Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nevermore, May 22: Parables, Life, and the Undead

The book discussion ranged far afield as usual, from the ancient Middle East to the future of mankind, with a side discussion of the soul thrown in for good measure.
In The Power of Parable:  How Fiction By Jesus Became Fiction About Jesus, John Crossan discusses the parables Jesus told and attempts to put them into context.  The author goes a bit further, and describes his belief that some of authors of the Gospels were using parables as well in their descriptions of Jesus’ life. Crossan contends that what some have interpreted as history is actually parable. Crossan is a professor emeritus at DePaul University and is the author of several books about Jesus, including The Historical Jesus.
Edward O. Wilson is one of the best known living biologists, and also one of those rare scientists who has a gift of being able to explain complex ideas in ways both understandable and beautiful.  One of the most remarkable qualities is that after decades of study, he still retains his sense of wonder.  Wilson’s specialty has been social insects, particularly ants. In his new book The Social Conquest of Earth, he tackles the big questions of life, combining biology, philosophy and religion to render a fascinating new view of humankind.  Are the bonds of kinship really the strongest?
Kinship is also part of the subject of Fatal Colours: Towton 1461—England’s Most Brutal Battle by George Goodwin.  The bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil came in the 15th century when two opposing families each claimed the right to the English throne.  Popularly known as “The War of the Roses” because of the family emblems, armies of the House of Lancaster and the House of York met on the battlefield, resulting in some 28,000 casualties. 
The discussion moved on from questions of life to the problem of death with The Undead by Dick Teresi.  Today’s medical advances have made it very difficult to determine when life actually ends.  There are a few standard tests used, but the bottom line is that you are dead when your doctor says you’re dead— unless your relatives want to go to court to say otherwise.  The book is darkly humorous and horrifying by turns, especially when the subject is organ transplantation.  This is definitely a book to make you think about what constitutes consciousness, personhood and life.
In The Singularity is Near,  Ray Kurzweil postulates a time when technological advances will become so rapid that humans will merge with machines to create a new entity with biological elements.  He sees this as bringing an end to most of the traditional ills of the world:  hunger, environmental concerns, and even death.  It’s up to the reader to decide if this is exciting or terrifying.
No one suggested Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as a follow-up book, but it might be a good addition.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's Hot for May!

Here are the most requested books at the Bristol Public Library for the month of May, 2012!
15.  Guilty Wives by James Patterson and David Ellis continues Patterson’s run on our most requested author list.  This is a non-series book about a group of women who are given a luxury, nothing off limits vacation to do whatever they please.  It seems almost too good to be true—and of course it is.
14.  Wicked Business:  A Lizzy and Diesel Novel by Janet Evanovich is the sequel to Wicked Appetites. When a university professor is murdered, Lizzy and Diesel find themselves hot on the trail of the next magical stone, this one is supposedly infused with the power of lust.  Needless to say,  Diesel’s evil cousin Gerwulf Grimoire is also on the trail, but he may be tracking more than just the stone. This book will be published June 19.
13. Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby:  A Spenser Novel by Ace Adkins has earned a number of good reviews, which isn’t always the case when one author seeks to continue another’s work.  Adkins was praised not only for his characterizations but for keeping the rhythms of Parker’s writing. 
12. Gypped by Carol Higgins Clark has PI Regan Reilly is back in California where her husband is attending a conference.  Her plans to reconnect with friends and relax take a twist when one old friend suspects she’s being scammed and Regan finds herself in another investigation.
11. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James is the middle book of the now notorious “Fifty Shades” trilogy.  In case you’ve been avoiding the news lately, this series has been dubbed “mommy porn” by reporters in recognition of the erotic elements of the books and their appeal to women, mostly age 30 plus.
10. Defending Jacob by William Landay is one part legal thriller and one part family drama.  An assistant DA is shocked when his own teenage son is accused in the death of a classmate.  As he struggles to clear his son’s name, it becomes clear that there are family secrets involved—and a betrayal of trust that may rip the family apart.
9. Unwritten Laws  is the new Greg Iles thriller, but it’s now scheduled to be published in December 2012.
8. Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James is the third in the “Fifty Shades” series.
7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is the riveting and inspiring true story of a woman in crisis, due in no small part to a series of bad decisions on her part.  In an effort to straighten out her life, she embarked on a 2600 mile trek that crosses the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges.
6. The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts is the second in the “Inn BoonsBoro” trilogy which follows the life and loves of three brothers who set out to restore an old inn to its former glory.  Oh, and there’s a ghost!
5. Unnatural Acts by Stuart Woods is the latest Stone Barrington adventure which involves the wayward son of a hedge fund billionaire.
4. Stolen Prey by John Sandford has Lucas Davenport called in to investigate when an entire family is found brutally murdered.  This is the 22nd book in the series, and Sandford shows no signs of flagging.
3. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani is based on her grandparents’ courtship and is set in both Italy and New York.  Our director just finished reading it and he says it has a rich backdrop that includes the world of opera when Enrico Caruso reigned supreme.
2.  Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James is the one that started all the fuss!
And the number one reserve book is:
Deadlocked: A Southern Vampire Mystery, the penultimate Sookie Stackhouse book, if Charlaine Harris sticks to her plans.  It appears that she intends to, as she is wrapping up some storylines in this one. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Etre The Cow

