Review: The Frog Prince


I have been enjoying reading Jane Porter's books this year. Her novels let you escape into a story with real characters and real struggles.
The Frog Prince is entertaining and keeps you guessing. Jane Porter captures the fear, pain and insecurity Holly feels having had her life turned upside down on her honeymoon when her husband says he doesn’t love her. We follow Holly as she relocates, creating a new life for her self filled with new friends, dating, learning to accept herself. This book is an exploration into marriage, mother/daughter, sibling, friendship, and dating relationships.

An exploration for the reader as to why we need love, what makes a person special, do we suffer from family guilt, can we move forward and put past relationships behind and most important is there happy ever after?
BWAV rating of this book:4 stars
Type: Fiction, 384 pages Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Holly Bishop is the proverbial, small-town good girl. She always follows the rules, thinks of others first, and she never, ever makes mistakes. Until she marries the man she thought was her Prince Charming, who confesses on their honeymoon that he's not sexually attracted to her. Now, 14 months later, Holly's marriage is in the toilet, along with her self-esteem. Determined to start over, she moves to San Francisco, where she must navigate the landmines of dating in the big city. In the shadow of the Golden Gate and amid a population of wacky Bay Area eccentrics, Holly will discover that nice girls don't always finish last. In fact, they sometimes end up with everything they'd ever wanted.

Reviews:
“A painfully funny, utterly true story for every woman who has ever wondered what happeds after the fairy tale ends. I absolutely loved this book!” – Susan Wiggs, USA Totday bestselling author

Review: Driving Sideways


MMBC – January 2009 selection
Driving Sideways is the first novel for Jess Riley. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and dog. Click here for an author Q&A or visit her blog for entertaining posts!

Added Jan 20: Click here for our author Q&A and here for our discussion (view comments below post)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The Manic Mommies book club selected this for their first 2009 selection and it’s such an entertaining story, great job ladies! This is the story of Leigh, it takes place a year after receiving a kidney transplant. She decides to take a road trip from Wisconsin to California to meet Larry’s family (the donor) and reunite with her mother. She has many stops planned along the way and props for her adventure – she is so excited to use her newly acquired metal detector and kayak. Her plans take a slight turn at a rest stop in Minnesota, when a 17 year old girl named Denise needs a ride to California and joins the adventure.

This story takes place in six days and keeps you on your toes. Each pit stop and overnight stay turn out exactly like they should, which isn’t always what you are expecting. I feel I shouldn’t share any of the details in the pages as I might share something special that you wish you could experience as you read the book (the plot keeps building as the story progresses). I highly recommend this to anyone from book clubs to a vacation read. A must read!

I will be posting an author Q&A and notes from our book discussion the week of January 19th.

Type: Fiction, 320 pages, Trade Paperback
Synopsis:
Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry’s kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas–and a memorable visit to thank Larry’s family for the second chance.

Yet Leigh’s itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker, Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates’s Greatest Hits to the mix, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery.

Reviews:
“Driving Sideways is a gorgeous novel . . . hugely entertaining and very touching. Jess Riley’s voice is irreverent and wonderful, and her writing is genius.” –Marian Keyes, author of Anybody Out There?

"A hopeful and hilarious debut ... Jess Riley may well be my new favorite author." –Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black

“Brilliant . . . Jess Riley proves herself a huge new talent.”–Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius

On Chesil Beach


Reviewed by Lisa

Ian McEwan is one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation, born in England and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father. McEwan has been writing short stories and novels since the mid-1970’s.

This novel is the story of the wedding night of a couple whose history and courtship are told through flashbacks. McEwan writes in such a way that the reader is left with a vivid picture and understanding of the characters. The crux of this story is that what is left unsaid is often as important as what is said. I can't say I enjoyed the book because it was, in a way so depressing---the idea that people could feel that they knew each other well enough to get married but be so unable to communicate with each other does not make for a comfortable read. If you're going to read McEwan, I would recommend "Atonement" rather than "On Chesil Beach."

Type: Fiction, 224 pages, trade paperback

Synopsis:

The #1 bestselling author of Saturday and Atonement brilliantly illuminates the collision of sexual longing, deep-seated fears and romantic fantasy in his unforgettable, emotionally engaging new novel.
The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented violinist. She dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, the earnest young history student she met by chance and who unexpectedly wooed her and won her heart. Edward grew up in the country on the outskirts of Oxford where his father, the headmaster of the local school, struggled to keep the household together and his mother, brain-damaged from an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward’s native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervour of the city, had taken him to University College in London. Falling in love with the accomplished, shy and sensitive Florence – and having his affections returned with equal intensity – has utterly changed his life.
Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness, the confidence and the freedom to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence’s anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself.
From the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us how the entire course of a life can be changed – by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

While my Sister Sleeps


Barbara Delinsky has written several novels (non-fiction and fiction). Her background in sociology comes in handy when writing novels focused on family dynamics and situations. As mentioned in her biography, we know these characters, we are them - character-driven studies of marriage, parenthood, sibling rivalry, and friendship.

I’m a marathon runner, follow the running community and Olympic level athletes… I couldn’t put this book down, wanting to know see how the characters would develop throughout the story.

The mother, Kathryn, has strong reactions related to Robin’s heart attack. Her immediate reaction is blame – this would not have happened if…. Molly, the youngest daughter, has her own opinions, emotions and struggles with the idea of her sister being brain dead. Kathryn is trying to make the right decisions from the view of a mother and Molly is trying to represent her sister, often saying ‘what would Robin want’.

The story begins to unfold when Robin’s journals are found. The family begins to see a side to Robin that they were unaware and her views and values start to surface as the days go by. Without giving away any details, the family finds a way to come to terms with the accident.

A complex story with each family member struggling to accept Robin's fate. There are several storylines surrounding Robin’s hospital room to keep the reader engaged and wanting to know more.

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, hardcover
Readers Guide: Yes

Scheduled for release February 17, 2009

Synopsis:

At 27, Molly Snow is the youngest of three siblings. Feisty but hard-working, she has always been overshadowed by her older sister, Robin, an elite marathoner who is favored to shine at the upcoming Olympic trials. When Robin suffers a heart attack during a training run and fails to regain consciousness, her family is devastated.

As Molly's parents fold under the heartbreak and her brother retreats into the cool reserve that is threatening his marriage, Molly is the one left standing. By default, she is thrust into the role of family spokesperson, not only with friends and the media, but at Snow Hill, the family's hugely successful tree and plant nursery. More crucially, Molly becomes her sister's voice when Robin can' t speak for herself. In the process, she finds her own voice.

While My Sister Sleeps is more than a coming-of-age story. Taking place over six days, this novel explores a family in crisis, peeling away layers of relationships to expose one startling truth after another. Mother to daughter, sister to sister - it is a story of rising to a challenge and making hard decisions, then loving enough to let go.

