Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nevermore: Mormons, Leonardo, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap & The Black Count

The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith by Matthew Bowman was described as a very good book about the history of the Mormon religion. The book starts with Joseph Smith and ends with the present day and the rise of Mormon influence in today’s culture, including Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and the recent Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. The book was described as informative and readable.

Another reader was enjoying Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King. The book concentrates on the creation of what is arguably da Vinci’s most famous work. It was completed in an amazingly short time, especially for Leonardo who was notorious for more projects begun than completed, and while Italy was at war with France. King has the knack for bringing historical persons and situations to life, making for a lively story.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch was recommended as a book that extols both the value of books and reading as well as the value of a place for readers to meet. Wendy and her husband Jack had dreamed of opening a bookstore one day. That day came rather unexpectedly, after Wendy’s job ended and they found a wonderful old house that would be perfect for both living quarters and a shop. One of our reviewers commented that in spite of its small size, Big Stone Gap seems to produce good authors.

Last but not least, Jud was very enthusiastic about The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. It’s a biography of Alexandre Dumas—General Dumas, the father of the man who wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. General Dumas was born in Haiti to a French father and a slave mother, but moved to Paris where he became a soldier and then a general in Napoleon’s army. Jud says that this is a swashbuckling tale to rival any fictional novel and he highly recommends it as an amazing tale of an amazing man.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Reviewed by Nancy

Arrrrraaaagh! Talk about a marriage gone bad!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn gives us the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a New York City couple deeply immersed in the good life. Amy is beautiful, Nick is handsome, and they are both witty and intelligent. They are magazine writers able to live beyond their obvious means due to the fact that Amy has a trust fund.

Everything is fine for them for the first few years. Actually, it is beyond fine, it is pretty much the stuff of fairy tales. BUT, then the economy goes down the tubes, the internet snuffs out printed magazines, and suddenly each of them is unemployed. I found a line from a Billy Joel song running through my head repeatedly: When the fun falls through and the rent comes due.

That’s what happened to these two. The fun fell through, the money went away, and they were left with nothing but each other, only to discover that this wasn’t enough. Ha! Not only was it not enough; it was too much.

A series of events pushes them away from New York and to Missouri where Nick has family. I do not want to reveal the events as I fear it would give away too much. Suffice it to say the die is cast.

A mystery develops, and this is one of those books that causes you to repeatedly ask yourself "What is going on? Who is the bad guy here?"

I found myself feeling unsympathetic towards both of the primary characters. Enough so that I considered putting the book down, thinking "I don't like these people, I don't care about them, I don't care who did what or how this turns out."

But did I put it down? No, because somehow I was strangely hooked. As I read, I discovered that I did like one of the characters much more than I had thought, and I found myself rooting for that character. After a time I found that I could hardly put the book down.

There are twists and turns right up until the final pages. I am not promising an ending to this saga that will seem pleasing to you. Upon completing the book, my first inclination was to find the nearest river and throw the book into it, but I couldn’t allow myself that, since the book belongs to the Bristol Public Library.

Gillian Flynn, author of two previous thrillers, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, has produced a real page-turner. If you want to escape your own life for a while, neglect your domestic and professional duties, stay up too late reading, etc., this a book you should check out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nevermore: Digital Vertigo, Little Bookstore & The End of Your Life Book Club

Nevermore featured a lot of non-fiction this week, but not all of it was well-received.  First up was Digital Vertigo:  How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen, in which the author blames various social media for stripping people of the right to privacy and solitude.  While Jud felt Keen had some justifiable concerns, the author also seemed to make a number of questionable assertions.  When Jud reached the chapter on the horrors of social reading, which Keen considers “the end of the world,” Jud gave up on the book entirely.  We all agreed that readers have always liked to share and compare when it comes to books, and that a good deal of civilization and culture is based on the idea of shared reading. After all, Nevermore itself IS a book club for people who want to talk about books and ideas.

