May 2018 Book Discussions

On May 15 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will discuss The Other Alcott, by Elise Hooper. This is a biographical novel about May Alcott, the youngest sister of the author of Little Women, who travels to Europe in her quest to be a painter. Here is my earlier review.

At 7 p.m. on May 22, The Tuesday Evening Book Group will discuss Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller. This historical novel is another look at The Little House on the Prairie book from Ma’s point of view. A Library Reads pick, here’s my review.

The Crime Readers will meet at 7 p.m. at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien on May 17 to discuss The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley. The first Flavia de Luce mystery, it’s set in an English village in the 1950s. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m.

Copies of the books are available at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk.

Enjoy!   Brenda


Circe by Madeline Miller

In her follow-up to her 2012 novel The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller revisits the world of Greek myths, this time with the witch-goddess Circe. Circe, the daughter of Helios, a Titan, and a water nymph, never feels at home in her father’s halls. She is mocked for her strange voice and lacks the beauty and power of her parents and siblings. Instead, she finds herself drawn to mortals and prefers them to the vain and petty gods around her. When her latent powers are made known, she is considered a threat by Zeus and is exiled to the island Aiaia. On the island, she begins to practice pharmakeia, witchcraft using herbs and other elements to create powerful spells. She is particularly adept at transfiguration.

Circe briefly leaves Aiaia when she is summoned to Crete by her sister, Pasiphae. While at Knossos, she meets her niece, Ariadne, the inventor Daedalus, and has a memorable encounter with the Minotaur. After returning to exile, Circe is more keenly aware of her loneliness than before and throws herself into working her magic. Despite her isolation, Circe does have the odd visitor. Sometime lover Hermes comes to tell tales of the outside world. Circe’s other niece, the witch Medea, seeks her out after fleeing her kingdom with Jason. Ships of men also find their way to her island and, at first, she welcomes their company. After a sailor’s brutal betrayal, Circe transforms him and his crew into pigs. Thereafter, most men who find her island meet the same fate. One day, as foretold by prophecy, Odysseus makes his way to Circe’s shores. If you know your mythology, you already know how the story plays out. However, in Miller’s hands, the story feels fresh and utterly compelling.

Circe is a complex and sympathetic heroine. Her struggles to find her voice and wield her power are both ancient and completely of the moment. Circe may be about a goddess, but it has a lot to say about being not only a woman, but a woman with power. A particularly potent theme throughout Circe’s story is how men fear powerful women and attempt to suppress them. Miller’s vivid, evocative writing brings the Greek gods and monsters to life in a unique and fantastic way. Readers who enjoy stories about women’s lives, and those who read literary, historical, and fantasy fiction will all find something worthwhile here.



Spring Reading

I’m in the middle of so many books that I’m not sure what to review next.

I’ve just finished reading Lake Silence, by Anne Bishop. This is a paranormal novel set in the world of the Others, but with a new setting and characters. Vicki DeVine has just reopened a rustic resort in the Finger Lakes, and her first tenant is Aggie Crowe, one of the shapeshifting Crowguard. Vicki has some anxiety issues and is learning to stand up for herself, with help from some very unusual characters.

I’ve also read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. Excellent investigative reporting about a series of murders in the 1920s of Osage who owned mineral rights on land where oil was discovered. The pacing was leisurely, and it’s an important but very sad true story.

I recently listened to the audiobook of Raspberry Danish Murder, by Joanne Fluke, featuring Minnesota cookie baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swenson, whose family and friends are helping her solve a murder and find a missing person who’s very important to Hannah. If you need to find a new cozy mystery series with recipes, start with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.

I’m currently reading four books I’m considering for future book discussions:

Anatomy of a Miracle, by Jonathan Miles is about a Cameron Harris, a paraplegic vet living with his sister in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he suddenly stands up and walks.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng  is a contemporary novel set in Shaker Heights, Ohio that’s been getting lots of good reviews.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: an Unexpected Adventure, by Shoba Narayan, is a memoir by a writer who moves back to southern India with her husband and two daughters after years in New York City, and Sarala, their milk lady, and her cows.

