Eastern Horizons

Eastern Horizons: Hitchhiking the Silk Road by Levison Wood

Adventure travel writer Levison Wood describes one of his first long journeys, backpacking from France to India at age 22. Some of the countries are described in more detail than others, beginning with Estonia and ending with Pakistan, but overall this is an engaging read. On a shoestring budget, Wood is trying to retrace the 1839 Silk Road journey of Arthur Connolly. Usually staying in a hostel or dorm, occasionally sleeping outside, Wood has adventures and gets his eyes opened by the different cultures and people he encounters, often finding warm hospitality. There are also exciting bus rides, anxious border crossings, and more vodka than he’d like. With dark hair, a tan, and a new beard, Wood could blend in more than the usual British traveler, though he still struggled to find his way. His newest book is An Arabian Journey; my favorite is Walking the Himalayas. Enjoy!

Brenda

May 2019 Book Discussions

The Tuesday Evening Book group will meet at 7:00 p.m. on May 28 to discuss Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler. This contemporary novel is bittersweet yet hopeful, about the turning points in Willa Drake’s life, and self-discovery. My earlier review is here.

The Crime Readers will meet at 7:00 p.m. on May 16 at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien to discuss The Dry, by Jane Harper. Here’s my earlier review of this excellent if rather dark contemporary mystery, set in a small outback town in Australia. Come at 6:00 p.m. for an optional dinner. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.

Copies of both books are available now at the Circulation Desk.

Brenda

The Vanishing Man

The Vanishing Man by Charles Finch

I’ve long enjoyed reading and listening to the Charles Lenox Victorian mystery series by Charles Finch, and this prequel is a great entry into the series. Set in London and Kent in 1853, gentleman Charles Lenox, 26, along with his valet Graham, is learning to be a private detective, even though he doesn’t need to charge for his services. His good friend, Lady Jane, lives next door and supports his new endeavor. The Vanishing Man of the title could refer to two mysteries; the theft of a portrait of a former duke and the disappearance of the current Duke of Dorset, whose London mansion is close to Parliament and the Thames River. Lenox is in search of both, and an even more intriguing mystery relating to William Shakespeare. I enjoy the audiobook narration of James Langton, as well as a strong sense of place, very appealing main characters, and a clever plot. Recommended for historical mystery readers and Anglophiles. The first prequel is The Woman in the Water, and the first book in the main series is A Beautiful Blue Death.

Brenda

Record of a Spaceborn Few

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

Not many finalists for major book awards are described like this: likeable, heartwarming, engaging, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Especially not Hugo Award nominated science fiction novels. Intrigued? How about this proverb from the Exodus fleet, generation starships now permanently orbiting a star: “From the ground, we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope.” The Exodans have all their basic needs met, and live in hexagonal buildings, neighborhoods and towns, using barter for extras. Included are detailed descriptions of daily life, from the point of view of a parent, a teenager, a stranger, an alien scientist, an archivist, and a caretaker. Tradition is very important to the Exodans, but alien technology may replace some jobs, and a tragedy means that some rituals can’t be followed. The characters are looking for the right job, life/work balance, a lover, or considering moving to a colony planet. Their stories gradually come together making for a compelling, delightful read. The author’s first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, is also an excellent read, but does not need to be read first. Here is the list of other Hugo Award finalists, to be awarded in Dublin in August.
Brenda

Nanaville

Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen

An engaging memoir about becoming a grandmother by the bestselling columnist and novelist. Quindlen, the mother of three, is delighted to welcome her Chinese-American daughter-in-law and then charmed by a grandson. Joyful anecdotes and reflections on her new role and how it differs from parenting make this a perfect gift for new grandparents. This is a charming, heartwarming read.
Brenda

The Fated Sky

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

In this alternate history/science fiction novel, Lady Astronaut Elma York is piloting a shuttle on the Moon, several years after an asteroid strike in 1952 led to an accelerated international race to reach outer space. The sequel to The Calculating Stars, currently a finalist for the 2019 Hugo Award for best novel, cleverly details daily life on Earth and in space. Elma and her engineer husband Nathaniel have been involved in the space program since the beginning, and have figured out a way to communicate via teletype when Elma is selected for the first voyage to Mars. As a southern Jewish woman, Elma thinks she understands discrimination, but her African American and Asian colleagues set her straight after her efforts to help make things worse. As a mathematician, Elma calculates their ship trajectories (often faster than their mechanical calculator), bakes to relieve stress, and pilots a shuttle to their companion ship after its crew falls ill. While very issue-oriented, this is an enjoyable, absorbing novel. Now I have to re-read the award-winning novelette Lady Astronaut of Mars, which was written first but is set later.

Brenda

April 2019 Book Discussions

The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7:00 p.m. on April 23 to discuss The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis. This historical novel is set in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal in the late 1920s, when it hosted an art school, and in 1974. My earlier review is here.

The Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 18 to discuss Infernal Angels by Loren Estleman. Optional dinner is at 6:00 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.

Copies of both titles are available now at the Circulation Desk.

Brenda