Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pact

... by Joni Picoult.

The Hartes and the Golds have been neighbors for 18 years and their children have been like brothers and sisters. Surprisingly, once Chris and Emily get to high school their friendship becomes more intimate. The devastation hits when Emily's family receives a call from the hospital saying that she is dead from a gunshot wound to the head. All evidence leads to Chris, buy why? He claims to love Emily and that he had planned to kill himself as well. Detectives do not believe his story about the suicide pact and suspects there is much more involved. Picoult keeps the reader in total suspense, as the relationship between the families becomes strained and the story unfolds, developing the motive for the murder of Chris' childhood friend and first love.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Juniper Road

... by Hal Duvall.

The story takes place in South Carolina during the Depression. Woodrow Wilson Jones, becomes a young man in just a matter of a few pages, as he discovers hard work and poverty in the rural south. His father has been sent to a sanatorium leaving him in charge of the family. As the story begins, Wilson is trying to get a job with a work crew clearing property for a future state park, only to realize that at 14, he is too young. The recruiter suggests he come back in a couple of days, once he's matured a bit. So, on Monday, four years older, he secures the job, proving to be a diligent worker. Once this job ends, Wilson lands a job in the small town's hardware store as an afternoon clerk. He falls in love with a local girl, Betsy, befriends the recruiter, Tom Stone - soon to be a local lawyer, and comes to the defense of a "colored" friend and neighbor, whose father has been falsely arrested on a charge of arson. Wilson, determined to help clear his friend's father of all charges, seeks help and comes to their aid. Wilson, as most young men of his stature, joins the army in search of a future more meaningful than the life he foresaw by staying behind in a small, country town overcome with poverty and unemployment. But Hal, we've got to know what happens to Wilson!

The story is told with authenticity, reflecting the devastating times of the 30's due to poverty, segregation, and unemployment. It portrays the warmth of a small community yet reveals the harsh realities of racial segregation and poverty. The story takes me back to Cheraw, SC and stirs a desire to dig into the past, learning more about that "prettiest little town in Dixie."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three Cups Of Tea

... by Greg Mortenson.

One of the books I read awhile ago was recently reintroduced at the SCASL when I discovered that it has been rewritten as a picture book and a young reader novel. The two new versions, Listen to the Wind and Three Cups of Tea, share this wonderful story on one man's dream to improve education. Greg Mortenson is mountain climbing in the Himalayas and gets lost. He ends up in the village of Korphe in Pakistan, where the villagers take care of him and share their hospitality and wisdom over cups of tea. When he learns that the village has no school and the children practice their lessons outside using sticks to write with, he decides to build a school. The story follows his experiences through Pakistan and Afghanistan as he struggles to gain the support and money to build schools. With the current relations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this book offers a different perspective of the culture and traditions in these countries and shows how strong determination for humanitarian efforts can make worldly differences. A lesson all ages can benefit from.

This is a thought provoking and complex novel, mixing the themes of art, family, values, and death. It alternates between the voices of Pru, a young girl whose pictures are taken by a family friend, and Kate, a young woman teaching at a University. The author does a great job with this story but forces the reader to determine their own opinion as to what is "art" and to distinguish the difference between innocence and wrong. Each girl's character is developed so that we hear their thoughts and understand how they feel. This book elicited one of the most passionate book discussions that our book club has experienced in quite a while.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Facebook Friends

I really enjoy playing Mah Jongg which is an Asian tile game similar to gin rummy. Watch this video and check out the web site World Mah Jong Tour, print the rules, then join me for a game.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Salon: Bound For Murder

A fun, light murder mystery set in New Orleans. How appropriate just hours from Mardi Gras! Laura Childs the author, has written a Scrapbooking Mystery series set in New Orleans, the Tea Shop Mysteries series which appear to be set in Charleston, SC and the Cackleberry Club Mysteries. This book was so much fun, I can't wait to check out more of her books.

Carmela, owner of a local scrap booking shop, tends to be pretty handy at helping out her friends with business issues and solving problems. As the story opens, a dinner party in honor of Wren and Jamie, about to be married, is taking place at Bon Tiempe, better known to locals as Bon Ton. Just before dinner is to be served, Ava, proprietor of Juju Voodoo, discovers the groom-to-be, murdered in the restaurant office. Since Jamie is the beloved owner of the local bookshop, a lovable and popular guy, his death could only be the result of a "robbery gone bad" according to the hasty police report. Carmela doesn't buy it and is determine to learn more about Jamie's mysterious childhood, discover why a local rare book collector is so anxious to force Wren (Jamie's fiance) to sell HIM the book store, why does Blaine Taylor, Jamie's disreputable business partner keep showing up and there's the ex-fiance that Wren never knew about! There has to be more to this than a random mishap from a robbery gone bad.

