Richard’s April Recommendation

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

waiting for godotRichard says:  “Samuel Beckett’s infamous, highly influential Waiting for Godot is among the most well-regarded (and infuriating) tragicomedies of the 20th century.  The plot, such as it is, is a trifle:  two men are waiting for Godot.  Why, for how long they have been waiting, where this occurs, etc. all tend to be open for interpretation; there is precious little information given about Vladimir and Estragon, their circumstances, or much anything else.  Instead, the narrative (such as it is) unfolds in the protagonists’are they protagonists?conversations and the play’s exploration of the absurd and existential.

Waiting for Godot is rightly identified with two popular, post-World War I literary and philosophical movements:  absurdism and existentialism.  If not the original ‘show about nothing’there are surely earlier examples, although I can’t think of any offhandthen it at least captures a certain feeling of time and place, which is to say a vacuum.  Most of the action takes place in strange dialogues and pronouncements, many of which will ring true to devotees of this genre.  In a review, theater critic Vivian Mercier once famously said ‘nothing happens, twice.’  If this description sounds dull or tedious, then you might want to skip this one; however, anyone with a taste for philosophy, wordplay, and biting humor will likely find Waiting for Godot a great reador viewing.  My advice?  Read the play before seeking out any productions.  The last time I saw this performed, more than half of the audience walked out after the first act.  The main complaint?  ‘Nothing happens.  I get it.’  That may be, but that’s why Waiting for Godot so effective.”

3 Similar Reads

The Fall by Albert Camus

Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard

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Mary Ann’s April Recommendation

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

the paying guests

Mary Ann says:  “Frances Wray lost two brothers in World War I.  She and her mother have to rent rooms in their London home to make ends meet.  A young couple from a ‘lower class’ move in.  Fine character development and vivid atmosphere.  Some of the reviews reveal too much about the eyebrow-raising plot points, so don’t read them before the book.”

3 Similar Reads

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – “Donoghue shows her mastery of eighteenth-century England and epic storytelling in this first novel about a young woman named Mary Saunders, who was born poor and destined to remain so. Taking as her premise the true crimes of the real-life Mary Saunders, Donoghue paints a colorful and complex life led amid the dirt and filth of lower-class London streets.” – Booklist

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell – “On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenuous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past.” – Summary from publisher

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932:  A Novel by Francine Prose – “A richly imagined and stunningly inventive story of love, art, and betrayal in Paris of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s.” – Summary from publisher

Joanna’s April Recommendation

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

still alice

Joanna says:  “My recommendation for April is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Published in 2007, this one has been on our shelves for a while, but the upcoming release of the film version of the book piqued my interest.  Written from the perspective of protagonist Alice Howland, a Harvard University professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the reader is taken on a heartbreaking journey as Alice beings to lose all the things that brought meaning to her life.”

3 Similar Reads

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante – “Implicated in the murder of her best friend, Jennifer White, a brilliant retired surgeon with dementia, struggles with fractured memories of their complex relationship and wonders if she actually committed the crime.”  Summary from catalog

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers – “Late one night, near the Platte River in Kearney, Nebraska, where the sandhill cranes pause every year in their spectacular migration, Mark Schluter flips his truck. Brain damaged, he develops Capgras syndrome, which makes him think that his sister, Karin, is an impostor.” – Booklist

Cost by Roxana Robinson – “The mildly strained Lambert family is in terrible trouble. New York art professor Julia is spending the summer in her ramshackle Maine home with her very elderly parents.” – Library Journal

Victoria’s April Recommendation

The Line by Teri Hall

the line

“Rachel thinks that she and her mother are safe working for Ms. Moore at her estate close to The Line, an invisible border of the Unified States, but when Rachel has an opportunity to Cross into the forbidden zone, she is both frightened and intrigued.”  Summary from catalog

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner – “Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.”  Summary from catalog

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau – “In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger to run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions.” – Summary from catalog

The Giver by Lois Lowry – “Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.” – Summary from catalog

Richard’s March Recommendation

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

live and let dieRichard says:  “Live and Let Die is the second novel in Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond series.  At the risk of spoiling Casino Royale‘s ending, the most I’ll say is that it follows directly from the events in the preceding booka marked difference from the movies, which tend toward self-contained narratives.  Agent 007, MI5’s most dependable operative, is sent to New York City to unravel the mystery of ‘Mr. Big’ (AKA, ‘Buonaparte Ignace Gallia’), a shadowy criminal mastermind with connections to the Soviet Union.  In the process, Bond uncovers a disturbing connection between gold smugglersapparently a favorite theme of Fleming’sa voodoo cult, and the USSR’s sinister SMERSH operations.  Naturally, Bond is the only man for the job.

