Wednesday, November 25, 2015

BookLite Book Discussion: The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

BookLite is one of our book clubs that meets offsite on the third Thursday of each month. We meet at The Still in Bartlett. Below are the notes of our most recent book discussion, where we read The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian.

Book Summary:
1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate's gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis' bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison. 1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case--a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood--Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Onto the discussion notes: 
6 liked, 0 disliked, and 5 were so-so

While 6 people liked the book, no one LOVED the book.

The killer: There was much speculation about who the killer was. Some thought that Serafina might have a split personality, and therefore be the killer. We felt that the murderer was such a minor blip in the story that no one considered he might be the killer. One member thought it would have been more interesting to reveal the killer at the beginning and go back and explain the motives. Another person liked that the killer wasn’t revealed until the end.

The love story: Some people didn’t feel the love between Cristina and Friedrich. We wanted the relationship to be even more developed.

Emotional connections: Overall, we didn’t feel emotionally connected to the characters. However, some of us felt connections with the older couple who were forced to sell their belongings. There was also an emotional connection to the Villa Chimera. The destruction made people sad.

Francesca: Did she have meaning in her life? We agreed that Francesca had no meaning in her life after her family died. She merely existed.

The ending: One of us asked: If Serafina was so concerned about the family, why didn’t she follow them from the cemetery? We didn’t really have a good answer for this.

The book overall: One member thought it was well written, because the violence was hard to read about, but not impossible. 

Our next discussion is on Thursday, December 17 at 7 p.m.  We'll discuss A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Consultant by Bentley Little

Horror author Bentley Little is back with his usual macabre twists; this time on corporate America.

The Consultant is the story of a software company in trouble. A merger has just gone down the drain, and the investors are worried.  The owner and Board of CompWare decide to hire a consultant to help them get back on track again, and BFG comes highly recommended. And Mr. Patoff,  their representative, seems at first to know his way around the corporate machine. Maybe too well?

Image result for consultant bentley littleCraig Horne, a senior staff member, is willing to go along with almost anything to save his job and the jobs of those that work for him. Maybe some of Mr. Patoff’s tactics seem a little, well, odd, but Craig urges everyone to be patient. Even when Mr. Patoff starts showing up at employees’ homes. Even when Mr. Patoff sends 300 emails in an evening. Even when his voicemails and memos are becoming increasingly inappropriate. And even when staff is forced on a CompWare retreat like no other retreat you could ever imagine.

Is the staff just fighting for their jobs? Or their lives?

This is classic Bentley Little.


Readalike author: Dean Koontz (in his early days)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cookbook Club - Bake It, Don't Fake It

This Sunday’s Cookbook Club baked recipes from Bake It, Don’t Fake It by Heather Bertinetti. Overall, this cookbook wasn’t a favorite. In fact, one member gave it an F for failure. The general consensus was that this cookbook isn’t for inexperienced bakers. Some recipes required longer baking times than were stated, and a few of the batters seemed to be too thin. Three members made the biscotti, and all agreed that the dough was too sticky, and almost unmanageable. Each batch of biscotti turned out ok, but the recipe was very difficult.

However, it wasn’t all bad. The scones didn’t look like they would turn out, but they did. The crepes were surprising in their versatility. They could be “doctored” in many different ways, and the member who made them preferred the savory options to the sweet options. One member was impressed with some of the never-before-seen recipes in this cookbook.

We tried the following recipes:
Chocolate Biscotti - 3 different bakers
Chocolate Cake - collapsed, so Brownies were made instead
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Dulce de Leche Powder Puff Cookies
Gorgonzola and Bacon Scones
Chocolate Chip Muffins
Pistachio Cupcakes
PB & J Whoopie Pies
Crepes - 2 different fillings: applesauce and cinnamon, and blackberry jam

Next book: Weeknights with Giada by Giada De Laurentiis

Copies can be picked up at the reference desk.
Next Meeting: Sunday, January 17 at 1 p.m.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I haven’t read a book that drew me in and entertained me so much in a long time. Despite being a novel, Girl Waits with Gun is based on facts. Constance Kopp and her sisters live a secluded life on a New Jersey farm in 1914. On a trip into town their buggy is struck by a car driven by drunken local businessman, Henry Kaufman. When Constance contacts Kaufman for payment to repair the buggy, she opens the door to a series of threatening incidents by Kaufman and his minions. While trying to simply get the money, she stumbles across dark secrets regarding Henry’s past and present as well as other family secrets. With an indomitable sense of rectitude and the aid of Sheriff Robert Heath, she follows the trails and unravels the evidence behind the mysteries. There is a surprising but true twist at the end to wrap up the story. 

Had I not known this to be based on historical fact, it would have been an entertaining story with far too many coincidences – but instead I found it a fascinating and irresistible reading experience.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive is one of those novels that you will either love or hate. You will love it if you are not reading it because you think it is a Gone Girl read-alike. You will love it if you can buy the fact that, like in the Peanuts comic strip, parents know nothing. You will love it if you have patience and can wait for the point many, many chapters into the story. Other than that - you may hate it. Many readers did.

I, however, loved it. Perhaps because it is a grown up teen angst novel? Not sure, but in any case, I thought it was readable and believable.

So here's the teaser: Ani FaNelli has it all - a glamorous job, beautiful clothes, and a great fiance. But Ani has something else - a secret. A BIG secret. And it's about to be aired on a national television show. Can she handle it?

If she could, it would not be much of a story now, would it? And this is a good story.


Read-alike authors: Sandra Brown (her early works) and Joy Fielding.

Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

FBI research analyst Emmy Dockery, the narrator for most of James Patterson and David Ellis’s Invisible, is convinced that there is something connecting a series of deadly fires going on around the country. Her sister Marta died in one of these blazes, and Emmy thinks foul play was involved due to a few unusual things she noticed at the scene of that particular fire. But is she simply seeing the work of a serial killer because her sister’s death has put her too close to the case? Is her boss at the FBI, Julius Dickinson, right in thinking that Emmy’s mental health is in need of help before she can return to work?

Invisible was hard for me to get into at first due to a number of stock characters. There were also just some puzzling characters, such as an FBI agent who goes by the nickname Books. He has left the Bureau at the beginning of Invisible and is running a bookstore but is asked to rejoin the FBI for this case. Strangely, Books never seems to think about his bookstore again. Maybe he had a good contingency plan in case of just such a situation arose. This book, however, is really more about the plot and less about the characters. Once the plot picked up I found myself getting more into the novel. While the characters are not that memorable, the many plot twists and surprises kept me guessing even close to the end of Invisible.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo

Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure of what you need to do and when you’re supposed to do it? I’ve been there. I picked up Listful Thinking to help me with those exact issues. What I found was a very helpful with book packed with great ideas. Rizzo writes in a very conversational tone, as if she’s speaking to a friend. She uses lists in every aspect of her life, and shows readers how they can do the same. Her lists range from packing lists to checklists for work, and lists for home. She maintains that keeping lists can help you concentrate on what’s really important instead of constantly thinking of what you have to get done.    

If you liked this book, you might also like Get It Done by Sam Bennett.