Two recommended books were the polar opposite of Digital Vertigo when it came to reading.  Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch is the story of two “outsiders” who came to a little town in Southwest Virginia and decided to open a small used book store.  Wendy and her husband Jack Beck were greeted with some skepticism on behalf of the locals, but they persevered: they both knew that small towns take some time to get to know newcomers, especially so when aforementioned newcomers want to do something as radical as open a bookstore where one has never been before.  Today the bookstore is a thriving concern and a real part of the community, a place for readers to share a love of books. This also led to a discussion on “new” books and the consensus that any book, no matter its publication date, is new to someone who hasn’t read the book.  Some older books retain their power for centuries.

 The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe has a wonderful quotation:  “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing.  It’s the opposite of dying.”  When his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, mother and son began to spend a lot of time together in cancer treatment waiting rooms.  They both loved to read, so as a way of passing the time they selected books which they read and discussed together.  The book is not only a lovely tribute to human spirit, but to the power of books to bring people together in meaningful ways and to allow discussions that otherwise wouldn’t take place.  Schwalbe allows readers to be privy to some of the discussions in this moving and inspiring book.  This is shared reading at its finest, which allowed a mother and son to discuss topics that would have been too painful to talk about outside of a fictional framework.  It gave them both insights into each other.  Most of all, it made a very painful time less painful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Reviewed by Holly White

I am a big fan of the TV show Castle, where NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett acts as a sometimes-unwilling muse for mystery novelist Richard Castle.  Castle uses his friendship with the mayor to get what he wants, which is to follow Beckett around as she works her cases as research for his novels.  Beckett finds Castle annoying, but is forced to tolerate him.  Every time there's a dead body, Castle tags along throughout the investigation, getting in the way, disobeying orders, and putting himself in danger.  To Becket’s surprise, he sometimes even helps.  Even more surprising, she finds herself attracted to him.  On the show, Castle starts writing books that are obviously based on Beckett and the others which pleases some people and annoys others.

Since I know the show is fiction, you can just imagine my astonishment to find that there are actual books in print by “Richard Castle” and follow the ones described on the show! Each Castle character is represented in the books, with enough differences to let you know these are fictionalized versions of the “real” people you know from the show. Each character in the book engages you and charms you. You get to know these people, their individual quirks, their personalities, their relationships. You laugh out loud as they pick on each other.

The first one is Heat Wave, in which NYPD homicide detective Nicki Heat isn’t happy when she’s told she’ll have to work with Jameson Rook. He’s not a cop, just a hotshot journalist doing research for an article, and she’s sure he’ll be in the way. Then a tycoon falls to his death and Heat and Rook find themselves caught up in the world of the rich and powerful, where secrets can get you killed—and there are a lot of secrets.

This isn’t the type of book I would usually read. Mysteries are not my usual flavor, but I started reading it because of the show, and then found I couldn’t put it down.

The plot is well done, playing you out just enough line but keeping you on the hook. The book is well paced; it never bogs down in descriptions, but keeps the action moving, something I particularly appreciate in any novel. There were several twists and turns, so I was not able to figure out who the murderer was until it was revealed in the story’s climax. Perhaps a reader who regularly reads murder mysteries might have done better at this, I don’t know.

But to me, the real mystery is who really wrote these books. I haven’t been able to find out, after some not-so-intensive Internet search. The real author is not revealed in the convoluted acknowledgments at the back of the book, which cleverly allude to Sir Edmund Hilary (the first man to climb Mount Everest) and Tenzing Norgay (the sherpa who helped him). I say convoluted because the acknowledgments are hard to follow, since the author thanks both real and imaginary people, interchangeably, some whom I recognize and some whom I don’t. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere, and a clever mystery reader could find out if they really wanted to. But for now, I am enjoying this mystery of not knowing. It’s a delicious one that I want to savor until just the right moment to find out.

The book isn’t high literature, but it isn’t all fluff, either. It’s just a fun read that keeps you curious, and makes you want to read all the rest of the books in the series, which I plan to do. If you read the book and like it, watch the show; I think you’d enjoy it. If you like the show, read the book. And if you happen to figure out who the real author is, please don’t let me know. I’m enjoying the mystery.

If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll love this book.  If you’re not a fan but you like mysteries with fun characters and snappy dialogue, you’ll enjoy this book.  I know I did!

