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.

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