Consider joining our Women's Book Club                           

Contact Becky S. for more information

          Book Club

Third Saturday of the Month - 9 AM, Harmony's Fellowship Hall 

(Check Calendar Tab for Date Verification)

Schedule for 2021: January 16, February 20, March 20, April 10, May 15, (no meeting in June), July 17, August 21 September 18, October 16, November 20 and December 18.

(Note:  Date changes will be in BLUE)


September's Book 2021:  STILL ALICE  by Lisa Genova

In this New York Times bestseller, an accomplished woman slowly loses her thoughts and memories to a harrowing disease - only to discover that each day brings a new way of living and loving.  "A poignant portrait of Alzheimer's...Not a book you will forget."  - USA Today.

August's Book 2021:  WRITING ALL WRONGS by Ellery Adams ((3 stars)

Aspiring novelist and amateur sleuth, Olivia Limoges, is at the Legends of Coastal Carolina Festival with her friends, the Bayside Book Writers, when a woman's body is found on the beach.  She discovered that crime doesn't take a vacation!  Who on the island would resort to murder?  This is #7 in Adams' Books By the Bay mystery series.

Two quotes were shared:  (pp. 73-4)  George Allen:  "what we have left in the end, is our own story.  It's important to tell it while there's still time.  And remember, you don't always have to leave your mark on a place.  Sometimes, leaving no footprint is the wisest choice."  And favorite chapter heading quote:  (p.121)  Walt Disney:  "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."

July's Book 2021:  THE MILL ON THE FLOSS by George Eliot  (1 star)

This title is based on George Eliot's own experiences of provincial life and is considered a masterpiece of ambiguity in which moral choice is subjected to the hypocrisy of the Victorian age.  As the headstrong Maggie Tulliver grows into a woman, the deep love which she has for her brother Tom turns into conflict, because she cannot reconcile his conventional standards with her own lively intelligence.  She is unable to adapt to her community or break free from it, and the result, on more than one level, is tragedy.

Six of us gathered to discuss this one - no one read it completely, as we all had difficulty with the wordiness which is typical of titles written in this time period. We wanted to "like" it, but we didn't.

May's Book 2021:  THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas (3.5 stars)

Dashing young Edmond Dantes has everything.  He is engaged to a beautiful woman, is about to become the captian of a ship and is well liked by almost everyone.  But his perfect life is shattered when he is framed by a jealous rival and thrown into a dark prison cell for fourteen years.  Written in the style of adventure and suspense, this title dazzels readers with thrilling and memorable scenes.

Our group found this title to be intimidating and challenging to read.  We were also thankful that it was the condensed version, as the original was over 1100 pages!

April's Book 2021:  RILLA OF INGLESIDE by L. M. Montgomery (4 stars)

The last title in the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series, RILLA OF INGLESIDE has Anne's children almost grown up, except for pretty, high spirited Rilla.  Now one can resist her bright hazel eys and dazzling smile.  Rilla, almost 15, can't think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford.  But undreamed-of challenges await when the world of Ingleside is endangered by a far-off war (WWI) which tests her courage and changes her forever.

Enjoyed by those present at book club and even encouraged a couple of members to want to read the rest of the titles in the series!

March's Books 2021:  Two young adult classics!

THE LION, THE WITCH and the WARDROBE by C. S. Lewis (4 stars+)

Book 2 of the Chronicles of Narnia series, this title opens a door into another world.  In a blink of an eye, Lucy and her brothers' and sister's lives are changed forever when they find out the secret of the wardrobe in the Professor's mysterious old house.

Our group LOVED this title!  Many positve remarks were made during our discussion.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll  (2 stars)

In 1865, using the pen-name Lewis Carroll, Charles Lutwidge Dodson composed a fantasy tale for a trio of yound sisters. He created a tale of an intrepid little girl who discovers a surreal, beautiful, and dangerous land that has shared its magic with generations of readers.  His Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts have become cultural icons, to say nothing of the heroic yound Alice herself.

This title did not meet our group's expectations for a beloved children's classic.  One member felt the title would be best "read aloud."  The favorite part of another member was the puns found near the end of the text.  We all wondered how this became "beloved," but decided that it must have been more popular in its day as several parts referred to the political scene at the time of its publication.  We all decided that Disney deserves the credit for making this title live on for today's generations.

February's Book 2021:  PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK  by Annie Dillard (1.5 stars)

This title was the winner of the Pultizer Prize in 1975,  This is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Blue Ridge valley.  Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see and what she sees are astonishing incidents of "mystery, death, beauty and violence."

Most of our members did not care for this book and gave it only a 1 star rating!  Reading nature essays is not a favorite reading pasttime for our group.

January's Book 2021: THESE IS MY WORDS:  THE DIARY OF SARAH AGNES PRINE, 1881-1901 ARIZONA TERRITORIES by Nancy E. Turner (4 stars)

The classic adventure of one courageous woman's life and struggles in the Arizona Territories in the the late nineteenth century.  Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, bringing a vanished world to breathtaking life again.  Everyone liked this book and would pass it on to another.

THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR  by Shirley Nelson (December Meeting canceled.  Book moved to January 2021) (NO stars)

This is a moving and memorable story of a young woman's coming of age, while struggling with religious meaning and value in her life. (Dan Wakefield, author)  The strength of this novel is its faithful record of time, place, and subculture: an evangelical Bible college during the waning months of 1944. (Anson Cassel Mills)  No one completed reading this title.  No one liked what they read.



October's Book 2020:  WOLF HOLLOW   by Lauren Wolk (4 stars) 

This is a tale of one girl's resilience, strength, and compassion in the face of injustice as a newcomer targets and attacks a reclusive World War I veteran named Toby.  Annabelle finds the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount in this small Pennsylvanian town. 

All members present loved this book and recommend it to anyone interested.  Also were surprised to find that it takes place in a fictional location but close by as it mentions Horne's department store in Pittsburgh and the town of Sewickley. The group decided this quote from page 2 sums up the book well:  "The year I turned twelve I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.  So much, sometimes, that I wasn't sure I wanted such a burden.  But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best as I could."  This quote is spoken by the main character, Annabelle.                               


September's Books 2020:  (1) UNSEDUCED and UNSHAKEN: The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman's Choices by Rosalie de Rosset    (4 stars

(2) SOMETHING BEAUTIFULE FOR GOD: Mother Teresa of Calcutta  by Malcolm Muggeridge  (4 stars)   

(1) What does it mean to be a women?  This collection of essays is more than a call to modesty or chastity.  It is a thoughtul provocation to speak well, read often, make choices that reflect the character of God, and to establish a theology of leisure.  Being intentional with your choices, cultivating your intellect, and taking seriously your voice determines not only what kind of person you are, but also what kind of woman you will be.

