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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

Reading for the Stressed September 16, 2009

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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

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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

Repackaging the Good Life June 4, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Authors, Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, Literature, Mysteries, Reading.
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Alexander McCall Smith is best known in the United States for the Number One Ladies Detective Agency books, a series of gentle mystery novels set in Botswana. 

But if you lived in Edinburgh, you might be more familiar with his ongoing serial in the Scotsman, 44 Scotland Street.  If my calculations are correct, he has published something like 500 short chapters in the newspaper, and will resume the storyline later this year.  Five collections have been published, starting with 44 Scotland Street, and four are currently available in the U.S.

I am a huge fan of this series, even though I will admit it is not for everyone.  If you require a great deal of suspense, drama, and graphic portrayals of sex, you would do well to look elsewhere. 

What you will find here is a series of stories about people living their lives the best way they know how, set against the backdrop of a wonderful city.  Some of the characters are more commendable than others, but McCall Smith leaves the judgment to us.

What I love about the 44 Scotland Street series is that it asks questions about the good life – and gives some answers, too.  For McCall Smith, friendship, art, good food, and good conversation are all part of the good life.  Caring about our fellow human beings is most important of all.

Am I the only one who thinks that as a culture, we seem to have lost track of much of what makes a life good?  These tremendously appealing stories remind us of the importance of the life well lived.   I love the thought that folks in Edinburgh have had an opportunity to think about this when they pick up their daily newspaper.

Thank you, Mr. McCall Smith, for bringing so much pleasure – and food for thought – into my life!  The goal of the classical writer was to delight and to instruct.  You have certainly done that for me.

Happy Reading,

The Book Goddess

P.S.  Listening to this series on audiobook will definitely enhance your enjoyment!

Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand June 2, 2009

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This was my first experience with a mystery by Fred Vargas, who, oddly enough, is a French woman.  I enjoyed it very much indeed! 

Comissaire Adamsberg is brilliant, eccentric, and has some secrets of his own.  His “sidekick” Danglard is a gifted detective who is overly fond of white wine.  Their search for a serial killer is interrupted by a Canada to study evidence techniques with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Trouble follows them there in a very nasty way.  

The plot is convoluted, in a good way, and the solution turns out to be quite exotic.  For me, the real pleasure of the book lay in the writing style, the characters, and the humor.  I enjoyed the culture clash between the French and the French Canadians, and how Adamsberg solved the problem of Danglard’s fear of flying. 

The best recommendation for a mystery author is whether you want to read more of their books.  Fred Vargas gets a definite yes! 

Happy Reading, 

The Book Goddess

The Book Floor at 411 Clematis Street April 20, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Audiobooks, Book Clubs, Book Floor, Books, Fiction, Just Browsing, Literature, Mysteries, Public libraries, Reading, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The first floor of our new library has been designed to provide a delightful browsing experience for the book lover.  We have selected the newest and the best and arranged the entire floor so that you can easily find the books you really love.  There are about fifty separate collections, ranging from the expected, like New Mystery, to the more unusual, such as Just for Fun and Go Green.  

The selections are also organized into “neighborhoods,” so that collections of similar interest will be near each other.  If you love Science Fiction, you may love our nearby Graphic Novels, too.  House & Home is conveniently located near Food & Wine as well as Crafts.   And one of my favorite areas is the small but excellent children’s and teen section, located near books about parenting – designed for the quick drop-in by the busy family! 

We also have two small reading rooms, one of which is populated by a fabulous selection of paperbacks, and the other by great choices for book clubs.  And – do not miss our Staff Picks or our great selection of Books on CD, perfect for the commuter. 

I already love browsing on our Book Floor, and I hope you will too.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Happy Reading  –

The Book Goddess

When Will There Be Good News? November 19, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors You Shouldn't Miss, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club.
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I just finished reading When Will There Be Good News? By Kate Atkinson, the latest installment in her Jackson Brodie detective saga, and it was terrific!  I have greatly enjoyed all three of the Brodie novels. We read the first one, Case Histories, in the Second Saturday Book Club, and it was a great success.

There are several story lines and a number of memorable characters, but at the center of the book is a question – how do people go on after something truly horrific happens to them?  Joanna Hunter is a successful physician and a devoted mother; but she is also the survivor of the murder of her mother and her two siblings, and the murderer is about to be released from prison.  There are other women in danger, too, including a truly amazing 16 year old orphan.  There’s a train wreck, and a woman that Jackson is very attracted to, and confusion of identities.  If this sounds rather Gothic, I suppose it is (astounding things are always happening to Brodie), but it’s grounded in realistic human emotion. 

If you like mysteries, you should read this book.  If you like a good story with great insight into character, you should definitely read this book – but read the other two Brodie novels first! 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Farewell, Tony Hillerman October 28, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Books, Fiction, Literature, Mysteries, Reading.
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I was sad to learn that Tony Hillerman passed away on Sunday.  Hillerman’s goal in writing his mysteries set in Navajo country was to enlighten others about Indian culture.  He succeeded magnificently.  

I’ve blogged about Tony Hillerman before.  He is one of my official “Authors You Shouldn’t Miss,” and I hope you don’t.  It’s sad to think that he won’t be writing any more of his wonderful mysteries.  He will be greatly missed. 

The Book Goddess