Reviewed by Nancy

Well, I don't know how this got started. How could anyone write a book totally from a cow's point of view? Why would anyone do such a thing? And how in the world could it actually be interesting? I don't know, but it is. 

The book is Etre the Cow by Sean Kenniff.  After I read the first page or two and was in danger of being too hooked to put the book down I faced a dilemma. Being a confirmed omnivore, I didn't want to read a book about a cow if the cow ended up at the slaughter house, part of some fictional future dinner of mine. I did something I have never done. I flipped to the back and read the last page. The cow was not dinner on someone's table. Naively, I thought everything would be all right, so I read on.

Well, it wasn't. All right, that is. The protagonist is a bull named Etre, and although he doesn't end up slaughtered in the slaughter house he comes very close, and of course since he is a thinking cow nothing is ever the same for him once he has seen the slaughter house. Drat! I'm already giving too much away. I just don't know how I can tell you about this book without revealing so much of the plot that I spoil it for you.

Ok, I am going to start again. This is quaint and touching story about Etre the bull. There. That's all I've got. Now go read the thing.

No, no, I'm sorry. I know that won't do, but I lost patience.  Okay, here we go: Author Sean Kenniff, a physician, television journalist and radio host, found himself out of work during the recession of 2009 (which also became the recession of 2010, 2011, 2012, who knows?) and after he found himself out of work he went to live with the cows. I am not making this up; that's what the book jacket says. He went to live with the cows.

Now I don't know if this means he lived in the field with the cows, or he lived in a house on a ranch with cows, or what, but apparently this exposure to cows began to affect his thinking (things get weird sometimes when one is unemployed), and he began to see things from a cow’s perspective. I suppose that was when the book began to flow.

So, the story starts out in a fairly sunny vein: cows, fields, ants, sunlight, but as it unfolds we sense Etre’s frustrations building. Why is Etre frustrated? Well, there are all those fences, the other bull in the pasture who is younger, larger and meaner than Etre, the fact that Etre can think and speak his name, but none of the other cows get it, oh, the list goes on and on. Then Etre takes his excursion through the slaughter house, and, oh my.  Poor Etre. 

How in the world did I think a story about a cow could end any way but sadly? Fool, fool, fool. This is a slender volume, one hundred twenty eight pages total, and it is around page one hundred when things begin to turn really dark.

There are reading group questions at the end which only served to point out to me how truly shallow I must be. I never thought about the themes of powerlessness and shame, or why the oak tree Etre likes to rest under is dead, or even why Etre is named Etre (“etre” is the French verb for “to be”). Also, it didn’t occur to me to wonder what the pigs symbolize, what the dogs represent, how the violence and brutality of nature is featured in the novel, or how the violence of man and the violence of nature differ.

I just read it, and it made me sad for Etre. When I read parts of it for a second time bearing in mind all the allegorical symbolism embedded in the narrative, it made me sad for all of us.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Read It Before You See It!

