Staff Reads — August 11, 2015

What is the staff reading this week?

Pat O. and others: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume; Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee; A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler; At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Jan: “I’ve had fun with a newly discovered mystery series Orchard Mysteries by Sheila Connolly. They’re about Meg, a transplant from the banking world of Boston, who finds herself the owner of an apple orchard in Granford, Massachusetts. Of course, the bodies pile up and she helps solve the mysteries. It’s loosely based on the actual town of Granby just outside of Amherst, so anyone with connections there will enjoy these (plus there are yummy recipes included!) Titles read so far: One Bad Apple; Rotten to the Core; Red Delicious Death; A Killer Crop; Bitter Harvest; Sour Apples; Golden Malicious; Picked to Die“.

Laura: “The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore: The author of this memoir discovers that a man close to his age, who is also from Baltimore, and has the exact same name, has been arrested for a terrible crime. He reaches out to the other Wes Moore, who is in prison, and through interviews, he tries to determine how two men who share some of the same background can have two very different fates. This is a very important read, especially in light of recent events in our country. The repeated line, “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his,” continues to haunt me.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: I tried very hard to keep an open mind about this book. To Kill a Mockingbird has been a favorite of mine since I was 14 years old, and for a period of several years, I read it annually. The controversy surrounding this sequel, or notsequel since it was allegedly written first, was enormous, and I didn’t want to ruin my memories of either the beloved classic or Atticus Finch as a social crusader. The good news is that the To Kill a Mockingbird’s legacy is pretty much in tact. The reason? Go Set a Watchman is largely forgettable. It touches on two important themes, the reaction of those living in the South to the changing racial relations and integration, and becoming disillusioned with a childhood idol (in this case, Jean Louise/Scout’s view of her father). However, it doesn’t succeed at telling a convincing story well, and the book just reads like an overly long short story written for an expository writing class. Had To Kill a Mockingbird not existed, my guess is this book would have ended up on a fast track to the remainder table at a bookstore.
Re Jane by Patricia Park: This very loose retelling of Jane Eyre is the story of Jane Re, the child of a Korean mother and an alleged American GI Father. When her mother dies, young Jane is sent to Queens to be raised by her maternal uncle and his family and she is slated to work in the family grocery store. While the Jane Eyre allusions are clever, I think this book works better as a stand alone. I appreciate the exploration of living as an immigrant in the United States from multiple perspectives, Jane’s understanding of her Korean culture, and the complexities of friendship and family relationships. One does not need to know Bronte to appreciate this book.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova: Nothing I can say will do this beautiful book justice. Alice is a brilliant Harvard professor who slowly starts to realize that something is wrong, and has to face the terrible truth that she has early onset Alzheimer’s. Told from the first person, this book allows the reader to experience Alice’s worry and confusion. I read this book in one setting and cried openly by the time I was finished. It’s been a long time since a book affected me in that way.”

Louise: “The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Schwartz: This compulsively readable book about an Ultra Orthodox young woman’s wedding day was long listed for the Booker Man Prize. Eve Schwartz is an astute observer and a wonderful writer. We feel the pain, the joy, the innocence, the victories and defeats of the well drawn characters in this book. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction and anyone who is interested in learning about people of different faiths. I am waiting to hear more from this writer. This is one of those books that draws you in so completely, you are said when it ends. Believe it or not, I recommended this book to a guy who also liked it. Gentleman, don’t be shy!
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout: Most of you probably know Elizabeth Strout’s book Olive Kitteridge which won the Pulitzer Prize. This is on my to read list. I started with The Burgess Boys. When the novel began, I said to myself, “Oh no! Not another political novel fraught with social commentary.” One of the young protagonists, Zach, has apparently left a pig’s head in the mosque of his small town in Maine. This is the crisis that moves the novel forward.
This book is much deeper and richer than I expected. The setting alternates between Brooklyn, New York (with a small stint in Saint Kitts), Connecticut, and Shirley Falls, a small town in Maine where Susan still lives with her son Zach. The Burgess boys, Jim and Bob, both have become lawyers. They are called in to help Susan in her time of need.
The siblings share a terrible secret from their childhood. During the familial crisis with Zach, much is revealed about the three siblings, their childhood, their adult years, and what can happen in families. This is a really well put together novel that I recommend to anyone who loves good writing about family life, it’s upheavals and its complexities.”