Here are the books in the series so far:
1. Heat Wave
2. Naked Heat
3. Heat Rises
4. Frozen Heat

Holly White is a Bristol Public Library patron who has voluteered to write some reviews for us. We look forward to her next reviw!  Other guest reviewers are welcome.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nevermore: Todd, Pitts, & Climate

Two recent library presentations made a big impression on the Nevermore readers Chuck Todd of NBC News spoke on November 10 as part of the Discovery series, and King College’s Buechner Institute presented columnist Leonard Pitts at the library on November 12.

Todd’s major points concerned the changing demographics of America as well as voter patterns that defied conventional wisdom. His ability to recall facts and figures as well as make informed comments about a wide variety of political topics made a very favorable impression on the large crowd at the VI Auditoium. There will no doubt be much written about the 2012 race, just as there were several books about 2008. One of the better known books about the 2008 race is Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin which was made into a movie. Our reviewer said she finished the book disliking every candidate.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. is a popular social commentator and author of three non-fiction books and one novel. His most recent book is Freeman, a novel set in the aftermath of the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination. Sam, a former slave, sets out from Philadelphia to find his wife, who was left behind in Mississippi when Sam and their son escaped to the North; meanwhile, an affluent white woman from Boston sets out for the South with the intent of building a school for the newly freed slaves. Mr. Pitts also drew an enthusiastic local audience which made for Standing Room Only in Main's J. Henry Kegley Meeting Room.

The Storms of My Grandchildren is an examination of current climate conditions and the threat of climate change as detailed by James Hansen. Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and he sees catastrophic conditions in the future if steps aren’t taken now to prevent more global warming. His book not only deals with the physical aspects of change, but with the geopolitical roadblocks that are keeping emissions high in various countries.

A related book is Global Weirdness by Climate Central, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of scientists who took up Thomas Friedman’s challenge to write a report on climate change. Jud’s impression was that it was well done but there were a lot of facts and figures to absorb. These two books led to a general discussion on climate change. Who do you trust? Is climate change real? If it is real, what can we do about it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mad River: A Virgil Flowers Mystery by John Sandford

Reviewed by Doris

I have been a John Sandford fan since the beginning of his Lucas Davenport Prey series.  Sandford is a master of the strong character driven police procedural with the added appeal of some humor and romance.  All of his books are set in Minnesota in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, and they have a hard edge of graphic violence.  One of Sandford’s strongest points as a writer is his creation of the bad guy. The Prey series with Davenport has some of the most frightening killers in fiction, and Lucas does not always get the killer. A few years ago, Sandford added a new protagonist when he introduced Virgil Flowers, another BCI agent who was in some ways Lucas’ protégé who now has his own series.  Mad River is the sixth Virgil Flowers novel, and Virgil has moved away from supporting character to leading character with his own strengths and methods of solving crimes.

In Mad River Virgil is traveling his old stomping grounds of rural Minnesota where he grew up. We meet his parents and others from his past which adds more dimension to the character. He is the son of a Lutheran minister and that often leads him to ruminating about the power of God and the battles of Good and Evil. Since he usually only gets pulled into cases of multiple or particularly brutal murders, these contemplations may be what keeps him grounded. Make no mistake though, Virgil is no Bible thumper. He is often the voice of reason when situations get tense. He has an amazing attraction to women, and for that has earned a nickname that is unrepeatable here. The nickname also has to do with his amazing “luck” in solving cases. While I continue to really enjoy the Lucas Davenport novels, I find the character of Virgil has become more appealing in many ways.

Mad River begins with three young people who are angry, living on the streets, and who fancy themselves the new Bonnie and Clyde and side-kick. Becky Welch, Tom McCall, and Jimmy Sharp have a bad attitude, not much conscience, and guns. They begin their crime spree with a robbery that goes wrong. As they travel the back roads with Virgil in pursuit, they leave a trail of death. Each time Virgil thinks he knows where they are headed, things change and it seems catching the trio is not going to happen without some lucky break for law enforcement. In what appears to be an accurate depiction of small town law enforcement procedures, Sandford weaves the violence at a fast pace. Virgil finds himself questioning both his abilities and those of the officers around him, and the twist at the end is both surprising and long foreshadowed.