One member says the book can be summed in this quote from page 78:  "In fact, it is possible to be a disciplined Christian, in by that you mean habitual, without being a thinking Christian which means looking carefully, critically (analytically) at all that you hear, read, and do, both in the wider culture and in the Christian subcultural."  This title is aimed at younger women, but is so appropriate for all women so that they can be the best Christian women in a seculare culture.

(2) First published in 1971, this classic work introduced Mother Teresa to the Western world.  It interprets her life through the eyes of a modern-day skeptic who became literally transformed within her presence, describing Mother Teresa as a "light which could never by extinguished."  

Quote from Mother Teresa, p. 98-99:  "I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.  Nowadays we have found medicine for leprosy and lepers can be cured.  There's medicine for TB and consumptives can be cured.  For all kinds of diseases there are medicines and cures.  But for being unwanted, except there are willing hands to serve and there's a loving heart to love, I don't think this terrible disease can ever to cured."


August's Book 2020:  ONE SUMMER:  AMERICA, 1927  by Bill Bryson   (4 stars)

What happened in America in the summer of 1927?  What didn't happen?  Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone, and Flagpole sitting!  Bill Bryson retells the story of one truly fabulous, jaw-dropping season in the life of his native country.

This book was given four stars unanimously by the members in attendance.  Everyone who read it, loved it and had someone in mind to whom they plan to loan it!


July's Book 2020:  A TOWN LIKE ALICE  by Nevil Shute  (3 stars)

Harper's Magazine had this to say about this title:  "A magnificent, moving and invincibly readable story of bravery and endurance, of enterprise and love - in war and the aftermath of war.  Out of an English girl's faith in humanity and an Australian POW's quiet courage comes 'a harrowing, exciting and very satisfying war romance.'"

A member of our group had this to say:  "This book was a good read and I would recommend it....history interwoven with cultural, societal and geographical differences... a story of the spirit of women, especially one woman, who showed amazing inner strength, ingenuity, courage, and compassion."  


June's Book 2020:  BASIC CHRISTIANITY  by John R. W. Stott (3.5 stars)

Stott embarks on a compelling course of study in this title that first defends the fundamental claims of Christianity and then defines the proper outworkings of these basic beliefs in the daily lives of believers.  Its publisher believes this is a sound, sensible guide for those who are seeking an intellectually satisfying presentation of the Christian faith.

Members had this to say about this title:  "Christians are not exempt from sin....  This is a book to come back to....  It has practical information on how to be a Christian...  Reminds us we need to be active in our prayer life....  This book is filled with words to live by....."  They loved a quote from the back cover by J. I. Packer - "John Stott's disarming introduction to personal faith is a modern classic.  Long life to it!"


February's Book 2020:  THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah (3.8 stars)

This is the story of two sisters who resist the occupying Nazi forces during WWII by hiding Jewish children so they are not taken to concentration camps. It's a story of the ravages of war and the different ways people react to unthinkable situations.

What would you risk to save a stranger?  Book club members found this title to be "hard to read" - physically and emotionally, but it was well liked by all who finished it.  Members discussed the attention to detail in the novel and marveled at the amount of research needed to create this title.


January's Book 2020:  GRACE AT LOW TIDE by Beth Webb Hart  (2 1/2 - 3 stars)

Fifteen year old DeVeaux is fifty miles from the place she used to call home.  Her blue-blood dad declared ankruptcy and moved their family to a run-down cottage on their former family island estate.  The story paints a picture of their hard-luck in search of grace - for their future and for each other.

It was decided that this is an "okay" "beach" read.  A bit wordy with a "Hallmark" ending.  It was not a bad book, just not a challenging read.  The use of scripture was appreciated, as well as the fact that this was a "clean" read.  One BBT member thought this book was a good reminder of how important it is to stay strong and have faith in the power of prayer.  




November's Book 2019:  THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU  by Elizabeth Berg (1 star - or less)

This is about a fortieth high-school reunion as told through the eyes of several different people planning for the reunion, attending the reunion  and then what happens afterwards.

BBT readers decided this book really has no redeeming features due to its bad language and lack of a good story line.  No one said they would pass this book on to another to read.  It was basically about a small group of almost sixty year-olds heading to their fortieth high school reunion.  It was just not good.  Don't read it.


October's Book 2019:  THE HARBINGER - the Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret of America's Future  by Johathan Cahn (4 stars)

This is a fiction story concerned with a real-life connection:  a prophecy about ancient Israel that was eventually fulfilled in the eighth century BC when Israel was destroyed and certain events and facts related to the 9/11 terror attacks against the US in 2001.

BBT readers found this book to be wordy and challenging to read.  Thought the text to be a "wake-up" call for all of us.  It was written in such a way that the reader needs to remind himself that this is a work of fiction, not reality, although it has a lot of historical facts worked into the storyline.  It is a fictional account that parallels the events of 9/11 with God's judgement and destruction on the Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians.  All those in attendence gave this book 4 stars, except one - who only gave it 2 stars.


August's Book 2019:  THE BRONTE PLOT by Katherine Reay (3-4 stars)

Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach  her goals.  When her unorthodox methods are discovered, her secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend.  Everything comes to a head when she travels to England, Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters.  Now she must face her past in order to move forward.  Enjoyed by everyone, especially its many literary references and quotes, but not enough to pass on to someone else.


July's Book 2019:  THE PIANO MAKER by Kurt Palka (4 stars)

This book is the story of Helen Giroux during and after WWI.  Her family lives in Paris and they handmake pianos.  As Paris is bombed and the war progresses, Helene loses everything and moves to England with her daughter.  Nathan Homewood is an antiquities dealer who asks Helene to help him during several business trips.  Nathan appears and then will be gone for long stretches during the book.  Helene and Nathan's final trip together ends with Nathan dying and Helene arrested for his murder.  All enjoyed the book but did wonder why Helene continued to trust Nathan.  The trial in Canada did raise some questions.  Women just got the right to vote between 1919 and 1922 in Canada and here, in a rual setting, is a trial where the jury foreman is a woman and the lead prosecutor is also female.  We all enjoyed this book.


June's Book 2019:  MINDING FRANKIE  by Maeve Binchy

A motherlless girl is raised collectively by a close-knit Dublin community.  Noel learns that a former flame, who is terminally ill, is pregnant with his child and he agrees to take guardianship of the baby girl once she is born. 

We all enjoyed this one very much.  Story revolved around relationships and how we can all be connected.  A warm, human story about a small community who gathers aroundan orphaned newborn baby girl.


