Book – This is the courageous and adventurous coming of age story of 15 year old Dell Parsons. The book opens with, “First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” This is Dell’s reflection, 50 years later, as he retires from his teaching profession.
The novel begins with the Parsons family moving to Great Falls, Montana in 1956. Dell has a twin sister, Berner, who is bigger and stronger than he is and while Berner contemplates running away with her boyfriend, Dell immerses himself in chess and dreams of beekeeping. Bev Parson decides to leave the Air Force at the age of 37 and attempts many jobs and schemes to support the family. In desperation, he convinces his wife that he has a foolproof plan and that they should rob a bank in North Dakota. The parents are jailed for the bank robbery and the twins are left to fend for themselves.
Berner runs away to West Coast and Dell is taken to Saskatchewan by a family friend and turned over to Arthur Remlinger, a mysterious Harvard educated American who is lawless and has violent tendencies. Dell is put to work and most of it is hard and unsavory. He finds himself living a very barren and lonely existence. This haunting work of psychological fiction shows how Dell adjusts to his new circumstances and makes the best the out of almost hopeless situation. This beautifully written story by Richard Ford is a must read.
Book – Live by Night by Dennis Lehane.The story begins in 1926, during prohibition. Joe Coughlin only 19 years old, the son of a prominent Boson Police captain turns his back on a strict upbringing and aspires to become an organized crime boss. He starts as an outlaw forming relationships with gangsters and dirty cops to keep distilleries and speakeasies in business. The mob then sends Coughlin to South Tampa to oversee their bootlegging operation where he falls hard for a Cuban revolutionary beauty, Graciela. As years pass, he creates a huge empire in the illegal rum trade and builds a life for himself and Graciela in Cuba. But is he in over his head competing with ambitious ruthless men who will stop at nothing to maintain their control over cash, illegal booze, and guns? The novel is sizzling, gritty, and riveting. The movie based on this book is produced by Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio and is scheduled to be released in theaters on Christmas Day 2015. Ben Affleck also directed and will star in the film.
Book – I picked up this book on audio, because it was billed as one of the best mysteries on audio, it received starred reviews from Library Journal, BookList, and Publisher’s Weekly and received numerous awards including the Agatha. I was not disappointed by this locked room mystery. It is set in the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loupes on a remote Island in the wilderness of Quebec. No outsiders are allowed in the monastery of 24 monks who live a serene and very isolated life, but Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir are summoned to investigate the murder of Frère Mathieu, the monastery’s renowned choirmaster and prior. The investigation is difficult as the monks in the community haven taken a vow of silence. Ironically they have become world famous for a CD of their singing Gregorian chants. Their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as the beautiful mystery. The investigators soon find grim discords among the seemingly unified and peaceful brothers as they search for the motive and murderer. This is the eighth book in the Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries. I now plan on reading the entire series. This book should appeal to fans of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot.
Book – With great pleasure I will be giving away free copies of the book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford on Wednesday, April 23rd (Shakespeare’s Birthday) for World Book Night. This is a beautiful, sentimental heartfelt story suitable for teens and adults. Set in Seattle during World War II, 12 year olds Henry Lee and Keiko Okabe form a friendship, drawn to each other since they are the only non-Caucasians on scholarship at a prestigious private school. Unfortunately the relationship is forbidden and Henry must keep it a secret from his family since he is Chinese and Keiko is Japanese. Henry is forced to wear a button reading “I am Chinese” by his father, who has a deep-hatred of Japan. Japanese residents of Seattle have begun to be shipped off by the thousands to relocation centers due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Eventually, Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp in Idaho and Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry learns that the Panama Hotel will be renovated and that the basement contains the belongings of many of the Japanese that were forced to leave Seattle during WW II. His fond memories of Keiko are rekindled and he relays of his friendship to his own son, in hopes of preventing the dysfunctional relationship he experienced with his own father. This is a good choice for a book club and if you enjoy this novel you may want to read Jamie Ford’s new book Songs of Willow Frost.
Book – This historical thriller will keep you turning pages in anticipation of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Set on the island of Pompeii in 79 A.D, hydraulic engineer Marcus Attilius is summoned to repair the aqueduct system that supplies fresh water to the residents. Attilius discovers a blockage that threatens to deprive a large area of the empire of water, but he is also troubled by the strange environmental occurrences that may be an indication of an impending natural disaster on a massive scale. He falls in love with Corelia who supplies him with proof that something sinister is afoot on Pompeii. As he races against the clock to make repairs, his angst increases and he is hindered by corrupt violent officials from warning the inhabitants of impending and unstoppable disaster. Will Marcus get off the island with Corelia before the volcano blows its top? This novel is well researched with rich historical details transporting us to this ancient world.