The Virgil Flowers novels are Dark of the Moon, Heat Lightning, Rough Country, Bad Blood, Shockwave, and Mad River. All are available at both Avoca and the Main BPL.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ARGO: Worth the Trip to the Theater

Reviewed by Doris

Antonio Mendez is a CIA operative whose area of expertise is “exfiltrading” people from ugly situations. He has to plan and then lead missions to extract people important to the US government. It is a job that few know about, no one in the CIA acknowledges and yet it is one of the most dangerous positions for a CIA operative. Sounds like the hero of a spy novel, doesn’t it? Mendez is someone who could have been invented by Robert Ludlum, but he is real and so were his missions.

In 1979 Iranian militants seized the American embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans were taken hostage and held for 444 days. Six Americans escaped from the embassy before it was seized and eventually were hidden in the Canadian embassy. After months of dithering around with bad plans to save the six “houseguests,” the CIA turned to their top extraction man Mendez. Working with the governments of Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain, Mendez devised an ingenious plan and brought out the six Americans. To protect the remaining hostages, the United States kept the role of Mendez and the CIA secret. Canada was credited with the save. Clearly without the courage of the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, the Canadian government, and a few Iranians who helped pull off the extraction, the Americans would have been executed as spies.

Why the short and not very thorough history lesson? "Argo" tells the story of Mendez and his mission in a taunt, often funny, always tense movie that is well worth a trip to the theater. Ben Affleck does a superb job as director and star of "Argo", and he along with George Clooney and Grant Heslov were producers of the thriller. I have never been much of an Affleck fan but his handling of this topic and this movie is top notch.

Plan after plan to rescue the hostages has been discarded as unworkable. Mendez finally has a flash of inspiration. He will be the Canadian producer of the movie ARGO , a cheesy science-fiction film with a “Middle Eastern vibe, “and go to Iran to look for locations for the filming. The six Americans, using Canadian passports will leave the country as his film crew. John Chambers (played by John Goodman) , the Oscar-winning Hollywood make up icon has worked with Mendez before so he is enlisted to help set up a fake movie production company. He brings in Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin) to help, and ARGO is on its way.  When the higher ups in the CIA and the State Department question Mendez on his plan, he tells them all the plans are bad, but ARGO is the best bad plan they have.

Using Tony Mendez’s The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA and Joshuah Bearman’s Wired  article “Escape from Tehran” as his sources, screenplay writer Chris Terrio has done an enthralling retelling of the hostage crisis. Using actual television news footage extensively to keep the timeline focused Terrio balances the story between what is happening in Tehran and Washington, DC. The politics of the situation is always there, as is the fear that begins to fray the nerves of the six “houseguests.” I have to say that even though I knew how the story ended, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat muttering, “Hurry! Hurry!”

While the screenplay is not totally factual it tells a story of conflicts—those between countries, religions, people, and even agencies in Washington, DC.  It also shows what good things can happen when we can reach out to work together to make good things happen.  I expect to see "Argo" nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and it so deserves it.

We have both Tony Mendez’s books The Master of Disguise: My life in the CIA (327.12 Men)  and Argo:  How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History  (955.0542 MEN) at Main.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nevermore November Nonfiction

The cold and snow made for a smaller gathering at last week’s Nevermore, but the discussion was as wide ranging as ever. Here are some highlights:

The Joy of X by by Steven H. Strogatz is just the book for all those folks with math anxiety. He uses pop cultural references and humor to explain a wide range of mathematical concepts, including (gulp!) calculus. The book isn’t a textbook or manual; it explains basic concepts in a fun, enlightening way.

Mortality is Christopher Hitchens’ final book, which he wrote while dying of cancer. Much of the book comes from essays he wrote for various publications in his final months. Hitchens was known for his wit, intelligence, and contrarian stances on a number of subjects, including religion; dying didn’t soften him one bit. Fans admire his straightforward approach and his refusal to sugarcoat anything as well as his eloquence and lucid arguments on a variety of topics.

This led to a discussion about religion and a recommendation for the books of Karen Armstrong. Armstrong is a well respected commentator on religion. One of her best known books is A History of God, which compares Judaism, Islam and Christianity. She looks for shared beliefs among the world’s religions.

