Recap of our Block Book Club July meeting
3 giveaways, 13 participants [6 men, 7 women – if someone tells you book clubs are for girls, tell them how wrong they are!!], we hit a good record last Friday for our July Block Book Club meeting.
Here is the recap of the titles we shared [synopsis from Goodreads.com]. We had a great mix of fiction and non-fiction, including 3 classics!
1) The Bridge of San Luis Rey
by Thornton Wilder (1927- Pulitzer Prize for Novel in 1928) [presented by P]
“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins “The Bridge of San Luis Rey, ” one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.
By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.
2) Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn (May 2012) [presented by P]
“‘What are you thinking, Amy? The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?'”
Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what did really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was left in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war…
3) The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers And The Death Of Their Las Vegas
by Chad Millman (2002) [presented by J]
One gambler is a manic former cokehead with an Ivy League degree. The second is a college dropout trying to make a living at the only thing he enjoyed at school—gambling. The third, one of Vegas’s most respected bookmakers, is perilously close to burning out. The Odds follows the lives of these three professional gamblers through a college basketball season in a one-of-a-kind city struggling to reconcile its lawless past with its family-friendly makeover. With a wiseguy attitude and a faultless eye and ear for the sights and sounds of Vegas and its denizens, Chad Millman has created a portrait that the Wall Street Journal called “fascinating. . . often screamingly funny.” The Las Vegas Review-Journal had just one word for the book: “Superb.”
4) Backfire (FBI Thriller #16)
by Catherine Coulter (July 20120 [presented by M]
San Francisco Judge Ramsey Hunt, longtime friend to FBI agents Lacey Sherlock and Dillon Savich, is presiding over the trial of Clive and Cindy Cahill – accused in a string of murders – when the proceedings take a radical turn. Federal prosecutor Mickey O’Rourke, known for his relentless style, becomes suddenly tentative in his opening statement, leading Hunt to suspect he’s been threatened – suspicions that are all but confirmed when Hunt is shot in the back.
Savich and Sherlock receive news of the attack as an ominous note is delivered to Savich at the Hoover Building: YOU DESERVE THIS FOR WHAT YOU DID. Security tapes fail to reveal who delivered the tapes. Who is behind the shooting of Judge Ramsey Hunt? Who sent the note to Savich? And what does it all mean? Savich and Sherlock race to San Francisco to find out…watching their backs all the while.
5) Prisoner’s Dilemma
[presented by R]
Critical Acclaim for Prisoner’s Dilemma:
“The real originality of PRISONER’S DILEMMA lies in its colorful synthesis of logical material and historical and biographical narration [which] takes us in parallel lines through cold war history, strategic games of the nuclear age and the life of von Neumann . . . Lively, open and multifaceted.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Poundstone deftly intertwines the development of game theory with the biography of its founder, who was considered by many the most intelligent person alive. Poundstone does a superb job of relating the insights of game theory to real-world conflicts.”
“An absolute, mind-blowing page turner . . . Poundstone writes with real verve and he takes very technical concepts and makes them perfectly clear and insightful. PRISONER’S DILEMMA is the latest title from one of the best science/contemporary thought writers we have in the English language.”
—The Coast Book Review
“Explains game theory lucidly, reveals some hair-raising post-war governmental skullduggery, and brings to life one of history’s foremost mathematicians.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Very readable . . . Fascinating, thought-provoking, and easily accessible to the layperson.”
6) Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and Tragedy of Genius
by Peter Ostwald (1998) [presented by B]
In this acclaimed biography, the late Peter Ostwald–himself an accomplished violinist and longtime personal friend of Gould’s–raises many questions about Gould and his music, and lays bare the energy and contradiction behind his brilliance.
7) The Plots Against the President: FDR, A Nation in Crisis, and the Rise of the American Right
by Sally Denton (Jan 2012) [presented by J]
In March 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally became the nation’s thirty-second president. The man swept in by a landslide four months earlier now took charge of a country in the grip of panic brought on by economic catastrophe. Though no one yet knew it-not even Roosevelt-it was a radical moment in America. And with all of its unmistakable resonance with events of today, it is a cautionary tale.
The Plots Against the President follows Roosevelt as he struggled to right the teetering nation, armed with little more than indomitable optimism and the courage to try anything. His bold New Deal experiments provoked a backlash from both extremes of the political spectrum. Wall Street bankers threatened by FDR’s policies made common cause with populist demagogues like Huey Long and Charles Coughlin. But just how far FDR’s enemies were willing to go to thwart him has never been fully explored.
Two startling events that have been largely ignored by historians frame Sally Denton’s swift, tense narrative of a year of fear: anarchist Giuseppe Zangara’s assassination attempt on Roosevelt, and a plutocrats’ plot to overthrow the government that would come to be known as the Wall Street Putsch. The Plots Against the President throws light on the darkest chapter of the Depression and the moments when the fate of the American republic hung in the balance.
8) The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)
by Suzanne Collins (2008 – tons of awards) [presented by P]
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
9) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
by Seth Grahame-Smith (2010) [presented by B]
Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”
“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.
Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.
When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.
The Age of Miracles
by Karen Thompson Walker (June 2012) [presented by me]
“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”
Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.
Here is my own review.
11) The Winter of Our Discontent
by John Steinbeck, Susan Shillinglaw (1961) [presented by F]
In awarding John Steinbeck the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Nobel committee stated that with The Winter of Our Discontent, he had resumed his position as an independent expounder of the truth, with an unbiased instinct for what is genuinely American.
Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of the novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With the decline in their status, his wife is restless, and his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.
by Daphne du Maurier (1938) [presented by R]
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”,
With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.
This special edition of “Rebecca” includes excerpts from Daphne du Maurier’s “The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories,” an essay on the real Manderley, du Maurier’s original epilogue to the book, and more.
Here is my own review.
13) Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
by Cheryl Strayed (July 2012) [presented by A]
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond. Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.
AND NOW I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU ALL
P. is looking for books, fiction or non-fiction,
that are set on the background of the Great Depression in an urban milieu.
Please put your suggestions in a comment, thanks!