The film industry continues to pull movies from the printed page.  Some current choices are obvious, such as the “Twilight” or “Hunger Games” books.  Some are less so, such as the forthcoming “What to Expect When You Are Expecting,” the nonfiction guide for expectant mothers which is now a movie with Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, and Chris Rock. Some have been in the planning stages for years (Dear Robert Redford, when are you going to do the movie version of A Walk in the Woods?) and some really should have stayed there (fill in the title of a beloved book turned into unwatchable trash here.)
However, there are some recent films or upcoming films from books:
Nicholas Sparks books are often turned into film (“Message in a Bottle,” “The Notebook,” “Walk to Remember,” etc.) so it wasn’t a surprise to read that The Lucky One is now a film.  When a soldier finds a photo of a woman he doesn’t know, he begins to think it’s a lucky charm and sets out to find the woman in the picture.  Zac Efron stars as Sgt. Logan Thibault.
“Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is based on These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, though the new reprint of the book will use the movie title.  The story has a group of British retirees deciding to go to India where the cost of living should be lower.  Entranced by advertisements for a newly remodeled grand hotel, they pack up and move—only to discover the place is not quite as advertised.  The film stars Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, so it should be fun to watch.
“Lawless,” the new movie starring Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy, is based on The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant.  Writer Sherwood Anderson dubbed Franklin County, Virginia “the wettest county in the world” while writing about the Bondurant brothers’ exploits in the moonshine trade in a county where it was rumored that county officials were actually running the illegal trade.  Bondurant based his account on trial transcripts as well as family recollections and Sherwood Anderson’s writing.  Be aware that this isn’t a humorous, homespun tale, but a gritty and often violent story.
“Killing Them Softly” features Brad Pitt as a mob enforcer who is called to clean up a situation after a heist at a high stakes card-game. Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini also star in this adaptation of George V. Higgins’ book, Cogan’s Trade.
Perhaps one of the quirkier films may well be “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter” which is based on the book of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith.  This was Grahame-Smith’s follow-up book to his surprise success, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I am not making this up.

P.S. I have mixed emotions about the last “book into film” I saw, which was The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The movie, which starred Daniel Radcliffe, was well done and very atmospheric:  a genuinely creepy film in the best sense of the term.  The costumes and sets were incredible.  The plot was altered a bit, and, while I understood why they did it, I much prefer the book version.  The book's ending is the one that stays with me and the one which gave the book its power—well, that and some very descriptive writing.  I could almost hear the lonely clacking of the pony’s hooves over the causeway and feel the fog creeping in. (For the original review of the book, click here.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nevermore: Abundance, Madness, Lifeboat & The Rebel Wife

There were some new faces at Nevermore this week! We had another wide ranging discussion, starting with Jud’s recommendation of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The book examines some of humankind’s most pressing needs—access to fresh water, for example—and discusses what coming technological innovations may solve the problem.  The book also looks at some of the great modern philanthropists and how they are helping to change the world. The authors point out that compared to our ancestors, our standards of living are incredibly high; and that while some areas of the world lag behind, new technologies are helping them as well.  One example cited was how cell phones have transformed communication in many African companies where the cost of installing landlines would still be prohibitive. The book is nothing if not hopeful.
 Even certain mental illnesses may have some benefits, at least according to Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Moods Disorder program at Tufts University Medical Center.  In his new book A First-Rate Madness:  Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness, he argues that under certain conditions depression or bi-polar symptoms can actually give some people an advantage in assessing critical situations.  He compares several leaders whom he believed to have had a mood disorder (Lincoln, Kennedy, Churchill, FDR, etc.) with those who were apparently more stable (Neville Chamberlain, Nixon, and George W. Bush).  Whether or not you agree with his hypothesis, it’s an interesting, thought-provoking  book.
Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan is set in 1914, just before the start of WWI.  The story opens with young widow Grace Winter writing down her account of events before she is to stand trial.  She and her new husband were aboard the Empress Alexander when the ship suffers a catastrophic explosion and sinks.  Grace is put onto a lifeboat before the liner sinks, but her husband goes down with the ship.  What follows is a horrific ordeal as food and water run out and people are forced to decide who lives and who dies.  Our reader found it very compelling even as she wondered how much to trust the narrator’s view of events.
With the upcoming program on the Civil War, Jud thought it serendipitous that Taylor Polites’ first novel, The Rebel Wife, was on our new book shelf.  The book is actually set post-Civil War and concerns Augusta Branson, the young wife of a suspected Yankee sympathizer.  When her husband dies suddenly from a fever, Augusta is forced into a new role. She soon must confront the realities of the prevailing social and political realities while the deadly plague spreads quickly.   Polites has written a Southern gothic that will upend some of the stereotypes often found in books set in the era.  The Providence Journal described the book as “history with a heartbeat.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mysterious Cats: Leann Sweeney & Sofie Kelly

