Maeve Binchy passed away yesterday at the age of 72. She was one of Ireland's most popular writers, best known for her depictions of small-town Irish life. source: CBC News Arts & Entertainment
Read the obituary in The Guardian.
Light a Penny Candle (1982)
The Lilac Bus (1984)
Firefly Summer (1987)
The Silver Wedding (1988)
Circle of Friends (1990)
The Copper Beech (1992)
The Glass Lake (1994)
Evening Class (1996)
Tara Road (1998)
Scarlet Feather (2000)
Nights of Rain and Stars (2004)
Whitethorn Woods (2006)
Heart and Soul (2008)
Minding Frankie (2010)
Coming in the autumn of 2012
A Week in Winter (2012)
* * *
Go to her Fantastic Fiction page for the complete list of her work, including collections of short stories.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Check out the New Releases page on the Regina Public Library website.
Here is one of the books mentioned in the New Fiction Releases:
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Summary: A researcher at a pharmaceutical company, Marina Singh journeys into the heart of the Amazonian delta to check on a field team that has been silent for two years--a dangerous assignment that forces Marina to confront the ghosts of her past.
Publisher's Weekly review:
Patchett (Bel Canto) is a master storyteller who has an entertaining habit of dropping ordinary people into extraordinary and exotic circumstances to see what they're made of. In this expansive page-turner, Marina Singh, a big pharma researcher, is sent by her married boss/lover to the deepest, darkest corner of the Amazon to investigate the death of her colleague, Anders Eckman, who had been dispatched to check on the progress of the incommunicado Dr. Annick Swenson, a rogue scientist on the cusp of developing a fertility drug that could rock the medical profession (and reap enormous profits). After arriving in Manaus, Marina travels into her own heart of darkness, finding Dr. Swenson's camp among the Lakashi, a gentle but enigmatic tribe whose women go on bearing children until the end of their lives. As Marina settles in, she goes native, losing everything she had held on to so dearly in her prescribed Midwestern life, shedding clothing, technology, old loves, and modern medicine in order to find herself. Patchett's fluid prose dissolves in the suspense of this out-there adventure, a juggernaut of a trip to the crossroads of science, ethics, and commerce that readers will hate to see end.
In the dark with Stephen King
Full Dark, No Stars
by Stephen King
... in the dark with Stephen King ... there ain't no place I'd rather be!!
If you really want to give the gift of the heebie-jeebies this holiday season, then you really want to make sure your loved one has a copy of Stephen King's four new novellas waiting for them under the Christmas tree.
The title really sets up the collection well -- make no mistake, these are dark tales, in places gruesome and hard to read. All of these stories feature ordinary characters forced to make awful choices. What choices! And this is why I love King -- he'll find the horror -- the real, true, white-knuckling, knee-buckling horror -- in the most ordinary of places amongst the most ordinary of people. His scariest stories are often the ones you know could really happen.
In the Afterword, King writes:
I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers. Making them think as they read is not my deal...if the tale is good enough and the characters vivid enough, thinking will supplant emotion [only] when the tale has been told and the book set aside.
If that is his goal, he succeeds brilliantly here because when in the fierce, unrelenting grip of these stories you are not thinking, but feeling -- terror and repulsion mostly. It's a visceral experience all right. In places I was sucked into an almost fugue state where I forgot to breathe, because I was in the story, as if it were happening to me rather than as a third-party voyeur safely removed from the action. These stories will haunt me, as will the choices contained therein.
1922: Beware the Conniving Man!!! This story has lots of gooshy parts and if you have a rat phobia, it may just land you in a straight jacket. What is it with King and abandoned wells? ::shiver:: So how far would you go to get your way? To maintain your life as you know it? When is someone worth more to you dead than alive? What I love most about this story is that it shows getting what you want often comes with too heavy a price tag -- it's the Monkey's Paw conundrum.
Big Driver: This was my least favourite of the four, if only because of the subject matter -- rape and vigilantism. It's a simple story, with a fairly predictable ending. Where the story's strength lies is in King's exploration of rape victim psychology. How Tess feels and reacts to what happens to her is how I imagine a lot of women think and feel in that situation. I hope I never have to find out. This one is a real nail-biter though, total edge of your seat stuff.
