Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Nevermore: Dovekeepers, Bookshop of Yesterdays, Paris Seamstress, Spy and the Traitor, Alice Network, Great Mortality

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore started their meeting off by sharing The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, which tells the story of four women and the tragic events of Masada nearly two thousand years ago.  The stories of these women—Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah—intersect and weave a powerful story of secrets, hope, truth, and love.   Our reader said The Dovekeepers was actually a re-read for her, but she was glad she had the chance to check out Hoffman’s novel again.  She found the story interesting and she thought the characters were fascinating, complex.  Overall, she liked the book and she recommends The Dovekeepers to any and all fans of Hoffman’s work.

Next, Nevermore checked out The Bookshop of Yesterdays, a new novel by Amy Meyerson.  Miranda Brooks spent much of her childhood reading through the books of her Uncle Billy’s store and solving scavenger hunts he created just for her.  But when Miranda turns twelve, her Uncle Billy and her mother have a sudden falling out and he disappears from Miranda’s life—until sixteen later when she receives news of his death and clues to one final scavenger hunt.  Our reader found she really enjoyed The Bookshop of Yesterdays.  Although the story was pretty predictable—“I kinda had things figured out early on,” she noted—she said it was a novel well worth reading.

Nevermore also looked at another book from the new fiction shelves:  The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester.  Estella Bissette is a young seamstress living in Paris during the early months of World War II; Fabienne Bissette is her granddaughter, a museum curator who is attending the annual Met gala, which is honoring her grandmother’s accomplishments in fashion.  Their stories, both in 1940 and 2015, soon begin to interweave as Fabienne uncovers secrets about her grandmother that she never knew.  Our reader said she enjoyed reading The Paris Seamstress.  Intricate and heartbreakingly poignant, Lester’s novel was an interesting mix of history, romance, and mystery that seemed to hit all the right notes.  She highly recommended it to her fellow Nevermore members, especially those who enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

Next, Nevermore explored a particularly thrilling book titled The Spy and the Traitor:  The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre.  Oleg Gordievsky was the son of two KGB agents and spent time at the best Soviet institutions; he became one of the top intelligence agents in Russia and quickly became the best spy in London—and then he secretly started working for MI6 in 1973, quickly becoming one of Britain’s most important resources and a target for both the Soviet Union and the CIA.  Our reader said she “thoroughly enjoyed The Spy and the Traitor.”  Macintyre’s book read like an espionage thriller, alternating between nail-biting action and fascinating insight into the social and political atmosphere of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union.  “It was truly fantastic,” our reader finished.

Staying in the vein of espionage, Nevermore took a look at Kate Quinn’s novel, The Alice Network.  In the aftermath of World War II, Charlie St. Clair is an American college student on the verge of being cast out by her family—after all, being pregnant and unmarried is hardly proper.  Now, sent to Europe to take care of her “little problem,” Charlie finally has a chance to break free and, with the help of a former spy, find the cousin who disappeared from Nazi-occupied France.  Our reader said The Alice Network was “a good, intense story.”  Filled with a little espionage, some romance, and plenty of adventure, Quinn’s novel was an immediate hit for our reader and it was quickly passed along to another member.

Last, Nevermore shared The Great Mortality:  An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly.  In 1347, the Black Death began its journey across the Europe and Asia; five years later, nearly twenty-five million people were dead and many more were left reeling from the devastation of one disease.  Our reader picked out The Great Mortality on her Kindle on a whim and she was pleasantly surprised to find she enjoyed reading Kelly’s book.  She was fascinated by The Great Mortality, by how much detail and research Kelly put into his book to create such comprehensive and intriguing guide to one of the most gruesome times in history.  “It’s incredible what happened to [all of these people and countries],” she said.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Cat Lover’s Craft Book: Cute and Easy Accessories for Kitty’s Best Friend by Neko Shugei

Reviewed by Kristin

Are you crafty?  Are you catty?  Are you cattily crafty?  Do you just love cats so much that you want to surround yourself with as many fluffy felines as possible?  Well I have the book for you.

This volume includes many original crafts such as “Applique Coin Purses,” “Cat-Shaped Door Stoppers,” and even “Umbrella Handle Covers.”  Just imagine mackerel tabby and calico cat tails designs covering your umbrella handle.  Most of the projects look fairly simple, but simply adorable.

Cat face cross-stitch buttons?  Sure!  Homemade shrinky-dink designs?  I’m in!  Fabric cat dolls with button eyes?  I can see myself getting lost in a local craft store for hours just buying supplies.

The designs are folksy, and just quirky enough that they look original.  If you can half-way follow instructions (like me,) or are just bold enough to adapt patterns to make your own unique crafts, pick up this book and create your new feline friends.

