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Posts Tagged ‘Jacqueline Winspear’

 

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Well, March arrived in Vermont like a lion and honestly appears to be leaving as one as well. The political news is still divisive and disturbing. And, for a variety of reasons, both Book Jam Lisas have been reading a lot of serious books. So to break out a bit, today we review a bunch of mysteries/thrillers in the sincere hope that reading some “just for fun” books will help us all smile more often as March becomes April. Enjoy!

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August Snow Cover ImageAugust Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Feb 2017) – I so hope that in real life there is someone like August Snow – a half black/half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and neighborhood  loyalty – looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit weaves throughout the narrative, and Mr. Jones’s descriptions of Detroit’s decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, Mr. Snow makes many mistakes, and wow, by the end of this tale, his body count is way too high for my tastes. However, few books take place in today’s Detroit; please enjoy this one! ~ Lisa Christie

The Bat Cover ImageThe Bat by Jo Nesbo (2013) – Somehow, we missed the first Detective Harry Hole mystery. Luckily, we rectified that last week. What fun!  Even if you have enjoyed the other novels in this detective series already, going back to the first mystery and watching him solve the murder of a lovely Norwegian ex-pat living Down Under, is somehow the perfect antidote for healthcare news. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

IQ Cover ImageIQ by Joe Ide (2017) – This debut features a great protagonist and a great sidekick whose incredibly complicated lives combine for a great plot.  Set in modern day LA and following a man whose amazing brain lay dormant for awhile but has awakened as a solver of others’ problems — a la Sherlock Holmes (who the author recognizes in this acknowledgements), this book marks the start of a great series. We are ready for book two and thank Carin Pratt for pointing us in the direction of Mr. Ide. ~ Lisa Christie 

Closed Casket: A New Hercule Poirot Mystery Cover ImageClosed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie (2017) – Agatha Christie writes again. OK, so someone else writes for her, but the oh so British atmosphere and Hercule Poirot are pretty much the same. Have fun! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

The Whistler Cover ImageThe Whistler by John Grisham (2016) – Sometimes I just need the comfort of a reliable storyteller, and with Mr. Grisham I almost always get that. But, I always get a tale of people trying to do the right thing in spite of the odds against them. And honestly in 2017, I really, really need more of that. So, read this for a page-turner, but then think about it as a way to begin working for and fighting for what you believe is important. We can all use more of that lately. (Oh yes, the plot — in this Grisham Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, gets in trouble when taking on corruption on the Florida bench.) ~ Lisa Christie 

FC9780312426132The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (2006). Take a trip back in time to Istanbul  circa 1836 to meet intriguing Investigator Yashim. Filed under the category of “How The Heck Did We Miss This Book?”, this mystery (the first in a  series) is full of obscure historical references, complex characters, and wonderful food imagery. The reader is transported back to 19th century Ottoman Empire and can truly feel her/himself walking by the donkey carts and spice vendors of Istanbul while she/he works alongside Yashim to solve a mystery involving a series of murders that threaten the sultan’s political court. Besides being a talented detective, Yashim is also an excellent cook. He is also a eunich. Utterly fascinating, this book is perfect for history buffs, fans of literary mysteries, or the traveler looking for the perfect book to take on an upcoming trip to Turkey. If your curious about the cookbook that Jason Goodwin published in 2016, listen here: Yashim Cooks Istanbul ~ ~ Lisa Cadow  

In This Grave Hour Cover ImageIn This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear (2017) – Another Maisie Dobbs mystery finds Maisie on a case involving Belgium refugees just as Prime Minister Chamberlin declares Britian at war with Germany. Ms. Winspear has definitely gotten Maisie out of her “please get on with it already” phase of incredible self-analysis to again using her honed introspection to help others. Enjoy this look at the UK as WWII begins. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

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As a very special treat, we asked some of our favorite readers – the superb booksellers of the Norwich Bookstore – to choose just ONE book that they believe every one needs to read RIGHT NOW. (The “just one book” part was difficult, and you will see that one of them failed completely.)

We love the list their picks generated, and think you will as well (at least we hope so). So, now that Memorial Day has ended, go ahead — start your summer reading. (So you know a bit more about the people guiding these selections, the selectors’ bios follow this list.)