 May's Book 2019:  LAKE WOBEGON DAYS   by Garrison Keillor (2 Stars)  

Hard to get into - and the stories never compared to those on "The Prairie Home Companion" radio show.  

2 quotes from Becky S:  About his teacher Mrs. Meiers:  "She was a plump lady with bags of fat on her arms that danced when she wrote on the board: we named them Hoppy & Bob". (Don't you remember a similar situation from your school years!!!!)  And one of the footnotes: "When Bertha Ingqvost, David's mother, said one April, 'I don't believe I'll put in a garden this year,' they knew she didn't have long.  When you no longer care about fresh tomatoes and sweet corn, then death is near, and so she died the first week of June and now she is enriching the soil up there on the hill."  


March's Book 2019:  FATHER MELANCHOLY'S DAUGHTER  by Gail Godwin

For the most part, we liked this one.  Margaret's mother walks out on her when she is six leaving her with her much older father, who is an Episcopal priest.  She must reconcile her needs as a woman with the demands of her religious father.  She also searches for answers as to why her mother chose to leave her and her father.


February's Book 2019:  THE RAPTURE OF CANAAN  by Sheri Reynolds (0 stars)

Definitely one for the trashcan.  Disturbing to read.  Grandpa Herman rules the church he has created within his own family.  Everyone must obey or else!  


January's Book 2019:  THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS  by C. S. Lewis

Definitely makes you think!  This is a classic religious satire that entertains even as it teaches us about temptation and how to triumph over it!



December's Book 2018:  So. B. IT.  by Sarah Weeks

We all loved this one.  Juvenile fiction.  It's a coming of age story about a young girl who goes on a cross-country journey to discover the truth about who she is and where she came from.     


November's Book 2018:  THE SUMMER BEFORE THE WAR   by Helen Simonson

It's 1914 and a woman has been hired as a Latin teacher.  The limits of progress, and the old ways will be tested in this small Sussex town as its inhabitants prepare for war.


October's Book 2018:  A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY  by John Irving

This one was not a favorite.  Set in New Hampshire in the 50's and 60's, Owen Meany believes his is God's instrument and that he will be redeemed by martyrdom after he kills his best friend's mother accidently with a baseball.  


August's Book 2018:  CAN'T WAIT TO GET TO HEAVEN  by Fannie Flagg

In this comedy-mystery, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspires a town to ponder the age-old question, "Why are we here?"


July's Book 2018:  CLARA and MR. TIFFANY by Susan Vreeland

It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows that he hopes will earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which Tiffany will long be remembered. Never publicly acknowledged, Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces a strict policy: He does not employ married women. Ultimately, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.


June's Book 2018:  A Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce  (4 stars - if we could have given it more, we would have!)

A runaway international bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry followed its unassuming hero on an incredible journey as he traveled the length of England on foot—a journey spurred by a simple letter from his old friend Queenie Hennessy, writing from a hospice to say goodbye. Harold believed that as long as he kept walking, Queenie would live. What he didn’t know was that his decision to walk had caused her both alarm and fear. How could she wait? What would she say? Forced to confront the past, Queenie realizes she must write again.

In this poignant parallel story to Harold’s saga, acclaimed author Rachel Joyce brings Queenie Hennessy’s voice into sharp focus. Setting pen to paper, Queenie makes a journey of her own, a journey that is even bigger than Harold’s; one word after another, she promises to confess long-buried truths—about her modest childhood, her studies at Oxford, the heartbreak that brought her to Kingsbridge and to loving Harold, her friendship with his son, the solace she has found in a garden by the sea. And, finally, the devastating secret she has kept from Harold for all these years.

A tender, layered novel that gathers tremendous emotional force, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy underscores the resilience of the human spirit, beautifully illuminating the small yet pivotal moments that can change a person’s life.


May's Book  2018:  my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry by Fredrik Backman   (2 Stars - Although  several of the members felt the book deserved a 4 stars, several felt it didn't deserve any!)

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.


​March' Book 2018:  A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.  by John Kennedy Toole

Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the hero of John Kennedy Toole's tragicomic tale, A Confederacy of Dunces. This 30-year-old medievalist lives at home with his mother in New Orleans, pens his magnum opus on Big Chief writing pads he keeps hidden under his bed, and relays to anyone who will listen the traumatic experience he once had on a Greyhound Scenicruiser bound for Baton Rouge. ("Speeding along in that bus was like hurtling into the abyss.") But Ignatius's quiet life of tyrannizing his mother and writing his endless comparative history screeches to a halt when he is almost arrested by the overeager Patrolman Mancuso--who mistakes him for a vagrant--and then involved in a car accident with his tipsy mother behind the wheel. One thing leads to another, and before he knows it, Ignatius is out pounding the pavement in search of a job.


February' Book 2018:  The Memory of Old Jack (Port William)  by Wendell Berry  (3 3/4 Stars  - We enjoyed the style of writing but not so much the story. 😊

Beautifully and thoughtfully written, The Memory of Old Jack is mostly a series of reflections on Jack Beechum's long life of farming in rural Kentucky, interspersed. We enjoyed the style of writing... not so much the story. with the stories of those who were important to him. There's not much of a plot in the traditional sense, but this shouldn't be seen as a negative. We learn about Jack's flaws and strengths, along with the things he detests and admires.

What really stuck with me was the recurring theme of the characters' attitudes toward work, with the main contrast between those who take pride in their work and those who don't. To me, Jack's thought "He is troubled and angered in his mind to think that people would aspire to do as little as possible, no better than they are made to do it, for more pay than they are worth" does a pretty good job of summing up his philosophy.  NS


January's Book 2018: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff  (4+ Stars  ... really enjoyed it!)

When Helene Hanff makes an innocent inquiry about the possibility of purchasing hard-to-find books through Marks and Co., Booksellers, she begins a 20-year love affair (of books) with Frank Doel, the proper English bookseller who answers her letter and sends along her first order in the fall of 1949.

They are two very unlikely correspondents: she a cranky Jewish New Yorker who writes TV scripts and lives in a messy apartment on East 95th Street; he a determinedly courteous middle-class Englishman who sends her beautifully bound and often obscure antiquarian books from the shop he manages on Charing Cross Road in London. 

The letters, written between 1949 and 1969, capture the period and pay tribute to the special kind of reader who treasures a well-worn classic



November's Book  2017:  Watership Down by Richard Adams   (2.5 Stars)

A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams's Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.


