Eight of us met online in April to discuss the books we have been reading, including what is becoming a second core group of readers from Colorado. Plus, we welcomed a new reader, Dan, from El Dorado, Kansas! Dan is a writer himself, and if I remember correctly has a science fiction novel that has been published.
Book Lovers SIG always meets the second Sunday of each month; in this case next May 14. We will continue to meet virtually while David, our in-person co-host, recovers from his recent stroke.
We generally chat for a bit, starting around 2 p.m., then book discussions begin around 2:20 p.m., more or less. See the May Mension for getting the information about joining us via Zoom.
Audition by Ryu Murakami — Interesting concept executed with shock tactics, including really awful animal abuse. Read for the Fucked-Up Book Club.
A Time for Eating Wild Onions by L.A. Starks — Very short, follows two men returning from the Vietnam War and spending the day in San Francisco.
Ancient Medicine by Hippocrates — Pretty dry and boring except for the rant about cheese. Apparently, the dude was lactose intolerant.
Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One by Alan Moore — Really neat ideas, but I didn’t care for the art style, and I’m discovering that I don’t care for Moore’s writing style, either. Read for Strange Worlds Book Club.
Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown — Not sure how you make a story about rival voodoo queens boring, but Brown managed it.
Chasing Vega by Terry Shepherd — First in the Jessica Ramirez series. A little bit of everything in here. Lots of action and lots of speechifying about cop life. Book #3 in the series is scheduled for Sisters in Crime Book Club in a few months, but I’m not sure I’ll read any further.
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde — Really pretty cli-fi writing, but too much parent-child drama for my tastes. First in a quartet; I’m trying to catch up to read #3 for Strange Worlds.
Easter Mice! by Bethany Roberts — Children’s picture book about mice hunting Easter eggs. Not much to it, but it’s cute enough.
Major Makes History by Jill Twiss — Children’s picture book from the First Dog’s perspective. Focus is on promoting adoption of shelter animals.
Sasha Masha by Agnes Borinsky — Story of a Baltimore teen exploring gender identity. Read for the Trans Rights Readathon.
Daybreak on Raven Island by Fleur Bradley — Middle grade mystery adventure when three kids get left behind on a creepy prison island. Read for Middle Grade March, March Mystery Madness, and Sisters in Crime Book Club.
Lye in Wait by Cricket McRae — A soap maker finds the local handyman in her workshop, dead of lye poisoning, and has to clear herself of liability. Read for March Mystery Madness.
The Spite House by Johnny Compton — A Black man and his two daughters are on the run and take on a ghost-hunting job in a creepy little Texas town. Not your usual haunted house story. Read for Literally Dead Book Club.
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz — Five women are invited to a writing retreat at the secluded mansion of a famous feminist horror writer and things very quickly go off the rails. I frequently see the word “bonkers” in reviews of this book, and I’m inclined to agree. Read for Literally Dead Book Club.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie — The first Poirot novel. Not my favorite Christie, but an excellent place to start, especially if you like locked-room mysteries or English manor house settings. Re-read for March Mystery Madness.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford — Middle grade mystery adventure when a 12-year-old boy’s Christmas vacation is interrupted by a bunch of mysterious strangers showing up unannounced at his family’s secluded inn. Read for Middle Grade March.
Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis — The true story of a Frenchwoman recruited by the English SOE who went on to become the most highly decorated spy of WWII. Reads like a novel. Read for BYOBook Club, theme of unconventional women.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman — Follow-up to The Thursday Murder Club. A man from Elizabeth’s life as a spook shows up and causes all kinds of trouble, and Ibrahim is mugged and struggles with his mortality. Wickedly amusing but with lots of heart. Even better than the first book.
C.J. Archer, The Glass and Steele Series. It starts with The Watchmaker’s Daughter. Thirteen books total, and then a spin off series, The Glass Library (3 books, # 3 comes out in September). The Glass and Steele Series is about a limited number of people with very specific magic skills, and how that plays out in 1890s London. Escapist fiction with an underlying theme of balance of power and skill.
