Recap of our Block Book Club April 2014 meeting
Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].
1. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (1978) presented by J.
When Matthiessen went to Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and, possibly, to glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard, he undertook his five-week trek as winter snows were sweeping into the high passes. This is a radiant and deeply moving account of a “true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart.”
2. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1862) presented by P.
Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean – the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread – Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.
Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope – an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?
When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.
Back in London, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.
Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle’s first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Be Careful What You Wish For showcases the master storyteller’s talent as never before – when the Clifton and Barrington families march forward into the sixties, in this epic tale of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal.
Detective Alex Cross is a family man at heart–nothing matters more to him than his children, his grandmother, and his wife Bree. His love of his family is his anchor, and gives him the strength to confront evil in his work. One man knows this deeply, and uses Alex’s strength as a weapon against him. When the ones Cross loves are in danger, he will do anything to protect them. If he does anything to protect them, they will die.
5. The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve (1999) presented by J.
Until now, Kathryn Lyons’s life has been peaceful if unextraordinary: a satisfying job teaching high school in the New England mill town of her childhood; a picture-perfect home by the ocean; a precocious, independent-minded fifteen-year-old daughter; and a happy marriage whose occasional dull passages she attributes to the unavoidable deadening effect of time. As a pilot’s wife, Kathryn has learned to expect both intense exhilaration and long periods alone—but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock that lets her know her husband has died in a crash.
As Kathryn struggles with her grief, she descends into a maelstrom of publicity stirred up by the modern hunger for the details of tragedy. Even before the plane is located in waters off the Irish coast, the relentless focus on her husband’s life begins to bring a bizarre personal mystery into focus. Could there be any truth to the increasingly disturbing rumors that he had a secret? Fighting the impulse to protect herself and her daughter from the details of the crash and the mystery surrounding it, Kathryn sets out to learn who her husband really was—whatever that knowledge may cost. The search will lead her to shocking revelations, testing both the truth of her marriage and the limits of her ability to face it.
From the bestselling author of The Weight of Water, this taut, impassioned novel asks fundamental questions we all have about how well we can really know anyone—even those (or especially those) we love the most. Written with grace and controlled beauty, The Pilot’s Wife definitively places Anita Shreve among the ranks of the best novelists writing today.
The date is Saturday, April 2. Five April brides discover their wedding dresses have been stolen. One of the brides is private investigator Regan Reilly. Her wedding is in seven days. Regan Reilly and her fiance, Jack “no relation” Reilly — head of the NYPD Major Case Squad — are getting married! Regan had the perfect dress made by two young designers on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Arriving at the bridal salon to pick up her gown, Regan discovers the shop has been broken into, the designers bound and gagged, and wedding dresses for four of the April brides (her dress included) are missing. A fifth dress is in shreds on the floor. Even though it’s a week before her wedding, Regan gets on the case, and in the process she meets an unusual mix of brides and grooms-to-be, or — perhaps “not-to-be.”
Over at One Police Plaza, Regan’s bridegroom, Jack, is trying to solve a perplexing series of bank robberies. The robber, nicknamed “The Drip” by the NYPD because he always strikes during rainstorms, has been eluding the police for months. Jack is determined to crack the case before his upcoming nuptials.
Carol Higgins Clark fuses the two seemingly unrelated mysteries with an ingenious twist, taking readers from the streets of New York City, to the casinos of Atlantic City, and finally to that most popular wedding spot — the one and only Las Vegas. She weaves a web of mystery around a charming, humorous tale of five April brides and the trials and tribulations they face planning their weddings.
7. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (Feb 2014) presented by A.
The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
Former college football star and criminal defense attorney Jason Kolarich returns in this shocking thriller from the award-winning author of The Hidden Man.
Jason Kolarich has spent the past year struggling to recover from the horrific deaths of his wife and baby daughter.
On the night of their deaths, Kolarich was at the office, awaiting a call from a confidential informant named Ernesto Ramirez-a call that never came. Kolarich blames himself not only for the deaths of his wife and child, but for the informant’s murder as well. He can’t bring back his family, but he can find out who killed Ramirez and bring the killer to justice.
Unfortunately, Kolarich’s guns-blazing approach to justice lands him smack in the middle of an FBI probe of a deeply corrupt governor and his cronies. To avoid jail, Kolarich must enter a world of wiretaps, double-dealing, and kickbacks, where he soon discovers that the murder of his informant was only the tip of the iceberg.
This breach of trust runs up to the highest levels of power, and exposing it may drag Kolarich into the fight of his life.
9. The Shadow Queen, by Sandra Gulland (April 2014) presented by me
From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.
Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.
A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.
Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.
Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.
Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.
I also organize a giveaway to win 1 copy of this book. If you are interested, fill in this quick form before May 31 midnight: http://francebooktours.com/2014/05/01/may-books-of-the-month-giveaway/
HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?