I was curious about an author named Neko, which as Jeanne pointed out, means “cat” in Japanese. Looking up “Shugei” revealed that it means “handicraft.”  An author named “Cat Handicraft” as the author of a book on cat handicrafts was just too good to be true, so I went to the publisher’s website. According to Tuttle Publishing:  “Neko Shugei is a collective of cat-loving crafters comprising Yumi Ooami, Miko Ogura, Miyuki Hayashi, Chizuko Kojima, minou 14, Naoko Suzuki, Kyoko Maruoka, Yoko Kobayashi, Hitomi Hanaoka, rie, Kanade Isshiki, Marupoleland, and nekogao along with their many feline muses.”

Bonus:  these cats do not shed, use litter boxes, or need to be taken to the vet.  The only snipping these cats need is when you finish up the project and tie off that last thread.  They also don’t knock things over, although (speaking from experience,) they probably are in danger of being knocked over by the real cats.

(a long ago project; two of the three cats depicted are gone but not forgotten)

Book Bingo!

By popular request, we are posting some of our Book Bingo Sheets!  The rules are:  Read a book or complete a task and mark off the corresponding block.  No more than one block can be marked off per book.  As with regular bingo, you win when you have five squares in a row marked off.  You can also get a four corner bingo, or blackout bingo-- that's when you finish all the squares. BPL and Avoca card holders are eligible to win prizes (a keychain, coffee cup, or gift shop certificate).  Those outside of our service area, you can either visit your own library for blocks such as "visit the reference desk" or you can substitute a book of your choice.

Please let us know in the comments if you are participating long distance! (It will help our statistics!)

Friday, January 25, 2019

Elevation by Stephen King

Reviewed by Kristin

Scott Carey has a bit of a problem.  He’s losing weight, though usually that would be welcome for the middle-aged, mostly-sedentary web designer.  A loss of a pound or two a day seems unusual, and the even stranger thing is that his clothes aren’t fitting any differently.  In fact, the clothing seems to have nothing to do with his weight.  Scott can step on the scales fully dressed with his heaviest parka or buck naked; the scale will display the same number.  And that number is going down daily.

Scott shares his puzzlement with his doctor friend, Bob Ellis.  Doctor Bob doesn’t believe that it’s possible, but sure enough, Scott can step on the office scales in his skivvies or fully bundled for the oncoming New England winter and still weigh the exact same amount.  Plus, he’s feeling lighter and more energetic these days even after consuming a full plate of pasta and chocolate cheesecake for dessert.

Castle Rock, Maine has seen more than its fair share of supernatural oddities as the scene of many of King’s works.  The small town setting feels genuine and familiar.  Scott eats at the local diner, tries to make friends with his new lesbian neighbors, hands out candy at Halloween, and signs up for the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot.  He’s just a regular guy with a puzzling condition, one that he’d rather keep to himself.  What use is there in being poked and prodded by some specialist?

Stephen King seems to write as effortlessly as he breathes, and this small volume may simply have tumbled out of his stream of consciousness.  This is not to say that Elevation is not well-written.  The plot is brief but tight, and the characters spring to life fully developed with just a few strokes of King’s proverbial pen.  At a mere 146 pages, (and small, widely spaced pages at that,) King has crafted a fine story showing the strength of friendship and community.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Nevermore: American Quilt, Underground Railroad, My Absolute Darling, A Brief History of Everyone, Girl in a Swing, Valley of the Kings

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore began this week with a couple of different readers delving into different books concerning slavery.  First, one reader finished An American Quilt:  Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery by Rachel May.  This volume looks further than the Southern cotton fields to the production of textiles in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.  May was able to discover the story behind an unfinished quilt from the 1830s—several slave women and their journey from the West Indies to New England.  Our reader was very impressed by the author’s research, and learned so much about slavery in her own home state of Rhode Island.

The next reader continued with The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  Reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, this novel recounts the story of Cora, a slave working on a Georgia cotton plantation.  Influenced by Caesar, another slave, she decides to run to the North using the Underground Railroad.  Our reader found this to be a really good book, although depressing in that the conditions endured by the runaways were very difficult.  Of special interest was that there were actually tunnels underground for some stretches of the routes, but that they were mostly symbolic, as they only went a short way.

Another New York Times bestselling novel was popular this week:  My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent.  A fourteen-year-old girl escapes the cruel abuse of her father by running off into the mountain wilderness.  Her survival skills taught by her father prove useful.  Our reader deemed this a wonderful book, and noted that the girl was not just fighting for her life, but for her soul.

Returning to non-fiction, another book club member read  A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford.  This extremely readable work explains the workings of DNA and how humans have evolved over time.  Our reader demonstrated the clarity of the author’s work as she described the building blocks of our genetic code: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.

Another reader had just begun A Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams.  This older romance about an English bachelor falling in love with a young German promised to be very entertaining.  Our reader noted that she was intrigued by the sheet pasted inside the front cover by a long ago librarian who asked readers to write down their impressions of the book.  Naturally, different readers had very different opinions.

Lastly, an archaeology buff noted that Valley of the Kings: Exploring the Tombs of the Pharaohs by John Romer was an extremely valuable resource for those interested in the lives of ancient Egyptian royalty.  Going from Napoleon’s era to the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carver, this work of non-fiction thoroughly covers the discoveries made and information about the explorers who sought these antiquities.