The Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. on January 15 for a book and movie discussion of the winner of the Great American Read, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The movie, starring Gregory Peck, will be shown at 2 pm on Sunday, January 13. Anyone who would like to discuss the book and/or the movie is welcome to participate in our discussion on January 15. I am more familiar with the movie and am looking forward to reading the book for the first time in many years.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on January 22 to discuss the science fiction novel Artemis, by Andy Weir. Artemis is the first settlement on the Moon. The author is best known for his first novel, The Martian. My earlier review is here.
The Crime Readers will meet on Thursday, January 17 at 7 pm at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien to discuss Hell is Empty, by Craig Johnson. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.
Copies of the books are available now at the Circulation Desk.
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
In this entertaining, fast-paced science fiction novel, Emperox Grayland II, aka Cardenia, pulls out all the stops to keep her empire from unraveling into chaos while also avoiding assassination attempts. The Flow streams (interstellar expressways) begin collapsing, disrupting commerce and travel. Lady Kiva Lagos, sexy and snarky, has become the administrator for a corrupt family corporation, and supports the Emperox. Meanwhile, physicist Lord Marce travels to a star system last visited 800 years ago, finding surviving colonists and an ancient avatar who may help save the day. Dramatic, engaging and action-packed, this sequel to The Collapsing Empire is a fun, fast read.
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg
Almost impossible to put down, this emotionally intense first novel is a compelling, character-driven story. Doris, 96, pages through her address book in her Stockholm apartment, remembering people encountered throughout her life in order to share her stories with Jenny, her American great-niece. Over the years, Doris experienced poverty and loss, but also love and luxury, having worked as a maid and a Parisian model, helped raise her niece and great-niece, and kept house for an artist friend. Jenny chats with Doris weekly but is kept too busy caring for her young family to remember her earlier dreams of being a writer. When Jenny and her young daughter fly to Sweden to visit Doris, she tries to find out what happened to Doris’ long lost love. A charming, ultimately heartwarming read.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
Several turning points in Willa’s life are described, from age 11 to 61, with the largest part set in the present. Willa, to her husband Peter’s dismay, agrees to fly from Tucson to Baltimore when her son’s ex-girlfriend Denise is injured and a neighbor is looking for someone to take care of Cheryl, Denise’s daughter. Willa has always been agreeable and responsible. At age 11 she coped with her mother’s sudden absence, next staying quiet on a scary plane ride with her college boyfriend, then reacting to being abruptly widowed. Willa remarries and doesn’t realize her grown sons dislike Peter, who is rather critical and calls Willa “Little One”. In a small house in Baltimore, Willa gradually spreads her wings, feeling welcome in the quirky neighborhood, and adored by 9-year-old Cheryl, who likes to bake, and her dog Airplane. I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging, bittersweet yet hopeful novel of renewal.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson
Residents of postwar London are still dealing with rationing and a slow recovery. Ann Hughes, an embroiderer for designer Norman Hartnell, is thrilled to be chosen to work on Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown, along with French immigrant Miriam. Decades later in Toronto, Heather seeks to learn more about her grandmother’s past. This is a sure winner with wide appeal, especially for Anglophiles and royal watchers, with appealing characters and a compelling plot. I could not put this book down, and really enjoyed reading about life in 1947 London, and how Miriam and Ann dealt with their challenges.
Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon
Actor and film producer Reese Witherspoon has written a love letter to life in the south. Reese grew up in Nashville, where she learned to enjoy music, food, and holidays, and learned the importance of manners and community. I listened to the audiobook, cozily narrated by the author, and glanced at the photos and recipes included as a document on one of the discs. Many of the recipes are from her grandmother Dorothea who was an inspiration to Reese on how southern women can be strong and beautiful. Menu suggestions for all kinds of celebrations and events are included, from a Kentucky Derby party to a book club gathering, along with music playlists and gift suggestions (especially monogrammed items or cake plates). Reese talks about her happy childhood, how she learned that you don’t have to be good at everything or bake from scratch, but be sure to be hospitable, respectful, and have some fun, maybe even catch some frogs. This is a charming, family-friendly look at southern life.
For lighter reading, I enjoy cozy and historical mysteries, often as audiobooks. Here are some recent reads you may enjoy:
The Christmas Cake Murder, by Joanne Fluke is a prequel to the popular cozy Cookie Jar mystery series set in small town Minnesota. This is a good place to begin the long-running series, before Hannah opens her bakery and acquires a cat and two boyfriends. It’s great fun reading about how Hannah and her family get started as amateur sleuths. Recipes are also included.
Toucan Keep a Secret, by Donna Andrews. Meg Langslow is locking up Trinity Episcopal Church one night while her pastor is on maternity leave and hears a disturbance behind the building. Meg’s large extended family in Caerphilly, Virginia all help solve crimes in this very funny series that’s up to 23 books and counting.
The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle by Susan Wittig Albert. This historical series is set during the Depression in Alabama, with the members of the local garden club working together to solve crimes. In this book, there are hints of corruption out at the local prison camp, and little Cupcake, Violet’s adopted daughter, might be taken away. Liz Lacey, part-time legal secretary and secret novelist, has a possible beau or two. I think it’s fine to start with any book in this series.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women, by Emily Brightwell is a recent book in another series that doesn’t need to be read in order. The servants and neighbors of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Witherspoon investigate behind the scenes and give their information to housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and Constable Barnes. The group has solved many mysteries, but their latest case is six weeks old and may interfere with plans for the Christmas holiday.