Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Novel of the French Revolution

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran details Tussaud's Wax Museum in Paris during the start of the French Revolution.  Parisians who wanted to see the fashions and events of the day would flock to Tussauds, where tableau's of current happenings were changed frequently.  Once Marie Tussaud received the King and Queen's seal of approval her business boomed and she caught the attention of the King's sister Elisabeth, becoming her royal tutor in wax sculpting.  Even as she befriends the royals, revolution is building and patriots flock to her 'salon' for talk of the upcoming revolution.  This book focuses on the time period known as the Reign of Terror and is a fascinating slice of history written in a readable, fast paced style.  Not to be missed!  SG

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Power of Imagination

Debra Dean's The Madonnas of Leningrad explores the importance of memory and imagination.  During the Seige of Leningrad, docent Marina takes shelter within the Hermitage along with other staff members, protecting the museum's priceless works of art.  In the present, Marina struggles to separate her recollections from reality as her memory starts to deteriorate.  A very quick and engaging read.

Stop by for our discussion of The Madonnas of Leningrad on Wednesday, June 6th from 1-2pm. HM

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Cup of Tea

A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron is a historical book that takes you to 1917 New York City.  Rosemary and Philip are engaged to be married, a young couple born to privilege.  Rosemary, feeling charitable, invites Eleanor, a destitute woman, into her home, to get warm by the fire and to have a cup of tea.  When she spots Philip looking at Eleanor she sends the girl away -- but it's too late.  This is a dark romance with a growing sense of foreboding and a surprise conclusion.  SG

A Ghost Story

Sadie Jones's new novel, The Uninvited Guests,has all the pleasures of a classic ghost story. The rambling English country house, the storm, the uninvited guests,all promise reading delight. The story takes place in 1912, at a birthday party for Emerald Torrington, her twentieth. All is in readiness,with the kitchen preparing a feast. A few miles away a dreadful train accident happens and the survivors arrive at the house, looking for help. From there the proper night of a young woman's party goes dreadfully awry. A fun read with intelligent writing and a twist at the end. ML

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Of ghosts and grief

Aaron Woolcott is an editor at his family business. He is a Stanford graduate, slightly crippled, and newly widowed. His wife Dorothy was killed suddenly by accident in the family home in Baltimore. The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler follows Aaron’s thoughts and actions through grief and into healing. He is aided by his little group of co-workers, his domineering sister, Nandina.  While the clumsy actions of these well-intentioned characters is interesting, Dorothy, the newly-deceased has returned. Aaron is determined to find out why.Try this easy-to-read, uplifting story. DB   

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


North Korea's government propaganda is infamous -- but Shin Dong-hyuk had never even heard of Kim Il sung.  He was born in a prison camp, but after 20 some years of enduring beatings, starvation, and psychological horrors, Shin escapes.  Journalist Blaine Harden attempts to tease out Shin's story in Escape From Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey From North Korea to Freedom in the West.  A quick and engaging read, one is left with a sense that even though Shin is physically free from his tormentors, he is a complex person who may never be truly liberated from his past.  HM

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spy Game!

Mark Mill's new novel, House of the Hunted,is all about the spy game. The novel takes place in France,1935. Tom Nash is happily out of the spy game,living on the French Rivera. He has a host of interesting and international friends who party,swim and converse. When someone tries to kill him in the middle of the night, his old survival skills come back and he doesn't know who to suspect. Is it old missions come back to haunt him or his new friends who might not be all that they seem? The writing is witty, the plot complex,exciting without being gratuitously violent. ML

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Few Words For A Big Idea

How do you accurately describe a country of so many contradictions?  In his first non-fiction work to be translated into English, writer Yu Hua attempts to do just that.  China in Ten Words is part personal memoir, part social and political commentary.  The book is divided into ten chapters centered around ten Chinese phrases that Yu expounds upon with vignettes from his childhood and early adult life.  This was a surprisingly quick read, providing a glimpse into the cultural fabric of a country where opposites not only exist, but flourish.  HM

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother Daughter Bonds

In Winter Garden Kristan Hannah, the author of Firefly Lane and Night Road, tells the story of two sisters and the shocking story that their mother shares with them.  This story spans their mothers past from war-torn Leningrad to modern times and changes the girl’s belief in what they thought they knew about their mother and about each other.  Hannah’s writing is always a pleasure to read, with believable characters and a ‘can’t put it down’ story line.  This book starts out slowly but picks up speed and is a very enjoyable read. SG

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Attention Downton Abbey fans!

Kate Morton's books feature intricate family secrets and puzzles, spread out over generations. She has a fine grasp of character and usually writes from the viewpoint of one or more persons. The House at Riverton features the dying thoughts of a woman who was a young servant at a great English country estate in 1914, just before WWI, and her involvment in a family secret she still thinks about. A young filmaker wants to do a movie about the family and interviews her, sparking her memories. Intelligent writing,rich in plot, this is a good read!ML

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Modern Guide to Manners

Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? by Henry Alford is a pretty fun read.  Bad manners are pretty obvious but I think we’ve all forgotten how to have “good manners.”  This book is all about finding out what good manners look like and how we should all be a bit more civil to each other.  There are a lot of fun examples of what people do wrong, such as missing something important because of interest in the computer or cell phone (an example - an airline pilot overshooting the landing field by 150 miles because he was busy reading a flying manual!)  My favorite pet peeve of a bad manner?  The person who’s shushing is louder than the talking that caused the shushing in the first place.  This book includes sections on how to give advice and how to avoid bad manners that you are not even aware of.  It is a pretty entertaining look about how we can all treat each other better. SG