Monday, January 30, 2017

Books for February

I am pleased to report that our numbers have swelled recently – so much so that I may need to request a bigger room!

For February, we chose Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley and Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, both of which are now on the Nooks.

Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley

Cold Storage, Alaska, is a remote fishing outpost where salmonberries sparkle in the morning frost and where you just might catch a King Salmon if you’re zen enough to wait for it. Settled in 1935 by Norse fishermen who liked to skinny dip in its natural hot springs, the town enjoyed prosperity at the height of the frozen fish boom. But now the cold storage plant is all but abandoned and the town is withering.

Clive “The Milkman” McCahon returns to his tiny Alaska hometown after a seven-year jail stint for dealing coke. He has a lot to make up to his younger brother, Miles, who has dutifully been taking care of their ailing mother. But Clive doesn’t realize the trouble he’s bringing home. His vengeful old business partner is hot on his heels, a stick-in-the-mud State Trooper is dying to bust Clive for narcotics, and, to complicate everything, Clive might be going insane—lately, he’s been hearing animals talking to him.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain  

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016 in Review

Goodreads is a wonderful resource for anyone who loves books and reading. It is an excellent way of researching titles or authors and lets you keep track of what you have read and what books make up your ‘To Be Read’ pile. This year it has added a nice feature that provides a summary of activity for the last year, so I thought that I would take that information and add some of my own to put the past year into perspective.

How much did we read?

In 2016, the group met 9 times and read 19 titles. Whist our shortest read was Coraline at a mere 162 pages, Warbreaker filled a whopping 688, so we totaled 7,247 pages, with an average of 381. Most of the time I try to suggest books that are shorter than 400 pages because I know that we cannot all find enough time to read giant tomes: Warbreaker was one of our reads over the summer break.

Who did we read?

Although we are a ‘ladies only’ book group, we actually read 8 titles by male authors this year (even without counting Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett as 2 separate authors for Good Omens). I was pleased to see that we gave the gentlemen a chance to prove that they can write as well as the ladies! Of our authors, only one was responsible for 2 books, but as we have loved all our selections by Neil Gaiman in the past I cannot be blamed for suggesting his work on a regular basis. Terry Pratchett and Jan DeLima were authors that we had read in previous years, but the others were all new to the group. One of the main reasons that I joined the group originally was to discover new authors so I try to continue that tradition, and our favorites have been woefully slow in producing new works.  

How old were they?

The oldest book we read this year was The Left Hand of Darkness published in 1965. The newest titles were Autumn Moon and The Nightingale, which were both published in 2015. The others showed a definite skew towards newer reads, with 14 titles published after 2000. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing and I keep looking at some of the classics and thinking that perhaps we should try them. This worked well with To Kill a Mocking Bird in 2015 and again this year with The Handmaid’s Tale, so I may keep it in mind for 2017.

What genre were they?

I try to keep us reading a wide range of genres and this year we read books that fell into 15 categories other than ‘Fiction’. Somehow we chose to read a lot of Fantasy (11 titles) even though I do offer alternatives. As a long-time Fantasy / Sci-Fi reader, I make an effort to suggest books from other genres because not only do I want to try many different authors, but also I would prefer that we do not get stuck in a rut. However, if the group keeps picking Fantasy I can hardly complain! We also made our first forays into Non-Fiction, which was massively successful and encourages me to look for other suitable titles to suggest.

Did we like them?


We had a couple of titles that left us a little ambivalent, but we enjoyed the majority and were blown away by quite a few. In fact there were only 2 titles that the whole group disliked: River of Stars and The Left Hand of Darkness. Both of these looked interesting and the Ursula K. Le Guin is recognized as a classic of its genre, winning both the Hugo and Nebula Prizes, but, unfortunately, they failed to engage our interest and left us more frustrated and confused than enthralled and delighted. However, they did provoke some lively discussion as we tried to work out what the authors were trying to do and why they did not work for us.