Reviews:
Delinsky delves deeper into the human heart and spirit with each new novel – Cincinnati inquirer.

House of Daughters


Sarah-Kate Lynch has written three novels, bread making, cheese and now wine! She also writes two columns in the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, New Zealand's best-read magazine.

I love learning while reading a novel and House of Daughters delivers. This is the story of three sisters, I might say four if you add in the vineyard.

When Clementine’s father dies and her long lost sister arrives for the funeral and reading of the will, they are surprised to learn of a third sister that they knew nothing about.

Sophie, the youngest sister, joins the family shortly after Clementine discovers she exists. This novel is filled with the French language, follows the winery over four seasons and has a storyline that thickens as the book progresses.

Type: Fiction, 320 Pages, Trade paperback
Reader's guide: No

Synopsis:

Family rivalries, long-ago love affairs, and forgotten scandals blend in this sparkling novel set in the Champagne province of France…


With effervescent wit and clear-eyed insight, Sarah-Kate Lynch explores the rivalries and bonds of sisterhood amidst the lush countryside of France's Champagne province. Clementine is the rightful heir to the House of Peine, the vineyard that has been in the family for generations. She has spent her whole life caring for the vines, not to mention caring for her sour brute of a father. But now that the Peine patriarch is dead, his will stipulates that Clementine must share the vineyard with a half-sister she hasn't seen in twenty years and another she didn't even know existed. As one vineyard brings three estranged siblings together, readers will savor this heartfelt toast to sisterhood and inspired celebration of Champagne.

The 19th Wife


David Ebershoff is the author of three novels and his fiction has won a number of awards. His books have been translated into fifteen languages to critical acclaim. Ebershoff has taught creative writing at New York University and Princeton and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University.

I was excited to read ‘The 19th Wife’ after hearing how well researched and written this novel was. I learned so much and didn’t want to put this book down. Although Eberhoff is quick to explain that this is a work of fiction, you will enjoy the biographical nature of his writing, it is filled with facts and articles.

The story starts with a murder and quickly dives into the history of the Mormon faith and polygamy. While reading this book you will be amazed to learn about the culture and expectations within a household and the hierarchy of the wife’s and children. Part of the story is told from the view of a teenage boy who was kicked out for holding hands with his sister, he returns to help investigate the murder of his father after learning his mother is accused of killing him.

I encourage you to read the author’s Q&A for more details.
Type: Historical fiction, 514 pages, hardcover
Reader's guide: Yes

Synopsis:
Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

Reviews:
Ambitious. . . impressive. . Ebershoff demonstrates abundant virtuosity, as he convincingly inhabits the voices of both a nineteenth-century Mormon wife and a contemporary gay youth excommunicated from the church, while also managing to say something about the mysterious power of faith." – The New Yorker

"Wonderfully lyrical. . . . it does that thing all good novels do: It entertains us." – Los Angeles Times

Promise not to Tell


Reviewed by Lisa

"Promise not to Tell", a ghost story/murder mystery and also a story about how choices we make can affect us for the rest of our lives. By moving the story back and forth from the past to the present, the author pulls you in and makes it difficult to put down this book. Interesting characters, unusual settings, and more than one mystery make this one worth reading."

Type: Fiction, 256 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Forty-one-year-old school nurse Kate Cypher has returned home to rural Vermont to care for her mother who's afflicted with Alzheimer's. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered—a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate's childhood. Three decades earlier, her dirt-poor friend Del—shunned and derided by classmates as "Potato Girl"—was brutally slain. Del's killer was never found, while the victim has since achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories. Now, as this new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying, unexpected ways. Because nothing is quite what it seems . . . and the grim specters of her youth are far from forgotten.

More than just a murder mystery, Jennifer McMahon's extraordinary debut novel, Promise Not to Tell, is a story of friendship and family, devotion and betrayal—tautly written, deeply insightful, beautifully evocative, and utterly unforgettable.

Reviews:
“A great, dark, spooky book for the summer.” – The Today Show

"'What's the worst thing you've ever done?' That's the question, posed by a stranger, that 41-year-old Kate Cypher can't get out of mind in McMahon's impressive debut.... McMahon's gift is the deliciously twisty way she subverts all your expectations, keeping you guessing with wry wit and feverish chills. 'The dead can blame,' one character says. And the truth, this whipsmart novel reminds us, can break your heart. 4 out of 4 stars" – People

“McMahon unfurls a whirlwind of suspense that alternates between 1971 and 2002…. Combining murder mystery and coming-of-age tale with supernatural elements, this taut novel is above all a reflection on the haunting power of memory. A-" – Entertainment Weekly

Flirting with Forty


Flirting with Forty’ is fourth book written by Porter under the category of Modern Lit. She has also written over 20 romance novels. This book has been made into a lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear (original air date, Dec 6).

I really enjoyed reading this book – I enjoy reading ‘chic-lit’ to relax and escape into a story for a few days. Porter always does a great job developing characters and situations.

This is the story of Jackie, a divorced mom with two kids and a full time job just trying to survive from day to day. Her friends are still married and she feels a little lost, not knowing where she fits anymore. She terribly misses the idea of marriage.

She and a friend decide to go to Hawaii for a few days to celebrate Jackie’s 40th birthday, where she meets Kai, a surf instructor. The story continues to develop when Jackie returns from her vacation with memories of Kai, dealing with her ex-husband, friends, family, and life. As a parent myself, I was able to feel the emotions she was feeling throughout the story. I felt her insecurities, desires for her children and her struggle to accept herself.
Type: Fiction, 356 pages trade paperback
Synopsis:
Jane Porter's highly successful novel about a divorced single mom who finds an unexpected romance with a much younger man while on vacation in Hawaii has been selected for her exciting mass market debut.He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie Laurens, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and facing her upcoming birthday-alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and their wild passionate fling becomes the biggest surprise of her life.Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood and her memories. Kai hasn't forgotten her, yet thousands of miles of ocean and an age difference that feels even bigger lie between them. And, of course, Jackie's friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?

Reviews:

“A terrific read! A wonderful, life-and-love affirming story for women of all ages.” – Jayne ann Krentz (NY Times bestselling author)

“Strongly recommended. Porter’s thoughtful prose and strong characters make for an entertaining and thought-provoking read.” – Library Journal

Darcy's Story: Pride and Prejudice Told From A Whole New Perspective, written by Janet Aylmer


Reviewed by Lisa

“Darcy’s Story” attempts to explain the motives, actions and feelings of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice." To make this more realistic, the author has lifted many conversations from the original and has also recreated whole scenes from Darcy's point of view. I was looking forward to this book as a lover of "Pride & Prejudice" but was disappointed. The writing was not particularly exceptional, the author frequently used the device of recapping bits of conversation which I found unnecessary, and, in the end, I didn't feel like the author had given me anything more than what I may have mentally penciled in regarding Darcy. The book is a quick read and lovers of Austen will likely still enjoy it merely because it gives you a chance to revisit beloved characters.