I’ve just started reading Rocket Men : the Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon, by Robert Kurson, and I think I’m going to enjoy it.

For fun, I’m reading Other People’s Houses, by Abbi Waxman, a novel about a carpool mom and her neighbors. I read her first novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings.

Also, I’ve been slowly reading and savoring  Craeft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, by Alexander Langlands, an English archaeologist and historian who’s worked on several British television series, including Victorian Farm and Tudor Monastery Farm.

On my e-reader, I have digital review copies of two forthcoming books:

The Shipwreck Hunter, by David Mearns, and  Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux. These books will be published in June and August.

What are you reading and enjoying, and what should I read next?

Happy Spring Reading, Brenda



The House of Broken Angels

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

A big, messy novel about a Mexican American family coming together to celebrate and to mourn. Big Angel de la Cruz, ill with cancer, wants one last birthday party, and then his mother America dies at 100. Angel’s younger half brother, Little Angel, a literature professor in Seattle, reluctantly shows up, and the brothers resolve some issues and relive memories of their father Antonio, a motorcycle cop. Set on the southern border of California, the family doesn’t worry too much about legal status, as their history goes back before California was a state. Exuberant, intimate, funny, sad, and occasionally violent, the story of the de la Cruz family makes compelling reading. Big Angel’s wife Perla and her two sisters also tell their stories, and there is cake, a surprise mariachi band, and even a party crasher with a gun. Inspired by events in the Naperville author’s family, this is a moving and memorable story.


Two Steps Forward

Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Artist Zoe makes a long overdue visit to her friend Camille in France, and impulsively decides to hike the Camino de Santiago from central France to the Spanish border. Her budget is small and she is hiking because of a recent death in her family. Martin, a British engineer working in France, decides to test his design for a one-wheeled cart by hiking with it from Cluny to Santiago. Better equipped and organized, Martin often stays in inns and enjoys gourmet meals while Zoe’s budget barely covers hostel dormitories. However, the trail keeps bringing the unlikely pair together, especially when they are both dealing with upsetting news from home. The scenery is dramatic, the other hikers a quirky bunch, and the dialogue is witty and funny. I enjoyed this charming romantic comedy inspired by a three-month hike of the Camino in 2011 by Rosie Project author Graeme Simsion and his wife, writer Anne Buist. Film rights have been sold.

April 2018 Book Discussions

On April 17 at 10 a.m. the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. This is a standalone mystery set in an English village during the heat wave of 1976. Here’s my review.

The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on April 24 to discuss The Scribe of Siena, by Melodie Winawer. If you are looking forward to our Medieval Faire on April 7, you may enjoy this novel, in which Beatrice Trovato, a neurosurgeon, travels back in time to 14th century Siena, Italy. My earlier review is here. Also in the library, look for my April display of Medieval Fiction.

At 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, the Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien to discuss the thriller Deadline, by John Sandford. Optional dinner at 6 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.

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



The Woman in the Water

The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

The latest book featuring Victorian gentleman sleuth Charles Lenox is a prequel, and a good place to start reading this excellent mystery series. Only 23, Charles is out of college and wants to be a detective, but isn’t taken seriously by his friends or Scotland Yard. Charles and his valet Graham keep a file of crime stories they clip from London papers. Reading an announcement bragging about a perfect crime, the pair get to work. A very clever mystery and some fine detecting set up an exciting chase to find a murderer. On the personal front, Charles is hopelessly in love and his father has a health crisis, which somehow doesn’t prevent horseback rides in the country or a quick trip abroad with Charles. Charles, Graham and their London of 1850 are very agreeable company. Recommended for Anglophiles and readers of historical mysteries. A Beautiful Blue Death is the first book in the series.