September 's Book  2017:  Charlotte's Web   By E.B. White   (4 Stars)

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte's Web, high up in Zuckerman's barn. Charlotte's spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur's life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. It contains illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White's Stuart Little  and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, among many other books.


August's Book  2017:  Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers  (2.5 Stars)

There’s a corpse in the bathtub, wearing nothing but a pair of pince-nez spectacles. Enter Lord Peter Wimsey, the original gentleman sleuth. Urged to investigate by his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, Lord Peter quickly ascertains that the sudden disappearance of a well-known financier is in some way connected to the body in the bathroom. But discovering exactly which way they’re related leads the amateur detective on a merry chase. Written by a master of the detective story, this atmospheric tale abounds in the cozy delights of an English murder mystery. Dorothy L. Sayers ranks with Agatha Christie as a defining author of the genre. A novelist, essayist, and medieval scholar, Sayers was among the first women to receive an Oxford degree, and her translations of Dante remain in wide circulation. This novel marks the debut of her most popular creation, Lord Peter Wimsey, whose continuing adventures unfold amid the lively world of upper-crust British society in the 1920s


July's Book  2017:   SAVING GRACE  by Lee Smith   (1 Star)

"LUCID IN EXECUTION, BREATHTAKING IN SCOPE AND HEART-RENDING IN EFFECT--A REDEMPTIVE WORK OF ART. . . . Lee Smith has done more than write another novel about the South. She has broken through the grotesque surface to the underground spring, the music of Scrabble Creek, and the effect is stunning--a beguiling, gentle prose formed by an honesty so severe we are brought to our knees. . . . This novel has a grand and singular purpose, to clothe the spirit with flesh. In this, Lee Smith succeeds." The Washington Post Book World

Our group did not find this book as described.  We felt the style of writing was above par but the story itself was poor and not worth passing on.


June's Book 2017:   Mark Twain: Short Stories and Tall Tales   (2 Stars)

A collection of short stories by the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn features such classics as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "How to Tell a Story."


May's Book  2017:  The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin  (4 Stars)

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.   

“This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love--love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory.” —Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child

“Marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both.” —The Washington Post


April's Book 2017:   The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfiel   (3+  Stars)

Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change. 

With the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield has created an enduring work of fiction.

With memorable characters and a captivating plot, it's a story about good vs. evil, miracles and disappointment, redemption, faith, and forgiveness.


March's Book  2017:   A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens    (2+ Stars)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The two cities are London and Paris. The background is the French Revolution, descriptions of which Dickens obtained from his friend Thomas Carlyle. 

The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events. 

The most notable are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a former French aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Carton is a dissipated English barrister who endeavors to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife. 

This powerful, compelling portrait of the results of terror and treason, love and supreme sacrifice continues to captivate readers around the world. Dickens’ unforgettable characters—the ever-knitting Madame Defarge, the lovely Lucie Manette, her broken father, the honorable Charles Darnay, and the sometimes scurrilous Sydney Carton—burst from the pages, full of life and passion. The book provides a highly-charged examination of human suffering and human sacrifice. Private experience and public history, during the French Revolution.


February's Book 2017:   Around the World in 80 Days  by Jules Verne   (1+ stars)

This book is one of the greatest adventure novels of all time by one of the greatest of all time adventure novel writers, Jules Verne.  It is the story of the eccentric English inventor Phileas Fogg who sets out to make it around the world in eighty days in order to win a bet.  With his trusted French valet, Passepartout, Fogg hurries off in a mad dash around the world, encountering numerous obstacles and adventures along the way.  Jules Verne's classic work still holds up today as a work of genuine creativity and sheer delight.


January's Book  2017:  One Thousand White Women    by Jim Fergus  (1.5 Stars - we enjoyed the style of writing but the story needed some work.)

Read for January -- One Thousand White Women  by Jim Ferguson, is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.



December's Book 2016:   COMFORT AND JOY by Kristen Hannah     (2.5 stars - Discussed in January 2017)

Joy Candellaro used to LOVE the Christmas season. But after finding out about her husband and her sister, Joy is not feeling very joyful. Tired of it all, she hops on a plane and disappears from her frustrating life - at least for a little while. ..................... Daniel O'Shea is a widow with an eight-year-old son, Bobby, who is about to have his first Christmas without his mother. Bobby is not adjusting too well and is making it harder on Daniel. In fact, Bobby seems to be distancing himself from the world around him and slipping into deep depression. ........................ Then Joy and Bobby meet. These two disillusioned people may be able to help each other ... and Daniel as well. ......................  In my opiniiv, this is one of the best novels I've read for this year's holiday season. Author Kristin Hannah has proven time-and-time-again that she has an almost mystical way of making her readers empathize with her characters. This story is no different. You will be snared quickly and be in no rush to free yourself. Awesome!                                                                                                          Unknown review.


November's Book  2016:   The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom       (3.5 Stars)

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God's chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God's love will overcome, heal, and restore.


​October's Book 2016:     So Long, See You Tomorrow  by William Maxwell  (2 Stars)

In this magically evocative novel, William Maxwell explores the enigmatic gravity of the past, which compels us to keep explaining it even as it makes liars out of us every time we try. On a winter morning in the 1920s, a shot rings out on a farm in rural Illinois. A man named Lloyd Wilson has been killed. And the tenuous friendship between two lonely teenagers—one privileged yet neglected, the other a troubled farm boy—has been shattered.Fifty years later, one of those boys—now a grown man—tries to reconstruct the events that led up to the murder. In doing so, he is inevitably drawn back to his lost friend Cletus, who has the misfortune of being the son of Wilson's killer and who in the months before witnessed things that Maxwell's narrator can only guess at. Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss.


September's Book  2016:  TO THE LIGHTHOUSE  by Virginia Woolf      (1 Star)

This is quite simply, a most beautiful, illuminating, and period-defining book. The prose is smooth and fluid, and if you let it carry you into the book, it will completely absorb you. It understandable  how stream-of-consciousness can be difficult, but rather than fighting the stream in an attempt to understand every sentence, it is recommended that 'going with the flow' for the first few pages and letting your visceral reactions to the emotions and ideas in the book guide you.
This is a book about transitions; from childhood to adulthood, from an era of clearly defined roles to one of liberation; it is a book about the things people need from each other but have difficulty communicating; it is a book about the impossibility of communication and the other subtle ways we attempt to bridge the divide between ourselves and other people. It is doubtful these topics will ever be addressed as elegantly.


August's Book  2016:  The Singer: A Classic Retelling of Cosmic Conflict  by Calvin Miller (2.5 Stars)

The Singer quickly became a favorite of evangelists, pastors, artists, students, teachers and readers of all sorts when it was originally published in 1975. Retelling the story of Christ through an allegorical and poetic narrative of a Singer whose Song could not be silenced, Miller's work reinvigorated Christian literature and offered believers and seekers the world over a deeply personal encounter with the gospel.


