Posts filed under 'Book Club Suggestions'
Hillenbrand has written another impressive work of non-fiction (after Seabiscuit). Although the Unbroken was just published in November, 2010, Universal has already optioned the film rights.
Unbroken tells the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, beginning with his misspent youthful years of mischief and petty thievery in California. Louis had a big personality and a big way of doing everything he attempted. On the verge of being expelled from school, his older brother Pete championed Louis and convinced the principal to allow him to stay and participate in sports. Pete was a competitive runner and knew that Louis had even more talent than he. Pete, at only a few years older, was such a good mentor and coach that Louis became not only a hometown champion, but made his way onto the 1936 Olympic team, competing in Berlin.
The first part of Louis’ story is certainly book-worthy in itself, but it’s only the beginning. The real story begins as America enters the war and Louis enlists. The stories of Louis’ time while serving in the war are both chilling and gripping and include descriptions of raids during which his plane was shot no fewer than 500 times and still made it back to the airfield, his long time adrift on a raft after his plane was shot down, and his time of suffering in a variety of Japanese P.O.W. Camps. Then Hillenbrand takes us a step further into Louis’ life post-war when he finds himself struggling with his memories of war and unable to move forward until he is inspired to take on a task of redemption.
Hillenbrand brings an amazing story to light in her latest and it’s not to be missed by history or military buffs, sports fans, or anyone interested in reading about a truly inspirational life. There’s a reason this was dubbed “The Greatest Generation”.
Find Unbroken in our catalog.
January 22nd, 2011
Our ever-popular afternoon book discussion series with Judy Levin continues this spring with three fiction titles. Here are the dates and the books we’ve selected:
March 8 (1:00 p.m.) - “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa
April 12 (1:00 p.m.) - “Someone Knows My Name” by Lawrence Hill
May 10 (1:00 p.m.) - “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson
See you there!
January 15th, 2011
Six people’s lives intersect in surprising and sometimes explosive ways over the course of a week in the Hotel Miraflor, located in the capitol city of an unnamed Central American country. The hotel’s most famous and controversial guest is the strong, unattainable Suki Palacios, a matador in town for a tournament. A woman in a man’s violent world, Suki uses her beauty as a weapon as sharp as her sword. Another strong woman, the lawyer Gertrudis Stuber, uses the hotel as a base for her black-market adoption operation. Cuban exile and poet Ricardo and his wife, Gertrudis’s clients, are staying at the hotel while attempting to finalize the details of their adoption. Former guerrilla revolutionary Aura works at the hotel as a waitress in the restaurant but begins planning revenge when the Colonel responsible for her brother’s death becomes one of the hotel’s guests. And Won Kim, a moderately successful Korean businessman who is nevertheless miserable, has installed his pregnant teenage mistress in a suite of the hotel while plotting a murder-suicide that he knows himself to be too weak to ever accomplish.
The internal and external battles of these characters take place against the turbulent political backdrop of the unspecified country. The former dictator of the country is now running in an election and has strong support from one segment of the population even as another commits acts of terrorism against him and his supporters. One by one, other hotels in the country explode, leading up to an explosive conclusion of sorts for the temporary inhabitants of Hotel Miraflor.
Vibrant, rich, and detailed, the characters are well-developed and the atmosphere is sultry and immersive. A dash of magical realism enlivens what is otherwise an incisive portrait of modern life in Central America. Highly recommended.
Find The Lady Matador’s Hotel in our catalog.