I'm a bit partial to NO, and love reading a novel which includes so many familiar places. I look forward to getting back and learning more about the city and can't wait until Jazz Fest. Mmmm... Laura, are any of your mysteries based around Jazz Festival? Must look into that! However, Laura Childs does a beautiful job incorporating local color with her characters and the settings in this book. Great characters - I'd love to meet them - they sound like loads of fun.

Post for Sunday Salon - join us here!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Salon

Just opening a book by Harry Bernstein called The Invisible Wall. New York Times wrote an article about Mr. Bernstein, who at age 96 authored this book. This book was also featured in the International Herald Tribune. It really sounds like a book I need to read. The following review is from Random House publishers.
“There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its ‘Invisible Wall.’ ”

The narrow street where Harry Bernstein grew up, in a small English mill town, was seemingly unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the “invisible wall” that ran down its center, dividing Jewish families on one side from Christian families on the other. Only a few feet of cobblestones separated Jews from Gentiles, but socially, it they were miles apart.

On the eve of World War I, Harry’s family struggles to make ends meet. His father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry’s mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes that might secure Harry’s admission to a fancy school; that her daughter might marry the local rabbi; that the entire family might one day be whisked off to the paradise of America.

Then Harry’s older sister, Lily, does the unthinkable: She falls in love with Arthur, a Christian boy from across the street.

When Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the morals he’s been taught all his life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart.

A wonderfully charming memoir written when the author was ninety-three, The Invisible Wall vibrantly brings to life an all-but-forgotten time and place. It is a moving tale of working-class life, and of the boundaries that can be overcome by love.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mock Newbery Award Committee

Anxiously awaiting the announcement of the 2009 Newbery Award Winner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Salon - selling Bibles

If I can stay awake long enough today, I hope to finish The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgarton. I love CE's books, favorites are Raney and Walking Across Egypt. If you're looking for humor, southern life-style, and a good read, you'll enjoy these books.

The Bible salesman, Henry, walks the roads of North Carolina selling Bibles and happens to meet up with Clearwater, a car thief. The story begins as Clearwater, offers Henry a job driving stolen cars. Of course, Henry has no idea and believes Clearwater works for the FBI and has just been offered an opportune job as his assistant. The drama continues and the humor escalates.

Clyde Edgarton reading an excerpt aloud.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Last Lecture

... by Randy Pausch.

Randy Pausch, computer science professor and father of three, is the author of this book. He was asked to give a Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon University just after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As fate would have it, his "last lecture" became a real last lecture.

His lecture became so popular because it was so inspirational and encouraged so many to follow their dreams. After the widespread popularity via Internet, appearances on Oprah, etc., he decided to write a book about his experience preparing for his lecture and his death. His story reveals his childhood dreams, and how he achieved them.

His book reveals his determination to spend what time he had left with his children and family sharing happy moments instead of sad, and to inspiring other people to live life to the fullest. His premise for his lecture was, "If I could leave a legacy for my children what would it be?" Thus, his lecture was about life not death.

Although a story of reflection to be shared with his children one day, his story also offers real life lessons that we all need to learn. As a college professor and teacher, he taught everyone that "your childhood dreams are possible to achieve." His story emphasizes the importance of being a dreamer and being happy. Go for your dreams and let the "brick walls" be a lesson in determination.

Sunday Salon

Dewey, The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the Vickie Myron

A touching story about an "alley" cat that found a home in a small town library and became the love of the town. Dewey, a yellow, frozen, starved kitty was rescued from the public library book drop on one of Iowa's coldest days. He quickly became very attached, not only to the library staff, but to the entire community, just as they, also, developed a special bonding with him. It seems this little stray kitten saw the town and the library through 18 years of devastation, happiness, and changes and created a bond within the community that also brought fame and fortune to Spencer, Iowa. A wonderful story about how one small kitten affected so many lives.

Sunday Salon Again

I haven't had a chance to participate in weeks but, alas, I'm back. So far this morning, it's sleety and rainy so I'm staying in curled up with Dewey, The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicky Myron. Lovely story so far but holding off checking out all the web info until I read more. But if you're interested, check out Dewey's job description and learn a bit more about him.

If you've read this book join me at Sunday Salon and share your opinions and reactions to Dewey...

Photo from website for Spencer Public Library