June's Book  2016:  The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry   by Rachel Joyce      (4 Stars)

Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk 600 miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him — allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.

And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.

A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise — and utterly irresistible — storyteller.


May's Book  2016:  Maisie Dobbs byJacqueline Winspear      (3.5 Stars)

The British counterpart to Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies Dective Agency. 

The daughter of a struggling greengrocer, Maisie Dobbs was only thirteen when she was sent to work as a maid for wealthy London aristocrats.  But being bright and thoughtful beyond her years, Maisie studies her way to Cambridge, then serves as a nurse on the Front during the Great War.  Now, it's the spring of 1929, nearly ten years after the Armistice and Maisie has just opened up her own detective agency.  Her first assignment, a seemly open-and-shut infidelity case, will reveal a much deeper, darker mystery, forcing Maisie to revisit the horrors of the war and the ghost she left behind.  Refreshing, absorbing, and beautifully rendered, Maisie Dobbs marks the beginning of an incredible new series.


April's Book  2016:   Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly  by Harriet Beecher Stowe  (3 Stars)

This is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War", according to Will Kaufman.   Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Seminary and an active abolitionist, featured the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings.


March's Book  2016:   Mere Christianity  by C. S. Lewis     (3 Stars)

This is a theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during World War II.  Considered a classic of Christian apologetics, the transcripts of the broadcasts originally appeared in print as three separate pamphlets: The Case for Christianity (1942), Christian Behaviour (1943), and Beyond Personality (1944).  Lewis was invited to give the talks by Rev. James Welch, the BBC Director of Religious Broadcasting, who had read his 1940 book, The Problem of Pain.

C. S. Lewis was for many years an atheist, and described his conversion in Surprised by Joy: 'In the Trinity term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God ... perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.' It was this experience that helped him to understand not only apathy but active unwillingness to accept religion, and, as a Christian writer, gifted with an exceptionally brilliant and logical mind and a lucid, lively style, he was without peer.

In 1943 Great Britain, when hope and the moral fabric of society were threatened by the relentless inhumanity of global war, an Oxford don was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. Over half a century after the original lectures, the topic retains it urgency. Expanded into book form, Mere Christianity never flinches as it sets out a rational basis for Christianity and builds an edifice of compassionate morality atop this foundation. As Mr. Lewis clearly demonstrates, Christianity is not a religion of flitting angels and blind faith, but of free will, an innate sense of justice and the grace of God.


February's Book  2016:   Cherry Cheesecake Murder - A Hannah Swensen Mystery with Recipes by Joanne Fluke       (4 Stars)

This is book # 8 in this series.  Hannah Swensen and her bakery, The Cookie Jar, bask in the glow of Hollywood glamour when Main Street becomes a movie set. And although tensions simmer as the cameras roll, no one expects the action to turn deadly. . .until it's too late. . .

There's no such thing as privacy in Lake Eden, but Hannah never thought things would go this far. Everyone has been telling her what to do ever since she got not one but two marriage proposals. Movie mania soon shoves Hannah's marriage dilemma into the background and even gives her cat a shot at stardom. The Cookie Jar serves as snack central with Main Street rented out for the week. She stirs lots of fresh gossip, whipping up treats for cast and crew, including demanding director Dean Lawrence's favorite--cherry cheesecake.


January's Book  2016:     To Say Nothing of the Dog  by Connie Willis       (1.5 + Stars)  

What a stitch! Willis' delectable romp through time from 2057 back to Victorian England, with a few side excursions into World War II and medieval Britain, will have readers happily glued to the pages. Rich dowager Lady Schrapnell has invaded Oxford University's time travel research project in 2057, promising to endow it if they help her rebuild Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by a Nazi air raid in 1940. In effect, she dragoons almost everyone in the program to make trips back in time to locate items--in particular, the bishop's bird stump, an especially ghastly example of Victorian decorative excess.Time traveler Ned Henry is suffering from advanced time lag and has been sent, he thinks, for rest and relaxation to 1888, where he connects with fellow time traveler Verity Kindle and discovers that he is actually there to correct an incongruity created when Verity inadvertently brought something forward from the past. 

Take an excursion through time, add chaos theory, romance, plenty of humor, a dollop of mystery, and a spoof of the Victorian novel, and you end up with what seems like a comedy of errors but is actually a grand scheme "involving the entire course of history and all of time and space that, for some unfathomable reason, chose to work out its designs with cats and croquet mallets and penwipers, to say nothing of the dog.  And a hideous piece of Victorian artwork." Sally Estes 



November's Book 2015:  THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH   by Ken Follett  ( 2.5 Stars

Finally finished this book which we started in September!  Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. "Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale," 

A radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue, this chronicles the vicissitudes of a prior, his master builder, and their community as they struggle to build a cathedral and protect themselves during the tumultuous 12th century, when the empress Maud and Stephen are fighting for the crown of England after the death of Henry I. The plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works, and despite the wealth of historical detail, especially concerning architecture and construction, much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century. This will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction. Literary Guild dual main selection. 


October's Book  2015:  Lights from Heaven by Jan Karon.  (The ninth novel in the beloved Mitford series)

Father Tim Kavanagh has been asked to "come up higher" more than once. But he's never been asked to do the impossible--until now. The retired Episcopal priest takes on the revival of a mountain church that's been closed for forty years. Meanwhile, in Mitford, he's sent on a hunt for hidden treasure, and two beloved friends are called to come up higher. As Father Tim finds, there are still plenty of heartfelt surprises, dear friends old and new, and the most important lesson of all: It's never too late.


August's Book  2015:  GLITTERING IMAGES by Susan Hoarch.   (2.5+ Stars)

It is the 1930s, and Charles Ashworth is dispatched by the Archbishop of Canterbury to learn the truth about the flamboyant Bishop of Starbridge, Adam Alexander Jardine, and his mousy wife. Do Jardine's outspoken denouncements of the Anglican Church's strict divorce laws have a personal motive? When he meets the cool and beautiful Lyle Christie, Mrs. Jardine's companion, Ashworth believes they do. But as he struggles to understand the strange relationships in the household, Ashworth ceases to be an innocent, objective observer. Slowly, he too is drawn into the secret drama that is being played out in the shadow of the cathedral, a drama that he could never have foreseen.

The first in Susan Howatch's acclaimed novels centering on the glorious Cathedral of Starbridge, Glittering Images is a masterful depiction of spiritual hubris, the seductions of power, and the moral dilemmas of England between the wars.


