Book club September 2016 and Friday Finds

Bookshelf4
Picture from my bookshelves
edited with Pixlr
#Fridayfinds

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!
(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

1. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry  (2014)
presented by L.

Award-winning author Lynda Barry is the creative force behind the genre-defying and bestselling work What It Is. She believes that anyone can be a writer and she has set out to prove it. For the past decade, Lynda has run a highly popular writing workshop for non-writers called Writing the Unthinkable – the workshop was featured in the New York Times magazine.
Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor is the first book that will make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use. Barry’s course has been embraced by people of all walks of life – prison inmates, postal workers, university students, teachers, and hairdressers – for opening paths to creativity.
Syllabus takes the course plan for Lynda Barry’s workshop and runs wild with it in Barry’s signature densely detailed style. Collaged texts, ballpoint pen doodles, and watercolor washes adorn Syllabus’ yellow lined pages, which offer advice on finding a creative voice and using memories to inspire the writing process. Throughout it all, Lynda Barry’s voice (as author and teacher-mentor) rings clear, inspiring, and honest.

2. Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (2007)
presented by C.

Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He’s never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she’s missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means “family” in Kek’s native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother’s fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant’s journey from hardship to hope.
Home of the Brave is a 2008 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

3. Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman (2009)
presented by M.

When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, she fundamentally changed the way adults look at girls’ friendships and conflicts–from how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents. Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with one another.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls and explores:

•How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
•The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
•Girls’ power plays–from fake apologies to fights over IM and text messages
•Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
•Checking your baggage–recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts

Packed with insights about technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.

Another book by the same author was mentionned:

Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World

4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware  (July 2016)
presented by A.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…
With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

5.  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014)
also presented by A.

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

6. The Final Days, by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein  (1976)
presented by P.

The Final Days is the classic, behind-the-scenes account of Richard Nixon’s dramatic last months as president. Moment by moment, Bernstein and Woodward portray the taut, post-Watergate White House as Nixon, his family, his staff, and many members of Congress strained desperately to prevent his inevitable resignation. This brilliant book reveals the ordeal of Nixon’s fall from office — one of the gravest crises in presidential history.

7.  The Last Days of Stalin, by Joshua Rubenstein (May 2016)
presented by J.

Joshua Rubenstein’s riveting account takes us back to the second half of 1952 when no one could foresee an end to Joseph Stalin’s murderous regime. He was poised to challenge the newly elected U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower with armed force, and was also broadening a vicious campaign against Soviet Jews. Stalin’s sudden collapse and death in March 1953 was as dramatic and mysterious as his life. It is no overstatement to say that his passing marked a major turning point in the twentieth century.

The Last Days of Stalin is an engaging, briskly told account of the dictator’s final active months, the vigil at his deathbed, and the unfolding of Soviet and international events in the months after his death. Rubenstein throws fresh light on
· the devious plotting of Beria, Malenkov, Khrushchev, and other “comrades in arms” who well understood the significance of the dictator’s impending death;
· the witness-documented events of his death as compared to official published versions;
· Stalin’s rumored plans to forcibly exile Soviet Jews;
· the responses of Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles to the Kremlin’s conciliatory gestures after Stalin’s death; and
· the momentous repercussions when Stalin’s regime of terror was cut short.

8. The Collector, by Nora Roberts (2014)
presented by S.

From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Nora Roberts comes a novel of a woman who needs nothing, a man who sees everything, and the web of deceit, greed, and danger that brings them together—and could tear them apart . . .

When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .

Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . . .

death-at-the-paris-exposition9. Death at the Paris Exposition (Emily Cabot Mysteries #6), by Frances McNamara (September 1st, 2016)
presented by me

Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair–the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light with her family.

See my own review. It has links where you can see cloths bought by Bertha Palmer in Paris during the World Exhibit, and views of Paris at the time:

10. Nutshell, by Ian McEwan (September 13, 2016)
also presented by C.

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John’s not here. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy’s womb.
Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

 

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 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

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12 titles for our April Book Club (2013)

Recap of our Block Book Club April meeting

 

 

Recap of the titles weshared [synopsis from Goodreads.com]:

1) Resolve

by J.J. Hensley (March 2013) [presented by B]