Sea of Tranquility
The Four Yogas: A Guide to the Spiritual Paths of Action, Devotion, Meditation and Knowledge
An excellent, balanced presentation of the main Yogic paths. It compares and contrasts them well.
The Upanishads. Late Vedic and post-Vedic Sanskrit texts that document the transition from the archaic ritualism of the Veda into new religious ideas.
The Time Travelers (The Gideon Trilogy, Book 1) by Linda Buckley-Archer.
Completed Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, Rediscovered Hour Game by David Baldacci, and just started Glorious Apollo published in 1924 by E. Barrington (Elizabeth Louisa Moresby) a fictionalized biography of Lord Byron.
Dan wasn’t able to tell us what he had been reading as he was called away to deal with a family matter. We look forward to hearing from him in May.
Peggy joined us after having brunch with her family, so she wasn’t there at the start to ring the bell. She read:
The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human by Siddhartha Mukherjee, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies and winner of the 2023 PROSE Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Sciences.
So Shall You Reap (Commissario Brunetti #32) by Donna Leon, This series is set in Venice; Peggy loves it because it’s interesting to think how different crime solving is when one can’t simply jump in a car and race to the scene of the crime. Leon is an American author who lived in Italy for many years, but curiously, none of her books have been translated into Italian, as she doesn’t want to become too famous in that country. Peggy told us she reads a lot of mysteries because it allows her to “visit” so many different places.
Homecoming by Kate Morton. Two stories, separated in time, which weave into one another. Set in Australia, in 1959 a young woman and her three small children are found murdered, but no one can figure out how. 60 years later, a young woman living in England is called home to Australia because her grandmother needs her care. But it turns out the grandmother was at home all those years ago when the murders occurred! Lots of skullduggery. Peggy says Morton is a good writer and enjoys reading her.
Brad completed The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff. As other members have previously reported, Adams was a real “The Ends Justify the Means” kind of guy. There was really no lie so heinous, no rumor so vicious, that he would not stoop to justify his efforts in advocating for the independence of the colonies from England. He just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The irony is, after the war for independence was won, he was no longer found useful by his previous allies. In fact, they used the same tactics of innuendo and slander to diminish his standing after the revolution. Schiff did a poor job of documenting the later years of Adams’ life. The biography ended abruptly.
A Dangerous Business by Jane Smiley. Set in California in 1851, a young woman whose uncaring husband was killed in bar fight, is working in a brothel as a means to support herself. Poorly educated, she is encouraged to begin reading by a fellow co-worker, in particular a murder mystery written by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s writing serves as inspiration when other women begin disappearing. The local sheriff shows no interest in investigating the murders, the protagonist and her friend take it upon themselves to figure out “who dunnit”. Smiley does an excellent job of matching dialogue to character. Recommended.
Bad Actors (Slough House #8) by Mick Herron. Another great book by Herron. His writing is consistently spot on. I am sad to say that I am no caught up with the series and must now wait for the next release. Recommended.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (translation by Megan Backus). I have nothing good to say about this book, and now recommend avoiding reading authors named after fruit. Here is the Good Reads synopsis: “Kitchen is an enchantingly original book that juxtaposes two tales about mothers, love, tragedy, and the power of the kitchen and home in the lives of a pair of free-spirited young women in contemporary Japan.” So, chick lit.
A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney. A wrenched, brutally honest story of grief. At 10-months old Delaney’s son was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A mass the size of an apple was removed from his skull. The anger and pain experienced by him, and his wife are almost indescribable, but Delaney does it. Such a hard read, but well worth it. Highly recommended.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day and the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Klara is a semi-sentient AF (artificial friend), designed to be a companion for parents who have an only child. Her innocence and lack of guile is child-like in itself; her only goal, her prime purpose, is to make sure her companion is happy. I am not really doing justice to the story, but highly recommend it.
