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January Picks

Kristine's Pick: Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko. This book was on the docket for Redbery Book's Chapter and Verse reading club. I admit that I approached it with something akin to dread. A kid's book. Set in 1935. On Alcatraz Island. I am happy to report that I was ALL WRONG. I was sucked into the story from page one...and found it fascinating...and delightful...and VERY readable! I would recommend this book to anyone! I especially loved how resourceful the kids were. Fun!

Kristine's Top Reads for 2009 - Wow, I did a lot of reading in 2009...and read a lot of books I liked. Some that I REALLY liked, in the order that I'm remembering them (vs. the order in which I read them or liked them) are: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson, Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Drawing in the Dust by Zoe Klein, The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin, (Mary Ann's recommendation!) Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris (my guilty pleasure) and The Long Fall by Walter Mosley, first in another series by a master of the "hard-boiled" genre.

Mary Ann's PickHomer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow.  This book is a fictional narrative about two real-life brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer.  They were the sons of a New York gynecologist and an opera singer.  Homer is our storyteller.  Homer gradually goes blind at an early age and relies on his brother Langley, for his care.  Langley is himself physically damaged from a mustard gas attack during WWI.   Following their parents death during a flu epidemic, the brothers become recluses in the family’s palatial Fifth Avenue townhouse.  Homer spends his days in the world of music and sounds.  Langley sinks into a “mad scientist” world where he collects all manner of objects discarded by others.  As the years pass, every room in their house is filled from floor to ceiling leaving narrow paths to navigate.  The real Collyer brothers died in 1947.  Homer starved to death because Langley had been crushed to death by a suitcase and bale of newspapers, just 10 feet away. 

Mary Ann’s Top Ten Reads for 2009
 In no particular order, they are Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin, Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, Wild Thing by Mike Harrison, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, K.I.S.S. Guide to Yoga by Shakta Kaur Khalsa, Hot House Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, and Flushed:  How the Plumber Saved Civilization by W. Hodding Carter.
 

Diane's Pick: Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West. Montana Indian Legend is that the Crow Indians were camped along the Yellowstone River.  The Warriors returning from a long hunting trip found the camp decimated by smallpox.  Their wives, mothers and children were all dead.  The Warriors were so overcome with grief they blinded their ponies and rode them off a sixty-foot cliff sure they would join their loved ones in another life.  As Coach Sam Pickett tells this story to rally his 6 man basketball team, he points out they probably went over the cliff shouting.    The courage and faith it would take for such an end.  They believed!  

Coach Sam moved to a small Montana town after a horrible loss to try to rebuild his life.  In Willow Creek he was the high school English teacher and also given the job of basketball coach.  The team has not won a game in over five years.  Due to the size of Willow Creek it takes all the boys in the high school plus the Norwegian exchange student to create a team.  This is Stanley Gordon West at his best.  I fell in love with every character in this book.  If you want a book to lift your spirits and warm your heart this is it!

 

October Picks

Kristine’s October pick:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson.(translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland.)  This follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is, in my opinion, even better than the original. Central character Lisbeth Salander is part-heroine, part-villain and completely fascinating. We were introduced to her world-class computer hacking skills…and violent tendencies…in the first book. We learn more about that, and the dark secrets that shadow her past, in this novel. Although she has broken off all contact with Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist who hired her and learned to value her skills, he works to prove her innocence when she is accused of murder. He knows she’s capable of it. He just doesn’t believe that she’s guilty this time. Don’t start this when you have to get up early the next morning! It’s an exciting read that’ll keep you turning pages until you reach the amazing conclusion.


A third novel in this series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is due out in June of 2010. (hope I can wait that long.) Sadly, it will be the last of them, as Larsson died of a heart attack shortly after delivering these outstanding manuscripts to his publisher!



Mary Ann’s October pick:
Drawing in the Dust by Zoe Klein.  Archaeologist Page Brookstone has spent 12 years unearthing bones on an ancient battleground in Israel.  She believes that bones speak, yet none have given her the message she seeks. She is intrigued by a young Arab couple, who want her to excavate under their house because their
house is haunted by the ghosts of two lovers.  Page takes on this excavation and soon a coffin is discovered with two entwined skeletons, plus an intact scroll.  The text of the scroll challenges the centuries old story of the prophet Jeremiah.  Page risks her life and reputation to bring the words of the scroll of Anitiya to the world.  An interesting, well written story.


Diane’s October pick:
ASTRID& VERONICA by Linda Olsson. This first novel is a very moving book about an unusual friendship between two women with different backgrounds and ages.  Veronica is a young writer that rents a house in a small village in Sweden.  She arrives in the middle of winter and plans to write a book about a recent tragedy in her life.  Astrid who is often described as “the neighborhood witch” lives next door.  Astrid does take notice of the young girl next door and when she does not see Veronica on her routine morning walk for several days she goes over to her house finding her sick.  Astrid cares for Veronica during this short illness and a friendship transpires. Astrid begins to join Veronica on her walks sharing information about the land and then into her painful past. Veronica finds that the book she came to write is suddenly not what she thought but writes an entirely different story.  This is a very beautiful story about the power of friendship.