Type: Fiction, 288 pages; Trade Paperback

Synopsis:
When Elizabeth Bennet first met Mr. Darcy, she found him proud, distant, and rude—despite the other ladies' admiration of his estate in Derbyshire and ten thousand pounds a year. But what was Mr. Darcy thinking?

Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet's blossoming romance with "haughty, reserved, and fastidious" Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr. Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior . . . until now.

With the utmost respect for Austen's original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer loving retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of world's great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction's greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller.

Reviews:
This novel is getting great reviews on BN.COM

Pride and Prejudice


January 2009 Book Club Selection

Rather than writing a review for Pride and Prejudice, for which we know is a wonderfully written novel and a classic, I would like to share some resources I have found for those looking to learn more about Jane Austen.

I’m amazed that a novel can survive interest for centuries – what an amazing sentence to write. Jane Austen has a society in her honor, remakes of her movies released every few years and documentaries of her life. If you like Jane Austen’s writings you surely are intrigued by her life, they go hand in hand.

I highly recommend everyone read Pride and Prejudice, at least once.

Synopsis:
In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy—two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudice dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and Prejudice is also a sumptuously detailed picture of contemporary society, which, in its exploration of manner and motives, has a great deal to say about the society of today. Austen's best-loved novel is a memorable story about the power of reason, and above all about the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

The handsome volumes in The Collectors Library present great works of world literature in a handy hardback format. Printed on high-quality paper and bound in real cloth, each complete and unabridged volume has a specially commissioned afterword, brief biography of the author and a further-reading list. This easily accessible series offers readers the perfect opportunity to discover, or rediscover, some of the world’s most endearing literary works.

Kissing Games of the World


Sandi Shelton has been writing her entire life, from articles for working mother’s magazine, a book on surviving parenting (you need to have a sense of humor) to her third fictional novel “Kissing Games of the World”.
This is a funny griping novel with twists and turns throughout. The plot is well thought out and centers on a single mom with a 5 year old boy struggling to survive life from day to day. I could see this novel being made into a movie, very entertaining and with a great ending!

Type: Fiction, 383 pages, hardcover

Synopsis:
If there’s one point that Jamie McClintock and Nate Goddard can agree upon, it’s that love is overrated. Jamie doesn’t have time for it. Nate doesn’t need it. And they certainly don’t want it from each other.

Jamie, a struggling free-spirited artist, is a devoted single mother who hasn’t been in a serious relationship since her boyfriend abandoned her after their son was born. Nate, a charismatic jet-setting salesman, is widowed and estranged from his father and five-year-old son, Christopher. Jamie would rather glue glitter to pinecones than go out on a date. Nate spends most of his nights wooing his clients. Then one afternoon Nate’s father drops dead of a heart attack. In that moment, their highly guarded worlds collide.

When Nate shows up at his childhood home to settle the estate and reclaim his son, he discovers that Jamie has been living in the Connecticut farmhouse as his father’s roommate. Mistrustful of each other’s motives, Nate and Jamie bicker about everything from children’s nicknames to Jamie’s fashion choices to Nate’s home renovation methods. It doesn’t help that Christopher prefers Jamie to his absentee father.

But after the funeral, Nate and Jamie begin to see each other in a more forgiving light. Nate, traveling to sales conferences all over the country with a sullen Christopher in tow, learns he can’t breeze his way through single parenthood. Jamie, who has moved back in with her sister, wonders at the wisdom of her unconventional choices as a woman with a child to support. And both begin to realize they don’t know as much about love as they thought. Still wounded by past heartbreak and sorrow, can they learn to trust each other and open their hearts?

Reviews:
Lolly Winston… “Funny, funny, funny from page one… Shelton’s writing sparkles with humor and insight”

People Magazine… “Zany and affecting… plenty of laughs”

Tomato Girl


February 2009 book selection

Jayne Pupek has generously offered to give away an autographed copy of this book. If you are interested in signing up for the drawing, click here (and enter Tomato Girl in the subject line). I will select a winner at random on December 1.

Tomato Girl is the second novel written by Jayne Pupek. Before writing she spent many years working in the mental health, she is also an activist for ‘Animals in Need’.

I found this book on EDIWTB while searching for books to add to my ‘to be read’ list. This is an amazing story, I couldn’t put the book down. The reader is plunged into the middle of a family with so many problems and no end in sight. The subplots in this novel are dark and sometimes disturbing, yet it’s a light read when written from the perspective of an eleven year old girl. I really enjoyed reading this book and there is a lot to discuss for book groups.

Type: Fiction, 298 pages, hardcover
Reader’s guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:
For eleven-year-old Ellie Sanders, her father has always been the rock that she could cling to when her mother's emotional troubles became too frightening. But when he comes under the thrall of the pretty teenager who raises vegetables and tomatoes for sale at the general store that he runs, Ellie sees her security slowly slipping away. Now she must be witness and warden to her mother's gradual slide into madness.Told from Ellie's point of view, Tomato Girl takes the reader into the soul of a terrified young girl clinging desperately to childhood while being forced into adulthood years before she is ready. To save herself, she creates a secret world, a place in which her mother gets well, her father returns to being the man he was, and the Tomato Girl is banished forever. Tomato Girl marks the debut of a gifted and promising new author who has written a timeless Southern novel.

Reviews:
‘Absorbing, unsettling…{An} accomplished debut” – Publisher’s Weekly

We need to talk about Kevin


Thank you EDIWTB and Harper Collins for sending a copy of 'We need to talk about Kevin'.

'We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is an Orange Prize-winner and the eighth novel written by Lionel Shriver.

This story, written from the mother’s perspective, is so detailed and filled with emotion that you feel the words as Eva writes letters to her estranged husband. You will be hooked from the first chapter, realizing parents in similar circumstances find a way to continue to live their lives, even when filled with regret and uncomfortable moments.

I am an authors dream reader and this novel is the perfect example. I am easily engaged and always surprised by plot twists and turns. As I read 'We need to talk about Kevin', with all it's sadness and emotion, I couldn't wait to see how the story would end. This is a brutally honest book with a unique slant on such a tragedy - thought provoking. An unforgettable look at our culture, getting right to the core.
I have recommended that members of the NFO read the online book club discussion on EDIWTBB – the author Q&A has posted, very interesting.

