Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Read Me Vegas - Online book discussion

Read Me Vegas, the online book discussion, works differently that the standard "face-to-face" book discussion group. In the live-action book groups, members usually meet in person, about once a month, and discuss their experiences and opinions of the selected title.

In the online book group, there is no face-to-face meeting. The folks involved all read the book and form their own opinions. As the leader of the group, I post topics three times a week.

I always start with an introduction, information about the author, and a list of the characters. From there, things get really different.

I don't usually talk directly about the book itself. I select topics within the book, and investigate them more fully.

The book we've been reading for March has been Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon, by Donna Andrews. It's a marvelous "cozy mystery", that has more sharp edges than many cozies. It's been a treat to discuss!

The basic story is Meg Langslow, the main character in the series, is temporarily acting as the receptionist at her brother's suddenly amazingly successful game company. One of the less popular computer programmers turns up dead, on top of the mail robot. Everyone working for the company is not exactly unhappy that this practical joker is now out of the picture, including all the psychological therapists who are sharing office space with the game company. However, it's very clear that the murderer must be someone working in the building. In the spirit of keeping everyone else safe, Meg sets out to find out who off'ed the offensive victim.

Some of the topics we've looked at are buzzards themselves, war gaming and electronic gaming, what makes a mystery "cozy", and the Dot.Com bubble. The topics have all been fun. Each of Andrews' titles focuses on a different unusual setting (a wargame company, a summer with three weddings, a historical reenactment of the battle of Yorktown, etc.) And each book bring in different unusual topics, like blacksmithing, comic book writing, and dressmaking. The actual mystery in this book has been a challenge. I didn't figure out who the murderer was till Andrews actually said who it was. The writing is fast and enjoyable. There's romance, but nothing too gooey or graphic.

This series is a great read for people who enjoy challenging intellectual puzzles, without a lot of gore and graphic sex. The early books in Lillian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who..." series are similar, as are Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries.

Next month, we're going to follow the Reading Las Vegas theme of Going Green. We'll be reading the ecological classic The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey. This book has a lot of appeal, and should be a real thought starter.

The action all takes place very close to Las Vegas, in the desert southwest in southern Utah, the Grand Canyon, Arizona and New Mexico.

The book itself is the "bible" for the Earth First ecological extremist group.

The writing is fast paced and entertaining. And the book features the destruction of large, yellow pieces of heavy equipment. Any resident of Las Vegas, who has driven anywhere where there's road work going on, will certainly understand that impulse!

Join us online in April for the discussion of this entertaining and involving title!

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