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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