Type: Fiction, 400 pages, Trade paperback
Readers guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:
In a series of compelling and introspective letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, Eva Khatchadourian dissects her married life and her mothering of her son Kevin and daughter Celia in the aftermath of Kevin's Columbine-like school slaying of seven classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher. Worried that her son's murderousness might have resulted from her deficits as a mother, Eva probes the most intimate and shocking aspects of her inner life, her marriage and her resentment of motherhood. This literary page-turner tackles the sensitive proposition that mothers can be unmoved by -- and even dislike -- their own children. Eva struggles with her lack of ready emotion when Kevin is first placed in her arms and with the subsequently hellish years of parenting a boy who both refuses to speak until the age of 3 and be potty trained until the age of 6, and who seems to enjoy nothing but the taunting of his mother. Having dramatically scaled back on her satisfying and profitable career, Eva becomes a stay-at-home mom who discovers that her son, while seemingly slow, is whip-smart and vindictive -- and cunning enough to play for his father with disastrous results. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a searing and complex look at the reasons couples decide to have children, the parent-child relationship, marriage, and the limits of love and loyalty.

Reviews:
Library Journal…The timely topic of Shriver's (Double Fault) eighth novel is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged. This is the story, narrated in the form of letters to her estranged husband, of Eva Katchadourian, whose son has committed the most talked-about crime of the decade-a school shooting reminiscent of Columbine. From the very beginning, the reader knows that Kevin has been found guilty and is in a juvenile detention center, yet the plot is never stale. Shriver delivers new twists and turns as her narrator tells her story. Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case.

Lucky, written by Alice Sebold


March 2004 book club selection - Reviewed by Lisa

‘Lucky’ is the second novel written by Alice Sebold. A disturbing recount of her freshman year at Syracuse University where she was brutally raped and left for dead. The book follows her from the rape scene, to the struggles she has afterwards all the way through the trial.

After reading "The Lucky Bones," I knew that Sebold could write a book that I couldn't put down. I didn’t expect it to be a book that opens with a brutal rape would be one. I was wrong, I read this book in 3 days and felt like I had gotten on a ride I couldn't get off. Sebold does not attempt to justify or explain anyone's actions, preferring to acknowledge that sometimes, there is no real answer to "Why?".

Type: Memoir, 272 pages, trade paperback
Reader guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:
An acclaimed journalist shares the gripping story of her rape when she was a college freshman, achieving justice in the courtroom, and triumphing in the face of violence.

Reviews:
“Sharp-eyed and unsentimental….Despite its disturbing subject, Luck is exhilarating to read.” – Elle

“Gripping….eloquent…a powerful memoir.” – Joan Ullman, Clevelant Plan Dealer

The Secret between Us


Barbara Delinsky has written over 20 novels, most focusing on family dynamics, ‘The Secret between us’ is her latest novel, released in paperback earlier this month.

‘The Secret between Us’ is a story within a story. In addition to the accident and its aftermath, this is a story of relationships, community and secrets. The characters are filled with guilt, allowing the reader to feel like they are a character in the book and you can’t wait to see how everything turns out. Most of the characters are flawed giving you a sense of normalcy, real life.

I wasn’t able to put this book down, an easy read that hooks you in from the opening chapter. As a parent, I thought the story was believable, showing that parents will do almost anything to protect their children, not taking future consequences into consideration. We can not predict life’s journey and the twists and turns we will experience through life. A deeply touching story.

Type: Fiction, 352 pages, Trade paperback
Readers guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:
Nothing will break this mother-daughter bond. Not even the truth. Deborah Monroe and her daughter, Grace, are driving home from a party when their car hits a man running in the dark. Grace was at the wheel, but Deborah sends her home before the police arrive, determined to shoulder the blame for the accident. Her decision then turns into a deception that takes on a life of its own and threatens the special bond between mother and daughter.The Secret Between Us is an unforgettable story about making bad choices for the right reasons and the terrible consequences of a lie gone wrong. Once again, Barbara Delinksy has delivered a riveting study of family and a superbly crafted novel, perfectly targeted to reading groups and fans of provocative fiction.

Reviews:
Publishers Weekly… When Dr. Deborah Monroe’s teenage daughter Grace hits her high school history teacher while driving, Deborah allows the police to think she was at the wheel. Dealing with the aftermath of the accident is just one more unwelcome burden for Deborah, already stressed by work and family problems. Meanwhile, Grace is devastated by the pressure of the lie and the guilt she feels, particularly after her teacher dies. Orlagh Cassidy make a serviceable if not particularly distinctive attempt to distinguish between character voices, but her overall performance is warm and compassionate. Together, the smoothly abridged text and the narration create an emotionally affecting and realistic portrait of a family in crisis.

The Condition


Jennifer Haigh is the author of the three novels, ‘The Condition’ was released last summer and everyone is talking about this book. Book clubs are reading it across the country.

‘The Condition’ is the story of a New England family with three children. Their only daughter, Gwen, has Turner's Syndrome. Told in three parts, this story is told from each family member’s perspective.

The story starts in when the children are young, spending a summer at the beach. Everyone seems happy yet you sense there is a struggle between the parents. The second section takes place twenty years later, the children are grown and the parents have divorced. Each member of the family tells their story filling in the missing pieces that have happened over the years, answering the reader’s question – how did this family become so distant, angry and unhappy.

The third part of the book brings closure and acceptance to all members of the family but in a way that keeps you engaged and wondering how the author will bring closure to the family.

One of the best books I have read this year.

Visit the publishers website for interviews and videos about this book by Clicking Here

Type: Fiction, 400 pages, Hardcover
Reading Guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:
The Condition tells the story of the McKotches, a proper New England family that comes apart during one fateful summer. The year is 1976, and the family has embarked on their annual vacation to Cape Cod. One day, Frank is struck by his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, standing a full head shorter than her younger cousin. At that moment he knows something is terribly wrong with his only daughter.

Twenty years after Gwen's diagnosis with Turner's Syndrome—a genetic condition that traps her forever in the body of a child—all five family members are still dealing with the fallout. Frank and Paulette are acrimoniously divorced. Billy is dutiful but distant. His brother, Scott, awakens from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job and a regrettable marriage. And Gwen is silent and emotionally aloof, until she falls in love for the first time. And suddenly, once again, the family's world is tilted on its axis.

Reviews:
The Washington Post, Chris Bohjalian… Haigh has demonstrated in her previous two novels, Mrs. Kimbel and Baker Towers, an unerring ability to chronicle the ways people delude themselves – those lies we tell ourselves daily to survive. And in The Condition her touch with characterization is usually sure. Occasionally, Paulette’s monumental repression and Billy’s gay domesticity feel a tad clich├ęd, but generally Haigh's characters are layered and authentic. Moreover, one would have to have a heart of stone not to care for them and follow their small sagas…I cared so much for each member of the McKotch clan that I was … happy to have spent time with them, and to have witnessed them growing up and old and, finally, learning to accept who they are.

Thank you for all things

December book club selection

Sandra Kring lives in the north woods of Wisconsin. She runs support groups and workshops for adult survivors of trauma. Her debut novel, Carry Me Home, was a Book Sense Notable pick and a 2005 Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award nominee. 'Thank you for all things' is the third novel written by Kring.