December 7th, 2010
While waiting for the train taking him to military training, young and frustrated artist Claude Monet spies a lovely young woman in tears. Captivated by her energy, he sketches her quickly, little realizing that she will one day become his muse and partner. It is several years before he re-encounters her working in a bookshop and manages to convince her to pose for him, thus beginning a whirlwind romance between the two. Camille Doncieux is a young woman of good family, with good prospects, and her parents vehemently disapprove of her relationship with Claude Monet—at that time a penniless artist struggling for recognition while remaining true to his new, and unpopularly revolutionary, painting style. But Camille perserveres in her affection for Claude, becoming his lover, the mother of his child, and, eventually, his wife. It is in many ways a happy life. They are wrapped in the bosom of their friendships—fellow struggling artists Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Frederic Bazille, Camille Pissaro, Paul Cezanne, and Edgar Degas, among others, share studio space and provide affection and support for each others’ work. However, it is not an easy life for Camille and Claude, despite their great love. Claude is constantly broke and living beyond his means, living on credit, the kindness of friends, and sporadic income from sold paintings. Camille is moody and turbulent at times, frustrated in her own artistic ambitions and crushed under the weight of childcare and long separations from Claude. But their love is so great that they persevere together, with Claude eventually painting Camille’s last moments in a controversial work that is today considered one of his greatest.
Touching, and rich with historical detail, Claude & Camille is enjoyable on many levels. Those with an interest in the life of one of Impressionism’s greatest painters will find much to engage their curiosity, as will those with a broader interest in the historical time period and place.
Find Claude and Camille in our catalog.
December 1st, 2010
Lucy is the story of a teenager who is half human and half bonobo. To all appearances, she is human, she speaks as a human, and she’s intelligent and personable. She exists because of the madness of her father, a researcher in the Congo who wanted to create a species with the sensibilities of bonobos and the intellect of humans. When her father and bonobo mother are killed, Lucy is brought to the U.S. and adopted by a fellow scientist who knows nothing of Lucy’s origins. When the truth comes to light, Lucy’s adoptive mother and friend try to protect her from a number of threats–some more believable than others.
This is a definite page-turner, and there are similarities to Michael Crichton’s novels. Since it deals with the ethics of science, there is also plenty to discuss for book groups who are looking for an unusual plot-driven read. With the recent release of Sara Gruen’s Ape House, this may be the year of the Bonobo.
Find Lucy in our catalog.
November 27th, 2010
Weisgarber’s debut is the story of struggling homesteaders in 1917, told from the perspective of a woman–wife of one of the few African-American homesteaders in South Dakota. Rachel Dupree has never had it easy. Growing up in Chicago, daughter of a former slave, Rachel works hard for a living in the kitchen at Mrs. Dupree’s boarding house. When Rachel meets Mrs. Dupree’s handsome son, home on leave from the army, she finds a way to convince him to marry her and take her away from the drudgery. What she doesn’t understand are the brutal hardships ahead as a homesteader’s wife.
This books deals, in part, with race relations in a historical setting, and from this perspective, fans of The Help and Mudbound will find some similarities as a readalike. This novel of a woman’s experience in the west should also strike a chord with those who enjoyed Jim Fergus’ novel: One Thousand White Women or Jonis Agee’s The River Wife.
Find The Personal History of Rachel Dupree in our catalog.
November 25th, 2010
This is a behind-the-scenes look at a zoo and the lives of the animals kept there. French discusses the conflict many zoo keepers feel and describes their efforts at conservation and enrichment activities even while feeling sorry for their charges, who ideally should be free. It’s the story of several animals in particular at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. We learn the history of Herman the chimpanzee, Enshalla the Sumatran tiger, and the story of the elephants being brought to the zoo from Africa, amid a flurry of protests, to keep them from being euthanized.
French’s book is a clear-headed and balanced view of zoos and is recommended for those who enjoy nonfiction that reads like fiction and those interested in novels like Sara Gruen’s new Ape House.
Find Zoo Story in our catalog.
November 21st, 2010
I finished Gruen’s (Water for Elephants) latest in record time for two reasons. One, I foresee it being extremely popular and didn’t want to keep it from the next reader on the reserve list. Two, it’s a page-turner with a lot of plot twists and I didn’t want to put it down.
It’s a book about several things. It’s about a bonobo communications researcher who finds that her family of bonobos is an excellent substitute for a human family. It’s also about a talented reporter who finds himself onto the story of a lifetime without the backing of his employer who sees reporters as being entirely expendable. It’s about animal rights, about greed, and it’s a commentary on reality tv. It’s also entertaining.
