Book club February 2016 and Friday Finds

meme-FridayFinds-brown-boxedFRIDAY FINDS
at Books And a Beat

showcases the books you ‘found’
and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list…
whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever!
(they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!

1. The Bone House (Cab Bolton #1) , by Brian Freeman  (2011)
presented by B.

Hilary and Mark Bradley are trapped in a web of suspicion. Last year, accusations of a torrid affair with a student cost Mark his teaching job and made the young couple into outcasts in their remote island town off the Lake Michigan coast. Now another teenage girl is found dead on a deserted beach. . . and once again, Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt.
Hilary Bradley is determined to prove that Mark is innocent, but she’s on a lonely, dangerous quest. Even when she discovers that the murdered girl was witness to a horrific crime years earlier, the police are certain she’s throwing up a smoke screen to protect her husband. Only a quirky detective named Cab Bolton seems willing to believe Hilary’s story.
Hilary and Cab soon find that people in this community are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden—and to make sure Mark doesn’t get away with murder. And with each shocking revelation, even Hilary begins to wonder whether her husband is truly innocent. Freeman’s first stand-alone thriller since his Stride novels is a knockout.

2. Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases (Crime Files #8) , by Ann Rule (2004)
presented by J.

Dr. Anthony Pignataro was a cosmetic surgeon and a famed medical researcher whose flashy red Lamborghini and flamboyant lifestyle in western New York State suggested a highly successful career. But appearances, as this shocking insider account of Pignataro’s tailspin from physician to prisoner proves, can be deceiving — and, for the doctor’s wife, very nearly deadly. No one was safe if they got in his way. With scalpel, drugs, and arsenic, he betrayed every oath a physician makes — until his own schemes backfired. Now, the motivations of the classic sociopath are plumbed with chilling accuracy by Ann Rule. Along with other shocking true cases, this worldwide headline-making case will have you turning pages in disbelief that a trusted medical professional could sink to the depths of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement where even slow, deliberate murder is not seen for what it truly is: pure evil.

3. Murder on the Eiffel Tower , by Claude Izner (2008)
presented by S.

The brand-new, shiny Eiffel Tower is the pride and glory of the 1889 World Exposition. But one sunny afternoon, as visitors are crowding the viewing platforms, a woman collapses and dies on this great Paris landmark. Can a bee sting really be the cause of death? Or is there a more sinister explanation? Enter young bookseller Victor Legris. Present on the tower at the time of the incident, and appalled by the media coverage of the occurrence, he is determined to find out what actually happened. In this dazzling evocation of late nineteenth-century Paris, we follow Victor as his investigation takes him all over the city and he suspects an ever-changing list of possible perpetrators. Could mysterious Kenji Mori, his surrogate father and business partner at the bookstore Legris operates, be involved in the crime? Why are beautiful Russian illustrator Tasha and her colleagues at the newly launched sensationalist newspaper Passepartout always up-to-date in their reporting? And what will Legris do when the deaths begin to multiply and he is caught in a race against time?
Murder on the Eiffel Tower is painstakingly researched, an effortless evocation of the glorious City of Light, and an exciting opening to a promising series of eight books featuring Victor Legris.

4. The Age of Revolution (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples #3), by Winston S. Churchill (1957)
presented by P.

The third volume of Sir Winston Churchill’s classic history. During the long period of 1688 to 1815, three revolutions took place and all led to war between the British and the French. The English Revolution of 1688 made a new enemy of an old foe; the American Revolution of 1775 saw the United States finally declare independence; and the French Revolution of 1789 reverberated across Europe for years to come. Who better to capture the character and vigour of Wellington, Walpole, Nelson and Pitt than the Prime Minister who led Britain to victory in Europe in 1945?.

5.  In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner (2012)
presented by M.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.
Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.
Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience..

6. Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein, by Jonathan Cott (2013)
presented by J.

