Saturday, October 12, 2019

Books for November

We read The Handmaid’s Tale in 2016 and found it shockingly relevant to modern life in America. Dare I say that, unfortunately, that is even more true at the moment when women’s rights are under attack in many states and fundamental Christians refuse to accept the separation of Church and State. In response to many, many fan requests, Margaret Atwood has done the unthinkable and returned to the world of Gilead and produced a sequel that may provide some of the answers we have been seeking. The Testaments is told by three women: one is an older woman who survived the purges that followed the creation of Gilead and now writes a secret diary to present the reasons for her actions; a young woman reaching maturity after knowing nothing but the restrictive culture of Gilead and a young teenager who has been raised in Canada with all its freedoms. It is an interesting read and I look forward to hearing what the rest of the group thinks about it. The Fisherman by John Langan is our token Horror story for the Halloween season.

They are both now available on the Nooks.   

The Fisherman by John Langan

In upstate New York, in the woods around Woodstock, Dutchman's Creek flows out of the Ashokan Reservoir. Steep-banked, fast-moving, it offers the promise of fine fishing, and of something more, a possibility too fantastic to be true. When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other's company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It's a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Books for October

With the group approaching its Tenth Anniversary, it seemed appropriate to read books with ‘ten’ in the title. It proved harder than I expected to find a selection of titles, but there were some interesting options including these two.

They are both now available on the Nooks

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermout

Felicia returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides. There Felicia finds herself wedded to an uncanny and dangerous world, full of mystery and violence, where objects tell tales, the dead come and go, and the past is as potent as the present.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Books for September

With the long summer ahead of us we have 3 titles to read before the next meeting on September 12.

The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers is a highly rated debut told mostly through letters, court documents and journal entries. A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen is non-fiction, telling the story of Bob and how he saved James from a life of drug addiction on the streets of London. Finally, we will be tackling the substantial tome that is The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. This is the first volume in his epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, which is probably the best Fantasy series that I have read and also the inspiration for a minor adaptation on HBO.

All the books are now on the Nooks – have a good summer and remember:

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

The Second Mrs Hockaday by Susan Rivers

When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other's troubled pasts.

The Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. To the south, the king’s powers are failing—his most trusted adviser dead under mysterious circumstances and his enemies emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the king’s new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but the kingdom itself.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Fall Meeting Dates

We will meet at 6pm in the Lecture Hall on each of these dates:

12 September

10 October

7 November

5 December

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Books for June

Our choices this month were all from that small collection of titles that have animals as narrators. The Bees by Laline Paul is billed as The Handmaid’s Tale with bees, whilst Fluke by James Herbert is the master of Horror’s excursion into the mind of a dog.

They are now available on the Nooks.

The Bees by Laline Paull

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden...

Fluke by James Herbert

He was a stringy mongrel, wandering the streets of the city, driven by a ravenous hunger and hunting a quarry he could not define. But he was something more. Somewhere in the depths of his consciousness was a memory clawing its way to the surface, tormenting him. The memory of what he had once been—a man.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Books for May

After so many choices that were quite serious and dark, the group asked for something lighter to read this month. Accordingly, we have Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer, which is the first of the Obama / Biden Mysteries. It was “Inconceivable!” that so many of the group had never read The Princess Bride, or even seen the film. I trust that they will appreciate the tale of True Love.

Both books are now available on the Nooks.

Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Books for April

Spring Break, work commitments and other circumstances conspired to keep most people away from this month’s meeting. We decided that we really wanted to discuss the chosen books with the group, so there will be no new titles for the April meeting.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Books for March

Our choices this month were all about an inability to use one of our senses or a difference in perception. This led the group to choose two rather different titles. The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night-Time is written from the perspective of a boy with autism who inevitably sees the world in a very different way from all the people around him. Vox is a recently published dystopian novel that has eerie similarities to some recent political comments.

Both books are now available on the Nooks.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.

Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor's dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally..

Vox by Christina Dalcher

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Books for February

The choices this month have both received a lot of praise although these are both debut novels.

At the moment I am having difficulty accessing the Barnes and Noble accounts, but I will continue trying to purchase the books aver the weekend. 

Edit: The access problem has been resolved and the books are now available on the Nooks.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.

One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Books for January

After all the intense emotion of our reads last month I sincerely hope that these titles are a little lighter and more relaxing!

The Bear and the Nightingale is Katherine Arden’s debut novel and the first volume of a trilogy set in a fairy tale version of historical Russia. Once Upon a River is the latest offering from Diane Setterfield, who wrote The Thirteenth Tale, which we read a couple of years ago.

They are now available on the Nooks.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn't mind - she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa's new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows. And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed--this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?