Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer is here!

So, it's the first day of summer! Did anyone finish the spring challenge yet? Remember, we were supposed to be reading Anna Karenina. I'm thinking we should extend this challenge through the summer season to give everyone a little more time to finish (or start!). The movie doesn't come out until November, so we've got some time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal

This seems like a "get away" from it all book that I'd like. The book received a 4.5 rating on Amazon and a 4 on Goodreads.
This novel by Tom McNeal is about Judith, a young woman who, when her parents divorce, moves from Vermont to a small college town in Nebraska where her father is a professor. It is also about Willy, a young man she "abandoned, and yet never quite left behind."
The story is about two worlds: the surface and what lies beneath the surface; the present and the past; the world Judith finds herself in when she reaches a mid-life crisis, and the world she longs for.
Judith lives in Los Angeles with her husband of twenty years. She edits movies. The turning point or "swerve" in her life begins when her husband buys a new bedroom set for their daughter Camille and places the old set out by the pool. To Judy, this bedroom set is not just any furniture. It is a birds-eye maple bedroom set that has family history and a special significance to her.
Judith rents a storage unit and secretly reconstructs it to look like the room she had when she was a teen. She escapes her reality of editing movies and the façade of her marriage by thinking back to the simple joys of her high school years. She finds herself drawn to the storage unit, again and again losing track of all time while she naps peacefully on her birds-eye maple bed.
We quickly realize that Judith's life in Los Angeles is superficial. Her musings about the high plains of Nebraska have the depth of simplicity. Her memories reveal who Judith really is beneath the surface. Those memories involve Willy, a young carpenter who ushered her into womanhood on the birds-eye maple bed and helped her appreciate the beauty of a sunset and his dream of a little acreage where he would one day create a small lake.
Judith's transformation into an alternate world is so complete that she creates a new identity and hires a detective to find three friends from her past. Of course, one of them is Willy, the boy she left in Nebraska.
Tom McNeal, author of award winning "Goodnight, Nebraska," spent part of every summer in Nebraska, at a farm where his mother was raised. To those of us familiar with the area, we recognize Rufus Sage as Chadron and are pleasantly startled to read references to Hemingford, Highway 385, Herman the Germans and other local places. I was not surprised, however, to realize that what matters most happens in small communities in America's heartland, and not on either coast.
I wondered about the title of the book, but then I thought about when I was a kid, taking a bath, and I let my head rest on the bottom of the tub, ears completely submerged, nose above waterline. I remember singing and listening to how different the tune sounded underwater. I remember how the words and music were clear and pure and limited to the voice inside my own head. Those two worlds-- life on the surface and life beneath the surface--still mesmerize me and those same worlds are captured eloquently and reflectively by Tom McNeal.
Immerse yourself. This book is "to be sung underwater."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Group Picture-The Red Tent

It was almost a unanimous 5 rating for The Red Tent! It is a great book and it allowed for lots of discussion. We highly recommend it for book clubs! Um, where was Mary? Again?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

July Book Choices!

It's time to vote for the July book! This time we're choosing from the FANTASY category...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs | Paperback, 348 pages

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is Riggs' first novel. He is working on the second book in the Miss Peregrine series. It has a 3.70 rating on Goodreads.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern | Paperback, 387 pages

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The Night Circus is Morgenstern's debut novel. It has a 4.01 rating on Goodreads.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan | Hardcover, 344 pages

Hannah Payne’s life has been devoted to church and family. But after she’s convicted of murder, she awakens to a nightmarish new life. She finds herself lying on a table in a bare room, covered only by a paper gown, with cameras broadcasting her every move to millions at home, for whom observing new Chromes—criminals whose skin color has been genetically altered to match the class of their crime—is a sinister form of entertainment. Hannah is a Red for the crime of murder. The victim, says the State of Texas, was her unborn child, and Hannah is determined to protect the identity of the father, a public figure with whom she shared a fierce and forbidden love.

A powerful reimagining of The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke is a timely fable about a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of the not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated, and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned but chromed and released back into the population to survive as best they can. In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith and love.

When She Woke is Jordan's second novel. Her first book was Mudbound, winner of various awards including the Bellwether Prize. When She Woke has a 3.72 rating on Goodreads.

I will be hosting the July meeting.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I love a good memoir; was thinking about this as a book club choice!
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.
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