Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Christmas Get-Together

Well girls, the day is almost upon us....hope you are all as unprepared for Christmas as I am, because for some unknown reason misery loves company!
Anyway....remember to take a break from the madness and come to my house on Saturday at 11am.
We will choose books for the coming year, eat ourselves silly, laugh, talk, and exchange gifts of books!
Can't wait to see y'all..

hugs and kisses,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?

This is from the New York Times. I thought it would be appropriate to publish it here:

Published: December 5, 2008

JOCELYN BOWIE was thrilled by the invitation to join a book group. She had just returned to her hometown, Bloomington, Ind., to take an administration job at Indiana University, and thought she had won a ticket to a top echelon. “I was hoping to network with all these women in upper-level jobs at I.U., then I found they were in the book group,” she said. “I thought, ‘Great! They’ll see how wonderful I am, and we’ll have these great conversations about books.’ ”

Ms. Bowie cannot pinpoint the precise moment when disillusion replaced delight. Maybe it was the evening she tried to persuade everyone to look beyond Oprah Winfrey’s picks, “and they all said ‘What’s wrong with Oprah?’ ” she said.

Or perhaps it was the meeting when she lobbied for literary classics like “Emma” and the rest of the group was abuzz about “The Secret Life of Bees,” a pop-lit best seller.

The last straw came when the group picked “The Da Vinci Code” and someone suggested the discussion would be enriched by delving into the author’s source material. “It was bad enough that they wanted to read ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the first place,” Ms. Bowie said, “but then they wanted to talk about it.” She quit shortly after, making up a polite excuse: “I told the organizer, ‘You’re reading fiction, and I’m reading history right now.’ ”

Yes, it’s a nice, high-minded idea to join a book group, a way to make friends and read books that might otherwise sit untouched. But what happens when you wind up hating all the literary selections — or the other members? Breaking up isn’t so hard to do when it means freedom from inane critical commentary, political maneuvering, hurt feelings, bad chick lit and even worse chardonnay.

“Who knew a book group could be such a soap opera?” said Barb Burg, senior vice president at Bantam Dell, which publishes many titles adopted by book groups. “You’d think it would just be about the book. But wherever I go, people want to talk to me about the infighting and the politics.”

One member may push for John Updike, while everyone else is set on John Grisham. One person wants to have a glass of wine and talk about the book, while everyone else wants to get drunk and talk about their spouses. “There are all these power struggles about what book gets chosen,” Ms. Burg said. Then come the complaints: “It’s too long, it’s too short, it’s not literary enough, it’s too literary ... ”

The literary societies of the 19th century seemed content to leave the drama to authors and poets, whom they discussed with great seriousness of purpose. Some book groups evolved from sewing circles, which “gave women a chance to exercise their intellect and have a social gathering,” said Rachel W. Jacobsohn, author of “The Reading Group Handbook,” which gives a history of the format plus dos and don’ts for modern hosts.
For Doreen Orion, a psychiatrist in Boulder, Colo., the spoiler in her book group was a drama queen who turned every meeting into her own personal therapy session. Dr. Orion was used to such people in her practice, but in her personal life — well, no thanks. “There were always things going on in her life with relationships, and she’d want to talk about it,” she said. “There’d be some weird thing in a book and she’d relate it to her life no matter what. Everything came back to her. It was really exhausting after a while.”

What attracted Susan Farewell to a book group called the IlluminaTea were guidelines that precluded such off-putting antics. No therapy talk, no chitchat and no skipping meetings. “It was very high-minded,” said Ms. Farewell, a travel writer in Westport, Conn. Members took turns selecting books, “and you felt that your choice was a measure of how intelligent and sophisticated and worldly you were,” she said.

The high standards extended to the refreshment table. “When it was your month to host a meeting, you would do your interpretation of a tea, and the teas got very competitive,” Ms. Farewell said. Homemade scones and Devonshire cream were par for the course, and Ms. Farewell recalls spending the day before her hostess stint making watercress and smoked salmon sandwiches.

This started to feel oppressive. “If the standards had been more relaxed, I would have stayed in the group,” she said. “But I just felt I couldn’t keep getting clotted cream. I couldn’t work and carry on the formality and get through the novel every month, so I just said I couldn’t make the meetings anymore.”

