Thursday, June 8, 2017

Still Life by Louise Penny

     This book came from our mystery section. It is the first book starring Inspector Armand Gamache. The story takes place on Canada, in the little village of Three Pines, where most of the residents have dabbled in some sort of artistic endeavor. A few of them have even become quite successful.
     It all begins with the death of Jane Neal, a wonderful, loved member of the community. She is found in the woods killed by an arrow, making it a suspicious death. Inspector Gamache and his team are sent in to investigate. Who would want to hurt kind Jane Neal? Did it have something to do with the unveiling of her painting "Fair Day"? Why did Jane never let anyone past her kitchen? Surely this was an accident caused by one of the seasonal hunters in the area.
     Throughout the reading you get to know the characters, their backgrounds and personalities. Inspector Gamache  respects the people he investigates and works with. he is tough and intuitive. He solves the case. I am intrigued by him and am ready to read more stories with Inspector Gamache on the job.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

This story centers around the Akah people, a Chinese ethnic minority who live in the Yunnan mountains, and whose lives revolve around traditions and tea.  Li-yan has a child out of wedlock, and rather than follow Akha custom and kill her baby, she abandons her in the nearest village.

The baby is adopted by an American couple and grows up with a privileged life in California.  Li-yan leaves her village and becomes one of the few formally educated Akha women.  The market for tea explodes, and tea connoisseurs and speculators arrive in the Yunnan mountains, eager to find sources of the coveted product.

In California, Haley wonders about her birth mother, while Li-yan never stops thinking about the daughter she gave away.  With both of them involved in the world of tea, is there a chance they might meet?

See has written another good book that showcases a little known culture, educates about tea, and celebrates the bonds of all kinds of families.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain

History books have a funny way of hitting the highlights of a particular time period and leaving out the small stuff that doesn’t quite fit with the narrative.  Turns out this small stuff is not only hysterical, but can also play a larger role in the fate of countries, and of the world, than we realize. When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain is a collection of short historical narratives (not all dealing with dictators) that take a look at some of the lesser-known but very interesting and funny stories that are a part of history. There’s the time Agatha Christie went missing.  The man who single-handedly continued to fight World War II, 29 years after it ended.  The cook aboard the Titanic who pickled himself in whiskey and survived.  And the titular story of how a quack doctor created an addict of a dictator and possibly, inadvertently, helped to turn the tide of a war.  Highly recommended.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Some Writer! : The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet

Ever wonder about the author who wrote the beloved children books Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, besides the prerequisite reading of The Elements of Style for freshman composition?  Caldecott award winner Melissa Sweet chronicles the life of E.B. White along with anecdotes, photos and stunning mixed-media illustrations.  The book is filled with beautiful watercolor and collage.  I especially appreciated the original manuscript of Charlotte's Web with White's editing.  The following poem White wrote for Katharine before he proposed to her reminds me of Charlotte. Children and adults alike will delight in this wonderful biography!  

Natural History

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unwinds a thread of his devising:
A thin, premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all the journey down through space,
In cool descent, and loyal-hearted,
He builds a ladder to the place
From which he started.

Thus I, gone forth, as spiders do,
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken strand to you
For my returning.

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

I've always enjoyed watching gymnastics and have been amazed at the abilities of these athletes.
Simone Biles talent was discovered on a daycare field trip to Bannon Gymnastix in Texas. She was 6 years old and living with her grandparents who had adopted her.  This was the start of her huge success as a gymnast and Olympic gold medalist, the most decorated American female gymnast. Her story is told in this book of her childhood with entertaining stories and rise to fame but also the disappointments and challenges she faced.  Her enjoyable personality is evident but also the strong discipline she needed to achieve dreams and have fun along the way.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett

I am not a frequent reader of fiction, and when I do read read it, it usually leans toward science fiction or westerns. Still, there was something that struck me about the premise of The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. My curiosity was rewarded with a very enjoyable book.
The book concerns an adult creative writing class, the teacher, its students and how one of them turns to murdering other class members. What caught my imagination was that the story is told through the teacher's viewpoint, and her descriptions of her students was very humorous. As a teacher of college/adult students for many years now I recognized many of the student-types that Willett brought to life for her story. I think that is what initially caught my attention.
What kept me involved was the flow of the story, and how suspense was built to the closing pages and the unmasking of the unhinged member of the class. Not to give any spoilers, but the culprit is apprehended. Also, Willett does a good job in building her main character, instructor Amy Gallup, and the somewhat flaky members of her writing class.
The Writing Class  is a solid compilation of unique characters and a bit of mystery, and I found it a fun and enthusiastic read.