This novel is written from the daughter's eyes, a young girl trying to learn more about her family. Lucy finds the perfect place to discover her roots when she meets her dying grandfather, finds her mother's childhood journals and meets people around town that knew her family years ago. How will her families life change now that they are finally free to move forward?

I enjoyed reading this novel, the characters develop nicely throughout the story and you feel like you are listening to a friend share their family history. I encourage everyone to read the questions after reading (even if you are not reading this for book club), reading the questions bring the book together and give it purpose.

Type: Fiction, 432 pages, Trade paperback
Reading Guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes


Synopsis:
At twelve, Lucy Marie McGowan already knows she’ll be a psychologist when she grows up. And her quirky and conflicted family provides plenty of opportunity for her to practice her calling. Now Lucy, her “profoundly gifted” twin brother, Milo, her commitment-phobic mother, and her New Age grandmother are leaving Chicago for Timber Falls, Wisconsin, to care for her dying grandfather—a complex and difficult man whose failure as a husband and father still painfully echoes down through the years.Lucy believes her time in the rural town where the McGowan story began will provide a key piece to the puzzle of her family’s broken past, and perhaps even reveal the truth about her own missing father. But what she discovers is so much more—a lesson about the paradoxes of love and the grace of forgiveness that the adults around her will need help in remembering if their family is ever to find peace and embrace the future. By turns heart-wrenching and heart-mending, Thank You for All Things is a powerful and poignant novel by a brilliant storyteller who illustrates that when it comes to matters of family and love, often it is the innocent who force others to confront their darkest secrets.

Reviews:
"Heartfelt.... Strong characters, a clear community portrait and a memorable protagonist whose poignant fumblings cloak an innocent wisdom demonstrate Kring’s promise." -Publishers Weekly
“A touching novel… Kring explores the far-ranging effects of family trauma with a deft hand as her child narrator uncovers the past, bringing light and hope." —Booklist

"…Kring’s brilliance lies in her powerful reversals and revelations, taking readers and characters on a dramatic, emotional roller coaster."-- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

The English Teacher, written by Lily King


Lily King is a hard person to research on the internet – I haven’t been able to find her biography. I have been reading some light, enjoyable reading the last few weeks and this book was a pleasant surprise. This story is told in first person and since the main character is an English teacher, the writing style and structure is a welcome change from the books I have been reading. The story takes many turns and leaves your wondering how this book will end. I enjoyed the first three quarters of the book, the last 50 pages take an unexpected turn. King could have done so much more with the plot and the ending. I read this book in one sitting - couldn't put it down.

After finishing this book, I am interested in reading King’s other novels.

Type: Fiction, 250 pages, Hardcover
Synopsis:
Chosen by the Chicago Tribune and Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Novels of 2005, Lily King's new novel is a story about an independent woman and her fifteen-year-old son, and the truth she has long concealed from him. Fifteen years ago Vida Avery arrived alone and pregnant at elite Fayer Academy. She has since become a fixture and one of the best teachers Fayer has ever had. By living on campus, on an island off the New England coast, Vida has cocooned herself and her son, Peter, from the outside world and from an inside secret. For years she has lived largely through the books she teaches, but when she accepts the impulsive marriage proposal of ardent widower Tom Belou, the prescribed life Vida has constructed is swiftly dismantled.This is a passionate tale of a mother and son's vital bond and a provocative look at our notions of intimacy, honesty, loyalty, and the real meaning of home. A triumphant and masterful follow-up to her multi-award-winning debut, The English Teacher confirms Lily King as one of the most accomplished and vibrant young voices of today.

Reviews:
The New York Times - Polly Shulman…Though occasionally heavy-handed, The English Teacher is thoughtful and often moving as it explores [a] brave boy's efforts to learn what his mother has longed to forget.

Sammy's House, written by Kristin Gore


Kristin Gore, daughter to Al Gore, has many credits next to her name. Nominated for an Emmy, winner of the ‘Writers Guils of America Award’, and best selling author to list a few, Gore’s writing career is a successful one. The first book, Sammy’s Hill, is being made into a movie by Columbia Pictures.

Sammy’s House is the second book in the ‘Sammy’ series. I enjoyed reading Sammy’s Hill so much that I couldn’t wait for Sammy’s House to be published. Sammy’s character is funny, clumsy, hard working, trying to juggle career and relationships. This story will keep you guessing, the plot has many twists and turns.

Type: Fiction, 384 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Sammy is in the House!
In this incisive comedy, late twenty-something Sammy Joyce -- hypochondriac, klutz, jumper-to-conclusions -- is in the White House as a health-care advisor to the newly elected administration. All the chips seem to be falling into place: She's living with her best friend, successfully keeping her pet Japanese fighting fish alive, and reveling in her romance with Charlie Lawton, an up-and-coming Washington Post reporter.

However, soon after taking office, the administration finds itself deep in a red-hot White House scandal. President Wye's old problem with the bottle re-emerges. His family is creating havoc. And an informant within the administration begins leaking damaging information. On top of it all, a secret deal with an Indian pharmaceutical company for an experimental drug unleashes a fury that threatens to shake the administration to its core. While the White House braces for a fiery response within the Beltway, Sammy fights to distance herself from the turmoil that surrounds her personally and professionally. But at a time when she needs Charlie more than ever, he gets promoted and moves to New York. As the heat surrounding the Oval Office intensifies, the political climate and Sammy's love life spiral out of control. Can she hold her ground when her relationships, ideals, and most importantly, her ability to trust are all coming apart at the seams?
In Sammy's House, Kristin Gore brings a novelist's eye to the inner workings of the White House, giving hilarious insight and a fresh perspective on political life.

Reviews:
USA Today… Kristin Gore's novel is both fun and political . . . refreshing and charming . . . [Sammy's] Hill and [Sammy's] House both describe a Washington reality rarely captured in political thrillers and conspiracy tomes.

Booklist… Gore's second novel delves more deeply into the political realm Sammy inhabits. But herheroine remains compelling and thoroughly lovable, and readers will be thrilled to find Sammy back in the saddle again as she navigates the treacheries of Washington politics and her own love life.

Rebecca, written by Daphne du Maurier

Reviewed by Lisa

Daphne du Maurier wrote fourteen novels, nearly all bestsellers. Her books have translated well to the cinema. She died in 1989 at her home in Cornwall. Margaret Forster wrote in a tribute to her, "No other popular novelist has so triumphantly defied classification as Daphne du Maurier. She satisfied all the questionable criteria of popular fiction and yet satisfied too the exacting requirements of ‘real literature', something very few novelists ever do."

I try to pick up a "classic" every few months. Sometimes I'm left wondering how the book ever became a classic--not this time. I found the relationship between Maxim de Winter and the second Mrs de Winter fascinating. Both Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca de Winter are incredible characters. By the time I got to the last third of the book, I couldn't put it down, even though I had seen the movie and knew how the story would end.