May's Book  2015:  The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane  by Kate DiCamillo     (4 Stars)  LOVED!

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost... Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle--that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.


April's Book  2015:   THE GOOD EARTH   by Pearl S. Buck      (1/2 star )

Pearl S. Buck’s timeless masterpiece, the Pulitzer Prize–winning story of a farmer’s journey through China in the 1920s

The Good Earth is Buck’s classic story of Wang Lung, a Chinese peasant farmer, and his wife, O-lan, a former slave. With luck and hard work, the couple’s fortunes improve over the years: They are blessed with sons, and save steadily until one day they can afford to buy property in the House of Wang—the very house in which O-lan used to work. But success brings with it a new set of problems. Wang soon finds himself the target of jealousy, and as good harvests come and go, so does the social order. Will Wang’s family cherish the estate after he’s gone? And can his material success, the bedrock of his life, guarantee anything about his soul?
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells Award, The Good Earth was an Oprah’s Book Club choice in 2004. A readers’ favorite for generations, this powerful and beautifully written fable resonates with universal themes of hope and family unity.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Pearl S. Buck including rare images from the author’s estate.
This great modern classic depicts life in China at a time before the vast political and social upheavals transformed an essentially agrarian country into a world power. Nobel Prize-winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life—its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and its rewards.


March's Book  2015:  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall   by Anne Brontë    (2.5+ Stars)

The story of Heather Graham, a spirited and independent woman, who seeks to rebuild her life after a disastrous marriage to an abusive alcoholic. Unheard of for the time, Heather flees from her husband and attempts to support herself and her young son while tentatively forging a friendship with a young farmer, Gilbert Markham. Because it featured a successful, liberated woman and contained stark depictions of alcoholism, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was considered scandalous when first published in 1848, but quickly became a best-seller and has since been recognized as one of the first feminist novels.


February's Book  2015:  Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie   by Ole Edvart Rolvaag  (Perennial Classics)   (4 Stars)

The classic story of a Norwegian pioneer family's struggles with the land and the elements of the Dakota Territory as they try to make a new life in America.  Part of a trilogy, the novel follows a Norwegian pioneer family's struggles with the land and the elements of the Dakota Territory as they try to make a new life in America. The book is based partly on Rølvaag's personal experiences as a settler, and on the experiences of his wife’s family who had been immigrant homesteaders. The novel depicts snow storms, locusts, poverty, hunger, loneliness, homesickness, the difficulty of fitting into a new culture, and the estrangement of immigrant children who grow up in a new land.[2]

"A moving narrative of pioneer hardship and heroism...The background of the boundless Dakota prairie, with its mysterious distances and its capacity for evil, is painted with alternating beauty and grimness." -- -- Atlantic Monthly


January's Book  2015:  The Giver by Lois Lowery   (4 Stars)

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, secrets behind his fragile community.  With that assignment, he discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.


November's Book 2014:  Wise Blood - The Violent Bear it Away - Everything that Rises Must Converge 3 titles by Flannery O'Conner  (1 Star)

Flannery O'Connor's provocative and critically-acclaimed works have established her reputation as one of America's most original authors, and three of them are available in this collection: "Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge".

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two year old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate fate. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel Motes founds the Church of God Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.

First published in 1955, The Violent Bear It Away is now a landmark in American literature. It is a dark and absorbing example of the Gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O'Conner's work. In it, the orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousin, the schoolteacher Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle--that Tarwater will become a prophet and will baptize Rayber's young son, Bishop. A series of struggles ensues: Tarwater fights an internal battle against his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet while Rayber tries to draw Tarwater into a more "reasonable" modern world. Both wrestle with the legacy of their dead relatives and lay claim to Bishop's soul.

O'Connor observes all this with an astonishing combination of irony and compassion, humor and pathos. The result is a novel whose range and depth reveal a brilliant and innovative writer acutely alert to where the sacred lives and to where it does not.

O'Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.

She rights of the human condition and the darkness of the heart. These story have humour thrown in she tries to give us a view of how we behave and how insanely stupid and careless we can be. How love blinds and evil destroys, how good can only prosper.
She writes of parenthood, guilt, obsession, control freaks, the sick, the despondent, vengeance, redemption, love, compassion and love.
She has been said to be a catholic writer and mentions God, Jesus and themes of redemption. She does not throw it down your throat but adds light on how people behave. 


September's Book  2014:  The Color of Water by James McBride   (3 Stars)

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family immigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.  At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.  Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.


August's Book  2014:  THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield.   (3 Stars)

When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny. 

All children mythologize their birth...So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist. 

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission. 

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire. 

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves. 

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.


June's Book  2014:  The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas   (4 Stars)

In Harveyville, Kansas, crops are burning up in a searing drought during the Great Depression. The Persian Pickle Club, a quilting group of local ladies, derives its name from a common bolt of Persian Pickle fabric, an old time term for today’s paisley. The fabric is pieced into each member’s quilts, representing their closeness and unity.

Rita Ritter, the newest member, has ambition beyond small town life. She embarks on a dangerous journey to find a murderer and uncovers a harrowing secret the quilters have been guarding. Along the way, Rita learns profound truths about the women and her own capacity for friendship.


May's Book  2014:  THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON by Kate Morton   (3 Stars)

The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. It is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for decades. 

Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline. 

In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the house, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline and only they -- and Grace -- know the truth. 

In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever. 

The novel is full of secrets -- some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history. 

Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a vivid, page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters -- and an ending -- the reader won't soon forget.


April's Book  2014:    Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

Some people say Billy Allman has a heart of gold.  Others say he’s a bit odd. The truth is, they’re all right.  He’s a hillbilly genius – a collector, a radio whiz – and he can make the mandolin sing.  Though he dreams of making an impact on the world beyond the hills and hollers of Dogwood, West Virginia, things just always seem to go wrong.

But however insignificant Billy’s life seems, it has not gone unnoticed.  Malachi is an angel sent to observe and protect Billy.  Though it’s not his dream assignment, Malachi always follows orders.  And as Billy’s story unfolds, Malachi slowly begins to see the bigger picture – that each step Bill takes is a note added to a beautiful song that will forever change the lives of those who hear it.

Almost Heaven, Chris Fabry’s third visit to the fictional town of Dogwood, West Virginia, is woven through with many characters from his earlier novels, Dogwood and June Bug, but can also be read and enjoyed as a standalone story.  The book received the 2011 Christian Book Award for Fiction and was also named the 2011 Christy Award winner in the Contemporary Standalone category.


