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Just Desserts hiatus assignment - Nov/Dec 2014

November 07, 2014 by sdc

During the Nov/Dec 2014 hiatus between meetings of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, we encourage regular attendees to continue to participate as a group...but in a virtual way. While we may not have an actual meeting scheduled during these two months, this blog is available to keep everyone active with their mystery reading and discussions.

Our "hiatus assignment" for 2014 is the “Benjamin January” series by author Barbara Hambly. Comprised of thirteen volumes, published between 1997’s first volume (A Free Man of Color), and 2014’s latest volume (Crimson Angel). Barbara Hambly was first published in 1982, and has been a prolific writer of genre fiction, including not just mysteries but also science fiction and fantasy. Her “Benjamin January” series is considered to be among the best of all of her works. This series was described as follows on Wikipedia:

“This historical mystery series begins with A Free Man of Color (1997) and features Benjamin January, a brilliant, classically educated, free colored surgeon and musician living in New Orleans during the antebellum years of the 1830s. At the time, New Orleans had a large and prosperous population of free people of color. Born a slave, as his mother was enslaved, January was freed as a young child by his mother's lover, under the plaçage system. Provided with an excellent education, he gained fluency in several classical and modern languages, and was thoroughly versed in the whole of classical Western learning and arts. He studied medicine in Paris, where he trained as a surgeon. He returned to Louisiana to escape the memory of his late wife, a woman from North Africa. As a free black in Louisiana, he cannot find work as a surgeon. He earns a modest living by his exceptional talent as a musician.

Each title is a murder mystery, with a complex plot and well-developed characters. Each explores many aspects of French Creole and overall Louisiana society. Most tend to emphasize some particular element of antebellum Louisiana life, such as Voodoo religion (Graveyard Dust), opera and music (Die Upon a Kiss), the annual epidemics of yellow fever and malaria (Fever Season), fear of miscegenation (Dead and Buried), or the harsh nature of commercial sugar production by enslaved labor (Sold Down the River).

Important themes of the series are 1) the cultural clash between the rising Protestant English-speaking Anglo-Americans, and the declining Catholic, French-speaking Creoles, 2) skin color discrimination within the society of Creoles of color, with favor given to lighter-skinned persons 3) January's bitterness at the many forms of racial injustice he observes, 4) the complex, partially race-based sexual politics of colonial French and United States society, and 5) January's comparison of what he thinks of as the open and frank African outlook of his early childhood with the more restrained and rational European worldview he acquired through education and experience. This last theme occurs most often with respect to music, spirituality, and respect for law and social custom.”

We encourage Just Desserts participants to read any of the 13 books in this series, at some point in November or December 2014, then come back here to this blog post and leave a comment about whatever you read or watched, as a response to this discussion topic.

1. A Free Man of Color (1997)
2. Fever Season (1998)
3. Graveyard Dust (1999)
4. Sold Down the River (2000)
5. Die upon a Kiss (2001)
6. Wet Grave (2002)
7. Days of the Dead (2003)
8. Dead Water (2004)
9. Dead and Buried (2011)
10. The Shirt on His Back (2011)
11. Ran Away (2011)
12. Good Man Friday (2013)
13. Crimson Angel (2014)

As a bit of background, here are some links to Barbara Hambly information:

·         Barbara Hambly’s official website

·         Barbara Hambly entry on Wikipedia

We look forward to seeing your comments here over the course of the next two months!

So…here’s your question:

Which of the “Benjamin January” novels did you read, and what was your opinion?

Scott C. - Just Desserts coordinator and host

 



Tagged in: Just Desserts, mystery, book discussion, discussion group, book group, Barbara Hambly, Benjamin January, hiatus,
Comments: 1

Recommended Reading in June 2014 from Just Desserts

July 07, 2014 by sdc
Hey, mystery fans! Looking for something good to read? At the June 2014 Just Desserts meeting on 6/26, after discussing our monthly “assigned” book, we did a round robin at the table, asking attendees to share what mysteries they’d been reading lately that they felt they could recommend.

Here’s a list of the books that were hot in June 2014 with this mystery-savvy crowd:

MYSTERIES

NON-MYSTERIES

So, what mysteries have you been reading that you’d recommend?


Tagged in: Just Desserts, mysteries, book group, book club, discussion group, book discussions, recommendations, reading list,
Comments: 0

Results of May 20014 Series Share gathering

June 01, 2014 by sdc
Hey, mystery fans! Looking for something good to read? The May 2014 Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group meeting was our annual "Series Share" night. Group members did not all read the same book, but instead were encouraged to read the first or second volume in ANY new mystery/thriller/suspense series that had begun in the past 3 to 4 years. All attendees had a chance, then, to describe whatever series they had chosen, and to offer up their opinions about the characters, writing style, etc.

Here’s a list of the novels Just Desserts members enjoyed for the "Series Share": And here's a few older titles and non-mysteries were also brought up at the latest meeting: So, what mysteries have you been reading that you’d recommend?


Tagged in: Just Desserts, book group, discussion group, club, mysteries, Series Share,
Comments: 0

June through September Just Desserts titles selected!

May 07, 2014 by sdc

The titles/authors for the June through September Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group have been posted.

June - Death Angel by Linda Fairstein

July - Doing Hard Time by Stuart Woods

August - The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

September - After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

There is also a survey available online for Just Desserts members to offer their opinions on what should be discussed at the October 2014 Just Desserts meeting. Click the link to add your vote!

What do you think of the above four authors/titles? Are you looking forward to reading any of these?

Click the title of this specific blog post, or the number to the right of Comments, below, to leave your own comment!



Tagged in: Just Desserts, mystery, mysteries, discussion group, book group, book discussions,
Comments: 0

April Reading Recommendations from Just Desserts members

May 06, 2014 by sdc
Hey, mystery fans! Looking for something good to read? At the April 2014 Just Desserts meeting on 4/24, after discussing our monthly “assigned” book, we did a round robin at the table, asking attendees to share what mysteries they’d been reading lately that they felt they could recommend.

Here’s a list of the books that were hot in April 2014 with this mystery-savvy crowd:

MYSTERIES

NON-MYSTERIES

So, what mysteries have you been reading that you’d recommend?


Tagged in: Just Desserts, discussion group, book group, suggestions, recommendations, mysteries,
Comments: 0


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