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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, April 4, 1999

No-Pressure Book Discussion Group is For Busy Folks

I know that many people belong to reading groups, but I wanted to tell you about a group of librarians who get together monthly. Instead of talking about one particular book, as is the custom with most book discussion groups, each participant talks about one or two books recently read (mostly new but not always). It's a great way to hear about new books and also a way to let your fellow workers entertain you. Our group meets once a month for about an hour before work. We meet at a restaurant, drink coffee and learn what others are reading. If this sounds fun to you then ask five or six people you know to get together, bring a couple of recent books they have loved to talk about. Here are some recently published books on the new fiction shelf at your public library that may be of interest.

Right from Wrong by Cindy Bonner (Algonquin, 1999).

Gil and Sunny are first cousins who from childhood are attracted to each other. However their parents are adamant about their incestuous attraction and when Gil goes to war in France, Sunny marries a man she doesn't love. I started this book thinking it would be just another light romance but soon found myself pulled into the lives of the two lovers. It is the fourth of Bonner's historical novels, a classic tale of love, war and sin is set against the rolling hills of Central Texas and the battlefields of France in the early part of this century.

St. Agatha's Breast by T.C. Van Adler (St. Martin's, 1999).

Mystery lovers are raving about this new author's debut novel set in a monastery beset with corruption, intrigue and murder. The plot revolves around paintings stolen from a Roman monastery. The far from pious characters are very wicked indeed, however the big mystery is the identity of the author. T.C. Van Adler is a pseudonym for someone the dust jacket describes as "very experienced in the worlds of art and the Church." Readers have described this anonymous writer as a cross between Umberto Eco and Carl Hiaasen, not for the pious or faint of heart. If you appreciate really dark comedy then this may be the book for you.

The Handyman by Carolyn See (Random House, 1999).

The latest work by an enjoyable author has been gathering high marks from a number of respectable reviewers and is on my must read list. The story involves an aspiring artist who does odd jobs for people. He becomes emotionally entangled with a number of his clients including a gay Midwesterner whose companion has AIDS and two women in the midst of horrendous marriages.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Viking, 1999).

The Wall Street Journal's reviewer was right when he described this book "… as sweet, rich and utterly satisfying as a fine truffle. Dieters beware: Ms. Harris's lush prose drips with mouth-watering descriptions of cocoa confections that could melt even the most resolute of wills. The only problem with this book is the small size of the print. So get out your reading glasses and have a box of your favorite form of chocolate on hand. Personally I favor dark chocolate with nuts.

Mr. Darwin's Shooter by Roger McDonald (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998).

Historical fiction aficionados will want to check this one out. Told by the sailor, who shot specimens for Darwin's Origins of Species study,
this fictional memoir provides a great story, as well as a view of how Darwin's theory impacted the lives of pious Victorians.

82 Desire by Julie Smith (Fawcett, 1998).

Highly recommend by a mystery-loving colleague, this latest addition to the Skip Langdon series is who-done-it set in New Orleans. The three female protagonists! , who successfully represent several mystery sub-genres: the police procedural; the amateur sleuth, and the private investigator, gives a glimpse of New Orleans life in vivid color.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.