Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel's newest novel blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Henry the VIII's challenge to the church's power, when he was determined to make Anne Boleyn his queen. It is told from the eyes of Thomas Cromwell who rose from the gutter to become Henry's right hand man, taking the place of Cardinal Wolsey from whom he learned the tricks of his trade.
Cromwell changed the course of history by backing Henry's quest for Anne Boleyn and Henry's desire for absolute authority (which all kings and queens since, including Queen Elizabeth II subscribe to. He was a covert Protestant who protected other militant Protestants from Thomas More.
His main goal was to help the common people which he thought could be achieved by destroying the Catholic clergy whom he despised and he wanted more limits on the power of the aristocracy, who despised him. He was also an administrative genius who transformed England from a fiefdom to a nation-state.
Mantel is able to bring all of these themes together by making us privy to Cromwell's every thought and calculation. Wolf Hall is the seat of the Seymour family clan where the goings-on symbolizes what Cromwell despised about the Catholic church.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sixties in the South

The Help takes readers back to the burgeoning civil rights era in Mississippi. It's hard to believe that this is the author's debut novel. It's a wonderful story full of women characters who are drawn so believably that you just cannot accept that they are fictional. Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss to find that her family's maid, Constantine, has disappeared. No one will tell her what happened. Like many well-to-do families in the South, the black maid spent more time raising the children than the parents did, and Skeeter feels a terrible loss in Constantine's absence. She starts to pay more attention to the black maids of her friends and begins seeing the world through their eyes as she tries to find out what happened to Constantine. Gradually she comes to see that the world she inhabits holds some terrible secrets and many injustices. She decides to interview black maids and write a book about their lives. It is a dangerous undertaking in 1962 Mississippi, especially for the black women she talks to, but they bravely decide that their stories need to be told. This is a poignant, fascinating book about this period in history. It does exactly what a great book should do: make you think, see, and feel like someone else entirely outside your own skin.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Debra Dean's debut novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad, takes readers back to a dark part of the world's history, World War II. Although many novels have focused on this pivotal moment in history, not so many have been written from the Russian citizens' point of view. Set during the siege of Leningrad, in which the residents were completely cut off from food and medical supplies and military assistance, The Madonnas of Leningrad focuses on the plight of the workers at the Hermitage Museum and their families. The main character, Marina, was a tour guide in the museum, and her memories of the Madonnas and other beautiful works of art that used to hang in the Hermitage and have been sent away for safekeeping help to keep her sane during the months of deprivation, fear, and sorrow. The families have been invited to stay in the basement of the museum for safety from bombing and looting, and Marina spends much of her time trying to look out for bombers, bailing out flooded areas, and other assigned tasks. With the rest of her time, she walks through the many rooms of the museum, remembering what was there and describing it in detail to herself. Her memory saves her. Ironically, in the present time, her memory is deserting her as she succumbs to the symptoms of Alzheimers. The novel moves from past to present effortlessly, as we see the world through Marina's eyes and learn about the power of memory and of a rich inner life, even during times of physical and mental decline.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Same kind of different!

Same Kind of Different as Me, by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, is a true story told by two guys who didn't know they were being set up by God.

I can't say enough good about this book. It is the best! Why? Because it touches you in a deep place and wakes you up to seeing what you probably missed.

This is a story about a homeless drifter who grew up in virtual slavery in the 50's. His name is Denver and you will fall in love with him and he will bless you with the wisdom from within a man who never went to school. It is also about a profitable art dealer accustomed to the good life. This is Ron. We grow along with Ron. And then it is about a gutsy lady...I like gutsy.....who is moved and inspired by God to see something unlikely happen with these two men.

A story of friendship, faith, homelessness and pain! Don't pass this one over because we are the same kind of different.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Laura Moriarty has once again built a great book. While I'm Falling is an appealing story about a young college student whose life is falling apart. Sound like a real downer? Well, it is, and yet it isn't. So many things begin to go wrong in Veronica's life that you may find yourself cringing or holding your breath to see what comes next. She's trying very hard but makes so many mistakes--the kind you as a reader can see coming a mile away. It's almost like watching a horror movie and wanting to yell at the female victim, "No, DON'T open that door! Or run, run as fast you can, RIGHT NOW!" There are no boogey men or monsters in Veronica's story, just a lot of normal people trying to make it through life. And in Veronica's defense, some of her problems are not her fault at all. Her parents are divorcing, she's struggling in her pre-med classes, she's not well suited to her RA job--any one of these situations would be enough to create a great deal of stress. And in the end, Veronica does OK. She finds out a lot about herself, and about her mother, who due to bad circumstances ends up spending a lot more time with her. I felt almost proud of Veronica after all was said and done. And I admired her mother greatly. Take a chance and read While I'm Falling.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sailing the Open Sea

