Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nevermore: Leaving Time, W is for Wasted, Seveneves, and More

Reported by Jeanne 

Nevermore opened with elephants.  Specifically, the elephants found in Jodi Picoult’s novel Leaving Time, a novel our reviewer thought should be required reading.  The story revolves around thirteen year old Jenna’s search for her mother, a scientist who studied grief in elephants and who vanished after another elephant researcher was killed.  Picoult is well-known for her well-defined characters and meaningful plots, and this book continues that tradition.  The information about elephants was especially fascinating.

Before the release of Sue Grafton’s long awaited X, another member was reading W is for Wasted. He hadn’t finished it but described it as “good fun.”  In this entry in the series, PI Kinsey Milhorn has two dead bodies to contend with.  One is a shady private detective she’d run into in the past, but the second is a vagrant with a problem with alcohol—the “wasted” part of the title.  Grafton has kept her sleuth in the 80s (the decade when she started writing the series) which adds to the interest.

Another reader had just finished Mr.Britling Sees It Through by H.G. Wells. Published in 1916, it tells the story of the First World War through the eyes of a famous author.  At the time, the book was extremely popular and praised for its honesty and courage.  Our reader said it was not Wells’ best but it was still a classic work.

The next book up was The Lady or the Tiger? And Other Logic Puzzles by Raymond Smullyan.  Our reader wasn’t enjoying it quite as much as he had hoped.  He felt he was lost in some of the sections.  Another well reviewed book was also less successful with our group: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  The latest reader said she made it through 80 pages before giving up.  She did find some fascinating online videos about the art of folding, however.

Since several members had enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See,  someone decided to try his earlier novel, About Grace.  The story centers on a man who has had prophetic dreams all his life.  After a dream in which he fails to save his daughter, he flees his home in Alaska for an island in the Caribbean.  After several years, he decides to try to find his family again.  Our reviewer said she couldn’t connect with the character and so didn’t enjoy the book.

While Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves can be somewhat technical at times, our reader found it to be a most intriguing survival story.  After the moon explodes, it quickly becomes obvious that drastic measures will be required to save any portion of humanity.  Scientists come together to try to solve the problem which they do by using the International Space Station. A small group is chosen to go and wait for Earth to become habitable again… which should take about 5000 years.  The book has a lot of scientific detail but is very readable and believable.

Finally, there was Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, a novel based on the real “Orphan Trains” that took homeless or orphaned children to foster homes in the Midwest.  The treatment of these children varied widely: while some were actually welcomed as family members, others were treated more or less as indentured servants. Our reader thought the book was a mostly a sweet story, but found some problems with some of the characters.

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