Type: Fiction Classic , 416 pages, paperback

Synopsis:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." So begins the classic Rebecca, the unsurpassed modern masterpiece of romantic suspense -- one of the bestselling novels of all time! And so begins the remembrances of the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter, as she recalls the events that led her to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast.With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca -- dead, but never forgotten; her suite of rooms never touched; her clothes still ready to be worn; and her servant, the sinister Mrs. Danvers, still royal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca -- and for the secrets of Manderley.
Reviews:
From Barnes & Noble…It's no wonder that the woman who becomes the second Mrs. de Winter (whose first name we never learn) eagerly accepts Maxim de Winter's offer of matrimony. She's young, orphaned, and employed as companion to a mean-spirited fading beauty. The handsome widower simply sweeps her off her feet. In a matter of days, the new bride accompanies her seemingly devoted husband to Manderley, his isolated home on the Cornish coast. From the first, the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, frightens the new bride with her chilling devotion to the dead first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. And, all to soon, the second Mrs. de Winter realizes that Maxim married her for her youth and warmth, hoping to use her as a shield against Rebecca's malignant presence -- a lingering evil that threatens to destroy them both from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

Flashback, written by Nevada Barr

Reviewed by Lisa
Nevada Barr, one time park ranger turned writer has been writing the Anna Pigeon series for years. Nevada's books, accomplishments, and awards too are numerous to list here. ‘Flashback’ is the eleventh novel (the 15th novel is set to be published early 2009) and debuted at number 5 on the NY Times bestseller list in 2003.

Barr's series featuring National Park Service ranger Anna Pigeon came highly recommended to me so I was looking forward to this book. Barr spends a lot of time describing the National Park setting but I never was able to picture it in my mind. There are two stories interwoven in this book and that didn't work well for me. In the present day story, I felt like Barr tried to introduce more characters than she was able to flesh out. Unfortunately, this one didn't sell me on Barr.

Type: Mystery/Fiction, 416 pages, paperback

Synopsis:
Running from a proposal of marriage from Sheriff Paul Davidson, Anna Pigeon takes a post as a temporary supervisory ranger on remote Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, a small grouping of tiny islands in a natural harbor seventy miles off Key West. This island paradise has secrets it would keep; not just in the present, but in shadows from its gritty past, when it served as a prison for the Lincoln conspirators during and after the Civil War. Here, on this last lick of the United States, in a giant crumbling fortress, Anna has little company except for an occasional sunburned tourist or unruly shrimper. When her sister, Molly, sends her a packet of letters from her great-great-aunt who lived at the fort with her husband, a career soldier, Anna's fantasy life is filled with visions of this long-ago time.When a mysterious boat explosion - and the discovery of unidentifiable body parts - keeps her anchored to the present, Anna finds crimes of past and present closing in on her. A tangled web that was woven before she arrived begins to threaten her sanity and her life. Cut off from the mainland by miles of water, poor phone service, and sketchy radio contact, and aided by one law-enforcement ranger, Anna must find answers or weather a storm to rival the hurricanes for which the islands are famous.

Reviews:
Library Journal... When Anna Pigeon flees a marriage proposal for ranger service on Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, she finds that the past (the island was once a prison) and the present (an exploding boat scatters unidentified body parts) are eerily conjoined.

Twilight, written by Stephenie Meyer


Stephenie Meyer was noted as one of the "most promising new authors of 2005" (Publishers Weekly). Twilight is the first book in a series and it appears the author will continue writing about Bella and Edward for a long time. The movie adaptation is set for release November 21, 2008.

Twilight is a young adult fictional novel where Bella moves back to her home town to live with her Dad. Edward and Bella meet in Science class and after a series of uncomfortable events we learn they actually like each other. Edward feels so comfortable with Bella that he confesses he is not who she thinks he is, he was born in the early 1900’s and became a vampire after being left for dead as a teen. This is the start of Bella and Edward’s story. The book leaves you wondering what happens next (knowing there are at least three more books), does Bella get bitten? The apple on the cover of the Twilight novel represents “forbidden fruit”.

I typically do not read this genre, it was a good story but I do not expect to read the other books in the series.

Type: Young Adult, 544 pages Trade paperback

Synopisis:
When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret. What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back. . . .Deeply seductive and extraordinarily suspenseful, Twilight will have readers riveted right until the very last page is turned.

Reviews:
Publishers Weekly: In our Best Books citation, PW called this tale of a teen attracted to a vampire, a "riveting first novel, equal parts suspense and romance." Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

The Invisible Wall, written by Harry Bernstein

Reviewed by Lisa
A part of history I was unaware of previously. I was amazed that people could live in such proximity, be so reliant on each other but have such an incredible barrier between them. With such unusual characters, it's no wonder that Mr. Bernstein has such a vivid memory of his early life.

Type: Autobiographical, 321 pgs, trade paperbook

Synopsis:“There are places that I have never forgotten. A little cobbled street in a smoky mill town in the North of England has haunted me for the greater part of my life. It was inevitable that I should write about it and the people who lived on both sides of its ‘Invisible Wall.’ ”

The narrow street where Harry Bernstein grew up, in a small English mill town, was seemingly unremarkable. It was identical to countless other streets in countless other working-class neighborhoods of the early 1900s, except for the “invisible wall” that ran down its center, dividing Jewish families on one side from Christian families on the other. Only a few feet of cobblestones separated Jews from Gentiles, but socially, it they were miles apart.

On the eve of World War I, Harry’s family struggles to make ends meet. His father earns little money at the Jewish tailoring shop and brings home even less, preferring to spend his wages drinking and gambling. Harry’s mother, devoted to her children and fiercely resilient, survives on her dreams: new shoes that might secure Harry’s admission to a fancy school; that her daughter might marry the local rabbi; that the entire family might one day be whisked off to the paradise of America.

Then Harry’s older sister, Lily, does the unthinkable: She falls in love with Arthur, a Christian boy from across the street.

When Harry unwittingly discovers their secret affair, he must choose between the morals he’s been taught all his life, his loyalty to his selfless mother, and what he knows to be true in his own heart.

Reviews:

The New York Times - William Grimes
The Invisible Wall, Mr. Bernstein’s heart-wrenching memoir, describes two cultures cohabiting uneasily, prey to misunderstandings that distort lives on both sides. It is a world of pain and prejudice, evoked in spare, restrained prose that brilliantly illuminates a time, a place and a family struggling valiantly to beat impossible odds.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, written by M Shaffer/A Barrows


While reading this book I was reminded of the letters read in the most current movie production of Pride and Predujice. An enjoyable, quick read that is well written. I will add this book to the stack of books in the quest room.