Gerry C: “The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant audiobook read by Linda Lavin: I loved listening to this book. Linda Lavin was perfect for the Jewish grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life adventures, loves and heartbreaks.
The Stranger by Harlan Coben: Coben never disappoints and his latest stand alone book is no exception. So many twists and turns in this story and always a surprise ending. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, something changes.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: I really enjoyed this book about a Chinese family’s struggles during the war in China and there lives once they arrived in America.
Dreams of Joy by Lisa See: This is the second part of Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. I couldn’t get through this book. I found I disliked the character Joy but may finish the book eventually just to see how it ends.
Hounded by David Rosenfelt: I love listening to all of David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter books. They are light mysteries with a touch of humor. The reader is phenomenal and I often find myself laughing out loud.
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly: Another great mystery by this author.
Last One Home by Debbie Macomber: Reading Debbie Macomber is like a gathering with friends.
Gathering Prey by John Sanford: Latest book in his Prey series. This is the first book I have read in this series. Really enjoyed the characters in this series. I’m thinking I should read some others.
Paris Match by Stuart Woods: Never got any further than the first disc. Woods writing over the years has deteriorated. The dialogues and story lines are lackluster and sometimes stupid. For a few years I have wondered if someone else is writing his books because the great stories he wrote in earlier years are not there any longer. I think I have read my last book by Woods.
I am currently reading Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews. So far the characters are fun and the story has a bit of humor. It is going to be a great beach read for me next week!
Vera Set 4: We really love the two main characters in this BBC series. The stories/mysteries keep you engaged and entertained.
St. Vincent starring Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray: Instead of a comedy this story was a nice change for McCarthy and Murray. I would recommend it.”

Virginia:Lost Girls by John Glatt (non-fiction): A well-written true crime book about the 3 girls who were kidnapped off the streets of Cleveland and held captive for a decade by a sadistic monster. I’d already read Michelle Knight’s (one of the captives) personal account of the torturous decade in her book ‘Finding Me’ but this book had more details of just what was happening with the families of the lost girls, never knowing if their daughters had been murdered or if they were still alive. Sometimes I wonder why I like to read true crime books. For all of the violence and horror there are wonderful examples of bravery and compassion, of perserverence and courage in the face of catastrophe and evil.
Sign Wave by Andrew Vachss (fiction): I really enjoy Vachss’ writing but I have to admit I did not understand this book at all. This is the third book in a series about an assassin named Dell who settles down in a small town in Oregon with his wife. But as far as I can tell Dell is psychotic. Why else would he take an off-hand remark and obsess over it to the point of cold calculated paranoia? Nothing really happens in this book but Dell’s machinations as to how he will protect himself and his wife from an imaginary threat culminating in Dell committing two murders of two men who are never proven to be guilty of anything. I also did not understand the final paragraph of the book. Which is too bad because the writing is excellent but the whole point of the book is meaningless.
Predator One by Jonathan Maberry (fiction): The saga of Captain Joe Ledger continues in this edge-of-your-seat violent thriller. Not only are all the usual characters back but old enemies once thought dead reappear to cause death and destruction on a mighty scale.Do I understand the tech talk and the computereze? No way. But that didn’t spoil the story for me. When computer programs that rule the military hardware go beserk and start destroying submarines, aircraft carriers, and jets and renegade drones destroy a baseball stadium on Openning Day & take out the Golden Gate bridge, it isn’t long before the President on Air Force One becomes part of the terror as his aircraft comes under sinister control & heads straight for the heart of NYC. The violence is quite gruesome but that’s what you have to expect when Joe Ledger is involved.
Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell (fiction): This is the sequel to Morrell’s first book about Thomas DeQuincey, opium addict and well-known author in Victorian England, fictionally portrayed as a shrewd detective of London crime, first appearing in Morrell’s book ‘Murder as a Fine Art’. The book is very well-written and it is certainly a thrilling read but the story is so far-fetched that it is unfortunately totally unbelievable. Despite the fact that I enjoyed the book, I didn’t believe it for a moment. Disbelief can only be suspended so far. Despite my inability to buy into the book’s premise of an assassin planning to murder Queen Victoria as an act of revenge, I read it compulsively. DeQuincey makes an excellent protagonist.
Ultimatum by Dick Wolf (creator of TV’s Law and Order) (fiction): The third in the series of Jeremy Fisk thrillers would have been a quick jolting read but for the fact that it is so full of surveillance technology that half of the time I did not know quite what was happening. Apparently NYC is a hotbed of surveillance systems which are used by good guy Fisk in an effort to combat the drone murders by a madman who wants to free an Edward Snowdon type whistleblower from incarceration. Meantime, a hitman is using his own tech secrets to draw a bead on Fisk. If high tech is your thing, you’ll love this book.
Anatomy of Evil by Will Thomas, a Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewellyn mystery. (Fiction): Ah! Another Jack the Ripper Victorian London thriller. This one involves Thomas’ enquiry agents from previous Barker and Llewellyn novels. This book focuses on the underworld of Whitechapel where the Ripper struck and most likely lived. The upper echelons of the various London police departments and the rival chief detective inspectors who fought politically over just who was responsible for the lack of progress in uncovering the identity of the Ripper clash as the Ripper’s crimes mount up and terrified citizens and sneering newspapers scream bloody murder. Of the many suspects, I was not actually convinced of the guilt of the man Thomas selected as the most likely culprit but he tells a rousing tale of cat and mouse in the filthy alleyways of the slums and in the grand palaces of Queen Victoria.
Deadline by John Sandford (fiction): Sandford has two main characters whose stories he develops annually : Lucas Davenport of the ‘Prey’ series and Virgil Flowers in his own series with occasional reference to his boss (Davenport). In this Virgil Flowers thriller Virgil gets caught up in the crime of dognappering in rural Minnesota. Dogs are being stolen to be sold to labs to be killed in medical experiments. But along the way Virgil collides with the murder of a small town reporter who was investigating the criminal activities of the local school board which has been skimming money from the school budget for years. Virgil has to jump from one case to the other as he scours the woods for the missing dogs and hunts down the school board’s hired killer. Sandford writes his books in bite-sized paragraphs so it is hard to put his books down.
Constant Fear by Daniel Palmer (fiction): Jake Dent is a survivalist nut waiting for the end of the world. He has taken over the hidden tunnels of the prep school where he is the janitor, stocking them with food, gear and weapons, preparing for the end of civilization. He lives in constant fear training his teenaged son to be ready for the end. What he does not know is that his son and his son’s friends have hacked into a bitcoin account and stolen 200 million dollars from , it turns out, a Mexican drug cartel. Suddenly Jake’s son and the boy’s best friends are held hostage by brutal bloodthirsty cartel members who want their money back. The only trouble is, someone has used their computer to steal the money from the teens. Now Jake has to enter the tunnels to find the teenaged hostages and defeat the cartel as the end of Jake’s world looms. A great read.”

