September was a productive month for me when it comes to reading. If I could only figure out how to monetize my love of reading -I don’t think there are any jobs for a professional book club facilitator!
ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell – I read this in honor of Banned Book Week which was the week of 9/26/2016. I had never read this book, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. If you have put off reading it – first of all, it is available at your local library, and secondly – you can read it in an afternoon. Published in 1945, Orwell himself said it was about events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917. I’m not going to relay the entire plot, but you will want to discuss it with someone when you finish. Just remember, “The only good human being is a dead one.” AND “Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”
A FOOL AND HIS MONEY by Sandra Orchard – This is the first book in a series about Serena Jones, who is part of the FBI’s Art Crime Team. It caught my eye at the local library – I think the title is very clever. The book, while entertaining and fun to read, is not overly clever.
THE ART OF NON-CONFORMITY: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life you Want and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau – I’ve long been a fan to Chris Guillebeau and I don’t know how I missed this book, but again, it was lurking on the shelves at the local library. Much of the book is inspired by Chris’s own story, but there are many case studies of others that have chosen to live unconventional and successful lives- and make a difference at the same time. I think I read it at the right time for me, having my office close after working there for 27 years I started 2016 optimistic feeling I could now live the life I truly want to live – I was given that opportunity. But, life gets in the way and I became my mother’s caregiver. However, I think this time was given to me to also decompress among other things. The book made me optimistic about my future – and the best lesson I learned – that life does NOT START AT AGE 65!
EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng – This book is a good example of why book clubs are so great – I don’t know if I would have found this book otherwise. Wouldn’t you be hooked with the opening lines “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet…”. This is the tale of a Chinese American family in a small Ohio town in the 1970’s. Lydia is the favorite child of three children – a blue-eyed Amerasian. She is the daughter that will fulfill the dreams her parents weren’t able to achieve. Her homemaker mother Marilyn wants her to pursue a career in medicine, something she was unable to achieve. In her father James’s case, he wants her to be popular. When her body is found in the lake, the Lee family is devastated and long-kept secrets and the inability to communicate surface. Lydia’s older brother Nathan is convinced the local bad boy Jack was somehow responsible. The youngest daughter Hannah, long ignored by the family, has observed everything going on. This book sparked good discussions about families, cultural clashes, and lack of communication. It is hard to believe it was the first book published by this author.
AFTER YOU by Jojo Moyes – This is the sequel to Me Before You and is the sequel the writer says she never planned on writing. But, I’m glad she did. After the death of Will, Louisa Clark joins the Moving On support group, but she isn’t exactly moving on. She is stuck, no longer wearing her funky clothes, working at a airport bar and keeping everybody away. An accident forces her back to her parents, and that starts a chain of events that will make her face her problems. A brisk page turner, it made me laugh and it made me cry, and most of all, believe in happy endings.
MRS. MALLORY: DEATH AMONG FRIENDS by Hazel Holt – I picked this up for a quarter and bought it to give to my niece Mallory. But, I had to read it first! It was a fun read, a cozy British mystery. Apparently it is the ninth book the Mrs. Mallory series, set in the village of Taviscombe inhabited by plenty of colorful characters.
LEAVING LUCY PEAR by Anna Solomon – set primarily in the 1920’s, it begins in 1917, when Beatrice Haven, a wealth Jewish pianist about to enter Radcliffe finds she is pregnant. She hides away at her uncle’s Gloucester estate. After the baby is born, she leaves the girl under a pear tree, knowing there is a group that come at night to rob the trees of their pears. The baby is discovered by Emma Murphy, the wife of a poor fisherman, who raises the girl as one of her many children. It skips ahead 10 years, and the child known as Lucy Pear knows she doesn’t belong to Emma. When Emma finds herself working for Beatrice’s family, things start happening. There are several interwoven tales and characters. My only complaint is I want to know what happens to the delightful cross dressing Lucy as she begins her journey – hopefully there will be a sequel.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY OR WHATEVER: TRACK SUITS, KIM CHEE, AND OTHER FAMILY DISASTERS by Annie Choi -Primarily a memoir, it involves Annie’s multi-generational Korean family. Made up of 13 essays, it begins with how she spent her 27th birthday – alone. Most of them deal with the relationship and battles between a daughter and her mother. It was a fun read, at times reminding me of David Sedaris’s memoirs, and other times it seems a little trite.
HUCK: THE REMARKABLE TRUE STORY OF HOW ONE LOST PUPPY TAUGHT A FAMILY – AND A WHOLE TOWN – ABOUT HOPE AND HAPPY ENDINGS by Janet Elder – I don’t normally read “dog books” – I get too emotionally involved. But, how could I resist that little face? But, this book isn’t really about the dog. It is about a family finally getting a dog for their son Michael. After all he had been campaigning for years, complete with a power point presentation at the age of seven. But, they finally relent and adopt a red haired adorable toy poodle. When the family decides to take a vacation to go to Spring Training, they leave Huck with a family member. Within twenty-four hours they get the dreaded call, Huck slipped through the fence and is gone. The family immediately leaves and begins to search for the puppy. Taking place in a small town in New Jersey, the town is moved by the search and joins in – including school children, business owners and even a police lieutenant. Wonderful quick read about hope and generosity.
THE LANGUAGE OF BEES; A NOVEL OF SUSPENSE FEATURING MARY RUSSELL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES by Laurie R. King – I am a sucker for Sherlock Holmes. However, this series is new to me. Mary Russell is much younger wife of Sherlock Holmes (by about 40 years). The couple have returned home to Sussex after spending seven months in India, Japan and California. This case involves a surrealistic painter, Damian Adler (who apparently has appeared in this series before). Adler is Holmes’ estranged son (born to Irene Adler). He seeks help in finding his wife and young daughter. There is a harrowing trip by airplane into the wilds of Scotland, a series of bodies turning up – some dead by apparent suicide and some by seemingly ritualistic sacrifices. It was a fun read. (Sherlock kept bees in his retirement).
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT: NINE AMERICANS AND THEIR EPIC QUEST FOR GOLD AT THE 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS by Daniel James Brown – This was a selection for a book club I joined early in 2016. According to the members, some of whom have been meeting for more than six years, this was the first book that everybody LOVED. This is the non-fiction book about the University of Washington’s eight-oared crew who represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. There are two major backstories. The first is how all all nine team members came from lower to middle class families and struggled through school during the Depression. The Second is about Hitler’s Olympics. Along the way, I learned about the popularity of rowing in the 1930’s, with millions following the races on the radio. Best of all, it has been optioned for a movie directed by Kenneth Brannah!
What are your plans for reading? What do you recommend?