Book – My grandson Lorenzo, Enzo for short, was born just a few weeks ago. Enzo . . . the name made me think of one of my favorite books, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. The story is told from Enzo’s perspective, but what is very different about this novel is that he is a dog, a lab terrier mix. I had my doubts whether I would like this book, because it is about auto racing and the world is viewed through a dog’s eyes. But I read it, since it was on all the best seller lists and I was looking for a good candidate for our book discussion group. Not only did I love The Art of Racing in the Rain, but it was a great pick for discussion. From the book jacket: “Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.” A movie version is currently in production and will star Patrick Dempsey, who is an amateur race car driver as Enzo’s owner Denny Swift. You don’t need to be a dog lover an auto racing fan to enjoy this book. It is a feel good story of loyalty, family, thoughtful philosophical insight, and working to reach your full potential.
Book – State of Wonder by Ann Patchett starts in Minnesota and sends us on an exotic journey down the Amazon River to the Jungles of Brazil. Pharmacologist Marina Singh receives word that her research partner, Anders Eckman, has died of a mysterious fever and that his body is buried somewhere in the Amazon Jungle. Anders was sent there by their pharmaceutical company to check on the progress of the development of a new fertility drug by Dr. Annick Swenson, because she refuses to respond to the company’s increasingly urgent queries. Marina agrees to go to the Amazon for the sake of Anders’s wife, who has her doubts about his death, and for the company that still needs answers from Dr. Swenson.
Marina arrives in the town of Manaus, where she eventually hooks up with Dr. Swenson. Marina discovers that Dr. Swenson has a hidden agenda regarding the secrecy of her research and the mystery surrounding the death of Dr. Eckman. Fast-paced and beautifully written, the reader will feel the oppressive heat, heaviness and crawly feeling of the jungle. Definitely a page turner and very thought provoking, especially regarding the issues of science and ethics. Recommended as a book discussion read. If you enjoy this book you may want to read these: Intuition by Allegra Goodman, The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, and other books by Ann Patchett.
Book – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is a hauntingly beautiful story set in an extraordinary time. The rotation of the Earth is gradually slowing which affects the length of days and nights, gravity, tides, the food supply, and human and animal behavior.
Told from the perspective of Julia, a sensitive bright 11 year old, this is more of a coming of age tale than science fiction. Julia narrates her life as an adolescent bringing to light typical experiences of popularity, bullying, friendships, cliques, and crushes. But if life weren’t complicated enough, Julia now must face the reality of what the future holds for her and if she has a future at all. Not only are there blatant environmental changes, but normal daily activities are increasingly difficult to hold onto. The Earth’s inhabitants are divided on whether to live by the clock or let the sun and darkness, which are both slowly increasing as the Earth’s rotation continuously is slowing, dictate their sleeping and waking patterns.
Walker consulted scientists in her research and while reading the book I questioned how I would react and what would I do under similar circumstances. This is a great book for both teens and adults. It was named one of the “Best Books of the Year” by O: The Oprah Magazine, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and others. A movie based on the book is currently in production.
Book – Can marriage work for a modern day mail order bride and her suitor? Read The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger to find out. Twenty-four-year-old Amina from Bangladesh meets 34-year-old George from Rochester, New York via the internet on the website AsianEuro.com. They had never met in person, but only received photos of each other as attachments in email. Despite obvious differences in nationality, culture and religious upbringing they decide to marry. When Amina arrives in 2005, she experiences true culture shock, but slowly assimilates. Within three years she has her green card, is married to George, and is taking college courses while working at Starbucks. However, there are problems. Amina returns to Bangladesh to bring her parents to the U.S., but a problem with her father’s visa delays her return. Will absence between Amina and George make their hearts grow fonder? This is a moving story of love, kindness, acceptance and cross-cultural differences with just the right amount of humor to make it an enjoyable read.
TV Show – If you want fast paced juicy escapism then you should watch the TV series Scandal. This is about dirty politics and politicians in Washington, D.C. and their greed for power. Sometimes reputations get tarnished and scandals arise. That’s where Olivia Pope comes in. She is a professional “fixer” who makes problems go away before anyone knows they exist. Kerry Washington stars as Olivia who worked previously as the White House Communications Director for the current President of the United States and was instrumental in helping him get elected to the Oval Office. Her crisis management firm has a staff of intelligent devoted operatives, who like Olivia, are very good at keeping secrets, perhaps because they all have secrets of their own. These people devote their lives to managing crisis after crisis and they work very hard at trying to punish the bad guys and reward the deserving. The characters are well developed and the twists and turns in the storylines will keep you watching. Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice is the creator of Scandal.