This probably sounds familiar, and rightly so.  James Bond has been fully absorbed into the collective pop culture consciousness; he has changed with the times to suit each generation’s expectations.  As a result, readers who have seen the motion pictures will recognize many of the series’ well-worn tropes, albeit filtered through the lens of the 1950s:  globetrotting adventures, a mysterious and beautiful woman whose primary role is to be Bond’s love interest, a ruthless megalomaniac bent on world domination, and enough racy double entendres to make even Geoffrey Chaucer blush.  In other words, Bond fans will find a lot to enjoy in this book.  It’s worth pointing out, though, that the novelswhile subtly humorousare nowhere near as outrageous as many of the movies.

Live and Let Die was later adapted into a notoriously campy film, notable mostly for featuring Roger Moore’s first turn as James Bond.  One of the series’ more lightweight entries, Live and Let Die lacks the cool sophistication of From Russia with Love or the grandiosity of The Spy Who Loved Me.  Still, the movie has a lot to recommend:  Jane Seymour’s radiant Solitaire (still one the most popular and recognizable ‘Bond girls’), Moore’s wry take on 007, a killer theme song by Paul McCartney and Wings, and a suitably tongue-in-cheek tone.  These items keep the film afloat, even if it lacks many elements of the best Bond flicks.  While it borders on the absurd, Live and Let Die never quite falls victim to the cringeworthy cheese that bogs down Moore’s later performances in a quagmire of ludicrous plots and gadgets.  The book is great and comes highly recommended; however, the film is probably a ‘fans only’ proposition.”

3 Similar Reads

Solo:  A James Bond Novel by William Boyd “James BondBritish special agent 007is summoned to headquarters to receive an unusual assignment.  Zanzarim, a troubled West African nation, is being ravaged by a bitter civil war, and M directs Bond to quash the rebels threatening the established regime.” – Summary from catalog

Rain on the Dead by Jack Higgins “In the past few years, the killing and capture of many Al-Qaeda leaders has left the terrorist organization woundedbut by no means dead.  And they intend to prove it.  On a dark summer night, two Chechen mercenaries emerge from the waters off Nantucket to kill a high-value target, the former president of the United States, Jake Cazalet.  Unfortunately for them, Cazalet has guests with him, including black ops specialist Sean Dillon and his colleague, Afghan war hero Captain Sara Gideon” Summary from publisher

Chasing the Night by Iris Johansen “Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is drawn into the mystery of a child that had been abducted eight years earlier, and must use her skills with age progression as a way to reunite mother and son.  But Eve must face looming demons of her own.”   Summary from catalog

Joanna’s March Recommendation

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

this is where i leave youJoanna says:  “An amusing and, at moments, heart wrenching novel about four siblings who reunite to sit Shiva after their father passes away.  Recently made into a movie starring Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, and Tina Fey.  Both are equally entertaining and worth checking out.”
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While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty – “Veronica Von Holten is about to learn just how badly life can spiral out of control. She’s already stressed by the demands of being a premed major when a series of bad decisions and her parents’ acrimonious divorce leave her dazed and confused.” – Library Journal
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta – “One hundred people have disappeared from tiny Mapleton, New Jersey, in a Rapture-like event that has left the community visibly shaken.” – Booklist
The Vacationers by Emma Straub – “Celebrating their thirty-fifth anniversary and their daughter’s high-school graduation during a two-week vacation in Mallorca, Franny and Jim Post confront old secrets, hurts, and rivalries that reveal sides of themselves they try to conceal.” – Summary from catalog

Sue’s March Recommendation

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

storied life of aj fikrySue says:  “What book lover could resist a store about an independent book store owner with a quirky name?  A.J. Fikry is a reclusive 39-year-old widow who filters his life through the lens of his favorite books.  When a sweet toddler unexpectedly enters his life, he is forced to open his heart and his world.  This is a feel good book, with a great cast of eccentric secondary characters.  It was gentle, sweet, safe, and predictable—a nice easy read for a dreary, gray March weekend.”

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3 Similar Reads

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – “It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London.  As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.” – Summary from publisher

The Family Man by Elinor Lipman – “Henry Archer is a comfortably well-off and recently retired lawyer who has been divorced for decades.  When his ex-wife reenters his life, she brings with her the entanglements of her daughter, Thalia, the stepchild Henry loved and lost during the divorce.  Determined to reforge a connection with the now grown Thalia, Henry soon becomes embroiled in a much larger life than he expected.” – Library Journal

The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom – “Israel Armstrong lends the library’s copy of American Pastoral to a troubled teenage girl and soon she disappears.  Israel thinks there may be a connection, but he needs figure out what it is and find the girl, all while dealing with the trauma of a breakup and his impending 30th birthday.” – Summary from catalog