Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Four years after the sudden death of his wife, bestselling novelist Mike Noonan is still grieving, unable to write, and plagued by vivid nightmares set at Sara Laughs, the Maine summerhouse that seems to be calling to him. Reluctantly returning to the lakeside getaway, Mike finds a small town in the soulless grip of a powerful millionaire, a single mother fighting to keep her three-year-old daughter, and a miasma of ghostly visitations and escalating terrors at his remote cabin. Drawn to Mattie’s dilemma and falling in love with her and with young Kyra, Mike must still face the terrifying forces that have been unleashed at the lake’s edge—what do they want with Mike Noonan?

I thought I would review this book, as the 2 part mini series starts in a couple of weeks, December 11th, on A&E.

Amazon is selling a new copy of the book with a "movie tie-in" and of course, a new cover, but the book is not available until December 6th, so I am unable to let you know what was added, if anything. I was surprised to see this book only has 529 pages, that's fairly short for a King novel, and it got a 3.68 star rating on Goodreads!

I'm looking forward to the mini series, as I've been extremely happy with all the TV movies but have never like any of the theater movies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sister: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton

With a really good thriller novel, sometimes it's not so much the story as the way you tell it that gives it the credibility it needs. In Rosamund Lupton's Sister, the unexpected death of a young 21 year-old woman, Tess, initially promises an interesting but perhaps not exceptional case where her sister attempts to piece together the dead woman's actions and contemplate her state of mind in the days before her death - was it suicide or murder? What makes Sister fascinating reading however is the decision of the author to tell the story not only from the perspective of the dead woman's sister Beatrice, but to do so in the form of an open letter to Tess.

There are several benefits to this approach. On the one hand, it fully captures the sense of helplessness and loss that Beatrice feels. Having been separated by an ocean, Beatrice returns to London from her New York home to try to come to terms with what has happened and piece together what could have happened through her knowledge of her younger sister, relating those thoughts directly to Tess, but also to the prosecuting lawyer in preparation for a trial. This creates a fractured kind of narrative that gives some indication of what is going on in her mind, as well interweaving past and present and lending the intriguing suggestion that, with a court case pending, there is a lot more to uncover.

More than that, it lends immediacy to the writing that also brings you closer to Tess, as you come to understand her relationship with her sister and family, events from the past coming to mind that shed light on her character - small but significant events that lead Beatrice to conclude that she couldn't possibly have taken her own life. How can she convince everyone else that this is the case? In passing then, Sister takes in issues related to women - and different types of women - taking in babies and childbirth, their relationships with families and with men - fathers, husbands and lovers. Actually, it's not even in passing, it's integral to the book and to its success as a crime thriller, the author brilliantly interweaving the story with real issues that do indeed mean life and death to people.

Most significantly, the structure of the novel and the first-person directness is such that it also makes the investigation and revelations genuinely suspenseful, keeping the reader guessing and then surprising them with some remarkable turn of events that make it much more than just a gimmick. This is Rosamund Lupton's first novel, having previously worked as a scriptwriter, but her ability to entertain, probe into characterisation, pace a thriller and find the most effective means of delivering it is remarkably assured, making this a thrilling and ultimately deeply moving novel.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

2012 Books

We're trying something a little bit new next year: monthly book genres. The categories include Chic Lit, Humor, Biography/Memoir, Literature/Classics, Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy/SciFi, Movies, Historical Fiction, Dystopia, Animal, and Young Adult. Here are the books we have to choose from in 2012:

Remember, there are only 33 books because we will choose from "The Best of 2012" in December. Looking forward to another great reading year!

Group Picture-If You Ask Me

(Not pictured: Natalie (left early due to illness), Karen (taking picture))

Well, we were supposed to discuss The Lost Dogs, but most of us just couldn't tolerate it. Instead we went with Betty White's latest memoir, If You Ask Me. We love Betty, the animal lover!

It was our longest, and most dessert-filled meeting yet!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

11/22/63 by The King

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

Naturally, this is on my to-read list. As usual, the book is over 1000 pages, and I still can't wait to read it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New November Book!

Plan B. Since none of us can get through The Lost Dogs, we'll try something lighter.

If You Ask Me by Betty White

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between.

Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White's wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty's candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen ("I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out") to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.

Featuring all-new material, with a focus on the past fifteen years of her life, If You Ask Me is funny, sweet, and to the point-just like Betty White.

See everyone at Karen's on Friday at 6:30!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

This sounds good and as an added bonus it's only .99 cents on Amazon for the Kindle. I love a bargain!

Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, and suffering her entire life with severe social anxiety disorder, the widow Mary McAllister spends almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont. Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, the media, an elderly priest with a guilty habit of pilfering spoons, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.

Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, though insignificant, fixtures. An arsonist, a covetous nurse, and the endearing village idiot are among the few who have ever seen Mary. Newcomers to Mill River--a police officer and his daughter and a new fourth grade teacher--are also curious about the reclusive old woman. But only Father Michael O'Brien knows Mary and the secret she keeps--one that, once revealed, will change all of their lives forever.

The Mill River Recluse is a story of triumph over tragedy, one that reminds us of the value of friendship and the ability of love to come from the most unexpected of places.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

December Book Choices!

It's time to vote for our last book of 2011!

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen | Paperback, 562 pages

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outrĂ© rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

Freedom has a 3.63 rating on Goodreads. It is a #1 National Bestseller, Winner of the John Gardner Fiction Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist. Franzen was raised in St. Louis.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz | Paperback, 304 pages

Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He's also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn't remember how he got there. He's not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive - well, what's up with that?

I have it in my head that when we're born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people's hearts he writes Happy and on some people's hearts he writes Sad and on some people's hearts he writes Crazy on some people's hearts he writes Genius and on some people's hearts he writes Angry and on some people's hearts he writes Winner and on some people's hearts he writes Loser. It's all like a game to him. Him.God. And it's all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don't like God very much. Apparently he doesn't like me very much either. Sad.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster has a 4.19 rating on Goodreads. It is a young adult novel.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey | Paperback, 280 pages

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is the seminal novel of the 1960s that has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the awesome powers that keep them all imprisoned.

This classic has a 4.12 rating on Goodreads. Time included the novel in its 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. The title of the book is from a nursery rhyme:

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest

Vote now! The last meeting of the year will be at my house!
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