March's Book  2014:   TOO LATE THE PHALAROPE  by Alan Paton

Too Late The Phalarope is set in South Africa, as well as its predecessor, Cry, The Beloved Country. And like that earlier novel, Too Late The Phalarope uses the lives of ordinary people to illustrate the inhuman quality of South African apartheid.

Racial segregation is odious in concept, impossible in application. To prove it, Paton tells us the story of Pieter, a white policeman, who has an affair with a native girl, Stephanie. He is betrayed and reported, and thus brings shame on himself and his family.

Alan Paton's novel describes this tragic interlude and more importantly, Too Late the Phalarope underscores the rigidity of Afrikaner society, especially here in its rural bastions. Paton demonstrates how South Africa's 'apartheid' program was in practice as a part of Afrikaner society even before it became the law of the land. 


February's Book  2014:   City of Tranquil Light   by Bo Caldwell

"I have learned to do what God places in front of me, whatever that is," Will Kiehn says as he explains to Hsiao Lao, the bandit chief, his commitment to help anybody in need, be that a sick old farmer or an injured thief. Those same words could also sum up Will's life story in City of Tranquil Light.

In 1909 Will and his wife, Katherine arrived in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (City of Tranquil Light), in the North China Plain to establish a new Mennonite church. Little did they know then that they would stay there for nearly 25 years and would come to think of China as their home. Author Bo Caldwell, tells their story through Will, a widower now, in his eighties, and living in a retirement home in California, as he vividly remembers the trials and tribulations of becoming a pastor and of earning the trust of the inhabitants of Kuang P'ing Ch'eng. Caldwell cleverly intersperses Katherine's diary entries with Will's narration thus bringing up her in-the-moment feelings to his remembrance of the events they lived through together. And they lived through a lot: personal losses, bandits, famine, earthquakes and civil war.


January's Book  2014:  Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book — a beautiful volume of fairy tales She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity.

Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.

This is a novel of outer and inner journeys and an homage to the power of storytelling.  The Forgotten Garden is filled with unforgettable characters who weave their way through its spellbinding plot to astounding effect.



November's Book 2013:   Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace   by Cathleen Falsani

"Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don't deserve."

Award-winning author and columnist Cathleen Falsani says, 'People regularly ask me why I believe in God. The simple answer ... is grace.' In Sin Boldly: A Field Guide to Grace, Falsani explores the meaning and experience of grace through story and song, quotes and photos.

Falsani says, 'Grace makes no sense to our human minds. We're hardwired to seek justice, or our limited idea of what that means, and occasionally dole out mercy. Grace is another story.' Sin Boldly is an uplifting, multifaceted, and thought-provoking look at what makes grace so amazing.

Grace is everywhere, all around us, all of the time. We only need the ears to hear it and the eyes to see it. It is much easier and perhaps more helpful to describe what grace feels like through stories and images that illustrate the varied ways grace is experienced when encountered in the wild, than it is to attempt to define it definitively, to trap it, and cage it. Maybe that's why Jesus was so fond of parables: nothing describes the indescribable like a memorable yarn.
Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace is a collection of stories about the author's experiences with grace---in ridiculous moments and in those that seem trivial but are anything but; in wacky adventures and quiet walks; with family and with strangers; in bars, nightclubs, the occasional house of worship, and in her own home; and through conversations with people---some famous and some not---who have introduced her to grace in new ways that in turn have shaped her

If along with most people you've ever wondered what God possibly could do to transform your pitiful attitudes and pathetic lack of alignment with the demands of the commands, this collection of stories from Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani's recent peregrinations will give you hope and keep you keepin' on, since God lovingly reigns with showers of mercy-filled grace, no matter who, no matter what, no matter when.

Ranging from Chicago to Kenya, New Orleans to Ireland, Big Sky to Graceland, Falsani dons her investigative cap and scouts for grace. This religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times is a charming guide to places and people who reveal "grace when and where it happens."


October's Book 2013:   The Power and the Glory   by Graham Greene

Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement in this penetrating novel set in 1930s Mexico during the era of Communist religious persecutions. As revolutionaries determine to stamp out the evils of the church through violence, the last Roman Catholic priest is on the lam, hunted by a police lieutenant. Despite his own sense of worthlessness - he is a heavy drinker and has fathered an illegitimate child - he is determined to continue to function as a priest until captured. He is contrasted with Padre Jose, a priest who has accepted marriage and embodies humiliation.

A Christian parable pitting God and religion against 20th-century materialism, The Power and the Glory is considered by many, including the author himself, to be Greene's best work.


September's Book 2013:   The Last Lecture   by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow 

On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” With slides of his CT scans beaming out to the audience, Randy told his audience about the cancer that is devouring his pancreas and that will claim his life in a matter of months. On the stage that day, Randy was youthful, energetic, handsome, often cheerfully, darkly funny. He seemed invincible. But this was a brief moment, as he himself acknowledged.

Randy’s lecture has become a phenomenon, as has the book he wrote based on the same principles, celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities. Sadly, Randy lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008, but his legacy will continue to inspire us all, for generations to come.


August's Book 2013:  Blessings   by Anna Quindlen

This powerful new novel by the bestselling author of Black and Blue, One True Thing, Object Lessons, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life begins when a teenage couple drives up, late at night, headlights out, to Blessings, the estate owned by Lydia Blessing. They leave a box and drive away, and in this instant, the world of Blessings is changed forever. Richly written, deeply moving, beautifully crafted, Blessings tells the story of Skip Cuddy, caretaker of the estate, who finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her, and of matriarch Lydia Blessing, who, for her own reasons, decides to help him. The secrets of the past, how they affect the decisions and lives of people in the present; what makes a person, a life, legitimate or illegitimate, and who decides; the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community—these are at the center of this wonderful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.”


June's Book 2013:  The Dead Don't Dance   by Charles Martin      

Although not perfect, life for Dylan Styles is initially just the way he likes it. Once a professional student, he finds his footing in Digger, South Carolina, the small farming community where he grew up. Here on his grandparents' old farm, Dylan and his wife, Maggie, find happiness in the daily rhythms of the natural world. Maggie's pregnancy only adds to their contentment. However, a complicated delivery changes everything; their son is stillborn, and Maggie falls into a deep coma. Suddenly Dylan is thrown into a position of painful uncertainty. His doubt extends into theological realms as he asks the agonizing question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Will the music of his heart be stilled forever—or will he choose to dance with life once more, in spite of sorrow and heartbreak?


May's Book 2013:  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?


April's Book 2013:  The Book of Unholy Mischief   by Elle Newmark

In a world of violence and intrigue, who guards the truth?

