man by Elinor Lipman
“Took awhile to get into this but liked the story of a different type of family.”
- Miss Julia Stirs up Trouble by Ann B. Ross.
“Another ‘Gentle’ Story that gets Miss Julia into more ‘trouble’ due to misunderstandings.”
- Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson
“Liked the knitting ‘lessons’ interspersed in the story.”
- You Are Not Special– and Other Encouragements by David McCullough Jr.
“The title of this book grabbed my attention - Interesting - ideas on teaching”
- Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.
“The cover of this book always intrigued me. Turned out to be a different kind of adventure thru Swamps and alligator wrestling parks! A little mystical!”
- Katie up and down the Hall: the True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family by Glenn Plaskin.
“Very moving story.”
- Vanished: the Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton
“Amazing story of persistence searching for missing men.”
- A Heartbeat Away by Michael Palmer.
“Kind of scary in the day of terrorism and Ebola!”
- Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell.
“Patricia Cornwell and Scarpetta always seem to come up with something different.”
Lisa: “I’m reading Everybody’s Got Something, a memoir by Robin Roberts. Although the writing is somewhat choppy, I am finding the stories about her life, her family’s lives, and her personal battles with illness inspirational.”
- 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
“I really enjoyed this new novel about about a group of loosely connected people two nights before Christmas in Philadelphia. Characters include a school teacher, her third grade student (who’s a wannabe jazz singer in honor of deceased mother), a police officer, and the owner of a jazz club where everyone’s stories culminate in the middle of the night. This book is a good fit for those who enjoy alternating points of view and flashbacks.”
- The Love Boats by Jeraldine Saunders
“Regular readers of this column may remember my confession in the last installment about binge watching the 1970’s and 1980’s television show, The Love Boat. I recently discovered that the initial idea came from a memoir from a former cruise director. Jeraldine Saunders exaggerated (well, lied) about her knowledge of foreign languages, bingo, bridge, and cruise ship horse racing in order to land a job as a hostess, which led to her becoming the first female cruise director in the world. Fans of the show hoping to find Gopher, Captain Stubing, and the rest of the gang will be disappointed, but readers may be amused by Saunders’s various anecdotes about quirky passengers, vaguely inappropriate crew members, and things that can go wrong. The late 1960’s, early 1970’s social norms regarding treatment of women and casual sex was occasionally hard to read in a 2015 context, and I can’t decide if the book makes me excited to take another cruise or want to completely avoid the industry.”
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Ebook version
“I feel as if I’m the last person in the country to finally read this book. Did Nick Dunne have something to do with his wife, Amy’s disappearance (and possible murder)? Nick relays his story and it becomes obvious that he’s not the most reliable narrator. This mysterious creepy book was a fast read, but just as I still can’t decide if The Love Boats has turned me off to cruising, I still can’t decide if I enjoyed this popular title. There were some moments that I found so completely absurd that I couldn’t help laughing.”
- Little Bee by Chris Cleave (audiobook)
“This haunting book is extremely harrowing as it tells the story of Little Bee, a Nigerian woman who was pursued and tortured and witnessed the murder of her sister. The two sisters’ lives intersect with a British couple, Andrew and Sarah, on a Nigerian beach setting the scene for a future relationship for Little Bee and Sarah. I enjoyed this extremely gritty book, which alternates between Sarah and Little Bee’s points of view. I would have preferred it had the book stayed with Little Bee, rather than Sarah, as I found the former’s story much more compelling.”
- Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
“A teen novel about Grace, who is fascinated with the wolves behind her house. She is especially fascinated with the wolf with the yellow eyes who saved her when the others attacked her as a young child. It turns out that the wolf is Sam, who becomes human in the summer. Sounds ridiculous, but this is an extremely descriptive and intriguing novel which even has a bit of a dark comic side.”
- Just finished reading Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok.
Mambo in Chinatown is about how the life of a twenty-two year old Chinese woman is transformed when she becomes a professional ball room dancer and dance instructor. Clumsy 22-year-old Charlie Wong , whose father is a famous noodle maker, toils away night and day as a dishwasher in New York City’s Chinatown. Her mother, once a star dancer for the Beijing Ballet, passed away when Charlie was 14, and she has spent the years since looking after her younger sister, Lisa. Lisa encourages Charlie to apply for a job as a receptionist in a dance studio, as Charlie works long hours at the restaurant her whole body aches and she is drained of any energy or enthusiasm for life.. Keeping it a secret from her father she applies and gets the job and what follows is a wonderful transformation from ugly duckling to swan. Charlie realizes she may have inherited her mother’s talent!
A modern day Cinderella story and a big Thank You to (WPL staff member) Nancy Dent for this recommendation!”
- “Currently reading The Secret Place by Tana French, the fifth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series
St. Kilda’s School, an Irish boarding school, which is brimming with teenage girls serves as the setting for this mystery.it was here over a year ago that a 16-year-old boy, Chris Harper, from a neighboring boys’ school was murdered. His killer remained untraced, and the case remained unsolved. When Detective Frank Mackey’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey, shows up one morning at the police station with a postcard that reads, “I know who killed him,” the cold case takes a dramatic turn. The case is reopened and the hunt is on to find the killer. Well written and very hard to put down.”
- “Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: This is a fantasy saga novel that is packed full of adventure, intrigue, betrayals, romance, violence and excitement. Not only that, but all of this is encased in a world in which: dragons may or may not be extinct, there is such a thing as magic, and there are forests galore. In this world, beheadings are possible, Kings and Queens are not always rational, and if you are the child of unwed parents, you get a raw deal. This book is excellent for anyone who wants to be swept up in a world that is totally different from the one we inhabit. No Starbucks, no malls, no GPS, no apps. Give it a whirl if you haven’t already. I can not comment on the HBO series but I am hearing great things.
- This Town by Mark Leibovich: This is an insider’s guide to Washington D.C., the machinations, the intrigues, the desire to see and be seen. Mr. Leibovich is very cynical and witty and provides lots of real life examples of what is really going on in this town. The parties, the lobbyists who are not lobbyists when it is inconvenient, the blogs, the tweets, even what is served at the parties (including networking opportunities). If you want to laugh while you cry or cry while you laugh, I recommend this book.”
- “The Plot To Save Socrates by Paul Levinson: I am listening to this one on audiobook. The plot seems intriguing; using time travel in an attempt to save Socrates from that nasty death by hemlock. We learn about the magic time travelling chairs that take our main characters up and down and all around history. I don’t know why but the book makes me a bit dizzy. Still, the idea of time travel is entertaining and it is lovely to hear Socrate’s reaction when he is fast fowarded to the far future. If you try this one, let me know what you think. This book is part one of a series.”
- “The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey: This is a wonderful book for every grown up who loved reading about fairy godmothers as a girl. This is actually book four in a series (Tales of The Five Hundred Kingdoms). Aleksia, the fairy godmother who lives in the Northern Kingdom (read cold and snow filled), is very busy doing good works. She relies on her little brownies (not the chocolate kind, the elfin type), who help with cooking and housecleaning. Her incredible library is staffed by a very brilliant and dedicated dragon. Trouble is afoot. A snow queen wannabee is doing all manner of evil deeds including but not limited to: killing people, freezing plants and animals, putting ice in the heart of those to whom she is attracted. Aleksia has to put a stop to this. She also has to help get one of the victims of this bad magic back into the arms of his mother and his betrothed. If you want a delightful, creative, imaginative, all around fun story, this is the one for you. Furthermore, it’s part of a series so there is more to enjoy.”