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This Book is Not for Everyone March 26, 2010

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Public libraries, readers, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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It’s a great joy when you recommend a book to someone, and they just adore it.  Recently I recommended the wonderful British mystery writer, Peter Robinson, to a long time patron.  When she stopped by yesterday, she thanked me and was looking forward to reading more of his books.

However, it can be deflating when you love a book and the person you recommend it to does not share your enthusiasm.  I have had book clubs disappointed with two of my all time favorites, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather and Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.  My friend Peggie was lukewarm about another favorite, Raney by Clyde Edgerton, though she truly loved my recommendation of The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.  And my supervisor, a former children’s librarian and outstanding human being, inexplicably does not like Winnie-the-Pooh.

It happens with me, too.  I finally gave up on the immensely popular and critically acclaimed Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, mostly because I found parts of it too brutal for my taste.  And both the aforementioned Peggie and another friend, Joanne, highly recommended The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille.  I just bogged down and stopped listening to the audiobook.  I’m not really sure why.

Please keep on recommending books, because when it goes right, you make a truly fabulous connection.  Just remember that we may not love the same books.  But in the library, the good part is that the price is right and we have no problem when you bring the item in for a return or exchange!

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess


The Fault Tree March 4, 2010

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Just for Mystery Lovers Book Club, library programs, Mysteries, Public libraries, readers, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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I was sorry to miss our most recent Just for Mystery Lovers Book Club here at the Library.  If you like mysteries, please pay us a visit.  We meet on the 4th Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m.  Nice people, interesting discussions.

The book for February was The Fault Tree by Louise Ure.  The “detective,” Cadence Moran, is a blind auto mechanic.  I know – the scenario is unlikely, but the author does a great job of getting inside the head of this character.  Cadence’s automotive sensibilities (recognition of engine sounds, etc.) become an integral part of the plot. 

I did enjoy the story line, but what I liked even more was the insight into Cadence’s unique experience of the world as a blind person.  I’d recommend the book to fans of Laura Lippman and Sue Grafton.

The next meeting of the Just for Mystery Lovers Book Club will be on Saturday, March 27th.  The selection will be Rough Weather:  A Spenser Novel, by the late, great Robert B. Parker.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Our Hispanic Literary Heritage September 30, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Talk, Books, Fiction, library programs, Literature, readers, Reading, Reading lists.
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At our most recent Book Talk, I presented a “sampler” of the rich feast of Spanish language literature in translation, as well as some titles from North American writers of Hispanic origin. 

As I began to prepare, I started to become overwhelmed.  This is a major literary language – for example, ten Nobel prizes have been awarded to writers in the Spanish language.  I also became very excited about the wonderful variety of the books – a rich feast, indeed. 

I should mention with pride that I am partly of Spanish descent, and perhaps that increases my appreciation of this body of literature.  But I recommend these books to all of you.  When we talk about culture, we are privileged to be citizens of the world, and it is a good thing to move beyond our cultural center.  I love Southern food, but I don’t eat it every night of my life. 

So – this is your invitation to Hispanic literature.  Click here for my list of books, and also please visit the Color Online blog for another wonderful selection of titles.

Disfrute sus libros!  (Happy Reading, or more literally, Enjoy your books!)

Reading for the Stressed September 16, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Public libraries, Reading.
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And who isn’t, these days?  If you haven’t personally been afflicted by unemployment, health issues, concerns about children, etc., I’m reasonably certain that you are closely acquainted with people who have. 

Everyone copes with stress somehow, and of course some responses are healthier than others.  Unsurprisingly, I think one of the healthiest resources would be a good book.  For our purposes, books can be useful, or distracting, or in some cases, both. 

Let’s assume that you really can’t do too much about the stressful situation in which you find yourself.  You’re sitting by the hospital bed, you’re waiting for someone to come home, the results of your test won’t be available until tomorrow.  You may want something to distract you.  My regular readers know that I favor mysteries, and one reason is that they almost invariably feature a resolution.  This can be a very welcome vicarious experience when your life has gone awry. 

Your choice may be something other than a mystery, and I say, go for it.  You might even consider nonfiction.  Our next month’s selection for the Second Saturday Book Club is The Worst Hard Time:  The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan.  I suggested this book because I thought it might give us some perspective on our own economic crisis.  We shall see how that goes. 