Reviewed by Jeanne

It's no secret that I have a weakness for both mysteries and cats, so I'm bound to give a book with both a try.  Some are good, some are so-so, some annoy me to pieces.  (For the latter, there is a series I continue to read but I fuss a great deal as I do so. For example,  anyone who wears flashy clothes, lots of make up,  and drives a foreign car is going to be guilty of something, where as anyone who wears sturdy, practical clothing and is neat won't be the villain no matter what the clues might indicate. Good thing the cats are cute.) Here are a couple of series I've read lately:

Leann Sweeney also writes The Yellow Rose Mysteries
The Cat, The Quilt and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney combines quilts, cats, and mysteries. This is the first of the “Cats in Trouble” series, and so far every book has had a cat in jeopardy to kick start the plot.  Jillian Hart is newly widowed, living with her three cats who are like her children.  She and her husband had moved to a small town in South Carolina when he died unexpectedly.  In an effort to keep busy, Jill hopes to start a business selling the quilts she makes for cats. (Yes, there are such things: they’re popular at cat shows where the cats are kept in small cages before the judging.  The cages often have padding inside and are usually draped with some sort of material to help keep the cats calmer.  Some cages have elaborate decorations.) One evening she comes home to find a broken window and a missing cat.  The police aren’t too impressed at first, especially since there's a little misunderstanding and the dispatcher believes a child is missing instead of a cat.  When they learn that the cat is a purebred Abyssinian and therefore valuable, interest picks up-- marginally. Luckily for Jillian, young deputy Candace Carson wants to move up into detective work and takes the time to practice her skills on the situation.  The trouble doesn’t stop there, though, and after another attempted catnapping,  murder joins the list of crimes.  

The cats don’t talk nor do they solve mysteries, but the cats theme is as strong as the mystery and most of the characters have a pet or two, including some folks involved in a cat rescue. The mysteries are well-plotted and there's a solid cast of characters.  I can't say I'm hooked, but they're pleasant enough.

This isn’t a series you need to read in order.  The other titles are The Cat, the Professor, and the Poison; The Cat, the Lady and the Liar; and soon to come, The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon.

Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of Young Adult author Darlene Ryan.
Kathleen Paulson has taken a job as head librarian as the small town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota renovates its library.  Her friends and family are more than a bit astonished that she'd choose to leave the bright lights of Boston, but after a lifetime spent moving around with the actor parents, she's ready to settle down.  Besides, it's far away from her former fiance who felt Kathleen wasn't spontaneous enough for him and, as if to prove it, married someone else two weeks after he broke up with Kathleen.  She's already finding new friends, including a pair of stray kittens who have adopted her, and is enjoying the Minnesota vistas when an obnoxious visiting conductor ends up dead.  Not only is Kathleen the one to discover the body, but he may have been assaulted in the library itself.  This puts her at the top of the suspect list. 

So begins Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, the first in Sofie Kelly's "Magical Cats" series of mysteries. As you may assume from the series title, it turns out that the cats, Hercules and Owen, may have some unsettling abilities, like being able to disappear or walk through walls. For me, the selling point in this series is the great conversations Kathleen has with her female friends; Kelly has a real knack for making the conversations sound both funny and real, and will remind readers of their own good times.  The mystery is competently done, the cats are relatively catlike and while they don't talk, they seem to understand enough to come up with a clue or two. There's the requisite handsome detective who irritates Kathleen, though everyone can see they're meant for each other, lots of food, interesting characters, and a good sense of place. If I have a gripe, it's that I didn't see a lot of library work being done by Kathleen.  It's lucky for her that she has a good staff and volunteers to help patrons. The second in the series is Sleight of Paw;   Copycat Killing will be coming out in May.  If the cover is to be believed, perhaps spring has finally come to Minnesota, after two books of snow, ice, sleet and chill!

Two more cat mystery series will be reviewed later, after I get some of the cat hair out of the keyboard.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Maurice Sendak

The world lost a literary giant this past week when Maurice Sendak passed away at age 83.  Many of the headlines read “Children’s Book Author Sendak Dies,” but Sendak was an author for everyone.  

 My own favorite among his works is Outside Over There, which in turn inspired Jim Henson to create the movie Labyrinth, but I have to say that the closing lines of Wild Things linger, where Max comes home to his supper and “it was still hot” are among the most satisfying in literature.
Bumble-Ardy is his last published book.

I recommend this link to the Fresh Air tribute which included excerpts from a number of interviews with Mr. Sendak.

Which are your favorite Sendak books?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nevermore, May 1st: Saving Cee, Killing Lincoln & Monday Mornings

Nevermore was its usual eclectic self this week, albeit with a tad more popular fiction:
Monday Mornings, the new novel by Sanjay Gupta, takes its title from the routine Morbidity and Mortality conferences held at the hospital each week, in which doctors discuss medical errors.  The idea is for the physicians to learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of colleagues, in order to better treat patients.  The novel follows a group of neurosurgeons in an exciting, behind the scenes look at life among the top doctors.  Personal dramas as well as medical ones unfold.  This one is recommended for anyone who likes a good medical novel with a dash of soap opera. Gupta is himself a neurosurgeon and author of several nonfiction books on medicine.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by   Beth Hoffman was highly recommended by one of the Nevermore readers.  Twelve year old Cecelia (“CeeCee”) knows that there is something wrong with her mama, but this is the 1960s and mental illness isn’t discussed except in whispers.  Her father travels a great deal and seems to have little or no interest in CeeCee when he’s home.  When Mama is run over by an ice cream truck, Great Aunt Tootie comes to Ohio to take CeeCee back to Savannah with her.  This is a warm and ultimately hopeful story with memorable characters, and a treat for those who like authors like Fannie Flagg or Ann B. Ross.
Another member was reading and enjoying Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln:  The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever.  O’Reilly tells the story as if it were a thriller, which makes the book more of a pager-turner than a scholarly book on the subject. It has earned praise for being an entertaining way to learn about a pivotal moment in American history; several reviewers on Amazon commented that it read like a novel but that there should have been a bit more fact-checking and proofreading before it hit print. It has been very popular here at BPL, making the list of most reserved books for several months.
And speaking of the Civil War, the Bristol Public Library will be hosting Dave Goetz, a  Civil War researcher who is co-authoring a book on John Singleton Mosby.  Mosby was a highly successful guerilla leader for the Confederacy whose post-war support of Ulysses S. Grant was seen by Southerners as a betrayal.  The presentation will be on Saturday, May 19, at 1:00 pm.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Downton Abbey & Beyond