Some who leave one group find happiness in another. Dr. Orion and another woman broke from their original group and contacted another woman who had also left. “Then we secretly reconstituted as another group,” Dr. Orion said. “We’ve been going strong for 10 years, but our experience has made us cautious about inviting new members. We’ve become very selective.”

Nancy Atkins Peck, an artist and historian in Glen Rock, N.J., has also made a successful transition. Until the election cycle of 2004, she had loved her book group — the members read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” novels by Virginia Woolf “and sometimes a paperback of no importance,” she said.

Then, after a presidential debate, an argument about the candidates ensued, “so it was decided that we couldn’t read any political books or have any political discussions anymore,” recalled Ms. Peck, who had just suggested the group read a book about the Bush White House.

“It was nixed, and I just felt that was unnatural,” given that the group had successfully discussed other sensitive issues, she said. She and her husband then joined a coed group, which has worked out well. “And we read a heck of a lot of political books,” she said triumphantly.

Sometimes the problem is a life-stage mismatch among group members. “I know of a group where all but one member has young children,” said Susanne Pari, author of the novel “The Fortune Catcher” and the program director at Book Group Expo. “They talk for 15 minutes about the book and then launch into a discussion of poopy diapers and nap times and preschool.”

Then the one member who had nothing to bring to the soiled Pampers conversation announced she did not have time for the group. For etiquette reasons, “it’s very uncommon” for people to give the real reason for their disenchantment, Ms. Pari said.

Ms. Bushell, the book-group facilitator, tells of one woman who left a group “because she didn’t envision herself sitting around talking about a book — she thought some business networking would take place.”

Another woman decamped because she wanted to read more chick lit. “I hate to sound ponderous,” Ms. Bushell said, “but I have a certain moral obligation. I don’t feel I can be paid for leading a discussion about ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”

At Book Passage, a store with two branches in the San Francisco area, Kate Larson is something of a Miss Lonely Hearts for newcomers and disgruntled book group members. “I collect names, and when I get 12 or 14 I ask them to come to a meeting at the store,” she said. “If it looks like they all agree about what kinds of things they want to read, they’ve got a book club.”

Ms. Larson uses a newsletter to help people find special-interest groups — say, in science fiction or spirituality. Groups made up of total strangers seem to last longer, she said, “because the focus is truly on the book.”

As for Ms. Bowie of Indiana University, she was asked to join another group but has chosen to stay unaffiliated. “My experience was a real disappointment,” she said. “Now when I look at a novel in a store and it has book group questions in the back, it almost puts me off from buying it.”

Today there are perhaps four million to five million book groups in the United States, and the number is thought to be rising, said Ann Kent, the founder of Book Group Expo, an annual gathering of readers and authors.

“I firmly believe there was an uptick in the number of book groups after 9/11, and I’m expecting another increase in these difficult economic times,” she said. “We’re looking to stay connected and to have a form of entertainment that’s affordable, and book groups are an easy avenue for that.”

Most groups are all-female, but there are plenty of all-male and coed ones. Lately there have emerged plenty of online-only book groups too, though — given the difficulty of flinging a drink in the face of a member who suggests reading Trollope — those are clearly a different animal.

And more clubs means more acrimony. Sometimes there is a rambler in the group, whose opinion far outlasts the natural interest of others, or a pedant, who never met a literary reference she did not yearn to sling. The most common cause of dissatisfaction and departures?

“It’s because there’s an ayatollah,” said Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. “This person expects to choose all the books and to take over all the discussions. And when I come on board, the ayatollah is threatened and doesn’t say anything.” Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Still Lurking

I finally got logged on here after several tries when the site was not letting me on. I tried not to take it personally, but ya'll know how I am!

I haven't posted any suggestions since there are so many already listed that I want to read. I will be glad to choose one of yours, although you might want to read one that I'm trying to finish up this weekend. It's called White Noise and it won the National Book Award in 1985 and was one of Time Magazine's top 100 books from 1923 - 2005. It is very quirky and maybe some of you wouldn't like that, but I think it is so funny!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Amy's Suggestions

Ireland by Frank Delaney

From a land famous for storytelling comes an epic novel of Ireland that captures the intimate, passionate texture of the Irish spirit.

One evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his hosts and their neighbors to join him by the wintry fireside, and begins to tell formative stories of Ireland's history. Ronan, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the storytelling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again.

Ronan's search for the Storyteller becomes both a journey of self-discovery, long unspoken family secrets, and an immersion into the sometimes conflicting histories of his native land.

Juggling the demands of her yarn shop and single-handedly raising a teenage daughter has made Georgia Walker grateful for her Friday Night Knitting Club. Her friends are happy to escape their lives too, even for a few hours. But when Georgia's ex suddenly reappears, demanding a role in their daughter's life, her whole world is shattered.

Luckily, Georgia's friends are there, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they've created isn't just a knitting club: it's a sisterhood.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of the invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.

Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and willful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Just Because I Can

Are you sure you wanted to make "authorship" available to all of us? I only ask because I could sit here on my computer and ramble about nothing for a very long time and make you all wish that I would s***up and leave you alone. (You're welcome, Kim.)

By the way, what's up with Black Friday? Seriously people. I mean, I like a good deal just as much as the next girl...but why on earth do people feel the necessity to wake up at ridiculous hours of the night and trample innocent people in order to save a couple dollars? Sheesh!

I also made a really great Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. I just thought you should know.

Oh, and I have a headache. 

And d'ya know what else I don't get. Those lame car window stickers with Calvin peeing on various assorted objects. I repeat: Lame.

Have a fabulous weekend, ladies. I'm excited for our party. I have a great book already wrapped. Yippee!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food Assignments for December 20th

So girls..,this is the way things are headed for our December meeting..
We are meeting on December 20th from 11am-1pm at Kim's house.
The following assignments were decided upon at our November meeting:
Rosalie will bring fruit
JoAnne will bring something that is fermented...!
Heather will bring juice
Melanie will bring bacon
Tiffanie will bring a breakfast pizza
Kim will bring egg souffle
Collette will bring something really yummy (she told me about it and I can't remember any specifics)...old age is sinking in fast!
Jeana will bring hot chocolate and yogurt

When the ones who weren't there decide what they would like to bring...(Shelley, Amy, Charlotte, Vickie...(not to be mentioning names) let me know...or just surprise us!
Can't wait to see you all on the 20th.

Love and hugs,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joanne's Suggestions

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her ability to tap into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she explores what happens when a young woman's past -- a past she didn't even know she had -- catches up to her just in time to threaten her future.

Delia Hopkins has led a charmed life. Raised in rural New Hampshire by her widowed father, Andrew, she now has a young daughter, a handsome fiancé, and her own search-and-rescue bloodhound, which she uses to find missing persons. But as Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can't recall. And then a policeman knocks on her door, revealing a secret that changes the world as she knows it.

In shock and confusion, Delia must sift through the truth -- even when it jeopardizes her life and the lives of those she loves. What happens when you learn you are not who you thought you were? When the people you've loved and trusted suddenly change before your eyes? When getting your deepest wish means giving up what you've always taken for granted? Vanishing Acts explores how life -- as we know it -- might not turn out the way we imagined; how doing the right thing could mean doing the wrong thing; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat. Once again, Jodi Picoult handles a difficult and timely topic with understanding, insight, and compassion. (448 pages)

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." —Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"—wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come. (224 pages)

Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Katz, a gardener, cook, and writer, is also a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor who strongly believes that the live-culture ferments in foods have kept him alive and healthy. In this unusual book, he makes a case for the benefits of fermentation, an ancient preservation technique that he says makes foods much more digestible and nutritious and that is lacking in the Western diet. Among other weighty topics, he explores worldwide traditions of fermented foods, the history of human nutrition, and fermentation as part of the cycle of life; many chapters explain the science and techniques of vegetable, bean, dairy, and bread fermentation, with more than 90 recipes (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, yogurt, breads, wines and vinegar, and beers) included. Katz has obviously done comprehensive research on his subject and is passionate about it (although he tells readers much more than they want to know about his digestive process). While foodies who enjoy the sensual pleasures of the table will find Katz's attitude completely contrary to theirs, this specialized guide will appeal to those facing similar health challenges. (187 pages)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shelley's Suggestions

The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Burrows
(See summary below.)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm and into Edgar's mother's affections.

Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic. (576 pages)

The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory

A young woman caught in the rivalry between Queen Mary and her half sister, Elizabeth, must find her true destiny amid treason, poisonous rivalries, loss of faith, and unrequited love.

It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times

of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires.

Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen's Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller. (512 pages)

Kim's suggestions

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. And although she has her hands full—keeping track of her brother, Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah), and taking copious notes on How to Survive in the Wild—she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With consummate, spellbinding skill, Nicole Krauss gradually draws together their stories.

This extraordinary book was inspired by the author's four grandparents and by a pantheon of authors whose work is haunted by loss—Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, and more. It is truly a history of love: a tale brimming with laughter, irony, passion, and soaring imaginative power. (272 pages)

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason—photographer, fiancĂ©e soon-to-be-stepmother—looks into her camera and commits her greatest error. Heartbreaking, uplifting, and beautifully told, here is the riveting tale of a family torn apart, of the search for the truth behind a child’s disappearance, and of one woman’s unwavering faith in the redemptive power of love—all made startlingly fresh through Michelle Richmond’s incandescent sensitivity and extraordinary insight.

Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger’s van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe that Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning—and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach.

Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma’s father finds solace in religion and scientific probability—but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. With her life at a crossroads, she will leave San Francisco for a country thousands of miles away. And there, by the side of another sea, on a journey that has led her to another man and into a strange subculture of wanderers and surfers, Abby will make the most astounding discovery of all—as the truth of Emma’s disappearance unravels with stunning force. (480 pages)

Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner

These Is My Words, Sarah Agnes Prine told the spellbinding story of an extraordinary pioneer woman and her struggle to make a home in the Arizona Territories. Now, in this mesmerizing sequel, a three-year drought has made Sarah desperate for water. And just when it seems that life couldn't get worse, she learns that her brother and his family are trapped in the Great San Francisco Earthquake. A heartwarming blend of stubbornness and compassion, Sarah Agnes Prine will once again capture the hearts of readers everywhere. (432 pages)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tiffanie's Suggestions

Widow’s War by Sally Gunning

Married for twenty years to Edward Berry, Lyddie is used to the trials of being a whaler's wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket, Massachusetts—running their house herself during her husband's long absences at sea, living with the daily uncertainty that Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realized, she finds herself doubly cursed. She is overwhelmed by grief, and her property and rights are now legally in the hands of her nearest male relative: her daughter's overbearing husband, whom Lyddie cannot abide. Lyddie decides to challenge both law and custom for control of her destiny, but she soon discovers the price of her bold "war" for personal freedom to be heartbreakingly dear. (336 pages)

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Set in Manchester County, Virginia, 20 years before the Civil War began, Edward P. Jones's debut novel, The Known World, is a masterpiece of overlapping plot lines, time shifts, and heartbreaking details of life under slavery. Caldonia Townsend is an educated black slaveowner, the widow of a well-loved young farmer named Henry, whose parents had bought their own freedom, and then freed their son, only to watch him buy himself a slave as soon as he had saved enough money. Although a fair and gentle master by the standards of the day, Henry Townsend had learned from former master about the proper distance to keep from one's property. After his death, his slaves wonder if Caldonia will free them. When she fails to do so, but instead breaches the code that keeps them separate from her, a little piece of Manchester County begins to unravel. Impossible to rush through, The Known World is a complex, beautifully written novel with a large cast of characters, rewarding the patient reader with unexpected connections, some reaching into the present day. (432 pages)

The Jew Store by Stella Suberman (memoir)

The Bronsons were the first Jews to ever live in the small town of Concordia, Tennessee-a town consisting of one main street, one bank, one drugstore, one picture show, one feed and seed, one hardware store, one beauty parlor, one barber shop, one blacksmith, and many Christian churches. That didn't stop Aaron Bronson, a Russian immigrant, from moving his young family out of New York by horse and wagon and journeying to this remote corner of the South to open a small dry goods store, Bronson's Low-Priced Store.