Finally, there was a recommendation for It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. Both are government scholars. They argue that partisan politics and ideological extremism have set up roadblocks to governing and, unless the two parties can work together, the country faces disaster.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What's Hot for November!

You can tell when the publishers start the fall push for books by the increased number of titles on our reserve lists!  There are a number of releases from best-selling authors, including four from the ever prolific James Patterson.  Here are the 25 most requested books:

25.  The Risk Agent by Ridley Pearson is still on the list, as fans enjoy his first new thriller in two years.

24. Private:  Berlin by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan has the exclusive private detective agency investigating a case in Germany.

23. Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason is one of the new “Nordic Noir” books in the mold of Steig Larsson. Set in Iceland, this fast-paced police procedural has a female officer on the trail of a serial rapist while trying to keep her family together.  Booklist called it “deeply compelling.”

22. Stephanie Plum is back!  Yes, the Jersey girl is back in Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich.

21. The Buzzard Table is the new Deborah Knot mystery by Margaret Maron.  A man claiming to be an ornithologist studying vultures has come to town, but Deborah has the feeling she’s seen him somewhere before.

20. Bone Tree by Greg Iles, still expected this December.

19. You Don’t Want to Know by Lisa Jackson is a thriller about a mother who thinks she can hear her dead son.  Is she losing her mind—or is there something else going on?

18. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom has Father Time trying to teach two mortals just what time means.  Since Albom is also the author of Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, you may want to have tissues handy.

17. The Last Man by Vince Flynn has Mitch Rapp in search of a CIA black ops master who may have been kidnapped.  Even worse, he may not have been.

16. Killing Kennedy:  The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly is the latest from the author of Killing Lincoln.

15. No Easy Day by Mark Owen is an account of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by a Navy Seal.

14. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling is her first book for adults and has nothing to do with magic. Instead, it’s a look at village life when people find themselves on different sides of an issue, dividing them along lines of class, age, and culture.

13. The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell is the latest in the Kay Scarpetta series has the ME investigating the death of a paleontologist and wondering exactly who she can trust.

12. The Perfect Hope by Nora Roberts is the last in the Booneboro Inn series.

11. Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson has the celebration on hold as the detective is called away to a hostage situation.

10. In Mad River by John Sandford, a teenage couple are cutting a murderous swath as they kill and steal their way across Minnesota, and stirring up a media frenzy.  Virgil Flowers joins in the hunt, but even he doesn’t know what he’s getting into.

9.  Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Paterson and Maxine Paetro is a YA mystery thriller about a teenage girl suspected of murdering her parents.

8. Winter of the World by Ken Follett is the sequel to Fall of Giants, about the fates of five families across the world as World War II is about to begin.

7. Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen is the new Rizzoli and Isles mystery.  The detective and medical examiner are called into a case involving orphans who have survived horrific home invasions.  Is there a connection between the children?

6. Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson won’t be out until February, 2013 but fans are already on the waiting list!

5. The Racketeer by John Grisham is being touted by Barnes and Noble as “classic Grisham with a touch of noir.” 

4. Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb has Eve Dallas investigating a case where a crowd was sent into a murderous frenzy by some sort of hallucinogenic drug.

3. A Wanted Man by Lee Child is the newest Jack Reacher thriller.

2. In Low Pressure by Sandra Brown, a young woman writes a novel about the death of her sister during a tornado eighteen years earlier, but the book seems to be stirring up some memories better left alone.

And the most requested book is:

Death in the Delta:  Uncovering a Mississippi Family Secret by Molly Walling, which is the true story of a woman’s search for the truth about a family secret.  Molly now lives in North Carolina, but is fondly remembered in the Tri-Cities for her many contributions.  As one patron said recently, “I still miss Molly and her wonderful bookstore.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

True Grey by Clea Simon

Melon ponders whodunit in True Grey.

Reviewed by Jeanne

Dulcie Schwartz is just starting to see some daylight at the end of her long academic tunnel. She has a hot lead on the anonymous author she’s been researching for her thesis, and she thinks she may be ready to start writing. Then the incredible happens: a visiting scholar shows up who claims to have already found the missing novel and is about to publish her paper on the topic. Dulcie is devastated. Years wasted! In hopes of finding out if maybe there’s still something left from which to carve out a thesis, Dulcie tries to contact this Melinda Sloan Harquist despite several warnings that she shouldn’t. There is a meeting at last, but Melinda is dead and Dulcie has blood on her hands—literally.