Type: Fiction, 288 pages, Hardcover
Synopsis:
“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Reviews:
I can't remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren't my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book please -- I can't recommend it highly enough. --Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray,

Love Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have written a wondrous, delightful, poignant book -- part Jane Austen, part history lesson…. An absolute treasure. --Sarah Addison Allen, author of Garden Spells

Love the one you're with, written by Emily Griffin


I love reading Emily Giffin novels and find myself scanning shelves in anticipation of her next book. Emily Giffin has written four novels focused on friendship and relationships. Her first three books are international best sellers; ‘Love the one your with’ was released spring 2008 (I expect this book to be just as successful). ‘Love the one your with’ is the story of happily married couple, live is almost too good to be true when Ellen runs into her first love after eight years. She starts questioning if she is with the right one. Heartbreaking and funny, I enjoyed every page – this novel brings you down memory lane and reminds you when you are happy where you are today.
Type: Chic-Lit, 329 pages, Hard cover

Synopsis (from publisher’s site):
How do you know if you’ve found the one? Can you really love the one you’re with when you can’t forget the one who got away? Emily Giffin, author of the New York Times bestselling novels Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Baby Proof, poses these questions—and many more—with her highly anticipated, thought-provoking new novel Love the One You’re With. Ellen and Andy’s first year of marriage doesn’t just seem perfect, it is perfect. There is no question how deep their devotion is, and how naturally they bring out the best in each other. But one fateful afternoon, Ellen runs into Leo for the first time in eight years. Leo, the one who brought out the worst in her. Leo, the one who left her heartbroken with no explanation. Leo, the one she could never quite forget. When his reappearance ignites long-dormant emotions, Ellen begins to question whether the life she’s living is the one she’s meant to live. At once heartbreaking and funny, Love the One You’re With is a tale of lost loves and found fortunes—and will resonate with anyone who has ever wondered what if.

Reviews:
Karen Core - Library Journal: Giffin delivers another relatable and multifaceted heroine who may behave unexpectedly but will ultimately find her true path. Sure to be a hit with the New York Times best-selling author's many fans.

Loving Frank, written by Nancy Horan


November 2008 selection, NFO Book Club

‘Loving Frank’ is the story of how loving Frank changed one woman’s life, taking her down an unexpected path. This is a debut novel for Nancy Horan and was written twice over 7 years, the first version had four voices; the published book is told from Mamah’s point of view only. Mamah was the “other” woman in FLW’s life and some might say “the love of his life”. In addition to being a wife and mother Mamah was well educated and a feminist. Mamah was quite a character, some the decisions she made for the early 20th century were extremely progressive. Thinking back to the early 1900's it's hard to imagine making the choices she did.

This novel is very well written and cited, it will be a favorite for book groups and discussions.

Type: Historical Fiction/Memoir, 359 pages, Trade paperback
Reading guide: Yes
Recommend for book clubs: Yes

Synopsis:
I have been standing on the side of life, watching it float by. I want to swim in the river. I want to feel the current.So writes Mamah Borthwick Cheney in her diary as she struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Four years earlier, in 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, had commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction developed between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives.

Reviews:

“It takes great courage to write a novel about historical people, and in particular to give voice to someone as mythic as Frank Lloyd Wright. This beautifully written novel about Mamah Cheney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s love affair is vivid and intelligent, unsentimental and compassionate.”—Jane Hamilton

“I admire this novel, adore this novel, for so many reasons: The intelligence and lyricism of the prose. The attention to period detail. The epic proportions of this most fascinating love story. Mamah Cheney has been in my head and heart and soul since reading this book; I doubt she’ll ever leave.”–Elizabeth Berg

The Birth House, written by Ami McKay


October 2008 selection, NFO book club

This book found me, during a visit to Toronto last month. While the underlying theme is not a new one for many of us, women’s relationships and dealing with day to day struggles, this novel explores a time in our history that has been forgotten. This is Ami McKay’s debut novel. It is a # 1 bestseller in Canada, the winner of three CBA Libris Awards and the movie rights have been purchased.

The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations, living in an isolated village in Nova Scotia. She is drawn to an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing. Dora becomes Miss B's apprentice; together they help the women of Scots Bay, and stand up for their beliefs as western medicine starts to invade their town. An unforgettable story of the struggles women have faced to have control of their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.

Type: Historical fiction, 368 pages, trade paperback
Discussion Guide: Yes
Book Club Recommendation: Yes, I loved this story. It is well written, a new subject matter with well developed characters. I recommend this for all book clubs as there is so much to discuss.

Synopsis:
An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare—the first daughter in five generations of Rares. As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care.

Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, written by James Patterson


James Patterson, known suspense novels, has written a love story. This is a powerful moving novel about families, loss, new love, and hope. Katie Wilkinson has found her perfect man at last, a writer, a house painter, an original thinker—everything she's imagined she wanted in a partner. One day, without explanation, he disappears from her life, leaving behind Suzanne’s diary for her to read.

This diary is a love letter written by a new mother named Suzanne for her baby son, Nicholas. In it she pours out her heart about how she and the boy's father met, about her hopes for marriage and family, and about the unparalleled joy that having a baby has brought into her life. As Katie reads this touching document, it becomes clear that the lover who has just left her is the husband and father in this young family. She reads on, filled with terror and hope, as she struggles to understand what has happened-and whether her new love has a prayer of surviving.

I really enjoyed this novel. I keep it on the nightstand in our guest room. Several guests have read it during their stay. It is a heartfelt story, you may even shed a tear.

Type: Fiction, 276 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis:
Katie Wilkinson has found the perfect man at last—but one day he disappears from her life, leaving behind only a diary for her to read. The diary is written by a woman named Suzanne and is addressed to her new baby boy, Nicholas. In it she pours out her heart about the joy he has brought her.

Reviews:

People... clever, light, and as welcoming as an ocean breeze...

Susan Wiggs, In an unusual departure, James Patterson gives us a quiet fable of love, loss and healing.

The Crimson Petal and the White

February 2008 Book Club Selection



Give this book 100 pages for character development and writing style.

A uniquely written novel with a plot you don't see everyday and an unexpected ending. This book explores what most period pieces do not, non-royalty life with flawed characters struggling to make it through each day.

After a year of discussing the idea of reading this book, my book group decided to read this last February. It is over 900 pages so give yourself time to read it - it is a quick read and a good vacation book.









Type: Historical fiction, 920 pages, trade paperback

Readers guide: No



Recommended for book groups: Yes, but expect crude language

Synopsis:

At the Heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Michel Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape into a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose ambition is fueled by his lust for Sugar, and whose patronage of her brings her into proximity to his extended family and milieu: his unhinged, child-like wife, Agnes; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie; and his pious brother Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox, whose efforts on behalf of The Rescue Society lead Henry into ever-more disturbing confrontations with flesh. All this is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions.

Twenty years in its conception, research, and writing, The Crimson Petal and the White is a singular literary achievement -- a gripping, intoxicating, deeply satisfying Victorian novel written with an immediacy, compassion, and insight that give it a timeless and universal appeal.

