Block Book Club #2

 

Our local book club was very excited to meet for its second time. Some were reading books presented by other members last month, so it sounds like the trading titles format is working well.

Here are the books shared this time:

Meeting #2 on 02/09/2012

(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

1. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption (2010)
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Link to Emma’s review on her blog [it includes a book trailer]:https://wordsandpeace.com/2010/12/14/unbroken/ [you can also go to http://wordsandpeace.com , and type ‘Unbroken’ in the search box on the top right.]

2. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2002)
On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish émigré scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and—against all odds and better judgment—they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped only in song. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth grow up, however, during the Civil Rights era, coming of age in the violent 1960s, and living out adulthood in the racially retrenched late century. Jonah, the eldest, “whose voice could make heads of state repent,” follows a life in his parents’ beloved classical music. Ruth, the youngest, devotes herself to community activism and repudiates the white culture her brother represents. Joseph, the middle child and the narrator of this generation-bridging tale, struggles to find himself and remain connected to them both.

3. Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper (2005)
“New York Times” bestselling author Jodi Picoult is widely acclaimed for her keen insights into the hearts and minds of real people. Now she tells the emotionally riveting story of a family torn apart by conflicting needs and a passionate love that triumphs over human weakness.
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate–a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister–and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
“My Sister’s Keeper” examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child’s life, even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less? Should you follow your own heart, or let others lead you? Once again, in “My Sister’s Keeper, ” Jodi Picoult tackles a controversial real-life subject with grace, wisdom, and sensitivity.

4. William Kent Krueger, Iron Lake (Cork O’Connor #1) [1998-2011]

Here is the synopsis of the #1 in the series, but E. presented the whole series. So far, 11 volumes have been published.

William Kent Krueger joined the ranks of today’s best suspense novelists with this thrilling, universally acclaimed debut. Conjuring “a sense of place he’s plainly honed firsthand in below-zero prairie” “(Kirkus Reviews), ” Krueger brilliantly evokes northern Minnesota’s lake country — and reveals the dark side of its snow-covered landscape.

Part Irish, part Anishinaabe Indian, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is the former sheriff of Aurora, Minnesota. Embittered by his “former” status, and the marital meltdown that has separated him from his children, Cork gets by on heavy doses of caffeine, nicotine, and guilt. Once a cop on Chicago’s South Side, there’s not much that can shock him. But when the town’s judge is brutally murdered, and a young Eagle Scout is reported missing, Cork takes on a mind-jolting case of conspiracy, corruption, and scandal.

As a lakeside blizzard buries Aurora, Cork must dig out the truth among town officials who seem dead-set on stopping his investigation in its tracks. But even Cork freezes up when faced with the harshest enemy of all: a small-town secret that hits painfully close to home.

 

5. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind (1936) [audiobook]

Revisit the South and fall under the spell of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler all over again. After six decades, this sweeping saga set against the backdrop of the war-torn South remains one of the most beloved American novels ever written.

 

6. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay (2008-2010) [presented by Pat]

Synopsis of the 1st volume:

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 Primrose, 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

 

7. A. presented the 2012 Master List of Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award (Illinois Children=s Choice Award) – grades 4 through 8. See here: http://www.rcyrba.org/pdf/2012MasterList.pdf

One of the books she enjoyed a lot on that list a few years ago was:

Gary D. Schmidt, The Wednesday Wars (2000):

Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero in THE WEDNESDAY WARSin the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

 

8. Norman Ollestad, Crazy For The Storm (2009)

“Dad Said

Olestad, we can do it all. . . .”

Why do you make me do this?

“Because it’s beautiful when it all comes together. ”

I don’t think it’s ever beautiful.

“One day.”

Never.

“We’ll see, my father said. Vamanos.”

From the age of three, Norman Ollestad was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing by the intense, charismatic father he both idolized and resented. While his friends were riding bikes, playing ball, and going to birthday parties, young Norman was whisked away in pursuit of wild and demanding adventures. Yet it were these exhilarating tests of skill that prepared “Boy Wonder,” as his father called him, to become a fearless champion–and ultimately saved his life.

Flying to a ski championship ceremony in February 1979, the chartered Cessna carrying Norman, his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the pilot crashed into the San Gabriel Mountains and was suspended at 8,200 feet, engulfed in a blizzard. “Dad and I were a team, and he was Superman,” Ollestad writes. But now Norman’s father was dead, and the devastated eleven-year-old had to descend the treacherous, icy mountain alone.

Set amid the spontaneous, uninhibited surf culture of Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s, this riveting memoir, written in crisp Hemingwayesque prose, recalls Ollestad’s childhood and the magnetic man whose determination and love infuriated and inspired him–and also taught him to overcome the indomitable. As it illuminates the complicated bond between an extraordinary father and his son, Ollestad’s powerful and unforgettable true story offers remarkable insight for us all.

 

9. Claire Tomalin, Charles Dickens: A Life (2011) [presented by me on the occasion of Dickens’ 200th birthday on 2/7/2012]

The tumultuous life of England’s greatest novelist, beautifully rendered by unparalleled literary biographer Claire Tomalin.

When Charles Dickens died in 1870, “The Times” of London successfully campaigned for his burial in Westminster Abbey, the final resting place of England’s kings and heroes. Thousands flocked to mourn the best recognized and loved man of nineteenth-century England. His books had made them laugh, shown them the squalor and greed of English life, and also the power of personal virtue and the strength of ordinary people. In his last years Dickens drew adoring crowds to his public appearances, had met presidents and princes, and had amassed a fortune.