Never mind that he was greeted with "Danged if I ever heard tell of a Jew storekeeper afore." Never mind that all the townspeople were suspicious of any strangers. Never mind that the Klan actively discouraged the presence of outsiders. Aaron Bronson bravely established a business and proved in the process that his family could make a home, and a life, anywhere. With great fondness and a fine dry wit, Stella Suberman tells the story of her family in an account that Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, described as "a gem...Vividly told and captivating in its humanity."

Now available for the first time in paperback, here is the book that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said was "forthright. . . . not a revisionist history of Jewish life in the small-town South but . . . written within the context of the 1920s, making it valuable history as well as a moving family story." (320 pages)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Heather's Suggestions

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

Jerome's comic masterpiece — and one of the best-known classics of English humor — follows the misadventures of 3 bungling, Victorian-era bachelors who take off on a rowing excursion up the Thames. Their disastrous struggles with camping equipment, meal preparation, and rampant hypochondria trumpet simple truths that still resonate today. (144 pages)

A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

Simon Vance has just the right plummy accent for an Indian merchant in post-colonial Africa. He has purchased a shop at a bend in the great river. He sells pencils, copy books, razor blades, and iron pots for people who live in the jungle. A friend has got the Big Burger franchise. "But the airplane is a wonderful thing," his brother tells him. "You are still in one place when you arrive at the other. The airplane is faster than the heart." The jungle reasserts itself. Civilization withdraws. They are going to kill everybody who can read and write. Vance delivers the detached ferocity that won Naipaul the Nobel Prize. (288 pages)

Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton

She has as much business keeping a stray dog as she would walking across Egypt–which not so incidentally is the title of her favorite hymn. She’s Mattie Rigsbee, an independent, strong-minded senior citizen who, at seventy-eight, might be slowing down just a bit. When teenage delinquent Wesley Benfield drops in on her life, he is even less likely a companion than the stray dog. But, of course, the dog never tasted her mouth-watering pound cake. Wise and witty, down-home and real, Walking Across Egypt is a book for everyone. (240 pages)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charlotte's Suggestions

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a story of discovery--personal, historical, and geographical. Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier. But his research reveals even more about his own life than he's willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an American family.

Like other great quests in literature, Lyman Ward's investigation leads him deep into the dark shadows of his own life. The result is a deeply moving novel that, through the prism of one family, illuminates the American present against the fascinating background of its past. (592 pages)

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

One of today's most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following an Islamist's murder of her colleague, Theo van Gogh, with whom she made the movie Submission.

Infidel is the eagerly awaited story of the coming of age of this elegant, distinguished -- and sometimes reviled -- political superstar and champion of free speech. With a gimlet eye and measured, often ironic, voice, Hirsi Ali recounts the evolution of her beliefs, her ironclad will, and her extraordinary resolve to fight injustice done in the name of religion. Raised in a strict Muslim family and extended clan, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries largely ruled by despots. In her early twenties, she escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim immigrant women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Even though she is under constant threat -- demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from her family and clan -- she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali's story tells how a bright little girl evolved out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no story could be timelier or more significant. (368 pages)

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

David Sedaris became a star autobiographer on public radio, onstage in New York, and on bestseller lists, mostly on the strength of "SantaLand Diaries," a scathing, hilarious account of his stint as a Christmas elf at Macy's. (It's in two separate collections, both worth owning, Barrel Fever and the Christmas-themed Holidays on Ice.) Sedaris's caustic gift has not deserted him in his fourth book, which mines poignant comedy from his peculiar childhood in North Carolina, his bizarre career path, and his move with his lover to France. Though his anarchic inclination to digress is his glory, Sedaris does have a theme in these reminiscences: the inability of humans to communicate. The title is his rendition in transliterated English of how he and his fellow students of French in Paris mangle the Gallic language. In the essay "Jesus Shaves," he and his classmates from many nations try to convey the concept of Easter to a Moroccan Muslim. "It is a party for the little boy of God," says one. "Then he be die one day on two... morsels of... lumber," says another. Sedaris muses on the disputes between his Protestant mother and his father, a Greek Orthodox guy whose Easter fell on a different day. Other essays explicate his deep kinship with his eccentric mom and absurd alienation from his IBM-exec dad: "To me, the greatest mystery of science continues to be that a man could father six children who shared absolutely none of his interests."