Leonard Bernstein was arguably the most highly esteemed, influential, and charismatic American classical music personality of the twentieth century. Conductor, composer, pianist, writer, educator, and human rights activist, Bernstein truly led a life of Byronic intensity–passionate, risk-taking, and convention-breaking.
In November 1989, just a year before his death, Bernstein invited writer Jonathan Cott to his country home in Fairfield, Connecticut for what turned out to be his last major interview–an unprecedented and astonishingly frank twelve-hour conversation. Now, in Dinner with Lenny, Cott provides a complete account of this remarkable dialogue in which Bernstein discourses with disarming frankness, humor, and intensity on matters musical, pedagogical, political, psychological, spiritual, and the unabashedly personal. Bernstein comes alive again, with vodka glass in hand, singing, humming, and making pointed comments on a wide array of topics, from popular music (“the Beatles were the best songwriters since Gershwin”), to great composers (“Wagner was always in a psychotic frenzy. He was a madman, a megalomaniac”), and politics (lamenting “the brainlessness, the mindlessness, the carelessness, and the heedlessness of the Reagans of the world”). And of course, Bernstein talks of conducting, advising students “to look at the score and make it come alive as if they were the composer. If you can do that, you’re a conductor and if you can’t, you’re not. If I don’t become Brahms or Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky when I’m conducting their works, then it won’t be a great performance.”
After Rolling Stone magazine published an abridged version of the conversation in 1990, the Chicago Tribune praised it as “an extraordinary interview” filled with “passion, wit, and acute analysis.” Studs Terkel called the interview “astonishing and revelatory.” Now, this full-length version provides the reader with a unique, you-are-there perspective on what it was like to converse with this gregarious, witty, candid, and inspiring American dynamo.

7.  Twin: A Memoir, by Allen Shawn (2010)
presented by W.

When Allen Shawn and his twin sister, Mary, were two, Mary began exhibiting signs of what would be diagnosed many years later as autism. Understanding Mary and making her life a happy one appeared to be impossible for the Shawns. At the age of eight, with almost no warning, her parents sent Mary to a residential treatment center. She never lived at home again.
Fifty years later, as he probed the sources of his anxieties in Wish I Could Be There, Shawn realized that his fate was inextricably linked to his sister’s, and that their natures were far from being different.
Twin highlights the difficulties American families coping with autism faced in the 1950s. Shawn also examines the secrets and family dramas as his father, William, became editor of The New Yorker. Twin reconstructs a parallel narrative for the two siblings, who experienced such divergent fates yet shared talents and proclivities. Wrenching, honest, understated, and poetic, Twin is at heart about the mystery of being inextricably bonded to someone who can never be truly understood.

8. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson (2015)
presented by P.

They were the most prominent American family of the twentieth century. The daughter they secreted away made all the difference.
Joe and Rose Kennedy’s strikingly beautiful daughter Rosemary attended exclusive schools, was presented as a debutante to the Queen of England, and traveled the world with her high-spirited sisters. And yet, Rosemary was intellectually disabled — a secret fiercely guarded by her powerful and glamorous family.  Major new sources — Rose Kennedy’s diaries and correspondence, school and doctors’ letters, and exclusive family interviews — bring Rosemary alive as a girl adored but left far behind by her competitive siblings. Kate Larson reveals both the sensitive care Rose and Joe gave to Rosemary and then — as the family’s standing reached an apex — the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly intractable in her early twenties. Finally, Larson illuminates Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three, and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret.
Rosemary delivers a profoundly moving coda: JFK visited Rosemary for the first time while campaigning in the Midwest; she had been living isolated in a Wisconsin institution for nearly twenty years. Only then did the siblings understand what had happened to Rosemary and bring her home for loving family visits. It was a reckoning that inspired them to direct attention to the plight of the disabled, transforming the lives of millions.

The Vatican Princess

9. The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia, by C.W. Gortner (Feb 2016)
presented by me

A gripping novel that follows the extraordinary life of young Lucrezia Borgia, the legendary Renaissance Pope Alexander’s beautiful daughter. Was she the heartless seductress of legend? Or merely an unsuspecting pawn in a familial web, forced to choose between loyalty and her own survival?
Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.
To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison.
International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare.
This is the dramatic, untold story of a papal princess who came of age in an era of savage intrigue and unparalleled splendor, and whose courage led her to overcome the fate imposed on her by her Borgia blood.

You can read my own review here.

 

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 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

8 titles for our March 2013 Book Club

Recap of our Block Book Club March 2013 meeting

 

Recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com].

 

1) The Russian Revolution,

by Marcel Liebman (1929-1986) (written in French in 1967,  published in the US in 1970) 389 p. The French subtitle translates as origins, steps, and meaning of the Bolshevik victory.  [presented by P]

I could not find an online synopsis. Paul said this was a bit biased, as it was written by a Communist writer. The author is not Russian, but Belgian. Paul thought that was a good presentation anyway of the 2 different Russian revolutions.

 

2) Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot

by Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard (2012) 325 p. [presented by B]

A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O’Reilly Factor recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader.  This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

3) 11/22/63

by Stephen King (2011) 849 p [presented by M]

If you had the chance to change the course of history, would you? Would the consequences be what you hoped?