Several reviewers were correct in their assertions that the sections concerned with the bonobos were more interesting than the stories of damaged humans, but I think it can’t be helped. Human-animal communication is a fascinating subject, and Gruen’s bonobos are all-too-human and are better people than many humans who populate the novel. All the human relationships were broken in some way while the bonobos functioned well as a family group.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a book group as a novel with a fascinating plot. I think there’s plenty for discussion groups to explore and it is an absorbing read.
Ape House is the fall selection for One Book, One Highland Park. Activities planned at the library include:
We have lots of copies of Ape House and you’ll want to reserve your copy now!
Find Ape House in our catalog.
September 15th, 2010
Gordimer captures the flavor of 21st century South Africa through settings and events rather than characters who remain shadowy representatives of culture and status. Julie, daughter of wealth and position meets an about-to-be-deported garage mechanic of vague Middle-Eastern heritage. Julie falls for Abdu, despite the expected protests of her family and perhaps because of them. When he is ordered to leave the country, Julie is determined to accompany him to his homeland. While the mechanic knows Julie is in no way prepared for how they must live in his village, Julie believes that it’s a grand adventure. What happens next is surprising to them both.
Fans of Gordimer will likely have read this novel, published in 2001. If you haven’t read her, you’ll want to start with some of her earlier works such as July’s People and work your way up to her more recent work.
Find The Pickup in our catalog.
September 7th, 2010
In the early years of the 20th century, young Korean girl named Regret wanted more out of life than being kept in three interior rooms of her home and then married off to a stranger of her parents’ choosing. Regret wanted education, to see the world, and to make her own plans. When the opportunity arose for Regret to become a “picture bride” in Hawaii, she jumped at the chance despite the estrangement it causes with her father.
In Hawaii, Regret finds that nothing is quite as portrayed, including her new husband. As Regret’s personal life changes, so does Hawaii as it struggles to adapt to simmering racial tension, American governance, and the pressures of developing tourism. This is an interesting historical novel covering a geographical area and time not regularly portrayed in fiction. Brennert artfully captures the history of the islands as experienced by an outsider.
Find Honolulu in our catalog.
August 25th, 2010
This is a difficult novel to classify, part fairy tale, part modern gothic, part horror, and part psychological suspense. However you classify it, Moerk has a winner. It’s the story of the Walsh sisters and what happens when a man does them harm.
Jim Quick is a travelling storyteller who makes his way from one Irish village to the next performing in pubs for tips. All who meet him fall in love with Darling Jim, and there is much drama and jealousy as he picks up one woman after another for one-night stands in each village. As storytellers go, Jim is a superstar, but the Walsh sisters know the truth about him and they also know what has happened to other women who have figured out the truth. When Jim attacks one of their own, the Walsh sisters know what must be done and don’t hesitate. What Walsh sisters don’t know is that their very own Aunt is just as calculating as they are.
Recommended for those who enjoy dark tales like The Thirteenth Tale or A Reliable Wife.
Find Darling Jim in our catalog.
July 30th, 2010
Danticat is undoubtedly the most well-known contemporary Haitian author. Her novels deal with Haiti as it is, as it was, and with the immigrants from Haiti who are trying to make their way to better lives in unfamiliar cultures.
In Haitian culture, a storyteller will say “Krik?” to ask if the audience wants to hear to a story, and the audience responds by saying “Krak!” to indicate they are ready to listen. Krik? Krak! is a series of short stories linked by some common themes including the importance of storytelling. The political and economic history of the island is the backdrop for many of the stories and through them the reader is able to gain some understanding not only Haitian history, but also the effects the political upheavals have had on its citizens. Krik? Krak! was a finalist for the National Book Awards and is highly recommended reading for anyone wanting to know more about Haiti, its history, and its current challenges.
Please Join us for a discussion of Krik? Krak! led by Judy Levin on Monday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Find Krik? Krak! in our catalog
May 3rd, 2010