Recap of our Block Book Club September 2014 meeting
Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].
1. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (2002)
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and Caleb’s Crossing—an unforgettable tale of a brave young woman during the plague in 17th century England
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna’s eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a “year of wonders.”
Inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England, Year of Wonders is a richly detailed evocation of a singular moment in history. Written with stunning emotional intelligence and introducing “an inspiring heroine” (The Wall Street Journal), Brooks blends love and learning, loss and renewal into a spellbinding and unforgettable read.
2. Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life by Andrew C. Isenberg (July 2014)
John began his review with a song, and finished by inviting everyone to sing with him.
Finalist for the 2014 Weber-Clements Book Prize for the Best Non-fiction Book on Southwestern America
In popular culture, Wyatt Earp is the hero of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, and a beacon of rough cowboy justice in the tumultuous American West. The subject of dozens of films, he has been invoked in battles against organized crime (in the 1930s), communism (in the 1950s), and al-Qaeda (after 2001).
Yet as the historian Andrew C. Isenberg reveals in Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, the Hollywood Earp is largely a fiction—one created by none other than Earp himself. The lawman played on-screen by Henry Fonda and Burt Lancaster is stubbornly duty-bound; in actuality, Earp led a life of impulsive lawbreaking and shifting identities. When he wasn’t wearing a badge, he was variously a thief, a brothel bouncer, a gambler, and a confidence man. As Isenberg writes, “He donned and shucked off roles readily, whipsawing between lawman and lawbreaker, and pursued his changing ambitions recklessly, with little thought to the cost to himself, and still less thought to the cost, even the deadly cost, to others.”
By 1900, Earp’s misdeeds had caught up with him: his involvement as a referee in a fixed heavyweight prizefight brought him national notoriety as a scoundrel. Stung by the press, Earp set out to rebuild his reputation. He spent his last decades in Los Angeles, where he befriended Western silent film actors and directors. Having tried and failed over the course of his life to invent a better future for himself, in the end he invented a better past. Isenberg argues that even though Earp, who died in 1929, did not live to see it, Hollywood’s embrace of him as a paragon of law and order was his greatest confidence game of all.
A searching account of the man and his enduring legend, and a book about our national fascination with extrajudicial violence, Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life is a resounding biography of a singular American figure.
3. I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman (2013)
From New York Times bestselling author, “one of America’s top cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly), and “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine, comes a new book of all original pieces on villains and villainy in popular culture.
Chuck Klosterman has walked into the darkness. As a child, he rooted for conventionally good characters like wide-eyed Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. But as Klosterman aged, his alliances shifted—first to Han Solo and then to Darth Vader. Vader was a hero who consciously embraced evil; Vader wanted to be bad. But what, exactly, was that supposed to mean? When we classify someone as a bad person, what are we really saying (and why are we so obsessed with saying it)? In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman questions the very nature of how modern people understand the culture of villainy. What was so Machiavellian about Machiavelli? Why don’t we see Batman the same way we see Bernhard Goetz? Who’s more worthy of our vitriol—Bill Clinton or Don Henley? What was O.J. Simpson’s second-worst decision? And why is Klosterman still obsessed with some kid he knew for one week in 1985?
Masterfully blending cultural analysis with self-interrogation and limitless imagination, I Wear the Black Hat delivers perceptive observations on the complexity of the anti-hero (seemingly the only kind of hero America still creates). I Wear the Black Hat is the rare example of serious criticism that’s instantly accessible and really, really funny. Klosterman is the only writer doing whatever it is he’s doing.
4.Crossing the Line (Paris Homicide #2) by Frédérique Molay, Anne Trager (September 2014)
It’s Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and raring to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide to an apparent accident to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? More suspense and mystery with the Paris Homicide team from the prizewinning author Frédérique Molay, the “French Michael Connelly”. This is the second in the prize-winning Paris Homicide series.
5.Guilty Wives by James Patterson (2012)
No husbands allowedOnly minutes after Abbie Elliot and her three best friends step off of a private helicopter, they enter the most luxurious, sumptuous, sensually pampering hotel they have ever been to. Their lavish presidential suite overlooks Monte Carlo, and they surrender: to the sun and pool, to the sashimi and sake, to the Bruno Paillard champagne. For four days they’re free to live someone else’s life. As the weekend moves into pulsating discos, high-stakes casinos, and beyond, Abbie is transported to the greatest pleasure and release she has ever known.
What happened last night?
In the morning’s harsh light, Abbie awakens on a yacht, surrounded by police. Something awful has happenedsomething impossible, unthinkable. Abbie, Winnie, Serena, and Bryah are arrested and accused of the foulest crime imaginable. And now the vacation of a lifetime becomes the fight of a lifetime & for survival. GUILTY WIVES is the ultimate indulgence, the kind of nonstop joy-ride of excess, friendship, betrayal, and danger that only James Patterson can create.
HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?