Sea of Poppies by Indian author Amitov Ghosh is a very weird and wonderful book--weird because this epic saga spends most of its pages building a cast of oddly interconnected characters, and wonderful because these numerous characters are the most colorful and intriguing ones I have ever met. I will admit that it is difficult to keep them all straight. There are many, and they have unusual names (to this American, English-speaking reader anyway) that simply do not roll off the tongue. But they are incredibly well drawn, unique, endearing (some), and appalling (others). The language had me laughing out loud at times--some of the characters speak a language that is a rough combination of English, shipboard slang, and probably some Farsi or Bengali or Bhurundi thrown in. Even if you don't understand the exact words, you know exactly what they meant to say by the context. This author is very skilled at dialogue and at helping you understand what is going on, even if the character is speaking nonsense. The story begins upriver from Calcutta, at the beginning of a journey of the sailing ship the Ibis and takes us down the Ganges and out to the open sea. The Opium Wars have begun, so the Ibis is substituting its normal load of opium with a different cargo this time--coolies to work the plantations on the Mauritius Islands, and convicts to be interred at the prison at Port Louis. I waited to read this book for a long time, because apparently the publisher could not keep up with the demand. The author intends this to be the first in a trilogy, the Ibis trilogy, and I simply can't wait for the next one. I won't give away the ending, but when it comes, you will slam the book shut and immediately call your local librarian to see when the second in the series is coming out. I'll save you that step and tell you: October 2010.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A FUNNY Walk in the Woods

Back in America after 20 years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacqauint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes--and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings. But this book is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is also the Carroll County on the Same Page selection for 2009.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Thriller with a Heart

You have got to read this book. Put everything else aside, find a comfortable chair, and start reading. Actually, you won't even need a comfortable chair, because once you start reading, you won't notice where you are or what you're sitting on. This book is that good. This was my first time to read John Hart, and after reading The Last Child, I intend to go back and read his two previous books as soon as possible. It is the perfect blend of page-turning suspense, intriguing plot, and characters that come alive on the page. Johnny Merriman is a 13-year-old boy who has had to grow up way too fast, and Clyde Hunt is the detective who always seems to be one or two steps behind Johnny. (That was my one and only complaint about this book--I was disappointed that it took Hunt so long to figure out what Johnny was up to!) Johnny's sister Alyssa disappeared a year ago, his father left shortly after that, and his mother totally fell apart. Johnny's life is devoted to trying to find Alyssa, escaping the wrath of his mother's cold and heartless "boyfriend" (more like drug supplier) Ken, and trying to watch out for his fragile mother as best as he can. Hunt, who was the lead detective on Alyssa's case, is obsessed with the case and tries to keep tabs on Johnny and his mother. Then another young girl is abducted, and the nightmare escalates. If you like a good crime novel, or a good character-driven novel, you will love this book. Read it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Remembrance of Times Past

Remembering the Bones, by Frances Itani, is a delightful book about a delightful woman in a not-so-delightful predicament. Georgina Danforth is on her way to visit the queen when her life takes a big turn. She shares Queen Elizabeth II's birthday, so she is one of 99 who is invited to a big party celebrating their 80th birthdays. On her way to the airport, Georgie, who is excited and distracted, veers off the road and into a ravine. She is injured and unable to move very far. Her car and herself are hidden from the road. She comforts herself by remembering and naming all the bones of the body, which she learned as a child by poring over her grandfather's anatomy books. She also remembers many scenes from her life, and reflects on whether she has lived a worthy one. At least one reviewer has said that Georgie's musings are very awkward and disordered, but wouldn't your thoughts be a little in disarray if you were in pain and lying in a ditch, wondering if you would ever be found? This is a wonderful story about a woman's life, with a tension growing with every page, as the reader wonders about Georgie's fate. This is the Morning Book Club's selection for June. Come and discuss the book with us on June 26, at 9 a.m.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dark truths hidden in Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day is the sole survivor of a family massacre that took place in 1985. Seven years of age at the time of the murders, her testimony clenches a life-sentence for her brother Ben, 15, who at the time was rumored to have been dabbling with Satanism. Libby, now in her early 30s, is in a financial fix. She becomes involved with a club whose members are interested in true crime and finds that none of the members believe her story. When they offer her cash for digging up her past and investigating key possible suspects, she reluctantly agrees and soon begins to question what she saw or didn't see on that cold and tragic January night.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Broken Cord

This title is an exploration of one man's experience with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Michael Dorris adopted a Native American boy who was eventually diagnosed with FAS. He explores this horrible affliction from both an emotional standpoint as a grieving, struggling father, and from an analytical viewpoint as an anthropologist and author. Adam is a loving but difficult boy who has numerous problems that will plague him all his life. Dorris shows us a window into that difficult life, with all its joys and sorrows. This title is the May selection for the Morning Book Club, which will meet to discuss it on Friday, May 22 at 9 a.m.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Starvation Lake: A mystery