On the other hand, escape reading of any kind will only take you so far, and I want to remind you that the libraries and bookstores are filled with useful books for almost any situation.  If you’re facing divorce, you might be well advised to read a book for laypersons on the topic.  Educating yourself about health issues is essential.  There are lots of books on how to save money and cope with financial difficulties. 

Two important reminders:  Make sure that you are choosing a resource by someone who has the appropriate qualifications for the topic.  And get professional help if you need it. 

What about those books that are both useful and entertaining?  One of my friends, who adores romance novels, claims that they helped her to know what kind of men to avoid and who to marry.  I think she and her husband have been together happily for twenty years or so.  I make no representations that this will work for you, but I am not one to argue with success. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Celebrating Agatha Christie September 14, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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What comes to mind when you hear the word Torquay?  For me, it is an image of John Cleese as the hilariously incompetent hotel proprietor in Fawlty Towers. 

But this week is different, as Torquay is hosting the Fifth Annual Agatha Christie Festival in honor of the their native daughter (and best-selling novelist of all time, thank you very much).  It sounds like it will be great fun, starting with the opening event:  A Fete Worse Than Death!  I wish I were there. 

Agatha Christie occupies a special place in my reading history.  I first encountered her at age eleven.  I was a precocious reader, and teen fiction as we now know it really did not exist.  My mother loved reading murder mysteries, and she was pretty sure Agatha Christie would provide a reasonably age-appropriate reading experience.  

Well, the die was cast.  I started reading Agatha Christie that summer, and I have adored murder mysteries ever since.  Christie was still living when I started reading her, and for some years my mother would give me the latest hardback for my birthday or Christmas. 

To the best of my knowledge, I have read all of her fiction.  My favorite of her detectives is Miss Marple, and I highly recommend Murder at the Vicarage, the first of the Miss Marple mysteries.  The distinguished mystery novelist and critic H. R. F. Keating named these as her top three titles:  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (also a personal favorite of mine), Murder on the Orient Express, and Sleeping Murder

Christie is not so well known for the non-mystery novels that she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott.  One of these titles, Absent in the Spring, would make my list of all-time memorable books, and I am happy to see that it is in print.  I will be ordering it for the Library.  

If by some happenstance you have never read anything by Agatha Christie, I think you would enjoy the experience.  And if you like it, there are dozens more! 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Double Daggers September 9, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Mysteries, Reading.
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One of my friends says that if she let herself, she would be reading mysteries all day long and never do anything else.  Since she is a remarkable person who makes a real contribution to our world, I am glad that she sets limits on the mystery reading. 

I too love mysteries and have spent an inordinate amount of my life reading them.  My friend has decided to read only the best ones, which I think is a fine approach, sort of like only eating really tasty food.  Here are a couple of titles that I think she – and you – might consider.  It so happens that they are both “Dagger” winners.  

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award from the Crime Writers’ Association (UK), which is the largest cash prize in the mystery field.  Set in the Shetland Islands, it depicts the mystery of a young girl’s murder against the background of an isolated community.  There is an obvious suspect, but Detective Jimmy Perez has doubts.  He is also struggling to decide whether to give up police work in favor of a life on the even smaller island where he was born. 

I really enjoyed the portrayal of the community, so very different from our own, and the characters.  If you want to cool down, this book would be a good choice, since the setting is invariably cold.  An excellent police procedural.  And I’m happy to report that there are three more in the series!

Another British standout is the more recent Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, which won the Debut Dagger from the CWA.  Flavia de Luce is the eleven-year-old schoolgirl and amateur chemist who must solve the mystery when her father is accused of murdering an old classmate.  Set in the fifties, the book is charmingly eccentric and I loved the fact that a smart, strong, and independent young girl was the main character.  You will pick up a few facts about chemistry, poison, British stamps, and escaping from sticky situations.  Most enjoyable and highly recommended. 

Happy Reading!


The Book Goddess

Theodore Dreiser August 27, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, readers, Reading.
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Have you read any of Theodore Dreiser’s novels?  In his time, which was close to a hundred years ago, he was considered one of the greatest living American writers, but I suspect he is mostly read by English majors today.  Since this is his birthday, I’d like to suggest that you read one of his books.