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes is a treat for any fan of PBS’s “Downton Abbey” series.  While this is a “behind the scenes” book, it isn’t a gossipy one about the actors, though some offer comments about working conditions or how they see their characters. Nor is it a novelization of the series, though it does discuss some of the storylines and gives an historical and social context for events.  Most of the book is devoted to explaining a way of life that’s very different than most of us have ever known, where even the slightest misstep can ruin one’s prospects for a job or a marriage.  For example, Cora was an American heiress who married Lord Grantham, something that was not uncommon at the time: because American laws of inheritance allowed daughters to inherit their fathers’ wealth, such girls were sought after by cash-strapped English nobles who might have land and houses but not the wherewithal to keep them up.  The Americans received titles and social status in return, though some found the reception by English society to be chilly in the extreme.  Whether or not the couple was in love was largely irrelevant.
In the servants’ hall, there was another social hierarchy at work.  Servants who attended the family in personal matters—the master’s valet or the ladies’ maids—were higher in social status than, say, the kitchen maid.  Relationships between servants and between servants and families were quite regulated; familiarity was not generally tolerated, though the book does detail some circumstances in which the barriers were perhaps bent a bit. 
The book does discuss the backgrounds of some of the characters in more detail and details some of the changes in the society caused by the Great War. It will make watching the next season—or rewatching seasons one and two!—all the more enjoyable when you to look for certain details in a scene.  Fellowes quotes from contemporary sources to flesh out some of her assertions, and uses examples from real-life situations to help explain some of the events of the series.  
The photographs of the sets, costumes and of course the incredible Highclere House (which stands in for Downton Abbey) are a visual feast.   I highly recommend this book for fans of the series or for anyone interested in that era of British history.
Also recommended is Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon.   Almina, a daughter of industrialist Alfred de Rothschild,  married (or was married off to) the fifth Lord Carnarvon; as with the fictional Lady Cora, Lady Almina brought badly needed cash as part of her dowry while picking up a title and additional social access and respectability for her family. Much of the book is devoted to the World War I era when Lady Almina opened Highclere as a hospital for wounded veterans.  There is a wealth of background material, since the author has access to the Highclere archives; and she doesn’t limit the text to the family but includes information about the staff as well, though more in the form of their duties, wages, etc. There was a famous “shooting party” when the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) visited Highclere and was afforded a lavish reception.  The period details are astonishing, from the redecorating for the visit to the cost of the food.
 (Note:  the 5th Earl of Carnarvon helped finance Howard Carter’s Egyptian excavations, which included the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.)
Last but certainly not least is the reprint of Margaret Powell’s memoir of being a servant in one of the great houses.  Below Stairs is often credited for being the inspiration behind “Upstairs, Downstairs,” the groundbreaking British series that took as much interest in the lives of the servants as it did the family they served.  With the popularity of “Downton Abbey,” the book has been rereleased and is once again a best-seller.  If you’re interested in a real behind the scenes peek from a servant’s point of view, this is the book for you.  Powell was an ambitious woman who started as a kitchen maid but who didn’t intend to spend her life in service.  Intelligent and well read, her tart observations can be a revelation to modern readers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mary E. Kingsley Visits Nevermore

In addition to the delectable doughnuts from Blackbird Bakery, the Nevermore Book Club was treated to an author visit!  Mary Kingsley, author of Angel, discussed how growing up in Kingsport informed her coming of age novel.  The setting is 1973, in a small southern Appalachian town, where thirteen year old Angel Bishop is beginning to ask questions.  Her father left when she was a baby for reasons no one will explain; well, no one but Aunt Patsy, who has been in a mental home for years and who doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense.  When her father calls and says he’ll be home for Thanksgiving, everything gets turned upside down.  Jud had read and recommended the book at a previous meeting.  He felt it was well-written, evocative, and a good story well told.
Ms. Kingsley read an excerpt from the book and answered a number of questions about her experience.  The theme of “insiders verses outsiders” runs through the book along with questions about family and how the past can influence one's perceptions.  Many readers found reading the book to be a nostalgic experience, with beloved places and people woven into the narrative.  Those who didn’t grow up in the area still found much to identify with, both in culture and characters.  Ms. Kingsley wrote a blog on this topic:  Meeting Readers.
 To learn more about Ms. Kingsley and to even hear some audio clips from the book, visit her website
 The library had hosted a coffee with writer Sharon Randall the day prior to Book Club, and Ms. Randall had much to say in praise of libraries and reading.  Ms. Randall grew up in North Carolina so once again there was a shared sense of place, peoples, and culture.  She is best known for her syndicated column which runs in the Bristol Herald Courier on Sundays.  Birdbaths and Paper Cranes is a collection of her essays.
The topic of banned books came up, since a number of the most frequently challenged books are for children or young adults.  The 2010 list includes Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexi and Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley.
Among the books being read by club members were two frequently mentioned titles, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Sarah’s Key  by Tatiana de Rosnay.  Rosnay has a new book out, The House I Loved which is also set in Paris, but in the 1860s when houses are being demolished by order of Napoleon III.  A widow, determined not to leave her home to be destroyed, hides out in the cellar where she writes letters to her deceased husband and ultimately reveals a long held secret.