This is Bryan Gruley's first book which is surprising because the writing is so relaxed. It reads like a well told story and the characters are very typical of those found in a small town, without being cliched. Starvation lake is a small dying resort town located at the northern end of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. In better times, the town was known for its summer resort and its dedication to hockey. Coach Jack Blackburn came to Starvation Lake determined to win the state championship and had the whole town behind him. Gus Carpenter was the goalie who lost the game for the coach and the entire town and now that he is back, no one lets him forget it. Gus has returned with his tail between his legs, because he has also failed in his chosen profession-journalism when working for a Detroit newspaper. Now he is the editor for the local paper and he is trying to avoid
dealing with the mess he left behind in Detroit. Soon he is involved in a local mess-Jack Blackburn was thought to have been killed in an accident on the ice a decade ago, but his snowmobile washes up on the shore of an entirely different lake. Bullet holes are found which point to murder. Gus must pursue the truth, although it is apparent most of the town would rather ignore the entire business. Secrets are uncovered and friendships are tested and no one is left the same.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reading an Old Favorite

The Morning Book Club at the Delphi Public Library decided to read a classic for this month's discussion. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith fits the bill perfectly. Even though it is set in Brooklyn, which may seem far away from Delphi, Indiana, and was first published way back in 1943 and set even earlier at the beginning of the 20th century, this novel has a timeless appeal for readers anytime and anywhere. The story of Francie Nolan's growing-up years is uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. She's smart, idealistic, and sensitive, and has some tough times in the slums of Williamsburg. Read about Francie and her friends and family in this beloved classic, and join in the conversation at the book club's get-together on Friday, April 17, at 9 a.m.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things We Should Know

Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ, by Brother Andrew.

This book is an eye opener all Americans should read. In Secret Believers you will read real stories of Muslims turning Christian and what they have to deal with in their Islamic countries. You find out that many Muslims are finding Christ and how. And you will see how key people are used by God to disciple these Christians in a threatening environment.

Brother Andrew (God's Smuggler) tells us we are in a war...a spiritual war with Islam... and we must decide how we will respond. With bombs and guns or with love and prayer? Secret Believers will change your way of thinking. Really!

This book is the March 2009 pick for the "Faith Inspired Book Club."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Soul Watered

Love to Water My Soul , by Jane Kirkpatrick, is the story of a Asiam, lost at a very young age, from a wagon train traveling across Oregon country. Found and raised by Indians, often treated as an outcast, this young girls story will keep you up late reading. The story is more than being about relations between white settlers and Indians, though it teaches us much about that. But this book touches something very deep. It is about longing to be filled, or watered as Asiam, the main character would say, with love and acceptance. This is a work of fiction by Jane Kirkpatrick, but what is so amazing, is that it is based on a true story told her by her husband's mother about her own grandmother. You can read more about that in the "Author's Notes." This book is found in our religious fiction section.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Irish author Tana French has done it again with her sophomore effort, The Likeness. Detective Cassie Maddox, from French's first novel, In the Woods, returns smarter and sassier than ever. Listen to this plot: Years ago, before her stint in the Murder division, Cassie did an undercover job, posing as Alexandra (Lexie) Madison in an attempt to bust some drug dealers. She was stabbed in that job, was pulled out of undercover, and Lexie Madison's created identity was left hanging in the wind. Now, several years later, a body has turned up in a rural community near Dublin, victim of a stabbing, and guess what her name is? Lexie Madison. And, to make the story even more fantastic, the dead woman is a dead ringer (pun intended) for Cassie herself. In a stroke of daring, Cassie's old boss asks her to go undercover yet again, as Lexie Madison. They pretend that the dead woman was actually just injured and comotose, and Cassie steps into "Lexie's" life, into a household of four PhD students who are definitely hiding something. The story is a fascinating premise, and French pulls it off. She is so talented at character development, enabling you to get right inside Cassie's head. This is not your average crime novel. It will keep you reading late into the night.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Private Patient

Remember those old Agatha Christie mysteries where a murder would take place in an isolated English house and the murderer, of course was part of the group in residence? If you enjoyed Agatha you will enjoy the latest mystery by P.D. James featuring the detective skills of Adam Dalgleish and his team. This huge old English house is in an isolated part of Dorset and is now a private clinic used by a famous plastic surgeon in London. The murdered patient who came in to have a scar removed, was an investigative journalist known for uncovering devastating secrets. Indeed she has already been the cause of one young writer's suicide. This is a typical James novel where lots of emotion seeths underneath, but seldom surfaces-which is probably why someone gets murdered! Dalgliesh and his team must investigate everyone at the clinic in order to find the murderer. And of course almost everyone has secrets to hide including a resident who has already served time for murder. On a lighter note, there is a wedding to look forward to-that of Dalgleish and his Emma. This is a book to enjoy and savor on a cold winter day curled up with a cup of tea and English scones.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nineteen Minutes

What can you do in nineteen minutes? In this novel by best-selling author Jodi Piccoult, one young man takes a gun to his high school and wreaks havoc and tragedy in that brief span of time. We know from the beginning of the book that this act of violence has occurred, but not all the details of how and why. The author takes us back in time to the main characters involved and tries to make sense of this senseless event. Picoult is adept at tweaking all the angles of major societal issues, such as school violence, and making us think about the perpetrators, their families, and their victims. She doesn't provide answers, but much food for thought. This is the February selection of the Delphi Morning Book Club, which meets on Friday, February 27 at 9 a.m. at the library. Feel free to join us.