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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.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn February 2, 2009

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, library programs, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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I’m slightly apprehensive when I decide to re-read a much loved book from childhood.  Perhaps it won’t live up to my memories, or I’ll look back on my youthful taste in horror. 

As far as I can recall, this has never actually happened.  Maybe the books that live on for us really are classics.  This proved to be the case with my recent re-reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  I’m not even sure what made me suggest it for the February selection for the Second Saturday Book Club.  But I’m happy to report that I was simply enchanted, and I hope the other book club members will be, too.  The story of Francie Nolan, child of Brooklyn and of poverty, but also of her dreams and aspirations, and the love of her family, was just as moving and enthralling as I found it several decades ago. 

I urge you to read this book, again or for the first time.  Among other things, it is a remarkable portrayal of life in the tenements of Brooklyn a hundred years ago.  More importantly, it is a universal tale of growing up, of learning to love, and learning to leave.  It will leave you with the greatest admiration for those who overcome this level of adversity.  It may even put our current economic crisis in some sort of perspective. 

Happy reading! 

The Book Goddess

P.S.  We’ll be discussing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the Second Saturday Book Club at the downtown West Palm Beach Public Library on Saturday, February 14th at 10:30 a.m.  You have plenty of time to read the book, so please join us!

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

A Day (Off) in the Life of the Book Goddess (and more reasons to love your book club) October 30, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Librarians, library programs, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Monday was a day off for me, so after I had done some laundry, I set off for the campaign headquarters of the presidential candidate of my choice.  I had arranged to meet up there with one of my wonderful book club friends, Kathleen.  We were making calls to likely voters, and one lady said she wanted applications for absentee ballots.  Kathleen said we would take them over to her house – so we set off to make our delivery. 

When we got there, the voter and her mother were sitting in the shade of their peaceful front yard.  We had a nice visit while they filled out the forms.  

After we took care of delivering the forms, we decided to call Sylvia, another book club member who lives nearby and see if we could drop in.  She was happy to hear from us, and set out wine, cheese, crackers and fruit on her patio.  What a gracious hostess!  Kathleen started teaching us how to play Hawaiian gin rummy.  Then Sylvia got another call from yet another book club member, Faith, who was also in the neighborhood.  We were delighted that she could join our party. 

Eventually we had to leave for our various commitments, but what a wonderful day it was!  I felt that I did something useful, and I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world.  I can’t guarantee that you will find friends in your book club as fabulous as mine, but I think there’s a good chance. 

Oh – and after that, I went to my bellydance class.  I had met the teacher at the West Palm Beach Public Library where she gave an introductory lesson.  When I went home, I read Exit Music by Ian Rankin, which is pretty terrific – a library book, of course. 

Those of us in the library profession are fond of saying that libraries change lives.  There is no doubt that they have changed mine. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Group Suicide Averted August 8, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Literature, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club.
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Have you read anything by Nick Hornby?  If not, I think you should rush out and do so.  I recommended A Long Way Down to my supervisor recently and she is listening to it on CD.  Coincidentally, my book club pal Kathleen and her husband also listened to it on their recent road trip.  Rave reviews on all sides, so I thought I would share it with you, too.

I read the book in print format, but reportedly the audiobook is even more of a treat.  Here’s the basic plotline:  A diverse group of Londoners encounter each other on the roof of a tall building on New Year’s Eve.  Each one has plans of throwing themselves off the roof and ending it all.  As these strangers become acquainted in this odd setting, they decide not to commit suicide then and there, and before you know it, they have become involved with each other. 

Hornby’s writing style is a pleasure to read.  The book is not only very funny, but has something important to say about human connection. 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

A Wider Reading Horizon April 14, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, library programs, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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One of the many good things about being in a book club is that you will almost certainly read some books that you would not have selected on your own.  That happened for me this month when our selection was The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin. 

I knew about this book.  It had been well-reviewed, and it was a New York Times bestseller.  And I even listen to Nina Totenberg’s NPR broadcasts on the Supreme Court with interest.  Still – I hadn’t picked this book up, and honestly, I was afraid it might be heavy going. 

But, to my surprise and delight, it was both readable and very absorbing.  (This means that when I had to go do something else, I wanted to get back to the book.)  Toobin, himself a graduate of Harvard Law School, clarifies legal issues for the layperson, and this is most helpful.  What makes the book so interesting, however, is the description of the personalities and experiences of the justices and how they have changed (or not) over time.   The book is certainly convincing as to the importance of the legislative branch and its effect on the life of our country. 

I’m sorry you missed our wonderful discussion this past Saturday, but I highly recommend The Nine.  For you busy commuters, consider the book on CD.  Click here to reserve your book or sound recording. 

Next month (May 10th), for a complete change of pace, we’ll be discussing Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen.  It’s no accident when Chaz Perrone throws his wife off a cruise ship.  Unfortunately, he has forgotten that she is a champion swimmer – and she will come back alive to haunt him.  He’s involved in a lot of skullduggery and there is an incredible assortment of weird Florida characters.  Among other things, the book is side-splittingly funny and I have yet to recommend it to anyone who didn’t adore it.  Not to be missed under any circumstances! 

Happy Reading! 

The Book Goddess

Happy Birthday, Florida! March 3, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Today (March 3) is the anniversary of Florida’s admission to the Union as the 27th state!  That important event happened in 1845.  I have been told that my father’s family arrived from Spain in time to become citizens on that day.

I think it would be nice to read a Florida book in honor of the event.  There are a lot of good ones out there.  If you’re interested in history, you might want to read one of Michael Gannon’s books – either The New History of Florida or Florida:  A Short History.  If you’re really pressed for time, you could choose Michael Gannon’s History of Florida in 40 Minutes, which includes a CD read by the author.  He was one of my professors at the University of Florida and he makes history fabulously interesting!

