Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nevermore: Killing England, Woman in the Window, Vonnegut, Love and Trouble, North

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore reads widely, from archeology to mysteries to science fiction to wars, so one reader began this week reading Killing England: The Brutal Struggle for American Independence by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.  A very detailed story of the Revolutionary War, Killing England is the latest of O’Reilly’s historical narratives.  Our reader noted that Benjamin Franklin does not come out looking good in this telling, although the French ladies loved him.

Next, the group turned to fiction, with The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn.  With many other recent novels of psychology suspense including “Girl” or “Woman” in the title, this one follows suit and has been suggested for fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French.  Agoraphobe Anna Fox lives alone in New York City and has the habit of peeking through her windows to see what is happening nearby.  But when Anna observes something horrific, she doesn’t know what to do.  Was a crime committed, or was it only in her mind?  Our reader proclaimed that this was a book really worth reading.

Another reader has been on a Kurt Vonnegut kick lately, and really enjoyed the older collection of short fiction Bagombo Snuff Box.  The stories collected within are mainly from the 1950s and 1960s and were originally published in a variety of magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post.  Reflecting the era, the stories provide a delightful glimpse into the development of Vonnegut’s writing style in the mid twentieth century.

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer was a slightly unexpected memoir for our next reader, but one that he enjoyed.  From the best-selling author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, Dederer covers being a middle aged mother who looks back at who she has been, and who she is becoming.  Humorous and perhaps a little explicit as the author explores a sexual reawakening, this covers territory that many people might recognize.  Our reader challenged the group, “Read it if you dare.”

Our next reader always enjoys books about people traveling in rugged circumstances, so she picked up North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek with Jenny Jurek.  An extreme marathoner, Scott decided to challenge himself by running the Appalachian Trail and attempting to break the previously held time record as well.  He often ran at night, and didn’t include in his narrative much about what he saw.  That, plus minor errors which should have been caught in proofreading were distracting and disappointed our reader.

The Round House by Louise Erdich was much appreciated by our next reader, as young teenager Joe told his story.  A member of the Chippewa/Ojibwa nation and a member of a prominent modern family on the reservation, Joe is shocked when his mother returns home after a brutal assault.  His mother is traumatized, and Joe attempts to find the assailant in order to help his mother heal.  Our reader found the book well-written with positive Native American portrayals, as she felt that it should be.
Reported by Kristin

Monday, May 28, 2018

Once and Future Myths

By Jeanne
Mythology has become a hot topic. 

There have been many books drawing from myth and legend over the years—books about King Arthur* alone would fill a library—but there seems to be a recent uptick in the number of titles which draw from myth.  Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series introduced a whole generation of children to the gods of Olympus, a series so successful that it spawned other series dealing with Norse and Egyptian mythology.  He now has his own children’s book imprint, Rick Riordian Presents, which will showcase new writers who are producing myth based fantasy of many cultures. The first book is Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi which uses Hindu mythology as its setting.

On the adult side, Neil Gaiman came out with Norse Mythology last year, a non-fiction book which retells the Norse myths.  Those who know Thor only as one of the Avengers may be in for quite the surprise. The retellings are done with Gaiman’s usual high quality wordsmithing skills, with wonderful imagery, insight, and humor. This book is highly recommended as a starting point.

Following that, anyone intrigued should try Joanne Harris’ writing about the Norse, especially The Gospel of Loki which retells the stories from the point of view of one of the first unreliable narrators—Loki the Trickster.  She had two previous books, set in an alternate world after Ragnarok, Runemarks and Runelight.  Coming in May 2018 will be The Testament of Loki, which picks up right after The Gospel but which ties in with the Runemarks books.

Another new book draws on Greek myths:  Circe by Madeline Miller tells the story of the woman best known today as the enchantress Odysseus encountered on his way back from the Trojan War.  The reviews have been glowing, praising the engrossing story and poetic language. Miller’s previous novel, Song of Achilles, was about the Greek prince Patroclus and his friend Achilles, and how both ended up in going to fight in Troy.

It just goes to show that a good story never really goes away; it is just reworked to suit a new audience. 

*If you are interested in the Arthurian tales, I recommend a classic trilogy by Mary Stewart:  The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. These are as much Merlin’s story as Arthur’s; in fact, the first book takes place before Arthur is born.  There is a fourth book, The Wicked Day, which is told from Modred’s point of view.

There are many, many others but this is a long time favorite of mine.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Disappeared by C.J. Box

Reviewed by Kristin

Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden, that is when he isn’t being fired, re-hired, or re-assigned by whichever governor happens to be in political power at the moment.  While Joe loves the wilderness environment in which he works, the human critters seem to cause much more trouble than the elk, bears, trout, and eagles.  Those truly wild creatures are just out to survive, whereas the people have much more complicated motives.  Joe has run into more than his share of murders in this long running series by C.J. Box.  From rodeo stars to off-the-grid hermits, someone is always trying to get ahead, get what they think should be theirs, or just get even.

Kate Shelford-Longden is a British businesswoman who came to the Silver Creek Ranch for a holiday.  Guests at the luxury resort are outnumbered by staff two to one, with every need anticipated and fulfilled.  Months earlier, Kate travelled to Wyoming, enjoyed herself thoroughly, then disappeared on her way back to the airport.  Now the British tabloids are obsessed with what happened to “Cowgirl Kate.”  Newly elected Governor Colton Allen doesn’t like the scandal and the potential damage to his state’s tourist trade, so he decides to send Joe in to investigate discreetly.

Joe heads south from Saddlestring to Saratoga in below zero temperatures.  He is tired of being manipulated by the powers-that-be, but he is happy to have a chance to see daughter Sheridan who is working at the Silver Creek Ranch.  Besides, an insider’s view never hurts when investigating a missing person case.  A recent college graduate, Sheridan is working as a wrangler at the resort before settling down to a “real” career.

Master falconer Nate Romanowski has a favor to ask his game warden friend.  Permits for trapping and hunting with eagles have suddenly gone scarce, as political winds blow this way and that.  Nate thinks that Joe might have a little bit of influence with state and federal officials, although Joe feels powerless within the wildlife agency that signs his paychecks.  Buffeted amidst the bureaucratic currents, both Nate and Joe seek answers to questions about their state’s natural resources.

I always enjoy the western stories woven by Box, but I can count on one hand the times that I have laughed out loud while reading this series.  As Joe, Sheridan and Nate find themselves deep within the current situation, the mental image created by the words: “What do you mean you shot him and then hit him with a fish?”—that line stayed with me through the remainder of the book.  Box usually throws in a game changing twist at least once before the conclusion of Joe’s adventure.

Well-developed characters shine as the action moves forward; plus, Joe’s wife Marybeth is a librarian and extremely efficient in navigating databases which might give Joe a clue or two.  (Always the way to my heart—include a savvy woman who knows her way around books and other library resources.)  Readers new to the series may want to begin with Open Season, published in 2001, and continue with a new volume every year through 2018.