Hello, Molly!: A Memoir by Molly Shannon. Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Humor (2022). I knew Shannon as an actor and comedienne from her days on Saturday Night Live from 1995-2001. What I didn’t know was her backstory, which very much informs who she came to be. It turns out Shannon’s mother, baby sister and cousin died in a car accident when she was four years old; only Molly and her father, who was driving at the time, survived. How could anyone not be affected by such an event? What really comes through is Shannon’s honesty in her writing.
The Windfall by Diksha Basu. Remember in the 60s (70s?) when the big mantra was keeping up with the Jones’s? That is the basis for this story, only set in modern day India. How is a family affected by sudden wealth after struggling for decades to just survive? What does it mean to be wealthy? How should a person act? What car should they drive? Where should they live? Should they get new, wealthy, friends? And how does this new-found wealth affect their children? All these questions are addressed in a humorous way. Recommended.
The Last Colony (Old Man’s War #3) by John Scalzi. Scalzi is such a good writer; I have yet to read a book of his that I haven’t enjoyed. If you enjoy science fiction, this is a definite recommendation.
If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawarimura (translation by Eric Selland). Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, but I didn’t like this book. At all. A 30-year man, who drifts through life with no ambition, learns he has a brain tumor and has a week to live. Woe is me. Then the Devil appears with an offer; he will grant one extra die of life in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear. Phones disappear – one extra day of life. Clocks disappear – one extra day of life. Movies disappear – one extra day of life. But when the Devil offers an extra day of life if all cats were to disappear from the world, the protagonist says nope, not worth it. Maybe it was the translation, but I found the writing simplistic, and not in a good way.
Several members were unable to join us because of Easter but did provide a list of what they have been reading.
I Am Legend (Richard Matheson) is a horror book which influenced much of the vampire and zombie modern literature and was cited as inspiration for Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It’s about a guy who believes himself to be the last living human after a nasty pandemic, who has to fend for himself in the evenings the vampires roam about. It’s got a couple good surprises and is nothing like the Will Smith movie (obviously way better).
The Listener (Robert McCammon) is a very interesting story set in 1934 a couple years after the stock market crash. Con artists decide to kidnap a rich guy’s kids for ransom money. There’s a character who has telepathic abilities and establishes a connection with one of the kidnapped kids. This was such a gripping story and, in the text, references the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, Bonnie and Clyde, and an Upton Sinclair self-published book called Mental Radio about testing his second wife’s psychic abilities. I imagine the author combined all these things into his own inspired story.
The Latecomer, by Jean Korelitz ****
Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty (not sure if I finished it)
The Book of Ruth, by Jane Hamilton **
Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly ****
A Virtuous Woman, by Kaye Gibbons ***
Black and Blue, by Anna Quindlen *****
Open House, by Elizabeth Berg ****
The House Across the Lake, by Riley Sager ****
Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng *****
The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly *****
The Reversal, by Michael Connelly *****
Slow Horses, by Mick Herron (a Slough House book) ****
Fractured by Karin Slaughter. Second book in the series featuring Will Trent. Currently a TV series. This book is the first episode of the TV show. The appearances of the characters in the novel don’t match what’s on TV. However, the essences of the characters are portrayed well on TV. Main character grew up in foster care. He is dyslexic which causes a lot of problems. Now he works with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The way his experiences and dyslexia form his character, and his way of working are quite interesting. Triptych is the first book in the series. On hold currently.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett. Set in English small town, the members of an amateur dramatic club put on a play. During this production, the granddaughter of the head of the club is diagnosed with brain cancer. They locate an experimental treatment from America which shows promise but is very expensive. They started an appeal for money to finance the purchase of the treatment. Just as the play debuts, one of the company members is murdered. This is a modern epistolary novel. The entire book is written in emails, voice mails, etc. The only commentary is from two law clerks rereading it all to see if they can determine what happened. It got a little slow in the middle but picked up after the murder. I quite enjoyed it.