True Grey is the fifth in Clea Simon's Dulcie Schwartz series and I think the best so far. Dulcie is a bit more settled in her life. After several false starts, she’s finally making some real headway with her paper. She and boyfriend Chris have settled into a steady relationship. Esme, the willful little kitten who captured her heart after the death of her beloved feline Mr. Grey, seems to be growing up a bit. Did I mention that Esme can talk? And that Mr. Grey is also still looking out for Dulcie? Both offer help after their own fashion, but advice from felines can sometimes be a bit obscure. Like the Oracle at Delphi, one has to attach one’s own meanings to some of their pronouncements.

I especially enjoyed these little interludes with the cats, but the whole book is fun—especially if you are or ever have been a member of the Professional Organization of English Majors. Actually, anyone who’s been involved in academia will recognize how passionate people can be over things the general public would think to be totally inconsequential.  Think of the TV show Big Bang Theory,only with less slapstick and Engligh majors instead of physists.   People carve out their own areas of expertise and are focused on that to the exclusion of almost everything else, so that someone studying the Gothic tradition sniffs at someone studying the Victorian era and vice versa. Simon catches the atmosphere perfectly, even having Dulcie accept being a murder suspect with relative equanimity but being shattered to learn that she’s suspected of –GASP!—plagiarism!

Another aspect I particularly appreciate is the way Simon has the story mirror some of the material Dulcie studies, with its portents and foreshadowings which the headstrong heroine ignores. Dulcie has a good number of these both from her cats (alive and otherwise) and from her New Age mother, who calls to inform Dulcie when the signs are unfavorable. Dulcie, so intent and earnest in her evaluations of fictional situations and so heedless when it comes to real life, makes me smile in recognition. I also like Dulcie’s thoughts on the anonymous author of The Ravages of Umbria and comments on the early feminist movement as she tries to reconstruct the author’s life.

The subplot with the anonymous author remains one of my favorite aspects of the books and I’m interested in seeing how it plays out. That said, I think these books can be read as standalone mystery novels. As with most series, it’s a bit better to read in order to see the character growth but it’s not mandatory.

Full disclosure:  I was given a copy of the book-- or rather, Melon was given a copy of the book-- but it did not influence my review.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nevermore Fiction: Casual Vacancy, Going Postal and more

“People are brought together by stories. Responsiveness is hardwired into us. We have a need for stories.”

The above is a summation of some comments at the Nevermore Book Club recently and is as good an introduction as any to this round up of fiction.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling is her first book for adults. It’s set in a small village where the sudden death of a councilman has left a major decision hanging on who will be elected to replace him. Our reviewer was unimpressed. She felt there were too many characters and most all of them were unlikeable.

Peter Taylor is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who writes novels set in the South. His writing has drawn comparisons to Eudora Welty. The pace is somewhat slow but the writing is rich and evocative. Our reviewer had enjoyed In the Tennessee Country, and is currently reading A Summons to Memphis.

The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen by Thomas Caplan has an internationally known actor being recruited to stop a nuclear arms deal. It’s a rousing thriller with an introduction from Bill Clinton.

While Simon Lelic’s The Child Who won praise from our group, his latest novel The Facility was much less enthusiastically received. This bleak picture of a future Britain in which the government has used anti-terror laws to advance its own agenda was deemed too confusing, with unsympathetic characters.

An oldie but a goodie, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was mentioned as a book that did a wonderful job of creating characters and depicting human emotion. It’s a moving book that also incorporates facts about bees as part of its story. Our reviewer’s assessment was met with a chorus of agreement!

Another older book winning praise was Going Postal by Terry Prachett, one of the best known Diskworld novels. Prachett’s fantasy books are not only very funny, they tend to be dead-on social satires, and this one is no exception. The short version of the plot is that a forger has been found guilty of his crimes and sentenced to running a post office. The filmed was also popular in Prachett’s native England.