Fair Extension: The shortest of the four, but wicked and horrible. It's the classic Deal with the Devil scenario, but unlike you've ever seen it. What if all the things you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, suddenly befell them at your behest? I think the most shocking part of this story for me isn't that Dave Streeter makes the deal, but that he becomes so gleefully accepting of the fallout. Not once is there a twinge of guilt. What does Streeter do? Pull up a front row seat and watch it all unfold up close and personal.
A Good Marriage: While Lisey's Story will remain King's final, beautiful, haunting word on marriage, this novella shares some worthy insights too, both soft and jagged. You can know someone, but you can never really know them. Is it possible to keep a secret from the one person who knows you and loves you best? You bet. This is my favourite of the four novellas, and I think the perfect choice to end the book. It's archetypal horror - Pandora's Box and Bluebeard are mentioned in its pages and with good reason. Is it better to know, or not to know? When presented with a secret, do we snoop or let sleeping dogs lie? When we snoop, and what we find is so horrific, what is our moral duty? Legal responsibility? To our children? To our society? I don't know what I would do in Darcy Anderson's position. Even when she went poking into that box, my heart was pounding. I was truly terrified by what she was going to find, and since I was feeling and not thinking, I was totally shocked by what she did find. In the moments leading up to the revelation, I was in no position to guess. I had to keep remembering to breathe!!!
Fall of Giants
By Ken Follett
Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits...Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House...two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution...Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London...
These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic. (Modified Product Description taken from Amazon)
Wedding bells ring
Detective Alex Cross and Bree's wedding plans are put on hold when Alex is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington D.C.'s most corrupt: a dirty congressmen and an underhanded lobbyist. Next, the elusive gunman begins picking off other crooked politicians, sparking a blaze of theories--is the marksman a hero or a vigilante?
A murderer returns
The case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Alex and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, the murders continue. It becomes clear that they are the work of a professional who has detailed knowledge of his victims' movements--information that only a Washington insider could possess.
Caught in a lethal cross fire
As Alex contends with the sniper, Siegel, and the wedding, he receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. and will not relent until he has eliminated Cross and his family for good. With a supercharged blend of action, deception, and suspense, Cross Fire is James Patterson's most visceral and exciting Alex Cross novel ever. (Product Description)
Indulgence in Death
By J. D. Robb
NYPD lieutenant Eve Dallas might have been on holiday, but as she knows all too well, murder never takes a vacation. No sooner does Eve return from Ireland with her husband, Roarke, than she is back on the job looking into the death of a limousine driver who has been shot with a crossbow. The very next day, a high-priced licensed companion is stabbed to death in an amusement park horror house. The only connection between the two killings is the choice of weapons: the second involved an antique bayonet. As Eve and her team scramble to find more clues, Eve begins to think she is on the track of a thrill killer. When it comes to finding a killer, the smart money is always on Eve Dallas. The latest addictive addition to Robb’s long-running series features spiky humor; a cleverly constructed, adrenaline-raising plot; and the requisite amount of sexy passion between Eve and her soulmate, Roarke. (From Booklist)
By Sara Paretsky
Paretsky's superb 14th novel featuring PI V.I. Warshawski (after Hardball) delves into Chicago's avant-garde art scene. At the trendy Club Gouge, where Warshawski is keeping an eye on Petra, a young cousin who caused trouble in the previous book, performance artist Karen Buckley (aka the Body Artist) invites members of the audience to step on stage to paint her nude body. The intricate design that one woman paints on Karen's back provokes a violent outburst from Chad Vishneski, a troubled Iraqi war veteran. When two nights later, someone shoots the woman who upset Chad outside the club, Chad is the logical murder suspect. Hired by Chad's estranged parents to clear his name, Warshawski straddles a minefield that reaches from the Windy City's neighborhoods to the Gulf War battlefields. Scenes with her aging neighbor and a new love interest give a much needed balance to the serious plot. This strong outing shows why the tough, fiercely independent, dog-loving private detective continues to survive. (from Publisher's Weekly)
Review: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Shauna's Review: Tolstoy’s timeless observation that all families are unhappy in their own particular way holds true of course for Franzen’s latest take on the American family and that even larger social grouping, the country itself. This sprawling, cross generational, epic like examination of the nuclear family in disarray is reminiscent of his previous and much lauded work The Corrections and yet it is darker and more all encompassing in scope.
