Sunday, November 9, 2008

Books We Want To Read

I took the posts from the prior blog and compiled them here. If you want to add to the list, "edit post" and add it here (or if you comment I can add it to the post). I am also adding info about the books in case people are interested. If you want to make a comment about the book and why you want to read it, please do so. Maybe we can use a different color font for our personal comments?...Play with it, see what works!

Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen (Jackie, Lisa) (Lisa: I own this book already)
Synopsis from B&N:
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. )

A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight (Jackie)
Synopsis from B&N: Synopsis
A haunting, beautifully written novel set in early-nineteenth-century Louisiana: the tale of a slave girl’s journey—emotional and physical—from captivity to freedom.Susan Straight has been called “a writer of exceptional gifts and grace” (Joyce Carol Oates). In A Million Nightingales she brings those gifts to bear on the story of Moinette, daughter of an African mother and a white father she never knew. While her mother cares for the plantation linens, Moinette tends to the master’s daughter, which allows her to eavesdrop on lessons. She also learns that she is property, and at fourteen she is sold, separated from her mother without a chance to say goodbye. Heartbroken and terrified, and with a full understanding of what she will risk, Moinette begins almost immediately to prepare herself for the moment when she will escape.It is Moinette’s own voice that we hear—bright, rhythmic, observant, and altogether captivating–as she describes her journey through a world of brutality, sexual violence, and loss. Quick to see the patterns of French, American, and African life play out around her, Moinette makes her way from sugarcane fields through mysterious bayous to the streets of Opelousas, where the true meaning of freedom emerges from the bonds of love. An uncommonly rich novel, brimming with event and character, A Million Nightingales is a powerful confirmation of the remarkable novelist we have in Susan Straight.)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Chloe, Jackie)
Synopsis from B&N:
The action follows 11-year-old protagonist Lyra Belacqua, accompanied by her daemon, from her home at Oxford University to the frozen wastes of the North, on a quest to save kidnapped children from the evil 'Gobblers,' who are using them as part of a sinister experiment. Lyra also must rescue her father from the Panserbjorne, a race of talking, armored, mercenary polar bears holding him captive. Joining Lyra are a vagabond troop of gyptians (gypsies), witches, an outcast bear, and a Texan in a hot air balloon.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (Jackie)
Synopsis from B&N:

An ALA Notable Book. Julia Alvarez's eagerly awaited second novel is a powerful story of courage, innocence, and political martyrdom in the Hispanic Caribbean. Based on actual events--the death of three sisters on November 25, 1960--the novel immerses us in an epoch in the life of the Dominican Republic. The "Butterflies," as they were known, lived daringly and dangerously under a regime that imprisoned, tortured, and killed with impunity. "Brimming with warmth and vitality . . . Mesmerizing."--Kirkus Reviews, starred; "Potent and luminous."--Philadelphia Inquirer. A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB and QUALITY PAPERBACK BOOK CLUB SELECTION.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Chloe, Jackie)
Synopsis from B&N:

“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” These words are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two. Iris recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister’s death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase family secrets. Among these is “The Blind Assassin,” a novel that earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, it was a pulp fantasy improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet secretly in rented rooms and seedy caf├ęs. As this novel-within-a-novel twists and turns through love and jealousy, self-sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real narrative, as both move closer to war and catastrophe. Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning sensation combines elements of gothic drama, romantic suspense, and science fiction fantasy in a spellbinding tale.

Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (Jackie, Lisa) (Lisa: I own this one already too).

Synopsis from B&N:

Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise and Disaster of Capitalism by Naomi Klein (From Chloe: this comes highly recommended by a political-junkie friend. It outlines how, while people are distracted by natural disasters, wars and economic upheavals, savvy politicians and industry leaders nefariously implement policies that otherwise never would have passed).

Synopsis by B&N:
The bestselling author of No Logo shows how the global “free market” has exploited crises and shock for three decades from Chile to Iraq.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman: (From Chloe: Like I said, I’m reading this one right now and would be happy to pass it on if anyone is interested. Or, if you are all interested, I’ll choose it when it’s my turn again).
Synopsis from B&N:
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Brilliantly reported and beautifully crafted, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between the Merced Community Medical Center in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy.

All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks (From Chloe: Another book I bought a year ago and haven’t gotten to yet. Publishers Weekly wrote “With an engaging narrative style, hooks presents a series of possible ways to reverse what she sees as the emotional and cultural fallout caused by flawed visions of love largely defined by men who have been socialized to distrust its value and power. She proposes a transformative love based on affection, respect, recognition, commitment, trust and care, rather than the customary forms stemming from gender stereotypes, domination, control, ego and aggression.”)
Synopsis from B&N:
"The word "love" is most often defined as a noun, yet...we would all love to better if we used it as a verb," writes bell hooks as she comes out fighting and on fire in All About Love. Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, the renowned scholar, cultural critic, and feminist skewers our view of love as romance. In its place she offers a proactive new ethic for a people and a society bereft with lovelessness.
As bell hooks uses her incisive mind and razor-sharp pen to explode the question "What is love?" her answers strike at both the mind and heart. In thirteen concise chapters, hooks examines her own search for emotional connection and society's failure to provide a model for learning to love. Razing the cultural paradigm that the ideal love is infused with sex and desire, she provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing for the individuals and for a nation. The Utne Reader declared bell hooks one of the "100 Visionaries Who Can Change Your Life." All About Love is a powerful affirmation of just how profoundly she can.

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (Lisa: I have this one too)
Synopsis from B&N:

"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."
So begins The Almost Moon, Alice Sebold's astonishing, brilliant, and daring new novel. A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this unforgettable work by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.
For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined.
Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers; the meaning of devotion; and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

Terrorist by John Updike 2006 (Dana: Takes place in current times, in the United States. A young, well meaning, fatherless high school grad gets invited into a Muslim community and encouraged to become a suicide bomber. Multiple perspectives on multiple characters. The end is constantly unpredictable. Updike gives a lot of punch, without being wordy.)

Fall on Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald. (Dana: Recommended by Oprah, has a Joyce Carol Oates touch . I couldn't put it down, but it is intense, not light, reading. Lives lost, babies drowned, generations of secrets and passions.)

Tracks by Louise Erdrich (Dana: I think I learned about this from Grant.) It is a page turner, gives the reader a sense of the Native American myth/ perspective and unique sense of humor.)

Seek the Living by Ashley Warlick (Dana: (an Oprah pick, I think) I gave this 4 stars in my journal, even though now, I can't exactly remember why ! I will have to reread it. Her writing style fascinates me: "Couples like us spill onto the street steadying each other home." "I look behind me as though I could trace myself backwards into the evening and figure it out.")

Dancing to Almendra by Myra Montero (Dana: (I just stumbled upon this at the library.) A well crafted mystery, with a parellel love story, set in the 50s Cuba. The Mafia is taking over casinos etc. mafia connecions between the US and Cuba, told by a young reporter, who (I think) is often worried that he is finding out too much for his own good. Translated from the Spanish edition.)

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