Every glimpse we get of Sedaris's family and acquaintances delivers laughs and insights. He thwarts his North Carolina speech therapist ("for whom the word pen had two syllables") by cleverly avoiding all words with s sounds, which reveal the lisp she sought to correct. His midget guitar teacher, Mister Mancini, is unaware that Sedaris doesn't share his obsession with breasts, and sings "Light My Fire" all wrong--"as if he were a Webelo scout demanding a match." As a remarkably unqualified teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sedaris had his class watch soap operas and assign "guessays" on what would happen in the next day's episode. (288 pages)

Melanie's Suggestions

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The letters comprising this small charming novel begin in 1946, when single, 30-something author Juliet Ashton (nom de plume Izzy Bickerstaff) writes to her publisher to say she is tired of covering the sunny side of war and its aftermath. When Guernsey farmer Dawsey Adams finds Juliet's name in a used book and invites articulate—and not-so-articulate—neighbors to write Juliet with their stories, the book's epistolary circle widens, putting Juliet back in the path of war stories. The occasionally contrived letters jump from incident to incident—including the formation of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society while Guernsey was under German occupation—and person to person in a manner that feels disjointed. But Juliet's quips are so clever, the Guernsey inhabitants so enchanting and the small acts of heroism so vivid and moving that one forgives the authors (Shaffer died earlier this year) for not being able to settle on a single person or plot. Juliet finds in the letters not just inspiration for her next work, but also for her life—as will readers. (288 pages)

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Starred Review. Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N.Dak. The family's infant daughter is spared, and a posse forms, incorrectly blames three Indians and lynches them. One, Mooshum Milk, miraculously survives. Over the next century, descendants of both the hanged men and the lynch mob develop relationships that become deeply entangled, and their disparate stories are held together via principal narrator Evelina, Mooshum Milk's granddaughter, who comes of age on an Indian reservation near Pluto in the 1960s and '70s and forms two fateful adolescent crushes: one on bad-boy schoolmate Corwin Peace and one on a nun. Though Evelina doesn't know it, both are descendants of lynch mob members. The plot splinters as Evelina enrolls in college and finds work at a mental asylum; Corwin spirals into a life of crime; and a long-lost violin (its backstory is another beautiful piece of the mosaic) takes on massive significance. Erdrich plays individual narratives off one another, dropping apparently insignificant clues that build to head-slapping revelations as fates intertwine and the person responsible for the 1911 killing is identified. This book got a 5 star rating from quite a few Critics. (320 pages)

Rosalie's Suggestions

The Host by Stephanie Myers

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time. (624 pages)

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No.1 Ladies´ Detective Agency, located in Gaborone, Botswana, consists of one woman, the engaging Precious Ramotswe. A cross between Kinsey Millhone and Miss Marple, this unlikely heroine specializes in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men and imposters. When she sets out on the trail of a missing child she is tumbled headlong into some strange situations and not a little danger. Deftly interweaving tragedy and humor to create a memorable tale of human desires and foibles, the book is also an evocative portrait of a distant world. (240 pages)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This is great..thanks Tiffanie for your tech-o-know-how and the fore-sight to create this blog.

To those that missed October book group, well what can I say, the best munchies EVER! 
Kim is such a great HOST(maybe we should read that one)? 

For those that want to jump in again and read this

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Contributing to a blog------this is new for me, but I'm glad we're doing it.  It should be a lot of fun, and hooray! we get to hear from Lindsey, too.  Loved the picture from last Christmas and I am looking forward to seeing everyone next month.  Has anyone started Plain and Simple yet? 

Great Job Tiffanie

Thanks so  much for setting this blog  up Tiffanie!  I love it.  I will post a couple of recipes from Thursday night, hopefully later today. So it sounds like Shelley agreed to host book group next month..can't wait.
Does everyone know about the December date?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The First Post

At Kim's on Thursday, Heather said that she thought it would be fun if we had a blog that everyone could post to. I think we were eating some of Kim's really good food at the time, and Heather was thinking of recipes. So here we are--a place where we can write about the books we read, share our recipes, and keep in touch in between meetings. And I promise not to write about politics... too much.