Jake Epping 35 teaches high school English in Lisbon Falls, Maine, and cries reading the brain-damaged janitor’s story of childhood Halloween massacre by their drunken father. On his deathbed, pal Al divulges a secret portal to 1958 in his diner back pantry, and enlists Jake to prevent the 11/22/1963 Dallas assassination of American President John F. Kennedy. Under the alias George Amberson, our hero joins the cigarette-hazed full-flavored world of Elvis rock n roll, Negro discrimination, and freeway gas guzzlers without seat belts. Will Jake lurk in impoverished immigrant slums beside troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald, or share small-town friendliness with beautiful high school librarian Sadie Dunhill, the love of his life?

 

 

4) Pearl of China

by Anchee Min (2010) 278 p [presented by P]

It is the end of the nineteenth century and China is riding on the crest of great change, but for nine-year-old Willow, the only child of a destitute family in the small southern town of Chin-kiang, nothing ever seems to change. Until the day she meets Pearl, the eldest daughter of a zealous American missionary. Pearl is head-strong, independent and fiercely intelligent, and will grow up to be Pearl S Buck, the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning writer and humanitarian activist, but for now all Willow knows is that she has never met anyone like her in all her life. From the start the two are thick as thieves, but when the Boxer Rebellion rocks the nation, Pearl’s family is forced to leave China to flee religious persecution. As the twentieth century unfolds in all its turmoil, through right-wing military coups and Mao’s Red Revolution, through bad marriages and broken dreams, the two girls cling to their lifelong friendship across the sea.In this ambitious and moving new novel, Anchee Min, acclaimed author of Empress Orchid and Red Azalea, brings to life a courageous and passionate woman who loved the country of her childhood and who has been hailed in China as a modern heroine

 Painted Girls

5) The Painted Girls

by Cathy Marie Buchanan (Jan 2013) 357 p [presented by me]

A gripping novel set in Belle Époque Paris and inspired by the real-life model for Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and a notorious criminal trial of the era.

Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her
image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer
Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends
lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural,
and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.

 

Please see my review, with links to the art works presented in the book:

https://wordsandpeace.com/2013/03/05/i-love-france-45-book-review-the-painted-girls/

6) Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments

by Dominick Dunne (2002) 448 p [presented by R]

For more than two decades, Vanity Fair has published Dominick Dunne’s brilliant, revelatory chronicles of the most famous crimes, trials, and punishments of our time. Here, in one volume, are Dominick Dunne’s mesmerizing tales of justice denied and justice affirmed. Whether writing of Claus von Bülow’s romp through two trials; the Los Angeles media frenzy surrounding O.J. Simpson; the death by fire of multibillionaire banker Edmond Safra; or the Greenwich, Connecticut, murder of Martha Moxley and the indictment—decades later—of Michael Skakel, Dominick Dunne tells it honestly and tells it from his unique perspective. His search for the truth is relentless.

7) The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes (2011) 150 p [presented by J]

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is in middle age. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove

 

8) Catch Me (Detective D.D. Warren #6)

by Lisa Gardner (2012) 400 pages [presented by J]

In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner’s latest D.D. Warren thriller, the relentless Boston investigator must solve a coldly calculated murder–before it happens.
In four days, someone is going to kill me . . .
Detective D. D. Warren is hard to surprise. But a lone woman outside D.D.’s latest crime scene shocks her with a remarkable proposition: Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant believes she will be murdered in four days. And she wants Boston’s top detective to handle the death investigation.
It will be up close and personal. No evidence of forced entry, no sign of struggle.
Charlie tells a chilling story: Each year at 8:00 p.m. on January 21st, a woman has died. The victims have been childhood best friends from a small town in New Hampshire; the motive remains unknown. Now only one friend, Charlie, remains to count down her final hours.
But as D.D. quickly learns, Charlie Grant doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. By her own admission, the girl can outshoot, outfight, and outrun anyone in Boston. Which begs the question, is Charlie the next victim, or the perfect perpetrator? As D.D. tracks a vigilante gunman who is killing pedophiles in Boston, she must also delve into the murders of Charlie’s friends, racing to find answers before the next gruesome January 21 anniversary. Is Charlie truly in danger, or is she hiding a secret that may turn out to be the biggest threat of all?
In four days, someone is going to kill me. But the son of a bitch has gotta catch me first.

 

 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?