The Berglund’s of Minnesota are your typical not so typical American family that feel themselves crumbling under the weight of both desire and family and life obligations, freedom, both its’ absence and presence, being simultaneously their birthright and their bane. Yet whereas the family was written more as a “ cosm “ in The Corrections, it is definitely presented more as a microcosm in Freedom. So the teenage angst, the marital breakdowns, familial issues, addictions and the like mirror the wider crises in American culture, the war in Iraq, the economic meltdown, political backlash and so on.
Even though Time magazine heralded Freedom a literary masterpiece, the great American novel notwithstanding, I believe that the accolades are misplaced. It is certainly a great novel and well worth the read but one can think of other titles as deserving or even more deserving then his latest offering. Channeling Alice Munro…Enough said.
In some ways it seemed almost like I had read the story before with just external details changed and rearranged, the dark underside of the family and American life being reexamined once again, another foot note to post modernism it seems.
Anyhow there are certain things about Freedom that I really liked, the honest, authentic, believable characters, the social realism in which it was written and the change of voice throughout the novel as it produced a read that was both enjoyable and varied.
Freedom as theme and the exploration of how it works and mostly breaks down on all levels is interesting as it leads one out of the hinterland of the human condition and onto a much wider political discourse, like hints of The Tea Party to come, with both the American left and right howling at full decibel. How the novel will age with time remains to be seen, whether it will retain its’ relevancy and urgency or whether it will be relegated to the ranks of great nominal reads only is yet to be known. Still it is an entertaining and thought provoking read and can only be recommended for lovers of fine literature.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
After almost twenty book club meetings, the Dewey Dames are happy to announce that we've finally found a book that all our members enjoyed reading!
Our book club is a diverse group of present-day and former library staff, encompassing women in all stages of life from young marrieds to empty-nesters and grandparents. So, it is even more surprising that the first book we have all enthusiastically embraced has as its protagonist a ninety-three-year-old man in a nursing home.
Water for Elephants follows the life of Jacob Jankowski, beginning when he is a young man about to write his final examinations for veterinary school. When he is notified of the death of his parents in a car crash,Jacob responds to his grief by running off
and hopping on a train; he soon finds out he is not on just any train, but one that carries a traveling circus.
Once the circus owner learns that Jacob is a trained veterinarian, he puts him in charge of the menagerie.
The life of a circus worker is rough and violent, and the lowly workers are underpaid and underfed, although grateful for any employment during the Great Depression. Jacob enjoys somewhat better conditions than most of the employees, but he becomes concerned at the way both the animals and the workers are treated.
The book weaves between the past and the present, as Jacob recalls the saga of the animal stampede started by poorly-treated circus workers, and the complexities of his increasing involvement with the star of the horse and elephant show, who is married to the mentally unstable director of animal training.
Water for Elephants is a delightful combination of compelling characters, an interesting story arc, and deep historic research which creates the most memorable read so far for the Dewey Dames.
The lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Kingsolver's seventh novel is an epic story. It begins in Mexico in 1929. We meet Harrison Shepherd, a young boy born in the United States but living in Mexico with his Mexican mother, a vivacious but self-absorbed woman who moves from man to man, providing inconsistent parenting to her young son.
Harrison instead receives direction from a series of housekeepers, learning cooking and running errands. His life is altered forever when he meets Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Khalo. Taken in to their home and their confidence, Harrison observes their tempestuous relationship first hand, and develops a deep appreciation for their art and for Aztec history. The arrival of Russian political exile Lev Trotsky and his wife change the dynamic in the home and in the relationships, and provide another life-changing bend in Harrison's life journey.
The story is told in the form of Harrison's diary entries, letters, and newspaper stories - some real and some fictional - and by Violet Brown, a woman who became Harrison's stenograper and loyal friend when he returned to the United States following Trotsky's death. This return coincided with the emergence of McCarthyism, the Cold War, and the persecution of anyone suspeced of "un-American" activities. Even as he achieved great national popularity with the publication of historical novels set during the Aztec era, Harrison himself became a victim of the anti-communist movement.
Kingsolver's characters leap off the page. The development of Harrison's character, and of his relationships with Frida and Violet, are full of depth, humour and sensitivity. The depiction of place - the exotic and intoxicating landscape of Mexico and the suffocating and myopic milieu of small town America in the late 1940s and early 50s - feels authentic. I loved the snappy dialogue, the frequent "one-liners", the sympathetic and generous treatment of these flawed characters. The lacuna is a wonderful evocation of time and place, and should have a spot on your bedside table.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
There are so many great crime novels coming out of Scandinavia, and another has been added, this one a debut by Swedish author Lackberg.
