during our Block Book Club June Meeting:
1) Girl in Translation
by Jean Kwok (2010) – [presented by M]
Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures.
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.
Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
And here is the link to my own review.
2) A Passage to India
by E.M. Forster, (1925) [presented by P]
A picture of the clash between ruler and ruled and of the prejudices and misunderstandings that foredoomed Britain’s “jewel of the crown”, this novel of society in India ranks high among the great literature of the 20th century.
3) Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power
by Andrew Nagorski (2012) [presented by A]
Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. By tapping a rich vein of personal testimonies, Hitlerland offers a gripping narrative full of surprising twists—and a startlingly fresh perspective on this heavily dissected era. Some of the Americans in Weimar and then Hitler’s Germany were merely casual observers, others deliberately blind; a few were Nazi apologists. But most slowly began to understand the horror of what was unfolding, even when they found it difficult to grasp the breadth of the catastrophe. Among the journalists, William Shirer, Edgar Mowrer, and Dorothy Thompson were increasingly alarmed. Consul General George Messersmith stood out among the American diplomats because of his passion and courage. Truman Smith, the first American official to meet Hitler, was an astute political observer and a remarkably resourceful military attaché.
Historian William Dodd, whom FDR tapped as ambassador in Hitler’s Berlin, left disillusioned; his daughter Martha scandalized the embassy with her procession of lovers from her initial infatuation with Nazis she took up with. She ended as a Soviet spy. On the scene were George Kennan, who would become famous as the architect of containment; Richard Helms, who rose to the top of the CIA; Howard K. Smith, who would coanchor the ABC Evening News. The list of prominent visitors included writers Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Wolfe, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, the great athlete Jesse Owens, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, and black sociologist and historian W.E.B. Dubois.
Observing Hitler and his movement up close, the most perceptive of these Americans helped their reluctant countrymen begin to understand the nature of Nazi Germany as it ruthlessly eliminated political opponents, instilled hatred of Jews and anyone deemed a member of an inferior race, and readied its military and its people for a war for global domination. They helped prepare Americans for the years of struggle ahead.
4) Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System from Crisis — and Themselves
by Andrew Ross Sorkin (2009) [presented by R]
Andrew Ross Sorkin’s website Andrew Ross Sorkin’s interview on Charlie Rose Watch a Video Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers the first true behind-the-scenes, moment-by-moment account of how the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression developed into a global tsunami. From inside the corner office at Lehman Brothers to secret meetings in South Korea, and the corridors of Washington, Too Big to Fail is the definitive story of the most powerful men and women in finance and politics grappling with success and failure, ego and greed, and, ultimately, the fate of the world’s economy.
“We’ve got to get some foam down on the runway!” a sleepless Timothy Geithner, the then-president of the Federal Reserve of New York, would tell Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary, about the catastrophic crash the world’s financial system would experience.
Through unprecedented access to the players involved, Too Big to Fail re-creates all the drama and turmoil, revealing neverdisclosed details and elucidating how decisions made on Wall Street over the past decade sowed the seeds of the debacle. This true story is not just a look at banks that were “too big to fail,” it is a real-life thriller with a cast of bold-faced names who themselves thought they were too big to fail.
5) A Time For Patriots (Patrick McLanahan #17)
by Dale Brown (2011) [presented by B]
Welcome to Battlefield America
When murderous bands of militiamen begin roaming the western United States and attacking government agencies, it will take a dedicated group of the nation’s finest and toughest civilian airmen to put an end to the homegrown insurgency. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan vows to take to the skies to join the fight, but when his son, Bradley, also signs up, they find themselves caught in a deadly game against a shadowy opponent.
When the stock markets crash and the U.S. economy falls into a crippling recession, everything changes for newly elected president Kenneth Phoenix. Politically exhausted from a bruising and divisive election, Phoenix must order a series of massive tax cuts and wipe out entire cabinet-level departments to reduce government spending. With reductions in education and transportation, an incapacitated National Guard, and the loss of public safety budgets, entire communities of armed citizens band together for survival and mutual protection. Against this dismal backdrop, a SWAT team is ambushed and radioactive materials are stolen by a group calling themselves the Knights of the True Republic. Is the battle against the government about to be taken to a new and deadlier level?
In this time of crisis, a citizen organization rises to the task of protecting their fellow countrymen: the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Air Force auxiliary. The Nevada Wing—led by retired Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan, his son, Bradley, and other volunteers—uses their military skills in the sky and on the ground to hunt down violent terrorists. But how will Patrick respond when extremists launch a catastrophic dirty bomb attack in Reno, spreading radiological fallout for miles? And when Bradley is caught in a deadly double-cross that jeopardizes the CAP, Patrick will have to fight to find out where his friends’ loyalties lie: Are they with him and the CAP or with the terrorists?
With A Time for Patriots, the New York Times bestselling master of the modern thriller Dale Brown brings the battle home to explore a terrifying possibility—the collapse of the American Republic.
6) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Cheryl Strayed (2012) ]presented by J]
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
7) P. brought a bag of 4 good summer reads, all my Geraldine Brooks.
Here s the one she highlighted most:
People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks (2008)
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war
In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding – an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair – she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.
Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.
8) Mystery: An Alex Delaware Novel (Alex Delaware #26)
by Jonathan Kellerman (2012) [presented by J]
The closing of the grand old Fauborg Hotel in Beverly Hills is a sad occasion for longtime patrons Alex Delaware and Robin Castagna, who go there one last time for cocktails. But even more poignant—and curious—is a striking young woman in elegant attire and dark glasses, alone there and waiting in vain. Two days later, police detective Milo Sturgis comes seeking his psychologist comrade’s insights about a grisly homicide. To Alex’s shock, the brutalized victim is the same beautiful woman whose lonely hours sipping champagne at the Fauborg may have been her last. But when a sordid revelation finally cracks the case open, the secrets that spill out could make Alex and Milo’s best efforts to close this crime not just impossible but fatal.
9) Defending Jacob
by William Landay (2012) [presented by E]:
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.
Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.
10) Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall #2)
by Hilary Mantel (2012) [presented by me]
The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn
Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.
At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?
And here is my review (audiobook).
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