Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Still Here

I am still here, folks.  Just extremely busy this time of year--working in retail pretty much takes the wind out of your sails during November, December, and yes--January.  

I'm still reading, and I will post a review on here soon of books that crossed my radar in 2011.  Some I've read, others are still on the to be read list.

In the meantime, enjoy those cold winter nights curled up with a good book and maybe a hot toddy--or tea if you want to stay awake to finish your book.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Reservoir: My Thoughts Are In A Whirl!

I just finished The Reservoir last night, and it is one of those books where you are constantly second guessing yourself.  Did he do it, or didn't he?  

I must confess that when I first started this novel, I was convinced Tommie did murder Lillian.  Told from his perspective, he takes great pains to cover his tracks, remain calm, and not give anything away.  So as a reader, you are lead into this story believing he's got something to hide.

As the story progresses, Lillian is identified, and rumors swirl about a young man who was meeting her at her hotel the night of her death.  Lillian's father, a rather horrid man (who is accused by more than one person of sexually abusing Lillian) points the finger at Tommie, and does everything he can to get Tommie arrested.  Who's the father of Lillian's unborn child?  And why did she end up in the reservoir?  

That this novel was based on an actual sensational murder case in Richmond, Virginia in 1885 gives this story  an unusual slant.  That we can search the internet and find articles and blogs about this murder is incredible.  But did Tommie do it?  We will never know.  And Tommie's character doesn't help but muddy the waters. At first, I thought he did it.  Then, after the guilty verdict, he tells his brother what really happened--that Lillian wanted to kill herself, and slipped on the snow, hit her head, and fell into the reservoir.  But then a bit later, he tells a different tale--that maybe he did hit her in the head, and push her into the reservoir.  By the end of the novel, you have to decide for yourself whether an innocent man was put to death, or if he was guilty.  I can't say for sure what I think is the truth, and that's what makes this such a fascinating story.  With today's forensic technology, would anything new have been discovered?   Tests certainly would have been done to see if the baby was Tommie's.  That would have been motive.  Who knows?  

If you haven't read The Reservoir, I recommend it.  It's a great courtroom drama; a tale of human desires, needs, and desperation.  And most of all, it's about making choices that will ripple through not only your life, but history.  I can see why the author became so fascinated with this murder case.  

Next week I will be posting a few titles that are in my "to be read" pile, along with some discussion questions for reading groups--and what makes each title a great reading group choice!  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading For The Next Two Months And Beyond!

I'm currently reading The Reservoir, and enjoying it.  You know from the start who the killer is, and follow along the winding road towards the final outcome.  I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of this week!

Anyway, I'm either picking terrible books, or this blog has gone the way most book clubs go--great enthusiasm at the beginning, then a gradual decline in participants to where only a very few still read the books each month! I guess I thought if no one actually had to drive anywhere to meet, it would be more successful.  Take the pressure off people to make time for a specific time and date and place to be.  Sadly, I was wrong.  
  I am the sort of reader who will make time to read a book--especially if I feel that it's something I've committed to--I guess that's still a holdover from college days.  After all, I did read Wolf Hall last year, and it just about killed me.  Uggh.  For a book club.  And guess what?  No one else finished it.  But I'm glad I did--enough to know I can speak about it to other people who may be interested in it, and have some time to kill--it's a doozy.  

So with this in mind, I am shaking off my disappointment, and starting in November I will be posting a book or two a month that I'm reading, and adding some questions/author information/background on the book, along with my view of the book.  It's still a book club--if anyone else wants to read along with me, please join in and comment on my posts.  I won't end this blog, since I do enjoy it.  I may be reading some fun stuff, some teen stuff; who knows?  

I hope you'll join me.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Article About The Reservoir Murder

I am going to start reading The Reservoir this week, so I've been doing some internet research on the actual murder that this novel is based upon.  Here's a newspaper article published in 1885--this murder was a sensation in Virginia at the time.  Can you imagine the circus this would have been if they had the media outlets we have today?

Murder in Virginia

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's October! Time to Read The Reservoir

It's October, and that means another new book for us to read.  This month's pick is The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson.  A young woman's body is found in a reservoir in 1885 in Richmond, Virginia.  Was it a suicide or a murder?  Who is the young woman?  Part mystery, part thriller, and based on a true murder case, this one has received great reviews and the "unputdownable"  label from quite a few reviewers.  I can't wait to dig in!  

Start your reading--I will announce the November pick sometime this week.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Few Notes On Amaryllis in Blueberry

Wow.  That was one heck of a story.  At first I had a difficult time settling into the story of the Slepy family.  Seena was so vague to me, and it took me a little bit to get the girls all straight.  I found Yllis a fascinating character; so physically different from her sisters and also given the gift of synesthesia.  It does get her into trouble sometimes, though.  And in 1976, no one really understood it. She seemed like the wise old woman of the story, even though she was the youngest one in the family.