Like a hero from his novels, Dickens trod a hard path to greatness. Born into a modest middle-class family, his young life was overturned when his profligate father was sent to debtors’ prison and Dickens was forced into harsh and humiliating factory work. Yet through these early setbacks he developed his remarkable eye for all that was absurd, tragic, and redemptive in London life. He set out to succeed, and with extraordinary speed and energy made himself into the greatest English novelist of the century.

Years later Dickens’s daughter wrote to the author George Bernard Shaw, “If you could make the public understand that my father was not a joyous, jocose gentleman walking about the world with a plum pudding and a bowl of punch, you would greatly oblige me.” Seen as the public champion of household harmony, Dickens tore his own life apart, betraying, deceiving, and breaking with friends and family while he pursued an obsessive love affair.

“Charles Dickens: A Life” gives full measure to Dickens’s heroic stature-his huge virtues both as a writer and as a human being- while observing his failings in both respects with an unblinking eye. Renowned literary biographer Claire Tomalin crafts a story worthy of Dickens’s own pen, a comedy that turns to tragedy as the very qualities that made him great-his indomitable energy, boldness, imagination, and showmanship-finally destroyed him. The man who emerges is one of extraordinary contradictions, whose vices and virtues were intertwined as surely as his life and his art.

Link to my review on this blog: https://wordsandpeace.com/2012/01/23/review-2-2012-charles-dickes-a-life/

 

Other titles briefly mentioned:

I’m sure there were many more, but these are the titles I heard
– Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
– Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Cicrle and Nineteen Minutes

– Nancy Horan, Loving Frank

– mysteries by C.J. Box

– Todd Burpo, Heaven Is For Real

– William P. Young, The Shack

– Murielle Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog [see my review here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2010/10/19/the-elegance-of-the-hedgehog/ ] and Gourmet Rhapsody  [https://wordsandpeace.com/2011/06/16/my-review-47-gourmet-rhapsody/ ]

– Erik Larson, The Devil in The White City  and In The Garden of Beasts, and Isaac’s Storm

– Joseph Heller, Catch-22 [not in too positive terms…]

– Betty Smith, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

 

HAVE YOU TRIED YET TO SET UP
A TRADING TITLES BOOK CLUB?

Block Book Club #1

Last week, I had a fabulous experience:

In the course of several block parties and other events, I realized we had quite a few very active readers on our block – one of them read 165 books last year, including men as well.

So after some time of thinking, I finally invited my block to meet as a book club. But a special book club, a trading titles one, meaning: we do not need to all read the same book, but we share a book we just read and loved a lot.

It was so much fun, there was so much excitement, when others had read the same titles, and in the exchange after each presentation.

We were 11, 4 men and 7 women. Some couples could not make it this time.

Here are the titles we shared:

Meeting #1 on 01/13/2012

(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)

1.Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah’s key (2007) [presented by P. and P. – read by 5 people]
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

2. Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace (2005) [presented by M. – read by 3 people]
Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God.
It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.
Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war’s final phase. The result of five years of meticulous research, A Thread of Grace is an ambitious, engrossing novel of ideas, history, and marvelous characters that will please Russell’s many fans and earn her even more.

3. Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption (2010) [presented by J. – read by 3 people]
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Link to my review [it includes a book trailer]: https://wordsandpeace.com/2010/12/14/unbroken/

4. Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing (2002) [presented by A.]
On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish émigré scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and—against all odds and better judgment—they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped only in song. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth grow up, however, during the Civil Rights era, coming of age in the violent 1960s, and living out adulthood in the racially retrenched late century. Jonah, the eldest, “whose voice could make heads of state repent,” follows a life in his parents’ beloved classical music. Ruth, the youngest, devotes herself to community activism and repudiates the white culture her brother represents. Joseph, the middle child and the narrator of this generation-bridging tale, struggles to find himself and remain connected to them both.

5. Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 (2011) [presented by P. – read by 2 people]
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Link to my review: wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/15/80-review-1q84/

6. Keith Richards, Life (2010) [presented by R.]
Rock ‘n’ roll’s great survivor looks back on an extraordinary life. From the Rolling Stones’ first success in the 1960s through increasing fame and addiction to the present day, Richards tells his story in his own inimitable way.

7. John Sanford, Shock Wave  (2011) (Virgil Flowers #5) [presented by B. – read by 2 people]
Talk about risky business.
The superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two very angry groups want to stop it: the local merchants fearing for their businesses, and the environmentalists predicting ecological disaster. The protests don’t seem to be slowing the project down, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands.
The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart’s headquarters. The second one explodes at the construction site itself. The blasts are meant to inflict maximum damage—and they do. Who’s behind the bombs and how far will they go? It’s Virgil Flowers’s job to find out . . . before more people get killed.

8. SJ Watson, Before I Go To Sleep (2011) [presented by me]
‘As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me …’ Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life

Link to my review: https://wordsandpeace.com/2011/11/21/83-before-i-go-to-sleep/

9.  Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose (1971) [presented by L.]
Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need, Ward is nonetheless embarking on a search of monumental proportions – to rediscover his grandmother, now long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier. Like other great quests in literature, Lyman Ward’s investigation leads him deep into the dark shadows of his own life.

10. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle (2006) [presented by J.].
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

Other titles briefly mentioned:
– Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian
– Emma Donoghue, Room
– Books by Terry Goodkind [genre: fantasy]
– Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
– Patricia MacLachlan, Waiting For The Magic [children book]