Two titles that you might want to check out are the classic Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, her memoir of life in rural Florida, and The Other Florida by Gloria Jahoda.  Both of these authors moved to Florida from other places and came to love it.

For a more South Florida perspective, I’d recommend The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean.  It is about orchids, but it’s also about many other things, including the development of Florida.  And speaking of development, The Big Bubble by Theodore Pratt (better known as the author of The Barefoot Mailman) is a fascinating fictionalized account of the Florida real estate boom of the twenties and an architect who will certainly bring Addison Mizner to mind.

In fact, novels can be a wonderful way to appreciate and learn more about history.  A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith won the Florida Historical Society Tebeau Prize as the Most Outstanding Florida Historical Novel.  And The Man Who Invented Florida by mystery writer Randy Wayne White is a true delight.  (By the way, Randy will be here on Tuesday, March 25th at 1:00 p.m. to speak and sign copies of his new book, Black Widow.)

And if you want to laugh yourself silly, among other things, pick up Skinny Dip by the renowned journalist, crime writer, and social critic Carl Hiaasen.  I simply must insist that you read this.  And – it will be the May selection of the Second Saturday Book Club.

There are many more wonderful authors I haven’t mentioned.  Please let me know about your favorite Florida books and authors.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

Read Together Palm Beach County February 26, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, library programs, Public libraries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The people have spoken!  “The Book” has been announced!  And it is…

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.

As of this moment, there are 765 reviews on Amazon.com, averaging 3 stars.  It is #10 on the Most Requested – New Favorites list on ReadingGroupGuides.com.  So a lot of people out there are reading and talking about this book.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter was the November 2007 selection of the Second Saturday Book Club, and I can tell you that the themes – family relationships, people with disabilities, and keeping secrets – make for good discussion topics.

There will be a number of opportunities for people to get together and talk about this book.  We will have at least one discussion at the West Palm Beach Public Library (date and time to be announced).  And there will be other events including an appearance by the author and a dramatic presentation by Palm Beach DramaWorks.  For more information, visit the “Read Together Palm Beach County” webpage.

Please consider organizing a discussion at your workplace, community organization, or house of worship.  (Click here for discussion questions.)  It’s so important to read, but it’s even better when you share your thoughts with other readers.

Happy Reading!

The Book Goddess

What is West Palm Beach Reading? February 13, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Books, Just for Mystery Lovers Book Club, Literature, Mysteries, readers, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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Here are some recommendations from members of the Second Saturday Book Club:

Joan – The Lady from Buenos Aires by John Lantigua

Willie Cuesta is a Miami private eye.  In this series entry, the mystery focuses on a woman who “disappeared” in Argentina more than twenty years ago. 

Kathleen – Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and its sequel, Pigs in Heaven.

In fact, she recommends pretty much anything by Kingsolver.  I myself think The Poisonwood Bible is a brilliant novel and not to be missed.

Lois – Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

An English teacher in Japan receives a bequest from her mentor, a Hiroshima survivor.  Excellent reviews.

Tina – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

A bookish biographer finds herself in the middle of a mystery.  Very atmospheric – is it a ghost story or not?

The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill

The second in the Simon Serrailler mystery series – a very well-crafted British mystery with much to say about human relationships.

William – The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

An Oprah pick and reportedly a wonderfully readable historical novel about the building of a cathedral in the twelfth century.  The February selection of the Just for Mystery Lovers Book Club, which will meet February 23rd at 10:30 a.m.

What are you reading?  I’d love to hear your recommendations, too.

Fondly,

The Book Goddess

44 Scotland Street February 5, 2008

Posted by bookgoddess in Authors, Book Clubs, Books, Fiction, Great Reads, library programs, Reading, Second Saturday Book Club, West Palm Beach Public Library.
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The Second Saturday Book Club’s selection for February is 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith.  Imagine an upscale, but not snooty, neighborhood in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.  The inhabitants of one particular building, and their close associates, make up the cast of characters.  There’s a college student working at an art gallery, a semi-retired anthropologist, and a wonderful woman named “Big Lou,” who has read practically everything and presides over the local coffee house.  However, my favorite character is the much put-upon child prodigy, Bertie, who just wants to stop going to therapy, learning Italian, and wearing raspberry overalls, and start being a little boy.

The story of these interesting characters is told in a series of episodes which appeared as a serial in the Scotsman newspaper over several years.  Two more collections, Espresso Tales and Love over Scotland follow this one.

These stories are not sensational – they mostly deal with the daily social interactions of the characters.  While the book would never be described as heavy, it is far from trivial. I find that McCall Smith has a sensitive and insightful view of human behavior.  He is a highly skilled wordsmith.  The tone and language are just right, and his characters are delightful.  The denizens of 44 Scotland Street encounter challenging situations at times, but generally things work out in a satisfying and often surprising manner.  Listen to the CD, if possible – the mild Scots accent adds to the experience, and the narrator does a brilliant job expressing the voices of the different characters.

Alexander McCall Smith is better known as the author of The Number One Ladies Detective Agency and its several sequels.  These novels are a charming portrayal of a lady detective in a small town in Botswana.  All of his work that I’ve encountered has a very positive outlook on life. 

I like 44 Scotland Street so much that I made it one of my “Staff Picks” here at the Library.  I think you will enjoy it very much!  (And I hope to see you on Saturday, February 9th, at 10:30 a.m. for the Book Club discussion!)

Tina Maura Albee

The Book Goddess

P.S.  If I haven’t yet convinced you to read these books, how about this?  One of the scenes in Espresso Tales involves a nudist picnic in an Edinburgh rainstorm.  I’ll simply say that this should not be missed.