Water for Elephants, written by Sara Gruen


August Book Club selection
Everyone loves this book, book clubs have been reading for this over a year and we finally decided to read it for August. I wasn't able to attend our meeting in August but everyone enjoyed the book and there was a lot to discuss.
I read this as a new release and it was a good story, strong character development and plot. I enjoyed the book and always like learning something while reading a novel.
Type: Fiction 352 pages, Hardcover
Synopsis:
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Away, written by Amy Bloom

September book club selection

Amy Bloom is a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In addition to the #1 bestseller ‘Away’, she has written two books and many stories. Bloom has also won a National Magazine Award. ‘Away’ is in it’s 10th reprint and wildly successful.
I struggled reading this book, wasn't able to stay captivated – when I finished the novel I felt compassion for immigrants traveling to America with no money and trying to find a new life. As Lillian moves from city to city on her journey home to find her daughter, I found the story repeating itself. If someone from our book club had read this book in advance, we wouldn’t have read it. There wasn't as much to discuss as we had hoped and we walked away with many unanswered questions.
Type: Historical Fiction, 256 pages, Hardcover
Readers guide: Yes
Recommend for Book group: This is a tough question – how do we say no to the #1 best seller? I recommend this book to read, but it was tough for our group to discuss. You will learn a piece of unspoken history.

Synopsis:
Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia. All of the qualities readers love in Amy Bloom’s work-her humor and wit, her elegant and irreverent language, her unflinching understanding of passion and the human heart-come together in the embrace of this brilliant novel, which is at once heartbreaking, romantic, and completely unforgettable.
Reviews:
“The journey–through Chicago by train, into Seattle’s African-American underworld and across the Alaskan wilderness–elevates Bloom’s novel from familiar immigrant chronicle to sweeping saga of endurance and rebirth. Encompassing prison, prostitution and poetry, Yiddish humor and Yukon settings, Bloom’s tale offers linguistic twists, startling imagery, sharp wit and a compelling vision of the past. Bloom has created an extraordinary range of characters, settings and emotions.” - Publisher’s Weekly

“Raunchy, funny, and touching. Away is an elegant window into the perils of invention and reinvention in New York in the twenties. Amy Bloom’s heroine, Lillian, is an unforgettable young woman on a quest to make her life whole and to belong in an unstable, yet fascinating, new American world.” - Caryl Phillips, author of A Distant Shore

The Wedding Officer


The Wedding Officer, written by Anthony Capella
July book club selection - we all really enjoyed this book

It was a great read for summer, I haven't read a novel with a culinary backdrop in a long time. The writer did a wonderful job describing the landscape and was able to create a visual for the reader.

Type: Culinary fiction, 544 pages, paperback
Synopsis:
Captain James Gould arrives in wartime Naples assigned to discourage marriages between British soldiers and their gorgeous Italian girlfriends. But the innocent young officer is soon distracted by an intoxicating young widow who knows her way around a kitchen...Livia Pertini is creating feasts that stun the senses with their succulence—ruby-colored San Marzana tomatoes, glistening anchovies, and delectable new potatoes encrusted with the black volcanic earth of of Campania—and James is about to learn that his heart may rank higher than his orders. For romance can be born of the sweet and spicy passions of food and love—and time spent in the kitchen can be as joyful and exciting as the banquet of life itself!

March

March

Well written but a tough read. This story dragged on a bit and I was very excited to read about the March family from the father's point of view. It's hard not to recommend a book so well written.

Type: Historical fiction, 304 pages, trade paperback

Synopsis:
From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated thecharacter of the absent father, March, and crafted a story "filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man" (Sue Monk Kidd). With "pitch-perfect writing" (USA Today), Brooks follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks’s place as a renowned author of historical fiction.

The Year of Magical Thinking


A year of Magical thinking, written by Joan Didion
2007 Book Club selection - Memoir
This is a very sad story of a year in Joan's life, her husband dies, her daughter is very sick and Joan has to find a way to survive. Didion is an accomplished writer, this novel is well written, slightly cold and removed. I felt that she might still be struggling as this novel ends.
Type: Memoir, 227 pages, trade paperback

Synopsis:
Didion's journalistic skills are displayed as never before in this story of a year in her life that began with her daughter in a medically induced coma and her husband unexpectedly dead due to a heart attack. This powerful and moving work is Didion's "attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself." With vulnerability and passion, Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience of love and loss. THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING will speak directly to anyone who has ever loved a husband, wife, or child.

Gilead


Gilead, written by Marilynne Robinson
2007 Book club selection - Winner of Pulitzer Prize (Fiction)
Type: Historical fiction, 256 pages, trade paperback
Readers guide: Yes
Recommend for book club: Yes

Synopsis:

Twenty-four years after her first novel, Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson returns with an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). In the luminous and unforgettable voice of Congregationalist minister John Ames, Gilead reveals the human condition and the often unbearable beauty of an ordinary life.

The Dogs of Babel


The dogs of Babel, written by Carolyn Parkhurst
Book Club Selection

This is a quirky book with a lot to discuss. Our group really liked this book and enjoyed discussing the characters, flaws and all. We always enjoy a surprising read (this is a story unlike others you have read).

Type: Fiction, 288 pages, Trade paperback

Readers guide: Yes

Recommend for Book clubs: Yes

Synopsis:
When his wife dies in a fall from a tree in their backyard, linguist Paul Iverson is wild with despair. In the days that follow, Paul becomes certain that Lexy's death was no accident. Strange clues have been left behind: unique, personal messages that only she could have left and that he is determined to decipher. So begins Paul's fantastic and even perilous search for the truth, as he abandons his everyday life to embark on a series of experiments designed to teach his dog Lorelei to communicate. Is this the project of a madman? Or does Lorelei really have something to tell him about the last afternoon of a woman he only thought he knew? At the same time, Paul obsessively recalls the early days of his love for Lexy and the ups and downs of life with the brilliant, sometimes unsettling woman who became his wife.

The Madonna’s of Lenningrad


The Madonna’s of Leningrad, written by Debra Dean
2007 Book Club Selection
Type: Historical fiction, 256 pages, trade paperback
Readers Guide: Yes
Recommend for Book Club: Yes

Synopsis:
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina's grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children's lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind's eye. Vivid images of her youth in war-torn Leningrad arise unbidden, carrying her back to the terrible fall of 1941, when she was a tour guide at the Hermitage Museum and the German army's approach signaled the beginning of what would be a long, torturous siege on the city. As the people braved starvation, bitter cold, and a relentless German onslaught, Marina joined other staff members in removing the museum's priceless masterpieces for safekeeping, leaving the frames hanging empty on the walls to symbolize the artworks' eventual return. As the Luftwaffe's bombs pounded the proud, stricken city, Marina built a personal Hermitage in her mind—a refuge that would stay buried deep within her, until she needed it once more. . . .

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