June 2016 Book Discussions

Both library book discussion groups have decided to meet in June and July this year. The Crime Readers are deep down dark jackettaking the summer off.  The Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. on June 21 to discuss Deep Down Dark, by Hector Tobar. This is the exciting true story about 33 men trapped in a Chilean mine in 2010. Tobar’s vivid, compelling account is hard to put down. My earlier review is here.

On June 28 at 7 p.m., the Tuesday Evening Book Group will read a short historical novel, Crooked Heart, by Lissa Evans. Set in and around London during World War II, this is not the typical story of life on the home front. Instead it’s about young orphan Noel Bostock, living in London with his elderly godmother, and how he connects with Vee, a widow who makes ends meet as a small-time con artist. I was thoroughly charmed by this unlikely pair.  Read more about it here.

Copies of both titles are available now at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk.


The Excellent Lombards

excellent lombards jacketThe Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton

Growing up on a family apple orchard in Wisconsin, Mary Frances Lombard wants everything to stay the same. Her beloved father Jim and his cousin Sherwood will have big arguments twice a year, and their families will never get together at holidays. The scary Aunt May Hill will continue to fix the equipment and the hay will always get stacked in the barn before a storm comes. And most importantly, Mary Frances and her brother William, who loves video games and computers as well as harvesting apples, will run the orchard when they grow up. If her librarian mother makes her go to drama camp, she won’t speak to her, but will participate in the drill cart team. Mary Frances (or Frankie, Francie, Marlene, or M.F.) is quite dramatic enough without going to camp, especially when she competes with cousin Amanda in a geography bee. Readers of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries will enjoy getting to know Mary Frances. I liked getting to know the eccentric members of the Lombard family, but I wanted to read about what happens next for Mary Frances and the orchard. I listened to the audiobook, and enjoyed the different voices Erin Cottrell used for each character.


Walking the Himalayas

himalayas jacketWalking the Himalayas by Levison Wood

A spellbinding journey through parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indian, Nepal, and Bhutan. Life in London is getting boring, so Wood is challenged to complete another trek. His earlier book is Walking the Nile, and he was a Major in the British Parachute Regiment. Not trying to climb the Himalayan peaks, Wood plans to walk the whole length of them. Most of the journey is full of spectacular scenery and curious villagers. Accompanied by various guides, including an old friend, he also encounters the Dalai Lama, a cobra, shamans, tigers, a landslide, and honey gathering on a mountain cliff. Wood is nearly killed in a jeep crash, and his journey’s end is uncertain. Part of his trek was filmed for British television, and some of it is available online. This is an excellent choice for fans of real life adventure.

Tumbledown Manor

tumbledown manor jacketTumbledown Manor by Helen Brown

A very good choice for vacation reading; I was charmed by this first novel about starting over in Australia. A surprise 50th birthday party ends in disaster for Manhattan novelist Lisa Trumperton. She heads home to Melbourne, Australia, where her sister Maxine and her son Ted live, keeping in touch with her elusive daughter Portia through texts. On a whim, Lisa purchases an old house in the country once owned by her great-grandfather. Landscaper Scott is a big help, and three retired handymen help her gradually fix up the house. But if Lisa can’t finish her books about the Brontë sisters, she’ll have to sell the house. A somewhat dysfunctional but caring family, a local book group that discusses Lisa’s book, and a cat that befriends a cockatoo add to the appeal of the book. I enjoyed watching Lisa deal with the challenges of her new life, such as flood, fire, and an unconventional wedding, with courage and humor.

Smarter, Faster, Better

duhigg jacketSmarter, Faster, Better: the Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The author of The Power of Habit struggles with work-life balance and being productive, and found that being busy isn’t the same as being productive. He covers a lot of topics here, most of them illustrated by fascinating true stories: winning at poker, a look inside the writing and re-writing of the movie Frozen, how an airplane accident happened and another one was narrowly avoided, and how an automotive plant became productive and improved quality control partly by empowering their workers. Duhigg talks about motivation, different types of goals, focus, decision-making, how to have better meetings, and much more. The writing is interesting and the stories are terrific. I don’t know that reading this book will make me smarter, faster, or better, but it’s a good place to look for ideas to become more focused and productive.


Flight of Dreams

flight of dreams jacketFlight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

A novel about the last voyage of the airship Hindenburg can have only one ending: disaster. I still found this novel compelling reading. 97 crew and passengers were aboard for a reportedly uneventful three-day voyage from Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey. The author uses real people for her characters, along with their actual fates, but does a remarkable job filling in the blanks and giving them personalities, relationships, motivations, and suspicions. Emilie, the first female airship stewardess, has a big secret, although it’s no secret that navigator Max is attracted to her. Cabin boy Werner, 13, is helping support his family and working extremely hard. Emilie helps care for the three children of a family headed to Mexico. There are rumors of a bomb threat, and a mysterious American is seeking revenge for his brother’s death in World War I. A journalist traveling with her older husband longs to return to the baby boy they were forced to leave behind in Germany. The airship has swastikas on the hull, and photos of Hitler throughout; the United States wouldn’t export helium to Germany, so the airship is filled with flammable hydrogen instead. There is little privacy, but there is a bar and, unexpectedly, a smoking room on board. I would have liked photos and diagrams of the Hindenburg as I read, but found them easily online. The plotting is intricate, and the contrast between the luxurious shipboard life of the passengers and that of the hardworking crew is well-drawn. The suspense keeps building, with chapter headings counting down the days, hours, and minutes until the explosion. What might have caused the fire? Who will survive, and how? Well-developed characters, plenty of period detail, and lots of suspense and drama should make this novel popular with fans of historical novels.


A Man Called Ove

ove jacketA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove, a newly retired railway worker in Sweden, can fix many things, but not his heart. He is grumpy yet loveable, and doesn’t see the point in living without his wife Sonja or his job. Gradually Ove finds out that he is needed: first to back up a trailer, then to fix a radiator and a ceiling fan, to rescue a cat, drive neighbors to the hospital, and even to give driving lessons. His new neighbors, Parvaneh and Patrick, along with their two young daughters, help Ove break out of his shell. Gradually the reader sees that there’s more to Ove than complaining about rule-breakers and government bureaucrats, and learns about his childhood and his unlikely marriage to always late Sonja, as well as regular feuds with neighbor Rune, who prefers Volvos to Saabs. It took me quite a while to warm up to this book of mixed sadness, warmth, and humor, but I’m very glad I kept reading until I did. A movie, hugely popular in Sweden, may be coming to this country soon, and Ove is sure to gain more fans when it does. Readalikes include The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

The Widow

widow jacketThe Widow by Fiona Barton

It’s rather a relief for Jean Taylor to be a widow. Maybe the reporters and detectives will leave her alone at last. Jean’s husband Glen was a suspect in the much-publicized disappearance of little Bella Elliott from her front yard. Bella has never been found, although her mother Dawn believes she’s still alive. Glen drove a delivery van, and may have been in Bella’s neighborhood that day. Jean, a hairdresser in London,  always stood by him, even after detectives reveal some of his dark secrets. Dogged PI Bob Sparkes can’t stop looking for leads in Bella’s case, and resourceful reporter Kate Waters manages to get the first interview with Jean. Read this compelling, fast-paced novel of psychological suspense to find out what happened to Bella, if Glen was guilty of her kidnapping, and what Jean knew or suspected and when. But the reader must decide if Jean’s story is reliable, as she has her own secrets. No graphic violence here, just plenty of chills. Readalikes include Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Expats by Chris Pavone, and The Last Child by John Hart.