October 29

Ghost Story

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Ghost Story is a hauntingly beautiful tale whose elegance, pacing and imagery make it (in my mind) the perfect ghost story.  The novel centers around four elderly men who gather on a regular basis to swap ghost stories; but, we soon learn that the real ghost story was written fifty years earlier and now has set in motion deadly events.  This story wraps itself around you.  The tension builds slowly and gives you that spine-tingling feeling that a great ghost story should.  It’s wonderful!

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October 22

The Shining

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I’ve read and loved Stephen King’s stories my entire adult life, so it is very difficult to pick a favorite; but I’m going to do it anyway.  The Shining was the first King book I read.  When Jack Torrance signs on to be the winter custodian at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado, his family moves into the hotel and prepares to be snowed in and isolated for the winter.  The Overlook has a complicated and tragic past.  Unfortunate things happen at the Overlook, and the hotel seems to have a presence and personality all its own.  As the winter sets in, the hotel starts to work it way on Jack .  Cut-off from any help, Jack’s wife and son must face the horror of the Overlook and what it’s doing to Jack, all alone.  If you love the “haunted house” genre, The Shining made the Overlook one of the best known in literature.  Fun Fact:  The Overlook was inspired by the Kings’ stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  The hotel exterior shots for Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining, were of the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon.

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October 15

Interview With the Vampire

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Today, vampires abound.  In 1976, this book brought the vampire to the 20th-century.  Interview With the Vampire is a beautiful work that explores the legend of the vampire.  It is centered on the stories of four very different but equally compelling vampires.  The story is interesting and original and the attention to detail is rich and poetic.  Rice explores the nature of evil, the reality of death, and the limits of human perception.  This is a book where the story and characters stay with you, along with the questions.

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October 8

Wicked

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I love a re-imagined telling of a well-loved story.  When it’s done well, it is magical.  Wicked tells the story of Oz before Dorothy came on the scene.  Elphaba, who eventually becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West, is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl who is often rejected because of her unusual looks.  Born in a fantastical land, she finds a sense of purpose when she seeks to stop the politically corrupt Wizard of Oz and restore harmony and prosperity to Oz.  Gregory Maguire has created a complex and imaginative world and story.  I came away from this book reminded that every story has two sides, and that history is written by the victor.  This is the other side of the story of Oz.

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October 1

The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games is the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy.  It is a futuristic dystopia.  That’s literary speak for a future imaginary world that’s all out of whack.  What makes a futuristic dystopia readable?  Perhaps if it seems like it could be true, and the Hunger Games has all the elements that make it believable…fully developed characters and a culture and society that has similarities to our own.  The United States is now the State of Panem which was originally composed of 13 districts.  75 years before the beginning of the current story, the districts rose up and rebeled against the Capitol.  District 13 was destroyed and the remaining districts, to punish and remind them of the cost of their rebellion, are now required to send two children every year to the Capitol to participate in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death, with only one victor.  Reality TV on steroids.  I was transported to a world that was strange but also familiar…everything I love about a good book.

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September 24

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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This is an engaging and highly readable book on the fascinating lives of King Henry VIII and his six wives.  Not only do you get insight into the king and the individual, vibrant and diverse women who were married to him, you also get a look at court life with its morals and political intrique, the international struggle for power and England’s break with Rome and the start of the Protestant Reformation.  I lean towards fiction, but once I started reading this beautifully written and researched book, I couldn’t put it down.

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September 17

The Maltese Falcon

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As American as Jazz…the hard-boiled private detective novel.  The Maltese Falcon is a classic.  Treat yourself to a trip back in time with this book from 1930 by Dashiell Hammett, starring his private detective, Sam Spade.  Sam is a man with cold detachment, a keen eye for detail and an unflinching determination to achieve his own justice.  The writing is straightforward and clean.  If you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love the book.

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September 10

The Fencing Master

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This is an elegant, intellectual mystery.  Set in 19th-century Madrid, Don Jaime is a fencing master and a man that holds to the old traditions.  Into his life comes a mysterious woman who seeks fencing instruction and who demonstrates amazing talent.  What follows is a satisfying, intriguing mystery.  If you love beautifully written, intellectually challenging, original mysteries, give Arturo Pérez-Reverte a try.

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September 3

A Walk in the Woods

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A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail describes Bill Bryson’s attempt to walk the 2,100 mile long Appalachian Trail with his friend, Stephen Katz.  Along the way, you’ll learn the history of the trail, the challenges the trail faces, and you’ll come away with a taste of an American treasure.  Bill Bryson’s writing is laugh-out-loud funny and, at the same time, astute and introspective.  I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating book.

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August 27

The Thorn Birds

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This is a sentimental favorite.  I read it as a very young woman and was captivated by the epic sweep of the novel.  Set in the Australian outback, the story focuses on the Cleary family between the years 1915 and 1969.  Most people who are familiar with the story will remember the forbidden love between Meggie and Father Ralph, but it is much more than that.   It is a story about family, longing, betrayal, ambition and tragedy.  I think it may be time to read this one again.

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