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, 18,000 people from all over the world will participate. Over 9,500 will run the half marathon, 4,000 will run brief stretches as part of a relay. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. And one man is going to be murdered.
When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows who is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill them.
As a professor of Criminology at Three Rivers University, and a former police officer, Dr. Cyprus Keller is an expert in criminal behavior and victimology. However, when one of his female students is murdered and his graduate assistant attempts to kill him, Keller finds himself frantically swinging back and forth between being a suspect and a victim. When the police assign a motive to the crimes that Keller knows cannot be true, he begins to ask questions that somebody out there does not want answered.
In the course of 26.2 miles, Keller recounts how he found himself encircled by a series of killings that have shocked the city, while literally pursuing his prey – the man who was behind it all.
www.hensley-books.com

2) Split Second (FBI Thriller #15)

by Catherine Coulter (2011) [presented by J]

The number-one New York Times-bestselling author returns with another pulse-pounding thriller featuring FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, and introducing Speical Agents Lucy Carlyle and Cooper McKnight.
A serial killer is on the loose, and it’s up to FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock to bring him down. They soon discover that the killer has blood ties to an infamous and now long-dead monster. Savich and Sherlock are joined by agents Lucy Carlyle and Cooper McKnight, and the chase is on.
At the same time, Agent Carlyle learns from her dying father that her grandfather didn’t simply walk away from his family twenty-two years ago: he was, in fact, murdered by his wife, Lucy’s grandmother. Determined to find the truth, Lucy moves into her grandmother’s Chevy Chase mansion. What she finds, however, is a nightmare. Not only does she discover the truth of what happened all those years ago, but she faces a new mystery, one that has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
As the hunt for the serial killer escalates, Savich realizes he’s become the killer’s focus, and perhaps the next victim. It’s up to Lucy to stop this madness before it’s too late.

3) The Storyteller

by Jodi Picoult (Feb 2013) [presented by A]

Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.
What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?

 

4) Stalin, The History Of A Dictator

by H. Montgomery Hyde (1971) [presented by P]

sorry guys, could not find any online synopsis. It is a thorough biography of 679 pages

 

P. also presented:

5) Dr Zhivago

by Boris Pasternak (1957)

In the grand tradition of the epic novel, Boris Pasternak’s masterpiece brings to life the drama and immensity of the Russian Revolution through the story of the gifted physician-poet, Zhivago; the revolutionary, Strelnikov; and Lara, the passionate woman they both love. Caught up in the great events of politics and war that eventually destroy him and millions of others, Zhivago clings to the private world of family life and love, embodied especially in the magical Lara.
First published in Italy in 1957, Doctor Zhivago was not allowed to appear in the Soviet Union until 1987, twenty-seven years after the author’s death.

 

6) Cutting for Stone

by Abraham Verghese (2009) [presented by M]

cutting for stone

Click on the book cover to read my review

A sweeping, emotionally riveting first novel—an enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others

 

7) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and the whole series

by J.K. Rowling (2003) [jointly presented by R and P]

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He’s never worn a Cloak of Invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry’s room is a tiny cupboard under the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in ten years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter

 

8) Cannery Row

by John Steinbeck (1945) [presented by R]

Cannery Row is a book without much of a plot. Rather, it is an attempt to capture the feeling and people of a place, the cannery district of Monterey, California, which is populated by a mix of those down on their luck and those who choose for other reasons not to live “up the hill” in the more respectable area of town. The flow of the main plot is frequently interrupted by short vignettes that introduce us to various denizens of the Row, most of whom are not directly connected with the central story. These vignettes are often characterized by direct or indirect reference to extreme violence: suicides, corpses, and the cruelty of the natural world.
The “story” of Cannery Row follows the adventures of Mack and the boys, a group of unemployed yet resourceful men who inhabit a converted fish-meal shack on the edge of a vacant lot down on the Row

9) The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested Retro-Sexual Legend Within, Just Like Papa!

by Marty Beckerman (2012) [presented by J]

 

Marty Beckerman’s hilarious guide for the modern man to booze, battle, and bull-fight his way to becoming more like Hemingway
More than fifty years have passed since the death of Ernest Hemingway, history’s ultimate man, and young males today—obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, and Playstation—know nothing about his legendary brand of rugged, alcoholic masculinity. They cannot skin a fish, dominate a battlefield, or transform majestic creatures of the Southern Hemisphere into piano keyboards.
The Heming Way demonstrates how modern eunuchs—brainwashed by PETA and Alcoholics Anonymous—can learn from Papa’s unparalleled example: drunken, unshaven, meat-devouring, wife-divorcing, and gloriously self-destructive.
Advice includes:
How to kill enough animals to render a species endangered—just like Papa!
Getting your friends to think drinking a daiquiri is manly . . . just by drinking one nine yourself
Achieving sufficiently high testosterone levels to never have to worry about the chance of having a daughter instead of a son
And much more!
Profane, insightful, hilarious and loaded with more than 150 photos, facts and insights about Papa, The Heming Way is a difficult path, and not for the weak, but truth is manlier than fiction