This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary — I have loved the other three books that this author/illustrator duo created—but I fell head over heels for this one. I don’t know if it was seeing Sadie in a box, on a boat, hammering, wearing a fox mask, sleeping in a blanket fort or looking for her wings that felt most like a connection to my younger self. I do know that reading the lines – “A perfect day is spent with friends. Some of them live on her street, and some of them live in the pages of a book” – made me want to give a copy to every family I know. ~ Picked by Beth

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Towes — This award-winning book by Canadian author Miriam Toews is at the same time very funny and and heartbreaking.  It’s the tale of two sisters, one a renowned pianist.  This is a story about suicide, but also about resilience, the use of biting wit as a coping device, and love. Beautifully written with an original voice you won’t forget.  Remarkable. ~ Picked by Carin

The ONE best thing… is when I walk into a bookstore and find not just one but THREE of my favorite mystery writers with new titles on the shelves.  Just in time for decadent sunny afternoons on the porch, (of which admittedly I have relatively few with my three young boys running around), I have the great fortune to pass the time with my dear literary friends:  Bruno, Chief of Police; Maisie Dobbs; and Mary Russel & Sherlock Holmes.  With the rugged Bruno I plunge into international intrigue and unravel ethnic tensions in the south of France; with the introspective and observant Maisie, (who shockingly drinks more wine and coffee in this edition rather than solid English tea!), I journey to Gibraltar to discover a world of spies and hidden identities; and with the dynamic Russel & Homes I find myself immersed in the world of Japanese samurai and ninjas, touched with the simple elegance of haiku. All of these new titles add depth and pleasure to three series that I have grown to love. If you have been eagerly awaiting new installments, then your wait is over!  However,  if you’ve yet to discover these series, go out and start with the first of each.  I envy the discovery, and friendship, that awaits you. ~ Picked by Katie

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman — A haunting and beautiful portrait of a bright, artistic fifteen-year-old boy and his experience with schizophrenia. Magically fantastical and hauntingly realistic scenes carry the reader into this scary and all-to-common other world. Based on his son’s story, Shusterman gives voice to amazing internal and external dialogues. Reading this novel helped me form a deeper understanding of this condition that affects many. ~ picked by Liza

The Book of Aron by Jim Shephard – If you can stomach a bit of heartbreak and devastation in your spring/summer reading, Shepard’s book is worth it. Within the first few pages, I fell in love with little Aron despite (or maybe because of) his troubled mind. He’s fragile and yet has grit, which he will need at Treblinka. ~ picked by Meghan

A Slant Of Light by Jeffrey Lent — This is a stunningly beautiful book; both in the writing and the narrative. For this his newest novel Lent returns to  the Civil War of his very popular “In The Fall”. A farmer arrives home from the war to find his wife gone off with his hired hand and at the end of the day two people are killed. and another lies badly injured. While this may not sound like a plot that makes you want to read the book, do not hesitate. This is a book of luminosity rarely found in fiction these days. Lent’s use of language will astonish you and at the end, you will be sad to turn the last page. ~ picked by Penny

The Plover by Brian Doyle — This delightful book is reminiscent of The Life of Pi.  Other reviewers are reminded of the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or the passion of Walt Whitman. It is a novel filled with adventure and misadventure, and surprising and endearing, even dangerous, moments that make it a page turner and a joy to read. Doyle also invites the reader to deliberate on the philosophical angles of a life’s journey: Declan O’Donnell is done with humanity and is setting off  into the great blue sea world in his patch-worked boat, The Plover, to pursue solitude and a life apart.  However, the Universe has other plans. Enter characters and personalities, both human and animal, that interrupt his solace and eventually, completely change his course. The telling is sometimes a poetic ramble, often humorous, but always moving, unpredictably like the tides. ~ picked by Sara

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Bios of our superb selectors

  • Beth — Beth Reynolds has been a bookseller for 20-plus years, 12 of them at the Norwich Bookstore. She spends her weeks in the children’s section of the Norwich Public Library, but on Saturdays you can find her here, helping a child find the perfect birthday present or recommending books to adults looking to get lost in a good read.
  • Carin – Carin Pratt moved to Strafford, Vermont, three years ago from Washington D.C. where she worked at CBS News for 27 years, the last 20 as Executive Producer of Face the Nation. Her husband, John Echeverria, is a professor at Vermont Law School, and she has two grown sons. She likes to hike, cook, garden, bike, horseback ride. She reads a lot.
  • Katie – Katie Kitchel has rejoined the Norwich Bookstore staff on a very part-time basis as she has her hands full with three young boys. She is a Dartmouth graduate, a trained mediator, and lives with her husband Davis here in Norwich.
  • Liza – Liza Bernard has had many careers including weaver, cookbook writer, art show director, graphic designer, and bookseller. All of these taught her the different skills needed to do the many things necessary to keep the Norwich Bookstore afloat. She lives in Pomfret with husband Brian and daughter Rachel (when she is home from college).
  • Meghan – The newest member of the Norwich Bookstore team, Meghan Oliver has taken on an eclectic list of responsibilities, including the store’s PR and working bookstore events. Her free time is spent reading, birding and tending to her needy beagle.
  • Penny – Penny McConnel has worked in bookstores for over 30 years. She lives in Norwich with her husband, Jim, and Penny spends as much time as she can reading, gardening, spending time with Jim, and learning Italian.
  • Sara – An eclectic reader, fabulous dresser and a fun mom, Sara Trimmer has been selling books to readers for years.