It is 1498, the dawn of the Renaissance, and Venice teems with rumors about an ancient book that holds the secret to unimaginable power. It is an alchemist's dream, with recipes for gold, immortality, and undying love. But while those who seek the book will stop at nothing to get it, those who know will die to protect it.

As a storm of intrigue and desire circles the republic that grew from the sea, Luciano, a penniless orphan with a quick wit and an even faster hand, is plucked up by an illustrious chef and hired, for reasons he cannot yet begin to understand, as an apprentice in the palace kitchen. There, in the lavish home of the most powerful man in Venice, he is initiated into the chef's rich and aromatic world, with all its seductive ingredients and secrets. It is not long before Luciano is caught up in the madness. After he witnesses a shocking murder in the Palace dining room, he realizes that nothing is as it seems and that no one can be trusted. Armed with a precocious mind and an insatiable curiosity, Luciano embarks on a perilous journey to uncover the truth. What he discovers will swing open the shutters of his mind, inflame his deepest desires, and leave an indelible mark on his soul.

Rich with the luxurious colors and textures of Venice, The Book of Unholy Mischief delights the senses and breathes fresh life into an age defined by intellectual revival and artistic vibrancy. A luminous and seductive novel, it is, at its heart, a high-spirited tribute to the fruits of knowledge and the extraordinary power of those who hold its key.


March's Book 2013:     The Blessing Way    by Tony Hillerman

High on the desolate mesa they found the body. The mouth was filled with sand. No tracks, no clues. Every Navajo knew that nothing human killed like that.Rumors of witchcraft and the supernatural are nothing new to Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police. He and anthropologist Bergen McKee had stalked the Wolf-Witch before. Always it had eluded them, vanishing like a ghost on the wind. But never had it left such a horrifying trail of murder.For Lt. Leaphorn, the case was a baffling challenge to his logic. For Bergen McKee, it was a problem of academic concern. Now, no longer is tracking the Navajo Wolf simply a challenge - now it's a matter of life and death.

Another review:  Homicide is always an abomination, but there is something exceptionally disturbing about the victim discovered in a high lonely place, a corpse with a mouth full of sand, abandoned at a crime scene seemingly devoid of tracks or useful clues. Though it goes against his better judgment, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn cannot help but suspect the hand of a supernatural killer. There is palpable evil in the air, and Leaphorn's pursuit of a Wolf-Witch is leading him where even the bravest men fear, on a chilling trail that winds perilously between mysticism and murder.


February's Book 2013:   WISH YOU WELL by David Balducci

Southwest Virginia, 1940. Wish You Well is the story of Louisa Mae Cardinal, a precocious twelve-year-old girl living in the hectic New York City of1940 with her acclaimed but sadly underpaid writer father, her compassionate mother, and her timid young brother, Oz. For Lou, her family's financial struggles are invisible to her. Instead, she is a daughter who idolizes her father and is in love with the art of storytelling. Then, in a single, terrifying moment, Lou's life is changed forever, and she and Oz are on a train rolling away from New York and down into the mountains of Virginia. There, Lou's mother will begin a long, slow struggle between life and death. And there, Lou and Oz will be raised by their remarkable great-grandmother Louisa, Lou's namesake.
Suddenly, a girl finds herself coming of age in a landscape that could not be more foreign to her. On her great-grandmother's farm, on the land her father loved and wrote about, Lou finds her first true friend, learns lessons in loyalty, tragedy, and redemption; and experiences adventures tragic, comic, and audacious. When a dark, destructive force encroaches on their new home, Lou and her brother are caught up in another struggle-a struggle for justice and survival that will be played out in a crowded Virginia courtroom.

January's Book 2013:  And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers   

Gifted author, Francine Rivers, has created another engrossing and illuminating tale in her new novel, And the Shofar Blew. The story of a California church congregation, "And the Shofar Blew" shows how even the most well-meaning people can head in the wrong direction if they don’t stay close enough to God to hear His voice above all the others. Centerville Christian Church is in desperate need of rejuvenation as the novel opens. And when Paul Hudson accepts the call to pastor the elderly, dwindling congregation, the church comes alive. New people and donations pour in, and the church grows by leaps and bounds.                

In this relevant and timely contemporary novel, dynamic young preacher Paul Hudson is committed to building his church--but at what cost? In the Old Testament, God called his people to action with the blast of the shofar, ram's horn. Will Paul hear God's call as he struggles with the choice between his will and the Lord's plan?



November's Book, 2012:  First Light by Bodie and Brock Thoene

"JERUSALEM: The ancient city where hatred, deceit, longing, and desperation smolder in every heart."

Spiritual and political darkness shroud the world's holiest and most turbulent city. Ruled by Rome and manipulated by religious rulers with only selfish interests in mind, the people of Jerusalem wonder if their Deliverer will ever come.

Susanna and Manaen desperately search for hope and meaning—in a world where their love is forbidden. Others pray and wait for light, the True Light of Messiah, to dawn. Peniel the beggar, Marcus the Roman centurion, Zadok the Chief Shepherd of Israel, and his three adopted orphan boys—all long for a vision of hope.

Now a healer named Yeshua walks the streets of Jerusalem. Is He the true Messiah? or only another imposter, like so many before Him?

This first book in the A.D. Chronicles series will bring you face-to-face with the man called Yeshua.

Bodie and Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee) have written over 45 works of historical fiction. That these best sellers have sold more than 10 million copies and won eight ECPA Gold Medallion Awards affirms what millions of readers have already discovered - the Thoenes are not only master stylists, but experts at capturing readers' minds and hearts. Bodie and Brock have four grown children - Rachel, Jake, Luke, and Ellie - and five grandchildren. Bodie and Brock divide their time between London and Nevada.


October's Book, 2012:  The Testament  by John Grisham

Troy Phelan is a self-made billionaire, one of the richest men in the United States.  He is also eccentric, reclusive, confined to a wheelchair, and looking for a way to die.  His heirs, to no one's surprise - especially Troy's - are circling like vultures. 

Nate O'Riley is a high-octane Washington litigator who lives too hard, too fast, for too long. His second marriage is in a shambles, and he is emerging from his fourth stay in rehab armed with little more than his fragile sobriety, good intentions, and resilient sense of humor.  Returning to the real world is always difficult, but this time it's going to be murder. 

Rachel Lane is a young woman who chose to give her life to God, who walked away from the modern world with all it's strivings and trappings and encumbrances, and went to live and work with a primitive tribe of Indians in the deepest jungles of Brazil.

In a story that mixes legal suspense with a remarkable adventure, their lives are forever altered by the startling secret of The Testament.

  September 2021  
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