 

10) Love is a Mix Tape

by Rob Sheffield (2007) [presented by R]

In this stunning memoir, Rob Sheffield, a veteran rock and pop culture critic and staff writer for Rolling Stone magazine, tells the story of his musical coming of age, and how rock music, the first love of his life, led him to his second, a girl named Renee. Rob and Renee’s life together – they wed after graduate school, both became music journalists, and were married only five years when Renee died suddenly on Mother’s Day, 1997 – is shared through the window of the mix tapes they obsessively compiled. There are mixes to court each other, mixes for road trips, mixes for doing the dishes, mixes for sleeping – and, eventually, mixes to mourn Rob’s greatest loss. The tunes were among the great musical output of the early 1990s – Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, REM, Weezer – as well as classics by The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin and more. Mixing the skilful, tragic punch of Dave Eggers and the romantic honesty of Nick Hornby, LOVE IS A MIX TAPE is a story of lost love and the kick-you-in-the-gut energy of great pop music

 

11) Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

by Brené Brown (2012) [jointly presented by F and P]

Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a powerful new vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt
Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.
In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

 

During the discussion, 2 other books were mentioned:

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown (2010)

Each day we face a barrage of images and ideas—from society and the media—telling us who we should be. We are led to believe that if we look perfect, live perfect, and do everything perfectly, we’d no longer struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Ironically, it’s the pursuit of perfection that fuels the message ‘never good enough.’

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., the leading expert on shame, reveals that it is actually our imperfections and vulnerabilities that connect us to one another as human beings and make us who we are. We are naturally drawn to those we view as authentic, real, and down-to-earth. It makes sense, then, that we should stop reaching for something ‘better’ and, instead, strive to be who we are, fully owning every aspect of ourselves.

This fresh 52-week guide can be read as a year-long program of WholeHearted living or by topic – whatever is the most meaningful for each reader. Brown engages our hearts, minds, and spirits in finding the beauty of authenticity and evolving our self-perceptions through fifteen guideposts that emerged from her latest groundbreaking research.

 Each guidepost is illustrated with essays, stories, inspiring quotes, meditations, and dynamic creative exercises designed to help us develop the skills to accept our vulnerabilities with compassion and practice loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.

 

The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning

by Ernest Kurtz, Katherine Ketcham (1993)

I Am Not Perfect is a simple  statement of profound truth, the first step toward  understanding the human condition, for to deny  your essential imperfection is to deny yourself and  your own humanity. The spirituality of  imperfection, steeped in the rich traditions of the Hebrew  prophets and Greek thinkers, Buddhist sages and  Christian disciples, is a message as timeless as it is  timely. This insightful work draws on the wisdom  stories of the ages to provide an extraordinary  wellspring of hope and inspiration to anyone  thirsting for spiritual growth and guidance in these  troubled times.
Who are we? Why so  we so often fall short of our goals for ourselves  and others? By seeking to understand our  limitations and accept the inevitably of failure and pain,  we being to ease the hurt and move toward a  greater sense of serenity and self-awareness.  The Spirituality Of Imperfection brings  together stories from many spiritual and  philosophical paths, weaving past traditions into a  spirituality and a new way of thinking and living that  works today. It speaks so anyone who yearns to find  meaning within suffering. Beyond theory and  technique, inside this remarkable book you will find a  new way of thinking, a way of living that enables  a truly human existence

F mentioned a video on http://www.ted.com/: a poem on being bullied. You can watch the video by clicking on this link: http://www.ted.com/talks /shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful.html

You an also read the transcript, available under the video, if you prefer.

All TED conferences/videos are free. On the left menu, you can choose by topic. I have personally watched a few on ecology and environment, really excellent. I recommend this one on this guy growing vegetables in a suburb of South L.A.: http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html

 12) Scent of Triumph

by Jan Moran (2012) [presented by me]

Scent of Triumph

Click on the book cover to read my own review

Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.
Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood’s top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England’s top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood’s most charismatic star.
Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

***

 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?