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THANK YOU and HAPPY SUMMER READING!

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Halloween is right around the corner, and it seems as if many people are thinking spooky thoughts or at least pondering perfect costumes. We thought we would take a few minutes during this spookiest of weeks to highlight some thrilling books for you to read.  As many are complete page-turners, and a few slightly haunting, you might want to find a nightlight to use as you enjoy them.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014) – A collection by Hillary Mantel is probably not the most obvious choice for a post about thrillers. But trust us, many of the short stories contained in this collection are down right haunting, especially as they are portrayed in such a matter-of-fact, plausible manner. From the title story about a man trapped in his flat with a would-be assassin of Prime Minister Thatcher, to a shorter tale about the end of a marriage, to a story of two pre-teen girls spying on a mysterious form, Ms. Mantel’s narrators are a bit warped and the every day situations they encounter unusually framed. As an NPR reviewer wrote “Every other story here makes a permanent dent in a reader’s consciousness because of Mantel’s striking language and plots twists, as well as the Twilight Zone-type mood she summons up.” And, if you have not yet read anything by Ms. Mantel, these stories provide a great excuse to try her work. The New York Times wrote in their review of this collection, “Over the past decade or two, Mantel has made a name for herself — no other way to put it — as one of the indispensable writers of fiction in English.” That description itself provides a very good reason to try anything Ms. Mantel pens. But the bonus for reading this particular book — it is actually a superb and eclectic mix of stories to enjoy. ~ Lisa Christie

10161216Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: Maggie Hope Mystery #1 by Susan Elia MacNeal (2012) – If you’re a fan of the Maisie Dobbs‘ series by author Jacqueline Winspear, this book is for you.  Set in London in 1940, readers join brainy Maggie Hope who is working below her pay grade as —  you guessed it! — Winston Churchill’s Secretary. Having graduated from the top of her class at her American college with a talent for mathematics, she is under-utilized scribing speeches. However, her work in the highest level of government brings her right up against the people making history and possibly ensnared in a plot to bring  down the empire. This mystery has a little bit of everything: psychological intrigue, budding romance, a fascinating historical setting, unravelling family secrets, and a strong and admirable heroine. Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

Cukoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling (2012) – This fun mystery provides an excuse to keep reading long past your bedtime. Ripped straight from today’s headlines with unemployed Iraq war veterans and tabloid gossip, this book compellingly portrays life in modern London through the eyes of two great main characters. You will so like both the main detective Cormoran Strike —  a wounded Iraq War veteran struggling to make a living as a private investigator, and his superb assistant Robin — a young woman searching for a career. You might also feel as if Ms. Rowling is lashing out a bit at her own fame, and very definitely at the culture of today’s tabloids throughout this page-turning tale.  ~ Lisa Christie

BONUS PICK – 11-22-63 by Stephen King (2011) – What would a post about thrillers/mysteries be without a Stephen King entry? Probably not very complete. New England’s favorite thriller author offers a bit of time travel with this one —  to Dallas on 11/22/6 when three shots ring out, and President Kennedy is dead. The owner of a Maine diner enlists Jake, a high school English teacher, to prevent the Kennedy assassination by taking a portal in the diner’s storeroom back to the 1960s. Finding himself in Texas, Jake begins a new life that eventually leads to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. Does he change history or not? That is a question I can not yet answer as I could not finish this page-turner in time for this post. But I look forward to finding out. Since however, this book has been described by NPR as Mr. King’s “most ambitious and accomplished”, I feel OK recommending a book I have not quite finished. ~ Lisa Christie

 

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Many of Book Jam readers and many of our friends are suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal pains.  While unfortunately we can’t write and film any new installments for you, what we can do is to suggest Edwardian tales to tide people over until the cast of this popular BBC series returns. We have looked high and low and started many books that were well… just bad.  Then, we thought of a few gems.   Ta Ta and Tally ho! Keep Calm and Carry On. Or perhaps in this instance we should say Keep Calm and Read On!  (And, yes historians among you, some of the tales we selected do not cleanly fit in the definition of Edwardian – “covering the reign of King Edward the VII, 1901 to 1910” – but we hope you will allow us some poetic license, so to speak.)