I felt the family's trip to Africa was both a disaster and a revelation for each one of them, particularly Seena and Mary Grace.  Seena's reaction to Africa, the people, and the lack of education for the girls in the village reflects what some  people would feel upon first impression--especially those of us who come from a country where we take clean running water for granted.  And her awareness that she was a racist just by thinking the Africans were so much worse off than she was put it into perspective for me--some people are so obvious in their reactions to different cultures and peoples that it's clear how they feel; sometimes we shock ourselves when we realize what we think is simply our view of a culture is really an aspect of prejudice.  Material goods and things are not what makes a life. Mary Grace literally strips everything from herself in order to find the true Mary Grace.  She is reborn in Africa.  I found her "rebirth" to be one of the best parts of this novel.

 The Africans in this novel were much more in touch with life and death; they were happier even celebrating the funeral of a young girl.  Life is life, and death comes when it comes.  I think Seena realizes that in Africa and it turns her around.  Her discussions with the Queen are an enlightenment to her attitude and "wake" her up.  Can she be the mother she needs to be?

So what about the trial?  What did you think?  Were you shocked at the end, when you realize who killed Dick and why?  

Dick.  An interesting character.  Someone you despise, yet reading from his perspective, you understand what a lost soul he is, coming from a family that did not love him when he needed it.  His desperation at wanting someone to love him.  One of the most impactful chapters I read was Dick's view of his funeral.  His ability to find forgiveness and understand his feelings for Seena, and most especially, his total love for Yllis was so touching.  His spirit "falls into them", a drop for each woman in his life.  What a brilliant way of describing keeping someone close when they are gone.  I was very satisfied at the journey Dick takes spiritually--even though it takes dying to do it.

So.  This is a book that requires reflection.  It was tough for me to get through, and after finishing it yesterday, I am glad I read it.  It was not what I expected--I'm not sure what I expected, really.  Certainly a plot line that was new to me.

October's pick is The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson.  I will be announcing November's pick next week, and I think we will skip December due to the holiday craziness.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amaryllis in Blueberry: A Few Questions

I haven't started Amaryllis in Blueberry just yet, but after reading an interview with the author, I am so intrigued with this novel I may just have to start it today!  Here are a few questions I found on the Simon & Schuster website for book club questions and interviews with the author:


Amaryllis in Blueberry takes place in Michigan and West Africa. What personal significance do these landscapes have for you? What appealed to you about using two such dramatically different locations in the novel?

I grew up in Michigan and continue to spend time there every summer. Although I no longer live in Michigan year-round, it will always be home to me at some level. Michigan represents family to me. It represents summers on the lake. It represents holidays. While the characters in Amaryllis in Blueberry are purely fictional, the Danish Landing is very real. My family has owned property on the Danish Landing for over a hundred years. Nearly all of my most poignant childhood memories take place on the Danish Landing. I remember my grandmother standing at the stove flipping blueberry pancakes. I remember exploring the Old Trail. The Danish Landing gave me my first campfire, my first sunburn, my first leech! To the degree any place on earth makes me feel grounded, the Danish Landing does. I imagine Yllis would find part of my soul on the Danish Landing.

And I imagine she'd find another part of my soul in West Africa. I worked for a short time in West Africa during my twenties, and I continue to have ties to West Africa through my nonprofit work. To the degree the Danish Landing is my place of peace, West Africa is my place of prodding. West Africa nudges me, with its energy and rituals, its colors and smells. As a twenty-something living in West Africa, I did not feel peaceful, but I sure felt alive. I did not feel grounded; I felt flung from Addae's slingshot. And when I landed, I had a different perspective, one that was far more nuanced. I was drawn to writing about these two places because on the surface they are so very different, but beneath the surface of each, there's another world. And these beneath-the-surface worlds are surprising—and surprisingly similar in many ways.

Why did you decide to begin the narrative with The End, rather than have the story unfold along a more linear time line?

I find perspective fascinating. What if we could begin at The End? Or what if we could take the knowledge of The End and revisit our lives? Would we see ourselves differently? Would we see our lives differently? Would we become different people altogether—are we merely the sum of our choices? Or are we who we are at our core, indelible at some level no matter our choices? Would Seena or Yllis, Tessa or Mary Catherine, Grace or Dick or Clara or Heimdall be the same person to the reader if I had started at the beginning and moved straight to the end? Or did each become a different person to the reader because the reader had foreknowledge of certain outcomes? Did the reader's altered perspective change each character in some fundamental way? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I think the questions are worth asking, worth exploring.

Have you started it yet?  I'm interested in how Michigan, West Africa, Greek Mythology, and this family all tie together.