August 03, 2014

July 2014

We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.
We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.
    -Excerpt from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Here's what else we discussed:

Stand Up Guy - Stuart Woods
Snow Hunters - Paul Yoon
Carnal Curiosity - Stuart Woods
Want Not - Jonathan Miles
The Telling Room - Michael Paterniti
The Blessings - Elise Juska
That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo
Top Secret Twenty-One - Janet Evanovich
Fifth Business - Robertson Davies
Empire Girls - Hayes, Nyhan
I'll Be Seeing You - Hayes, Nyhan
Yeats is Dead (by 15 Irish Writers) - Joseph O'Connor
Me Before You = Jojo Moyes
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
Waiting to Exhale - Terry McMillan
Dragnet Nation - Julia Angwin
Archeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication - Douglas Vakock
The Monk - M.G. Lewis
Sons of Wichita -Daniel Schulman
No Place to Hide - Glenn Greenwald
Free NASA ebooks
Saints of the Shadow Bible - Ian Rankin
Vertigo 42 - Martha Grimes
The October List - Jeffery Deaver
The Prince of Risk - Christopher Reich
Murder at Mullings - Dorothy Cannell
An Appetite for Wonder - Richard Dawkins' memoir
The Zealot - Reza Aslan
The Giver - Lois Lowry
Flora and Ulysses - Kate DiCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo
Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman
Summer House with Swimming Pool - Herman Koch
Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Death of Bees - Lisa O'Donnell
Paper Daughter - M. Elaine Mar
Jackdaws - Ken Follett
The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
Deep Dish - Mary Kay Andrews
Blue Christmas - Mary Kay Andrews
Any Place I Hang My Hat - Susan Isaacs
Looking for Me - Beth Hoffman
L'Affaire - Diane Johnson
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Oldest Living Things in the World - Rachel Sussman
Notes from the Larder - Nigel Slater
Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger - Nigel Slater
Carsick - John Waters

From our sister group in OK:
Lawton Book Bunch


Anderson, John Dennis. Student Companion to William Faulkner
Brown, Dan. The Lost Symbol
Clancy, Tom. Hidden Agendas, from the Net Force series
Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying
Gabaldon, Diane. Written in My Heart’s Own Blood: A Novel, from The Outlander series
Grant, Michael. The Gone series (Light, Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear)

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World
Shyamalan, M. Night. I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America's Education Gap
Safdie, Moshe. Form and Purpose


As I Lay Dying, directed by and starring James Franco

From Mary Lou in MD:

Brando Skyhorse, The Madonnas of Echo Park (2010).  This is a stunning first novel.  Echo Park is a Los Angeles neighborhood inhabited by the Mexican underclass in the 1980s. It is where the author grew up and his fictional characters are drawn from this neighborhood with comic and often ironic perception.  The Madonnas of the title are a group of mothers and daughters who gather on a neighborhood street corner where a Madonna MTV video was filmed. The point of view shifts between a day laborer, a teenage girl, a “cleaning woman,”  a bus driver, and other Echo Park residents who can find housing only in their Mexican neighborhood but of necessity support themselves and their families with menial jobs in the prosperous LA white world where they receive no respect.  The interlocking narratives eventually form a chronology of shared experiences.  
Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters (2011).  Yes, the title is a reference to Macbeth.  The sisters are named for Shakespearean characters:  Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean), and Cordelia (Cordy).  Their father is a Shakespeare professor at a Southern Ohio university who converses obscurely and almost exclusively in quotations from the Bard.  The sisters are in their 30s.  Rose is still living at home and the others have just returned after generally messing up their lives.  Each sister is focused on guarding her guilty secret while attempting to support “our mother” in her struggle with breast cancer.  The point of view of the novel is first person plural and this is a surprisingly effective device for revealing the complex characters in this witty, poignant novel of family relationships. This is another stunning first novel.  
Martha Grimes, The Old Wine Shades (2006).  Scotland Yard’s Richard Jury is enjoying a drink in a pub when stranger tells him a tale of a friend of his, whose wife, son and dog disappeared one day on a trip to Surrey. Nearly a year later, the dog came back.  Jury suspects Harry Johnson’s tale may be a fabrication, but he can’t imagine why.  Also the dog Mungo is charming.  Whenever Jury thinks he’s about to spy a glimmer of truth, Harry postpones further details until the next evening.  Jury is hooked on the mystery and gets his sergeant Wiggins involved in an attempt to authenticate the tale, along with his friend Melrose Plant, the reluctant aristocrat with the terrifying Aunt Agatha.  All of our favorite characters are here with all of their endearing eccentricities and eventually a crime is discovered.  
Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline (1980).  “I wear the ring” the novel begins.  It may be Conroy’s most nuanced exploration of what it means to be Southern.  Will McLean, son of a decorated Marine veteran of Iwo Jima, leaves Savannah, GA to attend his father’s alma mater, Carolina Military Institute in Charleston, SC.  Charleston “South of Broad” is a city of opulent beauty and refinement masking decay and decadence.  Will’s aristocratic roommate introduces him to this culture.  The Institute operates under a strict code of military honor disguising brutal depravity.  Evil hides behind stiff rectitude.  The novel begins in September of Will’s senior year at the Institute, the year when the first Black cadet enrolls.  After establishing the central conflicts of the plot, the novel turns back to Will’s experiences as a plebe to describe the Institute’s crushing physical training and its demeaning hazing and verbal abuse.  Many of the boys break under the system and leave the Institute in disgrace. Others survive to become the brutal upper classmen who subject incoming plebes to the increasingly intense psychological and physical abuse, all under the cover of maintaining the “honor” of the Institute. Will manages somehow to survive this system but his smart mouth, sharp wit, and inherent honesty block him from unquestioning acceptance of its excesses.  The Institute’s Commandant “Bear” is a gruff moderating force but he may not be trustworthy.  Will’s roommates are also misfits to some extent.  Charleston aristocrat Tradd St Croix is effeminate.  Mark Santoro and Dante Pignetti (“Pig”) are Italian and Yankee and Pig is also very poor.   Under great peril, they are forced to test the depths of loyalty, courage and honor.  As with any of Conroy’s novels, The Lords of Discipline explores the essential ironies inherent in moral conflict.  
Geraldine Brooks, March (2005).  This is the story of Little Women’s father.  Mr. March, a chaplain in the Union army, is part of the retreat from the Battle of Bulls Bluff on the Potomac.  They fall back to a plantation home where March had visited some 20 years before, as he began earning his fortune as a peddler.  Young March was taken with the gracious living of the South and youthfully insensitive to the suffering of slavery at its foundation.  He made his fortune, returned to Concord, married “Marmee”, and enjoyed the Brahmin society of Emerson and Thoreau.  “Marmee” is a strong-minded, outspoken abolitionist whose real personality (to our delight) bears scant resemblance the saintly, conventional mother in Alcott’s novel.  Brooks draws heavily on the biography of Bronson Alcott in the characterization of Mr. March.  The familiar plot and characters of Little Women form the context for this story of the Civil War and its psychological traumas and gory horrors of battle.  Brooks also presents a gripping portrayal of the wrenching agony of slavery, the degenerative effects of the institution on the slave owners, and the callow self-righteousness of some of the abolitionists.  This historical setting is vividly detailed but the most intriguing aspect of the novel is the formation of March’s character through his experiences.    

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