 The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (2002) – My search for a good British Edwardian novel meant the other Lisa of this blog and our town’s superb children’s librarian both put this book in my hands.  While I sometimes disagree with their individual recommendations, when they both say “you must read this book”, I trust that wholeheartedly.  And they were right – I love this book.  You would think authors would have run out of ways to tell WWI and WWII stories by now; and then, a book like this proves you wrong.  Its slimness masks profound musings on writing, love and life.  Pick it up and enjoy your time in the gardens of a British estate just as it has been repurposed as a garden for the war effort.  You will meet the young British women/girls sent there to tend the estate, and a group of Canadians soldiers truly just hanging around waiting to be sent to battle. ~ Lisa Christie   

Now, a few more words about The Lost Garden from Lisa Cadow, as she has more to say:  Humphrey’s other job as a poet really shows in this small masterpiece about World War II. For those going through Downton Abbey withdrawal, this might be the perfect book for you. It’s set at an English country estate that has been given over to the war effort. And, its main character, horticulturist Gwen, is there to help the Women’s Land Army  plant potatoes for the people of England. Her time there becomes about much more than potatoes, and the reader is led to hidden gardens, into the world of the great British manor in its heyday, through an encyclopedia of roses, and on a journey of self-discovery.

9780452297647The House at Tyneford  by Natasha Solomons (2011). I read this book several years back but still remember the strong impressions it left me of life in an English Manor House on the eve of World War II. The hustle and bustle of preparing for weekend guests, silver polishing, and the daily setting of the table is really brought to life, as are the politics and complexity of the relationships, both “upstairs and downstairs”, in the house. The House at Tyneford also examines the effect back-to-back world wars had on both the British economy and psyche.  This is the story of nineteen year old Elise Landau who is forced to leave Vienna and her beloved family to escape the persecution of Jews at the outset of the second World War. Though she is educated and her parents are well-to-do, she has no other choice but to relocate as a parlor maid in the English countryside. Thus begins a tale of change, challenge, heartbreak as the reader watches Elise tap into inner strengths and resiliency she never knew she had.  A wonderful read.   Note: We reviewed another one of Solomon’s excellent books on the Book Jam, Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English which also examines British class issues but many decades later. ~Lisa Cadow

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear (2003 to 2012) – We have posted about Maisie before And, while we both feel the last book was a bit overwrought, overall this series is satisfying and delivers unique looks at WWI England. The main character, Maisie is a former front line nurse attempting to support herself as an unmarried woman after the war ends. As a former “downstairs” maid to a wealthy family she is determined not to return to serving a house and finds unique work as a detective of sorts.  To find our earlier reviews of Ms. Winspear’s work, put “Maisie Dobbs” in the search block of The Book Jam Blog (located in the upper right hand side). ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Listen now to NPL live classic books show – July 2010  or download here NPL classic books.

A mysterious classic

On July 12th, we had a lovely evening and a lively discussion with guests at the Norwich Public Library. This was our first jam cast in front of a live audience, and we must say audience participation leads the conversation in all sorts of interesting and thought-provoking directions.

The podcast lasted a record fifty-one minutes and covered lots of “classic” ground from Robert Louis Stevenson’s  Kidnapped to The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and then onto Hermon Wouk’s Caine Mutiny and Anya Seton’s Katherine and The Winthrop Woman. All this in just the first fifteen minutes.

A classic woman

While you have to listen to the jamcast to determine whether we are right, we believe most of the books mentioned were memorable because they were either superb adventures, coming of age stories or provided a distinctly atmospheric experience for the reader. Other books we discussed include:

Classic Truman

Great adventures: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Brave Companions, Truman and John Adams by David McCullough.

Atmospheric excursions: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, For Whom the Bell Tolls and the Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, Jane Austen’s works, Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.

Coming of Age Stories: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings, Heidi by Spyri, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Bluest Eye, (and then Zula, Beloved) by Toni Morrison.

There even ensued a spirited discussion of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (two fans/two passionate non-fans) and there was even a reference to the book Toilets of the World in connection with Rand’s The Fountainhead. You’ll have to listen to the actual jamcast to find out why and how.

We also mentioned Girl in Translation; Worst Case Scenarios Adventure GuideConfronting Collapse, The Tipping Point, Bill McKibben’s works and Collapse by Jared Diamond.

THANK YOU to our three guests from Norwich – Mary, Jody, and Chris and Roy from neighboring Wilder.  Thank you to the Norwich Public Library for the space, the cookies and lemonade and to Ms. Beth who kept the library open when we ran late.

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