Hannah: “Trying to read Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine“.
Hannah is also reading The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown three times a day!

Jeanette: “Watching the Mystery Series on DVD Midsomer Murders – only on Series Ten – a long way to go!
Also watched Broadchurch Series 1 – working on Series 2
Oxygen [sound recording] / by Carol Wiley Cassella: Cassella writes a good story – this was about about the life of a well respected anesthesiologist’s life – after a child she is treating dies. – A debut novel looking forward to more.
Gemini [sound recording] / Carol Cassella: Second novel by author – enjoyed this one too! Another medical mystery.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [sound recording] / Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows: Loved this book wasn’t really into history in school – this was an interesting peek into what some went through after the War.
The Candy Bombers [sound recording] : the untold story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s finest hour / Andrei Cherny: Another book that made me realize I should have liked history when I was young; this was a very interesting history lesson about Berlin’s struggle after WWII – when the Russians held one side of the city and the rest of the allies tried to negotiate with them. A small band of Americans help West Berliners survive by airlifting food to them. The drops started with candy drops for the children!
Dali & I : The Surreal Story [sound recording] / Stan Lauryssens: I knew Dali was weird this proves it and beyond!
I Must Say [sound recording] : My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend / Martin Short: Enjoyed listening to this book – gave me a chance to relive some of Martin Short’s characters as he acted them out on the recording.
One liners on Two Lines by Rita Wolfson: Author is from Waltham. A Fun book – the idea for the book came to the author during a difficult time in her life.
The No A**hole Rule [sound recording] : [Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t] / Robert I. Sutton: Was expecting more based on the title but all I could think of was -Ya da Ya da Ya da!”
The Birthday Party : a Memoir of Survival / Stanley N. Alpert: (Another Book I actually read instead of listening to). A gripping memoir about federal prosecutor Stanley Alpert who was kidnapped from the streets of Manhattan, on his birthday, and held for ransom. He was terrorized but finally let go. His level head and good memory brought his captors to justice.

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