My top choice would be Sister Carrie, in which a small town girl goes to the big city and is led astray by a traveling salesman.  The results are not what you might expect.

Another remarkable novel is An American Tragedy, based on a true crime, which is a literary relative of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Richard Wright’s Native Son.

Both of these works appear on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century, at numbers 33 and 16 respectively.

Dreiser’s novels are long, intense, and compelling.  He was a prime practitioner of naturalism, which means that pessimism and determinism dominate the novels, and he was outraged by the social and economic inequalities of the day.  Even though it has been many years since I read these books, they have left a powerful impression.

You can find both of these books in the West Palm Beach Public Library in the Classics section on the First Floor or in the Fiction Section on the Fourth Floor, and I hope you will!

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Loving Frank August 25, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, library programs, Literature, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Have you read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan?  There’s a good chance that the answer is yes, especially if you’re in a book club.  Our most recent Second Saturday group had one of our liveliest discussions yet about this one, and I would certainly recommend it to you, for single or group readership. 

Here’s a bare bones, non-spoiler summary of the plot:  Mamah Cheney, a well-educated married woman with small children, falls in love with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  They leave their respective families and journey to Europe together.  There are, of course, consequences for all concerned. 

One of the challenges in reading and discussing the book is remembering that is a fictional account, even though the general outline of events did in fact occur.  In any case, it provoked some very strong responses from our members! 

One person found it very romantic, and thought that Frank and Mamah had found a once in a lifetime love.  Another reader was appalled that Mamah would leave her young children under these circumstances, and yet another had some extremely hostile things to say about Frank.

I enjoyed the book tremendously for a number of reasons, but especially for the portrayal of the life of the mind, not just in the persons of Frank and Mamah, but in the intellectual ferment in Europe and the growing importance of feminism. 

Did I mention that the book is beautifully written and very readable?  Loving Frank is not to be missed!  Highly recommended

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  Here’s a link to questions for discussion from the publisher.

The School of Essential Ingredients July 29, 2009

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Do you remember Grandmother’s kitchen fondly?  Did your spouse propose over a special meal?  Are you the sort of person who will prepare a nice dinner when you are dining solo?  Or do those possibilities sound good even if not currently applicable to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I suspect you will greatly enjoy The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I just finished reading it (over a nice little lunch, thank you!) and it was a delight.

Eight students attend Lillian’s cooking class, and discover themselves through their experience of food.  Each chapter tells the story of one participant, and also guides us through their cooking experiences and their personal interactions.  Lillian teaches cooking, but it is not simply cuisine; it is the elements of the meal speaking to the heart as well as the senses.

Among other things, Lillian convinced me that I must learn to prepare a proper Sauce Bolognese.  I expect the book will inspire you to dust off your kitchen equipment, too.  Thank you, Erica Bauermeister, for giving us a book to savor!

Happy Reading (and Cooking)!

The Book Goddess

Happy Bastille Day! Joyeux Quatorze Juillet! July 14, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, Reading.
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If you are French, or simply on the lookout for a reason to party, today is the day to celebrate Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity!  Remember that the French are our oldest friends and that their revolution was at least in part inspired by ours.

I have actually been in Paris on Bastille Day, which turned out to be bad news and good news.  Bad news:  the Louvre was closed.  Good news:  since we couldn’t go to the Louvre, we went to the Bois de Boulogne and met up with a French journalist who took us all over Paris in his little French car to show us the sights.  In these latter days, I would be more cautious, but it was certainly a day to remember. 

Anyway, there are a lot of wonderful things you could do to celebrate Bastille Day:  you could drink some French wine and have your sandwich on a baguette (Brie and foie gras, maybe?).  You could check a French film out of the Library!  How about Les Choristes or Amelie?  We have over 200 French films, so you have lots of options. 

You will also find a rich selection of literature by French authors.  For example, 16 French authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, most recently J. M. G. Le Clezio in 2008.  One of my personal favorite titles is Claudine, a coming of age novel by the legendary Colette.  I’d also give my highest recommendation to A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, a marvelous portrait of the lives of the “Lost Generation” artists in 1920’s Paris. 

It’s always good to have something to celebrate! 

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess