Monday, April 9, 2012

May 2012

May 14 at Billie's house

Book: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon

From Publishers Weekly
Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive "theory of mind" by which most of us sense what's going on in other people's heads. When his neighbor's poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents' broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open-overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns ("4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks"). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them," the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More Suggestions

The Persian Pickle Club, by Sandra Dallas
From Library Journal
Hard times in Depression-era Harveyville, Kansas, are softened by the conviviality of a weekly quilting circle called the Persian Pickle Club. Queenie Bean, the "talkingest" member of the group, narrates the novel with snappy style. Over the course of a year, during which the club experiences more sorrow than sewing, Queenie and her pals depend on one another more than ever. When Queenie forms a fast friendship with the newest "Pickle," a flashy, big-city gal named Rita, the equilibrium of the group changes, for Rita is a novice newspaper reporter intent on making a name for herself. The story Rita most wants to crack involves the mysterious death of one of the club ladies' husbands. Will secrets long stitched into the collective fabric of friendship hold? This and other suspenseful questions of small-town life will entertain readers who enjoyed Fannie Flag's Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Random, 1987), Olive Ann Burns's Cold Sassy Tree (LJ 10/15/84), or Dallas's first novel, Buster Midnight's Cafe

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
From Publishers Weekly
Forget your image of an economist as a crusty professor worried about fluctuating interest rates: Levitt focuses his attention on more intimate real-world issues, like whether reading to your baby will make her a better student. Recognition by fellow economists as one of the best young minds in his field led to a profile in the New York Times, written by Dubner, and that original article serves as a broad outline for an expanded look at Levitt's search for the hidden incentives behind all sorts of behavior. There isn't really a grand theory of everything here, except perhaps the suggestion that self-styled experts have a vested interest in promoting conventional wisdom even when it's wrong. Instead, Dubner and Levitt deconstruct everything from the organizational structure of drug-dealing gangs to baby-naming patterns. While some chapters might seem frivolous, others touch on more serious issues, including a detailed look at Levitt's controversial linkage between the legalization of abortion and a reduced crime rate two decades later. Underlying all these research subjects is a belief that complex phenomena can be understood if we find the right perspective. Levitt has a knack for making that principle relevant to our daily lives, which could make this book a hit.

The Mercy Street Series (Mercy Street, Acts of Mercy, Cry Mercy), by Mariah Stewart
From Publishers Weekly
This intriguing first in a new romantic suspense series from bestseller Stewart (Last Breath) introduces two cool crime solvers, PI Mallory Russo, a former Conroy, Pa., cop, and Charlie Wanamaker, a former Philly detective who's returned to Conroy to help his alcoholic mother and his disabled sister. Despite bad experiences employing PIs, billionaire Robert Magellan, who's haunted by the disappearance of his wife and young son, hires Mallory to locate two missing teens, Courtney Bauer and Ryan Corcoran. The high school students vanished after a playground shooting that left two of their friends dead. The Conroy police suspect the pair were involved, but Mary Corcoran, Ryan's grandmother, and Linda Bauer, Courtney's mom, are sure of their innocence.

The Sisterhood Series, by Fern Michaels (15 books and counting in series)
From Booklist
As Nikki and her best friend, Barbara, are walking, a car comes out of nowhere and kills Barbara and her unborn child. Unfortunately, the driver, a Chinese diplomat, isn't subject to prosecution. Barbara's mother, the fabulously wealthy Myra Rutledge, who also raised Nikki, goes into a two-year depression, only snapping out of it when she sees television coverage of the mother of another murdered child taking the law into her own hands. Barbara and Myra recruit five female vigilantes, all victims of a legal system that, in their experiences, favored the criminal. The group's mission: to right the wrongs perpetrated against them and other women. The first woman to be vindicated is the one who was raped by three white-collar bikers while her disabled husband was forced to watch. Mission Impossible meets Lorena Bobbitt in prolific Michaels' latest, the first of the Sisterhood series. Readers who grow weary of seeing the bad guys get away with their crimes will enjoy seeing what happens when well-funded, very angry women take the law into their own hands.

The Day I ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation, by Elizabeth Berg
From Publishers Weekly
In this collection of mostly uplifting stories, Berg (Dream When You're Feeling Blue) explores the everyday challenges that women face. Whether teenaged or octogenarian, Berg's heroines brave the emotional landmines underlying domestic scenes (from holiday dinner parties to visiting family), navigate the slippery slope of constant dieting and address the process of aging. The title story features an unnamed, insouciant narrator who flees from a Weight Watchers meeting and allows herself to indulge her most fattening food cravings. In Full Count, an introspective army brat begins to decipher what she looks like to others. The wistful and nostalgic Rain features a woman reminiscing about a good friend who dropped his successful corporate life to live closer to nature. Berg's men are surprisingly supportive and well behaved; it is often the women in these stories who manipulate and mistreat their partners. The protagonist of Truth or Dare, for example, struggles to accept that her ex-husband moved on after she left him. Berg has a knack for sentimental but authentic stories about women who find affirmation in true-to-life situations, and if her endings are slightly predictable, it's in a good way, like comfort food that never disappoints.

William W. Johnstone, western/military/espionage author of over 250 books, including the Ashes series.

Harriet Truman/Loose Threads Mystery Series (Quilt as You Go, Quilter's Knot, Quilt as Desired), by Arlene Sachitano
When the dust settles after the Foggy Point Civil War re-enactment, one casualty turns out to be really dead, and his identity sends shockwaves through the community. Does a long-lost quilt that suddenly re-appears hold a clue? Harriet and the Loose Threads must unravel the mystery before the killer strikes again. And who is the mysterious young man with the military bearing who's drawn the admiration of Carla, the young woman the Threads have taken under their wing? Is he what he claims to be, or something much more sinister?


September Book Club

This month we are reading a Memoir or Autobiography of our choice!

1. A historical account or biography written from personal knowledge.
2. An autobiography or a written account of one's memory of certain events or people.

Some suggestions mentioned at last book club meeting were Autobiography of Mark Twain, Shania Twain's memoir: From This Moment On, or Faith of My Fathers by John McCain.


August Book Club

This month's book club was held at Billie's house, and as I was sick, Mom took great notes for me to update the blog!

Everyone who read Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, said it is a "must read". Erin described it as well written but disturbing due to the subject matter. It was a story of survival and gives us a picture of another culture (Somalia).

Everyone also enjoyed The Thornbirds by Colleen McCollough, although it was a tragic story. The descriptions of the Australian outback were so vivid that Drogheda, the station, felt like a character in the story. The story follows one family through several generations.

Although some criticized The Next Thing on my List, by Jill Smolinski, most enjoyed the book as a light, fun summer read. Joy and Donna pointed out that the plot was interesting with a few good twists, although they felt that the girl's death was trivialized as a minor event.

The Thirteenth Tale is the first novel by Diane Setterfield. Erin, Donna, and Billie loved it, and Dorena rated it a 7/10. Barb W loved it and read it in one day! Erica thought it was easy to put down, and Christy also had a hard time getting into the story as well. I have to agree with those who enjoyed the book - it was like a puzzle, and I kept reading to find out more about the mysterious characters!

Thanks for joining us, whether it be online, or in person (Katie!!)...feel free to leave comments and read along with us!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

July Book Club (postponed)

Next meeting details to be determined!! August Books are "The Next Thing on My List", by Jill Smolinski, or "The Thirteenth Tale", by Diane Setterfield.

Also, come prepared to discuss last month's books (The Thornbirds, or Infidel) if time permits! Location and date details coming soon...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

July Book Club

Just a reminder, next book club meeting is planned for Billie's house, July 11th at 6 p.m.

The books we are reading are either "Infidel", by Ayaan Hirsi Ali or "The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough!

June Book Club Meeting

This month's book club was at Jessica's house. Although we were fewer in number, we had a wonderful time talking about classic literature.

Christy read "Gone With the Wind" and had us all fanning our faces as she read excerpts and described the world of Scarlet and Rhett. She loved the book and several others decided to read/re-read it! It was suggested this would have been a great choice for everyone to read.

Donna read "Wuthering Heights" and said it was a very depressing, dark story about revenge. It wasn't a love story at all, and there was definitely not a happy ending. We were all surprised that it is a classic! Donna did say that this book has been sitting on her shelf for 20 years, so she felt a sense of accomplishment that she had read it after all this time!

Erin read "Pride and Prejudice" and tells us this is her favorite Jane Austen novel. The main character, Elizabeth, is very likable and many of the side characters have interesting stories as well. Joy also read a Jane Austen novel, "Emma", but said that she didn't care for the main character, as she was a meddler in other people's lives.

Jessica read "Little Women" and was sadly disappointed. She read this book many years ago and remembers loving it and relating to the characters; but 20 years later the story seems much different. There is a very "preachy" tone in the novel as the mother is always finding a chance to fit in a lecture about how to be good little girls and think of others, etc etc. This book is still a good book for young people to read, but as an adult, it is much more difficult to relate to.

Dorena and Joy both read "The Count of Monte Cristo" and thought it was much too long. The plot was very exciting and there were some great adventures, but they were outnumbered by pages of inner monologues and descriptions of the surroundings. Jessica (who does not usually endorse movies over books, by the way!!) suggested they watch the movie version, which emphasized the action/adventure and romance, while skipping over the dullest parts.

Thanks for a lovely time, ladies!!