In The Ice Princess, Erica Falck, a writer, has returned to her home town of Fjallbacka to attend the funeral of her parents, killed tragically in an automobile accident. She is there only a few days when she, along with an elderly local man, discovers the body of her childhood friend, Alexandra Wijkner. Alex has apparently commited suicide - her nude body was in a bathtub, and her wrists were slashed.
It has been many years since Erica and Alex were in contact. Something mysterious happened in Alex's life when she was ten year old, causing her to become withdrawn, and driving a wedge between the two friends. Erica decides to write a memoir about their childhoods together, hoping to discover some answers. She begins to interview members of Alex's family, including her husband and parents. It soon becomes evident that there are secrets and lies surrounding the past, and Erica begins to question whether the death was in fact a suicide.
Meanwhile, police detective Patrik Hedstrom is assigned to the case, and it doesn't take him long to find holes in the suicide theory.
What are her parents trying to hide? What is the connection between Alex's death and the disappearance of the heir of a wealthy family in the community. But it isn't until he teams up with Erica that the disturbing web of deceit is exposed.
Lackberg builds suspense slowly, drawing us in to a complex plot with plenty of twists and turns. The characters, though sometimes stereotyped, are believable. And some interesting subplots provide added interest, especially the growing romantic relationship between Erica and Patrik.
This novel won the 2008 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière (France) Best International Crime Novel Of The Year. Readers will look forward to meeting Erica and Patrick again in The Preacher , coming out later this spring.
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.
While not fitting in the traditional "mystery" genre, Kostova's new novel, after her very successful The Historian, certainly does contain a mystery, and a most fascinating one at that.
The book opens with a brief scene from late nineteeth century France - a woman, carrying a package in her arms, walks down a narrow village street in the snow. She is observed by a man in a window who is painting the scene, and who captures her lonely figure as she makes her way towards the last group of dwellings in the lane.
Cut to the present day. Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow receives a call from a colleague. An apparently deranged man has tried to attack a painting in the National Gallery in Washington with a knife, and Marlow is asked if he will take on the case. And so we begin a journey with Marlow, one that involves a painter of genius, a man who is silent and deeply troubled, and who has touched the lives of two beautiful women, one his wife and the other his mistress. Marlow's only clue is a bundle of 19th century French letters in the man's possession. What could have driven him to attempt to destroy a painting, and what kind of man would draw two women to an almost destructive love and loyalty? And what is the connection between this troubled soul and the yellowed and brittle letters exchanged between a French woman and her husband's uncle? As Marlow picks through the various threads of the painter's life, and decodes the meaning of the enigmatic letters, a mystery both disturbing and redeeming emerges, and the connection between the painter and the painted slowly takes shape.
Kostova's writing is evocative, and the characters of Marlow, his patient and the women he has loved are keenly drawn. The story is told in the voices of Marlow and these women, which allows us to be even more deeply involved in their stories. Also interspersed among these first-person accounts are translations of the letters which hold so many answers. This is a beautiful and satisfying novel, and highly recommended.
Great new fiction character!
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
In this debut title from English-born Simonson, we meet widower Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) and an assortment of other residents of the quaint village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the south of England. As one might expect, Major Pettigrew is the kind of old-fashioned, stiff-upper-lip Englishman who holds the moral high ground on just about every issue, and is not afraid to speak his mind. With a wickedly wry sense of humour and an opinionated approach to the dilemmas of modern life, he leads a quiet and decorous life. But the death of his brother Bertie leads to an unexpected encounter with a local Pakistani shopkeeper, Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a widow herself. There is an instant chemistry between them, and they are soon discussing Kipling over tea. But this is, after all, a socially conservative milieu, and Mrs. Ali's "foreigness" does not escape the judgements of others in the community. As their friendship intensifies, other complicating issues arise. Plans are underway for an annual function at the very class-conscious golf club. The Major's son and girlfriend solicit his help in finding a cottage in the neighbourhood. And Mrs. Ali's nephew, a young man who teeters on the edge of being a fundamentalist Muslim, and with whom she shares the running of the shop, is thrown off balance when a young woman and her son enter the life of the village.
Simonson deftly navigates the serious issues of aging, immigration and class while maintaining generosity for and humour in her characters. Readers who have enjoyed McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency novels and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society will hope the Major makes another appearance.
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